Sunday, May 27, 2012

Blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5:9

This Sunday, Christian congregations across the country celebrated the lives lost during the wars this country has participated in; it’s too bad they weren’t celebrating those who have dedicated their lives working for peace, so that soldiers do not have to fight and pay the ultimate price of their lives. 

I heard such a poem read at a religious gathering, “It’s the Soldier.” In respect to copyright, I’m not re-printing the words here, but I invite you to read it in whole for yourself here.  The poem declares that it is the soldier who has given us freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and the right to vote as opposed to the minister, the reporter, the poet, or the lawyer.

I mean no disrespect to soldiers, absolutely none; especially those who have died and whose families grieve their loss.  War is a horrible, awful thing and why we continue to glorify those who we put through it and honor their sacrifice as some kind of Christological/Soteriological act is beyond me. Perhaps churches should spend Memorial Weekend Sundays mourning the precious loss of millions of lives, both soldiers and civilians, and decrying that our country continues to be willing to send young, vibrant men and women off to their death.

Our nation spends roughly the same on “Defense” (i.e. weapons of death and destruction) as ALL the other nations COMBINED. And if that weren’t enough, Republican Paul Ryan has presented a budget that seeks to increase our death and destruction budget by 20%.  America has also doubled its death and destruction spending since 2000.

I don’t want to see any lives lost, something I’d think my “pro-life” friends could agree on; yet members of the same churches that commemorate the lives of the millions of soldiers killed in war (and the innumerable civilians) oddly enough continue to support politicians and policies that are far too eager to send off young lives to be maimed and killed.  Strange indeed.

What if instead of training women and men to be killing machines we trained them to be peacemakers? To feed the poor, heal the sick, ease the brokenhearted; you know, be like Jesus? What if instead of spending $1 Trillion on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America instead dedicated some of that money to ending hunger globally? It’s estimated the global hunger could be eliminated for only $13 Billion.

Do I respect and appreciate the soldiers? Absolutely YES, so much so that I don’t want to see a single one put through the horrors of war to suffer and die.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Me and David Barton, "America's Historian" (Who knew!?)

“One of the nation’s most distinguished scholars” – Pastor Jeff Redlin in his opening introduction to David Barton at the “Founding Fathers, Faith, and Limited Government” event Friday the 25th in Ft. Collins, CO.  Umm, according to whom????

So that’s how it began, in a packed gym, filled to the rafter with people sporting American flag ties and red, white, and blue apparel.   Any suspicions I had as to what the event would be were confirmed when I walked in the door and saw a book for sale with President Obama on a black cover and the book title in red letters with Glenn Beck as a contributor.  It was very unsettling, it had the feel of a cult gathering, with a huge flag hanging from the center, participants raising their hands in worship during The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and prayer interspersed throughout.  I had to wonder, who or what are we really worshipping here?

The main event was of course the presentation of David Barton, known as “America’s historian” (when did America give him that title??).  Barton began rattling off different quotes of early Americans and how many biblical idioms they referenced in such sayings, for example noting that Benjamin Franklin referenced 13 verses in just a few sentences; it reminded me of the “Bible Code” mumbo jumbo.

For being a “noted historian,” he seemed to be fast and loose with a lot of “facts.”  He strictly asserted that the Indiana “Hoosier” came from an African-American Evangelist with the last name of Hoosier; the Indiana Historical Bureau doesn’t agree.  Then he spoke of how Declaration signer Benjamin Rush helped start the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The church’s website lists no such thing; neither does Fortress Introduction of Black Church History by Anne H. Pinn and Anthony B. Pinn.  He then declared that those at or below the poverty line in the U.S. were more likely to have a car, phone, TV, and AC then middle-class Europeans.  Even a perfunctory understanding of European culture notes how flawed such logic is; public transportation is widely accessible and there is not nearly as much urban sprawl, limiting greatly the need for a car.  Does free health care and post-secondary education not count for anything?  I found it comical when Barton disparaged scholars he didn’t agree with that “credentials don’t mean anything unless they line up with the truth.”  That’s very convenient for Barton to say, since he doesn’t have any credentials himself.

If that had been the whole presentation, I wouldn’t have cared so much; it was when he “applied” the principles of these Founding Fathers to the role of government, specifically limited government that his real agenda came out.  I think many make the mistake of writing off Barton and others like him as non-intellectuals; Barton may be narrow minded or perhaps blinded by his own ideology, but he ain’t stupid.  He made three brilliant points in his speech, and I mean brilliant as in evil mastermind brilliant. 

1.       He referenced an alleged quote from George Washington which basically said that one is not a patriot if they subvert the great pillars of Christianity.  What’s the big deal?  He’s not-so-subtly implying that one is not a “real” American or “true patriot” if one doesn’t hold to the tenets of Christianity (as he interprets them mind you).

2.       He stressed that if someone votes “wrong” on life issues, there are going to be wrong on every other issue; “If they won’t protect your life, they won’t protect your money” he said.  It’s a brilliant strategical move by Barton, for it would be easy to suggest that even if one is pro-life, Roe v. Wade is very unlikely to be overturned and one should not attempt to legislate morality; therefore one should base their political decisions on other issues. Yet by assuring people that basing voting decisions on a politician’s pro-life stance promises correct decisions in other policy issues, Barton ideologically mandates a pro-life vote and correspondingly a Republican vote.

3.       He asserted that a secular government can’t be limited because it doesn’t rely on God for rules and laws.  Translation, if you want a limited government, you have to vote Republican because Democrats are such a godless, secular bunch who must over-regulate by their very definition. 

It’s time to start paying attention to folks like David Barton and others like him.  Whether it be his proof-texing and ignoring of context, his poor biblical exegesis, or even his obvious blind loyalty to conservative ideology, the influence he holds over conservatives in this country is nothing to shake a stick at.  Anyone interested in the future of America, and not wanting to see this country be taken backwards into a revisionist historical view of America needs to be aware of what’s going on and be educated enough to point out the many flaws in such logic and “history.” 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is America exceptional?

I was listening to a conservative talk radio host on my way home this evening and as usual, he was complaining about President Obama.  He wasn’t discussing recent policy decisions by the President or even offering reasons why Romney was a better choice in the upcoming election, he was criticizing Obama the man. It seems like a popular thing to do, discredit Obama as a person; he’s called a socialist, a liberal, a “metrosexual Abe Lincoln, even “un-American.”  (Personally, I think it’s telling that rather than trying to refute the substance of his policies, conservatives simply try to discredit the source…) Tonight, the radio host was upset with the President because Mr. Obama supposedly did not believe in “American exceptionalism.” So I began to wonder myself, is America exceptional?

Looking back in America’s history, there are frankly many parts that are anything but exceptional.  I think of the horrific treatment and brutalization of the original inhabitants of this land we call America, that horrors of slavery, the that women have only been able to vote for some 90 years, the terrible discriminatory policies towards African-Americans in the south, the 45million people today struggling with hunger… Do I need to continue?

Is America exceptional? Perhaps the better questions would be, “are we on our way to being exceptional?”  Looking back at our history America has done some very good things, but also some very bad.  And far too often, the leaders of our nation have been more than willing to screw over countries for our own gain.  For a country that often is purported to be a “Christian nation,” such selfish, greedy behavior doesn’t seem very godly to me.

If I had the opportunity to ask President Obama in person if American is on its way to being exceptional, I think he would say yes.  I think he would talk about all the good America has done and all the right political decisions that have been made—but I also think he would point out the enormous income inequality, the millions who still struggle with hunger, the vast amount of people who don’t have access to healthcare, and yes, the bigoted policies towards those of a differing sexual orientation.  So would the President say America is exceptional? I think not, but I do think he would point out that he is working with and on behalf of the American people to make sure we continue on that path towards such a vision.