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August 22, 2005


Jeremy James

You have said much. I for one am ashamed that I ever even voted for the man. As you know things have changed in my life and in my perceptions. Thanks once again for tearing down my illusions.


You have written what I have been saying for some time, however, in doing so, I have been called a "Bush-hating", Anti-American, socialist. Too bad others have so far been unable to see that the "emperor" is naked. Glad to see that I am no longer alone in my thoughts concerning this administration.


The real answer to the administration is Bush won't spend any money on Bio Terror, which is the real threat.

Christ was damned by God because he cared. Guess where we are?


I sure wish you guys were around 10 months ago.


I have been "around" for 50 years, including in 2000 and 2004 when Bush was running for President. While I wasn't "enthusiastic" about the Democratic candidates then (and hope that they'll provide a better selection in the future) I didn't support Bush's agenda then, just as I don't support it today. Served in Desert Shield/Storm on his father's watch, and while I did not support this war from day one, felt that since we were there, we needed to do the job right. I have since changed my mind as it is all too clear that we had too few troops (and supporting allies) to properly win the peace after the Iraqi army surrendered. To have completed the job would have required sacrifice from the American people. something they would have been willing to do if asked, but that would have been bad politically for the GOP, hence the current morass in Iraq.


Obviously, Mr. Gutenson is a liberal Christian. Those on the right with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones worship a different kind of god than he does. They worship a god that has ordained George W. Bush to lead this country in a prayfully considered way. Bush prays every day for guidance from his god. He thinks he is doing his god's will. His god is a conservative, business loving war-monger.


Thanks to all for your comments and for sharing your concerns. Mark, just for the record, technically, I am an evangelical theologically and progressive politically. As one of my colleagues say, that makes for a fine combination:>) Unfortunately, the term "evangelical" has been hi-jacked by the folks you reference so that it tends to mean more about politics than theology. This is part of the reason I am so concerned, a fine theological tradition is being damaged by really bad politics.

Steven D

It appears that my comment to this post was misplaced under your Fair Trade post. My apologies. Here it is:

Sadly, they will tell you it doesn't matter what Jesus thought. They will tell you to ignore his teachings on the law (remember how he boiled them down to 2 - Love God and love your neighbor?). They are more concerned with what the Old Testament says -- an eye for an eye, slaughter your enemies, even the women and children and animals, et cetera.

People who go to these right wing churches do not practice any faith of which I am familiar.


Here is the thing that must be considered, and I for one in not entirely sure what side I fall on. But, in the Midwest, where I am from, this is the reason many voted for Bush. The issue of morality, ie abortion and homosexuality, is more important for them personally than other issues. I have a friend, for instance, who considers the issue of abortion above all other issues; it is easy to say that one should consider all issues, but for her, she has great enough tie to abortion that she could not vote for someone who is for it. I could say much more, but I think that it is important to not think, as a Christian, that one is wrong in voting for someone b/c you disagree w/ the issue they are voting on - remember, God is the one who puts rulers in power. That said, personally, I believe that Christians should continually call for moderation in all things; extremes rarely help anyone on either side.


I have always said that if a U.S. citizen follows the true teachings of Jesus Christ, That citizen would probably more likely be a liberal democrat than a conservative republican.


Thanks for joining the conversation. I understand what you are saying, and I noted it near the end of my post. Yet, I find myself wondering how we can be faithful to the biblical picture of God's intent for us if we narrow the sense of "moral" in such a way. For example, in Ez.16 we are told that Sodom's sin (not the only one, but the one God names here) is much more like what we would call social justice issues. What I am arguing for is an appropriation of a broader concept of morality that is more consistent with the Scriptures taken as a whole. In fact, if a person does this and comes to conclude, as your friend does, that abortion outweighs all else, I can respect that even if I think it mistaken. My biggest concern is with the failure of so many Christians to see the extent to which the Gospel is to change our lives, and in so doing, we end up with a overly narrowed sense of morality. Make sense?


Thanks for your comments, I sympathize with much you say.
CS Lewis said something rather similar.



Thanks for clearly stating the position of many evangelical Christians all over the world. We've almost been brought to tears watching as the strong, faithful, Bible-centred church in the US has been (voluntarily?) co-opted for political gain by people John might have been refering to in Revelations 2:9.

My only criticism of your article is that it could do with some references (eg: Proverbs about the wisdom of wide council, or from Matt 5:33ish about weasel words). In fact, I would suggest you ref scripture for all your pieces, as it does the following: 1) gives you a biblical backing for your points, 2) puts you above the unbiblical comebacks from the NeoCon-tians, 3) ensures your arguments are in line with scripture.

Thanks again,



My frustration with my "conservative" Christian friends is that they emphatically support Republicans on the basis of their stand on homosexuality and abortion and that makes them the real Christians. They then turn around and defend the use of torture in US military prisons because its what "we" have to do to win. I've tried to discuss this with them but - for some reason - quoting the actual Scripture to them doesn't make an impression. I have spent hours being yelled at for not "getting it" and being a good Christian. My question always comes back to - where are the teachings of Jesus? Just today Pat Robertson called for the murder of Hugo Chavez - and my Republican friends will stand 100% behind that. I really don't get it.


Chuck - I read your bio; I'm a computer scientist, and I'm interested in your
perspective as a professional theologian. I agree with all your points, and
then some.

I've called myself a socialist for more than 30 years now, for one reason: I
believe that Jesus was, and was advocating as much. Think about what his
notion of "basileia" (government, or "kingdom") really was about, if not what
would properly be defined as socialism? What does 'koinonia' mean, if not
the same as the dictionary definition of 'communism', read in context in
passages like Acts 2:42-45? And what does 'philarguria' mean, in the context
of 1 Timothy 6:10, if not 'capitalism'? (The word is not 'patharguria', a
stronger word that defenders of capitalism claim it means...)

We literally live in the US now in a fascist society, where monopoly
corporatism is a true religion, endorsed by the current crop of "prosperity"

Here's an issue for you to consider. The utopians of the 19th century
foresaw (I would suggest prophetically) an age in which technology would
at least begin to replace labor, and thus devalue it in a significant way.
They were called dreamers. but that age is upon us, and is the underlying
thread that ties together the economic woes the US is facing.

China and India are clearly going to be the economic superpowers of the
near future. This is not in spite of their communism and socialism resp.,
but because of it. (Markets are mechanism, not motivation; and participation
in markets does not amount to capitalism.) The great enabler of their
coming power is technology, and they won't be leaving the bulk of their
populations behind as labor becomes less and less valuable. Not so in the
US (I haven't had regular income for 5 years now, with a Ph.D. in CS - too much education/experience)...

Here's another. I used to be an atheist and have had many atheist friends,
both before and since becoming a Christian (which I've been those 30+ years).
So I know that "human life begins at conception" is an atheist talking point.
Deductively, it precludes any role for the soul or spirit. It thus shouldn't
be a position that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should adopt. I've heard it used to argue, for example, that Jesus and Adam either weren't human or didn't ever exist; it's not something a Christian should be coerced into agreeing with.

The right answer is, I think, clear and consistent from scripture, and this is
what I want your opinion about as a theologian. That answer is that human
life begins at first breath, when God imparts a spirit (or soul) into the
human body. There is great symbolism in this, but it seems entirely lost on
the religious right. Turns out that it is not a position incompatible with
medical science, which does not and cannot take a position on the existence
of a soul or spirit, but which also generally accepts the ability to breathe
on one's own as an indication of viability (my sister is an MD; we talk
about this sort of thing).

Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37 are crystal clear on this point. Jeremiah 1:5
agrees, if one observes the difference between spirit/soul and flesh - it
it clearly about the spirit/soul, before the flesh is formed.

Psalms 139:15 suggests another part of this issue: there is a sort of death
that the "seed" sown at conception passes through in the womb, before it
arrives at the point of life, at first breath. 1 Corinthians 15:35-39 make
this same point more explicitly: a seed must pass through death after being
sown; the sowing is not the point at which life begins, nor the form of the
flesh that will eventually sustain life.

But here's what I found interesting upon some study. John 3 essentially
picks up (or chronologically, may have led to) Paul's comments. In his
conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus was talking about the general phenomenon
of birth, and touched on this very point. Verse 8 can be read "The Spirit
_breathes_ where it desires, and you hear the sound of its _voice_ ..." (compare/contrast with 1 Cor 15:38).

And then there's John 6:63, which I think makes the fundamental point that
the religious right misses: "The Spirit give life; the flesh counts for
nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."

A little commentary is in order on this whole topic. I was given the
revelation years ago that there is a point of intersection between the
natural and spiritual realms - that point is language. Breath relates
to language in an interesting way. Sentience, or self-awareness, is made
evident by the capability for language (our words "sentence" and "sentient"
are from the same origin). Language is the obvious, but subtle, evidence
of the existence of the spirit. "In the beginning was the Word; and the
Word was with God, and the Word was God..."

And here's a very interesting note. As far as I can gather, the Greek word
"agape" (love) seems to originate phonetically from a word that implies
"to breathe after (another)." It implies to me that in the same sense as
a person's own breath is symbolic of being sentient or self-aware, the idea
of agape is to be "other-aware" in the same way. Of course, God would be
defined by such other-awareness, hence 1 John 4:7-21 is quite consistent with
John 1:1.

Jesus somewhat upbraided Nicodemus by bringing up the womb, in relation to
the question of birth. Jesus expected him, a rabbi, to understand that the
scripture clearly indicated that it was not the womb that was the central
player in the mechanism of birth, but the Spirit in the giving of breath.
I.e., I can imagine how Jesus might really feel about the whole zealous
fuss being made about abortion, while issues of love-based government are
being ignored. And he commented on it in the same passage that we now think
of as being central to the very notion of "salvation."

I also consider myself an evangelical, but by my reading, the "good news"
was about something other than what we now think of it as being about - it
was good news "for the poor". Christians now seem only to define it as being
about a message of "salvation", and ignore the issues of the poor. Jesus cared for
the poor in every secular respect imaginable, and cautioned that if we don't
do the same, he wouldn't claim to know us.

We are so upside down; it's so Orwellian. I think 2 Thessalonians 2 is
upon us. I'm not an eschatological sort of person, but it fits so well
these days...

One last thing, Chuck. I think attention has to be given to the
interpretation by the religious right of Romans 4:17 and Ephesians 5:1
taken together - the issue relates strongly to the name of this web


Thanks for your comments. Let me make a brief response to your suggestion about citations of Scripture. First, let me say I agree with you completely about the need to ground our arguments biblically. I am, however, a bit reticent about citing passages because it seems to buy into a "proof-texting" approach where I put my proof texts up against theirs. In my experience, however, I have found that a much more holistic approach is needed. I teach a class where I give several passages with each lecture in hopes that students will peruse them before class. Yet, when I lecture, I tell them they should not take these as proof texts, but rather as evidences of particular themes that they need to verify holistically. So, for example, when someone tries to justify war by appeal to OT passages, I always ask why they think these passages are decisive post-incarnation. For us as Christians, all appropriation of Scripture must have the light of Christ shined upon it.

What can I say? I know your experiences first hand. The best you can do is continually show them that your interpretation is more consistent with the tenor of Scripture as a whole. In my experience, folks who want to argue as you note above, generally have a handful of proof texts. You have to show them how they collapse under the weight of the whole text. A hard job, but hang in there!
One additional point. Even though I disagree that they are reading Scripture rightly, we can respect those who build a consistent and broad biblical case for what constitutes morality. These folks might, then, judge abortion most important and, in effect, say to politicians: "I'm supporting you because of this issue, but you need to know I am appauled by your positions on these other issues, and I won't be happy until you have a consistent moral position." My concern is with those who simply pretend like abortion is the only issue Jesus would care about. I just can't see how one reads Scripture to conclude that. Consider this: the right place to base an argument for care for the unborn is in the biblical injunction to care for the least of these. However, notice how right wing Christians tend not to do that? It is because it would oblige them to take care for the poor seriously as well!


I forgot something I wanted to ask you about, Chuck, as a theologian.

I posted to another thread on this site recently about whether or not
people like Bush are properly considered Christians. I have come for
myself to a rather strident point on the issue, but was led there by
some revelation.

I would like for you to consider the Greek words "homologeo" and
"exhomologeo", which are translated in English Bibles to the word
"confess". My current opinion is that it is a stronger word than
just "announce" or "proclaim" or something of the sort - it more
fundamentally transliterates "to have the same thought", i.e.,
"to agree [fully]", it seems.

Considering its use in context (and the use of weaker words, e.g.,
1 Timothy 6:21), I come to the idea that being a Christian involves
more than just calling one's self a Christian - it involves agreeing
with the objective "mind of Christ". And I think this is consistent
with Jesus' own statements, e.g., Matthew 7:21-23.

The strident position I've come to is this: being a Republican is an
expression of agreement with an ideology, at least with its core
beliefs, which include anti-socialism/anti-communism. Being a Christian
similarly involves expression of agreement with an ideology, again
at least with its core beliefs, which must necessarily been seen
objectively as NOT anti-socialist/anti-communist, to put it mildly.
This is an unresolvable conflict, on the order of Matthew 6:24: "No one
can serve two masters."

I don't think that taking so strident a position is to violate another
thought in the same passage: "Judge not that you not be judged." Indeed,
it is at least empirically clear that some people who both call themselves
Christians and who call themselves Republicans, also spend lots of energy
judging other people's actions and beliefs. When I read this passage of
red letters, I can almost hear Jesus responding point by point to the
current state of what calls itself the Christian Church in the USA...


Thanks for your long and thoughtful post. I fear I cannot do justice to a response here, but if you would like, I would be happy to email you on the side for further conversation. On some of your points: I like in particular your reminding us of Eph 5, isn't it interesting that the imitation of Christ is coupled with self-sacrifice for others! On your comments about the breath/spirit, you should read volume 1 of Pannenberg's "Systematic Theology" (or my commentary on his doctrine of God, "Reconsidering the Doctrine of God." Also, Pannenberg's collection called "Toward a Theology of Nature" gets at some of these themes, though not entirely in the same way you do. On your comments on socialism, as I noted earlier, CS Lewis drew similar conclusions. Finally, I have objected for some time to the claim that we should give tax cuts to the wealthy since this creates jobs. We ought never lose sight that this is often a secondary, unintended effect, and your comments about technology replacing labor makes the point very succinctly.


On your last point, let me say first that I am very cautious to avoid thinking I know who is or is not acceptable to God. Now, at the same time, I think we must engage in critique of the positions folks hold. My bottom line on what you noted is this: to be created in the image of God, for Christians, is to be created in the image of the Trinitarian God. This means we are first and foremost created for relationship. More specifically, Jesus makes it clear that we are to live in relationships of mutually self-giving love. This is a non-negotiable and it permeates all levels of human life (even when it is not convenient). At the end of the day, this what imitatio Christi is. By the way, I have a colleague who translates the two great commandments like this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength...and another way of saying the same thing: love your neighbor as yourself!

Tim C

Hey Chuck:

Good stuff, still digesting it all... But I posted an smallish excerpt and a link over here from my blog for poltically progressive Christians, Talking Donkeys"

Thanks for the good writing and thinking...
Very much a reminder for me to remember for the future when it is a Democratic President in the office as well...

You might check out the C.S. Lewis chapter on "Meditions on the Third Commandment" which covers very similiar ground to what you just did:

A peice of that is over here:

I'll be sure to check back here often!


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