Category "Religion and The State"

Pope Francis Challenging The Theology of ‘Unbridled Capitalism’

July 11th, 2015 by Andy in Religion and The State

Pope Francis is not letting up. This guy is doing the Lord’s work, that seems for sure. This recent report of his visit to Bolivia, and his critique of unbridled capitalism being the “dung of the devil” is a direct challenge to our era’s competing theology of market fundamentalism. (though a spanish-speaking connection of mine has informed that was a mistranslation, that it was in reference to a “drug of the devil,” something I can’t confirm).

The notion of “unbridled” is the key here. Too many marketeers can’t take the disconcerting truth that their preferred system has metastasized out of control, and is a cancerous plague on human dignity, and on life itself. I’m all for market exchanges and the tools of capital within how we operate economically within society, but its truly diseased, fatally so, when capital becomes an “ism,” the dominant religion of society, and becomes not a tool in the system, but the system itself. It will, when left to its own devices and logic, turn into a revolutionary force, a cancerous process that eventually devours and destroys everything. That’s not an extreme position to take. That’s a rationally lucid analysis of what is happening right before our eyes; one not hard to see if we have the intellectual honesty to overcome the ideological blinders and incessant market propaganda that our society is saturated in.

“Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” the pope said, decrying a system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature”.

“This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable,” he said in an hour-long speech that was interrupted by applause and cheering dozens of times.


The pontiff appeared to take a swipe at international monetary organisations such as the IMF and the development aid policies by some developed countries.

“No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice,” he said.

“The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor,” he said.

And not to get lost within this, was the striking declaration from the pontiff…

In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America”.

Read The Full Article

Thomas Paine on God, Creation, and Religion

February 10th, 2013 by Andy in Religion and The State, Video

Ian Ruskin, author and actor of the one-man play To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine, presents Paine on the topic of God and religion. Paine was not in opposition to belief in the transcendent power of the almighty creator, just the prostitution of such faith by power for its own material ends.

You can also watch Ruskin as Paine discuss the nature of GOD AND CREATION.

Ruskin as Paine…
“I have been much maligned, misunderstood and misused by our America, and many people, of all political and philosophical persuasions, have seen fit to quote and to misquote my words. This matters little in regards to the man Thomas Paine, but it matters much in regards to the ideas of the man Thomas Paine. And therefore, to correct some of these misunderstandings…”

Santorum Questions Obama’s Christian Credentials For The Presidency

February 21st, 2012 by Andy in Religion and The State

Is he running for President or for Pope? Either he really believes what he’s saying or he’s lying. It’s disturbing either way. I’m no fan of Obama, but this is just way off base for its presence in American politics.

Lashing out on two fronts, Rick Santorum on Saturday questioned President Barack Obama’s Christian values and attacked GOP rival Mitt Romney’s Olympics leadership as he courted tea party activists and evangelical voters in Ohio, “ground zero” in the 2012 nomination fight.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator known for his social conservative views, said Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.” He later suggested that the president practices a different kind of Christianity.

So what does the increasingly ignored and irrelevant United States Constitution have to say on this matter?

“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
- Article VI, United States Constitution

Upon commenting on this article on a social media site, I had one individual reply with this…

“The amendment you quoted forbids the GOVERNMENT from applying a religious test towards candidates. The Constitution in no way prohibits individuals from selecting a candidate based on religious considerations.”

A distinction without a difference.

Why would anyone consider it legitimate to apply a condition to public service that the principles of governance, as outlined within the ostensibly supreme law of the land, specifically reject as a criterion for that service? And if this is especially the case since the government is supposed to represent ‘we the people,’ and be - at least in principle - in the service of the public interest and will. So to make religion a ‘test’ of one’s political affiliation pretty much counters the whole notion of what is supposed to drive civic life in America. It’s why our Enlightenment-influenced (and often Deist) Founders wanted a republic that segregated direct partisan religious affiliation from undue influence in governmental affairs. They wanted to avoid a situation where public service was predicated upon religious affiliation, rather than one’s civic record. They saw what that kind of religious role of legitimizing tyrannies did through the eons of history, and didn’t want that replicated here.

Santorum, by questioning Obama’s “Christian values,” is saying that being a Christian inherently increases your qualifications for civic service. That seems to me to be a radically and fundamentally un-American position to take, in the context of what principles American governance is historically supposedly based upon. But history doesn’t seem to be a strong suit among Americans any more these days. Though again, was it really ever?

Read The Original Article

Update: Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce lays into Santorum on this issue, as well. And though I think the strident tone of this piece is a bit over the top, his summary point is right on the money…

Political campaigns are not theological. It is dangerous to make them so. You get people turning fundamentally political arguments into theological disputes, and you’re not far from the darker impulses that lead to the bastinado and a very dire St. Bartholomew’s Day. That Rick Santorum is willing to do this, like a child giggling with a blowtorch, is reason enough to disqualify him ever from a position of secular power. The rhetoric he has adopted comes from a history charred by fire, and sodden with blood.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Congressional Leader Says God Will Save Us From Climate Change

November 17th, 2010 by Andy in Religion and The State

Good Lord

U.S. Representative John Shimkus, possible future chairman of the Congressional committee that deals with energy and its attendant environmental concerns, believes that climate change should not concern us since God has already promised not to destroy the Earth.


The Energy and Commerce committee is among the most powerful in the U.S. Congress, with a wide-ranging purview over legislation touching on energy policy, environmental initiatives and public health.

Shimkus already serves on the committee. During a hearing in 2009, he dismissed the dangers of climate change and the warnings of the scientific community by quoting the Bible.


“The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood,” Shimkus asserted. “I do believe that God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect.”

No, of course Man cannot destroy the earth. Just his ability to exist upon it. Here’s an interesting response to all of this from Oannes, long-time USTV Media viewer and reader…

What’s really fascinating to me is how Christianity has allied itself with Darwinism (of the social type) to become the Christian Right. For all of Christian history, especially after the Renaissance, we were trying to create an ideal society in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven (the thousand year reich of Christ). From what I’ve read, this is totally what motivated science and technology and social reforms and everything. Then 19th century science said, nope, sorry, progress comes via ruthlessness and savage competition, and you can’t change that. And Christians said, “OK, you’re right, so I guess God wants us to be ruthless and savage, not good. So that’s what we’ll do. Competitiveness is the new piety.” How do you like that?

Here’s the contradiction as I see it: God wants us to make war against nature, but we’re stuck with obeying nature’s Darwinian laws of competition, because otherwise economic evolution will be impeded. God wants us to master nature and break nature’s laws, but we’re submitting to nature’s laws on economics. We don’t believe in nature’s laws about global warming, and we hate Darwinian biological evolution, but we absolutely believe in natural selection and evolution as it relates to market competition. Natural forces must be allowed to run the country and bring about progress. To get in the way of natural competition is to “devolve” the economy. The Christian Social Darwinist is a remarkable creature indeed, like one of those mythical hybrid beasts like a fish-goat or a snake-horse.

I’m not passing judgment on belief in natural laws either way. I just think it is interesting to note that we have a strange hybrid Christian/Darwinian mythology on our hands. Sarah Palin is the fish-goat high priestess.

Read The Full Report

America: A Christian Nation?

October 13th, 2009 by Andy in Religion and The State, Video

UnCommon Sense TV - “America: A Christian Nation?” What were the spiritual perspectives and endeavors of the American Revolutionaries? What were their inspirations for founding the nation in the first place and what were their intentions towards the role of religion in our political society? Who was a bigger influence on these prominent Americans? John the Baptist or John Locke? St. Peter or Adam Smith? Leviticus or Voltaire? These types of questions are looked at and analyzed through such means as reviewing some of the major early documents of the Founders, as well as the architecture, grave sites, money and national regalia and iconography adopted by as national symbols by America’s creators.

Jim Wallis: ‘God’s Politics’

February 28th, 2009 by Andy in Religion and The State, Video

UnCommon Sense TV - “Jim Wallis: ‘God’s Politics’” A USTV exclusive presentation of Jim Wallis, nationally renowned author, minister, founder and editor-in-chief of the progressive spiritual publication Sojourners, recorded at a public speaking engagement in Kettering, Ohio in support of his book, “God’s Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong And The Left Doesn’t Get It.”

China Bans Non-Approved Reincarnation

August 26th, 2007 by Andy in Religion and The State

This for all intents and purposes should be a headline from The Onion, but alas, I am afraid to report that it is all too real. Fitting from a country that once filed an official complaint concerning supposedly ‘hostile’ and negative press in the U.S., when the offending media outlet was actually The Onion, which they mistook for ‘real’ press. The parody must have struck a real nerve. Here they show how beyond parody such paranoid autocrats really are.

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.”

But beyond the irony lies China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country.

Read The Full Article from Newsweek

For God And Country? Evangelizing The Pentagon

January 3rd, 2007 by Andy in Religion and The State

In this video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.

Click To View (Windows Media)

Chris Hedges has more on this rather disturbing trend with his recent expose on America’s Holy Warriors

Dick Armey Takes On The Christians

November 13th, 2006 by Andy in Religion and The State

Looks like the Right are starting to eat their own. This letter from former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey might be the rhetorical equivalent of a Ft. Sumter between the different factions of the Talibanker alliance. He is obviously upset that the Christian Coalition has ‘betrayed’ him by openly supporting Network Neutrality. How is his PR firm going to stay in business if he can’t deliver the Christian Vote to corporate interests that pay him Big Bucks?

Christians and Big Government

Dear [FreedomWorks Supporter],

There was a day when social conservatives were united with economic conservatives in the belief that small, limited government was not only good for our economy and the prosperity of American families, but essential to protect traditional family values. We all fought for a limited federal government — a government that had the decency to respect the American people by staying out of their lives. Small government meant that all Christians could practice their faith as they saw fit. Big government violates those rights by meddling in our lives, misusing our hard-earned money, and dictating cultural norms to us. We were and are rightly outraged when government imposes wrong-headed values through its monopoly of schools, government-funded “art,” and taxpayer funded “family planning.”

As a united conservative movement, we win when we defend traditional values against big government pretensions to impose its brand of “morality” on the American people. We lose when we attempt to use government power to impose our values on others. I am a devout Christian. I am a so-called “values voter.”

As a member of Congress and as Majority Leader, I believe I faithfully served our values. One of my proudest moments in Congress was beating the Democrats attempts to meddle in the affairs of families that had chosen to opt out of secular government education by home-schooling their children. I took on the entire political establishment, but we only won because thousands of Christian home-schoolers demanded that Congress keep its nose out of their decision to raise and educate their children as they saw fit.

I am also a free market economist by training, and I believe that economic freedom is vitally important in the defense of the American family. Big issues like retirement security, tax reform, school choice and spending restraint will determine whether or not families will be dependent and subservient to government. Who owns your retirement? Who decides how you provide for your family s future. Can you leave your estate to your grandchildren, or is it the government’s? Will the government socially engineer your life through the tax code? Will liberal education bureaucrats determine your child s education? These are all issues that used to matter to the political leadership of Christian conservative voters.

And while for most in the Christian conservative movement these issues still resonate, the same cannot be said for some of our Washington, D.C.-based religious leaders. Right after I had left Congress and joined FreedomWorks, we found ourselves embroiled in a major tax fight in Alabama. Oddly, an old friend, Bob Riley, had been elected governor only to immediately reverse course, cut a deal with the teachers union, and advocate a massive tax increase to prop up the failing government school system. It was “what Jesus would do,” he said. I took personal offense to that, as did many of the voters who had just worked so hard to elect him Governor. Our activists had joined forces with local Christian conservatives, including the Alabama Christian Coalition, to fight both bad policy and a sense of personal betrayal. We were blindsided when the national leadership of the Christian Coalition endorsed the Governor s proposed tax increase, joining forces with liberal interests in the state that had actively worked against our values for a generation. In the end we won, thanks in no small part to the fact that members of the local Christian Coalition chapter parted ways with the national organization and stood with Alabama FreedomWorks, the Alabama Policy Institute, local taxpayer organizations, and a host of other small government advocates all united in the effort to stop a big government tax-hike scheme.

Today, the national Christian Coalition has joined forces with in another government grab of private property dealing specifically with ownership of the Internet. They are wrong on the specifics of the issue, and they are wrong to associate with and comfort radical liberals who have demonstrated nothing but disdain for conservative values. Armey s Axiom: Make a deal with the Devil, and you are the junior partner. Another Armey’s Axiom says that if it is about power, you lose. And unfortunately when it comes to James Dobson, my personal experience has been that the man is most interested in political power.

And just who is the ‘Devil’ that Mr. Armey is so distraught over dealing with here? ‘Radical liberals’ (for which one can easily include a number of the founders of this country he states he so dearly loves), or the Christian Coalition? And as far as I remember, James Dobson isn’t officially affiliated with the Christian Coalition at all. That is Robertson’s gang (with some help from such outstanding moral guides as Ralph Reed). Dobson is with the so-called Focus on The Family group. Armey must be getting desperate, wailing away at the wrong target in his angst over his, for-the-moment at least, failing effort. (And now with Congress reverting into the hands of the Democrats, quite likely a doomed effort, fortunately).

As Majority Leader, I remember vividly a meeting with the House leadership where Dobson scolded us for having failed to “deliver” for Christian conservatives, that we owed our majority to him, and that he had the power to take our jobs back. This offended me, and I told him so. In a later meeting Dobson and a colleague came into my office to lobby against a trade bill, asking me to stop the legislation from going to the House floor. They were wrong on the issue, and I told them no. Would you at least postpone the vote, they asked? We have a direct mail fundraising letter about to go out to our membership, they said. I wondered then if their opposition to the bill was driven less by their moral compass and more by the need to rile their membership and increase revenue. I wondered then, if these self-appointed Christian leaders, like many politicians, had come to Washington to do good, but had instead done well for themselves.

Dobson later ran an orchestrated campaign against me in my race to retain the Majority Leader post, telling my colleagues that I was not a good Christian. I prefer to leave that decision to Lord God Almighty on Judgment Day. Maybe you can understand why I have recently been quoted referring to this person as a “bully.” And it continues today, as Focus on the Family deliberately perpetuates the lie that I am a consultant to the ACLU. I have never had any relationship with the ACLU and oppose most of that organization s work. The ACLU has twisted “civil liberty” to mean something quite the opposite. Nowhere was it more wrong, with more disastrous policy ends, than in the Terri Schiavo intervention. While her case was heartbreaking, our Founders created a government built on checks and balances, not a nation run by an arbitrary and imperial Congress. Congress cannot simply override our entire state and federal legal system to intervene in one person s situation. It was truly a chilling act. Imagine the precedent-setting nature of such an action when a different House of Representatives, one with “Speaker Nancy Pelosi” wielding the gavel, holds power.

Freedom works. Freedom is a gift from God Almighty, and we have a responsibility to protect it. Christians face a temptation to power when we are fortunate enough to have a majority of support in Congress. But government can never advance a faith that is freely given, and it is corrosive to even try. Just look at Europe, where decades of nanny-state activism including taxpayer support for churches and for religious political parties have severely eroded the faith.

In America today, too many of our Christian leaders fail to recognize the temptation to power and the danger it holds for our society and our faith. And so America s Christian conservative movement is confronted with this divide: small government advocates who want to practice their faith independent of heavy-handed government versus big government sympathizers who want to impose their version of “righteousness” on others through the hammer of law. We must avoid the temptation to use the power of government to perfect our society and its citizens. That is the same urge that drives the Left and the socialists, and I can assure you that every program or power we give government today in the name of our values can be turned against us when the day comes where a majority of Congress is hostile to us.

Instead, we need to limit the sphere of government and create civil space where private institutions, individual responsibility and religious faith can flourish. By reducing the size of the welfare state, we increase the importance of the works of Christian charities and our church communities. By reducing the tax burden on families, we make it easier for Christian households to tithe or for young mothers to stay home to raise their children. The same is true for retirement security based on ownership. Reducing the ever-growing reach of the federal government means local communities, and more important, parents, are free to establish the standards and values for the education of their children. Consider the welfare reform we passed in 1996. By reducing bureaucracy and dependency and emphasizing work and responsibility, we changed conditions for an entire segment of our society. Since welfare reform passed, teen pregnancy, welfare caseloads, and the number of abortions in America have all declined. That is the kind of policy change that values voters need to support, and it is the result of limiting government’s power over our lives.

Our movement must avoid the temptations of power and those who would twist the good intentions of Christian voters to support policies that undermine freedom and grow government. Freedom is what gives America its unique place in the world, and protecting and expanding our freedom is what creates the space necessary to keep our faith strong and growing.

Dick Armey
Chairman, FreedomWorks

Looks like the coalition of corporate christianists (or “Talibankers” as we’ve referred to them), is beginning to seriously crumble. I always wondered how long it would take for the untenable physics of that unholy alliance to finally reach critical mass and break apart. The Foley thing is not helping the situation either. But when one group in the marriage of political convenience wants to push America back 100 years (which they have just about successfully accomplished), and the other group by 400 years, it was only a matter of time before tensions hit the boiling point.

Statue of Liberty Gets Theological Remake

July 11th, 2006 by Andy in Religion and The State

Oh my Lord. This is astounding. The Founders are probably vomiting in their graves. Gotta love it how the self-described Christians take a pagan symbol and use it to promote Dominionism. But then the Christian religion has been co-opting other popular religious beliefs and iconography since its inception as an ‘official religion’ in the days of Constantine.

On Independence Day, Lady Liberty was born again.

Born again? More like molested and impressed into servitude.

As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and “Jehovah” inscribed on her crown…

…The Statue of Liberation Through Christ, as she is called, stands 72 feet tall from the base of her pedestal to the tip of her cross. She was the idea of Mr. Williams, a very successful pastor whose church, World Overcomers, qualifies as mega: it has a school, a bowling alley, a roller rink, a bookstore and, he said, 12,000 members.

This is almost beyond descriptive response. Some of the comments posted by people on The Huffington Post do a pretty good job, though.

In actuality it looks like something out of a minature golf course. The arm swings down and knocks the golf ball out of the way.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Unless, of course, they don’t belong to OUR church in which case, let ‘em die.

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