Saturday, April 13, 2024

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Most Fundamental Value of Democracy

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., April  13, 2024

Altruism is the most fundamental value of the Abrahamic religions in democracy, and it leads to reconciliation.  It’s a moral imperative of the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves, and it’s a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.  Why do so many ignore that fundamental value of faith?  

Centuries of religious and political hatred have blinded Jews, Christians and Muslims to the need to reconcile with their adversaries.  Just look at the Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the racism among Christians in America.  The moral imperative to love others in the greatest commandment is not about affection, but about reconciling with the people we don’t like.

Reconciling with those of other races, religions and politics in a  democracy doesn’t mean liking them, or even agreeing with them on contentious issues.  In pluralistic democracies it means learning to coexist in peace with those of other races, religions and politics.  The alternative is degradation to a more authoritarian democracy.

Those Democracies that have diverse populations and make the greatest commandment a legal and moral imperative of their faith and politics can thrive as libertarian democracies.  Democracies that ignore the need for altruism to promote the common good are often corrupted by demagogues like Trump into authoritarian democracies with little freedom. 

In the U.S fundamental freedoms are guaranteed in a Constitutional Bill of Rights, with equality under the law as the standard of justice. In a healthy libertarian democracy the capacity to reconcile contentious political and religious differences is needed to prevent political polarization and the risk of losing fundamental freedoms in a trend to more authoritarian politics. 

Providing for the common good is an essential characteristic of a healthy libertarian democracy and requires a commitment of most voters to altruistic values.  Thomas Jefferson considered the altruistic moral teachings of Jesus “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man,” and he detested church doctrines that distorted the teachings of Jesus.  

Alex DeTocqueville saw the necessity of morality in politics and considered the church the primary source of morality in America; but he failed to foresee how slavery and the Civil War would split a nation and its church with slavery and racism.  The church has since subordinated the altruistic teachings of Jesus to exclusivist doctrines on salvation never taught by Jesus.

The church is now in decline.  It has become irrelevant because it has ignored the value of altruism needed for reconciliation and providing the common good taught by Jesus.  Nostradamus once observed that those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  For the church to save itself and American democracy from the dustbin of history, it must give primacy to the altruistic teachings of Jesus over exclusivist church doctrines.



On the views of Thomas Jefferson and Alexis deTocqueville on the moral values of religion in American politics, see Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy (July 1, 2017) at See also Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Universal and Altruistic Jesus, August 19, 2023, at A distinguished group of biblical scholars has recognized Thomas Jefferson as a pioneer in The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus in The Five Gospels, New Translation and Commentary by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar, at pages 2 and 3.   A Polebridge Press Book, McMillan Publishing Company, NY, 1993.  “The book is dedicated to Galileo Galilei, who altered our view of the heavens forever, Thomas Jefferson,  who took scissors and paste to the gospels, and David Freiedrich Strauss, who pioneered the quest for the historical Jesus.” Jefferson’s Jesus provides the universal teachings of Jesus on morality taken from the Gospels.  They are compared with those of Muhammad in The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy.  It’s an interfaith study guide based on Jefferson’s Jesus and is posted in the Resources at The Introduction (pp 10-15) provides an overview of the study guide, and reference to Jefferson’s 1804 letter to Henry Fry is at end note 2 at p 425.  Like many of the Founding Fathers, Jefferson was a deist, a spiritual but not religious, agnostic or heterodox Christian.  The terms have overlapping meanings that distinguish them from orthodox Christians.  In a world of increasingly pluralistic religions, non-orthodox truth seekers will likely determine the future of religion and the moral standards of political legitimacy that shape the American civil religion.

On how Jefferson’s Bible contributed to America’s religious diversity in its early days, see

Alexis DeTocqueville, a French aristocrat who visited the U.S. in 1831, astutely observed:  “Christianity, which has declared that all men are equal in the sight of God, will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law.  But, by a singular concurrence of events, religion is entangled in those institutions that democracy assails…. By the sides of these religious men I discern others whose looks are turned to earth more than Heaven; they are partisans of liberty...[who] invoke the assistance of religion, for they must know that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith. The sects which exist in the U.S. are innumerable.  They all differ in respect to the worship which is due from man to his Creator, but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man.  Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all the sects preach the same moral law in the name of God. Moreover, almost all the sects of the U.S. are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same.   

DeTocquevile, Democracy in America, Vol. 1, The Cooperative Publication Society, The Colonial Press, N.Y. and London, 1900 at pages 12 and 308.

On the diversity of people in America, and how most foreign-born in America live in four states, see

On how Trump fills a void a void in an increasingly secular America, see

On how church attendance has declined in most religious groups, see

On Yes, we’re divided. But a new AP poll shows Americans still agree on most core American values, see

On how Church Attendance Has Declined in Most U.S. Religious Groups,  Three in 10 U.S. adults attend religious services regularly, led by Mormons at 67%, see

On how a nonconforming minority can defeat Christian nationalism, see

On religious change in America, see

On Democracy as a Christian value, see

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Musings on DEI, Democracy, Demagoguery and Providing for the Common Good

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., April 6, 2024

  Many commentators have opined that the political extremes of polarized partisan politics threaten democracy; but American democracy is by majority rule, and that’s likely to continue, no matter how polarized our politics become.  The real risk is that polarized partisan politics are a dysfunction of politics that ignore the common good of freedom and human rights.


DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) is like affirmative action.  It emphasizes contentious issues that can promote the common good, but that are also a siren call to political activists who promote more political division than the reconciliation needed to maintain the fragile balance between political rights and responsibilities in America’s polarized partisan democracy.

Demagoguery is an issue in America’s presidential race, and polls indicate that voters are divided along party lines.  Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, is a radical right demagogue; and President Biden corrupted his political integrity when he assured Israel’s Netanyahu, a Zionist demagogue, that he was a fellow Zionist and that “America has Israel’s back.”  

     Netanyahu’s IDF has killed over 32,500 civilians in Gaza, and destroyed many of their homes and civilian infrastructure with strikes that have violated international humanitarian law.  Even so, after rebuking Netanyahu over violations of international  law, Biden has continued to provide military aid to Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.


        Biden’s duplicity in continuing to provide military assistance to Israel while urging Israel to minimize Palestinian casualties has only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  An IDF strike on  April 3 killed 7 workers from World Central Kitchen, ending their humanitarian mission.  Jose Andres heads World Central Kitchen and believes the  IDF strike was intentional.

        Biden’s loyalty to Netanyahu as a Zionist demagogue and his continued aid to Israel in its unlawful acts against Palestinians in Gaza should become even more of an issue in the November elections.  Such military aid is a violation of the Foreign Assistance Act, and conflicts with international humanitarian law and democratic ideals that define the common good.     

       Providing for the common good is critical in both democracy and Christianity.  It’s a moral imperative of the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It was taken from the Hebrew Bible, taught by Jesus, and has been accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith.

America cannot sustain a healthy democracy unless its politics provide for the common good; and that won’t happen so long as Democrats and Republicans continue to put party loyalty ahead of providing for the common good.  Neither DEI nor demagoguery can fix that.  It will take more independent candidates or a new party to break the partisan logjam. 


On Promoting the Common Good as Essential for Political Legitimacy in a democracy, see

On an open convention as A better option for Democrats than Biden, see The Ezra Klein Show, NYTimes, February 16, 2024, at NYT Audio app, Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, or Google.

On Biden providing military aid to Israel through a loophole while advocating humanitarian aid in Gaza, see US uses loophole to keep 100 arms sales to Israel under the radar amid Gaza war at, 6 Mar 2024.    

“A day after President Biden asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ‘hurting  Israel more than helping Israel,’ Mr. Netanyahu dismissed Biden’s contention as ‘wrong.’ Netanyahu asserted that his policies “are supported by the overwhelming majority of the Israelis.  Biden said that Netamyahu’s military strategy was ‘contrary to what Israel stands for, and I  think it’s a big mistake.  So I want to see a cease-fire.  Netanyahu] cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead as a consequence of his  pursuit of Hamas.’  The president’s comments once again highlighted the delicate position the U.S. has found itself in: arming Israel while at the same time providing humanitarian aid to Gaza. See Biden-Netanyahu Dispute Over Gaza War Heats Up After the president asserted that Mr. Netanyahu’s military strategy has been “hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Israel’s leader dismissed his contention as “wrong.” at                         

Reuters has described “US aid policy on Gaza as 'absurd' given its military support for Israel, according to Michael Fakhri, a Lebanese-Canadian law professor mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to document and advise on global food security.  Fakhri warned of chaos as starving people joust for supplies. He called the port and air drops methods of "last resort". "The time when countries use air drops, and these maritime piers, is usually if not always, in situations when you want to deliver humanitarian aid into enemy territory," he said.  Fakhri said such methods made little sense while Washington continues to provide military support to Israel.  He envisages an additional $17.6 billion in new military assistance to Israel as its war against Hamas continues in response to their deadly Oct. 7 attacks.  "That's more than allyship. That's a marriage ... It's almost incomprehensible," he said of U.S. support to Israel, calling the recent aeddid measures a "performance to try to meet a domestic audience with (U.S. presidential) elections around the corner". "That's the only rational coherent interpretation (for these aid announcements) because ...from a humanitarian perspective, from an international perspective, from a human rights perspective, it is absurd in a dark, cynical way," he said.  Fakhri, who has been critical of Israel on social media, on Thursday told the Geneva Human Rights Council that Israel was destroying Gaza's food system as part of a broader "starvation campaign". Israel's envoy called this a lie and it strongly denies restricting aid into Gaza.  See,%22That's%20more%20than%20allyship.

On how Netanyahu is making Israel radioactive, Thomas Friedman has said “Israel today is in grave danger. With enemies like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Iran, Israel should be enjoying the sympathy of much of the world. But it is not. Because of the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist coalition have been conducting the war in Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, Israel is becoming radioactive and diaspora Jewish communities everywhere increasingly insecure.”  And Friedman fears it’s about to get worse.  Netanyahu has broken Israel with his destructive policies but is not seeking to fix the problems he has caused.


Biden’s Words Over Deeds.  Biden’s misplaced love and loyalty for Israel has prevented him from pressuring Netanyahu to agree to a cease fire that could result in humanitarian aid for Palestinians. See

​​On  Chef Jose Andres assertion that Israel’s IDF  targeted his aid workers on April 3, 'systematically, car by car' in Gaza, see

Why Das of the IR has said, “This is a shame on all of us.”

On President Biden recently authorizing more bombs for Israel, see

Seven Senators have urged Biden to stop arming Israel, citing violations of the Foreign Assistance Act that bars military aid from going to any country that blocks humanitarian aid.  It was the latest bid by Democrats to intensify pressure on Mr. Biden to demand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu change his tactics and mitigate the suffering of Palestinians as the offensive in Gaza drags into its fifth month. The senators urged Biden to make it clear to the Netanyahu government that failure to immediately and dramatically expand humanitarian access and facilitate safe aid deliveries throughout Gaza will lead to serious consequences under existing U.S. law,” [not  to mention international humanitarian laws violated by the IDF]. Senator Sanders said it was clear that Mr. Netanyahu’s actions were in breach of the terms of American military aid as set out in the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act, which is part of the foreign assistance law. The act says that as soon as the president is made aware that a country is blocking or restricting the delivery of American humanitarian assistance, no U.S. military aid can be provided. “That’s exactly what Israel is doing; they are preventing U.S. humanitarian assistance from getting to the people of Gaza. They are in violation of the law, and therefore financial aid should be suspended. Last month, the Senate approved an emergency national security aid bill that would send an additional $14.1 billion in military aid to Israel, including $10 billion for offensive weapons for the war against Hamas. “Israel has the right to defend itself,” Mr. Sanders said, “but Israel does not have — in any way, shape or form — the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people.”  But as the United States finds itself as both the source of offensive weaponry and the provider of relief for those on the receiving end of attacks from those weapons, Biden has failed to circumvent the obstacles preventing assistance from reaching the Palestinian people. See

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and called for new elections in Israel in a speech on the Senate floor on March 14, 2024.  See

On the conflict between Netanyahu’s militant Zionism and international humanitarian law and democratic ideals, see Musings on Why Criticism of Netanyahu’s Militant Zionism is not Antisemitic at

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., March 30, 2024   

         The crucifixion was the worst sin of humankind; and God nullified it with the resurrection.  The resurrection was God’s universal message that Jesus was God’s Word (the Logos) and the source of eternal life, and that God would never let it die.  It was a Word of eternal spiritual life that has remained the source of God’s truth for people of all religions since that first Easter.

The resurrection is the focal point of the Christian religion.  It’s about faith and belief in a miracle that’s beyond reason, but not unreasonable.  Jews and Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet, but not as the risen Christ.  While Muslims don’t believe in the resurrection story, they believe that Jesus will return on the last day to usher in God’s kingdom.    

Will Jesus return in a parousia as predicted by Paul and in the book of Revelation, or in the apocalyptic accounts in the gospels?   We don’t know, and it’s been over 2,000 years since the resurrection.  All mortal lives since then have ended with conventional deaths.  What happens when we die remains a mystery, but it’s a mystery we can live with until our death.

The church and Islam have both distorted God’s word by attempting to limit salvation to their religions.  Jesus was a Jew who never tried to start a new religion or claimed to be divine.  As a Jew any claim of divinity would have been blasphemous.  Jesus taught that salvation came in this life, not the next; and became eternal and beyond the reach of Satan in God’s realm.

The exclusivist doctrines of Christianity and Islam should be subordinated to the moral imperative of the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors of other races and religions as we love ourselves.  It was a universal message that God’s Word (the Logos) is a common word of faith, as illustrated in the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).


In a world of increasing religious pluralism, the exclusivist doctrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam should be subordinated to the universal moral imperative of the greatest commandment.  Only then can the light of God’s love dispel the darkness of exclusivist religious beliefs and reconcile all unbelievers into the family of God.

Today we can see the resurrection in a new light of religious reconciliation.  If Christians and Muslims believe God is love (I John 4:16-21) and in God’s validation of the teachings of Jesus as Logos (John 1:1-14), then Christians and Muslims can share a common word of faith in Jesus as Logos and the way, the truth and the life and the only way to salvation (John 14:6).  

         Easter is a time for new beginnings and spiritual rebirth.  The Hymn of Promise (UMH at page 707) tells us: In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be; in our death a resurrection, at the last a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.   Easter promises a new hope for the reconciliation of all people of faith. 


On Paul’s understanding of resurrection, see I Corinthians, chapter 15; and on his understanding of atonement as it applied to the crucifixion and resurrection, see Romans 3:21-26.  Keep in mind that these are Paul’s words, not those of Jesus.  Paul promoted exclusivist doctrines of Christianity, while Jesus was a universalist.   

Related Commentary on Christian universalism and the Logos:

(1/28/14) Religion and Reason

(1/4/15): Religion and New Beginnings: Salvation and Reconciliation in the Family of God

(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?

(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light

(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos

(1/2/16): God in Three Concepts

(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church

(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World

(6/17/17): Religious Exclusivity: Does It Matter?

(7/22/17): Hell No!

(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?

(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism

(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism

(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics

(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims

(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos

(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism

(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment

(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America

(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism

(4/20/19): Musings on the Resurrection of Altruistic Morality in Dying Democracies

(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century

(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity

(6/29/19): Musings on a Politics of Reconciliation: An Impossible Dream?

(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors?

(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity

(4/4/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of America’s Values

(12/23/20): Musings on the coming of a light that can dispel the darkness of the world.

(1/16/21): Truth and Reconciliation in Politics and Religion in a Maze of Conflicting Realities

(5/22/21): Musings on Morality and Politics and the Need for a Civil Religion in America

(11/6/21): Musings on the Need for Political and Religious Reconciliation in America

(2/19/22): Musings on Reconciliation to Resolve the Dilemma of Diversity in Democracy

(6/4/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Relevance of Jesus Today

(12/10/22): Musings on the Evolution of  Christianity into the American Civil Religion

(1/14/23): Musings on Reconciling the Abrahamic Religions with a Common Word of Faith

(2/4/23): Musings on the Need for Universal Religious Standards of Morality

(2/11/23): Musings on Resurrecting a Universal Jesus to Restore America’s Moral Compass

(2/18/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Jesus as the Logos in John’s Gospel

(2/25/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irony of the Logos in John’s Gospel

(5/20/23): Musings on God’s Simple, Universal and Timeless Truth

(5/27/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on God’s Grace and Reconciling Love

(8/19/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Universal and Altruistic Jesus

(8/25/23): Musings on Changing Christian Doctrine to Promote the Common  Good

(12/23/23) Musings on the Advent of Jesus as the Light of the World and the Universal Logos

(1/6/24): Musings on Nationalism and Universalism in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

(2/3/24): Musings on How Altruistic Values Can Prevent a Dysfunctional Democracy

(3/23/24): Musings on How Following Jesus, Not Worshiping Christ, Can Bring Light Into a Dark World