Propaganda’s Waste Product: Betrayal

The pain of betrayal… – Fuel for the journey

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

That is its only cause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where we are today.

Dear Parents and Grandparents

The Scroggins Family of St. Louis

I want to speak to you here as a person with a peculiar study focus. I don’t know why or how, but I’m able to see what appears obvious to me, the birth and growth of the Postmodern Era in human history. Modernity with its logical systems focus has painted itself into a corner and must give way to the new. As modernity was birthed in the printing press, postmodernity was conceived and delivered from the womb of the web. I do not speak of philosophical postmodernism, but rather the changing of the eras in history. The mantra of modernity is “I think and reason, therefore I understand” but it has changed to “I participate, therefore I understand.”

Are you with me?

We must be able to see what’s coming in terms of the big things as this era develops further. We may not be around for the payoff that our children and grandchildren will experience, but there are ways we can equip ourselves to help them today, beginning with an acknowledgement that life is definitely changing. It’s super important for them to participate, even though we’re making this up as we go along.

We are all connected now. That means I can connect directly and sideways with everybody else or just a select few. This is something completely new, and we can’t even image how much life on earth is being and will be changed as a result.

First, a warning. You either do this for them, or somebody else — with less concern for their individuality — will do it for them, and this is not a best practice for tomorrow.

Even to the young man, let’s say, who’s only interested in working in the trades, either for somebody or as an independent contractor, even he will sink or swim on his ability to use the network effectively. It’s the way of future competition, and nobody will be exempt.

Our digital identities will actually be more important than what we know under the sun, and this is where we can help our progeny.

  • Equip them before they are even able to help themselves. Buy domains. Secure usernames. Sit with them and help them develop their online IDs. If they don’t control their own brands, someone else will do it for them.
  • Show them the dangers, but don’t dwell on it, for it’s their creativity that needs tapping more than their security needs protecting.
  • Teach them about links and how everything is linked together. Links are the currency of the web, and you need to teach them why. These links teach a practical lesson in deconstructionism, something that is of enormous value in helping our children shape their lives. It must be taught early and often.
  • Do not discourage their involvement in video games, because they teach mental and manual dexterity and mind-to-finger channeling, skills they will likely need downstream.
  • Teach them to avoid being herded into traps by the lust of their own eyes.
  • Buy a generator for your home, so you can teach the value of being prepared for anything.
  • Show them that their attention is the only real scarcity in the commerce that’s being brought into existence, and as Kevin Kelly says, “We should be paid for it.” This means that postmodern advertising will seek out customers and pay them to watch their ads. The logic of this is solid, but feathers will be ruffled in the process of its development.
  • Teach them to back-up their work before they go to bed at night. Use a form of a server in your home that can serve as storage and back-up for everything.
  • Put searchable books in your digital library, including everything they’ll need for school and the interests that they display.
  • Get them private lessons in Google/YouTube, coding, Photoshop, WordPress, and social media. There are people in your community who will do this on any level you wish.
  • Teach them to think of school as a place where they can practice their branding, to not be swayed by eyes that are being exposed to cultural fads and stereotypes. Just keep them pressing forwards.
  • Show them that the more dependent we become on electricity, the more vulnerable are EMP weapons. Personal protection against such will be a thriving business downstream. Think “shielding” or similar responses.
  • Teach them all you can about human nature, and how it doesn’t change in the digital world. Teach them to study the whys of human nature, which will open the door to better understanding motive. A certain degree of cynicism is healthy, because they will certainly be exposed to propaganda in their search for truth. Teach them discernment.
  • Personal branding belongs to each and every person on the block, and it’s perhaps the most important subject to learn while growing up.
  • Do not forsake teaching them grammar and good English, for technology is still learning nuance.
  • Teach them the true nature of God, for God is most certainly One who participates with us in our everyday lives and provides an internal governor for our behavior.

No matter how much modernist people insist that IRL is better than URL, we’re learning in the 21st-Century that the efficiencies of URL render much of life to be wasteful. Take the current kerfuffle over the Post Office and mail-in ballots. Do you honestly think we can’t eventually create a secure voting system online? The web may lose some of its anonymity, but would that really be all that bad?

I see the day when the opportunities of the web vastly outweigh concerns from our old ways of doing things. We will listen to the naysayers and thank them for their concern, but we must never put them in charge.

Modernity is done; long live the Age of Participation.

Deconstructing the “Vote for Trump” Arguments of the Christian Right

James Dobson may be a good preacher, but he’s a lousy human being for “leading” his flock astray in the name of what he believes to be a higher calling.

In case you missed it, Dobson has sent a lengthy letter to his followers to help justify them voting for Donald Trump in November, despite the relentless bombardment of the foul wind that has soured even the air we breathe every day of his “administration.” (Ed Note: you can find a link to the actual letter within the reference I’ve provided, but I will not link to it directly myself.)

There’s his total botching of the virus, his secret dealings with the Russians, his self-centeredness at the cost of hurting others, his lies about immigration, his tax boon to the 1%, the spectacular increase in the national debt, his disdain for people whose skin color isn’t white, his attacks on the mainstream press, his violation(s) of the Emoluments Clause of our Constitution, his unstable mental state, the fact (yes, fact) that he’s intellectually challenged, and most of all, that he’s a loser and always has been, a snake-oil salesman from the Wayback Machine.

And yet, here is Dobson — one of the Christian Right’s most beloved leaders — telling us that none of it matters, that he needs our votes, so that Dobson and those of his ilk can fully overthrow the U.S. Government and take control of the United States on behalf of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Read Anne Nelson’s powerful book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right and argue with her documentation of this Christian Conspiracy.

I’ve got to be honest here. This is the greatest threat to the wellbeing of the U.S. since the Civil War. Here’s just one section of Dobson’s rhetoric:

Disengaged people won’t lift a finger to preserve this great land. They won’t take even a few minutes to go to their polling places to vote. There are also thousands of pastors who won’t allow voting registration tables in the lobbies of their churches. Don’t they know or care that America is on the ropes? Hordes of angry anarchists are salivating over the next election, hoping to push America over a cliff. If they succeed, as Newt Gingrich said, Western civilization will never recover. Is there anyone left who believes some things are worth dying for?

This kind of language is highly manipulative, for it begins with a false witness, that America is on the ropes with “hordes of angry anarchists” salivating over the next election. Seriously?

People smarter than him and with more money than him are taking advantage of this entire shadow government that the Christian Right has been plotting and building. These Silk Stockings really don’t give a ripple chip about what’s contained in Dobson’s apologetic; they just need their votes. I promise you, this will not end well for those who believe as Dobson does.

So let’s examine the “seven critical issues” that Dobson uses as justification for voting, once again, to keep a damaging reprobate in office.

The Next Generation — This is number one, because it fits his narrative. Moreover, it tickles the ears of his older followers, and he knows that they care deeply about their progeny and their legacy. What better way to hook people than to talk about their children and grandchildren in light of that which hasn’t happened yet. James Dobson may think himself a prophet, but lies like this are certainly NOT prophecy.

“Make no mistake, the left and secular culture are manipulating the minds of your sons and daughters every day of the year.”

With respect, Dr. Dobson, isn’t that precisely what YOU do? You watch a Super Bowl halftime show starring Jennifer Lopez and “just know” that it’s harming those poor, impressionable kids who were really there just to watch a football game. In whose reality is this true? Only yours, sir, and when you work to make that vision real, you remove any opportunity for adults to talk with their children, which appears to be something you’d rather do for them.

The Sanctity of Human Life — Here, Dr. Dobson trudges out the tried and true. Using the worst possible statistic — that more than 60 million “babies” have been murdered since Roe v. Wade in 1973 — Dobson et al continue with the hypocrisy of describing themselves as “Pro-Life”.

“This is the most tragic holocaust in the history of the world! Some states have even passed laws allowing wounded and suffering infants to lie alone on porcelain trays after somehow surviving unsuccessful abortions. They will die without the comfort of their mothers’ breasts. If that doesn’t touch your heart, you are without compassion. I hope you will not cast a single vote for any politician who supports such wickedness.”

I’m so tired of this worn out piece of propaganda, mostly because it’s been used to vilify a great number of good people who didn’t and don’t deserve it. Moreover, to use this narrative to hook followers by calling pro-choice people “pro-abortion” is all the evidence I need as a human being to question the motives here. I mean, Dr. Dobson, God doesn’t need you to stretch the truth (there’s that darned 9th Commandment again) in order to advance your political agenda. This is a case where the evidence doesn’t justify the accusations, because the abortion rate has been shrinking to the point where it’s BELOW the rate when Roe v. Wade was originally passed. Dobson and his cronies are stuck in the 1980s, when their quest for political power first moved into high gear.

Marriage and Family — The divorce rate among Americans is dropping as younger people are deciding to wait for better financial security. You’d think this would be great news for people like Dobson, but it’s actually a threat. Remember the Shirky Principle, that institutions need to protect the problem for which they are the solution. And, this means despite the evidence. Dobson will never view marriage and divorce statistics through any lens other than the one he borrowed from Chicken Little.

“…listen carefully: powerful and highly funded forces, including LGBTQ and other leftist entities, are determined to destroy the family as an institution. It is already on its knees, and its future is grim. Before you vote, find out what position the candidates have taken on this issue. Then vote accordingly.”

Fear is always behind so-called Christian appeals for money. Oops. Sorry. I forget to tell you that this letter is also about fundraising.

Religious LibertyOMG, this is THE most disturbing issue of all, because it’s a sneaky bit of slight of hand. At its core, this argument is about raising the influence of James Dobson and the rest of his kind. What good is a religious approach to governing, if you don’t have the legal means necessary to accomplish it? Hence, of all the issues that Dobson touts, this one is THE most self-serving. What these people want is license to do as they please, regardless of the effect on anybody else. To even use the word Liberty in this euphemism is claptrap of the highest magnitude.

“The courts have done the greatest damage, but now an entire sub-culture is trying to bring down the Christian faith. Whether it has invaded your private world or not, it is at your front door…
…Don’t let the government close the doors of your church or tell you when you can sing praises to the Lord Almighty.”

Seriously, this man is deluded, but his prose is highly manipulative, like all the other propagandists who came before him. Religious Liberty is a fallacious “issue” because it’s really not an issue; it’s what these people need in order to pull off their overthrow of the U.S. Government.

Capitalism v. Socialism — Yeah right. How about we tag this euphemism for what it is: an appeal to greed and avarice versus loving your neighbor as yourself. Haven’t we learned by now that capitalism requires a governor, that it cannot be left to the extreme money-makers, because they will always default to profit? Even their philanthropy needs to be examined, because generosity at that level is more an annoyance and a tax write-off than it is genuine concern. Of course, there are exceptions, but those shouldn’t force us into the manipulation of people like Dr. James Dobson. Don’t listen to these convenient phrases, because they have no basis in truth but are a regular staple of extreme conservatism. And what comes after socialism? The great boogieman in the sky Communism. You’ll hear that this year.

“It is difficult to believe that for the first time in American history, our nation appears to be thinking about trading our democratic way of life for the tyranny of socialism. I can hardly catch my breath.”

Sorry, Doc, but you’re going to need more than your own words to prove this, because it’s simply untrue. It is, however, a convenient painting for the brushstrokes that he’s providing. The extreme religious right doesn’t have the chops to back up this piece of propaganda, but it matches so well with Republican Party tactics that it doesn’t matter to them, and especially to James Dobson.

Three other things. One, notice he uses the cover-your-ass words “appears to be.” Dead giveaway. Two, the 1% comprise a major chunk of Dobson’s operating revenue. Three, it’s simply evil to take study results and provide your own interpretation, as Dobson does with this sentence: “Is it true that up to 40 percent of millennials and others are prepared to surrender their liberties in exchange for the absolute authority of the state?” Sorry, folks, this guy’s own words convict him. Too slick. Too sleazy.

The Judicial System — Here, Dr. Dobson gets to the heart of the whole matter, his absolute justification for voting for four more years of the Trump holocaust. The extreme righties demand a Supreme Court that does their bidding, so they’ve created this straw man to force their interpretations of how our judicial system works onto the public and hopefully force their way into our business.

“But again, and again, they have overstepped their authority and brought us atrocities such as abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and the so-called “separation of church and state,” which doesn’t appear in the Constitution.”

Finally, I know these people. They will never stop at a conservative majority, because they want to force their beliefs and practices on everybody else. Abortion, after all, isn’t really about killing babies; it has always been and will remain a form of birth control to them. And, if you think about it seriously, you’ll realize it’s really all about sex. They have a very rigid formula for sex and birth control, so don’t be fooled. This is why they so steadfastly argue for judges who “don’t make law,” whether it’s necessary or not. All they want is THEIR way.

The Nation of Israel - I’m glad Dobson saved this one for last, because it’s personal for me. The United States GIVES Israel $1,000,000 every single day, holidays and weekends included, without any strings attached, only that it be used for defense. Against whom? They are already THE malicious bully in the Middle East, killing grown ups and children with impunity in their quest to claim all the land from the Jordan River to the sea. The Israelis are masters at propaganda, and American ears hear only that.

“Scripture tells that those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Our prayer is that the next Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. will continue to promote and cultivate a vibrant bond of friendship with the nation of Israel, which is our only ally in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism and all forms of racial discrimination are inherently evil, and we condemn them categorically. We are a nation that is dedicated to ‘freedom and justice for all’ ”.

Into this apartheid political mess in the Middle East come the Christians with their love of Holy Land Tours and admonitions from their leaders that Israel can basically do no wrong, because GOD is with them permanently and in perpetuity. Really? My son-in-law was among the Palestinian people forced to relocate to Jordan by the Israelis in 1967. His views are so much more believable than the stuff that flows in church about Zionist Israel. And, of course, they wield the antisemitism label without challenge, so as to silence their critics. A million dollars a day. Imagine what we could do at home with that money. And, then there’s this “only ally” assertion. If the political situation was different, do you honestly think the Arabs wouldn’t do business with us?

There’s also the regular criticism of Islam as an “enemy” of America. We should instead be asking, “Why are these people so angry?” That presupposes, of course, that we can get past the propaganda of the oil industry to actually consider it.

All of these “faithful” men and women are overcome with a thirst for power under the sun, and if I can reference Ecclesiastes, that is only vanity. It’s a temporal power, but one these people believe they are owed by their dedication to what feels to them like a righteous calling.

It’s all bullshit! And, here’s my summary. Vote for the candidate you think deserves your vote, hopefully for one that will relieve us of this unrelenting nightmare. There’s serious blood on your hands if you don’t.

Editor’s note: I got all the way through this without once mentioning Fox News. Aren’t you proud of me?

Can we blame sin as our culture’s underlying problem?

The assertion by the white evangelical crowd that the culture has been lost to sin is worth examining as we attempt to process the disaster that has been Donald Trump. Moreover, if the culture is lost to sin, has it always been that way, or is this merely a contemporary phenomenon? And, if it’s only a modern-day problem, does the slogan “Make America Great Again” reference a period of time in which the culture wasn’t awash in sin? If so, when exactly was that?

In the world of televangelism, few things are as important (and telling) as fundraising telethons. For all the hollering about faith and how God will sustain them, these telethons are methodical, systematic, manipulative, and self-serving. Nothing is left to chance. Hot buttons are pushed relentlessly. Anything goes when it comes to raising money for rich Christian ministries, something I participated in as show producer, senior producer, and then executive producer of Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club during the 1980s. I was there during the height of the televangelists, before scandals ripped the genre apart, and I was there when Pat ran for President in 1988.

The theme of our telethons was always a variation of how the world was going to hell, because we had lost our Biblical guidance. Therefore, the solution was for viewers to give us the money to combat this through “outreach,” ministry, education, and action. I need to state clearly that this strategy was extremely effective, in part, because the culture wasn’t hearing this kind of message from its leadership. Although very old, the message seemed new, because it was on TV in easily-digestible form. The television rule for audio-video linkage was manipulated, so as to match our words about sin to pictures of calamity big and small. Consequently and for a season, we sat in the position of prophets calling down hellfire and damnation on the culture for its dreadful sins, and it’s a short path from there to blaming the sinners, a.k.a. those demon liberals.

We attributed this conflict to cause and effect without proof whatsoever. That gave us license to say anything we wanted about the culture and attribute it to the loss of Biblical “authority” in our society. In so doing, we completely dissed the blood that was shed on behalf of our rights to self-determination, and, frighteningly, rejected all of those battles as being of the devil.

Who knew that one day we would actually be taken seriously?

This is the underlying pretext for everything from the Christian Right, and it’s why people who have no business being yoked to the extremely wealthy find themselves supporting everything the group tells them to support. The most obvious is in the appointing of judges who pass the litmus test of supporting business owners in all matters regarding business. Moreover, when we hear the phrase “religious liberty,” we must translate that as white evangelical Christian liberty.

If we’re ever to truly understand what’s happened to us over the past four years, we MUST not be afraid to examine these kinds of questions in the light of day. This was modern journalism’s great failure in the run-up to the 2016 election, for reporters simply didn’t see it coming. It’s a cornerstone of the Trump phenomenon, so we’re simply unable to get to the truth absent the deconstruction of this critical influence. Is sin the culprit for which we all must repent, or is something else going on? We must examine it historically, but we must also consider basic Christianity.

Basic Christianity
There is no Biblical entry whatsoever — not even one — that suggests it is the mission of believers to force a non-believing culture to repent. The most oft-quoted Bible story concerning this comes at the end of Solomon’s rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, when God spoke to Solomon thusly:

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…” 2 Chronicles 7:13–14 (NIV)

In this statement, we learn a great many things. One, that God is the one who’s responsible for those cultural/natural events that believers find so discomforting. Two, the responsibility for these “punishments” is with the believers, not the unbelievers. Three, the land can’t be healed from these pestilences absent the repentance of those He holds responsible, namely those same believers.

Therefore, it’s beyond misleading to claim that God wants to heal the land from sin, so that the righteous can live in peace. Seriously, who do we think we are? Watching people of faith yell and scream about abortion, prayer in schools, and Christian liberty, all the while aligning themselves with the vast wealth of the few is a bastardization of everything that’s truly holy. Period.

This command to repent was directed towards God’s people, not the culture at large. It came at the end of a great accomplishment, which is when humans are most vulnerable to deception. Rather than pat them on the back for such a feat, Solomon called for the Jews to repent, which I’m sure shocked many. The only lesson here for today is that God’s people — if in fact they have won a battle against cultural sin — ought to be on their knees begging forgiveness rather than prayers of thanksgiving and celebration in the White House. The fact that they aren’t is a dead giveaway to the unrighteousness of their behavior.

These are modern-day Pharisees, for God’s book isn’t a message to the culture; it’s a message to individual hearts.

The entire story of redemption is corrupted by the actions of this religious group, for Jesus Himself refused to call for back-up when He was taken to the cross. Spiritual warfare takes place outside the confines of our senses “under the sun,” but these self-centered warriors view the battles as among each other, right here within the whole of creation.

Why is the press unable to argue this? Rationalizations include it’s too complicated, it’s hard to be neutral, and there’s no consensus to fall back on. This is a blight on the practice of journalism, one that has been used to manipulate people and the press itself. There’s no fence to ride here.

Setting Aside History
In their zeal to advance THEIR religion, white evangelical Christians have disregarded the history behind that which we as a nation hold dear. In many of these events and instances, blood was shed — sometimes a lot of it — and lives were sacrificed in order to make these rights worth keeping. However, these elitist representatives of God that we have today think THEIR way is the true path to righteousness and that nothing else matters. It is with haughty, self-centered goals that these people piss all over the sacrifices of history as if they never mattered in the first place.

We fought a civil war over racism, unity, and the extent to which states within the union can try to distance themselves from the rest. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty, and immigration became the bedrock of our fledgling economy. We fought the First World War to spread our thoughts and ideals of freedom to the rest of the world and to protect our rights at home. We went through a Great Depression and came out on the other side determined to protect the poor and the afflicted from ever suffering again due to the lack of basic necessities. We determined that the market for liquor was so strong that we ended prohibition, because that market led to violence and death in the government’s efforts to press an alcohol-free society. We fought the Second World War to again preserve our freedoms in the face of fascism and its intolerance for personal rights. We helped dismantle Communism. Add to these the efforts to secure women’s rights, labor rights, civil rights, gay rights, and even the “rights” of our planet itself. It’s easy to understand why opponents of the current administration are not only opposed to shoving all of this aside but appalled and infuriated at the mere suggestion. Who knew we’d have to fight all of these battles again?

Governmental regulations of businesses, such as environmental mandates, didn’t just suddenly appear in a vacuum. These were hard-fought victories for all of us, as we tried our best to advance not only our culture but the human race in total. Did this burden the business interests of the country? Of course, but it had long ago been determined that they helped foster environmental concerns and human rights violations in the first place. There is nothing inherently righteous or evil about Capitalism. It’s an institution of humankind, and profit can be a highly selfish motive for cultural behavior.

This is now all being set aside by the good intentions of the few, and that is the real tragedy of our current dilemma. Add to this the idea that foreign leaders are willing participants through subversion, and we have very real dangers to consider. It is a real slight-of-hand to incite disputes among us when the truth is that we are not our real enemies. There are others who want what we have and will do anything to disrupt the unity that we struggled so dearly to gain and protect.

Adverbs like forward and backward are used to describe culture but only by those making self-serving judgments as to its governance. Both are pejorative and ineffective descriptors, because cultures don’t actually do any moving. There is only the present. Sure, there’s history and there’s the future, but we can’t do anything about either. We only have the present, and that’s where our efforts are best presented. We must always guard against those who will direct us to the future, for such is a license to deceive.

So, let’s go back and repeat our central question: Is America so corrupted by sin — especially the sins of those atheistic liberals who want to destroy the church — that only a revival of religion (specifically, white evangelical Christianity) will solve what ails us? I’d argue strongly that the answer is no, but even if there’s a grain of truth to it, the correct spiritual response is prayer, not political action.

Today, there are those who think the world is going to hell due to Trump and his cronies pressing absurd demands based on their beliefs in absolute certainties. Those who pointed to corruption of the culture have now themselves become the real corruptors, and it’s going to take more than our votes to sort it all out.

Honestly, we’re going to need the chaos of Life to fix this terrible mess, and that’s exactly what I choose to see happening today. To paraphrase George Carlin, if we’re going to have a disaster, make it so big that we destroy everything and have to start over.

Even so, let it be.

The Bible made me do it

The Cape Henry Landing by English artist Stephen Reid

One of the great political mysteries of the 21st Century is how and why certain members of the have-nots will support the haves regardless of the evidence that they and their families would be better off in opposition. Opposing the greed of the rich seems a no-brainer. The two groups have virtually nothing in common, so either the haves have done a sensational job of manipulating the working poor, or there is something taking place that observers seem unable to observe.

Firstly, there’s the belief among this group of mostly Christian have-nots that their hope is in God, but Biblical reasoning posits a political system that believes the poor should pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it. This is accompanied by the idea that if you give a poor man a fish, you’ve fed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. The fallacy of this concept, of course, is in its practical execution, for it assumes an unlimited supply of fish and resources required to make this a reality. Ours is a world of limited resources, and when I take extra fish for myself and my family, I’m acting out of greed, not love for my fellow humans.

Secondly, this is supported by the writings of Paul to the communities of the burgeoning local church in the First Century, including especially one verse from his first letter to Timothy. Chapter 5, verse 8:

“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (NIV)

A good preacher can heap coals of fire on the heads of parishioners by taking this out of context and presenting it as a stand-alone command of God. It seems a logical idea until the words of Jesus are applied, “The poor will always be with you.” One must assume, then, that Biblical followers are doing a lousy job of teaching people to fish. Harping on the poor to take care of their own is hypocrisy gone-to-seed, no matter how justifiable it may seem.

Therefore, in a world of limited resources, hoarding such for one’s own gain is reprehensible in the big cultural picture. Despite this, these Christians cling to conservatism, mostly because it fits this particular Bible verse. Mix in a little abortion, gender, sex, and religious freedom, and it doesn’t matter if their party exists solely to support the wealthy.

This verse, however, is part of a bigger matter that Paul was discussing with Timothy, who raised the issue of care for widows in the church. Apparently (we don’t know, because we don’t have Timothy’s original letter to Paul), the church was having difficulty separating widows who were deserving of care from those who weren’t. Think of it as a matter of welfare for the poor, and here we have the contemporary division between liberal and conservative thinking expressed 2,000 years ago. If we take the time to actually read and study this, we come to a place where Paul actually separates church governance from the basic tenets of Christianity. He judges some widows as undeserving and presents others as “the real widows.” In verse 16, he writes what could be a plank for the GOP:

“If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.”

The remarkable admission that the church is fiscally burdened by this puts the statement into the uncomfortable category of the practical versus the faith, for God is certainly not burdened by some widows seeking care. I don’t know enough to make the claim that this is idolatry, but as long as this portion of Paul’s letter is used to justify disrespect for the poor today, it flies in the face of the actual red words in the New Testament. Such followers need to be called on it.

What’s even worse is that these believers use this statement in their response to governmental aid for the poor today. Paul’s writings are addressed to the church, not the government. Moreover, when this fundamental belief is mixed with abortion, genderism, transphobia, homosexuality, and religious freedom, it’s easy to miss that the wealthy really only want for themselves.

Two other thoughts. One, if people really thought about Donald Trump’s election phrase — “Make America Great Again” — they’d realize that the good things of the melting pot days included strong labor unions and their core support for working men and women. Two, this leads inevitably to the conclusion that license on behalf of the business community is not what ever made America great. This worship of the businessman or woman is the core of Trumpism and a blight on those who labor on their behalf. Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t appointed to the Supreme Court, because he was pro-life; he was given the job because he passed the right wing litmus test of being 100% pro-business, a.k.a. the wealthy.

Finally, the press today is going to have to find a way to feel comfortable and confident arguing religion during the 2020 campaign. I support the Christian Democrats of America, because theirs is an ignored voice in the public square, and that cannot continue.

May you be so moved, too.

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.