A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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For further information, email Darius at possiblegospel@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Gospel, Chapter Fourteen: Empire

Pick One…

It is written: “Whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:50. No crusades necessary.

It is also written: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23. Freedom Fries and “Bring ‘em on…” (George W. Bush).

All Bible verses are not equally inspired.

Woes

Woe to the politicized scribes and Pharisees of the age! You imagine that you hide the heights of selfishness behind a fig leaf of submission to what you call the will of God but which is plainly your own as you seek to fulfill social and political agendas of power-seeking and wealth-grabbing. You read scripture like lawyers, selecting verses that support your own notions while ignoring those that resonate for all with ears to hear. Ignorance which is certain of itself is dark indeed, masking hatred and fear that are black with being unexamined and unknown.

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees who attain political office, seeking to render unto Caesar what is God’s and imagining that your hypocrisy is not transparent to many when you insert faith-speak into your political speeches. You execute selfish plans in the name of the Author of unselfishness, deceiving many others. You sow seeds of discord among the faithful of the nations. Truly it would be better for you if you were chained to a great Humvee and offloaded into the depths of the sea. Cf. Mat 18:6.

Little Caesar fondles corporate purses, then salts his sound-bites with unsavory God-talk; and neglects the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and stewardship of the earth. We are to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar; yet anyone with eyes to see, can see that less and less belongs to little Caesar’s sphere.

Jesus did not say, “Hold fund-raising banquets for the rich and cripple programs that help the poor, the lame, and the blind.” He said, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” Luke 14:13.

The Kingdom Is At Hand

Do not imagine that we still live in a democracy. In 1976 the Supreme Court (Buckley v. Valeo) ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of free "speech” protected by the First Amendment. Although politicians regularly perform song and dance routines around the idea of campaign finance reform at election time, the ruling is never brought up. They like it. It’s how they got where they are – with money donated by wealthy corporate sponsors

The result is that today we have government of, by, and for big business. At election time, we pick from among candidates not of our choice or making, but as offered up by corporate America. The founding fathers did their best, but the wealthy have figured out how to control democracy’s institutions. Rule by the wealthy is at hand.

48 Comments:

At 8:31 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, you seem to have shifted to politics now. Oh, well.

According to my sources, money and elections have been a problem ever since this country started having elections. It takes money to run for office (to get the word out there.) In today's world, it takes tons of money to run for office at the higher levels. We don't know how to address the problem without restricting free speech.

The first attempt at campaign finance reform was in 1867. There have been other attempts since then. The most recent was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which was signed into law by President Bush and later upheld by the Supreme Court. Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the majority opinion. This law makes it all very complicated for the average person who wants to run for office at the higher level.

Opponents of campaign finance reform make for odd bedfellows: ACLU; NRA; Christian Coalition.

You say: "The result is that today we have government of, by, and for big business." I don't think you are justified in saying that, Darius. But I could be wrong.

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Aidan said...

Another great post, but you are sounding a tad depressed.

It is a shame when people take a good idea like being nice to each other, preaching forgiveness, given of ourselves, and spinning around to justify the most horrible of actions, to perpetuate the divide between the rich and the poor.

I am not a religious man, but i can not stand the perversion of what should have been a utopian ideal.

 
At 9:24 PM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The 'Prosperity Gospel'is here to stay my friends. If you are poor its because your FAITH ain't strong enough brother.

There was a cult leader by the name of Reverend IKE, Frederick Eikerenkoetter, in the 70s who said that "the LACK of money is the root of all evil."

If only the chosen at Super Church America would be as forthright today.
Can I get an Amen Brother!?

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

**Rule by the wealthy is at hand.

That wud be 100% correct. Isnt that sad tho.

Keshi.

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger Within Without said...

I don't see a shift from religion to politics, Darius, I see a remarkably sensible and inevitable evolution to the inescapable observation that they're in close concert, with gravely ill effects.

Religion, politics, money, corporations...they shouldn't all be so intertwined, but they are, especially now in Bushland.

And by their nature they exclude everyone else, particularly the poor and disenfranchised, who only have become more so.

I don't see depression, I see realism...and what happens when three man-made institutions based on power, money, morality and fear all get on the same crooked path together.

Some Key words:
Politicized; Hide; Submission; Selfishness; Agendas; Ignorance;; Will of God; Power; Wealth; Masking; Hatred; Fear; Unexamined; Faith-speak; Deceiving; Unsavory
Neglect

 
At 10:42 PM, Blogger samuru999 said...

It is a sad but very true fact:
Rule by the wealthy is at hand.
And, the only ones they care about
are the wealthy.
It makes me sad and very mad!

 
At 1:18 AM, Blogger crystal said...

Sing it, brother ... I agree.

 
At 4:16 AM, Blogger christabelle said...

Ha Darius, I wish u live in Nigeria, its even worse down here, talk abt rule by the wealthy, its a matter of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer by the day. these rich and powerful politicians hold the country in the palm of their hands and the rest r just like sheep being led to the slaughter houses, sad, very sad indeed.

sometimes, I feel like singing this woes to you song 2.

Good post pal, as usual.

 
At 5:00 AM, Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Always a pleasure to read your blog. I get insights into too many things.

In India too, rich get richer, poor get poorer. Nothing can be done about that. The politicians are corrupt to boot. Who thinks for the masses?

 
At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Marissa said...

I agree. It angers me so much that GWB calls himself a Christian and yet is supporting big business (which in turn kills small businesses), says he wants more jobs for Americans but allows the big businesses to use sweatshops in foreign countries, on Sunday says he believes in equality and yet will not approve gay marriage, and still has not agreed to Kyoto even though the U.S. is the worst offender as far as pollution and global warming. I really don't know how he sleeps at night.

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger Darius said...

SUSIEQ: I won’t be on the political wavelength for long, although it was probably inevitable since I’m taking my cue from the gospels – that line about rendering unto Caesar, and of course there’s a lot of gospel material that suggests concern for social justice issues. Far less than suggests concern for stem cells, sexual orientation, and a lot of other things that have somehow become major “religious” issues. In fact, it still surprises me that Christians concerned with social justice don’t seem to be able to highlight in the public mind/media that social justice concerns are far more scripturally based than, say, being anti-flag burning, anti immigrant, or pro prayer in the schools.

We just launched the space shuttle. I’m confident we have the brain power to figure out as a nation that spending enormous sums of money to assure victory for corporate-friendly candidates differs from “free speech” and realize that we badly need to legislate strict campaign spending limits. Because when “money talks” it’s essentially bribery. We can but will not change this because “we” are the corporations in bed with the politicians and we like it just the way it is. Not we the people. We the corporate-political rulers.

I’m positive I’m justified in saying we’re governed by corporations. Many of us in America are still fortunate enough materially not to have had to realize this yet in our personal lives. But many of us are starting to realize the effects: the working poor, people with long term health problems that are forced to deal with the health care system on an ongoing basis, those who are disabled at a young age and find themselves dealing with our for-profit “home health aide” agencies; or who have to deal with the legal system but can’t afford a good lawyer and have to take whoever’s assigned them – or, because they’re not destitute, fail to meet pro bono guidelines and have to swallow whatever injustice has been dealt them.

As some of the comments below suggest, the gap between rich and poor is widening world-wide. To me, it sounds like a recipe for social upheaval. The gap is growing here in America too. But if our politicians play the game right, so that there are still enough Americans who can afford SUVs and own their own homes, and the Americans who are being crushed are the least powerful and least able to make waves, things may be stable here for a quite a while.

AIDAN: To me your word “perversion” does sound just right for behaving selfishly in the name of God. If that isn’t a perversion of religion, it’s hard to say what is…

No, I’m not depressed. Most of the posts were pre-written anyway, at least as first drafts, so you can’t go by the posts. (I’m not too moody anyway.)

HOMO ESCAPEONS: Amen brother, plus: Was Frederick Eikerenkoetter related to Art Linkletter? But I liked Art, he was good with kids…

KESHI: It is sad. One particular angle that bothers me on this as an American is that those who founded our government were realistic enough about human nature to deliberately try to come up with a system of government in which “the people” would be represented. But I’m sure they couldn’t have even dreamt of companies and even individuals within our own borders whose wealth would exceed that of foreign nations. They didn’t plan for that one…

WITHIN, WITHOUT: Good summary, thanks -

SAMURU999: You raise an important point, imo. If we had rule by a wealthy class that primarily cared not about the wealthy, but about the good of the nation and the world as a whole, then you could still speak of the injustice of having to be wealthy to go into politics; but the outlook would be a lot brighter.

CRYSTAL: Between you and Homo Escapeons I’m starting to feel pretty hip and groovy there, sister… Does this mean the Age of Aquarius wasn’t cancelled after all? “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” was premature? Jokin’ Joe DiMaggio hasn’t left and gone away after all, hey hey hey; hey hey hey-hey - ? (Nothing like a few pop culture references to brighten up a comments section. I have the unfortunate ability to easily memorize song lyrics combined with zero singing talent.)

CHRISTABELLE and GAUTAMI: Africa, India… The rich/poor gap is truly world-wide, and we consistently end up with leaders who care more than anything about hanging onto power. Somehow that has to change.

MARISSA: And as you know, that's only a small, partial list! I don't have the complete one at hand either. It would be interesting to see a listing of all the lies and hypocricies and, indeed, "sins" of this administration. Including all the little things, like exporting people for torture and saying we don't need to abide by the Geneva convention.

And how do we expect "enemy combatants" to treat our soldiers? We've lost all moral authority in the eyes of the larger world to speak out in favor of human rights.

Like you, I marvel at their ability to sleep at night. You wonder what they tell themselves; what goes on in their heads.

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

'Today we have government of, by, and for big business.'

A wonderful post, Darius. You're a talented writer.

While the financing of political campaigns is more than problematic, the issue of political lobbying is equally a serious concern.

Most major corporations spend millions of pounds hiring political lobbyists to promote their interests to politicians. They finance think tanks and regularly disseminate detailed reports and supporting research to politicians and media companies.

Many news reports that we view, if we analyse closely, can easily be seen as advertisements for corporations. Most reports on breakthroughs in medical science or new environmentally positive projects are heavily lobbied and influenced by corporations.

Consumerism, media advertising, media news, political institutions, scientific research and public opinion interact and influence each other. This is not a new thing.

Technically, nation state governments hold power over decision making. Corporations, however, unlike governments, are free to switch their activities to any country willing to give them residence (and most countries are).

Political lobbying becomes therefore a bargaining situation in which corporations hold the trump card, ultimately, of being able to veto a political policy and transfer their activities overseas.

How do they sleep at night? I suspect they think they are being good and righteous Christians.

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

The result is that today we have government of, by, and for big business. At election time, we pick from among candidates not of our choice or making, but as offered up by corporate America. The founding fathers did their best, but the wealthy have figured out how to control democracy’s institutions. Rule by the wealthy is at hand.

Preach, brother, preach. Tell off on it. You're absolutley right.

 
At 4:30 AM, Blogger ghee said...

its really happening..
those who speak so good and claim themselves righteous turn out to be the first culprit.

and the people so easily to believe..sigh

 
At 5:29 AM, Anonymous Darius said...

BENJAMIN: That’s for sure. And these two, campaign financing and lobbying, must be related. For example, if health care corporations give big money to support a politician’s campaign and they approach him after he’s elected with lobbying efforts, he’s bound to listen to them…

JEFF: Thanks, Jeff.

GHEE: That has bothered, and surprised me, also – how easily large numbers of people are misled.

 
At 6:48 AM, Blogger defiant goddess said...

I am convinced. The world would be a much better place if there were less emphasis on worshipping Jesus and more emphasis on emulating him.

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger Ghost Particle said...

funny that all along the ages, we created systems that fails miserably to the small guys. But we dont have trhe power to change that?

 
At 9:54 AM, Blogger Trish said...

Hey, ice cream sounds good, but unfortunately, the nearest ice cream place is several miles away.... Bummer. Anyway, only one more week and the class will be done. At least it is fairly interesting... :) What was your major in college, anyway, if I may ask?

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Darius said...

RENEE: I agree with that 101%.

GHOST PARTICLE: I don't understand it either. Never studied political science or sociology. I wonder if part of the reason for all the bad leadership through the ages has to do with those areas - things having to do with the behavior of people in large groups and organizations.

What especially bothers me about this period in the US is that our system of government, with its balance of powers, was purposefully designed to try and defeat selfish tendencies in elected leaders. But it looks like our unelected leaders in the world of big business have figured out how to successfully manipulate the system for their own purposes.

A success for them, but not the nation.

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger Ruben said...

Just the mere mention of George Bush's name causes bowel movements.LOL

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger Darius said...

TRISH: Double majored in English/Psych. English was my major major, took about twice as many classes as in psych.

RUBEN: And although it's true we'll all be evacuating him in a couple years, the national intestinal tract will never be the same. God only knows what we've swallowed, so to speak...

 
At 3:06 PM, Blogger kevin beck said...

Woe to those who wage war under false pretenses.

 
At 5:20 PM, Anonymous SH said...

I came across this quote by Albert Einstein today: "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it."

 
At 6:06 PM, Blogger Darius said...

KEVIN B: That too...

SH: It does look as though complacency on the part of large numbers of people is typically required for large scale wrongs to be perpetrated by smaller numbers of people.

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

"Religion, politics, money, corporations...they shouldn't all be so intertwined, but they are, especially now in Bushland."

They always have been. You can substitute Royalty and Aristocracy for "corporations" if you go back far enough.

All you need to know about Politics (The Father Guido Sarducci School)

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

As for Sociology:

"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."

The precession of the Equinox will take place on schedule.

I thought that line was "Joltin' Joe..."

I've taken to calling him George W. Douche, or just President Douche by the way, on the theory that the best part of him was washed away....

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

"its really happening..
those who speak so good and claim themselves righteous turn out to be the first culprit.

and the people so easily to believe..sigh"


Almost forgot, a better Simon and Garfunkel tune for the topic, The Boxer:

"All lies and jests, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest...M'hmmm.....

Lie lie lie....."

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, businesses usually contribute heavily to both parties. Since it is the politicians who have the power to pass legislation that affects businesses and makes it harder for them to function, what businesses pay in contributions could be thought of as protection money.

I think if you examine what business is getting from the politicians for their money, you will discover that they are not getting much bang for their buck overall.

When Clinton was in office, Al Gore made phone calls from the White House and more or less told big business how much he expected them to contribute to political campaigns. That tells you who has the power.

Some political writers have suggested that rather than campaign reform being the cure, term limits would be.

I think it was Benjamin who was complaining about lobbying practices. There is talk about lobbying reform. But we should be cautious because lobbying goes to our right to assemble and petition our government.

You talked about our for-profit "home health aide" agencies as if there is something wrong with a business making a profit by providing this needed service. I don't understand your objection.

 
At 2:03 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Wow, loving this Political Gospel!

Darius. Yeah, definitely campaign financing and lobbying are related. Good point.

Renee. What a wonderful quote. How very true.

Much discussion of the complacency and apathy of the individual. Here in the UK, come election time it's a choice for me between not voting and voting Green. Ultimately I think the former actually makes a stronger point.

I wonder about the US, particularly how people view the policies implemented by the Clinton administration. It seems to me that Clinton had good intentions of narrowing the global poverty divide but, in fact, free trade agreements and the WTO were kind of hijacked by corporations arguably making the poorest people yet worse off. Old news now!

SusieQ. Interesting points. I think private businesses and small to moderate sized companies tend to get very little support from the government. So often we see such businesses fail because bigger corporations force them out of business or merely gobble them up (a UK perspective).

As to your last point I will leave the response to Darius!

 
At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Darius said...

BREAKERSLION: I don’t doubt that – that power corrupts, and that historically this has happened "many times many ways." (Like “Merry Christmas; Merry Christmas; Merry Christmas… to… you…” But not as nice.) Ok, no more songs, except: Damn! A misheard lyric! I hate it when that happens. I always thought Simon and Garfunkel said “jokin’ Joe,” and assumed he must have been a funny guy renowned for making jokes with the catcher when he was at bat or something. “Joltin’” does sound like it would make more sense.

That said, in terms of our own lifetimes, and here in the US, there’s a reason why so many of us have affectionate nicknames for George. Personally I like just plain George because, like millions of us, I’m so taken by his “regular guy’ affectations; and also because so far I just can’t seem to figure out any sense in which he represents me as my "president.” I don't even feel confident that he was really elected. Either time. My level of trust is just that high...

Sounds like as good a theory as any I’ve heard as to how George got elected – people hearing what they want to hear.

SUSIE Q: Like Benjamin mentions, I’d want to distinguish between big business and small businesses. It’s the former that are pulling the strings in DC.

Yes – the fact that they contribute heavily to both parties is why congress and the presidency end up primarily serving big business no matter who gets elected. When the only way to get political power in the US is to be a multimillionaire supported by giant corporations, I don’t think it's quite what the founding fathers had in mind. And yes – the money they pay is “protection money” and also “promotion money” to make things better and better for moneyed interests.

Big business is surely getting a tremendous bang for the buck. Take health care. Instead of the government adequately funding pharmaceuticals research at leading universities, for example, the universities now have to turn to the drug companies themselves for research funds. This has the sort of results you’d expect: for example, suppression of negative information about new drugs.

Al Gore had the power to dictate to corporations how much money they gave him? Something sounds off there… I do remember that people thought it was inappropriate for him to make fund raising calls from the White House. Seems like a relatively minor point to me.

I’m not an expert in this area, but follow the news enough to know that lobbying has become more intensive today than ever – that “K Street” in DC is a huge ongoing operation.

And I know a lot about healthcare.

In 1999, I was one of several people invited to tell my “HMO horror story” to the state legislature. Mine was bad enough; but the couple who spoke just ahead of me had lost their 3 year old son after a long period of their HMO denying the medication their doctor kept insisting he needed. By the time he got it, it was too late.

As for me, I was forced out of state, in declining health, to seek new employment after my insurance refused to provide the treatment recommended by A) one of the world’s leading authorities on the condition that I was thought to have at the time, and B) my HMO’s own leading physician in that area of expertise, who was outraged at their behavior and wrote two very strongly worded letters on my behalf.

It was during my futile struggle to receive coverage for this treatment that I read my policy in detail and found language explicitly stating that because a treatment was recommended by the patient’s doctor in no way meant that my insurance’s medical director had to view it as medically necessary. Apparently this is boilerplate language – after I moved, I found almost identical wording in my new policy with a new insurer.

Guess how that language got there? Do you think it’s because our nation’s legislators seriously think it’s in the interest of patients to have bureaucrats who’ve never met the patient overruling the medical decisions of the patient's doctors? To whose benefit does that language operate?

I could go on much longer. The insurance lobby is either the largest or one of the largest in DC. But just to pick up on where you say, “as if there’s something wrong” with business making a profit from the much needed home health aide service industry...

There is something wrong and outrageous when something as basic as the preservation of one's heath is given over to profiteers. If government isn’t supposed to help pay for and seriously regulate something this essential, I wonder what domestic functions it has left beyond helping to provide for the wealthy.

I’m severely disabled by a complex medical condition. After struggling with about half a dozen home health aide agencies over the course of a year and a half and speaking with enough medical people about them, I finally realized they’re all basically the same. And they’re so bad that I’m now paying a college kid out of pocket to help me around the house once in a while, even though none of that, of course, is covered by my insurance; the kid will graduate; and I’ll be forced back into the home health aide nightmare until and unless I can find someone for myself again.

Here’s what a “home health aide” is: an unskilled, low wage worker. At least half of those sent to my home were not fluent in English. I used to teach ESL, so I want to be clear that I’m in no way, shape, or form anti-immigrant. But when you suffer from a complex medical condition and need help, you’re not really looking for a chance to teach English again.

With each new agency I’d explain at the outset how important it was that they try and send the same person each time, and have them arrive on time, on account of the nature of my medical problems. Each agency, wanting my business, would reply in understanding terms and then proceed to rarely send the same person two weeks in a row. As far as days and times, they’d come “whenever.” And when they couldn’t come, usually they just wouldn’t! No calling ahead to say they wouldn’t, not even any call afterward to say “Oops, sorry about that…”

Home health workers are paid peanuts. They’re treated unfairly. One woman, a heavy accent and clearly a recent immigrant, kept complaining to me that she’d been working for over a month and still hadn’t received a penny – I guess she thought I had some kind of clout! Another time a young woman was sent over for the first time. When I asked for some assistance with bathing, she clearly looked grossed out. Turns out the agency had never even told her this was part of the job. Nice for the worker; lovely for the patient.

Understandably, it’s a high turnover position. And these are the people we’re sending into the homes of disabled people who lack large enough families or personal funds to pay for it themselves. But these businesses charge an arm and a leg for providing their services, and are doing quite nicely.

For more on the state of the nation’s for-profit health care “system,” you could see www.hmoappeals.com.

SusieQ, I know this is a lot, and I haven’t intended to imply that you’re anything but a kind, compassionate person – I’m confident of that from reading your blog and commentary. Believe me, I wouldn’t have known what I know if I hadn’t personally had to go through what I’m going through with healthcare (and believe me, we’ve just scratched the surface).

The poor, the disabled, those with chronic and difficult to treat illnesses, the mentally ill – these are huge numbers of people. But they don’t have much power. So until you personally know someone or become someone who falls into one of these sorts of categories, you're unlikely to recognize how terribly irresponsible our corporate form of government has become.

BENJAMIN: That “gobbling up” of smaller businesses by larger ones is certainly happening here to. It’s one of the major reasons, for example, that you can’t get a book published without a marketing platform. Consolidation has been rampant in the publishing industry, as in many others, so that it can hardly be described as being owned and operated at this point by bibliophiles! The focus is squarely on increasing profit margins every year as much as possible, and that means sticking with authors with name recognition rather than assume any degree of financial risk on authors just because they have real writing ability or new ideas. This is particularly the case with nonfiction, although from what I understand it’s getting to be the same with fiction.

The only thing I know for sure about the Clinton presidency is that it accomplished less than it could have. His sexual escapades, inconsequential as they should have been for the life of the nation, were of great consequence because they allowed the far right to make them a continuous distraction from conducting the nation’s business.

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger WayneDawg said...

Very intersting blog. I agree with Benjamin; you are a very talented writer.

Did you used claim to be a Christian?

 
At 10:25 AM, Blogger WayneDawg said...

That should say....

Did you used to claim to be a Christian?

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, you have given me a lot to think about here. There is nothing like experience!

Give me time to absorb it all and I will get back with you.

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Good writing and very good food for thought.

I guess that part about the meek inheriting the earth was a typo, huh?

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger Darius said...

WAYNE, Thank you, and for stopping by.

I find that the influence of politicized, right wing Christianity has become so powerful that the very word “Christian” has become problematic. When the actions of arguably the world’s most prominent Christian include breaking US law by failing to inform Congress about domestic spying programs, lies to the American people not about his sex life but the basis for going to war, and establishing “military tribunals” based on neither civil nor military law that include accepting confessions extracted under torture as valid evidence – well, I’d say I was never a Christian of that particular flock.

To me being a Christian isn’t mainly about espousing a correct line of doctrine in order to receive a heavenly reward and escape punishment by Father God. And, in the meantime, glibly accepting our “fallen nature” and behaving badly in the confidence that because we repeatedly utter, “I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior,” we’ll score enough brownie points with Dad no matter what we do so that we don’t have to worry. CYA doesn’t work well for me as a religion.

I feel that the church as an institution has often run with the worst verses in the Bible and ignored the best. Like know the tree by its fruit. And, “Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Mat. 7:21.

SUSIEQ: Will do. It’s been a learning experience that has taught me things I wish weren’t so and that no one had to learn.

PO PATRICIA: Or “the meek” could refer to some lowly species of microscopic organism swimming around in the ocean that will take over once we’ve made the planet uninhabitable for our own species. Really though, I would like to know more about the meaning/connotations that “the meek” had in the most ancient texts. In English it seems to connote shyness and ineffectuality. I find it hard to believe that’s what was meant…

Anyway, so far the meek - as people, say, who are humble in the true sense of not making themselves and their most narrowly self-serving desires central to their lives on earth - have not had much of an inheritance, that’s for sure. Except for personal peace and integrity.

And we’re all on our way out of this world from the moment we enter it.

So while personal peace might not sound like a lot, there’s nothing solid to hang onto here; and I can’t imagine anything else feeling better as it slides along from out of the palm of your hand.

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger Frida said...

Darius, whatever happened to the posts for people with the attention span of a gnat? :)

I think we should just start slapping decals on our politicians like they do race cars. At least we would know who bought them.

As for the attention span, Americans have none. You can keep us spell bound for a commercial break, much more and you have chaos. We won’t have a revolution till a charismatic speaker learns to give us quick sound bites preferably with a catchy jingle.

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hi Darius. I just wanted to say I've been on this site called Yahoo! Answers all week (it's great) and I finally realise the extent of the Christian fundamentalism you are dealing with in the States. I assume this has rapidly increased in recent years.

 
At 6:42 AM, Blogger Darius said...

FRIDA: Decals covering their clothes... Great idea, in theory... But you must be a naive young person, aspiring to such heights of transparency... I guess that's the real difference between NASCAR and USGOV: the latter hides its decals.

I've never understood the sound bite phenomenon - why it has to be that way. I mean, people take classes and read books... But the sound bite allows for word-association and connotation to take the place of discussion. I guess that makes it a great way to market lies, half-truths, and deception, so maybe that's a reason for it to exist.

A classic example is how the administration got the public to believe Iraq had something to do with 9-11 by continually mentioning the two in the same breath, providing the American public with another major "justification" for bringing civil war to Iraq (which pretty much all the military analysts who were retired and free to speak their minds were predicting.)

BENJAMIN: That's funny you should say so, because over the last couple months I've become aware, in contrast, of how secular they say that Eurpope has become. To my mind secular humanism is so much more authentically Christian in spirit than fundamentalism in its vitriolic, judgmental, stem cell & embryo focused/prayer in the schools/"intelligent design"/homophobic/don't burn the flag form. It's like some strange application of dogmatism at its most self-righteously dogmatic to a laundry list of random issues that blend a passionate concern for all things reproductive with jingoism and non-comprehension of the difference between science and religion. Go figure.

I mean, humanists, in contrast, are focused on the general good and values that include realizing greater social justice and reducing poverty.

 
At 8:45 AM, Blogger Lady Wordsmith said...

Wow! Like the parable, I strayed and return to find I am home again.

Like the others I parrot, damn fine post and writing Darius. Damn fine. And on point.

Faith is personal. Belief is personal. The communion of faith is personal. Religion is personal. And -- despite the claims that it is "just business, not personal" -- business is personal.

Everything is personal, and the personal is political. I'm glad to read "Gospel, Chapter Fourteen: Empire." I am, in deed, home again.

Perhaps it is my most blessedly bright mother who raised me as a Questioning Roman Catholic. Taking me to her knee and filling me: with reminders that the church, what ever church or mosque or temple or coven it may be, is of politic born; and overflowing me with examples of how the Church, what ever Church or Mosque or Temple or Coven it may be, is of personal born; and weeping and laughing with me through to today over how learning the difference between 'little c' and "Big C" is All the Difference.

Yes. Those who beat the drum of self-proclaimed piety will take the money from the mouths of impoverished babies that would be saved, save for the put upon social services, and pay for their $10,000 plate of watercress salad just so they can stand behind the man who wold be 'the man who would be the man to save us all'.

Thus it always has been. And this is how it always will be, until the end. We are all born with the same proclivity. The same sin. The risk of seeing our way as The Way. Of believing the world ends at the end of our noses.

It is this self focus that allows the belief that 'it's not personal, it's just business' to thrive. It's always personal. And we always have a responsiblitiy for that.

Yes. This is difficult. It is a struggle. It is a painful fight. But it is a good fight.

As my mother -- full of painful knowing -- would remind me when I threatened to bow out of this good fight; those of who know there is a world beyond the end of our noses are blessed with this sight so they will be able to see The Way. Never forget this will never change until The End. And never forget The Way to The End.

Yes, my good fight fighting friend, I have returned to you to realize I have returned home.

Plus I was given the smile garnering bit of knowledge learning we share the same double major, with a twist. (psych was my 'major, major')

How cool is that?

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Darius,

I have another friend with a condition with symptoms sort of like yours. Fortunately for him, he's in a religious order and gets good care. And, with my vision problems, I know a little of how hard it can be to depend on others. This is not really any help, but you are in my thoughts and prayers every day :-)

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger Darius said...

LADY WORDSMITH: Well you’re definitely the first inverse-double-major I’ve run into. And one result of major-majoring in English is that I keep starting to type, “Lady Wordsworth” – William did have that sister, Dorothy…

Don’t think I’ll get to do more than suggest my faith perspective in a blog post format, but I’m with your general drift that faith is not something that depends on what the human species ends up doing. I also agree with you that it doesn’t look particularly good right now in terms of seeing our species as one that will overcome its self-destructive tendencies. All the same, we’re basically newborns in terms of how long we’ve been on the planet. And certainly many individuals do show spiritual growth over the course of their lives. So I’d have to say I’m an agnostic on whether, as a species, we’re going to be a flash in the pan or wake up fast enough to have a long term future here.

CRYSTAL: Crystal, thanks. And actually, it does help.

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, I have given a lot of thought to your last comment to me.

Let me tell you that I am very sorry you are having to deal with a severe disability. I wish you the very best in that regard. What we experience in life greatly influences our point of view about many things.

I understand a lot of what you have gone through, because my mother became severely disabled due to a stroke about ten years before she finally died. Our family, especially my father, experienced a lot of frustration and anguish attempting to get adequate care for her.

My father used home health aides, which he paid for himself, to help him take care of Mother. He did this until he had spent down to the point that satisfied the spousal impoverishment law and she qualified for Medicaid. She went into a local nursing home after that. Their experience with the home health aide agency was not entirely a bad one. One of the aides they were given was from Poland where she had worked as a scientist before becoming unemployed and unable to find another job there.

Both my father and my husband's father needed home health aides toward the end of their lives. So, my husband and I have had firsthand experience dealing with this type of service. In my father's case, we hired a young male aide through a woman who provided this service. We paid her a flat fee of $600.

The young man was from Lithuania. There he had worked in television (soap operas and weatherman) before he became unemployed and could not find work. We paid the young man $600 a week directly plus room and board. He was here on some kind of visa, but legally he wasn't supposed to be working. We were desperate though and he needed to earn some money.

The young man had never done this kind of work before. But he was intelligent and willing. Upon finding out that the young man was inexperienced, my father said "That's okay. We will learn to do things together." And they did. My father died shortly after we hired the young man, but in that brief period of time he became like a member of our family. It has been six years. We still keep in touch with him.

In my father-in-law's case, the small agency my husband and his siblings used was run by a nurse. My husband did the math and could see that, after the nurse paid her employees even minimum wage and paid all the taxes and insurances associated with it plus paid for her other business expenses, there was not that much profit left over. This was in a rural area.

I also have dealt with nursing homes. My experience has been that most people who work in nursing homes are kind and compassionate and really care about the patient. Once in a while though, I had to act as advocate for my mother. While I was talking to my mother over the phone one time, I overheard an aide verbally abuse her repeatedly. Immediately I called the director. The aide was fired that very day. People like my mother and yourself who are powerless in certain instances need advocates.

My husband works in the insurance industry. So, I let him read what you wrote to me. He said that HMO's were a bad idea from the start due to the way they are structured in an effort to keep the cost of medical care down. Your experience bears that out. He thinks HMO's will be history soon. We have a PPO which is superior to a HMO. With a PPO, doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers compete with each other to become preferred providers.

Of course we need safety nets in our society to catch people who fall through the cracks. Of course!

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching on PBS for the umpteenth time The Miracle Worker which is the story of Helen Keller. This is one of my all time favorites. It always inspires me and leaves me in tears at the end. I want to leave you with a parting thought. In the movie, the character Jimmie is trying to talk Annie (played by Anne Bancroft) into giving up on Helen (played by Patty Duke). I don't know if you recall the difficulty Annie Sullivan had in disciplining Helen and in trying to get through to her about words. I'll never forget that scene in the dining room and all that food flying around. Anyway, Annie fired back at Jimmie and said something to this effect: "My version of Original Sin is giving up."

So, Darius, keep the Annie Sullivan that is in you alive and well. Don't give up on yourself and your disability. Don't give up on getting your writings published. Sooner or later some smart publisher will decide to invest in your talent. And when that happens I want an autographed copy of your book.

 
At 8:23 AM, Blogger Darius said...

SUSIEQ: Thanks for putting so much thought into this, and sharing your own experiences.

That sounds right – that since the home health aide position is a non professional, unskilled one, the labor pool drawn from would vary somewhat according to where you live. But to me the very fact that we send low wage labor to care for the sick, disabled, and the elderly says a lot about our national priorities, as do many other facts about health care in the US – for example, the millions of uninsured.

I was told the home health aide education consists of a six week training course.

I see what you mean about having at least been lucky enough that you happened to get some people who had held professional positions in their home countries. Just having that professional mindset is a plus. When I lived in the DC area I saw many educated immigrants driving cabs etc. If I’d become incapacitated there, maybe it would have been a little better for me when it came to home health aides. But here, the people who were being sent to my house were clearly not people who had ever held professional positions of any kind. They were missing the basics of the work ethic - like showing up on the right day, at the right time, or even showing up at all – and they were being treated shabbily by their employers, and so were understandably not highly motivated.

Yes, you have to be totally impoverished before you can get help from practically all state and federal programs. They make the income guidelines extremely low. When you’re not elderly and still hoping to leave a little something behind for others, it’s an especially unattractive feature. Also, I’ve been amazed, despite all the talk you hear about the “rights” of the disabled, at how very little assistance is available if you’re disabled but not elderly.

In so many ways I’ve been struck by how non-accommodating the system is. I can’t even get meals on wheels because they refuse to screen for allergies! So my sister is my meals on wheels program. To be chronically ill and disabled in America, you need to be financially very well-off and/or have lots of family members available for providing hands-on help, or the impact and drain on you and your family will be devastating.

Another quick example: the tax assumption is that the average American spends something like 4,500 dollars a year on medical expenses. (Yeah, right… I mean, I do remember being healthy…) You only get to take the medical deduction if your expenses exceed that amount in a given year. And when you have an illness that, year after year, decade after decade, has you spending an average of 3 or 4 thousand a year out of pocket, you discover that no cumulative form of tax break exists for the chronically ill. So I've gotten the impression that the complexities of our tax code might not result from the government bending over backwards to provide fairness to the little guy.

PPOs have been around for quite a while. Frankly I don’t see them as curing the health care system. Like HMOs, they restrict patient access to doctors or at least provide financial incentives for seeing the ones on their list by providing worse coverage if they do let you go out of network. It’s a longer list of participating providers than with an HMO, but in my experience, a doctor ending up on the PPO list didn’t really seem to be much of a matter of “competition” – or, if it was, it wasn’t exactly stiff competition...

My coverage gave the option of HMO, PPO, or going out of network. Given my complex and difficult situation, I continually had to seek out well-known and often far-away doctors and medical institutions. They never turned out to be on either the HMO or PPO lists. Fortunately my plan did allow me to go out of network, so for a high price I could see these doctors anyway.

What I believe we need is a single payer system rather than health insurance that’s attached to employment, where the coverage varies greatly according to what your employer can afford – which is less and less, as health care costs continue to skyrocket - and where the for-profit motive encourages insurers to charge higher premiums for the sickest, paralleling how car insurance operates. As if bad health were like bad driving and should be penalized! The profit motive also encourages insurers to save money with all kinds of exclusions (like “preexisting conditions”) which are completely irrational as far as protecting health goes. We spend a ton of money on health care in this country - but extremely inefficiently. By failing to provide coverage for millions and excluding/denying timely treatments, we let medical situations deteriorate to the point where the costs are far greater than if we consistently prevented people’s medical situations from deteriorating to that point by providing universal access to care.

Thanks for your kind words, Susie. For some reason I don’t give up - I’m some sort of blockhead by nature I guess. I do what I can. But at this point that’s not much. I blog; therefore I am.

I’ve played all my cards on the publishing front. Was very systematic about it, really did my homework. But as Literary Market Place states: “If you are submitting a nonfiction book proposal without a marketing platform, you are wasting your time.” As to self publishing, that rarely sells more than a couple hundred copies to family and friends. To have any chance of beating those odds by making a serious effort to market and distribute your own books requires more labor, time, and learning about the business of publishing, than I’m physically capable of doing. So my only game plan at this point is having a much younger second cousin inherit my copyrights and hope that some day the publishing industry somehow returns to a condition where it takes chances on “unbranded” authors just because they like the writing. But at this point, marketing boards and not editor-bibliophiles are deciding what gets published.

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

for myself - when looking at the current political situation - I always try to keep in mind that when the nation was founded only the wealthy could vote.

we still tend to be limited to the choices put forward by the wealthy, but as a larger percentage of us is entitled to vote my hope continues to grow.

(it seems clear to me that despite lip service, many are still prevented from voting. If this were not the case, the governor of FL wouldn't have struck so many blacks from the voting roles as "felons" when, in fact, they were not. And why were there no whites on that mysterious and ill-begotten list?)

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger Darius said...

HAYDEN: I guess for me the current political situation has in large part been created by a longer term trend that does just what you suggest: takes us back to a time when only the wealthy could vote. (I think you had to be a landowner?)

Even though more of us can vote, the only candidates who have a chance of amassing the wealth to run for office are multimillionaires with corporate connections. When only the wealthy and well connected get to run for office, to me it takes most of the democratic wind out of the sails of our right to vote. The people we're voting for are no longer representing us nearly so well as they're representing big business interests.

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger Within Without said...

For the record, Darius, although I said this to you on my blog, I'm saying it on yours...

Wanted to say I had a much more indepth read of the thread of your last blog, where you disclosed about your physical difficulties and your struggle with getting care.

This made me think all the more about how remarkable it is your mind works the way it does as illustrated through your thoughts on your blog.

And how strong you really are.

Perhaps I should be posting this on your blog, not on mine, but it's amazing how you can develop connections without ever even seeing someone, let alone meeting them in person.

Your heart and mind and intelligence come through in what you write...not just in the post itself but in your responses to the comments of others.

I hope you realize the impact that you have and that you have some sense of pride about that.

2:43 PM

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger Darius said...

WITHIN, WITHOUT: Thank you, and I know what you mean - it's surprising how you seem to get a real sense of people sometimes over the blogs.

The resources you end up drawing on for something like this, which is truly horrible, and unending, are bigger than your own personality - a connection to life that goes beyond that. The strength is more than anything that belongs to you. One of those things I'd have liked to get the chance to try and convey to people.

Thanks for your appreciation at a time where, frankly, I'm having to fight feelings of being a huge failure. You can't fail if you don't try - and I really tried, completing two book manuscripts under extremely adverse conditions that are virtually certain to go unpublished given the realities of that industry. I've basically played all my cards at this point, and without the "marketing platform," there appears to be no way on earth.

Blogging's all I can do now, being housebound. It does drive me a little crazy when I hear essayists, poets, and sprituality authors whose work is often of relatively low quality being broadcast coast to coast on NPR, given that I'm articulate as well as able to write, and would be fully capable of discussing the ideas in my books.

All we can do is our best. I keep coming back to that. Bad as this feels, I know I'd feel much worse if I'd done less than take my best shot.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger Within Without said...

Hey, Darius...

Just remember your own words:

"...connection to life that goes beyond that. The strength is more than anything that belongs to you."

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger Darius said...

WITHIN, WITHOUT: Thanks, and definitely - I'd be dead or crazy otherwise. How I have to live is outside what most people could imagine, not only due to the severity, but the extreme rarity of the condition. Every moment is a struggle.

 

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