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

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

 

Wikipedia defines “The Lost Cause of the Confederacy,” or the “Lost Cause,” as

an American pseudo-historical, negationist ideology that advocates the belief that the cause of the Confederate States during the American Civil War was a just and heroic one. This ideology has furthered the belief that slavery was just and moral, because it brought economic prosperity. The notion was used to perpetuate racism and racist power structures during the Jim Crow era in the American South. It emphasizes the supposed chivalric virtues of the antebellum South. It thus views the war as a struggle primarily waged to save the Southern way of life and to protect “states’ rights,” especially the right to secede from the Union. It casts that attempt as faced with “overwhelming Northern aggression.” At the same time, it minimizes or completely denies the central role of slavery and white supremacy in the build-up to, and outbreak of, the war.

One particularly intense wave of Lost Cause activity occurred during World War I, as the last Confederate veterans began to die out and a push was made to preserve their memories. A second wave of Lost Cause activity occurred in reaction to growing public support for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Through activities such as the construction of prominent Confederate monuments and the writing of school history textbooks, the Lost Cause movement sought to ensure future generations of Southern whites would know about the South’s “true” reasons for fighting the war, and therefore continue to support white supremacist policies, such as Jim Crow laws. In that regard, white supremacy is a central feature of the Lost Cause narrative. Lost Cause narratives typically portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble, and its leaders and armies as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry, whose defeat by the Union armies was because the South’s greater military skill and courage was overwhelmed by the North’s numerical superiority and immense industrial power.

In other words, believers of the “Lost Cause,” both at the conclusion of the war and since then, believed it wasn’t a “fair fight,” and that the deck was stacked against them from the start, and their beliefs in traditional values and the superiority of their culture were directly placed in jeopardy. From this, they never accepted the reality of the defeat, clinging (even up to today) with battle cries like “the South shall rise again,” and continue to raise the Confederate battle flag (which is becoming harder to do in more places, even with their modern leader, the Manhattan Yankee Donald Trump’s strong defense of such, but it was prominent at car races and southern rock and country music concerts in the era of my upbringing). They assert that their northern brutish adversaries used technology to steal the fight away from their higher character and ideals, as they then were forced to suffer under their dark and immoral national political leadership.

They quote Mick LaSalle in a 2020 article in the San Francisco Examiner that “They say that history is written by the victors, but the Civil War has been the rare exception. Perhaps the need for the country to stay together made it necessary for the North to sit silently and accept the South’s conception of the conflict. In any case, for most of the past 150 years, the South’s version of the war and Reconstruction has held sway in our schools, our literature and, since the dawn of feature films, our movies.” They have also emphasized over the years that Africans “had it easy” under their “Christian reign” of the antebellum South, and had no cause for complaint or accusations of unjust treatment, when given their “limited” innate abilities that the South tolerated.

The picture at the top of this post is by Henry Mosler, called “The Lost Cause,” and a famous work completed three years after the end of the Civil War.

They quote University of Virginia professor Gary Gallagher as writing that “The defeat of the Confederacy devastated many Southerners economically, emotionally, and psychologically. Before the war, many white Southerners proudly felt that their rich military tradition would enable them to prevail in the forthcoming conflict. When that did not happen, many white Southerners sought consolation in attributing their loss to factors beyond their control, such as physical size and overwhelming brute force [i.e., that it was a “rigged” operation]…They also wanted to provide their children and future generations of white Southerners with a ‘correct’ narrative of the war.” They add that the United Daughters of the Confederacy had been associated with the Lost Cause for over a century. However, Union Army General George Henry Thomas of Virginia wrote in 1868 that

[T]he greatest efforts made by the defeated insurgents since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the cause of liberty, justice, humanity, equality, and all the calendar of the virtues of freedom, suffered violence and wrong when the effort for southern independence failed. This is, of course, intended as a species of political cant, whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand in hand with the defenders of the government, thus wiping out with their own hands their own stains; a species of self-forgiveness amazing in its effrontery, when it is considered that life and property—justly forfeited by the laws of the country, of war, and of nations, through the magnanimity of the government and people—was not exacted from them.

After 1900, the Lost Cause was perpetuated by the sudden production of heroic Confederate statues by Confederate-sympathetic organizations, and also helped justify the Jim Crow laws in the South to further extend their “benevolent” caretaking domination over African-Americans (the treatment of blacks in their region not being discussed in notable detail in their mythology). One of the best-known proponents of the “Lost Cause” was Southern Baptist minister and author Thomas Dixon, Jr., who proposed repatriation of African-Americans to Africa, with a “race war” a result if they didn’t, which he assuredly knew the white man would win, with three thousand years of civilization and advantage over the black man. He also thought that getting proper education to the black community was dangerous, and that racial prejudice was just “self preservation.” He was heard by millions of people, and his novel and play The Klansman (which includes a national political party taking power by enfranchising (giving the vote) to African Americans to overthrow the rival) was seen by four million people, which later was turned into the iconic film Birth of a Nation. This latter film (about the Klan saving the day), which featured Dixon’s normal narrative in his books of a black man attempting to rape a white woman until stopped by a white posse, was the first film seen in the White House, and by the Supreme Court and Congress the next day; more importantly, this film, considered the first “modern film” in narrative structure, was the inspiration for the founding of the new and far bigger Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain Georgia shortly thereafter. White women have since played a very strong role in defending the Lost Cause, through the United Daughters of the Confederacy and similar local organizations to defend their aristocratic values and way of life.

Soon after the Civil War, proud Southerners began to see even their fellow white Southern neighbors who helped bring down the Lost Cause by seeking reconciliation with their political opponents, or worse yet, empowering former black slaves to vote in large numbers and enfranchise them with easier means to vote (and thus unseat their privileged political and power control in their regions) as the most vile of enemy traitors who betrayed their own kind and stabbed them in the back, which they called “scalawags.” Ironically, at that time the party who wanted minorities and blacks to vote to unseat power was the Republican Party. These local Southerners were thought to be in league with the liberal northerners to destroy the South’s “traditional values” (i. e. white supremacy over a large black population in servitude).  It was said then pejoratively that a “scalawag” was a “Southern white man who said he was no better than a Negro.” One of the most prominent people considered then a “scalawag” was Gen. James Longstreet, the deputy general to Robert E. Lee. Even more ironically, this contentious situation of patriotic citizens distrusting and being aggressive to their own neighbors due to their intensely felt superior traditions and culture was eased after the 1876 presidential election, when the Democratic candidate won over 50% of the vote nationally and several percentage points over their Republican rival in an extremely high-turnout election, but lost the presidency by one elector when the Republication state representatives in three southern states and one western one overturned the Democratic majority public vote in each of them, and awarded Republican electors instead, with tension building right up to the reading of the electors by Congress later; war and crisis was averted by the government agreeing to end Reconstruction and the stationing of northern Union troops in southern states in exchange for a Republican presidency.

Scalawags were often threatened with violence by traditional conservative Southerners for violating the “traditional values” they stood for, of conserving who the ruling race and class of people would be in their region, often by means of the vigilante Ku Klux Klan outside of the use of government, law enforcement or legal means. The following picture is from an 1968 Alabama newspaper that showed what the KKK would do to native scalawags and Yankee carpetbaggers if their candidate won the 1868 presidential election:

 

Speaking of the Klan, the “Lost Cause” era after the Civil War produced a reaction shortly afterwards, as it does in all subsequent societal “lost causes,” when political and other “official” power and authority had been lost, under the guise of presumed unfair treachery and betrayal, leading the resistance of such to be taken “to the streets,” as a typical of grass-roots, semi-organized but organic form of dispersed “citizen vigilantism” in guerilla fashion to retain and restore some “power to the people.” The nature of these reactionary vigilante movements outside the bounds of civil and legal authority were meant to terrorize “up-starts” of influence in traditional societies, either from minorities, underclasses or “outsiders” from cultures outside their local traditions within their region, to intimidate them to withdraw from taking a seat at the table of societal influence and leadership. It is to “conserve” who are the “haves” of resources, wealth and influence from the traditional “have nots,” regardless of their resented new-found legal rights and authority, under the mask of defending “traditional values,” which no one otherwise prevented them from honoring within their own homes and circles.

Outsiders were firebombed and arson and terror tactics were used, as well as being directed at domestic “scalawags” of their own clan and culture who assisted them in “meddling” in their operation of the culture, but the most direct targets were African Americans attempting to exercise their new-found rights of voting. Every technique was devised, from “poll taxes” and guessing the number of marbles in a jar before voting, to intimidation by armed white men at the polling stations, to lynchings and other violent means afflicted on those (black and white) who signed up black persons to vote. Today in 2020 it is accomplished by “gerrymandering” districts,” devising additional identification and registration rules and complex means of assuring voter registration, discouraging sign up drives of immigrant and minority-class citizens, and using strange legal maneuvers after the vote to throw out large numbers of votes by legal, registered voters after the voting day has passed. The 2020 presidential election cycle, in which mail-in voting was encouraged during the worse throes of the COVID epidemic to limit its deadly spread with crowded election-day poll sites, these parties (which had discouraged people to mail-in vote, rather preferring they decline to participate due to safety, or be confronted by armed “poll watchers” on election day to intimidate them) even introduced a modern “advancement” in 2020, of setting out voting boxes marked “official voting box” (implying it is a voter ballot collection boxes run by the elections departments of the government) that are actually set up (without identification) by the California Republican Party. They ignored courted-ordered cease and desist pronouncements from deploying such by the state Attorney General and Secretary of State, as they set up 100 “official” ballot collection boxes, with no one knowing if they were forwarded intact to be counted by election officials. Techniques like this were used recently in addition to the scores of dubious lawsuits filed nationwide to throw out their fellow citizens’ votes of another party after the election, regardless of their evidence-free allegations that have not held up to even cursory review in any of these lawsuits, even among judges appointed by the same party. Minority groups of formerly-dominant cultural classes that cling to their stolen “lost cause” have always found such techniques most valuable for retaining power over the majority of their fellow citizens that seek to join the seats of societal influence via the ballot box.

The supporters of this original “lost cause” used terror groups like the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate the far larger ranks of minority and “outsider” underclasses with new-found rights and legal voting privileges by appearing in terror-inducing garb and brandishing weapons conspicuously, and “hunting” in packs, often without interference from “official” law enforcement that was sympathetic to them (and who often had their own ranks in these groups and under the masks), appearing to envy the unregulated power to bring terror and court and legal system-free “justice” on those they opposed that these vigilante groups exercised, and removing any recourse for victims to seek protection from authorities. They killed over 2000 potential black voters and their white sympathizers in Louisiana alone just prior to the 1868 election, whiles hundreds of such voters were killed in each county in Florida, as examples, and widespread votes in the primaries for Republicans by blacks and white sympathizers of minority representation in the electorate totally disappeared once the general election began across the South, as their votes were suppressed, or widely discouraged. Often the intimidation and control was accomplished without continued and widespread violence, and rather by conspicuously displaying their weaponry and ranks, and setting a few horrific “examples” to keep the masses docile. It featured many veterans of the last war, who thought the politicians had “sold them out” or not held out to defend their culture long enough, as well as current law enforcement figures and judges. In essence, these terrorist vigilante grass-roots populist movements became the alternative to earlier government authority to enforce the preferred political, economic and rights status of the traditional ruling race and class over the underclasses they had been exploiting, which was suddenly in peril by their increased voting capacity and legal rights to political participation. The first-generation Klan organization was organized officially during Reconstruction here in Nashville, prominently featuring veterans like Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest (who had massacred over three hundred surrendered black soldiers and white Southern sympathizers at the Battle of Fort Pillow) as its first national leader and Grand Wizard, and who is commemorated with an amazing statue of him on horseback here in Nashville, in view of the interstate, and “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” is commemorated each year in Tennessee up through 2019.

The next embodiment in 1915, begun in the wake of the popularity of the aforementioned film Birth of a Nation (actually invoking the costumes and rituals invented by the novel and film itself), grew from 5,000 members in 1920 to 5 million members in 1925, or about 15% of the nation’s eligible population. It really grew amongst the grass roots who distrusted the “Swamp” establishment powers when the “Fake News Media” (national newspapers) and Congress condemned its hateful rhetoric and xenophobia, with new founder William Simmons adding thatIt wasn’t until the newspapers began to attack the Klan that it really grew…Certain newspapers also aided us by inducing congress to investigate us. The result was that congress gave us the best advertising we ever got. Congress made us” (emphasis added). This Twentieth Century embodiment was far more savvy in public relations, imagery, symbolism and messaging, and using the new mass media to promote their cause in advanced marketing and standardization of its organization and “franchise product.” Rather than just being vigilante terrorist posses in the night, they tried to project an air of conservative Christian “respectability” of preserving the nation’s Christian values, including to protect the “interests of white womanhood” and the home (and white suburbs and neighborhoods, as it exploded in the growing transplant communities of places like Dallas and Detroit) from ethnic minority community encroachment. Its founding documents explained its goals to “shield the sanctity of the home and the chastity of womanhood; to maintain white supremacy; to…conserve, protect and maintain the distinctive institutions, rights, privileges, principles and ideals of a pure Americanism.” In fact, their national messaging was virtually indistinguishable from the modern Religious Right messaging and priorities today. As alluded to in the pictures of their marches at the top of this post, they portrayed themselves as “Christian warriors” defending “Americanism” and its “Christian values,” such as Bible reading and prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments up in the courthouse, and warnings of the motives of non-Protestant religious groups in America, immigrants, as well as minorities of race, religion and ethnicity that were not Anglo-Saxon based, in their national motive to make America great again. Their ranks included judges and top state officials in both the North and South (with states like Indiana and Maine having some of the most prominent organizations). The similarity to today’s conservative and Religious Right movements don’t end there; the leaders of these movements were able to raise funds off of their paranoid warnings of “outsider” infiltration in America sufficient to obtain quite lucrative fortunes, and the decadent and hypocritical lifestyles out of the public eye that comes with it. By 1925, 40,000 unmasked Klan members were marching to the Washington Monument.

While these tens of thousands of “patriotic Christians,” proudly marching without their masks, got lots of attention of the Washington DC press in 1925 as the “next big thing,” one historical source reports that a few lone Christians dared speak up to this intimidating crowd of ultra-conservative “Christians” in their public show of strength. They note that a Thomas Avaunt there passed out flyers amongst the crowd, stating that “All Christian men and women bow their heads in shame when they know the streets of their city may soon be bathed in blood. Those of us who are Christians and believe in law and order cannot forget the scores of cities where similar parades of the KKK have been the cause of murder and bloodshed and without a minute’s notice men and women have been shot.” They source adds that “infowars”-style rumors of unattributed threats of armed “minority uprisings” and deadly counter-protests also spread around; they write that “Rumors began to circulate that the African American community had been arming itself to combat the parade, buying up all the rifles and revolvers in local thrift shops. The Metropolitan Police investigated the claims and debunked them. In a public statement, they were adamant that no such violence was planned. In fact, in hopes of avoiding conflict, police and African American pastors urged their congregants to steer clear of the crowds gathering around the parade.” They also note that 150,000 spectators watched these tens of thousands of Klansmen march to restore America. As they completed the several-hour march and began to ready the Christian Klan orators to inspire the gathered crowd, storm clouds began to form. They write that a local Klan leader tried to reassure the crowd with “Christian” words, saying that “‘I have faith enough in the Lord that He is with every Klansman,’ he told the restless audience. ‘You ought to have as much faith in Him as I have. We have never had a drop of rain in Washington when we got on our knees.’ Right about then, the heavens opened up.” The next night featured a cross burning there, reported to be eighty feet tall and thirty feet wide, which was lit as U. S. flags were mounted around it and on the speaker’s stand, as they played and sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “America” – a spectacle that stirs, inspires and invigorates the fleshly souls of “Western Christians” like the similarly staged Nuremberg rallies in Hitler’s Germany just a few years later.

Leader D. C. Stephenson made millions in the mid-1920s with an exclusive franchise racket selling Klan uniforms in Indiana, the state with the largest Klan population of 250,000, or one third or more of all of Indiana’s white males, and a governor a presumed Klan member as well as the majority of the Indiana General Assembly and other politicians (confirmed by Pulitzer Prize-winning press investigations), such that politicians needed Klan endorsement to be elected as a Republican, the party in which they focused their efforts (with Stephenson saying publicly that “I am the law in Indiana”), just as modern Republicans need Trump endorsement or face a primary rival in local offices. They emphasized strict morality and exposed “notorious sinners,” but much like today’s religious activist groups, it was found that leaders like Stephenson were exposed and convicted of decadent and violent sexual perversion (including chewing on a young lady Stephenson kidnapped and raped) and assault, leading to their general demise in this “mainstream” form in the late 1920s (he and pro-Prohibition Klan officials were found at trial to be alcoholics and womanizers). Just like today’s Tea Party organizations and “astroturf” fake grass roots organizations behind them, various Klan franchisees fought over assets procured from the lucrative racket funded from merchandise, public donations, fund raising and events, as their primary interest in the movement. During that time, cities like Indianapolis were controlled by the Klan, while smaller cities like New Albany fought them; street fights between Klan “Christian warriors” and minority groups were commonplace. In the community outside Louisville that my family members lived in after I left town, I found the community newspapers of that era show the Klan welcomed with open arms in the community and specifically within its conservative churches, where they had recruiting drives in the services much like the Gideon Bible distributors do today, albeit to arrange “god-fearing” men and pastors to resist dangerous minorities that threatened to move into or burn down white suburbs or rape their white women, as well as immigrants and non-Protestants (and including socialists and other leftists) that threatened their heritage and traditions of Anglo-Saxon Protestant control of America that they had to preserve. They had a major impact in governments across America, particularly in places like Maine and Southern California (future stronghold of the John Birch Society), where thousands of Klansmen were active in Orange County, and were elected in city council in Anaheim, and nationwide they were mostly supported or even led by Methodist or Baptist ministers. In Oregon, where the Klan swiftly took over, they brought in an “escaped nun” to tell made up terrors of the Catholic clergy (which sounds like much of the anti-Catholic, “Satanic Panic” and “Illuminati paedophile ring” whistleblowers I have seen peddled in Christian circles in my day). They bitterly divided every town and city they entered into opposed camps of the public, while ministers and politicians were usually too timid to stand up to them (and their supporters in the voting public) or take a principled stand, as the Klan controlled their seats of government in Oregon with only 2 percent of the population being members.

These prominent first and second generation Klan movements were just indicative of a long tradition of American vigilantism when law enforcement, the legal system or even the military were not “cutting it” in terms of satisfying the passions of the populists, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. In Civil War times, they were often known as “bushwackers,” and spread death, arson, destruction and terror across the land. While not officially part of any government armed institution, they often coordinated with sympathetic law enforcement and military chains of command, doing their “dirty work” that the laws of policing and war would not let them, as a “force multiplier,” and even getting military ranks awarded at times, without the need to obey rules of engagement. As their movements that followed, often behind masks and at night, collapsed as a “Lost Cause” as feuds increased the body count and escalation, their new-found ability to break down the psychological barrier to and experience in killing in cold blood made these groups into excellent self-motivated violent criminal gangs in the aftermath in the Old West, such as by former bushwacker Jesse James, and subsequent guerilla and militia movements typically devolve from their “cause” and resort to violent, self-serving crime.

Later in the 1800s and 1900s it formed the basis of a far-broader citizen-led guerilla culture nationwide known as the “white capping” movement. When communities of people no longer had patience to deal with or confidence in legal institutions of law enforcement or the legal system when court rulings opened up opportunities for rival minority groups (blacks, immigrants and minority religious faiths) to conduct business, work and own property in their communities that went against their wishes of domination, collectives of working class nativist citizens nationwide took matters in their own hands and used their greater numbers, or terror tactics as a force multiplier, and formed groups like the “Night Riders” and “Bald Knobbers” across America, raiding minority families or their white sympathizers at night to whip and kill them, burn their houses or threaten them to leave their community and property behind, and not impact their communities’ economies with their work force or businesses. They also attacked those seen as a “welfare” drain on their communities by not working hard enough. Since that time, more modern groups such as The Minutemen, The Secret Army Organization (a paramilitary group that bombed buildings and shot pro-peace professors and such, being controlled by the FBI and Nixon White House, as it was discovered at trial and congressional testimony, including the planned false-flag bombing of the 1972 Republican Convention to blame on the Vietnam Veterans against the War), the Christian Identity militia movement that “successfully” killed hundreds of innocent civilians with the Oklahoma City bombing, the deadly bombings by the Jewish Defense League for decades, and the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and similar groups have kept up the tradition today, with the consistent help of significant portions of “official” law enforcement, and sometimes even the President. This is why federal authorities consistently report that right-wing anti-government paramilitary guerilla activities are the most frequent source of terror and hate crimes annually, and the greatest terror threat to American society. All these groups outside the law will eventually follow the same path of making killers of normal citizens (with the help of experienced veterans or law enforcement retirees, or even active duty sympathizers), without rules or laws, leadership subsequently devolving to the hands of the most ruthless, and despairing cynicism amongst all the lawlessness until they use their (sometimes newly learned) propensity to use violence and aggression for self-serving ends of crime, just as white supremacist groups, and even the Symbionese Liberation Army, use bank robberies, kidnappings and the like to enlarge their coffers and personal bank accounts, with new tools of cybercrimes and such now available. 

The revived Klan of the 1950s until today has focused on opposing civil rights, desegregation and black residents in communities in which they had a presence. They revived terror tactics, lynchings and hate crimes, including upon white human rights activists (whom they called “N___r lovers”), which included Northern students and civil rights figures who tried to support black and minority voters in Southern states, helping local authorities devise means of denying blacks voter privileges and representation on juries, and conducting bombings and burnings of churches with black members (either as majorities or minorities in white-majority churches), and local judges usually would not convict captured perpetrators. They responded to the newfound power of black and minority communities in removing roadblocks to their voting by means of 1960s legislation, and opportunities of housing outside their confined ghettos, or ability to organize into protest movements and marches to expose communities violating their legal rights. White populations saw this voting power and encroachment in their communities as a direct threat, and in addition to their efforts in trying to stop their votes or otherwise invalidate them, resorted to vigilante action outside the law, but with the common understood support of local law enforcement and judicial system, and with the help of many pastors and religious leaders. In 1979 KKK and American Nazi Party members pulled up by car and shot and killed five communist activists who were supporting black labor workers to join unions in Greensboro, NC; in 1980 three KKK members shot and killed four elderly black women in Chattanooga after a rally, and when caught, two of them were acquitted by an all-white jury, and the other served three months. Around 1980 in the same area outside Louisville, the attendance of some black Christians at a local Baptist church where my brother served for the time as an assistant pastor, resulted in a public threat at a church service by a member known to be a local Klan leader, and when my brother retorted that they would always be welcome in the house of worship, the man’s last threat was followed with deeds within a week, as the new church whose construction was just completed by the parishioners was burned to the ground, with investigators finding evidence of arson.

In recent years the Klan has been in decline, although it is somewhat due to the rise of many rival hate groups which are growing; the Klan has had a sudden rise is chapters opening since 2015. In February 2019, Goodloe Sutton, editor of the Linden (AL) Democrat-Reporter, wrote an editorial entitled, “Klan Needs to Ride Again,” saying they needed to “night ride” because of the “socialist-communist ideology” invading Alabama, and responded to complaints to it that, “The point of the editorial was ironic in that all these years, the FBI and the Department of Justice have been investigating the Klan and now, that shoe is on the other foot. (The FBI and Justice Department) are doing wrong and the Klan needs to investigate them.” He said regarding liberals offended by the editorial, “It’s not their country. It’s our country and if they don’t like it, they can go to hell.” He wrote concerning the aftermath of the editorial that “It got me about $10 million in free publicity. I know I would do it all over again”; the 80-year-old stated in a phone interview that he had resigned, and said “I’m going to drink beer and sex young women,” after receiving praise for the editorial in which he said that the Klan should “raid the gated communities” of Democrats. In the interview he said that Democrats should be lynched, and that ““we’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” He added in an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser that the “socialist-communists” should be lynched, and balked at ideas the Klan were violent, saying, “A violent organization? Well, they didn’t kill but a few people,” Sutton said. “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”

One essential element of fortifying and sustaining such populist movements in paranoid suspicion and contempt of their fellow citizens of other races, religions or economic class, is to control the information space and narrative, and for “Lost Case”-based movements, the historical record of what “went down” up to today, and its justification of the nature of the grievances and aggressive reactionary actions and initiatives. Even in December 2020, Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper reports on how the school textbook contents regarding the South’s “Lost Cause” has fomented these world views and strife for generations, right up to 2020. They write that, “For much of the 20th century, southern classrooms…Teachers taught students to sing Dixie and memorize long lists of forgettable governors. Civil War battles got described in detail. Textbooks celebrated the violent overthrow of democratically-elected, multiracial governments. Lynching went unmentioned. The evils of slavery got cursory acknowledgments — and quick dismissals,” with one 1961 Alabama textbook stating that “It should be noted that slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States.” They add that “The same forces that took over public spaces to erect monuments to the Confederacy and its white supremacist tenets also kept a tight grip on the history taught to Southern pupils. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) spent decades shaping and reshaping textbooks to put a strong emphasis on Lost Cause views of the Civil War and Reconstruction, which glorified the white supremacist foundations of the Confederacy and was used to justify segregation and authoritarian Jim Crow governance. While the UDC was responsible for erecting many of the Confederate statues that are controversial today during the Jim Crow era, Civil War legacy historian Kevin Levin is quoted as saying that, “With all the attention they received in terms of reference to the monuments, I think their most lasting impact was in controlling and censoring textbooks.” The article further writes that “Efforts to improve history education moved slowly. Lost Cause mythology came under sustained fire from academic historians starting in the 1950s, but that research took decades to reach classrooms. After a long court fight, Mississippi in 1980 adopted the textbook “Conflict and Change,” which confronted lynching and the dehumanizing aspects of slavery in ways previous textbooks had not. Later textbooks provided more information about slave life and abandoned earlier whitewashings of terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But change came slowly. Textbooks that said Black Southerners were content to be second-class citizens were in use in Virginia well into the 1980s. Mississippi students were not required to learn about the civil rights movement before 2011.”

This concept of a national “lost cause” betrayal, and the resultant populist covert wave of vigilante resistance to the powerlessness it imbued, is not just an American phenomenon, even in the 20th century. One such prominent example is the “stab in the back” myth, in which the Germans from 1981 to Hitler’s reign in the 1930s were led to believe that the vaunted German army did not actually lose World War I, but were “stabbed in the back” along with the German public by Jews and socialists, and the governing Weimer Republic that capitulated by signing the Armistice. This conspiracy theory and disbelief in their movement and ideology ever losing was made possible because the media sources their leader and aligned German media arms of government propaganda allowed them to be exposed to had led them to believe it was “impossible” to lose, that “God was on their side,” and that any events reported to the contrary were merely “fake news” – an alternative reality they clung to until their loss was sudden and inexplicable to them, to the point of disbelief. Actually, the army was well aware of their ultimate loss, and encouraged the settlement with the Allies, but shrewdly did not admit it publicly, and rather had the civilian authorities of Weimer sign the surrender documents, thereby giving them later plausible deniability, and placing all the blame on the hapless new government put in power at the end of the war (with its leader later killed for such “cowardice”). This similar disbelief due to the lack of their favorite leader-in-power-aligned media outlets not reporting the weakness of their leadership or its imminent peril has provided a similar public disbelief in electoral losses and the embrace of laughable conspiracy theories by today’s followers of the “invincible” Donald Trump and his “prophesied” victory in the 2020 election. As the Germans were led by their failing authorities and military heroes to blame scapegoats like socialists and Jews for the sudden loss as opposed to their own incompetence, Trump and his henchmen blame Democratic socialists, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, ballot stuffers, Republican governors, all major big city residents, and even voting machine software firms as all part of some coordinated mega-conspiracy to barely steal the election away, even with all their power, from the “overwhelming” popularity of Trump, who never reached 50% popularity at any time in his presidency, although all polling verifying such by anyone is also part of the cabal as well. The foreign government China is blamed as an international culprit, although no data has provided any evidence of such, and even North Korea is even blamed for bringing in fake ballots to Maine by ship (!) by Roger Stone, but the Russian government that all U.S. intelligence agencies have provided evidence of election tempering, as well as Trump’s own campaign chairman Paul Manafort giving key swing-state polling data to a top known Russian operative Konstanin Kilimnik (who used it in Putin’s Internet Research Agency to perform critical local social media campaigns in swing states) being proven in court to the point of conviction, is never mentioned or disputed. Those German officials who acknowledged the loss were castigated by the public when prodded by demagogues, no matter how patriotic they had been in the past (rather calling them “November Criminals”), just as mainstream Republican elected officials, and even Religious Right leaders like Pat Robertson, are now similarly treated as being “unloyal” for acknowledging the obvious of the major electoral loss and the clean nature of the election process, including the head of the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, both hand-picked by Trump himself.

This concept of German “betrayal” was first started from a sermon of a Protestant Court Chaplain, even before the war was over. It Germany it was the losing military leaders who originated this false conspiracy theory for the public, to save their reputations; in the U.S., it was the President and his allies who developed a similar conspiracy theory to cover his failure, although retired military leaders like just-pardoned Gen. Michael Flynn have also played a key role. The German military leaders used this lie and conspiracy theory to also delegitimize the new government that had come into power, and asserted that it had entered by duplicitous means, and that the public had experienced a “lost cause” of being cheated by connivers over their noble, unvanquished military heroes they had idolized in the past, just like Southerners in the U.S., or Trump followers today. They made these accusations before parliament inquiries into the matter in their testimony, which further cemented the idea in the minds of the pliable public. Even though the head of the Social Democratic Party that led the government complimented the German army for their valiant fighting and even let paramilitary Friekorps units form around the country (as militias who crushed socialist movements in places like Munich) without confronting them to avoid disturbances, the conservative German press still accused him of being a traitor to the army and the country and a “criminal,” as his fellow government officials who signed the Armistice were assassinated. This conspiracy theory that absolved the German people of soul-searching was exploited by skillful demagogues like Hitler and the Nazis to empower street militias to fight and kill socialists and Jews as the scapegoats, push out experienced mainstream politicians, and justify an extreme movement to avenge these manufactured “injustices” on a mass scale, with atrocities justified by this “betrayal”; what will Trump supporters now be willing to do in the aftermath of this “corrupt” election, perpetrated by leftist elements, local politicians and even accommodated by vile mainstream Republican leaders and pundits?

Not surprisingly, these two modern western “lost cause” movements, one in decline and another on the upswing (and who taught them a more militant and aggressive manner for daylight resistance against the government, and not just small groups of minorities),  would find “common cause” here in America. The online report by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the history of the Ku Klux Klan writes that

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Klansmen and Nazis were beginning to see the value of cooperating with each other. Although they had roots in different traditions — the Klan in the post-civil War South and the neo-Nazis in Hitler’s Germany — they shared the same enemies and the same fanatic obsession with white supremacy. Some Klan leaders, like David Duke and Don Black, started out as Nazis. Former Nazi Glenn Miller incorporated the military fatigue uniform and the Nazi salute into his Klan organization in North Carolina. Ed Fields in Georgia brought both Klansmen and Nazis into the National States’ Rights Party; his virulently anti-Semitic publication, The Thunderbolt (later renamed The Truth At Last), was read by both groups. The combination of the Klan, with its historical foothold in American society, and the Nazis, with a modern militancy that appealed to many younger ideologues, resulted in a racist front whose potential for danger was evident by the early 1980s.

The Nazi influence radicalized traditional Klansmen. In secret camps across the country, white supremacists of all descriptions began training in the use of assault weapons, grenades, rocket launchers and explosives — all in preparation for what they believed would be a nationwide race war [which is what President Trump has been insinuating recently via Black Lives Matter and Antifa; Ed.]. In 1981, more than 1,000 people learned advanced guerrilla warfare techniques at an annual paramilitary training camp sponsored by the Christian Patriots Defense League in Louisville, Illinois, which had ties to the white supremacist pseudo-religion, Christian Identity. At a Posse Comitatus “survival school” in 1982, members received instruction in the demolition of roadways, dams and bridges. At the covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord Survivalist compound, members stockpiled weapons and explosives, and trained in urban warfare, martial arts and wilderness survival in preparation for “the coming war.” An FBI raid on the compound in 1985 yielded hundreds of weapons and bombs, and enough cyanide to poison the water supply of an entire city.

…In 1985, Glenn Miller changed the name of the Carolina Knights to the Confederate Knights and preached the need to secure the Southern United States for a white homeland. He told his followers at one rally, “We’re building up a white Christian army. We’re going to get our country back. We hope to keep bloodshed to a minimum, but anyone that gets in the way is going to be sorry.” With the name change, Miller’s group took on a new look — instead of wearing Klan robes to rallies and marches, members wore camouflage uniforms and army boots. Not only was Miller conducting the training he wrote about in his newspaper, he authorized his second-in-command to purchase a whole array of weapons that had been stolen from military bases. They included dynamite, claymore mines, grenades, plastic explosives, AR-15 rifles, gas masks, night scopes, chemical warfare items and light-weight anti-tank weapons capable of piercing up to 11 inches of armor. Miller also hired a military weapons expert to train his men in small teams at night, sometimes as often as twice a week. In the summer of 1984, Miller later admitted, he had received $200,000 of money stolen by members of the revolutionary group, The Order. In late 1984, Miller hooked the Carolina Knights into the Aryan Nations Liberty Net, a computer bulletin board which listed activities of various radical white supremacists around the country….Several months after his conviction, Stephen Miller and four other white patriots were arrested after they plotted to rob a Fayetteville, North Carolina, restaurant, buy stolen military explosives, blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center and kill Law Center Director Morris Dees…In April 1987, Glenn Miller, then in hiding, issued a “declaration of total war” against the government, blacks and Jews. In his declaration, Miller assigned a point system for the assassination of key minority, government and civil rights leaders, with Dees heading the list. Ten days later, Miller was captured in Missouri along with three other White Patriots and a cache of weapons that included grenades, pipe bombs, automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols and crossbows.

One last historical “lost cause” in the West that reveals further facets of modern populist resistance to the loss of a “Camelot” existence for one’s culture when perceived as being oppressed by a rival culture that had wrested political and institutional power from them by disputed means, is the struggle in Northern Ireland for many decades, commonly referred to as “The Troubles.” In fact, a bombing this week in my own hometown of Nashville caused my good friend Adam Sayne to suggest to me the potential of such an element of ideological violence to be featured in the years ahead within our own nation. The table was set for such cultural, political, economic class and even religious strife hundreds of years before “The Troubles” were officially recognized as such, with the forced colonial settlement of Protestant British subjects in the northern counties of the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland, just as Africans were forcibly settled in America hundreds of years earlier to be exploited for literal slave labor, and an inevitable clash of cultures and interests. Eventually, Catholic Ireland won her independence from Great Britain via civil war after World War I, but the Irish Catholics in six northern counties were denied their desire to have a “traditional Irish Catholic” government in their region, and subject to Protestant votes and politicians in the equivalent of their “states” that secured governing authority. The multi-generation indigenous Catholics were often of poor and working class status, with positions of authority, privilege and wealth reserved for the British-sympathetic Protestant “unionists” (i.e. for remaining in “union” with Great Britain, rather than the “Irish Republicans” (who wished governance in line with their traditional Irish Catholic culture)). Both sides used their education (or lack thereof), wealth and professional class, and their religious tradition as grounds for animosity. Old religious partisan groups like the Protestant “Orangemen” from the late 1700s would still parade in Catholic neighborhoods in the attempt to provoke unrest (which my wife and I observed in our visit there in the mid-1990s), just like groups have done in our cities in 2020 to incite violent confrontations.

This long-term, guerilla-style resistance movement (short of full-blown civil war) is typically considered to have lasted in earnest from around 1969 until 1998, with usually a few hundred killed each year having direct connection to “the troubles,” with many, many more injured and maimed. However, this moderate to low-intensity insurrection had so many facets of violence – from police harassment, whippings, torture, forced suicides, false-flag terror, bombings, shootouts, conflicts between different sides of belligerents, and Faustian cooperation at times and outright personal selfish agenda “hits” and criminal activities of personal or group enrichment under the guise of “resistance” on either side, it is hard to ascertain the true number of casualties in the conflict, which was not restricted to colliding armies, rifles, and missiles. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Northern Ireland Defense Forces defended the Protestant dominance, and was assisted by the deployed British Army, in their longest deployment in their history. To resist them, paramilitaries were formed like the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO). To counter them beyond “official” government and military forces, the pro-Protestant citizenry also formed their own citizen militias, including the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV), Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Red Hand Commandos (RHC), and the “official” British military units would collude with these “extra-legal,” loyalist paramilitaries “off the record.” These days also resulted in public riots, mass protests and civil disobedience, with the formation of segregated communities and “no go” areas (which we witnessed while there, as it was painted right on the neighborhood sidewalks). Of the 3,500 people killed in the region during this period that was attributed to the struggle, just over half were non-participating citizens, and split almost evenly in perpetration by both sides.

While this land graft from native Irish Catholics and resettlement of Protestants in the 1600s caused an expected conflict of communities, that being between the native and transplanted colonist (as they have in America and elsewhere, and currently in Palestine), the Penal Laws by the British Crown removed the religious, political and legal rights of non-Anglicans, both Catholic and Protestant Dissenters. The era of extreme restriction, and then relaxation of Catholic rights (in the “wisdom” of the British government) that suggested a new imposition of Catholic rights on a new generation of Protestant residents unaccustomed to them, led to the formation of fighting factions back into the late 1700s. Ireland was forced into Great Britain in 1801, abolishing the Irish Parliament, and united Anglican and non-Anglican Protestants as “loyalists” of mutual cause, and although Catholics were officially given status to prohibit their discrimination in the 1800s, a “Home Rule” movement was started by native Irish Catholics to restore the Irish Parliament, and from the late-1800s to early 1900s, the political divide in Ireland was along native “republican” vs. “loyalist/unionist” grounds. As the “republican” independence movement gained strength and neared “home rule” status, the minority Protestant residents feared Catholic government and formed in 1912 the Ulster Volunteer Force (ULF), the first extra-constitutional militia paramilitary force. In turn, republican forces founded the Irish Volunteers to counter them in 1913, but before civil war broke out, the First World War took precedence, and the planned Home Rule for Ireland by the British government was also suspended. While many Irish republicans left to help Great Britain in the War, civil disturbances broke out back home, and in 1918 the Irish republican Sinn Fein party won the majority of seats in Ireland, which launched the Irish Parliament and set up the 1922 War for Irish Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 26 counties where Sinn Fein won, but the six northern counties where they did poorly were left out, as the Protestant leaders there “opted out” to become the Great Britain-affiliated state of Northern Ireland. Between this time and 1969, Catholics in Northern Island were intentionally kept from the best housing and jobs, and Protestant politicians gerrymandered districts to keep Protestant parliamentary representatives for Catholic communities, and ignored calls for respect of the 35% Catholic minority to prevent future acts of desperation.

In 1966, the Protestant fundamentalist preacher Ian Paisley, praised profusely by contemporary Christian documentarian Chris Pinto in his recent works, formed the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV) paramilitary wing, opening the raising of potential conflict with armed hostilities. The UPV was a loyalist and fundamentalist Christian paramilitary group who in the spring of 1966 bombed an all-girls primary school in Ardoyne, where talks to better relations between Protestants and Catholics were to take place. Soon thereafter in that year they killed a 70-year-old Protestant woman they thought was a Catholic next door, and then two Catholic men nearby, using firebombs and firearms, and declaring “war” on the IRA, as a fundamentalist Christian group successfully initiating a lengthy, deadly national conflict. By 1969 they were targeting the water supply and electrical grid used by Catholic communities, and often blamed on the IRA as false-flag events. Meanwhile, a non-violent civil rights movement had started to get more proportional job opportunities and housing for the large Catholic minority, an end to “one vote per household” which was meant to neutralize large Catholic families as well as the gerrymandering, and laws that had allowed arrests without warrant, imprisonment without trial and ban on assemblies and publications. Civil rights marchers began to be beaten routinely and without provocation by the police. What followed beyond that was a veritable melee of Northern Irish police, military and British military forces, along with republican and loyalist paramilitary groups, with children, woman and the elderly often the targets, large numbers of displaced civilians (mostly Catholics driven from their damaged homes), and a major refugee problem. Walls were erected separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, like the Berlin Wall or the rest of the Iron Curtain. “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 described the killing of fourteen unarmed civil rights marchers by the British military. Outside nations and groups began funding and arming the various factions (such as from Libya for the IRA, and South Africa for the loyalists). British troops were often found colluding with loyalist forces, against their deployment mission, and helped them off-hours or smuggled them weapons. The society began showing all the social decay effects of an extended war zone, including increases in nihilistic behavior such as greater promiscuity, suicides, substance abuse and a distrust of social groups by young people growing up during the period. It also trained a generation of bombmakers and mercenaries, comfortable with remorselessly taking life, that also later found use as soldiers of fortune, criminals, corporate security commandos, and terrorists for hire around the globe.

 

Is this picture of sustained domestic bombing, rioting, kidnapping and sniper operations a possible scenario as an outgrowth of the extreme ideological conflict and schism our nation now experiences, in the near future? Will today’s “lost cause” of lost (or perceived stolen) political influence and cultural erosion trigger a reactionary aggressive and violent response from a people who feel they have no other options nor desire to evolve with changing times, to make such a dystopian struggle come true in our own land in the days ahead? If so, who will be the possible religious figures or group to start it, or other cultural icons or institutions as the catalyst? Or is this all just more paranoid conspiracy mongering and unjustified “Chicken Little” hand-wringing? Or – are its beginnings – the “shots on Ft. Sumter” – already underway?

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will discuss the seeds of such tensions in the last few years in our own country that mirror the elements and facets of such “Lost Cause” guerilla violence in the streets and towns that we have documented in this historical review. Please also check out 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, which is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover in places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the usual suspects. 

On The Biblical Defense of Looting

 

[Note to the reader: the following is a LONG post, even by this blog’s prior standards, and probably would comprise a lengthy chapter in a book. Feel free to read it in installments at your leisure, but it all belongs together as a coherent and building (and integrated) narrative of the same general theme, and thus is is not broken up into smaller individual posts.]

According to certain cable news and talk radio networks, Antifa should now be running all of our cities and having us all under subjugation, killing white folk en masse and probably forcing us all, at the tip of the shiv, to be gay communists or socialists (or worse yet, Democrats), and to have abortions (even us guys); in turn, Trump herald and First Baptist Dallas senior pastor Robert Jeffries did make very clear that if Trump loses in November, “the left” will bring out the guillotines for the Trump supporters (the latter group of “supporters” basically limited to comprising the Religious Right and alt right/white supremacists, his original core supporters, these days) . In reality, as I pointed out in my last blog post, certain white supremacist groups are running “false flag” operations online, pretending to be Antifa or Black Lives Matter, and trying to spur violence, and furthermore, law enforcement agencies across the country say they are seeing little evidence of Antifa involvement, but alternatively they have alleged that multi-state criminal operations are suggested as being part of a coordinated looting operation. Regardless, it looks like after many weeks of marching and protesting for better vetting of “bad apple” police officers, better training to reduce confrontation escalation and the use of deadly choke holds in unnecessary situations, and more accountability and less blanket immunity for officers caught in the most egregious acts, these protests – comprising old and young, black and white – look to me to be petering out for the time being, as the media lost interest, and aside from some buildings and businesses sadly destroyed, in general our cities are still standing (in far better condition than they did in 1968). There have been a few modest changes in the wake of these protests, mostly in the corporate culture as they realize the buying public is fed up with soft racism and soft-peddling (or even being nostalgic for) the antebellum slavery era, such as even NASCAR banning the Confederate flag from the property of their events (which, for thoughtful adults, should be about as controversial as banning the Nazi/Swastika flag from the Jewish Maccabiah Games Olympic events in Israel (although, it is similarly part of “their history”)).

I will disappoint my handful of perpetual critics by admitting that I do not endorse the wanton vandalizing and looting of property, particularly the private property of innocent parties, and denounce not only the young, mentorless and confused people (some of whom need to be detained and legitimately held accountable for their deeds, particularly when harming innocent people or their livelihoods), but also the white racist provocateurs and criminal operations (and cynical thieves of all stripes), who are part of the act, as well as the governors and police chiefs who order their patrolmen in riot gear to stand by and let the businesses who pay their salaries to be burned and looted, so the protesters in total look bad in front of the cameras. I note with irony that these limited acts on property (in large extent inexcusable, even if sometimes understandable by empathetic Christians when considering the powerlessness felt by many minority youth who do not have the monetary clout to influence politicians, the media or other power centers, and do so as a desperate ploy to get the attention of the media and politicians to their plight, as I suspect many terrorists do) are met with outrage by the self-righteous Religious Right and fellow “patriots,” although many of them choose their own methods of fighting the “evil State,” such as refusing to pay taxes or wear masks in health emergencies (in thus really endangering their neighbors, far more than the other vandals), confront legislators with assault guns and military gear on the steps of their capitols, or when ranchers squat and make money grazing on publicly owned lands and are defended at gunpoint. They also extol the virtues of the “Tea Party” heroes who stole tea supplies and vandalized them (not because of beatings and deaths caused by authorities, but because they didn’t like their tea taxed to pay for their own military protection), the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, which was a statue-like embodiment of an establishment that had enslaved them (to a lesser albeit significant level) for thirty years, or the Iraqi people who tore down the statue of the tyrant Saddam Hussein (who had been kept in power with U.S. help and who had sold him chemical weapons to use on his people), with the assistance of the U.S. military to tear down the statue of that enslaver.

Having said all that, I am still disturbed by the destruction of property, particularly private property (as well as when police (with their salaries paid by the public) destroy houses of people in raids whom they later found out to be mistaken identity, and then are not held liable). As one who desires to have a Christian worldview and mind of Christ on the true reality of things, and my duties to both seek the truth, reflect biblical wisdom and take acts of responsibility to be “salt and light”in meeting my duties required of receiving such wisdom, I have been meditating on what the mind of God would be on such a situation of a people doing such acts of vandalism, and particularly ugly looting, within the nature of such a greater society and social circumstances.

I have been wondering about what God would think about a minority of people of a different ethnicity and culture, far away from their original homeland, and who had been subjugated by a powerful world power in another land for four hundred years in bitter, forceful slavery. Or about such a global power who would have risen in prominence as an economic and military juggernaut, largely on the backs of this foreign people of a foreign culture, who had toiled in their fields to make them prosperous, and built their massive infrastructure of transportation and other edifices, as an enslaved people who tended to stay cloistered in their own poor communities and cultures, whose reward for their contributions to the prosperity of their foreign enslavers was more subjugation, for hundreds of years.

I wonder what God would think about such a subjugated people in a faraway land, who cried out to God for generations in mournful psalms and lamentations while working those fields, while under the whip of their cruel taskmasters, for centuries.

What would God think about such a subjugated people whose chain of events leading to their uprising began with a singular incident when a law enforcement official of the people in power began abusing and beating one of their oppressed, who thought they were too lazy and unproductive and a bad example, and ultimately no good (at least in regard to the financial interests of the enslaving master nation). Their dominating nation had been saying for a long time that they feared these subjugated people and community would out-breed and then overrun them by numbers (much like prominent Christian organization American Family Association spokesman Brian Fischer wrote in 2011 that black folk on welfare are a “people who rut like rabbits”). Therefore, they focused on promoting late-term abortions targeting this subjugated people. These people had been warned by spiritual leaders that an accounting was coming for them, and to give in to minor accommodations to these subjugated people and rights to ease their suffering, but they would have none of it. Rather, their response was a bigger crackdown on them, and tightening their restrictions and making bigger demands, like the old business adage, “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” which is the technique the Religious Right uses to somehow attempt to elevate those rebellious “Gentiles” outside their rules to a higher spiritual state, by increasing the confrontation and aggressiveness when they differ on social issues or private lifestyles. Sometimes the people in question vacillated in their guilt and remorse over their oppression, and tentatively acceded to the requests for mercy and recognition of wrongdoing, particularly when the oppressors were suffering under extreme pressure that hit them in their homes and pocket books, but when the pressure was relaxed, they quickly went back to their own ways of uncaring about the suffering and mistreatment of the underclass.

These struggles for liberation and resisting abuse and oppression occurred during a season when a plague came widespread upon the people across the nation, affecting every household, apparently by the very hand of God, which only accomplished a temporary relent from oppression and lack of recognition.

The leaders of the oppressed were those with connections to the oppressors’ society and culture, as well as those oppressed, and were even held suspect by the more aggressive members of their camp and the rank-and-file, who noticed that the tensions and suffering increased as the confrontation for civil and human rights rights was raised.

Most importantly, it culminated in dramatic acts of widespread looting of the rest of the populace of the oppressing nation, taking their property and valuables, as pestilence took members of almost every family, and weary officials fearfully let the looting occur. Some of the ruling people even permanently joined their side. The thought by their leaders was for them to temporarily “have their fun” and get away with it if they would disappear out of sight during those days of widespread suffering, and shortly thereafter in anger, they changed their minds and decided to send their law enforcement and even military guard units after them relentlessly to “restore law and order,” even while rank-and-file members of the society came to the defense of the oppressed even while being looted, and the recompense of force by the government came to naught. Their greed, both for the recovery of their purloined goods and the ability to exploit these people in servitude to build their empire, ended up costing them both their resources and all their militaristic power, in a wasted confrontation in which it appeared that even nature opposed them, and all their aggressive counter-attacks backfired and were a disaster. In the same circumstances, the seminal events were a cloud of illumination and direction to the oppressed, while being a cloud of darkness to the oppressors. It also cost them their respect within the global community, and the other nations shuddered as they observed the ramifications of not dealing respectfully with these oppressed people “on the march.”

The delivered, oppressed people were certainly not virtuous in many respects; they were spoiled in some ways, wanting a certain lifestyle of living even during the crisis period of transition, ungrateful and looking back unrealistically on the “good old days” when they were not responsible for their own well-being and independence. They still constantly called for ‘hand outs” and were always fearful of another crackdown by “the man,” and dwelt on their uncertain future and the fallible men who led them, who had no long-term vision and were taking things “one step at a time,” sometimes mis-stepping, often in anger of their formerly oppressed followers, with perpetual factions and power struggles within their own ranks. God would sort out their shortcomings on his own schedule and by his own hand later, quite strongly. Regardless, these people seemed to have God’s favor anyway – not only because of their suffering, but also for their more useful role in punishing the oppressing nation itself.

Who are the oppressed peoples I am talking about, and who is the oppressing nation and culture? Am I speaking in veiled terms from storied accounts in today’s newspapers?

Well, any attendee of Sunday School or Vacation Bible School will know who I am talking about – why, it’s obviously the Egyptian people, judged by God (and judging their real gods) for oppressing the Hebrew people, in a veritable verbatim recount from the Book of Exodus narrative, which reveals to us a “God’s eye view” of these types of societal and national situations of crisis brought by centuries of oppression of strangers, how God perceives the players, and what He is up to behind the scenes.

Which side do you think God was on – the sophisticated, industrious, orderly, advanced, religious, militarily powerful and economically unparalleled Egyptians, or the rowdy, uneducated, whiny, impulsive, impatient, divisive and even profilic “looter” Hebrews?

To be fair to the Hebrews, they only resorted to wanton looting and pillaging of the wealth of the Egyptian public because God told them to do it. Why did He do that? Not because He wanted the Hebrews to show off conspicuous, plundered wealth that was not theirs, but rather to punish the Egyptians and the “gods” of Egypt (Ex. 12:12) (of which colonial-styled exploitative capitalism would certainly have been a part), to instigate His own “reparations” for four hundred years of the Egyptians “looting” the Hebrews’ productivity and earned assets, as well as some punitive damages for forcible confinement and assault, to boot. God will see that reparations and restitution will be made for injustices, one way or another, and we will see further examples. 

God chose a leader in a God-fearing man who benefited from the riches of the establishment (being very comfortable and with a very bright future), but whose sense of justice would not allow him to stand by while he witnessed the oppression of those pitiful people who he identified with, even though not being raised in their community or culture, and felt forced, not to look the other way and keep his head down like his peers (or the German Christians who sang louder when they heard the scream of the Jewish deportees in the rail cars outside, or the American clergy who didn’t “rock the boat” over the institution of slavery, the Jim Crow laws or the later civil rights oppression), but to act coercively when he saw them abused by law enforcement. His act of impulsive pursuit of justice and remedy was even misunderstood by those he tried to help, and cost him his standing in both societies, as a pariah for a LONG time. He ultimately was directed to lead a liberation movement, inspired by God’s wishes for such, although he wished someone else would do it, which was not a military-style uprising with “patriots” brandishing AR-15s and military fatigues, but rather one that followed the “hand of God,” in a period when people witnessed hordes of locusts and perils of migrating dust clouds (both seen recently worldwide), and capped off by an unprecedented pestilence that struck every community. He was seen as the greatest enemy and traitor of the “respectable” establishment that he had been a part of (ruining his future of societal leadership), while also being of uncertain status among those he tried to help, who were unsettled, impetuous and impatient.

God said that these acts were acts to “judge the gods of Egypt” – a prosperous land whose gods were given credit for their magnificence, but were not really the True God, and who oppressed God’s people even though leaders of those people had helped the Egyptians in generations past, like Joseph (or later figures like Frederick Douglass or George Washington Carver (both born into slavery), or the African Americans who fought valiantly in Word Wars 1 and 2, and even the Revolutionary War, and even provided key mathematical skills to get Americans to the Moon).

The Hebrews that were liberated were not even very religious at the time of their deliverance, and knew very little about God, or their religious history (nor did their ancestors). Sadly, soon after they were “liberated,” they pined for the “good old days” and the “gods of Egypt,” and the material comforts they were thought to provide, and soon thereafter hoisted their “golden calfs” like their capitalistically-acquired sense of greed and profit they had acquired; the benevolent though flawed leaders of these historically-oppressed people tried to keep them straight, although some among the leadership like Aaron fell to the temptations of trying to keep popular approval, and its inherent benefits. Today, many white Christians resent some black activists (and often painting a broad brush over all of them) because similarly they are, not any “St. Francis of Assisi.”

However, regarding their more exceptional leaders of oppressed underclasses, like Moses, in his nature he not only fought to protect his own kin, but also other “strangers” whose oppression he encountered, including women and their rights and well-being, as when he defended the women strangers at the well at Midian, from shepherds who must of thought there should be segregated water fountains (note that Moses, whose name means “drawn out of water,” because of his deliverance from the banks of the Nile, always is involved in scenes of deliverance near bodies of water, such as his own, the Nile turning to blood to force Pharaoh’s hand, the Red Sea parting, the Midian well experience, and drawing water out of a rock to address the thirst of his followers). Evidently, “human rights” was in his “blood,” and he could not to stand to see any humble folk oppressed or deprived of rights, once his eyes were opened to the general scourge of discrimination and the common humanity of all that united him with all people, much like Martin Luther King, who expanded his emphasis on the civil rights of African Americans, to incorporate all poor folk in is “Poor People’s Campaign,” including Indians, rural and poor whites and Hispanics, and his opposition to how they were exploited in their wages and lack of benefits (and even the poor in Vietnam who were exploited in the Vietnam War, such positions costing him his hard-fought support for his earlier civil rights work from both white and black earlier supporters). Ultimately, like many other civil and human rights leaders through the ages, Moses came to see himself as even more than just a Hebrew, but more holistically as a “stranger” himself – a powerless minority in a place he didn’t belong, in a culture he didn’t relate to – just like his predecessor Abraham; he even named his son Gershom, meaning “stranger in a strange land” (Ex. 2:22).

Unfortunately, meekness is not always inherited by family members and hangers-on of such humanitarians and their movements; Jimmy Carter had his Billy Carter, King had his surrounding opportunists, and with Moses he had his brother and sister Aaron and Miriam, all of whom degraded their reputations. In Numbers 12 it recounts the incident that although Moses was said to be “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (v. 3), unfortunately Aaron and Miriam were ordinary racists and bigots, and obviously disapproving of misgenation (or the intermarrying of races), as many of the Religious Right upbringing (particularly older generations) shared, per my earlier observations growing up. Scripture says that “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman” (i.e. a black woman), and suggested that they might be better representatives of the nation themselves, drawing the Lord’s attention (v. 3). The Lord responded to them that Moses was far better than a prophet, because he was allowed to see Himself in His true form (v. 8), and let Miriam really be a “white supremacist,” by making her leprous, “white as snow” (v. 10), requiring Moses to intervene before God to cure her later.

Powerful oppressing nations and cultures not only stop with those outsider-culture “strangers” they blatantly oppress and exploit; being their nature, they often exploit their own people in the lower and middle classes, in a more discreet way and over a longer time. In the case of Egypt, their government and religious leadership had earlier confiscated the wealth of the average Egyptian and surrounding nations years ago by exploiting a famine, weaponizing and with the aid of the message of Joseph, which enriched Joseph in money and government power, to the detriment of the common Egyptian folk, and the eventual loss of their crops they relinquished, all their money, their farm implements and tools, work animals and cattle, their land, and finally the loss of their freedom as they were herded into government housing to work on their former lands that were now owned by the government, triggered by a crisis of staple commodity shortages and a currency crisis, according to the accounts in the last parts of the Book of Genesis.

The head of this modern, sophisticated and very proud oppressing nation told the leader of the oppressed minority that the complaints for equal rights from these oppressed minority people and their leaders just proved the prejudiced stereotype that they were too lazy and unproductive (Ex. 5:5), just I have heard from white media and political figures growing up, and in my own circles (including church), and ordered tightening restrictions on the complaining Hebrews (vv. 6-9), as martial law and police crackdowns and FBI raids have often done during periods of civil rights disturbances. They did have the effect of creating internal divisions within the oppressed people as they felt the pressure of such a clamp down (which worked well when executed by embedded FBI agents in the civil rights and peace movements during their infamous COINTELLPRO operation by Hoover), including when the law enforcement people started raiding and cracking heads of the civil rights leadership as when “the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten” for protesting labor practices and not meeting their employers’ demands by wasting time in civil rights matters (Ex. 5:15). Jesus knows what it is like to be beaten by law enforcement when seeking the liberation of others, and set up; He was arrested in the dark without charges or general public witnesses, He was later beaten by a phalanx of officers who surrounded Him and taunted Him (while He was no threat), was assaulted and charged by the secret testimony of paid informants who were not cross-examined as Jesus had no defense counsel, and later tortured to death by a technique where He “could not breathe” on the cross for an extended time, while being mocked by law enforcement officers of the oppressing nation in front of Him. Do you think Jesus might be able relate to the Rodney Kings, George Floyds and others of their ilk?   

When actions related to the liberation movement of the Hebrew people began to really hit the oppressing Egyptians in their pocketbooks, daily lives and households in public displays, they typically relented and pretended to acknowledge the wishes of those they oppressed, but as soon as “the heat was off” and the demonstrations subsided after negotiations, the leadership would repeatedly get cocky and betray their negotiated promises for reform, and be ever stiffer in their resistance and swagger, such as in Ex. 8:32. In one set of demonstrations, the oppressing people were warned to stay indoors, and even keep their livestock assets indoors, because it was finally going to “get real” in the streets, and those who recognized the “finger of God” did just that, while those who mocked God and were not worried kept themselves and their stuff outside – just like those who refused to stay away from violent protests, or even the warnings of unprotected public exposure during COVID, to mock God and the pestilence, and show them “who’s boss” (Ex. 9:20-21) – and of course, he outcome was predictable in both cases.

Sadly, the material benefits of looting an oppressed foreign people in their midst and slaves and an underclass for centuries proved so essential, and produced an arrogance so blinding and self-defeating, that the stiff necks of the oppressing people Egypt finally left no option for negotiated emancipation except by bloody outcomes – one premeditatively chosen beforehand by God, not the oppressed peoples themselves, as a means to judge and punish the oppressing people who refused to repent. The LORD-initiated first Passover was such an unforgettable bloody event; it was a swift affair, and the Hebrews were instructed to take swift actions to be liberated before the oppressors could recover and regain their swagger, and change their minds. These days, similar action in legislation, changes in police department policies and corporate identities and policies should be swiftly pursued in the wake of the recent weeks-long civil rights protests in the streets, because as the protests have died down (mostly all peacefully) and are off our TV screens, people swiftly “move on,” letting their officials off the hook, and the call for change dies down, just as efforts for sensible gun legislation always quickly dies down after the latest mass shooting and the brief displays of outrage, letting cowardly legislators and other leaders off the hook from enacting anything beneficial that might take some courage.

Yes, God told Moses that the Hebrews should “spoil the Egyptians” (Ex. 3:22), i.e. “loot” them, who had “spoiled” them for generations, telling Moses this before the interactions in Egypt even started, as His premeditated plan; he also reminded them on the eve of the “big event” that they should prepare to loot the Egyptians, as a part of God’s plan (Ex. 11:1-2), and they in turn did it (Ex. 12:35). God warned Moses that this appeal for relief from oppression of this foreign race would encounter strong opposition from the Egyptian government, and God Himself would harden the hearts of the captors (Ex. 4:21), and even Moses’ own wife resentfully suggested that this whole process would be a bloody affair, and that Moses would be a “blood husband” (Ex. 4:25), as an example of the type of tensions, within one’s own household, such a role foists on those who try to follow the Lord in “setting captives free.” When they did leave, even wise “strangers” not of the oppressed people joined them in their quest, and set their cause long term with them (Ex. 12:48).

When they did leave, God’s appeal for them to strike quickly and emancipate themselves was of course wise, because the Egyptians did reverse their repentance and capitulation, and decided they liked having minorities in servitude too much to release them easily (as the Hebrews themselves would later discover about themselves), bringing out their full law enforcement and military powers powers to bear to strike terror into the liberated peoples, without self-reflection or sense of discovery of the wrongfulness or futility of one’s position by that time. When they caught them and supposedly trapped them at the shores of the Red Sea, the Angel of the Lord moved to the rear to separate the camps, serving as a light of illumination to the powerless, oppressed Hebrews, and simultaneously a vessel of darkness and confusion for the Egyptians (Ex. 14:20); circumstances in history, and the Lord’s hand in them, play a similar role in those on the “right side” or “wrong side” of history, as we can see looking down the ages.

Many Christians today will look at pictures on the television at what many would label as “punks,” destroying property and setting fires or looting (while in truth a tiny sliver of such protesters engaged in such, of which many of them were provocateurs from criminal groups, white supremacists or even state law enforcement groups suspected in many cases), or out in front of the camera demanding “their rights,” and therefore not sympathetic figures to the average white suburbanite Christian watching comfortably at home. In truth, as I have stated, the purposes of God’s acts in such dramatic incidents of liberation such as the Exodus and other historical movements, was not to show the purity or piety of the Hebrews or others, but rather the evils of the oppressing nation, as God used them as a tool for their downfall. God similarly would use the Hebrews as agents for judgment on all the wicked Canaanite nations on which He had passed final judgment, saying He waited to rescue the Hebrews for over 400 years, for until then “the iniquity of the [Canaanite] Amorites is not yet full” (Gen. 15:16). People may wonder why God would use such a flawed people as the Hebrews, or the people on their TV screens today, and when is He going to get around to addressing their own sins of selfishness, disregard for the well-being of innocent parties, and treatment of others of different ethnicity from themselves. Well, scripture would appear to suggest that is not our concern, but rather God’s and He will address their own sins in His own time, and in the right manner, because they do indeed have their own “baggage.” For example, while they were on their way to their “Promised Land” of liberation, in what was already supposed to be a relatively brief trip (which they made longer in the path to total freedom because of their disobedience – a risk for liberation movements today), God almost immediately had to remind them, enshrined as a type of “Bill of Rights” for minorities in their own new nation, that they were to treat minority strangers properly in their own midst as they had wanted to be treated in Egypt as “strangers” (like a form of the Golden Rule), playing on their (hopeful) sense of empathy based upon their suffering, and reminded them of this repeatedly, of which the following are a few examples from the Lord to them:

“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exod. 22:21)

“Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exod. 23:9)

God believed the minority stranger, in any society (including modern-day Israel) truly should have equal rights and be seen as native-born (unlike the Trump administration and Republicans fighting birthright citizenship), and even worthy of love rather than distrust and contempt:

“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. [But] the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I [am] the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:33–34)

God says we should emulate Him in looking out for the minority and foreigner “stranger” in our midst:

“He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:18–19)

Even those immigrants of historical “bad blood” are to be treated well; this would also apply to a generous watch care over the American Indian, since the European Christians now dominant in America were once “strangers” in his land:

“Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he [is] thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.” (Deut. 23:7)

Sadly, the once oppressed minority “stranger” Hebrews did not learn from their own experience, and sometimes oppressed others without reason, just like our “wonderful” Puritans we so look up to in many of our churches, who fled persecution from other Christians in England so they could be in a New World of freedom of religion (ironically viewing themselves as “the New Israel” as the elect entering the new “Promised Land”), and then promptly set themselves up as a majority to more severely persecute anyone who challenged them religiously or politically, not only massacring Indian women and children (and making it a religious experience) and the insane, irrational “witch hunts,” but also destroying rival (but peaceful and non-political leadership-seeking) Baptists and Quakers, swinging them from the gallows, along with rogue Puritan pastors who asked too many questions. At various times God would send other neighborhood vandal/pillager/looting groups like the Midianites to teach the Israelites a thing or two, not because the Midianites were any great virtuous nation themselves, but rather to show Israel He was not kidding around.

In one such incident in Israel, 2 Samuel 21 recounts a famine Israel was experiencing in the time of David, and when he inquired of the Lord as to its cause, the Lord told Him it was because of his predecessor King Saul’s attempted genocide of the Gibeonites who were in generations-long servitude to Israel. Again, God’s advocacy of this enslaved people was not because of their inherent virtue, but because of the evil shown upon them by their captors. In fact, the Gibeonites came into that state because they had deceived Joshua and his camp back in Joshua 9, pretending to be a people from afar off rather than Canaanites and therefore subject to eviction or annihilation, and to their regret Joshua’s people did not inquire of the Lord as to the veracity of their story, but did covenant with them to let them stay if they agreed to be forced laborers for the Israelites forever, which God intended for them to honor, even if it was struck under false pretenses. By all appearances the Gibeonites kept their end of the bargain as multi-generational manual laborers for Israel, chopping wood and carrying water, but for some reason the House of Saul sought to exterminate them.  Therefore, God brought the eventual judgment upon this evil due to His pursuit of justice for these foreigners, to be invoked at a time when the right ruler would take righteous action. Even though David and his generation was not responsible for the great offense done to this captive people, he took responsibility and let the aggrieved captives set the terms to make it right, which involved the killing of Saul’s male descendants, to end the cycle of violence, and as a result God Himself began to again bless Israel. Would our leaders be so bold as to take such strong action to set right an old offense by our elder generations, or even our recognized religious spokesmen for God, and if we did, would God bless us bountifully again? 

As to the “liberation” and “freedom,” and resultant humble nobility that the liberated Israel had in response to their earlier slavery they had experienced previously, before long Israel wanted a powerful king and military that could impress the surrounding nations and to emulate them, over the objections of their God and prophet/leader Samuel, and as expected, it never went well for them. As God warned, their new kings conscripted (or drafted) their sons into standing armies, and they paid high taxes for their defense industry of chariots and for opulent kings’ chambers and edifices for his glory. In other words, they exchanged their bonds of servitude to a foreign power by shackles for an economic servitude to their own kin folk. This was particularly true for the big dreams and ambitions of Solomon, to build the largest empire Israel ever had, at own their expense. After he died, his son Rehoboam took over for his father, and control over the tremendous resources and promise this awe-inspiring empire offered. However, the well-respected Jeroboam of the Northern Tribes wanted some relief for their subjection, just as their Hebrew forbearers had cried out for in Egypt. Here is what went down when the newly proposed king was approached by his people:

“Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee….And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people? And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, [and] which stood before him:…And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father [also] chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions….So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither [have we] inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents….So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.” 1 Kings 12: 4, 6-8, 13-14, 16, 19, KJV

This rebellion was not merely an act of defiance to a God-appointed sovereign by a belligerent Jeroboam and his kinsmen. God told Rehoboam not to fight his kinsmen in Israel, because the rebellion itself was an act He had inspired (1 Kings 12:24), and that God had previously already anointed Jeroboam over Israel well beforehand, because their nation had fallen into evil idolatry by way of their succumbing to their riches and corrupt king long before (1 Kings 11:31-39); would this not be possible in what God may be initiating in the streets of America today, and bolstered by the “hard line” its leader is now taking to the desperate and beleaguered people in the streets? Jeroboam was certainly no saint, and in fact installed blasphemous golden calves to worship in Israel, but again, the point with God and His people was not the virtue of the people He was delivering, but the evil of the people from which He was releasing the former from their captivity.

Eventually, as Nebuchadnezzar finally besieged Jerusalem after they refused his yoke that God Himself told them He had placed on them to chastise them, which would not have been bad had they not chosen to rebel anyway, King Zedekiah shut the prophet Jeremiah up in prison, because he had prophesied that this political figure would not prevail against the enemy (Jeremiah 32:1 – 5), and that God’s people as well as the king would be held accountable for their neglect of the land, the oppressed poor and the other commands of their God. Christian minority voices in America today are also similarly treated with contempt for attempting to speak “truth to power” both to their American officials (beholden to big business campaign donors and their later employers) and to their own Christian leaders, particularly when such criticism, even if based in Biblical teachings, run counter to the prideful, patriotic and globally privileged perspectives both power centers hold. God also used this time to address other evils His people had been engaging in – this time, their long-time enslavement subjugation of their own people. In acknowledgement of the practices common before in the ancient world, God permitted the Jews to pay a fellow Jew to obtain their indentured servitude, as a type of slave – probably to pay off financial debts to the slave holder, or a third party, as the only way to make restitution. However, it was not intended to be an indefinite, life-long arrangement; in fact, it was supposed to last no longer than six years, at a point in which the indentured person might resume their freedom and independent life. However, the Jewish society had exploited this provision for their own economic enrichment, and evidently had been denying this writ of freedom to those less fortunate, just like they had denied the land its rest due to their economic greed.

As they stared at their own widespread servitude to Babylon, they evidently could finally see the irony of possessing their own Jewish slaves, and King Zedekiah made a covenant with the people to command the freeing of all Jewish slaves before they were overthrown (Jeremiah 34:8–10). However, after releasing them, they soon realized that they missed the creature comforts of an underclass to meet their every whim as low-cost labor, and soon thereafter rescinded their offer and brought them back under bondage, in defiance of God’s commands, and the covenant they had just agreed upon. In turn, God said (through His prophet Jeremiah) that the people had disobeyed His commands and the covenant made within the Temple, and that “Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor” (Jeremiah 34:17), and thus would experience God’s judgment from Babylon for this crime (ironically, Jeremiah then was famously let down into an empty cistern without water, and he sunk down deep into the mud below, but was rescued from the deep pit by a black (Ethiopian) slave of the king, and in turn God spared the man when the city fell, in reward for his faith (Jeremiah 39:16-18)). This leads one to ask – have the affluent (from a global perspective) Christians in America turned a blind eye to the oppression as well as economic exploitation of the underclasses in their own country? Have they also bemoaned the threat of “illegal aliens” invading their land across the border and sharing in the social services here, yet are more than willing to exploit them for cheap labor to build their homes, and clean and maintain them for a song, often paying them “under the table” to avoid taxes, and taking advantage of their limited options otherwise? In addition to their exploitation (for their economic advantage) of such underclasses domestically, even when such people are their fellow Christians, is the American church (including myself) also complacent about its wealth being built on the backs of underpaid, slave-like workers overseas that produce the products we obtain cheaply to obtain our standard of living?

Its all the more ironic since the American population has always been comprised, since its beginning, of a nation of “strangers,” most of them of lower economic strata and oftentimes persecuted in other lands, seeing this as the “land of opportunity” – at least, when they weren’t brought in shackles (although many have come under “indentured servitude” in the early days as well). All of them – most of our ancestors – made their own “exodus” to this “Promised Land,” yet now many turn a deaf ear to those still wanting a decent chance to make a modest life here too, with at least access to jobs that can sustain a family, and the ability to walk a neighborhood from the grocery in peace, and not wondering if police will follow them and start interrogating, or pull them over because the color of their skin and the suspicion that they “don’t belong” in that neighborhood, or become “the usual suspects” if a car has been stolen or a person assaulted in the neighborhood, or just the object of nosy neighbors who call 911 because they feel “threatened” by their presence.

Frederick Douglass may be arguably the most famous voice of abolitionism. He was a slave who ingeniously forged some passage papers to flee his slave owner, who had beaten him vigorously, by train to New York, and rather than use his talent for writing, speech and oratory to quietly find a cozy practice in one of the more-progressive American communities, he rather tirelessly wrote, spoke and campaigned for the rights of the black community and to end slavery in his old Southern homeland, and for civil rights for women and Asians, often being physically assaulted during his speeches, with one attack permanently ruining full use of one hand. History has shown him to probably be the most eloquent spokesman for human rights, possibly superseding King and Gandhi. A very dignified and articulate writer and speaker, when he was forced to sit in the cargo section of a train as a full-paying customer due to his skin color, and consoled by other riders for his “degradation”, it led him to reply that “I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.” A wanted man in the South until after the war, he afterwards made cordial acquaintance with a member of the Auld family that had enslaved him, and who had had a change of heart. This led to him being able to reunite with his former slave master, Thomas Auld, on his deathbed, with both men leaving in tears. It has been said that “Thomas was a cruel master, starving and beating his enslaved workers and breaking up their attempts to worship, read and write. He leased Douglass out to other masters who attempted to break his independent spirit with physical and emotional abuse.” He had told the world how his former master had sought to recapture him with bounty hunters, but in 1848 wrote an open letter to Thomas Auld, writing that “I intend to make use of you as a weapon with which to assail the system of slavery,” but that “I entertain no malice toward you personally…There is no roof under which you would be more safe than mine, and there is nothing in my house which you might need for your comfort, which I would not readily grant…I am your fellow-man, but not your slave.” During their meeting, Auld said he would have run away too had he been in Douglass’ shoes, and in turn Douglass apologized for blaming Auld for mistreating his grandmother.

In 1858, radical white abolitionist John Brown stayed with Douglass, having met him previously at an abolitionist church meeting in 1847 and talked with him. Shortly thereafter, Brown led his fateful raid on Harper’s Ferry, and was the first American ever executed for treason, for the five men who died during his operation and for trying to cause a slave insurrection. His cause was hailed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and European author Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) appealed in vain in the international press for Brown’s pardon. Brown’s last words were, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood” – we know these words were realized a mere two years later, but will they be realized again? Douglass was to say of Brown, “His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light, his was as the burning sun. Mine was bounded by time. His stretched away to the silent shores of eternity. I could speak for the slave. John Brown could fight for the slave. I could live for the slave. John Brown could die for the slave.”

Douglas was asked to speak on the 4th of July – a celebration going on as I write this – which is centered on America’s pride in its own greatness, purity, magnificence and as an international example and beacon of freedom, human rights and Christian righteousness, in 1952 in Rochester, NY with the address, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” It includes the following statements (and as you read it, think about what a modern black man, worried about police tailing him or pulling him over without cause (just because of his race), or police brutality or discrimination, thinks about our celebrations today – and the consistent observations from black commentators over the years, from Douglass to King to Malcolm X to Cornel West and other civil rights leaders today):

“The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history…Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles…This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony….Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery — the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgement is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just…At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, ‘is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,’ a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.”

Douglass said a number of other interesting things:

“I dwell mostly upon the religious aspects, because I believe it is the religious people who are to be relied upon in this Anti-Slavery movement. Do not misunderstand my railing—do not class me with those who despise religion—do not identify me with the infidel. I love the religion of Christianity—which cometh from above—which is a pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of good fruits, and without hypocrisy. I love that religion which sends its votaries to bind up the wounds of those who have fallen among thieves. By all the love I bear such a Christianity as this, I hate that of the Priest and the Levite, that with long-faced Phariseeism goes up to Jerusalem to worship and leaves the bruised and wounded to die. I despise that religion which can carry Bibles to the heathen on the other side of the globe and withhold them from the heathen on this side—which can talk about human rights yonder and traffic in human flesh here…. I love that which makes its votaries do to others as they would that others should do to them. I hope to see a revival of it…”

“I deny and utterly scout the idea, that there is now, properly speaking, any such thing as a negro problem before the American people. It is not the negro, educated or illiterate, intelligent or ignorant, who is on trial, or whose qualities are giving trouble to the nation… The real question, the all-commanding question, is whether American justice, American liberty, American civilization, American law, and American Christianity can be made to include and protect, alike and forever, all American citizens… It is whether this great nation shall conquer its prejudices, rise to the dignity of its professions, and proceed in the sublime course of truth and liberty marked out for itself during the late war, or shall swing back to its ancient moorings of slavery and barbarism.”

“One thing which they ought to do, in order to hold their own against this enemy, is to give up cultivating what they call ‘race pride’, a sentiment too much like that which is ‘the lion in the way’ of our progress… Do we not know that every argument we make, and every pretension we set up in favor of race pride, is giving the enemy a stick to break our own heads?…You will, perhaps, think this criticism uncalled for. My answer is that truth is never uncalled for…In some of our colored public journals I have seen myself charged with a lack of race pride. I am not ashamed of that charge. I have no apology or vindication to offer. If fifty years of uncompromising devotion to the cause of the colored man in this country does not vindicate me, I am content to live without vindication. While I have no more reason to be proud of one race than another, I dare to say, and I fear no contradiction, that there is no other man in the United States prouder than myself of any great achievement, mental or mechanical, of which any colored man or woman is the author. This not because I am a colored man, but because I am a man.”

“The ice under us in this country is very thin, and is made very weak by the warm fogs of prejudice…Our policy should be to unite with the great mass of the American people in all their activities, and resolve to fall or flourish with our common country. We cannot afford to draw the color-line in politics, trade, education, manners, religion, fashion, or civilization. Especially we cannot afford to draw the color-line in politics. No folly could be greater. A party acting on that basis would be not merely a misfortune, but a dire calamity to our people.”

“It is not only the plain duty, but also the interest of us all, to have every colored man take the place for which he is best fitted by education, character, ability, manners, and culture. If others insist on keeping him in any lower and poorer place, it is not only his injury, but our universal loss. Yet which of our white congregations would take a colored pastor? How many of our New England villages would like to have colored postmasters, or doctors, or lawyers, or teachers in the public schools? A very slight difference in complexion suffices to keep a young man from getting a place as policeman, or fireman, or conductor, even on the horse cars. The trades-unions are closed against him, and so are many of our stores; while those which admit him are obliged to refuse him promotion on account of the unwillingness of white men to serve under him.”

“Slavery has left behind it a spirit that still delights in human blood. Outrage, murder, and assassination are the inheritance of the freed men and women of the South. Neither our government nor our civilization seems able to stop the flow of blood. As in the time of slavery, the Church is silent.

I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

“We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand.”

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”

Since the light of God’s truth beamed upon my mind, I have become a friend of that religion which teaches us to pray for our enemies — which, instead of shooting balls into their hearts, loves them. I would not hurt a hair of a slaveholder’s head.”

“I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South — as I have observed it and proved it — is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes; a justifier of the most appalling barbarity; a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds; and a dark shelter, under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal abominations fester and flourish. Were I again to be reduced to the condition of a slave, next to that calamity, I should regard the fact of being the slave of a religious slaveholder, the greatest that could befall me.”

“Any other race, with the same antecedents and the same conditions, would show a similar thieving propensity. The American people have this lesson to learn, that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property would be safe.”

“As I have often said before, we should not measure the negro from the heights which the white race has attained, but from the depths from which he has come.”

 

In my own beloved state of my upbringing, Kentucky, they did not officially abolish slavery by their legislature until 1976. You read it right – just in time for our nation’s bicentennial, when I was a twelve-year-old. that’s when the legislature finally was able to round up enough votes to ratify the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery. Pam Gersh is a Louisville resident, not long ago wrote the following about Kentucky’s history with slavery, and the statues of the men who defended it who are memorialized in its state capitol even today:

“Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin [Editor’s Note: Governor Bevin sent his children to the same Christian school in Kentucky that I attended. M.B.] was for the removal of Confederate statues before he was against it. While campaigning, he said ‘It is important to never forget our history, but parts of our history are more appropriately displayed in museums, not on government property.’ After he became governor, he changed his tune, saying ‘I think it is a very dangerous precedent to pretend that your history is not your history. That doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. It doesn’t mean you agree with it or even like it. But to pretend it does not exist, to remove it from the landscape of discussion and the ability to learn from (it) is a very dangerous proposition.'”

“There is a lot of irony in Governor Bevin’s belief that the ‘sanitization of history,’ as he likes to call it, makes us pretend that our history is not our history. The sanitization he mentions started with the very Confederate statues that are now the subject of so much controversy. They are certainly symbols: they are symbols of an insurrection to overthrow our government, led by men who were traitors, and they are symbols of 200-plus years of hate, racism, murder, segregation, disenfranchisement, and discriminatory laws that made it nearly impossible for black Americans to live the ‘American dream.'”

“The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states in 1865. But, Kentucky was not one of those states. In fact, it was not until 1976 that the Kentucky legislature ratified the 13th Amendment. That’s right: Kentucky did not officially agree to outlaw slavery until 111 years after the 13th Amendment prohibiting involuntary servitude became the law of the land.” [emphasis added]

“A History of Racism in Kentucky”

“In 1830, thirty years before the Civil War began, slaves made up around 24 percent of the population in Kentucky. Approximately 28 percent of white families owned five or fewer slaves. In 1860, Kentucky had 225,000 slaves living in the corridor between Louisville and Lexington, and primarily working on hemp and tobacco farms. At the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln had hoped to encourage border states like Kentucky to end slavery voluntarily. He tried several times to get Kentucky to adopt a plan of compensated emancipation: if an owner gave up a slave, he would get $400 from the federal government for each slave freed. When this didn’t work, Lincoln declared slaves free only in those areas controlled by the Confederacy in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. And although most Kentuckians served in the Union, they revolted in protest, believing that a state had the right to deal with slavery as a matter of state’s rights. Ironically, Brutus Clay, a U.S. representative from Bourbon County, an anti-abolitionist (unlike his brother, Cassius Marcellus Clay), made an impassioned speech against the Emancipation Proclamation stating, ‘If you take away from a man that which he considers to be justly his own, you make him desperate, and he will retaliate against you. You can never by oppression make a man obey willingly the laws of his country. Act justly toward him, let him see he has a government which will protect him and he will love that government. But oppress him and rob him, and he will despise and hate you.’ Again, ironically, he was talking about ‘a man’s’ right to own slaves. It didn’t occur to him that this is exactly how slaves felt toward their own country for enslaving them, and the very reason for the Civil War.”

“Brutus Clay didn’t vote for the ratification of the 13th Amendment when it passed the U.S. House of Representatives in January 1865. The next month, the Kentucky legislature voted to reject it by a 56-18 vote in the State House and a 23-10 vote in the State Senate. After the Civil War, things didn’t improve much for freed slaves in Kentucky. A visitor traveling through the South commented that Louisville was ‘the only place on the trip where (former) slaves waited on him.’ This was also the period when the first wave of the Ku Klux Klan rose to power along with state militias and paramilitary groups. They were formed to vandalize and destroy property, and to intimidate and physically attack and assassinate black citizens. Lynchings were the preferred way to kill black men and women. During Reconstruction and up until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, black citizens were also disenfranchised and not allowed to vote through a series of laws that required them to pass literacy tests, pay poll taxes, or own property. There was also the ‘grandfather clause.’ This law prevented you from voting if your grandfather hadn’t voted, meaning black citizens couldn’t vote but illiterate whites could. Remember, women didn’t win the vote until 1920, so these laws only applied to black men. As a result, by the early 1900’s, black citizens were virtually eliminated from voting, even though most Southern states had majority black populations. Ten of the eleven Southern states also rewrote their state constitutions to make sure these voting laws were enforceable. The Supreme Court of the United States upheld these laws in court case after court case. And because black Southerners were not listed on local voter rolls, they were automatically excluded from serving in local courts. Juries in the South were all white. As a result, by the turn of the century, less than one percent of black citizens in the Deep South were registered to vote. For instance, in North Carolina, even though there were 630,207 black citizens in the state, not one of them (zero) could vote in that year’s elections. The same thing happened in Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.”

“From the early 1900’s to the 1960’s, thousands of cheaply made Confederate statues were erected all over the country, most financed privately by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and placed on public lands. The statues were put up long after the Civil War, mostly during the Jim Crow era, when violence against black Americans was at an all-time high. This was also the period that the second wave of the KKK came to power, and segregation of schools, housing, and every other area of black lives was sanctioned by the government. So while black Americans were legally not slaves, they were held captive to oppressive laws that led to their being hanged, beaten, and treated as second-class citizens. The statues were meant to serve as a place marker for them, to let them not forget that they were still inferior to the white man.”

“Today, front and center in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, stands a 15-foot marble statue of Jefferson Davis, a man who was a member of the U.S. House and Senate, before he left to become president of the Confederacy. The calls for removal of the statue were answered by only a proposed change to the plaque on his statute, to take away the section that reads “PATRIOT – HERO – STATESMAN.” As of today, no change has been made because of “legal” issues. The statute of Davis shares space with statues of three other Kentuckians: President Abraham Lincoln; Henry Clay, the longest-serving speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 19th century, and once Secretary of State; and Alben Barkley, without argument Kentucky’s greatest statesman to date, having served as a U.S. Representative, a Senator, and Vice President of the United States.” (emphasis added)

“Matt Bevin is right: we must learn from our history. We must learn that these statues not only commemorate an insurrection lead by American citizens against their own government, but that they also symbolize 200 years of systemic racism and oppression against black Americans. This history remains with us, as America continues to struggle with deep racism. Today, 153 years after the end of the Civil War, we have a president who aligns himself with white supremacy groups, and black men are imprisoned at higher rates than any other race in a privatized federal prison system that is incentivized to arrest as many people as possible. In a recent study in Boston, it was found that the average net worth of a black family was $8, while the average worth of a white family there of $250,000. This is not an accident. This is the long-term consequence of what these statues stand for: the destructive force of systemic racism. There is no honor in the repression of other human beings in any form, and it should never be recognized or celebrated. The men who fought against their own country to enslave their fellow citizens shouldn’t be held up as heroes in the public square…or in the state capitol building.”

 

As a side note, the Ku Klux Klan outside Louisville apparently burned down a newly built church in which my brother served, in the early 1980s, after an African American couple began to attend, after “fair warning” was given in a business meeting by a parishioner known to be Klan-affiliated – within days of the warning. The fire department officials found evidence of gasoline accelerants poured down the aisles of the church as a clear case of arson.

The erection of a statue – any statue – is in essence an expression of the opinions about a so-recognized person by the people who erect it, be they the state, individuals or special interest groups, but rarely are they voted on. The expression of a person memorialized in a statue, as opposed to a mere biography, textbook or historical exhibit,  is veneration – admiring what that person stands for. As I always say, “An opinion says as much about the opiner, as it does its subject.” Thus, the statue, and the person it represents and their thoughts and deeds, reflects back on the people who erected it and their own values, as well as those who let it stay erected, particularly if it resides on lands that represent the general public and is supported with their tax dollars. For example, the statues of these figures well-known for defending or fighting to protect slavery, suggests the cavalier or even silently  and slightly-repressed sympathetic views these statues’ supporters (including many Christians) have of the “good old days,” when blacks “knew their place.” Even for those statues exhibited near public thoroughfares but on non-public lands, think of it this way: would people stand for statues of Adolf Hitler in their communities, particularly if erected in the vicinity of communities of Holocaust survivors, or even if it was just merely the image of officer Heinrich Himmler, or even the commandants of their concentration camp? What about statues of the great General Custer near Indian reservations? Or statues of Nero in majority-Christian cities, extolling his control of Rome, and paid for by European pagans? In these cases, would the choice of these figures in sculpted form, placed within the regular eyesight of those they oppressed, be seen as a form of “hate speech,” just like a Nazi flag flying before those they destroyed? How long do you think these statues would stay aloft in our cities, and who would grieve over their loss?      

Should we as a culture be more selective in who we choose to venerate in such ways? Should we just make it a general agreement to severely limit those we choose to venerate in such god-like fashion anyway, and in particular those with particular clouds that overshadow some of their noteworthy deeds? Does their presence wallpaper over the fact that most figures, and human beings, are a mixture of confusion, darkness and nobility, and are best treated more holistically and objectively (and sometimes sympathetically, when considering their era and culture) in a well-written biography and textbook, rather than a graven image? If we feel compelled to venerate some of our human race as role models of our best examples, why don’t we see more statues of those whose reputations over the centuries of history and time have shown to truly be visionary and devoid of such major clouds of darkness, like a Roger Williams, founder of the “separation of church and state,” the first Baptist Church, the State of Rhode Island, opponent of slavery, and advocate for the Indian and freedom of conscience in religion? In final consideration of what a nation’s statues say about a person, and its society, we will close with a what the Greek philosopher Plutarch wrote concerning a quote from the Roman statesman Cato the Elder, in his biography Parallel Lives, which would be good for all who desire such statue commemoration to consider, and the rationale for the origins and retainment of the controversial statues today:

“I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.”

 

Seneca the Younger was a Roman philosopher and statesman and a contemporary to Jesus and Paul. In fact, many of the early Church Fathers (such as Tertullian) right up through the Medieval Ages (including Jerome and Augustine) saw Seneca himself as a “Christian writer,” including an apocryphal correspondence between Seneca and Paul the Apostle they cited. Seneca the Younger was called in to Rome to tutor heir apparent and new emperor Nero, as a scholarly, experienced statesman tasked with taking a volatile, self-absorbed and immature new head of state and preventing him from destroying the global state, including trying to assure the public that Nero’s conspiratorial ruin of others would be limited and short-lived, and justified and covered for Nero’s backroom destruction of his political predecessors to the Senate, fighting other Senators over their mutual financial enrichment and lucrative personal state loans, and was (likely innocently) then accused of betraying the head of state, leading to his own ruin – a sad, chaotic chapter that certainly we would never see the likes of in the recent years of our own political experiences. 

In 65 AD, near the end of his life this Seneca the Younger wrote his “Moral Letters to Lucilius,” which included his “Letter 47 – On Master and Slave,” in which he quoted an earlier aphorism from Cato the Elder in his work Origins, in which Cato stated,

“You have as many enemies as you have slaves.”

To which Seneca added,

“They are not enemies when we acquire them; we make them enemies.”

The establishment today may be in power and hold the reins of political and economic power, which is really what “conservatism” is all about – conserving the traditional order of the “haves” versus the “have nots,” and who has a seat at the table that runs society, and shares in its wealth and benefits. However, all aristocratic communities within the powers of the world have always known, what European-based Caucasians are feeling now in Europe and the United States – that the numbers of the underclasses and “stranger” immigrant classes are growing every day, while the old guard powers of European whites are having lower birth rates and aging, and the number differential will one day (maybe soon) be untenable. Donald Trump and his allies in the Alt Right and white supremacists both in the U.S. and Europe, allied with Vladimir Putin and his spiritual advisor Alexandyr Dugin, as well as our own Religious Right, considers the solution to be stopping all immigration, and mowing them down at the nation’s border if we must, colonizing them elsewhere to control them, ghettoize them (as works in Palestine, South Africa (in the old days), the Indian reservation or the old Jewish ghettos, letting malnutrition and disease or sponsored civil wars take their course), or even eugenics-inspired sterilization, with novels that serve as “operational manuals” on such being popular in Alt Right circles, including the Turner Diaries. One day, however, the subjugators are going to run out of bullets, just like Doctor Moreau who controlled the “man beasts” with his gun, whip and the “house of pain,” and they dream (in their nightmares) of being overrun. One alternative would be to help find chairs for them at the table of shared responsibility and benefit over the broader society, and even promote practical solutions like promoting interracial marriages to help a slow-witted and sluggish society become “color blind,” since the Church has done a poor job of selling the principle by mere spiritual and philosophical arguments. However, the sharing of the authority and profits from society will likely not be given up willingly, and the temporary unsettling impacts on a generation or more of people. Therefore, they likely, like doomed civilizations before them, decide to tighten their grip on power like ancient Egypt and Rome, and even further tangibly differentiate themselves in their public persona from the “beastly” lower classes that riot in the streets, loot and set fire to buildings. Although they probably will not, they would be wise to listen to the warnings of Seneca the Younger in his book, On Clemency, in which he wrote:

“A proposal was once made in the Senate to distinguish slaves from free men by their dress: it was then discovered how dangerous it would be for our slaves to be able to count our numbers.”

 

I had originally intended to end this post with the preceding poignant comment, but I did not want to disappoint my critics by not concluding with an explicit, “pinned on the nose”  simple recommendation of advice, the simplicity and obviousness of which may insult the intelligence of the other mature readers, but as a help for those less-perceptive critics whose limited skills of introspection may limit their means to properly digest the lessons, implications and mandates derived from the preceding discourse. Thus, to make such a directive as simple as possible, I close with the down-to-earth words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, and I implore the reader to consider its applicability to our Christian culture and its surrounding society here in America, and the legacy and future of the Christian witness here.

To put it into the perspective I suggest as to its relevance to us, I would remind the reader that the American Christian community, and in particular its Religious Right component which dominates the social discourse and public profile, has long been known nationally and worldwide for its prolific and widespread public displays of piety, Christian devotion, pronouncements of righteous denunciation of those outside its ranks, and political and cultural intervention to make all of American society to reflect its religious expression, even if in a generic “civil religion” manner, and has been expressed in its old-time traveling revivals, national crusades, religious television, para-church and political “pro-family” organizations, and sacred acts with government officials and key political and civil events.

While it has been prolific and ubiquitous in this role, it has often had its own “skeletons in its closet” and things “swept under the rug” and not dealt with, beyond the widespread corruption and hypocrisy among its leaders, in particular its disregard, feigned ignorance or blatant crusades to persecute those outside its ranks, or even those who question within their own circles, over the entire American era, known by all but ignored by its own. These range from the Puritan persecutions, witch hunts, massacres and executions of “non-elect “outsiders” like the Pequots and other Indians (and other “heathen” like the Baptists and Quakers who swung from their gallows), their top leaders like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and others who strongly promoted slavery, churches who welcomed Ku Klux Klan groups nationwide in their Sunday services for promotion drives, or the similar “patriotic” groups who came in their wake, or welcomed eugenics sterilization of lower IQ community members in their churches, the hostility towards civil rights movements and young people who rightfully raised questions about the motives of the Vietnam War, the desperate poor who found themselves demonized by much of the church who opposed their New Deal jobs and other assistance (including health care for poor pregnant mothers), and the list goes on and on. In the wake of several hundred years, it has left a long line of victims and enemies, who haven’t forgotten, even though the Church has. Some of them have filled our streets in recent days, like they had in the 1960s and the days of Rodney King, and now they see the high-profile Christian leaders largely standing against them too, and against their calls to lessen racial targeting and brutality by law enforcement. While they ignore or figuratively curse these brethren in contempt, they meanwhile reinforce their public religious events to “bring America back to God,” with armed law enforcement and military “heroes” front and center, and many armed in the audience.

They do not recognize that a day of reckoning is coming, and maybe not by who they think from whom it is coming. It may be this year, or years down the road, that the forces of the lower-income “outsiders” of various ethnicities and economic strata, although limited by economics and lack of political and financial power, will grow to a level, and so desperate, that a singular trigger event, like the Egyptian law enforcement official beating an underclass Hebrew, will set in a moment a chain of events that may not be ultimately led by the oppressed classes, but rather by God. These people in our society may have as many hangups and be as undeserving of deliverance as the Hebrews are, but as I’ve pointed out, God’s final rendering of judgment on an oppressive nation and culture is not predicated on the righteousness of the oppressed, but rather by the wickedness of the oppressor.

Therefore, Jesus had some excellent timeless advice for those who seek to carry on their public displays of God-impressing piety, while having a cloud of injustice to their brother that is front and center in heaven as it is to the offended, and it applies to a nation and culture as much as it does to an individual. It is a practical suggestion to resolve such injustices honestly and humbly as a priority over the piestic public displays of “God-centered” religious worship focus, and the longer the delay, the greater the cost, and riskier the consequences. It suggests that if one waits too long, the “judge” will intervene, be it the masses in the public, a righteous judiciary process, or worst, of all, a “final rendering” by the Judge at the Great White Throne, with God’s judgment on earth, or in the eternal heavens the most fearful, final and irredeemable of all. It would behoove those God-fearing individuals and cultures to admit wrongdoing and “settle out of court,” the earlier the better to reduce the pain, and before its too late, and the “final reparations” and legal penalties are to be paid. As Jesus laconically explained it,

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” Matt. 5:23-26 KJV

 

ADDENDUM: I have had some perpetual critics on this blog (actually, less than a handful at various times), in their desperate attempt to overlook the substantial reinforcing and evidentiary data and highlighted links I provide in my lengthy posts (along with some commentary), none of which they comment on, but who say not only that I provide no evidence as to my claims in my posts, and that I also only self-righteously assert that there are (non-existent, in their view) “problems” in our American church culture (or its most high profile embodiments) without offering any remedies, as well as that I don’t focus my criticisms on the godless “liberals.”

To these well-worn, years-long baseless charges, I first retort that the reference data I usually provide and/or links throughout my posts, which attempt to be notable in content and frequency but certainly not of the evidentiary level I provide in my books, are rife with supporting data if one follows the instances cited in them and persons involved, as well as the hotlinks I hunt down, but as to any “gaps” in data references of specific events of concepts, I assume the average reader will already be aware of or accept the commonly known facts, or a person with actual sincere motives and the least concern for getting to the truth can easily Google credible academic and other unimpeachable sources to verify my claims. At the very minimum, my broad observations and opinions beyond the facts presented, to put them in a proposed context, are supplemented by decades of countless hours reading works, news reports and watching the “word on the street” via Christian and conservative email newsletters, web sites, podcasts and other means of hearing a broader consensus of views, to which anyone with a similar commitment to observe such sources over years to ascertain what is happening within our culture would recognize. Also, my common mention and acknowledgment of exceptions to these general observations usually go unheeded by critics. This blog site is a side light to my primary mission of book writing, on which I focus most of my research and documentation, and I post here only when feeling so burdened that I need to distract myself from that important work and I need to say something more urgently, although it will usually result in knee jerk responses from the usual suspects among the “armchair quarterbacks,” along with valid, thoughtful critiques of merit that show my blind spots or additional data to consider that I can use constructively to refine my perspective.

On the matter that I do not focus my time and efforts on blasting “liberals” (the latter usually meant as a broad term for those who respect those who are different, or show empathy for minorities of every stripe who have had a different experience and walk and have some worthy perspectives even amongst their own shortcomings, or just those whose attitudes are humble and are dictated by the Golden Rule), I will repeat what I have said countless times (and I excuse newer readers not familiar with it), which is something we all know, that Christian media (as well as the bulk of talk radio and cable news) is a massive industry focused on decrying the “liberals” non-stop (as judged by my television, radio and email basket I observe daily), and as my current book series shows, has been well-funded since the time of the New Deal by huge sums of investments from Fortune 500 companies, since the message of these well-funded Christian outlets matches the corporate profit agendas of their shareholders. It is evidenced by the fact that most conservative Christians I know argue their positions on public issues from the talking points just heard on talk radio and cable news or specific national Christian ministries, and not the words of Jesus or the saints in scripture; this phenomena is the sheer by-product of public-relations messaging saturation (which is why we all hum the jingles of commercials we hate, but hear all the time). Thus, I see no need to take my no-budget individual operation (albeit operating around the clock, seven days a week) to provide them additional free PR support for their selfish agenda; they are doing just fine with their hundreds of millions in media investments (much of it in Christian media) just fine, and there needs to be some “voices crying out in the wilderness,” on behalf of the anawim, or the “lost and forgotten ones.” If you want to hear a pro-pride, anti-stranger, pro-Big Business and pro-aristocrat message, I would just direct you to your local national Christian ministry show or site, or talk news radio channel – they can do it with a much straighter poker face than I can, and the have much nicer sets and wear better clothes.

On the matter of offering “no remedies,” for such critics that argue that, I am still waiting on them to acknowledge the problems itself, for without that the proffering of solutions is meaningless. When the Pharisees tried to bait Jesus with questions about what He was about and His agenda, He would ask them a straight question about the historical state of affairs, such as the contemporary message of John and its origins, and when they would not commit to an honest answer, He saw no need (or constructive end) to disclose to them further. Having said all that, I often suggest proposed changes in our mindsets that are usually ignored. In my books, I devote page after page to specific, simple direct actions we can take to make our personal and Church-wide witness more authentic, effective and more fruit-bearing (in terms of “soul winning” and other expansions of the Kingdom of God) than our current adrift state in America. Even in all my public presentations at meetings, I always close with slides with a bullet-point list of specific conclusions and action items (drilled in my head from my days working alongside the military and Defense Department). Having said all that, such “pinning it on the nose” operations for less-perceptive people is a wasted allocation of time spent on people who do not have “ears to hear” to constructively consider challenging information (even if they partially disagree), and no intentions of considering the merits of the problem proposed, much less its remedies. For even the simplest of people but of sincere hearts and motives, it would be apparent that the distressing information I often share in this blog or my interviews and books would lead them to obvious actions to remedy our legacy and current public attitudes and actions, which is not really “rocket science” in terms of changing our ways but requires an open heart, but the first step is to first admit we have had problems, admit our responsibility for it (including our own Christian or local culture), and repent of it as a spiritual shortcoming, and humbly seek ways to be more effective lovers of others, and witnesses of Christ. This is what I am trying to do in my own life via these blog posts and books, thinking out loud in all its limitations, and I am seeking other kindred spirits “pricked in the heart” (or still able to be so reached), so we can learn from each other, and from Jesus.

I said all this, not to blow off steam or express some sour grapes, but rather to let newer readers of this blog know of our collective experiences over time with some of these commenters and their baseless assertions, and so you can know what is really going on, and so I don’t have to repeat them with every post. 

SECOND ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention it in my last blog post, but my new book, Two Masters and Two Gospels, Vol. 1 – The Teaching of Jesus Vs. the “Leaven of the Pharisees” in Talk Radio and Cable News, is available in paperback and Kindle ebook here at Amazon, in paperback, Nook .epub ebook and even two types of hardcover at Barnes and Noble, in ebook via Kobo/Walmart and paperback and ebook at Books A Million, and many other places; I also offer a special deal for ebook readers at the Two Masters site at Bookbaby (available here), which provides Kindle, epub and pdf versions together for one price, and if you leave your email there for my mailing list, I will additionally send you a special short work I have done, just for you. You can also catch a few of my recent interviews on my book at Conspirinormal, Iron Show, Binnall of America, Ryan O’Neal’s WQEE Classic Rock, Pastor Mike Spaulding’s Soaring Eagle Radio and Derek Gilbert’s View From the Bunker.

The website that chronicles and makes announcements about my books is www.mikebennettbooks.com.

My publisher website is www.akribospress.com.

 

 

 

 

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.

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?