Monthly Archives: May 2010

“The market has become God”

That is a quote from Jim Wallis on MSNBC’s “Hardball” (5/21/2010) in an interview with Chris Matthews.  You won’t often find me agreeing with an evangelical Christian, but Wallis and Matthews did an inspiring job commenting on BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf – a disaster for which we will all be paying for many years.  The link to the Matthews-Wallis interview is below.

Wallis challenged Glenn Beck of Fox “News” for attacking social justice churches.  Beck is quoted on Wallis’ website saying, ‘churches are being used by progressives to bring about the fundamental transformation of America.’  If only that was true – it seems to me that most churches are snoozing.  Beck’s criticism of social justice Christians is from the outside looking in.  (Bear in mind that he is Mormon and the National Council of Churches does not count the Church of Latter Day Saints among Christian denominations.)

Wallis and others are assuming responsibility for trying to place a wake-up call to all of us regarding environmental sustainability.  This should mean something when you can go on numerous websites, right now, and see tens of thousands of barrels (what size is a barrel?) of oil polluting the ocean every day.  CNN’s link is below.

Speaking for Christian theology, part of the problem lies in fundamental Christians and their interpretation of Genesis 1:26 in the King James version which talks about “dominion” over the earth.  Many interpret this as a license to abuse.  Wallis challenges Christians to be stewards of God’s creation.  The link below will give you several things to think about if you want to hear more from Wallis and his colleagues.

No matter what religion you are, if you are reading this you are breathing and probably want to be able to drink water in the near future.  If we continue to allow the destruction of our home planet, we’re making it more difficult for safe breathing and drinking water in the future.  (And don’t get me started on coal mining.)  We should be angrier with BP than how we react to $4 per gallon for gas.  Remember that?  Yeah, we were all plenty pissed about that.  Well, guess what: this is worse.

“BP has to be held accountable to the common good,” said Wallis.  Matthews answered saying, “Mankind’s interests trump the marketplace.”  Wallis added, “The market is the means and not the end.”  Healthy capitalism can be successful at putting food on many tables, but unregulated capitalism becomes a greedy bully that will steal our lunch money and pollute the natural resources from which that food comes in the first place.  Whether you are religious, atheist, agnostic, or secular humanist, what’s happening now can’t continue.  Get pissed off.

Comment here and tell us what you think you can do. -J.B.

Underwear and Religion and the Amish

Every trip to Lancaster County provides me with something to ponder, and Mother’s Day 2010 was no exception.  On one of her trips to the mall, my sister-in-law saw an Amish woman shopping in Victoria’s Secret.  When the woman, in full ‘plain’ garb, was asked by the enthusiastic salesperson if she would like to apply for a credit card, she said she already had one.  Seriously, I am not making this up.  Why is this incident different from the mysteries beneath the burqa, or the Mormon’s wearing their own special underwear?  It is and it isn’t.

My understanding of the underlying theology justifying Mormon (LDS) ‘Jesus jammies’ and Islam burqas leads me to conclude there is a subtle difference with the plain Mennonite and Amish garb.  The wearing of burqas and LDS garments connects members to each other.  In this, they share a common trait with the plain people.  However, both LDS and Islam women have a view of protection or shielding from the outside world.  The simple dress of plain folks means they are demonstrating their desire to be apart from the materialistic world to the world.  They immigrated to Pennsylvania about 300 years ago rejecting fanciful fashion statements like buttons.  Obviously, staying stuck in time in how they dress does not guarantee someone is free from modern materialism of Victoria’s Secret hot lingerie underneath those costumes.

Being in the world but not of the world is straight from the Christian New Testament (I John 2:15).  While sound in their doctrine, the practice is not so simple.  Since most of the people of these sects are forced to stop their education at eighth grade, their intellectual development and social experience is extremely limited – which makes rationalization so much easier.  That limited worldview allows them to consider telephone landlines sinfully connected to the materialistic world, but cordless cell phones (without a visible hardwire connection) sin-free.

There is one story for me that is even more titillating than finding an Amish woman in Victoria’s Secret and that is reading the words “felony charges” and Mennonites in the same sentence.  The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era (4/16/2010-link to story follows) reported on three plain Mennonite adults hiding a teenage runaway from her parents and the police with the intention of taking her with them from Lancaster County to Kentucky.  It’s hard to know what they were thinking because they were unwilling to testify at their hearing.  I would suggest they considered themselves uniquely qualified to interpret God’s will and expected a bonus from Him (patriarchal culture – of course God is male) for saving a lost teen from her worldly and ungodly parents.

My point is not to vilify extreme religious sects but to make the point that in choosing extreme practices, hypocrisy is a near certainty.  In trying to be separate from the rest of society, it will be difficult to survive, making interaction nearly unavoidable and conflict inevitable.  In fact if you want to be spiritually above the outside world, you probably don’t want to start kidnapping their young. We heathens get a little testy about such activities.  We will be happy to ignore your underwear, but you can’t have our offspring for your cult.

Want to weigh-in? -J.B.

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Sarah Palin’s god

When CNN did an online story on Time’s top 100 influential people (as voted online) posting Sarah Palin’s picture, I was again annoyed that she made it onto another list.  Number one is Mir-Hossein Mousavi (former Iranian prime minister-yes, I had to Google it, too) and number five is Lady Gaga.  All things considered, Palin’s number 42 ranking is unimpressive.  Mercifully, the president does rank higher at 21.

The most painful part about writing this is having to read about Palin – or worse, read what she (allegedly) writes, though there’s not much of it out there.  Aside from watching the vice presidential debate in entirety, I know her from sound-bites, in which she does excel, successfully appealing to the lowest common denominator of Americans.  In her latest publishing adventure, Going Rogue, there is no stated co-author.  Her dedication is to “patriots” with a special shout-out to “men and women in uniform” closing with “God bless the fight for freedom.”

Palin’s brand of religion links patriotism and theology in a way that dismisses the separation of church and state and takes folks down the road of the misguided who believe the United States is, or should be, a “Christian nation.”  The most crucial issue the Palins of the world don’t understand is that if there were to be a state religion – one day it might not be theirs.  Ooops.  The second problem is that religion is interpretive and Christianity is especially so.  Even though Christianity is the majority religion in this country, you would be hard-pressed to get those folks to agree on much, including who among them are the real Christians.

This morning (5/3/2010) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Rev. Franklin Graham (son of THE Billy) reiterated a post-911 comment that, “Islam was wicked and evil.”  Graham was disinvited to a national prayer event at the Pentagon because of those comments and believes his religious rights are being violated.  Graham is free to participate in a national prayer day at his own church, just not at the Pentagon.  Camera face-time is not a constitutional guarantee.  And you are probably not surprised that Palin expressed her concern about him being disinvited  She is the one that asked her Wasilla Assembly of God congregation to pray for a natural gas pipeline from Alaska.

I will be writing again on separation of church and state because it keeps coming up, but the point I want to make here is more theological.  Imagining a God involved in such petty human stuff means you have a very small god.  Most of us perceive God in the image of ourselves, not the other way around.  For Palin, god is an ass-kicking, judgmental, militaristic type that likes the United States better than countries – except of course for the foreigners and minorities.   Hmmm.  That just doesn’t sound Christian to me.

What do you think?  -J.B.