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.

Why the “We need assault weapons to protect ourselves from government tyranny” argument is invalid

After the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook in late 2012, a fellow gun owner in my church agreed with me that legalized guns, such as those used for hunting, are fine, but nobody needs a gun that can kill 30 people in 30 seconds. Within earshot was a devout Republican Christian, however, who chimed in with the argument that we need high-powered assault rifles to protect us from a tyrannical government. My response was, “Paint me a picture in which it would be right for Christians to shoot police officers or soldiers, since they would be the ones representing the government that was ‘coming to get us.’” I can’t recall his exact words, but I believe they had something to do with Hitler and the Jews.

Ben Carson promoted a similar argument in his most recent book, and he received media criticism for it. He claimed that the Jews would have been able to defend themselves from Nazi tyranny, if only they had been allowed to have guns. The good news here is that rather than debate the hypothetical, we can look to American history, where guns of nearly all kinds have been legal, to see if gun rights protected Americans from tyranny.

Japanese internment camps

One might argue that the U.S. didn’t starve and kill Japanese-Americans the way the Germans did the Jews. True. But did Japanese-Americans know that our government wouldn’t do anything tyrannical to them when they first required them to live in camps? How did they know they wouldn’t be slaughtered and enslaved? It’s funny how Republicans are silent on what would have happened had the Japanese-Americans fought back, guns-a-blazing, when our government “came for them.” It’s hard to imagine that it would have gone well for them. Rather, it’s likely they would have been seen as Japanese sympathizers and would have been killed as though they were Japanese combatants. Regardless of what we can imagine, the fact is that loose guns laws didn’t protect Japanese-Americans from being forced into camps.

The Palmer Raids

During the Red Scare, in the years following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, J. Edgar Hoover oversaw the seizure and arrests of over 10,000 people who were suspected of being communists. A few thousand of them were detained, and several hundred, including Emma Goldman, were deported. The vast majority of them were non-violent. There were, however, some who were violent anarchists, and they were armed with bombs and guns. Yet, the government still managed to arrest, detain, and deport the violent ones, despite the fact that they were armed, because our police and military are experts in how to capture violent, armed extremists.

The Latimer Massacre

In 1897, the Luzerne County in Sheriff’s department in Hazleton PA shot 19 coal strikers dead, despite the fact that the strikers were unarmed and not destroying property or making threats.

The Ludlow Massacre

In 1914, the Colorado state militia burned down the tent village housing the families of striking coal miners, killing 25 people, including 12 children as young as age two.

The Bonus Army

In 1932, WWI veterans camped out and demonstrated in Washington DC for the government to pay them a bonus they had been owned for their service in the war. President Hoover responded by sending in General MacArthur, who repelled them with tanks and tear gas and then proceeded to burn down their temporary village. (Here’s a video of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNOsIB5VMSQ)

While these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, the truth is that if the government, federal, state, or local, wants to come and get you, they have the ability to do so. In the case with the Latimer and Ludlow massacres, the victims didn’t even know the government was coming for them. But even if you carried an assault rifle with you at all times to protect yourself, an FBI SWAT team could simply pull up alongside you in a van, as you’re walking to your car from the office, pull you into the van and then lock you away somewhere. Even if you shot at them in defense, they would be wearing bullet-proof vests and possibly other riot gear, and your shots would do nothing but bring about a more brutal response from them. The government has always had the ability to “come for you.” And that will never change.

All of these fantasies of the government coming to get conservatives and lock them up are a waste of time, however, because we will not experience Hitler-like tyranny in our lifetime at the hands of a Democratic president. If tyranny comes, it will come from a Republican (like Trump). And guns won’t protect the victims, because the gun enthusiasts will support the Republican president. As long as the Republican president locks up or deports blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, or Democrats, right-wing gun enthusiasts will be happy with that. In fact, they just might volunteer to lend a hand in enforcing the tyranny. It’s almost as if the Republicans have built up their own citizen militia that will reinforce right-wing policies and perhaps even rise up against Democrat-controlled administrations. Effectively, the people who have the guns have the power, and that gives more power to the Republicans.

And that brings me to my greatest concern – heavily-armed right-wing terrorists. If guns were limited to hunting rifles and shot guns, all of which require pumping another bullet into the chamber between shots, then it might possibly take a majority of the people to overthrow the government. But if we continue to let extremists hoard large numbers of semi-automatics that can kill 30 people in 30 seconds, then a small minority of the population can overthrow the government. We saw the beginning of this with Cliven Bundy’s militia friends in Nevada, who used assault weapons to prevent federal law enforcement from enforcing the law, and then they harassed the townspeople (with checkpoints, etc) in a display of force. Think about it…these extremists supported a racist, thieving lawbreaker to the point where they were ready to slaughter law enforcement. Do we really want people like that in charge of our country?

Therefore, I am far less concerned with the tyranny of our democratically-elected government than I am with the tyranny right-wing extremists will impose on us after they overthrow our democratically-elected government and take control of it to serve themselves. Remember, the last time heavily-armed racist extremists decided our federal government was tyrannical (even though all that happened was that a man who never proposed abolishing slavery in the South was elected president), it resulted in a Civil War that killed more Americans than any war in history. And if those rebels had won, America would probably be the world’s most oppressive nation today. My concern is that heavily-armed rebels of a similar mindset might turn violent in the near future, and the bloodshed will return.

The ISIS threat is hysterically over-hyped, and here’s why…

According to the CDC, the United States averages about 16,000 murders per year (that’s 160,000 per decade). And few people seem to be terribly concerned about it. The Republicans refuse to expand background checks or limit the number of bullets in a clip for a semi-automatic weapon, as if having to change a clip more often would be an unbearable hindrance to the gun enthusiast at the shooting range. Meanwhile, some Democrats, like the ACLU, tend to be more concerned about even the smallest civil liberties than they are about the murder rate (such as prisoners’ rights activism that makes prison less of a deterrent than it should be and shows far more compassion for criminals than it does for their victims).

Yet, despite politically shrugging our shoulders at 160,000 murders per decade, our politicians and pundits have managed to spearhead a national freak-out because 120 people died in a terrorist attack and 200+ people died in a blown-up plane on the other side of the ocean. And they’ve inflamed this panic by proclaiming that ISIS has expanded their capabilities.

Really? How?

Are they talking about the capability of being able to travel to France or to board an airplane?

We already knew that ISIS had guns and bombs; that’s how they expanded their territory into Iraq. Just because they took them on a road trip doesn’t mean they have greatly expanded their capabilities.

The truth is that ISIS has very limited capabilities. They have no power to threaten the sovereignty of the USA. They cannot invade us like Japan or Germany could have in WWII. They can’t drop bombs on us, because they don’t have planes. And even if they did have planes, they would need aircraft carriers to get them over here, but they have none. They have no navy, no air force, and no missiles. So it is impossible for them to “come here and kill us all” as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham famously said last year. Historically, they are small potatoes. Yes, they could strike us like they did in Paris and kill tens or maybe even hundreds of people, but that would barely put a dent in the 160,000 murders that Americans commit against Americans each decade.

Of course, I can hear the panicked emotionalists cry as they read this, “What about 9/11? They killed thousands of people and blew up buildings, and if we don’t go over there and kill ‘em all, they are are going to come here and repeat 9/11 again and again.”

Indeed, the image of the twin towers burning is seared into the minds and emotions of so many people that it becomes hard to reason with them. The terrorists didn’t carry out those attacks with weapons. Rather, they outsmarted us by taking civilian aircraft and crashing them into buildings while full of gasoline – effectively turning the planes into bombs. I have news for the panicked emotionalists: We’ve caught on to the plane hijacking idea. The cockpits are locked so terrorists cannot get in and take control of the plane. And, of course, there are the stringent TSA screenings that libertarian Republicans have been whining about, as if it’s the end of the world if someone touches your precious leg before you board a plane. So this leaves terrorists with nothing more than conventional weapons, such as small bombs and guns. Yes, they can kill some Americans, but nowhere near as many as we kill ourselves.

All of this isn’t to say that we should take no action and be completely unconcerned. But our response should be a measured one. Remember that ISIS has made enemies on all sides – Russia and France, most recently, but also Iran, Iraq, and Syria. They pose far more of a threat to their neighbors, whom they can easily access, than they do to us over here on the other side of the planet. They will be contained, regardless of what we do. Yes, they are terrible, but sending thousands more Americans to die and be tortured in a decade-long quagmire while shoveling trillions of dollars to the defense industry is overkill.

Politically, what concerns me is that an ISIS terrorist coming to America and killing as few as a dozen people in 2016 would cause a national freak-out that would guarantee a Republican landslide, because Obama supposedly didn’t keep us safe. And the Republican president would then send thousands of troops to their deaths in Syria and Iran (remember, they promise to tear up the Iran deal, which many experts say would lead to war), add trillions of dollars to our debt, all because of an attack that equaled less than 1/1000th of our annual murder rate. And if an aggressive Republican like Trump, Cruz, or Fiorina wins, we’ll likely find ourselves at war with Russia – a nuclear nation – and the consequences of that are unthinkable. And, of course, with such high war costs, Republican leaders will require us to make sacrifices to pay for the war, which are likely to include deep and drastic cuts to healthcare, disability, food stamps, and other assistance programs, costing thousands more lives here at home than jihadist terror attacks will ever take.

Basically, the Republican reaction to a relatively small numbers of deaths is to repsond with a far greater number of deaths. Why do they do it? It’s because they’ve shunned the warnings of former WWII Supreme Allied Commander and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, upon leaving office in 1961, warned, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Instead, Republicans and their panicky followers have enabled the weapons industry to enrich itself off of the deaths of foreigners, American soldiers abroad, and American civilians at home. That’s why they shrug their shoulders at over 100,000 guns murders at home per decade, but want us to panic and wage expensive wars over a few hundred lives lost overseas.

What Republicans really mean by the term “Radical Islam”

Many Republican politicians and pundits say we need to kill ALL “Radical Muslims,” because that’s who our war is really with. They complain that Obama won’t call our enemies by their name (of course, their names are ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jihadists, terrorists, etc., which is what he calls them), and that he refuses to define the real enemy, which is the religion of “Radical Islam.” Yet, among Muslims, there is no such denomination as “Radical Islam.” So we cannot look to them for the definition of this term. We must instead look to the Republicans who came up with it for the definition. So how exactly do Republicans define “Radical Islam?”

I’m assuming that since it’s Republican Evangelicals like Ted Cruz leading this charge, that “Radical Islam” is defined in a similar manner as “Radical Christianity” is defined by Republican Evangelicals.

One might expect that a politically-liberal/moderate Christian like myself would have grown up in theologically-liberal churches and know nothing about the teachings of Republican Evangelicals. But nothing could be farther from the truth. While I grew up in a nominally-Christian Pennsylvania Dutch family, I found myself immersed in conservative Evangelical church life upon attending Belmont University in Nashville, TN. I spend most of my 20s and 30s in denominations ranging from the Southern Baptists to the PCA to non-denominational churches. It was in these churches in which I would, from time to time, here a sermon on how we Christians need to be “Radical Christians.”

How did they define “Radical Christian?”

A Radical Christian was someone who changed their life in a significant way as a result of their Christian faith – someone who lived as if God is real. For some churches, that meant leaving the comforts of home to go into the missions field. For others it meant abstaining from alcohol, secular music, and R-rated movies. Just showing up in church on Sundays wasn’t enough. The world needed to see that you were a Christian in your daily life.

If that’s what a Radical Christian is, then Muslims who lead their daily lives differently that those around them as a result of their faith are Radical Muslims. For a Muslim, that might mean abstaining from pork and alcohol or wearing Muslim clothing. It doesn’t just mean being violent. So if our war is against Radical Muslims, then even peaceful Muslims at home are the enemy.

So while the general public might think that Republicans just want to wage war against violent Muslims, Evangelical “Radical Christians” know that Republicans are calling for a holy war where the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. They are calling for religious genocide. Since most Evangelicals believe that Islam is the most evil of religions, many of them see the eradication of devoutly Muslim people as a righteous endeavor. In other words, they really want to give the jihadists the holy war they’ve been longing for. This works out well for the Republican Party, because the Republicans have been that party that increases military spending at the fastest rate, looking for any reason to shovel hundreds of billions more tax dollars per year to the military-industrial complex, which, along with tax cuts for the wealthy and lawlessness for corporations, has been the Republican Party’s primary goal for decades.

So what does the Bible have to say about this?

Some might say the Old Testament calls for genocide, because the Israelites were to eradicate the people of Canaan, so they could move in and take over. Remember, however, that the Israelites were homeless after having left Egypt. They needed a home, and all of the good spots were taken. Moving thousands of people into an existing small nation and expecting to live side by side with its inhabitants was unrealistic. They would have been killed or enslaved. Their only chance of survival was to clear out the land they were to inhabit. That was simply the unfortunate reality of the brutal, ancient Middle East.

But over time, God led His people to overcome that brutality and become leaders in peace. Jesus and His disciples never saw the need to kill people of opposing religions in order to lead them to join the Christian faith, not even when Christians were being persecuted by those people. Killing people of other religions has no place in Christianity. Yes, our nation may defend itself. But there’s never a need to defend ourselves from a religion; only a need to defend ourselves from attackers, regardless of their religion.

The biblical tithe is really a capital gains tax, contrary to what Republicans say

Ben-Carson

Even among Republicans, Ben Carson has been stirring up some controversy with his intent to model the U.S. tax code after the biblical tithe. His reasoning from his book,  “One Nation”:

Carson: “No group of American citizens should be singled out for extra taxation and no group should be spared taxation on a federal level.”

Carson: “I think God’s a pretty fair person and he advocated a tithing system. There must be something inherently fair about proportionality.”

I too agree that God was very fair when he created the laws for Ancient Israel. The problem I have with Carson’s quotes aren’t that they look to the Bible as a guide to righteousness, but that they are anti-biblical and misrepresent what the tithe really was. Before I explain, let’s take a look at a few Bible quotes on having to share 10%.

Numbers 18:24, “For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore, I have said concerning them, ‘they shall have NO INHERITANCE [of land] among the sons of Israel.’”

Deuteronomy 14:28-29, “Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have NO ALLOTMENT OR INHERITANCE with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the word of God may bless you in all the work that you undertake [NRSV].”

Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of YOUR LAND, moreover, you shall not reap the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” (This last verse is not actually about the tithe, but about another form of mandatory sharing with the needy.)

What can we imply from all three of these passage?

Those who paid the tithe OWNED LAND.

Where did they get that land?

THEY INHERITED IT.

In ancient Israel, 12 of the 13 tribes divided up the land after the nation was settled. Families passed shares of their land onto their children, not after death as Americans do, but when young men came of age. Men and their wives then farmed the land and built homes upon it. This inheritance gave them the means to live. They had the land to work; all they had to do was work the land.

Only a small percentage of the Israelites had no land to farm – the Levites, whose job was ministry (although they still were given homes) and then orphans or widows, who made up a very small percentage of the population (since there was a system in place for widows to remarry), and resident immigrants (who would later be given an inheritance of land in Ezekiel 47:22-23 anywhere they chose to settle).

So why does all of this make Ben Carson wrong about taxing income the way the Bible does?

Because the tithe did not tax wages! It taxed what was produced from the land the Israelites inherited. Today, economists call that land “capital.” The definition of “capital” is “the means of production.” In capitalism, the land, buildings, and equipment used to produce goods and services are the “capital” owned by capitalists who have the right to keep all they produce from their capital. When you tax wealth gained from that capital, it is effectively a capital gains tax (or in today’s terminology, it’s more like a form of capital gains tax called a dividends tax), which we now tax at a FLAT RATE of 20%. So we already apply a flat tax on the gains from capital, just like the Bible did!

What we don’t see in God’s Law, however, is a tax on wages. There’s no indication that if a landowner hired a passer-by to pull weeds in his field and paid him two bags of grain as a wage that the worker had to share a percentage of that. God only taxed those who inherited the means to provide for themselves. Those who lacked an inheritance of land and were fully dependent upon wealthier people for jobs and income were not taxed; rather, they received. Carson, to the contrary, wants to tax them at the same rate as the wealthy.

If Ben Carson really wants America to follow the biblical tax code, then he should call for the elimination of all sales taxes, excise taxes (those included in the price of a product), and taxes on wages, because they are all unbiblical. The entire tax burden should then fall only on those who own capital and those who inherit wealth. Of course, if Carson proposed that, he would lose his Republican support, because God’s way, as expressed in the Bible, is the very opposite of what the Republican Party believes in, especially when it comes to the issues of economics and the rich vs. the poor.

I am not saying that this is exactly the tax plan I believe in personally. I realize our corporate system is a bit more complicated than the biblical one. All I’m saying is Ben Carson’s tax ideas couldn’t be farther from the Bible. And the same goes for his ideas on poverty assistance and business regulation. They run contrary to the biblical command, “there shall be no poor among you” [Deuteronomy 15:4], which is only possible if we modify our system so that EVERY AMERICAN shares in the nation’s wealth, not just the rich.

 

Why legalizing gay marriage will not lead to the legalization of child molestation or polygamy

timthumb

Even though gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, its opponents, most recently Ted Cruz’s father, insist that it will lead to the legalization of child molestation and polygamy. There’s one major reason that they are wrong. It’s real simple. Are you ready? Here it is:

VICTIMS!!!

Gay marriages are between two consenting adults. While that might not fit everyone’s religious view of right and wrong, it is a sexual situation that has no victims. Some Christians might argue that society is somehow the victim, but the reality is that if two gay people choose to do their gay thing together, no one is calling the cops.

And that’s the difference between a civil law and a religious law. Religious laws may prohibit something that has no earthly victims, because it is morally wrong according to the religion. Civil laws, on the other hand, are victim-driven. If most people don’t like getting punched in the face, they’ll make face-punching illegal. Most people will choose to give up their right to punch others in the face in order to not be punched in the face by others. That’s where the laws of nearly all civilizations come from – people creating laws to keep unpleasant things from happening to them and their families. It’s a very simple concept, yet millions of Republicanized Christians don’t get it.

Child molestation has victims. It is something children dislike, to put it mildly. Even though children have no say in making laws, most of us, having once been children ourselves, can imagine how horrible it would have been for us to have been sexually-abused as children, and some adults don’t even have to imagine, because they were abused, themselves. So we will continue to keep childhood sexual abuse illegal, because we value the child’s rights to not be molested far more than we value the sexual predator’s right to gratify his urges.

As for polygamy, that’s a little different. One might argue that women might choose to share a man. We saw this in the TV show, “The Girls Next Door,” in which Hugh Hefner had three girlfriends who lived with him at the same time. Of course, they didn’t go through the technicality of getting married, but what difference does that really make? Conservative Christians get too hung up on the technicalities of the paperwork and tend to overlook that fact that people are already free to live as they please, and that denying them access to the paperwork to make it “official” doesn’t change that.

So will we become a predominantly polygamous nation?

No. We will not.

The reason, again, is simple: Most women do not want to share their man. And even if women did flock to the Donald Trumps of the world (if polygamy were legal, I can’t help but think that Trump would try to acquire 1001 wives, so he could be greater than Solomon…I think he has already acquired more gold than Solomon), men would complain that the rich guys were hoarding all of the women, leaving millions of men mate-less. And then the women would get mad when their rich husband’s added more wives. It would be a disaster, and that’s why in the modern world, widespread polygamy simply isn’t going to happen.

In Old Testament times, men possessed the land, so women were reliant on them for support. If men died in battle (which was common), so that there were far fewer men than women, then men had to take on multiple wives, so that all women had a means of survival. There’s a sense in which you could say that women in ancient harems were the welfare moms of their day. But today, we have federal assistance programs that help women and their children survive, and we don’t lose large portions of our male population in battle. Of course, if we keep voting for Republicans who love to feed tax dollars to the war machine, we might lose much of our male population in battle. And since those Republicans are often the same ones who despise welfare, they might take that away, too. Then women will have no hope but to join harems for the sake of their survival. So if you’re really afraid of America becoming a polygamous nation, don’t vote Republican!

– K. Scott Schaeffer

Why Capitalism isn’t sacred; and why modifying it isn’t evil

capitalism rocks

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

Imagine you’re the inventor and manufacturer of the first bicycle. The bike is fast with a smooth ride. People love it. As soon as you make one, someone buys it. But there’s one flaw: Cyclists return to you, complaining of the injuries they’ve suffered trying to stop the bicycle, because the only way they can is by putting their feet down, falling over, or crashing into something. So you modify the bicycle by adding brakes. You make it better!

Are you now a bicycle hater, because you altered the bicycle from its original “pure” form by adding a modifier to keep it from getting out of control and hurting people?

Of course not! This argument is absurd! Yet, Republican politicians and pundits make similar accusations against anyone who would modify pure corporate capitalism, calling them socialists. They effectively tell us that if a something has benefits, it’s wrong to improve it by fixing its flaws.

Now, imagine trying to design from scratch the best economic system possible for society. You establish liability protection to create big companies so that efficiencies in production may result. But then, after decades of the system in operation, you realize it has one major flaw – disparity of wealth – too many oppressed poor people. So why not make the system better by modifying it to fix this problem?

Ultimately, the question you need to ask yourself is, “What is my goal in creating the system?”

If the answer is “to make life better for as many people as possible,” then it’s your duty to modify the system to achieve this goal. On the other hand, if your goal is, “I want to enrich myself and my privileged friends while keeping everybody else down, so I can exert my power over others,” then you leave corporate capitalism unmodified, as Republican politicians and pundits want.

Modifications of capitalism do not have to be in the form of handouts that might take away motivation to work. They can be in the form of enacting a minimum wage, limiting the length of the work week, enabling workers to collectively bargain with their employers, providing things to society that everyone can use (such as schools and roads), and paying for the needs of those who can no longer work, such as seniors and the disabled. Some of these modifications require sharing the wealth of the wealthy with society through taxation, and conservatives say that’s unfair. But let’s not forget that the wealthy wouldn’t have all of those riches if it weren’t for corporate liability protection from the government. Since the rich couldn’t raise capital for big businesses without this protection, they owe their wealth to this system, not just to their own efforts. If, through bankruptcy, society is forced to share in the losses of the wealthy, then it’s only right that the wealthy be forced to share their gains with society.

Republicans have argued that since the poor can purchase the cheaper products pure capitalism produces, that the poor benefit, too, so the rich sharing with the poor need not be mandated. However, it’s not as if the poor benefit from cheap products and the rich don’t. The poor have a very limited choice of products, because they have limited wealth (our history shows that they could afford nothing more than a life of squalor under pure capitalism), while the rich can afford an abundance of products due to their great wealth. So the rich have the advantage here, too. Also, to argue, as Republicans do, that stealing from society (through liability protection) to enrich the wealthy is okay, because it’s better for the common good, is to say that the well-being of the common good is more important than right and wrong. In other words, “what works” trumps “what’s right,” which is what I’ve been saying all along.

Furthermore, modifications that minimize disparity of wealth establish a balance between investment money and consumer spending money that enables the investments to pay off. When such a balance exists, both the rich and the working class prosper in a flourishing economy. But without the buying power of working class customers, investments go bust, and the economy stagnates. Business owners simply won’t invest in creating jobs that create goods and services no one will buy, because that would result in a total loss of investment money. This was known as “the surplus” problem in the 1890s depression, when manufacturers had efficiently created lots of products, but were running short on customers to buy them. Today, thanks to the resurgence of conservative economics since 1980, “the surplus” problem has undermined our economy again. Investment money abounds, but customers are in short supply; so the wealthy invest in gold, derivatives, real estate, short-selling, and commodities, but not in job creation.

One of the first things I learned in Economics 101 at Penn State was that no system or economic approach solved all of the problems of unemployment, inflation, deflation, high interest rates, trade deficit, and budget deficit simultaneously. Even capitalist-oriented approaches, such as Keynesian, Supply-Side, and Austrian economics each solve one or two of the problems by making at least one other problem worse. For example, the Supply-Side solution of cutting taxes increases spending and investing in the economy, which creates more jobs, but then the budget deficit grows from the decreased tax revenue, which will ultimately drives up interest rates and, in extreme cases, leads to hyper-inflation if the government has to print money to pay its debt. To me, each economic approach is like rowing a boat straight ahead with one oar. If you continue to paddle on the same side, the boat will veer farther and farther off course. If you then switch the oar to the opposite side, the boat will, at first, get closer to being on course, but then will cross over and go farther and farther off course in the opposite direction. Likewise, if we continue to apply a singular economic approach, the economy will veer farther and farther off course as the years pass.

Since no system solves all economic problems, how then can we give any of them sacred status?

Like all things man-made, whether wooden statues or philosophies, they fall way short of the perfection of God. None of them are righteousness. None of them are to be held sacred. As Paul said in Romans, “You’re the servant of the one you choose to obey…” We Christians can serve God and commit ourselves to the purpose of His Law (the well-being of others), or we can serve the man-made system of laissez-faire corporate capitalism. If we serve the latter, can we truly call ourselves Christians?