Monday, July 11, 2011

Should nations behave in a "moral fashion", or are they, By their nature, amoral

I wanted to share some thoughts and get your response on the subject of "Is the state a moral entity, or by its nature, amoral", that was brought up at the last Platypus meeting.

 I will use Tom Hanks in "The Castaway" as my model.

 Societies, by their very nature must be moral. Tom is alone on the island and entitled (by God?) to utilize everything there for his purposes. All the food, shelter, water and firewood, for example, is his.  It is a condition of Natural Law that it be so.

The minute "Joe", a newcomer, floats to the island, all bets are off.  Tom is no longer entitled to everything as he now belongs to a "society".  He has the immoral option of rejecting the society by killing Joe, but should he choose not to do that then he has willingly created a "state". A paradigm of societal standards, rules that govern how he and Joe behave.

This new state, "The Republic of Tom and Joe" has an implied equality standard within it. It is immoral for Tom to take 80% of the water for his own use, but if he is the stronger of the two, he may take it and create a "Republic  of Tom and Joe" law that says he is entitled to 80% of the water. But it will be an immoral law because it abrogates equality. Not "equal opportunity", mind you, for that is a fallacy. Joe can never have equal opportunity.  He came later, doesn't yet know where the spring is, etc. One of the great fallacies of America is that we have "equal opportunity", sheer nonsense.

Fast forward to the nation -states of today where inequality is rampant and even prized by those who are successful.  I am smarter, bigger stronger than you so I am entitled to more. All the way to the Libertarian nonsense of "I own the work of myself". So if I get rich enough to  buy the seafront of California, you can't swim at the Beach.

Nation -states, due to their complexity, pass all kinds of laws to avoid chaos.  And despite the Republican position of "If its legal it is moral", we know this to be untrue.

At the root core of every Democratic or near democratic nation-state, from the Republic of Tom and Joe to the USA, is the attempt to maximize benefit the citizenry. While dictatorships may have the goal of benefitting the person in power, that is not the case with democracies. If you wish now to make the case that the USA is a dictatorship of the elite and powerful, I could not disagree.

But politics aside for the moment, if a nation-state seeks "immoral" largess as the Republicans seem to be doing now, more for the rich and less for the poor,  or as might have been during the time of Louis XIV, for example ("let them eat cake"), where those in power take an uneven share of the state's production, what happens? Revolution.......ALWAYS....revolution.  Sometimes by force of arms and sometimes, as in China today, economic revolution which forces the state into a more democratic posture,  A more "Moral" posture. 

In short, nation-states MUST function in a moral manner or they won't last long. Is their morality perfect?  Certainly not!  But they must address their actions in a moral manner or risk chaos.

Now as to the position that nations are amoral when it comes to other nations, I would strongly disagree. The logical extension of this argument is strong nations should dominate weak nations since there is no moral imperative preventing them from doing that.  Why don't we invade Mexico and add ten states to the American union? It is better for everyone. The cost of doing it-minor, just threaten them with nuclear annihilation: Illegal immigration-solved:  the fate of the inhabitants-improved:  the standard of living- raised:  the opportunities- endless: the judicial system-improved: The drug cartels-prosecuted, etc. Why not? t is better for them and better for us.  We get cheap labor and they get the benefits of the USA.

The only answer is it is immoral for us to do that. Would we be afraid of Europe declaring war on us? Probably not, no sane nation would pursue that course first.  There would be protest, negotiation, but in the end the world would probably comply probably because the population of Mexico would welcome the improvements. But it is immoral to do so.

No nation can long pursue immoral ideals. Witness Nazi Germany, Communist Russia or China, 17th century France and many more....collapsed by their immorality. By their unfair treatment of the citizenry and other nations.

Now I grant you that the United States is moving ever closer to an immoral state, a state in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer and ignored. But we will not be able to sustain that forever.  The poor will rise up. Similarly, if we act imperially as we are doing in Iraq, maybe Afghanistan, and Libya, other nations and peoples will begin to decry us and no longer see us as moral. There was mention of how the Egyptians and Jordanians popular belief was  the "second Bush" election may have been stolen in Florida, and thus our government was just as corrupt as theirs and therefore they lost all respect for us.  We did not act in a sufficiently moral manner.

I want to further this conversation and await your response.

Let us deal with "corporate morality" later.

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24, 2011

Chairman, CEO and President


208 S. Akard St.

Dallas, TX 75202

Dear Mr. Chairman,
I would like you to regale you with a short story about AT&T that I am sure will amuse you.

We have been AT&T wireless customers for over ten years and Robb Hall at our local store, Wireless One In Bella Vista Arkansas,  is one of the best customer service people out there. He has helped us for more than ten years.

But my tale  began June 3 when I decided to take advantage of AT&T's offer to upgrade my system, (479) 531-xxxx and xxx2 with a new two year contract and new phones for my wife and I, several months before our contract expired.  What a nice offer!
We went to the AT&T Corporate store, 20 miles away in Rogers, Arkansas, to look at selection and features for the phones. We concluded a nice Motorola Atrix 4G would be just what the doctor ordered for $99.00 apiece.  But I thought I'd better check online first!  Lo and behold, online offered  a refurbished Atrix 4G phone at 49.99 each!  Such a deal!  We ordered them and they duly arrived several days later. Unfortunately we couldn't turn them on nor unlock them, no doubt due to our decrepit age.  We are both 70 after all.

So, we sent the phones back and asked for working ones.  Your nice customer service representatives  agreed to Fed Ex them to us, and we received the working replacements within a couple of days.  You then received the non- working originals back on 6-20-11.

The new phones were magnificent! We could get e-mail! Text! Go on Facebook and twitter! Check our minutes! Navigate and track our positions on the earth with a GPS! Magnificent!  Unfortunately, what we could not do was to figure out how to answer the phone, transfer our contacts, set up a speed dial system, or make a call. We are old. And we figured the problem was ours, so we took it to our local phone store in Bella Vista, AR,  where one of the aforementioned best customer service reps, Robb Hall, works.  Since we had ordered online Robb couldn't do much but took the time to educate us in how some of it worked. 

Robb patiently explained we were not educationally challenged and showed us where to go to download the manual, which we did.

We could make calls! Even receive them! Great.

But, in about two weeks it became apparent that a Motorola Atrix 4G was much too much phone for us. We don't text. We don't need to go online and tweet or twit or facebook or SOCIALLY NETWORK WITH ANYONE! We are apparently both Luddites and challenged in the social department. It is a major effort to text with arthritis of the thumbs, not to mention other decaying body parts. We need a phone to make calls!  Despite the fact that our children no longer communicate by any means other than text we keep attempting to call them.  Perhaps you could explain what "B4 C:md ph I" means.

Now the fun began. I called your online customer service center on Jun 23rd to say the phones were too much for us and we would like to exchange them. 

Endless wait for the disembodied voice to get me to a option for that.  I could buy a new phone, check my bill online or amend my service plan but I could NOT, under any circumstance, talk to a human. I persevered.  Three redials,  a broken fingernail a few verbal mortal sins and several missed options later I got my human.  Whose response was "No problem!  Simply return the old phones to us using the USPS return sticker we provided and go to the AT&T store, decide which replacement phones you would like, then call us back, give us the model and we will send you the new one's". Oh Joy, Oh Rapture! Sounded fair to me! So we sent the old one's back and kept the tracking number.

I picked my wife up at work over lunch, and we drove the twenty miles to the "Corporate" store. We found a basic phone, a Pantech Breeze II, which my wife liked,  but the salesperson said we would have to wait until the old phones were received by AT&T to get the new one's......Otherwise $119.00 per phone.

"What?",  I asked, somewhat bemused. "We have to go without phones for two weeks or so while the mail system handles the return?", I asked rather stupidly. "Yes" was the reply. "Why then did your customer service people  tell me to return the phones which I did this morning and they are now in the hands of the USPS, an organization I would rather not mess with".

"I am sorry sir, whomever told you that online (someone named Doria at God knows what location) exceeded her authority." 
"What do we do now", I asked, descending into a state of existential angst to rival Kafka on his best day.  "I have no phone."

"Perhaps if you go back online they can fix the problem", was the response. I was entirely too addled to see the irony in the statement. I drove wife back to work, drove home and proceeded to go online, and then recalled the Customer Service Center, a process similar to Dante's descent into the fifth circle of hell.

I began the process at 8:47AM, lunch and the visit to the AT&T corporate store was about noon and I was finished about 5:35PM. In that interim I talked to 7 people, three of whom attempted to help me.  Ruthie Bingham in Huntsville, Alabama gave it a good shot. "I've corrected the records and you should have no problem now.  I have noted the file that you are to get the new phones at the upgrade rate."

So I returned to the Corporate store 20 miles away and spoke to Darlene who showed me the phones and said, "no, the records have not yet been altered and you must wait until AT&T receives the old phones....COMPANY POLICY!"  There it was, that dreaded word that strikes fear in the heart of every customer....Company Policy"...the decree from the great beyond. So I went home.

Back online, this time to two men, one who transferred me to a "supervisor",  who in the final analysis after more than thirty minutes online, told me there was nothing he could do....COMPANY POLICY...

I pointed out I had already paid for the old phones which were in the mail. Couldn't they just give me new ones at the upgrade price and if it turned out I was mistaken about returning the old ones, simply bill me for the new ones at the NON-UPGRADE price. 

Apparently not, "Because, (according to your Customer Service Supervisor)how do I know if you are telling the truth that you returned them." A rather interesting twist.  Imply the customer is lying and probably cheating you. Great customer service!
I said:
1) Here is the USPS tracking number. They have had it since 10:57:48 AM and it is now 3:20.

2) What difference does it make if I am lying you will simply bill me later.

3) Why must you receive the old phone, I have the SIM card, the old phone is useless.

4) Where did you hone your customer service skills..... Dachau?

I am sorry for that last comment, it was most ungracious and unreasonable.

He replied, I am sorry sir...COMPANY POLICY.

I hung up and fixed myself a beer and a plate of chocolate not knowing whether inebriation or a sugar high would be preferable.  So I did both.

After I simmered awhile and took a short catnap, I called again to the now achingly familiar Customer Service Center to say I felt it unreasonable I should go without phones for two weeks since we have no land line.

Lo and behold Randi W. of the Longview, TX service center agreed with me! (Don't you agree there is just something about those Texas women. )

She looked into the matter and discovered dear Ruthie Binghaman had simply failed to get supervisor approval for the exchange. Within about thirty minutes of holding, my upgrade had been cancelled and received supervisor approval and I could go into any store and upgrade my service to a Luddite phone at the "upgrade price" ! WOW! Thanks Randi!
So I called the AT&T "Corporate" store in Rogers. Perhaps, under the circumstances,  a bit of whimsy on my part...or possibly a grim fascination with Dante. Seven redials later ("We are sorry we are very busy helping other customers")

In frustration I called my wife in the Home Office of Wal-Mart to cry and moan a little. She said I'll call Darlene!

Four minutes later I received a call from Darlene. "Your wife called from the Wal-Mart Home office and asked me to call you."  The words "Wal-Mart Home Office" has apparently mystical properties rivaling the Minotaur or Sphinx in inscrutability.

"Darlene, my sweet, will you check to see if the records are cleared so I can get the new phones you showed me earlier today?"

Of, not yet I have spoken with my supervisor and COMPANY POLICY......

I sank into a fit of despair rivaling Van Gogh before the ear cutting. "Why great God in heaven have you abandoned me to this cruel fate?"
Redial Randi...unbelievable trouble to find the same person in the same call center.

"Yes it has been changed Mr. Middleton as I told you.  The store person didn't check closely enough. We have completely cancelled your upgrade and you are free to go in any store and upgrade to the phone of your choice at upgrade prices."

Once again Randi, you have exceeded all expectations and marched directly into the halls of Valhalla trailing a scent of..........well, never mind.

Redial my AT&T corporate store....five, six, no seven times. "Hello Darlene my lurking little cherub would you mind checking the records one more time?"

"Of course Mr. Middleton. Oh, here it is! they've cancelled the upgrade! You are free to come in and pick out any phone at upgrade prices."

Terrific, Darlene, my dappled little pudding, how much is the upgrade price for a Pantech Breeze II"


"But that was the retail price without the upgrade,  right?"
"Right they are the same."
You mean I spent all, no. Surely you jest, mon petit!
"No sir, there is no discount whether upgrade or not."

"So my Motorola Atrix 4G, which cost $99.95 new or $49.95 refurbished, and texts, goes online, has wifi, internet and bluetooth whatchamacallit, has 34 different ringtones and operates by voice command and has been blessed by the Pope and the internet gurus as "the best damn smart phone out there",with, if I am not mistaken an app that will raise the Confederate flag while whistling "Dixie", is cheaper than this little Pantech Breeze II which is just for making calls? It's $119.99?

"Less rebate which comes to you in the form of a credit card.  And the data plan and text plan...."
"I'm talking about the cost OF THE PHONE, Darlene." I checked with my Non-corporate store here and it is $99.95 less rebate according to Robb Hall who is rarely wrong

"Yes sir.  It is more.  I don't know why."

I don't know why either.  It is now 7:45 at night and I am finished with phones today.  I am going to pull out my SIM card, return my neighbor's phone and if I have a heart attack tonight and cannot raise the ambulance I will come back from the dead, move next door to you at 207 S. Akard St. in Dallas and appear throughout the AT&T corporate offices as a dreadful apparition, hovering over cubicles, rattling chains and moaning viscerally throughout the day.

Since I got what I wanted I have few complaints..........I guess. We will see what happens tomorrow.

I may call customer service again just to have a moment of humor.

Very truly yours,  

John P. Middleton, the phoneless

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010
The Mistaken Structures of Christianity

Yesterday Brian McLaren offered the following in a post.

"Call me cynical, but here’s my suspicion: adjectives in front of theology are deceptive. Yes, they’re needed; no, I’m not against them, but still, they’re deceptive. Here’s how.

By distinguishing some theology with a modifier – feminist, black, Latin American, eco-, post-colonial, or indigenous, we are playing into the idea that these theologies are special, different – boutique theologies if you will.

Meanwhile, unmodified theology – theology without adjectives – thus retains its privileged position as normative. Unmodified theology is accepted as Christian theology, or orthodox theology, or important, normal, basic, real, historic theology.

But what if we tried to subvert this deception? What if we started calling standard, unmodified theology..............chauvinist theology, or white theology, or consumerist or colonial or Greco-Roman theology?

The covert assumption behind the modifier thus becomes overt, although it is generally more obliquely and politely stated than this:

Standard, normative, historic, so-called orthodox Christian theology has been a theology of empire, a theology of colonialism, a theology that powerful people used as a tool to achieve and defend land theft, exploitation, domination, superiority, and privilege.

If standard Christian Greco-Roman theology has indeed been colonial, then we would expect it to have certain characteristics, perhaps including these:

A. It would explain – historically or theologically – why the colonizers
     deserve to be in power – sustained in the position of hegemony.
B. It would similarly explain why the colonized deserve to be dominated
     – maintained in the subaltern or subservient position.
C. It would provide ethical justification for the phases and functions
      of colonization – from exploration to settlements to land
      acquisition to minority marginalization to segregation to
      hegemony-maintenance, even to ethnic cleansing.
D. It would bolster the sense of entitlement and motivation
     among the colonizers.
E. It would embed the sense of submission and docility
     among the colonized.
F. It would facilitate alliances with political and economic 
    systems that were supportive of or inherent to colonialism.
G. It would camouflage or cosmetically enhance its ugly aspects
    and preempt attempts to expose them.

If standard Christian Greco Roman theology were determined to be essentially colonial by these and other standards, a natural question would arise: must the Christianity of the future forever maintain this colonial bias? Is an imperial or dominating mindset inherent to Christian faith, for better or worse – or can there be a newer and different kind of Christianity?

In answering that question, other questions would arise. Is a new Liberating Theology mindset resonant with or in conflict with the life and teaching of Jesus? Is it resonant with or in conflict with the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures? Is it resonant with or in conflict with the life and teachings of the apostles and early church?" (above edited)

The truth is that Greco-Roman Theology, traditional theology can not only be enchaining of the poor and disadvantaged it can also subvert and twist Christ's teaching until that teaching is virtually missing.

In addition to its enchaining effects, Greco-Roman Theology also engenders the paradigms of stultified conservancy as opposed to Christ's liberating theology:

                             Greco-Roman Paradigm    Liberating paradigm of Jesus
The Bible's Origin- Divine Product with               Human response to God
                              Divine Authority

Interpretation-        Literal-Factual-Infallible         Historical and Metaphorical

Bible's Function-    Revelation of Doctrine            Sacramental/Metaphorical/
                               and Morals                                Spiritual

Christian Life
Emphasis-             Afterlife-the Salvation Train     Transformation in this
                                                                                   life through close
                                                                                   relationship with God.....

with all of the attendant and resultant emphasis on Belief Structures rather than Action Structures.

Christ's message to love one another becomes buried in a quagmire of Power Bases, entitlements, and the Gospel of Sin Management. The message from the Male ONLY, all white non-gay pulpit becomes a good Ol' boys club of gaining reward methodology chiefly through:

The Six Line Narrative.

1. We were born into Perfect Eden but the devil coupled with
       Woman's basic perfidy made us
2. Fall from grace
3. So Today we live and have two choices
4. We either get born again or do not.
5. If we do we go to Heaven.
6. If we don't we go to Hell.

This ubiquitous six line narrative becomes....................

The Greco Roman Gospel of Sin Management

Information on How to Go to Heaven after you die
    (if you are Christian)
    a. With a large footnote about increasing your personal
       happiness and success through God.
    b. With a small footnote about Character development
    c. With a smaller footnote about spiritual experience.
    d. With an even smaller footnote about social-global transformation.

Yet Christ's most prominent preaching was about dwelling in the Kingdom of God. And that can only be characterized as loving one another to effect social/global transformation. There were no boundaries. No one was excluded. No one could be disenfranchised, dominated, specially rewarded or entitled to a better seat at the table.

It was the second half of His greatest commandment. It was loaded with social transformation messages. stories of rendering to Caesar, Good Samaritans, Identity of my brother, necessity of forgiveness, spirituality, seeking God, mustard seeds and camels through the eyes of needles.

It was about personal transformation, peace through Love, about the Baptism of the Heart; about the change from mine to thine and about the peace of God which comes with our commitment to that kingdom. It is not about Mosques or Temples or the man made trappings of religion. It is not about Pharisees and Elders and the privileged and unprivileged.

It is a peace which surpasses this life and the next. A peace that knows not boundaries of sexuality nor gender, nor riches, nor hate, nor entitlement, nor judgment, nor time and space. A peace which simply Loves. It is about unlimited compassion.

That, my friends is heaven, here, now and tomorrow no matter which life we are in.

John Middleton
September 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Does God have an Adversary

Does Evil pre-date Mankind?

I have seen Evil….close up. As I lay bleeding and cut on my Father’s porch one evening, after two older teenagers had beaten me badly, it showed clearly through his eyes when he said, “ If they used their fists then you must get a stick. If they used a stick, then you must find a knife. If they had a knife then you must find a gun. But somehow you must find them and then………in the dark of night…….. when least expected…… must exact a full and final retribution.”

Evil was reflected in my first wife’s eyes when the doctor told her that at age 28, she had no time left. It dogged her as she took several years to die. It took my relationship with her down a dark path which left me at its end, gasping for breath, unsure of myself, my life, what it had done to me and what I had done……to her.

It is there in the memories which shall remain nameless, hidden and shameful, of my darker sins. My human foibles and mistakes of purpose, my sins of omission and commission, some dark enough to render me helpless to ask forgiveness of my victim and terrified to ask forgiveness of God, as I sense my lack of worthiness of this thing called forgiveness.

Am I so uniquely evil?

There was evil in the teachings of my grammar school nuns and priests who taught me that God must be feared and that His punishment for sin was damnation for eternity. They would not have called it that. They would have called it something like “goodness” or doing God's work. But it was evil nonetheless, in its effect on a young boy, who found no love for God without attendant fear.

I am a simple man whom some call a “Christian”. What does that mean to them I wonder? Are they as I am? Are we, all mankind, sinners, carrying such a load of guilt, acts that need be hidden lest we show our awfulness in a cruel light of day, and public flogging? Evil?

It took my father into the darkened corners of the living room late at night, alone, with his full 12 ounce glass of bourbon; a cheap whiskey, no ice. Evil was his companion in these evenings, as palpable as the smoke from the glowing end of his cigarette as he smoked silently alone. It was clearly evil that took him there…alone with his devils in the corner of the darkened room late at night; estranged from his family and his life. His employers would not promote him in the end. They would not say why. He had worked his adult life for them. He knew nothing else but that company, that job. But they would not promote him any further. The bottles piled up behind the storage bin. Most smuggled out to the grocery store’s dumpster so the neighbors would not know. Never see. Were they evil? Was he?

How do we define evil? Sin? “The mass of men have committed adultery so often in their own mind, the fact is simply a matter of circumstance.”

Some say the absence of good; or the absence of God defines evil. Who created evil? Did God?

My theologian colleagues may cite three main possibilities:

a God created evil for some purpose. ( Probably to test us; an Augustinian view)

b Evil has always existed as an opposing force to God (Dualistic View)

c. Evil was created by Mankind through its sinful ways.

There seem to be no other reasonable possibilities.
Of the three main possibilities offered, Dualism offers the least substance. The idea that there is a dark force as powerful as God and opposing Him, was long ago, dismissed by most legitimate western theologians, but not all western philosophers. Eastern philosophies would have a much harder time dismissing this idea as it offers a “yin” to the “yang” and an eternal cycle of conflict, both of which appeal to eastern philosophies.

“In the west, the more modern versions of dualism have their origin in Descartes' Meditations, and in the debate that was consequent upon Descartes' theory.

Descartes was a substance dualist. He believed that there were two kinds of substance: matter, of which the essential property is that it is spatially extended; and mind, of which the essential property is that it thinks. Descartes' conception of the relation between mind and body was quite different from that held in the Aristotelian tradition.

For Aristotle, there is no exact science of matter. How matter behaves is essentially affected by the form that is in it. You cannot combine just any matter with any form — you cannot make a knife out of butter, nor a human being out of paper — so the nature of the matter is a necessary condition for the nature of the substance. But the nature of the substance does not follow from the nature of its matter alone: there is no 'botttom up' account of substances. Matter is a determinable made determinate by form. This was how Aristotle thought that he was able to explain the connection of soul to body: a particular soul exists as the organizing principle in a particular parcel of matter.

There is an argument, which has roots in Descartes (Meditation VI), which is a modal argument for dualism. One might put it as follows:

It is imaginable that one's mind might exist without one's body.


It is conceivable that one's mind might exist without one's body.


It is possible one's mind might exist without one's body.


One's mind is a different entity from one's body”.1

“Our belief in the existence of other minds is an inference from their bodies. Consequently the denial of an external material world involves the rejection of all evidence for the existence of other minds, and lands the idealist in the position of "Solipsism".

Physical science once assumed the existence of a material world, existing when unperceived, possessing various properties, and exerting various powers according to definite constant laws. Thus astronomy describes the movements of heavenly bodies moving in space of three or four dimensions,attracting each other with forces inversely proportioned to the square of the distance.

It postulates the movement and action of such bodies when they are invisible as well as when they are visible through long periods of time and over vast areas of space. From these assumptions it deduces future positions and foretells eclipses and transits many years ahead.

Observations carried out by subsequent generations verify the predictions. Were there not an extramental world whose parts exist and act in a space and time truly mirrored by our cognitions and ideas, such a result would be impossible. The branches of science dealing with sound, light, heat, and electricity are equally irreconcilable with idealism.

The teachings of physiology and psycho-physics become peculiarly absurd in the idealist theory. What, for instance, is meant by saying that memory is dependent on modifications in the nervous substance of the brain, if all the material world, including the brain, is but a collection of mental states?

Psychology similarly assumes the extramental reality of the human body in its account of the growth of the senses and the development of perception. Were the idealist hypothesis true its language would probably be meaningless. All branches of science thus may be said to presuppose and confirm the dualistic view and what is euphamistically called common sense.

Ahriman is the principle of darkness and of all evil. In the third century after Christ, Manes, for a time a convert to Christianity, developed a form of Gnosticism, subsequently styled Manichaeism, in which he sought to fuse some of the elements of the Christian religion with the dualistic creed of Zoroastrianism. A good God and his evil Twin.

Christian philosophy, expounded with minor differences by theologians and philosophers from St. Augustine downwards, holds generally that physical evil is the result of the necessary limitations of finite created beings, and that moral evil, which alone is evil in the true sense, is a consequence of the creation of beings possessed of free wills and is tolerated by God. Both physical and moral evil are to be conceived as some form of privation or defect of being, not as positive entity. Their existence is thus not irreconcilable with the doctrine of theistic monism”. 2

In RELIGIOUS Dualism, Evil, to have a chance at triumph, should be equal to God. Some might think of Satan, but Satan, in most western theology was:

Created by God

Has lesser powers than God.

Cannot ultimately win the battle.

True Religious Dualism does not exist in most Western Theology and offers little to our understanding of evil.

What are Evil’s attributes? Evil is/has;

Probably finite and not eternal?

A purpose?

Probably created by Mankind or God.
Many of us reject the idea that God created evil. We find it hard to use the words “God” and “Evil” in the same breath. We cannot conceive that a GOOD God could create evil.

Yet, if God is all powerful it is possible.

The Biblical version of evil has God creating the beasts including the serpent and concluding that “it was good”. He then creates Mankind and gives him dominion over the beasts. The serpent, “was the most subtile” of beasts, but is still a beast over which Mankind has dominion. It is the serpent/beast which tempts Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thus introducing evil into the world. One asks, “was good also introduced at that eating”? Presumably not, except perhaps as counterpoint to evil. It is safer to assume that good has always existed as God has always existed.

Adam hides due to his “nakedness”. God sees him and asks, “Who told you that you were naked?” Gen 3:11

The biblical version seems, at first glance, to put evil into the purview of Man as creator and architect.

But consider the following.

Gen 3:22

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:



Clearly…US…already knows both Good and Evil.

We can conclude, biblically;

a. Evil predates Mankind

b. At Least God knows Evil

c. It is implied someone or something else knows evil. ( The Angels? ?)

Biblically then, evil is not from Man.
Why then would God create evil? To test us?

I have often referred to Martin Luther’s Tower experience when Luther rages against the perceived “injustice” of God. God has stacked the deck against us, Luther surmises. We are created as imperfect sinning creatures and are then judged by our sins. How can we win? (In fairness to Luther he concludes that “God’s Justice” means something different to God than it does to us. It is not an active justice, judging “right and wrong”, but rather the actions by which we are justified, chiefly through faith.)

Biblically, God knows about evil before Mankind’s fall. If the purpose of evil is to test mankind, three questions remain;

1. Why test us when we are predisposed to fail?

2. If evil exists to test us, why did it pre-exist us?

3. What was the purpose of evil before Man existed?

One will not find easy answers to these questions.

Concluding that evil is the absence of Good/God solves some of this dilemma. In that where there is good, there must be bad. An all good God must know of or “have” Evil in order to offer Good. Good has no meaning without evil.

I would caution against any literal interpretation of Genesis. However, literally from Genesis. the Garden had neither good nor evil until the eating of the fruit, as far as Man was concerned. God knew about evil, but Man did not.

Biblically then, God created Mankind without knowledge of Good and Evil. Does that sound like heaven? Man discovers evil on his own without interference from God, although God has, presumably, created it.

One must, therefore, suggest Man is not the architect for evil. God is. His purpose is unknown. But evil predates Man.

What is particularly interesting, biblically, is the next line of scripture. Gen 3:22-24

22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.


For the Bible, for Religion, Evil is not just in us. Although it is there….hidden in our hearts; crouched in anticipation of our stumbling attempts at mercy and goodness. But it is also lurking there outside of us………in the bushes behind God’s back. He knows it is there. He will not stop it. It can become palpable….take form….take substance….and rise up in the darkness…..more powerful that we can imagine.

Apparently, the Tree of eternal Life also existed in the Garden, but Man had not been told to avoid it. God appears concerned that now, with Man as “one of US” possessing knowledge of good and evil, Man can also inherit eternal life by eating of this second tree. God wishes to prevent this and ejects Adam and Eve from the Garden and sets a guard at the east gate.
God wishes to prevent us from having eternal life if we possess knowledge of good and evil. Interesting. It is as though we cannot enter into heaven possessing knowledge of evil. How about knowledge of Good?

These scriptural passages seem to indicate that with eternal life there can be no knowledge of evil (or good). Mankind possessed no such knowledge of good and evil in The Garden of Eden until the serpent incident. Mankind was not created with knowledge of good and evil, but NOW POSSESSES IT!
Both good and evil predate Man. Good is explained by the presence of God. How is evil explained?

It is not explained scripturally other than the use of the word US in Gen 3:22. US knows evil. Is God using a “Royal US”? It would not seem so. In fact, the word SEE is used at the beginning of the sentence, clearly indicating that God is addressing someone other than Himself. Whom is He addressing?

We have no reference to the creation of Angels in Genesis 1, 2 or 3, but they clearly exist, as Cherubim were set to guard the east entrance to Eden after the fall.

God must be addressing angels as we have no other biblical indication of entities except beasts, which predated Man. It is unlikely beasts had knowledge of good and evil. Angels are the only reasonable possibility. Therefore, Angels possess knowledge of good and evil before Mankind, according to reasonable scriptural interpretation. Scripturally Satan, the Fallen Angel, looms larger and larger as the force of evil, if not as its creator.

There are 201 references for “Angel” in the King James Version, 11 in Genesis alone.3

There are 71 references for “Cherubim”. Some have concluded that Col 1:16 indicates angels other than Cherubim. A whole hierarchy of them classified as Thrones, Powers and Dominions.

16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:


No matter what we choose to believe, Scripture clearly indicates that although Man may succumb to evil he is neither its creator, its benefactor, nor, perhaps, its sole agent. Man has knowledge of evil AND GOOD, and the free will to choose either.

What of taking Genesis metaphorically rather than literally? Well, we are then in a world of wonderful interpretation, where much is possible, but evil apparently still predates Man, no matter how we interpret Genesis.

I ask you. Does God have an Adversary? If so, WHOM?



Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Trap of Postmodernism

The Trap of Postmodernism

The physicist might contend that Quantum Dynamic Theory is sending us toward postmodernism by its affirmation that an observer must be present for events to occur.

The Story of Schroedinger's cat in quantum Physics and the implications thereto, illustrates why postmodernism and the "Me" generations seem overwhelmingly wrong to many classical thinkers in Theology.

On June 7 of 1935, Erwin Schroedinger wrote to Albert Einstein to congratulate him on what is now known as the EPR paper, a famous problem in the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Soon thereafter, he published what was to become one of the most celebrated paradoxes in quantum theory:

Schroedinger's Cat
A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays, and the geiger-counter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a flask of prussic acid (HCN), killing the cat. The paradox lies in the clever coupling of quantum and classical domains. Before the observer opens the box, the cat's fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a superposition of decayed and/or undecayed states. Thus, said Schroedinger, the cat must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states (dead/alive) before the observer opens the box, ``observes'' the cat, and thereby ``collapses'' it's wave function into the additional possibilities of being either dead or alive. This first state, the dead/alive state requires an observer to resolve the potential conflict.

Feline Wave Functions
                         Before opening the Box
                            Whole= Alive or
                            Decayed=Dead or

                         After opening the Box
                    Whole= Alive = buy Kitty litter
                    Decayed=Dead = R.I.P.
Until we open the box the cat is either alive, dead, or the state of  "Dead/Alive".

Quantum theory may be the chief reason physicists seem either drunk or crazy most of the time.

But the point remains that if we need an observer for things to occur in the world, we push mankind toward the center of the universe because until I, the human, observes the phenomena, the cat is in limbo. And the cat has no other place it can be regardless of how spiritual the cat is. In other words the Quantum Dynamicist is perfectly comfortable with the idea that if the tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, it makes no sound.

The postmodernist finds this necessity for ME to observe at the center of his core of being. You might hear a postmodernist avow that "the whole of reality can never be perceived and understood by humans, only that some of it can, and the rest isn't worth talking about." In short, that which we cannot deal with through reason and empiric knowledge is of no or little value. If it cannot be "proved" it is worthless.

This position, Postmodernism, Subjectivism, Meism, call it by many names, is rampant in today's thinking. But it flies in the face of what humans can perceive spiritually. That something greater than we exists out there; that it is infinite and not understandable; that it contains something of worth.....what might be called "Spinoza's God", in the sense that Einstein knew God, as the UNIVERSE....very close to the Buddhist concept of the Deity, or lack thereof.

The last several centuries have taken the western world on a ride into an exclusively scientific explanation of the universe as opposed to one where feeling or sense perception, hysteria or mysticism rules the day. While this has many wonderful results such as Darwinism to explain evolution. It also has relegated mysticism/intuition to a closeted position sort of like ESP. The result is that we believe little that cannot be proved "scientifically", whereas for the ancients, many things could not be explained scientifically and had to be relegated to "God", demons, or some other spiritual explanation. This is chiefly the journey from ignorance to enlightenment, but like all journeys, one which often moves away from some valued touchstones. As Hume and Kant assumed, what we call reality is constructed by the mind and all human understanding is therefore interpretation rather than acquisition of accurate objective information. Truth is inherently ambiguous according to the post modernist. Any modern American politician or viewer of Fox News can attest to that fact.

The point being that, as Karen Armstrong tries to define in her book "The Case for God", God can exist in a postmodern world......but with great difficulty. The Italian postmodernist Gianni Vattimo avows that "Freedom no longer lies in the perfect knowledge of, and conformity to the necessary structure of reality, but in an appreciation of multiple discourses and historicity, contingency and finitude of all religious, ethical and political values including our own." He wants to bring down walls that separate theist and atheists/non-theists. One of the great benefits of postmodernism is that it validates so many realities and positions. It should be the ultimate position of integration for ideas among humankind, of diversity, but it has a much darker side as well....the prison of selfhood.

"Religion's task, like that of Art, is to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems we could not solve; mortality, pain, grief, despair and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life." says Karen Armstrong. Many of these "supernal" issues cannot be dealt with empirically no matter how hard the psychiatrist may try. Many traditions have dealt with the sacred and unknowable in different ways, But ALL traditions and cultures acknowledge the sacred and unknowable exists. The aboriginal "Dream Time", The American Indian Sweat Lodge, the drug induced states of many more primitive cultures, are all attempts earlier to get in touch with the "other", perhaps the Dead/Alive state of Schroedinger's Cat..

While post modernism puts an arrow through the heart of any doctrine that claims one must have a set of Beliefs or adherence to a "truth" that claims to be perfect or immutable, it also puts an arrow into the heart of the necessity to rise above ourselves.

The first part of this effect, the abandonment of a set of truth doctrines, Creeds or tenets; an intellectual assent to a set of Beliefs, is a wonderful breath of air into religion, particularly western Christian, which has fallen into that doctrinaire state wherein Faith is believing in a set of tenets. We MUST abandon the reliance on Creeds. To state "I, the human know the ultimate truth and this is it", is false, a priori. But where pre-modern religion humanized the sacred, post-modern religion sanctifies the human.

For a theist, objective truth, God's truth exists. And it exists beyond human ken. It cannot be approached through reason. It is mystical and illusory, but there none the less. If we abandon that "otherness" for doctrines which ONLY value human reason and perception, we lose an enormous part of our heritage.

John P. Middleton

Aug 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Failure and Death of Christianity Part 3

“Jesus message is political?” you ask. And I respond “absolutely.” It is a political message in that it calls for political and social transformation; A world view; a way of seeing. Not what we see but HOW we see. A lens of;

a. Assumptions

b. Beliefs

c. Images

d. Metaphors

e. Actions

that we construct and inherit from our family, society, peers, community and culture, but that results in "Love Action".

It asks us “Are we making “converts” to a gospel of evacuation to heaven after death …or are we making disciples to a gospel of reconciliation and transformation on earth, the husbanding of God’s creation?”

Matt 6:19-24 suggests you cannot be a citizen of The Kingdom Of God and bow your knee to an economic Caeser.

In the first part of Matt 6 he is inciting a rebellion against the tyrannical trinity of money, sex and power.

As an alternative to money, sex, and power this Kingdom of God asks us to REPLACE: (From Brian McLaren)

The Law of Progress through rapid growth with the Law of Good Deeds for the Common Good

The Law of Serenity through Possession and Consumption with the Law of Satisfaction through Gratitude and Sharing

The Law of Salvation through Competition alone with the Law of Salvation through seeking Justice

The Law of Freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporate greed with the Law of Freedom to prosper through building better communities.

Things not easily done in our culture I am sure. We have built an enormous wall of money sex and power in every aspect of our life and nation, our culture and our world. Changing it would not be easy, said Christ.

Our world is riddled with Social Injustice, Greed, Poverty , Sickness, Misery and Hunger. It got that way because western Christianity allowed it to get that way by ignoring Christianity in favor of bastardized Pauline justice and then bastardizing Pauline justice even further. Although I hesitate to put the onus on Paul because it is our churches’ INTERPRETATION of Paulinity that is primarily at fault. Nonetheless the Western world had the money, will and dominance for many centuries to effect Christianity as Christ intended and it failed.

If Jesus will not separate justice and mercy, how can we? In a financial scandal like Enron, what do you think of a justice system which first pays back the investors who can afford the greatest loss, then the creditors, mostly corporations, and last the employees, many of whom had their life savings and retirement accounts wiped out due to Enron’s insistence the retirement funds be invested only in the corporation, then lying to them about the state of that corporation. And many of whom had spent their entire lives or substantial portions of time with that company. Where is the justice with no mercy?

The current system of “justice” in the United States dictates the employees come last. Does that sound like Christian “justice/mercy” to you?

Our health care debate in the United States this year is almost exclusively focused on its cost. Rarely do you hear “equity”, “justice with mercy”, or other compassion concepts without reference to the cost. It is the control of cost which we see as “just”, not the solutions to the problem of a healthcare system without mercy.

How many times has a preacher told you that God WANTS you to be prosperous and wealthy. Where does that appear in Christ’s kingdom of God- The kingdom of compassion. I have even seen an ordained minister of one denomination tell us publicly that God wanted us to own a firearm. Presumanbly to support our constitutional amendment of the right to bear arms. What unbelievable and colossal drivel!

The kingdom of God requires we pour all things in our life into an umbrella under that dome.

Consider the following concept

             Dwelling in Jesus Kingdom of God Compassion and Justice with Mercy
                                                 in all aspects of life


                     Politics, Religion, Ethics, Humanism, Business, War, Government,
                                                 all fall under this ubrella

In this graph no matter what endeavor we engage in we must first subject it to the ethical commandments of the Kingdom of God. The improbability of that sea change of thinking is disconcerting to say the least as it not only leads ultimately to the death of Christianity, but also the probable death of our earthly species.

In place of the six line narrative mentioned in my earlier essay, as follows:

1.We start in Eden

2. The Fall

3. Today's human decisions

4. Salvation/being born again

5. Results in going to heaven

6. Failure results in going to hell

We need to substitute a different narrative, which calls for personal transformation, a rebirth of the spirit through acceptance of grace, then an action plan where each individual spreads the KOG concept to the local community and subsequently to the world. This is the means and method of the political and social change Christ wanted .

We have little time left to rescue the Christian Religion. While there are the Emerging Church movement and some more sensitive churches coming forth, they are still riddled with problems and uncertainty and lack of direction. They sense the need for “spirituality”, the sense of union with God through behavior and belief and action. But they are few in number and under great criticism.

Sadly, the modern church does not seem to understand Jesus' Kingdom of God at all. We should weep for the future of Christianity.

John P. Middleton

Nov. 2009-Aug 2010

The Death of Christianity, Part 3

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Failure and Death of Christianity

The Failure and Death of Christianity

John P. Middleton- Nov. 2009-Aug 2010

One doesn’t have to search very far to discover the depth of people’s dissatisfaction with the Christian Religion. If you ask, you will be answered by a blithering array of reasons why not to go to “church” or what is wrong with “church” if you do go. And most of the offered reasons have a degree of validity.

“They always want my money”.

“The people there are petty.”

“I don’t want to be told every week how bad I am.”

“Religion doesn’t work for me.”-

-and a host of other objections of varying degrees of dissatisfaction. The one that always makes me sad is the claim that religion or “church” does not add to spirituality. Sadly, the claim is often true.

How did this happen in the western Christian church?

There are all sorts of answers and ideas, but the simple fact is that youth and young adults are not going to church and seem to abhor traditional Christian religion resulting in increasingly lower attendance numbers in most traditional or mainstream denominations.

What happened?

Christianity v. Popular Paulinity:

There are two gospels embedded in the western Christian tradition. The Gospel of Purity, from the “Popular Pauline” tradition, chiefly concerned with sin management, which is currently practiced in many American denominations and the Gospel of Compassion advocated by Jesus Christ, chiefly concerned with love of fellow human. The polarization of these polarized traditions has become so pronounced that they are almost incompatible in western Christianity.

Good little boys and girls go to heaven and bad little boys and girls go to hell. That is about the sum of the Popular Pauline tradition in too many churches.

Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the Emerging Christian Church movement, characterizes this view of Christianity as the “Six Line Narrative” outlined below:

1.We start in EDEN
2. We FALL from Grace

3. We stumble to find TRUTH

4. Some of us are transformed/BORN AGAIN

5. Those that are go to HEAVEN

6. Those that don't go to HELL
These lines represents the entire concept of Christianity as seen in many churches today.

As Mclaren states:

“Our contemporary gospel is primarily




with a large footnote about increasing your personal happiness and success through God.

with a small footnote about character development

with a smaller footnote about spiritual experience

with an even smaller footnote about social/global transformation.”

Global transformation is relegated to the cause of our missionaries and giving money to their ministry....... problem solved.

But this six line narrative about getting to heaven after we die and the lack of concern for social and global transformation leaves us with a feeling of emptiness and often despair. And it does that for a very specific reason………….it is NOT the message of Christ and it does little to effect change in the world. It is instead, a message from an interpretation from the Popular Pauline tradition (including Timothy and others) and some of the Judaic tradition, both of which emphasized living within the “Law” and “purity” as a means of transformation. While we must admit Paul goes all the way to reliance on Faith/Grace, it is the misinterpretation of his Gospel that creates the "Popular Pauline" tradition that permeates many churches. It is not my point in this essay to analyze Paul's writings to explain my allegations further, but simply to point out the dichotomy embedded in a Theology that emphasizes Purity as opposed to one that emphasizes Service.

As stated before, in the Purity tradition, good little boys and girls go to heaven and bad little boys and girls go to hell.

This tradition of Purity sends us in a direction that says only THIS person/group is worthy in God’s eyes, which creates such animosity toward gay and lesbian believers or women in the pulpit and allows many other disenfranchising beliefs. The Purity ethic requires us to search the scripture for texts that exclude persons/groups from further consideration. It requires us to EXCERPT pieces of scripture to support our claims.

So we turn to the Book of Leviticus or the Old Testament, and say “See it says it right here, that if a man lies with another man it is an abomination to the Lord.” And, of course it does say that. It says that and also says that it is permissible to own slaves from a neighboring country, for example. I would venture to guess the idea of Canadian slaves would be abhorrent to most westerners….maybe not. It also goes to great lengths on issues of women’s “cleanliness” and other instructions that simply don’t make sense in a modern world. They were more valid to the ancients, but to any thinking human would be abhorrent today.

However, suggesting the scripture be read METAPHORICALLY, rather than literally, causes many Christians to gasp. They want their scripture to be literally interpreted.

How many Books?

There was no “official” specific list or accounting of all the books that made up the Bible until the commission of the official canon by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century AD. The books that make up the Authorized King James Bible were chosen by men, not divine forces between approximately 312 and 450 AD.

In the Catholic Church the version used is the Douay-Rheims Bible consisting of 73 books. In the Protestant church only the 66 books approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1885, which today is known as the Authorized King James Bible, are used. No other books, neither the Apocrypha books, which were included in the original 80 book King James Bible of 1609-11, nor the 14-22 books, now missing but originally mentioned or quoted, in the King James Bible, are considered inspired.

In short, men voted to discount and eliminate 14 of the 80 books of the only “acceptable-revealed word of God” version of the bible in 1895. How can a literal interpreter deal with these facts?

There are many other enormous issues in biblical history scholarship, not the least of which is translation. From Greek to Latin to English alone would create many problems, but the actual translation issues went far beyond those. Much disagreement and interpretation occurred WITHIN specific languages. If one were to study Martin Luther’s Tower Experience one would see that the text which caused Luther to formulate the concept of justification/salvation through Grace/Faith, has been changed in the King James version, created some 90 years later. The word “judgment” in Romans, which so inspired Luther, was changed to “righteousness” by the KJV writers. A modern reader would be unable to duplicate Luther’s epiphany due to the language change.

Literal v. Metaphorical Interpretation

If you ask literal interpretationists why scripture must be interpreted literally, they will point to several “facts”; including the fact of God’s authorship or divine intervention, the fact of “revealed Word”, the fact of the “Red Letter” bible and many other support positions, all of which are subjective.

The simple fact is that the first actual fragment copy of a New Testament scripture we have dates from about 150 AD around 120 years after the crucifixion. For that intervening 120 years Christianity was, either virtually or actually, an outlawed religion which if one were discovered practicing would frequently result in the death penalty. So the typical early Christian meetings often consisted of either simple preaching, rumor or oral tradition, including copying of alleged gospel document fragments by those attending the secret meeting. We simply do not know what was in those copied documents. We do know there were many spurious documents floating around and, by the second to fourth Century when the scripture is initially codified, many “competing” and Gnostic gospels were abounding.

We also know that the literacy rate in those first century days was abominable and any “copying”, then copying again the next week and then again the following week, would have likely been fraught with errors and erroneous interpretations and possibly, personal editing. One can, of course, claim that God guided all the hands during all interpretations so that the original was preserved. However, that argument flies directly in the face of both reason and common sense. The proof of this point is in the many inconsistencies such as those surrounding who was at the tomb on Easter morning. The gospels disagree.

Here we have the crux of the literalists problem. They must fly in the face of reason and common sense.

The world must have been created in a literal seven days….mankind cannot be more than about 15,000 years old….. we cannot have a common ancestor with apes nor engage evolution at any scientific level.

In short, the literalist must be at war with science, mathematics, archeology, anthropology, geology, and common sense among others. One might suggest this position is not only untenable but also diametrically opposed to seeing God’s creation as harmonious and integrated. The literalist is faced with viewing Natural Law and God at war with one another.

I would allege, as a theist, how can God be at war with that which He created? Did he err in the creation? Scripture is not at war with science when read metaphorically or when literalism defers to common sense.

The theologian Marcus Borg, says it best when he states, “Scripture is the lens through which we see God. We ought not worship the lens.”

There are then two forces at work in dividing the faith, the Purityv. compassion ethic and the Literal v. metaphorical interpretation ethic.

All of this foregoing data, however interesting, points out an inescapable fact. Much of the arguments, divisiveness and denominationalism in the church today is clearly the purview of Mankind, not God, and is related more to the PURITY ethic of Popular Paulinity than the COMPASSION ethic of Christ.

Why the emphasis on Purity?

George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science at Berkeley, has written several texts and essays about why humans think “conservatively” or “liberally”. Some of his conclusions in Chapter 4 of “Thinking Points” and from his book “Moral Politics” follow:

Thinking Points Discussion of Chapter 4 - Part 2: Conservative Morality Created by joe at Rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) on Monday, April 23, 2007 12:18 PM

“Key differences between conservative and progressive morality arise that shape how we differ in our responses to political (and religious) issues.

"We now explore the family experience common in many American homes that informs conservative politics. The idealized representation we use is the Strict Father Family.

The Strict Father (or conservative)Family is:

A traditional family with two heterosexual parents - a father and a mother

The father is the head of the household

The mother supports and upholds the authority of the father

A hierarchy exists that is never to be questioned - children do not question their father's authority

Children are naturally weak and lack self-control

Parents know what is best for their children and must teach them right from wrong

Children learn right from wrong when punished for wrong-doing

When children become self-disciplined, respect valid authority, and learn right from wrong they are strong enough to succeed in the competitive world

The primary experience growing up in a strict home presumes that children are inherently weak and that parental respect is maintained by consistently disciplining the child. There is emphasis on the maintenance of authority and self-control. Children who grow up in a disciplined manner will know right from wrong and will be hard-working and successful in life.

The experience of living in a strict home provides an intuitive model for morality. By exploring the concepts involved in thinking about the Strict Father Family, we discover the following values:

Core Conservative Values:

Authority: assumed to be morally good and used to exert legitimate control (therefore it is imperative that authority is never questioned)

Discipline: self-control learned through punishment when one does wrong (it is understood that failure of authority to punish for wrong doing is a moral failure)

Additional Values that Arise When Engaging in Acts of Strictness:

Strength (necessary to be self-disciplined)

Order (arises when people know their place and obey authority)

Ownership (by working hard to earn something you should be able to use it as you see fit)

Hierarchy (those above you have worked harder and proven their worth while those below you are not as disciplined as you)

Duty (each person is obligated to submit to valid authority)

Purity (absolute right and wrong must exist in order to have knowledge of them)

Physical Security (authority figures must provide physical protection from bodily or material harm)

Equity (higher positions are earned through merit)

These values, when organized via the Strict Father Family, constitute a moral worldview that is the foundation of conservative morality. They are all entailed in the body of knowledge that arises through the experience of living in a strict home.

Progressives acknowledge the existence of valid authority expressed through nurturance. A fully nurturant person deserves to be listened to. The standards for legitimacy are quite different. Here are a few examples of valid progressive authority figures (Moral Politics, pg. 134):

People who are empathetic

People who successfully help others

People who solve problems effectively

People who are fair

People who listen to others and communicate effectively

People who nurture social ties successfully

Conservative Morality Expresses Key Principles

When the Strict Father Family is applied to the Nation as Family conceptual metaphor, we get conservative political morality. This deep frame shapes conservative understanding of politics and entails several principles that arise from conservative values.

The Free Market Principle

The free market promotes efficiency, creates wealth, is natural and moral, and rewards individual discipline. Since wealth promotes many kinds of freedom, the market is believed to be a pathway for freedom to be expressed. Government interference of the market is considered to be immoral because it opposes this freedom.

The Bootstrap Principle

With enough self-discipline everyone can pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps. This is a version of the Myth of the American Dream and is sometimes referred to as climbing the corporate ladder in the context of the corporate business world. The government has no responsibility to help those who fall behind.

These principles inform the moral sensibilities of conservatives. Progressives often experience considerable dissonance when they hear them because they run contrary to our understanding of the world.

Conservatives Only Recognize Direct Causation

A person who understands the world through the experience of living in a strict environment will see direct relationships between cause and effect. When they see another person causing harm - such as a burglar shooting a cashier - they will interpret the situation in terms of simple cause-effect relationships: The burglar stole money because s/he hasn't learned the self-discipline necessary to work hard and earn money. The burglar made purely conscious decisions to steal and to shoot the other person. It was a deliberate action shaped solely by the persons lack of respect for authority and inherent moral weakness.

Progressives Recognize Greater Complexity

The experience of living in a nurturant home emphasizes indirect forms of causation. In order to empathize with others in a social environment, it is necessary to recognize subtle contributions to the perspective of others in order to both understand where they are coming from and to communicate effectively with them. “ –George Lakoff"

This lengthy excerpt was necessary to attempt to show a difference in basic thinking that has enormous negative results in the “Popular Pauline” church today. Do we require PURITY, that is certain standards of behavior favored by conservatives, or do we nurture COMPASSION, favored by progressives? We can make a fairly compelling case, although not a total one, that Christ favored the latter, while the Popular Pauline tradition favored the former.

But the church is torn. So much so that the recent schism in the Episcopal church is a direct result of a Purity v. Compassion conflict.

We need to review our concepts of Christianity again and soon . What was so astounding to the first century Romans was how these Christians “loved “ one another, how their compassion for their fellows abounded and how their love extended to all mankind. We have largely lost that tradition. We are now too often “Paulinists” not Christians.

“Purity” as Christ seems to have advocated it was involved more with living within the “Kingdom of God” in all that we do. A condition that did not require us to be sin free but rather good people engaging the failures of our fellow human with love and understanding. The requirement of the Gospel of Mark’s “perfection” is so misunderstood due to language difficulties. The Greek word for perfection “telios” does not mean the same as the English word “perfect” A rose missing two petals is still telios/"perfect" in the Greek as it has lived up to its highest expectation. Mark’s Greek may have required us to live up to God’s expectation of compassion as much as we are able rather than exhorting us to “perfection”, but the King James authors disagreed and prevailed. Here we have another example of translation issues as meaningful and detrimental.

So where are we today? Can we come together on any basis?

Not without opening our hearts to each other. A closed heart according to Marcus Borg,

“-Affects the mind and the reasoning process itself.

A closed heart and bondage go together.

A closed heart lacks gratitude.

A closed heart is insensitive to wonder and awe.

A closed heart forgets or rejects God.

A closed heart and exile go together.

A closed heart lacks compassion.

A closed heart is insensitive to injustice.” (Heart of Christianity P.152-153)

A closed heart is a striking image for the state of much of “Poular Paulinity” with which people are so dissatisfied today.

Christianity requires something else……………………..compassion. We had better quit bickering and start practicing it soon.

John P. Middleton

Nov 2009