Category Archives: politics

“Perfect Love Casteth Our Fear”

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country.  (Hermann Goring, commander of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, aka ‘Air Force’)

I came of age in the 1960’s and remember so clearly the hysteria of “creeping Communism” and the Domino Theory that falsely legitimized our involvement in Viet Nam.  I even owned, and read several times, John A. Stormer’s, “None Dare Call It Treason” which I now recognize as one of the greatest conspiracy-theorist treatises of all time.  But I drank “that kool-aid” at the time and was always looking for more, announcing even…so to speak…”gimme more!  Give it to me straight.  Just gimme the undiluted poison.”  For my fear-based young mind and heart desperately needed to see bogey-men “out there” and readily imbibed any message which would feed this deep-seated paranoia of mine. Related to this hysteria that I was immersed in, I was caught up in a fear-based fundamentalist religion which taught me that “evil” was “out there” and taught me to totally ignore paying attention to how it was firmly entrenched in my own heart…and in the heart of the culture that was teaching me this.  Goring knew that fear was the great motivator and that any tin-horn demagogue could succeed if he offered a steady diet of hysteria that would feed the fear-base of his constituency’s core.

Life is precarious as the “grim reaper” is always near by and will eventually claim us all.  This fear of death is the primal source of all fear, insecurity, and vulnerability and people like those in Hitler’s “cabinet” knew how to exploit this.  Spiritual teachers, such as Jesus, understood this fear and taught that the solution was to confront this fear boldly and “die” before physical death and discover that the “sting of death” could then be abided.  Psychologist Irvin Yalom in recent decades taught this also, noting that only those who had confronted this fear and “died” while yet living could live rather than bide their time beneath a fear-based persona that prevented them from living;  they could then recognize the meaning of Jesus’s famous teaching, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul; or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” But political and religious leaders, so often already enslaved by their own fear-based demons, cannot understand this and cannot help but mindlessly proffer a fear-based belief system to people who are susceptible to this enslavement.

I close with a note from Jesus, “Perfect love casteth out fear.”

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“Vive Le Difference” is Politically Relevant Today.

The following is a copy from another blog of mine which is very relevant to spirituality.  Religion, like politics, is always beset by the temptation of epistemic closure.  This is the tendency of human nature…always ego-ridden—to create a world and/or to affiliate with a world in which one’s premises are confirmed.

Difference matters to me.  I was raised in a conservative, American South culture with religion being the paramount dimension in my particular subculture.  But this upbringing in a rigid, highly structured atmosphere of “us vs. them” troubled me and in my early adulthood I began to acquire a more inclusive, less linear-thinking oriented approach to life.  Now, in the latter stages of my life, the issue of sameness vs. difference is a paramount concern of mine, especially given the political climate in my country and in the world.

Today I stumbled across a book in my library, “The Order of Things” by Michel Foucault, heavily marked up from my “youthful” enthusiasm of decades past.  In the quote which I will share, Foucault explores the relationship between “sympathy” (i.e. sameness”) vs. “antinomy” (difference) and the dialogic imperative of an interaction between these two complementary dimensions of the human soul.

Sympathy is an instance of the same so strong and so insistent that it will not rest content to be merely one of the forms of likeness; it has the dangerous power of assimilating, of rendering things identical to one another, of mingling them, of causing their individuality to disappear—and thus rendering them foreign to what they were before.  Sympathy transforms.  It alters, but in the direction of identity, so that if its power were not counter-balanced it would reduce the world to a point, to a homogeneous mass, to the featureless form of the same:  all its parts would hold together and communicate with one another without a break, with no distance between them, like those metal chains held suspended by sympathy to the attraction of a single magnet.

But then Foucault presents “antipathy” as the opposite life-force, equally necessary, which seeks to counter the otherwise stultifying power of the demand for sameness.  What he calls “antipathy” is merely a drive for difference, an innate desire to not be swallowed by the whole of sameness, a “whole” which would be merely a “black hole” without consideration of this “antipathy” or difference.  Foucault declares:

Sympathy is compensated by its twin, antipathy.  Antipathy maintains the isolation of things (i.e. the difference, the desire and demand for independence) and prevents their assimilation; it encloses every species within its impenetrable difference and its propensity to continue to being what it is.

This notion of continuing “to being what it is” is an essential dimension of identity, an ability to “hang onto” a core of what/who one is even when beset by the challenges of difference.  With maturity, i.e. “ego integrity,” one can hang onto a core of who one is even as he negotiates with difference, (i.e. “antipathy”) and knowing that he can survive…and even thrive…with the benefit of “difference” (i.e. something new) into its mindset.

And, my hero and soul-mate, W.H. Auden has a relevant note with which I conclude:

I wish you first a sense of theater.

Only those who learn illusion

And love it will go far.

Otherwise we spend our life

In confusion about who and what we really are.

Ego’s Pernicious Role in Spirituality

Trump has put one of his disciples in the limelight again, asking Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas to speak at the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem.  But Jeffress is catching some flack for having assured everyone that Muslims and Jews are definitely going to hell.  I certainly believe all religious traditions are flawed, especially those who feel they aren’t and assume they can make pronouncements from on high about other religious traditions.  But I think it would behoove Mr. Jeffress and his ilk…and this “ilk” is present in all religious traditions…to pay an equal amount of attention to the “beam” that is in their own eye as opposed to the “mote” in the other person’s.

But this is a gut-level issue with spirituality.  Those of us with that neurological “god-spot” in a constant state of, “over-heated” tend to take ourselves too seriously and become intoxicated with the sweet nectar of certainty.  And, speaking from experience, it is so utterly delightful to be able to stand in the pulpit and make pronouncements from “on high” knowing that God is speaking through you.  How do you know that?  Well.  Well…well, you just know!  But what you do not know is that this certainty that empowers you at that moment is merely a false bravado based on profound insecurity, reflecting a kind of “whistling in the dark,” ersatz spirituality that will have to be addressed by decades of ministration by, “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”

Ego is an inherent dimension of all human enterprises, including that deemed so noble as to merit the label, “Divine.”  But when ego has succeeded in accomplishing its goal in the spiritual realm, it will produce someone like Mr. Jeffress who will be brazenly arrogant and obtuse without even the slightest awareness of it.  No wonder he is a disciple of Trump with the role in the administration of helping to “christianize” the president, making him more viable with the base of the Republican Party.

“They’re All a Bunch of Damn Hypocrites”!!!

Well, actually I exaggerate…kinda.  Technically I think that describes all of us as we are intrinsically complicated critters and beneath the surface of our lives can be found a myriad of unsavoury thoughts and impulses. But at times one of them bubbles to the surface and wreaks havoc on our lives and even those around us.

Just yesterday a young, vocally anti-gay legislator in Ohio, resigned after having an homo-sexual encounter in his office weeks earlier.  Yes, hypocrisy is on the table but that is not my concern as hypocrisy is common with most of us, especially in the sexual arena.  But in conservative Christian circles it is even more egregiously problematic and subject to severe disapproval.  Four years ago the pastor of a Florida mega-church, whose father was a spiritual mentor of Obama, committed suicide when it came out that he had been abusive of his wife and had been sexually involved with a woman on the staff of his church.  There is not a lot of forgiveness a mega-church context.  Oh, God offers it but he followers have a higher standard of moral excellence than He does.

I actually feel sorry for this young legislator who is now brought face-to-face with an inner haunt of his.  He might not even be gay…though apparently whispers of this issue go back years… but his hetero-sexuality is not as pure has he once thought.  And related to that and the whole gamut of human experience, nothing is as pure as we were taught and maturity requires learning to live with ambivalence and contradiction.  But conservative religion, being intrinsically linear, leaves no room for such vagaries.  And neither does conservative politics.

This issue reflects a threat to conservative expressions of the Christian faith more serious than the bogus annual “war on Christmas.”  This threat is internal, stemming from their historical focus on the surface of life and neglecting the depths of the heart where lies myriad, “beastly little treasures.”  But the treasures will always lay hidden, often beneath the surface of perfunctory Christian charitable behavior, until the beast is acknowledged as Carl Jung encouraged with his emphasis of the shadow in the human soul

Well, actually I exaggerate…kinda.  Technically I think that describes all of us as we are intrinsically complicated critters and beneath the surface of our lives can be found a myriad of unsavoury thoughts and impulses. But at times one of them bubbles to the surface and wreaks havoc on our lives and even those around us.

Just yesterday a young, vocally anti-gay legislator in Ohio, resigned after having an homo-sexual encounter in his office weeks earlier.  Yes, hypocrisy is on the table but that is not my concern as hypocrisy is common with most of us, especially in the sexual arena.  But in conservative Christian circles it is even more egregiously problematic and subject to severe disapproval.  Four years ago the pastor of a Florida mega-church, whose father was a spiritual mentor of Obama, committed suicide when it came out that he had been abusive of his wife and had been sexually involved with a woman on the staff of his church.  There is not a lot of forgiveness a mega-church context.  Oh, God offers it but he followers have a higher standard of moral excellence than He does.

I actually feel sorry for this young legislator who is now brought face-to-face with an inner haunt of his.  He might not even be gay…though apparently whispers of this issue go back years… but his hetero-sexuality is not as pure has he once thought.  And related to that and the whole gamut of human experience, nothing is as pure as we were taught and maturity requires learning to live with ambivalence and contradiction.  But conservative religion, being intrinsically linear, leaves no room for such vagaries.  And neither does conservative politics.

This issue reflects a threat to conservative expressions of the Christian faith more serious than the bogus annual “war on Christmas.”  This threat is internal, stemming from their historical focus on the surface of life and neglecting the depths of the heart where lies myriad, “beastly little treasures.”  But the treasures will always lay hidden, often beneath the surface of perfunctory Christian charitable behavior, until the beast is acknowledged as Carl Jung encouraged with his emphasis of the shadow in the human soul

God Punishes Texas With Hurricane Harvey!!!

This is a facetious head line, and I have a tinge of guilt as human misery is nothing to be facetious about.  I use this to illustrate an interpretive framework that still echoes in the depths of my heart somewhere even though here I use it to illustrate how silly and how dark these words sound.  Yes, Texas is the heart of a lot of “stuff” that I see as very dark, and yes this same interpretive framework is used by its political and religious leaders too often when groups they dislike are facing misfortune, but I “sure as hell” don’t think God is punishing them with this awful tragedy.  Anyone who sees it that way belies a very small mind and a very dark heart of their own.  And to credit God with such a petty, vengeful spirit is insulting to say the least and reflects a belief in a God that I don’t believe in.  Furthermore, it is more revealing about the heart from which it flows than about God.

With this vein of thought that I am critiquing here I see so clearly why there are atheists and why conservative Christians are often so reviled.  This hateful and punitive view of God reflects abysmal ugliness which often finds expression in all religious groups despite how pious and righteous they might purport to be.  The impulse toward the Holy, i.e. “God” in this instance is a very noble impulse but the impulse is an infantile, crude groping of the heart that needs to be refined with the Grace that maturity can bring.  Often we never get beyond the infantile, egoic dimension of human experience in any of our life and when that happens the “beastly” part of “the heart has its beastly little treasures” will predominate.

Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

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https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Jerry Falwell Jr. Embarrassed by Trump

Jerry Falwell Jr. and his fellow evangelical luminaries are feeling the hurt for their hypocritical support of Trump.  With other “advisory board” types fleeing the sinking Trumpian ship, only one has resigned from the Evangelical Advisory Board and Falwell, Jr. in the interview below is challenged to justify his continued support.  Falwell Jr.’s support of Trump is completely untenable and in the interview the shallowness of his views are embarrassingly apparent.  To make matters worse for him, students at the University bearing the Falwell name and some of its alumni are finding the courage to confront him, to expose his hypocrisy, and ask that he resigns. (See WaPo story– https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/08/21/jerry-falwell-jr-and-other-religious-backers-of-trump-embarrass-themselves/)

I can’t help but feel some sympathy for Falwell Jr. as my youth and early adulthood was spent with rudimentary efforts to ensconce myself in evangelical culture like he has, though I would admittedly have splashed about in a smaller pond than he.  Looking back I can remember so clearly how that identity issues were paramount as at that age I was looking about to see where I could establish myself and take my place in the local version of a dog-and-pony show version of evangelical Christianity.  I failed miserably in that phase of my identity quest…for which I am so grateful…but Falwell Jr. was very successful.  He merely read his script better than I did and that alone did not and does not make him a bad person or un-Christian.

There is the “Christian identity movement” in our culture which Falwell Jr. is part of though he is not cursed with the rabid, unrefined version of that madness.  But his “identity” is wholly Christian which is not easy to be critical of as it sounds very noble.  But the problem I’m addressing here is in the hollowness of an identity which is based on ideology rather than personal experience.  Christian ideologues of the sort I am critiquing see God and even Jesus only as ideas, noble ideas which rattle around in their skull, but which have not been integrated into the core of their being so that a meaningful impact can be had on their thought, speech, and behavior.  They are products of our ideologically oriented culture which does not want authentic human beings but simple ideologues, automatons, who will march in lock step with the prevailing cultural milieu.  To put in simple terms, Falwell Jr. is like Trump in that he is driven by unquestioned assumptions one of which is, for Falwell his Christian faith.  The questioning spirit which could deepen his faith and expose to himself what the Apostle Paul called “the flesh,” even in his noble intentions, will not be permitted.  This is because it would be too painful to have his Christian persona exposed for what it is, not realizing that as the persona is penetrated by the light of day…what Christians call “The Holy Spirit”…his faith could deepen as the unacknowledged dimensions of his soul were brought to the surface.

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Here is a list of my blogs.  I invite you to check out the other two sometime.

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

We Are Stubbornly “Beasts at Heart”

A contributor to the Washington Post, Kara Swisher, who writes from the perspective of the business world noted the “unconscious bias” that is often made in such things as hiring practices.  She described it as “a bias that kicks in automatically, with our supposedly unthinking brains making often-inaccurate snap judgments…While I am fully aware of the science behind the concept — which basically boils down to the fact that we are all beasts at heart — it’s pure laziness by some of the world’s smartest and most innovative people to pretend they are unconscious of something so glaringly clear. It both abrogates the responsibility of leaders and fobs it off on training and classes that never seem to solve the problem, no matter how much money is spent.”

The ”unconscious bias” is much related to the epistemic closure or confirmation bias that is often a focus in my blogging.  There are premises that are involved which influence our decision making and these “premises” are difficult to pay attention to, primarily because we don’t want to pay attention to them. These premises are a template through which we filter our rational thinking and they are heavily laden with emotion to the point that “rationality” often eludes them. This is a human dilemma and most of us have wrestled with the issue from time to time, squirming under the painful realization that our stance on various issues in life were totally irrational and merely reflecting of what had been an “unconscious bias.”  The pain of this self-awareness is often so intense that our conscious mind just will not permit the insight, opting to affirm even more passionately our biased view of the world. Furthermore, we can always find like-minded persons who will “confirm” our bias.

Our political system in the United States currently illustrates what happens when two different world views are “dug in at the heels” and refuse to budge, not realizing that the obstinacy is bad for all in the long run. The core issue is identity itself.  If we take our identity to be only what and who we “think” we are, then we will not be able to back-off of our viewpoint and realize that often the other view point has more validity than we first thought.  This notion takes my mind always to the domain of existence I like to describe as the spiritual, that region in the depths of our heart where we encounter and learn to live with the vulnerability that comes in realizing understanding that the essence of our being lies beneath the surface realm of rationality.  Then, at times we have to agree with Swanson, “We are beasts at heart.”

The irony is that this stubborn “beastliness” is usually most conspicuous with religious beliefs.  No one deliberately opts for “ignoble” beliefs in their religion.  The problem comes when they subscribe to “noble” beliefs but then interpret them in such a way that the result is that other people are marginalized socially at least and sometimes politically.  At times the “marginalization” has even led to violence as religious fervor has become so intense that a believer feels that his belief system must be forced on others even at the “point of sword.”

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My other blogs listed here:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/