The real meaning of Christmas, exposed

 

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Photos of oil on water by Christopher Cudworth 2017

On Christmas Eve the Christian world fills with anticipation as one of its high holy days is about to arrive. Millions will attend church to celebrate Christmas Day, the traditional time affixed to the birth of Yeshua, or Jesus.

Yet we now recognize the Christmas season as we know it is a fabrication. The most ardent biblical literalists are the ones that have exposed the ruse, and confessed. The website Answers In Genesis fashions itself a key defender of all things “inerrant and true” about the Bible, and even it has grave doubts about the time of year in which we celebrate Christmas.

After careful scriptural exegesis of the Jewish calendar and its documentation of the time of year in which John the Baptist was born, Answers In Genesis says:

“This would have put John the Baptist at about six months in the womb around August/September. Assuming about nine months for pregnancy, John would have been born about November/December by the modern calendar based on the assumptions we used.

If the Holy Spirit did come upon Mary in the sixth month (Elul) or around August/September, as it seems to indicate in Scripture, then Jesus should have been born about nine months later, which would place His birth around May/June. Since John the Baptist was still in the womb of Elizabeth when he leapt for joy in Jesus’ presence (Luke 1:39-42), this means that the conception had to take place within the next three months or so of the visit by Gabriel—before John was born. Regardless, by this reckoning, the birth of Christ isn’t even close to Christmas on the modern calendar.”

Answers In Genesis is not alone in this correction of supposed history, but this example makes the point that harsher cynics have long claimed: Christmas is an invention of religion designed to serve a specific purpose. The narrative of Jesus born in Bethlehem was cobbled together by a series of Gospel writers who either copied one another or chose a different emphasis depending on how they viewed the Christ story.

The Nativity with the animals gathered around and Wise Men attending is also manufactured for the purpose of giving the Christmas story a focus. People need that. It helps them pass along the Christmas tale to new generations. The story of the baby Jesus lying in a manger is appealing to parents sharing the tale with younger generations.

IMG_3794.jpgAnd so it goes. In the modern era, it has become a bit more difficult for Christians to defend the verity and meaning of this story because the season has become perverted by the massive commercial significance of the holiday season. This has not been the fault of the secular world. Many people celebrate Christmas because it’s fun, but that permission has long been granted by the competing tale of Santa Claus bringing gifts to small children and adults alike around the world. Christians have willingly conveyed this myth for over a century now. There is likely no turning back.

The history and popularity of the myth of Santa Claus is irrelevant to the true meaning of Christmas. But it does have a parallel significance in where we are in Christmas traditions today. Some Christians claim that Christmas as a religious holiday is under siege by secular forces who want to ban the words “Merry Christmas” from the cultural lexicon. The so-called “War On Christmas” is preached from the pulpits of Fox News and pasted like butter on the bread of social media for so-called devout Christians to spread the word that Christianity is under attack.

This serves as an important lesson on the real meaning of Christmas. If Christianity truly is under attack, then it is justified in every sense of the word. The holiday as we know it has been whored out to commercial interests just as the Jewish temple was once prostituted by the religious authorities in Jesus’ day. He attacked those authorities first through his words, warning them of their hypocrisy for making rules from scripture and basically charging people admission to the temple of God. Jesus castigated those same authorities as a “brood of vipers” for clinging to this power and lording themselves over others.

Jesus was born into this world to challenge that type of false authority. That baby in the manger was born out of need, not from kingly circumstance. His principle message was preached first by John the Baptist who exemplified the simplicity and virtue of true devotion to God in his call to repentance.

Jesus embraced and carried this message all the way up the chain of culture to the ultimate seats of power. He offended the chief priests and denigrated the scribes for the slavery of soul they imposed upon the rest of society. And when those offended gathered themselves in righteous fury they captured Jesus and delivered him to the Romans with the intent to dispose of the itinerant preacher they considered a blasphemer.

Do you see it now? Jesus was born to expose such charlatans. That is the real meaning of Christmas. And if we were to apply that meaning to the world today, who would those charlatans be? They would be religious authorities sacrificing true devotion to God for access and control of political power. They would be leaders who were unwilling to confess their own lack of virtue, yet who claim to know the true heart of God out of their own bold ego. They would be all those who embrace such leaders and buy into their serpentine logic that trying to act like God equates to being like God.

The characters we know as Adam and Eve fell for that trick once long ago. Christians call it Original Sin, and it resonates through the world to this very day.

So when you find a moment to consider the real meaning of Christmas, consider not how or where Jesus was born, but why. And apply that lesson to all that you do. The world will expose itself one egregious scam at a time.

And you will be blessed for knowing it.

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A lesson about dithering squirrels

squirrel-deadOn the way home from the art studio this Sunday morning, I slowed the car to allow a squirrel in the street to make a decision about which way to go. You know the story. The squirrel turned one way, then the other. Suddenly it scampered to the curve.

But you can’t always see the results of those frantic decisions until you’re another forty feet down the street. We all tend to glance back hoping the squirrel did not get crushed under a car tire. That’s when guilt grips us if we have a conscience. A life wasted, it seems, by random activities in the universe.

Except random activities are the rule of the day. They happen every second for all of eternity. As far as your mind can travel, there are squirrels of one kind or another making choices all the way from the subatomic level up the expanding travels of a galaxy through time itself.

That is evolution in progress. Squirrels are either getting run over or living to face yet another day. The squirrels left dead on the street often get run over again and again. Their bodies are either eaten by scavengers, consumed by worms and bacteria or simply crushed into the asphalt as a grease spot that no one notices.

Predestination

Now there used to be a theory or two in theology that said God controlled every one of these activities. Everything in the universe was made to order. God worked like a fast order chef or a control freak head waiter at a busy restaurant. That was predestination.

squirrel-on-the-roadBut that makes God out to be a pretty bad character, the dispenser of evil as well as goodness. Which makes for thorny questions when it comes to the personal fate of members of the human race, who are so preoccupied with their own destinies they can hardly comprehend their real place in the universe.

That’s also what makes it so difficult for some people to imagine that the human race emerged from the same soup as the rest of life on earth. Never mind that the soup runs through our veins is blood that mimics ocean water in its salinity, or that we share 3/4 of our genetic makeup with just about every other living thing on earth.

Never mind. That’s too much alignment for squirrels that prefer to dither over less relevant facts. Like whether Mary was a Virgin, or that John the Baptist was lefthanded. And so on.

Dither yonder

When it comes to certain types of decision-making, human beings are as dumb as squirrels and make just as many bad choices. Hundreds of thousands of people die each day due to the simple arithmetic involved in bad decisions at the wrong time. Add in the selective pressures of war and famine and natural disasters, all of which are largely avoidable with a little cooperation, and human beings don’t look so smart even in the context of predestination.

But when you look through all this dithering through the cool eye of evolution, it’s all entirely predictable. 99% of all living things that have ever existed in the earth’s history are now extinct. The age of dinosaurs lasted millions of years but ultimately most of them died off through unforgiving circumstances. God didn’t stop that from happening. Not at all. The birds that evolved from dinosaurs or actually are dinosaurs made out okay. But many of them are at risk these days as well, sucked into the Black Hole of the Anthropogenic Age where the gravity of human activity sucks things into non-existence never to be seen or heard again.

Endangered species 

These days, hundreds of species of animals, plants, insects and other life forms are threatened by a new wave of extinctions. This is indeed the Anthropogenic age, when extinctions and climate change and other earthly devastations once-credited to God are now exacted with the same casual precision as a squirrel burying a nut in the wasted Garden of Eden.

Just in the last 100 years, species of birds such as the Passenger Pigeon that once numbered in the billions have been erased from history. Extinct. No more exist. All dead. Nuts buried by squirrels too busy market hunting to care about the eventual outcome. No one stopped to tell them they were nut for shooting so many birds.

The same thing almost happened to the American bison, which now exists mostly in carefully tended herds that number a fraction of populations that once roamed the Great Plains. Just as painful are the losses of flora and fauna we can’t see.

The once great tallgrass prairie is reduced to 1/10th of one percent of its former range.

These were all actions caused by human beings. Thus they represent an engagement in the process of evolution. People who deny this fact typically rely on their own Origin of Species based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. The only explanation they can offer about the extinction of species is a reputed Great Flood that covered the entire earth. Ostensibly the fellow named Noah gathered enough living and breeding sets of life forms on the Ark to repopulation the entire world.

tx-blind-salamander-picture-1To accomplish this feat would have required, of course, a blind salamander from the caves of Texas to crawl across the entire western European continent, swim thousands of miles across a saltwater ocean, climb onto the dry land of the Eastern Seaboard and swim all the way to what is now the State of Texas, crawl across hundreds of miles of parched landscape to where a small population of said blind salamanders still lives and breeds to this day.

The absurdity is not assuaged by the claim that “all things are possible with God.” The examples of impossible migrations are so vast and so daunting that the tale of Noah’s Ark quickly falls into the category of metaphor.

The part of the story that does apply is that human beings do apparently bear some responsibility for the welfare and stewardship of animals, plants and other species on this earth. The entire earth is an ark, if you will. And human beings are doing a really crappy job of playing Noah, wiping out hundreds of species of life forms every year.

The Flood story strongly suggests that God is not afraid of extinction. That fact is borne out by what we know about patterns of extinction through the sciences of paleontology, biology and the theory of evolution.

To explain God’s relationship to these harsh events, one merely has to acknowledge the presence of free will in the universe. The squirrel on the road makes a choice when a car approaches. It runs back and forth and either gets nailed by a tire or escapes. There is nothing sentimental about this process. It is free will at work.

IMG_0492Human beings thus are subject to choices made by free will as well. These choices fuel or place in the process of evolution. We make good choices, we live. When we make bad choices, sometimes we die. This is true on both an individual and collective basis. Evolution takes place largely in incremental fashion, but it can also roll out in wholesale destruction if human beings fearfully agree to respond to life’s circumstances like a herd of squirrels.

We don’t see squirrel migrations every day, but it happens now and then when population or environmental pressures drive squirrels to migratory madness. Let us consider a documented tale from the early 19th century: “Here is how, In 1811, Charles Joseph Labrobe wrote in The Rambler in North America of a vast squirrel migration that autumn in Ohio: “A countless multitude of squirrels, obeying some great and universal impulse, which none can know but the Spirit that gave them being, left their reckless and gambolling life, and their ancient places of retreat in the north, and were seen pressing forward by tens of thousands in a deep and sober phalanx to the South …”

At times human beings are subject to the same sort of social madness. Then the human race behaves like a huge pack of squirrels or lemmings rushing off a cliff. Normally, squirrels in their home environment are typically cautious and predictable. They use the same paths to get from tree to tree.

But when forced out in the open, or faced with confusing situations such as an oncoming car, squirrels equivocate, turning back and forth in desperate reaction to a world outside their evolutionary understanding.

When faced with the unknown, human beings act no differently than squirrels on a high way. This is true among individuals and group populations. Human culture is squirrelly, and fear can turn otherwise rational people into fearful sheep.

And while squirrels are supposedly a much lower species than apes, there are people who consider the idea that human beings descended from earlier forms of primates a real insult. But when it comes to the sometimes squirrelly thinking and behavior of entire nations, to be considered on par with an ape would be a good thing.

squirrel-on-road.jpgThe human race is experiencing a “squirrel on the highway” moment when it comes to dealing with climate change. The back and forth between those who accept the evidence and those who deny its verity is causing the human race to dither and change direction on the subject. Meanwhile, the Big Wheels are Turning and heading our way. If the human race does not figure out how to slow down the rate of climate change, we really will get run over. Coastlines will flood. Hurricanes will increase their destruction. The human race will be forced to evolve in a hurry to deal with climactic extremes that will produce highly unpredictable weather.

Some people consider that bunk. They cover their heads with their squirrel tales or insist that the Great Squirrel in the Sky is the only Keeper of Climate Change. But that only amounts to ignoring the roar of the engine around the curve and the threat of the fat tires about to crush the collectives spines of a million squirrels dithering back and forth on the highway.

And some squirrels don’t even care. Safely ensconced in their Wealthy Squirrel Hideaways with plenty of nuts to gnaw, they could not give a rat’s ass if a few millions other squirrels get turned into Global Road Kill. It’s none of their concern. There are the I’ve Got Mine Squirrels that actually take pride in the act of driving the trucks that run over other squirrels. And for some, that is considered a great sport.

But it’s true. When global warming kicks in an temperatures rise across great expanses of continents such as Africa and South America and North America, mass migrations of people will take place in regions where intense heat and desertification takes over.

And still there will be dithering by the rich and powerful, and fearful meandering by those trapped in the horrific cycle of heat and drought and flooding. The Bible fails

Even The Holy Bible fails misterably in providing hope or solutions to this apparent dilemma of a worldwide threat to human existence. After all, God ostensibly enabled the Great Flood that called Noah into action. If we can believe the text, then it was true that all the people of the earth, other than a select few, were wiped out.

God also brought Hail and Brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah in rash treatment for the excesses of those cities and their inhospitality to strangers, especially angels.

angelsAnd let us not forget that God even allowed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. That scattered his ostensibly Chosen People like a band of squirrels, out into an inhospitable world where they got run over and enslaved in many cases. But a few eventually banded together and returned to their home turf, where they reside to this day in a form a bit evolved from the original. Because that’s how evolution works, you see.

The entire process of survival is always a bit squirrelly for all involved. Squirrels able to anticipate and adjust their behavior while crossing the Road of Existence most often survive. But among human beings, there is also a moral responsibility to share those instincts for survival, and even hold paws with those more likely to dither or get crushed. That’s the role of government and of scripture, to enact the decisive course of humanity.

Because whether you view it through the eyes of scripture or the cold lens of an evolutionary viewpoint, it never pays to be a dithering squirrel.

 

 

The true connection between liberal anxiety and conservative fear

It’s a constant debate: Liberals versus conservatives. And it all breaks down to simple beliefs.

This is how the sayings go when it comes to discussing politics in America.

Liberals are anxious about everything. They worry about global warming. Civil rights. And offending someone. God Forbid. 

Conservatives are fearful about everything. Terrorism striking close to home. Living without guns. Being politically correct. God Forbid. 

How fascinating it truly is that liberals worry about the world while conservatives fret that it is out to get them? How can two such similar traits drive people so far apart?

Worry warts

For starters, conservatives seem to believe that most liberal worries are made up. That’s the real nature of anxiety, right? It’s defined as imagining the worst when things are really not all that bad.

Fearmongers

Conservative policies are often not what they seem

In a similar way, liberals consider conservatives obsessive about their fears or prejudices. Conservatives are always bemoaning the decay of society or predicting the end of the world as we know it.

Thus, the two parties circle each other warily and angrily. Both claim they’re right about the other and seek to demean the corresponding anxieties and fears on the Left and the Right.

The End of the World

But there are connections. For example, liberals tend to think that if the world is coming to an end, it will be through environmental means. That’s why global warming is a concern, along with species extinction.

Meanwhile, religious conservatives (and by dint of Big Tent Politics, many other brands of Republican conservatives) tend to depict the end of the world through a theological lens. The coming Apocalypse. Armageddon. The End Times. Left Behind. The Rapture.

The Second Coming

That mindset colloquially embraces the idea of the Second Coming of Jesus and the idea that the Old World in which we now live will be replaced by an entirely better New World that will come about through some sort of heavenly means. Even Muslims believe that’s the fate of the world.

Armageddon

And of course, there is considerable speculation on where all that will start, and whether we should fear the day or bid it welcome news. The general thinking on the topic is that the Middle East will be the site of a great war between the forces of good and evil. For many years it was the Jews that were the potential focus of all this heavenly rage. Lately it appears to be the Muslims, whom many conservative religious thinkers blame for the woes of the world.

Muslim surprise

How ironic it is that the Muslim faith actually looks forward to the coming of Jesus Christ as well. They don’t buy the idea that Christ was ever crucified, but was instead zapped up to heaven by God outside the parameters of the Christian narrative. It’s a little vague of course, as most things in the Quran seem to be in terms of interpretive or predictive value, but this is what the Quran says:  “And there is none of the people of the Book but must believe in Him before his death, and on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them.”[Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 159] Allah also says about Jesus in the Qur’ân: “And he shall be a sign of the Hour. Therefore have no doubt about the Hour, but follow Me. That is the straight path.” [Sûrah al-Zukhruf: 61].

Judgement Day

If you stop and think about the fact that conservative Christians and conservative Muslims all look forward to the coming of Christ on the Judgement Day, it’s a pathetic fact that what people are fighting (or quibbling) about is what path this supposed course took in the path and how it will ostensibly transpire in the future.

Owning the narrative

All sides of this argument, including Sunni and Shi’a sects on the Muslim side, as well as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and all other forms of conservative Christian faith oas well seem willing to fight to the death over which narrative is chosen to decide how the world will end, and who might survive.  Then we throw in the Jews, who get it from both sides of this great battle, and that pretty much explains fears over the Middle East “situation” in a nutshell. And it’s a fearful, angry, vicious batch of insanity.

And conservatives on every side just love it. Because it allows them to grab hold of all sorts of other controls in life. That includes social and political laws, and fiscal regulations. Everyone is afraid some other sect or religious worldview will get the upper hand.

Political zygotes

ZygoteOf course not all those who abide by conservative philosophy or identify as fiscal or political conservatives share these religious worldviews. But they can no longer escape the association because the conservative alliance initiated in the Falwell/Reagan era. That’s when the religious and economic “revolution” originally fused the language of triumph into a giant political zygote of social, political, religious and fiscal conservatives. Now the product of this marriage has emerged like a freak of nature, and his name is Donald Trump.

Liberals get their freak on

Like the tale of Benjamin Button, in which a man is born old and grows young over time, the Democratic side of freak births produced Bernie Sanders. His ardent gesticulations and socialist contentions have been discomfiting to those who just want a normal, somewhat liberal candidate to run for President. His supporters freak out at the idea of supporting Hillary Clinton if and when the Bern fizzles out. It’s a bit like a backcountry family feud, both ugly and beautiful in its unsophisticated way.

Emotional defense

it is interesting to note that both conservatives and Christians lay claim to the authority of scripture. Conservatives side with the traditions and triumphs of the church while liberals share the heart of scripture and the ministry of tolerance advocated by Jesus. These simple differences may be responsible for the entire liberal versus conservative divide. We only wish these differences could be determined through dialectic, a term described as “a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments.” Instead all we seem to achieve is emotional arguments for one side or the other.

Back to the Future

Some of these debates over conservative versus liberal interpretations of scripture go back to the very formative years of what we now call Christianity. That’s when a Jew named Yeshua (better known as Jesus) debated vigorously with the Pharisees and others over their efforts to turn scripture into law. Jesus chastised the priests and tried to liberate the Jewish faith from its own strictures. But it didn’t really work. So the followers of Jesus started their own gig. And it’s been a Back to the Future movie ever since.

Some Christians never learned the lesson Jesus was trying to convey. They still behave like the priests Jesus tried to change. These are the conservatives of today. They side with political power because it feels like the best way to exact the philosophies of Christianity on the world. This is the Back to the Future plot we are now viewing.

The fortress of belief

Conservatism views the faith as a literal temple, a fortress of belief or a city to be defended or taken over by force if necessary. They Bible is one such fortress, and must be read as if it were a pile of stones placed one upon the other. Take out one stone and the entire structure may fall.

Portable faith

Liberalism takes a more modular view of what faith is about. Its interpretation of the bible is more about its transportable qualities. In that sense, liberalism is more like a nomadic tent community. It can wander the desert and be happy in the company of God. This is more like what Jesus professed. The structure of his ministry and how the disciples came to view the temple of God was centered on the idea that God is with you wherever you go.

Crusades

Now we can understand why conservatives consider the Crusades so important. Their objective to evict Muslims from Jerusalem was based on the belief that God needed (or deserved) a place to live. Tradition demanded that Jerusalem be under Christian guard. The Holy City and the Temple had been there. What more was there to understand?

In this day and age there are supporters of Israel who abide by these same standards. It’s still about the Holy City and the Holy State of Israel. This is called Zionism, “political support for the creation and development of a Jewish homeland in Israel.”

Mess of beliefs

Jerusalem_Dome_of_the_rock_BW_14.JPGIt’s a bit of an archaic notion, and a contradictory one at that, when Christians and Jews align to create and protect an Israeli homeland. The two faith traditions don’t even believe in the same thing. One accepts Jesus. The other does not. Meanwhile Muslims look forward to the return of Jesus while the Jews think the Messiah is yet to appear. It’s all a very confused mess if you really consider it. Yet the Crusades in the Middle East continue to this day and even the most informed people have lost track of what it is all about. The fighting now is about rallying the troops and never losing. Not at any cost.

Feeding worries and fears

The shared tactic of conservatism and liberalism is to consistently expound upon worries or fears about what is surely about to happen.

For conservatives, the list is long. The economy is about to collapse. Society is in moral decay. Terrorism is going to end our Way of Life. The Rapture is right around the corner. These are the go-to themes whenever conservatism fails on some, or many, fronts.

Meanwhile, liberals are busy wringing their hands in anxiety over environmental cataclysm and the collapse of civil rights due to prejudice and authoritarian rule by a select minority.

Beyond being afraid

The fact that both anxieties and fears align with the general belief that things could get far worse before they get better is telling. Isn’t there some way these two belief systems can come to a common ground?

The secret hides in how people on both sides of the philosophical debate define the idea of a “new world.”

For liberals or humanists, that would be world in which people actually collaborate to solve problems. This philosophy was effectively captured in the song Imagine by John Lennon:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

There’s a lot of Jesus philosophy in that very humanist set of lyrics. But the opening lyrics to the song would be of great offense to those who view the temple of God as real place.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

But if we focus on the idea that Jesus wanted the Kingdom of God to be real here on earth, and that the Bible advocates the idea that a New World will someday be created on earth, there is a great source of convergence going on in those humanist lyrics by John Lennon and the soul of the ministry of Jesus.

That is, God wants us to create this New World for ourselves. In fact, the Second Coming of Christ may be our responsibility to initiate. Not through war and Armageddon, but through love and all the good works of respect and trust and ministry we extend to others.

That is the true convergence of conservative and liberal ideologies. It also assuages worries and removes fears. Because a world where people genuinely care about each other and dispel differences rather than turning them into definitions of “the other” truly is the Kingdom of God.

And that’s the point at which both conservatism and liberalism as social, political, fiscal and religious constructs will cease to be.

How biblical literalism affects politics, culture and the environment

Christopher Cudworth is author of The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age. It centers on how biblical literalism affects politics, culture and the environment. Originally published in 2007, it is being edited for re-release on Amazon.com. 

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

Fighting over similarities

muhammad_ali_02aPerhaps the ultimate irony of Muslim faith in the public sphere was that of Muhammad Ali. The fighter formerly known as Cassius Clay controversially converted to Islam, then protested the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector.

The complexity of that decision confounded Americans. Some blamed him for refusing to serve his country. As the website This Day In History documents, Ali was penalized in the manner of a high profile figure.

“On April 28, 1967, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. On June 28 of that same year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction for evading the draft.”

That’s right, his case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United states, which overturned his conviction for draft evasion. In other words, Ali was exonerated of wrongdoing in his case against the United States. His faith was also vindicated.

In context with America’s troubled relationship with the Muslim religion and its “peace or no peace” controversies, the case of Muhammad Ali bears recognition as a sign that the Muslim faith does have a tradition of peace at its core.

Conscientious Objector

Ali was justified in his argument that “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” The nation entered the war ostensibly to stop the advance of communism. Instead, America’s involvement in the Vietnam War proved far more costly in terms of lives and political capital, and communism ultimately won the battle for control of Vietnam. One could argue that it ultimately lost the war in that communism ultimately collapsed the Soviet Union.

But in the moment, the Vietnam war was unpopular at the liberal end of the political spectrum, leading to war protests and civil unrest. The nation imposed a military draft and thousands of lives were spent on the guerrilla battlefields where victory and loss often felt like the same thing. In other words, a conscientious objector could find many reasons not to want to fight in Vietnam. That’s why Ali did not go to fight in Vietnam.

The ugliness of the fight game

Yet Ali was quite ironically a fighter by trade. He was also prone to controversial methods of race profiling as a means of fight promotion, calling men such as Joe Frazier “Uncle Tom” and engaging in pre-fight dialogue that was profoundly insulting.

Ali: “Joe Frazier should give his face to the Wildlife Fund. He’s so ugly, blind men go the other way. Ugly! Ugly! Ugly! He not only looks bad, you can smell him in another country! What will the people of Manila think? That black brothers are animals. Ignorant. Stupid. Ugly and smelly.”

Ali: “He’s the other type Negro, he’s not like me,” Ali shouts to the now stunned white interviewer. “There are two types of slaves, Joe Frazier’s worse than you to me … That’s what I mean when I say Uncle Tom, I mean he’s a brother, one day he might be like me, but for now he works for the enemy”

Lennon and Ali

John-Lennon-john-lennon-34078983-1024-768In his violent reproach toward his rivals, Muhammad Ali resembled another public figure of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That was John Lennon, who spoke for world peace even as he engaged in very public fights with his former Beatles partner Paul McCartney. Their friendship for a while became a bitter rivalry.

But men like Lennon and Ali ultimately did apologize to their rivals.

Ali: “Joe Frazier’s a nice fella, he’s just doing a job. The bad talk wasn’t serious, just part of the buildup to the fight. The fight was serious, though. Joe spoke to me once or twice in the middle, told me I was burned out, that I’d have to quit dancing now. I told him I was gonna dance all night.”

Lessons learned

The point here is that personal rivalry drives public interest, and there are commercial and professional reasons why this is beneficial to the advancement of individual causes. Both Ali and Lennon are considered great artists in their trade. Each knew the value of slogans and sound bites. Ali engaged in a form of street poetry and Lennon lyrically crafted songs that appealed to both the common man and universal themes.

These similarities and differences are interesting to note. Ali advocated a religion while Lennon was equivocal about such matters, arguing through his song Imagine that perhaps even religion had its limitations in terms of seeking better understanding. Yet both seemed to arrive in the same place.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

It is worth nothing that that the statement by Ali that “I ain’t got no quarrel with no VietCong” could serve as a quick summary of the reasons why Lennon also protested the quasi-religious motives of the Vietnam War.

And indeed, communism was not resisted by conservative Americans only as a social and economic system, but because its “godlessness” was judged to be in direct opposition to the supposedly religious foundations of American history.

But it holds true as well that the most vicious of all wars are not fought over lack of a god, but as rivalries between two competing notions of God.

That is the precise reason why one sect of Muslims is killing another, and why ISIL is so committed to creating a caliphate or national state in Iraq. They are attempting to impose their version of Sharia law by conquering territory and forcing people to either convert of die. The entire enterprise is a rivalry over interpretations of God. As a result, ISIL wants to confront Christianity on its “home soil.”

Ali-Frazier redux

That rivalry over who represents the “real deal” is the the same sort of argument Ali foisted on Joe Frazier, who he openly accused of being the “wrong kind of black.” Their mutual anger over issues like these fueled three killer fights between the two men.

The same brand of story unfolded between McCartney and Lennon, who exchanged critical songs as a means to express frustration with the artistic differences that once made them the most dynamic writing team in popular music.

Religious rivalries

It is the same thing with the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths in this world. All share the same root histories, yet the advancing interpretations and judgment on what constitutes a prophet or a Messiah are to this day cause a triangulation of horror, murder and prejudice.

It remains to be seen whether these religious differences can be reconciled or forgiven. Some claim the differences are too fundamental or profound. Others point fingers at the murderous ways of the opponent while ignoring their own egregious modes of death and destruction. This is true of the collective efforts by Christian, Jewish and Musliim states.

Great rivals can become great allies, or at least show respect. Ali sooner or later did that with Frazier, as did McCartney and Lennon.

The rule we need to consider is that the more we share in history and the more we are alike, the more bitter the feud can be.

 

Who is really keeping us safe?

“If you’re not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative by the time you are forty, you have no brain.” –Winston Churchill

Winston ChurchillYears ago I read a massive two-volume biography of Winston Churchill. It was with great disappointment that I learned that the author of those first two books had died. The third would have covered the period including World War II, and that would have been fascinating to study the actions and philosophies of the man that ushered Great Britain through the war.

Yet even with Churchill, his strong points as a war leader turned out to be challenges of a sort in the political realm. He was initially defeated for the role of Prime Minister after the war, yet returned to that role again before suffering physical and mental decline that may have resulted from strokes and heart issues.

A wealth of protectors

While obviously a man to admire, Winston Churchill’s determination that conservatism was the ultimate form of philosophical sophistication may have been formed more from his upbringing in a wealthy English family than his own evolution as a military man and spokesman. He was great at both those things, but there is an abiding factor to how these were developed and sustained that made it possible for Churchill to think like a conservative at all.

That factor was the presence and alliance of both the United States and the Soviet Union in World War II. Without that partnership, Great Britain would have been sunk under the pressures of Germany to take over much of Europe.

It was the liberal support of America’s Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt and the hard right determination of Joseph Stalin that fought back Germany’s considerable will to conquer and subjugate. That enabled Churchill to essentially occupy an important middle ground from which he could flexibly consider and pursue his necessary options. That is conservative in the good sense of the word, in being considerate.

Modern times

Fast forward to the current world perspective in which we live. America’s President Barack Obama has behaved as a noted centrist on the world stage. And like Churchill, there have been wins and losses, risks and seeming triumphs associated with that centrist position. Obama has been the considerate if quietly brusque leader, not prone to launch off new wars, yet capable of effecting deadly drone strikes that many people protest as cruel and miscalculated.

Such are the risks of all world leaders. The apparently noble fight of America, Britain and the Soviets against the Germans, Italians and Japanese Axis was full of death and destruction. And while Germany clearly committed war crimes, the rest of the fighters were not a group of innocents. America ultimately dropped a massive nuclear weapon on Japan’s big cities, killing thousands of civilians in the process.

During the leadup to that event, America engaged in some rather heinous efforts to protect itself, ushering many of its own citizens of Japanese descent into camps. The object at the time was to “keep us safe” from perceived threats because Japan itself was such a threat.

Fear and strange decisions

Fear drives all kind of strange decisions in this world. And while some of our fears are very real, the collective anxiety of a culture can often be extremely misguided.

Such is the case wth current concerns over America’s possible acceptance of Syrian refugees. While France opens its borders willingly to Syrian refugees even on the heels of the terrorist attacks on its own soil, America’s arch-conservative population wants to ban them from entry into the country. All of this is based on the idea that terrorists will somehow disguise themselves as refugees and come to this country to kill Americans.

Raging debates

Having engaged in considerable political debate with a number of anxious conservatives on social media, a few simple things have emerged in the argument. 1) They don’t trust Obama or the government 2) They don’t trust the government or Obama 3) They really don’t trust either Obama or the government. That’s the substance of their arguments.

In the process of defending those arguments they also engage in considerable name-calling while simultaneously denying that the Bush administration or any conservative before him had anything to do with creating the terrorist problem in the Middle East. We all know that started with the Reagan administration, was fostered by the Bush relationships with the Saudis, and carried on with the patsy treatment of the bin Laden family right through the 9/11 terrorist attacks when our first priority was flying remnants of that family out of the United States when all other flights were suddenly banned. Conservatives also created the Saddam Hussein we overthrew, and set up the Shah of Iran that led to that country being so pissed off at the Western World.

Yet somehow it’s all Obama’s fault that we have problems in the Middle East.

Brotherly love 

Of course, Jeb Bush, the equally inept brother of George W. Bush, is now running for President of the United States. And like any conservative worth his radical salt he has publicly claimed that his brother “kept us safe.”

So for the sake of analysis, we should examine what he might mean by that statement. The expectations of conservatives about what “keeps us safe” clearly breaks down into categories that were demonstrated by the Bush administration’s actions in the Middle East. And we’ll get to those in a minute.

But first we must admit there was little resistance by the Democratic Left to any of Bush’s policies overseas. That was a sick and sad chapter in our political history as well. Either by choice or by fear, the Left stood down under considerable pressure from conservative dominance of all three branches of government. That included the power of the Presidency, a willing Congress and Senate and even the Supreme Court that handed Bush surveillance powers that broke every rule in the Constitution about personal privacy.

So Bush and Cheney were given free license to engage in a series of cynical acts of aggression designed, in their minds, to “keep us safe” from terrorism. These included:

  1. Bomb first, ask no questions later. When faced with threats, conservatives love to bomb things because it makes them feel as if they are taking action against that threat. Of course, civilian casualties resulting from those bombings inflamed hatred for the United States as innocents perished. But that’s the apparent price of thoughtless war. “Collateral damage” they call it. The ultimate euphemism of course. Conservatives bomb, and then move on without a second thought about what the real effects of such bombings could be in terms of perception among enemies or friends.
  2. Torture is acceptable. Arguments in favor of torturing Iraqis and potential terrorist focused on the fact that such tactics were necessary to extract information that could “keep America safe.” That connection between information and actionable intelligence really never happened in any substantial way. And yet the apparent thought that our supposed enemies were being tortured made a certain segment of our society feel happy because we were “doing something” about terrorism. Never mind that many of the people we tortured and even killed through torture and mistreatment were in fact completely innocent.
  3. Spying on your own people is desirable. How ironic it is that the political force in America that claims to hate government most and wants to reduce its influence in our lives should choose to open a surveillance program that brought government into the very conversations we all hold over our telephones and cell phones. It seems a common phenomenon that the things conservatives most hate in others they ultimately become themselves. It happens on the social front when people who claim to stand for family values turn out to be serial wife cheaters or sexual predators. This repression haunts the conservative party like a ghost of unvirtuous fact.
  4. Always blame the other side. For all these insane actions and remorseless activities, conservatives have developed denial of responsibility for the evil outcomes into a very fine art. The virtual memo that says “never admit you were wrong” has been hard-wired into the consciousness of political, military and civilian conservatives. In fact, it is perhaps the greatest social conspiracy ever contrived as a political strategy. Its level of secrecy is protected by a devotion to denial and an entire lack of accountability. It is thus quite  breathtaking in its scope and effect on civil discourse. Its main mouthpiece, of course, is Fox News, whose claims of being “fair and balanced” as a “news organization” are the absolute expression of the virtue of lying with a smile on your face and putting tits above the fold as a distraction of the very audience you intend to recruit.

There’s a reason for all this aggression, repression and secession going on within the conservative cult in America. Only when a conservative breaks completely free of the party entirely, which means they can never go back, do we hear an ounce of truth and admission about what really goes on behind the scenes. The recent inadvertent confession of a certain Congressman on the real reasons for the Benghazi investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are just one such example of politically motivated use of government to harangue and discredit anyone that dares resist the conservative cartel in America.

It goes back a ways

John_F_KennedyResistance to this secret society of Conservatism with a Capital A (and its apparent arm, the CIA) is what got President Kennedy killed back in the 1960s. So the phenomena of killing threats to the cabal is not new.Kennedy was no saint, that’s for sure. But what he also represented as a political liberalism that some perceived as a threat to the security of America. But again, the considerations shown by John F. Kennedy in negotiations with the Soviets in the Cuba Missile Crisis are likely what prevented nuclear war. In other words, his small “c” conservatism kept us safe, just like Winston Churchill’s small “c” conservatism helped guide the Allies through World War II. It is this conservatism to which I believe Winston Churchill is referring in the quote above this column.

But it keeps happening that large “C” Conservatism is trying to kill its perceived enemies. And true to form, the conservative cabal went after Bill Clinton over engagement in a harmless blow job. The ensuing scandal turned into a political spectacle that distracted from Clinton’s ability to do his job, and keep us safe.

At that time, Clinton wanted to take action against bin Laden and potential terrorists in the Middle East, but was discouraged from doing so because it would appear he was attempting to “wag the dog” and escape accusations and impeachment over his extramarital affair. We seriously need to ask what would have kept us more safe in that scenario, the Starr Report or actually paying attention to real threats to our security. Capital A Conservatives clearly chose the former over the latter. America has paid the price ever since for this selfish, politically motivated debacle.

Fear, loathing and power

Paul Ryan

New House Speaker Paul Ryan

So you see, the goal of conservatism is never really to keep us safe. It is to gain and keep power, and that is all. Conservatives use fear to accomplish that mission all the time. That is why the call to war is so strong among them. War creates a deep tide fear in the populace, accentuated by methods such as “terror alerts” that the Bush administration turned on and off as needed to sway political will and push the perception of power in their direction. These are all tricks to get people to fall in line. Authoritarian thinkers on both the proactive and responsive side love these methods because it gives them a sense of control in otherwise chaotic circumstances. Of course it is all a ruse, but that does not matter.

FlagWaiverIndeed, Conservatives with a capital “C” want Americans to behave like Pavlov’s dogs in response to the call for war and acceptance of violence as status quo. They wave flags as patriots in fear until the very meaning of the flag is all worn out. Our flag has come to represent a national attitude of fear and a worn out ideology as a result.

Witness the marketing methods of the NRA, which flouts fear about race and crime as reasons to arm American on claims that more guns will “keep us safe.” Again, these are lies of massive proportions. More Americans have died from gun violence on American soil that all the soldiers ever killed in foreign wars. This is not “keeping us safe.”

Money kills

 

In the end, the sad thing about all this fear and terror and power is that it is all about money. Conservatives simply love money and all that it gives them. That’s why so many conservative whine about high tax rates and complain about giving their dollars through any social programs that might help the poor or elderly. This is the brand of conservatism that has evolved in America; selfishness as a life philosophy. It stands in direct opposition to the Christian call for charity and even giving away all you have to serve God and Christ. But modern conservatives (oxymoron intended) ignore all that real Christian stuff. That part is old-fashioned to them.

And we must return to the fact that top level Conservatives have always liked war because it enriches them. Former Vice President Dick Cheney used the Iraq War to increase the value of companies like Halliburton in which he has long held financial interests. The snarling visage of the man who almost singlehandedly leveraged America’s fortunes into his own while ruining our reputation overseas is like the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge, who without ever having gone through the happy change that made him into an advocate for the Christmas Spirit acts instead like the Grinch Who Stole America.

No Churchill

dick-cheneyCheney was no Churchill, let’s all agree on that. He seems to have envisioned himself that way, but where he falls short is in the ability to recognize the advantage of being a smart conservative with a small “c.” That is one who knows that conservatism actually involves consideration. Cheney appears to have none of that capacity, and as a result his version of “keeping us safe” turned the Middle East into a morass of angry terrorist hornets hoping to break free and sting the invader of their nest.

So let’s stop pretending that stirring up the hornet’s nest in the Middle East with bombings, torture and boots on the ground is a conservative strategy at all. It is not a conservative strategy, and it does not keep us safe.

And as for hornet’s back home, we’ve already got a system in place to detect their angry buzz. Typically they can’t keep quiet. Not if we open our eyes and ears and pay attention. And let’s not ignore those clear warnings this time, as Bush did back when he and Cheney were plotting to take over the entire Middle East to steal the oil and get some archly conservative kicks. That was stupid. And we’re getting stung as a result.

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,

The miracle of convergent evolution and faith

convergence4There’s an interesting thing that happens in evolution called “convergence.” That is, through selective forces such as habitat or climate or competitive adaptation, different kinds of animals and plants can appear to look alike. One of the most familiar examples is the convergent evolution of functional wings in birds, bats and insects.

Playful evolution

It’s an interesting fact that evolution sometimes also works in “reverse” when it comes to evolved physical characteristics such as wings. That’s why we find flightless species of penguins and cormorants. These birds no longer needed to fly to survive and their wings have evolved to be used for different purposes, or practically no purpose at all.

Flightless cormorants are birds whose wings have "devolved" through lack of need to fly.

Flightless cormorants are birds whose wings have “devolved” through lack of need to fly.

Why would any bird cease to fly? There seems to be so much value in the ability to fly away from potential predators or to fly in pursuit of potential prey. The answer (in part) is that when you live in an environment where swimming for prey and escape is the more efficient manner of existence, then flying becomes an unnecessary use of energy.

By contrast, penguins use their wings to propel through water in pursuit of fish while flightless cormorants simply rely on their back feet to propel them through the water in pursuit of the fish they eat. And it works. So are penguins going “backwards” in terms of evolution? Not really. They’ve simply evolved in a different direction from other forms of flying or flightless birds.

Dumb choices? 

Penguins sometimes use their bellies to slide across the ice.

Penguins sometimes use their bellies to slide across the ice.

If you choose to think in anthropomorphic terms (projecting human characteristics on animals) you could criticize penguins for making poor evolutionary choices.“Look at you stupid penguins! Now you’re not like the rest of the birds! You made a dumb choice. Now you can no longer fly!”

There’s a problem with that line of thinking. The many species of penguins on this earth did not “choose” to become flightless. They became flightless in practical response to the environments where they live. Flying to capture food or escape predators was no longer useful.

Evolution at work

txblindsalamandersm807cu

A Texas blind salamander

There is no end to the odd number of ways evolution** works on living creatures. We also have blind salamanders that live in caves. They no longer need their eyesight to find food in an environment where there is no light. We also have mammals known as bats that have poor eyesight, yet navigate through the night sky using echolocation to avoid trees and zero in on flying insect prey.

Nature is thus a highly creative source of evolutionary invention. This includes convergence, where different types of animals or plants evolve the same characteristics such as limbs or wings or eyes. There is also divergence, where through genetic variation or interbreeding changes in physical structure become part of the selective forces at work in the survival of a species.

About sex

Of course evolution also works with physical and behavioral characteristics in seemingly confusing ways. In the animal and plant world it is quite common for all sorts of living species to have both male and female sexual characteristics. In such cases we use the general scientific term of  hermaphrodite to describe these multisexual life forms.

In nature hermaphroditic animals and plants are known to assume both sexual roles in the mating process. Some types of living things begin as a male and change into a female. Others work female into male within a single lifespan depending on their lifecycle. Still others are bidirectional in nature, switching sexual roles from one gender to another and back again.

There’s a difference, but it’s natural and normal

Among human beings the term used to describe people with both sexual identities or physical characteristics is intersex or transgender to describe people with both male and female body parts. 

Again, these are not people who have chosen to be both male and female, nor are they. Yet transgender people are often forced by culture and society to make choices people should never have to make. Society seems to demand that they choose one sex or the other or be forced to live in a dichotomous world where they are not accepted by either sex.

The same holds true for homosexual people as well. While the sexual characteristics of a homosexual person are not necessarily demonstrated in a physical sense, the sexual orientation of a homosexual person who is sexually attracted to those of the same sex is just as biologically expressive as being transgender.

Fears and actions

Of course these differences in human sexual characteristics and orientation have long been ostracized by societies that fear differences of any sort. In fact many societies fear even the common sexual expressions in women and men. Basic functions such as menstruation were once considered “unclean” by ancient cultures. This prejudice and fear against menstruating women was codified in the Bible with calls to isolate women from society for a period of days until they were judged to be “clean” again. The same rules applied for men who ejected semen onto their clothes.

Even in today’s society, sexual repression and control over a women’s body is carried out in ancient tribal traditions that mutilate the clitoris of young women to deny them sexual pleasure in intercourse. This brand of controlling behavior is the sign of a culture that has not evolved in its comprehension and understanding of individual equality and gender roles in society.

Canonized fears

Even supposedly advanced cultures embrace ancient taboos because they mask a brand of machismo based on ignorance and fear about the female gender. These male fears are canonized in the Genesis creation story where Eve tricks Adam into trying fruit from the “tree of knowledge.” Notice the interesting theme at work in that creation tradition? Right away it is knowledge that is the enemy. Remain ignorant and you’ll be safe from all temptation, says Genesis.

Samson and Delilah

Samson and Delilah

It carries through many other biblical stories as well. When Delilah secretly cuts the hair of Samson he loses his legendary strength. The power of such stories holds true to this day, as evidenced by this question and answer posted on Yahoo! Answers.

Q: Do you lose strength when you cut your hair?

A: Wow, are we bored today? No, you cannot lose your strength if/when you cut your hair. Samson was a biblical fable used to demonstrate that when you forget your faith, and rely on the wrong thing, you can and will lose everything you have. (Not that I’m really Christian or anything, just completing the train of thought, *grin*)

Of course the real meaning of the story focused on being dedicated to God in faith. Yet how interesting it is that this notion persists that a man could lose strength by having his hair cut.

There are many such perceptions that masculine traits are evidence of strength and personal valor. When people don’t follow these “norms” they immediately come into question by society. These prejudices against men who act feminine or engage other men in a homosexual relationship are also canonized in the Bible.

It is interesting to note that while the Bible calls homosexuality a sin in some cases, it is just as often used as a warning of symbol for fears about falling into other types of sins. Here is one such example:

Romans 1:26-32, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

wipe_out_homophobia_by_wipeout_homophobia-d4835i7This passage foremost condemns anything other than the “natural use of a woman,” which is rather a patriarchal manner in which to view women as a rule. And the fact of “men with men working that which is unseemly” actually reveals the entire lack of knowledge that in most of nature, such clear lines of demarcation and behavior do not always exist. Absent the knowledge of modern science, the Bible falls into a definition of “normalcy” that depends far too much on fear and not enough on understanding.

And for homosexuality to stand at the start of it all seems like a certain condemnation. But the real message of this passage is a condemnation of people acting out of control. That’s the real message of the Sodom and Gomorrah story in the Bible as well. When strangers wander into town, they take refuge with Lot. The townspeople call them out because town tradition states that strangers found after dark are fair sport for all sorts of abuse. God is disgusted not just with this tradition, but all sorts of abusive behavior in these towns. He blots them out for their transgressions, but homosexuality was not the sole cause for that wrath. Yet that story has been used to condemn homosexuals for “sodomy” based on a fear of sexual practices that do not supposedly fit the “normal” behavior of human beings.

Thought control

It’s all about thought control, plain and simple.

In 2015 this practice of imposing thought control based on ancient and ignorant prejudices is being called into question by none other than Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church. He takes ancient bad habits to task by calling people to remember that Jesus himself came to turn the law over on its head. The Catholic News Service reports:

Jesus did “strange things,” like “walk with sinners, eat with tax collectors” — things the scholars of the law “did not like; doctrine was in danger, that doctrine of the law” that they and the “theologians had created over the centuries,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

The scholars were safeguarding the law “out of love, to be faithful to God,” the pope said, but “they were closed up right there,” and forgot all the ways God has acted in history.

“They forgot that God is the God of the law, but is also the God of surprises,” he said.

“God is always new; he never denies himself, he never says that what he had said is wrong, but he always surprises us,” the pope said.

20130911cnsbr1564-1024x730But the Pope doesn’t stop there. He dispenses with ancient prejudices by taking his line of thought to conclusion in this way, as the CNS reports:

The scholars of the law also forgot that the people of God are a people on a journey, “and when you journey, you always find new things, things you never knew before,” he said. But the journey, like the law, is not an end in itself; they are a path, “a pedagogy,” toward “the ultimate manifestation of the Lord. Life is a journey toward the fullness of Jesus Christ, when he will come again.”

The law teaches the way to Christ, and “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ,” he said, “and if it doesn’t get us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead.”

Pope Francis is forced by tradition to make these statements as part of a transitional focus on change. The church cannot just flip its doctrine lest it come off as too flip for its position as an authority on faith. Yet the message is clear: We must dispense with ancient prejudices or find ourselves set apart from God and Christ.

And this is the convergent evolution between the church and the life of Christ. It has taken 2015 years for the church to come around to this understanding. In between there have been persecutions of millions of people based on ancient prejudices against Jews and Muslims despite Christ’s call to love our supposed enemies. There has been canonized and politicized prejudice exercised against homosexuals, lesbians and transgender people despite the fact that all these characteristics and orientations are manifested wholly in God’s own creations. It continues to this day. 

thYet perhaps we are finally evolving as a faith. The church can only find use of its true wings if it is allowed to embrace all the many forms of human beings. That is, we are homo sapiens.

The word “homo” means man. The word sapiens is based on the root Latin word “sapere” that means wise. Perhaps now the scientific term describing human beings––home sapiens––is at last converging on something approaching the truth. Sometimes it takes a long time for evolution to work in this world. 

* unprincipled (often used as a humorous or affectionate reproach)

**For a long time questions by those who doubt the theory of evolution focused on the idea there were no transitional forms in the fossil record to demonstrate links between ancient dinosaurs and modern creatures.

In the world of birds we have long had the skeletal imprint of the archaeopteryx, an apparently transitional form of dinosaur with feathers. Thanks to recent fossil discoveries from China we how have dozens more examples of feathered dinosaurs. These extinct life forms demonstrate structural progressions from feathered dinosaurs to modern birds. Some of these fossils exhibit such clear detail that scientists are even able to discern and analyze structures such as cones in the retinas that tell us these creatures could perceive color. These similarities demonstrate clear structural and functional relationships and serve as clear evidence of evolution at work throughout history. .