Oh, Bobby, Where Art Thou?

April 14, 2018

When Dr. King was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy took up his message and led Democrats to a message that is just as powerful today as it was 50 years ago. King identified economic injustice as a root evil feeding the racism and militarism that is strangling the American Dream. Kennedy astutely recognized that poor whites have more in common with African-Americans – they struggled to share the crumbs of an economic system that funneled wealth to the wealthiest. They were drafted to fight and die in the same wars that the privileged were exempted from and even were enriched by.

Bernie Sanders had the right idea. He is right about the real evil dividing and poisoning American society. It was one reason why his message was resisted as much by the Democratic Establishment which sought to inherit the same system, rather than change it. There is no one else in the Democratic Party who understands the problem and has the courage to speak against that power. That doesn’t bode well for our Country.

In Michigan, we are about to elect new Governor. We have our own Bernie in Shri Thanedar, who has some very well thought out policies and the integrity to run his campaign consistent with his ideals. And we also have the other Democrats who seek power by compromising rather than leading. Michigan is going to be divided in the same fashion that has maintained the same unjust economic system that creates Flints, crumbling infrastructures and failing schools and billionaires at the same time.

Bobby Kennedy was a man who was transformed from a man who was a foot soldier in the political machine that was steering our country further into the moral abyss identified by King. He changed and ended his life as a moral leader taking up the cause of the American Dream for the American people. WE desperately need leaders like this to emerge in our politics today. The question I’ve been pondering is whether or not the system has become so irredeemable that those leaders are crushed before they have a chance. The Democratic Party nationally and in Michigan has been a closed club for many decades, and the result has been manifest in elections.

The bottom line is that it is not elections that are the matter at hand. Those are rigged  – not for one political party or another, but with the same compromised morality leading to the same crushing injustice.

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MLK: 2018

April 13, 2018

Many of you know that I consider Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King as one of the greatest American leaders and the best argument for the existence of a biblical prophet in our lifetime. Every year we celebrate his life and legacy, and sadly every year we seem to find even more urgency to re-examine his life and example. There are many qualities that Dr. King had that are so lacking today among the leadership of both parties. One of the key qualities of Dr. King that is most desperately needed now is leadership. Dr. King knew what it meant to be a leader, and it wasn’t just walking at the front of marches. He operated from a moral foundation that was unshakable and ultimately that moral compass led him to expand his crusade to fight the evils of “Racism, Militarism and Poverty”. His insistence on fighting for social justice resulted in his being isolated and attacked, even from other civil rights leaders.

Dr. King was very unpopular at the end of his life. Popularity is not the companion of true leaders. Of course, the ingrained racist nature of American society hated him. His constant prophetic denouncements of police brutality directed at African-Americans, his condemnation of attempts to take away their rights to vote and the refusal to accept anything but full realization of the American promise was received as well as the prophesies of Isiah. However, it was the rejection by his allies in the civil rights movement that was most disappointing. Other leaders wanted to compromise with evil – they wanted to turn a blind eye to the unjust war in Viet Nam and the debilitating effects of poverty affecting both black and white American. They argued political expediency. They felt that to get what they wanted, they needed to ignore the system that was to ultimately poison American society. He saw the system that was increasingly consolidating wealth and power to a tiny class of Americans and denounced income inequality. He saw the evil and danger of the military-industrial complex that depended on fears to start wars and poor Americans to fight those wars. Because he chose to keep his focus, and because he had the moral courage to lead us into uncomfortable truths, he became isolated. Like every biblical prophet, his devotion to right came at a cost personal popularity, and ultimately his life.

Today, no one could reasonably argue that economic injustice, militarism and racism seem as powerful and destructive as ever. President Nixon designed the “Southern Strategy” of dividing poor whites from poor African-Americans, exploiting racism to promote policies that only impoverish whites as much as minorities. We have progressed from engaging in episodic wars against nation-states to constant war against fear: a war where there is no clear victory but only the constant fear of “terrorists”.

The reason why Democrats are just as complicit in “The Dream” failing is because they are as tied to these evils as Republicans are. Democrats may not rely on the more overt tenets of racism than the unapologetic racism of the Republican Party, but until they abandon militarism and same economic system that is crushing American society then they only continue to participate in promoting injustice. There is no clear moral leader among the Dems – no Bobby Kennedy’s to take up that mantle.

Dr. King truly was a prophet and they are rare gifts from God. Hopefully someone will emerge to led us from this wilderness, because history is not kind to any nation that rejects the message of a prophet.


Conversations with Pope Joyce

April 12, 2018

One of my favorite books from James Joyce was “Portrait of a Young Man”. In one of the better passages, during a conversation between a younger and older man, the young man confesses that he may have lost his faith. “Does that mean you will become a Protestant then?” the older man asks. The Younger man replies that he had lost his faith, not his brains. Joyce was Irish and at that time during which being a Protestant in Roman Catholic in Ireland was the equivalent of being African-American in the Jim Crow South. His intellectual honesty was suborned to the practical (i.e. financial) reality.

I remembered the quote while reading the response of Pope Francis to the Canadian Government’s attempt to reconcile the atrocities committed on indigenous people, specifically on the issue of the Canadian Boarding School system that forced indigenous children into boarding schools to learn the English language and white man’s culture. Many of the children were physically abused for simple offenses such using their native language or clothes. Children were sexually abused. Many were beaten or starved to death as part of the “discipline” meted out by the staff of these boarding “schools”. Virtually all of the facilities were run by Roman Catholic religious or Protestant missionaries. The Pope has refused to apologize without explanation for the role of the Church in the horrible abuse of generations of these children. Why would the leader of the Church refuse to renounce its role in the abuse and murder of indigenous children?

No explanation is needed. For this Pope, and the ones before him, the issue is not about their religious duty to the most vulnerable of its victims. The issue is that by apologizing for their well-documented abuse of these children, they admit some responsibility and that means paying victims money. It seems shameful, and it is. However, just as Joyce acknowledged the reality of how renouncing religion can affect one’s welfare in a society controlled by religion, the Holy Roman Catholic Church recognizes how acknowledging its sins can affect its bottom line. One could easily imagine the Pope in a conversation with his Cardinals…

Pope Francis: I am thinking that we shouldn’t have run these boarding schools that physically and sexually abused and murdered children in Canada.

Cardinals: Does that mean you will be apologizing then?

Pope Francis: I said I think we shouldn’t have tortured and killed those children, not lost my mind…


Cosmic Convergence

April 11, 2018

In a delicious Cosmic irony, Easter falls on April Fool’s Day this year. When one surveys the state of organized religion in the world today it certainly seems like the disparity between the teachings and the actions of religious leaders makes it seem like we have a kind of cosmic expression of “April Fools!”. It can be discouraging and challenging for people of faith, but then again, it’s discouragement and challenge that is the well-spring of faith. So, fear not for your soul, and look at who are the April’s fools.

The real existential definition of religion is found in the political arena. When religions get political power, their true nature is defined. The American Evangelical Movement is the flag-bearer for the hypocrisy of modern religions with their unconditional support of Trump. Well, it may not be entirely unconditional, but there has been no condition so far that has forced the Christian gospel out of the Evangelical leaders. Nothing seems to be worthy of criticism of Trump who routinely violates their Ten Commandments: not lying, not adultery, not greed, not stealing, not coveting, or false idols. Not even violations of the fundamental teaching of Jesus – love your neighbor as yourself – have prompted any criticism or correction by the purveyors of Evangelism. The unspoken truth is that Evangelical leaders sold their souls over an agreement to appoint pro-life judges and to allow religious colleges to receive tens of millions in tax money while continuing to trample the Constitutional Rights of minorities, gays, etc. They sold out their gospel for financial and political power. Some Christian leaders justify their silence with the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade. Abortion, they in effect argue, is too important to let the Gospel get in the way. Evangelical Christians say faith is their foundation, but faith in God to find a solution to abortions is secondary to faith in Trump. The problem is that their investment in political power comes at a cost to the validity of their teachings. The idea that one can make a deal with the devil to do God’s will is contrary to what they claim to believe. In fact, the history of Christianity is one of making such deals. From Inquisitions to King making, from burning heretics to endorsing candidates, Christianity has always resorted to the devices and methods of the devil to do “God’s will”.

Evangelical Christians defend the hypocrisy of their leaders with strained interpretations of biblical teachings on “forgiveness”. They invoke the stories of King David, who sinned but was favored by God. They conveniently forget that the story of David and the essential part of forgiveness is confession and repentance as the necessary predicates. David was a king who was a flawed man, but he was forgiven and kept power because he recognized he sinned, confessed his sins publicly and repented (i.e. changed his behavior). Just as David was more effective as a political leader because he admitted when he was wrong and changed, Trump is much more dangerous as a president who refuses to admit he did anything wrong or change in any way. Evangelical Christians seem to have more faith in Trump than they do in their Gospel.

Just as the GOP’s embrace of a corrupt President has undermined their credibility as the Party of “family values” and “fiscal responsibility”, American Evangelical Christians undermined their credibility of their gospel with their complicity. “April fools!” compliments of your leader, Donald Trump.