Rise of the Trumpiots

America has wallowed long enough in the post-modern era. After modernism, which dispensed with classic ideas, came post-modernism, defined on good old Wikipedia as “typically defined by an attitude of skepticism or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies, and various tenets of Enlightenment rationality, including the existence of objective reality and absolute truth, as well as notions of rationality, human nature, and progress.[4]

Well, that modernism stuff is simply old hat isn’t it? And in the land of politics similar transitions have been occurring. We are witnesses to a process in which traditional conservatism gave way to neo-liberalism, defined on Wikipedia as “the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism.[2]:7 These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.” 

Back to the Future, in other words.

Neo-liberalism got its first political pelvic thrust from the likes of Ronald Reagan, who among other things, forcibly raped the unions and warned them it was only a first date. Thus the stage was set for a future that would turn out quite ugly forty years later.

Ronald Reagan.jpgThe Reagan Revolution was indeed a pact of aggressively regressive ideas that in reverberation through generations of equally zealous anti-government, anti-union and anti-liberal types, led to the collapse of the America economy after the forced romance started by Mr. Trickle Down Economics himself.

In other words: Neoliberalism backfired and the economy wound up face down and mortified.

But that just meant neoliberals needed something else to which they could cling to for honor in the face of a collapsing worldview. That’s when Post-Patriotism was born.

Bush911.jpgPost-Patriotism reared its head in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. It was formed by the likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who opportunistically turned a national crisis into a flag-waving excuse for imperial dreams.

Sensing or even anticipating the mood of the nation after such a massive terrorist attack, the Bush administration leveraged the political climate as an excuse to invade the Middle East. Bush and company invented an aggressive pretense linking Saddam Hussein to the events of 9/11. Hapless patriots bought the lie, and Post-Patriotism was born. Even some Democrats were cowed by the fearmongering used to convert anger over 9/11 into an excuse to attack Iraq and invade Afghanistan.

There was just one problem with the Post-Patriotic plan to take over the Middle East. The Post-Patriotic verve blew away with the smoke after a massive series of bombings did little to change things in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Without a succession plan in the wake of the overthrow of Hussein, Iraq dissolved into a mess and the focused rage of Americans after the 9/11 tragedy was tossed into a hornet’s nest of even more terrorism directed and aimed at American interests.

Then came news that American soldiers were torturing Iraqi citizens in the very same jails used by Saddam Hussein. That meant America quickly squandered the high ground of 9/11 because we behaved no better than the people we’d identified as the Bad Guys. Even die-hard patriots were left defending these egregious behaviors while jails like Guantanamo based in Cuba illustrated American hypocrisy and fear over hosting terrorists on its own soil. Under the leadership of Bush and Cheney, Post-Patriotism became a “loser take all” proposition. And America was losing face badly, and quickly.

dick-cheney

Post-Patriotism has now gone all the way through an abstract phase in which it became the foundation for an entire ideology in which contradiction of terms is the prime modus operandi. That’s how the slogan “Fair and Balanced” became the calling card of Fox News, which clearly touts conservatism as its main foundation while characterizing contradictory facts as an expression of liberal bias. Yet this hypocrisy has proven highly popular in the era of Post-Patriotism, in which fear is the main selling point in politics and opinion.

Post-Patriotism has sold well in a media climate where real journalists are so easily shoved to the background or worse, openly mocked for any sort of intellectual confession that can be maligned as a product of the liberal elite and higher education.

Thus we arrive at the Low Brow conclusion of the Post-Patriotic era, where no intelligent person can defend rational ideas using basic tools like facts. The strategy for Post-Patriots going forward is simple: If none of your beliefs align with the moral or patriotic high ground, then you must aggressively occupy the low ground, and set about cutting people off at the knees, and at all costs.

alg-donald-trump-jpgThus we have moved into an era that is not just Post-Patriotic. It is Trumpiotic. That is the battlefield where truth itself is the enemy. Truth is the unmentionable obstacle to aggressive opinions served up as fact. That is exactly why fact-checkers have little or no effect on this new age of Trumpiots, who could not care less about what other people think.

In that vein, Trumpiots aggressively respond to accusations of racism by doubling down with even more racism, or even making the claim that racism did not exist before the likes of President Obama.

 

Trumpiots consider themselves the enlightened lot. It’s an easy claim to make in some respects. Their leader Donald Trump elucidates no common sense and outlines no firm positions. His notion of implementing political and social change is to radically change his opinion and expect people to follow along. His followers imitate this ruse, all the while claiming it is the responsibility of less enlightened citizens to “keep up.” As if ignoring accountability were an indication of true leadership.

06242016_boris_johnsonAnd so, we’re faced with a mass movement in America that is no longer tethered to any sort of values at all. This is the rally cry of Trumpiots, whose apparent devotion to their Orange Leader remains spookily familiar because history around the world has burped up others of his kin. Indeed, Great Britain has its own Donald Trump in the likes of Boris Johnson.

This is always what you get when conservatism runs amok, a brand of patriotism that eats its own kind. It is cannibalistic and shunts real patriotism to the side in favor of party loyalty. This is the age of the Trumpiots in America. May it not be long-lived.

 

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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.

 

 

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?

 

How the Republican Party will blame liberals for climate change

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

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

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

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

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

Predictable outcomes

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

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

Falling away from God

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

Murderous ways

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

Shame and blame

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

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

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

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

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

The Advent of Meta Christianity

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

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

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

Big Dogs

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

Voting blocs

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

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

Conventions

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

Manifestos

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

End Times

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

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

Science of denial

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

Rightward ho!

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

Dead Ends

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

F the Establishment Clause

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

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

Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker would love to punt us all

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

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

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

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

Shallow depths

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

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

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

Not fit for office

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

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

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

Cognitive dissonance on science

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

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

The Bible tells me so

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

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

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

Pandering for power

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis shoots down the conservative worldview

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

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

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

Patent ideology

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

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

There’s a bumper crop of hatred out there

By Christopher Cudworth

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

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

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

Piss on all those, I guess? 

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

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

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

Piss OnPretty consistent pissing so far, you might say. 

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

The Chase is on

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

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

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

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

Can’t get no…no no no…

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

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

Human interest

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

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

Piss On, Brother

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

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

What would Jesus piss on? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was Jesus a greedy bugger? 

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

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

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

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

Nice hydrant, dude

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

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

Ken Ham the Creationist versus Bill Nye the Science Guy proved a lot about how wrong Ken Ham has the Bible

By Christopher Cudworth

Bill Nye listens carefully as Ken Ham makes the claim that the Bible is a better source of fact than material science

Bill Nye listens carefully as Ken Ham makes the claim that the Bible is a better source of fact than material science

It appeared from watching the “debate” between creationist Ken Ham and scientist Bill Nye that Ham wanted desperately to prove science wrong about everything.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the conclusion of the so-called debate. Ham never mustered the ability to answer simple questions that would have proved creationism has any sort of relationship with science. His entire contention rested on the contention that the Bible must be understood “naturally” in order to understand the world. That is, the parts in the Bible Ken Ham judges to be crucial to a literal interpretation of scripture must be abided to the letter. The other parts, such as the “poetry” of Psalms, according to Ham, actually have no real bearing on the role of the Bible as science. Wow. That’s a whopper.

Yet that is the biblical foundation of Ken Ham’s creationist worldview. It begins with a denial of a significant portion of the Bible’s verity. Creationism literally starts with the assertion that not all the Bible can be trusted as fact.

And that’s just the starting point of a confused, frustrating and inaccurate worldview. Ken Ham seems to misunderstand and completely disregard the nature of what Christians call the New Testament. In fact he makes very few references to Jesus in any of his assertions about creation.

He certainly never mentions the methods by which Jesus himself taught by using organic metaphors. In simpler terms, Jesus used symbols from nature to illustrate spiritual principles. That way everyday people could comprehend what he was trying to teach about the nature of God.

But Ken Ham can’t seem to grasp or embrace that style of teaching, about nature, or about science. He prefers instead the literal view of scripture. His motive appears to be focused on leaving no room for interpretation. He is a zealot about that.

Of course that is the very same legalistic approach used by the Pharisees, leaders of the faith in Jesus’ day. He branded them a “brood of vipers” in clear reference to the Genesis depiction of Satan as a serpent.

You don’t have to take that reference literally to get the message. Jesus would not have liked Ken Ham. Jesus would have knocked the Creation Museum to the ground because it is a crass attempt to control the faith and belief of people through legalistic force and deception.

So the truth speaks for itself. Ken Ham is at odds with Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. Ken Ham considers Jesus’ method of teaching with metaphors inferior to his own brand of truth based on narrow interpretations of a book written 2000 years ago, conveyed originally as oral tradition and translated multiple times.

The simpler, more clear understanding that Jesus gave to all those who would listen is not good enough for Ken Ham. Jesus would gladly have accepted the findings of science.

Jesus said God is nature, and nature is God. All things worthy of consideration can be discerned through that simple statement. Anything else is fiction, or worse, a lie about the Word of God. And God is never happy about that.

On why we should all read about faith and what it means to the world

Lutheran School of Theology Chicago

Lutheran School of Theology Chicago

By Christopher Cudworth

Sitting in the admissions office of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago felt right.

A little more than two years ago a young man that had served as our church Youth Pastor had invited me to visit the school. “I think you’d like it,” he told me.

Our conversations as he prepared to leave his position at the church and begin studies to become a Lutheran pastor had centered on ministry to high school students, yet over coffee one morning the topics widened. I explained the process of writing my book, “The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age,” and how it changed the way I viewed writing about, and reading about, faith in the world.

The experience of trying to get an agent for the book had taught me a few things. The theme was the same with every contact. “You’re not a minister. You’re not a college professor. What credibility do you have to write such a book?”

Credibility is important. It gives people a foundation upon which to trust what you write. The process of earning credibility can also challenge the manner in which you arrive at your conclusions.

Regarding Masters

The message stuck with me. Despite the fact that I had spent 7 years researching and refining the book, it was true. I was not technically qualified to write it. Not in the eyes of those who make such decisions anyway.

It’s not enough that your friends call you “courageous” for taking on biblical literalism as a worldview. You must vet your viewpoints in the theological world before tearing away the dogmatic garments of the modern day Pharisees who stand in opposition to so much practical truth.

Simple truths and basic contradictions

Yet it’s a simple fact really. Biblical literalists stand in opposition to the teaching methods of Jesus Christ, who consistently used organic metaphors to convey spiritual truths through parables designed to bring the common mind to faith in God. Ignoring that principle is basically a slap in the face to Jesus. It’s like telling him, “You don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t you know that God’s Word must be taking literally or it has no meaning at all?”

While classic, the old ways of thinking may not be sufficient for a new world. Nor have they ever been.

While classic, the old ways of thinking may not be sufficient for a new world. Nor have they ever been.

Actually the community of believers who take the Bible literally never actually get close to discussing the teaching methods of Jesus. They’re stuck way back in Genesis and a literal 7 days, an Adam and Eve that were transmogrified from the dust of the Earth and a Serpent or Snake who tricks Eve and then Adam into disobeying God’s warning not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Of course we all know the story. Adam and Eve fall for the Serpent’s logic, thereby causing the Fall of Man.

Bad Beginnings? 

Original Sin is the pet concept that emerges from that creation story. But that quick-take worldview ignores a key aspect of the tale. What we miss by taking the story literally is the Serpent’s methodology in tricking Adam and Eve. In a crafty use of the first brand of scripture known to Man, the Serpent engages Eve in legalistic use of God’s own words to undermine her trust in God. Here is how the ploy works:

Christianity is not entirely clear on what the "serpent" really is, or looks like. So how can we take such a creation story literally?

Christianity is not entirely clear on what the “serpent” really is, or looks like. So how can we take such a creation story literally?

The Serpent’s Deception
3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” 4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”…

How very similar is this exchange to the passage in Matthew 15 in which Jesus engages the Pharisees over the issue of turning the Word of God into a legalistic trap:

1Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?

The comparison between literalism and legalism is given a direct connection to the Serpent in the Book of Genesis in Matthew 23:33, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

It is a sad fact that today’s adherents to biblical literalism are playing the same game that Pharisees played with Jesus so long ago. Yet the pain and misdirection caused by today’s brand of scriptural literalism is just as potent as that depicted in Genesis with deception by the serpent, and just as power-mongering as the Pharisees of the New Testament.

And that is the point from my motivation to attend a school of theology emanates. I believe the most important thing in the world right now is to counter biblical literalism and all its awful consequences. Literal interpretation of the Bible is being used to persecute gays, to resist legitimate science, to argue against the theory of evolution and to undermine political and ethical justice on a broad spectrum of issues.

Reason and Reasons
It’s not about a mid-career change for me, or anything prosaic as that. It’s about finding ways to make the world a better place. Martin Luther changed the world by pointing out the very simple fact that we are saved first and foremost by grace. The new reformation should finish the job of removing all barriers from our acceptance of grace.

Yet we also need to define what it means to exist within and attend to the Kingdom of God. How we understand the nature of that “kingdom” is crucial to our stewardship of creation. The dangerously ironic consequence of a worldview founded on biblical literalism is the attitude that nature and all of creation is essentially a disposable tool of God, one that has no purpose other than our own somewhat greedy sustenance and no other significance than as a temporal stage between Creation and Armageddon.

Challenges

We can do better than old ships and sails of theology. And we should.

We can do better than old ships and sails of theology. And we should.

We need to challenge this fatalistic worldview at its very roots. That begins with the misinterpretation of Genesis as a literal document. Yet it also extends to our regard of scripture as a wholly inerrant document. It simply isn’t, that way. Any faith dependent on that premise is brittle, frail and sad, thus requiring a defensive posture to sustain.

The book of Romans 1:20 contains a telling point of scripture, one that reveals the idea of organic fundamentalism, the key understanding that nature itself, and our metaphorical understanding of it, holds keys to our comprehension of God and all that we read in scripture:

Romans20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,  so that people are without excuse.

Nowhere in this passage, or any other in the Bible for that matter, does it say that we must take a literal approach to conceptions of God. In fact as demonstrated by Jesus himself, we are to do the opposite.

Recall that literalism and legalism produced the approach that one could earn the way into heaven through God works doled out by the church and vetted by leaders who earned earthly power through the system set up by the brand of Pharisees leading the Catholic church at the time.

Then along came Martin Luther, who saw through the giant ruse of literalism and legalism, and who launched a Reformation that transformed the faith, made it new again. We can view this passage in a fresh light in contradiction to the brand of literalism now vexing the world.

Nature and eternity are foundations of the Bible

There is more to the theological landscape than meets the eye. Creativity, not just creation, is part of scripture. Click for larger view.

Ephesians 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works,  so that no one can boast.

For there are many who “boast” that their literalistic view of the bible constitutes the “works” of real Christianity. Yet we also know that God’s invisible qualities are visible in Nature, and through the Word, and that there is no excuse for ignoring these greater, most important facets of faith realized.

And that is why the pursuit of truth is so important to me, and why sitting in the office of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago felt so very good, and so very real. Because each Reformation has to start somewhere. We all play a part in the heart of faith.