"It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."
Jack Levine: January 3, 1915 – November 8, 2010
In his interview with Bill Moyer the great Black liberation theologian, James Cone, said that he would recommend reading The Irony of American History by his teacher, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. I have started reading it and have found, yet again, how impressive an intellectual effort and product the high end of theology can be.
It is one of the most telling habits of the present college educated class, especially those enthralled with what they believe to be a modern, scientific world view, that so many learn no more about even the most enormously large and varied literatures and intellectual efforts in the Western and world tradition than that they are to disrespect and scoff at them. And in no case is this as true as with theology and the writings of theologians. Every time I have violated the tacitly imposed embargo on reading those theologians, I find that they seldom are less impressive than more officially respectable writers and more often than not, more impressive. Having dipped, again, into Max Weber in recent months, I couldn't possibly conclude that he is a more informed, more careful and more insightful scholar than Reinhold Niebuhr. I have read nothing in sociology or any of the allied fields which can match Niebuhr's insights into the character of individuals or socieity.
Since my blogging has concentrated on the criticism of atheism and what atheists say, that figures such as Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins can summarily dismiss thinking of the depth of Niebhur, not to mention hundreds of other serious theologians who they have obviously not bothered engaging with, can do so from some of the most prestigious institutions of alleged higher learning - some of them where the theologians also work and worked, while displaying their declarations made of obvious ignorance is a pox mark of a diseased and terminal intellectual culture.
I am, from now on, going to conclude that anyone who scoffs at theology or theologians are doing so from a near to total ignorance of the literature, as, in fact, so often they are of other things. This practice of pretending to know things you've never read or studied, it is one of the emblems of the chatter of the college educated class whose educations seem to consist of how to pretend you know what you're talking about, covering your ignorance with the safety shield of repeating the required lines and intellectual framing of other ignorant people.
One of Larry Krauss's great arguments as to why "Skeptics" for which you may safely substitute the word "atheists" should eagerly anticipate the demise of religion within a generation is the citation of gay marriage.
“People say, ‘Well, religion has been around since the dawn of man. You’ll never change that,’” Krauss stated. “This issue of gay marriage, it is going to go away, because if you’re a a child, a 13-year-old, they can’t understand what the issue is,” he continued. ”It’s gone. One generation is all it takes.”
Which is the kind of thing you might expect to hear from a straight guy who knows little to nothing about gay folk and even less about gay history. The fact is that most gay folk are religious. Since the go-to source for these things, quite often misrepresented in atheist and media presentations is the Pew survey, here's a chart of its results in just that question.
And I strongly suspect that the presentation probably minimizes the actual identification of religious belief among LGBT folk. I wouldn't say I'm a member of an actual church but I am certainly religious. Membership in a church is often a formal thing but religious belief is not formal, neither is identification with a particular religious tradition. As I've also pointed out, Pew would include me in their catch all category of "Nones" which are often claimed by atheists as belonging to their club. I am certain that these survey organizations report their results in ways they know will generate buzz and click counts just as the online magazines and news organizations that misrepresent their numbers do. And for the past decade, the dedicated haters of the atheist community are one of the surest means of doing that. Like all haters, as can be seen in the activities of other hate groups, online, they have an insatiable urge to give themselves that self-affirming charge.
So, no, atheists don't get to claim gay folk or gay marriage as one of "their" issues. As I've pointed out before, in my state it was specifically the support that churches and religious organizations gave to marriage equality, citing the justice tradition of The Bible, in most cases AND THE VOTES OF CHRISTIANS, JEWS AND OTHERS which made it possible to legalize gay marriage over the objection of the sitting governor, the repulsive Paul LePage.
There is certainly a long history of gay folk being involved with religion, among the earliest supporters of rights for "homosexuals" were ministers and clergy. In the United States, the United Church of Christ has a history of welcoming LGBT people that half a century ago was far ahead of many secular and scientific institutions. They began ordaining openly gay ministers in 1972, the year before the psychiatric-psychological establishment were unwillingly forced to stop calling being gay a mental illness. I doubt that anti-gay invective would be tolerated among liberal Christians and Jews I know, not even among those who are relatively moderate. If you wanted to get jumped on for making those kinds of comments, try making them in a Quaker discussion group. I would bet you that you would get faster and more decisive flack for that there then you would on a comment thread on many atheist websites.
In my experience, having been the victim of anti-gay violence several times and threatened more times than I'd care to enumerate, those men and women (yes, women) who threatened me were notably not motivated by religion. Certainly if their willingness to take The Lord's name in vain and to do unto others as they would not have done unto them, their treatment of the stranger among them, etc. is any indication, they would qualify as non-religious, if not anti-religious. My experience of those most severe forms of discrimination are totally secular. I doubt that the general atheist welcoming of gay folk is all that atheists like to pretend it is. In online brawls, I've gotten downright gay-hating comments that had more in common with what my attackers said than with what any strongly religious liberal Christian ever said to me.
2 Pastors, 90-Year-Old Man Charged With Feeding Homeless
To Arnold Abbott, feeding the homeless in a public park in South Florida was an act of charity. To the city of Fort Lauderdale, the 90-year-old man in white chef's apron serving up gourmet-styled meals was committing a crime.
For more than two decades, the man many call "Chef Arnold" has proudly fired up his ovens to serve up four-course meals for the downtrodden who wander the palm tree-lined beaches and parks of this sunny tourist destination.
Now a face-off over a new ordinance restricting public feedings of the homeless has pitted Abbott and others with compassionate aims against some officials, residents and businesses who say the growing homeless population has overrun local parks and that public spaces merit greater oversight.
Abbott and two South Florida ministers were arrested last weekend as they served up food. They were charged with breaking an ordinance restricting public feeding of the homeless. Each faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
"One of the police officers said, 'Drop that plate right now,' as if I were carrying a weapon," Abbott recalled.
The arrests haven't deterred Abbott, and pastors Dwayne Black and Mark Sims.
In fact, on Wednesday evening, Abbott and Black went back out for a feeding along Fort Lauderdale beach as police videotaped them serving up fresh-cooked entrees: a chicken-and-vegetable dish with broccoli sauce and a cubed ham-and-pasta dish Abbott said he topped with a "beautiful white onion celery sauce."
Nearly 100 mostly homeless people and volunteers cheered his arrival in the park.
"God bless you, Arnold!" some in the crowd shouted.
In going over more of the depressing results of this mid-term election there is little to no good news for real Democrats, or, even more so, people who believe in democracy. As I mentioned yesterday it is a total negation of the center-right politics that Barack Obama delivered after promising progress, though it will be reported and punditized as a rejection of liberalism, something which Barack Obama has never been in danger of intending from the day after the election in 2008.
It is also a time for sober reflection by those of us who have advised political realism as opposed to the program of the pseudo-left, which will never get elected, will never get control of any house or any executive.
When Joe Lieberman, the Quisling Senator from Connecticut, was running the last time, during the nomination fight which he lost to Ned Lamont, I said that Democrats should require him to promise he would support their choice for the nomination. They had to get him on record as publicly committed to not running against the nominee of those whose votes he was asking for. That didn't happen, he ran as the nominee of his own party and went out of his way to stab Democrats in the back every chance he dared to take.
This time it's not enough. We obviously couldn't trust Barack Obama to govern in line with the message people heard from him, the lawyerly tergivisations to the effect that Obama didn't really say what he obviously meant people to believe haven't flown. Or what is it about the two disasters in the mid-terms which he and his lawyer friends fail to get?
Hillary Clinton or any other person who asks for our nomination must be gotten on record as to who they will NOT appoint in their administrations. Anyone who would consider appointing the likes of Summers, Geithner, Emmanuel, and a whole list of those given jobs by Obama and Bill Clinton should not be given the Democratic nomination for anything. I would specifically require her to promise never to appoint a Secretary of Education who had never attended or taught at a public school or university - even going so far as to promising never to appoint a secretary of education who has ever attended anything other than a public school - and who had a solid written record and work history that shows they get what public education is. Unlike Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton has actually attended a public school. So there's that.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama show that a charismatic man with good looks can gull Democrats into giving them a nomination and, given a weak opponent, they can even be reelected, but neither of their administrations are good Democratic administrations. Bill Clinton threw the least among us under the bus, he put the putrid NAFTA deal into law, a death sentence to the working people of this country. He, like Obama, wasn't as bad as their Republican alternatives but that is clearly not enough. The Democratic Party, liberalism, has been dying a slow death on a diet of lesser of evils. It is not enough to get out the voters when there isn't an attractive figurehead and a clear and present danger of a Bush I, a McCain-Palin or a Mitt Romney to get people out to vote. AND THE MID-TERM ELECTIONS ARE NOT OF ANY LESSER IMPORTANCE THAN THE ELECTED MONARCHY THAT THE PRESIDENCY HAS BECOME.
Barack Obama's election depended heavily on black voters intent on making history, even as he denied them far more than three times. If Hillary Clinton can depend on women being roused to do the same looks a lot less of a given now than it did even last year. I think, ironically, it will be her association with Barack Obama that might turn out to be her most serious liability, her association with Bill Clinton having been her previous highest hurdle. I am certain that Hillary Clinton will be the lesser of evils, I'm sure that many will rally round her as the first woman given the nomination. I'm not as certain that she is an inevitable winner. I will vote for her if I have to. If she would make the guarantees that she would GOVERN AS A REAL DEMOCRAT were made public, with a promise to not appoint the banking class, establishment, DC-NYC insiders and Ivy League level crooks, I might even be enthusiastic.
She should look and take seriously why people whose votes she will be asking for are longing for Elizabeth Warren to run, a run which would almost certainly not succeed. IT'S THE POLICIES, THE PASSION FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE A CLEAR AND REPEATED RECORD OF ELIZABETH WARREN GETTING IT, WHAT WE THE COMMON PEOPLE ARE UP AGAINST AND IT IS THE VERY BANKING-FINANCIAL CLASS WHO HER HUSBAND AND HER LAST BOSS SUPPORTED WHO ELIZABETH WARREN STANDS AGAINST. THE VERY PEOPLE WHO HER HUSBAND SCHMOOZES WITH AND MAKES DEALS WITH.
If Hillary Clinton isn't going to stand with The People against the oligarchs and plutocrats, she shouldn't ask for the Democratic nomination.
It's great to be able to read the score as you listen to these. Brouwer has a position in guitar music similar to that of Bela Bartok in piano and violin music. The way he does new things, interesting things with rather common and basic musical materials is something only a really fine composer who is also a master of an instrument could manage. It makes me want to go buy the score and try them.
Update: Before he had to give up playing due to injury, Brouwer was a performing guitarist. Here is a good example of how he played.
- The sad fact is that a large percentage of online atheists are so stupid and uninformed that it is evidence of the miraculous that they can manage to spell a comma correctly. Yet they mistake themselves, and even more surprisingly are passed off as the epitome of intelligence and erudition.
- No, people are not "hard wired to..." The metaphor comparing human minds to computers is one of the stupidest of metaphors ever to gain currency BECAUSE COMPUTERS, THEMSELVES ARE METAPHORS OF HUMAN MINDS. The various processes of computers were invented to mimic what scientists conceived of as the processes of thought. The more aware of those realized they were trafficking in metaphors and the creation of appearances, creating a simulation which could trick our perception into accepting it as thought. But it started as and remains a human activity, thinking, that is imagining itself and making machine and electro-mechanical analogues of its imagined processes for human consumption.
The metaphor of "hard wiring" takes the natural human mind - or even more naively, the brain - and compares it to a thing which is, itself a metaphor for the very thing being used as a model of it. If anyone can come up with a more inept metaphor that has gained similar currency, I'd like to know what it is.
I will say that the "hard wiring" metaphor and its use and distribution among the allegedly educated class shows how barren, desolate and insipid the materialist ideology is.
- I will write it up later but Larry Krauss's pipe dream that religion could disappear in a single generation because 13-year-olds use the computer is more evidence of the total stupidity that materialism seems to seep from. I did observe that for a professional physicist, Krauss is rather shockingly unable to crunch the numbers of atheists as compared to religious believers and that with the rate of increase in the self-reported atheist population in the Pew and other surveys - AFTER A DECADE OF ATHEISM BEING PROMOTED AS A FAD - none of us is likely to live to see it, not even the millenial generation he puts such hope in.
- For two ex-fundies turned atheist to assert, in effect, that fundamentalism causes brain damage is yet another sign that pop atheists aren't generally too bright. Those were their brains on fundamentalism during their formative years they are calling damaged. Though what it says about why they accepted atheism is worth considering. Lots of online atheists and others in the print era whined about what damage religion did to them. When they start talking about brain damage caused by fundamentalism, that includes lots of atheists. Or, maybe, it takes a religious person who was not brought up on fundamentalism to notice that.
Call me skeptical but I doubt a magazine which is currently telling me why I should even know who Lena Dunham is, never mind that I should care about her Honey Boo Boo level publicity moves, fodder for just such publicity buzz generators, will ever do anything much to make positive political change. Did anyone know who Lena Dunham was before she talked about looking into her baby sister's vagina and dying her hair green? Really, who notices people who die their hair green anymore? I'd never heard of her before this week. I mean, Salon, really? Four "Most Read" stories about Lena Dunham?
I knew this mid-term election was going to be a disaster and it has been. With it Barack Obama fails at the leader of the Democratic Party in a way that few others have. With his failure in two off-year elections, lost by the failure of discouraged, dispirited Democrats to come out he and the Democratic Party establishment have run the experiment of governing from the center-right and showing what a loser that is for the party that is supposed to be the alternative of that political position. I will note that Obama went from 2008, being given one of the strongest hands any Democrat has ever been given, to this notable defeat after failing to learn anything from the "2010 shellacking". In the context of their times, Barack Obama may be the least progressive Democratic president since Grover Cleveland, if not from before that. His council has always been with the banking class, the business class, the capitulationist insiders, the Washington-Ivy Leaguer establishment which brought down other Democratic administrations, as I mentioned the other week, Lyndon Johnson's. His ability to rouse himself when it is HIS job on the line is in contrast to what he does when it comes to producing results for THE PEOPLE WHO GAVE THEIR VOTES TO HIM TO GIVE HIM THE JOB INSTEAD OF THE VERY PEOPLE HE HAS CONTINUALLY SOUGHT TO PLEASE. I believe that the habit Barack Obama showed at Harvard Law of making deals with conservative Republicans to ensure his advancement over more genuinely liberal competitors, the habit which made him popular with Republicans in the Illinois Senate are what he counted on to continue doing in the presidency. But the game was a different one once he raced to the top carrying their baton. Once he was president there was nothing for them to gain by not attacking him every way they could, the most obvious of those were by harnessing the racism of their natural constituents. It is rather remarkable that a jock like Obama didn't realize it was an entirely new ball game with entirely different rules once he was president. He doesn't seem to have learned that yet. He will not learn it. What can we do? I'm sure I'll have ideas beyond those I've concentrated on recently, NEVER SUPPORTING AN IVY LEAGUE CLASS GOLDEN BOY FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION EVER AGAIN, first and foremost. I would include looking at the primary-caucus system which has produce the line of ineffective candidates and sell-out presidents we have suffered under. The presidents it has produced has been entirely worse than those produced under the older systems, replete with corruption as those were. We still have corruption, though thanks to the Supreme Court and the ACLU, it is a different and more insidious corruption. I would love to see Iowa and New Hampshire demoted from their position. We have little to nothing to lose from changing their ability to knock off more promising candidates. The ability for us to do anything much with fixing the constitution which is geared to or which gets worked to produce the massive corruption, rubber stamped by judges and justices even as the foetid carcass is put on sale for consumption, is limited. In my state a run-off election for the two top vote getters might, might have saved us from having the worst governor in our modern history get in with a minority of the vote. Thanks Eliot Cutler, Harvard grad, millionaire, spoiler candidate, thanks Green party spoilers in other places, or so I understand. You are the Republicans' best friends. Also, intrinsic to the failure of Barack Obama's politics is his thinking which is typical of jocks and others for whom only those they deem winners really matter. It is a habit of thought that is so ingrained that it is the name of one of his major and worst policies, "The Race To The Top". In it he not only proves his utter and complete lack of understanding of the reason for being of the public education system but of his utter lack of understanding of the concept of democracy. In a democracy the losers are equal in rights, equal in needs, equal in all ways to those who work the system and take advantage of the position they started out from to win. Oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, despotism, those are what is produced by a government which is concentrated on rewarding "the winners", democracy is not about that. It rejects that ranking of worth or it is no democracy. If the Democratic Party, even if it manages to elect someone with the margin that it gave Obama, with the Congress it gave Obama in 2008, does not govern FOR THE PEOPLE, The People will notice and they will not be roused in sufficient numbers to come out in off year elections.
This is a thank you letter to the black liberation theologians who I've turned to, over and over again to get through this past two year of horrible events in my life. Time and time again I've looked to them and the other liberation theologians, Latin American and even white mainstream protestant to get me out of myself and on track. If I were a more conspiracy minded guy, I'd think that the neo atheism was part of a plan to distract the left from what is, beyond measure, the most radically liberal movement around today, a means of motivation to action. I have always been a wall of separation absolutist when it comes to official governmental actions, though the perpetual brawl over manger scenes and those stupid Cecil B. DeMille PR "Ten Commandment" gravestones is nothing more than a mere detraction. I'm still a wall of separation absolutist but one who can see that there are priorities in what issues are worth going to the mat for and, frankly, those aren't them.
Any thing that is really important about the separation of church and state survived the years and decades of those kinds of things going unnoticed. If I had to tolerate a manger scene or some granite grave marker tables of economically abbreviated "Law" being erected on some unnoticed spit of public land so we could muster a majority to elect a better congress, it would be more than a bargain for us. So this is going to ignore that kind of way, way of to the side issue issue and similar click bait friendly topics. There were manger scenes on city hall land and "Ten Commandment" rocks too as the Civil Rights Act, and all of the last major laws banning oppression were passed. How that could have happened with those things, considered evil fetishes to the pseudo-left, around is something to consider.
This is about the growing insistence that people "keep their religion out of the public forum" and why that is such a stupid idea for anyone who wants to make things better.
The thing we call "religion" is an artificial category invented to include some extremely dissimilar ideas and practices. Including ideas and practices that are directly opposed to each other. A lot of the neo-atheist attempt at critique of "religion" is based on that flaw in categorization mixed with the refusal to admit that the results of different religions are as different in real life as the differences in political ideology. I would assert, far more so. When you are talking about the scope of religion, it goes a lot deeper than political ideology, you are talking about a level of experience about as deep as people can get. At least among those who take the officially detestable monotheistic religions in the Jewish tradition seriously. Especially true in the United States and Europe, the one I'm most familiar with, the religion that is supposed to take what Jesus said seriously.
The imperial religion of Rome was quite different and not the same kind of thing which is the Jewish religion and its offspring, Christianity. They are hardly the same "thing" as Odinic paganism, what is imagined of Druidism and various other religions, the let's-pretend, late 19th century romantic substitute of which is supposed to be better than Christianity. In its forms that take Jesus's words seriously, it is not the same thing as most if not all tribal, city or national cults, in which religion is tied to the social-political power structure. I think that when Christianity has been tied to civic power, as it so often is in the Orthodox churches, the actual practice of Christianity, following the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, has been demoted to an inferior status When, as in Roman Catholicism, the Pope has established a kingdom of this world, the results have been a scandal and a moral atrocity.
The mixing of temporal, political power and religious authority is very dangerous, it has been in just about every instance in which that happened in history, the story of Ashoka, in the period after his terrible war of conquest and his attempt to adopt Buddhism as a principle of government, is hardly typical and I wonder what a more objective account of that period would show in terms of his success in Buddhist terms, though, from what we know, in political terms and in terms of human rights, it was better than the alternative. It is almost impossible to imagine a political entity that could strictly adhere to the principles set forth by Jesus and the prophets. The original relationship between the kings of Israel and the temple authority produced results bad enough - mixed in with foreign occupations - so as to produce the great prophetic tradition which was a severe, even savage, critique and protest against it. It had to leave the official religious establishment, set itself up in opposition to it and its corrupted embrace of political power in order to be true to religious inspiration.
Religion, in short, can be the greatest and most important and effective force to counter corrupt power and authority. If you don't have religion, there is nothing else which human culture has produced that can serve that vital purpose. A country without an effective religious force to oppose that will, inevitably, become a dictatorship. Which is why dictators have either brought the church to heel or it has attempted to destroy religion. The great criminal regimes of the 20th century show that when they have modern methods of organizations and science and engineering, dictators and dictatorial classes the very lives of The People requires real and effective religious belief for even their basic protection FROM THE STATE.
I think that the foremost reason that the doctrine of the separation of church and state arose was that it is a necessity to have a countering force with other priorities, justice, moral obligations and others, which override even the more innocuous aspects of government, such as the desire for efficiency, Justice, equality and the obligation to respect those must be seen as superior to even the expressed will of a majority.
BILL MOYERS: When I hear the word "black liberation theology" being the interpretation of scripture from the oppressed, I think well, that's the Jewish story-- REVEREND WRIGHT: Exactly, exactly. From Genesis to Revelation. These are people who wrote the word of God that we honor and love under Egyptian oppression, Syrian oppression, Babylonian oppression, Persian oppression, Greek oppression, Roman oppression. So that their understanding of what God is saying is very different from the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians. And that's what prophetic theology of the African-American church is. BILL MOYERS: Yeah. But talk a little bit about that. The prophets loved Israel. But they hated the waywardness of Israel. And they were calling Israel out of love back to justice, not damning-- REVEREND WRIGHT: Exactly. BILL MOYERS: Not damning Israel. Right? REVEREND WRIGHT: Right. They were saying that God was-- in fact, if you look at the damning, condemning, if you look at Deuteronomy, it talks about blessings and curses, how God doesn't bless everything. God does not bless gang-bangers. God does not bless dope dealers. God does not bless young thugs that hit old women upside the head and snatch their purse. God does not bless that. God does not bless the killing of babies. God does not bless the killing of enemies. And when you look at blessings and curses out of that Hebrew tradition from the book of Deuteronomy, that's what the prophets were saying, that God is not blessing this. God does not bless it- bless us. And when we're calling them, the prophets call them to repentance and to come back to God. If my people who are called by my name, God says to Solomon, will humble themselves and pray, seek my faith and turn from their wicked ways. God says that wicked ways, not Jeremiah Wright, then will I hear from heaven.
The fact is, large swaths of the Jewish scriptures and the entirety of the Second Testament are critical of the power of the state, even the Jewish state and even the established Temple and its power holders. Which is at least not the usual state of affairs in the relationship of religions, especially national religions such as that described in Israel.
But opposition to the state is not enough, you have to oppose it for reasons better than the reasons to obey the state.
As a means of making life better, opposition works only if you begin and end in ACTING from the basis of a respect for justice, equality and moral obligations to other people, even those you don't like. It is necessary to be opposed to government WHEN IT IS THE SOURCE OF EVIL, when it does injustice, when it is a mechanism for the rich to steal and hoard the common wealth and the wealth of those who are not rich, when it goes on wars of conquest and enslavement on behalf of the rich and powerful and even of generals who want an opportunity to rise up and make their name. It makes all the difference in the world, when what you are doing is firmly based in justice as opposed to injustice.
It is necessary to insist that governments practice justice and fulfill moral obligations. That is the difference between breaking the law, disrespecting the government and even the will of the majority in order to pursue justice and equality and doing what the skin heads and white supremacists and the various fascist militias do. Their "christianity" is, as Chris Hedges put it, a heresy, a negation of the gospel of Jesus, turning him and the rest of the Jewish tradition into a cartoon lie, putting ideas in his mouth that are ideas he rejected, even as they use him as a trademark and a false front. This is a good candidate for what John the Divine called the anti-Christ.
The American "civic religion" that includes imperial militarism and occupation, subjugation and even gladiatorial games such as American football, mixed-martial arts, the American version of temple prostitutes, cheer leaders and strippers, a tax and economic system which, as the Imperial Roman one did rob the poor for the rich, is not Christian in any honest sense of the word, It is, in both its "christian" and it's "secular" manifestations, a reproduction of the corruption of Roman imperialism, even as the British imperial system was and, in fact, any system of governance not governed by the specifically Jewish notion of justice, equality and moral obligations will be. The local variations may give some appearance of difference but the category of imperial government is far less varied than the category "religion" is. It always resorts to the same practices and ideas.
As The Reverend Jeremiah Wright also said, in full, instead of in the FOX soundbite which turns it into a lie by omission:
Where governments lie, God does not lie. Where governments change, God does not change. And I'm through now. But let me leave you with one more thing. Governments fail. The government in this text comprised of Caesar, Cornelius, Pontius Pilate - the Roman government failed. The British government used to rule from East to West. The British government had a Union Jack. She colonized Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Hong Kong. Her navies ruled the seven seas all the way down to the tip of Argentina in the Falklands, but the British government failed. The Russian government failed. The Japanese government failed. The German government failed. And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into position of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no. Not God bless America; God damn America! That's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizen as less than human. God damn America as long as she keeps trying to act like she is God and she is supreme!
Which is a more powerful statement of opposition to imperial government than anything I've ever encountered from any anti-religious or even non-religious opponents of the American imperial system which has been such a total and absolute disaster for the world and for THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. As severe and at times unfair a critic of religion as Mark Twain said it, you can have an empire or you can have democracy, you can't have both. We have been sold the empire and our democracy is a sham. As Chris Hedges also pointed out, Phillip Berrigan said that if voting were really going to change things it would be made illegal. Anyone who votes expecting it is more than capable of making more than marginal change or preventing more evil is bound to be disappointed, risking giving up or becoming cynical. Vote but do so with your eyes wide open.
In the past fifty years, especially since the rise of Ronald Reagan, the Bush clan, the Clinton and Obama presidencies, the American imperial system has festered into the corrupt system we see today. It is a corrupt system that first became obvious during the Nixon presidency and which has become so rotutine and institutionalized that it's not even objected to in the media. Only, under the vaunted American Constitution, that corruption has been the norm, not the exception we enjoyed for a while, ending about fifty years ago.
The corruption we suffer with now has historical precedence in the anti-bellum period of stinking corruption, imperial wars, genocidal policies of conquest, slavery, oppression of women, and a myriad of other forces the resurgence of which comprise the teetering pile of garbage we live in today.
The forces of opposition to that system were almost exclusively Christian, especially based in the hon-hierarchical protestant religious tradition* but also within others. No matter what you will read online and in atheist propaganda, the literature of all of the great reform movements of the 19th century were seriously founded in the kind of reading of the scriptures that The Reverend Wright gives them. They were not based in the "civic religion" of the constitution which has not merely permitted those evils but enshrined them and gave them legal bases on which to protect their criminal rackets. Without the religious obligation of doing justice, of promoting justice, even the empty assertion that rights are real will do nothing to make people make their exercise in real life a reality.
With the punctuation of the Civil War, that imperial system restarted and began to find its footing again in the gilded age. The progressive period tried to tame it even as it preserved its basis, only interrupted by The Great Depression and WWII when it seemed to be down with the great reforms which Franklin Roosevelt instituted, only to see those progressively destroyed in the name of constitutional originalism and what is so ironically called "federalism". It is no coincidence that the same people who use The Constitution in that way and those who champion the pseudo-Christian imperial religion are the same.
American history proves that the only force that has succeeded in making any headway against that corruption is religion, religion which holds the absolute reality of rights, equality and moral obligations, with an absolute obligation to make those real in our own life and the life of the country. If we had held to those instead of the false alternatives of libertarianism we may have actually been the envy of the world instead of an object lesson in either how foreign oligarchs can corrupt governments or what not to do. I have read that those countries which copy our method of government have a far higher chance of producing dictators than those which adopt parliamentary systems.
Not only is the secular liberal faith in The Constitution insufficient, it is misplaced. The original constitution was originally written to include the slave power, the powers of genocide against the native inhabitants of the continent and the incredible corruption in the financial powers that produced the stinking, rotting fish that is the history of American government and power in the 19th century. It took the Civil War which is a direct product of that Constitution to get rid of official slavery, while keeping the rest of the corrupt product from The Founders in effect, to even more powerful theft of wealth by the rich, ever more vicious genocide and the unoffical slavery of Jim Crow and the putridly cynical lie of separate but equal. The scant reform of that system has proven to be insufficient and easily overturned in the reaction to the reforms of the Roosevelt administration and the Johnson administration. That it was a period in which religion became really uncool is not unrelated.
As it took the religiously based reform movements of the 19th century to counter the constitutionally allowed corruption it opposed, it will take religious opposition today. That is the real story, the most significant and essential story of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. That is the real story of the real Americanism that took truths to be self evident even as stated by those such as Jefferson who proved by their lives that they were just words to them. Putting your faith in men will produce the corruption we live with today. It takes a lot more than that to produce The Beloved Community. People can't do that all by themselves.
* I am coming to be more convinced that Marilynne Robinson is right, that the American liberal tradition is a development from those most unfashionable Calvinists and Puritans, who she points out were rather remarkable in their citation of the Jewish justice tradition in the First Testament. I would note that since Vatican II, the Catholic church has included more of that tradition in the liturgy and I think it has been the better for that.
I've already posted two performances of one of Leo Brouwer's masterpieces, his Sonata. I'm not sure that I don't think this is the best one I've heard to date. Oman Kaminsky Lara's technique is incredibly clean and his musicianship is as well.