Monday, February 29, 2016

If Donald Disavows David Duke Will Mitt Disavow Brigham Young?

The latest desperate attempt by the Republican party in cahoots with the mainstream media to derail Donald Trump's inexplicably popular Presidential campaign has to do with the (apparently unsolicited) endorsement of former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke of Trump. Former disastrous Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney went to Twitter to denounce Trump
OK, so Trump is on the hook for not denouncing David Duke's endorsement. But what about Mitt Romney? Will he denounce the words of a man that he is required to affirm was a "prophet, seer and revelator" .who said this about blacks:

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).

That sounds like something David Duke would applaud. Now granted Young is long dead and is not running for President but Romney's religion requires that he recognize Brigham Young as a prophet, a direct mouthpiece for God of the "restoration". Some may try to brush the quote above and the numerous other examples of vile racism by the mormon leadership as a product of the times that they lived and that the Journal of Discourses is not "official" mormom scripture but when a man who proclaims himself the single unique prophet of God on earth at that time declares that whites who mix their seed with blacks are under penalty of death, not because it was taboo time but rather because it was the law of God and furthermore according to God's prophet would always be so. So really I am not at all interested in faux outrage from a man who is part of a religion that did and must still to be consistent affirm that blacks are cursed as the "seed of Cain" and that interracial marriage as declared by the prophet of God must be punished by death "on the spot". This is not a defense of Trump or a comment on the entire situation, although there are some serious questions to be asked here, but simply a challenge for consistency on the part of a man who lost one Presidential race and is waiting in the wings as a last minute savior of the Republican party. 

So Mitt I will await your disavowal of Brigham Young's racist prophetic declaration of "God's law". Until that time keep your phony indignation to yourself.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows Or As The Bible Calls It Unequal Yoking (Or Why You Shouldn't Join Glenn Beck In Fasting For Ted Cruz)

Speaking of unbelievers, here we are again. The apostle Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians or as Donald Trump calls it "Two Corinthians":
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." - 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
This is usually applied, understandably in our culture, to believers marrying unbelievers but it goes much deeper than that. It applies in any sort of relationship where our relationship with God is tainted by unequal yoking with unbelievers. This temptation is especially powerful in the realm of politics where voters who are devout Christians will often make cause with those who are not to advance a political agenda. That is dangerous primarily when the political world bleeds over into the religious world, as often is the case in America.

I have often written on the danger posed by radio entertainer Glenn Beck. As a mormon who is ostensibly a political conservative, Beck says things that appeal to a lot of Evangelical Christians who are overwhelmingly also politically conservative. He also tends to lace his political talk with a lot of religious talk and often positions himself as part of the same faith as Christians, a linkage that far too few of my brothers and sisters notice or object to. Many Christians of various stripes have appeared on his show to express solidarity. Something else I have frequently commented on is the marketing shift by mormonism away from emphasizing the difference between mormonism and Christianity and now trying to point out alleged similarities. It has gone from "join us because we have a better religion" to "join us we have the same religion just better".

Anyway, Glenn Beck has endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz for President, a somewhat unusual move for a radio talk show host. Of the remaining candidates I probably like Ted Cruz the best although I don't care for his pandering comments about "rebuilding our military" and unquestioning support for Israel. Late last night after the South Carolina primary results showed a big win for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz coming in third just a hair behind Marco Rubio, Glenn Beck put out a call to fast for Ted Cruz, our nation and the upcoming Nevada caucuses to his listeners, viewers and social media followers:

Now fasting is a Biblical thing, right? So what is the problem? Well because I would say this is precisely the sort of thing Paul warned the church against, even though it happens in a fashion that he couldn't have imagined. Set aside the problem of Christians praying specifically for a political candidate. Should Christians be joining intentionally with a mormon to fast and pray? I would say unequivocally no.

Let me ask you this. Would the people who are claiming to be Christians and joining Glenn Beck in fasting be just as willing if the one calling on them to join he and his family in prayer were Muslim? Or Hindu? Probably not but those faiths are about as "Christian" as mormonism and a false god is a false god, whether the god of Joseph Smith's imagination or Allah or Vishnu. I find it abhorrent to fast and pray with someone who is praying to a false god.

Fasting is a very specific and frequently mentioned practice for Christians, not as a matter of ascetism but as part of prayer and worship of God through His Son Jesus. Fasting for mormons is a once a month ritual done primarily for the purpose of setting money aside to give to the poor:
Fasting is a commandment from the Lord where we humble ourselves before Him by voluntarily refraining from eating and drinking (see D&C 88:76).
In the Church today, one Sabbath day each month is set aside for the purpose of fasting. Members of the Church go without food and water for two consecutive meals in a 24-hour period and then contribute the money that would have been spent for that food to those in need (see Alma 34:28).
 (Taken from the webpage topic Fasting and Fast Offerings, February 21, 2016)
Notice that the support for this practice is taken from the mormon "scriptures". While reference is made to examples of fasting in the Bible and one brief mention is made of fasting not associated with donations to the poor, the manner it takes place in mormonism is very different from what the Bible teaches. I am all for giving to the poor. I am all for fasting and praying. What I am not for is yoking ourselves to an unbeliever and worse a pagan blasphemer in a religious act that seems to make an equivalence between the ancient faith of followers of Christ and a recent religious movement that sprang from  the vivid imagination of Joseph Smith. 

If you want to fast and pray for our nation and her leaders, by all means do so. Just don't hold hands with a heretic while you do it.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

An Unbeliever And A False Teacher Walk Into A Bar...

No this is not a joke, just a comment on the ridiculous blow up last week in the carnival that is the American political scene. Last week the Republican primary process merged with the global religious scene when Jorge Bergoglio, aka "Pope Francis", opined that people focused on buildings walls are not Christians during a trip to Mexico. His exact quote:
"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."
That comment is clearly aimed at Donald Trump who has made a southern border wall a cornerstone of his campaign and probably the only issue where he has spoken specifically about what he plans. I found the whole thing hilarious. Here we have a man who is by any measure of orthodoxy a false teacher wagging his finger at an American billionaire, media presence, serial adulterer and Johnny-come-lately "Christian" who seems to be completely ignorant of Scripture and the Christian faith with an attack that was as clumsy as it was risible.

What really makes this amusing is that non-Catholic fanboy supporters of Mr. Bergoglio are in a pickle because on the one hand they love Jorge and think he is the best thing since sliced bread but on the other hand are adamant that one must never be "judgmental" and question the faith of another person, no matter if they believe in a false religion or believe in no faith at all. "No one knows another person's heart" they intone piously, no matter how unscriptural that is.

Unbelievers arguing about who is an unbeliever, especially when the issue at question deals with politics and questions of border integrity and controlled immigration, is a ridiculous spectacle. It is a pretty neat sample of the wacky world we live in. Someone who sleeps with anything on two legs, marries and divorces on a whim, someone who thinks that he doesn't need forgiveness because he has never done anything to be forgiven for is not a Christian. Someone who venerates to the point of worship the mother of our Lord, who sits atop an anti-Christian religious hierarchy, who brazenly takes for himself titles and authority given only to Christ, who believes (regardless of what they protest) that one must perform certain acts to be forgiven, who leads religious services in an opulent palace while scolding the people in this world who have actually worked heard for their wealth is likewise not a Christian. All the pious public acts and flowery rhetoric doesn't change that. Never has and never will. Words are cheap, public actions are as well but what and how one believes is what determines whether one is a Christian or not.

The kerfuffle would be bad enough if it were not so incredibly hypocritical and ironic. As I and many others have pointed out, Vatican City itself is surrounded by walls to keep out undesirables. While Mr. Bergoglio did not erect those walls neither is he taking them down. Why not? Well Vatican City is a sovereign state and only grants admission to those it wishes. It protects her sovereign borders like any state that wishes to survive does. Whether you agree with Trump's proposal to build a wall on our southern border to secure that border like most civilizes nations (including Mexico I might add), it isn't an issue that divides believers from unbelievers. There are genuine, born-again believers who hate the idea of a southern wall and integrity in citizenship process. There are also genuine Christians who believe that such a wall is necessary to protect the borders. Which position is correct or even the more Christian is debatable. I happen to think that there is merit in the idea. America has millions of people who can work and yet choose not to and in their place we have migrant workers, millions of them here illegally, working those jobs. As an example, one of our local processing plants that butchers livestock is backed up into May for butchering cattle because they have so much demand but can't find enough people who are willing to work hard and actually show up to work. Meanwhile our nation is full of people who don't work, not because there are no jobs because there are millions unfilled at any given time, but because they are incentivized to not work. Secure the borders and enforce the necessity of work to those who choose not to work and the need for the illegal immigrant shrinks. Just as important there needs to be focus not just on those here illegally but also those who knowingly hire them. Put the plant manager and head of HR for a packing plant in Nebraska in jail for hiring illegals and you won't see so many employers willing to break the law to save a buck.

The walls around Vatican City are another issue. Those walls keep people out and they also protect the incredible treasure hidden behind the walls of Vatican City, from architectural marvels to works of art to treasures uncountable. I doubt anyone really has a grasp on how much wealth is held behind those walls. Adding insult to irony, the treasures of the Vatican including St. Peter's Basilica was funded in large part by money stolen from simple lay people through the blasphemous sale of "indulgences", a practice that was one of the catalysts for the Protestant Reformation. When Mr. Bergoglio, champion of the poor, conducts Mass in St. Peter's, he is doing so in an opulent, magnificent building paid for by the sweat and simple faith of the very poor he claims to champion. Mr. Bergoglio and his predecessors consisting of a litany of corrupt popes live in a sovereign state on land granted by the fascist dictator Benito Moussolini and sit like a pseudo-pious Smaug the dragon on a horde of stolen treasures.

So let's not waste much time deciding who is "right" in this public spectacle. Two unbelievers fighting over which one is the less unbelieving is absurd and should be treated as such. The church has more important issues to deal with.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Quick Thought Or Two About The Apple Controversy

No, I am not talking about Adam and Eve in the garden. I am referring to Apple's refusal to create a "backdoor" or hack or whatever that will make it possible to circumvent the encryption on an iPhone. The alleged reason is to get info off of the now deceased San Bernadino Islamist shooters. Something this simple seems like a no brainer, of course Apple creates this workaround. Except they won't and an awful lot of people across the political spectrum support them. What is the big deal?

If this request was made to Apple more than say 5 years ago I don't think it would have caused a stir. Now people are up in arms and I agree with them. Our faith in our government and other institutions is at an all time low. Nobody that is paying attention except Bernie Sanders and his acolytes thinks the government is trustworthy. We don't want a way created to allow the government to invade more of our privacy. How long do you think this workaround will stay secure? The idea that the government has nothing but our best interests in mind is ludicrous today.

Even if the government gets it's way and the phone is hacked, do we really think there is critical information on there? They are dead so we don't need the evidence for a trial. It has been more than two months and anyone who is an Islamist wannabe terrorist knows that the government has this phone in their possession and unless they are complete morons they will change whatever they can that might be compromised if the information on the phone becomes known. I have to assume that since much of the terror network worldwide is very tech savvy that they use pseudonyms, code words, throw away no contract and anonymous phones, etc.

In 2016 we have Donald Trump poised to be the nominee of the Republican party and the very real possibility that a kookie Socialist will be the Democrat nominee. This is the result of 8 years of (I believe) well intentioned incompetence by George W. Bush and 7 years of arrogant and willful incompetence by Barack Obama. After 15 years of that it is little wonder that the populace is ready to nominate and elect a guy worth 4 billion dollars who changes positions as often as he changes ties. We just don't trust the government. Sure some neo-con types like Charles Krauthamer think that we should give more access to our privacy and liberty to the same government he makes a living complaining about but for the most part there is an awful lot of agreement with Apple.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us for the better part of a century, shame on us.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Death Of A Giant

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away, one of the great legal and public minds of my lifetime. Our nation and the court is a poorer place for his passing. As we mourn his loss the looming battle over his replacement promises to make all previous nominations pale in comparison. I concur with Rod Dreher when he writes:

First, gut reaction: I have not been as unsettled about the future of the country since 9/11.

This is a perilous point in our history.

Monday, February 01, 2016

What Will Monday Bring?

In a few hours Iowans will begin the rather confusing process of caucusing which is not a primary but sort of has the same result. This is a once-every-four-years tradition and the position of Iowa as the first state to cast votes for the Presidential nomination is jealously guarded, just as New Hampshire guards their status as the first in the nation primary. I have been trying really hard to stay away from politics but it is a constant siren call to me, having an academic background in political science and coming from a hyper-aware political family. What makes this Monday so compelling is that it offers the possibility of some very strange results. There is a chance, a far more realistic one than I would have believed six months ago, that socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and....and....well whatever you call Donald Trump will win the day for their respective parties. This prospect terrifies both parties.

What both parties are either stubbornly ignorant of or willfully disregarding of is the reason that two people well outside of the established boundaries of either party are poised to upset the political apple cart like nothing we have seen for a very long time. In my sage opinion what we are seeing is a slow dawning of understanding among the American people that we are on the precipice of some calamitous. Whether it is the looming juggernaut of the national debt, the transition from well paying middle class jobs to low income service industry jobs, the threat (real or imagined) from ISIS and sharia law coming to America, whatever, Americans are scared and on the edge of something quite dangerous. I think the Sanders candidacy is pretty easy to understand. Hillary Clinton is one of the least likable people on the public stage. Ever. Many people loathe her and even among her tepid supporters her candidacy is based on having a uterus (It is time for a woman president, even if she is a criminal and pathological liar!). So sure, Democrats are looking for someone who at least believes what they say, even if those beliefs will be poison in the election. There is an element of impatience with the fulfilling of the liberal agenda, which President Obama in spite of his pen has been unable to move as much as they want thanks to a Republican congress and that little thing known as the Constitution, but I think most of it is a weariness of being lied to and the prospect of having a champion liar as their nominee in the general election.

On the Republican side it is a little more complex. While Sanders generally holds positions that the Democrat base holds, only a little more extreme, Donald Trump doesn't really seem interested in the traditional Republican ideals. He is not a Republican in any meaningful sense of the term and he is far from a conservative and what is more he doesn't seem to care. What compounds this is that there are lots of actual Republicans and conservatives from Rand Paul and Ted Cruz to more establishment types like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush to choose from. In spite of a highly competitive and broad field, someone who has been completely absent from the conservative movement is all of a sudden poised to win the Iowa caucuses, garnering support from working class voters, evangelicals, disenchanted conservative, all across the board. What appeal would someone who is an admitted serial adulterer, divorcing and remarrying when he gets bored, someone who is clearly not a fellow believer, have for evangelical voters? What do they think they are going to get from him? The real secret to the Donald Trump candidacy is that people are not voting for him so much as they are using their support to make a point to the Republican leadership.

The point is that we don't trust the Republican party. Donald Trump is nothing more than a stick in the eye of the GOP powers that have been telling middle class conservatives, especially evangelicals, for decades that they need to dutifully rally around whoever they are told to rally around and this time it will be different! Every election cycle it is the same thing. Politicians pander to the Republican base, again especially to evangelical voters and working class social conservatives. What is increasingly apparent is that the powers that be in the GOP don't much care for the very people that they absolutely rely on to win elections. Let's be real, there are only so many wealthy people to go around and a lot of them vote for liberals so any Republican who wants to win an election needs people who have, for most of my lifetime, been voting for people who do nothing that they promised to do. In spite of that necessity the GOP has for years convinced the rank and file to march to the polls, contribute time and money and feed our children into the endless appetite for soldiers to fight in various wars that accomplish nothing but the enriching of a small circles of powerful people. So long as the military-industrial complex is fed a never ending river of taxpayer money, bodies in caskets and limbs of our young people there will never be a need or desire by those who start the wars to stop starting them.

Tonight should be interesting, most especially because it is almost certain that the national leadership of both parties is going to completely misconstrue the results. Unless Marco Rubio pulls an upset, the number 1 and number 2 placers for the GOP are going to be the candidates the national party hates. Change is a'brewin' and it is going to be interesting.