Tag: Christianity

Morality And Government

Morality And Government

Should Morality Stop At The State House Steps?

To get elected, candidates are increasingly talking about their faith. A judge here in Alabama a few years ago ran campaign ads saying he would “go by the book,” and it showed his hand on the Bible. Recently, Harold Ford campaigned for the U.S. Senate with ads showing him in a church.

But do their policies really reflect Biblical values?

Exhibit A:

This was an actual ad.

What Would Jesus Do? Somehow I don’t think it would involve spending $5,000,000,000,000 on war and harsher penalties on illegalimmigrants.

Above all, any philosophy that involves harming the poor and disabled cannot be justified with scripture. Scripture is uncompromising in its demand to care for the poor; it highlights exceptionally bad situations and comes out in favor of the poor and the underdog every time. It repeatedly castigates the rich who ignore or withhold from the poor. Part of the underpinning mythology of the conservative movement, the lie that reducing aid for the poor will lead to increased aid to the poor from the nonprofit sector, has devastated the poor and disabled in the South, leading to tragic consequences. The cruel irony is, the voters who prop up the perpetrators of this are often Christians, lured to the polls with Christian rhetoric.

George W. Bush has been pontificating from the pulpit while pursuing an unjust war (see, just war theory) and economic injustice at home and abroad. In the case of the Tennessee pols, Harold Ford and Governor Breseden were Jesusing it up while simultaneously ignoring / perpetuating medical deaths after 323,000 people were cut off of Tennessee Medicaid.

Morality can’t be left at the state house steps. If we’re going to prosper, we need a government that acts with fairness and justice in mind. If we’re going to prosper, wealth has to be shared with the poor and vulnerable, not only held by the elite few.

Maybe not all the politicians “let’s talk about faith” is hypocritical BS, because Representative Ted Strickland, a former Methodist minister just elected Governor of Ohio, has called out the false theology dominating today’s politics.

“There are those in Columbus and elsewhere who argue that the biblical mandates to love your neighbor and to work for justice are meant only for individuals and have no application to the political sphere. They dismiss the Democrats and those religious leaders who claim that our faith requires us to insist that governments and government leaders — not just private citizens — seek justice, love, mercy, and humbly work to help the least, the last and the lost in our society.”

I wish more of our leaders would speak the truth like that.

Regardless, my feverish commitment to social justice will never cool.

Smash the false idols of greed!


President of the National Association of Evangelicals Admits Gay Allegations

President of the National Association of Evangelicals Admits Gay Allegations

Addendum to Hypocrisy

It seems my recent post, Hypocrisy, which noted the unavoidable, persistent phenomenon of gay men leading the anti-gay crusade, was all too prescient, as Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, revealed Sunday that “I am a deceiver and a liar,” and that the allegations that he had meth-fueled sex with a male prostitute were actually true.

We can no longer avoid this persistent pattern that now has dozens well-known of instances and likely countless cases on the down-low: closeted men vociferously denouncing “the gay agenda” to prove to themselves and everyone else they aren’t really gay, and because they spend so much time every day lashing out in opposition to homosexuality, they become the leaders of the anti-gay movement.

Check out this video circulating everywhere of Ted Haggard preaching against homosexuality in the new documentary “Jesus Camp,” with Ted dropping a super creepy Freudian joke at the end.

Should constant, strong anti-gay rhetoric be a leading indicator of a self-loathing closet case?

I strongly empathize with what Haggard and most believers are saying about Biblical inerrancy, I do believe in the Torah. Leviticus says gay sex is abomination, every Jew knows this; it’s the Torah. The question is, how do believers then act on that information. My views on this are complicated and I hope to go into detail on this difficult issue in another post, but I’ll say this: I think Torah bans homosexuality because so often we Jews and our halacha are on the brink of extinction and we need to make more Jews, and it should always be put in this context. In order to ensure the survival of the Torah, marriage and big families are the priority of the Torah. But when people can’t do that, the priority should be love.

Maybe if there was more love, guys like Roy Cohn, mayor Jim West, Senator Larry Craig, Michael Savage, Jeff Gannon, Charlie Crist, Mark Foley and now Ted Haggard wouldn’t have had lash out at gays to try to cover up their true colors.


Religious People Against Torture

Some People Of Faith Uniting To Stop American Torture

I apologize if I came down too harshly on Christians supporting torture in my previous post. Many sincere Christians oppose torture. Check out this article from Christianity Today magazine: 5 Reasons Torture Is Always Wrong. It gives an accurate assessment and lays out some great Biblical arguments against torture.

For my Jewish readers, check out the excellent Jewish Campaign to Stop Torture by Rabbis for Human Rights. It is an excellent site in design and content, and lays out action you can take, such as signing their petition.



Filed Under: Politics and Government

The Pope Calls Religious Violence Unreasonable, Triggering Religious Violence

Reaction Way Worse Than Comment

The Pope gave an academic lecture on “Faith and Reason” in which he says violence in the name of G-d is unreasonable, and he touched on a Byzantine Emperor’s quote blasting the idea of Jihad. Incredibly, this has spurred a massive round of protests and violent reprisals.

If you read him in context, what the Pope is saying is laudable, that violence in the name of G-d is always unacceptable.

In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”. The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.

You can read the full text of the speech here at the Vatican web site.

That the Pope trying to argue against forced conversion and for rationality and peace gets such an irrational backlash from the Muslim world just makes me angry at the Muslim world.

Those seeking to inflame the Arab street pulled “Islam is evil and inhuman” from the speech, totally out of context. And just awful reactions have happened.

Italian nun slain in Somalia, Pope link speculation

Five Palestinian area churches attacked

Isn’t religious and intellectual freedom of expression without fear of getting murdered, a very important thing?

Where are the moderate voices within Islam? Do they exist?

There’s no way for me to relate to this.

Like the protest of the Mohammed cartoons:

Yeah, “behead those who say Islam is violent!” kinda proves the accusations that you’re violent.

Dear Islamic world: Rioting and killing whenever anyone criticizes you is way, way worse defamation of Muslims than any cartoon or speech could ever be.

Just stop it.



Filed Under: Torah Insights and Religion

The Religion Century

Religion Will Shape Our World

The last century, 1900-2000, was “the communism century” and was defined by the USA vs. USSR struggle. Now the world is no longer bi-polar, the only pole left is the US, and in place of a conflict between nation-states, we have clashing cultures and ideologies. A rising tide of religious fervor, among Muslims, Christians and Jews, is increasingly overrunning the dominant soulless corporate culture. The 21st century is “the religion century,” but where that will lead us is highly unpredictable.

What we do know is this: in response to the overwhelming bleakness and falseness of our ever-more-materialistic world, people are rapidly becoming more devout. The old paths have failed us, and people want something more.

The latest American Jewish Committee report shows young Jews (ages 18-29) have double the percentage identifying as Orthodox than their older counterparts (now up to 1 in 6) and given birth patterns (Orthodox women often have 4 or more babies), Torah Judaism will only increase its influence, and in new, vibrant ways. See Y-Love’s analysis of this study here.

We’re seeing similar intensification in Christiandom. This week there is a new Baylor study out on American faith, and though it is severely flawed (people obviously believe G-d has more than one attribute for crying out loud!) it still offers a fascinating snapshot of America’s evolving religious fabric (click here). Reporters have been covering the explosion of fundamentalist, non-denominational “mega-churches” with thousands of members who are increasing the influence of born-again theology to a degree no one expected. And for the Catholics, the only groups seeing significant growth right now are on the fundamentalist side.

On a smaller scale, there is also a rise in Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, Odinism and other forms of paganism.

Americans are soul-searching.

Y-Love’s blog has done a great job covering this. Explaining why more and more people are turning to the spiritual, he points out that:

Why isn’t your dominant culture more appealing to the under-25 age set anymore? Older generations didn’t have teenagers going to as many funerals as ours is. We are confronted with death far more than our recent ancestors were.

Things like the afterlife are damn relevant for many young ppl. They want to know where their parents went (after smoking 3 packs a day), where their friends went, where their teacher went.

Suicide has gone up 300 percent since [the ’50s] — 19 adolescents kill themselves every day now, up to 7,000 per year; this was unheard of even into the mid 70s (1978, the largest suicide year on record — happy birthday to me — xcluded). And only 5 percent of teen suicides are because of mental illness, no they DON’T have problems this f**king bad (beyond depression, but since we see all depressed ppl don’t kill themselves, this can’t be the cause).

Vietnam? We have had Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf War, and now about to be Iran or insert-next-oil-producing-country-here. (Heaven forbid.)

764,000 nonfatal violent crimes at school. City schools and suburban schools? Equal risk in some crimes.

We’re living in a society thick with despair, and more disconnected from each other in daily life than ever before. Americans work more and more hours than any other people on earth, go home alone, veg out on fake corporate food and culture, rinse and repeat. In this rat race culture, devoid of much meaning and largely disconnected from religious traditions, if you don’t give us something hardcore, something with deep meaning and deep connection to G-d that cuts through all the BS, we don’t want it.

I saw an OpEd in the wake of the capture of American John Walker Lindh for fighting with the Taliban, and it said we young people want extreme everything, extreme sports, extreme products and extreme religion. While this has a kernel of truth, it misses the why and what entirely. Today’s young people are sinking in this mushy, mishmosh morass of American culture, and something real with absolute answers is incredibly appealing. But it’s exactly because of this absolutism that many people react so negatively to it. They shouldn’t. We all must learn to “get it.”

In the Arab world, in the face of tyranny and exploitation, young people have turned en masse to extreme Islam with an utopian vision. And they aren’t that different from Americans turning to hardcore religion, despite our leadership’s cluelessness of either.

In short, this IS “the religion century.” Studying theology has never been more important. Theology departments are going to be overflowing.

And those without answers to life’s big questions will be increasingly left behind. That is, in a way, very scary, but it is true, and that’s why it’s more critical than ever before to aggressively foster deep, G-d connected, peace-loving humanism within Christianity, Judaism and Islam.