Expert on Jesus

There’s not much more improving literature than the Bible, and one benefit of spending years as a Catholic Charismatic and Pentecostal is a familiarity with the New Testament.

As far as Ayn Rand, I’m going to have to get the Cliff Notes version so I can get a handle on our new Vice Pres candidate, Paul Ryan.

Some of my best friends are atheists, and some are Christians, and some are Unitarians which gives you the option of following Christian principles while being atheist– not as strange in practice at that might sound to the devout.

I have a harder time picturing how you can be Christian while following a philosophy of extreme individualism.

Here’s Jesus speaking to the multitude, Gospel of Luke, KJV…

10: And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11: He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.

There’s a pretty consistent message in the Gospels of sharing with those in need rather than building up wealth– and a promise that the future is in God’s hands.

This is very far from the world, and nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus disparage the poor.

It’s not realistic to expect any of our politicians to follow these principles– Jesus set a very high bar and most of us just try to do a little better than we would without these words to nudge our conscience.

But how do you reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus? That’s what I want to ask Paul Ryan.

Anne Rice– Apostate

According to the Huffington Post, vampire novelist and Christian convert Anne Rice has left the flock.

She still believes in Christ– it’s the Christians that get on her nerves. Maybe she was afraid that she would spend eternity in the heavenly choir with Pat Robertson on her left hand and Beverly La Haye on her right, instead of in the row with C.S.Lewis and Hildegard of Bingen. Even a hardened horror writer might tremble at that prospect.

Of course, if she changes her mind, she can always repent.

And while God inexplicably refrains from smiting all the fools who claim to be His mouthpiece, there are actually a spectrum of Christian churches and groups that take a more humble and humanistic approach to the religion.

Unitarianism has strong roots in Transylvania–I’m not kidding. The courage of the freethinking reformers there would make a great novel series. Anne, you’re welcome at coffee hour any time.

Last Refuge

If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, religion must be the recycling bin into which you can toss your sinful nature and be given back… well, who knows where that stuff ends up? At least it’s out of our house, right?

Huffington Post says that television personality Brit Hume has some advice for Tiger Woods…

“The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith,” Hume said. “He is said to be a Buddhist. I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

It seems to me that Brit Hume is advising Tiger Woods to take advantage of the Prosperity Gospel–a religion that lets disgraced celebrities recycled their reputations into something less toxic. I doubt that Jesus lived his life and suffered his death to provide an easy out for rich men whose private life has caused public embarrassment.

I’m sorry that Tiger Woods is putting his wife and small children through all this pain. I won’t think more of him if he recycles Jim Bakker weeping on camera.

And just for the record, Buddhism does not condone addiction, infidelity, or breaking vows. When I want to see real practitioners of any religion, I look to the ordinary people. They lead, celebrities follow.

UPDATE: Brit Hume elaborates that Tiger Woods needs something that Christianity ‘especially provides’. Would that be political cover and damage control? Jesus was not really supportive of public professions of faith for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. But the Conservative Bible may have re-written those troublesome passages.

I still don’t get the fuss. Tiger Woods owes a huge apology to his wife. And his fans, too, I guess, for behaving in a way he would not own up to. His plan to get away for awhile to work things out is much more sensible, and even graceful, than running around the talk shows claiming that Jesus wiped his sins and everyone should join him in a prayer circle.

Christianity is too old, and practiced by too many saints over the centuries to be undone by the Brit Humes of the world. Some of my best friends are Christians, and they pray even when no one’s watching.

UPDATE: Pat Buchanan, who knows a lot about the uses to which religion can be put agrees that Tiger Woods should convert.

UPDATE: Brit Hume isn’t waiting to be awarded his martyr’s crown, he claimed it for himself this news cycle.

What’s Wrong With Granting Pardon?

It feels weird to blog against ‘pardon’.  We liberals are supposed to be bleeding hearts. Furthermore, forgiveness is woven into the Christian faith, whose central concept is ‘redemption’. We all know that law isn’t  justice. There needs to be some room for pardon in an imperfect world. How should a governor use the power of clemency?

Former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, pardoned Maurice Clemmons in 2000. Clemmons is alleged to have committed many violent crimes since his release.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas. He was also recently charged in Washington state with assaulting a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child. Using a bail bondsman, he posted $150,000 — only $15,000 of his own money — and was released from jail last week.

Documents related to the pending charges in Washington state indicate a volatile personality. In one instance, he is accused of punching a sheriff’s deputy in the face, The Seattle Times reported. In another, he is accused of gathering his wife and young relatives and forcing them to undress, according to a Pierce County sheriff’s report.

“The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus,” the report said.

Clemmons in now a suspect in the murder of four police officers  who were ambushed as they sat in a coffee shop.

What was Governor Huckabee’s criteria in deciding who to pardon? That was a subject of controversy even before his run for President…

If you’re wondering how Gov. Huckabee’s hundreds of clemencies compare with neighboring states, get ready for a shocker.
Huckabee leads the pack.
He has issued more commutations and pardons than all of the six neighboring states combined.
From 1996 through July 2004, Arkansas had more clemencies than all neighboring states combined. One-third of Texas clemencies were for people convicted with planted evidence.
Governors seldom reduce sentences in other states – and almost never for murderers serving life without parole or for rapists or for habitual drunk drivers, while in Arkansas it’s a regular habit with Huckabee.

Is it coincidence that Maurice Clemmons is alleged to have terrorized women while using religious language? Did the Christian narrative of redemption make Governor Huckabee susceptible to Christian inmates who claimed to have shed their former selves? Did Clemmons talk up his conversion?

I remember how the televangelists rallied for Karla Faye Tucker. Her execution was no triumph of justice and we would be no less safe if she were given life in prison. Still, I could not help noticing that many of the ministers who called for forgiveness supported capital punishment. They said that Tucker was ‘saved’ and an exception should be made. When God has forgiven, who are we to hold a grudge?

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing in the abstract, but it reality it can be tough and cost dearly. One of the most astounding acts of forgiveness this century was granted by an Amish community in 2006 to the gunman who killed five of their little girls and badly injured five others. Only they, who were so wronged,  had the right to make that call.

The office of governor gave Mike Huckabee the power to grant clemency. Did he use it, or abuse it? It would be a very cold world without mercy, but was that the motivation? Or did Governor Huckabee take it on faith that ‘saved’ meant safe and he need look no further? It would be interesting to review all the pardons he issued, and see if religion was a factor. How did he decide who to grant and who to refuse?

This is important, because religion is an unacknowledged force in politics. As a former fundy, I hear dog-whistles everywhere. I’m suspicious that Mike Huckabee let religious favoritism influence him, and that he released prisoners without due concern for the safety of the public.

If it turns out that Clemmons is guilty of this awful crime, Huckabee won’t be the first politician whose reputation suffers because of a pardon or parole gone wrong. But I fear that many of our leaders are influenced by religion, applying one standard to ordinary citizens and another to their brethren.

Another Christian Voice

Having spent three Town Halls nose to nose with people who told me in one breath that they were Christian and in the next that people who made ‘bad choices’ could just go ahead and die–well I find this really refreshing. Godspace takes the point of view that it’s contrary to Christian values to deny health care to the poor. They must have been reading that subversive New Testament.

Having trained as a medical doctor and worked in countries with both socialized and privatized healthcare I am very aware of the pros and cons on both sides. But I must confess that I have never worked in another country where people are afraid of going bankrupt because they get sick. Evidently in the US half of all bankruptcies are due to illness. Nor have I been in a country that thinks it has the best health care system in the world yet allows eighteen thousand people to die each year because they are uninsured. And the US has the highest infant mortality of any Western nation. These factors alone give me cause for concern so I am delighted to see that other far more able voices than mine are being raised about this issue.

The post has a diverse range of views in the comments, and lots of links, see the rest of it here.

Hey Christians! Check This Out!

I seen it in the Bible.

16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Now, it doesn’t say that the rich man was cruel to Lazarus. In fact, it was probably really inconvenient to have this sore-covered beggar hanging out in front of his house. But the rich man, according to his sense of what was expected, allowed Lazarus to scrape up a few crumbs. He probably expected to be rewarded by God for his tolerance. What a surprise!

I’m not a Christian, but if I was I’d worry. The book of Luke says that the rich man has to give some real help to the poor sick guy. Or he’ll go to the hot place.