Notes on election day

2 11 2010

I haven’t voted in twelve years. And even then, I’ve only voted once in my entire life, and that was back when I was an orthodox Trotskyist. I think I voted for the Peace and Freedom Party. I don’t intend on voting ever again.

Americans are some of the most naively credulous people on earth. When I was living in Argentina, it was the law that you HAD to vote on election day. And in spite of this, mass numbers of people still didn’t vote. Try telling an Argentine about elections and the “will of the people”, and she will probably laugh in your face. But in the United States, we somehow have a metaphysical duty to participate in “democracy”. I was a monk once, and it just seems to be a whole lot of watering the stick. “Just a few more election cycles, and we’ll get rid of abortion / poverty / bigotry / etc.”. If I were a “good American”, I would probably believe in that, just as I would believe in the tooth fairy, Bigfoot, and the power of the All-Holy Constitution to make the U.S. into a “shining city on a hill”.

I saw many times one particularly vicious anti-immigrant ad. I am trying to psychoanalyze this obsession with putting up a wall between the United States and Mexico. I have concluded that for the American consciousness, Mexico is the “symptom” of the United States. I think the foundational myth of the United States is that it really is a “city on a hill”: that is, it is separated from the rest of the world and would be better off if the rest of the world simply did not exist, or at the very least did what we tell them to do. We tend not to speak another language, and we are fairly ignorant about what happens outside of our borders.

While the existence of Canada is sort of a running joke in the American psyche, it is pretty hard to deny the existence of a three thousand mile border with a nation that speaks a different language, has a different culture, and, let’s face it, used to own a quarter of this country. Until about the Second World War, there was barely any sense of a border at all; it was pretty easy to cross, and my ancestors did it all the time. Now, they want to erect a wall (with what money?) to keep the drug smuggling immigrants out (who’s buying the drugs?) who steal our jobs (what jobs?) Why now? Is it because the United States feels the empire crumbling under its feet? At the time when the rest of the world sees the United States in decline, many of our fellow citizens want to put up a wall as a reflection of the paranoia of a dying empire. Yes, because our problems are all coming from the “outside” and have nothing to do with what we Americans do, or with the “American way” itself. The Other is the enemy.

Speaking of the “American way itself”, I thought this an interesting article:

In the midterm elections politicians have promised to “do something” for the middle class. The kindest thing they could do is tell the truth: Americans have been living a middle-class lifestyle on working-class wages – and bridging the gap with credit. And it’s over.

In a free-market society the real middle class is always a minority: if your street has a gate and a security camera at the end of it then you are middle class. A real middle-class kid can afford a college education, not a web-based degree. The real middle-class family does not skip meals or find its automobiles trapped in the repair shop because of unpaid bills.

And even in America, if you are standing in 90F heat, jostling with 30 other guys for a few hours’ work, it is the man in the station wagon curling his finger at you that is middle class – not you.

Like I said, Americans must be some of the most credulous people in the world. They would like to believe that the “middle class dream” since the Second World War is a birth right that could be sustained forever. They would like to believe that the politicians can do something about it if they just vote for the right ones. They would like to believe that you get ahead with hard work and just playing by the rules. I don’t believe any of that stuff, so I suppose that makes me a pretty rotten American. The day that they pass the law forcing me to vote in elections, I hope that it will still be legal to write in candidates. Because I would either write in Mickey Mouse or my cat. Tough decision.


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44 responses

6 11 2010
FrGregACCA

Bernie:

As to reverting to private correspondence, I’ll let Arturo make that call. But I need to make at least this one last comment in public.

Sir, I am a priest in a “vagante” Syraic Orthodox jursidiction. Aside from the occasional honorarium for a wedding or a funeral, I receive no renumeration for my ministry. None of our clergy do. Currently, I am unemployed in terms of secular work, have been so for a year. Living in South Carolina, I am receiving but a pittance in unemployment compensation, and my wife, also unemployed but receiving no unemployment, really needs to apply for disability, and I probably will shortly as well. Both of us have multiple serious health issues. We are currently “staying” with friends as we are, for all practical purposes, homeless, and have been for several months. I have spent my entire adult life (with the exception of maybe two years) among the ranks of the working poor.

Now, would you care to amend the comment above in which you compare me to the clueless in the story of the Good Samaritan?

6 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Fr. Greg (Father, bless!)

I suggest that if we speak or write further, we do so privately, so as not to disturb further the listening or reading audience.

My e-mail address is bfbrandt AT hotmail DOT com.

(I use these symbols to confuse the various bots that infest the web)

Let the reader understand.

6 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Fr. Greg: (Father, Bless!)

[NOTE: For the benefit of the reading audience, I generally try to begin all correspondence with priests by asking that they bless, because that is their job. More particularly, it is the job of a priest to bless. It is the job of a deacon to serve. And it is the job of a bishop to teach. If we had a common language (English, Spanish, Greek, or whatever), this would be obvious. And if we had bishops, priests, and deacons who actually did their jobs, it would be more obvious. It is a pity that we do not. But what else is new.]

‘Sooner than I think?’ For a paranoid like me, it could happen any day now. It may be happening now. It may have already happened. But as a wise man has said: ‘Just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you.’

‘It matters little to you?’ I quite agree with you that it could be complete catastrophe.

Great. You are some bitchin’ freaking Orthodox priest. And yet you saunter past as people are getting stomped. How nice. How proper. How like the priest and the levite when someone has gotten the living s**t beaten out of him. (Luke 10:25-37) Some compassion. Some help you are.

I’ve seen your kind before. That’s why I remain a Uniate.

Thank you so much for confirming my belief.

6 11 2010
FrGregACCA

“Now I could see a proto-fascist movement forming in the U.S. when the multinationals have outsourced jobs and incomes to the point where poverty and homelessness become endemic, rather than the epidemic they are becoming. Hungry and deprived people tend to carry on cranky, and look for a ‘leader’ to solve their problems for them. ”

Yup. And it may be sooner than you think. It matters little to me if it comes from left or right. The result will be the same: complete catastrophe.

In the meantime, I objectively do not accept that the large corporations and the ultra-rich have already won. Further, I acknowledge that much of the Tea Partiers’ anger is justified; however, it is tragically mis-directed.

6 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Oh, as regards outsourcing, you might want to look at this contribution from the mainstream media:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp=40034788&#40034788

Enjoy.

6 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

And I sincerely thank you for not indulging in use of the foul and totally inappropriate pejorative “tea-bagger”. I appreciate the high tone that has been kept by you, Fr. Greg, and the other commenters here. I shall do what I can to imitate it, if not to emulate it.

5 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

By the bye, sorry about the excess underlining. It should have stopped after pissed off.

5 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Fr. Greg:

Please allow me to let you in on a little secret: Big Government, Big Corporations, and the Ultra-Rich have ALREADY won. You know that military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about in the 1950s and people talked about in the 1960s? It has been consolidating its power for the last forty years. Why do you think that there are only seven media corporations which run most if not all of the entertainment which gets mislabled as news? Why do you think that the number of independent publishers has shrunk from several hundred to about three or four now?

And the multinational corporations who you say MAY avoid such trifles as Social Security taxes, the minimum wage, occupational safety regulations and environmental law? They’re ALREADY doing so. What do you think that NAFTA and the other multinational regulations were and are for? Can we say ‘outsourcing’, children? How about ‘Bhopal’?

And have you yet seen the causal connection between outsourcing of industrial and other jobs, and the poverty which U.S. workers are presently experiencing?

Now I could see a proto-fascist movement forming in the U.S. when the multinationals have outsourced jobs and incomes to the point where poverty and homelessness become endemic, rather than the epidemic they are becoming. Hungry and deprived people tend to carry on cranky, and look for a ‘leader’ to solve their problems for them.

But right now, I see a large populace of really pissed off, er, irritated people who are starting to organize against the evils which are already among us. They may not know what they are, yet. They may be firing in the wrong direction. They may even get played by the ‘big government’ people they are trying to oppose.

Yes, there is a war going on. But it is possible that you may not know who the combatants are, or who the real enemy is. You may find that by taking pot-shots at the TEA Partiers, you may be indulging in what you may later find to be ‘friendly fire’.

5 11 2010
FrGregACCA

There is a war going on, Bernard, and that war is for the control of the American government. If the Tea Partiers win, their corporate overlords win, and get to avoid nasty little things like Social Security taxes, the minimum wage, labor law and occupational safety regulations in general, and environmental law. Heck, they might not even have to serve people whose ethnicity they don’t like anymore. And guess what? The government would support all of this and enforce it. Remember how the NLRB behaved under Bush? It didnt’ just not enforce labor law, it actively undermined it. Remember Jim Crow laws in the South? The government wouldn’t just be neutral (that would be bad enough): the government would be unabashedly on the side of plutocracy and white supremacy.

As it stands now, the government is ambivalent, pulled between two poles, those of the people in general and those of the ultra rich and the big corporations. If the Tea Partiers win, the big corporations and the ultra rich, people like the Koch Brothers win, and yes, we would then have outright fascism. Thus, the term, “proto-fascist”.

You may think, like Tea Partiers do, that the answer is simply “less government”. Sorry, less government simply means more power to private entities which are accountable to no one. It’s not a question of less government. It’s a question of WHO is going to control the government.

5 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Fr. Greg (Father, bless!):

Thank you for your blessing.

I’m terribly afraid that THIS reader does not understand. Please explain your characterization of Tea Partiers as PROTO-fascists.

Your characterization does not seem to match the definition one can find, among other places, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism, other than its use as an epithet.

My understanding of the term ‘fascist’ as a descriptive term is that it is a radical, corporatist, and authoritarian political ideology. This is why, by the way, I refer to the current state of government in the United States as ‘corporate fascism’.

My understanding of the Tea Partiers, to the extent that they fit any profile, is that they are conservative, individualist, and libertarian. In short, they appear (at least to me) to be polar opposites to the fascist world view.

Of course, if you wish to define words as you will, that is your choice. I can call my cat a ‘dog’, but it still miaows, hisses, and is at the bottom of the obedience chain.

Thanking you in advance for your response, I am

Very truly yours,

Bernard Brandt

5 11 2010
SAF

Well said, Turmarion. I’m an old fan of your comments on Dreher’s blog, by the way. I wish I could believe that Bernard Brandt was the endlessly entertaining Roland de Chanson from those ‘ol days…

5 11 2010
FrGregACCA

God Who Is is blessed.

I stand by my characterization of the Tea Partiers as PROTO-fascists. Let the reader understand.

4 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Turmarion,

To be even more brief:

The word ‘supercilious’ comes from a latin expression meaning “with raised eyebrows’. Was I raising my eyebrows at you? Can such a ‘tone’ translate from the written word to visual expressions? Inquiring minds DO wish to know.

As regards the rest, after all of the verbiage, it would appear that you either can or will not enlighten us further as regards my supposed “untestable assumptions”. Pity. It would have made a lovely little war. [grin]

I must also say that while you can not read the mind of Christ, we can at least know something of what Our Lord has said. We are also bound to attempt to acquire that same mind which is in Christ. This comes, among other means, through meditating on His word. It’s at least worth a try.

That said, I would agree with you that there is not much point in much more back and forth here. We will simply agree to disagree.

4 11 2010
Turmarion

To be brief:

1. The supercilious tone is unnecessary.

2. I maintain that the New Testament implies no particular stance towards taxes or secular government and financial policy in general. For anyone who asserts otherwise, I’d want to see an in-depth, detailed analysis supporting their view.

3. Certainly neither capitalism nor socialism as we now conceive those terms even existed before the 18th Century, so we can’t really use Scripture or Tradition to argue for or against either. Once again, some may disagree, but I don’t think their arguments are robust (and I’ve read arguments on each side).

4. In my view, neither pro nor anti Tea Party forces (or anyone else, politically speaking) can claim that their political views are better representatives of Christ’s teaching. Political positions require political arguments, not religious ones. The Church is not the Republican or Democratic or Tea or Socialist Worker or Reform or any other party at prayer.

5. I could give an equally well-informed interpretation of that or any other logion if I felt like it; but the constraints of blog space and time, given work and family, make that a low priority. I’m sure each of us could line up any number of experts we felt like to support our view or to attack the other’s. Why bother? Short of an Ecumenical Council (for the Orthodox) or a Papal pronouncement (for the the Catholics), there is no definitive teaching as to the interpretation of this particular logion, nor of “preferred” economic policy in general. That, in my opinion, is as it should be. Your interpretation might be right; or mine might be; or we both might be wrong. It’s unlikely either will persuade the other, so pending said Council or pronouncement, why bother?

6. The untestable assumption is that the various factors you mention (most of which I’d more or less agree with, though the original form of Matthew is still hotly debated in scholarship circles, and you do qualify some of your statements–e.g., “is often used to mean….”) fit together the way you assume, that is, to imply that Jesus was opposing taxes in general, though he doesn’t say so. I don’t claim to have a connection to reading the Savior’s mind. It seems to me that the context is criticizing the materialism and worldliness of the Sadducee priesthood which are becoming like “kings of the earth”, and I think I could make a strong argument for that view. However, as I said, you’d presumably disagree, and I could be wrong anyway, since, see above, I can’t read Jesus’ mind, or the mind of Matthew, who recorded the story.

7. In any case, each of us is certainly entitled to his own opinion. Beyond this, I don’t see much point in any more back-and-forth–it doesn’t seem to be going in a useful or edifying direction.

4 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Turmarion (sorry for the mis-spelling earlier):

Ah, it looks as though the sniping has begun. How wonderful.

No, it seemed to me that you wanted a proof text. My apologies if I misunderstood. What I gave you instead was a logion, with what I thought was a well informed interpretation. I think it is sufficient to explain why I believe as I do about Jesus’ opinion of taxes, both Temple and Roman. If you wish to characterize what I have written as eisegesis, or reading into the text, then that is certainly your opinion, which I believe is still protected under the First Amendment.

On the other hand, if you would like to expatiate a bit as regards what you consider to be ‘untestable assumptions’, I think we could have a merry little logomachy here. Are you talking about the ‘assumption’ that Matthew had a Hebrew original which was soon translated into Greek? If so, it is an ‘assumption’ shared by both Holy Tradition and modern scholarship. Or are you talking about the ‘assumption’ that the greek word for ‘stranger’ is used in the Septuagint and the Greek NT often to mean ‘goy’ or ‘goyim’ in the Hebrew? If so, that is easily testable, and I believe the test would be in my favor. Or are you talking about the distinction that Our Lord makes in the Gospels between ‘sons’ or ‘children’ and ‘strangers’? That is found, among other places, in the interchange He makes with the Syro-Phonecian woman. To which of my ‘untestable assumptions’ do you refer?

I believe that there is an expression from the game of poker (and betting in general) which is applicable here: “Put up or shut up.”

Finally, my apologies if you took personally the comment regarding those who do not vote. I had intended it for those writing who were taking pride in the fact that they had not made use of their franchise to vote. Personally, though, I find it a waste of time and energy to take offense at statements not directed toward me.

4 11 2010
Turmarion

One, I asked for documentation, not a proof text, if you read what I actually said. Not the same thing.

Two, I’m quite well aware of the recentness of the chapter-verse division. Should I have said, “Somewhere in the Gospels Jesus said”? One doesn’t have to be Protestant (which I’m not) or a proof-texter (which I’m also not) to A. find the chapter-verse divisions useful in giving a citation and B. realize that on a blog post, one can’t do an in-depth theological exposition. If what I say sounds like proof-texting, then either I’ve poorly represented my view, or you’ve misinterpreted it.

I didn’t quote the entire Temple tax story, but your exegesis (which seems to me perilously close to eisegesis) doesn’t strike me as any more probable than mine. It seems to me that your interpretation is a bit strained and makes a lot of untestable assumptions.

In any case, if you really want to understand Scripture, you have to look at the broad context, beyond proof-texts, even beyond stories. Out of the entire Gospels, only in the Temple tax and “render unto Caesar” episodes does Jesus even mention taxes; by a fair reading, in neither of these does he give a clear pro or anti tax view, at least regarding secular taxes; and in many, many contexts Jesus actually refuses to get involved in secular and economic issues altogether (e.g. the man who asked Jesus to decide the inheritance between him and his brother; those who tried to make him king; the parable of the dishonest steward in which he says the children of this world are adept at money, not the children of light; his statement that the world will hate the disciples because they are not of the world; and so on. I don’t wish to be proof-texting or doing new-fangled verse stuff so I omit the citiations; but I can provide them, if desired!).

Moreover, looking at the New Testament altogether, there is almost no discussion of secular politics at all, let alone taxes, save the passages from Paul I gave, where he says to pay them.

On issues like this, people tend to interpret the Bible in terms of their own political or ideological biases and preferences. One could probably line up equal numbers of experts on either side of a given interpretation. That, however, is playing the Devil’s game. Jesus clearly said his kingdom is “not of this world”. You’re right to say we have to look not at “what Jesus would do” but what he’d have us do; but frankly, I don’t think he would have us be too concerned about the secular order at all. In other words, I don’t think he’d necessarily have us prefer a democracy to a monarchy, Labour to Tories, laissez-faire capitalism to socialism, etc. What he would have us do is feed the hungry, clothe the naked, preach the Good News, etc. How best to do this varies from culture to culture, society to society, context to context, and trying to wrench it into a political program does violence to the Gospel, in my view.

By the way, people should not make assumptions about others whom they don’t know. I do vote and have participated in party caucuses and events, “represented” myself, have supported various political actions, etc. When I say that politics is the Devil’s game, that means I think it is intrinsically corrupt and can easily make us believe that we can come up with a program to immanentize the eschaton, when that will never happen. The eschaton will get here in God’s good sweet time, and we delude ourselves if we think otherwise. Meanwhile, politics is a necessary evil, and we should avoid justifying or supporting it by our theology, as far as possible.

4 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

My apologies, but in anticipating the sniping that is likely to ensue, I am taking the liberty of laying down a line of rational firing power in advance.

Thus, I suppose that as there is such a thing as the First Amendment, one has the right to kvetch at whatever one wishes, however foolish it may be.

Nonetheless, I am tempted to apply the expression in mock Italian that a number of people made soon after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae: “You no play-a the game, you no make-a the rules.”

I will do all I can to resist the temptation.

And as regards making use of ‘proof texts’ to justify particular view points, I think it more appropriate to think through the teachings of our Lord, with attention to the contexts in which they were taught, and to see whether they might be applicable to the present situation. By this, I am not repeating the regrettable trope: What would Jesus do?, but instead, I think it more reasonable to ask this question:

What would Jesus have us do?

4 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Tumarion:

Ah, you want a proof text. How quaint. How protestant.

As I recall, however, it was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langdon, who divided the scriptures into chapters, some time in the 13th Century. And it was another Stephen, Robert Stephanus, who divided it into verses in the 16th Century. Some time I will point this out to those who quote chapter and verse, and say that this was a human tradition (and to perhaps point out that this is one tradition which often makes VOID the word of God, by taking things out of context.)

But I prefer to take my Scripture by the stories it tells, rather than verses. If one goes to the text in Matthew marked by Matt 17:24-27, one will find this lovely little logion:

When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

Now if one reads the whole of this beautiful little story (and not just parts of it), one finds that it begins with the taxmen coming and asking Peter whether Jesus, “The Master”, pays the Temple tax. The most probable subtext is that the Temple taxmen were trying to figure out some way of getting our Lord in trouble. Peter covered for Him, and said, “Yes”, so as to avoid that particular fracas. But when Peter came to Christ, it appeared that He already knew what was afoot. In ‘a teachable moment’, Christ posed a simple and a rabbinic question: from whom do the rulers of the earth impose taxes: on their sons, or on strangers? Peter, the inveterate straightman, answers: from strangers, of course. And Our Lord answers with His Divine punchline: the sons therefore are free.

I suspect that since this was an interchange between our Lord (who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, among other languages, including Greek and Latin) and Peter, a religious Jew from Nazareth, the language used was probably Aramaic with Hebrew background. The word for ‘strangers’ was thus likely ‘goyim’. And I think it more than likely that when Our Lord spoke of ‘sons’, he was referring to ha-Barim Mitzvot: the sons of the commandments, or more generally, the Jews.

In that context, I believe that what our Lord was saying here, in a Rabbinic jest, is that the ‘sons of the commandment’ were thus free both of the Temple tax and of the Roman tax as well.

Nonetheless, as our Lord not only has a sense of humor, but is also wise, He gave the addendum that ‘lest we offend them’, let’s pull a little miracle here, and have a fish provide the temple tax for both Christ and Peter.

I think that the above is sufficient to explain why I believe that Our Lord thought that taxes imposed upon His People (which by extension, includes us) are inappropriate. And it is also sufficient to explain why it is generally a good idea to pay them anyway.

But, since we also live in a country in which those who vote (and those who otherwise represent themselves) have a say in how this country is run, I think that those who are not willing to vote nor to represent themselves in our government have no right to kvetch about those of us who do.

Again, Tumarion, I am always happy to clear up these little misunderstandings.

4 11 2010
sortacatholic

I don’t vote because I’m a fatalist.

I’m waiting on the Christian Fundamentalist “Republic” of the Untied States.

I predict this is going to happen:

Palin, Huckabee, or similar is going to win in 2012.

Secular people are going to have to put up with four+ years of evangelical dreck.

Fundies always cry for fascism. Then they realized that they’re just as repressed as before. Now, the repression isn’t economy but moral hypocrisy.

Not much to look forward to, methinks.

4 11 2010
Turmarion

I didn’t allege that Christ was pro- or anti- tax. The rabble accused him of rejecting Roman taxes, but the context makes it clear that it’s one of a series of false or trumped-up or distorted accusations. Christ seems to have opposed the Temple tax on the grounds that it was inhibiting access to the Temple. Note he says, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” (NRSV)

This implies two things: One, the Temple authorities are acting like “kings of the earth” rather than spiritual guides. Two, he doesn’t seem to criticize in principle the idea that kings should take tribute “from others”–which is exactly what the Romans were doing!

Mind, I’m not saying Jesus was pro-tax. I’m saying that short direct revelation or an Ecumenical Council pronouncing definitively on it, the Bible doesn’t really tell us what Jesus thought about taxation.

As to Paul, I think it’s fair to say that from his perspective no obedience to temporal authorities is unqualified, regarding taxes or anything else. As you say though, who’s to say what one “owes”?

The point is I think that it is pernicious to try to use proof-texts from Scripture, which was written in radically different political, social, and economic conditions, to make any specific recommendations about governmental policy. You might as well use the description of the early Church in Acts to argue that we should all be socialists (which is actually more strongly attested than Jesus’ thoughts on tax policy)! Yes, our faith informs our commitments, but all political, economic, and temporal commitments, liberal or conservative, pro or anti tax, etc., are always provisional.

Consider the Temptation in the Wilderness, where Jesus does not deny Satan’s assertion that all the nations of the world are his, or the reference to Satan as the “prince of this world” in John 14:30. I think one can make a strong case that all political power, Jewish or Roman, Republican or Democrat, Tea Party or anti-Tea Party, left or right, is at least partly diabolical. We have to obey our leaders in general, since there has to be order, and ultimately God is in control; but the local party chief on this planet has horns and a pitchfork (metaphorically) regardless of the signs in the window.

As to Rome, by the standards of most modern Americans, it was certainly totalitarian–especially if one was a non-citizen. The point was that if Paul could commend obedience to a nation that literally murdered him and thousands of other Christians, how does one get off implying that our country, for all its flaws, is a totalitarian state? People on the left and the right have both been saying this when the other side was in office for the last ten years, and it’s appalling, disgusting, and dangerous. Talk like that leads to violence and ugliness, and is unworthy of anyone who claims to follow Christ. Yes, we must have our political affiliations and our proximate goals; but as the Apostle reminds us, all this is passing away, and we have to keep our true priorities straight.

4 11 2010
Visibilium

From your own coverage, it sounds as if Christ’s alleged pro-tax position wasn’t unqualified, and I’m not sure that Paul’s admonitions were likewise unqualified. He said to pay what was owed. Who determines what is owed? Interpretation is why we have Bishops, and mine doesn’t think that totalitarianism, even state/church totalitarianism, worked out too well. Still, Rome was hardly a totalitarian state, since Paul himself was a Roman citizen entitled to certain rights, if you remember the story about his imprisonment.

4 11 2010
Turmarion

The last comment was mine–sorry I didn’t get my handle in. I don’t intentionally do the Anonymous thing!

4 11 2010
Anonymous

Berndard Brandt: [A}s I also recall, Christ thought [the Jews] were justifiably [peeved at being taxed by the Romans]….

I would respectfully challenge you to document this. The only times Jesus mentions taxes are in Matt 17:24-27, where he criticizes the Temple tax levied by the Jewish authorities themselves for access to the Temple; and in the famous passage in Matthew 22:15-22 in which he says, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”–not a ringing denuciation of paying taxes!

Admittedly, in Luke 23:1, the crowds accuse Jesus of opposing paying taxes to Caesar, but this is in the context of the rabble flinging random accusations at him (also see the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke, in which it is clear that many brought “false accusations” against him). Thus, I have to say I see no basis for your claim.

Also, I’d direct you to Romans 13:5-7: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (NIV)

I might point out that the government which Paul admonishes people to obey and respect actually was a totalitarian state–to use such language of our government, however much one might disagree with it, sounds like–well, name-calling.

People may have varying opinons on the Tea Party phenomenon (I make it no secret that I hold no brief at all for it), but trying to use Scripture to argue for (or against) it, especially in a sweeping and non-cited manner, is in my view totally inappropriate. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, after all.

3 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Dear Fr. Greg (Father, Bless!):

While I would not normally wish to correct a priest, I believe that the namecalling which you just indulged in is uncharitable, unchristian, and inaccurate.

It is uncharitable, because generally to call people names is something one seldom sees done in love.

It is unchristian, because it is in violation of our Lord’s counsel against name calling. Matthew 5:22.

And it is inaccurate, because the “TEA Party” is an acronym, with the “TEA” meaning “Taxed Enough Already?” As I recall, the Jews in Roman times were rather peeved (and as I also recall, Christ thought they were justifiably so) at being taxed by the Romans at a rate of 10% of one’s income.

Anyone making any money these days is being taxed at a considerably higher rate than 10%. Heck, I have to pay that just in sales tax in California every day.

I do not think that one can honestly characterize someone who thinks they are paying too much in taxes as “proto-fascist’. Rather, I think that that title could be far more accurately applied to the sort of people who wish to assess such taxes as we have now. You know, totalitarian government types who wish to regulate people’s lives. That sort of thing.

Always happy to clear up these little misunderstandings.

3 11 2010
FrGregACCA

Proto-fascist.

3 11 2010
Visibilium

I’m fine with the Tea Party. Congratulate me.

3 11 2010
jacobus

“For Americans, then, has the act of voting become a type of secular liturgy (theurgy?) by which we are made better people simply through taking part in the process?”

Yes. Where I live, you can’t sell alcohol on Sunday, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and…. Election Day. Can’t be polluted by demon rum while participating in the great feasts of Protestantized Democracy.

3 11 2010
FrGregACCA

I’m in recovery from Maoist, but tonight, the Leninist option is extremely tempting.

How long, O Lord? How frigging long?

3 11 2010
The Western Confucian

I always vote third party. Yesterday, I split between the Libertarian, Green, and Working Families parties. In ’88, the first time I voted, I split between the Workers’ World and Right to Life parties.

Some American Catholics will tell me I committed a mortal sin, because none of these parties pretend to be against abortion, as does the Republican Party, God’s Own Party (except the now-defunct Right to Life Party, which wasn’t pretending).

Speaking of vicious anti-immigrant ads, the worst I ever saw was back in ’93, aired by the current president of Chile against Peruvians.

2 11 2010
Christopher

Amen, A.V., amen.

2 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

I wrote the last entry before I noted the YouTube link. I watched it. Oh. My. God.

Looks like someone landed on Planet Moron there.

Returning, however, to the matter at hand, I wish that our current president were economically literate enough to understand the thought of John Maynard Keynes, the critiques of Keynes’ theories by Friedman and others, and had come to a more refined synthesis dealing with the problems inherent in Keynes analysis.

It would be a damned sight better than what we have at present, which appears to be that of an ex-lawyer trying to channel the charisma and do-goodery of Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood. What he appears to have turned out to be instead is Monty Python’s Dennis Moore.

For further information as regards what I mean, try this:

http://www.metrolyrics.com/dennis-moore-lyrics-monty-python.html

2 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Keynsian? I wish.

2 11 2010
JS Allen

Yes, I’m seeing more of this religiosity this year — “No matter who you vote for; just vote!”. As if voting while idiotic is a virtue.

The ignorance seems evenly distributed this year, though, so maybe they’ll all cancel each other out. Did you see this one: Obama = Keynsian ?

2 11 2010
Bernard Brandt

Being a bit to the right of Attila the Hun politically myself, I will observe that the current political scene is precisely what happens when you give foolish and ignorant people the vote. But then, both Plato and Aristotle warned of the excesses of democracy, just as they did those of tyranny and oligarchy.

While it appears likely that what will be happening in California (where I live) will be the triumph of the hacks (Boxer and Brown) over the whores (Fiorina and Whitman), I shall be nonetheless voting for the latter rather than the former: whores at least give some value in return for paying them; hacks never do.

2 11 2010
Henry Karlson

I’m a Tsarist from the Byzantine (Ruthenian) tradition. There are many of us. And so, no, I am not anti-Catholic, or anti-Roman Catholic. Being a Tsarist doesn’t have to mean one agrees with the Russian biases.

2 11 2010
synLeszka

I hope that does not mean that you propagate the Tsarist belief that it is better to be a dog, whore or street urchin than a Roman Catholic.

2 11 2010
M.Z.

As one of the Americans who saw his unemployment benefit ripped away by Republicans in a cheap political stunt, I have no difficulty seeing how government affects me. Having children has impeded my ability to just roll with the changes. While it is certainly true that one vote doesn’t make a difference, mass indifference does make a difference. It leaves our governance to an elite that for all unpractical purposes is unaccountable to the indifferent. Certainly one could claim that this the same as it ever was, but for I for one am taking solace this year that I have at least registered some protest against the elite who are destroying this country.

2 11 2010
Huw Raphael

I’ve been told that our “participatory democracy” is “What makes America great”. I don’t get that. I’ve also been told that if “we” don’t vote, “they” will win.

*sigh*

To be honest I was more excited about the Giants winning last night. Tomorrow we will have a parade. I elect to participate in *this* circus rather than in the political one.

And I still need a job.

2 11 2010
Turmarion

Your cat has my vote, too! Cats (and cat-lovers) of the world unite! 😉

2 11 2010
Henry Karlson

Well, people know, I’m Tsarist. I have my Romanov Dynasty poster in my bedroom.

2 11 2010
Bourbon Apocalypse: A Whiskey Son of Sorrow

Listening to a Christian radio host tell listeners that the most important act one can do on election day is vote–regardless of one’s ideological stance–has me thinking: For Americans, then, has the act of voting become a type of secular liturgy (theurgy?) by which we are made better people simply through taking part in the process?

As for democracy, my vote goes with this quote: “Syphilis makes the whole world kin. And if you want to lose your eyesight, you can do it in this great democracy as well as anywhere on earth.” ~Thomas Wolfe

2 11 2010
Robert

I always find a lot of historical similarities between the plight of Mexicans in America and that of Poland in Eastern Europe. White Americans tend to view Mexicans the same way the Germans (And Russian, to a certain extent) View the Poles. Both people are seen as a great mass of illiterate, superstitious, and oversexed slave labor by their antagonistic neighbors. Just as the Poles were subject to brutal oppression and attempts at cultural assimilation by Germany, so the US tries similar, yet not as severe ways of treating her Mexican population. I guess you can say that Poles are the Mexicans of Eastern Europe and have been historically subjected to the same time of treatment as Hispanics have over here.

A lot of this anti Mexican sentiment isn’t new to Americans, just as Anti Polish sentiment isn’t something recent among Germans. It’s a deep rooted in a particular culture to have such a low view of another. Things may get better for the oppressed group over time, but it’s hard to kill one society pre conceived notions of its own superiority over another, especially if they have been promoted by that society for centuries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Polish_sentiment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanisation_of_Posen

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Eastern_Marches_Society

2 11 2010
Leah

If I say I don’t want to vote, I get guilt-tripped into it by being told how scores of people (i.e., Civil Rights protesters) died so I would be able to vote. Given the choices available, it seems sometimes like they died in vain.

2 11 2010
+Wulfila

I’d vote for your cat, especially if he or she had campaign photos posted on this blog!

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