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“I Wave My Lamp Beside The Bolted Door”: Give Me Your White, Your Rich… Yearning To Earn Fees

In honor of the shameful refusal to accept Syrian refugees, RD contributing editor Peter Laarman has rewritten Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “Give Me Your White, Your Rich… Yearning to Earn Fees,” best known as the poem carved into Statue of Liberty:

Just like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand
A fearsome watcher with a torch whose flame
Sparks paranoid frightening, and her name
Purger of Exiles.

From her clenched hand
Flows world-wide warning; her cold eyes command
A guarded harbor that shows our shame.
“Keep in ancient lands, you filthy scum,” cries she
With savage lips. “Give me your white, your rich,
Your lads and lasses yearning to earn fees,
The choicest claimants we have known before.
Send just these, the vetted and well-glossed to me,
I wave my lamp beside the bolted door!”

 

By: Peter Laarman, United Church of Christ Minister and Activist, Retired Executive Director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles; Religion Dispatches, November 19, 2015

November 22, 2015 Posted by | American History, Immigration, Stature of Liberty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Carson Thrives Because Of, Not In Spite Of, Bizarre Rhetoric”: Comments About Muslims, Hitler And Slavery Attractive To Likely Republican Caucusgoers

For much of the summer, Donald Trump dominated Republican presidential polls everywhere, and Iowa was no different. The New York developer may not seem like a natural fit for Hawkeye State conservatives, but statewide surveys consistently showed Trump leading the GOP field.

This week, however, he’s been replaced. A Quinnipiac poll in Iowa, released yesterday, showed retired right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson leading Trump, 28% to 20%, a big swing from early September, when Quinnipiac showed Trump ahead in Iowa by six points.

Today, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll offers very similar results, with Carson leading Trump in the Hawkeye State, 28% to 19%. In August, the same poll showed Trump up by five.

But this line in the DMR’s report on the poll results stood out for me:

Even Carson’s most controversial comments – about Muslims, Hitler and slavery – are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers.

This isn’t a conclusion drawn through inference; the poll actually asked Iowa Republicans for their thoughts on some of Carson’s … shall we say … eccentricities.

The poll told GOP respondents, “I’m going to mention some things people have said about Ben Carson. Regardless of whether you support him for president, please tell me for each if this is something that you find very attractive about him, mostly attractive, mostly unattractive, or very unattractive.”

If we combine “very attractive” and “mostly attractive” responses, these are Iowa Republicans’ positive feelings about Ben Carson:

1.“He is not a career politician”: 85%

2.“He has no experience in foreign policy”: 42%

3.“He was highly successful as a neurosurgeon”: 88%

4.“He has said the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is the worst thing since slavery”: 81%

 5.”He has an inspirational personal story”: 85%

 6.“He has raised questions about whether a Muslim should ever be president of the United States”: 73%

 7.“He has said he would be guided by his faith in God”: 89%

 8.“He has said that Hitler might not have been as successful if the people had been armed”: 77%

 9.“He approaches issues with common sense”: 96%

 10.“He has conducted research on tissue from aborted fetuses”: 31%

In case it’s not obvious, pay particular attention to numbers 4, 6, and 8.

For many political observers, one of the questions surrounding Carson’s candidacy for months has been how he intends to overcome some of the ridiculous rhetoric about his off-the-wall beliefs. But this badly misses the point – Iowa Republicans like and agree with Carson’s ridiculous rhetoric about his off-the-wall beliefs.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 23, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Sinful Tendency To Pervert Faith”: Pope Francis’ Familiar Denunciation Of ‘Ideological Extremism’

It’s hard to overstate just how furious conservatives were in February after hearing President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. I’ll be curious to see how many of them are equally livid with Pope Francis today.

Nearly eight months ago, the president noted that while many faith communities around the world are “inspiring people to lift up one another,” we also see “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” The president explained that no faith tradition is immune and every religion, including his own, has chapters its adherents are not proud of.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” he said. “And lest we [Christians] get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ…. So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

Conservatives, quite content atop their high horse, were disgusted. Just this week, we saw Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) continue to whine about the Prayer Breakfast remarks, pointing the speech as evidence of the president serving as an “apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.”

But take a moment to consider what Pope Francis said this morning during his address to Congress.

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.”

In U.S. News, Gary Emerling noted, “The pontiff said all religions are susceptible to extremism and violence, just like Obama said in February.” I heard it the exact same way.

In fact, as best as I can tell, when Pope Francis said that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism,” the only difference between this sentiment and Obama’s in February is that the president bolstered his point with examples.

Will the right lambaste Francis with equal vigor? Somehow I doubt it, but if readers see any examples of this, I hope you’ll let me know.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | Faith, Ideological Extremism, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Can You Resolve This Contradiction?”: How Is Ben Carson Both So Incredibly Smart And So Spectacularly Stupid?

There are a lot of scientific prerequisites if you want to go to medical school — not just biology, but also chemistry and physics, even some math. By the time you get there, and certainly by the time you leave, you’ll be long acquainted with the scientific method and the broad contours of scientific knowledge on those topics.

So imagine it’s 1970 or so, and you’re young Ben Carson, sitting in a biology class at Yale University. With your sharp mind and strong study habits, you don’t have much problem understanding the material, grasping the copious evidence underlying the theory of evolution, all the fossils going back millions of years, how it all fits together in an endless process that affects everything from a towering redwood down to a microscopic virus. And yet, the whole thing sounds like an attack on the beliefs about the universe you were taught your whole life from your family and your church. How can you resolve this contradiction?

The resolution came somewhere along the way for Carson: Satan. Evolution is Satan’s doing.

The fact that Carson believes this is a true puzzlement. Because Carson is an undeniably smart man. You don’t get to be one of the world’s most renowned neurosurgeons without the ability to understand complex systems, evaluate evidence, sift the plausible from the implausible, and integrate disparate pieces of data into a coherent whole. And yet he thinks that the theory of evolution is not just a great big hoax, but a hoax literally delivered to us from Hell.

Forgive me for my contemptuous tone, but that is what Carson actually believes. In a 2012 speech put up this week by Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski, Carson says, “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary,” and reveals that he plans to write a book explaining how the organs of the human body refute evolutionary theory. He also says the Big Bang is bunk, because the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases, and there’s too much order in the universe, what with things like galaxies and solar systems and planets. “Now that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.” Someone should explain to him that order didn’t arrive right out of the explosion, but over billions of years. You see, because of gravity…oh, never mind.

Carson’s ideas about the Big Bang are quite similar to his beliefs about Islam, in that he picked up a snippet of information somewhere — there’s a passage in the Koran that says this or that, there’s a thing called entropy — and that snippet seemed to take hold of his rational faculties and beat them to a pulp.

To be clear, this isn’t just about religious faith. There are millions upon millions of people in the world who believe fervently in a divine power, but who also acknowledge the truth of evolution. The Catholic Church, for instance, is quite clear that there’s nothing incompatible between its theology and evolution. You can believe God set the process in motion or that God guides it down to the smallest detail; nothing about a belief in God prevents you from understanding and accepting what generations of scientists have discovered about the history of life on Earth.

So how do we explain this contradiction? All of us have some things we know a lot about and some things of which we’re ignorant. Some of us are extraordinarily good at reading people and understanding social relations, but are helpless when it comes to math; others are just the opposite. Some of us pick up languages easily, others don’t. Intelligence is complex and varied.

But what’s so odd about Carson is that science is the very thing he was trained in, and the thing at which he excelled. Yet his religious beliefs are apparently so powerful that they completely overwhelm his ability to look objectively at any scientific area that might give some answers to what people once thought were purely metaphysical questions.

Training in science is also training in how to think — what sorts of questions can be answered in what sorts of ways, and how you know what you know and what you don’t. That’s why it’s nearly as surprising to hear Carson offer as justification for his belief that no Muslim should be president, “Taqiyya is a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals,” as it is to hear him dismiss the Big Bang with a line about entropy. It isn’t surprising that Ben Carson knows next to nothing about Islam; what is surprising is that, despite a career immersed in a very specialized field, he would think that he could listen to a couple of Glenn Beck rants and come to a deep understanding of a 1,400-year-old religion.

That’s not to mention the fact that Carson’s entire campaign for president is built on the rejection of knowledge and experience, in that he argues that all you need to succeed as president is common sense, even if you’ve never spent a day in government. That opinion, unfortunately, is widely held. As is, we should mention, belief in Satan — according to polls, a majority of Americans believe in the devil, so Carson is hardly alone.

If the Father of Lies is amongst us, I’m sure he’ll take a keen interest in the presidential campaign. And when Carson’s candidacy immolates, as it certainly will, he’ll have someone to blame it on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, September 23, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Bigotry, Science | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Hostility Is Clarifying”: Conservatives To Pope Francis: Stick With Salvation; We’ll Handle Politics

In a 1979 column, George Will quoted Chekhov describing a character in these terms: “He was a rationalist, but he had to confess that he liked the ringing of church bells.” To Chekhov’s lovely words, Will added his own smarmy endorsement, writing, “Me too.” In his column, Will was affirming the quote in the most literal way possible: He was writing to celebrate bells. But it’s not hard to discern in the quote a larger attitude toward religion. Will is, as he told an interviewer from this magazine, an atheist, yet as a conservative he finds religion to be socially useful and often praises it for that reason. Like the political philosopher Leo Strauss, who has shaped much of his broader outlook, Will has a utilitarian attitude toward religion: Christianity might not be true, but it helps create a cohesive society. To put it another way, Will believes in philosophy for the elite and religion for the masses.

Not surprisingly given this attitude, Will has been at the head of the conservative chorus denouncing Pope Francis’s advocacy for the environment, for migrants, and for the poor—a chorus that has grown more vehement in the run-up to Francis’s U.S. journey. In a syndicated column published on Saturday, Will came out firing: “Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert’s indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false, and deeply reactionary.”

Seeing religion as a tool for political ends, Will quite naturally praises religious figures he sees as politically simpatico (like Pope John Paul II) and savages those whose politics he finds politically unpalatable (like Pope Francis). It’s not surprising that Will is so nakedly partisan in his evaluation of religious leaders. What is perhaps more noteworthy is that the same pattern can be found among conservatives who claim to be genuinely devout. Some of these critics voice the objection that Francis is too political, but on closer inspection their real problem is the same as Will’s: They don’t like his politics.

In a 2005 column, for instance, Will praised John Paul II as one of the great heroes of the 20th century because he made common cause with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in fighting communism. Enthusiastically voicing a theme common to conservatives, Will marveled that “[i]n an amazingly fecund 27-month period, the cause of freedom was strengthened by the coming to high offices of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and John Paul II, who, like the president, had been an actor and was gifted at the presentational dimension of his office.”

Yet if John Paul II’s political interventions were held up as crucial in the battle against the enemies of civilization, then his successor Francis, seemingly embodying very different politics, stands condemned as a menace who threatens the very survival of capitalism. As one of America’s foremost climate change deniers, Will has nothing but contempt for Francis’s calls for environmental responsibility. In a 2014 column, Will condemned the Pope as a sanctimonious interloper whose ignorance of worldly matters threatens to leave millions impoverished. “He stands against modernity, rationality, science and, ultimately, the spontaneous creativity of open societies in which people and their desires are not problems but precious resources,” Will thundered. “Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation’s premises.”

In taking up the cause of the environment, Will argued over the weekend, the church was abandoning its “salvific mission.” Since Will doesn’t actually believe that the salvation the church offers is real, his polemic amounts to a call for the church to continue to offer consoling lies to parishioners and ignore real problems so that the social system continues to work the way Will wants it to. Continue ringing those church bells, Will is saying, so they’ll drown out the protests of environmentalists.

The cynicism of Will’s position hardly needs to be underlined. Yet it is broadly shared by others on the right. Writing at the Federalist, Joy Pullmann, managing editor of the publication and a fellow at the lavishly funded climate change denialist think tank The Heartland Institute, makes many of the same arguments that Will does: that in voicing concern for the environment, the Pope is overstepping his proper duties as a religious leader, and that serious efforts to combat climate change would lead to an economic catastrophe that would have its worst impact on the world’s poor. In an extremely confusing line of argument, Pullmann seems to suggest that an environmental apocalypse might actually be a welcome outcome from a Christian point of view:

We will never achieve utopia in this world. That’s kind of the central story arc of the Bible: How humans screwed themselves and the whole world up, and how Jesus has and will ultimately put things to right. Getting all the way to a perfect eternity, however, requires first an apocalypse.

So maybe Pope Francis should welcome the environmental apocalypse he thinks is coming. That’s partly a joke and partly serious, because every time I see another Planned Parenthood butchering video I am ready for Jesus to take me and my kiddos right up to Paradise and end this sick, mad world.

Pullmann’s words might seem lurid and even nonsensical, but they follow the basic contours of Will’s: The church should stick to saving souls and leave the job of running the world to big business. She also upholds John Paul II as an example of a pope whom it was possible “to respect and admire”—further proof that what is wanted is not an apolitical pope but a pope who aligned with the Republican Party.

Pat Buchanan, the legendary conservative columnist, takes the right-wing hostility toward Francis to its logical conclusion and sees the current Pope, along with President Obama, as being emblematic of the deep sickness in Western civilization. In a breathtaking recent column, Buchanan opines that Francis is promoting “moral confusion,” and argues that both Putin’s Russia and Communist China show much greater cultural health than either Obama’s America or Francis’s church:

America is a different country today, a secular and post-Christian nation on its way to becoming anti-Christian. Some feel like strangers in their own land. And from the standpoint of traditional Catholicism, American culture is an open sewer. A vast volume of the traffic on the Internet is pornography.

Ironically, as all this unfolds in what was once “God’s country,” Vladimir Putin seeks to re-establish Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the basis of morality and law in Russia. And one reads in The Wall Street Journal on Monday that Xi Jinping is trying to reintroduce his Chinese Communist comrades to the teachings of Confucianism.

The world is turned upside down. Every civilization seems to recognize the necessity of faith except for the West, which has lost its faith and is shrinking and dying for lack of it.

Will is a religious skeptic, while both Pullmann and Buchanan are believers. Will’s prose is elegant and measured, while both Pullmann and Buchanan write shrill screeds. Yet despite these surface differences, they are making the same argument: that the proper role of the church is promoting individual salvation and social morality, a mission Francis is jeopardizing by advocating for political change.

The hostility conservatives of all stripes have toward Francis is clarifying. It shows that issues of belief and non-belief are less important to conservatives than adherence to an ideological party line. Despite their different metaphysics, Will, Pullmann, and Buchanan can unite in opposing Francis as a political enemy. Theology serves merely as a convenient cloak for politics.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor, The New Republic; September 22, 2015

September 23, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, George Will, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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