Privacy Parts

Apple CEO Tim Cook presented an address in Brussels attacking industry practices that customize our online experience to maximize opportunities for third parties hoping to sell us goods and services. The major actors are Google and Facebook, of course.

I guess that Apple has the benefit of having indoctrinated an entire generation to prefer its products over others. It doesn’t need to market any longer – the masses wait breathlessly. And how exactly do you know which features will inspire them to throw away functional devices and upgrade? Hopefully not by analyzing iPhone usage patterns, Tim.

But what really galls is that Cook and his executive team manufacture devices in countries and facilities where the right to privacy is violated in far more concrete terms. Workers sleep in large dormitories on the factory site working for corporations that collaborate with dictatorial government to create devices that spy on citizens.

Yes, the road to destruction is broad, Tim. Don’t complain of the mote in your neighbor’s eye.

Hogg takes The Hill

The death-lobby mouthpieces in the media continue to test the waters of public tolerance for attacks on the children trying to curtail the ever-increasing frequency of attacks in our public schools. Laura Ingraham on FOX News (the senility network) lost a number of advertisers when she took on Chris Hogg, the most vocal of the Parkland survivors. She was forced to retract her comments, citing “the spirit of Easter.”

But it doesn’t stop there. The Hill has published a criticism of Hogg’s exhortation for others to support the boycott of Ingraham. Saying that it “sets a dangerous precedent” in attempting to destroy Ingraham’s career, The Hill continues with assertions from a Parkland “2nd Amendment Rights” supporter that Hogg was being manipulated by the liberal media, and warns that Hogg’s continued advocacy makes him fair fodder for the kinds of destructive propaganda normally reserved to adults.

So first to Ingraham: there is a God. As evidenced in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, he strongly favors renunciation of violence. He sent me to Parkland to shower love upon the survivors. And if losing your fat paycheck (not at all equivalent to losing your career) is an unenviable prospect, in invoking “the spirit of Easter” to cover your toadying to Death and his minions, you are placing at risk your soul.

This extends to the rest of Death’s propaganda machine. You may be a distributed pustule uncontrolled by any political agenda or leader, but you are seen by God, and you will find yourself unable to enter heaven with those that fight for love.

And, again and again, as many times as it takes: you are beloved, my fair warriors for love. Hogg, Gonzalez: your courage in the face of evil is admirable, and will be rewarded.

Virgin Shield

Roy Moore, Republican candidate for the Senate seat vacated in Alabama by Jeff Sessions, is under attack for his conduct towards underage girls while working in the district attorney’s office during his 20’s and 30’s. In responding to the accusations, Moore appears to be taking the advice of Steve Bannon, who led Trump around the Access Hollywood (“Grab ’em by the pussy”) debacle. Bannon advised to deny everything and double down.

Moore’s supporters have done their best. On the political level, they charge that the revelation of these claims only four weeks before the election reeks of political manipulation by the Democrats and liberal media (the charges were given national airing by the Washington Post). Others note that the acts, even if committed, have expired under the statute of limitations, and so have no bearing on the election.

Before the scandal, Moore achieved notoriety for his defense of Biblical principles. He was removed as a sitting judge for refusing to honor a court order requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments display he had installed. Appointed later to the Alabama Supreme Court, he was removed again for refusing to enforce the US Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage.

So the political arguments have been supplemented by theological arguments. Co-religionists have implored voters to show Moore Christian forgiveness. Others have compared his suffering to that of Christ on the cross.

But the ugliest justification is that the Virgin Mary was only fourteen when she was married to Joseph, and so there is Biblical foundation for older men to pursue young girls.

There is so much wrong with these arguments. Forgiveness is wonderful, but that does not extend to empowering those that do wrong. Women also suffer persecution, and to suggest that Moore is being persecuted is like unto a suggestion that Herod is persecuted.

But the one that hurts the most is the parallel drawn to the relationship between Mary and Joseph. That relationship was not considered unusual in the era – in fact, the principle concern of the parents of an adolescent girl was to ensure that she was established safely in marriage to a decent man. Moore was not married to his victims.

But neither was the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard this issue raised before at a non-denominational Christmas service. The preacher attacked the whole idea of the immaculate conception, stating that “God doesn’t molest little girls.” Trevor Noah took this to its ultimate conclusion on Monday night, observing that the parallel offered by Moore’s supporters seemed to suggest that Moore was seeking to conceive a Messiah, giving new meaning to the idea of a “Second Coming.”

This upsets me because I don’t see Mary as a passive vessel. When women are allowed to choose, beautiful consequences result. The angel Gabri-el proposed a solution to the problems that beset Mary’s tribe, and by extension the whole of humanity. Mary’s humble response was “Here am I.”

Events during Jesus’s ministry emphasize this message. Presented with the paradox of the life in paradise of a woman widowed successively to seven brothers, Jesus observed that in that age everyone will make their own decisions about marriage. When Margaret complained that Mary was not helping with housework, Jesus encouraged Margaret to take also “the better part.” Finally, when a woman appears to anoint him with oil before the crucifixion – as were the kings by the high priest – Jesus rebukes the charge of hypocrisy (“the oil could have been used for the poor”) with the simple statement “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

That Mary made the decision to bear Jesus when she was only fourteen may seem strange by our standards, but it was her choice. Moore didn’t share that choice with his victims. Mary’s choice carried with it the possibility of prosecution under the law of her day. Safe from criminal prosecution, Moore would do well to learn from her courage and humility, ask personally for forgiveness, and bear the consequences in the court of public opinion.

Path of Least Resistance

My friend Meng Chen, atheist and purveyor of Daoist philosophy, is the only person that I am aware of wrestling seriously with the writing out at everdeepening.org. After reading The Soul Comes First, he began working his way through the New Testament during his slack hours at work. He was pretty scandalized by it – all the blood and suffering. What elicited umbrage in him, however, was the obscurity of the parables. The Parable of the Unjust Servant [Luke 1:12] was particularly offensive. In this, an embezzler is called before his manager, and made aware that he will be fired the next day. To curry favor with prospective employers, the servant trades their indebtedness for a fraction of the amount owed. When apprised of this the next day, the manager praises the resourcefulness of the servant, although warning that the servant’s concern for things of this world will cost him eternal riches.

Now this seems to communicate a terrible precedent. But it is of a type with many of the parables. Jesus sets up a recognizable human situation (such as the decadent son), elaborates depraved behavior (the son squandering his inheritance), and then contradicts all of our expectations for human justice by an award of forgiveness (the father dressing the repentant son in his own robe). The brilliance of the method is to situate the hearer in dilemmas that they understand, dilemmas that they may confront every day. From there, he is led into the most despicable of choices – choices that are probably close to his own heart and mind, but that are easy to condemn. And then the paradox: condemnation is not delivered, but forgiveness and celebration. Obviously, the master and father are not people we would recognize. Rather, they are God, the God of Genesis that similarly forgave Cain.

The virtue of parables is that they resonate differently in the minds of the hearer depending upon his specific concerns. Jesus may have offered the Parable of the Unjust Servant to his disciples, and a meaningful message is to be found for them. But among those disciples would also have been the Temple spies, and in their ears this story would have had a different focus. For was not the priesthood God’s accounting firm? Did they not accept money for sin sacrifice in the temple? To them, Jesus was suggesting “Forgive the debts you have recorded. Doubly: cast aside the profits you gather in the settlement of sin. The Father will admire and reward your generosity.”

In this teaching, we hear the incredible mercy of Jesus reaching out even to those that he knows will destroy him. He recognizes their frailty in the face of the enormous burden they are required to carry, made more difficult in their age by the power of the state that allowed mere men to behave as though they were gods.

In terms recognized in the modern era, the nature of this danger was first made explicit to me when reading A General Theory of Love (Lewis, Amini and Landon). Written by three psychotherapists, the book begins with a survey of the nature of human psychological experience – our relationships, neurophysiology and neurochemistry. Then at the end of chapter three, the authors take the trolley off the tracks. They state (I paraphrase): “We will now describe the psychotherapeutic process. In therapy, the therapist enters into the experience of trauma with the patient, and as the moment is reached, suggests to them: ‘Not that way. Go this way instead.’ In this intimacy, the success of the treatment is entirely dependent upon the moral clarity and courage of the therapist. If either of them fails, the therapist becomes trapped in the patient’s trauma.”

Here at WordPress, I have encountered a number of therapists that decry the Diagnostic Standards Manual and its emphasis on pharmacology. They perceive that our society is failing its most sensitive members, those that empathize with suffering but lack the power to change the circumstances that cause it. Much of their behavior is an attempt to anaesthetize or redirect their suffering. But many therapists in training are not prepared to confront such psychic agony. They are trained to a mechanical model of mind, learning theory and practice in sterile lecture-hall settings, and so are unprepared to confront agony when they encounter it. Their response is to withdraw and write a prescription that suppresses the outward signs of trauma.

In effect, this is the same response taken by the temple priests: rather than dealing with the trauma of sin, they transferred the cost to other beings – innocent animals sacrificed in atonement. The goal was to keep the people pure. What Jesus came to point out was that this did not solve the problem of sin – it merely shifted it away temporarily, allowing it to gather to assault the sacred community again and again and again. The only way to solve the problem of sin was for the strong to shoulder the burden for the weak.

The Garden of Eden describes a community that obtained that strength through direct relation with God. When we chose to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we lost that protection. Our religions and social sciences are institutions created in our search as a species for methods to organize resources sufficient to overcome the psychological trauma of the violent processes of Darwinian evolution. That strength was not inherent in us. It had to be created in us through our own effort.

Prior to the modern era, it was on the Rabbis and Priests and Gurus that responsibility was settled for delivering on all of God’s magnificent promises. We know them “Every tear will be wiped. Every fear will be banished.” How could we expect our religious leaders to possess such means, when if they did the era of paradise would be manifested in an instant? And so they broke – and continue to break – under the weight of their burden.

And so here I am to announce: that is not justice. It is no person’s place to stand in evidence of love in our hearts. No person can wash away the wounds of trauma, for they all seek refuge in God from their own trauma. Each person must find their healing in the open chambers of their own heart, with God.

The history of religious tolerance was marked by revolutions against the hypocrisy of religious authority. But that in itself is hypocrisy: no man stands between you and God, only your own fear that love is insufficient to deliver healing. Paradise enters the world when we stop shifting our burdens onto those we establish as idols, whether in temples or churches, and surrender ourselves to God’s ministry.

Jesus did not write a Gospel because no words can describe that feeling: the feeling of infinite compassion and mercy encountered in the heart that receives God. When it is felt, we cease to rail against our idols. Rather, we offer “Thank-you for your service. I am sorry that I placed my burdens on you. Let me give you rest and ease, as I have found rest and ease in Christ.”

And for those with ears to hear: This is how you will know him when he returns. Your hearts will shout with joy.

Master of PC?

I wonder if Trump’s first act as president will be to lift the gag order on Ivana so that she can tell us all how she survived his narcissism?

“I’m nice to people that are nice to me.”

“I’ll support the Republican nominee as long as the Party treats me fairly.”

Trump enforces “political correctness” with court orders, threats and whining. And at the end of the day, he knows that he can say anything he wants and nobody can touch him.

Well, let me explain “PC” to you, Mr. Trump: it means focus on the problem, not the people. It wouldn’t be an issue if you would frame intelligent policy positions, rather than simply insulting those that take our nation seriously.

Any Road Will Do

My sons’ mother is an Eastern European émigré. As she described her society prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, the hypocrisy of communist ideology was a hidden injustice. It was not obvious as a child: the promises of the ideology are fairly concrete for children in state-paid schools and summer camp. The trouble began in college, when the theory of the ideology was transmitted. Successful students learned to regurgitate the rhetoric without being troubled with internal logic or consistency with state policy.

How, then, did the ideology serve to organize the state? Simply as a “semiotic system” used to evoke behavior. Dealing with oppositional or inconvenient people was a simple matter of threatening them with the right labels. Whether the labels were applied logically or even consistently was not a matter of great concern. In fact, everybody violated the ideology. What was critical was to avoid the ostracism or incarceration that came with the labelling.

Did Marx and Engels understand the rhetoric they invented? Almost certainly, but not as the communist leaders ultimately did. Remember that Marx laughed when asked whether Russia itself could lead the transition to communist society. He understood that the political sophistication of the Russian workers was insufficient to support communist practices. If brought back to analyze the political scene today, he would almost certainly identify Germany – the most profitable economy in the world – as the nearest to his ideals.

The inconsistency between Eastern European politics and ideology reflected, to a great degree, the impoverished practical context and political skills of the societies forced to try to implement the ideology. They had no way of visualizing the reality that Marx was trying to evoke, and so corrupted the rhetoric to serve purposes that made sense to them.

This is also evident in the rhetoric of the Christian fanatics. As a means of fueling my output here, I subscribe to a conservative Christian magazine. The editor recently sent out an e-blast linking Planned Parenthood to sex trafficking. The assertion was that traffickers brought girls in for abortions when they became pregnant, thus preserving their sexual availability. The stupidity of such a situation appeared to escape him: there are so many means of preventing conception, some of which are desirable in the sex trade to prevent the spread of STDs. Even if these are not used and pregnancy does result, bringing kidnapped girls into a center focused on reproductive health runs a terrible risk of exposure: the procedure requires a physical exam, which would be likely to reveal signs of abuse that, in the case of under-age girls, must be reported by law. And if the trafficker really cares so little about the health of their victims, legal abortions aren’t the only means of ending an unwanted pregnancy.

But the writer wasn’t concerned with logic or plausibility. The bald assertion at the beginning of his diatribe justified his rant: life begins at conception. I have previously refuted this statement, making it clear that only a mother knows the moment when a spirit enters her womb. But once made, the assertion justifies the labelling of Planned Parenthood for the purposes of its destruction. Because Planned Parenthood brings an essential social good – providing for the reproductive health of women – those that oppose it have been able to demand enormous resources from those that subscribe to their attempts to destroy it.

All this because, as in Eastern Europe, the process of bringing life into the world is not understood.

In the New Testament itself, we see the Apostles struggling with this gap between ideology and rhetoric. Sometimes this appears in the disjointed nature of the exposition. Consider this apparent non sequitor:

The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, now much more the members of his household!

Taken on the face, this appears to be a rather dour assessment of the human condition, suggesting the prospect of an irreversible decline into depravity begun with the expulsion from Eden. Collecting such statements out of context, the atheist builds a powerful case for rejecting Christian practice. That people such as the editor above align their theology with the axiom is a great assistance to the atheist.

Why does the statement appear so disjointed in the original telling? Because the Apostles did not know where they were heading. Matthew records the statement in the chronology of events, but it is only in the demonstrations reported in Acts that the statement makes sense:

  • First, Jesus was sending the Apostles out into the world to assume his role as a healer and teacher. They were frightened, and his statement is an admonishment that unless they liberate themselves from the mindset of the student and slave, they will never accomplish the work that love required of them.
  • Secondly, the statement is an indictment of the authority of human religious leaders. The require dependency in their followers. The Apostles were conditioned by their culture to believe that they needed teachers and masters to survive. Those relationships must be set aside if the followers were to grow into the strength Jesus was offering them.
  • Finally, Jesus was identifying a contrast with other gods from the relationship his parables declared that the Father sought: not a relationship of dependency, but a relationship that flowered, as in Jesus, to full equality when children became adults.

In this light, the statement becomes a source of deep wisdom. That wisdom is revealed only in the context of the purpose that Jesus pursued in the world.

So let’s reassert the quest documented by the Bible: it describes the process of guiding humanity into the embrace of unconditional love. The goal is to demonstrate the felicity and power of a surrender to love.

In that context, the fear used by the editor is revealed as an incredible perversion. And the logic of the atheist is refuted.

Why elaborate this truth? Because if we don’t know where we’re going as Christians, any road will do. Evangelism can succeed only when it supports the purposes that Christ established: to join our souls to the Father’s. When it does not, it becomes incomprehensible, subject to corruption from within, and risible from without.