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.

 

 

Advertisements

There’s a bumper crop of hatred out there

By Christopher Cudworth

Fire HydrantOn my way to a business networking meeting this morning I took a shortcut through the neighborhood where I’d recently been hired to paint a fire hydrant for a community contest. The gentleman that paid me for the gig called to let me know that the fire hydrant I’d painted was one of the utilities scheduled for replacement. That meant the old fire hydrant was torn out and a new one installed. 

As I parked my car to take an iPhone picture of the new hydrant, the headlights of another car appeared in my rear view mirror. I snapped the photo as quickly as I could since I was parked in the middle of the street. Before I could put the phone away the vehicle behind me came ripping past at about 30 mph headed for Route 38 two blocks ahead. 

His vehicle got stopped by passing traffic. As I rolled up behind him at the intersection, the image on the bumper of his car caught my eye. It featured one of those bratty looking little kids taking a piss. The object of his aim was hard to read at first in the early light, but I held up my camera and tried to take a photo anyway. In light press-on letters the words FAGGOTS, LIBERALS, OBAMA, CHASE BANK were printed on the bumper.  

Piss on all those, I guess? 

Piss on faggots. Okay, we get that this guy doesn’t like gay people and prefers to refer to homosexuals by a derogatory name long since abandoned by most of civil society. 

Piss on Liberals. Okay, that could mean a lot of things. Many of the Founding Fathers were quite devout liberals, and our Constitution is by definition quite a liberal document focused on the guarantee and protection of civil rights. But piss on those too. 

Piss on Obama. Well well well. Perhaps this is getting to the core of things here. If this guy didn’t like gays and liberals, then a president that supports equal rights including those guaranteed for people of his own race, then piss on him too. 

Piss OnPretty consistent pissing so far, you might say. 

But then comes Piss On Chase Bank. Now that’s downright confusing unless your local Chase banker is a gay liberal who voted for Obama. That’s pretty hard to tell in your average teller. So the hatred for Chase must come from something deeper. Perhaps this guy is an Occupy Wall Streeter? That doesn’t make sense. Most of those folks are fairly liberal. Some people even call them socialists for seeking to have the banking industry actually abide by the existing regulations by which financial management is supposed to occur. 

The Chase is on

Interestingly enough, I had plenty of time to consider all these options as I entered traffic behind the Piss On Faggots, Liberals, Obama and Chase Bank guy. He happened to be turning the same direction as me at the next stop light. His vehicle next took a strange diagonal across the intersection. 

Another 6 blocks later his turn signal pointed where I was headed as well. This time he cut close to the curb on his turn and swung weirdly into the other lane before righting his car. I wondered if he was busy texting. Three blocks later he was turning left again, the same direction I was also headed. This time he nearly cut off the headlights of the car parked in the lane waiting to turn left. 

Perhaps he was a little spooked by now that I might be following him. He hit the gas hard through a neighborhood where I knew the speed limit was carefully monitored. The street cuts through a residential neighborhood rife with kids. Piss On Little Kids, I guess.

His frantic speed made me think that perhaps he’d seen me taking an iPhoto of his rather hateful bumper decoration and wanted to avoid any potential confrontation. But that was probably just my imagination working overtime. When he took off at high speed on the next right turn I literally gave him a wave goodbye. 

Can’t get no…no no no…

IMG_8609It struck me: What satisfaction could he possibly derive from driving his old Toyota around with that mean message on his bumper? When does one bend over and stick that little mean kid bumper sticker on there and then hand press the words FAGGOT, LIBERALS, OBAMA AND CHASE BANK onto one’s bumper? 

His satisfaction must come from expressing his hatred. Yet you can only hate so much before the satisfaction drawn from that hatred begins to drain out of you. Or perhaps he also spends nights on the Internet trolling liberal websites and posting racist or partisan comments about Obama. With a bumper crop of hatred out there perhaps it is true that the line between Blue and Red is permanent, inhumane divide. 

Human interest

Three out of four of the things Mr. Piss On claims to hate are actually human beings of one kind or another. His hatred of Chase Bank only qualifies as hatred for other human beings if you abide by the Mitt Romneyesque pandering ploy that “Corporations are people too, my friend…”

Frankly one wonders why the Piss On fellow limited his list of hated things to such a short list. Could he have not added Muslims to the list given the seemingly categorical partisan hatred of all things different than Christian, White, Straight and Republican in America. 

Piss On, Brother

As indicated by the intellectual gravity of the fellow with the Piss On logo, there’s a bumper crop of hatred out there. While people like me can and should admit our disgust with George W. Bush, and I’ve written at length and frequently about frustrations with the seeming lack of conscience in the modern (catch the irony) batch of conservative, I did not go to some truck store where they sell stickers of naughty little boys and mount them next to the words GOP or any other group of people with whom I might disagree. 

Liberals usually take the long way home and the long way around to express their opinions. Yes, there’s hatred being expressed from the liberal side as well, and I keep an eye out for liberal bumper stickers that cross the line. But you just don’t see many. Instead you might see that sticker that says COEXIST with all the religious symbols intermixed. 

What would Jesus piss on? 

But is it conservative or liberal to sport a bumper sticker that says KNOW JESUS. KNOW PEACE? That depends on how you interpret knowing Jesus, of course. Liberals would say you need to embrace the social justice aspects of his ministry and stewardship of the earth. Conservative Christians have claimed that knowing Jesus is the same as respecting God and Country. So there’s a critical divide based on interpretation of the very same words of the Bible. 

The scary part in all this is that some people might brand the list posted on the bumper of the Piss On vehicle a statement in keeping with Christian values. People who hate on homosexuals or even ‘love the sinner an hate the sin’ are effectively saying the same thing as “Piss On Faggots.” Either way the subject of the criticism is ostracized based on anachronistic interpretation of a very few bible passages. 

Going down the list, justifying conservative hatred for Obama opens some very sore wounds in America. He’s black, which opens up the entirely racist can of worms. He’s a Democrat and ostensibly a liberal, although people who disagree with his kid glove treatment of Wall Street bankers might argue with the lack of accountability demanded from financial interests that bent the law and bankrupted the country. 

Which brings us again to the very interesting subject of Chase Bank, one of the few massively large financial institutions deemed “too big to fail” lest our nation and our world economy go into turmoil. 

So our friend that wants to piss on Chase Bank either likes the bushes behind his local branch office or else he agrees with liberal economists that companies like Chase should have to straighten up and fly right or pay the penalty. 

But the question we have to ask from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian tradition is this: What would Jesus think of the Piss On bumper sticker and the hate it communicates?

Well, Jesus was not recorded as having said anything about homosexuality in the Bible. So the Piss On Faggots attitude is manufactured from something outside the words of the Son of God. 

And Jesus loved liberals because he loved himself, tender of the key liberal idea that all humans are deserving of equal rights. So that that, Mr. Piss On Liberals. Jesus thinks you suck. 

As for Obama, Jesus might call into question some of the things that Obama does. But taking steps to provide better health and human services is not one of them. Nor is protecting the environment against anthropogenic change (look it up if you don’t know what it means). And for all the hatred pointed at Obama by Tea Party Conservatives that “He’s a Muslim,” well, guess what? Jesus is a key figure in the Muslim tradition too. 

Was Jesus a greedy bugger? 

Meanwhile one of the biggest problems Jesus addressed in his ministry was the abuse of trust and love of money produced by those with greedy lack of conscience. And what do we find out there dominating conservative ideology these days? Crybabies whining about how the 1% are so persecuted.

Screeching politicians who owe their careers to political investors (you read that right…) are simply not going to behave in good conscience on behalf of the public when behind closed doors they have already shook hands and struck deals with the companies that own them. 

If Chase Bank is just a symbol for all that ugly greed, dismissal and manipulation of the social good for profit, then perhaps the Piss On guy might have a small point. 

But don’t tell him that, because he’s probably pretty sensitive about the size of his pointer, if you catch my drift. These hateful guys are always compensating for something, it seems. 

Nice hydrant, dude

Which brings us full circle to the whole reason I was parked along that road where the Piss On guy blew on past me and caught my attention with his angry, small-minded bumper sticker. 

The new fire hydrant I’m supposed to paint sticks much farther out of the ground than the original implement. That means it will make an even more inviting target for dogs to come along and piss on. I’ll be painting the new hydrant with that fact in mind. I plan to paint some targets with dog prints along the base. And I hope no dogs are offended. But that’s their business. 

Why the Catholic Church is quackers on natural law and same sex marriage

Cardinal Francis George, a Chicago-based Catholic bishop, may have had a natural order in mind when writing a letter to his flock of Illinois priests and parishioners stating that same sex marriage violates ‘natural law,’ but his viewpoint actually has little to do with how nature actually works. From the lowliest bacteria up to the supposedly highest life form on earth, the human race, natural law is a far more nuanced and intelligent dynamic than the narrow definition prescribed by Cardinal George.

Tending to the flock

Common Goldeneye ducks in a group of 3 males and one female.

Common Goldeneye ducks in a group of 3 males and one female.

In fact, all Cardinal George has to do on any day of the week to see the real natural order at work is step outside and look for a flock of ducks or geese. They’re everywhere you know; easy to find and even easier to understand. Geese and ducks travel around in flocks. And of course, some geese and ducks pair up and mate for life. We love to romanticize these connections. Yet by looking so closely at the male-female bonds that result in procreation for the species, we essentially neglect the dynamics that lead to the survival of the species as a whole.

No cardinal rules

It is well-known that in nature, pair bonding is hardly sacrosanct. In fact female cardinals have been studied and found to be secretive sluts around nesting time. They better their odds of creating and raising young by getting some action on the side.

Many birds and other species do the same. Breeding is a game of odds and in some cases, a brutal game of dominance and even death. It is important work, getting laid in nature. But it is not the only work that goes on in any population or species.

Flocks and colonies

When you study a flock of ducks or geese, there are always individuals and even groups that do not engage in breeding in a given year. Natural law dictates that not every individual is designed for breeding. Creep on down to the ant colony, the closest thing we have to human society in many respects, and you’ll find that natural law exhibits tremendous creativity in assigning roles to ants that protect the queen and have no sex. Ants that function as hunters, warriors, caregivers and builders of the colony. There are even pet ants, and ants that milk aphids for food.

Prosperity without marriage

There is no legal form of marriage, per se, among ants. Yet they are one of the most prosperous of all creatures on this earth. According to Hyptertextbook.com, they may be the most numerous of all insects, numbering nearly one quadrillion. There are an estimated 3.5 million ants per acre in the tropical rain forest alone. Ants are getting along just fine without legal protections against same-sex marriage. Procreation is not the problem in natural law.

7 billion and counting

There are nearly 7 billion people on earth. Not so many people as ants, perhaps, but that’s plenty of people. Human beings are very good at breeding, both in and out of wedlock. Yet a significant portion of the world seems to be concerned that the human race will go extinct if we break structure with a society that insists breeding is the only reason for marriage.

Not so fast

The Catholic church may have even that part of its theology wrong. The Bible in Genesis 1:28 states, “God blessed the humans by saying to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it! Be masters over the fish in the ocean, the birds that fly, and every living thing that crawls on the earth!”

If Genesis was indeed inspired by God, yet written by humans, then “natural order” naturally favors superiority of the human race. Yet to be “fruitful” also means many other things in the Bible, especially related to good works as documented in Colossians 1:10: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Fruitfulness in faith

Being fruitful in this world means more than breeding our way into power and dominance over the earth. The well-adjusted believer recognizes that fruitfulness means to prosper and create the Kingdom of God through humble recognition of grace and to embark on extensive good works as an expression of that commitment to faith.

Dimensions of natural law

The Bible understands natural law in more dimensions than those communicated by Cardinal George, who in seeking to limit legal access to same sex marriage stomps on the manner in which nature and the Bible both deliver wisdom about how the natural order actually operates.

Wrong again?

We should remember that the Catholic Church has been way, way wrong before on the subject of natural order and natural law. The Pope long ago convicted men of truth like Copernicus and Galileo for simply telling the truth about the structure of the universe. That’s a pretty big swing and a miss. The subject of evolution also vexed the church for a time, but it ultimately relented, recognizing the sheer evidence for biological change over time.

Fearful theology redux

The death grip of the Catholic Church may be its own limitation.

The death grip of the Catholic Church may be its own limitation.

Yet here we stand in 2013 listening to a Chicago-based Catholic bishop lecturing us about “natural law” by building his case on a fearful theology that insists the world will collapse if we don’t stick with so-called traditional interpretations of scripture. The Catholic church seeks to retain a death-grip on its social influence, but may be captive to its own aims.

Tellingly, Cardinal George engages in the same sort of twisted legalistic stances that drove the Pharisees to castigate Jesus for allowing his disciples to break with traditions kept by the Jewish faith. That very sort of fear-based power-mongering was what Jesus came to eliminate. Jesus advocated the freedom to worship God without binding believers to a set of laws designed to qualify those same believers as worthy of grace. The Catholic church has never really been able to free itself from the strictures of the early priesthood. There is either form of direct descent from the Pharisees visible in the power structure of the Catholic church or there is convergent evolution at work. And how ironic, that the natural order of a corrupt church could manifest itself repeatedly over time? That is what the Catholic church needs to address.

Desperate purposes

Listen to the arguments of Cardinal George and you’ll find the same desperation in purpose, which is to control the lives of believers and the direction of society at any cost. This is what George said about same-sex marriage: “We will all have to pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race,” he wrote. “Those who continue to distinguish between genuine marital union and same-sex arrangements will be regarded in law as discriminatory, the equivalent of bigots.”

This argument is no longer about natural law at all, but how the Catholic Church and its members will be perceived if it again winds up on the wrong side of history. The Catholic Church is never really good at defending that kind of position. Its brand of serpentine logic, obsessed with reaching every corner of society, always twists around to bite itself in the ass. And that is not natural at all.

Fundamental good

As noted in a Chicago Tribune article on January 2, 2013, “in the tradition of natural law, every human being must seek a fundamental “good” that corresponds to the natural order to flourish. Natural-law proponents say heterosexual intercourse between a married man and a woman serves two intertwined good purposes: to procreate and to express a deep, abiding love. For that reason, they say, homosexual relationships are not equal to heterosexual ones.”

One can see the reason why Cardinal George cites natural law as the foundation of his argument against same-sex marriage. But truthfully, the reason the church turns to natural law for support has nothing to do with its inherent or intuitive knowledge of natural order––on which it has been grossly and repeatedly mistaken over time–– so much as it fears its own lack of eminence on any biblical or social issue. That is the worst fear of the Catholic church, because it fears it will have failed Jesus Christ in its mission.

Fear: the worst motivator

Yet this fear of admitting wrong in its actions and theology has plagued the Catholic church for years, which protects its authority against all threats, even those that come from within.

The social record of the Catholic church lacks credibility from the inside out, because it has proven itself to be the most insecure of all faiths, failing even in its mission to protect its own parishioners against priests engaging in child sexual abuse.

That “tradition” within the church deserves castigation because those “relationships” between priests and innocent children are not elective in any form, but are the product of an abusive and selfish dynamic where the power is clearly in the hands of one individual only.

The peace and goodwill of same-sex marriage

By contrast, same-sex relationships are consistently consensual and designed, dare we say, to provide support and social order for people who are homosexual, bisexual, transgender and whatever configuration nature deems to invent, and has. That is the real natural order of the universe. The Bible is not even clear on the topic of homosexuality save for a passage or two blown far out of proportion by religious bigots who simultaneously ignore hundreds of warnings against abuse of power, exploitation of the poor, pursuit of riches over good works, failure to forgive and dozens of other values expressly addressed by Jesus Christ, who significantly refuses to mention homosexuality anywhere in his ministry.

Selective service

The Catholic Church conveniently ignores these nuances to serve its own argument for control over the social fabric of the world. But in so doing, it neglects the real diversity of natural law, which is fruitfulness of spirit and prosperity of kind. That is what God wants for the world. That is what Christianity should advocate, and what our nation and state should support in laws of equality for all, with no exceptions. Because anything else is just quackers.

 

Who are my mother and brothers?

Mark 3:33 New International Version (NIV) 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

By Christopher Cudworth

It is not often preached from the pulpit that Jesus so profoundly emphasized the isolation of the human condition. In 50 years of cognizant Christian worship, I have not heard this isolation emphasized with much clarity or conviction. It is too lonely a piece of scripture upon which to focus. It can frighten believers and frighten away possible converts.

The power to stand alone is important, but not the point of Christianity.

The power to stand alone is important, but not the point of Christianity.

Yet the Bible clearly shows that Jesus, and God especially, want us to know that to be human is ultimately to be alone.

Part of the plan?

Of course that is what Christian fellowship is designed to conquer. And the Kingdom of God is created here on earth to prevent this form of isolation. From others. Even from oneself.

Yet the undeniable message of Mark 3:33 is this: Even your family and friends can and will let you down. God alone is the ultimate solace.

This isolating message is likely ignored in the Christian church because it flies too near the methods used by cults to trap people into wicked devotion. The famously devious method of some network marketing organizations is to have you try to sell and recruit your friends into the organization. But people are repelled by such efforts. Those who see the folly and the scam are legitimately repulsed. Yet a desperate soul often tarries on, convinced perhaps of possible wealth if only friends and family really understood the potential in the scheme.

The ultimate effect of network marketing schemes is that they can divest people of their human network. Then the “organization” or whatever you want to call it (some call it “my business”) has you dead to rights. Because once you have scared off your friends and family, the network marketing organization (or a cult) sets out to replace that network with whatever they tell you is vital and true.

Who are my mother and my brothers? 

How does that compare to Christianity? To the example set by Jesus in saying, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

We can take another example from the Bible to examine the issue of isolation. Just before he was taken into captivity by a calculating band of priests from the very faith he had come to fulfill, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

Mark 14:32
Gethsemane ] They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Of course we know how that segment of the story comes out. His disciples, who are depicted in the Bible as often failing in tasks of devotion and understanding, cannot stay awake while Jesus goes to pray. They fall asleep and when Jesus returns, having prayed to understand the very life he would soon give away as redemption for all, finds his devoted friends asleep on the job.

The deeper meaning of disappointment

It happens often to all of us. People disappoint us. We disappoint other people. And look at the word structure of that word, “disappoint.” To dis-appoint is to disassociate, or to send away either by intent or by mistake.

Jesus tries to warn us that disappointment is a big part of the human condition. Our failures are characterized by many as our sins, or our almost predestined capacity to sin.

Sin is the ultimate isolation from God. It is what separated the proverbial Adam and Eve from God in the Garden of Eden. Another garden. Another time. The garden is supposed to be a place of consideration and worship, our connection to stewardship and creation. And yet here we have two biting examples in the Bible where a garden is a rife example of disappointment. God disappointed in Adam and Eve. Jesus disappointed in his disciples.

And what are we to make of the idea that the world can be such a disappointing place?

Friendship and fellowship

This message seems to run counter from the idea that our fellowship here on earth can be a salve for the soul. Well, it is not wise to give up on friendship and love so easily, now is it? Our relationships are clearly of great value in this world. Love is built around and in them. Our families are designed, both in faith and through nature, to be a sustaining force in this world. The friends we gather around us and trust are people in whom we find joy and support.

None of those truths is undermined by the example Jesus makes in both his statement about his mother and brothers or his disappointment in his disciples. Jesus is master not only of this world in the spiritual sense, but also of necessary hyperbole. His teachings are full of striking examples that cut through our perceptions of what human relationships really are, and what they offer.

Salvation

Our disappointment is our salvation, you see. Friends and family can and do disappoint us, just as we sometimes disappoint them. It is the isolating nature of the human condition to disappoint those we need and love the most.

But the real message of disappointment and resultant isolation is that God provides a model of unifying faith. Because to love is to forgive, even when our friends and family doubt in us, and disappoint. We trust in God because God trusts in us to make choices that reach across that disappointment to heal and forgive. God even asks us to love our enemies. That is a potent message if you want to understand the true “way of the world” through the eyes of God. You cannot ultimately conquer disappointment and isolation if you do not choose to love. You will be alone if you choose not to forgive, or fail in your devotion to a friend.

Yet when hurt comes calling, our natural tendency is to withdraw, pull back, and feel disappointment. We feel it so keenly we can begin to hate. Then we begin to seek targets for our hate because it becomes part of our nature. We look for the disadvantaged and the weak because in our own weakness and fear we want only to feel superior to others, somehow, so that we do not feel put down or pushed away from life itself.

The dangers of prejudice

Those are the foundations of prejudice of course. And of economic inequality, and caring not for the poor. We find the wealthiest among us susceptible to this isolating force of the “other.” Often that sense of disgust toward those we consider inferior becomes magnifying the more life seems to dispense fortune upon us.

Jesus recognized all this potential for prejudice, power and loss of imagination. Because imagining ourselves to be superior to others in any way is the ultimate sin, at least in the eyes of God. That is why Jesus told the wealthy to give away their riches and follow him. That is why it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to gain entrance to heaven. Wealth can be an isolating force.

It can, of course, also be an instrument for good. We see many examples of people who use their wealth for good. Even the robber barons of the early 20th century, who built monopolies and wealth beyond imagination through industry did turn around and do great things with their money. Carnegie. Rockefeller. The list goes on, and continues to this day.

So it is not wealth alone that is a sin, but wealth in some way that combines with isolation that God does not appreciate. Jesus broke through social strata and perceptions that people who were disadvantaged or different were somehow victims of their own sin. He also forcefully resisted the practice by priests of his day (and ever after, it seems) to turn scripture into laws that trap and hurt others. Jesus did not tolerate using God’s word for punishment and isolation. He would definitely not approve of the manner in which so many supposed Christians  use scripture to create false social and economic strata today. The practice of using literalism to ostracize gays and women, for example, is abhorrent by nature to Jesus. The idea that the Bible is somehow a scientific text would also be absurd to Jesus, who taught in organic parables using examples from nature to teach spiritual concepts. Jesus was no literalist. He was no fool, in other words. Jesus disliked the actions of fools like that.

And what do we find as a result of such actions today? An increasingly divided faith, in Christianity. It has been that way since the start, it seems, where zealots who wanted a literal earthly kingdom ruled by Jesus were “disappointed” to find that his kingdom was one of spirit, not earthly wealth and power.

The many kinds of wealth, and corruption

Wealth is relative, of course. One of the catchiest devices of certain political parties is to figure out how to make people feel like they have ownership or a stake in the result of an election simply by making people feel like they will “win” somehow if they cast their vote in favor of the party making the promises. Of course, people can often be found voting against their best interests, be they economic or even spiritual, and voting on a one-issue platform that hands over power to people who pretend to care but really do not.

So we see that it is at times the power of isolating people from their best interests that is the most powerful political tool of all. Politics is the ultimate form of network marketing. It is the cult of all human cults.

Cutting through the lies

Jesus cut through the lies to make us understand that disappointment and fear of isolation is our worst enemy. Yet he calls us to stand alone first, to accept and understand that with the love of God, the grace of acceptance, we are never alone.

So have the courage to stand alone, and not be disappointed to the point of isolation when your friends or family fail you, or your work environment seems poison, or the very church that you attend turns out to be a flawed human enterprise. All these things are to be expected. Jesus and God want us not to be surprised by events like these.

Yes, we can still love the world, our friends and ourselves if we understand that the kingdom of God is made from the commitment to love and forgive. Then we will find and know our mother and our brothers, our sisters and our friends. They will be drawn to us by our humility and our example of faith. That is how it is all supposed to work.

Bird migration from the perspective of creationism and intelligent design

 

Did birds walk or fly to Noah’s Ark. Or run?

Birds are clearly sinners. Of the worst kind.

Otherwise, why would birds be forced every fall to fly thousands of miles south to warmer climes, only to fly back again in the spring?

According to a literal interpretation of the Bible, God has always punished animals for their sinful nature. For example, Genesis 3:14: “So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.”

Well, it seems that serpents or snakes have gotten off easy, doesn’t it? And given that the serpent represents Satan himself in this passage, how much worse must birds be compared to the plight of serpents?

If we take the Bible literally, God does seem to have a rather low opinion of birds in general. Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? …

God also reportedly wiped out all the species of animals in the world, with exception of specimens that supposedly snuck onto the ark.

Genesis 7:23 “Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”

That would be some 10,000 or so species of birds, including penguins, who must have walked or swam one helluva a long way to make it from the Antarctic to the deserts of the Middle East. That’s where the ark supposedly gathered all the species of animals and insects of the world. Granted, birds are known for the miraculous migratory abilities, but it seems truly unlikely that the flightless Kiwi or the flightless cormorants of the Galapagos archipelago were able to cross oceans and land to walk up onto an ark.

But perhaps creationism is right about these things, and birds really did use their migratory capabilities to travel from all points around the world and end up in a cramped ark with enough insects to eat, nectar to ingest, seeds to consume and gravel to put in their crops so they could digest their food. There must have been mounds of bird poop and guano so deep from 20,000 birds, and yet 7 people on the ark somehow managed to tend to all these species for 40 days and 40 nights and not lose a single bird.

Then when the worldwide flood supposedly subsided, Noah kicked all the birds out of the ark and forced them to walk and fly all the way back to the islands of Madagascar, the ice floes of the arctic, the deep forests of Brazil and Ecuador, the deep jungles of central Africa and the fearsome plains of southern Africa. That was the first bird migration, you see.

According to the Bible and creationism, birds perform one important function in relation to human beings. They eat them when they’ve died. Isaiah 18:6: “They (human enemies) will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter.”

The Bible also blames birds for all sorts of trouble. Luke 8:5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.”

In the end, birds seem to be little more than a measure of what a man is worth. Matthew 10:31: So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

So, it is no wonder that those who believe in the creationist version of bible interpretation hold bird migration in little apparent respect. The Bible hardly mentions migration, and only in reference to flocks of birds, but not their great travels. How disappointing for an arctic term to make such a long annual journey from Arctic to Antarctic and back with not a mention in the Bible?

It is sad the Bible disrespects bird migration so badly. But the creationist worldview insists instead the God throws birds around like seed in a field. They sprout up from nothing, and are not apparently affected in their life cycles or development from one species into another despite mounds of evidence that birds have ancestors in feathered dinosaurs, and that bird migration is a natural and evolutionary response to climactic changes brought on by the seasons.

No, creationism doesn’t need all that supposedly scientific mumbo-jumbo to explain bird migration. See, it all started when all those birds had to crawl, walk, fly, hop, swim and otherwise hump along to the ark. Then they had to do it all over again to get back to their native habitats, finding plenty of food along the way despite the horrid devastation of a worldwide flood. Apparently fully developed species of jungle flowers cropped up along the path of tropical hummingbirds and fruit eaters.

Giant Skuas must have fed on carrion, and the vultures might have had a field day in the days following the great flood. But then the other birds had to breed like crazy to provide enough food for their ravenous cousins. Relax, it’s all part of God’s plan.

And if you want to brand God’s plan by calling it “intelligent design,” we can suppose that will work just as well to explain the intricacies of bird migration. Intelligent design says that nothing in nature happens without God’s hand getting involved. But God would have to be a major control freak and just a bit callous to send a band of hummingbirds across the Gulf of Mexico into a tropical storm that blasts them all down into a salty brine where they become food for oceangoers. That’s not intelligent design. That’s stupid design. But perhaps we need a new brand of science called Stupid Design Theory to explain all the waste and death God seems to foist on birds each year during migration. Add in bird strikes on windows, millions of birds killed on urban structures like skyscrapers, birds killed by cats and dogs and birds simply falling out of the air dead from exhaustion. All quite intelligent, wouldn’t you say?

So when you walk out in the height of autumn bird migration, do not think that you are witnessing one of the miracles of evolutionary adaptation. Those birds are all practicing their journeys in case God gets pissed off all over again and decides to break His promise as stated in Genesis 9:13: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Then the rest of us will get no warning…but two of every type of 10,000 species of birds on earth will begin a long journey back to the New Ark, wherever that may wind up (perhaps in South Florida where there are plenty of cruise ships, although their safety records of late are not so good) to climb on board for another re-creation of creation. God might love a little deja vu. The Left Behind people seem to think so. Is the Rapture nothing more than a spiritual migration for human beings? Starts to make you think, now doesn’t it?

Yes, creationism is a wonderful worldview because it explains bird migration so easily. Forget about birds navigating by the stars or landmarks. Forget about the heroic efforts of modern day scientists to teach populations of cranes to learn new migration routes. And especially, forget about all those fall warblers timing their passage cleanly with their insect food sources in the advent of fall, or all those ducks winging their way south on November breezes. Don’t worry your little heads about bird migration at all. God has it all figured out. Birds are just pawns in the paw of the universe.

Now go out and elect a God-fearing politician. They really do know what’s best for you, and science to boot.