Comments: The Moral Face of Our Country

Reading that document you quoted makes the Politburo sound genuinely mournful, like they know that nothing is working despite their best efforts. Maybe it's the translation, but the whole thing has a resigned realism to it that I doubt US policymakers have.

Posted by Raffi at November 25, 2009 01:25 PM

(Readers who detest any mention of religion should skip ahead)

Jacques Ellul wisely notes in 'Subversion of Christianity' that when Jesus said to Pilate "the only power you have comes from above," he was referring not to God but to the true source of earthly power, Satan. Countless people these past 2,000 years have misinterpreted Jesus's words to mean "your power comes from God," using that false interpretation to argue that Christians shold respect all earthly power. How Kings and Popes have loved that falsehood! How eagerly they embraced it, coming up with notions of divine right and papal infallibility and all the rotten rest. Today we see that falsehood deeply entwined with notions of American exceptionalism, and the absurd beliefs of the "war christians."

Ellul elaborates: "The church does not see how this contradicts the life and person of Jesus. Undeniably subversion by the exercise of power is what takes place with the kings and emperors. It has sad and ridiculous consequences. The church is a political power but it is always at the service of the political power that is either in place or in course of being installed. It goes on to serve the Holy Roman Empire but also the kings of France who split off from it. It will bless all the monarchs who seize power in ways that are tragic, tempestouus, and often bloody and unjust. It legitimizes everything. This is logical once it associates itself with the existing power. It will be republican under a republic as it is monarchist under a monarchy. Irrefutable theological arguments are always found. A monarchical regime reflects the monarchical unit of God. A republic reflects the people that God elects for himself on earth. Democracy shows that God associates himself with the will of the peoples. ... The church could then become National Socialist (the German Christians) when Hitler came to power. It could become communist (with notorious figures like Bereczki and Hromadka) in communist countries. Each time it develops a theological argument to show that the power that has been set up is good.

"Once the church is ready to associate with instituted power it is obliged to associate with all and sundry forms of the state. The scandal is that each time the church seeks to justify both its adaptation and the existing power. It continues to legitimize the state and to be an instrument of its propaganda."


Posted by Oarwell at November 25, 2009 01:43 PM

That's a very provocative post, and a great quote by our he-would-have-liked-to-be-king, John Adams, but consider this, from the Washington Post of March 11, 1998:

"From 1990 to 1994, the life expectancy of Russian men declined to 57.7 years from 63.8 years, while Russian women's life spans fell to 71.2 years from 74.4 years, researcher Francis Notzon wrote in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association."

In five years, life expectancy in Russia dropped six years for men, three years for women. I haven't tried to find out how many million people had to die prematurely to move the aggregate numbers that much, but maybe not all of those commie policies that disappeared around 1990 were so immoral.

GW's National Security Archive is invaluable.

Posted by N E at November 25, 2009 02:05 PM

If this is Bush's third term what happens in '2012? How many are willing to give the Social Democrats a vote?

Posted by par4 at November 25, 2009 03:22 PM

Can I say something? Reading this blog always leaves me in stitches, and the Eduard Shevardnadze quote in particular. Thanks for delivering again and again....

Posted by Robert nagle at November 25, 2009 03:46 PM

"If this is Bush's third term what happens in '2012? How many are willing to give the Social Democrats a vote?"

Bush's third term, or Reagan's eighth term. Etc., etc. 95% of national elections in the US are won by the campaign that spends the most, and even coming in second isn't cheap. What salvation lies in the ballot box? None that I see.

And why would The Party relinquish power even if a majority were somehow able to vote outside of the well advertised binary paradigm? Trillions of dollars at stake, that kind of power doesn't get handed over because the peasants choose an ugly duckling in the popularity contest.

Besides, the government is designed to "protect the opulent minority from the majority." Names don't matter.

Posted by Marcus at November 25, 2009 04:44 PM

"Men are morally responsible for all constitutions, institutions, laws, processes and usages which they have pledged themselves to support, or in which they acquiesce without positive remonstrance and disfellowship. Thus if a political compact, a civil or military league, covenant or constitution, requires, authorizes, provides for or tolerates war, bloodshed, capital punishment, slavery, or any kind of absolute injury, the man who swears, affirms, or otherwise pledges himself to support it, is just as responsible for every act of injury done in conformity thereto, as if he himself personally committed it. The army is his army, the gallows his gallows, the whipping post his whipping post, the prison his prison, the slaveholding his slaveholding. When the constitutional majority declares war, it is his war. All the slaughter, rapine, ravages, robbery are his. There is no escape from this terrible moral responsibility but by a conscientious withdrawal from such government, and an uncompromising protest against its fundamental creed and law."
Adin Ballou, Christian Non-Resistance (1846)

Posted by Marcus at November 25, 2009 04:47 PM

Reagan's eighth term . . .

This directly has to do with what i've said has gone wrong, but as much as i love to repeat myself, i'm going to not just this once.

Posted by N E at November 25, 2009 05:25 PM

I don't actually "detest any mention of religion," Oarwell, but what you've posted here is a good example of the sort of mention of religion that I find tiresome.

According to Christian mythology, Jesus was actually handed over to Pilate by the will of his father in heaven, who had planned before the creation of the world that his son would be crucified to atone for the sins of the world, then rise on the third day. In his exchange with Pilate (from the gospel of John -- in the other gospels Jesus says almost nothing at his various trials), Jesus plays the role of an extremely well-connected, snotty rich kid toying with a petty bureaucrat into whose hands he has fallen briefly, but who doesn't know who he's dealing with. Things may look bad at the moment (except that Jesus is on a suicide mission, and escaping the cross would mean failure, so he can't really let this Roman buffoon know what is going on), but in a few days he'll be sitting at the right hand of the Father again, and his enemies are bound for the dungeon and extreme interrogation. Matthew's gospel ends with the risen and exalted Lord telling his disciples, "All power on heaven and earth has been given to me." So watch your asses: power corrupts, and all power on heaven and earth corrupts absolutely.

Posted by Duncan at November 25, 2009 06:04 PM

Duncan:

All I can say is 'peace.' And I probably wouldn't be saying that if it weren't for my reading of Ellul and a few others (Gary Wills, to name another). Or if it weren't the end of the day and the caffeine has worn off. It's all neurochemistry, right? Obama, Bush, Tom Tomorrow, Ted Rall, all just differing levels of dopamine and serotonin, yes? Mix them up a bit and Rall would be ordering in the troops and Bush would be drawing cartoons.

But seriously, sorry you found it tiresome. Can't say you weren't warned. Curious (ie. please enter my freshman dorm room and have a seat) do you think there is such a thing as absolute evil, evil apart from human monstrosity? I'm guessing no.

Posted by Oarwell at November 25, 2009 06:20 PM

Coffee! I made myself a nice fresh cup about an hour ago... so I could think straightish again for a while... but forgot it was there until you just reminded me. Now I gotta hope I don't space so badly that it boils over in the warming pan....

The world is doing this to me.

Posted by 99 at November 25, 2009 06:57 PM

"If this is Bush's third term what happens in '2012? How many are willing to give the Social Democrats a vote?"

Bush's third term, or Reagan's eighth term. Etc., etc.


I think it was Chris Floyd who had a post not that long ago that this is the 16th term of the National Security State which is correct...the similarities between the "two factions of the business party" are far greater than the differences which aren't all that different.-Tony

Posted by tony at November 25, 2009 07:11 PM

tony

I agree that the bulk of the Democratic party is just as pro business as the more moderate part of the GOP, but there are important differences between progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.

The Democratic party at times has been and again can be taken left IF The National Security State isn't allowed to tamper with the process through the manipulation of events and elections, both of which have happened regularly in the past and in my opinion are also fixtures of our recent politics. If you create a new progressive party but don't fix that problem to effectively prevent such illegal conduct, the same thing will happen to the new party.

Which is to say, if the National Security State is put on a leash, real change will be possible with or without a new party ("a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. . .").

But if the National Security State isn't put on a leash, real change will not be possible. The problem isn't that Democrats and Republicans are the same; it is that the game is rigged, which makes the process a sham.

Posted by N E at November 25, 2009 08:50 PM

oarwell

that was an admirable response to duncan

Posted by N E at November 25, 2009 08:54 PM

Duncan writes

According to Christian mythology, Jesus was actually handed over to Pilate by the will of his father in heaven, who had planned before the creation of the world that his son would be crucified to atone for the sins of the world, then rise on the third day.

I believe it was in Huston Smith's Beyond the Post-Modern Mind [great title, eh?] that I read his characterization of the Zen attitude toward vicarious atonement:

No one else can go to the bathroom for you.

I'm also reminded of Giblets' review of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which I've enjoyed several times - the review, that is; I've never seen the movie.

http://fafblog.blogspot.com/2004_02_01_archive.html


Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at November 25, 2009 10:35 PM

from one blog to another...

“…And some of the really the core rhetoric of The Family is this idea that most of us misread the New Testament, that Christ’s message – the bottom line of Christ’s message wasn’t really about love or mercy or justice or forgiveness. It was about power. So Doug Coe, the leader of the group, tries to illustrate this, for instance, by saying, sort of posing a puzzle: name three men in the 20th century who best understood that message of The New Testament. And most people are going to say someone like Martin Luther King, or Bonhoeffer; or maybe the more conservative, they can say, Billy Graham. And Coe likes to give an answer – Hitler, Stalin and Mao, which just makes your jaw drop. And he will say – he’s quick to say these are evil men, but they understood power. And that message recurs again, and again, and again in The Family.”

http://talkislam.info/2009/11/24/the-family-christian-fundamentalist-power/#more-12652

Posted by godoggo at November 25, 2009 11:06 PM

That there's from a Terry Gross interview, maybe I should've clarified.

Posted by godoggo at November 25, 2009 11:17 PM
But if the National Security State isn't put on a leash, real change will not be possible.

They assassinate, discredit thoroughly or unseat immediately anyone who even begins to seem as though they might succeed with that leash. They make it plenty worth one's while to just let that dog run free, with FEEBLE excuses [like not wanting to look backward] that the masses DO accept with enough repetition... and making the whole process of even the teensiest steps toward containment of that dog's range such a Shakespearean mess that even the most vociferous opposition is just too tired to buck it anymore.

They have perfected this.

Our government is broken. All three branches, plus the media.

The Constitution has been shredded and flushed and the pulp is rotting in a radioactive slough somewhere in Utah.

Period.

No wiggle room.

I had this great fantasy going for a while that Obama had a crack team quietly going through every inch of the administrative body to yank the moles and jackals to suddenly burst out of his dickless and complete abdication... but... well... I have a deathless imagination.

Posted by 99 at November 25, 2009 11:29 PM

mistah charley

that review made me almost fall off my chair with tears in my eyes in convulsive spasms, like i was being tickled with a million feathers, sort of an imaginary tickle torture, but in a good way, so thank you

Posted by N E at November 25, 2009 11:43 PM

While we're talking about Jesus, I'd like to incorporate by reference Bernard Chazelle's post from December 2007, and the comments.

http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/001952.html

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at November 26, 2009 09:08 AM

Go, and sin no more -
Repentance as part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation


They were talking about torture at an English blog in April of this year, and I wrote then:

My countryman Kurt Vonnegut [who SHOULD have received the Nobel Prize in Literature] had personal experience of weapons of mass destruction - as a prisoner of war during World War II, he survived the mass murder of the inhabitants of Cologne (Koln) by terrorist bombs - bombs dropped from airplanes, as terrorists backed by prosperous states customarily do, as compared with ground-delivered bombs, the terrorist weapons of the less prosperous.

At the end of his life, Vonnegut despaired that the U.S. would ever become the humane and reasonable nation that people of his generation imagined they were fighting for - too much power, too much corruption, too much addiction to oil and money and destruction.

If the Christians are right, it might be possible to achieve rehumanization - but it would require repentance - and this would require a recognition of having done wrong, and a decision to reform - "go, then, and sin no more."

There is no trace of any such inclination in the propaganda emanating from those now in charge. We need to change our leaders - either provide transformative experiences to the people now in power, or put different people in power.

Are the English-speaking "little people" big enough to do this? I wonder. I hope so, but I fear they themselves are too ignorant, too lazy, and too corrupt.

In other words, we may already have the government we deserve.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at November 26, 2009 09:26 AM

"I think it was Chris Floyd who had a post not that long ago that this is the 16th term of the National Security State which is correct...the similarities between the "two factions of the business party" are far greater than the differences which aren't all that different.-Tony"

I think it goes back to the beginning. Reading Twain on the Spanish American war, or Thoreau on the Mexican American war, the history of slavery, the massacre of "savages," (which even Twain supported), the Alien and Sedition Acts, the government designed to "protect the opulent minority from the majority."....

If it's possible to have a decent President, is it any more likely than having a decent King? King Darius II of Persia freed the slave in 500BC. Where is our Progress? Have voters shown any ability to select leaders any less corrupt than the other methods? If presidents are less destructive, isn't that only because power in a republic is more distributed, and because of the limitations of a constitution. And once power is centralized, and the constitution is ignored...

Posted by Marcus at November 26, 2009 10:22 AM

Sounds like you found that coffee, Neuf! Your comment is one I think everyone here agrees with, until someone doesn't. Like an echo chamber, sometimes the overlapping waves form harmonies, peaks of convergence, sometimes they cancel, only to move on and bounce around and reform: endless nodes and modes and even sometimes odd little toads which, yes, rule briefly in the short forest. Before I'd scrolled down to see the author of your comment above, I wondered if I had awoken in the middle of the night and written it without remembering, maybe in one of those fugue states, like Utah.

But I must ask -- Where DO you find those photos? (I'd ask on your blog but that would be such a different dynamic, hmm? Asking here seems somehow more transgressive, like passing notes in a classroom behind teacher's forbidding back.) Those stacked plates yesterday; such a lovely reflection.

Posted by Oarwell at November 26, 2009 10:30 AM

NE,

NE: I agree that the bulk of the Democratic party is just as pro business as the more moderate part of the GOP, but there are important differences between progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.

I agree but you have to remember that I don't waste my time with electoral politics...I don't think elections-as I have said over and over-lead to change so I am not all that interested in the differences you allude to...not that those differences aren't important but again the similarities between the two parties are far more greater than the differences and people voting for one or the other isn't going to change that all that much....The problems are structural and institutional, not individuals.


NE:The Democratic party at times has been and again can be taken left IF The National Security State isn't allowed to tamper with the process through the manipulation of events and elections,

I don't disagree with this also...but we do disagree, I think, on the nature of the democratic party. The are part and parcel of the same system that produces the republicans...they answer to and are supported by the same funding as the republicans. Wall ST. gave far more money to the dems this election that they did the republicans. They are made up of the same people-ie investment bankers, corporate lawyers, ceo's etc-the world view is basically the same...they both accept as a given the right of the US to do as it pleases in the world and so on.

You seem to think that noble presidents who want to do good-Obama, JFK, Roosevelt- are only thwarted by the machinations of the NSS and if we removed such they would be able to continue on their noble path...and there is certainly some truth to this but the way I look at it, and my main point, is that people don't get to be presidents or even have the chance to make a serious run unless they have already demonstrated long before hand that they accept the legitimacy of the dominate institutional structure of the political economy to begin with or they would not be in the position they are in. Its a "vetting" process. I will forward a article on this by Edward Herman which describes this in detail...the dictatorship of money makes choices and differences in the current political climate marginal at best.

So yes, it is not a monolith and there are disagreements and such between ruling class elites which happens all the time in all bureaucratic structures. It happened with the Bolsheviks in Russia as one example...but the point is that one is not part of the bureaucracy to begin with unless one demonstrates over time that they accept the legitimacy of the system to begin with. Given that, one can expect that any change no matter who is in charge is going to be minor and marginal at best unless forced upon the ruling class by outside direct action of the population which,again, where I spend my time.

NE:both of which have happened regularly in the past and in my opinion are also fixtures of our recent politics. If you create a new progressive party but don't fix that problem to effectively prevent such illegal conduct, the same thing will happen to the new party.

Again i don't disagree except about the new progressive party. The problems are structural and institutional and whether there is a new party or not is not going to change this all that much given how political parties have to function in our society in order to raise money to mount a serious election...

and then there are my anarchists sympathies, so i wont be working for the formation of a new ruling class political party any time soon!

I am going away to see family for the weekend and wont be able to respond until sometime Sunday or Monday if you-NE-or anyone else responds to what I have said.

Peace.-Tony

Posted by tony at November 26, 2009 10:52 AM

Marcus:I think it goes back to the beginning. Reading Twain on the Spanish American war, or Thoreau on the Mexican American war, the history of slavery, the massacre of "savages," (which even Twain supported), the Alien and Sedition Acts, the government designed to "protect the opulent minority from the majority."....

Marcus I agree with you here....the problems do reach back to the very beginnings of the USA...its inherent in the nature of the Empire. Arthur Silber, among others, makes this point over and over in his writings.

States have always been an instrument of class rule and domination..obviously some are worse than others but that is the history of the nation state...even those with the best of intentions and the values and such when put in a position of state control and rule become a new "bureaucratic aristocracy" that will eventually rule over the people they supposedly serve and protect. Again, its why I am an anarchist.-Tony

Posted by tony at November 26, 2009 11:09 AM


Here is the Edward Herman article i mentioned in my response to NE above. I pulled this from the footnotes of the Paul Street article I mentioned earlier this week on ATR.-Tony

Edward. S Herman, "How Market-Democracy Keeps the Public and ‘Populism' At Bay" (2007), read at www.coldtype.net/Assets.07/Essays/0907.Ed.market.pdf

Posted by tony at November 26, 2009 11:23 AM

N E breaks out the apologist gambit --

...but there are important differences between progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans.

Yes, please speak in hazy generalities N E, because these "important" differences really are crucial.

I mean, it REALLY matters whether you have a smooth-talking House Negro or a pretend-Texan spoiled fratboy as your spokesperson, even if your underlying plan is identical under either spokesweasel.

Posted by the anti-federalist at November 26, 2009 12:13 PM

@ Marcus & Tony --

I think you'll find the present situation arises out of the problems created between the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, and the later-adopted Constitution. The all-powerful executive is a product of the Constitution, not the Articles. The plutocratic Congress -- especially the Senate -- is another product of the Constitution, not the Articles. The all-powerful, all-consuming Defense department is a product of the Constitution, not the Articles. The behemoth Fed Govt is a product of the Constitution, not the Articles.

But if we asked N E, he'd tell us it's really about NOT being Republicans, and all blame would be lain at the feet of the GOP.

Posted by the anti-federalist at November 26, 2009 12:16 PM

Oarwell

I find those images all over the place... seem to have a knack for googling up phrases that yield them... and I very rarely take a whole image from anywhere, usually it's a detail, but even when not a detail, I virtually never just slap it up as I found it. I fool with the levels and focus and do things to the images to make them more like I want to see them, or more like the glancing commentary on the link I want to convey... trying to communicate with more than just words....

I feel some relief you identified with my comment so well. It starts to feel too much like the wrong kind of lonely out here.

Posted by 99 at November 26, 2009 09:20 PM

Tony

I didn't see nything with which I disagree in the Hermann article, but hs key sentence was in his conclusion, where he said that efforts at mass mobilization haven't even stopped the trend toward increasing corruption (to use my blunter term), let alone reversed it.

Err, yes, I have noticed that.

It's taken more than corruption to make our political system thsi crappy. Plenty of dirty tricks and crimes have been committed to get us here, including but not limited to the election theft that gave Bush/Cheney 8 years in office. Stopping such crimes in the future is at least as important as enacting legislation to get the money out of politics, and it will be harder because despite all the hot air we hear about the Founding Fathers from time to time, when it has suited us, we have completely abandoned the notion that there need to be any checks and balances to create accountability in connection with national security matters.

Posted by N E at November 27, 2009 03:49 AM

Oarwell --

Well, I suppose "Peace" is better than "Chill."

I have no idea what you mean by "absolute evil," so I can't answer your question. I'm not a Platonist, so I don't believe in evilness or goodness or redness or sickness as ideal entities apart from the material world. Nor do I get the point of postulating such things, and I've read / listened to plenty of people who do so. It seems to be a rhetorical flourish more than anything else: "Do you believe in absolute evil? If not ... [pregnant pause with funny facial expressions]." It never seems to have consequences or to lead to further discussion. Is it an overture to an attack on the dread pirate Relativism, which takes no prisoners? Seriously, I don't get it.

Most of the evil things that are done in the world seem to be done by moral absolutists, however. Since the enemy (whoever it is this week, be it the the Amalekhites, the Pharisees, the goats, the Albigensians, the merciless Indian salvages, the Jewish bankers, the Red menace, the Islamofascists, the Arab cockroaches, or the Naderites who cost Al Gore the election to which he was entitled by birthright) is so absolutely evil, so consciously and deliberately wicked, no punches can or need be pulled -- they must be exterminated in the name of absolute goodness.

Posted by Duncan at November 27, 2009 10:15 AM

Mistah Charley, I haven't read much Huston Smith, but my impression is that I should. I quite agree that no one can go to the bathroom for you, but vicarious atonement is at or near the core of Christianity. If Jesus thought it wasn't a good idea, we have no way of knowing, but I see no reason to suppose that he was a Zen Buddhist.

I also think that Obama can't go to the bathroom for us either. Nor did I ever expect him to. His fans and apologists evidently think that he can, and will, if we would just stop noodging him all the time. But y'know, I have to go real bad, so if he's going to go to the bathroom for me, he needs to do it real soon.

Posted by Duncan at November 27, 2009 10:24 AM

"Most of the evil things that are done in the world seem to be done by moral absolutists, however."

Neither Hitler nor the Nazis generally nor Stalin and his nationalists thugs were moral absolutists, and I don't have the energy to think about everyone in human history, but I would expect to find lots of different human wrapping paper for "evil things."

Posted by N E at November 27, 2009 10:39 AM

Tales of Wonder from Huston Smith, with a tiny example

Duncan: Huston Smith has, just this year, published his autobiography, Tales of Wonder: Adventures chasing the divine. I haven't seen it.

I don't have Beyond the Post-Modern Mind to hand right now, nor have I read it recently, but I recall the epigraph of it as consisting of the following passage (which I just used my Google to find) with an addendum by Smith himself:

Years ago, when the philosophy building was being erected at Harvard, the president of the University asked the Dean of the Philosophy Department what should be engraved on the façade. The Dean wanted to inscribe the humanistic phrase, "Man is the measure of all things." However, the president of the University had other ideas. Wrapping a tarp around the building as it was being erected, the president reverently decided to inscribe, "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" instead.

-- Lou Engle

Smith stated that when he visited Emerson Hall, ivy had grown so profusely that only three words remained visible of this quotation from the Eighth Psalm:

"that Thou art",

a phrase used again and again in a familiar translation from the Sanskrit scripture to assert that in some sense there is a commonality between the individual soul and the Oversoul.


Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at November 27, 2009 12:14 PM

The Moral Face of Our Religion

Duncan, you state vicarious atonement is at or near the core of Christianity. You are right, and I hope it is NEAR the core, rather than AT it.

I have been a church-going person the majority of my years, and these days I attend a church named after St. Martin of Tours, because missus charley, m.d. is a lifelong Catholic. As for me, I had the honor of receiving a perfect attendance lapel pin for the first grade of Sunday School at First Parish Church (Unitarian), in Framingham, MA, with a perfect-attendance wreath for second grade from the Protestant Sunday School at the U.S. Navy base in Sasebo, Japan.

I go to St. Martin's with my spouse and do as the Roman Catholics do, up to and including participating in the ritual cannabalism, even though I do it with a Unitarian attitude. As I have told missus charley, I know that the Pope doesn't want me to take communion (because I am not a baptized Catholic), but I don't think Jesus would mind.

Several years ago at St. Martin's they had to take down the idol of Jesus that was suspended over the congregation. The reason: It violated the regulations because it wasn't gory enough. It showed the risen Jesus, wearing clothes. That statue is still there, now over at the side of the sanctuary, but its central and elevated place is now taken by one illustrating the Passion of the Christ, nailed to the Cross, bleeding from his side, wearing only a loincloth and a crown of thorns, twisted in agony, etc. etc.

Duncan, you were a major participant in the Bernard Chazelle Dec. 2007 "Good Christian Soldiering" discussion at ATR, cited supra, so you may recognize that I'm repeating myself somewhat. Anyway, Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite theologians, and in one of his essays he made what I considered an excellent argument in favor of the heresy of adoptionism. As KV put it, if God decided to make Jesus His son AFTER the crucifixion, that leads to the obvious conclusion "Don't crucify people." Whereas, if Jesus was ALWAYS really special, then the conclusion is, "They picked the wrong guy to crucify THAT time," which implies "Be careful WHICH guy you crucify." This is one of the major problems, as I see it, with vicarious atonement. Thomas Jefferson, in writing to one of his Jewish acquaintances, said he was more interested in the religion taught BY Jesus than the religion taught ABOUT Jesus. I regard vicarious atonement to be part of the religion taught ABOUT Jesus.

Kurt Vonnegut, in his 1999 commencement address to Agnest Scott College in Georgia, quoted Jesus while blaming many of the world's problems on revenge:

What antidote can there be for an idea that popular and poisonous? Revenge provides revenge, which is sure to provide revenge, forming an endless chain of human misery.

Here's the antidote: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Amen.

Some of you may know that I am a Humanist, not a Christian. But I say of Jesus, as all Humanists do, ''If what he said was good and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what can it matter if he was God or not?''


As for me, when Father Guido Sarducci broke from Rome and founded the People's Catholic Church as Pope Maurice, I joined at once, because I recognized immediately the inspired nature of its central doctrine of the Popehood of All Believers, a radically egalitarian privileging of the individual conscience - tutti uomini sono Pietri, as Maurice put it, "all men are Peters". I chose Devananda as my Papal name, and began d/b/a the Sentient Beings Unitarian Universalist Association. All theological statements in this posting are guaranteed to be correct, or your money cheerfully refunded. Some conditions may apply.

Posted by mistah "Devananda" charley, Ph.D. at November 27, 2009 01:18 PM

Devananda Charlie

I have been looking for a new church as well as a new doctor, and since I have long considered both Kurt Vonnegut and Father Guido Sarducci prophets, I am wondering if any video services are offered by Pope Maurice at the People's Catholic Church. Otherwise, i fear perdition continues to await me, because I have fallen prey to heathenism, which is a variant of hedonism practiced by simpler and more sinful folk who don't know how to have a good time without booze.

I have never heard anything as inspirational as the central doctrine of the Popehood of All Believers, though I must also confess that I fear in time a doctrine of such obvious rigor may lose its flexibility and become just another dogmatic tool used for the greater fornication of the world. With its pointed wisdom, the doctrine reminds me, in ecclesiastic form, of my favorite political bumper sticker:

Dick Nixon before he dicks you.

I suspect that when I take my long overdue nap this afternoon, my dreams will be full of all sorts of vicarious atonement, ecclesiastical and not, but before I doze off, because your inspired theology has taken my thoughts hostage, first I'm going to watch Life of Brian again. Is there room for Brian among the prophets of the People's Catholic Church?

Posted by N E at November 27, 2009 03:11 PM

This Monarchy/Empire meme is a toughy ain't it? It's memetic lineage seems to contain a panoply of savvy and resourceful adaptions. From Roman Catholicism to the POTUS. Talk about an Invisible Hand! And whenever somebody tries to corner this fucker just a little bit... we (to paraphrase Bill Hicks) kill those people. Jesus, murdered. Gahndi, murdered. MLK, murdered... Reagan, wounded.

Posted by BenP at November 27, 2009 10:43 PM

Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, and . . . Reagan. I love it.

Posted by N E at November 28, 2009 01:24 PM

"Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, and . . . Reagan. I love it."

I guess the person mentioned in the previous post who was the last to die, Bill Hicks, would have vomited at that inclusion. I wasn't sure whether it was a joke.

Posted by Marcus at November 28, 2009 03:10 PM

"I wasn't sure whether it was a joke."

Actually it was the joke. I guess my paraphrasing skills ain't what they used to be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7INABbOnLI

Oh were he around today...

Posted by BenP at November 28, 2009 05:35 PM

The People's Catholic Church - the rest of the story

[Disambiguation: The following refers to the PCC founded by Pope Maurice on Saturday Night Live; it is NOT about the People's Catholic Church of China.]

Since you have asked about Pope Maurice's current PCC activities, N E, I believe I should share the following information with you. What I have stated so far in this thread about the PCC is correct but not complete. In a discussion about the PCC in the comments of Fafblog, back in 2005, I went on as follows:

And who can forget the duet that Pope Maurice sang with Pope Lois (a.k.a. Teri Garr) a few weeks later - "I got you, babe"? Lois looked really great in her white silk papal outfit

I never got my certificate suitable for framing with my papal name (Devananda) but Pope Maurice explained that start-up expenses had been heavy, and so it was necessary to sell all the postage on the stamped self-addressed envelopes that were sent in - "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us"

Later on Maurice backslid and went back to the Church of Rome - but there are still those of us who carry on with the People's Catholic Church

In a few upscale suburban neighborhoods, or more avant garde urban areas, the Sentient Beings Unitarian Universalist Association brand is a better fit with market demographics

May the Creative Forces of the Universe be with us all


with fraternal best wishes,
His Humanness Devananda

When Maurice came on SNL to announce that he had reconciled with the Vatican, and was resuming his identity as Father Sarducci, as well as getting his old job back as L'Osservatore Romano - although formally he would be reporting to his former assistant, it had always been more of a collaborative relationship anyway - three possibilities that would explain this betrayal came to mind

1)He was sincere - he had recognized that the schism was a mistake

2)He was coerced

3)It was not really him, but an imposter


Obviously, only credulous children would believe (1), but as the bishops say among themselves, the ordinary churchgoer is like the child in the family.

The coercion scenario has some initial plausibility, and those with a low opinion of Maurice's strength of character might suggest that staring into the abyss of homelessness, of freezing and starving to death, might have been enough to induce him to beg for his old job back and do what was necessary to get it. Other possible kinds of pressure include blackmail, threats to harm others dear to him, or brainwashing.

However, I do not think that Maurice could possibly have collapsed under any of these circumstances - he was made of sterner and more orthogonal kinds of stuff. Frame-by-frame analysis of the videotapes, with attention to microexpressions as discussed in the work of Paul Ekman, makes it clear that this was not even the same man, but rather a skilled imposter, who had received plastic surgery to duplicate Maurice's appearance.

This same man, the pseudo-Sarducci, has continued in his masquerade up to the present date.

One wonders what happened to the real Maurice - might he still be in captivity? Has he been murdered? Was he raptured up to Heaven, from which he will return in glory in a thousand years, or perhaps at a time that is still hidden from us, such that no one knows the day or the hour?

In any case, there are no further homilies from Pope Maurice available at this time. I am sorry to be the one bearing this news, but as the ancient Taoist phrase puts it -

Who knows if it is good or bad?

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at November 29, 2009 09:17 AM

mistah Devananda charlie

Thank you for dredging up the past to remind me of Teri Garr! I have always been a great admirer of hers, and if actresses could be prophets among the Norsk, the Dansk, and the Svensk, she would definitely be right there at the top of my list, just above Malcolm and just below Jimmy Buffett.

I cannot tell you how I know this, because my sources are under deep cover, but the real Maurice is on the Farm being debriefed in perpetuity, so the PCC will have to do without him except in the role of martyr unless you can convince people of your imposter theory, which exudes an aroma of conspiracy that reputable people will likely find noxious. You have my sympathy in your struggle.

More importantly, I cannot tell you whether the real Maurice's absence is good or bad, because I have been programmed to kill Lao Tzu whenever I meet him on the road. That is the beginning of all wisdom, syncretistically speaking, and wise we must be if we are ever to escape from this hall of mirrors.

May the many blessings of the real Pope Maurice find you wherever you may be in the physical realm, and thank you again for sharing.

Posted by N E at November 29, 2009 05:05 PM