Biscuits and Bear Pit on a Saturday Morning

Thanks to our brilliant governor decreeing (with his signature significant delay in implementation, because the science and data dictate that he make arbitrary and caprious orders to “protect the health of Washingtonians”) that there can be no more than five people at a table in a restaurant, and now they all have to be from the same household, our monthly men’s breakfast was not held at Denny’s, but at our church.
7 of us brought our breakfasts, and sat at the same table, which still would have made the governor’s eye twitch like Clint Eastwood’s in “Firefox”, but I don’t really care.

After about a half hour of 3 separate conversations, and some general joking, the man who is the bishop of our particular fellowship started asking those present about what God has been saying to them.  Because almost everyone else at the table was an official office holder or the lay equivalent, I listened and didn’t say anything…largely because up to that point, I didn’t think that there was anything requiring my input, but eventually, he got to me.  “Clint, I come to these breakfasts, but I never hear you say much.  Why is that?”

I smiled, and my pastor immediately jumped in and said “You have to be careful about getting him started.  He generally has quite a bit to say about politics and current events, and seems to have time to read about more of it than I do.  When he starts in with his observations, he brings some thought-provoking stuff to the table.”  I leaned back, marninating in the compliment, thinking to myself “NEVER say nice things about the attorney.  His head will swell, and he will become even MORE insufferable, if such a thing is possible.”

At this point, the bishop leaned forward, screwed on that wry smile he gets, and asked “So you heard various conversations about all things Covid-related around this table so far.  What’s your take?”  I paused, and said “I think this is the biggest theft ever perpetrated on the American people.”  He smiled bigger, and asked me “What do you mean?”  I replied “People have been told that they cannot go to work.  For MONTHS now.  I have friends who won’t be able to go back to work when the Tyranny of “Experts” that we have subjected ourselves to deem it safe to do so, because those jobs will not be there any longer.  I look at the staggering loss of productivity.  I look at the lost time and experience that we will NEVER get back.  I see government picking up the pace in spending money it does not have, and I am genuinely worried that if we were to have a serious pandemic, one with a significant mortality rate that is easily transmissible and that would perhaps actually call for what has been imposed on us, that we won’t be able to afford to do so.”

From there, various tangents were taken, but one of the more enthusiastic ones was a discussion about the collateral damage being done to society.  There was an active discussion on the role of fear, where it originates, and who benefits, how it causes a great deal of division today (I played the clip of the elderly woman confronting the young mother in the grocery store because her small children were not wearing masks, and the woman’s declaration to one of the young children “Well I hope you all DIE!”, which lead to a conversation about what the church’s role should be.

It was observed that too many of our local churches are still closed.  There was a discussion about the recent Supreme Court ruling in which Justice Roberts sided with a liberal majority that found that there is a pandemic exception to the Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment, despite the fact that there really isn’t one, and that the case was really about disperate treatment by the governor of Nevada, who allowed casinos to be open, but decreed that churches remain closed.  My pastor has been saying for a few weeks now that some of these other churches need to be opening back up (we started up two weeks before our governor “allowed” it, subject to various restrictions).  My assistant pastor has been saying for two weeks that the area “mega-church”, which has 5 different campuses is still closed, and their lead pastor is MIA when he NEEDS to be opening back up and providing spiritual guidance.   I’ve been remarking that there has been a slow shift to people placing their faith in government for a while now, but I pointed out that current events have accellerated this trend, and in all things, government hates competition.

While nothing was actually resolved by the discussion, I found it helpful to know that I’m not the only one looking at what is going on, and not buying into what we are forever being told on social media, the television, and in the newspapers.  The deeper question is why more people aren’t expressing the same.  I think that there are several answers, but it is impossible in the current climate to have a serious and honest conversation about them in general.

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The Vanity of #Caring

A little over eight years ago, I wrote a piece called “The Fatigue of Empty Gestures“, in which I briefly examined the toxic hubris that undergirds so much of the “good deeds” and participatory displays of sympathy and solidarity with various causes in 21st Century America.  While it was easy to see at that time that it was a trend that was going to continue, I really hadn’t anticipated just how extraordinarily it would metasticize under conditions that are depressingly ubiquitous today, and yet far beyond the contemplation of nearly all of us at that time.

It would be easy to think that this was a sudden escalation, but in retrospect, it was a gradual one, that when it had progressed to a certain point, and was mixed with disease, hype, a government shut down of society in a response that quickly strayed from originally stated purposes, fear, the desire to do SOMETHING, and the smug satisfaction that comes from easy virtue.   And now, the daily, smarmy declarations of how these perversions, large and small, are “the new normal” seem like the last bricks being set into place as too few people see what is happening and scream “For the love of God, Montressor!”.

As state governments continue to assert “emergency powers”, and threaten any who dare question the transformation of executive fiats into laws, the summer of 2020 continues to resemble “The Summer That Wasn’t”, a companinion piece to “The Year That Wasn’t.”

I am horrified at how easily overreaching government has set people against each other in this country, and given license to those in the grips of fear of CoVID-19 to channel their anxieties which have been turned up to 11 by “lockdowns” and economic uncertainties into a self-righteous combination of scientism and fervor, allowing confrontations and violence over wearing or not wearing a cloth face covering, ostensibly to stop the spread of a virus.  Add to it the Maoist eruptions of “demands” for “justice” by people hiding behind a pile of bodies that they don’t really care about other than a means to destroy a society in remake it in the Marxist mold of forced mediocrity and government compulsion, and when you offer even the most timid person the sliver of belief that this is one thing, perhaps the ONLY thing they can do to assert control over what is going on (and what is not) in their lives, and they will seize on it like sharks on chum.  It might be a stretch to suggest that wearing a mask is like commenting on the internet; the anonymity gives the wearer the courage to verbally and sometimes physically assault someone who isn’t wearing one, but it is an understandible one.

Emotion, by itself, is rarely the cause of good decisions.  However, in July 2020, it can be difficult to make an informed decision, as the fourth estate seems determined to present only hype, rather than perspective, and complete information.  Each day meets us with breathless headlines of “spikes” in CoVID cases, or capitalized declarations of “RECORD NUMBERS OF CASES REPORTED IN _________________________!!!111!!!”, without any discussion of the way cases are being reported that manipulate the results, incomplete data, or accurate reporting of hospitalizations for the disease and corresponding deaths (or the lack thereof).  Despite too many Americans having more time on their hands than normal, it is easy to let the constant drumbeat build to a feverpitch than it is to dig for accurate information and perspective that would in other circumstances, lead many to question what they are constantly being told by government and the media.

If this was not enough, there are real wedges being brought between people where none previously existed.  My social media seems to be split between people who are all for the various mandates issued by state governors, because “Safety!” and those who view these “orders/mandates” as massive overreach and a violation of the First Amendment.  I see little middle ground, and it is disconcerting to watch friends snipe at each other over a piece of cloth.  At least it is still in varying degrees, but the self-righteousness in some people declaring that those who refuse to hide behind a mask “want to kill grandma” and those who want to reopen the country for business “care more about money than lives” as they pose behind government sanctioned measures that contradict what those self-same government officials declared earlier in the pandemic is a bit much to swallow, especially when you consider the uncuriousness about the numerous and glaring government inconsistencies on the subject.  Perhaps saddest of all would be the effect on these freindships, which I myself have also felt as this has progressed, as quiet periods in conversations have grown longer and longer, until some simply wink out.

I do not appreciate the way that politicians have exploited this situtation in order to further divide people, and fracture groups that have survived previous attempts to impose tribalism.  I can’t say that I have deep, or meaningful conversations with everyone I know.  I’m not wired that way, but the few I have become accustomed to have gotten that much more painful for their abscence, and I fear that the longer this goes on, the worse it will become, especially when fear has been disguised as concern, and thus transformed into a virtue.

Square Pegs In Round Holes

The Second DemCong Parati Debates were held earlier this week in the progressive eden of Detroit, a sparkling gem of a city demonstrating the majesty and wonder of decades of one-party rule.  In the first night, candidate Marianne Williamson made a favorable impression on the crowd with this compelling observation:

 “…This is part of the dark underbelly of American society. The racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight, if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.”

While this understandably drew a predictable degree of derision, the line appeared to resonate with the crowd, and spark interest, both from media gadflies drawn to the train-wreckiness of the speaker’s apparent sincerity, those who seek to find affirmation in their “othering” of Americans who look upon the same events they do and come to very different conclusions, and, those who hear this and find something appealing on a spiritual level in this take on the matter.

I confess, at first, I was amused.  To me, Williamson is much like so many other people who toss great bowls of word salad in order to persuade us of their deep thinking nature and the expertise of their pontifications.  However, on greater reflection, it occurs to me that she is much more dangerous than the average left-leaning academic, politician, or pundit.  While those suspects have largely succeeded in transforming politics into a ersatz religion, complete with its own dogmas (such as the belief that man-caused climate change is an existential threat that requires you common people to completely  change your lives, so that your betters don’t, and that you must give them all of your money and power so they can save you by taking away your own power and freedom) and talismans (like screaming “Racist!”, “Bigot!”, “Sexist!”, “_________-Phobe!” or any other word to immediately impugn the character of someone who has the temerity to utter a truth that does not conform to your dogma, or who asks a provocative question that might cause you to have to defend your belief), but despite the widespread practice of this new faith, everyone, including its high priests, know that while it is a means to power, it isn’t *really* to be a faith, first, because it can never satisfy the part of the human soul that knows that a reliance on humanity alone will always result in spectacular failure.  The average adherent knows this on a visceral level; this is why the practice of the faith of politics is so important; it serves first to provide a purpose, and second a distraction from a sustenance that never satisfies.  This enables those at the top to benefit from the power provided by this congregation, and those laboring on its behalf to believe that they are good, and righteous (hence the never-ending stream-of-consciousness lip service to their “acceptance”, “tolerance”, and “diversity”)  You don’t have to take my word it.  All you have to do is approach someone espousing this belief about themselves on social media, and express an opinion that challenges theirs, and they will demonstrate the truth under this lie for you.

But the most telling moment comes, when they are approached with a deeper appeal from one of their own.  As I thought about Williamson’s performance this week, I remembered this moment from not-so-long ago:

“Barack knows that at some level there’s a hole in our souls,” she said. This was a variation on her normal line that “Barack Obama is the only person in this race who understands that, that before we can work on the problems we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.”

This statement, and Williamson’s both represent a greater danger than the more cynical practitioners of the Faith of Politics, because they take a fundamental truth, which many recognize, even if not fully consciously, and then wrap it in garbage.

There is a spiritual inanition in this country.  The daily headlines provide the evidence of this.  We don’t have people performing mass shootings because guns are easier now to obtain than in earlier decades, or because they are more dangerous than they used to be.  We have these shootings because we deify celebrities, and because sensationalism makes those who perform these monstrous acts famous.  We don’t have people opening ice cream, licking it, then putting it back on the shelf, or peeing on produce in grocery stores because society is under some brand new and unique stress.  These things happen because we decided than no one has to govern themselves.  We’ve been programmed to go along with the dubious notion that government can fix what is wrong with people, and it is why that is usually the loudest prescription when these things happen.  It would be an ironically curious phenomenon if it wasn’t so terrifying.  “We need more gun laws!!!!”  “Why?  The shooter didn’t bother to follow the twenty or so that made what they did illegal in the first place!”  “But another law will fix that!!!”

When you can recognize that many, if not all of society’s problems are problems with people, but you can’t understand that government can’t fix people, you have a recipe for misery and death.  Government was never meant to address or deal with the spiritual needs of its people.  It isn’t equipped to do so, and can never solve the root issues, because it always looks to itself as the solution.  This is why when those who would lead can correctly say out loud what the problem is, and then tell you that government (led by them, of course) is the solution, you should run.

Quickly.

 

I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About…

…Hubris.

Seriously. Whether it is the hubris that says “I can be a woman, even though I have the chromosomes and plumbing of a male (and HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY ASSERTION!!!111!!!eleventy!!!)” or the hubris that says “I’m nobody to millions of people, but I am precisely what this country needs as a President.” or even better, the hubris that says “I am a rust belt mayor who should be President, and I’ll get attention by punching way above my weight class!”

Sadly, hubris has become ubiquitous.

I cannot say if this is a by-product of victimhood becoming the hot status, used as both a sword and a shield, or if it is the result of prosperity that not only permits, but fosters a casual navel gazing that goes largely unmolested. I do know that it is not healthy, and it has caused some people to grow very comfortable in their unpersoning of others who do not share their opinions. The irony of the self-proclaimed most tolerant among us assaulting those with different opinions, and when not resorting to violence, pretending that the expression of those different opinions is the same as violence is not lost on me.

The good (and bad) news is that reality doesn’t care, and objective facts remain just that…objective, and facts. We live in a time when people are so in love with their own “personal truths” that they will go out of their way to dismiss ACTUAL truth. That only works until it doesn’t. I hope that we can survive that day.