Saturday, April 30, 2005

THOUGHTS ON THE REVELATION

As long as I'm in between bouts of nausea from this damned chemo therapy I thought I'd exercise my Constitutional right to speak out against ignorance and superstition.

It seems to me that the hate-mongering Millenialists who now control the Republican Party are more in line with Satan than they are with Jesus Christ. Nevermind their truly hateful belief system. That's bad enough. The fact of the matter is that their timing seems to be way off. As does the nature of their movement.

According to the Bible (use whichever version you prefer), Christians are supposed to be a persecuted minority in the end times, not a ubiquitous political faction with the power and the will to actually engage in the actual persecution itself. If we take the present batch of millenialists at their word and accept The Holy Bible as the literal world of God, then the American Christian Right does not fit the description of those who will be saved. But it does fit the description of the misled individuals and false prophets who will run the show during the brief reign of the Anti-Christ here on earth. (Maybe we should ask everyone in the Millenialist/Dominionist movement to undergo a thorough examnation by a qualified dermatologist--just to see if we don't find any 666 birthmarks on their forheads or in the palms of their hands?)

Seriously, the whole idea of Revelations as an accurate blue print for human history and/or destiny has become an obsession with this crowd--and not an especially healthy one at that.

When I was in seminary school I concluded that the Book of Revelations was not written by Saint John. Rather, it was actually written by a hermit-monk named John who lived nearly a hundred years after the fact, and the political entity that he was writing about is not the modern world, but the Roman Empire. The Revelation as a whole was written to Christians of the era to counter what the obsessive, often fanatical, author considered to be some of the nonchristian beliefs that were filtering into the orthodoxy of his day, and, more imporantly, to give persecuted Christians hope during an age of intense brutality and repression. The Roman Empire was not a pacifistic entity to say the least. Christians were routinely persecuted and executed. To take the symbolism intended as spiritual comfort nearly 2000 years ago seriously today is nothing less than redicules.


Moreover, the Bible clearly says that Christ would return to earth soon quickly. Not 2000 years after the fact. One of the reasons that it took so long for the Gospels and the New Testament in general to be written down was because the early Christians genuinely believed that Christ would return in their life times or at least shortly thereafter. They certainly did not expect him to take 2000 years to make another command performance. In a similar vein one would think that the Lord God would have chosen better prophets. Instead of cloaking the Book of Revelations in what today is obsecure symbolism (e.g. The Seven Heads and Seven Crowns of the Red Dragon in REVALTION 12: 3 are a clear references to the Seven Hills of Rome) one would have thought that these prophets, to make life a little easier for those of us in the 20th and 21st Centuries, would have at least given us a clear and recognizable time line. Something like "well, in the year XXXX, so and so will come to power in this particular country." But the prophet in The Revelation never gives us that. Instead he cloaks the message in the symbolism of the day because he was writing about the events and the political situation of the day, his day.

In a similar vein, the same people in our time who were so CONVINCED that Christ would return on January 1, 2000, had forgotten that the Christian Calander had no year zero. In other words, the year 2001 was the actual beginning of the new millenium. But for some mysterious reason, the group that BrandonG calls "The Radical Christian Right," decided to have their collective psychotic breakdown in late 1999 and early 2000. Few of these people went crazy (forgive me--crazier than they already were) on December 31,2000--January 1,2001. Indeed, last I knew we were all here. No rapture; no falling airplanes; no vanishing people; no Battle of Armegeddon; we're still stuck with the holier than thou Republicans. But for some reason the poor mathematicians on the far right never bothered to figure this out.

And even if they had it wouldn't have made a difference because we have miscalculated the year of Christ's birth by anywhere from five to seven years. If you go back into The New Testament and look at some of the historical events that were taking place at the time you suddenly realize that Christ was born anywhere from five to seven years prior to what has been accepted as the traditional date of his birth. Note also that we don't even celebrate Christ's birth at the right time of the year! According to the The NewTestament, The Shepherds were abiding in their fields. Well guess what? This is an activity that did not take place in the dead of winter. (Mid-eastern nights can be quite cold--ask anyone who lives in Arizona what nighttime temperatures in a desert climate are like and they'll tell you that you will freeze your bloody ass of. The shepherds would have been watching their flocks in the spring or fall, Jesus most probably having been born in one of those seasons. The only reason we ended up with a December Christmas was because the early Church Fathers wanted to coopt pagan holidays which took place at the same time of year--hence many of our Christmas traditions such as Christmas trees, gift-giving, mistletoe, wreaths, garlands etc. Translated into modern English,the new millenium, when considered in those terms, had actually begun in the early to mid 1990s. I guess maybe the Lord God needs a new calendar. So no matter how you dice it these Millenialists are just plain full of what makes the grass green.

How many historical figures have been refered to as "The Anti-Christ?" Atilla the Hun; Genghis Kahn; Naploean; Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin. Hell, the Book of Revelations is so heavy in symbolism and so nebulous in its rambling that it can be interpreted in just about any way you want to interpret it. Which probably explains why we've had witch hunts, Inquisitions, Holy Wars, and Crusades. Should we really be surprised by the fact that a mean-spirited clique of pseudo-Christian Nazis would use The Holy Bible as a weapon? Of course not. Especially when you consider the moral and intellectual worthlessness of their politics and theology.

Pick up a decent time line of human history. The Millenialists claim that The Book of Revelations warns us about wars. There have always been wars and there will always be wars. The Millenialists warn us about earthquakes. Again, there have always been and there will always be earthquakes! The Televangelists go on, and on, and mercilessly on, about plagues and diseases. Wake up people! Diseases and plagues are a part of human biology!Always have been and always will be. In short, bad things happen. Sane, level-headed people take rational steps to counter the effects and to find cures for the bad things. The Radical Christian Right uses them as weapons with which to beat their opponents over the head. Can you say, "bastardizing the Holy Bible into a weapon of hate and persecution?"

So if the Dominionists are not Christians then what are they? To be honest, they are as my often outspopken son has already stated, fascists. Historically, fascists have always smeared liberals as socialists, socialists as communists. It worked for Hitl, Mussolini and for Joe McCarthy and it may or may not be working for the present batch of would-be totalitarians. Only time will tell.

Again, BrandonG had it right. Their tactics are clearly fascist in nature and reveal them as the brutes and roughians that they really are. My advice to Brandon and to my fellow liberals is that they drive the point home in the same manner that they would drive a stake through a vampire's heart. The quicker these Dominionists are exposed for the theocratcic dictators that they really are,the safer this country will be for everyone else.

And now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to try and eat. Not an easy task these days, but I at least have an appetitie, thanks in large part to the antinausea medication that they're giving me to counter the effects of the chemo therpay that they're giving me. But then again, nothing makes me more nauseated than the insane rantings of the ignorant radical right.



Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Virgin Mary or Me?


I'm sorry everyone, but it's not what you think. Let me explain, it was a late night on Chicago's Westside and I was a little bit tipsy from my friend Jody's party. It was about 2 a.m and we couldn't get a taxi so we decided to walk back to the hotel.

Now usually, I'm a big boy and I can hold in what I drink, but it was something different about that night. The cool Chicago air seemed to rest and I was drawn into a melancholy daze over the rhythmatic sounds of the sirens that reverberated of of my ear drums like ping pong balls. As if a human of its own, it yelled and screamed to let it loose. It beat up my stomach and i could hold no longer. It banged and banged until I obliged.

I didn't want to just piss on someone's lawn or in the alley and be snatched up by a homeless guy, so the underpass was my only option. I slowly unzipped my baggy 36x34 Old Navy boot cut jeans and whipped out Willy and I did my thing. No one was around but Ashley and Steve and they treated the incident with as mouch thought as blinking an eye. We went on and I stumbled into the street enough to feel the friction of a 94' Thunderbird. To us, that was the end of the story, another day in the life of an urban rebel. I didn't expect hundreds of people to
flock to it and proclaim it the Virgin Mary.

Taken from The Young Liberals.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

THANKS BUT NO THANKS: AN ATHEISTS RESPONSE TO YOUR WELL MEANT PRAYERS

Thanks in large part to my often irrepressable son, I have been introduced to the wild, wonderful world of weblogging.

I had inteneded for my first post to be about another topic, but for reasons which shall soon become obvious, I have opted to put my original idea on hold and use this opportunity to complain about something that has been bothering me for the past two and a half weeks.

Last month my barber--my barber of all people--informed me that the birth mark on the back of my neck should be" looked at." Mind you, I had been born with this thing. It was a tiny, quarter inch wide spot, dark brown spot which was located on the back, left side of my neck. I never gave it a second thought. Not, that is, until my barber informed me that it had been growing and changing for the past several months. What was once a small, dark brown spot had now grown into a raised lump with distinct areas of blue, black, and gray coloration. Having an uncle-in-law who is a retired doctor proved to be of some help and when he told me that I was looking at a probable case of skin cancer I decided it was time to go to a specialist--just to shut everyone help.

As it turned out, I was the one who needed to be shut up. The birthmark with which I had lived for the past 36 1/2 years was indeed cacnerous, a malanoma no less. On the plus side we seem to have gotten to it in time. On the minus side, I now have a rather large wound on the back of my neck which, while not especially noticieable because of its location, will probably leave a deep, cavernous scar the size of Akron, Ohio. And again, on the negative side, the doctors inform me that I should undergo "subsequent treatment" to treat this problem on a systematic basis and to protect against any possible future outbreaks. Okay, I can see the logic in that. And if the truth is be to be known, I really don't mind the idea of putting up with a little misery now if it means that I'll be around to watch my six-and-a-half-yea- old triplets grow up and to watch my oldest son get married next June. It's worth it. I can live with the idea.


But what I DON'T want to live with are all these busy body neighbors, friends, and do gooders who are using my illness as an excuse to "evangelize" me. Maybe it's because I'm a former(Protestant Minister; maybe it's because I became an atheist; shit, maybe it's because I really don't like a lot of unnecessary attention, but I have really become disgusted with the constant flow of well-meaning indviduals who are offering me their spiritual guidance at an incredibly trying time. For some reason everyone seems to thnink that I should be going through a holier than thou conversion because I learned that I have a potentially dangerous disease. Well, my dear friends, I have news for you.

IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

I haven't believed in Gods, or Devils, or Heaven, or Hell, or reincarnation, or Nirvana, or any of that pie-in-the-sky delusional nonsense for the better part of eight years and I don't see myself going back tothe dark old days of ignorance and superstition. I am content to know that I was born into godless universe, that I live in a godless universe, and that I will die in a godless universe. I don't expect eternal damnation nor ever lasting bliss. All I expect is a very long, eternal, dreamless sleep from which there shall be no awakening. And that's it. End of story. Finis. When I'm dead I shall be truly dead.

Do I miss the comfort that comes from a belief in a delusional big daddy in the sky? Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do. But I feel more comforted by the fact that I have a clear and realistic understanding of the world in which I live and that I am doing the best that I can to make this, the only world that is truly real, a better place to live for my family and loved ones.

So for all the people who think that they need to preach and who think that I will be swayed by your well meant, but misdirected spirituality, I would humbly ask you to work on your OWN spirituality, and to leave my family and myself to handle this matter as we see fit. I don't mind if you want to say your prayers in the privacy of your own home or within the confines of your own church, and I must admit that the angel food cakes (is that a hint?) and casseroles that you've been bringing over are truly mouth-watering, BUT, I really do wish you would concentrate on your own spirituality and leave me to work on mine We like you a lot, and we appreciate your concern, but to be honest it's getting a little irritating and the worst thing that you can do for me at this time is to irritate me or bore me to tears. We're trying to keep an upbeat and yet realistic attitude around here and your constant preoccupation with death and the afterlife has not always made that possible.

Again, we like, even love you a lot, but really, people. Enough is enough.

Thanks for your concern,

Trevor (Enlightenment_76).


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

THE MIXED BAG PAPACY OF JOHN PAUL II

THE MIXED BAG PAPACY OF JOHN PAUL II

Vy Brandon,
Enlightnment,
Advocate1


For all intents and purposes the reign of Pope John Paul II was a mixed bag of both positive and negative achievements.

Even as a recovering Catholic I still have pleasant memories of the late John Paul II. Even when i disagreed with him on matters of morality, doctrine, and practice I could still respect the man, even as my respect for the Church as a whole sank to an all time low. Despite increasing differences and my eventual departure from the Church, I can still admit that John Paul II was at least sincere in is beliefs and that he did accomplish a certain amount of good during his 26 year reign as Pope.

On the plus side, John Paul II was the deciding factor in the decline and fall of Soviet Style Communism. Indeed, it might well be argued that the only reason I am writing this, and the only reason you are reading this is because JP2 had the conviction to speak truth to power. We did not, afterall have a Third World War, and the last I knew we didn't experience the Nuclear winter that many concerned scientists had envisioned as a direct result of an all out nuclear war. That in large part can be attributed to the pacifistic actions of John Paul II.

If ever there was a man of peace it was John Paul II. Here was a man who had survived both Fascism and Communism in his native Poland. He understood well the many ways in which power could be used an manipulated. While the Reagen Administration and its merry band of proto-Necons were funding the bloody, hypocritical Contras, John Paul II, was repudiating the use of force and violence as he inspired a series of peaceful resistance movements throughout Eastern Europe, and finally within the "Evil Empire" itself. Make no mistake about it: this was a very clever politician, an astute world leader, who knew precisely how far he could go when dealing with authoritarian powers. Not that the Reagen or Bush 1 Administartions were in any way appreciative. Throughout the early 1980's the Reagen administration virtually ignored the Gandhi-like revolution that was gaining momentum within the Soviet Block. True to form, the Neocons of the era payed little attention to Lech Walesa and Solidarity, opting instead to fund right wing death squads in a sanguniary effort to bring peace and democracy to Central America.

Was JP2 the only important factor in the decline and fall of Soviet style communism? Certainly not. Mikhail Gorbachev must be given some credit; and if we are to be honest we need to admit that the Soviet econmy, with its heavy emphasis on both military spending and obsessive centralized control, was anything except self-sustaining. For all intents and purposes it was a system doomed to collapse by its own weight, corruprtion, and ineptitude. But that doesn't change the fact that it was JP2, through his courageous visit to Poland which inspired millions of repressed people to take to the streets in peaceful protest. Indeed, if the people in the former Soviet Union and its satellite nations had responded as the Neocons respond to every international incident--with knee jerk violence--Mikhail Gorbachev might well have responded in kind and the cause for peace and freedom might well have been set back for another generation.*

Whether the the extreme right wing of the Church likes it or not--and we suspect that they probably do not--JP2 was actually acting on the provisions of the earlier provisions Vatican II, which prohibited the use of coercion in the pursuit of truth. Let's face it. There have been times in church history when the pursuit of truth was drenched in blood: the Crusades, localized witch hunts, Inquisitions, religious wars etc. Vatican II, combined with JP2s personal experiences under the Hitler and Soviet regimes, more or less left the highly popular Pope with a genuine distaste for violence.

Equally inspirational was the manner in which he closed the theological loophole on the use of the death penalty under extreme circumstances. Mind you, this was a man who survived an assassination attempt and who visited his would be assassin in an Italian prison where he had the moral fortitude to forgive the demented individual who had tried to kill him. Truth be known I don't think many of us would have the guts nor the character to have behaved in a similar manner. In a similar vein of tolerance, this was a Pope who reached out to different faiths. (He was , afterall, the first Pope to visit a Mosque, and his attempt to bridge the gulf between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches did prove useful in that they helped to lessen a little of the tension between these two branches of the Christian faith.

And yet, for all his compassion, the reign of JP2 has proven disastrous in other areas.

True, he did condemn the abuses and excesses of capitalism, advocating on more than one occasion a certain degree of governmental control of the market place. This after all was a Pope who, in matters of class conflict advocated a "preferred option for the poor," while condemning the excesses of both communism and the free market. You can't say that his concern for the poor was in any way disingenuous. But you can fault him for the policies that he promoted to remedy the situation.

Which brings is to the often confusing and hypocritical manner in which JP2 and the church hierarchy thought about and handled the poor.

What can we say? With a friend like JP2 the poor didn't need any enemies. Does anyone remember Mother Theresa? Of course you do. Where strength of will and faith are concerned, Mother Theresa was truly admirable. But when you look at the policy that she promoted, she was nothing less than destructive. Instead of educating women about their rights and bodies Mother Theresa openly endorsed the Catholic party line about subservience to men, celibacy, and the rhythm method. Her efforts to bring physical and spiritual comfort to the Indian slums were, again, admirable, but the policies that she endorsed, the Catholic opposition to artificial contraception in any way, shape, or form, was actually creating more of the very misery that she was trying to alleviate.

A friend of the poor?

Instead of promoting education about reproductive rights; instead of recognizing the fact that over population in Third World countries is a major factor in poverty, hunger, crime, and social instability, this church under this Pope adopted a policy which denigrated women as inferior beings and left in operation the practices which were causing the many problems that His Holiness and often spoken out against. And while you might argue that this is just Church teaching, you also need to remember that in this particular case Church teaching was partially--not exclusively, but partially--responsible for the deaths of more than 20 million AIDS victims. Think about it. At a time when we have 20 million dead from AIDS and additional 40 million people infected with the HIV virus, one would think that the Church would have at least enough common sense to have stepped out of the Dark Ages, recognized that we were facing unusual circumstances in the form of a global health crisis, and allowed the use of condoms (which in no way shape or form would have led to the "murder" of a fertilized egg cell). But this didn't happen. Instead the Church (JP2 included), maintained its irrational, and frankly, neurotic, stand on birth control to the very end. And the irony is that while the church condemns abortion as murder, its policy on birthcontrol is actually creating large numbers of unwanted pregnancies which end in the very abortions that the church so fervently condemns. You really need to wonder. Which does the church consider to be more important? Regulating personal lives or preventing unwanted pregnancies, which often end in abortion. Regrettably the answer would appear to be the former. Or to put it another way, the Church preached a self-contradictory gospel of personal responsibility, but limitted personal responsibility to celibacy, while eliminating the possibility that one might be responsible with artificial contraception.

It is no accident (nor a wonder) that the Catholic Church is all but dead in the Industrialized west. In Europe Catholic Cathedrals are virtual museums. In the United States, Catholic institutions (including churches and Catholic schools) are closing at an alarming rate. Convents are anachronistic. Homegrown new priests are a rarity. And yet defenders of the status quo routinely claim that Church membership has increased from 60 million to 67 million in the past ten years.

BUT, what they don't tell you is that much of that increase comes in the form of immigrants from impoverished countries where educational standards don't meet our own. Nor do they tell you that the church has a truly bizarre way of counting Catholics. In other words, if you were at any time a member of the Catholic Church but dropped out or converted, you, regardless of your present beliefs and practices, are still counted as a Catholic. Translated into modern English this means that we really don't have an accurate number as to the number of Americans who are currently active and practicing Catholics. But with recent revelations pertaining to sexual abuse and the ensuing coverup by the Church hierarchy, common sense should tell you that membership has probably decreased as a result of those revelations.

And yet the church openly brags about the fact that many of its new Cardinals come from Asia, Africa, and South America. Translated into modern English, the church has been expanding in third world countries where oppressive poverty, civil unrest, and social instability have limiting effects on education. In short, Roman Catholicism has been spreading in " Banana Republics" where corrupt governments, poor educational systems, ignorance, and outright superstition are par for the course; but losing ground in the high tech, better educated West. Does this tell you something? I'm sorry. Overpopulation, over-crowding, hunger, poverty, crime, civil unrest, ignorance, and the deaths of millions of people comprise an awfully high price to maintain the status quo of a right wing dictatorship in Vatican City.

Right Wing dictatorship? Oh yes. Despite the good that he has done on the world stage, the fact remains that JP2, while operating under the provisions of Vatican II , also did a great deal to undermine Vatican II. More power has been concentrated in the hands of the Papacy. Potential Cardinals were required to pass a theological litmus test. Open debates over theological issues were openly discouraged in Catholic universities. The Jesuit contsitution was suspended, Jesuit leadership dismantled. Liberation Theology in Latin America was ruthlessly squelched.

We know, We know. We've heard the old argument before. The Church isn't a democracy. It needs to follow the will of God. But we also need to remember that much of what we call church history is the result of both internal and external policies. Those who claim that the church never changes fail to recognize the fact that the church has already changed and that is changing even as we speak. For example. The papacy didn't exist in a recognizable form until the 5th Century. Prior to that the Bishop Of Rome was only a first among equals. Similarly the idea of Papal Infallibility was an evolving concept which came to a peak in 1870 under Pope Pius IX and was later misused by future Popes, notably Pius XI and Pius XII.

If we are truly serious about spreading democracy--as the regime in Washington so shallowly proclaims--then we should at least be willing to put our money where our theocratic mouths are and take the concept to its logical conclusion. Most Western Catholics don't have a problem with women priests. A vast majority of Western Catholics do not--repeat not--believe that artificial contraception is a sin.

And that's the problem. The "Powers That Be in Rome" know that if this Chuch were to ever democratize the process, the male-dominated Hierarchy would quickly be delegated to selling pencils on the nearest street corner. The Church, by its very nature cannot afford to democratize because that would mean that a group of (presumably) celibate men would no longer be able to tell their sexually active congregations what they should or should not be doing with their bodies. Never mind the theocratic language in which these arguments are invariably phrased by the Hierarchy. The fact of the matter is that this has always been about temporal power, it is about temporal power, and it shall continue to be about temporal power. The only difference between the reformers and the Hierarchy is the fact that the reformers have the decency and the back bone to admit this. The Hierarchy does not.

We saw the devasting effects of what happens when a patronizing Church Hierarchy moves in darkness and secrecy. It began to come out in the 1980s We called it the Priest Sex Abuse Scandal. If we want to be honest we would openly admit that if the CEO of a major corporation had behaved as ineptly as JP2 had during this particular crisis, that CEO would have been fired. And justifiably so. But in this case we really couldn't fire the CEO. In the first place, church doctrine really wouldn't allow for him to be fired; and even if it had, the startling act remained that the proverbial board of directors,(again, the Church Hierarchy),was actively involved in the coverup of the scandal itself. (Still think closed, nondemocratic institutions are such a hot idea?) And to add insult to injury, the infamous Cardinal Bernard Law will be allowed to perform a series of Funeral masses on Monday April 11th--quite an honor for a discredited clergyman who had been caught in the act of covering up for sexually abusive priests.

Even in the area where JP2 has received some justifiable credit--the manner in which he reached out to the Jewish Community and supposedly asked his fellow Catholics to burden a share of the blame for the Holocaust--the church found new and creative ways to fall short of its moral responsibilities. Contrary to popular belief, the Papacy shouldered little blame for the holocaust. The Historical Record was very clear. Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries Jews were treated abominably. Ghettos, pogroms, forced baptisms, kidnapping Jewish children to be raised as Catholics, restricting Jewish civil liberties, forbidding Jews to hold certain jobs, Papal rhetoric which denigrated Jews as vampires, revolutionaries, ad nauseam. And yet, in 1998, in "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah," JP2 and the Church in general refused to admit the fact--not the opinion or the belief--but the fact--that the Christian community had created a climate of hate and fear which resulted in the holocaust. In fact, one might seriously argue that the Third Reich only mechanized what Christian leaders--Popes included--had been preaching for decade after decade after sorry decade.

To their credit the Vatican did have the decency to at least admit that the holocaust had taken place in countries of "long-standing Christian civilization." And it furter admitted that Christian attitudes had been formulative in the creation of the holocaust. But instead of criticizing past Popes for their often barbaric attiudes and preachings against the Jewish community, the Vatican refused to admit that past Popes had been instrumental in creating the antisemitic climate of hate and paranoia which had resulted in the atrocities of the Third Reich. True. Germany was, for all intents and purposes, a Protestant country; but that doesn't change the fact that Hitler was a Baptized Catholic. He grew up in Catholic-dominated Austria where he was subjected to the antisemitism of his time. Moreover Austrians played a disproportionately large role in the Holocaust. According to Simon Wiesenthal , half of the crimes associated with the holocaust were committed by Austrians. That's right, by Austrians who comprised a mere ten percent of the Greater German Reich's population.

Instead of admitting that the antisemitism of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century was in part religiously-inspired, the Vatican, in a stunning example of Orwellian doublespeak, shifted the emphasis from the often barbarous teachings of past Popes (i.e. religious teachings) to cultural and political causes. In fact the Vatican went out of its way to avoid the term "anti-semitism" altogether, opting instead for the sanitized term "anti-Judaism." It were almost as if the Church were trying to conceal the fact that it had once been engaged in a cultural war against Modernism; an outright attempt to crush everything from Communism and Socialism to freedom of religion, democracy, church-state separation, unions, Free Masons, Labor Unions, and of course, Jews.

That said we also need to admit that this Pope was instumental in repairing the often contentious relationship between Jews and Catholics. Granted, much of this goes back to Vatican II and the watershed provisions of "In Our Time," which repudiated the imbecillic myth about how the Jews as a people had killed Christ. Much to the chagrin of modern anti-semites, "In Our Time" affirmed the full and permanent integrity of the Covenant that God had made with Israel. In a single stroke the Catholic Church recognized the fact that the Covenant that God made with Israel is nothing less than Israel's path to God. After 1965 the Church recognized that Christianity had neither superseded nor replaced Judaism. Acting in the spirit of "In Our Time," JP2 made a refreshing (and long over due) move to bridge the gulf which had between the Jewish and Catholic communities.

Regardless as to the often self-excusing results which were found in "We Remember," the fact remains that the Church or rather JP2, was at least willing to take a long, hard look at the holocaust and the role played by the Church in general. The fact that JP2 was at least willing to examine where that kind of rabid hate and antisemitism came from was an important step forward.

The next important step took in 2000 when JP2 went to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and prayed as a Jew would pray without invoking the name of Jesus. The message was very clear. JP2 was invoking the Spirit of "In Our Time," again repudiating the idea that the Church had somehow replaced Judaism. In short, this highl;y complex Pope, while in many ways a Catholic Fundamentalist may well have opened the door for an increased sense of Ecumenicalism.



The Papacy of John Paul II was a mixed bag. At times it was a candle in the dark. At other times it became the darkness itself. More often than not it was a bizarre blend of light and shadow. Supporters will almost undoubtedly beg that he be declared a Saint. Critics will bemoan the fact that he dragged the Church back to the days before Vatican II. In any event there were enough good intentions and missed opportunities to keep the debate alive for years to come.



*The differences between the Reagen-Bush 1 Administrations and JP2 were never as obvious as they were in November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. By any standard this was one of the crowning achievements in a porplonged struggle against tyranny. And how did Bush 1 show its appreciation? How did Bush 1 celebrate the peaceful triumph of liberty over Communism? Three weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, Bush 1 made a mockery of JP2's peaceful efforts by launching an illegal war against Panama, a move which was quickly repudiated by the Vatican. Throughout the 1990s and continuing right up to and including the U.S. invasion of Iraq, JP2 had consistently condemned the U.S. whenever it behaved aggressively towards other nations. Earlier, throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bush 1 either couldn't or wouldn't believe that the Soviet Union was actually falling apart. Once the facts were undeniable, Bush 1 shifted from a reaction of disbelief to open annoyance. It was almost as if the proto-Neocons couldn't imagine a world without their beloved "Evil Empire."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

THIS IS A CULTURE WAR: WHY AREN'T YOU FIGHTING IT?

THIS IS A CULTURE WAR:
WHY AREN'T YOU FIGHTING IT?

by Brandon

I've been telling my fellow Democrats for a few months now that we can't treat the present generation of Republicans as if they were your typical run of the mill politicians. They are not. Whether you want to admit it or not these people do NOT campaign to win elections--they campaign to destroy everything in their path; including everything from social programs that made life tolerable for seniors and the middle class (think Medicare and Social Security) to the Separation of Church and State that our Founding Fathers created to protect our freedom of religion, to the very air and water that we breathe and drink. With a primary goal of turning America into a Theocratic State which practices Social Darwinism as a "Christian" virtue, the Republican Party, with backing from its Radical Right goons, has indeed engaged in a Culture War that is designed to undermine the very foundation--the religious choices, economic security, and everyday liberties--on which our modern society has been built.

And yet, while the very basis of our security-both national and international--is being eroded by reactionary theocrats and neocons, the Democratic response has been to debate itself to death. Young Liberals, fellow progressives, let me explain something to you. We are under attack. Our enemies have revealed their rapacious natures on a daily basis and yet we refuse to take the threat as seriously as we should. History tells us what happens when a citizenry behaves as if it were an acquiescent flock of sheep. In the late 1920's a pint-sized sociopath named Adolf Hitler had the audacity to put his insane writings into print. Regrettably an entire nation, indeed, the entire world. did not read nor pay attention to those writings. The end result was the rise of the Nazi Party, World War II, and the Holocaust.

Now flash forward to 2004. Today we have a pack of power hungry reactionaries who are putting their barbarous paradigms into print on a regular basis. Their insane rantings form the basis of the entire AM radio frequency, especially the lower and upper channels where the so called "Christian Right" spews delusional, often radical, propaganda that sounds as if it were written by Paul Josef Goebbels. Their imbecilic TV programs litter our nightly news broadcasts. Their moronic writings dominate the religion section at our libraries and book stores. In short, the sociopaths of our era have expressed their truly savage intentions while the Democratic Party behaves as if is the modern day equivalent of the Weimar Republic.

Let's get something straight. The time for debate and conversation is over. This country is dealing with a repressive contituency that HATES the idea of debate. The one thing, and the ONLY thing, that the radical right has ever understood is the taking of power by distortion, innuendo, outright lies, and, on occasion, physical force.

Physical force you may ask? Oh yes! Does anyone remember the violent manner in which Southern segregationists tried to hold onto power during the 1960s? Do you remember the water cannons? The attack dogs? Church-bombings, cross-burnings, lynchings and murders that were committed as Bible-thumping white bigots tried to keep Black Americans in a perpetual state of virtual slavery? Is there anyone out there who remembers the cold-blooded manner in which corporations, and local law enforcement cracked down on labor in the 1920s and 1930s? Does anyone remember the manner in which the Hoover Administration fired on unarmed Veterans in the early days of the Republican-created Great Depression? I'm sure some people do. And to make matters worse, the right wing proclivity for violence and hate-mongering continues to this very day: Do the names Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Aaron James McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson ring a bell? Do we really believe that the Ku Klux Klan, The American Nazi Party, the Militia Movement, Aryan Nation, and the Christian Identity Movement (just to name a few) have been transported to an alternative universe? Of course not.

With this in mind, I really want to know what my fellow Democrats have been thinking for the past nine ot ten years. People, let me explain something to you. You're taking a brief case and index cards to a bar fight. Your opponents are bringing the political equivalents of baseball bats, brass knuckles, and broken beer bottles and we're showing up with debate points. The GOPigs are hell bent on busting political heads. They're coming with the clear and obvious intention of destruction. We're coming to sing a rousing chorus of "Kumbaya." Has it ever occurred to my fellow Democrats that maybe, just MAYBE it is time to adopt some new tactics?

Allow me to put this in very simple terms. The Republicans are street fighters. And if you want to beat them--if you want to roll back the wave of neofascism that is now threatening this Republic--you have to respond in kind. Ladies and Gentlemen, you need to stop being Ladies and Gentlemen. You need to wage the political equivalent of a Cultural World War, and, like your GOP counterparts, you must be prepared to destroy the reputations and careers of your oppontents in the process.

Be damned with the usual niceties and polite conversations. This is NOT a time for pleasantries. Your country is in danger and you need to acquire a few needed characteristics that you've been lacking for the past few years: backbones, fire in the belly, and attack rhetoric. Hint hint. When you're trapped in an alley by a homicidal serial killer, you don't lay down on the pavement and tell him to aim at the heart. No. You fight back. You make noise. You punch; you kick; you claw the bastard's eyes out: you do anything and everything that you can to save your life, but you do not, repeat not, roll over and allow him to eviscerate you!

This may be repugnant to Democrats and liberals in general but this is NOT a time for appeasement. This is a time for verbal and political action. I know this doesn't set well with the liberal tradition of patiently educating the public, but you're dealing with a rapaciously fanatical enemy that sees debate, ideas, and critical thinking as a threat to its very existence. And it is that paranoia, that kind of intolerance, that threatens all of us. To be blunt, high brow tactics are not going to convince the average, mainstream voter who has come to see liberals as gutless wimps. We saw a perfect example of this during the 2004 election, when John Kerry foolishly allowed a series of untrue campaign ads from the far right to go unchallenged for a period of not days, but weeks. The final result was only too preidctable. The average American voter saw a man who wouldn't even defend himself against his political enemies and assumed that he wouldn't have the fortitude to defend the country. We need to rediscover our convictions and more to the point, we need to air them--loudly and frequently and without embarassment.

Having learned the lesson of 2004, I truly hope that my fellow progressives will adopt a few tried and tested Republican tactics. Please consider the following:

1. The Republican thugs now control all three branches of the Federal government, which makes you wonder how in the name of all that's holy they can still blame liberals for anything. But now that they have that control we need to "adopt a strategy of selective retreat, much like the Russians have done to save their homeland on numerous occasions. Engaging in rearguard actions when we find opportunity and striking hard and fast when they are comfy. " *

2. To that end we need to stop being such wimps. Enough is enough already! Face the fact that Politics is a lot more than an over-glorified Debating Society. It's war without bullets and you must be prepared to wage it.

3. Reduce complicated theories and ideas to short, simple statements and do not hesitate to repeat yourself. It never hurts to drive the message home until it is well understood.

4. Try not to use more than two or three arguments at a time. Or, to put it another way, don't clutter your rhetoric, don't confuse your audience, and stay on topic.

5. Fight fire with fire. When attacked, be prepared to fight back. If your opponent treats you with respect, treat your opponent with respect. If your opponent is out to destroy your career and your reputation, respond in kind.

6. If the Neocons believe that preemptive warfare is such a good idea, then let's give it to them in its cultural and political forms. Never be afraid to go on the offensive. Never be afraid to speak your mind. Remember, speech, ideas, and information are like ammunition: they won't do any good unless you actually have the courage to use them.

7. Don't let an attack go unanswered. As I wrote above,this is what John Kerry did when faced with the Swift Boat Liars blitz. False accusations and distortions must be countered quickly and efficiently.

8. Don't be afraid to be a personality. We need candidates with both, charisma and intelligence. The intelligence will serve a candidate well after he or she is elected. The charisma will get him or her elected in the first place.

9. Don't be afraid to use humor. The self-deprecating variety is fine, but don't forget to ridicule and humiliate your opponent whenever you get the chance. And don't worry about running out of material. The right wing provides it on an a daily basis. Think Barney and Sponge Bob, the Gannon fiasco, W's frequent mangling of the English language, Tom Delay's legal difficulties. You must admit--the far right has been a blessing for humorists, satirists, and political cartoonists.

10. Keep your emotions under control. Anger can be a motivating force, indeed, anger is often a justifiable response to unjust or intolerable situations. But try to keep it under control. Mold it. Tap into it, but make sure that you are in control of the anger and not vice versa. As bad as the Republicans are, you need to fight this and future political battles: not because you hate Republicans and their warped theocratic agenda of top down repression, but because you love freedom and the right to make personal choices in your own life.

Remember--this is a Culture War. This country is in danger of being overrun by Pseudo Christian Fascists who want to control every aspect of your life; from the moment of your conception, until the second you draw your last breath. You are fighting a consituency of right wing radicals who, if given the opportunity, would control every aspect of your personal life, including with whom you sleep and when you do so, to the types of medical care and medications that you would consume. It's high time that we brought some political ammunition to the battle line. It's time to admit that we are fighting an over-zealous tribe of cultural warriors who want to legislate and abjudicate their opposition out of existence.

It's time to stand up, be heard, and take back this country before it's too late.

Brandon


*From a quote by our friend Joe R. in an email dated 4 November 2004.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Friday, April 01, 2005

GOP + THE RADICAL CHRISTIAN RIGHT + NEOCONS = SATAN



GOP + NEOCONS + THE RADICAL CHRISTIAN RIGHT = SATANISM



Has anyone noticed that the Republican Party of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries has adopted the beliefs and goals of the infamous First Church of Satan? No, I am not kidding. To look at the often brutal foreign and domestic policies that are so routinely endorsed by the GOP and its Radical Christian Reich bass, one has to wonder if their agenda hasn't been lifted directly from the pages of the Satanic Bible.


For those of you who aren't too familiar with the teachings and literature of the First Church of Satan (and you're God awful lucky if you aren't), this demented organization sought to create a repressive police state in which the strong were to survive and the weak were to be weeded out, creating what the church calls "achievement-orientated leadership." Church beatitudes included warped distortions such as: "Blessed are the strong for they shall possess the earth,"and "If a man smite you on one cheek then smash him on the other."" Highly materialistic in its world view, the First Church of Satan was dedicated to self-gratification and the pursuit of material wealth. Advancement through the church hierarchy was achieved through a dedication to Satanic doctrine, but other factors were considered as well: the type of decor in ones home; the make and model a member's car; dining practices; financial situations, ad nauseam

This may sound like a truly wicked view of the world, and for all intents and purposes, it is, but that doesn't change the fact that (in many ways) the agenda of the First Church of Satan has become the agenda of the Neocons, the Radical Christian Right, and the Republican Party in general.

Think about it.

BLESSED ARE THE STRONG FOR THEY SHALL POSSESS THE EARTH:

This, for all intents and purposes, is the basis for both, Neocon foreign and fiscal policy.

The Neocon desire to rule the world (might makes right) is obvious: it positively reeks of Devil Worship. An unprovoked invasion of a nation which, while barbarous, had not attacked us, followed by an inept new government which can't even make the most basic of democratic decisions while a homegrown insurgency makes a mockery out of its budding security apparatus.

Not exactly a stunning success by any measure, despite the happy-sappy good news that the Radical Christian Right likes to peddle as the "truth." And if the kind of sexual abuse and wanton disregard for sexual morality that we saw in those Iraqi prisons is any indication as to the kind of "Christian morality"that the Radical Religious Right wants to impose on us here at home, then all I can say is this: "God help us."

Just as destructive is the Neocon/Radical Christian Right economic policy here at home. I'm sure the Satanists in the world must be salivating over a set of policies which virtually idolize wealthy corporations and the super rich at the expense of the lower and the middle classes. Again, we seem to be faced with a Satanic philosophy in which the strong are favored so that they might possess the earth. When seen in this light one could safely argue that everything from tax cuts for the over privileged, to funding slashes for social programs, to the Bush privatization plan for Social Security, are all in keeping with the social-darwinistic philosophy behind the Satanic Bible and the First Church of Satan. Even right wing tort reform--an effort which reveals hellacious inspiration in both the economic and legal spheres-- has been carefully designed to weed out the weak (in this case, consumers) for the benefit of the strong (powerful corporations).

And, when combined with the Bush Administration's proclivity for secrecy and strong arm legal tactics, one might just conclude that Bush and his legions of Neocon goons are more in line with American Satanism and its desire to create a police state for the strong and able bodied than it is with mainstream Christianity and its concern for the weak, imporverished and disabled.

Let's face it, you didn't hear Democrats telling the American people to go shopping after the terrorist attacks on 911--a clearly materialistic act which could have been lifted directly from the pages of a Satanic text. And if you want to go back a little further, it was the Reagen Administration, with its obsessive craving for military power and its moronic belief that "greed was good," which enhanced the trend for materialism and paved the path towards the sick, narcissistic world in which we live today

What's that you say? Grampa Ronny was a Satanist? Well, let's put it this way. For all his talk about decency and American values, the man seldom went to church. And the economic policies that he promoted, (when combined with the philosophy that he espoused) were largely responsible for the social decay that we saw during the 1980s and early 1990s. Until the 1980s America had a problem with gangs. That was a common fact and no one denied it. But when Reagen came to office and introduced his warped gospel of trickle down selfishness, gangs became transnational criminal /business organizations which flooded our streets with new and more addictive drugs--not to mention senseless violence over turf and territory. (Indeed, in many ways the "values"of the modern Republican Party are the same "values" of an inner city street gang, but that's an argument for another time and place.)

At the same time, the Reagen/Bush 1 philosophy of materialism was having an equally devastating effect in our public school systems as junior high and high school youths (even those in affluent neighborhoods) begin to shoot and stab each other over everything from sports jackets to athletic shoes: as if we could have expected anything else when our leaders were promoting a message of getting ahead at any cost. In short, the Reagen Administration, like the present Bush regime, was long on talk about morality and proper social behavior, but their policies were creating acts of violence which were both immoral and destructive. Or, to put it another way, the Necon message of "enlightened self interest"(an Orwellian oxymoron if ever there was one) was, and is, more in tune with Anton LaVey and the Satanic Bible than it was with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

And now for the bad news. Their legal policies are just as brutal and malevolent.

IF A MAN SMITE YOU ON ONE CHEEK SMASH HIM ON THE OTHER:

If Neocon fiscal/economic policies are rapacious in the extreme, then their view of the American Legal system is nothing less than sadistic. We've seen this building for several years: the anal retentive manner in which they imposed mandatory sentences and stripped power from what should ideally be an independent judiciary; the brutal, often psychopathic delight in which they threw juvenile offenders into adult prisons; the blood thirsty manner in which they defended the death penalty for both, minors and the mentally ill. Never mind the fact that Neocon justice (another Orwellian oxymoron) is just another example of handing the earth to the strong and avaricious; in a very real sense it is also a fine endorsement of the Satanic proverb, "If a man smite you on one cheek, smash him on the other."

Nothing demonstrates this point more painfully than the right wing cult of death and its obsessive compulsive attachment to the death penalty.


At what point in the Bible did Jesus Christ kill (i.e. execute) someone? The answer, quite simply, is that he didn't. I find plenty of passages in which he asked his followers and critics alike to forgive and to turn the other cheek. I see that wonderful passage where he stopped an adulterous woman from being stoned to death, but I do not see too many incidents when Jesus advocated the use of lethal injections, hangings, or the electric chair. As a matter of fact, in Luke 22: 50-51, when the ear of the servant of the high priest is cut off, Jesus actually touches the ear and heals this individual, who incidentally, was one of the people who had been sent to arrest him. And before you say that Jesus didn't know that his arrest would lead to his eventual execution, I would refer you back to Luke 19:31-34, (and to similar passages in Matthew 20:17, and Mark 10_32-34) where Jesus predicts (for the third time) his own death. In short, Jesus actually forgave one of the people who would prove instrumental in his eventual state-sanctioned murder. Later, in Luke 23:34, he issues the famous words "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." In other words, he was forgiving the people who were killing, indeed, murdering him.

Succinctly stated, the Neocon/Radical Christian Right attitude towards law and justice is more in keeping with the beliefs and practices of the First Church of Satan and the Pagan Roman government which executed Jesus, than it is with the New Testament. Whether it's the execution of minors and the mentally ill or "merely" throwing people into prison for minor, victimless crimes, or if it's forcing convicted criminals to work in chain gangs, the fact of the matter is that the Necons and the Radical Christian Right have adopted a legal philosophy which has turned the teachings of Jesus Christ on their theological heads.

In closing, it seems to me that those who sing the praises of Jesus the loudest may well be in league with the forces of darkness. Greed, avarice, an anal retentive legal philosophy; a desire to rule the world; status at the expense of spirituality, erosions of our civil liberties, an inability to sympathize with the poor, a contempt for the lower classes, a nationwide obsession with power and a preoccupation with wealth and physical possessions: each and every one of these is a trait that would have been embraced by the First Church of Satan.

And, it would seem, by the Neocons, the Radical Christian Right, and the Republican Party as a whole.