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By Alan Wolfe

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Alan Grayson Tells It Like It Is

Posted on Jul 21, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 4)

Greg Carey: I think Madison’s on to something important when he describes civil religion, because the sexual ethics you often hear preached as being, you know, the biblical teachings are really the Victorian ethics of the 19th century. They can’t be found in the Bible. And yet they became the norm at the same time that civil religion really began to flourish in this country, before and after the Civil War. And I think that’s a critical point; it’s not a matter of going to our theological sources and saying, you know, what are our core convictions; it’s more a matter of justifying those convictions by picking and choosing verses from different parts of the Bible to make them fit.

Madison Shockley: I’d love to get Greg’s reaction to the part of the marriage vow that was recently stricken but was in its original form, where the proprietors of the pledge said that slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly, a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president. He talks in one of his other articles about Christianity and slavery; what these folks forget to point out is that slaves didn’t live in a two-parent household, not in America, and that the father of many of these slave children was the slaveholder. And so that was an interesting error on their part. But talk about, if you would Greg, about how Christianity and slavery don’t have as great a history as we’d like to think of it.

Greg Carey: Well, sure. I grew up in Alabama. And that part, that preamble to the pledge that you’re describing … we have a saying in the South: You just can’t argue with logic like that. [Laughs] It’s beyond [a] logical sort of refutation. For one thing, as you pointed out, in the South slaves didn’t even have rights to their own bodies. And they didn’t have rights to control their own sexuality. So the idea that you’d have these happy nuclear families in slave households is just baffling to begin with. More baffling is the thought that someone in 2011 could look back at slavery and describe it as somehow a better state than things that are going on now. And you’re right to ask the question about Christianity’s implication in slavery. The Bible was written in a world where slaves were everywhere. In the New Testament world, in some cities, slaves may have made up as much as half the population. And so it’s not rare to see references to slaves or slave owners in the Bible. And unfortunately, it’s not clear that the Bible ever directly opposes slavery, or encourages slave owners to set their slaves free. So when we had slavery debates in the United States in the 19th century, those debates divided the major denominations; the Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists all split along slave lines, and those unions weren’t affected until well into the 20th century. But the problem is that the advocates of slavery could argue persuasively to many people that they had the Bible on their side. The Bible’s a big book; it’s diverse, and there are passages of the Bible that early Christians used, and American abolitionists used 18 centuries later, to resist slavery. You know, there’s the case of a slave named Onesimus who seems to have run away from his owner Philemon, and Paul says I want you to treat him like a brother, not like a slave. What does that mean? But ...

Madison Shockley: But Paul did send him back. He didn’t tell him to …


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Greg Carey: That’s right.

Madison Shockley: … he basically complied with the runaway-slave rules that governed in ancient Rome and governed in the early colonies.

Greg Carey: That’s exactly right. And it’s a case where, when I’m teaching this material with students, I often say, “It would be great if Paul had said what we wish he’d said.” And it’s possible to read Paul optimistically, but it’s not obvious …

Kasia Anderson: I’ve got a question along those lines. I’m sorry to jump in in the midst of your discussion, but you just picked up on something that’s anticipating my next question, which is whether both or either of you has a feeling about these types of reading strategies in which, for example, you have a more fundamentalist stance which kind of picks and chooses, maybe, certain scriptural passages and highlights them, perhaps, above all others to point to and say look, it says right here in the Bible that X, Y and Z—that gay marriage is not allowed, that this is what marriage is, this is what celibacy is. Do you have a feeling about kind of a reading style, whether it’s based on your own denomination or just your own personal take on the Bible, that would either condone kind of a close reading strategy like that, or do you prefer to say, OK this is a big book; there’s a lot of history in there; ultimately, men had something to do with writing it, and we’ve got to take it in context?

Madison Shockley: Well, I think you’re right to connect this question to the slavery question. Because what most modern and mainline Christians, and even in the abolitionist movement in this country, have done is found those passages that indicate that human dignity—that indicate that human freedom which was God’s original purpose in giving a moral capacity to human beings—can be found in the Bible. And you still have, you know, Exodus, where God speaks from the burning bush and says “Set my people free.” You know, God is against that kind of human bondage. And so we also need to understand that Christianity doesn’t have all the answers. And that’s what the slavery discussion tells us; that we can find some impetus, but it was clearly the Enlightenment and the social movement of that period that gave us the abolitionist movement in its full form. And so even today, the discussion about marriage—we have to decouple it from a strictly Christian conversation. And that’s why recognizing the opposition is really coming from an American civil religion perspective, and not a Christian perspective, is helpful in that debate. So that we can say, well, that’s one of your sources, but that’s clearly not the beginning and end of the conversation.

Greg Carey: My columns with Huffington Post were really aimed at people who are Christian and care about what the Bible teaches, care about what the churches are teaching them, and may experience that as dishonest or even harmful. But the reality is that over the centuries, Christians of almost every stripe have looked at aspects of the Bible and said, you know what? Times have changed, culture has changed; we can’t simply drop these ancient texts into our modern context without some process of critical reflection. And Robert had raised the issue, before we began talking, about usury, or lending at interest. You know, the Bible is overwhelmingly negative about lending at interest. It’s a way to keep the poor poor, and make them even more dependent. And until well into the Middle Ages, Christians, at least in the Western churches, weren’t allowed to participate in the banking industry. But you know, as the Renaissance developed and global trade started happening, and Christians started to see, wait, lending at interest is also one of the ways that you can generate wealth—it became very normal for a Christian to participate in the banking industry, right? I think that Madison’s correct that the same is basically true with slavery. It just wasn’t acceptable, and so Christians started reading the Bible differently, and …

Madison Shockley: And that same impulse for human freedom that allowed us to abolish slavery can now allow us to establish marriage customs, and marriage laws and marriage practices and marriage definitions, that allow gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people to live freely and to form relationships that are recognized by the society and by the government.

Kasia Anderson: I should just check in right now and say this is Kasia Anderson; you’re listening to Truthdig Radio with Robert Scheer, as well. And we’re speaking with professor Greg Carey and the Rev. Madison Shockley. And let me toss it over to Bob here, because I know he wanted to expound a little on this usury question, or perhaps just economics in general.

Robert Scheer: [Laughs] No, I think it goes to the selective quotation. And I know, Madison, you were involved, or still are involved, with the Jesus Seminar. And I go to you all the time for wisdom on this. But what can we … because the question is raised, “What would Jesus do?”; I think it’s an interesting question for discussion. And yet, the economic-justice aspect of Jesus’—the writing that’s attributed to Jesus, the sayings attributed to Jesus—are never brought up, it seems to me. And I don’t want to be one of those who selectively picks. But doesn’t it seem, in the main, that whatever can be attributed to Jesus does have a component of concern for the poor and social justice?

Madison Shockley: Absolutely. I mean, there’s no way to look at Jesus—you don’t even have to be selective [Laughs], in looking at Jesus, to understand that his core message was “Blessed are the poor,” but it can also be read as “Bless the poor.” That if you are not poor, God’s preferential option for the poor requires you to be a blessing to them, because God has blessed the poor. So you don’t have to be selective in reading Jesus. And if you really dig into—one of my favorite passages is in Luke where Jesus, in my view, endorses a minimum wage. He talks about workers—day-laborers, actually—who start at the top of the day and work for 12 hours, and those who show up at the last minute and work for one hour, and they’re all paid the same. And you never hear that talked about either.

Greg Carey: Not that way. I would add that I entirely agree about the emphasis on the poor in Jesus’ ministry. I’d also add, a special interest for me is in the emphasis on Jesus’ embrace of a group that the Gospels call sinners. And again, I’m highly motivated by the role of the churches in society, and I’m concerned that churches are so concerned with being respectable that they don’t know how to relate to the rest of society sometimes. But the Gospels describe Jesus as simply keeping company with sinners. He doesn’t scold them, he doesn’t force anything upon them; in fact, the Gospel of Luke even says sinners liked to hear Jesus. And what would it be like if religious communities responded to people in society rather than trying to impose these 19th century values on them? I think all of that is thoroughly present in the Gospels that you don’t hear much, and part of my job is to try to get that message out there.

Kasia Anderson: Well, and you do it well on Huffington Post’s Religion section. And we’ve been speaking with professor Greg Carey and the Rev. Madison Shockley, who is a contributor to Truthdig. And that’s all the time we have for today’s discussion, but I’m sure these questions will continue to be discussed on our site. So thanks, guys.

Madison Shockley: Thank you very much.

Greg Carey: Thank you.

* * *


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ThomasG's avatar

By ThomasG, July 26, 2011 at 10:32 pm Link to this comment

“Alan Grayson: Well, you know, by the end of President
Obama’s first administration, we’ll have twice as many troops in
Afghanistan as when it started. That’s not what people expected
or wanted, at least among his supporters; I’m not speaking about
the other folks. It’s farcical to say that the war in Iraq is somehow
over when we still have 50,000 troops there. The one ray of hope
is that the Iraqis are starting to put their foot down; they don’t
want to be an occupied country any longer, and they’ve told the
U.S. troops that they have to get out, and somehow or other we
feel like arguing with them about it. So the Iraqis have said all
troops have to be gone by the end of the year, and the Defense
Department and the State Department are both sort of trying to
weasel out of it. We’ll see what happens. We’re still paying the
bills; we spent $157 billion last year on the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, at a time when unemployment was close to 10
percent. In Florida it’s, oh, it’s about 13 percent. We spend $500
for every single man, woman and child in America on the war in
Iraq. And that’s just the appropriated funds; the non-appropriated
funds are even more than that. They’re more than the
appropriated funds. Joe Stiglitz, who’s a Nobel Prize winner,
calculated the cost of the war in Iraq already at $4 trillion. That’s
$13,000 for every man, woman and child in America; and you
know, for my family of seven, that’s almost $100,000. I want my
money back.”

I do not reside in Florida, but in spite of that fact, I contribute to
Alan Grayson on a monthly basis.

I am a member of the Democratic Party that is a part of the
American Populace, NOT the American Middle Class, and I have
not, to date, seen any indication that the Democratic Party is at all
interested in supporting and representing the American Populace.

Alan Grayson is the closest I can come to supporting a
representative of the American Populace; I, therefore, contribute
to Alan Grayson on a monthly basis in the hope that doing so will
lead in the direction of political representation for the American
Populace as a class and culture.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 25, 2011 at 9:57 am Link to this comment

In the interview Alan Grayson said, “If I have a district that is
largely Democratic, I think even the sewer money is going to
realize the futility of wasting their money trying to knock me
out of a Democratic district.  If there’s one thing that’s clear
at this point, it’s that Democrats like me, because they know
I support them. And if Democrats vote, then Democrats can win.” 

I have a different opinion.  He will run as a Democrat, thank God, and
he will win. It remains to be seen if he supports Barack Obama.  In the
interview he also speaks about the Obama administration involvement
in the Middle East.  Telling it like it is does not depend on whether or
not he supports Barack Obama.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, July 25, 2011 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

Cynthia McKinney is running for Congress again. In her old district in Georgia.

She will NOT run s a Democrat. Thank God.

So, will Mr Grayson support his party’s president? Or support a movement to Impeach George W Obama?

If he did this as a public statement THEN I will believe that he is “telling it like it is.”

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, July 25, 2011 at 2:50 am Link to this comment

On the discussion of religion…

I feel at times, well pretty much always, as though “we” have to break the chains of slavery to the bible and other revered books. Why go through this farce of cherry picking, or if you do so be more honest about it, you might even argue a bit with it.

Imagine if thousands of years from now (as if we have thousands of years) people looked at only a select number of Chomsky’s speeches for guidance. Some might say Chomsky supported slavery because he at times discusses how the criminalization of blacks resulting in the frivilous arrest and subsequent sentence of forced labor often led to much worse treatment then what they had to endure under slaveowners because slaveowners had an interest in protecting their investment and would thus would be less inclined to work them to death in a very short period of time (in saying this Chomsky always cites Blackmon’s “Slavery By Another Name”).

Anyway, religion is A-OK with me. I have great admiration for the many deeply religious people who have devoted themselves to improving society like Aristide and Malcolm X and many many others (women included), it also can help to organize communities in this endeavor, but sometimes I want to just do away with all this citing of scripture and focus much MUCH MUCH more on what one may have gotten out of contemplating it and contemplating what is a good way to live and what is right. The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the words of all the prophets of long ago will never mention GMO’s, monopolies, the military industrial complex, the IMF, multi-national corporations, the horrors of the meat industry, organic sustainable farming vs. the so-called “green revolution”, off-shore tax shelters, lobbyists, the privitization of public schools and correctional institutions etc., and on and on. At some point, I think it is the responsible thing to acknowledge this. You can still keep the traditions and such, but… well I don’t know, be more honest about how and why you are citing scripture if you feel the need to constantly do so (for everyone, not just trusted initiates).

I am not trying to accuse anyone in particular of being dishonest, I liked the interview.

I am not sure there is much time to quibble about it in any case.

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By dedacherry, July 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I really appreciated having Grayson’s influence in Congress.
He’s the only one there who would actually pull the republicans pants down and expose them for what they were about- fraudulent, teeny little minds.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, July 24, 2011 at 7:58 am Link to this comment

Speaking of shoving something up a rectum, Barack Hussein Obama (Barry
Soetoro of Indonesia, born in Kenya) has been shoved up the U.S. Presidency.

While there are a few honorable members in the total U.S. Congress, similar
to Grayson, the leadership of both the Democrat and Republican parties are
responsible for this gross violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The two
dozen or so WWII Nazis in cooperation with the Zionist-types who manage the
money of the world, the U.S. Federal Reserve in particular, prepared this
fraudulent puppet, and slid him into Chicago politics. They also set up the
fraudulent “swearing-in ceremony” which adds to the invalidity of his
occupancy of the U.S. Presidency. 

The information at this link gives a brief background. For it to work, you
may need to copy the-entire-link into your browser.  You will be pleased by the
information, if you exert the additional effort.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, July 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

People for people is something I can vote for. It would be useful to know other candidates like Alan Grayson real blue democrats and also to know who are the red Democrats.

The bull shit they pulled in Wisconsin, by sending Republicans to run as Democrats, needs to be shoved up the Republicans ass which will make their ass a very tight place to be indeed!

Well, Alan Grayson explains why the Tea Bags are as they are, I suppose they are being bought and paid for, like cheap blow up dolls. I have respect for hookers, for one thing you know what you are getting, hopefully not herpes like with the Republicans blow up dolls and their pimp sponsors.

We need a list of real Democrats and I would include liberal independents. Also a list of Blue dogs who need to go!

Some people find the polarization of the two parties hard to stomach, I find death in the same light, unless you know something I may not like it,.... but it polarization like death is going to happen anyway!

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By behopi, July 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Grayson is my hero, I have also contributed to his campaign, and written back to him, he is a honest fighter with Thatchers. There are not many like him, but hopefully he is just the beginning.

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By Rixar13, July 23, 2011 at 5:06 am Link to this comment

Thumbs up ^ Alan Grayson… I support you… smile grin

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By Rixar13, July 23, 2011 at 4:59 am Link to this comment

Thumbs up ^ Alan Grayson…. I support you… smile grin

Report this

By eridonis, July 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hoped immediately after the last election that Alan Grayson would run again. And I thought that I didn’t know of anyone else who did, so that it was probably futile to wish this. I should have known that one of the most couragous advocates of the people during the heathcare reform fight would not be like others. Thank you for doing this, Congressman Grayson! I will support you too.

Let’s get our congress back from the crazies!

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Mark A. Adams JD/MBA's avatar

By Mark A. Adams JD/MBA, July 22, 2011 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

Alan Grayson did a great job in Congress working for the best interests of the people.  That is why the bad guys went after him with a negative ad campaign. 

However, it looks like they also managed to get the voters who gave the Democratic candidate for Governor the win in his district to vote again Grayson and the other party line (do nothing) Democratic Congresswoman who shared Orange County, Florida as part of her district.

Here are the election results by county for Grayson’s district.

Here are the election results for the Governor’s race by county for Grayson’s district.

Note that a large percentage of those who voted for the Democratic candidate for Governor then turned around and voted for a Republicon instead of Grayson.  Of course, some apologists may attempt to explain this unusual flip flopping by claiming that it may be due to the fact that the governor’s race included all of the precincts in each county while Grayson’s race only included some due to gerrymandering.  However, that could only be explained by claiming that Grayson held a Congressional district which was heavily skewed Republican, and if so, how did he win it in 2008?

Fortunately, I also have the results by precinct from Orange County which is the county which has the greatest impact on Grayson’s Congressional district 8.  Check them out and note that in every precinct, large numbers of voters who voted for the Democratic candidate for Governor then turned around and voted for the Republicon instead of Grayson. 

Here are the Orange County election results by precinct for Grayson’s race.

Here are the Orange County election results by precinct for the Governor’s race.

Download them, print them out and see if you can come up with any explanation other than election theft.

By the way, I can also explain why he won in 2008 if anyone cares.

If you want to see more evidence of election theft and learn how the people in power get away with these crimes, see Why Does the Government Ignore Our Wishes? at and don’t miss my short speech at

If you take a look, you’ll learn why those in power and those who can improperly influence them get away with violating our rights, abusing their power, and committing horrible crimes. My article on torture includes a link to the U.S. Supreme Court case which explains how one of our stolen rights makes the difference between justice and injustice, between freedom and slavery.

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Non-Compassionate Liberal's avatar

By Non-Compassionate Liberal, July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

I’ve sent money to Alan Grayson’s campaign this year and two years ago.  I probably will again.  But I find it hard to believe that the VA wouldn’t cover the vet he’s talking about with the multiple organ failure (one organ was the vet’s liver).  There were more details in Grayson’s emailings on this case.  Anyway, I use the VA.  If you need a liver transplant because of cirrhosis, the one thing they require is you stay sober 6 months.  The VA is very liberal; I know guys who’ve been through this.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, July 22, 2011 at 6:29 am Link to this comment

Did Grayson say Democrats?  Maybe the real liberal Deep Blue
Democrats have a chance after all?

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Wounded and Dangerous's avatar

By Wounded and Dangerous, July 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm Link to this comment

Haven’t listened to the interview yet, but going to now. This Grayson is a class act and he will definitely be welcomed back into the political world. An honest man with good ideas, and a good Fed fighter to boot. He is rather like the twin sister of Dennis Kucinich, same personality, but a touch better looking if you know what I mean.

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By gerard, July 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment

Sounds like a really good person, especially for a Congressman.  More power to him.  Interesting statement:  “I am stating what other Democrats are thinking but for one reason or another don’t feel they can say.”  (Note:  He is apparently not financially dependent on graft and therefore not for sale.  Ergo: “Follow the money!”

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By the worm, July 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment

I will support Grayson.

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