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Dear Conservative Friend

December 9th, 2017 No comments

Dear Conservative Friend,

You and I are obviously on different ends of the ideological divide. I respect that the considered positions of many conservatives are held in good faith, even if I think they are misguided. For most of our history we have been able to bridge the gap between left and right because both (perhaps reluctantly) conceded that their opponents were patriots.

But when it comes to Trump, I don’t think we’re talking about right vs. left; we are talking about right vs. wrong. The discussion about what Trump represents in American politics is complex and probably futile, since we will not agree on basic facts. But you can take it from me that those of us who oppose him do so not because of partisanship but because we believe he actually represents the absolute worst of American society. He represents an America that is retrograde, racist, misogynist, nativist, swaggering, self-absorbed, and brutal. His vision resembles an upright individual who has gotten drunk and succumbed to animal instincts, losing all sense of propriety. His shadow ironically shines a bright light on the principles many are willing to abandon in order to hold on to power. Evangelical Christians abandon the gospel and basic moral principles, “Conservatives” abandon patriotism and fiscal conservatism and even the fundamental Enlightenment principles of liberty and equality on which our founding documents are based. Bigots and “super-patriots” who were once relegated to the fringes suddenly and boldly take center stage. In other words, Trump and those he works for are at best agents of chaos, not patriots.

I’m not going to assume that what I just described, describes you. I’m fairly certain you don’t believe any of what I just wrote, and I believe you and most of those who agree with you are patriots. And I’m not going to try to convince you I’m right, because we conceptually live in very different realities. But you can believe that I believe what I wrote, and because of that I refuse to contribute to the normalization of this tool’s actions. We can agree to disagree about politics when we can concede that those we disagree with have the best interests of the country at heart. I do not believe Trump has the best interests of the country at heart, even in his own delusions. And I applaud people like John Lewis and John McCain who are willing to stand against what Trump and his followers represent and say. “This is not normal.”

Rep. John Lewis: Trump is an ‘insult’ to civil rights event

U.S. Rep John Lewis announced Thursday that he won’t speak at the opening of Mississippi civil rights and history museums, saying it’s an “insult” that President Donald Trump will attend. The long-planned Saturday ceremony will mark Mississippi’s bicentennial of admission into the union….

Americans Aren’t As Divided As You Think

November 23rd, 2017 No comments

I don’t think we should deny that it’s been a rough year. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier any time soon. There is a spirit of destructive division in the air. Malicious forces seek to divide to achieve selfish gain. It’s not new, but it is now very pronounced.

Perhaps we should ask, as Ronald Reagan once did, “How can we love our country and not love our countrymen?” We do not have to agree on anything to be respectful toward each other. It only takes an adjustment in focus to see that we agree on much more than we disagree on. As much as there are challenges facing us, we have much to be thankful for. Some of the people I love and respect the most hold views I profoundly disagree with. I have found that in areas where it is impossible to hold a civil discussion of the issues that divide, it is better to focus on what unites. Nelson Mandela once remarked, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” When we join in common cause, we re-discover our common humanity.

Perhaps we can take just one day to be thankful for the many blessings we have all received, without merit. To be grateful for the right to openly disagree. When we can disagree without being disagreeable, we show the true greatness of America. And we also defeat the bad guys.

Americans Aren’t As Divided As You Think

Every day, America is being misled by the political parties, our political leaders and the press. We are told that the other side – whether it’s liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans – are not just wrong on the issues, but full of destructive intent.

“You shall not have other gods beside me” (Ex. 20:4)

November 18th, 2017 No comments

It is our belief that in light of Roy Moore’s extremist beliefs, his patterns of behavior, and the recent allegations against him, no person of faith can, in good conscience, support him or his religious nationalism. He has done harm to our government; he has done harm to our Christian witness; and he has done harm to vulnerable people.

 

Ministers sign letter saying Roy Moore ‘not fit for office’

A group of 59 progressive Christian ministers, more than half from mainline Protestant denominations, signed a letter released today calling U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore “not fit for office.” The signers included 23 United Methodist ministers, eight Baptists, seven Episcopal clergy and seven Presbyterian pastors.

“That is sick!”

November 15th, 2017 No comments

Joe Biden discusses President Trumps reaction to Charlottesville. “Silence is complicity. Not only was it not condemned, you had the president making a relative comparison between the white supremacists and the people trying to stop them. That is sick. That is dangerous.”

Source: NPR Morning Edition 11/15/17.

Twisted Scriptures

November 14th, 2017 No comments

Dear friends and fellow Alabamians,

For decades, Roy Moore has been an immovable rock in the culture wars – a bold defender of the “little guy,” a just judge to those who came before his court, a warrior for the unborn child, defender of the sanctity of marriage, and a champion for religious liberty. Judge Moore has stood in the gap for us, taken the brunt of the attack, and has done so with a rare, unconquerable resolve.

So begins a letter purportedly from 50 pastors in support of Roy Moore (after the initial allegations of sexual misconduct but before the latest), although the number seems somewhat inflated; at least one of the pastors listed claimed to have no knowledge of the letter and not to have given permission to use her name. This is the same guy that was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court because he refused to enforce the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States. Even George Wallace ultimately acknowledged the Court’s authority.

His supporters claim his removal was “a consequence of his unwavering faith in God and his immovable convictions for Biblical principles.” I guess that fits right in with Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler’s observation that Jesus’ human father Joseph was an older man and he was married to a teenager, Mary, so what’s the big deal? Except that the Biblical account has Mary impregnated by God and not Joseph, and in first-century Palestine it was not against the law to marry teenagers. On the other hand, Jews in Jesus’ time were quite prudish, so even then it would have been in violation of “Biblical principles” to molest a teenager one was not married to.

Another Biblical principle Mr. Moore and his supporters seem to be unclear about is that God’s people are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20) and exiles on the earth. Historically this has emboldened Christians to martyrdom in defense of the faith. But martyrdom in defense of the Republican Party is idolatry. However they wrap themselves in twisted scripture, what they promote is far from Biblical principles. Biblical principles call on Christians to embody God’s mercy and love, not to blindly align themselves with a political party gone mad.

50 pastors sign letter of support for Roy Moore

Kayla Moore, wife of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, shared a letter on Facebook indicating support from more than 50 Alabama pastors. Moore’s wife Kayla posted the letter to her Facebook page Sunday after days of controversy surrounding her husband and allegations he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old in 1979 when he was 32-years-old.

Beware of Darkness

November 13th, 2017 No comments

 

Evangelicals are more likely to support Roy Moore now because of sexual assault charges

Talk about loving the sinner! Nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they’re now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children, even as voters across the historically red state now seem to be punishing Moore for his past actions, a new poll shows.


Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. (1 Tim. 4:1-2)

Jesus calls his followers to the highest standard of conduct. Righteousness in the first-century Jewish world was beyond what we would consider puritanical, or even what the Puritans would consider puritanical. In fact the level of righteousness that Jesus calls his followers to is perfection. This is true especially in terms of sexual conduct. This is why contemporary non-Christians feel so stifled by Christian sexual mores.

The Bible also contains stern warnings against those who preach contrary to righteousness. For example:

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. (2 Pet. 3:17)

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. (Mt. 7:15)

Let us be clear that right-wing political evangelicals do not represent Christianity. People like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Robert Jeffress, and a host of others, who preach allegiance to Donald Trump and his minions over Jesus Christ are false prophets. They preach against the standards of God.

Donald Trump has brought ruin to the United States. American institutions are falling apart, sabotaged by incompetent and malevolent appointees. The civic fabric is fraying, encouraged by Trump’s denial of facts and embrace of the KKK and neo-Nazis. American foreign policy has become an embarrassment, driven by the whims of a petulant child who alienates our traditional allies and cozies up to dictators and tyrants. And conservative evangelicals, who were already held in low esteem, are now following soothsayers who excuse behavior that clearly violates even non-Christian standards of decency, sacrificing all credibility.

To evangelize means to preach the good news. What these guys are preaching is good for no one. Not even them.

Still Believe

November 12th, 2017 No comments

It’s easy to get discouraged and even bitter. But some still shine the light of hope.

A Muslim American’s Veterans Day message

Last year, two defiant minutes on the stage of the Democratic National Convention turned Khizr Khan into an unwitting celebrity, but he has held onto his humility. He stands now before this North Carolina audience, slightly hunched in a dark navy suit and striped tie.

Veterans Day 2017

November 11th, 2017 No comments

This is the National Defense Service medal and ribbon. It is one of the four medals I received in 10 years in the Navy. I got it when I graduated from boot camp. Everybody got one. We called them “geedunk” medals. Geedunk is the Navy term for the candy you get from a candy machine, because it makes the sound “gee-dunk” when it falls. 

This medal is awarded to men and women who serve on active duty during times of war. It has been awarded during these times:  

  • June 27, 1950, to July 27, 1954 (for service during the Korean War). 
  • January 1, 1961, to August 14, 1974 (for service during the Vietnam War). 
  • August 2, 1990, to November 30, 1995 (for service during the Gulf War). 
  • September 11, 2001, to a date to be announced (for service during the War on Terrorism). 

When I was young and new in the military the idea that I was serving during a time of war didn’t seem like a big deal. Even though we had some tense encounters with the Russians I didn’t serve in a combat zone. But the reality is that one of those tense standoffs or some other stupidity might have put me in a combat zone at any time.  

It ought to give us pause to consider that the servicemember is charged to die for everyone. If someone dies in in the line of duty, they die for every American, not just the ones they like, or the ones like them. If a servicemember dies, they are dying for Democrats and Republicans, black people and white people, people of all faiths and none, gay and straight, liberal and conservative. There is no option for a servicemember to confine the meaning of their death to any single identity group. Serving in the military in a time of war is a supreme act of self-sacrificing love. It is a lot to lay on an eighteen-year-old but there it is. 

One of the best things about serving in the military is that once you do you no longer harbor any doubt you are an American. And that all the fine people you served with, of all backgrounds, are also American. Veterans enjoy the rights and privileges of being American because they have earned them and defended them for everyone else. 

Today the United States is tearing itself apart over identity. Who is, and who can be, an American? The inclusive ideals of the founding documents are in conflict with an ugly nativist exclusivity. Left and right are enraptured by an unforgiving partisanship. People find themselves likely to back positions and ideas they despise for the sake of party. Evangelical Christians support sexual predators and pedophiles to further their agenda. Leftists supposedly dedicated to peace support candidates who promote and even carry out acts of war. 

Both left and right claim the mantle of true patriotism. But the right wing wraps itself in the same kind of nationalism that led to secession in 1861; patriotism that would rather see the country destroyed than live up to its enlightened founding ideals. They buttress their fake patriotism with a false reverence for the military. Waving and saluting flags and uniforms they wear their supposed “respect” for the military to demonstrate their supposed heightened allegiance, even as many of them have never served and some even avoided serving when called.  

Accompanying this military fetishism is the assumption that all veterans support and appreciate their efforts. But they are mistaken. Many veterans find hateful nativist conservatism repulsive. Racism, white supremacy, and mindless devotion to bombastic ultra-right windbags spouting incredible (literally not credible) looney blather are contrary to the experience of servicemembers who learned to support and be supported by the men and women these jingoists choose to label unpatriotic and un-American. 

I started this post pointing to the National Defense Service Medal, mentioning that it seemed to the young Navy recruit who was awarded his in 1972 cheaply obtained. Yet it places me in the company of fellow veterans who have earned the right to be called American. I have earned the right to stand up for causes I believe in. I’ve earned the right to reject counterfeit flag-waving that seeks to limit who can be called American. And I’ve earned the right not to care what you think about it. 

Gen. Kelly was Right

November 4th, 2017 No comments

White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly recently remarked that failure to compromise was what caused the Civil War. He was actually correct. Americans had been compromising with slave interests since the Constitutional Convention in an effort to maintain the Union, but Southerners had been agitating for secession over the issue of slavery since at least 1820. The quote by Calhoun below demonstrates the Southern point of view: no compromise. On the other hand, Lincoln and the North were willing to compromise on the issue of slavery, but not union.

The view that the South fought to preserve slavery and the North fought to end it is simplistic. It is symptomatic of Americans’ tragic lack of academic sophistication, particularly about its history. The simplistic view satisfies the American Exceptionalist narrative that the Southerners were the “bad guys” and Lincoln and the Northerners were the “good guys.” But in fact, while the preservation of slavery was integral to Confederate secession, slavery was not an issue for the Union until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 (nearly halfway through the war), that in fact freed exactly zero slaves. The purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation was to associate the war with slavery to make it unpalatable for the British to support the Confederacy, and secondarily to deprive the South of labor. It was a political and tactical act, not a moral one. Because the Proclamation limited emancipation to the states still in rebellion, slavery continued to exist legally in the Union States of Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, until the Thirteenth Amendment.

Nor is it even remotely accurate to suggest that Southerners were racist and Northerners not. In fact, racism was then ubiquitous regardless of region, as it continues to be today. There is no better indication of this than that 313 Union officers resigned after the Emancipation Proclamation because they didn’t want to fight to free slaves. Abolition and racism were (are) two very separate issues, and one could be against slavery and still racist as much as one today can be against animal cruelty but not think of animals as capable of equal citizenship. The myth that racism is limited to the South only unjustly relieves the rest of the country from guilt or complicity. In 1945 when Jackie Robinson became the first Black Major League baseball player, he didn’t integrate Southern baseball, but American baseball. When President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948 integrating the armed services, he wasn’t integrating the Southern armed services, but the American. And I shouldn’t need to point out that Topeka, Kansas (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954) is hardly located in the South. As President Obama once correctly remarked, racism is in America’s DNA. And it will remain so as long as we continue to comfort ourselves with simplistic historical fables.

Saying that inability to compromise was the immediate cause of the Civil War is not racist, it is historically accurate. It does not suggest that one wishes slavery still existed.

By the way, I am a Berniecrat.

#BernieWouldHaveWon

November 2nd, 2017 No comments

 

Brazile: ‘Proof’ that Clinton rigged nomination process ‘broke my heart’

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) interim chairwoman Donna Brazile said it “broke her heart” when she discovered evidence that she said showed ‘s campaign fixed the Democratic nomination system in her favor.

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