Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Bush Legacy: the Religion and Poltics of Division

Maybe in another world, another time, Bush might have made a decent president, but he was doomed to be divisive given his unwitting (?) alignment with evangelical Christianity, which in its many variations, tends to draw dark lines defining who’s in and who’s out.

Long a tradition focused on “the lost” and then efforts to convert them, most evangelical Christians have come to see the world in terms of their correctness, their closeness to God, and most everyone else’s error – an “error” that runs deep in all categories, suggesting there is little or nothing of value in anything related to “the lost.”

These firm boundaries of “lost and found” were hardened in the years following the Cane Ridge, Kentucky revival of 1801. Originally a celebration of God’s love and the joys of Christian fellowship, later decades witnessed the emergence of a hardcore fundamentalism, hardened all the more in late 1800s in the “fundamentalist – modernist” conflicts over science and the Bible. These conflicts intensified through the early decades of the 20th century, culminating in the Scopes Trial in Tennessee.

After the emergence of the megachurch movement in the 1980s and the earlier decline in mainline churches beginning in the 60s, there was a sense that evangelicals could do no wrong, being, in fact, God’s chosen force to uphold the gospel and maintain the purity of the faith. With their eager embrace of technology, evangelicals quickly stepped to the center of the stage while mainline Christians slinked away and sulked, scrambling to find themselves and a reason to be.

Within the evangelical movement, several strains: one, represented by Billy Graham, a gentle-souled person who unapologetically preached Christ and conversion in a simple and winsome fashion. But there emerged another stream represented by Dobson’s Focus on the Family and preachers like Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy with roots in a hardcore revivalism building in the south during much of the early 20th century. They began to draw hard lines defined by a few social issues: abortion, homosexuality and creationism vs. evolution.

These hardcore folks found the welcome mat out with Reagan’s election. The man defeated by Reagan, Jimmy Carter, represented the strain associated with Graham – a warm-hearted Christianity that loved Jesus, but without the rancor and judgment found in the likes of Dobson. With Carter’s defeat and Reagan’s victory, the death knell was sounded for this gentler version of Christian faith.

Though Reagan would not have counted himself in this camp, Reagan and his handlers quickly recognized the political value and power of this emerging hardcore Christianity.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, this religio-political alliance grew stronger, embracing more and more the strategy of division along the fault lines noted above. You were either in or out; gray areas do not exist in this kind of thinking.

With Dobson’s recent resignation and the death of Falwell and Kennedy and the election of Obama, we are witnessing a revival of an earlier politics and Christian faith – there are gray areas, and plenty of them, and we’re all in this together. We forge bonds with one another above and through the issues that would otherwise divide.

The gentleness and Christ-centeredness of a Billy Graham and the visionary leadership of a Jimmy Carter will likely be guiding lights for the next several decades as Christians pick up the battered pieces of a misguided effort even as we seek to heal ourselves politically.

Bush might have been a different man in another era, but we’ll never know, for he was both the product of and a cheerleader for a style of politics and faith that has proved dangerous, if not fatal, to the wellbeing of the soul and the state.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Paul Jenkins: Worst Week Ever: Republicans Unhinged

Paul Jenkins: Worst Week Ever: Republicans Unhinged

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Bank of America Stonewalling

Ah, the silliness and entitlement-mentality of America's self-appointed royalty. They have played the royalty game for so long, seeing themselves as privileged and anointed, a cut above the rest, they can no longer grasp reality. They have deluded themselves - as long as the economy was artificially propped up by Republican policies and the general populace was enthralled with wannabe hopes and dreams, no one questioned their ethical core. But times have changed, and the curtain has been pulled back to reveal very little venal men and women with their smoke and mirrors. Now that previous policies have proven utterly bankrupt, figuratively and literally, Americans are waking up to what America needs to be - and it's time for this self-anointed royalty to step up to the plate and be real Americans. It's time for them to live like the rest of us and be responsible stewards of our money! Being somewhat acquainted with the high and the mighty, it's been a long time since any of them worked an honest day - after all, playing around at the country club and flying around in the corporate jet, takes a lot of time. Shame on all of them, but kudos to Cuomo for helping all of us tell the truth for the first time in a long time. How strange it feels. No wonder BA bristles!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thaddeus McCotter - Tap Dancer Extraordinaire

I love tap dancing.

Though some have suggested that it's a dying art-form, it's suddenly reappeared among Republicans who voted against the stimulus and are now trying to explain that to their constituents, even as they scramble to get a slice of the Obama pie.

Tap dancing all the way.

I sure wouldn't want to be a loyal Republican right now. They've committed themselves to an ideological policy without heart - though heartlessness has frequently been their hallmark for the last 40 years.

For McCotter, and the district in which I lived from 1990 to 2006, Livonia, a conservative bastion now teetering on the brink of collapse, as is much of Michigan - interesting to see how depleted pocketbooks suddenly make Uncle Sam a friend.

Shame on McCotter and Pete Hoekstra, his partner in crime across the state - hypocrites one and all.

And glorious tap dancers.

Clinton's Confidence; Obama's Reality

Former President Clinton suggested that it was time for Obama to exude a little more confidence about the economy; I disagree. For the first time in a long time, including Clinton, we have a President who's telling us the truth.

Americans have been treated as spoiled children, addicted to happy, clappy, sappy everything from politics to religion; maybe we are spoiled children.

But it's time for a reality check. A time to grow up.

Read this piece from the New York Times - click HERE.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quoable Quote

A recession causes suffering that can overwhelm hope. It can also lead to the rediscovery of virtues that make sustained prosperity possible -- and that add nonmaterial richness to our lives. Sometimes grace can arrive through an unexpected door. Michael Gerson

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Repubs: Conservative or Fundamentlist?

Real Republicans are conservative!

What masquerades as a Republican Party these days is a religious/political fundamentalism - anything but conservative.

Check this out ... click HERE.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jane Hamsher: DC Journalists Love GOP Obstructionists, But Americans Don't

Jane Hamsher: DC Journalists Love GOP Obstructionists, But Americans Don't

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California Repubs

Am I nuts?

Is there something I'm missing?

All across the nation, Repubs are digging in their heels and "just saying no" to recovery, to stimulus, to spending and to taxes.

Am I deluded by ObamaNation, am I a thoughtless bleeding-heart liberal who loves to tax and spend?

California's in trouble, and for months now, we've been trying to frame a state budget, and last night, one Republican pulled a vote and the measure failed. It seems that it was an issue of raising some taxes. Governor Schwarzenegger would have signed off on it, but his own party failed to stand and be counted.

Not that I'm pleased with the taxes to be raised: sales and gasoline among others, which hit the poorest of the poor the hardest.

But at least it's a beginning to replenish spent coffers and save the jobs of millions of Californians who depend upon state construction projects and state jobs.

At what point does principle become bullheadedness?

When that principle is held in isolation from all other factors! Even the greatest truth, when held in isolation from other truths, becomes a lie!

Having lost the election and taken a beating in the polls, the Repubs are knee-jerking back to their so-called principles, after violating them for years.

They cut taxes for the wealthy and borrowed hundreds of billions from the world to fund our way of life, fight two wars, despoil the environment, deny health care to children and threaten the wellbeing of millions of seniors across the land.

Repub philosophy has taken this nation downward, and much of the world with it. We are teetering on the brink of disaster, and the Repubs seem paralyzed - rather than thinking their way through the past, they now seek some bizarre form of redemption by retreating into a "principled" recalcitrance further adding to our woes.

There are no easy answers to our present predicament, but just saying no is no answer at all.

P.S. check out "watching Republicans grieve" - a new HBO documentary.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Judd Gregg Withdraws

Well, so much for the "team of rivals." Judd withdraws.

From my take on things, the divide between Repubs and Dems is so great that it'll take a miracle to heal the wound.

The gap began with Reagan and has been steadily widened at the wrong-wing end of things. The empty-headed ideology of a Limbaugh, the crass and often not-so-hidden racism of a Palin and McCain, the foolish bumblings of Cantor and Boehner, along with the religious rantings of James Dobson and gang, has shredded the Republican Party once represented by statesmen and world leaders like Senator Everett Dirksen and Dwight Eisehhower, not to mention Teddy Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln.

They have become a mean-spirited, narrow-minded party bent on ideological pursuits rather than the welfare of the nation. How this could happen is difficult to trace, but that it's happen is obvious to all.

Even today, someone as significant as Olympia Snow said, "We have to get lending going."

Yes, of course, but if there's no one to borrow, it doesn't make any difference whatsoever how much money is available at that end of the pipe, except, of course, if you're a CEO looking at the next Las Vegas event or wanting to remodel your office.

It's not about pouring money into the coffers of the banks; it's about putting people to work and putting money into the pockets of the middle class. It's about schools and children and health - the things that build consumer confidence and make nations great.

I couldn't have been more disappointed then I've been today - not so much about Judd (I'm glad he had the wherewithal to see how incompatible he was, or least the philosophy of his party), but about Snow. If she's indicative of the "progressive" end of the Repubs, then they are hopelessly lost in some dark quagmire so thick, so deep, so backward, as to be virtually un-American. That the so-called "party of the flag" should be dismantling the civil fabric of the Republic is just another example of the how they've turned language and values upside down, parading behind a highly distorted version of patriotism, intimidating anyone who might raise a question, and belittling the values and ethics that have always made America a great nation, and will make us great again, if we but shed the nonsense of the last 30 years and embrace the real American Dream and learn again from our Founding Mothers and Fathers and President Abraham Lincoln.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rep. Austria of Ohio - Is this for real?

Commenting about FDR, Congressman Austria said recently:

“When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

Most historians date the beginning of the Great Depression at or shortly after the stock-market crash of 1929; Roosevelt took office in 1933.

A sensitive reader of this blog suggested that I spend too much time ragging on the Repubs, but when they keep feeding the media with this kind clownery, I guess I'll keep turning the light on them.

And then, how about Eric Cantor, a Repub shining light, an up-and-coming leader, but an "aid" in his office sent out a profane video blasting unions:

Eric Cantor is the GOP's House whip and revered by GOPers as an up-and-comer. But an aide in his office pulled a Boehner Wednesday by sending Greg Sargent at a profane video response to a union ad campaign pushing the stimulus package. Cantor aide Brad Dayspring stressed to Sargent that the video was meant as a joke. You know, parody. Ha-ha. Ho-ho ... millions of people losing their jobs ... hee-hee ...

Do they not understand that they are a party in decline, a part in exile, on their way out?

That every parody of America's hard times, every thoughtless comment about FDR and history, will only alienate them further from whatever constituency they might have left - other than some hardcore ideologues.

Anyway, I'm hopeful about our nation, that's for sure, and I hope that the bankers appearing before congress today and the peanut company in Georgia may finally be getting the real picture: we are nation of laws, a nation of the people, by the people and for the people - not for some self-appointed royalty and their political toadies.

Is isn't going to be easy shedding the Reagan legacy - of low taxes and high spending, borrowing from foreign powers, outsourcing jobs and destroying unions, using the military wantonly to further some strange Neo-Con dream of American world-domination and despoiling the environment.

But we will do it.

We've done it before, and we'll do it again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Repugnants? I Mean Republicans!

Sorry about that ... and though I want to be pro-active and positive, what's up with the repugs?

Another half-million jobs lost in January?

Can they not see how their policies have led directly to this American Tragedy?

Tax cuts for the wealthy have never energized an economy, simply because wealth at the top is too concentrated in $25,000 hand-hammered copper bathtubs and corporate jets ... and tax cuts for big companies only puts more dollars into management hands and (big) investor pockets, fueling an ever-greater concentration of money into the hands of the few, shrinking the pool of available dollars for the rest of us.

Look, it's only middle class money that fuels an economy, but, then, do the rich and their repug (short for repugnant) minions understand this? Of course they understand this, but the point is, they don't give a damn. Never have, never will.

Which is why it's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than a person of wealth to enter into the kingdom of God.

Nothing inherently wrong with wealth, but wealth concentrated into the hands of the few becomes a poison to the soul of a nation.

The repugs hide behind protests of porkbarreling (yeah, they ought to know) and other such complaints.

Granted, nothing produced in Washington is likely to be free of it, but we've got to do something, and tinkering with percentage points, all dressed up in the repugs' silly protests about less spending and lower taxes is nothing short of ludicrous ... after years of high spending and growing deficits and an economy now crashing and burning, their complaints are nothing less than treason.

They've been found out and can't stand it.

They hide behind principle, but their principles are self-serving and designed only to feather the nests of the few while pillaging the resources of the land and siphoning off dollars for their own pleasures and parties.

This isn't just about political parties, but about a President of vision trying to lead this nation out of a morass of fiscal insanity promoted by both parties for a long, long, time. Whether it be Daschle and his non-payment of taxes, or Boehner's silly posturing about taxes, this is a first-class mess to be laid at the feet of both parties and the Washington Culture of greed and power.

Obama was elected, not because he's a Democrat, but because he's a man of vision, and heaven knows that's what we need right now.

I pray that both parties will clean house, rally around this man of vision and do what the vast majority of our population seeks - "justice for all."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good for Pope Benedict

I'm not too happy with the direction in which Pope Benedict is leading the Roman Catholic Church and was terribly disheartened by last month's announcement of the restoration of a British Bishop who denies the Shoah (Holocaust), suggesting it was nothing more than a few hundred thousand deaths.

But the Pope has reversed himself and the following statement has been issued:

The viewpoints of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah [Holocaust] are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself ... reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce "humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart," adding that the Shoah remains "for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all." Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the Episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah.

- Statement by the Vatican Secretariat of State, issued in the wake of international outrage following the lifting of the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson, a holocaust denier. The statement also said that the Pope had not been aware of Williamson's views when he lifted excommunications on him and three other bishops last month.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daschle and Taxes

Who are these guys?

They get away without paying their taxes ... but if my wife and I missed a year, they'd be all over us.

As much as I have liked Tom Daschel, I'm glad he pulled his name, whether by choice of pressure. We need women and men of character, who love this nation enough to pay their taxes, who can set a model of behavior worthy of the name American.

Why would a man like Daschle not pay taxes?

Is it greed?

Is it carelessness?

Whatever it is, it's wrong.

Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes said, according to Justice Frankfurter, "I like paying taxes. With them, I buy civilization."

Biden was right: paying taxes is patriotic, and more importantly, taxes go way beyond charity, which is a good thing, but only rarely can charity confront and change the sources of human suffering, a task only good government can bring about.