Christian Humanism

Just Published: The Gospel of Christian HumanismChristianity without God will appeal to skeptics, agnostics, non-theists, liberal Christians or former Christians who have difficulty with the mythology and the concept of god in traditional Christian theology but find the life and ethical teachings of Jesus compelling as a way of life and a basis for ethics. The author argues that Christian Humanism is essentially Christian, is justified on historical grounds, and is consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the early Church Fathers so far as we can determine with reasonable historical and literary accuracy. He argues for an approach to Christianity based on rational inquiry, human freedom, individual conscience, and a commitment to the values taught by Jesus as a guide to ethical decision-making; and further that these values are not only compatible with Christianity, they are fundamental to a proper understanding and interpretation of it.

Available on Amazon Kindle. Free e-book download July 5-6. Paperback version.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Some Thoughts on Trump and Christianity

Democracy is often messy and noisy, no more so than now.  Democracy implies a battle of ideas, a struggle with competing political and social values, but the customary historical norms have dictated that we are at least civil with each other.  No longer do we discuss the great ideas with calmness and rationality, attempting to persuade by arguments supported by facts. I am afraid that civil discourse may be a relic of the past, no longer observed by the shrill purveyors of half truths, distortions and outright lies that emanate from the Trump camp and its supporters on right-wing media.

I’m old.  I admit it.  I look back nostalgically to a time in which the concept of truth was respected, when no matter what your political position was, we understood what truth was, we talked about facts, and we understood that facts were representations of a reality of sorts.  We could agree what facts were because we were grounded in the same reality.

We understand what it means to be a Christian.  While we may disagree about whether a Christian had to believe certain things, there is no disagreement about what it means to be a Christian, what values a Christian exemplifies in his life and behavior and attitude. Jesus is our model of what it means to be a Christian--it  means at the least feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, healing the sick, supporting the poor, comforting the lonely, seeking peace and standing with the powerless against the mighty.

Those are not the values of the leadership of our nation.  The policies our nation espouses now are inconsistent with the traditional values of our nation; to the contrary, our national values, at least as represented by our President and the Republicans who hold the power, not only are not Christian, they are actively and virulently anti-Christian.

This article in the Boston Globe entitled Are Trump Christians Really Christian?” makes a strong case backed by leaders of Catholic, traditional Protestants and even some Evangelicals, that you cannot follow the teachings of Trump and the opposing teachings of Jesus, at the same time.  The people and the churches that are serious about being Christians are faced with a choice as to which master they will serve.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

From The War Against Poverty To The War Against The Poor

How times have changed in our nation's halls of power.  There was a time that some of us fondly remember when we as a nation fought a war against poverty.  With the arrival of the Trump Administration, our nation's lawmakers have decided that our national resources should be expended on a war against the poor.

We could cite numerous examples, but an opinion piece by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post about Paul Ryan's firing of the House of Representative's chaplain for his prayers for the poor and the defenseless nicely summarizes why current administration supporters want Reverend Patrick Conroy silenced.  What the Senate Chaplain said in his prayers got the right wing angry becaused it showed their hypocrisy.

Here are some excerpts (elipsis omitted) from the commentary:

We know this much: Ryan’s office complained to Conroy about a prayer he offered on the House floor during the tax overhaul debate that those who “continue to struggle” in the United States would not be made “losers under new tax laws.” Ryan admonished the priest after the Nov. 6 prayer, saying, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,” Conroy told the New York Times. 
He was warned. Nevertheless, he persisted.  Over the five months since Ryan’s warning, Conroy dared to continue to preach the teachings of Jesus on the House floor: 
He prayed to God that lawmakers would help “the least among us.” 
He prayed for them to follow the example of St. Nicholas, “who fed the hungry, brought hope to the imprisoned, gave comfort to the lost.” 
He admonished lawmakers “to serve other people in their need” and “to pray for the unemployed and those who work but still struggle to make ends meet.” 
After an immigration deal collapsed, he urged “those who possess power here in Washington be mindful of those whom they represent who possess little or no power.” 
Only in this perverted time could a priest lose his job after committing the sin of crying out for justice for the poor. But then, look around: Everywhere are the signs of a rising kleptocracy. The $1.5 trillion tax cut did make winners of corporations and the wealthy. 
And actions since then show that the Trump administration is making losers of the poor. 
Conroy, of course, didn’t preach about such truly political things; he prayed, generically, for compassion. In the prayer that earned him Ryan’s reprimand, he merely reminded lawmakers that “the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to ­struggle.” 
He prayed that lawmakers “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” 
Such heresies continued. He prayed for “peace and reconciliation where those virtues are so sorely needed.” He prayed for them to rise above “self- ­interest” and “immediate political wins.” He prayed for them to promote “justice, equity and truth.” He admonished them to “show respect for those with whom they disagree.”

Speaking truth to power has always been dangerous, but it is more so when it confronts the most powerful political forces in our nation on a daily basis in the corridors of power.  This is what Jesus did and look what happened to him, so should we be surprised at what happened to Father Conroy?  Should Christians acquiesce when power exerts itself against compassion and justice?