Mike Church and Me: Who’s Your Master?

“Your religion should inform your politics.  If your politics informs your religion, your politics is your religion.”

— Joseph Osborne Johnson

For several years,  I admired that quotation without applying it to my own life.  After all, I was the product of mainstream American Protestantism, a religious tradition that held to no absolutes and blew in whatever cultural winds came across the national landscape.  Later, by the early 2000’s, I had decided that my politics was my religion, and so there was no conflict.

While not in the top three conservative radio talk show hosts, Mike Church has certainly earned his title of “American Badass of Talk Radio” since 2001.  he has a wide national audience, airing during the morning “drive-time” from 6 – 9AM on weekdays.  But Mike is a conservative with a twist – his religion (hardcore conservative Roman Catholic) actually does inform his politics.  When traditional orthodox teachings of Christianity come to loggerheads with generally-accepted capital C Conservative positions, those positions wither.

Mike Church has made me very angry many, many times.

What Mike reminded me was:

  • Jesus of Nazareth was not an American.  There was no evidence that he cared about any nation or governmental entity (he worked in at least two of them).
  • While a Jew, according to the gospels, he never referred to his heritage at all, simply referring to himself as the “Son of Man”.
  • When reading the teachings of Christ, I’ve never read “except“.  There is no except after “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:39].   There is no except after “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” [Matthew 15.3].  There is no except after “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money” [Luke 9:2].

We hear the Gospel read in church, nod wisely, and pass out into the world doing exactly the opposite.  There is always an except in our minds.  Except for me, Lord.  Except this is national security, Lord.  Except these people have broken your law and need to be punished, Lord.  Except these are different times, Lord.

Every time is a “different” time.  If the Gospels were only for first-century Palestine, why are Bibles still being printed?

As I have said, Mike Church has made me so angry at times that I’ve wanted to rip the radio right out of the dashboard.  No drone strikes???  Are you crazy???  What do you mean get out of the Middle East???  Are you %#^&^%& NUTS???

Mike Church loves Jesus Christ.  I’m sure there must be someone who knows the writings of the church fathers better than Mike Church, but I can’t name one.

Mike Church loves America.  More than that, he loves the idea of America.  I’m sure there must be someone who knows more about the founding fathers of our nation that Mike Church, but I can’t name one.

Mike Church used to have me in mouth foaming fits every weekday morning.  But then I started to listen.

What I heard Mike say about the Middle east is what our intelligence analysts have said for a couple of decades now.

What I heard Mike say about our culture and the way we all  (Democrats, Republicans, Other) treat “the least of these” is exactly the admonishment I read in the Gospels.

This nation is at a crossroads like it hasn’t seen since 1860.  One side is telling us that our future lies in Euro-style social-democracy.  One side is telling us that our future  lies in the National Security Corporate state.

Something better is meant for us.

One day, about two weeks ago, I arrived at work without a vein-bulging, screaming fit along the way.  The fits have not returned.

I’m with you, Mike.

Advertisements

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Back in the mid-1990s, before I became “digital”, I wrote something for a local newsletter (print) regarding a concerning trend in American culture.  At that time, I was on the left end of the Democratic Party scale, a huge supporter of single-payer health care, the parliamentary system, and what could be termed a “liberal, mainstream ‘squishy’ Christian”, meaning I really didn’t believe in Christianity’s basic, foundational tenets, but I liked the “social justice” aspect.  All that stated, my piece regarded a social trend that has waxed and waned over the years: Evangelical Christian nonparticipation in the broader American culture.

Bill Clinton was in the first half of his first term, the GOP was about to create a sea-change in American politics, and mainstream liberals (and mainstream churches) were in the process of celebrating the fact that it looked like “Christian fundamentalists”, who had come to the fore during the Reagan Administration, were going back into their dark caverns, never to bother intelligent, progressive people again.  My little piece pointed out a few verifiable facts (which I verified and sited):

  • Small businesses in America (< 25 employees) were most likely to be owned by those identifying with Evangelical Christian beliefs.  While this was more evident in the South and West, it was universally true in all regions of the nation, including New England and California.
  • The majority of Americans not employed by a governmental entity or non-profit were employed by these “small businesses”.
  • There were far fewer employment discrimination claims against these businesses nationwide than there were against governmental entities and non-profit corporations.  (I had no statistics for “large corporations”).
  • Academic studies at the time showed more job satisfaction among the small business employees (non-owners) than any other group studied, including governmental and non-profit.
  • Owners of these small businesses contributed to the general economy through spending at a rate far greater than their numbers, and they were generally much less inclined to make use of “public benefits” like unemployment compensation, food stamps, housing assistance, etc.

Over the last twenty years, I have lost my copy of the newsletter and probably never retained the original document.  My readership, the liberal/professional class that believed GOP stood for “Greed Over People”, surely thought I made the numbers up, even though they were all provided either by the Clinton Administration or a number of academic (Marxist) university studies.

The reason for my interest was the growth in “mega-churches” in the Evangelical world.  These churches were incorporating health clubs, cafes, even florist shops and book stores into their sites.  Each successful business catered to and by the believer was one less “secular” business patronized.  More importantly, it was one less opportunity for the believer to interact with (and influence) the culture around them.  That last item was one I didn’t fully grasp at the time, but in that era, Christian believers were withdrawing from a “failed” society that offered nothing but sexuality run amuck, lowest-common-denominator “entertainment”, and what they perceived as an environment toxic to their children.  Looking from the outside in, I was only fully aware of the economic impact.

Now, after a decade or more of Evangelical Christians having a voice in the American politic, I see this trend happening again.  The Evangelical Christian believer is giving up on American culture. This time, demographics are against an Evangelical resurgence into the American mainstream.  More and more Americans value “free” over self-worth.  More and more Republican politicians move freely among the pro-abortion crowd and are willing to “cut deals” on a public welfare system that saps its beneficiaries’ ability to find dignity in work, all paid for not by the politicians, but by those small business owners, essentially by threat of force.  America’s “mainstream” churches bleed membership like a hemophiliac, while once again the Evangelicals find new recruits in young families and older Americans who are looking for a relationship with God rather than a liberal social action club with a cross on the wall.

Looking at the broader American culture, and its population, I am reminded of Psalms 12:1 – 2.

…But Not of the World

Lord:

I have looked at the world and become enraged at the injustice and immorality.  Calm my anger and make me know that Your will is done every minute of every day.

I rail against my fellow man for not doing what I perceive as the “right thing”.  Have me see You in all people, as You have created us all, and remind me that my will is nothing unless it is also Your will.

Allow me to see the beauty of Your Creation, despite the chaos that I may perceive around me.

While I value my brain, allow my heart to open, and know Your Peace.

This world is not my future, and while I may struggle for justice in it, let me  be bathed in Your Mercy.

— A Pilgrim

What We Never Learned from Viet Nam

[The nation on the eastern side of Indochina is named Viet Nam. Since the late 1960’s, American journalists and historians have referred to it as Vietnam in error. I will not continue this tradition.]

Today, only historians specializing in twentieth-century America or military history junkies remember the name John Paul Vann.  Lt. Col. Vann served as an advisor to the Army of South Viet Nam in the (very) early 1960’s, and later returned as a civilian advisor until his death in 1972. His biography, “A Bright, Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan, is the single most important book ever written on the American involvement in the Viet Namese civil war.

It doesn’t take a genius, or even much more than a moderate intellect to come to the following conclusions regarding American involvement in Viet Nam. It does however, require intellectual honesty.

  • No single act by either side in the war created more Viet Cong volunteers and sympathizers than American bombing and village destruction in the South.
  • Field-grade American officers were fighting World War II  in Viet Nam, making no adjustments for either a different terrain or a different culture.
  • A total inability (or desire) to understand our South Viet Namese ally, let alone our enemy, was the single most important factor in our defeat.
  • The “feel-goodism” that we could have won the war militarily is a lie that needs to be abandoned now, before it does more damage than it already has.

Now I would like to address America’s true conservatives – those who want to preserve and defend our culture and civilization against our current enemy.  Do not let your knee-jerk reaction to what you are about to read give you brain damage.

We are repeating all the same mistakes, as if we have never experienced the Viet Nam War at all, but we are doing so in a world in which our enemies have exactly the same media technology as we ourselves do.  They are using it, and it is working.

  • Drone strikes in the “tribal areas” of Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan and Yemen are just as much of a recruitment tool as carpet bombing was in Viet Nam. The negligible value of picking off a few Taliban/Al Qaeda/ISIS leaders is entirely negated by the large numbers of Islamist recruits attracted by “collateral damage”.
  • American administrations (all of them), Pentagon top brass, and even the intelligence community have no understanding of the enemy’s motivation because they are absolutely wedded to the Bushian idea that they “hate us for our freedom”.  They enemy leadership has always been exceedingly clear about why they are fighting: because we are there.  For some reason, US leaders have decided that this knowledge is dangerous for the American people to hear.
  • America’s greatest Warhawk, Dick Cheney, wondered aloud whether or not we were creating more terrorists than we were killing.  The answer is an unequivocal YES!

Before his death in 1972, John Paul Vann said that the best weapon to win an insurgency war was a knife.

America does not believe in knives.

 

How Are We The “United” States?

The United States of America. Sounds good, doesn’t it. But let’s be realistic. The United States wasn’t really united until 1865. All historians – left, right, and center – will tell you that. Make note that I did not say ideologists, but historians.  Before the civil war, citizens only identified themselves as “Americans” if they were in a foreign land. Otherwise, you were an illinoisan, a Virginian, etc.

From about 1990, the “unity” really began  to unravel.  By 2015, the term United States has become as humorous as calling the UK the British Empire. States have always had their own identity, and the ephemera of each one added a little mystery to the nation, but by 2008, it was not only the details, but the core that was changing. I have no more in common with the average Californian than I do with the average Finn. The resident of Massachusetts is far less understandable to me than the average Brazilian. We disagree on culture, economics, and above all, governance. So what makes us united?

Words.

I spend a great deal of time in a classroom getting students to understand that words mean something. I have to admit that in this case, they don’t.

When I spend time with people my age and older, I can see that many of them are chronologically “stuck’. There was an era when life was good, or interesting, or just invigorating, and mentally, they stayed there. When my father was alive, he was surrounded in an aura of big band music. The 40’s was his time. Anything that reminded him of the current epoch was to be avoided. With an uncle, I always heard a distant voice crying “All The Way With LBJ!” As a child of the Cold War, I am greatly attracted to that era, even though (and maybe because) I was a child through most of it. But I know what era I exist in; I know what our current challenges are, and I refuse to hide in a world of the Righteous Brothers and Strategic Air Command.  I am alive now, in this second, and want to address current issues.

The issue is that America is no longer united, and this is not a problem that Hollywood can solve.  If we come together as a nation again, it will be temporary and will be the result of an existential threat. Even then, we will unravel quickly, because a part of our population truly believes that our nation is at fault, either directly or indirectly, for all of its ills.  Many also believe that it is the moral responsibility of “producers” to provide shelter and sustenance to the “takers”.  Both of these viewpoints I find abhorrent in the extreme. I do not want them a part of the national outlook of anywhere I live, and am willing to fight to make it so.  I am willing to sacrifice primal forests and scenic mountains to live with people I share a common sense of purpose with. If I want beautiful vistas I can’t get at home, I’ve got a passport.

Liberals, progressives, and faux libertarians who where taught by liberals and progressives are convinced that “everybody is the same at heart” and that “we can all live together”. It’s just another case of ignoring what is in front of your eyes and listening to the ravings of feeble-minded fools.

All people want the same thing?

Yugoslavia (now 5 nations).

Czechoslovakia (now 2 nations).

The Soviet Union (now 11 nations)

Sudan (now 2 nations)

Belgium ( dividing in two any day now).

The United Kingdom (I give it 7 yrs.).

Most fools mean well. They are simply fools. Meaning well does not make you admirable, saintly, or better than the rest of us.  It just results in continuous disappointment.

I believe in Liberty. With true liberty, you get equality. With enforced equality, liberty never occurs, but oppression will.

I believe, in my heart of hearts, that oppressors of liberty should be eliminated from the face of the earth. I don’t need to go to Syria or Iraq for that.