The End is the Beginning – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

01.22.2021

The End is the Beginning

It was with a great sense of relief that I watched Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take their oaths of office, watching in real time as the powers of the executive branch were taken up by a team of people who appear to be genuinely interested in helping our country through the multiple crises that have manifested themselves over the past year.

I was delighted to watch Donald Trump leave the White House and Leave Washington D.C. in keeping with his utter lack of respect for the office he held, and the traditions we hold so dear. I am glad that he didn’t try to pull some last-minute Trumpery to salvage his dignity…he has none.

There is not much more to say about the orange menace, now the toothless tiger except to express my desire to see him wither up and fade away. His legions of fanatics have already begun to turn on him, as well they should, he never deserved their loyalty, he never believed in their causes (not that their causes are worthy of believe and not that their loyalty was anything to covet), the man believes in nothing…not even in himself.

I would like to believe that we have learned a lesson from the past four years, but the election proved otherwise, the enemies of our republic, the foes of democracy have actually been empowered by Trump’s loss. The Trump presidency has given them a blue print, a tested set of tactics and stratagems to use against the American people in the next round…and they have already begun.

There are millions and millions more of us who look to the future of the country with hopeful eyes, and desire to participate in a plan that has us all working together for a better future, but there are still tens of millions of people who are lost in the fever swamps of conspiracy theories and alternative facts, people who get juiced when they participate in the big lie as they walk around in their fantasy world.

Most of us have the instinct to treat these lost souls with some degree of empathy, to feel sorry for them and even try to help them, and that is a good thing we should not stop feeling that way; we should hope for the best but prepare for the worst, because those Proud Boys, and boogaloos Q-publicans see the world in starkly different terms. They see their opponents as demonic, and themselves as the heroes of some kind of apocalyptic conflict, they are willingly being fleeced by a host of conmen and politicians who do not give a jot, not one tittle for their well-being.

The end is the beginning.

We have thrown out the trash but the landfill has become a superfund site and the waste is a toxic mess.

We have to stick together, all people of good conscience, we cannot let our guard down or allow ourselves to be caught up in petty squabbles that divide us from one another.

We have to rebuild America, turn the American dream into an American reality, fulfill the promise this grand experiment…we must.

A successful Biden administration, beginning with a successful first two years are essential to this prospect. If two years from now we have stymied ourselves with internal bickering, allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, if we let the opposition stalemate us and frustrate our progress, we will lose the argument, the momentum and the opportunity to realize our goals.

We need the people to embrace a new mythology for the twenty-first century, a triumphal mythology of progress and liberty and justice for all, a mythology that denounces fear and embraces opportunity, a mythology that looks toward the infinite horizon with hope and purpose, a mythology that is built on a firm foundation of accomplishment, and the American people must be the focus of this work.

A Homily – Luke 1:26 – 38 ©

The Gospel According to Luke – 2017.12.24

 

Mythology

Whatever the truth is regarding the birth of Jesus, who would have been known by his family and his people as Joshua son of Joseph, if in fact there was such a child born to Joseph and Mary, If fact Joseph and Mary are actual historical persons, the mission of Jesus as reported in the scriptures, the way of Christ is not served by false narratives.

The stories of Jesus’ birth, the annunciation as we have it presented here, these are myths. They are propaganda and lies.

The way of God is not served by lies, God, the creator of the universe, God is the God of truth.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

 

4th Sunday of Advent

Mythology, Fundamentalism, Politics – Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

04.02.2016

Mythology, Fundamentalism, Politics

I was watching Senator Sanders speak last week. He was holding a rally in Portland Oregon, ahead of the caucuses there, which he won by a wide margin. As he was speaking a small bird landed on the stage, and then, a few moments later alighted on the podium.

The crowd went wild.

I have to say I found it amusing. I enjoyed the spectacle myself. It was an inside joke playing itself out on the national stage. It was as if mother nature herself was colluding with the Sanders campaign, as if the spirit of Portland was endorsing the candidacy of BS, as surely as the citizen of Portland would days later; in overwhelming numbers.

The crowd went wild.

People in the audience behind BS, were gazing into the heavens, hands coming together in prayer. It looked to me as if they expected the sky to crack open and the booming voice of God to announce God’s favor for BS.

Of course that did not happen.

Nevertheless, the mythmakers proceeded to tell the story as if that is exactly what happened. A sign was given in Portland. A bird joined BS at the Podium. God was pleased with Birdie…I mean Bernie Sanders.

I found myself feeling resentful.

It is not that I did not appreciate the joke; the symbolism, the unexpected, unplanned for, unasked for moment, the delighted look on the face of BS. It was great. However, the charm of the moment was immediately lost, as the sanders campaign and its supporters began to put forward this moment of happy fortune as a rational for his candidacy.

Human beings have a latent susceptibility to the power of myth.

I do not believe that the incident with the bird convinced anyone to support BS who otherwise were not in his camp, but the quasi-mystical packaging of the event (after the fact) validated their support in a way that I can only characterize as anti-rational.

Those of us whose political affiliation falls on the left wing of the political spectrum are not used to having the label of fundamentalist attached to us. Fundamentalist thought processes are a dominant feature of right wing conservativism. However, no ideological system is immune to it. The entry point to fundamentalist thinking is the rejection of the rational, and the embrace of magical.

The first casualty of fundamentalist thought is truth, the second is community.

Fundamentalists retreat from discourse with their opponents. Adversaries become enemies, heroes become villains, angels become demons, gods become devils. In that nexus of mythological/fundamentalist thought, the stakes of the context get magnified beyond their actual dimensions. They take on cosmic proportions. A regular campaign for the presidency, which happens every four years; becomes a “revolution,” the stakes become “our entire future,” what is at risk is “our way of life.” The hotter the rhetoric gets the more divorced from reality it becomes.

The fundamentalist denies the obvious flaws of the candidates, or belief systems they support, and imagine flaws that do not exist in those they oppose, as creationists do, or flat Earthers do, or climate deniers do.

Genuine political discourse is impossible in that environment.

Last week I listened while Susan Sarandon; actress, activist, movie star, told MSNBC that there was no way she would support Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination. She said she would support the Republican, even if it was Donald Trump. She expressed the belief that this would “bring on the revolution” that much sooner. Her sentiment was that the Republicans, and especially Trump, would be such a disaster for the country that the revolutionary forces that support BS would then be able to rise from the ashes and usher in a new era.

Sarandon does not speak for the Sanders campaign. She is merely a supporter, but a vocal one, and it is fair to say that her sentiments represent a wide swath of the feelings of the BS supporters.

What is clear to me is that Sarandon is caught up in that mythological space, she views the campaign a revolution (which it is not nor could it be), she sees herself as a revolutionary hero; as such she must see the HRC campaign as the enemy, she would rather imperil the country in order to open up the possibility of a future victory than accept the loss that will likely be handed to them when this nomination is over.

Sarandon is not alone. These feelings are being blasted across the country; reflected, echoed repeated thousands of times a day dividing the far left from the middle, dividing democrats and liberal progressives from one another.

I saw a meme posted by a friend of mine, a supporter of BS featuring HRC as the Wicked Witch of the West, green face and all, threatening to kill Bernie Sanders “and his little bird too,” as if BS was as innocent and plucky as the hero Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, which is ironic because in reality, his revolutionary promises, as empty as they are, make him more like the man behind the curtain; just a dude with a penchant for casting illusions.

I implore all people of good conscience to pull back from this form of extreme and dangerous thinking. It may seem funny, but it is not a joke. A successful democratic administration following that of Barrack Obama has the potential to change the direction of the country (not to remake it) for generations to come. If Obama is followed by a Republican, the gains we have made will be lost. But if there is a disaster, another economic collapse, war; the wealthy like Susan Saradon will be just fine, the American people will suffer, and the response to social/economic chaos is never an embrace of radical change, but is always a retreat toward conservativism.

Here are some facts that the supporters of BS should contend with:

HRC has won more states than BS; by one.

HRC has won more pledged (earned) delegates than BS; by two hundred-sixty three.

HRC has been given more support by “super-delegates” than BS; by four hundred-thirty eight.

HRC has won more votes than BS by; more than two and a half million.

There has been a lot of talk among the supporters of BS that HRC has the election rigged, that the fix is in, that the process is undemocratic. But the facts are these, HRC has simply won more support, more people have voted for her, and among the people who have voted for her, there is greater diversity, ethnic, geographic, and cultural diversity.

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.01.10 (Sunday)

 

Mythology and Ministry

 

‘A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’ (NJB)

 

Politics and the Subversion of Mission

 

In the calendar of observances today is a feast day. It is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. We have just concluded our celebration of his coming, and his birth. Now we are celebrating the beginning of his public ministry; the journey that led to his death on Golgotha.

Let us take a moment and consider the set of images, and the claims that are attached to them which appear in the narrative.

In Judea, and the broader Palestinian world the average person felt displaced. On the one hand they were a client state of Rome, and on the other hand they were subject to the corruption of their own royal dynasty; the Herodians, on the other hand the had no representation at the Temple in Jerusalem which was not only the spiritual, but also the economic center of their world.

The average person was ardently hoping for and expecting deliverance, the anointed one, the, the messiah, in Greek the Kyrios, in English the Christ.

They hoped for deliverance from both the political corruption of the Romans and the Herodians, as well as the sectarian at the temple, among the temple scribes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees (returning from the diaspora).

In John the Baptist they saw a figure who might represent part of this deliverance. He was stern, and outspoken, uncompromising, and mysterious. He was an aesthetic, and while he preached repentance, he promised the reality of God’s love; present in the lives of the Baptized, present without an intermediary.

This narrative tells us that John eschewed the title and office that some of the people might have thrust on him. It tells us that John himself had the same hopes and expectations, but that John also had the knowledge of who the Christ was, and it was Jesus of Nazareth. In the statement where John says; “I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals.” John is saying that compared to Jesus, he is lower than the lowest servant.

Had John lived, the history of Christianity would have been very different. But John was arrested and killed shortly after the baptism. The disciples of Jesus, and the Gospel writers who followed them would spend the next one hundred and fifty years writing their narratives and telling their stories in a manner intended to keep the followers of John in their movement. This required a great deal of effort. This effort served to shape the Christian story in a way which ultimately undermined the significance and uniqueness of the ministry of Christ.

It perpetuated questions like:

“Who is greater John or Jesus?”

And it prompted the followers of Jesus, long after his death to amplify that narrative, making it so that Jesus did not merely receive his baptism from John, but the heavens broke open, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and a voice came out of nowhere proclaiming that Jesus was the favored and beloved Son of God.

The entirety of this is the interpolation of myth into the ordinary story of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. It introduced categories of, ownership, and inheritance, and dominion which, it may be argued that Jesus himself did not speak to, even though his followers were very much concerned with this.

The Christian story is best told without artifice, without the fabrication of myth, and without resorting to fables, and magic. It is a story of love, and service, of hope and healing, and the celebration of our common humanity. It eclipses the differences between the sexes, it eclipses tribalism, sectarianism, and nationalism. In doing so it shows us the only path to peace, and justice.

Feast of the Baptism of Jesus