Pat Robertson’s Veil

Let’s take a little journey through Pat Robertson’s mind in the wake of his prophetic proclamation of a Trump reelection, war involving Israel, peace for awhile, followed by an asteroid strike, and then the end of everything. Even for Pat, this is a stretch, and I’ve heard from friends that say “he needs to get off the air.”

As if that would ever happen.

Pat “sees” things through a complex but reliable veil, that he and his ilk are the Biblical “sons of Issachar, men with knowledge of the times.” However, that veil includes Republican Party talking points, because Pat is first a politician, secondly a television preacher of some acclaim. He feels, as an apostle for the current times, that he can interpret and proclaim by clipping together various parts of the Bible to create — as Disney used to say — the plausible impossible when it comes to commentary on current events. This was the entire basis for the work we did in the early 80s in developing a propaganda-based narrative that we alone could see and therefore “interpret and report” as a news organization. We were “TV Journalism With A Different Spirit.”

I can tell you from experience that he is being quite sincere in that this Trump/asteroid scenario is the only one that works vis-a-vis his veil. After all, he’s talking about God, his view of God orchestrating everything, so that it “makes sense” to him and his followers.

It ought to scare the crap out of Americans that a man like this has the ear of the President of the United States.

These proclamations from the mountain top were a regular feature of my daily life as Executive Producer of The 700 Club in the early and mid 80s. In 1984, for example, he looked downstream and prophesied “deep darkness and trouble” for America “towards the end of the year.” And what was happening at the end of the year? Ronald Reagan was running for reelection.

This era of evangelical messaging about the end times began in 1948 with the return of the Jews to the Holy Land through the political movement known as Zionism. Through Pat’s veil, this could mean only one thing: that God was preparing the world for the return of Jesus Christ. Hence, the relentless pounding the self-centered message of salvation to everybody and the creation of a set of evangelical rules that demanded Christians participate or run the risk of losing their salvation and be damned for eternity.

It’s a powerful manipulator of good people and not-so-good people.

So, what are we to do?

Pat was quick to point out the words of Jesus, who said in Matthew 24 that no human will ever know the date and the hour that the end comes. Pat glossed over it in acknowledging that he could be wrong. But here’s the thing. God isn’t stupid. Life knows that it has to be so in order to prevent the self-centered manipulation that would likely come out of letting anybody in on the secret.

Evangelical Christianity of the sort practiced by Pat Robertson and his clan is doing exactly that politically. Christians fearful of going to hell simply pass along what they’ve been told, because the threat against them is that they’ll miss out on all the fun associated with the Rapture and smiling at their “unbelieving” friends as they pass them by on their way to Heaven.

Thus, the message is one of well-produced superstition and unprovable proclamations, all stemming from a man who himself wanted to be President. I was at the meeting in the board room of CBN where Pat first told us he was running. He said that God had told him to run and that he would win. It was the only possible “Biblical” conclusion to what he was being “told”, right?

Once again, Pat is counting on his “gifts” to guide a narrative that makes sense to him but challenges those who still are able to think for themselves.

Christianity has its own God/man to stand between believers and a vengeful God in order to prevent his Father from destroying everything. At least that’s what we’re taught.

His name is Jesus Christ, not Pat Robertson.

DWTS: A Producer’s Review

ABC’s Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) underwent a major remake this year, and it doesn’t seem to be very well-received so far by loyal followers of the show. The biggest, most visible change was at hosting, where producers substituted Tyra Banks for Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews. However, there have been many other changes, too, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Last night’s massive blunder was more about those other changes than the inability of Tyra Banks to handle the situation, and I think fans are being too hard on her. Granted, it didn’t help that she was made to look like a total fool during the mishap, but trust me — as a former TV producer and news consultant — when I say she was set up to fail.

One disclaimer first: I’m going to make assumptions here, and all I can say in my defense is that they’re at least based on general practices in the TV industry. I could, however, be totally wrong.

There’s an old adage about the industry that when audience erosion begins, very often the talent is blamed, especially when research shows that the existing talent can no longer recruit new viewers. Even if the talent is beloved, there’s a point at which that belovedness becomes the show’s greatest weakness in terms of audience growth. And what self-respecting producer doesn’t want/need audience growth. The industry axiom is that your greatest strength becomes your greatest weakness.

Let me share a paragraph from the show’s Executive Producer Andrew Llinares from a forum wherein he was trying to explain the changes. Remember, he’s speaking from a producer’s perspective, not the audience.

“I think it’s working brilliantly with the one host. I think it’s really refreshed the pace of the show, actually,” said the exec. “I think it’s taken it to a new pace, in terms of moving faster and just feeling different. I think there’s a real danger when a show’s been on for a long time that the audience almost gets bored of the rhythm. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. It just sort of gets a little boring — the rhythm of it. So, I think it’s changed the rhythm of the show in a really exciting way.”

Let’s interpret what he’s saying. The issue for him is one host versus two, so it’s not really about the who of the change; it’s about his ability to control the pace of the show, and producers love control. I’ve sat in many a session with consultants who were pressing a need to boost the pace of the show as a way to freshen its perception among viewers. So, pace is his issue, and there’s no question that a one host program quickens the pace of DWTS.

The chemistry of the show has been dramatically altered in the process. The father figure (Bergeron) has been removed, his duties moved to the control room. Erin’s mother figure has been replaced by Tyra, a role she simply isn’t suited to play. She’s on there as a celebrity persona who does what she’s told. It’s all for the pace, folks.

Bergeron and Andrews ran the show from the stage, because they could. Mr. Llinares simply found this to be untenable, because it messed with timings and the sacred pace of the show. However, and this is the biggie, it was these unscripted moments that produced such lovable chemistry between the hosts and the contestants. It was also where we learned little things about the contestants that production couldn’t possibly provide, because they were spontaneous. And, for some producers, spontaneity is a 5‑syllable word for chaos.

Moreover, a talent-driven program, which DWTS used to be, brings other problems for a producer, because they often make unwanted demands of production, efforts designed to help them or favor them during a live broadcast. This is something I know just a little about, for I was Pat Robertson’s Executive Producer and know well what’s necessary for a man to produce a show in real time from the anchor chair. It can be done, but it takes serious flexibility throughout the constant stress to pull it off.

Mr. Llinares’s “pace” was likely a constant battle in year’s past, because both Bergeron and Andrews had a good feel for time and the timing necessary to do their jobs. In a producer’s world, however, that which destroys pace is sin and must be eliminated. What DWTS has become with these changes is a faster-paced dancing/variety entertainment program with interactive chemistry taking a back seat.

And here’s another observation: it’s also LOUD! DWTS is the loudest, noisiest program on television, which is amazing when you consider there is no audience this year due to the virus. Mr. Llinares has taken advantage of that to improve his beloved “pace” according to age-old wisdom garnered from young people by Robert Pittman in guiding the development of MTV long ago. Pittman’s groundbreaking research revealed what young people want:

Irreverence
Zaniness
Instability
Chaos
A Frenetic Pace
Lots of Disjointed Thoughts
In-depth Info About Music

Llinares can hardly be blamed for (unknowingly?) referencing these guidelines in trying to make a show that better appeals to a younger audience. Personally, I believe that horse left the barn years ago and isn’t ever coming back to broadcasting.

Program ratings have been a mixed bag and can be spun to say just about anything. But one look at the actual rating — 1.1 in the 18–49 age category — reveals the real nature of the problem for the networks. A rating is the percentage of TV households in the measuring universe that are watching the program. A 1.1 rating means that 98.9% of the TV household universe 18–49 year old category were NOT watching. It amazes me today that sales people can actually sell such low numbers and still make a profit.

To summarize, Andrew Llinares rolled the dice with remaking DWTS and now must live with the consequences. Last night’s mishap raises the stakes, because it wasn’t pretty. Some commentators this morning are comparing it with Steve Harvey’s infamous 2015 Miss Universe pageant error when he read the name of the wrong winner.

And so, blame assessment is today’s lead on the story, but I think it’s pretty simple. When you inject artificial “pace” into a live program, it’s easy to stuff too much into the mix, and Llinares can’t blame a looser, personality-driven program this time. After all, “more, more, more” is the cry of those who think story count is more important than the people reading the stories.

Even with perfect production, DWTS is but a shell of what it used to be. It feels like a TV show pretending to be DWTS, and even terrific dancing can’t save it.

DWTS has jumped the shark.

New Final Chapter From My Book

When the publisher of The Gospel of Self wanted to distribute my book via Counterpoint Press, I was asked to re-write a final chapter more appropriate to the new subtitle: “How Pat Robertson Stole the Soul of the GOP.” Since many of you bought the earlier version, I wanted to share that new chapter with you today. Enjoy

PAT ROBERTSON TODAY

When Pat Robertson interviewed Donald Trump for The 700 Club in July of 2017, the press turned it into a pretty big deal. After all, the President didn’t do sit-down interviews, and while Pat was clearly in Trump’s camp, the press was still trying to figure out how he’d been elected in the first place, so there were hopes that the interview would generate news.  

The Huffington Post asked me to write a piece1 for publication the day after the interview, and the headline they chose was that there was nothing surprising: 

Pat was clearly very much in sync with Trump’s entire vision and government and predicted that he would be easily re-elected if he is able to get health care and taxation under control. He reminded the President that thousands and thousands of Christians are praying for him and will continue to do so. 

Nothing presented here today was surprising or revealing, but it was a strong reminder of how far to the right we’ve moved as a country. Pat Robertson was and always will be a representative of the aristocrats, and he views life through that lens. As such, he has made the beliefs of the ruling class the beliefs of the Gospel of Self, which is a living, breathing dream for the politically conservative. That those farther down the economic scale fully trust their “masters” is the single greatest cultural feat accomplished in the last 100 years or more, and it perplexes those who rely on education and reason. This is why I called the interview today “an important cultural moment,” for if the observers continue to ignore this happening, more surprises will be in store at the polling places of America. 

Pat Robertson’s vision includes building an Evangelical Christian “shadow government” that will eventually take over when the left completely fails. In Donald Trump, Pat has found his leader. 

This wasn’t an interview; it was a reverential hand job. 

Pat Robertson’s view of America under a God-appointed leader requires a willingness to step outside certain realities to embrace, and yet that’s exactly what’s happened since Donald Trump was elected. Evangelicals must force themselves to look the other way, as revelation after revelation about his personal life, false narratives, and management style become clear, and this seems to happen almost daily. Support him they do, and in words and ways that we cannot dismiss, for Pat’s “shadow government” seems to now be coming out into the light. 

President Trump’s highly controversial summit with Valdimir Putin in Helsinki during the summer of 2018 was bashed by Democrats and Republicans alike, but it was Pat Robertson – during that same interview a year earlier – who gave his blessing to the President’s fondness for the former Soviet Union. Here’s the way The Atlantic reporter Vann Newkirk put it after the interview. The article was headlined “Pat Robertson Finally Gives Up On Russia2

Robertson didn’t push Trump at all. There were no questions about evil Russian plots, and relatively few references to nuclear war. He accepted the president’s answers without any serious challenge. 

…If Pat Robertson says Russia isn’t a problem, then it won’t be for thousands of his evangelical followers. A good portion of Trump’s base—and perhaps even some religious folks outside the base who keep up with the 700 Club—might be persuaded that Russia is a non-issue by Robertson’s acceptance. And not only did Robertson accept Trump’s answers, he gave them his blessing as only a televangelist minister could, telling the president that “I want you to know there are thousands of people praying for you and holding you up all the time.” 

The astonishment over this is fully justified, because when I was Pat’s producer, the USSR was evil personified. Russia is widely regarded as the most significant opponent of Israel during the end times of which Pat preached often. He never had anything good to say about the Soviets, so his capitulation to Trump on the subject is highly noteworthy and speaks to the lengths that white evangelicals will go to support their man. 

According to studies by both Gallup3 and Pew4, Republican support for Russia has doubled over the past few years. Ronald Reagan, who tagged the Soviets as “The Evil Empire,” and this pro-Russia activity would not have gone over well with him. This is remarkable, because Pat Robertson loved Ronald Reagan and viewed himself as advancing the Reagan legacy in his 1988 run for President. This is apparently not the case anymore, so long as Pat can have his conservative judges, Israel, and religious freedom. 

And now, with the President’s saber-rattling over a possible war with Iran, these same Christians will again be giving him their complete support. Iran is seen as Israel’s top enemy in the Middle East and represents Biblical Persia in terms of end times prophecy. One of the biggest problems Evangelicals had with Barack Obama was his efforts to deal with Iran as a nuclear power instead of taking a hardline position against the country. President Trump, however, and thanks to the support of Trump Christians, has a green light to even make war against Iran in the name of protecting Israel. 

The Gospel of Self is all over the relationship between the Christian right and Donald Trump. They helped elect a man with thoughts only of themselves and their relationship to the culture. Ignoring the red letters in the Bible, which charge Christ’s followers with care of the poor and the afflicted, these believers embrace the promises of a reprobate in the pursuit of their selfish gain. Pat Robertson was a Virginia aristocrat before he was anything else, and that backdrop forms the core of his politics. In his world, those who exhibit the worldly signs of success and happiness – primarily riches – are the ideal to which everyone should aspire. He preaches a form of good news that concerns believers not only after salvation, one that associates closeness with God to the blessings of possessions and ease in this life. Donald Trump personifies such a man, despite the immorality of his behavior towards women, his divorces, his bankruptcies, his language, his lies, and his overall character. 

But perhaps the biggest attraction that white evangelicals have towards Donald Trump is his willingness to pander to their wishes in turn for their support, especially in the areas of education, Israel, religious liberty, homosexuality, and, of course, the Supreme Court. It should be noted that each of these is a direct path to the Gospel of Self, for nothing the white evangelicals seek regards others; it’s all directed at making life better for those who imagine personal attacks around every corner from the unholy breed known as liberal progressives. “They” must be defeated! 

The Washington Post’s conservative commentator Mark Thiessen wrote5, “Trump has arguably done more in his first year in office to protect life and religious freedom than any modern president.”  

“Little wonder,” he added, “that religious conservatives stick with him despite the (Stormy) Daniels revelations. This is not to say that Christians don’t think a culture of fidelity is important. But the culture of life is important too. So is a culture that is welcoming to religious believers rather than waging war on them.” 

This motivator — the heartfelt belief that the Christian faith is under attack in our current culture — is one of the most important factors in Mr. Trump’s support. So persecuted are white Evangelical Christians by a rotting culture, the thinking goes, that we need to fight back with everything we’ve got politically, rather than just give the nation over to the devil by saying nothing. During his campaign, the President assured a drooling Christian right that “We’re gonna bring it back,” “We’re gonna protect Christianity,” and that “Christianity will have power if I’m President.” 

This issue of whether Christianity is under attack is complex and difficult to understand on every level. The parties involved have obviously differing views, but the arguments never really take place in the same contextual frame. One side argues that America was created as a Christian nation by Christians who came here to colonize in Jesus name, while the other side argues that such a belief doesn’t apply to the United States, because the country’s founders were an eclectic group and wrote documents to protect us from rule by religion. Moreover, the Christian nation argument is irrelevant in modern times, because humankind has come such a long way in the last few centuries. One is a spiritual argument; the other is an argument of reason. One touts Holy Scripture, while the other relies on education and knowledge. One is upstream with the saints of old; the other is downstream in a hundred human tributaries. One believes the Bible is a “living document” while the other sees a certain anti-progressive rigidity in a set of archaic rules. One claims to argue faith; the other claims to argue logic. One argues the Godly essence of justice; the other argues the Godly essence of mercy. These are opposites in human understanding, but the Bible teaches that God is equally both. To us, it’s a zero-sum view, and that is to our shame, for life is much bigger than our human minds can grasp. 

Any reasonable, objective study of early American history makes a convincing case that Christianity was so enmeshed in daily life at the time that one must conclude its governance and institutions were filled with people of faith. Arguing against this requires changing history, although there’s no real reason to do so. When English speaking people landed at Cape Henry Virginia in 1607, their very first act was to plant a cross and claim the land on behalf of their Savior. This act is significant in that everything that follows flows from it, including the documents that recognized the potential for mischief in taking such a proclamation too far. Hence, we have the establishment clause of the First Amendment. However, that doesn’t change the reality that the homes, by-ways, and communities of the colonies were filled with people of faith. Our democracy is based on oaths and promises that we make to each other, and there must be a form of personal punishment ahead for those who violate such, and it must be beyond what the law can provide. Hence, we swear to tell the truth by putting our hand on the Bible in courtrooms. Again, we can argue how effective it has been over the years, but this doesn’t alter the history behind it all. 

Moreover, any fair reading of early documents – including those of the Founding Fathers – can only be done using the language of the time, because the meanings of key words have changed over time. That means one must use the dictionaries of the era, Samuel Johnson’s classic of 1755 and Webster’s of 1828. When that is done, it takes considerable manipulation to conclude anything other than the truth of the claim that Christianity played a significant role in the formation of the U.S. It didn’t need to be specifically spelled out, because it was assumed at the time. This in no way means America was birthed as a theocracy, but rather a country based on the belief that government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” meant that those same people were already self-governed through their faith. After all, it was John Wycliffe who first uttered the phrase when, upon completion of the first common English language translation of the Bible, he said, “This book shall make possible government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” This is why those same founding fathers saw the need to include the establishment clause in the First Amendment. No single representation of God could never rule a people educated in the truths of the Bible. 

As the country has become more secularized, therefore, it’s been easy for Pat Robertson and other evangelical leaders to stir their followers over the actions of contemporary progressive thinkers. It forms the controversial pot within which the fundamentalists brew their self-serving anger demanding a return to the way it used to be. In this way, they became suckers for the flimflammery of a huckster in the 2016 Presidential election.  

And progressives have played right into this longing for the good old days by visible actions that offer evidence of an alleged conspiracy against Christians. For example, who authorized academia and government to change our most basic calendar headings from BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini – year of our Lord) to BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era)? There was no debate. No hearings. No input from others whatsoever. Suddenly, textbooks that our children used to study everything were printed using only BCE and CE, and all devout Christians could do was to loudly cry, “foul.” There are also the matters of School Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the personal politics of gender. Is there a battle underway for the soul of the West? The answer is irrelevant, because the appearance of such a war is enough to make a political difference in the U.S. The fact, too, that progressives don’t feel it necessary to argue the grounds of these complaints is problematic, because the assumption that it’s unnecessary adds to the perceived arrogance that Christian conservatives use to argue their point. 

Like most things in life, this is not black and white, for it involves a great many other cultural considerations. Moreover, the strict “Christian Nation” crowd deserves its own blame for gutting the fatted calf it now wishes to protect. Besides, the more important matter is that even if we agree that America was birthed among people who practiced differing forms of Christianity, what are we to do about it today? The wise answer is nothing. 

Christianity is so divided into subsets that no one speaks on behalf of the whole. It’s just not possible. Each denomination makes a case why theirs is the path to righteousness and an afterlife in heaven. Therefore, there really is no such thing as the “Christian perspective” we used to espouse back in my days at The 700 Club. Is that the Catholic perspective or the Protestant perspective? Is it premillennial or postmillennial? Is it Pentecostal or reformed? Is it liberal or conservative? Black or white? Judeo-Christian or just Christian. You can see the conflict, which is why the establishment clause is there. 

Therefore, by self-division alone, Christianity has lost its influence on the culture, and the voice that’s complaining the loudest is the one that has the money and the resources to be heard, the white Evangelicals, eighty-one percent of whom voted for Donald Trump in the last election. And so Evangelical Christianity is the branch that is trying to drag us all in the direction of the theocracy the founders hoped to avoid. This is the group who has joined forces with the Republican Party – literally stolen the soul of the Republican Party – to “make” things happen that benefit their congregations and their point-of-view. Of course, the GOP of the Reagan era was quite happy to invite this crowd into its midst, never thinking it would produce what we have today.  

Think about it. For these people, God apparently doesn’t need our faith alone; He wants us to be a powerful political voice as well. This is the group that wants a war with Islam, because it leads to their premillennial one thousand years of glory in the name of Jesus. This is the group that needs Republican leadership in Washington to keep them tax free and thriving, so they can recruit support from the mountain top of the one percent. This is the group that wants their prayer to be in public schools, their self-centered gospel to govern programs for the poor, their self-righteousness to dominate human hearts when it comes to personal medical or relationship decisions, their way of life to be the norm and to frame the melting pot, their comfort to be the guiding light regarding who we allow into the pot in the first place, and their music, film, books, and art to be the only choice for all. 

As my friend Jeff Jarvis said, “Sharia Law? That’s nothing compared to Armageddon.” 

If there is but one truth about this particular group of Christians that should make us all wary, it is this: they will never be satisfied with just one victory in the culture wars. You can take that to the bank, and it represents the only tape that must be played out to the end for us to realize that – as a self-governing people – we cannot and must not let our guard down. The history of humankind is littered with the tragedies of those who fell for idolatry, the promise of magic, failure to take care of the poor and afflicted, and the fallibility of human nature. You want civil rights rolled back? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want women to return to the status of chattel? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want slavery brought back? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want corporal punishment in the public square? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want a culture dominated by fascist fear and bayonets? Say nothing. Do nothing today. 

From an historical perspective, there’s a great difference between a culture being overthrown and one that self-destructs, which is what’s really happening here. If, as the Evangelicals insist, they were the ones who built this country, then its collapse must be birthed in the same womb. You cannot claim leadership for the one without responsibility for the other. This is the major blind spot of those who argue that the devil or the liberals or the communists or members of any other group are at fault. Therefore, positing that Christianity itself is the victim here is utterly self-serving, and it’s also useless in trying to do anything about the evils around us. A slipping culture needs no outside help, if the ruling class within that culture cannot or will not accept responsibility for the slippage. 

The ruling class in America today, we must now conclude, includes certain powerful and vocal elements from within the entire Judeo-Christian Western hegemony. The nobility of yesterday has been replaced by panting thieves for whom license, not liberty, is the desire demanding to be fed. Thinking has been replaced by a mindlessness not found among past generations, who survived and even thrived despite having to solve real problems like slavery, sickness, world wars, and the rights of individuals. 

Those past generations wouldn’t recognize the Christianity that’s “under attack” today, which includes truly remarkable claims and warnings from diehard leaders.  

Author and Christian leader Mary Colbert6He (God) works through the ones he chooses. We don’t choose them. All we have to do is recognize them and when you recognize a chosen one and you have the discernment to know that they’ve been chosen and know that that’s the will of God, then your life will be blessed. And if you come against the chosen one of God, you are bringing upon you and your children and your children’s children curses like you have never seen. It puts a holy fear in me. 

Newsweek7The first Bible study group held for the U.S. Cabinet in at least 100 years is led by a pastor (Ralph Drollinger, a pastor and president of Capitol Ministries: an organization which aims to “evangelize elected officials and lead them toward maturity in Christ.”) who believes homosexuality is “illegitimate,” who doesn’t believe women should preach and has described Catholicism as a “false” religion. 

Prosperity Gospel Evangelist Kenneth Copeland8If Christians don’t support Trump, they are risking the wrath of God. Trump has been chosen by God, and by rejecting him, they are rejecting God. They could be punished with barrenness, poverty, or even having a gay child. 

The press generally doesn’t keep track of statements like these and that doesn’t help. As long as the press keeps religion — especially Evangelical Christianity — in its “Sphere of Deviance,” it will operate within a narrative that does not include the role of religion in the culture. This means the press operates outside the views of those for whom their faith is a working dynamic in their lives. This makes it impossible for reporters and commentators to ever figure out what really happened that put Donald Trump in the White House. They know nothing of the Gospel of Self. They’re willing to discuss issues important to Evangelicals, but they will always underestimate and minimize the importance of the faith’s role in history and especially current events. It’s simply not enough to cite ignorance and apply reason, when reason itself is a proclaimed enemy of the faith. The problem, then, is that both sides in the great American split are debating on different playing fields. It would be like the Dallas Cowboys playing the Philadelphia Eagles with the Cowboys playing in Dallas while the Eagles playing in Philadelphia.  

So important questions are left out of the discussion entirely, such as the matter of whether Donald Trump “belongs” in the White House. Did, as the Evangelicals claim, God put him there? Mr. Trump has been in office two years, and it’s gotten so that the only voices with good things to say about the man come from his own administration, a few extreme right-wing pundits, and the very core of his support, those white Evangelical Christians. He’s made enemies of the press, his own party, and two-thirds of Americans, but to those who practice The Gospel of Self, these are all to be tolerated in the name of a God who has heard the cries of his people and decided to save the country. The response of the press is a shrug and an “oh come on!” In other words, there is no response from those who don’t believe this other than that it’s laughable. By their inability or unwillingness to respond in kind, they are not playing in the same stadium as the Evangelicals. The Gospel of Self has taught Christians that they should be fighting in the political realm today for those who would restore righteousness to America and the world. And so, we go around and around in an endless series of meaningless echo-chamber debates, yelling and screaming. So, let us instead consider an argument that assumes the Evangelicals are right but alter the narrative just a bit. 

Perhaps God actually did put Donald Trump in office. Now, we’ve moved the game to Dallas, where the offenses and defenses of both teams can take the field. 

Sometimes, the most likely and obvious answer to the question of whether something “should” be is its existence, and this forms the essence of the right response to certain Evangelicals regarding the behavior of “their man.” Donald Trump IS the President, and to borrow the language of the faith, he’s there because he’s supposed to be there. 

We must remember that Evangelical Fundamentalist Christians take their cues from the Bible, which they believe instructs them on how to respond to the cultural shifts in front of them. They’re “mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore” when it comes to morality, jobs, taxes, security, safety, freedoms, and education. It’s no coincidence that these were the planks on which Trump campaigned, so it’s easy to understand their excitement with the candidate and now President. However, the Bible is filled with stories of people who stepped outside the will of God and were destroyed as a result. Therefore, let’s frame an argument that begins with an agreement that God put Donald Trump in the White House. The theological question then becomes why did He do that?  

If we can bring ourselves to ask this, it’s completely fair to then ask the question “what could be going on in the realm of the spirit in such a scenario?” The political Evangelicals – the ones who stole the soul of the GOP — think it’s to help them in their quest to fight against “sin” in the culture, to restore things to a time when life was supposedly easier or better. “Make America Great Again” fits this narrative perfectly. But what if the “sin” is within God’s own people? Could God be judging His own people and not the culture? Perhaps God is the One who’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. Asking God — in prayer or otherwise — to judge the world can be a dangerous proposition, because God’s judgment, the Bible clearly teaches, begins with the “house of God,” His people. This view is prophetic and in line completely with the teachings of both the old and new testaments. We only need to look at what Ezekiel9 said about Sodom to find prophetic parallels to today: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”  

Life destroys kingdoms that neglect their obligation to the poor and afflicted, and if that doesn’t bring a shudder to your spine, you have no conscience. This is exactly what’s taking place in America with the election of Donald Trump, and his policy decisions in the first two years of his administration prove it. The GOP – under the guidance and direction of white Evangelicals – has devolved us into the overfed, arrogant, and unconcerned culture that always precedes cultural destruction, and this – as Pat Robertson’s former executive producer – is my great fear today. On the other hand, it could be the time when we as a people rise up against it and proclaim a resounding “No!” 

Everyone knows there is a great divide between us in the West, one that life cannot tolerate forever, and perhaps that’s what the Trump presidency is all about. Could our current chaos be the very path for resolving the great divide in our midst? Frankly, if anything, that “divide” is contrary to what life could want from any of us, so again borrowing from the language of the church, perhaps this is what God is trying to show us. After all, how often does life lead us through our own difficulties by forcing us to deal with them over and over until we get it right? If Evangelicals can point to Sodom and its destruction (for homosexuality), then are we not able to use the argument above to refute that? 

The rise of Trump is a false promise to those extreme fundamentalist believers who “just know” that he’s right, because their church, their faith, and their families and friends all say so. It’s a false promise, because truth is one of those things that has a way of surfacing no matter how many times people try to hide it. Life’s way has always been to let humans do what we wish and watch as our efforts collapse. It’s the hard way, but it’s the way we learn as a species. Honestly, there’s no way we can avoid pain and suffering as this split continues. 

Our mistakes matter in our willingness to fulfill the potential of the human race. Could this be one of those times when we’re able to fix some of the big ones? 

Pat Robertson and those of us who labored alongside him in the 1980s nudged the country to the political right in ways that were more brilliant than devious. He sincerely felt and still feels, among other things, that the U.S. would be better off with teacher-led prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments back on public walls, abortion returned to illegal status, overturning the Johnson Amendment (prohibiting political involvement by churches), stopping the inflow of Muslims into America, and tax cuts that would permit the wealthy to give more to charities, including his own.  

In so doing, Robertson wrote the strategy for not only Republicans but also for other white Evangelicals, which is why Christianity’s brand is in so much trouble today. His influence cannot be overstated, because without the foundation laid by Robertson and The 700 Club, Donald Trump would never have been elected and the country wouldn’t be nearly so split as it is right now.   

Those Pesky Pharisaical Lawyers

(DISCLAIMER: Lawyers provide a valuable service in a society of laws, and what follows is not an indictment of ALL lawyers, only the self-regulated and self-serving system within which they operate.)

Why did the Lord Jesus curse the Pharisees? What exactly is the essence of  the Pharisees? | GOSPEL OF THE DESCENT OF THE KINGDOM

My grievance with the legal profession is well-documented. It has nothing to do with the people who work in the field and everything to do with the legal system itself, the institution that’s in charge of law and order in our culture. It’s about the “business” of the law, and the vast sums of money that are moved around in the name of justice.

It wasn’t Democrats or Republicans who gave them the form of absolute power they enjoy; it was the profession itself. This bothers me.

After all, legislatures are filled with lawyers, who then author and pass laws that benefit the profession and nobody else. It’s the greatest conflict of interest in the history of Western civilization, and why our culture leans so heavily on justice versus mercy. The idea that court decisions actually make law isn’t in our Constitution, because that job is given to the legislative branch. We, the people, have representation in the legislatures, not in the courts.

All of it benefits only lawyers.

I remember the arguments over whether lawyers should be allowed to advertise, but laws were passed (by lawyers) that opened the door with tight restrictions. It was designed to sell everybody on the idea of ads from lawyers, but mostly to line the pockets of media companies who were desperate for a new source of ad revenue. And so, the frog of public opinion leaped into the pot of mischief before the heat was turned up, and, ladies and gentlemen, that pot is now boiling.

Today, ambulance chasers have no need to chase ambulances anymore; they can simply create a brand strong enough to overwhelm “competition”. In Alabama, we have a personal injury lawyer named Alexander Shannarah who runs statewide ads and a statewide billboard campaign with the tag line, “Call me, Alabama!” I promise that the people of Alabama know of him and his office filled with lawyers to “help” victims of truck and automobile accidents.

It’s even worse now, because lawyers can actually recruit clients by hopping aboard court claims of responsibility from the community. The Boy Scouts were charged with covering up sexual sins and made a deal with accusers to avoid trial. So lawyers went on a fishing expedition to “find” victims so as to assist in their class-action efforts. The proof threshold is very low when you have a perpetrator as enormous as the Boy Scouts, and when these clients “win”, 40 percent or thereabouts of their settlement goes to the lawyers. It’s a bloody license to print money, and it drives us deeper and deeper into a process form of living, which is essentially run by the lawyers.

Same with heartburn medication, baby powder (baby powder, folks), and a host of other products, services, and businesses. The cumulative effect of all of these is a highly legalistic, black and white version of life under the sun. Blame is its number one weapon, for there’s no such thing as an accident these days. Not when there are lawyers around looking for deep pockets to sue.

Fear is their other weapon, a fear that we’ll not get our deserving “share” but mostly that we’ll lose something that we already have.

Yet, we’re always the ones who lose in these events, because they create the false narrative that somebody always has to pay for mistakes. They’re the garbage-feeding vultures of our world, and the only way to fight them is to have one on your staff or working for you. It means further employment for lawyers, who’ve done their job in creating their own significance in the culture.

Perhaps the greatest oxymoron in life today is “Christian Lawyer”, because lawyers work in a system of justice in which mercy is the enemy. The problem with this is that God is 100 percent of both and admonishes us through teachings and life itself to also be both. The limits of human understanding, however, see it as zero-sum and can’t comprehend such, which is why we so badly need to get off the justice-only train. It will inevitably shove us into a corner with no process to get us out.

The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time were the lawyers of their day.

On the extreme right — and in their attempt to overthrow the U.S. government (See Anne Nelson’s powerful book Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right) — lawyers played their black and white game to gain a political advantage over those who pitch the very mercy that Jesus taught us to practice. Believe me, folks, there’s nothing quite like self-righteous lawyer-Pharisees who use their “justice” to bully everyone else into submission. It’s a form of evil directly from the pits of hell, because it’s designed to appear otherwise.

Why do people passionate about abortion think their answer lies in having enough Supreme Court justices to cast aside the existing law? This is a pharisaical response to a messy, spiritual problem, and if so-called Pro-Life Christians worked more with young women in trouble, we’d get a lot further in resolving what is really a mercy issue, both for the mother and the baby.

Why does Donald Trump sue anybody who disagrees with him? Why does he use bankruptcy laws to further his empire? Lawyers seek out loopholes, because no law is perfect except those given to us by life itself, laws, by the way, that Mr. Trump ignores with impunity, thanks again to lawyers.

I won’t see changes here in my lifetime, but my hope is that others will take up the cause downstream. Human existence depends on it, unless everyone becomes a lawyer.

I’ll leave you with the suggestion that you read and study Matthew 23, where Jesus refers to such people as “show-offs.” (Contemporary English Version)

Verses 1–7: Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

2 The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. 3 So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.

4 They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. 5 Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels for everyone to see. 6 They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. 7 And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers.

This teaching concludes with this message of doom for such: “I can promise that you people living today will be punished for all these things!”

May God have mercy on us all.

The True Importance of Love

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Love is a one-way force that begins at the source and flows out of each of us towards others. What’s the source? Life itself, and the source of everything within which we live and move and have our being. We can’t pluck it from the sky and offer that to others, because love is an inside job. We can’t see the connection, but it’s there nonetheless, like a giant vacuum hose sucking fresh air in from beyond and filling every nook and cranny of the house until it bursts open the windows and doors out onto every street under the sun. In this way, we can give love away and never doubt that we’ll have a refill when we need it. It’s a breath of fresh air for our souls, genuine, authentic, and a balm for what ails.

This is why it feels oh so good to be in love.

Some people mistakenly feel they must hang on to whatever they have, including love. These are the stingy self-deceived, those who believe love is a limited resource. They’ve made this decision based on some experience(s) from the past, which results in hanging onto such incidents as normal. When this happens, however, these souls are forced to live with regret, anger, and self-pity. Love doesn’t exist in the past, so in a very real way, these people are living a life sentence apart from love’s healing power. In the same way, some people are full of fear under the banner of what comes next. These are the real sufferers of the world, those whose constant movement belies the anxiety, projections, and phobias of those always trapped in the next moment. Love doesn’t exist there either, and these suffer the grave misfortune of never really living but only hoping to live. Thus, they are never satisfied under the sun. Never.

When we’re in love, we are in a constant state of the present, because we always connect with life in the moment. That means we’ve found our way to the presence of God, wherein there exist the wonderful attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Filled with all of this, it’s no wonder we feel so good. Being in love can become a lasting framework for truly living in the moment. What begins as a conscious decision evolves to a kind of automatic pilot in our daily lives. We look and feel younger, because we aren’t wasting our energy with things like regret, remorse, sadness, grudges, and anger of the past, or on the fearful, nervous, anxious terrors of the future.

Trust me, the present is a realm wherein you want settle.

When we give love to others, it triggers a response from the wellspring that floods us with wellness. We find it astonishing and amazing, especially at first. We tend to say things like, “She LOVES me, and I’m loving her back,” or “Her love makes me feel so good.” What we cannot see, however, is that it is the simple and innocent act of giving of ourselves to another that triggers the inbound flow from the source of all love, because that source knows we’re giving away what we had in the last moment.

So, the presence of love in our hearts is a response from the universe to our acts of giving it away to others.

Acknowledging this spiritual truth is the first step to realizing it in our lives, but there remains one overwhelming and perplexing internal dispute that must be settled. We are taught in scripture to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and this is a great stumbling block for many. If we were to ask for a show of hands from those who genuinely love themselves, there would be only a few in the crowd. Our inability to love ourselves reveals the deep darkness of ego-centricity, where we either think of ourselves as better than — or worse than — everybody else. For these poor souls, the best they can do is experience brief glimpses of what would be available to them if they only loved themselves.

It also naturally follows that those who cannot love themselves are self-defeated and incapable of truly loving others unless it somehow reflects back on them or the persona that they live. Folks, we were made to love ourselves, regardless of our reactions to various events that have shaped our character. All sorts of remarkable things happen when we love ourselves, because we can only do so in the present. Past events may have produced ugly reactions, but they hold no power over the present. Why is it easier to forgive others than to forgive ourselves? Because we “know” we don’t deserve it, so we cling to the shame and worthlessness that accompanied those past events. We drag self-protection forward, and its influences can drive us to addiction and a whole host of psychological problems.

The real problem is we have separated ourselves — blocked ourselves even — from the love of God that exists in the present. Regardless of the mental issue, the cure is the same, which is to come to love ourselves. It’s the gate that leads to life’s safe harbor for the human race.

The anti-love is self-pity, especially in discussions of self-love, for the fact here is that both cannot exist at the same time within humans. Show me a person who speaks of their troubles with patience, and I’ll show you somebody who suffers from a lack of self-love.

The ego draws attention to itself, while love flows via our authentic selves. It’s a trap, precisely because it’s brought to us by the same evil that’s existed from the beginning. That we are worthless seems so rational and logical in our minds, but it’s deliberately designed to hide us from the truth that we are entirely worthy as human beings. This evil also hides the fallen nature of humankind, which has always included our inability to be perfect and our propensity toward mistakes, including errors already committed. These sad people are in a constant struggle to be perfect, because, in their minds, mistakes are reserved for those who are lovable and not for those who are unlovable. This struggle is very real. We look around us and assume the happiness of others, but deep inside don’t believe it is for us.

Deny, avoid, ignore and blame; these are the four cornerstones of the life that awaits for those who cannot love themselves.

People pleasing is not love but a passive-aggressive response to feelings of inferiority, unworthiness, and other lies of the ego. Needing to liked is a cheap substitute for loving oneself. Likewise, the need to control others is birthed from the same source. Dominate or depend. Those are the only choices for such who are incapable of living in the present and all because self-love has been abdicated in the name of self-hatred.

We need to step into the flow of life in the moment, where there are no struggles, only opportunities to demonstrate our faith. We cease all of our wars and battles. We can’t believe our way into good behavior, because that puts the onus back on us. We receive; we accept; we relax; we are unafraid; and we are free to love, ourselves and others.

This is the wonderful and free cure for many of the afflictions that rock our daily lives. Love is the great minimizer of pain. It’s the answer to questions unasked and the balm for our miseries. To give love, we must have love, and in that process, we are healed.

Love isn’t just important; it’s the only thing we truly need to enjoy the day-to-day existence of life under the sun.

Dear Parents and Grandparents

The Scroggins Family of St. Louis

I want to speak to you here as a person with a peculiar study focus. I don’t know why or how, but I’m able to see what appears obvious to me, the birth and growth of the Postmodern Era in human history. Modernity with its logical systems focus has painted itself into a corner and must give way to the new. As modernity was birthed in the printing press, postmodernity was conceived and delivered from the womb of the web. I do not speak of philosophical postmodernism, but rather the changing of the eras in history. The mantra of modernity is “I think and reason, therefore I understand” but it has changed to “I participate, therefore I understand.”

Are you with me?

We must be able to see what’s coming in terms of the big things as this era develops further. We may not be around for the payoff that our children and grandchildren will experience, but there are ways we can equip ourselves to help them today, beginning with an acknowledgement that life is definitely changing. It’s super important for them to participate, even though we’re making this up as we go along.

We are all connected now. That means I can connect directly and sideways with everybody else or just a select few. This is something completely new, and we can’t even image how much life on earth is being and will be changed as a result.

First, a warning. You either do this for them, or somebody else — with less concern for their individuality — will do it for them, and this is not a best practice for tomorrow.

Even to the young man, let’s say, who’s only interested in working in the trades, either for somebody or as an independent contractor, even he will sink or swim on his ability to use the network effectively. It’s the way of future competition, and nobody will be exempt.

Our digital identities will actually be more important than what we know under the sun, and this is where we can help our progeny.

  • Equip them before they are even able to help themselves. Buy domains. Secure usernames. Sit with them and help them develop their online IDs. If they don’t control their own brands, someone else will do it for them.
  • Show them the dangers, but don’t dwell on it, for it’s their creativity that needs tapping more than their security needs protecting.
  • Teach them about links and how everything is linked together. Links are the currency of the web, and you need to teach them why. These links teach a practical lesson in deconstructionism, something that is of enormous value in helping our children shape their lives. It must be taught early and often.
  • Do not discourage their involvement in video games, because they teach mental and manual dexterity and mind-to-finger channeling, skills they will likely need downstream.
  • Teach them to avoid being herded into traps by the lust of their own eyes.
  • Buy a generator for your home, so you can teach the value of being prepared for anything.
  • Show them that their attention is the only real scarcity in the commerce that’s being brought into existence, and as Kevin Kelly says, “We should be paid for it.” This means that postmodern advertising will seek out customers and pay them to watch their ads. The logic of this is solid, but feathers will be ruffled in the process of its development.
  • Teach them to back-up their work before they go to bed at night. Use a form of a server in your home that can serve as storage and back-up for everything.
  • Put searchable books in your digital library, including everything they’ll need for school and the interests that they display.
  • Get them private lessons in Google/YouTube, coding, Photoshop, WordPress, and social media. There are people in your community who will do this on any level you wish.
  • Teach them to think of school as a place where they can practice their branding, to not be swayed by eyes that are being exposed to cultural fads and stereotypes. Just keep them pressing forwards.
  • Show them that the more dependent we become on electricity, the more vulnerable are EMP weapons. Personal protection against such will be a thriving business downstream. Think “shielding” or similar responses.
  • Teach them all you can about human nature, and how it doesn’t change in the digital world. Teach them to study the whys of human nature, which will open the door to better understanding motive. A certain degree of cynicism is healthy, because they will certainly be exposed to propaganda in their search for truth. Teach them discernment.
  • Personal branding belongs to each and every person on the block, and it’s perhaps the most important subject to learn while growing up.
  • Do not forsake teaching them grammar and good English, for technology is still learning nuance.
  • Teach them the true nature of God, for God is most certainly One who participates with us in our everyday lives and provides an internal governor for our behavior.

No matter how much modernist people insist that IRL is better than URL, we’re learning in the 21st-Century that the efficiencies of URL render much of life to be wasteful. Take the current kerfuffle over the Post Office and mail-in ballots. Do you honestly think we can’t eventually create a secure voting system online? The web may lose some of its anonymity, but would that really be all that bad?

I see the day when the opportunities of the web vastly outweigh concerns from our old ways of doing things. We will listen to the naysayers and thank them for their concern, but we must never put them in charge.

Modernity is done; long live the Age of Participation.