November 27, 2013

Is the American church broken?

My disillusion with the church began with my old denomination's stance on women, and went into hyperdrive when that same denomination supported torture.  My head just about exploded at that.  And much of my criticism has been aimed at the conservative church for these kinds of actions.

But reading this story about what food stamps are doing to real Americans makes me wonder if the sickness isn't broader.  Who, outside the people who do nothing other than work on hunger issues, is talking about hunger?  Are churches, of any denomination or framework up in arms because of these tremendous and cruel cuts to the neediest?  I am not seeing it.  Hell, while Republicans seem to cheer it, my own party seems to really not care that much that more and more Americans are falling behind.

If our moral tradition cares little about it, what hope is there?  The Wapo ran a story the other day about how many food stamps it would take for one average American thanksgiving meal.  Ours will not be decadent by American standards, but is well beyond the hopes of the poor.

I am bothered, of course, at the lack of caring.  But story after story highlight the negative impact poverty has on people.
Lower-income kids enter kindergarten with poorer language skills than kids from middle- and upper-income homes.

Also, studies show that in some cases, kids living in poverty are more than two years behind their privileged counterparts. They're more likely to have fewer books in the home, have more health problems and miss more school days. Many kids come to school hungry, and then they can't focus and learn.

"They can't concentrate as well, and children who are food insecure don't perform as well on math and language arts tests. They don't do as well in school," says Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University's School of Public Health.
Poor people fall farther and farther behind those who have.  And our moral voices are silent.  And our political choices are clear.  Meanwhile, I heard an ad (on our local public radio no less) for a sale this coming Friday that used the phrase "to celebrate Black Friday."  What in the what?

There is no doubt in my mind that the Southern Baptists have become far more conservative than Christian.  That is clear in my mind and was crystallized when they supported torture, and now cheer the failure of healthcare.  But I have my doubts about any of our faith traditions.  I am sure that many churches do what they can to feed poor in their area.  I wonder how many have put out a call of urgency because of the pressing need?  I hope they are there.

Because if those who claim to follow Jesus can't care about the poor, I hate to break it to them, but their faith isn't Christian.

November 19, 2013

At least the war on the poor is going well

That's a paraphrase of a bumper sticker that said the same thing about the environment.  I have said this before, but will continue to say that one of the things that has shocked me the most is the right wing's outright hatred toward poor people.  That used to be limited, I think, to those who received welfare benefits and didn't work.  After all, it was under Reagan that we got the Earned Income Tax Credit which assisted working people who hovered just under the poverty line.  But those days are gone.  Republicans today can't stand anyone who gets federal assistance, unless, of course, it is in the form of farm subsidies.

So we want to cut assistance for the poor, and the idea of raising the minimum wage makes Republican heads explode.  That is why we get stories like this one, where Walmart is having a food drive for their workers.  Their workers don't have enough to eat, and if Republicans get their way, they won't have much in federal assistance, so the only alternative is to beg from Walmart customers to donate food for employees.

I will say this.  At least someone in George Bush's camp believed that compassion was actually a Christian requirement.  We can certainly argue with how they implemented that, but at least they thought it worthy to push.  Modern Republicans are openly hostile to the poor and are doing everything they can to cut the safety net.  Too bad so many of those Republicans wave the Bible in one hand while voting for Ayn Rand's dream.

November 15, 2013


I have been battling my old friend disillusionment of late.  This latest job change has contributed, no doubt, as I watch the university turn into a cash machine and watch the community college continue to be a pool of mediocrity and cronyism.

I am not naive, and this is not the first time I have become disillusioned by an institution or group.  In grad school, one of my friends referred to me as an incredibly cynical idealist.  Perhaps.  No doubt, I have lost respect for a lot of institutions that I used to have at least some respect for.  And no doubt that one of the big ones was when the church of my youth openly cheered torturing individuals.  Hard to wrap my mind around the contrast of "don't you dare tell me I can't say 'Merry Christmas'" and "it's ok to torture people because we are afraid of another 9-11."

Those church people, I believe, are largely uninformed.  Discussions with many torture defenders reveals that, I would argue.  That doesn't completely let them off the hook, mind you, but it certainly mitigates their approach.  Same goes for my conservative friends who continue to vote for Republicans even when they know that vote will cause actual harm to actual people.  In most cases, I think they believe (or want to believe) that my concerns are inflated and either the harm will not occur or it will not be nearly as bad as I predict.

But make no mistake, one of the things darkening my mood is the pure malevolence of the people they vote for.  I know no other way to explain Tea Partiers openly mocking disabled people or Republicans chanting to repeal health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.  That is malevolent, and the fact that many of them wave Bibles while doing so surely does not help.

And speaking of that, here we combine Republican and Christian malevolence with David Barton and Kenneth Copeland saying that PTSD isn't Biblical.  I understand the tribalism aspect, mind you, but there is something completely fucked up about some minister telling a soldier they should not be troubled by seeing people die--either by their hand or someone else's--and guilty or innocent.  What kind of arrogant evil person would tell soldiers that they should not feel bad about the death of others?

David Barton, that is who.  Much loved in Christian conservative circles for his faux history, and devoid of an ounce of humanity or awareness.

November 12, 2013

Speaking of Jesus needing better PR

There is this story about anti-abortion tactics (language warning).  But here is the summary:  anti-abortion activists are encouraging their (supposedly Christian) followers to hijack an email thread where poor women seek assistance getting to an abortion clinic.  These Christians believe that lying to someone is perfectly ok in this situation, and seem to also think that kidnapping unsuspecting and desperate women is ok.

How Franklin Graham is truly an awful person

Perhaps he gives to the poor.  Perhaps his ministry actually helps people.  I don't know.  But I know that what he has done to his father is an awful thing.  Look at this link and the picture within and you will understand.  My Christian conservative friends seem to not get how their lack of discernment with regard to people like Sarah Palin speaks volumes about their tribal conservatism being more important to them than their faith.

Worth 1,000 words: The awful state of American evangelical Christianity after Billy Graham

November 8, 2013

But first, a bit about gun culture

These stories bother me, and they bother me even more because now even mass shootings don't phase Americans.

A Mass Shooting Happened Yesterday But You Didn't Hear Anything About It | ThinkProgress

Or this story where a young woman seeking assistance after a car accident was gunned down by the home owner.

Or of course, this story that highlights why I loathe the gun culture.  Not gun owners, but the culture surrounding the people who worship guns and the 2nd amendment.  One of the editors from Guns and Ammo dared to defend the proposition that we could have some gun control.  His idiot readers revolted and demanded he be fired.  He didn't, as I read it anyway, suggest that we should take everyone's guns away.  No.  He just said that we can regulate this right, just as we regulate other rights.  And gun culture freaked out.

So I guess this blog is still here?

I know I have been absent from the blog for a while.  Not even sure why I have not been writing.  Some of it was battling allergies.  Some was applying for a job.  No, I didn't get it, but the process was useful, and I am not sure I would have enjoyed the amount of travel probably necessary.

I am still working through my sense of identity in the aftermath of all of this.  On one hand, I am doing just fine, but there are times when my frustration at being a really good teacher without a teaching job really gets to me.

But in other news, I have joined the board of a local arts group that hosts concerts here locally.  That is already proving to be a lot of fun and getting me connected to the artists and the process of choosing and recruiting acts.  In addition, I have devoted a lot of my time to improving my own musical skills and have even taken up the task of song writing.  I have about 4 relatively reasonable songs--reasonable in that they are essentially songs--and am enjoying that process.

More later.