Are we supposed to be impressed by Republican failures?

911-terrorist-attack

An explosion rips through the South Tower of the World Trade Towers… “after the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175, which departed from Boston en route for Los Angeles, crashed into it Sept, 11, 2001. The North Tower is shown burning after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the tower at 8:45 a.m.” But of course, many people now question this narrative. and have come to recognize this event for what it was, a symbol of Republican failure to protect of govern the nation in any effective way. 

It has been difficult since the 9/11 tragedy to get the rational attention of any Republican in America. The narrative goes like this: Everything our nation did was necessary to protect our national security and sovereignty.

Of course, the source of that narrative fails to recall that 9/11 happened under Republican watch. A Republican administration failed us miserably in translating reasonable intelligence into actionable defense.

And to make matters worse, the Bush administration took their own failures and turned them into excuses to invade Iraq, a nation that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Thousands of soldiers gave their lives and tens of thousands more were maimed for life for reasons that changed by the week during the Iraq War.

This was a massive failure of conscience by the Republican Party, which through fear and manipulation and falsified evidence convinced hawkish Democrats to go along with the plan for imperialistic attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Collapse

Meanwhile, domestic issues such as financial regulation and infrastructure repairs were either pushed to the backburner or ignored completely as America poured trillions of unbudgeted cash into the “war” efforts. The result was nearly a complete collapse of the free-market system in America. The supposed defenders of capitalism and enterprise absolutely failed in their duty to monitor and foster a health economy.

And as if that were not enough, America failed by committing blatant abused of civil and personal rights at home and abroad. Our soldiers tortured and even killed prisoners in Iraq and in black sites around the world. All were done under the watch of the Bush administration. Meanwhile, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans while our leaders callously refused to engage and assist those in dire emergency situations. This was a brand of torture on a grand domestic scale, like waterboarding an entire city and blaming the victims for their weakness.

Without conscience

Republicans failed to govern with a conscience in the majority when they held the presidency, all of Congress and Senate, and the Supreme Court as well. Instead, they passed self-serving legislation such as Citizens United, called corporations people and pretended the Patriot Act was not a major invasion of personal privacy.

Where did the principles of the Republican Party go? Why have conservatives failed so miserably when the opportunity to govern has been laid in their lap? The answers are painful and simple. The only thing Republicans know how to do well is breed the brand of fear that helps them get elected and hold power. Beyond that, the conservative movement in America is bankrupt in ideas on how to make the nation a better place to live.

Standard issue

Oh, we all know the standard claims that conservatives love to make. Cut taxes for the jobs creators. Well, they did that and the economy crashed anyway. Conservatives also want to privatize Social Security and kill Medicare. Yet those programs are the only source of income and healthcare for millions upon millions of Americans whose long investment in the American economy is merely being repaid by the collective power of money put in trust with the government. Is that such a bad thing, that people in old age should expect to live with some source of financial security and medical protection?

Republicans seem to think so. They brand Social Security and Medicare a “failure,” but on what basis? They claim Americans can “do better” using the free market to plan for retirement and pay for medical expenses in old age.

These are lies carefully couched in political jargon. The economic crash of 2008 proved beyond doubt that no form of investment vehicle, not even the family home, is immune from the devastating cut from market forces when speculation is allowed to run rampant in the market. Some people lost their homes and their entire investment portfolios, forcing millions of retirees back into the labor force where their age and their time away from work were instantly counted against them.

This is a failure of both reason and economic sense. Because on the other end of the market there were millions of young people seeking employment and finding the labor market jammed with aggressively defensive Baby Boomers trying like hell to keep their jobs knowing that their earnings and saving might not be protection for the future.

The 2016 Election

And that brings us to the election of 2016 and the candidate the Republican Party has advanced for consideration as President of the United States. For eight years Republicans have complained that Barack Obama has ruined the economy. Yet the facts tell a different story. Every month when the reports come out there are tens of thousands of new people hired back into the workforce. Every economic indicator under the sun points to recovery for the economy. Of course the national debt and deficits are still a problem. We spent our way into a hole trying to correct the devastating actions of Bush and Cheney and their ilk. But Republicans blame Obama for these imbalances.

This worldview is divorced from the reality of massive Republican failures to govern or legislate with any effect of conscience the last eight years. Congress is supposed to pass laws and the Senate is supposed to conceive and implement positive changes for the pursuit of health and happiness according to the Constitution. Instead, both branches of government whined and moaned about Obamacare and even shut down the government in a whining attempt to get their way, and a refusal to compromise in any way.

Trump is a boil on America’s ass

alg-donald-trump-jpgThis is not an American form of government. It is despotism. So it is no coincidence that a massive failure of good judgement and conscience such as Donald Trump has ascended to the throne of the Republican Party. Conservatives have failed us for more than 40 years now. The Party of Reagan was wrong when he was in office, and it has only gotten worse as the cognitive dissonance over religion, politics, economics and civics have been bundled into one massive, ugly boil on the ass end of history.

Donald Trump is that boil. And we can either pop his white head and be done with it or let him fester into a massive infection that threatens the health of the entire nation. That’s how ugly and dire this situation really is.

But Republicans and conservatives will refuse to admit it. Many are licking the boil that is Donald Trump as if it were a sex organ, not an infection. It’s a disgusting sight to see, and people of conscience are not impressed.

Yet that’s the Republican Party of today. More concerned with the salve of power than the pain of honesty about their own failures.

The false allegory in The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent

By Christopher Cudworth

For Christmas this year a dear and close friend offered me a gift of The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent by Erwin W. Lutzer with Steve Miller.

This friend of mine has been to Israel several times. She has converted to Judaism and back again to Christianity. She has searched her soul deeply and trusted God to make some of her most difficult life decisions for her.

Our relationship has included many theological discussions during more than 30 years of association. I know her heart and she knows mine. So I not take her gift of this book to me seriously.

So sat down to read it and this is how the book begins, with a chapter titled “The Day the Levees Broke.”

“The problem was not Katrina. 

The problem was that the levees broke. And, as a result, millions of tons of water inundated the City of New Orleans. When it was over, the city was practically destroyed and nearly 1000 people had died. If only the levees had been strong enough to hold back the water, New Orleans might have been able to survive the catastrophe.”

Perhaps to those unfamiliar with the history of resource abuse and strained attempts by the Army Corps of Engineers to provide safety for the City of New Orleans, those opening statements might seem sensible enough. Surely if the levees were strong enough, the logic goes, the water would not have gotten through.” 

katrina_maxsurgeBut here’s the rub. The strength of the levees was not the problem. The problem was instead manifold. For one thing, the storm surge caused by Katrina was the largest ever created by a tropical storm in the United States. A post on the site Weather Underground describes it this way.

Hurricane Katrina of 2005 produced the highest storm surge ever recorded on the U.S. coast–an astonishing 27.8 feet at Pass Christian, Mississippi. This bested the previous U.S. record of 22.8 feet, which also occurred at Pass Christian, during 1969’s Hurricane Camille. According to the NHC Katrina final report (PDF File), Hurricane Katrina brought a surge of 24 – 28 feet to a 20-mile stretch of Mississippi coast. Fully 90 miles of coast from eastern Louisiana to Alabama received a storm surge characteristic of a Category 3 hurricane. The colossal damage that resulted has been documented by blogger Margie Kieper during a series of blog posts that ran in the summer of 2006. The contents are reproduced here, and consist of an introduction explaining why the surge was so large, and 16 parts exploring the damage done to each stretch of the Gulf Coast ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

surge_smallSo it wasn’t the levees breaking that produced the flooding in New Orleans. It was the height of the storm surge from Katrina, which at some points was 18 feet higher than the tallest levee. A levee cannot stop water that overtops it that way.

Manmade problems

There were some cogent factors as to why the storm surge stayed so high once it reached shore. Over the past 70 years human engineering of the coastline has resulted in a drastic reduction of coastal wetland habitat and marshes that once served as a buffer for the region against coastal weather activity. Normally a large expanse of wetlands can absorb much of the energy of a storm surge and slow it down. That reduces the height of the water. No amount of levee building can replace these natural coastal systems. So again, it was not that the levees were not strong enough. It is the fact that human activity has undermined the natural balance of the coastal ecosystem.

The strength of the Katrina storm system might also be a product of human impact on the environment. For years climatologists have predicted a potential rise in the number of tropical storms and also a rise in their intensity. This would be a projected effect of global climate change and warming of the oceans. The heat exchange in warmer waters helps tropical storms intensify. The result can be larger storms and higher winds. That combination can produce higher storm surges.

Shallow assumptions = shallow conclusions

flemish-school-allegory-of-geometry-engraving-by-f-floris-16th-centurySo the assumptions Erwin W. Lutzer makes in beginning his book about worldviews and religious philosophy exhibit a shallowness in ideological framework. That is, he ignores too much reality in his opening allegory to have credence on the subjects he is about to address in his book. The flawed allegory demonstrates a brand of ideological thinking that ignores facts in favor of favored fictions.

This is a problem too seldom addressed in theological discussions. We all know that fundamental religious worldviews love to ignore science in favor of crediting everything on earth to the creative or destructive power of God. By using the paradigm of Katrina and blaming the flooding of New Orleans on the manmade levees, Mr. Lutzer exhibits the habitual credulity of so many conservative Christian thinkers. By focusing so strongly on the tenets of what he wants the levees to symbolize about the modern church and its so-called battle against the surge of Islamic foes in the world, he loses the ideological battle from the start.

Concerns for the church

It is bitterly ironic that Lutzer immediately goes on to complain that the Christian church is shrinking in America. “The church in the West has already felt the first stirrings of a storm directed against it, and without question the speed of the wind and the height of the waves will intensify as time moves on. The question is whether the church will have the strength and the courage to withstand the growing onslaught. The question is whether the levees will hold.”

Well Erwin, we’re glad you got your fears out there on the table. But your allegory does actually reveals the real problem with the shallowness of modern day fundamental Christianity.

A levee against a tidal wave of reason?

0708-06HanapepeLeveeHave you ever considered the real reasons why the church is weakening in America? Because the Moody Bible Institute (and Moody Radio) from which your views so proudly emanate is prone to promoting a version of Christianity that is both rigid and brittle. The inflexibly fundamental version of faith promoted by the Moody Bible Institute with its support for creationism as science and its intolerance of homosexuality and the Constitutional right to abortion in America are anachronistic at best and a warped and dismissive interpretation of scripture at its worst.

Modern day Pharisees and the Pope who calls them out

20130911cnsbr1564-1024x730Perhaps if conservative Christianity comes out of its doctrinal hole as Jesus warned the Pharisees to do during in his time on earth, then perhaps the faith would have an opportunity to actually breathe some spirit into society. At least Pope Francis of the Catholic Church seems to get this concept. His advocacy on behalf of science and social integration is thought leadership much overdue in this world.

Pope Francis nails the Moody Bible Institute to the wall with his statement that “laws that don’t lead to Jesus are obsolete.” And you can already hear the conservative instincts kicking in when modern day Pharisees hear such statements. “Well, you can’t lead a homosexual to Jesus if they won’t give up their lifestyle…” and such statements are right where the Moody-heads aim their sites when challenged to change their doctrine.

A tough read

And so it will be difficult indeed for me to read Erwin W. Lutzer’s book The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. if the introduction is any indication, its philosophy surely lurks beneath a cloud of fear and ostracism. These two methodologies seem to be held dear by conservative faith.

This is one Christian who prefers to breathe the clean air of progressive thought. Where science can be reconciled to faith. Where intolerance is not the first rule of order in the church. And where the bigger picture and natural events in this world are not consigned to doctrinal symbolism designed to scare believers into that weird zone of religious contrition and holy war.

The Genesis Fix.

The Genesis Fix.