Words, not Bullets

Response to Leah Libresco’s opinion piece out at WaPo: I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.


The answer to what?

The gun control issue is about more than gun-related deaths. It is about the relationship between police and the public. It is about the psychology of our public spaces. It is about respect for democratic process and the methods used to create social change.

For far too long we have allowed the NRA, which contributes $54 million a year to sympathetic political organizations, to create a carte blanche remit for the gun industry to poison our political dialog with advertising that promotes hostility, suspicion and fear – all with the goal of building a deeply-rooted need to possess ever-more-powerful tools of violence.

This is the real problem. An assault weapons ban is merely the low-hanging fruit that all politicians should be willing to embrace as a means of defining what is acceptable in political dialog. No one should feel a need to own a military-style weapon. That so many of them are sold is a testament to the control that the gun industry has over our culture.

Hurricanes to Hell

I first heard the claims from a Mormon colleague at work. The constellation Virgo was overlapped with some planets creating a configuration of twelve lights in the sky. On Monday night at Bible study the parallels with Revelation 12 (in which the Sacred Mother descends with twelve stars in her tiara) were elaborated further: one of the lights was Jupiter, which exited the constellation on September 23rd, the basis for claims that the seven-year trial of tribulation was now under way. Only one element was missing: the simultaneous descent of the dragon. The claim was that NASA had somehow “blocked out” that part of the sky, hiding one-third of the stars (the dragon’s tail?).

I kept on stating firmly “The stars in Revelation are angels,” but the speaker wouldn’t listen, doggedly pursuing the story, repeating “But there’s more.”

Given this propensity to seek material evidence of God’s forthcoming intervention, I find it wondrous that nobody has linked the first letters of Harvey, Irma and Maria to spell out “HIM.” Santa Maria is also Christ’s virgin mother. Powered by the sun and arriving in hurricane form, she struck Puerto Rico at night – I’d assume hiding a full moon.

For those that followed the video series out at Love Returns, we know that we’re well past Revelation 12, close to the seventh bowl in Revelation 16. I won’t support that claim here, however, for there’s something revealed more directly by the tragedy in Puerto Rico.

Samuel was the first to warn God’s people concerning the limitations of government, and the Resurrection itself must be taken as repudiating all earthly powers.

Puerto Rico is a potent support for the argument that government is destined to betray our hopes. As a center for drug manufacturing, the island had a successful economy until about 2005, when Congress ended tax credits that benefited pharmaceutical companies that manufactured there. Shipping goods from an island nearly 1000 miles from the mainland is expensive, and the factories soon closed, kick-starting Puerto Rico’s descent into poverty.

Maria devastated an island already on the verge of collapse.

Why did Congress end the tax credits? A hurricane is a dramatic event, focusing our awareness of tragedy, but many communities in rural America are facing similar circumstances. Corporate American has off-shored their jobs, and constricting government payrolls are knocking the legs out from under small town economies. Into that misery the pharmaceutical industry is pouring a torrent of opioids.

The anger of rural America delivered the White House into the hands of a petty tyrant. In tweets to his sycophantic chorus, Trump attacked the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, stating that her incompetence was the reason that FEMA hadn’t been able to deliver aid to 3.5 million American citizens facing slow death from thirst, hunger and disease.

Trump’s cruelty was triggered by the words of Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, recorded earlier in the day criticizing the Administration’s characterization of the relief efforts as “wonderful.” Mincing no words, she pointed out that people were dying, and that if an effective response was not mounted immediately, the federal government would find itself presiding over a genocide. Clearly suffering from trauma, Cruz characterized Trump’s attitude as that of one consigning citizens to “die like animals.”

But of course.

It is not government that delivers us dignity. Government is not worthy of our faith. It is only in God that we find the strength to suffer in dignity. Facing death, it is only to the faithful that certainty is given that we possess a spirit intended to receive infinite love.

So, please, Mayor Cruz: don’t pray to government. Pray to Him, for it is the lack of Him that has brought us to this impasse. The physical and social forces that brutalize the poor are huge, and far beyond the capacity of governments to overcome. Security, dignity and grace are found only in God.

Closure with the Past

My response to a Facebook dialog in which one commenter stated that Confederate war hero statues were a form of free speech held by those that honored the era.


They can honor their beliefs. They can offer to cart off the statues and install them in a place where the memory will be respected. The majority of citizens in these cities find the statues to be offensive in the extreme – they honor an era in which their rights were denied through violence by those that hated them. The statues were installed as a form of hate speech. Those that now control those public spaces are the descendents of those targeted, and deserve the right to attain closure by freeing themselves from that speech.

Trump-Washed

I caught a little piece of an Oliver Stone interview last night. He was saying that after thirteen years of watching Trump be decisive and commanding on The Apprentice, very few except the politically sophisticated would be able to perceive the empty vacuum at the heart of his persona. Of course, about the time of the Access Hollywood recording, producers at The Apprentice let it be known that they had to work really hard to maintain that image. Trump was abusive during scenes, and arbitrary in his decisions. One of the challenges was building a back-story that justified his actions.

Coupled with this is the dominance of Fox News in Republican circles. Joy Reid was on with Chris Hayes last night, observing that the reason the Republican base still remains loyal to Trump is because Fox continues to tell them that the Russian interference scandal is nothing worth paying attention to.

Contrast this with Joseph McCarthy, leader of the Red Scare scandals of the 1950s. McCarthy would roll into town, make a bunch of baseless accusations against local politicians, and then leave. The press would publish front-page denouncements of McCarthy’s targets, followed by back-page retractions when the accusations were debunked. Lives were ruined by the asymmetrical publicity.

What undid McCarthy were the televised Congressional hearings. Before the cameras, he was revealed as a manipulative little weasel.

Of course, some among us see Trump in the same way, but his electorate has been conditioned to associate those traits with carefully-scripted moments of glory.

But what about his sons?

It was cathartic to see Donald, Jr. on Fox News last night. He came across as a whiny brat.

Trump, Sr. characterizes the meeting with Russian representatives as “opposition research” that “almost anyone” would pursue. If so, that’s an indictment of our political culture. Trump has long been cozy with organized crime figures, and draws his legal talent from a community of ugly intimidators – men that will not even bother to apply for security clearances that would never be granted. Is this where we have come as a nation? A political culture in which winning by any means possible includes crawling through the gutter with people whose livelihood requires corrupting virtue?

In the early hours this morning, I found myself musing that maybe Comey took the line he did against Clinton in part to create conditions under which that culture would be exposed. I know that it had invaded the FBI itself, where anti-Clinton zealots used Breitbart publications to motivate a criminal investigation of her family. This is a visible case of misuse of agency resources by political operatives, but what if elected officials all across the country are interceding in investigations to protect criminals that have contributed to the destruction of other candidates?

I personally don’t find that inconceivable.

J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI as long as he did because he had files full of the dirty secrets that elected officials wished to keep hidden. Could it be that organized crime has its own database at this point, and is securing its influence by blackmailing the political class? The Russian government – now the most powerful organized crime ring in the world – may not be motivated only by its foreign policy goals to attack our political system. It may also be extending its power through organized crime, and collaborating with U.S. criminals to corrupt not just our political class, but our entire culture.

Smoking Dope

Matthew Walther at The Week argues that no smoking gun has been found to support the claim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Walther (isn’t that the name of a gun manufacturer?) wanders a little, asserting that when the Clintons fly first-class for their global charity, they reveal their corruption, and so justify ongoing support for the President. I find that argument weakened, however, in that Trump flies in a private jet purchased with funds gained laundering money stolen by Russian kleptocrats.

And as for the central assertion: it’s going to be awfully hard to find a smoking gun in the radioactive crater left by the hydrogen bomb Trump has set off in American foreign policy. As Rachel Maddow has been laying out, Russia has been given everything that it could have asked for. Trump’s craven catering to a murderous tyrant is all the evidence required to prove his unfitness to be our head of state.

Or should that have been “cave-in cratering?”

Separation of Church and State III

My response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation turned their position on its head. Rather than keeping religious leaders out of politics, we need to keep political leaders out of religion. The tendency for leaders to cross lines is one of the greatest dangers to religious practice.

Steve Matichuk offers a summary of the absolutist Christian position. Essentially, as Christ seeks a universal brotherhood, any celebration of national identity dilutes his message. Steve holds out for some accommodation. My response below:


This is very close to my mind at this point, as I am just working through a video teaching on Revelation 13. In Revelation 12 the dragon (or Satan) is expelled from heaven, and in 13 he plots his dominance of earth by raising up tyrannical governments that are supported by hypocritical religious practices.

On the other hand, in Christian terms some governments are better than others. We should celebrate actions that manifest Christian ideals, while avoiding at all cost the use of government to enforce Christian morality.

As I emphasize in the video, the real battle is in the human mind, which continues to evolve after birth. Beginning with the collaborative experience of nursing, the brain actually develops centers that support socialization, culminating in adulthood with the center responsible for altruism – or what Christians would call “Unconditional Love.”

The holidays that you list are manifestations of many of the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8. But it is those virtues that should be celebrated – not some abstract ideal like our “freedom.” We are all yoked to God’s purpose, and so none of us should consider ourselves to be privileged with absolute freedom.

Mueller to File Lewd Conduct Charges

Pursuant to his remit to investigate “Russian interference in the 2016 election, and matters that arise directly” from that investigation, Special Counsel Bob Mueller is planning to file charges against President Trump for “grabbing government by the pussies.”

This blogger has obtained the case brief. Exhibits include:

  • Public scraping and bowing at Cabinet meetings. Obviously unhappy with the proceedings, none of the Cabinet members had the balls to resign. Pussies!
  • Paul Ryan exonerating obstruction of justice with the allowance that the President is “new to his job.” Pussy! New neurosurgeons will be relieved by a precedent that establishes a defense against malpractice: “Yes, I shouldn’t have cut the spinal cord, but I’m new to my job.”
  • Mitch McConnell promising that the Senate will empanel all of Trump’s judicial appointments. We wouldn’t want to have a robust system of checks and balances to protect our citizens from government bullying, now would we? Pussy!