From kneeling to praying: why the NFL struggles with the beliefs of its players

TEBOW1-jumboA few years back in NFL history (around 2011) quarterback Tim Tebow got controversial for kneeling in prayer during gametime. Some supported his right to express his faith. Others found it distracting and annoying.

And the NFL, as it always does with controversies, just wished it would all go away. Despite seemingly solid status as a former Heisman Trophy winner and top-flight college athlete, Tebow eventually did go away. The typical career of an NFL player rarely exceeds three years anyway. The game is perpetual. The players, disposable.

K kneelingThen came Colin Kaepernick who kneeled during the National Anthem in protest over civil rights abuses in America. The NFL”s fans again exploded in words of support and vitriol toward a quarterback. As kneeling in protest expanded throughout the NFL, even President Donald Trump got involved Tweeting nasty comments toward all those who participated.

So it appears that kneeling in either prayer or protest is controversial to some. But is there a direct divide among people who support one but not another?

That would be an interesting subject to study. If a majority of those who supported Tim Tebow’s public demonstration of Christian faith also disapproved of Colin Kaepernick’s secular complaint over treatment of black Americans, what would that say about the real values of those involved?

And if a majority of those who stand with Kaepernick earlier hated on Tebow for showing his belief in God, what does that say about the state of culture today?

Tim Tebow.jpegIn both cases, we are witnessing attempts to bring some sort of humanity and perspective to the game of professional football. Some have argued that employees of pro football sign away the right to personal expression in favor of team and corporate loyalty. Still others project the onus of national loyalty on the situation, claiming that players such as Kaepernick and others are disrespecting the flag and even the military who fought to defend it.

But what if Tebow had come out in favor of Christian pacifism, even to the point of protesting the wars that America so proudly claims as symbols of liberation and freedom?

It would seem that players now kneeling in protest are indeed standing up for a critical aspect of American freedoms. One might even argue that fighting for civil rights by definition includes freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion.

So the anger over Tebow and Kaepernick is equally confused at its source. This stems from the seemingly poor understanding of what constitutes both religious freedom and equal rights under the Constitution. Plenty of people who claim that America is a Christian nation seem to neglect the fact that the Constitution itself states that there shall be no establishment of a state religion.

It also states that the rights of citizenship apply to all Americans, not just those who abide by the Christian faith.

Which makes the cause of Colin Kaepernick somewhat more inclusive than the cause of Tim Tebow. Because when Tebow kneeled to pray, he might have represented the portion of the population who shared some aspect of his beliefs. But when Kaepernick and Company kneel in protest for civil rights in America, they truly stand for all according to law. And the Republic run by the United States government is a system of laws.

Whether they are applied equally and fairly is the question raised by Kaepernick and other NFL players using pro football as a mouthpiece for civil rights. One could argue that those kneeling are participating in a sort of secular brand of prayer.

Trump-golf-seatedRevealing such vulnerability and concern does not set well with the ethic of machismo associated with pro football or for that matter, with a certain sort of bully pulpit ideology that has emerged since the election of Donald Trump.

The “game” that thrives on domination and violence has little patience for softies. Its fans appreciate short attention span theater. It is gladiatorial players that earn the most kudos for theatric hits and displays of triumph. Shut up and hit someone.

That’s why kneeling players really stick in the craw of those who like their football pure and stupid. The game itself has shown little sympathy even for players whose minds and bodies have been destroyed by its force and madness.

Thus pro football is in the crux of its own contradictory nature. It struggles to reconcile its punishing brand of sport with its desire for sustainability in the face of cultural pressures that may not agree with its longstanding policies.

Thus America’s Game is a microcosm of America itself. The United States of America has a conflicted personality over these same issues. It’s history is often brutal and unforgiving. It was a continent-wide genocide that led to dominance of European settlers driven by a worldview known as Manifest Destiny. The same worldview drove a belief in the right to own slaves, and for a century after the Civil War, that raw brand of prejudice still dominated American culture.

Only in the last 40 years did real equality seem within the grasp of black Americans. The election of Barack Obama as President seemed to seal an element of that progress.

But an angry distortion of what constitutes civil rights is still alive in this country. The eruption of the Alt-Right into mainstream consciousness has alerted us that the Civil War was fought, but never finished. Those same instincts live on in people who might support the right to pray, but not the right to kneel in front of NFL crowds.

And that’s why the NFL struggles with the beliefs of its players, but also with its fans.

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Simple proof that America is at war with itself

The Chicago Tribune news coverage following the Las Vegas mass shooting included a story quoting off-duty police officers trapped in the mayhem where 59 people were murdered and hundreds more were injured when the calculating gunman perched himself in a tall hotel to take aim with scopes and guns reconfigured as automatic weapons.

Some of the off-duty police officers had also served in the military. Those that had seen combat were still shocked by the scene of women shot through the head and people bleeding out as they lay on the ground wounded or dying from the effects of a man with plenty of ammo and deadly aim.

Combat statement.jpg“I have been in combat, but I have never seen this type of mass casualty,” said police Sgt. Michael Gonzalez.

The Las Vegas shooting may have been massive in scope, but it was just a bump in the pulse of bloody shootings taking place every day in America. There is no more denying the fact. The nation itself has become a combat zone. The United States of America is literally at war with itself.

The statistics of all the deaths caused by gun violence back this up. More Americans have now died from gun violence on home soil than all the soldiers ever killed in combat in foreign wars.

This is the direct product of the murderously blind activism of the conservative Supreme Court that wields its judgements like a weapon of the vigilante ideology favored by both the NRA and the politicians it has bought and sold. The inexcusable complaint that gun control measures are an infringement of the “right to bear arms” is disrespectful to the Constitution as a whole. When people own the right to steal the life of another human being in the blink of a trigger pull, there are no equal rights to that. There is no freedom in America.

Concealed Carry poison

The right to kill has bled into Concealed Carry laws that have poisoned the nature of freedom across the country. Think about it. The person standing next to you could well be packing the cold-hearted tool of your own demise. Say something wrong to them, or conduct some unintended slight that they judge to be a threat to their person, and they can claim the right to shoot you. Right in the head if they feel like it.

It is inconceivable that the Founding Fathers ever intended this to be the presiding scenario in America. In essence, we’ve been drawn back into an era when dueling was used to settle difference, or when gunman lined up in the street (supposedly) to draw weapons and fire. That’s what the NRA has promoted as the safest brand of citizenship in America.

Ignorant claims of so-called “responsible gun owners”

Don’t you see the ignorance of these claims? When laid bare, they have no constitutional foundation at all. They do have money behind them, and people selfish and angry enough at their plight in life to abide such foolishness. Meanwhile supposed “responsible” gun owners cower behind the controversy hoping the band of idiots at the forefront of the “more guns” debate will cover their fearful asses.

Because that’s what rampant gun ownership is all about. Fear. The United States is rife with chickenshits who feel like they can’t walk down the street or mingle with other human beings without carrying a gun on their person. This is the opposite of courageous. It is the parallel of insanity.

The bleeding and dying

That police officer who carried bleeding, dying people off the concert grounds knows now that America is a literal war zone. He saw it with his own eyes. He compared it to what he saw in actual combat, in real wars, and this was far worse.

The Second Amendment needs to be clarified. Re-balanced. We need a hard, strong definition of what a “well-regulated militia” looks like, and how it functions. We should no longer leave that to the addle-brained conservatives on the Supreme Court to decide. They have originalism blindness. They couldn’t muster their way out of a cardboard box if the writing on the inside mentioned guns in any way.

But our gutless Congress and Senate when run by Republicans is even worse. Their long term claim that government is the enemy of the people is the knife to the gut of common sense. If that’s the case, they should commit hari-kiri and get out of office. If you don’t believe in the merit of government, you have no right or ability to serve.

Cognitive dissonance

We live in a combat zone of cognitive dissonance. And innocent people are dying every day as a result. Screw the gun lobby. We don’t need any more evidence to re-write the Second Amendment, or repeal it altogether. The frightening reality is that we’ve seen  Presidents succumb to gun violence several times already. Even that conservative pet Ronald Reagan got blasted by a freeloading gunman back in the day. Gerald Ford was a target too. We lost JFK. His brother Bobby. We lost Martin Luther King, Jr. And we even lost John Lennon.

Imagine that. If Happiness is a Warm Gun, America has burn marks on its holster side.

What will it take for an admission of the combat zone that America has become? Does another President need to become a martyr for the nation to wise up? That might wake up the close-minded. The backwoods and front-office gun nuts, selfish and obsessed with weapons as a sub-culture.

It’s a sickness. An addiction. But like that soldier who comes home to find life at home too quiet, it seems the gun nuts of America fear the quietude they might face if they can’t wave a weapon in yours. That’s the worst angst they can imagine.

 

Answers In Genesis can’t stand the idea that the echidna evolved

Echidna-04.jpgWhen the creationist website Answers In Genesis sets out to debunk the theory of evolution, it loves to set up red herrings that it thinks will “stump” the theory of evolution and prove their own theory that God made everything all at once, and from scratch. So the AIG folks always set the stage with a cute nod to its readers that they’re going to explain, Oh So Simply, how evolution fails the test of scientific verity. In a post titled Echidna: Outback Oddity, the stage is set this way:

Evolution is hard-pressed to explain this prickly little digger. That’s because the Creator made it like no other single animal.

The intent is pretty clear. Evolution just doesn’t “get” the complexity of nature. Only God can do that. So they go on to complain, with seemingly vexing questions, as to why the animal is such a puzzle among living creatures:

You might think that spiky little animal waddling along the forest floor is a porcupine. But it has a long, sticky tongue and it digs for ants, so maybe it’s some kind of anteater. Nope? Well, it’s a mammal, at least, right? Wait—it lays eggs. Mammals don’t lay eggs. So what is this thing?

In order to understand all these questions in context of their evolution, one must first acknowledge that there is a time and environmental influence scale sufficiently long and diverse enough to provide the various configurations that went into evolving an echidna.

 

ape-family-tree-a-family-portrait-pasttime-org-episode-5-throwing-in-human-evolution.jpg

Graphs like these make creationists go ape. 

And of course, creationism denies any such time scale exists. The popular claim among the creationist sect is that the human genealogy mapped out in the bible dictates the total age of the earth at about 6,000 years. Some are even willing to admit that it might map out at 10,000 years. 

But in any case, these genealogies also require that creationists accept a time scale for human lifespans that in some cases extend for 900 years. You heard that right: creationists insist that at one time human beings were capable of living for nine centuries. That’s almost a millennium.

The oldest known verified lifespan among human beings tops out at about 115 years. So creationists are basing their entire worldview and the age of the earth on an unverified, rendition of oral history before the advent of written language to establish the potential lifespan of human beings. On the website creation.com, the explanation goes like this:

In the book of Genesis, the Bible routinely records human lifespans which seem outrageously different from our experience today. Adam lived to 930 years; Noah even longer, to 950 years (see graph below). These long lifespans are not haphazardly distributed; they are systematically greater before the Flood of Noah, and decline sharply afterwards.

These great ages are not presented in the Bible as if they are in any way extraordinary for their times, let alone miraculous. Many people are quick to scoff at such ages, claiming they are ‘biologically impossible’. Today, even if they avoid all fatal diseases, humans will generally die of old age before they reach much past 100. Even the very exceptional cases don’t make it much past 120 years.

geneticsThey go on to claim that it was a radically pure form of genetic sustainability and environment at work to produce such long lifespans. Somehow, the earth was simply a better place to live, and that allowed human beings to survive for nearly a millennium.

But even that’s not the end game of the creationism discussion. It has far less to do with biology than it does with theology. As creation.com goes on to explain:

 

Of course, the ultimate reason for all aging and death is the Curse on all creation recorded in Genesis chapter 3. Adam was told that if he disobeyed God, ‘dying, you shall die’ [lit. Hebrew]. Adam immediately died spiritually, and began to die physically on the very same day, just as we are all dying today.

Modern genetic research shows that we all inherit the inevitability of aging and death. When we look at our encroaching wrinkles in the mirror, it should remind us of the awfulness of sin in the sight of a holy God. And it should cause us immense thankfulness that God has provided a way of escape from His own righteous judgement on sin, through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So to abide by a creationist’s worldview, we must begin with a massive rationalization of the age of the earth based on the miraculous nature of human lifespan upon which biblical genealogy is based.  Thus we must draw on theology as the starting point for any explanation of nature, science and the history of the earth. The limitations of this worldview are breathtaking in their shallow regard for the functions of nature. It’s all “wave of the hand” level thinking cloaked in language stolen from science to justify creationism as a legitimate scientific worldview.

So you can see why creationists love the echidna as a symbol of the inherent complexity of nature and the supposed confusion on the part of evolutionary scientists to seam together the forces of environmental conditions, selective pressures and population adaptations that could produce an animal seemingly constructed from so many sources. How could evolution accomplish such a feat? The goal of creationism is not to explain the possibilities, but to heighten the impossibilities and keep religious thinkers as far from material explanations as possible. This is how that is done:

The echidna seems to break all the rules. It’s a mammal, but it lays eggs. It’s warm-blooded, but it has a low body temperature. It lives on land, but it detects food like some fish do. And, like so many other rule-breakers, such as the platypus, the echidna settled in Australia.

That last word in the bunch, “Australia,” is already proof that the case of the creationists against evolution is beginning to break down. It is consistently true that when a population of any creature is forcibly isolated from another through migration or some other happenstance, the isolated population becomes subject to the environmental pressures of that new environment. Some attributes of the ancestors may persist as the population is subjected to the needs for survival in all new circumstances. Even some of the formerly vital functions of a land creature can wind up useless and essentially vestigial as a line of land-based living things shifts to an aquatic lifestyle. The vestigial remnants of hips in whales is an excellent example of how nature “plays” with usefulness and the lack of it.

flightlessWe also have flightless cormorants on the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific. For what good reason would a species of bird perfectly capable of flying in its ancestry relinquish the ability to fly? The answer is simple: Flying costs energy, and cormorants isolated on the Galapagos had no need to fly away from predators that did not exist. The rewards of evolution as sometimes ironic, yet still functionally beneficial.

The same can be said of the echnida. All the attributes wrapped together in a seemingly inconclusive creature are actually quite conclusively beneficial in the habitats of Australia that it occupies. There is a hard, fast rule to evolution that defies any other explanation of existence. If a creature is not equipped to survive or adapt to the habitat available, it will cease to feed and breed, and eventually die out.

This is what has happened to 99% of all living things that ever existed on the earth. Creationists like to claim that every kind of living thing that has ever existed on earth was borne up and carried around in an ark for a year, then released back onto the surface of the earth. This is a pathetically shortsighted view of how nature functions. There is no explanation of how highly specific lifestyles of desert scorpions in the Southwest United States were somehow able to migrate across salty oceans or through freezing landscapes across the Bering Straits to arrive at the Middle East where Noah waited with the appropriate food to nurture and regenerate entire populations of such specialized creatures in this world.

But as we’ve seen, that is not really the issue at heart with creationism. It is always about confession of sin and the admission that God is in control, and that nature cannot possibly operate on its own. Again, we find evidence of this religious worldview as the Answers In Genesis site struggles to justify its case:

Evolutionists have always had trouble explaining how it’s related to any other animal. So instead, to explain its oddities they invoke “convergent evolution” (the belief that a similar “need” produces similar designs in completely unrelated animals). But creationists understand that the echidna’s traits point to a Creator who made many unique kinds of animals.

Echidna

It goes on to say:

God gave the echidna nerves in its snout that detect electrical impulses from nearby ants, termites, and other potential snacks. God designed the echidna as a digger, with powerful legs and strong claws. He also equipped it with special ear holes to help keep its ear canals clear of dirt. Finally, God gave it electroreceptors, like sharks have—nerves in its snout that detect electrical impulses from nearby wiggling snacks.

The idea that all these attributes could have converged in a single creature is anathema to creationism because its worldview is so constrained in timespan that it must use shortcuts to explain anything, or everything. The most (and only) convenient justification for this shortcut in time and complexity is a very literal interpretation of the opening chapters in the Book of Genesis.

In other words, creationism demands that people accept the laws of nature were radically broken in terms of human lifespan in order to assert the claim that the earth could not possibly be old enough to allow evolution to happen. That conflicted worldview is the convergence of great irony, human arrogance, fear and selfishness into one singular creationist mindset.

In other words, the better question we should be God is why the world should create such a conflicted creature as the creationist. After all, Jesus was quite at home with the concept that the natural world could be a source of great wisdom. He taught using parables steeped in organic truths. And he lectured his disciples when they expressed fear that people could never understand his message if he did not talk in literal terminology.

He called them “dull” and “without understanding” for these claims. Which makes the closing argument about the echidna found in Answers In Genesis sound painfully desperate for approval and justification. The authors begin to sound like children desperate to have their fifth grade theme paper graded with an “A” when in fact it is frightfully obvious they never did the research in the first place. Instead they credit God on the basis that no great teacher could give them a failing grade if they quote the Almighty.

Echidnas are just one example of how our Creator filled the earth with abundant, diverse, unique life that speaks of His handiwork, not evolution. These quirky little monotremes simultaneously demand and defy categorization. But whatever classification rules they may break, in demonstrating the creativity of our great God they obey His command, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6)!

As noted, Jesus didn’t give his disciples or the Chief Priests a pass when they exhibited such dogmatic ignorance and legalistic tendencies. Neither should we when creationists try to use scientific sounding language to make a legalistic case for the primacy of God in material processes. There is plenty of meaning to draw from nature without relegating it to a pathetically tiny backseat in human history. Just ask Jesus.

 

What does it mean to be an Evangelical Christian?

ufcThe 2016 election was a doozy in terms of bringing strange bedfellows together into voting blocs for both presidential candidates. But one of the most confounding and in some aspects a disturbing conundrums was why a group of faith-oriented believers seemed so drawn to the likes of Donald Trump.

Here was a womanizing, money-worshipping television reality star who never met an insult he did not like. Yet Christian voters were flocking to support him.

What did the so-called “evangelical” community find so appealing about Donald Trump?

To answer that question, we can turn to a variety of sources. But one must first consider a definition of the term “Evangelical Christian” and where it comes from. So here’s a nice little description from a site titled GotAnswers.org, a Christian website.

Here’s how they answer the question: “What is an Evangelical Christian?”

Answer: To begin, let’s break down the two words. The term Christian essentially means “follower of Christ.” Christian is the term given to followers of Jesus Christ in the first century A.D. (Acts 11:26). The term evangelical comes from the Greek word that means “good news.” Evangelism is sharing the good news of the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. An evangelical, then, is a person dedicated to promoting the good news about Jesus Christ. Combined, the description “evangelical Christian” is intended to indicate a believer in Jesus Christ who is faithful in sharing and promoting the good news.

In Western culture today, there are many caricatures of evangelical Christians. For some, the term evangelical Christian is equivalent to “right-wing, fundamentalist Republican.” For others, “evangelical Christian” is a title used to differentiate an individual from a Catholic Christian or an Orthodox Christian. Others use the term to indicate adherence to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. In this sense, an evangelical Christian is a believer who holds to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone. However, none of these definitions are inherent in the description “evangelical Christian.”

In reality, all Christians should be evangelical Christians. The Bible is consistently instructing us to be witnesses of the good news (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 1 Peter 3:15). There is no better news than Jesus! There is no higher calling than evangelist. There is no doubt that holding to the fundamentals of the Bible will result in a certain worldview and, yes, political belief. However, there is nothing about being an evangelical that demands a certain political party or affiliation. An evangelical Christian is called to share the good news, to preach God’s Word, and to set an example of purity and integrity. If these callings require political action, so be it. At the same time, evangelical Christians should not be sidetracked into abandoning our highest calling—sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Putting faith to work

There are several things I found fascinating about that description. For one thing, I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA.) Our particular congregation contains both highly liberal and highly conservative Christians whose issues of concern are often addressed from the pulpit. But the central goal of the church the last few years has been to encourage discipleship, which among other things, means putting faith to work through action.

This is a most effective way to distil issues of theology. When people are called together to work in service to others, as the bible calls us to do, fine points of theology do not matter that much.

Faith matters

Yet there are times when theology matters a whole bunch. Throughout the history of the Judeo-Christian religion, sorting out the meaning of scripture and the right relationship of God has taken on highly controversial tones. One could argue that the entire ministry of St. Paul, for example, was spent helping people confront misunderstanding of this new religion that would come to call itself Christianity.

But before that, a long series of *prophets stood on the outskirts of civilization calling people to repentance. When John the Baptist started dunking people in the Jordan river, the rumor mill about his activities got all the way back to the chief priests. John had no patience for their prurient curiosity.

And neither did Jesus. When it came down to it, the Son of God was a sonofabitch to the people in charge of religion. He set out to make them feel the wrath of God.

Unpopular voices

This proves that it is sometimes the unfortunate work of true evangelicals to say things and do things that are not popular with the proponents of mainstream religion. True to this tradition, Pope Francis has been acting like a prophet for the Catholic Church. His claim that “all scripture that does not lead to the love of Christ” is a highly evangelical statement.

He is not a popular man in conservative quarters because more conservative Christians, both Catholic and Evangelical, are accustomed to enforcing the rules of faith and driving a confessional brand of involvement. In order to belong, one must speak and choose to reflect the words of God in a certain way. In other words, “talk the talk,” or get out. You obviously don’t belong.

Dog-whistle religion

The sad thing is that this brand of faith can also come to constitute a certain “dog-whistle” cliqueishness. The confessional brand of religion is like joining a club. And when a club is formed, it can be leveraged to political as well as religious purposes. This is the exact form of social construct to which Jesus most objected. He branded those d0g-whistle priests a “brood of vipers” for huddling together and lashing out at anyone that stood up to their supposed religious authority.

But there is great comfort to many people in a religion where the rules are clearly mapped out. Not having to think about what you believe or explain it to anyone else is a simple form of existence. And if by convenience it also simplifies the voting process, well that’s just dandy, isn’t it?

And so many evangelicals look to their religious authorities for direction. If those authorities communicate that the “greater good” will be served by supporting even as flawed a candidate as Donald Trump, then evangelicals will support the man through thick and through thin. And sure enough, many evangelical leaders and conservative political voices called for evangelical Christians to vote for the man because promises were made that he would work to ban abortion, or gay marriage, or any number of theo-political issues bandied about during an election cycle.

Challenging authority

Anyone that challenges this central authoritarian call to loyalty can be branded an outsider and not worthy of attention. Traditionally, this is manifested in statements such as “you can only test scripture with scripture.” That is, the bible is the only source of truth.

The problem with this approach to authority is that it can fail miserably in the face of legitimate theological challenges. The preferred method is to simply deny the possibility that scripture could in any way be wrong. This is a convenient tautology.

It is also the practical method of those that used to stand on top of the walls or before the city gates shouting at the seemingly crazed prophets calling people to account for the true voice of God. So it is no coincidence that when a man such as Donald Trump puts forth a call to “build a wall,” the concept has great appeal to conservatives accustomed to blocking out that which they don’t want to consider. It is the perfect symbol for an insular faith.

A prophet in his home town

The problem with this approach to belief is that it is not biblical at all. It stung the Lord Jesus, for example, to be mocked and disavowed in his hometown. Mark 6:4: “Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

Thus it is not unexpected that even today, any evangelical willing challenge the cliquish or dog-whistle signals of Christian faith should be similarly despised and mocked. People take great offense in being questioned about their faith, especially when they sense a vulnerability in themselves that they might not like to admit.

Interesting observations

As a writer who talks about religion quite a bit, and who is willing to challenge both the religion and politics of others based on what the Bible says, rather than what people say about it, I have bumped into plenty of anger and disappointment from friends, relatives and strangers. One confronted me with this interesting observation: “You make me feel shitty about things.”

And I suppose that is probably true. If one clings to beliefs that don’t stand up to rational or religious scrutiny, it surely can make you feel “shitty” about it.

Stiff-necked and hard-hearted

Being challenged on theological grounds can simply harden those beliefs even more. I can honestly attest to the fact that I have likely had that effect on more than one Christian believer. The risk of abandoning cherished beliefs is never easy. But neither does God appreciated stiff-necked or hard-hearted believers. Giving up the legalistic ways of hard-hearted faith has always frightened the shit out of people.

Some have accused me of having no heart at all, that I am more about the theoretical idea of faith than having  a trust in God. But they have not walked a single step in my shoes, or faced the same deaths in my family that I have faced. I have trust that God will play a role in how those lives will end, and what happens to the spirit of that person in the long run.

Thus I feel empowered to speak as honestly as I can about the deceptions created on foundations of biblical literalism and the relativism that evangelicals too readily accept in trading approval for political power. It’s disgusting, and it produces ugly and false compromises in support for leaders such as Donald Trump. There have been many other abusive figures in history that claimed to be a Christian and turned out only to be selfishly murderous bastards.

And so, to not challenge those trading in politicized religious beliefs… when the Bible clearly maps out the call to speak truth to power… is to abandon the heart of all Christian belief.

Pope Francis

That is what the Pope is talking about when he says that scripture that does not lead to the love of Christ is obsolete. That is the true and honest calling of all evangelicals. To trust that the love of God has meaning, significance and purpose in your life, and to feel the love of Christ and do your best to extend that grace and love to others. That is the mission of faith.

Yet the Evangelical Prophet must also suffer in the face of distrust when challenging others to consider how their authorities might be misleading them. Jesus set the example, it is for prophets of all levels and calling to follow that lead. His disciples did it, trusting that they would be greeted or else they dusted off their feet and left that town to the dog-whistle virtues it claimed for its own.

That’s what it means to be a Christian Evangelical.

*In religion, a prophet is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.

 

 

Advent of the Neocontrarians

 

despicable-me-advent-calendar

The Despicable Me Advent Calendar

 

This is the Advent season for people of Christian faith. Many children enjoy the process of opening windows on their Advent Calendars. Starting December 1st, the Advent Calendar marks with anticipation the arrival of the traditional day celebrating the Birth of Christ.

 

This year, Americans are experiencing a different kind of advent. With a new President about to be Born Again in January, the process of naming cabinet members has been taking place the last few weeks.

Against all reason

Almost without exception, each new cabinet member named by Donald Trump to head a government agency has preached beliefs that run contrary to the purpose for which the agency was originally designed. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was originally established by President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican in the year 1970. Those of us alive during that era recall the massive environmental problems our nation was experiencing. Air pollution was choking cities and acid rain had begun to sterilize lakes east of the Rust Belt. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons were dying off thanks to DDT poisoning that made their eggshells too weak to sustain normal brooding. Rivers were on fire in Ohio, and vicious levels of heavy metals, toxic chemicals and nuclear energy byproducts were regularly leaking into the ground, air and water.

Thus our nation saw fit, with bipartisan support, to fix the problems our industrial activity was causing. We passed laws to take the lead out of gasoline. And over the years since, the auto industry has been pushed to improve gas mileage in the vehicles it produces. Some said this was impossible, impractical and economically unfeasible. But they were wrong. Modern vehicles use less gas and emit less noxious fumes than they did forty years ago.

The other direction

All these improvements in protecting the environment have paid dividends in protection of human health. Still, the battle is never won. There are still many significant challenges in environmental pollution that remain threats to the human race and other living things on earth. At the top of this list is anthropogenic climate change, manmade global warming. Governments around the world recognize the dangers of this threat to human health and the stability of the world’s economy.

And yet, President Elect Donald Trump called on a fellow named Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Ebell prides himself on being a “climate skeptic,” one who does not believe that climate change is even occurring, or that it is manmade.

He is, in other words, a contrarian. Or more accurately, he is a Neocontrarian. This is the Post-Modern version of a contrarian. Armed with opinions that ostensibly trump facts, Ebell is the type of person who seeks to impose his ideological will on the world despite all evidence to the contrary. This is how the website Whatsupwiththat describes the appointment of Myron Ebell to head up the EPA:

Choosing Myron Ebell means Trump plans to drastically reshape climate policies.

Donald Trump has selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team, according to two sources close to the campaign.

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, is spearheading Trump’s transition plans for EPA, the sources said.

The Trump team has also lined up leaders for its Energy Department and Interior Department teams. Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna is heading the DOE team; former Interior Department solicitor David Bernhardt is leading the effort for that agency, according to sources close to the campaign.

Contrary opinions

This is the peak of his Myron Ebell’s supposed wisdom: that he holds an opinion contrary to 95% of established scientists around the world. He abides with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has proven itself over the years nothing more than a shill for whatever business feels threatened by any sort of regulation.

That means that no matter how much pollution or other dangers a company might choose to pump out, the Competitive Enterprise Institute will take their side and defend them to the death. This is the philosophy of Neocontrarians in a nutshell.

And as such, Myron Ebell chose a fellow Neocontrarian to run the EPA. This is what the Los Angeles Times had to say about the selection. “Donald Trump’s meeting earlier this week with Al Gore gave environmentalists a glimmer of hope. They’re feeling a lot less hopeful now that Trump has selected Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt disputes the scientific consensus on climate change, is an ally of the oil industry and has tried to block President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. If Pruitt is confirmed, here’s how it could play out in the states.”

Flattening public education

The EPA is not the only government agency that Trump’s new wave of Neocontrarians is assigned to run. Trump also chose billionaire Betsy DeVos, a strong believer in charter schools and for-profit education, to act as Education Secretary. She is a devoted Neocontrarian when it comes to the education of children, preferring to diversify against public schools than qualitatively seek to improve the existing public school education system. Hers is the Winner Take All, free-market philosophy in which vouchers are distributed to families left to find the right education opportunities for themselves.

In other words, she’s an advocate of “trickle-down education,” in which those most equipped to avail themselves of the best educational opportunities will profit while those less equipped to seek or make those choices will be left behind. That’s how the free market works when it is unregulated. It is positively Darwinian at its source, which is ironic given the typically strong resistance to the theory of evolution among those who typically advocate for “school choice” based on so-called values-based learning, or Christian home-schooling.

It has long galled such ideologues that public schools actually teach science rather than fanciful notions such as creationism or so-called “intelligent design theory.” Even the names of those ideologies are contrarian.

Nothing trickles down when education as a system is flattened like a pancake and public schools are deflated in both funding and philosophy. Yet this is the approach of Neocontrarians to all sorts of ethical standards in government, science, medicine and the environment. Ever since President Ronald Reagan spouted the Neocontrarian Mantra, “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem,” Neocontrarians have rushed to dispel any notion that government has a positive role to play in our lives.

In and out of control

When that daft and devout Neocontrarian George W. Bush took office with his henchman and turgid Neontrarian Dick Cheney at his side,  the United States went for a wild ride of Neocontrarian speculation on the role, or dispensation, of governmental responsibility.

The Bush administration was exposed for its lack of attention on national security when the 9/11 attacks occurred. The Bushies wanted to run things their own way, and significantly ignored warning signs of terrorist attacks because they did not want to listen to any of their predecessors, or even their own internal source Richard Clarke.

And from there, the Neocontrarians took advantage of the fear rushing through the populace to contrive a war of choice in Iraq, which fit the documented ideology of Neoconservatives who wanted to reform the Middle East around their own ideas of free markets and Western democracy, only to have it blow up in their faces. Literally.

Then the floodgates of Neocontrarians opened even further with the sponsor of torture in the very same jail cells used by Saddam Hussein to torture his own people. This was the height of cognitive dissonance, torturing Iraqis under the guise of saving them from Saddam, yet Neocontrarians in the media sought to defend it at all costs.That mean little suckup Sean Hannity and his bludgeoning cohort Rush Limbaugh preached torture as truth seeking.

Think about the contrary nature of that philosophy for a moment. When Senator John McCain protested against use of torture because he was himself tortured during wartime, some Neocontrarians mocked him as weak. This is the problem with Neocontrarian philosophy. It quickly unhinges from fact in order to support beliefs that are typically devoid of proof or common sense.

Trumped by nonsense

Donald Trump is expanding this tradition of Neocontrarianism as if he invented it. But that’s not certainly not true. Trump is merely expanding the Neocontrarian tradition to suit his own lack of moral, political or ethical direction. The fact that he Tweets with anger at every criticism or perceived transgression is evidence of this massive insecurity. And as such, his choice to assign Neocontrarians to every single position in his cabinet is an indication of his boldly inferior, incurious approach to life.

His own misogyny and aggressive treatment of women is the direct product of his own Neocontrarian worldview. “No one respects women more than me!” he claims. And how contrary is that? In other words, he’s lying to himself in order to bolster his own lack of self-esteem.

And that’s what Neocontrarian is, and what it does to this world. By advocating views that are completely contrary to pure and visible evidence, it wrests power from those seeking to abide by fact, and make decisions based on reason, not ideology or wishful thinking.

Longstanding contrarianism

We see the effects of Neocontrarianism in the aggressive defense of ideologies such as creationism, the religious belief that scripture is a better foundation for science than experimentation and rational examination of physical evidence.

We have dealt with the consequences of Neocontrarianism time and again with the economy as it collapses under one Republican regime after another that advocates cutting taxes on the very rich, and allowing regulations to fall lax so that financial greed runs amok and crush the foundations of economic stability.

This is the Advent of an entire new level of Neocontrarianism. It is highly unlikely it will be any more successful than the ugly attempts in the past to ignore fact and foist opinion on the world. Every new day we’ve opened a new window in the Advent Calender of Neocontrarianism and it always a strange reveal. How else do you explain the appointment of Linda McMahon?

“U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday he will nominate professional wrestling magnate and former Senate candidate Linda McMahon as his choice to head the Small Business Administration.Trump’s announcement said McMahon would be a key player in his effort to generate stronger job growth and roll back federal regulations.McMahon, 68, is a co-founder and former CEO of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut. She ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut in 2010. She was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Questioning the fake world

I wrote this somewhat controversial piece a year or so back that disturbed many people. It played on the fact that conspiracy and suspicion often drive the Alt-Right view of the world. Hardly an event has taken place over the past five years, ranging from  mass shootings to terrorist attacks on American soil that has not been postulated by the Alt-Right as a government attempt to manipulate public opinion on issues ranging from gun rights to abortion.

Now we’re being led by a man whose entire political philosophy is based on Alt-Right contrarianism. Which is why he feels so confident naming a woman who helped run an entertainment franchise based on fake wrestling that makes millions off the false dramas created to cater to the lowbrow tastes of the flyover voters that put Trump in power.   with a combover and orange makeup into the Hall of Mirrors of

I’m not going to apologize for calling this all a big, fatass mistake. We’re being led by a Neocontrarian narcissist  with a horribly vain combover and a coat of orange makeup. It all feels like a bad, horrific dream from which American cannot wake up.

And so, we cannot possibly expect proponents of the Neocontrarian philosophy to be self-analytical and realize the disturbingly false core of their belief system. This is the Advent of fascism as an American value system. It will be up to all of us to call them on their lies disguised as policy. And it could be a strange, strange trip indeed.

 

 

 

 

We once had a prayer

urlThe hopes of so many American Christians seemed to have rested on the election of Donald Trump as President. His was the premise upon which Christian leadership so often depends. A man of conviction. Of strong words. A man who promised, along with his running mate Mike Pence, to ban the legal right to an abortion.

This was the centerpiece of the movement by the voting bloc known as evangelical Christians to elect Trump. There have been many other attempts over the years, with hopes pinned to men such as George W. Bush, who talked the talk but never even flirted with the idea of banning abortion.

Going way back to the likes of Ronald Reagan, fundamentalist Christians and biblical literalist have been leaning on presidents and politicians to make the case that America is indeed a Christian nation. If only some form of theocracy could take over the national narrative, everything would work out. America would again enjoy favor in God’s eyes, went the theory.

Instead, the nation leaned toward installing human rights to people that were not favored by the Christian Right. In particular, the notion that gay people deserved civil justice such as the right to marry has stuck in the collective craw of evangelicals and their ilk. It all sinks back to a literal interpretation of the bible and a selective view that some passages found within Holy Scripture are immutable even though others, such as outmoded laws in the Book of Leviticus or Deuteronomy can be conveniently ignored.

We might have had a prayer of progress on such issues if such claims were not at the heart of the cognitive dissonance behind what so many evangelical Christians claim as truth. The history of literalistic religion is anchored in such false beliefs that have also been used to make the contention that blacks are inferior, or should be kept as slaves. Or that women were not capable of working the same jobs as men, or to vote.

Such prejudices are not the product of honest biblical understanding. Instead, they have long been the product of stubborn, stiff-necked minds wrapped in fears of The Other. Most adherence to biblical literalism is the product of selfish aims. The fact that the Chief Priests in the days of Christ were legalists who turned scripture into law drew wrath from the Son of God. Yet to this day, so-called Christians behave the exact same way, exacting punishment and disbarment on all who do not agree to abide by harsh and strict forms of law derived from a literal interpretation of scripture.

Admissions

These are the sins of believers that they never like to admit. Indeed, they will not. And as a result, they must become ever more forceful in their endeavors to install their belief systems on the world. Deep within their conscience, they know that their selective beliefs are a house of the tallest order. A Tower of Babel, as it were, constructed of repeated errors in using scripture as a weapon, not a tool of understanding.

The same selectivity that supports the prejudice of so many Christians against gays or other supposed cultural opponents was also applied during the 2016 presidential election. Evangelicals lined up against Hillary Clinton on belief that her support for her husband in his transgressions actually constituted a character flaw of her own.

This contention was not a Christian instinct at all, but a political one for sure. It gave evangelical Christians an excuse to dismiss the very public demonstrations of misogyny and aggression toward women by Donald Trump. Evangelicals lined up to justify voting for the man by claiming that he stood for a “higher purpose.” That would be the vote against abortion and installation of a conservative Supreme Court that would do the religious will of the evangelical Christian community.

Silent Night, Holy might

We might have had a prayer of defeating this anti-Constitutional movement if the Christian church at large had attempted to call these gross interpretations of scriptural verity and political expedience to account. We might have had a prayer of calling Trump’s bluff in those moments when his claimed devotion to Christian faith proved so shallow and false that it bore not resemblance even to the casual Sunday worshipper who struggles through church just to get back to the couch and watch an NFL game, the other Sunday religion.

It did not help that the conservative media spent the past two years castigating the Catholic Pope Francis as a “liberal” who therefore did not deserve the attention of “real Christians” or conservative politicians. When Pope Francis explained that everything in the Bible that does not lead to the love of Christ is obsolete, he wittingly offended evangelicals whose very life support in faith depends on those passages that are interpreted to offend and isolate entire segments of society.

It is the opposite of what Jesus came to represent for the Christian faith. We might have had a prayer of respecting real Christian tradition by resisting the likes of Donald Trump. But the complicity of evangelicals in electing a man who is clearly a money-grubbing, selfish, sexist, racist, misogynistic and fascist jerk put all that to rest. That prayer of understanding and Christian leadership was exploded like a balloon the day that Donald Trump was elected. And to fulfill his role as the effective anti-Christ, Trump turned around and named Stephen Bannon as one of his chief advisors. Bannon subsequently praised Satan and the value of darkness as inspirations for political practice and cultural foundations.

Turning backs on God

We once had a prayer of doing the right thing. But Americans with narrow minds and fear in their hearts turned their back on God and elected a man with the heart of a wicked king that has installed heartless, clueless and faithless people as leaders of this country.

God will not be amused. Nor will Jesus Christ or all the saints of the past. Donald Trump is the worst thing to ever happen to America. And so-called Christians made it happen.

It makes you wonder if Stephen Bannon and all those Left Behind Christians haven’t been right about this place we call America all along. Perhaps it is the height of evil on the order of the Roman Empire in its worst moments. We had a prayer of proving that wrong. But we didn’t. And now the reincarnation of Caligula is in charge.

We once had a prayer. But we had better start praying all over again. And this time get it right.

The final answer to conservative problems is Donald Trump

Monarch scales

Ever since 1998, when I wrote an essay titled How the Earth Was Forgotten Since Creation, I’ve been conducting a personal campaign against less-than-compassionate conservatism and how it damages the world of politics, religion and the environment.

That initial essay about the effects of biblical literalism on environmental policies was expanded into a book that took seven years to research and write. I never thought it would take that long, but it did. When it was finished, I titled it “The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age.”

The book expanded in scale to cover politics as well as religion, focusing on how authoritarian minds in both sectors of human activity collaborate (for better or worse) on civil rights, science and cultural issues.

To analyze these processes, I deconstructed the manner in which people arrive at their worldviews, and why. Predictably, people who support biblical literalism also tend to align with conservatives who interpret the United States Constitution the same way, through originalism. And that is what has taken place over the course of thirty years.

Simple minds

It’s that simple, which is why it is also so common and dangerous to find authoritarians of both political and religious persuasions lining up to do battle with their perceived common enemies. That would be anyone who dares interpret the bible or Constitution any other way than a generally literal or original form of understanding. This has its limits, as we shall see.

IMG_3180Because there’s are major problems with all this literalism and originalism. Both sources of thought ignore the fact that our material and cultural understanding of the world has advanced incredibly since the Bible was written down and codified. And since the United States Constitution was written, slavery has been banned, and women were actually given the right to vote. But it nearly 200 years to accomplish these things because people clung to the letter of the law on both fronts. That is not just sad, it is immoral.

And there still seem to be some people who claim to like things the old-fashioned way. They do not give up easily on the notion that things were somehow better in the Good Old Days. In fact, they will fight to the death in some cases to prove their martyrlike devotion to literalism and originalism.

Conservatism

It’s all a product of what we colloquially call conservatism, which is defined as “adhering to original standards and traditions.” But the problem with old-line conservatism is that it often clings to traditions that deliver advantage to one sector of society while excluding another. This was certainly the case with slavery and this imbalanced dynamic has persisted to this day through discrimination and persecution of black people and other minorities in America. The same certainly holds true for attitudes toward women, on whom conservative men project patriarchal standards of behavior.

These beliefs often conveniently stem from anachronistic habits of mind taken literally from the Bible. For example, the idea that a man is inherently superior to a woman can be drawn from the idea that Eve was supposedly formed second in order, and from the rib of a man. It sounds so stupid when you say it out loud, yet some people insist this is the natural order of things.

This is what I wrote about the dangers of anachronism in my book The Genesis Fix:

This perspective is known as anachronism, defined as “(one) from a former age that is incongruous in the present.” Anachronistic beliefs are based on a refusal to accept or comprehend change. It is inevitable that anachronism begets asceticism, defined as “a life of strict self-denial, especially for religious purposes.” Both anachronism and asceticism depend on the idea that all worthwhile wisdom comes to us from the past. This attitude may serve the purpose of encouraging reverence for the wisdom of the ages but fails as a device to reconcile faith with knowledge in the modern age.

It’s all storytelling pap run amok, yet arch conservatives tend want to own the religious and cultural narrative so badly they can become obsessed with this rigid form of doctrine. This is also convenient, for it imbues them with a supposed authority over all other elements of society. This became an actual movement in American, when 40 years ago, thanks to the efforts of men like Jerry Falwell, groups of Americans decided that a rigid form of conservatism needed to be imposed on American culture. This movement ultimately attracted other authoritarian thinkers from the political, social and fiscal realms, and came to be known collectively as neo-conservatism, an oxymoron if there ever was one. It is also ironically known as “neo-liberalism.”

Chronology of neoconservatism

Back when I started writing my book The Genesis Fix in 2000, the Republican Party had just finished grabbing the Presidency through the workings of a cooperative Supreme Court. From watching the actions of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush the First, I had become highly suspicious of the behind-the-scenes workings of the GOP. I knew too well how the double-speak of arch conservatism worked on the environmental front. I’d seen how some political organizations and companies used “greenwashing” to cynically make themselves seem like environmental advocates. The same practice of grabbing a positive narrative to hide ulterior motives of greed or despoilation spread into politics as well. This was combined with a winner-take-all approach that led to what is called “scorched earth politics.” That is no coincidence of terminology.

But I sensed an entirely new level of hypocrisy in the actions and words of the people embracing neo-conservatism on many issues. Their Holier Than Thou actions and words resembled those of the Chief Priests who maligned Jesus in his day. And that raised real alarm bells in my head. We all now how that turned out, with the good of the world turned “inside out” in favor of political power and control.

Unleashed

And once Bush II took power with his claims that God was telling him to be President, the neoconservative ideology was unleashed in all new ways. At that point, suspicions about neoconservatism were confirmed and it had one thing in mind: wiping out the political opponents to install a long term reign.

But then came the negligence on the terrorist watch with the tragedy of 9/11 despite warnings issued well in advance. But by the time America had come to grips with the fact that we’d been attacked, the Bush administration was already floating the notion that we needed to attack Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the events on 9/11. That’s when it struck me that all the predictions I’d made in my book The Genesis Fix were about to come true. These were delusional, radically motivated people in charge.

Eight years of hell

The radical actions of neoconservatism continued throughout the eight years Bush held office. We even heard tales that some Zionists wanted Bush to take over the Middle East and bring on Armageddon. In some respects, we succeeded in bringing on a Holy War by attacking Iraq when that country had nothing to do with the foreseen attacks committed on American soil on 9/11.

Then Bush and his conservative cronies in the financial sector ran the economy into the ground as well. No one would admit it on the conservative side of the equation, but it looked like God really had it in for the Good Old USA.

That didn’t stop arch-conservatives like Pat Robertson from blaming natural disasters on the fact that gays were still allowed to live in the United States. The radicalization of conservatism has many such prophets. Most of them had Big Money and maintained little contact or concern for how the Middle Class and the Real People got by in America. When the economy crashed and millions of middle managers were cast aside in the fray and unable to find work, some in the corporate world responded by saying that they would not hire anyone that had been out of work for more than six months. This was evidence of the “I’ve got mine” brand of independence lacking in both compassion and understanding of how the nation’s economy works in the first place.

In fact, neo-conservatism has engaged in something of a war on the middle class as a rule, busting up unions and suppressing the minimum wage at every turn. It’s no surprise that this faction of society should go looking for a hero to Make America Great Again on promise of restored jobs and hope of a future. But there’s a cognitive dissonance at work in the thought that the people whose policies led to the economic crisis in the first place would be the ones to fix it. And Donald Trump is no exception.

Racism arises

The shrill cries of neoconservatives only got louder when Barack Obama won the Presidency. The sector of the Republican Party that is backed by folks who believe white people should rule the world rose up to fight the President on every front. The dog-whistle racism of men like Mitch McConnell was obvious, but no one likes to speak of such things in public if they can help it. Democrats are typically more polite than that, and Republicans just don’t want to admit its true. Somehow Obama made it through eight years of heck dealing with obfuscation and resistance, and accomplished some good things along the way. It could have been better perhaps, but simply fixing the nation after the crash of 2007 was enough of a challenge to start out, and getting change to work in an atmosphere of so much resistance made it difficult to get anything done.

Which sets the stage for the 2016 election. The GOP threw sixteen people on the stage who wanted to run for President, and all of them appeared to want to run against the tenure of Barack Obama. Yet the only one who stood out to bloodthirsty neoconservatives was a loudmouthed white guy with orange hair and a lot of money. In classic style, he fit all the worst aspects of neoconservative ideas. He was pronouncedly white with his awful combover hairstyle and peach-colored rouge all over his face. His snarling lips and manner of speaking had all the class and patience of a slavedriver, and his openly racist statements laid bare the naked intentions of a political party short on ideas but long on the lust for power. Whether they liked him or not, neoconservatives had their man. It was Donald Trump, all the way.

The Trump Factor

So Donald Trump roared through the primaries and became the Republican nominee for President. At first, supposedly principled men such as Ted Cruz refused to support Trump as the part nominee. After all, Trump’s bitter campaign tactics included personal attacks not only on the other candidates, but on their wives as well. This was new and fertile ground for the seeds of hate, and they began to sprout across the land. Trump supporters felt their man had unshackled the world from the binds of political correctness.

But Trump didn’t stop there. He openly maligned women in public, acting like an angry pimp toward any woman that stood in his way. He lined them up and knocked them around. Carly Fiorina. Megyn Kelly. And finally Hillary Clinton, whom he stalked like a physical abuser during their October debate.

The entire process has been a surly spectacle on the order of a coup by a psychotic Emperor aching to take over the Roman Empire. What the Republican Party needs to do now is get back to its roots.

As I wrote in my book The Genesis Fix:

The admirable goals of political conservatism; keeping the powers of government in check, protecting citizens from excessive taxation, maintaining moral certitude as a principle of government, and encouraging free trade and commerce are all noble ideals. 20  And at a values level, conservatism prides itself on support of tradition, liberty and love of God and country. Despite its reputation as a staid element of social structure, conservatism has at times been quite progressive in the manner with which it has pursued its goals, particularly as it set about using media outlets to communicate its message in from the 1980s to the present. Conservatism’s doctrinal approach to seeking power, influencing culture and leading government has attracted many followers.

The one lacking element in neoconservatism (versus true conservatism) is compassion. This is what I wrote in The Genesis Fix:

If you are looking for a single factor in the success of conservatism with the American public, convictions22 are the political capital of conservatism. Any discussion of politics, social policy or human welfare must contain a healthy dose of “convictions” to be taken seriously by members of the conservative alliance. People with strong convictions tend to love clarity, but the desire for absolute moral clarity among conservatives can lead to intolerance for other viewpoints and cultural prejudice. This may be one of the principle points at which conservatism contradicts the true message of the Bible. It is difficult for people to have compassion and tolerance for others if they are blinded by a discriminatory fixation on the competing interests of a material, political or personal priority. The missing component of doctrinal conservatism as it relates to Christian beliefs is therefore unqualified compassion.

And that is the heart of the matter with Donald Trump. He is the perfect expression of the lack of compassion in neoconservatism. One could argue that he took it a major step further than any neoconservative even dared. Even the likes of Newt Gingrich, arch-conservative that he is, have backed off the Trump Train because The Donald is the beast that neoconservatism created, yet cannot tame.

And that is why, from now on, whenever I am asked why neoconservatism or any brand of conservatism lacking compassion is such a contradiction to American values, I will calmly say the name of Donald Trump. He is the ultimate expression of everything wrong with what conservatism has become in its long arc from Ronald Reagan––who started this “hate the government” mess––all the way to now.

Government is not the problem as President Ronald Reagan once claimed. It’s the lack of belief that people can do good that is the problem in America. It is also a lack of concern for fellow human beings that is the vexation of this nation.

Conservatism has one thing right, and it is tried and true. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions. But that does not mean finding ways to exclude others as equal stakeholders in the American Dream. That is where neoconservatism has led real conservatives astray.

Hopefully something can be learned by all this, and the Bad Example that emerged in the figure of Donald Trump. We need to get back to our belief in America for sure, but not at the cost of tossing people over the side of the ship, or blocking our borders, or dissing them in public if they don’t look like you, act like you, or go along with mad schemes of in religion, politics and culture.

 

On Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader

150430-berniesanders-editorial.jpgListen, I was listening to Bernie Sanders long before he was Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He was a weekly guest on the Thom Hartmann show to which I regularly listened. I liked his ability to answer political and legislative questions in real time, right over the air.

The political stumper that Bernie has become is a somewhat different creature. He’s right argued that the political system is rigged against him. He’s correctly asserted that America’s economic system has giant flaws. He’s proposed massive public investment in America’s educational and health care systems. I even agree with him that America has all the money it needs to pay for these supposedly “socialistic” programs that are in fact simply the logical actions of a nation determined to improve the lives and minds of its citizens.

Because honestly, the Republican Party has done everything it can to divest Americans of the opportunity to make a fair living, get a good education and put it to work in an equitable economy. We’ve watched Republicans publicly flog the Unemployment Compensation system and accuse people thrown out of work by the economic crash of being “too old and lazy” to want to go back to work. We’ve heard Republicans use rampant racism to disenfranchise those they most fear. That would be anyone with brown skin or a different religion that outnumbers the dwindling numbers of angry, largely white so-called Christians who hardly lift a finger to reconcile their capitalistic dogma to their equally dogmatic fundamental brands of faith.

Republicans are a hot ideological mess compared to men like Bernie Sanders. Republicans are more like an ideo-illogical mess. They’re don’t even claim to be whores with hearts of gold, because their repressive tendencies always seem to hide some massive personal scam waiting for exposure. Just ask Dennis Hastert if you don’t believe it. Or Newt Gingrich. All those fundamentalist Republican preachers in sex scandals.

By comparison to those lying zealots, Bill Clinton is a saint. And his wife Hillary still has not been proven to have done one wrong thing. Sure, she exaggerates a twitch or two, but she’s a political realist in the end.

That’s far more than can be said for men like Ted Cruz with his goddamned God Complex. Or Donald Trump who seems to think he’s a Golden Idol worthy of worship. The rest of the ungodly mess that Republicans sent forth for inspection withered and sank like a troop of squalid mushrooms sprouting from a shit pile. Scott Walker? There’s a foul stench around him. Jeb Bush? He smelled a little too rich and ripe. Even that stinker Mitt Romney cropped back up for a few weeks. And what did it get him? A portabella goodbye, that’s what.

So I’m not dissing Bernie Sanders on that level at all. I like Bernie compared to all these fecal greaseballs. And Bernie is a genuine contender. I’ll definitely credit him with that.

But I don’t get the feeling he wants the Democrats to win. Bernie distrusts the entire system, and with good reason. There’s just one problem with that. A man like Bernie can deliver true evil into power.

03-ralph-nader.w529.h352.2x.jpgIt happened once before with Al Gore and Ralph Nader back in 2000. Gore would have made a wonderful, rational and considerate President of the United States. But Nader went after anti-establishment, populist voters from a greenish stripe and wicked off just enough votes to keep Gore out of the White House. And in so doing, he let George Fucking Bush get in.

That moment in history has cost America dearly. We got the lying-est White House ever. True evil came in the back door with that vicious bastard Dick Cheney. Add in a right-wing-nut-cabinet that took us to war on lies in Iraq, and that ignored the clear warnings of impending terrorist attacks…which ultimately delivered the excuse they were seeking for action in the Middle East…and Ralph Nader starts to look like a real selfish villain in all this.

And I’m equally concerned right now that if Sanders tells his supposedly smart voters not to support Hillary Clinton, we could get a President Trump in the White House. Or just as bad (maybe worse) a President Cruz.

That would be fucking stupid. There is no way either of those men deserves to use the White House restroom, much less sit in the Oval Office.

Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader have way too much in common for my taste. I’m trying to figure out what it is about determined Jewish men that makes them such a danger to American interests. All I tell you is that King David did everything God told him to do. Yet when it came time to build a temple to God, David was told he had too much blood on his hands. There’s a lesson in that somehow. It is possible to care about your cause a little too  much.

I love a revolutionary as much as the next person. Because John Lennon knew the benefits and risks of revolution.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

What we’re witnessing is the destruction of America. But it’s not the work of liberals destroying traditional values, because it took more than 100 years of liberal political revolution to give equal rights to women and blacks. It’s taken just as long to make progress for gays and other minorities. Those are Constitutional values that are actually fulfilling the vows of our Founding Fathers for equality. Conservatives have fought that revolution tooth and nail, and helped destroy American lives in the process.

And it’s not socialism compromising the benefits of capitalism, because without regulations, free markets clearly and frequently spin out of control. We have the Great Depression and the Recent Recession to illustrate that fact.

It’s not a black President that threatened to destroy America, but fear of that man that promulgated a fierce wellspring of ugly racist populism now being fed by men like Donald Trump. And it’s not a lack of religion that destroyed the influence of Christian values in America, but the prostitution of biblical knowledge to fit a highly opportunistic brand of religion that shed the teachings of Christ to don the trappings of power.

And to combat these horrific influences on our culture and the nation at large, it is important that we not allow the leaders of this brand of political furor and zealotry to take greater control. Already we’ve seen what the warmongers can do to the national treasury with the post 9/11 escapades and nation-building overseas. We’ve seen media like Fox News cheerlead these ventures and lead with euphemisms such as Fair and Balanced to confuse and propagandize political priorities as fact.

You’re all witness to these devastating games, and some refuse to question their own roles, clinging to single issue contentions over abortion, gay marriage or taxes as excuses for installing liars and zealots and religious nuts into positions of power. Those people have no concern for America as a principle. They only care about America as an instrument for their repressive desire for control, hatred and bully politics.

And that’s what scares me about men like Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader. They don’t seem to see the forest for the trees.

The conspiracy Jesus does not want you to miss

IMG_3854The Easter season for many Christians is a time to celebrate the rise of Christ from the dead to reign in heaven. And whether you accept the story of Christ as atonement for your sins, or something more subtle, on the order of giving yourself completely over to God, the Passion story is a compelling and humbling example of self-sacrifice.

For many Christians the Easter story begins and ends with that sacrifice. Nothing more need be said. But there’s a practical layer to the Easter story that Christians entirely focused on heavenly transcendence too often fail to consider.

It is the conspiracy Jesus does not want you to miss.

What secret could Jesus possibly hold that we don’t already know, that hasn’t been explored sufficiently by theologians, or canonized in the church?

You might know something about this secret if you pay attention to the entire Passion narrative. The Bible loved prophecies, and the story of Jesus entering the city on a donkey or young colt is the echo of a predicted fulfillment of a Messiah who will return to restore Israel and its people to glory and self-rule.These were important hopes back then. In some respects, those hopes remain today. Many Christians openly hope for the return of Christ, and think that is the secret Jesus wants us to know about his comings and goings in this world. But like many good conspiracies, those people may be wrong.

We instead find the real and noble conspiracy, and one Jesus does not want us to miss, in the message everyone seems to want to avoid in the story of Christ. He was a radical in every sense to those who ruled in his era. The leading religious authorities were skeptics of his claim to be the Son of God. The Romans considered him at best a weak imitation of a true king. All were more interested in his supposed abilities to do magic than his actual message. “Blessed are the meek…” Jesus is quoted from the Sermon on the Mount.

Hardly the claims of a king. Not in that era.

So fixated are we on salvation during the Easter season that the real conspiracy of Jesus goes uncelebrated. His clearly political motives in defying both sources of profound authority seem so worldly, almost unnecessary for the Son of God. And then his unwillingness to defend himself, so that he would appear to be a fool in front of foolish men? What sort of secret was that to keep from all his accusers.

Before his capture and trial, Jesus tried to educate his disciples on the secrets of his ministry. They begged him to speak plainly, not to rely on colorful parables and organic stories about yeast and bread and water to convey his message of spiritual grace and hoop.

But Jesus chastised his own disciples, telling them, “Are you so dull?’

And that is the real conspiracy of Jesus. He warned his disciples that much of God’s wisdom need be hidden from authorities in order to be heard and accepted by true believers. In the hands of the authorities, true wisdom becomes twisted into thorns of power to be jammed down on the heads of those seeking hope and truth.

In fact, the reaction of those in power to the notion that “Blessed are the meek…” is to turn that conspiratorial truth into a threat. The powerful see weakness where Christ sees power. Those with selfish interests turn that call to humility into an excuse to dominate.

If you truly want to believe and accept Christ, and especially the sacrifice he made in the name of all people, to instruct us on the power of humility and devotion to God, must be to personally sacrifice the will to turn religion into a political force designed to deliver advantage unto yourself.

Because barring that, people fall prey to their own desires, and go out preaching in public about their piousness and devotion to God. And those people Jesus distrusted most of all. “Do not pray in public…” he warned. “Or make a show of your piety.”

That is the conspiracy of faith that Jesus does not want you to miss. He hid his own authority and truth behind the will to be mocked, even tortured, rather than claim some position of power for himself. He hid his messages in metaphor, and indeed, the entire Bible follows that formula for concealed grace. Those who take scripture literally gloss over the real meaning of this conspiracy of truth. They turn the Bible into a weapon rather than a tool of grace. They force interpretations of scripture on the heads of believers like religious crowns of thorns.

Thus they aggressively miss the conspiracy of the Bible entirely. Yet that conspiracy is what the Easter season is truly all about. The willingness to place humility before politics, and endure sacrifice before personal gain.

Without that will, it does not matter if Christ rose from the dead or stayed in the tomb. The secret of faith lies buried behind a stone if the kingdom of God cannot be accepted on those terms. All other claims are a celebration of self. And nothing more.

 

Are you being raped

The big word on the street this week from leading conservative voices such as Sean Hannity is that Marco Rubio really “stepped in it” during the last Republican debate.

Governor Chris Christie essentially called Rubio a robot for repeating the same 25-word speech three times…about how Rubio does not like the fact that Obama is trying to change America.

Well, duh. That’s what Obama promised to do in both his campaigns. And what does the Republican Party promise to do in return? “Take Back America” is its primary slogan, and the phrase is also repeated ad nausea by all the Republican candidates. They are all, in a word, acting like conservative robots.

Rubio isn’t a robot so much as an automoton. So let’s consult the dictionary to examine what that really means. “An automaton (plural: automata or automatons) is a self-operating machine, or a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations, or respond to predetermined instructions. Some automata, such as bellstrikers in mechanical clocks, are designed to give the illusion to the casual observer that they are operating under their own power.”

That fits Rubio perfectly. And sad to say, there are a whole lot of conservatives who like that brand of predictability just fine, as long as it aligns with their desire for doctrinal control.

Clutch Cargo

clutch_cargoRubio is certainly moving his lips to spit out conservative doctrine. Yet he somehow comes off like one of those Clutch Cargo cartoons from years ago. You know the one, where the creepy lips are projected through a static cartoon face in 1960s low grade animation? And that would be accurate except for that fact that Marco Rubio and his cartoon logic on issues such as abortion date from the 1950s at best. So let’s talk about rape, since that what Marco Rubio thinks he does best.

Rape is harmless to women

Rubio thinks, or so he says, that women should have the babies caused by rapists no matter what. “It’s a terrible situation,” Rubio said. “I mean, a crisis pregnancy, especially as a result of something as horrifying as that, I’m not telling you it’s easy. I’m not here saying it’s an easy choice. It’s a horrifying thing that you’ve just described.”

“I get it,” he added. “I really do. And that’s why this issue is so difficult. But I believe a human being, an unborn child has a right to live, irrespective of the circumstances of which they were conceived. And I know that the majority of Americans don’t agree with me on that.”

Rubio defensively claims that he actually “gets it.” Yet he then flatly turns around to deny women the authentic right to control what happens to their own bodies. He is calling rape an essentially harmless action, meant to be dismissed as a “terrible situation” by women unlucky enough to experience such a criminal violation.

Lack of prescience

Senator Rubio of Florida speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Marylan

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida 

Rubio goes on to admit that a majority of Americans don’t agree with him on the issue. Basically, he is also saying that the freedom for a woman to determine the outcome of a rapist’s violent crime is non-existent. This is heinous disregard for human rights. It is also abetting the cause of rapists to commit such a crime and then claim rights to the child. It is patent approval of the act of rape.

The lack of conscience in such a position is breathtaking and should automatically disqualify any person from a position in public office, much less the President of the United States.

Rubio apparently thinks his interpretation of the Law of God somehow trumps the United States Constitution and Supreme Court rulings that protect the rights of women to control their personal reproductive freedom.

Rape of the angels

But Rubio’s possibly theological point actually goes against examples from scripture in which God rules on rape and abuse of others. Let’s take the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example.  You may recall that when a pair of angels shows up at the house of Lot in the town of Sodom, a group of rowdy townspeople arrives at Lot’s door demanding the strangers be turned over (as was ‘the custom’ of the day) to be raped and sexually abused for the simple crime of having no place to stay after nightfall.

Yet rather than comply with the demands of the unruly mob to turn over the strangers to be abused, Lot offers up his own two daughters as ransom for the safety of the two men he has offered shelter in his house.

We are forced to ask: what if that story actually resulted in that outcome? What if Lot’s daughters had indeed been turned over to the crowd to be raped, and then were forced to have the children from unidentified fathers? Then (and only then) we might have to agree with Marco Rubio that God agrees that it’s a just cause to rape women and demand they have those children.

Rape as an act of war

Gustave_dore_crusades_entry_of_the_crusaders_into_constantinopleScholarly studies of such issues show that rape is indeed often used as a war on women. In her treatise title “Rape, Women and War,” scholar Angela Robinson documents how throughout history, rape has served as a tool of disenfranchisement in war and cultural conflicts. “The rape of women has been utilized as a tactic of terror in wars since the beginning of armed conflicts. It appears to go through three main stages: First, rape is a routine and expected reward to the victors. Secondly, rape occurs due to a lack of military discipline. Finally, rape occurs as a military technique to demoralize the opposition. Through these horrific actions, women experience the loss of home and the loss of land, which is synonymous with the loss of identity. This is known as ethnic cleansing.”

So we see that given Rubio’s position on rape and apparent ownership of women by men, the Republican War and Women is real. And despite his claims of virtuous theology and protection of the so-called unborn, Marco Rubio is dead wrong about God’s ultimate intent for rape victims.

Lots of lessons

Because rather than encouraging Lot give over the two men under his protection to an abusive crowd seeking to use rape as an expression of power, God’s servants instead grant protection to Lot and his family. The servants then warn Lot to get the hell out of town. Lot and his family are warned not to look back, yet Lot’s wife is turned into a pillar of salt for violating that promise. God does like those who doubt his intentions, or have prurient curiosities.

Yet the harsh lesson of the Bible, and the message Marco Rubio refuses to comprehend, is that God does not indeed favor the acts of abusers.

Because if he did, God would have allowed Lot’s daughters to be thrown out into the streets for rape and abuse, and then be forced to carry the bastard children of the men willing to commit such acts.

Think about it: Marco Rubio is telling your daughter that if she gets raped, she has to bear that child. He’s telling your wife that if she gets raped, she has to have that baby. He’s telling all the men of America that it is not worth even trying to protect the women in their life, because if some man rapes them, it is actually God’s will that child should be born. There is nothing anyone can do about it.

Of course, that was not the lesson conveyed in the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nor is it an acceptable narrative according to the map of human rights laid out in the United States Constitution. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness do not include having to bear the child of a rapist, or to be gunned down in the streets because you refuse to carry a handgun. This is lawlessness as a political doctrine, not political freedom.

Anger sells and greed propels

Yet there are millions of ignorant people out there who favor the doctrine of men like Marco Rubio because they speak with the force of conviction. And quite often, this brand of conviction sounds a lot like theology. And when an entire political party claims to own the wisdom of God, it gets easier to sell a brand of angry, selfish schtick as truth.

This is the methodology of angry, abusive, misogynistic political doctrine the Republican Party and its media mouthpieces have espoused for years. Sometimes they use dogwhistle terms, euphemisms and confessional language to get the point across. But the effects are just the same. The KKK claims to be a service organization even while it works to undermine the rights of blacks and other minorities. All such euphemistic claims are designed to hide the anger, fear and greed behind such prejudicial movements. Anger sells and greed propels. It’s as simple as that.

Ugly aims in plain sight

As long as we’re being honest, let’s also be direct. A political machine like the Republican Party (the automaton of conservatism) that simultaneously works to ban women from using birth control while telling them that rape is an activity they must accept to the point of bearing a rapist’s child is a confused, nasty brute of a machine. It does not deserve to exist. This isn’t about free speech any longer. This is about gaining and protecting human rights for all people. Conservatives love to claim that a fetus is already a person, and promote many compelling examples to prove their point. But whey then do so many Republicans seem to hate Planned Parenthood, an organization designed to empower women in controlling their own reproductive health. And prevent the need for abortions.

But of course, Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood over the supposed moral issue of having sex outside of marriage, or without the goal of procreations. But  conservatives are hypocrites about that, too. Even the so-called rhythm method, a birth control effort advocated by the Catholic Church, is a knowing attempt to avoid conception. Hypocrisy, in other words, because the Lord typically considers intent as bad as the real crime.

Conservative cabal

U.S. Senator Cruz speaks to members of the Texas Federation of Republican Women in San Antonio, Texas

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida

So the clear intention of the conservative cabal, if Marco Rubio and his ilk have their way, is to impose sexual and social control over women while accepting none of the responsibilities of being a principled human being, and worthy of trust and respect.

As a result, the Republican Party has also become an automaton of vicious, contradictory lies. Marco Rubio unwittingly captures this Republican fealty to male dominance and disrespect toward women, and men like Donald Trump are certainly no better. Ted Cruz is an obvious family fake. Take a look at his recent contrived video and the lengths to which he must go to get his own family to play along with his worthiness.

And the lone woman candidate on the Republican side is a person so obsessed with preventing abortions she refuses to change her story about a fake video even after it was proven to be a lie.

And so, there are no signs that any Republican has a remotely enlightened attitude toward women. Certainly their lead spokesperson Rush Limbaugh, who dispensed with no less than four wives, knows nothing about how to treat or respect women.

It has become evident that the Party of Elephants has dissolved into a Passel of Pigs. Snorting and derogatory behind the scenes, they like to make nice and religious-like in public to cover up their possessively penile priorities. But their shallow debates and thinly disguised prejudices toward women, minorities, are the drivel that has driven the Republican agenda for years. Fortunately, Republicans also don’t know how to govern, so their fecklessness has allowed America to continue is progressive advancement of human rights despite the fascist goals of the neo-conservative regime.

Brimstone

katrina_maxsurgeIf you tune into Republican rallies with their angry moods and Take Back America chants, it truly brings to mind the crowds of men assembled outside the house of Lot. They keep making demands and pressing on the liberal aims of Lot, which are simply to make his house and home a place of protection for the immigrants that have come into his care.

So let’s recall what happens to the angry crowds Lot leaves behind when he and his family leave town. God sends brimstone down upon Sodom, wiping out the abusers, and not the abused.

So perhaps it will happen that God will not bring about the apocalypse as so many Republican conservatives like to predict. Instead he may choose to cast firey brimstone on the Republican landscape and bury the GOP Congress under its sulphurous force. That would be the Congress that has threatened the public for years, and attempted a very public rape of Hillary Clinton’s reputation by conducting countless expensive investigations into the supposed scandal they branded Benghazi. But nothing stuck because there was nothing there that was done wrong.

The same Congress has made multiple attempts at raping a health care law that delivered millions of new policies to Americans in need of coverage, especially those with pre-existing conditions. The Congress along with the Republican-controlled Senate even raped the American government itself, shutting it down for ideological reasons.

It would appear the reason Republicans want to “take back America” is to rape it for all their worth, then blame the ensuing costs of raising their babies on the liberals.

Source of link: http://www.usm.edu/gulfcoast/sites/usm.edu.gulfcoast/files/groups/learning-commons/pdf/rape_women_and_war.pdf