Sunday, May 30, 2004

An Apology and Letter to Mr. Preznit Sorry this is long Mr. Preznit but I have a lot to say After receiving a letter from Mr. Preznit that he was "persoanlly hurt" by recent remarks made here at the Hegemon about religion, politics, and his inability to form cogent thoughts and speak like a grownup, I want to apologize for being rude in recent remarks. There was and is no excuse for the tenor of my comments. While I find genetic arguments largely irrelevant for explaining human social behavior, I had no right to be rude, especially in a public forum. Please accept my sincere apology Mr. Preznit. By the way, do you write all of you letters in Crayon? I bet it really looks pretty for other world leaders to receive color filled missives. (Also thanks for the pretty war pictures that you "drewed" for me, my seven year old found them very funny). As to the current question of religion and politics, I have a few thoughts and perhaps, an interesting perspective. As most of you know, I am committed to the tenets of criticism(although I came to embrace making fun of people relatively late - I was raised in a don't you dare make fun of other people home). However, the question of moral highground is important; whether real or belived. Wouldn't you agree Mr. Preznit? In this context, let me introduce a few members of the Methodist tradition: George Bush; Dick Cheney; and, I believe, not a few others members of that administration. And let me be very clear here. I detest these men's views of what is best for the world, America, and everything else that seems to exude from their lips. Indeed, these men are (in my opinion) a danger to the stability of the world, and are more responsible for the instability in the world today than are the evil people who attacked American on 9-11 Surely they have been responsible for the deaths of more innocent Afghanis and Iraqis that the number of innocent folks who died on that date. Furthermore, I fail to see any tenets of the Methodist tradition in their words and deeds. I do not even find the teachings of Jesus reflected in their words and deeds. They are simply evil-doers in my opinion and I am sorry Mr. Preznit I would like to think that it is part of who you are, tax cutting seems to be "in your blood." And deficit spending can be a good thing once in a while, check out all that discussion of something called the Great Depression. If you like I can even recommend a few good books to read... oh, right. I am sure Dickie can explain them to you. Wait, nevermind. As to this question fo evangelicalism and tax-cutting, allow me to first distinguish between "evangelists" (those who seek to bring others into their religious traditions through conversion)and "fundamentalists" (those for whom their religious beliefs are believed to represent a "calling" for changing the secular world). I believe it is fundamentalists who are problematic, not necessarily, evangelists (although of course there will be some overlapping of these two groups). Still with me, Mr. Preznit? I believe many fundamentalist Christians (but not all) have lost sight of their religious traditions. In the Christian context, Jesus did not instruct people to change society by wrestling away control of the state from the secular leaders of his day, much less, from the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He simply asked that his followers follow his lead. And he chose as his revision of the old commandments, the idea that we should in all things, "love one another." He said things like "You are forgiven. Do not sin anymore." He also said things like "we are to forgive constantly," and "you should pay your taxes to the state, and serve God separately" (a precursor to the separation of church and state? Something to seriously think about Mr. Preznit! Really, do you get it? Fundamentalists, on the other hand, seem convinced that the current social order is immoral, and they have an obligation to make it moral, according to their tradition. And more relevant, fundamentalists with a microphone are VERY problematic. They are given tax-exempt status, under the corollary mandate that they will not in turn, do politics. That's right Mr. Preznit, they are not supposed to campaign for you from their pulpit. Consider, did Jesus endorse any candidates for the leadership of Jerusalem or the Roman Senate? Think about it. Jesus backs Pilate: "He will reduce your taxes, says the son of God!" And yet they do practice politics, publically everyday. For example, when I turn on the teleivion today I see and hear people like Dr. James Dobson (among a whole list of preachers that I think of as nameless and faceless, sorry) preaching political change. More recently, Dobson was instructing all listeners to write their congressional representatives, demanding that the proposed amendment to our Constitution (pronouncing marriage as a heterosexual institution) be voted on swiftly. He stated publically that if homosexuals are allowed to legally marry, marriage itself will crumble. I also here these folks speaking routinely of the immoral elements of Clinton and his administration, and the shining example of Christianity to be found in you Mr. Preznit. And they also occasionally talk about tax reductions for businesses and the wealthy (similar I suppose, to tax-exemptions for religious organizations, hey nothing like covering your back, eh?). The problem however, is not endemic of religious people, per se, we all know people whose best friend is Jesus and that's ok. Most of my religious friends believe taxes are essential to helping those in need, improving education, building the infrastructure, among a few other social programs. But others disagree. Perhaps they believe that if their God loves someone, they will not let them suffer. Perhaps, consistent with many rich people, they believe that wealth is a clear sign of their god's favor. Perhaps they believe that their God compels all to struggle mightily and without complaining. Perhaps they believe that their God only punishes those who are evil, or those who are predestined to not receive salvation. Scary thought, eh Mr. Preznit. You or I may be pre-selected to go to Hell. Don't worry I bet that lots of fun and interesting people are there. Presumably, they see no link between secular government (e.g., local, federal, and state spending), and the quality of education possible (e.g., I have heard many say that schools do not need more money, they need better teachers and better parents). These others often believe that all poor people are shiftless and lazy. They fail to see a link poverty and the lack of job creation by corporations in areas where people need jobs. Since you come from the great state of texas, Mr. Preznit, you should be able to relate to this idea. Texas should have lots of good examples of this trend. Indeed, I would suggest many "lay people" are ignorant. They base their beliefs about how the world works on the preachings of their leaders. They do not critically think about the nature of the problems that confront us. To do so, would be to accept personal responsibility for helping those in need (which ALL religions teach). Instead, they find it easier to believe that those in positions of power are smarter, stronger, better, and wiser. They believe that those in power know best. And when those in power profess a deep commitment to the same religion they believe, they simply assume that their God has chosen that person to rule their secular society. You have been accused of this Mr. Preznit, can you enlighten us as to whether you truly believe this or is it politically convenient? It does not matter whether or not that leader (say someone like you Mr. Preznit) is clearly superficial with regard to the teachings of their religion (after all, very, very few Christians have actually read the Bible... I am sure that Laura reads it to you which is OK too). Since the "word" is supernatural or mystical to them, the rights of the leader to lead is assumed to have been ordained by the source of their mysticism. In this context, when the wealthy and corporationgs rule the world, and the leaders of Business (yes, Mr. Preznit bidness) say they are Christian, those with a very simplistic understanding of their religious traditions are apt to believe that the leaders are right, and are doing their God's Will. And in the context of American, given that about 80 to 90% of all voting age people believe in the existence of God, and less than half attend any organized church, we can assume that the your perspective is sufficient since you claim to pray regularly. And finally, since most people are of average or less income, and ignorant of the economy of their own nation, when a self-designated Christian president and the self-designated "voices" of Christianity speak about cutting taxes, most people listen, and believe they too will see the "fruits" of these cuts. Of course, it doesn't hurt that their leaders tell them that they will benefit from tax cuts in the long run rather than right away. So, Mr. Preznit I have determined that it is not your physical or mental problems that have led us to this Great Crisis, it is you and your interpretation of your religion. If you want to talk about this further, let me know. I am free next weekend.
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