Sex, Slaves, & Inconvenient Truths


What we see in the great cultural divide of 2018 is a society shaken by a dual worldview. The church represents tradition and reliance upon ancient codes for defining right or wrong. That attitude is frozen in place by traditions and authoritarian dominance. The reasoning that created those rules is defunct, making them irrelevant in the current culture while they continue to be enforced by an enduring moral designation of ‘bad’. All of Christian authority comes from the long tradition of having placed, at some point in time, the designation of ‘good,’ or ‘bad’ on every aspect of life. The current mode of Political Correctness uses a different set of criteria. PC has no need of judgment regarding an ultimate right or an ultimate wrong in the sense of good vs. evil; PC criteria is focused on whether individuals and thereby society are being harmed or not. If you actively harm others your PC ranking sinks. 

Bigotry harms other people. Bigotry is immoral. Why then do evangelicals support Trump given his support of bigotry? Neither Jesus nor Paul condemn slavery despite its omnipresence in their time. Paul even returned a slave to his master; I’d call that support. So, are we still fighting the Civil War? Yes, it seems we are. But, before we get to far afield here let’s look at sex, too. Sexuality has changed a lot since the Bible was compiled. We now know an incredible amount of detail that seems to change some ancient declarations of sexuality from ‘bad’ into ‘good,’ or at least a harmless, ‘Okay.’ Biblical sexual morality has little relevance to modern social existence though rape and the like remains evil. Many sexual condemnations seem bellicose, hyperbolic and impotently unreasonable.

So, once again it seems kind of pointless to make these remarks when Evangelicals are creating the greatest fuss. They condemn, using antiquated moralities, while endorsing the most infamous counter-example, Donald Trump. The people supporting these old biblical canards, such as The Alliance Defending Freedom, are over-the-top. They acquire the designation, ‘hate group’ for their manic behavior. Yet they seem to thrill to the amoral behavior of the current president. Is hypocrisy the best description for this? I mean If Jesus throughout his life barely discussed the obvious immorality of slavery, at a time when it was omnipresent in society, why do evangelicals ignore the immoralities of Trump? It is obvious, their master, Jesus, taught them how to do it and by example condones the behavior. Trump is the new Christ.

Did Jesus teach child abuse too? You would think so if you live in Pennsylvania this week. Who teaches child abuse to the priests and how does someone like Archbishop Wuerl learn the techniques of shuffling abusive priests to other parishes like pawns on a chess board? Is this like ignoring slavery because it is convenient? Perhaps Political Correctness is the wrong course of action; “God” in truth, actually prefers slavery and child rape–it is as plain as the nose on their theological face.

PC Envy

Political Correctness appears to have usurped religion’s title as arbiter of morality; Religion wants the title back. 

Political correctness has, until recently, been under the thumb of religious control. Now, religious forays into actual politics have whittled down their stature and made them simply another player in the game. The amorphous PC world is often seen by them as a rebellion against religion, but, in truth, secular opinions are only now being freely heard. This has the effect of normalizing a more secular society. All this coincides with the growth of the internet which facilitates and accelerates rapidly changing attitudes and knowledge.

It is my contention that the ascendant Alt-Right/Authoritarian/Trump wave currently plaguing society is due to their own efforts to combat Political Correctness as a whole because, without domination of the game they earn a low rank on PC scales. Their efforts result in a jealous desire for PC stature that they refuse to earn for themselves. They are clawing their way out of that self-imposed hole using the least PC tools available; those efforts make for a fierce and determined, amoral contender.

Political correctness does not come from the courts, the law, or church. It comes from the heart of society and its shared sense of humanity. Political correctness does not rely upon a specific dogma. Political correctness is a shared consensus not an actual organization or club that one belongs to. It is the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist of the moment. It has no owner or president nor structure. Anyone is welcome in the world of political correctness. All humanity and its enterprise exist somewhere on the scale of political correctness.

People and entities are ‘self-ranking’ within the politically correct hierarchy. Entities obtain status through being observed and then unofficially ranked by consensus within the society. There is no chart or record or award for ending up at some point or other on the ranking chart. An entity’s rank can change in an instant. It is a matter of a multitude of perspectives on that entity and its behavior. One’s perspective changes constantly, so, from any person’s current perspective this question is repeatedly being asked: is that entity fair to the rest of us?

The list below is an observational description of PC.

  1. One speaks respectfully about all issues and the people who hold those various opinions whether they agree with them or not.
  2. One stands up for their beliefs and asserts them in a respectful way without insulting the integrity or humanity of those around them.
  3. They listen to the opinions of others and respect them for their merit, civility, and disposition in society.
  4. Each entity puts into practice, through action, this common moral assertion: The Law of Reciprocity (do unto others as you would have others do unto you).
  5. The test for civility is not found in the designation of ‘good’ in opposition to ‘evil’ for there are many goods and many evils. The test for civility is how one – good, in-between, or evil – collaborates with others who may, or not, be good, or evil, or a mixture, in the quest to coexist peaceably.
  6. Political Correctness is about civility – shared respect and fair treatment of others.
  7. As with all social structures PC can itself become oppressive and exclusive and over-adamant of its perceptions and conclusions, and therefore become guilty of over-reaching itself. This should be pointed out and addressed when it happens.

The Trump/alt-society (including White Evangelicals, White Supremacists, and the 1%), demands a rank of high-status in the PC world similar to that of say, Civil Rights. Religions expecting their prior stature say: ‘We demand the esteem we have always had.’ Political Correctness does acknowledge their prior stature, but the alt-right’s rank is always low on the PC scale due to their rebuke of the Law of Reciprocity. This demand for a clearly un-earned high status causes the PC folks to cringe. The Alt-right’s self-righteous approach misses the point of a non-structured entity like Political Correctness with no authority-based leadership. 

“Deep and sincere religious belief” is the call of desperation from the religious authoritarian perspective. That phrase is being used to rationalize the religious domination of our culture. An example: “If a man lies with a man as with a woman, they have both committed an abomination They must surely be put to death.That authoritarian command obviously runs counter to the Law of Reciprocity and common decency as well. The recent Supreme Court decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, illuminates the piercing point of the wedge being used to pry open the law which would allow the codification of religiously based bigotry. It comes in the form of that deceptive phrase: “deep and sincere religious belief”.

In the Alt-Right mindset, a deep & sincere religious belief alone is sufficient to override all of the following: deep and sincere beliefs of all others, the Golden Rule, Civil Laws, common sense, common decency, respect, and love. 

There is no mechanism for deciding the supremacy of deepness, I mean, a splinter in my finger feels deep but fracking shale in horizontal wells is also deep. How does one measure the sincerity of a given belief? What constitutes a ‘religious’ belief? It seems redundant. How is it different from a regular belief? “I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows,” makes for a great song lyric but is patently untrue; is it a serious religious belief? It was written by Erwin Drake, in the genre of ‘faith song’– a musical prayer. It is a beautiful sentiment that was very popular in the 1950’s pop music scene. At what point does belief overtake sentimentality; at what point does belief supersede veracity?

This dominating attitude is the cause of religion’s low rank on the PC scale. Religion is based in mystery and is full of fantasy. The verifiable qualities of their supernatural beliefs don’t exist. Rational thoughts or behaviors are irrelevant in religious belief. Insistence in the authority of ‘belief’ diminishes their stature once the bluster has settled and the face behind the facade is made visible. 

Religion and Political Correctness have different goals:

  • Religion is attempting to define good and its opposite, evil. Political Correctness is an attempt to make manifest the ways we all get along together.
  • Religion places people in good or evil categories (often for their obsessive concern: sex) while PC individuals self-rank according to collaborative fellowship without fantasy or mystery.
  • There is no organization or hierarchy or dogma for PC ranking; it amounts to organic fairness. Religions create dogma, rules and rituals to maintain authoritarian dominance over its followers; this creates a with-us or against-us mentality.
  • Good and evil or a mixture of the two exist in all people to some degree. Both religion and PC control the mixture through a shunning process. Religion has legalistic authoritarian rules that lead to exclusion when violations occur. Low PC ranking amounts to a natural repudiation from society, but not outright exclusion. 
  • The rules of religion are spelled out in documented legalese. The rules of Political Correctness ebb and flow; they resemble a sensibility of the moment more than a list of moral approbations.
  • Mystery-based, ancient religious edicts regarding moral behavior may contain any number of extraneous, sexually misbegotten, non-instinctual, older, authoritarian demands. PC seems respectfully amorphous in contrast and a bit avant-garde. 
  • We all have stock in Political Correctness, but most of us have zero stock in any more than one Religion; none of us have stock in every Religion.

When the Alt-Right seeks to pick a fight with an amorphous foe, how do they know where to aim their arrows? Trump’s scattershot answer to that question is to be amorphous too, in an aggressive way. If PC has no structure why should he? Sure, he can codify their bigotry into laws through an ambiguous ‘belief,’ but the stacked court can’t define politically correct; that is our collective pride and privilege to decide. We need to be politically active about what is correct.

Wedding Cake Harbinger

 

The Vagaries of Religion are Protected by the Constitution

The time is here to become a Pastafarian. The constitution protects religious: fluctuations, variations, quirks, peculiarities, oddities, eccentricities, unpredictability, caprice, foibles, whims, whimsy, and fancies under the guise of “deep and sincere religious beliefs” especially when it comes to pastry. The constitution makes no allowance for the absurdity, inhumanity or diabolical behavior of the belief. There is no scale to judge the merit of the core faith. If people call it a religion then it has constitutional protection. It must be respected under the law. If your religion hates Christians then it must be accommodated by law. Or so the recent ruling about baking religiously sensitive cakes by the Supreme Court seems to say. Open mockery of the flights and fancies of some religion shows disrespect, you can’t do that. Satanists, Witches, Vampirism, Jediism, must all be given equal and complete respect within the judicial and enforcement communities so the holy baker wins.

Of course, LGBT people deserve the same respect. So, Once more into the mildewed beast my friends, Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a man as with a woman, they have both committed an abomination They must surely be put to death” has equal status with – “We’d like a wedding cake because we love each other and want to get married.” Who wins? Well that isn’t part of this decision. The battle continues, but just look at how often the phrase “deep and sincere religious beliefs” or something similar is used in the decision. That is the harbinger we face now.

Flesh of Children…Revision

This is a revision of a previously posted item. Please comment!

 

Flesh of Children Carnival

 

Not much difference that I can see,

Matters of a dark degree, 

Through seemingly endless

Chronologies

Pedophilia’s theology

Is closeted by The Holy See.

Children, abused, need therapy.

And yet,

Another exploding trauma 

Confounds our youth-filled drama:

Gatling Gun deaths of lovers, 

Our Sisters, their brothers,

A Best Friend Forever 

(The measure of infinity,

Death was totally un-expected.)

This violent action tethered:

Kid’s safety 

To 

Automatically available weaponry.

 

Articulate children — the rifleman’s fear above all-

Have marched in DC, made the Clarion Call.

Have we, 

Through these student measures,

Finally escaped the pressures 

Of those NRA confessors?

Bullies in gun bureaucracies 

Lose allegiance of constituencies

Who uphold common

         Decencies.

 

NRA advocates — cranky old gents

And pretty spokesmodels 

Are the Bishops and Cardinals

Sweeping violent abuse into some other parish.

Ignore that child’s gaping, giant wound, 

This is not the time to heal such matters.

 

Call student dissent a ‘Carnival? 

Keep threats of carnage fed –

Carnivorous language chews up a student’s head.

With recollected images: 

fleshy,

red

Of that cute kid from the Bio lab

who’s been shot dead;

More fear of the boogey man, 

The pedophile priest, 

This flesh of children carnival upon which adults feast. 

 

Grown-ups create bureaucracies

That force alter boys down to their knees.

A class sweats for hours in cramped closets

Imagining fearful, awful horrors

Of dudes 

a wall away 

Bleeding in the corridors. 

 

We’ve lost our own morality,

It is gone from church and state.

What?

Trust Kids to guide our fate?

 

Well,

David Hogg is standing up,

And so is Ms Tarr

Young Mr. Wind gives a good speech

and Emma González is 

exceedingly,

tumultuously, 

silent.

They impress us with capacities

We’d hope to see in grown-ups, pa-lease?

 

Virtues, fearless, marched that day.

Apostasy was ripe. 

Our old hypocrisies

Are just plain trite. 

Kids stole authority 

From morality 

And showed us to the light.

 

Youth,

Humanity’s moral incarnation,

Go forward!

Our destinies we gladly consign to you.

 

 

I, Myself, Me = Depression?

How did you know? 

It’s, apparently, self-evident from the book I am currently writing that I have depression. This new revelation comes from headlines across the internet: that one can be diagnosed with depression through a computer analysis of their writing. It’s a bit scary. I don’t care about people knowing I’m mentally ill, though there are many anxiety filled bloggers who would keep a detail like that secret. Look at all the psychiatrists and psychologists and busybodies trying to assign our president some sort of mental illness even though he never writes (or reads). What if David Brooks was diagnosed with pomposity or something like that? Wait a minute, we judge writers all the time. Folks who write are judged by what they write. Right? 

This is different. An App is required to analyze the usage of certain words that then provide a medical diagnosis. This is not an opinion generated by a machine, it’s a fairly accurate probability of the author having depression. The use of pronouns is key to the diagnosis. The more self-referential, the more likely one is to be depressed, somehow. The use of sad, depressing words is less relevant than the absence of pronouns like ‘they’ or ‘them’ or ‘she,’ and the prevalence of ‘I’ ‘myself’ and ‘me’. Upon learning this, now and henceforth, I myself me the royal ‘we’ shall make an effort to reduce the number of self-referential pronouns in my this blog. 

At the beginning of the 3/4 finished book a promise was made that: the reader would not learn any personal details about the author. This was obviously a lie on someone’s part about the intent of the author who shall now have to be identified without the use of certain incriminating pronouns. This is going to be a challenge for the author since the joke of the plot is that the author can’t seem to discuss any topic without making it personal. Although the more he thinks about it the more foolish he feels for going to such elaborate lengths to avoid imbuing his book with evidence to what he has already confessed – being depressed. He shouldn’t be so concerned about what a computer may someday analyze; editing out pronouns will only disprove what he has already confessed!

You know what’s funny about this is, that I actually exported my current draft of the book into other software to do a usage count of pronouns. So far, out of 25,000 words ‘I’ has been used 365 times, ‘my’ 125 times and ‘me’ 62 times. If I had used ‘I’ twice was much would I need more Prozac? ‘She’ was used only 25 times, a bit sexist don’t you think? Write what you know, they say.  

During my time in academia it became clear that avoiding self-referential elements in emails and communications with students and administrators alike helped temper the reaction to critical or undesired comments. This was the opposite of an unnamed colleague of mine; who could be described by saying, “A conversation with him was always a conversation about him no matter the topic.” By editing my ‘self’ out of the conversation there was nothing to make make the recipient angry with me personally. The message could be communicated clearly and live or die without the baggage of personalities and emotionality. It could still be written with compassion and sympathy while staying focused upon the intended message to the reader. I guess my professional documents would not provide evidence of depression. One wonders just how reliable this new technology is? 

Flesh of Children Carnival

Church and the NRA

Not much difference that I can see,

It’s a matter of degree. 

Pedophilia is known to be

Hidden by The Holy See.

Children, abused, need therapy.

 

Unfortunately, this other trauma 

Compounds our current youthful drama:

The Gatling Gun deaths of lovers, 

Sisters, brothers,

And Best Friends Forever; 

Sadly, 

Forever is not as long as expected.

Violence tethers schoolhouse safety 

to automatically available 

weaponry.

 

Have we, 

Through these student’s measures,

Finally escaped the pressures 

Of those NRA confessors?

The bullies of gun bureaucracies 

Are losing the allegiance of common decencies.

Their PR advocates – cranky old gents

and pretty spokesmodels are the Bishops and Cardinals

sweeping violent abuse into some other parish.

Ignore that child’s gaping, giant wound, 

this is not the time to discuss such matters.’

 

Articulate children – the rifleman’s fear above all –

Have marched in DC, and made the Clarion call.

Counter student dissent as a ‘Carnival? 

Threaten with carnage, so kids fears are fed.

This carnivorous language chews into student’s heads

Recollected images of flesh so red,

Of the BFF who’s been shot dead;

More fear of the boogey man, 

The pedophile priest, 

The flesh of children carnival upon which adults feast. 

 

The adult world’s full of bureaucracies,

That force Alter boys down to their knees.

A class sweats for hours in cramped closets

imagining awful, fearful horrors

of those other kids, bleeding in the corridors. 

 

But David Hogg is standing up,

And so is Ms Tarr

Young Mr. Wind gives a good speech

and Emma González is tumultuously silent.

They impress us with capacities

We’d hope to see in grown-ups, please?

 

Adults, the time has come

To let the children guide us.

We’ve lost our own morality,

It is gone in church and state.

We taught them how to do it wrong, 

They’ve learned from our mistake,

It’s why they’re strong enough to build 

New, youthful, rectitudes. 

Virtues, fearless, marched that day

 Told truth to failures, now lead the way.

 

Copyright Bill O’Donnell 2018

odgraphix@icloud.com

One Clear & Simple Thought

Trippingly Off The Tongue 

It was thrilling to watch the speeches given by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday at the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC. The seventy or so people attending the St. Croix, VI march saw our students do a fine job too. The beauty of watching these young people speak either in DC on my computer, or at the gazebo in Christiansted was that they used the art of rhetoric so well. Their style matched the venues they were in and the audience in attendance. They all knew their audience.

Courage is essential for speaking in public no matter what the audience. A young girl sang a song at our local event while the sound system dropped out on occasion. She kept going, unfazed by the loss of her accompaniment. She had a single purpose which she accomplished with clarity. Given the nature of things here, post-hurricanes, she was doing what successful Islander’s do: carry on! She personified the people of St. Croix well.

Those students who spoke at DC represented the constituency of high school students well. They represented humanity well, too. I only saw four of the speeches on RawStory.com; they were superior to almost every speech university students gave in my Basic Public Speaking course over the years. They had to be. They addressed the world, not a classroom nor 75 islanders. Given the motivation and impetus of the occasion they came prepared. They were coached as anyone destined for this kind of notoriety would be rehearsed. The speeches were tailored for the individual’s concerns with the topics they had addressed in previous interviews and public comments. They were short and to the point. They made use of rhetorical flourishes appropriate to the speaker. Mr. Hogg was political, addressing politicians by name. Mr. Wind used the rhetorical trick of repetition with his, “you have chosen death” summations. The steely determination of  Ms. Tarr put the NRA on notice with intellectual force.

Then there was Emma González with the most daring statement of all, silence. As a rhetorical technique it was more theatre than public address. It took a chance most would never take. She began by discussing the six-minutes and twenty-seconds of gunfire, she reads a list of names of the dead, then abruptly stopped talking. The quite absence of words had a force no language could duplicate. Her slightly androgynous short-cropped hair, sedately flaired jacket and torn jeans added to the effect of her gutsy presentation. Her choice had no guarantee of success. She had faith in her choice; that makes her an artist. Whoever the editor of the live broadcast was understood what was happening. They showed the reactions of the crowd and her classmates on stage. The dramatic question on everyone’s mind seemed to change as silent time moved along. A brief chant begins and dies out. The tears, the occasional flicker in her countenance, the movement from one thought to the next was clear – it told the audience she was doing this with intent. We needed to wait to learn the reason behind this choice. You could see the questions in those reaction shots: Is she OK?, What’s wrong?, What is she doing? This is intentional isn’t it, but why? I’M GETTING NERVOUS. Please explain what is going on. The alarm goes off, she speaks again and there is a collective deep breath from everyone. She makes a simple declarative statement: “The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your life, before it’s someone else’s job.” then walks off stage. The camera follows as she falls into the arms of two friends who seem to say, “It worked! You did it!” I had tears in my eyes during the silence and as the video ended. It was powerful.

One clear thought. Short evocative statements. Clean and clear ideas.

Today the NRA is crying sour grapes about the march calling, “carnival” about the atrocities of children who want to live. The bitter, sour, old men look childish in doing so. To use that particular word with its latin derivation, ‘of the flesh,’ is grossly inappropriate. These kids watched as guns destroyed the flesh of their classmates and teachers in a brutal way. To use it here is sadistic. The Republican puppet master, the NRA, has devolved into the most sadistic force in society; whatever good may have been present at its inception has fled and taken all the common sense and morality with it.

Future Shadow

I have a little future that goes in and out with me, but what can be the use of it is more than I can see.

If people dealt with shadows the way they deal with their future, would they be any better off? If people dealt with their futures the way they deal with their shadows would they be any better off?

One thing that can easily be predicted is that when there is light, there is potential for a shadow. By making this prediction one implies the forward progression of time. Futures require planning, so do shadows; as a retired lighting designer I know whereof I speak. You can be dead and still cast a shadow, but your future is gone. There will be a future for your bits and pieces that rot back into the earth, but you are no longer present.

The ways in which your future and your shadow are alike or not:

-As a matter of practicality you cannot touch either of them. They are illusions that have been given names for the sake of convenience so that we may discuss them.

-You can see a shadow, but not a future.

-Both may be changed constantly for a multitude of reasons.

-Neither are moral, they are merely natural occurrences without moral intent or purpose.

-The sun provides most shadows and has the greatest influence on our future. No sun, no future, no shadow.

-Future sublimates into the past not pausing in the present, while shadows exist at the speed of light. They are modified by the addition or subtraction of even a single wavelength of the visible spectrum.

-Light, the defining element of a shadow can be every color: white, or a combination of wavelengths of color, while a shadow is devoid of color: black. The future seems inclined to follow this trend.

-Shadows are a result of the eternal nature of geometry and wave theory; they follow rules. The future is an element of time that we can only experience in the present moment. We recall the sequence of present moments and call it the past. Our experience of possible futures is limited given the vast nature of the universe and the short time of humanity’s presence in the Universe.

-We can anticipate where a shadow will fall due to the consistency of geometry. We can anticipate a future in less precise terms. For example, the illusion of the sun rising in the East and setting in the West seems to be as consistent as geometry. Is it? The sun may burn out or explode, a volcano or nuclear winter may obscure the sun for years, the Earth may change poles or shift to a different axis. Our whole existence could be thrown into upheaval, but the geometry for a point-source of light to create a shadow will never change as far as we know. We have a very clear understanding of a temporary area lacking illumination from a particular source of illumination.

-Our primary tool for understanding the future is the example of the past. We use our understanding of science, the laws of physics and geometry and math, etc, to anticipate the future. Billions of human brains have worked to improve our understanding of the rules of existence. The more we learn the more we find we need to learn. We will become extinct before we understand everything. So far, we can calculate a shadow, and construct a skyscraper, but not predict the future with accuracy. The only things that prevent an accurate prediction of shadow projection are the variables of the future. Will enough elements of the past remain viable in the future to reliably accommodate the use of accumulated knowledge from the past? Architects design buildings that last for decades based upon this expectation.

-So, in anticipation of retirement one is advised to save money using economic investment plans. These investment are like believing in one of the 2300 gods mankind has invented since history has been recorded; the plan is an article of faith. Some new plans are created, some fade away into obscurity and you have to believe in one of them strongly enough to put your life savings into it to prepare for the future. The choice of an investment plan is nothing like the certainty of predicting the nothingness of a shadow or an architect’s engineering knowledge. There is no certainty similar to the maths of geometry or physics that guide this enterprise. There is only soul-less accounting ruled by those who honor greed as a virtue.

-With confidence in certain studied aspects of science a building can be built. This is a marked contrast to the economic bubbles our economy is using as a foundation. The building will still stand, but I would rather put my faith in the empty void of a predictable shadow than an economy under this immoral speculative gamble. The past shows that banks lie, cheat and steal. Wall Street bears and bulls itself constantly. Tariffs on steel and aluminum will begin a trade war. Fine print, hidden fees and deceitful salesmanship are as scary as any natural element of the future. Reliance upon any of these bubbles may be futile. Money itself is a bubble.

-As I write this the US East Coast is preparing for yet another winter hurricane/northeaster. My Island will take years to recover from the two record-setting back-to-back Cat 5 hurricanes last fall. Across the globe weather is changing and scientists have been telling us about it, but we have ignored them. We seem to have stopped learning from what we know; we have chosen ignorance, similar to the Evangelicals, Rush Limbaugh and commercialism. Consequently we are stuck with a know-nothing President running us headlong into natural disasters unheard of in our short history. Scientists, engineers and architects build for what is known, we are causing a spectacular unknown with the climate, and yet we expect structures and society to survive based upon what? The void of a well-described shadow?

Trump Gunners

Trump Gunners are a class of classless politicians who are owned by Trump-touting corporations and the NRA. They are for sale to the highest bidder. They wear a fake religious facade, offering prayers not action. Their hearts are made of stone and self interest. They repeat lies. Please vote them out.

Trump’s approach to the recent high school shootings is to condemn mental illness. The implication of this approach is that those of us with a mental illness must be dominated by his authoritarian powers, monitored and controlled. This is not the approach mental health advocates support. Trump has proven himself to be a broad category kind of guy; the variety of folks in the category of say, immigrant escape his awareness and are painted with his big brush of bigotry. He has proven to be unreliable when it comes to making the more refined distinctions involved in the discussion of something like mental illness.

The end result of having our bigotry-inclined president talking about mental illness with his lack of empathy is likely to have a frightening and devastating effect on the image of mental illness in the country. This is not the time to launch an assault on folks who look or act differently in school as his recent statements seem to suggest. Trump is a bully so his authoritarian permission to challenge the odd or unusual people is going to do more damage than good by encouraging other bullies.

Mental health is different from Trump’s deformed bone spurs. Both are a condition of being human, they are examples of many maladies that affect us all. He used his particular malformation to get out of military service, but it didn’t limit him with regard to golf, tennis, or walking around. Society doesn’t cast aspersions upon bone-spurred folks the way it does the mentally ill. We sort out the severity of the circumstance and draw a line: soldiers march, so no bone spurs. It is a clear delineation between what is and what isn’t a limitation. Mental health issues are far more difficult to define, diagnose and regulate. Physical problems like a broken bone can be quickly identified, reset and healed. Depression, anxiety or any other diagnosis in the massive DSM with all of their myriad permutations are highly subjective, so treatment is often trial and error and takes more than plaster and time to heal.

Body chemistry is difficult to understand especially with regard to the brain. Psychiatrist have become pill-pushers and no longer interact through talk therapy; counselors do the therapy but can’t provide sufficient insight to the psychiatrists who spend minimal time deciding what to prescribe. Patients themselves may not be able to articulate the circumstance of their situation with clarity to the intercessory counselor who may not know the right questions to ask. It is hard enough to try to decipher an existing situation without the expectation of predicting future behaviors. So de-bugging the health care system is a real good idea, but it is not the solution to the problem of mass shootings. To use language Trump might understand, there is no collusion between mental health care and the ability to predict violent behavior. (Collusion is the wrong word, but he sure uses it a lot so I assume, given his mental capacity, it is a good substitute for correlation.)

The more pragmatic solution to mass shootings is to limit access to, at a minimum, military (human target) assault guns. Politicians who take money from the NRA, the Trump Gunners, should be voted out of office on that point alone.

The Buttress, It Flies!

Could Love Be God?

A Re-Post

Think of the theological rules against the use of condoms in relation to the cold hard reality of HIV. I am sure lots of study has been done on the theology of pregnancy and I do not care to address it. Whether you argue for contraception or against it you still fall into the trap that most of us fall into. We start playing the game by institutional rules.  Ancient institutions have set the stage for all discussion by establishing ownership of the issue through the body of scholarship they have generated. The tone and quality of debate always reverts to the institutional model because it is the familiar, go-to resource for discussion. Most of us are novices in this environment despite the familiar seeming context and are easily dismissed by the professional scholars of the church.

They have created a structure of theological scholarship that is based upon a central assumption: God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost actually exist. And, that the Jesus third of the triumvirate once existed in human form from a virgin’s unwitting supernatural pregnancy, died, was reborn in mystical form, and sits on God’s right hand (cue the eyebrows). This central mystery of the church is its foundation which guides all discussion.

I respect the right of anyone to have whatever belief they choose. I am not qualified to judge the validity of one mystery over any other. The appeal of mystery is that it is mysterious. It’s the bureaucracy that flows from the belief in a mystery that is the problem.

The Christian religion is an inverted pyramid resting on this central point of belief: Jesus exists. Early practitioners of what became Christianity took all the best elements of all the popular religions of the time and re-packaged them under this marketing tool: Jesus really existed, he is not just a myth like the other gods. The metaphorical conception of “god” became actual. The fledgling church merged all the various start-up versions of an “actual” deity into one by codifying the basic myth and dogma. Paul managed to get them all on the same page through his letter-writing campaign that has become the bulk of the New Testament. Over time, layer upon layer of argument, justifications, rules and edicts were built up on top of the point of belief guided by the ‘revealed’ word of a deity. For

Trinity

example, the concept of a ‘Trinity,’ was added to the pyramid in the fourth century, it is not mentioned in the scriptures. The rational for each theological question requires academic answers that reach deeply into the bureaucratic structure for justification, latching onto preceding ‘revelations’ and arguments based upon the central assumption at the inverted pyramid’s point. Each answered question and its associated scholarship solidifies into a new layer of the structure extending slightly beyond the previous layer making an up-side-down pyramid shape. The inverted pyramid manifests as a striking facade, even though it is constructed solely from rhetoric based upon belief in a mystery. Followers refer to the prior massive volumes of rhetoric as if the bulk of the rhetoric itself verifies the belief. The rhetorical weight is so precarious that even a mere bird landing on the top could throw it out of equilibrium; all that weight pressing upon a point of mystery makes it unstable. External supports are necessary to keep the facade from collapsing under its own weight. The inverted pyramid now rests on those supports; it no longer needs the foundational structure to balance all of its proclamations. The new foundation provides a solid, material, footing so balance isn’t required. The Church has become fully supported by buttresses. The tiny point of belief in a mystery has done its job, it is now a point of reference, not of structure.

Buttress

[For those who don’t know, a buttress is the structure on the outside of the cathedral that counters the weight of the arches in the roof. Stone cathedrals require a big interior space, but a roof covering that much empty space is too heavy for walls alone to support, so architects created the buttress which holds the weight. One type of buttress acquired the name “flying buttress” because they look like wings attached to the exterior wall of the cathedral. The Presbyterian church of my youth had small buttresses that didn’t really fly and were purely ornamental; the building had a steel superstructure that did not require a buttress. These superficial flourishes of the architect were a facade applied to the structure to make it seem more grand than it really was. As an architectural design feature, it enhanced the feeling of awe as one approaches the building. Even the facade of the church wore a facade.]

Now that the inverted pyramid of Christian religion is a structure resting on buttressing supports independent of its foundation point, all sorts of irrelevant arguments can be made that are totally reliant upon buttresses alone. The inverted pyramid continues to grow but each argument based upon a buttress diminishes the significance of the main point.

Magritte

As I write this description I can’t help but envision what a picture of it would look like. First, we take a photograph of one of the great pyramids of Egypt, cut it out of its background, flip it over and have it rest on a new surface. As we try to do this we realize that the point is missing, it has been worn away over time so you have to position the pointless image so that it appears to rest upon the empty space where the point would have been if it still existed.  At this moment the image looks rather surreal — like a rock or bowler hat in a Magritte painting — just floating above the ground. Then, we find pictures of cathedrals and copy just the buttresses (flying or otherwise) and paste them into our image so that it looks like the buttress holds the up-side-down pyramid off the ground.

Okay, so, now we have a Magritte-like pointless pyramid inverted over the ground, being supported by an odd combination of whatever buttresses we could find. As we look at our collage we realize that the missing point metaphorically describes the theology of the church inaccurately.  So, we need to go back and examine what the point actually is.

I became a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church for a few years. I like their philosophy to an extent because it encourages its members to find their own spiritual path and it avoids dogma. There was a major controversy in our small rural congregation about a sign one of its members had donated. The sign said, “God Is Love.” U.U.s don’t deny the existence of God but they don’t require belief in it either. The Humanists in the congregation objected to the sign and the believers defended it. I was on the Humanist’s side saying that the sign should read: “Love is god.” My version supported the possibility that a god did exist but didn’t state it directly. Our version converted their declaration that: “God is …” to the suggestion of a metaphorical god which includes the possibility of an actual God. Maybe this conflict provides a solution to our pointless problem.

If we are going to finish our collage-style illustration we will need to fill in the missing point. We will need to illustrate “God, Jesus & The Holy Ghost.” That is, after all, the point of this hodgepodge of supports and structure. How are we going to do that? We could photoshop some more rocks into the shape of a point and paste it into the picture but that would be like saying that the point is the same thing as the structure: argument, dogma, justification. Is God & Co. the same as the church? Is God & Co. an unwieldy compilation of arguments built upon itself then supported by supplemental constructions?

I am going to ask you to imagine as John Lennon did in his song “Imagine.” Imagine “Love” as the new point of the pyramid. Love is god. Is that too radical an idea? What happens if we just go with the possibility that love is love? Would the church structure change? Take for example the condom situation, if love is love then there is no longer justification to deny life-saving condoms to lovers. That would take a big unnecessary chip out of the pyramid. All the other arguments built upon those justifications would become invalid too, causing a large destabilizing gap.

The thing is though, buttresses have staying power. The buttresses in this metaphor are the assets of the church: its buildings, its gold, its art, its power, and the appeal of its ritual and its bureaucracy. These tangible assets support the inverted facade of an ancient religion.  Only surface appearance seems to matter because that is what is celebrated in the mass. The substance behind the facade is hidden and it is used to protect child rapists; it is corrupt. Its own “Theo”-logic has whittled away its point. Faith clouds more than academic judgment here because it ignores genuine love of fellow mankind: our children. Wouldn’t Love provide a more substantial point to start from?

Imagine if we get rid of the old structures and change the shape of our new construction from a pyramid into a ball of light like the sun and make the center “love” then place this ball of love in the middle of a radiant matrix so that every idea, justification and person could have direct access to the center instead of some intercessional bureaucracy. What would that be like? Could you then wear a condom if it kept you from dying? Could Love be God?