Blowing in the wind

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Civil Rights March, Washington, DC, 28 Aug 1963

They say that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there.

But I turned 20 in 1965, and they were very formative years for me. A friend gave me my first Bob Dylan record on my 18th birthday, and that changed my life. Quite literally and definitely. Switched me on to social justice and the purpose and value of life.

And things I observed and saw back then seem to be especially relevant in today’s crazy world.

The sixties – the good, the bad and the ugly

The sixties were a time of idealism and aspiration, at least for people my age. There were the hippies, the summer of love, new freedoms, and a reaction against some of the certainties of the older generation.

Race was one of the issues on which youthful US idealism focused a spotlight. The mistreatment of African-Americans had been a festering problem ever since Africans were forcibly removed from their own lands and brought to work as slaves in the US. The end of slavery was only the start. Prejudice, inequality and outright hostility remained the experiences of many for generations.

And so, over the years, there have been many race-based riots and demonstrations across the US.

In the middle sixties, much of this came to a head. There were race riots all across the country from 1963 onwards. The Watts riots in California led to 34 deaths (most shot by police and the National Guard) and $40 million of damage. The McCone Commission identified the main causes as “high unemployment, poor schools, and related inferior living conditions that were endured by African Americans”.

Smoke from Watts riots, 1965.

At the same time, some young middle class whites began to demonstrate and support the cause of equality and an end to prejudice and discrimination. “Protest singers” (so-called) like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sang about the cause. Dylan songs like The Lonesome death of Hattie Carroll and Only a pawn in their game highlighted race issues, and The times they are a-changin’ proclaimed that things were going to change for the better.

But Dylan was equivocal. Blowing in the wind asked how long it would be before the change came, and, he said, “the answer is blowing in the wind.”

The changes that love would bring?

Looking back a decade later, Jackson Browne was disillusioned. His song The Pretender (surely one of the saddest songs ever written) portays the idealists of that era seeing “the ships bearing their dreams sail out of sight.”

And so we come to 2020

And in 2020, the cities are burning again. Race is still an issue. And black Americans still suffer prejudice in many places.

The US casts a long shadow over the world.

Much of it benefits people like me who live elsewhere. Many of us get most of our pop culture from the US (for good or ill!). Our computer software probably originated there. And even a pacifist like me has to admit that World War 2 may have turned out very differently if the US hadn’t entered the war.

But at the same time, to an outsider at least, the US seems to be diving into madness.

  • The US has always been a violent culture (not that other western nations have anything to boast about!). Examples:
    • frontier wars,
    • incursions and military interventions into other sovereign states (more than half the countries in the world since WW2!),
    • one of the highest levels of gun ownership and homicides in the developed world. Especially notable is the passion to retain a gun culture even when its outcomes are so dire.
  • There seems to be a growing acceptance of untruths if they are seen as supporting a particular viewpoint. This is illustrated by the response of the current President to the coronavirus pandemic. (“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine. ….. fake news …. to inflame the CoronaVirus situation”.)
  • A somewhat cavalier attitude to human life, especially if it isn’t white American life, and especially if it might stand in the way of profits. Of course the recent gratuitous killing of George Floyd is the latest example.

And all this in what is sometimes seen as the most christian nation on earth. So where is the church in all of this?

Missing, inaction

Sadly the US church seems to have mostly forgotten who they are supposed to be following. It sometimes seems that the US church is more about patriotism and conservatism than about Jesus.

  • In science we learn about the universe and world that God has given us, yet so much of the church is anti-science. Think evolution, climate change, anti-vaccination and now Covid-scepticism.
  • The US is home to millionaire televangelists and prosperity teachers who ignore Jesus’ clear teachings on materialism and the perils of wealth.
  • The current Presidency seems to be based more on fake news than truth and is promoting division and polarisation. Yet the followers of Jesus, who said he was the way, the truth and the life, voted for him in droves.
  • Christians say “God is love”, yet too often fail to show compassion and love to refugees, the poor and the sick (universal healthcare anyone?). There seems to be a growing harshness in US christianity. Christians seem almost glad to be able to express their view that God will judge non-believers harshly.
  • Many christians and churches support the justice aspirations of black Americans, but there are too many who seem unconcerned about justice and black lives matter.

I think a lot of this comes from naivety rather than ill will. It is too easy to believe people who press the right buttons, even if they don’t exhibit or support the character of the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, it seems to be having dire consequences.

Who you gonna believe?

One of the outcomes of a church that seems cut off from science, truth, compassion and justice is that it loses credibility. Polarisation strengthens the church’s conservative base, but alienates the very people the church should be wanting to serve and win over.

Over the years I have discussed religion and philosophy with many atheists, and read many blogs by non-believers. Some of them have become friends, others have been influential. Too many were brought up in christian families and have walked away from their childhood belief.

There are many reasons for this, but one of them is that the church, and christianity, has lost credibility and moral authority. Many of these non-believers have ethics and a sense of social justice that are closer to the teachings of Jesus than the attitudes of many christians.

So many non-believers consider christianity has been tried and found wanting. They think too many christians continue to blindly follow where they are led.

They think it is dangerous. And they would find it very difficult to believe in Jesus because of these attitudes.

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. A church following the teachings of Jesus on materialism, concern for the poor, compassion, justice, non-violence, forgiveness and serving would be very attractive to many.

So how will it end?

This may be a crucial time in the US. There is a presidential election this year, and another 4 years of polaristaion and harsh treatment of those seen as adversaries may change the face of the country for a generation.

Will the christians wake up to what is happening?

Will the church become light and salt again, serving the community in love and truth rather than being polarising and condemning?

Will the US move towards justice and wellbeing for all, or away from it?

The answer is blowing in the wind.

But we can hope that more police, christians and whites have the attitude displayed by these Miami police, who, when faced with protestors, “took the knee” and apologised. It defused the situation and led to reconciliation and a peaceful demonstration.

Note: I am normally reluctant to say too much about events in the US because I don’t live there. But the US has a large influence on the rest of the world, including the influence of the US church on christianity around the world. Many in the world are watching current events with alarm. Sometimes we need to speak.

Photos: (1) Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Civil Rights March, Washington, DC, 28 Aug 1963 (Rowland Scherman on Wikipedia. Public domain.)
(2) Burning buildings during Watts Riots, Aug 1965. (New York World-Telegram on Wikipedia. Public domain.)
(3) Miami police take the knee and build bridges to protestors. I don’t know the original source of this photo, but it was being shared on Twitter and Facebook so I assume it is OK to use here as fair dealing. I will remove it if I am mistaken about this.

14 Comments

  1. Eric,
    This is a fair diagnosis of the American evangelical condition. I think this path will ultimately be their downfall if they don’t make a change; but it may already be too late so far as the younger generations are concerned. Though my departure from the faith had little to do with church hypocrisy, I am still saddened by the politicization of the church and the influence that has had on its members. I am in a blue state, but I still see it firsthand with my increasingly conservative parents, and with the disgust my still-believing wife expresses when she observes how much of the church community is caught up in the cult of Trump and is emulating his selfishness, arrogance, and lack of compassion. But I also see a groundswell of “progressive” Christianity that may be up to the task of reinventing the American Christian, and I think the growing resistance (or so it appears to me) against this movement is a sign that they’re starting to scare the establishment. As you know, I don’t fall in the “religion is toxic” camp and would welcome the day that someone like Brian McClaren – instead of Franklin Graham – is considered a leader for the church. I commend you for adding your voice to that chorus.

  2. Thanks Travis. I don’t normally comment on church stuff here because I’m mainly dealing with more philosophical, historical and scientific matters, but I felt this situation needed some comment. Having been a believer for almost 60 years, I have seen enormous changes in my lifetime. Franklin Graham is a very different person from his father!

  3. Eric I think you only know about half the story on the US.

    It is certainly true that the media has become partisan but I think you are only listening to one side.

    I will quote you and number your points:

    “But at the same time, to an outsider at least, the US seems to be diving into madness.

    1) The US has always been a violent culture (not that other western nations have anything to boast about!). Examples:
    frontier wars,
    incursions and military interventions into other sovereign states (more than half the countries in the world since WW2!),
    2) one of the highest levels of gun ownership and homicides in the developed world. Especially notable is the passion to retain a gun culture even when its outcomes are so dire.

    3) There seems to be a growing acceptance of untruths if they are seen as supporting a particular viewpoint. This is illustrated by the response of the current President to the coronavirus pandemic. (“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine. ….. fake news …. to inflame the CoronaVirus situation”.)

    4)A somewhat cavalier attitude to human life, especially if it isn’t white American life, and especially if it might stand in the way of profits. Of course the recent gratuitous killing of George Floyd is the latest example.”

    1) Yes the frontier was violent and horrible atrocities were committed by the US against the native Americans. Some of the violence was unmitigated barbarism. But for some of the violence context is at least relevant. The native americans did not have clear legal boundaries or legal ways to purchase property within those boundries. People settled land and then had to defend it.

    As far as wars around the world since ww2. Ok but had the US never did anything and made it clear we would be completely pacifistic there is a good chance Australia would be governed by Putin now. It seems to be a failure of our educational system to ignore the real threat of socialist regimes after ww2. China is still a huge threat. Do you agree? If not for the US or others expressing a willingness to use military force do you think Taiwan or Hong Kong would still have any independence? Do you think China would stop there?

    2) Yes we have a right to defend ourselves. I think this in many ways points to the different philosophies between the US and Europe. Europe always wants the state to do everything. The Americans – many of whom left Europe – want freedom. We do not want to be completely at the mercy of the state while criminals break into our homes and kill our families. Europe has had nazi and communist governments where thugs were allowed to attack individuals. They had no way to fight back.

    https://www.audible.com/pd/The-Assassination-of-Heydrich-Audiobook/B01M4KRZMZ?ref=a_library_t_c5_libItem_&pf_rd_p=592f90bd-7f7b-4bfc-afa2-b002e52e7228&pf_rd_r=A0XKPCEQDC39NSEHWEAP

    Is an interesting book about the nazi occupation of the Czech republic. It is largely irrelevant to this topic but I do remember one part. The author remembers thinking we wanted to fight but what could we do throw snowballs at them?

    3) He was saying that based on what China was falsely representing at the time. But yes we also had a whole conspiracy theory based on a Russian Dossier that was cooked up by the democratic party. Do you remember that? Trump was supposedly a russian puppet that Putin had groomed to be our president 10 years before he ran for president. Our media covered that for years so did the BBC. What evidence was ever found to substantiate he was working for the Russians? Zero. Yet the media ran with it for years. And really they move on as though that wasn’t a huge smear campaign.

    4) I think you have it backwards. We are cavalier with life if it is not a black person that dies or if it is a black person that is killed by another black person. Let’s test that out empirically. How many Americans, Austrailians or europeans do you think have hear of George Floyd? Now how many do you think have heard of Tony Timpa?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c-E_i8Q5G0

    I don’t blame you for being misinformed about our country. The foreign media is insanely anti-trump as is most of our national media which is really just an extension of the democratic party.

    I do recommend you also follow some conservative sources if you want both sides of what is happening in america. For the conservative side I would recommend the Daily wire and the national review. There is really no “unbiased” media source anymore.

  4. Black Lives Matter – the organization – always seems to leave black corpses in its wake every time they cut through a city complaining about police. The police get discouraged and murders increase substantially.

    It’s not that I think police should be immune to complaints. I think we should be mindful of potential police brutality. But to suggest that police brutality is a primary cause of difficulty for African Americans is not true. They and other liberals also push ideas that cause extreme suffering for black people.

    There is no question BLM is a Marxist organization.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdpIIiBe7Wc

    Many African American intellectuals have spoken out about the horrible consequences of leftist racial policies. But for some reason white liberals want to keep piling on their damaging laws. Here are some examples:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C2HrbQTzwk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeMYQe8OjlA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt95ct2gISA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrx-rLj3qTs

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6ImP-gJvas

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7hmTRT8tb4&t=1995s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCEeVAzviUY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDrwXoqluSA&t=213s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpLItQnrgec

    I am glad you have an interest in this topic. I encourage you to learn about it and not just listen to leftist media and political opportunists but intellectuals that research and write books.

  5. Hi Joe, I can see you feel strongly about all this, so I am wary of where this might end up. But if you are willing to engage, so am I. 🙂

    I think it is interesting that I didn’t mention any political ideology in my post. I didn’t use the words Democrat or Republican or “liberal”. I did criticise the current President, but not for his political ideology but for his lack of truthfulness. And I implicitly criticised previous Presidents when I commented on illegal foreign incursions (I could have named the two Bush Presidents for the two Iraq wars, but I could also have criticised Kennedy & Johnson for Vietnam or Obama for the incursion and assassination of bin Laden).

    So my post was only slightly political, and mostly ethical and religious/christian. I criticised that “Africans were forcibly removed from their own lands and brought to work as slaves in the US. ….[and experienced] Prejudice, inequality and outright hostility ….”. I spoke of violence and disregard for human life in the US and other western countries (I have written several times on my blogs about Australia’s appalling treatment of our aboriginal peoples). These are ethical issues. I also spoke of what I see as a weak response from christians in not addressing these ethical issues.

    Yet out of all of that, you have chosen to emphasis political attitudes and the detrimental effect (you claim) of “liberal” political ideologies. Are not the ethical and christian issues more important than that?

    So you criticise the organisation Black Lives Matter as being Marxist but say little about the issue of black lives mattering and not being given the same value as white lives. Do you think that statement is true? If so, do you not think there is an ethical issue here? Is it not at least possible that some black people have been driven to a “Marxist” organisation because christians of less violent views haven’t supported them?

    (For the record, I am not a Marxist, I don’t support (or oppose) the organisation Black Lives Matter because I know so little about it, but I do support the ethics of black lives mattering, and I recognise the ethics are a separate issue from the organisation.)

    So I won’t, I cannot, comment on what white liberals may or may not be doing to change laws in the US until and if I know enough and I feel it is my place to comment. But as a christian I feel I must speak about ethical and christian issues.

    I would be very interested to hear your views on those matters and discuss them further. Thanks.

  6. Joe,
    There’s something I’ve come to realize over the years that may apply to your response. What I’ve observed is that every issue has a spectrum of viewpoints in the population, where the midpoint on that spectrum is the current status quo. The status quo is a big, heavy blob with a ton of momentum that doesn’t move very quickly or easily (though the internet seems to have made it much easier to move than it used to be). Regardless, the people who are most closely aligned with the status quo don’t tend to say much, and when they do they are only looking for small, incremental changes. The people at the extremes from the status quo are louder and more vocal, and are seeking bigger changes. The result is that the world of ideas starts to look less like a spectrum and more like a battle between two extremes. But in the absence of a revolution, these extreme views are rarely implemented, and when they do they don’t last long. In the long run we end up with gradual changes which were catalyzed by the vocal extreme toward which those changes shifted.

    So the point is that you need to disentangle the catalysts and the effects. The current status quo includes massive inequality (i.e., median net worth of black Americans is about 1/10th the median net worth of white Americans) and that isn’t going to change without activists for change. You don’t have to agree with everything they’re saying to agree that the status quo needs to change, and to understand that a shift in the status quo requires activists. If you agree that a shift is needed, then let the activists nudge the status quo and rest assured that America isn’t going to become a Marxist nation as a result.

  7. Travis
    I agree that most times these sorts of events fizzle and no lasting damage is done. But any even passing student of history should know that is not always the case. I think to some extent younger generations have been so protected they think they are immune to being the next tragic victim of history. Some how mom and dad will bail them out when the money runs out and no one can pay for all of bernies free stuff anymore. Certain groups make power grabs and Socialists have done it in many countries. Its not that people in these countries were just really dumb and americans today are just way too smart – they are buying the same rhetoric socialists always use.

    I think you said you are now living in the states. Maybe because you are on the left you don’t get the same sense as many other americans who are afraid to even state their views. The numbers of people getting fired and ostracized for saying fairly innocuous things like all lives matter or this museum will continue to collect art from white people. This is not normal for the USA. Nor is it normal that an out and out socialist is winning so much of the democratic party vote.

    I will make a few more posts on socialism. I recomend the red famine and/or the Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum. She is rabidly anti-trump but these books were written before the 2016 election. She did some outstanding work and you will see how societies suddenly start signing on to the socialist party line. Its not like the red army holds a gun to everyone and forces them to vote communist. Its just that certain forms of violence are not prosecuted. Certain people holding the party line get favored. And it becomes economical to spout the party line and those that don’t suffer economically. It is hard to ignore these illiberal forces at work in the USA today.

    You will also see the same sorts of rhetoric. Promises of free stuff claims the wealthier classes are to blame for all our woes etc. I find it amazing that people today would believe these same old socialist propaganda. But Bernie is making a great run and socialists are embedding themselves in the democratic party.

    As far as race I really think you should consider what some of the scholars I posted say. You say the disparaty isn’t going to change without “activism.” So first I would highly recomend Thomas Sowell’s book disparaties and discrimination. It really changed my thinking and clarified some of the fallacies I was holding on to including the “invincible fallacy.”

    But lets say you still think it is important to somehow correct this disparaty. You suggest “activism” is necessary. Activism in favor of what action exactly? That is the problem. Do you think police kneeling will help the problems of blacks living on the south side of Chicago? Is marching up and down the streets over 50 unarmed people being shot by police every year – the largest proportion of those shot are white – going to help black people? Black children in some neighborhoods have very real problems but they are not caused by the police. Making them think the police are the enemy is not doing them any favors – it is doing real harm.

    Everyone can curse because of this or that disparaty but the solutions proposed by these blm activists will almost certainly make matters worse. It is hard to imagine they really care about black communities. To suggest that further dissolving the nuclear family and fewer police (which means more crime in many neighborhoods that black people grow up) is somehow what we need is absolutely insane. Anyone who looks at the correlation between crime and being raised in a single parent family knows better.

    Black people have their own agency. These white liberals who say the only way they succeed is if we confess real or imagined sins in some sort of inquisition like environment is less than unhelpful. Listen to some of the black intellectuals I have posted above. They know about african american history and culture. They have analyzed the various policies. There is a difference between an economics professor and a talk show host. Glen Loury and Thomas Sowell are top notch economists. And of course read those who disagree with them. But don’t ignore the actual black intellectuals that really understand the problems black people face studied the empirical evidence and formulate logically rigorous arguments just because they disagree with your favorite cnn anchor. And by the way those authors have plenty they disagree with eachother about. But they also agree on many things.

  8. Unkle E
    Are you thinking your post did not demonstrate you favor of democrats over republicans? I mean the whole post is that you wish churches would be more active in these leftist causes. I don’t mind, but you are not exactly subtle. 🙂

    “So you criticise the organisation Black Lives Matter as being Marxist but say little about the issue of black lives mattering and not being given the same value as white lives. Do you think that statement is true?”

    No I don’t think it is true – at least in the case of black lives being taken by the police. Do you think it is true? You seem to take that as a given, but what evidence do you have?

    But yes I think there is an ethical issue if we think certain lives matter more than others. We are all made in God’s image and we take people as individuals. I am a firm believer in judging people not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character.

    If you listen to the youtube video by Coleman Hughes on BLM he is the one who gave me the evidence for my view that we definitely care more about black people lives lost to police then we care about white lives lost to police. I can state it if you don’t have time to listen. I just really think you should listen to some of these scholars.

    If you ask whether black lives that are lost to black murderers matter as much as white lives lost to white murders then I think that may or may not be true. I certainly think the media plays down the black lives lost to black murderers because that does not fit their narrative that all of the problems black people face are caused by racism and the white liberal politician is therefore the savior.

    “Yet out of all of that, you have chosen to emphasis political attitudes and the detrimental effect (you claim) of “liberal” political ideologies. Are not the ethical and christian issues more important than that? ”

    You were bemoaning that churches not be more active in embracing these leftist views of race. And so that was the topic. The ethical imperative for christians is to love your neighbor. That is wish the good for them. Your post saying churches should embrace these leftist narratives and causes would do them harm.

    Slavery is over in the USA as are the wars you discuss. Christians were involved in the abolitionist movement. Your view that America has some large problem with racism is by and large not true. Yes we have racists just like we have people who think Elvis is still alive. I would also agree we can’t know how many people are secretly racist. I think we have greatly improved and we can still do more. Any racism is too much. But by and large I think America is one of the least racist countries in the world and I also think racism is not a major problem for most black Americans.

    “Is it not at least possible that some black people have been driven to a “Marxist” organisation because christians of less violent views haven’t supported them?”

    I think this is typical of white liberals to deny black people have agency of their own. So that if a black person supports marxism its not the same as a white person. We can say white people are mistaken, being stupid, or power hungry. But leftists never recognize agency in black people. Rather somehow white people had the agency and the black people were “driven there” by those white people. Black people make dumb mistakes and support stupid political ideas just like white people. There is no need to absolve black people of their individual mistakes or bad decisions and try to assign blame to white people. It really can be an affront to their dignity. I am not trying to amplify the already loud culture of “outrage” but I just ask you to consider this. This does rub many black people wrong and I think you can understand why. Here is a short clip:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwwd3GRL234

    “(For the record, I am not a Marxist, I don’t support (or oppose) the organisation Black Lives Matter because I know so little about it, but I do support the ethics of black lives mattering, and I recognise the ethics are a separate issue from the organisation.)

    So I won’t, I cannot, comment on what white liberals may or may not be doing to change laws in the US until and if I know enough and I feel it is my place to comment. But as a christian I feel I must speak about ethical and christian issues.

    I would be very interested to hear your views on those matters and discuss them further. Thanks.”

    Americans think black lives matter. Again in a country of 330 million you will end up with a few hundred kooks but the vast majority find racism against black people abhorrant.

    My own views on racism have been shaped in part by growing up in South Holland Illinois in the 70s and 80s. America was more racist at that time and place than this one. I drafted a post about some of the racism I personally experienced and some of the ways whites and blacks would interact at that time and place. I may post it. But also I have learned quite a bit from listening and reading to some of the black scholars I put youtube links to in my last post. Thomas Sowell’s book disparaties and discrimination as well as his book black rednecks and white liberals gave me quite a bit to mull over.

  9. Hi Joe,

    “Are you thinking your post did not demonstrate you favor of democrats over republicans? I mean the whole post is that you wish churches would be more active in these leftist causes. I don’t mind, but you are not exactly subtle. 🙂”

    I want to keep saying that I see this as a christian matter more than a political one. You said on your blog that you wanted to see these issues in a christian light too. Yet instead of talking ethics and Jesus, etc, you are talking of “socialism”, “democrats over republicans” and “leftist”. I don’t care about those terms much, I care about ethics and following Jesus.

    I think there are a number of ethical/social questions where Jesus provides us some teaching. Things like equality, materialism, wealth, caring for the poor and hurting and marginalised, seeking God’s kingdom first, compassion, honesty, unselfishness and non-violence. Those are the values I am trying to apply to my life, and to my vote.

    Now if you think those values are “socialist” and “leftist”, then what does that tell us?

    To express a little of this, I have written a new post on my other blog – Was Jesus a socialist? I have tried to show that certain of the above values were clearly taught by Jesus. I’d be interested to see if you think those values (e.g. equality, anti-materialism, warning against the perils of wealth, and caring for the poor and hurting and marginalised) truly reflect Jesus’ teachings, and whether you think they are socialist.

    “at least in the case of black lives being taken by the police. Do you think it is true? You seem to take that as a given, but what evidence do you have?”

    I think there is plenty of evidence that many times when black people are killed by police no-one is convicted over the death (George Floyd may be the beginning of a new attitude) whereas when a cop killed a white Australian woman living in the US, the cop was arrested, charged and convicted. Stats I have seen show that blacks are killed by police at twice the rate of whites and that in less than 1% of cases a cop is charged, even less are they convicted. This looks like a poor result for blacks (especially those killed!)

    “I think this is typical of white liberals to deny black people have agency of their own. So that if a black person supports marxism its not the same as a white person. ….. I am not trying to amplify the already loud culture of “outrage” but I just ask you to consider this. “

    I didn’t deny agency, excuse behaviour, or any of those things. I think you are putting words into my mouth. I have simply tried to understand why things might happen.

    “You were bemoaning that churches not be more active in embracing these leftist views of race.”

    No, that’s not so. I quite specifically criticised that ” US church is more about patriotism and conservatism than about Jesus” Concern for justice, equality and the way of Jesus. Can you see how you keep turning my christian/ethical views into political ones? Now of course they have political implications, but labelling them as “leftist” means you can attack what you consider leftist and put words into my mouth without considering the christian basis of what I say.

  10. “I want to keep saying that I see this as a christian matter more than a political one. You said on your blog that you wanted to see these issues in a christian light too. Yet instead of talking ethics and Jesus, etc, you are talking of “socialism”, “democrats over republicans” and “leftist”. I don’t care about those terms much, I care about ethics and following Jesus.”

    I want to follow Jesus as well. I believe Jesus taught us to love each other. And I take that to mean we should “will the good for others.” So if we will the good of others what do we do?

    You say I am injecting politics but your original blog was quite openly political:

    “So where is the church in all of this?
    Missing, inaction
    Sadly the US church seems to have mostly forgotten who they are supposed to be following. It sometimes seems that the US church is more about patriotism and conservatism than about Jesus…..
    The current Presidency seems to be based more on fake news than truth and is promoting division and polarisation. Yet the followers of Jesus, who said he was the way, the truth and the life, voted for him in droves.
    Christians say “God is love”, yet too often fail to show compassion and love to refugees, the poor and the sick (universal healthcare anyone?). There seems to be a growing harshness in US christianity. Christians seem almost glad to be able to express their view that God will judge non-believers harshly.
    Many christians and churches support the justice aspirations of black Americans, but there are too many who seem unconcerned about justice and black lives matter.”

    I mean do you really think you are not picking political sides? Complaining that Christians voted for the republican nominee? Complaining that we are not concerned with “black lives matter” which is a marxist organization? That we need universal health care. Clearly you think we should not be voting for the Republican presidential candidate and instead should be supporting black lives matter. Could you be any more explicit on this?

    You bemoan fake news but then you literally link to a leftist article with the headline:
    “Texas Lt. Governor: Old People Should Volunteer to Die to Save the Economy”
    When the transcript plainly shows he never said that. Not even close. He in fact said he would do what Christ said would be the greatest expression of love – give his life for another. In this case a younger generation. And you continue in this misrepresentation and say he has a “cavalier attitude about human life.” Well I guess you could say that about Christ because he did not do everything in his power to save his life either did he? He was willing to give his life for others just like the Texas Lt. Governor. Yes we are a christian country and there are many older people here who do not want to see this country ruined for their children and grandchildren and they are willing to be selfless even if it means they are at greater risk of dying. They truly love others that much. And the left just mis-characterizes them and bashes them. I really don’t see how you think you are acting Christian by summing that up as he has a “cavalier attitude about human life.” Honesty is an important Christian value and that headline was dishonest.

    It was no coincidence that he was a republican.

    I mean I just don’t even understand where you are coming from, acting as if you left this as some sort of open question and didn’t get political at all. Travis could immediately see you were identifying blue versus red politics. Why are you ok with that, but upset that I see the same thing. Your whole post can be summed up as: American Christians are not really Christian because they support republicans. When I actually try to address why many Christians don’t endorse democratic policies or “black lives matter” you claim I am the one getting political. Well you brought it up.

    It is far from clear to me that Christians need to be kneeling down to a marxist organization that wants to defund the police and end the traditional nuclear family. It is obvious many, that would not in any way show that black lives really matter to us, and would likely mean we don’t care about black lives. Do you know the number one cause of death for young black men in this country?
    https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2017/nonhispanic-black/index.htm#anchor_1571149616

    I do care about black lives that is why I don’t support black lives matter. You can say oh I didn’t mean the organization. But then why use the organizations name? Why not just say take a stand on racism? If it is because you don’t know anything about the organization with the name “Black Lives Matter” maybe you shouldn’t be immediately so negative that churches are not rallying to support “Black Lives Matter.”

    No rational person really thinks the number one cause of death for young black men will do anything but increase if we have less police. It is not even discussed in the leftist media (feel free to prove me wrong – I would really love to be proven wrong here) They simply don’t care about those black lives. They are much more concerned with trying to make race an issue so Trump will leave power and their guy gets in. It is dishonest and disgusting to the core, I am fine with leaving the vengeance for the lord but I am also not going to just pretend I don’t see it.

    You say:
    “I think there are a number of ethical/social questions where Jesus provides us some teaching. Things like equality, materialism, wealth, caring for the poor and hurting and marginalised, seeking God’s kingdom first, compassion, honesty, unselfishness and non-violence. Those are the values I am trying to apply to my life, and to my vote.

    Now if you think those values are “socialist” and “leftist”, then what does that tell us?”

    Like I quoted from your post, you clearly and explicitly condemned Christians that voted for a republican president and not supporting leftist group black lives matter. Your post did not simply ask us to keep certain christian values in any sort of neutral way. Not even close.

    And no the left does not have a monopoly on christian values.

    Eirc:
    “So you criticise the organisation Black Lives Matter as being Marxist but say little about the issue of black lives mattering and not being given the same value as white lives. Do you think that statement is true?”
    Joe:
    “No I don’t think it is true – at least in the case of black lives being taken by the police. Do you think it is true? You seem to take that as a given, but what evidence do you have?”

    Now Eric:
    “I think there is plenty of evidence that many times when black people are killed by police no-one is convicted over the death (George Floyd may be the beginning of a new attitude) whereas when a cop killed a white Australian woman living in the US, the cop was arrested, charged and convicted. Stats I have seen show that blacks are killed by police at twice the rate of whites and that in less than 1% of cases a cop is charged, even less are they convicted. This looks like a poor result for blacks (especially those killed!)”

    So you didn’t answer the question. Do you think black lives taken by police matter less than white lives taken by the police?

    Of course there are plenty of times when black people are killed by police and no one is convicted! The same is true that plenty of times white people are killed by police and no one is convicted. Because one would hope that most often a police officer is only using deadly force when he or she is justified in using it. And that is likely true in the vast majority of cases.

    If you look at police killings of unarmed people more white people are killed annually than black people. Overall it is about fifty unarmed people per year total. Can you name any of the unarmed white people killed by police?

    Black people in america account for 13.5% of the population yet they commit about half of the murders in this country.
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/tables/table-21
    The vast majority of the murders they commit are against other black people. But the point is when black people are involved in so much more violent crime such as murder we are obviously going to see a higher number of of black people killed by police. Asians are not killed by police as often as whites or blacks:
    https://www.pnas.org/content/116/34/16793

    Why? Is it because police secretly love Asians and think they are the superior race? Probably not. I suspect it is because Asians (for whatever reason) tend not to engage in the behaviors that lead them looking at the wrong end of a police officer’s gun as often as white and black people do.

    No study has shown that white police do use deadly force disproportionately against black people when any sort of reasonable accounting is taken into consideration.

    At least one study has shown that white police are more likely to use non-lethal force when dealing with black suspects. This could indeed indicate racism but other possible explanations exist as well.

    Your mentioning that a police officer was convicted when a white woman was killed hardly shows that black lives matter less wouldn’t you agree?

    Did you know there was no conviction of a police officer when Daniel Shaver was killed on camera? You can see the video of his death – but be warned it is horrendous. Have you ever heard of Daniel Shaver? If he was a black person do you think you would have heard of him?

    What about Tony Timpa, have you ever heard of him? Any guesses as to what sort of reaction america would have had if he was black?

    I am glad we are getting some reaction from George Floyd’s death because police brutality is a concern for everyone. But the facts and data do not suggest that this is a racism issue.

    George Floyd’s death may have involved racism. But then again Floyd’s killer was married to someone of a different race so he probably was not a white supremacist, and no evidence yet suggests racism had anything to do with it. In other words as I sit here now I see no reason to think a white guy would have fared any better than George Floyd.

  11. Hi Travis & Joe, just to let you both know that several of Joe’s comments inexplicably went into WordPress Trash, and I didn’t realise for a while. I have now rescued them. But the fault was mine (or WordPress’s) not his.

  12. Joe, first of all apologies again for two posts plus a repeat going to trash. Hopefully I have recovered them all now – if not please let me know.

    There are too many comments for me to address them all, so as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m going to try to sum up.

    I will say again that my main concern is that I follow the teachings of Jesus as best I can. I include the rest of the New Testament in that, though my main focus is on his actual words. I think those teachings include care for the poor, non-violence, forgiveness, love for enemies, warnings about the perils of wealth and materialism, truth, equality, and opportunity for all people to use their gifts and live their life for the kingdom of God.

    I live in Australia and almost half the readers of this blog live in the US. So I focus on those two countries. And I critique when I see christian values not being lived out by christians in either country.

    The focus of this post was on christians in the US, not primarily the US itself. You can see this if you analyse the content:

    1. The race riots in the 60s and now.
    2. The church as a whole doesn’t seem to care enough about justice issues.
    3. This affects how non-believers see the church.
    4. Will christians change?

    Instead of addressing the problems I raised (christians and the church not being concerned about justice) you defend what seems to many as injustice, offer alternative political views to what you see as leftist, defend the President, argue statistically that black people aren’t as badly off as I think they are, etc. I think this not only misses my point, but inadvertently confirms it.

    If I am wrong about the christians then show me that Jesus thinks something different to what I say. Let’s try a few examples.

    1. Do you think black people generally have experienced injustice by being brought to the US as slaves and being discriminated against for centuries? Do you think Jesus would approve of how the blacks have been treated in the US?

    2. Do you think truth should matter to christians? Do you think your President has told a lot of untruths over the past 4-5 years?

    3. Do you think christians should accept scientific and medical truths when the evidence of experts is clear? Do you think that some christians too easily accept alternative views with too little evidence?

    4. Regardless of how you feel about government vs private healthcare, do you think that Jesus would want the poor to be cared for? Do you think that many people in the US don’t get good healthcare (for whatever reason)?

    5. Do you agree that Jesus taught non-violence – turning the other cheek, praying for enemies, etc? Do you think that 37,000 Americans dying of gun deaths each year is acceptable? Do you think Jesus would be happy about it? If other English-speaking, roughly similar countries Australia, Canada and UK have much, much lower rates, that maybe there is something the US could learn?

    Now I wonder if you can answer those questions as a christian and in christians terms, without mentioning any politics. For those are the concerns I have. Thanks.

  13. I answered your questions on my blog. I thought I would just try to post a few short comments here to see if you have fixed the issue.

    “2. The church as a whole doesn’t seem to care enough about justice issues.”

    Where and how we separate church and state is I think something that will always be subject to healthy debate. On the whole I do think the Evangelical Church gets too embroiled in political minutia. I think the Catholic church has historically done pretty well, and is doing pretty well now. The Catholic Church sends a strong message that all people are made in the image of God regardless of race, citizenship, age, born or unborn.

    I think there are times when justice issues are so pressing that the church needs to weigh in. But there is a balance – Christianity is not a political party. Focus on the gospel, but leave who to vote for to the individual members.

  14. Yeah, we are fairly much in agreement there. I am not a Catholic, but I do believe the Catholic Church has been more balanced in its approach to social vs spiritual issues than the Protestant Church in general (with some exceptions such as the Mennonites, Salvation Army and Methodist Church), and certainly far more balanced than the US evangelical church. I’ll check out your blog for the rest. Thanks again.

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