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Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil -- I Timothy 6:9-10a

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Blog Break

I am taking a break from posting from Tuesday, October 28 through  Wednesday, November 5. The next new post will be on November 7. I know this blog break is only one week after the last one so some people might think that I am doing the blog equivalent of road work on the interstates. But my personal schedule demands these breaks. In the meantime, you can visit some of the other pages on this blog accessed through the tabs shown above or the incomplete list below. 

Other Pages

  1. Audio-Visual Library Page (this is my favorite page on the website)
  2. Activism page
        Contains announcements of some major activist events. If you don't see your event there, email me at curtday111@yahoo.com
  3. Favorite Articles page
        Links to some of my current and all-time favorite articles to read. Includes articles by Chris Hedges, Bill Blum, Noam Chomsky, Robert Jensen, Rachel Corrie, Anna Politkovshaya, Rita Corriel, and the Political Jesus blog (I highly recommend this blog)
  4. Favorite Websites page
        This contains most of the websites that I visit the most.
  5. Past Blog Posts page
        If you want to check the complete list of blog posts on this blog, please click this tab. The posts are divided into regular posts, reviews, and the ONIMs

Monday, October 27, 2014

ONIM For October 27, 2014

Christian News



World News



Pick(s) Of The Litter

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is The Conservative Church Nuance Impaired?

This article is written for the daughter who brought John Pavlovitz's article to our attention by commenting on it on social media. She has for a long time been sensitive to the plight of those who are marginalized in society.

An important article to read is written by John Pavlovitz on the Church and the LGBT community (click here or there). The article first appeared on his blog and was then picked up by the Huffington Post. The article is important because of how those in the LGBT community and the reputation of the Gospel are suffering by our treatment of them.

What's causing this suffering? According to Pavlovitz, one cause is how we translate the Christian theology on homosexuality into how we speak the truth. 

Pavlovitz starts with a somewhat gruesome list of ways Christians show their disapproval of the LGBT life. These ways include beatings, bullying, shaming, ostracizing, marginalizing, and so on. In essence, the Christian community acts to "dehumanize" those in the LGBT community. This results in causing some people to want to do more than just "shoot the messengers." And who could blame them? Don't the messengers also represent the message?

Another result is that gays cannot feel free to worship with us. And to add insult to injury, we bid them good riddance when they leave.

In short, there is something about the sexual views and practices of the LGBT community that leaves those of us in the Christian community discontent with merely tackling the sin of homosexuality, to use football terminology. We feel both bound and free to pile on, spear, and target those in the LGBT community. We feel bound because we must show the proper level of righteous indignation in order to prove our love for God, our Christian street cred. But we also feel free because the transgressions committed by the those in the LGBT community have given some of us permission to release our own pent-up hostility. This means that the sins of others can be to us Christians what hot water is to a teabag. As the hot water simply draws out what is in the teabag so the sins of those in the LGBT community have drawn out our true colors.

Though not mentioned by Pavlovitz, if how we treat the LGBT community in Church is not enough, we insist that society must follow our example by punishing and stigmatizing homosexuals and the transgendered as well. Much of this punishment revolves  around denying homosexuals equality lest they escape stigmatization and are counted as normal. 

The overall theme of how many of us Christians treat the LGBT community is that those in that community must know their place. Many of us want them to think that they are not only not up to our standards, they are a threat to us, to our society--and that is despite their many personal and historical contributions. And after we call on society to punish those in the LGBT community, we have the audacity to wonder why we get push back. We wonder why people not only disagree with our views of sex, they question our religion. And though we, in our usual self-flattering way, want to view their resistance against us as resistance against God, we need to realize that not only have we hurt fellow people who are made in the image of God and fellow sinners, we have harmed the Gospel's reputation by not speaking as Jesus would have. This is the point of Pavlovitz's article.

Pavlovitz prefers to finish with a question rather than a suggestion or two. So to try to answer his questions might require that we return to the drawing board. The most immediate solution would be to change our theology. We could rewrite it to accept homosexuality. But to do so would be to betray the Scriptures. For while some LGBT apologists want the Biblical debate on homosexuality to revolve around the definitions of a couple of words, the scriptural passages in Leviticus and Romans, both of which condemn homosexuality, remove the issue beyond the reach of individual definitions by talking about the concept and how it falls short of God's design.


Therefore, changing our theology about sex is not an option. So we must, for the sake of some who are made in God's image and the Gospel, look for changes in how we communicate our theology for the solution. And if we listen to the complaints raised by those in the LGBT community, it will not be too difficult to solve some, but not all, of the sources of contention.

What many in the LGBT community seem to be saying is that we are overstating our case. We are, to repeat the above football references, doing far more than just tackling the sin; we pile on, spear, and target the people involved. And we do so while being blind to our own sins. In short, we come across as the pharisee in the parable of the two men praying (click here). The sins of others have given us delusions of self-righteousness. We forget that while Paul associates the sin of homosexuality with the Gentiles in Romans 1 (click here), he then goes on to describe the sins of the Jews in Romans 2 (click here), and then finishes by stating that no one is better than the other in Romans 3:9-21 (click here).

Thus, our ways of speaking to and treating gays have shown that we have not only exercised bad bedside manner when telling homosexuals about sexual sin, we've made matters worse by not treating them as equals both as individuals and as people in society. And until we change that, much of our teaching about Biblical sexual morality will be lost in translation and we will become stumbling blocks rather than preachers of the Gospel.

All of this starts with how we want society to treat those in the LGBT community. For we cannot expect to have the Church be more loving toward those in the LGBT community when we require, in varying degrees, that society marginalizes both homosexuals and the transgendered. So how we want society to treat those in the LGBT community is where it starts though it isn't where it ends. And we must also realize that because of the past unjust suffering, the sensitivity of some in the LGBT will prevent them from distinguish those who preach in love and those who don't.

Yes, we must be firm in holding to Biblical moral standards regarding sex. But that doesn't preclude us from being gentle with those who do not meet those standards and speaking to them as equals, as fellow sinners.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For October 22, 2014

Oct 15

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost containing a quote about Modernity and its exclusion of God from its view of the world. This appeared in Heidelblog

Yes, movements like the Modernity are reactions against God, but they are also reactions against Christians as they try to represent God. To deny that is to deny history and, in a sense, to externalize sin.

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Oct 20

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost quoting R.R. Reno and his lament over the intolerance of progressives. This appeared in the Heidelblog

Let me ask, who was tolerant during the times when Christianity held sway over our laws and culture so that we had blue laws or laws criminalizing homosexuality? How tolerant were those laws? And it wasn't progressives who supported Jim Crow. So how tolerant were those conservatives, note that not everyone did, who did support Jim Crow?

And how tolerant is of Christians who wanted to prohibit gays from marrying or the right to deny gays access to public goods and services provided as provided in a capitalist system?

The overgeneralizations made about an undefined group only shows a certain degree of intolerance. In fact, having just retired from a university system I can tell you that there no "progressive" domination over conservatives at least from what I saw.

Yes, Christians can have concerns over some events that seem to threaten religious liberties. But considering the intolerance showed by some conservative christians in the past, isn't the new growing intolerance a display of the pendulum swinging in the other direction? And if that is the case, then before wringing our hands in anxiety over an anticipated loss in religious liberties, perhaps we should show contrition for our role in placing or maintaining the pendulum when it was in our favor. Besides, the spread of Ebola, new wars, increasing damage to the environment, growing wealth disparities and so on are not enough to make the future seem dark. We needed this particular pendulum swing to tell us to "abandon hope all ye who enter"? The good news is that angst only over this pendulum swing is not intolerance. It is, however, evidence of self-absorption.

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Oct 21

To Elise Hilton and her blogpost on human trafficking. This appeared in the Acton blog.

Perhaps we should consider another factor that contributes to human trafficking; it is the free market. After all, trafficking supplies a cheap source of labor which, in turn, holds down costs that are passed on to the consumer--sweatshop is supported by the free market too and for the same reason. And we have trafficked labor right here in the US some of whom pick our produce. So a question we might want to ask is, is the free market too free to eliminate trafficked labor?

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To Bruce Edward Walker and his blogpost on the failures of "left-leaning" religious shareholder activists. This appeared in the Acton Blog

That "left-leaning" religious shareholder proposals are rejected and that such religious shareholders suffer a disconnect, presumedly from the other shareholders, imply what? That people favored profit over principle?  And if so, are we bragging or complaining about that? Do we ask if shareholder priorities are dominated by the love of money? 

Finally, couldn't we ask if those shareholders so easily sacrifice workers' jobs and the environment for the sake of an increase in the ROI also  suffer a disconnect?




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Status Quo Of Self-Destruction

Perhaps the following best describes what we see today:
[it] has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self- interest, than callous “cash payment”

With more and more of life following the business model, the desire to be profitable is moving more of us to be either cold and unforgiving or too lax in holding to necessary standards. Let's use education as an example.

In my teaching career,  I've seen for myself or heard from teachers of other schools acknowledging that unqualified students are admitted to schools in order to reach a certain student population. Some of these unqualified students will eventually dropout because of grades while others will find majors especially designed for them and their tuition dollars. I heard of one teacher who, while teaching basic freshman class, was told by one of her senior students  that that basic class was the toughest class she ever took. 

I and my colleagues from numerous institutions remember the notes received from university presidents which all but said that we were responsible for students who were failing our classes because all students who were admitted to our institutions were qualified to study there. Of course what provided dissonance to these notes for me were the students who couldn't perform basic arithmetic functions because of their dependence on calculators or could not read a textbook because of their dependence on the internet.

What I've seen schools do is to stop marketing a college education and to start selling the "college experience." And a growing part of that experience is found in entertainment and fun. Education, according to the actions and attitudes displayed by some of my past students, was becoming an inconvenience and the admission price to be paid for enjoying life in college. 

So what we see is less money being used to support academics and more money being spent on administration and nonacademic student services. Why? Because in today's businessfied colleges, it isn't reaching of academic milestones by the average student that is the goal, it is keeping enough customers happy so that college's ever increasing overhead can be financed. Students are being less and less looked at as people who need to learn and surpass fixed standards from the past and are more and more seen as objects of revenue.

Of course, our economic system can provide other examples where connections are reduced to the 'what's in it for me' mindset. The business world's mindset of what's legal is what's moral without mentioning that what's legal is for sale disingenuously shows the self-interest mentioned at the beginning of this post. Thus, those companies that can pay lobbyists to write legislation or direct policies that either reduce a company's social responsibilities, such as in paying less or no taxes, and/or garners business from the government, such as is done by those in the military-industrial complex, can, in "good conscience," profit from exploiting the public. Here we should consider those companies that supplement their payroll with government assistance programs as providing examples of acting in 'naked self-interest.'  This is exemplified when legislation aimed at raising the federal minimum wage is constantly defeated. Here, low-wage employees are treated as disposable objects of profit who can be easily replaced.

This 'naked self-interest' has also hit our beloved sports world where players are there to make as much money as possible off of their team's owners so that their first loyalty is to the paycheck. This  leaves fans to root for the uniforms rather than players.

The current battle in Detroit over access to water, underfunded public education, the resistance to increasing access to healthcare, the growing damage to the environment, and our crumbling infrastructure provide examples of the 'naked self-interest' of those who are working hard to avoid meeting their social responsibilities. Meanwhile the housing bubble, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, and the way we fund our healthcare show that all others are exploitable in the search for profits.

But perhaps one of the greatest reminders of the truth of the quote at the beginning of this post is the growing replacement of the shareholder for the stakeholder which is taking place in the business world. A friend of mine told me of a business class he took where they were asked what should be done with a product that was found to be deficient in one's home country. The answer that was booed and rejected was the one that said to not sell the product elsewhere. The answer that was cheered was the one that said to put shareholder interests first by marketing the failed product in other countries.

Some workers tell me of how their interactions with workers from other companies reinforce the idea that shareholder returns is the predominant concern of those other companies. This concern is shown in the number and pay of the employees in those other companies and even in the stock available to order. Outsourcing work to other countries and utilizing sweatshop and trafficked labor, as does lack of concern for damage done to the environment, also reinforces the contention that shareholder returns is the highest and sometimes the only concern of many companies. 

Such would suggest that the '[it]' in the quote at the beginning of this post could be replaced with the word 'shareholder' and in many cases, that would be correct. But legislation supporting the police's ability to profit from seized personal assets, the revolving door between all sorts of government officials and private industry, the buying of our elections, and the corruptibility of many of our public officials shows that the shareholders is not the only group that can be substituted in the opening quote.

As we are both divided and isolated from others while being told that we are solely responsible for obtaining our own 'pot of gold,' we are becoming more, both as individuals and in terms of groups we belong to, vulnerable to being able to replace the '[it]' in the opening quote.

Where does the opening quote come from? It comes from the Communist Manifesto. And though the source might intimidate some of us out of agreeing with the quote, our daily experiences do not. And we should note that one does not have to agree with Marx's solutions to see how legitimate were his concerns. Thus, the '[it]' from the quote could be replaced with today's Capitalism. Sure, those who say that greed is part of the human condition are right. But what we should note is that some systems feed our greed more than others, especially those systems that celebrate greed because they see it as a source of energy.

Such leads us to one more quote. That quote comes from I Timothy 6:10 that tells us of the evil into which the love of money can lead us. This post has been just a small scratching of the surface of the truth of this verse.


Monday, October 20, 2014

ONIM For October 20, 2014

Christian News


World News



Pick(s) Of The Litter

Friday, October 17, 2014

We Shouldn't Let The Pendulum Hit Us On The Way Out

A most revealing comment about how much of Conservative Christianity sees itself is made by Tim Keller. In his book, Center Church, Keller makes the following statement:
First, We have entered a post-Christian or post-Christiandom age. For centuries in the Western world, the Christian Church had a privileged place, but this is no longer true. Rather than being a force at the center of culture, Christianity has moved to the margins. 1

This quote is important because it sets the table for the article being reviewed here. The article being reviewed was written by David Robertson (click here for the article). We are reviewing it because Robertson's article is describing a new King Of The Hill wannabe that is vying to take Christianity's privileged place in society. We should note here that reviewing this article is problematic because Robertson is writing observations of what is happening 'across the pond' in Scotland and I have little to no exposure with which to either confirm or challenge what he is saying. However, points can still be made in reviewing this article.

Robertson is sounding the general quarters alarm over secularism. However, the secularism he is warning us about is not the old comfortable shoe that many of us are use to. That secularism is defined in the beginning of his post as: the belief that the state, morals, education, etc should be independent of religion. (Chambers).  And Robertson mildly complains about the Christian acceptance of secularism while saying: most Christians are secularists in the sense that most secular societies describe secularism, when they state that they are simply about the separation of church and state. Most of us are happy to live in a secular society – one that is not run by the Church. Ironically, this definition of secularism is Karl Marx's definition of the abolishment of religion (click here).

The new secularism Robertson is warning us against is targeting Christianity for destruction. Because of that, Robertson makes the following accusations against this secularism: 

  1. The New Secularism is being used as a disguise for a militant anti-religious philosophy
  2. The New Secularism is irrational and illogical
  3. The New Secularism is obsessed with sex and sexuality
  4. The New Secularism is increasingly militant, intolerant and aggressive
Now again, this blog cannot speak to what Robertson has observed. But here, there now seems to be more attacks on Conservative Christianity than before. And when one reads the blog attacks he has received, one can understand his statement. But we should note two things here. First, some of his sample data used to support this point is coming from blogs.  For whatever reason, blogs bring out the worse in people regardless of their religion or lack thereof. So the question becomes whether the new secular blogposts attacking him really reflect on secularism or on something else like Western culture or humanity. 

But there is another point here. Is the animosity against Christianity which he has witnessed a first strike or a response to how Christians have represented Christ in the past? At this point, Robertson's reaction to the new secularism's animosity against Christianity is much like the West' reaction against terrorism. The story seems to always start with the injustices we've suffered without giving much thought to whether our gang has already caused others to suffer. Concerning terrorism, before we isolate our focus on 9-11, we should look at the sanction years in Iraq, which we both designed and enforced, and how they contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. We should look at how we sponsored Saddam Hussein in Iraq until he invaded a rich friend. This sponsorship included providing him with materials to make WMDs. We could even go all the way back to 1953 when we, along with the British, orchestrated a coup to replace a democratically elected government with a tyrant.

So with us Christians, we need to look back and see how Christians acted shamelessly before rushing to judge the New Secularists. This especially applies to Christians with ecclesiastical, financial, or political power.

This leads to Robertson's next point where he accuses the new secularism of not being in touch with reality as it accuses Christianity of being responsible for Islamic extremism. The murder of a British soldier, Lee Rigby, by 2 Islamic extremists introduces this point. Certainly, it is understandable for Robertson not to be able to connect the dots between Christianity and Islamic extremism. And this blog could not determine if there is any such connection between Christianity and Rigby's murderers. But what do we think when we look at Israel and its brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories (a state according to a couple of nations in the UN)? And when will we critically look at American and other Western policies supported by Conservative Christians in the name of patriotism? Perhaps we would hesitate calling the New Secularism 'irrational' for at least attributing Islamic extremism to Christianity.

To say Christianity is partially responsible for Islamic extremism is not to take away the responsibility of committing terror by the terrorists. But we have to look at the conditions that spawned the terrorism. And this is Noam Chomsky's point (expanded view in video, condensed view in article). Chomsky's point is that as we continually respond to the problems in the Middle East with overwhelming violence, then the response from our opponents will attempt to be at least just as violent. So as we continue to use violence to solve our problems, and as we continue to support dictators, as we did for a while with Saddam Hussein and as we do now with the Saudi Royal family, there will be a push back that attempts to keep up with the violence we use. And, again, as much as Christians support governments that use harsh violence on Muslims according to what fits our policies, then we can say that Christianity did contribute to the existence of Islamic extremism. And the attempt to make that connection is not irrational. In fact, the attempt to deny the connection just might be an instance of externalizing evil.

As for the New Secularism's enthusiastic focus on sex, they are not alone, others emphasize sex as well. But what has caused Robertson to make this charge is the push for equality for homosexuals. He complains that those who do not fall in line with the new sexual equality party line will be viciously attacked verbally. That is certainly becoming more and more true here in the states. But to just look at what how the New Secularists are treating those holding to traditional Christian values ignores the context for the animosity. 

I don't know about Scotland, but I remember a time in my life when homosexuality was treated as a crime. Now, let's compare Robertson's complaint to that. As in Robertson's first complaint, he doesn't consider what preceded the New Secularism's persecution of traditional Christian values on sex. And though we Christians don't deserve to be slandered or verbally abused to holding firm to Biblical sexual standards, we should take note of how past Christians have tried to use laws to persecute homosexuals--at least we have in America. 

Could it be that the strong reaction to our holding firm to Biblical standards on sex is a result of how we tried to have our way with prohibiting homosexuals from loving whom they choose in society. And we should recognize the differences between using Church discipline on church members who don't hold to Biblical Standards from using civil law on everyone in society to enforce the same standards.

Robertson's last charge is how the New Secularism is intolerant and becoming aggressive. He gives little evidence for this except to quote an educator who said that religion in the future should be a 'choice' that is 'freely followed' so long as it does not have an 'impact' on others. Robertson reacts rights way by telling us how his religion has an impact on others and thus he could not follow the guidelines. However, Robertson's reaction to this statement is premature in that what is meant by 'impact' is not well-defined. And thus we don't what that means. In addition, these were the words of a single educator rather than a group. There is practically no evidence given here that tells us what the New Secularists want. Just a single quote from a single educator. 

There are problems with Robertson's article here. The first problem is that we are given no data telling us of the popularity of the New Secularists.  All we are given are some anecdotes. And thus it is difficult to see if the actual threat of the New Secularists matches the possible threat based on their beliefs and actions. 

Another problem, which was already mentioned, is that attitudes/actions of the New Secularists are mentioned outside of any context and thus making it look like what the New Secularists are doing constitutes a first strike on Christianity or a reaction to Christian leadership from the past is difficult at best. 

Finally, and this is where the title comes in, if many of the actions which the New Secularists have exhibited are reactions to past Christian abuse of power, then protesting the New Secularist positions shows an inability to recognize the privileged status in society that Robertson's Christianity has had. And if Christianity had a privileged status, then the old secularism, see the above definition, never existed. But furthermore, if we do recognize the advances advocated by the New Secularists as taking place, what we are really witnessing is nothing more than a pendulum swing where the New Secularists are replacing Christians as having power. And if that is the case, the pendulum swing that favors the New Secularists just might, in many cases, reflect the past when the pendulum swing favored Christianity. So before anxiously lamenting the changing of the guard, we need to seriously reflect on and even contritely confess the past Christian abuse of privilege. At least that is how things stand on this side of the pond.


References

  1. Center Church by Tim Keller, pg 259