The Two Spies Report

The Christian "Minority Report" from J. Michael Bennett, Ph.D, Emeritus Producer of the Future Quake Radio Show, and Author of Two Masters and Two Gospels, Vol. 1: The Teaching of Jesus Vs. the "Leaven of the Pharisees" in Talk Radio and Cable News

Category: Human Rights

The Long-Awaited Dr. Bennett Interview on the Two Masters book on Canary Cry Radio!

 

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Our friends Gonz and Basil at the legendary Canary Cry Radio recently uploaded a much-anticipated interview with yours truly conducted back in April, I believe, largely about the book I recently published, Two Masters and Two Gospels, Volume 1: The Teaching of Jesus Vs. the “Leaven of the Pharisees” in Talk Radio and Cable News. Read the rest of this entry »

The REAL False Flag Operation, Part 4

In Part 4 of this series, we will review how an “Antifa apocalypse” hysteria wave had occurred as a precursor event a number of years ago, and how it was discovered to have come about, and who devised the scheme to exploit it. Read the rest of this entry »

The New “Lost Cause”: What Might Await Us – Part 1: The Historical Legacy of Perceived Betrayal and Vigilante/Guerilla “Justice”

A new blog series on a new “lost cause” that has gripped America in 2021, beginning with the history of the “lost cause” concept and mindset in America’s historical memory and that of the Western world in general, and its impact on our world today. Read the rest of this entry »

On The Biblical Defense of Looting

Let’s think this through, with a “heaven’s eye” view. Read the rest of this entry »

Christians Should Be The Ones Tearing Down Statues and Graven Images, Starting with Jonathan Edwards

 

In my last post a new blog friend, Brother Jim, posted a comment retort to another reader as to what is really going on in the protests and “tearing down” of slavery-associated figures and vandalism operations that are exaggerated and sensationalized on certain conservative media outlets here. They in turn blame any perceived negative act in the streets on the latest “boogeyman” Antifa, like the operators behind “Big Brother” in the novel 1984, who had similarly mythologized “Emmanuel Goldstein” as their source for all things anti-societal (totally disregarding the potential for the common occurrence of state-directed false flag operations, with many posting on some police-friendly vandals and provocateurs recently caught in the act, not to mention the supposed Antifa online “call to violence” that Twitter later confirmed as being connected to the white supremacist group Identity Evropa with connections to Russia, which Donald Trump Jr. passed on as “proof” that Antifa was a “terrorist organization”), to exhibit in their own daily “Two Minutes of Hate” (now we have “progressed” to 24-hour news outlets to extend the rage).

As old Future Quake listeners would know, the use of agents provocateur (often state-sponsored) to justify state-sponsored violence and restrictions on First Amendment protesting and other civil rights is a age-old technique. Think of the Reichstag fire, or Nero burning Rome (blaming it on the Christians then). The supposed Communist bombings in Italy by Operation Gladio NATO stay behind units post-war, the King David Hotel and Suez British and US army barracks bombings by the Israelis, the violent provoking of anti-war groups by embedded FBI agents in COINTELLPRO and even within the Black Panthers, the 9/11 bombings (oh wait – not supposed to go that far…). I remember an old Alex Jones video showing footage on the ground from I think the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, where a masked, armed dark-robed “protester” broke a lot of windows to get the crowd going, then discreetly went through the police lines, being patted on the back as he disappeared behind them and entered a police cruiser on his own, although for the life of me I cannot find the reference right now (although in the 1999 WTO protests it has been confirmed that some of the more heavily-armed protesters present were embedded Delta Force personnel deployed on U.S. soil). At the 2007 G20 meeting in Canada, protesters there found several highly-armed, highly protected fellow “protesters” in masks, armed with rocks in their hands, and tried to expose them then as police implants, which the police there refused to move on when exposed, and which the government denied until later, when the government officials admitted they had been implanted by them in the midst of the protesters. The Intercept has additional listings of such historic infiltrations. Recently, Denver police had confiscated assault rifles from the “Boogaloo Bois” right-wing anti-government group near the site of a protest. Other mysteries still remain about current events. Forbes and other outlets have written about a violent, enigmatic figure discovered at protests known as the “Umbrella Man”, a white man dressed in all black and an umbrella, staying away from other protesters and breaking windows, wearing an expensive, sophisticated gas mask, while those protesters around him asked if he was a police officer, and reportedly stumping officials. Asia Times notes that today’s protests are a confusing mess, in which some provocateurs are possibly connected to Antifa, as well as some nefarious Caucasian figures passing out bricks and weapons from trucks, and even some noble acts by legitimate protesters to protect police (such as some black men who surrounded a separated and stranded police person in Louisville to keep him from being attacked), and the Christian service history of George Floyd himself. I personally have heard reports on TV from law enforcement figures that they have been able to confirm that at least some of the roving looting groups are part of an interstate crime operation (I have seen them pull up to just-broken doorways of stores in their expensive vehicles and Escalades, send a few people out quickly to run in the store and grab some goods out and then drive away, letting another such expensive vehicle rapidly pull up behind them).

In the process of welcoming Brother Jim to the blog and bolstering his arguments, I went further (as I am wont to do) in my assertions from his point, which became lengthy enough to justify its own independent post (not an uncommon event).

My point was that, as of today, I would go further and suggest that if Bible-believing Christians ever decided that they should be a moral example of their society, they should provide leadership and publicly destroy the widespread graven images of that notorious life-long slave holder Jonathan EdwardsI volunteer to swing the sledge hammer first! God’s leaders have a long legacy of tearing down strongholds, images and idols, particularly when those items are connected to figures associated with Him while representing values He does not hold, including the golden calf, the brazen serpent on the Temple, the Asherah Poles, the statue of Dagon (the Ark of the Covenant gets credit for that one), the idols of Diana, and others come to mind, and centuries of Christian missionaries toppling over similar blasphemous figures. Why can’t we get in on the act?

The beloved “Brother Jonathan” Edwards owned a number of slaves during his life (at least seven, most of them teenage girls originally, as he originally bought them (like “Venus”) from the Newport slave traders at the docks as the new slave ships arrived), and even at the death of both of he and his wife’s life they refused to release their slaves, just directing that they be sold off to other slaveholders at their deaths, including possibly separating a married couple. At that time in the North in the mid-1700s, only the conspicuous ultra-wealthy indulged in expensive slaves to avoid their Puritan values of hard personal work, and Jonathan Edwards was known to be one of those super wealthy preachers, made from his excessive salary from the tithes of his church and his exorbitant lifestyle, prompting them to chase him out because of his financial exploitation. In 1741, the year he preached the famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” he wrote a treatise when his fellow wealthy preacher came under attack for owning slaves, which most of the laity and citizenry fought the clergy and other wealthy aristocrats about. However, he deftly and politically avoided directly condemning his own hypocrisy as a slave owner by merely condemning the overseas culling of Africans to be brought to Europe and elsewhere for sale (as he had bought his own), but did not condemn the keeping or buying of slaves already residing in America, or born into slavery here (obviously, the more slaves that were continuously brought in from Africa, the less valuable on the market his own slaves were – its simple supply and demand). Ironically, the clergyman at the center of his attack later freed his slave, while Edwards didn’t free his. His writings consistently featured a staunch and biblical defense of slavery, while the common folk knew better.

I think that this cognitive dissonance and rationalization of his hypocrisy was fueled by his central acceptance of Calvinism, and its assertion that God purposefully created the majority of humanity to unavoidably be sent to the Lake of Fire without their control, because it was God’s pleasure to do so (and thus why should we resist the hand of God and treat them any differently, as the Puritans earlier rationalized in immolating the Pequoit Indian women and children trapped within their walled community, the Puritan colonial leader even writing that their burning flesh was a “sweet savor before God”). Jonathan himself wrote about how we was originally repulsed about the blatant injustice of the Calvinist worldview, until he had a mysterious change of heart, writing in his Memoirs,

“From my childhood up, my mind has been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life; and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But I never could give an account of how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining of time, nor a long time after, there was any influence of God’s spirit in it; but only that I now saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the absolute sense, of God showing mercy to whom he will show mercy, and hardening whom he will. God’s absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes…The doctrine has very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright and sweet.”

This is why I see venerated religious figures like Jonathan Edwards as bringing, rather than “The Great Awakening,” the “Great Darkening,” as he and his Calvinist Puritan peers and descendants brought an exceptionalist, elite “elect” mindset that could attempt to justify the subjugation, extermination and slavery of Africans, Hispanics and others as “God’s will” for those beasts who were the God-commanded “depraved” from before birth. It is more than fitting that the Protestant Anglo-American Establishment plutocracy over our nation’s leadership for centuries, Yale’s Skull and Bones Society, built a dormitory for their aristocrats that later became part of Yale’s “Jonathan Edwards College.”

I wonder if the unrepentant Jonathan Edwards, after condemning countless others to Hell (with some reportedly committing suicide in his day after hearing his message on the certain condemnation of God, including his own uncle), eventually found himself as a “slaveholder in the hands of an Angry God,” and doomed not by a prenatal fate set by the hyper-sovereign Calvinist God, but rather by his own autonomous hands and self-election.

We here in Nashville should not gloat; until recently we have had here for years a seven foot-plus tall idol statue to Billy Graham, who called our anti-war youth “Communist sympathizers” and proposed to Nixon to drown North Vietnamese villagers by blowing up their dams (a war crime), and bragged of his closeness to Martin Luther King, yet never attended any civil rights marches, did not attend his funeral, heeded J. Edgar Hoover’s warnings to him about King, held whites-only crusades in the 1950s, claimed that segregation was just “a local problem,” telling the press he just followed “local customs” and that “the Bible has nothing to say about segregation,” belonged to a whites-only country club until 1991 (the club having kicked a black child out of its pool that was a guest of a member), said after King’s “I Have A Dream” speech that “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children,” in 1965 (right after passage of the Civil Rights Act) bragged in Alabama to the press there about the confederate flag flying from their capitol dome and that his grandfathers were Confederate soldiers, told the press that Rev. King and Negro marchers should “put on the brakes,” calling Dr. King “a good, personal friend” but also “hesitates to call himself a thorough-going integrationist” and “asked for a period of quietness in which moderation prevails,” all while Dr. King was rotting in the Birmingham jail, leading the later-released King to respond in a speech, “‘Well,’ they’re saying, ‘you need to put on brakes.’ The only answer that we can give to that is that the motor’s now cranked up and we’re moving up the highway of freedom toward the city of equality, and we can’t afford to stop now because our nation has a date with destiny.” King had stated in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written in jail while Graham was publicly reprimanding King (and almost prophetic as to the weeks we have recently experienced, and in response to the words of many white Christians today), that “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride towards freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than justice.”

Where do you stand?

 

 

 

 

The Days of the Late, Great Will Grigg Have Arrived

 

As I watch Americans of all races and types fill the streets daily for weeks now (with even a handful of evangelicals!) in support of their brothers and sisters, and for accountability of State force when it is excessive and sometimes deadly without cause, and how it (like mass shootings) are normally quickly swept under the rug over days by the political and legal establishment and media as a perpetual mockery of justice, I see many of my Christian brethren bristle and defend the excessive force or divert attention to some other concocted conspiracy theory behind all of this, yet others have been uniquely pricked of heart for the first time, and realize we all have a responsibility in these matters, and not limited to lip service.

For me, however, these days of destiny remind me of the one who made me first care about police or institutional brutality of the common man, and from a Christian perspective – a man I considered the most brilliant man writing anywhere on the Internet, and was blessed to be a friend and have as a frequent guest on my old Future Quake radio show – the indomitable Will Grigg, host of the iconic Pro Libertate blog.

I loved every minute of reading his writings, even when his extreme positions of liberty and individualism and anti-statism were a bit too far for me – they always gave me significant uncomfortableness and food for thought, and in any case doubled my vocabulary, with the wickedest sense of humor since H. L. Mencken, Ambrose Bierce or Mark Twain. I never loved being reprimanded more, and he finally softened my heart.

Will was of mixed Mexican and other race heritage, was orphaned and then raised by a Mormon family, and later became a more mainstream Christian. However, he always was a voice crying in the wilderness. He became famous, of all things, as the star writer for the John Birch Society for their New American magazine, and they had big plans for him. However, he bravely wrote an article that encouraged a little bit of understanding of immigrants, which caused his prompt firing as being antithetical to the Society and their benefactors. Sadly, he then lost his health coverage simultaneously as his wife suffered a malady so severe that it forced him to stay at home to care for her and take care of the large number of children, and this brilliant man lived hand-to-mouth the rest of his days, as some of us tried to help where we could. To add to his burden, this strong-as-an-ox weightlifter and MMA-trained thespian fell victim to a simple infection and died at an early age, leaving a sick wife and many small children. As most pioneers in human rights or spiritual progress, his life was a lonely walk.

He wrote something that I brought up on my show that stuck with me more than anything that ever stuck with me. He said that if you are driving down the road, and you see a man in uniform beating a man on the ground on the side of the road, and your first instinct is, “Good thing that officer has that man under control,” then you are a statist; if your first instinct is, “What cause does that man have to be beating his fellow man?”, then you are an individualist.

I learned something with every post he did on the themes of the little guy being the victim of the State, which are all preserved on his Pro Libertate blog I recommend everyone read through, or his radio interviews with me preserved on my old Future Quake website; he showed me what being a real Christian and humanitarian was really about, and you could do it with pinache. I understand one of his many followers recently released a book of his unedited writings called, No Quarter: The Ravings of William Norman Grigg, which is available here on Amazon.

I would have loved for him to have seen this day, and white, brown and black common people marching together, and demanding that the State begin a purge of the “tough guys” in their ranks, and that a threat to one is a threat to all.

P.S. My book, Two Masters and Two Gospels, Volume 1 – The Teaching of Jesus Vs. the “Leaven of the Pharisees in Talk Radio and Cable News, is available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, with the latter also having a hard cover version and Nook ebook, and ebook versions also available at Kobo/Walmart and I-Books, and elsewhere. If you are an EBook reader and you buy the ebook at my BookBaby store site, linked here, you get Kindle MOBI and well as EPUB and pdf versions for one price, and if you leave your email address there at checkout to forward to me, I’ll find and send a pdf of some other writing I’ve done just to send to those brave souls. Thanks!

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.