Monday, November 10, 2014

Either I am a troll, or we are going to hell in a handbasket

Someone asked me lately if I believe that America is going to hell in a hand-basket because of the election results from November 4, 2014. I realize that at times, my online persona is that of a troll. I feel bad about it. But I am passionate about my faith and the way it informs my politics.

So, I may be a troll all the time, or, I may have a passion.

But I do believe that perhaps we are going to hell in a hand-basket. Or at least, we are setting ourselves up, as a nation for the judgment of God. I believe that many things are said in the name of Christianity are not biblical and do not reflect the teachings of Jesus.

I see a progression since 2008, when the President was elected. And I see it mainly in four areas. There is much, much more for me to comment on. And this is long. But, it is as abridged as I care to make it.

The first tidbit of rhetoric that I perceive will bring the judgment of God on the USA.

1). Marginalizing the poor: Isaiah 58. When believers "point their fingers at the poor," God denies them the blessing of revival.

Let us use Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Pastor John Hagey as examples. The three are powerful spokesmen for the Conservative and Religious right respectively.

I don't believe that it is an exaggeration for me to say that they make it sound as if the reason why our country is in dire trouble is because of the entitlements for the poor. I see them as people who are marginalizing the poor.

And that is just unchristian. It reminds me of what one of our Theologically and Religiously Conservative Brethren ministers said: "I hate the way Rush Limbaugh says what I believe." I overheard him say this while I as a ditto-head. I was offended by his remarks. But then, I started listening to the way Rush Limbaugh made his statements and I realized that I agreed that his speech was causing a divide. Once I began questioning his methods, I also began questioning his conclusions and I realized that he was only exposing one side of the argument. And, he was doing it with satire and ridicule. There wasn't much substance to his logic. I understand enough of logic to realize that his arguments are Ad Hominem: The logical fallacy of attacking the character of your (debating) opponent instead of his or her conclusions. To me. Ad Hominem amounts to a admission of defeat since the argument is no longer based on the merits of the respective side. However, it is one of the primary devices used by those engaged in Political Science.

So, my questions to the right are these: Do you see the marginalization of the poor in right wing rhetoric? And do you see how I can consider it as grossly unchristian rhetoric and as a preacher, feel a strong motivation to confront Christians about this kind of speech? Do you understand that not all, even most of, the poor are not lazy?

(Remember, I see this as a progression) This segues into:

2). Economic policies, Small versus large government, a debate since the inception of the Constitution.

2.a The great recession of 2008:

Following the string of "logic" from the previous point, the political right seemed to yell about the debt -a metaphor for a smaller government- and imply that the real problem with our nation is the staggering amount of debt created by entitlements. At least, that is what was heard, a lot, on FOX news.

I believe that it is an intentional mis-direction of the problem. The great recession was not caused by entitlements. The great recession was caused by deregulation of the banking industry. And, correct me if I am wrong, this might be the hyperbole from the left speaking, but it seems to me that one of the values voters embraced in this last landslide election was "smaller government." I.E. More deregulation. That was the problem. It seems to me that since this whole thing started, the Right has tried to change the story to blaming the poor instead of Wall Street.

(And, a point against my logic, but one I need to concede because it really is the bigger problem: the real problem is Wall Street's control of both the Democrats and Republicans. Both sides are in bed with them and they -as the Bible says- are the real oppressors.)

2.b Policies designed to strengthen the lower and middle classes (as opposed to the wealthy classes):

Let me give my own version of an example of how Keynesian economics works:

For numbers sake only, suppose I make $5,000,000 per year. How much of that can I spend? Let us imagine it is $1,000,000, for the sake of the example. The other $4,000,000 goes into savings and accumulates wealth. It is used for investments to help others and etc, but it isn't turned over in the economy like this second example.

Imagine I make $50,000 per year. How much to I spend? Pretty close to $50,000. All of that money is poured directly back into the economy. The grocer I buy from makes $50,000 and he spends all of his money, the gas station owner makes $50,000 and he spends all of his money. That income has now been taxed 3 times.

Because it isn't spent, the other $4,000,000 the wealthy guy has is not being used to buy gas, groceries, widgets and thing-a-ma-bobs.

(To be fair, I must say that Investments are not evil. Savings do get used to create investments and without it, the grocer, the gas station owner, etc. can't invest in their business in the first place, so I concede it is necessary -but economic policies must be balanced to ensure the survival of the middle class, and as a just, or righteous nation, the policies must also work to address systemic poverty.)

But if the guy making $50,000 per now makes $40,000, his ability to stimulate the economy is lessened, the rich guy, who owns the company that makes the thing-a-ma-bobs and widgets all of a sudden starts selling less. He lays off other (now) $40,000 per year guys, who now aren't buying the widgets and stuff, and more people get laid off and the cycle spirals downward.

Now, real life examples about the actual negative cost of the rhetoric of smaller government in this last election cycle. For example. Indiana has become a small government state. FWCS decided to outsource the janitorial services for all the school buildings. Politicians bragged that they saved the city over $3,000.000. The company that won the contract fired all the janitors and let them re-apply for their jobs. They were fired from $20 to $25 per hour jobs and re-hired at $13 to $15 per. They lost their houses, their cars, their pensions. Did the big businesses profit by this loss? I believe the overall impact to the entire economy was negative.

Governor Pence, small-government administrator, laid off many Highway workers and closed many InDOT "igloos." Then Indiana had a bad winter and there was not money, salt, budget or employees to clear the roads. As a result, many businesses were forced to close, losing revenue. Now I know the grocers sold as much food as they would, but the gas station, the restaurants didn't. Contracts that were dependent on critical time weren't finished. The economy lost. And, the biggest "savings" being wages for the snow-truck drivers, also meant reduced amount of money for people to buy the widgets, thing-a-ma-bobs and etc. Blue collar government jobs stimulate the economy, build vital infrastructure, and since the wages are relatively low, all that money goes right back into the economy. I remember an economics teacher in High School explaining to us that because the money is turned over 3-4 times a year, more is returned in tax revenue than is spent by the government. But, if it is solely kept in banks for investment purposes -building the war chests of the rich- it turns over less and its over economic stimulus is reduced.

Personal small points about this. My son, Tim, works in a "small government" county in Maryland. His contract ensures that he gets a nominal raise every year. The small government county commissioners refuse to honor his contract. My other son, John, has a different, but similar potential problem. When guys like Gov. Walker, of Wisconsin got elected by decrying the pensions of civic employees, civil employees lose. These small government types have publicly stated that they will not stop until they take away my son John's pension. To them -they are on the record as saying this- John is to lose his pension. Two of the people I love more than anything else in this world are actually harmed (Timmy right now, and John if they get to follow through on this rhetoric) by this idea of smaller government. And for what? Again, the payout is recuperated if and when there is a strong middle class.

I understand that people do not feel the economic recovery we have made. That is mainly because wages have stagnated while real costs have gone up. So, the average middle class worker has less buying power. Again, this is a negative cycle because less and less widgets and thing-a-ma-bobs are being produced (rich people lose) and the middle class has less money to buy them (poor people lose). The same has happened to me, but maybe for other reasons. My retirement investments are doing great, better than I projected. But I will have to delay because the height of my earning potential years have grossly stagnated. We are earning 30% less than what we anticipated earning at this age.

How did Gov Walker get elected by the people whose pensions he cut? It seems to me that he did it by creating moral outrage over the quality of benefits that civil employees get. (At least, I heard conservatives decry the pensions that civil employees get). Again, this directly affects two of my children who have entered civil service as careers. Why should they be denied basic retirement benefits? Why do police officers, teachers, fire-fighters and other unionized civil servants vote for those who promise to bust their unions and their collective bargaining rights? That will be showed in my third point. Remember, these are all only my perceptions of the facts. These are my opinions. I welcome yours. I do.

So, my questions to those on the right are these: Do you embrace the implications that the problems with our economy were MAINLY caused by entitlements or by deregulation? What is the biggest driver of our debt, is it entitlements, or wars fought on credit cards? And, if the debt is such an evil, then why put wars on credit cards?

This segues into:

3). Marginalization of the rest of the others:

Blue collar workers vote against themselves because they are outraged by the actions of the others and Conservatives promise to deal with them.

This addresses what I believe to be unchristian values by the religious right. These are those who are marginalized.

3.a. "Illegals." Simply put, Jesus would have us call them neighbor. Leviticus 19:33-34 gives us a spiritual principle of justice. Essentially, God said, "you were aliens once and I protected you, therefore, you must protect others." And then God said: "I AM THE LORD." That statement, I am the LORD is a warning: "I am watching how well you do this." The implication is that God's blessings will be given or withheld based on our obedience to this Spiritual Principle."

3.b. Homosexuals. Romans 1, and Ezekiel 16:48-49 tell us that God gave them over to their homosexual lifestyles because of Idolatry and rampant materialism respectively. God created them as a judgment. It is another spiritual principle, If people refuse to follow God, then God takes away our ability to reproduce. When Abimelech took Sarah as wife, all the women in his kingdom could not conceive. Terminal sexual deviations (sexual deviations that do not lead to reproduction -abortion, pornography and etc.) are the judgment, not the reason why we are judged.

(Note, added later. Two good friends called me out on this. Their comments -received via email- are copied to the comment section. Everyone needs to hear what they have said. I have an apology and response to this in the comment section as well. And I am working on a different paradigm for myself that is more generous and loving.)

And yet, the religious pundits cite these deviations as the cause, not the result. They fear-monger about coming judgment. But my whole attitude toward homosexuals changes when I view them as the victims of sin, just like medical conditions are a result of the fall. Therefore, to me, I must ensure that they are as loved and cared for, protected by, both the church and society. I, just like Jesus, love homosexual people. I will never say about them; “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I embrace them for everything they are because the Bible says that God made them that way. 

I want abortion to stop because I believe in justice for the unborn. But to fight it, I must -I am compelled- to preach against injustice everywhere. Christians cannot be single issue voters. Women, as well as the unborn, must have justice. If I want revival to break out, according to Isaiah 58 then I must "cry loudly and not hold back...."

3.c. Islam. Jesus loves Moslems.

3.d. Palestinians. Jesus loves Palestinians.

3.e. Racism. I am a police Chaplain. I believe in and support the police. If it were up to me, only the police would legally own handguns. They are trained to use them. They take this job to place themselves in the line of fire in order to protect the rest of us. I do not personally know any police who are racists and abuse this trust. If they are out there, they are very few and by far the exception rather than the rule. And our media, a media that makes its living on hyperbole and mass hysteria, sensationalizes the times that it happens and by so doing, they create terrible problems for the 99.99% of honest, dedicated peace officers.

Having said that. And this has nothing to do with the police. I believe that Trayvon Martin would be alive if he were white. I believe that Zimmerman killed him because of racial fear. And the fact of that, to me, proves that racism still exists.

My great change happened when I realized that I was paying to high a biblical price in the war against abortion.

Why do we have to embrace all the values of the Republican party to stop abortion? Does Jesus want us to respond to the border crisis by calling undocumented residents: "Neighbor?" Does the US constitution guarantee civil rights for Homosexuals, Moslems and everyone else who we consider "the other?"

And finally, this segues into:

4). Fear mongering by the right.

"Homosexuals are going to ruin this nation." Nope, biblically, idolatry (in our case, the worship of money) and marginalization of the poor are the reasons why God judges nations.

"Illegals are taking away jobs from us." Undocumented residents are working the jobs that we wont work. They stimulate the economy (years ago, someone paid Rush Limbaugh himself to say this. I heard it back when I was a ditto-head.)

The other emotional capital used to cause this landslide victory, according to pundits, was Ebola and Isis.

One person in the US has died from Ebola. One other person has it. And yet, they were able to frame an argument against the President based on this. It seems to be fear-mongering to me.

ISIS. ISIL is a problem and I wish we had a clearer strategy on it. But, I believe the President's policy of forcing Iraq to deal with it with their troops instead of our troops is what is needed. If we go in and clean them out, they will just come back, either as ISIL or some other form of Al-Qeada. Iraq ignored the Sunni's, they reverted back to the tribalism that has defined them for thousands of years.

I blame Bush. We should not have gone there in the first place. We have to figure out a way to embrace governmental systems that are not our form of Democracy.

But fear-mongering makes it happen.