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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Where Christianity is Lagging

In the comments of a recent post Matt provided the following from Michael Schermer:
Mark my words. Here is what is going to happen. Within a decade, maybe two, Christians will come around to treating gays no differently than they now treat members of other groups whom they previously persecuted — women, Jews, blacks — but not because of some new interpretation of a biblical passage, or because of a new revelation from God. These changes will come about the same way that they always do: by the oppressed minority fighting for the right to be treated equally, and by a few enlightened members of the oppressing majority supporting their cause.

Then what will happen is that Christians will take credit for the civil liberation of gays, dig through the historical record and find a few Christian preachers or bloggers who had the courage and the character to stand up for Gay rights when their fellow Christians would not, and then cite those as evidence that were it not for Christianity, gays would not be equal.
Although not a perfect analogy, this passage reminds me a bit of the conversation I had with a young man who had recently come out. He told me that all Christians hate gays. I said, "Well, I'm a Christian," he interrupted to say that he knew I was because he heard me going on about it all the time. I continued, "and I don't hate gays." His response was that I was not really a Christian, then.

First off, this is an attack on Christianity. It is a preemptive strike against a future more tolerant Christian church to make sure Christians don't get off the hook for the evil they have caused.

And, I feel compelled to point out that the exact reasoning provided by Schermer--Western Culture, not the Church will solve the problem of mistreating gays--can be used to let the church off the hook--Western Culture, not the Church is responsible for mistreating gays. Religion and Culture until very recently were inextricably intertwined.

More importantly though, Schermer and the angry young man have reason to be pissed off at the Christian Church. We have been slow to take a leadership role in the great moral ills facing our society. The Church needs to correct this: even if it doesn't get to take credit.

In the past, the Church has done well in advocating for the impoverished. In the United States the Civil Rights movement was a church movement. However, two glaring examples of movements, of what Judge Posner calls moral entrepeneurship, are afoot: Gay Rights; Environmentalism. While my little church and much bigger churches all across the country are coming on board, we need to do more. As Kanye says, "Better, Faster, Stronger."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jobs.

from here. Jobs and wages are the economic indicators that I care about. I think that particularly in the service industry/technology consumption economy we live in, jobs and wages being strong is essential to the overall health of our economy. I also think that our economic system tends to encourage rewarding a few at the cost of the many, and that in addition to hurting the economy as a whole (including the few that have benefited) that it is wrong. So, I think that when we act collectively through the government we should work to support job creation and support higher wages.

Do that sound leftist?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

First Meeting of CCJM

We had our first meeting of Chalice Christian Justice Ministry. It was a free form discussion of injustice in our world and possibly ways to address injustice. In the months to come we will focus of what area or areas we can address and what method or methods we can employ. The following observation from one member is worth sharing. On Tuesday, the residents of California approved Prop 8 and Prop 2. Prop 8 outlawed gay marriage. Prop 2 required better treatment for animals that were in the food supply. Put another way, the people of Californians reduced the rights of people while expanding the rights of chickens.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dad & Grandma

CNN has projected that Barack Obama will carry the state of Indiana. My grandmother was a precinct committee person who used to send my dad to take Democrats to the polls. I really wish they could have seen this day.

A message from God!


God asks you to stand up and plead your case, to let the world hear what you have to say. Indeed, God has made a case against you; God is lodging a charge against Chalice Christian Church, saying, "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. You no longer wander from one rented space to another; you have land and a building to call your own. My people, remember your journey, and the righteous acts of God."

You may ask, “What should I give to God: my tithes, my time, my talents? Will God be pleased with thousands of dollars or thousands of hours? Do I need to neglect my family and friends and personal time to atone for my past apathy?”

The truth is, God has shown you what is good. And what does God require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

Chalice Justice Ministries will meet for the first time tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Chalice Christian Church, 15303 South Gilbert Road, Gilbert, AZ 85296 (480.227.1442) chaliceoffice@gmail.com.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Anguish

Then the LORD said to Moses, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it." This is the scripture that I thought of when I learned that Obama's grandmother died. I saw Obama speaking tonight, and this is about the third time in three nights I've seen his stump speech, and there was anguish in his eyes. How bitter sweet a moment in the life of one human being. It is hard to wrap my head around it. I wonder how often she told him he could be anything.

Economics of Progressive Tax Rates

A significant money cycle in our economy is employers paying employees who become consumers. Consumers buy things from service providers who become employers. So, you have this question we've examined before about whether it makes sense to make sure the employers have money to spend, which will in turn lead to expansion and therefore more employees to become consumers OR to make sure consumers have more money to spend, which will in turn lead to more buying and therefore more money for service providers.

It makes sense to me that the latter is the best way to go because consumers will spend money more quickly and drive demand, which is necessary before a business can expand. In other words, you can give my wife more money through tax breaks, but she can't hire new teachers until there are more students who can afford to attend her school.

I believe this makes a lot of sense, but I also believe it is borne out by history. Consider the following chart that provides the maximum income tax rate in the United States.

So you can see that we have basically lowered the top tax rate from over 90% during Roosevelt to something like 37.5% under W. Bush. Now, let’s take a look at job creation. You will see a pretty dramatic trend if you consider party affiliation.

The final chart is my creation. It is pretty rough, but I think it fairly captures the change in tax rates associated with each President and the job creation during the same period.
So, Roosevelt and Clinton both significantly increased the top tax bracket—made the tax structure more progressive—and saw large job creation. (In fact, if you look at the detailed chart, you’ll see Johnson did the same thing and he also had good job creation.) Reagan and Bush reduced the top tax bracket--made the structure more flat--and saw much lower job creation than, in Reagan’s case on either side of his presidency and in Bush’s case than before his presidency. Reagan and Bush also saw a dramatic explosion of the deficit.

It’s from 10,000 feet for sure, but this evidence seems to support my notion that a more progressive tax policy is a better economic policy. Particularly with the top brackets being so low when compared to our history or to other countries.

Thoughts?

Bad People

I'll be a roving troubleshooter for the Arizona Democratic Party tomorrow. I'll be making sure that people can vote. For the most part, I'll be headed to areas where there is confusion about the rules. I don't expect Republicans out challenging brown skinned people, or brandishing firing arms to indimidate people from voting.

But then there is this.

Opposing Equal Marriage Rights (Part III)

In Part II I tried to address those who would shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, look, it's what the Bible says; I didn't come up with it." But, Part II doesn't end the discussion. Paul says you shouldn't be greedy. He says you shouldn't be sexually perverse. He says you shouldn't be swindlers. I agree with all of these, and in fact, they provide good advice for our times. My point is, that Part II doesn't "prove" that you should blow off what Paul said, but it should help people understand that just because some folks who don't like gay people found a verse or two opposing gay sex, the job of the Christian seeking to understand whether gay relationships are valuable before the eyes of God is not done. There is more searching to be done.

So, what to do with two people of the same gender who are romantic in love with each other? If tradition is most important, if the old ways is most important, than we should not recognize their love. Their love is different than what we are used to and it is contrary to the Hebrew law and Paul's instruction. On the other hand, if love is what is important, if that love has some how replaced adherence to tradition, then we should recognize their love.

Look at what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount about some related topics:
Adultery
"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce
"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
It seems to me that these scriptures suggest a move away from legalism toward a deeper understanding of fidelity. I've suggested before that a major theme of the Sermon on the Mount is this shift.

Of course, most important for me is not my study of scripture on this topic. The fact is, I know several couples in which both people are men or both people are women. It is simply inconcievable that these relationship are lesser than those in which one person is a man and one is a woman. Just as with any question of faith, it is my experience that has the most powerful impact on what I believe.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Opposing Equal Marriage Rights (Part II)

What does the Bible says about gay marriage? The Bible says absolutely nothing about gay marriage, just as it says nothing about first trimester abortions, or stem cell research. The Bible does talk about men having sex with men and women having sex with women. Here is what it says:

Paul to the Corinthians, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Cor. 6:9-10.

The Torah: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Lev. 18:22.

The Torah: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." Lev. 20:13.

The Torah: "There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel." Deut. 23:17. (I had to use the KJV here because sodomites is translated as prostitute in the NIV.)

Then there is this strange little story in Genesis wherein Lot offers his daughters to a mob of men who have come to rape the two male angels that are visiting Lot, just before God destroys Sodom. Then Lot leaves the town, his daughters get him drunk, and they all have sex in order to keep the race of alive. They become the Ammonites.

So, I don't know what you get out of the story of Lot. The rule seems to be that it is wrong for a mob to rape angels, even more wrong than allowing a mob to rape your daughters. Seems to not really inform the gay marriage discussion.

Then we have the three excerpts from the Torah. First, the Torah say you have to kill them. Does anybody think you should kill gay people? 'Cuz that's what the Bible says. The other thing is that we don't still hold slaves, which is okay by the Torah. We don't keep Kosher. We don't execute people who talk back to their parents.

Now, we're left with Paul. Paul lists homosexuality with many other immoral activities. Paul definitely is suseptible to the same treatment as the Torah. Paul says woman shouldn't speak in church. He says that you shouldn't get married because the second coming is right around the corner.

The Biblical case for accepting slavery and pluralistic marriages is much stronger than the case against homosexuality. In short, I think it is clear that Christians need to explore their own hearts to find what they believe on this issue.