Showing posts with label Justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Justice. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Robbing Widows Blind

Thinking about a certain megachurch pastor in the area and how he connected himself with other megachurch pastors - one of whom is both unsavory and infamous - and how they are all about the money in the guise of being all about the ministry and God and how they have zero accountability because their churches are non-denominational and their elder boards (which in the schematic of CEO-like churches run by the head pastor act as, well, a board) are staffed by and headed by complete Yes Men.

Thinking in wider terms about how much is too much. Teachers are assailed for making around $50,000 a year with a kind of venom usually reserved for the evil landlord from vaudeville plays, while a "successful" (whatever that word means) pastor can make $600,000 (even as his church is millions of dollars in debt) a year. A "successful" businessman can make one-fourth to a hundred times as much.

Pastors Moneybags and Burns

The rubric for "successful" in this case is messed up, of course. How do we measure success? By the amount of money one is able to siphon from parishioners, customers, clients, workers, widows and the impacted communities? How we measure the success of teachers has already proven to be completely fallible, erroneous, and dangerous. So maybe we should redefine success, and re-calibrate its measurements thus. While we're at it, we we should reconfigure how we determine compensation.

Maybe success should look be assessed on the overall value our work gives to the world - in terms of the worker, her neighbors, the community, the world. In other words, the assessments should be tied to value and worth of the work and the worker (as they relate to the greater good of the world) as a much larger goal, rather than the explicitly limited topic of finances and how much money is generated/saved/returned. For in the former, we value people, we value work, we value life, we value knowledge, we value wisdom, we value relationships and everything that is good which we desire to share with one another. In the latter, money. When our work is tied into such a limited use, our work is of little use - it is stifled. And we, as workers and as beings, are stifled.

With this correction in goals, we must also ask what is it that we value. And who and how we value.

Additionally, when a pastor-as-CEO makes the primary goal money, he (or she) devalues the very flock that he is supposed to guide and care for. He looks upon his congregation not as fully human beings to be loved and nurtured and cared for, but as products and banks to be reaped and profited from. The widows no longer need care and solace, they need to be unloaded of their houses. The orphans no longer need protection, they are just in the way of the pockets of professional parents.

Now we must ask how to compensate. The worth is in the work and the worker, but again, we've tied it all to money and thus limited all three. Money should neither be the primary evaluation nor the primary compensation. For under that rubric, a few will position themselves to acquire the most while most are purposefully positioned to acquire little (and are thus sacrificed). Not only is this game not fair, it is not just. Not only are the rewards for the work not equitable, they are not humane. Some must starve while others have so much money they don't know what to do with it? This is cruel and unnecessary and does no promote value or work - it promotes brutality. A brutality that makes itself exceedingly well-known in Third World conditions that live within First World nations.

This is what I say: Let every teacher make just more than living wage. Allow every pastor to also make as much as a living wage. Every executive? Also, frame it on the living wage. Every farmer, harvester, technician, politician, homemaker, lawyer, accountant, mechanic, doctor, journalist, bureaucrat, deliverer, janitor, etc - all should make roughly a living wage - with modifications weighted to the worth of the work provided.

That may sound cruel. But this is also what I believe: Every home should be available and affordable and safe and functional for every person and family unitevery part of medical and dental care should be completely accessible, qualitative, and covered; every meal should be accessible, healthy, adequate, and free from poisons and heavy process,.

So, maybe that means a re-assignment of value and property. And maybe a James MacDonald won't have as much monetary property as before. But then, he won't have as much debt to worry (or make his congregation worry) about either.

That would seem to go well with the whole Jesus thing anyway. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

White Christian Males and the Good News of Equality

Let us clarify what we mean when we talk about equality. Because conservatism is based on the idea that some deserve and others don't, that those on top should stay on top and those in the bottom need to stay there, it does a pretty bang-up job of disseminating false information concerning equality - as it does about the word "freedom." Equality doesn't mean that each person gets the same stuff. It also doesn't mean that each person is treated exactly alike. Equality means that each person - and each grouping of people - has the same opportunity and is treated with the dignity of people who have lives, experience, value, and worth that are different than the next person's. Not less, different*.

So when one claims to not believe in equality, one fights against the idea that all human beings are human beings. The Christian who fights against equality doesn't accept as doctrinally central the idea that all humans are created in the image of God - male and female. He fights against the idea of a God of impartiality, but rather serves a version of God that is on the side of the status quo - of Rome, of Babylon, of Egypt - over and against the slaves and exiled and oppressed subjects. This is the very first thought that Church of No People brings to mind here (and in his clarification here which, to be honest, I don't think is all that clarifying) - and is thoroughly reinforced by a bad and quite oppressive interpretation of the Pauline letters. All of which ignore the calls and strains of justice evident within the Bible - from Moses to Samuel and Nathan to Isaiah and Amos and Micah to Jesus and the disciples to John the Revelator, James and - gasp! - Paul.

The very same Paul who told a slave master to accept his slave (read: property) as his own kin. The same Paul who upturned the Greek status quo by equalizing slaves and freeborn, males and females.

In his proof-texting, Matt seems to misunderstand that humility is a route to justice, as it causes those with power and privilege (for example, Jesus) to humble themselves to a point of being allied with the oppressed ( for example, the poor). Rather, in his interpretation of humility, humbling is a weapon against the marginalized and oppressed. Against survivors. Against single mothers. Against the poor. Against trans* people. Matt needs to understand, without apology, that those who have already been humbled by their marginialization do not need to be further humbled.

Furthermore, Matt makes it apparent that the poor, that women, that people of color, that GLBTQ, those with disabilities etc, etc, do not get to have agency. That he gets to define what injustices are for other people and - as with most injustices concerning people in power and their apologists - that the issue at hand will be addressed at the opportune moment. To which Martin Luther King replied, "It is always the right time to do the right thing."

Anti-Chen Protest Day 32 - Million Men March
"Go home and be humble!" is NOT the Gospel

Some other issues with this post (and I know I'm only scratching the surface) that I largely tweeted upon first reads:

I'm not sure that every feminist believes in equality. First because feminism is a large label used for many movements - but most believe that women should be treated as fully human and complex people. The idea of equity between men and women (for starters) would probably not fit with a few on the extreme margins of feminism. To be honest, there is much inequity in the center of feminism (where affluent white women's concerns are brought to bear in affluent white women's voices as de facto women's rights), but at least the idea is that men and women should be equally respected in matters of justice. So, while there are several definitions/manifestations of "feminism," that doesn't mean you get to claim your own for your own self when it is contrary to the spirit of feminism.

And if you are a male and do not believe in equality, you probably most definitely are NOT a feminist.

If you claim to be a feminist because you "protect" and shelter your wife, your argument is invalid.

Further, if you think that love means putting others on a pedestal, you misunderstood "Love your neighbor AS yourself."

If you think the good news, the Gospel, is somehow antithetical to the message of equality and justice, then you should learn what it means to love justice and walk humbly with the Lord, dear white male Christian.

Finally, white males don't get to preach at marginalized, telling them they should "lay down their lives" more than they already are.

I'll be adding the voices of other bloggers on this issue and in relation to these specific blogs as I find them.
Sarah Moon: On Equality, Humility, and Privilege
Dianna Anderson: Heavy Words and Co-Opted Meanings

*I know that conservative mouthpieces like Limbaugh like to make fun of "liberals" (in whatever way that term is meant, usually pejoratively) for that phrase - but that speaks to the lack of conservative imagination. Conservatism doesn't want to think of people and cultures as being worthy of respect, so it defames even the notions of such whenever it gets the chance. In conservatism, White, Male and Monied are best - everything else is inferior.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On "From the Sky"

We here (well, me here) at the Left Cheek care about following the radical message of equity and justice that Jesus Christ, the prophets and the apostles shared some thousands of years ago in some backwater provinces of the Empire's reach - where violence and complacency were means of keeping rebellious forces in line.

Empire has a funny way of making its citizens believe it's the right and natural thing - even as it destroys families and people. As long as we're a "good" nation with "good" intentions, we don't want to question it too much. We don't question rape culture in our own country. We rarely question how we treat immigrants or the homeless or criminals. And we don't question the concept of racism, war, safety, or collateral damage - as long as those concepts don't affect us directly. We rarely question how comfort and dominance is shaped by the suffering of others. Unless we are the others who are suffering.

So writer, filmmaker, critic and my friend Ian Ebright - who has featured our guest blogs occasionally at his site The Broken Telegraph - is putting together a fictional film about a father and son living under the reach of the American Empire as potential collateral damage. From the Kickstarter page for the movie (which is hoping to raise $18,500 in one month):

'From the Sky' takes viewers beneath the headlines by telling a fictional story of a noble father Hakeem and his troubled teenage son Abbas as they journey across a volatile region of the Middle East.
The story opens to reveal Abbas suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to a tragic past and the frequent presence of drones flying overhead. Soon, a turn of events forces Abbas to make a choice about which way he will go in life: the way modeled by his father, or a different path articulated by the charismatic character Dhiya.
The film will be among the first (if not the first) narrative works of cinema from the U.S. to show the impact of drone strikes on civilians in the Arab world. The film also explores the roots of extremism and ultimately asks a universal question: When we are harmed, will we take the wide road of retaliation or a more narrow path by responding in life-giving ways? (please read more at the site)

If, like myself, you believe that true education leads to freedom and that that education involves the arts because true education is not just cognitive but involves the senses. Learning about others - as we learn about ourselves - is sensual. This is a great learning opportunity. Let us invest in this opportunity and not allow it to go to waste.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Imagination of the Forgiven

 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector...

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

To play Captain Obvious, it's hard trying to find a job in this economy. Add to that fact that companies have increasingly shown disloyalty to their employees - a trend that noticeably come to the fore in the 90's. And when work places tank (as they have for a friend of mine repeatedly and tend to do in urban communities with high turnover rates), it gets harder and harder to find more work, to stay afloat, to continue pushing. For finding work is basically a matter of proving one's self, one's mettle, one's faithfulness, attentiveness, ethic, proclivity, , time and again.

Within three years of their release, about a third of US prisoners end up back in prison.

About two-thirds of ex-cons are arrested again within three years of their release.

In recognizing these brutal numbers (how many of us have been arrested within the last three years?), we must confront ourselves with some facts that should lead us down a revelatory pathway.

Convicted criminals tend to come from poor communities with high-crime rates. For a moment, let's forget that the real crime is the fact of poverty - the reality that we live in a world where most live in poverty and where poverty is becoming more and more what it was in pre-industrial times - a death trap. Let us also forget for a moment that the poor are held accountable and blamed for trying to survive or to live for moments like the wealthy ("What are they doing eating steak?" "Why do they get to ride around in cars?"), particularly in areas with high wealth disparity.

Let us look at the unmistakable and regrettable fact of post-convict life: For the poor, there is hardly such a thing as a post-convict life. Parolees return to the very communities in which they made their crimes (or wherein the crimes were committed which they allegedly took part of) and almost inevitably run into (if not directly in) the same circles, the same places, and the same predicaments that lured them into the criminal background in the first place. They, with their criminal records, are rarely trusted with the resources needed in order to survive. Jobs, already scarce in their communities, are denied to them on the basis of their past - a past which society has already punished them for beyond most of our imaginations.

A past, they are told, that justice needs to cleanse them of through incarceration, through denying them sunshine and community and family and freedom of movement. A past that they should be ashamed of, but which the punishment is to shame every step of their existence, to break every will and hope they have (sometimes, it seems, this "justice" works). The imprisoned must then find alternative methods of being, of doing, of communing, and then of getting by in the world.

We can say what we want to about "career criminals" and all that, and the Department of Corrections can talk about programs they use to reduce recidivism, but the pragmatics are that such programs are woefully underfunded and really could never be adequately funded or implemented. Not when the current prison population in the US makes up nearly one percent of the entire US population, and prisons are at 110% capacity (p 2. via).

What does it mean to be released? Not just released in the sense of how we release convicts in the US: out into the streets with the reputation of an untouchable, the baggage of several lifetimes worth of nightmares, and damage that they rarely are able to recover from. But to release them in earnest as a society that is earnest about freedom as we say we are would: expunged, free, capable, trained, prepared, fresh.


Diego Blanco

I mentioned the rate or re-arrest earlier to demonstrate something fundamentally important in this conversation of liberation, freedom, stigma: Those who have "done time" (as the kids call it) - and particularly those of color - tend to be viewed as "fitting the description" (as the cops call it). What would it mean to not be viewed at as a suspect every time something came up missing? What would it mean to not only have a free conscience and to feel good about yourself, but to know that the community isn't watching your every step, certain that you will fail and hedging their bets against you?

What does it mean to be forgiven of all debts? What does it mean to be able to earn trust in a level - and safe - playing field*? What does it mean to walk as a person without burden, without baggage, without shackles? To be unfettered, to walk in the sun? To live free?

*As last time, I want to stress that this is meant within reason. A pederast cannot be trusted to work or be alone with children, but that should not preclude him from being welcome in communities, with necessary safeguards (and what those safeguards look like, I don't necessarily know outside what is listed above there). A thief, likewise, shouldn't be in charge of finances. Etc, etc.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Capitalism and Charity

Socialism is about the worker being paid justly for his or her work. That’s the gist of socialism.

Why do American Christians have such a hard time with this notion? We tend to revel in capitalism as if it were not intrinsically sinful - paying into and glorifying a system that is energized by, fueled by, and kept in motion by greed and avarice.

How capitalism works is essentially taking “surplus” (the gains gotten from reducing wages given to workers) and storing it towards upper management (that being a generous term) and investors. This process creates a need to go back and give charity towards those who are not paid properly in the first place.

And that charity comes with strings and conditions. And the charity is extremely limited, rather arbitrary, and only supplies little of the need created by the lack of power and access to resources created by the injustice of the capitalist system in the first place.

MN: Coleman "No Bandage Solutions!" to Health Care Crisis
1000s of signatures from MN residents urging Coleman to stop offering bandage solutions to the health care crisis 

We don’t need more charity. Charity is a band aid for a crisis of the bludgeoning. We need to stop the bleeding at the source. We need to end the cycles of violence. 

We need justice.

Reposted from CommiePinkosWroteMyBible

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Isaiah 58 - On Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Scratch the needle on the DJ's table!
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people America of their sins!
Yet they act so pious, so righteous, so deserving!

They come to the Church every Sunday and Wednesday,
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God - they even make laws in my name.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.


‘We have fasted before you! We have committed prayers,’ they whine.
‘Why aren’t you impressed? We sure are!
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’

“I will tell you why!” I respond.
It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in sadness
and cover yourselves with ashes. You cry during prayer gatherings. You bemoan presidents and policies.

Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?

Day laborers picking cotton, near Clarksdale, Miss. (LOC)

No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;

lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

 Prison Labor in Louisana on the Mississippi River 4a17926v

Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.

Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.

Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring, full of veggies and fluoride-free.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.


Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.

Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

(Slight edits to make it more contemporary. But really, shoot, what hasn't changed here?)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Strings Attached Are Attached to All of Us

We live in this big, intricate, messed up, imperfect world filled with imperfect humans. And it seems like most of us know that and take that for granted. Most American Evangelical Christians sure do. What many of them don't seem to notice, or at least acknowledge, is that we also live in this interdependent, intricately connected, living, breathing society.

Society is not just a concept. It's not an out-there thing disassociated from our everyday reality. It is very present and it is very real. We may not be able to touch it like the hard oak of this heavy but falling-apart table I like to rest my feet on occasionally, but it is every bit as real as the sweat gleaming off my forehead.

So it bothers me to no little effect when people complain about having to participate in society and act as if they owe it nothing - as were the basic arguments raised this last week over the healthcare ruling from the Supreme Court. It's an argument that the poor are using the government to steal from the rich (rather than the truth that the rich are stealing from the poor), or that we're being forced to buy something we don't need. And for all the problems of the Affordable Care Act - and there are many, many - these reasons don't come into play, but expose a deeper problem in contemporary American society and politics: we believe we do not benefit from the very systems that benefit us and we believe that our benefit is not the result of exploiting the very poor of our country and the world.

But first the good stuff. We benefit largely as a result of shared work. That's how a society functions. Everybody puts in; everybody gets results.

The dreams we have, the work we do, the benefits we enjoy, the language we possess, the identities we carry, the food we eat (less that you hunt and grow), the health care we enjoy, the cars we drive, the streets we roll down, these are all effects of the shared work of society. One cannot decide to not participate. One cannot decide that they owe nothing to society nor that society has not given them and continues to give them what they need and often what they desire. If these people want to live like a hermit, fine. Let them fix their own water, electricity, food. Keep them off our roads. Allow them the privilege of developing their own language for their imaginary conversations with imaginary friends. They need to stop using ours for their fantasies.

Plank road in forest in Tillamook County, Oregon
Look, a socialist road!
Now, if you drive, you have to have insurance, right? Because you're socially responsible for the economic burden that could happen due to any accident that may occur to or as a result of your car. It's part of the price of participating in sharing the roads. Sometimes the cost is nearly unbearable, but when we run into a problem, we're better off for it. That day may not happen for some of us - but it could happen to any of us no matter how safe and responsible we are (or believe we are) as drivers - and that is the point.

Everybody needs healthcare insurance. There is no getting around that. If you don't have it, but something, anything, unexpected pops up (an unidentified lump, an accident, a heart murmur) everybody else pays for it. Everybody needs it. If you don't want it, it doesn't matter. You need it. That's why it's called "insurance."

Everybody shares the load. That's what makes a society. If you can't handle that, never ask for a job, fix your own water, become a hermit. Because we don't deserve to have to share the cost of society with selfish people who take without considering to help and then want to cut off food and survival functions for workers and mothers and children who do or will or want to give back through their sweat, who create wealth for the privileged classes.

Which brings us back to our second point.

American patriots constantly point out how generous the United States is, both in terms of government and private charity. But we don't acknowledge the strings that come attached. We talk about how much we help Haiti and African people but ignore the fact that they are in such dire straights because of oppressive economic lending practices, because we deplete their resources, because we have installed leaders that were horrible for their countries but were good for us.

That's how it's always turned out, in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in the Pacific... With our influence and money, we get to curry favors and effectually rob what we now deem "developing" countries so that they need to ask for more favors - wherein we or our surrogates come in to effectively own the country and its resources (be it water, energy, diamonds, gold). To add demonic joy, we love playing these countries against each other to distract other countries in the region while we keep them in check (cf, the Middle East).

These are the costs of society that we need to gather and figure how we can do without and how we can run off. We live in Orwellian times. "Freedom" means the freedom of rich white people to steal from most of the rest of the world and not give a sh*t about the rest of us.

We may be free to dream of a better world for us all, but we're not allowed to speak it outloud, for fears that somehow a better world for all is somehow fascist. I believe conservatives should focus more on reducing the costs of healthcare rather than putting all their efforts in oppressing the poor and keeping them from receiving it.

So some things you don't have a choice on. So what? A lot of people don't get to decide whether or not they'll sleep with one eye open or whether or not their home will be collateral damage for our War on Drugs or our War on Terror or our War on War or whatever other euphemism we can figure for Blowing People Up for Political Expediency and to Extend Our Imperialism and Corporate Interests.

Get over it. Get involved in society and help us find better ways to live and act as a civil social humane society.

Until we get to the point where all are protected and truly represented in an equitable system, though, I believe that the government's obligation is to protect the most vulnerable.

I'm a socialist. But I'm one because Jesus and the prophets taught me to be one. If the Christian Right (and most every interaction with people who complain about having to help other people I have had in the last few years has been with a conservative Christian) does not believe in sharing and helping (and it's pretty obvious they don't), and they can't see where the Bible tells us to bear one another's burdens both as neighbors and as citizens through government, I'm not sure what Bible they're reading. Tt's not the Hebrew and Christian one. It's not the one written by Commie Pinkos. Perhaps the Satanic Bible...

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Gods of Comfort vs the Prophets of Discombobulation

"But against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, not a dog shall growl; that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel."

Walter Brueggeman, on Moses, Egypt, impartiality as read through the lens of Exodus 11:7, quoted above:

[This declaration] occurs not in a doctrine but in a narrative and an uproven memory that we must let stand in all its audacity. It is not reflective theology but news just for this moment and just this community. The God who will decide is not the comfortable god of the empire, so fat and well fed as to be neutral and inattentive. Rather, it is the God who is alert to the realities, who does not flinch from taking sides, who sits in the divine council on the edge of his seat and is attentive his special interests. It is the way of the unifying gods of the empire not to take sides and, by being tolerant, to cast eternal votes for the way things are... 
There is not much here for the reasoned voices. No prophet ever sees things under the aspect of eternity. It is always partisan theology, always for the moment, always for the concrete community, satisfied only to see only a piece of it all and to speak out of that at the risk of contradicting the rest of it. Empires prefer reasoned voices who see it all, who understand both sides, and who regard polemics as unworthy of God and divisive of the public good. But what an energizing statement! In his passion and energy, Moses takes sides with the losers and powerless marginal people; he has not yet grown cynical with the "double speak" of imperial talk and so dares to speak before the data are in and dares to affront more subtle thinking... 
Seen at a distance, this bald statement is high theology. It is the gospel; God is for us. In an empire no god is for anyone... [T]he urging I make to those who would be prophets is that we not neglect to do our work about who god is and that we know our discernment of God is at the breaking points in human community.

It is not that the prophetic voice isn't looking for truth, but she will not be satisfied by the "There are two sides to every story" false equivalence. He is not placated when he sees injustice. The prophets leave the comfort and familiarity of home and hearth and even their own country to report and point and scream and jump up and down and shock the kings and queens with discomforting stories. The prophetess does not side with the people she was raised with, but with her new people. Her people are now the marginalized, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the hurt, the evicted, the suffering, the sick, the rounded up, the pushed out, the expatriats.


The gods and priests of the empire - of the markets, of consumption - in their "impartiality" are truly really partial. They prefer the way things they are. They do not like to be upset. They want all to remain as it has been and forever will be. They may change a few seats on the deck, but the boat remains in the same direction, the majority of those seated remain seated, barking out orders followed by men with bullhorns and whips, demanding extra sweat, extra steam, extra breath from the rowers and steam room workers.

These are the gods, and their priests, who do not concern themselves about the oppression. Because concerning themselves about such things in any significant manner means to upset the cart. And the cart cannot be upset. The order of things cannot change nor be brought down. They must, at all costs, remain. They do not hear the cry of the slaves, the sick, the outsiders and lepers.

But God and the prophets of God do. They hear, and they cry out to the pharaohs and demand to, "Let my people go!" And when they are not heeded, when Pharaoh and his gods do not relent but harden their hearts, the Almighty Bearer of Justice liberates them by overthrowing the carts, by flinging the chariots and their horses (and their industrial bombers and nuclear weapons) into the sea. It is the prophets' job to declare liberation and seek justice - and not to settle for the way things are. Because the way things are is not right, and the God of Justice seeks to make all right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Devil's Children: Originally Sinning?

“We know that people are basically evil and sinful because, look, you even notice it with little babies. Sometimes they cry not because they need something, but just out of selfishness. They’re being sinful.”

I came home with my own daughter to hear this statement in my living room, which had been converted for use from a mixed utility extra bedroom and den into a bible study area. I wish I could say I was shocked by this theological axiom. A bit flustered and a bit disgusted, sure, but it was not a new concept to me. I remember agreeing with the idea that children – as people – are fundamentally sinful creatures and even saying some variation of that adage myself well before I had my own. And it wasn’t just bachelor and bachelorette laity repeating this theological miscue, either.  Pastors and parents in Christian America are so sure of children’s innate evil that they advocate various forms of violence in order to exorcise those demons out of the child’s ass. Presumably through coughing, I suppose.

Spare not the rod, they repeat. As if a rod is a metal pipe and not a shepherd’s gentle directing device to keep the sheep from going into the path of predators. What kind of twisted logic must we place onto the Good Shepherd poem to believe that brutalizing with a rod and a staff are supposed to be comforting? Who, ever, feels safe and secure when beaten? Someone who desperately needs counseling.

Child Crying in the Shadows
First, if you’re going to prove that humans are naturally sinful, you probably shouldn’t blame babies for being dependent and not fully cognizant of the world. Babies are selfish – but they’re supposed to be. Do you think they are able to care for you, or any of a million suffering people in the world? They can’t. They have physical, psychological, social, and biological needs. They are dependent mammals. That is how they are. That is how God created them to be.

Those moments when we think that infants don’t need anything but they're crying nonetheless? They need to be stimulated and played with and held and they need to know their boundaries and they need sleep. They may have gas. Or they may feel a little bit of discomfort and, being new to the world outside of a fluid sack and new to sights and sounds and touch  – catch this – they just don’t know what to do with themselves just yet.

Is that evil? Is that sinful that they have yet to develop the cognitive capacity for sympathy or empathy when they don’t know how to feed themselves or lift their heads up? Is it evil that they wake parents up and put us through all sorts of insecurities and frights and worries and sleepless nights? Are we supposed to believe that they're merely being selfish? Is this why some Christians have an adversarial position with science? Because if they find out basic child development patterns their entire theology goes down the diaper?

As children grow, they still cry for various reasons. But not because they’re necessarily evil. They just don’t know any better. My daughter whines when she’s angry, sad, tired, hungry, hurt, or feeling neglected. Combine any two of those and she’s liable to cry for what – at first glance – I would deem to be selfish. Well, she’s four. Four whole years old. We’re still in process of training her. She’s still in the process of connecting neurons which will build up her empathy and sympathy connectors. She’s got smaller legs than I do and she can’t fit as much food (ergo, energy) down her tubes, so she needs to snack if she’s going to exert energy. Lord, she hasn’t learned a task as complex as tying her shoes yet.

Children aren’t naturally wicked. They’re just naturally natural. It’s okay that children are like that. On the other hand, it’s not okay when adults are selfish. It is not okay when grown-ups use our own temperaments as barometers for how children are expected to behave at any given moment. It’s not okay that parents are so selfish that we have to react to our children in ultimately harmful and destructive means.

Crying child

But let’s get to the second point, shall we? My father, though he wasn’t a Calvinist*, learned from his father that children were supposed to be whooped in order to make them obedient. Obedience is kind of a funny concept in its own right, of course. It’s quite a different concept than discipline. Discipline means we have training that teaches us to do the right thing as necessary. So I teach my daughter to take her medicine every night, do her treatments when she wakes and before she goes to bed. We have nighttime routines and morning routines that we try to adhere to despite the fact that we’re tired or grumpy. And these disciplines get us through the days and are good for us in the short and long run. I wish that my father disciplined me into brushing my teeth regularly. They wouldn’t be so messed up now. Punishment is something different. Punishment is usually arbitrary and can come at any time and for nearly any infraction. It's goal may be to make us better people, but usually through the process of strict obedience** - so there is no true foundation. Only fear.

I didn’t lie or tell stories to my dad, or smart off to him, etc, not primarily because I loved him or respected him, but because I feared him. Fear was the name of the game. My dad would pull down my pants, lean me over his knee while he sat on the edge of the tub and strike down fiercely onto my naked butt-flesh with his bony hands until I screamed bloody murder. And then he’d strike a few more times. It was profoundly disturbing. And embarrassing – especially the time that my friends were at my house. But I hated him for it. I hated him for the inconsistency and for the violence and for the shame. It was and is still a process I’m going through to relieve myself of that pain. The bitterness is gone. I have forgiven him. I love my dad. I know he tried to do right. But I don’t want my daughter to go through those same emotions. She can hate me for different reasons (I’m sure there will be many more reasons to hate me when she becomes a teen), but I don’t want to shame or humiliate her or lose her trust. That would not be the basis of a healthy relationship. And since the relationship between family members is the primary one that a human being has, that sets the stage for all other relationships, why would I want to jeopardize her entire life?

Is that what Christian parenting should be? If so, I want no part of that.

Fortunately, it's not.


*Now, my father was raised Catholic, and Original Sin was an Augustinian concept before it was plundered and exaggerated by John Calvin and his acolytes. 

** One thing I'm learning: We have more than enough obedience. That is how we justify doing horrible things. Nuremberg was fundamentally about obedience. War is fundamentally about blind obedience. Torture and slavery and suffering is fundamentally about blind obedience. Jesus questioned the authorities, as did Paul and Peter and even the Syro-Phoenician woman.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Those Abominable Circles

The idea that Jerry Sandusky, George Zimmerman, Sheriff Joe Arpaio or any other creep or heinous rapist/murderer should be raped or killed while in prison is not justice nor is it right.

It is neither justice nor is it right because murder and rape are never just nor right. They are evil acts.

As a Christian, I believe in redemption, restoration, justice. I can't help believe that, even if I weren't a Christian, I would see the deep hole that retributive "justice" leads us down.

Ergo, I'm against the death penalty, against war, against using violence as any sort of means to an end.

I cannot, in good conscience, not speak my mind about such issues.

But I also know and understand how we'd all like to see some sort of payback for the horrible crap that Sandusky, for instance, put his victims through. So... enjoy.

via Random Overload

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saving Ourselves from this Corrupt Generation

Acts 2 (NIV)
“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

"All people"? Well, there's God being all egalitarian and accepting and open, ain't that it?

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

And daughters? Well, as long as they're silent about it and let the menfolk handle the serious studying of God's word.

your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,

Again with the women!! Get it together, already. Women can't preach so why waste your spirit on them?

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.

Blood and fire! Fire! Fire! Yes! Burn those gays and heathens and Messicans and Arabs!

The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Oh cool! It's all about the end times and the rapture! Yippeee!! Bring on the BLOOD BATH!!

The above was brought to us by the ancient prophet Micah by way of the Jesus-follower Peter on the first Pentecost, and then interrupted by a common Bible Belt interpretation. It's a selfish understanding of the Bible, one focused largely on our own experiences and formed by a consciousness of privilege and fueled by a spirit of vengeful persecution.

"Wait til Jesus comes back and gets those liberals/welfare dependents/elites for slighting me!"

It's an odd mix to have. Not that there wasn't a lot of blood and wrath on the minds of the Old Testament prophets, or even in the stories that Jesus and the apostles told. But their sites were set on the oppressive empires that were actually oppressing them. Making it impossible for them to live, to operate. Abandoning widows and orphans. Conquering them with military force. Excising all their wealth into a centralized body.

Israel, Assyria, Babylon, and Rome and their emperors and their ways of exploitation and domination were, in the language of the prophets and the apocalyptic writers of the bible, the sun and the stars and the moon that would be darkened and bloodied and overcome. 

If I were the rest of the world, I would know this passage to be speaking of the end of the American empire and her multinational corporation partners. And I'd be rejoicing.


But the end of empire-dom does not occur through bloodshed. It will not happen through the art of war, via tanks or bombs or guns. Neither will oppression cease through a supergroup of superpowered superbeings or via battleships or really terrible lightning bolts coming from a grey-bearded god in the sky. Those are the old ways, the language of oppression and dominance and violence. When we follow the old ways, we are only replacing one tyrant with another. 

If we continue in the old ways, what are we saving ourselves from and what are we being saved into? From the violence of one group to the violence of another? Would we be replacing the czars only to end up under totalitarian rule - dolled up in the language of equality - all over again?

We will be saved by the singular mission of a people united in speaking the same message - the message of freedom, of equality, of sharing, of equal access, and equal power, of beaten swords and spears, of shared plows and tools - and acting as a people liberated from the message of the empire, that "Might is right."

Peter's last words to the gathered crowd were, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.

How did the new followers then save themselves? From the end of that same second chapter of Acts.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The people were not saved into an eternal life that would start after they died. They were saved into a new way of being, a new humanity, a new ethos, a new kind of rule separate from the predominant empire. Jesus' rule wasn't an earthly type of rule - it was one of kindness and sharing and giving and peace. The kind that takes the old and turns it into something new.

".....and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Friday, March 09, 2012

Pro-Life: It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means (pt. 2)

Second in a series on abortion and Evangelicals

The anti-abortion movement is now setting its sights on birth control and labeling it a Religious Freedom issue. Rather than what it is, a Religious Tyranny issue.

Just like with same-sex marriage laws, this has nothing to do with the ability of religious practitioners to follow their conscience without the constraint of government upon them. This is about their right to impose their morality onto others - even if they have to entirely devise new definitions in order to do so.

'DSCF2384' photo (c) 2006, Ben Sutherland - license:
Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition!

But this isn't anything new to Randall Terry, Chuck Colson, Richard Land and other leaders of the contemporary "pro-life" movement. They're used to flubbing and fibbing when it suits them. They do this every time there's a new same-sex marriage equality bill going around. "The government is trying to determine who churches should marry," they say in a horrible chorus of horribleness. "The gays is trying to get special treatment," ignoring the fact that they are the one given this special treatment to live life as married individuals without being persecuted for it.

Preventing every last form of abortion, to them, is caring for the least of these. Poverty reduction, pacifism, any other type of activism that leads to protection of any other post-born life - according to the Contemporary Pro-Lifers, these are mere distractions and cannot be solved before Jesus comes back.

So don't even bother. The only fight worth having is against abortion - and related areas. Like homosexuals.

Seriously. That's the response.

They worry incessantly that through universal healthcare they may someday, possibly, through their taxes, have to pay for contraceptives and even some abortions. 

Even if those abortions turn out to be medical emergencies, it's still a non-starter.

Which brings us to another point. The CPL leaders deny that abortion is ever a viable option. Even when the woman's life is at risk. They are committed to the idea that, not only is the fetus a human life, but it is a superior life - superior to criminals, superior to soldiers, superior to civilians of foreign states, superior to the poor, superior to immigrants. And certainly superior to the women who would give birth to them.

This commitment is justified by the theological concept that the pre-born have yet to sin. So, unlike their slutty mothers, they have no right to die if at all preventable.

That is, until after they are born and they sin.

Then they're allowed to starve...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Futile Complications of Wagery

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, back in 2007, back before the massive foreclosures:
On any given night, approximately 750,000 men, women, and children are homeless in the US.

* 56% are living in shelters and transitional housing, while 44% are unsheltered.
* 59% are single adults and 41% are persons living in families.
* 98,452 are homeless families
* 23% are chronically homeless according to HUD’s definition.

Regarding hunger:

The [Greater Chicago] Food Depository defines "food insecurity" as "reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet," or, put simply, "unsure where they will find their next meal." Overall, Chicago has a 20.6 percent rate of food insecurity. That means 581,558 people are food insecure, a fairly terrifying number. Even worse, 36% of those who are food insecure are thus not eligible for federal nutrition programs because of their income - suggesting that the income cap for those programs may be too low.

In the impoverished, underresourced, segregated South side neighborhoods of Englewood and East Garfield Park where I've taught, nearly a third of residents (31.2%) face food insecurity.

We don't, oddly enough, have a shortage of houses or food. Just as we don't have a shortage of doctors or pharmaceuticals. We have a shortage of meaningful, living-wage jobs that provide adequate means to food, shelter, medical care, transportation, and a degree of economic security. There need not be a shortage of ingenuity nor of resources*. But there sure seems to be a shortage of imagination. Not because we are not intelligent, but because all of our thoughts of work and resultant earnings have been reduced (by the Powers That Be and, sadly, by our own complicity with them) to thinking about making paper money. How one job or another can afford us more paper money than another, what that can afford us, and how far that can last or get us.

'young labor paycheck' photo (c) 2011, MN AFL-CIO - license:

Rather, I propose, we should be thinking in terms of direct ownership of our tools, talents, work, hands and how these can get us direct access to that which we need.

The world as it is set up is simply needlessly complicated. Wagery. That's what we live for. A certain amount of money that may or may not have anything to do with our skills, use, talents, passion, vision, focus. Nor the usefulness of those to people or the environment. Our aspiration is largely wasted on wagery.

The non-irony in all of this is that the most-compensated - the best waged - are those who control and run the Big Wagery. The Money People are those who, in general, receive the Most Money. And their control over us is predicated on our need for wages. Wage jobs give us money and with money we get...


Stuff like food and clothing and and electronics and housing and transport to our distant jobs and schools and stores where we may continually purchase food and clothing and... stuff. Much of which we know we could live without.

We are like fish who have been incepted to love us some bicycles.

It's all both largely important and immeasurably futile. We are playing a game of life and death - with someone else's rules, and on his island.

And until we loosen their control over our lives and get off their damned island, we have little control over our own lives.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gluttony and Temperance

Absorbing it all so that there's none left.

That's gluttony in the short. And that's what the United States of America - a country that comprises 5% of the human population yet consumes a full 20% of its non-renewable resources - is. We are the very definition of gluttony.

'Fast Food' photo (c) 2006, Christian Cable - license: that again with me, please.

My country makes up 1/20th of the people in the whole world.

But we take in 1/5th of its resources.

The non-renewable kind.

Consumed. Complete. Swallowed. Done. Finished. Taken in and not-replaced.

That is, we take in four times per person, on average, what everybody else in the entire world does. This includes food. And clothing. Electronics. Cars. Gas. Oil. Electricity. Water.

These are resources that others can't use.

This leads to malnourishment, starvation, disease.


Because we can't be temperate in our insatiable appetites?

How do we avoid this trap of selfishness? How can  we still live well and assure that others do as well? That's a serious question that we need to wrap our minds around.


Friday, February 03, 2012

Charity and Greed (2)

I feel that "charity" is one of those great virtues that had been stripped of its power once the Christian Church came into power.

Consider that King James reading of I Corinthians 13:13:
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Could the apostles have truly meant that the greatest, most lasting principle in the entire universe would be to give spare change out of our excess to ease the suffering of the very poorest?

Or was it something more, something much deeper?

Perhaps we should view charity as the outpouring of those who've witnessed and become something different, who've moved aside from the debilitating numbness of empire-building of the dominant culture long enough to recognize the needs and assets not only of themselves and their shared community but extend it outside of themselves. These relationships organically work to inject selfless justice to the oppressed and then back to the self.

charity: water display

When such a transformation happens, those who have been touched are no longer concerned with frivolous arguments about "forcing" people to be charitable. Because true charity understands that all of our actions and inactions are interconnected, it understands the violence of poverty first-hand, and it understands that wealth accumulation is theft.

Charity understands the deep, intricate indebtedness we have to each other. Charity rejects the libertarian argument that taxation that lessens income inequality is not theft, but that income inequality itself is greed and therefore theft. And therefore murder.

Charity looks around and sees millions of homeless families, men, women, children. She sees all of the discarded veterans, the abused workers, hungry children, shamed school teachers, overburdened social workers, the rejected differently-abled, the untouchables, not as what society sees them as - the names and titles listed above - but as human beings worthy of human dignity, love, respect, and full access to quality food, healthcare, housing, protection, and clothing.

This form of charity runs in stark contrast to greed. Where greed feels entitled to possess property at others' expense, charity seeks to share, to make sure none is discarded. With true charity, there is no room for greed.

Current practices of "charity" however, are actually falsified extensions of greed. Charitable foundations are really nice-looking tax shelters, allowing estates to save millions upon millions of dollars each year while only spending a portion of that in order to game the non-profit world while earning respectability in their corporate endeavors (read: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded). However, if a service provider for the poor needs money to help the very ones discarded by the corporate-produced economic system, it will most likely need to go through these corporate-prduced foundations.

The virtue of charity needs to be reevaluated, not for what it supposedly means, but for what it is opposed to and dreams of.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Envy and Kindness

We often interpret envy as when the poor person wants what the rich person has. It is usually a word used to further shame the poor. As if it is a great, moral sin to be poor and want some amount of comfort and/or leisure. Sometimes, however, that is the case. The Cash Cow, as sarcastic Christian entertainer Steve Taylor notes, bites everyone.

But the biblical use of envy isn't directed against poor people. It doesn't understand the Bill O'Reilly form of "class warfare." The bible, in fact, doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about the wealthy or about hoarding wealth.

Though few contemporary preachers would berate the rich, the earlier Church Fathers (before the Church got awfully cozy with the wealthy benefactors) were in tune with the Beatitudes, the Old Testament Law, with St. James' warnings against the rich and those who would cuddle up to them to the detriment of the poor.

Envy is the idea that the resources and people of the world belong to persons and can be owned and acquired for strictly personal use for the profit of those persons, when those resources belong to everybody. Envy happens when a corporation steals, bottles, and sells fresh water. Envy happens when stock owners demand higher profits for their dollars and so deprive workers of their livelihood only to hire other workers that can barely afford to live.

St. Basil:

The harshest form of covetousness is not even to give things perishable to those who need them. “But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own?” Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all-this is what the rich do. They first take possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. But if every man took only what sufficed for his own need, and left the rest to the needy, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Did you not fall naked from the womb? Will you not go back naked to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don’t believe in God, you don’t acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of this life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn’t it, if for no other reason, so that you can gain a reward for your kindness and faithful stewardship, and for him to be honored with the great virtue of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the empty bosom of avarice, do you think that you wrong no one, while you rob so many people?

Who is the greedy person? It’s him, who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who the thief? He who steals what belongs to others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not rob others? What had been granted to you so that you might care for others, you claim for yourself.

He who strips a man of his clothes is to be called a thief. Is not he who, when he is able, fails to clothe the naked, worthy of no other title? The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.

Shoe Chemistry
According to New Theological Movement, this is what the Church Fathers had to say:

  • St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to poor persons. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”

  • St. John Chrysostom: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”

  • St. Gregory the Great: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

  • St. Ambrose: “It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.”

  • Thomas Aquinas: ‘One should not consider one’s material possessions as one’s own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.’

You shall give to him [your poor brother] freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, "You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land." Deut. 15:10-11

What the Deuteronomy passage here suggests is a communal effort, a state wide effort by the people of extraordinary kindness. This kind of kindness was carried out by the early church after the spiritual reawakening of the Pentecost experience (Acts 2 & 3) and carried through to anybody in need through the next couple centuries.

Now, millenia later, our churches enjoy unprecedented prestige, privilege and socioeconomic and political power and are exempt from taxes! I have to ask out of my deep and abiding love for the Church: Is the American/Western Church being kind or envious?

Are we like David and the Rich Young Ruler when we need to be like Nathan and Jesus?

I ask because if we are to have a voice of morality, and if the biblical witness is absolutely clear on this aspect, then should not the contemporary Church be at the front of this line? Why have we abandoned the terms of morality to the wolves?

Kindness is required. The kind of kindness that requires that every. Person. Is. Fed.

Reconsidering the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Very Awesome Virtues

One politician promises a return of manufacturing jobs and the primacy of the family -according to his definition of what "family" is. Another promises change we can believe in - but can't deliver. Another practically promises a repeal on child labor laws and guarantees that he can teach black families the virtue of hard work (apparently undaunted by the fact that the hard work of Black families built the wealth of this nation). Another promises to put his years of expertise at dodging taxes and profiting by firing people and raiding companies into good use as president. Another promises a Love Revolution that is awfully short on love but awfully risky for at-risk families (and the middle class).

These are our options, we're told. One of these men will lead us to The Promised Land.

I'm becoming more an more convinced that we do need a revolution, but that it cannot be centered around one person. It should never be centered on one person. We need a revolution of values, as Dr. King said. We need to see in each other infinite worth and value. We need to tuly assess what good we have to share and what assets we have to benefit from. A true revolution will start not by force or coercion or violence, but by the rising up of entire communities that are willing to unplug themselves from the Contemporary Empire System of Exploitation and see themselves as strong cooperatives.

This revolution cannot be forced. It cannot be charged. It must be commonly understood. It must be learned through re-education. Not forceful education. Not the same manipulative education that we have been subjected to under Madison Avenue, our political parties, the news cooperatives, Hollywood, Viacom, Universal, Old White Men. The type of education that forces us to be compliant and do our business in buying and participating in the CESE.

But an education that teaches us the connections and value of our selves, our neighbors, our work, our time, our intelligence and skills, our families, our energy, our earth, our resources, and the value and intricate worth of every other human and non human on the planet.

One way to look at these values is to reconsider the 7.

If you're like me, you know the Seven Deadly Sins from reading Shazam comic books. Or maybe you've seen the movie Se7en. They're not necessarily biblical, though they are part of the tradition of the Catholic Church, popularized through Dante's Divine Comedies.

We're probably, because of the emphasis of our Western Culture, mostly familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins:
Lust (Luxuria)
Greed (Avaritia) (pt. 2)

But each one of these has a contrasting Virtue:
Charity (pt. 1)

Sounds awfully didactic and Jack Kemp-ish, no? I'll try to make it less so over the next couple weeks. Be forwarned, I will take them out of order and not take a normal route with these.

No serial killing here. I promise.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Democracy Means No Idols

I don't view the Occupy movement as a sustainable political movement. Partly because the organizers never saw it as that either. It's more of a long-term, several-site teach-in/demonstration/experiment.

And a darned good one too. This isn't meant to belittle the Occupy's. They serve many functions and bring awareness and an energy to social justice issues sorely lacking in the US and throughout the world. And, equally important, they help to envision what true democracy can look like.

Which is very different from what we consider to be democracy.

We tend to view democracy as the process of voting. Which is a part of democracy, but not the essence of it. Democracy is rule by the people. Though we are taught what we are participating in is democracy in the United States, we must be honest: it's oligarchy - rule by the few, the elites, the powerful. That is how it's been set up since the beginning of our nation. That is a root cause for the American Civil War: the right of slave states to count their "property" (slaves) as representative votes without extending to the slaves the right of those votes (thus, the slave "owners" will have the power of voting for as many slaves as they have without allowing them to self-determine. Quite brilliant, really. But also eerily familiar to current political practices [cf, Florida]).

We citizens have very little say in how our nation is run, but rather we pull a lever for a person that we believe will rule to our benefit. Every once in a while, however, we are infused with a dynamo, a leader that we are led to believe will or has lead us to new heights, a true leader that represents our best interests at heart. A benign sovereign. A messiah.

John F Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy. Theodore Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. Franklin Roosevelt. Thomas Jefferson. Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama. Ron Paul.

President Roosevelt op kameel /American President Roosevelt on a camel in the desert

These presidents and presidential contenders have endeared themselves to legions upon legions* of devout followers. They inspire. They have an aura around them to make us believe that they can fix what ails us... given the opportunity and enough power.

And so we give them that power.

And they always disappoint. Always.

fp030909-03 And so we turn our focus to our next leader, hoping for better things.

It's a game, really. Not to repeat the ridiculous charge that each politician is just like the other and that we might as well all vote for Animal from the Muppets (although that would make a great poster), but the focus of all of this is to siphon off and centralize our own power. That's the focus and scope of Republican and Democratic leadership since at least as long as they've been in power.

I believe we need to self-determine within the context of our communities and the surrounding context. And the route to that is not through more oligarchy. It is not through another Great Leader. It can not be through putting our eggs into such fragile baskets who always succumb to the ragged entrails of personal authority.

The problem isn't that we have the wrong people/person in authority. The problem is authoritarianism. The idea that we should and need to give all of our power into the hands of a person or group of people who can save us.

Rather, we must put our eggs into invest in each other. We must actively seek to empower ourselves to act in community, to listen to each other, to find out where and how we can collaborate and act together. It's in acting as neighborly, finding what we can all bring to the table, how we can help each other, how we can benefit and trade our goods and services in ways that are complementary to each other.

*Deliberate word choice, yes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

There Are Better Ways

I'm working on this comprehensive and quite daunting (for me, at least) post on Ron Paul - on what I like about him and what overwhelmingly terrifies me about him. And then I run across this footage from this old video. Not old as in early-90's or 1980, when Paul's workers/self/whoever collaborated with racists and said some pretty awful stuff about blacks and teh gays even by anonymous Youtube commentator standards, but Tim-Russert-was-still-alive old.

It's about the Civil War and reparations. Not for the blacks who were tortured, raped, whipped, beaten, branded, cut open, savaged, utterly humiliated, who were treated like so much livestock. Who were forced to give birth to children only to have them ripped from them at or shortly after birth. Who were never extended decent civil or human rights that the US Constitution had guaranteed to every other person (read: male) within the confines of the United States of America. Who were not given validity of any sort in courts of law, not paid for their work or allowed a moment's rest, nor to have any freedom of their own.

No, not those folks...

  • RUSSERT: “I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. ‘According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery.’”

The idea that the Civil War was fought to release slaves is a Northern Myth. It sure made me feel better about myself as a young Yank, all smug that "my side" was the right side, fighting for valor and justice and human dignity and all that stuff. But, seriously, we're adults now, right? Don't Russert and Paul know that the intention of Lincoln, et. al, was not, originally, to free the slaves? Don't they also know that the war started after several Southern states broke off from the United States to form their own confederacy?

Lincoln's intention was not to free the slaves; It was to keep the Union together. Slaves were a pawn in that game, as far as Lincoln was concerned, and would be used as a moral cover for the economic reasons of the war machine.

I hasten to add, though, that slavery was a major reason for the war from the Southern side even as it's end was not the fundamental reason for the war from the Northern perspective. None of the powerful elite were abolitionists for any moral reasons. They may be labelled loosely as abolitionists in broader terms, as abolishng slavery would help manufacturers competing for wage control in the North and help the North retain popular control in national elections and in the House. Additionally, politically both the North and South were already inolved in bloody wars expanding their powers in the Republic as they stretched out westward.

Though the moral abolitionists began to hold sway with the populace towards the beginning of the strife (helping to elect Lincoln himself), the elite's only concern with slavery was economic. Free wages are so much more damaging to the capitalists than cheap labor.

  • PAUL: “Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone to war.

First, the war wasn't started by Lincoln. The Confederacy, borne to maintain slavery, oppression, and White Supremacy as both an economic engine and a way-of-life, fired first. (Those terrorists!)

To me, all war is senseless. I, as usual, agree with him on this principal. But were the outcomes senseless? No. If you're going to take the horribleness of war, than you should at least have some good come of it. Or, as Ta-Neisha Coles has been saying, we make a big deal about the 600,000 White "brothers" who were murdered, but we tend to stay silent about the several million brothers and sisters who lived in murder.

  • He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was that iron fist…”

This, on the other hand, is the Southern Myth of the Civil War in action. It's familiar territory to anyone hanging around Republicans, Libertarians (especially of the Southern variety), and other assorted conservatives who've bought into the States' Rights rhetoric. But it's not true. That's another way to put the rights of Whites ahead of non-Whites. The most recent, majestically absurd and largess use of this has been in the anti-immigrant laws of Arizona and other Southern States. But we should really look back to the arguments used against "activist judges," "troubling Northerners," and "intervening Feds" surrounding the Civil Rights movement to see it in its full bloom. The truth is that the South started the Civil War in order to protect its way of life - slavery as an economic system, as a culture, as a means of control and dominance.

  • RUSSERT: “We’d still have slavery.”

Conjunctive history. We may or may not. But I can imagine we'd look a lot like the CSA. There were other ways of getting rid of slavery, for sure. But Paul's response to this is ludicrous and insensitive.

  • PAUL: “Oh, come on. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I’m advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. 

Slavery in Haiti was not "phased out." In fact, that was a bloody revolt. But then again, the French charged Haiti for their own independence - under which Haiti has been in heavy financial duress until this very day - because, you know, slaves are property and if you lose your property, then you should be compensated for it and all. But Rep. Paul wouldn't ever suggest such a thing, would he? Nah, that would be c-r-a-z-y. Like Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour racist and crazy type stuff. And this is the sensible and principled man we've all been subject to praise after praise about, right?

  • You buy the slaves and release them.

 Oh ****! Hoooly...

  • How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where the hatred lingered for 100 years? 

But see, Paul's mistaken. He believes that the Southern slave "owners" would have given up their rights to free labor for a price? That they would have given up their entitlement to own laborers and human "beasts" for a measly price? Seriously? Britain did away with it because they found it of little practical value for their work. The slaves in Barbados, etc, were revolting anyway and that was scaring them. And actual members of Parliament were also revolting against the slave trade and then slave ownership. These effects weren't really happening in the US. There was too much at stake for the Southern plantation owner and his ownership of prime Black men, women, and children. They would not have given up that easily unless they were absolutely forced to.

And people like Ron Paul wouldn't force their fine hands in such a result. Wouldn't want to hurt the property owner, now, would we?