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Category Archives: Religion

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.

Televangelist Eddie Long has some ‘spaining to do. I think I’ll let the Good Book handle this one:

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.5Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

8In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

11Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

12These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

14Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

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.

A dog returns to its vomit and a preacher returns to its pulpit.

Without offering any specifics on the allegations against him, Haggard said his counselors told him he is heterosexual but that his behavior was influenced by a childhood incident when he was molested by an adult male.

Haggard said he takes responsibility for his actions as an adult and does not mean to use the molestation as an excuse. He also said he did not want to imply that homosexuality was caused by childhood trauma.

“I don’t know what goes on with the homosexual and what makes a homosexual a homosexual. I don’t know dynamics there and I don’t judge it,” he said.

He said counseling helped him reduce the emotional impact of the childhood encounter.

“I remember all of that. I just don’t have compulsive thoughts or actions because of it,” he said.

Haggard told the AP that after his downfall, he doesn’t feel qualified or entitled to return to the ministry, but that he feels compelled to do so by love for others. He cited conversations he had this week with a woman fighting drugs and with an unmarried couple expecting their second child.

“I’m certainly not going to say no to people (who need help) because of my personal shame. I’ve got to overcome my personal shame and be willing to help somebody that knocks on our door,” he said.

Haggard said the new church won’t compete with others in Colorado Springs, noting that many people in the city of 375,000 don’t attend any church.

Sarah Palin was on the attack last week. She is mad at all those wicked secularists and God haters who are trying to rewrite American history. And she’s right to be mad. They are clearly trying to rewrite history. But the big bad secularists are not nearly as guilty of trying to rewrite American history as the…uhm… Christians. Take, for instance, Sarah Palin. She would have us believe that all of our founding fathers were Christians with a profound respect for the Bible. Like, say, Thomas Jefferson who stayed up all night with scissors attempting to remove every one of Christ’s miracles from the gospels. He’s a role model, huh, Sarah? She also thinks that the U.S. Constitution promotes the God of the Bible and speaks of “unalienable rights” that where endowed by our Creator. Two problems with that 1) God/ Maker/Creator is never once mentioned in the Constitution, only the concept that religion should not be proscribed or curtailed by the State. 2) That unalienable rights bit is actually from the Declaration of Independence penned by the man who liked to slice the Resurrection out of the Good Book to make it more “reasonable”. Also, “In God we trust”is not our “national motto.” It’s not even part of our founding documents, unless you count the one dollar bill among them. It is just something that is indeed a part of our history, just like the banning prayer in schools. Unfortunately, for Ms. Palin, our country has always been much more of a mixed bag than she would like to admit. It is probably one of the reasons our churches are so full and those with a state religion like France, England and Germany are so empty. Finally, it is worth mentioning that Jesus came to “seek and save that which is lost”( atheists, secularists, and the like). The righteous and the religious have never been his cup of tea. You can look that up in your Bible (even the Jeffersonian version).

I am constantly amazed at the things that come out of Pat Robertson’s mouth. 9-11 was the result of homosexuals and the ACLU. Hurricane Katrina was the consequence of drugs, strip joints and too-spicy jambalaya. Now Haiti’s earthquake is the by product of some deal with the Devil. I am constantly amazed at what the man says and equally amazed at how the left-leaning pundits are so appalled at this man’s cause-effect analysis. It seems that what our insurance policies still call an act of God can never in good taste be attributed to anything approaching divine justice. To do so is so “mean” and compassionless. However, for a Buddhist to espouse Karma is still okay. Just not getting it.

Oral Roberts saw a 900-ft Jesus (he stepped it off himself) and received a new medical wing for his school. Which is odd, considering he could heal with the touch of his hand. (Okay, maybe a dental center given his name was Oral.) But he is now dead, which is odd, considering he and his minions raised people from the dead. The Daily Beast steps off the faith-healer’s dubious achievements:

As one of the first televangelists, Roberts brought Pentecostalism, a demonstrative, magic-filled kind of Christianity that often involves speaking in tongues, faith healing, and prophesy, into the mainstream. He deserves a good part of the credit for the fact that today, Pentecostalism is the world’s fastest-growing denomination. (According to the scholar Philip Jenkins, by 2050 there will likely be more than a billion believers worldwide.) As Roberts’ biographer David Edwin Harrell, Jr. wrote in 1985, “In his nearly four decades of healing evangelism, Oral Roberts has personally touched over a million human beings; several million more have answered his call to ‘accept Christ;’ tens of millions more have heard him preach and pray on radio, television, and in films; hundreds of millions of pieces of literature have been mailed to every corner of the globe from his headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma… a generation of students has been trained at Oral Roberts University.”

Roberts tied Pentecostalism to fundraising in a way that continues to echo worldwide. In the 1950s, in a gambit that’s become common for prosperity preachers, he promised radio listeners that God would repay every dollar they sent to him seven times over. His genius was to market faith like an investment, one that would pay predictable dividends to true believers. Thus wealth became a sign of piety, and poverty a spiritual, rather than a material, condition. This theology has done as much to bolster conservative ideology as the naked politicking of Falwell and Robertson. It’s also ruined a lot of lives.

A recent study reveals that people’s views of God are simply a bigger version of themselves.

[Nicholas Epley at the University of Chicago] found that when people contemplated God’s opinions, their brains activated similarly to when they were contemplating their own opinions — the same was not true when they contemplated the opinions of other people.

The exception, of course, are people who believe in a revealed religion where a wrathful God often makes them a bit uncomfortable.

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Today is Halloween. Of course, a good Christian should have nothing to do with this sick, wicked holiday. After all it’s Satan’s day. So let’s all get up a petition to get the day renamed “Harvest Ween” or something less demonic-sounding. At the very least we should provide an alternate venue for our children. Something healthy and wholesome in the church gymn-atorium with costumes of Bible characters. And we should remember to pray for all those lax parents who need to wake up and be very afraid of this day. After all, I heard that covens of witches perform human sacrifices of children they nab on this most wicked of nights. ( I know it’s not an urban myth because I heard it on Christian radio.) Okay. Time out. Maybe right-wing talk radio’s fear mongering  needs to do a little fact-checking.  Like the fact that Halloween IS a Christian holiday. It goes back to the 1500s. The day was the Hallowed Eve (by the way, hallow means holy). It was the night before All Saints’ Day. Young, Christian boys would dress up to mock the devil. Martin Luther had it right. “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him.”  Or as the Bible says, “Greater who is He who in us, than he who is in the world.” So let’s all take a break. Take a pitchfork to Old Harry. Study a little church history and stop trying to muck with a Christian Hallowed day.

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Social pyschologist Jonathan Haidt offers insight into the culture wars. He sees the religious right’s willingness to believe the most preposterous accusations against Obama and health care reform as tied to the soul-less, materialism of the left:

The materialism of the secular left opens it up to charges that it promotes a “culture of death.” Liberals are said to like to kill fetuses and the elderly; they don’t treat anything as sacred. This term has been bandied about on the right for many years, and while it is a gross exaggeration, it is based in a real truth, a real difference on the question of the sacredness of life. So when Palin threw out the term “death panels,” the term struck a chord that had been played many times in recent years. Liberals were flabbergasted, because it’s a blatant lie, but it’s false only in a logical sense, not an emotional one. And once again, logic has little to do with morality. If a pro-life social conservative asks himself whether Obama is secretly plotting to create death panels, he is not asking whether this is likely to be true, he is asking only “can I believe it,” and the answer is usually yes.

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It was his first speech before the UN assembly. He was received with more enthusiastic  applause than his predecessor. His speech was smooth, full of the same sort of rebukes of global apathy and calls to work together that you might find in any US presidential speech before these united nations. If Bush was seen as a global bully, Obama is seen as Mr. Nice Guy. And of course, right wing radio will argued that he just gave away the farm and emboldened our global enemies by being “too nice.” The second coming of Neville Chamberlain. At the end of the day, the UN will not be any the better for the Obama speech. Then came Omar Khadafi, or as he was introduced, “the King of Kings.” Wearing a robe that would make a 42nd Street pimp green with envy, he rambled on incoherently from a wad of misfiled scribblings. He received the sort of chilly applause you would expect for a global thug––a slightly better reception than he received in New Jersey. All in all, our Prince of Peace and Libya’s King of King were more eloquent than effectual. And isn’t that always the case? Which means the man who reigns from God’s throne is still the best bet for peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

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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.