Right-wing biblical illiterates would be shocked by Jesus’ teachings …if they ever picked up a Bible

Jesus Statue

[ Re-Posted from The Raw Story | By CJ Werleman, Alternet,  December 29, 2013 ]

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly defended the Republican Party’s spending cuts for SNAP by effectively declaring Jesus would not support food stamps for the poor because most them are drug addicts. If his insensitive remark is inconsistent with Scripture, which it is, then the question becomes why do talking heads on the right get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support?

The answer is simple: Conservatives have not read the Bible.

The Right has successfully rebranded the brown-skinned liberal Jew, who gave away free healthcare and was pro-redistributing wealth, into a white-skinned, trickledown, union-busting conservative, for the very fact that an overwhelming number of Americans are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the Bible. On hot-button social issues, from same-sex marriage to abortion, biblical passages are invoked without any real understanding of the context or true meaning. It’s surprising how little Christians know of what is still the most popular book to ever grace the American continent.

More than 95 percent of U.S. households own at least one copy of the Bible. So how much do Americans know of the book that one-third of the country believes to be literally true? Apparently, very little, according to data from the Barna Research group. Surveys show that 60 percent can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A Gallup poll shows 50 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 82 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse.

So, if Americans get an F in the basic fundamentals of the Bible, what hope do they have in knowing what Jesus would say about labor unions, taxes on the rich, universal healthcare, and food stamps? It becomes easy to spread a lie when no one knows what the truth is.

The truth, whether Republicans like it or not, is not only that Jesus a meek and mild liberal Jew who spoke softly in parables and metaphors, but conservatives were the ones who had him killed. American conservatives, however, have morphed Jesus into a muscular masculine warrior, in much the same way the Nazis did, as a means of combating what they see as the modernization of society.

Author Thom Hartmann writes, “A significant impetus behind the assault on women and modernity was the feeling that women had encroached upon traditional male spheres like the workplace and colleges. Furthermore, women’s leadership in the churches had harmed Christianity by creating an effeminate clergy and a weak sense of self. All of this was associated with liberalism, feminism, women, and modernity.”

It’s almost absurd to speculate what Jesus’ positions would be on any single issue, given we know so little about who Jesus was. Knowing the New Testament is not simply a matter of reading the Bible cover to cover, or memorizing a handful of verses. Knowing the Bible requires a scholarly contextual understanding of authorship, history and interpretation.

For instance, when Republicans were justifying their cuts to the food stamp program, they quoted 2 Thessalonians: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” One poll showed that more than 90 percent of Christians believe this New Testament quote is attributed to Jesus. It’s not. This was taken from a letter written by Paul to his church in Thessalonica. Paul wrote to this specific congregation to remind them that if they didn’t help build the church in Thessalonica, they wouldn’t be paid. The letter also happens to be a fraud. Surprise! Biblical scholars agree it’s a forgery written by someone pretending to be Paul.

What often comes as a surprise to your average Sunday wine-and-cracker Christian is the New Testament did not fall from the sky the day Jesus’ ghost is said to have ascended to Heaven. The New Testament is a collection of writings, 27 in total, of which 12 are credited to the authorship of Paul, five to the Gospels (whomever wrote Luke also wrote Acts), and the balance remain open for debate i.e. authorship unknown. Jesus himself wrote not a single word of the New Testament. Not a single poem, much less an op-ed article on why, upon reflection, killing your daughter for backchat is probably not sound parenting.

The best argument against a historical Jesus is the fact that none of his disciples left us with a single record or document regarding Jesus or his teachings. So, who were the gospel writers? The short answer is we don’t know. What we do know is that not only had none of them met Jesus, but also they never met the people who had allegedly met Jesus. All we have is a bunch of campfire stories from people who were born generations after Jesus’ supposed crucifixion. In other words, numerous unidentified authors, each with his own theological and ideological motives for writing what they wrote. Thus we have not a single independently verifiable eyewitness account of Jesus—but this doesn’t stop Republicans from speaking on his behalf.

What we do know about Jesus, at least according to the respective gospels, is that Jesus’ sentiments closely echoed the social and economic policies of the political left. The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount read like the mission statement of the ACLU: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Jesus also said, “Judge not he who shall not be judged,” and “Sell what you have and give it to the poor.”

So, when Republicans accuse Obama of being a brown-skinned socialist who wants to redistribute the wealth, they’re thinking of Jesus. Stephen Colbert joked, “Jesus was always flapping his gums about the poor but never once did he call for a tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Romans.”

Biblical illiteracy is what has allowed the Republican Party to get away with shaping Jesus into their image. That’s why politicians on the right can get away with saying the Lord commands that our healthcare, prisons, schools, retirement, transport, and all the rest should be run by corporations for profit. Ironically, the Republican Jesus was actually a devout atheist—Ayn Rand—who called the Christian religion “monstrous.” Rand advocated selfishness over charity, and she divided the world into makers versus takers. She also stated that followers of her philosophy had to chose between Jesus and her teachings. When the Christian Right believes it’s channeling Jesus when they say it’s immoral for government to tax billionaires to help pay for healthcare, education and the poor, they’re actually channeling Ayn Rand. When Bill O’Reilly claims the poor are immoral and lazy, that’s not Jesus, it’s Ayn Rand.

The price this country has paid for biblical illiteracy is measured by how far we’ve moved toward Ayn Rand’s utopia. In the past three decades, we’ve slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, destroyed labor unions, deregulated financial markets, eroded public safety nets, and committed to one globalist corporate free-trade agreement after another. Rand would be smiling down from the heaven she didn’t believe in.

With the far-right, Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Koch brothers’ Citizens United, the flow of billions of dollars from anonymous donors to the most reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party—the Christian Right—will continue to perpetuate the biblically incompatible, anti-government, pro-deregulation-of-business, anti-healthcare-for-all, Tea Party American version of Christianity.

9 Key Facts About the Upcoming Retirement Crisis in America

Retirement Fund picWe have a major retirement crisis on our hands; and it will affect all of us…eventually.

Unless we get serious and do something about it now, we are very quickly heading into a massive retirement crisis. And it is not just for the huge aging Boomer generation, but for generations to come. It has to be fixed, but our leaders are intent on making it worse.

Two thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire, sending many into poverty or near poverty. And none of it is our fault. Millions of Boomers, Gen Xers and on have not been able to save for the future. Pensions have disappeared. Wages have been flat. Healthcare costs have spiraled. Private plans like 401Ks and 403 Bs haven’t kept up. There have been recessions, waves of high inflation and unemployment.

So, Social Security and other benefits have to be fixed and expanded. The frustrating part is that it is all easily fixable. But the political establishment is hard at work to make it worse, by cutting benefits, not expanding them.

Warren addresses supporters during her victory rally in BostonHowever, Senator Elizabeth Warren has already taken up the fight for us. In a recent address to the Senate she said the following:

“Social Security isn’t the answer to all of our retirement problems.  We need to find ways to tackle the financial squeeze that is crushing our families.  We need to help families start saving again.  We need to make sure that more workers have access to better pensions.  But in the meantime – so long as these problems continue to exist and so long as we are in the midst of a real and growing retirement crisis – a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class – the absolute last thing we should be doing is talking about cutting back on Social Security.

“The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

“Over the past generation, working families have been hacked at, chipped, and hammered.  If we want a real middle class — a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country — then we must take the retirement crisis seriously.  Seniors have worked their entire lives and have paid into the system, but right now, more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire — and the numbers continue to get worse.

“That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits — not cutting them. Senator Harkin from Iowa, Senator Begich from Alaska, Senator Sanders from Vermont, and others have been pushing hard in that direction.  Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day.”

Here are 9 key facts about the upcoming retirement crisis to keep in mind:

  • Americans over age 65 are projected to increase from 14 percent of the current population to about 21 percent of the population by 2035.
  • The Social Security Trust Fund had a surplus of $2.54 trillion in it at the end of 2011, and is projected to be solvent until 2033.
  • Though most people don’t know it, Congress has cut Social Security payments by 24 percent since 1983, via delayed cost of living increases and higher taxes.
  • One-third of seniors live only on SS benefits, which is an average only $1,274 a month per retiree.  For two-thirds of retirees, the Social Security benefit is more than half of what they live on.
  • The wealth gap is skewed extraordinarily by race. For every dollar a white person has in savings, a Latino person has only 6 cents and a black person has only 5 cents.
  • Gender is a huge issue: Seven out of 10 seniors living under 125 percent of the federal poverty line ($14,360) are women.
  • Social Security is also the largest federal government program helping children, with 6.5 million recipients, totaling 8 eight of every 100 children in the U.S. in 2012.
  • Many people also don’t realize that no social security taxes are paid on incomes over $117,000—so the wealthy get off very easily. Slightly raising Social Security payroll taxes would more than cover and sustain the expansion of Social Security.
  • Huge numbers of Americans support Social Security reforms, with 87 percent of the population in favor of scrapping the $117k cap and 82 percent in favor of slight Social Security tax increases.

Why do wealthy power brokers want to cut social security taxes when they grossly underpay social security taxes themselves? That is the question at hand. There is no other issue in America where those in power are so out of synch with the voters and the people.

A series of simple, fair minded fixes would not just make Social Security solvent for decades, but would allow us to expand the benefits so no American falls into poverty as they age. That is a worthy goal for all of us, don’t you think?

[ Source: AlterNet.org | Don Hazen ]

[ Source: Washingtonpost.com | The Plum Line | Greg Sargent ]

[ Image Credit: Dreamstime.com ]

Reflections on Christmas…

IMG_2480 smallOnce again we had a wonderful Christmas this year. Our Christmas tradition starts at Thanksgiving when our three boys and their wives come for dinner; and afterwards they all decorate our Christmas tree. We have an eclectic collection of ornaments that we have collected over our forty years of marriage, ranging from those made by our kids when they were young to our Christopher Radco collectables. My wife can tell you the history behind each and every one of them. At that point Christmas is on!

On Christmas Eve they all come to our house for an evening of good food, snacks, games, and a touch of spirits to liven it up. And even though they are grown, they all spend the night; some in beds, some on the floor, and some on the couch. After they go to bed, my wife and I put out their stockings, stuffed with miscellaneous fun gifts from Santa. After we go to bed, they do the same to our stockings.

On Christmas morning, since I am the early bird riser, I put on the coffee and get the fireplace going until everyone gets stirring. We share a cup of coffee, then get down to business. First we all open our stocking gifts, then we settle in and a couple of the boys will start parsing out the presents. We all like to take our time, so we make sure everyone opens their gifts simultaneously, but slow, so we can all see what the others got. Then my wife starts making breakfast while everyone gathers up the paper and boxes, which earlier were beautiful and creatively wrapped presents; now destined for the trash bin.

Then we all eat, sit around talking, napping and generally just unwinding and enjoying each other for the rest of the day. Then we have dinner and leftovers, then the kids may play a new board game or two. Then everyone is off to their own homes, another wonderful Christmas over for another year.

So, as I sit at my computer this morning, with a hot cup of Choffy (brewed chocolate), my wife still in bed, I have a chance to reflect and get a little sentimental.

Each year, my wife and I talk about how on our first Christmas together, how little we had. But we were okay. By our second Christmas together we had our first child and he was the focus of our Christmas. Like most couples, during those early years we didn’t have much, but we always made sure Santa was good to our children. We didn’t go overboard, but they were always happy with what they got.

Now, forty years later, our boys are grown; they have wonderful wives; we have our first grand-baby; and we all share the same spirit of Christmas. We are very fortunate that they all still want to get together to share and celebrate Christmas as a family.

And now, watching our grand-daughter on her first Christmas, not really knowing what’s happening, but enjoying playing with the paper and ribbons from the gifts, we are looking forward to continuing our Christmas tradition with the next generation of our family.

I know there are a lot of people that are not as fortunate as we; and for us, the gifts are nice, but it’s really all about family and tradition. My wish is that everyone have a family or friend they can love and share the spirit of Christmas with at this time of year. Peace.