Kingdom Coming by Michelle Goldberg

book jact with upraised hand and a crossKingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg, (2006)

To start, I begin with the quote from the conclusion titled Exiles in Jesusland:

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a FREE CIVIL GOVERNMENT. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. –Thomas Jefferson

This is a really excellent book. Well worth buying and reading and rereading because the depth of her discussion and naming names is so complete. Well written so it is easy to follow the arguments she makes and an appreciation for the connections between people and events.

Page 180 at the end of the book,  sets out the reason for anxiety:

It’s one thing to have a government that shows contempt for civil liberties; America has survived such men before. It’s quite another to HAVE A MASS MOVEMENT — the largest and most powerful mass movement in the nation — rise up in OPPOSITION to the RIGHTS of its fellow citizens. The Constitution protects minorities, but that protection is not absolute, with a sufficiently sympathetic or apathetic majority, a tightly organized faction can get around it.

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The New Religious Intolerance by Martha C. Nussbaum

book jacket Muslim girlThe New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the politics of fear in an anxious age (2012) by Martha C. Nussbaum

This is an interesting, almost philosophical, discussion of various aspects of religious activities, from burqas to yarmulkes, discriminatory laws directed at a particular practice (forbidding Latin in church but allowing it in schools back in the day in England with hostility to Catholic services), and similar almost random ways that religious dogma infiltrates all aspects of human lives (including treatment of animals, such as kosher killing of animals).

The nub is drawing the line. What is an acceptable level of tolerance and at what point should religious practices be deemed unjustified or in contradiction to legal protections and the interests of the State.

One real crux of the issue of religious variations and other cultural differences is a central problem to religious and other forms of intolerance, and this is stated on page 2: ‘NON-ASSIMILATION TO THE CULTURE OF THE MAJORITY.” From an American perspective living in the “melting pot” historically, immigrants have wanted to assimilate. Yet we have a core belief in the rights of an individual, for example, to religious expression of ANY sort (well, almost, cults are frowned upon, and atheists are assumed to be satanists which is not an acceptable expression of religious activity, however the Courts have permitted leniency for the satirical Satanist groups organized to mock religious displays in order to illustrate the absurdity of and illegitimacy of the domination of Christian beliefs as integral to our “Christian” nation when the United States is VERY SPECIFICALLY NOT Christian but SECULAR. No matter how many times the evangelicals repeat the lie and make false statements as to the Founding Fathers being “Christian” when the facts prove otherwise.

This has become a singular and damaging quality of daily life for America. When you have a fringe religious extremist [Ted Cruz] whose father thinks he’s chosen by [their] god to become president, and that candidate says that his god’s “laws” are superior to man made laws including the U.S. Constitution, the very basic foundation of the country is under threat. Probably one of the most remarkable characteristics of the Republican men originally running for President is the fact that many of them made the same claim: God’s will is that I should run. And yet, a totally secular, sinful, and, if not criminal, certainly skating the limits of legal much less ethical practices, man has become the apparent Republican nominee for President. Pandering and having no moral center, or worse, a deliberate provocateur, is now in a position to end American democracy and freedoms, especially for women, but even worse for minorities who have experienced a massive increase in hate crimes. Like the woman wearing a headscarf and who was driving down a road, minding her own business, when a good old boy pulled up beside her and shot her dead. And she wasn’t even Muslim as I recall. Given the misogyny as well as hatred of minorities, the killer may well have shot the woman just because she was a woman who dared to drive a car alone. The sad thing is I cannot find a citation of this news story because there are so many results when I entered multiple search terms about shootings (19,300,000).

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Thieves of State by Sarah Chayes

thieves of stateWhy Corruption Threatens Global Security: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes (2016)

I finished the book a while ago and meant to do the write while it was fresh but got distracted.  It is a very depressing read, but probably important to know the arguments she makes so I’m going to go MUST READ on this book. The focus is on governmental and corporate corruption so obviously no good news with that focus. The problem is that there seems to be an endless supply of corrupt people, or good people stressed or tempted  or coerced and turned corrupt. Or willingly ignorant. Or simply evil. I guess it depends on what you believe the core of people is: good or evil? Since I spent childhood ducking and covering under my pathetic school desk (while realizing that it was going to be of no use at all), and my father was a bomber pilot who was absolutely a good man but he dropped bombs and people died. Of course they were scum sucking Nazi’s, but before the demagogue Hitler incited them to hate, they were just bakers, or shop clerks and so on. These same people closed their eyes to the deliberate seizure of their property and then themselves of Jews (or whomever Hitler deemed degenerate races including slavs and gypsies and of course gays) rounded up into synagogues right there in the towns and burned them alive and the synagogues to the ground. And of course the death camps. How can anyone believe in a god after the Holocaust?

So the point is, corruption is also at the heart of so many people that I am not sure it can be stomped out no matter how many whistle-blowers try. The forces of corruption are so great, and wealthy, and rationalized, and dog eat dog, or everyone else is doing it so just looking out for themselves. This is, in essence, the Tragedy of the Commons written by ecologist Garrett Hardin (no relation) in 1968.

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