Propaganda’s Waste Product: Betrayal

The pain of betrayal… – Fuel for the journey

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

That is its only cause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s where we are today.

Deconstructing the Sacrosanct Faith of Others

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can/will the Virus Open Eyes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Methinks they doth protest too much.

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.

1920 — When the Rules All Changed

Image result for woodrow wilson

When I first discovered historian Christopher Lasch many years ago, I was stunned by his brilliant reading of the role of Woodrow Wilson in all the nonsense we deal with today in the worlds of politics and the press. Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 on a platform of “He’ll keep us out of the war.”

World War One was America’s chance to become a world (business) power, however, and Wilson knew this, so the trick became how to run opposing the war while at the same time preparing to enter the conflict. Wilson formed a group of advisors and thinkers — including influential newspaper publishers. This organization — The Committee for Public Information, also known as The Creel Committee was named after its leader, George Creel. The characters making up this committee was a who’s who of a new type of thinking, one that would change the rules for everybody 100 years later.

I’ve written much about these remarkable people whose good intentions have had a lot to do with today’s untenable government-press relations. Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, was a member of the committee as was Walter Lippman, the father of professional journalism. Volumes could be written about these two characters alone, but everybody on that committee shares the responsibility for what we have today. Bernays, a cousin of Sigmund Freud, used lessons from his Uncle to shape new ideas for marketing. Here’s just one of his famous quotes:

“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. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must coöperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

From “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays

If that sounds familiar, it should, but we must understand that this thinking is only 100 years old. Here are four Google N’Gram graphs about the use of certain thoughts in the books of our world. Note that these all show rising use in the wake of 1920:

Here’s the use of the word Propaganda in publications.

Here’s the phrase “Public Relations”.

Here’s one that works in concert with the above. Objectivity. It’s necessary for public relations to insert itself into journalism.

And finally, here’s what “Professional Journalism” looks like:

The other side of this whole “Right Wing News” fallacy is going to require something completely different, because in 100 years, we’ve gone from a government of the people to one of propaganda and self-interest of the few.

Somehow, we’ve got to find a way to put all this into the dust pile of the past. Maybe we should begin with technology that labels news as propaganda (regardless of the source) when such passes through our filters.

One thing is super clear, however, and that’s that this doesn’t work, not at all, for the country that our founders created.

Donald Trump’s Spiritual Problem

Donald Trump in prayer with his Christian advisors

The press is struggling with covering the split among white evangelical Christians over the editorial in Christianity Today (and a similar commentary in The Christian Post) calling for the removal from office of President Donald Trump. The struggle is not new, and those without knowledge can’t possibly understand what’s really going on here.

Disclaimer: This is not an Academic theological paper. Many books have been written about the subject, none from my pen. The views expressed here come entirely from my own research and experiences primarily as former Executive Producer of The 700 Club, Author of “The Gospel of Self: How Pat Robertson Stole the Soul of the GOP”, author of the 1988 television news series on religion in the Tennessee Valley (“I Believe”). and subsequent studies and writings on the subject.

In response to these messages from evangelicalism’s main editorial voices, Trump has scheduled a January 3rd rally (of course) called “Evangelicals for Trump” at a venue that’s a giveaway for anybody with an understanding of the split. The rally will be in Miami at the West Kendall Church, an “Apostolic” megachurch run by Pastor Guillermo Maldonado, a man calling himself an apostle. This church practices “the gifts of the Spirit” which includes speaking in tongues, interpretation of those tongues, dancing in the Spirit, prophecies, laying on of hands for healing, and words of knowledge and wisdom straight from the Holy Ghost. This is from Paul’s writings to the Church at Corinth during the First Century:

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:4–10.

These practices were limited primarily to primitive, smaller rural Pentecostal churches until the Charismatic Movement of the 60s counterculture spread “the gifts” to more mainline churches. Pentecost, the event found in the second chapter of Acts, is cited as the first example and forms the basis for such beliefs. Early Charismatic prayer meetings in the 60s and 70s would find folks from Catholic and mainline protestant denominations gathering together to worship God in such a manner, and the foundation created through these meetings led ultimately to the televangelists who practiced these “gifts” during times of prayer on television. Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, and many others bound themselves to this burgeoning growth. It seemed so new and fresh that people were drawn to the practice and demonstration of faith they viewed on television. The scandals that hit in the mid-80s were tied to these ministers. At the time, the most prominent, non-tongue-talking televangelists were Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham.

When Pat Robertson decided to run for President, I had to make choices for who would play Pat’s role of news commentator on the show while he was off on his campaign, and I chose Chuck Colson, a brilliant and wonderful man who didn’t practice the gifts of the spirit. I loved Chuck Colson and felt a kinship with him that was rare. I was at core still a journalist with a modicum of skepticism about generally everything, including all that we practiced theologically via The 700 Club. In discussing this with Chuck one day, he told me a story from his experience with Robert Tilton, an extreme practitioner of speaking in tongues and words of knowledge while praying on his program. Tilton was later found by the press in Dallas to have questionable practices and financial dealings. Chuck Colson told me that Tilton had told him that Chuck needed to get into the same sorts of things, “because that’s where the money is.” Colson knew then and there that he wanted nothing to do with what Tilton was practicing. This observation explains much in today’s contemporary arguments about what does or doesn’t represent the faith. When all else is stripped away, the bottom line is often cash in the form of contributions to continue such ministering.

At The 700 Club, we practiced these gifts during prayer time, which was often at or near the end of the program’s first hour. I recall one focus group discussion about the program in which one man described it as “progressively subjective”. He didn’t care for the prayer segment. The program was shown to people with like/dislike hand-held meters that they could turn in one direction or the other, depending on what was being shown. By the time we got to the prayer segment, these meters registered at polar opposites, suggesting that the viewers either really liked or really disliked the segment with nothing in-between.

Here’s more from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” 1 Corinthians 12:28–30.

When Christians unfamiliar with these writings were first exposed to them, there was a boom in the growth and development of these practices, which is where we find ourselves today. This is how the pastor in Miami can identify himself as an apostle, while others just look the other way.

These “gifts” are offered to the public via the euphemism “full gospel”, and followers are drawn to the expression of emotions, including those which “prove” to practitioners a level of internal reality that is passionate and highly addictive. They feel special in the eyes of God and cling to what they view as Biblical validation via Paul’s and Mark’s canonized offerings. Here’s Mark testifying to what Jesus told the apostles after His resurrection, that they should make disciples of the whole world:

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Mark 16:17–18

Of course, most Christians don’t handle snakes to demonstrate signs and wonders, but some do. In the series “I Believe,” we attended services of a snake-handling church in North Georgia, and one statement by the pastor was most memorable: ““If you reach your hand into that box (of rattlesnakes), you’d better have faith.” In other words, these Christians practice an extreme — perhaps the most extreme — version of Christianity in the world today. And they are completely supported by scripture in so doing. Most people, however, feel that this is “testing God” and reject it as dangerous and unhealthy.

The point is where do you draw the line? Moreover, those already predisposed to “the full gospel” are more willing and capable of believing the more extreme examples of faith spoken of in the New Testament, and this is where Donald Trump finds his most ardent support. Hence, the meeting in Miami.

To be sure, not all of Trump’s support comes from full gospel practitioners, and many of his advisors are more conservative, like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Junior, whose support is more political than spiritual, but these differences in theology still are significant. Pastor Maldonado’s church is Hispanic, which also played a role in its selection by Trump, but the message of this church is no where near embraced by Christianity as a whole. That’s important.

In another place in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes “We are fools for Christ” (I Corinthians 4:10). These same ministers use this as a hammer to tap the minds of followers who would find discomfort with emotional displays of worship. If you’re not willing to be a fool for Christ, the thinking goes, then you lack the wisdom needed to be a “real” follower, and this is a divisive preaching that they believe separates them from others who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

In my view, the discussion about this in public is long overdue. History will record this time as one in which we dealt with expressions of faith as a people. It will be one significant aspect of Trump’s legacy, because he uses his affiliation with such to separate himself from others who occupied the White House.

There is, of course, much more to this story. The press, however, doesn’t have a clue, so for now, it’s a subject discussed mostly in secret.

That needs to change.