The Desperate Need To Be ‘Somebody’

Like a great many others in the days following the atrocity in Uvalda, Texas, I struggled to make sense of it all. My first thought was that this was a crime of rage and that there’s too much rage in our culture. I’ve changed my mind, however, because I now believe that these crimes are birthed of fear. Nothing else can produce the kinds of behavior we’re seeing with these shootings. We can talk about gun control, poor use of background checks, and mental illness, but I think it’s all motivated by fear — specifically, the fear of being a nobody. From social media “influencers” to billionaires and their rockets, it seems as though everybody else is succeeding in life. But what about those who don’t succeed, or worse, can find no way that they could ever share in what they’re seeing on television or their phones?

The correct term for this is envy, one of the seven deadly sins. Envy is not the same as coveting; it’s much more intensely personal. It’s entirely driven by our egos, for a healthy self is content to let life be in charge, to simply blossom where they’re planted.

Back in the mid-1970s, I went through a season in my life of hanging only with African-American friends. I dressed in silky Superfly clothes, with wide and long shirt collars — open with chest hair on display — and, of course, the jewelry. I went to the black bars and hung with friends who played basketball with our television station recreation league team. One of my friends during that season was an inner-city high school basketball coach. I remember playing in a benefit game at his gym, where the crowd erupted when I hit a jump shot. I asked my buddy the coach about it, and he said, “Look around, stupid! You’re the only white guy in the building!”

One day, he invited me to watch his team practice. It was fascinating. Every time one of them hit a shot, he would cry out, “I’m known!” Over and over, a made shot evoked shouts of “I’m known!” I asked my friend about it, and he said that scoring in a high school game meant you’d get your name in the paper. Hence, “I’m known!” This was an amazing revelation to me, and I still think about it today. What must it be like to grow up feeling like a nobody, unless you could score in high school sports, because that mean you weren’t a nobody; you were known!

There exists today a deep pocket of Americans who go through their lives feeling unknown. It spans the gamut of nationalities, and it’s especially prevalent among uneducated white folks in America’s Southland. They are incensed at the idea that they are somehow “privileged” because they’re white, when the reality is they’re dirt poor while pretending otherwise. Redneck culture includes driving home to young people the reality that they are nobodies. Behaviors, especially alcohol and sex, are designed specifically to toughen up young boys to face the inevitable. It’s not uncommon for incredible episodes of abuse in the lives of these young people. Born a redneck; die as a redneck. Very few people make it out. The most remarkable thing about rednecks is their refusal to publicly embrace a loser identity, which is why they vote Republican. “We’re just fine. We’re independent. We take care of our own and don’t need any of your government assistance.”

In his remarkable book, The Righteous Redneck’s Journey To Love, Keith Coffell tells of the cruelty applied to him as the community did their best to turn him into a “redneck soldier”. At the age of 12, he was taken to the woods by his uncle and an older boy, stripped, and sexually assaulted. Here’s a paragraph from later that night:

As I lay face down on my bed with my head buried in my pillow, I could still feel Uncle Joe’s slimy hands on my body, smell his whiskey laden breath breathing down my neck, feel his prickly whiskers rubbing against my chest, and cringe at the thought of Bobby’s sticky tongue pressing against my body. I cried myself to sleep that night and the next night and the next night and the next night. In fact, the nightmare of the rape still haunts and taunts me from time to time. I never told my parents. I felt they didn’t care. And in my mind, I believed Daddy would have simply said, “Stop your fuss boy, you in Redneck Boot Camp. You’ll be alright.”

Of course, not every redneck soldier is raped, but the takeaway here is that this kind of ignorance and brutality are likely more prevalent in the South than anybody realizes. If we ever want to understand the kinds of evil that this kind of treatment can produce, we only need to look into the roots that produced such rotten fruit in the first place.

New York Times best-selling author Mike Robinson says, “When you accept yourself for who you are without trying to be a ‘somebody’ in the eyes of humanity, then you have let go of your ego…Only an ego would make a person a ‘somebody’ or its opposite, a ‘nobody’. Your descriptive labels are not who you are, they are what you have become, so don’t judge yourself and others on the value of a label. Instead allow the true you to emerge, because when you are not attached to any descriptive label, you are free”

In a new article about Robinson’s book The True Dynamics of Life in CISION (PRWeb), writer Sara Gibbons provides a warning that summarizes Robinson’s thoughts:

“…to be a ‘somebody’ a person has to become something other than what they are, and to do that they have to desire, strive and suffer. He relates this to the very beginnings of society and the consequent development of desire for more. This caused society to split and divide into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This split is called envy, which is the fundamental fear of not having enough or not being good enough. It is the fear of being a ‘nobody’. This is so destructive to human life that it is more deadly than AIDS, HIV, cancer and more toxic than greenhouse gases.

By association, the GOP appeals to this need to be “somebody”. As the representatives of the wealthy, they ought to know who’s a somebody and who is not. By appearing to represent Evangelical Christianity, Republicans appeal to their sense of faith as a representation that they are okay, alright, and on the side of good. Add to that sweeping generalizations from the Bible, such as “Nothing is impossible with God”.

The greatest evil here may be that the GOP uses envy to manipulate the electorate on behalf of the rich and the extremely rich. The unintended consequences, of course, are all over the map, and include things like we saw this week. The Bible actually calls this “tickling the ears”, which is a whole lot easier than educating people. It tries to make them feel warm and wanted, well, except for those who don’t.

I agree with Mike Robinson that this struggle between the ego and the self — if effectively supported from without — is at the core of most things that are wrong with us humans at this stage in our development.

The insanity of Uvalde is just one more, highly horrific example.

The GOP’s 40-year Criminal Conspiracy to Take Over the U.S.

Trump addresses the Council for National Policy (CNP), courtesy Center for Media and Democracy

The current state of the Republican Party in the U.S. is the result of a 40+ year conspiracy by right-wing zealots to overthrow the government and to replace it with one more friendly to wealth, corporations, and hypocritical morality. This conspiracy is criminal in its use of tax exemptions to hide the real reasons for a coup de-tat in the name of “education”. I was a part of this in its early days, so I’m not surprised it has come very close to success.

Here’s how I recall one meeting in particular from my book about Pat Robertson, The Gospel of Self: How Pat Robertson Stole the Soul of the GOP. Pat gathered a small handful of key executives in charge of content for The 700 Club. It was January 1, 1985. Ronald Reagan had been re-elected, but Pat saw a void beginning in 1988. Here’s the gist of what he told us in the board room that day:

“We must form a shadow government,” he began. “We must begin to find and train Christian people, so that they can be placed in every position that matters, because the country is on the verge of collapse. The Lord is showing me that when it goes, nobody is going to know what to do, and they will turn to us, because we will have answers. We won’t be afraid. We’ve got to work to make sure God’s people are in the schools, the school boards, the city councils, the county commissions, the trash collectors, the tax collectors and all local government positions. We need to be in the state legislatures, the statewide offices, Congress, the courts, everywhere. We can’t be overt and obvious about this; we must do it quietly and create this shadow government.”

In many ways, this statement was years in the making and was energized by the election of Ronald Reagan and the rise of the televangelists in America. Satellite TV was just being birthed, and CBN owned a transponder on the very first Satcom satellite, which positioned us to ride above the grip that the networks had on the TV screens in American homes. Pat knew that this advantage would provide the technical mechanisms for disrupting the status quo provided by network domination of the news hegemony. We called our content “TV Journalism With A Different Spirit,” which was euphemistic for right-wing political propaganda. We were criticized by certain media observers as “so slanted that it’s vertical.” It turns out that what we actually did was to write the playbook upon which Fox News is based.

Pat Robertson ran for President in 1988 as the man who would replace Ronald Reagan. Think about that for a minute. This event and events surrounding it were the direct result of the politicization of the tongue-talking (expression for those Christians who practice the Gifts of the Spirit outlined in the gospel, speaking in tongues being one of them) audience of The 700 Club and the more staid worshippers under the Moral Majority brand of Jerry Falwell. The core beliefs of these two groups couldn’t be more different, and yet they found fellowship with each other under the banner of relieving the country of what they called sin. Both groups preached separating themselves from a culture that threatened their sensibilities as neighbors. This threat seemed to directly attack their faithfulness to what the Bible taught them about men and women, prayer in public places (like schools), displaying creches and the Ten Commandments, and especially what they viewed as infanticide through abortion. Together, we made the claim that the country was hostile to Christianity, and that the country’s issues were simply expressions of human fallenness.

It was a powerful argument to those who believed that they were of the redeemed, and thus their ability to rightly judge the culture was a given among them. This is still quite evident today.

Privately, Pat Robertson despised Jerry Falwell, especially in the wake of him taking over Jim Bakker’s ministry to the tongue-talkers. Falwell represented that he was the right person to intervene in the mess created by Bakker’s infidelity, but we knew it would be a disaster. Strange bedfellows they were, Falwell and Bakker. Add to all that Oral Roberts’ presentation that if he didn’t raise $9 million by Friday, God would take him home, and Jimmy Swaggart’s illicit rendezvous with street hookers, and you had the makings of a total dismembering of televangelism as a whole.

Our biggest fear at the time was that Pat’s run for President would be included in the follies of televangelism as a whole, and Pat’s shadow government seemed to take an enormous hit. After all, Pat’s entire vision included his ability to draw a more intelligent crowd than the others. Unfortunately, it was these very people who abandoned all television ministries as a result of the antics of Roberts, Bakker, Swaggart, and others.

Regardless of judgments coming from outside Christian circles, Pat pressed forward with his plans to run for President. Almost overnight everything changed when the IRS office of criminal investigations opened an investigation into misuse of our contributions for political purposes. They were right, and they had mounds of evidence even before my deposition in the case.

The investigation came “right from the top” according to the investigator who handled my deposition. I took it to mean that it was “requested” by George H.W. Bush to force Pat out of the 1988 race. It worked, but it’s very important to understand that Pat and his associates thought little of pushing tax exemptions to their extreme limits in the process of his efforts. In the case of the Council for National Policy (CNP), of which Pat was president in 1982, they took up Pat’s cause of “restoring America to its rightful place as a Christian nation”. Here is an organization behaving exactly as we did, up to their necks in politics and yet having the enormous benefit of being a tax-exempt organization. This is illegal, folks, and yet we’re all looking the other way while they try to[ take over the government. CBN was also profoundly pro-business, which appealed to wealthy contributors, I’m convinced that the hundreds of tax exempt organizations under CNP leadership are — like we did in the 1980s — breaking the law when it comes to the “education” exemptions of 501©3 tax exempt organizations.

One of the beneficiaries of the coup attempt is J.D. Vance, the presumptive Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Ohio in the fall. In an Intelligencer article about Vance, there is one particular paragraph that’s noteworthy for this missive. Here it is:

“I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” he said. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giving him one piece of advice: Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”

“Our people”. This would be the same ones that Pat Robertson referred to in his Shadow Government secret proclamation. It’s all illegal in its use of tax exemptions and needs to be put down permanently.

It’s hard for me to imagine why a Democratic White House doesn’t open an investigation into the CNP, for the results would have an important and necessary chilling effect on their efforts to overthrow the U.S. Government.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For much more information about the CNP and its members, I strongly recommend you read Anne Nelson’s investigative reporting book, Shadow Network.

Christianity’s Big Branding Problem

Editor’s Note: This was first published five years ago in the Huffington Post.

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Courtesy David Hayward, The Naked Pastor

Dear Christians,

I’m writing to you today to discuss a very serious matter. Your brand — and especially the realm of Evangelicalism — has been hi-jacked by extremists who are using it to advance political theories that have nothing to do with your beliefs. You may not have had anything to do with it personally, but this thievery has taken place right in front of you. It has been sinister and systematic, and we’ve arrived at a confused place today where the brand is now interchangeable with the extreme political right. I played a role in this maneuvering during the 1980s as the executive producer of Pat Robertson’s flagship TV program The 700 Club. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain.

The 1980s was the era that launched Christianity as a Republican political force. It has grown over the subsequent years and eventually energized the election of Donald Trump. Noted theologian Roger Olsen recalled for a blog commenter the very moment he realized what was happening.

For me the “tipping point” (almost driving me insane) was when television talk show hosts began inviting Jerry Falwell and his ilk onto their programs to speak for all evangelicals. Donahue, King, et al. Why didn’t they have moderate-to-progressive evangelicals on their shows to speak for evangelicalism? Because moderate-to-progressive evangelicals didn’t interest them. We speak with too many syllables and too much ambiguity. They wanted demagoguery, bluster, extremism. The fundamentalists calling themselves evangelicals provided it. Many evangelicals fell into line with this trend as did many fundamentalists. I am one of the few “hold outs” from the older, truer evangelicalism that refused and still refuses to go along with that narrative.

So the initial hijacking of the brand was the work of a powerful few, but it was aided in great part by a news media in search of cultural “sides” to explain conflicts between the right and the left. And this, of course, had to be done in a manner that would produce ratings or enhance readership. Hence, Dr. Olsen’s “tipping point.” Denominational Christianity was shoved aside by those who taught their flocks that political participation was a major tenet of living the Christian life. It didn’t matter that the GOP was the party of the wealthy, their “traditional values” synced so well with the faith that it was easy to convince Christian voters to support them — in fact, “become” them — and in so doing move conservatism even farther to the right through fundamentalist extremes.

They preach what I call the Gospel of Self, a self-betterment, self-improvement theology that can’t help but produce behavior contrary to the faith. Let’s face it: self is the very thing that must be overcome in the Christian tradition, not the building up of ourselves up so that we can run the world around us. That is called “idolatry,” and we all know the warnings about that. The voice reminds me of the voice who said, “tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” We need to restore the brand to its rightful place, or Christian evangelism will become nothing more than a useless attempt to protect our own asses from a future of hellfire and damnation. We will continue to push people away and lose those from our flocks that are weary of what they see as hypocrisy. We need to let God be God, and put a stop to this damnable crusade for power and influence within the culture. I believe there are a great many who see this as contrary to the Great Commission but don’t know what to do about it.

Chris Hedges is a longtime critic of this behavior speaks to it once again in a piece called “Trump and the Christian Fascists:”

“These believers … detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.”

It is the Gospel of Self. How to create satisfaction for yourself and your family in this life while fighting the battles of God in the political arena. This is the antithesis of what Jesus taught in the gospels.

“The just shall live by faith” is the very foundation of protestantism. God is not mocked, and all who call themselves “Christian” know in their hearts that faith doesn’t include what’s in front of us in our culture. God judges these things and acts upon him as the natural has always done the unnatural, and we need faith in order to let that happen without trying to move things along under our own power. Life’s usual method of dealing with our dissatisfaction is to keep pouring it on until we learn to truly trust Him, not our ability to do battle ourselves in hopes of “winning” a more comfortable living in this life. Don’t think that’s the way it works? Start praying for patience and watch what happens. We simply aren’t promised a peaceful neighborhood, a sinless, well-managed, and questionless society, or any other utopian fantasy that is trouble free for those of us supposedly in the know. What happened to our understanding that the corrupt nature of humankind is a trap for those who believe we have control over anything. We were promised that the poor would always be with us, and it’s by our reaction to and our treatment of those who live under poverty’s harsh taskmaster that we are judged. We cannot earn ourselves a rose garden no matter how badly we want one. That kind of justification would not be of faith anyway, so why do we try so hard to make ourselves feel so very special. Moreover, why do we attempt to force others to embrace that specialness?

“The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch,” the Bible tells us. There is no reference to denomination, doctrine, or dogma, because the term referred to the way those pioneers lived and taught others to live, their overriding behavior being the piety they displayed. They loved one another. Noah Webster, of the dictionary fame, was certainly a Christian and defined the term thusly in his 1828 dictionary, the one we all use when trying to understand terms used in documents of that era:

CHRISTIAN, noun 1. A believer in the religion of Christ. 2. A professor of his belief in the religion of Christ. 3. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety. 4. In a general sense, the word Christians includes all who are born in a christian country or of christian parents.

So Noah Webster didn’t even come close to defining the brand by its position within the culture other than to identify piety with the term. And just so we understand number three, let’s also ask Mr. Webster to define “piety:”

PI’ETY, noun [Latin pietas, from pius, or its root, probably a contracted word.] Piety in principle, is a compound of veneration or reverence of the Supreme Being and love of his character, or veneration accompanied with love; and piety in practice, is the exercise of these affections in obedience to his will and devotion to his service.

In all things as Christians, Jesus is our model, our example, our Lord, and the author of grace. If we have questions about any issue or behavior, we can look to Him for ourselves and not be dependent on what the preacher says or any so-called expert. This was the great cultural disruption in the West brought about by Gutenberg’s printing of the Bible with the first printing press. That invention — along with common English translations of the book — decimated the unquestioned power of Rome and spread that power across the land. So began the enlightenment, protestantism, and ultimately colonialism and a modern world governed by logic and reason.

Christians are still a great throng in the world, one represented as a tapestry of different practices and branches with no one granted the authority to proclaim themselves or anyone else the “real” Christians. Various creeds have been written to help better define our specific beliefs, although we cannot escape the truth that these were written by men. Some will insist that these men were guided by the Holy Spirit and therefore sanctified in God’s eyes, but fallen man is fallen man, and if we really believe that, it’s hard to blindly trust any such reasoning. I would argue, in fact, that we’ve used those creeds and such to create neat boxes within which we can place people who disagree with us, and that is not piety, not even close.

The natural inclination of children to love others is relentlessly “cleansed” by “Christian” parents eager to bring them into their separatist, nationalist folds, and the harm done in so doing is incalculable. Even within families, members who refuse to walk according to the beliefs of the patriarch or matriarch are privately and even publicly ostracized. Children grow up and become adults, and in many denominations, that means they leave, and, according to Pew, the “unchurched” population is growing at a pace unexperienced in times past. These young people are deeply turned off, and yet their antagonizers continue to loudly profess the very moral hypocrisy they see as they’re growing up. Lectures and disapproval are often tied to sexual activities and thoughts, thought to be immoral in the profession of many churches.

However, morality doesn’t begin and end with sex. It just doesn’t, yet these extremists argue morality entirely around the sex act. Abortion isn’t about killing babies; it’s about sex. If it were not, then why don’t these vocal Christians support birth control? The churches don’t talk about the statistics. Did you know that the abortion rate in the U.S. is back to where it was before Roe v Wade? It’s not a legal issue, and it never was. It’s about sex and the extremist view that the act is evil unless somehow made clean by the church’s sanctification through marriage. Gay marriage. Homosexuality. Transgenderism. They’re all about sex. We think it makes God angry, and we don’t want to get caught up in that anger, so we rail against any sexual practice outside marriage between a man and a woman. We claim God is judging the world for this, and yet the Bible points out that Sodom wasn’t destroyed for its sexual sins but rather for its failure to take care of the poor and the afflicted. One is free, therefore, to ask that if God is indeed judging today, who exactly is He judging? Perhaps the very church attendees who plead the morality message at every turn.

That’s a very dangerous practice, because morality is a much, much broader matter. It includes, among other things, obscene CEO salaries, oppression of workers through poor wages and conditions, opposition to welfare, insider trading, tax loopholes, flouting avarice, and removing government programs that protect the poor and the afflicted. How Christian people can side with such immorality is the great mystery of the Twenty-First Century, but it begins with those who have seized the brand and run with it.

I use the words “Christian brand,” because it’s a marketing problem. We need to see it as such, if there’s to be any hope of correcting the extreme shifting of Christianity far to the political right. And if this is to be, then we need to create faith-based arguments about it and spread those far and wide. Political debates today are required to be entertaining, and that means extremes going at each other. Let’s take that debate into the church, for debating in the public square is quite useless. Let’s not be afraid to confront questions of mixing theology and politics from the pulpit, in our Bible studies, and in our homes.

The only thing wrong with error, after all, is the contempt it breeds for those who would disagree, usually without investigation. We’re better than that, aren’t we?

A “Biblical” Worldview Deconstructed

God Inhabits the Praise of His People' Meaning

Continuing with my series of essays about the fundamental beliefs of contemporary Evangelical Christians — assumptions that drive the entire movement, including those who would identify as MAGA Christians — let’s deconstruct the idea of a “Biblical Worldview”, as in, “Our school teaches a Biblical Worldview.”

This worldview is then used to divide and separate the behavior of Christians from the rest of the culture.

So common is this phrase in evangelicalism, that everyone takes it for granted. I mean, if you believe every word of the book, why would you not wish to live by it? That’s the simplicity that it offers, and “I want all my neighbors to do the same thing. Therefore, I’ll do the best I can to recruit them into the way we live, and everything will be just fine.” It’s the ultimate disrespect for the beliefs of others, but it doesn’t seem that way to them, for they are “saving” their neighbors from eternal damnation.

In postmodern vernacular, this “world view” is the same thing as a “Grand Narrative,” the overarching story of what’s presented at all levels throughout the narrative. The difference, however, is what gives us the wiggle room to deconstruct the narrative, because these things are usually presented as fact, although we cannot fool nature into performing as we would wish. Many, if not most, grand narratives have at least an element of this, which is why deconstruction can very much become the monkey wrench in the plans of humankind. However, it’s also wise to question such narratives in order to gain wisdom and understanding and to prevent culture from completely running off any self-interested rails.

To have a “Biblical” worldview, we must first choose which Bible we’re going to use, and this alone can take a lifetime of study and still not completely affirm the grand narrative selected. At this point, many simply create a new translation, one that better fits the story being presented. Moreover, once a translation is selected, believers must completely believe in its inerrancy. So important is this belief, that movement leaders refer to it as “the WORD of God.” In other words, the Bible provides all that’s necessary to prove itself as the literal voice of God, therefore it proclaims the true wishes of the final authority. In this way, these people view the Bible and its words literally, at least so far as they help frame the narrative.

(Aside: If you wish to understand what is meant in the Bible about the Word of God, read the books of Adam and Eve, apocryphal literature that presents the lives of Adam and Eve and their progeny after the garden.)

It is this authority that has driven Western Civilization for over 2,000 years, beginning with the Council of Nice in the 4th Century A.D., through the Dark Ages when the church governed everything about salvation of the saints, including the selling of special dispensations to royals in order to keep its coffers full. Then came the printing press and decades of complaints from the church about losing its authority over the book. This led to The Enlightenment and the protestant revolution of “the just shall live by faith.” On and on, our history is filled with wars and other conflicts over the inerrancy of scripture. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.” On the one hand, it’s nice to have the rules of life all handily laid out for us, so that we can “decide” if we want to follow them or not. This places the onus for what they view as “salvation” in our own hands, meaning we must live by these rules, which begin with “the just shall live by faith.” Confused? On the other hand, whatever happened to “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”?

So, you can see the problem with this Biblical Worldview profession, because it turns out to be better for the evangelicals than those being recruited. I’m reminded of The Shirky Principle, that institutions will always try to preserve the problem for which they are the solution. It’s very easy to do that when you insist that even though Jesus is believed to have redeemed humanity (“It is finished”), the Biblical Worldview suggests that we play a role in our own redemption, so much so that the word redemption itself requires its own deconstruction. Therefore, the correct response to this Biblical Worldview is one of separating ourselves from the sins of others, and maintaining that separation regardless of the begging and pleading of the have-nots. We’re taught not to link ourselves with such people, which is why this crowd feels its Biblical to reject others in the name of God, regardless of how it appears on the surface. After all, what’s to stop these heathens from taking what I’ve earned in following the rules? They are the problem, not me.

The elites of Western culture have always maintained a special relationship with Christianity, for the “saving” of heathen cultures was a fast-track to manipulation in terms of maintaining peace among the working class while profiting enormously from their labor. It’s no surprise therefore that the same is rampant today. The printing press temporarily disrupted this cozy relationship between man and mammon, prompting the powerful, 15th-Century priestly statement: “The jewel of the elites is in the hands of the laity.” The internet, however, is an even greater disruption to organized Christianity, because the web is a 3‑way communications medium. The top can talk “to” the bottom. The bottom can talk “to” the top. But the greatest cultural changes are coming from the 3rd way, which is that the bottom can talk with the bottom without interference from the top, and this is simply not compatible with the church’s one-to-many hegemony.

An important part of modern Christianity’s Grand Narrative is its relationship to Israel and how Zionism is a necessary part of Jesus returning to earth to claim the redeemed humans and take them to Heaven with him in what’s known as “The Rapture of the Church.” The Biblical Worldview teaches that Israel is sacred and that all promises made by God to the ancients still apply, and that to criticize Israel is to displease God or challenge God. Moreover, since the end will begin in a Jewish Jerusalem, we should support Israel’s existence at all cost. This is what authorizes Evangelical Christians to proclaim that the return of Jesus is near, a belief that has undergirded evangelicalism since 1948 and why the U.S. gives Israel so much no-strings-attached money. Call it a Strategic Defense Initiative if you’d like, but this is what a Biblical Worldview teaches. In addition, the Zionists will eventually have to replace the mosque on the Temple Mount with a new temple, which will result in violence and bloodshed on a scale we’ve yet to witness in the Middle East, but you won’t hear it condemned completely by the U.S. Why not? Because that’s where Jesus will return, so there’s nothing wrong with (wink-wink) helping it along.

If you actually believe this would be God’s will, I feel very sorry for you.

People mostly stay silent about these realities, choosing instead to trust the church overall or their place of worship and leaders who attended seminary and are professionally trained. How could such academic thinkers be wrong, right? Ask them questions, however, and they’ll refer back to their own catechism, which uses the Bible to teach the inerrancy of the Bible. It’s the greatest illustration of circular reasoning in the history of humankind. For example, is the story of God stopping the rotation of the earth for 24-hours to enable Joshua to completely conquer his enemies a myth or a true story? “Well, cough-harrumph, Terry, God can do anything, right?” What God “can” do is not evidence of what God did or didn’t do.

Walt Disney built his entire empire on the idea of “the plausible impossible,” which was a reference to the death-defying feats of animated characters. To be kind, let’s make the assumption that religions contain many elements of the plausible impossible, only Christians refer to them as fact in the name of the miraculous. This is a vain attempt to fool nature, but we buy into it with regularity.

There is no greater mystery with these believers than the combining of the New Testament with the Old Testament in order to come up with cultural rules for believers.

To further study all this, let’s turn to an insider definition of a Biblical Worldview, and what better document to examine than one created by the monstrous heresy known as “Focus on the Family” and its prophet, James Dobson. The ministry calls its worldview a “Christian Worldview”, which is the same thing as Biblical Worldview. Here are just a few paragraphs that explain the concept.

A biblical worldview is based on the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do. That means, for instance, you take seriously the mandate in Romans 13 to honor the governing authorities by researching the candidates and issues, making voting a priority.

Do you have a biblical worldview? Answer the following questions, based on claims found in the Bible and which George Barna used in his survey:

- Do absolute moral truths exist?
- Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
- Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
- Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
- Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
- Is Satan real?
- Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
- Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?

Did you answer yes to these? Only 9 percent of “born- again” believers did (according to Barna research). But what’s more important than your yes to these questions is whether your life shows it. Granted, we are all sinners and fall short, but most of our gut reactions will reflect what we deep-down, honest-to-goodness believe to be real and true…

…Here is the big problem. Nonbiblical worldview ideas don’t just sit in a book somewhere waiting for people to examine them. They bombard us constantly from television, film, music, newspapers, magazines, books and academia.

Because we live in a selfish, fallen world, these ideas seductively appeal to the desires of our flesh, and we often end up incorporating them into our personal worldview. Sadly, we often do this without even knowing it.

For example, most Christians would agree with 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and other Scriptures that command us to avoid sexual immorality, but how often do Christians fall into lust or premarital and extramarital sexual sin? Is it simply because they are weak when tempted, or did it begin much earlier, with the seductive lies from our sexualized society?

Notice how this narrative forces cultural problems on those who don’t use their Biblical Worldview. This will forever keep their fingers pointed at others in their pursuit of happiness and is justification for not loving their neighbors.

You can see the requirement that the Bible be considered the absolute and infallible authority in order to live what’s called a Biblical Worldview. The irony is that the entirety of this worldview is in opposition to their claim that they represent love and serving God. The Bible serves as law enforcement here, which is inconsistent with the essential belief that the just shall live by faith.

The most astonishing claim presented by Focus on the Family here is that voting for Christians who share this worldview is a part of “honoring” the governing authorities. Again, this claim demands our deconstruction, but most followers simply say “Amen” and do what they’re told.

One of the most common phrases we hear from this group is that if you give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. It’s a nice sound bite, but it assumes an entirely level playing field for all. All have the same access to fish, the same equipment and techniques, and plenty of fish for everybody. I assure you that this not the case, and so the wording is at best wishful thinking, a thought that works only in the abstract but not practically. To many, it’s simply a statement of shirking responsibility to love our neighbors, if it results in us losing anything that we believe belongs to us.

The absurdities we’re hearing today from the Christian Right all stem from the grand narrative first considered at Roman Emperor Constantine’s Church Council at Nice, where concepts considered heresy were discussed and dealt with, especially involving the divinity of Christ. Faith was transformed into creed, and thus was born the “true” church, one based on the rules and regulations of how all “should” behave in order to form a better society. That it led instead to the Dark Ages should surprise no one,

We are heading in that direction once again, if the fascism of the extreme right becomes the law of the land. We are much closer to civil war than anybody thinks, as the 21st-Century searches for its identity. If the right gets its way, that identity will certainly begin with the authority of its Biblical Worldview, because most are afraid of it or ignorant to its real purpose, which is to support and strengthen the grip of self-centered capitalists on Western Civilization.

If you wish to study the Bible, make sure you include serious time in the Book of Ecclesiastes, which spells out the best way to live our lives “under the sun” — our lives as human beings on planet Earth. There is nothing in this book that’s altered by the redemption of the Christ, so its wisdom is universal in how to best live our lives. This book is extremely significant for ferreting out the religious, because it contains the “shit happens” realities of living under the sun. It contradicts those Christians who insist that they are somehow immune from tragedy, above the wages of sin, and the worst comforting statement ever made by Christian “friends” to the suffering: “there’s a reason God allowed this to happen.”

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

Time and chance? That can’t be part of a Biblical Worldview, and yet, there it is.

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.