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Category Archives: Evangelicals

If you ever wondered what the 1% really thinks of the 99%, now Mitt Romney has provided an answer—at least of what many of well-healed 1%  think about about a good half of the country. Joe Klein compares Romney’s candid camera moment with the much repeated Obama gaffe about crackers clinging to their guns and religion:

In context, Obama was talking about small-town America, a place where the jobs“have been gone for 25 years now” and “nothing has replaced them.” Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to address this central economic problem, he said, and so the residents grow “bitter” and start to cling to their guns and Bibles. But Obama, the Whole Foods arugula shopper, ignored the fact that a great many gun owners are not bitter but joyful in the hunt — indeed, that they derive as much pleasure from their sport as Obama does from basketball or golf. Nor did he understand that in many small towns religion is a source of service and good deeds and community, of drug treatment and food banks, as well as the pure peace of prayerful meditation. But Obama was right about the larger picture: there was a fear and bitterness in white small-town America that had its roots in the changing economy and expressed itself in anger that some people — immigrants, welfare recipients (and especially, now, those on Social Security Disability) and those lazy folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles — were getting over. Those sentiments, obviously, gave rise to the Tea Party. They are undiminished today. And clearly, Obama was saying something he really believed, although — to borrow a Romney locution — inelegantly.

I’m not so sure about Romney. I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough to know that the 47% he summoned was in the category of “damned lie” statistics. I’m pretty sure he knows that the vast majority of those people work their butts off, pay federal payroll taxes (and a raft of state and local levies) or are senior citizens receiving Social Security and Medicare. I’m not sure that he has put two and two together: that a great many of the 47% — the white working-class voters and senior citizens — are Romney voters. Or that they don’t pay income taxes because of Republican tax cuts and Republican child and earned-income tax credits. But I am absolutely convinced that Mitt Romney has been inured to Republican fat-cat audiences complaining about how much they have to pay to keep the American enterprise afloat, and that he was well aware of the Fox-Rush echo-chamber formulations about food-stamp growth and dependency and people not paying federal taxes, and he was playing to those prejudices. The exigencies of fundraising have forced him to spend more time with plutocrats than average citizens this year. It’s not surprising that he’s lost track of the world as most people see it. Hell, he’s spending today — the day after this momentous gaffe — fundraising rather than trying to change the topic.

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Apparently, bird-flipping bad boy Rick Perry has gotten religion. Or maybe he is just hoping to increase his political capital with the Religious Right in anticipation of a presidential bid. Not to suggest a politician would be that cynical and  calculating, but courting the born-again wing of the GOP certainly helped our last Texas Governor trade up to an oval-shaped office. The details:

Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry is organizing a national prayer rally.

The day-long prayer and fasting event, called “The Response,” is scheduled for Aug. 6 in Houston, Texas.

Gov. Perry said Americans must call on Jesus to guide them through the “unprecedented struggles” the nation is facing.

“Right now, America is in crisis. We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism and a multitude of natural disasters,” Perry said on the event’s website.

“Some problems are beyond our power to solve… this historic hour demands a historic response,” he said.

Governors across the country are invited to participate in the prayer rally.

Some have criticized the event saying Perry shouldn’t use his office to promote a religious gathering.

The prayer rally will be held at Reliant Stadium.

Jesus had an excellent stone throwing policy. He who is without sin is the only one permitted on the pitcher’s mound. Unfortunately, Christians are not the best at using these essential ground rules. That’s why our self-styled version of the sport is rarely mistaken for true Christianity. Unlike Christ’s apostles the sins we speak out against are hardly ever our own. Now would be an excellent time to start to focus on hating our own sins instead of letting our little light shine in other people’s hearts. Maybe Grant Storms will take this moment to reconsider his ministry’s emphasis:

Rev. Grant Storms, a renowned anti-gay Christian pastor from Louisiana, was arrested last week for masturbating at a public park, in the vicinity of a carousel and playground where children were present.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one woman saw Storms parked in his van “looking at the playground area that contained children playing, with his zipper down…,” the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office report read. After judging that Storms was masturbating, the woman and another mother who witnessed the event both alerted deputies.

After being apprehended by authorities, Storms claimed that he had been urinating into a bottle. He was then booked for obscenity — charges that he denied — and then released due to overcrowding in the jail.

The pastor appeared less willing to discuss the matter at a press conference on Tuesday, during which he blamed “pornography” for the incident.

“Pornography is destructive and it can ruin a person’s life, and it ruined my life,” he said at the conference, admitting that he had his hands in his pants, but maintaining that he wasn’t masturbating. “Do I have problems? Yes. Did I do something wrong? Yes.”

A recent survey shows that Christians are split on question of indebtedness. Evangelicals tend to view indebtedness and borrowing as a sin. Their biblical foundation comes from various passages that say “Let no debt remain outstanding…” The Christian Left takes a different position. They focus on the other end of the same verse: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” So which group is reading their Bible correctly? This from the Daily Beast:

A break-out of their priorities provided to the magazine Christianity Today by Pew shows that, more than other Americans, evangelicals are prepared to cut deeply and forcefully when chopping the deficit. They want the government to slash aid to the world’s poor and benefits to the unemployed. They’d cut spending on environmental issues and health care, as well as on science, college financial aid, and support for the domestic poor. They are less likely than other Americans to want the government to increase spending on public education, or—surprisingly, given their support for the nation’s wars—aid to veterans. And evangelicals’ social justice priorities, on display during the last election season, have faded in an era of hard times.

But the tenets of Christianity pull some of these same evangelicals in the other direction. Earlier this month, when Republicans announced their domestic budget cuts, which focused on things like education and the environment, the left-leaning evangelical Jim Wallis fought back in a blog post using Biblical arguments. “I believe,” he wrote, “that the moral test of any society is how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. And that is exactly what the Bible says, over and over again.”

The birthers have long questioned whether Obama’s presidency isn’t breaking the law of the land. Now Wendy Wright is floating the idea that Obama’s new health care law is breaking all ten commandments. After all, doesn’t it promote coveting? She writes: “As with many bills, politicians sold ObamaCare by stoking envy.”  Well, whatever was stoked, providing those without with what they are without likely decreases coveting. Right? Am I missing the point? Or does Ms. Wright not understand the sin of coveting? Next, she addresses bearing false witness. Again, her accusation has nothing to do with the health care law itself, only with some of the over-the-top examples of people’s health needs. Like those “thousand points of light” the President resorted to rhetorical hyperbole. Then comes “Thou shalt not steal.” This is where the right wing consistently confuses taxation with governmental stealing. My Savior took the position that we should render unto Washington that which is Washington’s. So I think we can move on. My Jesus trumps her Moses. ObamaCare, according to Ms. Wright apparently also encourages adultery. Finally, she deals with the actual law. Apparently, sex education provisions will lead to greater fornication. All we have to do is look at the rate of out of wedlock births in the Bible Belt to know that sexual immorality is rampant even where sex education is not provided. “Thou shall not kill” is next. This of course, focuses on the subject of “government funding of abortions.” Of course, there is no tax-payer funding of abortions in the health care law that was passed thanks to pro-life Democrats. So again Wright is off the mark. And shouldn’t the life of the child be considered in the high rate on infant fatalities that we currently have because of inadequate health care available to the poor? “Honor your father and mother.” Children should decide a parent’s health care. Here again, Wright, bears false witness: “Under ObamaCare, that privilege will be stripped from us and given to unaccountable bureaucrats. They will ultimately decide what health care our parents can get.” This is more of that death panel nonsense that the right spews out with abandon. Simply untrue. Okay this one is a stretch; “Keep the Sabbath holy.” The final health care vote happened on a Sunday. I guess Joe Lieberman thought that Saturday was the Sabbath.”You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” Another real stretch. She writes:“President Obama gave a pen with which he signed ObamaCare to Sister Carol Keehan, the nun who runs the Catholic Health Association. Why? Her seal of approval appeared to give a Catholic blessing to a bill that her superiors, the bishops, rejected.“  Still don’t know what this has to do with honoring Yahweh. “No graven images.” The thought here is that health care is an idol to the left. You know, like “lower taxes” and “school vouchers” are to the idolatrous right? Idolatry has no party affiliation. ”The Lord your God is One.” Wright concludes with this scathing indictment: ”ObamaCare sets up government as the one who will supply our needs and provide for our health.” Well, considering that the new health care law requires me to buy insurance coverage from the private sector, I am not sure how government becomes my great Jehovah-jireh. It is God who provides and He provides through various means: doctors, hospitals, drug companies and pastoral counselors. And yes, He even provides, occasionally, through the government. He is that big.

There is certainly a lot of talk about the American Constitution these days. Obama, of course, has throw it out the window, according to the Tea Party. The illegal aliens are abusing it according to conservative Republicans. And California’s Proposition 8 tramples it, according to the district  judge who just overruled this democratically established law. Of course, these same constitutional villians have the temerity to appeal to this very Constitution for their side’s views, as well. The rightwing has the tendency to argue that because of our “representative” form of  government that governance should match the weekly Gallup pole rather than the results of the last election. If the majority of the country, according to polling  data, oppose Obamacare, then no Obamacare. It is so obvious! The Religious Right agree (depending on the issue) but add that this is a “Christian nation” and therefore biblical standards are implied in our founding documents. There’s a lot of wishful thinking in this argument, to be sure. So, they argue, if homosexuality is an sin according to the Good Book, then no marriage for gays. Black and white. Right? Of course, I don’t hear a lot of support for stoning heterosexuals who commit adultery, a much more clear biblical mandate. The Religious Left have their “constitutional” arguments as well. While they are very happy to marry two men in a Christian ceremony, this is not the issue, they insist. The issue is civil marriage, they point out. Separation of church and state and all that. Why, it’s the very governing principle that our Protestant founders hard-wired into the Constitution. Shouldn’t gays and lesbians have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as the straight community? And isn’t it the role of government to protect the liberties of the minorities against the prejudices of the majority? It’s stage two of the civils rights movement! It is all so self-evident––to quote one of these devout founding fathers. So this constitution of ours must be a pretty broad document for it to be interpreted in so differently, huh? And that’s  the thing about our beloved constitution that some of us love. And the rest of us, cannot stand.

You know how the GOP religiously courts the white evangelical? You know how Dubya prided himself at “connecting” with this group? Well if this chart is to be believed, white evangelicals are less entrenched in the world of politics than we have been led to think. Black Protestants and white Catholics are another story.

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The film documentary Jesus Camp spends a week with a summer camp of Pentecostal kids. There, they get a version of Christianity that is wrapped in the American flag and double-dipped in a gooey adoration of policies of George W. Bush. This is a video of a group of kids from a large, conservative Dallas church. These kids put on a camp that reflects a different sort of Christianity. It is one where the cross is picked up, not pinned on. It is one where “values” aren’t simply slapped on T-shirts. They are lived out. Can I get an “Amen”?

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The first Great Awakening featured the Calvinistic preaching of men like George Whitefield. The result was a burgeoning young country falling to its knees to confess personal and corporate transgressions and embrace the crucified Christ. The second Great Awakening was of a different sort. It featured the man-centered, manipulative techniques of men like Charles Finney. The result were short-lived conversions, burned-overed districts and shallow, religious emotions. Now Republican congressman Mike Pence predicts a third Awakening. Apparently it will feature Bible-pounding Glenn Beck bigotry, a growing fear of goverment and a tea-party-caffinated resentment of taxation (it is, after all, the root of socialism). All which has this third Great Awakening shaping up in manner that would make Whitefield spin in his grave. A true, biblical Awakening will recognize that the evil in the world isn’t in rooted Hollywood or D.C., but in our own wicked hearts.

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If you think the placards are scary, wait until you talk to the people holding them.

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Wow! And I thought I was hard on the Christian Right. Frank Schaeffer, son of evangelical apologist Francis Schaeffer, lashes out at the evangelical political block. Or as he likes to call them, “the fifth column of insanity.”

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Mordecai had his Esther and we have our Michele Bachmann. Clearly, God must be against healthcare reform. Or so that seems to be the idea here. If we fast and humble ourselves before Jehovah, He will unleash His terrible, swift wrath against imaginary death panels and the left’s wicked attempts to intervene for the poor. Congresswoman Bachmann explains:

“We all need to consider that in God’s timing that he may have allowed us, as members of Congress, to be in the position that we’re in just for this specific issue right now,” she said. “Everything that all of us have worked together and labored for over the years, all of it could be undermined with this one bill. President Obama realizes that. The radicals that are on the pro-abortion left, they realize that. They could win it all. And the unborn, and the vulnerable, the disabled and those at the end of life could lose it it all.”

But it was Bachmann’s fervent call to utilize prayer and fasting to beat back health-care reform efforts that was the true highlight of the call.

“That’s really where this battle will be won — on our knees in prayer and fasting,” she told the listeners. “Remember: faith without works is dead. So we’re asking you to do all of it: pray, fast, believe, trust the Lord, but also act.”

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Obamacare doesn’t just want to kill granny. They want to perform a sex change on her. No wonder we will have to wait three years to get treated for breast cancer and brain tumors! It is all starting to make sense. You see, in Obama’s Brave New World the hospitals will be run by homosexuals. I’m sure everything will look fa-a-a-bulous! But those people couldn’t organize an apendectomy if their Sunday Brunch Mimosas depended on it. For more information on the absolute terror that is health care reform, just go to prayinjesusname.org.

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If a recent study is correct, a girl who has attended private religious schools is more likely to get an abortion than a girl who has attended public schools.

Despite Adamczyk’s finding that rates of reported abortions were higher for young women educated at private religious schools, the type of religious school was not a factor: Catholic schools had similar rates as other religious schools.”Religious school attendance is not necessarily indicative of conservative religious beliefs because students attend these schools for a variety of reasons,” Adamczyk said. “These schools tend to generate high levels of commitment and strong social ties among their students and families, so abortion rates could be higher due to the potential for increased feelings of shame related to an extramarital birth.”

Sadly, American Christianity has done a bang up job in making men and women feel more shame than mercy. Their learning institutions from 4K to grad school has also done a swell job of demanding a strong witness for their schools (i.e., Don’t get caught drinking or knocked up while unmarried, after all, what would Jesus do?). Conservative schools and well-meaning parents have encouraged Christian kids to put off marriage and never to settle for less than perfection. They have given religous girls a bubble in which to live that knows little of grace and forgiveness and plenty about not dressing trashy. A bubble that, in the end,  is as useless as a faulty condom.  The message is clear. Bad behavior must be kept on the down low, and upstanding, church-going parents must never be dissappointed. Worst of all, in this uptight, graceless system Jesus is reduced that cool dude hanging on the cross who we must never fail, rather than the Incarnate friend of sinners who understands and forgives messy lives. Maybe it’s time for Amercian Christianity to come to Jesus. After all, he is the one who famously had little patience with shame-bound religiosity. “Woe unto you, Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites! You have omitted the weightier matters of the law––justice, mercy and faith.”