When religious freedom becomes a farce

Farce: a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.

FlagWaiverA friend pulled me aside to ask what the hell was going on in Indiana with the bill that apparently opens the door for people to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Only here’s the challenge my friend wanted to know: Why can’t private businesses choose who they serve or don’t serve? Isn’t it their right in a free market to make that choice?

That shows the confusion most people face over the questions about Indiana Bill 101 (no pun intended) and why it is a farce of dangerous proportions.

The issue of discrimination on basis of religious freedom comes down to a basic Constitutional statement contained in the Establishment Clause, which is described this way by the website Revolutionary War and Beyond.

The Establishment Clause states that Congress shall make no law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause is generally interpreted to mean three things. 1) That the Congress may not establish an official religion or denomination and require people to support it or believe in it. 2) The Congress may not favor in its laws one religion or denomination over another, and 3) Congress may not favor or disfavor believers or unbelievers in any religion or denomination over any other.

And there you have it. According to our nation’s Constitution, the Indiana law does not promote religious freedom as it claims to do. Instead, it imposes one religion’s belief on the citizenry as a whole. And that, my friends, is unconstitutional.

The argument that being “forced to serve gays” is an impingement on religious belief is a farce. Here’s why. Interpretation of the bible is, by definition, a highly selective process. There is no “law” that holds true even from one Christian to the next. There may be creeds and general agreement on the statutes of faith, but even in practice from city to city and town to town, or within a specific synod. the practice of religious faith is both highly varied and highly inconsistent.

And that’s perfectly fine because that is the absolute definition of religious freedom. That’s what’s protected by the United States Constitution.

Yet the Constitution also protects people from having to practice any sort of faith at all. There is no qualifying pledge of religious faith to be a United States citizen. Even the farcical phrase “under God” was jammed into the Pledge of Allegiance late in the game by a bunch of conservative politicians fearful of communist incursion in the minds of youth.

And that’s a farce as well. Which is why the Pledge of Allegiance is kind of a joke these days. Sorry to tell you that folks. It never meant that much in the first place. Kids have always recited the Pledge without any real knowledge or conviction about what it meant. It just makes some adults feel good to hear kids barking about patriotism.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a relatively harmless farce compared to the State of Indiana taking up the banner of religious freedom and turning it into a discriminatory manifesto against a segment of the population that frankly can’t be readily identified by appearance or any other measure. So the law is just mean-spirited by nature. It is an ugliness of attitude that deserves to be shouted down because it is the product of political buffoons who govern by fear and hatred rather than consideration and honesty.

There is no justification for any business to discriminate against customers for any reason. Otherwise, as my friend who raised the question ultimately concluded, “there would be chaos.”

Think about it. If you or anyone you know has to constantly question whether they are accepted by a given business either as a customer, as a potential employee or a vendor, that’s not a “free market” at all. There’s another term for that type of business. It’s called the Good Old Boy network. It leads to cronyism and monopoly. It also leads to corruption as every transaction essentially becomes a secret between those doing the exchange.

Is that the kind of nation our Founders sought to establish? Far from it. Of course our Constitution was not perfect from the start. As a nation we’ve had to emphasize aspects relative to personal freedom. This is especially true relative to matters of equality and discrimination. It’s been only 50 years since Jim Crow laws discriminating against blacks were eradicated. Yet we are still a long ways from equality in many categories of life.

So we’re facing a test with this farcical case in Indiana. We can let buffoons run our country or we can stand up against those who hide because chickenshit claims of religious freedom that amount to discrimination. Because guess what? Your religion is not the law of the land. That’s what radical Muslims want to impose with sharia law.

There’s no difference between what Indiana did and what radical Muslims are trying to do in countries around the world. None at all. Any religion advocating discrimination over equal rights is reduced by its own intolerance to a doctrine of hate. That’s not religious freedom. That’s religious intolerance.

Real Christians ought to know the difference. Jesus was welcoming of all people to the faith. According to the Bible, he spoke nothing at all about homosexuality. Not a word. Most references to homosexuality in the Bible were more about control of appetites rather than loving relationships.

And the Bible certainly said nothing about keeping gay people from buying or selling goods.

It proves that Indiana Bill 101 is a complete and total farce. It was drafted as an act of aggression by fearful, ignorant people in positions of power. Jesus called people like that to account all the time. He branded the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites” for placing law over love in faith.

Those lessons still apply today.

Who’s your Daddy? Tough love news on the economy, investments and who is really profiting

Recent films like The Kingsman clearly illustrate the "Who's Your Daddy" principle in force.

Recent films like The Kingsman clearly illustrate the “Who’s Your Daddy” principle in force. It’s always some secret force that supposedly knows more than you do. Or it’s what they’d like you to believe.

Recently I completed a writing assignment on marketing material for a former Wall Street buy-side investment banker that now runs his own firm. It took many turns sitting with him in his office to get his message across, which was this: Americans are getting screwed by the investment products they buy.

You can imagine that a copywriter would have some trouble with that messaging. It goes against the grain of everything we’re told to believe. That investing our money is good for our future and good for the economy. But what if all that were false.

My client pushed me to put his frustration and anger into plain words. He worked 20+ years buying and managing investment portfolios for companies whose names you would surely recognize even if you do not follow Wall Street news or economics.

Harsh claims

It was tough for me to conceive how far he wanted to go in indicting the very industry that he served all those years. But his take on Main Street investment advisors is that they are all basically hucksters moving money around to make commissions. The typical investor, he claims, is behind by 3-5% before their money even lands in a mutual fund or other investment vehicle.

This is not some liberal guy like me talking about the investment world. This is a guy who worked for topline, tough Jewish bankers in an investment world where frills were not the object. The main goal was to make money, and that was that.

The difference between that world and what everyday investors see is night and day, he contends. “Buy-side” investment is all due diligence, trends and purchasing the best investments in stocks and other products money can buy.

Consumer side investment by contrast is mashing together a bunch of shit with the good stuff and convincing people to buy it.

Mish mash investments

Because by contrast, consumer side investment is a mish-mash of good and bad investments lumped together. In order to get to the good stuff, in other words, your money has to support a lot of bad deals. You wind up with a massive averaging effect that looks good on paper at times, but most often is not.

Meanwhile a big chunk of the money gravitates to the companies putting these averaged investments together. Perhaps it’s all a buddy system of sorts, or a quid-pro-quo system based on hedging bets. But you must understand that the best money players also know how to play both sides of any deal. They make money when you lose money because they’ve also got bucks playing on the counteractive market forces. Sometimes they even force the deal when an opportunity presents itself.

Giving birth to money

Early in my career, I was a direct witness to the birth of a major investment firm that essentially helped invent investment trusts and mutual funds. I saw how basic and earthy the process of creating and selling investments really was. It was like a midwife managing a woman with labor pains… with people running around trying to figure out the best way to bring something to life. Then they’d jump on the phones and push, push, push. Then the product flomped on the market and people would rave that it generates interest. Then they’d get busy fucking with another set of financial products to make a baby with even more investment promise. That’s how the investment industry works.

Giving birth to nations

It happens even at the world political level where investing in wars reaps giant profits for companies willing to sell to anyone willing to buy. The process even gives birth to new nations (whose resources are then plundered) while bankers and globalized companies act as parents in the process.

There are other family alliances as well. Some of those rest with dealmakers and stockholders who also have skin in the game. Call them the Bad Uncles, if you like. Sometimes they call in their favors, essentially claiming the first-born for their own.

Don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. Look at Putin’s actions in the Ukraine. That’s a patriarchal approach to world power, and a tradition that has not vanished over the millennia. So much of our economic and political system worldwide is based on an elaborate game of “Who’s your daddy?” We all want to believe that our “parents” have our best interests in mind. But there are a lot of really bad parents in this world. So who are we trying to fool? Ourselves, mostly, into thinking all will be well without questioning why daddy seems to sneak around so much.

Paternal instincts

Recently I’ve had conversations with friends that work in the investment industry. They’re nervous and angry that the federal government is determined to place a new regulatory layer over the investment game. It would monitor transactions and ostensibly try to make investment a more level playing field.

But if my conservative friend who emigrated from Wall Street to run his own small firm to try to benefit his stable of investors is correct, the real reason investment industry “insiders” at brokerage firms and other financial outlets is nervous is because they are afraid to be exposed for what they really are. Pawnbrokers for a crooked dynamic. And they don’t want some new brand of daddy watching what they’re doing.

None of my associates are crooked by nature. They’re not by nature “bad kids.” They run their local service organizations and serve on their church boards. So it’s not that they are intentionally scheming their customers. But they may well be unintentionally scheming their customers, and in some ways that’s even worse.

Skewed systems

We’re talking about a skewed system here that serves as the foundation for all of American business and the economy. We keep hearing warnings that another recession will occur someday soon. There are apparently more props than real foundations in place when it comes to investments, interest rates and borrowing. When the economy last crashed did you notice what happened? Banks clamped shut on loans. Small businesses struggled for cash flow. Even devout conservatives wondered what the hell was up when the shit last hit the fan. It all happened under Republican watch. That’s not supposed to happen.

Yet when Democrat spending attempted to turn the economy around, and the auto industry and Wall Street banking got lifted back on their feet, there was low grumbling about how messing with the economy and “printing money” were never good things.

Going for the gold

Every week on both conservative and liberal talk radio you can hear ads for companies selling gold. They claim that the economy is indeed headed for serious trouble in the near future, and that owning gold is the only sure bet against economic collapse.

Those ads may have a point. It’s pretty frustrating for small investors to watch 50% of their entire holdings disappear overnight. Yet we must also consider that the last recession, while gutting the middle class work force and small investors, did not seem to greatly effect the top 10% of the American economy. A few traded in their SUVs for vehicles with better gas mileage when the price of gas reached $4.00, but that’s because the truly wealthy are also often truly cheap when it comes to spending. Hence the doomed philosophy that the so-called “job creators” prized and touted by Republican interests so often fail to deliver on that promise. Most kids grow up living on their father’s pocket change as allowance. That’s about the same dynamic that went on with the American economy when things got tight due to the recession. The only hope for recovery and change was shaking loose the pockets of the government (whom conservatives hate to call daddy) because the rest of society had a firm grip on every dime they had.

Losing house and home

Meanwhile foreclosures mounted and the real estate industry crumbled for a time. One must suspect that the same internal-trading dynamic that runs the investment world also governs the real estate game.

Indeed, I also recently met a man whose formula for Sold-to-Price or Sold-To-Value home performance delivers a 99% success rate. You’d think the realty business would love that kind of value delivery. Yet realtors hate the guy. And he hates realtors just like my buy-side investment friend hates commercial mutual fund salesman. My real estate friend’s contention is simple: Realtors deliver very little value for the work they do. Earning 5% commission for selling a home is thievery, he maintains. So you can see why realtors hate him. Like my hard-ass investment friend, he’s too damned honest.

He’s also tried to undercut the game much like the For Sale By Owner industry did thirty years ago. But the dynamics of real estate are so strong no one can really cut through the bullshit to convince people to try it any other way. There’s a big margin built into the system and no one is really willing or capable of shifting that dynamic in any substantial way.

Presumptions

So we have an economy based on naive presumptions. It’s not truly a free market in the sense that the dynamics are free and available to all who participate, and we all are forced to do so. Most of the money sucked out of the system goes to the providers and commission-makers while those who caught in the daily/yearly backwash wind up with $400,000 houses and investment portfolios that have not really increased in value for the last 10 years. In fact most have declined. The appearances that investment portfolios have “rebounded” are, in a sick sense, a desperate illusion compared to the amount of wealth that has migrated to the richest segments of society. Again, we’re talking pocket change compared to daddy’s monthly income.

The daddy business

I manage my father’s money. He and my mother wisely saved like beavers for 10 years, then purchased long term care insurance policies for their old age and watched as my father had a stroke and my mother died of cancer. It’s been my job to protect his principle while paying his bills and keeping him in his own home in the 10 years since my mother died. At one point when the long term care insurance was going to run out (my father outlived both their policies) it occurred to me that I had better create a secondary source of income to replace that money. So I pushed my investment guy to figure out a way to do a dividend distribution plan and it took two years to build the necessary equity by putting money into a fund that now generates a 7% return. That’s $2000 a month that would not be there had I not thought up the idea to make that happen.

In the end, of course, we’re all responsible for our own investment strategies. No investment advisor can make those decisions for you. Or can they? The real dynamic is that mutual fund managers push investments and combine products in ways that investors seldom understand. Then those who sell those investments make recommendations to buy or sell. It’s a massive veil of interests, commissions and returns.

Protecting your interests?

What I’m saying is that the government is probably attempting to act out of conscience when it comes to what’s happening out there in the economy, and investments, and who is really profiting from it all. Conservatives absolutely hate when the government gets involved. Yet real conservatives like my Wall Street client also know that the game is totally rigged against everyday investors. But people who are doing fairly well despite how the game is rigged tend to keep their mouths shut and are happy to take what they can get. But a few, like my client, are sick and tired of watching people get screwed time and time again. It’s like the Catholic Church finally having to admit there is a tradition of child abuse going on within its priestly ranks. No secrets last forever.

Market Corrections

In the long run, doing the right thing is neither a liberal or a conservative motive, you see. That’s plain good conscience. Which proves that in the end, the most arch conservatives and devoted liberals are not so far apart in philosophy. I think that for better or worse, President Obama has tried to strike an uneasy balance in the conduct of his Presidency. As it has turned out, he appears on some fronts to be someone everyone loves to hate.

He knows the Wall Street crowd and has had to play their game along with them. He actually knows how to play the game better than some of the conservatives, and that pisses them off.

Yet he also never over-delivers on his liberal instincts. Even Obamacare, his pet project, gave more to the conservative side of the equation than it took from the insurance companies. He gave up the idea of Public Option on hopes that the few liberal tenets of the plan such as eliminating pre-existing condition clauses could be implemented. They were, and the Republicans got their way in protecting insurance companies by allowing them to implement super-high deductibles on top of the premiums they collect. Obama’s answer was government subsidies. What an ugly game of Father Knows Best.

It’s all the same game

What Obama did recognize is that the health care game is rigged just like the investment world, the real estate racket and every other piece of economic infrastructure. He tried to change the rules and people don’t like it when you mess with the system. Just ask the mafia and the CIA and all those zealots behind the scenes who actually run our foreign affairs and by proxy, our economy. They killed the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr. over matters of conscience and probably even whacked their recent hero Chris Kyle for going “off script” in some way unbeknownst to the rest of us. Messing with your daddy is always a high stakes game.

That’s the really tough news on the economy, investments and who is really profiting. It’s certainly not you and me. But try telling that to your pappy. You’ll likely get the back of the hand, or worse for speaking up.

The Advent of Meta Christianity

IMG_8609META referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.

Somewhere in the long arc of its transformation from a religious belief system to a political movement, Christianity lost a big chunk of its soul to a social phenomenon more concerned with owning the public dialogue over proving its theological merits in actual practice.

This was the advent of Meta Christianity, in which confessional language and dog-whistle politics contrive to take over society. 

Big Dogs

It’s not hard to point out the cast of characters that borrowed the authority of a well-respected religion as a means to self-empowerment. They are all famous names with whom we are all familiar. The process was slow at first, with social and religious conservatives frustrated by democratic rulings on issues such as abortion. But then the movement toward a more political form of Christianity formed around the likes of Jerry Falwell, a televangelist who formed the so-called Moral Majority in collusion with equally conservative politicians that found it quite convenient to borrow the authority of Christianity for their personal objectives of getting elected. Again. And again.

Voting blocs

Courting the so-called Christian voting blog translated into power for conservatives willing to say all the right things to convince conservative voters their morals were in the right place. The power conferred by the Christian voting bloc further converted the forrmely faith-based ideals of Christianity into a brand focused on social and political authority. The word Christian came to mean something entirely different than it once did, taking on a form that willingly confused God with Country. To achieve this aim the new form of old-time Christianity needed to ignore the very plain language in the United States Constitution Establishment Clause which says  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”

And that was the advent of Meta Christianity. No longer was conservative Christianity going to bother abiding by its tradition of self-examinative remorse, repentance and reformation.Meta Christianity said the hell with that. The former introspective faith in the model of Christ would now be replaced by a self-referential new order focused on never admitting you’re wrong and asking people to join along because it’s the right thing to do. The Meta Christian takes a new vow: “We’re more interested in gaining power and getting our way than explaining ourselves to people who don’t get what we’re doing.”

Conventions

By these methods Meta Christians began by definition to refer to itself and its conventions as a genre outside the realm of normal social criticism. Using the age-old methods of requiring “proof texts” from the Bible to engage in any criticism of its objectives, Meta Christianity has endeavored to remove itself from any form of social criticism at all. It does the same with its politics, especially by claiming loudly and often that America was founded as a Christian nation. 

Manifestos

These tactics extend to the view of America both as a nation of destiny and as a tool for the End Times. Fundamental Christians love to claim the mantle of God’s Chosen people. The thin veil of the former worldview known as Manifest Destiny is thus torn away and worn all over again like a new garment. The Meta version of its racial overtones embrace age-old prejudicial values against people of color and origin, lambasting emigrants and Muslims and anyone that Meta Christians choose to see as an enemy. This is all based on the Meta-Christian’s perceived state of privilege by providence. 

End Times

Meanwhile some Meta Christians seem eager to hurry along the end of time any way they can. When George W. Bush first attacked Iraq in 2003, there was some hope in some deeply religious (but apparently not patriotic) quarters that a magical key was being turned in the Mideast that would bring on Armageddon and drag Christ back to earth for Judgment Day.

Even analysis from within the Christian faith has no effect on Meta Christians. Progressive Biblical scholars such as Marcus Borg, John Crossan and Rev.John Shelby Spong easily point out the contradictions inherent in Meta Fundamental Christianity by documenting the many ways in which the Bible is not infallibly composed. Bart D. Ehrman in his book Misquoting Jesus (Harper/San Francisco) documents how scribes who copied scripture sometimes changed it either intentionally or unintentionally. In so doing he points out the foibles of taking any section of scripture literally, and demonstrates the danger of those foibles at play in the modern context. Typically these include persecution of those who are made targets by literal interpretations of scripture. These include women, gays, Jews, blacks or anyone that gets casually or pointedly mentioned in the Bible as a transgressor of some sort. There is no distinctive virtue in these methods except that it provides a convenient way to define “the other” and thus give Meta Christianity the enemies it needs to rally troops to membership and shared power. 

Science of denial

But Meta Christianity turns a purposely deaf ear on such erudite analysis of its beliefs. It also lovingly ignores the findings of science, flirting happily instead with the science of denial constituted by contrived theories such as creationism and intelligent design. As a result, some 30% of Meta Christians in America claim not to trust science, especially the theory of evolution. That’s one out of two people under the influence of Meta Christianity, which uses its reputation as protectors of the truth to fuel doubts and fears of intellectual pursuits in its constituents.

Rightward ho!

Thus the advent of self-referential and self-evidencing religion of power over biblical substance continues to evolve. When challenged over this assumed position of authority in society, Meta Christianity has simply moved farther to the Right as a means to insulate itself from any brand of secular analysis. Of course Meta Christian politicians love that kind of voter. It saves them lots of work trying to convince people they are indeed “voting their values.”

Dead Ends

There’s just one problem with all this Meta Christianity. It’s a literal and physical dead end when it comes to addressing the problems of the present and future. The Meta Christian relationship with End Times theology is problem enough when considering what to do about foreign relations and plans for dealing with global climate change. Meta Christians are prone to the disturbing claim that the end is coming soon and there’s nothing we can do about it anyway. No wonder Meta Christians fall in line with the radical political right on the idea that government is the problem, not a solution to human problems or needs. If the most radical brands of Meta Christians had their way, America would simply dump its entire governmental system and trust God to solve all problems in the home of the brave and the land of the free.

F the Establishment Clause

That’s definitely not what the Founding Fathers set out to do in forming a more perfect union or writing the United States Constitution. The Establishment Clause exists for a reason. It protects the freedoms of all citizens, not just those who claim to curry favor with God. Meta Christianity sees that as an obstacle, not the law of the land. We will be wise to keep an eye on protecting the Constitution from those who would redefine its purpose in a self-referential way.

Misquoting Jesus: http://www.amazon.com/Misquoting-Jesus-Story-Behind-Changed/dp/0060859512, Bart D. Ehrman, Harper San Francisco,

The meta-movie Kingsman turns out to be an exorcism of everything Hollywood and beyond

590868There are all sorts of memes going on in the film Kingsman, which focuses on a super-secret society of James Bond-like guardians of all things good. Or mostly good. Because the Kingsman, while modeled on the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur, are a pretty confused group of people. At least they are in the sense that they seem to make a lot of mistakes and kill a lot of people on the way to whatever sort of justice they are pursuing.

Which makes Kingsman a wonderful representation of the real world, but in a fantastical sort of way. You might ask why this is important at all? Isn’t Kingsman just a throwaway action movie? One to watch and forget?

Meta-movies

It’s a fun enough film to see. It’s rather like jamming the Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks together with the latest James Bond films with Daniel Craig in the mix. There’s an entirely not-too-serious tone to Kingsman that gets its ultimate expression when heads start exploding like fireworks because the technology installed by the villain in the necks of hundreds of wealthy acolytes gets reversed by some laptop trickery by the so-called good guys.

But that’s not the only violently meta-weirdness about Kingsman. There’s also a scene in which the Colin Furth character goes crazy in a Southern Pentecostal church. The preacher is spewing hate when the arch villain sets off the cell phones of all the parishioners turning them into maddened psychopaths. Now, the underlying message in this scene is that their ugly beliefs are already evidencing themselves in what the preacher is saying. But when technology sets off their manic brains they all go crazy attacking each other with crosses, axes and bare fists. A few guns go off as well, suggesting the idea that concealed carry may not be such a good idea after all.

The Kingsman handily dispatches all 100 people in the church. He kills them all. One is not sure if this is the result of his own skills at survival or the conclusion of a very bad sermon. At any rate, when he walks out the door he is confronted by the evil villain himself played by a lisping Samuel L. Jackson who shoots the Colin Furth character straight in the head after a short little monologue mocking the James Bond/Austin Powers tradition in which the villains usually set up some sort of torturous way for the good guy to die. “This isn’t that kind of movie,” the villain says.

Meta-villains

kingsman-the-secret-service-official-trailer-000In fact the villain stands for everything wrong with the world. He’s a megalomaniac that wants to kill off much of the human race to protect the earth. So there’s a liberal bent to his character. Yet he’s a merciless billionaire willing to use technology to dispatch anyone that stands in his way. So there’s a conservative will to his methodology.

The fact that he lisps is supposed to represent the fact that he has overcome his most obvious character flaw. Jackson recently played another genius character in the movie Captain America in which his legs were so fragile he was susceptible to easy breakage. Apparently these physical “defects” are an attempt to commiserate with all those who live with disabilities. Consider that Jackson’s sexy accomplice is a female ninja with razor sharp blades for feet. What does she represent? That sexy women are deadly.

Meta-Christianity

kingsman-05-gallery-imageI’m here to propose that Kingsman is a perfect symbol for the mess that modern religion has become. More specifically, it characterizes the brand of meta-Christianity that has turned its back on anything resembling common sense with the goal of appealing to everyone as some sort of grand inside joke. There is a very real and politicized faith that has emerged in collusion news media such as Fox News along with Right-leaning politicians who want the authority of religion without any of its cumbersome calls to care for the poor or to watch that the love of money does not lead to the root of all evil.

The worst of liberal society is mixed in with this new movement because the issues that a hyper-material and hate-loving conservative religion loves to resist include science and academia. These are called lies or something worse; a deception of the spirit perpetrated by the liberal left.

Meta-fantasies

kingsman-the-secret-service-colin-firth1The fact that the villain is killing people right and left using technology while the Kingsman go around shooting sophisticated, military-grade guns is an expression of the meta-fantasy that only violence can solve problems. That is the lurking suspicion under the modern day conservative alliance which uses the very liberal Constitution of the United States to achieve very conservative aims of guaranteeing the right to kill in the event that the government or some other force should overwhelm regular society.

That’s how crazy the logic is behind the brand of meta-Christianity now threatening real democracy in America. Insanity is now the rule of the day. What meta-Christianity seeks is an exorcism of all it fears. How ironic that Hollywood, its apparent worst enemy with all its liberality, should so perfectly capture the twisted nature of what meta-conservative faith and politics has become.

Meta-denial

Where are the women?Of course you can’t point these things out to a meta-Christian. Their own view of conspiracies is rampantly obsessed with liberals as the bad guy. They would quite literally choose the Kingsman as protectors of all things good in this world. That’s the collective narrative of the movie, that we need men of secret will and massive force to protect the good cause of civil order. The fantasy sold through the Kingsman is that you and I are actually those men and women of secret will and massive force. We must choose leaders that represent those ideals.

That’s why the character Iggsy comes from such humble roots. That’s why why he initially resists the stuffy manner of those who seek to turn him into a solo superpower, but ultimately “sees the light” that men who communicate great authority are the only ones that can “save the world.” From there it’s a question of identifying the enemy and pointing fingers through subliminal messaging and dog-whistle communication. It is no coincidence that the villain in the movie Kingsman is a black genius who accuses his adversaries of “talking funny.” To meta-Christians of a conservative bent, the Samuel L. Jackson character is President Obama.

Meta-wealth

So the real message is loyalty against such adversaries. Iggsy ultimately submits to this ideal by wearing a perfectly-tailored suit representative of his newfound fealty to a powerful tradition of kingly behavior. In other words, democracy be damned. The New World Order harkens back to a time when kings ruled the world and oligarchy was the only way to maintain or restore order. How perfect a message for the new American oligarchy of laissez-faire capitalism and hatred for all things intellectual that might question this new kingly authority. It’s no coincidence that this movement accuses Obama of acting like a king. They’re afraid he’s stolen their mission.

Meta-maniacs

141208_fallon_cheneylies_apIt’s a sickly subversive message when it comes to America. But that’s where meta-Christianity and meta-conservatism wants to take the nation with its call for breaching the Constitution and installing Christianity as a state religion. And for killing off unions so that bargaining rights with the super-wealthy are illegal.

The Kingsman are none other than the Kochs and those zealous politicians willing to buy out the political process and install those sworn to fealty of the masters.

Of course the real master known as Arthur in the movie Kingsman turns out to be just as corruptible as anyone else. He dies as a result, done in by a sleight of hand by the common man Iggsy, That’s the lone message of real good in the entire mess of force and counterforce in the movie Kingsman. In the end real victory often comes down to a simple deception. Fair and balanced, as it were. That’s the end game of meta-Christianity. It’s all about who can win the game of trickery.

Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker would love to punt us all

IN a recent interview in London, Scott Walker illustrates how and why Republican conservatives refuse to accept science as a foundation for dialogue about politics

Scott WalkerOne of the leading Republican candidates for the presidential nomination in 2016 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A well-known advocate of conservative principles such as busting unions and defunding public education, Walker is exploring his Republican darling status by setting up a campaign office in the state of Iowa, where all presidential aspirations begin.

In the meantime, Walker is still playing Governor for the State of Wisconsin. In that role he drifted overseas to London, England to talk trade. During an introductory interview with his London contacts and the press, Walker was asked a simple question by his English hosts. “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it? Do you accept it?”

Walker’s reply was textbook Republican political deflection. “For me, I’m gonna punt on that one,” he said. “That’s a question a politician should not be involved in one way or another.”

Shallow depths

Really? That’s all the deeper the thinking goes with Scott Walker? That when asked about his understanding of the primary descriptive theory used by science to define the origins of life, he chooses to “punt?”

It’s no wonder the audience laughed at Scott Walker’s reply. They were not laughing with him. They were laughing at him.

Scott Walker evidences a very shallow grasp of the impact of worldview on one’s politics and by proxy, on the politics of the world. By denying evolution one essentially denies one of the principle foundations of modern science, the realm of human thought that drives all technology, medicine, agriculture and environmental science.

Not fit for office

A politician that does not grasp or accept the concepts that drive our understanding of the world is clearly not qualified to serve in public office. It’s time that this qualifier be brought to the very front of the political equation.

This is especially true here in America, where one in four people claim not to accept the theory of evolution. Most base these beliefs on religious grounds and a literalistic interpretation of the Bible that says evolution could not have occurred because everything on earth was created instantaneously and fully developed by God.

Never mind the clear evidence in the morphological processes that take a human zygote from cellular to human form in a mere nine months. There can’t be any trace of our genetic and development history in that short process, can there?

Cognitive dissonance on science

When someone raises the question as to whether evolution is true or not, it comes packed with an even more important question. How can you accept the benefits of science without believing in it? Isn’t that the very same thought process as taking the very grace of God for granted?

And yes, we did just equate science to God in that sentence. Because God has no problem with science. Neither did his son Jesus, who taught important spiritual lessons using highly naturalistic yet metaphorical symbols from earthly life to teach about the kingdom of God. All throughout the Bible these wonderful examples of organic fundamentalism exist. We find expressions of God in all of nature, but that does not make nature into God.

The Bible tells me so

The Bible is fully reconcilable to science if a rigid template of literalism is not clamped over its interpretation. Jesus was a naturalist in its most broad definition. He saw the earth as a wellspring of meaning, something about which we should be both curious and proud.

Despite these incredible truths we find that the ardent anti-scientific crowd is not content with metaphorical truths. So they construct their own brand of hardened truths around constructs such as creationism, which is not a science at all, other than a science of denial. There is also so-called “intelligent design” which claims that the world is simply too complex to have evolved on its own.

That is the lobby to whom Scott Walker beckons and bows when he says he has to “punt” on the question of belief in evolution. We have 25% or more of the American population proud as hell that they’re ignorant of their own biblical tradition and its metaphorical foundations. They are aggressively content to ignore the example of their own spiritual naturalist Jesus Christ in favor of putting more import in the methodologies of the Pharisees, whose passion for putting law over love was repugnant to Jesus. He called them a “brood of vipers” (another organic image!) to their faces. They didn’t get it.

Pandering for power

Paired with an equally pandering political herd of political and economic conservatives, there exists an entire alliance of doctrinal freaks who like to deny that evolution even exists. As a result, America is stuck in a cycle of patent denial of such realities climate change, a theory of anthropocentric pollution that is causing the earth’s atmosphere to warm.  97% of of the worlds credible scientists worldwide agree that climate change and global warming is a human-driven problem.

But not conservatives like Scott Walker. We can ascertain from his answer about evolution what Scott Walker would say about climate change as well. “The science is not decided.” The reasons why he would give that answer have to do with who funds his political aspirations. The Koch brothers are highly invested in carbon-based industries that have made them both billionaires. Scott Walker is suckling at their trough along with a host of other politicians paid to do the bidding of the oil, gas and coal industries causing global climate change. It’s that simple. And that corrupt as a worldview.

But back to the main topic. We have some news for you Scotty. Things like evolutionary science are never “decided.” On anything. Science researches and tests and revises its understandings about the physical and biological world based on experimentation, analysis, discoveries and documentation. Then scientific peers try their best to tear it all down. If it survives––as has the theory of evolution in most of its forms–– then it becomes the canon by which we describe how things work.

Conservatives politicians love to claim this dynamic as a defiant reason for resisting science as a worldview. Yet conservatism has an absolutely horrid track record of being right about anything to do with the physical and material realities of this world.

Pope Francis shoots down the conservative worldview

Can we consider the position of the Catholic Church on the position of the earth at the center of the universe? And can we consider that same August body insisting for quite a long time that the earth was flat? The Catholic Church resisted the theory of evolution when it was first introduced as well. Yet even the Catholic Church acknowledges that evolution is true.

How interesting that even the new Catholic Pope Francis is now experiencing blowback from conservative American interests for calling very biblical principles to the fore of the church’s ministries. He calls for helping the poor. Holding the rich accountable for their conduct in business. Pope Francis is opening the arms of the church to gays and all who experience discrimination in the world. He lambasts the idea that the Bible should be interpreted literally at all. His main contention? That which does not lead believers to the love of Christ is obsolete.

The Pope’s entire ministry does not sit well with American conservatives who prefer their pet discrimination projects against gays and the poor. Now that the Pope is calling people to account for their backwards beliefs he has run afoul of the very supporters of men like Governor Scott Walker who frankly would rather “punt” on real solutions to social problems in favor of casting blame on all those they deem lazy, inferior or flawed. Frankly that’s a fascist worldview. It is neither Christlike or scientific in foundation. Instead it is selfish, plain and simple.

Patent ideology

And that’s why Scott Walker is unfit to hold public office. His worldview evidences a cognitive dissonance that embraces the love of money and a patent ideology of social control over all else. He’s a passive/aggressive personality, if not indeed a true sociopath. His interactions with public unions demonstrate a severe lack of empathy or even curiosity about the actual concerns of the very employees he was elected to serve.

So it’s no wonder he chooses to “punt” on a very legitimate question from a very legitimate source in the world. Scott Walker will punt us all if it would serve his selfish, psychopathic aims and the economic motives of those who fund his efforts. He’s already proven that at the state level. Let’s hope his sociopathic tendencies are exposed well before he reaches a national stage.

How religious traditions cause conflict here on earth

angels

The linework in this pastel drawing was produced by my daughter Emily Cudworth at the age of five. I took the foundation and built it into a full portrait, which according to her is an image of angels singing above while life on earth below goes on.

Roots of Religion and the Image of God

It is important to establish some level of agreement as to the form and function of a deity in order to believe in it.

A collective agreement on the nature of God most naturally includes the record and results of God’s interaction with the human race. The recorded history of religion is found in books such as the Bible and the Koran of Islam. Genesis and the Old Testament are traditionally regarded as the earliest-recorded history of the Judaic and Christian God. The roots of this same God are shared with the Muslim or Islamic faith.

Muslim, Jewish and Christian worlds remain at odds over “ownership” of God because there is a lack of agreement about the manifestations of God here on earth. Muslims believe the ultimate receiver of the Word of God was the prophet Mohammad, who interpreted the Koran to a scribe. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that the New Testament is a record of his ministry here on earth. Jews rely on the Torah, or “Old Testament” as delivered to Moses and Abraham. Many in the Jewish faith anticipate the arrival of a Messiah in the future. Both Christians and the Nation of Islam appear to agree that it will be Jesus who returns on Judgment Day.

God, however, is the constant through all these faiths. Religions may squirm and shirk all they like, but the roots of the major monotheistic faith traditions are intractably linked.

These similar but intensely differentiated interpretations of God’s image define the major religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Each provides its own proof that the “image of God” is at once a tangible and intangible thing.

God’s image is consistently tangible in the sense that God holds to an element of form (the Almighty or Creator) but not of substance––hence the development of the Christian Triune God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Even within a given religious tradition, such as Christianity, God appears in different forms. These traditions also reflect changes in behavior and attitude of God within the biblical record. Religions love to claim that God is a changeless in the sense that God is always there, but it is pretty hard to argue that a God who calls for genocide and the God who brings Jesus with a call to “Love your enemies” is a changeless deity.

God also appears first as a burning bush and later as a voice in the clouds. Again these manifestations can hardly be characterized as ‘changeless,’ much less something upon which the “image of God” can be radically fixed in terms of a model for humankind.

So the “man in God’s image” model functions only in terms of imitating the being known as God in spirit, not in form, or even character. We are left with an interesting challenge; how to decide which “image” of God and humanity is most accurate and reliable in developing a closer relationship to God.

To solve this argument, religions traditionally turn the attention of believers to the idea of obeying the tenets of the God that defines their respective religious tradition. Though these methods people hope to achieve a reward of heaven or paradise in the afterlife, to be with God.

The process of pursuing a life in God bears many labels: enlightenment, fulfillment, atonement, grace, justification, hope, good works and sacrifice. All are modes of reconciliation to God. These methods of reconciliation are dictated through religious tradition and how that religion projects the image of God over the face of faith. It is these differences in tradition, and by degree, that bring religions into such conflict over how to worship God and live our lives on earth.

Heaven or paradise may be the goal, but the image of God in man––and how that image is to be reflected in our behavior––is what we wrestle over here on earth.

Today’s blog is drawn from excerpts of The Genesis Fix by Christopher Cudworth

The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age

The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age

Daring to imagine what John Lennon would think of the world today

John-Lennon-john-lennon-34078983-1024-768The iconic lyrics of the song IMAGINE by John Lennon have for 30+ years served as an idealistic reminder that the world can be a better place. Yet none other than Elvis Costello took a shot at those lyrics with his own song “The Other Side of Summer” when he wrote,

” Was it a millionaire who said “imagine no possessions”?

Costello was far from the only person who questioned the verity of Lennon’s philosophy. Or should we call it a theology? John Lennon’s god was what at times what he could discern from a mix of anger, insanity and common sense.

Insane people

For example, John Lennon once said, “Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

Well it turns out Lennon was pretty accurate about that. The field of psychology has discovered that psychopaths really are running the world. The Atlantic for example ran an article in its July 12, 2012 edition titled “The Startling Accuracy of Referring to Politicians as Psychopaths.”  It bore these words:

“Psychopathy is a psychological condition based on well-established diagnostic criteria, which include lack of remorse and empathy, a sense of grandiosity, superficial charm, conning and manipulative behavior, and refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, among others. Psychopaths are not all the same; particular aspects may predominate in different people. And, although some psychopaths are violent men (and women) with long criminal histories, not all are. It’s important to understand that psychopathic behavior and affect exist on a continuum; there are those who fall into the grey area between “normal” people and true psychopaths.”

Actions louder than words

So we can say that at some level John Lennon was right. He hit the nail on the head all those years go when he saw insanity in the actions of world leaders conveniently taking nations to war to satisfy their need for manipulation and confrontation.

Lennon might easily have pointed out the inhumanity of using drone fighter planes to shoot people dead without engagement. It’s a pretty crazy capacity that now exists to fight wars. A drone is the psychopath’s perfect weapon because it objectifies people as targets (from a distance) and then removes them from existence. How clean and neat is that? Pretty insane.

But the fact that such drones became essentially necessary to fight terrorism in a part of the world where economic interests have long trampled human rights is the real issue. There’s also the fact that these conflicts are all mixed together with religion and grudges–– new and old––that makes it all truly insane.

It almost takes a psychopath to ignore these facts enough to try to impose an ideology over the surface of it all. That’s what America did under Bush and Cheney. And of course it did not work. Because it was crazy to think it would work.

Insane cheerleaders

The entire enterprise was cheerleaded by a nation and a media that at the time lost its senses in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. Seeking any sort of enemy at all to attack, the United States lashed out in Iraq and Afghanistan without a real plan. Those who questioned these actions were branded weak or unpatriotic, especially by media sources that aligned themselves with the so-called war effort. A brand of jingoistic fervor bent on revenge burst forth from America’s wounded bowels.

Terror and revolution

We can only imagine John Lennon taking to the streets of his chosen home in New York City to question all that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s unlikely he would have sided with the terrorists and their choice of slamming planes into buildings. Lennon was not necessarily a liberal in that regard. In fact, that’s an easy one:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

Instead Lennon might have encouraged Americans to look inside their own minds to discover whether their nation was acting in good conscience in the first place. The first Iraq War was ostensibly meant to deal with a political nemesis in Saddam Hussein. Yet America helped establish that despot and a few others around the world. Our CIA is always mucking about in the business of other countries. Our own FBI investigated and tormented John Lennon for years about his political views.

Secrets and lies

Lennon understood that’s how the world works. It’s all secrets and lies until someone points it out. Then when the truth is known, the psychopaths try to change the rules to cover up their actions and point the narrative in their own favor. He predicted that behavior in his song Revolution as well:

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead

Liberals and conservatives

Hence we find ourselves in a cultural war between so-called liberals and so-called conservatives. One is trying to change the Constitution by using the Supreme Court to form the nation around a contradictory ideology of a corporatized and moralistic oligarchy that claims to hate government while trying to rule it. It doesn’t take much political savvy to identify the madness in that formula. Lennon would have called it insane.

Liberals meanwhile view forward progress in terms of leaving troubles behind. That’s not always true of course. And if you pile troubles onto troubles, that does not constitute a better whole.

It’s the philosophy of how to deal with those problems that gets us all into trouble. Conservatives seem interested in hacking the pile to bits and keeping the parts they like. Liberals seem focused taking time to sort it all out. Meanwhile the pile gets bigger.

Faith and all

We’re also facing a religious battle over whether America was formed (or not) as a Christian nation. The Constitution is pretty clear about that. It states clearly that America shall establish no state religion as a requirement of citizenship. It’s freedom of religion and freedom from religion that the nation was founded upon.

That gives us all room to operate with freedom of belief. But some people, primarily those who act like psychopaths, are not happy with the simple liberal principle that we should all be free to believe what we want. Lennon tried to reduce all that to simplicity. IMAGINE if none of that was an issue. If all we needed was cooperation and love to co-exist.

Naive or knowing?

Some call him naive for those lyrics. But what a better imagining that actually constitutes than the world in which media companies owned by a very few despotic individuals feel compelled to preach a religious, political and economic ideology that is contradictory at its heart? Imagine instead that our media went back to genuinely reporting on the facts to the best of its ability. And how ironic: America now gets better and more truthful information about the world from sources such as Al Jazeera and the BBC than Fox News or MSNBC.

I heard the news today, oh boy

John Lennon lamented the manner in which the daily news itself seems to dominate the mind. “I heard the news today, oh boy…about a lucky man, who made the grade…”

His prescience in recognizing that temporary and petty thoughts distract from real values was one of his almost Christ-like qualities. Of course that leadership ability got him into trouble when he warned, not claimed, that the Beatles were becoming more popular than Jesus.

The conservative Christian worlds went nuts on that one, burning records to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with Lennon’s ironically truthful statement. Of course it was John’s point all along that people were out of whack with the whole popularity thing. He ultimately withdrew from the public eye to heal himself from the madness that was Beatlemania. So he was no hypocrite in that regard. The real hypocrites were the obsessive Christians who refused to hear his real message and learn something about themselves, and their children, rather than burning records.

Insights

We all know Lennon was no perfect soul. No one is. However his own psychopathic tendencies may have given him particular insight to the machinations of those trying to gain control of the world at any cost.

That’s why it’s funny that John Lennon loved advertising and its ability to convey complex themes in simple messages. That’s how he came up with brilliant songs such as “All You Need Is Love” and “Give Peace a Chance.” His lyrical mastery was the ability to cull complex messaging down to simple symbols by which people could access the sanity and dispense with the insanity of this world.

In that regard, John Lennon was very much like a certain Jesus Christ, who used simple (often organic) metaphors to teach spiritual principles to all those who would listen.

Listen

It’s no small lesson for all of us…that those who really chose to listen were often not those with the most power. Jesus ran afoul of the religious leaders of his day because his message was far too liberal for their tastes. He questioned their methods and their authority. They conspired then to capture and kill him.

And when Jesus was delivered to the Roman authorities it did not go much better. But according to the Bible, we read that Pontius Pilate at least tried to question Yeshua about the contentions that he was a king. We learn that Pilate then turned the Jewish enigma over to be flogged and crucified. Jesus’ fame as a teacher got him killed, in other words.

No better now

The world likes to think of itself as more sophisticated than the leaders in biblical times. Yet we can readily see the same patterns of people religious control and political force at work today. We still have our Pharisees and our Pilates to contend with.  Witness the conservative media backlash toward Pope Francis for being “too liberal” when the man is basically just preaching what the Bible actually tells people to do. The insane fact is that many so-called Christians have gotten so far away from the roots of their faith they no longer recognize it even when they see it. They are insanely concerned with power and pathetically unable to control their own zealotry. They are the modern-day betrayers of Jesus and His message.

Identities

John Lennon did not identify with the Christian faith, per se. But he surely recognized the insanity of the world and what it can do the hearts and minds of those who are trying madly to do the right thing, but for all the wrong reasons and by all the wrong methods.

That’s how we got where we are, for example, with an American population generally claiming to value life while tens of thousands of people die from unregulated gun violence every year. That’s how John Lennon died. An insane person bearing a gun walked up to him in 1980 and shot him dead, in the head, with a handgun.

Since that time it’s become easier than ever to own and carry guns these days. Even military caliber weapons are available to people who feel a need to shoot them.

Certainly if John Lennon had miraculously survived, as did Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, he might have a few things to say about how insane it really is that this country can’t escape its addiction to guns and the carnage they produce.

And had Lennon actually lived––yet lost his gift of producing music thanks to the brain damage he might have suffered––perhaps he would still find a way to tell us all how crazy the world (and especially America) stil really is.

And if you can’t see or accept that, then you’re one of the insane people trying to make thing happen through insane means. And you need to stop.

The Genesis Fix.

The Genesis Fix is written by Christopher Cudworth, author of The Right Kind of Pride available on Amazon.com.