Deconstructing Narratives

In the study of postmodernism, one is confronted with the concept of narratives — overarching and comprehensive accounts of events, experiences, and social and cultural phenomena based on an appeal to universal truth or universal values. The narrative is the story that’s presented about the event, one that legitimizes power, authority, and social customs.

Each of us in the U.S. makes assumptions about life based on some or many narratives that seem to have been set in stone and against which we have no choice but to go along. We’re in a season where skepticism is increasing, however, as more and more people discover that these things aren’t really concrete but stem from the narratives of others like the ruling class, those who have the power to force rules and hierarchies on the powerless. This growing skepticism is a frightening perspective for the status quo, who demands that the rules be followed regardless of their source. Here, the great enemy is the postmodern exercise known as deconstruction, where narratives are examined to uncover both source and path. Deconstruction is the great commoner counterweight to the status quo.

Here’s an example from my own history. In the early 1970s, I was a morning news producer and part-time Assignment Editor for WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. I lived in the suburb of Shorewood, not very far from the campus of WTMJ, and had to be in work around 4 o’clock in the morning. My street was a one-way street that ended at a normally busy street. I needed to turn left, but there was a sign saying “No Left Turn.” There was zero traffic on the street, so I simply turned left, and one morning, a cop was watching. I got a ticket and was pretty upset about it. I can’t emphasize enough that the street was completely empty.

I did research and discovered that many years earlier, a woman pushing a baby stroller was run over by a car making a left turn at the intersection. The driver didn’t see the woman, because he was blinded by the setting sun, which was directly in his eyes. The story got a lot of attention, and so the authorities banned all left turns at the intersection. Based on that narrative, I was able to successfully argue that the circumstances at the intersection were very different in the middle of the night, and I convinced the Traffic Safety Commission to change the law from No Left Turn to No Left Turn 7am-7pm. If I hadn’t found the narrative that was used to justify the law in the first place, I would’ve had much more difficulty reaching the commissioners.

The point is it can be very valuable to know and understand the narrative behind the things we encounter around us and elsewhere. So let’s dig deeper. According to the New World Encyclopedia:

A grand narrative or metanarrative is one that claims to explain various events in history, gives meaning by connecting disperse events and phenomena by appealing to some kind of universal knowledge or schema. The term grand narratives can be applied to a wide range of thoughts which includes Marxism, religious doctrines, belief in progress, universal reason, and others.

The concept was created by Jean-François Lyotard in his work, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979). In this text, Lyotard refers to what he describes as the postmodern condition, which he characterized as increasing skepticism toward the totalizing nature of “metanarratives” or “grand narratives.”

…Many Christians believe that human nature, since the Fall (Genesis 3), is characteristically sinful, but has the possibility of redemption and experiencing eternal life in heaven; thus representing a belief in a universal rule and a telos for humankind.”

The challenge for all of us in 2021 is to recognize narratives when confronted with events — especially those political — so that we might have a chance of separating the facts from the bullshit. If we adapt to this form of understanding, we’ll see it everywhere, because every person, every business, every institution has a narrative that helps explain their language and their behavior. A personal narrative is called “agency,” the freedom I have to present myself to the world in any way that feels right to me. The problem, of course, is that we’re all human beings, and agency narratives can easily slip into selfishness, which is a serious problem for those who are trying to exercise love in their lives.

MAGA Christianity, for example, is narrative, and that’s exactly why it’s so dangerous. Universal plausibility, not fact, is what determines the story, so the grand narrative presented is false but effective in providing its denizens with what sounds like a reasonable story.

“The democrats are socialists who want to take your hard-earned money and give it to those who ought to just work like the rest of us.”

This is, of course, quite false, but it fits the conservative grand narrative that the rich people are the smart folks in our culture and provide a path for people to follow, because wherever democrats are in charge, there is waste. All one has to do to succeed in this life, therefore, is follow the rules and conform to the narrative, including the popular myth that teaching a man to fish is better than giving him a fish. The simple truth here is that the fishing pond doesn’t evenly spread the fish (resources) out in such a way that they can be caught equally.

If you understand narratives, you’ll begin to understand the old adage that “in war, the victor writes the history,” and you’ll also start asking questions about the narratives that you uncover. If you’re super lucky, you’ll soon begin — at some level — the postmodern practice of deconstructing those same narratives in an honest search for truth. History is not truth. History is narrative. As Peter Lurie pointed out in his marvelous 2003 essay “Why the Web Will Win the Culture Wars for the Left: Deconstructing Hyperlinks”, the web puts us automatically within deconstruction’s reach, because every link beckons us to dig deeper and discover for ourselves. We have no idea where this is going to lead culturally, except that it is going to be terribly difficult for the status quo.

“The content available online is much less important than the manner in which it is delivered; indeed, the way the Web is structured. Its influence is structural rather than informational, and its structure is agnostic. For that reason, parental controls of the sort that AOL can offer give no comfort to conservatives. It’s not that Johnny will Google “hardcore” or “T&A” rather than “family values;” rather, it’s that Johnny will come to think, consciously or not, of everything he reads as linked, associative and contingent. He will be disinclined to accept the authority of any text, whether religious, political or artistic, since he has learned that there is no such thing as the last word, or indeed even a series of words that do not link, in some way, to some other text or game. For those who grow up reading online, reading will come to seem a game, one that endlessly plays out in unlimited directions. The web, in providing link after associative link, commentary upon every picture and paragraph, allows, indeed requires, users to engage in a postmodernist inquiry.”

Be a deconstructor, but think positively. This is a time of tremendous opportunity. Distance yourself from the status quo, for it is crashing and will blow up in time. Before that happens, however, the heat on all of this is going to be burning furiously, and it points right now to civil war. Trump and his cronies continue to pull followers further to the right, and there will come a point when all their guns will begin firing. The ensuing terror will exceed that of 9/11, because this will be perpetuated by our neighbors, not foreigners who already hate all of us. Follow the narrative to get a glimpse of tomorrow. By presenting their political ideas as an overarching narrative, followers have no choice but to go along to the very end. The appeal, after all, is universal plausibility.

The media doesn’t get this, because the media presents itself as a special class, which is part of its own narrative. In other words, the media is simply unwilling and therefore not capable of presenting life as narrative. Goodness, that would be a lot of work.

A citizenry that does its own deconstructing is not easily fooled by political narratives, and that’s where we’re all headed thanks to the World Wide Web. This shift in human understanding is eonic in nature, and we can say with great confidence that the era of modernism is over, which likely accounts for all of the current conflict between ideologies that we’re experiencing today. One era dies; another rises. Welcome to the era of postmodernism.

The irony is that this changing narrative was brought about by a pandemic and the shutting down of the culture for a season. Suddenly home alone and with tons of “free” time, people retreated into survival mode and began a great awakening amongst the people that “jobs” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and that nobody really cares for anybody else, just themselves. This has spawned an entire generation of unsatisfied people who’re working the system to start their own businesses and thus be their own employers. Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, Doordash, and others have given many of these people a way to make a few bucks while exploring their options. I use Uber several times a month, and my survey of drivers strongly suggests this is so.

So, who’ll run things when the era matures? We will. The people. And that has a chance to be glorious.

The Wishful Thinking of an Anti-Trumper

Elections | WOODTV.com

Democrats have made enormous tactical and strategic blunders in the wake of the 2020 election, and the result was a ringing and unanticipated night for Republicans in 2021 elections on Tuesday. Dems simply cannot resist advancing (not maintaining, mind you, but advancing) status quo progressive causes at every turn, and this made them appear weak, ignorant, and predictable in the aftermath of a global pandemic and the lunacy of Donald Trump.

It’s almost as though the Democrats viewed those two extreme events as merely small blips on the path from here to liberal nirvana.

The most grievous error was the automatic assumption that a Biden win was a vote for balls-to-the-walls progressivism. It was not. The 2020 presidential election was a desperate attempt at rescue for those who could see Trump’s well-lit path to despotism, authoritarianism, fascism, lying as a tactic, bullying, and profound recklessness and corruption. That was it, and for that, the entire planet breathed a sigh of relief when Trump was removed.

This matter was the paramount concern of people who gave the White House to Joe Biden, not to be swapped for extremism in the other direction. The insurrection of January 6 took place AFTER the election, so the best we can say about it was it validated the real concerns of the electorate two months earlier. Enter Biden and the Democrats who had been given the extremely rare opportunity to set their opponent back decades but instead chose to press the Obama foolishness (under the circumstances) that rubbed America the wrong way sufficiently enough to elect Trump in the first place. This strategic decision showed up in the elections on Tuesday, where Republicans not “expected” to be a serious challenge basically swept everything.

This could/should be the event that redirects the actions of the left, but it won’t, and that spells deep trouble for all of us in 2024.

In politics, it is very foolish to underestimate the circumstances within which the electorate moves. And, I can tell you that working with democrats these days (in the wake of Trump) is among the most frustrating activities I’ve ever encountered. The assumptions that drive their strategies are not universally held. Social movements either end short of their goal or become institutionalized. Such institutions, you’d think, would be smart enough to momentarily maintain radio silence while we could concentrate on attacking the very hegemony that keeps the super rich running everything.

But no. Democrats can only be democrats, so they swapped opportunity for the maintenance of the status quo and its sure money.

We desperately need a 3rd political party, one that brings together more ecumenical members of the GOP and more conservative members of the democrats. Let the extremes wreak havoc on each other while we do the job of governing and moving the country forward.

Let’s get the lawyers out of our legislatures (a blatant conflict of interest) and replace them with working people, not professional politicians.

Oh well, I suppose that’s just the wishful thinking of an old warhorse who simply cannot tolerate what he’s seeing.

Those Satanic Democrats

ABC Family, No Matter What It Calls Itself, Can't Get Rid of Pat Robertson's  The 700 Club

My old boss Pat Robertson is using the latest Arab-Israeli conflict to threaten every person who doesn’t unilaterally support Israel with a curse from the Bible. Isn’t it amazing how fundamentalist Christianity uses threats of future harm as a way to manage its denizens into doing exactly what the Republican Party wants done today? Evangelicalism, at its very core, uses such fears to scare people into marching in lock step. It’s a clever ruse, because it doesn’t require proof other than its shared beliefs in interpreting the Bible.

Evangelicalism is the management of people via the threat of hell. Every pamphlet, every first contact with a sinner to “save” begins with the question of one’s future habitation. This way, you don’t have to address what’s happening to a person in the here and now. You’re doing them a favor by promising them a future in heaven. It’s how pro-lifers can dismiss what happens to all those babies after they’re born. They just don’t seem to matter, do they?

Dismissing the entire concept of grace, Robertson and his ilk have slid into legalism as their theological core. Do this, not that is the very definition of legalism within the faith, even though the Bible says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” and “the just shall live by faith.”

Quoting from his broadcast of The 700 Club on Monday, Newsweek noted the political aspects of his screed in a piece called “Televangelist Pat Robertson Warns U.S. Will ‘Suffer Curse’ from God If Dems Don’t Support Israel

“Here’s what the Bible says in Genesis, talking about Abraham,” he (Pat Robertson) said, “ ‘I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families in the earth you shall be blessed.’ Genesis 12:3 NKJV. Now, I think the Jews have been God’s messengers. They have been entrusted with the oracles of God, and to see this rise of antisemitism which mirrors what was done in the Nazis… This is satanic.”

Robertson then named names, …calling out “Tlaib and the other members of the Squad,” meaning six young, left-leaning, POC members of Congress including Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Jamaal Bowman of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri.

“If the United States of America stopped supporting Israel…if you listen to what [the squad] is saying, and if the Democratic Party swings in that direction, and if the millennials lead America away from Israel, we as a nation will suffer the curse that God placed on those who would curse Abraham,” Robertson said.

To be clear, in the name of political expediency, Pat Robertson has just determined that the Democratic Party is the party of satan, thereby forbidding his followers from ever voting for Dems.

Zionism — to be factual, the geo-political base of the state of Israel — has carefully and systematically shifted the definition of antisemitism to now include unwillingness to be supportive of their plans, tactics, and goals. Israel is free to act in its own best interests with impunity and not those of its neighbors or even the whole region we call the Middle East.

Zionism is not Judaism, and they’re not even close.

Fundamentalist Christianity MUST support Israel, or its entire narrative crumbles. After all, its theology is based in the end times, and Israel’s resurrection in Canaan is their (Biblical) signal that Jesus is coming back soon. To deny the political nature of its Zionist government, however, is to turn a blind eye to real poverty, suffering, and death in the process of self-justification, and that, folks, is the total opposite of the commandment of Jesus to “love the Lord, ourselves, and our neighbors.”

Actor Jon Voight made a video that attempts to shame us all in the same direction. “How dare you attack the righteous souls of God’s highest truths,” he angrily chided those who stand against America’s $10 million-a-day gift to Israel, noting that Jews brought the concept of love into humanity, a claim that’s convenient but hardly true. There’s no love whatsoever in Israel for a Palestinian community it wishes would just go away.

Remember, friends, there’s a difference between freedom and license, for the former includes responsibilities to others, whereas license offers carte blanche in the acceptance and development of self-centeredness. Republicans deny their responsibilities as humans in favor of the most sinister form of selfishness ever brought forth on this planet.

Which one is God truly undergirding?

The Saints Who Vote For the Likes of Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the extreme wealthy look on and smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve got four years to figure it out.

After Tuesday

So, here we are on the eve of what’s been billed as the most important Presidential election of our lifetimes. Anybody who claims to “know” how tomorrow is going to end is a fool, but I must say that it sure feels like a walloping is at hand. Of course, your view likely is based on your sources of information, but an electorate that feels it made a mistake four years ago, is not about to perpetuate that error.

I not only believe that Joe Biden will win in a landslide, but also the Senate will be flipped, for to run locally as a Trump sycophant makes for really crappy and creepy local advertising, as witnessed here in Alabama with Tommy Tuberville’s attempts to paint Doug Jones as a liberal, anti-gun, pro-abortion monster. It just doesn’t work anymore, because the electorate has become hip to such manipulation and wants to see and hear about new and creative thinking in the midst of a pandemic that doesn’t care about our artificial government made up of big corporate interests and nothing else. Hardcore liberalism isn’t going to do the trick either, so what comes next is going to be very interesting for an old observer like me.

Democrats must think carefully about their next moves, because the machine that created “President” Trump in the first place (The Council for National Policy-CNP) will simply reload with a more mainstream-approved candidate next time. Unless, that is, we do something about it.

Therefore, I’m going to take advantage of this “day before” status to do a little forward thinking. Assuming a Biden victory, here are things I see ahead.

  • There will be a significant sigh of relief, which will likely result in a season of inertia at a time when significant action will be required. America is worn and weary, and we just want to rest. We must guard against this, because the real work of redefining America is going to take a Herculean effort.
  • The struggle to reclaim the brand “Christianity” will be ongoing, because Trump’s right-wing church leaders will blame Trump the person for losing. They will continue to press their causes, which are mostly found in the bedrooms of the country.
  • Biden and the Democrats must resist trying to resolve all of the problems created by the previous right wing government and work instead on efforts to prevent it from ever happening again. This America will support.
  • Biden’s first year will his most fertile in terms of getting anything serious done, and the danger will be in attempts to force putting everything back together in order to satisfy his coalition.
  • American business will be painted as the victim of an anti-capitalist plot by the left.
  • Regardless of any perceived mandate from the election, the right will deploy whatever weapons they have to create a stand still government until they can groom their candidate for 2024. It won’t be Mike Pence.
  • The wealthy will throw everything they have at maintaining their grip on the culture, including damage to our economy that they will blame on the socialist left.
  • The media will still be unable to stay away from Trump.
  • The National Debt MUST be attributed to the right and Trump’s corporate welfare. Somebody has to pay for all that greed, and that will likely be us. After all, that debt is ours.
  • The most important agenda item for Biden would be reformation of the tax exemption laws that will prevent the kind of right wing mischief of the CNP and the religious right. Politics should not be a tax exempt enterprise.
  • We will need to produce an effort that keeps Trump’s damage front and center. I promise the right is working on media strategies that will frame a narrative that Trump was the problem, not the ideology of the right. We must reframe that to marry Trump and the GOP, that without each other, they couldn’t have done the damage that they did.
  • I maintain my belief that the scent of victory supplied by the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is enough to pause the pro-life movement’s energy.
  • The silk stockings need to be seen as a curse on freedom, not the blessing thereof. In 1646, John Milton wrote his Sonnet 12 as a part of his writings on divorce. It very well frames the big issue with the haves, and I’d like to see us find a way to use it. The most famous line from this poem is “License they mean when they cry liberty” — referring to the absolutism of the church and those elites who benefit from it. They want a form of licentiousness (freedom from all restrictions) instead of democratic freedom, which includes responsibility. Straightening out this difference contemporarily must be given our attention.
  • We should also not be afraid to acknowledge America’s anger with corporations.
  • News organizations must continue to investigate everything that’s happened over the last four years, for, as NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller wrote in the introduction of the new edition of Edward Bernays book Propaganda, “…the investigative journalist is the propagandist’s natural enemy, as the former serves the public interest, while the latter tends to work against it.”

This is a very incomplete list, but I hope you can see where I think the focus should be — on preventing another Trump from ever getting near the White House.

Winning tomorrow is just the beginning.

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.