Thursday, June 5, 2008
To radical progressives and plain old cynics (lump me in), the nominatioin of Barack Obama as the party's candidate for President of these United in-geography-and-debt- only States does not mean the same thing as it does to many liberals and progressives. The average liberal, in my opinion, suffers from a milder case of delusion as the average conservative. They tend to (as we all do about something) mute their reality by pretending certain unpleasantries concering our nation either do not exist or don't matter as much.
Even so-called liberals still tacitly endorse U.S. imperialism when they support the military, even though they disagree with our invasion of Iraq. Most are ready to give support to a presence in the middle east, especially when it comes to the protection of Israel. Others agree with global capitalism, but just want to make sure at least a slice of bread is left over for indigenous people vs. the crumbs conservatives are willing to let the market dole out.
So for many liberals who can turn a blind eye to Israeli atrocities, who give lip service to U.S. expansionism and intervention (as long as it is a "benign" spread of democracy), and who think capitalism is fine and dandy as long as corporate CEOs don't make so much money that they can fill a mint, Obama's selection as the Democratic Nominee appears as a close first cousin to the second coming of Christ.
I was at the Excel Center when Obama accepted his nomination (even though Hillary Clinton was still in deep denial), and I too was moved and enheartened by his potential as a president.
But reality is a real downer--the next day, when I saw both he and Hillary appearing before AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee),it reminded me of the limitiations of the office of President. Both senators had to pledge their unwavering fialty to this powerful group and genuflect with obedience. In doing so, they have to turn a blind eye to what Israel really is--a terrorist state that uses the most despicable tactics to accomplish its goals (hmmm, sounds like the United States--maybe that is why the two camps are so buddy buddy?)
Take this snipet from a writer who was denouncing an article by The Times Online writer Julie Burchill who staunchly defended Israel:
TO DEFEND Israel today is to be either callous or wilfully ignorant. Had Julie Burchill bothered during her visit there to cross the few miles from Israel to Gaza or the West Bank, she would have seen such human suffering as to disturb even her frenetic adulation of Israel. She might have seen the daily lot of nearly three million Palestinians as they battle with army checkpoints, curfews, random shootings, arbitrary arrests and air raids. She might have found that the “superJews” she so admires humiliate and oppress Palestinians at a whim: last year, at the Nablus checkpoint, a middle-aged man was made to strip, get down on all fours and bark like a dog before he could enter his city. Women in labour routinely wait at checkpoints until some give birth there and see their babies die.
Those that survive live a blighted childhood. Since September 2000, Israel has killed more than 660 Palestinian children and wounded 9,000 — such as little Iman, sprayed with bullets when walking to school in Rafah last month, even after she died. Thousands of children are traumatised by the daily horrors they witness. For a Palestinian child, life under Israeli occupation means turning 15 and seeing the army come to arrest you if you are male, or seeing your friends bleed to death because no ambulance is allowed to rescue them.
It is difficult to convey the scale and effect of Israel’s abuses of Palestinian lives through statistics alone. But these are horrifying enough: since 2000, nearly 4,000 Palestinians killed, and 30,000 injured; 400 were assas-sinated; and 25,000 homes were demolished. In addition, hundreds of acres of farmland were destroyed. No state on earth, except Israel, could get away with these atrocities, now routinely justified as “defence” against Palestinian “ terrorism
Yet, our shining beacon of new hope, Obama, has to promise to be a friend to a government that routinely commits these types of atrocities...
Obama is indeed a shining new hope, but in a world composed of dark sewers, that light has a lot of shining to do before it can shed light on the ugly reality of what it is we truly must overcome.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
For those of us whose infra red signal from our television remote controls don't emit only a straight beam of invisible light for Fox News (or as many see it, Fake News), the notion that Barack Obama is a Christian, and not a Muslim, is not news in the least. The Democratic front runner has made it plain that his Christian faith is a cornerstone of his political and personal makeup, and he wears it, as most politicians today know they'd better, out front and openly for all to see.
As noted by Ariel Sabar, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, Obama has had a clear view of his spiritual path ever since he gave his will over to god while kneeling beneath the cross on Chicago's South Side in the church of the now infamous Reverend Wright. Obama says, "I submitted my self to [God's] will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth."
Of course this Christian smell test goes over well for most Americans, of which 60% believe in the literal interpretation of the creation story in Genesis, and 75% believe in the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection story of the New Testament.
And since most African Americans are overwhelmingly Christian, they see Obama's Christian identity as being just as necessary for the candidate as a pair of lungs.
According to Sabar's article, "Barack Obama: Putting Faith out Front," the Illinois Senator "speaks of the church as an abiding force in American public life, from the Boston Tea Party through the abolitionist and civil rights movements. He suffuses his speeches with biblical allusions – 'I am my brother's keeper' is a favorite phrase. And he has cast his generation of black leaders as modern-day Joshuas, after Moses' successor, who led the Israelites to the Promised Land. "
Sabar's article also suggests that Obama "takes very seriously the numerous passages in the Bible that talk not only about poverty, but of people of faith taking God's words and extending them beyond the four walls of the church."
But even though the majority of Americans and African Americans are comfortable with Obama's Christianity, and some of the concepts of taking care of the poor are laudable goals to strive for, Obama and the rest of America have an ideological dilemma that not too many people are willing to address--namely, that an honest assessment of bible scriptures reveals a disturbing number of unsavory philosophies.
African Americans such as Obama blithely ignore scriptures that endorse both racism and sexism without any attempt to reconcile the passages' antithetical position to modern sensibilities.
For instance, 1 Peter 2:18 says, "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."
Ephesians 6:5-6 says, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart."
Other New Testament passages echo the same sentiment, and the Old Testament is replete with instructions on selling slaves (even one's own daughter) and rules on how to beat them within biblical specifications.
The bible's misogyny is as blatant as its racism (and yet Hillary Clinton wears the bible on her pant suit sleeve too). I am sure most modern women at least must wince when they read the following:
1 Corinthians 11:7-9:"For a man...is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."
1 Corinthians 14:34-35: "...women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife...wives should submit to their husbands in everything."
1 Timothy 2:11-15:"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent..."
Titus 2:4: "...train the younger women...to be subject to their husbands."
The problem is clear. The bible, and by proxy, Christianity, has a poor under girding when it comes to issues of race and sex. In addition, the sort of change that Obama champions is also dismantled completely if we are to follow biblical instructions.
Consider how Martin Luther King and other members of the Civil Rights Movement would have fared if they gave credence to the following: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2).
This edict is repeated in 1 Peter where Paul writes, "....submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:13-14).
If Obama and other politicians insist on touting Christian and biblical values, then they have to admit that George Bush does not suffer from hubris, but is actually accurate and rational when he contends he was appointed by god rather than a shamefully biased Supreme Court. The War in Iraq, which Obama opposes, should be embraced as a punishment of the evil doers, as Bush et al suggest, and we should take a sheet from the Britney Spears political toilet paper by trusting Bush and delightfully wiping his Executive backside whenever he has crap to spread.
In all, Africans should happily return to slavery, women should give back the right to vote if their husbands demand it, and whomever is elected should be obeyed without question because he is obviously in power because of God, and not corrupt Diebold voting machines.
Of course, despite all the scriptures I have cited that paint Christianity in a not so flattering light, Christian apologists can cite scriptures that espouse equality and tolerance. But doesn't that just mean that the bible has two or three minds about issues that guide how we act as human beings, and if the bible is so scattered in its approach to basic rules of decency, then what good is it?
I am not so naive to think that any serious politician in the U.S. can get elected without passing the Christian compatibility test, but some of us must insist on an honest discussion about the bible and its role in politics. And if the bible is at odds with modern decency, then why do we keep insisting that it be used to elect our people to the highest office in the land?
1 Peter 2:18
Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.
Despite the bible passage above, which is one of several in the New Testament that supports slavery, several African Americans embrace the bible and Christian theology. Bondage and the Bible, a re-released film by D. Eric Harmon, examines the impact of worshiping a god that flows from a text that endorsed slavery and was used to justify their bondage.
To order this video email D. Eric Harmon at
God has bad aim. This may come as a shock to people who believe in God (i.e. Jesus; Jesus' Daddy, Jehovah; Allah; the Holy Ghost; or any other invisible bearded guy in the sky who insists on being the one and true God and maker of the universe and mini-donuts). I say this may come as a shock, but actually, it shouldn't, and at the same time it should.
It should not shock believers because when individuals engage in god damning actions which require as a "just" form of punishment a good smiting, people who believe that their respective God is about to get his smite on move away from the object of the Almighty's smitiness. They even say things such as "let me move out of the way cuz I don't want god to get me when he gets you." Here, they admit that God's lightning strikes are not laser-guided-precise, but rather broad and sprawling, incinerating the blasphemer and any by-standers who have the terrible luck to get in the way of the bolt from above. If they were pin-point accurate and only consumed the target of God's wrath, there would be no need to move at all.
It should shock believers because this points to the fact that their big daddy in the sky is not all powerful. His retribution and vengeance is messy, sloppy, and over reaching. Osama bin Laden and little old black Pentacostal-speaking-in-tongues ladies with wide floral hats can get charred by lightning at the same time if they happen to be sitting on the same pew (okay, I know bin Laden is still in a cave or more than likely dead in a cave, but you get my point).
Leaders of religion obviously believe that God kills the wicked and the innocent alike with his smiting since they proclaim that natural disasters, far less precise than bolts of lightning, are also forms of God's smiting. From hurricanes to earthquakes, religious leaders are always taking smite claim for their God, suggesting that it was Sodom and Gomorrah 2.0. But if that is true, that Katrina was sent to take care of the gays, the whores, and the godless in New Orleans, what about the sweet old Catholic woman who fed the pigeons everyday and could never say no to a stray cat? That woman, someone's sweet grandmother who made them Christmas cookies even in August, drowned and was a bloated, floating corpse down the streets of the Big Easy.
And why? Because god has bad aim. He doesn't shoot heat vision from his eyes like Clark Kent and vaporize a specific target, nor does he bend time and space and reality to disintegrate the molecules of some thong wearing 23 year old dirty blonde hooker who utters "goddammit" while doing the booty dance on the church altar while wearing transparent six inch heels. He doesn't do any of that...instead, he sends tornadoes and floods to sweep away the wretched, and the meek get swept away too like a hundred dollar bill accidentally dropped into a flushing toilet.
This belief that the Almighty has crooked trajectory explains a lot, however. It explains why many of the religious minded are control freaks. They want every one around them to be without sin, because sin is like an open furnace to God's heat seeking smite. They believe that sin is like blood in the water for sharks, and it's a Peter Benchley free ocean when sin is on lock down. To cut back on the sin factor, believers have to control the people around them, making sure they follow "god's laws" to avoid him getting pissed off and sending an F5 tornado to go with that blaphemous remark.
Of course, fearing this kind of retribution from a fashion challenged deity who wears sandals instead of red Prada shoes makes as much sense as fearing that lump of coal from Santa Claus if you've been naughty, not nice, or having an empty Easter Egg Basket if you screw up in early spring.
To believe that God actually sends natural disasters as a sign or displeasure deserves ridicule and scorn directed towards anyone propping up such B.C.E. thinking. If there were such a thing as God, and his aim is this off the mark, it would deserve neither worship or obedience--rather, it would merit scorn and revulsion--or maybe a prescription for a good pair of eyeglasses.