Indivisible

Elizabeth Warren announced today that she is forming an exploratory committee to run for president. In other words, she is running for president. The arguments among Democrats and progressive independents about whether she should run or whether she will be a good candidate have already begun. Here are my thoughts:

At this point I think democrats and progressive independents should all be collectively celebrating every Democratic candidate who has the courage to put herself or himself forward to run for president. We need to find ways to come together and choose a candidate without tearing other candidates down or tearing each other apart.

I celebrate Elizabeth Warren loving our country enough to take on this urgent challenge of running for president. She would make a great president as would many other Democratic candidates yet to declare. I will also celebrate when she is joined by many others who will help us all discern in time who the best candidate will be. I look forward to the many good and diverse ideas and plans that the Democratic candidates will bring forward, and I hope for a vibrant and civil debate as we search for the best way forward. We have to all be in this together.

Once the Democratic field of primary candidates is set, I will work hard for the candidate I believe will be the best president for our country and who will make the most positive contributions to the well-being of the whole world at this critical time.

I believe in universal healthcare (no one should go bankrupt because they are sick), strong public education (a bedrock for greater equality of opportunity), decreasing wealth inequality (we are currently competing with the Gilded Age), eradicating homelessness (it is much more cost effective than our current approach and is simply the right thing to do), affordable and accessible college education and/or vocational education for all (countries much less wealthy than ours do it, and it eradicates the crushing debt experienced by college graduates), strengthening social security (no person should live their last years in extreme poverty), and aggressive action to care for the environment and do all we can to preserve a livable climate for all life (a flourishing human community is not possible without a flourishing ecological community). All of these are achievable goals that would benefit people and the planet as a whole.

There will likely be more than one Democratic candidate who will share most if not all of these goals and who will present thoughtful approaches to achieving them. Some of the candidates will share fewer of these goals than will be to my liking, and I will not be voting for these candidates in the primary.

But when the primaries come to an end, I will be supporting the Democratic nominee for President. I will continue to work for Ranked Choice Voting so there might come a day when we can all vote for our first choice every time without it helping our least favorite choice and hurting our second choice, but that is not the system we will have in 2020 for the Presidential election. Voting for any candidate other than the Democratic candidate will contribute nothing to removing our current president from office.

Our current president is a threat not only to the well-being of our republic, but also to the well-being of the world as whole. His brand of racist nationalism is encouraging similar nationalist movements around the globe. His relentless support of all things fossil fuel is a direct threat to a livable climate for human and ecological communities. His cooperation with fundamentalist Christian theocrats is a direct threat to women’s rights, religious freedom, and the rights of persons who are LGBTQIA. His Xenophobic immigration and asylum policies have led us to putting persons in detention camps, children being separated from their parents, and the deaths of immigrant and refugee children in our “care.” His praise of murderous dictators and his open disdain for many of the democratically elected leaders of our allies are creating global instability and harming the cause of human rights though-out the world. His attacks on a free press and his support of dictators who have brazenly murdered journalists diminish what have been core values of our republic and endanger the lives of journalists both at home and abroad.

Our current president is an existential threat to people and the planet, and there is not one viable Democratic candidate who would not make an exponentially better president than the current resident of the White House. We cannot let this horrific president and his Republican Party divide us. This is the time that all Democrats and progressive independents must be indivisible in our resolve to remove the global threat that is our current president. If we do not stand united against this threat, our republic and our world may never recover. We must be indivisible.

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Top Five Blog Posts on One World House – 2018

Thank you to all who are reading and supporting One World House. If you would like to support the work of One World House with a contribution, you can do so at this link: Support One World House.

As we reflect back on the year, here are the top five blog posts of 2018 at One World House. Thanks again for reading and for all you are doing to make our World House more just, peaceful, and sustainable.

  1. Turning Over the Tables of ‘American Christianity’

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2. The Abuse of Romans 13 to Abuse People

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3. Matthew 25 for an American Empire Christmas 2018

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4. The Moral Culpability of the United Methodist Church

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5. Taming Jesus

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I wish you and yours a Happy New Year, and may it bring more love and justice into our midst through your lives.

If you find the writing at One World House by Mark Davies helpful or inspiring, you can show your support by making a monthly contribution using Patreon
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Bad Parents

Why did you put your child in such a dangerous situation?

Didn’t you know how dangerous it was to take your child through the desert?

Why didn’t you get permission to go into a new country before you took your child on such a long and dangerous journey?

Why were you such irresponsible parents putting your child in a situation like this?

You knew what the conditions were like in the desert when you decided to risk the life of your child with such a stupid choice.

You should have known there was a risk of being separated from your child.

You should have known that there was a risk that you and your child could have died of dehydration and exposure in the desert.

You can’t just expect a foreign country to take you and your family in.

If anything had happened to your child, you know it would have been your fault, you know that, right?

Maybe parents like you who put their child in a situation like this deserve to be separated from their children.

There should have been a wall to keep people like you out.

I’m feel really bad for children who have parents like you who would put them in a situation like this.

Maybe people like you don’t even deserve to have children.

How could you make such an irresponsible choice for you and your family?

Mary and Joseph: “Herod was trying to kill our son.”

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Matthew 25 for an American Empire Christmas 2018

I was a refugee child escaping violence and death, and when I was hungry, you made my family stay in towns on the other side of the border not equipped to help me, and I went without food.

I was thirsty on the journey and you poured out jugs of water onto the desert floor for me and my family to die of dehydration and exposure.

I was a stranger and you tear gassed me and my family at the border instead of allowing us to apply for asylum.

I was naked and you forced me to stay in border towns in Mexico that struggled to find resources to clothe me.

I was sick because of the long journey, unsanitary conditions, and lack of adequate medical supplies; and because you separated me from my parents, they could not care for me.

I was in prison because you separated me from my parents and put me in a detention camp that the children here call “el infierno” (that means “hell” in my language), and you did not even allow my parents to come visit me.

Children Tear Gas

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Taming Jesus

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The Roman Empire perceived Jesus to be a threat to its power, and it killed him using its most public and humiliating form of execution. The crucifixion was not just the execution of Jesus; it was a public warning to his followers that Rome would not tolerate movements that tested its hegemony, and all who continued to live like Jesus lived did so at their own peril.

Rome was correct to see Jesus as a threat. A charismatic teacher and prophet crying out and acting out for justice and challenging systems and powers that oppressed the poor and most vulnerable was a direct rebuke of an imperial system that used vast and elaborate networks of hierarchical control, patronage, and terror to perpetuate an unjust order of domination of peoples and territory for imperial benefit. Jesus’ teachings and actions were a prophetic and insurgent “no!” to Roman oppression and injustice.

Past and present Imperial Christianity downplays the political nature of the crucifixion in favor of soteriological explanations that lay the death of Jesus on the sin of humanity for which Jesus’ death atones as opposed to seeing it as the result of an act of violence by the empire against a person who posed a political threat.

With the crucifixion of Jesus, Rome sent a message to his followers and friends – your teacher, your prophet, or whatever you called him; he is nothing. You want to fill crowds of people’s heads with ideas that things are going to be radically different than they are now? You want to bring good news to the poor and liberation to the oppressed? You want to turn over tables? You want to create a scene? This is how it will end for you too. You want to create a spectacle? There is your spectacle bleeding and suffocating to death on that cross. If you don’t want to be hanging there too, then get it out of your heads that anything is going to change. We are Rome, and you are nothing.

Rome dealt with Jesus like he was an insurgent. Rome had a lot of experience dealing with insurgents – people who dared to question and resist imperial authority. Neither prison nor a simple and quick execution was seen as being enough to crush the spirit and torture the bodies of those who had the audacity to resist the most powerful empire the world had ever known.

The public, humiliating, excruciatingly painful, and slow death by crucifixion was Rome’s chosen way to make an example out of those who defied the god-like power of the empire personified in Caesar. Rome displayed the choice for Jesus’ followers: choose Jesus and you are choosing the cross, choose Caesar and you are choosing life, albeit a life under an occupying power. Public brutality was the Roman insurance against insurgency and resistance. It almost always worked. Rome counted on Jesus’ friends and followers not to choose the cross. …Rome was wrong.

While the representatives of Roman power in Jerusalem may have thought they had eliminated whatever threat to order that Jesus posed by executing him and making a humiliating example out of him as a deterrence to other dreamers of justice and liberation, there was no way for Rome to see that not only was the cross not the end of Jesus movement, it was a new beginning. Rome was too powerful for its leaders to think much of anything about Jesus’ death other than it being the death of one more nuisance, one more troublemaker, who was dead and gone like all the troublemakers of the past and those to come. Rome thought they had killed the Jesus movement and that Jesus’ followers would not risk the same fate as their teacher. …Rome was wrong.

Little did Rome know that the roads it built to maintain and expand its empire would soon be traveled by followers of the one whom Rome thought it had eliminated through torture, humiliation, and death on a cross, the one whom Rome thought it had sealed off permanently from any further influence in this world.

The sojourners who went from town to town sharing good news for the poor and release for the captives were, like their teacher, a threat to the hegemony of Rome. They might “submit to the governing authorities” and “render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s,” but Rome knew that the followers of Jesus would never render unto Caesar what Caesar demanded of all within his reach – unwavering devotion and obedience to him above all others. Caesar knew he was not above all others in the hearts of these followers of Jesus. Roman emperors knew that followers of this new way were lost to them as loyal followers of the way of empire.

Like Jesus before them, the followers of this dangerous way of Jesus, this way of justice for the poor and oppressed, this way of liberation, must be controlled and subdued. Their un-Roman and treasonous refusal to sacrifice to the cult of the emperor could not be tolerated. The imperial persecution of the early followers of Jesus, though not constant, was periodically brutal and deadly and at times widespread; yet the Jesus movement continued to grow even though it literally went underground at times.

For nearly three centuries after the Roman Empire’s public execution of Jesus, the Jesus movement continued to expand, especially among the poor, even in the midst of a hostile and violent environment. The followers of Jesus were warned not to continue in his subversive ways, they were given an explanation for why they had to sacrifice to the cult of the emperor, they were tortured and killed with methods just as brutal as the torture and death of Jesus; yet they persisted in the way of Jesus, not rendering to Caesar any more than they thought belonged to Caesar. Caesar would never be their God. Caesar would never own their souls.

The Jesus movement would not die. It was not a movement without flaws or without infighting, but it was still a movement that brought good news to the poor and oppressed and the vulnerable as opposed to the imperial news of ongoing domination and exploitation, and the Romans simply could not kill it. Even when they thought they had killed it, it would not stay dead.

Given the centuries of persecution within the Roman Empire, followers of Jesus must have felt they had won a great victory when in 313 C.E. with the Edict of Milan, Emperors Constantine and Licinius declared the practice of the Christian religion to be legal within the empire. What an occasion to celebrate! Not only did Constantine and Licinius legalize Christianity, they gave back property to Christian communities, gave Christians imperial protections, and over time even offered the force of the empire to bring unity to the Church’s theology and practice. By 380 C.E., not only would Christianity be legal, it was the official religion of the empire. The religion that had been persecuted by the state was now the religion of the state, far removed from the humiliation and suffering of the cross.

In 313 C.E., the Edict of Milan made Christianity an acceptable, legitimate religion in the eyes of the Roman Empire; and following this Edict, the emperor Constantine proved himself to be quite favorably disposed to Christianity – giving it protected status, helping it organize more effectively, and assisting its fight against perceived heresy. After Constantine became the Emperor of the whole empire, he even helped oversee the Council of Nicaea where the Church laid out its official doctrines. After the Council of Nicaea, Constantine helped the Church enforce these official doctrines with the force of the state, and sometimes this included violent and even deadly force. Christianity would not become the official religion of Rome until 380 C.E. under the Emperor Theodosius I, but it was under Constantine’s rule that Christianity first had its taste of being the favored religion of the empire, and it was not a taste the Church wanted to get out of its mouth. It was a taste of legitimacy and power that the Church savored.

One can understand why the Church embraced the acceptance of the empire. It does seem much better to be supported by the empire rather than being persecuted by the empire. Restoration of properties and protection by the Emperor sure beats being eaten by lions or crucified. It is hard to blame the Christian Church for accepting this new legitimate status. It seems to be an easy choice; a choice between lions and legitimacy seems like a no-brainer. Christians had suffered greatly at the hands of the state for over two and a half centuries. What a relief it must have been to escape the waves of persecution that at times were horrific and deadly.

Though it is understandable that Christians of the time would see the Edict of Milan as a good thing, and though it really wasn’t a choice made by the Christians to make themselves an acceptable and legitimate religion in the empire; the practical result of Constantine legalizing Christianity and taking steps for the empire to be supportive of Christianity was that the interests of Christianity and interests of the empire became more closely intertwined. Christianity now had a patron in the Emperor, and as is the case in many relationships of patronage, the patron had expectations of some return on the investment.

The survival of the empire was now in the interest of the Church, and the empire had an interest in influencing the Church to take on forms and doctrines that would be most favorable to the order and stability of the empire. The empire was willing to give its authority and its ability to use force to create an empire friendly Church. This, in effect, resulted in the taming of Jesus and the Jesus movement, both of which had never been a friend to empire.

By giving Christianity legitimacy and imperial protection and support, the empire was able to co-opt Christianity more effectively for its own purposes and create an image of Jesus and an institutional Church that would be empire friendly. Once the empire co-opted the Jesus movement, it focused on the otherworldly aspects of Christianity in order to keep power and control over people in this world. The empire or state maintained control of the affairs of this world, while religion prepared the soul for the next. Obedience to the empire’s authority in this life became one of the prerequisites to enjoying the rewards and avoiding the punishments in the next. The empire made central the peripheral strands of eternal punishment and eternal reward in Christianity as a means to maintain and consolidate power and keep order among its subjects.

Empire-friendly Jesus and the empire-friendly Church were supportive of the empire handling the affairs of this world. Empire friendly Jesus was king of another world after this life, while the empire continued its role as king of this world. The empire-friendly Jesus and empire-friendly Church were fine with the empire waging war. Empire-friendly Jesus and empire-friendly Church were fine with the empire using violence and its powers of capital punishment to suppress heresy and maintain order to keep the Church safe from hostile powers.

Empire-friendly Jesus did not turn over tables. When it came to the affairs of this world, empire-friendly Jesus encouraged people to be meek and mild rather than angry and wild, to be satisfied with the temporal crumbs from the empire’s table in exchange for the promise of a seat at the table of the heavenly banquet. Finally, the empire had Jesus and the followers of Jesus right where it wanted them. The empire had finally accomplished what the cross and nearly three centuries of persecution had failed to do. The empire had finally tamed Jesus.

After legalizing Christianity in 313 C.E., the Emperor Constantine unified and codified the Church’s doctrine and practices at the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. A Church without major differences was beneficial to establishing order and stability within the empire. The empire became the enforcer of right doctrine and right practice in the Church. The leaders of the church could count on the temporal authority of the empire to maintain the spiritual authority of the Church. It was a reciprocal and mutually reinforcing relationship between empire and Church.

At the Council of Nicaea, the date for Easter was set as the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, no longer to be based on the actual date of the Jewish Passover as had been the practice. In 336 C.E., the year before Constantine’s death, the date for a new holiday, Christmas, was set around the Winter Solstice, a date that had nothing to do with Jesus’ actual birthday. The empire seemed more interested in substituting pagan holidays based around solar and lunar schedules with Christmas and Easter than it was with correlating the dates with the actual life of the Jewish Jesus.

When Christianity became the official religion of the empire in 380 under Emperor Theodosius I, the function of empire friendly paganism was replaced fully by empire-friendly Christianity. And the new Christianity of the Roman Empire had more to do with its function within the empire than with its connection to an anti-imperial Jewish prophet who was executed by the very empire that now had co-opted the Jesus movement for imperial purposes.

Christmas in the empire was a time of celebrating Jesus the child meek and mild, not the Jesus who was angry and wild. Easter in the empire was a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus after he gave himself up for the sin of all humanity, not the Jewish prophet who was tortured, humiliated, and executed by the empire like an insurgent.

As the official religion of the empire, Christianity celebrated Christmas as the coming of the empire-friendly Jesus into the world, and during Easter it celebrated the everlasting life and presence of the empire-friendly Jesus within the Church. In both cases, imperial Christianity was not celebrating the actual Jewish Jesus, but rather it was celebrating the imperial Jesus, who had very little in common with Jesus at all.

The western portion of the Roman Empire (the part including Rome itself) fell soon after its takeover of Christianity (a fact not easily explained by Christianity’s defenders such as Augustine of Hippo), but Christianity re-attached itself to numerous empires thereafter to maintain its hegemony in Europe and beyond. The Christianity of empire, as opposed to the Way of Jesus, was used to justify crusades, inquisitions, conquests, colonization, slavery, and genocide – often done in the name of Christian mission, but always done for sake of the empire.

Christianity in the United States continues in this long and tragic tradition of serving as the religion of the empire. The way of Jesus has been mistaken for the American way; including adherence to its social, political, and economic systems. Through increasingly sophisticated and ever present forms of propaganda, a form of Christianity is used to bolster loyalty to and support for the empire. Every cry that we are a Christian nation is an echo of the imperial voice that seeks to tame Jesus and use the power of the Jesus movement to consolidate power of the empire through the alienation of the “other,” by highlighting that their way is not our way, that “they” are not us.

As we celebrate Christmas in the American Empire, it is no wonder that we tend to focus on the meek and mild American Empire-friendly baby Jesus and that we use Christmas to foster a rabid and sometimes even violent (Black Friday is dangerous) consumerism that functions to bolster an unsustainable and unjust economic system.

In the midst of a world of extreme poverty and injustice; in which 85,000 children have starved to death in Yemen at the hands of an “ally;” in which journalists who cry out and act out for justice are being tortured, humiliated, and executed with impunity by the equivalent of Caesars; in which children are being tear gassed, separated from their parents, and detained at our borders; and in which our relentless use of fossil fuels is creating an unlivable climate on earth; one has to wonder what an angry and wild Jesus might do today.

One thing is for sure, the American Empire is not awaiting the birth of angry and wild Jesus this Christmas. The American Empire is awaiting the birth of tame Jesus. The angry and wild Jesus was killed nearly two thousand years ago and the Jesus movement was co-opted by empire nearly over 1700 years ago. Angry and wild Jesus is dead, at least that is what the American Empire is hoping for.

What the American Empire does not realize is that this Jesus whom we think was utterly crushed so long ago has a way of coming back. Borrowing some words from Dylan Thomas, love and justice do not “go gentle into that good night.” They will continue to “rage against the dying of the light.” Maybe this is the Jesus we can celebrate this Christmas; maybe this is the Jesus we should be waiting for; maybe the way of love, peace, and justice can make a comeback through us. Maybe, just maybe, this Jesus isn’t really dead after all.

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Diminishing Greatness

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There are a number of things that have been great about the United States of America:

Social Security is great!

Medicare and Medicaid are great!

Having more people with affordable access to healthcare as opposed to fewer people is great!

A safety net for the poor is great!

Good public education for all is great!

Having excellent colleges and universities is great!

The Civil Rights Act is great!

The Voting Rights Act is great!

The American with Disabilities Act is great!

The Environmental Protection Agency is great!

The Clean Air Act is great!

The Clean Water Act is great!

A Clean Power Plan to protect a livable climate is great!

National Parks and National Monuments safe from corporate exploitation are great!

The Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution is great!

Having strong democratic allies around the world is great!

Caring about international human rights is great!

Standing up for journalists and a free press is great!

Not having a president who believes the press is the enemy of the people is great!

Not having a president who lies relentlessly to the American people is great!

Not having a president who is under six separate investigations is great!

Not having a president who has better relationships with murderous dictators than with our long time democratic allies is great!

Accepting refugees escaping violence and oppression is great!

Not separating children from their parents is great!

Not putting children in detention camps is great!

Not discriminating against people who orient themselves to religion differently, persons of color, persons who are LGBTQIA, and women is great!

As a country, we have fallen short of the Beloved Community, we have not implemented all of these great things fully, and sometimes we have fallen very short of the ideals and values that we have aspired to express, but we have still managed to do some great things together as a nation. (Yes, we have also done some really horrific things as well – genocide of indigenous people, slavery, Jim Crow, perpetuating the inequality of women, some clearly unjust wars, and we are an incredibly violent and often unjust society. There is nothing great or good about these things.)

It does not appear Trumpian Republicans are really trying to make America Great Again. Rather it seems they are trying to systematically destroy many of the greatest things we have accomplished. If you ruin all of these great things, what is left that is really great or good about our common life together? At the very least the result is a diminishing of whatever greatness we may have rather than its enhancement, and that is anything but great.

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Normal and Patriotic People

The vast majority of Germans who supported Nazism considered themselves to be very normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who supported the genocide of indigenous peoples considered themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who supported slavery considered themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who supported the segregation and oppression of Jim Crow considered themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who supported the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II considered themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who support travel bans and other restrictions on persons who are Muslim consider themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who support rejecting refugees and asylum seekers consider themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who support separating children from their parents at our borders and putting them in detention camps consider themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

The vast majority of Americans who are against taking action to address climate change and other urgent ecological challenges consider themselves to be normal and patriotic people and good Christians.

Many of the great evils in our history and our present are made possible not by persons who see themselves as being evil, but by the actions or inaction of persons who feel they are very normal and patriotic and who often also see themselves as good Christians.

Many of the greatest perpetrators of evil in our past and present count on people who see themselves as normal and patriotic people who often consider themselves to be good Christians for support.

The longer the great perpetrators of evil can convince their supporters that they are normal and patriotic people and even good Christians, the longer they can perpetrate evil.

The great perpetrators of evil in the past and present are often masters of making their evil seem normal and patriotic and “Christian” or whatever the religion of the majority might be. This is what Hannah Arendt was getting at when she described the “banality of evil.” Much of the mechanics of evil in the world are not made possible by blatantly evil monsters but rather by ordinary and seemingly very normal people.

This is why persons who have considered themselves normal and patriotic people and good Christians have often been accomplices to some of the most horrific evils ever experienced in human history.

We are, however, not without hope, for many normal and patriotic people, both Christian and those who orient themselves to religion differently, are also capable of seeing that there is nothing normal, patriotic, or “Christian” about these evils.

The time is now for these normal, patriotic, and good people to take a stand and not let the evils of our past continue to be evils of our present and future. There is not a hero out there upon which we can depend to stop this. We must become heroes of goodness justice for each other.

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