Sunday, April 4, 2010

Here’s the thing . . .

Many people around the world are celebrating Easter today. For the past week, they’ve been shopping for new clothes, shoes and hats; the fixings for sumptuous meals; and greeting cards for their families and friends, and today, they got up – some, even, before dawn – put on those clothes, gathered their families together, perhaps stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a bite to eat on their way to church, and sat (or stood), bleary-eyed, as an equally somnolent ecclesiastic delivered a fairly predictable homily. Then each went home with his or her family, hunted for colorfully dyed hard-boiled eggs and chocolate goodies, and spent the afternoon feasting with extended family and close friends. That’s how most Christians in America, at least, spent Easter. Comforted by the routine performance of family traditions, many may have subconsciously wished to (but few did) ask themselves, ‘What are we really doing today? Why – and what – are we celebrating? Don’t good people die everyday? What’s so special about Jesus, and why do we celebrate his death?’

What, indeed, are we really doing on Easter Sunday?

We all know the folklore contained in the story of Jesus’ martyrdom, the (what some people consider) irrational and unfathomable stuff for which the word, ‘faith,’(1) is wrongly interchanged by members of many Christian denominations with the word, ‘belief:’ Jesus was crucified, he died but then recovered his body(2) so he could fight Satan (that is to say, not the hockey player, but evil incarnate, which requires a body since evil needs human hands, or corporeal matter, in order to manifest itself) and then took it with him into the celestial realm, the nature about which he seems, in this legend, to have suddenly changed his mind since the time his disciple, Mark, witnessed him telling one of his students, “Thou art not far from the Kingdom of G_d,” or heaven [when you seek to know G_d all the time, in every way, and treat others as you wish to be treated](3), or the time he told his disciples heaven is a way of being in the world much the same as that which is created by our relating with any generative earthly thing that sustains us, as noted in The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 13.(4) It’s a shame we don’t think more about our spiritual legends – how they were created, and why – especially this one, and especially at this time of year, because it seems rather obvious that Jesus died first and foremost to prove to us that anyone, even we (as social and political activists), could (and should) make the ultimate sacrifice for non-tangible things called ideals – specifically, for the inviolate ideals of truth, liberty, justice and egalitarianism, not merely the perverted symbols of them for which we reflexively ask our young to die in empire-building missions such as the invasion/occupation/colonization of Iraq.

We really don’t have the chance at any other time of the year to talk about this obvious fact (surprise, surprise), or the fact that the meaning we can access by looking at Jesus’ death is very liberating: ‘Gonna die anyway and live on in spirit – might as well die in a way that means goodness prevails in the world after I’m gone.’ Regrettably, we also don’t think about the fact that, as Americans, we live in a place and in an epoch that are as morally bankrupt as the ones in which Jesus and his first followers lived – in a country and at a time where those ideals for which Jesus both lived and died are socially unacceptable, where it’s even dangerous to talk openly about honestly pursuing them, for all the government-administered rhetoric about them that pervades our war-worshipping culture. We who, in our own modest ways, work as Jesus did to fight the social and political injustices in our communities and in our world with openness and passion are being exterminated just as Jesus and so many others throughout history have been, and it’s as difficult for us to be alive here, in this community, as it was for Jesus and the first Christians to be alive in anno Domini uno, Jerusalem. Wouldn’t it be a shame, when this opportunity to reflect on these facts is staring us in the face, to let it slip away? The reasons for Jesus’ death couldn’t be more relevant than they are today, though few religious leaders openly acknowledge this fact, and some even deny it. I can’t.

Jesus was a political – not merely a social – activist. That’s why his government (and not whatever social service agencies may have existed when he lived) administratively murdered him. He confronted those people in the Temple who were feeding taxes to the corrupt government under which he lived through their business activity right there, on holy ground. He didn’t mutely accept, or grumble half-heartedly under his breath about, the comfortable agreement between the civic and religious leaders in his community whereby the latter traded their complacency about the oppression and terror suffered by Jews such as he for protection by the former because their mutual relationship was profitable. Say what Benedict XVI will about Jesus not being a political activist,(5) Jesus, while he wasn’t a murderer like Barabbas, was every bit as radical a political activist as his pardoned fellow political prisoner. That’s what Jesus’ outburst in the Temple at the money-changers’ table was all about – political activism. He was protesting the collusion between the Temple priesthood and the immoral Roman government. Can you imagine any one of the Enron employees that lost their livelihoods and pensions walking into the churches of the principal executives of the failed company after it went bust and screaming at them, demanding they turn over the company’s liquidated assets, including the million-dollar-plus tax refund the company got from our government that year, to those that lost their jobs? But no one did – because we’ve grown complacent about the illegal and immoral activities of those who sit in the pews next to us, thanks to our government condoning and supporting them. The SEC had plenty of evidence that Enron was a Ponzi scheme; it could have revoked the company’s corporate charter the moment Enron’s whistleblower CFO told them it was a Ponzi scheme, but it didn’t. It didn’t even fine the company for its illegal activity. Jesus wouldn’t have stood for it. He even mouthed off to the civil toady, Pilate, who interrogated him by answering Pilate’s questions with pointed questions of his own while Pilate was persecuting him, without bar, nor lawyer, between them.(6) Jesus took action, wherever and whenever he could, and he didn’t apologize for, or recant in any way, the justifiable things he did to overthrow his corrupt government. That’s what political activists, such as Aung Sun Suu Kyi and Ken Sara Wiwa, do. They’re not silent, or complacent. And because Jesus wasn’t silent, or complacent, he, like Sara Wiwa, was administratively murdered by his government.

Jesus was not just about doing the social work for the poor and underprivileged his religious leaders ought to have been coordinating but weren’t. That wouldn’t have gotten him killed, never mind the kind of attention from his local enforcers that prompted them to form a posse to take him in (by the order of Caiphus’, the high priest and head of the Sanhedrin, or local Jewish ‘sheriff’s office;’ there’s that collusion), much less Herod Antipas’ notice. Rome was the civic government in Jerusalem – its occupying forces – and Roman soldiers were commanded by Rome’s politicians, not by its social welfare agencies (if such agencies had existed). One might ask why, if Jesus wasn’t a political activist who was murdered for his political activism, the Pope bothered to waste his time saying otherwise more than 2,000 years after Jesus’ death. Wouldn’t it have been obvious by now, if he weren’t? The fact is, Jesus’ political activism has been obvious to, and inspired, a great many people throughout history, and just as we must consider the motivations of the first people who created the fantastical window-dressing of bodies flying through the air to a mythical realm for the story of Jesus’ martyrdom, we should consider the Pope’s motivations for proffering his ludicrous opinions; he is the head of an organization that has, once again, made itself the justifiable object of scorn. Pragmatically pandering to the organization’s remaining adherents with sentimental and unfounded notions of Christian dogma must seem like the easiest way to appease those who fund the enterprise of which he is CEO. Some people like fiction; other people, non-fiction. It is obvious that Jesus was a political activist, and there can be no argument about it, just as there can be no argument that the same type of mob (including, eventually, his own disciples, with the exception of the female ones) which denounced Jesus (exterminating him first socially by making of him a pariah) also operates to exterminate political activists here in America today, just as they have operated everywhere throughout history. Sadly, we seem to have learned little since Jesus’ death about the corrosive effects of political repression and the way in which it creates each epoch’s martyrs.

What’s important in the story of Jesus’ martyrdom is his act of sacrifice – whatever was the outcome. Elevating the importance of his death even beyond the importance of the deaths of any other martyrs relegates the profundity of the way in which this sage acted every day (including the day he died) by standing up for communitarian ideals that made the society in which he lived more G_d-reverent to a place so far into the background of the story that we don’t readily see how Jesus set the example of right-living, not just right-dying, for us to emulate (which pleases the political powers who oppress us no end, I’m sure). Jesus showed us – not merely told us – that we each can have the courage to stand up for what is right – for our inviolate ideals – all the time, come what may, and be in G_d’s kingdom thereby. “The Kingdom of G_d is at hand.”(7) Consider that Jesus traveled to the poor and talked with them about all aspects of the Pentateuch and his interpretation of them -- his own “Midrash,” the fruits of his own undertaking of the two-item agenda he gave us -- including what we call mysticism, because, as a child, he had had the opportunity to do the same with the learned men in the Temple. He thought knowledge about the spiritual life and G_d was so important for everyone, he didn’t throw in his lot with the elitist priests who only served those by whom they were paid. More importantly, he didn’t just lecture those he taught; he championed free (what we would call today, ‘public’), SOCRATIC education, which trains people to think critically through dialogue (and not simply to perform doctrinaire mind exercises). Jesus listened to people, as we can see him doing in The Gospel of St. Mark, 12:29-34. Here, he’s talking with a scribe someone who squatted in a marketplace stall all day copying documents in languages he more than likely couldn’t read for hardly any money at all. We seem to have forgotten almost entirely that Jesus did these things to encourage others to live as he did, not sit back and coast, letting others oppress us.

For far too long we have told ourselves that Jesus took care of business 2,000 years ago, and so we don’t have to now. “He died for my sins, and now I’m clean.” Pardon? How does that work? So many people see this perverted dogma (or dogma equally as pernicious, such as predestination) as a license to do whatever they want, to create not heaven, but hell, here. Purchasing ‘dispensations’ with membership fees and donations to a religious organization, or a couple laps around the rosary beads, is just as bad. We may rightfully ask, ‘whatever happened to Jesus’ primary teaching? That simple, two-item to-do list recorded in The Gospel of St. Mark, The Gospel of St. Matthew (the ‘Sermon on the Mount’) and elsewhere?’ Jesus was Jewish, and he believed in the one, true, omnipresent, omnipotent G_d(8) – in creation, as it is present to and resident in us, and our ability to ‘commune’ with G_d all the time. He understood deeply that G_d is not some stagnant, paternalistic, symbolic god that lives above the sky somewhere, or any type of entity at all. And Jesus believed that creating a just, kind society honored in the best way possible this understanding – because bringing to fruition the ideals of charity, justice, compassion, and equanimity requires using one’s heart, mind, strength, and soul. It requires a passionate commitment, a love, of knowing G_d, of understanding this ongoing creation and the spiritual nature of our relationship to it. Consider that Jesus was a skilled healer. He probably became one because, at some point in his life, he needed – but didn’t have – a healer. So he learned how to heal sick people and did so whenever he could; that was his contribution to creation, evidence of his communion with G_d. He championed GENUINE health care for everyone (not anything like the price-fixed crap that passes for it in America today, which only those fortunate enough to pay into the ineffectual system that parsimoniously doles it out can obtain anyway). Curing people who are sick? Do it. Reifying the bodies of the sick for profit? Don’t do it. It’s only what you’d want, and both actions create the kingdom of G_d. Consider that Jesus worked with and was sponsored by women from all castes in his society. He championed an egalitarian society. Do you like being discriminated against? Then don’t discriminate against others -- on any basis. Do you like being murdered? Then don’t murder others. Do you like being slandered out of society? Then don’t slander others out of society. Do you, when you’re the victim of political and social oppression, like being sacrificed by those you’re trying to help? Then help the victims of political and social oppression. But by not doing the two little things Jesus advised us to do to know G_d, and by doing whatever we please or what we find easiest to do instead, we’ve gotten ourselves into a pretty big – if not predictable (at least, to Jesus) – pickle.

The ‘I-don’t-have-to-do-anything-but-coast’ mentality created by a dogma that holds Jesus’ death washed us clean of our sins 2,000+ years after that death occurred is pernicious not merely because it is in direct opposition to Jesus’ teachings, but because it also divides us from one another; it groups us into enclaves of those who ‘go along to get along’ and those who protest the outrageously violent, inhumane society and culture in which we live that free-market lust for the spoils of (for example) war-making, both here and abroad, has created. And you know what happens once we are divided; we are all conquered -- by the same type of oppressive, freedom-denying leaders who persecuted Jesus. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’(9) and all that. Heads up – no matter who you are, it’s coming at you. You could be as good a ‘Christian’ as Jesus (who, as we know, was Jewish), go to Church every Sunday, or mass six or seven times a week (or Temple, if you’re Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or Sikh), but if you’re only one, or a fraction, of those in power, and you see the plain truth in, for example, what is said here, you’re going to wind up an outcast, or in a prison – or worse – unless others who value truth, justice, liberty and egalitarian ideals actively stand by you. Your only hope is to take back your power together even if it means that only your progeny will have the chance to enjoy the benefits of your sacrifice. Because collusion never works. Though we may be tired of constant protest – shell-shocked, even, over the never-ending man-made cataclysms that keep us reacting and reeling – we just have to align our minds and strength and our respect for our spirits with our hearts and keep working to create the kingdom of G_d because it’s the right thing to do. As obvious as this fact is, something else keeps us from standing up for what’s right: fear.

‘Save Barabbas,’ the mob demanded. ‘Crucify that pain in the ass, Jesus. He’s making us all look bad, and collective punishment is no fun,’ they effectively told Pilate, when they should have rioted against the government like Chinese nationals in Beijing, June of 1989, after Jesus’ arrest. But they didn’t – because they were afraid they would end up tree ornaments themselves. It seems humankind will never learn but by the hard way that if one of us is oppressed, we are all oppressed. We can’t afford to sacrifice anyone, especially those working to create heaven here on earth, because who can say when the sacrificial quota is reached? Who knows that number? What if, through nothing you’ve said or done, you suddenly find yourself in that group?(10) That’s the way all repressive governments administratively murder us -- indiscriminately. Barabbas, or Jesus – it didn’t matter to Pilate that Good Friday since both were heading for the same destiny anyway in his mind. It was that way in Jesus’ time; it was that way in mid 20th century Germany; it was that way in South America in the 1970s and Central America in the 1980s. It’s that way here, today. Either we’re all expendable, or none of us is, and if you’re a Christian, let me remind you, you’ve already said none of us is. You’ve pledged your fealty to those who believe none of us is expendable – in any way, for any reason; that’s truly that ideal of the sanctity of life in action, not some murderous anti-choice campaign to save what may very well be no souls at all, since sages throughout time, including St. Augustine, have tried and failed to determine the exact time of ensoulment (it’s probably as variable as any other human growth process, such as the day we lose our first baby teeth, or sprout our first gray hair, and known, therefore, only to each individual soul). That’s how stupid fear makes us; it makes us forget that we’re Christians, and then we do ridiculously anti-Christic things, such as persecute and sacrifice our fellow human beings, or even kill them. Agitate for what’s right and true. That’s how Jesus lived, and in our hearts (well, in the hearts of those of us who assiduously pursue the to-do list he gave us), we know it is because he importuned us to live this way. We just have to align our minds and strength and our respect for our spirits with our hearts. That love of G_d, not fear, must be our motive force.

Fear, Jesus shows us, has no place in our lives as a motivating factor, when we’re truly alive, truly living our spiritual ideals. It doesn’t matter if we’re killed, Jesus’ example shows us, when we stand up for the right things; our spirits will live on. If this observation is a little too mundane for you, and you think the simple fact Jesus was a radical political activist isn’t enough to explain his awesome martyrdom – if you find you just can’t cleave the wheat of the story from the extraneous, superfluous chaff of supernaturalism – then I have to ask you, ‘When was the last time you were hunted, jailed, and tortured because of something you said, or did? Are those things so routine to you that you can shrug your shoulders when we talk about Jesus’ – or anybody else’s – political repression and execution?’ (That must be why we have no wars today.) Not looking so boring now, is it, Jesus’ less-than-glamorous life? “To be, or not to be? That is the question.”(11) Jesus knew the answer. Few have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as he did, and surely, anything that obfuscates the lessons of Jesus’ martyrdom and diverts our attention from his teachings cripples us spiritually. We need to be as fearless as Jesus was because the ‘I-don’t-have-to-do-anything-but-coast’ mentality that has wrongly absolved many of us of our duty to help others – including our modern-day martyrs – cripples us spiritually. Not only has it paralyzed us into submission to the fascism that has completely overtaken our society,(12) it has especially damaged the kingdom of G_d here because so many people today act as the mob that sent Jesus to his death acted – if not with complacency, then with extreme diffidence. Thanks to fear and the diffidence and complacency it breeds, evil has won. We need to put aside our fear of losing that in which we have invested for so long, our folklore and our ineffectual religious institutions -- stop 'throwing good money after bad' -- and reexamine the lessons Jesus' death can teach us about ourselves.

Jesus didn’t die for our sins in some bizarre, not even metaphysical, act of transmission. That’s not how spirit works. Your soul has as its moral agenda, its modus operandi, the same work that any other soul – including Jesus’ – has, an agenda that he neatly outlined in that two-item to-do list cited on page one. Two. Just two. Not none; not one – but two. Not three. Two. Two required actions. Jesus died because of our sins – the things society didn’t do according to moral prescriptions (the work he was doing to reform his corrupt society as well as the work to defend him in his hour of need), and the things society did do (collude with the corruption he was fighting, and then throw him under a bus, so to speak, when he tried to persuade them to stop). Jesus died to show us that we could accept all our responsibilities to live meaningfully with grace, no matter the consequences. He told us very plainly that the only ‘way’ we can save our souls is by losing our lives for the betterment of the world.(13) He certainly didn’t allow his life to be taken from him to somehow prove he was better, or different, than any other right-thinking martyr; he was in no sense an elitist. He traveled all over his country and talked with everyone about this best of all possible ways to live, not just the rich. That’s not the behavior of someone who thinks they’re better than anyone else. That’s why the last supper is so important to his story – because Jesus knew it would be his last, and he wanted his friends to understand that even death was preferable to the hell of the emptiness of a life lived as a pragmatist, without any ideals at all, doing whatever nefarious thing it takes to get by (or living by bad ideals, like exploiting and selling out others for expediency’s sake). He knew the mob of Roman, Jewish and all the other classes and castes living in Jerusalem who preferred living their lives as pragmatists would be happy to nail him to a tree because they did that all the time to “inconvenient” truth-tellers they feared. And that’s the reason people at some point in time thought it would be a good idea to remember him and the way he died – because they understood that Jesus knew that he was sacrificing himself by standing up for truth, justice and the way of G_d just to show others no different than he that they could as well. That’s what the last supper was all about – Jesus disclosing his foreknowledge of his sacrifice to his friends. Everything Jesus did, including his death, was a demonstration of the quintessentially human experience of life – and death: the conscious creation of them meaningfully, by effectuating our best ideals, and that's the thing. What more proof do you need than the willing suicide of the best of the best of us for mankind’s folly to make you understand the rest of the story is dross? Isn’t that part astonishing enough? Thankfully, not every Christian (or other ethically inclined world leader) has committed that sin.

Ghandi. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sofie and Hans Scholl. Steve Biko. All those nameless and faceless western European Resistance fighters during World War II. John, Martin, Bobby, Malcolm, Medgar Evers, the four little girls, the Chinese national who stood against the tank outside Tiananmen Square in 1989. The disappeared in Argentina. The liberation theologians of South and Central America. The Sandinistas and their compatriots who are being systematically murdered today by “neighborhood watch” vigilantes bent on retaliation. SO many modern-day Jesuses. Rebecca Nurse and the other 19 Salem Village martyrs, including an unnamed newborn. The adherents of the “old” religion that rightly worshipped creation as G_d, as well as the first Protestants who were also burned at the stake for challenging the political and religious powers who ruled them. What did they all have in common? They all died because they were incorruptible and unwilling to sell out their ethical ideals – like Jesus. They didn’t murder other people, the way fundamentalists of every stripe, including Christian as well as Arab and Jewish, do today because of some perverse notion that doing so is ‘God’s work.’ They allowed their lives to be taken from them because they were not corrupted by the power of religious dogmatists; they weren’t pragmatists who went along to get along. Like Jesus, they worked for the good of all society. They stood up to the goons who immorally ran their societies, because, like Jesus, they knew the spiritual life of all humans is inexorably actual, omnipresent, and that the only life worth living is one that acknowledges and respects this truth. They believed human ideals could create not merely a different type of meaning in our lives than the procurement (and certainly, the unbridled pursuit) of material goods, but that living inviolate, good ideals into existence – creating their tangible artifacts -- was the paramount human experience, and that dying in the defense of our G_d-given right to live in that meaningful way was a worthwhile endeavor. This is the essence of the spiritual life, and all the aforementioned people knew it. They didn’t mindlessly go to church, or temple, and snicker up their sleeves on the way out the door, thinking they got away with something because they showed up to make themselves look good, all the while planning to, for example, carpet bomb innocent civilians in some far-away country. They weren’t hypocrites. They understood completely their two-item to-do lists and they undertook them each and every day. That’s why their lives were taken from them. And here’s a horrifying fact that presents itself when we consider what’s left after they’ve gone: still the same old incarnate malevolence in people that has always existed, manipulating the rest of us. As Marian Anderson so eloquently noted, “As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.” There’s a lot of people not soaring today as they otherwise might.

Your community is a mess run by fascists and their minions. Take a minute to read this. Fascism(14) is the aggressive oppression of civil society’s public government by those people who advocate the use of wealth without restriction, such as civil law, including laws that prohibit the physical enslavement of people, which in today’s America means the slavery of institutionalized homelessness, and ineffectual human subject research laws, and the commercialization by biopharma giants of the manipulation of human proteins (by “small molecule medicine”), as much as it means tax slavery to support a national debt incurred solely to fund our military's empire-building missions, or social extermination of activists fighting these representations of fascism by the creation of "wall-less" prisons with military-developed PSYOPS, all of which have been created by groups of people as diverse as Christian Dominionists and those who believe Homo sapiens are animals, not humans capable of just societies, who claim slavery as their right either because 'slavery is in the Bible,' or the law of the jungle compels the powerful to subjugate the weak. If you don’t understand this, and you don’t see the fascism around you when evidence of it is everywhere, then you have already been conquered and are, yourselves, slaves.

Apparently, it’s not that different in other parts of our own, or any other, country than it is right here:

Robert Woodward was shot as he lay unarmed, face down, in a Unitarian-Universalist church on Sunday morning, December 2, 2001, by Brattleboro, Vermont, police. You can read about the progress of the legal case his family brought against the state of Vermont on the website of one of its lawyers. Your local police are no different than police in any repressive regime anywhere in the world, only today, instead of beating African-American civil rights protestors and shooting unarmed students to death, they work hand-in-hand with America’s secret government agencies to terrorize and torture individual American political activists at the behest of the Pentagon. And that’s not all they do.

Infotainment syndicates are experiencing a boon in the bottom lines, producing stories that further exploit the victims of what have become commonplace sexual slavery rings in America. MSNBC tells the story of one girl who was ‘befriended’ by another girl at her school, who aided her parents in kidnapping the girl, and E! channel has it’s Teenage Trafficking documentary. As bad as all that is, as we learn from the first story, local police (like the ‘friend’ of the girl who was kidnapped) are actually aiding those who run sexual slavery rings. The girl’s father, after discovering who had kidnapped his daughter and seeking the help of police to rescue her, was told by those police they couldn’t help him – but was nevertheless given the phone number of a contact of the girl’s captors by them, with whom he subsequently met (alone) and from whom he was able to learn his daughter’s whereabouts. He, himself, then undertook her rescue. We may, with outrage, ask how the hell the Toledo, OH, police knew the contacts of the network of people, and apparently even the key people, running this sexual slavery ring and why they did nothing to put them out of business. The answer? In America, as elsewhere, markets must be protected – and there’s a huge market for sex slaves.

In addition to our local police force, the ‘neighborhood watches’ they run and the ‘business first’ organizations proliferating today are nothing more than mobs organized to commit character assassinations, and worse, on behalf of those who’ve turned our society from a civil one into a lawless, vigilante-repressed one. They are today’s SS – our secret government agencies’ employees working through quasi-private secretive organizations such as And they have to go.

As for other targeted individuals of our secret government agencies, not only do we have testimonials by brave insiders who tell us there is a direct line from the Pentagon to local police forces that runs through the CIA, the FBI and other secret agencies, we have the accumulation of bad legislation since Ronald Reagan’s presidency which evinces this close, unconstitutional relationship.

Our government has always – and never stopped – persecuting law-abiding political activists for speaking out against it, and it is persecuting ordinary, law-abiding people today for not supporting the prurient social order it, through unhindered free-marketing crusading fascism, has created.

Workers who demonstrate a reluctance to be amoral renegades for the unbridled greed pursued by the corporations that employ them fare no better in this ‘new world order’ (to quote then U.S. President, George H.W. Bush) than anyone else who refuses to support this new and unprecedented change in American society:

Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace records with great specificity what can only be called the fascist practice of forced unemployment through character assassination and workplace terrorism campaigns that routinely create employees who “go postal” on their colleagues. These practices have become standard business procedure in today’s American workplace and were once so ubiquitous in the late 20th century in modern western European countries that many of those countries– including Germany – effectively outlawed them. Here, they go unacknowledged. When (if ever) employers are sued for creating and/or allowing a hostile work environment, such cases are prosecuted using very narrow anti-discrimination laws because no laws which specifically outlaw workplace terrorism exist here. If victims happen not to belong to any protected class, or if they do but have no money with which to bring a suit, workplace terrorism continues.

If you haven’t seen the documentary, The Corporation, or read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, or John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, then you are clueless about the extent to which we are all slaves of one or another type – utilitarian only for others’ profit, or disposable when that profit is maxed out, and about how our government’s sole purpose is to protect the so-called ‘free’ market businesses that profit from treating human beings thusly. (In 1998, 53% of the GDP was derived from government contract work.(15) Who knows how much it is today.).

So -- what’s a Christian to do? Live for material, or live for spiritual, ideals? Stand by and let this corruption rule us all, or take action. It’s a no-brainer if you’re a Christian, because, as a Christian, you’ve already committed yourself to honoring human life as spirit first – the kind of entity that responds to the a priori good ideals which compel us to participate in creation, in G_d(16) – and not see yourself or others as just amoral meatsickles (your body is the temple for your spirit), who do whatever is easy, or expedient, to get by. Emperor Constantine may have declared that only Jesus had this aspect of divinity in 300 A.D., but that doesn't mean Jesus' followers for the previous 3 centuries were wrong to believe otherwise, and we who believe in the divinity that resides in each of us aren't wrong, either. Constantine and his First Council of Nicea were politicians, like the people who killed Jesus physically, and all of the aforementioned people understood inner divinity and chose to live their spiritual ideals into existence. All of them. Jesus’ ramble to Golgatha was Rome’s version of the National Guard’s defilade against Kent State students in 1970; of the cavernous cells filled with political activists in Moabit and other German prisons in 1944; of South Africa’s secret night-time rendition of attorney and activist, Steve Biko; of the fortified grounds outside the Imperial Palace in Beijing June 4th, 22 years ago (an event which many of today’s Chinese citizens are forbidden to talk, or even know, about, like Americans are forbidden to know about Robert Woodward’s murder in Vermont); of the cart ride from Salem jail to a kangaroo court in spring, summer and fall Danvers, MA of 1692; of today’s probable night-time renditions of political activists to any of the who-knows-how-many secret CIA prisons around the world. His meditation in Gethsemane is every targeted individual’s walk to the grocery store today, knowing there are those lying in wait for us. Jesus was absolutely a political activist – and a radical one, at that. And he knew exactly what he was doing and why; he was living his life – and his death – for meaning. We would do well if we did the same.

It’s not too late for us to learn the lessons Easter has to teach us. Let’s start by acknowledging of supreme importance the patently obvious in the story of Jesus’ political persecution and execution – that it was just that. Let’s dare to hear the story of Jesus, the martyr, just as it is, as he intended it – and resist the sentimentalizing hearsay that may very well be supernatural embellishments. Let’s not forget that the first Christian church was started by a guy who had once worked as a tax collector for the repressive regime he joined Jesus in fighting and had no occupation to which he could return after Jesus’ murder. Talk about burning your bridges! How’s that for a questionable motive to begin an enterprise that couldn’t afford to fail? It’s not even important whether we can ever say with certainty that Jesus survived the crucifixion, though he may very well have because of a Houdini-like mastery over his body he could have developed along with the many other mystical capabilities he demonstrated. He was, to all outward appearances, a magician, one of many magi around at the time, after all.(17) Since the only possible way Jesus could have arisen from true death is as a spirit, just as we all do, it seems obvious that if we say his post-mortal life is somehow remarkably different than anyone else’s we denigrate the spiritual life of everyone, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus would want us to do.(18)

It’s our sin today when we pervert the importance of Jesus’ exemplary death with finger-pointing over who was actually responsible for it, or hocus-pocus that obscures this willingness of his to sacrifice himself in a moral lesson of incomparable magnitude. These sins prevent us from seeing the parallels in our society and in our natures with Jesus’ society and the state of humanity when he died, and that diminishes the thing, because it takes us students of ethics out of that moral classroom which Jesus sacrificed himself to create for the sake of our eternal lives (that is to say, the edification of our souls on how to live effectively as human beings, lifetime after lifetime). To say that Jesus died ‘for’ any other reason than that he courageously ‘walked his talk’ is to add insult to injury, and offend the sensibilities of many who believe and act as he did. Even worse, it causes an ethical paralysis in us the world can little afford. The traditionally Christian ideals of compassion and justice seem to be of so little consequence to our society today they appear absolutely annihilated. But it hasn’t always been so, and it needn't be so in the future.

The two final questions you must ask yourself this Easter season are, then: for what are you living? For what are you willing to die – something as spiritually stultified as your yearly trek to CVS to buy bulk-packaged foil-wrapped chocolate eggs you tuck into plastic grass that’s nestled into bamboo baskets made by third-world citizens for pennies a week so you can watch your children scramble around your yard for a few hours one (hopefully) sunny spring morning, or the same thing for which Jesus and others have lived and died so that you -- and those children -- have the chance few throughout history have had to live with dignity, without social and political repression: the everlasting life of the spirit? Generating taxes for endless war (including covert war on your fellow law-abiding citizens) and for TARP and for tax bailouts to the wealthy and to service the debt we owe to other repressive regimes such as China and Saudi Arabia, who underwrite our corrupt government (which makes us de facto citizens of those countries); or generating taxes with your hard work that go to pay for quality universal education that includes accurate history, civic and science education, and for healthcare that cures instead of enslaves, and for satisfying our national debt once and for all so no one else owns us and we don’t have to answer to them ever, and for a peace department that makes peace a way of life instead of war and whose budget replaces that of the Pentagon because we’ve already got all the bombs anyway and can destroy the world 500 times over? WWJD, you ask? TWJWD. It’s not even too late to help those political activists who are telling you of their oppression and persecution, and today, you have a decision to make: help us, or do nothing. Be a Christian and live your ideals for truth and justice into existence, or be a pragmatist and ignore our pleas. That's the only way to bring to fruition the ideals Jesus cherished and for which he died.

There are other things you can do, too.

We – all of us – need our own Pastors’ Emergency League and our own Confessing Church. We need our ethical leaders to act like ethical leaders and set the example of Christian courage in every church in America today. No more turning away, as if to say, “Oh, those zealots or fundamentalists are only a fringe movement.” That simply will not do any more because when many of those zealots say, in their mega-churches every Sunday, that they are Christian soldiers, they mean they are at war with everyone not like them. They mean they are out for blood. They mean to take no prisoners -- just blood, either by forcing targeted individuals to commit suicide, or by engineering suspicious accidents to which targeted individuals fall prey. That's what zealots do -- whatever nefarious thing achieves their goal -- in the case of religious zealots, conversion to their cult. If ever the misguided needed our prayers, it is these unfortunates who've been indoctrinated into this war-mongering cult that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the community Jesus bade us to create. We need to stop deluding ourselves that we live in any sort of ideal society that mimics the one Jesus told us we could – and should – manifest for us all (if we were free to accept our responsibility to do so). So long as these types of perverters of truth control our society, as they apparently do, Jesus does not live. Hitler claimed over and over his was a Christian mission ordained by God, just like George Bush and Ronald Reagan have done – but they’re all hypocrites. We need to acknowledge these facts, and depose the politicians and religious leaders who've created this anti-Christic culture, which has much less to do with Jesus and G_d than it has with mass control of human consciousness.

We need to start listening to the witnesses – and stop dismissing them as ‘crazy’ because it’s convenient to do so. That just plays into the hands of the power brokers who’ve exerted enormous energy to make witnesses (such as Elmer Allen(19)) appear illegitimate because they courageously speak about their persecution (in his case, reification by our government, his bioslavery). When we say, ‘what you are living with today in America is a fascist-controlled government,’ we’re not delusional; we have legitimate proof for our assertions – much of it, in our government’s own words, and we need, all of us, to understand the depth and pervasiveness of the propaganda our government messages to us, non-stop, to convince us its unholy machinations are somehow righteous. Their portraits of the allegedly irredeemable behavior of its native opponents, including its bioslaves, is fiction. We need to offer these targeted individuals our community, not our contempt, with no strings attached, other than the expectation that they, too, will be model ethical members of it. And most importantly, we need to teach our church congregants to stop creating targeted individuals with their gossip mongering and contrivance of entrapments of the political activists of our times, who are guilty only of trying to live ethically our inviolate ideals. They are exactly what Jesus was to the authorities in his day – pains in the asses of them, but nevertheless, right.(20) Isn’t that what you believe Jesus was, after all – right? Our fellow congregants who don’t understand this (and they’re easy to see, with their goose-stepping to every wave of Old Glory our fascist government makes) are the timeless pawns of the powerful. They’re not Christians, and we don’t have to entertain their company as though they were. We need to pray for them, as Jesus advised in his Sermon on the Mount, but we also need to tell them that we will not tolerate, or collude with, their asocial, uncivil, unlawful and inhumane stalking and terrorizing campaigns, no matter who pays them to conduct those campaigns. We need to tell them that they, in fact, don’t have to participate in the political oppression of their fellow citizens – that there are communities where they will be accepted for not doing the bidding of fascists, and such things as anti-discrimination laws that cover religious beliefs with which they can refuse to gangstalk and mob their colleagues in their workplaces, if they feel themselves threatened with retaliatory treatment and unwarranted dismissal in the event they refuse to aid the minions that bid them in those places. Send them on their way, armed with the contact information of those in your communities who can provide safe harbor and who practice law, and given them the assurance of financial support in their fights, or shun them from your communities, if they refuse to behave as Christians would by fighting their oppressors. That’s worth giving up altar flowers and donuts on Sunday after service, or some advertisements, surely.

If you don’t think your fighting American fascism is the most worthwhile cause of our time, I beg you to read my blog and reconsider your opinion. If you refuse to see that your local, as well as your state and federal, government serves only those private enterprises (which are private in name only) that, in pursuit of government defense contracts of all kinds, terrorize and torture your neighbors, your parishioners, your friends and your family, and those who would defend them (me!), then you are as guilty of collusion as any German national in the third and fourth decades of the 20th century who mouthed the rhetoric of Aryan supremacists and denied the existence of the concentration and extermination camps, and (not to put too fine a point on it) you owe your personal apology to all those of your acquaintances who ever had family who either fought, or died, thinking they were defeating, or had defeated, fascism. Take a moment of silent meditation to think about that last statement, please, and think about the martyrs who’ve given their lives for the perversion of the ideals of truth, justice, liberty, and egalitarianism foisted on us by the government under which we now live. No one else is going to do it for us except ourselves. Clearly, civil government has only colluded with the fascists, so civil disobedience must be undertaken. Protests. Divestment. Boycotts -- particularly of charitable brands that institutionalize the unjust socioeconomic class society in which we live now. Buycotts of any product or service that provides what we need to live without further harming the planet. Tax resistance. SHARING our common wealth to ensure the survival and continued work of the political activists who fight on the front lines (and they’re not the alleged ‘opposition’ to those who’ve been, or are, in power in America; that’s why the ‘war’ has raged on) – because doing so manifests right ideals, the ideals Jesus bade us to give life to.

He has risen – but only if you invite his spirit to live within you as you go about creating the world, today and every day. Christians and pains in the authorities’ asses, unite! Roll up your sleeves. There’s lots of Jesus-type political activism to do.


(1) "I discovered later, and I am still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith; by this, I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, sacrifices and failures. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of [G_d,] taking seriously not our own sufferings but those of [G_d] and the world. That, I think, is faith." (Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letter to Eberhard Bethge)

(2) “’Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I, myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.’ And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, ‘have ye here any meat?’ And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” (The Gospel of St. John, 24:39-43)

(3) “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our G_d is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy G_d with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one G_d; and there is none other but [G_d]. And to love [G_d] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of G_d.” YOU must strive to know G_d, not leave the task up to some cleric, and then participate in G_d’s creation; own your G_d ‘force.’ (The Gospel of St. Mark, 12:29-34)

(4) “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.” (The Gospel of St. Matthew, 13:24) “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.” (The Gospel of St. Matthew, 13:31) The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (The Gospel of St. Matthew, 13;33)

(5) Regarding philosophical interpretations of Jesus’ activism such as those encompassed by ‘liberation theology,’ the Pope, in Encyclical 7, Spe Salvi, 2007, tells his followers they shouldn’t put their hopes for justice, redemption and a better life in things of this world, negating Jesus’ specific admonition to each one of us to undertake our own two-item agendas, as outlined in The Gospel of St. Mark, 12:29-34, and give life to those very things thereby.

(6) “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? (The Gospel of St. John, 18:23) Here’s that cheeky “prove it” repartee we master as children.

(7) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of G_d is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (The Gospel of St. Mark, 1:15) Jesus was saying to his students, essentially, that they had ‘nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.’ This was after his forty days in the ‘wilderness’, that is, outside his nascent Christian community, being tempted with evil, and it gave him cache to effectively say to others, ‘Look, there’s no new evil under the sun – just the same exploitation people have always committed against one another, in a different disguise, that leads to self-degradation and hell on earth for everyone. Jesus was rhetorically asking the people in Galilee, who were up for grabs in this war of wills, ‘Are you going to succumb to temptation and continue to exploit others for your gain?’ Just change your behavior; stop exploiting other people – committing the same sins – and then you’ll find yourselves in heaven, because “the kingdom of G_d is at hand.” In other words, heaven is what you make it. (Make a clean break with the pragmatist’s way of life – douse yourselves in a little aqua vitae so you remember forever the moment you chose to live in this different way.) Teach others this way of living. (The Gospel of St. Mark, 1:17) Simple. Straight forward.

(8) “And Moses said unto G_d, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The G_d of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And G_d said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM, hath sent me unto you.” What is, is the ongoing source of creation, that impulse everywhere, its effect, and the omnipresent relationship between the two. (The Second Book of Moses, Called Exodus, 3:13-14) The Force in Star Wars, the Source in the Old Religion, or G_d – it’s all the same thing: omnipresent, overpowering, ongoing creative impulse.

(9) “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.’” (The Gospel of St. Matthew, 12:15)

(10) “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” (Former German POW and Pastor, Martin Niemöller, Lectures on the Work of Germany’s Pastors’ Emergency League During WWII, 1945)

(11) Shakespeare, William: The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, 3:1.

(12) Hedges, Chris: American Fascists, Free Press, 2006.

(13) “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (The Gospel of St. Luke, 17:33) Meaning, if you’re grasping for your material life, you’ll lose touch with the fact you even have a more important, spiritual one to save, but if you care less about your material life than you do about your spiritual one, you’ll do whatever it takes to preserve that spiritual life, including risking the material one, for a good cause, and your spiritual life will persist thereby.

(14) “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” Copyright © 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Reproduced by permission from The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Paperback Edition

(15) Rampton, Sheldon, Stauber, John: Trust Us, We’re Experts! 2002 Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

(16) "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend unto heaven, thou art there. If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7) Creation, G_d, is – always, in all places.

(17) The feeding of the 5,000 (The Gospel of St. Matthew, 14:13-21; The Gospel of St. Mark, 6:31-44; The Gospel of St. Luke, 9:10-17; The Gospel of St. John, 6:5-15), and his first ‘miracle,’ turning water into wine (The Gospel of St. John, 2:1-9)

(18) “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.” (The Gospel of St. John, 2:23-25) Jesus was a free agent. Were he alive today, he wouldn’t belong to any church or type of exclusive organization, such as the Masons, because he would not want to be venerated like a pop star. He knew the truth of which he spoke needed no flak and that any truly spiritual person would eschew stardom and groupies because s/he would know that the masses didn’t need those things to understand truth. No televangelism; no mega churches; certainly, no White House prayer breakfasts. Jesus would have been appalled -- with two P’s and two L’s – by such things.

(19) “CAL-3,” as he was known to his Los Alamos federal government researcher handlers, who deliberately misdiagnosed Mr. Allen for over 40 years, through every doctor he ever saw, all across the country, as a paranoid schizophrenic, to conduct their nuclear radiation research on him without scrutiny. (Welsome, Eileen: The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War, Delta, 1989)

(20) “Power can be enjoyed only when it is recognized and feared. Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those who have it.” (Wolff, Tobias: This Boy’s Life, Grove Press, 1989)

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Anonymous said...

Of course, Christianity was kick started by a Roman Emperor who recognized that this religion, with its emphasis on rules and external doctrine, was ideal for governing. (The rule thing is why we still maintain the old testament which Jesus basically had questioned.)

Saoirse, said...

I think you are referring to Constantine and the chuch Paul created, not the social movement John the Baptist and Jesus began 325 years before Constantine sought to appease the growing population of adherents by creating the Council of Nicea. Mob rule screws up everything, doesn't it? Personally, I have a difficult time reconciling the Jesus in the Gospel of St. John who said, basically, that he didn't want groupies with the Jesus in the Gospel of St. Paul who allegedly said he woul build "his chuch" on St. Paul (his "rock"). That doesn't sound like the same dude to me, and where the Gospel of St. Mark is the earliest, and we have now evidence of Jesus' time in India (now, Nepal), with the Buddhist monks, I have to believe Jesus intended us to be self-directed in our ethical relationships (his most important prescriptive were only two and directed to individuals - to "love" G_d, etc. and to behave ethically by treating others as you wish to be treated). Way less prescriptive than the Jewish tradition from which he came, yet just prescriptive enough to avoid the self-indulgence and lack of compassion in, for example, the Buddhism he studied. History tells us, in fact, he hied out of the Himalyas when he caught wind of an assassination plot by the monks he offended by criticizing their slithers caste system. Jesus believed everyone, no matter his or her rank in society, was capable of understanding esoteric spiritual truths, which is why, again, HE traveled to THEM to teach them not doctrinaire catechism but how to explore spiritual truth. Get rid of the ego through the eight-fold path? No. For better or worse, you've got an ego that must be tempered by grace, not suppressed or destroyed. Can you think of a more egomaniacal exercise than perseverating on ego until you take yourself out of the world by becoming an aesthete? Really! Such a funny paradox, but you've got to love Sidhartha for trying. And all philosophers, just for their willingness to make fools of themselves. I love Jesus for pushing the envelope, so to speak, in the area of practical application of spiritual truth. He lived in the world, and gave us a damned fine manual to help us do the same. Not an easy one to use, but comprehensive nonetheless.