Monday, September 12, 2011


The following slightly edited article first appeared in my weekly newspaper column entitled, "Christianity and Society," that appears in the "Sacramento Valley Mirror":

O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. (Isaiah 3:12)

Such statements as the above verse of Scripture show why very few prophets of God ever died in their sleep! Tradition has it that Isaiah was sawn in two for warning Judah about God’s wrath in the form of the Babylonian takeover and the subsequent exile of the people of Judah.

A sociopath has certain characteristics, some of which are glibness/superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning/manipulative behavior; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow feelings; callousness/lack of empathy with others; failure to accept responsibility for his or her own actions. Most of our politicians and corporate heads clearly meet most or all of these criteria!

We now have a situation in our nation where those who presume to lead cause others to err and destroy their paths; indeed, they even compromise the state of their very souls. Be they Democrats or Republicans, our political leaders are largely sociopathic! They care far more for their short-sited self-interests than for the good of the country, despite their lofty rhetoric to the contrary.

Especially after the Bush debacle, it is inconceivable to me that we would have a Tea Party were it not for the fact that we have a Black President! The Tea Party and the Republicans who mimic its rhetoric seem to care little for the underprivileged and working classes in the U.S., and that mind-set seems to ironically be shared by Obama whose rhetoric belies his tremendous inadequacies and moral cowardice in dealing with issues, such as universal health care, that were central to the campaign that won him election to that lofty office.

Just as the Tea Party under the Republican rubric is betraying most of the American people, Obama is also betraying most of the American people by his betrayal of the base that ushered him into office; his acquiescence to the corporate elites that have a vested interest in cushy tax-breaks and deregulation of their activities that largely work against the best interests of most of the American people.

“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and 
righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has 
been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3) Those who blame illegal immigrants, Gay people, and unions for their assorted woes, rather than the political and corporate elites, should read this verse of Scripture more than once!

We have a far-flung military presence, and we are officially engaged in two wars, and have orchestrated and/or supported, and are supporting, the toppling of governments elsewhere. We were founded by virtual genocide of Native Americans, and have a history of slavery and horrific segregation and treatment of African Americans. Professing Christians and others have brutally maligned God's LGBT people; bearing false witness against them. We have engaged in torture to the extent that George Bush and Dick Cheney will unlikely ever go to Europe for fear of being arrested for war crimes; Obama might well be following in their footsteps in this regard. We are the only developed country that doesn’t have universal health care, and there are people who remain sick, in pain, and die because of lack of access. Yet, we unashamedly sing, “God Bless America.”

As Rev. Jeremiah Wright accurately said, God will not bless America! Indeed, God will damn America for its institutionalized sociopathy (in which it is certainly not alone) that has consigned the promise of America’s founding to the dung heap of naked greed and its sociopathy in dealing with the vulnerable in our society and with those who have stood in the way of its naked capitalism and militarism. And we currently have political and corporate reactionaries that are in league with the Power Elite having spokesmen on talk radio who extol such sociopathy as a virtue! And their falsely conscious listeners greedily lap up this largely sociopathic rhetoric!

And this sociopathic behavior is not by any means restricted to most politicians and corporate heads! Most talk radio is filled with hosts who play to the lowest common denominator and engage in class warfare, all the while denying the existence of that class warfare, and blaming the objects of their disapproval of manufacturing the existence of that class warfare that they, themselves, are helping to enhance!

And, to add insult to injury, the false consciousness of most of their listeners has them believing that these talk show hosts who make multimillion dollars a year catering to the fears and discontent of their listeners, have their listeners’ economic interests at heart. And these listeners, ironically, often identify with the interests of these hosts and their rhetoric which, objectively speaking, are largely antithetical to the very economic interests of the listeners, but whose rhetoric belies this fact.

We have become an increasingly sociopathic society that has seriously coarsened our discourse and our very culture! And a stark tragedy that helps fuel this sociopathy is the active or tacit encouragement of most of the institutional church in the face of such gross injustices, whether it be by its rhetoric or by its silence.

In the case of most of the institutional Church's homophobic rhetoric (or silence amidst homophobic rhetoric) toward LGBT people, most of their clergy have blood on their hands by directly and indirectly having contributed to the suicides, assaults, and murders of Gay people. The consignment of Gay people to pariah status is due in no small part to the role of most clergy in seeking to deny Gay people both civil and sacramental rights; erroneously and sinfully defining them as "immoral" and "disordered" when, in fact, it is these homophobic clergy who are the immoral and disordered ones; who bear false witness (a violation of one of the Ten Commandments) against those whom God created just as God designed from the foundation of the world and whom God loves like crazy.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” (Isaiah 5:20-23)
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Monday, September 5, 2011


The following is a slightly edited article that appears in my column, "Christianity and Society," in the "Sacramento Valley Mirror" and that appears in the latest issue of "Whosoever":

Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (Haggai 1:6)

You'll notice I entitled this article, "The Institutional Church in America," rather than "Christianity in America, as there is a world of difference between "churchgoers" and "Christians"; between "the religious" and "the spiritual." Of course, there is some degree of overlap between the two, but it is my perception that that degree of overlap does not go anywhere near to approaching 100%.

The institutional Church and its enmeshment with Americanism, patriotism, jingoism, militarism, and capitalism can not be underestimated, as can be seen when an atheist and/or socialist has no chance of becoming a viable presidential candidate; when candidates for political office must be seen going to church. Their spiritual lives are irrelevant, as can be seen when Ronald and Nancy Reagan allegedly consulted psychics to determine assorted decisions, but they had to be seen attending church to be considered "Christians."

To add insult to injury, most of the institutional Church not only doesn't speak to crucial spiritually involved human rights issues of the day, but usually acts as an apologist for the power elite that frames the arguments and parameters of our perceptions of those crucial issues that are thereby serving to diminish the civil rights and civil liberties of most people in society, particularly those in the lower and middle classes.

As Christians, we are not to side with the "elites" but with the "rebels" who seek to make this a better world, a world, to use St. Augustine's words, that should be "a colony of heaven." And disciples of Christ are to be those rebels who seek to institutionalize godly virtues, and fulfill Jesus' two great Commandments to all who would be His disciples: the love of God and the love of one's fellow human beings.

In his superb book, "Death of the Liberal Class," Chris Hedges speaks to this inherent conflict between the elites and the rebels: "The elites and their courtiers in the liberal class always condemn the rebel as impractical. They dismiss the stance of the rebel as counterproductive. They chastise the rebel for being angry. The elites and their apologists call for calm, reason, and patience. They use the hypocritical language of compromise, generosity, and understanding to argue that we must accept and work with the systems of power. The rebel, however, is beholden to a moral commitment that makes it impossible to compromise…The rebel is not concerned with self-promotion or public opinion. The rebel knows that, as Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to change them. The rebel knows that virtue is not rewarded. The act of rebellion justifies itself." (p. 215)

And disciples of Christ are to be rebels against the demonic and all forces that pit the elites against the have-nots! And the elites who fervently seek after power, prestige, and wealth are often those very people who attain and maintain those goals by use of assorted nefarious, if not demonic, forces.

Moreover, the elites frame the perceptions of most people so that "…the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred." (Hosea 9:7b) And the hatred, the contempt, the sinfully laissez faire attitude of so many toward the poor, the sick, and the needy in our society is both palpably obvious and palpably obscene.

And where is the Church in America amidst all this unrighteousness? It is all too often the major apologist for all of this unrighteousness, or else it remains silent amidst this unrighteousness!

How is the institutional Church in America addressing our military intervention in all too many countries; our precipitous economic decline; the duplicity of most politicians; the dumbing down of higher education; the multi-millions of dollars that are spent buying people's votes; the political rhetoric that seeks to deny medical care to others; its being in the vanguard of discriminating against our Gay brothers and sisters? The answer is that it is often in cahoots with the power elite by being its apologist either through its rhetoric, its silence, or through its insipid rhetoric that shows its pathetic irrelevance.

Most of the institutional Church does not speak to the needs of people, especially the have-nots in society! When was the last time we heard from the institutional Church that there must be universal health care for people; we must not engage in so many of the wars in which we are currently engaged; we must build shelters for homeless people; we must put the needs of American workers before the desire to export jobs to other countries; we must embrace God's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children?

The institutional Church is both dangerous and pathetically irrelevant! Notice its absence by Hedges from the list of disciplines and institutions that can be instrumental in helping to hold back the destructive tide emanating from the power elite: "We will have to grasp, as the medieval monks did, that we cannot alter the larger culture around us, at least in the short term, but we may be able to retain the moral codes and culture for generations beyond ours. As those who retained their identity during slavery or the long night of twentieth-century fascism and communism discovered, resistance will be reduced to small, often imperceptible acts of defiance. Music, theater, art, poetry, journalism, literature, dance, and the humanities, including the study of philosophy and history, will be the bulwarks that separate those who remain human from those who become savages." (p. 196)

As it currently exists, the structures and functions of most of the institutional Church consigns it either to alignment with the enemies of the desires of God's heart or to complete irrelevance!
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