As I’ve pointed out before on this blog I grew up in a conservative Utah Mormon family. Most of my siblings are still quite conservative. We generally get along, though I have no doubt that a couple of them, at least, see me as the black sheep of the family. I no longer consider myself a Mormon, and certainly see the world differently than they do. Case in point: I replied the other day to my brother’s Facebook post where he criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters and implied that they were a bunch of lazy losers. I asked who Jesus would stand up for, the rich or the poor. Somehow my reply was deleted within the hour.
I noted on Facebook a few weeks ago how it’s an echo chamber, citing an article on Salon. The internet has enabled people to be selective about the opinions that they hear. Previous generations could do this only by selecting which newspaper to subscribe to, assuming that they lived in a big enough city to have more than one paper. But now, with thousands of blogs and online news sources you can fine tune the news that you read to match exactly what you want to hear. I suppose that I’m guilty of this as well to some extent; I don’t go out of my way to listen to Fox News. Listening to opinions on either extreme may get my blood pressure up, but my biggest objection is to those who won’t consider other opinions. I enjoy having discussions with people who are equally willing to consider other viewpoints, but discussing politics or social issues with someone who won’t consider any other points of view is painful. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Who said that? So having a Facebook comment, expressing a dissenting opinion, deleted was a bit sad. (And why does Facebook only have a Like button? Why not a Dislike button as well?)
So, back to my reply to my brother’s post. What I really wanted to say was “What Would Jesus Do?” That’s a popular mantra among Christians, particularly the conservative kind. But is it just a mantra or do they really ask themselves that when faced with moral decisions? I tend to think that it’s the former. In an article at HuffPo a few months ago a professor of Sociology asks “what’s the deal?”
“Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture. Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world. Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor — especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training — anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do. In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.”
I suppose that one of the many ways to get lynched in the South would be to have a bumper sticker that reads “How many guns would Jesus own?”
I’m not a big bumper sticker fan; I’ve only displayed one bumper sticker in my life, one supporting the Obama campaign, but I suppose that a bumper sticker that I should display would be the one that says “Good Without God”. How many times have you heard it implied or even directly stated that atheists have no morals, or are inherently evil, communists, or, gasp, homosexuals and perverts? Obviously if there’s no expectation of a heavenly reward or eternal punishment then a person will immediately become a follower of Satan. Why is that? Why couldn’t a person, on his or her own without other influence, decide to be good? I certainly don’t feel that I need to be told, once a week, how to live my life. I can choose to be good on my own. Being good is its own reward. If I contribute my little bit to making the world a better place to live then I have my reward. I feel that, imperfect as I am, that I am just as good a person as any believer. I do my best to be honest at all times, to be fair and decent towards others, obey applicable laws and contribute to society, and give to charity when I can. I pay all of my bills on time, and help my children financially when I am able. I haven’t killed anyone, robbed or stolen, raped or assaulted. (I did get a speeding ticket a couple years back, though.) I stand up for the rights of the less fortunate. And yet I don’t believe in an eternal reward or punishment and I haven’t been to church in nearly twenty years. How is that possible?
Update 14 Nov: Here’s a great comic on picking and choosing your beliefs.