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Friday, March 27, 2015

The End Is Near For White Conservative Christian Americans


Isn't it ironic that the end is coming first for those who carry signs that say: 'The End Is Near'? And yet, according to Amanda Marcotte (click here for a quick bio and click there for her article), this is the case. And it isn't just Marcotte who is saying this. Several Conservative Christian blogs have been anticipating the coming period of exile where Conservative Christians will no longer have their traditional privileged position in deciding our society's laws and mores. What is the reason for this loss of power? 

Why is the sky falling now? I can think of 3 reasons 2 of which were mentioned by Marcotte. The first reason is demographics. There are getting to be fewer Whites in proportion to people from some other races and even still fewer Conservative Christians. The drop in the population percentage of Whites has to do with the population growth of other races. When you add to that the drop in the number of those who claim a religious affiliation, it is only natural to conclude that we will see a smaller percentage of white, conservative Christians.

But we should note, as Marcotte does, that the drop in the percentage of white, conservative Christians also has to do with their attitudes toward certain people who are different. And that difference has to do with attitudes toward sex. It seems that we have an old guard in the white conservative Christian American demographic who are punitive toward homosexuals in how they want society to treat homosexuals. They also cry foul when they are resisted. 

Now some of the resistance faced by that old guard, according to some of my fellow Christians, comes from the Political Correctness movement. And there is a little merit to that idea because of a few extreme elements in that movement. But the idea that a group that is losing its privilege and has been involved in marginalizing others would cry persecution and claim to be victims simply because some of its victims are making gains for itself is irritating to say the least. In fact, it is offensive. And when we add that to society's changing views of sex where, as Marcotte noted, in that people are feeling less guilty about having sex, we could add that it would be easy to see where some of the main messages preached by these Christians is losing its appeal.

Marcotte stops there, which perhaps reflects some of her major concerns; but there is one more point to make regarding why white, conservative Christians in America are losing their place in society. That point has to do with how their Christianity measures up to postmodernism. Postmodernism, as I understand it, is a reactionary movement that seeks to avoid the past moral mistakes of domination and colonization. Here we should note that the 'metanarratives' of both premodernism and modernism have been used to justify the exploitation and abuse of others. This exploitation and abuse in America occurs economically and in the world through foreign policies abroad. And included in premodernism is the Christian faith.

If we add to postmodernism's rise in popularity, the silence of white, conservative Christians on the domination and colonization we see in the world today provides another reason for why white, conservative Christianity is losing its appeal. The concerns regarding domination and colonization are real and merit opposition. So when white, conservative Christians try too hard to control the sexual lives of individuals while saying nothing to those who would exploit and abuse others, it seems that not only are white conservative Christian Americans losing their public appeal, they are creating a perfect storm for themselves. And that storm will cause the continued emptying of the white, conservative Christian movement in America.

Marcotte does say some significant things here about why white, conservative Christian Americans are no longer an in group. The comments on demographics are important and her calling the efforts of white conservative Christians to control what homosexuals are allowed to do in society 'overreach' is a nuanced way of being spot on. But there is a larger picture to consider as well. And that is where Marcotte fails. For while she looks at this Christian movement from a sexual issues perspective, white, conservative Christians continue to be silent about a status quo that relies on the exploitation and domination of others to live. Perhaps their silence is because they do not want to bite the hands that feed them. And this is what she should have also written about.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For March 25, 2015


March 17

To David Robertson and his blogpost objecting to Edinburgh being called a not-Christian city. This appeared in the Wee Flea blog.

To me, calling a place a Christian place does not refer to the number of Christians there or their activity level. Rather, calling a place a Christian place means that Christians have a privileged position in that place to determine that place's laws and mores. 

Our challenge as Christians is how to reach out to the people where we live in order to both share the Gospel and help those in need without seeking a privileged position there. The desire for a privileged position comes from the desire to be in control. And our history of being in control over places has now caused us to see the pendulum swing in the other direction.

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March 20

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost criticizing the PCUSA on its decision to  accept same-sex marriage in the churches of its denomination. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

I think that there are two tragedies here. The first one is definitely the failure of the PCUSA to distinguish between what should be acceptable in the Church and what should be acceptable in society. The denomination has a very valid concern for those who are marginalized (a.k.a., victims in Heidelblog-speak). That concern was also shown in the most recent decision regarding Israel. But that concern has trumped their commitment to the Scriptures. I have a friend who from the denomination who, unfortunately, thinks that the denomination is offering the love of Jesus by regarding homosexuality as being acceptable before God. The PCUSA is right to be concerned with how homosexuals have been marginalized in society and it is right for it to stand against that marginalization. But the Scriptures are clear on this matter and one must practice an olympic level of exegetical-gymnastics to read the Scriptures in any other way.

The other tragedy is the switch from using the conservative-liberal model in understanding the Church to the confessional-nonconfessional model. Why? It is not because of the adequacy of the conservative-liberal model of thought, this model of thought has many faults. It is because, as important as the confessions are, the confessional-nonconfessional model makes, in the hearts of many conservatives, the confessions operate like the traditions of the pharisees in Jesus' day. For we start regarding the confessions in the same way as those pharisees regarded their traditions as they used them to replace God's Word in their thinking. 

Yes, the confessions are important and they can be a useful guide. But dividing churches using the confessional-nonconfessional, especially when it comes to what the confessions say about the 2nd table of the law, puts those confessions on a dangerously high pedestal and forgets the cultural influences that were a part of the writing of those confessions. 

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March 21

To Joe Carter and his blogpost predicting significant unemployment from Seattle's new $15/hr minimum wage. This appeared in the Acton blog

What is not mentioned here is that with the current wage situation, public funds are being used to subsidize corporate payrolls for many chains and that also involves chains not in the restaurant business. 

The problem with the conservative approach is that it never questions the system. And if Carter is right about there being too many negative side effects of the $15/hr minimum wage, then the choice we have is between public funds being used to subsidize corporate payrolls because of the poverty wages vs livable wage and fewer jobs. How is it that we are not questioning the system that limits our options to these two options?

Also, time will tell how many negative side effects there will be to the $15/hr wage. But regardless of those effects, we can't afford to be silent on what many are  now experiencing. To be silent while reporting on the negative effects of the new minimum wage indicates a conflict of interests.

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To Elise Hilton and her article that attacks socialism by calling it fascism. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The trouble with this post is that it tells 2 stories from only 1 perspective. Both the description of socialism and the relabeling of it as fascism  along with the religious citations supporting and absolutized notion of property rights is stated from the conservative perspective. And the story is fuzzy because it is neither historically nor ideologically accurate. 

Historically speaking, the fascists were enemies of socialism. In addition, the fascists were hypernationalists. Don't believe me? Check the WWII record. Spain, Italy and Germany were fascist nations. And despite claims to the opposite, the so-called socialism of Germany and Italy had as a main driving force industrialists (a.k.a., capitalists), not workers which is the hallmark of socialism. The nationalism and the military spending was very good for businesses.  And they, along with Franco, opposed the left and socialism. Hitler supported Franco against Spain's Leftists. Hitler opposed the Soviet Union--even though Leninism-Stalinism was not really socialism. Both of those Soviet regimes were autocratic tyrannies. Unlike Nazi Germany, their governmental concerns was not driven by industrialists. In fact, Russia's capitalists, who favored the Tsars and kept their policies after the 1917 February overthrow of the Tsar, were defeated by Lenin. Then go ahead and read Mussolini and look at who supported his running of the government.

The topic brought up here is often obscured by rhetoric that absolutizes property rights and this is often done in ways that drown out concerns for workers' and others' rights. And what goes unsaid here is that the maintaining of property rights and the accumulation of wealth is due to a varying number of interdependencies including the essential contributions made by workers. And covered by obscurity and inaccuracies here is the fact that the Left, by definition, revolves around workers' rights and workers' control of manufacturing.  And those rights and control were not even seen in "Leftist" nations like the Soviet Union and Red China let alone the fascist nations like WWII Germany, Spain under Franco, and Italy under Mussolini. Whereas a legitimate Leftist government in Spain was defeated by Franco during the Spanish Civil War and in the name of nationalism--here, we should note that strong nationalism is a common trait among fascist nations while the international is a trait of socialist nations--with the help of Nazi Germany.

See, property rights, property rights, property rights is the battle cry for the capitalists and the business elites. And no challenges are allowed to be made without the accusation that all challenges come from "fascism."  The actual  battle here pits Capitalism's rule of wealth vs Government's rule of power vs the Left's democracy--rule of the people. That is what the stories of both World Wars tell us, and that is what is being played out today.


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March 24

To Joe Carter and his blogpost about redistribution and how it is losing support among some of its beneficiaries. This appeared in the Acton blog.


The problem with this post is that because of its limited view of redistribution, it makes a false state, pertaining to our elected officials that is. Redistribution, according to conservatives can only flow in one direction and that direction is toward those who have less. 

But isn't there also a redistribution of wealth upwards? Think of the group that has benefited the most from the financial recovery from our economic collapse in 2008. It is the wealthy. And think about the flow of money that occurs when corporations use gov't assistance programs to subsidize their payrolls. And think about the flow of money which occurs when lobbyists write bills and obtain gov't contracts that richly reward their corporate employers. Most of our elected officials from both major political parties and wealthy recipients of the upward redistribution have no problem with feeling richer and more dependent on government with this upward redistribution. 

Why is it that what is redistributed to the poor is dumped on here, but what is redistributed to the rich goes unmentioned? Past revolutions suggest that this selective process of describing redistribution is not in our best interests. That is especially true for those who have any religious associations.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Will It Be The Conservative Protestants' Turn To Face A Hostile Revolution?

For the Roman Church, it was the French Revolution. For the Orthodox Church, it was the Russian Revolution. Whose revolution will be the temporary undoing of the Conservative Protestant Church? 

Only time will tell but repeated historical mistakes occurring in America are causing some to shout, 'Spoiler Alert"! "Spoiler Alert"! What are those historical mistakes?

For both the Roman and the Orthodox Churches, the problem was the behavior of their best friends. Their best friends were those with wealth and power. In France, the clergy made up the First Estate and, in parliamentary proceedings, they had the back of the aristocracy. Note that just prior to the French Revolution, the aristocracy had the tax burden transferred almost totally onto the backs of rest of the populace even though France was already struggling with problems stemming from a high national debt. 

Note the Orthodox Church had been under the control of the Tsars for a long time. In addition, close to the 1917 Russian Revolution, the clergy supported the Tsar's policies that so hurt much of the populace, but created and benefited the Capitalists who first took over for the Tsar in February of 1917. It wasn't until that October that the Bolsheviks took control, an event that triggered a civil war. 

There were a couple of other factors here. Realize the difference in attitudes that the predecessor to the Bolsheviks, the Social Democrats, had toward the Church in 1905 (click here and read part 1 of Luxemburg's article on Socialism and the churches) from what the Bolsheviks had. And we should note the clergy's attitude toward the Social Democrats despite the fact that, according to Luxemburg, the Social Democrats did not speak against the clergy. 

We should also note that, according to Orthodox Church sources, the Church had been somewhat prepared for the Revolution and some of the clergy was discontent with the current regime because of how it controlled the Church--a view that seems not to fully coincide with what Luxemburg observed. However, we should note that in 1918, the head of the Russian Church criticized the government for how it withdrew from WW I. That criticism followed a Bolshevik decree that took away the legal rights of the Church (http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/history7.aspx#Revolution  ). The effect that both popular opposition to and Capitalists' support for WW I had on the revolutionaries cannot be underestimated here.

The key factor relating to the respective churches in both revolutions is that the clergy did not adequately speak against the exploitation and abuse of the people by those with wealth and power. Rather, the Church charged people with the responsibility of enduring the hardships and respecting authority. 

Let's now go to the present and Conservative Protestantism here in America. First, like the Roman Church prior to the French Revolution and the Orthodox Church  prior to the Russian Revolution, the Conservative Protestant Church is tied closely to the nation. Yes, it isn't controlled by our national leaders, at least from what we can see. But it still has close ties to our nation. In addition, the Conservative Protestant Church, for the most part, identifies with our national identity as described by our nation's Founding Fathers and key documents. 

Thus, the Conservative Protestant Church strongly supports the economic system adopted by our nation without acknowledging the changes that have taken place in that system over the years. For example, our nation no longer depends on the same kind of capitalist system that existed just after WW II. The previous capitalist system allowed the governments around the world to exercise more control over their own economies. With today's neoliberalism or neoliberal capitalism, foreign investors have more and more control over a given nation's economy. And yet, many Conservative Protestants talk about these systems as if they were the same.

And what many Conservative Protestant leaders praise about our system is its emphasis and focus on property rights. But the problem here is that these property rights are celebrated without discussing what went into acquisition and accumulation of property. In other words, the contributions of others to the gaining of one's own property and the implied social contract those contributions carry are not considered. Regardless of how one gained new or more property, that property is seen as being wholly belonging to the property owner.  An example of how property ownership could be questioned is to ask, during the days of slavery, how much property did a landowner really own when the bulk of the work that produced wealth was done by slaves? 

Here, we could ask how much of James Madison's wealth morally belonged to him despite the fact that his slaves did the bulk of the work in creating and building his wealth--that is the wealth he didn't inherit.

Likewise, one of the popular slogans used at the 2012 Republican Convention was 'we built it.' The suggestion of the slogan was that the person of wealth was wholly responsible for their own wealth. The reality was that there were many interdependencies that contributed to the wealth of any single person and thus there were claims on some of that wealth because of those interdependencies. The Republicans, however, saw this issue as a private property issue only and sought to minimize, if not eradicate, those claims in the name of private property.

This kind of celebration of private property is rampant among Conservative Protestants. But there is a problem. During our current from of capitalism, commonly called neoliberalism, there is an ever growing consolidation of wealth towards the wealthy with a persevering stagnation of income for the middle class on down along with a shrinking of the Middle Class. In addition, many Conservative Protestants are more upset with government assistance programs than they are with the poverty wages that require these services for low-skilled workers. So we can add that many Conservative Protestants are demanding a drop in safety net programs and services claiming that such are unaffordable. At the same time, Conservative Protestants are not pushing for raising or even maintaining the current tax rates on the wealthiest and on businesses due to their beliefs in private property. 

Many Conservative Protestants also lean toward being military hawks and insist on spending the necessary amount of money on keeping America the #1 military power in the world. However, many such Protestants don't see that the primary beneficiary of such programs are those with wealth. And there seems to be no widespread call for increased spending on veterans' services by these Protestants. Thus, the combination of military spending with the shifting of the tax burden from the wealthiest to either the rest or to debt is not challenged by Conservative Protestants.

As many Conservative Protestants are now willing to study and do something about the systemic racism that has plagued our nation from its beginning, they, like their French and Russian counterparts are not willing to preach repentance to the wealthy for the sins they commit in trying to maximize their own wealth. In addition, Conservative Protestants, for the most part, have great difficulty acknowledging global climate change and how human activity has contributed to that. Such a recognition would imply the necessity of significant changes in the lifestyles of all. And finally, what Conservative Protestants are most vocal about is the nation's changing sexual morals. Here again, Conservative Protestants are more than willing to pummel individuals regarding their sexual practices and orientations while they are ever so silent about the exploitive behavior of the wealthy.

America will follow of two paths and both concern Conservative Protestants. One path is that Conservative Protestants will become scapegoats if our nation collapses due to its current direction. The other path is that some type of revolution could occur and Conservative Protestantism will be deemed an enemy because of its stalwart support for and defense of the current status quo. We already see the latter in terms of the growing recognition of LGBT rights. In addition, many Conservative Protestants recognize that the current direction of our country now makes them feel as exiles in a foreign land.

The past can help us envision our future. And if that is so, we should note the similarities that many of us Conservative Protestants have with our Roman Church counterparts just prior to the French Revolution and Orthodox Church counterparts just prior to the Russian Revolution. The protection of and refusal to preach repentance to the wealthy along with its disregard for the system caused economic hardships suffered by those in the lower class are practices shared by Conservative Protestants in America with their pre-revolutionary counterparts from the other churches. What is new is the need for us Conservative Protestants to recognize the future environmental hazards we are leaving for those who will follow us.

In any event, as we survey the ties that the Church has historically had with wealth in power, as exemplified in the three periods reviewed above, is it any wonder why some on the Left believe that the Church is just another institution of indoctrination to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power? And because of that, it seems that the Church, the Conservative Protestant Church this time, is on the road to becoming the whipping boy of those in favor of revolution. And Conservative Protestants will have no one to blame for that except for ourselves.




Monday, March 23, 2015

ONIM For March 23, 2015

Christian News



World News



Pick(s) Of The Litter




References

  1. https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-roots-of-american-racism/

Friday, March 20, 2015

As Bad As It Is, Racism Is Just One Of Our Dire Problems

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor and a contributor to the Gospel Coalition website. He just wrote a blogpost for that website which talked about how engrained racism is in people (click here). Before that blogpost, he wrote a series of blogpost containing letters to and from a Ferguson protester. Some of those letters were excellent in content and writing. But our concern here is the article linked to above.

To show how pervasive and profound our problem with racism is, he likens it to a cactus plant he once planted in the front of his yard. He discovered that he had to remove it because of how the growth of this plant was  effecting some of the other vegetation. And it wasn't until he tried to remove the cactus that he realized how deep and far its roots went.  This is why he likens racism to a cactus plant. For though some things have improved, racism is still there in force and it exists in other places besides individual people.

For example, Anyabwile vaguely cites the latest DOJ investigation of Ferguson that states that the city has a problem with 'institutional racism'  (click here for news report on the DOJ investigation). And who could argue with that when it found that the police department there showed a pattern of 'racial bias' as evidenced in the force used, citations issued, and traffic stops made. That this racial bias reached into the court system as measured in the number of cases not dismissed against Blacks. Others have reported incidents of misconduct by various police officers which included false arrests and the planting of evidence (click here and there). This doesn't include the failure to indict police officers for their violence against unarmed Blacks. The Eric Garner incident comes to mind here because of the video evidence. At the same time, we see violent White criminals apprehended rather than killed such as the man who ambushed and killed a Pennsylvainia State Trooper and the white supremacist who was just apprehended after a shooting spree in Arizona (click here)

When we add this to the number of unarmed Blacks shot by police and the inordinate percentage of minorities who are incarcerated, there is not much doubt regarding Anyabwile's claims. We should note that he could have made a stronger case by providing documentation. For example, Anyabwile also mentions that judges are in on the racial bias action, but he offers no testimonies or documentation.

Above is the institutionalized racism, that doesn't include racism practiced by those in the private sector. We should note the racist rant recorded by a fraternity at Oklahoma (click here and there), the Trayvon Martin shooting, and a Black man was found hung in Mississippi just recently (click here). Regarding the last instance, the FBI is investigating and so no conclusions can be drawn as to why this man hung. 

In essence, Anyabwile is correct in his assessment of our problems with racism. But, again, he neither documented nor provided enough testimonies to make a strong case. And since what he is saying is basically correct, his lack of a strong case can partially sabotage his efforts.

However, Anyabwile makes an excellent point by noting that our problem with racism is a Christian discipleship as well as a social justice issue. The implication of his point here is that Christians are not just called on to combat racism on a personal level, they are to join everyone else in publicly fighting it. This includes calling on our government to address the issue.

But something else needs to be said here. Anyabwile makes the following statement:
It’s tragic that the country’s biggest sin is racism and the Church’s biggest omission is racial justice. The tragedy gets compounded when one remembers that some quarters of the Church were once the strongest supporters of this sin.

This statement must be challenged not because racism is not a huge problem, it must be  challenged because we need to step back to see the other major problems we have and check if they're related. We should note that the problem with ISIS is not racism, it is a religious warfare problem. The problem with Wall Street and corruption is not racism, it is economic classism.  And we should note how American Conservative Christians have been trying to use the law to keep homosexuals from achieving a fuller equality through the access to same-sex marriage. Russia and the United States are causing problems because of nationalism. And concerning nationalism, it would help to remember what Bobby Seale,  cofounder of the original Black Panthers organization, said on a talk show. He equated nationalism with racism because both dealt with issues of superiority.

So really, the world's biggest problem is tribalism, which can involve racism, and the Church's biggest 'omission' is not challenging this tribalism whether that tribalism revolves around religion or race, national identity or sexual orientation, or economic class.  Our loyalty to our groups is becoming so strong that not only do we more easily look at outsiders as threats and the source of all evil, we easily excuse our dehumanizing actions toward them while exalting ourselves.

That we go on from racism to approach the problem more abstractly, we find that we are presenting an even a bigger challenge to the Church than calling on it to oppose racism. This is  because much of the Church has even closer ties to money and those with wealth than it has to race. For example, some Conservative Churches are beginning to address the racial issue. But very few, if any, are challenging the economic classism problem as it exhibits itself in an ever increasing income and wealth disparities as well as a growing hopelessness for those imprisoned in the underclass. Though the Conservative Church as a whole still has a dismal record in combatting racism, its battle against economic classism is almost nonexistent. 

And how many Christian churches are challenging the abuses of nationalism? Currently, the churches in Syria and Egypt are battling the temptation of compromising speaking the truth to power because those in power, who so harshly abuse others, are making efforts to protect the churches. Thus, these churches have to choose between enjoying protection and spiritually biting the proverbial hand that feeds them.

In America, the failure of the Conservative Church to challenge nationalism is not due to a fear of losing protection; its failure is because many in the Conservative Church feel pride and a sense of significance in celebrating nationalism. And by exalting our nation and associating our faith with our nation's accomplishments, it is a way of exalting oneself as well. Thus, any challenge to our nation's prestige is interpreted as being a slap in the face by those who are proud Americans.

If Anyabwile could only step back from racism and see that our real problem is tribalism regardless of whether race is involved, he would have said that the Conservative Church's biggest omission is social justice. And that would have included the complicity in racism of which many in the Conservative Church are guilty.

There is a P.S. here. In listing the different kinds of groups we join and embrace tribalism, I forgot to mention one of the major kinds of groups: political-economic ideology. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For March 18, 2015


March 10

To R. Scott Clark's response to my comment comparing his list of references for settled science vs the list of scientists who are convinced that climate change is caused by human activity. This appeared in the Heidelblog's article on Settled Science

Dr Clark,
The problem with your answer to BD is that it is first based on a false assumption and second, it filters out the details. 

Now to clear things up, BD was actually me who was visiting my daughter and didn't realize her logged-in status on her blog would be recorded as the sender of the message. For that I apologize. It was inadvertent. 

The false assumption was that you thought that the 97% was based on a NASA article. Actually, it is based on  a National Academy of Sciences article. The link is 

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/27/12107.full

Please be specific in detailing your scientific objections to the study's methodology--that is if you so choose to, I understand if you choose not to.

Second, there was no systematic documentation for giving a specific figure by the NASA article. However, by simply saying it was unscientific, you waved your hands at the number of scientific  organizations that do recognize climate change as being caused by human activity. 

Now again, compare those organizations with the single reference you gave in the 1970s about the coming ice age being settled science and tell me how the two different sets of references are comparable. Note that the list of scientific organizations that are convinced by the evidence is also not the same as any list of media outlets that report a story. The NASA link is below:

    http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

Finally, what conservatives are not upfront about are the personal issues involved in acknowledging the possible reality of climate change. The quote comes from Naomi Klein.

it is always easier to deny reality than to allow our worldview to be shattered

We should note that the above objection to acknowledging the possible reality of climate change is often the same objection made by many who reject the truth of God's Word.

Finally, I am not clear on your view of climate change. Do you deny that we are experiencing human activity caused climate change or are you saying that it is possible but that the jury should still be out? 

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Currently, this comment is in comment limbo as it awaits moderation. This state of limbo sometimes becomes a comment's permanent state. I will update the status of this comment when I become aware of a change.

To David Robertson and his blogpost on a secular organization's argument against Christianity. It has to do with alleged sexual misconduct of a Christian. This blogpost appeared in the Wee Flea blog.

We have to realize that as cultural values drift further and further from Christian values, the greater the change which is called for by the preaching of the Gospel. And the greater the change called for, the stronger the resistance will be. Therefore, examples of hypocrisy will have their significance magnified. 

Sex is not the only issue which opponents of Christianity are blaming the Church for. The Church has also been portrayed as an oppressor of man's creativity and freedom. And one of the ways the Church has done this is through doctrine.

We should also note the Church's past history at playing the hypocrite. Think of how much scorn the Church earned for itself prior to the French and Russian Revolutions by aligning itself with wealth and power.

Yes, we preach a stricter code of sexual ethics to the world and some, perhaps with some merit, will link how we have taught sexual ethics with the sexual misconduct by some of our own. And since we are calling for bigger and bigger changes in people's lives as cultural values continue on their present course, we should expect the kind of reaction described above.

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March 14

To Russell Moore and his blogpost on the changing status of Christianity in America and how we can react. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There are some good observations made in this article especially in the section titled, 'Path Forward.' But there is something missing as well. For not only must we consider how to advance the Kingdom of God in America, we must also decide on how we will share society with others. We must determine how we will share society with others because society has joined us with others. Thus, choosing how to share society is a responsibility.

In the past, Christians sought and maintained a privileged position in society in that we had the biggest voice in determining its laws and mores. But we should note, lest the less than honest comparison between Muskogee and Woodstock gives us a false sense of superiority, who was marginalized when Christianity was the dominant force in society. Minorities were not just marginalized, they were persecuted. Homosexuals have shared their own version of that marginalization and persecution as well. Those belonging to other political ideologies, such as socialists, were marginalized and sometimes persecuted. The list could go on.

The fact that we call the recent turn in events a culture war shows how oblivious we have been of our privileged position. For the current culture war more resembles the conflict portrayed in the first Star Wars movie. We had a rebellion against an empire where, in America, the empire stood for Christianity and its values.

There is a way to end the current culture wars while optimizing our ability to advance the Kingdom of God. That way is to share society as equals. And in sharing society as equals, we commit ourselves to including those groups whom we have, in the past, either worked to marginalize or neglected their marginalized status. Working to share society as equals rather than as a chosen few will reduce the number of stumbling blocks we set before those to whom we wish to preach.

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March 17

To Elise Hilton and her blogpost on Christian persecution and our loss of liberties. This appeared in the Acton blog.

The trouble with this post obviously is not the recognition that some other Christians have it worse than American Christians or that we should try to better the plight of both Christians in Islamic countries and those here. The trouble is that, besides not being specific regarding the troubles Christians have here, there is no context provided for why Christians here are "losing" liberties here. Certainly some have lost jobs because of their views and citing those actions are legitimate citing of lost liberties by a few number of particular Christians. 

Other than that, we really haven't lost any liberties; but we are seeing a pendulum swing. That pendulum swing is returning from a period where Christians had a privileged place in society. And while we had that privileged place, there were those who suffered marginalization. For many, especially America's Indigenous people and Blacks, we ignored their suffering and disenfranchisement, or some of us even pushed for, their discrimination. For homosexuals, we continue to push for both their marginalization and our right to estrange them. Much of that revolves around our opposition to same-sex marriage and, in some states, our reactionary attempts to pass Jim Crow like legislation against them. In fact, homosexuals are still subject to marginalization through legally protected harassment and job firings in some states.

Now the pendulum is slowly starting to swing the other way and we feel "persecution." Certainly our trials here are not comparable to the persecution Christians in other areas of the world are subject to. But neither is our persecution comparable to what we've put, and still do, homosexuals through. Which makes us think whether the current persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, some of which consists of horrific atrocities, are a sinful reaction to what Christians there have done. We should note that for protection payment, some, not all, Christians in the Middle East have supported tyrannical regimes. Two nations where this has occurred are Syria and Egypt. All of which points to our need to be able to step back from our proclivity for myopia to get a wider perspective.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost citing Acton colleague Samuel Gregg's assertion that our understanding of God shapes us and society. This occurred in the Acton blog.

The trouble here is that we often measure civilization by how we treat those in our own group while neglecting to mention how we treat those from other groups. Thus de Tocqueville was so impressed with how civilized British Society was that he neglected to consider how the Brits treated those in their colonies. 

So when we examine the main premise, what does the history and present of our nation's treatment of nonWhites, both here and abroad, say about our understanding of God?







Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Democracy's Enemies

This blogpost is an attempt to restate and then go beyond what was said in last Tuesday's, December 9 post (click here). In that post this blog made a distinction between democracy as a state of being for society from democracy being a description of a set of political processes followed by the government. In the former, a democracy is where all of the people in society rule. There is an equality implied in this definition. For if only certain groups rule, then not all of the people can participate in the making of society's rules.

In the latter definition, democracy is where people vote for or against certain legislation as well as for the candidates of their choice. Here, democracy isn't describing an end result, but a process that is practiced by its members.

Now we should note that we can't have a democracy in terms of the state of being for a society without democratic processes. But the converse is not true. The employment of democratic processes by a political structure does not guarantee that all of the people will have an equal place in society. We only need to look at our own nation, state, city, and so forth for proof. 

Thus, if we are seeking a democratic state of being for society, not only will we use democratic processes to press our own demands, we will use them to protect the rights and status of others, especially those who are battling marginalization.  And this is where our nation's notion and practice of democracy are most deficient. While too many of us have seen democracy as a set of tools to use to raise our own position, we have forgotten our responsibilities and obligations to others. Why is this the case?

We have 3 personal motivations that work against wanting a democracy where everybody shares society as equals. These motivations are a sense of entitlement, ambition, and greed. We should note that we can work against democracy for more than one reason--there is no quota here.

A sense of entitlement comes into play when a group feels that it has a right to dominate over other groups. This domination has been based on racial differences, economic class differences, ideological differences, and delusions of one's own moral superiority. For Christians, the most recent exhibition of our desire to share society with others as being their superiors is seen in the same-sex marriage debate. After all, not only do we view ourselves as being morally superior to homosexuals, by opposing same-sex marriage, we believe that we are protecting society from sliding down the slippery slope of sexual moral decay. This is why we have opposed the "judicial activism" that has reversed democratically decided legislation banning same-sex marriage. And in many places where we have lost the court battle, we have pushed for Jim Crow type laws that would allow us to stigmatize homosexuals by refusing to provide goods and services to either them or their ceremonies. 

This refusal to share society with homosexuals as equals is an indicator that our claims to being spiritually superior are delusional. Romans 3:9 proves our claims to be false.

The above shows an example of entitlement. Many of us Christians believe that we have not only the right definition of marriage, we have the necessary definition for the benefit of the nation. Thus, we feel justified in pushing our agenda at the expense of equality for homosexuals.

And though there are other examples of where other groups feel entitled to push to the margins those to whom they feel superior, the striving of Conservative Christians to maintain a privileged position in society for themselves and pushing of homosexuals to the margins of society provides the epitome of one group feeling entitled to dominate over another group.  The attitude of many of us Conservative Christians regarding same-sex marriage is that not only are we are right and they are wrong, we are protecting society from hurting itself. Therefore we have the right, and even responsibility, to prohibit homosexuals from enjoying what we enjoy, being married to the person of their choice. Such an approach does not work for a democratic state of being in society. 

Another personal motivation that works against a democratic society is ambition. This ambition could be paired with a sense of entitlement or could consist solely of the desire to conquer. To give an example, I was talking to one group about my experiences at Occupy Wall Street and how we used consensus as a democratic process in reaching decisions. One of the women in the group strongly disagreed with me. Why did she disagree? It was because she lived in poverty and was powerless and thus her goal was to gain as much power as she could so she control society as much as possible. This is an example of ambition. It is the desire to conquer and reign over others. And what was sad in this case was that the implications of this person winning control over others in society did not stir any kind of reaction from the rest of the group.

And when we look at our political landscape, because of the ambitions of the people in the two major political parties, we find that many of the people we vote for look at winning elections as a way to get their way in politics and government. Some do this for the glory--that is for the sense of significance that comes from winning and getting some kind or recognition from others. To them, it is merely a competition, another game to win. Others simply want to rule and dominate over the rest because they felt that it was their turn. In either case, ambition drove their striving to win. And perhaps, the democracy label from our democratic processes eased any misgivings over the new control over others which they obtained. Such is the problem with reducing democracy to the set of political processes that involve elections. For we should note that such people are not easy to work or negotiate with.

The final personal motivation that works against a democratic society is greed. With greed, we are focused on the goods and wealth we can obtain and we start to care less and less about the welfare and equality of others because we look at those others as objects. If these objects can help us get wealthy, we feign respect for them in order to use them. If they cannot help us get rich, we count them as disposable. When companies offshore their work in order to maximize profits for shareholders, the welfare of the employees who lose their jobs is not considered. In fact, these employees have no voice in publicly owned companies because the only ones whose voice is heard there are those who own stock and the executives. All others can be let go at a moment's notice. 

And if we think that this only happens in business, we need to look again. Bill after bill, in this country, are written by lobbyists whose chief concern is how much revenue their employers can gain from their work. No one else matters. That is why the chief beneficiaries of Obamacare are Health Insurance companies and corporate medical facilities. Energy companies benefit from relaxed environmental regulations. The big banks and other financial sector companies have benefited from relaxed regulations in the past and from the lack of criminal prosecutions even when some of our financial institutions laundered drug money today. And how many companies benefit from our foreign policies and the use of our military.

Martin Luther King Jr described our society as being a 'thing-oriented' oriented society. What he meant was that gadgets, profits, and property rights were counted as more important than people and taking care of them. And those who are so thing-oriented will be too concerned with the latest technology, making the most money, and using property rights to excuse themselves from responsibilities to care about whether all have an equal place in society. Such an equal place does not imply that everyone would have the same income level. Rather, an equal place in society means that the welfare of all is counted as equally important so that none are either exploited or marginalized.

We could learn what a democratic state of being for society means by studying the decision making processes used at Occupy Wall Street. It isn't that their way of making decisions was without flaw or that it wouldn't have to be modified for society at large. But the basic aim in how Occupy made decisions protected the equal status of those in the group. One block could table a proposal. Such a process prevents a tyranny of the majority. But more importantly, it caused people to listen to others who had different concerns and so proposals and procedures received revision after revision until there were no blocks. 

Here, it isn't the exact procedures that we should carry over from Occupy to society that is important. It isn't the methods that we can learn from, it is the intention and the spirit that existed there that we would do well to imitate. For there, there was a sincere desire to craft statements that everyone could agree with. Everyone was listened to. Yes, Occupy Wall Street did not carry out their decision making processes perfectly. But the idea that we legislated through cooperation and listening rather than competing for support made a more democratic state of being for the Occupy encampments.

All of the above points to a dilemma for America. For the values from our economic system which are most highly valued, greed and competitiveness, are two traits that work against creating a democratic state of being for society. Thus, if we want an equality that comes from a true democracy, we have a choice to make.