Friday, June 19, 2015

Southern Tier Religion and Politics

Throughout the Southern Tier of the nation, an intense evangelicalism was spread upon the wound of slavery and Jim Crow laws - a thick, gooey, perfumed, salve, that healed nothing, even as it was used, none too successfully, to obscure the stench.

And the more the wounds suppurated, the more was spread the salve.

In part, to ease the conscience ("look at what fervent believers we are"), but religion so used can never heal the troubled conscience; in fact, the conscience itself, deeply troubled, has to engage in ever-tightening circles of self-deception, making a lie of the very religion so used.

Yes, true as well, in lots of places throughout the nation (because racism is part of our DNA), but the South, I fear, is the motherlode from whence the sorrow flows and spills over into the nation.

Many in the South stand against this; yes, this I know. But the current status of the South is frighteningly regressive, from statehouse to statehouse, and my sympathies to those of enlightened mind and heart who have to live in such environments.

One can only hope that RW people in the South will see how deceived they've been by a couple of centuries of preachers and politicians.

And I can only hope that women and men of good faith and conscience will confront these evils for what they are, and offer to the world something far better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Comparing US to other Nations

Comparisons between the US and some European countries always bring howls of protest from those who are blindly committed to American Exceptionalism, the crippling belief that we're special, if not superior to everyone else.

Sadly, such nonsense makes it impossible for Americans to learn from others ... I mean, after all, what's to learn, when we already know it all, have it all, and can do it all - the American Way?

I'm reluctant to writer any further, but I'll push on ... having recently spent a few weeks traveling in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, by car and train, I can only conclude that their roads are magnificent, and their trains, plentiful and comfortable, run on time.

All of this with various forms of universal health care and support for education.

The people are happy, can't understand America's current health-care mess, enjoy eating out, love the sunshine, have generous family-leave time, and dress well.

Heaven on earth?

Of course not, but a simple reminder that America isn't the last word on everything, and slipping further behind, we're likely to have the last word on nothing, as the rest of the world, even the Third World, outstrips us in environmental care, affordable housing, public transit, health-care and education.

Some needed changes:

First off, American Exceptionalism is a lie ... the world if full of great nations, large and small. We badly need to get over ourselves.

Secondly, lots of nations are doing a far better job of caring for their citizens than we are. Imagine that.

And that means we have to learn from others. I know that galls some, but like it or not, if we can't learn, we will fail, and fail badly.

The current message of conservative politicians doesn't help right now, but sadly, theirs is a message that still has plenty of street appeal for a segment of the American People who find it necessary to think that might makes right, or something like that.

Progressive voices offer us our best hope, but their message doesn't carry the weight of a John Wayne or Charlton Heston.

I hope that Americans can awaken from their slumbers and begin to see how the lies of our conservative leaders are destroying us; that John Wayne and Charlton Heston are no help whatsoever, except if you're rich and wanna stay rich by robbing everyone else of life, health and hope.

I see hopeful signs ... people are sick of failing schools and the failed promises of charter schools ... people are sick of lousy roads and our lack of public transit ... people want health-care, decent jobs, wages and benefits.

Maybe, just maybe, folks will see how other countries are doing it, and that we can and we must learn from others, because we're in a real mess right now.

Tides turns, and I think the tide is turning to a more populist message, the kind that guided Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, even Eisenhower at times, and certainly Carter, Clinton and Obama, too. But now's the time for even more ... if America hopes to find its rightful place in the world story.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Anti-abortion Activists and Universal Health Care

Just read a piece about anti-abortion efforts across the nation, now going after 20-week restrictions.

I thought: I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with these folks and their efforts to restrict abortion if they supported:

1) Universal Health Care for everyone in America.
2) Expanding Medicare and Social Security.
3) Full funding for public education and scaled back on their support of charter schools.
4) Climate change research and funding.
5) Universal voter registration.
6) Sex education in our schools.
7) Free contraception.
8) A woman's right to contraception without fear of employer reprisal because of "sincerely held religious beliefs."
9) Marriage Equality.
10 Efforts to end the death penalty.
11) Fair taxation of the wealthy.
12) Infrastructure rebuilding.
13) Labor unions and collective bargaining.
14) Efforts to raise the minimum wage.
15) Maintaining Jefferson's Wall of Separation between Church and State.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Nixon, Billy Graham, and White House Religion

June, 1969, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of American, concluded his sermon in the Nixon White House with the following prophecy: "I hope it is not too presumptuous of me, in the presence of the President, to say that future historians, looking back at our generation, may say that in a period of great trials and tribulations the finger of God pointed to Richard Milhous Nixon, giving him the vision and the wisdom to save the world and civilization" ("One Nation Under God," #KevinKruse, p.252

Billy Graham played a determining role in selecting clergy of various faith traditions who would echo the party line: that faith and politics were now, finally, wedded together in the White House, all for the wellbeing of the nation, of course.

Nixon and Graham, often standing side-by-side in various religious and political events, represented this happy marriage that would renew America and set us on a course of national revival and international power.

Yup, and we all know how it ended ... iconically, the Rabbi was party right: "the finger of God" did point to Nixon ... much like the prophet's finger pointed at King David, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12.7).

The macabre dance of religion and politics in our nation has long endured ... sort of life a really, really, bad marriage, with all kinds of abuse and manipulation, but never, ever, a divorce. In some ways, I suppose, the two can never be separated in America, any more than they can be separated anywhere, because human beings, in the most part, are always political (I know of no other alternative) and incurably religious (especially as we use our religion to justify our politics), what with politicians using religion to enhance their own power and various religious leaders more than eager to bask in the glory of state pomp and power.