How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal

2016-03-02_18-09-28.pngWhat happened, however, wasn’t an abandonment of my faith, but a shift in my understanding of Scripture. While I had always read the Bible and knew large portions of it by memory, I had relied on the expertise of my religious mentors (some of whom were simply laypeople teaching Sunday School or Christian education classes) to help guide me through its interpretation.

The more I read the text through unfiltered eyes and the more I learned about scholarly investigation, the less sense their point of view made. Their old Jesus looked nothing like my new Jesus.

I could no longer reconcile Jesus’s calls for non-judgment, loving your enemies, and taking up your cross with many of the Religious Right’s positions on social services, women’s rights and the LGBT community. Even though I felt alone in my theological shift, I was not…

Having my worldview fall apart like a house of cards was unnerving, but it only increased my desire for knowledge about the theology of my youth. I continued to study religion, and I received my PhD in Religious Studies two years ago. Now I no longer identify as an evangelical, but I study them for a living.  Only after my doctrinal evolution did I realize I no longer aligned with the political conservatism for which I once literally campaigned. Jesus was a champion of the poor, the weak, the meek, and downtrodden. He encouraged his followers to “sell their possessions” and give them to the poor. He hung out with hookers and crooks.

My transition to the left didn’t happen overnight, and sometimes I felt like a deserter. The man whom I worked to get elected no longer represented my politics or my piety. As I continue to observe the curious twists and turns of evangelicals, particularly during this election year, I remain fascinated by the ways they reconcile their theology with their policy

My journey from Young Republican to less young Democrat did not come from a crisis of faith, it came from finding inspiration in the life of Jesus. Once I removed the dogmatic lens that had informed my biblical interpretations, I found a figure that defended a prostitute and ate with the poor. The life of Jesus simply didn’t reflect the agenda of the political right, so now neither could I.

SOURCE:  Why I Left the Right: How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal.

Reading this article was almost like reading my biography. I experienced so many of the things that the author did.  While I didn’t go on to obtain a PhD in religious studies I did spend several years  reading through religious text with unfiltered eyes and came to pretty much the same conclusions.  The current evangelical community just doesn’t look anything like the face of Jesus.

I did a lot of cutting in the quote above so I would encourage you to read the entire text if this topic is of interest to you.  It’s nice to realize that I am not the only one to sit down and read religious documents with an unbiased perspective. It was an epiphany to discover the conservatism of my youth was never what I thought it was…

The Lack Of Integrity…..

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I try to follow my hero’s advice and like everyone but this is one of those times that proves difficult to do that.  Balancing the budget on the backs of the poor is a very spiteful way to even try to accomplish that task.

 

Broke Republicans???

Broke“You keep a Republican broke and out of office and pretty near anybody can get along with them.” – Will Rogers, 11 November 1923

I don’t know Will, maybe some things were different during your days. But I just don’t see too many broke Republicans around now days.  They all seem to have a fair amount of money and will do almost anything to keep it for themselves. But you are right that if you can get them off the topics of their money and below the belt issues  they are pretty likable folks.

Budget Minded Republicans……

Banner -Off The Top

budgetI know the current version of the Republican party is supposed to be all about fiscal austerity but I have trouble actually seeing them live out that concept. When it comes to the safety net and so-called “entitlement” issues they scream about needing to cut back or at least for total accountability. But when it comes to the bloated military expenses, homeland security and tax breaks for the rich they appear to throw that concept out the window. Of course that means that their austerity programs, if they are implemented as they suggest, will end up being done on the backs of the poor as almost everything else is “off the table”.

We spend more than the other 96% of the world combines on our supposed security. Our military budgets eat up so much of our prosperity as to force future looking programs off the stove.  Education, our R&D forces, and our colleges suffer as a result of our insistence that to be safe we must spend so much on our war machine. In fact we throw so much money into the military that they don’t even bother to try to determine if it is going to the best place. For that matter they really don’t even try to categorize where it is even spent.  But that doesn’t seem to phase the Republican senators and congressmen in Washington. They continue to demand more and more of our precious resource for this bloated machine.

For that reason I have little confidence that my budgeted minded friends are really serious about budgets but are really more concerned in reducing or even eliminating the very function of government or at least making sure that 47% don’t get things they supposedly haven’t earned.  If they were really serious about our current deficits they would be looking at  our war machine first not last.  When you throw trillions of dollars into a black hole you dictate that much of it will be spent unwisely or even fraudulently.  They demand total accountability for agencies supporting our safety net and nothing for our industrial/ military complex. How strange is that???

Schizophrenia and the Republican Party….

Schizophrenia—an impairment in social cognition which is associated with paranoia and  social isolation.

Paranoia, which is a major symptom of schizophrenia, is a mental condition in which the person often loses touch with reality.  Here is some of what Wikipedia says about this condition:

Paranoia is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me.”) Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentional.

I don’t know about you but if someone were to give me this description without a name I would say this clearly describes the people who are currently attempting to hi-jack the Republican party. Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I am not saying that everyone who wears the Republican mantel are paranoid schizophrenics.  In fact I am sure the vast majority who wear that label are not. But I am also sure that many of those who are attempting a hostile take-over that party are indeed paranoid about many things.

I just finished watch a town hall meeting that John McCain had recently in Arizona and some of the questions and speeches made there were down right disturbing! People were calling him all kinds of nasty names. They were wagging their fingers at him (that seems to be a signature of the tea party folks) and telling him he was dead wrong about immigration. Their solution it seems was to basically gun down anyone who is an “illegal alien” on the Arizona streets if they refused to self-deport.  Many of their words started with “Those people” and ended with some paranoid action.  I was surprised how Mr. McCain maintained his composure. When one person in the group stated that “all we have to do is take away their welfare checks and all those illegals will go back to where they came from!”, Mr. McCain correctly pointed out that the vast majority of undocumented are not on welfare. Then he made the statement, “you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts”. Nice comeback John.

I’m sure that many in the GOP are as frightened of these new players in their party as are the rest of us. But those now lamenting moderate Republicans must remember that they are the ones who created this Frankenstein. They unleashed him in order to try to win some seats in the 2011 house.  I wish they had thought it through before cuddling up to the Tea Party radicals.

So, what are the options for the majority who make up the GOP? There are really only two; 1) Abandon it, 2) Reform it. Obviously the easiest is just to abandon it and call yourself and independent. That is what so many of the 18 – 29 year olds did in the 2012 election. They left in droves. Reforming it will take a lot more effort. It is just very hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

I will finish of with saying that yes the Democrats also have a radical fringe in their party. The difference is that the Democratics generally keep their crazies locked away in a rubber room somewhere in the far back of the house where as the Republicans gave their radicals the key to the front door….

Republicans and Innate Goodness….

Source: https://rjscorner.net/2012/02/27/where-are-you-john-sherman-when-we-need-you/

PrintIt seems literally impossible for another Republican to take charge of these types of matters (controlling fraud and abuse). Most of those folks are just too beholding to big business to ever try to reign them in. So, currently that leaves the Democratic party to take up the mantel. I don’t see that as much of a possibility either. Where all this “too big to fail” will end I just don’t know.

I don’t find myself quoting myself very often but when I re-read this post from almost a year ago about how Republicans have been the party of big business in Will Rogers day and are even more so today it got me to thinking.  Republicans seem to believe in the innate goodness of our corporations. I don’t know how else you can explain their deregulation fever of the last three decades.

When Ronald Reagan came into office the first thing he did besides firing everyone who belonged to the Air Traffic Controllers Union was to finish up removing almost all regulations from the savings and loan industry. Here is what Wikipedia says about that:

The deregulation of S&Ls in 1980 gave them many of the capabilities of banks, without the same regulations as banks. Savings and loan associations could choose to be under either a state or a federal charter. Immediately after deregulation of the federally chartered thrifts, state-chartered thrifts rushed to become federally chartered, because of the advantages associated with a federal charter. In response, states such as California and Texas changed their regulations to be similar to federal regulations.

Of course we also know that within ten years the S&L industry almost disintegrated with fraud and abuse and it cost us taxpayers billions to bail them out. But that would not be the last time our friends in government showed their belief in the innate goodness of business. Soon after we recovered from the S&L fiasco they went about  you guessed it, de-regulating the entire banking sector. Again within a short period of time the banks “too big to fail” cost us about a trillion dollars to clean up their abuse of the mortgage business. After these two meltdowns the Democrats put back a few of the necessary regulation via Dodd/Frank bill  but the Republicans fought it tooth and nail. That I just don’t understand. Why do that seem to be totally ignore history, even recent history?

How can these guys in Washington continue to put their total faith in the innate goodness of an unbridled business sector. Profits are approaching all time highs while wages have remained stagnant for the last three decades! Given that fact, how else can you explain how they never seem to see a regulation that they don’t want to eliminate. It seems like they would eventually learn that capitalism depends on brisk and stringent regulations to contain the innate greed, not goodness,  that is built into the system.

Before my conservative friends attack me here I want to declare that I believe capitalism is the best system in the world but it only works when it is adequately regulated.  To my friends that think I am too critical at times I am really questioning the idea of almost total de-regulation mantra of Republicans. Do they really believe that regulations have no place in our business world? I would really like to know? Their two failed attempts at de-regulating our financial sector seem to say something. Or is that just me?