Category Archives: Religion

The Other Split Screen

Much is being made about the difference in Easter messaging from President Joe Biden and presumptive MAGA nominee* Donald Trump.  The official statement from the White House reads as follows.

Jill and I send our warmest wishes to Christians around the world celebrating Easter Sunday. Easter reminds us of the power of hope and the promise of Christ’s Resurrection.

As we gather with loved ones, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. We pray for one another and cherish the blessing of the dawn of new possibilities. And with wars and conflict taking a toll on innocent lives around the world, we renew our commitment to work for peace, security, and dignity for all people.

From our family to yours, happy Easter and may God bless you.

Biden added a more personal statement on Twitter.

To all those gathering in churches and homes around the world today: Happy Easter.

May God bless and keep you.

Trump chose this occasion to post 77 screeds on his grossly overvalued Truth Social.  Rather than s message of renewal it focused on retribution.  He began with Wisconsin representative Mike Gallagher, who announced his retirement last month after being hounded by colleagues for not endorsing the impeachment of Homeland Security secretary  Alejandro Mayorkas, despite the lack of evidence either a high crime or misdemeanor.  Trump wrote, “Never forget our cowards and weaklings!  Such a disgrace.”

He then went after his laundry list of “enemies” including Jack Smith, Fani Willis and Alvin Bragg.


However, as Arlo Guthrie would say, “That not what I came here to talk about.”  The split screen I referred to in the title involves the difference in Easter messages from Joe Biden’s and that of my congressman Aaron Bean, who sent the following email to ALL his constituents.

As we enter this Easter season, families across the nation will soon gather in their homes, churches, and places of worship to remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
From the very beginning, God so loved us that He planned and prepared a place for us to receive everything that we need for life now and eternally. We see God’s great love for us displayed on the Cross and His power demonstrated through an empty tomb.
In Isaiah 60:2, the prophet records, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” As your voice in our nation’s capital, I look to the light of God to guide my steps. I trust Him for wisdom and strength and praise Him for the gift of His only begotten Son.
On behalf of the Bean family, we wish you and all Floridians a happy Easter.
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

First Joe Biden addresses his good wishes to “Christians  across the world,” those who have chosen to accept Jesus as the son of God and their savior.  But more important is the theme in the second paragraph.  Without reference to Jesus’ divinity, he instead talks of Jesus’ sacrifice for spreading a message of love and acceptance, something with which both Christians and non-Christians can identify.  Sacrifice is not the sole purview of the divine.  Ask Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela.

In stark contrast, Bean does not differentiate between his Christian and non-Christian constituents.  

As we enter this Easter season, families across the nation will soon gather in their homes, churches, and places of worship to remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
From the very beginning, God so loved us that He planned and prepared a place for us to receive everything that we need for life now and eternally. We see God’s great love for us displayed on the Cross and His power demonstrated through an empty tomb.
In Isaiah 60:2, the prophet records, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” As your voice in our nation’s capital, I look to the light of God to guide my steps. I trust Him for wisdom and strength and praise Him for the gift of His only begotten Son.
On behalf of the Bean family, we wish you and all Floridians a happy Easter.
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

He wishes “all Floridians” a happy Easter.  Nor does he mention the one thing on which non-Christians, many of whom, myself included, can agree.  Acknowledgement of Jesus as a sage prophet and teacher and his message of peace, compassion and acceptance of all.  Can you imagine if Ilhan Omar told her constituents?

As your voice in our nation’s capital, I look to the light of Allah to guide my steps. I trust Him for wisdom and strength and praise Him for the gift of Islam.

Cries of “Sharia Law” would echo across the MAGA universe.

Aaron, before you try to convince me to accept Jesus as my Lord and savior, I suggest you try just a little harder to live by his words and teachings.  When you vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remember Jesus said, “I did not some here to heal the healthy.  I came here to heal the sick.”  When you promote Christian nationalism, remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.  When the crowd asked, “Who is your neighbor,” he chose the “other,” not one of his own followers.  And when you endorse a man who hawks Bibles during Holy Week to make a quick buck, remember that the one you claim as “your light and guide” cast out all those who bought and sold in the temple and said, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

In other words Aaron, during this season of renewal, you might try being a better role model rather than a hypocrite. 

*Beginning with today’s post I will no longer refer to those on the other side of the aisle as the Republican Party.  It is an insult to the party’s founders and pre-MAGA members who understood politicians are elected to serve the voters not vice versa.

For what it’s worth.

Let My People Be

Welcome to Part II of National Governors Association Week at Deprogramming101.  In Part I, I shared my respect for the GOP governors and their staffs with whom I worked during my tenure at the association.  There were, of course, exceptions.  I share the following personal experience to provide context for today’s post.

In the mid-1990s, I attended an off-camera working session on proposed national education goals chaired by then NGA chair Carroll Campbell, the Republican governor of South Carolina.  Campbell made this topic the primary focus of his year as leader of the bi-partisan organization.  During the discussion, Republican Mississippi governor Kirk Fordice said he hoped the final version would be consistent with Christian values.  Campbell asked his colleague if a more inclusive approach would be to refer to traditional Judeo-Christian values.  Fordice replied, “If that’s what I meant, that is what I would have said.”  I was reminded of this episode watching an excerpt from Donald Trump’s infomercial for “God Bless America” Bibles.  Having been excluded from this Fordice-inspired grift, I decided it was time for my tribe to get a piece of the action.

The following are excerpts from an infomercial for the “God Save Democracy (GSD)” Haggadah, available at most temple gift stores and on-line booksellers for 60 shekels ($16.32 USD).

Do you wish your Passover seder was more relevant to the issues of the day yet still contained many of the traditional symbols and familiar passages associated with the exodus from Egypt?  Now you can have both.  This year, conduct your Passover celebration using the new “God Save Democracy” Haggadah.  Draw parallels between the Israelites’ deliverance from Pharaoh and our efforts to loosen the grip of an equally enraged, cruel tyrant who opposes all who do not pledge fealty to his every whim, without jettisoning the joy of reading prayers, singing songs and retelling of the story of Moses and the flight from Egypt. 

How does the GSD Haggadah do that?  By meshing the ancient with the modern.  Here are three examples. 

First, the seder plate where each item depicts an aspect of the exodus in years past and the challenges of present day.

  • Celery/Symbolizes how Donald Trump “stalks” women.
  • HORSEradish/Trump’s recommended treatment for Covid if ivermectin is unavailable.
  • Charoset/A reminder of the mishmash that comes out of Trump’s mouth.
  • Egg/In remembrance of days not so long ago when no one called this a human being.
  • Salt Water/Crocodile tears shed by “poor, victim me.”
  • Shankbone/Commemorating Trump’s golf strokes that landed in a penalty zone and miraculously appeared in the middle of a fairway.

Then, of course, there are the Four Questions.

Why is this candidate different from all other candidates?

    • All other candidates accept the outcome of elections.  Why does this candidate accept only elections he wins?
    • All other candidates salute the American flag to demonstrate their allegiance to America?  Why does this candidate salute convicted felons who stormed the U.S. Capitol and beat up policemen?
    • All other candidates promise to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.  Why does this candidate promise to suspend it when it serves his interests?
    • All other candidates understand global alliances are essential to national security.  Why does this candidate prefer alliances with our adversaries instead of our friends?

And finally, even in celebration of the end of the Israelites’ enslavement, we acknowledge the suffering of everyday Egyptians in imposed on them by the actions of an arrogant and stubborn Pharaoh.  So too must we acknowledge the suffering of all Americans under Trump’s policies and practices.  That is why we spill a drop of wine for each of 10 plagues every American faced during his reign.

  • Charlottesville
  • Obstruction of Justice in the Russia Investigation
  • Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett
  • Emoluments Clause Violations
  • Covid Response
  • Voter Suppression
  • Eight Trillion Dollars Added to the National Debt
  • January 6 Insurrection
  • Mishandling Classified Documents
  • The Dobbs Decision

Want an updated holiday experience that brings the hardship and agony under tyrants in days of old and new into your home yet is optimistic  about an eventual victory by the resistance?  Don’t wait.  Order your “God Save Democracy” Haggadah today.

חג שמח
Happy Holiday!

Disclaimer:  All proceeds from the sale of each and every “God Save Democracy” Haggadah go to the Making Attempts at Theocracy Zero Opportunity (MATZO)   PAC.  Think of each contribution as “unleavened dough,” financing the fight to educate those who cannot read or do not understand the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

For what it’s worth.


Top of the Pyramid

Friends and readers of this blog often ask me, “Why, first thing every morning, do you watch Joe Scarborough?”  The answer is quite simple.  Joe reminds me of the relationship I used to have with Republican governors and their staffs during my time at the National Governors Association (NGA), some with whom I remained friends long after I left the confines of the D.C. political scene.  Those relationships evolved while working on policy issues on which we often held what sometimes appeared to be diametrically opposed positions.  The interaction, however, made me a better analyst and advocate for two reasons.  First, there was a legitimate conservative viewpoint on most topics, and since any official NGA position required the support of two-thirds of the chief executives of the nation’s states and territories, that conservative bent needed accommodation.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, any disagreement in direction forced me to develop a compelling argument that a more liberal approach did not necessarily violate core conservative principles.  And in the end, though this may sound trite, I would realize we had more in common than we had differences.

This morning I found myself metaphorically back in my NGA office in the Hall of the States when Scarborough explained the difference between his world view and that of the MAGA dominated Republican party.  He compared his personal value system to a pyramid in which his priorities began at the top.  He ticked them off.  God.  Country.  The Constitution. Politics and Party.  He then suggested the current iteration of the GOP was a totally inverted pyramid with Donald Trump at the top and God at the bottom. 

It reminded me of the 1964 song “Barry’s Boys” by the original Chad Mitchell Trio which began, “We’re the bright young men who wanna go back to 1910, we’re Barry’s boys,” referring to GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.  It was the closing which captured the tenor of that era and ours today.  Chad Mitchell would mimic a Goldwater supporter, “I’m an American first and a politician second.”  Mike Kobluk’s bass voice would respond, “Spoken like a true American politician.”  But I digress.

Scarborough’s primary allegiance to a divine presence is no surprise.  He is an unapologetic evangelical Southern Baptist.  Which raised the question, “What would a devout agnostic, like me, put at the top of my pyramid?”  The second segment of “Morning Joe” provided the answer.  The topic was the terrorist attack at a Moscow concert hall in which 137 (to date) audience members were killed and more than 120 others wounded.  Marc Polymeropolous, former senior intelligence analyst at the CIA, described how the CIA had alerted Russia to that very possibility two weeks before the attack and had issued a warning to U.S. personnel stationed there.  Scarborough jumped in.  He reminded viewers the U.S. had done the same thing before an ISIS terrorist attack in Iran on January 4, 2024.

He then went into a typical Joe Scarborough rant.  These are people who shout, “Death to America” or commit war crimes against civilians in Ukraine.  Yet we still shared intelligence about an imminent terrorist attack.  Why?  Because it was the right thing to do.  It was what Americans do.  It was then I realized where Joe’s and my world view came together.  His moral compass gravitates toward God, Jesus Christ and the words of the Gospel.  I attribute mine simply to the fact that I am a member of the human race.  How we got there makes no difference.  I could now draw my pyramid.  Therefore, at the top of my pyramid is “humanity” followed by country, the Constitution and last, like Joe, party.

Listening to Joe Scarborough did not change my world view.  It did, however, help me clarify it.  And made me realize I share the road on which I travel with many kindred spirits.  The only difference being our choice of vehicles and the north star which guides our journey.

For what it’s worth.

Wrestling with Bibi

Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion. They hate everything about Israel and they should be ashamed of themselves.

~Donald J. Trump/March 18, 2024

What precipitated Trump’s comments during an interview with his former advisor Sebastian Gorka on the latter’s podcast “America First with Sebastian Gorka?”  March 14, 2024 remarks by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.  Schumer’s offense?  According to the Associated Press:

Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the U.S., strongly criticized Netanyahu in a 40-minute speech Thursday morning on the Senate floor. Schumer said the prime minister has put himself in a coalition of far-right extremists and “as a result, he has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows.”

This is one more indication the Trump/MAGA version of the GOP is no longer “your father’s Republican Party.”  Even far-right antisemites cannot figure out which side they are on.  In January 2023, the Anti-Defamation League with assistance from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC) conducted a year-long research project to explore the roots of the increase in antisemitic rhetoric and incidents in the United States.  The project included interviews with more than 4,000 random individuals conducted in the fall of 2022.  When presented with the statement, “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America,” 39 percent responded this antisemitic trope was either mostly or somewhat true.  Fourteen months later, Donald Trump is now accusing Jewish-Americans of not being loyal enough.

Chuck Schumer does not hate Israel or Judaism.  In fact, his remarks are consistent with long-standing Jewish tradition going back to biblical times.  One would think, Trump, House Speaker Mike Johnson and their evangelical supporters who claim the Old Testament is the literal word of God (when it is convenient to do so), would be the first to come to Schumer’s defense.  I am, of course, referring to Genesis 32:25-29 in which Jacob seeks God’s blessing despite having deprived his older brother Esau of his birthright.

25 Jacob was left alone. And a figure wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
26 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.
27 Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
28 Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.”

29 Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

The phrase “you have striven with beings divine” led to this biblical passage being referred to as “Jacob wrestling with God,” the central message being even a supreme being does not expect his believers to follow blindly.  One might say, this is God telling his followers, “We are not a cult.  It is okay to challenge me.  You will not be punished.  And on occasion, as did Jacob, you might even prevail.”

Not only did Jacob go unpunished, God reaffirms the commitment he originally made to Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation.  Why then would anyone believe Schumer’s questioning the policies of a mere mortal such as Bibi Netanyahu signals hatred of his religion or Israel? He is acting in accordance with one of God’s earliest directives.  If there is a compassionate God, I have no doubt he would welcome, maybe even applaud, Schumer’s efforts to question whether an Israeli government led by Bibi Netanyahu is acting in the best interest of his “children,” whether Jewish or Muslim.

The only thing missing in this narrative is Michael Buffer and his catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!”

For what it’s worth.

It’s Not Easy Being…

The last six months have been very good for some Americans…especially if you are anti-Semitic.

I will start with a few examples from my home state of Florida, you know, that place where “tolerance comes to die.” During the Georgia/Florida football game in Jacksonville on October 29, the following was projected on the stadium façade. “Kanye is right about the Jews.” One day earlier, an I-10 overpass was covered with banners. “End Jewish Supremacy in America” “Honk if you know it’s the Jews.”

Not to be outdone, two Florida-based neo-Nazi groups–the Goyim Defense League and NatSoc Florida–chose the Daytona 500 as its venue. They left nothing to the imagination, projecting “Hitler was right” on the outside of the grandstands. Where better to pull this off than the self-proclaimed, “Great American Race,” populated by many individuals who assume “great American race” refers to white Evangelicals.

Of course, the GOP leadership–governors and members of Congress–immediately denounced this fire hose of vile hatred. NOT! Just the opposite. After the GOP’s piped piper posted on Truth Social that “Alvin Bragg received in EXCESS OF ONE MILLION DOLLARS” from George Soros (not true), the snakes lined up in formation. Ohio Senator J.D. Vance tweeted Bragg was “bought by George Soros.” And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis described Donald Trump’s indictment as “a manufactured circus by some Soros-DA.” [NOTE: There is no truth to the rumor Disney Studios is planning a reboot of 101 Dalmatians with DeSantis cast as male villian Cruello Deville.] Not to mention Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and the Eight MAGites, who yesterday starred in a premiere matinee performance of “Bullies on Broadway.”

But that’s not what I came here to talk about. Certainly, I am concerned some deranged zealot might listen to this symphony of dog whistles and bull horns and deface a Jewish Community Center or desecrate a Jewish cemetery. Or worse, emulate Frazier Miller who killed three people outside a Jewish retirement home outside Kansas City in 2014. Or Robert Bowers who murdered 11 members of the Tree of Life Synagogue outside Pittsburgh in 2018 because right-wing media told him George Soros was funding immigrant caravans.

This morning, however, my concern is whether the Jewish community can have an honest discussion, including criticism of policies or actions by Jewish leaders, without adding fuel to the fire. I will start with the most serious case, Benjamin Netanyahu’s failed effort to castrate Israel’s judiciary system. Or his kowtowing to the ultra-Orthodox members of his fragile governing coalition when it comes to settlements on the West Bank or adherence to the Oslo Accords. Does vocal disapproval by Jews of what other Jews say or do feed anti-Semitism? I wonder when I read or hear white supremacists ask, “How can you call me anti-Semitic when some Jews admit their own people are making the world more dangerous?” Again, not true but we know that does not matter. Haters seek refuge in any port in a storm they, themselves, generated.

This next example may seem trivial, but none-the-less significant. While reading yesterday’s Washington Post article how GOP members of the Senate Judiciary opposed a temporary replacement for ailing California Senator Diane Feinstein, I had a visceral reaction. Not directed at Republicans. Instead I wanted to scream, “What is it about old Jewish women that makes them intent on letting the Federalist Society continue to pack the courts with ultra-conservative judges who nullify hard-fought-for rights?” First, it was Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She put longevity on the court ahead of the nation’s best interests. Now Diane Feinstein is holding up confirmation of almost all of President Biden’s judicial nominations.

It is not hard to imagine how different the court might be if Ginsberg had allowed Barack Obama to nominate and a Democratic Senate to confirm her successor. Would Chief Justice Roberts have delivered a less draconian majority opinion in the Dobbs case with support of four moderate and progressive justices? Has Feinstein considered whether the next Republican president would fill vacancies resulting from her absence with more Matthew Kacsmaryks, the Texas district judge who thinks he knows more about women’s health than the FDA and the AMA?

Does this make me anti-Semitic? Misogynist? Agist? All of the above? Or have I become another stereotype, an old Jewish male, sitting on the front porch, constantly annoyed about who is traipsing all over my lawn?

Maybe it is time for the Democratic National Committee to create its own actuarial tables. Not based on factors that determine how long someone will live. But considerations that signal when one of their own risks undermining the very policies and legal precedents they espouse.

For what it’s worth.