Saturday, February 29, 2020

If you live in South Carolina VOTE TODAY to promote a politics of reconciliation

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

All voters in South Carolina should vote in today’s Democratic primary, no matter what their party preference.  It’s an open primary. Republicans chose not to have a primary, but have announced Operation Chaos to urge Republicans to vote for Bernie Sanders in the open primary.  They believe that he is the weakest Democrat candidate against Trump.

Last night President Trump told a raucous rally in North Charleston that the coronavirus was a Democratic hoax to defeat him.  Trump asked the crowd, "Who would be easier to defeat in November, Bernie or Joe"?  He then answered, “I think Bernie would be easier to defeat.”

We live in a time of polarized politics.  A supporter of Bernie Sanders said in an interview that if Sanders is not the Democratic Party’s nominee, she will vote for Trump.  The radical right and radical left have much in common. They both promote a politics of polarization.      

Your vote today could be even more important than your vote in November.  The S.C. presidential primaries have a history of choosing presidential nominees.  Don’t pass up this opportunity to promote a politics of reconciliation at this critical stage of the election process. 
I’m an Independent--neither a Democrat nor a Republican.  I’ll be voting in today’s Democratic primary for a candidate who I think can win and promote a politics of reconciliation.  I hope you will do the same. Otherwise, you’ll be voting to re-elect Donald Trump.

Enough said.  Now, if you will excuse me, I’m on my way to cast my ballot.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Musings on Why All Politics and Religion Are Local (and not Universal)

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Tip O’Neill once famously said, All politics is local, and the same can be said of religion.  Both politics and religion tend to put local concerns over universal concerns.  In America’s increasingly diverse and divisive democracy, politics and religion are interwoven and defy the reconciliation of issues that threaten national unity, much as they did leading up to the Civil War.

The American Civil War was fought over the universal issue of slavery.  Today conflicting local standards of political legitimacy once again threaten democracy, and the church has proven helpless to reconcile them.  Christian morality in President Trump’s regime has become so conflicted and ambiguous that it cannot hold the fabric of American democracy together.

Jesus was a radical Jewish rabbi whose moral teachings were altruistic and universal. He taught his disciples to follow him, not to worship him; but the church reversed those priorities with Paul’s exclusivist doctrines of atonement and justification by faith.  They made belief in Jesus Christ as God incarnate the only means of salvation, and condemned unbelievers to hell.  

Jesus never promoted any religion and never taught that he was divine.  Jesus taught the primacy of God’s universal love over law, angering Jewish leaders who taught that Mosaic Law was God’s standard of righteousness.  They considered Jesus a threat to their credibility and power, and conspired with Roman authorities to have Jesus executed.

Fundamentalism is a local and exclusivist form of religion that considers ancient scripture the inerrant and infallible word of God.  For Jews it’s the Hebrew Bible, which includes Mosaic Law. For Christians it’s both the Old and New Testaments, and for Muslims it’s the Quran, which includes Shariah Law. The Quran recognizes Jesus as a prophet like Muhammad, but denies his divinity. 

Jews, Christians and Muslims represent over two-thirds of the world’s population in an increasingly diverse global demographic.  In democracies with diverse religions, differences in God’s word must be reconciled to avoid conflict, and the greatest commandment is a common word of faith that can reconcile religious differences among Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

The greatest commandment is a moral imperative to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including our neighbors of other races and religions.  It’s a summary of the altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus that’s taken from the Hebrew Bible. It was taught by Jesus and has been accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of their faith as well.  

Christianity needs to revive universalism.  Thomas Jefferson was a Christian universalist who described the teachings of Jesus as “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man” and compiled them in The Jefferson Bible.  But Jefferson had little use for the institutional church, and the church looked upon Jefferson’s universalist views with disdain.

America’s churches have split over the issue of homosexuality, and most churches remain racially segregated.  Most black Christians vote Democratic while most white Christians vote for Republicans. That explains the polarization of partisan politics by race, just as religious exclusivism and conflicting standards of legitimacy explain why religions polarize politics.  

The church has lost its moral compass.  Evangelical charlatans who support Trump have denigrated Christian morality with distorted doctrines of “family values” and a prosperity gospel that conflicts with the teachings of Jesus.  A politics of reconciliation is needed to overcome divisive local standards of religious and political legitimacy, and it should begin in the church.  


In 1820 at the age 77, Thomas Jefferson compiled the moral teachings of Jesus in The Jefferson Bible, Beacon Press, Boston, 1989.  The Jesus Seminar has credited Jefferson with ”separating the teachings of Jesus, the figure of history, from the encrustations of Christian doctrine.” See The Five Gospels: What did Jesus Really Say?, pp 2-3, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1993.  The Jefferson Bible has been used in an interfaith study guide, The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, which is posted in the Resources at  It compares the teachings of Jefferson’s Jesus to those of Muhammad to promote the reconciliation of the Abrahamic religions based on the greatest commandment as a common word of faith.  The Introduction at pp 10-15 explains why Jefferson’s Jesus was used in the study guide; and End Note 2 at page 425 describes Jefferson’s admiration for the teachings of Jesus and his contempt for the church.  

In his tour of America in 1834, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that religion is a two-edged sword in democracy:  While Christians “readily espouse the cause of human liberty as the source of all moral greatness,” and “will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law, …religion is entangled in those institutions that democracy assails, and is not infrequently brought to reject the equality it loves and to curse that cause of liberty as a foe.”  De Tocqueville noted that secular citizens are skeptical of religion in politics but know “that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” See De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, The Cooperative Publication Society and the Colonial Press, 1900, p 12.      

The title of Robin R. Meyer’s book says it all: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus (Harper One, 2009).

David Bently Hart has asked, Why do people believe in Hell?  After all, the existence of hell is inconsistent with universal salvation.  “For a good number of Christians, hell isn’t just a tragic shadow cast across one of an otherwise ravishing vista’s remote corners; rather, it’s one of the landscape’s most conspicuous and delectable details.  No truly accomplished New Testament scholar believes that later Christianity’s opulent mythology of God’s eternal torture chamber is clearly present in the scriptural texts. ...On the other hand, many New Testament passages seem to promise the eventual salvation of everyone.  
...It’s instructive that during the first half millennium of Christianity — especially in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic and Semitic East — believers in universal salvation apparently enjoyed their largest presence as a relative ratio of the faithful. Late in the fourth century, in fact, the theologian Basil the Great reported that the dominant view of hell among the believers he knew was of a limited, “purgatorial” suffering. Those were also the centuries that gave us many of the greatest Christian “universalists”: Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Didymus the Blind, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Diodore of Tarsus and others.
Of course, once the Christian Church became part of the Roman Empire’s political apparatus, the grimmest view naturally triumphed. As the company of the baptized became more or less the whole imperial population, rather than only those people personally drawn to the faith, spiritual terror became an ever more indispensable instrument of social stability. And, even today, institutional power remains one potent inducement to conformity on this issue.”
Hart concluded on a cynical note: “How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? Where’s the joy in getting into the gated community and the private academy if it turns out that the gates are merely decorative and the academy has an inexhaustible scholarship program for the underprivileged? What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?  ...Heaven and hell alike are both within us all, in varying degrees, and for some, the idea of hell is the treasury of their most secret, most cherished hopes — the hope of being proved right when so many were wrong, of being admired when so many are despised, of being envied when so many have been scorned.” And as Jesus said (Matthew 6:21), “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” See

Richard Rohr, a 76-year old Franciscan friar, has promoted a mystical Universal Christ and built up a large following over the years.  Rohr emphasizes contemplation and worship of “the Cosmic Christ as the spirit that is embedded in--and makes up--everything in the universe.  And Jesus is the embodied version of that spirit that we can fall in love with and relate to.” Rohr does not promote exclusivist orthodox Christian beliefs in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.  He is a universalist who relates to those of other religions and faiths who share his mystical theology. See Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe at

Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are divisive local issues that require universal moral standards in politics and religion. “The United Methodist Church is expected to split into two denominations in an attempt to end a years-long, contentious fight over same-sex marriage. The historic schism would divide the nation’s third-largest religious denomination.  Leaders of the church said they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history. The plan would need to be approved in May at the denomination’s worldwide conference.”  See

Related commentary on the greatest commandment and love over law:
(1/11/15): The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith
(1/18/15): Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy
(1/23/16): Who Is My Neighbor?
(1/30/16): The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(2/23/19): Musings on Loving Your Enemy, Including the Enemy Within
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors? 
(7/27/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Love Over Law and Social Justice
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(10/5/19): Musings on the Moral Relevance of Jesus to Democracy
(10/12/19): Musings on Impeachment and Elections as Measures of Political Legitimacy
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(12/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Prophets, Scripture and God’s Truth
(12/21/19): Musings on Advent and a Not-so-Merry Christmas for American Democracy
(1/25/20): Musings on the Legal and Moral Standards of Political Legitimacy in Impeachment
(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics

On Christian universalism:
(12/8/14): 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?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(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
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(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
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in 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
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics 
(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church
(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? 
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of  the Church and Democracy in America
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(9/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Polarized Politics of Climate Change
(10/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Discipleship in a Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority

On religion, race and politics:
(7/5/15): Reconciliation as a Remedy for Racism and Religious Exclusivism
(7/12/15): Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity
(7/19/15): Religion, Heritage and the Confederate Flag
(3/12/16): Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America
(3/26/16): Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(7/16/16): The Elusive Ideal of Political Reconciliation
(10/22/16): The Need for a Politics of Reconciliation in a Polarized Democracy
(11/19/16): Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation Based on Shared Values
(11/26/16): Irreconcilable Differences and the Demise of Democracy
(2/18/17): Gerrymandering, Race and Polarized Partisan Politics
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(11/11/17): A Politics of Reconciliation that Should Begin in the Church
(12/9/17): Religion, Race and Identity Politics
(1/6/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Diversity in Democracy
(10/20/18): Lamentations of an Old White Male Maverick Methodist in a Tribal Culture
(12/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Justice in Religion and Politics
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country 
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors? 
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
#258 (11/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Polarization and Reconciliation
(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics