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?

A “Biblical” Worldview Deconstructed

God Inhabits the Praise of His People' Meaning

Continuing with my series of essays about the fundamental beliefs of contemporary Evangelical Christians — assumptions that drive the entire movement, including those who would identify as MAGA Christians — let’s deconstruct the idea of a “Biblical Worldview”, as in, “Our school teaches a Biblical Worldview.”

This worldview is then used to divide and separate the behavior of Christians from the rest of the culture.

So common is this phrase in evangelicalism, that everyone takes it for granted. I mean, if you believe every word of the book, why would you not wish to live by it? That’s the simplicity that it offers, and “I want all my neighbors to do the same thing. Therefore, I’ll do the best I can to recruit them into the way we live, and everything will be just fine.” It’s the ultimate disrespect for the beliefs of others, but it doesn’t seem that way to them, for they are “saving” their neighbors from eternal damnation.

In postmodern vernacular, this “world view” is the same thing as a “Grand Narrative,” the overarching story of what’s presented at all levels throughout the narrative. The difference, however, is what gives us the wiggle room to deconstruct the narrative, because these things are usually presented as fact, although we cannot fool nature into performing as we would wish. Many, if not most, grand narratives have at least an element of this, which is why deconstruction can very much become the monkey wrench in the plans of humankind. However, it’s also wise to question such narratives in order to gain wisdom and understanding and to prevent culture from completely running off any self-interested rails.

To have a “Biblical” worldview, we must first choose which Bible we’re going to use, and this alone can take a lifetime of study and still not completely affirm the grand narrative selected. At this point, many simply create a new translation, one that better fits the story being presented. Moreover, once a translation is selected, believers must completely believe in its inerrancy. So important is this belief, that movement leaders refer to it as “the WORD of God.” In other words, the Bible provides all that’s necessary to prove itself as the literal voice of God, therefore it proclaims the true wishes of the final authority. In this way, these people view the Bible and its words literally, at least so far as they help frame the narrative.

(Aside: If you wish to understand what is meant in the Bible about the Word of God, read the books of Adam and Eve, apocryphal literature that presents the lives of Adam and Eve and their progeny after the garden.)

It is this authority that has driven Western Civilization for over 2,000 years, beginning with the Council of Nice in the 4th Century A.D., through the Dark Ages when the church governed everything about salvation of the saints, including the selling of special dispensations to royals in order to keep its coffers full. Then came the printing press and decades of complaints from the church about losing its authority over the book. This led to The Enlightenment and the protestant revolution of “the just shall live by faith.” On and on, our history is filled with wars and other conflicts over the inerrancy of scripture. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” On the one hand, it’s nice to have the rules of life all handily laid out for us, so that we can “decide” if we want to follow them or not. This places the onus for what they view as “salvation” in our own hands, meaning we must live by these rules, which begin with “the just shall live by faith.” Confused? On the other hand, whatever happened to “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”?

So, you can see the problem with this Biblical Worldview profession, because it turns out to be better for the evangelicals than those being recruited. I’m reminded of The Shirky Principle, that institutions will always try to preserve the problem for which they are the solution. It’s very easy to do that when you insist that even though Jesus is believed to have redeemed humanity (“It is finished”), the Biblical Worldview suggests that we play a role in our own redemption, so much so that the word redemption itself requires its own deconstruction. Therefore, the correct response to this Biblical Worldview is one of separating ourselves from the sins of others, and maintaining that separation regardless of the begging and pleading of the have-nots. We’re taught not to link ourselves with such people, which is why this crowd feels its Biblical to reject others in the name of God, regardless of how it appears on the surface. After all, what’s to stop these heathens from taking what I’ve earned in following the rules? They are the problem, not me.

The elites of Western culture have always maintained a special relationship with Christianity, for the “saving” of heathen cultures was a fast-track to manipulation in terms of maintaining peace among the working class while profiting enormously from their labor. It’s no surprise therefore that the same is rampant today. The printing press temporarily disrupted this cozy relationship between man and mammon, prompting the powerful, 15th-Century priestly statement: “The jewel of the elites is in the hands of the laity.” The internet, however, is an even greater disruption to organized Christianity, because the web is a 3‑way communications medium. The top can talk “to” the bottom. The bottom can talk “to” the top. But the greatest cultural changes are coming from the 3rd way, which is that the bottom can talk with the bottom without interference from the top, and this is simply not compatible with the church’s one-to-many hegemony.

An important part of modern Christianity’s Grand Narrative is its relationship to Israel and how Zionism is a necessary part of Jesus returning to earth to claim the redeemed humans and take them to Heaven with him in what’s known as “The Rapture of the Church.” The Biblical Worldview teaches that Israel is sacred and that all promises made by God to the ancients still apply, and that to criticize Israel is to displease God or challenge God. Moreover, since the end will begin in a Jewish Jerusalem, we should support Israel’s existence at all cost. This is what authorizes Evangelical Christians to proclaim that the return of Jesus is near, a belief that has undergirded evangelicalism since 1948 and why the U.S. gives Israel so much no-strings-attached money. Call it a Strategic Defense Initiative if you’d like, but this is what a Biblical Worldview teaches. In addition, the Zionists will eventually have to replace the mosque on the Temple Mount with a new temple, which will result in violence and bloodshed on a scale we’ve yet to witness in the Middle East, but you won’t hear it condemned completely by the U.S. Why not? Because that’s where Jesus will return, so there’s nothing wrong with (wink-wink) helping it along.

If you actually believe this would be God’s will, I feel very sorry for you.

People mostly stay silent about these realities, choosing instead to trust the church overall or their place of worship and leaders who attended seminary and are professionally trained. How could such academic thinkers be wrong, right? Ask them questions, however, and they’ll refer back to their own catechism, which uses the Bible to teach the inerrancy of the Bible. It’s the greatest illustration of circular reasoning in the history of humankind. For example, is the story of God stopping the rotation of the earth for 24-hours to enable Joshua to completely conquer his enemies a myth or a true story? “Well, cough-harrumph, Terry, God can do anything, right?” What God “can” do is not evidence of what God did or didn’t do.

Walt Disney built his entire empire on the idea of “the plausible impossible,” which was a reference to the death-defying feats of animated characters. To be kind, let’s make the assumption that religions contain many elements of the plausible impossible, only Christians refer to them as fact in the name of the miraculous. This is a vain attempt to fool nature, but we buy into it with regularity.

There is no greater mystery with these believers than the combining of the New Testament with the Old Testament in order to come up with cultural rules for believers.

To further study all this, let’s turn to an insider definition of a Biblical Worldview, and what better document to examine than one created by the monstrous heresy known as “Focus on the Family” and its prophet, James Dobson. The ministry calls its worldview a “Christian Worldview”, which is the same thing as Biblical Worldview. Here are just a few paragraphs that explain the concept.

A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do. That means, for instance, you take seriously the mandate in Romans 13 to honor the governing authorities by researching the candidates and issues, making voting a priority.

Do you have a biblical worldview? Answer the following questions, based on claims found in the Bible and which George Barna used in his survey:

- Do absolute moral truths exist?
- Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
- Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
- Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
- Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
- Is Satan real?
- Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
- Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?

Did you answer yes to these? Only 9 percent of “born- again” believers did (according to Barna research). But what’s more important than your yes to these questions is whether your life shows it. Granted, we are all sinners and fall short, but most of our gut reactions will reflect what we deep-down, honest-to-goodness believe to be real and true…

…Here is the big problem. Nonbiblical worldview ideas don’t just sit in a book somewhere waiting for people to examine them. They bombard us constantly from television, film, music, newspapers, magazines, books and academia.

Because we live in a selfish, fallen world, these ideas seductively appeal to the desires of our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview. Sadly, we often do this without even knowing it.

For example, most Christians would agree with 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and other Scriptures that command us to avoid sexual immorality, but how often do Christians fall into lust or premarital and extramarital sexual sin? Is it simply because they are weak when tempted, or did it begin much earlier, with the seductive lies from our sexualized society?

Notice how this narrative forces cultural problems on those who don’t use their Biblical Worldview. This will forever keep their fingers pointed at others in their pursuit of happiness and is justification for not loving their neighbors.

You can see the requirement that the Bible be considered the absolute and infallible authority in order to live what’s called a Biblical Worldview. The irony is that the entirety of this worldview is in opposition to their claim that they represent love and serving God. The Bible serves as law enforcement here, which is inconsistent with the essential belief that the just shall live by faith.

The most astonishing claim presented by Focus on the Family here is that voting for Christians who share this worldview is a part of “honoring” the governing authorities. Again, this claim demands our deconstruction, but most followers simply say “Amen” and do what they’re told.

One of the most common phrases we hear from this group is that if you give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. It’s a nice sound bite, but it assumes an entirely level playing field for all. All have the same access to fish, the same equipment and techniques, and plenty of fish for everybody. I assure you that this not the case, and so the wording is at best wishful thinking, a thought that works only in the abstract but not practically. To many, it’s simply a statement of shirking responsibility to love our neighbors, if it results in us losing anything that we believe belongs to us.

The absurdities we’re hearing today from the Christian Right all stem from the grand narrative first considered at Roman Emperor Constantine’s Church Council at Nice, where concepts considered heresy were discussed and dealt with, especially involving the divinity of Christ. Faith was transformed into creed, and thus was born the “true” church, one based on the rules and regulations of how all “should” behave in order to form a better society. That it led instead to the Dark Ages should surprise no one,

We are heading in that direction once again, if the fascism of the extreme right becomes the law of the land. We are much closer to civil war than anybody thinks, as the 21st-Century searches for its identity. If the right gets its way, that identity will certainly begin with the authority of its Biblical Worldview, because most are afraid of it or ignorant to its real purpose, which is to support and strengthen the grip of self-centered capitalists on Western Civilization.

If you wish to study the Bible, make sure you include serious time in the Book of Ecclesiastes, which spells out the best way to live our lives “under the sun” — our lives as human beings on planet Earth. There is nothing in this book that’s altered by the redemption of the Christ, so its wisdom is universal in how to best live our lives. This book is extremely significant for ferreting out the religious, because it contains the “shit happens” realities of living under the sun. It contradicts those Christians who insist that they are somehow immune from tragedy, above the wages of sin, and the worst comforting statement ever made by Christian “friends” to the suffering: “there’s a reason God allowed this to happen.”

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Time and chance? That can’t be part of a Biblical Worldview, and yet, there it is.

Propaganda’s Waste Product: Betrayal

The pain of betrayal… – Fuel for the journey

The U.S. economy is in shambles as the Covid19 virus continues to ravage cities and rural places across the country. Millions are out of work, many losing hope that they’ll ever get back to the way it was before the virus, before Donald Trump. The “how” of this is self-evident, but the “why” is disguised by layer upon layer of propaganda that has been fed to America over the last forty years. If you’re able to get far enough away from these trees, so that the forest becomes visible, it’s pretty easy to see that this has happened to us, because the right is obsessed with making the rich even richer.

That is its only cause.

Any government individual, program, or policy that existed to provide a check on the power of the super rich has been severely reduced or eliminated. The dangerous isolation of the nationalism that has arisen has made us a laughing stock in a global community that includes business arrangements with foreign powers. Bringing in cabinet members from the very industries they are designed to oversee has taken authority away from a government designed to keep an eye out for mischief within the private sector.

Our world is a mess, and we know it. Now, we stand at the edge of new beginning, assuming the chief author of this mess is shunned by American voters. Trump will (rightly) be the whipping boy for all of the palpable anger in our midst, but there’s another actor in all of this that will take center stage as we try to manage our way out of the chaos we feel, and that’s how we prevent this from ever happening again.

We’re going to have to find a way to trust each other again, for our entire way of life depends on it. And, before we can get there, we have to deal with the propaganda campaign that led us here in the first place. The first amendment has been so abused as to have had its teeth completely removed through a calculated series of lies and other fallacies that have successfully created a narrative within which a politicized press can function as mainstream.

Most people understand that propaganda is skewed information, a.k.a. lies, in a form designed to fool people into believing a certain way and acting on it. It is highly pejorative in our world, because nobody likes to be thusly fooled and manipulated.

And, the discovery that one has been duped leads to an angry and justifiable defense: profound feelings of betrayal. Betrayal is a powerful waste product of propaganda, and its nature as a long-lasting emotional response is sufficient to change the world

Betrayal leaves behind all sorts of ugliness that impacts our social and cultural lives. An academic paper in the National Library of Medicine describes betrayal thusly:

“Betrayal is the sense of being harmed by the intentional actions or omissions of a trusted person. The most common forms of betrayal are harmful disclosures of confidential information, disloyalty, infidelity, dishonesty. They can be traumatic and cause considerable distress. The effects of betrayal include shock, loss and grief, morbid pre-occupation, damaged self-esteem, self-doubting, anger. Not infrequently they produce life-altering changes. The effects of a catastrophic betrayal are most relevant for anxiety disorders, and OC D and PTSD in particular.”

Betrayal begins with trust, and once that is broken, it becomes a long-lasting influence on those for whom the trust was revealed to be foolish in the first place. Those who’ve been so broken aren’t likely to give themselves over to such manipulation in the future.

“Stab the body and it heals,” wrote famous Japanese Geisha Mineko Iwasaki, “but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.” Or, as Arthur Miller noted, “Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.” This lasting legacy is why propaganda is a fatal wound for those manipulated, and this will come to light in the years ahead, as people grapple with the full extent of the political manipulation of the late 20th Century and early 21st Century.

The white evangelical church, for example, has betrayed its members in adding politics to the gospel, and that’s not going to end well for anybody. The church has given up its rightful place as salt and light in the community in order to obtain a Supreme Court they believe will have their backs in perpetuity. Rather than let God work through them, these deceived ministers and pastors have cast their lot with the super rich and the bearing of false witness in order to get what they want for themselves. The court is now 6–3 in favor of big business and corporations, but starry-eyed Christians think it’s all about them, abortion, and their “religious freedom”.

This is a betrayal of the first magnitude, and repentance and pleading for forgiveness are the only way out. This is unlikely, however, because these propagandists are soundly yoked to the rich and powerful. Nevertheless, it’s not something the church will get over anytime soon.

When the church plays the end-times theme, rest assured there’s a string attached, and it’s directly tied to the business model of the church, for its core competency rests in producing a herd of well-behaved denizens. The truth is that nobody knows the day or time of the end, and to postulate its nearness has been the propaganda of religious charlatans for centuries. After all, if the end is near, then its necessary to assure one’s place in the afterlife, for the saving one’s own ass for eternity has been the self-centered nature of Christian evangelicalism from the beginning.

The deals cut between these church leaders and their political puppet masters were made in dark, secret places, behind closed doors where nobody was watching (see Anne Nelson’s powerful book Shadow Network for some light on the subject). The high calling of caring for the poor and the afflicted has been replaced by a licentious thirst for power, riches, and influence under the sun. As Jesus said about such, “They have their reward,” which ought to send shivers down the backs of those under their counsel.

Propagandists will head for the shadows when discovered, as the 52 Republican Senators did after ramrodding a pro-big business advocate to the Supreme Court earlier this week. The GOP has always stood for the rich, and it’s amazing how many of those barely making ends meet have voted against their own interests in favor of alignment with the wealthy. How could this possibly have happened? Through the lesser of two evils fallacy and propaganda that positioned the GOP as having all the right answers for everybody, especially those poor unborn babies that socialist-liberals were killing left and right.

Did the Jews feel betrayed by the people of Europe who remained silent as they were marched to the Nazi death camps? Do the people dying of the lung complications brought on my smoking feel betrayed by the big business of tobacco? Do Palestinians feel betrayed from guarantees made to them in the beginning regarding Zionism? Do Native Americans feel betrayed by white invaders? Then there are the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church, both guilty of the most heinous forms of abuse and betrayal.

The use of propaganda to take the place of serious journalism is perhaps the greatest national propaganda betrayal of modern times, for in crying “fake news,” professional manipulators representing the political right have planted just enough false evidence to make it stick. There is little argument that this false witness was milked by the GOP as a way to maintain their influence over those being manipulated. It’s very hard to craft sound bites that disprove this particular piece of propaganda, because the press has been the thorn in the side of the ruling elites for at least the last century.

There are those who will argue that Donald Trump was the bad actor in all of this, and that once he’s gone, everything will be tickety-boo. However, Trump would not be President were it not for the secret labor of those wishing to overthrow the checks and balances that governed the engine of big business. This included the dominant role of white evangelicals in playing the religious liberty card ad nauseam while trying to force the culture into submission under their watchful eyes.

The church provides a colorful side show that draws attention away from greed of the one percent. Who cares, for example, that the rich are oppressing the poor when the lives of the unborn are at stake?

Finally, I have to say that, as a student of the Bible, God is not at all impressed with those who practice propaganda in order to gain worldly power and influence. This was the oppressive sin of the Scribes and Pharisees that Jesus railed against at every turn. Old Testament prophets would look across the ravages of Covid19 and insist it was a response of God to sin, but that is completely lost on people today. Today’s God is the same One we’ve always had, and, trust me on this, He is NOT happy with what has been done in His name repeatedly over the last 40 years.

As surely as I’m sitting here at my computer, God is judging this behavior, for He has no place with the propaganda of today or the betrayal that some will doubtless blame on Him. If betrayal has any redeeming quality, it’s that it can be a powerful motivator for change.

And that’s where we are today.

Deconstructing the Sacrosanct Faith of Others

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

One afternoon while working at my desk overlooking the campus of the Christian Broadcasting Network, one of our 700 Club story producers knocked and asked if he could borrow a camera. He wanted to have one of our Vice Presidents interview him about his hand. This fellow had lost one of his fingers to an accident in the past, and he had spoken with this VP about God and his missing finger. They agreed such an interview would be useful to have in order to document the missing finger. You see, he wanted it on hand to use when God grew the finger back, because he “believed” that was God’s plan for him, or at least that it might be.

This may seem laughable to some, but it was seen as a reflection of the reporter’s faith, and questioning someone else’s faith was tantamount to a great evil among Christians of a certain variety. After all, the warning is there in Matthew 18:6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (NKJV)

I saw this reflected in letters Pat had sent to some questioning viewers. He used it to “edit” the program. For example, we were guided not to show fat people on-the-air, because it might lead others into sin. I saw it in the horrifying letter I received from a man in Pennsylvania — a member of a faith community — whose 10-year old daughter had died from cancer (because they wouldn’t take her to a doctor). Worse, he told me, than her death and suffering was the abandonment she felt from God, because everybody on The 700 Club got healed, so why not her?

I’ve written before that this letter was a major influence on my decision to first leave CBN and go back into local news. I couldn’t argue with our position on faith — it was an unspoken pall that existed just above the surface of every facet of CBN and the ministry of Pat Robertson. If somebody else believed, who were we to question it? It was our justification for reading “praise reports” on the air as they came in via phone calls from our counseling center without verification. It was to inspire people to great faith, even though roughly 9 of 10 of these praise reports were completely false. Who cares if they’re simply “claiming” a blessing ahead of time? It’s THEIR faith, and we cannot question it.

Yes, we are to never, ever challenge the faith of another believer, even if their claim is far beyond the rational. After all, it wouldn’t be “faith” if it was rational, right? After all, anything’s possible with God, right? And their claim must be held sacrosanct, for it’s a terrible sin to interfere with another person’s faith. Besides, we have laws against intolerable behavior towards another person’s faith. That’s in the first amendment, right? The actual word is religion, and faith can mean that, too.

So what IS this thing called “faith” anyway? I believe that it’s the evidence of a life in Christ, which is natural, a life lived in the moment, absent the anger and resentments of the past and the fear and anxiety of the future. This is the subject of my newest unpublished book, Life on Life’s Terms: The Remarkable Secrets of People of the Moment. I feel so strongly about this that it has become a regular part of my study.

Common phrases like these all speak to faith as what one “believes”: “I’m believin’ for a miracle — I’m believin’ for a new purse — I’m believin’ it’ll all be over soon — I believe I’m goin’ to Heaven — I believe in her — I believe that chair will still be there, when I get back — Y’all better believe that was God! — She believed all her life.” Therefore, is this thing called “faith” about what we believe? Many Christian teachings lead to that conclusion. There’s Hebrews 11.1 “Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.” This entire chapter is a Biblical history lesson about faith, and the important thing to notice is that each involves an action.

There are many commentators with views on this subject. Here’s one:

The Bible says that faith gives substance to the things you hope for. In other words, faith brings those things into your life. … The basic definition of faith, according to the Bible, is simply believing in God’s goodness and believing that He rewards the people who seek after Him.

A lot of people would “Amen” such, but the Bible also teaches that belief isn’t faith unless it’s accompanied by some attached work or effort or assistance to the creation as a whole. Read James, people. What’s that you say? Luther called James ‘the epistle of straw’? It may be straw, but it’s still an Epistle, right? I mean, really. Who was Martin Luther anyway? I’m sorry. Nope. It’s not enough to just believe; one must be involved in some act associated with that belief in order to accurately call it faith.

This is best exemplified by an exchange between the disciples and Jesus found in Luke 17:5–10. It’s a familiar — but often misinterpreted — piece of scripture. It begins with the Disciples asking Jesus to “increase our faith.” This timeline follows the teachings in Matthew 18 about causing others to stumble. That’s important, because the disciples certainly didn’t wish to be in that category. Besides, they were human, and it’s reasonable to add a parenthetical phrase to their question (“Lord, increase our faith, so that we can do the things that you do”). Jesus understood their ego was involved in the question, so He responded with two parables.

The first was the mustard seed. “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Nowhere in the Greek text is there a reference to the size of the seed. Hence, a tiny amount of faith has nothing to do with the question. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Jesus says, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed…” He tells them the mustard seed has faith — absolute faith absent the ability to say no — and if they had similar faith, they could toss mountains and trees into the sea. However, this is followed immediately by the parable of the unprofitable servant, which tells them that even with such a power, they (we) are all still absolutely nothing in comparison to God. This is a giant stumbling block for many believers who think that all they need is a tiny bit of faith in order to move mountains or get to Heaven. Nonsense. It’s also a powerful reminder of the price we’ve all paid for the fall.

(I'm reminded of Joni Mitchell singing, "We've got to get ourselves back to the garden.")

So, now let’s return to the initial question, “If somebody else believed, who were we to question it?”

Can you see how easy it would be to plant a suggestion in the mind of that believer, and for them to run with it? Take the average person’s daily struggle to get by, aided by faith that it’ll all work out in the end, no matter what. The church promises to give them hope through fellowship with other believers in such a way that it internally validates this person’s beliefs. “I’m among others who believe,” is a comforting justification for going along with the group. Add to this the heresy that God wants his children to prosper in every way between the present and Heaven’s gate, and there’s little others can do — no matter how much love they give — to help this person understand the self-centered nature of their thinking.

This person — and a great many others just like them — needs to have their faith challenged, not embraced as fresh meat for the grinder of religion. Religion needs fresh meat, because every believer that dies of old age means a loss to that place of worship, especially in terms of resources.

Today, the church has been swept up in the same lies that the ego has been preaching for centuries, that the culture can be theirs, if they’ll only bow down and worship their own ability to pull it off.

These people believe THEIR faith is enough to view Donald Trump as King Cyrus from the Bible. Cyrus was a reprobate foreign king that God used to send the jews home after years of captivity, and these Christian groups who supported Trump believe that they could simply speak this preposterous comparison into existence. Such is the license granted to anyone who cites religion as their motivation to manipulate the public square. It doesn’t have to be true — in fact, in many ways it’s better that it not be true. It simply needs to be stated as a statement of faith, something they’ve been taught not to question.

The true extent of the evil in our presence today won’t be known for at least a generation, and it’s because this idea of “believing faith” has deep roots within my generation and older. I call on young people everywhere to challenge their own assumptions vis-à-vis what it means to be a person of faith. There is an incomparable hope to those people who live in the moment and surrender to life on life’s terms.

That’s what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

Can/will the Virus Open Eyes?

The deception that is Fox News grows more dangerous to our republic as time passes and more and more people are bathed in the lie that it is a news organization. It is warping our sense of unity and pitting American versus American at a scale that wasn’t even present during the Civil War. Add to this the omnipresence of so-called “conservative” commentators who mix news events with their propaganda, and we have a monster storm against “peace and good will” on this Easter weekend.

Well, Terry, but they’re no different than those on the other side of the aisle.

And this, my friends, is the essence of the lie. It’s perhaps too late to fix it, but let me explain.

The news doesn’t care about political affiliation. It is neutral in that sense, because it’s always based upon that which is “new.” If “new” drives the news agenda, “old” drives the conservative point-of-view. This was evident in Donald Trump’s Make America Great AGAIN slogan. We can’t go back as a culture, and everybody should know this, for to run with a perspective that pushes only the good from yesteryear without considering the alternate pressures that were also in play is foolishness gone-to-seed.

Political coverage is certainly a part of any “news” agenda, but only to the extent that news organizations can speak to new events or trends in informing their audiences. It’s very easy to accuse, but when the accusation is required to justify one’s own existence, it ceases to be relevant to the very concept of news. Simply stated, it’s just propaganda. Contemporary marketing is very often a form of propaganda, foisted upon us in the name of commerce. The same is true with conservative “olds”, and that’s the point.

If news organizations spent as much time trying to shape those thoughts as they are accused of doing, we would have left-wing propaganda groups sharing their views in the form of news. We don’t, and ANY attempt to shape a narrative that says otherwise is pure and self-serving folly. It’s simply absurd, so the argument that “both sides do it” is specious, at best. Survey any group of citizens, however, and this is exactly what they’ve been taught to believe, namely that the news industry’s players are either left or right. Nonsense, and I know, because I was there when we created the concept of “conservative news” in the early 1980s at the Christian Broadcasting Network. We wrote the playbook that Fox copied.

A key part of this effort was to position ourselves alongside existing news organizations and claim that a liberal bias was the same thing as liberal propaganda. Hence, we saw no problem with presenting our conservative propaganda as a participant on the same level as CBS, ABC, and NBC. We spent our money on technology and especially graphics to make ourselves look no different than the rest. We were selling this to an audience ripe for the taking by stating our abhorrence with what we felt was a satanic effort to destroy America.

Conservatism is not at all associated with the news except to provide a “side” to developing stories. News organizations have an ethical governor that demands presentation of all sides in any issue relating to political points of view. The organization itself has no political point-of-view, except perhaps from their editorial boards. As anybody who has worked in the news business knows, there is a vast separation between a news organization’s newsroom and its editorial side. But ownership is ownership, and there are plenty of stories of owner pet projects that find their way into the content presented.

The point is that the bias of news is towards that which is new, and if that is seen as political, the only response can be propaganda. It cannot be expressed as “news”, because that would require a bias towards something else. It also requires looking the other way when events — take, for example, the gender identification movement or political correctness — weaken or destroy its propaganda. Again, this is why we cannot use the term “news” in describing something that isn’t “news”.

I was ridiculed and mocked during a talk about this subject with a group of Colorado right-wingers. When it got too uncomfortable for them, they retreated to the gospel to end the discussion. Open minds, these were not. I knew that going in, but the overwhelming and defensive response revealed that the matter is far more important to their worldview than most observers really imagine. Why else use the Bible to talk back to me, the former Executive Producer of the TV program that created the thing in the first place?

This is why I often reference religion in my writing. White evangelical Christians are completely convinced of their righteousness in this or any other argument.

Methinks they doth protest too much.