Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Anger

I opened FB today to find a headline from Mother Jones: "Bernie Sanders goes biblical on income inequality." The elderly Jewish socialist senator from Vermont hangs with the Democrats mostly, sure. But he critiques Obama, Hillary, and his usual allies as too soft on bankers, and too craven to the rich who control more and more of our present fealty and who limit many of our future prospects.

He tells Josh Harkinson, when asked why we should care: "I think this goes back to the Bible. There is something immoral when so few have so much and so many have so little. I don't come to San Francisco very often, but we've driven around the city and seen people sleeping out on the streets. In my state, you've got people working 40, 50 hours a week and going to emergency food shelves because they don't earn enough money to feed their families adequately. You have millions of young people graduating college deeply in debt. They can't get their lives started, can't get married. So I think the issue of income and wealth inequality is in fact a moral issue." He adds that with the losses since my childhood in unions, cheap college tuition, wage equality, and stable employment, that "It's not a question of have we lost the will; it's that the billionaire class is much more aggressive now than it used to be." So, as I have watched during my adult life and my own career, "in the last 35 or 40 years, there has been an increasingly aggressive effort on the part of the top 1 percent to take it all."

I blogged regarding another resister, Franciscan friar Fr. Louis Vitale, six years ago about Passover, peacemaking and identity. I even wrote the priest, sending him a printout of my thoughts, but I never received a reply. My wife remarked: "Maybe he's in jail." For all the careful diplomacy the new Pope Francis has shown, at least he spent a Holy Thursday washing the feet of inmates in a Roman prison.

How social protest gets allied with or against the religious majority, or is it now a minority, rouses us. There's a lot of contention about the First Amendment, as what in the North of Ireland in a similar situation called the "gay cake debate" gets repeated here in Indiana. I remain mystified why the boycotts accelerated against the Hoosiers when 19 states preceded theirs in protecting businesses to not serve those who the proprietors claimed violated their freedom of belief. Regardless, against this,  progressives fought back and denigrated, trolled, and have shut down already offending enterprises.

Jay Michaelson, a Jewish Buddhist gay rights lawyer-activist weighs in: "On the LGBT side, it’s time to stop calling religious people bigots and homophobes. I oppose the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, with every fiber of my ideological being. But there is still an enormous gulf between socially conservative believers and homophobic thugs. We need to take these beliefs seriously.

On the conservative side, it’s time to recognize that the vast majority of Americans — three- quarters, according to polls — believe it is wrong to discriminate against gay people. The people have spoken, the courts have (mostly) spoken, and this is the law of the land." As often, he offers a sensible view.

I'm not here to rant on. I've written about my own beliefs and how they shift often. It's easy to take potshots at organizations promising us pie in the sky and fewer worries here, as long as we sign on. I supported last year some entities from within the Catholic Church who do good works, and who need more sponsorship than the Jesuits, Franciscans, or government grants can support. Maybe some see me as hypocritical for that, but firsthand I have witnessed and benefited from their outreach in my own coming of age, so why not pay back a bit to those who gave their lives to help youths like me?

I realize the difficulty as the few friars become a global order, or the reforming clerics turn the pope's  trusted operatives. Yet, today many strive to take in whomever needs a boost, among the poor, and they ask for no surrender of one's mind or identity. However, the bad press generated by others duping the needy in terms of enlightenment and salvation rouses me to what my dad said, in the context of Jesus driving out the moneychangers, as "holy anger." But the continued tension between institutions bent on profit, as the Alex Gibney documentary based on Lawrence Wright's study of my hometown's biggest success story making a concocted "religion" tax-exempt shows, will perpetuate itself no matter if it's the LDS 180 years ago, or the past 60 years creating a relentlessly celebrity-craven and prison-camp supported "church." Lynne Stuart Parramore at Salon concludes: "even if we got rid of" that offender, "somewhere, out there in America, is another young hustler searching for meaning and money. Someone with charisma, stratospheric ambition and a few screws loose. As surely as the sun rises, her religion is just now slouching toward Hollywood waiting to be born."

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