The Temerity to Speak For God

Courtesy JW.com

There are a lot of voices and views presented in today’s culture wars, but who speaks for God? I’m serious. The question, of course, assumes the existence of the God of the Book, the God who historically involves Himself in the lives of His creation, the very top of which is humankind. After all, we can’t have an argument with the people of the Book without a determination of the will of God in matters important to them or us.

The Book points out that we should read the signs before us. Believers of every stripe must look around and judge for themselves if the leanings of the Christian Right, for example, are a part of that will. The same applies to those on the left and all human religions. Where is God in our dealings with each other in this, the 21st Century since the Christ? For sure, the signs are all around us.

At CBN in the 80s (and today), we proclaimed ourselves to be “Sons of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” This, of course, gave us permission to speak on behalf of the will of God as it pertained to current events. You may think of this as a weak justification, and you’d be right, because it’s entirely self-proclaimed.

This proclamation is alive and well on the right today, and the justification Is still very weak. As we attempt to read the signs, let’s ask ourselves a few obvious questions:

Is Covid19 a part of His judgment against unrighteousness among us? How about the volcanoes and hurricanes? What do we think of all the mass killings in the U.S. just this year alone? Why do we so ardently cling to our weapons, if we trust in God for our protection? Have you seen the pictures from Lake Mead? How about that Yellowstone flooding? Well, Terry, that’s what we call LaNina, that area of cold (or not) water just southwest of the U.S. that controls our weather. Okay, but how does LaNina get there? I mean, either you’re going to believe in God, or you aren’t. And if you believe that God still rules in the lives of humans, then it might be useful to take a close look at all these extreme “natural” phenomenon, or what we call “disasters”. Is what we view as a disaster simply God trying to make things right?

The brilliant Umair Haque, one of the most acclaimed thinkers alive today, has written of this in an essay called The End of the World as We Know It — But I Don’t Feel Fine.

Look, let’s just be real for a second. Think about the Biblical apocalypse. Like what parts of it aren’t seemingly on our doorstep yet? We’ve got, let’s see, the pandemics, floods, fires, the nations falling, the people turning on each other, the animals dying. That doesn’t mean you should head for the nearest church pew, and bow. Do it if you want, if you need to. I’m just pointing out that it’s literally getting classically and literally apocalyptic out there.

The fundamentalist Christians in our midst would immediately scream that these examples are God’s judgment against the liberals who want to force their sin and iniquity on the rest of us. (Damn those awful sinners!) One can easily see how that view is convenient, but is the possible destruction of California really that, or is it the foolishness of building on a major fault line? If “the big one” ever happens, this will be a part of the aftermath discussions.

However, to find the answer, we must turn to the Book and explore signs that were attributed to God and His judgment. The first place to look is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah through the story of Lot and his family in the book of Genesis. Sexual sin — specifically sodomy — was attributed to both communities, known as the cities on the plain. God tells Lot that he’s going to destroy the cities and “urges” Lot to flee with his family and not to look back with fondness as He destroys all of the inhabitants of the area. Lot’s wife looked back, the story goes, and God turned her into a pillar of salt. This story is used throughout history to preach against sexual sin, and it was very effective in turning the audience into passive and submissive members of the human race. They were directed to look to their leaders — those who speak on behalf of their view of God — for guidance, as the subsequent hierarchy advanced.

But they get this story of Sodom and Gomorrah all wrong, for it has nothing to do with sexual sins but rather the self-centered nature that prompted such behavior. Here’s the text from Ezekiel, chapter 16:

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

Therefore, this “disaster” was brought upon them by their own greed, avarice, covetousness, envy and more. And, since we’re talking about the Old Testament God, the people had prophets in their midst to warn them when their rulers rejected God. This is what we’re missing in today’s religious-based conflict between the right and the left. Who has the temerity to speak for God? I don’t hear it anywhere, and the only ones claiming to do so are biased on behalf of the right, another form of self-justification.

And the Old Testament prophets were not from the best families or communities; they were the long-haired hippy types of society back then, rebels who railed against the ruling authorities by reminding them that God put them on the throne and, therefore, He would decide whether the king’s reign would be prosperous or otherwise. It was based on the behavior of the king with regards to his duties over the people. A great example of this is when Jeremiah went to King Shallum to prophesy over him. Shallum gained the throne upon the death of his father Josiah, one of the most righteous kings in the history of Israel. Shallum, however, had turned away from God. Jeremiah spoke of Josiah when he said, “He (Josiah) pleaded the cause of the poor and the afflicted and then it was well with him. Is this not what it means to know me, saith the Lord.” This summarizes the messages of all the prophets, and it puts us on notice that we’ll always have responsibilities towards the poor and the afflicted. We hear none of this from anyone today, and it’s especially stunning that, in the age of social media, we can’t recognize the prophets among us. They are there, most likely in the arts community, perhaps among the most ardent observers of culture, the comedians. Of course, this would be a joke to those who practice their piety before men while suffering from oxygen deprivation atop their self-created pedestals. These people most definitely do NOT speak for God.

In fact, the saving of one’s own ass from the hellfire of the next life forms a selfish basis for all of evangelicalism, Christian or otherwise. For people of the Book, this is the core gift that Jesus died to give us, but it’s a bizarre form of logical mischief designed to empower the church, not the human race. Evangelical churches count the number of “salvations” they produce, which is surely a sign of the importance they place on the act of convincing others to “turn their lives over to Jesus”, a big part of which is participating in “missions” to convert others throughout the world. All it accomplishes is to add to the enormous mass that must live their lives for tomorrow, because the deal they’ve made with the church is to be their obedient servants, and that doesn’t always mean serving God.

The saddest note in all of this for me is that it impacts the lives of very good and well-intentioned human beings. I just don’t see a way out for them. They have rejected Life’s heaven — which exists in the here and now moment — for an artificial and self-serving “gospel” that makes heaven only available after death. We are truly amphibians, as C.S. Lewis taught us, capable of living in two realms at the same time. One is life “under the sun”, which is described brilliantly in the book of Ecclesiastes. The second realm is the spirit, and that is our real home, for we are spiritual beings on human journeys, not the other way around. We can’t be more spiritual than we already are, so suggestions for “spiritual growth” are really quite a waste of the time we’ve been given under the sun. We should instead be seeking how to become better human beings, and that message is a million miles from contemporary evangelicals who claim they speak for God.

They most certainly do not.

The Desperate Need To Be ‘Somebody’

Like a great many others in the days following the atrocity in Uvalda, Texas, I struggled to make sense of it all. My first thought was that this was a crime of rage and that there’s too much rage in our culture. I’ve changed my mind, however, because I now believe that these crimes are birthed of fear. Nothing else can produce the kinds of behavior we’re seeing with these shootings. We can talk about gun control, poor use of background checks, and mental illness, but I think it’s all motivated by fear — specifically, the fear of being a nobody. From social media “influencers” to billionaires and their rockets, it seems as though everybody else is succeeding in life. But what about those who don’t succeed, or worse, can find no way that they could ever share in what they’re seeing on television or their phones?

The correct term for this is envy, one of the seven deadly sins. Envy is not the same as coveting; it’s much more intensely personal. It’s entirely driven by our egos, for a healthy self is content to let life be in charge, to simply blossom where they’re planted.

Back in the mid-1970s, I went through a season in my life of hanging only with African-American friends. I dressed in silky Superfly clothes, with wide and long shirt collars — open with chest hair on display — and, of course, the jewelry. I went to the black bars and hung with friends who played basketball with our television station recreation league team. One of my friends during that season was an inner-city high school basketball coach. I remember playing in a benefit game at his gym, where the crowd erupted when I hit a jump shot. I asked my buddy the coach about it, and he said, “Look around, stupid! You’re the only white guy in the building!”

One day, he invited me to watch his team practice. It was fascinating. Every time one of them hit a shot, he would cry out, “I’m known!” Over and over, a made shot evoked shouts of “I’m known!” I asked my friend about it, and he said that scoring in a high school game meant you’d get your name in the paper. Hence, “I’m known!” This was an amazing revelation to me, and I still think about it today. What must it be like to grow up feeling like a nobody, unless you could score in high school sports, because that mean you weren’t a nobody; you were known!

There exists today a deep pocket of Americans who go through their lives feeling unknown. It spans the gamut of nationalities, and it’s especially prevalent among uneducated white folks in America’s Southland. They are incensed at the idea that they are somehow “privileged” because they’re white, when the reality is they’re dirt poor while pretending otherwise. Redneck culture includes driving home to young people the reality that they are nobodies. Behaviors, especially alcohol and sex, are designed specifically to toughen up young boys to face the inevitable. It’s not uncommon for incredible episodes of abuse in the lives of these young people. Born a redneck; die as a redneck. Very few people make it out. The most remarkable thing about rednecks is their refusal to publicly embrace a loser identity, which is why they vote Republican. “We’re just fine. We’re independent. We take care of our own and don’t need any of your government assistance.”

In his remarkable book, The Righteous Redneck’s Journey To Love, Keith Coffell tells of the cruelty applied to him as the community did their best to turn him into a “redneck soldier”. At the age of 12, he was taken to the woods by his uncle and an older boy, stripped, and sexually assaulted. Here’s a paragraph from later that night:

As I lay face down on my bed with my head buried in my pillow, I could still feel Uncle Joe’s slimy hands on my body, smell his whiskey laden breath breathing down my neck, feel his prickly whiskers rubbing against my chest, and cringe at the thought of Bobby’s sticky tongue pressing against my body. I cried myself to sleep that night and the next night and the next night and the next night. In fact, the nightmare of the rape still haunts and taunts me from time to time. I never told my parents. I felt they didn’t care. And in my mind, I believed Daddy would have simply said, “Stop your fuss boy, you in Redneck Boot Camp. You’ll be alright.”

Of course, not every redneck soldier is raped, but the takeaway here is that this kind of ignorance and brutality are likely more prevalent in the South than anybody realizes. If we ever want to understand the kinds of evil that this kind of treatment can produce, we only need to look into the roots that produced such rotten fruit in the first place.

New York Times best-selling author Mike Robinson says, “When you accept yourself for who you are without trying to be a ‘somebody’ in the eyes of humanity, then you have let go of your ego…Only an ego would make a person a ‘somebody’ or its opposite, a ‘nobody’. Your descriptive labels are not who you are, they are what you have become, so don’t judge yourself and others on the value of a label. Instead allow the true you to emerge, because when you are not attached to any descriptive label, you are free”

In a new article about Robinson’s book The True Dynamics of Life in CISION (PRWeb), writer Sara Gibbons provides a warning that summarizes Robinson’s thoughts:

“…to be a ‘somebody’ a person has to become something other than what they are, and to do that they have to desire, strive and suffer. He relates this to the very beginnings of society and the consequent development of desire for more. This caused society to split and divide into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This split is called envy, which is the fundamental fear of not having enough or not being good enough. It is the fear of being a ‘nobody’. This is so destructive to human life that it is more deadly than AIDS, HIV, cancer and more toxic than greenhouse gases.

By association, the GOP appeals to this need to be “somebody”. As the representatives of the wealthy, they ought to know who’s a somebody and who is not. By appearing to represent Evangelical Christianity, Republicans appeal to their sense of faith as a representation that they are okay, alright, and on the side of good. Add to that sweeping generalizations from the Bible, such as “Nothing is impossible with God”.

The greatest evil here may be that the GOP uses envy to manipulate the electorate on behalf of the rich and the extremely rich. The unintended consequences, of course, are all over the map, and include things like we saw this week. The Bible actually calls this “tickling the ears”, which is a whole lot easier than educating people. It tries to make them feel warm and wanted, well, except for those who don’t.

I agree with Mike Robinson that this struggle between the ego and the self — if effectively supported from without — is at the core of most things that are wrong with us humans at this stage in our development.

The insanity of Uvalde is just one more, highly horrific example.

The Ego’s Role in Trauma Response II

What is ego? Does it need to be destroyed? | Isha Sadhguru

When I reach into myself, there is no confidence at all. Can you imagine living your life as such? Probably not, which Is why this whole measure of confidence is misleading at best, and dangerous if not acknowledged by professional counselors. There exists a vast cavern of emptiness for me and those like me when I reach inside to find help under stress. It’s just not there. It was never allowed to develop due to childhood trauma. Therefore, I’ve lived my life with ego confidence instead of self confidence, and it is this revelation I wish most to share with the world.

Here are a couple of key paragraphs from part I of this series:

The ego is a part of the self but not the self. When all needs are met, the ego and the self work together efficiently to take us through our lives. Ego is not inherently evil, although it can become very much so with the right set of circumstances. For example, where there is trauma, the ego rises in defense and seizes the opportunity to lead the damaged self. But, as the ego continues in this position, it becomes stronger in representing the self’s identity, one that is often fallacious and harmful to the self’s wellbeing.

…The character of the ego, post-trauma, is described in Eric Bernes’ Transactional Analysis in a juvenile ego state known as The Little Professor, which is why some trauma responses are often viewed as foolish and childish behaviors. The Little Professor is smart, creative, and obsessed with protecting the self. Unfortunately, however, protecting the self includes living the life that the self knows should be hers, and in order to stay in charge, the ego then works to continue the pain that keeps the self bound in what feels like complete helplessness. This is often where the patient’s damages surface in what is often addictive behavior. Quieting the voice of the ego becomes the self’s obsession, which addictions provide for a season. A nervous breakdown of some sort will occur when the patient’s ego/self runs completely off the rails, for example, through an arrest, an outburst at work, or some other form of self-destruction, including suicide.

Ego confidence is developed over years as “victories” over the weak self in all things human development and relationships. The most common weaponry here is in the ability to gather insight from others while providing little in ammunition that could be used against the ego. Those deep into their egos, for example, will rarely remember the names of people to whom they’ve just been introduced, because they are too busy at the moment of such an introduction trying to figure out how to take advantage of the moment to sell themselves or otherwise manipulate the new face. Ego confidence, therefore, is a series of behaviors and beliefs that boost the ego’s hold over the self.

1965

A story of this from my own life comes from the constant obsessions to be noticed for outer expressions of talent. When I was in early high school, I spent one entire summer teaching myself how to play the 5‑string banjo. I bought cheap albums and slowed them down to half speed in order to study the notes and figure out the finger work. The banjo was one of my most important ways to show off without letting anybody get close to me. I couldn’t “take” lessons, because I had to do it on my own. I got my wish and became known for playing bluegrass music in Michigan. I was on TV every week with my brothers. I’d get invited to all the parties, but nobody wanted me for me, just to entertain their guests with my banjo. This is the cruel fruit of ego confidence. His ambitions are different than mine, and so it goes.

This is why Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality writes that suicide is actually an act of homicide in which the self finally kills the ego. Before trauma, the ego and the self work together to create a growing girl or boy with all the attributes available to well-adjusted children. We call this “sanity”. Enter trauma, and the Little Professor rises to protect the self and slowing begins the job of doing the living for the self, which is destined for total failure resulting in even the death of the patient. Confidence exists only in the form of the personality that the ego creates, so there Is zero actual self-confidence. Therefore, when in situations as an adult that require a modicum of self-confidence, the response is defensive, loud, and generally filled with rage.

And, this is what we must overcome in order to find sanity in the here and now.

This is complicated by what I view as an ego-driven wish among people to place their agency (self-determined) over human nature. In recovery, we call this “terminal uniqueness”, because people will chase their own vision for themselves rather than admit they are just like everybody else. Partly, this is due to a lack of agreement over what exactly constitutes human nature. This is directly due to the ego’s attempt to present itself as somehow different than everybody else. This allows them to sidestep similarities in nature by saying they don’t apply. This is the greatest lie in the history of humanity, for we are truly all the same as human beings. We respond to stimuli in the same ways even though we may be different in the ways we think. Like snowflakes are all snowflakes even though they’re all different. Turn up the heat, and they melt. As humans, we “melt” in a similar fashion.

I believe our only real task in life is to become more human. This is the only logical conclusion, given that we are spiritual beings on a human journey, not the other way around. Despite centuries of teachings by “holy” people, we cannot possibly ever become MORE spiritual than we already are. What we can, however, become is more human. Moreover, it makes common sense, too, because what else could God possibly want from us? To conquer each other? To destroy in order to gain? Why? As my friend Doc Searls says, “Life is a death sentence for us all.” How true, and he goes on to tell us that the only difference between us is that some have more comfortable accommodations along the way.

Can we share our comforts to make the journey easier for others? Of course, but there’s that self-centeredness we’re famous for, so we don’t. I got mine on my own, so you can get yours, too. You just need God, a little faith, and you’ll feel so much better when you do it for yourself. It is a personal, oftentimes lonely calling, for we are corrupt at core, and the truth is that we get uncomfortable, because who wants to believe this of themselves? This is why people get angry when their sense of agency is discovered to be bullshit. Today, we emphasize how different we all are, but a great many of our societal problems could be overcome if we’d only agree that human nature trumps agency every time.

When God created humans (in whichever way you choose to believe), he put us in a garden that was watered by a mist. We can safely conclude then that this is where and how we were intended to live together. Unfortunately, we chose to believe the lie of the ego that our own guilt and shame made us feel unwelcome, and so we left. Joni Mitchell was right; we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. And, we can only do this on our own by giving up our ego-driven, self-centered lives. Only then will the devil be defeated. This must be an internal governor, for all external controls will end in bloodshed. They always do.

So, the real question is can we ever get back to the garden? Again, this is the only goal that accomplishes the original task of the Creator of the Universe. Think of it as a cosmic “let’s see if they can dig themselves out of it.” By now, you likely feel that I’ve gone off the deep end, but it needs to be taken seriously, because the future of our planet is at stake.

Are we going to continue to twirl our fingers and whistle in the dark until Jesus comes to take us home? If these same people ignore the mercy side of our witness, then all has been lost, and God has no reason to keep us around.

People, He wants US to figure it out. How can I “make” you love my neighbor, if you won’t do it on your own?

Can humans unite as one without the constant presence of self-centeredness?

The GOP’s 40-year Criminal Conspiracy to Take Over the U.S.

Trump addresses the Council for National Policy (CNP), courtesy Center for Media and Democracy

The current state of the Republican Party in the U.S. is the result of a 40+ year conspiracy by right-wing zealots to overthrow the government and to replace it with one more friendly to wealth, corporations, and hypocritical morality. This conspiracy is criminal in its use of tax exemptions to hide the real reasons for a coup de-tat in the name of “education”. I was a part of this in its early days, so I’m not surprised it has come very close to success.

Here’s how I recall one meeting in particular from my book about Pat Robertson, The Gospel of Self: How Pat Robertson Stole the Soul of the GOP. Pat gathered a small handful of key executives in charge of content for The 700 Club. It was January 1, 1985. Ronald Reagan had been re-elected, but Pat saw a void beginning in 1988. Here’s the gist of what he told us in the board room that day:

“We must form a shadow government,” he began. “We must begin to find and train Christian people, so that they can be placed in every position that matters, because the country is on the verge of collapse. The Lord is showing me that when it goes, nobody is going to know what to do, and they will turn to us, because we will have answers. We won’t be afraid. We’ve got to work to make sure God’s people are in the schools, the school boards, the city councils, the county commissions, the trash collectors, the tax collectors and all local government positions. We need to be in the state legislatures, the statewide offices, Congress, the courts, everywhere. We can’t be overt and obvious about this; we must do it quietly and create this shadow government.”

In many ways, this statement was years in the making and was energized by the election of Ronald Reagan and the rise of the televangelists in America. Satellite TV was just being birthed, and CBN owned a transponder on the very first Satcom satellite, which positioned us to ride above the grip that the networks had on the TV screens in American homes. Pat knew that this advantage would provide the technical mechanisms for disrupting the status quo provided by network domination of the news hegemony. We called our content “TV Journalism With A Different Spirit,” which was euphemistic for right-wing political propaganda. We were criticized by certain media observers as “so slanted that it’s vertical.” It turns out that what we actually did was to write the playbook upon which Fox News is based.

Pat Robertson ran for President in 1988 as the man who would replace Ronald Reagan. Think about that for a minute. This event and events surrounding it were the direct result of the politicization of the tongue-talking (expression for those Christians who practice the Gifts of the Spirit outlined in the gospel, speaking in tongues being one of them) audience of The 700 Club and the more staid worshippers under the Moral Majority brand of Jerry Falwell. The core beliefs of these two groups couldn’t be more different, and yet they found fellowship with each other under the banner of relieving the country of what they called sin. Both groups preached separating themselves from a culture that threatened their sensibilities as neighbors. This threat seemed to directly attack their faithfulness to what the Bible taught them about men and women, prayer in public places (like schools), displaying creches and the Ten Commandments, and especially what they viewed as infanticide through abortion. Together, we made the claim that the country was hostile to Christianity, and that the country’s issues were simply expressions of human fallenness.

It was a powerful argument to those who believed that they were of the redeemed, and thus their ability to rightly judge the culture was a given among them. This is still quite evident today.

Privately, Pat Robertson despised Jerry Falwell, especially in the wake of him taking over Jim Bakker’s ministry to the tongue-talkers. Falwell represented that he was the right person to intervene in the mess created by Bakker’s infidelity, but we knew it would be a disaster. Strange bedfellows they were, Falwell and Bakker. Add to all that Oral Roberts’ presentation that if he didn’t raise $9 million by Friday, God would take him home, and Jimmy Swaggart’s illicit rendezvous with street hookers, and you had the makings of a total dismembering of televangelism as a whole.

Our biggest fear at the time was that Pat’s run for President would be included in the follies of televangelism as a whole, and Pat’s shadow government seemed to take an enormous hit. After all, Pat’s entire vision included his ability to draw a more intelligent crowd than the others. Unfortunately, it was these very people who abandoned all television ministries as a result of the antics of Roberts, Bakker, Swaggart, and others.

Regardless of judgments coming from outside Christian circles, Pat pressed forward with his plans to run for President. Almost overnight everything changed when the IRS office of criminal investigations opened an investigation into misuse of our contributions for political purposes. They were right, and they had mounds of evidence even before my deposition in the case.

The investigation came “right from the top” according to the investigator who handled my deposition. I took it to mean that it was “requested” by George H.W. Bush to force Pat out of the 1988 race. It worked, but it’s very important to understand that Pat and his associates thought little of pushing tax exemptions to their extreme limits in the process of his efforts. In the case of the Council for National Policy (CNP), of which Pat was president in 1982, they took up Pat’s cause of “restoring America to its rightful place as a Christian nation”. Here is an organization behaving exactly as we did, up to their necks in politics and yet having the enormous benefit of being a tax-exempt organization. This is illegal, folks, and yet we’re all looking the other way while they try to[ take over the government. CBN was also profoundly pro-business, which appealed to wealthy contributors, I’m convinced that the hundreds of tax exempt organizations under CNP leadership are — like we did in the 1980s — breaking the law when it comes to the “education” exemptions of 501©3 tax exempt organizations.

One of the beneficiaries of the coup attempt is J.D. Vance, the presumptive Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Ohio in the fall. In an Intelligencer article about Vance, there is one particular paragraph that’s noteworthy for this missive. Here it is:

“I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” he said. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giving him one piece of advice: Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”

“Our people”. This would be the same ones that Pat Robertson referred to in his Shadow Government secret proclamation. It’s all illegal in its use of tax exemptions and needs to be put down permanently.

It’s hard for me to imagine why a Democratic White House doesn’t open an investigation into the CNP, for the results would have an important and necessary chilling effect on their efforts to overthrow the U.S. Government.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For much more information about the CNP and its members, I strongly recommend you read Anne Nelson’s investigative reporting book, Shadow Network.

Christianity’s Big Branding Problem

Editor’s Note: This was first published five years ago in the Huffington Post.

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Courtesy David Hayward, The Naked Pastor

Dear Christians,

I’m writing to you today to discuss a very serious matter. Your brand — and especially the realm of Evangelicalism — has been hi-jacked by extremists who are using it to advance political theories that have nothing to do with your beliefs. You may not have had anything to do with it personally, but this thievery has taken place right in front of you. It has been sinister and systematic, and we’ve arrived at a confused place today where the brand is now interchangeable with the extreme political right. I played a role in this maneuvering during the 1980s as the executive producer of Pat Robertson’s flagship TV program The 700 Club. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain.

The 1980s was the era that launched Christianity as a Republican political force. It has grown over the subsequent years and eventually energized the election of Donald Trump. Noted theologian Roger Olsen recalled for a blog commenter the very moment he realized what was happening.

For me the “tipping point” (almost driving me insane) was when television talk show hosts began inviting Jerry Falwell and his ilk onto their programs to speak for all evangelicals. Donahue, King, et al. Why didn’t they have moderate-to-progressive evangelicals on their shows to speak for evangelicalism? Because moderate-to-progressive evangelicals didn’t interest them. We speak with too many syllables and too much ambiguity. They wanted demagoguery, bluster, extremism. The fundamentalists calling themselves evangelicals provided it. Many evangelicals fell into line with this trend as did many fundamentalists. I am one of the few “hold outs” from the older, truer evangelicalism that refused and still refuses to go along with that narrative.

So the initial hijacking of the brand was the work of a powerful few, but it was aided in great part by a news media in search of cultural “sides” to explain conflicts between the right and the left. And this, of course, had to be done in a manner that would produce ratings or enhance readership. Hence, Dr. Olsen’s “tipping point.” Denominational Christianity was shoved aside by those who taught their flocks that political participation was a major tenet of living the Christian life. It didn’t matter that the GOP was the party of the wealthy, their “traditional values” synced so well with the faith that it was easy to convince Christian voters to support them — in fact, “become” them — and in so doing move conservatism even farther to the right through fundamentalist extremes.

They preach what I call the Gospel of Self, a self-betterment, self-improvement theology that can’t help but produce behavior contrary to the faith. Let’s face it: self is the very thing that must be overcome in the Christian tradition, not the building up of ourselves up so that we can run the world around us. That is called “idolatry,” and we all know the warnings about that. The voice reminds me of the voice who said, “tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” We need to restore the brand to its rightful place, or Christian evangelism will become nothing more than a useless attempt to protect our own asses from a future of hellfire and damnation. We will continue to push people away and lose those from our flocks that are weary of what they see as hypocrisy. We need to let God be God, and put a stop to this damnable crusade for power and influence within the culture. I believe there are a great many who see this as contrary to the Great Commission but don’t know what to do about it.

Chris Hedges is a longtime critic of this behavior speaks to it once again in a piece called “Trump and the Christian Fascists:”

“These believers … detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.”

It is the Gospel of Self. How to create satisfaction for yourself and your family in this life while fighting the battles of God in the political arena. This is the antithesis of what Jesus taught in the gospels.

“The just shall live by faith” is the very foundation of protestantism. God is not mocked, and all who call themselves “Christian” know in their hearts that faith doesn’t include what’s in front of us in our culture. God judges these things and acts upon him as the natural has always done the unnatural, and we need faith in order to let that happen without trying to move things along under our own power. Life’s usual method of dealing with our dissatisfaction is to keep pouring it on until we learn to truly trust Him, not our ability to do battle ourselves in hopes of “winning” a more comfortable living in this life. Don’t think that’s the way it works? Start praying for patience and watch what happens. We simply aren’t promised a peaceful neighborhood, a sinless, well-managed, and questionless society, or any other utopian fantasy that is trouble free for those of us supposedly in the know. What happened to our understanding that the corrupt nature of humankind is a trap for those who believe we have control over anything. We were promised that the poor would always be with us, and it’s by our reaction to and our treatment of those who live under poverty’s harsh taskmaster that we are judged. We cannot earn ourselves a rose garden no matter how badly we want one. That kind of justification would not be of faith anyway, so why do we try so hard to make ourselves feel so very special. Moreover, why do we attempt to force others to embrace that specialness?

“The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch,” the Bible tells us. There is no reference to denomination, doctrine, or dogma, because the term referred to the way those pioneers lived and taught others to live, their overriding behavior being the piety they displayed. They loved one another. Noah Webster, of the dictionary fame, was certainly a Christian and defined the term thusly in his 1828 dictionary, the one we all use when trying to understand terms used in documents of that era:

CHRISTIAN, noun 1. A believer in the religion of Christ. 2. A professor of his belief in the religion of Christ. 3. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety. 4. In a general sense, the word Christians includes all who are born in a christian country or of christian parents.

So Noah Webster didn’t even come close to defining the brand by its position within the culture other than to identify piety with the term. And just so we understand number three, let’s also ask Mr. Webster to define “piety:”

PI’ETY, noun [Latin pietas, from pius, or its root, probably a contracted word.] Piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of his character, or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to his will and devotion to his service.

In all things as Christians, Jesus is our model, our example, our Lord, and the author of grace. If we have questions about any issue or behavior, we can look to Him for ourselves and not be dependent on what the preacher says or any so-called expert. This was the great cultural disruption in the West brought about by Gutenberg’s printing of the Bible with the first printing press. That invention — along with common English translations of the book — decimated the unquestioned power of Rome and spread that power across the land. So began the enlightenment, protestantism, and ultimately colonialism and a modern world governed by logic and reason.

Christians are still a great throng in the world, one represented as a tapestry of different practices and branches with no one granted the authority to proclaim themselves or anyone else the “real” Christians. Various creeds have been written to help better define our specific beliefs, although we cannot escape the truth that these were written by men. Some will insist that these men were guided by the Holy Spirit and therefore sanctified in God’s eyes, but fallen man is fallen man, and if we really believe that, it’s hard to blindly trust any such reasoning. I would argue, in fact, that we’ve used those creeds and such to create neat boxes within which we can place people who disagree with us, and that is not piety, not even close.

The natural inclination of children to love others is relentlessly “cleansed” by “Christian” parents eager to bring them into their separatist, nationalist folds, and the harm done in so doing is incalculable. Even within families, members who refuse to walk according to the beliefs of the patriarch or matriarch are privately and even publicly ostracized. Children grow up and become adults, and in many denominations, that means they leave, and, according to Pew, the “unchurched” population is growing at a pace unexperienced in times past. These young people are deeply turned off, and yet their antagonizers continue to loudly profess the very moral hypocrisy they see as they’re growing up. Lectures and disapproval are often tied to sexual activities and thoughts, thought to be immoral in the profession of many churches.

However, morality doesn’t begin and end with sex. It just doesn’t, yet these extremists argue morality entirely around the sex act. Abortion isn’t about killing babies; it’s about sex. If it were not, then why don’t these vocal Christians support birth control? The churches don’t talk about the statistics. Did you know that the abortion rate in the U.S. is back to where it was before Roe v Wade? It’s not a legal issue, and it never was. It’s about sex and the extremist view that the act is evil unless somehow made clean by the church’s sanctification through marriage. Gay marriage. Homosexuality. Transgenderism. They’re all about sex. We think it makes God angry, and we don’t want to get caught up in that anger, so we rail against any sexual practice outside marriage between a man and a woman. We claim God is judging the world for this, and yet the Bible points out that Sodom wasn’t destroyed for its sexual sins but rather for its failure to take care of the poor and the afflicted. One is free, therefore, to ask that if God is indeed judging today, who exactly is He judging? Perhaps the very church attendees who plead the morality message at every turn.

That’s a very dangerous practice, because morality is a much, much broader matter. It includes, among other things, obscene CEO salaries, oppression of workers through poor wages and conditions, opposition to welfare, insider trading, tax loopholes, flouting avarice, and removing government programs that protect the poor and the afflicted. How Christian people can side with such immorality is the great mystery of the Twenty-First Century, but it begins with those who have seized the brand and run with it.

I use the words “Christian brand,” because it’s a marketing problem. We need to see it as such, if there’s to be any hope of correcting the extreme shifting of Christianity far to the political right. And if this is to be, then we need to create faith-based arguments about it and spread those far and wide. Political debates today are required to be entertaining, and that means extremes going at each other. Let’s take that debate into the church, for debating in the public square is quite useless. Let’s not be afraid to confront questions of mixing theology and politics from the pulpit, in our Bible studies, and in our homes.

The only thing wrong with error, after all, is the contempt it breeds for those who would disagree, usually without investigation. We’re better than that, aren’t we?

Why Members of the Clergy Cheat

Hillsong church in crisis? Wall of silence points to a brewing scandal
Courtesy Crikey.

in the wake of the collapse of The Hillsong USA Church leadership over confessions of sexual dalliances, there’s been a significant degree of tsk-tsking as usual. We’re seeing this often in the church today, but very few people actually talk about it. Perhaps it’s because we think of it as powerful men falling due to their own egos or character failings. It’s so simple, therefore, that it doesn’t require deeper types of thinking.

In my view, it’s the role of minister/leader that is a set-up for these men. So, let’s take a look.

Many who read this will think I’ve generated an asinine rationalization for males’ risky adventure with sex outside their own marriages, but I think there’s something else here to be considered. Surely, there’s more to it, as we examine the continual failures of leaders, church or otherwise, in having affairs or sexual liaisons with those under their charge. These cases are all lopped into the bins of failed character, narcissism, or some other pathological weakness of “the flesh.” So, we properly vilify them publicly, and we move on in search of the next perfect man to sit under and then later crush when they turn out to be human.

But I think there’s something else going on here — that could be prevented — if we only could speak honestly.

To set the stage, let’s begin with this wonderful quote by John R. W. Stott:

“And they who fain would serve Thee best are conscious most of wrong within.”

Honestly now, who can argue with this? Does it not stand to reason that ministers of the gospel — a.k.a. those doing the Lord’s work — would be the most conscious of their own sin and nature? This removes all doubt from the truth that these leaders are fully aware of the sin they are committing, which means they also know about the consequences with the God they serve. Therefore, we ask again, what is so compelling about this that these men are willing to throw away everything just to pursue it?

It’s not about the sex, the physical act. It’s about intimacy and how that influences a man’s ability to create. Let me repeat that. It’s about intimacy and how that influences a man’s ability to create. In this sense, it’s much worse than a simple slapping of two bodies; it’s about what happens with the man’s desperate need for intimacy. And, this ought to influence all wives of creative people, for intimacy is easily lost to feelings of rejection with these sensitive souls. This is the point at which our culture needs to invest, in ministry, in therapy, and in psychology in general.

There is one thing that most of these men can claim: they are sensitive creatively and need (yes, need) to be intimately in love in order to tap into the source that feeds their imaginations. This is called the artist’s muse and is accomplished through the one-way flow of love from the source of all love, through each of us, towards another. It is an inbound flow that the man has felt before, and to him, it’s absolutely sacred and holy. He must give away what he receives, or the flow will stagnate, and he will be fully lost. It is a crushing experience for one’s creativity to stagnate, and it comes from shutting down the flow through any one of a number of emotions the man might be feeling. He must reactivate the flow through the giving of love, for then, the ultimate giver of love will replace that which he gives away, and in that refreshment comes more from the source. This is why being in love is such a phenomenal feel-good experience. The entire fruit of the spirit travels with that flow, so it “feels” marvelous.

I can hear the gasps even now. “C’mon, Terry, what about sensitive and creative women? Don’t they require this intimacy, too?” I’m not smart enough to figure all that out, but I’ll say this. Throughout history, the idea of an artist’s muse is always feminine. Besides, I’m speaking about men here, so just bear with me, because I believe there are great differences between the two sexes. Please. There will be others who’ll read this as a rationalization for my own dalliances, for I was once a chronic womanizer. There may be truth to that, but I’ll argue that it doesn’t change the reasoning presented here.

Culture says to creative people, “conform,” but they simply cannot. Can. Not. It’s always cannot; never will not. Creators value their sensitive source, not that which ignores the voices from beyond. Hence, society’s rules and regulations are actually designed to move away from the source. After all, chaos is the mother of pain to those who demand order. The problem with this is that creativity flows from chaos, not order.

He feels bad that his behavior has hurt others, but he’s not making decisions with the full weight of consciousness, and this is so important to understand. He knows what he’s doing is wrong. He knows the inevitable consequences. He is driven by a profound need to get to a place where he can receive. It overrides all decision-making filters, because it comes from beyond. When the prolific songwriter Bill Monroe told me in an interview that he never wrote a single song but simply “heard them first”, he was speaking of this flow. Richard Adams, in the forward to his little book “The Unbroken Web,” describes a moving web of creativity that encircles the earth constantly. It contains all of the creative efforts of humanity and explains how people from different continents told the same ancient stories prior to intercontinental travel of any sort. I hope this is well-known in the artistic community, because it is more real to artists than their own logic and attitudes towards process.

This is why the draw is intimacy, not sex. These men generally don’t do this just to get off; there’s something much more sinister going on, and we’re never going to fix the problem without this understanding. Our egos (a.k.a. the devil) are just waiting with the ammunition to corrupt this beautiful experience in order to take over. Most cannot put their finger on what’s actually happening (as stated above), so they go along with the ego’s prompting, which, as it always does, leads to devastation of the self.

If a minister’s wife isn’t also his muse, then trouble is on the horizon. This is a super important area to discuss with each other and perhaps a therapist, and it’s even more important for those in the counseling business to wrap their arms around. A creative man needs words of affirmation more than anybody could possibly imagine, and these come through the avenue of love. While it’s very true that preachers wives have their own set of responsibilities and duties to the ministry, she must NEVER drift far from the muse role she has held since they first fell in love. I simply cannot overstate the value of this in ministry relationships.

At sometime, somewhere, and somehow he has lost true intimacy with his significant other, and the creative blockage is palpable. He feels suffocated. He knows he needs intimacy as much as oxygen, but he cannot find it until he randomly encounters another searching soul. He thinks he sees it in her eyes, and her first encounter with him likely includes words of affirmation he is on the lookout for. “I love the way your personality shines through your messages,” or something similar. Suddenly, he is confronted with confusion and guilt, so he decides simply to dismiss what he’s feeling as chance. It’s at that point, however, that his ego has already begun the process of justification, and he is most likely a goner.

So, what do we do about these troubled souls? Do we not at least owe them for their revelatory inspirations that have blessed us? Yes, but does that, however, mean we must look the other way? God forbid. But let us always remember that this is a church, not some other form of institution.

Ministers know that forgiveness awaits their confession, and this adds to the problem of rationalizing infidelity. After all, why not proceed, if you know you’ll be forgiven up front? It is a very delicate and difficult manifestation of human nature.

Surely, they must face disciplinary proceedings and be given a leave of absence or be terminated. This is where it gets sticky, however, because he’s left with only one choice and that is to move along and start over in some other place. We see this all the time, but one session of chasing the wind easily flows into another, and the real matter is never addressed.

Let me repeat the basics. Creative men need feminine inspiration, even if its homosexual. It’s as important as air to breathe for these people. Therefore, their spouse must, above all, function as a muse to the preacher, and this is often expressed as sexual intimacy. This is why marital problems involving such servants can be so destructive for the ministry itself, and this needs positive, non-judgmental discussion between the ministers and their spouses. The remarkable thing here is that these men are naturally drawn to this feminine energy and often end up with a person who functions unknowingly as their muse.

Would that all such men would be so lucky.