Where are the peacemakers in the gay marriage debate?

One of Jesus’ most famous lines was, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Unfortunately, in today’s political world, they’re nowhere to be found.

The gay marriage debate has always been one of my least favorites. I often find myself in the center of the spectrum, where few others are found. I can relate to some viewpoints on both sides, but that has made both sides despise me for not fully agreeing with them. There’s a good chance that by the end of this article, you the reader will also disagree with me. But I’ll go ahead with what I have to say, because somebody needs to attempt to inject some peace into this mess.

The past couple weeks have been quite tumultuous with the passage of the Religious Freedom law in Indiana. And bringing the controversy to a head was the closure of Memories Pizza, a Christian-owned business whose owner said in an interview that her business would refuse to cater gay weddings. In an interview with Fox News after the closure, she reaffirmed her belief by saying, “it’s against our belief to condone, to cater, to their wedding. We’re condoning that [the gay wedding] if we do that.” Such statements led some individuals to make threats to the pizzeria owners, while many more phoned in fake orders and others protested outside.

As usual, I think both parties are behaving badly. Here’s the way I think good people should behave: Let’s say a gay couple asks a Christian company (caterer, florist, baker, etc.) to service their wedding. I think the Christian owner should say, “That’s not within my religious belief system. I would prefer if you would ask someone else to do it.” But if the gay couple insists, then the owner should provide service to them. Conservatives will counter that the Christian can’t do this because he or she is violating the Bible. But that’s inconsistent with how most evangelical Christians behave. Evangelicals all but ignore the Sabbath, for example. Many of them perform activities related to their jobs on Sundays, and almost all of them do household chores, even though the Bible prohibited doing such minor chores as kindling a fire on the Sabbath. So Christians push the limits of what the Bible allows, even on a big Ten Commandment sin like breaking the Sabbath. On the business service front, most Evangelical Christian bakers, caterers, florists and photographers provide services to weddings that serve alcohol, even though most evangelicals believe that drinking is a sin, and they all believe that drunkenness (which happens at most wedding receptions) is a sin. If they were to be consistent in their beliefs, they should conclude that to service weddings that serve alcohol is to condone alcohol use and abuse. The truth is that Evangelicals disobey the Bible left and right, but they are intently focused on the sins of others. Since gays are rarely Christians, evangelicals attempt to pull the logs out of the gays’ eyes while ignoring the lumber yards in their own eyes. And when they can’t do that thanks to discrimination laws, they cry that they are being persecuted for their faith. That’s a bit extreme, and it dumps fuel on the fires of the American culture wars that our politicians invented.

On the other hand, I think that if a business owner refuses to service a gay wedding, the homosexuals should simply take their business elsewhere. Why insist on giving your money to someone who doesn’t respect what you’re doing? Wouldn’t it be better to spend your money at a business who is on board with what you’re all about? Unfortunately, as soon as a business owner, such as the owner of Chick-fil-a, expresses their view that they don’t believe in gay marriage, the homosexual activists go ballistic and try to drive people away from their business, and in some cases, they even make threats. That’s way too extreme. I realize that gays will say that they are offended by anyone who doesn’t approve of them and their desires to get married. But guess what else many business owners don’t approve of? Their workers, especially if they’re in a union. If you could give most business executives and major shareholders truth serum and then interview them about their thoughts on labor, you would hear even worse things than have been said about gays. So what would happen if workers boycotted every business run by executives who despise the working class? They wouldn’t have anywhere to shop! To expect that most business leaders are going to share our values is simply unrealistic. And even when it comes to regular folks, most people are slow to change their values. People who grew up racist, especially those who were racists in their adult years, will never stop being totally racist on the inside. Likewise, people who grew up under the mindset that homosexuals are mentally-ill weirdoes will never shake that feeling. Yes, with enough pressure, we can shut these people up, but they’re unlikely to change on the inside. I think the homosexual activists need to be mindful of the fact that people are slow to change. When someone utters the opinion that they haven’t quite accepted homosexual behavior and marriage, they should show some understanding and respect those people, not terrorize them.

When homosexuals terrorize people simply for saying that they don’t believe in gay marriage, Republican Christian leaders, like Mike Huckabee, use these examples to convince Christians that they are under persecution. Huckabee said just last week that the gays “won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel.” Evangelical Christians believe this and then, as a result, eagerly embrace everything Huckabee and Fox News tells them, including the belief that the rich are the righteous heroes in our society and the poor are the lazy moocher class – the very opposite of what the Bible teaches. Again, extremists on both sides are ruining our country and creating division that could someday have serious consequences.

I would like to introduce a forgotten concept – it’s called “being the better person.” As the Bible says in 1 Peter 2:20, “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” It also finds favor with men. Civil rights activists lead by Martin Luther King Jr. peacefully suffered violence, and they didn’t retaliate by trying to run all racists out of business. But by being peaceful resistors, they showed themselves to be the better people, and the nation rallied to their side. In Acts, chapter 5, the Apostles rejoiced that they got to suffer for Christ, and they never retaliated against those who persecuted them. Today, both the gays and the Religious Right take offense at the slightest instance of not getting their way and lash out at the opposition while hosting their own pity parties, even to the point of accumulating riches for the tiny bit of suffering they’ve endured.

I can’t speak for the gays, since I am not gay. But as a Christian, I think that we Christians need to be the better people and be the ones to compromise when it comes to the desires of others. Lord knows that we compromise the Bible’s teachings when it comes to our own sins, as we repeatedly taking chances that God will let our sins slide. In fact, in Acts 15, the Apostles decided to end the Biblical requirement that new believers be circumcised, because they feared that upholding that rigid law would keep Romans away from the faith. If the people who knew Jesus personally could compromise for the sake of others, I think we too can relax some rigid laws for the sake of the public perception of the Gospel. Doing so will not only cease to repel Americans from the church, but it will also prevent war – the very thing that peacemakers are called to do.

Rebuking Huckabee’s Book: Chapter 4 – “Uniform Diversity” – An Oxymoron

This is a very hypocritical chapter in which Huckabee whines that the left calls the right names like Nazi’s or anti-abortionists or racists, but he totally ignores the right calling liberals communists and socialists, or the right comparing Obama to the Nazi’s at every turn. He even says our liberal-controlled world tells us that, “Calling a communist a communist is hate speech, but calling a conservative a Nazi is free speech.” He refuses to acknowledge that most of the people Republicans call communists and socialists are actually capitalists who believe in making merciful modifications to the system. To Huckabee, when he calls someone a name, that’s really what they are, but when liberals call someone a name, it’s a false accusation.

Early in the chapter, Huckabee calls the website, Right Wing Watch, “a hate group which exists to make sure no one utters an opinion that’s out of line with the left”. I went to that website and what I found were various articles about things Republicans, including Huckabee, actually said. All it takes to get people upset is to actually quote the extremist statements of the Republicans. I didn’t see the site as something that limits free speech. I find that Huckabee’s quote here is hypocritical, because all of Fox News would have to be a hate group, by his definition, that makes sure no one utters an opinion that is out of line with the right. When guests on O’Reilly and Hannity’s programs begin to make logical arguments to the contrary, O’Reilly and Hannity talk over them and cut them off. When Huckabee had a show on Fox, he rarely had guests on his show who disagreed with him at all. Worse yet, I have been banned from making comments on Huckabee’s Facebook page, because I’ve made too many logical points to the contrary. After I started making logical comments on his website, my computer got hacked, and my website access page and video-making software were disabled. Now, Huckabee’s site no longer allows for anyone to leave comments. That shows you how much Mike Huckabee “makes sure no one utters an opinion that’s out of line” with him!

Next, he condemns the bank SunTrust for cutting ties with the anti-gay Christians from the TV Show “Flip it Forward.” Huckabee said, “That didn’t go over well” with those who had “read the First Amendment and thought that destroying people’s livelihoods because of their religious beliefs seemed more like practices from North Korea, not North America.” Again, the First Amendment does not guarantee us any protection from corporations, and that’s normally the way the Republicans like it. I once submitted a request to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Republican Christian litigation group, when I was being discriminated against by my employer at the time for refusing to defy my Christian beliefs and lie to customers, and I received no response from them. Republicans, like ADF and Huckabee, have shown no concern for protecting us from corporations, but only now that some corporations refuse to work with those who condemn gays are Republicans starting to care about protecting people from corporations. So they only believe in protecting freedoms when it’s their own kind they’re protecting.

Huckabee then makes the false claim that Obamacare has phantom networks of providers, because there was one woman in California whose doctors were listed on the network, but were not actually a part of it. What he failed to mention is that Obamacare is not an insurance company, rather it helps people get insurance through providers like Aetna and Blue Cross. These insurers have always had network lists, but I’m sure they make errors from time to time, and Huckabee wants to turn that into a national phenomenon. But I know from having Obamacare myself, through Blue Cross, that the network lists are generally accurate. I get the feeling that, as time goes by, Republicans will convince millions of Americans that the whole in-network, out-of-network system was created by Obamacare, even though the insurance companies created it decades ago and have been using it ever since.
The only good point he makes in this chapter is that we are under constant pressure to change our politically-correct words. He uses the example of changing “alien” to “Illegal immigrant,” to “undocumented immigrant,” to “guest worker,” to “dreamer.” It is a bit annoying, but nothing that would make me sell out my biblical principles. I’m not going to dedicate my vote on Election Day to word definitions. Yet, this is one more area where Huckabee tries to distract people from the way Republicans exploit America for the sake of the corporate wealthy predators that they serve.

Next, even I was surprised when he the called Rutgers University students “little snots”, because they protested that they wanted Condoleezza Rice arrested for war crimes when she was scheduled to speak at commencement. That kind of name-calling is the purest form of judgmentalism, something the Bible opposes, but Huckabee has no trouble practicing such a sin, because he merely uses Christianity for political gain. His use of the term “little snots” shows just how angry Huckabee gets when someone opposes the slaughtering of thousand of people in the name of turning a countries oil fields over the global oil – the master of the Republican Party.

Finally, Huckabee makes some sense when he points out that democrats had taken him out of context when he said that women are incapable of “controlling their libido unless Uncle Sugar” comes forward to save them, because a reading of the entire quote shows that he attributes this thought to what the democrats supposedly think, not to himself. Sounds fair, but I wonder why Huckabee didn’t just include the whole quote in the book if his claim is that the democrats only used part of his quote. Of course, Huckabee fails to mention the time Obama said that when it came to “roads and bridges” provided by society and depended upon by businesses, that “business owners didn’t build that.” Republicans jumped all over the last words of that quote to make it look like Obama was saying that business owners didn’t build their businesses. So again, Huckabee’s complaints about the left just as easily apply to the right.

Rebuking Huckabee’s Book: Chapter 3 – The Culture of Crude

This is the chapter of the book that received the most press attention upon the book’s release. The controversy was over the fact that Huckabee criticized Beyonce’s sexually explicit lyrics, even though Huckabee played the sexually-suggestive song, Cat Scratch Fever, alongside womanizing and gun-loving Republican musician, Ted Nugent, on his TV show. Of course the real reason Huckabee behaved so hypocritically is made obvious by the following quote, “Jay-Z and Beyonce are BFFs with President Obama and the First Lady. ‘How can it be that the Obama’s let Sasha and Malia listen to that trash?'” So the reason Beyonce is evil and Ted Nugent is righteous is that Beyonce is Obama’s friend and Nugent is Huckabee’s friend. Of course, Huckabee would disagree, as he defended Nugent on the Daily Show by saying that, unlike Beyonce, “Nugent made music for adults.” Surely, if you were alive in the 70s, you remember how it was the parents and grandparents listening to Nugent, not the teenagers. As usual, Huckabee and the Republicans rely on the fact that most of the population lacks functioning long-term memories. That’s the only way they can get people to believe their revisionist history.

I distinctly remember from my heavy metal days seeing Ted Nugent on TV bragging about how he had slept with over 2000 women. He even likened bagging lots of women with bagging lots of animals when hunting. Of course, Huckabee ignores all of this and lashes out at the likes of Beyonce, who is married. The fact that she’s married makes it possible to see her sexually-suggestive lyrics as promoting sexuality within the context of marriage, not in the context of treating humans like animals the way Nugent does. Yet, Huckabee has the nerve to ask, “Where are the feminists in all of this?” “Is it okay to objectify women and use them as toys, with body parts to be played with and tossed aside?” Well, it’s certainly okay in the eyes of Ted Nugent – a man whom Huckabee upholds as a righteous hero, all because he loves guns and hates Obama.

Then Huckabee says, “When we treat others with reckless disregard for their personhood and act as if human feelings don’t exists – or don’t matter – we create an atmosphere in which it becomes much easier to damage them physically. This was one of the tragic lessons of the Holocaust.” In usual Republican fashion, he relates something “liberal” to something “Nazi.” He mentions what he perceives to be a “liberal” problem in America and immediately jumps to extreme conclusion that another holocaust is coming, without making any effort to walk us through how we’re going to get to that point. I think Huck’s quote, however, could be much more realistically applied to people who are in need of healthcare they cannot afford. They have “human feelings” and are damaged “physically” by lacking that care, but Republicans have a “reckless disregard for their personhood” because they are supposedly part of the moocher class. So perhaps it’s disdain for the poor that will lead to the next holocaust. After all, Hitler’s master race ideology was founded on the Social Darwinist belief that weaker and poorer people should suffer and die so that the human race only reproduces the supposedly more righteous wealthy and powerful people. I’ll admit that I’m going too far here. I think killing millions of poor people is unlikely, since the corporate wealthy find them to be so much more useful as impoverished employees.

Huckabee goes on to make yet another attempt to convince Christians that a holocaust is coming for them, even though the point of this chapter was supposed to be about sex in entertainment: “the same root evil that created slavery, genocide, “honor killings,” and the Holocaust is growing in our society today, with some people deemed “less” than others, whether it’s because they are unborn children, people of other ethnicities, or increasingly, people of faith.” I agree that this “root evil” may be growing. But how can Huckabee be so blind to the fact that He and his party are the ones spreading most of the fertilizer? Notice how Huckabee fails to mention how most Republicans deem racial minorities, gays, and the poor to be “less” than others. And it’s these people whom the Republicans attack, not by genocide and honor killings, but by deprivation – by creating and upholding a system that allows the wealthy to hoard resources to themselves so that most of the nation is dependent upon them for jobs and income, and then they deny those people enough jobs and income to live a dignified life, leaving them to suffer (and even die due to lack of healthcare). For the moment, I’m going to call this the “stealth holocaust,” where the masses are systematically used, oppressed, exploited, and deprived rather than killed outright. It’s a much more effective plan, because it’s harder to define and identify without acts so finite as murder, and much like the Jewish Holocaust, the fearful and the simple-minded can be brainwashed into supporting it.

What bothers me so much about Huckabee’s claim that there’s a holocaust coming for Christians who oppose sexual promiscuity and gay marriage is that so many Christians believe it. I’ve even had someone in my own church, which is normally a pretty moderate church, regurgitate Huckabee’s claims to my face. The truth is that Huckabee’s claim is out of line with our recent history. Christians used to oppose rock ‘n roll, dancing, the consumption of even a drop of alcohol, women having authority over men in the workplace, and even women wearing shorts. And yet Americans who embraced these activities and turned away from church ideals didn’t persecute the church for opposing them. And ultimately, the church learned to deal with and even embrace these societal changes. But that was before the Republican Party conquered most of the evangelical church. From now on, the church is likely grow more angry and fearful of changes to the point where I fear they will resort to violence as a solution, the very opposite of how Christians have been solving problems for the past 2000 years.

Rebuking Huckabee’s Book: Chapter 2 – Guns and why we have them

Huckabee starts off this chapter with an appeal to those who grew up with guns. He says, “I had my first BB gun, a Daisy Model 25, when I was not more than 6 years old.” He also says he got a .22 rifle when he was nine. Well, I have him beat, because I got my first BB gun when I was four, and I got my first .22 rifle when I was eight. But my heritage hasn’t led me to commit intellectual suicide and succumb to the brainwashing of the NRA, who finds a way to turn every situation, even school shootings, into an opportunity to sell more guns.

Like the NRA and Fox News, Huckabee goes on to compare any and all proposed gun regulations to the Nazi’s. This, of course, has become standard Republican logic ever since Obama took office. The Republican equation is “Where we stand today” + “Whatever Democrats propose to do” = “Nazi death camps!” Republicans tell us that Hitler took away everyone’s guns so he could never have his power taken away from him. What Republicans fail to tell us is that Hitler also dismantled the democracy that elected him, so he could not be removed from power. We need to look no further than the severe gerrymandering of districts, the overturning of the Voting Rights Act, the corporate takeover of election campaign funding, and the implementation of voter suppression laws to see that the Republicans have been hard at work doing the same thing.

Of course, Democrats in power have not proposed banning all guns or anything close to it. All they have proposed is some background checks on gun purchases and the limiting of the number of bullets in a semi-automatic clip to ten. Huckabee counters such a proposal by saying “’semiautomatic’ has nothing to do with the lethality or the power.” This is untrue. The reason it’s illegal to use a semiautomatic to hunt game in most states is because it gives the animal a chance to get away, so the hunt doesn’t become too easy and too many animals die. Pump action shotguns, on the other hand, require the hunter to pause and pump another bullet into the chamber, so that he can get fewer shots at the animal before it runs away. Also, in my state of Pennsylvania, a shotgun is only allowed to hold three shells at a time, so the hunter has virtually no chance at taking more than three shots at the animal. Again, this is so the animals have a good chance of surviving. The semiautomatic is far more lethal than the shotgun, because it shoots 15 bullets in the time a shotgun shoots four. Huckabee, the NRA, and the Republican Party do not feel that humans should be afforded that same opportunity to get away from killers that our laws give the animals. Their policies reveal that they believe human life to be less valuable than animal life. And yet they call themselves the pro-life party.

Huckabee defends assault weapons further by saying, “In a sense, all weapons are assault weapons – even a rock, if it’s being hurled at someone.” This is a foolish point. The reason semiautomatics are called assault weapons is that they can only really be used for one purpose – assault on humans. They exist for no other purpose. A rock, on the other hand, already exists in nature and can have many uses, such as being part of a wall. Pump action rifles and shotguns can also serve useful purposes, as they are legal for hunting, but assault rifles are not. The only useful purpose they serve is to kill people (unless you consider shooting at a target useful). That’s what they are exclusively designed to do.

As I expected, Huckabee then makes the common anti-Christian argument that we’ve been hearing so much from Republicans since the Sandy Hook school massacre: “the purpose of the Second Amendment was not to guarantee us the right to hunt deer, but to make sure we can protect our freedoms from those who would take them away – including our own government, should it become as tyrannical as the one that launched the revolution in the first place.” In other words, it’s righteousness in Huckabee’s eyes for Americans, even Christian Americans, to slaughter police officers and soldiers if our government does something we don’t like, such as imposing a three pence tax on tea, as the British did. This mentality flies in the face of 2000 years of Christian history during which Christians have been peaceful resistors. Even in the book of Acts, when Christians are thrown into prison and flogged, they never even considered killing their persecutors. When someone pulled out a sword to defend Jesus when he was to be taken to trial, Jesus instructed that person to put the sword away. Certainly, in a stable democracy like ours where we can vote for change, we have less reason than ever to kill supposed tyrants. One might argue that a minority will not be able to influence a democracy and will suffer tyranny without an armed revolt, but Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers proved that wrong.

What worries me most is that Huckabee and his Republican friends will eventually inspire like-minded people in this country to revolt, inflicting unnecessary death and destruction, simply because they love their possessions more than they love people. And worse yet, he’s turning Christians into people who serve the greed and violence of Satan, but do so in Jesus’ name, thus destroying the faith from within.

Rebuking Huckabee’s Book: Chapter 1 – The New American Outcasts

The title of this chapter alone shows that one of Huckabee’s goals is to further convince the Heartlanders and Southerners, especially those of the Christian variety, that they are a persecuted people who are in danger of extinction without Huckabee being elected to save them. For decades, the increasingly Republican South enjoyed having either a Republican in the White House or a Southern Democrat (Carter and Clinton). But when a Northern black Democrat with a Muslim name got elected president, many Southern and Midwestern Americans freaked out and suddenly saw themselves as a persecuted group, because someone who was not from their group was in power for once.

Throughout “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy,” Huckabee reinforces this hysteria by distinguishing between two types of Americans, those from bubbleville (which he says are LA, NY, and DC) and those from bubbaville (the rest of America that is supposedly in touch with the real world). He tries to convince us that our only choice in lifestyles is between simple-minded extremes (which is the same approach Republicans and Fox News use for economic arguments). Of course, the truth is that most of Americans fall somewhere in between big city dwellers and rural folk in pickup trucks, but that’s a reality that’s a little too complex for the simple-minded audience that Huckabee targets to handle.

This first chapter starts off with an easy win for Huckabee – the Chick-fil-a controversy, where liberal Chicago and Boston mayors threatened to run the business out of town because the owner said he opposed gay marriage. As one of millions of Christian Democrats, I would like to say a sarcastic thanks to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel for making the Democrats look like the anti-Christian, anti-free speech party by trying to prohibit a business from operating, just because its owner verbally expressed different values than his. Emanuel’s proposal was definitely a violation of the Constitution’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech guarantees, and it was just what Huckabee needed to convince Christians that expressing Christian views will lead to widespread persecution of Christians by the Democrats. However, I hardly think that a couple mayors represents the Democrats as a whole, especially since I’m unaware of any legislation anywhere that attempts to ban businesses whose owners make statements opposing gay marriage.

Republicans, like Huckabee, love to point out to Christians how the Democrats are the party of the Christian-hating Jews, Muslims and atheists, so it’s only right the Christians only vote for the so-called Christian party – the Republicans. Of course, the reason most non-Christians are Democrats is that Republicans labelled them as evil and forced them out of their own party. If the Republicans had stuck to politics instead of taking over the Christian religion, there would probably be just as many, or more, non-Christian Republicans as there are Christian Republicans. Nonetheless, there are millions of Christians Democrats who heed the Bible’s 100+ passages that oppose greed and call us to rescue the poor and defend their rights – a political calling that Republicans say they support, but that their policies oppose. So the all-inclusive Democratic Party is not to be viewed as Satan’s party, just because it hasn’t tried to conquer a religion the way the Republicans have by driving out all non-Christian members.

Huckabee goes on to condemn businesses who fire anti-gay people as denying us freedom of speech. I think that’s ironic, because Republicans are the ones who only believe in protecting people from government, but not from corporations. I’ve lost 4 sales jobs for refusing to forsake my religious beliefs by lying to and scamming customers. Republicans are fine with corporate freedom to discriminate against honest Christians, but now that the tide sometimes turns against anti-gay Christians (although quite rarely), Huckabee is in an uproar about it, because he thinks that a business must be free to punish someone for being anti-gay.

Huckabee then inflames the culture wars by saying, ”Churches will one day have to go underground here to protect themselves from a totalitarian government and a “tolerant” culture that shamelessly censors dissent and acts with open bigotry and hatred toward people of faith…all in the name of “diversity” and “tolerance.”” – This sounds like a quote that could have been used 50 years ago with regard to racism, as some Bible Belt Christians opposed interracial marriage and equal rights for African Americans. But worse is that fact that he has millions of Christians believing that severe tyrannical oppression is coming from the government, even though no one has proposed throwing Christians in jail or fining them for being anti-gay. The only punishments that have been inflicted on anti-gay people are from private entities, not the government (unless you consider attacks upon or discrimination against gays to be a religious right, then yes, that is punished).
Yes, I’ll admit that anti-gay sermons will someday receive as much scorn as a pro-slavery sermon would today. How does the church avoid this? “First remove the log from your own eye (Matthew 7),” as Jesus said. In other words, focus on how the church members can be better Christians. If church members commit the 10 Commandment sin of breaking the Sabbath (which includes work, household chores, and having others work for you – maybe even at restaurants and ballgames), then you have no business attacking the rest of the world’s sins if the church fails to adhere to all biblical teachings. And if you’re going to preach about sexual immorality, focus on the heterosexual immorality in your church, not the legality of people’s relationships outside your church. Remember the Apostle Paul’s approach to punishing sexual immorality was “What do I have to do with judging outsiders? Do we not judge those inside the church? Those outside the church God judges. (1 Cor. 5:12-13)” That’s why there are no examples of Christians in the New Testament trying to pressure or force anyone who is not a Christian or Jew to follow Judeo-Christian morality. If Christians follow the same example, persecution will be unlikely, and even if we don’t follow it, persecution will be unlikely.

LEDs and CFLs are destroying lives. Dems banned the wrong bulb!

CFL

I’m a Democrat who believes that regulations are very important. We need them to protect workers, consumers, and the environment from the harmful effects of corporate greed. But just because regulations are important and necessary doesn’t mean that we can’t sometimes pass bad regulations. One of the worst regulations Democrats have passed has been the banning of incandescent light bulbs in an effort to push the more energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs and LEDs (although I heard Republicans repealed this ban in the large spending bill they passed at the end of 2014.)

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a bias when it comes to fluorescent bulbs, because I have Irlen’s Syndrome, and fluorescent lights and LEDs do terrible harm to those who suffer from this disorder. Irlen’s Syndrome is an optical-neurological disorder in which there is a slight delay in the brain’s ability to let go of the most recently-observed object, especially when the object is one of high contrast. It’s as if the image burns too deeply into the mind’s eye, kind of like over-exposed camera film. The old image stays in the brain (in ghostly form) for seconds, or even minutes, longer than it should. While most of these delays go unnoticed by the patient, they causes motion-sickness while driving, headaches while reading, and strong sensitivities to LEDs, fluorescent lighting, and bright, high-contrast lighting. Exposures to these forms of lighting lead to a sensory overload in the brain. This overload causes tension headaches, chronic migraines, stomach upset, ulcers, anxiety, depression, chills, shaking, and weakened immunity (these have been my personal symptoms). Over the long-haul, overall health deteriorates as organ function diminishes. While some children are born with Irlen’s, adults usually get it as the result of having had concussions or Lyme Disease. I have had both.

I’ve read that as much as 10% of the population suffers from Irlen’s Syndrome to some extent, although the vast majority of cases are mild. Most people never suspect that their chronic health problems are caused by unnatural fluorescent and LED lighting, because those whose careers keep them indoors are exposed to fluorescent and computer lighting on a daily basis for many years, if not their entire adult lives. They never have an opportunity to get away from it for a few months in order to see if their health improves. So they assume that once they develop disorders, that those disorders just happen on their own or are caused by some other external factor, such as pollution or food choices.

LEDs and CFLs don’t just hurt those with Irlen’s Syndrome. Any immune disorder is made worse by these lights, because they compromise immunity. For example, here’s a link to an article about a doctor who’s fighting to protect Lupus patients from CFLs: ( Fluorescent Bulbs May Pose Health Risks…) My family doctor has Multiple Sclerosis and can barely stand to look at his iPad screen. Others who’ve had concussions don’t have Irlen’s, but they have photophobia, and the ridiculously bright LEDs make the night even more unbearable than the daytime sun. Bright outdoor lighting (which is about to get a whole lot worse due to LEDs) kills millions of birds and insects, some of which we need for pollinating our food ( Light Pollution Effects on Wildlife ). It also interferes with sleep, which affects health ( People who live in bright lit areas sleep badly ). Yes, believe it or not, humans are actually designed to sleep in the dark. Go figure…

Fluorescent lighting also greatly aggravates symptoms in those with Autism ( Designing for Autism – Lighting ). This makes me wonder whether fluorescent, LED, and other types of unnatural lighting might actually be the cause of Autism and Irlen’s Syndrome in children. I’m not suggesting that infants and toddlers are developing Autism out of their limited exposure to fluorescent and computer lighting. But what if the many years their parents spend exposed to fluorescent and LED lighting prior to bearing children actually changes human DNA to the extent that it creates slight mutations from one generation to the next?

Few people have ever stopped to consider that, for thousands of years, humans have only ever been exposed to one kind of light – light from fire. The sun, the moon (which reflects the sun’s light), the stars, candles, torches, and bonfires all give off light made by fire. Even the traditional incandescent light bulbs and TV tubes burn a filament, so they give off fire light, too. Only in recent decades have humans been exposed to light that is not from fire. It started with fluorescent lights and has now expanded to LED lighting. These forms of lighting emphasize wavelengths in a way the human brain has never seen before. And not only are we exposing ourselves to it; we are bombarding our brains with it, as many of us spend the majority of our waking hours staring at it. When you consider what a shock it must be to the human mind to experience such a heavy and unprecedented bombardment by something new, it’s naïve not to think that it won’t mutate the human race in generations to come. I believe that Autism is a sign that such a mutation is already underway. Severe allergic reactions by children to nuts may be another sign, since CFLs have already been proven to worsen immune disorders, and an allergy is an immune disorder.

I could be wrong about this, but it will be years until we know for sure, and then it may be too late. It’s nearly impossible to do a study on the effects of artificial lighting from generation to generation. So we should be in no rush to move away from more natural forms of light, like that of the incandescent bulb. We must still fight for regulations that protect people from corporate greed, but we should never propose or support regulations that force us to expose ourselves to something unnatural. Democrats have, for many decades, opposed that which is unnatural, such as dangerous additives in food. Now Democrats need to expand that concern to include the dangers of unnatural lighting and thus reverse their stance on incandescent bulbs.

If we want to save energy (which is a good thing), then we should mandate the reduction of wasted business lighting.  I see so many businesses that have brightly lit parking lots throughout the entire night, even though the business is only open during the day. Some will say that this is for security purposes, but these businesses would get better security, and save lots of energy, by replacing such lights with motion sensor-activated lights that they can buy from Home Depot for $29.95 apiece. Also, the tall buildings in my home town are illuminated from the outside by ground-based lights that shine brightly on the exterior of the buildings. This is a monumental waste of energy that most likely cannot be offset by every house in town switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent lights. As usual, it’s the corporations doing the most harm to the environment. If we want to protect our resources by saving energy, we need to mandate motion-sensor activated outdoor lighting during the hours in which businesses are closed. This will save so much energy that the kind of bulbs we use will make little difference.

Rebuking Huckabee’s Book: Introduction

[Since Mike Huckabee is a former pastor, many Christians see him as the truly Christian candidate and therefore embrace his politics as being one-and-the-same as Christianity. I believe that Huckabee uses his position to lead more Christians astray than anyone else in the world, and that’s why I go out of my way to refute his deceptions. Over the next several months, I will tackle points he makes in his latest book, “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy” on what will usually be a chapter by chapter basis.]

As this book was released, Huckabee promoted it on the Daily Show as his attempt to help people in big cities (which he refers to as “Bubbleville”) understand the thinking of people in the American South and Heartland (which he calls “Bubbaville”). One might expect that he would kindly appeal to non-bubba’s, showing them that he understands where they’re coming from and how the bubba’s really aren’t that different on the inside; they just live in a different world that big city coastal dwellers will come to appreciate if they would just take a fresh and humble look at what the bubba’s experience and why they think the way they do. But that’s not the approach that Huckabee takes. In the introduction to this book, Mike Huckabee wastes no time revealing his total inability to understand and accept any culture that differs from the Bubbaville he has always known and loved. Here are a few quotes:

“If you’ve had the misfortune of spending all your life in the tony, uptown enclaves of Manhattan, the Washington Beltway, or in Beverly Hills, I truly feel for you.”

“Unless you’re a cop or a crook, you probably don’t possess a firearm in New York City. In fact, you’ve probably never seen one in person.”

“Have you ever tried to order grits in a fancy Manhattan restaurant? Good Luck. Not even for breakfast! And you’ll get some real weird looks if you ask for “sawmill gravy” on your potatoes or biscuits – that is if you can find real biscuits.”

“How can an eating place that fancies itself fancy have the audacity to open its doors and not have biscuits and gravy or grits on the breakfast menu?”

As a person who grew up near Philadelphia and attended college in Nashville, TN, I realized I couldn’t buy steak sandwiches, shoo-fly pie, and Tastykakes in the South as I could in Philly. So did I write a book about this crisis? No, I just accepted that different regions have different foods and customs and got on with my life, happy to have expanded my horizons by witnessing a world that differed from that of where I grew up. Unfortunately, some people struggle to accept anyone whose culture differs from their own as good people. In the Mideast, hateful, closed-minded people launch terror attacks against alternate cultures. In the Midwest, they write books about them, or at least, Mike Huckabee did.

In my mind, there’s virtually no difference between a racist and someone like Mike Huckabee, who for the moment, I will call a “culturalist” – someone who sees members of his or her own culture as being superior those of other cultures. This is the dictionary definition of racism, except I replaced the word “race” with the word “culture.” (I will cover many more examples of this culturalism in upcoming chapters. He criticizes a whole lot more than food differences.) Either way, being a culturalist requires the same arrogance, judgmentalism, mercilessness, and unwillingness to empathize with others as being a racist does. It’s the same hardened heart targeting cultures instead of skin colors. The truth is that nearly all humans are comfortable with the culture they grew up in, while the cultures that differ the most from theirs initially appear to be evil. Only when we realize this and judge those of other cultures as being created just as much in the image of God as we are will we seek to understand and appreciate people of different cultures rather than judge and condemn them.

Huckabee’s claim that he made on the Daily Show was a lie. Huckabee’s book is not at all designed to help those from the Northeast and the West Coast better understand how Southerners and Midwesterners think. It’s not as if this is some sort of psychology book. Rather, this book is written for conservative Southerners and Midwesterners. Huckabee’s message to them is that he just can’t understand those crazy New Yorkers and Californians, either, so voters from the Heartland should vote for Huckabee in the 2016 Republican primary, because, gosh darn it, he’s just like they are. To Huckabee and the Heartlanders, the good old days are gone, and the world is going to hell in a hand basket, so the only way to keep it from getting crazier and to bring back the good old days is to put Huck in charge. How he’s going to use presidential powers to make America adopt old-fashioned culture and morality remains to be seen. It’s not like he’s revealed any plans on this. My guess is that his plan is to legally force Christian morality down the throats of all Americans, even those who are non-Christian. This will supposedly lead everyone to admit that Jesus showed them a thing or two and then change their ways and embrace Huckabee’s version of Christianity.

History has shown that Huckabee’s conversion by force approach fails, and the Bible shows that it’s wrong. For example, regarding the punishment of sexual sin, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.” This is why you will never find Jesus, his disciples, or members of the 1st century church pressuring non-Christians and non-Jews to adhere to Judeo-Christian morality and practices. Even when Jesus and the Apostle Paul spoke with high-ranking government officials, the Bible contains no record of them trying to convince leaders to impose Christian-based laws on society. This is probably because forcing religious practices and rules on those outside the faith causes people to resent the faith, not embrace it. Imagine if Muslims overtook our nation and required us to obey their laws which included wearing their clothes, such as burkes. Would we resent them or embrace their faith? Of course, we would resent them and become more entrenched in our non-Muslim beliefs. Likewise, this is how non-Christians respond to having Christian rules imposed upon them. The 1st century church knew this, so they only required that people obey Christian rules after they chose to become Christians. Huckabee and his Republican Christian followers do not know this, so they impose Christian morality on non-Christians, causing more and more Americans resent and oppose Christianity.

Again, this week’s blog just addresses the short Introduction of Huckabee’s book. Next time, I’ll cover chapter one, and thereafter will pick apart “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy” on a weekly, chapter by chapter basis.

Why Huckabee’s “Fair Tax” is so unfair (and un-Christian)

As Mike Huckabee ramps up his 2016 presidential campaign, we’re going to hear him speak quite a bit about abolishing the IRS, eliminating income tax, and implementing a consumption tax that he and others call, “The Fair Tax.” Instead of having income tax, we would have a hefty national sales tax. Those who wrote the book on the idea (Neil Bortz and others) say it would be around 23%, but nearly all economists say the tax would have to be somewhere between 40%-60% to generate the same tax revenue our government brings in through the IRS.

Millions of American like the sound of this idea, because they imagine how great it would be if they didn’t have to pay income tax. In fact, if they only had to pay money when they spent it, they could control how little tax they pay by spending less and saving more. Most people see spending as evil and saving as righteous, so they think the Fair Tax is righteous, because it encourages “saving” (although saving beyond a certain point becomes hoarding, and the Bible condemns hoarding money – it never says that it’s any more righteous to hoard money than it is to spend it).

In fact, as these people anticipate the implementation of the Fair Tax, they might imagine how they will run out and buy all kinds of stuff before the tax goes into effect, so they need not buy anything for a few years after the tax is in effect, so they can save even more on their taxes. Do you know what happens when a whole nation does this? Let’s just call it the Mega-Depression. There will be a massive economic boom and inflation of prices (which comes from overwhelming consumer demand for a limited number of products) before the tax commencement date, and then the bottom will suddenly drop out (like 1929 again, but way worse) as people halt spending over the first few years the tax is in effect. The vast majority of businesses will close, and the prosperity we gained in the post WWII era will be forever lost.

And that’s just the first problem with the Fair Tax.

Next, the Fair Tax will inspire consumption of foreign goods. Do you need a new TV? Order it from a Canadian or Mexican company and have it shipped by UPS and save a third of what you would have to pay here. Do you want to buy a $30,000 car and save yourself $15,000 in Fair Tax? Drive to Canada (only several hours drive for nearly half of our population), trade in your old car there, and drive the new car home. Do you want to go on a $2000 cruise and avoid paying an extra thousand in Fair Tax? Don’t worry, cruise ship companies will relocate to Cancun (or a similar Caribbean destination), because those who don’t will lose customers to competitors who move there to take advantage of those looking to avoid paying taxes, which is just about all Americans. One might argue that Huckabee can make laws that keep us from doing these things, but that would be “big government” controlling our lives. One might argue that Huckabee will make us report all of our foreign purchases so they may be taxed. But to do so would require a large government agency to track our every purchase and jail us if we cheat the system. Such a “service” would ensure that our nation has enough “internal revenue,” but don’t call it the Internal Revenue Service, because Huckabee plans to abolish that.

On a moral level, the Fair Tax rewards hoarding. Conservatives have the belief that the rich can only spend their money or create jobs with it, and that the Fair Tax will discourage spending and incentivize them to create jobs. But the truth is the rich have proven that, after the Bush and Reagan tax cuts, they socked their tax savings away in gold, high-end real estate, oil futures, and investment gambling (short-selling and derivatives). They only create jobs with it when there’s enough consumer spending to buy the goods and services those jobs create, and there won’t be any of that after the Fair Tax goes into effect. Otherwise, they hoard their money, effectively keeping it out of the economy, while gambling it with each other in a financial game of King of the Hill.

Next, the Fair Tax is what economists call a regressive tax. In other words, the poor pay a much higher percentage of their income than the rich do. If someone earns $50,000 a year and has little choice but to spend 60% of their income on necessities and basic wants (rent and real estate are not Fair-Taxed), and the Fair Tax is 50%, they will pay $15,000 in tax, which amounts to 30% of their income. Today, a single male with no dependents or write-offs pays about 13% income tax, and one with dependents pays less than that. This would be a stifling tax increase for lower and median income earners (unless they buy everything from Canada). Meanwhile, the hedge fund manager who earns a billion dollars in a year, but “only” spends 10 million of it (1%), will pay 0.5% of his income to the Fair Tax, and he’ll have no income tax, not even on his dividends and capital gains. Plus, the rich can afford to travel the world and do most of their spending abroad, thus further avoiding the tax.

Also, the Fair tax is ungodly. In God’s nation of ancient Israel, God required that property owners pay a percentage of their wealth to meet the needs of others. There were no consumption (sales) taxes. If there had been consumption taxes, they would have been ineffective, because Israelites bought little from others, as they produced their own goods. God gave approx. 95% of the Israelites an inheritance of the nation’s land upon which they could grow their own food, build their own houses, and make their own items from the land’s resources. They were almost entirely self-reliant, because they possessed the means of self-reliance. In corporate America, most people go into the world with nothing and are fully dependent on the wealthy (this is where “dependency” comes from, not from welfare). They must convince the wealthy to give them jobs, hope the wealthy give them enough income, and when they need something, they have no choice to buy it from the wealthy, since they have no means with which to produce it themselves. Therefore, we have a consumption-oriented society that differs greatly from God’s produce-it-yourself society. Huckabee’s plan is to punish working class Americans for being dependent on the wealthy, even though it’s the wealthy who built the system; the wealthy will pay virtually nothing, while the working class will have to pay more to pick up their slack.

The idea of the rich paying virtually no taxes and the working class bearing the tax burden is nothing new. It has its roots in the Gilded Age (late 1800s), the supposed good old days when nobody paid income tax. So how did America pay its bills? Tariffs! The average tariff on an import was about 40%, so that’s like a 40% sales tax. And then when American companies were freed by the tariffs from having to compete with lower-priced imports, they could increase their prices charged to consumers. Preacher and three-time Democratic Presidential Nominee, William Jennings Bryan, called the tariffs “a subsidy from the poor to the rich;” the rich paid the lowest percentage of their income, since they hoarded so much of it, while the poor paid higher prices to the rich and paid the government’s bills. The result was impoverished people living in squalor despite working up to 100 hours a week (up to 60 for children), while Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, Morgan, Vanderbilt, and many others comprised the wealthiest class of men any nation had ever produced. If that’s what you want the future of America to look like, vote for Huckabee and his so-called Fair Tax.

When the progressive Democrats finally took control of government under Woodrow Wilson, they lowered tariffs and implemented an income tax, so the rich would have to share in the tax burden, too. The income tax was originally not meant for all people, since lower income people paid a higher percentage of their wealth to tariffs. It was meant to provide a balance, and that balance still exists today. Not only do we still have some tariffs on imports, like Bush’s 8-30% tariff on imported steel that made all products consisting of steel more expensive to produce (I’m unsure if the tariff is still active), but we also have state sales taxes and excise taxes (such as the many taxes built into the price of gasoline). These are all regressive taxes in which those with lower incomes pay a higher percentage of what they earn. So the 47% of “moochers” who don’t pay income tax actually do pay taxes, and they pay a higher percentage of their income to those taxes than the rich do.

Mike Huckabee also likes to argue that a progressive income tax punishes those who work hard and rewards the lazy. Well, I have a lot to say about that. Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason” that addresses such claims and more:

Progressive Taxation

Not all Republican Christians will dispute what I’ve shared thus far. They’ll agree that taxation is necessary, and that having a system to meet people’s needs aligns with God’s will. But progressive taxation, in which wealthier people pay a higher percentage than poorer people, is where they draw the line. They label progressive taxation as “unfair” and, therefore, “stealing.” Some even call it a “punishment for success.” And they point to Bible passages as proof that everyone in ancient Israel paid the same percentage of their income. At first glance, this argument holds up well.

If our society were structured like that of ancient Israel, I would agree that a flat tax would be the way to go. But our society differs from theirs. And it’s these differences that I believe justify a progressive income tax. Here are the justifications:

1) The Bible actually did have a progressive system. But it only had two tiers. Those who inherited land upon which they could grow food and build houses paid it; those who lacked land did not. As I stated before, our society is more complex. American citizens are scattered across a broad spectrum of income levels. Therefore, it makes sense to have a progressive marginal tax rate system. A two-tiered biblical system would be impossible to implement, because there’s no sole criteria by which we can draw a line between the haves and the have-nots.

2) Ancient Israel did not have a system of corporate liability protection that legally stole from society, through bankruptcy, to enrich the wealthy (without liability protection there would be no corporations or stock market, but only sole proprietorships and partnerships, and companies would then be small and wealth kept in check). It’s only right that we balance this injustice with a progressive income tax system that takes money back from the wealthy to share with society. If our system can amplify disparity of wealth, then our system can be modified to lessen that disparity.

3) Wealth was far more evenly distributed in ancient Israel. Approximately 95% of Israelites owned land on which they could grow food, build houses, run businesses, and raise their families. In America, prior to the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in 1934 and Fannie Mae in 1938, only about 40% of Americans owned land. With 95% of ancient Israel’s population having similar wealth, a progressive system among taxpayers would have made little difference.

4) America does not have a Year of Jubilee to minimize its disparity of wealth, like ancient Israel did. Thanks to the Year of Jubilee, no one could acquire a lot of land, because it had to go back to the family who originally inherited it within 50 years. With limited land in an agrarian society, one’s ability to produce a family fortune was also limited. When ancient Israel adhered to God’s system, it lacked the disparity of wealth that America has today. Once they moved away from the system, however, and were ruled by kings, some of them, like Solomon, amassed great wealth and disparity increased.

5) Many American corporations grow wealthy through deceiving customers and sneak-charging. Others encourage their sales reps and marketers to lie. Even those who don’t still benefit from deception, because nearly all sales departments contain some liars. Meanwhile, some businesses engage in the deception of what I call salary slavery. They hire prospective employees on a salary instead of an hourly wage while telling them they’ll work a 40-45 hour week, and then they work them 60-70 hours a week while paying them no additional money for the extra hours worked. All of this is stealing. The government cannot micro-manage businesses enough to eliminate all of this deception. But it can tax corporate owners who benefit from it at higher rates and give some of their ill-gotten gains back to society.

6) If business owners make millions, then it stands to reason that they either underpay their employees and/or overcharge their customers. In other words, they fail to share with those who made them successful. Who’s to say that paying employees the minimum necessary to fill the position is righteousness? Perhaps righteousness is to pay them according to their contribution to the company’s success. Or perhaps it’s to pay them enough to support their families.

7) America, in a time of military crisis, can draft the lives of low income Americans to keep America safe and stable enough for the rich to prosper. It’s only right, then, that America can draft the excess wealth of the rich when the American soldiers and families who made such sacrifices find themselves in financial crises. Every family that’s been here awhile has sacrificed sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to the protection of the common good. And they may be called to make similar sacrifices in the future. America is a group effort. Yet, when the wealthy are confronted with progressive tax rates, some of them cry, “I did it all myself. I owe them nothing.”

8) Last, but certainly not least, progressive taxes are merciful:

Mercy Rates

Republican economists have argued that the rich and the poor should pay the same income tax rate, because poor people don’t stay poor from year to year and the rich don’t stay rich. They’ll site statistics that show a large number of people moving out of the bottom income quintile (the bottom 20% of income earners) into higher quintiles (even though there’s little income difference between the bottom and middle quintiles – those in the middle quintile earn an average of about $35,000 per year). These stats look this way, because many young people start with minimum wage jobs while still dependent on their parents during their high school and college years, then get better entry level professional jobs after college, and then some move up the ladder in their fields and their pay increases. However, not all low income earners move up the ladder, and not all can depend on their parents. In fact, some have children depending on them, so they can’t afford to pay the same tax percentage as the rich. In fact, without welfare assistance, they may not live long enough to have a chance to move to a higher quintile.

My first year after graduating college, I had an entry level job that paid just a little above minimum wage. I struggled to afford my studio apartment in an impoverished part of Nashville. I had student loans, a car payment (because I needed to get to work), and I had no furniture. I remember having nothing but bread and butter for dinner, because it was all I had in the refrigerator until payday. I would walk for exercise, because I couldn’t afford a gym, and I walked for 4 months with holes in the bottom of my sneakers, feeling the pavement with every step, before I finally saved up enough money to buy new ones. I found myself poor, despite all of my hard work, education, and total avoidance of drugs, alcohol, and even cigarettes.

Having studied economics in college, I was aware of flat-tax proposals to establish a rate of approximately 20% federal withholding tax for all people. I had previously favored such a tax, because it was fair. My experience in poverty shattered that view. There’s no way I could have afforded 20%. I would have had to give up heat, food and electricity in order to afford a flat tax. I then realized that lower tax rates for the poor are acts of mercy, or as I call them, mercy rates.

Conservatives may argue that I eventually escaped poverty and moved out of the lowest tax bracket. In fact, ten years later I owned a ranch house on 3 acres of land and enjoyed nice vacations and Eagles season tickets. But could I then build a time machine and go back ten years to my former self to share my money with him? Obviously, not. When I was poor, the fact that I might someday earn more was of no consequence to my survival at the time. I needed a mercy tax rate, and fortunately, our progressive tax system gave me one, so I could live to see better days.

Republicans look at the progressive tax structure backward. They see the low rates as the standard rates and the high rates as penalties for the rich. The truth is that the rich pay the standard rates, and the poor get mercy rates, since they cannot afford the standard rates. If the nation is going to tax its wealth, it will have to tax the people who earn that wealth; so the standard rate is the one that taxes most of the wealth, not most of the people. According to the 2010 Summary of Federal Income Tax Data, the top 1% of income earners earn 18.9% of the nation’s wealth, the top 10 % earn 33.8%, the top 25% earn 67.6% , and the bottom 50% earn only 11.75%. So the bottom ½ of the population earns less than 1/8th of the money, but the top 25% earns 2/3 of the money. It’s this money and these people who should pay the standard rate. Although, to be fair, the poorest of the top 25% only earned $69,126 in 2010, which isn’t a whole lot of money when trying to raise a family, so they deserve a little mercy in their tax rates, too. And that’s exactly what we do. We have a progressive tax structure that extends different levels of mercy to different income brackets. The poorest receive the most mercy, and the wealthiest receive no mercy because they lack nothing. Of course, since such a large percentage of the population gets mercy rates, the wealthy have to be taxed even more to cover the poor’s share. If our disparity of wealth wasn’t so great, our tax rates wouldn’t have to be so progressive.

The so-called “Fair Tax,” on the other hand, is merciless. It punishes the poor and working classes for losing the cut-throat game of corporate capitalism, as if failing to get rich is some sort of sin. Those who work in small ministries, social work, school cafeterias, and even small town police departments will bear the tax burden, while those who got rich off of workers’ backs and deceptive schemes (I have 20 years of corporate sales experience, so I know how much wealth is gained through lies) will nearly go tax free, so they can hoard more wealth and power. And worst of all, Mike Huckabee convinces Christians that this satanic scheme is Christ-like.

If Republicans give more to charity than Democrats, does that makes them the party that cares more about the poor?

From time to time, when I post a statement online that refers to the Republican Party as the party that exploits Americans for the sake of the greedy, a Republican will fire back that my statement is incorrect, because Republicans give more to charity than Democrats do. Of course, they miss the point of what I’m saying, which is that the Republican politicians pass legislation and make court rulings that serve the wealthy and hurt the working class. My point was never directed toward Republican-registered voters and what they do in their personal lives. I tend to focus on what “we the people” can affect, which is political outcomes and legislation, not personal choices regarding our disposable incomes. So, in short, I just answered for you the question that serves as the title of this article. That answer is, “No, what voters do personally does not make the Republican Party’s pundits and politicians more righteous. Also, when it comes to personal giving, most charitable giving in the United States goes not to meeting people’s needs, but to churches, education, the arts, disease research, and special interests. Giving to your own church or to your Alma matter that puts your name on a donors’ wall isn’t really charity, since the donor benefits somewhat from donating.”

 
When I mentioned to Charles Toy of “The Christian Left” (a Facebook community, in case you are unfamiliar with them) how frequently I receive this conservative argument, he responded that it comes from a popular conservative Christian book called, “Who Really Cares,” by Arthur C Brooks. Naturally, as a person who cherishes hearing opposing points of view, I couldn’t help but read the book. It turned out the book was nothing more than “Republican Brainwashing Propaganda Disguised as a Charity Book”, so that’s exactly how I titled my review on Amazon. Rather than go on about the topic as I have been thus far, I have posted my Amazon reader review below, in which I make the rest of my points regarding the charity argument:

 
This review is from the book: “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism — America’s Charity Divide–Who Gives, Who Doesn’t”

 
The part of this book that’s supposed to be newsworthy is that the supposedly greedy Republicans are actually more generous than the caring liberals. But once the author uses surveys and statistics to reveal that religion is the cause of conservative generosity, that liberal Christians give almost as much as conservative Christians (who have a lot more money), and that non-religious conservatives are actually the least compassionate and generous group, the surprise is ruined, because it’s really not much of a surprise that religious people give more than non-religious people (unless you’re a staunch atheist who thinks religious people are evil). So I think we can conclude that Republicans give more, because Republicans have managed to recruit most Christians to their party over the last several decades.

 
What makes this such a bad book, however, is that once the author establishes that religion is what makes most people charitable, he then spends much of the rest of the book trying to blame democratic ideology, taxes, and welfare for making people uncharitable, which runs contrary to his statistics on religion and giving. This book is simply a republican propaganda tool.

 
For example, in comparing America to Europe’s supposedly “socialist” economies (they are actually capitalist with higher taxes and social spending, but the author has no idea of the definition of socialism, which is “the government ownership of the means of production and control over the allocation of resources” – a fancy way of saying that the government owns all businesses), the author deceives readers with economic numbers, as Republican tend to do, by saying U.S. GDP was higher than the EU from 2000 to 2004. That’s a pretty small window, time-wise. In my most recent book, I cover 1979-2010 – a much longer period that reflects how far we’ve fallen compared to most European countries since the Reagan Revolution began. Then the author says that if taxes were to increase charity would decrease, making the country poorer, as if taxes take money out of the economy. The truth is the tax money would go back into the economy, in the form of pay to government employees, contractors’ employees, or people in need; it’s not like it goes into orbit around Pluto. Arthur Brook’s economic understanding is laughable and renders him unqualified to write much of this book.

 
Worse yet, this book has a faulty premise. It assumes that the amount people give to charity is more important than meeting the needs of the needy. The author condemns government assistance programs funded by taxes, because they decrease the amount of money that people could give to charity. What he fails to do, however, is give even a single example of a nation, past or present, in which a charity-only solution to poverty has worked anywhere near as well as national, mandatory programs have worked throughout Western Europe, North America, and so on. The fact is that charity-only solutions to poverty have failed in American history, as well as in modern Mexico, which is still an every man/woman/child for itself nation. When God created His own nation of ancient Israel, He created a national, mandatory income redistribution system (called a tithe) that forced those who had land upon which to grow food to share with those who lacked it. He didn’t rely on charity, because charity fails.

 
In the end, this book focuses too much on judging who is charitable, which is the wrong priority to have. The Bible’s message isn’t that we should do what’s right in order to prove to God how wonderful we are; it’s that we should protect and rescue one another from the harmful effects of our sins. It says “our righteous works are filthy rags” that do not justify us, “so that we may not boast;” the law exists so we may “love our neighbors as ourselves” so we “do not devour one another.” Arthur Brooks totally misses this point. He seems to think that charity is about proving the wonderfulness of the giver (who is often financially well off), not meeting the needs of the needy. And that’s exactly what we should expect from a writer who incessantly promotes the politics of the wealthy.

 
And one final note, the book contains some outright lies, like the statement that, unlike government wealth redistribution, which is a “leaky bucket” due to “bureaucratic waste,” “private charity is a bucket with no leaks, and without tradeoffs;” and that “charity, by contrast only has upside.” Keep that in mind the next time you go through your junk mail to find various mailers and envelopes from charities filled with costly address labels, little calendars, cards for you to give out at Christmas, and of course, letters asking you for donations. Many charities spend a significant percentage of your donations on advertising, something government programs need not do. There’s a big leak in charity’s bucket, too. I’m not saying not to give, but do your homework before you do.

Panicked Ebola response proves we are still “A Nation of Wusses”

Several years ago, when the NFL cancelled an game in Philadelphia, because of a predicted snowstorm (that only totaled about 8 inches), former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell scoffed at the move, which prompted him to label America as a “nation of wusses,” a phrase that later appeared as the title of his autobiographical book.

The reason Rendell’s remark received so much attention wasn’t just that it was a bit of an insult to Americans, but more because the statement was mostly true. We in America have become so concerned over our safety that we will forgo living life out of even the most remote fear of losing life or suffering even slight inconvenience.

America’s reaction to the recent Ebola outbreak is further proof that Rendell nailed it – America just keeps getting wussier. When the first few Americans got Ebola, the CDC told us that the disease is barely contagious, that to get it, you have to come in contact with bodily fluids of the carrier; you cannot get it through the air, from objects touched by a carrier, or from casual touch with the carrier. President Obama also tried to reassure the public. The response from most of America, especially those at Fox News was that the CDC and the president were lying to us, and that this Ebola outbreak would sweep the nation, killing millions. As a commenter on Mike Huckabee’s Facebook feed said, “Obama wants to give us all Ebola, so he can declare martial law.”

It turned out, however, that it was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who came closest to declaring martial law, when he sentenced a health care worker returning from Africa (who did not have the disease) to three weeks alone in a parking lot tent with a Porta-Potty in the very same room. There was no trial or hearing, just a knee-jerk decision from a Republican politician who likes to push people around. Ironically, the party who accuses Obama of being tyrant who will someday lock up all who oppose him has become the tyrant who locks up the sick and those who help them, all while fully supported by the panicky wusses who are so quick to throw away freedom out of fear of getting a barely contagious disease.

Imagine if our government had taken such an action during the days of polio, tuberculosis, or even the yellow fever outbreak that killed thousands in cities from Philadelphia to Boston in the 1790s, when George Washington was president. Did Washington lock up all of the sick and those who came in contact with the sick? Of course not, that would have been tyranny – the very thing all of our nation’s founders despised.

Here’s an interesting piece of history: It used to be that street vendors sold children bite size servings of ice cream known as penny-licks. The vendor would place ice cream in the equivalent of a shot glass and give it to the children in exchange for a penny. Then the vendor would take back the empty glass and place ice cream in it for the next kid. This helped spread TB like wildfire. The solution was the invention of the ice cream cone, which allowed each child to have his or her own edible ice cream container, thus greatly reducing the spread of germs. This is what I call a compassionate solution.

What people, including the government, did not do in those days was lock up everyone who had TB or came in contact with those who had it. Nor did they stop living life. I really fear that if we were to have an outbreak of something like TB today that society would collapse. All restaurants would go out of business, so would most hospitals and physicians’ offices, because everyone would be so afraid of contracting the illness that they would chose not to live life. And worst of all, I fear that politicians would impose a tyranny on America that differs little from the Hitler and Stalin-like tyranny that Republicans have been accusing Obama of planning. Apparently, fear-mongering works for the Republicans on two levels: first they can use it to make baseless accusations that Democrats will take away our freedoms, but then, when the Republicans take control of government, they can use the threats of diseases, wars, and terrorism to rob us of our freedoms and our money, too.