Slush Fund of the Apocalypse

Rachel Maddow reported today that a Venezuelan businessman bought access to Trump’s National Security Council for his son. The purpose was to go over a ten-point plan that would remove US sanctions on Venezuela, instituted by the Obama Administration in response to the deaths of those protesting government corruption.

Access was apparently linked to a contribution of $666,000.00 to the president-elect’s inauguration fund. The fund raised more than $100 million, of which probably 20% was necessary to fund the celebration. The rest of the money is unaccounted for.

What amuses is that the original donation was $500,000. Someone on the Trump team felt it necessary to hold out for an additional $166,000.

“666”, of course, is the number of the beast in Revelation.

Anomie in Action

I ate dinner on Easter at Jack-in-the-Box. Fox News was broadcasting a synopsis of the Gospels. I came in just as John the Baptist was being dragged before Herod. The reaction of Jesus was portrayed as an angry invocation to his disciples to pick up the sword. The lines were (I paraphrase):

I understand now the anger of my father. It is time to take up swords against his enemies!

Followed on the Temple steps by a threatening diatribe against the religious authorities.

Obviously, this is a corruption of the story related by the Apostles. I just shook my head and turned the other way.

Last night at Bible study I found myself counseling a man of deep convictions who had come in railing against the hypocrisy of those that use Revelation to justify dropping bombs on our enemies. I suggested that he not argue Revelation with them – the symbolism is too complex, and in the past we have seen that often only those doing the work can interpret prophesy. Rather, take heart in the actual words of Jesus that so clearly contradict pronouncements of hate.

This came up again this morning with my Muslim colleague at work. He related a call-in broadcast with a scholar who was attacked by a young man claiming that the scholar was spreading lies regarding a Wahhabi theologian. When confronted with the actual words of the Wahhabi, the young man continued to assert that what was said was a lie. The moderator finally intervened, telling the young man to please not call in until he had studied the source materials.

Was that the right approach, though? Or will it leave a bitter taste that will continue feed anger and violence in the caller?

Put two rats in cages and subject both to shocks. In one cage, install a red button that the rat can use to interrupt the sequence of shocks. Ensure that both rats still receive the same number of shocks. Guess what? The rat with the button will behave pretty normally. The rat without the button will lie motionless. The motionless rat suffers from anomie, a type of hopeless paralysis.

As the lower 90% of our society slides slowly into desperation, receiving shock after psychological shock, they will grasp at anything that gives them a sense of control (no matter how displaced) over their situation. Expressions of anger are a great way of shutting people up, as is brandishing of a weapon. They don’t have any affect on our circumstances, but like the rat in the cage with the button, they enable us to continue to act when we otherwise would succumb to hopelessness.

So I would say that the young Muslim caller should have been congratulated for reaching out, and offered sympathy for the circumstances that provoked his anger. Stories from the lives described in the Qu’ran – including Moses, Joseph and Muhammad himself – would guide him towards patience and faith.

Political and religious zealots of all stripes arise in desperate times. They flourish because we don’t pay attention to the circumstances that create desperation. Shutting them out of our gardens won’t solve the problem.

 

 

Speak Through Me

Years afterward, I was asked by a peer “How many people go to college, Brian, and come away with a fully-developed philosophy of life?” I was shocked. It had never occurred to me that someone would go to college for any other reason.

I could have seen the difference, I guess, except that it was pretty embarrassing. Every conversation with a stranger unfolded at a million words a minute – a flood garbled in my haste, a defect of expression that I am confronting fully only now in my review of the videos at Love Returns.

My uncle Phil had borne the brunt of these exchanges more than once. Naturally concerned when I was preparing to read a passage at his brother’s funeral, he came by to advise me to draw out my vowels. My aunt had chosen some beautiful words, though, and I was well beyond that in my preparation of the reading. When I delivered the final “He is at peace,” the gathering paused in silence.

That was my first experience of having words work through me. Knowing that my aunt’s choice was an emotional one, I took in the meaning of the words but also received the deep, mature wisdom of the author’s emotional experience. A crescendo of loss wracked the middle of the passage, and when it came through me, the congregation leaned back.

In reading Scripture, the emotions are all that relates to our modern age. The situations are described only briefly; essential social context is often missing. To make them relatable, we project our own situations, along with our own emotions. This can lead us astray.

Monday night at Bible study, we focused on Matt. 20:20-34. The passages relate Jesus’s response to two pleas: one from the mother of James and John that her sons should sit on the left and right of his throne. The other is from two blind men that cry out for healing. In both situations, the onlookers rebuke those making the request. Jesus turns to heal the two blind men. His response to James and John is ambiguous.

Ambiguous? It may not seem that way, for Jesus challenges them with this question [Matt. 20:22]:

Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?

To which the brothers reply: “We can.” Jesus does not dispute this, observing only [Matt. 20:23]:

My cup you will indeed drink.

Commonly, this is read as a rebuke, something like “Oh, you sorry fools – sending your mother to plead for power.” But it can also be read as an affirmation of respect: “Yes, you can.”

The study leader noted that the mother was Jesus’s aunt; her sons were Jesus’s cousins. Given this, the emotions swept in, and I saw the situation in a different light.  They may have known what others were planning, and as family were pleading: “You know that you can trust us. Please let us protect you.”

When I shared this perspective, the woman sitting next to me seemed to expand. I felt her reaching back into that moment, and she began “And did Mary know this as well?” Here was another piece: Jesus had cast aside his mother’s protection, but still she loved him. Was it Mary that had organized this plea by John and James?

From this perspective, the parallels between the two stories are heightened. John and James are blind to the spiritual consequences of their service, but they wish to serve, just as Jesus commands of those that rebuke them [Matt. 20:27-28]:

…whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

James was martyred by Herod, the first of the Apostles to so suffer, and perhaps demonstrating the determination needed by the others. John suffered a different bitterness, being the Apostle left to grieve the persecution of the early Christians, including all of his Apostolic brothers. In that grief was a trial of bitterness. It was a trial that he passed, qualifying himself to bring the wisdom of Revelation to the world.

Cruise Out-Of-Control

Genesis 2 introduces the seventh day of Creation with a brief lull in the relationship between God and the world.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

[NIV Gen. 2:2-3]

Having rested, God – who is Unconditional Love – then picks up his work in the Garden of Eden, demonstrating to Adam and Eve the virtues of love. In that context, there is peace between the animals. That peace is shattered when Adam and Eve choose to eat of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They chose no longer to submit to the guidance of love. They chose to figure out how to do it on their own.

Jesus is the hope of the world because he had the strength to demonstrate the power that stands behind those that chose to love unconditionally. In the years both before and after that demonstration, however, we see that the Darwinian practices of brutal confrontation are often strong in the human relationships and politics. Many people still live like animals.

This is the context for my reaction to the decision by the Trump Administration to launch missile strikes against the regime of Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad. The immediate response of Russia has been to claim the diplomatic high ground, asserting that the US action was illegal.

Assad has survived in Syria for one reason, and one reason only: Putin’s support. Russia has used its veto power in the UN security council to prevent coordinated global action against the Syrian tyrant. When the rebels were poised to oust Assad, Russia then intervened militarily, and along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, have now put the rebels on the defensive.

In a series of votes in the UN Security Council, the Obama Administration had established Russian complicity in the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Our NATO ally, Turkey, has suffered greatly as the destination of opportunity for 3 million Syrians fleeing the war. Both of those institutions – the United Nations and NATO – were therefore poised to demand Russia’s removal from the UN security council, allowing unified international action to suppress Russian and Chinese military adventurism around the globe.

Russia was the guarantor the Syria had no chemical weapons. By resorting to force before the international community had established that indeed a chemical weapons attack had occurred using sarin gas, Trump has made the conflict one of brute force between two parties. By acting without consultation with our allies, Trump has undermined the institutions that could have acted to discipline Putin across the globe.

It’s all very satisfying to punch a bully in the nose, but it just adds confusion to a situation that should be managed by institutions of law enforcement. Trump has undermined US authority in those institutions – NATO and the United Nations. His action will have long-term consequences that will be to the advantage of those that seek to sow chaos across the globe – principally for the purpose of preventing humanity from grasping the enormous power that arises when we adopt peace and love as the guides to our conduct in all spheres of life.

A far better course would have been to mount a campaign to expel Russia from the UN security council.

Raising Tyrants

In Revelation, the One on the Throne – which is Unconditional Love – has seven virtues in his midst. Taking the numerological insight, these should be set against the methods of Self, released from the scroll when the seven seals are broken.

So we have this (I apologize for the clumsy formatting – I can’t figure out how to style the table in WordPress):

Love Self
Stewardship Dominance
Harmony Conflict
Innovation Opportunism
Peace Death
Justice Vengeance
Creativity Destruction
Passion Rage

In each pairing, we see that adding love to the method of self ennobles its expression.

So I wake up at 2 this morning, with Bannon and Rove and Putin grumpily groping for dominance, projecting negativity into my domain, and how do I deal with it? I spent an hour our so trying to damp it down, and finally decided that stronger methods were needed.

Here’s the principle: dominance is about forcing people to pay attention to your demands. That involves establishing a spiritual network for communication. So I just inject a stronger signal.

I put in my earbuds and turned the volume up as loud as comfortable, and started with songs of hope for those trapped in bondage:

  • Francesca Batistelli – “Write Your Story”
  • Lauren Daigle – “O’Lord” and  “I Am Yours”

Followed immediately by a message of redemption to those enforcing selfishness:

  • Lauren Daigle – “Once and For All” and “How Can It Be?”

Finally toning it down with:

  • The Katinas – Draw Me Close

The early visualizations came in from all over the world, and were primarily feminine. I eventually found myself looking at the world from the outside, trying to push power down into the points of contact that had been established, projecting them into ever widening circles of influence.

The message of redemption came with a shift to the oligarchy, with specific individuals considering whether the effort of trying to maintain control was actually gaining them anything. Underneath we exposed the serpent on its throne. The tyrants were forced to confront their own obeisance.

It was nice at the end to find myself again among friends, relaxing in peace back into my mattress.

I hope that you see the strategy, dear readers: don’t fight them. Just use them as a transmission network. We only need to stick together, and when they die, we’ll recover those that they’ve tried to wall off behind their greed. They have one life; we have eternity.