My Disdain for the Silk Stockings

The Silk Stockings of old are alive and well today.

My father was a laborer in the furniture factories of Grand Rapids, Michigan. To support his family, he operated a router, stood in an assembly line, and cut the same piece of wood the same way, every day. At the annual company picnics, top management handed out silver dollars to the children of the employees. I remember how big and heavy mine seemed, but I also remember the bags of them that the managers carried around. These picnics were my first lessons into the caste system that exists in America and especially how the wealthy look down their noses at those less fortunate. I guarantee you those guys carrying the bags considered themselves above those who anxiously awaited their gifts. The act alone of reaching into a sack and retrieving a shiny silver dollar to hand to a smiling and grateful child is reserved for those who own the sacks in the first place. It inflates their egos and warms their hearts to know that THEY can be a blessing if they so choose.

I suppose that sounds all very cynical. Well, you got me!

My father was also a staunch Democrat, a working man, an Adlai Stevenson supporter, one who thought labor was essential for the wellbeing of him, his family, and people like us. There aren’t many of these people left today; they’ve been replaced by people who, incredibly, cast their lots with the people who rule them. Some of this support comes from Christians who’ve been duped into thinking that rich people are their friends. After all, they support pro‐life zealotry, Israel, and the licentiousness that passes for freedom in the name of business and industry.

I wish my dad was alive today to talk some sense into these have‐not Christians (who insist they aren’t have‐nots).

In the South, nothing has devastated local communities like the almost complete destruction of the American textile industry. Oh don’t get me wrong. The industry is alive and well, but their corporate masters have moved everything away from our shores, because it’s more profitable to do so. Cotton is grown in the South, so it makes sense that “our” industry would’ve been textiles. Those Levi jeans of old were grown and manufactured right here, but the industry has moved to where foreign labor is cheaper, which means more profits. This is just one obvious example of how the wealthy cannot be trusted to have the backs of those less fortunate. And yet, visit any community abandoned by the textiles industry in the South, and you’ll find the people there voting Republican. Imagine that? The party that supports the people who moved their plants OUT of their small towns and to foreign shores now gets the votes of the people left behind to beg.

The aristocracy in any community operates under the assumed responsibility to act with generosity and nobility toward those less privileged. It’s called “noblesse oblige” (nobility obligates), a French term that identifies this assumption. Since it is inferred, there’s no law or legal obligation for the wealthy to behave in such a manner, which is why we see a completely different mentality today. It’s “grab all you can get, and then grab for more.” It’s all about me getting mine and the hell with you.

Such are the haves in a world of avarice and license, where regulations are stripped away (for the most part) and taxing the rich is presented as a net economic liability, because they are presented as the ones who provide the jobs. Hence, your President gave them $2 trillion in welfare that he borrowed on our behalf to “stimulate” the economy for his reelection in 2020. Donald Trump will be long gone after that debt comes due, so he could give a crap. Besides, the guy’s business acumen is in borrowing and not paying back.

My dad is rolling over in his grave.

These are the silk stockings of life in our world today. They could care less about the underprivileged, except when it comes to supporting their lifestyles, whether as cheap labor, service providers, or political puppets of every scale. And “underprivileged” is defined as anybody who’s not them, including some very good and hard‐working people who want nothing more than peace and quiet in which they can raise their families. They are blinded by religion, emotions, and a lack of intellectual pursuits from determining when they’re being fed a heaping bowl of bullshit or not. Tasty bullshit, perhaps. Varnished to keep the smell down bullshit, for sure. And, perhaps even expensive bullshit, but it’s all bullshit just the same.

Make no mistake. Washington today is a silk stockings’ town. Actually, it’s been that way for a number of decades now, and at least partially to blame on a news media that doesn’t understand the basic reality the silk stockings represent. After all, when they grow up, they want to be just like them. But the silk stockings narrative badly needs exploration today as we face yet another four years of this fascist nonsense.

We need to change minds, and pointing to this disparity is the only way to do it effectively. We have no business whatsoever in aligning ourselves with the silk stockings, and I hope we hear a lot about it instead of the relentless pounding of progressive social justice. It’s not sufficient to pull voters away from the right wing nationalists represented by the GOP.

That’s my fear as the campaign begins to unfold. Who will be the first candidate to use the term “silk stockings” in their fight against Republican fat cats who smile all the way to the bank?

I won’t be holding my breath.

When moral authority is lost

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The German people thought Hitler was their savior!

When the minority reaches or exceeds moral parity with the majority, the majority loses its status. Numbers aren’t really what determines authority, for that goes to those who use their authority to provide a cultural foundation for civilization. When moral authority is acceded to another group, the majority will have committed cultural suicide.

This is exactly what certain white Americans feel is happening to them. This is the same fear we exploited at The 700 Club for profit and political power. And now that certain white evangelicals have a “friend” in the White House, they’ve lost the moral high ground reserved for Jesus and his disciples. And, it’s not the “who” that’s in the White House that matters, so much as the belief that political power is necessary to sway the system on behalf of what they believe God is telling them, namely that sin is the culture’s biggest problem. However, the Christian faith is as counter‐culture as it gets, which is what gives it license to speak its spiritual wisdom to the whole of culture. Such wisdom is always spiritual and always bottom‐up, unless and until it assumes positions of power and influence within the culture. Then, as Jesus put it regarding the rich, “they have their reward.”

The last time the church was in charge in the West, we had the plague and the dark ages. That’s exactly where we’re headed absent the churches awakening to the truth.

Mother Teresa’s lifestyle allowed her to be a servant to all others. Same with Ghandi, the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior, and thousands of others who dedicated their lives to the servanthood example that Christ gave us. This attitude of service is true moral authority. Were it any other way, there would be no use for Christianity in the culture.

Where is the power of faith to challenge the culture? It’s gone, because those who chose this path in the past have been sideswiped by a fast‐moving vehicle with the sign “Washington or bust!” Instead of challenging the culture today, the church wants to run it, and no matter how many niceties one can claim God “wants” for His children, it doesn’t follow that cultural leadership is one of them. You can’t make a whole meal of salt, which is our proper flavor within the culture.

The spiritual authority of the minority is due in part to its position as “less than” with the majority, and this is to the majority’s shame and its inability to remain the determiners of culture. The only place this doesn’t matter is with the silk stockings of our world, those whose fortunes grant them license where others are held back by laws, rules, and financial insecurity. This is the same group against which Jesus’ ministry railed, because their excess is used to manipulate others and hold them back.

It’s fair reasoning to make the statement that America was founded by Christian people seeking religious freedom from England, Colonial Protestants who saw profit in establishing the laws and rules of a new nation. It’s hard to deny that the first act of these travelers when they reached the shores of Virginia was to plant a cross and claim the land for their Christ. Their moral authority to do so, however, was damaged by their actions against people native to the land. Nevertheless, it lasted two centuries, but this moral authority was no match for the internet with its searchable database of human knowledge. Allegiance to the old is dissipating before our eyes, and we are dangerously close to fascism as a result. Those with something to lose will fight hard against those who cry “freedom” by keeping the minority oppressed, and historically, that hasn’t turned out well for anybody. That’s because life itself equally supports everybody. It’s the humans in charge that speak only for themselves, dragging us into their argument by convincingly stating that this is the best it gets for the have‐nots.

So, be of good cheer as we approach the most important Presidential election in American history, a time when humankind must step up en masse to push back against what is dragging us collectively into fascism. Thankfully, this push back is inevitable.

History reminds us that this has all happened before. The question is have we learned its important lesson?

Thus Saith The Lord (or not)

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Charismatics have been around for over 50 years

My original exposure to Christianity as an adult came via the Maranatha movement, a mostly non‐denominational, Pentacostal practice that grew out of the Jesus people from the 1960s and early 70s. It was known at the time as “Charismatic Christianity” and a group that practiced certain “full gospel” gifts as stated in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and in Mark, Chapter 16, where these words of Jesus are recorded just before His ascension.

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

If you’ve ever been to a charismatic church, you’ll know it by a period when the congregation will join in with people speaking in tongues, other people interpreting, and still other people prophesying. I participated and was told many times that I had “the anointing,” which was always nice to boost the old ego.

I make no claim as a prophet, but in the spirit of the above, here’s my offering under the Christian banner of “Thus saith the Lord.”

Listen to what the Spirit of Truth is saying today to the people who believe.

Be not seduced by the false gods and idols who proclaim peace and prosperity while secretly robbing babies of their milk and increasing the suffering of the poor and the afflicted among you. These are serpents in a garden of plenty, who sing the siren’s song, beckoning passers‐by with majestic promises of comfort and freedom from the false sufferings of envy and covetousness. These enchanters line their own greedy pockets beneath the surface, while fighting visible, emotional, attention‐getting, and xenophobic battles against straw men who strike fear in the hearts of the well‐intentioned. They rob from the poor and the widows and the fatherless by falsely painting the oppressed as oppressors, as those who seek to steal and rob the possessions of those who have them. In so doing, they give to each other in order to ensure that the haves will always have while the have‐nots will support their efforts in the blaming of others. These are false prophets who worship Mammon, and you shall know them by lips that deceive with promises of a better life for you. I did not come to make your lives better but to shatter the enemy that binds you with what you possess. They speak of peace but practice their deception by dividing my children with empty promises of gain and ease.

You have played the harlot to the oppressors.

How is it they say they love the babies they have not seen and yet increase the burden on those they can see? The babies aren’t yet with them, but those little ones already breathing the air of my Father belong to me, and to love them is to love me, and to love them not is to love me not. Therefore, they are liars to say they love me, for their actions reveal what is in their hearts, their love of self.

Cursed are they and their progeny, for they shall walk in the dry places where fire and heat shall be their path forever. Cursed also are those who walk with them, though unaware of their trespass in so doing. They are without excuse, for having been raised on the fruit of real bread, they have forsaken it for selfish gain in the form of a righteousness before men. Cursed are even those little ones who follow big footsteps into the paths of selfishness, though they be unawares, for the heart of man is fully corrupt among those who obey not my commands. That which you count as blessings shall be taken from you and given to those you oppress, and this will take place without your knowledge, so that you will not be able to hide or protect that to which you cling. I will erase your names from the book of life, so that you will be without excuse on the final day and will abide in the torment you have placed upon those you oppress. Walk, I say again to the church of America, walk in the place you have assigned to others, for you have rejected only Me and with stiff necks and hardened hearts have turned away from my commandments and sacrifice. Woe to you, o men of transgression, who have set aside the essence of the Spirit in order to worship yourselves — and in My name, saith the Lord. Your blessing has ended. You will know no peace, for you have forgotten your first love and lie now with the mistress of death. The time is nigh, so weep. As I have weeped for those oppressed, may you weep now and forever.

However, blessings shall flow for those among you who have kept my word and my precepts and worked gladly and tirelessly among those who suffer in this life.

-o‐

On Being Human

Courtesy, the brilliant Nick Galifanakis.

Long ago, I made peace with the idea that ALL humans really want and need the same thing: to do the best we can with what we know. It’s the same in the physical, in the psychological, and in the spiritual. There’s nothing whatsoever “wrong” with this; it’s a healthy part of human nature.

And, in terms of judging the behavior of others, this is a wise position to take, because it strikes at the heart of what motivates people. We want to help ourselves, our families, our communities, and beyond. That only some are able to do this well is the thing that’s really wrong with our world under the sun. Sadly, these few are the ones with the dragons capable of raining down terror on the rest of us. Dracarys!

Those who associate with a God of their understanding — as a part of their teaching, training, and faith — fully grasp the significance of helping the poor and the afflicted among us. Chaos ensues, however, when even a few of these get the idea that helping others means personal loss to themselves, or even more deceptively, that the poor are somehow “out to take what’s ours.” This stance puts us at odds with God, no matter which religion we pick. It ought to concern those who do so, but it doesn’t.

For, no matter how we play it, those who are stuck in the rut of competing for what they believe to be “theirs” are at odds with others who are more giving. As a friend recently said, “It’s not a piece of pie.” Helping others is a natural behavior for humans, one that runs into conflict only when we put our spiritual selves on hold while we pursue getting what we can to better our physical lives. This produces the takers in a world of givers, and they are an abomination before God.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you, rich ones, for you have your comfort!”

It’s a lot easier on all of us to view the realities of life through the veil of wanting to do the best we can for ourselves and our families. This knowledge (or is it a belief?) has a way of injecting compassion into those who are aware. Everybody seems to agree with the principle but not with how to bring it about throughout the planet. Resources to accomplish the task appear to the uninitiated as a zero‐sum game and one that requires that I take from somebody else in order to satisfy my own wants and needs. Once I’ve accumulated “mine,” I might be able to turn my attention to somebody else. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The fear that somebody else “might” take away my piece of pie is a powerful motivator to maintain the status quo, no matter who gets stomped on in the process. This, again, is human nature gone to seed, revealing the hidden motives of selfishness and self‐centeredness. And, if this is to be our stance, we are sad and to be pitied.

Those who know God, however, understand that His approach is for us to give of ourselves first in order to be filled fully via the spirit with what’s best for us afterwards (See: The parable of the garden hose). This is foolishness to the world under the sun, but those of us who also fully inhabit the spiritual see the wisdom of such an approach. God is fully committed to the poor, and that includes Jesus. You can’t go very far in reading the Bible until you encounter this truth.

And, this is why the Republican approach to religion is so off‐putting to me. To them, social justice is a major weakness in governance, and why Trump puppet master Steve Bannon said in 2017:

“The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the democrats.”

This is a crude albeit correct description of Republican Party Politics, because it seeks to benefit the status quo and by extension, the wealthy and the haves. The sole strategic thrust of the Democrats ought to be how their opponents only speak for the wealthy and the filthy rich, and the bones they toss to white evangelicals — like abortion and religious freedom — are only offered to ensure a larger support base. Republicans, quite honestly, could give a crap about fetuses being aborted. The litmus test for conservative judges is not abortion; it’s how business‐friendly they are. The price conservatives demand is support for the wealthy, and since a lot of these preachers consider themselves in that category, the match is perfect. Moreover, the wealthy give money to big churches and ministries (it’s called a tax write‐off).

And, no preacher worth his salt wants to turn that down, right?

This business of being human can give us all fits, not just the poor and the afflicted, so how are we supposed to judge others? the Bible says we should “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

They’ve taken the human idea of doing the best for ourselves, our families, and our communities and turned it into selfishness.

And, it’s not pretty.

Words DO Matter!

Let’s talk about the word “religion,” shall we? I’ve mentioned this before in other writings, but I thought it might be fun to do an in‐depth look at the subject. My thesis is that the word used in the First Amendment’s religion clause is not the same as the word that we use today to interpret it. In fact, the difference is so profound that the IRS was way off the mark in granting a religious tax exemption to The Church of Satan. As you’ll see, saying they make Satan to be their god does not qualify them for religious exemptions under the Constitution. But, the deed is done, and so it goes.

Note in this Google Ngram that the word “religion” was used in books a whole lot more in the early 19th Century than it was in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Those early writings emphasized God Almighty and not some watered down mush relating to anything that people believe. It’s a great illustration to how discussions of this important American institution have waned as the country has prospered.

Words get bounced around over the years, but, like a stream wandering through the forest, they often pick up debris along the way. It’s made up of imaginative stretching, euphemism, hyperbole, overuse, and of course the biggie, manipulation. The word “gay”, for example, meant something completely different in the 20th‐Century than it did in the 19th‐Century. Same with the word “stoned” and many, many others. And it’s interesting how people will reject using the newer definitions when applied to old usage of terms, because the differences are pretty clear, and it just doesn’t sound right.

However, this isn’t the case with “religion,” and it really should be.

The reason it’s not is political propriety. The First Amendment is being interpreted today using a modern definition of the word that includes just about everything and anything people worship. While dictionaries list many possible uses of the word, they also each present choices in a descending list. Only one sits at the top. That is what we need to look at mostly, because it represents the most common cultural usage.

Here’s Dictionary.com’s current and primary definition of religion:

  1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

So, let’s look at what the word meant when the First Amendment was written. Here’s Samuel Johnson’s 1755 classic, A Dictionary of the English Language, and his definition of religion:

  • Virtue, as founded upon reverence of God, and expectation of future rewards and punishments.

The best source, however, is likely Noah Websters original 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language:

  1. religion in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.

So a simple word transformation gives us fits today in trying to interpret the religion clause of the First Amendment, as evidenced by the IRS action. This ought to be the business of everybody, because we’re the ones who must deal with the twisting and altering of reality through word manipulation. I don’t agree with those who say America was birthed as a “Christian Nation,” because Protestants (those English who planted the Cross at Cape Henry) had little in common with Catholics who dominated vast regions of territory.

The point is that early America was populated almost entirely by religious people, those who worshipped God Almighty (and, of course, the dollar). It was simply assumed to be a part of the culture, as in how Samuel Johnson didn’t think it was important to specifically define “God,” and yet the word was used throughout his dictionary in other definitions. That’s where we need to be with our current understanding, and if we don’t like it, we need to change the document, not the word. To do otherwise is dishonest, misleading, dangerous, and even contemptuous.

For all of its societal cockblocking, you’d think the right‐wing Evangelicals would be out front on this. The problem is they are too grafted onto the prime titty of the status quo to make any significant noise at the moment.

Trapped in the limbo of “be careful what you pray for,” these zealots march cheerfully to their doom, the smiles on their faces revealing the degree of their delusion.

The Culture Heaves in Response to the Internet

In my writings about culture and the web, I’ve always presented the upside of free people connected. However, I’ve also given reasons why the culture would reject such a freedom in the name of self‐protection. “The” culture, of course, is steeped in traditions and promises that set the path from nobody to somebody in a democracy, and as C.S. Lewis famously pointed out, the farther up the ladder one advances, the more it becomes their duty to keep others off the ladder altogether.

Why?

Because human beings are self‐centered at core and absent an internal governor, need a bayonet at their backs in order to get along with others. It is one of the great necessities of government to prevent these “rulers” from destroying others in the name of advancing themselves. Government, it turns out however, can be bought and forced into compliance with the corporate will. The opposite of government is not freedom, as many would have us believe. The opposite of government is licentiousness.

And so the culture sets the rules for what it determines to be civilization, which often then turns out to be anything but civil. The net doesn’t play well with this, for it connects people to each other absent a hierarchical filter, while the hierarchy that represents our civilization demands command and control in order to maintain its place within the whole. We either can’t or won’t see this for what it is: a blatant attempt by the wealthy to tighten their grip around the culture, so it can be used to separate them even further from the have‐nots of the world.

And, astonishingly, many of these people claim to be “Christian.” White evangelical leaders are more than happy to look past their licentious behavior, because their contributions help raise these ministers’ profiles, lifestyles, and cultural power. The web cuts right through this by allowing — even fostering — non‐hierarchical communications and the dispersal of filterless information.

This is the inherent conflict that the culture has with the web, for the culture is a set of siloed hierarchies that work (poorly) together for their own best interests. The net looks at this and responds: “Inefficient!” And, so has begun attempts by the culture to wrestle control back from the people who are horizontally connected, even though most don’t realize the disruption they represent. This, too, is intentional.

We need leadership where nothing else will do. Having managed our way into this shrinking corner, the people long for leaders who’ll rescue us from the trap of being born without the privileges of wealth. In the world, this is a bad place to exist. How do faithful people then respond? Do we challenge the hegemony that is slipping into the deep abyss of obsolescence? Or, in the name familiarity, stick with the culture’s promise of the American Dream. And, if information is power in a connected universe, then what do we do with it? The cultural war today is largely one over information and the conflict over whose information will reign over all?

This brings us to the focal point of the 21st Century’s culture war — the business of news.

The news is a self‐governing institution in the U.S. We have the First Amendment to thank for that, although that freedom is under attack on many fronts today. It has to be self‐governing, because of the watchdog role it plays over government. We can’t have the press governed in any other way, especially by that same government. Any person with even an ounce of reason can understand this.

And self‐government means exactly that. The news industry abides by a code of ethics that means much more to its denizens than the average person thinks. Failure to follow this code is required when presenting point‐of‐view journalism as “news,” for at that point, they fall out of the protections of those who use the code to govern their practice. Again, this is not an unreasonable premise for an institution of the West that can have no outside governance.

The bias of the news is that its mission is towards what’s new. It doesn’t qualify to the mission, if it isn’t new. Like it or not, this is inherent to the industry and cannot be denied. But, and here’s where it gets tricky, embracing the new is not a political position. It’s a bias, yes, but it is not a political bias for that would likewise be contrary to its real bias. If there is an exception to this, it would fall into the category of unsupported enthusiasm for that which is new. What we must realize, however, is that those who profit most from the accusation of political bias are those who themselves are guilty of spreading political talking points as news. Conservative news is not a response to the political liberalization of the press; it’s a pro‐active tactic in a one‐sided propaganda war. It’s meant to accomplish two things: one, to convince everyday people that their only enemy is the evil‐intended political left, the mouthpiece of which is the liberal press. Two, that since there is a liberal press, it is right and justified that there should also be a conservative press. With this false narrative, they place themselves in the same arena with the real journalists, those who abide by a code of ethics, which prohibits them from behaving in the manner with which they’re being accused.

So what happens when an organization calls itself “news” but refuses to be self‐governed according to what the institution requires? Many things, but especially a rejection by the institution, and this is significant, for it’s not the point‐of‐view, per se, that’s being called into question but the organization’s insistence that it is, in fact, playing by the rules when it so clearly is not. Moreover, in order to grant itself the protections afforded those who do play by the rules, the organization must attempt to paint the entire institution with the broad brush of identical — albeit opposite — bias, In other words, the organization must claim that it is simply a response to the politics of the institution. Such a claim doesn’t have to be true in order to be pressed, and this is what infuriates those who are, indeed, functioning with the self‐governance provided by the institution.

This is where we are today in the struggle for information control, and if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves permanently assigned to the status of needy, a position from which there is no escape.

We are living in times of shifting cultural norms. America is no longer a white nation, and this shows no signs of abatement. We can either accept this or kick against it, but if we’re going to assume the latter position, we must be prepared for a future of weeping and gnashing of teeth, for their really is zero hope of going backwards.

The answers are in our connectivity. If not, today’s hierarchies wouldn’t be so desperately afraid of it?

Welcome to the culture wars of the 2020s and beyond.