Just a really brief summary of all things Trump, Russia, and the latest news from the day in politics.
Can Muslims know God? Can atheists? Jews? Are only “born again” Christians part of the Body of Christ?
Recently on Facebook, I got into this not so cozy little conversation on these questions. My view was met with intense resistance. By fellow Christians.
One guy called me a heretic.
But my view was not my own.
One’s religious views are shaped by others — in my case, two men in the very best of the Evangelical Christian tradition, and a saintly Roman Catholic woman who gave her every fiber to welcoming outsiders in Jesus’ name.
So if you find my view controversial — the view that many can know God, even though they don’t identify as Christian — please understand that I didn’t invent it.
Dr. Billy Graham, one of the greatest Christian evangelists of our time, said this:
“I think everybody that that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people for ‘eh, out of the world for his name whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world uh they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but uh they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.”*
And Mother Teresa, this:
“There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
C.S. Lewis’s held the same view. His articulation of it is far longer, more literary, and just beautiful. So I won’t be so vulgar as to copy and paste it here. But if you’d like, read about it here in chapter 15 of Lewis’s Narnia series, The Last Battle.
In my work with the Christian-Muslim Alliance, I am often invited to join Muslims for prayers. And when I’m there kneeling and standing and kneeling and standing — practicing their way of worship — I always feel peace. I always feel calm. I always feel a deep connection with fellow journeyers.
I always feel peace.
In fact, the more time I spend with Muslims, the more I realize how virtues like humility and wisdom and peace are universal forces of good — that they are present throughout the spectrum of world religions, and even amongst the non-religious.
Of course, the threat of radicalized groups like ISIS and Al Queda are real. Those groups destroy others because their “religion” is one that wants to eliminate any person or idea that doesn’t match their extreme and violent ideology. Most of those they murder are Muslims.
But like I said, the vast majority of Muslims are people of peace.
Some of you are reading this and might be thinking, Wow, Paul is really losing it.
That’s okay. I get that these views will confuse many, especially my Evangelical Christian friends. If they do confuse you, I’d like to ask you three questions.
First, why do they make you so uneasy?
Second, and respectfully, what do you know that Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and C.S. Lewis don’t?
Finally, do you think God might just big enough to be okay with people knowing him, but not his exact name?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with me via social media.
*the video of Billy Graham’s statement can be watched here.
I started The Christian Muslim Alliance earlier this year. Hate crimes were on the increase. Division was growing.
Something needed to be done.
The goal was never to claim that Islam and Christianity are the same. They are not the same. The FAQ section of our website asks, “Do we believe Christianity and Islam are the same?” We respond:
No. We do not believe in “Syncretism,” or a fusing together of different faith systems. Christianity and Islam, in short, are not the same.
Our goal was to help people understand the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, overwhelmingly, are not violent. And given Jesus’ example of welcoming all people, we believed that Christians, especially, should be the leaders in promoting the welcoming of others.
I always knew the world has its share of hateful people. We all know that. I can be hateful sometimes. But some take their hate to the extreme of physical violence, while others “just use words.”
Some haters claim to be Muslim, some claim to be Christian, some claim to be atheist.
But I never really expected what I’ve seen in the past few weeks. Again, the goal of The Alliance was never to merge Christianity with Islam. But with over 5,000 Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces, and with over 3 million law-abiding Muslim Americans living here, it seemed to make sense to find ways to promote peace.
In any event, here are just a few of the comments I’ve received in the past week or so:
– “The only reason there should be a Christian Muslim alliance is to remove the Jew. And even then, I am skeptical of the Muslims.”
– “Get the f**k out of our country and live in Saudi Arabia.”
– “FILTHY MUSLIM VERMIN!!!”
– “F**k you piece of s**t Muslims.”
– Regarding American Muslim peace activist Laura Sarsour: “The cockroach i need so pest spray some of asad gas would work on her.”
– “You should go to Syria and hug it out with ISIS. It’s not like your head had anything in it worth keeping.”
– “you can always leave america – good riddance.”
I only cite these to share what many people think. This hatred is real. And we all need to find ways to combat hate because those views do not represent the heart and spirit of America.
I hope you are active in trying to find ways to promote peace, in your family, in your community, in the world.
If you want to help us, click here to take action.
America doesn’t seem so great these days.
I’m going to make it a better day later, but this morning, I woke up mad as hell.
And some of you don’t like it. You want to tell me to move to Canada. You want to call me a liberal.
I’m not moving. And I’m not a liberal. People that have been lifelong Republicans and voted for Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain, Romney, Kasich — liberals don’t do that.
Because I am a Christian, an American, and a Republican. In that order.
In fact, it is precisely out of my Christian faith, my love of this country, and my love of the Republican party, that I’m mad as hell.
And, kindly, I ask you to not misinterpret this post as a lack of patriotism.
For we all should know by now this was a nation founded on dissent, which is why Thomas Jefferson deemed speaking-out not to be “fake news,” but a form of patriotism.
* * *
Right now I’m doing what I always do on the 4th of July: blasting American roots rock, my favorite music in the world. Mellencamp and Petty and Springsteen and Seger.
The songs always sound better on fourth than they do on any other day of the year.
I just heard this. Mellencamp’s Justice and Independence ’85. It made me think:
“He was born on the 4th of July,
So his parents called him Independence Day,
He met a girl named Justice who gave birth
to a son called the Nation,
And she walked away
“Independence would daydream and he’d pretend,
That some day him and Justice and Nation’d be together again,
But Justice help up in a shotgun shack wouldn’t let nobody in,
So a Nation cried…”
This week, the injustice of banning an all-female team from Afghanistan, hoping to take part in an international robotics competition.
Make America Great? That don’t’ feel so great, America.
Six teenage girls that, twice, made a perilous 500-mile journey. To the American embassy in Kabul. Through an area where a recent suicide bombing left 90 dead. Risking their lives, so they could get their visas. So they could experience the country we all celebrate today.
Innocent, courageous, hard-working teenage girls, banned from being part of an international robotics competition for high schoolers?
To keep us “safe”?
When did we become such cowards?
Banning these girls don’t seem so great, America.
* * *
Later I’ll drink an American beer or two, and try and feel more grateful, change my mood.
But let me get this out. Will you?
You see, I’m the child of foreigners. Mom came here in her teens. From Italy. After WWII. They were so poor that my grandfather was forced to roam the hills so he could scrounge up anything to feed his family.
My mother, born in 1942, was a child. Like one of those today in war-torn Syria. Living in the hills because the German soldiers had occupied their village.
Their country had been pillaged by an enticing form of government: radical authoritarian nationalism characterized by dictatorial power and suppression of opposing voices. It’s called fascism.
Hitler came to power on the fascist slogan of “Making Germany Great Again.”
Mom and her family arrived to the land of the free. And immediately faced discrimination. Because a bunch of paranoid conspiracy theorist politicians thought the Roman Catholics were trying to infiltrate the government. Take over America. And you’ve gotta protect America.
And all their constituents bought into the fear mongering.
And they didn’t even need Twitter to get their message out.
Because fear sells.
Nixon knew that when he said, “People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.”
And people fear outsiders.
And politicians know it.
So they exaggerate the fear. And build a base of followers.
That’s exactly what Hilter did.
My grandfather and uncles were those mocked by the whites as dagos.
One uncle changed his last name from Zeppetella to Baker. Another uncle pretended he was a very shy Mexican. He would just learn a few of the Mexican sayings — the Mexicans were better received than the Italians and made more money.
The Mexicans were less foreign than the dagos.
It’s always better to be less foreign because fewer people will be suspicious of you.
Mom was mocked. For being Roman Catholic. For being Italian. Ridiculed in high school. She worked as hard and as fast she could to learn English and get rid of that accent.
Her name was Maria Louiga Zeppetella. They told her to change it so she can fit it.
She became Louise.
I remember family vacations as a kid. Being at the Colorado River. My grandparents always came. On our family boat. “Nonno” would sometimes cry. “If my family back home could only see my life, what a great country America is.”
Dad is Mexican. Remembers the “No Mexican” signs and the segregated schools. He was a lighter skinned Mexican, so he got to go to school with white kids.
The bigots didn’t hold him back. He bought a house when he turned 18. Started a business. Worked his ass off. Succeeded.
I grew-up hearing his political sermons. All of them centered on the virtue of personal responsibility. Hard work. Family. And his many sayings: “Looking for a helping hand, try the end of your sleeve.”
He raised us to not expect any handouts.
Dad only drove Chevys. Still does to this day.
I graduated from high school and voted for the first time.
I remember the feeling of pride in that cardboard voting booth and voting Reagan. Reagan was tough, and yet respectable.
He wasn’t afraid of the Russians. He knew what the Russians were all about.
I worked as a waiter after high school. I saved the tips in cigar boxes. Then I went and bought the car of my dreams. A flawless 1954 Chevy Belair as a 19-year-old. For $6,000 cash.
I went bought an American flag sticker and put it on the rear window.
I went and got a tattoo. An eagle. On my left arm. When I got that tattoo over 30 years ago at The Pike in Long Beach, I told Dave “Give me the Proud Bird of Freedom, right here.” And I slapped my left bicep.
I picked the biggest and fiercest looking proud bird of freedom I could find.
I remember the feeling of pride. Pride in my country. Pride in our President. Pride in being an American.
A year later, sitting in an American diner with friends, I saw a WWII painting on the wall. It was of a baby* riding a WWII Navy bomber. With the word Victory. She was waving the victory sign.
I drove home. Got my camera. Returned. Took a picture of it. I returned to The Pike for the second time.
The eagle was a symbol of freedom. The freedoms espoused in The Constitution of the United States of American.
Freedom of speech.
Freedom of the press.
Freedom to worship freely in whichever way you wished.
The plane and the word victory and that victory symbol meant something to me back then. We fought wars against ideologies that discriminated against people because of their religion or race or ethnicity.
We lost our sons and daughters. We smashed their evil ideology. People were freed. Watch Schindler’s List.
Victory to me meant I was part of a nation that stood for freedom for all people.
* * *
America hasn’t always gotten it right. Slavery and Vietnam and Jim Crow and Watergate come to mind.
But nobody could argue with the things that have made America great. The power of letting the people vote to choose their leaders.
Defeating those Nazi haters.
Making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — a national holiday.
The incalculable amounts of aid given the world’s poor (Bono made this clear at the Rose Bowl a few months ago, as he screamed “Thank you America.”)
* * *
In 2010 white evangelicals were the most likely group to say morality was important in a president. That’s also part of the reason I’ve always been a Republican. It was the party where “character counted.”
At least they said it counted.
And character matters in leadership, more than anything else.
I believed they would honor the dignity of all citizens, including the immigrants and minorities — people like my parents.
These men would uphold the principals Bono spoke of: caring for the outcasts around the world, because The United States of America is part of a global family, and has been for decades.
And they would try and find ways to help those in need, and yet try and espouse to the idea that personal responsibility is one of the greatest forces on the planet — the whole teach a kid to fish idea.
* * *
This fourth of July, my people — American, Christian, Republicans — have gone another way.
That criminal Putin hacked into the very aorta of our democracy — our elections. I don’t give a damn which party you are part of; he attacked America.
And our President does nothing but defend Russia, and blame… President Obama. Let me say that again, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies — those who protect our country from those who would wish to destroy us — determined that Russia tried to mess with the heart of our democracy.
Our president does nothing. Those so-called patriotic Republicans that support him are mute.
That’s not the America this Christian American Republican has known for over 30 years. Those aren’t the Christian American Republicans I’ve known either.
A president who wants to ban immigrants and refugees, even though statistics overwhelmingly prove they are no more dangerous than my grandparents were?
That’s not the America this Christian American Republican has known for over 30 years. Those aren’t the Christian American Republicans I’ve known either.
I wrote about things that Donald Trump said about women and minorities. Here.
I wrote about the white nationalism that was at the heartbeat of his campaign. Here.
I wrote about the outlandish idea that we are under the grave threat of terrorism. Here.
Few Christian Republican Americans seemed to care.
I’d hear rumblings: “What’s gotten into Paul for his anger?”
I’d wonder, What’s gotten into them for their apathy?
Trump was elected into office in January.
I said he would be my president, assuming he acted with character and maturity.
He attacks the free press — the bedrock of our Constitution.
He mocks women and insults their looks. In writing.
He posts a video of him physically assaulting CNN, which is part of the free press.
He bans the world’s most vulnerable people, refugees, from safety. No refugee has never killed an American.
We are a land of immigrants and refugees.
My family is proof.
It’s the fourth of July, 2017. And this year, America doesn’t seem so great.
*The original painting was of a baby but pinup girls were way cooler. 😉
Confirmation bias. It’s a fancy term. But it just means only listening to people who confirm your beliefs. You surround yourself with views that confirm yours, and stay away from views that don’t.
Confirmation bias is common and a powerful force. Because most people like the feeling they get when others share in their interests and beliefs — our brains literally produce chemicals that make us feel better when people agree with us.
Conversely, confirmation bias is also common because people really don’t like the feeling they get when one disagrees. Call them what you’d like: frustrating, stupid, stubborn, ignorant. We just don’t like it when people are “wrong” about something we believe to be right.
So people tend to develop groups with people who think like them. Especially on issues of religion and politics.
Mom always used to say, “Birds of the same feather flock together.”
Flocking together makes us feel better. Litterally.
Silo is a popular word today to describe groups of people living in a culture-container of confirmation bias.
You have the progressive left wingers living in their silo with all the other left wingers.
You have the Fox News evangelical right wingers living in their silo with all the right wingers.
You have Bernie socialist types that are young and idealistic and are non-confirmists.
You have the self righteous people who “aren’t into politics.”
And everyone in your silo is in general agreement. They think alike. They all agree. And they can talk about the stupid people in those other silos.
Regardless of the silo, confirmation bias leads to groupthink.
It happens in cults.
Everyone just hears the same crap over and over and over. The big one today is the erroneous view that Muslims want to take over the world. Of course, they don’t. Three million live here, work hard, pay their taxes, raise their families. Five-thousand of them serve in our armed forces.
But confirmation bias is greatly damaging our country. As Christian and a Republican (in that order) I see it everywhere amongst my own people.
They are Republicans, first and foremost. So anything a Democrat does or says, is bad or wrong. They hate President Obama with a passion that’s hard for me to understand. I don’t hate Democrats. I might disagree with some of their political views, but I don’t hate them. These Republicans believe that whatever Trump tweets is gospel truth. And the news media is now fake. The FBI and CIA and their leaders are liars. It’s the Democrats’ fault he couldn’t get his health care bill passed.
Trump parrots those words and millions of Americans just nod and parrot his words as gospel truth.
Democrats aren’t much different in their animosity toward Republicans.
But I believe Republicans can be worse. This is hard, as a Republican, to admit. But hear me out. Republicans are overwhelmingly more religious, and especially in evangelical and fundamentalist churches.
And if you want to be informed, religious institutions, I hate to say it, can hold you back.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. wrote recently in Psychology Today. He asked the question, “Why are religious people generally less intelligent?”
In short, the answer boils down to, you guessed it, confirmation bias.
Religious people are generally anti-science. So to a very large extent, they are less logical and read less scientific literature.
Church people often they get their views on politics, science, faith, parenting, from their silo. Their echo chamber. Year after year after year they are fed the same thing told the same thing, are warned against those who think differently.
Their brains don’t grow.
This can also be true in conservative Mosques or Synagogues. Confirmation bias and living in one silo is not just a Christian thing.
Nonreligious people, it’s been my experience, aren’t as afraid of opposing views. They are more open to discussion. They don’t have a Holy Book, to argue from.
The reality of confirmation bias is most dangerous today because it’s slowly becoming dumber.
Our brains expand, grow, only when we are being challenged. That’s why schools make kids take math. That’s why we have education that includes literature and science and history and art.
Because we become smarter as our minds are stretched. The whole idea behind a liberal education was based on very conclusive research that shows that the smartest people are those exposed to many arts and sciences and cultures.
Being liberal is the opposite of being narrow-minded.
But those living in a world of confirmation bias are not growing anymore.
Their minds are being narrowed as they hunker down into their echo chambers
They follow media that tells them what to think.
Thank God I was forced to read Social Contract theory in college.
People might think I’m being a snob or an elitist by suggesting such a thing as reading Social Contract theory!
Everybody knows a “narrow-minded” grandparent or uncle or family friend that has never traveled or doesn’t have a computer. All these people “know” is what they’ve heard, and they have no access to opposing points of view.
But today even savvy Facebook users can be just as narrow as an old uncle. Because those that use the internet are stuck in their beliefs because their Facebooks feeds know what they read and keep feeding them that data — confirmation bias, once again.
Republicans today are suspicious. Christians Republicans are the most suspicious.
They’re suspicious of progressives.
They are suspicious of Muslims.
They won’t read the Koran. It’s easier to have someone confirm your bias that Islam is “as violent religion.”
They won’t read social contract theory of Hobbes and Locke and Kant and Rousseau. Instead, they parrot Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
I’m a Republican and a Christian. But I refuse to be told what to think by anyone, right or left.
I’ve never switched parties. One of my political heros did. His name was Winston Churchill. He grew up in a conservative home. Then became strong liberal. Then later a conservative again.
I’m not afraid to be called a liberal because I don’t tow the Republican party line on everything.
On Fox News, they mostly tell you what to think.
Being told what to think is so much easier than being told how to think.
Gahandi: It is far easier to hate your enemy than to understand his viewpoint.
My loyalty is not toward my political party.
My loyalty is not toward my religious affiliation.
My loyalty is toward truth.
Let’s all stay out of silos.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 or 20 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it on Paulosophia.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident.
Writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well. I hope you will, too.