Archives for April 2015

Religion Round Table, Hill Country News 2015-04-22

by Chuck Robison

Chuck RobisonDiscussion Question: What, if any, obligation does the church have to offer guidance on issues where morality & faith meet public health with potentially hazardous consequences, such as religious-based exemption from immunization, religious-based exemption from medical care for contagious diseases, the closing of clinics providing abortions resulting in the loss of healthcare to the poor in many communities?  

Tough question. Perhaps viewing this as a question of leadership makes it easier to answer. However, that demands an insight into who is leading and who is following.

Things are not what they used to be nor are they, today, what they appear to be. In the olden days, we acted like a Democracy, and prided ourselves on evidence that our views were represented in the decision making of our National, State and local governments.

In this century we have been slowly manipulated into not recognizing and not acting upon what is happening to our nation. We no longer have a Democracy. We now live in an Oligarchy where a few billionaires and a few huge corporations call all the shots. Our Supreme Court prefers to think of them as persons, you know, just folks. It is more accurate to refer to these two groups as The Owners. It is a rigged system and neither we nor our churches have much to say in what goes on.

The Owners’ puppet politicians gently nudge the majority of Churches along paths set for them to support whatever The Owners want. This gets worse; there are consequences. The Churches have lost their once powerful and independent leadership role.

Sixty years ago, the Churches, exercising their moral authority, were in the front ranks of movements to improve our lives. Preachers, Rabbis and Priests and common folks like you and me marched arm in arm to insure civil rights, to stop an insane war, to improve the lives of those in poverty and to provide education for those whose futures depended on it. Today, we hardly talk about moral authority.

Today, we have become jaded, fearful and selfish. The greed at the top has finally trickled all the way down to us. We didn’t just close abortion clinics and stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act here in Texas; we stopped poor people from getting medical help. We didn’t improve education; we just made it impossibly expensive. We’re not even going to have a say in the likelihood that oil fracking is creating irreversible damage to our environment. In fact, our Texas State Legislature just passed a law, written by Big Oil, which prohibits any county or local Texas government from enacting laws that are intended to prohibit fracking in their jurisdictions. Today the Churches fight these and many other injustices with a deafening silence.

The Churches have lost their once powerful voice and you can see it clearly in just one simple observation. Ask your church leadership how many weddings take place in the church today compared with 1990. Weddings, once high sacred religious moments held in our sanctuaries, are now conducted at parties in vacation destinations by mail order officiants.

For me, the answer to this roundtable question is this: Until our Churches boldly use their moral authority and spiritual power to confront The Owners and stand up for the poor, the downtrodden, the politically disenfranchised and our environment, we will be forced to acknowledge that we really do not care to follow the teachings of our Lord, The Christ. And so it will be.

Saving Jesus From the Church 2015-04-15 Hill Country News

by Chuck Robison

Chuck Robison“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
                                                                          Stephen Colbert

Recent surveys report that currently 93% of all members of the United States Congress identify themselves as Christians. This Congress and the aligned state governments of a majority of the states are now under the leadership of devout Christian politicians.

Nowhere is this more true than here in Texas. And Texans can point with pride to our defending the faith and forcing the government of Texas, state and local, to abide by Christian principles and directives.

As usual, there is a very small minority of vocal dissenters from the will of Texas Christians. Fortunately our media and our religious spokespersons assure us that this small group of dissenters are subversives who want to turn the laws of Texas around and force us to do what we do not want done. The numbers indicate that many of these dissenters are Christian as well.

If you count yourself among the Christians working to reform our governments, here are several questions you might ask yourself.

Why do Texas Christians oppose State and Federal aid for poor people? We seem to think food stamp recipients are lazy and should not receive food stamps, unemployment or other forms of public assistance. Would the churches in Texas, who support ending government benefits, be willing to set up a statewide assistance fund, fully paid for by church members? Such a large fund would provide food; medical assistance and housing for families who simply are unable, for valid reasons, to find a job which would support their families?

Why do Christians want Texas to opt out of the Affordable Care Act, which would give the poor a fighting chance with their health care needs? The most visible Texas Christian favoring the Affordable Care Act is Senator Ted Cruz, who shut the national government down to express Texans’ distrust of our national government and of the poor. Then, when his wife gave up her job as a senior partner at Goldman Sachs to support his campaign, he is reported to have chosen to turn to the Government he hates and hopes ultimately to run, to seek medical protection for his family through Obamacare.

Why do Texas Christians fear and reject accepting $700 million from our national government to improve our schools? Our educational success is rated, statewide, as being in the lowest 5% of the nations school systems. Is the Christian church ready to raise $700 million, itself, to give to the Texas educational systems, to replace the $700 million of our taxes that are due us and which we have refused to accept?

Why do Texas Christians not want women, under any circumstances, to even think they have a right over how they want their bodies treated? An abused woman, a victim of rape carrying her rapist’s child, does not have any Constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion here in Texas, despite what the Federal courts have ruled. If she is rich and can travel, she is free to get an abortion anytime and anywhere she wishes. But God forbid a poor girl from El Paso, traveling alone the 600 miles, by bus, to the nearest currently allowed abortion clinic has any right to similar treatment. Are we Christians willing to set up statewide pre-natal care facilities and after-birth care for babies who are not wanted and cannot be supported?

Texans Christians claim to be against killing of any kind, unless that involves state sponsored punishment killing, like high tech crucifixions. Even though we have been commanded not to kill, we want unlimited access to weapons available at a moment’s notice. Assault rifles are not for hunting. Are we so full of fear that a bullet is a better protection than God’s promises?

Jesus was killed because he consistently challenged the arrogance and unenlightened thinking of the religious leaders of his time, who were completely aligned with and supportive of the ‘national’ Roman government, which frequently eliminated dissenters with capital punishment. But here Jesus stands, a mere 2000 years later, still challenging the government and religious authorities of our time.

Ask yourself this question: Do these and numerous other examples from our state and national experience demonstrate love and forgiveness? Remember, please, that we are a government of and for The People. What did Jesus say about We the People? He said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers, you do also unto me.” No exceptions.

Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Given our current situation, following Jesus’ commands is not the easy Christian life we thought Jesus called us to lead. Learning to forgive anyone, just like Jesus did, is not a simple or painless process. Loving and forgiving people our churches have judged as sinners, really bad sinners, is not easily accomplished. Fear seems easier to deal with than forgiveness and love.

But, we will all see, in time, that LOVE is the glue of the Universe, and we were born in love and love is our destiny.

So as you watch us Christians continue to set up our rules of exclusivity and certainty, just consider that more things of lasting value have been created by love than by fear.