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Posts Tagged ‘Religion

What “Meritocracy” Gets Wrong

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A lot has been written lately in the media about meritocracy, what it has become, and its value to society. Traditionally, Americans assumed that intelligence, education, hard work and a willingness to accept – and overcome – risk was the definition of meritocracy. But what recent studies find is that a true meritocracy does not exist.

A majority of Americans now believe that wealth equals meritocratic value…that those at the top of the economic ladder earned their wealth because of their superior talents. Just look at the dramatic rise in the number of evangelical mega-churches preaching prosperity theology. From Wikipedia,”a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.”

But the actual truth is the US does not have a meritocratic society. It has a society in which those who are born into wealth have a much better chance of succeeding than those born of middle or lower income groups, not because of their inherent abilities but because of the superior opportunities wealth gave them.

Yes, there are people who grew up in the ghetto and against all odds achieved great wealth and prestige, but those examples are few and far between by comparison. Nevertheless, as a society, particularly in this economic climate, we choose to denigrate those who have not succeeded to wealth and ridicule those who don’t even want great wealth: those who see family and friends and charity and community as far more important values.

However, the Abrahamic tradition says something entirely different.

Judge for yourself what is righteous according to Abrahamic tradition:

  • JD Rockefeller: To those who have been given so much, so much is owed.
  • Paraphrasing Old Testament Prophets: God demands that you take care of the sick, the old, the widows and orphans, and the poor. If you do not, God will send his wrath upon you, and send you into slavery. (Leaning from their windows, the wealthy laughed and ridiculed the prophets. But God executed his promise. In 555 BCE, Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, fell to the Assyrians, and the Kingdom of Israel came to an end. Scores of thousands of the conquered people were led into captivity and disappeared from history as the lost tribes of Israel. Then in 434 BCE, the Kingdom of Judah tried to form an alliance with Egypt. The Jews thought, despite Jeremiah’s prophecies, that this would keep them safe. But instead, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, marched on Judah. He pillaged Jerusalem and deported tens of thousands of Jews to his capital in Babylon; all the deportees were drawn from the upper classes, the wealthy, and craftsmen. Ordinary people were allowed to stay in Judah, and Nebuchadnezzar appointed a puppet king over Judah, Zedekiah.)
  • Paraphrasing Jesus: God said if you do not care about the least among my people, you will not have a place in the kingdom of heaven.
  • Judaic Law commands that the poor are to be respected and protected. According to Jacobs and Greer, “the overarching Jewish attitude toward the poor can be best summed up in a single word: achikha (your brother). Jews are enjoined by the Torah to resist any temptation to view the poor as somehow different from themselves.[7] The Tanakh sets forth numerous protections of the poor. As an example of such protections, Perotta points out that the poor were protected from being exploited when in debt. Perrotta asserts that the goal of these commandments was “not only to protect the poor but also to prevent the excessive accumulation of wealth in a few hands.” In essence, the poor man is “protected by God”.[8] Kravitz and Olitzky cite the Jubilee (yoveil) and the sh’mitah as examples of commandments in the Torah designed to protect the poor.[2] – Wikipedia I’ve heard tell that every 50 years each Jewish family must donate 50% of its wealth to the poor to prevent too much wealth accumulation in any one family.
  • Modern Catholic Popes continue to preach of the need to care for the poor, the sick, the elderly, saying it is the will of God that most fortunate care for the least of God’s people.
  • The Qur’an demands that no interest (interest amounts to usury) be charged on loans as it harms those least able to pay their debts. (And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful. (Ch4:V.37) And it is not your riches nor your children that will bring you near Us in rank, but those who believe and do good works, will have a double reward for what they did… (Ch.34:V.38))

The Ayn Rand ideology of selfishness that perhaps affects so many among our wealthy class and many politicians fails to understand or accept the Abrahamic requirement to take care of the least among us. It ignores the Abrahamic tradition and laws. It ignores that meritocracy, as practiced, ignores the laws of Abraham’s God and the many barriers erected to prevent intellectually worthy individuals from succeeding.

If the US were really a meritocratic society, everyone would start out on the same level and have the same opportunities. Only their own native abilities and intelligence would determine how high on the ladder of wealth and success they climb. But that is not really the case…and Americans should really face the truth and figure out how to deal with it.

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Written by Valerie Curl

June 4, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Pope Benedict Retires…and Gets Lambasted.

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Pope BenedictPope Benedict announced his retirement today, stating that his age and health were his deciding factors in renouncing the papacy. Catholics, across the board, denounced his decision. I believe they are wrong.

Today, I read comments and opinion pieces, everywhere from left, right and center. But what I did not hear from anyone was what Benedict himself said prior to being elected. He said he did not want to become pope; he wanted to become a librarian.

Imagine if you will yourself being elevated into a position you did not want and with which you felt uncomfortable. Further, imagine your health failing along side your discomfort with your job. Would you not want to give up the job that increases your health risks as well as your mental anguish?

Benedict never wanted this job and pleaded with his predecessor to be given another job. He knew his heart and talents…yet, he was thrust into this position – a position he did not want and for which he felt unqualified. I’m not a Catholic, but I have great sympathy for the enormous decision he made. It took great courage to step aside…and great humility. I honor the courage of his decision as should we all. It takes a great man to know when to step aside, knowing he has neither the desire or health to continue.

As this moment, Catholics everywhere should be proud of their Pope, not as the infallible leader the Roman Catholic Church demands, but as a man who knows his heart and abilities as this great moment in history requires. Benedict gives the Catholic and Christian world at large an opportunity to begin anew with a younger, more energetic religious leader to meet the challenges of a new century while vigorously defending the age old tenets of all theologies of caring, sharing, compassion, respect, charity, forgiveness, humbleness and sharing.

I don’t know whether the Catholic Church will take up the challenges laid out before it in this new Century or whether it will turn its back. Only the Church knows its age old prophecies.

But Benedict should be praised for his service rather than damned for his unwillingness to continue in a position for which he believed himself incapable of continuing.

Written by Valerie Curl

February 11, 2013 at 9:33 PM

An Oldie But Goodie…

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Something to think about.

Written by Valerie Curl

July 5, 2012 at 10:54 AM

What Did He Mean?

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Yesterday was Easter….

In thinking about Easter and all it means today and historically while spending the day with my children and grandchild, I had time to ponder the meaning of Easter. Not just the death and resurrection of Jesus…but the real meaning of his life and death.

Jesus with many children of the worldAs a child many decades ago, even before the Civil Rights legislation, in bible school in Georgia, I remember quite vividly singing a children’s song in which the words still ring in my memory:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor
It matters not to Him
He remembers where you’re going
Not where you’ve been

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

If your heart is troubled
Don’t worry, don’t you fret
He knows that you have heard His call
And he won’t forget

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

All around the world tonight
His children rest assured
That He will watch and He will keep us
Safe and secure

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

How can anyone claim to be a Christian while ignoring the very lyrical lessons we were taught as children to love all those who are different from ourselves in color or ethnicity or religion or whatever just as Jesus did? How can we claim to be Christians – the children of Jesus – if we do not follow the lead of Jesus in loving all the people of the world?

What else does the true meaning of Christ’s life teach if not the love “that God so loved the world (i.e., mankind) that he gave his only begotten son” for all of us. Anything less from each of us not just denies His sacrifice but denies what He came to earth to teach humanity. Jesus cared not about political parties or even about politics.

He care not about wealth or riches and like St. Francis of Assisi He cared not about the trappings of wealth or the self-glorification and ego-gratification that wealth offered.

What He did care about was teaching us to care about each other as He cared about all of us.

He cared about teaching us to love each other, regardless of our differences. For us to do less, by choosing to divide ourselves along some esoteric lines of racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, gender or other attitudes, only exhibits how less we are than in the teachings of Jesus.

Should we not strive to become more like the moral teachings exhibited in those simple childhood lyrics?

Written by Valerie Curl

April 9, 2012 at 3:58 PM

Girl Scouts Under Attack Again

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A few months ago, I wrote a blog post regarding a proposal by the GA legislature to enact a salesGirl Scout Cookies tax on the selling of Girl Scout cookies. I admittedly was stunned by the proposal to tax Girl Scout cookie sales, but I also found it a bit humorous and kind of silly.

However, it seems some within the Grand Old Party truly do not like the Girl Scouts.

Indiana Republican Rep. Bob Morris wrote a letter to colleagues claiming that the Girl Scouts was a “radicalized organization” that supports abortions and the homosexual agenda. Conservative groups like the Indiana Right to Life and the American Family Foundation have come to Morris’ defense after he became the butt of late night jokes and ridicule.

While I can understand, if not totally agree, with their positions on abortion, this attack on the Girl Scouts leaves me speechless. As a young girl, I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout. I still have my old brownie pin fondly tucked away in my jewelry box. I never experienced anything subversive about Girl Scouts, unless someone considers girls building confidence and self esteem, learning about nature and science, developing natural talents, and being active in sports somehow radical.

Perhaps Rep. Morris and his friends in those conservative groups need to learn something about Girl Scouts.

Founder Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout Troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Ga. On March 16, 1950, the Girl Scouts of the USA was chartered by the U.S. Congress. Today, there are 3.2 million Girl Scouts—2.3 million girl members and 880,000 adult members working primarily as volunteers.

Girls at home and abroad participate in troops and groups in more than 92 countries through USA Girl Scouts Overseas, and over 100 local Girl Scout councils offer girls the opportunity for membership across the United States. Through its membership in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), Girl Scouts of the USA is part of a worldwide family of 10 million girls and adults in 145 countries.

More than 50 million American women enjoyed Girl Scouting during their childhood—and that number continues to grow as Girl Scouts of the USA continues to inspire, challenge, and empower girls everywhere.

From the Organization’s Fact Sheet:

Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is the largest organization for girls in the world. Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Through activities in science and technology, business and economic literacy, and outdoor and environmental awareness, Girl Scouting provides girls with opportunities for fun and friendship, while fostering the development of leadership skills and self-esteem.

These attacks on the Girl Scouts cause me to wonder what has happened within the ranks of the GOP conservative movement.

First it was personhood amendments that put the life of a zygote ahead of the life of the woman; then an attack on women’s ability to have contraception included and covered by their health insurance plans; presidential candidate Santorum admonishing everyone that intimate relations are for procreation only; and now attacks on the venerable institution of the Girl Scouts.

Why has so much disdain for women suddenly reared its ugly head? If Barry Goldwater, who arguably founded the modern conservative movement with his presidential campaign in 1964, were still alive he’d be shaking his head in dismay at what has become of his Republican party.

In a 1994 interview with the Washington Post the retired senator said,

When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others [namely, Jerry Falwall for whom Goldwater had absolutely no admiration] who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

I would add also, kiss the rights of women have the freedom and liberty to determine their own life choices for themselves.

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Additional reading on Barry Goldwater:

HuffPo review, Pure Goldwater

Pure Goldwater by John Dean and Barry M. Goldwater Jr.

Goldwater vs Religious Right

Religious freedom in the U.S. rears its head…again!

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United States ConstituitionMuch has been made during the last election several election cycles regarding religion. With the rise of TEA party candidates such as Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell as well as controversial Islamic mosques, many arguments surround religious freedom in the U.S. Historically, here is what the founders thought.

A Bit of History

Prior to the various state constitutions, parishioners of all church sects were forced to pay “taxes” to support individual State churches. During the state constitutional conventions, people of differing sects petitioned their representatives to eliminate that tax, stating that they were being discriminated (taxed without representation) against. They were being forced to pay a tax to support a church to which they did not adhere. They found those taxes unfair, unjust, and just plain wrong. If memory serves, Patrick Henry spoke eloquently before the Virginia legislature about people of other religious beliefs having to pay taxes to support the State religion and how much that reduced freedom and freedom of religious expression.

Values did not enter into the conversation, since most held the same WASP values. But the idea of being taxed to support a church to which they did not belong did.

As a result, Virginia and Massachusetts, in particular, wrote into their state constitutions that the state would not interfere with religion nor would religion become a state affair. Separation of church and state, for the first time in human history, would exist, giving the maximum freedom to church goers of every creed.

When the Constitution of the US was being drafted, the men who had worked on state constitutions – men such as Madison, Jefferson, Adams – chose the same methodologies they had found so desirable – and approved of – by the populace in their states.

Of course, these men knew the history of religion in Europe: the Inquisition in Spain, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France in which hundreds of thousands of Calvinists were slaughtered over the course of a week, the several Bishops Wars in Scotland up to and including Culloden, and the burning of Protestants in England under Mary.

Nevertheless, these uniquely Americans’ primary motive in choosing to separate religion from the state was not what had occurred in Europe but their motive was to provide the maximum amount freedom of religious expression in the U.S.

They essentially said no matter what your religious persuasion, the state will not discriminate against you, by levying taxes against you or prohibiting you, in any way, from worshiping as you choose.

Essentially our Founders in writing the First Amendment stated, as Queen Elizabeth I told her Protestant ministers who urged her to prosecute Catholics, “I am not the conscience of mens’ souls. That is between them and their God.”

Therefore, our Founders stated the Federal State will not take sides between one religion or another. All religious expression from whatever church or belief will be treated equally and none will take precedence in the law. Each person may practice their religion as their conscience dictates and as they believe, but no one religion will take precedence in the law of the land.

NOTE: For a more complete explanation of the Founders’ thinking as noted in the Federalist Papers, concerning the establishment of the Constitution of the United States, as its primary doctrine, go to this site.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 19, 2010 at 6:10 PM

Remembering why they fell…

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Sixty-three years ago, on March 26, 1945, a young Jewish Rabbi with Fifth Marine Division at Iwo Jima gave an especially memorable memorial for the Division’s fallen comrades. This prayer made it into the Congressional Record, and now in this time, amongst all the heated rhetoric, repeating his majestic words seems only fitting. Here is just an excerpt and one upon which to give serious contemplation:

We dedicate ourselves, first to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried here in war. Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helps in her founding, and other men who loved here with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor… together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews… together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or de­spises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men is no discrimination. No prejudice. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy. Any man among us, the living, who fails to understand that will thereby betray those who lie here dead. Whoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and of the bloody sacrifice it com­memorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn, sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.

Written by Valerie Curl

August 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM

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