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Of Cartoons and Carnage

Jan 11, 2015
Leaving aside for the moment the wisdom of printing unfunny cartoons whose only point seems to be to express one’s elitist contempt for another’s deity, let us contemplate the awful events of the last week.

The boys and young men who have paid with their lives for their desperate acts have their roots, even if they were born in a civilized country, in uncivilized ones. They or their immediate forebears hail from North Africa or the Middle East, from failed states ruled over by tyrants, where “democracy” and a “liberal education” are as unknown as they were in the Dark Ages. They find themselves in a land that has no decent education or work for them; where day to day they struggle for subsistence, never mind inclusion or respect, in the midst of an obscene level of plenty; where any role models they can find fill them with hatred for the Other and a lunatic dependence on a willful misinterpretation of their deity.

And, for the most part, they are poor. Oh, yes, Mohammed Atta apparently was middle class and bin Laden was from a wealthy family. Spare me the “Yeah, but”s. This is poverty we are speaking about. Poverty of knowledge, poverty of experience, poverty of exposure, and just plain poverty. It is hopelessness, and not the siren call of an adoring deity, that delivers these young people to their early demise.

And it is anger. They see the West and our militarized over-reaction to matters appropriately left to the police. They know about the Afghan wedding parties, the Afghan children, the Afghan, Iraqi, Syrian, Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali, and other civilians slaughtered by our soulless drones, and every infant death produces a dozen more of them ready to die in order to avenge our brutality. Would it be any different with us, if the drones were dropping their fire on St. Louis?

The Forever War. It is enormously profitable for the American military-industrial complex. How much does a small-diameter bomb cost? $50,000. $100,000? Try $250,000, brought to the drop point by a plane that costs $68,000 an hour to operate.

How does it end? Who can tell? Easier to say how it will go on, because it will. And once again, it comes down to those two vital areas: education and adequately remunerative employment. We must pledge ourselves to the liberal development of every one of our human resources here in the West. No child can be left behind to be forged in the furnace of ethnic hatred and pseudo-religious fundamentalism. And we must guarantee every adult a decent job at a living wage. We must reverse the alienation and disenchantment which is turning more and more of our fellow human beings, here and abroad, into instruments of death.

And we must stop supporting tyrannies, even the creeping tyranny of the one-percenters that threatens our own democracy here at home.

It can happen if the people can be brought to realize it must happen. And that must happen soon, because already it is almost too late.

tags: Religion

Boston and Beyond

Apr 20, 2013
Now that both Boston bombers have been caught and the nine-days’ wonder that permeated the airways 24/7 has been stilled, perhaps we can pause a moment to remember the nameless hundreds of thousands of innocents our bombs have slaughtered over the past 12 years.

If you don’t want your heart broken, don’t go HERE to view seven of the 11 children—babies, really—slaughtered in the “fierce battle” between U.S.-led forces and the nefarious Taliban a couple of Sundays ago. And this was no anomaly. “Collateral damage” is practically the watchword of the “wars” we have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Indonesia, Sudan, Somalia, etc., etc., over the past decade.

What ought to have been a police action—the meticulous pursuit and capture of individuals involved in an international conspiracy of religious fanatics—has instead turned into Apocalypse Now, with death raining down upon the general populations of a large slice of the world; with the abandonment of due process, the laws of war, and any human decency; with the revival of medieval confinements and tortures; and with no end in sight of vastly expensive conflicts that fill the pockets of the corporatocracy and bankrupt the public coffers.

It is not surprising that a young and impressionable boy, helplessly watching the slaughter of babies, brides, and thousands of others of his co-religionists should be led to take the awful action that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly took last week, cruelly wounding 170 people and ending three innocent lives, his brother’s life and, effectively, his own. It is only surprising that more young men and women have not done the same.
tags: Religion

Voters in the Hands of an Angry God

Sep 27, 2008
Tomorrow, pastors in 20 states will give politically based sermons in protest of the IRS’s rule disallowing 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in political activities. Should any of the churches then have their 501(c)(3) status withdrawn by the IRS, the organizers of the protest, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), is expected to bring suit challenging the constitutionality of the penalties.

The ADF, like most such outfits, is a tireless defender of a small selection of freedoms, including the freedom to require the American taxpayer to underwrite political proselytizing on behalf of radical religious groups.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life provides us with a a cogent analysis of ADF’s plans. Pastors to Protest IRS Rules on Political Advocacy features an excellent interview with Robert W. Tuttle, law professor at George Washington University Law School who holds a slew of degrees in law and religion. Professor Tuttle weighs the pros and cons of the possible law suit, concluding that it probably would not be successful.

Given the current constitution of the Court, however, one cannot be too sure.

Update: More than two dozen pastors challenged the IRA on September 28, some of them endorsing a candidate. The next day, Americans United For Separation of Church and State filed complaints with the IRS regarding six of the sermons.1
1 Americans Wary of Church Involvement in Partisan Politics, from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life, October 1, 2008 (Accessed October 5, 2008)
tags: Religion

Playing the God Card

Sep 12, 2008
For every Stoic was a Stoic, but in Christendom where is the Christian?”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

We hear a powerful lot about God and Jesus during political campaigns. As in wars, both sides claim divine fealty to their cause. The deity is dragged to the podium every four years, decked out in elephant red or donkey blue, and his imagined positions regurgitated in evidence of their support of a political stance.

A majority of Americans now believe religion should be kept out of politics,2 according to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Republicans showed the greatest change of heart between August 2004 and August 2008, with 14 percent more of them contending that religion (i.e., churches) should keep out of politics (37 percent rose to 51 percent).

Probably a good thing, too. Emerson’s question is a valid one. Jesus’ central teaching was “love your neighbor as yourself,” and he wasn’t talking about the neigbor from whom you borrow a cup of sugar, but the one who poisons your dog. Were he to return today and preach such twaddle, he would either be ignored as an irrelevancy or, should he actually inspire a following of any magnitude, extraordinarily rendered to some black site in an undesignated foreign land and tortured to death again.

Because for all their sanctimoniousness, today’s so-called Christians aren’t. When a rich man asked Jesus how he could get into heaven, Jesus replied with a single, simple formula: Sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and follow me. This is the essence of Christianity and this is the essence of achieving peace on earth. This central New Testament injunction was recalled to our notice by an excellent 2005 opinion piece by Bill McKibben2 in Harper’s Magazine.

Let survival stand in for heaven. Jesus was telling the rich man that his survival was dependent upon his attitude toward his fellow man. And that attitude needed to be one of love and concern, not of hate, distrust, or exploitation. It is a radical notion, perhaps the most radical proposed throughout history.

While All Together Now does not subscribe to the economic extremism in Jesus’ teaching, we do subscribe to the goal of survival, and believe it to be inextricably entwined with liberty, equity, and justice for all. The mature economies and advanced technologies of the 21st century must be devoted to winning those basics for all of humanity. They can do so by ensuring that everyone has access to fresh water, adequate nutrition, educational opportunities up to and including the Ph.D. level, and basic democratic rights.

Today, people who are diametrically opposed to this position have nonetheless expropriated its chief proponent as their own, as Emerson knew, when he asked that impertinent question.

If anything, it is more pertinent today than it was 200 years ago.
1More Americans Question Religion’s Role in Politics
2The Christian paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong, from Harper’s Magazine, August 2005 (Accessed September 7, 2008)
tags: Religion

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