The Two Spies Report

The "Minority Report" from J. Michael Bennett, Ph.D, Emeritus Producer of the Future Quake Radio Show, and Author of the soon-to-be-released book series The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror

Category: Human Rights

A Response To An Objection To My Recent Immigrants Post

Friends,

One of my old dear friends from my Future Quake days protested and disputed my positions expressed in my post on the recent immigrant caravan affair, and our American Christian attitudes in general on the subject.  She countered that a “gang kid” tried to break in to her house in California months ago after running from the police to evade them, and was eventually thrown in jail, referring to him as one of the “lost boys”, and connected the incident to the types of people in the caravan.  She referred to the caravan as a “Soros tactic”.  Earlier she had posted publicly in the comments section after the post that “You have gone off the deep end.  I can’t take you seriously anymore.  This is a paid for, well thought out plan of invasion”.  Since we had gone back so many years, and had weathered so many difficult spiritual issues together in debate, while praying for and encouraging each other, it was a particularly bitter rebuke to endure, much like I have experienced from some of my closest friends and family recently.

Since we have been dear Christian brothers and sisters to each other for a long time, I felt warranted to further clarify my views in a reply email, in an attempt to again acknowledge the realities of needing orderly and responsible immigration policies, while recognizing the glimpse of spiritual insights it provides into our own souls in terms of the spirit by which we address the issue.  My response is repeated below, with the intention of helping clarify my overall views to the greater readership, as inspired by the concerns expressed by her that may be at fault in part to my limited elaboration in my earlier post.  In response to this, she reiterated her strong support for President Trump and his policies, but in the interest of better understanding, I include my earlier emailed clarification as follows:

“Thank you for sharing more, sister – we go a way back and have been through a lot of sorting out together, and we deserve to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and understanding.  I also know that for a number of years I have been going through a transition in my thinking and pondering, and asking questions that make many (but not all) of my friends uncomfortable, and am often misunderstood as I begin a long-overdue process of critiquing the sacred conservative principles I have been spending my life following without question.  I know that at times my pendulum can swing too far the other way when I am trying to address some former strong holds in my life, and as I focus my limited time on perspectives that I feel aren’t taken seriously in my evangelical circles, I am afraid some people think that I do not think that it is only a missing perspective that needs to be added into consideration with other issues and positions we have already beat to death in our Christian circles.  Hence, the blog name “The Two Spies Report”.  I think it is healthy for Christians to intensely self-critique our views as citizens of the heavenly kingdom, and less so those of outsiders to it.  I am as committed as ever to seeking Christ and His positions as my “cornerstone” to square my positions on these difficult issues, and for me its as much a “hit or miss” art as a science.  My tone may come as extreme at times, but social media and talk radio have made Christian people dull to all but people yelling in their ear, and I make no apology for trying to shake people up and jarring them with uncomfortable perspectives (although I try to back it up with data and the Bible as I can), because when we are unsettled and borderline offended, is when we might grow, even if we don’t adopt all the views of those God uses as such, based on my experience.

I am so sorry for your recent experience, and I know the issue of perceiving crime as being an immigrant issue predominantly is even easier to occur from your neck of the woods (around here, race is also a common scapegoat).  Regarding immigration, I have no problem with thorough vetting of applicants, and an orderly processing process and one that screens out known criminals – neither have I met anyone else (including most liberals I know) who have problems with that as well.  What I and many people have problems with is the reckless manner, tone and technique of demonizing all immigrants as “rapists and murderers”, and tying them all to MS-13, and publicly and persistently painting a picture of all of them as criminals and “invaders”.  Any time you take a population pool large enough, particularly with a large element of poverty (which most immigrants have always come from), there inevitably be some component of desperate young people or those raised with no dads and from criminal neighborhoods where they are from for which that is all they know.  Most of these crowds of people are pitiful, as just as Republican governor and presidential candidate John Kasich said the other day, we should thank Jesus we are each not in their shoes, and as he says, it could just as easily be one of us in their position, and the Golden Rule is still applicable.  Strict immigration screening and a merciful and compassionate public positions and process are not mutually exclusive. If a ridiculously-expensive piece of masonry along the border could magically eliminate unapproved infiltration of our country it would be one thing, but world history has shown that walls never really work, and are naive; rather, this is a typical Trump “P.T. Barnum” simplistic medicine show sales pitches that is simplistic enough for the masses to make into a bumper sticker, like “Build that wall” and “Mexico will pay for it” (which Trump has since said he knew they would never do), or “lock her up!”.

The problems you just experienced, and elsewhere across the country, are much more complex and difficult than solved by a simple wall. It involves the breakdown of the nuclear family, poverty and crumbling communities, and the resultant breakdown in the nurturing of youth by male role models and community churches. Are our church communities doing enough, or are they mainly focused on “urgent” issues like gay marriage?  This is not just an immigrant phenomenon – there are the same types of crime and behaviors amongst our native-born population as well.  It is shown by the real crisis of abuse of reality-altering chemicals, including opioids and other prescription drugs, alcohol abuse, and suicide, which are three items that have now for the first time reduced the lifespan of 18-54 year old Americans. I feel that these things fuel crime and breakdown of communities, as well as the rampant undiagnosed mental health problems (which obviously also has a major spiritual component, and maybe even diet), and I surmise that these are at least partially the major “elephants in the room” of which the immigrant crisis is more of a symptom. As I said in the blog, the immigrant crisis also almost forces us to become “globalists” in my view, and try to intervene in a transparent fashion to raise the well being, stability and economic hopes of nations globally, even if it impacts our own standard of living, unless we just want to mow down untold numbers of desperate immigrants at our borders for generations, and as a Christian I cannot accept that as an option.

I hope that makes my view clearer, and I want to acknowledge that I know your experience “on the battlefield” versus my theoretical musings need to be considered, but we must come up with solutions together that do not violate the Golden Rule and are forward-thinking and with a holistic and long-term focus, and not just emotionally fed by demagogues, who really don’t care about the long-term problems anyway, and only seek to capitalize on our instinctive fears and weaknesses for their own benefit.

Love you sister!”

 

A Little Something to Inspire You to Resist the “Migrant Menace” Like a Good Christian

ThisIsTheArmy

On November 1 The Washington Post reported that by that time the exodus of Honduran and other refugees fleeing deadly civil war had comprised around 4,000 persons, of which a large portion are women and children; it is not known how many of these hungry people without shelter, food or medicine will make it all the way to the U.S. border.  Also, the Mexican government, far below the U.S. in wealth and standard of living, graciously offered asylum and jobs for many of them – maybe Mexico has a better claim to being a “Christian nation” than our own.  They also note that the assembly of the poor and largely affirmed would have to march non-stop, without sleep or rest, to make the remaining 870 mile journey in ten days.

Nevertheless, President Trump is rushing to send U.S. military forces to confront them (intentionally to publicly position them as a PR stunt before the Tuesday mid-term elections), whether it violates the fundamental Constitutional prohibition known as Posse Comitatus or not, and disregarding the preferred suitability of the National Guard, if not the Border Patrol.  They also report that late at night on Oct. 31 Trump told reporters that he may send as many as 15,000 U.S. Troops – each an “Army of One” and the most sophisticated, capable and deadly military force in the world.  The article as well as other sources note that the number of these troops would be roughly equal to the number of U.S. troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan – combined – the places we were told were the center of the War on Terror and threatened our very way of life.  In those places, we were previously told that overwhelming numbers of troops would guarantee a “quick and decisive victory”, leading President Bush to quickly declare “Mission Accomplished”; after almost two decades of heavy troop deployments and untold repeated tours by our soldiers – after seventeen years in Afghanistan and 14 years in Iraq, as of 2018 – we are still struggling to maintain some semblance of control, and regularly stamping out new insurgence movements like ISIS or the Taliban.  How much worse would it be if our “Christian nation” were not an overtly militant one in its identity, rivaled only historically by ancient Sparta.  According to the budget-hawk Peter G. Peterson Foundation, our current annual military budget is greater than that of the seven next biggest global military budgets combined, including those of China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom.  Meanwhile, wealthy industrialized Western nations like the Netherlands spend a relatively imperceptible part of their wealth on defense, yet they remain relatively peaceful and unmolested.

On November 1, it was reported that President Trump gave a speech in the White House directing the deployed soldiers as Commander-in-Chief that if “they [the children and other refugees] want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back”, and that if do throw rocks, “I say consider it a rifle”, and thus a justification of deadly force – not only a policy that Prime Minister of Netanyahu approves for addressing stone-throwing children in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, but also reminiscent of the American policy towards Indian refugees at Wounded Knee.  Like some other American and other leaders before him, Trump would love for such a confrontation to be triggered (much as what started the Mexican War previously), and it would be a political goldmine to energize his evangelical and white-supremacist base at the polls.

An unarmed group of largely sickly children and women, desperate and cornered, would obviously be no match for the deadliest and best armed and trained military in the world, as a show of “proportionate force” (at least “proportionate” in terms of Trump’s true agenda).  And, judging by his statements regarding the “rapist and murders” comprising these souls escaping civil war both recently and since he first began his campaign, his agenda indeed is to teach these immigrant refugees and the watching world a “lesson about America, and who we are and what we are about” – and sadly, it will indeed do that very thing.

It’s not that Trump is totally against immigrants, any more than we was against using illegals for the Trump Organization, or in his lucrative low-income housing.  He revealed his “benevolence”, “America-first” style, in the RAISE Act he endorsed (and which was designed with the assistance of Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon), and was submitted as a Senate bill in 2017.  It creates a merit-based requirement for immigrants to enter the U.S., based upon a points system that requires earning 30 “points” to even justify submitting an application for submission.  I have heard many thoughtful and reasonable souls who have been willing to consider a “wall” or some equivalent, in order to facilitate an orderly and controlled processing of immigrants, if it is paired with a generous provision of substantial processing and acceptance of a large pool of lawful immigrants, which is actually needed to support our economy – particularly at this time with low unemployment and the need for a low-cost workforce.  However, the RAISE Act would reduce number of green cards by 50 percent, and refugee allowances of those persecuted down to 50,000.  It would also reduce the ability for family members to join those already immigrated – at least consistent with Trump’s policy to rip children from their mothers at the border.  Ironically, NBC News reported that  the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania – the very school who taught Trump his business acumen, and the degree for which he is most proud – announced that the enactment of RAISE would cost 4.6 million jobs and lower national GDP through 2040.                 

The “VISA GUIDE” website, known as the “Worldwide Visa Travel Guide”, provides an online primer of the point system provisions of RAISE, which certainly reflects the values of personal worth of Donald Trump.  It notes that the points-based visas will now be limited to 140,000.  You are not allowed to get points if you are 17 or younger, or older than 50, with high points given to twenty-somethings.  High points are given for those possessing doctorates, with only one point of the 30 given if you only have a high school degree.  High points are also given for a demonstrated high proficiency in English in the tests (probably tests many Americans would flunk).  Most interestingly, a “Nobel Laureate or comparable recognition in a field of scientific or social scientific study” would automatically get 25 of the 30 points needed, while those with an “Olympic medal or 1st place in an international sporting even in which the majority of the best athletes in an Olympic sport were represented in past 8 years before submitting the application” would get 15 points.  13 points are available for an applying immigrant who has been offered a lucrative job that is 300 percent of the median household income in the U.S., and 200 percent of median household income jobs would get 8 points – thus keeping natural U.S. citizens from those high-paying jobs, but leaving more menial jobs for native-born Americans than currently.  You can also buy your way here to be a “good American”; if you are “Investing the equivalent of $1,800,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S and maintain such investment for at least 3 years”, you get 12 points, while if you are “Investing the equivalent of $1,350,000 in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S and maintain such investment for at least 3 years”, you get 6.   They add that “If you have less than 30, then you should not apply because your application will not be reviewed”, and to apply, you must provide a “Birth certificate or a government-issued document for your age”, “Diplomas and degrees for your education”, “Official test scores for English proficiency”, “Extraordinary achievement proof if applicable”, “Official job offer letter with compensation”, and “Documents which prove you will start a commercial enterprise in the U.S and the investment”, as well as “a $160 application fee for processing”.

I doubt that many of the refugees fleeing terror in the Honduran civil war brought all these documents with them.  Regardless, I guess they would not likely qualify anyway.  Neither would almost all of our ancestors that first came to these shores, as well as most of those who came through Ellis Island and past the Statue of Liberty, or even Plymouth Rock or Jamestown, with many fleeing persecution or deprivation with no more than the shirt on their backs, but while even not knowing our language, they built the strong and advanced nation that we now live in.  However, scapegoating immigrants for any current problems in our nation at any time has long been an election winner in America, and with the evangelicals of 2018, it will be no different.

In conclusion, I offer the following clip of the concluding musical number from the inspirational, war-selling 1943 Hollywood movie “This is the Army”, entertaining the audience with soldier-entertainers with their bayonets extended forward in a Mayday-like march, declaring they are “dressed up in win!” to “finish the job” that they didn’t do in the previous war, “so we’ll never have to do it again”.  Of course they said the same thing in the “War to End All Wars” in 1917, which led to the even-deadlier World War II and atomic devastation and “total war” on civilian populations, which just led to the Cold War, and with the Afghanistan phase leading to the War on Terror.  Will this deployment of intimidating force against these feeble refugees, as fellow North Americans on our own continent, have any different result?  Will our long-standing militant policy of “the beatings will continue until morale improves” actually lead to immigrants not seeking safety within our shores, or revenge when we turn them back to likely death, as we refuse to share our blessings?  Will we ever learn that unless we are our “brother’s keeper” and try to help them where they live, we will only alternatively have to cut them down them in waves by our machine guns, and what happens when we run out of bullets, or they counter with comparable weapons in more desperate fashion?  Will they at least still believe we are a “Christian nation”?

“This Time” – “This is the Army” 1943 (click on Youtube link here)  

ArmyEagle

 

 

 

The State of the American Christian Union, Part 1 -Kingdom Confusion

Mike voting

Me early voting – sporting my older brother’s 1968-era patriotic sweatshirt I traditionally wear on voting days (sorry I missed the 68 Democratic Convention – what a rumble!)

 

Yesterday I went for the early voting day for the mid-term elections in my community, held inside a local church.  I expected a sparse crowd in early afternoon, when us deadbeats are available (when we’re not watching Springer).  I have to say however, that the old folks were out in force and filled the place, with a grim look of determination in their eyes (even if they did move slow and could not hear when their name was called).  I can only imagine what they thought when they saw a non-white, female Democratic state representative candidate Hana Ali campaigning outside – I am sure they thought “Muslim Brotherhood”…(it appeared that I was the only one who actually went and talked to her, and found out that she was a long-time local physician (dunno if she was Muslim, Hindu, secular or another faith) who was sacrificing her lucrative practice to advocate for free health care for returning military veterans, as her central “diabolical” campaign agenda).  I asked an older man behind me in line what his generic thoughts were about things going on in our country today, and he ominously whispered to me, “It’s best that I not speak about any of that”.

Given that I was standing in the heart of my “Red Hat” state of Tennessee, I’m pretty sure what was on the mind of himself and the sea of his senior cohorts there, and given the events of the last two years, where a now-sitting president can previously tell a rally crowd beating up a protestor, “Hit him for me – I’ll pay your legal bills!” – and the Christian crowd loves it! – I think everyone can agree with me that things are getting really serious.  As I stood in line reflecting on recent events and what was going on in my “hood” on my watch, I kept wondering how we got to where we are today; where a Falwell head of a major Christian university (Liberty) can stand in front of a Playboy cover of Trump as he takes a picture with him, asking him to speak at his Christian university (where Trump declared God would want us to get even with our enemies, but did cite “Two Corinthians” and held up his grandmother’s Bible), only mentioning his envy of Trump’s jumbo jet, and with audio of Trump admitting he molested married women sexually because he was famous and powerful, and lied repeatedly about paying off a Playmate and a porn star for affairs as his wife had a newborn at home (as later became proven), and the Christian crowd does nothing but defend him, because he serves their agenda.

I see that this is not a revelation about Trump himself; to his credit, he has always been an a_s.   But it does expose a whole lot about the real nature of the “Moral Majority” crowd I grew up respecting, and a majority of the folks in the pews.  Trying to understand their priorities when they enter the voting booth, I have to wonder if they really understand what kingdom they are a citizen of.  Do they listen when their preachers preach from the Gospels?  Do they really take Jesus seriously in the things He taught?

I have been told by certain readers on this blog (mostly just one) and even family members and old friends that for even asking these questions, I have become the one thing more diabolical than a devil-worshipper – a liberal.  I was accused on a Mother’s Day visit with my family this year that I “loved Muslims and the poor”, as a serious vice (I only wish it were more true!).  A recent visit with old Christian friends informed me of an additional shortcoming of mine that I did not recognize – in that all “the poor” and those of non-white ethnicities were all lazy and taking advantage of us working whites, mocking us and taking away our jobs and promotions.  To my knowledge, I have never extolled the virtues of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi or even the Democratic Party, but all my talk of “the poor”, “refugees” and being kind to the “stranger”, and even being so bold as to cite the “Golden Rule”, has earned me a status as an “outsider” of dubious motives, progressing from being a “golden boy” in my evangelical circles to (with the exception of a very small circle of friends) being a pariah.  It’s just like when a fundamentalist church once shunned me (even as a young member whom they could previously count on to serve faithfully there) when I read Colossians 2 verbatim in their singles group (as I was asked to do) which talked of the “false form of humility” resulting from artificial dress or food restrictions, or another fundamentalist church because I defended the Christian state of charismatics (of whom I am not one).

I still see a lot of confusion in Christian circles as to what kingdom we really belong to, what is its agenda and our duties in it, and how it affects how we respond as American citizens.  I will just cite a few verse and thoughts, of which much more can be said on it from the Bible, which rightfully deserves and entire book or more – of which I will oblige, in time.  I admit that it does get a little more confusing today because (a) we live in a Christian era when God has prescribed a kingdom for us that is not the one in which we physically exist, (b) we live in a unique age as a select set of Christians that have a participatory role in the selection of our leaders, and their resultant decisions (and responsibility for them), and (c) we do not live in a theocracy (by design), and must recognize that secular government has a legitimate agenda that is NOT identical with the Kingdom of Heaven, but through which we should non-coercively provide “salt” and light”, and “love our brothers”.  However, if a Christian today will set down with their Bible for an evening or two and focus on this topic, they could quickly be a lot more informed and achieve some clarity on the subject.  Since we live in the Information Age with a relatively high degree of literacy, there is really no excuse for such darkness of ignorance, other than that the state of being informed on a Biblical opinion on the topic is not a priority for average Christians, and what little time they dedicate to it comprising the accepting of the directives of strangers, such as evangelical leaders in the media, or the unbelievers they listen to on talk radio and cable news.

Even with what little Abraham knew about God, and having been given an earthly inheritance of land with fixed physical demarcations and the respect of his neighbors in the land, he still recognized that he was a pilgrim and nomad in that very same land, and actually looked for

“a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God. ..and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.   But now they desire a better [country], that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city…Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” [Heb 11:10, 13-14, 16, 12:28 KJV]

Thereafter Joshua, leading a nation that understood itself to be a sole earthly expression of God’s nature, agenda and presence, fell for the “tribalism” view common in Christian circles today, in that a follower of God is either with their movement and circle, or otherwise an “enemy of God”; in our circles today, it would be in the Republican party, with the “heathen” in the alternative Democratic Party.  However, God never felt the need to carry the same “buckets” of our preferred tribes, be they political parties, ideologies (left or right, capitalist, communist or socialist), nation-states, or any other affiliation; in turn, as a “jealous” God, He is not too thrilled when we carry any other identification in our own “buckets” except Jesus, as the “cornerstone” in which whose teachings all other ideologies have to be measured against (given that they may be suited for a secular kingdom without the same agendas as the Kingdom of Heaven), and certainly not when we compromise our most core Christian values from the Kingdom of Heaven taught by Jesus to accommodate and justify such affiliations.  In practice, those ideologies who have a veneer of overt “righteousness” are actually the most seductive and dangerous.  Here’s what happened when Joshua and the Hebrews confronted another of God’s men:

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”  Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” [Jos 5:13-14 NIV]

Joshua wisely recovers from this incident, re-orienting himself to humbly ask what direction God now has for him, rather than directing this other servant of God to get in line with his movement.  You might ask me if I have difficulty in realizing that God is not obligated to get behind my own “spiritual” direction or ideas at any time, and my answer is yes, I do have a difficulty with that, and it is perpetually humbling to me to realize it; we should continuously be measuring our directions against that of the “Cornerstone” before we get too far down any road.

Daniel served in a pagan kingdom and government, and did not curse them, but humbly and gently tried to help the spiritual condition of his pagan leaders and their people, even when threatened with harm.  His denouncements of sin were not directed towards people and cultures different than him (unlike Mordechai), and rather at those of his own culture and faith, and for that Gabriel said he was “greatly beloved” in heaven in Daniel 9, and also “greatly beloved” in a visitation in Daniel 10, possibly by Jesus Himself.

I leave it to the reader to research the commandments of God, either by His own voice or through the prophets, for His people and their nation to be kind to the “stranger” of another kind of faith, because “you were once strangers in Egypt” as a religious and ethnic minority yourself, and to take care of the poor, and make sure the vulnerable (fatherless, widows and orphans) are provided for, and to make sure the poor get justice in the courts which are not controlled by money, and that the wealthy and businessmen do not take over the less wealthy with debt or confiscating sources of income (“tools”), and to even forcibly “redistribute wealth” through the Year of Jubilee, and to leave lands fallow (sources of income and provision) for the poor in intervening years, which the Jews never did, and for which God said they were sent to exile for.  When is the last time you heard politically-active Christians or media outlets make these issues a priority in the political debates and candidate evaluations, even though God makes it clear it is a priority for Him? 

Another way to understand how God intended the secular nations (like our own) and their leaders and decision makers to faithfully fulfill their duties to their people, lets hear how God rebukes the “sons of God” assigned at the Tower of Babel to administer over the “seventy nations” of earth, and how they oppressed their own subjects and became objects of idolatrous worship of their peoples, and how He will judge them in the Last Days:

“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’…I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince’. Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” [Psa 82:1-4, 5-8 ESV]

How many times have you heard these elements of God’s agenda for the secular nations also be the agenda of America’s politically-active Christian leaders today?

A lot of these commands are directed towards the leaders of nations, which gives many Christians a quick “Whew!”, thinking that they are not obligated to such responsibilities. However, the majority of historic believers of God, like all peoples, were subjects of outside reigning powers, or otherwise not able to elect leaders or influence their decisions, and therefore not responsible for their decisions.  However, when God brought His children to the Promised land, He set them up as a decentralized federation of tribes, with its leaders chosen by the people, where at the end of the Book of Joshua, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” – certainly a heresy to control-freak Christians who want to control behavior from the top down, but a libertarian’s dream that God seemed to intend as His permanent plan.  However, the Hebrews soon wanted a king to control them, like the other nations had, because it looked “cool” (they were dazzled by strong men and celebrities and “heroes”, like Christians today) and projected power; they gave up their freedom by acclamation, and God explained to Samuel that they had really rejected Him.  God gave them what they wanted – a dashing man a head taller than the rest of them, with a shining spear, but reckless in his personal behavior and character – thank goodness God’s people have gotten beyond such short-sightedness and immaturity!

However, the age of citizen-influenced government rose again, this time amongst the pagan Greeks and Romans, since the Jews rejected it.  It has been further refined, with setbacks and dormant ages, up to the period of the American experiment.  This is relevant to Christians today, I believe, because we now live in a period of alleged “self government” – where we collectively choose ‘representatives” as our proxies to rule based upon our own agendas and preferences, and replace them if they don’t.  Thus, we have in effect become our own leaders, which generations of Christians before us, under kings (even “Christian” ones) could not imagine.  Therefore, since we are now reportedly have the right to rule ourselves, I believe we have each also earned the responsibilities the Bible has said are the responsibilities of earthly rulers.  This includes an obligation to protect the poor and other vulnerable people, and make sure justice is available for all (yes, even “social justice”) – if we take God and His Word seriously.  Heaven help those who take our Lord’s expectations lightly!  We are in fact “our brother’s keeper”, and that crown of responsibility rests on each of our brows, and in particular toward the “strangers” within our gates, outside the gates wanting in, and the refugees from beyond (but within our reach) who are crying out for mercy from God.

As a Christian who was groomed to vote as a good Republican through my upbringing, which I did until the last few national elections (having voted third party), I understand how Christians were seduced by them with a veneer of righteousness and Christian virtue, which was backed by Christian leaders I used to trust, but led to make a priority not the unborn or other issues of Christian mercy, but rather tax cuts for big businesses and business handouts, and paying for the “warfare state” (and the windfall of profits and welfare for defense contractors) rather than for the poor and medically needy, or the refugee.  A classic example is President Trump, who suckered people into a tax plan “for the middle class” which increased the standard deduction (which people who itemize for home mortgage or charitable gifts cannot use) while taking away their exemptions, and only giving temporary deductions, while making permanent the almost halving of business taxes, with the huge increase in the annual deficit and adding national debt to necessitate a further reduction to programs for the needy – all with Christian support.  His first act as president – mere minutes after his inauguration – was to sign an executive order to eliminate the need for financial advisors paid for by individuals to act in their fiduciary interest, or disclose that their recommendations serve the best interests of the financial firms and their products rather than their paying client.  I see Christians today primarily concerned with what they think is their own pocketbook (not necessarily a bad thing, to keep in check a gluttonous government budget spent on cronies and businesses rather than the needy), and in the end get fleeced by the far-savvier business scoundrels they put in office or advisory roles they greedily trusted to “get rich quick”, while further adding to the suffering of those less fortunate, which is not even part of the conversation.  They are not worried about the people better off than them getting their money; they are only concerned about those worse off than them getting their money.  Jesus of Nazareth, whom American Christians reportedly say they follow and heed His commands, had the following advice for them:

“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’.  The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.  What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight’.” [Matt. 6:19-21, Luk 16:13-15 NIV]

Jesus made clear to the secular government official Pilate that His movement was not about seizing the “seven mountains of culture” or government, or overcoming those who think differently than them, or any rule here whatsoever, but rather laying the groundwork for a future kingdom, based in another sphere, that poses no necessary threat to secular powers in this age.  He said,

“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.  But now my kingdom is from another place’…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” [Jhn 18:36-37 NIV]

Sadly, most professing Christians today don’t listen to Him.

Paul understood this.  He also understood that God’s people could not only fight physical “holy wars” to try to overcome secular governments (like the Zealots, or the Maccabeans before them), but even “culture wars” against their fellow citizens outside the church, as moral crusaders.  He had to address this regarding sexual immorality inside the church, which many Christians tolerate or overlook today in their Christian leaders if they are charismatic enough.  He writes:

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler.  Do not even eat with such people.  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  ‘Expel the wicked person from among you’.” [1Co 5:9-13 NIV]

The Christian “culture wars” are the exact opposite of Paul’s admonition.

Paul would remind us that we are citizens of another Kingdom, where our real interests lie, and with a Great Commission to be “fishers of men” and to demonstrate our love for our neighbors, and of which our necessary political participation is an element, while not certainly the main agenda, but geared towards an expression of love toward the downtrodden, and not the control of others.  We are indeed “ambassadors” of a foreign nation, as Paul writes:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands…Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.  What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience…For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died…So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” [2Co 5:1, 11, 14, 16, 18-20 NIV]

Does this sound like our Christian politically-active leaders today, and their front-burner agendas?  It is an agenda with the world, which will always have a political component in any social interaction, based upon compelling love, gentle persuasion, lack of worldly judgment, and far-reaching forgiveness and reconciliation, in its emphasis, tone and overall spirit, as opposed to judgement and adversity, much less selfishness.

Paul set a good example for us American Christians.  He was privileged to have Roman citizenship, as well as citizenship at Tarsus.  He did not use his rights to feather his own bed for financial enrichment or other privileges, to oppress others, or change Rome for his own group’s agenda or betterment.  He did use his legal rights to facilitate a heavenly agenda to preach the Gospel in Rome, and along the way, rather than die short of the goal in Jerusalem and the hands of Romans and Jews.  His rights of citizenship were not a tool for his own personal use, but only to complete his Kingdom of Heaven assignment, which did not restrict (for the Golden Rule still applies) but only blessed others.

Paul gave one other similar admonition to “keep our eyes on the prize”, and also warning that there will be those around us who don’t “get it” (probably even some professing Christians in our circles, whose recent elected official choices may show that “their god is their stomachs” and embrace leaders who, with them, do “glory in their shame”):

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.  For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Phl 3:15-20 NIV]

I will leave my thoughts on this topic at this, but thinking of being “ambassadors” of another kingdom, maybe we should consider Christ’s teachings of the Kingdom and the Sermon on the Mount, and the amplification of the Apostles, to love our enemies and be a neighbor to those of other faiths and cultures in need (like the Good Samaritan), and exhibiting mercy and forgiveness as “agents of reconciliation” to “rescue the perishing”, and eating with “sinners”, as our Christian “foreign policy” (also seen in our politics as well as personal behavior and interactions), while exhorting our fellow Christians to lives of love, purity, holiness, prayer, faithfulness, encouragement, wisdom, learning, and body ministry as our “domestic policy” of the Kingdom, devoid of outside political parties or ideologies (or evolved doctrines) and their influence, or any other Kingdom we should otherwise not owe any allegiance to.

Having said that, many Christians have spent uncountable years in innumerable sermons and heard Christian teaching, yet typically do things far counter in their public statements and political activity than what we just discussed.  So what leads them to proudly take opinions and views demonstrably counter to the clear teachings of Christ?  That will be covered in the next part of this series.

 

Think our technology gurus will save us? Think again!

I came across a splendid article a couple of days ago, on of all things, the business news website CNBC.  I thought the author, although a secularist, wrote about a fascinating experience he had recently, and his insight on their significance I thought was quite enlightened.  I shared it with my closest friends, and upon further ponderance I thought it might be of some merit for the readers of this blog.  You can currently read it in its entirety at this highlighted link.  It is so well written that I will quote much of it, followed by a little commentary of my own.

I should first explain a little bit about what I just learned about the author, Dr. Douglas Rushkoff.  Although he is a professor, he is best known as being the cutting-edge visionary at the dawn of the Internet Age, at its beginning in the early 90s, before it really took off, and coining terms such as “viral media”.  He has had an interest in modernizing and reforming Judaism, and getting it back to its supposed “open source” roots (to use the cyber-culture vernacular)  An abbreviated sampling of his bio includes some of the following things said about him:

Douglas Rushkoff is a writer, documentarian, and lecturer whose work focuses on human autonomy in a digital age.  He is the author of fifteen bestselling books on media, technology, and society, including Program or Be Programmed, Present Shock, and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.  He has made such award-winning PBS Frontline documentaries as Generation Like, Merchants of Cool, and The Persuaders, and is the author of graphic novels including Testament and Aleister & Adolf…Named one of the world’s ten most influential intellectuals by MIT, he is responsible for originating such concepts as “viral media,” “social currency,” and “digital natives.” Today, Dr. Rushkoff serves as Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens, where he recently founded the Laboratory for Digital Humanism and hosts its TeamHuman podcast.  He is also a research fellow at the Institute for the Future…Winner of the Media Ecology Association’s first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Dr. Douglas Rushkoff is an author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other’s values.  He is…technology and media commentator for CNN…and a lecturer on media, technology, culture and economics around the world…His previous best-selling books on media and popular culture have been translated to over thirty languages….His other books include CyberiaMedia VirusPlaying the FutureNothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism,…Rushkoff also wrote the acclaimed novels Ecstasy Club and Exit Strategy and graphic novel, Club Zero-G.  He wrote the graphic novels Testament and A.D.D., for Vertigo.  He has written and hosted three award-winning PBS Frontline documentaries – The Merchants of Cool looked at the influence of corporations on youth culture, The Persuaders, about the cluttered landscape of marketing, and new efforts to overcome consumer resistance, and Digital Nation, about life on the virtual frontier…His commentaries have aired on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s All Things Considered, and have appeared in publications from The New York Times to Time magazine. He wrote the first syndicated column on cyberculture for The New York Times and Guardian of London, as well as regular columns for ArthurDiscover Magazine and The Feature…He also lectures about media, art, society, and change at conferences and universities around the world.”

“He has served on the…the United Nations Commission on World Culture, and as a founding member of Technorealism…He has been awarded a Fullbright Scholarship…He served as an Advisor to the United Nations Commission on World Culture and regularly appears on TV shows from NBC Nightly News and Larry King to the Colbert Report and Bill Maher….Rushkoff is on the board of several new media non-profits and companies, and regularly speaks about media, society and ethics to museums, governments, synagogues, churches, universities, and companies.  Rushkoff earned his PhD in New Media and Digital Culture from Utrecht University with a dissertation entitled Monopoly Moneys: The media environment of corporatism and the player’s way out. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, received an MFA in Directing from California Institute of the Arts, a post-graduate fellowship (MFA) from The American Film Institute, a Fulbright award to lecture on narrative in New Zealand, and a Director’s Grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  He has worked as a certified stage fight choreographer, an SAT tutor, and as keyboardist for the industrial band PsychicTV.”

Sounds like a real underachiever.  I hope his credibility is sufficient that we can trust the following things he shares with us in his article.

I’ll let him explain the incidents that led to his unique experience and interpretations of its significance:

“Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers.  It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor’s salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of ‘the future of technology’.  I’ve never liked talking about the future.  The Q&A sessions always end up more like parlor games, where I’m asked to opine on the latest technology buzzwords as if they were ticker symbols for potential investments: blockchain, 3D printing, CRISPR.  The audiences are rarely interested in learning about these technologies or their potential impacts beyond the binary choice of whether or not to invest in them.  But money talks, so I took the gig.  After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room.  But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys — yes, all men — from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world.  After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology.  They had come with questions of their own.”

“They started out innocuously enough.  Ethereum or bitcoin?  Is quantum computing a real thing?  Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern.  Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska?  Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one?  Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?’  For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future.”

“The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.  This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour.  They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs.  But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless?  What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader?  The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew.  Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival.  Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time.  That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology.  Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion.  For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.”

“There’s nothing wrong with madly optimistic appraisals of how technology might benefit human society.  But the current drive for a post-human utopia is something else.  It’s less a vision for the wholesale migration of humanity to a new a state of being than a quest to transcend all that is human: the body, interdependence, compassion, vulnerability, and complexity.  As technology philosophers have been pointing out for years, now, the transhumanist vision too easily reduces all of reality to data, concluding that ‘humans are nothing but information-processing objects‘.  It’s a reduction of human evolution to a video game that someone wins by finding the escape hatch and then letting a few of his BFFs come along for the ride.  Will it be Musk, Bezos, Thiel…Zuckerberg?  These billionaires are the presumptive winners of the digital economy — the same survival-of-the-fittest business landscape that’s fueling most of this speculation to begin with.  Of course, it wasn’t always this way.  There was a brief moment, in the early 1990s, when the digital future felt open-ended and up for our invention. Technology was becoming a playground for the counterculture, who saw in it the opportunity to create a more inclusive, distributed, and pro-human future.  But established business interests only saw new potentials for the same old extraction, and too many technologists were seduced by unicorn IPOs.  Digital futures became understood more like stock futures or cotton futures — something to predict and make bets on.  So nearly every speech, article, study, documentary, or white paper was seen as relevant only insofar as it pointed to a ticker symbol.  The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.”

“This freed everyone from the moral implications of their activities.  Technology development became less a story of collective flourishing than personal survival.  Worse, as I learned, to call attention to any of this was to unintentionally cast oneself as an enemy of the market or an anti-technology curmudgeon.  So instead of considering the practical ethics of impoverishing and exploiting the many in the name of the few, most academics, journalists, and science-fiction writers instead considered much more abstract and fanciful conundrums: Is it fair for a stock trader to use smart drugs?  Should children get implants for foreign languages?  Do we want autonomous vehicles to prioritize the lives of pedestrians over those of its passengers?  Should the first Mars colonies be run as democracies?  Does changing my DNA undermine my identity?  Should robots have rights?  Asking these sorts of questions, while philosophically entertaining, is a poor substitute for wrestling with the real moral quandaries associated with unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism.  Digital platforms have turned an already exploitative and extractive marketplace (think Walmart) into an even more dehumanizing successor (think Amazon).  Most of us became aware of these downsides in the form of automated jobs, the gig economy, and the demise of local retail.  The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.”

“But the more devastating impacts of pedal-to-the-metal digital capitalism fall on the environment and global poor.  The manufacture of some of our computers and smartphones still uses networks of slave labor.  These practices are so deeply entrenched that a company called Fairphone, founded from the ground up to make and market ethical phones, learned it was impossible. (The company’s founder now sadly refers to their products as “fairer” phones.)  Meanwhile, the mining of rare earth metals and disposal of our highly digital technologies destroys human habitats, replacing them with toxic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peasant children and their families, who sell usable materials back to the manufacturers.  This ‘out of sight, out of mind’ externalization of poverty and poison doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles and immersed ourselves in an alternate reality.  If anything, the longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions, the more of a problem they become.  This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, more isolationism and apocalyptic fantasy — and more desperately concocted technologies and business plans.  The cycle feeds itself.  The more committed we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the problem and technology as the solution.  The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug.  No matter their embedded biases, technologies are declared neutral.  Any bad behaviors they induce in us are just a reflection of our own corrupted core.  It’s as if some innate human savagery is to blame for our troubles.  Just as the inefficiency of a local taxi market can be ‘solved’ with an app that bankrupts human drivers, the vexing inconsistencies of the human psyche can be corrected with a digital or genetic upgrade.”

“Ultimately, according to the technosolutionist orthodoxy, the human future climaxes by uploading our consciousness to a computer or, perhaps better, accepting that technology itself is our evolutionary successor.  Like members of a gnostic cult, we long to enter the next transcendent phase of our development, shedding our bodies and leaving them behind, along with our sins and troubles.  Our movies and television shows play out these fantasies for us.  Zombie shows depict a post-apocalypse where people are no better than the undead — and seem to know it.  Worse, these shows invite viewers to imagine the future as a zero-sum battle between the remaining humans, where one group’s survival is dependent on another one’s demise.  Even Westworld — based on a science-fiction novel where robots run amok — ended its second season with the ultimate reveal: Human beings are simpler and more predictable than the artificial intelligences we create.  The robots learn that each of us can be reduced to just a few lines of code, and that we’re incapable of making any willful choices.  Heck, even the robots in that show want to escape the confines of their bodies and spend their rest of their lives in a computer simulation.  The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug.  The mental gymnastics required for such a profound role reversal between humans and machines all depend on the underlying assumption that humans suck. Let’s either change them or get away from them, forever.”

“Thus, we get tech billionaires launching electric cars into space — as if this symbolizes something more than one billionaire’s capacity for corporate promotion.  And if a few people do reach escape velocity and somehow survive in a bubble on Mars — despite our inability to maintain such a bubble even here on Earth in either of two multibillion-dollar Biosphere trials — the result will be less a continuation of the human diaspora than a lifeboat for the elite.  When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after ‘the event’, I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now.  They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family.  And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an ‘event’ in the first place.  All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.  They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it.  They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone.  For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future.  They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.  Luckily, those of us without the funding to consider disowning our own humanity have much better options available to us.  We don’t have to use technology in such antisocial, atomizing ways.  We can become the individual consumers and profiles that our devices and platforms want us to be, or we can remember that the truly evolved human doesn’t go it alone.  Being human is not about individual survival or escape. It’s a team sport. Whatever future humans have, it will be together.”

Beyond the wisdom shown by this man, marinated in the cyber-culture ethos, his chilling description of these powerful figures already committed to planning to “check out” and giving up on humanity has been warned about in the past by conspiracy figures such as Alex Jones and Tom Horn, but none have been able to so holistically and articulately put all the pieces together and in context as this author (whose credibility makes his astonishing testimony all the more disturbing).

Unfortunately, in my view these other cited figures and others have in many ways “sold out” to supporting the authoritarian figures in riot gear and political partisans that they warned about previously, riding the current fad of nationalistic or immigrant-hating fervor, or hitched their wagons to and promoted laughable charlatans and snake-oil prophets (better make that “profits”).  It takes a relative secularist to rise above such buffoonery and to see the “signs of the times”, which Jesus said the religious leaders could not see; wouldn’t it be great to have such visionaries on our Kingdom of Heaven “team”?  He “gets” that we are “our brother’s keeper”, and even if conservative Republicans hate the idea of “collectivism” or even “socialism” (as practiced by our Book of Acts early church forbearers), it becomes obvious that if we do not embrace social norms, mindsets, practices and policies that “raise all boats”, before long, the elites with their ever-increasing centralization of wealth, and while the environment continues to be trashed and refugees continue to stack up worldwide, will soon raise their barbed-wire walls of their castles with guards to “shoot to kill”, while the desperate remainders (including us) will die killing each other, or storming their gates.  Couldn’t we as Christians at least consider assisting someone like this author, and help with the process to exploit these technological opportunities to aid all our brothers and sisters, rather than a free-market, Darwinistic “survival of the fittest” approach we have praised in our churches and discourse?  Shouldn’t we be willing to try out the principles Jesus already said would be the eternal “Kingdom of Heaven” ground rules of unselfish use of societal and global resources to benefit all, even if checkered by failure due to our fallen natures, and try to “set the bar” as examples for the rest of the moral and upright peoples of the world, to inspire them? 

If we don’t, and rather munch on popcorn as we deem the world’s wars and destruction as “entertainment” (as I see in the “emojis” of the posts of so many Bible prophecy message boards), then our “apocalyptic fever” will only be trumped (excuse the pun) by a hyper-paranoid elite, and their heralds in the hedge-fund community who are here to “play hard ball” in this full-stakes game on behalf of their unnamed super-rich, who will in effect bring on the very apocalypse of which they suggest they are so afraidWill Christians get their act together to see the real “signs of the times”, and lead the exodus out of “Babylon”, and “rescue the perishing” as much as possible, or just stay in their own bunker, out of touch with the real issues, and in effect just be part of the problem?   

As a Christian who was raised in a conservative Christian home, I realized how in that culture, businessmen and the wealthy were considered “successes” to emulate and heroes and role models of a type, as the saviors in a conservative view of society, and holding the keys to fix society and solve problems as opposed to non-profit enterprises (including government); we even pick our leaders based on their perceived business “success”.  This article shows that we should not look to these businessmen to be a “Moses” to lead us through the desert of an uncertain future, via technology.  I repeat, the big question to me is whether Christians, as individuals and corporately, will even recognize these things as a moral and spiritual issue, and their duty to provide an honest and non-agenda seeking source to help everybody, or rather focus on their own trivial or selfish issues, as they normally do.

My close friend Paul in Texas, a long-time Future Quake listener as well and thoughtful sage in my circle, provided the following comments to the article we just reviewed:

 “I found it a little amusing to assume that the small group the author spoke to were all old white guys.  If that assumption is true it seems like another case of conflating the end of their white imperialist world with the end of peaceable life on earth.  Much like the mentality encountered within christian evangelical groups.  I find that I agreed with this author on all accounts including his positive outlook on the future.  It’s a nice reminder that we’re not alone in the fight to bring the values of Jesus into the light.”

I find a lot of spiritual wisdom to unpack in those brief, laconic words.  I look forward to hearing what other readers say, beyond my lengthy and stumbling manner of trying to put them into a real Jesus-view perspective.

Field Trip Report: The Anawim, and The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

“But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek [anawim] of the earth”  Isaiah 11:4

“For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor [anawim] shall not perish for ever.” Psalm 9:18

 

 

One Sunday some time ago my pastor preached a sermon that included a mention and discussion of the “Anawim” – a category of people mentioned in the Bible.  My recollection is that he pointed out that they were the people Jesus said He came to minister to and represent, and whose issues and concerns were paramount on God’s mind, and the concept never left me.  He used several Bible passages that used the Hebrew word (or its Greek word by similarity) to to describe them and God’s thoughts on them, and among the definitions he cited of them, including “the poor ones”, or “the humble” or “meek”, one of the most interesting is “the lost and forgotten ones”.  I have had great difficulty finding “official” definitions of the term (even the Jewish Encyclopedia doesn’t seem to include it), but numerous religious citations online use this latter definition as well.  An article by the Catholic News Agency gives a pretty standard working definition of who they represented:

“The anawim of the Old Testament were the poor of every sort: the vulnerable, the marginalized, and socio-economically oppressed, those of lowly status without earthly power. In fact, they depended totally on God for whatever they owned. The Hebrew word anawim (inwetan) means those who are bowed down.”

A review of the old trusty Blue Letter Bible reveals that the Outline of Biblical Usage of the singular form anav describes it in scripture as meaning “poor”, “needy”, “humble”, “afflicted” or “meek”.  A similar entry for the related term anah includes the ideas of being “wretched”, “stooped over” (as in oppression or because of one’s humble estate before others), or to be “depressed”, “downcast” or “humiliated”.

When one reviews the different ways in which the Bible uses the terms, you pretty quickly get the picture that it represents the people who are the opposite of the “movers and shakers” of the world, and those who “have connections” either financial or political.  This would comprise the overwhelming portion of people who have ever lived on the earth, including slaves, peasants, serfs, and indentured servants, and their modern variants.  The pages of history ignore these nameless people, even though they built walls, cities, bridges, dug canals, rowed ships, constructed monuments, fought the wars on behalf of the rich, blasted through mountains for the railroads, and generally built the world that we enjoy, not to mention do housekeeping, car washing, janitorial services, lawn care, fast food work and some combination thereof for most of us.

They are lightly regarding in advertising and business ventures, because they are not seen as having deep enough pockets of disposable income to be targeted, in comparison to image-conscious and fad-addicted yuppies and other middle and upper classes, who are easy pickings to feed their vanity; the former’s lot is to be earmarked for liquor, cigarette and lottery ticket inducements and advertising.  While we’re at it, we should include other categories that are the “lost and forgotten ones” in our society, most of whom are in some form of institutional or pseudo-institutional care outside their total control, including the elderly and home-bound, the disabled, those in homeless shelters, on the streets, mental care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, detention homes, prisons and jails and the like.  It’s as if these people didn’t exist – Madison Avenue doesn’t care about them because they don’t have enough disposal income to spend, Wall Street doesn’t because they don’t have enough to invest, politicians don’t because they can’t contribute to campaigns and often can’t even get out to vote, and, sadly, even many churches don’t because these people can’t contribute to their coffers.  No one is representing their interests except God, and a few groups of limited resources – these people can’t even afford a lawyer to look out for them.  You normally don’t see these people in TV shows, advertising, or the focus of the public discourse, and seen as real people – even though many of us will join their ranks eventually.  In the meantime, these are the people we see as a “burden” and being “in the way”. 

Many American Christians deride any whiff of socialism or attempts to “redistribute the wealth” to lazy low-income people, with programs such as “equal opportunity” and credits or tax breaks for tuition and the like (although they quietly avail themselves of such programs when no one is looking).  However, one the earliest efforts of historical national income redistribution was not by the Communists, but by God Himself in the only government He established in detail, in ancient Israel under the guidance of the Mosaic Law.  God knew how fallen man – even the “chosen people” – in societal environments would result in an inevitable exploitation of the anawim and stratification of wealth into a feudalistic system, and thus instituted many novel civil rights and policies to protect the underclass.  He prevented lenders from confiscating the income-earning tools of their debtors, and even their cloaks used to keep them warm, and many other means to restrain the coercive power of income disparity.  The chief of these was the jubilee year, in which the wealth (expressed in real estate) gradually confiscated by the wealth class had to be returned to the original historical families in the jubilee year, with all debts forgiven, as a command of the Law itself.  While that occurred every fiftieth year, every seventh year the land was to experience a sabbath jubilee and rest from being cultivated, while the food the grew wild in its place was to be shared by the whole community that year, and not just the land owners.  Furthermore, Hebrew slaves were released from servitude at that time, so as to not create generations of slaves.  God also instituted wise prescriptions to accommodate the socially-beneficial aspects of the Jubilee, while not unnecessarily exploiting temporary owners between their observances, such as letting them buy land on a pro-rated basis of remaining time before the jubilee.  This is in stark contrast to what they observed in Egypt, which was the confiscation of a nation’s wealth due to a temporary famine – under the direction of Joseph, no less  – who first confiscated the people’s land and working tools in exchange for grain, and then put them to work on government land, in government housing, and afterwards provided them seed to develop long-term wealth for the State, as recorded in the late chapters of Genesis, and was repeated by the American government in 2008, as I wrote in How to Overcome the Most Frightening Issues You Will Face This Century.

A Jewish Christian writes online that “In the ancient world, owning land was greatly prized because it was a source of food, income and security.  In that economy where people depended on the crops they raised, if a family had a bad harvest and ran out of food, they were forced to go into debt or even sell their land.  If they couldn’t recover but fell further behind, they would have to sell themselves into slavery or leave the country, like Naomi and Elimelech in the book of Ruth.  People did not borrow money and sell land for business purposes, they did it only out of desperate economic need.  So the Jubilee was for one main purpose – to provide for the poor who had gone into debt or lost their land, so that they would be able to start over again.  Without it, the wealthy would always do better in bad years, and the land would tend to move into their hands while those who had lost their land would become permanently enslaved”.  She adds that “Another effect of the Jubilee would be to stop the destruction of families.  If a man lost his land and sold himself and his family into slavery, or if he moved out of the country, he would be likely to never see his family together again.  Part of the reason Naomi was distraught was because not only had she lost her hope for future descendants, but by leaving Israel, she also lost her family and past.  When she returned, she was reunited with her family.  So the year of Jubilee was to be a year that people returned home and families were brought together again”.  She laments that “Did Israel ever actually observe the year of Jubilee?  The evidence suggests that they never did.  It says in 2 Chronicles that they never let the land have its Sabbath years every seventh year, and if they never did that, they most likely never observed the year of Jubilee either.  Several of the prophets lament the exploitation of the poor by the rich, which also hints that they never observed a Jubilee year”.

God in fact warned the Hebrews when He gave them the Law what would happen to them if they did not honor the sabbaths and jubilees, and harness their greed by letting the land rest, sharing the excess after the years of saving with the members of their community, and eventually forgiving debts and intentionally re-distributing wealth, as God prescribed for a healthy society.  He wrote them in the Torah in Leviticus 26 that if they did not honor the sabbaths and other aspects of the law, they would be driven outside their promised land and into captivity, and “I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.  Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye [be] in your enemies’ land; [even] then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.  As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it” [Lev 26:33-35 KJV].  The people of Israel evidently did not believe God or like His idea of restraining the wealth accumulation by their elites in competition, because it appears they did not obey the Jubilee sanctions in the Law, and as a result they were led into captivity in Babylon for as long as it took for the land to experience it lost jubilees.  In 2 Chronicles it is written of this Exile in Babylon, “And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: [for] as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years” [2Ch 36:20-21 KJV].  Ironically, the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar was the one who not only honored Jeremiah by raising him from the latrine his Jewish leaders had thrown him in, but also re-distributed the wealth to the poor Jews remaining in the land; no wonder God called pagan Nebuchadnezzar “my servant”, and gave him the land (Jer. 27:6).  Even before that time when the situation was desperate, the Jewish nobility got the idea that they would curry God’s favor by releasing their fellow Jews from slavery as servants, since they had not done that before as commanded, but not long thereafter they missed having the servants wait on their every need (much as we exploit immigrants today), and soon re-subjugated them, which made God only madder.  God is serious about the poor getting relief from exploitation and “another shot”, and if His people won’t do it, He’ll send in outside invaders to get it done, and I assume He still has the same attitude.       

The Jewish Encyclopedia adds some further details.  They write that the Jubilee began with the blowing of the shofar at the Day of Atonement – which could signify that the release of debt of everyone in society was an extension of the release of eternal debt God granted to the people each year at that day, similar to how Jesus portrayed us as receiving forgiveness of “great debt” from the Master, but then immediately being hesitant to grant forgiveness for small debts from others.  They add that during the seventh year rest of the land “one shall neither sow nor reap as hitherto for his private gain, but all members of the community—the owner, his servants, and strangers—as well as domestic and wild animals, shall share in consuming the natural or spontaneous yield of the soil”.   They add that the fiftieth year Jubilee included “the compulsory restoration of hereditary properties…to the original owners or their legal heirs, and the emancipation of all Hebrew servants whose term of six years is unexpired…The regulations of the Sabbatical year include also the annulment of all monetary obligations between Israelites, the creditor being legally barred from making any attempt to collect his debt (Deut. xv. 1)”.  They add that “rest from labor is an absolute necessity both for animal and for vegetable life; that continuous cultivation will eventually ruin the land.  The law of the Sabbatical year acts also as a statute of limitation or a bankruptcy law for the poor debtor, in discharging his liability for debts contracted, and in enabling him to start life anew on an equal footing with his neighbor, without the fear that his future earnings will be seized by his former creditors.  The jubilee year was the year of liberation of servants whose poverty had forced them into employment by others. Similarly all property alienated for a money consideration to relieve poverty, was to be returned to the original owners without restoration of the amount which had been advanced”.

The authors also note that in the rabbinic era the leaders began to trim the provisions and shrink the utility of the jubilee, as they turned to more of a mercantile society.  Furthermore, they note that as Jewish colonists returned to Palestine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, “The leaders of the movement…claimed that the law is now obsolete”.  Because this caused a guilty conscience in the religiously observant portion of the people, they write that the issue “was submitted to the chief rabbis in Europe and Palestine.  Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spector was inclined to be lenient, and advocated a nominal sale of the land to a non-Jew and the employment of non-Jewish laborers during shemiṭṭah”.  Make sure you understand this – the Israeli rabbis – who teach that the “land cannot be divided” and never fall under the hands of their Gentile neighbors in Gaza, the West Bank or elsewhere due to the sacred nature of the land and God’s promises, and Talmudic prohibitions from selling it to the goyimwillingly sell the land of Israel for a year or more before the Sabbath to an uncircumcised Gentile in order to skirt God’s commands to let the land rest a year, and still greedily demand more output from it, as a type of Mosaic “loophole”.  That’s what you get when you have a religion based on law: a religion dominated (and exploited) by lawyers – a lesson our Christian ideologues and theologians would be wise to learn from.

Another website by a rabbi states that when Israel became a nation, it found complying with these Mosaic Laws impactful to the “bottom line”, so “In order to avoid the cancellation of all debts, a serious hardship in our commercial society, the device was introduced even in Talmudic times of handing the debts over before the end of the Sabbatical year, to a temporary court consisting of three persons, the debts then being considered to have been paid to the court beforehand”.  The rabbi further writes that “Because of all this and the great difficulty in keeping the law, the official Rabbinate in Israel adopts the legal fiction of selling the land to a Gentile on the analogy of the sale of leaven before Passover.  Many have felt, however, that, while legal fictions have their place in Jewish law, it seems more than a little absurd to effect a merely formal sale of all Jewish land to a Gentile”.  This process continues today in Israel.  In a 2007 article in the Jerusalem Post, the author wrote that “Under Heter Mechira Israel’s agricultural fields are sold to a non-Jew for two years.  The halachic basis is that when land is owned by non- Jews some work that is otherwise forbidden is allowed”.  He writes that Rabbi Yosef Rimon acknowledges the deception involving, writing himself that “One of the most discomforting aspects of the Heter Mechira is that it reminds us of a loophole that allows the criminal to walk free…In a normal legal system, as soon as a loophole is discovered, the law is amended in order to ‘seal’ the hole that went unnoticed when the law was first legislated.  In civil law, had the legislature foreseen that a certain loophole would be exploited, it would have sealed the hole from the outset, rather then leave a breach that it invites the criminal to commit his offense.  God, however, is prescient and all-knowing.  If a breach is found in the Torah, it cannot be that God was not aware of it from the very beginning.  A loophole in the Torah must have been intentionally included so that it might be used at the appropriate time”.   According to the conservative Israel National News, this technique allowed Israeli Jewish farmers to work for the Gentile owners they temporarily sold the land to rather than letting it rest or be used by the poor, and when the Ashkenazi rabbis would not support it, the farmers found Sephardic rabbis to sell the land for them.  Another 2007 article in the New York Times showed that the practice was being affirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court, in a case involving the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.  This clever tactic by their “lawyer rabbis” was not just a deception and cheating of the poor – it was also a deception and cheating of God.  How do we in our Christian community rationalize things like that today? 

A cursory review of some of the Bible verses using these terms tells a lot about how God views the poor, meek anawim, as opposed to the world:

“They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together.” [Job 24:4]

“Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.” [Psa 10:12]

“But the meek [anawim] shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace”. [Psa 37:11]

“When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth.” [Psa 76:9]

“The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.” [Psa 147:6]

“He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy [is] he.” [Pro 14:21]

“Better [it is to be] of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” [Pro 16:19]

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” [Deu 15:11]

“Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant [that is] poor and needy, [whether he be] of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that [are] in thy land within thy gates [i.e., “undocumented workers”]:” [Deu 24:14]

“Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and [him that had] none to help him.” [Job 29:12]

“But I [am] poor and needy; [yet] the Lord thinketh upon me: thou [art] my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.” [Psa 40:17]

“He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. …For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and [him] that hath no helper.” [Psa 72:4, 12]

“Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” [Psa 82:3]

“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” [Pro 31:9]

“The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.” [Eze 22:29]

“Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry.  The LORD looseth the prisoners:…The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.” [Psa 146:7, 9 KJV]

The Bible even notes that the government is not the only power of coercion on earth; the rich have power over the poor, in the marketplace and even the courts, if government is not used to restrain them.  God did not believe in the libertarian ‘buyer beware” policy that did not regulate the marketplace, when the poor are so easily manipulated and exploited by the lender and the merchant, and it is a consistent “big deal” to God, as the many following verses attest:

“Thy princes [are] rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” [Isa 1:23 KJV]

“Her heads judge for a bribe, Her priests teach for pay, And her prophets divine for money.  Yet they lean on the LORD, and say, “Is not the LORD among us?  No harm can come upon us.” [Micah 3:11 NKJV]

“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower [is] servant to the lender.” [Pro 22:7 KJV]

“The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich [hath] many friends. [Pro 14:20 KJV]

“Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.” [Exo 23:6 KJV]

“Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, [nor] of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge” [Deu 24:17 KJV]

“Divers weights [are] an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance [is] not good.” [Pro 20:23 KJV]

“A just weight and balance [are] the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag [are] his work.” [Pro 16:11 KJV]

“Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.  [But] thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” [Deu 25:14-15 KJV]

“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn?  and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?  That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; [yea], and sell the refuse of the wheat?” [Amos 8:4-6 KJV]

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?…Shall I count [them] pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?  For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue [is] deceitful in their mouth.” [Mic 6:8, 11-12 KJV]

 

God even said He would judge the “sons of God” He assigned to rule over the 70 nations of earth, over how they treated the poor in their own realms, saying to them:

“How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy: rid [them] out of the hand of the wicked.” [Psa 82:2-4 KJV]

 

God was not just “talk” about the poor; He was “action” in how high He regarded them.  For example, He apparently sent Jesus Himself to come minister to the unwanted, poor immigrant slave girl Hagar, when ‘God’s people” sent her and her baby son out to wander the desert – like many who cross into our country – and twice came to comfort her, leading her to say, “I have seen Him who sees me” (Gen. 16:8) – possibly one the first humans to see Christ face to face.  Likewise, God looked after the immigrant Moabitess Ruth, leading her to Israel as an undocumented immigrant to find deliverance at the hand of a citizen of Israel (even though Ezra had commanded the Israelites to send wives and children of Moabite and surrounding nationality immigrant origin away to an unknown fate in exile), and later the Moabitess Ruth served as a descendant of Jesus Himself.  Jesus Himself was born into a poor, blue-collar family, having been born in an animal pen, and did hard manual labor, probably for a long time under a single mother, in almost certain poverty.  Jesus was homeless, too – He had “no place to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20).  His first “fans”, who witnessed a privileged display of the heavenly host, were the lowest of low classes – shepherds doing their work on the fringes of society.  His closest friends were “unschooled fishermen” (Acts 4:13).  The ones He thought were the greatest “went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” [Heb 11:37-38 NIV]

Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1 when He stated, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).  These were the first words out of Jesus’ mouth when He inaugurated His ministry at the local synagogue, thereby defining the priority of His ministry and intended recipients, moments before his religious leaders and neighbors proceeded to try to kill Him.

The early church watched Jesus’ emphasis on the poor and stranger, and His insistence that it was His Father’s will as well, and in some cases they “passed with flying colors”, such as their sharing of resources to the point that the community took notice, as we saw in the Book of Acts, and their generosity throughout the Roman world as the scattered Gentile churches raised scarce funds to help their Jewish Christian brethren in the Jerusalem church who were suffering from the brutal famine in the region.  However, in other instances they got a “goose egg”, such as when they neglected the “outsider culture” Gentiles in their own ranks in the form of the Grecian widows, prompting the apostles themselves to take action, and their selfishness and display of privilege by flaunting their envious food spreads at their “love feasts” communion events, while the poor in their own churches had little to eat there – a food display that was “to die for”, after the Lord intervened.

The New Testament, including statements by Jesus Himself, does add some further thoughts on the issue of the poor, of which we’ll share here a few of its statements:

“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor [thy] rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.   But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” [Luk 14:12-14 KJV]

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” [2Co 8:9 KJV]

“Only [they would] that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” [Gal 2:10 KJV]

The Book of James was written to Jewish Christians who left Jerusalem (“the twelve tribes scattered abroad”), and James evidently thought they had to deal with a cultural issue they had with desiring and respecting wealth, because he spent a good part of his epistle addressing it, in passages such as these:

“For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?  Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?  But ye have despised the poor.  Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?” [Jas 2:2-6 KJV]

Having said these things, the following two passages best express Christ’s view towards the poor, and that which He wishes for His followers:

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed [be ye] poor: for yours is the kingdom of God…But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.” [Luk 6:20, 24 KJV]

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment [justice], mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” [Mat 23:23 KJV]

I know I have spent a lot of your time (and patience) in reciting all these Bible verses, but the key point I am making is that, even though conservative evangelicals (like those of my culture, and maybe yours) don’t talk about the poor very much, it appears to be a “big deal” to God!  In fact, the latter verse suggests that much of our forms of outer piety, which may include regular church attendance, faithful service with the fellowship there, prayer and even testifying, are things that should not be “undone”, but that God really does have “front burner” issues (of what Jesus calls “the weightier matters of the law”), and “justice” is one of them, whether it fits our politics or not!  We are not to have “doctrinal churches” or “service and social justice churches” or any debate between them, but all churches that do both, so others can see our real love for them, and God’s love for them as well, and thus believe our message.  Jesus was a perfect example of this: His “stool of ministry” had three legs – doctrinal teaching of the kingdom, spiritual warfare to release people from demons and spiritual bondage, and ministry for the people’s needs of hunger and hurting, and without all three the ministry would have been lacking, and so will ours!  Think about this: each of these three “legs” ministers specifically to the three parts of our nature – soul (intellect), spirit and body, each one seeking its own “salvation” of justification, sanctification and glorification; which one should be left out?

Even though “justice” is one of the “weightier matters of the law”, my friend Micah points out that Christians have seemed to usually prefer “charity” over “social and economic justice” for the poor, and now I see his point.  This is like the “trickle down economics” crumbs that fall off the rich man’s table that he let the beggar Lazarus eat in the Bible; we all know how much God was impressed with the rich man’s generosity and compassion of Lazarus (actually, the dogs were more compassionate in licking Lazarus’s sores – sort of a low-cost Republican health care alternative to Obama Care).  There was a move in the Christian community, mostly beginning in England in the second half of the nineteenth century, to see the “huddled masses” in the teeming cities in the early days of the Industrial Age, and begin to notice their squalor and hopeless situation, and recognize some Christian duty to provide homes for orphans, and basic food and shelter for the needy, but those involved were certainly the minority.  The “social justice” movement began to take hold in the U.S. in the early twentieth century, but it was dominated by ‘liberal” Christian factions, and sometimes even had (gasp!) women ministerial leaders!  This movement faded as well, as conservative and fundamentalist Christian communities were suspicious of the motives of such supposedly “Christian” groups; their view of such Christians as “socialists” was akin to then (and now) viewing them in a similar way to “devil worshippers” – an artificial association that must be intentionally programmed by others into a person or community.  I believe that the inadequate movement by the church in Europe to minister to the exploited workers in Industrial Age Europe – not only assuring their basic needs were met but also pushing on their big business capitalist buddies to provide some form of union representation and balance to their exploitation, led the masses to be ripe for the (relatively) compassionate (but atheistic, in terms of Marxism) communist message to represent the workers, out of desperation.  Similar to when the French Church defended the military and government establishment in knowingly sending an innocent Jewish military officer Dreyfus to Devil’s Island to maintain the social order and their position, when the American church pulled away from their responsibility to the “working man” of the Industrial Age and to hold capitalism in check, the liberal secular humanists, and those of them in government, filled in the moral void of compassion, and have done the job of providing the basic social safety net ever since.  In recent days, the Mormon Glenn Beck (a favorite of conservative Christians) has made “social justice” the new “n-word”, and a concept of total contempt and distrust – presumably he’s never read God’s opinion in His word on the subject.

 

Roughly a week ago on Mother’s Day, I spent the day with my mother and family members out of town.  The close family members I visited are clearly good Christian people, have raised solid Christian families, and have been compassionate with those around them, and I respect them.  However, for some reason the topic of the current administration came up, and “what has happened with me” in the more liberal views they think I have recently espoused than those we were raised on.  In short order I was accused by the group of being a “Muslim lover” (having been told that “they all want to cut our heads off”) who did not favor the eradication of the aggressive Iran (a people I pointed out whose democratic secular government was overthrown by ours in a secret operation in the 1950s), weak on “standing with Israel” (to which I asked them to be specific as to who were the “sons of Abraham” specified in the Bible that would be subject to such promises (and if it included the 80 percent of Israelis who are atheists and do not believe in any “God of Abraham”, joined by a religious minority who will bomb the homes of Christians there, or attack them in the streets (except for Christian tourists with money to bring))), and finally being willing to just give away all our hard-earned money to the lazy underclass who seeks to exploit us – views that do all have a common association.  I briefly mentioned that the phrases they used I recollected as being virtually verbatim from certain cable news networks and radio talk show hosts.

To be fair, even as a blue collar, working class family we were raised in, in an old neighborhood and of modest means, the culture persisted (amongst Christians and within our community) of the concepts of the poor and underclass as expressed in the song of the time “Welfare Cadillac”, that being of (largely in the inner cities, and of certain races mostly) people who expected handouts and a refusal to work, and an expectation to have freely given to them and without consequence a standard living above us ‘hard working people”.  We saw some of those kids get free lunches or breakfasts at school, and swore we saw people at the supermarket buying T-Bone steaks with food stamps.  We actually had no idea what standard of living people could support with public assistance (nor can people today unless one has been on it, but almost always grossly over-exaggerated), but there were not-so-veiled references to women in such slums having additional babies merely to gain the extra welfare checks.  There was some modest help provided for those we knew and thought were “deserving”.  Enforced school busing of children from the inner city to my school, and the turmoil that caused, did not help attitudes much, leading us to be sent to a modest Christian school, ironically in the poorest and most depressing part of the inner city.  As talk radio grew, we began to learn better that the Democratic Party always went for the ‘deadbeats” in giving them free stuff, as a way to garner their votes as a winning coalition.  Tax credits for the poor and single parents were always resented, and many Christians today would assume those folks still “have it too good” and are big beneficiaries from their man Trump’s tax cuts (designed to help ‘the working man”), even though reality shows that the poorest had their taxes raised by 20% (from 10% to 12%), while the wealthiest corporations had their taxes almost cut in half; now there are the inevitable rumblings in Congress that social programs will have to be cut significantly to prevent expanding deficits from the huge tax cut to the wealthy.

It is sad that the main preoccupation in most churches is in securing annual revenue sufficient to keep their “Christian Life Centers” and matrix of lavish campuses operating (and admittedly, to justify maintaining large staffs and impressive salaries requires displaying a big operation), with mortgages and maintenance costs paid, rather than in estimating what their resources could do to impact the poorest in their community.  Ironically, my pastor told me once that data he came across suggested something to the effect that is all of America’s Christians merely tithed their income, there would be enough funds to pay for adequate food and health care for the entire world.  However, if our churches obtained such faithful income from their parishioners, for reasons I just described I doubt it would be put to that noble use.  My wife and I found out personally, that one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship churches in our city’s downtown, to which we were members for a time, got tired having us and another couple escort homeless men inside the door of the church to be fitted for clothes to go to interviews and to obtain work, because they expected it “looked bad” to the yuppies in the new condos moving in downtown that they wanted to court (thankfully, our church today has some heroic members who support Room in the Inn, which helps the homeless in a modest way and shows them love, and puts them in our face in the suburbs to remind us they are still there and not forgotten).  I also have to confess that having worked with such needy individuals on the fringes of churches for all my church life of many decades, it is a frustrating task for me and for many, since many have issues of various types that lead them to not heed good advice and to make their own problems and exacerbate them, and try one’s patience when trying to help.  As I say this as one who thinks of himself as trying to “keep his own act together” and not be a burden on others, but routinely ignores it when both the discipline and presumption on others is an issue in my own life.  I do think that some form of accountability and reward for healthy behavior is prudent, both to truly help the individual to get on their feet if that is possible, and to not bring those helping to anguish and cynicism.  However, I don’t notice the church, at least the conservative side, talking about the poor much at all.  And if Jesus required me to “shape up” and put my screw-ups behind me before He continued to bail me out, I would be in deep trouble myself. 

Why do people we try to help keep falling into repeated bouts of trouble?  Well, new data seems to suggest the stress of poverty produces its own inability to make good decisions, at a time when the afflicted need it most.  According to a May 2018 article in The Atlantic, “several recent studies suggest that having less money can actually affect thinking and memory for the worse. In the most recent of these papers, scientists found a link between being lower on the socioeconomic ladder and changes in the brain”.  They add that “Past studies have also suggested that being low in socioeconomic status can affect the way we think.  A paper in Science in 2013 found that ‘a person’s cognitive function is diminished by the constant and all-consuming effort of coping with the immediate effects of having little money, such as scrounging to pay bills and cut costs’.  The cognitive cost of poverty, that study found, was practically like losing an entire night of sleep.  Another study from last year found that people who had lived in poverty performed worse than those who had never been poor on tests of verbal memory, processing speed, and executive functioning”.  They quote an expert who said that “Previous views of poverty have blamed poverty on personal failings, or an environment that is not conducive to success … We’re arguing that the lack of financial resources itself can lead to impaired cognitive function.  The very condition of not having enough can actually be a cause of poverty”.  A 2013 study by Princeton found that

“Poverty and all its related concerns require so much mental energy that the poor have less remaining brainpower to devote to other areas of life, according to research based at Princeton University.  As a result, people of limited means are more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions that may be amplified by — and perpetuate — their financial woes…The researchers suggest that being poor may keep a person from concentrating on the very avenues that would lead them out of poverty…Thusly, a person is left with fewer ‘mental resources’ to focus on complicated, indirectly related matters such as education, job training and even managing their time.  In a series of experiments, the researchers found that pressing financial concerns had an immediate impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests.  On average, a person preoccupied with money problems exhibited a drop in cognitive function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ…The poor are often highly effective at focusing on and dealing with pressing problems.  It’s the other tasks where they perform poorly.  The fallout of neglecting other areas of life may loom larger for a person just scraping by…Late fees tacked on to a forgotten rent payment, a job lost because of poor time-management — these make a tight money situation worse.  And as people get poorer, they tend to make difficult and often costly decisions that further perpetuate their hardship.”

Many in my conservative Christian circles have adopted an argument they have heard on talk radio, cable news or social media that the government systematically re-distributes the wealth from the rich and middle class to the poor.  While I do agree that its programs do accomplish a re-distribution of wealth, my look at the data and government intrusion from a more holistic view of its overall impact on society would suggest that its re-distribution is actually from the poor and middle class to the rich, and the data seems to bear that out.  With large government programs for welfare and”‘equal opportunity”, how could that be?  One needs to consider the overwhelming largesse from enormous government contracts to businesses of taxpayer money, lucrative tax credits, and investment in education and infrastructure that largely benefits the big business and investor class, not to mention the booty and spoils from wars, fought on the ground by the poor on private’s salaries, to secure oil fields and retain overseas markets for investors and big business.

Does the data show this to be plausible?  Well, an article in The Washington Post in December 2017 stated that “The wealthiest 1 percent of American households own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, according to a new paper by economist Edward N. Wolff. That share is higher than it has been at any point since at least 1962″.  The author adds that “From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the 1 percent shot up by nearly three percentage points.  Wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent, meanwhile, fell over the same period.  Today, the top 1 percent of households own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.  That gap, between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else, has only become wider in the past several decades”.  They cite that

“In 2010, Michael Norton and Dan Ariely surveyed more than 5,500 people to find out how they thought wealth should be distributed in this country… On average, respondents said that in an ideal world the top 20 percent of Americans would get nearly one-third of the pie, the second and middle quintiles would get about 20 percent each, and the bottom two quintiles would get 13 and 11 slices, respectively.  In an ideal world, in other words, the most productive quintile of society would amass roughly three times the wealth of the least productive”.  In reality, they found that “The top 20 percent of households actually own a whopping 90 percent of the stuff in America…The fourth quintile of households gets literally nothing: no pie.  But they’re still doing better than the bottom 20 percent of households, who are actually in a state of pie debt: Their net worth is underwater, meaning they owe more than they have.  Combined, the average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of households is -$8,900…There’s the top 1 percent, gobbling up an astonishing 40 slices of American pie. The next 4 percent split 27 slices between them, while the next 5 percent take another 12 slices (a little over two slices per person)…The top 1 percent in the U.S. own a much larger share of the country’s wealth than the 1 percent elsewhere. The American 1 percent gobble up twice as much pie (40 percent) as the 1 percent in France, the U.K., or Canada”.

In November 2017 CBS News reported that “The top 1 percent of global citizens own 50.1 percent of all household wealth, up from 45.5 percent in 2000, the study found”.  They add that “the wealth gap recently spurred credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s to warn that worsening inequality could hamper long-term economic growth by dampening social mobility and creating a less-educated workforce.  In October of 2017 The Business Insider reported that “The top 0.1% of households now hold about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%”.  In terms of total amount of wealth increase, the London Guardian newspaper reported in December 2017 that “The richest 0.1% of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by as much as the poorest 50% – or 3.8 billion people – since 1980…The report, which drew on the work of more than 100 researchers around the world, found that the richest 1% of the global population “captured” 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016.  And the richest of the rich increased their wealth by even more.  The top 0.1% gained 13% of the world’s wealth, and has garnered “as much of the world’s growth since 1980 as the bottom half of the adult population,” the report said. “Conversely, income growth has been sluggish or even nil for the population between the global bottom 50% and top 1%”.  They add that “The economists said wealth inequality had become ‘extreme’ in Russia and the US.  The US’s richest 1% accounted for 39% of the nation’s wealth in 2014 [the latest year available], up from 22% in 1980”, with much of that going to the top 0.1 percent.  The economists note that one of the main remedies of the ever-widening gap between the one percent and the middle classes globally is a more progressive tax bracket structure, but admits that its ability is minimized that ten percent of the elite’s wealth is protected in offshore tax shelters.  In 2017 The Huffington Post reported that “New research suggests that the top 0.01 percent — households with over $40 million in wealth — are manipulating trusts, offshore bank accounts, and various other opaque mechanisms that mask ownership to evade 25 to 30 percent of what they owe in personal income and wealth taxes”.  Importantly, they add that “Our current estimates on wealth inequality in the United States come largely from tax data. These estimates, given the billions upon billions the wealthy are hiding from U.S. tax collectors, now appear to grossly underestimate how much wealth actually sits concentrated at America’s economic summit.”

Another report revealed that the 70% of the world’s population in 2017, with a net worth under $10,000, owned 2.7% of the world’s wealth, while the 0.7% worth $1 million or more controlled 46 percent.  They report that 56% (and rising) of the world’s population is considered “low income” (make less than $10 a day), and another 15% as “poor”.  The biggest wealth disparity they show is in the United States, where “the median top 5% household wealth has more than 90 times the wealth of the median U.S. family“.  Because of this, the middle class in the U.S. has half the proportion of national wealth of their peers in other industrialized nations, as well as half the net worth of the median family there.  Yet another report stated that “If established trends in wealth inequality were to continue, the top 0.1% alone will own more wealth than the global middle class by 2050”.  Even the hard right, libertarian Alex Jones’ website reported that “more than 40 percent of households cannot afford the basics of a middle-class lifestyle, including rent, transportation, childcare and a cellphone”, finding “a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses”

Now let me ask you – does this sound like a healthy society, and state of affairs?  Is this the “triumph” of capitalism, or just Darwinism?  Does this sound more like a growing feudalistic society?  Given the Bible verses we have reviewed, do American Christians have any responsibility here? Are we “our brother’s keeper”?  Do we ‘love our neighbor”?

Almost all American evangelicals absolutely despise Hillary Clinton, with a hatred only rivaled by that for Satan himself.  However, they considered her rival Bernie Sanders as just a nutcase.  But this ‘nutcase” was the only candidate to point out this “elephant in the room” of the expanding gap between the economic elite and the rest, and the crisis that it would present that would soon dwarf the threats of ISIS, Islamic extremism, North Korea or even the Soviets – a clarion call that largely fell on deaf ears.  Evangelicals and those of their ilk are not known to be students of history (or students of much of anything for that matter, generally not being readers of serious subject matter), but if they were it would be greatly apparent that many great empires and cultures fell in time over the growing inequality of wealth, and the inability of the underclass to survive with their plight, with violent rebellion becoming their only option – think of the slave revolts of the Roman Empire, the French monarchy, the Russian tsar, and the like.  When people have nothing left to lose, they will take desperate measures, and in the mayhem, the greedy elites will lose everything they clung to.  Evangelicals have long sided with the Wall Street Republicans, including the current New York City billionaire president, who has placed Wall Street hedge fund managers and CEOs into the key cabinet positions over the financial well-being of the citizenry; it is no surprise that the first Executive Action President Trump took on Inauguration Day was to provide that financial managers did not have to disclose to their consumer clients that they are actually representing the interests of the financial product companies they represent, and not that of their paying customers.   They place in office those who actually raise their taxes in subtle ways beyond their comprehension (like increasing standard deductions that are useless to most with mortgages, while quietly removing their exemptions to offset any benefits), and while cutting the taxes of wealthy corporations almost in half, and increasing the taxes on the poorest by 20 percent.

Of course, just like there’s no such things as “peace profiteers”, those people (even popular ones) who take up the cause of the poor find it a quick way to lose whatever popular support they otherwise had.  As one example, recently The Intercept reported regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. that “in 1966, 63 percent of Americans held a negative view of the civil rights leader, while just 32 percent held a positive one.  This was a marked reversal from five years earlier, when 41 percent of Americans gave King a positive rating and 37 percent a negative one.  King’s slide in popularity coincided with his activism taking a turn from what Americans largely know him for — his campaign for civil rights in the American South — to a much more radical one aimed at the war in Vietnam and poverty.  They note King stating publicly that “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”, while noting that “Many in King’s inner circle warned against making the speech and publicly campaigning against the war”.  Afterwards, he lost the support of many liberals and the press, as they note that  even The New York Times denounced him as doing a “disservice” to civil rights, while they note that “The Washington Post editorial board said King had ‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country and his people’, as ”A political cartoon in the Kansas City Star depicted the civil rights movement as a young black girl crying and begging for her drunk father King, who is consuming the contents of a bottle labeled ‘Anti-Vietnam'”.  They add that “In all, 168 newspapers denounced him the next day”, and even the other civil rights organizations he helped get on the ground such the NAACP, National Urban League, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formally distanced themselves from King.  They also explained that

“Also that year, he launched the Poor People’s Campaign, aimed at providing good jobs, housing, and a decent standard of living to all Americans.  More than 40 years before American protesters took to the streets of New York City and other locales to “occupy” space to protest inequality, King proposed a massive tent encampment in Washington, D.C. to demand action on poverty.  King was assassinated during a campaign to organize sanitation workers in Tennessee in April of that year, before he was able to set up the encampment.  His widow Coretta Scott King, as well as fellow civil rights leader Ralph David Abernathy, went ahead with the plan to create what they called Resurrection City.  The camp lasted six weeks until police moved in to shut it down and evict all of its inhabitants, pointing to sporadic acts of hooliganism as justification.  Andrew Young, the young civil rights leader who later went on to be Jimmy Carter’s U.N. ambassador and a mayor of Atlanta, was horrified, saying the crushing of the camp was worse than the police violence he saw in the South.  ‘It was worse than anything I saw in Mississippi or Alabama’, he said.  ‘You don’t shoot tear gas into an entire city because two or three hooligans are throwing rocks’.”

They add that “Bobby Kennedy, who once authorized the wiretaps of King’s phones, attended the funeral” (in which King’s casket was pulled by a mule-drawn wagon), saying that “He gave his life for the poor of the world — the garbage workers of Memphis and the peasants of Vietnam” (King was shot while helping the Memphis sanitation workers in their strike, which he saw as part of the Campaign).

The Poor People’s Campaign culminated in a six week live-in camp called “Resurrection City” in Washington, DC (like the Bonus Army in the “Hoover City” camp a generation earlier) with 3,000 protest residents in the summer of 1968, right after King’s death.  The Nation reported comments by Dr. King, who originally conceived of the Campaign, including his statement that he thought the Apostle Paul would tell American Christians that “Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes…God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty”.  He stated that ““If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.  He merely exists”.  He wrote that “New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available”.  King wanted to bring the actual poor people to D.C. to let the politicians see them, stating that “We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on.  People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way…and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it’”.

He was invited to bring the protesters to the city by Senator Kennedy himself.  The other politicians in D.C. felt threatened by all these poor people coming, with one calling it “A Mecca for migrants”, while presidential candidate Nixon told Congress not to capitulate to their demands.  20,000 Army soldiers were mobilized to occupy the city just in case, while the FBI began Operation POCAM to stop King’s effort on poverty, falsely telling protesters there they would lose welfare benefits if they came, and set up local city intimidation campaigns, even teaming up with the John Birch Society to operate the TACT (Truth About Civil Turmoil) propaganda campaign.  The FBI even planted the story that the Campaign was in direct competition with the Quakers, according to released FBI files.  What King sought was an Economic Bill of Rights, with the following five planks:

  1. “A meaningful job at a living wage”
  2. “A secure and adequate income” for all those unable to find or do a job
  3. “Access to land” for economic uses
  4. “Access to capital” for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
  5. Ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government

They sought protection for Mexicans, other Hispanics, Indians and immigrants from police abuse, and food stamps and school lunch programs to use otherwise wasted over-produced food, job training, living wages, help for poor farmers of all races, medical care for the poor, programs to allow the poor to construct and rehabilitate housing, re-commitment to the Full Employment Act of 1946, and similar reforms.  The people formed caravans all over the country to come to Resurrection City (even mule teams), under the watchful eye of the FBI; the group in Detroit was clubbed and stomped by mounted police when their van stalled.  The military intelligence community also spied on the City, posing as journalists and wiretapping their phones there on the National Mall.  Resurrection City had a university, a psychiatrist and a city hall on site.  On a nearby campus, Chicanos, Appalachian whites, blacks and Indians stayed together, marching to the Supreme Court about fishing rights.  Their Solidarity March had between 50,000 and 100,000 people.  After weeks, the police began firing tear gas canisters into the City, and arrested the remaining people while they were singing.  Its results were modest, but it did lead to the release of food to poor communities, and increases in school lunch programs and Head Start.  There was also a Resurrection City II at the 1972 Democratic Party Convention in Miami.

All of this brief introduction was a mere preamble to the real purpose of this blog post.  Lately I’ve been on the lookout for appearances by Dr. Cornell West, who received his Ph.D from Harvard, and has been a professor at a large portion of the major Ivy League Schools, as well as in Paris and Union Theological Seminary.  With his old-school Black Afro hair and intense manner of discourse on social issues, not that long ago I would have chalked him up to being just another scary black radical like the Black Panthers, and ignored him.  However, over time, I noticed that he spoke more about being a follower of Jesus and a Christian which supremely defined his ethics and actions, more so than anyone else I heard on TV, and consistently brought up his Christian faith.  In fact, I read that while he admired the can-do activism of the Black Panthers, his Christian faith restricted him to local breakfast, prison and church programs.  Nevertheless, he is reviled by the Right.  He calls himself a “non-Marxist socialist”, because he does not believe that Marxism and his Christianity can be reconciled.  Most interestingly, I found out that he co-founded the Network of Spiritual Progressives, along with Rabbi Michael Lerner and Sister Joan Chittister.  From that organization, I discovered that they would be part of a larger confederation of groups hosting a new Poor People’s Campaign – A Call for Moral Renewal in cities across the country, including Nashville, on the day after Mothers Day – a half century after Dr. King’s originally-planned event.  I finally decided to get my rear off the sofa and not just think about defending the poor and defenseless, or just talk about it, but actually show up for once, and at least provide a witness of Christian support and encouragement.

I had to drive through the manic traffic to downtown Nashville, away from my suburban paradise, and begin the stressful process of finding an (expensive) place to park, and then try to find my way to the site of protest.  I had been warned of the propensity of panhandlers in the area, who might give trouble, and indeed it appeared they were out in force (at least my paranoid mind thought so), so I found myself walking on the opposite side of the streets from them to avoid trouble.  Of course, I was disturbed by the irony that I was going to an event on behalf of the poor while avoiding them personally, but I rationalized that I had to get there safely first, and that encouraging panhandlers (while being concerned where what loose cash I had was being used) vs. promoting organized programs that carefully controlled how needs were being met were on two different levels, whether I was right or wrong, but people who have helped people on the streets will know where I am coming from. 

When I finally found the place, I did not see a sea of people locked in arms like I have seen in the news reel footage of the Washington Mall in 1964.  What I saw was a modest group of maybe 100-150 people (although I am a poor judge), all of a very motley sort, with me sticking out like a tourist from suburbia.  The picture at the top of this post is from the group speaking front and center on the steps, with a small crowd on the ground.

I looked around to see how big the evangelical presence was at the event – here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and home to the Southern Baptist Convention headquarters and other evangelical groups – but I did not recognize a single evangelical type group or person in the bunch.  I saw a handful with clerical collars, but that was it.  When I realized the pitifulness of the small crowd in a city known for its Christianity, and that I could not see any evangelical witness there anywhere in support of the poor, for some reason I just started to weep – pretty significantly, and uncontrollably.  I just bowed my head and prayed, and asked God audibly for forgiveness for not caring enough for the poor up until now, and I felt a hand on my shoulder in support.  When I looked up I found out it was one of the men in the clerical collar, who comforted me as I confessed my sin of insufficient care for the poor, and he prayed with me.  I did not have anything to write down information there (Radio Free Nashville would be so disappointed in me), but I seem to recollect his name was something like Bro. Jake Morill, and I think he came all the way from Oak Ridge, Tenn. (the Campaigns were being held in state capitals simultaneously across the country).  I asked him what denomination he was with and he said the Unitarian-Universalist Church; the others I met there from other places were also from the Unitarians.  The Unitarians – “showing up” us evangelicals.

I heard women preachers speak, a Muslim woman speaker, and saw older men waving Vietnam Veterans For Peace flags.  I didn’t have a clean short-sleeve “Future Quake” shirt available for the hot weather, so I had to wear my only short-sleeve, clean white T-shirt I could find, which was emblazoned with a white flag with blue stripes, and a statement in red letters stating, “STAND WITH ISHMAEL”.  A group with a banner asked me what my shirt meant, and I told them it was food for thought, that God had also given blessings and promises to Abraham’s other son Ishmael in addition to Isaac, and to “bless the seed of Abraham” meant to bless all of his sons of faith; they found that very interesting, and the Muslim woman in particular.  I gave all the people there a blessing in the name of Jesus, thanked them for their compassion, and confessed the error of my earlier ways, and the need of a follower of Jesus to support their cause, which was well received by all, including the woman dressed up like The Handmaid’s Tale, whom I suddenly discovered when they turned around was a trans-gendered person; I asked them if they knew our friend Roxy Fox of Nashville Gender Talk on Radio Free Nashville, and they said they did.

I also talked to a dignified woman in a medical lab coat, who was there from Chattanooga as a doctor or nurse, as part of a group seeking health care for everyone.  I looked hard for someone representing my old radio station Radio Free Nashville, because this event was ideal for them, and I finally found an older gentleman sporting one of their shirts and covering the event, and I made his acquaintance.  The main event of the second stage of the event was a sit-in on one of the streets downtown, singing songs and such, which was only permitted by those who had been trained beforehand to be behaved and non-violent or resistant to law enforcement.  They sang spirited songs as the buses and traffic stopped in front of them.  Of course, this was the only thing that brought the local TV cameras (actually, one station) to cover the event and promote the cause, and everyone knows how that game is played.  While I was there I noticed the police being very restrained and patient, for it was clear that this small group had no intention of endangering the public safety – rather trying to help it, in a totally unselfish manner, unlike the self-centered presidential cabinet officials we see on TV.  As I was leaving a couple hours later, I saw a woman wearing a clerical collar looking at her texts, and I introduced myself.  It turned out that Rev. Joy Warren was a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church!  She and her husband served there in Murfreesboro, TN – “ground zero” in the battle between the hard Right anti-sharia Christian movement and the new Muslim center there.  I found out that their church led groups where Christians and Muslims locally could meet each other and help each other out, and she worked hard to get her parishioners active in social events.  She mentioned that her kids told her at school that many of the kids there harass the Muslim students, whispering things like “9-11” in their ears.  She told me her denomination normally does not wear clerical collars, but she wore it to that event because she wanted the other people there to know that at least some Christian presence was there.  She is absolutely right, but isn’t that sad that such an overt act was even necessary, due to the evangelical “no show”?   

In recent years I have attended the evangelical-dominated Value Voters Summit with all the Republican candidates before the presidential election, and a major anti-sharia law conference at one of the major churches here in town, as well as a number of major Bible prophecy conferences.  Upon reflection, I noticed some striking differences between this and those events and the participants:

  1.  In this event, I noticed that the participants, unlike the others, did not feature participants that seemed to have much if any money to them, or dress with impressive tastes.
  2. This event looked like it had no money for impressive facilities to hold their event, with lavish receptions and hotel mixers, unlike the “Christian” ones (usually provided by wealthy benefactors of unknown agendas).
  3. Unlike the other events, I did not notice the participation or organization by members of the Israeli government.
  4. The military members at this event did not look like they were still involved in intelligence agencies or mercenary security firms like Blackwater.
  5. This event did not seem to be a veiled attempt to promote particular political candidates.
  6. Unlike the other events I listed, this one featured speakers always speaking about Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount and even repentance, which I never heard at those other “Christian” events.
  7. Without the deep pockets and public relations firms there, the media didn’t seem much interested in covering it.
  8. Unlike the other events, the poverty message led the evangelicals to being a “no show”.

 

The following are some pictures I took of the event itself:

This is Brother Jake, who laid his hand on me and prayed for me.

    This is Minister Joy Warren, the Presbyterian minister.

These people were interested in my T-Shirt.

 

This is me, with a suspect T-shirt in question (I needed an alibi picture)

 

One of the folks with the “Veterans for Peace” sign.

 

A lot of singing and spiritual songs going on.

 

One of the “Veterans for Peace” friends: He would certainly not be allowed in the other conferences I cited.

 

My buddy from Radio Free Nashville.  Low power to the people!

 

My new friend, who happens to be a Muslim (never once tried to kill me, either).

 

The “sit-in” begins!

 

Stopped the Fed Ex truck!

 

Although the police were well-behaved while I was there, I found out later in the local paper that 21 people, from ages 17 to 21 and from all over Tennessee,  were arrested at the event after I left.  You can tell that they look like some pretty sinister people that were a threat to the public.  Of course, the arrests are necessary for the media to show up and take notice of their cause, without expensive public relations firms to do the job.  The article mentioned that the weekly events nationwide are part of a 40 day movement of events.  Upon reflection, my evangelical peers at the other events I have gone to like to “talk tough” by parading guys in fatigues and former special forces guys and mercenaries at their events, and talk about “spilling the blood of patriots” and the like, but I believe that most of them are too coddled and cowardly like the comfy establishment group they pretend not to be to ever have the courage to spend the day in “pokey” or the paddy wagon, like these folks.

The London Guardian newspaper reported on the founder of the new Poor People’s Campaign, the Rev. William Barber of North Carolina, who stated that “There is no religious left and religious right.  There is only a moral center.  And the scripture is very clear about where you have to be to be in the moral center – you have to be on the side of the poor, the working, the sick, the immigrant”.  They add that

“Barber leads an ascendent grassroots movement that is trying to turn the national conversation to what they believe are the core teachings of the Bible: care for the poor, heal the sick, welcome the stranger.  The Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of Martin Luther King’s final effort to unite poor Americans across racial lines, last week brought together activists from several faiths, the Women’s March, the labor movement and other liberal organizations to launch 40 days of civil disobedience and protest against inequality, racism, ecological devastation and militarism.  As many as 1,000 people were arrested during the first wave.  More expect to be held in future…’They [the Religious Right pastors and leaders] say so much about the issues where the Bible says so little, but they speak so little about the issues where the Bible says so much.  Jesus set up free healthcare clinics everywhere he went.  He healed everybody and never charged a leper a co-pay’”.

I saw the following blog post the day after the event, entitled, “Why Would I Do This?”:

“This week I was arrested. I was in jail for over 14 hours.  At times it was so hot I was sweating.  At times it was so cold I was shivering.  And at all times it smelled rancid.  We sat or huddled in the women’s cell atop either hard cement benches or hard metal bunks (with no mattresses) covered by dried and crusted bodily fluids and years of dirt.  A guard saw our sunburns and assumed we had contracted a rash from being in the cells.  Without windows or clocks we were deprived of our sense of time.  The fluorescent lights lit everything into a brightly illuminated nowhere.  It took over 9 hours until we had access to our phone call.  From the architecture, to the way guards ignored or yelled at us, everything was designed in a way to strip us of our sense of self and power.  At one point, I overheard a guard saying ‘A beating would not harm that one’.  It was a very long 14 hours in jail.”

“Why did I do this? Why would I go through such an ordeal, stripped of my freedom and dignity?”

“Because I am a Christian.”

“I follow a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew named Jesus. The Jesus who preached “blessed are the poor” and who was poor himself. The Jesus who told the parable about the Good Samaritan, defying the racism of the time…The Jesus who died on a cross executed by a conspiracy between the religious elite and the mightiest military power of the ancient world.  The Jesus who risked arrest for his witness.  I am trying to follow Jesus in naming the evils of poverty, racism, environmental degradation, and the military industrial complex.  The same evils that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in the original Poor Peoples Campaign right before he was killed.”

“As I followed Jesus by risking arrest, I met him in jail.  I met Jesus in the woman who shared her jacket with me when I was shivering.  I met Jesus in the woman who gave me a look of utmost gratitude when I offered to walk behind her in line to cover her because her pants ripped open exposing her bum when the police took her in.  I met Jesus in the woman who was arrested for crying too loudly and uncontrollably at her brothers hearing.  I met Jesus in the woman who was so inspired by the Poor Peoples Campaign and that we were there with her in jail;…Those 14 hours in jail were intense, worldview shifting, hours.  I was humbled, honored, helpless and hopeful.  I joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival because I wanted to follow Jesus, and I was surprised to meet him in the putrid overcrowded jail cell.”

 

The problem of poverty cannot be solved merely by just throwing money at it.  And yes, whenever you provide assistance to the public – even through the local church – you will find abuse and exploitation.  There are ways to improperly apply assistance that not only make matters worse by means of providing money or goods for barter to support drug habits and alcohol abuse, and (I guess) even promote unhelpful behaviors and character traits such as sloth and lack of self-initiative, or other destructive behavior, or even reinforced feelings of inferiority.  Maybe many of us have witnessed the “welfare cadillacs”, or the food stamps used to buy premier items we do not think we can afford.  However, few of us have very found out how little public assistance really is (and those I know who work with such people can confirm this), and that it is just basic sustenance, much like Social Security.  We need to promote the ideas of self-sufficiency, hard work and financial discipline in people.  However, have we got those principles mastered in all the members of our own households?  Do the rest of us have any problems availing of the government to get tax deductions and credits for our families and mortgages, or even financial aid and grants to send our children to school, yet look down on others who get other forms of government assistance?

Are there ways to give people hope, and still foster good societal and moral behaviors?

Why do people have problems with school free breakfast and lunch programs – is it really the children’s fault for their family’s financial plight?  Are those meals really going to be mis-used?  Better yet – why not feed all our school children that way, so that the poor will not feel isolated when they use those tickets?  Don’t laugh – you may never have felt that shame unless you’ve been on such forms of public assistance for some time – the shame may be as bad as the poverty.  I hear some say cynically that our nation is the only one where our poor people are fat – they never seem to realize that the waistline girth may be due to the unhealthy, fattening food that is all they can afford, or all that is offered in their inner city corner store while the big chains stay out of the neighborhood, or maybe just the lack of education on home economics and nutrition in homes where a competent parent is missing.

Martin Luther King, Jr. recommended radical ideas for his economic plans at the time, including a living wage, guaranteed jobs for all and a minimum income in any case, to avert poverty and to spur consumer spending.  Now, these ideas are chic and are being considered in several states, and are already deployed in places in Europe and elsewhere.  The abuse factor is certainly present, but would reducing poverty-based crime, drug abuse, domestic violence and suicides be worth the price?  Why do the people in those places that offer free health care and similar “welfare state” provisions not want to adopt our Wild West, Darwinistic approach of unbridled free-for-all of “dog eat dog” capitalistic competition?  Are those countries actually “progressing” as a civilization, and is ours a throwback to the Dark Ages of feudalism, and going more that direction every day?  Do churches have a role in providing the moral underpinning to assist the State in lifting its lower rungs of society out of poverty, and to teach them good virtues of responsibility and self-worth?  Would churches take time away from their pet topics of financial success, gay marriage and Muslims to assign resources to such tasks?  Why do you almost never hear churches ever teach about Biblical directives of hard work, stewardship, and wisdom with money, and why are its parishioners (often with decent incomes) some of the worst role models in these regards to show to our neighbors who have grown up in disfunctional homes?

When the nation finally comes to its senses and nominates me to run for President, I think I would emphasize in “investing” in people – particularly those we have talked about in this blog.  Like Neegan properly says on “The Walking Dead” – “people are a resource”.  When society “invests” in people in need of help, “investments” are intended to reap returns – improved productivity, creative output, tax revenue, children for future our labor force, and the like.  It needs to be done smartly, and with accountability measures, while never totally eliminating the risks that come with investments – only managing them.  With some people – the severely disabled, the elderly, the mentally ill, the hopelessly addicted – the only “return on investment’ may be in our souls, and in elevating our civilization, and putting our thumb in the eye of old Darwin.  To fully round out my campaign slogan, I think I would go with, “Investing in People – with Compassion and Accountability”.  Who would find fault with that, other than some greedy so-and-so, or someone who doesn’t believe in the Golden Rule?  Of course, it will cost us – we may have to get flat screen TVs that are two inches smaller diagonally, or the smaller monthly plan on Netflix or our cell plans (it will really cost the well-to-do; less Monet paintings and import luxury cars, Cuban cigars and money laundered off-shore for their “necessities”, using their new-found drastic tax cuts that were supposed to “trickle down”, like the crumbs from the rich man’s table to the beggar Lazarus).  Would it be worth it?  Even to the point of putting less money into our overseas military adventures that entertain us and make us feel proud and exceptional? 

I, for one, am ready to consider new, bold ideas to turn back this “feudalization” of our society, and to comply with the Biblical mandates to place the poor and “justice” on the ‘front burners” of our discussion as the “weightier matters” of God – even with all the risks involved, or at least the ones the nay-sayers talk about all the time.

Wouldn’t it at least be an improvement if our churches talked about poverty some time?

Are we “our brother’s keeper”?

 

I’m really glad I went to the Poor People’s Campaign.

Film Recommendation: Pressure Point (1962)

 

It seems almost a “synchronicity” (I sound so contemporary using such a term) that I would just discover such an important movie as Pressure Point, produced by Stanley Kramer, and starring Sidney Poitier, an amazing Bobby Darin (yes, the 60’s crooner), and even a young Peter Falk in a brief role, right after the events of Charlottesville and the rising profile of the neo-Nazi/”alt right”, and the disconcerting issues raised in my last post just days ago.

The 1962 film concerns a black prison psychologist Poitier in 1942 who inherits a prisoner client (played by a Bobby Darin that revealed his acting chops) who had joined the Nazi movement in America and had been sent to prison for sedition.  Refusing to be analyzed by an African-American, he eventually relents when he cannot overcome his sleeplessness and torment over events in his upbringing that made him the Nazi monster he came to be.  I cannot think of a movie that more relevantly or intelligently sheds light on how young people can be pulled in to movements that espouse hate of others, even in America and after the terrible experience of the German Nazi regime, and how we can never turn a blind eye, or our backs on such movements that never seem to go away.  Even for such an ugly person, it exudes an empathy as we see the family and societal influences that break and corrupt young minds – just like today.

I have only seen part of it so far, but it was so good that I had to recommend it to my reader friends before I forgot, and while you might be able to find it.  I discovered it on the MGM HD channel that is carried on cable and satellite.  It is also available for rent at Amazon Video, or available for purchase.

As a big fan of film, I have often thought that the “golden age” of particularly American film (and public discourse in general) was in the high-definition black-and-white days of about 1955-64 – the days of brilliantly insightful films like A Face In The Crowd, or Dr. Strangelove.  They reflected (and required) a general intelligence and insight from the public that would go over the heads of most of the public today; the students of the late 60s still reflected this intellectual rigor and academic capability, but it has rapidly declined since then.

The producer, Stanley Kramer, produced or directed many of the most unforgettable and brilliant “message” movies of the era – often at personal expense and risk.  They included not only this film, but Inherit The Wind, The Defiant Ones, the post-nuclear On The Beach, High Noon, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Caine Mutiny and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

A viewing of the titles mentioned in this post would be an incredibly spiritually rewarding experience for any reader here.  I am ashamed to say that not only did I learn the types of spiritual truths from Stanley Kramer’s and similar films that I should have learned from those behind pulpits, but when I reflect on the infantile, Disney-fied (and even harmful) “chewing gum” embarrassments I see produced by Christian filmmakers these days, such as Fireproof or God Is Not Dead, I am almost (but not quite) too embarrassed to tell other thinkers whose “team I’m on”.  Will real Christian intellectuals like the C.S. Lewis’ of old ever rise up, and more so, will there ever be an appetite in Christian circles for those who make us think, self-critique and empathize?

The Religious Right and White Supremacists: A “Match Made in Valhalla”

PerkinsCCC

 

In the draft manuscript of Volume 6 of my book series, The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror, I wrote at some length about what was arguably the most powerful and influential Christian political activism and “cultural warrior” organization of the early Twentieth Century, whose central tenets are still being actively championed by most American conservative Christians today.

In their heyday millions of American men were members of it – 15% of the entire eligible American male populace (predominantly in the West and Midwest), all organized under a central banner.  Its widely respected leader wrote that his organization “embodies the group mind of America.  It is representative of complete nationalism”, with his organization claiming, “I am the soul of America”.

A large proportion of their founding and subsequent members were Protestant pastors, who were concerned about the rise of new immigrants and rival religions controlled by theocracies overseas.  At their meetings they sang hymns, while their members distributed Bibles at schools, and joined (and eventually took over) school boards to ease out un-American teachers of other faiths, with its members eventually becoming governors and Supreme Court justices.  Most of the membership was firmly of the middle class and had access to education, including Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and United Brethren, with a large portion of bankers, lawyers, dentists, doctor, ministers, businessmen and teachers.  A historian of their group said that “They were critical of liberal Protestant theologians who used historical criticism and science in biblical interpretation”, but were “more evangelical than fundamentalist”.  One of its members at the time wrote that it got many ministers involved in the group by “donating to the preacher”, as its organization “bound Christianity with Americanism”, and whose members formally dedicated themselves to the Constitution, “American ideals and institutions” and “the tenets of the Christian religion”, and wrote of themselves as the “successors of the Reformation” who would “cleanse” the church with Protestantism as “a foundation for both democracy and religious freedom”; in others word, “make America great again“.  They also claimed to model themselves after the early Church.

They not only donated food and started charities (to garner community support), as an organization intended to unite across denominational lines with the Bible as their “keystone”, and were expected to be regular church attenders with their families and supporters of their Sunday Schools (certainly being many teachers there).  Their logo included the blood of Christ, “shed for all humanity”.  Their stated model was the Christian Crusaders who rescued the Holy Land from the “heathen Turks”, and now sought to conquer the “enemies of Americanism”.

Its members had to profess loyalty to the American flag, it having been “purchased by blood and suffering of American heroes”, as the “price paid for American liberties”.  Their publications further confessed that “we must admit that the bases of America’s laws are the great moral laws of God”, as their goals were the “maintaining a Christian civilization in America”, as “Their nation was in danger, and the only way to save it was to reconnect with the nation’s religious foundations”.  Their leader stated that “real, true Americanism unadulterated, [included] a dogged devotedness to our country, its government, its ideals and its institutions”.

He warned that “We must look first at the crisis in our civilization, now near its height.  Americans find today that aliens…instead of joining, challenged and attacked us. They seek to destroy Americanism”; however, he took solace that his group “embodies the group mind of America. It is representative of complete nationalism”, and “That understanding of nationalism uplifted patriotism, uniformity, common language, common religion, respect for the government, and common tradition as well as history”, because “True nationhood is essentially oneness of mind, and it recognizes certain beliefs held in common by its citizens…no person who lacks them can be in harmony with the nation”, whereas the original Puritans had a “divinely-appointed…mission” which was now required to “realign with their destiny”.

The group’s periodicals stated that “America’s idealism, institutions, destiny and affluence are written in the Bible, and upon this Book, the Work of God, America is founded”, noting that all of the “great” documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Monroe Doctrine) originated in the Bible, and “therefore these documents are the basis of the logic and demonstration of every American problem”, with the nation being exceptional in origin, doctrine, and even physical space.  It adds that “the lives of the early fathers and their writings reveal that America was established by Christ…to put an end to ‘their System’”, while America was not for “refuse populations of other lands” who had not civilized the nation, but only wanted to exploit the toil of the forefathers and pioneers.  Most importantly, the organization wanted the Bible taught in public schools, and called Americans to a “culture war” to “arouse themselves” and “don’t be cowards, for God hates nothing more than cowardice”, appealing to a masculine Christ and aggressive American Christian male.

Their creed professed devotion to included the following tenets: a) “I believe in God and in the tenets of Christian religion and that a Godless nation cannot long prosper”, b) “I believe in the eternal separation of Church and State”, c) “I hold my allegiance to the Stars and Stripes next to my allegiance of God alone”, d) “I believe in the protection of pure womanhood”, e) “I believe in the limitation of foreign immigration”, and f) “I am a native born American citizen and I believe my rights in this country are superior to those of foreigners”.

They supported the 1924 Johnson-Hartley Act, which favored northern Europeans for American immigration versus southern European “Mediterraneans”.  They were active in opposing the immigration to America of a rival faith that was taking American jobs, and the threat of their mass mobilization under a foreign religious leader, with their faith viewed as a political organization in religious clothing.  They eventually took part in violent conflicts in their marches on college campuses.

So – who is this organization, comprising 15% of American males and a large proportion of Protestant ministers nationwide at the time, who virtually invented the platform and agenda of today’s Religious Right?

 

The 1920’s Ku Klux Klan. 

 

At the time they were invited nationwide (not just in the South, as the biggest collection of Klansmen was in Indiana, where their governor and supreme court justices donned the hood) in our sacred churches, to do recruiting drives during church services on Sundays, just like a Gideon speaker might today, but speaking of American-Christian values and the need to “stand up” and get active.  The following are a few pictures of such “sacred Sundays”:

klan1

 

Well – at least such associations by our dear Christian leaders are a thing of our ignorant past – right?

As per my recollection, in the early 1980s my older brother was licensed as a minister and served as an assistant pastor at a small rural Baptist church in Shepherdsville, KY, just outside of the city of Louisville. They experienced a tremendous revival and growth, and according to a recent conversation I had with him to spur his recollection, a choir came to sing at the church that featured several African-American members. The following Wednesday night during the prayer meeting service that my brother led, one of the “prominent” church members of several generations stated that his family had played a key role in the establishment of the church, and that the presence of Negroes would be unacceptable. My brother responded that they would always be welcome in the church, leading the man, known to be a Klan leader in the community (even having had his son expelled from the Klan for excessive behavior) to give a not-so-veiled threat as to the church. The following Saturday in 1983, the brand-new church, just finished by the congregation members, was burned to the ground, and later determined by authorities to be due to arson.

In fact, I uncovered a 1924 edition of their local community newspaper, the Pioneer News, which advertises a Klan meeting in town, explaining, “KU KLUX KLAN – And what it stands for, explained by a prominent minister.  Shepherdsville, Sunday, May 24 on the Public Square.  Big Klan Parade.  Klan Naturalization [induction ceremony].  Full ceremony open to the public.  Follow the parade.  Every man, woman and child interested in America and our civic problems is invited to hear this great American organization explained” [citation].  Elsewhere in the newsletter it noted that “The Ku Klux Klan made its first public demonstration here Saturday night, about 60 were in the parade which marched through town and returned to the field of Mr. O. H. Masden of Fair Haven.  A large crowd heard the speaker on the public square in front of Troutman’s Store, but at the field at 11 P.M., the cross was burned and new members initiated, the crowd was much larger. Many members from Jefferson, Spencer, Hardin and Barren Counties, from Indiana and Tennessee were here to take part in the meeting. The best of order prevailed with no disturbance of any kind”.

Well, its one thing to point out examples from backwoods locations like rural Kentucky (yet minutes from Louisville), but this does not have relevance to our urbane, sophisticated Christian leadership and community today – does it?

Bob Jones was one of the most prominent fundamentalist evangelists of the early Twentieth Century (possibly second only to Billy Sunday), and is the founder of the National Religious Broadcasters organization.  However, he is best known for founding (although he himself was not a college graduate) of the most iconic center of fundamentalist training in America, Bob Jones University, in the 1920s (to counter secular schools’ teaching of evolution in the aftermath of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial) as the eventual “ground zero” of fundamentalist culture, while graduating generations of prominent evangelical pastors and religious leaders.  One of them, Billy Graham, who had looked to Jones as a father figure (and was a board member of the school), split with him over the questionable allies Graham was associating with in his crusades, which led to the broader fundamentalist-evangelical split in the 1950s.  Numerous sources document that, like other fundamentalist religious figures such as Billy Sunday, Bob Jones accepted Ku Klux Klan donations at his services and endorsed known Klansmen for public office, such as his friend Alabama Governor Bibb Graves [citation].

However, Bob Jones University is best known, beyond it being the breeding ground for generations of Christian fundamentalist leaders, for its racist policies, racial segregation and other inter-race restrictions, even until recent years.  This “Christian” school refused to accept blacks to go to the school until 1971, and then only married blacks until 1975, even though the IRS had ruled that such schools with discriminatory admission policies were not entitled to tax exemption, eventually losing it in 1976 due to its refusal to change its policies. They continued to prohibit interracial marriage and dating, losing a court case in 1982 in the U.S. Supreme Court, and still maintained the policy by paying a million dollars in back taxes.  It was not until the year 2000 that the school dropped their interracial dating ban.  In 2000 the Baltimore Sun quoted Jonathan Pait, the university’s community relations coordinator, whose statement in 1998 declared that “God has separated people for his own purpose. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural and language barriers. Bob Jones University is opposed to the intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established. It mixes that which God separated and intends to keep separated” [citation].  They also note that while Republican candidates routinely flock to the University to seek endorsements or hold speaking events (such as George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and Dan Quayle), while Reps. Lindsey Graham and Asa Hutchinson (a graduate), and Senator John Ashcroft were conferred honorary degrees.

The other major fundamentalist and “Religious Right” leader of this era which had the most profound impact in my circles and household was the Rev. Jerry Falwell – radio and television preacher, founder and pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church mega-church, founder of Liberty University (arguably the most influential trainer of conservative Christian leaders, and frequent stop of political candidates), the Moral Majority and many other organizations, and the movement’s most iconic and famous “face”.  For the purposes of our discussion, we will briefly cite what many of his followers over the decades are not aware of – his long-standing support of segregation and resistance to racial progress. This record was documented by Max Blumenthal in his article [citation] for The Nation magazine. He notes that Falwell preached a sermon four years after the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawing racially segregated public schools entitled, “Segregation of Integration: Which?”, from which he is quoted as saying that “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line…The true Negro does not want integration…He realizes his potential is far better among his own race.” He went on to add that integration “will destroy our race eventually.  In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife”. As per my own research, it appears to me that the curious title to this sermon came from the 1956 pro-segregation book, Segregation or integration which? With the Negro in our midst, by fellow Fundamentalist Baptist pastor Gerald O. Fleming, a long-time pastor of the fundamentalist Dayton Baptist Temple (near my personal residence for many years); Falwell’s own Liberty University cites Fleming’s church-planting efforts as a role model in their own church=planting manual for students [citation].

Blumenthal continues by noting that Falwell distributed FBI-manufactured propaganda against Martin Luther King in support of J. Edgar Hoover, and referred to the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “civil wrongs”. He added that in his 1964 sermon “Ministers and Marchers”, Falwell identified King as a Communist subversive and having “left wing associations” as the Communists wanted to bring “violence and bloodshed” to America, further reproving King by saying that “Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners” (I’m sure the reader can detect the irony in that statement). He was then noted as having found Lynchburg Christian Academy, described by the Lynchburg News in 1966 as a “private school for white students” – reflecting a trend to start private Christian schools to avoid the racial integration requirements in public schools. Blumenthal quotes Religious Right co-architect Paul Weyrich that he could not stimulate Falwell and his ilk to become politically active originally in support of the unborn, but rather when President Carter started efforts to remove tax exempt status from Christian schools that were still segregated, leading Falwell to then start the Moral Majority in 1979.  This and other data I have found provided me a revelation that groups like the Moral Majority and others that my folks and our peers supported that formed the genesis of the Religious Right was not based on protecting the unborn, but rather to protect tax breaks for their race-segregated “Christian’ schools.

Since his death, his legacy and agenda has been continued by the current Chancellor of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr. (while his other son Jonathan inherited his father’s other position as senior Pastor at his Thomas Road Baptist Church mega-church).  Jerry Falwell, Jr. had just publicly endorsed Donald Trump after inviting him to speak at Liberty University during the 2016 presidential campaign, Falwell announcing afterwards that “I am proud to offer my endorsement of Donald J. Trump for president of the United States…In my opinion, Mr. Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment” [citation].  During Trump’s visit, Falwell Jr. said that “I see a lot of parallels between my father and Mr. Trump”, also comparing Trump to Martin Luther King on the day commemorating him, and to Jesus Christ Himself [citation]. In turn, at an earlier Liberty convocation in September 2012 Trump told the Christian students to “get even” to get ahead, rather than turning the other cheek, later backed up by Liberty’s media spokesperson Vice President Johnnie Moore who concurred that Jesus also “would and he did” get even with others, saying that “the Bible is filled with stories of God getting even with his enemies, Jesus got even with the Pharisees” [citation].

The Falwells and their followers are not the only Religious Right leaders with a curious position of history on the issues of race and slavery. In February 2016, David Barton, director of Ted Cruz’s super-PAC and known as Christian historian extraordinaire, told one his his primary supporters, Glenn Beck on his show during Black History Month that in reality white slaveholders treated their slaves like family, and then praised the white peoples of that era for passing amendments to the Constitution that allowed them to be finally recognized as full persons.  He quoted a slave diary that said that “so much of the credit that blacks owed was for whites having gone to bat and doing things for them”, because “blacks were not able to free themselves, whites did” [citation].  Richard Land, formerly the primary spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke on the radio in the summer of 2014, commenting on Dinesh D’Souza’s research and noting that his point about the “lie about America being a colonial power”, and assenting to his point that “we ended slavery, we didn’t bring slavery to North America. Slavery was there, the Native Americans were enslaving each other before we got here.  Eventually, we ended slavery.  We have been a civilizing influence in the world” [citation].

One of the central figures of today’s Religious Right and its political activism, Tony Perkins, President of the influential Family Research Council (having picked Gen. Jerry Boykin to be his second in command, and a person I explore in depth in one of my book volumes) and, according to their website [citation], serves as President of the Council for National Policy (an invitation-only group of “whos who” in the Religious Right religious and conservative leader community who meet in secret, founded in 1981 by Tim Lahaye, Woody Jenkins (its first director and Perkins’ mentor) and others, and often cited as “the conservative version of the Council on foreign relations” [citation], has a few skeletons in his closet regarding this issue.  His organization’s website also notes that he received a Bachelor in Science degree from Liberty University, as well as an honorary doctorate of divinity from the school as well, and is a licensed minister that fills many pulpits nationwide.  A Marine and former police officer, he began working for a television station owned by Rep. Woody Jenkins.  In 2005 Max Blumenthal reported in The Nation that

“Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America’s premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing candidate for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.” [citation]

Blumenthal added that though Perkins denied having anything to do with Duke, “Perkin’s signature was on the document authorizing the purchase of Duke’s list”. The fine levied by the Federal Elections Committee was for “knowingly and willfully fil[ing] false disclosure reports showing Courtney Communications as the vendor”; a July 24, 2002 article in the Times-Picayune (Rep. Perkin’s local newspaper) added that when Perkins found out about Duke’s connection to the phone list, “he and Jenkins decided to route the payments through Courtney Communications, the campaign’s media firm, because ‘politically, we didn’t want to be connected with Duke’” [citation]. In a July 30, 2005 Vancouver Sun article, Perkins said regarding his May 17, 2001 Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) speaking engagement that “he wasn’t aware of its history” and its segregationist ideology, although it had been reported in his local town and state newspapers since 1998, calling it a “racist group” [Ibid.]. In fact, a January 18, 1999 article in the New York Times reported Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s association with the “white separatist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens” for “giving speeches to a racist organization”, and was an “honorary member” of the group, also frequented by Senator Jess Helms [citation].  At the top of this post you can see an online newspaper-published photo of State Rep. Perkins at the CCC podium on that day, standing in front of a big Confederate flag [citation].

Barbara Perry, in her book Hate Crimes, Vol. 2, asserts that the original mailing lists of the earlier Whites Citizens Council, formed to bolster white separation and supremacy in the advent of the Brown v. The Board of Education desegregation ruling, was used to begin the Council of Conservative Citizens, which by 2006 had 42 chapters in 19 states, both north and south, with as many as 15,000 members, and having described blacks as a “retrograde species of humanity”, as well as being anti-immigrant [citation]. She adds that their Confederate Flag-draped meetings featured regular speakers such as Trent Lott (several times, and also a member), who said they “stand for the right principles and the right philosophy” (p. 111). Max Blumenthal also notes in the Huffington Post that Mike Huckabee “eagerly accepted” an invitation to speak at the CCC 1993 national convention, according to its founder Gordon Lee Baum, but a governmental scheduling issue requiring him to temporarily serve as governor (he was Arkansas’ Lt. Governor at the time) necessitated his submission of a video address; the next year they used former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson, who had organized the mob that rioted to stop the integration of Little Rock High School, and served as narrator of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s film, “The Clinton Chronicles” [citation].  Popular Alabama judge (and Ten Commandments public display defender) Roy Moore also spoke at the CCC in 1995 [citation].  Conservative write Ann Coulter stated in her 2009 book Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America that the CCC had been unfairly branded as racist only “because some of the directors of the CCC had, decades earlier, been leaders of a segregationist group…There is no evidence on its Web page that the modern incarnation of the CCC supports segregation” [citation].   To let them speak for themselves, let’s see what the Council of Conservative Citizens says in their own online “Statement of Principles”, which was unanimously adopted at their 2005 Spring National Board Meeting:

“We believe the United States is a Christian country…We therefore oppose all efforts to deny or weaken the Christian heritage of the United States, including the unconstitutional prohibitions of prayers and other religious expression in schools and other public institutions. We believe the United States is a European country and that Americas are part of the European people…the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character. We therefore oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime. We believe that illegal immigration must be stopped, if necessary by military force…We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.” [citation]

The CCC entered the news again recently when it was discovered that Dylann Roof, the mass assassin against the predominantly African-American members of a Charleston church in 2015 (killing nine), was heavily influenced by CCC publications on black violence against white people in his justification for his attack. The Los Angeles Times reported [citation] that his manifesto writing “reflects the strong influence of a white nationalist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens”. On his online manifesto webpage, Roof writes, “this [the Trayvon Martin incident] prompted me to type in the words ‘black on white crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on white murders. I was in disbelief” [citation].

The current board member and national spokseman today for the Council of Conservative Citizens is Jared Taylor, who along with Matthew Heimbach and Richard Spencer (co-organizers of the recent Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right” Nazi rally) form the key triumvirate of America’s current white supremacist movement.  Concerning the deadly rally itself, Taylor, who describes himself as a “racialist” [citation] who said that Trump’s election signals the “sign of rising white consciousness” [citation], said afterwords that

“If you get your news from NBC, this is what you learned about yesterday’s Unite the Right rally:…The problem was white nationalist violence…Of course, what caused the violence was hostile counter-demonstrators…If they had not been there, there would have been no violence, and the rally would have taken place as planned.  Of all people, it was Donald Trump who came the closest to getting it right, condemning “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides”…(Swastikas were extremely rare in Charlottesville, but they make for better “anti-racist” graphics than Confederate flags.)…There is confrontation only when anti-whites harass and try to stop pro-white events…Jason Kessler [the demonstration organizer] is scheduled to make a statement to the press today at 2:00 p.m. He is smart man and a brave man. I’m sure we can trust him to make an excellent case for our side.”

 

It’s a funny thing; I noticed some young people in the news video of the event that were confronting these Nuremberg torch-carrying, card-carrying Nazis in their regalia, but I wondered: Where is the American Legion?  the other veterans organizations who fought Nazis, and whose buddies died fighting them?  The Holocaust survivors?

And most of all – where are the preachers, and other people of faith?  There may have been some brave “liberal” pastors (gasp – possibly even women!) and some non-religious ethicists, but not a conservative evangelical pastor I can find (or heard anything about).  At least the young women there were brave enough to confront evil, even if the “cowards” did stay away.

At least the brave Religious Right leaders did express their outrage later, or in support over Trumps adamant and vehement equating of the world-reviled Nazis (responsible for killing millions) and those who confronted them.  In an article in The New American [ciation], Franklin Graham writes, “Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA…Because the president failed to attack the “white nationalists” and the “alt-right movement” by name in his remarks, politicians and activists looking for a way to slur Trump implied that all the responsibility for the violence was on one side….Another Republican and frequent antagonist of Trump, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), had harsh words for the “Unite the Right” rally (but not for the counter-protesters, without whose presence there would have been no violence), calling it an example of “hate and bigotry”…From the statements by the various politicians, one would have almost thought that Trump had shouted “Sieg Heil!”…What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions?…they want to blame President Donald J. Trump for everything.”  On his Twitter account [citation], Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. wrote, “Finally a leader in WH. Jobs returning, N Korea backing down, bold truthful stmt about tragedy.  So proud of

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (who sent his children to the same Christian school I attended) stated in a radio interview [citation] that the removal of slave-holding Confederate statues (most of whom were erected during the Jim Crow ere) were a “sanitization of history” that he “absolutely” disagrees with, and that that removing these monuments sets “a dangerous precedent” that we’re “not allowed to talk about certain elements of our history” and amounts to “revisionist history”, and alludes to the injustice of removing the statue of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice who issued the Dred Scott decision as a “slippery slope”, saying: “At what point—If somebody happened to have been a judge and something was erected in their honor but they happened to have one ruling one time that somebody’s offended by, is that worthy of them being removed from pretending they ever existed?”  It is not surprising that he would not condemn those who march and threaten violent confrontation in a coming social civil war – At the 2016 Value Voter Summit in front of a Religious Right audience, he declared, “Do you think it’s possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it’s possible that we’ll be able to survive?…Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something”.

The argument that Trump and all the Religious Right leaders have made from the Charlottesville tragedy – that not just the Nazis, but both sides were equally guilty – explains why the Polish people and army are just as guilty as the Nazis for the start of World War II, and the French Resistance for the war in Western Europe – I mean, they did blow up railroad tracks and stuff, didn’t they, while the Nazis only wanted the tracks to take people away to safety in the rail cars.

I’ve noticed that since Trump’s apologetic remarks on behalf of the Nazis, the money grubbing business leaders have all resigned Trump’s business councils in disgust and shame on matters of principle, and the artists’ council as well.  One group has not seen fit to have any defections as of Friday – the Religious Right leader council for Trump.

And these pastors and para-church leaders cannot figure out why young people and the rest of the public won’t come to their churches anymore, or give them the respect they think they deserve.  I guess they’ll just chalk it up to “Christian persecution”.

One Bible passage that most perplexed and frightened me over the years was in Matthew 7, in which Jesus stated that “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:20-23).  All I ever heard growing up was that if you confess, “Jesus is Lord”, and mean it, “you are in”.  I also understood that at the Great White Throne many would acknowledge that they did not accept Christ, and thus they were guilty of Hell and damnation.  Then, in this passage we see someone who appears to be doing all the right things, in a very public and conspicuous way, with all the trappings of great faith and devotion, and evidently is even self-deluded as to their own salvation.  How horrible would it be to think that “you’re in” and then to your surprise to discover, “you’re out”!  How could this be, that God would let this happen?

At my age, I now believe that those who are the most conspicuous with their Christian piety and verbage are often the ones we discover were playing a game, steeped in sin and secrets, and sometimes seemingly self-deluded.  Probably most are not “smoked out” until the “other side”.  Politicians, like many other liars, seem to put on a false persona so well that they tend to believe it themselves.  And most Christians are the biggest fools, for taking these known liars and taking their very public statements of faith at face value, in defiance of their lifetime of “fruit”.  An honest politician who does not exploit his faith publicly doesn’t have a chance with the Religious Right.  On the other hand, all Trump had to do was to pay obesience at the Liberty University shrine, hold up his grandmother’s Bible, cite “Corinthians two” and that he “ate the little cracker”, and Falwell and his ilk were ready to literally compare him to King David and Jesus Christ, even after his recorded confessions of serial marital infidelity and forceful molestation of women – all for the mirage of insider power they thought he could give.

Many of our Christian leaders talk all about “fundamentalism”, but beyond the atonement and resurrection, it appears to me they have no idea what the real Gospel “fundamentals” are – the Golden Rule, love the poor, look out for the stranger and weak, etc.

How many more of our high-profile Christian leaders will hear those heart-stopping words from our Lord?  I am afraid that I may be starting to understand what He meant by them.

PS – Much of the above was excerpted from the draft manuscript of Volume 6 of my upcoming book series, so you can get a taste of what it’s like.  If any of this content is thought-provoking to you, please circulate its link online in your circles, and by word of mouth, to stimulate discussion.

 

 

 

Catch Me on “My American Mind” Podcast Now!

My American Mind

 

Friends,

If you would like to hear me rant in audio rather than print, please check out my recent interview by my good friend (and Futurian and Two Spies reader) Micah on his new podcast, My American Mind.  He interviews me about my most recent post here on “Conservative Role Models In The Bible”, along with related sundrie items.

You can check it out here.

Be prepared for an old-school marathon session, like the old Future Quake days, ’cause I get on quite a roll!

Shout out to the most excellent Micah, including his awesome kickoff show just before this, in his archives.  His show will be a new star and one to watch (or listen)!

 

Conservative Role Models in the Bible – Part 1

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[EDITOR’S NOTE:  Even though I have repeatedly said that my posts here will only be sporadic due to the priority of getting my last book volume drafted and the whole Holy War Chronicles series published, the delay has been longer than normal due to a health crisis within my parents that has required me to be available out of state for much of the time over the last few months, and the foreseeable future; I would appreciate the prayers of all the readers for both of them, and for my siblings and myself.]

This post topic came to mind the other day when I was reminded of a recent project I heard about that created a “Conservative Bible” (the fact that CPAC is going on and in the news as I write this has also contributed, I am sure).  It was overseen by Andrew Schlafly, the originator of the Wikipedia variant “Conservapedia” (which only features data supporting conservative worldviews), and the son of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly.  As a “grand dame” of the conservative movement, she shook the political world in 1964 with her book A Choice Not an Echo, and is recognized by historians by almost singlehandedly defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, after it had almost passed enough state legislations, by means of her aggressive organization and activism.  Her organization “The Eagle Forum” was a bastion of conservative family and moral issues and their political and legal defense, and a prototype for later conservative “family” organizations.  As a staunch religiously-conservative Roman Catholic and defender of traditional Christian family values and role models, she embraced Donald Trump as such a role model and his 2016 campaign (ironically her son was also eventually “outed” as a practicing homosexual).  Her work also promoted the conservative values of unbridled capitalism (aka the Social Darwinist credo of “each man for himself”) and privatization to corporate control of the public interest.  And true to these values of unregulated corporate behavior, Schlafly’s own beloved Eagle Forum organization was subject to some type of hostile takeover by members of her own board of directors, including her own daughter, shortly before her death in 2016.  The cited online reference from its Missouri branch wrote that “Word has come of a rogue board meeting and an upcoming hostile takeover of Eagle Forum’s board and its assets. Phyllis Schlafly’s endorsement of Trump is a likely catalyst. But you can be sure the real objective is to control the Eagle Forum bank accounts and that the Gang of 6 will present a carefully crafted excuse for public consumption”.  She told World Net Daily that the coup was real and that “this may be my Dobson moment (when the board of Focus on the Family similarly forced founder James Dobson out), was based upon her endorsement of Trump, and was led by her own daughter.

Her son, Andrew Schlafly, is a “chip of the old block” who has forged his own conservative venues, such as his online resource “Conservapedia”, which is intended to be a Wikipedia-like information source with only conservative-approved information.  A brilliant person himself with an engineering degree from Princeton and a doctorate from Harvard Law School, he founded Conservapedia in 2006 when he was alarmed to read a student assignment (as a homeschool teacher) using the now-accepted Common Era (C.E.) historical dating nomenclature, versus the Anno Domini (A.D.) earlier tradition.  Schlafly objectively explains on the “About” page on his Conservapedia site that “Conservapedia is a clean and concise resource for those seeking the truth.  We do not allow liberal bias to deceive and distort here.  Founded initially in November 2006 as a way to educate advanced, college-bound homeschoolers, this resource has grown into a marvelous source of information for students, adults and teachers alike”.   He adds that “We have received over 500 million page views!”, and notes that “A conservative approach to education is powerful and helpful in many ways. It equips students and adults to overcome inevitable obstacles, such as addiction and depression…There are few, if any, conservative schools…The truth shall set you free..No other encyclopedic resource on the internet is free of corruption by liberal untruths.”

To get a feel of the type of narrative and perspective provided on Conservapedia, a look at its front page on February 21, 2017 notes that its “popular articles” include those on “global warming”, “feminism”, “homeschooling”, “evolution”, “liberal claptrap”, “hollywood values”, “biblical scientific foreknowledge”, “Donald Trump”, “free market”, “George Patton”, “Globalism”, “Conservapedia proven right”, “Ex-homosexuals”, “Battle of Thermopylae”, “greatest conservative songs”, “counterexamples to relativity”, “liberal bias”, “liberal style”, “Chuck Norris”, “bias in Wikipedia”, “Mystery: Why do Non-Conservatives Exist?”, “Barack Hussein Obama” and “Professor Values”, to name a few.  It also features a late-breaking “In the News” segment, with story titles such as “White House Signals Reversal in Transgender Bathroom Policy, overturning another Leftist policy by Obama”, “Trump was Right: Riots Break Out in Rinkeby, Sweden”, “Conservapedia Proven Right, Again”, “More fake news by the lamestream media”, and “Melania Trump Recites the Lord’s Prayer at Melbourne Rally – CROWD GOES WILD!”, and many other such reference citations for academics and researchers.

Regarding its rival Wikipedia, its Conservapedia page dedicated to it notes that “Most of Wikipedia’s articles can be edited publicly by both registered and anonymous editors, mostly consisting of teenagers and the unemployed.  As such it tends to project a liberal – and, in some cases, even socialist, Communist, and Nazi-sympathizing-worldview, which is totally at odds with conservative reality and rationality” (emphasis added).  It notes that Wikipedia founders Jimbo Wales and “atheist philosophy professor Larry Sanger’ are both atheists, and that “its articles are a mixture of truths, half-truths and falsehoods”, quoting World Net Daily editor Joseph Farah as saying that Wikipedia “is not only a provider of inaccuracy and bias.  It is wholesale purveyor of lies and slander unlike any other the world has ever seen”.  It does fairly point out that “Wikipedia has millions of entries on trivia and mundane topics”, but smacks of that “systemic liberal bias that dominates Wikipedia”.  They also perceptively point out that “the ‘hammer and sickle’ of the leftist ideology which murdered millions in the former Soviet Union – is featured prominently on the instruction page as well as the tags that mark each uploaded image”.  They are also known at Conservapedia for taking a strong stand against what they perceive to be one of the greatest threats to political conservatism – Einstein’s general theory of relativity in physics.  Their page on the “theory of relativity” begins by warning that “The theory of relativity is defended with religious-like zeal, such that no college faculty tenure, Ph.D degree, or Nobel Prize is ever awarded to anyone who dares criticize the theory”, and its article titles within this topic comprise those such as “Lack of Evidence for Relativity”, and “Experiments that Fail To Prove Relativity”.  They note that “Despite censorship of dissent about relativity, evidence contrary to the theory is discussed outside of liberal universities”.  They add that “some liberal politicians have extrapolated the theory of relativity to metaphorically justify their own political agendas…Applications of the theory of relativity to change morality have also been common”.   The article is associated at its conclusion with other wiki topics, such as “Liberal pseudoscience”, which includes “Black holes”, dark matter” and “moral relativism”.  On the dedicated Conservapedia page “Counterexamples to Relativity”, they begin by noting that “The theory of relativity is disproved by numerous counterexamples, but it promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to pull people away from the Bible”.  This leads the prominent scientific magazine New Scientist to state, “In the end there is no liberal conspiracy at work.  Unfortunately, humanities scholars often confuse the issue by misusing the term ‘relativity’.  The theory in no way encourages relativism, regardless of what Conservapedia may think”.

Conservapedia does provide some pages with useful definitions of popular political terms today we can use for this post.  In their page on the topic “Liberal”, emblazoned with a picture of “Barack Hussein Obama” and stated to be the ‘least successful president in history”, states at the beginning that “A liberal is someone who craves an increase in government spending, power, and control, such as Obamacare.  Liberals also support the censorship and denial of Christianity.  Liberals who are a part of the secular left prefer the atheist religion over the Christian faith, as atheism has no objective morality to hinder their big government plans”.  They add that “Liberals favor a welfare state where people receive endless entitlements without working”, and that “All liberals support, in knee-jerk fashion, the oppositive of conservative principles, while lacking an actual ideology or values of their own.  Many of them cannot understand Christian language”.  They are also known for (a) “Denial of science (especially creation science)”, (b) “Hypocrisy”, (c) “The belief that terrorism is not a huge threat, and that the main reason for Muslim extremists’ hostility towards America is because of bad foreign policy”, (d) “Hedonism”, (e) “Rejection of Biblical standards”, (f) “Hatred”, (g) “Murder”, (h) “crying instead of accepting reality”, (i) “Cessation of teacher-led prayer in classrooms”, (h) “tyranny”, (i) “Treason”, (j) “pseudo-intellectualism”, (k) “genocide”, (l) “fascism”, (m) “Destroying conservative family values and replacing them with immoral Hollywood values”, (n) “High progressive taxes as a form of class warfare against wealthy business owners”, (o) “Sadism”, (p) “racism”, (q) “slander”, (r) “Obesity”, (s) “environmentalism”, (t) pedophilia”, (u) “mutilating corpses”, (v) “enforced homosexuality”, and many more unsavory attributes.  They add that, “In practical usage, the term ‘liberal’ is more closely synonymous with ‘radical’, ‘immoral’, ‘anti-freedom’, ‘elitist’, or ‘bad'”.  Their list of ‘Notable liberal ‘intellects'” includes “Barack Hussein Obama”, “Dracula”, “David Thorstad, a founding member of NAMBLA”, “Adolf Hitler”, “Karl Marx’, “Lee Harvey Oswald”, “Benito Mussolini”, “Margaret Thatcher” (for decriminalizing homosexuality), and “Osama Bin Laden”.  Their list of “Liberal Organizations” included AARP, AFL-CIO and others.

It also has a page dedicated to “Conservatism”. On it, it notes that “A conservative is someone who rises above his personal self-interest and promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all.  A conservative is willing to learn and advocate the insights of economics and the logic of the Bible for the benefit of everyone else.  A conservative favors conserving value by not giving handouts to anyone who does not really need them”.  Regarding their “goals and principles”, they note that conservatives seek or support “capitalism and free markets”, “classroom prayer”, “the concept of retribution for crimes, including the death penalty for heinous murders proven beyond reasonable doubt”, “family values, including traditional relationships and division of labor within the household” (emphasis added), “The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms”, “Economic allocative efficiency (as opposed to popular equity)”, “Private medical care and retirement plans”, “cancelling failed social support programs”, “enforcement of current laws regarding immigration”, “respect for our military – past and present”, “rejection of junk science such as evolution and global warming”, “a strong national defense”, “A dedication to the truth, and an ability to seek it”, and “ending entitlement programs”, amongst others.

The contribution Schlafly and Conservapedia is most known for is their origination of the “Conservative Bible” translation.  The Conservapedia page on the “Conservative Bible Project”  notes that its goal is to “render God’s word into modern English without archaic language and liberal translation distortions”.  They add that the first draft of the Conservative New Testament was completed on April 23, 2010, and many of the Old Testament books are completed as well.  It adds that “Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations”, and that “the third – and largest – source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate”.  It notes that “As of 2009, there was no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines”, including “Framework against Liberal Bias”, “Not Emasculated”, “Combat Harmful Addiction”, “Express Free Market Parables” (“explaining the numerous economic parables in their full free-market meaning”), “Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness”, and “Exclude Later-inserted Inauthentic Passages” (i.e., “excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story”).  It notes that the “benefits” of the new Conservative Bible include “benefitting from activity that no public school would ever allow; a Conservative Bible could become a text for public school courses”, “political issues can become a pathway to evangelizing liberals”, and “this project has a unifying effect on various Christian denominations, and serves as an important counterweight to liberal efforts to divide conservative candidates based on religion”.  Some of the “Helpful Approaches” that are cited from the Conservative Bible include to “identify pro-liberal terms used in existing Bible translations, such as ‘government’, and suggest more accurate substitutes”, and “identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations”. They add that “Many consider the Conservative Bible project, as well as any other Bible translation projects, to be heretical and in opposition to Matthew 5:18, which was fulfilled in the King James Bible”.  They use as examples of censored Bible passages in the Conservative Bible such as Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” (adding that, “Is this a corruption of the original, perhaps promoted by liberals without regard to its authenticity?”, since “This quotation is a favorite of liberals”), as well as Luke 16:8, where they change the “shrewd” manager of Christ’s parable to “resourceful”.  Amongst the “Advantages to a Conservative Bible” they list include “liberal bias – and lack of authenticity – becomes easier to recognize and address”, “supported by conservative principles, the project can be bolder in uprooting and excluding liberal distortions”, “the ensuing debate would flesh out – and stop – the infiltration of churches by liberals/atheists pretending to be Christian, much as a vote by legislators exposes the liberals”, “this would bring the Bible to a new audience of political types, for their benefit; Bible courses in college Politics Departments would be welcome”, and “this would debunk the pervasive and hurtful myth that Jesus would be a political liberal today”.

As example of the improvements provided by the Conservative Bible, in the Sermon on the Mount on Matthew 5 it says Jesus “began His Torah” instead of “He opened His mouth”, and states “Blessed are those who are not full of themselves” rather than “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  In 2009 Stephen Colbert interviewed Schlafly about his Conservative Bible on his “Colbert Report” show .  There he states that Jesus’ parables were “free market parables”.  Salon Magazine actually listed verses from the Conservative Bible, where the term “Pharisees” has been changed to “liberals”, so that Mark 3:6 reads, “The Liberals then fled from the scene to plot with Herod’s people against Jesus, and plan how they might destroy Him”, and in Mark 10:23-25. they change Christ’s words “for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” to “for an idle miser to enter into the kingdom of God”.

Political conservatism is inextricably intertwined with most of American evangelicalism like a Gordian Knot, with Biblical passages and theological doctrine and the aforementioned conservative principles irrevocably linked, and not challenged or critiqued by the Bible text itself in polite company, at the risk of alienating oneself under the most dire charges of heresy – being a liberal.   As an example of its ubiquitousness, a look at the “Ten Liberty University Distinctives” by founder Jerry Falwell on what is arguably the world’s most influential evangelical university’s website in 2015 notes that one is “An uncompromising doctrinal statement, based upon an inerrant Bible, a Christian worldview beginning with belief in biblical Creationism, an eschatological belief in the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of His Church, dedication to world evangelization, an absolute repudiation of “political correctness,” a strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise” (emphasis added) – a political and economic indoctrination paid for in large sums by parents (or vast student loans) to provide their children a life-influencing “Christian education”.  This may be why their website also notes that amongst their awards are being in the Top 10 of Newsmax‘s “40 Conservative Colleges” and number 5 on another list of “the 20 Best Conservative Colleges in America”, while being the fifth largest university in the nation.  Sometimes it requires that they stifle independent thought and free speech by their own students (presumably there to obtain an education to thus acquire such skills), in widely reported incidents such as in which the university banned the College Democrats in 2009, or in late 2016 when a writer at the university newspaper was banned from writing about Donald Trump’s sexual assault conversation with Billy Bush (University leader Jerry Falwell Jr. had already publicly endorsed Trump), apparently blocked by Falwell himself.  Sometimes they just block the online version of the local newspaper on the university computer servers, to block students from reading unsavory reports about the university’s corruption or hypocritical actions.

As is typical for this blog, the preceding long-winded expository narrative was a mere preamble for the actual point of the post itself.  Inspired by these previous references and in their general spirit, I thought I might take a shot at proposing a handful of some of the more memorable “Conservative Role Models” in the Bible itself, since the purpose of the Bible itself is to undergird and give spiritual, divine sanction to politically conservative principles both we and it hold dear.

The remainder of this post will only focus on core conservative economic principles, as embodied in the following well-known Biblical characters:

 

The “Rich Man” Who Interacted with Lazarus:  In this parable of Christ in Luke 16, a “certain rich man” was said to be “clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day” – evidently an entrepreneur and “risk taker” who was rewarded for his genius with prosperity, apparently by God Himself, and therefore worthy of our respect by his apparent success, as well as his culture and fine taste, and a role model for enterprising young Christians.  Unfortunately, he was plagued by a liberal welfare deadbeat (i.e. ‘beggar”) named Lazarus (whose name means, “whom God helps’), who used the excuse of his medical condition of body-wide sores (why doesn’t he pay to see a good doctor?) to ask for handouts, rather than earn an honest living.  The rich man knew that if he provided to Lazarus any more than what fell to the floor (a form of “trickle down Reaganomics”), (a) he would never get rid of him, and (b) Lazarus would never “pull himself up by his bootstraps”.  The blessed rich man wanted to demonstrate adherence to the conservative Biblical values of hard work and responsibility.  He did permit Lazarus an alternative to wasteful universal health coverage – he let the dogs lick Lazarus’ sores.  Accordingly, when the rich man died, he went to his proper eternal reward as God decreed.  Curiously, in the afterlife he found himself to be a helpless eternal “welfare deadbeat”, as the tables turned and he begged to Lazarus for relief.  Maybe this is why the “poor in spirit” will inherit the Kingdom, and why it is so hard for the rich to enter it.  The eternal principles the rich man then learned were said by Abraham to reside in the teachings of Moses and the prophets, and if people would not embrace them, then even one returning from the dead (such as Jesus Himself) could not persuade them otherwise.

King Ahab (acquirer of Naboth’s vineyard) and the King (acquirer of the “perfect” lamb):  In 1 Kings 21 Ahab used his power and prestige to impress upon Naboth to sell or trade his vineyard, because of its proximity to the palace, as a type of “eminent domain”, even though Naboth legally owned it.  Ahab knew the “art of the deal” many Christians so admire today in the wealthy businessmen and traders who are invited to their pulpits as guests; he exhibited the success drive and “killer instinct” to be diligent, even obsessive, in getting what he wanted, and in not taking “no” for an answer.  Most powerful men have a more powerful and cunning wife behind them, and Ahab was no exception; she forged letters in his name after notifying him that she would obtain Naboth’s property with “an offer he couldn’t refuse”, setting him up in a legal blackmail scheme that led to his death, and Ahab’s possession of his property at Jezebel’s command as a result.  In the Social Darwinistic “survival of the fittest” trait of economic conservativism, what they did was “fair game”, using power and economic clout (even paying the stooges and lawyers) to obtain from the less well-connected by force, in “free and open markets” unfettered by regulations and restrictions.  Naboth was a fool for valuing the legacy of his descendents who gave him the land for an inheritance to future generations, and “not a good businessman” which would have earned Christian respect.  In response God sent His prophet Elijah (whom Ahab called “his enemy”) to tell Ahab what he thought of his economic philosophy, and his ultimate destiny.  Similarly, in 2 Samuel 12 the prophet Nathan told King David about a rich man and a poor man, the latter having a little ewe lamb he had raised, who ate and drank from the man’s table, and was like a daughter to him (v. 3), whereas the rich man had vast flocks and herds. When the rich man wanted to impress a visitor, he did not take from his own large supply, but rather took the lone lamb of the man, and fed it to his guest.  David sought revenge because the rich man had no “pity”, but it in fact it was about his own actions with Bathsheba.  However, in conservative free market capitalism, the inevitable destiny is that almost all a society’s assets will be owned by an ever smaller circle of elites, who can leverage their wealth and influence to extract more and more.  Today the top fraction of one percent own something like half of the total wealth in America, and that upper tier is getting more elite every decade – a top political platform of that “socialist” Bernie Sanders (a man himself on the outside looking in, unlike the other political candidates).  Trump’s tax plan he proposed in his campaign would raise tax rates on the poorest tax bracket, and eliminate their credits for their children, while dropping the 39.6 and other wealthiest tax rates to 25 percent, and corporate taxes down to 15 percent (who else do you think will pick up the tax revenue slack?).  This trend in wealth concentration, if unabated by conservative calls for lesser banking and financial regulation, will become an eventual a tipping point like the French Revolution, when the masses had nothing to lose, and then everyone (including the rich) will lose.

The Ambitious Barn Builders and Wealth Retainers:  Churches extol the virtues of visionary businessmen, including those who wear clerical robes and build massive “world ministry centers” with private jets and opulent campuses, and are ever-expanding and upgrading, as role models to emulate of “the American Way”.   In Luke 12 a ‘rich man” was so blessed by his farms (obviously due to God’s grace) that he decided to tear down his perfectly good barns to build yet bigger ones, to “bestow my fruits and my goods” for public admiration, rather than sharing with others.  God was not so impressed with such displays of wealth and security, although he would have been viewed as a “model of free enterprise and investment” and to have filled his time “productively”, rather than in others’ lives.   The Conservative Bible changes how the church in Acts shared all they had sold to give to the Apostles, to being “generous with those in need”, so as to avoid allusions to socialism or communism.  A couple who embodied this change was Ananias and Sapphira.  In Acts 10 they admirably sold a possession, but kept part of it, and laid the rest at the apostles’ feet.  While many such religious leaders today toil in their ministry under modest means and with dignity, many other conspicuous examples reveal opulent lifestyles and asset accumulations from the “widow’s mites” given to their “ministries”.  A biographical book about the Rev. Billy Graham entitled Prince of War noted that by 2004 the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s annual income was 110 million dollars, with 271 million in assets, while Graham’s annual compensation exceeded $500,000 a year, while telling radio listeners the Garden of Eden was a place “with no union dues, no labor leader, no snakes, no diseases” and saying that no Christian laborer would take advantage of his employer by aligning with a union.  Various sources list the net personal worth of the almost centarian-aged Billy Graham at over $25 million, up with the most successful prosperity gospel preachers – what will he do with “all of this in his barns” at his age?  His son Franklin, a one-time rebel who avoided the ministry, has done even better; the Charlotte Observer – the bane of the Graham family – reported in 2015 that Franklin Graham made more than $620,000 in salary from Samaritan’s Purse – that’s a quite a haircut off the top of the “widow’s mites” donated by poor Christians, and means a lot more kids will grow hungry today that could otherwise be fed at a dollar a day – which also makes him the highest paid CEO of any international relief agency, even more than the CEO of the American Red Cross.  They add that his total compensation from Purse was $880,000 plus another $258,000 for working full-time for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  To be fair, this is far less than the $1.2 million he received in 2008.  Is it any wonder that these religious leaders hang out with high roller businessmen and Wall Street bankers, and guys like Donald Trump, with whom they can so identify?  People love a “winner” and particularly a conspicuous one – that is why the Pharisees publicly gave their money at the temple to great adulation and respect, while the widow’s mite was the greater portion of her essential resources, which only caught the Lord’s eye; we make much ado over rich Americans who give a small portion of their excess to a charity of their choosing to assuage their conscience and take on a pious stature with the public, not considering the treacherous ways in which much of this money was accumulated, as they put their names on buildings and hospitals; meanwhile having contempt for the poor who give a lesser amount monetarily to the public good by taxation and otherwise, but actually a larger share of their own minimal means, as Christians bemoan the high tax rates of the idle rich, who have numerous tax schemes to avoid their expected proportion of taxes anyway.  This environment is why a rich young ruler could live a very pious life and seek to follow the Lord, and only be inhibited by his “higher” calling to wealth and its prestige.

The Ultimate Manifestation of Capitalism – The Rider on the Black Horse and The Great City Babylon.  In Revelation 6 we see a rider on a black horse (as in being “in the black” financially) who controlled the global exchange rates of critical assets with a balance in his hand, announcing the cost of essential foodstuffs, while protecting oil (the Greek suggests the type that is used for fuel) and the luxurious items such as wine, which would be “untouched” and protected for the wealthy elites.  History has shown that physical weapons are not the most powerful methods of control – the control of wealth and money and raw materials is.  The Knights Templar arose out of nowhere to be Europe’s bankers (as “pious soldiers of Christ”) with sudden power that rivaled kings and the Pope, and could bring any of them to their knees by the control of capital as premier capitalists, soon to be followed by the Jewish House of Rothchild, House of Morgan, Rockefeller and others.  Even Joseph found out that by confiscating and then controlling for the State the only commodity of value in a world of famine -food – it could be used to confiscate all the wealth, and even freedom of the subjects of Pharoah.  In Revelation 18 we see it globalized institutionally in the Great City Babylon, where “the merchants of the earth have waxed rich” and “the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her” – i.e., pursued their mutual interests with the global financial cartel rather than being faithful to the interests of their own citizens.  It’s Social Darwinistic attribute derived from capitalism has them dispassionately yet immorally trading in all goods of value, even the souls of men as mere possessions of labor.  Good conservatives today (and most American Christians) also see little value in the dignity of the laborer, disfavoring minimum wage laws, a living wage, labor rights and jobs programs, as being “bad for business” and corporate profits, as the Christians are the ones who put in office a political party that clearly rather answers to the Wall Street bankers and corporations who finance it (when have you seen them aggressively fight Roe V. Wade in their 28 years since in power, although they campaign so heavily on it, for example?).  Christians have swallowed one of the biggest conservative “whoppers” of the last century – that more money for the rich in reduced taxes and corporate welfare and government contracts and inducements will actually help the poor and middle class, followed only by the promise that the reduction in inheritance and other corporate taxes are for the “small family business”, or that it will produce “more jobs”.  We now have a President largely elected by Christians to look out for the “little guy” as he promised, who has staffed all his cabinet positions with oil company CEOs, and billionaire and millionaire Wall Street hedge fund executives.  Christians are dazzled by their robber barons and tycoons just as Jerry Falwell Jr. was when getting to sit in Donald Trump’s airplane, but evidently God is not as nearly impressed, and will see to it that this system of exploitation will not prevail – that of the “Golden Rule”, or “He who has the gold makes the rules”.  The passage says to God’s people to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (v. 4).  The question is – will America’s Christians listen?

That’s enough examples for now – let us know further examples in this vein.  The next part will include good conservative Biblical examples of patriotic nationalism, exceptionalism, and a “strong Judeo-Christian nation” that “projects force globally” as a “global leader”.

[NOTE: Please link this and other posts to Facebook, other social media and in emails, to invite either widespread denouncements, praise or enlightenments in a wider circle – all of which are encouraged – and at least some food for thought and a good conversation piece.]

 

 

 

Finally – Worthy Candidates of “Enhanced Interrogation”

Lifewaterbaording

Those readers familiar with me and my work know that I have staunchly been against the use of torture, or anything that smacks of it – Joseph Farah, head of the Christian-oriented media site World Net Daily virtually hung up on my Future Quake radio co-host and myself because I raised issues about Guantanamo Bay and the callous views he and other Christians have about the innocence of many of the detainees, much less their treatment.  The first volume of my soon-to-be-released book series, The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror, focuses in its first volume on the documented nature and ramifications of the torture protocols of the War on Terror on both the torturer and the tortured.  I have reiterated my opposition to torture on a number of radio interviews as well.

However, I think I have found a situation now and an associated group of people for whom I can make an exception.

A movement is now underway within Congress, supported by members of both parties, to finally insist on the declassification of the 28 missing pages from the 2002 9/11 Commission report.  Although Congressmen “in the know” have been forbidden to exactly reveal its contents until now, it has been a worst kept secret that it reveals evidence of Saudi Arabian direction behind the 9/11 attacks.

It has just been now revealed in an April 15, 2016 New York Times report that

“Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”  It continues by saying that “The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage…Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.  Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.  ‘It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,’ said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and who is part of a group of victims’ family members pushing for the legislation…President Obama will arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials…Suspicions have lingered, partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States at the time had a hand in the plot.  Those conclusions, contained in 28 pages of the report, still have not been released publicly.”

“Families of the Sept. 11 victims have used the courts to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism. These efforts have largely been stymied, in part because of a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in American courts.”

“The Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.”

“Obama administration officials counter that weakening the sovereign immunity provisions would put the American government, along with its citizens and corporations, in legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their own legislation. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate panel in February that the bill, in its current form, would “expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent.”

“In a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on March 4, Anne W. Patterson, an assistant secretary of state, and Andrew Exum, a top Pentagon official on Middle East policy, told staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that American troops and civilians could be in legal jeopardy if other nations decide to retaliate and strip Americans of immunity abroad.”

“…the administration has supported Saudi Arabia on other fronts, including providing the country with targeting intelligence and logistical support for its war in Yemen. The Saudi military is flying jets and dropping bombs it bought from the United States — part of the billions of dollars in arms deals that have been negotiated with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations during the Obama administration.  The war has been a humanitarian disaster and fueled a resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen, leading to the resolution in Congress to put new restrictions on arms deals to the kingdom.”

Today’s (April 17, 2016) New York Post had further details to add:

“In its report on the still-censored “28 pages” implicating the Saudi government in 9/11, “60 Minutes” last weekend said the Saudi role in the attacks has been “soft-pedaled” to protect America’s delicate alliance with the oil-rich kingdom… the kingdom’s involvement was deliberately covered up at the highest levels of our government. And the coverup goes beyond locking up 28 pages of the Saudi report in a vault in the US Capitol basement. Investigations were throttled. Co-conspirators were let off the hook.”

“Case agents I’ve interviewed at the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Washington and San Diego, the forward operating base for some of the Saudi hijackers, as well as detectives at the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department who also investigated several 9/11 leads, say virtually every road led back to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.  Yet time and time again, they were called off from pursuing leads. A common excuse was ‘diplomatic immunity.’  Those sources say the pages missing from the 9/11 congressional inquiry report — which comprise the entire final chapter dealing with “foreign support for the September 11 hijackers” — details “incontrovertible evidence” gathered from both CIA and FBI case files of official Saudi assistance for at least two of the Saudi hijackers who settled in San Diego.”

“Some information has leaked from the redacted section, including a flurry of pre-9/11 phone calls between one of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, and the transfer of some $130,000 from then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to yet another of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego.  An investigator who worked with the JTTF in Washington complained that instead of investigating Bandar, the US government protected him — literally. He said the State Department assigned a security detail to help guard Bandar not only at the embassy, but also at his McLean, Va., mansion.  The source added that the task force wanted to jail a number of embassy employees, ‘but the embassy complained to the US attorney’ and their diplomatic visas were revoked as a compromise.”

“Former FBI agent John Guandolo, who worked 9/11 and related al Qaeda cases out of the bureau’s Washington field office, says Bandar should have been a key suspect in the 9/11 probe.  ‘The Saudi ambassador funded two of the 9/11 hijackers through a third party,’ Guandolo said. ‘He should be treated as a terrorist suspect, as should other members of the Saudi elite class who the US government knows are currently funding the global jihad.’ But Bandar held sway over the FBI.”

“After he met on Sept. 13, 2001, with President Bush in the White House, where the two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony, the FBI evacuated dozens of Saudi officials from multiple cities, including at least one Osama bin Laden family member on the terror watch list. Instead of interrogating the Saudis, FBI agents acted as security escorts for them, even though it was known at the time that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.”

‘The FBI was thwarted from interviewing the Saudis we wanted to interview by the White House,’ said former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was involved in the investigation of al Qaeda and the hijackers. The White House ‘let them off the hook.’  What’s more, Rossini said the bureau was told no subpoenas could be served to produce evidence tying departing Saudi suspects to 9/11. The FBI, in turn, iced local investigations that led back to the Saudis.  ‘The FBI covered their ears every time we mentioned the Saudis,’ said former Fairfax County Police Lt. Roger Kelly. ‘“It was too political to touch.'”

“Even Anwar al-Awlaki, the hijackers’ spiritual adviser, escaped our grasp. In 2002, the Saudi-sponsored cleric was detained at JFK on passport fraud charges only to be released into the custody of a ‘Saudi representative.’  It wasn’t until 2011 that Awlaki was brought to justice — by way of a CIA drone strike.  Strangely, “The 9/11 Commission Report,” which followed the congressional inquiry, never cites the catch-and-release of Awlaki, and it mentions Bandar only in passing, his named buried in footnotes.”

“Two commission lawyers investigating the Saudi support network for the hijackers complained their boss, executive director Philip Zelikow, blocked them from issuing subpoenas and conducting interviews of Saudi suspects.  9/11 Commission member John Lehman was interested in the hijackers’ connections to Bandar, his wife and the Islamic affairs office at the embassy. But every time he tried to get information on that front, he was stonewalled by the White House.’They were refusing to declassify anything having to do with Saudi Arabia,’ Lehman was quoted as saying.”

 

 

 

What are some of the conclusions can we draw from this?

  1.  Beyond the contents of the classified pages and other investigative work by the FBI and others, the simple fact that Saudi Arabia is now threatening economic terrorism by destabilizing world markets if this investigation is released, is in fact a tacit admission of guilt by them in my view, and not there being investigative findings they feel they could dispute or disprove if released.
  2. The connections between the Bushes and Prince Bandar and the Saudi royal family, including cozy meetings mere hours after thousands of Americans had died, is fodder for detailed hearings and subpoenas to determine how this has influenced world events, and how this has been kept from the public (this does not even mention Bush Sr.’s meeting with the entire Bin Laden faily, his business partners through the Carlyle Group, of whom he was meeting with on the day of 9/11, and leading to their discreet flights home as the only planes in the skies in the hours after the attacks).
  3. Although the “buck stops” at the President’s desk, the tentacles of collaboration to provide protection for the Saudis goes through the Justice Dept., Defense Dept., FBI, CIA and other groups.
  4. President Obama, like Bush, is protecting the Saudis to protect lucractive miltiary contracts with them, and to protect Blackwater, the intelligence and military members from reciprocal challenges to diplomatic immunity due to their torture tactics and other atrocities overseas, as well as other key big business figures whose actions cause harm to those in other countries (like Union Carbide, etc.)
  5. It is likely we have attacked innocent parties in countries like Afghanistan, while the masterminds go free.  This is why we have world courts (as the Taliban agreed to turn Al Qaeda over to originally), to settle out the true culprits, unless our government did not want the true culrpits exposed.
  6. I guess government officials are supposed to have “diplomatic immunity” from actions of our government to otherwise hold them accountable, even if they are suspected in terror acts, but that did not stop Bush & Co. from denying the same to Saddam Hussein and his boys.
  7.  In effect, our senior government officials are “accessories to the crime”, and may well have been part of masterminding it.  As Bush himself said in defining the “Bush Doctrine” in a Joint Session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, ” we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism…From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”  Saudi Arabia has provided safe haven to those who assisted the terrorists if not from the very top, and the U.S. Government officials have given safe haven to them, so all are considered “enemies” of the interests of the American people.
  8. Those nutty “conspiracy theorists” who have pointed out these things for years, even about our “messianic” George W. Bush, aren’t wrong all the time.

 

In light of point #6, I think it is apparent that senior officials in the Bush administration, other agencies, and even President Obama know much more than they are telling us, and it appears they may have complicity (or centrality) in these crimes.  One other point to note:  My research for years concerning events in the Middle East in the last 50 years has shown consistently that if either Saudi Arabia, Israel or the United States are involved in some initiative, the other two are usually involved as well, or at least well aware of it.  For one example, published reports from major newspapers  I cite from the early days of the Arab Spring reveal American, Israeli and Saudi coordinated training and arming of ISIS and others in Jordan and Turkey, to assist in the overthrow of Syrian President Assad – in the days before all the press turned on ISIS and they became the new “boogeyman”.

To get to the bottom of what they know about the plans and culprits of these terror attacks, I think we only have at our disposal the very tool they each claimed was “not torture”, and very effective in getting “actionable intelligence” that “saves lifes”.  Although many (including me) have disputed these assertions, one way to prove their point would be to submit them to waterboarding and other forms of torture (er, “enhanced interrogation”) to find out truly what they know.

Here’s a list of people I would have our authorities start to detain and interrogate in “enhanced fashion”:

  1.  George W. Bush
  2. Dick Cheney (a must; they better hurry)
  3. Donald Rumsfeld
  4. Atty. General John Ashcroft
  5. George H.W. Bush (as a bonus, he might also reveal under torture why he was sent to Dallas as a CIA agent right before JFK was shot, but says he can’t remember why)
  6. CIA chief (all of them)
  7. John Yoo (Justice Dept. official behind the “Torture Memo” authorizing waterboarding and other torture, as well as approving warrantless wiretaps and denial of Geneva Convention protection to detainees; wanted for war crimes in Spain; might know something)
  8. Atty. General Alberto Gonzales (also authorized torture, NSA eavesdropping, punished govt. attorneys who would not do political dirty work, forced from office, also wanted for war crimes in Spain, hired by Nashville Baptist Belmont University as their Dean of their College of Law, and instructor on “Constitution Law” and “Separation of Powers”, as a representative of the school)

I would assign them under the care of former military member Lynndie England, who can stack them naked in pyramids and take pictures of them, until we have the information we need.  After the dogs are through with them (to loosen them up), I suggest they spend some time alone in a room with family members of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terror attacks, or in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; I am sure in no time they would be pleading to be taken to the interrogation rooms.  If we need to get rougher, we can always hand them over to our allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe to finish the deal (this may be needed for post-office President Obama, since to be fair he did not approve of American personnel torturing detainees).  If we expect resistance from them or their supporters, we may need to do “old school”, War on Terror-style rendition, by sweeping them off the street, giving them an enema, slapping a diaper on them and sending them blindfolded by unmarked private plane to parts unknown.  This would probably be necessary to pick up Bandar and the rest of the Saudi family; its no more illegal to do than the others we have done the same to, and it will give our CIA guys and SEALs something to do.

Of course this is only a dream, and not an intention; but it if did happen, it would give us all, including the whole world, better odds of preventing future terror attacks, rather than doing it to turbaned villagers in the Third World.

ADDENDUM:  As a further example of US/Saudi complicity (in particular regarding the 9/11 Terror attacks), I quote an excerpt from Volume 1 of my book series, The Holy War Chronicles – A Spiritual View of the War on Terror:

“Before that, in October 2001 French intelligence told the French newspaper Le Figaro that CIA agents went to see bin Laden in Dubai at the American-run hospital there in July 2001, while he was being treated for 10 days by the urology department, as well as Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence (the news wire United Press International further added [Bryant, Elizabeth, “Radio reports new CIA-Bin Laden details”, United Press International, Nov. 1, 2001, http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2001/11/01/Radio-reports-new-CIA-Bin-Laden-details/UPI-49911004627280/ (retrieved June 12, 2013).] that Radio France International identified one of the CIA agents as Larry Mitchell, an Arab specialist and “consular agent” from Dubai’s expatriate community, who met with bin Laden on July 12, two days before he checked out of the hospital).  The London Guardian newspaper also reported on this meeting of CIA and Saudi intelligence officials with bin Laden just before 9/11 [Sampson, Anthony, “CIA agent alleged to have met Bin Laden in July”, Oct. 31, 2001, London Guardian (UK), http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/01/afghanistan.terrorism (retrieved March 15, 2013).], and noted that “Bin Laden has often been reported to be in poor health.  Some accounts claim that he is suffering from Hepatitus C, and can expect to live for only two more years”, having had delivered a mobile dialysis machine to Kandahar in Afghanistan.”