Tag Archives: Religion

Slavery

20 Apr

On a recent trip to Central America it was evident how debilitating the Catholic religion is to the people who practice it.

Depending on the country, between 60-98% of Central America is Catholic. The Catholic religion has had several hundred years to shape the area in its own image and now, as a sort of aquarium it provides a look into the effects of Catholicism on culture and people. A person can look and see what the effects of Catholicism as introduced on an existing population are.

We are inevitably influenced by what we dwell on. Irrespective of those many who would protest otherwise, perhaps the greatest single influence on an individual’s personal identity is how he or she sees his or her Creator. It stands to reason that this is even true if people do not believe in a Creator. You have to come from somewhere, and if you trace it back and that ‘somewhere’ is actually nowhere…

Even the evolutionist can’t get away from it, I think.We all come from somewhere, even if its nowhere, and even atheists identify with their parents, who came from their parents, who somewhat earlier descended from their parents, the monkeys. Sobering.

The Catholic representation of God is one of formalism, exclusivity, distance, tyranny. That image is impressed, to a greater or lesser extent, on the minds of every Catholic child, and as the mind grows and develops it can’t help but be impacted by the identity of the being it bows to…

What does it say about this god that he wants penitents to repeat the same phrase over and over to obtain absolution? That he wants people to count beads and say ‘hail Mary’s’ so that he will forgive them for the wrong things they do? That he wants his services in Latin, even though no one understands it? Or that that was what he wanted for over a thousand years, but recently he’s yielded to popular pressure and he lets the priests say mass in English? If that’s the guy that is responsible for my existence, what does it say about me?

He is exclusive and distant. He won’t talk to just anyone. He only talks to the Pope and certain saints whose knuckle bones are under an alter, he discourages reading the actual Word of God yourself because it can’t be understood by commoners (that’s what priests are for), sins can’t be confessed to him directly – they have to go to a guy you can’t really see in a booth who might be playing Tetris instead of paying attention, he leaves people to burn in hell supposedly for absolutely ever without paying the slightest mind to their cries (presumably because he is busy being formalistic with the people he has allowed into heaven, who of course are all Catholics, according to church doctrine.)

He leaves people in purgatory for years and years until someone on the outside does enough bead counting to get them out. He delights in burning and strangling and otherwise mutilating people who disagreed with his representative, the Pope – at least if you can believe that ultimate bad press book ‘Foxes Book Of Martyrs’ and all the historical accounts of events like the Inquisition. He rarely requires any justice or punishment for priestly abuses of his children. And what does that say about him? The Catholic god does not care much if his children are repeatedly beaten and sodomized by his representatives… he lets the Pope just move them to a different location to do it all over again. What does that do to me, if that’s the guy who I’m supposed to worship?

Beholding such a being, worshiping such a being (and how could a person worship out of love?) is identity shaping. And that is what is evident about Central America. Countries are only its people, together.

It’s not the poverty. Yeah. There’s poverty. Lots of it. But the people are held in the grip of misery.  It is a religion of fear, devoid of love. Where there is no love, there is no hope.

Is it a coincidence that majority Catholic nations are given to governmental indifference, corruption and injustice? Is it a coincidence that many people are apathetic and indifferent to their fates, believing that they are unable to change anything because no one will listen to them, not government, not the priests, not God?

Is it coincidental that most throw their garbage on the street instead of in the garbage bin, or that an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit is strangely lacking? That imagination is stagnant?

Do you think its a coincidence that the most successful, innovative, liberty-loving nations on earth have their roots in Protestantism? Or that as that Protestantism becomes corrupted and either Atheism or Catholicism gain ascendancy those nations are increasingly stagnant in social cohesion, ethics, imagination, justice, independence?

Is it far fetched to think that what I believe about my Creator, His expectations, His hopes, His plans, His very character will fundamentally impact how I see myself? Others? Life itself?

No.

What I saw in Central America were people who were captives to formalism and superstition – it had crippled their minds and captured the potential of their humanity.

Now think of how you see God. Do you see Him as Christ presented Him? That is one reason that Jesus came to earth, to dispel the myths and shadows around the character of God. There are a lot of myths about God. Catholic culture is full of myths about him.

It is in the person of Christ we see the Father, for Christ is the express image of His person. Jesus said, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” In the Father there is no darkness at all.

So what is He like? He’s like Jesus.

Humanity naturally fears God. We know we are guilty and undeserving. But the Gospel shows us that Jesus paid the blood price for us, and that He promises to make us new. He tells us that His Father loves us, and wants to be with us in the same way that He is with Christ Himself. Jesus teaches us how to pray, and there is no human priest required for the Father to hear.

The truth is as far from the error as east is from west. As far as liberty is from slavery.

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To Hijacka tha Nation

16 Mar

When I hear him talk, muffled, and in the background, I can hear the steady stamp of hard black boots. Hundreds and thousands of staccato stomping soldiers of the ‘Christian’ Right, all in unison. The Super PAC and family ads help mask the sound of marching and yes, shouting, but they are still there. These are not your grand daddy’s Christians. They are children of a different god, and they are following their prophet, a modern day Fuhrer.

The latest stomp in Rick Santorum’s march is a declaration that Puerto Rico make English its principal language if it wants to gain admittance as a state in the United States.

No speaka tha English, no US statehood.

Puerto Rico has two official languages. Spanish and English. Santorum is not satisfied with that, however – English must be first.

Down the road, in Santorum’s America (which thank God does not exist yet, except in his own unsettled mind), do you have to speak English to be a US citizen?

Santorum has already said that the laws in America should coincide with the moral law of God. This statement must be interpreted in the light of his Catholicism. Not all of Christianity agrees with the Catholic requirements or Catholic moral ethics. I do not want an America where the President believes that the laws of the government should be reflective of the moral laws of God because I do not trust Santorum to interpret the moral laws of God. And neither should you.

Santorum belongs to an organization that believes that only Catholics will go to heaven. Does he also believe that Americans should all be Christians (his version of the religion) and speak English?

Maybe Santorum is just exploiting a concerning trend in Christianity, and maybe in America – we are less and less favourable to people who are different than we are, and immigrants, period.

Our forefathers were immigrants. Poles, Scots, Africans, Dutch, Welsh, Italians, Spanish, Jews, French, Russians. Many of them spoke broken English, and came from broken lands in search of hope and freedom.

But Christians, at least, have forgotten the broken English of their grandparents.

But we are not too old yet to remember Adolf Hilter, and how he dreamed of an Arian master race that spoke German to replace the people of the nations he subjugated in Europe. He wanted to destroy diversity.

Santorum is out to do the same thing, in a different way. He is doing it by pandering to an increasingly bigoted and intolerant Christianity that wants to force Americans to be like them.

Santorum is showing, as Hitler did in the thirties, that he has no respect for the rule of law or the Constitution. Just as he would give states the right to ban contraception, despite the clear ruling of the US Supreme Court in Griswold, he would rewrite the Constitution to require that a state have English as its principal language.

Neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights require English as the principal language of any state of the union. Diversity is one of the hallmarks of America. You can walk for blocks (or blogs depending on your accent) in most of the major cities and not hear a word of English. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s the sound of liberty.

Ask yourself truly – what makes an American? Is it the language they speak?

Do we not have plenty of English speakers who cannot think? Are the thoughts of a man’s heart (integrity, courage, liberty, loyalty) not more important than the fluency of his English?

English, like any language, can be learned, but freedom is the great teacher. It opens the hearts of the children of men. Let us not confuse which is most important, or which is the necessary precursor to advancement.

And finally, I wonder what happens in Rick Santorum’s America if one day there are more than 50% of people in California speaking Spanish. Does California lose its standing in the Union? Does it get bumped down to a protectorate?

Rush Limbaugh – One Big Fat Reason Not to Vote for Rick Santorum

6 Mar

It is Super Tuesday, and I know there are thousands of Republican Americans who are still trying to figure out how to vote in the GOP election. So forget delegates and polling numbers. Forget ad campaigns and Super PACS.

Let’s talk principles.

Let’s talk about how an average American knows who to vote for in the GOP nomination process today.

I’ll go a step further – let’s talk Christian principles. Let’s say you’re a Christian and you want to vote for someone who you think acts and talks like a Christian. I know that RIck Santorum keeps telling America that Christian principles involve three issues – abortion, contraception and gay marriage. Those are his ecumenical buzz words. But is that Christianity? Is that your Christianity? Are you a Christian if you don’t have an abortion, don’t wear a condom and aren’t gay?

Jesus, who let’s not forget, is the Founder of Christianity, said that the Pharisees neglected the weightier matters of the law, and included among the neglected items “judgment (or justice), mercy and faith” Matthew 23:23. Luke’s account in Luke 11 includes “the love of God.”

There are people who say they love God, and don’t. There are people who say they are Christians who aren’t. Those who don’t and aren’t often neglect the weightier matters of the law in favor of a form of godliness. They are pretenders.

What happens when we apply that to the GOP candidates and who we should vote for?

Well, we get clues, Republican America. Clues, at least, on who not to vote for.

For example, one of the candidates (RICK SANTORUM) last week was so desperate for votes he robo-called the Democrats in Michigan to help skew the Republican election results. Does that sound like “justice” to you?

Don’t you think that respect for the electoral process, democracy, the rights of the people… should be basic American stuff? Basic CHRISTIAN stuff NOT to cheat in your election?

Or is it OK to cheat as long as you don’t use condoms?

Let’s face it, America, if someone is willing to ask Democrats (who hate Santorum’s self-perceived moral superiority) to win a Republican nomination election, he is at least a weasel. That seems pretty obvious.

Can I get an ‘amen’?

Here’s another one: if you are actually a follower of Jesus Christ and you know Rush Limbaugh is voting for someone, you probably know he’s got the wrong candidate.

When Jesus met Mary Magdalene (see John chapter 8), He didn’t call her a slut, or a prostitute. And she actually was a prostitute. She had even been caught in the very act of adultery. That’s why the Pharisees brought her to Him.

Last week Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute”, and said that if her contraception is paid for by her medical provider that America should get to watch her have sex. And Sandra Fluke was just lobbying. She was ‘caught’ doing something perfectly legal and legitimate and constructive – engaging in debate in a nation which values freedom of thought and belief.

I’m not saying I agree with Sandra Fluke. Scratch that. I am saying I agree with her, when the contraception is for a prescribed medical ailment. I was unaware, probably just like all of you, that Fluke testified about a friend of hers who was unable to get ‘the pill’ because it was contraception, when her doctor had prescribed it to her to help control ovarian cysts.

This is a real ailment and a real prescribed treatment. And she couldn’t get it paid for by her medical insurance because it was also a contraceptive. Georgetown, is of course, a Catholic institution.

Fluke also testified that a fellow student “knew that birth control wasn’t covered and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual health care, so when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor even to be examined for sexually transmitted infections, because she thought that insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that.”

Typical.

I am awfully concerned with the way Rick Santorum has handled Limbaugh’s comments. Rush Limbaugh is a huge Santorum supporter. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/26/limbaugh-front-and-center-in-pro-santorum-mailer/ He’s been rallying fellow ‘Christians’ for months now, urging them ever onward to the Barack Obama foe, and waving the latex-smeared banner of Rick Santorum all the way.

Lots of big name Conservatives strongly condemned what Limbaugh said. John McCain. John Boehner. David Frum.They used words like ‘obviously inappropriate’, ‘appalling’, ‘wrong’.

Santorum was not among them. He brushed Limbaugh’s comments aside by saying they were ‘absurd’ and that Limbaugh is just ‘an entertainer’.

Where is the mercy, justice, the love of a Christian in that? Limbaugh spoke on Santorum’s behalf when he went after Fluke. And Santorum did not really object to what he said. He did not condemn it. There was no mercy for Sandra Fluke.

There was no Christianity.

The Great Oppression

28 Nov

The Great Oppression

By Elias Wittenberg

Ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is well-known for his polemic positions and the occasional highly publicized debacle. Of late, and since the GOP CNN Republican National Security Debate on November 21, 2011, Gingrich has been the center of a controversy regarding his proposed immigration policies, and forced to parry thrusts from fellow GOP hopefuls that he intends to enact an amnesty for illegal aliens if elected. The debate over immigration, specifically of the illegal variety, is a sore spot these days.  But immigration policies were not the most concerning revelations from Gingrich last week. The GOP has wandered so far from its roots in classical conservatism that it is no longer capable of spotting an issue that should automatically disqualify Gingrich (and half the GOP field for that matter) from the field.

Gingrich wants to increase big government’s watchful eye in the affairs of Americans by not only extending the current Patriot Act, but expanding it. On November 21, 2011 he stood brashly against the civil liberties of Americans in his bid for the White House. And he was applauded for it. By real Americans.

One might be tempted to forgive those real Americans who clapped and cheered and whistled. Gingrich wields the fear hammer well. We are all familiar with the fear hammer. It has been used by people in past governments (think Dick Cheney) and by those who aspire to influence the governed (like Anne Coulter). It is wielded in favour of the erosion of American liberties in exchange for promised peace and safety as backed by the full faith and credit of the American government.

Speaking on strengthening the Patriot Act, Gingrich sought to draw a distinction between the rights he believes an American citizen should have in a criminal investigation and a national security investigation. In an eerie echo of the McCarthyism of the 40’s and 50’s, Gingrich stated “… if you’re trying to find someone who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence. The Patriot Act has clearly been a key part of that, and I think looking at it carefully and extending it, and building an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives, this is not going to end in the short term”. Simplified translation: life is scary. Too scary to protect personal liberty. Gingrich is more than pleased to whisper to the GOP electorate about boogeymen and how a land of wiretaps, filtered emails, waterboarding and secret trials can make them seem like a bad dream. Fear mongering over the past 12 years has indeed convinced many Americans that the government should check their emails and listen to their phone calls and even arrest them periodically without due process (or at least the guy down the street), as long as they are home by Monday to watch football.

It is clever, but misleading, for Gingrich to imply that Patriot Act powers only apply to gaining intelligence once authorities are aware that a terrorist threat, such as bringing a nuclear bomb into a city, exists. Gingrich knows that the Patriot Act grants enormous power to monitor the nation’s communication prior to any evidence of a national security threat. It grants power to search (and listen) without a warrant, arrest without evidence and to hold suspects indefinitely without due process. But it sounds better the way Gingrich says it. It sounds… scarier. And more reasonable.

Gingrich is tied with Mitt Romney (who is also pro-Patriot Act and during the debate last week called for greater American military presence overseas without mention of how it should be paid for) for the GOP Presidential nomination, according to most polls. What he says seems to resonate with a significant portion of conservatives, and apparently a Christian America that is reluctant to elect a Mormon.  Never mind that it is the American government that has created a very real national boogey man many think capable of ushering in financial Armageddon. Some, like Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, have called that particular boogey man the number one national security issue in America. Why does the GOP think that a government that cannot get its fiscal house in order should be trusted to decide when to protect a citizen’s inalienable rights or not in the interests of national security?

Gingrich wants less, not more, accountability in an area that should be (and must be) infinitely more sacred than mere money for Americans. Freedom and liberty are of paramount importance to life itself, if you believe the Declaration of Independence. A person can live with an empty wallet. The nation can survive a Great Depression. But America cannot and will not survive the Great Oppression. It cannot, and still be America.

The United States, and particularly those Christian elements within it, were not always in a place where the people were willing to trade freedom for the unbridled oversight of the government. Indeed, the great catalyst that sparked the migration of millions from the old world to America was religious and governmental oppression. The hope of a new land free of kings and popes birthed a land that became a bastion of freedom, courage and new beginnings for humanity. The Founding Fathers of America hated and abhorred anything that smacked of oppression and tyranny. But those were the Founding Fathers.

Newt has forgotten all of this, if he ever really understood it in the first place. And so has most of the of the GOP electorate judging from the debate last week, with the notable exception of Ron Paul. The sound of applause for Newt Gingrich on Tuesday night was the sound of a fearful people, indeed, it may be said, a cowardly people. A people dispossessed of the courage of the Founding Fathers, who could no longer stand with Patrick Henry, credited with those immortal words of inspiration in 1775: “”Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

Is life so dear that I would consent to my fellow citizens (not to mention myself) held for years without a trial if I could have a two car garage and take a two week vacation every year? Is the peace to watch my t.v. without interruption so sweet that I would consent to have someone read my mail and bug my room without a warrant?

Liberty is the foundation of America that ignited a revolutionary inferno and knit the bones of the greatest nation in the world. Liberty first. Gingrich wants to put liberty somewhere else – where is not quite clear. But, in America, liberty is not second, or third or last. Liberty, as in the land of the free, home of the brave, is first. “Land of the Free and the home of the brave” used to be a pretty popular tag for America. Since when did the slogan “Land of the watched, home of the safe” put a Republican American at the top of the polls?

“Forbid it, Almighty God”, Henry implored. Forbid it, Almighty God, that I should be a slave, in chains, and “safe”, rather than a free man. Yes, the world is an uncertain and dangerous place. It is true that there are boogey men (although I doubt there are as many lurking in the real world as there are in Newt Gingrich’s). But the world is more uncertain and more dangerous by far led by a bastardized America motivated by fear and self-protection instead of liberty and justice.

Profoundly, the questions that loom largest for the GOP and especially conservative Christians who have obviously and perhaps hopelessly lost their way are these: whatever happened to “In God We Trust”? When did “In God We Trust” become “In government we trust” or, (farcically) “in Gingrich we trust?” Do conservatives understand what the implications are for a nation that claims to operate under the approbation of God yet despises the rights of His children? Is America ready to further sacrifice its liberties to a government too incompetent to balance its check book in exchange for “safety”?

God forbid! For woe, woe! to an America that puts its faith in government to “protect” it at the cost of the liberties and inalienable rights endowed by her Creator.