Words DO Matter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Kingdom of God Apologetic

Consumer warning: The following may mess with your faith.

Christianity has a lot more in common with other ancient religions of the world than most people think. It all depends on your view of a single word in the New Testament, the Greek word “Zoe.” In most English translations, it’s defined as “Eternal Life,” which is then further translated to mean the afterlife, wherein human kind lives forever in a good place or a bad place, depending on one’s behavior in this life. “Salvation” is then free to be interpreted as a rescue from the fires of eternal hell.

The word is better translated as “the life of God,” which opens the door to fellowship with the people of the world, for Jesus didn’t die just for those who believe, although believing is certainly a part of accepting this grace of living the life of God. It’s the connection with things unseen, sacred, and especially eternal that speak of how we are ALL connected to the basic simplicity that is life. If you have life, you have God, because God is Life. It’s in this same area, however, that those humans with the ability to do so have warped this basic fact into something ugly that pits brother versus brother in a relentless game of one‐upmanship in pursuit of the “right” position in the afterlife.

“I’m going to Heaven, and you’re not” is the statement of fools who are in it primarily to save their own asses at the end of the unbridled pursuit of happiness in this life. Fools are easily manipulated, however, and this is the topic of my new — although unpublished — book, “Life on Life’s Terms: Overcoming the Weakness of Christian Counseling.

The problem is that “Heaven” isn’t some place far off to which one aspires upon death. Heaven is here, right now, but religions that have at core the desire to manage people within the culture, it’s smart to make people work towards a righteousness in the afterlife. It keeps them competing with each other and from objecting too loudly over the poor conditions they accept as their unfortunate lot.

The most basic method of evangelism, regardless of who’s doing the evangelizing, is to provide the listener with a way to save themselves from the fires of hell in the afterlife. This is why the opening question of the discussion is very often, “Do you know where you’ll go when you die?” Absent this knowledge, the door is then open for the evangelist to provide their specific formula for survival at the end. If you were a serf in medieval times, there were very few options available for people who suffered under the oppressive taxes and rules provided by the Lords and the church. So the teaching that one’s current lot in life will matter nothing when it comes to the joy and celebration of entering in through the pearly gates served an important role to the hierarchy, namely to calm the masses and maintain the status quo.

The Christian version is especially distorted, because in addition to providing a soothing balm for the underclass, it also gives those farther up the hierarchy the license to advance themselves in this life. If this ticket to Heaven is indeed from God, after all, then how could those in positions of power be convicted of anything other than believing the same thing for themselves? If the end justifies the means, then the means must not really matter, and this is an easy message to sell to the rich, who in turn will gladly support the messengers. When we see the advancement of the rich, we can know in our hearts for certain that the church isn’t far behind, for their money — at least some of it — is there to help assuage any disturbing guilt that might be present.

So, what happens when the people of God figure out that this Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t refer exclusively to the afterlife, or may in fact have nothing to do with it at all? That which separates Christians from others is, at core, a wager that the Kingdom is a future world and not part of the present. On this hangs much, including almost the entirety of Western history and civilization. Salvation, in the language of believers, is the necessity of being saved from damnation and hell in the afterlife, known in the vernacular as “Eternal Life” or life everlasting.

Zoe differentiates from two other Greek words used for “life” in the New Testament, Bios, which deals with life in the physical (biology), and Psuche, which refers to the mind and the soul (psychology). Zoe, however, is the big one, the life of God, which must cross over from the eternal and include the here and now. Otherwise, nothing alive would have life, the Zoe that is the life of God.

How can humanity, which exists within the dimensions of time and space, possibly comprehend that which is beyond? We can’t, so we do the next best thing: we anthropromophize everything to make it more closely resemble us and our world. It provides understanding and context for certain studies of the Bible. Unfortunately, this shifts us from being created in God’s image to God being created in ours. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but we’re not actually human beings on a spiritual journey; it’s exactly the other way around — we are spiritual beings on a human journey — and nothing will change your life quite like this revelation.

But, the real problem here is how these Kingdom opinions are then used to advance a more self‐serving agenda, that this Kingdom means here and now prosperity for those who believe. My old boss Pat Robertson wrote his views on this in “The Secret Kingdom,” which was actually a self‐help manual for believers, and it still carries heretical weight today.

Frankly, we’ve had our fill of this self‐centered view of personal faith, and we need to look beyond the church, beyond the faithful, and beyond even the Bible in trying to discern what Jesus meant in stating that the Kingdom of God is at hand. If we can permit ourselves to set aside the teachings of the church (not God) for even a moment, this mystery becomes a whole lot less mysterious. That’s because a great many of these scholarly efforts all heap tons of baggage on the concept of two different and differing worlds existing at the same time and in the same place. If we could bring ourselves to simply stop and consider the essence of Jesus’ message, it would likely change a great deal about the entire Christian narrative.

Challenging the apologetic propositions advanced by the church over the centuries is often dismissed as a fool’s errand, but it’s always a useful exercise to challenge our own assumptions. It’s what gives us a seat at the discussion table in our increasingly postmodern world.

Let’s begin with the words of C.S. Lewis in his genuinely insightful book, The Screwtape Letters. Here we have a senior demon, Screwtape, giving advice to a young demon, Wormwood, on how to bring about the ruin of his human “patient.”

Dear Wormwood…Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change…

Wormwood is made to see that keeping his patient away from the “eternal object” and toward the ups and downs of life, the “changes” of existing in the flesh, is the way to keep him riled up and dissatisfied. So, the idea of blending the two worlds to assuage the self‐centered desires of humans (including and perhaps even led by Christians) is not an idea born of God, and this cries out for our attention. If a “personal relationship” with Jesus means comfort, safety, and protection as we seek the true reward of eternity in Heaven, then it is indeed every man for himself.

I object to those who connect this world with the otherworld of which Jesus spoke. Jesus, the most perfect human to ever walk our planet, the guileless One, the miraculous One, the gift of the highest gift‐Giver, the One sent to rescue us from the ravages of life under the sun, the anointed One — and much, much more — didn’t come to us as a conqueror, for that is the way of those locked into time and space. Of necessity, therefore, He spoke of this other world, what He called “the Kingdom of God/Heaven.” We’ve over‐spiritualized everything about this and have attached worldly things to it in an effort to be relevant ourselves. The sum total of everything He taught was that we could exist in the world without being married to it and thereby find immunity from being bounced around by events, experiences, and those around us.

It’s here, too, where the concept of the fall humankind and the redemption offered by the sacrifice of Jesus are made manifest, because awareness of our spiritual nature is blocked by our self‐centeredness, which was the real “sin” of Adam and Eve. In order to exist happily in the world of the spirit, one must give up selfishness, and therein lies the rub. When caught up in the zero‐sum game of competing for worldly resources, it’s very nearly impossible to think otherwise, for the seeking of personal gain is anathema to the goal of spreading the love and life of the Creator.

Let me be perfectly clear here: there are no rules for living in the Kingdom, because it is not influenced whatsoever by how we approach it. The Kingdom of God does not require any sort of process to get there, because it’s already here and available to everyone, thanks to the sacrifice and death of the Anointed One. The only requirement for us is to believe, and that’s the faith that we’re called to express (and which, without works, is dead).

An old Zen axiom applies: “He who is in the sun and in the fire and in the heart of man is One. He who knows this is one with the One.”

As such, Christianity ought not require that its “members” follow Jesus, for He came to us as a doorway, not a leader of day‐to‐day living under the sun. This mistake in the study of Christ is understandable, because humans will always default to the self, that creature who, at best, can only try to better their own place in the world. Christianity is human‐created belief system designed at core to advance the system throughout the world. Among many, many others throughout the globe, just ask the Cherokee Nation about how they were treated by these white Christian “explorers.”

And, Jesus never said that we should bear suffering in this life, because we’ll be rewarded in the next. That’s because “the next” is irrelevant when it comes to life on earth. No, the message of Jesus is how we can live today, in this life, without being miserable when the mountain top becomes a deep valley in the dimensions of time and space, and so forth.

But it seems old Screwtape’s advice has been well adapted in modern times, for humanity is certainly busy chasing its tail and not the Kingdom.

Postmodernism Marches On (Although Most Still Don’t See It)

Postmodernism — that is the new cultural era brought about by the advent of the internet and the web — is advancing far from the sight of those whose oxen are being gored in the process. Call it what you wish, but long after I’m gone, and on into the centuries to come, the empowering of the people will continue. Chaos will be the on‐the‐table discussion item in the years ahead, because those people who are latched onto the tit of logical and rational modernism can see only chaos with anything else. Always remember the precision of Henry Adams’ observation that the way of nature is chaos, but the dream of man is order.

Let me state emphatically, too, that chaos is in the eye of the beholder. To the postmodernist, there’s nothing inherently chaotic about this new era, only that it is a welcome change from the silos of logic and reason to the breath of creative fresh air.

Even now, the evidence of the conflict between the old (modernism) and the new (postmodernism) is everywhere. It’s in every human institution, like a slimy monster that fits itself into places where it seemingly doesn’t belong and challenges us to rethink just about everything and especially the form of personal advancement known as “credentials” or “expertise.” Jeff Jarvis refers to such as “the high priests” of culture, those who’ve managed their way to the top through their lineage, schooling, hard work, luck, and especially through the protections in place to help those already near the top and to make it difficult for everybody else. Witness the current scandal involving the purchase of bogus “scholarships” to access the best universities in the land. This is a logical behavior in a world that values credentials based on schooling.

As C.S. Lewis wrote in his commencement speech at King’s College, University of London, in 1944 titled “The Inner Ring,” once a person makes it into the inner circle, she defaults to making it harder for others to get inside.

“…your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There’d be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident; it is the essence.”

Protected knowledge is that which separates everyday people from the experts in a logical, modernist culture. For example, it’s what gives doctors the fortitude to suggest that their medical degree beats Google searching, but this is merely self‐preservation in a chaotic tsunami of informed patients. This will rage on, and it has already partially disrupted the authority of the physician. It’s not that she isn’t an expert anymore; it’s just that her expertise — with its incumbent authority — isn’t what it used to be. This conflict will continue until we find and accept that we’re all better off with such knowledge. The medical industry? Not so much.

We all have personal stories of how the institutions of the West have failed us in one way or another. The simple truth here is that the “push” world is being replaced by one that “pulls,” and no matter how many lawyers get involved, the rise of the people — those who’ve today known a freedom that our ancestors never imagined — will not go backwards. Look, information is power, and power that is distributed horizontally in a democracy will forever tip the scales away from absolutism at the top, much to the dismay of those at the top of the modernist pyramid.

Try to search ANY medical condition, and you’ll find at least one group of people with that condition who are ready and able to help those newly diagnosed. If one’s medical degree is, in fact, the be all and end all, then why are these groups forming? It’s because, for a great many people, medicine has its own fatted calf to protect, and its needs are not always in the best interests of patients. As long as the A.M.A. governs medical practice in the U.S., the practice of medicine will never be fully patient‐friendly. The demands on practitioners is so great each and every day now that they simply don’t have the time or the inclination to discuss or argue medicine with patients. And that is to their great shame. Higher education doesn’t make you smarter; it merely positions you for scaling the imaginary cultural ladder.

In his seminal argument, Everything Is Miscellaneous, Harvard author David Weinberger makes the case that no knowledge storage retrieval system that humans can possibly create could ever outdo basic search. This is the “pull” concept in long form. Knowledge can’t be sorted into any directory system that can compete with search. From grocery store shelves to libraries to any institutional silo, it’s impossible to even come close to the efficiency of search. And search has gotten so good that even coming close on a guess often leads to what the user is actually seeking. This is not about to go backwards, so those who insist that THEY can organize their goods in such a way that physical proximity is necessary are being quite ridiculous. After all, these sorts of organizations exist to advance themselves, and it doesn’t matter to them if consumers are inconvenienced.

But, Terry, what if shoppers need what they’re seeking NOW? Enter Amazon’s new “same day” delivery. This is a powerful game‐changer that’s getting very little publicity, but just try to imagine a downstream scenario in which such a service is thriving. Amazon has turned the entire retail system on its head already. People will soon come to accept such and will revel in the magic of it all. Imagine the time saving! Shoppers won’t have to go store‐to‐store in order to find something; they’ll simply search for it online, and it will come to them. This is uniquely postmodern, because stripping away hierarchies is the logical future of empowered people. Grocery chains offer pick‐up service, and while that’s nice, it can’t compete with same‐day home delivery via Instacart. This will change. I promise you.

And now comes Amazon Prime Wardrobe, where the company will send a box of clothes pre‐selected by the user along with a handy convertible box which is used to send that which the customer doesn’t want back to the company. This eliminates the need for the store and the booth in which we try on clothes and moves the whole process to the living room or bedroom (or whatever). So, the customer gets a box of clothes, picks out what he wants, is charged for those, and returns the rest at no cost to him. This is designed to further destroy the value proposition of retail clothing shops, and for Amazon, it’s a way to say “anything you can do, I can do better.”

Those who fear that this horizontal empowerment itself will lead to future hierarchies are stuck in the past and fearful of Orwell’s 1984. The problem with this thinking is that the web provides the same opportunities to Aunt Helen that it does to Big Brother, for the web views them as identical. This is just one of the many reasons we fought so hard for net neutrality. The internet belongs to the people, and although we lost the first round on the issue — it’s a modernist response to the loss of control — we’ll be back and better prepared for what happens next.

Postmodernism is moving power to the base of the pyramid, while institutional power must be at the top. When people at the bottom seize the power given them through the net, they’ll never give it back willingly. So, we’re in for turbulent times as the culture groans in reaction to what it views as an assault, and there’s nothing new to this. The same thing happened with the dawn of the printing press and for the same reasons. At that time, the power was with Rome and the church. When Gutenberg had the audacity to print a Bible, the shit hit the fan, for the priests knew well the danger of putting “the word” in the hands of everyday people, and they were right. The reformation would never have happened, if only Rome held access to the book’s contents. It was John Wycliffe’s common language translation that led him to say, “This book shall make possible government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The same concept is alive and well today.

In fact, it’s fair to say that the years following Gutenberg produced the same kind of Western response that we’re seeing today. Erotica was one of the first genres to be printed. Rome wanted to establish a licensing arrangement where only they could approve of those who wanted to print the Bible. It didn’t work, and the power of the Vatican in all matters cultural slowly but steadily slipped away.

Christian institutions ignore the web today and press for top‐down control, which is kicking against the pricks of culture’s progressive but steady march. It’s not hard to understand, because all they know is a stage and the audience. They want little to do with the work of a more horizontal experience, because they simply cannot trust people who aren’t on the podium. “They’ll never get it right,” the thinking goes, “if they don’t have a group of educated higher‐ups holding their hands.” Such nonsense. Look where we are today with Christian leaders saying that Donald Trump was ordained by God in the manner of the ancient Persian King Cyrus. This flagrantly false and misleading reference is so dangerous that we’ve become a people tripping up a step that isn’t there.

The hue and cry over fake news is another example of the modernist crowd screaming for control. I don’t deny this is an area that needs our attention, but it’s nothing more than a Trojan Horse foisted upon us by the top‐down and right‐wing crowds in an attempt to frighten us into submission. The originators of fake news came from the law and order right wing of American politics. In olden days, we used to call this “propaganda,” but it reached new pinnacles with the horizontal nature of the web. The right wing’s response to the clamor was simply to label opponents “fake” in order to hide their own mischief. In the wake of New Zealand, we now have people demanding that we regulate social media. This is akin to swatting a fly with an atomic bomb. We wish to shield our children from everything we went through (or “could” have gone through), and in so doing we’re preventing them from experiencing the very things that shaped our own character. It’s like beating our kids over the head with a 2x4 rather than giving our permission for them to scrape their knees.

The managers of the status quo come from two different groups — the lawyers, those rule‐bound grifters who suck the life out of everything they touch and turn it into profit for themselves and those they represent — God bless ’em — and the world of business, where players sell their souls for profit and suppress anyone who stands in the way, including the government and especially the poor. The more people become aware of this, the more they’re going to object, and nothing will be impossible for them.

After me, there will be a sweeping constitutional convention to address all of this, because our government was formed in a previous cultural era and is insufficient to govern people who are connected horizontally. Traditions will be given more weight than today, perhaps even equal to laws, for traditions can be discussed and argued whereas our laws are currently given to us by lawmakers, those who exist at the pyramid’s top and therefore have their own self‐centered wants and needs. Influence will slowly move to the bottom, although new forms of hierarchies are quite likely. The buck still has to end somewhere, at least that’s the way I think today.

Much is given to the politics of those who have the final say in our laws, the Supreme Court. The law says there shall be no litmus test for the selection of those who make it to this upper bench, but that is just lip‐service. And, while we are kept busy with arguments about, for example, abortion or religious freedom, the most glaring political difference in the selection of nominees is the extent to which each supports business or the rights of workers. This is the real differentiator, because real power in our culture is a struggle between the top of the pyramid and the bottom. Everything else is a side show.

The Bible says the poor will always be with us, and it’s our reaction to this truth that is the great determinator of our response. If it gets in the way of those at the top, then it’s thought to be a nuisance to be ignored or even made worse, and this is another revelation that comes with empowering the bottom. Civil war in America today would not be political nearly so much as it would be class‐motivated, and this energy has grown, in my view, during the Trump election and administration. So far, Republicans (the silk stocking crowd) have been successful at keeping the truth from their bottom supporters through arguments about religion and abortion, but that will not last forever.

Information is power, and power has a way of opening eyes.

Look, I know we’re in a season of cynicism and confusion, but please do not underestimate — under any circumstances — the power of the masses in determining their own government. This was Wycliffe’s point back in the 15th Century, and it’s the point today in the wake of the web.

If I had any influence on the Democrats, this is the message I would pound home to the people. It’s the money. It’s all about the money. Modernist thinking, however, forces the discussion to the box of “what new policies will you put in place instead?” This moves the narrative away from simply fixing what’s wrong to providing solutions ahead of time, so that they can be analyzed and dismissed by those at the top. That’s the cart before the horse and the source of our current gridlock.

If the base of the pyramid crumbles, the top will have no backs on which to stand. Think about it.

An open letter to the church at America

Dear Church,

Fake Christians and Fake Christianity! That’s what they’re saying about you. Imagine that? Oh, you’ll likely just dismiss this as the name calling of those evil liberals, but this cry comes from the inside, from Christians who want no part of what you claim is the real faith. These people view with righteous skepticism your willingness to support a political party whose highest priority is the wealthy. If you aren’t fabulously rich, then you, like the rest of us, are sucking hind titty with this administration when it comes to your wants and needs. The counterculture nature of Christianity has always been towards the poor and the afflicted and against the rich, and yet, here we are in a real crisis over the state of our country.

You got your so‐called Conservative Supreme Court, but the price for that is that history will tag you forever as fake Christians. Why? You are an affront to those who live simple lives in just trying to make the best of what they have and raise their children in the fear of the Lord. This is what happens when you mix politics with religion and why we have a First Amendment. It is by affiliation — the unrighteous yoking of yourselves and those who seek their reward at the expense of others. This is not Christianity, and it’s time we all came to agreement on that.

Christianity Today (or is it Fake Christianity Today) published a piece last week (The Current Storm and the Evangelical Response) by our old friend Ed Stetzer, who tried to justify all this in the name of the faith. Ed used a statement by Howard Dean on MSNBC as a springboard.

(Dean) gave his take on the state of the current GOP, saying it has “the same meaning as evangelical Christianity with young people, intolerance, bigotry and a lack of respect, not just for women but for anybody who is not on their team.” Stetzer chose to base his entire argument on the belief that this doesn’t describe all of the people or groups he knows. He called the statement by Dean “incomplete and unfair.” He’s able to indict those Christians who behave in this manner, but concludes that it’s really just a big misunderstanding.

No one can deny that the reputation of evangelical Christianity has been significantly diminished as a result of some pursing (sic) the acquisition of power and influence and blurring the lines of faith and politics.

But this does not, and cannot, change the facts: thousands of years of evidence have pointed to the true mission of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ—we seek to live humble lives of faithful service so that Jesus will be lifted high.

Howard Dean isn’t the first—nor will he be the last—to criticize evangelicals. We need to hear their critiques. But, we also need to respond in a such a way that others exclaim, “So that is what it means to be a Christian!”

And they, in turn, will turn to Christ as well.

To the church at America, if you don’t like the generalizations of Howard Dean, first remove your own generalizations about those who oppose you politically. Then, we might be able to have a discussion. Nobody is going to buy your arguments as long as your behavior represents the extreme. What’s needed is repentance, not justification for the unjustifiable. In your zeal to be models for everybody else, you’ve actually become that which you despise, the fat cats who take their ease among the refuse that’s left behind, including the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the refugees and their children, the unemployed, the strugglers and the stragglers, the lost and alone, and the people of the world who don’t have even a breath of what we possess.

Salvation promised sometime in the future is a cheap substitute for our lack of concern in the present.

Your servant,

Terry

It’s time for the press to notice Israel

I’ve been asked a hundred times how Christians — specifically white evangelicals — can support a corrupt, racist, lying President who doesn’t appear to be even close to qualified for the office, a man who is cozying up to our enemies while destroying the characteristics that made America great in the first place. It’s a tough and complex question, but the behaviors described above just aren’t important when it comes to the Christians’ political agenda. They want Roe v Wade overturned, religious liberty (that borders on license) in all areas of life, and support for Israel expanded. In Trump the President, they’re getting exactly what they want.

While the country and the American press focus on the President’s misdeeds, fake news claims, morality, and especially his relationship with Russia, Israel’s far right wing radical Zionists — headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — have taken a giant step forward in seizing title to the entirety of the Holy Land. This includes rapid settlement development not only in the West Bank but also East Jerusalem, the home of Trump’s new American embassy. Moreover, the President’s tweet threatening the nuclear annihilation of Iran is directed more at boosting Israel than protecting any of America’s interests in the region. All of this sits amazingly well with Trump’s base support — the white evangelical Christians — who care nothing about the legality or morality of Israel’s behavior, only that it’s all a prelude to what they believe is the imminent return of Jesus Christ and what they believe is his thousand year reign of peace.

Tourism is absolutely booming in Israel with Trump supporters wanting to see the sacred Biblical sites but also activity in the West Bank and especially Jerusalem, where in their view Armageddon will begin. Israel’s economy is also booming, especially in the technology sector where Tel Aviv ranks fourth globally. It’s great to be an Israeli zealot in the era of Donald Trump. It’s also great time to be a fundamentalist end‐times Christian, because (with a little help from them) an alliance between Gog and Magog (Russia), Gomer and Togarmah (Turkey), and Persia (Iran) is forming. These people believe this alliance will come against Israel, and that will usher in the return of Jesus. I’m serious. Support of Donald Trump is support of this foolishness, but it’s not without consequence.

Life for Palestinian Arabs in the area just keeps getting worse and worse, and this, too, escapes the view of the American press, because they’ve got seemingly bigger issues to watch at home. Israel commits horrible atrocities regularly and with impunity, because that’s the nature of U.S. support under the Trump administration. At least the State Department under Barack Obama would loudly object each time settlement extremists reached further into territory that doesn’t belong to them. These acts are illegal under international law, but that is irrelevant absent enforcement, and Netanyahu knows this. The settlements in the West Bank are especially troublesome, because the latest are splitting the land still occupied by Arabs into two pieces, which will make it easier to take it all. Building in Jerusalem is squeezing out land that used to belong to Palestinians. The resulting squalor and isolation the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank are left to live in is worse than anyone in the West can imagine.

While Israel points to the incompetence of Hamas in Gaza, it is Israel that provides the real government there. Utilities are provided by Israel, which means cutting electricity and water is easy. In the West Bank, water goes to the settlements, not the Arabs who legally live there. Israel rations water and electricity supplies to Gaza, including electricity than powers sewage treatment. The whole idea is to make life so miserable for Arabs that they will flee or bow to so‐called “negotiations” wherein they will be subjugated as a permanent minority.

The U.S. gives $10 million each and every day to support Israel’s “democracy,” while President Trump is cutting aid to Palestinians that goes to fund, among other things, medical clinics in Gaza. As Mondoweiss reports, these clinics are beginning to close:

Since January, US financing for humanitarian programmes serving the Palestinians has been suspended, with Washington saying it is being reviewed. President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table with Israel.

When Arab groups of especially young people object to not only the occupation but also to the living conditions they are required to endure, Israeli Defense Force snipers shoot to kill, celebrating when a protester falls with a bullet to the chest or head from long range. Israeli claims of being forced to defend itself become the automatic operating narrative, which provides appropriate justification for any atrocity while the world sits by and watches. This narrative positions all threats as existential, because the country is surrounded by nations who mostly object to their presence in the region. This would be believable, if it were true, but Israel has the military capability to absolutely overwhelm any enemy that might come against it, which makes Israel’s power the only existential threat in the entire Middle East. To the rest of the world, however, Israel presents itself as a helpless and isolated potential victim of rampant anti‐semitism it faces each and every day. Bearing the banner of the Holocaust and a standard that says “Never Again,” Israel gets a pass no matter what crime it commits against humanity. This demands our truthful examination.

Even something as seemingly innocent as the construction of a museum in Jerusalem carries the stench of manipulation and expansion purpose. Simon Wiesenthal’s Museum of Tolerance is being built in East Jerusalem to open next year. It is incredibly controversial, however, as described in the Architecture publication Inexhibit:

The … problem is the presence of a highly regarded Muslim historic cemetery (known as Mamilla Cemetery) within the building site; therefore the construction of a relatively large building in a sacred burial site – with all which it implies, including excavations and removal of tombs, has been considered offensive and an “act of colonialism” by many Palestinians and by the Muslim religious authorities, who consider the museum actually just a part of a larger strategy aimed to physically and culturally remove Palestine from Jerusalem.

When Christians look at Israel — even through their own tours — they see the land of milk and honey promised by God to the Jews, a lush oasis of plenty on the desert seacoast where American‐style avarice demands protection from envious neighbors. They see this as God in action in modern times, a narrative that impacts each of them individually through its links to Bible prophecy and the absolute surety with which they view their version of the faith.

I often wander down the path of the God of my understanding to ponder what He must be thinking as all of this unfolds. This whole business pits regional politics against Life, and, as Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic World says, “Life always finds a way.”

My admonition to the white evangelicals — many of whom are my brothers and sisters in the Lord — is this: Make sure that your own house is in order before you throw stones at others, especially in the Middle East, for all is definitely not as it seems.

Dirty Trick #33: Rewriting History

Public manipulation by special interests has become a giant and painful carbuncle on the skin of the West today, and it threatens the very foundations of our liberty. We witness it every day, and yet people get away with it, because the public doesn’t have a clue. From the controlling narcissist to the special interest, manipulation is a dangerous game being played at all levels of our culture and something I think we ought to be teaching in high school (along with journalism). Permit me to offer two quotes by Edward Bernays, the father of professional public relations. He was one of the original thinkers on the subject and literally wrote the book on propaganda:

From his 1947 essay and 1955 book “The Engineering of Consent:”

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.

From his 1923 book Crystalizing Public Opinion:

Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

This is the most under‐reported story in the West, because the press not only views it as standard operating procedure in a civilized culture, but it also participates in the manipulation, sometimes knowingly but more often unawares. Again, if smart manipulators are going to be on the loose plying their trade, then we must somehow arm our citizens to recognize what’s going on. My recommended reading for this task is a little book that would serve well as a textbook for the class, The Thinker’s Guide To FALLACIES: The Art of Mental Trickery and Manipulation. I can’t possibly over‐recommend this guidebook.

Today, I want to talk about Dirty Trick #33 from the book: Re‐write History (Have it your way). It’s a very clever way to win an argument, because it undercuts your opponent by removing their foundational support evidence. It’s one of the most evil and seditious manipulations of all, and its practitioners can be so slick that it’s often difficult to figure out what’s really going on. Here’s part of what the book says:

“The fact is that human memory is continually working to re‐describe events of the past in such a way as to exonerate itself and condemn its detractors. Historical writing often follows suit, especially in the writing of textbooks for schools. So, in telling a story about the past, manipulators feel free to distort the past in whatever ways they believe they can get away with. As always, the skilled manipulator is ready with (self‐justifying) excuses.”

Sometimes, this appears obvious, such as what happens when the victor in a war is given the responsibility to write the history of the war. It’s guaranteed to be skewed. Other times, however, it is very, very subtle, and I want to point to two current examples of this taking place in our midst, one from the political right and one from the political left. That way, I can be criticized by everybody.

On the left, we have the transgender community — in an effort to justify itself — creatively rewriting history by redefining what it means to be normal in terms of gender identification. This is vitally important to the movement, because words like “normal” shove them into a corner labelled “abnormal” or “deviant,” and this bias comes naturally without people even giving a thought to the idea of gender preference. So, in order to make “trans” more palpable with the rest of society, it’s necessary to offer the idea that all gender difference is a result of nature, for if this can be done, then those who used to be tagged as abnormal or deviant can no longer be labeled as such. It’s just the luck of the draw.

And so, we have a new term inserted by the trans community into the English language: cisgender, cisgendered, or any derivative of cis, which is the opposite of trans. According to Google, it means “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.” It’s presented as a privilege, which means those so labelled can be the oppressors in society. So, what used to be considered “normal” is now just another position on a spectrum of gender identification. There is no normal. Everybody naturally exists along a linear scale with cis on one end and trans on the other end. Variations on the gender thought stream exist between the extremes, but we’re all just one, big happy family of different personal gender hands that we have no choice but to play, and that is a rewriting of history to the nth degree.

The term was originated in 1991 by German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch, so it’s a brand new piece of thinking. However, as Dirty Trick #33 advises, historical writing will ensue, and our children will be presented with this concept as historical fact. Mission accomplished through a manipulative logical fallacy. Those who oppose the thinking are deemed intolerant, and so it goes.

On the right, we have something that is even more sinister in its manipulation and one in which I participated in my role as executive producer of The 700 Club in the years prior to Pat Robertson running for President in 1988. We innovated what we called “TV Journalism With a Different Spirit,” news from a Biblical, Christian, and conservative perspective. We took ourselves seriously, and to present ourselves to the public, we needed to rewrite history. We did so by presenting as fact the assertion that all “news” is determined by political bias. Therefore, we simply took a position to the political right on the thought spectrum of journalism. This action meant that everybody else — from CBS News to the New York Times — was to the political left of us. This was a core principle upon which we functioned.

This, however, is a total fallacy, because “the news” is not a political product. Political information vehicles are called propaganda, and we’re back to the whole public manipulation theme. Think about it. News organizations used to operate on a belief in objectivity, and while we’ve all come to believe that objectivity was an unattainable ideal, we were always careful to be fair and present opposing thinking to anything that was presented as “new.” We took seriously the responsibility of writing the first draft of history, and our ethical rules were built upon that role. But the news is new, and that’s a cultural problem for conservatives, who are happiest with a tamper‐proof status quo. New is progressive, and therein lies the rub.

As I wrote in my book, The Gospel of Self, before there was Fox News, there was CBN News, and we wrote the playbook for propaganda as news. It’s important to note that in the practice of this, there’s no need to provide balance. In fact, opposition to a right wing perspective can be mocked freely, because, after all, this isn’t journalism at all. It. Is. Propaganda. Once again, as Dirty Trick #33 warns, historical writing has ensued since we rewrote history, and now our children are taught to believe that all news is political, and that there are two distinct “sides” in the institution of journalism.

Don’t get me wrong; I do think the arrogance of the press has contributed to its own demise and that objectivity was an unrealistic ideal in the first place. However — and this is what’s important — as long as the press plays only defense in the game of public manipulation, those quietly guiding the disruption — the fundamentalist conservatives — will continue to advance in the culture. The left is being defined by the right today, and this is the dangerous fruit of logical fallacies. For as long as we view justice and mercy as two opposing sides of the same coin, we will always favor one or the other, depending on who’s in charge.

We need to avoid these stacked decks by understanding logical fallacies when they are presented. Otherwise, we’re like punching bag wives in the hands of evil but gifted narcissist husbands for whom all of this is as natural as breathing.