Google News Presents Two Equal Realities (But Only One Of Them Can Be Real)

Here, Fox displays a small truth as something sinister. Unfortunately, the New York Times also didn’t get called on, so there goes the conspiracy theory.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to get above the fray in order to see what’s happening around you. So, let’s do that today, as we look at the continued failure of our culture to stop the nonsense emanating from what’s known as Fox News.

Never has the division between the haves and the have-nots been so large and so crystal clear as it is today in the United States. The silk stocking Republican elites seek absolute license when it comes to profiting off the labor of others, while the have-nots argue on behalf of themselves and their families, many of whom are at or below the poverty level. One seeks avarice; the other wants to feed their families. It’s the most visible depiction we have of the hierarchy that runs the country from the shadows.

However, the ideological meshing of working class people with the silk stockings is necessary for the Republican Party to win elections. It’s because the real matter of profit drives only business owners, but ideology can move masses, with the key conservative ideologies today being abortion, school prayer, religious freedom, and gender. This is not by accident. These people can be convinced to side with even their own oppressors in fighting what they believe to be sin. This group, we’ve learned, is easy to manipulate in the name of ideology, but let’s always remember that the party’s primary aim is license for business practices that lead to profit. That will NEVER change.

And let’s never forget January 6, 2021, for it revealed the end game of all this manipulation.

A lot of people think that right-wing Supreme Court justices are chosen by their views on abortion, but the truth is that the real litmus test for the high court is their views on business and government. So, no matter how loudly any Republican is screaming about morality, it’s a straw man shield against talking about their self-centered values, because those values are most certainly not about you and me.

The silk stocking’s wants and needs are the real issues as we try to make sense of politics — and especially media — in the months after Trump. Trump was all business, all the time. His transparent business bias, visible through his lies about anything and anyone in opposition, was rejected by the electorate last November. America is in a state of recovery now, but those lies are finding traction through the lens of so-called right-wing media, namely Fox News.

The problem is that these propaganda arms of the GOP are finding a strange form of equality with traditional media companies even though they present another reality altogether. The last time I looked, there was only one reality, so this is a bit more than problematic.

Google News, that massive news aggregator presenting an overview of important, link-worthy stories 24/7, does a massive and destructive disservice to humanity by including Fox News in its aggregator. As I noted in my book The Gospel of Self, Fox isn’t really a news organization. Just as we weren’t at The 700 Club back in the 80s, Fox is a propaganda platform for the extreme Right. Nobody seems to argue with this, but it’s very difficult to find anybody who’s actually fighting against its participation with the form of the press that has served our democracy well since the beginning. You know, the press that’s protected by our First Amendment.

The Washington Post recently offered an opinion piece with the headline: “Fox News would be in trouble without ‘actual malice’ standard.” The article references the legal defense of the press that one offended in the press must prove actual malice and not merely the presence of the offensive item in the press. It is very difficult — and deliberately so — to sue the press over libel and slander and win.

The problem with this premise is that Fox — as a propaganda arm of the Republican Party — doesn’t qualify for the standard. It is not and doesn’t even try to be a member of the press. Therefore, it is not afforded the same rights and privileges granted the press. You can’t claim to be one and then behave in a manner that says otherwise. The Fox narrative assumes that the press is the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party, which is arguably false. Nevertheless, this is foundational stuff, and their “news gathering” process is based on it.

The issues with our Southern Border are referenced by Fox as “The Biden Border Crisis.” See what I mean?

They’re treating Biden and the Democrats as they view the mainstream press treated Trump and Republicans when he was in office. Let me repeat that. Fox is treating Biden and the Democrats as they view the mainstream press treated Trump and Republicans when he was in office. This is an extreme version of false equivalency. For example, the mainstream press noted that Trump had trouble walking down ramps, so Fox makes a HUGE deal out of Biden slipping on the steps of Air Force One. It was their lead story, for crying out loud. The assertion in this false equivalence is that Biden is weak and frail (and out of touch). Anything that they view as a mainstream news political strategy (there’s no such thing) presented while Trump was in office, they are applying to Biden and the Democrats. And this is deliberate, for the worldview they espouse is one in which north is south and light is dark.

Fox and its clones are hammering Democrats over border issues left after years of fence-building bravado from the right. The assertion here is that the border is a HUGE problem that Republicans got right and Democrats have wrong. This storyline will continue for the foreseeable future. But, here’s the thing. We don’t ever talk about why the right hates immigrants. The GOP wants immigrants out, because when they are assimilated into our culture, they vote for Democrats, so the reality is that this is actually a strategy of voter manipulation. Georgia’s Republican governor signed into law a bill last week that was designed from the get-go to make it more difficult for the black population to vote. GOP leaders know they can’t win elections without help, which has been the core motivation for gerrymandering throughout our voting history.

And, let’s face it, as long as the white folks refuse to do the crummier jobs in our culture, immigrants will more than serve our society as a whole. It’s always been that way, folks.

But the drumbeat from the right is steady and strong:

  • Democrats are the socialist enemy
  • The media is liberal politically
  • The press is the enemy of the people
  • Liberals are the enemy of the people
  • Socialists are the enemy of the people
  • In politics, everybody does the same things
  • Pro-choice is pro-abortion
  • Anti religious freedom is anti-God
  • Evangelicalism is the true Christianity
  • Capitalism is the true provider of America’s greatness
  • The New World Order is anti-American

Here’s a statement that comes up in “discussions” with extreme right-wingers. “Obama got a free pass from the press (because they’re liberal).” Actually, this is quite absurd, because it assumes Rush Limbaugh’s fallacious narrative is truth, and it’s just not. Obama’s disdain for Fox News was explained in a FactCheck.org article that fact-checked the complaint.

Anita Dunn, who was then the White House director of communications, told the New York Times in an interview on Oct. 11, 2009, that Fox News was not a legitimate news organization.

“We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” Dunn told the Times. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

She also said, when asked about snubbing “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, “we’re not going to legitimize them as a news organization.”

This is the “fray” of which I wrote that we must rise above. We must view every daily drumbeat through this reality, and it’s doubly difficult due to the symbiotic relationship between the news and the business community. Simply put, you don’t see a lot of news investigations of car dealerships, right? Car dealers are BIG local advertisers, and news entities in their markets can’t afford to lose all that revenue. Practicality, it would seem, wins out in the end, and the hell with ethics.

It’s bad but not nearly as bad as deliberately presenting falsehood as news in order to manipulate consumers (and voters). How far are you willing to go in trusting anybody who spins the news for profit?

I view this as a huge question, because the generation after me will have to deal with the results.

The Saints Who Vote For the Likes of Donald Trump

There’ve been many reasons cited over the last few years as to why a certain large, right-wing political sect of the Christian religion voted for an undeniable reprobate in 2016. Permit me to deconstruct what I feel is the most causal of all the issues they claim to face, one that forces their hand to vote Republican as faithful Christians.

Most observers look at the Christian political right today, self included, and conclude that the only logical reason for their vote is that they’re being deceived and manipulated. Why else, the thinking goes, would people who worship Jesus Christ align themselves with those who reject the poor, the outcast, the sojourner, or the immigrant. Surely, according to Scripture, these suffering people are close to the Lord’s heart, so it’s hard to understand why any Christians would reject such people.

Why would, how could they turn their backs on the poor the way they have with Trump? It’s not that they’re anti-poor as much as they are anti-government involvement in poverty. They didn’t require a hand-out, they believe, because they were following the Biblical mandate to care for themselves and their own. In their view, the community and the church are responsible for the job of helping the poor, not the government, and that there’s a proper response and an improper response.

The white working poor especially feel themselves better than those who don’t or, as they see it, won’t work to better themselves. To feel otherwise would completely invalidate their own experiences, and that is intolerable to those who’ve bet their lives — and the lives of their families — on the opposite.

In the same way, their beliefs about the importance of family in such matters as taking care of our own are likewise validated by such an extreme position, and to support the opposite would be spiritual suicide. Add this to the statistical reality that black people are disproportionately represented among the poor, and racism is all that’s left. The fear that poverty will rub off on them unless they internally fight against it is a powerful motivator for this Christian sect.

So, their Bible looks past all the admonitions to care for the poor in the name of protecting themselves from what they view as a threat of the devil in their daily comings and goings. And, remarkably, they dismiss social programs designed to do the job as being “anti-family,” because social programs weaken the family unit by taking away their need to strive against lazy self-interest like they themselves once did. They want the pride they feel in this accomplishment to be made available to the poor who wish to work. Poverty, in this sense, is acceptable if a man is trying to take care of his own. These, the church will support.

And so, they’ve taken up war against their own potential poverty by taking the position that God is their provider, not a political system, and that the church is their most significant ally in the conflict. It’s quite ironic therefore that, in railing against such governmental poverty efforts, they find themselves also in the unseemly position of piling on efforts to “make” the poor do some sort of work.

Meanwhile, the extreme wealthy look on and smile.

Unfortunately for them — and fortunately for us — God judges His people on how well they treat these other ones. They can rail against this or that, but God judges those who are supposed to know Him, not those who don’t, so when we look around and find chaos, we must conclude that we’re doing something wrong. The responsibility falls on us. We don’t think so, because God helps those who help themselves, right?

This is the road to perdition, not the path to Heaven, whether that’s in this life or beyond.

It’s on display fully in the response of White Evangelical leaders to the election of Joe Biden, a man they’re convinced will use Federal programs to support the poor, because in that way, the poor will always vote for left-wing (read: socialist) candidates. This is the view of those “pro-family” Christians who will do anything to push their tax money away from such use. After all, they cannot allow themselves to be party to such anti-family, anti-Republican affairs.

Witness the reaction of Megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. He’s been one of Trump’s most ardent Christian supporters, a regular visitor to the White House, and a key member of Trump’s evangelical advisory group. In an opinion piece for Fox News last week, he called Joe Biden’s win a “bitter pill to swallow” but went on to tell his followers to “pray fervently’ for the President-Elect.”

But here’s his most important remark: “President Trump’s strong policies on life and religious liberty would have seemed, from our vantage point, to be a better path for our country’s future.”

That’s right. Jeffress said this with a straight face, completely ignoring the truth of the past four years in his dreams for a more Christian nation downstream. He can wait, as other leaders of the Christian Nationalism movement appear ready to do, too. They have all the necessary tax-deductible machinery in place; it’s just a matter of finding another candidate for 2024, even if that candidate is Donald Trump again.

Here “religious liberty” means “religious license” to discriminate based on this fear that the life of the flesh is corrupt and best kept at a distance from God’s people. Almost everything we consider “progressive” is judged to be the opposite, which means anti-faith, and this is then elevated to a level of importance just below God in their lives.

What good is knowing God, the reasoning goes, if there’s not a reward for so doing? To these Christians, that reward equals blessings in this life and beyond. They believe theirs is a righteous calling, and they’re taught that holding on to such beliefs is cause for ridicule, misunderstanding, and persecution from the world.

And so, they feel they are fighting against the devil himself, one who is trying to lure them away from the safe harbor they’ve found with their faith, each other, and the church overall.

To me, this is how the extreme wealthy are able to manipulate their mass into a voting block that actually works against their own real interests in favor of a pathological fantasy that they dare not let go of, one that represents their passionate belief that tax monies collected should not be spent on social problems, only those that support their idea of faith and family. Sometimes, it’s actually against their best interests, but they vote so anyway, because it’s their sacred duty to present their view of reality as THE cultural solution we all seek.

We cannot justify it, but we can understand it. And, we need to understand it, so that we can talk to them from the right perspective.

We’ve got four years to figure it out.

Dear Christian “Winners”

(Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

I’m sorry, but this is necessarily a little harsh.

You’ve won your Supreme Court Justice, and you must be feeling pretty good about that. After all, it’s just another indicator of how your interpretation was right, and God was at work in an unrighteous king to turn what was evil into good on your behalf. You can comfort yourselves now in saying, “Now at least we might be able to find some mercy for those poor babies being murdered, even when they’re late term and viable.”

Ah yes. The babies.

You finally can rest assured after this that the Republicans have your best interests at heart and will fight with you on social issues such as gender equality, sexual sins, pornography, and that catch-all, religious freedom. Surely God is at work to relieve our nation of the sin and moral decay of the modern age. Right?

All you have to do is their bidding, and what’s a little subjugation to the rich in the name of advancing the gospel? What could possibly go wrong?

You cry for religious liberty and then use that liberty to do the most irreligious things, especially as it relates to pleading the cause of the poor and the afflicted. What does God think about that?

Yours is a simple narrative that presents yourselves as the people of Zion under the yoke of Jehovah with Jesus Christ as your mediator. With Him on your side, all you have to do is plot a precise course towards eternity in Heaven, color within the lines of life, and recruit others for the cause. That’s it. That’s the deal.

I get it. It seems so real, because it’s based on thousands of years of history and 500+ years of “the just shall live by faith.” There’s also wonderful emotions that accompany the certainty of salvation, a giddiness that comes with the idea that you’ve joined the right tribe, the one that’s going to be with each other for all eternity in the ultimate land of milk and honey.

It’s something you want for your children, too, for you surely wish to be with them in the afterlife. After all, what’s the point of living absent winning-in-the-end as your ultimate purpose? My goodness. Of course, we want to protect our kids from the evil of this life by guaranteeing that at least we’ll see them again, safe and sound in Heaven. I mean, what’s a little suffering here, if that’s your bargain? Right?

Turns out, however, that your bargain is Faustian, that you’ve walked into a trap that isn’t going to end the way you think it will, that by denying Heaven in the here and now, you are ill-prepared for what’s to come, that by forcing yourselves on others — just as you did in 2016 — you’ve swapped your faith for political action, that God expects you to work out your difficulties with the culture via political means, which means you must surrender your tax exemption.

Heed well the story of the sons of Seth, who dabbled with the sin of worldliness only to discover they could not return to the Holy Mountain in the wake of having done so.

Your vast cathedrals shout “prosperity” for all who enter, assuming you behave yourself and do what your leaders tell you to do. Your prophets fly around in private jets and vacation in places that the rich and famous frequent. They rub their elbows with worldly leaders in the hope that some of what they have will rub off on their “ministries”. They preach that the only healthy congregation is one that prospers in all ways. Those Bentleys you see in the parking lot every Sunday morning remind you that this is the real prize of yoking yourselves with them.

And for God’s sake, stay the hell away from the poor and the afflicted! God forbid any of that should rub off on you or worse, your family. Let “them” not invade your peaceful neighborhood, for surely the blight they bring with them WILL rub off on you.

This is why you cannot abide the idea that abortion is legal. You think God is more concerned with the unborn than the born, but you’re really just protesting the idea that life includes poverty, oppression, racial discord, and, of course, the taking away of your right to defend yourself against such.

And now you have what you’ve demanded. That 6–3 majority means you can breathe easier as you go about your lives. So what if the mammon hoarders are calling the shots? They’re the good guys, right? And maybe, just maybe, God will bless you in kind.

What if, instead, God is saying, “What have you done?” What if He’s more concerned with what you haven’t done, with those very poor and afflicted you wish to avoid? What if He holds YOU responsible for trusting in the political process more than Him? What if He is bearing the shame of your actions as He wraps His arms around the very people you’ve shunned?What if He is judging the church right now, not the culture? After all, judgment begins at the house of God.

And now that you’ve turned to the world to get what you’ve wanted, here’s the thing about all of that:

Which would you rather have, your political clout or your tax exemption, because in this country, you can’t have both and claim the First Amendment as justification. So which one would you rather have, because I promise that those of us who have eyes to see are going to demand your tax exemptions, if you don’t repent and turn from your wicked ways. Just imagine the outcry from the haves, those who manipulated you into worshipping a demon unawares. You have a lot of explaining to do.

And, I can also promise that God is telling you the same thing.

Sorry, not sorry for the umbrage.

New Final Chapter From My Book

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

PAT ROBERTSON TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Raise Your Hand If You’re Going To Heaven

Golf’s attraction for the rich isn’t merely the game

Private Country Club life is an important part of the American aristocracy, and not merely because they enjoy the game. Private clubs especially shield their members from those whom they deem unwanted, primarily over what happens after the rounds of golf, where privacy affords these mostly white, older men the opportunity to discuss maintaining their control over the masses in order to produce wealth for themselves.

They are very well-connected and serve their own best interests.

They are the Inner Ring of C.S. Lewis and the Shadow Network of Anne Nelson. They are the puppeteers of Edward Bernays and the invisible government made possible through his innovative propaganda.

They have their reward in this life, and as Jesus taught us, it’s harder for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than even shoving a rope through a needle’s eye. To them, the salvation of believers is made to order for their manipulation, because with eyes focused on their promised Christian afterlife, the things of this life don’t really matter so much. Christian believers, then, assert that their future is set and promised, which excuses any sort of behavior in the name of saving the lost.

Heaven, therefore, is the ultimate Inner Ring, which fills church halls with, “Thank God, I made it!” The hugs, the handshakes, the joyful dancing in the aisles, the lifting of the hands, the emotional worship, the altar calls, the music, all of it flows from their spirits to themselves and those around them in a relentless expression of “I’m going to Heaven.”

Dante’s Inferno begins thusly:

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost.

‘Lest we find ourselves in Dante’s dark woods, let us heed the warnings of the Good Book about liars and thieves among us.

I may not be able to lose my salvation, but I can give it away. Free will, you know. Why would I do that? Because the devil is a liar and the father of all lies. What greater deception is there than to rest on one’s laurels, confident in our belief that we’re going to Heaven?

He is THE wolf in sheep’s clothing, so his evil intent is hidden from us.

I am saved, and I am free, but I’m not called to use my freedom to right the wrongs of the world under the sun. I’m given grace in the first place to safely ride out those storms, not to try and control them.

And this is how I lose myself amidst the shadows of Dante’s dark woods.

Until politically active Christian people (almost entirely white) can recognize and admit their role in all this, we’re going to have to deal with the fall-out. God’s judgment is upon us, but that judgment is reserved first for those who are called by His name. This is the great mystery to me. How can believers honestly think this way? Here’s an inconvenient little piece of scripture that contemporary Christians apparently don’t have to read:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:1-5

We all know the teachings of Jesus at the end of Matthew 25. He’s talking with the disciples before he is arrested and sentenced to die on the cross. As usual, the disciples want his insight on the end of all things under the sun.

This section of the Bible is highly relevant to today, for He speaks of who on earth will be invited into heaven and who will enter the fire. The dividing line is simple; it rests entirely on how each have treated their neighbors. Listen and be afraid, for there are elements among us today who skip this teaching in the name of advancing a political agenda.

"‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We need to be careful today in casting our lot with those who tickle our ears with the prosperity that takes from the very people Jesus mentioned in this sermon. Despite what others are telling us, we need to stand with Jesus in how we deal with our neighbors, for ethnicity and legal status don’t matter at all.

Christians today don’t want to assimilate with a culture they see as corrupt and secular and non-white. Hence, the mistaken belief that they are supposed to fix it politically or “Come out from among them and be ye separate.” This would be fine, if it didn’t bleed over into every nook and cranny of the culture, especially with those who don’t believe the same things.

"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." Proverbs 6:16-19

The mistake of the white evangelicals is the insistence that God’s Word speaks to the culture and not the church. It eliminates the need for self-examination, that God’s judgment begins at the house of God.

The betrayal of the church in these days is leading their flocks to despise and reject their neighbors in the interest of ultimate self-protection in the afterlife.

And that, my friends, isn’t Christianity at all.