The Republican Conception of Jesus According to Maher

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks during a political fundraiser in Washington, September 17, 2002. Cheney said that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's offer to let inspectors back into his country was simply "meant to obfuscate and deter action" and did not signal any significant progress. REUTERS/William Philpott WP - RTRAM1I

Yesterday, Bill Maher observed that conservative Republicans have created another Jesus, one unrelated to the Jesus of the Bible. Here is a brief excerpt of his famous weekly monologue, New Rules:

“. . . and the fact that this story played out last week during a papal visit exposed just how little these so-called Christians of the far right believe in what Jesus actually said.

… [this] papal visit exposed just how little these so-called Christians of the far right believe in what Jesus actually said

How could they? There is not a tent in the world big enough to fit under it both Jesus and Ayn Rand.

In order to be both Republican and Christian, they had to create an entirely new Jesus. We don’t only have two Americas; we have two Jesus’s now.

It’s true. Liberals have the traditional Jesus who hated the rich and wouldn’t shut up about how they should give away all their money, and Conservatives made up a completely new Jesus, a small businessman from Galilee, whose main gripe is big government and who wants to make Nazareth great again.

I call him supply-side Jesus. He’d love to help the less fortunate, but he’s got investors to think about.

Like the time supply-side Jesus performed a miracle and created a bounty of loaves and fishes, and then gave them all to the top one percent so they could trickle down to the “takers.”

Or the time supply-side Jesus came upon a leper who asked to be healed, so supply-side Jesus bought the company that makes leprosy medication and jacked up the price …”

To listen to Bill Maher’s entire dialogue about Another Jesus, visit the clip on YouTube, Republicans Don’t Like the Real Jesus so They Made Up a Fake One.

Reverence for the Pope

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The Pope’s words and opinions carry a weight far beyond his influence on practicing Catholics. People of every stripe are affected by the Pope because of his ministry to the entire human race. Pope Francis especially has created his own narrative in pursuing reconciliation among all peoples and a return to Christian sensibilities.

… even though he’s only one person, he can still change the world.

One of the most attractive elements of the Pope’s ministry is his own humanity. This Pope has held masses in small venues in the Vatican and has restrained from issuing condemnatory judgements about people who don’t naturally fall within his purview. For example, he said, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about gay individuals.

The Pope’s universal attraction can be seen in the effect he has had in Cuba. Holding a personal meeting with Fidel Castro and a massive rally in Revolution Square in Havana, the Pope has created amazing juxtapositions between the trappings of a Communist society and the more universal appeal of the Church.

And the Pope’s first trip to the United States will turn people’s thoughts to the veracity of the Gospel in discussions around every water cooler. You may agree or disagree with the Pope’s pronouncements, but you can’t ignore them. He will state whatever’s on his mind to whomever is listening. And even though he’s only one person, he can still change the world.

Blamed for Murder?

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Two events that occur near simultaneously don’t necessary mean that one causes the other. Such is the case with the cold-blooded murder of a police officer in Houston and the Black Lives Matter movement. While these protesters have been blamed for the bone-chilling chants of a few, even a minority of protesters retain First Amendment rights and are entitled to their opinion.

Personally, I think some of the chants, while they might feel good in a vengeful sort of way,  do not further their cause of ensuring justice for African Americans brutally killed by police officers. A more Christian approach garners better results.

Look at the accomplishments of the churchgoers in South Carolina. By expressing their love and forgiveness, these Christian stalwarts achieved what many thought impossible …

Look at the accomplishments of the churchgoers in South Carolina. By expressing their love and  forgiveness, these Christian stalwarts achieved what many thought impossible, the removal of the Confederate flag from State Capitol grounds.

The position of the right, while focused on law and order, is particularly incensing because they link the chants of Black Lives Matter as somehow creating “an atmosphere” that allowed this murder to occur. Nothing could be further from the truth. The right’s inability to see the real grievances of African Americans is one reason why they have lost so many black votes over the years.

One would hope for more sensitivity on both tragedies, from the police and African Americans, to heal our ravaged land. Being unjustly blamed for murder will make the Black Lives Matter movement more militant, not less.

Gung Ho for Guns?

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Guns provide an illusion of security, and it is this illusion that has captured large swathes of the Republican Party. Owning a gun isn’t about hunting or a way of life, no matter how much the proponents claim. It is about defending your domicile in the face of an oppressive government.

That’s why gun ownership is an illusion. You can’t defend your home against a modern military with tanks, artillery and planes. No matter how much you cling to your property, in the face of even a third-world country, you are bound to lose.

… gun ownership is an illusion.

Look at how the Israelites were able to decimate buildings in the Gaza Strip, for example. That’s not to take sides in the conflict, but the Israeli military handily won the conflict, even when faced with armed soldiers in opposition. The idea that one person with a weapon can oppose a modern military is fantasy at best, and more likely delusional.

Meanwhile, guns create all sorts of havoc. The number of accidental shootings in households owning a gun suggests that we need to get some kind of handle on the situation. Even something like “trigger locks” would represent a common-sense protection.

Guns also enable successful suicides. The problem with guns and suicide is that they are largely successful. So too for murder and mass shootings. The sooner that people get a realistic view of the pluses and minuses of gun ownership the better.

The Role of the Establishment

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The so-called “establishment,” a favorite target of the right wing and a much maligned entity, does not operate as an overt collusion or a nefarious organization; in fact, one wonders if it is a strict alliance at all in any sense of the term. Rather, the establishment exerts its influence through experience and an inherited knowledge of the way things operate. The proverb, “you can’t fight City Hall,” can be interpreted in too strict a manner. But in terms of efficiency, proper governance and preventing any one individual or political party to operate untrammeled, the establishment ensures things get done in an effective way, achieving results widely accepted throughout society.

… we must beware of those who rail against the establishment or “mainstream media” for they are the ones with ulterior motives.

The establishment has come under sustained attack since the formation of the Tea Party and the rise of right-wing extremists who are unable to compromise and “play nice” with others. These “anti-establishment” politicians are willing to shut down the government and create as much ruckus as possible to get what they want done, despite the opposition of others. They have endangered the credit rating of the U.S. government and were even willing to shut down the Homeland Security department in an effort to oppose President Obama’s executive order on immigration, similar orders previously given by Republican Presidents as well.

The establishment plays many useful roles in United States government. It protects us from demagogues such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and, in a previous election, Newt Gingrich. It enables compromise and smooths out the process of governance. It provides for minimum standards for elected officials, and, in the media, it tells us what’s really going on in a neutral and effective way. So, we must beware of those who rail against the establishment or “mainstream media” for they are the ones with ulterior motives.

Saving the Planet

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It is disconcerting to think that if a Republican wins the Presidency in 2016, all executive action to fight climate change will be completely and utterly halted. Secretary Clinton gave an inspiring speech yesterday about meeting tough goals on generating energy from renewable sources, rising to 30 percent by 2027, a goal beyond even the Obama administration. All the Republican candidates currently deride the science of climate change using the same formulation, “I am not a scientist.”

You would think Republicans would take the position, “Hey, I’m not a scientist, but just in case they’re right about climate change, maybe we should do something.”

Well, neither am I. But I’m sufficiently impressed by the feats of science, thanks to which we are currently visiting Pluto, a place so far away it takes hours for light and radio signals to reach us. And the methods of science, based solely on the evidence, suggest our planet is consistently and undeniably warming. Those who believe man-made activities are the cause has risen to 99 percent of the scientists.

To ignore the issue of climate change is to play a game with the future of the planet at stake. You would think Republicans would take the position, “Hey, I’m not a scientist, but just in case they’re right about climate change, maybe we should do something.” The fact that they don’t tells you volumes about where this stance is really coming from: donations from the corporate giants of the gas and oil industry.

The Confederate Symbol

 

 

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Symbols are important. While they do not directly cause people to do things, they promote an environment, a way of thinking and a means of justification. Symbols permeate social life, generate respect and dignity, or in some cases defiance.

The confederate flag stands for a lot of things, but, as President Obama noted in his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, it goes beyond respect for civil war veterans.

That’s why the lowering of the confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse has caused so much attention. The confederate flag stands for a lot of things, but, as President Obama noted in his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, it goes beyond respect for civil war veterans. It harkens back to the days of white racial superiority and dominance, and that’s why you would be hard pressed to find a black citizen, liberal or conservative, in favor of its continuance.

The many years the confederate flag has flown over the South Carolina statehouse are finally over. Thanks to bold leadership by Governor Nikki Haley, in a cause that was by no means decided until the very end, the forces of moderation and racial harmony finally won over forces of regression and hatred.

It’s hard to overstate how much this action means. If you’re Jewish, imagine how you would feel if a flag with a swastika flew over your government’s seat of power. If you dispute the importance of a symbol, consider how you feel when someone burns the American flag. Or if you’re a Christian, imagine looking at “modern art” where a cross is defiled.

Americans of all states should pat themselves on the back for this historic day when the forces of love prevailed in South Carolina.

 

The Lingering Effects of Donald Trump

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Donald Trump isn’t that different from another Republican candidate in the field: Chris Christie. Both pride themselves in telling it like it is though Christie’s views are decidedly more moderate. But when you tell it like it is, you risk alienating people, and Mr. Trump has managed to do that for wide swaths of the American electorate.

Yet aside from belated denials, most of the field has promulgated the same views as the Donald, though much more diplomatically, that is to say, like the true politicians they are.

Hillary Clinton hit the nail on the head when she observed that all the Republicans hold similar positions: none of them is willing to explicitly offer a path to citizenship, not even Jeb Bush with his Mexican wife.

That’s because a significant and vocal part of the Republican base adamantly opposes it, even more than raising your taxes. It’s sad but true, and despite all the talk about expanding their voting bloc, Republicans continue to hold nativist views on Hispanic Americans.

In general, Republicans have been adept in concealing or downplaying their views on illegal immigrants, whom they smear by calling “illegal aliens” instead. But the blunt statements by Donald Trump stop them from finessing the issue and require them to make a stand. And such a thing, they desperately wish to avoid doing.

The Christian Lifestyle

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As Christians, we all know the superiority of our way of life, but what is the best way to project that in a democracy? Many church members are worried about the possibility of persecution in the future, but fail to understand that to get liberty, you must be willing to give liberty. As President Obama said so eloquently in his eulogy in Charleston, “my liberty depends on you being free, too.

The church must convince other people to freely choose our way of life, not by imposing it on others, or threatening hellfire and damnation, but through gentle persuasion and the ability to offer an alternative.

We don’t live in a theocracy in the United States but instead have drawn much of our strength from being in a pluralistic society. The church must convince other people to freely choose our way of life, not by imposing it on others, or threatening hellfire and damnation, but through gentle persuasion and the ability to offer an alternative.

The church is being split by the recent court decision for same-sex marriage and is often failing to show the overflowing love that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Pastors are being sued and forced to backtrack such as a Long Island clergy member who chose to display an impolitic sign.

God gave us free will so we could voluntarily choose to follow Him and keep his commandments. We will win over others through love, not political activism, and it is about time we realized that. The Moral Majority and the Christian Right only speaks for a small vocal minority of believers, and we must stop their attempt to hijack our faith.

Christianity and Obamacare

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Not one to gloat, I still can’t understand how my fellow Christians can support the repeal of Obamacare. Do they not understand how six million people have come to rely on this law and how the number of uninsured have plummeted? The law also prevents denial of healthcare for pre-existing conditions. Would they condemn the suffering who fall into this category?

People would fall sick and die if Obamacare were repealed.

I still can’t understand how my fellow Christians can support the repeal of Obamacare.

Let’s not forget the state of affairs before Obamacare. The law was designed to provide healthcare for those previously unable to afford it. Would these so-called Christians be unwilling to pay slightly higher premiums if it meant that the poor would benefit?

That sounds like a heart of stone, not of flesh.

The Republicans never had any interest in providing healthcare coverage to anyone. They were happy with marauding health insurance firms with no regulations; when Republicans were in power, they never made any attempt to institute healthcare reform. Their current mantra of “repeal and replace,” is a concession at best. And no one thinks the Republicans would be able to get a replacement enacted; they are too split on the issue to pass anything except partisan rants to repeal the current healthcare bill.

So, the American people dodged a bullet when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare yesterday. And the poor and the downtrodden whom Jesus teaches us to support — how you do to the least of these you do to Me — dodged one, too.