A Christian America

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Near the state house in Concord, NH [Ben McLeod / Flickr ]

In thinking about a follow-up to our intelligent design show, we thought we might explore whether meaning and morality can exist without religion. We still want to do that show.

But now we’re also looking into a second follow-up. In the intelligent design comment thread, Jon pointed us to a relevant Rick Santorum interview. At first we figured Senator Santorum might fit into the meaning/morality show, but then we decided it might be more interesting to do a second, separate show with him on Christian America. This idea was inspired in part by Bill McKibben’s recent article in Harper’s called “The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong.” McKibben points out that 85% of Americans call themselves Christians and that America is “saturated in Christian identity.” But, he argues, many American Christians have replaced the real Christianity of the Bible — which says “love your neighbor as yourself” — with, among other things, creeds that reflect materialistic individualism.

We don’t want to debate the separation of church and state in this hour, but here are some questions we might ask: If you’re a politician and also a Christian, how should your religion inform your work? In other words: what would it mean to govern with Christian principles (going beyond issues like gay marriage and abortion), and what should be the hallmarks of a predominantly Christian country?

We’d invite a couple of guests to wrestle with these questions with Rick Santorum. One interesting angle might be to include members of the group Christian Exodus, who feel so strongly about living in a society explicitly governed by Christian principles that they’re trying to mobilize Christian families to move en masse to SC — we’ve started a post on them here.

Update, 11/30/05, 6:04 pm

[Robin jumping in here.] At long last this show is back on the table. Questions fresh in our minds: if demographically, traditionally, we are a “Christian nation,” what does it actually mean to govern according to Christian principles? (Our tag line in the office is, it’s not about the Constitution, it’s about the Bible.) Really, what would Jesus actually do? Which passages or issues or ideas are the most important, and how should they be translated into action?

Bill McKibben

Scholar in Residence at Middlebury College

Author of The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong, in Harper’s Magazine this past September.

Open Source gues on our shows about New Orleans and climate change in China.

Ted Haggard

Pastor and Founder, New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado

President, National Association of Evangelicals

Gordon Atkinson

Pastor, Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas

Blogger, Real Live Preacher

Extra Credit Reading and Listening

Our recent show with Gary Hart, on the separation of church and state.

Related Content


  • Recently, I’ve published in the online journal, CTHEORY (www.ctheory.net, out of Victoria, BC), an article linking the decline of the American Middle Class (and the unofficial secular religion of the U.S., “the American Dream”) with the rise of an Imperial Dominionism. The piece is titled “The Christo-Terminator: The Unsustainable Present, the Nostalgic Glance Back as Prequels to the New American Legitimation Principle.” Below is an excerpt from the conclusion to the piece. It seems apropos, in the context of the call for comments:

    _______________________________________________________

    The political birth of the current aggressive assemblage and tactical promotion of the ritual values of Dominionism emerged as the wealth and stratification system began shifting away from the [then] broader middle class in the late 1970s. . .

    At [that] moment … Pat Robertson and other[s] began speaking about a new political religion … Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global Christian Empire. [39]

    Among the obstacles that stood in the way, arguably, the most durable has been the de facto secular religion of the U.S.: the mythos of the American Dream. In a provocative (but not unique) elective affinity, the cultural and political viability of Dominionism has risen as the socio-economic supports for the realization of the American Dream have, first incrementally, then decisively, fallen. Structural economic and regulatory changes have had the effect of “slashing and burning” the constitutive material ground of the American Dream. Until the recent and fateful tipping of the scales, the American Dream was Dominionism’s pervasive and tenacious obstacle and rival . . .

    In Merton’s classification schema, Dominionism is not conformist, retreatist, ritualist or innovative. It is revolutionary, with a well-established and burgeoning network of communities, schools, businesses, and media outlets in tight alliance with geopolitical neo-conservatives, and their extended network. These extended networks are working to rewrite the cultural and political DNA of the country and the planet. The last shreds of the Enlightenment, and its governmental disestablishment of religion, would be reversed. Intended or not, putting the wrecking ball square onto the American Dream was a necessary piece of “creative destruction,” in the anti-disestablishmentarian’s playbook . . .

    Let’s give this intolerant “slouching beast” a name: Call it the Christo-Terminator, a Borg-like fusion of the Dominionist, the skilled media manipulator [40], and the techno-soldier. I ask about its ancestors: Is this Christo-Terminator, the anti-Leviathan, the return, after 350 years, of the Cromwellian repressed, reborn on American soil?

    _________________________________________

    The article is at http://www.ctheory.net/text_file?pick=463

    _________________________________________

    Dion Dennis

  • gregbillock

    Something I’dlike to see explored, and Santorum is a good person to ask this with, is whether or not religious conservatives feel comfortable with the values codified in the constitution. Any government and system of laws codifies a set of values. In the case of the United States, they are the values of Enlightenment-steeped, deistic, human perfectability-believing, 18th century men. The values have stood up pretty well, but they are certainly not uniformly Christian. (They’d be better described as humanist, or deist.) In fact, many Christians fought very hard against the Enlightenment, against deism, against the idea of human perfectability.

    Despite reckless claims of our “Christian founding principles,” I am not sure that Christian conservatives agree with the role that the constitution provides for government in the United States. I think they would like to see a much more invasive role for government, and the relevant quote from Santorum underscores this.

    For me, the question is not whether a government can be “value-neutral.” It cannot. That modernist dream is over. But is the Christian right prepared to live within the framework of the secularist state provided for by the Constitution? Obviously there are some who are not (the original idea for the program is evidence of that). Is this a fringe element, or is it a substantial faction within the Christian conservative faction which wields so much influence in Republican party politics?

  • Raymond

    One individual who could address gregbillock’s question is Michael P. Farris, Chairman of the Board of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and President of Patrick Henry College.

    Dr. Farris is described at HSLDA.org as “a constitutional lawyer, a published author of eight non-fiction works and three novels, an ordained minister, and a leading pro-family activist on Capitol Hill.”

    In 2003 he received the Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship to, according to HSLDA.org, “honor Dr. Farris for his efforts in helping to make home education legal in all 50 states” and to recognize “his most recent accomplishments in the founding of Patrick Henry College and the Center for the Original Intent of the Constitution.”

    See http://www.hslda.org/speakers/speaker.asp?s=13.

    I am a member of HSLDA and one of my chldren has taken his high school course on constitutional law.

    See http://conlaw.hslda.org/introduction.asp

  • keepmoving

    I’m pretty sure Christian principles can be summed up in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), which can be summed up in “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”(Shrunken version of Mat. 22:36-40)

    I don’t think anyone can disagree with the love your neighbor as yourself thing. No one wants murder, stealing, adultry, covetousness, and the like going on. However, I have seen these seemingly simple concepts complicated by trying to define when is murder murder, adultry adultry, stealing stealing, etc. As complicated as that is, the main question would be how to work the God thing out. Who can address a Christians need to be tolerant while governing a variety of people with a variety of beliefs and still not compromise their beliefs? I am a born again Christian and am personnally sceptical of the intensions of any politician who makes a big deal about being born again. As if I am to vote for them on that basis alone.

    Just because they are born again doesn’t mean we agree on where my tax dollars should be spent!

  • BB

    Have you read the recent NY’er article on Billy Graham? I, as a firmly non-religious person, was surprised to end the article admiring him and his beliefs. He’s getting on in years, but could be a fantastic speaker to this issue. I would hazard a guess that he’s more on the McKibben side of things, though interestingly, his son — who is now running the father’s ministry — is much, much more conservative.

    In fact the contrast between the two would be a fascinating study — sort of encapsulates a lot of the current conflict. I mean, I think a lot of it comes down to tolerance of other people’s beliefs. I can certainly tolerate other people’s faith as long as it is not thrust upon me (especially in the form of legislation); and I admire most the religious leaders — like Graham the elder — who respect people’s differences and don’t insist on the supremacy of their own beliefs/religion.

    This is a very meaty series of topics you’re tackling and obviously very timely, given the last election and so many brouhahas that have come up recently (the whole Terry Schiavo tragedy– sorry, can’t remember the spelling — and gay marriage, etc., etc., etc.).

  • GranadaBound

    I sense that you are leaning away from pursuing whether the “faithful nation gets Jesus wrong.” Neither Santorum nor Christian Exodus are likely to challenge the current alliance of religious and political power. I expect this could be a very difficult topic unless it is covered in a one-sided way but it would be so much more engaging if you had a guest critical of “Constatinian” Christianity. Cornel West has been addressing this subject.

    A wilder thought, inspired by the name “Christian Exodus,” is to have a representative from a Christian group which is leaving an America it believes is unfaithful and doomed. The group I have in mind, Antipas Ministries, has published numerous articles critical of America’s crusading spirit. I haven’t noticed them addressing how to “govern with Christian principles,” but they will certainly counterpoint the righteous Constantinians.

  • Raymond

    I think GranadaBound makes a great suggestion regarding involvement of a group like the Antipas Ministries.

    A quick read of Wikipedia (seems to be a suitable source, given the nature of the show) regarding “Constantinian” leads to two strains of Christian doctrine pertinent to GranadaBound’s comment:

    Anabaptist: http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/node/view/172

    Social Constantinianism: http://www.angelfire.com/ky/dodone/SCon.html

    Both are critical of Constantinianism. Can anyone provide additional context?

  • Can someone explain to me why is it that we are waging war against Islamic countries and their theocracies (e.g. Axis of Evil superstar Islamic Republic of Iran) and spending so much time and effort planning to democratize them but are so eager to bring their style of government back home? It seems to me that Pat Robertson and other Christian Right wingers should love such countries as Iran. After all, Iranians’ problem with our way of life seems to be the same as our own problem with our way of life!!!!

    See, the terrorists say that our Micheal-Jackon-loving-Parada-wearing-pornography-watching-TacoBell-gluttonizng-sodomy-accepting-dept-promoting-Godless-behavior is an example of bad morals for the rest of the world…. Now we seem to agree with them? Let’s get our priorities straight. We do have some problems, there’s no question about it; but religion is not the answer. A need for social change should not necessarily come under the umbrella of the devine. Common sense would tell us that such change is necessary for the long term survival of the society. This change should be made, but not under the context of religion. There was a reason the forefathers wanted church and politics to part ways. As in the case of Iran, once you put religion in power you can no longer have a true democracy. Why? Well, because your vote is useless if it infringes on the word of God, which apparently is eternal and not subject to any form of veto.

  • GranadaBound

    I fear that my perspective cannot comfort you, endoman. You must steel yourself. For the opportunist, religion can be a powerful and subtle tool. For the timid, religion can be a seductive trap. There are subterranean motives at work.

    For example, the Calvanist view that success was the demonstration of God’s favor has a sinister and addictive application: to salve the guilt of exploitation.

    Beware of your argument against the compatibility of theocracy and adaptability; the mulitplicity of sects demonstrates the adaptability of the word of God. I believe the threat forestalled by the founders is a concentration and perversion of power.

    Also, as we have been sorely reminded, the word is a tool of deception as well as communication. This goes for the Constitution as well as the Bible.

    In Solidarity

  • Raymond

    GranadaBound and endoman, could we circle back to GranadaBound’s earlier posting, before we get to far afield?

    I thought GranadaBound was raising the question of whether or not another Christian view could be brought into the discussion to represent an alternative to Rick Santorum’s (purportedly “Constantinian”) view.

    GanadaBound’s suggestion seems to fit in well with Katherine’s original questions:

    — What would it mean to govern with Christian principles?

    — What should be the hallmarks of a predominantly Christian country?

    Three opposing views have been put on the table: Antipas Ministires, the Anabaptists, the Social Constantinians.

    BB has also recommended Billy Graham because, unlike his son, he is more accomodating of non-evangelical Christian perspectives.

    It still seems to me that these suggestions would add to the show.

  • Just thought I’d chime a small note in. There is something happening in churches of various denominations sometimes called ’emerging church’ which presents a different and, from my perspective, more loving and authentic form of Christianity. The unoffical spoksman of the non-movement (or movement, depending on who you talk to) is Brian McLaren, author of “A New Kind of Christian.” Also check out emergent village. This is the kind of Christianity that I most resonate with, though it is so diverse it is hard to catagorize.

  • GranadaBound

    To tell you the truth, I think I’ve had my fill of opinions on the public hallmarks of Christianity and Christian government. I am interested in:

    * A discussion of the ways in which we are and are not a Christian America.

    * Contrasting views on whether a Christian America would be faithful to the founders of Christianity or America.

    * A contrast between Christians who defend and oppose the separation of church and state (Constantinians versus Anabaptists).

    * The historical implications of the alignment of church and state.

    is and whether we have it.

    Antipas Ministries could be a participant in 1 & 3. Anabaptists could be participants in 2 & 3. However, I see both believing that Christian Government is a contradiction; thus my suggestion would put the show on a different tack than one driven by these two questions.

    By the way, I haven’t found any info on “Social Constantinians” other than the article Raymond referenced. Anyway, I’ll submit a few links of interest here until there is a firmer course setting.

    So far in my surfing re Anabaptists it appears that the separation of church and state issue will be difficult to avoid. In addition, most of those I find re the intersection of church and state are British. Some suggestions on guests:

    Nigel Wright is a Baptist minister and a tutor in theology at Spurgeon’s College in London:

    The Church and “God’s Servant” the State

    Paul’s Gospel and Caeser’s Empire If Paul’s answer to Caesar is the empire of Jesus, what is an empire

    under the rule of this new lord? How does Paul’s gospel line up with Caesar’s empire?

    Stuart Murray Williams works as a trainer and consultant under the auspices of the Anabaptist Network:

    Faith, Church and Nation: An Anabaptist Perspective

    S.R. Shearer writes with vehemence for Antipas Ministries:

    The Business Right and the Christian Right: An Alliance Made in Hell

    Get Out Before It’s Too Late

  • Revised URL on “Christo Terminator:” http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=463

  • ulwan

    It seems to me that one of the things that many Americans fail to understand about their constitution is that it was specifically designed to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

    Seperation of church and state is a fine example of this. How would a supporter of the CE respond if he lived in a small rural county that was chosen by a large group of Afro-Cuban Americans as the place in which they would consolidate their power. Suppose then that these practisioners of Santeria moved into that county in large numbers, ran for public office and passed a resolution that every school day would begin with a “voluntary” devotional to the Orisha?

    My guess it that the CE supporter might be very unhappy with the prospect of his child having to sit through an animal sacrifice every morning. Yet for some reason these same folks are unwilling to validate the outrage of the Jew or Muslim, or athiest facing a similar dilemma in a Christian dominated community.

    The argument that Christianity deserves special privileges in America because the men who wrote the founding documents were Christian is about as rational as saying that the theory of special realitivity is more applicable in Israel because Albert Einstein was a Jew.

  • LOL, That last line was great!

  • Katherine

    We’ve been checking in with Rick Santorum’s people daily and are just waiting for the go-ahead to book this show. In the meantime, we’re reading your ideas and looking into guests who’d have different perspectives. Keep the conversation going!

  • keepmoving

    Endoman writes:There was a reason the forefathers wanted church and politics to part ways.

    That is true. Let’s remember why. The different states had “state sponsered churches” If you wanted to start a church in a denomination that was not the “state”denomination you had to get a permit. The money the state denomination had was tax money. In the early 1800’s Virginia’s church of choice was the Anglican church. When the Baptists or Quakers wanted to preach there they were harassed and, believe it or not, there was religious persecution even to death. This caused Thomas Jefferson and Madison to move to dismantle state sponsered churches. So, state sponsered churches is a bad idea all the way around. Endoman is correct in the observation that countries who have a single religion tend to be less tolerant of anyone else. The truth is though, Christianity is not meant to be an isolated religion. We are supposed to be out there showing the love of God to everyone. That does not always mean warm fuzzies. It does mean speaking out against things that are inherently wrong. Living in America, we have an opportunity to change the way things go, without isolating ourselves!

    If we are looking at Christian Principles, we need to look at the Ten Commandments: Love the Lord your God, no idols, keep the Sabbath holy, don’t use His name in vain, Do not commit murder, adultry, stealing, coveting or lieing, honor your mother and father. I would agree that everyone in the United States has the right to worship their God of choice and that they would really like their religious holiday’s honored and their God’s name not misused. Do we really think there is a problem with the rest of the commandments (Those that speak about relationships between people)?

  • Keepmoving, I do not disagree with the ideals of the Ten Commandments (although I personally would have chosen Monday for Sabboth!) But kidding aside, I think we do have something with the same spirit of the Ten Commandment on deck in our democracy, I believe it’s called the constitution. It’s true that the constitution does not give us moral codes of conduct in areas as personal as coveting thy neighbor’s wife! But such common sense principals as the Ten Commandments are easily arrived at by mere analysis of the roots of human conflict and engineering codes of conduct to reduce their occurrence. Isn’t that the whole concept of justice?

    I believe that we don’t need religion to be moral. Morality is a necessity for the maintenance of peace in the society. Martin Luther King said, “Justice was created for the sake of peace, not peace for the sake of justice!� This means that Justice is not something in the fabric of spacetime, it is a construct we adhere to in order to maintain social peace.

    No one has yet answered the question I posed earlier in a satisfactory way. People have preferred to stick to a different stream of thought. But the question remains the same: “Why do we want to implement a form of government that we so vehemently fight against around the world, namely a Theocracy? Isn’t that Hippocratic? Or do we too believe that our form of religion is superior to the rest, and therefore amenable to this single exception?�

    As Keepmoving explains, Jefferson’s reasoning for separating Church and State was the conflict State sponsorship caused among churches. But in a broader view, it was also because of the inherently insolvable problem a partnership between state and religion would cause. If religion is defined as a set of rules of moral conduct to live in harmony with fellow human beings in the presence of the Divine, then State is also a form of religion too, except that it lacks the Divine!

    Although State is dynamic and prone to change with the evolving needs of the society, religion seems to be relatively more static, adhering to an older more detailed constitution. As a result, conflicts are abound between the two when it comes time for action. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a Communist type of a regime is the answer here. I think pluralism and tolerance is the key to any form of government. But I believe that the Law of the Land should be devised by rational minds and it should be immune to those forms of government that are impermeable to change and self correction with time. In my humble opinion, that is why Jefferson wanted this separation between church and state.

    So, a Christian America is a great idea only if its agenda is kept separate from the State and its participants stop dictating their principals onto others law-abiding citizens who simply don’t agree with them. They can preach all they want, as long as they don’t turn their speech into law! My advice: convert people by the rationality of your arguments, not by the heavy hand of Law. I agree completely with Ulwan in his extremely apropos point.

  • Perhaps the reason we are currently leaning toward a Christian theocracy is due to the exclusive nature of Christianity, especially in the minds of the fringe right wing. Evangelism is a big part of the faith, with the ultimate goal of converting the entire world. We view ourselves as a christian nation, and christianity is monotheistic. One of the weaknesses of monotheism is the belief that there is only one way, one truth… there is only one god. Could our desire to eliminate non-Christian theocracies be rooted in the shadow side of Evangelism?

    I think some attention could be given to this shadow aspect of Christianity – the aversion and intolerance for pluralism. A very good read on this subject is James Hillman’s A Terrible Love of War. Hillman is a widely read author and jungian psychologist who takes a look at American Christian values and how they can lead us to war. He spoke this year at the National Cathedral… quite an interesting lecture, especially in light of the fact it was given at our nation’s house of prayer. Just my couple of cents.

  • joeh75

    On pursuing whether the “faithful nation gets Jesus wrong,â€? I immediately thought of the Grand Inquisitor. Dostoyevsky’s main man had it right…The Faithful Nation has no real need of Jesus or his teachings, they know the Truth.

  • bitz

    I agree with most of Bill McKibben’s article, except his second last paragraph. For starters, the book The Purpose Driven Life is targeted at self absorbed people, which would explain the ‘hallmarks of self absorption’. If Bill had bothered to read the words around the ‘you’s he was counting, he would likely have read the book’s favourite phrase, “It’s not about you.” Secondly, Bill writes, “What that mission is never becomes clear…” Warren states that our purpose on earth is to worship God. How is that unclear? Then, Bill writes that we don’t need it to be clear anyway, because the Bible is clear enough. Well, here is the problem. Most Americans aren’t reading the Bible. Most American Christians aren’t reading the Bible. American is saturated in a Christian facade. They call themselves Christian, but dont know what that really means.

    To your question of wether a Christian should govern as a Christian, of course they should. If they have been open and honest about their beliefs before being elected, then upon being elected they ought to remain consistent.

  • rehoot

    “…what should be the hallmarks of a predominantly Christian country?”

    This is the wrong question. This is a democracy founded on the principles of, among other things, separation of church and state. The principles should be that people are ALLOWED to practice Christianity. If we start modeling the country based on principles that are uniquely Christian, then we will have some big problems (such as the state-based theocracy that we purport to oppose).

    I think a more interesting show, although perhaps bad for ratings, would be to challenge people about the origins of their specific principles of faith. Why do so many Americans focus on specific quotes from the Bible and then completely ignore other quotes even though there is no basis from within the Bible to give the distorted emphasis that is so prevalent in the USA. Some of the answers require us to acknowledge that our alleged “religious beliefs” are really rationalizations based on our underlying prejudices and excuses for our existing desires.

    A few example topics would be the underemphasis of birth control, divorce, and acquisition of wealth. These topics can the be contrasted with the sometimes contradictory application of one’s “favority Biblice principle” to other people, and then the application of a different principle when it comes to one’s own infractions: the only criteria for acceptance into heaven is a belief in Jesus, and behavior does not factor into the decision.

  • avecfrites

    Putting on my John Galt hat:

    Conversation 1 to have with a believer:

    Q: Is it important that your religion be true, or will any strongly held belief do?

    A: It has to be true of course.

    Q: OK, so pretend you are talking with a Martian with no knowledge of our religions. What is the best piece of evidence that your religion is true? And why can’t a different religion make the same point?

    A: Umm, we have this old book, written decades after the events, by unknown authors, culled and edited by unknown persons, translated from now-missing original documents…

    Conversation 2 to have:

    Q: People frequenty ask “What would Jesus do?” I think I know.

    A: Oh? What would Jesus do?

    Q: He’d practice Judaism. Right?

    A: Umm…

    I’m still having trouble grasping that people in the US in 2005 are trying to force their religion on other people. That to me seems an act of violence, violence against other belief systems, violence against reason, violence against the teachings of Jesus. Why aren’t these people marginalized by the mainstream business community, the press, the majority of people in this country? What tactics are they using? That’s where we need to shine a light.

  • diogenes

    We are in no way a Christian America we are a democratic America. Remember the Treaty of Tripoli. We have already seen the hallmarks of predominently Christian countries (as well as countries dominated by other religions) and it is not pretty. Why was America founded? What is the meaning of our great experiment with democracy? Christians are free to practice their religion in America – what else do they want?

  • as an atheist in america i often find sorounded by people who base their life on invisable men (or women or animal or whatever) in the sky that tell them to do things. Most of the time i am fine with whatever people want to trick themselves into thinking, however when they use those imaginary friends to justify the abuse of justice that i get upset. for instance santorums hatred of gays and lesbians, and his use of the bible to justify that hatred. America is a country based on the rules of our constitution not in fact on the bible. and the constitution says that everyone is created equal…not just straights, or christians, or whites. religious people should be wary of wrapping tighter church and state, every power you give government that is tied to religion is a power that government has OVER religion. when your funding comes from the state you will have to do what the state says. this may be fine now while “your man” is in office but what happens if a muslim or a jew or god forbid (ha ha) an atheist gets in office. and they decide to defund your religion and fund their own and you are left out in the cold, and all the legal precident says they can… just something to think about.

  • charcoal

    Let’s see, if we were a Christian nation, that would not mean following the 10 commandments as someone stated previously — that’s so old testament (if you want to start practicing from the old testament, you will have to stop eating pork, make some human sacrifices, and build an ark or two).

    Christians — by definition — should follow Christ’s teachings. So, a Christian nation would have to give all of its excess money to the poor. We’d have to share the wealth and shun material goods — essentially becoming more communistic. If someone attacked us, we’d have to turn the other cheek (not seek revenge). We’d have to be constantly spreading the word of God — not by praying that our favorite football team would win, but by actively discussing our faith with everyone we met.

    So, is it realistic to become a Christian nation?

  • charcoal

    Oh yeah, I forgot to state that we’d have to get rid of the death penalty.

  • Pete

    To piggy-back on charcoal’s point, that definition of a Christian nation is far from what we have now under our so-called Christian leaders. We don’t give enough money to the poor (obviously), we are far and away the most materialistic nation on the planet, and the last thing our government would do is turn the other cheek under attack. One interesting question that could be posed is whether this is actually a Christian nation, because our actions clearly do not show a deep Christian conviction.

  • dsewell

    we thought we might explore whether meaning & morality can exist without religion. We still want to do that show.

    I’d suggest booking an interview with Erik Wielenberg of DePauw University, author of the recent Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe

    http://people.depauw.edu/ewielenberg/

  • eustacescrubb

    Possible discussion partners for Santorum might include Wendell Berry, who tends to be truly nonpartisan in his application of Christinaity to political issues. If Berry can’t/won’t do it, someone like Caleb Stegall from The New Pantagruel or Jeff Sharlett from the Revealer or Fred Clark of Slacktivist, or heck all three of them.

  • elphaba

    I read the book by Jim Wallis, Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. It seems that his book and arguemnets were in the same stream as this.

    At almost 50, I’ve started going to the Methodist church. The primary reason was seeking a positive community for my four young children. Our consumer/ entertainment driven society can be a lonely, place if you aren’t a shopper and you don’t watch tv. A secondary reason is becoming stronger within me. That is a sense of rebellion and outrage. How dare they take the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and turn them around completely.

  • zeke

    There is a fascinating, recent book by James Ault called, something like, Spirit and Flesh. Ault, a sociologist and filmaker, provides an ethographic look at a congregation from the Worcester area. It’s a different perspective than any that I’ve seen portrayed in the media. It presents a picture of lower middle class, disenfranchised individuals turning to dogmatic, Bible-based beliefs in an attempt to build a structure that can sustain community and family in a hostile, consumerist world. The book’s emphasis on fundamentalists as people rather than abstractions; this was enlightening to me as one of those liberals who is sometimes perplexed when confronted with evidence that, as one person put it, “Millions of people believe what nobody believes anymore.”

  • Since this will be airing so close to Christmas, I imagine the boycotts of stores celebrating “Holidays” instead of “Christmas” might be mentioned

    The corporate “holiday season” has rather little to do with faith so far as I can see. Or perhaps it’s the faith that we can expect this nation to endure while we continue to burden ourselves with debt to buy things we don’t need — while neglecting our poor, elderly, educational systems, the environment, etc.

    Indeed, I rather prefer that all this materialism *not* be labeled “Christmas,” leaving conceptual space to reflect on Christ and celebrate Christmas in more meaningful ways.

    I am suspicious that those promoting such boycotts are seeking more to flex their political muscle rather than to promote faith.

  • elphaba

    I just got through reading a book by Justin Watson called The Christian Coalition,Dream of Restoration and Demands for Recognition. It was written in 1997, which I think makes it all the more interesting because it was written prior to the fundamentalist Christians gaining real power.

    It was written in a neutral style. The author worked hard not to make judgements on whether the Christian Coalition was positive or negative. He said that the Christian Coalition wants two conflicting things. The first is restoration. They want to go back in time to an era where Christianity was the undisputed rule. The second is a demand for recognition by government and society as a group which is under attack by secular forces.

    “There is an obvious and fundamental tension between the calls for the restoration of a Christian America and the demands for recognition of evangelical Christians as a persecuted group. The calls for restoration involve a rejection of the legitimacy of social and religious pluralism as an accepted norm of American society. The demands for recognition, in contrast, depend on the norms of pluralism for legitimation.” quote from Justin Watson in above mentioned book.

  • Nightwatchman

    visvoice wrote: “I think some attention could be given to this shadow aspect of Christianity – the aversion and intolerance for pluralism. ”

    The Christian paradigm is seen in John 7:37 “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.'” An impassioned, non-coercive, free offer to rescue man from his greatest need, namely, guilt and the justice of God. Jesus offered the only possible solution to guilt under God’s eternal law and did not try to change the Roman or Jewish power structure. Exclusivity and pluralism are thus complimentary.

  • iraGershwin

    I’m a contrarian participant named “BlueState” on a conservative web forum operated by the “Young Americans for Freedom” (http://club100.yaf.org/community/forum/showthread.php?t=1130).

    A subset of young neoconservatives on this site consistently respond to my “liberal” postings from a “Christian” perspective.

    A week our two ago I posted comments concerning a CNN article which stated that a man named Ruben Cantu who was executed back in the 90’s had been posthumously been found innocent.

    An innocent man being put to death sounded pretty bad to me. Could the neocons justify it?

    They replied with scripture justifying capital punishment. I guess they believe the scriptural justifications hold true even if the person executed was innocent

    BLUESTATE Posted:

    CNN is reporting that it turns out this guy Ruben Cantu who was executed in Texas in the 90’s was probably innocent. Where I come from we wouldn’t say Ruben Cantu was executed, we would say he was murdered and I think we would be right.

    Can one of you Jesus freaks please come up with some scripture to justify this?

    I’m sure Jesus would be high-fiving the executioner on this one.

    How about this for scripture : “You can’t maketh an omlette without breaking some eggs”.

    RESPONSE:

    I can come up with lots of Scripture, if that is what your soul is looking for, Blue State:

    Genesis 9:6, God said to Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

    Leviticus 24:17 says, “If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death.”

    Numbers 35:16-18 “But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death…”

    Ecclesiastes 8:11-13: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

    In Romans 13:4, Paul says a policeman “is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

    Paul said in Acts 25:11, “If I am guilty of doing anything deserving of death, I do not refuse to die.”

  • avecfrites

    Would (re)establishing Christianity as the official religion in the US just bring us back to where the country was prior to WWII? If that was such a good time, why did the country embrace religious diversity since then?

    Is the religious right’s position that the country was hijacked somehow? Or that the problems of the time were not real, or would not reappear?

  • Listening to the show now…

    Point about Bill Gates as Person of the Year (along with his wife and Bono), regarding all the money he’s given to Africa.

    “Trying to get through the eye of the needle?” Chris said before the break.

    Groan. Well, he could be spending his money on expensive hobbies like Larry Ellison, for one.

    Secondly, there was a heckuva piece in the New Yorker weeks back about Gates. Like Bono, he’s taken a genuine and direct interest in his causes, and making sure the money isn’t wasted. It deserves a discussion, not a put-down.

  • icantgoon

    What would Jesus say about the factory farming industry where millions of animals are tortured, mutilated, slaughtered and devoured simply because they’re so “yummy.” How many Christians are practicing vegetarians?

  • Potter

    I hear a lot of rationalizing. Trickle down economics sanctions greed in the name of helping the poor, So the wealthy can give what they choose to whom they choose, IF they choose.

    This is how capitalism and Christianity work together.

  • Grumpy

    How about Bill Gates’ position on “intellectual property”? He’s solidly behind big pharma in denying African countries anti-AIDS drugs. Does this sound Christian to you, Jon? I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t approve…

  • Isaac Demme

    This is an excellent discussion topic, many thanks to Chris for bringing this up.

    I am a student of biblical theology at an evangelical seminary, and I just got back from a discussion at dinner with a couple fellow students on whether free market economics were compatible with Christian belief.

    I think it is important to understand that as Christians we are going to disagree on what Jesus would do (or more correctly what Jesus would have us do) in our responsibilities as American citizens. Furthermore it is important for us to understand that this is a good thing.

    As human beings we will very naturally disagree on how Christian beliefs should be implemented as a matter of public policy. To take just one example, Christian theologians have disagreed for the last two thousand years on how Christians should respond to warfare. There are significant differences between Christian pacifists who argue that killing citizens of another country is incompatible with loving our neighbors as ourselves, and Christians in the just war tradition who argue that in certain cases it is necessary to kill out of love, but that war should only be fought when it is a necessary development from loving our neighbor.

    The truly important thing is that we are asking the same question. How can we best love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves? How does this affect the way we live not only as private individuals but as citizens of a democratic country?

  • diogenes

    This is NOT a “Christian’ country or a “Judeo Christian” country – it is a democracy. Also the not too suble suggestion from your guests that justice and charity are the exclusive province of Christians is offensive. One does not need to be a Christian to work toward social justice. I would not want to live in a ‘Christian” society – I am happy with democracy.

  • Grumpy– I can’t defend Bill Gates on everything. Different show topic.

  • Rycke

    Jesus would not have us steal to help the poor. When the rich young man asked him what he should do to be saved, he said, “Follow the Commandments.” When the young man asked, “Which?” he said, among the other 6, “Do not steal.” (The 6th was “Love your neighbor as yourself.”) When the young man thought that was not enough, He told him, if he would be perfect, he should give away his goods and follow Him. (Matthew) But such drastic charity, or any charity at all, is not necessary to be saved.

    Government is force. Forced charity is armed robbery. Government has one purpose, stated in the Declaration of Independence: to secure rights to life, liberty, and property. One has no right to the property of others. One has the right to ask for it, but not to demand it, even through elected representatives.

    To use government money for any purpose other than securing rights is fraud and theft.

    Live Free and Prosper

  • Jibaholic

    As a Christian and a conservative I reject the basis premise of this discussion: that governments can actually help the poor. Helping the poor should not be confused with giving money to the poor. There are several data points that support my claim:

    1. Europe in general and Norway and Sweden in particular are nations that are overwhelmingly composed of native born, middle class whites. There is one signficant ethnic minority in Europe and that is muslim immigrants. As the Paris riots have shown, Europe has a terrible track record of assimilating immigrants. By contrast, muslims in the United States are well asimilated.

    You might respond by pointing out that muslim immigrants to the US are better educated than muslim immigrants to the US. Fair enough. But even uneducated immigrants to the US, such as hispanics, are much better assimilated into the US than muslim immigrants to Europe. There is no 40% unemployment for hispanic immigrants to the US.

    http://www.irrationalknowledge.com/10-04-2005/should-the-united-states-be-more-like-sweden/

    2. If you look more closely at immigrants to the US, second generation immigrants often take a step backwards. Those that do fall victim to those social maladies that us conservatives get upset about, such as breakdown of the family, divorce, and out of wedlock childbirths. Those that avoid these social maladies continue to thrive. Conservatives have found the true determiner of success, liberals are still trying to turn a screw with a hammer.

    http://www.irrationalknowledge.com/10-19-2005/what-color-is-the-melting-pot/

    3. US Census data tells us that the poverty rate for children of single mothers is five times as high as the poverty rate for children of married parents. It also tells us that out of wedlock childbirths have increased from 1% to 30% among white and 11% to 67% for blacks.

    It is very hard to ignore the contribution of welfare on out of wedlock childbirth rates. If it is not welfare then what is it? Social liberalism certainly plays a role …

    http://www.irrationalknowledge.com/10-13-2005/liberalism-and-family/

    I will close with a quote by the former Democratic governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm:

    Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettoes and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning, and ambition. But, alas, you can’t wave both wands. Only one.

  • Rycke

    The real question is not “What would Jesus do?” but “What did Jesus say?” He said, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the man who hears his sayings and does them, is like the man who built his house on a rock.

    To ask what he would do is idle speculation. What he said to do, on the other hand, is written by three different writers, none of them himself. (The fourth, John, is simply not a credible witness, as his story differs from the other three in every major point.) He gave good advice to his followers about how to preach and not get crucified or stoned, to be “as subtle as the serpent, and harmless as the dove.” But he went against that advice to get himself crucified, running the money changers out of the temple and preaching openly against the Pharisees and Sadducees.

  • Rob

    I am appalled at the religious tone this country has taken in seemingly all political discussions.

    This is a democracy. Religion is your own thing; please don’t drag every election through the morass of differing religions. Why don’t we ask “What would Buddha do?” Are we ready to ban things alleged Christians disapprove of? What have we become as a country, the USA?

    Just as another subject, why do all offshoots of Judaism persecute Jews? Is it just to validate their own ‘upstart’ religion?

    Disclaimer: I was raised as a Roman Catholic.

  • Richard Pierard

    As an evangelical, I am pleased that the voice of Bill McKibben was heard this evening. He speaks for a large company of us, who, although ignored by the media, really believe that abortion and gay marriage were smokescreen issues raised by the Karl Rove machine to seduce evangelicals from the genuine message of Jesus, which is love your enemies, seek justice for all people especially the poor and weak, and protect God’s creation from the rapacious forces of untrammeled capitalism. Just remember what Mary said in the Magnificat that God: “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53) You won’t hear this passage quoted at the prayer breakfast of Republican fat cats or millionaires for Jesus, but this is the heart of the Christian gosple.

  • A little yellow bird

    Oh, dearie me–where to begin? Well, one thing: I think it was “avecfrites” who referred above to “turning the other cheek”. From what I’ve read, this is an utterly misunderstood teaching (unlike every other teaching in all the religions, hah hah), due partly to historical ignorance. In last year’s wonderful book, “The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear.”, Walter Wink’s essay “Jesus & Alinsky” describes that turning the other cheek DOES NOT mean pointless, passive masochism. That particular essay from the book is reproduced in full, for free, at this link: http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/04/12/con04550.html . The essay also addresses a number of other ambiguous and/or misconstrued exhortations by Jesus. Also, the state historically in every instance has always served the ends of power much more than any Christian ideals; and one can argue that state coercion to “charitable” acts through forcible “donations” by taxation violates the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” Nations don’t need to be Christian–individuals do (or not). Setting up a state to do un-Commandment-like things does not absolve an individual’s moral culpability by transferring responsibility to the state: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is another of The Big Ten. If one roasts Iraqi infants alive in their tiny pajamas with white phosphorus while in the command of a “sovereign” or soviet or Fuhrer or congress, is one not killing, having another god, and lying? (And coveting a neighbor’s wife and ass, committing “sodomy”, stealing, and a host of other fun but proscribed activities?) Also, one extreme Christian I’ve personally communicated with on the WWW has quoted scripture, indicating chapter, verse, and line, to show that while Jesus claimed to have brought mankind “a sword”, it was not a carnal sword, but one directed at men’s hearts, minds, and, less reliably substantial, their “souls”. Alright, enough–I’m an agnostic Jew, for, uh… Chrissake. Peace.

  • A little yellow bird

    Oops! sorry, “avecfrites” I meant “charcoal”.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Rob”: Perhaps offshoots of Judaism persecute Jews just as the dowdy are taunted by those at the edge of fashion: it’s simply the new supplanting the old. (As if! They ain’t nothin’ new under the sun, child!) Although as Willa Cather has said: “There are only two or three human lives, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” Besides, everything is sold as “new and improved”… I mean, how much better can laundry soap really get, year after year? Religion is ultimately just another way to try to feel better, partially by attempting to control the seemingly uncontrollable, violent, random flux of the icy impersonal universe around us. That isn’t meant as a denigration–after all, what’s wrong with comfort? Perhaps when one is sort of comfortable, one may be more inclined to act charitably to one’s fellows.

  • Chris Williams

    Rycke writes that Jesus would not have us steal to help the poor and goes on to say:

    “Government is force. Forced charity is armed robbery. Government has one purpose, stated in the Declaration of Independence: to secure rights to life, liberty, and property… To use government money for any purpose other than securing rights is fraud and theft.”

    Actually, the Declaration of Independence says “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” not property. It then says “that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    But Rycke, if “forced charity” is wrong because Jesus commanded us not to steal, isn’t all taxation wrong? You seem to say that if you didn’t consent to a certain use of your money, it’s wrong for the government to take it. But suppose I object to some other use of government money, such as a war? Isn’t the government then forcing me to support it with my tax money? Doesn’t that make it armed robbery as well? Furthermore, suppose that I actually consent to spending some of my taxes on charity? First of all, wouldn’t that be a Christian thing to do? And second, since I consent, wouldn’t it cease to be equivalent to armed robbery?

    Perhaps it’s the “consent of the governed” that makes an act of government just, rather than whether the money goes to charity or the securing of rights.

    But I guess my biggest question is, why wouldn’t a Christian consent to spending government money on charity?

  • A little yellow bird

    To “icantgoon”: Somewhere in the various scriptures, possibly Genesis, God gives all the fruits of the vine and all the beasts of His creation for man to eat. ‘Course, livestock mega-Abu-Ghraibs hadn’t been developed yet, nor had the USDA yet been created to interfere with true free enterprise, favoring Big Agra, at the time that God “said” so. Ergo, Jesus is not overly concerned with loving thy cow and thy hog as thyself. Pardon the sarcasm, but even though I’m vegan for numerous reasons, I do not equate chickens with human beings. And animals aren’t consumed only because they’re “so yummy” as you said–and so what if they are? What unreasonable, “selfish” pleasures do YOU indulge in? Which brings us to another thing Jesus is to have said, approximately: Nevermind the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye–first take the two-by-four out of your own. (There might be a translation error in this one–the actual line in the bible says “beam”, not “two-by-four”…but the guy WAS a carpenter…)

  • A little yellow bird

    “Chris Williams”: Right on, brother. It’s not the “righteousness” of the cause–anything can and has been justified. If it’s involuntary, it’s theft. And everyone thinks their pet cause is “reasonable”. Voluntariness is the key to all of this. To quote from an article on the Supreme Court’s “Kelo” case: “What makes a transaction morally legitimate is not compensation but consent. Eminent-domain cases are distinguished precisely by their lack of the seller’s consent.” (From an editorial at The Future of Freedom Foundation: http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0509b.asp ) Taxation is nearly always theft, if theft means taking by force; and charity is taking by guilt-tripping, which, while manipulative, is voluntary.

  • keneary

    In the last 20 years there has been excellent research on the anti-imperial nature of Jesus’ ministry. Ched Myers “Binding the Strong Man” and Warren Carter’s “Matthew on the Margins” are two very good examples. Jesus spent his ministry challenging the Roman empire and offering the “empire of God” instead. This empire of God was described by Jesus as a place and time when the first would be last and the last first, and the rich are totally out of luck.

    The problem with this idea is that the U.S. is the current empire of the world. What would Jesus do? Advocate non-violent resistance to our own imperial rule. When I asked my congregation why we resist characterizing the U.S. as an empire, someone said, “empires end.”

  • zorblek

    This is an excellent topic for a radio program, and I’d like to see it revisited. However, if you do so, please *do not* invite Ted Haggard back. Listening to his snide attacks and insinuations against the other guests made me physically ill. I have no problem with him expressing his views, however, the way in which he does so is highly offensive. I’m sure there must be many other evangelical Christians who can express their views without resorting to personal attacks.

    Aside from that, I thought the show was fascinating.

  • jc

    To Chris Williams – Yes, the Declaration of Independence does say, “the pursuit of happiness,” but it has no legal power, it is not a law, it is merely a declaration, a statement with no power except, perhaps, to affect one’s opinion. However, the Constitution DOES say “property,” and it is the ultimate law of the land (though no longer than some magazine articles.) Now, if you were lucky enough to be a citizen of Massachusetts, that Commonwealth’s Constitution does, I believe, include the “pursuit of happiness” as a right (and seems to be almost as long or longer than the Bible.)

    Involuntary taxation is not only wrong, it is illegal. It is “involuntary servitude” explicitly outlawed by our U.S. Constitution when applied to anyone but a felone (try amendment #13 or thereabouts) as is, also, involuntary conscription or the draft, of course (but this government doesn’t pay any attention to that, either, as you well know.) Since you cannot earmark your taxes, the politicians can appropriate it to any use. Hence, anyone who supports any action of his government by paying for it, even though s/he does not think such action is proper, is, nonetheless, just as responsible for it as one who condones and evcourages it! One has absolutely no grounds for complaining and whining about his government carrying out unwanted policies until he stops paying them to do it. Since this is a republic, the only control one has over the government’s behavior is monetary support. it is the only vote that amounts to anything in the way of control or influence. The big corporations and their lobbyists know that. They don’t care, really, who gets elected. They give campaign contributions to BOTH candidates as a regular practice and then make promises of more to whoever gets elected plus cushy arrangements when the politician retires from office if he does their bidding. One can only wonder why the citizens can’t figure it out. The only way people have of participating in a democracy in this country is by voting with their dollars. That is also the only way to be ensured of a clear conscience.

    Avecfrites – back to Oct. 25. Marginalize? How about boycott?

    A little yellow bird – I like it, good humor

    Cheers.

  • Nightwatchman

    Regarding taxation:

    Genesis 41:33-34 “Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. “Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.

    Matthew 22:17-22 â€?Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

    Romans 13:7-8 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (the phrase: “owe nothing but love� means do all things, tax paying, honoring, etc. out of pure love.)

    The Christian is held responsible to pay taxes, the Government is held accountable to a righteous use of the monies. Away with this talk of stealing. If conservatives have the solution to poverty…then let them put the government out of business! Meanwhile Christian, present the gospel faithfully, show your wisdom in gentle good works and pray for a peaceful and free society in which to speak along with all the other voices.

  • David Weinstein

    hH All,

    The show airs at 2 a.m. on the west coast so let me jump in with a reply to GregBillock’s post about whether the Christian right can be fully comfortable with the principles of the constitution. I think that by their actions, this coalition of the Christian right and the Bush adminsitration, that the answer is no. And ‘no’ in very scary ways. Here goes for some late night musings:

    I’m currently reading 1776 by David McCullough about how one strong willed general with good tactical sense but with no experience leading an army, George Washington, and a band of plucky revolutionaries, managed to defeat the most powerful military in the world, the English army and navy, and overthrow the greatest empire in the world, the British. One often reads the word ‘Providence,’ in this fine history. And one begins to believe that these plucky partiots were realizing God’s will on earth, and that there was some sort of divcne intervention for kingship to be replaced with republican governement on these shores. Of course there was the incredible spirit of 1776, and some tough people fighting for what they believed in.

    The Declaration of Indepdence was really about human rights and the constitution about framing them in a guiding legal document for popular government. But these deomcratic revolutionaries and framers beleived that human rights were God given. They were by and large god fearing children of the Enlightenment. The Scottish philosopher, Locke, is the one who spoke to this most eloquently, I beleive. Every human being is born equal because every human individual is a child of god. The whole of U.S. history can be boiled down to an expansion of who is considered a human being, who is equal in this republic. This was often a vioelnt evolution such as the civil war to decide whether African Americcans were fully human, the right to vote for women and so on.

    Unlike other listeners, I was gladened to hear Ted Haggard speak. I have to admit I have demonized him and the Christian right and I heard a human being speaking his beliefs that had an internal logic. I felt his heart was in the right place. I would enjoy speaking to him personally. But I ran into real problems with his point of view when he spoke about how the Bible supports an ethos of material gain. Of course these rich folks can be hit up for charitable donations. But if society is not charitable on the whole, we can never solve the serious soical issues we face.

    But deeper than that this philosophy is a pale replica of one that supported the greed of the 19th century Gilded Age, and made the robber barons agents of God. Some other listener can fill us in on the ‘ism’ of that particualar Christian sect whose name escapes me. But this was a time when whole cities, states and even national governements were in the pay of the robber barons who felt boldy entitled to own government. The right of government did not flow from the governed and from basic God-given rights but from the captains of industry.

    Can anyone tell me what the fundamental difference between the Bush adminstration, which is really there to do the will of corporate America with a particular obedience to big oil, and the corrupt bosses who ruled for the captains of industry in the Gilded Age? I think it is a matter of appearance rather than substance. And here’s the truly scary part — George junior truly believes he is doing God’s will. This man’s faith is s sincere as it is blind.

    Forget about Bush’s war on the environment, on the poor and the middle class. his reckless war. Think only about his so-called new immigration policy (Mr. Haggard advanced that the proof that everything is basically OK here is that people want to emigrtate to the U.S.) that most experts admit is nothing but the marching orders of corporate America to have a cheap labor pool. So how does someone like George the junior square the founding principle that we are all created equal by God and the rule of corporate America in our lives? It is simp;y that some of us are born more equal than others.

    If this sounds like George Orwell, make no mistake about it. What karl Rove and his partners in crime have figured out is that if you lie well enough to people long enough they will go along with you. And they have learned all the lessons of madison Avenue advertising to sell us this canard. All modern political parties use the laws of focus groups and advertising. Only Rove and company are much more cynical and ruthless about it. They figure if we are fat and happy enough with our consumer society and mindless entertainment we won’t think about what is really going on and kick up some sort of fuss.

    This is the Bush Exception. It really doesn’t matter how much he screws up becasue he believes that he is born to rule, that God is on his side and vice-versa just like the rober barons of old. And because there is a theocratic basis to all this, these guys want to make this rule permanent. They are well on their way to making the good old US of A a one party state with the rampant electronic election fraud perpetrated in the 2004 election by Diebold and the other election machine and systems vendors who are highly partisan extremist republicans (I still think this is a show tht cries out to be done). They can already basically deliver whatever tallies they want in Ohio becaseu they control nearly half of the precincts with their corrupt machiens and systems. And as Ohio goes so goes… well you know.

    So is there any good news out there? Yes, one the one hand, I feel that the basic values of decency and fair play are still alive in the American spirit. I felt a basic decency in Ted Haggard. I only pray that spirit will opoen his eyes to this truth soon as well as his parishoners and folloers who have been hoodwinked by Bush/Cheney/Rove.

    There is also a progressive spiritual political movement afoot. Ironically, this is the same sort of spirituality that I think founded this great nation, yes going back even to the maligned puritans who were idealists. I would like to draw your attention to The Network of Spirtual Progressives founded here in Berekeley (WWW.NetworkofSpiritualProgressives.org). Originally coming out of the tTkkun Community led by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine fame. He describes this movment as emancipatory spirituality, a community of diverse faiths and traditions. You can look up the core mission and principles on the website. In brief this emancipatory spirituality addresses issues of social, environmental and econmic justice and peace with a new bottom line for our economic and soical institutions flowing out of spiritual principles we all share.

    The Network of spirtual Progressives had a very successful (sold out!) conference this August in Berkeley, and is planning one in Wshington, D.C. this May. I attended and was heartened to speake with many Christian activists from around the country, many pastors, who have been waiting for this kind of organization.

    Finally, let me just add a note about one question in the raido show that came up about new and old testament Christianity. Probabaly unwittingly the Jewish religion was alluded to as an outmoded faith that beleives in animal sacrifice and so on. This mistnerprettion of the Jewish religion as being imperfect, outdated as compared to Christianity has led to a deep strain of anti-semitism that has persisted for 2000 years and has contributed to the drakest hours of antisemitism, including the holocaust.

    Judaism is a living and evolving faith and culture. Animal sacrifce went out with the temple days. The abiltiy of Judaism to evolve is one of the secrets of the survival of the Jewish people. The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, as well as the whole written and oral tradition of Judaism is consdirered to be living and growing in an organic way. There are many themes however that go back to the earliest times of the encounter of man and G-d. They include the notion that G-d’s creation is good and is to be held in a spirit of thankfulness and celebration. Justice and righteousness is central to Judaism as well as the notion of tikkun olam. Tikkun Olam, or the repair of the world, is the human holy ability and obligation to help repair a broken world in an ongoing and evolving partnership with G-d.

    May we all share in the repair of the world!

  • Liz Tracey

    Excellent. I can’t wait to listen.

  • David Weinstein

    correction: the web address for the Network of Spiritual Progressives is spiritualprogressives.org. It’s well worth a look.

    Jibaholic: I was with you in trying to understand certain conservatives principles that in no way sound extremist, as in the white house gang. But your quote from Colo governor Lamm makes him seem like an idiot.

  • Pascale Soleil

    I have tried without success to listen to the show’s MP3 file.

    I find that I’ve downloaded an hour of silence…

    … and I’m sure there was more content than that!

  • Rycke

    Thank you, little yellow bird. Yes, Chris, if it is involuntary, it is theft. However, if the state would stick to its singular purpose of securing rights by punishing crime and repelling armed invasions, it would have no trouble raising money for its operations voluntarily, through fund-raisers and lotteries. Heck, I’d contribute to that, and I’m just a lower-middle class gardener. And I can sure see our local business leaders leading the fund-raising effort to keep our jail and courts operating. The security of their property would depend on it.

    Involuntary taxation, even to secure rights, forces poor people to pay for the protection of the rich. Mandatory auto insurance is even more blatant armed robbery, forcing poor people to insure the property of the rich. Since driving is a necessity in most of the country, Mandatory insurance makes it illegal to be poor.

    Public education forces everyone to pay for teaching what they don’t necessarily believe or agree with. Drug and vice laws persecute people for their sins, not crimes, and for living by their own beliefs, not the beliefs of the legislature. Public charity forces people to give to causes they don’t want to support, as does all tax-paid research, which is also public charity.

    All of these things are functions of religion, not government. Religion is what one believes is the truth. Education is teaching what one believes is the truth. Drug laws are just taboos written into laws, matters of personal holiness, no different than prohibitions against pork, alcohol, coffee, or tea. Charity is a function of those religions that encourage it, and not all do. But to be right, it must be voluntary.

    The big difference between Christianity and Old Testament Judaism is personal salvation as opposed to national salvation. The Old Testament is a story of the nation of Israel trying to be God’s Holy People, and failing because not everyone gets with the program. So Jesus made a new nation, the Kingdom of God, open to everyone who would acknowledge him as their king and follow his few and simple laws. (only 6 of them!) Each person’s salvation is personal, not dependent on the actions of others. The Kingdom of God is the only nation in which citizenship is absolutely voluntary, and it collects no taxes. As Jesus says in Matthew 17:24-27, “Then the sons [of the king] are free.”

  • Chris Williams

    Wow, Rycke, I didn’t expect you to take such an extreme position. I only intended to argue that a personal objection to “forced charity” puts all other uses of tax money on similarly shaky ground– if one person’s objection makes it wrong, then even the securing of rights can be an illegitimate use of government money, a position I assumed you would reject as absurd, since you declare it to be the one purpose of government.

    The signers of the Declaration of Independence object to “taxation without consent” and say that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, but they don’t seem to mean that each individual must consent. Otherwise taxation with consent simply means whatever you happen to feel like contributing, and the very idea of a tax is drained of all meaning. The United States was founded on the notion that laying and collecting taxes (by force if needed) is entirely consistent with consent of the governed, in seemingly sharp disagreement with your position. Nor I am prepared to trade our current form of taxation, with which I may not wholly agree, for a system of voluntary donations, which I believe would produce far inferior conditions for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    I’m not sure whether this is relevant to “a Christian America,” but oh well…

  • Rycke

    Thank you, Nightwatchman, for bringing up and quoting Matthew 22:17-22, in which Jesus is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. And thank you again for Romans 13. Let us examine them. (You don’t say which translation you are using. I’m using the New King James. I judge Bibles by their translation of Romans 13.)

    “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, then, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?'” Matt. 22:15-17. (These introductions are important.)

    They’re daring him to tell the truth in front of the servants of the Caesar-appointed puppet, Herod. It is obvious that it is not lawful to pay taxes to Caesar under Jewish law. The 1st Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” And Deuteronomy 17:14,15 says that Israel shall not have any foreign king. Caesar was a foreign king who considered himself a god. Tribute to him was obviously unlawful.

    “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why to you test Me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money.’

    “So they brought him a denarius.

    “And he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’

    “They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.'” Matt. 22:18-21

    What is this? A GRAVEN IMAGE OF A FOREIGN GOD! A good Jew shouldn’t even have one in his purse!

    “And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard these words they marveled, and went their way.”

    Why did they marvel? Because he had answered their question in such a way that they could not explain it to the Romans and their henchmen without seeming disloyal to Caesar themselves. What belongs to Caesar? To the Romans, everything. But patriotic Jews know that Israel, its people, its land, its labor, belongs to God. All that belongs to Caesar are his money and his troops, and they ought to be sent back to him.

    As for Romans 13, let us take verse 7 and 8, which you quote, and continue on through verse 10:

    “…Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” Rom. 13:7

    Again, to whom are taxes and customs due? To whom is due fear and honor? To one’s own king, not a foreigner. A Christian’s king is Jesus.

    “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.'” Romans 13:8-10.

    While supporting forced charity may seem like loving your neighbor, it is hardly loving the neighbor you take the money from.

  • Rycke

    Chris, extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.

    Regarding the possibility of the USA being a Christian nation, the only possible Christian nation is the Kingdom of God. Its citizens are those who profess allegiance to Jesus and follow his laws, which are summed up in loving one’s neighbor as oneself. (Not more than.) They can have dual citizenship and pay taxes to the kingdoms of the earth, but their first allegiance must be to Him and they must follow his laws.

  • Chris Williams

    “Chris, extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”

    Again, wow. You and I must certainly part ways there.

    From all you have said, and all the sense I can make of it, it seems that the form of government envisioned by the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution is inherently incompatible with the teachings of Christ, since all taxation, being in some part involuntary, is therefore theft and a failure to fulfill God’s law. And further, since you say the only possible Christian nation is the Kingdom of God, and that Christians are at most dual citizens with the kingdoms of earth, it would seem that such governments must operate in a purely secular sphere, guided by secular principles, walled off from religious considerations.

    I have no objection to that conclusion.

    But the claim that “forced charity” is wrong because that is not the purpose of government then becomes a secular argument, not a religious one. The power to decide what should or should not be done belongs to Caesar, or in his place, to the secular principle of consent of the governed, in its limited and imperfect fashion. Secular arguments under our form of government are settled by a vote. If the governed vote in favor of government charity, then let there be government charity.

  • Nikos

    My sister and I listened to last night’s Open Source broadcast at 9PM Pacific, five hours behind most of the rest of you, so please forgive the tardiness of this plunge into your conversation.

    Unlike me, my sister sincerely reveres the Jesus character in the King James New Testament. Her reverence is unwavering, even though she, unlike most christians, knows that the bible posits several Jesus characters, like Jesus ben Pandera, born of Miriam (another version of the name Mary, who was actually the regional Sea/Moon goddess Mari, whose name lived on in the Latin ‘Mare’, as in Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean). Other biblical Jesus characters include Jehu son of Nimshi, Joshua son of Nun, Yeshua son of Marah; but even the Greeks had Jesus-figures: Iasion, Iasus, or as we know him today, Jason. (Argonauting wasn’t this Jason’s only heroism: he was, it seems, a healer, too. Ring any bells?)

    My sister knows that there were THOUSANDS of gospels of various Jesuses in the ancient world, and that the Roman church settled on only four, hunting down and destroying the rest. (It might be fair to say that just as the Soviet Union was the worst thing that could have happened to Marxist communism, the Roman church was the death-knell of true Christianity.)

    My sister understands that ‘Christ’ predates ‘Jesus’ by centuries: ‘Christos’ – ‘anointed one’ – was a title given to certain Essene men in their secretive desert societies. These earlier Christs were the men selected to serve the role given in John 11:50 – ‘one man should die for the people…that the whole nation perish not.’

    In short, my sister understands that the biblical Jesus is a composite of many—but, she believes, one of these must have been a young man who somehow (perhaps from a visit to India) learned a message not native to the Middle East’s violent culture (please read Joshua, Chapter 10 for an example of this violence). It was a message of UNCONDITIONAL love and forgiveness.

    My sister understands therefore that Bill McKibben was spot on in the show’s first segment last night, and that the so-called ‘Christian fundamentalists’ of contemporary America are so mired in the violent and vile Old Testament that they conveniently avoid seeing that the Gospels’ Jesus was politely trying to OVERTHROW the Old Testament!

    So, we both looked at one another aghast when Ted Haggard avoided the crucial question posed (just before a break, if memory serves) concerning the irreconcilable differences between the Old and New Testaments.

    We noted repeatedly that the unconditional-love-creed formulated by the biblical Jesus-character and espoused by Bill McKibben bore virtually no real-life resemblance to the internally contradictory mishmash of ancient beliefs (in King James) and modern wishful-thinking represented by Ted Haggard.

    We also noted that at least twice in the program Ted agreed with (and lavishly lauded) points made by McKibben and Gordon Atkinson, but then went off on incomprehensible twist and turns of fatuous ‘biblical’ logic that ultimately compromised those same points, while justifying the very sort of ignorance of the Jesus-love-message Bill and Gordon were decrying! These rhetorical stunts took three to four minutes each, and went a long way toward monopolizing the show’s limited airtime. (Regretfully, Chris, I protest! I mean, it’s one thing to offer equal time to debaters; it’s quite another to allow an equivocating spokesman for hypocrites to dominate the airtime! We can find Ted’s version of ‘Christianity’ in thousands of outlets all around the country—the nation needs much more access to Bill’s, methinks.)

    So what my sister and I would like to ask of anyone reading this is: did Bill and Gordon shake any trees? Are any of last night’s self-described Christian listeners recognizing today that fundamentalist reverence of the Old Testament is ANTI-Christian? That it’s an adherence not to love and unconditional acceptance of others (no matter how different), but to judgmentalism and self-righteousness? That’s it’s more to do with attempts to justify selfishness and self-absorption than anything much to do with the Sermon on the Mount? (Again, have a look at Joshua Chapter 10, and then try to pretend that this is in ANY WAY consistent with the Sermon on the Mount. Two very different gods are at work here.)

    Perhaps, as Gordon implied, ‘Christian’ is no longer a concisely meaningful word. Maybe it’s time to coin a new one to distinguish the Bill McKibbens of the world from the Ted Haggards: ‘Jesus-ist’—or (please somebody!) something more artful. Because no one who aspires to live by the Sermon on the Mount has any business bolstering monstrous hypocrites like the Bushes and DeLays of this world.

    Or are my sister and I living on a different world?

    (Maybe we are: out here on the Left Coast we often smile at a favorite bumper sticker: ‘Jesus Was A Socialist’.)

  • Nightwatchman

    (You don’t say which translation you are using. …)

    I used the NASB,

    I commend to all Matthew Henry’s exposition of Matt 22:17-22

    http://eword.gospelcom.net/comments/matthew/mh/matthew22.htm

    The plain readings of the verses in question bear out a Christians duty to obey the law of the land unless it commands one to sin, in which case the Christian obeys God, rather than man but does not seek revolution. The caveats which you read into the verses would make them quite devious in their intention.

    – I used the examples of a believer ruling a pagan nation, Joseph

    – A pagan nation ruling over believers, Caesar in Israel

    – And a believer living in a pagan nation, Romans

    I neglected to list God’s law in His own economy, in which compulsion to love neighbor is not a violation of the 8th commandment.

    Leviticus 23:22 When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.'”

    Leviticus 14:28-29 At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. “The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

  • A little yellow bird

    Just a couple of thoughts after sleep, food, a day, and more of “Jacob wrestling”: Hermann Hesse , in “Demian”, had the character Pistorius say that we create gods, and they bless us. It is important to note that this is how it is–we create the gods, and usually in our own images, at least a bit. One of the callers last night mentioned how a cultural bias enters into what is ostensibly the “same” religion all over the place. We also warp the images through the prisms of our individual selves–we create gods to serve ourselves in the manner to which we hope to become accustomed and/or the ways in which we seek to grow and change. If there is One All-Penetrant Alpha-and-Omega of a conscienciousness/ entity, then perhaps It wishes or even causes us to act in this way. But we must be careful, especially when acting in a mass, especially a state: the Nazis had a graven image on their belt buckles, to wit: “Gott Mit Uns”; or “God is with us”, in English. The state, being a coercive entity at the best of times is not the best way of being charitable to our neighbors. I am sure Jesus was not a socialist, because it is the Christian ideal for the individual soul to rise above earthly affairs and “Not love the things of this world” as it says somewhere in their Book. It is true that “There are so many hungry people that God can only appear to them as a loaf of bread” as one woman whose name eludes me has said; and another person said that “principles are for those whose stomachs are full”. But an organized state has done more harm than any loose aggregation of individuals has ever done, and individuals working in their own way at their own pace in their own pursuit of happiness have contributed the most while doing the least harm, it seems to me. Massachusetts may have as part of its constitution the “right” to the pursuit of happiness, but that surely doesn’t mean that somehow the state is supposed to provide a free Lamborghini Diablo, three French whores and a partridge in a pear tree to every mook in the land. It means that the the individual must be let alone, and if he is not, then a court must be consulted, or a militia must be raised to put down the aggressor against the peace. Christ would probably approve of a league of nations forming a blockade against the rogue aggressor nation of the United States of America at this point, as long as it people are not starved, enslaved, or brutalized, but simply nullified.

  • Rycke

    Yes, Chris, the U.S. government, even as originally envisioned by the founders, is not a Christian government, and could not be. It is possible, if enough people follow true Christian principles in what they do and do not support, that it can come close someday.

    But our government is also not supposed to be a democracy, but a republic, subject to the Constitution, which prohibits establishment of religion, among other things. Charity, education, and personal health and holiness are matters of religion, and not subject to the laws of the state, except where rights need to be protected. There is no right to charity, only the right to ask for it. “Ask and you shall receive,” Jesus said. Demand and you’ll likely get another reaction.

    Our right to our property should not be subject to mob rule, or the whims of representatives. Neither should our right to live our lives by our own beliefs.

    Still, you show little faith in your fellow man, and a lot of faith in a government made up of the same. The way I see it, if enough people will vote to fund something, it can be funded by those same people, as well as by the people who vote against it only because they don’t want to force their neighbors to support it, or don’t want to be forced to support it too heavily. I live in a town where the July 4th fireworks show is funded by donations. It has one of the biggest shows in the state, every year.

    I’ve noticed that state charity is not dependable, being subject to the whims of politicians and voters, while well-run private charities liek the Gospel Rescue Mission keep chugging right along, even when serving a population that voters would never support. People like to control where their money is going. They don’t resent charity they freely give. They resent taxes even when they demand them from others.

    Live Free and Prosper

  • Rycke

    Of course it’s devious, Nightwatchman! Unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament was written by followers of an underground, persecuted cult. They had to be careful what they put into writing, speaking in ways that meant one thing to the Romans and another to those who had heard the gospel–which, you might notice, is never put into writing. They keep talking about spreading the gospel, but they never really spell it out. You have to find it between the lines of the parables and sayings. You also have to read it in the context of the Judean politics and the constant, simmering rebellion against Roman rule. Jesus was part of that rebellion. His part ended when Constantine figured out how to divide and rule the Christian Church.

    But you keep throwing the Old Testament into the discussion. The New Testament supplanted the Old, which wasn’t working too well. God’s chosen people kept screwing up and getting conquered, mostly because they, especially their kings, wouldn’t follow his advice. The New Testament replaced the idea of national salvation with individual salvation through the Kingdom of God. It is open to all who would adopt God as their father by following his laws. Not all the laws of Leviticus, or even all 10 commandments, but the ones that really count: Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and your mother. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Paul seems to have had a problem with honoring his mother and father, and substituted “Do not covet.”)

    Well, at least this discussion shows that there is not anywhere near enough agreement on what it is to be Christian for people to talk about making government Christian. I just wish it would stick to establishing justice.

    Live Free and Prosper,

  • A little yellow bird

    “Rycke”: Yes–exactly! If an idea is so popular–if so many want it, then they can prioritize their spending, allocate their limited resources, and support it…like public radio, f’rinstance! Seriously, with all the annoying fundraisers here, if every listener gave just $60/yr., $5/month… heck, I’ve been homeless and I could have picked up the 5c cans to return for my monthly membership in two extra hours of can-hunting, once a month. But I’m afraid that people think they can just vote for something, and then Alan “Merlin of Moolah” Greenspan will just print more zeroes on paper and fund it…

  • I love your show but this one was painful to listen to- I can’t believe you gave license to Mr. Haggard to ramble on incoherently about religion- within seconds he had contradicted himself and showed how insane it is to use the Bible as a roadmap for morality and policy- but no one called him on it. And who cares what Jesus said? First off, we only know what people said he said and a lot of it actually isn’t so great- go read it for yourself. And all this about “God is love”- that’s mind-boggling given that much of the Bible describes how “He” spends much of “His” time killing and terrorizing “His” people for little reason- the God of the Bible by all defintions is a terrorist. Please, please, read Sam Harris’ book “The End of Faith” and help to move us towards a world without the pernicious influence of Biblical religion. And how could you, Chris, say that Bill Gates is giving his money away so that he can “slip through the eye of the needle”?- no, he’s doing it because he’s a deeply altruistic person who doesn’t need ancient myths to motivate him- you debased him with that comment- shame on you.

    J.S.

  • Nikos

    Did someone mention Leviticus? Careful!

    I took a quick spin through Leviticus, and found several nuggets of wisdom.

    Leviticus Chapter 11 proscribes shellfish as an abomination.

    Uh-oh. I used to eat lots of scallops and shrimp. Will God smite me?

    Leviticus, in Chapter 15, also teaches (teacheth?) the following:

    ‘And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.’

    Seven days of isolation—and it’s the woman’s fault!

    The next nine verses detail all the woe of touching a menstruating woman.

    Lordy, have I ever been living in sin for 47 years!

    Then, in verse 29, Leviticus shows God’s mercy:

    ‘And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest.’

    This is the sacred payment, which includes the immolation of one of the two animals, for cleansing the ‘sin’ of her menstruation.

    Oh, my.

    None of the menstruating women I’ve ever had contact with have brought pigeons or turtles to the village priest. Guess I’m damned, eh?

    Leviticus 24, 10-16 states that death by stoning is the penalty for cursing (although the Englishmen who wrote the King James called it ‘blaspheming’).

    Double uh-oh. I’ve been quite the potty-mouth for much of my benighted life. Yet please don’t hate me for thinking my stoners nothing but sadistic devils.

    Leviticus Chapter 25, verses 39+ details the propriety of slavery. Yes, slavery.

    Folks, there’s a word for these sorts of cultural cruelties: BARBARISM.

    What rational, empathetic person would use THIS source—Leviticus or any other book of the Old Testament—for an argument over Twenty-First Century TAXATION?

    And have any of you noticed that the Jews (although I have to admit to some ignorance here) have evolved AWAY from these ancient embarrassments that fundamentalist Christians cling to like children to the pathetic little myth called Santa Claus? (Yes, I used the ‘E’ word: ‘change over time’. Shame on me!)

    Look, to those of us observing from the outside of this faith-based foolishness, cherry-picking your religion’s scripture to justify such arguments only proves McKibben’s point about selfish, self-absorbed ‘Christians’.

    And please remember that ANY sort of miserliness actively and clearly DEFIES the teachings of Jesus! (And this comes from an agnostic, mind you.)

    Of course you’re free to be disingenuously self-righteous, but please don’t think that the rest of your fellow, non-theocratic citizens won’t call you on it.

    Yet despair not, o ye of the Faith. There’s a country in this world right now where strict adherence to God’s True Word is mandatory, where laws are taken straight from Holy Scripture. And where, just like here, the elites avidly promote fundamentalist religion even while living a princely international lifestyle and while declining to follow their religion except in sham, public displays of piety. A country where religion is used specifically to keep the masses ignorant and pacified. It’s called Saudi Arabia.

    Bon Voyage! 🙂

  • patty

    I for one do not think that Christ would use force to bring Democracy to a country. Christ after all did not use force to defend himself. I do not think Christ would base his country’s economy on the production of arms or make its economy dependent on the sale of arms and the constant state of war somewhere. I think Christ would use that energy towards feeding the hungry and finding them shelter. I am not a Christain but did read the bible at my Grandmother’s side everynight growing up. Christ was an activist intent on bringing to light that the poor and disenfranchised are worthy people and every bit as good as those in positions of power and wealth. This message is what got him crucified. He forgave those people who were pawns and did not realize it. We are still pawns in the hands of the powerful.

  • nfeller

    This was a very interesting show. Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore also what kind of Jewish nation we have or what kind of Secular nation we have. How can we be a better Jewish nation or a better Secular nation? Maybe we can hear from a few Rabbis and atheists on this topic.

  • elphaba

    I have a friend who is a fundamentalist conservative christian. She listens to talk radio. I talked to her a couple of days ago. I asked her how she deals with contradictions in the bible. She said that the contradictions meant that she didn’t truly understand what God meant. Knowing that she is a supporter of GW Bush, I asked her how the very direct statements of Jesus to turn the other cheek, squared with premptive war. Basically, she said that the teachings of Jesus were for a perfect world and we aren’t perfect people.

    This is a very good friend of mine. We’ve been friends for over thirty years. I didn’t ask these questions to make a point or be arguementative; but to get insights into how fundamentalist christians see things. My friend is representative of a large number of people. It is important to see things from their perspective. If you have no idea of anothers view, you will have no ability to make persuasive arguements where you disagree.

    Thirty plus years ago I went on a backpacking trip with a church group. I learned that I liked backpacking and that I shouldn’t forget my jacket in the high country in the summer. The young adults who led our group talked to us about their version of christianity. The one and only thing that was required to be saved was to accept into my heart that Jesus, God’s only son is our lord and savior. Maybe those aren’t the only words, but basically that. I didn’t have to try to follow his teachings. I had to have faith. The guides talked to us individually. It was determined that I was a rock because I didn’t have faith. I had said that I needed to learn more about Jesus and the bible before I could accept what they were saying.

    I think the modern fundamentalist christian movement thrives on blind faith. It discourages rational, critical thought and reasoning. In a confusing, rapidly changing world, blind faith must be very reassuring. It doesn’t ask much of people. Morality is mostly a matter of sexual behavior. There isn’t a lot of emphasis on giving to and caring for” the least of those amongst us.”

    There is a constant theme of the family under threat. Most of the fundamentalist conservative christian groups describe themselves as pro-family. I do think the family is under threat, but I don’t think its from divorce and homosexuals. I think the foes of the family are consumerism, television/computer/video games etc., long work hours, economic difficulties. It takes time and effort to bind a family together.

    This certainly is a disjointed reply. Maybe a collection of thoughts is a better desciptor.

  • greenbrier

    “Can anyone tell me what the fundamental difference between the Bush adminstration, which is really there to do the will of corporate America with a particular obedience to big oil, and the corrupt bosses who ruled for the captains of industry in the Gilded Age?”

    David–the only difference that I can imagine is that the robber barons of the late 19th century were a little more guilt-ridden and much more civic-minded, hence the long list of wonderful public cultural institutions that came into being during the age of Carnegie et al–libraries, museums, foundations, etc. Can you imagine Cheney and his ilk using their ill-gotten fortunes to build inner-city libraries or art museums that are open to the public? Pah. What these joyless, thin-lipped ogres actually spend their money on is beyond me.

  • anhhung18901

    I really enjoyed the litany of American social problems that Bill McKibben (I think) gave at the beginning of the show. For instance, we may have low unemployment, but we have tens of millions of citizens who do not have basic insurance. American style democracy (especially when held hostage by inflexible Christians) has its faults.

    And we wonder why countries like Iraq aren’t begging for our style of government…