Donald Trump's Christianity

Donald Trump’s Christianity is probably yours too

This is the first time I’ve written anything in months; my last blog post on Removing the Fig Leaf about the sexual molestation I experienced as a child was more emotionally taxing than I expected, that coupled with the political climate of late has given me the desire to write but not the wherewithal to do so. The way this election cycle has been going leads me to feel like anything I might have to say would be trivialized or obfuscated by those unwilling to see my point.  Alas, here I am discussing my least favorite person – Donald Trump, and his version of the Christian faith. His is a version of the Christian faith I think some find confusing and unfamiliar, but for many I suspect it sounds just about right. Donald Trump’s Christianity is normal, you’ll probably recognize it in this post.

You might be thinking, “what gives you the right to address The Donald’s faith, or that of anyone else and determine whether or not it’s right or wrong?” – and I think that’s a reasonable question. Far be it from me to proclaim that there is a right way to believe in Christianity and a wrong way to believe in Christianity, as best I can tell any recipe for Christianity is ultimately a falsehood because the story that is foundational to the faith is a falsehood, but there are recipes for this faith that use a central ingredient of grace – and others which use a brew of xenophobia, self-righteousness, and a persecuted Americanism. On the spectrum of recipes for salvation, I’ll let you guess which of these Donald Trump ascribes to. Furthermore, I’ll leave it up to you which I find to be more palatable myself and more in line with my own philosophy of Humanism.

Nominal Christian

I am personally in no position to proclaim that Donald Trump isn’t a Christian. I honestly don’t know that anyone could qualify themselves for such a role. We all have to take him at his word – if he says he believes the message of Christianity and Jesus (and whatever he believes that message is) he is some form of Christian.

If I were to classify Donald Trump’s Christianity from what we know of him through his life and the way he’s talked about his faith, I’d call him a nominal Christian, at best. Nominal Christianity is best defined as a person who professes Christianity, but neither understands the faith nor makes any effort to live according to it’s tenets.  The nominal Christian is simply a Christian “by name”.

Many evangelical organizations (this link is a really good read from a Christian perspective on this same subject) consider the nominal Christian to be the greatest target for evangelism in the world, in fact the Bible addresses these very Christians and I’ve talked about what it has to say about them a great deal on this blog in the past.  Matthew 7:21-23 is alleged to be Jesus addressing those who carry on the facade of faith but fail to do the will of god. John 5:39-40 addresses Christians who fail to study the scripture to find out who Jesus is beyond just a name.

Jesus is just a name to many though. When I was a believer I felt burdened by my peers who professed faith but who failed to show any fruit of it and who didn’t do what I called “seek god” in order to know him better. That may sound odd coming from an atheist, but think about all the Christians you know – think about whether or not their life is a testament to a life of faith or a life where their faith is a tertiary afterthought they rarely give any real consideration to.

There are some easy to spot signs of a Nominal Christian, here they are – along with links to examples of how Trump is a shining example of each of them.

  • They have a favorite Bible verse, but they don’t know anything about the Bible – just like The Donald.
  • They’ll quickly take a stand for their faith when their isn’t any reason to, because of a need to appear persecuted and genuine – just like The Donald.
  • They’ll take up the cross on issues they are convinced are important to their god, but because they don’t understand their faith, are concerned with the wrong issues – just like The Donald.
  • Conversely, they won’t take up the plight of those their scriptures do actually tell them to be concerned about (see James 1:27) – just like The Donald, and again, and again.

Donald Trump, like your average nominal Christian – believes everything he reads but doesn’t read anything he believes. He’s used the Bible as a prop in his pony show, but he doesn’t know it or study it. He doesn’t love the scriptures or seek god in them. It’s more like a key that unlocks the door to Christian voters than anything – I would hope that American Christians would see through all that, the reason they don’t is because his faith is so similar to theirs.

Trump on Abortion vs The Bible on Abortion

Evangelical Christians are known for their fervor on the issue of abortion rights, that being the case – it has been the policy of the Republican Party to use it as well as homosexual marriage and being “tough on crime” (better read as “jailing blacks”) as part of their Southern Strategy to polarize Southern Dixiecrats against their former Democratic party in the wake of the Civil Rights Era.  The abortion issue is one that didn’t exist until it was made to exist and the Bible was used to fool nominal Christians into believing that their god had a problem with it. My friend Neil Carter over at Godless in Dixie wrote an incredible article on the transition from non-issue to the one issue that evangelicals vote on now – I highly recommend it for further reading.

Suffice it to say, Trump and every other neo-conservative before him bear witness to one thing: The Bible is, on a scale of pro-life to pro-abortion (not even pro-choice) – very much pro-abortion, but that doesn’t matter if you can convince people that don’t read or understand the Bible that this is the hill worth dying on.

Trump and Grace

If I read the Bible in the way that my most educated, thoughtful, loving, and respected Christian friends read it – I read a story of grace. A story about mercy given to those who don’t deserve it with no strings attached. If I read the Bible in the way that the most hateful, xenophobic, and ignorant people I know read it – grace is still a central part of the theme there just happen to be more rules and rigamarole attached to receiving that grace.

Donald Trump’s Christianity seems to be a faith that lacks any semblance of grace. I say that because I see no evidence of it in his life or in the way he carries himself, even when he’s talking about his faith. The central theme of his faith is, “I have faith and here’s my favorite book of the Bible, Thessalonians!” as opposed to, “I’ve been saved by grace, through faith in Jesus, and that has humbled me to be more graceful and forgiving to other people.”

Trump sues indiscriminately, assaults women, discriminates against the poor and minorities, fails to pay his bills or keep his contracts, lies about his net worth (most of the property with his name on it is owned by other parties, he is paid a royalty for his name, for now), seeks for the death of the innocent and acquitted, cheats on his wives, among many others. He’s one of the least graceful men on the planet.  He’s just like every other nominal Christian I know, in other words.

Trump and You

3f2d57b701faea69dd204e9c0d476a8e“He tell’s it like it is,” or “he’s someone who’s finally saying what we’ve all been thinking,” are common reasons followers give for loving Donald Trump.  It’s true too, he’s telling you what you think the world is like – he’s confirming your biases. He’s telling you it’s just fine to be the sort of white evangelical Christian he is too – it’s fine to wave the Bible around like a prop, it’s fine to share that meme on Facebook with Jesus on it about not denying him in front of the world or he’ll deny you so you’ll feel comfortable about your salvation for the week, it’s fine to pretend like you are being persecuted because your kid’s teacher can’t lead him in prayer every day, and it’s even fine to build a big wall to keep undesirables out – because Jesus never said anything about sheltering those with heavy burdens.

If Donald Trump’s Christianity is a reflection of you and your Christianity I’m perfectly fine with that. The writing has been on the wall for a long time regarding the fortitude of America’s church, and you – dear Christian in your red “Make America Great Again” hat – are the reason.

You can be just like Trump if you want to.

Christian. By name only.

Introducing Southern Discomfort

The past couple of months I’ve been working with my friend Jordy on a new Podcast project called Southern Discomfort and after quite a lot of work we have our first episode up.  This, of course, is a growing process – but I’m pretty damn proud of it and I think that if you like what I do here you’ll appreciate the podcast.  You can subscribe via RSS here.

 

So, check it out please!

 

Welcome to Episode 1 of the Southern Discomfort Show – in this show we introduce the show, ourselves and our religious and political backgrounds, plus we prove how nerdy we are. In addition to all that we get into a long talk about same sex relationships, how your grandpappy’s idea of “race mixing” was probably wrong and why Christians aren’t actually being persecuted here in the USA.

PLUS  we talk about Black Lives Matter and whether or not that means that police are all terrible people.

 

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Direct Download

Honkie flag

Dear Honkie,

A letter to crackers, from a cracker.

That’s right. I started this post with a pejorative word for white people in hopes that it would get your attention and that it might mean that you’d read it. Unfortunately, my recent experience with my fellow Caucasians has been that — once threatened or humiliated in the slightest by the chance of an inconvenience or disruption of the status quo all willingness to pursue an intelligent discourse is immediately shut down, so please — don’t shut down. Keep reading, listen and receive the words one of your own has to say about this race thing.

A while back, during yet another tragic event that took the life of an innocent African American — I wrote a piece about recognizing my own white privilege and a lot of you were…well…livid about it.

The comments on Facebook that resulted from that post were incredible, and were evidence that very few were interested in the point I was trying to make but were instead interested in defending the idea that they — in all their whiteness — worked to get where they are, and that nothing has ever been handed to them.

I guess somewhere about halfway through the first comment I started reading through the lines of “I worked for everything I have” and began understanding it to mean “unlike the welfare queens that have never worked a day” — let’s be honest, that’s what you mean when you can’t acknowledge that life is even the slightest bit easier for you as a white person and want to put your hardships on display.

A lot of of grew up poor, I sure as hell did — and I work incessantly to make sure I’m not poor the rest of my life.

Still, being white is making that process — and has made my life, just a little bit easier for me than for my black counterparts.

In all this, it’s also been made clear that my marshmallow friends feel like they are being told to feel guilty for being white. There is, of course, nothing in the post I wrote previously that should indicate that I feel that way — and of all the articles and opinion pieces I’ve read from authors (regardless of their ethnicity) it’s become clear to me that almost no one, save a few extremists, wants you to feel guilty for being born white. You don’t even have to feel guilty if your great-great-great grand-pappy was a racist slave owner, just — maybe — instead of feeling guilty you could say, “I could see how 450 years of slavery and oppression might put the balance of power in my court and in the court of people that look like me and make life more difficult for black people.”

Acknowledging that truth goes a long way in the black community, in fact — it goes a hell of a lot farther than having a black best friend that no one has ever met and you don’t even have to feel bad about it any more than you feel bad about water being wet. Some things just are, and you were born white while other people weren’t. There’s no bad guy in that scenario.


“So, you are telling me that I don’t have to feel bad about systematic racism that has been unfair to an entire culture of people?”

That’s a great question Honkie, I’m glad you asked.

Look, I know — You didn’t own slaves, your family has always been poor white trash and you never had anything to do with slavery or any sort of oppression of black people at all. Slavery, racism, Jim Crow laws, the KKK , etc. , etc. — those are all things that you had nothing to do with and that no one wants to pin on you. You benefit from being white. That’s it.

So.

No, you don’t have to feel bad about it at all, but I suspect that once you’ve acknowledged that this experience is a real one for you (privilege) and your black counterparts (prejudice) that you’ll automagically feel bad. I have a feeling that you’ll just feel icky, like I do, for being part of a society that allows that to happen — and that’s not guilt, that’s something much stronger than guilt and more powerful for introducing someone to the desire to see a change.

Empathy.

That’s what you guys are afraid of too, at least — that’s what I think it is that you are afraid of. You are afraid that you’ll feel bad for someone who has it worse than you, and that you’ll have to acknowledge that your life isn’t as miserable as you want to pretend it is. You’ll be forced to give a shit, and that’s scary because you aren’t familiar with the lives of these other people and because you’ve been led to believe that they’ve brought it upon themselves because all you really know about black people is a caricature of extremes.

Empathy would mean that you’d have to look at a black man, woman, or child just like you look at a white man, woman, or child — rather than with the biases we’ve been raised with. It means you have to acknowledge that sometimes people end up in situations that aren’t their fault, and sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to dig yourself out, furthermore that sometimes it’s just impossible to get ahead when you start out so behind.

Empathy doesn’t mean guilt, but it does mean that you want things to be better for someone else. Even if you don’t know how to make that happen, it’s sure as hell a good place to start.


On that flag.

I’m as white and Southern as the day is long, and I’m proud of it too.

I’m proud of the way we generally treat one another around here; we nod in acknowledgement of nearly every person that passes our way, we hold doors open for the people behind us at restaurants, we eat the meat we kill (I’m not a hunter, but if you don’t eat the meat you kill people look down on you, and they should), and we tend to be independent — but when tragedy strikes a family you wouldn’t know it because we make sure they don’t go without. That’s, to me, my heritage as a Southerner.

For some people — maybe you, that heritage proudly includes a historical connection to the “War of Northern Aggression” because someone in your family fought and died to defend an ideal that, like most that die in war today, doesn’t really protect his interests as much as it protects the wealthy and disenfranchises the poor.

You, like most, are simply proud of that background and want to pretend like slavery wasn’t the root purpose of the war and you may even believe that to be true because you’ve been taught it by historical revisionists your whole life. That’s what I was told, and it’s bullshit.

What all that pride means for you war half-historians is proudly displaying the Confederate Battle Flag of Virginia in one of the many popular iterations on your person, on your unreasonably large truck, or in front of your home. I see at least 20 a day. The one I hate most though is displayed on a tiny plot of land in front of the county courthouse where I live, mocking those who it pains every time they pass by.

That flag, all the muck aside — is a symbol of white supremacy and control. It’s a symbol of preserving one races’ power over another, of ripping families apart, and of all the labor that provided free wealth for aristocratic Southern families who needed to keep the status quo going in order to continue building wealth in the ways that they were. That’s why the KKK used it as their banner in the 50’s and why other skinhead organizations use it today. Even if it has been kidnapped from it’s original purpose, and it hasn’t, it’s time to relegate it to history and to extremists who hurt people.

In a part of the country built on the labor of scarred black backs, that flag is a symbol of gloriously returning to those days.

If you can be proud of that part of our heritage you’ve got a stronger stomach than I. I’m not, I can’t be. I can’t ask black people to pass by it every day at government buildings when I know their taxes pay for it too. If you must display it on your property, by all means — but now would be a good time to revisit that part about empathy a few paragraphs above.


And while we’re at it….

So, you’ve folded up ole Dixie and recognized that maybe some folks do have it harder than you based solely on the circumstances of their parentage all in the course of a single post…shit…I’m doing pretty damn good, what else can I get your pasty white behind to do?

I’ll end this monologue with the Good Ole’ Boy’s by telling you how I try to move my dialogue with the black community, a community that I know I’m not a part of — but that I care about:

Don’t pretend to be colorblind, that doesn’t mean anything. Recognize, appreciate, and celebrate our differences all while loving the things that unify us. Saying, “I don’t see color” is to rip that part of someone’s identity away from them when instead we should be saying, “I see beauty and history in your color”.

Race is real, it’s been part of the historical narrative of this country and the world ever since we started forming tribes around language and skin-tone. We don’t have to pretend like race doesn’t exist or even be ashamed of the race we share, we can acknowledge race without placing the people who’s race differs from ours in a subclass or fearing them.

Just treat people like people ya peckerwoods.

Sincerely,

Your Honkie Neighbor

Source: http://all-len-all.com/duck-dynasty-star-let-everyone-at-cpac-know-stds-are-the-revenge-of-the-hippies-video/

The Phil Robertson Rape Fantasy

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty fame, is a diamond of the neoconservative right wing’s eye; he’s independently wealthy, loves to shoot guns, and believes that America is a Christian nation – and if you don’t like that you should get the hell out. Recently, when Phil Robertson was speaking at the Vero beach Prayer Breakfast, he shared – in Pentecostal pulpit style – what I’m calling the Phil Robertson Rape Fantasy, complete with murder and a beheading.

I’m going to attempt to break down Robertson’s insanity into chunks  and analyze what I think he’s really trying to say – right after I share this disturbing audio.

Note: This is disturbing stuff, not for the faint of heart or easily offended. Don’t listen if you don’t want to hear about murder, rape, and decapitation spoken in one of the most hateful tones possible.

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Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act and the Right to Discriminate

By now many of you have heard about Arizona S.B. 1062, which essentially grants any business or individual the right to deny services to any person based solely on their religious convictions (This bill was vetoed by AZ governor Jan Brewer just before publishing this article). In lock step with Arizona the poor marginalized Christians of the Georgia House and Senate have found it necessary to propose their own bill – Georgia H. B. 1023 – dubbed ” Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” – aptly titled considering the long list of religious freedoms being threatened and/or taken away from people of faith currently. For reference I’ve compiled a comprehensive list below:

 

Oppressed Religious Freedoms

A comprehensive list of all the freedoms Christians and other people of faith are currently losing, lost, or at risk of losing.

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Gut Check for the New Atheist Jerks

Note: In this post you’ll notice that I lump various groups into a single group. I call atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and etc all Humanists – largely based on the assumption that most of us are. If you don’t identify as a humanist please don’t take offense to this post or that categorization, it was done for the sake of simplifying the language of the post and for the sake of brevity. For the sake of clarity I am providing a link to the Humanists Manifesto II.

– – –

New atheists, we non-believers who dare to speak out against the evils we perceive inherent to religion, are consistently victims of a great number of stereotypes.  “Atheist jerks” or “angry atheists” are pretty common perceptions among those who maintain a faith system, but now it seems that those within our congregation might be growing weary of the people that cause these brash stereotypes to befall  the rest of us.

Don Rasmussen recently implored his fellow atheists to “stop being jerks” and identifies a number of things that he believes atheists should stop doing in order to improve our public image. Most of the things he alludes to — suing to keep manger scenes off of public property, suing to keep religious displays out of schools, etc. — really aren’t so ‘jerky,’ as they are intended to enforce the establishment clause of the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean that Mr. Rasmussen doesn’t make some very good points.

He says,

How can I ask 27 million Texans to put up with me if I act like they not only disgust me, but I’m entitled to legislate my disgust upon them?  How many nativity scenes have to be banned before Christians accept me? It’s a ridiculous strategy that makes enemies, divides people and carves up freedom; throwing away the parts that aren’t easily digestible.

In small part here, I think Mr. Rasmussen is dead on but please allow me to correct bits of it:

I don’t believe that lawsuits over manger scenes curtail freedom at all, people are allowed to put manger scenes on their private property all day long and I’d never even suggest that lawsuit is appropriate – it’s the fact that we all pay for the public lands and grounds that makes it reasonable to protect them from religious display.

Where Rasmussen is correct though is that it DOES divide people, and it DOES make enemies.  Atheists today don’t need more enemies and our country doesn’t need more division.

I’d like to pose an alternative to the American Atheists model of throwing lawsuits at every cross they find – here’s a screen cap from something I posted on my Facebook page in June of 2012:

American Atheists

This model doesn’t focus on being in the right, it focuses on being good and doing good.

I’m going to call this model the “Do it better” model. You see, atheists and agnostics don’t have a deity telling them what to do – we don’t have a James 1:27 telling us to care for widows and orphans like Christians, and unlike Muslims, we don’t have the zakat requiring that a percentage of our income go into helping the poor. What we do have, what all humanists have,  is a shared existence on this planet with theists. That shared existence leads me to a humanists  philosophy that requires as much social endeavor toward goodness as any other philosophy might but for some reason this endeavor hasn’t manifested itself in these cost efficient, good ways of helping real people.

I propose that we atheists of the world put our humanism into practice first before we concern ourselves with litigation and division. I propose that we solve what the combined efforts of Christianity and Islam have failed to do for the last couple of millennia  by focusing the bulk of our efforts on the truly important things: ensuring that the people in our world can eat, protecting the weak from abuse, and ensuring that liberty is extended to all people. I’d like to do these things better than those with a mandate to do so. I believe that this sort of action would not only repair the damage done to the atheist/humanist/skeptic/agnostic communities by fundamentalist religion thru the hate and propaganda we’ve earned by spending our time on less pertinent actions – it will also endear us in the hearts and minds of those we’ve taken the time to do good for. When we’ve become what people expect from big religion we won’t have to worry about fighting legal battles anymore because people will respect us enough not to push those buttons.

One of the giant 1.1 Million dollar crosses that have been built across the country by Cross Ministries

One of the giant 1.1 Million dollar crosses that have been built across the country by Cross Ministries

The way to transition from the most hated minority in the USA isn’t to call the ACLU every time someone wastes money and effort on a public religious display or spends millions of dollars erecting giant crosses throughout the country – it’s to do what they should be doing with their time, effort, and money: fulfilling the duties they are currently too distracted to worry with.

Let’s face it, they have more money and power than us – but I believe we have the compassion required to do this right around the world.  Let them spend 1.1 million dollars on a giant white cross in the American South (because we don’t have enough crosses around here) while we spend our efforts on food banks in our local communities and finding other ways to help real people with real problems. Without the distraction and threat of Hell we can focus on real problems.

Now, let me be clear for just a moment – I don’t believe that all Christians and all Muslims do nothing for other people. I don’t believe that at all. I know that the majority of the charity in the world comes from people that are either Christian or Muslim, of course – one would expect that considering they consume the majority of the population. Consider, however, that so much of the charitable giving that Christians do goes directly to their churches and then directly into overhead – like pastor salaries, staff salaries, building mortgages, taxes, and evangelism that simply isn’t focused on helping people in “non spiritual” ways. So little of the donations churches receive actually goes into feeding the hungry that it’s an absolute travesty – I suspect that if most Christians were more aware of the expenditures of their church they’d actually pull out (and you do, by the way, have the right to view the financial records of any church you are a member of – it’s the law). These “charitable” businesses simply aren’t efficient at helping people, even if well meaning members and donors believe they are!

Humanists, atheists, agnostics – the whole lot of us should rethink how we do things. I think I’ve given a brief argument for the way I think we can do good and make our name good:

We can do what they should be doing better than they are. It’s really that simple and it starts with me.


When Christian Ethics aren’t Christian Ethics

Note:  For the purposes of this discussion it should be understood that when I’m referring to that which is properly “Christian Ethics,” I’m referring to the idea that that which is Christian is also Biblical. So for the purposes of this post and any discussion about it, think of Christian Ethics as Biblical Ethics and, more specifically, the ethics demonstrated in the New Testament and by the early Christian Church as described in the New Testament.

Recently I’ve discovered a new and masochistic pastime of listening to a Christian talk-radio station called American Family Radio on my long trek home from work at night. I discovered this program on the night of the election, looking to confirm the news when NPR called the election for Pres. Obama, and heard a number of exclamations about the apparent lack of ethics and morality in our once Christian nation. Christian ethics, the lack thereof,  or the symptomatic persecution of Christians seems to be the rotational topic of this station, or at least the programs that are on while I’m in the car.

These programs have featured a number of guests  who all lay claim to the idea that Americans are moving away from their heritage of Biblical Christianity being intimately entangled in every facet of life, most especially government and politics. They claim that Biblically grounded Christian Ethics ought to be the guide for the way Christians vote and, as a result, should be the foundation of the laws of our nation.

Stopping abortion, refusing homosexual equality, guarding capitalism, and  protecting both monuments and prayer to their god in the public square are examples of these supposed Christian ethics I’ve heard lauded on this program and in my daily conversations with believers. But are they truly?  Are they even Biblical principles ?

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National Day Of Prayer and Christian Revisionism

Last week there was a letter to the editor in my local newspaper, the Dodge County news,  about the National Day of Prayer events that will take place in my town on May 3rd,  2012.

Since I’ve just recently started a DASH (Dodge Atheists and Secular Humanists) group for local non-believers I thought that issuing a response to this letter would be the perfect way to introduce the existence of our group (which is a huge deal in a small town in the Bible belt) as well as refute the revisionist claims touted by many supporters of this National Day of Prayer.

You can find my letter below or you can click here  to view it on the Dodge County News website. Your feedback is appreciated.

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Keeping Church and State Separate – Without Compromise

Many of you have heard by now of The Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, in Pike County Kentucky whose membership recently voted to disallow membership, marriage, and some participation in worship services to interracial couples.  You’ve also likely heard the many voices in the atheist  and Christian communities calling to have the government intervene and have this church closed down. I’ve seen a few – but I’d rather not call any names.

As a white Southerner I’ve been raised by the adults in my life to believe that “race mixing” is wrong.  I’ve been raised with the idea that black people are somehow inferior to whites and that it’s best that we just avoid associating with one another. The ‘ N ‘ word was probably the most commonly used word in my family growing up. None of these things are atypical of white people raised in the community I come from. In fact, my county is still arguing over Confederate flags – I couldn’t be more embarrassed by this fact.

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Jesus for Sale: The Church and Capitalism

I know it’s an unpopular idea and somehow it’s a surprise to most Christians today but the early Christian church was an organization with Communism at it’s core.

The book of Acts is replete with references to communal life, there is no question that the Book of Acts describes a decidedly communist church with verses like this one:

All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

When I was a Christian this verse along with many others that support the idea of a Communist church led my political ideals which eventually led me to become a member of the Socialist Party USA.  It was at this point that I recognized the disparity between what I see as a clear mandate from the Bible and what the modern Christian church actually puts into practice.

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