8 February 2008

Neoconservative Christians

Amidst what seems an endless stream of equivocations and rationalizations proffered by Bush apologists and Republican party loyalists, here is a remonstration on neoconservative Christians assent to a litany of egregious stances that are completely unchristian:

  • Silence on torture. Yes, some in the church have publicly spoken out against the heinous practice of torture by the government, but most, at least those that own radio stations, news publishing companies, and television networks continue to back 2008 Republican presidential candidates that all believe in torture (Ron Paul is the only exception). Worse, many cheer on the candidates pledge to support every method “torturers could think of”, including suffocation and electrocution. Barbarians deviating from everything fair and just about America.

  • Support for injustice. And Constitution eroding legislation. So myopically centered on the single issue of abortion, gleeful over the potential for more SCOTUS justices in the mold of Anton Scalia and Clarence Thomas. “Strict constructionists” who will rollback Row v. Wade and take back America for God. No consideration is given to the anti-Constitutional nature these justices have actually displayed.

    • Support for unitary executive doctrine. The justices Neoconservative Christians treasure have favored this notion, that whatever the president deems is legal, regardless of law. Perhaps when a different party member occupies the executive office, this behavior will be altered. But, even so, it’s not a sign of upholding the Constitution. A belief in unlimited executive power is an anathema to a “we the people” democratic republic. Instead, a rabid religious right leader ring have cast themselves “kingmakers”, desirous of imposing American theocracy.

    • Grant corporate entities more rights than human beings. The current justice composition has shown clearly they stand on the side of the invisible corporate entity “citizen”, over the interest of human citizens. This truth is even more evident at the appellate level where worker citizens are ground up by corporate interests.

    • Embrace assault on Bill of Rights . Granted, a true Christian subverts his desires to the will of Christ, but the rule of law should be adhered to, and if the nation’s legal foundation should be altered, then conduct a process to correct it instead of cheering the blatant usurping of it. Near none of their ranks speak out against the Constitution smattering Patriot Act, especially those who sit behind a microphone or pen articles for national press outlets.

    • Support of economic policy unfavorable to working Americans. Opposing minimum wage, universal health care, labor unions, equal justice, etc.… They claim to be champions of the family, but can’t see that those doing honest work should not be one paycheck away from homelessness, or have to work too many hours and unable to be available for their children. Worse, while celebrating Martin Luther King and other champions of social justice, they actually endorse the oppressors good Christians campaigned against in previous times.

  • Christians for Caesar. So willing to serve the interests of empire, not the will of Christ. Full bore uncritical support of elective invasions and war. Wrapping God and state together, in an idolatrous celebration of empire. They clamor for war and remain ignorant of global history. They easily succumb to state issued propaganda, even clinging to it even though recent history reveals the implicit and explicit deceptions. They obediently dance to the notes handed down to them from party boss media message makers.

  • Advocates of the elective, illegal and immoral Iraq invasion and occupation. Even after the abundance of evidence casting proof on the fraudulent deception and catastrophic post-invasion acts.

  • Support for wars they themselves are not willing to fight. Many openly admit that they’re content with wholehearted favor for warfare but not for them or their offspring. Instead, that’s a duty for lower class denizens, or to be staffed by mercenary forces. What a far cry from the heroic manner which WWII was waged by the country as a whole. Today’s neoconservative Christian doesn’t object the U.S. intervening and meddling into the affairs of foreign nations, even if it means propping up vile, oppressive dictators and monarchs like Saddam Hussien.

  • No acknowledgement of the deep rooted corruption in Republican political leadership. Nothing registers. Not the scandals of tainted meat or tainted toys, where appointed officials appear to pride themselves for not carrying out their responsibilities. Neither does the partisan reeking justice department massacre that was carried out. And the fact that many found Rudy Giuliani agreeable, a man dripping with the taint of corruption. A noun, a verb and 9/11 is what a Democratic opponent labeled his campaign, but even the NYC firefighters spoke out against Giuliani.

Worse, this fusion of corporate chiefs, heads of state, and a coalition of self anointed kingmakers are tainting religion.

On a recent radio talk show, the host and callers mocked candidate Ron Paul for his unwillingness to ratchet up the scare level on Iran. Never mind that Iran has never attacked any of its neighbors and was itself the victim of a U.S. orchestrated coup that overthrew a democratically elected government and installed the Shah and his brutal regime. Or that these self proclaimed Christians uncritically buy into the same war mongering propaganda that led to the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq.

Let’s consider the abortion issue for a moment. I share the sentiment of pro-lifers for sanctity of life. But a heartdeep embrace of a culture of life is about so much more than Row v. Wade. Even the narrow concentration on legality of the medical procedure completely misses the bigger picture — that is, if the goal is eliminating or drastically reducing the incidence of abortion. The same neoconservative Christians who make banning abortion their litmus test for a election candidate are opposed to measures that would make abortion a less likely option — more care for single mothers, better pay for the least of us economically, availability of public commons resources, etc.…. Instead, they completely buy into the edicts their corporate masters put before them. Blame the victim, they must be deficient in character if they can’t make it.

No doubt I am lassoing a far too encompassing net that includes some reasonable folks, possessing a conservative bent, who do not totally subscribe to all the points put forth here. Or, in their partisan Republican allegiance, they believe the other Democratic alternatives are far worse for the country.

Acclaimed author David Brin has penned an excellent essay on the matter, titled The Ostrich Papers:

Some excerpts:

WHICH PRESIDENT WOULD YOU CALL “TOUGH ON CRIME”? One who put 100,000 extra police officers directly onto America’s streets while setting in place procedures to ensure their professionalism? Then oversaw the steepest drop in crime in American history? Or one who presided over the biggest increase in homicides and other violent crime in decades?

WOULD YOU HAVE LAUGHED ALOUD — OR CRIED — IF BILL CLINTON… declared repeatedly that a president can refuse to answer to any kind of accountability or oversight by our elected Congress?

WHAT IF BILL CLINTON…mocked and sneered at a condemned woman’s plea for clemency, on national television?

WOULD YOUR HACKLES RAISE IF IT WERE DEMOCRATS WHO… …kept buying up newspapers, radio stations and television outlets, aided by rule changes that allow just a few men to control most of the news Americans get to hear? Fabulously rich men who are actively and relentlessly partisan?

DO YOU FIGURE YOU’D HAVE NOTICED IF BILL CLINTON… …allowed a great American city to be destroyed through staggering bureaucratic negligence, despite plenty of warnings about hurricane danger? Then allowed graft and corruption to siphon off billions, in the aftermath?

Don’t you think you would have called it politically “significant” if Democrats were involved in nine out of ten of the lawmaker sex/perversion/corruption scandals, in the last decade? Of course you would!

It is so sad that Christians have twisted the message of Jesus into a jingoistic, nationalistic fervor for the advancement of empire. They cherry pick the portions of the Bible that support their materialistic interests. Ignored are the passages on justice, and caring for the “least of these”. And they are in outright defiance of those parts that in a revolutionary manner, go completely against any notion of human common sense — loving your enemies and blessing those who curse you.

22 January 2007

Why does it bother us so much to be told that we’re wrong?

Driving home from work today, I heard this beautiful message on the radio.
You’re wrong! Wait. Let’s try that a little less emphatically. You’re wrong. Why does it bother us so much to be told that we’re wrong? Well, at a very basic level, it bothers us because we are built to care about truth, and being wrong means we’ve missed the mark. But this really shows the problem. Most of us act as if we think our value as people hinges on showing that we already know everything.

That’s not a love of truth, that’s pride masquerading as love of truth. And surely no sin is more clever a disguise artist than pride. So what does it mean to be told we are wrong? Well, either we are or we are not. If we are not, we shouldn’t get upset. We should lovingly show the person that it is he who is mistaken. And if we are wrong, then we should gratefully express our thanks to the person for showing us how to more fully embody our professed love of truth.

The beginning of wisdom is the love of being wrong. Because if you never find out where you’re wrong, you’ll never become any smarter. And if you don’t love such discoveries, you’ll be much too slow in recognizing them.

Let me pin these words to my brain and hardwire into my heart for future reference…

25 December 2006

Peace on Earth

Wars will stop when men refuse to fight.

--Albert Einstein

In a previous post, I asked if the U.S. was a warlike nation. I didn't draw a distinction, however, between the governments and the population at large. Granted, one could make an argument that for citizens under rule of a form of representative government, there is no difference. And it's commonly stated that warfare is an endemic part of human nature. Add it up, and the equation calculates to a sense that we are a "warlike nation".

However, the matter is not as simple as it seems when considering our civilization.

First, let's examine the notion that human nature favors war. To most human beings, killing another is an abominable idea. Even most soldiers are skittish about killing the enemy. So much that military instruction has embraced advances in psychology to lessen this natural aversion.

Studies of the killing of human beings by human beings are scarce with even less interest shown by the public or the media. Probably the best source of information on this subject is the book by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing, and the associated web site, "Killology Research Group." I would encourage any of you that are interested in this subject to take a look at that book and the articles at the web site.

According to Col. Grossman, ordinary soldiers are reluctant to personally and individually kill the enemy. He quotes the statistic that in World War II, only about 15-20% of American soldiers actually fired their weapons at the enemy. Similarly, in both the Civil War and World War I, there are indications that most non-professional soldiers elected to not actually try to kill the enemy. In fact, Grossman claims, ordinary humans experience a high stress level when put in the situation of having to kill other humans at close range which results in high degree of psychological trauma. It should be pointed out that of those who do their best to try to kill the enemy, there are many who kill for pleasure rather than just duty. Hopefully, those that get pleasure from killing are the professional soldiers and not employees of the Postal Service.

Two things have considerably corrected this situation to the point where most modern soldiers do, in fact, try to kill. One is the imbedding of the modern individual, from childhood, in a sea of violence in the form of movies, television and games, where killing humans is as routine as swatting a fly. The other is that the military has changed its training program to more effectively create a "killing machine" from the clueless civilian recruit.

By the time the Vietnam conflict came along, the conditioning programs (the military training as well as the unintended consequence of massive exposure to violent films and games throughout their young lives) was so successful that the percentage of soldiers that fired at the enemy had risen to 95% (see page 250 of Grossman's book).

Also, up close, face to face with another human being, the act of killing is often confronted in squeamish fashion. Not so when bombs are lobbed from great distances. When the carnage and destruction is hidden from view, one is more eager to inflict harm on unseen, nameless victims, where the realm seemingly shifts into something that more resembles a video game than war.

Governments embark upon propaganda campaigns and outright deceit to move nations to war. Our side is just, their side is vile barbarians. We are told that our cause is for truth and justice, their way is one of domination and enslavement. Even in "just wars", the opposing nation or alliance is demonized as subhuman evildoers. Just about every single war in the history of the United States has featured government deceit to justify a campaign for war.

Citizens are urged to submit in blind obedience to the state's edicts. That because our leaders pronounce so, reason and judgment are to be abandoned, and to question hawkish motives is akin to being unpatriotic. Individuals comply to satisfy the group.

I am no pacifist, and certainly recognize that at times, it is necessary to go to war to institute justice or save the oppressed. The choice for war is a heavy one, and it is depressing to see it packaged as a slick marketing campaign. Profits flow to corporate heads and government officers (who go in and out through a revolving door and some still own significant shares in the companies they headed that reap incredible gains from the business of war) while a stream of young Americans meet a tragic fate amidst a gushing river of slaughtered innocent civilians.

You may know this about the different ratio of civilian-to-military deaths in war, how in World War I, ten military dead for one civilian dead; in World War II, it was 50-50, half military, half civilian; in Vietnam, it was 70% civilian and 30% military; and in the wars since then, it’s 80% and 85% civilian.

My Christmas wish, this season and those forthcoming, is that we would band together and refuse to fight. Because while our leaders may be terrible war mongers, I believe most of us are not.

21 December 2006

Free-For-All Thursday

Questions clipped from the Andrew Tallman daily email, and I thought I'd bang out a few answers and maybe solicit some responses from you all also.

Should reporters mention the college a criminal attended the way they do when talking about someone’s good deeds?

Why not? Depends on the length of the report being given, I suppose.

Is it lying to use an excuse in declining an invitation that you would decline even if you didn’t have another engagement?

No. Sometimes, providing entirely too many details tangles one into bigger traps.

Are you afraid of your computer because of spam and viruses?

No, because I use Macs and Macs, unlike PCs, are free from viruses. Spam enrages me, but the mail client I use does an excellent job of weeding out the spam. And I'm not a big email person, I consider the state of email in 2006 to be broken.

Are Christmas lists a bad idea?

Depends on what type of "Christmas list" you are referring to.

How do you handle the “elevator conundrum?”

Don't know what exactly is denoted by elevator conundrum.

Aisle, window, or middle seat when flying?

Aisle, definitely. Sitting in window and middle seats will bring the onset of claustrophobia, and possibly panic attacks. I have an aversion to being squeezed into any small, closed-in space. Though sitting in the aisle on a plane will involve you in collisions with passengers making a dash to the restroom or flight attendants wheeling their refreshment carts.

5 CDs or a Concert: What’s the value of an experience?

When I was younger, no hesitation on choosing Concert over the CDs. Nowadays, I am not so certain — sensitivity to loudness and see above question for other considerations. Plus, once I rip the CDs into digital format, the music can last forever.

18 December 2006

Are we a warlike nation?

We elect presidents who go to war, belittle presidents who carry out efforts of peacemaking.

We celebrate warfare, we marginalize pacifists.

We cherish biblical references of conflict and downplay admonitions of love and forgiveness.

Or is it the result of slickly orchestrated propaganda campaigns that villanize foes and color our cause as righteous and noble? If so, does evil reside in our national leaders that compose such media blitzes or in us for easily falling under its spell, failing to apply proper scrutiny to the proposed campaigns for making war?

In a 2004 radio address, President Bush stated through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly because we have known the costs of war.

Truly, are we a peaceful people, only dragged kicking and screaming into global conflicts? History suggests otherwise:

  • # of times the U.S. has bombed Serbia: 1
  • # of times Serbia has bombed the U.S.: 0
  • # of times the U.S. has invaded the Dominican Republic: 2 (1916, 1965)
  • # of times the Dominican Republic has invaded the U.S.: 0
  • # of human beings massacred by U.S.-backed death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s: 180,000
  • # of human beings massacred by Salvadoran and Guatemalan-backed death squads in the United States: 0
  • # of human beings murdered by U.S.-backed fascist governments in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina in the 1970s as part of "Operation Condor": 32,000
  • # of human beings murdered by the states of Uruguay, Chile and Argentina in the United States in the 1970s as part of "Operation Condor:" 2
  • # of human beings killed by U.S.-client Suharto in Indonesia in 1965: 600,000
  • # of human beings killed by Suharto in the United States: 0
  • # of times the United States has invaded Iraq: 2
  • # of times Iraq has invaded the United States: 0
  • # of children who died as a consequence of American bombing of civilian targets – chiefly the water purification and sanitation system – and sanctions from the Gulf War to Operation Iraqi Liberation: 500,000
  • # of children who died at the hand of Saddam Hussein in the United States: 0
  • # of Americans killed in the horror of 9/11: 2,800
  • # of Afghan civilians killed after Operation Enduring Freedom began: over 4,000
  • # of Iraqis killed as a consequence of Operation Iraqi Freedom: anywhere from 100,000 and counting.
  • We're the biggest arms peddler in the world.

    Is that really the model Jesus left for Christians to follow after him? While Christianity may not imply de facto pacifism, no way was Jesus an advocate for war and violence.

    3 February 2006

    Rock stars ... is there anything they don't know?

    Bono knows religion, as the lead singer for U2 addresses the President at the National Prayer Breakfast event last Thursday.

    As for Bono's words, first came a homage to the biblical prophets, then a carrot, followed by a stick, and finally a request:

    Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

    I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

    These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

    I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

    It's extremely doubtful, aside from a few inquisitive souls on the internets, that anyone will associate anything of significance other than the obligatory photo op with the president. Bono has stated that he'd meet with the Devil if it did some good, though I'm not implying that getting chummy with President Bush and Jesse Helms is the metaphorical equivalent.

    Some argue that Bono’s campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviours, and does more harm than good. Others contend that before any meaningful change, the United States and Europe must stop treating Africa as their colony.

    4 January 2006

    I hope for the year of Jubilee

    Richard Lang in The Prophets Versus Empire
    Some will say that the Jubilee is irrelevant today, that it was an economic strategy for a small, relational agrarian culture, nothing like today's complex global capitalist culture. Indeed, what does the Jubilee have to do with us?

    The notion of Jubilee emerged from a commitment to live an anti-imperial life. The Jubilee was an economy set free from imperial ambition. Today, we live inside an Empire. We have chosen the path of Pharaoh: a path of domination rather than justice. Under the guise of priestly (Christian) rhetoric, the current administration has disrespected the Constitution, and made a mockery of our political process that balances power between branches of government. It has abandoned the rule of international law, disregarded human and civil rights, and unleashed economic chaos on the poor and on the land. We are dealing with outlaws who are drunk on the blood of imperial power. Whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq, Venezuela or Colombia, the Philippines or Haiti, wherever brown-skinned people live, the dogs of war are unleashed. Whenever people claim their own livestock, land, or even their bodies, this administration steps in to suppress any that dare to rise as an alternative to Empire.

    Meanwhile, the causes of Christ — love of enemy, forgiveness of sin, practice of generosity, openness to the stranger, resistance to Empire, liberation of the poor — are today being subverted by a hardening of heart. To put it bluntly, Christ is once again being crucified through the merger of privileged imperial wealth and the religious priests who benefit from Empire's plunder. We are, in other words, living in similar times to those betrayed by Joseph. Pharaoh wants our livestock, land, and labor.

    As a Christian, all property is viewed as belonging to God, and that we are stewards who give all for Christ, including land and possessions, as well as our hearts.

    The pastor at my church frequently admonishes listeners of his lessons to review their calendar and checkbook, as a barometer on whether or not they are living for Christ or other earthly masters. So sad that many "Christians" wish to cherry pick scripture, and pluck out things that arn't even in their environmental sphere to get indignant over, like homosexuality, while totally disregarding as irrelevant items that should weigh greater.