Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Sunk Costs of Stinkin' Thinkin'

Certain characteristics are common to all families who are characterized by substance abuse and addiction.  The central character is, of course, the addict, whose addiction and behaviors regularly cause damage to himself and to his family unit.  The pain of the damage caused is the sort of stimulus that would cause reasonable people to try to get to the root cause of the damage and to effectively fix it.  However, a family marked by substance abuse is not reasonable, for as the addiction of the addict progresses, so do his efforts to "train" the members of his family to avoid squarely and honestly facing the root cause of the damage.  Instead of looking for an honest, effective remedy, the family is therefore trained simply to try to control the damage caused by the addict while ignoring the root causes.

A straight-up discussion of root causes is usually off-limits in such families.  These families are not marked by very much honest self-appraisal and self-reflection.  Such self-reflection might provoke an existential crisis, otherwise known as "decompensation," so it is usually avoided like the plague.  Instead, when the family experiences the pain of a fresh episode of damage, they are also trained to look for scapegoats on whom they may project their frustration and anger for the pain they are suffering.  When the family encounters any honest outsider who is willing to openly name the root cause of the family's pain, the family will often unleash a barrage of blaming, scapegoating, projection, and creation of drama in order to deflect attention from the actual "elephant in the room."  As the damage caused by the addiction increases over time, so energy spent in damage control and blame-shifting also increases over time.  This energy and effort represents a sunk cost, that is, it represents resources spent in an activity that yields no genuinely productive results, resources which, once spent, can never be recovered.  Sooner or later the cost of damage control increases to the point where it can no longer be sustained, where the cost of further damage control exceeds the necessary pain of repentance.  At that point, in many cases, both the family and the addict can be said to have "hit bottom."

America's addiction to guns and violence reminds me of the dynamics of a family controlled by substance abuse.  Our fascination with guns and violence springs from the original sins which led to the founding of the United States, sins which this nation has enshrined and glorified rather than acknowledging them as sins.  Moreover, throughout our history, this addiction has led to regular episodes of ever more frequent damage, and ever-increasing pain.  Yet the discussion of the root causes of that pain is off-limits for many members of American society, who will react by blame-shifting, scapegoating, projection and drama creation whenever the subject of root causes is mentioned.

So there was another mass shooting last week; so we also see the attempt to honestly discuss root causes drowned out in yet another flood of drama and blame-shifting by people who would rather die than give up the "freedom" of their addiction.  But there is no discussion of the sunk costs of that addiction.  Yet people who seek to behave as adults should be aware of those sunk costs.  And people who have adult responsibilities involving the safeguarding of life and property have to be aware of those costs.

I am thinking now of the vast number of people addicted to right-wing Kool-Aid in this country who even today deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change, who are unaware that some of the adults who care for them are required to take the effects of man-made climate change into account.  They watch Fox News and listen to their favorite talking heads in environments whose air conditioning was designed by members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and they don't realize that for the last few years, ASHRAE handbooks and design guides have begun to address design of HVAC systems for a changing climate.  Why has ASHRAE done this?  Because they are part of design teams who have to design built spaces to withstand the damage done to our climate by our addiction to materialism.  If their designs are inadequate, this results in legal liability.

In the same way, those who design the built environment have, for the last several years, been forced to begin to design built spaces which mitigate the effects of this nation's addiction to guns and violence.  This can be seen in certain building codes such as NFPA 72 (authored by the National Fire Protection Association), which, several years ago, added a section dealing with requirements for mass notification systems in service buildings used by the public.  There is also the increasing attention to architectural design responses to the growing "active shooter" threat (see this, this, and this).  If active shooter incidents continue to increase in this country, I am sure that we will begin to see changes to State building codes requiring explicit design measures for all buildings in which people congregate, whether public or privately owned.  Some of these codes will require expensive retrofits of existing buildings and structures.  There will also be the increased costs of insuring and indemnifying such spaces.  This will greatly increase the cost borne by your average Joe Sixpack as he undertakes a journey to any built public space in his Chevy truck with his Confederate flag flying from the bed and his NRA sticker on his bumper.  He will grumble at the increased cost of going to places (and especially of being allowed entry into those places), yet he won't be likely to make the connection between his enjoyment of "freedom" and the increased cost of that freedom.  Meanwhile citizens like him who live in some of the other "developed" countries won't have to pay such costs, because they aren't all armed to the teeth and most of them aren't unstable.

Perhaps the discussion of monetary costs might actually persuade the masters of our addicted society to take a good look at themselves, because the human costs of our addiction to guns and violence has not had any effect so far.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Unexpected End to Uninvited Guests?

Graduate school is starting again, and I am enrolled in coursework on top of working nearly full time.  Therefore, I can't really do a lot of the research and analysis which has typically gone into many of my blog posts.  I can only formulate opinions based on cursory glances at things of interest.

One thing that has caught my eye over the last four years is the Syrian "crisis", which was manufactured by the United States and its allies in order to secure and maintain American economic hegemony in the Middle East.  It had nothing to do with "human rights violations" or "democracy."  The results of the insurgency which the United States fomented and financed have been ISIS, a partially wrecked country, and a refugee crisis which has exploded into Europe.  The refugee crisis has evoked much hand-wringing in the West, along with the pointing of Western fingers at the Syrians as a nation and a people and accusing them of not being able to manage their own affairs.  This has also been accompanied by the usual round of horrified xenophobia at the thought of pure Europeans having to extend neighborly hospitality to people with dark skin and dark hair from the Middle East.  (Some of that hand-wringing and xenophobia have crossed the Atlantic to the United States.)

But now Russia is rapidly building a military presence in Syria, to the tune of thousands of troops and large amounts of tanks and warplanes.  I don't know what the Russians are planning, and they haven't volunteered to tell me.  (Only fools openly discuss their strategy.)  But what if Russia (along with China, Iran and Iraq) is about to solve the problem of "uninvited guests" in Europe by kicking uninvited "guests" out of Syria?  What if the result of such an action is the immediate cessation of the current refugee "crisis"?  (If outside interests are stopped from further tearing apart the Syrian homeland, why would Syrians choose any longer to be refugees?)  What if a further result is another huge step toward the complete loss of the legitimacy of the West, and particularly of the United States?  What if the United States begins to learn that you can't loot other people's countries and wreck other people's homelands without consequences showing up at your doorstep?

Thursday, September 24, 2015


I have owned only two houses in my life, and both houses sooner or later included cats – un-asked for, and uninvited, yet accepted as “family” in the end. My first involvement began one Saturday afternoon in 2005 in Southern California. I heard a knock on the front door, and opened it to find one of the neighborhood kids standing on the front porch. “Mr TH,” he said, “Can you please take a cat? If you don't, it's gonna die.”

“Er,...what am I supposed to do with a cat?” I asked.

“Feed it...take care of it...its mother is dead and it's just a kitten. If you don't take it, it's gonna die.”

 “Let me think about it,” I said. “I'll get back to you if you can't find anybody else to take it.” And with that the kid disappeared for a while.

As time passed, I began to believe that I had dodged a feline bullet. But after about an hour, there was a second knock on the door. “Oh, no!” I groaned, then opened the door again. There was the kid, of course. He was so sad-faced that I felt compelled to follow him to a dumpster about a block away from my house where we found the kitten in question. It did indeed look pathetic in its calico fur. “What are you gonna name it?” the kid asked. It was an interesting question. I had just seen the movie “The Sixth Sense” on DVD for the very first time, having missed its release in movie theaters by several years. The cat's face reminded me of the kid in the movie. “I think I'll name it Haley,” I answered.

That animal may have looked pathetic at the first, but with care and feeding, Haley turned into quite a ferocious and wild kitten. (The kind that would shred you without warning if you petted it too much.) As Haley was maturing into adult cat-hood, I found out that Haley was actually female. Her pregnancy gave her away – along with the arrival of two baby kittens. Her mean streak went away for a while as she nursed, then re-appeared as her kittens matured into adult cats. It was with only mild regret that I bid farewell to her when I moved from So. Cal.

In my new neighborhood a thousand miles away I lived comfortably pet-free for almost three years. Then one day, I got a phone call from a former neighbor of mine, who asked if he could come over to talk with me for a few minutes. “Sure,” I answered. After he arrived, as he was getting out of his car, I saw that he was holding something small, gray and furry in one hand. “What's that?” I asked. “A kitten,” he replied. “My cat had kittens and I'm giving them away. Want one? You like cats, don't you?”

“What am I supposed to do with a kitten?” I asked, surprised by this unforseen “gift,” as he handed me the kitten. It seemed rather ill at ease, yet it nestled in my hands without protest. I held it for a few minutes, as doubtful in mind as the cat probably was. After a long silence, I said, “Well, because it's you who gave it to me, I think I'll name it Кошка.” (My neighbor was Russian.) “But what if it's a male cat?” he asked. (The kitten was too young for either of us to reliably tell its gender.) “Doesn't Кошка work for both sexes?” I asked. Thus Кошка became a member of my household.


As that kitten grew, two things became apparent. First, he was incredibly rambunctious. I had been under the impression that kittens were supposed to be cute and cuddly; yet every time I tried to pet that cat, he would attack my hands. When I took him into the backyard, he would sneak up on me and attack my hands as I was weeding my vegetable patches. In his mind, he was a prizefighter and the whole world was a mixed martial arts ring. He attacked furniture, string, electrical cords, dust bunnies, curtains, screen doors and everything in between. The second thing that became apparent was that Кошка was in fact male. (Later I learned that in order to be grammatically correct, I should have named him Кот.)

Daily I tried to hold him in my lap and pet him; almost daily he turned our “bonding” sessions into a wrestling match. One day I turned in desperation to a colleague at work, a woman who volunteered in her spare time to put cats up for adoption. She had turned her office into an extension of her hobby, so anyone who visited her usually saw various cats being fed or petted or sleeping. All of her cats were cuddly. I told her about my cat and his extreme rambunctiousness.  (Нехорошо Кошка!)  “TH,” she said, “your cat is so rambunctious because he has no one to play with. He thinks you're a kitten. You need to get him a companion. It would really help with his socialization.”

So it was that I called my former neighbor after a few months and asked, “Say, you have another kitten? Preferably a male.” Half an hour later, he showed up with another gray striped fur ball. My neighbor said, “This one's name is Вася.” (Вася is short for Василий, by the way.) Once he let him go, the kitten promptly disappeared under the backyard deck and I did not see him again for nearly two days. Вася's timid temperament was nearly the polar opposite of that of Кошка, even though Васия was a strongly built, rather stocky kitten. Because I misheard the pronunciation of Вася's name, I corrupted it to Вашка, and that cat has been Вашка ever since.


Several months later, spring came, and Кошка disappeared for a few days, not even bothering to show up for meal times. I had not dealt with cats for a very long time, so this took me by surprise. I thought he might be lost or might have been hit by a car, not realizing that he was actually randy and out sowing wild oats, or, in his case, a crop of little котята. I was sufficiently worried about him that I made a bunch of bilingual posters and started to put them on telephone poles throughout the neighborhood. I ran out of staples while putting up posters and returned to my house to reload, and there – in the backyard – was Кошка, looking none the worse for his long absence. The little doofus! (Непослушны Кошка!)

 Can you find the misspelled words in the second half of the poster?

As time passed, Кошка mellowed out considerably (with the exception of one incident about two years ago in which he thrashed the next door neighbor's dog). In fact, he became far calmer than Haley had ever been. He is now sociable and even quite pleasant, at least toward me, as seen from the habit he developed this last summer of snuggling against my legs as I watered my sunflowers.  (Немножко Кошка!)  He has grown, changed and matured in such an amazing way that I believe it's time for him to seek a position of supreme responsibility in this world.

This is why I have decided to announce Кошка's decision to run for the Presidency of the United States. You may ask, “Why a cat for president?” The answer to that question involves comparison of the current batch of presidential candidates to animals of a rather different sort. To me, it seems more obvious than ever that not only in the United States, but throughout the industrialized West, the political process has degenerated into a choice between wolves and characters who pretend to be shepherds but are actually in league with the wolves. The role of the wolves is obvious, namely, to turn the rest of us into lamb chops.

The role of the ersatz shepherds is also obvious, as can be seen from the behavior of the Democratic Party in the United States, the Labor Party of the United Kingdom, and the Syriza Party of Greece. That role is to provide a distraction and a harmless outlet for the frustrations of sheep who are feeling the pain of being munched by wolf teeth. So it is that every so often (two to four years in the United States), we get a number of candidates who promise to dismantle the power of the wolves in charge of society and to fight for the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the marginalized. Once the ersatz shepherds are elected, they reliably fail every opportunity that arises to protect the sheep from the wolves. Cases in point include Barack Obama, unfortunately, who has allowed the continuation of the “War on Terror” started by a former Wolf-in-Chief, and whose administration has persecuted such whistleblowers as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. There is also former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of the British Labor Party, who allowed himself to get too cozy with wolves during the last decade, and because of whom Britain helped to destroy at least two countries without just cause from 2001 to 2008. There is (perhaps soon-to-be former) Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who allowed a miscarriage of justice concerning the murder of Michael Brown, and unarmed Black teenager, by the Ferguson Police Department. And there is Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece and head of the Greek Syriza Party, who capitulated to European Union demands to turn Greece into a nation of debt slaves. Basically, ersatz shepherds seek to win elections by promising to be “tough on wolves,” yet when they are elected, they almost always end up spreading their hands, shrugging their shoulders, and saying to the sheep, “Ya know, wolves gotta eat too.”

The political strategy of the wolves, on the other hand, is to try to convince us sheep that a liking for lamb chops is a good thing. So we have American mainstream media outlets which are all starting to sound alike, because they are owned by the same small handful of pathologically rich people. Their united message is that greed is good, unbridled competition is good, “freedom” is good (as long as freedom is defined as indulging any craving that crosses one's mind), war is good (because it kills those who “hate our freedoms!!!”), predation is good, and any restriction on one's freedom is BAD, especially when such restrictions are proposed as a means of protecting others from being hurt by one's exercise of “freedom.” In other words, “We wolves have it pretty good, and that's a good thing. And you can be just like us if you're willing to embrace your 'inner wolf'.”

One way this is seen is in the perpetual, universal efforts of the Republican Party (yes, every last one of them, including Ron Paul), to create “out-groups” who can serve as scapegoats for deluded sheep who are frustrated because they through their own fault are being continually fleeced. (“Cats, sheep, goats, wolves – you're not planning to add lions, tigers and bears, are you?” Rest assured, the answer is no.) So the brown-skinned (or dark-wooled, if you will) are routinely targeted, whether they be citizens, foreigners or immigrants. And anyone who benefits from “socialism!!!” as defined by the wolves also becomes a target. But those who are taken in by the politics of identity, supremacy and division often find themselves in surprising situations as a result. Consider the state of Wisconsin, which in 2010 elected a Republican majority to the state legislature and elected Scott Walker as Governor. Oh, the wonder, shock and surprise they experienced when Governor Walker and his legislative allies began to cannibalize the very constituencies who voted for him!

(“Бабушка..., почему у вас такие большие зубы?”

“Это чтобы съесть тебя, маленькая девочка!”

“Ои!...Ои! Ты волк! Я Боюсь!”

“Вы также являются волк, маленькая девочка!”)

So it goes with wolves, that there are actually cases in which the strongest wolves in a pack will kill and eat their brethren. If a Republican wins the presidency, things should become very interesting for mainstream American society, many of whose members will be found saying, “I thought they couldn't do (you fill in the blank) to us. After all, we're Americans!”

Given this sort of electoral menu, why not vote for a cat? I can vouch that Кошка will never lie to you. Indeed, he cannot lie, for he knows how to say only three things: “meow,” “purr” and “hiss.” Nor will he try to turn anyone into a lamb chop. A vote for Кошка may well be the sanest vote you could cast in 2016, as it will show that you regard the Western political process with all the seriousness it now deserves. Кошка за президент!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Give Me Some Delicious Reasons...

So, lately I've been in dialogue with a retired clergyman of a mainstream American church.  He and I have had, shall we say, a more than moderate difference of opinion concerning the revival of overt oppression of people of color in this country, and the appropriateness of the mainstream American evangelical response so far.  Those of you who read this blog know that I believe that the mainstream evangelical response has been rather lame, amounting to a non-response - which is why I can't really take mainstream American evangelicalism very seriously anymore, since I now view it as a tool of oppression.  He tends to think that the problem of oppression in this country is much less severe than the facts now indicate, and he tends to talk vaguely of a "race" problem which he assumes to be a bi-lateral grievance between two belligerents who are equally at fault.  The retired clergyman would rather I saw things his way, and our last face-to-face discussion was slightly hot in places.  But amazingly, at the end, he offered to let me write an installment of the weekly prayer email sent to the prayer team at his church.

So here is what I wrote for that week:  

"'Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are in the body.' - Hebrews 13:3

"I am reminded of this verse as I consider a recent study I conducted in order to prepare for a discussion of ongoing injustice being perpetrated in the United States. One of the elements of that study was the failure of the criminal justice system, which has been guilty of sending many innocent people to prison (and in several cases, to death row). Here are links to some of the sources I read:

"Minorities (especially African-American) make up a disproportionate number of those incarcerated or sentenced to death in this country, yet the available data seems to indicate that the majority of prisoners of color in the United States are innocent. It is a real challenge for the innocent to prove their innocence and to obtain release from prison, because the criminal justice system purposely makes it hard for convicted prisoners to prove their innocence. Indeed, in 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence.

"Therefore, please remember the prisoners, just as the Scripture has commanded us. Let us remember them in our prayers. Let us pray for their release from oppression and unjust imprisonment. Let us also pray about how we might physically, materially 'show compassion to those in prison' and to their families - Hebrews 10:34. And let us pray for the repentance of the United States."

As I said, it's amazing to me that I was able to send these exact words to the prayer team at that church.  Now I guess I should visit a Sunday service to see how those words were received.  And as for the hard words I have already written about mainstream American evangelicalism (and about present-day American society), I'm praying for some more delicious reasons to eat those words.  We'll see...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Beginnings of Damnation - An Expanded List

Here's an article on another blog which illustrate the point I made in my last post, namely, that the United States is beginning to reap the consequences of its materialist evil (as is Europe):
And here's a news article which expands on the climate consequences for the United States:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

One Nation Under John (Frum, That Is)

In a previous post I described American evangelicalism as a patriotic cargo cult. As such, it has become a key component of the dysfunctional and harmful response of a people who are stressed by the emergence of a world they can no longer control to their liking. Therefore, in order to understand the ways in which many elements of mainstream white American society are responding to the changes now descending upon that society, one must understand mainstream American evangelicalism. To help further that understanding, I think it is good to examine the “cargo cult” characteristics of modern American evangelicalism.

What then is a cargo cult? According to Wikipedia, it is “a Melanesian millenarian movement encompassing a diverse range of practices and occurring in the wake of contact with the commercial networks of colonizing societies. The name derives from the belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth (“cargo”).” (Emphasis mine.) The story from several sources is that cargo cults arise among indigenous populations when those populations come under stress due to the arrival of members of a colonizing nation which possesses superior technology. This arrival results in a loss of local control of the distribution of resources among the indigenous peoples, with a corresponding loss of status of those members of indigenous societies who controlled the flow of wealth in their societies. The response of the indigenous peoples, and especially of their leaders, is to enact rituals designed to invoke the aid of the supernatural as they understand it, in order to regain access to control of resources and to gain control of access to the goods – the “cargo” – which the colonizers had brought.

Examples of this sort of ritual sprang up in Vanuatu and other South Pacific islands during and after World War 2, when the locals observed the arrival of U.S. military forces replete with cargoes of canned foods, medicines, clothing, metal tools, radios, airplanes, large ships, other assorted military hardware, and the like. After the war ended, the servicemen left, taking their “cargo” with them, and the natives, who had grown used to benefiting from some of the crumbs of that “cargo”, began to enact various rituals designed to mimic the things which they believed the Americans had done to bring that cargo to the islands in the first place. Such rituals included (links to images) villagers marching in drills with American flags and wooden replicas of rifles while building dirt airstrips and wooden replicas of control towers and radios in order to attract the “cargo” back to their islands. Some went so far as to build life-sized wooden replicas of cargo airplanes.

Control of the flows of material resources had been the foundation of the identity and prestige of the “big men” who ruled indigenous South Pacific societies before their contact with First World colonialists. Therefore also, the regaining of control of flows of material resources and of access to advanced “cargo” was the center and foundation of the indigenous cargo cults. To put it baldly, the cargo cults and the society from which they sprang were thoroughly materialist. However, the cargo cult practitioners enacted their rituals in almost complete ignorance of the true nature of the cargo they sought, or of the means by which it was actually delivered, being acquainted only with the outward “rituals” (talking on a radio, filling out paperwork, etc.) by which the foreigners obtained their “cargo.”

Mainstream American evangelicalism shares a large number of characteristics with the Melanesian cargo cults. First, it is dominated and ruled by “big men” (and a few “big women”) for whom the ability to rule groups of people, and to control the flows of material resources among those groups of people, is a foundational part of their identity. Second, it depends on certain rituals which are performed in order to invoke continued access to material wealth – that is, “cargo.” Third, it is both ignorant and willfully blind – ignorant of the God Whom it claims to worship, and of the true nature of supernatural realities; and willfully blind to the true nature of the means by which it has obtained its cargo.

To understand this, we must first look at the creed of modern mainstream white American evangelicalism. As I stated in a previous post, the majority of White American evangelicals believe that the United States is a nation chosen and founded directly by God, who, according to them, has decreed that the United States of America is specially chosen to rule the entire earth and all of its peoples. Therefore, God has condoned whatever means and methods the people of the United States have used in order to assert, expand and maintain that rule. This is why the hymns of Francis Scott Key are such a favorite among many American evangelicals. This is why they not only give thanks for the founding of the nation every Thanksgiving, but they expect everyone else to be just as appreciative of the nation's founding – including the surviving members of the Native American peoples they exterminated and the descendants of African slaves who are now being oppressed, imprisoned, and in many cases killed without just cause by the dominant members of American society.

Because of their strong materialism, most of them believe strongly that material prosperity is one of the surest signs of God's blessing upon the nation. As I have already said, they therefore engage in various rituals in order to secure that continued “blessing.” For the majority of American evangelicals, the rituals consist of public verbal opposition to certain sexual sins (although what these people do behind closed doors often belies their public verbal opposition), public proclamation of patriotism, public proclamation of “faith” in Jesus Christ, voting for the "right" political agenda, and public proclamation of faith in capitalism, the “free market,” and American exceptionalism. Note that the public proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ usually does not come with any attempt, public or private, to actually do what He has commanded. Nevertheless, most White American evangelicals believe that if the majority of the nation follows this simple ritual, God will continue to bless America with an abundance of “cargo.” Some American evangelicals try to add to the ritual, such as the "Christian Reconstructionists" who are trying to impose the Old Testament law on the United States. Their reasoning is that because God promised to bless Israel with material abundance if they kept the Law perfectly, the way to secure an endless supply of “cargo” for the United States is for this nation to keep the Law perfectly – and to avoid intermarrying with “inferior races,” by the way. 

Perceptive individuals can see the problems with this approach. The first problem is the assumption that one can secure material blessings by keeping the Law perfectly. It is true that in the Old Testament, God promised material abundance to Israel if only they kept the whole Law. But Israel didn't keep the Law – indeed, they couldn't, because they were sinners, as are we all. And that points out the second problem, namely, the mistake people make when they associate wholeness of life solely with having lots of material possessions. The truth is that people who have an abundance of possessions, yet are not whole on the inside, always make a mess out of their abundance. This is why it is impossible for mortal, fallen human beings to make a Heaven on earth. Thus the definition of blessedness changes in the New Testament, from “Blessed are those with lots of cargo,” to “Blessed are those who learn to be Christ-like and love their neighbors, even though they themselves are poor and afflicted.” (Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:20-26; Acts 14:22) Our present earthly lives are thus transformed from an opportunity to acquire lots of cargo to an opportunity to allow God to make us whole on the inside – even in the midst of deeply contrary circumstances.

This is the spiritual, supernatural reality that mainstream American evangelicals refuse to understand. And they are willfully blind to the true nature of the means by which they have obtained and continue to obtain their cargo. The Good Book calls those means evil. Evil can be viewed as a rejection of wholeness and an embracing of inner spiritual disease. And both the Old and New Testaments teach that there are consequences for evil. But just as the Melanesian cargo cultists did not understand the true nature of the realities they were trying to invoke, so American evangelicals are, by and large, willfully ignorant of the reality of the consequences which their actions have begun to invoke.  Because these actions are the result of a choice to do evil, those who have chosen them have chosen to be evil. 

As I have previously written, the beginnings of damnation almost always start with the manifestation of the earthly, natural consequences of choosing to do evil. As the evil continues, those natural consequences propagate and expand throughout the entire lives of those who have chosen to be evil. Consider a crystal subjected to mechanical stress.

Misfit dislocations in a silicon crystal under stress.  Image courtesy of

In response to the stress, the crystal will exhibit strain, defined by the people who work for Noah Webster as “deformation of a material body under the action of applied forces.” That strain will usually manifest itself as microscopic and submicroscopic dislocations which propagate throughout the crystal as the stress placed on it increases. The propagation is usually nonlinear and often seemingly stochastic – that is, it cannot be traced out in advance. Yet from the beginning of strain to the point of ultimate fracture, the propagation of dislocations in the crystal can be traced to a single root cause – namely, the application of a mechanical stress.

So it is with the propagation of the earthly, natural consequences of evil. The propagation is usually nonlinear and often seemingly stochastic, yet it can be accurately traced to root causes by those who are willing to look at things honestly. (However, magical thinking blinds people so that they do not see the root causes.) Over the last year, we have begun to see a few examples of the propagation of those consequences in mainstream America, and in mainstream American evangelicalism.

That propagation is first intrapersonal. We are now seeing the culmination of a long American tradition of viewing freedom as the ability to do whatever one wants without regard to how one's actions affect others. One of the ways that “freedom” is being manifested is in an explosion of addictions of various kinds. White America has lost its ability to self-regulate, to delay gratification, to say no to unhealthy cravings. This nation is having to face the fact of its addictions to mind-altering substances such as prescription painkillers, prescription psychiatric drugs, alcohol, and homemade psychotropics such as crystal meth. Indeed, the protagonist in a recent very popular TV series is a “meth-maker.” In the religious realm, the addiction to, ahem, “chemicals”, has included Rush Limbaugh, a man who frequently and loudly proclaimed his belief in God. But it goes beyond addiction to drugs to include addiction to sex. Here we enter a “target-rich environment” when discussing famous evangelicals who have recently fallen from grace.   (Here's a link to information about a former pastor who dabbled in both drugs and sexual sin.)

And there is the ever-increasing addiction to violence. According to a recent study, there are over 300 million guns of various kinds in the hands of private citizens in the United States. (See this also.)  The vast majority of those guns have been bought and are owned by White citizens. (However, the vast majority of people convicted for gun crimes in this country are Black. How can that be? Methinks more than a few police departments, prosecutors and district attorneys in this country are guilty of scapegoating.)

Which brings us to the second realm of propagation, namely, the interpersonal. It is because mainstream American society has lost its ability to self-regulate that we are witnessing an explosion of violence – especially gun-related violence. The gun-related violence is especially prevalent in cases of domestic or intimate partner abuse. (See this also.)  But it is also a factor in the many suicides which take place in this country. And it is a factor in the increasingly violent adolescent real-life “games” which grown men are playing with each other in this country. For instance, most may not know this, but in May of this year, there was a massive shootout between two rival White biker gangs in Texas. I believe at least nine people died, and a number were injured, including a few cops. This is just one of the many shooting sprees which have taken place in this country over the last two or three decades. Yet one of the things most dear to mainstream American evangelicals is “the right to keep and bear arms.” (Look up “Christian militia” sometime and see where that takes you.) And we haven't even scratched the surface of the violence which this nation has inflicted on other nations, or the alienation which has resulted from this violence.

Violence is also being done to relationships, even where the violence is not physical. For the consequence of choosing to do evil is that the evil person becomes injurious and repulsive to those who know him. This is the reason for the absolutely horrible rate of transmission of evangelical values from one generation to the next among White evangelicals, many of whose children are now choosing to identify themselves as "spiritual, but not religious." But this is no surprise, because many American evangelicals have made themselves so nasty that increasingly, no one wants to be like them. In fact, in 19 states, white American evangelicals are now no longer a majority of the population.  Some of these states are among the most populous states in the Union.

Lastly, there is the third realm of propagation, namely, the nonhuman. By this I mean especially the world in which we live, including the atmosphere we breathe and the biosphere which sustains our earthly lives. American evangelicals (along with the rest of the world) are about to receive in full the consequences of the magical thinking in which they indulged in order to justify trying to get an ever-expanding, never-ending stream of “cargo” out of a finite planet. Case in point: regarding climate change, Americans, including evangelicals are about to suffer the consequences which they had been able until now to inflict solely on other nations. This year – so far, the hottest year globally on record – has seen heat waves in India and Pakistan which killed over 4,000 people. Agencies such as the NOAA are predicting that due to the storage of heat in the Earth's oceans from this year's excessive temperatures, next year is likely to be moderately to significantly hotter. That means that many people in the United States may be subjected to killing temperatures next summer. These phenomena, along with other phenomena predicted by the Limits to Growth studies of the 1970's, are not the supernatural, “black-swan” judgments of a “cargo-cult” god whom we cannot hope to understand, but the natural consequences this nation has brought on itslf – consequences allowed by a God who wants to use these consequences to teach us that, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When National Narcissism Meets Unforgiving Nature

This week I have three things to share.  First, I'd like to introduce you to Walk On, a blog written by Jesse Curtis.  Mr. Curtis is currently a PhD student at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His research focus is American history, and the roles which American exceptionalism and racism have played in that history.  He has particular insights into the role which American evangelicals have played in fostering and maintaining that exceptionalism and racism.

I am glad to have discovered his blog, because I believe that an accurate understanding of the present-day dysfunctional mainstream American mindset must of necessity include an accurate understanding of the ways in which white American evangelicalism and its leaders have contributed to the creation of that mindset.  I am a Christian - a Biblically orthodox Christian - and yet I hereby declare my belief that present-day white American evangelicalism is deeply dysfunctional, and that in many ways it amounts to no more than a patriotic cargo cult.  (One of these days, I will explain the ways in which the term "cargo cult" accurately describes American evangelicalism - unless someone wants to beat me to the punch.)

The nature of American evangelicalism and its impact on American society explains not only the dysfunctional ways in which the U.S. interacts with the non-white and the foreign-born.  It also explains why the U.S. is responding in such a dysfunctional way to the limits now being imposed on it by resource depletion and environmental degradation - the original subjects of my blog.  Along those lines, I present you with two reposts of articles describing the collision of national narcissism and unforgiving nature: "The Congress Created Dust Bowl," and "The Death of the Central Valley."  Enjoy.