On the real root and purpose of conspiracy theories

 

dick-cheneyThere’s an entire library of YouTube videos about the idea that former Beatle Paul McCartney died in a car wreck in 1966. The theory goes like this: Paul died back then, but a suitable replacement was found, now known as Faul McCartney, who filled in for the dead Beatle the rest of the years.

That means Faul McCartney wrote the Sgt. Pepper album with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. He created those iconic songs on the White Album too, including a teasing imitation of the Beach Boys in Back In the U.S.S.R.

Then came the album Abbey Road, concluding with a set of signature guitar riffs in which each guitar-slinging Beatle took turns cranking out solos to wind up the record, and the band.

The “last” album Let It Be was a confab of pseudo-live performances in which Paul (or Faul, as the conspiracy goes) and John did not get along so well. There was all that Yoko stuff to resolve. And whether John was happy or not. Then came the breakup, and the band members went separate ways. Paul (or Faul) then wrote one of the most brilliant love songs ever composed in Maybe I’m Amazed. Then came all the Wings material and solo projects. Recordings with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. So many productive years.

Yes, Paul McCartney turned out some banal tunes as well. At his sappiest, he can be hard to take. But clearly there was genius at work. That mix of show tune sass and happy melodies lines up pretty clearly with the early Beatles stuff. Paul always wrote like Paul McCartney.

Yet the conspiracy theories about Paul’s death persist. All are based on interesting conjecture, and if you slip down the rabbit hole you might find yourself questioning your own beliefs about Paul McCartney. Paul talked about the conspiracies several times during his career.

Man on the moon

There are also conspiracy theories suggesting the Apollo space missions to the moon were faked. And Lord knows there are multiple theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Most recently the theory that the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job” have occupied the attention of many conspiracy theorists. There are also some that claim Israel pulled off the appearance of terrorist attacks. Or that Saudi Arabia actually funded the Saudi men who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers and managed to bury one low and fast into the side of the Pentagon.

Looking back at the origin of conspiracy theories is helpful to understand why some persist and grow. Suspicion of authority and fear of forces beyond knowledge or control of the common man are the principle drivers.

The Kennedy assassination

One can see where such fears arise. When the life of John F. Kennedy came to such an abrupt and violent end, it was proposed that a lone shooter accomplished the deed. That story beggars the imagination because the odds were slim and the evidence suspicious that Kennedy had been shot only from behind. A great many investigators and scholars have looked at the lone gunman theory since, as well as evidence that Kennedy’s body was secreted to an Air Force one plane where doctors performed some sort of half-assed surgery on the back of the President’s head. Normal processes of local jurisdiction over the body were ignored, and medical protocols abandoned. These are no longer conspiracies but bald facts of history. A series of very suspicious events too place that day. Whether we will ever know the source or true sequence of those events is a challenge for the ages.

Personally, I believe there were too many forces angry and determined to end the Kennedy reign for something evil not to happen. That’s not a big stretch of imagination or even a conspiracy theory. Kennedy threatened the CIA and the Mob at the same time. What do you get when you take a stand like that? You get yourself killed, that’s what. There are people in those organizations who don’t look at the world the same way as the rest of us. They rather proudly claim their lack of innocence is the true insight.

The Reagan debacle

One could argue the true conspiracy theorist are not people in the public trying to figure all this stuff out. They are the people who willingly commit illegal acts and try to hide them. Such was the case with the Iran-Contra affair during the administration of Ronald Reagan. Even Reagan seemed ignorant and innocent of the activities of his own staff, who traded arms for money to fund clandestine operations in a foreign country. Those convicted of those acts have gone on to brag about their conspiratorial ways. Some, such as Oliver North, have claimed even a higher purpose than the national interest, crediting God for their actions.

Of course, they are delusional in this regard. But when you turn around and add up the number of leading figures killed over the last six decades, it makes you wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes.

For example: was the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. just a coincidence of history, or were people afraid of his message behind his assassination? Was Bobby Kennedy just part of the domino effect of that era, or was assassination considered a legitimate way to conduct “national business” by those determined to impose or protect their own worldview?

KKK and company

We can look to the parallel actions of other conspiratorial organizations to determine if such mainstream conspiracies are possible. The actions of the Klu Klux Klan demonstrate the determination of white racists to impose their will on society. That conspiratorial organization got away with multiple murders and many members of society tolerated, even encouraged those actions.

So murderous conspiracies are not only possible. They are common. There was a clear conspiracy by the Bush administration to use the excuse of the 9/11 tragedy to invade Iraq. False links were suggested between the regime of Saddam Hussein and the terrorists reputed to have carried out the attacks in America. America’s so-called intelligence about weapons of mass destruction was exaggerated and even falsified to trump up the cause for war against Iraq. General Colin Powell has publicly admitted that this was the case. But in trying to be a team player, he made the case that America should go to war. He did so because the Bush administration was trying to make the case that threats in the Middle East were sufficient to cause a threat to our overall national security.

Suspicions 

These facts of phonily constructed links between one cause and another have made many Americans suspicious that the events leading up to the Iraq war were suspicious. Many have studied the ups and downs of the terror attacks on 9/11 and contend the 9/11 Commission Report is itself a falsehood in being both massively underfunded and poorly researched.

Even the literal pile of evidence (the tower debris) that would have enabled a close study of possible terrorist activities or bombs set up inside the buildings was carted away before anyone had the ability to inspect the rubble for explosives or other methods that might have made those towers fall to the ground so directly.

Admit it: One cannot look at the video of both towers falling straight down to the ground in free fall fashion, and not consider whether they were set up to be demolished. It happened so quickly and with such clarity the effect was one of calculated demolition.  The structure known at Building 7 was not even struck by a plane on 9/11, and had hardly any structural damage at all. Yet it fell straight down into itself like a child’s play blocks.

There is simply no possible manner in which the entire structure in any of these cases was so completely compromised. Never in the history of the human race has even one steel structure fallen in on itself as a result of building fires. There are numerous records of buildings burning with just as much heat and far longer than the towers ever burned. Yet these buildings still stood tall. Their steel did not melt. They did not fall straight down into themselves. And yet that happened not once, but three times in a row on 9/11. It’s really no longer a conspiracy that something else was going on that day in September, 2001.

And despite the fact that the Pentagon in the United States is the head of our military operations, the only video of the supposed plane crashing into the side of the building is a dodgy security camera clip in which the only object seen striking the Pentagon is a small white streak, and certainly not the size of a commercial aircraft.

Reasons why

All these strange half-truths sit out there, and may have no more credence than the belief that the Apollo mission never landed on the moon. That it was all faked in a studio. But for what reason?

That’s the difference. What reason would there be to fake a moon landing? To outpace the Soviets? They were already kicking our asses in space by then. We know they put satellites up there. We can see the evidence of that activity to this day in our telecommunications system. The Space Race was real. It had real and tangible benefits.

But the rush to war in Iraq was real too. It had real benefits to those who knew how to profit from the events proceeding from the 9/11 attacks. It’s particularly interesting to note that once the war effort was begun, President Bush admitted that he’d lost interest in pursuing Osama bin Laden, the purported architect of 9/11. He even took an opportunity at a press junket to joke about his lack of ability to find weapons of mass destruction. Bush was clearly, at some point, entirely baffled by the conspiratorial joke that his own presidency had become.

The Cheney factor

That is because men like Dick Cheney and the other warhawks in the Bush regime refused to be accountable for any of their actions. The use torture was exposed yet the administration refused to apologize. It made one wonder to what lengths the Bush clan would go to get what they wanted. With Black Sites set up around the world, our government was clearly operating in secret. People died at the hands of American soldiers, and a team of calculatingly cruel psychologists invented protocols to torture our supposed enemies. Never in the history of the United States had this type of behavior become known. Yet here it was in full daylight. And the Bushies were unapologetic.

To make matters worse, human life and our soldiers were clearly disposable pawns in our Middle East adventures. More than 4000 soldiers gave their lives fighting in Iraq. Yet that’s only a few more than the number of civilians who died in the 9/11/2001.

What is the demarcation in lives lost when someone conspires to wars for money and power? Is it a conspiracy to think that some people are so obsessed with power they will let nothing stop them from imposing their will on the world? Have there been other zealots in history that have sacrificed human lives for domination?

A few names come to mind. Josef Stalin. Adolf Hitler. Mussolini. Emperor Showa of Japan. All from World War II of course. All threw millions of military and civilian lives into the maw of murderous history. Even America with its atomic bomb torched thousands of lives in an instant during the nuclear attack on Japan.

Numbers game

So we must not pretend that a few thousand lives were unimaginably destroyed through the events of 9/11. It is no conspiracy to think men and women capable of such things. Not all may be knowing in this conspiracy. That may be the workings of a very few, closely held, upon threat of death, if need be.

And people have died for trying to speak truth to these powers. Many people in fact, over the years. It’s not just one side of the political aisle, or the other. The number of people associated with Lyndon Baines Johson who died in the years leading up to his installation as President indicate the man would let nothing stand in his way of an ascent to power. Who is to say that even LBJ did not have something to do with the death of JFK? There was no love lost there at all. Yet LBJ went on to execute civil rights laws that the Kennedys would surely have approved. And so we are faced with the fact that even conspiracies can lead to good as well as evil.

What the Bible says about the human capacity for conspiracies

If we are to believe in books such as the Bible, it has always been the case that humankind engages in conspiracy. Such was the case with none other than Adam and Eve. And when their conspiracy was discovered, God booted them out of the Garden of Eden. Their lives became more complicated.

Then came Cain and Abel, and the hidden murder of one by the other.

Yet even God loves a conspiracy. This is evidenced by the secret pact he made with  Norah before the flood as well as the conspiratorial end of Sodom and Gomorrah with only Lot and his family surviving.

Even the supposed End of Time is a conspiracy of sorts. Despite so many attempts to predict its coming, the End Times are a mystery to the human race. But not without clues that a conspiracy of sorts is afoot. Consider: Habakkuk 2:3 “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”

Reality shift

When the World Trade Centers fell into themselves that day, all of reality seemed to shift. Some people said it felt like the end of the world was come. But like the Tower of Babel, these were only human structures, symbols of the commerce and arrogance of the world the human race has created.

The question is whether God had something to do with the fall of those stories, and  if it was some sort of eternal signal or indictment of the American Way. Or was it just the product of human beings choosing to play the role of God in arrogant imitation that served to throw the fear of God into people so that they could be manipulated to man’s purpose.

We must consider who could be behind such conspiracies, and if they claim to express the will of God. As reported in The Guardian, Bush indeed believed he was an instrument of God: Mr. Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said:

“President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”

Mr Bush went on: “And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East’. And, by God, I’m gonna do it.”

Mr Bush, who became a born-again Christian at 40, is one of the most overtly religious leaders to occupy the White House, a fact which brings him much support in middle America.”

It appears that in some cases, the real conspiracy is not whether people are capable of committing atrocious acts against their fellow human beings, but whether they are capable of doing them in the name of God. And believing them righteous in the process. That is the greatest, and most dangerous, conspiracy theory of all.

 

 

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The April Fool’s joke that really has to end, because it’s no longer funny

masks-happy-sad-copy

Today is April 1st, otherwise known as April Fool’s Day. And while driving around to appointments, I flipped my radio station to an AM station.AM 560 is the Chicago version of Fox News on conservative crack. The host was talking about John Kasich, a candidate for the Republican nominee for President, and going on about how little Kasich actually knows about the Muslim religion. “But even if he doesn’t know a thing, I’ll still vote for him over any Democrat and four more years of downward spiral and Hillary Clinton making nominees for the Supreme Court.”

And I thought, “He can’t be serious. This is like an April Fool’s joke. Exactly where is this supposed “downward spiral” he’s talking about? Employment is down to 5%. In March the economy added 215,000 new jobs. Gasoline is down around $2.00 per gallon. America’s energy future is more secure than it has been in two decades. Yes,

Yes, the health-care “industry” is in flux due to competitive issues between insurers and providers. Republicans blame Obamacare, but that’s a joke too. Rates on insurance premiums rose 12% per year under all eight years of the Bush regime. If anything, the American healthcare scene now resembles the Hockey Stick model of global warming made famous several years ago by Al Gore. Healthcare is overheating not because of Obamacare, but due to the accelerating demands for wide profit margins from three distinct sources; insurance companies, healthcare providers and the pharmaceutical giants who keep jacking prices for everyday drugs and refuse to allow the government any negotiation powers to keep costs under control.

The joke of the claim that Obamacare caused these problems is that healthcare was pointing toward an overheated dynamic long before Obamacare came along. The plain fact is that Republicans ignored these issues all eight years of control under Bush. That’s not a product of insight or even prudence. But it is evidence of denial, and possibly corruption of purpose wrought by political paybacks and campaign support to buy off politicians from doing their job of regulating an overheated industry. Conservatives proceeded on the canon that healthcare economics if left alone would take care of themselves. Or God would step in. And what an April Fools joke that has turned out to be.

Because that’s what conservatives do best. Deny facts. They deny global climate change, and the theory of evolution, and any sort of metaphorical interpretation of the Bible (despite Jesus’ own use of metaphor in his teachings) in order to deny any sort of progressive viewpoint that leads to reformation. That’s true with environmental management, sustainable health care, or cultural equality. The conservative worldview is a pathetic, anachronistic joke.

And for the last eight years Republicans have been complaining that President Barack Obama is ruining the country. Or out to ruin the country. Or thinking about ruining the country. And all the while, the country has been on the rebound from the devastating effects of eight years of Republican “leadership” (denial by force) that spawned two costly wars, allowed terrorists to kill more than 3000 people on American soil, fostered torture, proved its inability to govern or be prepared for national emergencies during Hurricane Katrina, and crashed the economy through tax cuts and an overheated financial and mortgage industry that was “enjoying” a regulatory environment that was far too lax.

Yet the supporters of all that furious mess created by Bush and his conservative henchmen still insist that it is Barack Obama that has “ruined” the country.

So I came to a conclusion today. Modern conservatism nothing more than a protracted April Fool’s prank that has gone on too long. The Republican Party long ago lost sight of what the word “conservative” stands for at all. And let’s be honest: that’s what happens when a prank that really harms someone goes on too long. Then it becomes too difficult to admit you were the perpetrator. Admitting even one shred of responsibility exposes the massive involvement. So Republicans have behaved like a bunch of guilty frat boys who killed the School Mascot Goat by stuffing its front end with too many beers and its back end with too many sexual innuendos. Now they rally around the original concept of Reaganism (the School Mascot) and laugh off the consequences. They seem to have no shame and embarrassment at the pain and transfer of wealth their joke has wrought. “Can’t you take a joke?” they all seem to be saying. “And it’s your fault actually. You’re the one who let us near the goat in the first place.”

At this point it’s quite clear the joke is actually on them. Conservatives are freaking out because the King of April Fool’s is their leading candidate for the Republican nomination. The joke got out of hand quite quickly during this presidential campaign. The man with the orange face and a massive combover should have been an obvious warning that the Republican movement has become a joke. At one point their leading candidate stood up to say, “I could shoot people in the street and people would still keep voting for me.”

Or something like that. He does not truly care what he says. This April Fool does not even appear to believe anything he says. He only talks to generate controversy, then accuse the media of his own foibles. He is a massively painful prank foisted on conservatives, who wondered early on if he was indeed a serious candidate at all, or just a funny prank played by future President Hillary Clinton to destroy the Republican Party.

In any case, it is working. Those other serious jokesters Ted Cruz and John Kasich are the only prankster left on the campaign trail with the orange clown winning the prank race for the nomination. To prove the point this is all a ruse, Cruz even quoted lines from a movie about a liberal president as a means to defend the honor of his own wife, who was accused of being ugly and potentially a slut by the orange candidate whose only goal is to trump the truth with false rumors and underhanded practical jokes.

This is the April Fool’s joke that has to end. The Republican “platform”, cobbled together as it is by from disparate purposes in social, fiscal, political and religious conservatives, is the biggest joke ever perpetrated in the modern era. The four factions cannot possibly be reconciled if a person puts an inch of thought into it. True Christianity theology simply does not abide with laissez-faire capitalism. And social conservatives seeking to control the cultural dialogue are in direct opposition to political conservatives who want less government.

The entire conservative movement is a farce. A practical joke concerned only with power and control of the cultural narrative. And if people continue to support this farce, the joke is on them. April Fools, everyone. Are you one of them?

 

The only thing that isn’t fake

Somehow I stumbled on this propagandistic video about Dr. Ben Carson, a Republican candidate for President of the United States. I found the video stunningly obvious in its structure and production values. Then when I looked at the comments, they all seemed manufactured. And as you’ll see if you visit the comments section, I asked the people who commented if they were fake.

Turns out they’re real people. Sort of. Which surprised me a little. But the nature of their comments and the banal, surface level responses to the video still strike me as very fake. In other words, I have my suspicions whether these particular self-described  “millennials” are “real” in the sense that they are not paid for their comments on the video.

Listen, public relations in the video age is a highly crafted art designed to sway public opinion. But the one thing that isn’t fake in this video is how patently disconnected from reality Dr. Ben Carson truly seems. Now understand, I voted for Barack Obama twice, and I am proud of both of those votes. So this is not some hidden racial meme or dog whistle call to sink the lone black candidate on the Republican side.

Personally I’d love to see a conservative black candidate succeed. If someone in America can proceed with an agenda that delivers on ways to acknowledge and value the contributions of black Americans to society, I’m all for it.

Basic coherence

But Ben Carson is not the guy I’d like to see running our country. That’s a disturbing thought. His inability to proceed on any subject with consistency or even basic coherence is a problem. His mental health has even been raised as an issue.

Right away, Internet resistance was raised against the idea of calling Dr. Ben Carson mentally ill. This was one of the points of contention: “There is nothing, I repeat nothing, that rises to the level of evidence of a diagnosable behavioral pathology cited by Palmer. And yet, the piece plays into the all too readily accepted narrative that any person with whom we disagree on a vitally important issue must be a flawed, damaged, and ethically compromised human being.”

Get help

Here’s the difficult part in all this. For people experiencing the effects of mental illness, the most important thing anyone can do is to help them get help.

Many years ago a friend and runner from another community near my hometown was experiencing the first stages of a mental illness that would come to dominate his life. He showed up at our school with a bag of bread and tracked me down in the hallway. “I’m feeding the foxes on the bridge,” he told me. The foxes on the bridge were made of bronze.

Later this fellow went on to become an individual All-American runner. But he did so by engaging in some extreme behavior, training up to 250 miles per week as preparation for racing just 5 miles in cross country competitions. One could make a compelling observation that to this young man, the only thing that didn’t seem fake in his world was his running. Because after college his mental illness took on a different form, making it difficult for him to function in work and other activities. He did get help but as his mental illness progressed, even medications could not harness some of the delusional qualities manufactured by his brain. But the fact that he got help was the most important aspect of his particular journey. Without that, he likely could have harmed himself or others.

Because I had another running friend that tried to take his own life. And we all know that with accessibility to guns, people in that mental condition can certainly harm others.

And so can politicians whose mental state gravitates to extremes.

Loving the extremes

I think there’s a compelling case to make that for some people, politics is both their sport and their passion. And just like my friend with mental illness who ran 250 miles a week just to compete in a five-mile race, there are people with a propensity to go to extremes in an effort to make their point, and create a reality in which they feel more alive.

In fact I’ll argue there are many people in politics who think their extreme views are the only thing that feels real in this world. That’s how we’ve gotten the long list of extremists running for the Republican nomination. And there’s little doubt that on some days, men like Donald Trump talk and act a little insane.

We also know there have been plenty of zealous religious believers whose obsession with the end of the world has led to manic predictions and even death rituals. Entire cultures get caught up in these visions, as much of the world did with the y2K obsession.

Making it real

scary-romney_debate_angryThere are high-level officials here in America whose obsession with a Zionist vision of Israel have made them hunger for war in the Middle East, and Armageddon, which might bring on the apocalypse. So there is both inherent and operative insanity at work in this world.

Sometimes, and to some people, the only thing that isn’t fake is either that reality is out to get them or there is an opportunity through politics to create a reality that suits their particular brand of economic or cultural prejudice. That explains the KKK, the Third Reich and the threat we call ISIS in a nutshell. These are people pissed off to the point of world domination. And they’re everywhere.

Haters and baiters

We see people who hate the rich and we find people who despise the poor. We see people who fear for the climate because of human activity and we see people who think that no one but God can alter a single thing about the world.

It’s the longtime struggle between the willingness to change and the fear that change will ruin everything. The very state of the human condition is one of madness in dealing with his dichotomy. When people say things like, “The world has gotten crazy,” this is what they’re talking about.

And when we selectively view politicians such as Dr. Ben Carson or Bernie Sanders, we see them through very different eyes as a result. Both are obviously passionate people. Both are struggling to change the status quo. There are people who call both of them crazy. And there are people who take the bait.

Hard-liners

Businessman Matt Bevin Challenges Senate Minority Leader McConnell In Primary ElectionExtremism is a byproduct of trying to make sense of this dichotomy. People simply choose sides and gravitate to the far ends of the spectrum. Standing somewhere between the will to change and fear of change is known as being a moderate. But those voices can barely be heard over the screams of the extremes.

Perhaps more commonly, people choose candidates who represent their views or fears, and somehow Dr. Ben Carson has attracted a fair number of followers. But what creeps me out about the guy is not his potential mental illness. It is crazy ideological statements such as this: “No body with bullet holes is more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” And granted, that might be some form of hyperbole. Even Jesus Christ was known to exaggerate to make a point. But there’s no way Jesus Christ would equate the right to bear arms as more important than human life. So I think Ben Carson is the one that’s talking crazy talk.

And statements like those are why Ben Carson deserves to be scrutinized from every perspective possible. Because they evidence that fact that when it comes to issues of moral gravity, Ben Carson is either a fake, or he’s purposely faking it. Which is even more disturbing. Because what is his true agenda? No one can really know for sure when the “real” statements he makes cannot be separated from the supposedly playful manner in which Carson takes issue with serious social issues.

Fox News “reality” show

Consider that even in the cloistered environment of Fox News, where conservative viewpoints like Carson’s are cherished and promoted, things get strange when talking about standing your ground during a mass shooting or running away.

As reported on Salon.com: “On “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning, he (Carson) said that “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’” When asked about the remarks by ABC News later that day, he repeated his assertion with a smile, which Kelly said many people would take as an evidence of callousness. (italics by the author)

Carson disagreed, saying that “I was laughing at them, at their silliness. Of course if everybody attacks that gunman, he’s not going to be able to kill everybody.”

Actual military veterans who were armed and on the campus while the shooting occurred didn’t abide by the dictates of Carson’s assured tactical acumen, but that’s beside his point. “If you sit there and let him shoot you one-by-one,” Carson said, “you’re all going to be dead.”

This is a man operating in an imaginary world, where his ideology rules the day, and reality be damned. That’s why people are questioning his mental fitness. It’s not because he’s a conservative. Or he’s black. Or any other reason. He simply refuses to make sense.

“Getting” Carson and Cain

Some claim that he’s so smart the rest of the world doesn’t “get” Ben Carson..because he’s a brain surgeon, you know. And a Christian, apparently. And who knows what else?

Well, the Republican Party keeps trotting out ostensibly conservative black guys as evidence they “get” the needs of so-called minorities.

Herman Cain was the last iteration of this brand of conservative, running on grounds that people did not “get” his message. But he had other axes to grind as well. “I honestly believe that there’s an element in this country, in our politics, that does not want to see a businessman succeed at getting the nomination for the Republican party, and does not want me to succeed at becoming President of the United States of America.”

Well, now that’s a bit of news isn’t it? How many millionaires do we now have in Congress? And why does Wall Street throw millions of dollars behind candidates like Mitt Romney, the businessman and massively callous job-killer whose main professional accomplishments were delivering profits to shareholders? Or Donald Trump, an erstwhile businessman who now leads Republican polling?

But Cain was delusionally obsessed with his inability to convince people he was right. So he blamed others.

Blame and shame

john-boehner2-1024x780Again, the methods of extremists are always to blame others for their failure to get elected, or to govern. Right now the brother of the former President of the United States of America, candidate Jeb Bush, is busy denying that his brother GWB bore any responsibility for preventing the attacks.

This is mental illness as a political ideology. This is imagined reality superimposed on reality. This is why extremists and political ideologues such as Dick Cheney and perhaps Dr. Ben Carson cannot be trusted. They made not be mentally ill, but they certainly act like it. And that’s the only thing about them that isn’t fake.

The height of arrogance and the depth of denial

DSCN1904The Republican propensity for denial of responsibility and grasp of fact is now so revered among the party’s elite it has become the first tool of response to any challenge.

The most recent denial of fact is the Republican claim that their last President of the United States was not, in fact, actually the President when the 9/11 tragedy took place. The initial volley about the issue came from none other than Donald Trump, ostensibly the Republican leading the polls among conservatives. This is what Trump said about George W. Bush and his responsibility for 9/11.

“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump said. “He was President, okay? Don’t blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign,” Trump replied. ”

O Brother

Those simple facts did not set well with Jeb Bush, another Republican hopeful who has repeatedly claimed that his brother George “kept us safe.”

He may have been referring to the idea that no additional foreign terror attacks took place during the remaining years of the Bush presidency. But as noted, Trump was having none of that nonsense.

This harsh divide manifested in Trump’s domineering approach to criticism breaks with the Republican tradition of attacking only the opposition and not criticizing their own. That has been the presiding, if not perfect, strategy behind the Republican push for power over several decades. There may be ugly fights behind the scenes among Republicans, but the goal has always been to keep those spats private.

Breaking the rules

Trump is not playing by any of those rules, and as a result, is not really running for the Republican nomination so much as he is forcing the party to reform itself around this meme of gaining power at all costs. Even by Trump’s standards, that means leaving the rest of the nasty baggage behind. This could be the ironic salvation of Republicanism, if not the Republican Party itself.

See, the tradition of denying its own failures has both a benefit and a cost. Sooner or later you get to the obvious and well-documented parts of recent history, and you must deny even these to continue on the path toward power. The denials launch from the dusty calls of legislatures and courts on Constitutional matters to exploding buildings and wars started by sitting Presidents who stretched the truth to justify their ideology and their actions. In other words, you can only win by breaking every rule of conscience and truth.

Trumped at their own game

That’s what Trump is calling to account, and Jeb Bush has put his image of brotherly love and political credibility on the line, deciding to throw his support behind his brother’s claims of success rather than confont the facts, which point to a massive failure in intelligence, both gathered and native, by his apparently dimwit brother.

Yes, George W. Bush did some stupid things, and Donald Trump is having nothing to do with making excuses for what he perceives as the dumbing down of recent history. What we’re witnessing in real time is the height of arrogance and the depth of denial running the Republican Party. Their grasp of reality isn’t just slipping away, it is gone entirely.

Denial as a worldview

IMG_5827Republicans also deny the science behind global climate change on claims it is arrogant to think human beings could ever cause such a massive shift in the earth’s foundational temperatures.

Look at how that works. The GOP hates Al Gore for his claim that global climate change is, to quote a phrase, “An Inconvenient Truth.” So by directing their anger toward Al Gore they accomplish two things. Poor Al tends to come off as arrogant in his general demeanor, which makes him an ideal target for Republican denial of fact. They use him to deflect the factual arrogance of denying 97% of the world’s climate scientists who find tons of evidence that our current pattern of rising temperatures and warming oceans is a result of human activities.

But think about what’s happening here. If it is possible to deny the fact that 9/11 happened under the watch of George W. Bush, denying the complex and scientifically predicted influence of climate change is simple by comparison. The height of arrogance and the depth of denial work together fantastically in the propaganda-driven mode by which the Republican Party communicates.

In other words

As a result, terms like “sustainability” and “gun control” become catchphrases and buzzwords of resistance in the party of denial. These terms bespeak change in favor of temperance and planning, which are translated as government intervention by the party with a professed aversion for government even as it seeks total dominance over the three branches of jurisdiction; the Presidency, legislature and the courts.

This is the height of arrogance and the depth of denial at its most sinister level. To claim to hate the thing you want to rule is both an arrogance in purpose and a denial of responsibility.

Christian fakes

That’s what’s taking place on a grand scale here in America. The height of arrogance and the depth of denial also rules the brand of Christianity used to back Republican aims. The movement to wield the power of Christian faith in politics without abiding by the basic principles of Christianity is now 30-40 years old. Conservatives seeking to align their supply-side economics with biblical authority conveniently ignore the call to divest themselves of wealth in favor of spiritual governance. As a result, churches feel free to politicize and make the claim that you cannot be both liberal (ne: a Democrat) and a Christian.

Running interference

It’s no surprise that the inconvenient truth of science, especially the theory of evolution, interferes with this narrative that a fundamentally literal interpretation of the Bible is the only way to gain truth. This also denies the fact that Jesus taught using metaphors drawn from nature to explain important spiritual principles.

Donald Trump's proposed golf courseWhen pressed about his own faith and love for the Bible, Donald Trump ripped a page right out of the Republican playbook with this statement: “I wouldn’t want to get into it. Because to me, that’s very personal,” he said. “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

Again, the height of arrogance and the depth of denial is at work.

Twitterized

But not everyone buys this brand of junk. Using his own quotes and philosophy, folks on Twitter took after Trump (and by proxy, all of RepublicanLand) with a feed called #TrumpBible. Take a look at how they handed Trump his stupid hat.

It’s time we all got a bit wiser about how this game of arrogance and denial really works. No one should get away with stupid remarks like Jeb Bush claiming his brother was not responsible for 9/11, or the partnered meme that Bush was not even President when it happened nine months after he was installed as President.

The sad fact is that so many people prefer the height of arrogance and the depth of denial. It fulfills their worldview on many fronts, exonerating them from responsibility for painful social issues such as gun violence, racism and economic exploitation. Let’s be honest and hold these people accountable. Stop letting your friends and conservative associates turn bald-faced denials and unaccountable arrogances into something resembling fact.

Donald Trump is just the starting point. He symbolizes the so-called anger expressed by so many Americans, and for all the wrong reasons. Denial is not a form of government. It is the absence of governance, and an entire lack of conscience.

Don’t let them get away with it. Call them out. The height of arrogance and the depth of denial is exactly what is killing American hopes and a future fit for all.

We’ve reached the point where some people are too Christian to function

mean-girls-1In that cinematic pillar of conscience titled “Mean Girls” starring a still-functional Lindsay Lohan, there is a marvelous scene in which the male homosexual character (Damian) in the movie is the subject of commentary by some of his close friends. “He’s almost too gay to function,” someone says.

What that means is that his gayness places so much emphasis on consideration of fashion, behavior and grooming it is almost impossible to move around in the world for fear of breaching some gay standard.

Yes, gays have standards. Plenty of them in fact. If you ever stumbled on the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, you might have witnessed the transformation for formerly slobbly, careless men into creatures that actually knew how to dress and groom themselves so that women (not men) would be attracted to them.

Yet there are no cliches that apply to all gay men or women. The large population of gay and transgender people is this world is too large and diverse to make generalities about.

We can be thankful that society is beginning to appreciate the contributions of gay people to professions and industries of all types. That’s because the last 20 years have produced an increasing openness about homosexuality.

Of course this trend has been resisted by those who still view homosexuality as a lifestyle or a choice rather than what it is: a manifestation of the biological, emotional and psychological diversity found in the human species.

But because there are scriptures that single out homosexuality as a sin, some people take those words verbatim and claim that there is no way society can tolerate or accept homosexuality in any way, shape or form. Some scholars such as Bishop John Shelby Spong have made the case that the Apostle Paul was actually a repressed homosexual. Repression never seems to come out well. It’s a highly dysfunctional aspect of social frabz-lisa-biron-zealot-christian-lawyer-for-antigay-alliance-defense--16e4e7behavior. Often it turns out those most opposed to a social issue are those who struggle with some other form of repression in themselves.

They are too repressed to function.

Now that brand of confrontation is coming to a head. The Supreme Court of the United States is considering cases pertaining to gay marriage. Never mind that the Constitution already states that religion has no say in the matter. The guarantee in the Establishment Clause says it clearly: the nation shall make no law establishing religion as the law of the land, nor preventing its free exercise.

Some people insist that second section of the clause proves the right to oppose and repress the right to gay marriage. They claim it imposes restriction on their beliefs.

It so happens that conservative Christians also claim that teaching evolution in public schools is also a breach of their beliefs.

Yet how convenient it is that there are Christians out there preaching a prosperity Gospel on claims that God wants us all to be rich! Well, the Bible is full of indictments on the worship of money. So which is the truth?

Meanwhile the Catholic Church has for decades banned use of birth control among its members. Yet some 90% or more of its members ignore this dictum.

See, there’s this problem with Christianity and the functionality of society. Since there is no single interpretation of the Bible accepted by all Christians, it is impossible to make exceptions for all variations in interpretation of the Bible. Otherwise we would not have national holidays or even celebrate Christmas according to some branches of Christianity. We would all be forced to consider the strictures laid out in a set of golden plates if the Church of Latter Day Saints were to have its way as well.

That is why the Founding Fathers made plain that no religion can define the activities of the nation or state. They knew that people become too Christian to function at some point. Unable to distinguish between their personal beliefs and the law of the nation, they too often choose to impose their personal beliefs and concepts of God on others, sometimes forcefully.

Christianity really is too Christian to function as the law of the land.

How the Republican Party will blame liberals for climate change

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

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

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

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

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

Predictable outcomes

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

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

Falling away from God

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

Murderous ways

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

Shame and blame

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

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

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

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

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

The Advent of Meta Christianity

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

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

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

Big Dogs

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

Voting blocs

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

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

Conventions

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

Manifestos

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

End Times

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

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

Science of denial

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

Rightward ho!

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

Dead Ends

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

F the Establishment Clause

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

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

Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker would love to punt us all

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

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

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

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

Shallow depths

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

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

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

Not fit for office

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

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

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

Cognitive dissonance on science

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

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

The Bible tells me so

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

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

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

Pandering for power

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis shoots down the conservative worldview

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

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

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

Patent ideology

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

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

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.

Are abortion opponents blaming government for their own failures?

A Word Cloud formed from a National Review email on abortion legislation. Click to view large.

For 25 years our family held membership in a conservative branch of the Lutheran Church. My wife was raised in a family that had been longtime members of that denomination, so we continued our membership in a church of that background near our hometown.

We got married and the baptized our children at that church. The pastor was a wise, theologically astute man who once delivered a sermon titled “Jesus: The ultimate liberal, do-gooder and bleeding heart.” We loved that man for his spirited advocacy for the true heart of scripture. The congregation built around his ministry was full of compassionate people with concern for others and a truly generous worldview. We are still friends and socialize with many of those families, but we left the church more than a year ago to attend a church that better fits our mainstream evangelical Lutheran theology.

Back when the beloved pastor who married us retired to become pastor emeritus, the church went through a series of fitful adjustments to the interim leadership brought in by the synod. The result was that the ideology and theology delivered from the pulpit became increasingly conservative and rigid. Through it all my wife and I kept asking ourselves, and others, does it have to be like this? But we hung in there. For years. And years. Because we loved the people who attended the church. Served on the Board. Sang in the choir. Confirmed our two bright kids and set them off in life.

We had 6 different pastors during that period. The one who finally settled in for a series of years is a good man who ministers to everyone in the best way he can. But he is most definitely a died-in-the-wool product of the very conservative synod where he attended seminary.

For example:

  • This synod does not accrue leadership rights to women in the church. Women cannot serve communion or be elders.
  • The synod passes down opinions on social subjects such as evolution (they believe it’s false) homosexuality (a sin, no questions asked) and abortion.

Recently I was asked to return to our former church to help lead the Praise Service as two of the lay-leaders were out of town. I gladly accepted and rehearsed with the singers and band, and everything came off well. Someone even complimented my singing, which really surprised me. I know my limitations.

It was also Sanctity of Life Sunday, and I knew what that meant: A predictably intense lecture on the immoral consequences of abortion.

The service began with a video provided by Tony Perkins, here shown in a linked video challenging President Barack Obama on conception issues. Perkins is the same fellow who says that environmentalism can be directly linked to abortion as a conspiratorial attempt to control human population He views all these activities as signs that the Second Coming is imminent, and that worrying about the earth is frivolous compared to worrying about your soul. Perkins is a modern day zealot with a lot of axes to grind. His pre-service video was a testament to modern production values and a black-and-white position on abortion that Pro-Lifers love to embrace.

Following the video, the sermon called for church members to vote for politicians who support so-called “Pro-Life” issues and candidates. The service clearly skirted laws governing churches and politics. Basically the entire service from end to end was one long political ad.

The pastor concluded his sermon saying that he recognizes there are other issues of importance challenging America, including a $16 Trillion debt, a struggling economy and other issues. But he stood firm with his statement that abortion remains the most important of all political issues because it is a “matter of life and death.” And that, in a nutshell, is how so many conservatives become one-issue voters.

Pushing women aside to get to their wombs

The so-called Pro-Life argument seems to see no problem shoving women aside to accomplish one goal, and that is to ban abortions of all types.

The official Republican Platform is essentially unforgiving toward any form of abortion, even in pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Pro-Life advocates like Todd Akin have gone on record making absurd defenses of conceptions caused by rape and other unwanted pregnancies, insisting that women have natural defenses against pregnancies resulting from rape. No medical science has ever determined such capabilities. Yet the determined zealots of the anti-abortion lobby seem to feel no compunction in making up such miraculous tales to justify their ideology.

And as a result, the entire manner in which conservatives continue to pursue banning abortion turns out to be a miscarriage of faith, politics and common sense. Here’s why.

The reason why abortions must be and are now legal

The reason why abortions are legal is to provide safe access to medically-performed abortions to all women who may need that service. The right to determine the need for an abortion remains the province of a woman and her doctor. Anyone who believes in the limits of the power of government should agree that personal medical decisions of all kinds should be made by the individual, and the individual alone. Injecting various forms of moral codes, especially from the various religions in America, does not promise any sort of clear resolution. To choose one religion’s moral code over another is a clear case of establishment of state religion, which is clearly banned by the United States Constitution. It is remarkable therefore that the Republican party that claims to represent the rights of liberty for individual decision-making should choose to swing so far to the left on the abortion issue.

Relative to the law, however, the Pro-Life movement claims that millions of women are getting “abortions of convenience,” thereby flaunting the purpose a law designed to protect women from unsafe and medically unsupervised abortions, a practice that prior to the Roe vs. Wade case put many a woman’s health at risk.

But we certainly cannot count on the fact that banning abortion will prevent women from seeking them. That’s why the government acted to legalize abortions, to prevent harm to women.

Pro-Life proponents make the specious and notably non-conservative claim that government is actually responsible for the number of abortions now taking place in America. Conservatives love to claim on one hand that government is an ineffective method of managing culture and society, yet at the same time they blame government for its effectiveness in encouraging women to have abortions of choice.

Which is it? Is our government really responsible for the number of abortions in America, or has someone else abdicated their moral duties and turned around to blame government for their own failures? 

Let us consider an idea. How are Pro-Life conservatives doing at the job of convincing women not to get abortions? Pretty miserable, it seems. An estimated 22 million women now choose to get abortions each year. If the Pro-Life message is truly compelling and favored by God, it is evident that those who claim to represent the urgency of that message have to do a better job of reaching women.

Is Planned Parenthood more Pro-Life than the Catholic Church? 

As it turns out, the people who are helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies include organizations such as Planned Parenthood, who work closely with women across America to protect and manage their reproductive health. Planned Parenthood provides important services like birth control so that women are not put in a position of conceiving children they are not ready to have. That is a common sense approach to preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Yet this practical solution to cut down the number of abortions in America is notably resisted by conservative politicians and organizations such as the Catholic Church, who claim that birth control itself is immoral and against the teachings of the Bible.

It is telling that a reported 97% of Catholic women ignore the directives of their own church. So it appears the so-called moral authority of the Catholic church is a patristic anachronism to which women members really don’t pay attention.

And they shouldn’t. With the ready availability of functional, effective birth control that can easily prevent unwanted pregnancies, there is absolutely no moral justification for telling men and women they can’t use it. The even more disgusting alliance with conservative Republicans who have demonized women for wanting access to birth control is evidence of mysogyny, a literal hatred and fear of women and their bodies that is being legislated into the laws of America by people who ostensibly should know better.

What Would Jesus Do tell us to do about abortion?

The Christ of the Bible never relied on governmental authorities to do the work of his ministry and of God. He would find the prospect of blaming the government for the number of abortions in America an absurd idea.

Jesus called on his followers to use love and their own keen energies and talents to reach people in need of help and salvation. If today’s so-called conservatives came to Jesus with their complaints about law and the actions of government with relation to abortion, he would chastise them for failing to see the real source of the problem.

One can almost hear Jesus asking these modern-day Pharisees: “Is the government your God?”

“No!” the conservative politicians and religious believers would cry. “We answer only to God above!”

“Then serve your God, and go to the people in need. Reach the women of the world before they face the hard choices they are making. That is what God wants you to do.”

“But what of the law?” conservatives might answer. “If we have the law on our side, our job will be much easier!”

“What of the law, indeed?” Jesus would ask. “Are you not trying to use the law to make up for your own failures? Is that what God would have you do? Blaming government for your own failures is no path to heaven. Changing hearts rather than changing laws is your true calling.”