Nel's New Day

October 15, 2017

Right v. Left in Religion

For almost a year, people have questioned how Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) could have 80 percent of the evangelical support to be elected U.S. president. He is a serial womanizer, divorced twice, married three times, brags about sexually assaulting women, and finds his biological daughter sexually attractive. (In addition, he’s autocratic, violent, vain, impulsive, and ignorant—but that may fit the evangelical lifestyle.)

A reason for evangelical support of DDT is that he can deliver what they want in turning the nation back to fundamentalist Christians. That support was evident last week when he began to make contraception illegal and came out against LGBTQ rights. A stronger reason for the evangelical belief in DDT, however, is that he shares their values. Money and wealth are gauges of human value and worth in the “prosperity gospel” as the rich are God’s “elect.” DDT promotes racism and white supremacy in accord with fundamentalist Christianity while he works to destroy the nation’s social safety net.

Background for these values is the DDT’s dogmatic approach, also in accord to fundamentalists. Dogmatic people are less skilled in analytical thinking and less likely to view situations from a variety of perspectives. Therefore, they believe that facts are “fake” unless they follow their personal beliefs. Dogmatic people are far less likely to believe in science because of their lack of understanding and their refusal to consider anything outside their narrow understanding. Politics for conservatives have now become a religious fundamentalism. They operate on faith in both arenas, clinging to beliefs that cannot be proven through empirical means.

Last week, the “Awaken the Dawn” rally filled the Washington National Mall with worship music and prayer in a three-day event. The organizer, Independent Network Charismatic (INC), has held other events, for example one in Houston where former Texas governor Rick Perry and current Secretary of Energy, prayed for rain. The “apostles” of INC have close links other U.S. politicians such as Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, and DDT.

Instead of building churches, INC builds networks through media, conferences, and education for its control. The goal is to put their believers into all of society’s powerful positions. The fastest-growing Christian group in the nation increased 3.24 percent a year from 1970 to 2010 while Protestant church attendees dropped by 0.05 percent each of those years when the nation’s population was annually growing by 1 percent.

An appeal of INC for young people are impromptu supernatural healing sessions in a hospital ER room, the casting out of demonic spirits in ministry school classes, and teams in public places to relay divine messages. Instead of creating congregations and joining people in worship services, INC wants heaven, God’s perfect society, on Earth through their leadership control of the “seven mountains of culture”: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family, and religion.

INC believers in DDT’s administration—including Rick Perry, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Secretary of HUD Ben Carson—are part of the plan.

Evangelicals have become more and more obsessed with collecting money as James Hudnut-Beumler wrote in his book, In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism. The first automated teller machine (ATM) was installed in a London church 50 years ago to add to the alms boxes (alms for the poor) in the back of churches. Evangelical churches added the ATMs to their churches to increase donations a dozen years. Donations went from $100,000 the first year to double that the second year in an 18-percent increase over pre-ATM times. The next step was the “automatic tithing machine” that deducted cash from the giver’s account to move it directly into that of the church. The church’s argument for giving this money is that it frees the donor. The money becomes sacred.  The givers, though, can’t use credit cards because it’s not the same; the sanctuary requires cash.

The “prosperity gospel” includes committing fraud. The founder of the Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina, currently being investigated for enslaving foreign believers after luring them to the U.S., is encouraging members to file fraudulent unemployment claims to keep tithing and giving to the “church.” Jane Whaley told contractor Randy Fields that this fraud is “God’s plan” after he asked to cut back on his tithing after his business was in trouble. Fields said that several other members and fellowship employees committed fraud because of Whaley’s demands. The false claims may be provided the church hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past six years. A church member also led 30 parishioners to attack and beat a gay church member to “expel his demons.”

DDT’s war on athletes protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem follows the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity. Pastor Allen Joyner of the Sweet Home Baptist Church, who announces football games at McKenzie High School (Alabama), told his crowd that anyone who didn’t stand for the national anthem should “line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots AT you.” The school denounced his statement, but his church supported the belief.  Joyner has resigned from his volunteer position at the high school.

Evangelism of personal piety from over a century ago has been replaced by Christian Reconstructionism that tries to control all the Earth and eradicate any secular, humanist society. All non-fundamentalists will be silenced, imprisoned, or killed, and the mission of government is to protect property and wage war. Churches, in charge of social welfare, can deny help to the poor, and people can be executed for “moral crimes.” The United States is well on its way to this philosophy: almost 40 percent believe in creationism, and almost one-third are evangelical Christians. Only God can save evangelicals, who must overcome all others in any way possible. People in the evangelical movement consider themselves victims of all the “others”—racial, religious, etc.

While the religious right seems to be taking over, the “religious left” is not sitting back. Progressive faith leaders are not only opposing DDT’s actions in supporting his “values voters” but also opening their worship places and even homes to undocumented immigrants risking DDT’s deportations. Growing more nervous about the movement, the religious conservatives are attempting to discredit and condemn the Religious Left. Last July, Fox network treated one of the left’s leaders, Rev. William Barber II, after he accused right-wing pastors of hypocrisy, that their actions constituted “a form of theological malpractice bordering on heresy.” When Linda Sarsour called on her fellow Muslims to a nonviolent “jihad” for social justice against DDT, Fox joined other conservative media to accuse her remarks as “terror.” (Jihad means a spiritual struggle against evil.)

In addition to attacking individuals, conservative media claims that progressivism and religion are not compatible. Cal Thomas, vice president of the Moral Majority from 1980 to 1985, blame declines in church affiliation on liberal people of faith who engage in politics. Mark Tooley, head of the right-wing Institute of Religion and Democracy, described the “Christian left” as “unreflective.” The National Review claimed the Democratic Party is actively hostile to religion.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons theorizes that the religious right is killing religious belief in the United States. He writes that the same percentage of people unaffiliated with religion—97 percent—believed in God in 2014 and 2007. The reason for declining church membership, according to Graves-Fitzsimmons:

“Americans aren’t rejecting God, they’re rejecting harmful religion….

“Religion in America looks little like the Golden Rule and much more like Westboro Baptist Church.”

The reason for withdrawal from organized religion is that the religious right has established themselves “as the only legitimate religious voice.” The media incessantly reports on their activism so it appears to be the only religion. The rejection of people for fundamentalist Christianity furthers the belief that it is the only Christian belief. Progressive Christians then shy away from being identified with religion because of its negative perspective from conservatives.

“Progressive people of faith have been on the front lines of the racial justice, environmental justice and immigration justice movements,” writes Graves-Fitzsimmons. The media no longer views these movements as Christian in the way that they view anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-women’s rights.

The right-wing group in religion and all other matters proudly call themselves “conservatives,” but they are the opposite from this philosophy. Conservation is preserving natural resources and heritage. Yet today’s conservatives are determined to destroy the planet, history, and human rights. They should be called destructionists.

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October 1, 2017

Christian Nationalism Lacks Rational Thought, Decency

Various claims for Hillary Clinton’s loss are her not visiting Wisconsin and Michigan, not articulating her economic program, and relying on “identity politics.” Nobody addresses her faith in the voters to be, as David Masciotra wrote, “sufficiently thoughtful and moral to reject the prospect of a historically illiterate con man who routinely makes racist remarks and once boasted of committing sexual assault, acting as President of the United States.” Almost 63 million people used the excuse of Clinton’s private email server to all an impulsive man displaying a serious case of ADHD to be in control of the nation’s nuclear weapons. Progressives lose at the ballot and across the culture because they consistently overestimate the intelligence and decency of the American people. She assumed that the majority of Americans operate according to rationality and compassion.

During a pre-election debate, DDT blamed Clinton for not reforming the tax code while she was a senator; she had to explain to him how a bill becomes a law. But 37 percent of people cannot identify one freedom in the First Amendment, and 25 percent can’t correctly name all three branches of government. Sixty-four percent of people want NFL to force players to stand during the performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at a commercial event. They have forgotten that the first man who “took a knee” at an NFL performance was protesting the police killings of unarmed black men without any penalty. Colin Kaepernick took this action instead of sitting during the national anthem because Army veteran Nate Boyer made that suggestion. Boyer’s letter to Kaepernick stated in part:

“I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.”

Three-fourths of white people in the United States are claiming great respect for the flag but not for people with dark skin.

Ignorance of geography also leads to people looking at “others” as subhuman. The more accurately that people could identify North Korea, the less likely they were to support military action against the country, an action that comes from DDT’s incitement. In 2015, 30 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats wanted the United States to bomb Agrabah—the fictional setting for Disney’s animated feature film for children Alladin.

Only 54 percent of people in the U.S. knew that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens before the recent publicity. Of those who know they are citizens, 81 percent wanted strong support; of those unaware of their citizenship, only 44 percent supported assistance.

In an example of current Republican philosophy, Alabama selected far right-wing evangelical, Roy Moore, for their standard bearer in the Senate. As their candidate, he goes against Democrat Doug Moore on December 12, 2017 to replace Luther Strange who was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions.

Moore twice lost his elected office as Supreme Court justice because he refused to follow the law. The first time (2003) he kept a two-ton monument to the Ten Commandments in the central rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building afer being told to remove it, and the second time (2016) he was suspended for telling probate judges to ignore the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing marriage equality. His position was that Alabama didn’t have to follow federal law.

Supported by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and sidekick Mike Pence, Moore could reinforce his positions in the U.S. Senate:

Homosexuality: “Homosexual conduct … is defined by the law as detestable…. When we become one nation under god again, when liberty and justice for all reigns across our land, we will be truly good again.”

9/11: The attack by 19 terrorists was divine retribution because of Isiah 30:25 – “There should be up on every high mountain and upon every hill, rivers and streams of water in the day of the great slaughter when the towers will fall.'”

People of Color: “Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be god.” He defends his slurs on Native and Asian American communities with lyrics from the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children”: “all the children of the world—red, brown, yellow, black and white.”

Vladimir Putin: “Maybe Putin is right” in “protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda.”

Same-Gender Marriage: The ruling for marriage equality is “even worse” than 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson, establishing racial desegregation, “the words are not there [in the U.S. Constitution,] we’ve never had it in our history.”

Sharia Law: Muslim law is in the United States, especially in places in Illinois and Indiana—or maybe not. “I was informed that there were. But if they’re not, it doesn’t matter. Sharia law incorporates Muslim law into the law. That’s not what we do. We do not punish people according to the Christian precepts of our faith — so there’s a difference. I’ll just say this: I don’t know if there are. I understand that there are some.” [He missed the point about Christianity actually punishing people by eliminating LGBTQ and women’s rights.]

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress: “Enough evidence exists for Congress to question Ellison’s qualifications to be a member of Congress as well as his commitment to the Constitution in view of his apparent determination to embrace the Quran and an Islamic philosophy directly contrary to the principles of the Constitution. In 1943, we would never have allowed a member of Congress to take their oath on Mein Kampf, or someone in the 1950s to swear allegiance to the Communist Manifesto.”

Right to Work and DACA: “Right to work?” Moore asked a questioner at an American Principles Project in April. “Explain…a little bit.” The response to a question about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: “Pardon? The Dreamers program? Why don’t you… quit beating around and tell me what it is.”

Barack Obama: “My opinion is that there is a big question about [Barack Obama’s place of birth]. My personal belief is that he isn’t [a U.S. citizen], but that’s probably over and done in a few days, unless we get something else to come along,”

Last fall’s general election pitted a rational, intelligent, compassionate, decent woman against Christian nationalism’s champion, DDT. George W. Bush coalesced evangelical power, creating a time when conservative politicians are forced to declare the U.S. as a “Christian nation” to be successful. That belief forces them to be Islamophobic and anti-immigrant. The force of Christian nationalism is so strong that DDT couldn’t even get a candidate elected by claiming that “[Luther Strange] knows the true source of America’s strength — it’s God, it’s family and its country.”

DDT was up against a candidate who out-Christianed DDT and Strange—and up against his former chief political strategist, white supremacist Steve Bannon, who campaigned for Moore. For another man, Moore’s win would weaken political power, but DDT believes he can control anyone. He may have trouble, however, with a man who seems afraid of nothing because his god is on his side.

Christian nationalism has been around for over a half century, but it accelerated with DDT’s rise.  Their reverence for the American “founders” is not only unusual in industrialized countries but also skewed from reality as is their perception rights provided by of the U.S. Constitution. The Christian nationalists’ rejection of science, education, and government is also antithetical to the beliefs of the founders.

Although less common in U.S. history, there are ample examples of DDT-style Christian nationalism in other parts of the world. Like Russia and China, U.S. controlling religious groups want to impose their beliefs on others. Christian nationalists in Germany were largely responsible for the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. The Nazi sense of “family values,” disturbed by the shift in gender roles after women joined the workplace in World War I, also contributed to increasing popularity.

A study among 11,000 randomly selected people in the nation found that the Christian nationalist narrative, more about country than faith, united religious groups and those with sexist, Islamophobic, and anti-refugee beliefs in a perfect storm of symbiosis. As shown by the firestorm over people not standing for the national anthem, DDT’s form of patriotism is the new piety of intolerance. The chief author of the report, sociologist Andrew Whitehead of Clemson University, said,  “The legacy of white Christian America is going to live on.”

September 17, 2017

When Evangelicals Take Over the Government

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got to the White House with 80 percent of the Christian evangelical vote, and he’s repaid them with multiple appointments from their following. One of these is former Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) who moved into the position of CIA director. He started by using his Christian faith to defeat any other religion. In an early speech, he said that Islamist terrorists will “continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.” God and Christianity continued to be frequent references in his trip report while overseas.

Establishing chaplain services for CIA members was Pompeo’s next move. He consulted with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a guarantee that chaplains will focus only on Christianity. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled FRC an anti-gay hate group. CIA employees have registered complaints about Pompeo’s religious pressure with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Its director, Michael Weinstein, said:

“In the intelligence community, we see supervisors wanting to hold Bible studies during duty hours [and] inviting lower-ranking individuals to their homes for Bible studies.”

Weinstein said that agency employees are afraid to be public about their concerns because of retribution of accusations of leaking. Officials’ signing off with “have a blessed day” is “straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale, Weinstein said.

Pompeo raised further concerns with his refusal to honor the CIA’s diversity mandate. He is openly anti-LGBT, even talking about this position on college campuses, and he has become openly angry about questions directed toward  the agency’s commitment to diversity. Pompeo defended DDT’s “many sides” statements about Charlottesville (VA) protesters by claiming that DDT’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”

Recently Pompeo blackmailed Harvard Kennedy School into rescinding its invitation to Chelsea Manning as visiting fellow. The position is not an honorific, but Pompeo could not tolerate the transgender woman being included in the ten selected for this fall. Pompeo canceled his appearance at a Harvard forum in a letter that included:

“I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Two people offering their wisdom as visiting fellows to Harvard are former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who constantly lied for DDT, and former DDT campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who physically attacked protesters at DDT’s rallies. These are two of the people offering their wisdom to Harvard students this fall.

Cabinet members are also determined to turn the United States into a theocracy. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is determined to destroy public education and move all students into private religious schools at taxpayers’ expense. A few months before he became attorney general, Jeff Sessions said that the constitution allows states to “establish a religion.” Other Cabinet members such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry have joined DeVos and VP Mike Pence in sponsoring weekly bible study classes at the White House. Pastor and leader Ralph Drollinger is part of conservative Capitol Ministries, with the goal to “evangelize elected officials and lead them toward maturity in Christ,” and has set up biblical ministries in state capitols across the country as well as in the House of Representatives. A climate-change denier and ferociously anti-LGBT, Drollinger believes that mothers who work while leaving children at home are sinful and Catholicism is the “world’s largest false religion.”

While Oklahoma AG, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt fought to keep a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol that the state Supreme Court ordered removed in 2015. Tom Price, Health and Human Services director, is an anti-reproductive-choice zealot.

DDT wants transgender people out of the military. Are non-Christians next? U.S. Air Force chaplain Sonny Hernandez claims that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members’ right to practice other faiths. He “ministers” to thousands of military members at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio by telling them they rely on Christ, not the Constitution:

“Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

Hernandez ignores the oath that all members of the U.S. military, including military chaplains, take when they sign up for the Armed Services:

“I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’

Hernandez is not alone. Noncommissioned officers at one Air Force base reported that their superiors told them Trump would make it USAF policy that in order for “disbelieving Jews” to be allowed into the USAF or be deemed fit for promotions, they would have to show via objectively established behavior that they were at least honestly “considering the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The wife of a combat-decorated Muslim U.S. Naval officer was surrounded with her children in the commissary before being spat on and accused of not being a “true American and being a spy and a terrorist.” Army Major General Julie Bentz, spoke at the 56th Annual Kansas Prayer Breakfast and stated:

“But my greatest privilege is standing in front of my king and my God, carrying every member of my organization to his throne and asking for his protection, his mercy, his love on each of them and their families and whatever are their concerns and burdens of the day.

Complaints, doubled since DDT’s election, are going to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) because targets fear retaliation by going through their chain of command. Approximately 84 percent of military chaplains, and about one-third of these are fundamentalists who believe they don’t need to conform to the U.S. Constitution, Department of Defense directives, or law. DDT is increasingly seen as a savior for them, especially with his selections of evangelicals for vice-president and at least nine Cabinet members. De-frocked, ex-felon Jim Bakker, back to televangelizing, said that criticism of DDT is “satanic,” that critics are channeling the spirit of the Antichrist.

On the campaign trail, DDT promised to do away with “political correctness”—his term for the U.S. Constitution—and put Christianity back into the military.

The House also supports DDT’s Christian agenda. Hidden within the $1.2 trillion spending bill passed in mid-September by a 211-198 vote is a provision partially blocking the tax code prohibiting places of worship from endorsing political candidates. It stops funding IRS attempts to penalize churches violating tax law in these endorsements by mandating that any funds enforcing this law requires agents to notify two congressional committees, wait 90 days, and then get IRS commissioner permission. At this time, the existing law is rarely enforced but much discussed in churches. The provision doesn’t apply to nonprofits that are not faith based. If the Senate agrees, the law would transform tax-exempt churches into Super PACs.

Seventy-one percent of people, including majorities among white evangelicals, are opposed to church’s endorsing candidates, and some faith-based groups have strongly lobbied against the idea. A letter from 4,000 faith leaders against the endorsement of candidates read in part:

“Changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship. We must not allow our sacred spaces to be transformed into spaces used to endorse or oppose political candidates.”

The Senate went the opposite direction from the House when the Appropriations Committee moved to reinstate funding for the UN  Population Fund and overturn the global gag rule, known as the Mexico City Policy, a longstanding GOP policy forbidding U.S. support for international health organizations that offer or discuss abortion services. Those denied resources including family planning funding, nutrition, child health, and disease control. Two GOP female senators voted for the bans removal and Democratic Joe Manchin (WV) wanted to keep the ban.

Christianity is the U.S. majority religion and have the greatest privileges, but white evangelical Christians suffer from a massive persecution complex. They think that they face more discrimination than blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, atheists, or Jews, a belief reinforced by their bible. The book they use for worship tells them that they will be hated, flogged, persecuted, excluded, insulted, rejected, and imprisoned. They will suffer from others’ jealousy, conspiracies, hardship, famine, danger, and deception. People striving to be superior have learned that the way to the top is claiming to be a victim—something that is a constant from the minority of Christian conservatives who increasingly take rights from others in the nation. The more than non-evangelicals fight for equality, the more than these Christians oppress anyone not in their tribe.

September 3, 2017

Not All Religions Save People

 (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Religion entered the stories about the flooding in Houston after Hurricane Harvey when Joel Osteen, “prosperity gospel preacher,” refused his church as a shelter for displaced people.  Early in the flooding a week ago, Lakewood Church posted that the building was “inaccessible” due to flooding and told people to go somewhere else. It was a lie. Former home of the Houston Rockets, the facility holds 16,800 people and could shelter thousands of people whose homes were flooded. That directive went viral on Twitter the next day. The church created a website sending donations to relief efforts, but Osteen’s Twitter account blocked people who criticized him or asked whether the church would take in needy people. By late Monday, writer Charles Clymer said he had heard the church was readying to accept impacted people. Osteen said on Tuesday that the church would offer baby food and formula. A church spokesman announced Tuesday that it was prepared to shelter displaced people ― “once the cities and county shelters reach capacity.”

By Wednesday, Osteen said on NBC’s Today show that the church had always been open before he reversed his statement a few minutes later. He said, “We were just being precautious [sic], but the main thing is the city didn’t ask us to become a shelter then.” By Wednesday when Osteen was permitting people to shelter in his magnificent church, he passed the collection plate among them.

Joel Osteen has come full circle after a week, telling Fox that the building was unsafe a week ago, but they still took in three people. In today’s service, he made this announcement and blamed a security company for possibly turning people away. Osteen also preached that Hurricane Harvey is part of God’s divine plan using platitudes such “God knew that Houston could handle the hurricane,” and “Quit being upset by something you can handle.” He added, “God is in control of the universe and what he has spoken over your life will come to pass.”

Osteen’s actions spoke far more loudly than his words: People cannot rely on religious leaders to do the right thing. His expensive church with its renovation price of $95 million exemplifies the words of Dallas pastor Jim Jeffress who spent $130 million on his church. He claimed it glorified “the splendor and majesty of God” in “these tough economic times.” Osteen told Oprah Winfrey, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a nice place to live and being blessed.” His organization has an annual budget of over $70 million; Osteen himself, the fifth wealthiest pastor in the nation, lives in a 17,000-square-foot $10.5 million mansion and is worth about $40 million. He may have overlooked Matthew 19:24, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is pretty much off Osteen’s radar. In his tweets, he mentions the savior’s name only around Easter—not even at Christmas. In the past three years, his hundreds of tweets used either “Jesus” or “Christ” only 14 times. Last year a satirical article wrote about Osteen apologizing for mentioning Jesus in a sermon, and people took it seriously.

Osteen’s refusal to help people in Houston’s floods has gone viral and created a PR nightmare.

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) won the presidential election with 80 percent evangelical support, and no part of Christian evangelism in the United States represents DDT more than the prosperity gospel worshipping money. Like DDT, prosperity gospel values are indifferent to the poor, put magical belief over reasoning, and follow the cult of personality. God blesses those with faith and gives them wealth, according to prosperity gospel. Its theology promotes material and physical prosperity as God’s will and requires donations to demonstrate faith—a “Christian” self-help pathway to prosperity.

Osteen says:

“I don’t think it’s God’s best [to be poor.] Some people have this poverty mindset, and I’m a Christian, and I’m supposed to suffer. That’s just not how I see it.”

Prosperity gospel teaching pressures people into giving money to a pastor for a “thousand-fold “harvest” or guilts them into donating money that they need themselves. When people fail to get any return, they are told that they lacked faith. Prosperity evangelist Paula White, close DDT friend who bought a $3.5 million condo from him, told a television audience after DDT’s white supremacist support following Charlottesville (VA) that opposing DDT is anti-God. According to White, DDT has been appointed by God. She also wants people to “sow your prophetic seed of $77 or more” for their own “special, anointed prayer cloth as a point of contact for this prophetic word!” The con is similar to DDT wearing his “Official USA 45th Presidential Hat,” which sells on his reelection website for $40.

In 2007, the Senate Finance Committee investigated White and five other televangelists regarding use of tax-exempt donations for personal enrichment. The investigation went nowhere. Followers of prosperity preachers allow them to continue their improprieties, just as DDT followers ignore or praise his sexual assaults and unconstitutional actions.

Other faith communities rushed to offer aid from the beginning of the crisis. Mosques that had been attacked by anti-Islamists opened their doors, and churches canceled services to house people. At least one preacher checked submerged cars for trapped people. Congregation Beth Israel synagogue was surrounded by four feet of water, but the rabbi promised to open as a shelter when the water receded. Sue Deigaard, whose house was threatened with flooding, got a key to St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church where she and friends set up camp. About 40 residents waded to the church, and some of them floated a pregnant woman and her family to safety in a canoe.

Even businesses were far more supportive that the “Christian” Lakewood Church. Jim McIngvale known as “Mattress Mack,” a business owner, not only took refugees into his two huge Houston furniture stores but also sent his trucks to pick up people who needed help getting to the locations. He posted a video online inviting people with their pets and gave out his personal phone number. People slept on the furniture that he was selling–recliners, couches, and hundreds of mattresses, and he provided them food. Thousands of people performed rescues and voluntarily gave shelter. Joel Osteen kept his church doors closed until he was embarrassed into offering shelter.

 

DDT has declared today a National Day of Prayer for people harmed by Hurricane Harvey. At the same time, he indicated that he might break the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea and stop trade with any countries doing business with North Korea, including China, Russia, and India. DDT also suggested that the U.S. could stop trade with countries doing business with North Korea, but that includes China and India. The tweets were in response to North Korea’s claim that its latest nuclear test is a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on an intercontinental ballistic missile. An H-bomb has far more power than the destructive atomic bombs in the 1940s, but one expert thinks that the test was a “boosted” atomic bomb. It did cause a 6.3 magnitude earthquake,however, making it five to six times stronger than NK’s previous test. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has shifted from “fire and fury” to “we’ll see” in response to a reporter.

DDT may have to create far more National Days of Prayer if he gets the nation into World War III. Or maybe one in a couple of weeks if Hurricane Irma hits our mainland.

August 20, 2017

Evangelicals Lack Moral Compass

Four advisory councils for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) disappeared after his support of white supremacists and another never came to fruition. Another one that disappeared today is the panel for the National Climate Assessment that included academics, local officials, and corporate representatives. Two councils, however, are still going strong—one that suppresses votes and another that gives far-right racist Christians power over DDT’s decision. Of the 25 DDT-appointed radical born-again preachers, televangelists and conservative political influencers, only one resigned, showing a bit of the moral compass that the majority of business CEOs did after DDT’s outrageous statements equating people standing for racial justice to the “whites-only” groups. One member had resigned months ago. Those remaining were either silent or strongly supported DDT’s impassioned criticism for those who opposed militant neo-Nazis.

Evangelical supporters of DDT claim the high ground, saying that “the Bible calls us to do as ambassadors of reconciliation, reaching across the aisle, [and] reaching out to other ministers.” This action, however, is not one that they took when Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were presidents. Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s tweet about DDT’s statements described them as being “bold truthful.” Caught up in a backlash, he later tried a spin to say that the “truth” from DDT is that white supremacists “are pure evil and un-American,” but not everyone swallowed his bull.

More bull came from Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, who blamed media misrepresentation, despite the entire press conference broadcast on television. Jeffress also advises war with North Korea. He said, “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.” According to Jeffress, nonviolence is only for “Christians,” not government. He added that a president should “absolutely not” obey the Sermon on the Mount, including helping the poor. Jeffress’ mandates comes from Roman 13, “that gives the government to the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.” [Note: Roman 13 refers to people obeying the laws of their own nation, not making DDT the dictator of the world. It also mandates paying taxes.]

Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, tweeted that “corporate America has a greater moral compass” than the Evangelical Council. Only A.R. Bernard (Christian Cultural Center, Brooklyn) formally left the council with the tepid statement “that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration.” Guardian has a list of the remaining “ultra-conservative religious cheerleaders.”

One of DDT’s evangelical council will extend her responsibilities to the United Nations where she will help all the nations in the world adopt Christianity in preparation for the “End Times.” Michele Bachman’s (above right) “appointment” comes from The Jefferson Gathering, a project from the Skyline Church that came from congressional conservatives gathering with religious right leaders in Statuary Hall to pray for forgiveness for the nation’s sins such as legalized marriage equality. These people believe that God caused 9/11 and the 2012 Benghazi attack in his judgment.

Former students at Liberty University plan to return their diplomas in protest to Falwell’s racist perspective. A group letter states:

“This is incompatible with Liberty University’s stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness.”

Chris Gaumer, a former student government president at Liberty, called Falwell “complicit” in DDT’s defense of “Nazis and white supremacists.”

The Southern Baptist Church has formally rejected racism but only for the church. All that concerns evangelical church, and others, is collecting everyone into their fold to win their souls. Evangelicals support any politician who furthers their position, despite that person’s character. They use these politicians as a tool to gain their domination. Evangelicals think that God anointed DDT as their president This group of religious leaders has decided that God has placed Trump as POTUS. Because God has put DDT there, they have no right to lift their hands against God’s anointed one; he is their master and they cannot object (1 Sam 24:6). Changing their position about him would destroy the entire belief systems of evangelical leaders and cause them to lose their followers—and income. [Note: Rejecting Clinton would probably not have hurt their belief system.]

From the Guardian:

“It is one of the ‘difficult but primary duties’ of a political leader to speak for a nation in traumatic times. A space shuttle explodes, a school student goes on a shooting spree, a terrorist flies a plane into a building, a hurricane floods a city. When such things happen, Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, ‘It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul.’ Yet if Donald Trump’s words about the violent white extremist mobilisation in Virginia on Saturday – which an under-pressure White House was desperately trying to clarify on Sunday – are an expression of its soul, America may be on the road to perdition….

“There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the fanatical white supremacists who rallied in the Virginia city on Saturday and the equality defenders who demonstrated peacefully against them, one of whom was rammed and killed by a speeding car allegedly driven by a man who had attended the neo-Nazi rally. The supremacists hate black people and Jews, and regard white people as superior. They talk portentously about blood, soil and the right to bear arms. They admire Hitler and give Nazi salutes. They fly the flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy – the ostensible cause of their rallies this summer is Charlottesville’s decision, more than 150 years after the south’s surrender, to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park. And one of them committed the sort of act that was rightly called terrorism when it occurred in Nice, Berlin and London.

“Yet, in his first response on Saturday, Mr Trump utterly failed in his primary duty to uphold equality and speak the truth about the racist violence that had taken place. Instead of placing the blame where it belonged, on the supremacists and Klansmen who triggered these events, and rather than stand up for the indivisibility of equality and tolerance before the law, Mr Trump’s words were by turns slippery, banal and morally compromised. It was not true that the violence in Charlottesville came from “many sides”, as Mr Trump evasively said, before repeating his evasion. It is the head of state’s duty to stand up, explicitly and unequivocally, against racists and those who promote racial violence. Mr Trump was found wanting.”

The above was written before DDT’s appalling press conference on Tuesday that lambasted people in opposition to racial injustice. The Guardian continued after that egregious performance:

“In his angry and undignified press conference on Tuesday night, Donald Trump deliberately and shockingly crossed the line that separates the acceptable and the unacceptable in the conduct of an elected democratic leader in a multiracial society. Mr Trump must now face the consequences of this momentous and inexcusable decision. Those consequences should include the way that the leaders of multiracial European nations, including Britain, conduct their dealings with the US president from this moment on….

“Mr Trump’s petulant and narcissistic demeanour made it clear that he is more outraged by criticism and with the American press than he is with his country’s racists and its neo-Nazis. He clearly cannot help himself. But that is no excuse. This is therefore a moment at which America and the world need to display the moral clarity of which the US president is so embarrassingly incapable. There are not “many sides” to the arguments that came to the boil in Charlottesville and since. There is a right side and a wrong side. Racism, antisemitism, white supremacism and Nazism, new or old, are wrong. A leader who cannot bring himself to say this clearly and unequivocally is not just clueless. He also forfeits his claim to moral authority and much of his right to be respected as leader….”

Far-right Christians face another crisis tomorrow—a total solar eclipse across the United States. A 60-mile wide band of total darkness begins on the north-central Oregon coast and continues through 13 more, mostly red, states of the nation.

Evangelicals such as  Pastor Mark Biltz warns  how the event is a sign from God:

“As the sun is larger than the moon, the sun represents the nations of the world and the moon represents the nation of Israel…. When there is a total solar eclipse, it is a warning to a specific nation or nations depending on its path.”

According to Biltz, eclipses recorded in his bible led to war and plague. If DDT stays president, these events may come to be, attacking at least 12 GOP-dominated states.

July 30, 2017

Faith-Based Economy Equals Scorched Earth

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
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After destroying Kansas, its governor, Sam Brownback, is moving on—at least as long as he doesn’t offend Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Brownback has now been nominated as the at-large ambassador to head the State’s Office of International Religious Freedom. The position was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 created the ambassador position which was held by Christians until 2014 when President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein. The Senate approved him in a 61-35 vote.

As ambassador, Brownback would be responsible for a human rights platform and outreach to the diverse religious groups in the United States. Other responsibilities are to support minorities facing persecution or discrimination throughout the world. For example, ambassadors have been on the side of Muslims in Burma. The arch-conservative Brownback has signed a meaningless ban on Shariah law, warred against separation of church and states in public schools and everywhere else, and officially promoted Christian events and programming. He signed a bill in 2013 that states the government may not “substantially burden a person’s civil right to exercise of religion.” In 2015, Brownback signed an executive order rescinding discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2016, he signed legislation that prohibits the state’s universities from taking action against religious organizations on campuses that restrict membership to students that adhere to the group’s religious beliefs or “comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.”

Brownback decided to turn Kansas around in an economic “experiment” that drastically cut taxes, slashed public investments, and then expected prosperity to flow throughout the state. He eliminated the state’s top income tax bracket, exempted many businesses from any income tax, lowered the sales tax, and eradicated individual and corporate income tax. Yet there was no prosperity.

In 2012, Brownback said that his experiment could show what would happen in comparison to neighboring states that had not lowered taxes. Since 2013, Kansas has seen private sector employment rise only 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally and the lowest of its neighbors. Total employment is worse—2.6 percent in Kansas compared to 6.5 percent nationally. GDP growth has stayed flat compared to blue states such as California with 3.2 percent and Oregon at 2.5 percent growth. Hospitals completely closed and schools closed early because of the radical cuts in health care and education. Kansas government expenses are expected to outpace income by $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas pays a high interest rate on borrowings because its bond rating has been downgraded twice.

Brownback’s tax cuts caused average taxes to go up $200 for the one-fifth of the state’s households that make less than $23,000 a year while the richest one percent saved $25,000 a year. One health insurance company moved its headquarters across the river to Missouri. Brownback “saved” $400,000 by closing services for low-income children and developmentally disabled in Lawrence and then spent the same about in a legal vendetta against the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Brownback started hiding his economic reports that he promised would show the impact of the state’s economic laws. Last year, he killed the report entirely with the claim that it was so complicated that people couldn’t understand it.

The state’s revenue estimates are consistently and massively lower than estimates, leading to cuts to state agencies and reductions in government services. He took $2 billion from highway funding to make up for a budget hold. The budget could be in even worse shape if the Supreme Court orders hundreds of millions of dollars in additional education spending. that court has twice ruled that the budget allocates insufficient funding for public schools. The state does fund private charter schools.

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and trickle-down supporter Arthur Laffer have declared the Kansas “experiment” a success by using inaccurate data and highly selective, misleading information about unemployment and job creation.

GOP disasters in Kansas aren’t just fiscal: last year a bill permitted impeachment of any judge who opposed a legislative law. Before that bill, Brownback signed a bill that removes funding from the judiciary if a state court strikes down a 2014 law a 2014 law removing some powers from the State Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court struck down the law. Brownback also signed a bill permitting the Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prosecute someone for voter fraud even if prosecutors choose not to proceed in the cases. Of 18,000 accusations, Kobach convicted nine people, most of whom didn’t understand that they couldn’t vote on local issues in two different states where they had homes. Kobach is now the leader of a federal voter fraud (aka suppression?) commission. Kansas represents what Charles Pierce called the potential of unchecked GOP policies from Tea Party dominance.

Religious diversity’s loss is Kansas’ gain. After his “experiment” in trickle-down poverty, the state legislature overrode Brownback’s veto a few weeks ago to repeal the draconian tax cuts. In the last election, 13 additional Democrats were elected to the legislature, and several conservatives lost to moderate Republicans. Brownback’s gubernatorial approval rating has fallen to 25 percent, tied with New Jersey’s Chris Christopher for the bottom of the heap.

What happens in Kansas now is anyone’s guess. Brownback’s replacement, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, was a key player in the decision to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. Colyer called KanCare a success for saving money, but funding problems left providers without reimbursements. Last January, the federal government rejected the state’s request to extend KanCare because it didn’t meet standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. Kansas has no system for reporting and tracking critical incidents and no data to show that unexpected deaths were investigated within mandatory timeframes. The program delayed eligibility, cut coverage, and increased caseloads.

Kobach calls Colyer a “good guy.” He said that he wished Brownback had won in his “battle … to preserve the tax cuts.”

Brownback’s approach in Kansas represents the GOP faith—indeed, a religion—in a system that consistently fails. The days that Republicans revere, the mid-twentieth century, was a time of great progressive taxation when the highest income tax rates topped 90 percent. As the taxes have shrunk, the income inequality in the nation has put most of the money in the hands of the top ten percent with the top one percent benefitting the most. The faith in trickle-down comes from the wealthy who can’t argue that they want tax cuts to get more money. When the faith in tax cuts is joined deregulation for the powerful, the result is wage suppression for everyone outside the golden circle.

Some conservative states have taken notice of Kansas’ failure in its “experiment” and consider tax hikes. Eight states, including Tennessee and Arizona, may raise gas taxes, and Nebraska is going more deeply in raising sales taxes to make up for falling income taxes.

Brownback’s failure in his religion of tax cuts may factor into the grand GOP plan to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy across the United States while increasing them for everyone else.  Every time that DDT makes a radical decision, he falsely claims it will save taxpayers money. In his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement he falsely claimed that saving the climate would cost $3 trillion in GDP and “6.5 million industrial jobs, while households would have $7,000 less income….” His numbers came from an isolated report, not a cost-benefit analysis, that omitted fiscal benefits of reduced emissions which could be as much as $4.5 trillion. The health insurance industry attributes the volatility and instability currently provided by the federal government to its departures from the marketplace, not the failure to turn a profit. DDT’s excuse for throwing out transgender service members was to save money–$5.4 million out of a $790 billion budget.

Republicans want Kansas’ faith-based experiment to be a model for the federal government. Like Kansas, the U.S. would then have a stagnant economy, failing job growth, falling personal income, massive budget shortfalls, loss of healthcare coverage, and significant delays in health care services. What the United States needs is the California model where the economy grew by 4.1 percent, and the budget surplus is nearly $900 million.

July 16, 2017

Christians Fight Their Beliefs

With the removal of health care from people impending, religious supporters of Trumpcare forget that Jesus provided free medical care to lepers in a books that talked about him traveling with 12 men to give medicine to poor people. As Holly Wood wrote:

“Jesus was a homeless brown refugee who ran around giving people universal healthcare.”

This statement is a far cry from a statement made by Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS):

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Children in public school bible classes probably won’t learn about the Jesus that took care of the sick. But these Kentucky students can take an elective in the study of the bible, thanks to a new law—HB 128, the Bible Literacy Bill. In Kentucky, 2017 is also the “Year of the Bible,” according to another law, and Gov. Matt Begins encouraged people to take part in a bible-reading marathon.

Kentucky is also the state that subsidized a Noah’s ark-themed museum in Williamstown. Even with generous tax incentives and, Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis, said that his park is failing because of atheists and the media. Another conservative is blaming “fake news,” this time for the lack of investors. Despite the taxpayers support that hurts the community, employees must “confirm agreement with Ark Encounter’s Statement of Faith.” Applicants “must profess, interalia, that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the bible is literally true in order to be considered for the job.”

One Alabama high school teacher is using a one-sided summer reading list to teach conservative religion and politics. Gene Ponder provided titles of over 30 books for his Spanish Fort High AP Government and Economics students that included authors such as Ann Coulter, Rand Paul, Michael Savage (five of the 30 titles), Steve Forbes, and Mark Levin. Richard Mack, author of The Magic of Gun Control, was one of the armed resister on the Bundy ranch in Nevada using a possible strategy of women and children as human shields. The focus on how liberals lie opposes secularism, abortion, taxation, left-wing politics, and the belief in climate change. Social media made members of the Baldwin County School System aware of the list, and it was recalled. Yet Ponder faces no repercussions and will undoubtedly pass along his extremist conservative views in the fall to the top students of a public school.

A goal of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is to permit houses of worship to endorse political candidates while keeping their tax-free status. A House Appropriations subcommittee has added a provision to a funding bill to the IRS that would remove money from to IRS to implement the 63-year-old so-called Johnson Amendment. In reality, churches have been violating the law against endorsements with impunity despite the 1954 law. It already allows religious ministries to promote and reject any issues, even ballot referenda.  Evangelicals however, want to become political machines and still avoid paying taxes on their churches. DDT’s success could lead to foreign powers funneling campaign donations through these tax-exempt churches.

Evangelicals might want to start giving their money to charity instead of building huge churches and mansions for their pastors. “Small-government” believers claim that churches should provide the money for the needy instead of the government. DDT’s budget cuts require every one of the 350,000 U.S. religious congregations to raise $714,000 a year for 10 years to offset cuts to programs that aid the needy. He isn’t the first: Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2012 budget called for eliminating $3.3 trillion in ten years. His excuse was a personal interpretation of subsidiarity, the philosophy rejecting any care for the poor. Although faith-based groups provide up to $50 billion worth of services each year for the needy, many of their initiatives count on government funding for operations. Catholic Charities USA gets half its operating budget from federal funds. A group called “Circle of Protection” issued a statement about DDT’s cuts:

 “We do not support sharp increases to defense spending that are made possible by corresponding reductions in non-defense discretionary spending, particularly in programs that help poor and vulnerable people. The biblical prophets teach us that our security depends in part on upholding justice for people in poverty.”

One corporation that moved the United States closer to Christian control with the help of five Supreme Court Justices is Hobby Lobby. They claimed religious beliefs in their restriction of insurance to not pay for contraceptives and won the case. With their wealth, they are building a “Bible Museum” near the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. and got into trouble with smuggling acquisitions into the country from Iraq. The corporation was required to forfeit thousands of artifacts and pay $3 million. They also promised to stop making “mistakes.” The priceless archeological antiquities were sent to the U.S. through Israel and the United Arab Emirates in packages labeled such innocuous terms as “tile samples.” Instead of wiring money to a dealer, Hobby Lobby deposited money into several bank accounts under a number of different names. Just like DDT’s family and other colleagues, Hobby Lobby pled ignorance, and the U.S. government swallowed their excuse. The money may have gone to Daesh, an extremist group that destroys and/or sells its cultural heritage to fund its terrorism. People who go to the Hobby Lobby museum may want to remember the terrorism that the corporation supports.

In one piece of good news on the evangelical front, the Southern Baptist Convention took a huge step last week when it passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and the alt-right. At first, leaders refused to consider the proposal submitted by Dwight McKissic, a prominent black Texas pastor, but a backlash forced a reversal. The controversy came from divisions in a denomination founded to support slavery. Of the 15 million Southern Baptist members in 46,000 churches, 85 percent are white.

For centuries, Jewish and Christian religions have referred to “the curse of Ham” when justifying the white belief of superiority over blacks. The definition of this justification for slavery has no historical basis, but evangelicals have supported the concept that the “sons of Ham” are “darkened” by their sins. Baptists were split almost 200 years ago about this issue into northern and southern branches, and the perception of blacks came to a head again at the June convention when the Southern Baptists had to decide whether to leave their centuries’ old position.

The SBC is struggling toward racial equality. In 1995, it finally got around to apologizing for its foundational support for slavery. In 2015, it passed a resolution promoting reconciliation. Last year, it called on Christians to get rid of their Confederate flags. Now its policy has these positions:

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

It is a watered-down version of McKissic’s proposal (below) but it is a start:

Affirms that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.”

Identifies this “toxic menace” as white nationalism and the alt-right and urges the denomination to oppose its “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”

Claims that the origin of white supremacy in Christian communities is a once-popular theory known as the “curse of Ham,” which taught that “God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos” and was used as justification for slavery and segregation.

Calls on the denomination to denounce nationalism and “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

Even passing the resolution was not satisfactory for McKissic. He said his proposal’s rejection “showed a fault line. It showed that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t where you’re supposed to be on this.” The vote at the convention may have felt like a success, but the SBC doesn’t bind members to its resolutions. It uses “congregationalist” polity with decentralized power focused within separate churches. They can retain their racist policy.

June 4, 2017

Is This the Direction for People in the United States?

 

On his visit to the Middle East, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) told the world that the United States shared values with Saudi Arabia. Now its King Abdullah will define atheists as terrorists to continue the nation’s repressive laws on political dissent and protests that it claims can “harm public order.” Royal Decree 44 criminalizes “participating in hostilities outside the kingdom” with prison sentences of between three and 20 years. Article One of the new provisions defines terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

Saudi money is being sent to Europe to create its fanatical version of Islam throughout Germany. Instead of moderate Islamism, the push is toward the Wahhabi supremacy of Sharia law and use of violent jihad and takfirism to kill Muslims not following the Saudi interpretation of Islam. Almost all terrorist attacks in the West are connected to Saudi Arabia with almost none to Iran, excoriated by DDT.

Those who think that this idea can never move to the United States need to realize that DDT will do anything to pander to his base of evangelicals and VP Mike Pence is a “Christian” first. One of his leaders, Pat Robertson, has called for parents to beat non-Christian children if they don’t respect Christian beliefs. On his television program he told a woman upset because her grandchildren don’t follow her beliefs to “take that kid to the woodshed and let him understand the blessings of discipline.” He further told the women that the grandson would go to prison if a “strong male figure” doesn’t give him that “discipline.”  Robertson advised before predicting that the kid would end up in prison if a strong male figure didn’t start beating him right away.

Robertson’s form of child abuse follows Glenn Beck’s call four years ago to physically abuse children until they believe in God. Two years before that, fundamentalist Christian parents beat their nine children in the name of God and killed one of them. Across the country “Christians” are following the advice of Robertson and Beck. Robertson’s solution of child abuse is against the law if it results in physical harm or death–at least for now.

Religious Right activist “Coach” Dave Daubenmire (right) is calling for “a more violent Christianity” and gave DDT and Greg Gianforte as examples of men who are properly “walking in authority.” Gianforte is the new Montana U.S. representative who threw a reporter to the floor and continued to attack him the night before his successful election. Daubenmire played a clip of DDT shoving another world leader aside at the NATO summit to show that DDT “is large and in charge.” He added about DDT, “He just spanked them all.” Daubenmire said, “That should be the heart cry of Christian men. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and violent men take it by force.”

Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin thinks he can solve the problem of community violence in Louisville through prayer. His plan is to send roaming prayer groups to needy areas that will walk around and pray with people two or three times a week for the next year. Bevin thinks that prayer can take away the need for investment in housing, education, and health care.

In Michigan, Rep. Tim Walberg told his constituents that God would “take care of” the climate crisis.

In late May, Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate and father of White House communication staffer Sarah Sanders, joined 5,000 Israeli settlers with an armed guard to perform religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb in Palestine’s West Bank. With him was Israeli Parliament member Bezalel Smotrich who wants to murder all Palestinians who refuse to admit their inferior status. Later Huckabee met with parliament member Yehudah Glick, called “the most dangerous man in the Middle East” by Israeli police. Glick’s goal is to bulldoze an Islamic holy site and build a Jewish temple in its place before creating a theocracy over all residents in the Holy Land.

According to Calvinist evangelicals, wealth is a sign of God’s approval, a reason that they consider DDT to be God’s anointed. Some people are just destined to accumulate material things, at the expense of others, while others are simply relegated to a far lower place. Combined with fundamentalist reverence for authoritarianism, DDT had the characteristics for the evangelical leader.

In his campaigning, DDT promised Christians that they would not be persecuted if he became president. The GOP has used the persecution myth for decades, but DDT sold it to them to get elected. Now women are being persecuted with the Christian law of the United States. DDT appointed Charmaine Yoest, the former president of an anti-abortion group, to lead public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. He followed that egrigious choice a few weeks later by naming another anti-abortion advocate to oversee the Title X program with the responsibility of allocating $300 million a year in family planning funds for low-income people. Teresa Manning is also in charge of shaping policy and regulation about contraception and teen pregnancy. Her philosophy that family planning is only among “a husband and a wife and God.” She also thinks that contraception doesn’t prevent pregnancy but instead increases the number of abortions. She said, “The prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous.”

The past decade has seen increasingly abusive laws for women seeking abortions, and DDT has moved on to controlling contraception for women. DDT’s executive order about eliminating the health care birth control mandate hasn’t appeared yet, but leaks have provided an idea of its direction. If he signs the existing draft, any employee can declare a “belief” reason to stop providing free contraception through their insurance plans. Because of “Obamacare,” teen pregnancy has hit an historic low.

DDT claims that women can get contraceptives from a family member’s health plan, buy separate insurance for them, or use “multiple other federal programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives.” He didn’t specify which ones because he also wants to close down Planned Parenthood in exchange for “crisis pregnancy centers” that don’t provide contraceptives. Losing Planned Parenthood will leave almost 1.6 million low-income patients with no family planning care—and maybe no insurance if employees deny them. DDT also wants to largely defund Medicaid, another source for contraception for low-income women. Any DDT order would be immediate with no public comment because he would declare it an interim final rule because employers need immediate relief. Any DDT order would be immediate with no public comment because he would declare it an interim final rule because employers need immediate relief.

Before the removal of contraception came DDT’s executive order protection of “religious liberty,” removing constitutional rights of others. An example is hospitals which can deny services, fire people on a Christian basis, and refuse federally-mandated retirement regulations and disclosures through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. An example of religious firing was an employee at a faith-based addition center in Missoula (MT) because she didn’t pray hard enough.

The U.S. is already one of the most extreme fundamentalist religious countries in the world, according to scholar Noam Chomsky. Over 42 percent of the people in this country think that the world was created 10,000 years ago by the hand of God, and these people are a political force, controlling others with their beliefs and fear-mongering. The problems of the nation come from income inequality inculcated by huge corporations, but the DDT supporters blame anyone who isn’t white. Yes, the United States shares values with Saudi Arabia, basing its laws on religion and calling for physical punishment. The question is how far the pendulum will swing to the right before it returns—if it ever does.

May 14, 2017

DDT: Religion, Mother’s Day

Evangelicals may not be as supportive of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) as in the past, but the far right Christian nationalists (aka white supremacists) are still clinging to him. Their heritage is creating an extensive private school system after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ordered desegregation. Because of that, Jerry Falwell, Sr. developed his fame in founding and defending the “segregation academies.” When the federal government blocked tax-exempt status for private segregated schools in 1971, religious schools burgeoned throughout the South with the sole goal of preventing racial mixing. At the same time, the evangelicals fought to keep sex discrimination by opposing the ERA and then developed a strong political stance against legal abortion, sex education, and contraceptive access. Collaboration of corporations, that wanted a government that gave them money, and religion, that oppose civil and voting rights, made a strong voting bloc. The evangelicals ignored DDT’s sexual assaults and multiple divorces as long he used virulent racist rhetoric.

Another evangelical argument in support of DDT is their belief in the rapture. DDT believes in chaos, and evangelicals think that he is God’s weapon to bring the righteous closer to the event that will destroy the world and raise the believers to Heaven. They began to worship DDT when he pushed the conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in a foreign country and that he is secretly a Muslim. An international capitalist with investments in over 20 countries, DDT became a symbol for anti-globalism to conspiracy theorists. As a result, DDT is in the center of racist, anti-woman conspiracy theorists. He alone can make the United States into an all-white nation. Their solution is to burn down the country, and DDT is willing to carry out their plans.

As Valerie Tarico  points out, DDT supporters view him as a kind of god, with great similarity to the one in the Old Testament. He incessantly tries to prove his power to people, even rigging his microphone so that his voice sounds powerful. As an insatiable attention seeker, he displays the same characteristics that the bible demands that people grovel before him and prove their loyalty, just like DDT demanded of former FBI Director James Comey before he fired him. Like the Old Testament god, DDT is cruel and sadistic as well as racist and prejudiced. They both reject the handicapped and demean women. Revenge is also a strong characteristic of both DDT and the evangelical god, and the bible is as contradictory as DDT. Science in the bible is garbage, but both of them promise riches for following them. Biologist Richard Dawkins summed up Jehovah in a sentence: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Yup, that’s DDT. Except for the fiction.

Evangelicals have used the bible to justify DDT’s actions such as extreme vetting. A panel at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference was titled: “If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?” In The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi provided other suggestions for following the bible:

  • Marry your rib: Conservatives used the myth of Adam marrying Eve, made from Adam’s rib, to prevent marriage equality so they could take the story to its logical conclusion.
  • Pay taxes with magic fish: Peter did it after Jesus told him to catch a fish that would have money for taxes in its mouth. 
  • Offer up virgin daughters to be raped as in Sodom: Enough said.

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in 40 countries around the world. Most people see the day as just another commercial enterprise and don’t realize that it began in the 1850s when a women formed clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination. During the Civil War commemorated the day to mourn their fallen soldiers. They also tended wounded soldiers and worked for peace. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.  [More history here.]

Before speaking at great length about football during his graduation address at the evangelical Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell and now operated by his son, DDT spoke briefly about today’s celebration:

“And especially this weekend, let’s make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. But in all of this excitement don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, right? I had a great mother, she’s looking down, now but I had a great mother. I always loved Mother’s Day.”

The man of family values, representing the party of family values, didn’t see his wife, the mother of his son, or his son on Mother’s Day. DDT was busy golfing with his buddies at the Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, four states away from his wife and son, on his 21st golf excursion in 112 days since he was inaugurated. He did tweet:

 

“Wishing @FLOTUS Melania and all of the great mothers out there a wonderful day ahead with family and friends!”

He picked “friends” over family.

Melania Trump tweeted this photo of her and Barron, her son with DDT, with the message: Happy Mother’s Day!

May 7, 2017

DDT’s Executive Order: ‘Religious Bigotry’

Many conservatives are unhappy with the “religious liberty” order that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed last Thursday: they wanted more discrimination. They don’t believe DDT when he declared to dozens of Judeo-Christian leaders in the Rose Garden ceremony that the “threat against the faith community is over.” Instead, they think that his executive order is useless at best and harmful at worst—sort of like most of his other vague orders. In the National Review, David French called the order “constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect.” He added, “[DDT] should tear it up, not start over, and do the actual real statutory and regulatory work that truly protects religious liberty.” Meaning that it can’t be used for discrimination.

An earlier draft of the order leaked in February was twice the length of the final one and described as “staggering” and “sweeping,” one which could be challenged in the courts. After last week’s signing, the ACLU called it nothing more than an “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome.”

Conservative criticisms of DDT’s executive order:

The order’s declaration that the executive branch will “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom”: Complaint – the state only repeats that the government should enforce existing laws.

The directive to the Treasury Department to not enforce the so-called Johnson Amendment from 1954 banning nonprofit religious institutions from endorsing political candidates and parties: Complaint – as law, the Amendment requires a change in Congress or the courts. Also, permission to be involved in politics could encourage churches to elect progressive candidates. Orders are good only as long as presidents support them; a future president could reverse the directive.

Instructions to government agencies to “consider issuing amended regulation” to address “conscience-based objections” to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate: Complaint – That’s already happened with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby. The contraception mandate stays on the books, and lawsuits are flooding the courts.

A pledge to “provide regulatory relief”: Complaint – This “promise” is so vague as to mean nothing in law.

Far-right anger to DDT’s executive order:

Brian Brown (left) of the National Organization for Marriage and World Congress for Families denounced the president for his “failure to directly fulfill his repeated campaign promises” and then asked for money.

Bryan Fischer told listeners of his American Family Association radio show that it’s “ultra-liberal” Ivanka Trump’s fault because she “likely leaked the February draft to a liberal rag (The Nation) in order to stir up enough intense outrage from the LGBT community to strangle this baby in the cradle.”

Troy Newman, president of anti-abortion Operation Rescue emailed, “We are really feeling betrayed right now.”

The ACLU may go to court yet. Far-right radio host Todd Starnes reassured his listeners that the order gives anti-LGBTQ, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions a directive to write—in DDT’s words—“new rules” for the purpose of religious discrimination. A case in point is proposed Texas law echoing one in South Dakota that prevents the state from punishing adoption agencies that deny LGBTQ families services and child placement for “religious” reasons. If it passes, Texas state- and private-funded agencies could reject potential parents seeking to adopt children with such “religious objects” to couples’ being Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, single, or interfaith couples. Five other states already have this law, but only for faith-based adoption organizations that do not accept government funding. If the Texas law passes, agencies can also reject people who want to foster children, and child welfare organizations can force LGBTQ children to have so-called “conversion therapy,” to “take away the gay.”

Once again, after losing the voter ID law, Texas could go to court for not treating all people equally. This time, however, they have Jeff Sessions who translates the constitutional separation of church and state as prohibiting the favoring of one Christian church over another. He thinks that the First Amendment does not stop establishing Christianity as the national religion.

Christian protection for conservatives by DDT’s Christian order comes from its encouragement to break the law by telling the IRS to violate the Johnson Amendment and not penalize churches for political candidate endorsements and donations. In more “normal” times, these churches and other faith-based nonprofits can lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates or donating to their campaigns, but Sessions most likely won’t be doing this. The order, however, exempts only nonprofit religious nonprofits and churches; other nonprofits will still be prohibited from political endorsements and donations.

Federal law also requires that employer-provided insurance plans cover contraceptives at no cost to the employee unless the organizations—or “religious” corporations—obtain government exemptions. Sessions will probably not force this requirement. The IRS is already breaking the law by not collecting fees from people refusing to purchase health insurance. Again the Justice Department, headed by Sessions, is responsible for enacting the laws of the land.

While the media has concentrated on LGBTQ losses, the order and Sessions interpretations could negatively impact at least half the people in the United States . In addition to losing birth control, female employees of all “religious” organizations and corporations could lose all forms of preventative care—screenings for sexually transmitted infection, IV, and domestic violence along with well-woman visits. Any business could refuse to hire women or pay them less, based on its “religious convictions.”

With the wealthiest Cabinet in history, DDT has put the icing on the cake for corporations who joined religious groups in the 1930s to fight President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For decades, the United States leveled out the financial playing field by developing a middle class that enjoyed the 40-hour workweek, lack of child labor, environmental protection, work safety laws, rural health care, and education. Unions, a safety net, and higher taxes for the wealthiest reigned until corporations used evangelicals as a front to elect Ronald Reagan. Princeton scholar Kevin Kruse has described the corporate historical background in his book One Nation under God as the country continues to be more and more extremist. As Rev. William J. Barber II, creator of Moral Mondays fighting against the immoral political excesses in North Carolina, wrote about DDT’s signing of his executive order:

“If today is the fulfillment of the corporatists’ National Day of Prayer, it may also be its undoing. The God of justice hears the cries of those this executive order targets, along with the prayers of all who suffer under this administration. A religious liberty that gives license for discrimination against women and the LGBTQ community is nothing more than lust for power dressed up in a thinning religious garb. The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency has inspired a moral resistance that is not going away, but is building a movement that will bend the arc of our common life toward justice for years to come. This, too, is an answer to prayer. And it may yet save the heart of our democracy.”

Barber said that the executive order is not about religious liberty. “It’s about religious bigotry.”

Public Citizen, a group that favors strict campaign finance limits, plans to bring a lawsuit against the order in court because churches and other religious charities that do not disclose their donors could be used to launder dark money. Its president said, “This executive order may go down in history as the Citizens United of church/state separation in the context of political spending.” Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition. “Politicians could funnel untold sums of money into churches, and it would all be completely untraceable.”

DDT may have pleased no one. Even worse for the evangelicals, however, might be a backlash from those who don’t want to hear political speeches in about candidates when they go to their house of worship. The past decade has seen the biggest growth of “nones,” especially those among the younger generation who have no affiliation to organized religion. Almost 30 percent of those who left disapprove of religious homophobia, another 16 percent claim their churches became too political, and 19 percent cited clergy sex abuse scandal in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Ninety percent of evangelical leaders think that pastors should not endorse candidates, and 72 percent support the Johnson Amendment. Even 66 percent of DDT-voters want the amendment left as is. Instead DDT is promoting the controlling authoritarianism of religion that many people—except the white men surrounding him—don’t like.

One piece of temporary joy for the day. Frances’s DDT imitator, Marie Le Pen, lost the election to Emmanuel Macron, despite the last-minute drop of negative information about him for “unknown” (aka Russian?) hackers. As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, one more reason for the French to declare their superiority over the United States.

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