Five ways the USA was never a Christian nation

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To argue that any idea or solution is un-American is to imply that the American way is righteousness; it too is a morality. For a Christian, this is the equivalent of saying that the American way is one and the same as God’s way. This is what the Republican Party, as well as many Republican pastors, would have us believe. They tell us that America was originally a Christian nation and that its traditional values are biblical values. Indeed, our nation was settled by Christians from multiple denominations, so naturally, their descendants who freed the nation from England’s reign were mostly Christians, too.

But does that make the nation Christian?

It’s naïve to assume that Christian founders had no choice but to create a Christian nation. Christians often do un-Christian things. For example, not all Christian business owners conduct their businesses as Christians should. This is especially true if we count as Christian all people who call themselves Christians, even if those who rarely read the Bible, pray, or attend church. Likewise, our nation’s founders were a group comprised of devout Christians, Christians in name only, and some non-Christians, such as Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (who liked some, but not all, of Jesus’ teachings, but denied His divinity).

The truth is that America’s founders could have designed our nation to be like God’s nation of ancient Israel, but they chose, instead, to go in a different direction. Here are some major differences between God’s nation and the nation our Founding Fathers established:

1) Freedom of Religion – In God’s nation, there was no freedom of religion. Even at the time of the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, people believed that different religious beliefs couldn’t co-exist within the same society. They thought that conflicting beliefs would have a cancerous effect on their faith. Looking at Christianity in America today makes me wonder, sometimes, if they were right. It’s a lot harder to live the Christian life when everyone around you openly engages in non-Christian behavior. At heart, many of us Christians realize this and try to fight off alternate lifestyles through legislation. But we can’t do that in a society built on religious freedom.

2) Republican government – Rome, the nation that worshiped Greco-Roman gods, like Mars and Aphrodite, was a republic. So was the Union of Soviet Socialists’ Republic (USSR), an atheistic nation. God’s nation of ancient Israel was not a republic.

3) Democratic government – Ancient Greece, the most homosexuality-promiscuous society in world history, established the first democratic city-states. Our founders followed their lead, not God’s. (I think democracy is the best system humans have ever devised. I am not condemning it. I’m just stating that it does not come from God.)

4) States’ rights – While God divided Israel’s land among the twelve tribes, He did not give each tribe the right to make their own laws. The Law of God applied to the whole nation. It was a federal system. There were no states’ rights to conflict with, or undermine, the national law. Our nation’s founders, on the other hand, chose to leave many rights to the states when they ratified the Constitution. This was an unbiblical decision. But let’s not assume they all wanted it that way. It’s not as if the founders all shared a unanimous vision of a nation in which power was split between states and a federal government for centuries to come. They were divided over the matter, to the point where they formed opposing political parties – Adams and Hamilton led the Federalists against Jefferson’s Democrat-Republicans throughout America’s earliest decades.”

The harsh reality of their time was that the states existed first. They were created by England as colonies. Upon realization that the states couldn’t survive as a federation, James Madison led the charge to draft a Constitution that would give more power to the federal government. To bring this Constitution to life, the states had to ratify it, meaning that each state’s leaders had to vote to give up some of their power to the new federal government. Nobody likes to give up power, so the Constitution had to be watered down to appease power-hungry state leaders. The Constitution is a man-made document of compromise; the Bible is not.

Many Republicans and Libertarians have stated that emphasizing states’ rights protects us from the tyranny of a large federal government. Yet our history shows the opposite. Strict adherence to states’ rights kept African-Americans bound in slavery before the Civil War and segregated from the rest of society after it (Plessy v. Ferguson). And, as I stated before, states’ rights was the reason the Supreme Court shot down the Owen-Keating Act of 1916 (in the case of Hammer v. Dagenhart) that prohibited interstate trade for companies that employed children under the age of 14. Strict adherence to states’ rights has inflicted tyranny upon millions of Americans, because individual and corporate wealth and power manipulate small states far more easily than they do a large, federal government. So, ironically, it’s been the federal government that has often come to the rescue of those oppressed by the tyranny of states’ rights.

5) Slavery – The original Constitution allowed for slavery and counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for electoral purposes. On the other hand, Exodus 21:16 says, “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” This selling refers to the selling of a human into slavery. I’ve had Republicans argue to me that Africans usually did the kidnapping and the selling, while Americans merely did the buying and driving; therefore, our nation’s founders were faultless for allowing slavery. This argument is nonsense. If you knowingly pay a robber for stolen goods, you go to jail. If you pay someone to kill someone for you, you go to jail. If our nation’s founders had modeled our nation after God’s, buying and owning kidnapped slaves would have been a crime. Also, the fact that the Constitution had to contain a three-fifths compromise is further proof that it was a negotiated document, not an eternal guide to righteousness.

All of this is not to say we shouldn’t abide by the Constitution, or that our nation’s founders are to be disrespected. They risked their lives and made great sacrifices to establish our nation. I believe most of them made the well-being of the American people a top priority. But the fact remains that they established a secular nation. It is not one and the same as God’s will. The founders were not prophets, apostles, or messiahs; they were mere mortals. The Constitution is not sacred scripture; it’s merely a framework for a government. Other nations have constitutions and founders, too. We are no better than they are. We Christians should never cite the Constitution or the nation’s founders as sources of righteousness. Only the Bible teaches us right from wrong. If we place quotes from the founders and the Constitution on par with Bible quotes, we worship our nation and defy the 1st Commandment that prohibits us from having any gods other than God Himself.

 

Marco Rubio book review: American Dreams

A solutions-oriented book marred by some fatal flaws

Having reviewed books by Republican candidates Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump, I expected this book to be just like theirs. Those books were largely devoid of solutions and full of rhetoric designed to scare readers away from the Democrats. This book certainly contained its share of the latter, but it contained far more specific solutions that the other books did.

The first two and last two chapters of the book contain most of the anti-Democrat accusations, while the middle chapters focus more on solutions. I’ll highlight the most noteworthy solutions first and then address some of the political rhetoric for those who care to keep reading beyond the solutions.

GOOD SOLUTION: “The elimination of payroll taxes for those [who are working] past retirement age could be accomplished with little or no effect on Social Security revenues.”

GOOD SOLUTION: Lower taxes on business money overseas, so they bring it back to America (known as repatriation). (Bill Clinton suggested this in his book, “Back to Work.”)

GOOD SOLUTION: Reduce the corporate tax rate. (Obama called for lowering the rate to 25% a few years ago, but the Republicans in Congress refused to pass it.)

GOOD SOLUTION: His plan for a Wage Enhancement Tax Credit for low income earners sounds like an interesting replacement for the Earned Income Tax Credit. It’s paid to the worker regardless of whether or not they have children. Although his claim that this will lead more low income men to get married seems far-fetched, since few men make marriage decisions based on economics.

GOOD SOLUTION: He has interesting ideas on higher education reform, such as the Investing in Student Success Act in which investors pay for college and then get something like 4% of the students’ earnings in the post-college years, and the Student Right to Know Before You Go Database. The question is whether these programs will make enough of a difference. Regardless, our Republican-majority Congress could be passing these acts right now; but they’ve chosen not to, probably because Obama is in favor of some of the same solutions, as Rubio says (loc. 1412), “And to his credit, President Obama has also proposed changes to our higher education accrediting system.”

But just when the solutions make Rubio seem electable, then come the HORRENDOUS ideas:

HORRENDOUS: “The Lee-Rubio [tax] plan would also eliminate the double taxation of capital gains and dividends income.” Loc. 1517— Rubio mentions this in passing, without any further elaboration, and for good reason. This is the most evil part of the plan. He wants to eliminate capital gains and dividends, which is how the corporate wealthy earn almost all of their money (Calling it “double taxation” is to make it sound immoral). His plan lets BILLIONAIRES GO TAX-FREE!!! Someone like Donald Trump, who inherited $200 million, invests it in various companies and makes $10 billion, would pay no tax on what he makes, since he makes it from capital gains rather than from getting a paycheck. Meanwhile, WORKING CLASS AMERICANS make up the difference and bear ALL OF THE TAX BURDEN.

HORRENDOUS: His solution for Medicare: replace it with “a premium support system [a fancy word for “voucher”] that would give seniors a fixed amount of money with which to purchase health insurance.” Loc. 1926. — We already have a “support system” that gives college students “a fixed amount of money” to spend at colleges, and results are disastrously high-priced education. Why would health insurance be any different?

HORRENDOUS: “Modernize our legal immigration system toward a merit-based one. That would mean reassigning existing visas away from family-based immigration” loc. 747 — In Rubio’s system, those who can contribute the most to our economy (the wealthy) are welcome, while poor immigrants are criminalized. That might be good economics, but it’s lousy Christianity. We have more wealth to share than anyone, yet Republicans like Rubio are stingier than anyone.

HORRENDOUS: The National Regulatory Budget, which “would be an absolute dollar limit on what federal regulations could cost the economy in a year.” Loc. 594 —There are about 1000 new chemicals created every year. Rubio’s plan would allow unlimited exposure of them to workers, consumers and the environment, unless limitations on previously-regulated hazardous chemicals were lifted so that the new chemicals could be regulated. The more dangers and scams the corporations create, the more regulations we need to protect workers, consumers, and the environment from them.

Rubio misleads the reader into thinking money spent on regulations leaves the economy: “One study put the costs of regulation during the first 5 years of the Obama administration at an astounding $500 billion.” Loc. 574 — TRUTH: If a coal plant must retrofit its facilities, it must pay other companies to do that job, thus increasing the number of business to business transactions within the economy, which creates more jobs than if the corporate wealthy just sit on their money.

HORRENDOUS: Rubio ends the book with a disastrous chapter on how sexual immorality is the cause of poverty, as he cites various statistics on how children from single-parent homes have higher poverty. Rubio may be right that immorality might explain why a person is at the back of the jobs line, but it doesn’t explain why there aren’t enough jobs for everyone in that line. If there are 200 million workers and 180 million jobs, 20 million people have to be unemployed, even if everyone in America comes from a 2-parent home and has a PhD to boot. Until Rubio and other Republicans are willing to address this macro-economic reality, they will never improve poverty. In fact, when you consider that the last three times the Republicans have turned the White House over to a Democrat, the unemployment rate has never been below 7.3%, it’s clear the Republicans make poverty worse.

DECEPTIVE RHETORIC:

BAD: “And yet seven years into his presidency, struggling Americans are – by every measure, worse off today than they were before he took office” Loc. 94 — TRUTH: Unemployment, GDP, the DOW, and the annual deficit are just a few numbers that have improved since then.

BAD: “The economy shrank by the highest rate since the Great Recession on the 1st quarter of 2014” Loc. 94 — TRUTH: Here’s the GDP for that 5 quarter stretch: 3.0, 3.8, -0.9, 4.6, 4.3. The negative quarter was the result of ice storm paralysis in the east, where cities like Atlanta lost 6-9 days of productivity. That’s 1/10th of a 90 day quarter.

BAD: “President Obama told a campaign audience in Virginia, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” loc. 199 — TRUTH: Obama really said, “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

BAD: “I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about dealing with the Affordable Care Act Web site.” — TRUTH: I’ve used it every year, and it’s worked just fine. It worked about 100 times better than when I tried to install Kaspersky Anti-Virus, but Rubio wants to be extra tough on the ACA site, while not pointing out how corporate sites are often far worse.

BAD: Obamacare has been the single largest impediment to job creation in the United States for the past several years.” Loc. 585 — TRUTH: Yet the unemployment rate has fallen from 10% in 2009 to 4.9% in 2016.

BAD: “But if there’s one thing we learned from the Obama administration’s failed taxpayer subsidies of companies like Solyndra, it’s that the government is a lousy venture capitalist.” Loc. 623 — TRUTH: The money lost on Solyndra only represented 1/80th of the money Obama invested into clean energy. If a venture capitalist is right 79 times out of 80, he’ll soon be the richest man in the world.

BAD: “The army is set to be reduced to pre-WWII levels. The navy is at pre-WWI levels.” Loc. 2251 — TRUTH: We have 11 aircraft carrier fleets while no other country has more than one. And we spend over 600 billion a year on defense, which is more than the next 8 biggest spending countries combined. He’s apparently talking about the number of active troops (he never cites a source on this), not taking into account the fact that technology (like drones and missiles) reduces the need for troops.

GOOD RHETORIC: Rubio does sometimes share the other side of right-wing talking points. Here are a few examples:

GOOD: “the fact is poverty is more widespread in rural areas than in cities.” And then mentions that 85% of “persistently poor counties” are rural. This dispels the notion many Tea Partiers have that the poor “moocher class” are black and Hispanic.

GOOD: At least when talking about the decline in the workforce participation rate, he mentions that its largely due to baby boomers retiring. Most Republicans deceive their audiences by blaming it on welfare or claim those not in the workforce represent the “real unemployment rate.”

All in all, this book is a worthwhile read, but only if you balance it out with a book or two from the other side of the aisle. I recommend the book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.” It’s my favorite, but I have to admit I’m a bit biased on that one.

 

Statistical proof that minimum wage increases don’t kill jobs

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As the minimum wage debate rages on, Republicans, and even some Democrats, tell us that raising the minimum wage would hurt the economy, thus hurting everyone. There are two fronts on which they make this argument: One is that a minimum wage increase will kill lots of jobs, because business owners cannot afford to pay their workers that much. The second is that the increase in wages will drive up inflation. I will tackle these issues the way I like to tackle everything – by examining comprehensive economic data.

Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the unemployment rate in 1948, we’ve had 20 minimum wage increases. Here they are, along with the unemployment rate at the time of the wage hike, and then the unemployment rate 12 months later, so we can see the long term effects:

Date      Wage     % Increase     UE rate     UE rate 12 months later          Difference
1/50      $0.75      88% (40c)      6.5%            3.7%                                             -2.8
3/56      $1.00      33%                4.2%            3.7%                                             -0.5
9/61      $1.15       15%                6.7%            5.6%                                             -1.1
9/63     $1.25       9%                  5.5%             5.1%                                             -0.4
2/67      $1.40      12%                3.8%            3.8%                                              0.0
2/68      $1.60      14%                3.8%            3.4%                                             -0.4
5/74      $2.00      25%                5.1%             9.0%                                            +3.9
5/75      $2.10       5%                 9.0%             7.4%                                             -1.6
5/76      $2.30      10%                7.4%             7.0%                                            -0.4
1/78      $2.65       15%               6.4%              5.9%                                            -0.5
1/79      $2.90      10%               5.9%              6.3%                                            +0.4
1/80      $3.10       7%                 6.3%              7.5%                                            +1.2
1/81      $3.35       8%                 7.5%              8.6%                                            +1.1
4/90      $3.80      13%               5.4%               6.7%                                            +1.3
4/91      $4.25      12%               6.7%               7.4%                                            +0.7
10/96    $4.75      12%               5.2%               4.7%                                            -0.5
9/97      $5.15        8%                4.9%              4.6%                                             -0.3
7/07      $5.85      14%                4.7%              5.8%                                            +1.1
7/08      $6.55      12%                5.8%              9.5%                                            +3.7
7/09      $7.25      11%                9.5%               9.4%                                           -0.1

These stats prove the job-killer argument wrong, by showing that 12 of the 20 wage increases did NOT result in a higher unemployment rate 12 months later. That includes the two biggest wage hikes, percentage wise, in 1950 and 1956. These numbers imply that minimum wage hikes actually improve unemployment numbers.

For those who want to dwell on the few exceptions where the wage hikes were followed by large rises in unemployment, we have to keep in mind these hikes coincided with major recessions that were brought about by other causes ranging from OPEC to the banking crash. The ’73-’74 recession had seen three quarters of negative GDP (which is what defines a recession) by the time the minimum wage was enacted in May of ’74. In all major recessions, peak unemployment numbers lag behind drops in GDP by about 18 months (give or take a few months), so the job losses caused by falling production were mounting just as the wage was increased. The same goes for the 2008 increase. The high gas prices of 2008 hurt the economy, but then in the fall of ‘08 the banks crashed, so that by the summer of 2009, unemployment was reaching peak numbers.

No matter how you slice it, there’s no consistent evidence here that minimum wage increases kill jobs. If anything, the largest increases created jobs. Yes, a small number of workers might lose their jobs in the short run and some small businesses may go under if they’re already struggling. But the vast majority of minimum wage workers, as well as those earning a little more than minimum wage who also see raises, spend their raises within the economy, so that business owners have to hire more workers to service the increased number of customer purchases. That’s why significant wage hikes lower unemployment (assuming of course, that all other factors influencing the economy remain the same).

As for inflation, here’s a similar chart on that:

Date      Wage     % Increase     UE rate     UE rate 12 months later          Difference

1/50       $0.75     88% ($0.40)      -2.1%                   8.1%                                    +10.2
3/56      $1.00      33%                     0.4                      3.7                                         +3.4
9/61      $1.15      15%                     1.4                       1.3                                          -0.1
9/63      $1.25      9%                       1.0                       1.3                                         +0.3
2/67      $1.40      12%                     2.8                      4.0                                         +1.2
2/68      $1.60      14%                    4.0                       4.7                                         +0.7
5/74      $2.00      25%                   10.7                      9.5                                          -1.2
5/75      $2.10      5%                       9.5                      6.2                                          -3.3
5/76      $2.30     10%                      6.2                      6.7                                         +0.5
1/78      $2.65      15%                      6.8                     9.3                                          +2.5
1/79      $2.90      10%                      9.3                    13.9                                         +4.5
1/80      $3.10      7%                      13.9                    11.8                                          -2.1
1/81      $3.35      8%                      11.8                     8.4                                           -3.4
4/90      $3.80     13%                      4.7                      4.9                                         +0.2
4/91      $4.25     12%                      4.9                     3.2                                            -1.7
10/96    $4.75     12%                      3.0                      2.1                                           -0.9
9/97      $5.15      8%                        2.2                      1.5                                           -0.7
7/07      $5.85     14%                       2.4                     5.6                                          +3.2
7/08      $6.55     12%                      5.6                     -2.1                                           -7.7
7/09      $7.25     11%                    -2.1                      1.2                                           +3.3

Here, 9 of the 20 minimum wage hikes did not result in an increased inflation rate. Yes, conservatives might argue that 11 out 20 times it did. But if you average all of these numbers together, you’ll see that the average increase in the inflation rate per minimum wage hike was only 0.5%. So if our average inflation rate is 2%, a minimum wage hike will increase it to 2.5%. That’s something the average person wouldn’t notice.

Now the person who opposes a larger minimum wage hike all the way to $15 per hour might point to the largest wage hikes in 1950 and 1956 and say they increased inflation the most. That’s a fair point, especially since there was normally not much inflation in the 1950s. Since a $15/hr. minimum wage is more than doubling our current one, we are likely to see over 10% inflation as a result. That’s why we should apply caution in setting our new minimum wage rate. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the minimum wage, inflation-adjusted for today’s dollars, ranged between $9-$11 per hour. So going to $15 would be unprecedented.

So why is it that minimum wage increases cause very little inflation?

It’s because most pricing is not set on the cost of production, but on the amount that consumers are willing to pay. I remember when I bought my first home computer in 1999. The computers with Pentium II processors had cost about $1500. But then when the Pentium III processors came out, they then cost $1500, and the Pentium II prices dropped to about $600. Is that because the manufacturer suddenly found a way to manufacture the Pentium IIs at less than half the price, but not the Pentium IIIs?

No.

The Pentium II prices dropped drastically, because customer demand for them fell so dramatically after Pentium IIIs hit the stores. Prices were set based on what consumers were willing to pay, not on the cost of production.

Throw on top of that the fact that, in today’s hi-tech world, the cost of the technology to produce goods and services is usually far greater than the cost of labor, so that increasing labor costs have a minimal impact on the cost of production, and you’ll see why minimum wage hikes have far less of an impact on inflation than the average person might think.

But you are now smarter than the average person for having read this article. So you just might want to share this newfound wisdom with your politically-conservative friends.

Why electing a “Washington Outsider” as president won’t fix Washington

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Three of the 16 presidential candidates in the 2016 Republican field are/were people with no political experience – Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump. They, along with first term Senator Ted Cruz, have managed to garner most of the Republican voter support by running as “Washington Outsiders,” – people who are going to change the way Washington works.

Yes, people are fed up with the big money influence and gridlock in the nation’s capital, so they say they want to elect a president who is going to “shake up Washington” or “change the way Washington works.” I have bad news for those people: It’s impossible for a president to accomplish that. Many have tried, and all have failed.

In 2008, Barack Obama ran as a Washington outsider. In fact, he had only been in the Senate for a few years before he ran. He was new to Washington. And while he succeeded in many things, especially during his first two years when the Democrats controlled Congress, he failed to change the big money influence and Republican obstructionism in Washington.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran as a Washington outsider. He had been governor of California, which was 3000 miles from Washington. So how did he change Washington? Well…the Pentagon paid $600 for toilet seats and $400 for hammers. That’s a change. And let’s not forget Iran/Contra. The Reagan administration suffered 138 indictments. That’s the worst in American history. As for changing Washington for the better, he failed.

Before Reagan, Jimmy Carter ran as a Washington outsider in 1976. He was viewed as the polar opposite of Richard Nixon, a corrupt politician who had long been part of the establishment. American voters decided they preferred a humble peanut farmer from Georgia over anyone who had experience in Washington. Carter was never found to have engaged in corruption, but he didn’t change the way Washington worked. In fact, some suspect that his honesty hurt his effectiveness at getting Congress to work with him.

Now someone might argue that these governors and first time senators still had some political experience, but what about someone one who had never been elected to office. That person would be Herbert Hoover. He was a successful business man and world famous charitable organizer. Once he became president in 1929, his own party refused to work with him, because he lacked the interpersonal skills it took to garner votes for his political agenda. He went down in history as one of America’s worst presidents.

So why can’t presidents “shake up” Washington?

First of all, what does it mean to “shake up” Washington? It’s almost as if Trump supporters think he’s going to literally shake people in Congress and chew them out for not doing it his way. That’s not going to accomplish anything. It’s no solution at all. In fact, it will render him ineffective, even within his own party, just like Herbert Hoover.

Second, the president lacks the power to “shake up” Washington. He can’t do it by executive order, because executive orders only change the way things work in agencies that fall under the executive branch; they have no impact on Congress, and Congress is where the gridlock and big money influence reigns. He can’t just give the Congress a good talking to. As President Obama said in the 2016 State of the Union Address, he knows Congressmen he talks to who would like to do the right thing, but they can’t because the voters back home will vote them out of office.

And that’s the source of the problem. The same voters who say they want to shake up the way Washington works keep voting for the very same congressmen who cause the gridlock and serve the interests of the corporate wealthy. The president is powerless to stop them. Only the voters can stop them.

So that leads us to the formula for change in Washington:

Voters have to become deeply interested in congressional elections. But even that’s not enough. They have to have deep interest in Congressional primaries. In the general election, most people tend to vote for the representative of their party, especially at times like these when the parties are so clearly divided over issues. That’s why incumbents usually win. If we are going to bring about change, we have to make the change in the primaries by voting for better representatives within our parties. Yet most people are reluctant to do that, because the person who already occupies the office has proven they can beat the other party’s opponent, since they have already done so. Nominating someone new comes with an increased risk of losing the election to the opposing party. Add to that the fact that most people don’t even know what primary challengers’ faces even look like, and the incumbent is likely to win the party nomination the vast majority of the time.

The sad fact is that the voters won’t apply the formula I just described, especially within the Republican Party, since they are the party that has represented the interests of the corporate wealthy since the 1890s, and they have a very effective way of brainwashing their voters. The Democratic Party has a better chance of making change, as they strongly oppose ruling like Citizens United. To really make change that matters, however, we have to pressure our representatives to ban what I called “post term payoffs,” where companies who lobby congress reward ex-congressmen with jobs that pay 10-20 times more than they earned in Congress. So imagine being a Senator and seeing your colleagues who give the lobbyists whatever they want then get hired by those lobbyists’ companies after they leave Congress and get paid 3 million dollars a year. How do you secure such future riches for yourself? Give the lobbyists what they want. As of 2012, 53% of former congressmen worked for companies who lobbied Congress. This is what we have to stop if we are going to have any hope of fixing Washington. But nobody’s talking about it, not even in the Democratic Party. Therefore, Washington isn’t getting fixed anytime soon. But if we elect an extremist radical president with no experience, it just might get a whole lot worse.

Exposing the 7-year Tribulation Doomsday Myth

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Over the past 50 years, a significant number of conservative Christians have promoted the idea that God has called America to support Israel at all costs, even if it means invading nations who might threaten Israel and effectively waging perpetual war in the Mid-East for the sake of weapons industry profits.

These Evangelicals, led by Pastor John Hagee, promote interpretations of biblical prophecy that predict an unfolding of events in the Middle East which includes the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and a 7-year tribulation. According to them, if we don’t defend Israel and help this temple-building process along, we are somehow working against God’s will. Here’s the main passage eschatological Christians cite as proof of a coming 7-year tribulation:

Daniel 9: 25-27, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens.” It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two “sevens” the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who causes desolation will come upon the pinnacle of the abominable temple until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate city.”

Most theologians will tell you that the first 69 “sevens” (called “weeks” in some translations) are the 69 seven year periods (483 years) that passed between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile and the arrival of Christ. It’s the final “one seven” that conservative Evangelicals will tell you represents a future 7-year tribulation in which there will be suffering throughout our world like never before. I believe they are wrong. And here’s why:

This seven year period already happened – a long time ago – from A.D. 67 through A.D 73. After a Jewish revolt in A.D. 66, Roman Emperor Nero appointed Vespasian around the beginning of A.D. 67 to destroy the Jews. He wasn’t just fighting off a rebellion, like his predecessor Gallus; he was utterly defeating them. I believe Vespasian’s agreement with the Romans to do so was the “covenant with many for one seven (conservatives think “the many” are the Jews, but the Bible never says that),” because his campaign to defeat the Jews lasted approximately 7 years. It started in early 67 and ended with the fall of Masada in late 73. Right smack-dab in the middle of this period, in July of A.D. 70, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed 3 ½ years into the 7-year period.

To me this is about as obvious a fulfillment of this prophecy as there can be. Therefore, we don’t need to rebuild the Temple again so it can be destroyed again for the sake of fulfilling this prophecy. It has already been fulfilled. It’s not about us.

Another indication that this prophecy is about Vespasian’s conquest is this passage (along with several other passages that say similar things):

Daniel 7:21-22: “I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell – the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched this horn waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the most high, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom [This last line likely refers to Israel becoming a nation in 1948].” And then verse 24 interprets this as, “The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones, and he will subdue three kings.”

While Vespasian was a general when he embarked on his quest to defeat the Jews, he became emperor of all of Rome in the summer of A.D. 69. That didn’t halt his campaign. He simply placed his son in charge of the military operation. What’s remarkable about Vespasian is that he was Rome’s 4th emperor to take the throne that year. The three emperors who preceded him died in the first half of A.D. 69. Two of them were murdered and one committed suicide. Whether Vespasian’s supporters had anything to do with these deaths will never be known for sure. But this passage I just shared, as well as several others in Daniel, speak of a king who replaced three other kings, and it’s that king who defeats the Jews.

What throws a lot of Christians off track in understanding these passages is references to “the end.” They suppose it refers to the end of the world, but the Bible never says that. In this case it appears to mean the end of the Jewish nation and the Temple.

Another thing that throws Christians off track is the self-absorbed insistence that the Bible’s prophesies have to be fulfilled in our lifetimes, as if all others who have read the Scriptures over the centuries, including those who read them first, really don’t matter to God as much as we modern American Christians do; God really wrote the Bible for us.

While many Christians will be upset by my bursting of their prophetic bubble, they shouldn’t be. The Dead Sea Scrolls, along with other archaeological evidence, all but prove Daniel to have been written at least a couple hundred years before the destruction of the Temple, if not sooner. There’s little that strengthens the faith of a Christian more than some convincing evidence of a Bible prophecy having been fulfilled, especially in an age where skeptical attacks against the validity of the Bible are more numerous than ever.

The only bad news here is for those who long for American invasions in the Mid-East, because they have had one of their biggest justifications debunked. This is also bad news for ministries that use end-times prophecy to distract Christians from studying the biblical teachings that actually make a positive difference in this world. They just might have to repent of that.

Refuting the Republican Anti-Welfare Stance

[Photo – a rendition of Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” myth]

[The following article is an excerpt from my book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason”]

Opposite Evil: Freeloading

Nearly all of us have known some freeloaders. Sometimes they’re our family members. Sometimes they’re our co-workers. Sometimes they’re the employees we manage. At home, they do what they can to live off of other members of the household. On the job, they goof off more than they work. They do just what it takes to get by and no more. They’re such poor employees that no employer should have to hire them. They complain so much about their jobs, their employers, and their lives in general that some of us can barely stand to be around them. According to them, nothing bad in their life is ever their fault. And they use the shortcomings of everyone around them, and even society at large, as the perfect excuse not to try. Their incessant negativity chips away at our ability to maintain a sunny disposition.

Some freeloaders feel that society owes them something, usually money. They blame the government, racism, sexism, the education system, their parents, and the business community for creating barriers that keep them down. Indeed some of these barriers exist; others do not. However, these barriers rarely give sufficient cause for someone to abandon all hope and live off of society. Other freeloaders, however, may not have such big chips on their shoulders. They simply game the system for what they can get from it. Either way, freeloading is a simple combination of greed and sloth.

Naturally, any responsible, hard-working person cringes at the thought of freeloaders freeloading off of the tax dollars workers pay. Such freeloading is unjust. The Bible calls for justice. Therefore, many Republican Christians say, “I believe in personal responsibility. People should be held accountable for what they do. Others shouldn’t have to pay for those unwilling to work.” And for support, they’ll point to this sentence in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.” This verse has become a cornerstone of Republican Christianity. Conservatives interpret it as a biblical mandate to deny assistance to anyone in need.

This, however, is a classic case of how God’s Word can be distorted when we build a belief on a solitary verse without looking at what the entire Bible has to say. Yes, freeloading is a sin. We should do all we can, within reason, to prevent it. On the other hand, I’ve already shared with you passages that require God’s people to share with those in need (such as the mandatory tithe for the poor), especially with those who lack the means (such as land) to provide for themselves. So we know the Bible teaches that not all needy people are freeloaders. Many can do little to improve their situation. Therefore, using verse 3:10 to deny all assistance to the needy is a distortion of the Word of God and is sin. In fact, if we examine the verses leading up to it (verses 6-10), we see that the Apostle Paul, who is visiting the Thessalonian church, works to provide for his own needs while he’s there, so others in the church don’t have to. Apparently, there was enough work available that he could find some, even though he was just passing through. If he could find work, certainly local church members could find it, too. Paul was calling on those who could find work to work rather than freeload. He wasn’t calling on those unable to work to go hungry due to lack of opportunity.

Opposition to sloth and greed of the poor is not only found in New Testament verses like this one; it’s found in the Old Testament as well. Here are some passages that Republican Christians love to quote in the name of personal responsibility:

Exodus 23:2-3, “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.”

This verse opposes lawsuits in which groups of poor people attempt to steal from the wealthy by making false claims. Not all lawsuits are evil, but we may only sue with just cause and honest testimony.

Proverbs 30:15, “The leech has two daughters; ‘Give, give,’ they cry. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough.’” [NRSV]

Proverbs 21:25-26, “The craving of a lazy person is fatal, for lazy hands refuse to labor. All day long the wicked covet, but the righteous give and do not hold back [NRSV].”

Proverbs 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.”

Proverbs 24:30-31, “I passed by the field of the sluggard, and by the vineyard of the man who lacks sense; and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles, its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.”

Proverbs 28:19, “He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.”

These last two proverbs give us insight into the difference between those who were at fault for their poverty and those who were not. That difference was land. As I stated in prior chapters, approximately 95% of Israelites inherited land on which they could grow food and build houses, so all they had to do was work the land. These passages, as well as all of the Old Testament anti-laziness passages, condemned those who failed to work their land, not those who had no land to work. Likewise, it’s consistent with God’s will to have a system that aids those who lack a means of self-support, like those who lacked land in the Bible. We are not to hold them to the same standards as those who have a means of self-support.

Of course, the way our society is structured, it’s much harder to tell the difference between one group and the other, since most Americans are dependent upon corporations, rather than farmland, for jobs, tenancy, food, and other needs. Some have skills lucrative enough to make it in the corporate system, while others lack them and either earn unlivable wages or none at all when corporations provide fewer jobs than there are workers.

Welfare

Republicans, in an effort to gain our votes, regularly portray those who receive any government assistance as freeloaders. The embodiment of this rhetoric has been the “welfare queen.” From time to time I’ve heard Republicans say that they “know of” a woman who has ten kids and drives a Cadillac that she bought with her welfare money. Little do most of them know that this story had its beginnings in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. Reagan described her this way, “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.” Of course, no one has ever identified this woman, and such an elaborate scam can hardly be commonplace among the poor. Few people are smart and daring enough to pull off a fraud scheme, especially those who haven’t figured out how to make a good living in a competitive economy. Nonetheless, this story was so incredulous that it has for decades been Republican folklore intended to make people despise welfare and cling to its opposite – total mercilessness toward the poor.

Conservatives have modern-day welfare fraud stories, too, and some of them actually can be proven. For example, in March of 2014, Fox News paraded a welfare-cheating surfer-dude by the name of Jason Greenslate before viewers on a program entitled, “The Great Food Stamp Binge.” Greenslate lived with various friends and relatives in the wealth-laden town of La Jolla, California and most likely ate their food, too. And then, being unemployed and eligible for food stamps, he spent his $200 per month food stamp allowance on seafood at the grocery store. When Fox News interviewed him about it, he expressed pride in taking advantage of the system and expressed a desire to continue doing so. Eric Bolling of Fox News said on Feb 26,th 2014 that, “He is the representative of literally millions of Americans,” as if all food stamp recipients have wealthy friends whose sofas they can sleep on and whose refrigerators they can raid.

The truth is that most food stamp recipients have friends and family who are no better off than they are. And, even more important, 76% of SNAP (food stamp) households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person in 2011. These are people who cannot fend for themselves, not lazy surfer-dudes scamming the system. Also, the average food stamp benefit in 2011 was $133.85 per month per person, so even those who do use the system unnecessarily aren’t reaping major money from the government. Their scandals pale in comparison to the 4 billion dollars per year in government subsidies to rich oil companies that Eric Bolling dismissed as merely “a pittance” when compared to all that the government spends.

Today’s anti-welfare conservatives are also largely unaware that the Republican Party got the welfare reform it wanted (mostly) in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Thanks to this law, welfare rolls decreased from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million in 2006, and caseloads decreased by 54 percent. The legislation replaced the old welfare program (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) with TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) which limited lifetime assistance to 60 months, so no one could live off of the system indefinitely. Yet, Republican politicians and pundits never seem to mention it, as though it never happened. Instead, they’ll point out that more people are on food stamps than ever under President Obama, because he expanded the food stamp program as a part of his economic stimulus package. They fail to admit that this expansion was temporary (it ended November 1st, 2013 ), and that an expansion of food stamp payouts should be expected following both a recession and an increase in wealth disparity in which the wages of the working poor buy less and less. Many food stamp recipients are not lazy slugs, but work hard at low-paying jobs that fail to pay for the necessities of life. As working class wages continue to fall in the coming decades, the number of Americans receiving government assistance will grow. We as a nation should not be ashamed that our government assists so many people; we should be ashamed that our economic system leaves so many people in need of assistance.

Welfare opponents, of course, claim that their opposition to welfare is really for the common good. Welfare and other assistance programs, they claim, promote a cradle to grave dependency on the government, taking away motivation to work and keeping the poor stuck in poverty.

So what would happen if they got their way and food stamps were abolished?

Would food stamp abolishment create jobs?

In my credit card processing sales days, I established accounts for numerous small, independent markets in the impoverished areas of Philadelphia. Having access to their processing statements, I saw it was the norm for these markets to get more than half of their business from people who paid with food stamps, sometimes as much as 90 percent of it. If food stamps were abolished, many of these markets would go out of business, and their employees would lose their jobs. So this is how food stamp abolition will destroy jobs. I can think of no way it will create jobs. Conservatives argue that those unable to depend on welfare will look harder for jobs. This accomplishes nothing, because people looking hard for jobs doesn’t create jobs. If there are 160 million workers and 145 million jobs, people looking harder will not create 15 million more jobs. Consumers buying products and services creates jobs. Business owners will not hire workers to service nobody. If food stamp abolition reduces the number of customers spending money in impoverished areas, the number of employees needed to service those customers will also be reduced, as declining revenue from a lack of customers forces employers to cut costs.

If Republican conservative arguments that welfare creates poverty were true, then the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 should have greatly reduced poverty. We should have seen a marked improvement in the American quality of life after its implementation, certainly by 2008, since it cut welfare to such a great extent. Instead, since 1999, median household income has fallen, not risen (this was true even before the Great Recession). This substantial reduction in welfare payouts did nothing to improve the American standard of living. Yet, as long as there are any welfare, unemployment, and disability programs at all, Republicans will argue that reducing and eliminating them will improve life for the average American, despite the lack of evidence to support their claims.

Another point regarding the idea that cradle to grave dependency takes away motivation to work is that, outside of TANF, most other assistance programs help children and the elderly. The elderly, including those in nursing homes receiving Medicaid, are beyond the point where they can work. Their motivation at such a late stage in life is irrelevant. Likewise, children are not yet at the point where they can work. This fact, however, didn’t stop Christian book store owner and Republican Missouri State Representative, Cynthia Davis, from opposing subsidies of summer school lunch programs by stating on June 4th, 2009 that “hunger can be a great motivator.” Perhaps Representative Davis thought that if children go hungry, they will work hard for their food like wealthy children do. Of course, wealthy children don’t work; they have their food given to them. Unlike Representative Davis, the Bible only holds those able to support themselves responsible for doing so. Children and the elderly are not of this group.

All of this is not to say we should encourage dependency on the government. For example, we shouldn’t give the poor so much money that they live better than those who fail to qualify for assistance. This hurts motivation to look for work. However, we should not only discourage low income freeloading, but high income freeloading as well. For example, the banking industry behaved irresponsibly and received government bailouts in the late 1980s and the late 2000s. Oil companies and large farms receive subsidies, and the defense contractors have enriched themselves on tax dollars more than anyone. And let’s not forget that corporate owners couldn’t get so rich if it weren’t for the liability protection they depend on the government for. Apparently, Republicans only oppose dependency on the government when it’s the poor depending on it, not the rich.

-K. Scott Schaeffer

How Trump can use the presidency to enrich himself

thCAHEGQOIA Trump-supporting relative at a 2015 Christmas gathering asked me, knowing that I am not a Trump supporter, “So what do you think Trump’s motives are for wanting to become president? I think he really wants to make America great again.” At the time, I answered that I can’t read minds, that I suspect it’s all about ego; that Trump is bored with making money, so it’s really about power and fame now. While that answer probably contains some truth, I think it just scratches the surface. As I gave the question more thought later, the answer crystallized. Now if only I could build a time machine, go back to the moment of that question, and lay down the new and improved answer (I have this desire a lot). But instead, I’ll just share it with you.

For several years now, I’ve shared my belief with others that, when you vote Republican, you may as well vote the oil companies, banks, and defense contractors to be our government. You may as well place their executives and major shareholders right in the seats of the Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court. From there they will make decisions to cut their own taxes (both business and personal), shovel tax dollars to their companies, and fight against every worker, consumer, and environmental protection, because they despise anything that limits their ability to exploit Americans and the world for the sake of even greater wealth and power. (If you’re a conservative who wants to argue that the Democrats do the same, I say examine the legislation and Supreme Court rulings, such as the 5 Republican-appointed justices voting that money equals speech and that corporations are people who can funnel unlimited millions into political campaigns through SuperPACs, while the 4 Democrat-appointed justices voted against it.)

Donald Trump, of course, represents neither the oil, the banking, nor the weapons industry. Rather, he represents the real estate and construction industries. When Trump speaks about building a wall, he says, “I build things. That’s what I do.”

Exactly!

But let’s follow the money. Who will build the wall and other projects he has proposed, such as infrastructure improvement projects?

Government rarely builds these things themselves; rather, they contract them out to private companies. Donald Trump has involvement and influence all throughout the real estate and building industries. It’s more likely than not that a sizable portion of the government money spent on these project will find its way back to Donald Trump and his kids. Yes, there are laws and regulations against that sort of thing – FOR NOW! But who’s to say Trump and the Republicans won’t repeal them. Also, Trump has hinted at embarking on new infrastructure projects. These just might include new highways and high speed railroads that will someday provide opportunities for Trump and his kids to make money from new hotels, casinos and condos they build along their routes. Trump’s presidential ambitions may be nothing more than a veiled attempt to exponentially expand the power and influence of the Trump Empire throughout America and across the globe, while competing billionaires lusting for world domination eat his dust.

Speaking of competitors, keep in mind that government regulatory agencies fall under the executive branch and, therefore, under to power of the presidency. Trump, as president, will have the ability to write executive orders to undo decades-old protective regulations enforced by the Department of Commerce. One of the oldest political scams in the book is corporate controlled politicians changing laws and regulations in order to place competitors at a disadvantage, as the infamous Boss Tweed did for his friend and Erie Railroad owner Jay Gould in the 1860s and 1870s. Unlike Boss Tweed, Trump isn’t a politician controlled by wealthy business owners, the way most Republican presidential candidates are. Instead, he’s cutting out the middle man and placing himself directly into the seat of the world’s most powerful office. If he succeeds, he’ll be in the perfect position to exploit America’s laws and regulations for his own sake.

The world is headed in the direction of the corporate wealthy being the most powerful force in the world, rather than the nations and their democratically-elected governments having the power. The nations will be the pawns of the global corporate wealthy and will do their bidding. Perhaps the nations who refuse to do their bidding will have their economies vengefully ruined by powerful bankers and their politicians, so that “they will be unable to buy or sell” (as the book of Revelation says), unless they bow down to the Beast that is the corporate wealthy and the politicians they control. The world is already this way to some extent. But over time, the power of the corporate wealthy will grow, and placing Donald Trump in the White House just might be one huge step in that direction.

How Republicans are Killing Evangelism

Evangelism
As a student at Belmont University in the early 1990s, I was somewhat active in the local church’s mission to reach out to Kurdish Muslim refugees with the love of Christ. The refugees had fled the Kurdistan region of Iraq and, for some reason, had relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. A good friend of mine, who would go on to live in Kurdistan as a missionary to Kurdish Muslims from 1995-2002, was instrumental in the local program which, among other things, built a tea house for the Kurds. Its grand opening was a fond memory for me, not only because the Kurds received a great gift from the church, but also because it was the first time I ever ate baklava, which is still a favorite of mine. Nonetheless, to the best of my knowledge, the Kurdish Muslims had received nothing but the love of Christ from Evangelical Christians.

Those days now seem as though they occurred in an alternate and opposite universe.

Since the Republican Party has been so successful at using issues like abortion to sell themselves as the Christian party, millions of Evangelicals have since allowed Republican media and politicians to teach them that they should fear and despise Muslims.

How do I know their efforts have been successful?

At first I didn’t know. Early on, it seemed that most Evangelicals disliked Trump and swore they would never vote for him. Then this Fall I heard that Evangelical groups spoke out in opposition to the Republican Party regarding Syrian refugees. Apparently, evangelism wasn’t dead. At least not yet.

But then a poll in the first week of 2016 revealed that 33% of Evangelicals support Donald Trump. I personally was shocked, since I had thought the Republican Evangelicals were repulsed by Trump’s hateful, racist rhetoric. Plus, more than 20% of Evangelicals support Ted Cruz, whose genocidal policy of carpet bombing Muslims (indiscriminately killing the civilian population where the enemy dwells) is actually more deadly than Trump’s plan. Add to that the reader comments I see on the Facebook feeds of Religious Right leader and former pastor Mike Huckabee, in which the most commonly used term employed by his followers appears to be “evil Muslim,” and it’s clear that the Evangelical hatred toward Muslims is growing in both scope and intensity. It’s probably only a matter of time until Republican rhetoric leads Evangelicals to abandon evangelism altogether in favor of rejecting and hating Muslims, Gays, Mexicans, and anyone else they see as living outside the Christian faith.

One might argue that Evangelicals can still manage to evangelize from a distance by condemning them and demanding that they become Christian. But that approach didn’t even work in biblical times. That’s why the Apostle Paul commended the non-Christians at Mars Hill for being “very religious in every aspect” [Acts 17:22] when he began to share the Gospel with them. Notice that he did not condemn them as evil and demand that they join the faith. Rather, he shared the Gospel with them and invited them to learn more about it, and those who refused, he left alone rather than pursue them with hatred and condemnation.

I think there are two reasons he did this. The first is that his non-condemnation approach to evangelism was more effective. Reaching out to others with the love of Christ, regardless of their faith or orientation, opens people up to you and to the message you have to share. The second is that judgmentalism is a sin. It’s not our place to determine how God views another person. In fact, in Paul’s case, he was himself a convert who had once persecuted Christians – that’s about as evil as it gets. Yet God was gracious with him, reaching out to Paul with the love of Christ rather than damning him as evil.

It’s one thing for us Christians to judge a behavior, a deed, or even a competing religious theology as evil, but we are forbidden from judging people as evil. When we do so we effectively take our seat on God’s throne and damn people in our hearts (or crown them as righteous, which also has its dangers). Once we make that final damnation, then we withhold from those we judge the love of Christ that leads people to know Him, and we serve the will of Satan rather than God. The Republican Party is now leading more and more Evangelicals to practice judgmentalism rather than evangelism, and Christianity’s numbers are in rapid decline as a result.

Why Democrats need to oppose political correctness extremism

To me, there are two types of political correctness: The first is the correctness of refusing to use words that have always been intended as derogatory toward those to whom they apply. While I hope not to infuriate anyone with the simple mention of such words, they’ve included, “wop,” “spic,” “chink,” etc. The people to whom these words are supposed to apply have never applied these words to themselves. Most Americans can agree that labeling people with such derogatory terms is wrong, cruel, and certainly racist.

The 2nd type (and the type most people have a problem with) is what I call political correctness entrapment. This is where the usage of a given word is labelled as racist, even though the group to whom the term refers has, for many years, used that very term to refer to themselves. This seems to have started with the term, “black.” The term itself, from what I understand, replaced the word “colored,” which replaced the word “negro,” as in the United Negro College Fund – an African-American organization that, in its own name, has always referred to college students of their race as “negro.” Likewise, many colleges in the 1980s had organizations that called themselves “The Black Caucus” and the “Black Student Union.” Yet, by the early 1990s, non-racist whites who used the term “black,” a term that had always been acceptable for them to use, instead of the new term “African-American,” were suddenly in danger of being labelled as racists. The result? More whites running to the Republican Party, because they hate the political correctness traps of the extreme left.

While I’ll admit that the “black” vs. “African-American” debate has since abated, the political correctness trap has spread to other races, and even segments of racists. In December, on MSNBC’s The Run Down with Jose Diaz-Balart, I witnessed a hispanic outreach campaigner (I think he represented Bernie Sanders) say that Martin O’Malley was a racist because O’Malley used the term “illegal immigrants” instead of the new term “dreamers.” What alarmed me so much about this accusation is that, to the best of my knowledge, Martin O’Malley supports a path to citizenship. He’s on the same side of the immigration debate as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Yet, just for the sake of scoring political points, this campaigner sprung the political correctness trap on an opponent.

Also disturbing is that the term “dreamer” is unspecific. It makes it more difficult to deal with the technicalities of immigration issues. And it steals the word “dreamer” away from legal immigrants who have dreams and U.S. born children who have dreams, limiting its use only to those who come to this country illegally. But worst of all, this form of political correctness accuses those of us who are not racists, who are trying to discuss issues that we care about, who favor a path to citizenship, of being racists just because we haven’t adopted the new language.

What effect will this sort of thing have in the long run?

I believe that these political correctness traps drive those who might side with a minority’s cause to the opposite extreme. That’s why Donald Trump’s pole numbers go up whenever he says he’s fed up with political correctness. Most Americans are fed up with the political correctness trap, too. And, unfortunately, they become so emotional over it that they run to the opposite extreme, willing to embrace Trump’s truly racist rants almost out of spite, so that racist rhetoric that would have repulsed them in years past now delights them. They then vote for politicians who say they oppose political correctness, even though there’s nothing legislatively that politicians can do to stop people from making a fuss when someone uses a word they do not accept. The First Amendment protects that freedom of speech.

As for Christians, however, the political correctness trap is actually sinful. It’s the sin of judgmentalism. Its purpose is to effectively take our seat on God’s throne and label another person as evil before the whole world, so that the world hates them, refuses to listen to them, and damns them in their hearts. It’s also, in many cases, the sin of bearing false witness, in which we call someone a racist who really isn’t one, all because they used a term that had been acceptable for them to use all of their lives until someone changed the game on them for the sake of entrapment.

I realize as a Democrat who runs a Facebook Page called, “Rescuing Religion from Republicans,”  this article may come as a surprise, and even a disappointment, to many liberals who follow the page. But remember that this website is called, “The Politically Moderate Christian.” One of the reasons I’m moderate is that, as a Christian, I let the Bible teach me right from wrong, not my political party. That means if I have to call out the party to which I belong for being too extreme, or just plain wrong, then I will, even if it’s at the expense of losing existing fans of the page and website. The way I see it, if a person is so closed-minded and emotional that they shun a writer they used to like over an occasional difference of opinion, then that person just might be too far gone to be reached on any issue.

Times are good…the media just won’t let you see it that way

fireworks_at_the_2013_Celebration_of_Light_in_Vancouver,_BC

As we approach the 2016 election, there’s a conventional wisdom floating about that says the reason politically-extreme candidates are so popular now is that the population is so frustrated; they just can’t take it anymore, so they insist upon drastic change.

To that I ask, “What exactly is it that Americans can no longer take?”

Naturally, your answer to this depends upon which issues you think are important.

If you’re a Republican, you might say it’s the economy that has you up in arms. Yet, the unemployment rate is 5%. It never once went lower than 5% under Ronald Reagan. And the average unemployment rate over the last 50 years is 5.8%. Even the U6 unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and part-time workers, is 9.8%, which is the same as it was in 2005 and 1996, when the economy was considered good. The household median income in 2014 was $53,657. That’s not as high (in inflation-adjusted dollars) as it was in 1999, when it peaked at $57,843 (which was an inflated number due to the dot-com bubble that was about to burst), but it’s higher than it was at any time during the Reagan-Bush years. (All of these stats come from Table H-6 at Census.gov: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/ ) So while we would like to see more growth, people today have even more buying power than they did in the Reagan years, which, according to Republicans, were supposedly so wonderful. If you’re flipping out because you think the economy now is so much worse now than it was in the 1980s, you’re out of touch with reality.

Trump supporters might say they’re fed up with all of the Mexican immigrants. Yet, a decade ago, when Congress failed to pass immigration reform under George W. Bush, we had 11 million illegal immigrants in this country; today, we still have 11 million illegal immigrants in this country. So if you think that illegal immigrants are flooding America, you’re wrong. Trump has resurrected an outdated issue here in order to win votes and distract voters from the real issues. But no matter how you slice it, immigration is no more of a problem than it was 10-20 years ago. In fact, you could say it’s less of a problem, because there are far fewer illegal immigrants crossing the border today.

If terrorism and Mid-East turmoil keeps you up at night, my guess is that you haven’t been following foreign affairs for very long. In the good old days of the 1980s, Iraq invaded Iran, and the war lasted 8 years. Reagan rewarded Saddam Hussein for the invasion by supplying him with weapons and satellite intelligence to help him defeat our enemy, Iran. Of course, Saddam later used some of those weapons to turn on our ally, Kuwait. Meanwhile, the USSR fought to overtake Afghanistan from 1979-1989. So right there you have 4 countries at war. And that’s not counting Lebanon, where 241 Americans died in the Beirut embassy and barracks bombings of 1983 (How did Reagan respond? He pulled the troops out of there in 1984. If Obama retreated like that, you know how Republicans would react.) And to top it all off, we were in a cold war with Russia and China, from the late 1940s through the mid-1980s, in which our enemies eventually had enough nuclear weapons to destroy every person on earth. That literally kept me awake at night as a young teen in the early 1980s. If a time traveler would have told me back then that, after the early 1990s, our biggest future threat would be terrorist groups on the opposite side of the planet that have no planes, battleships, or missiles, let alone nukes, I would have thought that future Americans would have to be the happiest Americans ever.

And if you’re a Christian who worries about growing sexual immorality in this country, remember that we’ve had a 50% divorce rate (approx.) for decades, long before gay marriage was even up for debate. Immorality is growing as Christianity declines, but forcing our religious rules on the rest of society creates resentment that only hastens Christianity’s further decline. So from a political perspective, there’s really nothing our leaders can do to improve sexual immorality. That’s why it didn’t improve one iota during the 6 years of Republican control of Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court from 2001-2007.

Even on the liberal side, there’s overreaction. Yes, the police brutality, especially against African Americans, is terrible. But I don’t know that it’s any worse than it ever was; rather, our cell phone cameras are better enabling us to capture the violence and share it with the world (which will hopefully lead to decreased violence in the future). Yes, we didn’t have the school shootings like we do today in the 1970s and 80s, but there were plenty of other violent events, from the Wounded Knee confrontation in 1973, to the McDonald’s mass shooting in 1984, to police shooting college students at Kent State in 1970, to the Move confrontation and the resulting fire that burned 60 Philadelphia city blocks in 1985. If America seems more violent now than in the past, it’s because your memory has faded.

Times are good – historically speaking, of course. Yes, there are still shootings, poverty, fighting, corruption, immorality, and so on. That’s always been the case. One might argue that divorce is worse today than it was 50 years ago, but then wife beating was worse 50 years ago than it is today. So we have to learn to take the good with the bad. I believe that a big part of being a Christian is appreciating what is good while still working to rescue people from the bad. Otherwise, we are guilty of being the “grumblers and fault-finders” the book of Jude warns us about.

To me, there’s only one thing that’s worse today than it was in the old days, and that’s the politically-controlled media brainwashing Americans, driving them to hysteria, and inspiring them to support extremist politicians who are likely to make rash and desperate decisions that we’ll regret for the rest of our lives. Before the advent of Fox News in the 1990s, the news was the news, mostly just straight-forward reporting. Today, most of our media is designed to entertain and indoctrinate. Right now, we should be enjoying our relative safety and prosperity. Instead, we’re miserable, and it’s dividing us. This isn’t to say we have nothing to worry about. If we continue along this path, the tremendous progress that more level-headed generations of the past accomplished will be dismantled by the panicked emotionalism created by today’s media.