I Didn’t Know “Trickle Down Economics” Was in the Ten Commandments.

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I didn’t know “trickle down economics” was in the Ten Commandments.

I also didn’t know it was in the Sermon on the Mount.

I remember things about “blessed are the poor” and “depart from me I never knew you.” But I missed that “trickle down economics” part. I guess it must be in the part that says that government should transfer the wealth of generations to a few corporatists under the guise of corporate welfare and “privatization.” Or maybe it’s under the demands that economies should only be built on making war and not manufacturing goods, providing for infrastructure and growing the nation.

I dunno.

I read the Bible every day. I read through the Bible — the Catholic Bible, complete with all those books that Martin Luther took out — every year and a half or so. But I don’t remember anything about taking from the poor to give to the rich, or trickle down economics being a requirement for heaven.

I have heard these claims. I heard them just about every single day I spent in the business of legislating. They are part of the wing nut teachings which political nut jobs on the right use to replace the Scriptures. Left wing nut jobs do the same thing, only in reverse.

In the left wing political religion, moral values only apply to economics. Everything else — sexuality, family, basic honesty, even human life itself — are fixed on their own, selfishly-defined constructs. In the right wing political religion, moral values only apply to sexuality, family and, human life — when it fits their vote-getting expedience. Economics is a absolute morality-free zone.

The one thing the right and left wing political religions both agree on is basic honesty. Neither one of them have any use for it at all.

Which leads us to what has become an entertaining stand-off in the United States House of Representatives. 

House Speaker Boehner invited Pope Francis to speak to the House when he visits the US next year. It’s customary when dignitaries come by like this to pass an attaboy resolution and present it to them with suitable legislative fanfare. Nobody takes this resolution stuff all that seriously. It’s just being polite; kind of like offering your neighbor a glass of iced tea when she drops by to say howdy. Neither you nor your neighbor think all that highly of the tea. The only issue would be your rudeness if you didn’t offer it.

In a show of bi-partisanship, the resolution slotted for Pope Francis has both an R and a D as primary co-authors. It congratulates Pope Francis on being elected Pope and compliments him for his “inspirational statements and actions.”

That sounds like plain vanilla do-dah politicking to me. You’d think the resolution would sail through without a comment, that even the pope-hating bozos would chill and keep their mouths shut.

But the true-believers of wing nut political religion can never be underestimated. Their breathtaking self-importance is only exceeded by their equally breathtaking self-righteousness. The pro forma attaboy resolution for Pope Francis’ possible visit to the House may not pass. It will not pass if the true believers of right-wing-nut political religion prevail.

Meanwhile, the Ds are giving the resolution a big huzzah. The party whose national convention booed God is all for Pope Francis as he is defined by their press right now. Their press has edited and parsed Pope Francis into what he is not, which is to say an apologist for laissez faire morality in all areas except economics.

That’s heady stuff for a party that’s been damned and consigned to hell-fire in the public imagination. Pope Francis may not be their cheerleader, but unlike every other pro-life, pro-marriage religio on the planet, he has not washed his hands of them and told them to go to hell. He thinks they’re still people that Christ died for who are in need of salvation. Over 200 Ds jumped on the resolution with co-authorship. They’d co-author the thing twice each, if they could.

The party that claims it speaks for God is all in a pope-hating funk because, as it turns out, he thinks that they are also people that Christ died for who are in need of conversion. They’re not used to being told they need conversion. And they don’t like it.

While anyone can see that the lefty press is twisting statements to lie about the Holy Father, there is no denying that he is laying claim to all those troublesome things Jesus (and the prophets before Him) said about rich men having a tough time getting into heaven and how we all have a responsibility to care for the poor. That’s discombobulating to a party that (1) is corporatist to its core, and (2) has made its vote-getting bones by self-deification.

So, this do-nothing, attaboy, courtesy resolution has become another opportunity for the two political parties to proclaim their own righteousness and teach morality to God. Or, as the case may be, teach morality to the Vicar of Christ.

Rather than just hold their little noses and rise about the stink of their own self-importance, the Rs have used their power as the majority party to sideline the resolution in committee where it is intended to quietly expire. About 19 brave Rs stepped up to co-author. Most of the rest — many of whom are Catholic — have folded their hands and are now studying their shoes.

There are a few convinced and convicted right-wing-nuts who are so apoplectic at the Holy Father’s confrontational attitude toward right wing nut political religion as it concerns economics that they’ve stepped up to set the record straight. They are against the resolution because, they say, “the pope sounds a lot like Obama” (Obama = Satan in their parlance), that he has “denounced trickle down economics” and that he “supports civil marriages.”

In the first place the pope did not say he “supported civil unions.” Go back and read the post about that and see.

But I’m pretty sure, based on dealing with these kinds of birds, that what’s got their feathers in a ruffle is not “civil unions.” They’re on their soapboxes because the pope “denounced trickle down economics.” The reason I say that is twofold. First, it’s what has given well-paid corporatist mouthpieces the temerity to say that the pope is “a marxist,” “following Lenin” and some other thing that’s too stupid to even talk about.

Those media moguls are the corporatist-apologists-without-any-pretense in today’s media. The nut-job Congresspeople are the corporatist-puppet-people-with-loads-of-pretense in elected office. They were beamed into office on a beam of corporate money. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporatist thinking and activism. If they weren’t, they’d be pulled and replaced like a bad spark plug.

As for me, I’m not all that alarmed about this resolution thingy. As we say here in Oklahoma, it don’t mean nothin’. The resolution is just a piece of paper with no force of law of any kind. It’s a Congressional attaboy that they hand out to visiting dignitaries and such like gum drops.

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. He answers to Our Lord. I doubt very much that he’s going to cry himself to sleep because a bunch of political puppets with delusions of grandeur do not deign to gift him with a meaningless attaboy filled with compliments they clearly do not mean.

It’s entirely possible that the press flurry may embarrass these Congresspeople’s corporatist owners enough that they tell them to go ahead and vote the resolution through and be done with it. If that happens, it’ll slide through and we’ll go on to the next Congressional stupidity. If it doesn’t, no matter.

The beauty of this particular incident is that these folks have demonstrated rather candidly what they are and who they follow. In terms of its impact, the resolution itself is worthless. But in terms of its teaching powers, it’s priceless.

I keep putting this message out there. I’m going to continue putting it out there until it gets through.

Repeat after me: Political parties have nothing to do with righteousness. Political parties are about power; about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

Do not follow the R or the D.

Follow the whole Gospel of Christ, all of it, including the parts that disagree with your political religion. The simplest and surest way to do that is to follow the teachings of our Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church constantly irritates both the R and the D. If you believe Jesus, you will not agree with either political party most of the time. If you follow Jesus with your life, you will not and cannot follow either political party.

There is one Way. The R and the D are not it.

From The Hill:

A popular piece of legislation that seeks to honor Pope Francis is stuck in Congress.

With time running out on the Capitol Hill calendar, the lawmakers who crafted the bipartisan measure are getting impatient with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The resolution, written by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.), congratulates Francis on his March 2013 election and recognizes “his inspirational statements and actions.”

The seemingly innocuous resolution was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which hasn’t acted on it. The panel didn’t comment for this article.

The inaction and the lack of a white smoke signal from Boehner have sparked speculation that politics is at play.

Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans. The dearth of GOP members on the measure could be attributable to assertions that the pope is “too liberal,” according to a Republican backer of the legislation.

The source noted that Francis last year denounced “trickle-down economics.”

Some Republicans believe the pope is “sounding like [President] Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged,” the GOP official said.

The Skunk Stinks.

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The Skunk. Photo Source: defenceweb

Who needs this?

Who is it going to be used against?

Those are the questions that the Skunk brings to mind. I’m not talking about a beautiful little animal with that possesses a massive olfactory defense system. I am talking about a drone that possesses a massive offense system, and that has been developed and is being marketed for use against civilians by corporations.

The Skunk is, as I said, a drone that is designed for what is euphemistically being called “riot control.” It possesses the ability to monitor people and then fire pepper spray and rubber bullets at them. What no one mentions is that a drone that can fire pepper spray and rubber bullets can also fire any other type of spray as well as bullets made of lead.

It turns out that the corporatist interests in South Africa plan to put the aptly named Skunk to work, protecting their mines. The first 25 Skunks will be delivered to the African mining industry this month. It was developed by a South African company named Desert Wolf.

If all this sounds like a comic book to you, I’m with you. This company is seriously named Desert Wolf???

And they developed a weapon to be used by corporations to protect their interests called the Skunk???

It would be funny, except there’s nothing funny about the potential of the Skunk. It is a drone designed to monitor and attack civilians and it is being marketed to corporations in troubled parts of the world for their private use. Frankly, this device does not belong in civilian hands. It certainly does not belong in the hands of corporatist interests. I’ve had enough dealings with corporatists in the political arena to be convinced that respect for human life, human dignity or just plain human beings is not in them.

They’d kill grandma for a quarter and claim it was free enterprise and capitalism. Then, they’d call grandma’s relatives who objected a bunch of radicals and commies.

Corporatists are down there in the moral swamp with abortionists and human traffickers. They give a whole new dimension to the word “amoral.”

The idea of corporatists with fully armed Skunks and free reign to use them is chilling.

From The Blaze:

Los Angeles hockey fans proved last week that even the friendliest of drones can get a nasty reception from rowdy crowds. But the booze-fueled celebrants may have reacted even more violently if they encountered this drone.

The Skunk is billed as the first riot-control drone: It fires pepper spray, rubber bullets and dye-balls at protesters; blinds them with strobes; and broadcasts audible warnings, all while keeping its all-seeing eye trained on the crowd and recording their actions.

The octocopter is a product of the South African company Desert Wolf. Armed with four paintball guns and ammunition hoppers, it can fire a variety of ammunition to subdue or disperse unruly crowds, or simply mark certain people in the group.

The Skunk is designed to control crowds without endangering the lives of security staff. Bright strobe lights, on-board speakers and “blinding lasers,” the company boasts, enable operators to communicate with and warn the crowd.

But if they don’t respond, look out.

“The Skunk is equipped with four high-capacity paint ball barrels firing at up to 20 bullets per second each, with 80 pepper bullets per second stopping any crowd in its tracks,” Desert Wolf says on its site. “The current hopper capacity of 4000 bullets and high-pressure carbon fiber air system it allows for real stopping power.”

According to Defence Web, payload capacity of the unmanned aerial vehicle is roughly 88 pounds but since the gun assembly weighs just over 30 pounds, the aircraft has an excess of power. And Desert Wolf has found its first customer for the intimidating machine: South African mine owners, hoping to control crowds of workers.

Pope Francis on Child Labor, Fear of God, Love of Money, and Arms Dealing

Pope Francis is first of all a priest. The world is his parish and every single one of us is in the crosshairs of his admonitions to follow Jesus without reservations.

Following Jesus all the way, without holding anything back, is a revolutionary act. People who do it, even the most placid and low-key of them, become revolutionaries themselves. They are God’s change agents in a fallen world.

Those who try to follow Jesus part way, who stop when it gets difficult or conflicts with other things they hold dear, are pretty much useless to God. He cannot change the world with partially converted Christians. We are called to follow Him. There are no qualifiers to that command. It is absolute and all-encompassing.

When Pope Francis exhorts us to do just exactly that, he invariably becomes the target of half-converted Christians who have been using a selective view of the Gospels to condemn others and deify themselves. Everybody gets a kick out of it when the Holy Father calls out somebody else about sins we find appalling. But when he does it to us, well, that’s, as we say in these parts, meddling.

There has grown up here in America a false theology based on the idea that only a couple of sins — abortion and homosexuality — are truly sinful and anything and everything that has to do with money is outside the concerns of morality. In other words, if you oppose abortion, then you can rob all the banks you want.

This has grown to the point that there is a whole movement of fallen Christians out there who will lecture and hector anyone who has concern about the poor and helpless. They justify themselves and attack others with what are blatantly selective and anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture.

They use this obviously false and self-serving bogus theology to justify helping the rich get richer by transferring the wealth of our nation to them. They take prosperity that belongs to everyone and give it to a few and then proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness before God.

I’ve lived with this blasphemy for years on my job as a legislator. I’ve listened as the distorted, self-serving, anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture are flung in people’s faces. It is evil right down to the ground.

The idea that opposing abortion and gay marriage politically is the sum total of the Gospels is a sick, sad, anti-Christ interpretation of Scripture invented by political activists for their own purposes. It is, in itself, deeply sinful.

When Pope Francis tells us that we are bound to follow the whole Gospel of Christ, he is telling us the same thing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said with his famous comments about cheap grace.

Of course Pope Francis is being attacked for speaking out for the poor. Of course he is being reviled for teaching the whole Gospel.

That’s what happens to people who stand for Christ and Him crucified. It. Happens. Every. Time.

I’ve chosen this particular video because it contains excerpts from three of Pope Francis’ recent audiences in which he addressed what is the moral plague that is destroying the witness of a good many Christians today. He talks about child labor, the love of money, arms dealing and fear of God.

In my opinion, these things are just a few of the manifestations of one thing: A false Gospel that says that economics cannot be judged by moral beliefs. If that isn’t a lack of fear of God in action, I don’t know what is.

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Holy Week: Pope Francis’ Reflections for Way of the Cross

Child Labor: We ended most of it in America.

Pope Francis’ reflections for the Way of the Cross aren’t going to please people who want to claim that there is no moral component to economic issues.

Perhaps that’s why they are so important, especially to Americans.

We need a Pope who reminds us that our Christian walk requires us to follow Christ and not our politics. Americans are becoming partisan fanatics. Far too many of us have hardened ourselves and become indifferent to suffering which does not fit in with our peculiar and entirely political view of the world.

So our corporations, with the help of our corporatist government …

We convince ourselves that following our political parties in these partisan culture wars is actually following Christ. This is a lie we tell ourselves. Jesus is the Way, not the R or the D.

These reflections will comfort some who want to ignore the Gospel requirements concerning family and popular killing fields such as abortion and euthanasia. After all, the reflections don’t mention those directly.

Took our jobs and went to places where they could

Those who want to believe that the only requirements the Gospels of Christ make on them and their lives are to be anti-abortion (as opposed to pro life) and to oppose gay marriage will probably find these reflections outrageous.

Every time Pope Francis says something that goes against the “teachings” of right wing economics, including the economic teachings of such cold-blooded wackos as Ayn Rand, he is either attacked or explained away.

Are we our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper?

Did Jesus mean what He said when he talked about the least of these? Is Christ the Lord too unsophisticated and old school to instruct us about our economics?

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use child labor without limits again.

 

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Feasting, Jesuit Style

 

Martin james

 

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Every So Often He Does Something I Agree With

Every so often President Obama does something I agree with.

His support of raising the minimum wage is one of those things. I remember reading that Henry Ford paid his workers higher wages than the standard for that time. When asked why, he said that he wanted them to be able to buy his automobiles.

That remark demonstrated a core understanding of what grows markets that seems to elude today’s corporatists.

The theory that we should cut taxes and give benefits to those at the top while we allow wage earners to suffer an endless downward trajectory in earning power is not good economics. Those who make goods and provide services need customers with the money to buy their products. American industry needs American customers to keep this county strong.

The miracle of the American economy is not that it has created a few fantastically wealthy people. The miracle is that it has provided opportunity, a high standard of living and good lives for almost all of us.

Will raising the minimum wage fix our economic woes? No, it won’t. The reason our economy has been basically stagnant for so long is simple: We’ve exported our industrial base and the jobs that go with it.

Raising the minimum wage will not fix this problem. Nothing short of taking government back from corporatist control will put America back where it once was.

However, raising the minimum wage will increase the buying power of many millions of people. That alone will stimulate the economy.

I disagree with trickle down economics. We need jobs and good wages for the people of this country. That will bring wealth for everyone.

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2013 Favs: You Belong to Me

A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a homily based on what is a simple but absolute fact of all our lives.

We will die.

You are going to die.

I am going to die.

It may be in a car wreck this afternoon as you go to the store to buy milk. It may be years from now as you sleep in your bed at 85. But you and I will die.

My pastor told us that when we die, someone will say to us, You belong to me. The question is, who will be saying this to us? Will it be Jesus, welcoming us Home. Or will it be someone else?

We are the ones who decide who will tell us You belong to me on that day. We decide, not so much by the things we say, but by what we do. Who do you serve with your life? Whose teachings do you follow?

Do you follow the troubling teachings of the Gospels as elucidated to us by the Holy Father, Pope Francis? Or do you follow the serpent who whispers in all of our ears, Take. Eat. God is a liar. You will not die?

As with all really successful lies, this one was part truth. When the serpent whispered You will not die in Eve’s ear, it was true. All the serpent had to do was add one word to make it absolutely true. That word was today.

You will not die today. 

Take. Eat. And you will be like God, knowing right from wrong. And you will not die today. 

There are many serpents in our world today, and each one of them speaks to us in the peculiar language of our own hearts. They tell us that what we want to do is right and the Church which tells us otherwise is wrong, cruel, hard-hearted and mean to tell us it is not.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your sexuality, your politics, the way you treat your family or some secret sin you keep to yourself. You have your own serpent to whisper in your ear and tell you, God/the Pope/the Gospels are all liars. Do this and you will be free of those binding appeals to lying morality.

And, of course, you will not die. 

But it’s all a lie from the father of lies. The Gospel this Sunday talks about judgement day, when Jesus told us that one will be taken and another left behind. Many preachers concentrate their preaching about this on some final Judgement Day for all humankind that recedes in front of us like the horizon as we live our lives.

But I think that there are two judgement days and the one we need to concern ourselves with is our own personal Judgement Day that is coming at all of us faster than any of us wants to believe. On that day, someone will say to us You belong to me. 

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to encourage Christians to take a stand for Jesus in a post Christian world. Since I am myself a politician, I am calling you from the depths of my experience to cast off the false gods of political claptrap and follow the Gospels of Christ without compromise.

Do not follow false teachers who are the political serpents whispering in all our ears and who edit the Gospels of Christ to serve their political masters. Do not bow down before the elephant or the donkey. Do not do it.

When we die and someone says to us, You belong to me, we are the ones who will have determined which voice we hear saying it. We are choosing now as we choose who we serve, who we follow and who we believe.

Follow Christ.

Follow His Vicar who was chosen by the Holy Spirit and who cannot teach us that which is contrary to the Gospels of Christ.

Stop trying to lead, and follow. And stop quibbling about it.

I have learned from my own disastrous failures at doing it my way and I am telling you now from the bottom of my heart: There is no other Way.

 

2013 Favs: Playing Chicken

Cockfighting

I am one of the lucky ones.

My paycheck does not stop because the feds are playing chicken with the future of this country.

You see, I am an elected official, which means that I am exempt from all sorts of consequences for the things I do. I could lock up the Oklahoma budget (which I vote against quite frequently, btw) and put tens of thousands of people out of work. Then, I could re-write the laws so they couldn’t get unemployment compensation and reduce the monies going to our schools/roads/police/hospitals/etc to make up the shortfall, and …

Nothing would happen to me.

My paycheck would keep on coming.

In fact, a lot of people would call me a hero.

I know all about playing legislative chicken with the budget. I’ve played it — on both sides.

I have been a Democrat in a Democratic majority government in which we were trying our best to pass a budget over the heads of recalcitrant Republicans who were doing their best to lock it up.

I have been a Democrat in a majority Republican government in which my side of the fight was trying to lock the danged budget up and the Republicans were fighting to pass it.

Ho-hum and hidey-ho. I’ve done it all.

And I can tell you that it is never about the issues.

I repeat: It is NEVER about the issues.

Part of the legislative negotiating process is to play chicken.

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Do you remember chicken? It’s a throw-back to the 1950s. Young men would gather out on a deserted stretch of highway with their souped-up jalopies and line them up facing one another. Then they’d floor the things and drive straight at one another at max speed. The first one to veer off lost. That’s playing chicken.

The legislative version of chicken is taking some piece of legislation that would harm millions of people and whose failure would cause immeasurable suffering and hold it hostage, thereby forcing someone else to compromise on a second issue. Legislative chicken surpasses the old Highway 9 Chicken of the 1950s in terms of the carnage it can wreak and the gravity of what it is trying to accomplish.

There is also another difference. Highway 9 Chicken carries the possibility that two people might kill themselves. With Legislative Chicken the players themselves are always — always – exempt from the harm they may do, but the price to literally millions of innocent bystanders can be mind boggling.

Let’s look at the boys and girls in Washington and this dirty little game they are playing with our country as a for-instance.

What’s at stake in their gamesmanship is significantly more than the wreckage of two souped up jalopies and the death of two young men.

On the one hand, we have the Affordable Health Care Act and all that it means, including the hyper funding for abortion and the lives of millions of babies, and the HHS Mandate and its blatant attack on the First Amendment.

On the other hand, we have the lives of millions of Americans and their ability to keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables, PLUS the entire American economy and the fear of another free fall like the one in 2008, PLUS the fear of literally billions of people around the globe who are watching Big Daddy, who they rely on for their security, play this game of Legislative Chicken.

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That’s a lot at stake. Do the players need nerves of steel to do this? Maybe. But I know from experience that they are also enjoying it. If you didn’t like football, despite its blows and injuries, you wouldn’t play football. It’s the same with lawmakers everywhere. We are all fit for these battles and in ways that nobody who wasn’t as nutty as we are could ever understand, we get off on them.

That’s not a pretty fact. But it is a fact.

One other major difference between Legislative Chicken and Highway 9 Chicken is that the two young men driving those jalopies are the only ones with skin in the game. Their chicken is real chicken, since they can lose it all. Elected officials, on the other hand, are exempt from whatever havoc they wreak. No matter who pays what for their shenanigans, the one thing everybody knows is that the payers will not be them.

So, our elected officials’ nerves of steel are mostly bombast combined with the crappola they tell themselves about the nobility of what they are doing.

Legislative chicken is a team sport. And it’s a rough one. It can, and often does, provide the minority in legislative settings with a voice that also provides much needed balance to government. It is not always a bad thing. It is a necessary and useful device.

However, it always has the potential to become a kind of drug. Elected officials get so inured to constant crises that they have trouble with normal life, which seems flat to them. They become crisis junkies of the worst sort. Combine that with a ruthless drive for power at any cost in these elected officials — who were beamed into office on a beam of special interest money and don’t really have a clue what they’re doing there in the first place — and you have a recipe for disaster.

The thing which has made this nation tick for over 200 years is the essential decency of its people, which fed upstream to give us elected officials who were also essentially decent. No matter their various scandals and failures, the sum total of American governance has always been rooted in a belief in and concern for this country.

No more.

We’re electing people who don’t belong in office. I can’t say it any other way. We are electing people who don’t belong in office.

They are being sold to us by big-time money machines who control their every act once they are in office and they don’t care about this country. 

Both sides in this present shutdown controversy are lying out every bodily orifice they possess about the other side. According to each of them, the other side is entirely to blame. They are both lying. That is the only truth there is to their behavior.

I am not going to take a side in this current situation because I’ve come to the conclusion that neither side is the side of the American people.

As an American people myself, that is the only side that I’m on.

Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes Part 2: The Beam in My Eye

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. 

Jesus Christ

Pope Francis is calling all of us to take up what Protestants call the Great Commission.

That is the direct command from Our Lord to Go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Father is teaching in exactly the same way Jesus taught by advising us to cleanse ourselves of our own sins before we head off diagnosing the sins of other people.

This is an call to evangelize the world, but like the good pastor that he is, Pope Francis calls us first to evangelize our own hearts through genuine conversion to Christ. Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document. If you read it with an honest and open heart, it will convict you of the need to change your ways.

No one is more prey to the error of condemning others while wrapping themselves in a cloak of self-righteousness than politicians and bloggers. It is an occupational hazard.

Since I am a politician blogger, I get a double dose of the temptation to become a bargain-basement Pharisee. Blogging at the intersection of faith and politics is a location fraught with all sorts of annoyances and frustrations. It’s easy to lose track of the love and desire to do good that brought me here in the first place.

Evanglii Gaudium reminded me that the joy of Gospel, the freedom of the Gospel, the absolute certainty that everything I do matters to God, belongs to me. It is a free gift from a God Who loves me so much that He was willing to suffer the extremities of humiliation, public torture and a hideous death to give it to me.

When I focus on protecting my petty little sins, I toss those joys to the ground and turn to the bitterness and alienation of the lost people I claim I want to help.

That, in the final analysis, is the price for clinging to your precious little sins: Anger, bitterness, self-righteousness. The fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, are all lost to us and replaced by an angry obsession with what is wrong with other people.

As those of us in the West move more deeply into a post-Christian world, we are going to find that the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit, and that our call to follow Christ will either be sustained by these gifts of the Spirit, or it will fail.

The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a call to personal housecleaning. It is a diagnosis of how we have cast ourselves out of the garden all over again by biting into the bitter fruit of our own cherished sins.

Since Evangelii Gaudium is a call to the whole Church to evangelize the whole world, it focuses its diagnosis of sin on the corporate sins we commit against one another as part of groups. The Pope doesn’t go over the obvious. He doesn’t remind us of what we should very well know: That when we live our lives built on the cheats of greed, lies of adultery and the brutality of murder we are not God’s people and if we do not repent, we will not go to heaven.

He focuses instead on what the political power brokers and money changers of our times don’t want us to see. That is the vast corporate and social ways in which we commit these same private sins and the enormous price in human suffering that this behavior exacts on so many of the 7 billion people living on this planet today.

A few paragraphs in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium have raised the ire of the corporatist apologizers in the media. Most of this particular group has spoken out against abortion down through the years, along with gay marriage. They have not been so eager to condemn other forms of killing, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to wars of conquest, and, as has been revealed from time to time, many of them do not practice a private sexual morality that matches their public statements.

This has confused many good Christians who’ve been taught — by fallen clergy and these same corporatist apologizers — that economics is entirely outside the reach of the Gospels. They have exempted themselves from the piercing eye of Gospel teachings in matters of money, and a lot of good Christians have bought this deal because these same people condemn abortion.

But the same Jesus Who taught that every life is valuable to God sent the young rich man away and said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

It was Christ the Lord who drove the money changers out of the temple.

I would imagine that what some of these people are saying about Pope Francis would look mild and mannerly compared to what they might say about Our Lord.

Pope Francis is asking us to stop putting fetters on the Gospel and accept it in all its demanding power. He is asking us to throw off our chains of political fealty and approval seeking and step out on the ice and live the teachings of Christ as the transforming, Kingdom building powerhouse that they are.

Part of this is his condemnation of what he calls “the new idolatry of money.” The pope calls us directly and explicitly to work for economic systems that are based on the good of human beings.

Despite the media focus on these few paragraphs, they are a small part of the message of Evangelii Gaudium, and economic sins are just a few of the things the pope addresses.

He speaks eloquently about the challenges Christians face concerning Christian persecution (emphasis mine):

We also evangelize when we attempt to confront … the attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideology which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian.

The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal … completely rejecting the transcendent. It has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin and a steady increase in relativism.

… As the bishops of the United States of America have rightfully point out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid of everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray these teachings as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights … the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.”

the negative aspect of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.

Evangelii Gaudium takes an uncompromising position in support of the sanctity of marriage.

The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. The family … is the fundamental cell of society. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.

There is much more in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium. But I hope that you are getting the message. The document itself is a call to evangelize the world. The much-picked-over paragraphs about money are a small part of the message of the second chapter of the document.

The second chapter deals with the areas where we need to give ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, a spiritual house cleaning. Money is a part of this. If economics have no moral requirements, then Jesus Christ Himself was a fraud, because that is certainly not what He taught.

People who attack the Pope for saying what has been Church teaching for two-thousand years and who try to subvert him when he challenges us to give up our greed and venality about money, are attacking the Gospels themselves.

But the primary injustice they are committing by focusing on these few paragraphs is that they are depriving the people of God of the convicting power of this document. If all you know about Evangelii Gaudium is what you’ve read in the press, then you know nothing about it all.

Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on the New Evanglization. The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on some of our most glaring social and personal sins. The Holy Father focused this second chapter on the sins that, as he says, damage or even destroy the ability of the Church and individual Christians to effectively evangelize the world.

He is calling us to reclaim for ourselves the joy of the Gospel by yielding up all our precious sins to the teaching, transforming power of the Gospels. He is calling us to conversion, to walk the walk of our Christian faith in the real world.

Powerful people hated this message two-thousand years ago. Powerful people hate it today.

Part of our job as Christians is to ignore them and follow our Christ. The teachings in Evanglii Gaudium help us do that.

 

 

To read part one in this series, go here.

 

Obamacare as a Tax

Taxes 1

The Supreme Court says that Obamacare is a new tax on Americans. 

President Obama agrees. 

That is the basis for the Court’s decision to allow the mandates forcing the American people to buy insurance stand. They are not, in the Court’s view, a mandate to purchase a product. They are, rather, a tax on the American people. 

Ok then, let’s look at Obamacare as a tax. 

Based entirely on what I saw when I went to the website yesterday, this new tax is a hefty one.

Let’s look at the lower end of the income spectrum first. Based on what I saw when I visited the healthcare.gov website, if you have a family of four with two children under the age of 18, and your family income totals less than $35,000 per year, your premium for Obamacare will be somewhere around $1200/year. That comes to a hike in your monthly taxes of about $100/month. 

I am using Oklahoma figures for this estimate, and Oklahoma did not set up a health care exchange. It may be better for those in other states. I hope so. 

My husband and I had a monthly income even lower than this when our kids were little. We qualified for free and reduced lunches at school. A car with 100,000 miles on it was new to us. My husband did all our auto repairs himself, in the driveway in front of our house. I carefully balanced meals to keep us well fed and the grocery bills do-able. Both my husband and I went without clothes, new glasses (even when we were having trouble seeing) and dental work so the kids could have those things.

I can tell you that an extra $100/month tax hike would have been a big bite for us back then. It would have had to come out of necessity money. 

Now, let’s go to the other end. Consider those “wealthy” families of four with two kids under 18 who have a combined family income of $90,000 per year. Housing/automobiles/education/clothing/food/gasoline/etc are all massively more expensive now than they were even a few years ago. If the house hunter shows I watch on HGTV are accurate, home ownership (at least on the coasts) is totally out of sight for the family that makes $35,000/year and barely in sight for the $90,000 earners. 

If a simple three bedroom one bath house costs between $200,000 – $300,00 and even a modest new car costs over $20,000 and a community college with the kid living at home costs $4,000-$5,000/year and gasoline hovers around $4/gallon, as does a gallon of milk, then $90,000 only seems rich to those who are barely scraping by. 

Add another $6,000 or $7,000 in annual taxes for healthcare that was previously paid for by your employer (this is a bit of conjecture that employers are going to be less inclined to provide health insurance after Obamacare sinks in) and things start looking almost as dicey for these $90,000 earners as it did for my husband and me back in the day. 

The point here, at least for me, is that the primary winners in the Obamacare sweepstakes are the insurance companies and a few favored recipients such as Planned Parenthood. In exchange for guaranteed minimum coverage and paying for abortions they get government enforced enrollment in their wares and their premiums become a tax. 

I’m not talking here about the serious considerations of cost to the tax payer in terms of government expenditures to underwrite this plan. That is going to come around and bite us in a more indirect, but perhaps more damaging way as time goes by. 

I personally think that there were any number of better ways to provide health care for those who didn’t have it. I also do not believe that Obamacare is going to “contain” rising health care costs. I think that, by underwriting them, it will probably turn health care costs into something akin to the defense budget and largesse to corporations — an ever-enlarging pork barrel that devours the treasure of this nation. 

Will Obamacare “work?”

Probably. At least somewhat. 

I think that it will provide health care insurance for most Americans. 

But it is also going to eat into their personal finances. What our elected officials don’t seem to get is that the American people are stretched financially like a piano wire already. They’re having to work more than one job each, just to make ends meet. Every passing year, inflation (which government formulas no longer accurately represent) eats deeper into their already stretched budgets, and every passing year, their incomes stagnate or fall. 

Good jobs keep going away. For decades now, the news has been about this or that American corporation leaving this country to go use cheap labor elsewhere to manufacture its wares, which it then sells to the American people. 

We are being robbed. 

Will Obamacare fix this?

Does it even address it?

No and no. 

What it does do is underwrite a medical care system that is deeply flawed and overpriced. It puts insurance companies on the government dole and uses a new direct tax on the American people to pay for that. 

I have always believed that this country had to address the need for affordable health care. I am not a neocon. Far from it. I personally know people who forego necessary medical care because of costs. In fact, I have been one of them. 

However, this plan is more an accommodation to special interests than a solution for those problems. There is a limit on what the budget of the ordinary American can absorb. I think this plans pushes a lot people painfully close to that limit. 

The question, of course, is what Obamacare will look like in years going forward. The tinkering with this plan has not even begun. There is also the question of whether or not it will be repealed by future Congresses. 

Personally, I doubt it. Once the plan locks in and the special interests start getting their take, the political will to either repeal or reform Obamacare will vanish like smoke in your morning coffee. 

 See also: Obamacare Threatens to Hit Many Pocketbooks; Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices in Rural Areas


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