When propaganda is presented as “news”

The phrase “right wing media” is increasingly used to label talk radio and television that provides a conservative political spin on the news. Its entire premise, however, is based on the false assumption that the mainstream press is “left wing media”. This raises their act to hero status in taking on those who would drag Western culture into the chaotic abyss of socialism.

And certainly America doesn’t want THAT!

This is the exact justification we used in the early and mid 1980s at CBN when Pat Robertson declared that God had told him to run for President and that he would win. We needed to craft a way for us to justify a chair at the big media table, one that placed us to the right of everybody else. Naming the press as an existential threat to the culture, we not only reported “the news” but we often became the news, and this was no accident. It was one of the 20th Century’s most significant examples of propaganda-based marketing.

Propaganda doesn’t require balance, so our complaints about the right wing bias of Fox News are not only foolish but irrelevant. However, by labeling itself “news” and using the word “balance” in its slogan (“Fair and Balanced”), Fox permits itself to make the subliminal justification that they’re an alternative to the mainstream press, who are not balanced either. This seems to make all sorts of logical sense, unless you have eyes to recognize that such a claim cannot be true.

Fox relies on the 20th Century concept of objectivity, which, to them, “should” translate to a 50–50, “he said she said” paradigm. In practice, however, Fox only presents a conservative narrative, so it is decidedly neither fair nor balanced. Besides, objectivity in news has been largely discounted for journalism, which recognizes the idea only in that it creates a sterile environment in which to place advertising. Companies, the thinking goes, don’t want their political bias to be known, for it carries the threat of product rejection by about half of all consumers. It was their demand for a sterile platform that ultimately led us to the mess we have today. Such is the curse of mass marketing, which is, to say the least, a broken and inept concept for selling (remember John Wanamaker’s dilemma).

The cultural need for advertising is changing dramatically since the dawn of the network, because corporations can now make themselves function as media companies and speak directly to consumers instead of going through the filters of advertising.

Transparency is the new objectivity, wrote David Weinberger many years ago. We are currently experiencing an entirely new operating paradigm for news, one that permits a degree of subjectivity, as long as that subjectivity is made known up front. With Donald Trump, Fox News has dropped entirely its claims of balance and has become the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. That’s fine, but it cannot ever again make the claim of balanced. Balance no longer means considering all sides in reporting; today, it’s a given that Fox presents itself as the balance, so there’s no need for including other opinions.

I know this, because it’s precisely what we did in the early 80s with the rise of “CBN News” via The 700 Club television program. The first order of business was that we needed to make the case that the mainstream media was, in fact, biased towards liberalism. One of the ways we did this was to cite cultural ruin (a.k.a. rampant sin and iniquity) as being caused ultimately by the devil, who was working in league with an ignorant and compliant press. If we could make it so, then we — as an alternative — could make the claim that we were an alternative to a steady stream of liberalism as news. Like the plausible impossibility of Superman, we wore the hero’s cape in our pioneering efforts.

The logical problem, of course, is that this makes for an unknowable assumption, one that doesn’t require evidence, for no one can know for certain the motivations of others.

I was there at the beginning and worked my tail off in concert with talented others to write the rules for doing television news with a conservative (a.k.a. Bible-based) point-of-view. You can say what you want about Pat Robertson and The 700 Club, but the truth is that we were the innovators that Fox emulated ten years later. The time was the early 80s under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and the first rule was to present — as fact — a self-justification based on the certainty that all the rest of the press presented a liberal political perspective and not objectivity. We pressed that we were providing the balance left out of mainstream reporting. It was a very strong and sellable point-of-view, for Richard Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew wasn’t speaking in a vacuum when he labeled the press “nattering nabobs of negativism” in 1969.

This history is important, because Fox News will never admit to “borrowing” the tactics we pioneered. They simply copied the finished product, so foundational motives and representations are hard to pin down. This gives them ample wiggle room to deny certain allegations of bias while marching forward as the mouthpiece for conservatism. As earlier pioneers, we took the arrows that could’ve been destined for Fox, but I digress.

Pat Robertson supports the business side of culture, largely because it has the money for his vision — a world governed not only by laws but also by the internal governor of Christianity. Business executives argue that freedom is not possible in a world where it’s every man for himself. This would be fine, except the right more often espouses the ideals of license rather than those of liberty, which assumes the rights of others.

Fundamental to our premise at CBN was the position that the entirety of the press presents a product that supports Democratic (a.k.a. “socialist” or “liberal”) political positions. Moreover, we posited, the journalistic hegemony of objectivity required that media companies provide political “balance” in presenting the issues of the day. Since the press “wouldn’t” do that, according to us, we gave ourselves permission to present the balance ourselves. Fox News is not original, not in any sense.

Fox News doesn’t have the basic straw man of “sin” to define the enemy left, but it certainly makes the press out to be evil, especially in social matters like crime and especially abortion. At least we were honest in the religion-based spiritual claims we made.

Of necessity, it meant operating to the right of the press politically but on the same level of all who claimed to provide “news and information.” The problem with this position, of course, is that the assumption of mainstream press bias — on the same scale as what we practiced from a conservative perspective — is entirely false. Nearly every attempt to create a “left-wing radio” response to conservative talk radio has failed, because there’s no similar artificial cultural necessity. News isn’t propaganda, just because it reflects the progressive (new) in society. America wants to grow in every way and is generally approving of a more progressive life in these United States, so naturally the news would reflect that.

Growing pains don’t have to be political.

The culture — which we presented as corrupt — had long ago decided issues we’re again debating today due in part to our efforts to keep those issues alive. The only “new” in the thinking of the right is ways for the rich to get richer, while increasing the burdens on the poor and the afflicted. And it is quite sad in America that a great many poor and rural actually side with the business interests of Republicans, because they’ve been convinced of the moral righteousness of those who “provide jobs”. Big corporate interests don’t hire people, because they’re concerned about the culture; they only do so to the extent that such an action will produce greater profits for themselves.

However, the rural poor are largely Christian evangelicals who are driven by issues other than what will pad the pockets of the rich.

The role of abortion, sexual preference, and school prayer — issues the Supreme Court long ago declared resolved for the culture — play a huge role in the folly that we have for political debate today, because the claim can be made that they are important to God. These issues brought some pro-life Catholics into the fold by convincing them that capitalists have their best interests at heart. Pro-Life became the clarion call, even though it did not extend to those who’d already been born.

Once again, the core argument for conservative news in 2019 is that the media as a whole better represents a liberal point of view more than one of political balance, which is required, they say, by the hegemonistic concept of objectivity. We need to fully unpack this before we’ll ever find the antidote to attacks on journalism and acts of journalism, such as the press being labeled “the enemy of the people” by our current President. Today, in simply doing their jobs, the press appears biased when it reacts normally to Donald Trump’s antics and misrepresentations, reporting that the right wing propagandists use to support their case to the public.

A good way to look at it is to understand that to qualify as “news,” there must be an element of something “new” in order to be recognized as a practitioner of the profession. There must be something “new” to qualify as “news”. Conservative “news,” however, can only present “old” as its core, as in “Make America Great Again.” It attempts to reach back into history and claim that the culture got it wrong back then, that things have changed so much that we have to go back and revisit cultural decisions that they opposed back then and still do today. This would be fine if the discussion took place on a level playing field, which it can’t, because propaganda doesn’t work that way.

So powerfully driven are the Republicans by big business that Trump is turning our military into a protection racket involving other countries. He’s extorting other countries in the name of profit, for our military won’t protect you now unless you pay for it. The Kurds obviously couldn’t pay, and now we have that on the record as our response to those who don’t or won’t pay. The Republicans see only a bottom line when examining every issue, whether foreign or domestic, although government is supposed to represent everyone, not just the one percent who form a shadow government under the GOP.

Today — and to further confuse things — Republicans are calling Democrats “socialists” so they can make references to capitalism as being the proven better way. Again, this would be fine, if it were true. It’s not, however, and we’re entering a season now where the reference will sooner or later become communism. The word “socialism” strikes fear in the hearts of those its designed to ping, but true fear mongering always reaches for the worst possible alternative to the status quo.

There are two important arguments that need to be on the table:

One, the idea that objectivity is the goal of professional journalism is only about 100 years old and stems from the efforts of Walter Lippmann and his cronies to accommodate two factions of American culture: to create a sterile environment in which to sell advertising, and to bring about the social engineering of American elites through Edward Bernays’ “public relations,” better known as the deliberate manipulation of citizens according to the values and beliefs of those who could pay for it. More than any other two people in history, Lippmann and Bernays created what Lippmann called “The Manufacture of Consent” and Bernays’ “Propaganda”. This knowledge is critical in sorting things out today, for when Bernays put cigarettes in the mouths of Suffragette marchers in New York knowing they would be photographed and presented in newspapers everywhere, he did so on behalf of his client, the American Tobacco Company.

Cigarette sales to women skyrocketed, having been elevated to political protest status by Bernays’ clever manipulation. Bernays was keenly aware of what he was doing, as he wrote in his seminal book Propaganda:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Two, the press represents the people, and news coverage follows the ebbs and flows of the culture. Those publishers who consider first the best interests of the business community, are more inclined to both espouse and represent a conservative position. The Wall Street Journal comes to mind. The same is true for publishers, such as the New York Times, who don’t believe that capitalism should be the default determiner in all matters involving what’s best for our citizens. Both are considered “first writers” of history, which means they follow the ups and downs of the culture.

America is uniquely governed in such a way that there is necessary tension built into the relationships between branches of government, but that is also the case with journalism, because it covers current events as the people’s representatives, and human beings don’t always come with built-in bullshit detectors. The discovery that they are being manipulated may be the determining factor in how long this sham will continue to dominate the grand narrative of life in these United States.

Donald Trump is not under attack in the press because he’s different. He’s not under attack for taking on the system. He’s not under attack, because foreign countries don’t pay us protection money. And he’s most certainly not under attack for pressing a white evangelical Christian agenda. He’s under attack because he’s a liar, a business cheat, and a manipulator of people. He is a salesman and ought never to be in charge of product development, because he actually believes his own hyperbole. He’s simply not fit for public service, because the only public that he serves is himself and his mob-like underlings.

And, you simply do not withhold security aid to a foreign government until they provide you with dirt on political opponents. This is against our law, as stated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

My discontent with Christianity in the 21st Century

History will record photos like this one as marking a dark time in the West

One of the very real downsides of growing older is that I’m often tired, and this puts a strain on everything in my life. It’s not so much a physical exhaustion as it is a mental one, and for someone who’s always thinking, it can be taxing. I grow weary of taking the time to explain every nuance of the things I believe, and this is also reflected in a growing agitation towards people. It’s “get off my lawn” amplified, for which a nap is a quick, if temporary, solution. And, a nap, it can be said, is a waste of that most precious of commodities, time.

It’s enough to make a grown man go berserk.

The discomfort for me is very real. I’ve studied and meditated on a few core principles about life, and the entirety of my thinking is connected, which produces sweeping proposals for the culture. Going back and reproducing this in order to justify a single conclusion is impossibly complex and weighty. I’ve been studying for decades as a professional observer. Therefore, what may seem a matter of illogic to the reader is, in fact, quite the opposite, for I’ve learned to always cross my Ts and dot my Is.

Therefore, I give up. No more attempting to persuade people, because people don’t want to be persuaded. At least not by me. I’ve decided that it’s time for me to stop trying to explain everything and simply call ugliness, well, ugliness.

Christians who voted for Donald Trump, because they thought he was anointed by God for the task have created a real mess for our culture, because the beliefs they’ve been fed are absurdly false. The only cultural mandate from the mouth of Christ is that we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Anything beyond that makes the foolish assumption that artificially righteous behavior is more important than something so mushy as love God, love your neighbor. To these false Christians, sinning today is a potential block to their “real” reward, an afterlife in Heaven, not Hell (wait, am I supposed to capitalize that?). Make no mistake. The issues important to this group are those already defeated by the culture but not in the minds of these zealots. Those issues appear to be righteous causes, but the reality is they’re all wrapped around the need for evangelical leaders to have power. That’s idolatry. Demonizing those deemed different in any way is a key element of their success, and they breed fear amongst their followers in so doing.

We’ve switched from being salt and light to becoming the chef Himself.

I have no reason to think that the current culture war will not eventually be won by the liberals, for that has been our pattern historically. Conservatives begin the fights over what they view as a loss of cultural control, but they offer only tradition and myth as solutions. As long as everybody goes along, things are fine, but it’s those who wish to somehow correct the deeds of history that move the culture forward. All one needs to do is read Stephen Prothero, whose book “Why Liberals Win The Culture Wards (Even When They Lose Elections),” is a historical guide to the ongoing battles between liberals and conservatives over the direction of our society.

“Conservatives initiate a war by rallying an anxious electorate to a “cause.” Capitalizing on fear and frustration, conservatives often win the elections but, surprisingly, almost always lose the culture wars. Why? Because they choose causes that are already lost.”

They are too stupid (ignorance is fixable; stupid is forever) to accurately gauge the prevailing logic used by conservatives. That logic is bogus. For example, nobody is “for” abortion. Nobody is “for” unsafe neighborhoods. Nobody is “for” unchecked influxes of people who don’t look like them (unless it’s to do jobs the conservatives won’t). Nobody is “for” massive taxes, although most believe the rich should pay their fair share. They don’t in a conservative world view, for giving them tax breaks allegedly increases the chances they’ll create new jobs. And, of course, nobody’s “for” blocking prayers in schools; we just don’t want them to be from the marketing experts with right-wing Christian groups and organizations whose motives cannot be trusted. Such is it with those who preach that the only thing that matters about life is that you’ve reserved a place for yourself in Heaven when life has ended (through them, of course).

To these people, it all makes perfect sense. They cast their votes with the rich and powerful and against the very same poor their faith instructs them to uplift. I don’t care how many babies one is trying to protect, how much one insists that the old days were better than today, how many times one expresses their fear of foreigners, or how much one wiggles their finger at what they perceive as sexual sin, it doesn’t change the reality that these all form the self-centered core of unbridled bullshit.

I mean, really. How do normally intelligent people not see what’s really taking place? The President’s corporate welfare package disguised as a tax cut benefitted only the silk stockings, and what have we to do with them? The $1.9 trillion gift to the rich turned into, amazingly, a $1.9 trillion U.S. debt, for which we are all responsible. And yet, this deceived mass smiles an accomplishment smile in the name of saving babies, prayer in school, the Ten Commandments (including number 8), the license to continue their political action with their 501©3’s, and, of course, unconditional support for Israel despite all the evidence of human rights violations in the name of Zionism.

I’m tired of criticism that’s not based in reality, even when it comes from really good and well-intentioned people. The prevailing logic — the grand narrative — of the Christian community is denied, despite rock solid evidence to the contrary. When arguments that are nothing more than propaganda are presented in defense, these people hunker down, because they’re told that doing anything else is contrary to God. Like Thomas Paine said, “It’s like administering medicine to the dead.” This is the paradox of the Christian Right, that those who defend the actions of the president are the most likely to deny the actual words of Jesus found in the New Testament.

Here’s Prothero again discussing the culture war between Protestants and Catholics two centuries ago that turned violent.

During the Protestant Reformation, Protestants had distinguished themselves from Catholics by their mantra of sola scriptura. Whereas Catholics claimed that Christian authority resided in both scripture and tradition, Protestants insisted on the authority of the “Bible alone.” Given this legacy, it should not be surprising that virtually every American public school in the early nineteenth century taught the Bible not as literature but as truth, and not only as truth but as “the fountainhead of morality and all good government.” One of the core objectives of public schooling was to create moral citizens. But the only way to instill morality was through religion, the only true religion was Protestantism, the only sure foundation for Protestantism was the Bible, and the only real Bible was the Protestants’ King James Version.

Sound familiar? It should, because we’re still dealing with it today, the difference being that the propagandists have their own distribution platforms for public information now, so the dung heap being stirred is a very old and smelly one, because it’s been dead for two hundred years. People, for the most part, are completely unaware of this period in American history, so they feel a sense of pioneering in trying to right their perceived wrongs. It’s not pioneering; it’s good old-fashioned American bigotry rearing its ugly head, and if allowed to continue, it’ll result in the same kind of bloodshed we had (in the name of God) two centuries ago. Philadelphia — ironically the City of Brotherly Love — was the epicenter of discontent. Hundreds were killed, and the Catholic Church had to temporarily shut down to avoid even more gunfire and death.

As Murrow so eloquently stated, “We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.”

Welcome to the fruit of our denial.

On Being Human

Courtesy, the brilliant Nick Galifanakis.

Long ago, I made peace with the idea that ALL humans really want and need the same thing: to do the best we can with what we know. It’s the same in the physical, in the psychological, and in the spiritual. There’s nothing whatsoever “wrong” with this; it’s a healthy part of human nature.

And, in terms of judging the behavior of others, this is a wise position to take, because it strikes at the heart of what motivates people. We want to help ourselves, our families, our communities, and beyond. That only some are able to do this well is the thing that’s really wrong with our world under the sun. Sadly, these few are the ones with the dragons capable of raining down terror on the rest of us. Dracarys!

Those who associate with a God of their understanding — as a part of their teaching, training, and faith — fully grasp the significance of helping the poor and the afflicted among us. Chaos ensues, however, when even a few of these get the idea that helping others means personal loss to themselves, or even more deceptively, that the poor are somehow “out to take what’s ours.” This stance puts us at odds with God, no matter which religion we pick. It ought to concern those who do so, but it doesn’t.

For, no matter how we play it, those who are stuck in the rut of competing for what they believe to be “theirs” are at odds with others who are more giving. As a friend recently said, “It’s not a piece of pie.” Helping others is a natural behavior for humans, one that runs into conflict only when we put our spiritual selves on hold while we pursue getting what we can to better our physical lives. This produces the takers in a world of givers, and they are an abomination before God.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you, rich ones, for you have your comfort!”

It’s a lot easier on all of us to view the realities of life through the veil of wanting to do the best we can for ourselves and our families. This knowledge (or is it a belief?) has a way of injecting compassion into those who are aware. Everybody seems to agree with the principle but not with how to bring it about throughout the planet. Resources to accomplish the task appear to the uninitiated as a zero-sum game and one that requires that I take from somebody else in order to satisfy my own wants and needs. Once I’ve accumulated “mine,” I might be able to turn my attention to somebody else. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The fear that somebody else “might” take away my piece of pie is a powerful motivator to maintain the status quo, no matter who gets stomped on in the process. This, again, is human nature gone to seed, revealing the hidden motives of selfishness and self-centeredness. And, if this is to be our stance, we are sad and to be pitied.

Those who know God, however, understand that His approach is for us to give of ourselves first in order to be filled fully via the spirit with what’s best for us afterwards (See: The parable of the garden hose). This is foolishness to the world under the sun, but those of us who also fully inhabit the spiritual see the wisdom of such an approach. God is fully committed to the poor, and that includes Jesus. You can’t go very far in reading the Bible until you encounter this truth.

And, this is why the Republican approach to religion is so off-putting to me. To them, social justice is a major weakness in governance, and why Trump puppet master Steve Bannon said in 2017:

“The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the democrats.”

This is a crude albeit correct description of Republican Party Politics, because it seeks to benefit the status quo and by extension, the wealthy and the haves. The sole strategic thrust of the Democrats ought to be how their opponents only speak for the wealthy and the filthy rich, and the bones they toss to white evangelicals — like abortion and religious freedom — are only offered to ensure a larger support base. Republicans, quite honestly, could give a crap about fetuses being aborted. The litmus test for conservative judges is not abortion; it’s how business-friendly they are. The price conservatives demand is support for the wealthy, and since a lot of these preachers consider themselves in that category, the match is perfect. Moreover, the wealthy give money to big churches and ministries (it’s called a tax write-off).

And, no preacher worth his salt wants to turn that down, right?

This business of being human can give us all fits, not just the poor and the afflicted, so how are we supposed to judge others? the Bible says we should “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

They’ve taken the human idea of doing the best for ourselves, our families, and our communities and turned it into selfishness.

And, it’s not pretty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An open letter to the church at America

Dear Church,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your servant,

Terry

Beware of God’s judgment, O Church

Who am I to speak about God’s judgment? In my pride, do I think I’m better than others? Is that it? Do I actually believe that God has spoken to me? Who the heck am I? “How dare you speak to us that way? Shall we list your sins and transgressions? What qualifies you?”

I got into a brief exchange the other day with a guy on Facebook over Christians and Trump. I made the statement that God is judging the church, which set him off with the attitude mentioned above. So let’s deconstruct this just a bit.

Christians, especially those of the white evangelical sort, embrace of form of speaking that’s lovingly referred to as “the language of Zion.” Trust me, if you know any of these folks, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like a secret handshake, and if you use it, a form of immediate trust is given. If you don’t use it, however, you’re immediately considered an outsider and a target for condescension. I can speak the language when necessary, but my default is to keep it to myself. However, the statement that God is judging the church is written in the language of Zion. What this man suggested, therefore, was that I must be haughtily assuming the role of prophet in making a statement about God’s judgment. Oh boy.

Firstly, as prophets go, I can’t possibly claim that status. For one, I’m a nothing and a nobody, but it’s also my belief that only others can bestow such a title on those sensitive to the presence of God. The prophets of old didn’t walk around glowing or surrounded by a heavenly host crying “Holy.” They didn’t drag behind them great throngs of worshippers as an entourage. They were often dirt poor but always had sustenance, because the power of their words was substantial and what they predicted came to pass. Naturally, then, people would give them things, food and possessions. In the language of Zion, “God took care of them.” So, if I’m somehow assuming the role of prophet in my pronouncement of judgment on the church, then we’ll just have wait and see what happens downstream, right? I claim nothing except the ability to read what I view as obvious signs among us.

Secondly, modern prophets aren’t always a part of any religion. Don’t have to be. I consider Bob Dylan to be a contemporary prophet, and I know he had a conversion experience once, but he represents — although not well — the trappings of the world. Modern prophets are found in the arts community, for only they have the sensitivity to hear “the voice of God.” That, by the way, is another use of the language of Zion, for connecting to the creator spirit doesn’t require the forms of holiness that those who speak it demand of “their” prophets.

It doesn’t take a genius or a special connection with life to see what’s going on today, and it always — ALWAYS — begins with the wellbeing of the poor and the afflicted. It’s simply impossible to miss or dismiss the constant references to this through both the old and new testaments. God’s true character is revealed in His equal love for all. Israel’s Abrahamic economy was built entirely around the idea that no one needs to be poor. And yet, in our culture, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening every year. The middle class is gone, and all that’s left are those who have and those who don’t.

Do I need to go through The Book and point out what’s written about dealing with strangers, foreigners, or visitors? And yet, these commands are set aside each time someone complains about immigrants. Are these instructions written for those who don’t believe? No, so how can I possibly be criticized for saying that God is judging the church? And, the cultural “sins” against which they pray and involve themselves politically are of little interest to God compared to His command to love Him and our neighbors.

None of this is the responsibility of those outside the church, for only those who “know” the commandments can be guilty of violating them. So, if God is judging behavior in the culture, that judgment is for the church, because these “transgressions” are only considered so by the church. Therefore, judgment, the good book says, “begins at the house of God.” And for Christians especially, the kinds of “sins” they complain about aren’t any of their business anyway. What part of “neighbor as yourself” is found in the hatred expressed over the last several years towards those “neighbors” in the soiling of our precious country? Until we — perhaps for the first time as a people — start doing what God/Life wants, I will never cease in my view that “God is judging the church.” Here’s an example:

My old boss Pat Robertson went ballistic on the air the other day over the idea of cross dressers reading stories to children at a local library as a part of the “Drag Queen Story Hour” program. Pay attention to not only what he says but to the absolute disgust with which he says it. When this kind of stuff is expressed to a large audience, it moves the thinking of that audience to matters that are political, petty, and therefore trivial to Life itself. It makes people mad and inspires them to DO SOMETHING, which is exactly the core mission of the one shouting the complaint.

“This next story should shock the daylights out of you and you ought to do something about it,” Robertson vented. “It’s an outrage. Little teeny children as young as two years-old being exposed (to) cross-dressers, homosexuals who dress up as women and are called so-called drag queens … They’re men acting like women—and they used to, out in San Fransciso, used to call them ‘he-shes’—and they’re reading books to children.”

“You’d better get outraged about this,” he added.

“If you read the Bible, there were a couple of cities where they actually, the men tried to have sex with angels who were then as male figures and God destroyed those cities,” Robertson said following the segment. “The crime was called, subsequent to that, it was called sodomy. This whole thing is just an outrage. It’s an affront in the eyes of God and I think that’s what we’re trying to do is stick our fingers in God’s eyes and say, ‘Okay Lord, you thought you were making people men and women … but we’re going to fix it so that we’re going to confuse the sexes, we’re going to confuse everything that you’re doing and then, if we have offspring as a result of our sexual activity out of marriage, we’re going to kill the offspring and we’ll stick our fingers in your eye to show you who’s boss.’”

“The United States of America is on very slippery ground,” he warned. “How is (God) going to bless America if we put our finger in his eyes repeatedly? And that’s what we’re doing. It’s not just some library that is going to be in trouble, it’s the whole population when God brings judgment.”

Folks, God IS bringing judgment. Right now. Today. On the church, the very people Pat Robertson represents atop the pedestal of his own righteousness. God is not going to “bring judgment” against the United State, because, honestly, what does He have to do with it anyway? America isn’t God’s church. Never has been; never will be. God doesn’t judge outsiders; He judges those who profess allegiance to Him. Think of it this way. If the church was actually doing its job, do you really think we would have all these social issues that dominate our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors? As long as we embrace a gospel of self that emphasizes what’s good for us, our families, our friends, and our neighborhoods, we will always find fault with those who seem a threat to our comfort. This is the sad state of the Christianity practiced by “the church” under judgment. Is that you? Think carefully and prayerfully, for there’s more at stake for you than you might imagine.

Moreover — and this is what’s truly galling — the Bible does NOT say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over homosexuality. Ezekiel wrote that God destroyed Sodom for its self-comfort and lack of concern for the poor and needy, exactly as we have become today. Ezekiel 16:49–50:

“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. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (NIV)

As I wrote in my book about my time with Pat Robertson, he’s a politician who happens to be a minister, not the other way around. As such, politics flows through every fiber of his being, and we see that reflected above. Pat’s audience is filled with grandparents. So is his donor base. Anything that appears to threaten the wellbeing of children is therefore a serious hot button to pursue. And what better straw man at which to point than homosexuals. It’s no coincidence that one of the things people can do with the outrage he describes is to give to CBN or maybe Republicans. In this sense, everything that comes out of his mouth is designed to tweak the consciences of those who support the work of CBN. In 1984, we raised $248 million in contributions by following this formula, and as long as the name Robertson is what makes the CBN ministry tick, viewers will be manipulated in this way.

I genuinely feel sorry for those who are caught up in this unawares, because they will not be held blameless in the midst of God’s judgment. Support Donald Trump, therefore, at your own peril, for we are playing the harlot with the oppressors, and God is nowhere near any of it.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.