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John Simkin

Christian Fundamentalism and Politics

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One of the most disturbing trends over the last 50 years is the growth of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States. It has become the new ideology of the far right. In many ways it is a reaction to the move to the left in the 1960s. During this period great progress was made in obtaining equality for women and racial minorities. With the use of progressive taxation and an increase in state spending on health and education, greater economic equality was achieved. This move towards economic equality also increased people’s freedom to act in they way they wanted. They could now buy things that before were only enjoyed by the rich. Governments responded to this new mood of equality by passing laws that increased people’s freedom. This included measures that legalised divorce, abortion, homosexuality, etc. Developments in technology also increased people’s freedom and dramatically improved the life-styles of the majority of the population.

The far right was in a difficult situation. For a start, it was the far right that had gained power in Germany during the 1930s. This led to the Second World War. The defeat of fascism was a terrible blow to the far right. Conservatives also suffered image problems by defending the racism that existed in the Deep South and in South Africa. The far right also suffered defeats over foreign policy as the use of guerrilla warfare forced the super powers to abandon attempts to gain or maintain an empire.

The ultra-conservatives could not use logical arguments to explain why they were right in the 1960s and 1970s. They had lost every argument that had taken place. The power elite was in serious trouble. Then they came up with a solution: Christian Fundamentalism. The main attraction of this strategy was that it persuaded people not to think logically about politics. That approach had completely failed the far right in the post-war world.

The Christian Fundamentalist movement was inspired by what had been going on in the Islamic world. Religious leaders in these countries had become very concerned about the moves towards sexual equality. Muslim Fundamentalism was an attempt to move society back to a time in the past when males controlled the political world.

Christian Fundamentalism is an attempt to recreate the situation in Medieval Europe where the Christian Church dominated the development of ideology. A world where your local priest told you what to think. It was a time where the masses were not allowed to read (most European countries had laws that stopped peasants, the vast majority of the population, from learning to read). Instead you relied on the priest to interpret the Bible. It is no surprise that this interpretation favoured the status-quo (the real teachings of Jesus Christ were only taught by rebel preachers like John Ball who invariably ended up being executed by the ruling class).

Of course, people who read the Bible to discover what is morally “right” or “wrong” are bound to be confused. It is a book that was written by a lot of different people and is full of contradictions. There are also great contrasts between the Old and New Testaments. I would have thought that Christians would have relied more on the teachings of Jesus Christ but it is clear from the views expressed by Christian Fundamentalists that they rely heavily on the Old Testament for their opinions: “an eye for an eye” and all that.

Christian fundamentalists remind me most of the people they hate so much – the dogmatic Marxist. They search through the Bible in order to find quotations that support their reactionary views. This is why they usually end up with quotes from the Old Testament as Jesus was a very progressive thinker. He of course rejected ideas such as “an eye for an eye” and was into turning away from violence and forgiving his enemies. It is the correct reading of the New Testament that inspired people like Martin Luther King. Not the words of revenge and hate in the Old Testament.

Christian fundamentalists tell us they are “pro-life” when discussing issues like abortion. However, when it comes to the invasion of another country they are very much pro-death. They appear to see nothing wrong with killing people as long as they can be portrayed as the enemy. Even if they are innocent civilians, if they make the mistake of living in the same town as Muslim fundamentalists they are an acceptable target for American bombers.

They don’t seem to be very “pro-life” when it comes to capital punishment. The rest of the western world brought an end to this barbaric activity many years ago. Yet the Christian fundamentalists in America are all in favour of it and pillory any leading politician who does not go along with them.

The same goes for people who believe in the right of a woman to have an abortion during the first few weeks after conception. They are condemned by Christian fundamentalists as being “murderers” and doctors who carry out what is a legal act are abused and physically attacked.

What they don’t seem to grasp is that they are the mirror image of the Muslim Fundamentalists that they hate so much. Unable to reach their own moral decisions they commit intellectual suicide and blindly follow their leader, currently, George Bush.

Christian Fundamentalism is a reaction to the sixties progressive movement. It is an attempt to give the power back in society to the male ruling class. They have course been very successful in America. However, they can only go so far. They will not convince young women to give up control over their bodies.

In time Americans will wake from this nightmare and will start asking serious questions of their politicians. They will want to know about global warming and budget deficits. They will want to know why so many of their young men are dying in foreign countries. They will start asking questions about how certain companies can get such lucrative government contracts. Why the income gap between the rich and poor grows increasingly wider? Most importantly of all, they might start to ask questions about who controls mass communications and if they are being told the truth about what is really happening in this world.

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I wake up in the morning, read the newspaper, and feel that we are an occupied country, that some alien group has taken over. I wake up thinking: the US is in the grip of a president surrounded by thugs in suits who care nothing about human life abroad or here, who care nothing about freedom abroad or here, who care nothing about what happens to the earth, the water or the air, or what kind of world will be inherited by our children and grandchildren.

More Americans are beginning to feel, like the soldiers in Iraq, that something is terribly wrong. More and more every day the lies are being exposed. And then there is the largest lie, that everything the US does is to be pardoned because we are engaged in a "war on terrorism", ignoring the fact that war is itself terrorism, that barging into homes and taking away people and subjecting them to torture is terrorism, that invading and bombing other countries does not give us more security but less.

The Bush administration, unable to capture the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, invaded Afghanistan, killing thousands of people and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes. Yet it still does not know where the criminals are. Not knowing what weapons Saddam Hussein was hiding, it invaded and bombed Iraq in March 2003, disregarding the UN, killing thousands of civilians and soldiers and terrorising the population; and not knowing who was and was not a terrorist, the US government confined hundreds of people in Guantánamo under such conditions that 18 have tried to commit suicide.

The Amnesty International Report 2005 notes: "Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times ... When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity".

The "war on terrorism" is not only a war on innocent people in other countries; it is a war on the people of the US: on our liberties, on our standard of living. The country's wealth is being stolen from the people and handed over to the super-rich. The lives of the young are being stolen.

The Iraq war will undoubtedly claim many more victims, not only abroad but also on US territory. The Bush administration maintains that, unlike the Vietnam war, this conflict is not causing many casualties. True enough, fewer than 2,000 service men and women have lost their lives in the fighting. But when the war finally ends, the number of its indirect victims, through disease or mental disorders, will increase steadily. After the Vietnam war, veterans reported congenital malformations in their children, caused by Agent Orange.

Officially there were only a few hundred losses in the Gulf war of 1991, but the US Gulf War Veterans Association has reported 8,000 deaths in the past 10 years. Some 200,000 veterans, out of 600,000 who took part, have registered a range of complaints due to the weapons and munitions used in combat. We have yet to see the long-term effects of depleted uranium on those currently stationed in Iraq.

Our faith is that human beings only support violence and terror when they have been lied to. And when they learn the truth, as happened in the course of the Vietnam war, they will turn against the government. We have the support of the rest of the world. The US cannot indefinitely ignore the 10 million people who protested around the world on February 15 2003.

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1547587,00.html

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One of the most disturbing trends over the last 50 years is the growth of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States. It has become the new ideology of the far right. In many ways it is a reaction to the move to the left in the 1960s. During this period great progress was made in obtaining equality for women and racial minorities. With the use of progressive taxation and an increase in state spending on health and education, greater economic equality was achieved. This move towards economic equality also increased people’s freedom to act in they way they wanted. They could now buy things that before were only enjoyed by the rich. Governments responded to this new mood of equality by passing laws that increased people’s freedom. This included measures that legalised divorce, abortion, homosexuality, etc. Developments in technology also increased people’s freedom and dramatically improved the life-styles of the majority of the population.

The far right was in a difficult situation. For a start, it was the far right that had gained power in Germany during the 1930s. This led to the Second World War. The defeat of fascism was a terrible blow to the far right. Conservatives also suffered image problems by defending the racism that existed in the Deep South and in South Africa. The far right also suffered defeats over foreign policy as the use of guerrilla warfare forced the super powers to abandon attempts to gain or maintain an empire.

The ultra-conservatives could not use logical arguments to explain why they were right in the 1960s and 1970s. They had lost every argument that had taken place. The power elite was in serious trouble. Then they came up with a solution: Christian Fundamentalism. The main attraction of this strategy was that it persuaded people not to think logically about politics. That approach had completely failed the far right in the post-war world.

The Christian Fundamentalist movement was inspired by what had been going on in the Islamic world. Religious leaders in these countries had become very concerned about the moves towards sexual equality. Muslim Fundamentalism was an attempt to move society back to a time in the past when males controlled the political world.

Christian Fundamentalism is an attempt to recreate the situation in Medieval Europe where the Christian Church dominated the development of ideology. A world where your local priest told you what to think. It was a time where the masses were not allowed to read (most European countries had laws that stopped peasants, the vast majority of the population, from learning to read). Instead you relied on the priest to interpret the Bible. It is no surprise that this interpretation favoured the status-quo (the real teachings of Jesus Christ were only taught by rebel preachers like John Ball who invariably ended up being executed by the ruling class). 

Of course, people who read the Bible to discover what is  morally “right” or “wrong” are bound to be confused. It is a book that was written by a lot of different people and is full of contradictions. There are also great contrasts between the Old and New Testaments. I would have thought that Christians would have relied more on the teachings of Jesus Christ but it is clear from the views expressed by Christian Fundamentalists that they rely heavily on the Old Testament for their opinions: “an eye for an eye” and all that.

Christian fundamentalists remind me most of the people they hate so much – the dogmatic Marxist. They search through the Bible in order to find quotations that support their reactionary views. This is why they usually end up with quotes from the Old Testament as Jesus was a very progressive thinker. He of course rejected ideas such as “an eye for an eye” and was into turning away from violence and forgiving his enemies. It is the correct reading of the New Testament that inspired people like Martin Luther King. Not the words of revenge and hate in the Old Testament.

Christian fundamentalists tell us they are “pro-life” when discussing issues like abortion. However, when it comes to the invasion of another country they are very much pro-death. They appear to see nothing wrong with killing people as long as they can be portrayed as the enemy. Even if they are innocent civilians, if they make the mistake of living in the same town as Muslim fundamentalists they are an acceptable target for American bombers.

They don’t seem to be very “pro-life” when it comes to capital punishment. The rest of the western world brought an end to this barbaric activity many years ago. Yet the Christian fundamentalists in America are all in favour of it and pillory any leading politician who does not go along with them.

The same goes for people who believe in the right of a woman to have an abortion during the first few weeks after conception. They are condemned by Christian fundamentalists as being “murderers” and doctors who carry out what is a legal act are abused and physically attacked.

What they don’t seem to grasp is that they are the mirror image of the Muslim Fundamentalists that they hate so much. Unable to reach their own moral decisions they commit intellectual suicide and blindly follow their leader, currently, George Bush.

Christian Fundamentalism is a reaction to the sixties progressive movement. It is an attempt to give the power back in society to the male ruling class. They have course been very successful in America. However, they can only go so far. They will not convince young women to give up control over their bodies.

In time Americans will wake from this nightmare and will start asking serious questions of their politicians. They will want to know about global warming and budget deficits. They will want to know why so many of their young men are dying in foreign countries. They will start asking questions about how certain companies can get such lucrative government contracts. Why the income gap between the rich and poor grows increasingly wider? Most importantly of all, they might start to ask questions about who controls mass communications and if they are being told the truth about what is really happening in this world.

Islam is inherently fundamentalist because it just is. Protestantism is also in theory in the constant business of reformation.

When the average Jihadi is told about devil worship on RN ships, OFCOM decisions in relation to TV programmes about sex with animals, Theo Van Gogh or Bern Fine Art Museum's recent exhibition which used the head of a baby, then he will believe absolutely everything he is told about the crusaders.

Many of his kind will view this life as a lost battlefield populated by sexually deviant infidel. In summary they view the west quite differently to Europeans.

Fifty faith family & flag candidates from Oklahoma allied to a few oriental visitors from Afghanistan would have Bern Fine Art Museum attacked by cruise missiles if such things could be decided by a focus group.

Edited by Gregory Carlin

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I wake up in the morning, read the newspaper, and feel that we are an occupied country, that some alien group has taken over. I wake up thinking: the US is in the grip of a president surrounded by thugs in suits who care nothing about human life abroad or here, who care nothing about freedom abroad or here, who care nothing about what happens to the earth, the water or the air, or what kind of world will be inherited by our children and grandchildren........

The "war on terrorism" is not only a war on innocent people in other countries; it is a war on the people of the US: on our liberties, on our standard of living. The country's wealth is being stolen from the people and handed over to the super-rich. The lives of the young are being stolen................

Our faith is that human beings only support violence and terror when they have been lied to. And when they learn the truth, as happened in the course of the Vietnam war, they will turn against the government. We have the support of the rest of the world. The US cannot indefinitely ignore the 10 million people who protested around the world on February 15 2003.

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.

_________________________________

Excellent and provocative posts John and Howard.

I started to notice the power of the "Christian right" in the mid/early 80's. As a Christian myself I became alarmed by the level of intolerance, hatred, self-righteousness that was espoused by this "religious/political" group. As the decades passed I saw this group grow in numbers as well as power. It never failed to amaze me how little this so -called "moral majority" actually PRACTICED what Jesus taught. Concern for life was ALWAYS "unborn life", NEVER concern for the millions of unwanted, neglected starving children in this world. Never concern for the poor uneducated mother for whom "choice" is often not even a thought, much less an option. (As an aside I consider the so-called "pro-life movement" falsely named. It's not about life, it's about controlling women's bodies. About keeping her "barefoot and pregnant" and voiceless.)

When the war in Iraq began I felt very isolated at my church....where the members are STILL buying into W's lies, arrogance and false patriotism.

The (stolen) electin of 2004 seemed to indicate that all Christians are Republicans and this is just FALSE. W has many people brainwashed, spiritual discernment taught by Jesus is at an all time low, IMO. But there are liberal Democrats who are also Christians. Who are sickened by having our God "hijacked" by these immoral "leaders".

Someone needs to remind these people that this is just what Jesus predicted: that there would come a time when there would be false prophets who will "deceive, even the elect" (Matt: 24:24).

But, as was pointed out on another thread, true prophets and men of peace are always murdered. The real "evil doers", to employ the term W uses, do not care for the cause of peace. War is far more profitable.

Dawn

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I started to notice the power of the "Christian right" in the mid/early 80's. As a Christian myself I became alarmed by the level of intolerance, hatred,  self-righteousness that was espoused by  this "religious/political" group.  As the decades passed I saw this group grow in numbers as well as power.  It never failed to amaze me how little this so -called "moral majority" actually PRACTICED what Jesus taught.  Concern for life was ALWAYS "unborn life", NEVER concern for the millions of unwanted, neglected starving children in this world. Never concern for the poor uneducated mother for whom "choice" is often not even a thought, much less an option. (As an aside I consider the so-called "pro-life movement" falsely named. It's not about life, it's about controlling women's bodies. About keeping her "barefoot and pregnant" and voiceless.)

When the war in Iraq began I felt very isolated at my church....where the members  are STILL buying into W's lies, arrogance and false patriotism. 

The (stolen) electin of 2004 seemed to indicate that all Christians are Republicans and this is just FALSE.  W has many people brainwashed,  spiritual discernment taught by Jesus is  at an all time low, IMO.  But there are liberal Democrats who are also Christians. Who are sickened by having our God "hijacked" by these immoral "leaders".

Good points Dawn. The teachings of Jesus Christ have motivated reformers with a social conscientious for centuries. Most of the much needed reforms that took place in the UK in the 19th century came about because individuals had a good knowledge of the teachings of Jesus. This included the successful campaigns against slavery and child labour in the early part of the 19th century. The demands for universal suffrage and the welfare state in the second-half of the 19th century mainly came from those inspired by the reading of the New Testament. George Bernard Shaw once claimed that Jesus was the world’s first socialist. Others, like the historian Richard Tawney, rightly pointed out that the Labour Movement in the UK had been more influenced by Methodism than Marxism.

The link between Christianity and reform has been in evidence throughout the world. This includes the United States. You have followed a similar pattern to that of Europe. The campaigners against slavery were devout Christians. The early Labour movement relied on the leadership of Christians. After the war, committed Christians such as Abraham Muste, George Houser (two men that deserves to be better known), and Norman Thomas helped establish the first effective civil rights groups such as Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). Like the Quakers, members of the FOR were Christian pacifists (based on their interpretation of the teachings of Jesus).

The success of the FOR inspired the setting up of the Congress of Racial Equality. Again this was a Christian pacifist organization. In early 1947, CORE announced plans to send eight white and eight black men into the Deep South to test the Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in interstate travel unconstitutional. Organized by Baynard Rustin, this two week pilgrimage through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky was the beginning of the civil rights movement.

CORE inspired others to join the struggle for civil rights. In 1957 Rustin, Martin Luther King and Ralph David Abernathy established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The new organisation was committed to using nonviolence in the struggle for civil rights, and SCLC adopted the motto: "Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed."

In the 1950s and 1960s several members of organizations like CORE and SCLC were murdered by people who considered themselves as Christians. This raises the important issue: How can the followers of Jesus Christ come to such different conclusions?

History gives us an answer. Christian reformers have mainly belonged to smaller religious groups that have not been under the control of the state. Ever since the nationalization of the Catholic Church by the Romans, the state has been very good at using Christianity to support the status quo.

In recent years, in the UK and most of Europe, virtually all Church groups, have been on the side of reformers. When Margaret Thatcher was prime minister she accused the leaders of the Church of England of being Marxists. Despite this, church leaders continued to give into this attempt at smearing them and they played an important role in stopping the welfare state from being dismantled under Thatcher's extreme right-wing government.

The continued liberalism of religious leaders was reflected in the almost complete unity they showed in the campaign against the Iraq War.

The United States has not followed this pattern. The main reason for this was the McCarthyism that took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This period of history managed to virtually destroy the reform movement in America. Those that survived were in such a minority that it was possible to smear them as being “Marxists” or “Communists”. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI played a very important role in this. All the leading figures in the civil rights movement suffered from being identified as “left-wing”. Leaders of CORE and SCLC were common targets for Hoover. Especially when people like Martin Luther King became concerned about issues like the Vietnam War and the plight of the low paid.

It is this irrational fear of “leftists” that is often displayed by Christian Fundamentalists like Tim Gratz. This is why I asked Tim about his actions during the Civil Rights campaigns. For people like Tim showed no interest at all in civil rights during this period. Instead they joined J. Edgar Hoover in going along with the idea that it was some sort of “communist conspiracy”.

It is no surprise that it is now these old Cold War hardliners are now supporters of Christian Fundamentalism. It also helps to explain why they are unwilling to speak up for the poor and the dispossessed today. Instead they are advocates of maintaining the privileges of the rich and powerful. How can they defend this position that is so different from that advocated by Jesus Christ? With great difficulty and helps explain why it will take a brave (or foolish) supporter of Christian Fundamentalism, to join this debate.

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John, most of your post was very perceptive, except your attack on me (what else is new?). I never thought the civil rights movement was controlled by Communists although King definitely had a few Communist advisers and he was cautioned about these people (perhaps it was only one) by JFK and/or RFK. I posted how much I supported most of the objectives of the civil rights movement and how much I hated the Southern Democrats who were so brutalizing the civil rights workers.

It is also ridiculous for you to say I have a fear of leftists. One of my closest friends is a leftist, Michael Moore defender. And in both high school and college I worked very closely (and was friendly with) a left-wing Democrat whose father was a left-wing UW professor of labor economics.

But I know your excuse will be that you do not read all of my posts.

Dawn is correct that there are people who call themselves Christians who are not. I think she should be a bit careful about judging other Christians with whose politics she disagrees, however. (I am convinced some of the televangelists are false prophets.)

I believe that the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation message is the most important thing a Christian can do. However, I do not believe in a dichotomy between evangelization and what used to be called "the social Gospel". I am associated with a church in Key West the pastor is (I suspect) a conservative Republican and a fine Christian. This church has a very active ministry supporting the many homeless people who are attracted to Key West. It provides meals for the homeless at least every other day (and also distributes canned food and clothing to the homeless.) It accepts mail for them. There is a lady who was a very successful realtor in Key West who is now retired. Rather than taking it easy, she spends five days a week volunteering at the church and working primarily with the homeless (and always cheerfully even though some homeless people can be less than pleasant).

The pastor of this church spends most of his non-Sunday time helping the homeless and other people who need his help. He is never too tired to help someone, even though he is an older man.

He started his ministry in the Bahamas and I understand his influence is still remembered in the Bahamas.

And the church never pressures the homeless it is helping to attend church services.

This pastor is the best example of Christianity in action that I have met.

I am glad that you recognized that Christians have been behind some of the important reform movements of the past such as the abolitionist movement. As I said, I think most of your post was very good and I also think your section on religious leaders is overall very fair and accurate.

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.

Dawn is correct that there are people who call themselves Christians who are not. I think she should be a bit careful about judging other Christians with whose politics she disagrees, however.

(I am convinced some of the televangelists are false prophets.)I

I am simply stating my opinion, not "judging", I leave that to God.

I agree about many of the tv guys, no names, but the rich one in white who "pushes" people over is a "fine example" of this.

[COLOR=red I ]believe that the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation message is the most important thing a Christian can do. However, I do not believe in a dichotomy between evangelization and what used to be called "the social Gospel". people can be less than pleasant).[/color]

So do you believe that Gospel SANS works, is ok? Your post is a bit confusing?

.

And the church never pressures the homeless it is helping to attend church services.

This pastor is the best example of Christianity in action that I have met.

Sounds like you are in a great church!!

Dawn

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It is no surprise that it is now these old Cold War hardliners are now supporters of Christian Fundamentalism. It also helps to explain why they are unwilling to speak up for the poor and the dispossessed today. Instead they are advocates of maintaining the privileges of the rich and powerful. How can they defend this position that is so different from that advocated by Jesus Christ? With great difficulty and helps explain why it will take a brave (or foolish) supporter of Christian Fundamentalism, to join this debate.

Conservatives in the United States are the anti-slavery movement to a greater degree than anything that exists in Europe or elsewhere.

The Christian right are increasingly engaged in humanitarian causes abroad, they have been yelling about Sudan for years for example.

In Texas they would send teachers to jail for 25 years for what they routinely get away with in the United Kingdom. Britain is not a UNICEF advertisement.

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I am glad that you recognized that Christians have been behind some of the important reform movements of the past such as the abolitionist movement.  As I said, I think most of your post was very good and I also think your section on religious leaders is overall very fair and accurate.

The movement is not in the past. The cause of abolition was inspired to struggle until there are no slaves. There is no half-remedy acceptable to us.

The Salvation Army for example are still part of the abolitionist movement.

The emails and letters the Salvation Army send to me are usually signed - "Abolition!" rather than "Yours sincerely" or other form of courtesy.

Edited by Gregory Carlin

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In Texas  they would send teachers to jail for 25 years for what they routinely get away with in the United Kingdom.  Britain is not a UNICEF advertisement.

Could you explain this. What did the teachers do? Are you implying that teachers are doing similar things in the UK but are not being punished for it.

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John, most of your post was very perceptive, except your attack on me (what else is new?).  I never thought the civil rights movement was controlled by Communists although King definitely had a few Communist advisers and he was cautioned about these people (perhaps it was only one) by JFK and/or RFK. I posted how much I supported most of the objectives of the civil rights movement and how much I hated the Southern Democrats who were so brutalizing the civil rights workers.

It is true that J. Edgar Hoover claimed that one of Martin Luther King’s leading advisors, Baynard Rustin, was a communist. He also said he was having a homosexual relationship with King. Rustin joined the American Communist Party (ACP) in 1936. His did this during the campaign to free the nine African Americans that had been falsely convicted for raping two white women on a train (Scottsboro Case). Rustin was impressed by the ACP’s involvement in the civil rights movement. Other African Americans like Paul Robeson joined the party for the same reasons. As you probably know the South African Communist Party also led the fight against Apartheid. Communist parties have good records for fighting for equal human rights in capitalist societies, see for example the resistance they put up against Saddam Hussein until they were destroyed by this dictator (did not hear the American government complaining about it at the time). There record is not so good in communist countries. It is about as good as the right-wing record for fighting for civil rights in capitalist countries. In both cases they prefer to support the status quo. That is what makes both groups conservative once in power.

Rustin left the American Communist Party in 1941. As far as Hoover was concerned, once a communist, always a communist (going by your postings that is something you seem to agree about). Hoover also thought King was a communist because of his speeches in favour of equality. Hoover was also very concerned about King and Rustin as they were followers of that really revolutionary idea, Christian Pacifism.

The truth is that all right wing groups, including your Young Americans for Freedom group, always accuse reformers as being “communists”. It is a smear tactic that works in America. But why should it matter. What if Rustin was still a communist? Does it really undermine his arguments for equal civil rights? Or does it give you a reason not to listen to the arguments that a person is making. The problem for people on the far-right like yourself is that you lack intellectual confidence. You are not sure enough of your ideology to argue your case. Instead you have to concentrate on smearing the opposition with the claim that they are a “communist”. It might work in America but not on International Forums like this. In Europe we really do believe in free speech for everyone, not just for supporters of the capitalist system.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArustin.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAscotsboro.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArobeson.htm

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I believe that the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation message is the most important thing a Christian can do.  However, I do not believe in a dichotomy between evangelization and what used to be called "the social Gospel".  I am associated with a church in Key West the pastor is (I suspect) a conservative Republican and a fine Christian.  This church has a very active ministry supporting the many homeless people who are attracted to Key West.  It provides meals for the homeless at least every other day (and also distributes canned food and clothing to the homeless.)  It accepts mail for them.  There is a lady who was a very successful realtor in Key West who is now retired.  Rather than taking it easy, she spends five days a week volunteering at the church and working primarily with the homeless (and always cheerfully even though some homeless people can be less than pleasant).

The pastor of this church spends most of his non-Sunday time helping the homeless and other people who need his help.  He is never too tired to help someone, even though he is an older man.

He started his ministry in the Bahamas and I understand his influence is still remembered in the Bahamas.

And the church never pressures the homeless it is helping to attend church services.

This pastor is the best example of Christianity in action that I have met.

It is not enough to spend time providing comfort for the homeless. I am fully aware that Christian Fundamentalists do a lot of charity work. The established church did a lot of charity work in the 19th century as well. But they did not change anything. Those that did were the Christians who joined those campaigning for equality such as the Anti-Slavery Movement, the Labour Party, the Suffrage Unions, etc.

People like Martin Luther King did not manage to achieve political change by running soup kitchens. He formed and led organizations that demanded reform. Like all reformers, King suffered verbal and physical abuse. Many Christians died in the struggle. Take for example the case of the Unitarian minister, James Reeb. He could have opted for the good life and provided sermons that would have pleased the rich and wealthy. Instead, he joined Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). After taking part in Selma to Montgomery protest march he was attacked by white mob with clubs and died on 10th March, 1965. James Reeb is my idea of a Christian. Not your Christian Fundamentalists who are only concerned with their own well-being.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAreeb.htm

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What gives government the right to extract a higher percentage of a rich man's income than mine?  You lefties seem to think that everyone's income belongs to the government.  Even at the same tax rate, the rich will still contribute a much higher percentage of the federal revenues.  Moreover, as was first demonstrated by the tax cut proposed by JFK, when the marginal tax rate is decreased, tax collections actually increase.

Pat has already pointed out with great clarity the flaws in your argument. I therefore want to concentrate on the morality of your position. I say that because I believe that this goes to the heart of the taxation issue.

It is clear that one of the flaws of the capitalist system is that it creates a great deal of inequality. Economists like Karl Marx have argued that this inequality will cause so much anger amongst those that have done badly out of the system that they will eventually overthrow capitalism and establish a new type of economy that will encourage the development of equality.

Others like John Maynard Keynes have argued that revolution is not inevitable. That it is possible to reform the system in order to reduce the gap between the rich and poor. Keynes believed that by manipulating the system you could also make capitalism work more efficiently.

It appears that Marx’s predictions were false. It is true that so-called communist revolutions have taken place (Russia, China, Cuba, etc.). However, these have never occurred in the places where Marx said they would (in the advanced economies). Instead they have taken place in backward economies where the masses had not developed the kind of political consciousness or mass political movement that was necessary for a complete change in society. In Russia, China and Cuba revolutions took place because of a small group of dedicated revolutionaries who took advantage of a country in crisis. This vanguard (nearly exclusively from the middle-class) therefore became the new ruling elite. It did not take long before the revolution degenerated into a military dictatorship. Although there was some redistribution of wealth in these societies, the one thing that was not redistributed was power. In fact, in communist societies, power is less well distributed than in capitalist societies.

However, these revolutions had a large impact on the consciousness of those who run the capitalist system in advanced economies. The ideas of John Maynard Keynes become more attractive to those in power. This was especially true in the 1930s when the capitalist system was in deep crisis. These ideas were also appealing in the years following the Second World War. The war had showed that in times of severe crisis it is necessary for governments to play a much larger role in running a capitalist economy.

John Maynard Keynes believed that for capitalism to survive, governments would need to increase taxation. This money would then be spent by the government in ways that would improve the health of the capitalist system. For example, government spending results in more government jobs and therefore reduces unemployment. The people in these new government jobs will have more money to spend than they had when they were employed. This spending will create more jobs in the private sector. This in itself will result in more spending and therefore more jobs. In this way, a country can go from a situation where it has mass unemployment to one of full employment.

One of the first people to employ the ideas of John Maynard Keynes was Franklin D. Roosevelt. This resulted in him being condemned by the far-right in America as a socialist. However, he was in fact the saviour of capitalism.

The reason why Roosevelt was so much hated by the right was because of his taxation policies. All politicians that want to increase government spending to improve the state of the economy have a problem. They cannot get this money by taxing the poor. They have very little money to give to the government. What little they do have, they spend. This helps the economy. Therefore, to tax the poor actually hurts the economy. There is only one option available to the government, they have to tax people with large amounts of money.

At this stage the argument over taxation is an economic issue. However, it also has a moral dimension. If the government introduces progressive taxation, in other words, the levels of taxation depends on your income or wealth, then it is possible to redistribute wealth.

This was very much the argument of the Labour Government in the UK (1945-51). A wide variety of taxes were used to take from the rich in order to spend on the poor. For example, the introduction of inheritance taxes in order to help pay higher state retirement pensions.

It is a myth to claim that those on the right like Tim are against increased government spending. Tim has no problem with government spending us such, he is only against public spending that helps the poor. As we have seen with his postings, Tim is very keen on increased military spending. He just wants the rich to pay a smaller proportion of the money needed to keep these foreigners under control.

During the 1980s the UK and the US both had right-wing leaders who claimed they were committed to both reducing government spending and reducing higher-rate income tax. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (Tim’s hero) were highly successful at reducing the tax burden of the rich. However, they were completely unsuccessful at reducing government spending. Partly because of increased military spending and partly because their policies created a great deal of unemployment and therefore increased government spending on welfare. The result was that Thatcher and Reagan created massive budget deficits. The same thing is now happening under George Bush.

As I have said before, progressive taxation is not just an economic argument, although as John Maynard Keynes has shown, it is very good for the economy.

Progressive taxation is a moral argument. Is it morally right for a government to use the tax system to reduce inequality in society? I believe it is. In a fully functioning democracy a political party advocating a redistribution of wealth tax policy would be likely to be elected to power. However, most countries do not have a politically or economic literate population. This is especially true of the poorer members of society. We know they large numbers of them show little interest in politics and a significant proportion of them do not even bother to vote in elections.

Politicians have of course taken note of this situation. Therefore they address their message to those sections of society who vote, and more importantly, on those who influence how others vote. It is far more important for politicians to please the owner of a newspaper than the owner of a newspaper shop. For example, if Tony Blair can convince Rupert Murdoch that his government’s tax policies will benefit him, he is likely to use his newspaper to support New Labour. What is more, Murdoch and his rich friends will also be generous in donating money to Blair and his political party.

With the rich controlling the means of communication and the poor often apathetic and politically and economically illiterate, it is no wonder that over the last 25 years there has been a trend to redistribute wealth in favour of the rich.

How do individuals react to this situation. Take my own situation. I am fairly wealthy. This is not because I inherited wealth. In fact, I have not inherited any money at all. Nor is it because I have spent many years teaching. Most of my money has come from my business ventures. In other words, I have been a successful capitalist.

Most successful capitalists are opposed to higher rates of tax. They argue they have worked very hard and deserve to keep the money they have made. It is true that you have to work hard to be successful in business. But does the capitalist work any harder than the person working on a building site or call centre? As someone who spent seven years working in a factory I can firmly state that this is not the case.

Other successful entrepreneurs argue that they have obtained wealth because they are creative and intelligent. That is probably true. But does this justify them having much more money than the people who work for others? Why should entrepreneurs be financially rewarded for being creative and intelligent? Where does it come from? Was it inherited? If so, why should they be rewarded for that. Was it as a result of their formal and informal education? If so, why should they be rewarded for meeting the right people and going to a good school?

I am aware that at several stages in my business career I came close to disaster. By making the wrong decision, I could have lost it all. Although it was partly due to intelligence that I made the right decision, it was also partly to do with luck. Plenty of my intelligent and hard working friends ended up going bankrupt.

My belief is that my wealth belongs partly to me and partly to the community. That the government has the right to take some of this money and distribute it to those less fortunate than myself. However, I strongly object when they use this money to bomb and conquer those living in the underdeveloped world. I also am opposed to this money going to those richer than I am.

Percy Bysshe Shelley once said that “morality is imagination”. I think it is one of the wisest things anyone has ever said. D. H. Lawrence took the opposite position. He said “every philosopher ends at his finger tips”. I am from the Shelley school of thought. We can only make moral judgements by looking outside ourselves. We need to “imagine” what is like to live in poverty. We need to realise that people cannot get out of their situation by “working harder”. They need help. I do not mean charity. There problems will only be solved by massive government intervention. This will be an expensive process and will need those who can afford it to pay higher taxes.

I am an atheist who believes that Jesus Christ was the greatest person who ever lived. He has inspired a large number of people to do great things. For example, Martin Luther King. Unfortunately, as we can see with the Christian Fundamentalists, his teachings have been distorted in order to justify selfishness and the protection of the ruling elite. This is usually because they concentrate on reading the Old Testament rather than the New Testament.

To people like Tim I would ask this question: If Jesus Christ was alive today, what would he be doing. Do you really think he would be arguing that the rich should not be paying higher rates of tax?

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In the teachings of Jesus Christ, he said that it was not enough to send away the stranger from your door, to tell him to go get something to eat if he is hungry, to tell him to get some clothes on if he is naked, to tell him to go get a job if he is unemployed...without offering help from within your house. Yet that's what the so-called "religious right" in the US does every day.

Unfortunately, the "religious left" [to coin a similar term] in the US apparently believes that the solution is to tax the people, and to use the proceeds to allow the government to help those who need food, clothing, jobs, or homes. To my way of thinking, the left is just as wrong as the right.

Both seem to deny any personal responsibility for their fellowman. The right's position is to let him fend for himself, or "pull himself up by the bootstraps," according to a popular phrase awhile back. The left's position is that government's involvement absolves them of any personal involvement in seeking the betterment of society.

Did not Jesus Christ himself walk among the lepers and those of both breoken body and spirit? Did he not lay hands upon them to perform feats of healing? Did he not cause miracles to occur, in which multitudes were fed with a few meager loaves and fishes? And yet both the "religious right" and their counterparts on the left want to keep these people who are in need at arm's length--or further--while still claiming to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

Only God can judge, so I shall not; in fact, I've found myself among the aforementioned groups, staying safe and snug in my home while others in the world suffer. It's not just the will to change, but the actual act of doing something, that matters. While good works alone won't earn a reward, a faith without good works is dead. "By their fruits ye shall know them," I believe is the line. Recall that Jesus put a curse upon a fig tree that failed to bear fruit, and the tree withered and died. How similar it will be for people who have been planted on this earth and fail to bear fruit for their fellowman!

And what of those whose plans are to store up riches for themselves here on earth? Did Jesus not advise the rich man to sell what he had, and give the proceeds to the poor? Imagine someone of Bill Gates' financial stature doing just that...not merely "philanthropy," which consists of giving from his excess wealth...but donating ALL his stock in Microsoft, and its income, to the poor. Would that not have some impact?

Infortunately, it is inertia which drives most of us to continue upon the path we chose long ago. To counteract inertia, it takes an outside force. To use the words of one who trod here 2,000 years ago, "He who has ears, let him hear."

Peace.

Edited by Mark Knight

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In Texas  they would send teachers to jail for 25 years for what they routinely get away with in the United Kingdom.  Britain is not a UNICEF advertisement.

Could you explain this. What did the teachers do? Are you implying that teachers are doing similar things in the UK but are not being punished for it.

I was implying that Texas imprisons more teachers than the United Kingdom. The two places are very different, the UK is far more free and easy.

Edited by Gregory Carlin

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