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Politics, Society and Happiness

So, here are the conclusions of three studies. Conservatives are more happy than liberals because conservatives can rationalize inequality better. Conservatives are more charitable than liberals. Children today are less happy because they are more selfish. From the last one:

Asked what had caused this selfish culture to develop in Britain, Lord Layard, the Labour peer who wrote the final report, replied: “You have a decline in religious belief and a decline in what you may call socialism, that kind of social solidarity which was quite strong in the first half of the 20th century.”

So, here is what I think. It is really unfortunate that the church is failing to reach left-leaning people. Faith aids in developing one’s spiritual character such that one can be charitable and empathetic without losing oneself in despair. I think it is unfortunate that some many conservative Christians have chosen to ignore Christ’s message of justice. Even suggesting that Christians should not work to end poverty. I think greed based politics is not good for any segment of society, including our kids.

I guess I’m saying everyone would be happier if they were religious people who practiced personal charity and supported economic justice. You know, if they were progressive Christians who had not lost their prophetic voice.

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National Sabbath

Should the United States have a day in which all but essential services are required to close? A friend of mine from Germany pointed out that her parents are shocked to come her, where they know everyone goes to church, only to find so many people working on Sunday. They feel terrible for those people.

Should we have the courage to set one day aside and banish the pursuit of capital during that day?

Related, here are some random links about accommodating religion of others.

Clinton
basketball
Bush

Should it not be any religion’s Sabbath? What if we required everything to close on From 4 a.m. Tuesday to 4 a.m. Wednesday?

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Internet Candy from the Pew Foundation

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has put up a study on its website that is absolutely fascinating. The data is very interesting. It gives tons of information, not just about what religions are practiced in the United States and where, but also what the practitioners are like. It allows for comparisons of age and income brackets between and within religions.

WARNING: This link may not be appropriate for work. Not because it is vulgar or anything, but because the website is so well put together it threatens to eat away more time than you may want to give.

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God’s rule around the corner?

Today’s scripture reading was from Isaiah 2:1-5, which discusses the reign of God bound to come in the future. As Christians, we relate to the Prophet’s promise of miraculous joy to come in this season when we await the coming of the Christ child.

But look, it turns out that the two candidates with the highest rating from the God-o-meter (Huckabee & Obama) are leading in Iowa.

Okay, I don’t think the scripture from Isaiah is about to be fulfilled, but I do think it is interesting that the two guys who are most comfortable talking about faith in a meaningful way are on top.

The links on the candidates are to their issues page. I strongly support Obama. I think he has the right vision for the country and the intelligence and drive to get it done. I think he can lead us from a place of hope rather than fear, and I think he more that the others will be less inclined to continue the corruption that is rampant.

I did check out Huckabee and encourage others to do the same. I disagree with him on some show stoppers: he favors federal amendments to oppress gays and criminalize abortion and does not believe in evolution, for instance. However, he does see his faith as driving him to compassion. While touting his strong anti-abortion stance he includes this:

To me, life doesn’t begin at conception and end at birth. Every child deserves a quality education, first-rate health care, decent housing in a safe neighborhood, and clean air and drinking water. Every child deserves the opportunity to discover and use his God-given gifts and talents.

I hope he becomes the candidate. Not because I think he will easily be defeated, but because he seems willing to first off, really engage in discussions of the issues and second off, be an open Christian from the political right that doesn’t make me cringe.

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Poverty & Pornography

Reflecting on the Contract with America, it occurred to me that I do think pornography is a problem. I think sexualizing children is a problem. And I think defiling the sanctity of sex by mixing it with commercial advertising is a problem. But I just don’t think the government should be the source of the solution. I think it is ill equipped for such intimate issues.

Presumably, conservatives who are Christian likewise see poverty as a problem. They would have to be much less abstract in formulating the moral imperative to care for the poor. But, I would suspect they don’t think the government should be the source of the solution.

Here’s the problem. Shouldn’t this mean that liberals who are Christians would work hard for non-government actions to challenge the use of pornography. Likewise, shouldn’t conservatives who are Christians work hard for non-government action to combat poverty? (And obviously, pornography & poverty are stand-ins for other similar issues.)

Without any data, I would guess the conservatives have the advantage on this score. But I think in both cases you find liberal & conservative Christians supporting non-government actions that further the cause that they believe it is appropriate for the government to address more vigorously than the causes they think should be solved by non-government entities.

Perhaps we don’t really think the government should or should not act based on the nature of the problem. Perhaps we really just think the government should attack the important problems, and despite our feelings that the other problems are problems, we just don’t think they are the big ones.

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Most Democrats are wrong.

By a two-to-one margin (62% to 29%), Republicans say a president should use his or her faith to guide presidential decisions. By contrast, Democrats reject this idea by a similar two-to-one margin (58% to 32%).

Time Poll: Faith of the Candidates. First off, this is kind of like asking whether a president should use his socio-economic status to guide presidential decisions, or her family upbringing. If you have a faith, it will guide your decisions.

More significant to me is a discussion about what our faith guides us to do. I personally believe when people misinterpret the teachings of Jesus and end up keeping their greedy and hateful ways, the best solution is to correct their interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. Is that more difficult than convincing people to stop using their interpretations of Jesus’ teaching to guide their decisions? I don’t know. They are both pretty tough.

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From Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy
Development. Volunteering in America: 2007 City Trends and Rankings, Washington, DC 2007. [link to summary] In Minneapolis St. Paul, 40% of the residents have volunteered in some way over the last three years. That’s pretty cool.

Volunteerism and charity are two things that Christianity has to offer the world. Like almost every Christian virtue, they are not exclusively Christian. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stress this component of faithfulness. I’m very proud of the volunteer work Chalice Christian performs. I’m also proud of the fact that we provide an opportunity for non-Christians to participate. Helping out someone else is a real high.

The study summary is pretty interesting. It provides information about factors that correlate to higher rates of volunteerism. For example, there is generally more volunteerism where there is more home ownership. (You can judge for yourself, but that correlation seemed relatively weak.) There is also more volunteerism is places with a more educated population.

In the continuing effort to divide the country, the reports I heard on the way in to work were that the coasts were less volunteer inclined that the Midwest. I guess that’s true, although Portland and Seattle are in the top ten. There is a pretty interest line down the middle of the country of volunteer leaders.

BTW: The much tougher matters are justice and equality. In Charity you keep the control. When you stand for justice and equality, if you are a person in power, you are necessarily surrendering control. That’s pretty hard.

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Something entirely not scientific

Prayer is hard, I want to get back to social justice. Here is something not scientific at all:

Mentions in the New International Version of the Bible based on searches at Bible Gateway

Peace — 247
Heal — 182
Poor — 172
widow — 103
sex — 56
marriage — 49
abomination — 8
childbirth — 7
homosexual — 1
abortion — 0

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A Cool Study

The Pew Forum has a really cool study, or probably several, about the attitudes of Americans toward Religion and Politics. If you are like me and have decided to kill some time because you’re too hungry to think and are meeting someone for lunch, you should check it out.

I found it full of surprises, but this was not surprising. In its introduction the study presented some national barometer questions to see how the country feels about religion in general. It said, have liberals gone too far to keep religion out of government and have conservatives gone too far to impose their values on the country. I dream of a day when the questions will be, “Have religious liberals gone too far in advocating for the poor?” and, “Have religious conservatives gone too far in advocating against abortions?” Or switch peace for poor and pornography for abortions. I’d like that because (1) I don’t think liberals or conservative are inherently more religious, and (2) I wish liberal religion tried to impose its beliefs on the country a little more.