Jesus and Ayn Rand. BFFs?

This week the tea party nation went on strike against the Obama administration, taking Ayn Rand’s character Ellis Wyatt (or at least a movie portrait of him) as their example. Because they were declaring a strike, small business owners were told not to hire another employee until the evil abomination Obama was removed from office.

I find this ironic, in part, because when I was younger, and being raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), the works of Ayn Rand were considered to be heresy of the first order, following only Mormonism. Actually, Catholicism was the primary heresy, but since it wasn’t contemporary but a deviant belief developed in the days of the early church, it fell into a category all its own.

Here were the contemporary heresies, in order, based on real books I was told to read by Sunday School teachers and other authorities:

  1. Mormonism
  2. Ayn Rand
  3. Christian Science
  4. Unitarians
  5. Church of Christ
  6. The members who used to be members of our church before the church split

What this means is that Christians in the Republican Party are now quoting the works of Ayn Rand (an athiest) and preparing to vote for Romny (a Mormon) to remove Obama from office. This is, in part, justified because Obama lies about being a Christian. If he wasn’t lying he wouldn’t be a Democrat, keep his clearly Moslem name, and care about the poor and those without health care.

Nor can I think of anything more Christian than refusing to hire workers who need a job to prove a political point.

In essence, what the tea party has declared is that Obama has caused the loss of American jobs, and the best way to get those jobs back is to stop creating jobs. Which is exactly what Jesus would do. You can look it up in his Sermon on the Mount (or the plain, depending on which Gospel you’re reading).

  • Blessed are the loud and obnoxious because they will dominate air time.
  • Blessed are the job creators because they should be free of taxation.
  • Blessed are the rich because they are entitled to everything they have.
  • Blessed are those who are not rich but who vote in the interests of the rich because they will get jack in return.
  • Blessed are those whose views are entrenched because they will budgeth not even slightly, but/li>
  • Cursed are those in need who protest their condition.
  • Cursed are the poor and underemployed because they deserve their fate.
  • Cursed are those without health insurance because if they would get jobs they wouldn’t need it.
  • Cursed are those who expect the rich to pay taxes for they are only hurting themselves.

Who would really stop employing people to advance her own agenda? Ayn Rand, who once said (to Playboy magazine among others) that charity is anything but moral. If you want to help out someone who deserves your help, fine, but you’re not even obligated to help the deserving. To help the poor is just wrong.

I think it’s time to admit the tea party has far more in common with Ayn Rand than Jesus.

Speaking of modern day heresies, the rapture returned on Friday.

Oh, wait. No, it didn’t.

After postponing the rapture from May 21 to October 21, God put it off indefinitely. Family Radio is recalculating the date and will get back to us when Jesus lets them know.

All of which goes to show that Kurt Vonnegut was right: earthlings have no immunity to cuckoo ideas. Sure, he would have included Christianity as one of those ideas, and it’s sad to listen to so many Christians who lend credibility to that conclusion.

So here is the most cuckoo idea of all floating around right now, and I’m going to keep harping on it until the Democrats finally get it through their heads that they need to be saying this too:

Cutting taxes will not create jobs. Nor is it an article of the Christian faith. It was an article of George Bush’s faith. George Bush claimed that we should cut taxes to create jobs, and we did. The economy finally recovered but it was a jobless recovery.

Yes, businesses earned more money, but any jobs they created went overseas. Why? Because the tax breaks helped them profit by relocating plants and infrastructure. In fact, by the end of eight years of tax cuts, we were on the verge on another depression and losing millions of jobs.

Job losses stabilized under the Obama administration.

So what is the Republican plan? Cut taxes more.

So let’s face the facts about three cuckoo ideas that people have clearly no immunity to:

  • Ayn Rand’s economics aren’t Christian.
  • The world was never going to end on October 21, or May 21 for that matter.
  • Cutting taxes will never create jobs. At least not in America.

And then there’s another fact: “The Democrats are never going to dispel voters of the belief that they are killing jobs and ruining Christianity until they start repeating those facts over and over and over again.” And over again. And again and then some more.

A student once told me that it drove her crazy that I would repeat assignments and important ideas over and over and over again on every page of my syllabus and three or four times in every class. She said she was smart enough to get it the first time.

Then I broke the class into small groups. Later she came back to me and said, “I was wrong. You didn’t repeat things often enough.”

So let me repeat again:

  • Tea party politics come straight from Ayn Rand, not the Bible.
  • Jesus will not give Family Radio the heads up on the end of the world.
  • Cutting taxes will not create jobs.
  • Democrats need to start repeating the last item over and over and over again.
  • And again and several times more every day from now until the election.

In fact they should go ahead and have six dozen debates between the 2016 candidates between now and election day so they can get on CNN and repeat that cutting taxes will not create jobs over and over and over again.

And if they want to point out some of the other dumb things Bachmann, Perry, Cain and even Romney say, that couldn’t hurt either.

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The beginning of this blog and end of the world

Read this post now because we won’t be here tomorrow, at least that’s what Harold Camping of Family Radio Worldwide has persuaded a good many Christians. Jesus will return sometime before midnight, and faithful Christians will join him in the air. Everyone else is in for six months of hard times (we’re talking an apocalypse of Ghostbusters proportions) and then God will wrap it all up in October.

This tattoo expresses the bearer’s faith that he or she will be lifted into the skies to be with Jesus, maybe even sometime today.

Photo and tattoo by Veracious Rey (courtesy of Wikipedia)

It’s tempting to make fun of May 21 predictions. It’s not only tempting, I already have,1 as have David Letterman, Joy Behar and Bill Maher (although I should point out I was making jokes first).

A number of Christians have called Campbell an outright heretic and others have laughed him off as a lunatic. On the other hand, many of Campbell’s followers are no doubt certain that they will comprise the bulk of the saved taken at Rapture. If a Christian doesn’t believe in the Rapture, how can he really be a Christian?

In other words, it’s business as usual for Christians in America. There is an infectious paranoia that seems to run through mainstream Christianity on both sides of the liberal divide. Conservative Christians threaten to rob us of our civil liberties, liberal Christians threaten the survival of the faith.

Conservative Christians tend to be slightly more vocal with their concerns (the wave of “culture war” books started from their side), convinced that if they don’t cry wolf on broadcast television and radio, they will lose the culture war and be driven to extinction. This runs counter to the whole theme of Rapture since it doesn’t matter how the secular world treats us, Jesus is taking us away from the real catastrophe. But that’s how paranoia works.

It doesn’t matter that no one in America can be forced to pray to a God they don’t worship in public meetings and schools. Christians are being persecuted because they can’t force other people and their kids to pray to Jesus. This seems odd, because I grew up with stories lamenting the fact that Hebrews and Christians were forced by foreign empires to pray to Babylonian and pagan Gods.

The lesson was that the faithful should be willing to prove their faith rather than bow to persecution to conform to secular agendas, not that they should impose their faith agendas on others.

The faithful should never bow to pressure to pray to other gods. But the beauty of America is that public schools and institutions can’t force Christians to pray to Allah, or Rama Krishna or God sans Christ. Protestants don’t have to observe Catholic ritual, and Catholics don’t have to observe Protestant ritual.2

No one can legally force Christians to practice safe, premarital sex, oral sex or even watch sexual acts in performance. No one can force Christians to take drugs, profess communism or vote for Democrats. No one can force Christians to swear allegiance to America (although Christians are the first to frown should someone else decline), as believers were forced to do by empires in the Bible.

Personally, I thank God whenever I think about it that I live in a country where Baptists don’t have to behave like Episcopalians and vice-versa. How many other countries do that? Can you imagine being Shia in a Sunni country, or a Palestinian in Israel? Remember what it was like for Moslems under the Taliban in Afghanistan?

How great do we have it? We can carry Bibles in public, and testify to our faith in college classes. This is where the paranoia creeps in, however, because that’s not good enough. As long as another classmate can say being Christian is stupid, we’re being persecuted.

Christians will only truly be free when the debate and culture are one-sided. America won’t be truly Christian until Christians can tell their classmates they’re going to hell and force everybody to pray in class, but their classmates can’t say Christianity is stupid or that they don’t want to pray. I’m not going to mention the Golden Rule here, but….

Oh, I just did.

Too many Christians have declared their righteous indignation. They are appalled that the America that treated them so well treats atheists, agnostics, Moslems and liberals just as well.

Jesus told a parable about laborers who were hired to work his vineyard for the same amount of money even though some started work later (Matthew 20). The employees who worked the longest felt they’d been treated unfairly. The employer had to remind them that he paid them what they agreed to work for. It wasn’t unfair for him to reward others as he saw fit.

It seems to me that what Christians are really suffering is righteous indigestion. God has graced us with more blessings than believers in any other country, but we don’t want to benefit from the fruits of our faith if people who believe differently benefit as well. We forget that many of the revolutionaries and soldiers who fought to earn and maintain those rights weren’t Christians. They deserve those rights as much as we do.

The weird thing is, I get it. I get it because I grew up as a Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK). In a Baptist Preacher’s Family (BPF) you have to make sure everyone is behaving just like you because you don’t want your parents, siblings or children to go to hell. So you don’t even give your BPF the choice. You remind them daily that they’re going to hell if they don’t behave and believe just like you.

Atheists, agnostics, liberals, leftists and even Moslems fought and fight today to secure our rights, but we can’t let them enjoy those rights because it isn’t in their best interest. They need to find the grace of God as we did. We can’t just thank them for our freedom to worship and express our faith, we have to deny them those rights and force them to find salvation.

There’s also the verse to consider, “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” If you let a few things slide, let a few people slack off from praying in public, then you’re opening the door for everybody to backslide. Of course, it isn’t a verse, at least not in the Bible, but there are one or two verses that can be made to sound like it.

And that’s where the paranoia returns. These agnostics and atheists may have fought to secure our freedoms, but the freedom they enjoy to not worship God could tempt us to follow suit. If we allow them the right to disbelieve, or watch porn, or vote for Obama, we could be seduced into the same lifestyle. And if not us, our children.

We can’t have that.

It shouldn’t surprise us to realize that belief in the Rapture spread as the the fear of Communism rose. It might have been okay for Christians to believe in a millennium of peace before Christ’s return before the French Revolution and the rise of labor and communism, but not after. Violent public action left people with fears of apocalypse, and suddenly Jesus needed to get here first.

After all, he had already shed his blood. Why should we shed ours?

Christians couldn’t be expected to survive a world where atheist secular powers could rob them of their religious freedoms (freedoms they never had in the time of Christ and the apostles). Once they had a taste of Christian empire, they could not be expected to go back to persecution. And as long as Christians remained in the world they faced the threat of extermination, or worse, co-option.

What better deus ex machina than The Rapture? Before it gets really bad, we opt out.

It’s time for another illustration, whether we need one or not. This is a vision of Jesus rescuing souls from hell on earth.

(courtesy of wikimedia/public domain)

Sooner or later Christians need to realize that we will always face difficulties, even when we have it as good as we do in America. Christians are supposed to suffer. Suffering encourages us to refocus on our faith, and through the practice of our faith we learn to escape suffering. How do we practice our faith? By serving others rather than demanding they cater to us—even if those others don’t believe as we do, and think we are fools to do so.

In short, we don’t need to be Raptured to be at peace with the Lord or in the world. No matter how bad it gets.

And members of the religious right who are so desperate to be Raptured should remember that they will survive eight years of Obama the way they survived eight years of Clinton. The way my friends and fellow believers survived twelve years of Reagan/Bush and another eight, under another Bush, that were even worse.

Maranatha


1Mainly in my reviews of the Crossway ESV Bibleback and Just 1 Wordonline Bibles for iPad Envy. If it strikes you that this footnote is little more than a shameless attempt at self promotion, you might be right. But I also didn’t want to simply copy and paste the jokes into this post without giving credit to whom credit is due. Even if it’s me.

2Many Americans don’t even know that Christians were killed on both sides in wars between Catholic and Protestant political powers prior to the enlightenment and in Ireland as late as the last century. Even during the nineteenth century Protestant missionaries were killed in Mexico, including (my Baptist grandparents never failed to remind me) members of my own family.back


Thank you, Bill Maher,

For making a case Christians couldn’t make

Ever since the death of Osama Bin Laden, Christians who haven’t felt comfortable with the celebration have had to duck and cover. We have been made to feel that reservations about celebrating the summary execution of a man without trial or due process was not only unAmerican, it was unChristian.

Poor Katy Perry tried and only got ridiculed for being an airhead. Which, without a doubt she is. Her career isn’t built on rocket science, or even a grasp of elementary science. It’s about puff and fluff and increasingly outrageous costumes. Let’s face it, her career hasn’t prepared her to be a theologian either. And criticism from her mother about how bad a Christian she is probably isn’t helping.

But the truth is, whether or not Bin Laden deserved his fate, rejoicing in his death isn’t Christian and it took Bill Maher to say it. (And Katy Perry, but who really listens to her beside Russell?) Maher did so in his New Rules on Friday night’s broadcast. Hopefully it will show up on YouTube so Christians can actually hear it.

I find it ironic that a man who is so totally intolerant of faith understands Christianity better than most Christians do. And I have to admit, when he describes what Christians are supposed to believe, he’s usually right.

I’ve long believed that God speaks through unbelievers when Christians refuse to listen. There is Biblical precedent. When the prophet Balaam refused to listen to God, God had to speak through an ass. And Bill Maher is definitely an ass when it comes to religion. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen for the times he has something correct to say.

Judgment belongs to God, not to us. John of Patmos stresses this in the book of Revelation. Celebrating the downfall of our enemies is Old Testament thinking.

Back in the Bush administration I wanted to put out a bumper sticker that said “Jesus love George and Osama.” But with the little heart instead of the word “love.” Carol talked me out of it, and she was probably right to do so. It would have inspired more hatred than it would have encouraged clearer thinking. But the principle is, I believe, fundamentally Christian.

This is what bothers me about advocates of the Rapture. They seem to take too much joy in the prospect of God kicking the asses of everybody who they think slighted them and sending them to burn in hell.

This is my last preview before Righteous Indigestion officially launches on May 21, the official day of the Rapture. And this is the thought I want to leave you with. If you can’t wait for God to crush and destroy people who seek a path of righteousness that isn’t the same as yours—be it the righteousness of charity or the righteousness of enlightenment or the righteousness of social justice—how sure can you be that you want be left behind?

T-10 and counting

It’s ten days until the Rapture, at least according to a number of evangelicals and fundamentalists. The billboards announcing the beginning of the end of days even caught the attention of the hosts of the View, who discussed it on two different days.

The date of the Rapture has been predicted at least twice previously in my lifetime, and if it came, Jesus was awfully quiet about it. But even if it happens this May, I’m prepared to volunteer to stay behind.

You see, the notion of evacuating the good guys and leaving the bad guys to suffer seems totally contrary to the Jesus of the Gospels. He repeatedly insisted that the main occupation of Christians is to serve others, and not just the good guys either. This was one of the key points behind the Good Samaritan parable.

Who stopped to help the victim? None of the religious or pious. It was the Samaritan (think secular humanist or Moslem in modern parlance). The most reviled is the most honored because he took time from his life to render assistance at his own expense.

So there seem to be two messages in this parable that could shine light on the Rapture. Jesus intends to Rapture out the pious so that they won’t be around to interfere with the heathens who will render assistance to those suffering from the end-time tribulations, or to distract them with messages like, “Don’t help these people. They don’t deserve it. Go to church and be like us.”

Or, and I think this is more likely, the faithful will be needed during the end of days to minister to the needs of those most afflicted. It is the example of faith that will inspire those desperate for hope and redemption.

So if Christians do get the offer of a free pass, they might consider being grateful but declining graciously. Let the ones who want to relish the destruction of others get the royal treatment during the end of times. They probably won’t be much use anyway.

Byron said he would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven. I’m not saying I would rather serve in hell than rule in heaven, but I have to think Jesus and those he loves would be better served if I volunteer to wait a few more years. I could be really missing the point, but I also suspect that the call to service doesn’t end with the end of times.