Government isn’t the problem. It’s people who see government as the problem that are the problem.

Let’s talk about the nature of predictive behavior and self-fulfilling prophecies for a moment. We can start with the famous quote by Ronald Reagan as evidence that self-predictive statements result in self-fulfilling prophecies. Reagan once said, “In the present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.”

You can define a crisis any way you like. That’s the real problem. And when you go around manufacturing crises for the sake of getting your way on this issue or that, then government can be used to aid and abet the wishes of those who have not the best interests of the people in mind. They have their own issues in mind.

Often those issues have deeply conflicting roots. That’s why it feels like a crisis is at hand. When people see a situation that feels like it is outside their control, especially their political or ideological control, they easily call it a crisis.

Around such false premises are most crises formed. Yet what one political party calls a crisis, the other political party calls an investment in progress, or prevention of demise.

So the argument goes round and round. Meanwhile the claim that government itself is the problem gathers powerful meaning. That’s because politicians and religious leaders excel at leveraging that argument to their own benefit. How is it that someone in a government position can dare make the claim that, as Reagan once stated, “government is the problem.” If government is the greatest problem of the nation, what is the nation at all?

That’s like saying religion is the problem with Christianity, or that Christianity is the problem with religion. It doesn’t matter which way you say it. It’s using the existence of one thing to absolve the responsibility of the other.

You may recall for example that Jesus was not a Christian. He could not be, because as he lived there was not yet a symbolic act that created the faith upon which absolution of sins was based. He was both the egg and the chicken. So that argument is settled once and for all.

If we don’t accept that government is also both the egg and the chicken, then we can’t believe in its power to conduct the business of the people. Sure, one can argue about the so-called “size” of government and its supposed taxing powers. You can argue about its impacts on the lives of ordinary citizens. You can argue about the corruption that goes on within so many governments included and especially the United States of America, which despite its claims of exceptionalism is one of the biggest terrorist states ever known to humankind.

Without the deep confession that it’s the people who see government as the problem that are the problem, they are free to conduct themselves any way they like because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s how we get the Oliver Norths and G. Gordon Liddy’s of this world doing what they like because they see themselves above and outside the constrictions of government. They are held to no accounting because their view of government is unaccountable. Same goes for corrupt governors like Illinois ‘Rod Blagojevich, who saw government positions as a commodity to be traded and sold. Or President George W. Bush, who won a second term by a small margin and claimed that he earned political capital that he could spend at will.

All such people are the vexing scourge of good government. Yet they seem to be the same people who somewhere along the line came to view government as a limiting factor on their ego and their will.

It all stems from worldviews founded on less than moral principles and understanding of the Bible and the Constitution. When we supplant personhood with notions that corporations have the same voice as individual citizens, we compromise the real meaning of government. That is how it becomes the problem.

By contrast using government to promote equal rights, fair commerce and healthy (but not exploitative) trade are signs that government is the solution to human need.

Even Jesus said “Give unto Caesar what it Caesars.” He understood that some form of government was necessary for human enterprise. But he did not necessarily approve of Roman rule and the type of authority expressed by the Romans, which disrespected all those who were not already Roman citizens by birth or adoption.

And that’s the difference. Government isn’t the problem. It is the brutal, manipulative character of the people running governments that is always the problem.

How the Republican Party will blame liberals for climate change

FlagWaiverIt seems almost impossible to think about. Yet one day soon all those who spend time denying the fact of man-made climate change will embrace it as a way to blame liberals for ruining the world.

Here’s how it will go down. There will be a conference somewhere amongst all those that have spent the last 10 years hating Al Gore for stating the inconvenient truth. And the financiers of phonily constructed research that denies the existence of global climate change will suddenly find ways to fund credible science because it serves an all new, entirely political purpose.

That purpose will be to blame liberals, especially environmentalists, for anthropogenic climate change.

There will still be an anti-science motive behind the science climate change deniers use to suddenly reverse positions on the idea that humans can effect climatologically disastrous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

That motive will be to bring religion to the forefront of the so-called argument over climate change. Religious conservatives will contend that it is the policies of environmentalists that have gone against the will of God. They will claim that it is the arrogance of all those seeking to outsmart the Creator by imposing manmade laws and environmental regulations that has led to our pending climate disaster.

Predictable outcomes

Playing righteousness for political favors and power is how conservatives always operate in this world. It doesn’t matter that there is no logic behind the argument that conservation laws and international governmental agreements to reduce carbon emissions are the cause of global warming.

What matters to conservatives is framing the argument under terminology they can control. That’s where religion comes in so handy. They will point to passages from the bible where people defying the will of God have suffered punishment. The exile of Israeli people to Egypt and to Babylonia will likely serve as the apocryphal bludgeon used by conservatives to illustrate how God punishes those who try to think for themselves and “fall out of worship” with God.

Falling away from God

That means conservatives will rally all the talking points they use to assail what they call liberalism. Which is in fact nothing more than guaranteeing basic human rights. But that has never gone over well with conservatives. For a long time it was persecution of black people that occupied their attention. Then came the 1960s and social revolution. Then women’s rights became the enemy. Now tolerance of gays will be cited as a sign that America, which conservatives brand a Christian nation, has fallen away from the ways of God. For sure there will be a bit of apocalyptic fervor and imagery thrown in for good measure. Just to appeal to the frantically preoccupied base that believes the end of the world is coming about anyway. Nothing like a bit of threat and lost hope to motivate those who see the Bible as a set of bookends with Genesis and Revelation providing the sudden beginning and end of the world. How very convenient it all fits together.

Murderous ways

Never mind that our endless wars of choice and murderous habits of the CIA and other secretive organizations within government do far more evil and murderous things in the world. None of that matters because, in the minds of those who believe in American exceptionalism, none of that comes home to roost. We’re trying to change the world for the better, the argument goes. A few eggs are going to get broken in the process. Some of those “eggs” might have included the killing of JFK or even the complicit design of 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq for oil and influence. People lose their lives to these murderous schemes. But what matters more to conservatives is that someone might lose a little profit due to environmental regulations? Talk about skewed priorities.

Shame and blame

So the calculatedly blameless core of the religious and political right will have absolutely no problem blaming liberals for anthropogenic climate change. The sin of trying to act like God by invoking environmental protection laws is to blame for God’s swift justice on this earth. God is changing the climate to punish us all, they will say.

And it won’t be very long before this narrative comes to the forefront of American and world politics. The pressure to recognize this reality is soon going to force conservatives to admit they were wrong. But that just means they need to find someone to blame for their own egregious behaviors.

Need proof? Look at how quickly the religious and political right concocted the narrative that George W. Bush and Republican policies had nothing to do with the economic recession. Or that Bush and Company somehow screwed things up in the Middle East. No, there was no responsibility there on the part of the GOP or worse, the operatives that carry out the will of the corporatocracy.

Because that’s how it all really works. The confusing mix of business, religion and politics all mix together in the netherworld of people who want to own it all and accept no blame for the consequences of their actions. God comes in handy in those circumstances. All you have to do is claim you’re on God’s side and people find it hard to argue with you.

You heard it here first. It shouldn’t be long now. In fact they’ll probably steal the idea from this blog. We can only hope the Pope speaks out against the plot of the new Pharisees.

Let’s hear it for religious liberty, or what’s really eating Jesus

FlagWaiverBack in 1968 or so, Catholic and Lutheran theologians got together to discuss the religious rite of communion in which Christian believers are invited to gather at the altar to partake in the bread and wine. The ceremony is conducted in keeping with a practice established during what the Christian faith calls the Last Supper.

Both Lutherans and Catholics at the time agreed that the Eucharist, as communion is called, means that Christ is literally “present wholly and entirely, in his body and blood, under the signs of bread and wine.”

So far, so food. Symbolic acts of faith are a big part of religious tradition and ritual. You gotta take this stuff seriously or it doesn’t mean a thing.

But Catholics took the meaning of the Eucharist ritual a bit farther, and a whole lot more literally. They confabulated the term “transubstantiation” to describe the religious “fact” that the wine and bread served during communion is literally changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.

Whoa. By that definition, Christians literally become cannibals when they eat the bread (the body) and drink the wine (or blood) of Christ. Isn’t that against the law? 

Yes, it is. Which means that transubstantiation is all a bit of hocus pocus in which the wine and bread remain the same in substance, appearance, taste and smell. But still, according to the Catholic definition of transubstantiation, you’re literally eating Jesus when you ingest the bread and wine.

Oh, that’s all overblown you might think. Catholics don’t really believe that. Yet there are plenty of churches that require that no bread or wine be tossed down the sink or into the trash. People literally serve the role of eating the remainder of the bread as surrogate cannibals. The wine is consumer too, or else poured down a designated spot and back to the earth as a kind of faux burial.

Strange questions

This raises some really strange questions, such as: Does wine used in a service and discarded down a well to the earth need to be resurrected to be present at the next serving of communion?

See, the interpretation of religious beliefs is inconsistent and, when taken literally, often a bizarre, macabre mix of hookum spookum designed to scare people into behaviors deemed important by those in control of the religious narrative.

Jesus had a lot of problems with that kid of mind control. He fought the religious leaders of his day for setting up rituals in which people essentially were forced to buy sacrificial critters in order to earn the good graces of the church. Later on in history some branches of the Catholic Church started little “pay for play” scam to pay for things the church wanted to do. In other words, there is no such thing as a standard system by which Christianity has always behaved.

Religious liberty

FlagSolarOf course the big issue in America right now is whether the government is impinging on religious liberty by creating laws that require people with certain religious beliefs to carry out functions that they see as contradictory to their personal value system. The idea of being required to create a wedding cake for a gay couple is, for example, anathema to certain breeds of so-called Christian believers.

But we could just as easily turn around and condemn the practices and belief systems of many Christians to be abhorrent according to common law. The idea that Christians are wantonly and avidly conducting cannibalism by eating the actual and real body of Christ?That’s disgusting. And who is to say, if we socially abide that belief, that someone could not form a faith around actual cannibalism under the claim that their religious beliefs are being impinged by a government that discourages eating other people?

Trumping religious prejudice

In all cases, protection of personal liberties under the banner or the United States Constitution is the first and foremost responsibility of the government. The nation has blocked religious practices such as polygamy on grounds that it is immoral under common law. Yet the nation has moved to protect the rights of gays to marry or create civil unions, also under common law. The fact that certain religious “liberties” are impinged by the spectrum of these decisions is in essence immaterial. Laws are established based on a common understanding of individual rights.

Some people might go their deathbeds claiming that they ate the real Jesus during Catholic Communion. We protect the right to believe that. But we don’t protect the right to impose that believe on all other citizens. That is freedom from religion. It is equally guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Hard for some to grasp

306523_3795453241128_1825138197_nIt’s hard for some people to grasp the difference between being free to believe what you want and not being free to impose those religious beliefs indiscriminately because it inconveniences your worldview to serve a gay person, a black person, a woman, or Mexican or Muslim. All those choices to refuse service are discriminatory. We can’t run a civil society if a vigilante panoply of religious belief systems is engaged as the law of the land.

What’s really eating Jesus these days is the lack of understanding among people who speak on his behalf that it is not the law of the faith that matters, but the love. Because that’s what lacking in Indiana and other states committed to prejudicial faith as a matter of practice. It’s not about Christianity at all. It’s about selfish fears and hollow pride in controlling the social narrative.

And to that Jesus might just say, “Eat me.” Now that’s a truly liberating thought. 

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.