An evolutionary look at race, religion and class warfare

Toward the end of a seven-mile run in a prairie park in Wisconsin, my companion and I passed a group of soccer players engaged in a pickup match on a small mowed field. They wore the jerseys of teams from Mexico, Central America and Europe. Soccer is the world’s game, you see.

Earlier on the run we’d seen a group of women and children walking the gravel path together. These were the wives and children of the soccer players, for they all gathered together under a shade tree when the match was done.

I’d turned to my companion and said to her, “Just think, their descendants came to this continent from the other side of Pacific.”

Routes-oF-Ancient-Americas-migrationsScience and genetics tell us the people who settled the North American and South American continent came over the land bridge to Alaska. Through human evolution and adaptation to environment these post-Asian peoples populated a highly diverse and unknown world. In many cases their skin evolved toward a brown or red color in response to hot, sunny climates. In that small way they were evolving back towards the dark-skinned origins of the African past from which we all came.

Civilization

These tales of massive emigration provide important foundations for discussion of the human race and the racism that drives much of its self-perception. We know that highly evolved civilisations in Egypt and Asia emerged from the original migration out of Africa. Their mathematics, arts and sciences represented a Renaissance of importance to all of civilization. Even through dark times in history and wars of slaughter over tribe, race and wealth, it was this belief in self and the theater of the mind that remained most important in sustaining human life and progress. In the wake of all this movement were structures representing the human desire to reach for the sky and deities. The pyramids of Egypt and the temples of the Aztecs evolved as the highest expression of human culture on earth.

Behind the Eight Ball

8-Ball Wallpaper 1024x768Back in Israel and the Middle East the concurrent battles over worldview were taking place a little later than the Asian and Central American pursuit of self-realization. Yet the events that took place there in the sands and hills around Jerusalem were telling in their net results.

The Romans had long tried to impose their values and their religion through force, but ultimately what emerged triumphant in that society was a faith supposedly architected for peace. The Eight Ball of fortune and force turned out to be wrong.

Christianity was embraced as the official religion of the state through Constantine, but its message of tolerance and brotherly was ultimately subverted for a focus on triumph of holy will. Because as Europe was settled, the warlike aspects of a largely white race of human beings found tremendous and convenient mobility in the history of the religion they embraced. Once the Jewish temples had been razed a few times over, faith become mobile. Canonized in a Bible, The Word superseded the traditional anchor of capitol and place.

Of course the Jewish Torah tried to accomplish the same thing, but that story took a different path. Blamed for the sacrifice of Christ, the Jews became targets for violence rather than partners in history. Just as they had experienced before in history, the Jewish people were left without a home. So they too used their wits, replacing capitol (city or state) with capital (money and negotiation) as a means to survive.

Where once the Judeo-Christian culture knew its place in the temples of Jerusalem, and capitol was where God could be found, the culture actually reversed course (or was forced yet again) to become a nomadic people all over again. Capitol was traded for pursuit of capital, and anyone that stood in the way of that pursuit became the enemy. But this adaptation became a parallel point of competition between Christians and Jews, who were in turn doubly ostracized and persecuted for being better capitalists than their Christian brethren. We hate in others what we find most lacking in ourselves.

Nomads

arkThe Jews had many times before been a nomadic people, migrating “out of Egypt” to assume lands that God ostensibly bequeathed to them. This history conveniently (yet ironically) supplied the motivation and belief that God was on the side of all those who supposedly followed His way. Essentially this providence was stolen by those with a willingness to ignore the obligation to faith and honor of God’s law that came with it.

The Ark of the Covenant originally represented by Judeo-Christian tradition as a symbol of God’s promise instead became a possession as much as a promise. People embraced this materialistic version of faith because it resolved the guilt over being both rich and favored by God.

Made in God’s image?

For powerful Christians, there was still the issue of painting over the notion that Christianity had diverse origins in terms of race and culture. White Christians painted pictures of Jesus in their own image, and built tremendous cathedrals as signposts of its journey to world domination. Pagan traditions were folded into the faith as recruitment tools and these became (as Christmas did) signs that devotion to the faith was complete.  This cultlike triumphalism burst across the European landscape backed by religious fervor and an increasingly inventive ability to kill in the name of God.

Gustave_dore_crusades_entry_of_the_crusaders_into_constantinopleThis restless, almost unhinged worldview was held at bay by civilizations to the East that could resist its restless and warlike tendencies. Surely the Crusades were an attempt to “take back” the so-called Holy Land, but it never really stuck. That is still the case today. Another religion that shares the Abrahamic storyline simply won’t give in to Western pressures. That would be Islam, whose principle zealots hate both Jews and Christians alike.

Truth be told, no one really knows who was made in God’s image, or what lands and nations were bequeathed to whom. So the fight continues to this day.

Commerce and conquest

Fortunately, as civilizations grew and trade evolved, necessary compromises emerged. But even those promise continue to be broke by those too greedy to realize that sustainability is a foundational value in God’s kingdom.

Instead, the world is still being ruled by a desperate need for extraction based on the early Genesis belief that God ceded all the earth to a chosen people. Of course these folks miss the fact that their ancestors repeatedly engaged in behavior that invoked God’s wrath. So remains that this faulty history is a legacy that makes it convenient to go out and kill in the name of God, then beg forgiveness as if the carnage never happened. After all, that was how it was done in the Bible.

slaveBut even warlike Christians can’t conquer all. Stifled by resistance from the East, the now largely white races of human beings embracing God as their witness looked to expand their Empire in other directions. Africa was close enough, and a known quantity, but somehow it did not capture the imagination of Christians whose search for gold and conquests across the ocean still beckoned.

So the white migration embarked on its trans-Atlantic conquests, murdering and enslaving people as they arrived on the islands of the Caribbean, all along the Gulf of Mexico and up into North America. Cortez and his ilk had no mercy. It was kill and extract resources in the name of Kings and Queens and God.

Second wave

Then warlike whites flowed over through North America and the real conquest of the New World was begun. Once it got rolling and Manifest Destiny was invoked to justify the killing, there was no reason to slow down and consider what was truly going on. It was genocide all over again, and in biblical proportions.

Love your enemies, to death

FlagWaiverWhen it came to world expansion and domination, the whole “love your enemies” aspect of Christian tradition became an inverse equation. “We love our enemies because we bring them the message of God,” was the essential justification for taking over entire nations. Religion became confused with patriotism. Missionaries ran in the company of killers. It was either convert or die. Such is most of human history.

So the true meaning of “love your enemies” was beaten with a religious stick and cast aside out of convenience. It has never gotten completely out of the ditch into which it was self-righteously thrown. But like the Good Samaritan of old, there are Christians now seeking to right these wrongs and bring back the notion of loving our enemies in its full meaning. Likewise, these believers abhor use of indefensible discrimination by race and culture as tools of political manipulation and domination.

Foxy thinkers

The capitalistic Christians are fighting back hard. They treasure their supposed triumphs and value the social and political position it has bestowed upon them. They give it names like American Exceptionalism to justify the seeming victory of capital over loving our neighbors

But God knows better and always has. God does not like the calculated erection of euphemisms any more than the construction of a Golden Calf. These all represent efforts to circumvent the covenant of love and trust that is supposed to ride at the heart of all faith.

Violent defense of racism

It is both fascinating and disturbing to witness the often violent defense of racism as if it were an expression of God’s will. Of course it isn’t, but it reflects a conveniently perverted narrative of faith that embraces racial warfare as a sign of providential progress. Such was the case when a certain class of moneyed Christians tried to justify the use of slavery to prop up the economy of the American South. They even advocated secession from the Union as a tool of protest against their racist, stringently capitalistic worldview. Ultimately this effort failed, and yet their are millions who still abide by its philosophy and fly a Confederate flag as a sign that they have not yet evolved in their thinking.

Media wars

When you throw a dose of class warfare into this mix and enough money to broadcast the message through modern media and even news outlets, it can be hard to hold the line against the emergent brand of capitalistic faith.

Yet God and Christ said the meek shall inherit the earth, so we have that on our side. But it’s hard to watch the social and political carnage that takes place as a result of evil at work in the world. It has always been that way. Psalms and Lamentations have been written about why God allows evil to triumph. Perhaps it’s all one big godly big joke, and the Second Coming is the cosmic punchline.

Lacking that eventuality, we must look to the present for signs that balance can and will return. Of course evolution has an answer. It always does. We know that 99% of all living things that ever existed on the earth are now extinct. And despite the Judeo-Christian belief that God will provide a New Earth, there is biblical justification for thinking God has less of a sense of humor than we like to believe. The metaphor of the Noachian flood alone parallels God’s willingness to wipe out every living thing on earth in order to make things right again.

Noah’s Real Ark

Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1613

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings that I have created––people together with the animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

Who were these people God regretted? Were they the people who according to his word loved their neighbors as themselves? Or were they full of capitalistic fervor and conquering, warlike ways? Were they racists as well, bickering over the color of skin and the nations of origin? These were the evils God abhorred in human beings, for they lead to violence against any or all that they encounter and judge to be inferior.

And what does Noah represent? He represents those that hold out against such capitalistic fervor and the rank behaviors (the love of money is the root of all evil…) that come with it. The real ark of Noah is this commitment to hold out against violence, racism, discrimination and exploitation of others through war, commerce and prejudice. The real Noah recognizes that preserving aspects of God’s creation is paramount to faith.

Evolution and salvation

How interesting that it turns out our capitalistic ways of extraction and unhindered appetites for resources are similarly violent toward the very earth upon which we depend for survival? Indeed, we depend upon the earth even for salvation, yet capitalistic Christians defy laws that protect the environment on grounds that human beings should have the right to exploit the earth’s resources any way they see fit. This is based on the idea that the Genesis-driven notion of a literal “dominion” over the earth excuses all behaviors.

Yet what more potent symbol is there for salvation than protecting the earth, God’s creation? It’s almost as if evolution and God were conspiring to produce the same result as foretold in the story of Noah.

“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence,” the Bible says. “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them with all the earth.”

Notice that God’s massive anger is not about sex, or gay marriage or Mexicans working jobs that other Americans won’t take. God is angry about violence, especially capitalistic (exploitative) violence based on the unhinged belief that God bequeaths all the earth to a single race of people.

Sickness of mind

Donald Trump's proposed golf courseIt’s a sickness of mind that ignores the lessons of both evolution and God. Yet here we are, with news outlets and political parties proving every day that the real lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah were never learned. Those violent men at the door of Lot were not there for sex, but for violent, aggressive purposes of dominance and exploitation. That is why God destroyed those cities as well. The aggression and assumptive behaviors of people who thought strangers were their property to abuse was the real tipping point for God.

Those same people stand at the doors of society today, threatening and cajoling innocent citizens with their demands for wealth and power. They beg for our votes and hate the very government to which they get elected. They are conflicted, angry and violent men (and women in some cases) willing to take a nation to war as a means to further exploit the world and its resources.

And are you really going to believe what these types of people have to say when God clearly hates the violence and greed of their ways? One should hope not.

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The apocalypse of the anti-Millennials

Nature can help us look beyond our earthly perspectives

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

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

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

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

Paying dues my ass

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

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

A whole lot better

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

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

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

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

This is good for you? 

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking outside the knocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiral effects

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

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

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

Insane purposes

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

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

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

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

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

Human capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the name of religion

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

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

A better way

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

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

Shitting the bench

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

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

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

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

Modern apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

Divide and die

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

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

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

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

The painful truth of why some Christians feel persecuted

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

Powerhouses

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

Humble efforts

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

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

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

Turning tables

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

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

Spiteful congratulations

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

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

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

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

Hard lessons and loud fans

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

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

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

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

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

Sticking to what works

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

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

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

The abortion debate

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

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

Wrong again and again on science

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

Loud losers

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

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

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

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

The tortured truth of Fox News

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

How very Christian of us 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weary world and Dennis Hastert

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

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

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

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

Recent past

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

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

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

Rotary redux: What goes around…

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

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

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

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

National conduct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damned Dems

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

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

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

Forgiveness and gay thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Key learnings

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

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

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

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

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

Jokesters and justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meta-movies

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

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

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

Meta-villains

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

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

Meta-Christianity

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

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

Meta-fantasies

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

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

Meta-denial

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

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

Meta-wealth

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

Meta-maniacs

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

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

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

Dealing with the principle Christian complaint(s) about Islam

Muslim Leaders DecryWith every new forceful act by radical terrorists claiming to represent the interests of Islamic faith, the world waits for more moderate Muslims to call such actions to account.

If the headline of the Tribune’s Nation & World section is any indication, there is either a conspiracy to promote moderate Islam or the time has come where the voice of rational Muslims is finally being heard.

That seems to be the Christian’s world’s principle complaint about Islam: that it is a violent religion at its core. Certainly the headlines dominating the presentation of Muslims in the media don’t the help the public image any. In an arc that began with the spiteful terrorist attacks on 9/11 to the most recent murder of cartoonists in France, the influence and obvious intolerance of jihad has been on frequent display.

The Tribune story finally captures the frustration of those representing the sane aspects of Muslim faith. “Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim religious leader, Grand Mufti Abdul-Latif Derian, called on the country’s Muslims to renounce extremism if favor of tolerance,” the story stated. Then it quotes the leader: “The responsibility of all of us is to raise the voice against extremism. Against violence and terrorism. Against the confiscation of truth and righteousness, and the violation of rights and dignities,” Derian told a crowd.

Surely it is good to hear such advocacy for sanity in faith. But before those in the Christian world get too high and mighty about the struggles of Islam to find balance and promote peace, it is important to cast an eye back toward Christianity and its own forceful expression in the world.

Big words

We should not forget that George W. Bush allied himself closely with his Christian faith while in office. His public expressions of that faith were noble in many ways. But they did reveal a not-so-hidden determination to promulgate that faith on the world. When asked about his faith and his politics, Bush replied:

“Religion is an important part. I never want to impose my religion on anybody else. But when I make decisions I stand on principle. And the principles are derived from who I am. I believe we ought to love our neighbor like we love ourself. That’s manifested in public policy through the faith-based initiative where we’ve unleashed the armies of compassion to help heal people who hurt. I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That’s what I believe. And that’s one part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can’t tell you how encouraged how I am to see freedom on the march. And so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me. And religion is a part of me.”

One cannot help but notice the inclination toward militaristic terminology when Bush spoke about his Christian faith. Christians often blame Muslims for wanting to invoke sharia law in nations where it either boasts a majority or seeks to convert people to its vision of the one true faith. And yet here we witnessed the leader of one of the world’s greatest nations stating in bold simplicity the fact that his faith drives his decisions.

How is the Muslim world supposed to read such language? Coupled with actions such as the invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of Iraq and pursuant torture of Iraqi citizens, there is no question why Muslims concerned about the power and influence of Christian faith in America’s actions.

FlagWaiver

Core fears

At the very core of Islamic extremism is a fear that the United States is a corrupting, aggressive power in the world. The United States is considered an aggressor simply through export of its popular culture. In that regard the Christian faith is highly contradictory in its response to the expression of so-called American values. On one hand Americans decry the fact that some Muslim sects seem to oppress women with requirements of dress and behavior. At the same time American Christians struggle with the consistent objectification of women in sexualized ways.

Yet the Christian faith is embroiled in a similar struggle over control of women’s lives. The website Alternet documents the movement known as “Quiverfull” in which women are given a strict role in society. Author Carol Joyce explains this challenge over central doctrine and Christian faith:

“When Americans think of patriarchal societies, female submission, or extreme gender inequality based on religious teachings, visions of Muslim women in burkas or Hindus in poorly arranged marriages may come to mind. The reality, though, is that a growing number of American Christian fundamentalists also have rejected feminism and egalitarianism, embracing instead male dominance and what they call the “Quiverfull” belief system. Picture the Massachusetts Bay Colonies before Hester Prynne‘s day. The women in such communities live within a stringently enforced doctrine of wifely submission and male “headship,” including a selfless acceptance of possibly constant pregnancies and as many children under foot as God might bring. They reject not only “reproductive rights” of any kind, but also higher education and workforce participation for women.”

Critical thinking

The right to criticize or even question such practices is almost verboten in the Christian world, where calling fellow Christians to task somehow seems to be considered bad sport. Or, where there is criticism, Christians of many stripes seem to hide behind the flapping banner of persecution for their beliefs.

But let’s consider the issue of persecution in a full light. There is genuine persecution in which Christians are captured, killed or slaughtered in nations where the faith is not accepted. That is an undeniable challenge, exacerbated by the current fact that in many nations it is the so-called Christians still doing the killing. 

However the claims that Christians are being isolated for persecution may not be so accurate as some would lead us to believe. “I am very disappointed by the response of the U.S. government and State Department in the protection and advocacy for persecuted Christians,” he said. “The power and leadership vacuum within the United States has created a very dangerous situation in Iraq for Christians,” said Open Doors CEO David Curry to The Christian Post.

Okay, let’s examine that statement in its full context. American invaded Iraq on the very slim premise that there were weapons of mass destruction being produced by then-leader Saddam Hussein. We barely provided protection to the nation’s resources except for its oil, and then turned around and in the process of war, slaughtered thousands of Iraqis, openly tortured suspected terrorists (many of whom were innocent) and actually drew Islamic terrorists to the nation through these actions.

To turn around and complain that it is Christians who are being persecuted and that the Obama administration is responsible is so grandly false a contention it begs genuine criticism from within both Islam and Christianity. America as a nation is deeply conflicted by its own acts of aggression and the response of terrorists in return.

DSCN1904Soft yet poisonous

There is also a softer yet no less damaging claim of persecution that uses religious freedom as a form of shield against questions within the Christian faith community.Witness the reaction to Pope Francis by the likes of Fox News, which does not like the Pope’s politics or his faith. These hit pieces demonstrate the fact that Christianity has become a political tool for American conservatives. As the Fox News contentions demonstrate, American conservatives consider Pope Francis a “radical” for the simple fact that his views express the socially liberal aspects of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Fox News does not like liberalism in any form, including that of the faith’s leading modern representatives or its progenitor, the one and only Jesus Christ.

The effects of cloistered Christian faith are evident in public surveys showing that between 30-50% of American Christians do not believe in the scientific theory of evolution and thus refuse to grasp or understand even the basic science driving modern medicine, business and the ensuing effects of industrialization such as climate change.

These comprehensions are inherently linked to worldview, and Christians are the absolute worst at promoting the most basic appreciation for cause and effect. Many prefer instead the magic explanations of creationism and intelligent design, both of which are not science but elaborate confabulations of religious denial. They are complex as a defense mechanism against modernism, and that is all. But they poison the public dialogue and even America’s reputation in a world that has grown to value science as a great human equalizer in the fabric of international decisions. American conservative Christians advocate a worldview that is aggressively ignorant, stubborn and selfish. That makes the world hate us and leave Islam room to question whether Christianity really has its act together or not.

Internally conflicted

Thus the principle complaints against Islam by conservative Christians and their political allies display deep internal conflicts in the worldview collectively known as Christianity. Like Islamic terrorists married to the ideal of jihad as a means to change and control the world, politically conservative Christians fail to see their own contradictory visage as a threat to the world.

There is a sickness at the heart of Christian conservatism that has infested the heart of the faith all the way back to the people Jesus Christ fought for control of the narrative of the Judaic tradition. And by way of that mention, we should consider the persecution of Jews by so-called Christians over the ages as an example of the hypocrisy Christians like to claim in their complaints against Islam.

It is extremist religion in all cases that produces such grand horror in this world. To point a finger at another faith as the principle cause of such persecution and terror in the world is not just ironic or hypocritical. It is dangerous and wrong.

Why we need to “pray away the conservatism”

IMG_8609Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “pray away the gay.” It is used to describe the action religiously conservative people recommend in relation to homosexuality, which they regard as a “choice” rather than a biological part of the human condition.

While there are a few references to homosexuality as a sin in the Bible, they are quite often contextually positioned with a host of other sins that include avarice, greed and other examples of human desires gone out of control. Yet homosexuality remains a favorite target of religious conservatives because it is far less common than uncontrolled greed, which is so common there always seems to be an excuse to justify it as a lifestyle that exists to the benefit of others. In fact one could say there is a strategy to uphold the worship of wealth  because the power  conferred by such appetites is so admired on this earth it seems senseless to tear it down. But that worldview’s is not really the way of God. It just seems like it sometimes.

Contradictory doctrines

These hypocritical excuses for biblically contradictory behavior are essentially institutionalized in the belief system we know as conservatism. Jesus Christ warned against the radical actions of the Pharisees who ran religion in his day. He called them a “brood of vipers” for their attempts to control the lives of others while personally benefitting from their station in life. Jesus reserved genuine anger for these manipulative conservative rulers who turned scripture into law and ran a religious state where religious power-mongering and corruption ruled the day.

And of course the controlling yet hypocritical tendencies of religious and political conservatives continue to vex the world to this day. Yet these modern day Pharisees radically refuse to see themselves in any sort of biblical light when it comes to their desires to impose their visions of moral values on society. It is so interesting to witness, for example, Pope Francis calling even his own church leadership to account for bad behavior. Of course conservative media attack any logic that runs counter to their blathering talking points calling Pope Francis a “radical” when all he’s doing is pointing out what the Gospels really say and advocate.

Contextual conservatism

That is not to say there are no benefits to conservatism as a rule. Where the damage occurs is in the contradictory aspects of the conservative belief system as a religious and political movement, which essentially demands hypocrisy as a foundation of its worldview.

Let’s take a look at why this is so.

The conservative influence on culture

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  At a values level, conservatism prides itself on support of tradition, liberty and love of God and country.

And 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. This has been particularly true in using the media to communicate its message.This trend has escalated from the 1980s to the present. As a result, conservatism’s doctrinal approach to seeking power, influencing culture and leading government has attracted many followers.

If you are looking for a single factor in the success of conservatism with the American public, convictions 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 conservatives.

People with strong convictions love clarity. Yet 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. That is a Christian principle advocated by none other than Jesus Christ. Yet it is violated on many fronts, and every day, by those who brand “liberals” and “liberalism” as a sin. 

Manufactured empathy

There have been attempts by the conservatives to manufacture empathy for its political causes through use of terms such as “compassionate conservatism.” But there is little room for compassion in a political movement bent on doctrinal dominance. The fact that a term such as compassionate conservatism even needs to be invented is evidence of the moral contradiction—one might even call it hypocrisy—at the heart of the conservative alliance of fiscal, social, political and religious conservatives.

By definition, hypocrisy means, “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not.” And, more specifically; “the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.”

Hypocrisy is a strong accusation to make toward any belief system. But the alliance of fiscal, social, political and religious conservatives fits the description in at least one critical sense, and perhaps many. Conservatism as a social movement struggles in particular with its ability to reconcile the market-driven demands of its fiscally conservative constituents with the call to charity and compassion inherent to religious faith and the liberal agenda of Jesus Christ.

Specious terms such as “trickle-down economics” that celebrate the supposed beneficence of the free market show only how cynical some elements of the conservative alliance can be toward those in need. If the most conservatism can manage is the grudging spoils of the rich, then greed remains in control and the collective ideology remains contrary to the liberal agenda of Jesus Christ.

Free market = no free rides

Ardent belief in the free market holds that traditions and institutions are useful only as instruments to create and trade wealth. We see this principle in action in corporate mergers, buyouts and dissolutions. The supposedly Darwinist principle of “survival of the fittest” is alive and well in the market economy. Fiscal conservatives are known to celebrate their brand of social Darwinism with joy and fervor, embracing the idea that “greed is good” and that the pursuit of wealth is the right and responsibility of every individual.

And among strict observers of fiscal conservatism, there is no such thing as a tithe or any moral obligation to share. Wealth is wealth. Those who earn it deserve to keep it. That makes fiscal conservatism the most radical element in the company of conservatism as a movement. True believers face an absolute dichotomy between the Ayn Rand philosophy of personal objectivism (be selfish) and the call of Jesus Christ to love all others above self. What more clear contradiction can there be? 

What the Bible says about wealth

Absolute contradictions enter the picture when conservatism seeks to justify the doctrine of free market conservatism with the liberal agenda of Jesus Christ. In Mark 10:12, we find the story of a rich young man who wants to know what he can do to reach the kingdom of heaven:

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good––except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

“At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Granted, this passage may be steeped in hyperbole. But this and a good number of other passages (John 2:12-17, Luke 12:22-34, Luke 12:16-23, Matthew 27:3) leave little doubt that pursuit of personal wealth and social advantage are not the top priorities of Jesus Christ.  As Mark 10 suggests, a ministry in the name of Jesus calls for a selfless disregard for wealth as opposed to the “winner-take-all” focus of unbridled capitalism.

Trusting the Bible, not conservatism

If the Bible is to be trusted as a tool for social justice and democracy, then those who borrow its authority must keep in mind the liberal standard at its core. That predicates treating people as equal souls, avoiding discrimination and exploitation and promoting the virtue of charity through actions as well as words. Jesus emphatically calls us to reach out to others with resources that we might normally keep for ourselves. The liberal agenda of Jesus Christ always puts the needs of others first. Otherwise its message is captive to motives that have little to do with the ways of God. 

All told, it appears the priority of Christians should be to pray away the hypocritical aspects of conservatism that have long undermined the real meaning and message of scripture. That’s what Jesus recommended, and that’s what we all should do.

Today’s blog contains excerpts from The Genesis Fix, A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age, a 2007 published book being revised for release in 2015. Christopher Cudworth is the author of The Right Kind of Pride, a book about facing life’s challenges with positivity and hope. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks with future Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and it’s a conversation for the ages

The following conversation has been transcribed from the official records of the first phone call between Speaker of the House John Boehner and possible future probably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The conversation took place two nights after the recent Republican landslide in the election. 

john-boehner-gaveljpg-6706b1f02a6d1dabBoehner: Hello Mitch? Are you there?

McConnell: Wait, my Bluetooth isn’t working. Is this Boehner? John Boehner?

Boehner: Yes indeed my friend! We won! We won!

McConnell: I know. I’ve waited for this moment all my political life. We really put a stop to Obama this time. Just like I said when he was elected. Remember when I said that? Then I said the single most important goal was to stop Obama for a second term. And I know that didn’t happen but now we really stopped him didn’t we?! We stopped him.

Boehner: He’s still President, Mitch.

McConnell: Yeah but now we can fix that. We can… what can we do?

Boehner: Impeach him. The House has been talking about that for years.

McConnell: Oh you guys talk about all kinds of things over there don’t you?

Boehner: We’re very good talkers. Now we’re going to be even better doers. Because we have you over in that Senate place.

Businessman Matt Bevin Challenges Senate Minority Leader McConnell In Primary ElectionMcConnell: Because we won! We really won!

Boehner: Mitch you have to stop saying that. You’ve got to act like you expected to win. That’s how winners behave.

McConnell: Yes. Not like you act whenever you lose, right? Because you tend to cry alot.

Boehner: I’m crying for the America that I love, Mitch.

McConnell: I know how you feel. I always looks like I’m about to cry. Well not cry actually. My face just naturally does this sort of pouty thing. I think it’s because we live south of the Mason Dixon line that things about America make us cry? What do you think?

Boehner: I’m from Ohio, Mitch.

McConnell: Oh yeah! Go Browns! They’re in first place you know! They’re winners just like us!

john_boehner8-620x412Boehner: So what’s the agenda over there in the Senate, Mitch? What do you want to accomplish?

McConnell: We want to stop Obama, Johnny Boy!

Boehner: Okay, sounds good. How do we do that?

McConnell: We stop him, that’s how! We stop him stop him stop him and stop him. And then we stop him some more!

Boehner: Yes, I agree. He’s had his way with this country long enough. But then what?

UkraineMcConnell: Let’s….kill Obamacare! Kill kill kill kill kill! We’ll hire the NRA if we have to. We’ll shoot Obamacare full of holes and leave its smoking carcass on the steps of the White House!

Boehner: It’s just a law, Mitch. It’s not actually Obama.

McConnell: It isn’t? Why do we call it Obamacare then? Isn’t that why everyone hates it? Because Obama is bad for America? He can’t possibly care for anyone can he? Other than himself and his socialist buddies?

Boehner: Actually there are a few things about Obamacare that people actually like. But the Supreme Court is probably going to get together and fix that for us before we have to pass any laws about it.

McConnell: Yeah yeah yeah! I love that John Roberts and that Scalia guy. What’s his name. Antonin? Yeah. I hear he likes to shoot things too.

Boehner: Are you talking about Dick Cheney, Mitch? He’s the one who shot his hunting partner in the face.

McConnell: Let’s take Obama hunting. Then we could shoot him in the face! People would love that. Think of the headlines. “Republican Congressman accidentally shoots Obama in the face!” I bet we’d make the headlines on Fox News!

Boehner: All we have to do is call them if we want anything on the news, Mitch. Didn’t you get that memo back in 2000?

McConnell: What memo?

Boehner: The one that said we get to write their talking points.

McConnell: They sent me a different memo. They said they’d give the talking points to me! Well whatever. It works either way I guess.

john-boehner2-1024x780Boehner: Speaking of which. I just got a call from the US Chamber of Commerce. They’re calling in the chips on getting all these Republicans elected. They want a real pro-business agenda before the 2016 election.

McConnell: Wait, there’s another election? I thought we won won won!!!

Boehner: Well we won the mid-terms. Now we have to get a Republican President elected. That would give us a Republican White House, Congress, Senate and the Supreme Court. What do you call that, a quadfecta?

McConnell: You forgot the Constitution. Don’t we own that too?

Boehner: The Constitution is a book of laws, Mitch. It’s not an arm of government.

McConnell: Well we have to stop this goddamned Obama. He’s the devil I tell you.

Boehner: That’s what Pat Robertson tells us anyway. It makes me sad to watch the devil get so much power in America.

Businessman Matt Bevin Challenges Senate Minority Leader McConnell In Primary ElectionMcConnell: How can we get our religious friends involved. What the hell happened to that Santorum guy anyway?

Boehner: He’s been in psychotherapy ever since that Dan Savage guy named some ass foam after him.

McConnell: But he’s a Catholic! He’s stronger than that isn’t he? Let’s call the Pope! Let’s get this Santorum guy working for our side again!

Boehner: Didn’t you get the other memo last week? It looks like the Pope isn’t really on our side. He believes in evolution, thinks economic justice is the responsibility of government and says that being gay isn’t all that bad. He’s really quite a socialist.

McConnell: Wait till Jesus hears about this!

Boehner: Don’t go there Mitch…

McConnell: Jesus was a Republican! He helped us win win win! We prayed to God that we would win and we did! We won we won we won!

john-boehner-cryingBoehner: Now I am gonna cry. It’s true isn’t it? Jesus really is on our side!

McConnell: If we grew beards we could all be like Jesus! Jesus, that would be something wouldn’t it John?

Boehner: I could be John the Baptist to your Jesus Christ! Plus, I think the voters already know we have a good relationship with Jesus, Mitch. Polls show that the same 30% who don’t believe in evolution vote in lockstep with Conservative Republicans. That shows that Conservatives are winning. Three out of ten people you see walking down the street do not believe in evolution. Our education policies are working!

McConnell: Hey, wait! I bet they don’t believe in global warming either. And if 30% of the people don’t believe in global warming or evolution, and 50% or so believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, that’s 80% isn’t it!? That’s a mandate! We’ve got a mandate to rule America with a conservative fist! We can pass any laws we want, can’t we?

Boehner: There are a few Democrats left. But most of them are Unitarian Universalists. They believe in anything. So we’ll get them sooner or later too.

McConnell: What about the kids? Do we have the kids on our side?

Boehner: Well kids don’t really buy religion these days. Not the organized kind anyway.

UkraineMcConnell: That’s okay. We control their student loans. We’ll jack those rates up to 20% and make them our Republican slaves. They won’t be able to afford to go to the polls. That will fix them. They’re the ones who voted for Obama in the first place. But we fixed them, din’t we Johnny? Because we won! We really won.

Boehner: So next Tuesday we take down Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Thursday we’ll nail Obamacare if they Supreme Court can’t do their job and then we’ll rub out the minimum wage so that people can get back to work just like Michelle Bachmann said. I miss that girl, don’t you?

McConnell: Did you hear her family got in a big fight?

Boehner: That was Sarah Palin’s family John. But just think! She could have been the Vice President, or even the President if McCain had kicked. Wouldn’t that have been something?

McConnell: It almost makes you want to cry.

john_boehner8-620x412Boehner: Almost. But I’m a little dehydrated. So don’t make me do that.

McConnell: Well, let’s drink to our success then! And see you on the other side of Obama. Let’s go get him!

Boehner: Heck yeah! Go Red Team!