The real Jesus

Can’t say I agree with everything Andrew Sullivan writes here (especially trying to pretend that Democrats and Republicans are equal-opportunity offenders in politicizing Christianity), but I really like the basic message: look not to what today’s churches teach, but what Jesus (and St. Francis, for that matter) taught.

 “I am a real Christian,” Jefferson insisted against the fundamentalists and clerics of his time. “That is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

What were those doctrines? Not the supernatural claims that, fused with politics and power, gave successive generations wars, inquisitions, pogroms, reformations, and counterreformations. Jesus’ doctrines were the practical commandments, the truly radical ideas that immediately leap out in the simple stories he told and which he exemplified in everything he did. Not simply love one another, but love your enemy and forgive those who harm you; give up all material wealth; love the ineffable Being behind all things, and know that this Being is actually your truest Father, in whose image you were made. Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching.

Now that is an inspiring message.  Hating gays and obsessing on others’ sins, not so much.

The richest 1% pay 21% of taxes

If there’s one annoying and horribly mis-leading statistics I hear when discussing economics and tax policy, it is invariably something along the lines of, “the richest 1% actually pay 21% of all taxes.”  Poor them!  You’ll never guess what percentage of national income they account for.   21% indeed!  Kevin Drum takes up the cause and has this nice chart:


All told, Americans pay about 28% of their income in taxes.1 The poor and working class pay a bit less, but the entire top half of the income spectrum, from middle class to super rich, pays almost exactly the same rate, around 29-30% of their income. Not a bad deal for the wealthy.

Now, I don’t expect my students to really get this.  And the ones informed by Fox News and similar sources must certainly don’t.  The problem is that you have presumably intelligent and informed people purveying such grossly misleading information.  Alas, we come back to “lying or stupid.”  This time, I’m with the former, but I don’t think “lying” really conveys the breadth of the intellectual dishonestly here.

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