Posts Tagged ‘Rich’
Analysis of voter presidential choice from two large surveys of voter choice and personal characteristics—from family income to race, gender and religious identity—allowed sociology professor, Thomas Hirschl, and statistics professor, James Booth, to identify the degree of polarization and its source in the population.
Hirschl said that upper income white Protestants, who believe the Bible is the literal word of God, have more than doubled their odds of voting Republican—from 2.7 GOP voters for every one Democratic voter in this group in 1980, to 6.1 for every one in 2008. Conversely, secularly minded, upper income white Protestants reversed their partisan preference, from 1.9 to 1 in favor of the Republican Party in 1980, to 2.2 to 1 in favor of the Democratics in 2008. A similar but nut less pronounced split happened among upper income white Catholics, albeit evident only in households that had a total income greater than $75,000 (2009) per year. Hirschl added:
There was no comparable trend among lower income white Protestants or Catholics. African-Americans remained loyal Democratic voters throughout the 28 year study period, regardless of their religious identity.
This study of three decades of voter choice has shown that the influence of religion on voter choice among upper income white Protestants and Catholics intensified in the years between the elections of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Barack Obama in 2008. It suggests that religious identity strongly motivates upper income white voters, but not African-Americans or lower income whites. Poor people are less concerned with religion and politics that the richer middle classes, remaining more loyal to the Democratic party as the party of economic reform.
The trouble is that the graphs shown here suggest that when poor people get even quite marginally better off they think they are rich, and a fair proportion of them start to vote, though they might not have before, and start to vote Republican. It ought not to require any great intelligence to see that very many so called “middle class” voters are actually poor, and fool no one but themselves by pretending they are on a par with Mitt Romney. The GOP has no inclination to wake them up while they are dreaming the American Dream.
Prominent historian, Christopher Hill (The World Turned Upside Down, 1975), reports the words of a Leveller in Chelmsford, which show that English workers at the time of the English Revolution, around 1650, considered the Bible to have been a working man’s political, even revolutionary, handbook! The Levellers believed in the sovereignty of the people, were committed to religious toleration and wanted democratic control of the army through representatives called “Agitators”. He wrote:
The relation of master and servant has no ground in the New Testament. In Christ there is neither bond nor free. Ranks such as those of the peerage and gentry are ethnical and heathenish distinctions. There is no ground in nature or scripture why one man should have £1,000 per annum, another not a pound. The common people have been kept under blindness and ignorance and have remained servants and slaves to the nobility and gentry. But God hath now opened their eyes and discovered unto them their Christian liberty.
Sadly, now God has closed the eyes of millions of US Protestants, who think that the bible, far from favoring the poor, favors the megarich, while the poor deserve to be abandoned economically if not and physically mistreated—and so they vote Republican. The contrast between the actual practical morals of Christ, and this US version of Christianity, championing people abuse and oppression, has largely been brought about by right wing political schemers calling themselves pastors, for their own gain, and to confuse and disarm the poor. It has been done by telling believers:
- they need to interpret the bible in an absurdly complicated way for it to be read as inerrant, which they teach it necessarily is because it is God’s own work, and God cannot be wrong, and so it has to be read the way the pastors say!
- to direct their attention to Paul and away from Christ because the Jesus Christ of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, is perfectly easy to understand, and very pointedly favors the poor, whereas Paul is much more confused and confusing, so suits the obfuscating vicars and ministers all the more.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ blessed the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers, and offered no blessings at all for the rich in spirit, the arrogant, the cruel and the troublemakers. To be blessed meant to be made holy so that they would be guided by God into His kingdom. It could not be plainer that Jesus favored the poor to the exclusion of the rich. Indeed, Christ tells a rich man he has to give his wealth to the poor to be saved. So riches are no blessing, rather they are the way that those who are not blessed betray their greedy cruel natures to the world at large.
“Blessed are the Poor” is not…
”Blessed are the Rich!”
Having read the gospel message of the active life of Christ, just how can American billionaire Republicans and their kin here in the UK succeed in fooling everyone that they can be Christians at all? Yet they pass off the message that the capitalist dog-eat-dog system of treating people as objects for exploitation is compatible with Christ’s teaching of treating people as objects of kindness and love. Nothing seems so easy as the ease by which the rich perpetually fool the poor into believing what is utterly against their best interests, including the nature of Christianity.
David Cameron, British Tory Prime Minister, in a speech to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, said, “Britain is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so”, thereby proving that he either hasn’t a clue about what Britain is like outside his own narrow circle of rich boys, or he is trying to get Britain to go the way of the US, trying to foment sectarian squabbling to detract attention from the greed of his own class and the incompetence of his own government.
Lecturing Church of England clergy in Oxford, he claimed that Britain is in a “moral collapse” requiring a “return to Christian values” and condemned “passive tolerance” of immoral behaviour, in, for example, the summer riots, Islamic extremism, City excess and Westminster scandals. Well the balance here is admirably fair, but what about his own response. He’s been the ruler of the UK for the last two years, and, even if his knowledge of working people’s lives is negligible, he ought to have the knowledge and the power to sort out his own lot, the banking and financial sectors and the feeble opportunists who become MPs these days for their own aggrandizement and not through any idea of community service.
Cameron argues that the King James translation of the Bible is responsible for much of the English we have used in the last 400 years, something that few would disagree with, although its influence was forced home through periods of intense Protestant sectarianism, and the witch hunts, leaving people with little choice but to toe the line and be devout little Calvinists, Anglicans or Methodists, or suffer unpleasant consequences. Besides that, he thinks our politics have been steeped in the bible too. Well certainly all that Protestant intoleration and indoctrination shaped the growth of capitalism, and the British Parliamentary system, but it takes quite a bit of one-eyedness to see how this springs from the teaching of Christ—it being almost diametrically opposite to his teaching—although material wealth, and by implication greed, is deemed as God given in the Jewish religion from which Christianity emerged. Even so, rich Jews had a sacred duty to leave something for the poor. But those like Philip Green, the chain store owner—along with his wife who lives in the tax haven of Monaco, accumulators of around £4 billion—considers his duty to be to evade the payment of around £200 million a year to the British exchequer. And is Cameron’s fondness for invading Arab countries anything to do with morality, or just greed driven opportunism like that of his predecessor, Tony Blair?
Cameron pleads that he is not attacking members of other religions—and none—by claiming Britain is a Christian country, but merely that “the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today”. It would take a clever man to be able to say which parts of the bible have had the dominant effect on anyone’s morals in the last 400 years. The Christian bible, supposedly centred on the person of Christ, considered by Christians to have been God incarnate, teaches that the poor are blessed and the rich have as much chance as a camel getting through the eye of a needle of entering into God’s presence. Instead they have always taught the same pseudo-mystery as the ancient dying and rising gods like Adonis and Attis—merely by dying and rising up again, we are saved from future death, just as the world renovates itself from death every year.
So Pauline Christianity requires no morals at all. Salvation is assured by faith in the myth. Christ required Christians to be moral. He explicitly tells the rich that they cannot remain rich and be saved. The whole purpose of Christian life is service of other people. That is what we should all do—it is the purpose of society—and not waste our talents on exploiting those who are less fortunate and less talented than us, for personal gain. It is something that Cameron, if he chose, could give a lead on. Ha! That is not the morality he means. He is coming from the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures, which demanded obedience of the law. That is Christianity to him, and it is selectively applied—it applies to poor jobless rioters, but not to bloated financiers who do nothing useful but electronically shipping junk bonds hither and thither, getting bonuses for every pointless criminal transaction.
Cameron thinks faith is neither a “necessary nor sufficient condition for morality”but could be a “helpful prod in the right direction”. That might be so as long as he knows what the right direction is, but he evidently does not know it, or he does not know the direction indicated by the God of the Christians, though he professes to be one. Cameron continues:
Whether you look at the riots last summer, the financial crash and the expenses scandal, or the ongoing terrorist threat from Islamist extremists around the world, one thing is clear—moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
The absence of any real accountability, or moral code, allowed some bankers and politicians to behave with scant regard for the rest of society. And when it comes to fighting violent extremism, the almost fearful passive tolerance of religious extremism that has allowed segregated communities to behave in ways that run completely counter to our values has not contained that extremism but allowed it to grow and prosper.
At first glance, it looks deceptively fair, but again, the buck stops with him—he is the one to whom everyone is accountable in a modern secular society. He as leader of the Queen’s government has had the authority to act where his newly promoted moral stance could have an obvious effect, in the city of London, and in taxing the rich proportionately to their wealth so that “we are indeed all in it together” as leaders like him keep chanting, and redistributing the money in this manner in the tried and tested way—by stimulating the base of the economy, creating jobs in essential public works as J M Keynes showed.
If his audience are to be willing to distinguish right from wrong, then he should show them that he can, by rectifying the imbalance of wealth in the country. He has no intention of doing any such thing. While showboating about not agreeing with the Euro Zone countries, he continues supporting city bankers and his own bloated capitalist interests, glorying in the praise of the media barons whose sole purpose is to confuse and indoctrinate the ordinary person.
Needless to say, despite his new found interest in the value of Christianity to Britain, he was less insistent about its place in his personal life. He admitted to the flock of CofE shepherds he was a “committed but vaguely practising Church of England Christian” who, while he would stand up for the values and principles of his faith, was “full of doubts and, like many, constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues”. He means that he is not going to accept the codswallop of heaven and hell, and therefore has no worries about his failure to practice what the incarnated Christian God taught, except vaguely, of course.
The less educated are disappearing from the American religious sector, as well as disappearing from the American labor market.
Over the past 40 years, wages have fallen and rates of unemployment have risen markedly for moderately educated men, while wages have remained stagnant for moderately educated women. During the same period, the moderately educated have become less likely to hold family centered beliefs and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college educated adults. For the least educated, those without high school degrees, the economic situation has been worse, and they have also become less likely to hold family centered beliefs, and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college educated adults.
Simultaneously, religious service attendance has decreased for all white Americans since the early 1970s, but the decline has been more than twice that of those without college degrees compared with those who graduated from college, according to new research by W Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia based on data from the General Social Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth. Americans with higher incomes attend religious services more often, and those who have experienced unemployment at some point over the past 10 years attend less often. Wilcox said:
Today, the market and the state provide less financial security to the less educated than they once did, and this is particularly true for the moderately educated—those who have high school degrees, but didn’t graduate from a 4-year college. Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less educated Americans can turn to for social, economic, and emotional support in the face of today’s tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so.
Modern religious institutions promote a family centered morality that values marriage and parenthood, and they embrace traditional middle class virtues such as self control, delayed gratification, and a focus on education. But the study finds that those who are married, especially if they have children, those who hold more conservative views toward premarital sex, and those who lost their virginity later than their peers, attend religious services more frequently. It makes sense that less educated whites, who are now less likely to be stably employed, to earn a decent income, to be married with children, and to hold family centered views, also do not attend as often services at religious institutions that continue to uphold conventional norms.
At PhysOrg.com, a commentator had a blunter explanation. People don’t go to church because they realize the organizations are corrupt, and in no way reflect the teachings or practices of Jesus or the early church. Churches in America have become nothing more than a Ponzi scheme to make pastors wealthy at everyone else’s expense. It isn’t about doing good for other people either, for many of them. The poor are writing off the churches because they support the system that oppresses them despite the plain contradiction of economic exploitation by Jesus.
In the Washington Post thread devoted to the economic nature of Christ’s teaching, one of the pro-capitalist Christians argued that Jesus was opposed to the redistribution of wealth on the grounds that in Luke 12:13-21 one of the multitude he was addressing said to him:
Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully, and he thought, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he decided, This will I do, I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
To make an anti-egalitarian point the greedy Christian typically extends the parable, after all they all know God’s brain, don’t they? and adds:
Mind you, here was a guy who got nothing, and his brother got everything… doesn’t seem “fair” or “socially just”, right, Libs?
Well contrary to these puerile attempts to denigrate “libs”—anyone vaguely humanitarian—most libs will wonder how this omniscient right winger can presume that this man had “been screwed in this deal”. How does he know the social circumstances or character of the man or his father? Maybe the father had given the inheritance to his most reliable son. Maybe the man’s father had cut him out of the will because he was a drunkard and a gambler. There are no reasons in the story to suggest that the man deserved better, but the point of the tale is that the man is not being “poor in spirit” by coveting his brother’s inheritance. Jesus was sticking to his own principle of the spiritual benefit of poverty. The capitalist continues:
Finally, Jesus finishes with a warning, not to the “rich” brother that received the inheritance, but to the brother that received nothing, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses”.
Does this capitalist apologist for bent Christianity know what we do not, that the rich brother was standing there? Jesus replied to the one who had addressed him, as anyone would. He was concerned that he was or would become greedy, for that is the result of wealth. The more you have, the more you want, but a society has only so much wealth and, when it is not shared fairly, the usual case, someone will be rich at the expense of others. Typically, the Christian so-called who really worships Mammon not Christ ends:
I’ve no doubt, that in response to the demanders of reparations for black people, to the demanders of social justice, to the demanders of taxing the rich more to give to the poor, to the union protesters demanding to get paid more for doing less work, that Jesus’s response to them would be, “beware of covetousness”.
Perhaps so, but no one knows the answer to hypotheticals. What we are sure of is that the Christian community believed in fair, indeed equal, distribution of possessions, and the only reason the life of Christ and of his apostles is given in the New Testament is so that they can be examples to Christians. If the only point of Christ’s life were his crucifixion, then the rest of his recorded ministry is a waste of time and effort, and shows that the Holy Spirit is stupid. The gospels tell us that the first Christians lived thus because that is the way Christians were expected to live, and subsequently, when mainstream Christianity had gone bent, many tried to live according to Christ’s principles in their own communes based on the original one described and Christ’s egalitarian moral principles.
The word translated as “covetousness” here, and in some other places, is better translated as “avarice”, being “grasping” or “greedy”. There is a marked distinction between the poor expecting society to treat them more fairly and the wealthy middle and upper classes who can never be satisfied however much they acquire—another translation is “acquisitiveness”. So, “take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” is another condemnation of rich men. No one needs riches. It is pure greed to have them, so riches are necessarily sinful, implying that others are doing without. And why leave out the illustrative parable that followed, and is cited above.
A rich man cannot be “rich towards God”. He cannot be saved because his riches mean more to him than the kingdom of God. And the clear implication is, of course, that this man thought he could be eating and drinking for years to come without a worry, yet the poor would be scratching around for a bruised fig when a fair sharing of the produce would eliminate hunger.
Socialism is fairness, not avarice. Should any decent human being prefer avarice? It seems Jesus did not think so.
In the discussion in The Washington Post following the items about whether Christianity is intrinsically socialist or capitalist in morality, mentioned below, the modern US capitalist oriented Christians so-called were flummoxed by the directness of their incarnated God’s message, and mostly turned to the Jewish scriptures or to Paul the Apostle for answers. They never seem to see any incongruity in citing pre-Christian Judaism against the direct words of God recorded as they fell from His own lips in the gospels, or the later teachings of a plain man trying his utmost to teach something quite different, while pretending to be preaching the same message as Christ, and succeeding so well that modern Christianity is Paulianity not Christianity!
Some of Jesus’s examples brook no opposition they are so lucid. That anyone should be bold enough to question anything so unequivocal, uttered from the lips of the man they are supposed to consider God, proves that they are not Christians. They are happy to contradict the clearest statements of the divine man! How can this one, for example, be contradicted by America’s megarich “Christians”?
Someone came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.Matthew 19:17-24
Since US Christians cannot understand biblical English, here is a step by step explanation:
- The man is seeking salvation, eternal life, entry into God’s kingdom
- Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments, listing the principal ones from the Jewish scriptures, but adding his own commandment which encompasses all others, “love thy neighbor as thyself”
- The man considers himself a law abiding Jew and has obeyed all the commandments since he was a boy, and asks whether that is sufficient
- To be saved people have to be near enough to perfection to satisfy the Judge, God, at Judgement day, so Jesus tells him that he has to give away his wealth to the poor, and become a Christian, thereby being saved—he would have “treasure in heaven”, eternal bliss
- The reward offered to those who are do these things is salvation, but the man prefers his gold.
- He leaves sorrowful, but unable to forego his material riches for eternal happiness
- Jesus explains how hard it is to get into heaven when you are rich—he says it is impossible because a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle.
One commentator confidently proclaimed that this is not the whole story for Peter and the other disciples wonder how anyone can be saved if the rich cannot be. The gospels always show the apostles as being utterly devoid of brain cells, they are so lacking in comprehension. It is a deliberate device of the bishops who commissioned the gospels, because, if they were really so thick, then Jesus must have been thick to select them. Here they are depicted as thick to allow the bishops to be able to insert an ameliorating clause. It is that “all things are possible for God”. So the rich can be saved if God chooses to let them be. It is enough to satisfy the rich, who convince themselves that an occasional act of charity will suffice to get God on their side.
They have, of course, got the let-out clause upside down or inside out. The fact is that in Christian theology God is omnipotent and omniscient, and a few other things. Omnipotent means “almighty” or “all powerful”. It means He always has the final say. God is the Judge. He cannot be obliged to do anything under any conditions. That means that God’s promise is never certain! If God promises that all righteous people will be saved, it means that some of them will not be. That is why pastors are fond of saying that salvation is a gift. They use it as their excuse to deny that good deeds matter, despite the teachings of Christ that they do. It is certain that unrepentant sinners cannot be saved, because they will never be considered by the Judge. To be considered for salvation at all, people have to be perfect, that is righteous, free of sin, and, if they have sinned in their lives, they have to have repented, turned their lives around and not sinned again. The weight of the teaching of Jesus is that, having met the criteria he laid out, they will be eligible for a pass at Judgement, but it always remains God’s gift which He can always withhold, but probably will not.
The same holds in reverse. God is the Judge of sin, and although rich men face an almost complete ban from consideration for salvation, God might offer one or other of them an improbable gift of eternal life, and only God knows why He will do it, if He has a reason at all. But the underlying Christian belief, as it was with the Essenes, is that God is not capricious, so that what we can only call a gift, God has His reasons for it.
It is not a good bet to gamble that God will be benign to the rich man at Judgement Day when during His incarnation on earth, He said unmistakably clearly that for all practical purposes it was impossible for a rich man to get into God’s kingdom. So, gift or no gift, it remains true that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.
If that is not plain enough for you capitalistic Christians, defending the rich, you ought to read this parable that Jesus told:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.
The rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot. Neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.Luke 16:19-31
It is hard to see how this parable can be read in any way other than the obvious and direct one that being rich can mortally damage your hope for an afterlife, if that is still any attraction to rich Christians. In the story related above, meant to be an actual incident in Jesus’s life, not a parable, the rich man is less attracted to the notion of being saved than he is to his bags of gold. So Jesus knew what the rich were like, and he even ends the parable of Dives and Lazarus by saying that even someone rising from the dead will not persuade them that riches are the “wages of sin”!
That turned out to be a true prophesy, and all of these US Christian apologists for the rich man’s economic scam prove it!