Sunday, August 19, 2012

Three Things to Remember About Wealth, Work, and Those Diapers You Can't Afford

Effectiveness of spending is related to how that money is put back into the economy. The richer one is, the less likely that money will go back into the economy. The poorer one is, the more that money will actually be invested into the economy itself.

Courtesy of Media Matters for America

Read over that a few times. Let it soak in. When the rich receive tax breaks, the US economy loses money. Not gains it. The money doesn't go into creating new jobs. They don't have a desperate need to spend that money on food, clothes, rent, transportation. Where does that money go?

Excessive wealth for the super-wealthy goes into tax havens. Into hiding. Literally.

Tax havens: Super-rich 'hiding' at least $21tn

That's 21,000,000,000,000 dollars US.

Twenty-one thousand multiplied by a million - a thousand times.

This is the amount that two billion people combined would take home if they were paid what I hope to be making by the end of this year. Let's keep in mind that roughly half the world is working for two dollars a day, for what that's worth.

That's the entire economy of the US and Japan - combined.

And this is a conservative estimate.

And this is just actual financial wealth hidden in banks and investment accounts - far from investing in jobs or being subject to taxes. This money is money that won't go towards infrastructure spending, or extending unemployment insurance. Or feeding the hungry.

The twenty one trillion dollars here doesn't even account for other properties that belong to the super-wealthy. Land, houses, boats...

Nor does it account for the fact that the very same people who are hiding all this money did not actually made this money by themselves. This wealth is the work of workers, of those the super-wealthy have hidden their earnings from: the assemblymen, the miners, the shippers, the farmers, the hands, the distributors, the drivers, the retailers. The workers CREATED these earnings - they created this wealth and surplus. But the men at the top decided that they own the workers and their earnings and have decided to withhold them from the workers, from their families, from taxes which can be also be invested back into the community, and from the economy itself.

Worker from Mexico at a Cedar Mill near Leakey, Texas, near San Antonio 05/1973

Remember these three simple facts:
  1. Giving more money to those who do not have much is better for the economy.
  2. Those who have much have so much they don't know what to do with it. So they are hiding it away from the economy. Which means there will be more poor people, and more, and more. But at least they'll be okay.
  3. The worker is worth her wages. If she earned you money, please pay her appropriately. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

That Big Ol' Table with All the Homeless and the Homosexuals

Stuff Christian Culture Likes’ Stephanie Drury argued, “You’d never see this many Christians lined up to help at a homeless shelter or food bank. And that’s something Jesus actually said to do.” And then it was added to a meme and went viral. It was a good question – and perhaps fair, though limited. In my experience, Christians tend to line up to do some work of charity – on occasion. Still, every Thanksgiving is more often than once, I guess.  That doesn’t mean that the entire enterprise is not above questioning. But we’ll get to that shortly.

The other night, my friend and fellow progressive Christian blogger Marching On and On turned those “God” quotes on their ear a bit. I reproduced on my Facebook page as a status update.

Dear Christian Right, while you were showing America how much you "love" me by stuffing your fat faces with chicken-fried-hate, half the world was dying of starvation.
- Jesus

There were other imaginary comments (‘cuz you know Jesus didn’t really say that, right?). Others that targeted NASA and self-reflection.

‎”Dear Science, while you spent $2.5 Billion on sending a camera to Mars, we were dying of starvation.
 - Half the World
"Dear Heath, while you are using your fat fingers to type out smart-Alec 'hard stances' on your extravagant smart phone, half the world is dying of starvation.
 – Jesus

If you’re like me, you’re tired of the CfA kerfuffle. But I think there are a lot of applicable points to make from the controversy – from this one-sided culture war*

I’ve got three critical points I’ll raise here, though. Well, two for today; the final point is gonna be stretched out for a moment or two later.

First, oftentimes conservative Christians and other members of the Religious Right -wait for it - are among the first responders in times of crises. They also tend to be generous in terms of giving. We can and probably should ask what they’re giving to, whether it’s effective or not, for what purpose, etc. But I think liberals and lefties tend to downplay this fact. We shouldn’t, because it needs to be acknowledged and taken into account for what it is. In a sense, it should also be commended; in other senses, not so much. But this fact is hardly to be condemned or mocked. They may not line around the block every single day to feed the poor, but they do line up to, for instance, serve soup kitchens or help stock the food pantry or help build houses. In my own experience at least, they do this often.

But that brings us to the second point: Often, Christians – whether conservative or liberal – tend to do things for the poor, rather than with. A soup kitchen is valuable for satiating the physically hungry on that day - at that moment. And serving at a soup kitchen also serves to satiate consciences of the spiritually hungry - those who are performing the service feel better about ourselves for a moment. Those of us who realize that there is something drastically wrong with the world, that somebody should do something about that, we want to and desire to find a release for that tension. We eat - they don't. There's a widening and friction-filled tension there and doing an act of service for those we deem the less fortunate helps to alleviate that tension.

'Dinner Table' photo (c) 2008, Zolotkey - license:

This is an approach that effectively says that the better-off are actually better than those they serve. Can the homeless not share in the giving as well? Or are they not good enough?

Rather this: Can we all be welcome and eat at the same table, everybody bringing and giving and sharing and taking and creating and taking pleasure at what we have brought together? Can we accept the gifts of the homeless and the queer and the middle class and the single mother?

*I say it’s a one-sided Cultural War because when one party is being attacked by another, that’s what it is – a one-sided war. Conservative Evangelicals and their Religious Right co-horts tend to buy into the concept of culture wars. The way it is framed, it looks like a two sided issue and that “both sides” (whatever that means) are equally invested in that. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

We Have Men-stealers for Ministers, Women-whippers for Missionaries, Cradle-plunderers for Church Members

Frederick Douglass, on the soul of the American Church. A long-standing legacy borne of blood and violence and continuing in such a way. In many ways, we have yet to truly repent.

[B]etween the [slave-holding religion of] Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.

I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.

We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution.

The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls!

The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heartbroken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.

The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise...

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Could any thing be more true of our churches? They would be shocked at the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer; and at the same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it. They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen...

Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean, by the religion of this land, that which is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christian churches, and yet in union with slave-holders. It is against religion, as presented by these bodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify...

Monday, August 06, 2012

When Your God Hates F*gs

This, this is why I sometimes consider leaving Christianity all together. (The points addressed here are from Jesus Needs New PR, aka Matthew Paul Turner. The responses are from JP Moreland. Both are in response to Chick-fil-A Day of Support organized by professional hater Mike Huckabee)

[Regarding the Chick-fil-A Day] People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated..  
Regarding his point about people feeling hate, this is the other side's issue, not ours, and to be quite honest, they may need to search more deeply within themselves if they, in fact, felt hated.  Very few went to CFA with hate; they were angry about the other side's hate, but they were not hateful. Matthew confused hate with the hard virtues of confrontation of moral evil and standing for what is right, and he confuses real hate with the feeling of hate.  The feeling of hate was not the protester's fault; it was a projection of the other side onto the protesters and probably reveals a need to be more discerning about those who disagree with you and not to react emotionally.  Such an emotional reaction is often narcissistic (I and my feelings of acceptance are all that matter; the issue, and people’s right to disagree with me are not the issue)....

Because, Moreland, when marginalized people feel hatred directed at them, there is often some validity to it - whether or not you feel that is the case. It is not the victim's job to turn off their Abuse Meters just because you say you're not directing abuse at them.

 How can you even know, love and care for people without truth and knowing “issues (alleged truths) about people and how they think?  One of the most loving things one can do to someone is to stand up against their harmful behavior.
It takes all sorts of mental gymnastics to think that standing against LGBTQ people isn't standing against LGBTQ people.

We [prove we don't hate gay people] by warmly inviting them to attend church, to receive love and healing and so forth.
It takes a sort of fortitude to conclude that LGBTQ people or their allies would ever want to step foot in a church that demeans and ridicules them. Or that those same people are supposed to feel loved when their request to be treated as equal human is scoffed at by those who claim to love them.

Or that anybody wants or would benefit from whatever kind of "healing" they're offering.

My favorite version of this meme, as envisioned by a friend of mine,, Terry R.
I'll close out the quotes with this right here:

[H]ow about loving the CFA people and all those on their side?  Don't they need love, mercy and support?  Yes they do, and people chose to express that love and respect
Wednesday.  That was a very Christian thing to do.

Did he mean the employees at CfA? The hourly wage earners? The people who get by with fast-food wages and were constantly told, on that fateful Wednesday, "Thank God. I stand with your company against the gays!" The homosexual ones who were subjected to that kind of "support" all day long. Or the ones who are barely getting by while conservative American Evangelicals like Moreland politically fight any notion of fair wages and accessible health care for the working poor?

Or does he mean, by "CFA people," the family owners of the company? Because that's who the CfA Day people were supporting. With a few, outlying exceptions (the wad who started yelling at employees, or the people who spray painted a franchise were being ignorant and hurtful. But they were roundly denounced by most LGBTQ activists anyway...) the employees were not being targeted by protesters and boycotters - at least not directly. The family company was. Was it really "a very Christian thing to do" to support the corporation? Did they need to know that they were getting Christian love that day? Was that what Jesus meant by comforting those who mourn?

It makes sense that Moreland is a "distinguished" professor of philosophy in that he doesn't have to make his profession relevant to the real world - just make up a system, a different world that makes sense within its own cloistered system, and apply it on top of this one. In his ontological world, God is a hateful monster, but He can be a monster and yet love those He's being monstrous to. Those the Monster God hates can and should (must!) accept the fact that Monster God is a loving God because the Monster God is the true arbiter of love and truth.Therefore, what Monster God - as represented by Moreland and his co-priests - says is Real and True and Good.

And if you can't accept that Monster God and his Monster Priests absolutely love you while they're telling you what a horrible person you are for being different and wanting to be respected as a human being, well, that's your problem.

All these accolades, however, don't, in the least, mean that Moreland is a distinguished person, or even a distinguished scholar or teacher, really. Nor a distinguished follower of Christ. But the fact that he has so much pull and claims a mantle at Christian schools like Biola or Liberty and even a fellowship at something called the Wiberforce Forum* says that there is serious, fundamental problem with Christian scholarship.

That a man like this has any influence over today's pastors, that he is part of their training process, that what he does in any sense passes for real-world scholarship is a fundamental problem and speaks to a fundamental disorder within the American Christian church. I can testify with story after story after story about how, exactly, pastors who follow the Monster God that Moreland speaks on behalf of are the real threat to the traditional family.

Or any other family.

*William Wilberforce. Yes. THE William Wilberforce. While most American Evangelicals were busy arguing that slavery is a good force from God and that Africans were designed to be subservient to white male leadership, Wilberforce was a leader in a movement to shame the English into abolishing slavery in their territories. Contemporary conservative Evangelicals like to claim Wilberforce's legacy, though he was every bit the radical that, say, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison were for their times, but without the colorful language that could condemn much of what conservative Evangelicals like Moreland stand for...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Polyamorous Chikins and Families

I've never eaten at Chick-fil-A. I'm not a Southerner, so I don't have that regional affiliation that makes others love Carl, Jr's or Waffle House or Taco Mayo or whatever. I'm from Chicago. We do the far more dangerous deep dish pizza and thousands of versions of encased leftover meats. When/if I ever move, that's what I'll miss. I haven't tried Chick-fil-A, so I don't know what I'm missing. And CfA will not really miss me, either.  But that's not what this is about. This isn't about making a statement, because, at least individually, I don't have much to make a statement with.

But, on International Eat Moar Chikin Day, tempers are flaring up. There is real injustice concerning the defense of marriage being solely between a male and a female partner. But maybe the bigger injustice is the inability to empathize and share in the sufferings of others that many, many Christians are having right now. As a result, I often feel victimized myself when some of my Christian friends ask, "What's the big deal? He's just expressing an opinion..."

Well, for starters, the opinion itself is hurtful. It's kind of mean and exclusivist to say that a family is only defined how you define it. And that way is one man, one (usually subservient) woman, and a gaggle of babies. Those of us who do not fit into that stereotype (with extended family, with add-ons, with divorce, with infertility, with differing sexual preferences, different socio-cultural values, with children born out-of-wedlock, etc,) do not need for people to define for us what is and is not a "proper" family - or, for that matter, a "biblical" family.

Oregon chickens
All these hens. Where are their husbands?

Because, as we're probably aware by now, families in the bible were never, ever exclusively one model or another. And the typical nuclear family wasn't even an option (until privilege and luxury allowed young families to be independent of others - but even that is misleading).

But that's not what this is about. The majority of Evangelicals tend to believe that the fracas over CfA is about a belief or an expression of that belief, but it's about practice. CfA president Cathy and his supporters contend that they give sandwiches to anyone who comes in the door, regardless of their sexual affiliation or "lifestyle choice."

I guess they want a cookie for this? This kind of stance is utterly dismissive as well. One, it's supposed to be that way. We live in a country with civil rights laws. It's the law. They're supposed to welcome every paying customer into their business. So what? Do we celebrate every time a Waffle House decides to let an African American buy pancakes now? What year is this?

The same people also counter that CfA also doesn't discriminate on hiring employees. Well, franchises may not discriminate so much locally (let's thank the CRA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Standards for that), but the company does discriminate in hiring and promotion. And fairly openly.

Cathy... wants married workers, believing they are more industrious and productive. One in three company operators have attended Christian-based relationship-building retreats through WinShape at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. The programs include classes on conflict resolution and communication. Family members of prospective operators--children, even--are frequently interviewed so Cathy and his family can learn more about job candidates and their relationships at home. "If a man can't manage his own life, he can't manage a business," says Cathy, who says he would probably fire an employee or terminate an operator who "has been sinful or done something harmful to their family members."
The parent company asks people who apply for an operator license to disclose marital status, number of dependents and involvement in "community, civic, social, church and/or professional organizations."
But Danielle Alderson, 30, a Baltimore operator, says some fellow franchisees find that Chick-fil-A butts into its workers' personal lives a bit much. She says she can't hire a good manager who, say, moonlights at a strip club because it would irk the company. "We are watched very closely by Chick-fil-A." (Forbes)

WinShape, btw, is CfA's "pro-family" charitable branch. Which we'll get into shortly.

But not only does CfA discriminate just by their definitions of family values or what-have-you, but also for more explicitly religious reasons:
Chick-fil-A, the corporate parent, has been sued at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination, according to records in U.S. District Courts. Aziz Latif, a former Chick-fil-A restaurant manager in Houston, sued the company in 2002 after Latif, a Muslim, says he was fired a day after he didn't participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000. (Forbes)

This is in addition to the million-plus they give to anti-gay groups (explicit hate group and Kill-the-Gays sponsor Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, and Georgia Family Council, for example) or funds set up specifically to go towards anti-gay groups such as the FRC, American Family Association or Focus on the Family, or the millions they invest in groups that are explicitly limited to straights only and condemning of "homosexual behavior" (Campus Crusade for Christ and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, both of whom try to and have a history of "fixing" and post-gay "recovery") through WinShape. (Equality Matters)

And then there's the former employee who is suing CfA on the grounds that she was fired in order to be a stay-at-home mother. (via)

Each of these, on their own, probably wouldn't be enough to earn nation-wide scorn. But put them together and we have a pattern deeper than just "expressing a different opinion." It's a systemic pattern of discrimination for a certain way of being a "family." Privileging male-dominated and bread-winning, multiple-children-having, nuclear, straight families far above and over others.

That is an explicit problem. A fundamental problem that I've noticed with Evangelical Christians is that we tend to go along with the rest of society - but generally a couple decades after society has. Rather than being on the vanguard of equity, we hold the line until society moves it and past when society moves it. So we are strong for capitalism long past its usefulness to society. We are struggling with "Earth Care". We mock vegetarians. And we say we love homosexuals, but when we're not ignoring them or talking down to them, we're fighting their recognition every step of the way. (Also, we completely ignore - at best? - transgendered people. )

Now, is a boycott the best way to protest or change policy? I really DK. Remember when Disney was being actively boycotted by these same "Family" groups in the eighties and nineties for being pro-gay? For, actually, extending many of the same benefits to the partners of homosexuals that these "Family" groups still don't want extended to non-straight families? Will it change perspectives? I know a lot of information is being passed through right now, and I hope seeds are being planted. But boycotts and counter-boycotts, are they effective? I guess it depends. Aims? Objectives? Procedures?

I'd be more interested in, say, dialog. Particularly, dialog where Evangelicals are willing to just. shut. up. and listen and try to understand why LGBTQI persons are upset instead of Evangelicals telling LGBTQI persons that they shouldn't be so upset (Can you tell I've been triggered here myself?).

Maybe we can learn a lot from each other. I'd like to know why, for example, visitation rights are denied to same-sex couples. And I'd like to know why that's okay for some, or if that's really ok with Evangelical Christians. Are they aware that when they get the state to pass constitutions against homosexual marriages, this is what they're doing? This and refusing to acknowledge the same rights that heterosexual couples have. According to the Human Rights Watch, "1,138 benefits, rights and protections[are] provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law," which puts homosexual couples in a precarious position in doing taxes, raising children, sharing benefits, family leave, etc.

Additionally, this isn't just limited to financial and visitation rights. It's about who qualifies and doesn't qualify to have basic dignity and participation in society as a full human being with full rights. Remember, just a few years ago, interracial marriages were outlawed and considered unbiblical by many of those fighting against full marriage equality.

But, let's expand this a bit more, shall we? For it's not just same-sex couples that are denied basic human equalities, rights, privileges. It's also, in some cases, extended family members. And maybe that's an issue that has to do with other types of privilege. Some instances have to do with ageism. For example, older best friends are closer than recognized family sometimes and sometimes would like to enter into agreements to watch each other, but are denied the privilege by unconcerned family members. The fact that distant, unconnected blood relatives can have more impact than life partners is kind of scary, really.

But, at least we can be comforted that KFC and Oreo love the gays. Call it consumerist appeal, but at least they're recognized as people, even if just consuming people...

Here's your cookie, Cathy.