January 31, 2012

My Twitter feed

I decided to give the twitter name of Streak over to my new friend Aleem Mawani and their company, streak.com.  Twitter actually doesn't allow the sale of nicknames or aliases, and more importantly, I realized two things:  1) that twitter feed isn't actually my Streak, and 2) I can't sell him.

Here at the blog, I will always be Streak.  But on twitter, I will be available at a name that early blog readers will remember--@streaksfriend

January 28, 2012

Moral authority

I have argued for sometime that the modern conservative evangelical church has a very flawed approach to moral questions. As I have noted to my conservative friends, if 60% of my students fail, the issue is systemic, not individual. Doesn't mean that some of those students also failed individually, but the numbers dictate that I reevaluate both how I communicate the information and how I design the exam.

Likewise, if only 10% of evangelicals supported evil like torture or racism, I would chalk that up to the individual. But 60%? Something stinks.

In that vein, Greg has a great post on moral authority, and, in this case, Mark Driscoll's latest book on true marriage. I have no interest reading that particular book, but like how Greg connects Driscoll's parsing to this issue of moral authority. And I especially like how he explains how people who say they look to God exclusively as their moral authority are probably not being completely honest.
When people say God is their moral authority, I'm absolutely certain they don't understand what they're saying. First, God is not immediately available to talk to them, and as for those (like one student) who said a relationship with Jesus was key to understanding the Bible, I simply ask why you have so many denominations and traditions if that relationship steers you the right direction. It's simply a way of avoiding the dilemma. God is not your authority because God is not telling you what to do. A book is. The authority people believe is resident in God is mediated through a text, and that text must be interpreted; God, over against Elijah's assertions, is not readily available to answer questions. That leaves a community, or in most cases, an individual to ascertain which portions of the Bible function as moral authority. All this to say, if an individual is making the assessment about particular texts, then the locus of moral authority is the individual's conscience and desires, not God and not the text.
Evangelical churches (from what I hear, and probably not just evangelical churches, btw) have decided to not engage on many of today's moral issues. In the case of some of my friends, they see those moral issues as too political, or as too liberal. Can't really talk about environmental issues because it is simply too easy to become too liberal. And as Tony found out, talking about torture critically could also result in being tagged a liberal.

As Greg notes, moral authority is a difficult thing. It takes, I think, a community of people engaging on these issues. Otherwise, it is left up to individual desire and bias. That Pew poll on torture revealed exactly that, by the way. Those evangelicals who supported torture said that they based it largely on sources other than the Bible or their faith. When they were asked, as a part of the poll, in a mini act of accountability, to view torture through their faith, support went down.

If you leave race issues up to South Carolina's evangelicals--on their own--they will respond to Newt Gingrich's dog whistle campaign with great approval. They are not being asked to really confront that kind of hatred. If you leave torture questions to the average conservative evangelical, you will find that their conservative part outweighs their Christian part.

January 18, 2012

First World Jesus

I have been thinking a lot about economics lately.  It is very hard for me to see our current economic situation and not think about it in moral terms.  Yet, when I talk to many evangelicals, I don't get the sense that they see it that way.

I had a great conversation with a good friend of mine.  My friend is not one of those Republicans either.  He does a lot to help people in our community.  I respect him a lot and so was very surprised when he told me that the story of the young ruler in the Gospels isn't really about wealth, but about anything that might get in the way of God.  I can see that last part, but it is very hard for me to read any of the NT and not see a world where vast inequality simply doesn't fit.  Where the first shall be last, and where Jesus calls on people with to give their wealth or proceeds to those without.  Yet, I have heard from several evangelicals that God is not that concerned with poverty, per se, but only with the hearts of those involved.

Not only is that what Marx suggested about capitalism and religion, but it is, perhaps, a necessity for American Christians of all stripes.  Capitalism as amoral economic system doesn't care if profits come from kids, or from crack cocaine.  Capitalism doesn't care if the worker loses their arm.  It certainly doesn't care if people lose their homes or livelihoods.

Not only that, but capitalism uses all of our weaknesses to an advantage.  Greed fuels economic growth, because, like sharks, capitalists never have enough.  Capitalism preys on our desires and commands us to covet.  It is the complete opposite of the idea of having enough.  

Capitalism also requires a steady pool of underpaid workers.  When wages grew too high here in the states, we started exporting those jobs to places where minimum wage doesn't even exist.  Same for environmental or safety controls.  We all know that, and we all participate in that.

But if Jesus, like most American Christians, sees all of that as some separate economic system where Christianity doesn't apply, and where their only big concern should be to bring those poor workers Bibles rather than good paying jobs or clean water--we have constructed a First World Jesus.  Here, the main concerns for Christians is quiet prayer and bible reading.  It is to memorize parts of the Bible--simply, as far as I can tell to memorize parts of the Bible.  It is to parse words for their Greek or Aramaic root.  It is where you peruse mega Bible stores where you can purchase just about anything with a Bible verse engraved.

It is a world where that child laborer doesn't exist--nor that environmental and resource exploitation, or dangerous work environment.  Transpose that to the states (where many of those issues also exist, unfortunately) and massive inequality exists, but is not a moral issue.  It just is.  Economics are largely peripheral and theoretical.  The growing number of poor is an economic, not moral issue, and the only question is whether those poor people are right with God.  In that context, tax cuts for the rich are an abstraction, just as are cuts to the poor.

And we won't even talk about where those jeans or shoes or iPads are manufactured.

January 7, 2012

My twitter name "Streak"

I never really anticipated this, but I have been contacted by someone who is part of a company that uses that name. They would like to have the handle "Streak" for their twitter feed. I don't know what to do here. As everyone knows here, that name is pretty near and dear to us. I would welcome your thoughts.

January 3, 2012

Santorum reiterates two GOP talking points

So Rick Santorum was caught talking about black people and Medicaid. Here is his non explanation, really. But watch his answer. Very little ambiguity about the fact that he said that he didn't want black people getting welfare. As if, as I suspect most conservatives think, black people are the majority of welfare users.

It also reiterates my basic assumption that when people bitch about government spending, they imagine it going to poor black people.

But there is this other part--and one that I have heard over and over--that Democrats push these welfare programs to keep poor people dependent on government, and so continuing to give their votes to Democrats.

My understanding (and this might be just a false assumption, mind you) is that the poor don't vote in big numbers, and when they do, they are hardly a Democratic stronghold.

If this is some liberal plot to keep poor people voting for Democrats in order to keep them in power? It is a really bad and ineffective plot.

January 2, 2012

Small government at work?

Indiana National Anthem Bill: Vaneta Becker Aims To Set "Performance Standards," Impose Fines

The appeal of libertarianism?

It really confuses me, and I suspect there are a few here who see more benefit from libertarian thought than I do. I tend to agree with this Kos diary. I can see no way that a truly small government works. At least with any kind of complex economy and with an assumption that a middle class is a positive thing.