Chapter One of my new book

As political events began to take shape last year in the U.S. and specifically with the candidacy of Donald Trump, I began gathering all of the documents from my days as Pat Robertson’s producer in the 1980s. I could sense what was happening and felt a sense of responsibility for at least some of it, for as producer of The 700 Club, I had played a key role in our efforts to influence Republican Party politics. I began writing my story – the story of How Jesus Joined The GOP. The book is about to be published, but the need to get at least some of the information into the public debate right now is great. Hence, I’m publishing Chapter One here today for your perusal.

Chapter One: The Seeds of Modern Discontent

If I must publish the whole book online, I’ll do it, for the people addicted to Donald Trump are ushering in something they really don’t understand. Trump supporters represent a serious and significant threat to freedom, and the sad thing is that most of these people formed the core of our audience target back in the early 80s. The fears they express were planted by us, and while I’m not saying it was insincere, cynical, or corrupt, I am stating that it was a deliberate attempt at social engineering. People need to know this, for we preached what I’m calling “the gospel of self.”

I hope you will take the time to read this, and that you will share it with your friends.

Donald Trump and the melting pot

memorial-day-2016One of the most profound cultural changes in the United States during my lifetime is the ongoing shift in the governing metaphor from a melting pot to a multicultural tapestry. Immigrant populations are generally grouped by marketing demographic lingo or self-identify as hyphenated residents. White people are thought to be the only “group” that still identifies with the term “American.” In the tapestry metaphor, perhaps whites are a common thread that holds the others in place. Nevertheless, the cloth is constantly morphing in color and pattern, and perhaps that’s one of its beauties – a freshness that’s determined by its ever-evolving threads.

The Washington Post studied this in 1998, and I’ve kept one of those articles in my bookmarks for reference. Let’s just say that almost twenty years later, the prophecies contained here are coming to pass, including the reality of dual economies. This was a profoundly important newspaper series, and I wish they would repeat it, for it’s at the very heart of the Trump phenomenon that everyone is clamoring to understand.

”The Ozzies and Harriets of the 1990s are skipping the suburbs of the big cities and moving to more homogeneous, mostly white smaller towns and smaller cities and rural areas,” (University of Michigan demographer William) Frey said…

…Frey sees in this pattern “the emergence of separate Americas, one white and middle-aged, less urban and another intensely urban, young, multicultural and multiethnic. One America will care deeply about English as the official language and about preserving Social Security. The other will care about things like retaining affirmative action and bilingual education.”

…the persistance (sic) of ethnic enclaves and identification does not appear to be going away, and may not in a country that is now home to not a few distinct ethnic groups, but to dozens…

…For the affluent, which includes a disproportionate number of whites, the large labor pool provides them with a ready supply of gardeners, maids and nannies. For businesses in need of cheap manpower, the same is true. Yet there are fewer “transitional” jobs – the blue-collar work that helped Italian and Irish immigrants move up the economic ladder – to help newcomers or their children on their way to the jobs requiring advanced technical or professional skills that now dominate the upper tier of the economy…

…Though there are calls to revive efforts to encourage “Americanization” of the newcomers, many researchers now express doubt that the old assimilation model works…

…Many immigrant parents say that while they want their children to advance economically in their new country, they do not want them to become “too American.”

Donald Trump’s followers are clamoring for a return to the days when the melting pot was the governing metaphor. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is a signal to anybody listening that the tapestry hasn’t worked, isn’t working, and won’t ever work. In this sense, Donald Trump is a very mainstream candidate for President, because this message resonates so clearly with those who long for a country that promised equality through assimilation. American media, however – who long ago crossed the bridge into multiculturalism – keep badly missing it in trying to figure out what drives Trump loyalists. While it may be correct that the vast majority of Trump supporters are white, this conclusion distorts reality by moving it into a racial discussion. The melting pot, to the press, is by now a deviant thought in today’s culture and therefore is not to be considered for coverage except within Daniel Hallin’s outermost sphere. This is the fault and problem of the press and not of concern whatsoever to Mr. Trump, who keeps speaking past their filters (something pioneered by Ronald Reagan) and directly to those who self-identify as “Americans.”

trumptacobowlTake the case of his tweeted picture on Cinco de Mayo. It featured Mr. Trump eating a taco bowl and proclaiming his love for Hispanic people due to their food. This was greeted as tasteless, crude, and racist from the press but is a perfectly logical proclamation from the “American” perspective, because the melting pot is viewed as better for having Mexican food added to it. This perspective is not necessarily dismissive, for the same could be said of foods from Italy, Ireland, or China. Assimilation is what’s on trial with Donald Trump. It seems ignorant to most, because we crossed the bridge to the tapestry metaphor long ago.

Let’s think about this on Memorial Day, because the flag with which we decorate the graves of brave men and women who gave their lives for our freedom is symbolic to plain “Americans” in a way that’s different than those who identify as a hyphenated minority. No single view has to be right or wrong here; just different, and that’s all right. For all the criticism the melting pot has received, we simply cannot ignore the history of its great strength, for those very soldiers we celebrate today sacrificed everything for it, and we could not have survived two world wars without it. It makes me wonder how well we’d do with such today.

Melting pot or tapestry, we’re still individual parts of a whole, and we need to move that to the front burner as our cultural civil war rages on. If Donald Trump forces us to consider it and talk about it, then the madness that is our presidential campaign in 2016 will have been worth it.

Our neverending civil war

Let’s look at the Donald Trump phenomenon through a slightly different lens, shall we?

I’ve often written in describing postmodernism that horizontal connectivity makes impossible many axioms of modernity, and one of the most disruptive is that “in war, the victor gets to write the history.” As long as leaders are able to control the narrative, this is a fairly easy proposition. The American narrative, for example, is THE history of Pearl Harbor, unless you find yourself on a Japanese tour boat at the Honolulu memorial. There are thousands of other examples. The postmodern point is that the ability of people to cross formerly limited boundaries today makes controlling the narrative harder and harder. I view this as a good thing for humanity.


Take a moment to read this leaflet.

So let’s have a wee bit of fun with the idea of horizontal connectivity in the wake of the Civil War. American History wasn’t very kind to the Confederacy, and that remains the conventional narrative today. When the Union won, the north simply turned the page. After all, their position was judged “correct,” because they controlled the narrative as victors. Over time, however, the assumption of rightness takes its toll on intellect, because there is no controversy associated with their story. Hence, nobody argues, and so it goes.

But what about the people of the Confederate states? To them, edicts that came down from the Union – even generations later – do not carry the same weight, and it’s easy to imagine Facebook exchanges among the varying perspectives. A great many of the “defriendings” that take place in our little adventure are over these fundamental disagreements. Meanwhile, the positions of each side are solidified, as each group validates itself through common beliefs. In the South, no amount of righteous indignation from northerners is going to alter a core belief that “the South shall rise again.” The people may go along with what’s foisted upon them legally, but they’ll always do so reluctantly and teach their progeny what’s actually “right.”

You can see this being played out globally today, and it’s only just begun.

It’s like the boy who’s being punished by his father. “Sit down,” the old man screams, but the boy just stands there. Again, he shouts, “I said sit down!” The boy still refuses, so the father grabs him by the shoulders and forces him into the chair, to which the boy responds, “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”

During all of this, the press assumes a position of recording history after the war, which includes the narrative of the victor. They fall into the trap of assumption that events that unfold in the wake of “victory” are natural and uncontroversial, and so opposite views become increasingly deviant and unnecessary points of view in reporting “the truth.” This is the case whether speaking of the Civil War or culture wars, which, by the way, are always started by the silk stockings, those who suffer from the deadly and relentless fear that they won’t get what they think they deserve or that someone is going to take away what they already have (See Stephen Prothero’s new book “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections).”

Fast forward to today where we find a vast army of people who’ve been sitting down on the outside while watching the things they hold dear destroyed by the natural assumptions of those who’ve won the culture wars and controlled everything for too long. Their jobs and consequent lifestyles have disappeared. Their faith is ridiculed. They don’t like what their kids are being taught. They don’t feel safe in any real sense of the word. They hear the judgments of their ancestors from the teachings they were given long ago. They’re filled with rage against things outside their control and feel they’ve been enslaved by those with the power to dismiss them and diminish their humanity. They witness the unchallenged complaints of those who march along the assumptive narrative’s path and get all the news coverage. The tyranny of the minority opinion is given free reign – the war over “rights” no matter how far removed from their core beliefs – which produces even more rage over being taken for granted, because the enemy narrative continues to move farther and farther away from everything they know. Their suffering – and it is very real – is irrelevant, because it is judged deviant with regards to the developing history.

In the above light it’s easy to grasp the enormity of the gap between both sides and the intellectual void in those attempting to understand the support for the candidacy of Donald Trump. Over the past year, I’ve watched as he was dismissed by literally every professional observer and journalist, because they’ve lived for so long on the narrative’s path that they’re completely unaware of this other America. Moreover, they’ve been taught and trained that people follow candidates when, in Trump’s case, it’s the exact opposite. The people following Trump are actually leading him, and that’s what makes the whole thing so interesting. They hear in Mr. Trump their own voices, and that’s new for them. It’s not about political party; it’s about deviance standing up and saying, “You WILL listen to me!”

The chorus of groans from the “normal” world is growing louder, and threats by people to leave the country if Mr. Trump is elected have taken on an aura of seriousness since his nomination now seems likely. The press continues to grasp at straws in a vain attempt to get their arms around what they disparagingly view as the absurd. The most common press narrative the past few days has been that a Trump/Clinton campaign will be one of extremes, and that is likely quite fine with Mr. Trump.

I don’t view this as apocalyptic whatsoever, because the union has been fractured for a very long time. It’s simply that it’s dismissed, not discussed, and it has to be on the table before the light of examination can produce anything other than division. In the end, we will be stronger for it. Some think it’s all about education, and I agree. My view, however, is that everybody needs to be educated, not just those whose views are held as ignorant.

Nobody wins culture wars. Not really. It is the scent of victory that produces change, not victory itself, and even then, the subsequent narrative cannot be held as universal.

We aren’t nearly as advanced as we claim.

The prosperity gospel mess

money2smAuthor and historian Kate Bowler has penned a deeply touching, personal, and provocative look at what’s called “the prosperity gospel” – a twentieth century Christian heresy positing that a better, more prosperous life is available through faith. Based on her book Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, the New York Times article covers this controversial topic with powerful accuracy through the telling of her own story. Ms. Bowler has stage 4 cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good.

There’s so much to like about this article, but here’s the money paragraph to me:

The prosperity gospel tries to solve the riddle of human suffering. It is an explanation for the problem of evil. It provides an answer to the question: Why me?…The prosperity gospel popularized a Christian explanation for why some people make it and some do not. They revolutionized prayer as an instrument for getting God always to say “yes.” It offers people a guarantee: Follow these rules, and God will reward you, heal you, restore you…My world is conspiring to make me believe that I am special, that I am the exception whose character will save me from the grisly predictions and the CT scans in my inbox. I am blessed.

I address this issue head on in my forthcoming book, How Jesus Joined The GOP. Here’s one particularly distressful story:

Unfortunately, the relentless emphasis on a God that was “always” healing had a very dark downside, and that was with those viewers were never were healed and had no explanation. I got a letter late in my first season with the ministry, and it was one of the factors in my decision to leave in 1986 as Pat was beginning his run for President. It came from a father in Indiana. He and his family were members of a faith church and regularly watched The 700 Club. He ripped into me for producing a program that always showed people getting healed, because his 9-year old daughter had just succumbed to cancer. “Worse,” he wrote, “than the agony of her suffering with the cancer towards the end, was the rejection she felt from God, because He wouldn’t heal her.”

“She watched your program every day,” he went on, “and was ever full of faith that she would be healed based on the stories you showed. In the end, she felt an abandonment and rejection like few have ever known, and she cried constantly in shame that God didn’t love her, because He was letting her die.”

“She came to this belief by watching The 700 Club,” he concluded, “and I will never forgive you for that.”

This letter affected me deeply. I cried not only alone but also with others over what this little girl had suffered, and while we all could come up with justifications, we knew that the father was right. To this day, I pray for that little girl and her family and beg forgiveness for playing a role in what she went through.

Fortunately, these kinds of letters weren’t commonplace, but the fear that we were manipulating people into believer status by bending the truth of miracles in such a way was omnipresent, not only for me but also for others on the staff who were in the trenches trying to deliver the sometimes-merciless demands of our leader. We spoke of immutable spiritual “laws” of God’s kingdom that people “should” follow to be in sync with God’s will. We read Answer to Prayer forms live on the air without vetting anything. This further advanced the narrative that God was moving mightily among us, as we invited viewers in to experience it with us. The lines we regularly blurred were trouble to many of us, but we didn’t speak. We dared not, for the benefits of participation in what we were taught to believe was happening outweighed the possibilities that we were actually doing people harm.

This is such an important issue for understanding how certain voters can set aside reason in their political and social choices. It’s not (necessarily) the lack of intelligence; it’s a form of conditioning that flows from the pulpits of their houses of worship. In order to change minds, one must begin and end with their faith, which is impossible for secular media types who seem unable to look beyond the surface.

I’m so sorry that Ms. Bowler has to go through the suffering of cancer, and I hope you’ll take the time to read her important story.

Fearful citizens make good citizens

CowerNew research is shedding light on something we’ve all suspected for a long time, that those who believe in a God who will punish them if they don’t, tend to give more to others and be better citizens. The study, published yesterday in Nature, suggests that even geographic separation doesn’t stand in the way, as long as the givers believe in a punishing God.

“People may trust in, cooperate with and interact fairly within wider social circles, partly because they believe that knowing gods will punish them if they do not,” the study’s authors wrote.

“Moreover, the social radius within which people are willing to engage in behaviors that benefit others at a cost to themselves may enlarge as gods’ powers to monitor and punish increase.”

In a report on the study, Discovery News, noted that participants played a game during which they made critical decisions about giving. According to Discovery, the study’s lead author Benjamin Purzycki said the results suggested people of the belief that one’s actions are monitored, judged and punished by a deity were more likely to play fair than to play favorites.

This shouldn’t shock anyone, for it is the key social management tool of colonialism, the modern era’s weapon in seizing control of foreign lands and claiming the land, its natural resources, and its inhabitants for the good of the invaders. The idea that reforming the natives was in the natives’ best interests worked hand-in-hand with the business goals and ideals of the conquerers, and this is a truth we’re beginning to discover in the postmodern deconstruction of history.

It’s also why religious evangelicalism, regardless of the religion being evangelized, is first a governing strategy, much in the way that Santa Claus is used to govern the behavior of certain children. As I cover in my forthcoming book, How Jesus Joined The GOP, the need to convert others is self-serving, if the benefit to the converter is a future reward.

Christianity was a big part of the internal governor that helped form the United States. It will be a big part of my focus as The Pomo Blog shifts gears from media to religion.

A great spiritual awakening, postmodern style

Trying to get above or ahead of the public fray about religion in order to make any cultural sense of things is a bit like trying to unscrew a flat head with a Phillips head. As institutions go, this one is a mangled glob of disconnected hierarchies each claiming the high ground from which one can see forever. This is also an apt description for the further tangled wires of individual religions, for each sect within these wholes strives for placement above the rest. It’s the most interesting of all of the worlds that make up Western civilization (and beyond, of course), because it involves hard core beliefs and behaviors that form an expanding circle of influence governing the lives of individual people, families, communities, regions, states, countries and even the world itself.

We all have a religion, even those who claim no religion, for even the tenets of atheism require faith. As David Dark writes in his new book, Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, “If what we believe is what we see is what we do is who we are, there’s no getting away from religion.”

The question I’m going to be exploring in the months and years ahead is where is religion headed and what will it look like in a postmodern world? Since my roots and background are Christianity, the Christian faith will likely be my primary focus. The cultural and intellectual crossover experiences I’ve had, however, tend to provide observations from outside the box of Christianity itself. Consequently, what I’ll be writing will come from a more inclusive window on the world. I realize that even in saying that, I’m opening myself up to criticism from those firmly inside that box, so you’ll likely find me drifting in and out. I’ll be criticized as undisciplined, but I’m ready for all of that.

This may baffle some, but welcome to the mystery of chaos. I hope to shed light on the chaos of postmodernism, too.

In my forthcoming book, How Jesus Joined The GOP, I make the case that the people who scare me the most today are those who refuse to venture outside that box, and I’m not talking about leaders. It’s the foot soldiers of the political right in their “Christian battle” that frighten me most, because they have no incentive to listen, and listening is THE most important skill in today’s networked world. They’re generally too busy talking. Such people are on a collision course with deconstructionists, many of whom came from their midst, and this will not end well. It is however quite inevitable, for the very structure of that connectivity will continue to place ongoing and relentless pressure on those who are incapable of or refuse to deconstruct themselves. The process of clicking on a link for further elucidation is, in fact, an exercise in deconstructionism. Families will be torn apart over this, and the young will speak a language entirely foreign to their elders, and it won’t be rock-n-roll.

There’s no going back, and even the appearance of standing still is illusionary.

Christians who look to tradition only will find themselves caught in this crucible and will have to make decisions that will impact everyone in their tribes of influence. Choosing to stand one’s ground will seem noble at first, led by those who’ll quote persecution scriptures and antiChrist warnings. Convinced that God will protect them FROM all of this, they will be shocked to later learn that God was actually leading this all along. They will also be surprised to discover that the spiritual awakening for which they’ve been praying for so long has actually taken place without them.

One thing is certain: postmodernism isn’t a passing fad or work of the devil. It’s the passing away of the flaws and fallacies of modernity and the opening of the cultural era that will govern Western civilization for a very long time. Just as the printing press struck at the heart of the church’s authority in the fifteenth century, so the internet is disrupting the authority of the hierarchies of modernism. Colonialism is a relic that belongs on the dust pile of history along with the form of Christian evangelicalism that accompanied it, and the funeral service has been underway already for many years.

I’m sure this sounds dark and spooky to many readers, but it’s actually a time of great rejoicing. God isn’t dead; God is Life, so that’s ridiculous. And for millions of people, there IS an awakening underway of Biblical proportions. It doesn’t resemble anything of the past, thank God.

I’ll be writing about that awakening, and I may be clumsy in so doing. Please be patient and don’t be afraid to join in the discussion.