On Pseudo-Christianity

I have long said that if a person cannot, will not, or does not follow the words of Jesus, then that person cannot call oneself a Christian. As Christians, we are called to imitate the way Jesus lived and to follow his words. Short of doing that, a “religious” person who attends a Christian church cannot claim to be a Christian. At best, he or she is a church-goer.

The president this week “disagreed” with Jesus’ lesson to us to “love our enemies,” and he doubted the faith of those who say they pray for their enemies. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-politicization-of-the-national-prayer-breakfast-is-unholy-and-immoral/2020/02/06/529518e4-4931-11ea-bdbf-1dfb23249293_story.html) Jesus said for us to do that, most starkly in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, the president rejected the words and teaching of Jesus as his “enemies” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senator Mitt Romney listened,

It has been interesting to listen to people marvel at African Americans voice forgiveness for the persons who have killed their loved ones. The most recent example of a black person forgiving someone was Brandt Jean, who publicly forgave the white police officer who shot and killed his brother as he sat in his own apartment. (https://www.npr.org/2019/10/03/766866875/brandt-jeans-act-of-grace-toward-his-brother-s-killer-sparks-a-debate-over-forgi) His act did not endear him to many; in fact, many Christians – black especially but others as well – have scoffed at Jesus’ directives to forgive, to “turn the other cheek,” and to treat enemies with respect.

But if the truth be told, had not the words of Jesus been pounded into the psyches of black people, we as a people would have been long gone. We did not have any support for our lives and our rights – not from white people, not from the system, including Congress and the US Supreme Court, and we did not have the same access to weapons as did white people. Nonviolence saved protesters on the street; struggling to “do” the words of Jesus saved the souls and spirits of protesters as they continued to fight their enemies on a daily basis.

In a book I wrote some years ago, Forgive WHO? The Struggle to Obey God’s Awful Command, I examined this directive given to us by Jesus. It is as distasteful as it is difficult. It makes one feel weak because the natural human inclination is to fight stones with stones, and yet when the playing field is so uneven, it is a given that the powerful have more stones they can access, and therefore to wipe out their opposition.

The power of Jesus’ words is their ability to empower and strengthen people, who show a weird love – the love of God – and stand in front of their oppressors in spite of their pain and anger. It is doubtful that anyone “forgives” his or her enemies right away; that seems humanly impossible, but the words of Jesus become seeds in bruised souls and begin to sprout even as the victim of evil works to breathe through their pain. The act of forgiving first helps the one who has suffered an attack or affront from any number of sources. It is the highest, most supreme show of strength one can exhibit.

Those who do not, cannot, or will not forgive display what hatred and anger and resentment does to one’s spirit. The president is an example. He only wants revenge; the desire is eating at him, so intense that even in a “prayer breakfast,” where supposedly devout Christians have gathered to honor God, he cannot hold his pain within him, and he openly disavowed the words of Jesus the Christ.

And the Christians-in-name-only applauded him and laughed, which says at least to me that something is awry in their souls as well.

There is much confusion about forgiveness. Forgiving doesn’t mean you become best friends with the one who hurt you (no need to set up a time for “tea and crumpets), but it does mean that you lose the visceral reaction you experience when you even think of what the person has done to you. It frees you even as your abuser drowns in bitterness and anger.

What we have seen this week in this president and in the religious nationalists is a love of power, not of Jesus. We have heard – and will continue to hear and see – his words of anger and contempt for those who he deems as being his enemies, and he will spew his venom all over this country and everything he touches.

He and others might claim to be “Christian,” but they cannot be. They adhere to something that can only be called “pseudo Christianity,” something which has no foundation and teaches nothing about how to be one’s best self in the face of abject evil and attacks.

Those who fight with fists claim that they are strong. Dictators, who cannot stand to be criticized or challenged, and who kill and/or destroy anyone who does either, also claim to be strong,  But their quest for absolute power, and their willingness to put God and the instructions for life given by Jesus the Christ on the periphery of their lives, makes them the weakest people of all.

A  candid observation.

On Having a Mother in the House

             I have smiled, chuckled and laughed out loud as I have watched House Speaker Nancy Pelosi handle the president of the United States.

She has reminded me of my own mother, and of the mothers I have known and watched. Mothers have a way of making known to children – spoiled or not – as to how far they can go. In the case of my own mother, it was a look, accompanied by a particular timbre of her voice, that let me know that I was standing on shaky ground. It was not wise to continue what she obviously considered to be unacceptable behavior when I got “the look” or heard “the voice.”

Speaker Pelosi, the mother of six children and a grandmother, knows how to be a mother as well as how to work the system called politics. As I think back on the day of her swearing-in as speaker, I am moved again at how she called the children to come forward. I was moved to tears that day because it was such a warm moment in what has been a  bitterly cold political season, but I was also moved because she was bringing a different spirit into the House of Representatives. It was going to be different. She would handle her political duties, but she would also handle the children in her midst.

As I have watched her handle the president – and that is the correct word for what she has been doing – I go back to seeing those children surrounding her.  They were invited into the cradle of political power; they laid their eyes on the woman who would keep things in order and listened to her voice. They watched her use the gavel, the symbol of her power, and they left feeling a kind of assurance we have all felt when we have known our mothers (or mother figures) have shown us that they had things under control.

Without raising her voice or quaking under the pressure and criticism, Speaker Pelosi has told the president what will and will not happen. She has let him know that she will not be bullied. She does not scare easily, and she has not let him objectify her. She seemingly has let him know how far is “far enough,” and he, like a child, has gotten the message. She has acted courageously, firmly letting him know that he will not be allowed to present the State of the Union address in the House chambers, and when he pushed back, like an arrogant jock, she pushed back yet again. Her message: it is not going to happen.

The more petulant he gets, the stronger her resolve becomes. It is as though she is saying that as long as he is in her house that he will follow her rules – or, more accurately, the rules of the American government. It is as though she is saying that if he wants to be an autocrat, he will have to get out of “her house.” As mothers are charged to take care of their children, Speaker Pelosi takes seriously her charge to take care of the American people and the American government.

I find myself comforted by her presence. I find that I give little sighs of relief that there is finally someone in the House who loves this country more than his or her political proclivities. It feels like that as long as Speaker Pelosi is in charge, the train wreck that the president is causing will be less severe. It feels like we may survive this terrifying chapter in American history.

I have been deeply disappointed in the GOP men – and women, certainly, but mostly the men – who have quaked under the president’s bullying. I have been disappointed that they have stood idly by and let him do whatever he has wanted to do, just because they are afraid of being attacked. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a total disgrace. None of these GOP lawmakers have honored their promise to protect the Constitution of the United States. It has been disgusting to watch.

But Speaker Pelosi has let it be known that she is not “fooling” with them. She is a savvy politician, yes, and a woman who knows how to use her power. She remembers the lessons of politics that her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., who represented New Jersey’s 3rdcongressional district and later became the mayor of Baltimore, taught her and she is using them. He taught her how to play political hardball, and she learned well.

And I feel a measure of comfort.

Speaker Pelosi is no saint and is not perfect; that is not my argument. What I am arguing, however, that it has taken a woman to reel in a power-hungry and power-grabbing man who has stopped at nothing to get his way, a man who knows little about politics and who cares little about the American people – including his “base” to which he always directs his rhetoric. He is a stirrer of hatred and bigotry, a man who has no regard for the “rule of law” which he claims to respect.

But in Speaker Pelosi, there is a “mother in the house” who is determined to keep her house in order. She is giving “the look” and sharing “the voice” to remind her adult male children that she is “not fooling with them.”

A candid observation …

Big Government Be Damned?

OK. So Nancy Pelosi says Republicans are anti-government ideologues. My question: So why do they run for office?

If one does not believe in government, then what do such political candidates believe in? Why spend literally millions of dollars to be elected to office? Why are they there?

What do these anti-government ideologues want? They don’t want the government to do anything for the underdogs of our society.  They prefer for the private sector to do that, some kind of way. But doesn’t the private sector, businesses, want to make money most of all, and are pretty much not concerned with the well-being of those who do the work?

President Calvin Coolidge said that the business of government is business. Some have said that democracy and capitalism, as two belief sets, are not compatible. Democracy as we have come to understand it, or the way many interpret it, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We who believe in democracy have internalized that to mean ALL people.

But capitalism is different. Capitalism seems to adhere more to the line of thought which promotes the “survival of the fittest.” Capitalists scorn those who cannot “make it,” and do not believe that democracy is supposed to mean that everybody can and should get the same benefits. Capitalists promote the thought that the only reason some people don’t make it is because they do not try, especially in America.

True, there are more opportunities for attaining the so-called “American Dream” in these United States, but some people really try to make it and just cannot. Maybe it’s because of extenuating circumstances or personality flaws, but maybe it’s because of something called discrimination. Surely that cannot be ruled out, no?

If it were not for government, people who have dealt with discrimination wouldn’t have had any protection, it seems. Blacks, browns, women …have all had to call on government for help and fairness when business and/or society would not budge. Government acted …albeit slowly …to insure a more level playing field for those who had been essentially pushed off to the sidelines.

So, there IS a need for government.

So, if there was no “big government,” what would happen to those who are making their way to center field now? Would there be a repeat of post-Reconstruction, when blacks, who had made political and economic gains were essentially pushed back into legalized slavery in the system known as “convict leasing?”

The federal government really stayed out of the Southern states after Reconstruction got underway, and slowly, state governments began to return their society to the way it had been before. The powers that be didn’t want blacks, and certainly not women, to have the opportunities that white men had. They didn’t even think blacks should have been freed from slavery.

Big government, then, has its place, it would seem. When people are trying to make money, they want to make money, not babysit or placate people who are having a hard time making it. They want the most work for the least buck, period. Without a big government that cares about people, many ordinary folks would just be out of luck.

That’s not to take away the fact that some people are extremely skillful at pushing against the resistance that comes with pursuing any dream. Some people just will not quit, and they deserve to move ahead. Vince Lombardi once said “winning isn’t everything but it is the only thing.” That is the mantra for many people and it works.

But some people with a little less chutzpah, or a whole lot more discrimination working against them, need help. Heck, even the most tenacious people need help. So if that help comes from big government, that should be OK.

Of course, this conversation is kind of superfluous. Everybody calls on government once in a while, whether or not one is pro or anti-big government. Everyone has a sense of entitlement when something catastrophic happens; then we want our government to kick into gear, and be BIG.  If the government does not, we get indignant.

But we tend to only understand, as human beings, our own needs, and cast the needs of others aside. We don’t even want to think about the “have-nots” too much; we avoid really getting to know why they are where they are, because to see their suffering makes us uncomfortable. That’s human nature. Nobody wants to see suffering.

So we work hard to make sure we are comfortable, and criticize big government it attempts to do things that will make the lives of some legitimately suffering people a little easier. We shut our eyes to the real barriers which spring up in a capitalistic world and society and instead blame those who struggle for the situations in which they find themselves. We regard those who cannot make it as moochers.

Some of them are, and some of them are not. We just don’t want to take the time to make the distinctions and give help where it is needed. We are content to charge the poor and blame the poor for being poor, thus helping to keep them poor, and we defy the government to try to change that reality. We in America have little regard, it seems, for the burgeoning population of older Americans who barely have enough to live on once they can no longer work. And so, many older Americans are living in deplorable conditions, and we will not look that harsh reality in the face.

What does it take to make people in a democracy do what democracy purports to do – to make a society where all people are created equal? Those who do not like such a notion say that to want that is to be socialist. OK, but really, that’s what our United States Constitution says – all men (people) are created equal.

We have a problem in our formative ideology. It seems that there is an untenable tension between capitalism and democracy, and capitalists are criticizing the very political system which has made their wealth acquisition a reality.

A candid observation …