Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter thoughts: Christianity and Republican politics

Jesus ascends into Heaven
Happy Easter to my Christian friends and family.  Christians across the world celebrate Easter Sunday in memory of the life of Jesus Christ and His ascension into Heaven.  It was the culmination of the actions of Jesus' entire life that led Him to the cross and eventually brought Him to His holy Father.

Jesus' ultimate sacrifice was done knowing that He would die.   Although He was a man of peace, His teachings were seen as quite belligerent by some members of society at the time.  It is useful to review some of those teachings if we are to learn from history.  Here I would like to compare those teachings to the current Republican party thinking to shed some light on how religion has been used to capture votes from unsuspecting middle class Christians.

Although stories of Jesus' performance of miracles abound during His lifetime, in this dissertation I would like to focus only on Jesus' philosophical views as a human.

We must begin this story at the end, with Jesus' self sacrificing nature and death.  He so loved the people of the world that he gave his life to help reform them.  He was a man that preached "love thy enemy" and "treat your neighbor as you would have them treat you."  He taught that bettering the world starts with each of us learning to love one another.

He defended the helpless and served them.  He taught that each human being is valuable and one's status in life does not make them any more or less valued than anyone else.  On occasion he taught us that love of money over people makes it more difficult to enter the gates of Heaven.  He said "It is easier to thread a camel through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."  He reminds us in the parable of the rich fool that storing wealth for ourselves is offensive to God when some of that wealth could be used for the less fortunate.

Forgiven Prostitute
He did not love sin but helped sinners find a way out of their condition.  He did not forsake sinners as too unclean or too low to be helped.  He reminded a crowd of people who were ready to stone a young prostitute that they were probably no less guilty of their sins than the girl when he said "Let those among you who is without sin cast the first stone."  He washed the girl's feet before directing her to "go and sin no more."

Ultimately, the lesson is that Jesus overwhelmingly cherished people over worldly goods.  He  encourages people to raise their view of life beyond earthly possessions.  He asks people to believe in each other and support each other.  He directs us to help those less fortunate.  He reminds us that greed is offensive to God and can be detrimental to its possessors.

Let us turn now to Republican political policy.

Republicans have proclaimed themselves as the party of Christians, but do the current policies of the Republican Party seriously represent the teachings of Jesus?

We know that Paul Ryan believes in the anti-Christian policies of Ayn Rand which advocate that entitlements must go to the worthiest people and be denied to those less fortunate or those incapable of contributing to their own welfare.  Survival and advantages are only deserved by the fittest in society per Ayn Rand.  Ryan has admitted his strong acceptance of Ayn Rand's philosophy in public interviews.  His budget offerings that tear away the social safety net from the weakest of Americans gives evidence of his true beliefs.  His tax favoritism to the most fortunate among us show that he views money more favorably than the people in the lower classes of society.  All Republicans in Congress support this budget.  I think Jesus would have been furious with the Paul Ryan Republicans.

But that's not all of it.

Republicans have obstructed bills intended to help students with government money for Pell Grants.  They have opposed increasing the minimum wage.  They have refused to give women equal pay for equal work.  They have voted against aid to military veterans.  They would like to tear down social security and medicare which assists elderly Americans.  They believe that government efforts to help the defenseless should be reduced while government spending to give the wealthy special entitlements should be increased.  They have brought the government to a near shutdown.  They have brought us to the brink of default.  They held up disaster relief funding.  They have held up most of the provisions of the American Jobs Act.  They have prevented passing a violence against women act.  They held up middle class tax breaks insisting that they be tied to tax cuts for the wealthy.  They have stood in the way of gun safety legislation.  They are trying to tear down the consumer financial protection bureau.

Republican policies have been directed against the very essence of what Jesus firmly believed in...those less fortunate people who need our help.  Republican politicians are very anti-Christian indeed.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Sequestration: How has it affected you?

On March 1, 2013 Congress allowed the United States to fall victim to one-sided, across the board government spending cuts.  The sequester is one sided, because revenue is not an element.  It is across the board, because most government spending accounts will be cut back without consideration for the importance of the spending.

Ironically, Congressional salaries are unaffected by the cutbacks even though that element of government spending is assumably one that most of America would agree should be cut.

The effects that the sequester will have on American society and the economy has been varied depending on the source of the observation.

Democrats, including the President have expressed grave concerns that society and the economy will suffer as a result of the cuts.  Although the President has said  the economic effects will not be catastrophic, he issued concerns about a sluggish recovery and has pointed out that certain individuals will suffer as a result.  Being a President of all the people, he has concern for those who depend on the government for essential services.

Republicans, including House speaker Boehner, have essentially welcomed it and expect it will go a long way to reigning in the wild spending that the government has supposedly become accustomed to and which otherwise would have, in their opinion, ruined our economy.  Never mind that the facts prove otherwise.  Republicans have been planning the sequester in their arsenal of tools to eliminate government for a few years now.  A powerpoint slide prepared by John Boehner shows this was a Republican plan since 2011.

With Boehner being a leader of the Party that protects the assets of the rich, he expressed his demands in Congress that any substitute for the sequester would not include an increase in taxes or closing tax loop holes for the rich.  In my opinion, Republicans in Congress follow two philosophies that are essential to their existence; a "head in the sand" philosophy and an "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy.

Regardless of the opinions of others, I want to give you a chance to record the impact that the sequester has had on you.  For that reason I have created the poll at the top of the side-bar.

The poll questions are intended to be answered by American citizens, however citizens of other countries may respond if they believe the American sequester has an impact on them.

A few explanatory notes about the poll questions:

You can only select one answer, so please try to select the most accurate answer for your situation.

I used the term "essential" to describe government services, without which you are severely affected either physically, medically, psychologically, educationally or financially.

I used the term "nice to have" to describe government services, without which you suffer some form of minor inconvenience, such as waiting longer in TSA screening lines at the airport.

I realize that the effects of the sequester may become worse on particular individuals as time goes on, so if you have not voted, please feel free to take the poll at any future date.  You can see the results of the polling at any point in time by visiting any blog on my site.  I will record the results over time and report back on the time related results in a future blog.  In the past, blog polls have not received a lot of responses, but I encourage you to participate in this important research.

Thank you for your participation.