Voices from Russia

Thursday, 1 February 2018

1 February 2018. A Point to Ponder from Vladyki Lazar

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Many Evangelicals (and those of our people who ape them) have collapsed morality to “guns, gays, and abortion”… note well that those aren’t topics that Our Lord Christ dwelt overly much on. True Christians have more concern for the prisoner in his chains or the poverty-stricken in their debts than they do for the fatcat businessman in his Cadillac, the polished mega-preacher in his private jet, or the hypocritical anti-abortionist who winks at drone-bomb killings and impoverishment of the poor.

Ye did it unto me… have these so-called Christians forgotten that? Love IS the answer… but how many are asking the proper questions these days?

BMD

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Monday, 29 January 2018

Of Shitholes, Poverty, and Rod Dreher’s Errors

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I don’t usually read The American Conservative. I don’t usually read Rod Dreher. However, today, I read an article where he mused on whether the President had a point about calling African countries “shitholes”. There’s plenty to raise eyebrows in this article, but I’m just going to respond to one paragraph. This paragraph touches upon a topic with which I have a lot of firsthand experience, but I don’t believe that Dreher does. The topic is poor neighbourhoods. Dreher wrote:

Let’s think about Section 8 housing. If word got out that the government was planning to build a housing project for the poor in your neighbourhood, how would you feel about it? Be honest with yourself. Nobody would consider this good news. You wouldn’t consider it good news because you don’t want the destructive culture of the poor imported into your neighbourhood. Drive over to the poor part of town, and see what a shithole it is. Do you want the people who turned their neighbourhood a shithole to bring the shithole to your street?

This will astound Rod Dreher, but I don’t need to drive to a poor part of town. I live in a poor part of a poor town, right on the borderline between the worst part and the rich neighbourhood. I used to live on the poorest street in town. I know. It’s so hard to imagine that poor people are human; some writers tend to bumble through their articles presuming that everyone who reads them is middle-class or higher. However, poor people have computers or access to libraries that do. We use the internet. We can see what people say about us. He’s right. Poor people’s neighbourhoods aren’t desirable places to live. That’s why we live here… because we can’t afford anything nicer. However, it’s not because of “the destructive culture of the poor”. Poor people don’t belong to a “culture” all our own; we’re the financially less-fortunate members of any culture. A person can be impoverished for all kinds of reasons.

Like Rod Dreher, I once believed that poor people usually deserved what they got. I thought that the main cause of poverty in the United States was being a bad person. I thought that anyone with that American can-do attitude could succeed. Further, I thought that no one was so poor that she couldn’t keep herself neat, clean, and sweet-smelling. I could understand poor people living simply, but I thought poor people living filthily in shithole neighbourhoods was their own sloppy fault. Anyone with self-respect could keep their houses and their appearances respectable, if only they tried. All it took was hot water and elbow grease. Then, I ran away from my abusive upbringing. Then, I got very ill and needed a few emergency surgeries. Then, I was too sick to work. I found out how wrong I was.

When we moved into this house, we didn’t have any furniture and we couldn’t afford to buy furniture. It was the first rental we’d ever been in that wasn’t furnished in any way, but we were too thrilled to not be homeless to think about that. It had been a very close call, but with help from our families, we’d made it. We happened to move a few days after Bulk Cleanup, when a specially sized garbage truck would drive through the neighbourhood picking up any garbage that was too big to fit in bins. We scrounged our furniture from things left out for Bulk Cleanup. We got mattresses but no frames; a dining room table that almost stood up on its own; a couple of chairs that smelled like wet dogs; a pull-out sofa that squeaked and crackled when we sat on it. We arranged them in our new house and called it home.

Then the Bulk Cleanup truck came through, picking up the last of the trash and broken furniture behind every house except a few. Some houses had piles of garbage that they never collected. These were people who’d fallen too far behind in their water bills. Steubenville has some of the most expensive water in the country and there’s very little assistance available for water compared to other utilities. We ourselves had been in peril of shutoff a few times, but we’d always managed. Other people weren’t so lucky. Since you pay the water bill to the City Utility Office, when they shut you off, they also denied garbage pickup. The garbage collectors had a list of houses not to visit, and they left their trash behind. Do you know how a mattress smells after it’s been rained on and left to rot for a few weeks? That’s what everyone in the neighbourhood was suffering. Every block or two had its abandoned pyramid of mattresses and torn sofas. Scrappers would take the springs from the sofas, but the plywood and cloth rotted in the alleys.

Michael and I were suffering for other reasons. Our vacuüm broke that summer and we couldn’t afford a new one. We didn’t have money to get the lawn mowed or to buy a mower, either, and we didn’t know anyone in town from whom we could borrow a mower. The grass grew high and the carpet grew ripe. A dear friend from out-of-town sent us eighty dollars to buy a vacuüm, and we fixed the carpet situation. Eventually, we saved up for a weed-eater and a long extension cord. Nevertheless, the yard still looked like trash most of the time, because it’s hard to mow a whole yard with a weed-eater and extension cord. We’ve finally got the hang of it, but it was difficult. While the grass was high, I heard people wandering by my house, muttering, “Some folks ain’t got no pride”. I had pride. the way that the yard looked mortified me. I just had no way in the world to fix it. No one would help us, not for far too long. People kept staring and laughing, but they didn’t ask why we hadn’t mowed it. They presumed that we were lazy. My husband once went outside and tried to attack the lawn with a pair of hand clippers, but he only got a few feet in an hour. They still thought that the problem was we were lazy.

Then, there was the laundry situation… we didn’t have a washer and dryer. When we’d moved, we’d thought we could just carry things to the laundromat several blocks away until we thought of a different idea, but with the price of water in Steubenville, the laundromat is an astronomical expense. I’ve written before about the chore of hand-washing laundry in the bathtub and drying it on racks. Some people wax eloquent on the delicious smell of line-dried clothes. However, they’ve never lived in a poor neighbourhood with mounds of rotting furniture in the alley, a rainy climate, and no safe place to hang a clothesline. We dried the furniture indoors on folding racks and the backs of chairs. We tried to stay ahead of it, but clothes can take a day or more to dry and hand-washing takes a long time. The laundry pile grew as high as the furniture piles in the alleys. In the very hottest, most humid part of summer, where nothing dried unless it was inches from the air conditioner window unit, some of it started to rot. That doesn’t smell good either.

I didn’t smell good. With my home haircuts and nothing to wear but stiff rack-dried second-hand clothes, I looked worse. My house looked like a haunted house from a scary movie. My neighbourhood was a patchwork of people each with struggles as bad as mine or worse, and the houses reflected that. Some looked fine, some looked ugly, and some were rotten eyesores like my house. Of course, no one would want to live near us. We didn’t want to live near us. However, we didn’t have a choice.

Over the past two years, thanks to my job here at Patheos and to help from dear friends and a few family members, we’ve gotten to a better situation. I’m writing this sitting on a couch that doesn’t squeak, although the cushions need mending. We have a table that doesn’t wobble; we have frames for our beds. We have a washer and dryer. The lawn is finally short and going to stay that way this time, as long as our famous neighbour I call Miss Manners leaves us alone. We even stand a good chance of moving out of this neighbourhood altogether, later this year when Michael’s mother comes to live in West Virginia. We’re on the cusp of not really being poor or needing so much help anymore, and that’s exciting. Nevertheless, I have no illusions that that’s completely or even mostly due to our hard work and not being lazy. I’ve worked very hard, but I’ve also depended every step of the way on help from others. When I had little help, my house was what Rod Dreher and Donald Trump would deem a shithole. Now, it’s only a rickety old rental on the slightly better side of a shithole neighbourhood. The neighbourhood has children of God whose intrinsic dignity is beyond measure, and whose earthly means are meagre… and our houses often look horrible.

This summer, it excited me to see on the news that town meetings were being held to decide what would be done about the eyesores in my neighbourhood. I naïvely pictured a brigade of boy scouts with lawn mowers, toolkits, and cans of paint, going from door to door and offering to spruce up houses for the poor, to beautify the neighbourhood. I pictured a private hauling company getting rid of the rotting trash in the alleys. Maybe, they’d even plant flower gardens in the vacant lots. Of course, what happened was that the police started ticketing poor families with unkempt lawns and dilapidated houses. Those tickets can run for well over two hundred dollars for each offence, and the offences pile up fast. If you can’t pay them, you risk jail. Of course, the poor can’t pay them. If we had two hundred dollars for a ticket, we’d buy a lawn mower in the first place.

I’m not saying that there aren’t poor people who are lazy. There are many, just as there are many rich and middle-class people who are lazy. There are also many industrious poor, and many whose work ethic is about average. The poor don’t have a particular culture of laziness; they’re just the ones who get caught holding the mouldering bag whenever the culture they belong to makes a mess. People with money can afford to turn their hard work into nice neighbourhoods or to hire someone else to do the same, but poor people have no money to spend.

The reason poor neighbourhoods aren’t nice places to live isn’t that we have a degenerate culture Mr Dreher doesn’t share. It’s because people with the power to help us make the changes we desperately want, won’t help or choose to make matters worse. It’s because, in this shithole of a culture, even notable religious celebrities who write whole books named after saints view poor people as parasites to be quarantined away from them instead of children of God who need a hand. They punish the inability to pay a bill by hanging a rotting upholstered albatross around our necks. They punish the inability to buy or hire a lawnmower with more debt. They think we don’t deserve help because we live in shitholes, and the cycle goes round and round. Shit, if you’ll forgive the term, begets shit. I think we can easily apply this rule of thumb to poor countries and regions of the world, as well as to poor neighbourhoods, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

If you drive down to a poor neighbourhood, don’t gawk at our culture. Our culture is your culture. Our dilemma is often the direct result of your errors. You can improve the culture by helping, if you wish… or you can take the Dreher Option and blame us.

24 January 2018

Mary Pezzulo

Steel Magnificat

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/steelmagnificat/2018/01/shtholes-poverty-rod-drehers-errors/

Thursday, 25 January 2018

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You

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Dear White Evangelicals:

I need to tell you something… people have had it with you. They’re done. They want nothing to do with you any longer and here’s why. They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy. For eight years, they watched you relentlessly demonise a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity. They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character… all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticising him.

And through it all, White Evangelicals… you never once suggested that God placed him where he was, you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family, you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities, you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance, you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy, your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership, your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him, you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure. You violently opposed him at every single turn… without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

Yet, today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth… that the mind boggles. The change in you is unmistakable. It’s been an astonishing conversion to behold… a being born again. With him, you suddenly find religion. With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution. With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission. With him, you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart. With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement. With him, you see only Providence.

White Evangelicals, all those people who’ve had it with you… they see it all clearly. They recognise the toxic source of your duality. They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities. They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus. They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbours as yourself. They see that all you’re interested in doing is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it. They recognise this all about white Republican Jesus… not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

I know you don’t realise it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition. Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power… but you’ve lost a lot more. You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise decent good-hearted faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness. You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation. You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness. You’ve lost the plot. Most of all, you’ve lost your soul.

I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you. However, I had to at least try to reach you. It’s what Jesus would do. Maybe, you need to read what he said again… if he still matters to you:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Gospel according to St Matthew 5.3-16

24 January 2018

John Pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/01/24/white-evangelicals-people/

The Death of Christianity in the USA

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Editor:

This is a real read n’ heed… reflect on the fact that the semi-converted like Stephen Damick and Rod Dreher want to bring this garbage amongst us and they want to ally us with anti-Christian Evangelical sectarian slimers. Evangelicalism isn’t Christian… it denies the Eucharist and the Church… that ends the discussion for me. Be kind to your Evangelical neighbours, but don’t even consider their ideology… it isn’t Christian, it never was, and it’s incapable of being such ever. Have a care; the times aren’t good…

BMD

Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers (who sold their souls for expediency) murdered the beauty of the gospel message of love, of peace, and of fraternity. We need no greater proof of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the US Senate.

Evangelicals constructed an exclusive interpretation that fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation. Only those from the dominant culture, along with their supposed inferiors who with colonised minds embrace assimilation, can achieve salvation. However, their salvation damns Jesus. To save Jesus from those claiming to be his heirs, we must wrench him from the hands of those who use him as a façade from which to hide their phobias… their fear of blacks, their fear of the undocumented, their fear of Muslims, their fear of everything queer.

Evangelicalism has ceased to be a faith perspective rooted in Jesus the Christ and has become a political movement whose beliefs repudiate all that Jesus advocated. A message of hate permeates their pronouncements, evident in sulphurous proclamations like the Nashville Statement, which elevates centuries of sexual dysfunctionalism since the days of Augustine by imposing them upon Holy Writ. They condemn as sin those who express love outside the Evangelical anti-body straight jacket.

Evangelicalism’s unholy marriage to the Prosperity Gospel justifies multi-millionaire bilkers wearing holy vestments made of sheep’s clothing who discovered being profiteers rather than prophets delivers an earthly security never promised by the One in whose Name they slaughter the hungry, thirsty, naked, and alien amongst them. Christianity at a profit is an abomination before all that is Holy. From their gilded pedestals erected in white centres of wealth and power, they gaslight all to believe they’re being persecuted because of their faith.

Evangelicalism’s embrace of a new age of ignorance blames homosexuality for Harvey’s rage rather than considering the scientific consequences climate change has on the number of increasing storms of greater and greater ferocity. To ignore the damage caused to God’s creation so the few can profit in raping Mother Earth causes celebrations in the fiery pits of Gehenna. Evangelicalism forsakes holding a sexual predator, an adulterer, a liar, and a racist accountable, instead of serving as a shield against those who question POTUS’ immorality because of some warped reincarnation of Cyrus. Laying holy hands upon the incarnation of the very vices Jesus condemned to advance a political agenda… instead of rebuking and chastising in loving prayer… prostitutes the gospel in exchange for the victory of a Supreme Court pick.

Evangelicalism either remained silent or actually supported Charlottesville goose-steppers because they protect their white privilege with the doublespeak of preserving heritage, leading them to equate opponents of fascist movements with the purveyors of hatred. Jesus has yet to recover from the vomiting induced by the Christian defenders of torch-wielding white nationalists calling for “blood-and-soil”. The Evangelicals’ Jesus is satanic, and those who hustle this demon are “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works”. (Second Epistle of Apostle St Paul to the Corinthians 11.13-15).

You might wonder if my condemnation is too harsh. It isn’t, for the Spirit of the Lord has convicted me to shout from the mountaintop how the hatred and bigotry of those who position themselves as the voice of God in America devour God’s precious children. As a young man, I walked down the sawdust aisle at a Southern Baptist church and gave my heart to Jesus. Besides offering my broken heart, I also gave my mind to understanding God and my arm to procuring God’s call for justice. I always considered myself an Evangelical, but I can no longer allow that political party masquerading as Christianity to tarnish my name. Like many women and men of good will who still struggle to believe, but not in the Evangelical political agenda, I too no longer want or wish to be associated with an ideology responsible for tearing humanity apart. However, if you, dear reader, still cling to a hate-mongering ideology, may I humbly suggest you get saved.

13 November 2017

Miguel de la Torre

Baptist News

https://baptistnews.com/article/death-christianity-u-s

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