The Temerity to Speak For God

Courtesy JW.com

There are a lot of voices and views presented in today’s culture wars, but who speaks for God? I’m serious. The question, of course, assumes the existence of the God of the Book, the God who historically involves Himself in the lives of His creation, the very top of which is humankind. After all, we can’t have an argument with the people of the Book without a determination of the will of God in matters important to them or us.

The Book points out that we should read the signs before us. Believers of every stripe must look around and judge for themselves if the leanings of the Christian Right, for example, are a part of that will. The same applies to those on the left and all human religions. Where is God in our dealings with each other in this, the 21st Century since the Christ? For sure, the signs are all around us.

At CBN in the 80s (and today), we proclaimed ourselves to be “Sons of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” This, of course, gave us permission to speak on behalf of the will of God as it pertained to current events. You may think of this as a weak justification, and you’d be right, because it’s entirely self-proclaimed.

This proclamation is alive and well on the right today, and the justification Is still very weak. As we attempt to read the signs, let’s ask ourselves a few obvious questions:

Is Covid19 a part of His judgment against unrighteousness among us? How about the volcanoes and hurricanes? What do we think of all the mass killings in the U.S. just this year alone? Why do we so ardently cling to our weapons, if we trust in God for our protection? Have you seen the pictures from Lake Mead? How about that Yellowstone flooding? Well, Terry, that’s what we call LaNina, that area of cold (or not) water just southwest of the U.S. that controls our weather. Okay, but how does LaNina get there? I mean, either you’re going to believe in God, or you aren’t. And if you believe that God still rules in the lives of humans, then it might be useful to take a close look at all these extreme “natural” phenomenon, or what we call “disasters”. Is what we view as a disaster simply God trying to make things right?

The brilliant Umair Haque, one of the most acclaimed thinkers alive today, has written of this in an essay called The End of the World as We Know It — But I Don’t Feel Fine.

Look, let’s just be real for a second. Think about the Biblical apocalypse. Like what parts of it aren’t seemingly on our doorstep yet? We’ve got, let’s see, the pandemics, floods, fires, the nations falling, the people turning on each other, the animals dying. That doesn’t mean you should head for the nearest church pew, and bow. Do it if you want, if you need to. I’m just pointing out that it’s literally getting classically and literally apocalyptic out there.

The fundamentalist Christians in our midst would immediately scream that these examples are God’s judgment against the liberals who want to force their sin and iniquity on the rest of us. (Damn those awful sinners!) One can easily see how that view is convenient, but is the possible destruction of California really that, or is it the foolishness of building on a major fault line? If “the big one” ever happens, this will be a part of the aftermath discussions.

However, to find the answer, we must turn to the Book and explore signs that were attributed to God and His judgment. The first place to look is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah through the story of Lot and his family in the book of Genesis. Sexual sin — specifically sodomy — was attributed to both communities, known as the cities on the plain. God tells Lot that he’s going to destroy the cities and “urges” Lot to flee with his family and not to look back with fondness as He destroys all of the inhabitants of the area. Lot’s wife looked back, the story goes, and God turned her into a pillar of salt. This story is used throughout history to preach against sexual sin, and it was very effective in turning the audience into passive and submissive members of the human race. They were directed to look to their leaders — those who speak on behalf of their view of God — for guidance, as the subsequent hierarchy advanced.

But they get this story of Sodom and Gomorrah all wrong, for it has nothing to do with sexual sins but rather the self-centered nature that prompted such behavior. Here’s the text from Ezekiel, chapter 16:

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

Therefore, this “disaster” was brought upon them by their own greed, avarice, covetousness, envy and more. And, since we’re talking about the Old Testament God, the people had prophets in their midst to warn them when their rulers rejected God. This is what we’re missing in today’s religious-based conflict between the right and the left. Who has the temerity to speak for God? I don’t hear it anywhere, and the only ones claiming to do so are biased on behalf of the right, another form of self-justification.

And the Old Testament prophets were not from the best families or communities; they were the long-haired hippy types of society back then, rebels who railed against the ruling authorities by reminding them that God put them on the throne and, therefore, He would decide whether the king’s reign would be prosperous or otherwise. It was based on the behavior of the king with regards to his duties over the people. A great example of this is when Jeremiah went to King Shallum to prophesy over him. Shallum gained the throne upon the death of his father Josiah, one of the most righteous kings in the history of Israel. Shallum, however, had turned away from God. Jeremiah spoke of Josiah when he said, “He (Josiah) pleaded the cause of the poor and the afflicted and then it was well with him. Is this not what it means to know me, saith the Lord.” This summarizes the messages of all the prophets, and it puts us on notice that we’ll always have responsibilities towards the poor and the afflicted. We hear none of this from anyone today, and it’s especially stunning that, in the age of social media, we can’t recognize the prophets among us. They are there, most likely in the arts community, perhaps among the most ardent observers of culture, the comedians. Of course, this would be a joke to those who practice their piety before men while suffering from oxygen deprivation atop their self-created pedestals. These people most definitely do NOT speak for God.

In fact, the saving of one’s own ass from the hellfire of the next life forms a selfish basis for all of evangelicalism, Christian or otherwise. For people of the Book, this is the core gift that Jesus died to give us, but it’s a bizarre form of logical mischief designed to empower the church, not the human race. Evangelical churches count the number of “salvations” they produce, which is surely a sign of the importance they place on the act of convincing others to “turn their lives over to Jesus”, a big part of which is participating in “missions” to convert others throughout the world. All it accomplishes is to add to the enormous mass that must live their lives for tomorrow, because the deal they’ve made with the church is to be their obedient servants, and that doesn’t always mean serving God.

The saddest note in all of this for me is that it impacts the lives of very good and well-intentioned human beings. I just don’t see a way out for them. They have rejected Life’s heaven — which exists in the here and now moment — for an artificial and self-serving “gospel” that makes heaven only available after death. We are truly amphibians, as C.S. Lewis taught us, capable of living in two realms at the same time. One is life “under the sun”, which is described brilliantly in the book of Ecclesiastes. The second realm is the spirit, and that is our real home, for we are spiritual beings on human journeys, not the other way around. We can’t be more spiritual than we already are, so suggestions for “spiritual growth” are really quite a waste of the time we’ve been given under the sun. We should instead be seeking how to become better human beings, and that message is a million miles from contemporary evangelicals who claim they speak for God.

They most certainly do not.

Trouble For The Town That NASA Built?

Northrop Grumman Facebook Ad for Huntsville

As people in North Alabama go about their daily lives, they do so without an active press watching out for their best interests. There’s no real newspaper to speak of, as Huntsville’s a part of the AL.com franchise. Huntsville is a boom town that recently captured the title of Alabama’s biggest city from Birmingham, so it stands to reason that it would support efforts to keep an eye on all that money floating around. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and so residents here tend to whistle along in the hope that their leaders aren’t (just) in it for themselves. That’s what happens absent a press that takes its job seriously.

The emperor of Huntsville is NASA, and nobody here has the courage to call a boondoggle what it is, because it puts so much food in so many mouths that it would be inappropriate to say that NASA is leading the parade completely naked. There’s been a significant disruption to the space industry in the form of reusable boosters, led by Elon Musk and the team at Space‑X. While Huntsville relies on our government to support space efforts, the private sector is advancing by giant leaps and bounds.

NASA is well aware of what’s happening, as well as those in Congress who approve or disapprove the massive funding of NASA and NASA projects. SpaceX is winning NASA contracts with increasing frequency based on a history of innovation, expertise, and outstanding performance. When SpaceX won the $2.9 billion Artemis lunar lander contract over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, a Marshall Space Flight Center regular, Bezos sued NASA. The suit was tossed in court, and this was a bellwether event in U.S. space program history, although not publicly acknowledged in North Alabama.

NASA and Huntsville have long been the center of activity between the government and the private sector. One drive through Cummings Research Park, and you’ll see the logos of every private company involved in the U.S. space program, although many go back to the heyday of the race to space between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Huntsville is a museum for the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle programs. The Saturn‑5 that stands along the interstate is a testimony to the gargantuan effort by Werner von Braun’s Nazi rocket team that led up to it and set the U.S. on the path to outer space dominance in a changing world. The problem is that the technology has passed us by. Being married to the archaic means we cannot — dare not — do anything that might conflict with the government. NASA is tied to taxpayers, and therein lies the real problem. U.S. Senators simply cannot continue to fund such a monster forever, and its end is likely to surprise everybody here, because no one’s really reporting about it. The government has watched as NASA has shifted its most precious cargo — astronauts — to SpaceX, which has handled the responsibility with class and perfection. SpaceX has successfully landed over 100 boosters, most of them via landing platforms at sea. Think about that for a minute. Its Falcon9 program has been incredibly successful, especially as it relates to delivering cargo and people to and from the International Space Station.

But what about Huntsville? It’s all hyperbole and golly gee about the Artemis program and its Space Launch System (SLS) approved by Congress and taxpayer-funded. It makes much more sense for NASA to invest in the real future instead of one that’s built on politics and warm, fuzzy memories of days gone by. Cost overruns for SLS and its contractors (here in Huntsville) are enormous and continuous, and the handwriting on the wall is not favorable for a reliable future for the space program in Huntsville. And all of this is taking place without the watchful eyes of even the hint of a questioning press.

Absent a vibrant local press, information becomes public relations or some other form of favorable propaganda. The Huntsville Business Journal, for example, is producing a 3‑part series “Huntsville Takes the Lead to ‘Rock-it’ Back to the Moon” that goes far beyond the make-up of a simple puff piece. It’s hard propaganda that sings the praises of Huntsville’s businesses who are living off the nipple of NASA’s money. Here are just a few quotes from the series:

…Today, a new generation of space explorers is taking over. They are watching and learning and building their own bright futures right here in the Rocket City. They are the Artemis generation, who will once again lead the way as America returns to the moon, this time with the Space Launch Systems (SLS) – the most powerful rocket ever developed…

…“Currently, the SLS program has contributed $2.4 billion to Alabama’s economy; 13,000 jobs across the state; and generated more than $55 million in state and local taxes,” Mayor (Tommy) Battle said. “When you look at how much it is adding to our economy and then look at what it is adding to the world, you realize we are doing something no one else can do, that we’ve done it before, and we are doing it again…

…Home to the propulsion systems associated with the rockets we currently fly, and every successful rocket we have flown in the past, the Rocket City is once again at the heart of world-changing feats and life and death-defying technology.

Rocket scientists here in Huntsville are already working on hardware for five iterations of the Artemis Space Launch Systems (SLS), America’s next generation exploration class rocket, and the only rocket that can fly the manned Orion spacecraft safety to the moon.

Fifteen percent more power than the Saturn V, the SLS is the only exploration class vehicle capable of sending humans into deep space along with large systems that are necessary to live and work in deep space.

And none of these missions can get off earth and escape earth’s gravity field without the SLS, managed and for a large part, built here in Huntsville!…

I hope you can see the denial present in this “news.” The Marshall Space Flight Center needs a rock solid relationship with SpaceX in order to continue with the moniker “Rocket City,” because Musk and others from the private sector (who worry about things like cost instead of just dipping into tax dollars for more) are taking over everything. Likewise, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center needs “used” SpaceX props for its museum. Without those show pieces, the place is, again, a museum about the early days of space.

What does exist of a “press” here in Huntsville seems completely sold on the idea that SLS, Artemis, and the Orion lander are the future of space. Meanwhile, the open nature of SpaceX’s work gives us daily views of what’s taking place in Boca Chica, Texas and the SpaceX Starship program. NASA funds some projects, including a Starship orbit around the moon. Elon Musk, however, has his sights set on Mars and colonizing the red planet. SpaceX has yet to test its genius Starship booster and Starship combination and is waiting for an environmental impact study from the FAA (which certainly has the ears of NASA) before approving a test flight of Booster 4 and Starship 20. This system will destroy the Huntsville claim that SLS is the most powerful rocket ever developed.

Government-generated environmental concerns have kept SpaceX from testing its innovative system, and there’s talk of delays and even moving from Boca Chica to the Florida space coast. Meanwhile, Huntsville holds its breath, for this event is likely to get ALL of the global attention of space industry watchers (including Congress) and firmly place SLS in the junk bin of technological disruption.

Generally speaking, the press outside Huntsville includes skepticism about SLS, but it’s not something you’ll receive here. The bane of local media is always its relationship with local advertisers, and this is no different. Local news departments, for example, stay away from complaints about car dealers, because sales departments would have a cow!

The SpaceX vision includes fuel tankers in space, space stations, and everything else that would be necessary for humans to become an interplanetary species. And Elon Musk’s primary concerns are the outer space aspirations of countries like China, Russia, and other U.S. (business) adversaries. SpaceX gladly embraces these challenges, while NASA and Huntsville are hung up on the costly and time-consuming elements of doing it the old way. The damage to North Alabama’s economy will eventually be devastating.

The Government Accounting Office’s 2021 NASA report will be out this Spring, and it will describe even greater cost-overruns, errors, and delays in the SLS program. There’s talk of another launch delay, possibly to the summer of 2022. In the end, SLS will deliver on its promise to send Americans back to the moon, but as each month passes, Huntsville sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire of yesterday when it comes to innovation and the future. There simply is no future in outer space without reusability, and that’s not what NASA is doing with SLS.

Behind all the public cheerleading for NASA, leadership here knows of what’s happening, and that may be the biggest story of all. Hush everybody, for as long as the emperor THINKS he’s clothed, what’s the problem?

Loving Neighbors “As Ourselves”

Feeling Comfortable In Your Skin - The DMC Clinic - Counselling Wexford

The inability of many humans to love themselves is the root of great mischief in the world of life under the sun. It’s why trauma — especially childhood trauma — is such a great evil, for how can one love their neighbors, if they cannot love themselves? Those victims of such often wrap themselves in shame by blaming themselves for the trauma. These people feel unlovable and do their best to bury this truth rather than allowing others to see their pain. Who wants to appear weak in a world that associates success with godliness?

Acts of charity are often self-centered — even just to receive a simple pat on the back or a tax write-off — instead of simply loving our neighbors in the eternal moment of the here and now.

It Is the great lie of the devil (a.k.a. the human ego) that any of us are unlovable, for life views each of us exactly the same. As such, we’re all lovable and connected in the moment. Emphasizing only our behavior towards others, however, traps us in the worlds of time and space, because that is where behavior resides. This is why we can never “perform” in such a way that guarantees a right relationship with God and others. We cannot pray enough to make ourselves more righteous, worship enough, attend church enough, do enough good works, meditate enough, read the Bible enough, or do any of the acts usually attributed to holy living.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.”

— I John 4:7–8

If we don’t or can’t love ourselves, it’s impossible for us to love one another.

This is pretty serious stuff to those Christians who believe they’re following the great commandments of Jesus:

“… and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

— Matthew 22:35–40

The implied aspect of commanding us to love ourselves is missed by theologians who are hung up on our behavior towards others, including God. However, the love of self isn’t universal with the interference of ego’s two-sided coin. Who, after all, has the time and energy to love oneself when we’re just trying to make it through the quagmires and quicksands of everyday life? Self-protection isn’t self-love, although it sure seems so at times. For sure, the providing of food, clothing, and shelter for oneself and family is a part of loving oneself, but not to the exclusion of all the other aspects of the commandment.

And love is a one-way street, from the source, through us and to others. Love doesn’t seek itself, as the ego does, and this forms the basis for human conflict. So, what does it really mean to love yourself? Here are ten concepts for your consideration: (Also see The Parable of the Garden Hose)

1. It begins with ruthless honesty, starting with the idea that we are ALL corrupt and cannot be trusted to behave selflessly. This would be a problem were it not for the sacrifice of the cross, because we are now capable of great good, although we mostly choose to care only for ourselves. Notice that even the gospel itself has been corrupted by this, as described in Pat Robertson’s discussion with me about why people give to ministries:

It helps me
It helps my family
It helps my community
It helps my state
It helps my country
It helps fulfill the great commission
It helps others who are less fortunate

The Gospel of Self

Notice that this is an ever-widening circle that begins closely wrapped around self interest. That is a great illustration of the heresy currently practiced by a great throng of “Christians”.

2. We are residents of Earth, because of God’s (Life’s) grace. We did nothing ourselves to get here, so the idea that we can actually “manage” life while living under the sun is the disaster undergirding contemporary hierarchies. We “deserve” nothing, because we are nothing when compared to life overarching. We “deserve” vanquishment, because faith is built upon the foundation that we are ALL “unprofitable servants” of the most-high God. In other words, we don’t move mountains to draw attention to ourselves, regardless of how “good” those works are. Our right relationship with life, therefore, is that it has all the power and we have none.

Apple trees would die everywhere, if they tried to manage the growth and development of their own fruit. They are merely unprofitable conduits in life’s production of apples. They don’t question; they simply produce. What could the human race accomplish, if we could behave in the same manner? Anything.

3. Everybody has difficulties. In accepting our own, we are more likely to have compassion for others, and this is an essential part of loving our neighbors. In so doing, we also give ourselves permission to fail, for we all WILL certainly fail. We simply cannot be perfect, despite our own desires to be so, or at least to project ourselves as perfect for the benefit of observers.

4. No one is better than or worse than the rest in the moment. We are all human and impacted in human ways. It matters not how we feel. As a doctor once taught me, “People are like snowflakes, all different, but all the same. Put a flame to snowflakes, and they melt. Stab us with an icepick, and we bleed.” This part of loving ourselves is critical to a right understanding of life under the sun.

5. We should not be overly critical of ourselves, for such is a trap that our egos present. We need to criticize ourselves with great care, for in so doing, we will be much less critical of others. The greatest weight we carry through life, the baggage that we often put on others, is the angry and critical spirit that grows from imperfection’s soil.

6. Joy — and even great joy — is carried by loving ourselves, for it is a fruit of the spirit. Happiness depends on what’s happening and is, therefore, a useless pursuit. If eating chocolate, for example, makes you happy, then it follows that you must always be eating chocolate in order to “feel” happy. Loving ourselves has little to do with feelings, for emotions come from the senses, which accompany our animal nature. If you know joy, you will be happy.

7. Given the above, we also love ourselves when we open our minds to life and its great possibilities. There is no greater block that our egos can use to defile us than a closed mind, one that is rule-bound and carefully boxed, so as to present ourselves dishonestly as obedient, committed, and, well, perfect. Remember always the words of Henry Adams, “The way of nature is change (chaos): the dream of man Is order.” Those who stress law and order over compassion are closed-minded, self-centered, and not loving of themselves. They are then unable to love their neighbors.

8. In everything give thanks, for we’ve done nothing on our own. Be thankful even in times of deep darkness, like the death of a loved one, because joy will return after a season of grieving. Let’s permit ourselves to grieve in times of loss, for such suffering is the key to downstream wholeness. Even setting a time limit for deep grieving is an act of self-love, and one that our lost loved ones would desire for us.

9. I’m sure there are many other aspects of loving ourselves that could be inserted into this list, but this an important skill that’s possible for each of us, and that is to recognize and therefore acknowledge the voice of our ego. When we talk to ourselves (everybody does) who’s talking with whom? This is a great place to begin our study. Remember that the ego is a liar (and the father of all lies) and that he lives in our heads. When we question ourselves, don’t be surprised if he answers, and we can usually determine which voice is which.

10. Finally, remember the paradox of prosperity, that discontent increases with opportunities for acting on it. This is the trap that leads (mostly) the rich to never be satisfied with what they have, and this is one of the most common ways that we fail to love ourselves and by default, our neighbors.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

The Rise of Women’s Volleyball

2021 NCAA DI women's volleyball championship selections announced | NCAA.com

The 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament gets underway this week, and the quality of the teams this year is pretty staggering. I’ve become a super fan of women’s volleyball, and (you know me) I’m seeing some things that need discussion, because this sport is outgrowing its parochial infrastructure. If the powers that be play their cards correctly, this could become the new rage in televised sports.

The bottom line is this: Volleyball is not only the top participatory sport for girls in the United States, but it’s also the fastest growing participatory sport for girls. Girls don’t just play volleyball in school; there exists a rapidly-growing club level volleyball that is expanding to handle the demand. This is producing REALLY talented players who then go on to scholarships from NCAA teams each trying to build the best volleyball programs possible. It’s impossible to overstate the upward pressure that all of this is putting on the sport.

Upward pressure is also coming from social media and the tools available for preparing and presenting promotional videos of their daughters and sisters for recruiting. YouTube is a goldmine of such videos and provides a service previous generations didn’t have. This is only going to get better.

Florida State is in the tournament with a remarkable team of almost entirely freshmen. They’re about to get even better next year with the addition of Audrey Rothman from Spring Park here in Alabama. I’ve seen this girl play, and she’s the top volleyball player from the state. She’s 6′4″ and a 6‑rotation player that will fit in beautifully with Florida State’s system. But, for every Audrey Rothman, there are hundreds of others talented enough to play in Division I, and that is raising the level of the game throughout every conference in the NCAA.

I love the game and the talent it takes to play at the highest levels. Every aspect of the game is getting better and better, because coaching and preparation have also evolved to accommodate the interest from young girls. NCAA Volleyball women are terrific role models for girls, because there’s a certain elegance, fun, and glamour that accompanies the sport. Volleyball players are by nature VERY smart and capable leaders, and who would argue that our world needs such people?

With all of this, you’d think that the sport would be considered among the other potential moneymakers of college sports, but that’s not the case. On some campuses — especially in the Big Ten — a women’s volleyball ticket is the hardest to get. These schools have given resources to the sport and have been repaid with creative fans who turn each match into a loud and fun campus event. From bench dance contests to playing The Beatles “Let It Be” complete with phone lights waving whenever their opponent challenges a call that went in their favor.

With all of this going for it, women’s volleyball is suffering badly from growing pains, especially with television. ESPN gives cursory scattered matches on its channels, but there is no overview media assigned to the sport. Conferences operate with autonomy, each advertising that only volleyball from THEIR conference is worth watching. These conferences have their own cable or streaming channels, and the result is a high degree of parochiality in the sport. Certain conferences are stronger than others, but all are judged by their records and statistics, which are skewed by the level of competition in each. For example, there are eight teams in the tournament from the Big Ten, and it’s more than likely that all will make it to the second round. That means that of 32 teams, 8 would be from one conference.

But that, too, is facing the upward pressure from the younger girls. Conferences other than The Big Ten (who’s the genius who came up with B1G?) are rising to the very top, and the Louisville Cardinals are this year’s example. The competition will only get tougher throughout all conferences.

As an old television guy, much of my focus has been on how the sport could become more television-friendly. There are plenty of good announcers to handle the sport, but they aren’t helped much by production. Graphics, statistics, and personal accomplishments could be presented so much better. Key to games are the challenges to referee calls, which require replay. However, the sport moves so fast that the points of contention aren’t easy to “see” absent very high speed cameras at the net and the court’s out-of-bounds line. Storytelling is also weak, because there aren’t the resources dedicated to making it better.

There is no news report that covers volleyball thoroughly, and this is important to establish and maintain the growth and evolution of the sport. No reports on upcoming high schoolers. No reports about club tournaments or human interest stories of young girls playing volleyball. A weekly, one hour program with Paul Sunderland and commentators that covered everything in the sport would be very useful for the growing competition level. Somebody needs to track all of this.

There needs to be television coverage of the sport from outside the bubbles of the conference networks. This coverage would include news and updates from around the NCAA.

There is no America pro volleyball league, and it’s inevitable there will be one. The sport is simply growing too fast to not give these women a chance to pursue careers in volleyball. I’d run a slate of games on Sunday afternoon to compete with NFL football. Perhaps an Alumni League would serve the same purpose.

At some schools, the sport isn’t promoted on campus, which results in light crowds on hand to set the excitement level during matches. Obviously, there needs to be drives on campus to recruit students for the gallery, but teams could also reach out to the local club and high school scenes to fill those stands, even if it means comping the tickets. A televised match with little audience is bad TV.

Volleyball is filling a need by providing a sport that is actually more fun to watch when women play the game, not men. That makes it unique in the sporting world and another powerful reason for college athletics to take notice. Remember, it’s the fastest-growing participatory sport for young girls in the U.S.

ESPN, are you hearing this?

Giving Up on TV News

Cable TV and Coronavirus: How Americans perceive the outbreak and view  media coverage differ by main news source | Pew Research Center

My entire career was with the newsrooms of the television broadcasting industry, but today, at age 75, I don’t watch a lick of TV News, and I want readers to understand the hows and whys of my decision. First of all, it’s just awful. Crime and bad behavior dominate the news, because those are easy topics to cover. The homogeneity of it all produces a subtle but dangerous undercurrent that life is dangerous all the time, and most of what’s presented is shallow, repetitive noise. 

Most of my life’s work was in newsroom management or consulting on digital matters for broadcasters, and I considered myself well-informed. So, let’s begin there, with being informed.

For the record, not watching television news of any sort doesn’t automatically qualify me as being uninformed today. All I need is a simple news aggregator to READ about the things that interest me, including politics, foreign policy, social policy, Congress, etc. This only requires an internet connection. I actually think I’m better informed today, because I can sample whatever I wish without some editor standing between me and what’s important. It takes a whole lot less time to read something than it does to watch the same thing on TV. Besides, maybe I don’t need to see the whole report anyways.

Back in the day, it was easy to be informed. Since newsrooms were governed by the “objectivity” hegemony, one could — and I think safely — understand most issues simply by paying attention. Both sides were presented — usually — and life in the USA was governed by a moral code based on the golden rule. It may still have seemed like a firehose to some, but it was at least digestible in large gulps. That’s not the case today, where a media-driven separation of peoples is the norm, one that comes with a fully loaded firehose for consumption. Each “side” has their own version of the golden rule, but the right’s is so filled with propaganda that they don’t even realize they’re being duped.

Fox News, for example, is referred to as “right-wing media,” which is patently absurd, for it assumes the existence of “left-wing media.” This is done deliberately to deceive viewers into a victim role, because Fox is “fighting” to provide a mouthpiece for two groups: the wealthy (the silk stockings) and fundamentalist Christians. Hence, the truth is that Fox, et al, serve a propaganda role in distributing right-wing messaging as if it were “news.” The wealthy, of course, don’t really give a crap, except as they’re able to present the source of their wealth as being free from restrictions and regulations. The fundamentalist Christians, however, believe Fox, et al, represent their faith, including their supposed ticket to Heaven in the afterlife. Think about that for a moment. Their minds will not be changed, and so we have a serious lack when it comes to news that is for everybody.

My book, The Gospel of Self, is based on what I knew behind-the-scenes as Executive Producer of The 700 Club in the 1980s. We used this attachment to eternity, among other things, to position The 700 Club (we wrote the playbook that Fox, et al, followed) as a voice for the unheard, the media company that represented Christians (right-wing Christians) in the country. That, too, was propaganda, and I knew it as an executive of the program. Just because we claimed to be “TV Journalism With A Different Spirit” didn’t mean that such a concoction existed and, moreover, that it could borrow the language and systems of the news industry to make itself into what we wanted, to use our facilities to basically overthrow the government on behalf of the rich and mighty, and, of course, the church.

We had a secret handshake that we used with viewers known as “the language of Zion” — the grammar of the Christian faith. It’s the language that you’ll hear Sunday mornings in any Christian church. These are shortcuts that by-pass reasoning, for they translate within the convicted soul. After Sunday School and decades of sermons, when this “language” is used, it signals that what’s being spoken of comes from — must come from — the gospel and the church. When people so predisposed actually hear these words coming from their television sets, they feel at home in paying attention. And as long as that framework can be maintained, any message — no matter how illogical — can be slid into place without discussion. In other words, faithfulness to the messaging of the right is tied to — in their minds — their salvation. Just put Jesus between you and the Covid vaccinations, and you’ll be fine.

When leaders of enormous, often suburban, churches began sprinkling the idea of changing the world “for” Christ into their sermons, the political connection for their members was set. They joined forces with those from rural, uneducated America, and the die was set for the anointing of one of the most public reprobates in our history for President of the United States. I’m afraid that I played a role in this development, which is why my book was written as an apology.

The press has been tricked into supporting this two ways. One, by its insistence that religion rightly belongs as part of the deviant sphere of public discourse. In his remarkable book about the Vietnam War, Daniel Hallin created a helpful diagram of concentric circles to show the three spheres of influence that determine what the press (the Washington Press) covers or doesn’t cover. There’s the Sphere of Consensus in the middle, the Sphere of Legitimate Controversy just outside the middle circle, and the Sphere of Deviance on the outside. By categorizing religion as deviant, it doesn’t require coverage, which is an argument against the myth, superstition, and interpretations routinely found in religious circles. As long as those exist, the thinking goes, religion doesn’t belong in discussions pertaining to political discourse. The right turns around and complains that they are not deviant but a part of the very fabric of America’s foundation no matter how much the establishment clause of the First Amendment is used to argue the opposite. The religion of the founders matters little in the running of our government, and if it did, it would certainly follow the dictates of the golden rule and not “to the rich go the spoils.”

Deep in the shadows of all of this, lurks the connecting of righteousness with politics, and this is where we must ALL draw the line. A great many of these Christians — perhaps all of them — connect the modern day appearance of success and happiness with a future in Heaven. If one sees another that is successful and happy, one can rightly assume that they are in God’s favor and therefore Heaven-bound. This has led to all sorts of mischief within the church, including the entire “freedom from vaccinations” embarrassment. They’re dying at every turn, but at least they’re in Heaven, right? Um….

And so, there is an enormous conflict in our culture today that exists as a divide between people, and television news plays a magnified role in all of it, because it just doesn’t (and can’t) truly understand what’s taking place. So, they give space to a fallacy by never challenging the use of the term “right-wing media” and actually embracing it. We will never get to the truth by justifying a marketing slogan in the name of fairness. By giving space to the voices from this fantasy, the mainstream press — especially TV, with its built-in biases of appearance, marketing, inflection, guest choices, and ad-libbing — has failed magnificently to protect us from the very real harm (think 1/6/21) that’s bubbling constantly beneath the surface today.

We cannot serve God and mammon.

The Church’s Need To Moralize Politically

The first of the logical fallacies in human interactions is to accuse your opponent of doing exactly what you’re doing yourselves.

The extreme right, led by the tax evaders of the Council for National Policy (CNP), is a complex, integrated, and coördinated disinformation stream of propaganda that is slowly destroying our democracy. They’re very good at what they do and very effective, because its members are all supported from the same pot and by design incapable of independent thinking. Do not be deceived. This is a top-down group with the essential message that the business community — led by many of America’s wealthiest people — is the rightful governor of all and that the lower class exists to support them before anything else. And, it uses the church to do much of its heavy lifting.

Extremist Christians in this group have so bastardized the ministry of Jesus as to render themselves fools when confronted and powerless in the realm of the spirit. God no more supports their efforts than those of the devil himself. To maintain their delusion, they require regular reminders of their fallacious enemy, what they view as sin in the culture. Keep eyes focused on that, they think, and everything falls into place.

An excellent example of this can be found in the current aggregator of “news” pages known as Google News, an article originally published by the right-wing propaganda site Western Journal. Like all of these disinformation sites, it’s run by people with deep ties in this community of unbelievers who have a “form of Christ” but are not the real deal. These people use God to oppress the less fortunate.

This article was the subject of a softball “analysis” by The Washington Times (another untrustworthy media form) under the remarkable headline “America’s new religion: Fake Christianity: Stop calling yourself a Christian if you don’t believe in Christ.” Based entirely on this Western Journal opinion piece. Here are some of the most provocative Washington Times quotes:

Writing for the Journal, Rachel Bratton said this: “American Christianity has fallen. Thanks to cultural corrosion and a lack of biblical literacy, a new ‘fake Christianity’ is now being preached within the American church.”

“This counterfeit religion is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” stated Ms. Bratton, “a worldview that has quickly gained prominence and given many Americans a theology that looks nothing like historical Christianity, despite what they may claim.” She then goes on to cite the recent work of George Barna, whose February survey showed that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD), or — watered-down, feel-good, fake Christianity – is the most popular worldview in the United States today.

Absent reading on, this seems an intriguing perspective, but the real “enemy” is revealed as anything “progressive,” which means complaining about the political left by casting doubt in the name of the political and Christian Right. Even the phrase “writing for the journal” elevates this commentary to the mainstream. After all, who can argue with “the journal?” Read on:

“The moralistic perspective is we’re here to be good people and to try to do good…The therapeutic aspect is everything is supposed to be geared to making me feel good about myself, ultimately to make me happy. Deism is the idea that God created the world but has no direct involvement in it. Basically, according to MTD, there is a distant God who just wants everyone to be nice, and the purpose of life is to be happy. American ‘Christians’ who have adopted this philosophy have… elevate[d] personal definitions of right and wrong above any objective standard of Truth — like the Bible.”

So, this “fake” Christianity is based in what they view as the moral swamp of liberal progressivism. It gets worse:

It is rather a syncretistic amalgamation of Bobby McFerrin and Black Lives Matter, sad solipsism of “don’t worry, be happy!” as we celebrate the “queering” of all that ails us.”

Read that again. Black Lives Matter, they allege, is part of the sinful culture brought about by this “fake” Christianity. The article continues its religious bigotry:

Ms. Bratton concludes: “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism distorts the God of the Bible in an attempt to make him bless all the dissipations and vanities of the modern world.” Ms. Barna adds: “MTD is one of those models that says you gotta live in the moment. This is all you’ve got, and you’ve gotta make the most of it.”

“It makes sense,” says Ms. Bratton, “that ‘Christians’ who embrace MTD are hesitant to [salt] the culture. How can anyone pass judgment if everyone’s just trying to be happy? The only sin is getting in the way of someone’s personal ‘truth.’

“That’s why so many are siding with [neo-Marxist atheistic] groups like Black Lives Matter and the LBGT movement. They’ll listen to the loudest voice on either side. Enter the screaming woke mob; [those who] promote sin under the guise of ‘loving everyone.’”

I would suggest this is very much a part of more traditional Christianity that alway pointed its judgmental and boney fingers towards sin in the culture, usually including an image of evil personified within the framework of poverty, unemployment, race, misogyny, and especially sexual and gender relations. When those with a mind to think for themselves in their interpretation of scripture reference the resemblance of these matters with the ministry of Jesus, blank stares follow, because, well, that’s not what the church teaches.

More from the Times article:

The Christian apologist Frank Turek recently said, “Some people call themselves progressive Christians when they’re neither progressive nor Christian because they disagree with Jesus on several significant issues. They disagree with Jesus on sex. They disagree with Jesus on the Bible. They disagree with Jesus on Heaven and Hell. They disagree with Jesus on his atonement. So, why would they call themselves a Christian?”

To paraphrase — Please stop calling yourself a Christian if you don’t believe in Christianity!

“Followers of Christ have forgotten that Jesus didn’t come to tell people to be nice. His message has always been a stumbling block, and [this is] especially hard for 21st-century Americans to accept,” says Ms. Bratton.

It is my belief (and that of a great many others) that this is a part of the disinformation associated with the Right’s version of reality. Jesus called us to love one another, including and especially the poor and the afflicted. You cannot find in the red words any condemnation for cultural sin. He was vastly more concerned with the damage that religious leaders of the time inflicted on the very people he came to save. In making such a proclamation, I realize full well that these views represent an attack on the institution that is the church. Institutions, remember from Clay Shirky, will always try to maintain the problem for which they are the solution. In this case, it’s a false narrative designed to keep them in power. We should reject this and all similar attempts as corrupt and not worth saving.

It’s all heresy, and we need a modern day Council of Churches to deal with it.