Nel's New Day

December 10, 2017

Jerusalem: DDT Further Isolates U.S.

Evangelical approval for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) fell 17 points last week, and DDT wants to bump it up again—recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the 19th century, Bible teacher John Nelson Darby created the theory that the Jews had to control Jerusalem before Jesus could return to earth in a second coming to save his loyal followers by the seven-year suffering and turmoil called the Armageddon when Satan is defeated and Christ controls the world. Hal Lindsey popularized the belief during the 1970s in The Late Great Planet Earth. At DDT’s rally in northern Florida, conservative state Sen. Doug Broxson said that DDT may bring the biblical end times. The crowd cheered.

DDT has already shown success in starting a conflict with his Jerusalem executive order as protests have spread across the Middle East. The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem barred all personnel and their families from traveling in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s old city immediately after DDT’s proclamation. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and part of the city is also occupied by Christians. The last quarter is occupied by Armenians. Although Jordan claims the east half of Jerusalem and Palestine calls Jerusalem its capital, the city has a distinct status as not belonging to any country, according to the international community.

Only the U.S. and the Czech Republic recognize Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital, and the United States would have the only embassy in that city. The senior Christian leader in Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, sent a letter with a dozen other church leaders in the Holy Land warning of “irreparable harm.” DDT’s move “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division”, they wrote.

DDT’s violation of international law in his executive order follows the U.S. pattern of allowing the illegal expansion of Jews-only colonial settlements in occupied Arab Jerusalem and across the West Bank. But this act is creating even more problems in the area. DDT has removed any leverage in the negotiations for peace between Palestine and Israel and confirmed that the U.S. is a completely biased party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Twenty-five former Israeli Ambassadors, academics, and other dignitaries publicly denounced the move. The pope of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church canceled his meeting with VP Mike Pence when he travels to Cairo this week, saying that DDT did not take into account the “feelings of millions of Arab people.” Only the visit to Israel may be pleasant to Pence; the ones to Germany and Egypt are guaranteed to be chilly. For the first time, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, committed to a two-state solution, is refusing to meet with a senior U.S. leader. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi predicted “possible dangerous repercussions,” and Turkey warned the decision represented a “red line” for Muslims. The Middle East is already volatile, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the U.S. was “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight.” He hinted Turkey might cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the embassy is moved.

History has already shown how a supposedly small act can be incendiary. The second intifada in late 2000 began when Ariel Sharon declared the Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place in the world to Jews and the third holiest site in Islam, reserved for Israel. The result was a two-year bloody war of suicide bombers and military attacks that killed both Israelis and Palestinians. In the Palestinian-Israel conflict, symbols matter.

Instead of consulting with impacted countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, DDT said, “This is what we are going to do.” The Arab League of 21 countries said:

“The decision has no legal effect… it deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge the region into more violence and chaos.”

Jordan said that DDT’s announcement has “no validity under international law.”During a meeting of the Arab League, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on members to consider economic sanctions on the U.S. to stop it moving its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He said:

“Pre-emptive measures (must be) taken… beginning with diplomatic measures, then political, then economic and financial sanctions.”

Countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China have condemned DDT’s action as a threat to peace.

DDT also ignored Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who recommended a different course. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued against DDT’s order and took the brunt of anger in Europe during a tour to convince State Department officials that they are better off without any employees and, in some cases, without ambassadors. Federica Mogherini, the foreign policy chief of the European Union, stood beside Tillerson while telling reporters that the U.S. was wrong to back away from the Iran nuclear deal and that the move of the U.S. embassy would undermine peace. Countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and China have condemned DDT’s action as a threat to peace. Other foreign ministers showed their disapproval of DDT’s action in an indication of decreased respect for the U.S. Relationships with Europe could worsen if DDT appoints Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Only VP Mike Pence seemed pleased as he watched like a proud father as DDT held up the order like a toddler who had accomplished a fine BM.

The United States stands largely alone after DDT made his proclamation. The UN passed six resolutions affirming Palestinian rights and condemning Israeli violations of international law. One resolution stated that “any actions by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void.” Six countries, including the United States and Israel, voted against the resolution; 151 voted in favor of the resolution. In an emergency meeting, 14 of the 15 nations on the UN Security Council condemned DDT for his declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel because of its threat to peace. The 15th member of the Council is the United States. Council members are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay.  Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorenti said:

“While there are two parties in this conflict, they are not on a level playing field. One is an occupying power, the other is an occupied people. One party builds illegal settlements… One party puts a siege on Gaza… One party takes over the water resources and farmlands of the other …. One of the parties engages in forced displacement.”

DDT’s decision to placate the evangelicals also benefits his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is working to further an anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East developed around Saudi Arabia and Israel. A few days before DDT signed the order, DDT pressured the PLO office in Washington with eviction if they didn’t agree the Israeli human-rights-violating settlements. Kushner has supported illegal West Bank Israeli settlements for years, helping to funnel tens of thousands of dollars to Jewish institutions in the settlements encroaching on Palestinian land through his family’s foundation. In late 2016, Kushner ordered Michael Flynn to persuade Russia to delay the UN Security Council vote criticizing these illegal settlements although Russia didn’t follow Flynn’s request. Kushner’s family also has lucrative real estate deals with Israeli financial institutions, one of them shared ownership and profits on a New Jersey apartment building. Another Kushner relationship is with two Israeli banks investigated for helping wealthy clients evade U.S. taxes.

Only 23 percent of evangelicals believe in a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis whereas a majority of U.S. Jews support a Palestinian state. Only 17 percent of U.S. Jews think that moving onto Palestinian land helps Israel’s security. Almost two-thirds of evangelicals think that a candidate’s stance on Israel matters “a lot” whereas only nine percent of U.S. Jews agree with that statement. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley claims that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and declaring the city to be Israel’s capital is “the will of the American people.” Yet 59 percent of people in the U.S. prefer that the U.S. select neither side of the Palestine-Israel conflict, and 63 percent oppose moving the embassy.

As with all his other actions, DDT shows no thought. He merely threw gasoline on the embers of a fire, perhaps hoping for an easier war than in North Korea so that he can look like an important leader in the world. Instead he has further isolated the United States from any part in global decisions, all of which negatively affects the United States’ status in the world.

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December 3, 2017

How Far Can Republicans Sink?

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 10:35 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The reports of sexual assault have filled the news, and Democrats are going into the problem head on while the GOP (Grand Old Perverts) are running away. It’s the shiny object keeping people from paying attention to the disastrous tax bill passed by the Senate and headed back to the House while Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues his lies and alienates reasonable leaders in other countries with his bigotry—the past week a focus against Muslims. And Roy Moore is most likely headed toward Washington as the new senator from Alabama. The world will know after the special election on December 12, nine days away.

Last year’s presidential election changed the perspective in the United States toward leadership. Eighty percent of Christian evangelicals voted for an alleged pedophile, and the trend continues with Moore. A survey at end of November shows that 39 percent of registered evangelical Christian voters are more likely to support him after they hear that he may have sexually abused a 14-year-old girl, dated teenage girls when he was in his 30s, and groped women in his office. Only 28 percent says that his behavior makes them less like to vote for him. Sixty-four percent of evangelicals say that they support him over a Democrat. In Alabama, 35 percent of the state are white evangelical Protestants and 58 percent of the state GOP.

Moore is running a campaign rife with fraud. His wife Kayla published a letter supposedly from 50 pastors endorsing her husband. At least four of them said they wanted their names removed from the letter, and others didn’t live in Alabama. Dozens of other evangelical pastors have signed a letter that declares him “not fit for office.”

The stories go far beyond his sexual assault, dating teenage girls, and groping. People who lived in his town knew that he was banned from a mall and the YMCA because he harassed the girls there. An Alabama police officer was assigned to watch him at local high school football games. Her task was to keep him from harassing the cheerleaders.

The recent unabashed GOP support for candidates like Moore and DDT demonstrates the shift in evangelical approach. The party has long proudly supported “family values,” but they have lost their Christian approach toward goodness to vote for policies. Even in 2004, “values voters” who said they prioritized character embodying Christian values such as kindness, honesty, and forgiveness voted for George W. Bush’s policy positions. In a survey following the election, 23 percent referenced personal characteristics of candidates whereas 44 percent talked about their opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights. That percentage increased to 58 percent among evangelicals by 2015 who held high priorities for social and cultural goals no matter the quality of the candidate. Those who want “religious freedom” also want to remove secularism and diversity from the nation. Seventy-two percent thought in 2015 that too many laws about moral standards have been removed and want to keep the United States a “Christian nation.” Last year almost half of white evangelical Protestants described Democrats as a serious threat to the nation.

Moore fits the evangelical view of what the United States should be. He blames the 9/11 attacks on the legalization of abortion and LGBTQ rights, stating that the Supreme Court recognition of marriage equality is worse than the 1857 Dred Scott decision declaring that blacks were property and not citizens. In addition to rejecting LGBTQ rights and abortion, he denied the existence of evolution and opposes women voting and running for office. He wrote that it is a moral obligation to never vote for a woman to hold public office. It also criticizes a woman’s right to vote.

The evangelical philosophy of marrying young women is taught in homeschooling with the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men.” Part of Vaughn Ohlman’s career was speaking at home-school conventions about his retreat for families to arrange child marriages. Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said that men should marry 15- and 16-year-old girls because 20-year-olds are too old to be molded. Another term for evangelical approach to a male selecting and grooming young girls is predation. Roy Moore represents a Christian fundamentalist problem.

Fundamentalist Christians leadership has a record of protecting GOP sexual predators. Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, covered for Ohio state Rep. Wes Goodman (R) after his sexual encounters with other men, at least one of them allegedly not consensual. Documents indicate that he sexually assaulted a young man at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. in 2015 while employed by the Council for National Policy (CNP), a somewhat-secretive umbrella organization for prominent conservative leaders from across the country. Goodman has since resigned after an “inappropriate interaction” in his legislative office that GOP Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger deemed consensual. The legislator’s position included virulent opposition to LGBTQ rights; Perkins promised the teenage boy’s stepfather that “this will not be ignored nor swept aside. It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.” Two months later Goodman was running for office. Perkins did suspend his membership with CNP but isn’t answering questions.

Approximately 30 sources, mostly college-aged men, reported inappropriate advances such as unwanted sexting, photos of his body, and hot tub invitations. One news source reported that Goodman targeted “young men he met through conservative circles who were too intimidated to publicly complain.” They feared for their own careers if they reported his undesired sexual advances.

Although the future looks dark at this time of year, a column by conservative Ross Douthat gives a light at the end of the tunnel. According to sociologist Christian Smith, younger evangelicals will “invent evangelicalism anew” because they were “betrayed by older pastors who insisted on the importance of moral character and then abandoned these preachments for the sake of partisanship — revealing their own commitments as essentially idolatrous.” Baylor professor Alan Jacobs goes farther when he predicts that young people will stop identifying with evangelicalism and move on to less radical philosophies. An “evangelical crackup” may come from pitting anti-Trump Southern Baptist Russell Moore “against the nationalist evangelicalism of a Jerry Falwell Jr. or Robert Jeffress.”

A common question about Republicans is how low can they sink. The possibility seems bottomless. After saying that he believed the allegations against Moore, that he was unfit to serve in public office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is now tacitly supporting him.

“The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate. It’s really up to them. It’s been a pretty robust campaign with a lot of people weighing in. The president and I, of course, supported somebody different earlier in the process. But in the end, the voters of Alabama will make their choice.”

Despite McConnell’s call on Moore to drop out of the race, Moore continues to say that Democrats and the media are making all the women are lying about what he did to them. He claims that LGBTQ people are orchestrating a campaign against him, and conservative outlets are smearing the women. The polls have been up and down for Moore, but polls have proved to be sometimes unreliable since the advent of DDT. One poll gives Moore a six-point lead over his opponent, Doug Jones, whereas another one puts Jones three points ahead.

The Alabaman argument for supporting Moore is to stop abortion. Conservative Jonathan Last wrote that his election will “set back the pro-life cause of years.” It will be an “albatross” for the GOP, and Democrats can use him to take over both chambers in 2018. According to Last, “the chances of Moore hurting the broader GOP caucus in a catastrophic way next year outweigh the chances of that one vote being make-or-break for abortion during the next four years.” (The winner of the December 12 election will be up again in 2020 because he is finishing Jeff Sessions’ term.)

Voting for DDT already increased the rot in the GOP; voting for Moore would increase the decay. Last asks if there is any limit to what a GOP candidate would do to stop votes—and stop the putrefaction. He concludes:

“If you care about the actual impact of supporting Moore—rather than preening in public about how you want people to view you—you start by looking in the mirror and thinking about the next compromise you’ll be asked to make.”

Nine more days until Moore’s election date. We’ll see then whether people in Alabama continue the destruction of the GOP.

November 12, 2017

‘Family Values’ GOP Protects Sexual Predators

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:40 PM
Tags: , ,

Alabama Supreme Court justice, Roy Moore terrorized the LGBTQ community for decades, breaking the law to persecute people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. He compared homosexuality to bestiality and frequently called it a “crime against nature.” Moore used his religious belief to claim that “the transgenders don’t have rights” and the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage equality was “even worse” than its declaration that blacks are property in the Dred Scott case (1857).

The accusation that he had sexually molested at least four teenage girls, one of them below the age of consent, was comparable to dropping a bomb. Massive numbers of women publicly accused their sexual assaulters this past fall, and Republicans have gloated because the predators have been part of the progressive party. Now one of their own is in the hot seat, and the GOP is not happy.

Moore is exactly one month away from the general election on December 12 to pick a U.S. senator, and he says he won’t quit. If he did, his name couldn’t be removed from the ballot. Moore took the primary from incumbent, Luther Strange, appointed to his position by former Gov. Robert Bentley after Jess Sessions became the U.S. AG. Strange was investigating Bentley for sexual relations with a close aide that led to his wife of over 50 years divorcing him. Bentley pled guilty to charges and resigned when the legislature began impeachment proceedings against him. The year before Bentley resigned, Alabama’s house speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted and imprisoned for felony violations of the state’s ethics laws.

Officials have asked the Gov. Kay Ivey (R) to postpone the election, but she has no plans to do this. Moore can’t be replaced because ballots have already been mailed, and state law requires that a replacement nominee be filed at least 76 days before an election. She had earlier changed the date for the election. Bentley said that Strange’s appointment was until 2018, but Ivey changed that to 2017, saying that “people should vote for a replacement U.S. Senator as soon as possible.”

Republicans knew what they were getting with Moore. He was the only judge on the state Supreme Court to exonerate a 17-year-old day-care center worker who sodomized a four-year-old boy at Mama’s Place Christian Academy (Clay, AL).

Moore cited “no evidence in this case of an implied threat of serious physical injury.” People also knew he had been removed from the state Supreme Court twice for violating the U.S. Constitution, in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building and in 2016 for ordering judges to deny marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Now Republicans have heard that Moore promised to watch a 14-year-old girl while her mother attended a custody hearing and then took her to his home, gave her alcohol, took off her outer clothing, and tried to get her to feel his genitals. About the sexual assault, Leigh Corfman said, “I wanted it over with. Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.”

GOP officials are already protecting Moore. The Republican National Committeeman from Alabama, Paul Reynolds, said that he trusts Vladimir Putin more than Moore’s accusers:

“My gosh, it’s The Washington Post. If I’ve got a choice of putting my welfare into the hands of Putin or The Washington Post, Putin wins every time. This is going to make Roy Moore supporters step up to the plate and give more, work more and pray more.”

Reynolds may be right: Moore is now using the publicity to raise funds. Yet he’s lost money from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Sen. Mike Lee (UT) has told him to remove his photo from Moore’s advertising.  Sens. Steve Daino (MT) and Bill Cassidy (LA) have pulled their endorsements. On a Sunday talk show, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) called for Moore to step aside because allegations against him are stronger than his denials.

Justifications for Moore’s behavior have poured out of the party of “family values.” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler said:

“Take Mary and Joseph. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

According to the Bible, God was Jesus’s father, not Joseph, making him a stepfather. Zeigler’s comparison to Zachariah and Elizabeth didn’t hold water either because they were both old when John the Baptist was born. The next Zeigler excuse was that Moore married a younger woman; he was 38 and his wife was 24. Moore’s victim when he was 32 was 14 years old at the time.

More spins poured out from Republicans:

  • The rape wasn’t “forcible” enough to be a concern.
  • Victims should all be prosecuted for coming forward now.
  • Moore “didn’t really force himself” on the 14-year-old.
  • Fourteen-year-olds don’t make good decisions.
  • The relationship with the 14-year-old girl was “consensual.” (From Sean Hannity who denied he made that statement although it’s on tape and then lost advertisers.)
  • Moore didn’t have “sexual intercourse” with the girl he undressed and touched.
  • The victim is the age of consent now.
  • Only one of the sexual assaults could have been legally problematic because Moore was single. (From Breitbart editor Joel Pollack)
  • “There’s nothing wrong with a 30-year-old single male asking a 16-year-old on a date,” according to Alabama Marion County GOP chair David Hall.
  • “If it is true,” the people who let it continue are the guilty ones,
  • Norms were different back then (Ann Coulter).
  • The favorite one: Moore isn’t a Democrat.

Aside from his unconstitutional rulings and his illegal sexual behavior, Moore has other baggage. He and his family drew over $1 million from their “charity,” The Foundation for Moral Law. One of his sons Caleb, who also worked for the Foundation has been arrested at least nine times on charges including drug use and DUIs.

Roy Moore denies the sexual assault charges and defiantly continues his campaign like Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) did. And like the times when DDT was accused, Moore said he will sue. Republicans were delighted that Harvey Weinstein  was accused of sexual assault because he is a Democrat, but the ball is back in the GOP court with the allegations against Moore. When women accuse liberals of sexual assault and harassment, Republicans automatically believe them; women who accuse Republicans are smeared. Republicans are circling the wagon around their party members, many of them playing the “if it is true” game with the women’s allegations against Moore, missing when women accuse Democrats of sexual assault.

The Palm Beach County (FL) school district’s defense against sexually abused children demonstrates the dangers of publicizing sexual assault. It’s the victims’ fault, according to the school district. In past cases involving children as young as six and a seven-year-old boy with autism, the school’s defense has blamed the children for not reporting the abuse fast enough. One case involving the inappropriate touching of four third-grade students by the teacher dragged on for 12 years although the teacher pled guilty to two of the cases. The district finally settled for $3.6 million a few weeks ago after consistently maintaining that the girls were “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions” and “conducted themselves in a careless and negligent manner.” According to the district lawyer, this defense strategy can reduce the amount of damages that the district might be forced to pay. It can be used for a child as young as six years old. It’s just a litigation tactic, the lawyer said.

Women suffer as much as children from slurs against them. Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Kruse, one of many legislators across the country now accused of sexual assault and harassment, was stripped of all his committee appointments for his sexual assault of female colleagues. The Oregon Firearms Federation refuted the allegations because “touching Sara Gelser would only mean he needs an eye test.” Excuses for sexual assault include “boys will be boys,” they were just being friendly, and they don’t understand that times have changed.

And people wonder why girls and woman hesitate a long time about going public about being sexually assaulted.

[Update: The child described as “under 12-years-old” was a four-year-old boy at Mama’s Place Christian Academy in Clay, Alabama.]

 

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.

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.

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