Sunday, March 24, 2013

Famous Quotes

“Socialism, this is the direction, this is the path to save the planet, I don’t have the least doubt. Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the world.” -Hugo Chavez in a speech at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009

"Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.” -Kurt Vonnegut from "A Man Without a Country"

I'd intended to just post the two quotes, but the quote by Kurt Vonnegut reminds me of something I've wanted to write about and will say a few words about now. As for the Chavez quote, some critics of Capitalism think its internal logic leaves it incapable of doing anything about climate change. If restricting emissions hurts the stock price, if just won't, cannot, happen. On the other hand, Capitalism has shown itself to be flexible and able to adopt to circumstances. It adopted to the rise of Socialism, for example, by coming up with the New Deal in the US and similar policies in Europe by which government co-opted many Socialist programs, like Social Security and Workman's Comp, that had massive appeal to working people and had resulted in Socialist parties gaining great strength in Europe and, although its' pretty much erased from history, in the US, programs that, now that Socialism isn't a threat, Capitalism is doing away with.

So far, the first take on Capitalism is winning. Capitalism is not adapting to climate change and we're on the road to hell.

Republican Christianity

The quote by Kurt Vonnegut reminded me of something I noticed about Conservative Christianity during one of my periodic returns to Christianity, which have happened during times of trouble or when I was in the mood to seek out a particular type of woman. There's some hot babes in church, men, and the fact that they attend church doesn't matter to them, if it doesn't matter to you.

Seriously though, during my last return to religion, about ten years ago, I was on the road and was listening to a lot of religious radio. About religious radio, I noticed that all but a few local programs come from one of two giant religious radio networks, and both are politically conservative.

I had decided, too, to read the Bible, once and for all, to try to get a sense of its overall take on things. How is it organized? Is there an internal coherence to it? What's the design if there is one?

I'd been raised in a Liberal Methodist Church and knew a lot of Bible stories, but had never read the good book cover to cover, so I when I ate at truck stop restaurants, which I do once or twice a day, I'd take it in with me. During this time I noticed that Conservative Christianity takes all its doctrine from the books written by Paul. None of it is from the books that contain the teaching of Jesus; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which are sometimes referred to as "the Gospels."

I even heard one of the big time radio preachers refer to the books written by Paul as "the doctrinal books." I've not heard a "Biblical" justification for why Conservative Christianity takes all its doctrine (codification of beliefs, body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions) from Paul and none from Jesus, or seen an official written policy or anything, but it can easily be demonstrated. ("Biblical," by the way, is how Conservative Christians refer to their own peculiar interpretation of the Bible. If they agree with it, it's Biblical, if they don't, it's not.)

Just look at a list of the sermons by a Conservative Christianity preacher and note the Bible verses they are taken from. It's all from Paul. Never, for example, will you hear a Conservative Christian preacher tell you to give all your money to the poor, which is what Jesus said to do. Jesus said that if someone asks you for your shirt, give him your coat also. In another place he said the same thing in a different way; if someone asks you for something, give it to them. He didn't say to have them fill out a form and have a seat, or get a job first, or that they should be drug tested, nor did he say, as the Clinton welfare reform says, give it to them for five years and then don't give it to them any more. He said to give it to them, period.

Conservative Christianity has none of this. It has only what a Republican political philosophy would permit it to have. They keep Jesus around, of course, because they think he's going to save their sorry asses from eternal damnation, but they have no use for his teachings of humility, love and generosity. 

I've not written about this before because I wanted to prove the case with actual examples, which will take some research. Lacking that, you might not be able to take my word for this, and you might not be familiar enough with the contrast between the teachings of Paul and Jesus for it to have any impact, but I think this case should be made publicly and Conservative Christians should be called out for the hypocrites it makes them out to be.

Paul was a conservative bastard. Before taking over the early church he'd been one of the Jewish religious police, a Pharisee, turning people in for not doing what he thought they should be doing. It was Paul who said "If you don't work you don't eat." In other words, 'Die, I don't care.' Jesus never said anything remotely like that.

Paul also said that women should shut up and sit down in church, and said to women, keep your head covered because it arouses men's passions. In other words, if we can't control our passions it's your fault.

There are actually two Christianities, Conservative and Liberal. Liberal Christianity, however, is not the opposite, because it leaves itself with the dilemma of what to do about the teachings of Paul, if it buys into the notion that the Bible is the word of God. Some Liberal minded clergy don't think it is -- they refer to in their writings sometimes as "the normative text," which I guess means it's some sort of guideline -- but they won't come out and contradict the widespread Conservative notion that the Bible was somehow dictated to its various writers by God.

This opens up another issue -- how the notions of the Bible's origin, and its presumed inerrance, came to be, and also how to Bible came to be, that I also want to write about. It's enough for a book, really.

As for the topic at hand, as I say, although Conservative Christianity entirely ignores the teachings of Jesus -- which might surprise many people -- I have not seen a justification for it, although I do have a theory that explains it.

I think that as we develop as children, our political views form first and our religious views form later. I'm talking not just about Democrat or Republican, I'm talking about "small p" political, taken from polity, Greek for any governing unit. I mean our world view.  How we see ourselves in relation to the society around us. I might also say our social viewpoint, which encompass our political views. How we relate to the world around us. Our world view encompasses how we see our place in the world, and we how we the place of others, and how we should all act, and our politics is determined by all of these beliefs. Should we, for example, through government, help each other out, or are we all on our own?

As children we observe our parents and hear them say things. We see how they interact with other people. Our parents are a great influence because that's all we see at first. Later we hear our peers say and do things. We learn what other people think and see how problems are solved on the playground and in the classroom. We see how what we try to do works out.

We begin to have our own sense of how we relate to the world around us. If we hear a lot of "Those people should do this..." and "Those people should do that.." we get that sense of us and them.  We get the sense that there are "people," us, and there are others.

If we hear "Those people should get a job" and "Those people should work like I do" we get one kind of sense of us and them.

We get another if we hear "It's almost impossible to work when industry has abandoned your part of town and you have to get yourself and your kids up at 5 a.m., take a bus for a half hour to drop the younger kids off at day care, which takes 40 percent of your salary, then take another bus for an hour to get to work, then do the same thing on the way home and get home at 7:30 and still haven't gone to the grocery store or washed clothes or made dinner or helped the older kids with their homework."

That's how our political views are formed, and that starts early in our life. As for our religious views, if we're taken to church we get Bible stories, but we don't get much help in incorporating them into our world view. That requires more sophisticated thinking skills, and an understanding of human nature.

Before we really obtain those though, we gain the ability to see the hypocricy in religion. If we don't have the kind of world view that enables us to understand why there is hypocrisy in life, an expansive world view, that has incorporated into it an ability to love other people in spite of their shortcomings, we will either turn away from religion, or we have to narrow our religious thinking, the way Conservative Christianity does by simply eliminating the teachings of Jesus.

Or we may make to leap to being an atheist, which is an entirely rational thing to do but requires having the strength to believe that we can only have faith in ourselves, and other people.

But if we want to maintain some sense of religiosity, whether we think of ourself as deeply religious or agnostic or a skeptic, seeing religion perhaps as humankind's attempts to express a set of deep-seated urges, life will continually throw things up that we must incorporate into our world view. If we want to have religion, we have to have a religion that can incorporate everything that comes up, and still be incorporated into our world view.

Conservatives have to leave out the teachings of Jesus because they've already decided that we are on our own, that we have no responsibility for others, particulary as they get further and further from our core group, our family, and as we extend that outward to include into our church, our town, our state, our nation, our religion.

I think of it as Republican Christianity, because it's a religion that has to be able to be incorporated into a Republican kind of world view. Because all of us, Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, or whatever, form our world view first, and if we are Baptists, Methodists, Sunnis, Shias, or anything else, we are only that second.


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