December 11, 2017

On Being a Proud Christian Democrat

The media often act as though “Christian” means “evangelical Christian.” When commentary on current affairs is desired from a Christian perspective, it is more likely than not that reporters will call upon someone from a very conservative Protestant denomination to deliver it. It often seems as though the media, mainstream or otherwise, are oblivious to the existence of more traditional Christian perspectives. When was the last time you heard someone interviewed who claimed to be a “liberal Christian”?

This state of affairs has bothered me for a long time, but two related matters set me off today. First, of course, is the Alabama Senate election that takes place tomorrow pitting Democrat Doug Jones against Republican Roy Moore. Moore’s strong support among “Christian conservatives” or “white evangelicals” has repeatedly (and properly) been remarked upon. Not much has been heard from Christians who not only do not support Moore but who also reject the sort of Christianity he is known for wearing on his sleeve.

The second thing that upset me today was a discussion on the WAMU program 1A, which is carried by many NPR stations.“What Roy Moore Reveals About The Religious Right” was a conversation among host Joshua Johnson and several self-identified evangelicals. The 1-hour discussion never suggested that there are other Christian perspectives that differ quite substantially from those being expressed.

I believe that evangelical Christians have given Christianity a bad name. Not all Christians read the Bible with mindless literalness, consider abortion murder, believe that the poor reap what they deserve, consider homosexuality a grave sin, and support the Republican Party no matter what it supports or what its members do. Somehow, it is difficult to communicate this fact through the media.

An essay on my modest blog will not change the public perception of Christianity, but I can stake out my own position and make it easier for others on the Web to do the same. This led me to create the graphic below. I realize, of course, that one can be a non-evangelical Christian and still be a Republican, but my picture aims to make as sharp a contrast as possible to Christians who seem joined at the hip to the Republican Party.

For the foreseeable future, my new graphic (see below) will appear on my blog in the right margin. Click on the image below for a larger view and feel free to use it elsewhere to proclaim that you are both Christian and a Democrat.

Staunchly Christian/Proudly Democrat

December 2, 2017

An Atomic Anniversary

On this day, December 2, 1942, 75 years ago, Chicago Pile-1 produced the world’s first artificial self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. CP-1 (see picture below) was built of uranium, graphite, and wood. Control rods, which were intended to prevent a runaway reaction, were fabricated of cadmium. The pile was developed under the direction of physicist Enrico Fermi and was an early part of the Manhattan Project, the secret government program to develop the atomic bomb.

Chicago Pile-1
Chicago Pile-1 (Click on this and the picture below for larger images.)

CP-1 was built under the West Stands of Stagg Field on the University of Chicago campus. By the time I entered the university, CP-1 was long gone. The site is now marked by the massive bronze sculpture “Nuclear Energy” created by English artist Henry Moore.

Nuclear Energy
“Nuclear Energy” by Henry Moore

More information about Chicago Pile-1 can be found on Wikipedia.

It need hardly be said that learning how to create nuclear chain reactions has been a mixed blessing. Its ultimate effect on humanity—indeed on the entire planet—remains to be seen. For now, the concluding words of Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body seem appropriate:
If you at last must have a word to say,
Say neither, in their way,
“It is a deadly magic and accursed,”
Nor “It is blest,” but only “It is here.”

December 1, 2017

A Commonsense Legislative Reform

The tax bill nearing passage in the Senate runs to nearly 500 pages and includes text written in nearly indecipherable longhand in the margins. Democratic senators have complained that they have had no time to read the bill. In fact, it is certainly the case that nobody has read the entire bill on which senators are expected to vote.

This reminds me of a legislative reform I have long thought appropriate. It is this:
No legislator should be allowed to vote on a bill unless he or she attests in writing and under oath to having read it all.
This is, I suggest, perfectly reasonable. Unfortunately, since senators and representatives have a tenuous relationship with the truth, it would probably be necessary to give legislators a test administered by a non-partisan third party to assure that their attestations are factual.

Lacking such assurance in the present case, I suspect that many GOP senators will regret their votes when they realize what they have foisted upon the American people.

God help us!

Waiting for “Tax Reform”

As I write this, I am waiting to see if there are at least two Republicans in the Senate who will vote against the “tax reform” bill that is a giveaway to the rich and to large corporations. I am not hopeful. Despite the concern of the so-called deficit hawks and the plea for “regular order” from Senator John McCain (who has indicated he will vote for the bill), I expect that the bill will pass in the Senate, perhaps tonight. I pray that it will not, but integrity seems to be in short supply among Republican senators.

It is likely that no senator has read the bill being voted on in its entirety. There have been no hearings where interested parties could express opinions on what should be in a tax bill. There have been no contributions from Democrats. All the independent analyses of the bill say that it will do little to increase GDP and will greatly enlarge the federal deficit. But GOP leaders are marching forward knowing that most voters opposed this bill. The bill is, however, the darling of big Republican donors and the ignorant know-nothings who are Trump’s base.

God help us if this execrable bill passes. That would not make it law, but it would move the process along of writing it into law.

Below is my take on how bills become law in the Age of Trump. It is a sad process. (Feel free to use this graphic elsewhere. Click on it for a larger version.)

How a Bill Becomes a Law: 2017 Edition