christianity

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I was , you cut my .

I was thirsty, you poured my water on the ground.

I was a stranger, you took my child and put us in cages.

I needed clothing and shelter, you told me to sleep on the floor.

I was sick, you denied me .

I was in , for the profit of your friend. 

Whatever you do to the , you do to me. 

#evangelicalshypocrisy 

Originally posted on Crossleft.org Sun, 07/17/2005 - 18:57

In 2005, the American left finds itself in disarray. The loss in the 2004 elections resulting in continued conservative dominance of the federal government seared the political souls of progressives Americans. The progressive movement once again finds itself adrift in a malaise of irrelevance within the halls of power and perhaps more importantly, amongst the average American citizen.

This irrelevance is not a result of any tactical error in an electoral or activist campaign. Its certainly not a result of our ability to express our views articulately or fight passionately for what we believe. Indeed, the progressive movement has fought hard against conducting an unjust war, reducing taxes for the rich while we cut needed programs for the poor, and the appointing of those activist conservative judges. The irrelevance is a direct result of an inability to articulate an overarching progressive vision and its accompanying ideology and specific policy recommendations. With continued insistence on simply providing a contrarian view to conservatives, progressives can only hope to continue with a clouded vision, and thereby a minority position in American politics.

Historically, the political entity that can best articulate a vision for the future and stand firm by the policies contained therein, attract the majority support of the people. The founding fathers were able to explain how a break with England would create new opportunities and an example democracy that the world would look to as a model. The abolitionists stated not just their opposition to slavery but institutions and programs of upliftment for newly freed African Americans. The progressive at the turn of the last century promoted labor and health standards that addressed a rapidly industrializing nation. The New Deal provided a social compact between the government and people for a generation. And within the last 30 years, the conservatives' vision of smaller government, social conservatism, and projection of American military might rules the day.

In our time, we look to our faith as Christians to go back to the drawing board, in a sense, challenging our long-held assumptions in order to give rise to creative tensions and dialogue to arrive at shared vision for what the world will be. Americans will not respond solely to attacks on the actions of Karl Rove or the policies of a Republican dominated Washington. Americans need to see not only what we're against, but what we're before. And progressives need to articulate that vision just as passionately as they decry the war or the further destruction of the environment. That's what CrossLeft is all about. We want to establish the public spaces and promote the dialogues that will allow our community to bring clarity to a shared view of a better tomorrow. Subsequently, CrossLeft will build the movement and its accompanying structures to push for the change that will realize, nourish, and continue to clarify our vision for our country and the world. Come, help shape this positive vision for a better tomorrow.

 

Originally posted Fri, 08/05/2005 - 09:09 in the middle of some of the worst days in Iraq.

One of my best friends from high school just sent an email to me. He apologized for the rant, but he needed to vent. He is so frustrated with the situation that he just needed to spout.

Y'see. He's in Iraq. He's a Marine reservist. He was one of the last to go. He was against going into war with Iraq, but all his buddies had already been there. He felt like he needed to be there, a brother in arms.

In the last week, 21 marines have perished, all from his regiment. This includes the 14 marines from the same Ohio town. So many midwestern towns have proudly sent their young men and women into battle, but this seems entirely too heavy a price to pay for one small town to bare.

My buddy is frustrated with the bravado of the administration and their friends in the media saying that we are winning the war. We're simply not winning, from his view in the Al-Anbar province in western Iraq. Its unclear how we could win or what victory looks like.

...

My buddy always wanted to be in the military. He has a high degree of honor and respect for this country and for our forefathers who often had to fight and die for the freedoms we enjoy today. In high school we would frequently discuss the world wars. Sometimes, I would visit him at his Civil War re-enactments. We share this comment respect for the country, for our history, and for what yet needs to be done.

After high school, he went off to Virginia Military Institute and then into the Marines. I went off to Cornell and then into the inner city. And through these different paths, our feelings about the world, our politics have actually grown closer.

I've asked him to share his thoughts and frustrations directly to a broader audience through CrossLeft. We'll see if he feels at liberty while he's still over there.

...

I often think back about our conversations over the last 15 years. When they haven't been about family, love and heartbreak, they've tended to history and politics.

In the Civil War, leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee were necessarily close to the violence before them. They approached war with a heavy heart. There was little bravado, no "Bring It Ons", no "wanted dead or alive". There was a job to do, and both men led their men through understanding and compassion for the common soldier. There was no room for arrogance in something as awful as war.

Christians can and should debate whether war is ever justified. Warding off a colonial power, freeing enslaved Africans, and confronting Fascism all seem to be worthwhile endeavors, and in my estimation worthwhile enough to fight and die for. But pre-emptive war and bringing democracy by force seem be against anything that Jesus taught. Certainly the arrogance and jingoism of the current administration does not fit either the teachings of Jesus, or the tradition of American military and political leaders in times of war.

Fighting men and women don't brag, don't encourage more terrorists to come out and fight, but rather do their jobs methodically and professionally in honor to their country and its ideals. If any of our current leaders had ever put themselves in harm's way, had ever fought in the military, maybe they would know and understand that. Maybe then they would be real with the American people, admit their mistakes, and find a way to get our men and women out of this quagmire.

Its up to us to push for this change. As hard as it is sometimes, we must pray for our leaders and pray for a change of a heart. We must also continue to protest this war, to vote for candidates who pledge to get us out of war, and to convince others who still support the war that we have erred in our ways and its time now to end this terrible mistake.

As Christians, its also falls upon us to pray for the safety of my buddy and all of our armed forces, and the well-being the innocent Iraqi citizens who have suffered through a dictatorship, a 12 year embargo, US bombings, and are now caught in the cross-hairs of an occupation and insurgency.

God Bless Them.

 

(written upon the eve of the 2004 election..so much of it is still relevant.)

Too often in this country, partisans from the left and the right stand at either side of the political aisle throwing stones in the form of verbal barbs and insults. Meanwhile, most Americans sit in the middle, tuning into the cacophony of cable news networks and political parties. Fed up, most Americans subsequently tune out and go on with their lives. Every four years however, a renewed interest in politics arises from the brute force of the Presidential campaign. This year, as in 2000, the United States appears from the polls to be divided into political poles. At the risk of being one of those partisans, I write to reach out to my brother and sister Christians who consider themselves conservative and evangelical.

Christians of different political persuasions infrequently dialogue with each other. We self-separate on Sundays finding our ways to churches that support our political beliefs. I am a progressive Christian. My dad and stepmother are evangelical conservative Christians and both deeply involved with their church in Indiana. My best friend from high school works for an evangelical minister in Florida. One of my best friends in Philadelphia is a conservative African-American minister. While we disagree on some issues, I believe the values that bind me together with my conservative Christian family and friends are greater than our disagreements. I reach out, in this spirit of brotherly love that Jesus Christ taught, to open a discussion by presenting my passionately-held beliefs about the current political climate.

As a progressive Christian, I believe Jesus is a radical force for change who transcends time and geography. On his time on the planet he spent his time amongst the common people, healing the sick, preaching to the poor, and challenging the wealthy and powerful. He blessed the peacemakers, eschewed violence and allowed himself to be subjected to torture and crucifixion as an ultimate example and sacrifice for all of us.

Somehow this message has been twisted in the current US political climate. Somehow, government and society turning their back on the poor is okay. Somehow making war pre-emptively has become synonymous with Christian behavior. Jesus challenges us , challenges the assumptions we now have in the United Sates.

Our current President was asked during the 2000 election who his hero was. His Answer: Jesus Christ. It is no secret that George W. Bush is overwhelmingly supported by evangelical Christians. The support is baffling give the fact the administration's policies are so incongruent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Poverty and Wealth

Jesus saves his harshest criticism for the rich. The gates of heaven are like a mustard seed to a rich man. To the rich man who seeks to follow him, he goes so far as to recommend giving up all his wealth. These demands of the wealthy are often ignored in our churches (a truely ironic twist given the fact that God has blessed this country as the richest country in history.) So many of our churches, and this criticism is not just limited to conservative churches, fail to deliver this pointed message of Jesus to their congregants who live in relative comfort when compared to the millions of poor in this country and billions around the world.

Despite proclamations of compassion, the current administration has not acted in concert with the teachings of Jesus in this respect. The number of poor has increased every year, totaling over a million more poor in this country over the last three years. Our international aid is paltry when compared with the hundreds of billions we spend on warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, two tax cuts allowed the wealthy to gain even more wealth as inequality between the rich and the rest of us is greater than at any point in the last fifty years.

Likewise, the number of uninsured has increased by 5 million over the last 3 years, and many more working Americans worry about the rising costs of their own premiums as employers past more of the costs onto their workers. In the richest country in the world, I believe its Jesus's call to heal the sick, to eliminate poverty, and to live his message of love, not just through our own personal philanthropy, but also the actions of our government. A government that operates under Jesus's principles would not provide tax cuts to the rich, but rather would seek an ending to homelessness and poverty, while ensuring health care for all. George W. Bush has done little or nothing on these issues. Jesus demands more.

War and Violence

September 11th forever changed the world and made all Americans take heed to the threat of terrorism. At a large Florida evangelical church in December of 2001, the minister looked backed on the year saying, "Thank God we have a Texas sheriff as President of the United States." This call for vengeance is not rooted in the teachings of Jesus. He was adamant about non-violence. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer up your other cheek. The early Christians were courageous not due to their valor on the battlefield, but rather their ability to endure violence and die for their beliefs at the hands of Roman persecution. What lessons can we draw from the early questions? Certainly some degree of self-defense has been justified in the Christian theology, but how could we ever as Christians justify the notion of preemptively striking a country that has never attacked us, nor even had the capability of doing so if it wanted to attack us. Conservative and progressive Christians are perhaps most divided on this issue. And as a progressive Christian, I must pose the question to my conservative brothers and sisters: what justification do we have in killing thousands of innocents to topple a government that had not attacked us? How do you justify your support for war given Jesus demand for nonviolence?

I understand that many conservative Christians vote for the administration due to Bush's stance on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Christians can disagree, as there is little guidance provided in the Gospel on such issues. We have no record of Jesus commenting on gay marriage or when life begins. If we are going to base our political views on his words, let's look at what he spent most of his time teaching his followers. Let's address the wealthy and powerful and let them know that they must give more of their wealth up for the betterment of society. Let's address the needs of the poor in this country and around the world. Let's ensure that no one goes without healthcare in this country. Let's not spout hate and venom across this political divide, but rather work together to do the work that Jesus has commanded us to do.

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