Uncommon Sense

March 20, 2021

At War With Their Own Scripture

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
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For people who claim to believe that there are no contradictions in Christian scripture, Evangelicals sure work those contradictions like rented mules.

“What can be known about God is plain,” since God’s eternal power and divine nature have been “clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” (according to Romans 1:19–20)

Yet, Evangelicals are at war with the scientific study of nature, which they refer to as God’s Creation, as being flawed, even though according to scripture it is “what can be known about God.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:29–34: “the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none . . . I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” Thus, “he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better” (7:38).

So much for conservative “family values.” (Defintion: A marriage is between a man and the Lord . . .)

And how would you characterize someone who “is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord”? Sounds like a toady or possibly a slave to me. So, our true purpose in life is to become a toady or even a slave, forever and ever, Amen?

December 27, 2018

Fear Mongering for Fun and Profit

The Atlantic magazine published an article this last April with the intriguing title “The Last Temptation,” subtitled “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.”

I didn’t finish the article but it started in the same vein as so many others, with Donald Trump and his high percent of the evangelical vote. The article did suggest, though, that there had been some kind of sea change in evangelical attitudes over the past half century. One paragraph summed up their opinion:

“The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter. Things changed when some “elites” decided to convert Christian conservatives into a political force. Believe it or not, early on most American Christians thought that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling was a good thing, that such decisions should be left to families in consultation with clergy and health professionals, that government shouldn’t be involved. Abortion did not become a “wedge issue” until it was forged into one.

Similarly, as in all other political “mood shifts,” the usual motives involved were: money, power, and fear. In the case of mobilization of evangelicals as a political force, fear was the chosen tool. Evangelicals were and are taught that the world is becoming an ever more sinful place, when that conclusion is far from the truth. They are taught that there is a “war on Christianity,” that morals are sinking fast and that something must be done! Older citizens living in suburbs came to fear Black criminals over the much greater threats to their safety.

All of this was perpetrated, of course, by religious and secular elites, to serve their interests, not the interest of ordinary citizens, Christians or not. George W. Bush is famous (infamous?) for brushing off the Religious Right’s demands for “more” from him by saying “those people are never satisfied.” All they had gotten was a paltry office and a president-appointed officer.

The only resolution of this awful set of circumstances is for all of us to admit that we have been “played” by our political leaders. They all need to be replaced, based upon their records. While it may not be possible to expect complete honesty (within some limits) from our leaders, wouldn’t it be refreshing if we got some? Certainly fear mongering and lying continuously need to be shamed out of existence.

April 22, 2018

Capitalism: A Conservative Christian Religion

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:14 am
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Since it is Sunday, I observe …

Evangelical Christians in the U.S. have decried “Godless Communism” and “Godless Socialism” for many, many decades. Some of the most prominent public evangelicals have been more than a little strident on this issue. (Think of Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and especially Billy Graham, etc.)

And while these economic systems, actually political-economic systems, have been excoriated, capitalism has been mentioned only to praise it as something very close to God’s Will. This seems passing strange, no?

I start with definitions of capitalism and free markets.

Definition of Capitalism (Merriam Webster OnLine)
an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

Definition of Free Market (Merriam Webster OnLine)
an economy operating by free competition

Any references to God or Jesus there? No? I do not see any.

Well, what does the Bible have to say about capitalism, which is basically a wealth distribution mechanism, providing a few with a way to get rich and many a way to get poor, a system reeking of winners and losers.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (James 5: 1-6)

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)

I could go on … for page after page, mind you, but I think you get the point.

So, why would these devout evangelical Christians (and many others of similar ilk) stand so stalwartly behind a system, capitalism, that if not severely confined results in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, the ultimate “redistribution” that conservatives rail against? (Actually, they are fine with redistribution in this direction, they just don’t like it when it goes the other way.) My argument is that for a religion to prosper it must serve the interests of the religious and secular elites. Almost by definition the secular elites are defined by their wealth, so unless a religion serves the wealthy, its status declines.

If you look at Evangelical history in the U.S., they have had very little impact (save the occasional savant) until they hitched their wagon to the Republican Party. It was Billy Graham who presidents consulted, not a panel of religious leaders or an interfaith council. Upon Graham’s death, photo after photo showing Graham posing with presidents were to be seen in the epitaphs.

So, Christianity in this country, Protestant Christianity mostly, has favored democracy and capitalism, not because these are favored in scripture (they clearly are not) but because these are favored in the halls of power.

What Would A Christian Economic System Really Look Like?
I wish I could really answer this question. I can but start on an answer. Our economic culture is currently “pay-as-you-go,” if you want something, you must pay for it. Our motto is TANSTAAFL, which if you are not read up on Robert Heinlein, means “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

So, in our culture there is a line we could label “Ability to Pay” that goes from zero to as near to infinity as any of us can conceive of. At the “zero end” there are people who have no job, no housing, no money, no food and live via begging and theft. At the other end we have people who make more than a billion U.S. dollars a year, which as I have indicated before means that if they to work ordinary work hours and take ordinary holidays, they would be “making” $532,000 per hour … for the whole year. That would be to make “just” $1 billion; some make more. To put that in perspective, in my 40 years of work as a teacher, I made $2 million, which these people would make in one afternoon (knocking off early if they wished).

Capitalism does provide incentives for people to work, so there are some of its bones that could be incorporated into the new system, but an economic system that is in accordance with Christianity would have to have both ends of this line truncated.

At the bottom end, everyone would have shelter and food to eat and a reasonable amount of medical care (not to include casting out demons, that would only be included in the Platinum Plans). If people with shelter and enough to eat, couldn’t improve their lot in a fair system (not rigged as our current system is with Right to Work laws and tax breaks for wealthy people, etc.) then that would be their lot in life.

The top end would also need to be truncated, if only to protect rich people from an eternity in Hell (I’m kidding … I think). As incomes reach very high levels, tax brackets need to approach 100%. Now I know this sounds heretical, but I am talking about an economic system that is compatible with Christianity here. Anybody accumulating obscene amounts of money is either doing it legitimately or illegitimately. If they are doing it illegitimately, taxing their socks off is a way to get them to turn away from their illicit behaviors. If they are doing it legitimately, the accumulation of vast wealth is an indicator that they are not taking care of those around them. For example, Walmart could double to wages of its employees and the owners would still make billions in profits every year. Or they could donate those “extra” profits to charities, to avoid very high tax loads, etc.

The additional taxes collected would go to providing the “economic floor” so needed by the poorest among us.

Conservatives should like this system. It would be more “Christian” and with the poor guaranteed a roof over their heads and a full belly and a “fair shake” at improving their lot, if they do not do so, then conservatives would be free to refer to them as being shiftless and lazy.

The additional tax monies acquired through such a system would also allow us to take care of those unable to work: the severely physically handicapped, the mentally ill, wounded warriors, etc. And the rich would still be rich, if they wanted to test the proposition that “Hell is real.”


December 8, 2017

Evangelicals Embrace Antichrist

Evangelical support for President Trump is unwavering, which is mildly shocking because all Mr. Trump has done in his tenure in office is to establish his credentials as the Antichrist.

The recent “tax reform” plan clearly favors the rich (estate tax reduction, private airplane support, reduced business taxes, etc.) and will result in increased taxes on the poor and middle class in short order, and in this it seems that the GOP is running counter to what Jesus taught.

According to scripture, Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven” which seems important enough of an utterance in that it appears in Mark, Luke, and Matthew. It’s meaning is clear enough. Since wealth in the first century was seen as proof of God’s approval, it was commonly taught by the rabbis that rich people were blessed by God and were, therefore, the most likely candidates for heaven. (The religious elites always support the secular elites.) Jesus destroyed that notion, and along with it, the idea that just anyone can earn eternal life. His disciples had the appropriate response to this startling statement. They were utterly amazed and asked, “Who then can be saved?” in the next verse. If the wealthy among them, which included the super-spiritual Pharisees and scribes, were unworthy of heaven, what hope was there for a poor man? What hope, indeed?

Even the Ten Commandments are no barrier to the naked greed of this administration. One of those states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” The GOP’s policies are transferring wealth from a great many poor and middle class “neighbors” into the coffers of a few rich people. This is covetousness on a massive scale. At the same time, more money is being spent on our war making capacity while programs to assist the poor are whittled away.

Jesus also said: “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” But the GOP under Trump only heard the first four words and so have refused to refund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that up to now had bipartisan support and was considered a very successful program to combat childhood illness.

The political behaviors of Mr. Trump’s crew and the stated beliefs of the evangelicals couldn’t be more at odds with one another.

I can only believe that this is a perverse manifestation of those evangelicals who want to hurry on to the End Times, those who just cannot wait for the Rapture. Since I think that desire is highly imaginative, I do not expect that reality, but the GOP is taking a wrecking ball to the Great American Experiment in Self-government, turning over the reins of government to those with great wealth, in order that they accrue even greater wealth. Apparently the path to Heaven is lined with gold. The End Times are for the U.S. as a paragon of democracy and any hope of being a Great Nation again.




September 5, 2017

Donald Trump Lies for Reasons, People

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:59 am
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People spend an inordinate amount of time pointing out that Donald Trump is a liar. (No, duh.) But that misses the point. Yes, Donald Trump is a liar. He has a proven track record of being a liar and lied throughout his campaign, so why on Earth did we think that becoming president would miraculously change Mr. Trump into someone who honors the truth above all else. Our incredulousness should be directed at ourselves, not Mr. Trump.

“The real question is who is he lying for and what is the real message?”

The real question is who is he lying for and what is the real message? Evangelical Christians lie all of the time and it is not a mark against their character in their community because they are lying for a reason. (They are persecuted, don’t you know! So, lying for Jesus is no sin.) Anyone who lies on their behalf is not seen as someone with a character defect but as a warrior on their side. The same can be said for Trump’s business lies “A reduction in corporate taxes will increase worker’s wages!” Now, there is a big lie and all business-savvy people know that. The last time there was such a tax reduction, during G.W.’s reign, the money was used to buy back stock (thus bolstering CEO pay), it was used to pay stock dividends, and it piled up as cash reserves. No part of  what they gained from the tax decrease was used to increase wages or even to expand productive capacity. This proposal is just another form of the “trickle down economics” lie that has been tried repeatedly but never once shown to work. (It keeps getting told because corporate interests have bought up the media, enough of the economists, etc.)

“Think about who benefits from such lies (beside Mr. Trump, that is a given).
This is the equivalent of the political dictum to ‘follow the money.’”

When Mr. Trump lies for his business cronies (they know this is a lie) he doesn’t lose character points, he gets “high fives” from corporate CEOs for lying for them.

So, wake up people! Stopped being shocked that Mr. Trump still lies, instead be shocked that you are shocked. Then think about who benefits from such lies (beside Mr. Trump, that is a given). This is the equivalent of the political dictum to “follow the money.”

November 5, 2013

If This Happened to You. . . ?

Out of the blue you are struck by a spiritual lightning bolt and you realize that a god has been walking this planet in the flesh and you have just been delivered his message. Apparently there are dozens of people who worked with this god and spoke with this god and learned from this god and they are in the same city you are in now. So, the question is, would you look any of them up to compare notes, to share in the glory of being touched by a god directly? Would you?

Apparently, Saint Paul did not.

The Jesus of the bible died in about 30 CE. Paul’s earliest writings date to about 49 CE and continued through the early 60’s CE. Nowhere in his writings does he quote any of his god’s associates or even any of his family members, even though he had contact with at least two of the most prominent: James the Just, apparently Jesus’ brother, and Peter, the chief apostle of the god while he was on Earth.

Paul admits in his writings to be in conflict with these “Pillars” of his “church.” Could it be that this conflict was so great that they really had nothing in common in their teachings?

Interestingly Christianity would not exist without Paul as he gave himself the mission to teach to gentiles (non-Jews). The Jerusalem sect, including Jesus’ siblings, the disciples, and lead by James the Just apparently did not want to teach gentiles anything (as was indicated in the gospels as a sentiment Jesus shared). And, unfortunately, that sect was effectively obliterated by the Romans in 70 CE.

Without Paul there is no Christianity outside of Jewish circles. Paul was at odds with the people who met Jesus, talked to Jesus, were taught by Jesus, who witnessed all of the events, etc. Yet Paul’s writings (begun two decades after the events, events he did not witness) survive and anything written by the others contains essentially nothing miraculous or godlike.

Paul never met the man.

And upon that rock you build a church?

You may ask why I write about such things in a “class warfare” blog. If I may paraphrase Ronald Reagan, in this country religion is not the solution to our problems, religion is our problem. If you are unsure of this, go talk to any evangelical you can find about what you have read above, then ask yourself whether anyone who believes such stuff, will insist upon the truth when we try to work out our political problems and, if they were shown the truth, would they believe it?

September 24, 2013

A Bad Bet

You know the feeling. If you succumb to buying a lottery ticket, for example, you know how making a bad bet feels. No chance of winning that bet. One feels a little stupid, then feels the push back from one’s ego defending itself (Go, confirmation bias, go!).

One of your worst bad bets is causing all kinds of damage and you didn’t make it, fundamentalist Christians did. They had to defend their faith or felt they had to, and since there is only one source for their faith, the bible, they declared it to be absolutely true, every word, every jot, every tittle. This was notwithstanding the facts: that there are thousands of contradictions in bible(s)—I have to say bible(s) because there is not just one. There are thousands of different bibles.

One of the reasons there are thousands, is that authors of bibles have to select the manuscripts from which they will write their version. But the original manuscripts are not available. What is available are fragments of copies of copies of documents. The known fragments have over 100,000 differences between them. So, select away, according to criteria that you create and you, too, can draft a new bible. One comes along every year or so. Search for “bible” on Amazon.com and then step back quickly, don’t know how big that list will get! (Actually I do, I got over 340,000 hits.) Nevertheless, all of these various bibles are “true” according to these evangelicals.

Also, ignored is the fact that it has been known for a century or more and recently admitted by Israeli biblical archeologists, that the Book of Genesis (plus the next four books) is a work of fiction written in the late seventh century BCE.

Next, the law of unintended consequences comes into play. If one insists that everything in the bible(s) is true, one has to defend all of the nonsense in the bible as also being true, which gives us the “end-of-timers,” the creationists, and unintelligent Intelligent Design theorists, the believers in Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, etc. The effect of insisting on nonsense drives away anyone of intelligence and young people in general in this country are retreating from Christianity in droves.

So what the originators of the doctrine of scriptural infallibility feared (that people would drift away from Christianity unless there was some link to “the truth”) is coming about because of their idea instead of being prevented by it. They substituted faith in a book for faith in a god and they are suffering the consequences now.

For those of us who have neither faith, this is a good thing as it gives multiple routes for people to discover that truth.

July 20, 2013

The Passionate Desire for Absolutes

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:35 am
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The title of this post is completely wasted here and should head a novel, but . . . what prompted this post is a university I ran across while reading another blog: the College of Biblical Representational Research of Trinity Southwest University. That’s a really intriguing name for a bible college, so I went to their website where I read this:

“We can confidently describe the Bible as a reliable history, the source of doctrine, and as instructions about how to be saved and lead the Christian life. But this Bible is under attack from within Christianity. Representational Research meets those challenges and demonstrates how the Bible is first of all a representation of the mind of God, and also a completely accurate representation of all of reality. Biblical people—from Adam to John the Revelator—found the same question that students of Representational Research face: How can I challenge and refine my own personal representations of reality, using the Bible only as my guide?” The italics are mine.

This is interesting because of the large number of contradictions to be found in their Bible (almost 500 by one count). Realize that contradictions in this context means that the Bible says one thing and then turns around and says something else which refutes what it says in the first place. This is hard to reconcile with being “a completely accurate representation of all of reality.” Similarly the science in the Bible is of the late Bronze age and contains inaccurate statements about physical reality.

In addition Israeli archeologists now say that much (if not all) of the “history” in the first five books of the Bible did not happen. This is risky for Israel in that their claim to the territory they currently occupy is bolstered by their feeling that it is the territory that God granted them (the story of which is in the first five books . . .).

So why the insistence on these absolutes, exemplified by the CBRR above, but typical of evangelicals all over this country (not so much anywhere else)?

I find this interesting because in the U.S. life is about as secure as it can be made (albeit we could do a better job on poverty, etc.); it is hard for these particular folks to feel threatened in this country. What country can challenge us militarily? Or economically? They don’t live in the dreaded “inner cities” where all of the crime is. So, why the need for absolute truth?

Their behavior is exactly the opposite of John Donne’s “no man is an island” sentiment. If these folks really felt a connection to the divine, why are they so fearful that they have to insist on absolutes. Is there any other example of a book with no errors? Of a person who spoke only the truth? If the good people at the CBRR were to invest in a bit more unbiased scholarship, they would know that the Bible was written largely out of political uncertainties felt by the authors. Each gospel represented factions in the Christian community fighting for their place among the other Christian communities. So, other texts were rewritten to express what they felt was right. This is why the New Testament is full of contradictions. They were placed there deliberately to make political points. (This warfare continues today in that over 40,00 sects of Christianity exist, each insisting that the others are wrong about something.)

Maybe the reason is the same reason they are a Bible University and not a Bible College (FYI a university has graduate programs, a college does not) in that their Ph.D. in BRR consists of only 45 credit hours (1.5 years) of work, whereas a typical Ph.D. program requires 4-6 years of work. Maybe if they spent more time reading without an agenda . . . nah! Reality may not be absolute, but it certainly is personal.

June 6, 2013

Jesus Was a Socialist!

I ran across a claim, a poll result actually, that young people (18-30) see socialism more favorably than capitalism. Of course, this would cause a major uproar with Republicans and their major supporters, especially Christian Evangelicals, which I find puzzling because Jesus was a socialist, you know.

Once again, Christians show a shocking lack of knowledge about their book and about history in general. Early Christianity (early first century) was split into two camps. One resided in Jerusalem and was lead, ostensibly, by Jesus’ brother James (“the Just”). Included in this sect were essentially all of the remaining disciples and the rest of Jesus’ brothers and sisters and his mother.

The other sect was that lead by Saul of Tarsus, the “Paul” of the New Testament, who never met Jesus nor did he ever speak a work to him.

As these things go, the Jerusalem sect was basically wiped out in the uprising of 77CE (James having been offed a bit sooner) which left the playing field to the machinations of “Paul.”

All we know of these supposed activities, as most know, comes from the Book of Acts because none of these events, if they were real or not, merited comment in any other source from that time.

According to Acts:

All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

(Acts 2:44-45)
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
(Acts 4:34-37)

Does this sound like a foundation for capitalism to you? Do you think Jesus’ family and the remaining disciples would betray the wishes of Jesus and behave in this socialist manner if it weren’t strongly urged by Jesus? Amazingly Evangelicals do.

What Jesus taught, basic socialism, is abhorred by these folks as the work of Satan himself. These same folks want the U.S. to be labeled a Christian Nation, which by any reading of the Book of Acts would turn us toward socialism, but forgive them, they know not what they do.

November 18, 2012

The “Christian Nation” Power Play

Filed under: History,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:44 am
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If you haven’t heard the claims by evangelicals that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian Nation,” you haven’t been paying attention.

This is a power play by the religious conservatives. Historically, evangelicals supported the Constitution being written without the word “God” in it. Several of the states tried to amend the Constitution to include the word “God,” even “Jesus Christ” and all of these were defeated, in most cases with evangelical support.

A lot of people who insist on their “Nth Amendment Rights” under the Constitution seem to not realize that the original framers of the Constitution (the Founding Fathers!) did not see fit to include those rights in the draft Constitution, nor were they in the Constitution as adopted and ratified. Religion’s protection from the government in the First Amendment (and vice-versa) was only added a few years after ratification.

Prior to the First Amendment being added to the Constitution, the only mention of religion was that there couldn’t be a religious test for elected federal offices, that’s it.

So why did evangelicals support the passage of the Constitution (and other separation of church and state legislation in the states)? It was because they were a small segment of the religious at the time. If the nation were to support a religion it would be one of the more powerful denominations and they would get frozen out, so they supported the “God-less” Constitution and the separation of church and state.

Realize that the Christians in late eighteenth century America were virtually all Protestants. Those Protestants brought their loathing of Catholicism with them from the Old World, but evangelicals were much fewer in number than establishment church members (Anglicans, Congregationalists, etc.). But now evangelicals are feeling their oats and/or they don’t know their own history and/or are suffering from limited intellectual horsepower (or most probably all three) and they have been proposing their Christain Nation claptrap, thinking they are now in line to benefit from that designation.

The argument then is the same as the argument now: if the state supports a particular religion and then there is a shift in popularity, that support can shift to another group and away from yours. While you are on the “outs” you could dwindle to obscurity. It has happened before.

But the evangelicals are feeling their oats, especially with their gains in outward religiosity during the Bush administration.

Apparently they don’t believe in their own doctrines. Their main doctrine is you don’t need an intermediary between you and God, the relationship is direct, hence priests (especially Catholic ones) aren’t needed. If those intermediaries aren’t needed, of what use is the government in that relationship?

There are over 23,000 sects of Christianity. If they can’t get along, how is government support going to change anything? Each of those sects believes the others are “wrong” to some degree. My list of those wrong is just one longer than theirs.

This is a flat out power play and should be seen as such. People who espouse that we are a “Christian Nation” are looking for power and I would guess that means over you and me.

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