The Confederate flag is the perfect symbol for angry losers and selfish winners

confederate-flag-1-1024x768Some people in the American South seem to think the Confederate Flag stands for freedom and the will to put up a fight in the face of tyranny. They also conveniently like to ignore the fact that the Confederate Flag came to represent the interests of people who happily enslaved other human beings to get cheap labor and enrich themselves.

It’s a rather disgusting fact that the Confederate flag has continued to hang over states in the South.

But it makes a perverse kind of sense. What other flag has been used to celebrate getting your ass kicked in a war? Well, from that perspective perhaps the Confederate flag does have more in common with the United States Stars and Stripes. America’s track record since World War II is decidedly mixed when it comes to winning and losing wars.

Vietnam was arguably a disaster in terms of lives lost and public relations for the United States. Fears over communism drove the war, but so did an obsession with world dominance that has bled into wars in Iraq a couple times. And let’s not even talk about Afghanistan. We’re still over there shooting at people in an act of presiding over a Civil War in a nation that has nothing to do with our real national interests. We could have pulled out of there the weekend after we “missed” getting Osama bin Laden and the world would not be any worse off than it is now.

America missed warnings about terrorist strikes, then tried to make up the difference by bombing and torturing people that had very little to do with the real reason why we got hit in the first place. Which was sticking our nose into the business of Middle East. Our devotion to Israel stems from moneyed interests that further want to protect a Confederate country formed from political actions back in the 1950s. Don’t believe me that Israel is a Confederate state?

confederate
ADJECTIVE
[ kənˈfedərət ] joined by an agreement or treaty:
NOUN
  1. a person one works with, especially in something secret or illegal; an accomplice:
VERB (confederated)
[ -ˌrāt ] bring (states or groups of people) into an alliance:
Israel flagWe don’t traditionally think of Israel as a Confederate state because the Judeo-Christian tradition refuses to accept that anything other than nationhood is acceptable for the Jewish state. But let’s not forget that Israel got is ass kicked several times by other forces in the Middle East. God apparently approved or let these things happen. The temple in Jerusalem got leveled a few times if Bible memories serve.
To be frank, Israel was reformed as a nation out of human will and in response, in some measure, to the outright massacre of millions of Jews during World War II. The argument over whether re-establishing Israel as a state or nation has raged ever since. Millions of Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East wish they could put an end to Israel. Its confederated status flies in the face of a history in which Israel appeared and disappeared over the course of history. As a result, key cities such as Jerusalem clearly share multiple roots in faith and tradition. The Crusades never really settled anything. They basically acted as a combined religious and civil war over jurisdiction of the region. The installation of the Israeli confederacy has resulted in permanent civil war in the region. 
Home bound
If America had accepted or enacted a similar outcome on its own soil, the Confederacy would still exist. The Confederate flag would fly in place of the stars and stripes.
And some people might like it that way. Had history taken a different course, the Confederacy might have been able to permanently refuse equal rights to black slaves in the South. After all, in the wake of the Civil War the South still enacted virtual slavery with Jim Crow laws enforced by lynchings, torture and discrimination.
Groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, which still claims to be a Christian organization focused on purity of the white race, played a major role in the ugly drama of the Old South.
Slowly these forces lost primary influence in the South. The Confederacy lost the Civil War. Civil rights movements struck down racist laws and granted black citizens of the United States full rights.
The Confederacy lives on
FlagWaiverYet the determined spirit of the Confederacy refused, in many respects, to die. The allegiances that drove the original Confederacy live on in full relief. The defiant response to America’s first black President in Barack Obama was in full evidence with statements by leading southern politicians such as Mitch McConnell, who vowed behind a white veil of innocence to make Obama a “one term President.”
It’s all the same stupid, confused logic of the Confederacy reborn. In the name of freedom the neo-Confederates ignore the history of the racist roots of the Confederacy and all its claims to “states rights” and “less government.” But really there is no logic behind the claim that less government equals better government. Because the less our government stands for human equality and opportunity, the more egregious the offenses become against those whose status is less than white or privileged by law in some other respect. We’ve already witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth in American history from the middle class to the richest 1%. That happens to be the same percentage of slaveholders in the South. Do you see the picture now? The neo-confederacy would prefer to make slaves of us all. That is why the Confederate Flag should offend every one of us.
We’ve seen the actions of racists for more than 200 years. We’ve seen corporate interests ignore the impact that pollution has on the environment. We’ve watched discrimination according to sexism and sexual orientation. We’ve seen all this falsely supported by claims that the Bible supports such views, and that God favors a political party that claims to represent freedom even as it works tirelessly to limit or remove the freedoms of others.
john-boehner2-1024x780We’ve even watched the neo-Confederacy try to tie all this to national and individual prosperity, all while protesting social programs such as Social Security and Medicaid that clearly leverage the nation’s collective wealth to protect the elderly and sick in times of needs.
But the neo-Confederacy seeks to secede from a nation dedicated to helping others. Because just like the conservative causes that claimed to protest the second World War while secretly funding the Nazis with weapons in acts of clear war profiteering, and like the neo-Confederates who leveraged the Iraq War into a mercenary profit machine, the neo-Confederacy is a mean-spirited movement to divide America and reap profits from its hulking corpse.
Symbols of ignorance

All this seems to be lost on those who believe the Confederate flag stands for anything other than fighting for the cause of selfish interests and ignorance. And as for the battle to keep Israel afloat in a sea of resistance, the only true solution lies in recognition of other culture’s claims to the same historical claims of territory.

That’s how the United States converted from a Union and Confederacy to a single nation. Rather than the divisions of ignorance, race and selfish interests, it was respect born of mutual needs that ultimately brought reconciliation and peace.

You can wave all the flags you want, but in the end it is the white flag of peace that truly matters.

The long trail of sad excuses uttered by gun zealots

FIREARMYou’ve heard them say it before. It’s the slogan treasured by NRA members and politicians sucking the smoking hot barrels of the gun industry.

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

And isn’t that nice? That’s about the best excuse for lack of responsibility ever conceived. It’s in line with a long line of propagandistic utterances used to justify killing in the past.

Manifest Destiny

Let’s consider another trite little phrase used to justify selfish behavior that led to the death of millions. That would be manifest destiny. According to the website United States History, the phrase Manifest Destiny was first recorded in a magazine titled United States Magazine and Democratic Review. That’s where it appeared in this context: “our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our multiplying millions.”

That sounds much like the justification for the establishment of Concealed Carry laws in the United States. And isn’t it fascinating how the supposed freedoms allotted one segment of society is accorded so much favoritism over the rights, and very survival, of another?

Providential perversions

Notice the injection of God into the formula for Manifest Destiny. Always a desperate ploy for approval, the practice of invoking religion (more specifically that of Providence) is designed to raise doubts in the minds of those whose reasons for objecting to the obvious force of will behind a selfish motive. When there is no moral excuse for what you are about to propose, such as killing lots of people to protect your own interests, it is always and forever convenient to claim that God (and country) are truly on your side.

But of course Manifest Destiny was never amounted to more than an excuse for bad behavior disguised as good intentions. It was not a fully actualized ideology in any sense. With its beginnings as a justification and instrument for war, Manifest Destiny kept that purpose alive in the very event of resistance to the practices of primarily white and powerful politicians and their minions.

Hidden agendas

Nature and eternity are foundations of the BibleTo be sure, there were some noble aspirations lurking at the core of Manifest Destiny. There was the belief that the American experiment was indeed exceptional, even vital to the spread of Republican Democracy in the world. “We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand….”

Those were the words of Thomas Paine. But take special note of his reference to Noah, the biblical character whose ostensible contribution to world history came on the heels of a worldwide genocide by none other than God.

Sorry, Thomas. That less than oblique reference exposes the deep pathology behind the supposed march to freedom invoked in Manifest Destiny. Because when that sort of thinking is combined with any sort of racist or triumphal sense that God is on your side, then things can get warped and dangerous pretty quickly.

Wipeout

So it was that Manifest Destiny served at least as a backdrop for genocide of Native Americans on the North American continent. It was a flood of white settlers this time that wiped out the populations of all those who stood in the way. Our nation has hardly shed a tear for those who died or were displaced by people assuming their supposed natural rights to the land.

It was superior weapons that won the day. The white man’s guns were far better than the weapons of the Native Americans. But that’s where the interesting junctions of past history and current propaganda converge. If we simply take the modern phrase “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and apply it to the execution of Manifest Destiny against the millions of people slaughtered in the forests and plains of North America, then our nation began its history with thick layers of blood on its hands.

Cowboys and Indians

Indeed, the entire “cowboys and Indians” mantra rests deep in the psychology of all those abide by our nation’s oral and visual history. The days of the Wild West where gunman roamed free with handguns to engage in gunfights on the streets is also rife with symbolism. These were supposedly “free and independent” gunslingers. Yet their nobility essentially constituted martial law, or worse yet, vigilante justice.

We even had a “cowboy President” in George W. Bush who hailed from Texas whose idea of foreign policy was to shoot first and ask questions later. The Iraqis were the Indians according to this narrative, so we went in with guns blazing.

The real Wild West

How convenient then that America has begun its evolution back toward the day when people walked around with guns strapped to their hips on holsters. But wait a minute! The real history of guns in the Wild West is something entirely different. Many towns had strict laws about checking your guns before you could walk around freely. it simply was not true that everyone walked around all the time carrying weapons concealed or openly. Civilization and our Constitution demanded an entirely different dynamic.

FlagSolarSee, the Second Amendment recognizes the importance of civility first, gun rights second. It reads like this. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

As the Old West vitally recognized, the phrasing of the Second Amendment does not specifically guarantee the right to bear arms at all times. It guarantees the right to own guns. And it guarantees to bear Arms as needed. But it does not guarantee the right to willfully impose those purposes in all circumstances. The term “shall not be infringed” has been interpreted as an unhindered right to keep, show and use weapons in any circumstance.

Unhinged beliefs

The term “shall not be infringed” has been interpreted by gun zealots as an unhindered right to keep, show and use weapons in any circumstance. But our own history from none other than the Wild West shows that wielding weapons outright was not originally encouraged or tolerated. That entire notion is unhinged from reality. Gun control is the key basis for salvation for one good

Gun control is the key basis for salvation for one good reasons. Guns are designed for one purpose, and that is killing. Their presence presages violence and actions that would not occur in circumstances where guns freely carried were not present. The unhinged claim that guns actually “prevent” violence is a sociopathic response to the reality that people do indeed kill people.

Extremes

Gun proponents will call this definition extreme, but the trail of excuses used to define unhinged gun laws is a form of sociopathy. Sociopathy is defined as “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocialoften criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.”

Extreme? Hardly. Let’s look at this claim in reverse to understand how accurate a term sociopathy really is for gun proponents who will not listen to reason on the issue of gun control.

306523_3795453241128_1825138197_nFirst, gun proponents love to claim that it is only criminals that abuse guns. But of course, the first time any person abuses the use of their gun in acts of violence, aggression or calculated murder, they instantly jump over to the condition of criminality. Let’s not forget that pet slogan of gun proponents: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It defines the quick-trigger mentality gun proponents love to claim as a potential prevention measure against gun violence.

Thin veneer

We instantly begin to see that the defense of guns as a mode of protection is a very thin veneer. The excuse to defend supposedly “law-abiding” gun owners turns out to be a paper-thin and fragile excuse for the concept of unrestricted gun ownership. If you do not consider the instability of society in general, then the idea that all gun owners will obey the laws is an acceptable defense of the right to keep and bear arms at all times. But that is demanding that we consider our gun laws in a void, absent of human frailty and obsessive characteristics that we know exist not only in criminals, but in all of society.

If you study ancient and modern societies with any sort of objective assessment, you note that our world is comprised of a competitive, often dismissive lack of order.

And, if we do our moral duty as Christians and actually read the Bible to consider the impact of all the discord, lies and sins that constitute evil, it should be evident that guns are not the ultimate solution to human conflict. In fact they contribute to the problem in massive ways. More than 10,000 people in America die each year from gun violence. Many more are wounded or maimed.

Quite the opposite

Guns are not the solution to society’s problems. That would be forgiveness and love. The Bible does not mince words about this. The Bible does not encourage us all to take up arms in the event that we’re confronted by evil.

jesus-blackConsider Psalm 121: 7-8 for starters: “The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Jesus was even more succinct on the issue: Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. …”
Lo and behold, the supposed right to keep and bear arms looks like an extreme denial of faith in the context of scripture. Because if you do not trust the Lord to keep you from all harm, and you do not find capacity to love your neighbor and your enemy, then you are living a lie in the face of God’s commands. Guns are actually a denial of God’s power and authority in this world.
The problem with the lie that guns are the solution to violence and social problems is that this meme has been disturbingly confused with the call to patriotism and national protection. But again, at the heart of this claim there is deceit as well.
We know from a long line of public statements by radical groups on the Right and the Left that mistrust of the government is a key reason why so many people want to keep and own guns. At the heart of all this is fear. The Second Amendment has been interpreted by many to mean that keeping guns is necessary to keep the powers of our own government in check.
Thus wildly formed “militias” project their own worst fears on the national interest. They contend that the government is indeed coming to “take their guns” and that it is the right to bear arms that keeps our country free and independent. Some have even claimed that the reason nations like China would never invade America is that there are so many guns they could never accomplish the task of going door to door killing its citizens.
Wild West in the Middle East
abu-ghraibOne could argue that point well enough given the Wild West state of Middle Eastern countries in which martial law and terrorist groups reign with impunity. Yet when the United States invaded Iraq without direct cause in 2003, it was to overthrow a dictator and install order in a country where it was feared terrorism already existed. Instead we drew very well-armed and creative terrorists to a nation where they now rule the day.
So that’s the model upon which gun proponents in America want to base our Republican democracy. They would rather have their guns and act like terrorists against their own country than work to establish a reasonably balanced right to bear arms in which people are not at constant threat of being murdered by citizens with perverse motivations and weapons to match.
Mass murderers
Because that’s where we stand today. The shootings and mass murder keep adding up. When the white supremacist gun owner with a vendetta against black people sat in church for an hour before opening fire and killing nine innocent worshippers, apparently no one noticed that he was carrying a gun. So much for the claimed value of Concealed Carry laws. And had the other worshippers all been carrying guns, would any one of them been capable of pistol-whipping the shooter there on the spot? In church? With God present?
The ultimate cynic might now claim that it was obvious God had no reason to protect those people from evil. There is still such deep racism toward black people in America that there are those who likely welcomed the attacks. Just as ugly were the attempts to politicize and claim those murders were not an attack on people of color, but were instead an attack on Christianity itself. That’s the big Talking Point these days for Meta-Christians seeking to own the authority of Christianity for political purpose.
Just as ugly were the attempts to politicize the event through claims those murders were not an attack on people of color, but were instead an attack on Christianity itself. That’s the big Talking Point these days for Meta-Christians seeking to own the authority of Christianity for political purposes.
An unholy alliance
How desperately sick it is that the very people willing to politicize these murders tend to be the very people who side with gun zealots to get elected. If ever there was a case where phony Christians had blood on their hands. this was it. Those politicians that refuse to engage in reasonable discussion of gun controls, who claim cynically that “more guns” would have prevented these murders, are directly responsible for the deaths of those killed by sociopath who shot people dead at close range.
If you are one of those people who engage in sick excuses and propaganda such as “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then the blood of all those murdered by handgun and other gun violence is on your hands as well. Don’t you get it? It idoes not matter if
Don’t you get it? It does not matter if your own gun habits are law-abiding or not. If you support a falsely romantic vision of a Wild West for the New Age, you are part of the problem. Your politics are corrupt. Your religion is confused and perverse. Your notion of patriotism has more in common with terrorism than national pride. You are part of the long trail of sad excuses uttered by gun zealots.
And you have blood on your hands to show for it.

The apocalypse of the anti-Millennials

Nature can help us look beyond our earthly perspectives

For millennia people have looked skyward for signs of God. But sometimes it is better to look at the ground under their feet to find examples of God’s creative powers.

I was once a Millennial. So were you. So were all of us.

We all passed through our 20s and 30s in some fashion. It really does not matter what that fashion truly is–– 70s or 80s, 90s or 2000s. Being twenty-something and searching for your true self is a rite of passage we all go through.

So it is disturbing to listen to members of my generation and a little younger than the Baby Boomer complain that today’s Millennial generation somehow lacks initiative and/or the life skills necessary to make it in this world. “They don’t want to work a job that isn’t perfect,” the complainers says. Or, “They don’t want to pay their dues.”

Paying dues my ass

You know what? I worked more than a couple jobs that were less than perfect. You know what it taught me? That a shitty job is just that. It’s shitty. And the people who worked there? They were shitty and cruel and inconsiderate. In some cases they were backstabbing bastards and bitches who would do anything to go home on a given day feeling like they’d somehow “won the battle.”

That was true in the blue collar factory jobs I worked as a summer job. It was also true working a supposedly moral organization such as the Boy Scouts of America. There are shitty people everywhere. It often doesn’t pay to stick around waiting for some of these people to get better. Because they won’t.

A whole lot better

I’m not being negative here. I’m being positive. The minute I left those shitty jobs life got a whole lot better. In fact the reason I took those shitty jobs in the first place was by taking the so-called “safe” advice of others rather than sticking it out to find work more suited to my mind and skills.

That summer I worked in the paint factory… loading cans and sucking up blue fumes of turpentine… and dealing with the jerks who purposely shot sponges through the cleaning tubes while I held a hose into a barrel… so that it would soak me with dangerous chemicals from head to toe? All so they could have a laugh.

That was not paying “dues,” as so many people like to claim. That was being the victim of abuse. Accepting that job in the first place was a product of listening to my mother telling me I needed to take a job earning $4.50 an hour rather than selling five or six of my paintings for $250 as I had done that past winter.

The “safe” advice turned out to be a tragic and awful choice. That summer job trashed my self-esteem and my health. I was a wreck going into my junior year in college and fell into an undiagnosed pattern of depression and struggled with my schoolwork and running. Was $4.50 an hour and paying my dues worth it? Not on your life.

This is good for you? 

DeerCrowrevSome might insist that it was a good experience. “Well, you need that kind of experience to appreciate what real work is all about.”

I say Bull Shit. I was a Millennial then. I could recognize shitty work and shitty people for what they were. The people with whom I worked in those positions and several more were small-minded assholes who took perverse pride in hauling people down to their own level.

Later in life if you’re fortunate enough to climb the ladder a bit and work either a better blue collar or white collar job, you just might get to appreciate that not everyone treats each other in such a shitty manner. Yet even in those circumstances, we are all often forced to deal with complete jerks in our work life. Either our co-workers or our customers can turn our lives in a living hell. You wake up wondering “What the hell happened? Why am I so goddamned unhappy?”

You think back a bit to figure out why life went to hell and almost always you can point to one or two people who were either jealous or so blatantly coarse in their worldview that no one can deal with them. Some of those people become bosses through their sheer belligerence. Then the workplace becomes toxic from their ignorance and

Some of those people become bosses through their sheer belligerence. Then the workplace becomes toxic from their ignorant bullying. Yet somehow the company lauds their bottom line success even when twenty people around or under their management know that the company could make twice as much if that person were removed from their job. That’s because companies also often take the “safe” advice and settle for shitty-assed managers who leave skid marks on their reputation as well as their accounting books.

Thinking outside the knocks

Yet companies keep barking about “thinking outside the box” when the very people who do are are considered impractical troublemakers.

If that’s the case, the whole culture can become an insular, crappy place to work. All those “safe” and seemingly productive people are threatened by those who come in the door with a whiff of new productivity about them. That’s why companies hire so-called “change agents.” When management gets safety fever and can’t think their way to the next level of good, “just good enough.” Which is the path to dissolution of course. What companies actually need to do is “think outside the knocks.” That is, work to create a culture that is based on respect, not knocking each other around.

dscn9203.jpgIt’s true. Even entirely successful companies can come to believe that only those raised in their carefully coiffed culture are indoctrinated enough for roles in the firm.

Entire industries can get that way. “Oh,” you hear the recruiter say. “You don’t have five years of health care industry experience? We really don’t have a place for you.”

During the economic downturn in the United States, some companies were heard to claim, “We can’t hire anyone that has been out of work for more than six months.” Talk about an evil, cruel and sick brand of insularism.

With that mindset we can wind up with entire industries whose insular practices and values come to represent the opposite of goodness. For example, we still hear stories about how pharmaceutical companies push drugs on doctors who prescribe them to patients that don’t even need said drugs. In some cases those drugs are even harmful or fatal to the wrong patient.

Yet the profits made from the drug-pusher system typically cover legal costs of malpractice and even wrongful death. It’s all part of “the system” if you’re on the side taking pay for practice.

Spiral effects

So the cycle grows even larger. More people die and medical practices become pawns of the pharma companies and their outrageous costs. Medical costs skyrocket as a result, and insurance companies jack their rates to keep pace. The upward spiral puts the cost of medicine completely out of reach for millions of people. Yet when someone comes along to try to make a correction the pleading cry is to “not mess with the system!”

This is a really shitty way to do business. Yet it happens all the time. Health care is not alone in its push and pull shittiness. Speculative bidding and holdbacks on demand push gas prices up and drive entire nations to war. All so that a very few wealthy people can enrich themselves at the expense of others.

Into this world wades a new generation of young people who question these stupid tactics along with the shitty work ethic of those who seem to think it’s funny to demand that Millennials “pay their dues” at the hands of a system that is clearly fucked up.

Insane purposes

John-Lennon-john-lennon-34078983-1024-768We can turn to none other than John Lennon (no Saint, but wise…) for perspective on this fucked up “system” into which Millennials now wade. Lennon was perhaps the original model for a pissed off hipster Millennial if there ever was one. Here’s what Lennon had to say about the way the world works, and has worked for quite a long time:

Here’s what Lennon had to say about the way the world really works, and has worked for quite a long time:

“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.”

The tactics of such insane people have become ever more evident with the advent of social media. Now we can see, in real time, the quotations of politicians claiming that rape is not really rape, and that the principles of so-called “less government” strategists are include imposing laws dictating what a woman can and can’t do with her own reproductive organs.

We see slogans such as “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” when the only reason guns were ever invented was to kill. We see Presidents lying to take our countries into war for ideological purposes and both sides of the political aisle blaming the other for why the system doesn’t work. But it’s simple. Everyone is in it for themselves. That’s how we get war profiteering. Human lives become expendable.

Human capital

Global companies come to view “human capital” only in terms of dollars and cents, and are willing to completely gut the economy of a nation such as America if the company can make more profit for the shareholders. Those harmed by this lack of loyalty are simply categorized as collateral damage.

Then the very same political and business idealogues who execute said rape and pillage (of person and economy) set to work to pass laws that categorize corporations as “people too.” The entire notion of personhood is thus turned into a perverse euphemism. All that remains is a system that benefits the few and trumps all other priorities.

The devaluation of human capital by granting corporate personhood to impersonal entities is the huge weight on one end of the delicate balance that props up the ugly system on which conservatives have labored for 40 years or more to bring to fruition. Starting with Ronald Reagan smashing the air traffic controller unions, conservatives with an appetite for debasing labor in the name of unmitigated profits has gone through all kinds of transmogrifications. But the end result is the same. Disempower the common man so that there is no resistance to profit-taking.

The newest euphemism for stealing labor is the so-called “right to work” movement. This unfairly grants companies the ability to ignore principles enacted through law that have protected worker wages for decades. Republicans also have fought the minimum wage increase over the years, claiming it would bankrupt businesses. That has never happened. But workers have not kept up with the cost of living while corporations and their executives grab ever more of the economic pie. The transfer of wealth has been massive, almost deadly to the economy as a whole.

This has been abetted and further perverted by investment companies that have invented more efficient ways to transfer wealth and call it freedom of choice. The entire movement to privatize programs such as Social Security are nothing more than a blatant grab at billions of otherwise protected, safe money that will be there for the workingman’s retirement.

The love of money is the root of all evil. And these are evil times indeed.

In the name of religion

To make things even creepier however, the people who run this system are all to happy to recruit the name of Jesus Christ to justify it all. It’s their way of normalizing insanity and maniacal behavior. This is the approach of a sociopathic society. It is a fascist worldview that confuses nation with God, or profit with personhood. Jesus did not come to bring any of that to the earth. Human beings bring that upon themselves through selfishness, greed, avarice and lust for money.

The environment becomes yet another victim in all this extractive and exploitative behavior. Then, if people gather to protect and conserve nature for its own sake, they are branded “tree-huggers” as if that were a negative connotation. Religion is again dragged into the mix with people claiming that God gave human beings “dominion” over the earth as if that were enough reason to excuse rape and pillage of all creation with no consequences or obligations.

A better way

angelsThere is a better way of course. Business is not by itself an evil entity. Nor are corporations. There are many organizations that conduct business in good conscience. Some become leaders in the movement to enhance people’s lives through their profession. These companies encourage employees within the organization to treat each other with respect.

So we should not settle for the idea that Millennials are wrong about the world and just need to grow up. It may in fact be quite the opposite. It may well be that it is those embittered Baby Boomers and other social critics that have ceased trying to change the world for the better. These may be the true and complicit evil at work in culture and the work world. That goes for all those entrenched in anachronistic religions that place fundamentalism and literalism ahead of practical human knowledge. If you don’t join their team they try to beat you any way they can.

Shitting the bench

Because if you’re a nutter on a basketball team when a star freshman shows up for practice who threatens to show you all up, it is not in good conscience to convince them they are better off sitting the bench with the rest of the miserable scrubs that have quit trying to improve. And worse yet, don’t try to call them “bitter” or “spoiled” if they ignore you and go about the difficult process of actualizing their own abilities. Some would rather quit the team and try something else rather than put up with a bunch of selfish ball hogs and nutters.

That goes for religion and politics too. We’re far past the point where churches full of small-minded creationists and bigots should get the chance to represent themselves as the face of God. If this entire essay seems a bit harsh and impatient it is because there are many who are sick of the crazy-assed conservative, supposedly “safe” bullshit of being told what to do and how to do it by people who claim to know how the “world really works” when it’s clear the only they know is how it works for them.

That’s not good enough. Nor is it fair and right to all those people trying to create sane and considerate policy against a veritable tsunami of idiotic, selfish, Fox News-driven demagoguery and bully pulpit enculturation.

Just stop with that crap. Millennials of all ages are sick of it. No, I can’t pretend to speak in fullness or insight for all people in the so-called Millennial generation. But I can speak against the prejudicial accusations of people who seem to so poorly grasp what anyone is about, much less people wise to the world before their years, and willing to deny the bullshit that stems from it.

Modern apocalypse

The dynamic that impoverishes the intellect while gutting the culture for insanely selfish purposes is backed by powerful interests.

Yet we can also recognize that the worldview also recruits believers on basis of fear and creating conflict between sectors of society.

That can be a highly popular way to draw followers. Yet their net methodology requires that we all adopt a worldview intellectually equivalent to ignorant children. They juvenilize the political and culture progress of the nation by seeking to ban science and intellectualism as a foundation for public discourse and education.

They also treat women as inferiors through legislative action and in speeches rife with dog-whistle threats and controlling behavior. They speak out against equal and civil rights for blacks, gays, minorities, immigrants and anyone else that does not fit their typically white, male mold. Even the lone 2016 GOP black presidential candidate Ben Carson is tone deaf on the rights of other minorities.

This is cognitive dissonance at its worst. There’s not an exception among the bunch to these methods of disaffection used to gain electoral support. The Tea Party was a similarly astroturfed attempt to rally anger and disillusionment into a political whole. But the fractiousness and contradictory nature of political, social, economic and religious conservatism denies its verity at the core. Plus all four defy the foundations of the United States Constitution, which by definition is a liberal document.

Divide and die

We can be assured of the ultimate apocalypse of this worldview because it ultimately depends on isolating one group against the other. Certainly that has been a recruitment method for a cabal of loud-mouthed idealogues barking about how persecuted they are because their prejudices and jingoistic view of God and Country no longer hold water under rational inspection. Yet one by one these embittered souls are going under. The formerly powerful Rush Limbaugh has already begun to dig his own grave through falling ratings and stations abandoning his sick brand of dishonesty. Sean Hannity won’t be far behind, and Bill O’Reilly has recently spun himself into the ground over his many lies and spins about his own journalistic integrity.

The days of these so-called “realistis” are numbered in an apocalyptic sense. The world can no longer afford to sustain such dangerous ideas and anachronistic woes. The apocalypse of the anti-Millennial is already here.

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

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

The painful truth of why some Christians feel persecuted

SoftballThe game of softball is a wonderful American past time. Even more than baseball perhaps, softball is played by teams of men and women for camaraderie and fun. Yet many players take their softball quite seriously. Bars and other businesses sponsor teams, providing uniforms and league fees in return for recognition and community support.

Powerhouses

A powerhouse softball team can dominate a softball league for many years. The reputation of a dynastic softball team can go a long way toward defeating opponents before the games even begin. One such team led the softball league in our city for several years before our newspaper-sponsored band of former baseball players and other athletes signed up to play together. That first year we ran head on into the powerhouse team in the quarterfinals and got knocked out. We had not built our roster completely and the home run hitters on the powerhouse team overwhelmed our run production capability.

Humble efforts

But the next year we added a couple more former college baseball players and the results of that year’s schedule and championship were entirely different. Our team still looked like the rag tag liberals in the league. We wore sweatpants and old stained hats to play. Our team shirts were nothing special for sure. But we played the game of softball with the practical flair of hit and run offense and great gloves on defense. We lost but two games all season, one to the powerhouse team in the league. The other game we lost because we were shorthanded due to family obligations.

The powerhouse team was still sure they would wipe us out in the championship round. They came to the park as they always did, full of loud voices and swagger. Their crisp new uniforms shone in the sun. Every at-bat they cheered and yelled intimidations at us in the field.

Yet midway through the third inning we had racked up 8 runs to their single home run in the second inning. Suddenly they came to the realization that their brand of intimidation and domination had worn off on us. We were catching their potential home runs, for one thing, and making plays on their other hitters as well. When we came to bat, we moved runners around the bases with hits and speed. They began screaming at each other for missing line drives and grounders that always seemed just out of reach. Their voices changed from a tone of domination to desperation.

Turning tables

For the next eight seasons in a row, our lowly-looking team of fundamentally sound softball players beat that team of blowhards during the regular season and for the championship too. No amount of muscle they added to their lineup really changed things.

They did complain to the umpires a lot more. Apparently they felt persecuted by the fact that the rules of play were not tipped somehow in their favor. They had bigger players and more home run hitters than us. They flexed their arms in the sun and they looked like winners in their uniforms. Yet we beat them year after year.

Spiteful congratulations

Finally, after the eighth season of getting tromped in the finals, one of them turned to me after the awards ceremony and pointed at the baseball glove trophy we’d received and said, with a dripping tone of cynicism in his voice, “Congratulations. All that thing will ever do is gather dust on your dresser.”

And he was right. But he was also so wrong. Because we’d accomplished what his team of perceived dominance could not do. We played by our own conscience and methods, and we won.

You could perhaps have argued that the powerhouse team with its pretty uniforms was a better representation of the sport of softball. Admittedly our team received more than one insult about our pragmatic mode of dress and lack of complete uniforms. Our response was always the same: What matters is how well you play the game.

That apparently felt like an insult in some way to our better-dressed competitors. Yet they never seemed to focus on the practical reasons why they continued to lose. The more home run hitters they added, the fewer runs they produced because fewer men ever got on base. As a result, they seemed to feel persecuted in their annual pursuit of overcoming their own flaws.

Hard lessons and loud fans

In sports and life and in business, the most critical aspect of improvement is grasping your weaknesses and understanding your strengths. That is key to making competitive adjustments in this world. It almost doesn’t matter what scale or what cultural meme to which you apply these standards, you either figure out why you’re losing or you keep on losing. Just ask the Cubs, but don’t blame a goat or a black cat. And remember that the team with the loudest fans does not always win.

The loud protestations by conservatives that Christianity is being “persecuted” and “attacked” by liberals is an often-heard meme across the media spectrum. Yet it does more to expose the rightly fallen status of fundamental Christianity as the once dominant religion in America. The plain and simple fact is that it is weaknesses in conservative theology that have done the most to persecute conservative Christianity. Biblical scholarship that does not commence with broad assumptions about the order and process New Testament dogma has done more to undermine fundamentalism as a worldview than secular liberalism could ever do. Yet everyday Christians with a commitment to social justice also find themselves divorced from fundamental Christianity with its often prejudicial treatment of women, people of color, gays and a whole host of other social targets pulled into the mix by conservative Christianity’s alliance with fiscal conservatives as well.

Now there has arisen a new brand of Protestantism of a Progressive brand seeking to reconcile social justice and the Bible. This new progressivism happens to align perfectly with the fundamental tenets of the United States Constitution and its call for equal rights. by contrast conservative Christianity seems perpetually engaged in denying equal rights to anyone judged to stand outside its often literal interpretations of scripture.

Conservative Christianity has long had it troubles with key elements of the social revolution. Inclusiveness proved difficult for people convinced that Christianity was the divine province of relatively wealthy and white people. Then when hippies starting calling on the Lord by name through very liberal productions such as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, conservatives felt they had enough and decided sometime in the 1960s to take their softball and go home.

But they couldn’t stay away from the political sandlot for long. They came back bellowing through the lungs of Jerry Falwell and for a few years looked like they might just win a season or two of political softball. The Moral Majority wrapped itself in flags and claimed that conservative Christianity owned the roots of the Constitution itself.

Sticking to what works

Truth be told however, it was liberalism with all its ties to Constitutional justice, equal rights and freedom from religion that was sticking closer to the Constitution.

Conservative Christians backed by political allies accused liberals and Democrats of cheating the political system handing out favors in the form of Social Security and Medicare in exchange for voting approval on the so-called Liberal Agenda.

There was only one problem with this storyline. Those social programs happen to align very closely with the fundamental tenets of true Christianity. Caring for the poor and sick is exactly what the Bible (and Jesus) calls on us to do. Our government basically started an insurance program back in the 1930s to keep people from becoming destitute in their retirement years of when they are elderly, sick and need the most help. That’s not a handout. That’s responsible management that happens to reflect true Christian values.

The abortion debate

That was not the only cognitive dissonance from the Right. Because beyond having failed in making a connection with the American people on compassionate social programs, the Christian Right elected to take issue with other trends they considered social ills. The right to abortion was one of those issues.

The problem with abortion as an issue of Christian concern is that its simple and preventative solutions such as prescribing birth control and delivering sex education have both been branded as liberal, not moral, solutions to the prevalence of abortions. Even the Catholic church with its so-called rhythm method of birth control could not fool its own constituents. This theologically twisted (and often flawed) advice has been ignored en masse by Catholic families, 97% of whom use conventional methods of birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Wrong again and again on science

Conservative Christianity has executed similarly bold yet spectacularly wrongheaded campaigns against science and evolution as ell. The entire creationist ideology that depends on literal interpretation of the Bible is nothing more than a ‘science of denial.’ Not a single scientific discovery has ever been directed or proven through the lens of creationism. The same goes for the euphemistic Intelligent Design movement that chooses to openly ignore the fact modern medicine and all our sciences depend upon evolutionary theory as a foundational method for proposing and testing scientific facts. The ID movement predictably labels this brand of science a tautology, but again, not a single scientific fact or theory has, or ever can be, tested through ID. The reason is simple. No one can test for the presence or absence of God in a natural or organic process. Therefore it is not a science. It is a religion.

Loud losers

With all these profound losses of credibility and practicality on its ledger, it is no wonder conservative Christianity feels persecuted. If you’re going to stand in center field and yell about how your opposition sucks when the score is 20-1 against your team, that’s a choice some people seem happy and determined to make.

But to hedge its bets and counter these massive losses of credibility over the years, conservative Christianity is taking an entirely different approach to imposing its will on America. It has decided that rather than try to win the game fairly, it is better to simply buy up all the teams and even try to own the league itself.

That’s what the new conservative strategy is all about. If you outright own the league (or the Senate and House that govern it) it doesn’t much matter how good or right your opponent truly is about the Constitution or any other subject. This strategy is abetted by the convenient and persistent transfer of wealth from the middle class, which tends to vote for pragmatically liberal issues and social justice, to the wealthiest Americans in bed with equally conservative Christians.

This strategy is harrowlingly abetted by the convenient and persistent transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest Americans in bed with equally conservative Christians. This further removes power from proponents of pragmatical liberal issues and social justice. The Citizens United ruling rubber stamped by a conservative Supreme Court helped usher in a new age corporate ownership of the political process.

The tortured truth of Fox News

The Christian Right even owns its own broadcast team so that fans of the Home Team never hear any criticism of conservative Christianity and its political or business allies. Fox loves the use of strongarm tactics and bullying to get its way. It even cheered and supported ex-VP Dick Cheney when he spoke out in defense of torturing Iraqis. It is hard to believe that Jesus would support such a viewpoint. After all, it could not have been pleasant being scourged by his Roman captors and spat upon, or forced to carry a piece of heavy timber to the place where soldiers nailed his wrists to the wood and let him expire from stress and bleeding. But Fox News and its conservative alliance thought it was fine to torture and persecute often innocent citizens in search of information about a war that America started as a retaliation against a country that wasn’t involved in the 9/11 attacks.

How very Christian of us 

But Fox News with its team of mostly white male and female hack cheerleaders loudly proclaims that Christians are the ones being persecuted. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly love this approach to gaining complicity. It makes them tons of money beckoning to the jingoistic fervor of conservatives who seem to love to have an enemy at which to point their rage.

There is just one problem with this last grasp for victory. Jesus himself told us to love our enemies, not persecute them or claim to be persecuted by others. Turn the other cheek, remember? Or at the very least shake the dust from your sandals (or softball shoes) and move on to make your point in another town.

But even Jesus said to make sure you got the message right before you go shaking the dust off anything. Even his own disciples missed the metaphorical foundations of his teaching, asking him why he was so liberal with his organic symbolism rather than just “telling it straight.”

“Are you so dull?” he challenged his disciples. Or, “Are you also without understanding?’

See, the disciples of Jesus felt a bit persecuted by the fact that more people did not accept what Jesus was teaching. But Jesus had them stop and think about what they were actually saying. “If you can’t understand my message,” he admonished them (and I paraphrase) “then how can you be trusted to share it with others?”

Indeed the disciples never got the whole message until Jesus gave himself over to be killed. In that single act, designed to both liberate and liberalize the faith of the Jewish and the Gentiles alike, he was sending a message that you cannot be persecuted in his name unless you bring it upon yourself and make it so.

How scientific and biblical illiteracy contribute to ignorance on Caitlyn Jenner

Society struggles to accept change as a whole, much less change in individuals who work against so-called "social norms."

Society struggles to accept change as a whole, much less change in individuals who work against so-called “social norms.”

With social expert Snoop Dogg branding Caitlyn Jenner a “science experiment” and some Catholic priest stating that she’s just a “man dressed up as a whore,” perhaps it’s time we all stepped back to consider what science and religion actually teach us about Jenner’s gender move from male to female.

First, let’s start with science. What science teaches about the nature of gender and gender roles is quite simple. There is no status quo. Nature is filled with organisms whose sexual gender, or the change thereof, is not an inhibitor in life cycles or reproduction. Some species of frogs, as described in this scientific study, don’t play by the so-called “normal” rules of sexual genetics. Nor do millions of other organisms on this earth. It’s a simple truth that the Xs and Os of genetics are not meant to lie dormant, and never do. Nature plays with them every millisecond.

Humans are no exception to these dynamics. In fact we are messing with our own genetics and our environment all the time with the drugs we take, the food we eat and the ecosystems we manipulate to our own purposes. Even the Catholic Church with its so-called rhythm method of birth control is trying to cheat nature in its own way.

Honesty existence vs. cheating ways

Transgender people, those having generically-driven sexual organs and characteristics of both genders, have long existed in human populations. Science has no real trouble sourcing these genetic “experiments” if you want to call them that. They are only “experiments” in the sense that nature works through these processes to produce every living thing on earth.

None of us is genetically perfect, of course. Plus, if you’re ranking human beings at the top of the genetic world because of our intelligence, it is wise to recall that we share more than 95% of our DNA with our nearest living ape relatives. So the scientific odds of us being truly superior organic creatures is quite low. Probably less than 5%.

We’re simply not as special as we claim to be. In fact we’re just as susceptible to the core biological threats of disease, parasites, infections, inflammation and other travails as any other creature on earth. We’re also susceptible to emotional dependencies, obsessions and mental illness at very high rates, much higher than so-called “lower animals.” Add in human addictions to substances and behaviors and the human race turns out to be one of the world’s most frail and flawed population of living things. If we’re truly made in God’s image, God is pretty messed up.

Just as we feared

But the worst human foible of all is fear. Our fears drive a great many of our behaviors. It turns us into warlike creatures. Fear undermines our confidence and self-esteem. It makes us shun love at both the personal and God level.

We learn to look at life through the lens of fear because it makes us feel protected from ills that we do not understand. Some people reject even trying to overcome their fears. It is much easier, or so it seems, to simply avoid knowledge that seems to threaten a person’s current understanding. That’s how sayings like “the Bible says it, and I believe” evolve into personal mantras. That’s also how ignorant prejudices by race, religion or nationality turn into fixed worldviews.

Many people inherit these worldview through the culture or religion in which they are raised. It is certainly true on the Christian religious front. People are indoctrinated to trust only what other people tell them the Bible says about truth. One would think the Reformation and Protestantism might have helped cure this problem. But being able to read and discern has not evolved religion all that much. As Mark Twain once said, “In religion and politics, most people’s beliefs are secondhand, and unexamined.”

Control freaks

There is considerable value to be had when you control the mindset and beliefs of a great many people. You can ask for their money. You can ask for their vote. You can even tell them how to use their money and tell them how to vote. Just make them afraid they will have to change if they don’t listen to you and the job is done. They won’t change, and you own the authority that controls the culture in which they operate.

It’s best if this sort of religious control is kept to a very basic approach. If you have to renew the message or change its focus very often, believers get distracted and wander off. That’s how religious fundamentalism works. It reduces faith to a simple doctrine that people can embrace without too much examination or thought.

Nuance and progress have little stake in this process of thought control. If fundamental religion has to accommodate other faiths or other politics, it might find itself at risk of change due to bright new specks of truth that distract from the core message.

The best way to avoid that pattern is to convince believers that the “other” is a bad thing.

Always hating on the other

For millennia this has been the approach of major religions around the world. Christians are taught to think Muslims are bad, and vice versa. Hence the Crusades over ownership of the Holy Land.

Catholics are taught to think Protestants are bad. Murder and mayhem follow.

Religion can be aimed like a gun and used to persecute and kill anyone it chooses. That’s how so-called Christians in the KKK targeted Southern Blacks, branding them inferior beings worthy only of slavery and submission.

Christianity still struggles with its targeting of gay and transgender people as well. Certain passages of the Bible are used as proof texts that homosexuality is a sin. Never mind that these texts are largely yanked out of context or misinterpreted to indict homosexuals. Never mind that the science behind genetics did not exist when the Bible was written, nor that society has learned plenty about other laws in the Bible that we now patently ignore.

The world has progressed, but those still captured by the anachronisms rife in scientific and biblical illiteracy have not. That is why explaining something as complex as the Caitlyn Jenner story takes so much work and engenders so much stupid commentary. When you have major portions of society committed to communicating their fears of being exposed as ignorant, there is no room for intelligent dialogue on a matter such as Caitlyn Jenner.

You can criticize her decision and question whether it serves well the needs of women or men around the world. But inside that shell is a living, breathing human being made of the same stuff as everyone else. And if you’re a person of faith, you know that Caitlyn Jenner has a soul. That soul is all that God or Christ or whoever you think needs to be concerned is concerned about. And I see a soul in search of meaning. And that’s all.

The weary world and Dennis Hastert

dennis-hastertThe so-called “accidental” Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has long lived on reputation of being a good old boy. He is a quiet man by nature who worked hard to bring value to his home district, which happens to cover the area where I live.

As such, and as a United States Congressman, he made appearances in his district giving talks about political doings at the state and national level. In the late 1980s I happened to be the person who booked speakers for our local Rotary Club. When it became evident Hastert was available to talk to our club, I was urged to make contact and have him come to our breakfast meeting.

Hastert was introduced by the club president and spoke about a few issues of importance at the time. George H.W. Bush was President of the United States and the post-Reagan Republican world was trying to make sense of their newfound sense of power. It wasn’t going all that well, but you’d never know from the way the party continued to talk about its fiscal and social exploits.

At the end of his talk Hastert invited our Rotary members to ask some questions. There was one issue in which I was keenly interested. I waited my turn to ask about some environmental legislation the government was considering. This was during an era when there started to be some serious blowback toward green legislation. In particular there were concerns about the economic impact of so-called environmentalists. That term had become one of derision by those on the political Right––who accused environmentalists of putting the needs of the earth before human interests. But in fact there were arguments against environmentalism from both the economic wing and religious wing of the Republican party. Fiscal conservatives claimed environmentalism was too costly for business while religious conservatives catered to a wing of Christianity that said human beings had dominion over the earth and could do whatever they wanted with it. As a result of these accusations, environmentalism was becoming one of the dividing issues between Republicans and Democrats.

Recent past

It wasn’t always that way. President Nixon, a devout Republican, had established the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for good reason. In the early 1970s when Nixon was President, environmental pollution had turned America into a dangerous mess. Rivers caught fire from pollution and pesticides were causing species such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon to disappear from their natural ranges. Passing laws for environmental protection was the right thing to do and a Republican thing to do dating back to Teddy Roosevelt, who led the way in establishing the National Park System.

But the arc from considerate Republican stewardship to a party more concerned with extraction than conservation was taking a hard right turn in the late 1980s. Which is perhaps why Dennis Hastert felt comfortable outwardly laughing at my sincere question about environmental legislation. He looked around the room and laughed when I brought up the subject. And people laughed with him.

I was shocked. Was I missing something? Was the environment a joke in some people’s minds? Apparently so.

Rotary redux: What goes around…

The next time Dennis Hastert was invited to our Rotary Club to speak, I was the President of the club. You can imagine that I was not so eager to have Hastert speak this time around. Yet his political stature had begun to rise, and his fans were many. While not yet Speaker of the House, the name Dennis Hastert was held in high regard. His tenure in office was growing.

But when it came time to introduce Dennis Hastert to our Rotary Club, I kept the introduction clipped and brief. “Good morning Rotary members,” I said. “Our speaker this morning is Dennis Hastert.”

No protocol. No long list of titles relative to his position in government. I skipped all that jazz. My fellow Rotary members were angry. “How could you show him such disrespect?” they demanded to know.

I explained exactly why his introduction was so brief. “He did not show me respect as a human being last time he came here to speak. And I don’t care what someone has in terms of a title in front of his name,” I responded. “Basic respect comes first. And he didn’t show it to me.”

National conduct

When Dennis Hastert ascended to the podium of national leadership I watched his conduct carefully. At one point there appeared a photo on the front cover of the Chicago Tribune. Now Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert stood proudly with a bunch of Republican leaders including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and a couple other GOP legislators signing a piece of law that essentially limited women’s rights. There they were, a gaggle of powerful white men proudly signing away the rights of half the population. It made me sick.

The ideological approach of that entire era of politicians made me suspicious of every motive they put forward. I had learned from direct experience that men like Dennis Hastert can have a dismissive approach to anyone that does not agree with their doctrine or politics. When those ideologues swept into power with the stolen election of George W. Bush in 2000, it was evident to me what would come next. Abuse of power. The Good Old Boys had control and they weren’t going to pussyfoot around trying to do what they wanted and to get what they thought they deserve.

Only their agenda repeatedly and predictably failed. Without consideration of basic human rights, the actions of Republican ideologues flout the Constitution, ignore the clear call to considerate governance and indeed, undermine respect for the American ideal around the world.

It was not just circumstance. One failure after another took place; from 9/11 to Katrina, the torturous war in Iraq to the fall of the economy. The policies of these men produced nothing but tragedy and dismissive excuses for why it was somehow not their fault. Yet you could still sometimes see the harsh expressions and catch traces of the bitter laughter on faces of men such as George W. Bush, Dennis Hastert and Donald Rumsfeld as they continued forcing their agenda on America.

Perhaps even disturbing was the lack of apparent laughter (and less a shred of compassion) from men such as Dick Cheney, whose sneering and snarling demeanor was not even fit for public consumption lest the public actually catch on to the nasty nature of the men operating behind the scenes.

Perhaps the only thing that can make a mercenary laugh is the paycheck they collect for accomplishing their task, and then they only share that smile and laugh among associates who are “in on the joke.” That certainly seemed to be the case with Cheney, whose business interests in Halliburton suddenly made billions from the war in Iraq. But the cynicism seemed pervasive in all branches of government it seemed, especially the likes of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose title of “Supreme Court Justice” seemed almost ironic as he dispensed clearly partisan rulings and opinions that seemed to fly in the face of Constitutional common sense. Meanwhile he laughed off his critics.

Damned Dems

Sure, there are interesting types among the Democrats as well. People love to point to the likes of President Bill Clinton as an example of a corrupt and laughing politician. But how ironic it is that the three Republican Speakers of the House who pushed for Clinton’s impeachment for lying about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky turned out to have sexual secrets and philandering histories of their own?

Clinton admittedly was an embarrassment to America in his sexual dalliances, but he was certainly not the first or last President or powerful politician caught with his hands down someone else’s pants. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his girlfriends on the side yet found the time and courage to lead America out of the Depression and through the massive travails of World War II. JFK was another Democrat whose lust for women was well known yet he also seemed to transcend his personal failures with a will for social justice and equal rights. He envisioned the space program that beat the Soviets in putting a man on the moon. And what killed Kennedy? A secret cabal of hateful CIA agents and mobster laughing into their collars as they looked the other way while the motorcade came to a stop and a hail of bullets caromed from every direction.

The same hateful secret government killed Martin Luther King, Jr., another womanizer it turns out, the very same way. Assassinations in the name of secret ideology.

Forgiveness and gay thoughts

All this begs the question: What should be forgiven in our public figures? What is the acceptable balance between kept secrets and privacy? Does it matter what people do in the bedroom if they otherwise conduct themselves well in public and obey the law?

That’s where Dennis Hastert and some others run aground. So vital are their kept secrets to their public persona they cannot afford to let those secrets out. So they move money around and make payments to risky past relationships to keep them quiet.

In Hastert’s case there is the double Republican indemnity of having possibly engaged in a same-sex relationship. That’s considered a political liability among social conservatives, who would rather deny the fact of homosexuality as a normal state of human consciousness than accept the social change of same-sex marriage and other equal rights for gay people. So it wasn’t just that Hastert had a sex scandal in his past. It was allegedly a gay sex scandal, quite possibly with a minor, that made vital for him to obscure his past and maintain his image as a devout Republican.

And how sad yet necessary it all is because people cannot understand, accept or be accepted for who they are. So they create this fashioned image of who they think they have to be. Then they engage in every possible ruse to protect that fake reality.

How liberating it will be one day when the stigmas attached to homosexuality are removed. Then people can live without being restricted by their sexual orientation. It still would not excuse the potential actions of pedophiles who take advantage of minors for sexual purposes, for that is a distinct and separate issue from homosexuality. The two are not necessarily linked.

Key learnings

It seems in the end they all have their secrets, these politicians. So what can we learn from how they conduct themselves? And how can America protect itself from the hypocrisy evident in the conduct of men and women of power who claim to represent the best of America and morality while carrying out thefts of public trust and treasure?

The answer is that we should never accept the public face of politics. Ever. Even the so-called Great Communicator Ronald Reagan, who presented himself as the affable father of morality and American virtue, let his administration’s actions spin out of control with the Iran-Contra affair. At least Reagan stepped forward to confess, which is more than men like George W. Bush have had the courage to do even though his minions led a military extortion and torture regime in Iraq.

Just remember that even when you ask relevant questions of individuals like these, they may still be laughing at you.  They may appear smug and proficient in the ways of politics, but we continue to learn that so many of these people are hiding dark secrets in their past and present. They laugh at you because they don’t want you to know these secrets, and don’t believe you have a right to do so. So they laugh it off, as if you’re the stupid one. And if they get enough power and media on their side, they indeed appear to be in control of everything they do. But dark secrets have a way or emerging in ways that the most protective over souls cannot imagine.

It is often the case that the repressed choose to persecute and prosecute the things they hate most in themselves. That’s why we find religious zealots hollering from the pulpit about sex while they conduct illicit sexual affairs with their own parishioners. It’s why we find hardline politicians passing anti-gay legislation even as they engage in sex with secretly gay lovers or prostitutes.

All these ruses are an elaborate attempt at self-denial and protection. It is the also the most common ruse of power that those who want to play along should always be in on the joke. So there are even secret societies that create these dark secrets and hold people hostage their whole lives on threat that they will be exposed if they ever tell on another person. It’s a sick, dark world that exists apart from the honest way you and I want to live.

Jokesters and justice

We’ve seen what happens in history when the jokesters are exposed as frauds. They grow angry and seek to punish. That’s why Herod called for Jesus. He wanted to either witness the real secret of power or else make a mockery of that which threatened him.

Often this pattern of hypocritical rage gets carried to its illogical conclusion. People cry out to the Lord, “Where is they justice?” But God sees the spectrum of human foible in a fuller context. He expects us to be wiser than to trust angry fools so long, and to let them rule over us.

That is the weary world God wants us to overcome. Men like Dennis Hastert start out by laughing in our faces as if our questions were all a joke, and as if accountability were a humorous fiction.

It can be tiring to be vigilant toward such dismissive leaders who lie to us and laugh in our faces. They keep coming at us, and with increasingly powerful fervor driven by media that echo and amplify their voices. The laughter of their ideology drowns out the earnest inquiries of the curious and sincere. A certain madness takes over, and people begin siding with the madness because it seems like the only sane thing to do given its popularity and its promises.

But you should know that this madness is not the righteous way. These were the same voices that yelled “Crucify Him!” and laughed and scowled at a man nailed to the cross, whose sacrifice was intended to instruct on the ways of truth in the face of power and mockery.

The weary world accepts that such ends are inevitable, that no matter what we do, tomorrow is the another day for crucifixion of hope, love and political honesty. We see it every day, and the weary world and Dennis Hastert are illustrating the dangers of blind trust and mockery of those who are not in on the secret, which is that all human beings are flawed, and no amount of cynical laughter and power-brokering politics can hide that fact.

What is your version of Jesus doing today?

FlagWaiverBack in the 1980s that famous phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” seemed to hold potential to revive a certain sort of mainstream Christian hope that youth would embrace the man we call the Son of God. Yet it too died of overexposure.

Which means we’re left with a Post-Modern sort of Jesus to leverage into cultural memes. That has produced a wide range of beliefs about Jesus and versions of his ministry and message to consider.

Here are a few versions alive and kicking today:

The Evangelical Jesus

The word “evangelical” means to share the word. So evangelicals in the Post Modern world have spread themselves thin trying to promote their version of Jesus to the world. The Evangelical Jesus is now part Economist through evangelical promotion of the Prosperity Gospel. He is also part Politician through alliances with conservatives during election cycles. Finally, the Evangelical Jesus also functions as the Great Decider in situations where Evangelicals determine who should and should not be included in the Kingdom of God. That means the Evangelical Jesus can be used as a tool for discrimination. So if you happen to be black, or gay, or female, or poor, depending on the whim of Evangelical Jesus, you might not get to come to the party. All this is justified under the umbrella of sharing the Word as evangelicals see it.

The Evangelical Version of Jesus keeps quite busy these days trying to separate the wheat from the chaff of society. 

The Fundamentalist Jesus

It’s a little hard to separate the Fundamentalist Jesus from the Evangelical Jesus at times. The watershed between the two can typically be found in the confessional language of fundamentalism. This is sort of a code language formed around key Bible passages, but it all has a shortcut that usually starts with the phrase, “Are you a believer?” From that point a stream of confessional words should tumble out of your mouth in cornucopia fashion. “He is my personal savior. I believe Jesus is the Son of God, who died on the cross and was raised from the dead after three days. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God and will come to judge the evil and the dead.” Of course there are subtle variations of The Fundamentalist Jesus at work in the world these days, but the principle priority is to teach and require this confessional language and use it like a Morse Code to recognize all those who want to be embraced by the Fundamentalist Jesus.

The Fundamentalist Version of Jesus spends most of his days listening to Moody Bible Institute broadcasts where silky-voiced radio hosts spew confessional language into microphones. 

The Creationist Jesus

Way back when the Bible was written and Jesus was just a twinkle in the Holy Spirit’s eye, God somehow decided that things in the world should never change except by cataclysmic events such as floods, plagues and genocidal Kings who followed the Will of God to the letter by savaging entire populations of people who worshipped false idols. This rather fixed version of history in which nothing happens by chance is how Creationist Jesus prefers to conduct business. That means he was actually there in some form when God commanded Adam to name all the animals, plants, insects and other living things on the earth, which all apparently grew and lived in the Middle East so that Adam could name them properly. Then they all reconvened for a reunion with Noah so that he could rescue sample DNA from around the world while the flood deposited millions of fossils of deceased creatures in neatly organized layers so that humans could discover them a mere 10,000 years later. The Creationist Jesus also apparently hung out with dinosaurs.

The Creationist Version of Jesus has been busy raising money for a temple to creationism built in Kentucky. 

The Conservative Jesus

There are some who believe that one cannot be anything but a conservative and a Christian. That would be a really great thing if only Jesus himself believed it. Because Jesus spent the latter part of his earthly ministry castigating the conservatives of his day for their rigid, legalistic belief systems that turned scripture into law and caused people all kinds of suffering. That leaves us with a really interesting figure to worship these days, and the Conservative Jesus as a result is little more than a figurehead for a doctrine that claims supply-side economics, sexual abstinence, distrust of science and a brand of fascist newscasting are indicators of a true belief in Christ. Conservative Jesus would not recognize the acts of the Good Samaritan because one never knows who is really disguised as a Muslim. Conservative Jesus might have a few black friends, but most of them would sit silent in social situations like Clarence Thomas or else crow about the liberation of a few wealthy blacks as indicators that there is no such thing as racial oppression. Conservative Jesus might even secretly wear a Confederate tattoo on his right buttock and engage in Concealed Carry in case those Democrat Pharisees show up to take away the guns of him and his disciples.

Conservative Jesus is a badass with ripped abs and a glock to boot. Don’t cross him. 

The Republican Jesus

Every two to four years, the Republican Jesus is trotted out like a Cigar Store Indian to raise money for anti-abortion candidates and people who like to de-fund science and programs that benefit the poor. Republican Jesus waves the flag a lot and tends to like wars because they benefit the economy and a few very well situated white men that have ties to companies with catering services for the military. In some case these companies actually become the military, in which case the Republican Jesus leads rallies to convince both the real military and the mercenary military they are fighting for the honor of Republican Jesus, who really likes a Good War and knows a Bad War when he sees one. Which isn’t very often, because all wars started by America are necessarily Good Wars. Republican Jesus also tends to ignore the cries of the poor because the Bible clearly states that one shall not spoil the child by denying them the opportunity to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. And if that doesn’t work, Republican Jesus uses those bootstraps to whip the poor into shape.

Republican Jesus really can’t be bothered to see you right now. There’s an election in 2016 you know. 

The Democrat Jesus

On the surface, Democrat Jesus seems to side with many of the principles held dear by liberals who read the Bible. Social programs that help the poor and elderly are often supported by Democrats. So Democrat Jesus looks much like the real thing. Yet in many cases Democrat Jesus is a bit more like the confused disciple Judas, who was a traitor to Jesus by turning him in for a bag of coins. This confuses people about Democrat Jesus, and makes them question the faith of men like Barack Obama, who speaks pretty clearly about helping the poor and the disadvantages, but then spends time at the country club or patting the heads of Wall Street bankers who want to turn government into a collection station for annuities. Instead of flipping the tables of the tax collectors in the temple like Jesus did, Democrat Jesus shakes hands and asks if the temple is too big to fail. If the answer is yes, Democrat Jesus turns to his followers and says, “Let’s move on! Nothing to see here!”

Democrat Jesus is occupying Wall Street, but only for lunch with a few Jewish bankers and the opportunity to stay in a house out on the Hamptons for the weekend. 

The Liberal Jesus

Well, we always seem to be getting somewhere when Liberal Jesus rides into the town on the back of a donkey. Liberal Jesus wants to genuinely help the poor. Even to the point of re-distribution of wealth, Liberal Jesus calls cultures to account for their sins of ignoring the neediest. Yet even Liberal Jesus gets a little distracted sometimes. It’s really confusing for Liberal Jesus to figure out the abortion issue, for example. No one likes killing babies of course. So Liberal Jesus suggests using birth control, but the Bible has plenty of warnings about the dangers of casual sex. So Liberal Jesus has to do all kinds of verbal gymnastics about that, and about gays as well because the Bible has traditionally been interpreted to ban adultery and teens feeling each other up (and more) in the back seats of cars. So Liberal Jesus is constantly busy trying to convince the world that he actually stands for something other than doing any bloody thing you want to do.

Liberal Jesus is alternately cringing and praising the books of Bishop John Shelby Spong.

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

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