Separation Acceleration

Colin Cowherd is an outspoken sports commentator and media personality who recently signed with Fox Sports 1 to host a number of popular radio and television shows. He has published two books: You Herd Me and RAW

During his Thursday April 20th sports-talk television show, The Herd, Colin Cowherd asked a question he couldn’t answer. The question bothered him, he said. It puzzled him to the point that he asked viewers to message him with their perspectives; he felt discomfort not knowing. Something wasn’t making sense.

He said that he had spent time thinking about why it is that no matter what anyone does to bring about parity in sports or in life, nothing seems to work. Despite rule changes and new regulations designed to do the opposite, good teams emerge that always seem to dominate their leagues season after season; great players leave the mediocre in the dust; even the gap between the rich and poor in society seems to be accelerating—despite safety-nets such as the Affordable Care Act, which have become more pervasive and accessible than ever before, at least in the United States.

Nothing works. The rich get richer faster than the poor; the talented become more talented; performance gaps become more pronounced; inequality increases. Nothing anyone does anywhere ever changes anything. Inequality persists and intensifies.

The Bible quotes Jesus to have said, The poor will always be with you. For some conservative Christians, that statement alone seems to make equality a hopeless aspiration; fairness will always be just out of reach. It’s pointless to try to organize government to address an unfixable problem.

It’s true that Jesus added, You can help the poor anytime you want, but most folks understand that it just isn’t going to happen. It never has in the past—not consistently.

People, many of them, simply don’t care. It seems like the more wealth a person has, the less they care about the poor and the ruined. Providing parity to teams, countries, and ordinary people who are challenged by adversity seems to be an impossible endeavor; a pipe-dream of weak-kneed liberals who lack common-sense.

But why? And is Colin right? Is it true? Are hearts as hard as Jesus implied; are people so cold, so ruthless, that no one has the will to make parity work; to make life a fairer process for everyone who lives it?

Is parity in sports and in life a fool’s goal?  Is the situation hopeless for the vast majority of people who find themselves living in squalor, in ill-health, and in hopeless despair?  Does anyone care enough to search for an answer; and if they find it, is anyone strong enough to set things right?

Well, I have an answer. I do. The problem is that I’m weak; I’m an anonymous blogger; I pontificate in a pile that is 7.4 billion humans high. Most don’t blog. Most don’t own IPhones or computers. It doesn’t matter. The pile is a teeming mass of screamers. Only a few voices at the very top of the pile are ever heard by the crush of misery that groans beneath their weight. I live somewhere very deep in that mass of misery. I broadcast from inside the pile.

No one in the pile cares what anyone thinks, or even what the facts are. The top of the pile is covered by a slime of celebrities whose value is that they mollify the mess beneath them; they entertain and distract; they bring a flicker of pleasure to a miserable land-fill of very uncomfortable humans who have no more chance of being heard or noticed than does a sea mollusk dying in the Mariana Trench on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

This layer of celebrity slime is green, because it lives closest to the sun. The dark mud of humanity that nourishes it lies beneath; the mud never sees the sun; many in the pile don’t believe the sun exists. During their lifetimes, they will never see it; they will never know anyone who lives green under a warm sun and gentle breeze. For them, the top of the pile is an unknowable, unreachable destiny; an incomprehensible fantasy.

The rewards for being clever are astronomical. There are no limits. The clever can hide behind walls and gates—beneath radio-frequency shielded domes of invisibility, hidden from the eyes of GPS and governmental surveillance; they live on the best land, in the best climates, among the most exclusive people; they dress well; they flash beautiful teeth, skin, and hair; they possess the most exquisite material possessions—luxury homes, cars, planes, boats, and art.

The last thing the green-slime people on the top of the pile want is to share their space with the organic mud that holds them up; that supports them; that pays them homage. It’s the very last thing they want.

Right now elites are reasserting their control over the entire earth. Billionaires are taking control of governments around the world and securing their advantages at a frenetic pace. Any idea of governance that even hints at equality, of parity, or fairness—any idea of sharing advantages—is ridiculed, suppressed, and ignored.

Old political ideas designed to bring fairness, like socialism, are laughed out of consideration. Simple solutions, like progressive tax policies and estate size limits, are never mentioned.

Only morons and losers would ever espouse something as unworkable as parity; it’s as unfair to the worthy-wealthy as equality, right?  Billionaires control media and education. They teach the pile, they mold and shape it, and the pile learns.

What do the mud people learn? The sun is out of reach; it’s not attainable; forget about it. Get on with life and forget, forget, forget. Hang your head, mud person; shuffle your feet, look down, not up. Ignore the obvious. Give up. Surrender to the weight of the pile above you.

Sleep. Doze. Ooze. Despair. In this life, abandon all hope, all who live in the pile. Go blind. No one above is going to reach down to help. Love is cold. Hope is dead. Forget what you think you know about what life should be. Give up on what you think is right. It’s not going to happen. Not in this life; not ever.

John D Rockefeller, 1839-1937. Portrait is a section from the John Singer Sargent painting of 1917.

Capitalism is just a modern word for slavery—surely everyone must know by now that it’s true. So is Oligarchy. So is Republic. So is any system anyone can name that codifies privilege and denigrates any form of compulsory sharing. Because—can we face unpleasant facts?—the wealthy don’t share well. Old man Rockefeller used to throw dimes to the kids who chased his Model T down the streets of New York City. That’s not sharing. It’s nothing more than throwing peanuts to monkeys at the zoo. 

Billionaires don’t share well. Not really. It’s why they are billionaires.

Those of us who live in the pile are slaves. Who can admit it?  Who can bear the shame of humiliation that crushes anyone who finally understands that the green slime is pushing them down. It ruins them; it sucks them dry; its roots grind like jackboots against their heads to keep the slime on top; to keep itself green, to keep itself in the light of the sun, which it worships like a god.

I don’t know much about professional sports, but I know about salary caps. The billionaire owners of teams have no qualms about limiting the amount that teams spend on their players. It has the effect of limiting what players can earn, while doing nothing to prevent team owners from squeezing as much money as their greed and clever machinations will allow.

No limits, no caps on owners. OK… agreed. On players?  Of course not!  Caps are for everyone; everyone who lives in the mud pile, anyway. Pro athletes might not believe it, but they find out soon enough, after a career-ending injury, retirement, or replacement by a more talented player. They too live in the pile.

The pile is a vertical column of filth which, if only it could be flattened like a pancake, would provide a huge surface area of exposure to a greening sun; a sun that will shine parity and hope and pleasure into the lives of the vast swarm of suffering humanity, which desperately deserves to experience good things.

It’s possible that people have one shot at life. We have to admit that it’s possible. This life could be all there is. This could be it. When it’s over, it’s over. The end comes quickly.

The wealthy won’t live among the poor. They won’t fix any injustice, unless the pile becomes restless; unless it shakes like an earthquake, nothing changes. The green slime believes it will live forever, that the sun will keep it alive, but in the end mud and slime share the same fate—certain death.

Then again, maybe people live more than once; maybe they live twice. It might improve the odds that life will be better the second time around if people reshape the pile. Forge the pile into a shape more favorable to the majority of folks who will live in it or perhaps on it, someday. Make it better all around for the people who will come later, who might be—can anyone imagine it?—ourselves. Does anyone know anything at all about their own future for sure?

I believe that limits to income, estate sizes, and inheritances are the only effective way to flatten the pile and expose more people to the pleasures of life, which our creeds assert are these: every individual has a God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Success by any reasonable measure is making $20 million per year; not a dollar more. Success is accumulating $500 million; not a dollar more. No one should ever be permitted to inherit more than $5 million during their lifetime.

Caps like these encourage both innovation and the sharing of advantages. They force the successful to invest their excessive wealth in the lives of their employees, their communities, and their governments—federal, state, and local. Why? Because they can’t keep the excess. Caps prevent individuals like our current president, for example, from seizing power, because his enormous and unbalanced financial advantages made his presidential run unstoppable.

One more way to bring parity and fairness to real people: make segregation a felony. America segregates itself by both race and income. I can’t think of a more vile way to live.

Outlaw gated communities. All neighborhoods, all housing, all apartments must be compelled to provide living spaces for people from all income groups; from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. The problems we have understanding one another and living peacefully have the best chance of being solved for the well-being of everyone, including the wealthy, when people of all backgrounds live together, interact with one another, and share their unique understanding and experiences of life.

One more thing, and it’s important. The minimum income should be no less than one-thousandth of the maximum income. It means that no person, working or not, makes less than $20K per year. Businesses will have to pay higher wages to encourage people to work; that’s a good thing. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Free health care can remove a lot of stress from a population. We can provide it, if we lower the salaries of doctors and health-care administrators. It’s counter-intuitive, but lower salaries will, over time, attract better doctors and more patient-centered administrators. People who want to be rich can work in other professions. Why not?

Have I answered Mr. Cowherd’s question? Maybe not. Not yet. The dynamics of groups is complicated. It’s much easier to evaluate talent in individuals and distribute it more or less evenly into groups or teams.

It’s impossible to know in advance which players will become force multipliers on any given team. Where does the personal chemistry lie that can be identified and measured; that can transform a pack of randomly selected players into world champions? If the owners knew, they could find it and use what they learn to create parity, where any given team has a 50/50 chance to defeat any other team on any given day. 

How many times have winning coaches traded away a seemingly less talented player, only to stand by helplessly as their team suffers a melt-down? It happens a lot—more than some people might think. Sometimes a great player on a losing team is benched due to injury. Mysteriously, the team starts winning games.

Too many unknowns and variables make the task of predicting team performance based on individual performance evaluations impossible. When people run in packs like wolves, success or failure in the hunt can depend on the interplay among alphas, betas, gammas, and only God knows what other variables. It’s not easy.

People are not equal. It’s true. Teams are even more unequal, no matter what anyone tries to do to strike that balance and get parity right.

But I want to make a larger point, which involves society and how people are punished and rewarded. Isn’t it obvious that less capable people are happier and more productive when they aren’t mistreated and humiliated? Do we mistreat our dogs and cats, because they can’t spell their names or perform basic addition and subtraction? I don’t think so. Do we deny them health care, good food, and a comfortable place to live? We do not. 

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) wrote the classic novel Atlas Shrugged, which portrays fictional inventors and industrialists as Christ figures.

Most billionaires won’t give the time of day to regular folks. They are predators, every one of them. They know it. They want to think well of themselves, but they are pigs, so they work hard, many of them, to convince themselves otherwise. Many find solace in the books of Ayn Rand, who preached when she was alive that selfishness is the highest virtue of humankind.

I hope that someday soon it will be a felony for an individual to possess a billion dollars—in the same way that possessing pain-killing narcotics can lead to the incarceration of Les Misérables.  

I pray that someday life will change. People will learn to love and share. Does anyone believe it is possible? 

Billy Lee

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JESUS, THE CHRIST

Micah 7: 3-6
Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire—they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion.
Quoted by Jesus in the book of Mathew 


For whatever reasons (a few are mentioned in the Bible) Jesus’s parents, their families and close friends, thought that his birth was going to be important. Like most devout Jewish couples two-thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph hoped their child would become the Anointed One—the Messiah promised by the prophet Isaiah—who would rule ancient Israel and the world with a righteous sword. Despite their hopes and plans, things went wrong from the start.

For one thing, their Roman occupiers decided to conduct a census, which disrupted everyone’s plans, because the Romans required that every Jew return to their ancestral towns to be counted. 

The family lived in Nazareth; now they would have to travel to Bethlehem; Mary was full-term pregnant. Worse, when they arrived, no place was available to birth the baby. They ended up bedding down in a stable for farm animals. It was a place unfit for human birth, by modern standards.

For whatever cause—gossip, religious fever, hysteria in the displaced population, hatred of Rome, whatever—more than a few people believed that this birth might have a political upside. Roman spies became aware, and Herod, the governor, decided to nip the hysteria in the bud. He ordered an infanticide; his agents assassinated every male child under the age of two.

Fortunately for Jesus, some wealthy people found the Joseph and Mary family before Herod; they gave them the resources they needed to flee Bethlehem; the family traveled to Egypt; they did not return to Nazareth, Israel, until Jesus was eight years old.

Egypt was the ancient birthplace of Judaism.  Moses (of the Exodus) and Joseph (of the coat of many colors) were historically prominent; the details of their lives were the tapestry on which much of the Torah was written. 

Joseph enabled free Jews to come to Egypt in ancient times, mainly to help his extended family avoid a famine emergency in Israel. They settled and eventually became slaves of the Pharaoh. Hundreds of years later, in 1311 BCE, Moses led the exodus of Jewish slaves out of Egypt. When Jesus moved there almost a millennia and a half later, Egypt had evolved to become a sanctuary Roman province for a sizable Jewish population. And it had become a safe harbor for both libraries and intellectuals.

No one knows for sure if Jesus lived in cosmopolitan Alexandria or some other city, or what exactly happened in Egypt, but after Jesus returned to Israel, he knew things. He wasn’t just skilled with his hands like his father, Joseph, who, according to tradition, made a living in carpentry; most scholars today believe he was a builder, certainly, but most likely a stone mason.

Jesus learned to read and write Hebrew and probably hieroglyphics (almost certainly), and perhaps more. Modern people might imagine that he was a child prodigy. The things he said and did proved not only to his family, but to the rabbinical class in Israel that he would likely become, some day, a force of nature.

When Jesus was twelve, his parents caught him studying secretly at the Temple in Jerusalem. It seems likely to me that Temple leaders already had their eyes on him; he had come to them from out of Egypt, after all. They knew very well the Bible prophesy, Out of Egypt I have called my son—a reference to the MessiahThe rabbis may have been working with Jesus for some time, perhaps even before his bar mitzvah—perhaps soon after his return from Egypt some years earlier. It’s possible.

Jesus of Nazareth had a special way about him that set him apart, even as he matured into adulthood. According to one gospel writer, people saw and liked it.  Luke wrote in his little book that …Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Enough said.

People hoped that Jesus might become the promised military leader who every Jew yearned would rise up to throw the Romans out of the Holy Land. At the end, Jesus would do much more than that, but not in the way people thought.

His life fulfilled the ancient Scriptures in every way possible. Bible scholars know that, now.  Seminaries offer courses on the many hundreds of passages from those ancient Scriptures that describe and predict every detail of Jesus’s life and mission.

But back then—in year zero—the problem was that no one in Israel really understood the prophetic texts upon which they were betting their future. It wasn’t clear to anyone that the Messiah was not going to be a military commander. The truth of life was much different and more satisfying than anyone then could imagine.   

Billy Lee 

Comment by the Editorial Board: As is Billy Lee’s custom, he sometimes collects sayings by famous people and makes essays out of them. He did it for William Shakespeare, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Blaise Pascal; he even did it for himself in two collections of his own tweets first published on Twitter.

In this essay Billy Lee has collected many (not all) of the sayings of Jesus as remembered by four of his followers who wrote the tracts that modern people call the four Gospels. In these tracts Jesus tells a lot of stories, which religious people call parables. They make up big portions of the Gospels.

Billy Lee decided not to include these stories—these parables—in his collection, because they not only take up a lot of space, their meanings can be difficult for the uninitiated to figure out. It takes effort to work through them.

For the purposes of this essay Billy Lee has chosen to focus on the easier to understand admonitions and warnings of Jesus—uncut, unfiltered, and uncensored; no hidden meanings; everything in the open; everything in plain site for any serious person to read and ponder in wonder, because it is these things that seem to border on the miraculous; these are the words that have compelled and comforted believers for centuries.

The words of Jesus are known to have broken down some of the cruelest humans who have ever lived; His words have dropped more than a few hardened haters to their knees, many of them in tears.

Through his words Jesus assures the poor and the ruined (the neglected refuse of hurting humans, which is almost all of humanity) that a reckoning is coming. They will be rescued by love—even as justice rolls down from the mountain-tops like a mighty river.

History and experience tell those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear that it’s true. Jesus is the way. He sets things right.

from Mathew’s Tract

It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Stop doing bad things, for the kingdom of heaven is nearby.

…follow me, and I will send you forth to fish for people.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

…until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

 It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

 All you need to say is simply yes or no; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your father in heaven.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.

You cannot serve both God and money.

So do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 

Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.

…learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard…

…when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

…the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.

For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.

…you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Come to me, all you who are weary and overly burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

If you had known what these words mean, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.

Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined…

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…

 …whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

…the deceitfulness of wealth chokes the word, making it unfruitful.

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 

the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away

every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. 

 whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan…

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?

 …forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

...it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

with God all things are possible.

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. 

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. 

…prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 

…many are invited, but few are chosen.

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

…you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.

…on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog…

…you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,  and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

…the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done…

…all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

 

from Mark’s Tract

whoever is not against us is for us…

No one is good—except God alone.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

  

from Luke’s Tract

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

…no prophet is accepted in his hometown…

I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent. 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…

…whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

…for whoever is not against you is for you.

Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

…everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

…you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them…

Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.

This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. 

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

I have come to bring fire on the earth… Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

…unless you change your evil ways, you too will all perish…

What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door…

…those who humble themselves will be exalted.

…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

…remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, I am sorry; I will change, you must forgive them.

The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, Here it is, or There it is, because the kingdom of God is within you. 

…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

What is impossible with man is possible with God.

…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…

The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

…pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. 

…today you will be with me in paradise.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

 

from John’s Tract

…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. 

…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…

…just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 

…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

…as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself…

You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study  the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me… 

…the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

…my father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.

…the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

…where I am, you cannot come.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

…you have no idea where I come from or where I am going…

I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.

you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  

whoever obeys my word will never see death.

…before Abraham was born, I am.

I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. 

I lay down my life—only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

I am God’s Son…

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.

…you will see the glory of God…

…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.  

The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.

I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 

Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.

I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

I am the way and the truth and the life.

I am in the Father and the Father is in me…

Because I live, you also will live. Someday you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 

…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

…apart from me you can do nothing.

Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no person than this: to lay down their life for their friends.  

You did not choose me, but I chose you…

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

They hated me without reason.

the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

I came from God. 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.  

…your word is truth.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

My kingdom is not of this world.

my kingdom is from another place.

…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth hears my voice.

Excerpts collected and edited by Billy Lee

Post Script

Isaiah 6: 8-10
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?

And I said: Here I am! Send me.

He said: Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

Acknowledged by Jesus in Matthew; He was the one who was sent.

Billy Lee

Posted in History, Literature, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afterlife

To readers who cling to religious beliefs and ancient scriptures to keep themselves sane and inoculated against despair, I caution—please avoid this essay, if anyone can; if faith is fragile and belief not deeply rooted, why not watch a YouTube video or play a computer game?

What sense is there in exploring ways of thinking (and being) that might push the personality to unravel; that might introduce dissonance into the deepest recesses of the mind; that might, for example, induce lunatics—like  suicidal lemmings—to throw themselves off cliffs of certainty into the swarming froth of oceans that want only to swallow them whole, to drown them in unfamiliar worlds of sea monsters and dark, incomprehensible dangers; to flood their lungs with the knowledge that every true thing they’ve ever learned is a lie?

Some of the smartest folks who have ever lived believe that we cannot die. No one dies; everyone lives—forever.

Some of these people would say that every person reading this essay right now is living in an afterlife; it’s an afterlife that began a very long time ago and will continue, in one form or another, forever.

OK. I warned you. Let’s get on with it.

First, some caveats. Paragraphs of caveats. The evidence seems overwhelming: all scripture in all religions was written long ago by savants who lacked—by today’s standards—education. Scripture writers knew almost nothing about almost everything, except for those experiences unique to their personal histories, which they sometimes wrote about. Old texts written by ignorant (but smart) men are the parchment-scrolls that religions always use as the foundational pillars of their creeds, doctrines, and world views.

It turns out that almost all religions promote the belief in an afterlife; the problem is that their ideas about afterlife make no sense; they don’t stand up under the scrutiny of a dispassionate examination by scholars using the methodology of science.

The Jesus of Christianity said He was God—imagine that. He was born to save the world, not judge it (as so many haters hoped he would), and to demonstrate to all the earth the sacred truth of the Bible, which says plainly that God is love.

The problem is, Jesus didn’t write anything down. A few of his male friends quoted what he said in short tracts they wrote, which were gathered together decades later into a collection that is now referred to as the Four Gospels of the New Testament.

We have to take their word. They were ordinary people; working people. They lacked credentials. Their little books, from a scholar’s perspective, are primitive and clumsily written. Their stylistic errors give their writing authenticity to a modern eye, but their understanding of theology seems confused, child-like, and kind of messy.

The value of the Gospels comes from the effort of the authors to quote from memory the amazing things Jesus said. Given the ignorance of the writers, their quotations have a miraculous lucidity, which adds weight to what they left to history.

The person who saved the New Testament for the scholar’s ear is the apostle Paul, a contemporary of Jesus whose letters make up the largest part of the volume of the New Testament; they delivered the credibility demanded by the cynical eyes of intellectuals and sceptics of all eras. Paul was a bona-fide biblical scholar—he trained under Gamaliel—and was arguably the greatest theologian who has ever lived. He met Christ only once—on the road to Damascus; it was a few years after the resurrection; Paul was, in fact, planning to arrest and kill Christians.

Paul’s encounter with Jesus left him blind. When his eyesight returned, he directed his training and skills to the spread and growth of the new religion (then called THE WAY). Under his leadership, Christianity became a spectacular success during his lifetime. It remains the world’s largest religion.

Since for me, Jesus is God, I don’t take any other religions seriously, though the non-Christian scriptures I’ve read are interesting—much of the writing is intelligent and enlightening. What is unique about Jesus is that he said he had a personal knowledge of the afterlife—it was real, at least for Him.

What is also true—his friends and family didn’t grasp fully what he was talking about, most of the time. His inner circle (the Bible calls them disciples) followed their shepherd around like a flock of sheep, by most accounts. His reasons for doing the things he did were incomprehensible to them—right through to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Even after His resurrection, they remained mystified. During meetings they expressed a joyful disbelief. After all, no one ever survived crucifixion. Once the process started, it was a one way journey into Hell.

Survival was something that just didn’t happen. Jesus’s friends didn’t understand. Modern folks can’t help but garble what they think they know about what His friends thought they heard and saw.

If those closest to Jesus couldn’t grasp His Truth, why should modern people expect to do any better? Isn’t it a bit unrealistic to expect a modern person to have more insight than Jesus’s closest confidantes—his family and friends—who lived with him for many years and knew Him best?

Anyway, this essay is about the afterlife; it’s about what some discerning people think about it, how it might work, how people may want to plan for it, and how to protect ourselves from the terrible consequences of not understanding it properly; of not taking it seriously.

This essay is going to shock some readers; especially Christians who are under the mistaken impression that they have everything figured out, because they once read and memorized John 3:16, for example, and they pray everyday.

I am probably going to take some readers into an unfamiliar landscape—one that Jesus could not have described to primitive people. I don’t want to alarm anybody. Some readers might experience fear; a few may wobble off-balance as they feel the ground shake beneath their feet.

My intent is to strengthen the resolve of believers to make whatever changes are necessary to secure the future of humankind. Jesus said that he was sent by God, His Father, to save the world, not judge it. He suffered on the cross, so that those who belong to Him won’t burn in Hell, which is our destiny apart from the love of a friend who had the desire and courage to rescue us.

Jesus said that God is love, and that all people are evil. Humans—everyone of us—are haters, whether we are able to admit it or not. Wherever it is that God lives, it is no place for ordinary people; it’s off-limits to haters. People can’t live where God lives, unless they are born again into a new life that remakes who they are at their core.

People, many of them, hate the very idea of God. They have no fear of the consequences of God’s love for the orphan and widow, the oppressed and downtrodden, the crippled and the malformed, the prisoner and the tortured, the blind and the deaf, the possessed and the mentally tormented; they have no fear of hell—though the reality of hell lies on every side, they don’t see it. It doesn’t exist. It’s not something they feel compelled to fix. In modern minds—most minds, probably—the idea of hell is an absurdity; it can’t exist. 

To be literally true, what Jesus is quoted by his friends to have said must make sense and be aligned with the reality that we observe when we look up into a night sky full of stars or gaze into a drop of pond scum teaming with microscopic life. It can’t be any other way. His words will always align with the facts we know to be true, which we sometimes discover by doing science; by living life; by suffering; by knowing people. If they don’t, then we’re missing something—I would argue that it’s always something important.

Jesus spoke truth to people who thought that stars were the light of Heaven shining through pin holes in a tarp that covered the night sky; to them, mental illness was demon possession; ailments were caused by sin. Jesus cured the anguished; healed the broken; he spoke gently, with compassion and loving sorrow in his heart; but it was frustrating, possibly exasperating; it wore him out most of the time.

In AD 30, truth sounded like lunacy to most people, because everyone was ignorant and worse; people were evil—every single one. No one knew what was real and what was pretend. Everyone was crazy, by modern standards. Rulers executed people for speaking truth, and today, some still do. Every thinking person knows it’s true.

OK. Enough caveats, already. I want now to move away from the religion of two-thousand years ago and move boldly toward the understanding of reality that the disciplines of the sciences provide. I want to explain what very smart people (some of whom do not think of themselves as religious) imagine is the afterlife, how it might work, why it’s important, and how culture and society might be better fashioned to give every person the best chance to live lives free of despair and suffering.

Although this part of the essay will abandon religion and embrace science, the intent is not to cause believers to stumble; it is to wake believers from a slumber that threatens to make them impotent before the challenges to faith that are devouring America, certainly, and many other parts of the modern world.

I want readers to think about how these ideas resonate with the words of Jesus—with His Truth—which is at odds, as often as not, with the religions of today, which by their works alone war with God’s love for human beings; war with the earth where all people must live; war with the plants and animals that God gave to folks for their comfort and good stewardship.

This essay offers a speculative view of science that aligns with the words of Jesus as quoted by the people who knew him best. It is very possibly dead wrong.

How could it not be? The smartest people not only don’t know what exactly is true, but truth itself, some humans have argued, might be unknowable. To his friends Jesus said, no, that’s not quite right—you will know the truth; and the truth will set you free. Set us free from what?  Well, maybe religion, for one thing—and, hopefully, the fear of death, for another.

Speculation about truth by a pontificator? Well, readers can believe it or not. If faith is fragile, my advice is to stop right here. Hasn’t everyone read enough? Does anyone really want to learn anything new?

Who would ever endeavor to move out of their comfort zone? Does anyone believe that fate is certain; that the future of humankind might depend on how people behave, how they organize themselves, how they treat the most miserable among them, how they lift up the lowest rung of people, who Christ loves?

Some of the smartest psychologists, philosophers, and scientists—Noble Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger, who discovered the quantum wave equation, was among the first—agree that it’s possible that consciousness might be a fundamental and foundational property of the universe. The smartest human ever, John von Neumann, wrote technical papers about it. Taking this view helped him to resolve many of the most aggravating paradoxes of quantum theory. Follow-on research by other brilliant scientists revealed that the problems of understanding consciousness seemed to become less daunting, as well.

I have written several essays about conscious-life and the sciences, which take readers on wild rides into the weeds of knowledge. These essays, some of them, are mind-blowing masterpieces. Click on the links at the end of this essay to take in more background and deeper understanding. Trust me. It will be fun.

This essay will gloss past the technical details of the science of life (because they can be found in related essays on this site). But I can begin by reminding readers that Schrödinger (and now others) believed that conscious-life was something that people plugged into, much like folks today plug their televisions into a cable box or connect their computers into a wireless modem for internet access.

People who think like Schrödinger are convinced that consciousness is imbibed by life forms; it’s something life-forms drink like living water; it isn’t located inside brains, although it is most likely processed there, possibly by dedicated but as yet not understood structures like the claustrumor maybe in tiny, sub-cellular structures called microtubules. No one knows.

When a computer breaks down and is dumped in the recycle bin, the internet doesn’t stop broadcasting. Cable news doesn’t stop when a television breaks down, either. People buy a new computer, a new television; they keep watching; they keep playing.

Consciousness doesn’t stop when a human body dies. It keeps broadcasting—from its source. When a baby is born, it is thought by some to be hooked into this foundational consciousness that the universe itself depends on to exist and continue; like a child connected to her mother by placenta and umbilical cord, life continues uninterrupted; conscious life continues; life goes on.

Another way to think about it: imagine that people are swimmers in an ocean of consciousness—the ocean doesn’t depend on them. Swimmers who submit to the waves and the undertow and the currents—which together are too overwhelming to be controlled by anyone—find themselves floating along; sometimes they are tossed by the waves; sometimes the current pulls them in a direction they don’t want to go; sometimes the undertow sucks them under. Those who don’t fight the ocean do its will—automatically.

Whether they are living or dying, joy-riding or hanging-on terrified, the drowning swimmer rides the ocean and does its bidding. Those who fight—who depend on their own strength and will—exhaust themselves against the surf and drown in a frantic fit of futility, washed up on a random sandbar like rotting seaweed, separated from the sea and baking into dust under a blazing sun.

What happens when we die? Jesus said that our bodies count for nothing. If I’m understanding Him and properly applying the views of Schrödinger (and others), then our bodies have no value except as temporary storage devices for a piece of consciousness that is not, it turns out, entangled at birth with the foundational consciousness of the universe. Getting entangled might be a physical process that can preserve our lives and tie our destiny to that part of reality that is eternal and foundational. The Apostle Paul called entanglement reconciliation in his second letter to the Corinthians.

People who aren’t accustomed to thinking this way, might find it unnatural and unusual. Take a few on-line courses in quantum mechanics to absolve these notions, anyone who is experiencing them. Read some of the related essays in the list at the end of this post.

When Jesus said to people more primitive than us that he was the way, the truth, and the life—that no one can come to God except through Him—maybe he might better have described a concept like entanglement to a modern audience. Who really knows? Even modern people don’t understand physics; not most of them anyway. Jesus did say this: Because I live, you also will live. Some day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

I know this: If consciousness is foundational to the physical reality of our universe; if—as Neumann argued in a technical paper—process operators he named I, II, & III are required to bring forth the universe we observe, then the consciousness that makes us feel alive must be entangled (or reconciled, as Paul put it) with one of these operators to enable anyone to survive and persist past the death of their body.  

Can anyone imagine a scenario where tiny bubbles of conscious-life that were never able to successfully entangle themselves to God might be regurgitated at death into new persons, as some eastern religions profess?  It would be a better fate than going to Hell, right? Maybe not.

In a world where most people live in deprivation and physical suffering, it is almost certain that a bubble of conscious-life that once occupied the body of a billionaire, for example, would by chance alone come to rest more often than not in a body debilitated by malnutrition, parasites, and disease.

If people thought that they were going to be born again physically into circumstances dictated by the statistics of a random distribution, they might not be so enamored by the privilege and prerogatives of power and wealth. Laissez-faire systems, capitalism and oligarchy, might be feared like the ancients feared Hell.

Maybe people—if they knew that they were going to be regurgitated into the world they expended their lives to build—would take more time to think seriously about what to do with orphans and widows, the oppressed and downtrodden, the crippled and the malformed, the prisoner and the tortured, the blind and the deaf, the possessed and the mentally tormented, because, after all, in that universe—in that place where there is no Christ—it’s who they will be someday, chances are, in the afterlife.

Billy Lee

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REASONS

This essay is Billy Lee’s rewrite and revision of a politicaldig.com blogpost written by Ron Delancer, which circulated widely on social media and Facebook.

Billy Lee used it with permission it turns out—the post ends by encouraging readers to copy, paste, and share it on their Facebook timelines—but he revised it extensively, mostly for formatting, but also to make it readable for his thin slice of the web-reading public who, it seems, suffer from, among other things, personal problems related to the understanding and processing of complex ideas.

In defence of Billy Lee (who pays our salaries), he claims that his version is a parody of the original; a satire, really—a controversial satire at that. As parody and satire, his essay is sufficiently differentiated and is not intended to infringe or undermine any copyright protections of the article it satirizes.  

The last ten paragraphs are original work by Billy Lee aloneWe sue people who copy, duplicate, publish, or possess hard-copy of Billy Lee’s original work, so don’t do it. Links that take readers to our site are fine. In fact, we encourage it.

Here is a link to the original article: Poor Suffering Trumpsters

The BillyLeePontificator Editorial Board


A Trump supporter told a Hillary/Obama supporter whose initials are S. M., We suffered for eight years. Now it’s your turn.

S.M. wrote a brilliant response asking how exactly his “friend” suffered under Obama. Our readers will find below Billy Lee’s fractured mess—his version—of S.M.’s reasonable and respectful inquiry. It is satire, people. Supporters of our nation’s newest president can click on the word satire to learn the definition. It’s fun to learn new words; especially those with more than one syllable.  The Editorial Board


Dear Trump supporter,

I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. You know, you always hurt me deeply when you are mean and insulting. Of course, it is your right under our Constitution, I suppose. I’ve never wanted to hurt anybody. I really haven’t. You seem to hold an “US verses THEM” mentality. Do you like to fight?

The election is over. Isn’t it time to put the political campaign behind and look for ways to work together as fellow Americans instead of lunatics?

There will never be a president who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and, on the other hand, I can point to some stuff that President Bush did that I actually agree with. Notice I said “some.”  Bush destabilized the Middle East and almost bankrupted our country. I didn’t much care for that part.

If you’re like me you owned a 401K retirement account in 2008. I lost about forty-grand bailing out Wall Street bankers. How did your 401K do? I lost my job when my company was forced to downsize; they couldn’t borrow to make payroll. How did your employer do? Did you keep working?

The United States was hemorrhaging close to a million jobs a month when Obama got elected. A person would have to be strung-out on meth not to remember. You do remember, don’t you? It was an economic free-fall for everyone. Billionaires did OK. That was the good part. For them, anyway. They not only survived, they prospered. 

So let us recall that almost ALL of America was suffering at the beginning of Obama’s presidency. You get that, right?

Of course you do. But I wanted to look back over the last eight years and ask you a few questions. The hayseeds in your pant cuffs and pig manure on your rubber boots tell me that you might not know much about economics, but you do know what pig-shit smells like.

Well, here’s some shit. People said Obama was a Muslim from Africa who lost his birth certificate. He was gonna impose Sharia Law, Take Away Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and worse—his wife was a terrorist. Some evangelicals insisted he was the anti-Christ.

Does your wife allow you to track pig poo-poo into your house? I didn’t think so. You have too much class to track yucky-stuff everywhere. So I was wondering: Why do you always say that you suffered so much under the Obama presidency?

I’m going to guess why and ask you some leading questions, you know, to sort of help you think up some answers. Maybe you’ll do me the kindness of answering a few of them, so that my readers can better understand why you choose to think and act like a moron. Hope you’re ready. Here they come:

Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits of freedoms long denied. Has this caused your suffering?

When Obama took office, the Dow was $6,626. When he left, it had tripled — to $19,875. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama gave us eighty-two straight months (nearly seven years) of private sector job growth – the longest streak in the history of the United States. Has this caused your suffering?

Think about the economy when Obama took power. The economy was in free-fall. President Obama created 11.3 million new jobs (far more than President Bush). Has this caused your suffering?

Obama dropped the unemployment rate from 10% to 4.7%. Has this caused your suffering?

Homelessness among US military veterans dropped by half. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama shut down our overseas black-site prisons, where people were tortured—in some cases to their deaths. Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama started the policy to pay travel expenses for the families of fallen soldiers. Grieving families, for free, can meet the returning planes that carry the remains of their loved ones. Has this caused your suffering?

We landed a rover on Mars and expanded our exploration of the cosmos. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Has this caused your suffering?

The percentage of folks with no health insurance has fallen below 10%; 90% now have it-–an increase of 20 million people. Has this caused your suffering?

People are now treated for pre-existing conditions. Poor people with heart disease or cancer can buy good insurance at discounted rates. Has this caused your suffering?

Insurance premiums increased 58% during the Bush administration. The growth of premiums was far lower during the Obama presidency. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama added billions of dollars to mental health care for our veterans. Has this caused your suffering?

Consumer confidence grew from 38% to 88% during Obama’s tenure. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Has this caused your suffering?

His bi-annual Nuclear Summit helped to convince sixteen countries to dispose of their loose nuclear material, so it could not be acquired by terrorists. Has this caused your suffering?

He saved the USA auto industry. American per-year car sales doubled during his presidency (to nearly 18 million vehicles). Has this caused your suffering?

The deficit as a percentage of the GDP (gross domestic product) fell from about 10% to 3%. Has this caused your suffering?

The total deficit dropped $800 billion. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama preserved the middle class tax cuts. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons. Has this caused your suffering?

He enacted credit card reforms so that your interest rates can’t be raised unless you are warned first. Has this caused your suffering?

He outlawed government contractors from discriminating against LGBT persons. Has this caused your suffering?

He doubled Pell Grants. Has this caused your suffering?

Abortion is down. Has this caused your suffering?

Violent crime is down. Has this caused your suffering?

He protected Net Neutrality. Has this caused your suffering?

Obamacare extended the life of the Medicare insurance trust fund (it will be solvent until 2030). Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Has this caused your suffering?

He banned torture. Has this caused your suffering?

He negotiated with Syria to destroy their chemical weapons. Has this caused your suffering?

Solar and wind power usage is at an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?

High school graduation rates rose to 83% – again, an all time high. Has this caused your suffering?

Corporate profits are up. Bankruptcies are down. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama started the process to normalize relations with Cuba. We share embassies now. Has this caused your suffering?

Reliance on foreign oil is at a 40 year low. Has this caused your suffering?

US exports are up 28%. Has this caused your suffering?

President Obama appointed the most diverse cabinet ever. Has this caused your suffering?

He dramatically reduced the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He avoided war with Iran and stopped their nuclear bomb program. Has this caused your suffering?

Obama decimated Al Qaeda and recovered a treasure trove of intelligence during the raid in Pakistan, which he directed and approved to apprehend its legendary leader. Did this cause your suffering?

Enough questions, already. Reasonable people should be able to agree that Obama pulled the USA out of a financial collapse and kept our country safe from attack by foreign terrorists.

Things are not perfect. A few dozen Americans went postal and shot up some places with weapons of war that no civilians should ever own. A lot of children got killed by crazy people.

It seems to me that our newly elected leaders are bonafide lunatics. I heard one psychiatrist say, no; it’s unfair to people who struggle with mental illness to equate their suffering with the behaviors of wicked people. Bad people don’t suffer. They are not debilitated by hurting others. They are energized.

It seems to me that people didn’t suffer during the Obama years; they hated, some of them; there’s a difference. Nasty people posturing as patriots hated on a black man who managed to become president of the most powerful slave-state in human history. He won a Nobel Prize for it; no one believed a country with a reputation for racial-cruelty would ever permit such a thing to happen. But it did.

I was twenty-years old before a black man could sit at a counter and order a soda at a drugstore. Because of Barry Obama, most twenty-year olds today don’t remember a time when a white man was president. They were twelve years old and not paying attention, many of them.

Our new president is white and rich. He has over 5,000 times as much money as Obama. It’s one reason why he doesn’t respect our former chief executive. Lack of respect is one reason his family won’t live in the White House.

It’s not the only reason.

If he and his family colluded with foreign crime bosses to take control of our beloved America, well, everyone is going to suffer except those who choose to become collaborators.

When the nightmare ends, maybe years from now, the collaborators will suffer too. We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave—remember it, people—despite the low opinion some of our leaders might have of us. We will find new leaders.

We will find a way to save our shining city on a hill.

Billy Lee

Posted in Culture, election 2016, Humor, Opinion, Politics, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on REASONS

RESURRECTION

So much to say; so little time. And dangerous. Imagine. When my essay is done, God will know for sure, should I get it wrong. What are the chances my essay will get it exactly right? Not good.

Jesus, before he died, said he had much more to share, but the ancient people he messaged couldn’t handle it. We know it’s true. Two thousand years ago people were more ignorant and intolerant than even today. The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would lead modern people into all truth, but it would be done gently, gracefully, and in God’s good time. 

Jesus said that he came to save the world, not judge it; the last thing he said before crucifixion took him was this: It is accomplished. 

Greek: τετέλεσται (te-TEL-es-ta)
Hebrew: זה נעשה (ze NA-a-sa)


What was accomplished?

I’m not a theologian; I’m a pontificator. It means I have no credentials. Readers will not find a single group of humans anywhere on earth who will vouch for me.

I know this: people are scared to die. Most feel like Otis Redding, who released his version of the soul classic A Change is Gonna Come during Christmas season 1964:

It’s been too hard living, oh my
And I’m afraid to die.
I don’t know what’s up there
Beyond the clouds.

Jesus sweat blood; he begged God to find another way. It wasn’t to be.

My dear wife, a geriatric nurse, gave care to hundreds of people who died as she comforted them. I’ve watched three people die—my mom and dad and my wife’s dad. Beverly Mae will disagree, but the word that describes death for me is horror.

Death has a finality to it that seems to rob life of all meaning. My dad was a heroic figure. His life as a Navy pilot was an adventure. People loved him. In death, it counted for nothing. Death robbed his life of context. That’s how I experienced it. Total loss. No redeeming virtues; no comfort.

My mother’s death was worse. Her mouth dropped open. When I leaned over to kiss her goodbye, I smelled death. It ruined memory. For a few moments I hated God.

Beverly Mae’s dad collapsed in his downstairs bathroom. We slept upstairs during a visit. He fell on the medical-alert pendant he wore around his neck. It pierced his chest; he bled out before we reached him. My poor wife spent hours cleaning up her father’s blood. Some of it seeped into the floor boards beyond her reach.

When I looked into the faces of the dead, one thing was sure. People, once they’re gone, don’t come back. Death is final.

Jesus died in a storm during an earthquake. The violence and damage done terrified people. 

One of the military commanders insisted that Jesus must be the “Son of God”, because the geologic violence that occurred during the execution proved it. To tamp down hysteria, Pontius Pilate, the governor, blocked access to the grave with a huge rock—which he ordered sealed—and he posted a guard to protect against gawkers and grave robbers. During an inspection a few days later, the tomb was found empty. Linen burial-strips lay in a pile.

Jesus eluded capture but was able to speak to hundreds of people, including members of his family. His brother, James, wrote a short, adulatory book about him, which was included in the canon of the New Testament many years later. In it he cautioned people to never doubt—something he did during his brother’s life. Until the resurrection, he didn’t know what to think about his famous sibling.

Pastors sometimes say that people who don’t believe in the resurrection are not really Christians. The Bible says that all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved, so what difference does it make? Jesus said it is accomplished before his resurrection took place—days before. It seems to be impossible for a modern person to believe that a dead person can be brought back to life by any process anyone can imagine.

What amazes me is that folks don’t believe the simple things Jesus said, which are counter-intuitive, perhaps, but easily demonstrated by anyone who lives life to the fullest. Rich people don’t enter heaven, for example, unless God arranges a miraculous intervention. One might think Christians would be shedding their money like dead skin. Yet some pastors preach that prosperity and wealth are an indicator of God’s favor for anyone who makes a confession of faith.  

A pastor’s wife once told me she had never visited anyone in prison. Jesus advised people to visit not only prisoners, but the sick and the shunned, the poor and disabled—even the lowest rung of people in society—to show God’s love by sharing their lives; by being with those who are beat down by times of trouble. Who does this?

I’ve met Christians who home-school their kids and live in gated, sometimes all-white neighborhoods, where they wall themselves off like nuns in a convent; they do mission trips, yes—highly organized and scheduled; usually once each year for a week to ten days. It doesn’t seem quite right, at least to me.

Christ said that men who look on women with lust are adulterers; the punishment for some forms of adultery during Old Testament times was death. It’s not unusual to hear Christian men complain that they are trapped in a web of pornography, which some feel helpless to resist. How can anyone obey Jesus and honor his suffering, they reason, while they themselves spend hours each day committing adultery on-line, or however they manage it?

I can go on. The list is endless. Christians want to be good, but they can’t. No one avoids guilt; no one sidesteps shame. People contort their minds to think what they want. The easy stuff they ignore, when it’s inconvenient. The difficult stuff—like grounding their faith in the resurrection of Christ Jesus—they take on easily, because it doesn’t involve suffering to tell other “believers” that they believe it too. Suffering is what everyone is trying to avoid.

Jesus bled-out on a cross; I won’t have to, they imagine. But Jesus said that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us. What did he mean by it?

The Bible says most of his followers deserted him after he said it. But Mathew—maybe the most prominent disciple; the New Testament begins with his book—quoted Jesus to say that followers would find in Him rest for their souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light, Jesus said.  

Folks whose heads are above water—who once suffocated in the quicksand of sin and were rescued—know exactly what Jesus meant. To live, they sometimes find themselves suffering to do what’s right. It’s inconvenient, but it leads to a better way of being. Poverty, not wealth, is a sign of the cross. It is a seal that binds us to Christ and his destiny.

Suffering along side of Christ, even in the midst of our own self-inflicted carnage, is a path that can lead to resurrection; to a life that lasts; to a life that has meaning. Suffering to help set the world right—to set ourselves right—can be a reminder of God’s promise to rescue us; to place us into a life that will last; a place that Jesus called Paradise

Folks who hold fast to the cross of Jesus; who drink His blood; who share His agony are never alone. Jesus said he came to save his own from the ruin that comes from dying evil. It’s a promise He doesn’t break. All other paths lead not only to suffering, but separation from God.

Loving people; aligning our aspirations with Christ’s destiny—which is to love others; to stand ready to die to ourselves, should it ever become necessary—are among the things Jesus might have meant when he said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to God except through me.

Billy Lee

There’s a time I would go to my brother, oh my.
I asked my brother, “Will you help me please?”, oh my oh my.
He turned me down and then I ask my dear mother, oh.
I said “Mother!”
I said “Mother! I’m down on my knees.”
            ————————
So tired, so tired of standing by myself
And standing up alone.
A change has gotta come.
 
(excerpts by Otis Redding)
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Nightmare

I lived as a teenager and young adult during the 1960s in an America where abortion was illegal in every state. Ten percent of women got abortions anyway. The technology of abortion is not complicated; many people did them for pregnant girls and women for small fees.
 
Birth control was something new. Many girls and young women did not yet understand how it all worked. They suffered shame and ignorance. Many got “in trouble” who never imagined it could happen to them—learning about their pregnancies, some of them, long after their boyfriends had moved on.
 

In junior high—it was 1961; I was thirteen—Thursday was Queers Day. Anyone who wore green was queer and could be harassed—no mercy. God help the wearer of green on Queers Day. I had no idea what being queer meant; I knew it was bad. Queer folks went to prison, some of them. They couldn’t get security clearances, not in the military, not in the Navy, dad told me.

 Blacks couldn’t vote until 1964. I was sixteen. Until the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 (I was twenty), businesses like hotels, drugstores, theaters, and realtors could choose not to sell their products to anyone they hated—usually Negroes
 
Yes, a few companies sold to black people, but not many. After King was murdered, 125 cities erupted into racial violence. Some say more. Congress, fearing the unraveling of America, passed the Fair Housing Act and other legislation to make racial discrimination by business owners illegal.
 
I never saw a black face on television until 1965. Black musicians and singers entertained on the radio and in night clubs in most large cities. On the radio it was not possible to know always if the singer was black. The link at the top of this paragraph is to an Otis Redding song released during Christmas of 1964. When Otis died in 1967, I did not know what he looked like. I’d never seen a picture of him—one of the most popular singers of all time.
 
By the time I graduated from college I did know what all the different brands of cigarettes looked like. TV forced me to watch thousands of cigarette commercials. Viewers back then couldn’t pause or mute programs. Remotes didn’t exist. Of course I smoked. Who can resist sophisticated advertising? I couldn’t.
 
On television news shows, I watched the USA fight a genocidal war in Vietnam. I signed up to serve—as an infantry officer, no less. I learned that war is bad; much worse than I imagined. I protested and the army stripped me of my pending commission. I got arrested at a demonstration and even spent a few hours in jail before some good lawyers set me free.
 
Some modern historians have argued that 1952 (I was four) was the year when the USA dropped anthrax munitions on Chinese troops stationed in northern Korea—an act of bio-terrorism. In 1976 (I was twenty-eight), a “rogue” CIA employee blew up a plane carrying the Cuban Olympic fencing team. The bombing was the world’s very first act of aviation terrorism—a form of terror our enemies would one day turn against us.
 
I lived in America under President Nixon, the closest thing to a Nazi we ever elected to the White House. I was twenty-six when Congress impeached him and he resigned. As a high-schooler I lived in Virginia, where white people went coon hunting to find and execute random black people. I lived a half mile from the headquarters of the American Nazi Party, which was led by a retired Navy Commander.
 
Can things get worse? Of course. Government leaders lie. Many are hypocrites. It’s often not possible to know what’s true. A lot of people who wear suits and ties are haters and power-trippers. It’s true.
 
We are a slave state. Slavery was a hundred years old in America when our nation established itself under a constitution in 1776; it’s a hundred-and-fifty years, if indentured servants (who were white and made up two-thirds of the population) are included.
 
Slavery is the fertile soil out of which the thorn bush of capitalism spread its vile branches of greed and exclusion. The institution of slavery makes getting rich easy for those who own slaves.
 
I love the roses of capitalism. But its spines can grow long enough to wound and even kill the unwary. Unlimited incomes and estate sizes turn capitalism into a predatory exercise; without limits people get hurt; democracy is devalued; economies stall; recession and depression follow.
 
The disadvantaged poor are as often as not sent to war by the rich and powerful to further maximize their enormous advantages. Threatening another war to take the oil of Iraq is an example—recently advocated by our new president. Since the beginning of time, every thinking person has known that greed—unchecked and unrestrained—destroys civilizations. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of every kind of evil. It’s true.
 
Almost everyone in the world today lives under authoritarian governments run by men, usually, who don’t give a care about freedom. It’s always been this way. Even in America with its Statue of Liberty, its Bill of Rights, its wide open spaces and fast cars, most people find themselves trapped in jobs they hate and working for rich folks who can ruin their lives with two words: You’re fired.
 
To put things into perspective: unless our new president decides to arrest and execute dissenters, or drops nuclear bombs, we will get through what seems to some like a living nightmare. It is not. Not really. Not yet.
 
We’ve been down this nasty road before. It leads to upheaval, yes, but if my generation survived and prevailed, then our kids and grandkids—some of whom I suspect think old people are stupid—will as well.
 
My advice is to be smart; dignity and love demand that each person resist evil as best they can. My experience is that the brave people who resist will lose every battle. We can’t close our eyes to the reality that the USA targeted and killed resisters in both Asia and the United States during the Vietnam debacle, to use just one example out of many.   
 
We war resisters lost every fight; every argument; every skirmish; every battle. People still ridicule the baby boomers who said no to war. I saw an ad on TV news that claimed that many boomers suffer from hepatitis C.  Imagine—the generation that said no to war is the newest leper colony—according to the pharma pigs who are always pushing imaginary cures. 
 
Like everything else billionaires tell us, it’s fantasy. I don’t know a single person from my generation who has hepatitis C. Yes, some boomers have hepatitis C; that much has to be true; it’s simple statistics; and, yes, some voters cheated during our recent presidential election. Anything is possible. Everything is possible.
 
Powerful people can paint the people they despise in any colors they want. Crooked Hillary. Lying Ted.
 
Slander is not new. The ninth of the Commandments of the Bible forbids slander. Powerful people increase their power by violating this commandment regularly. It’s the way they roll. It always will be.
 
It’s why Jesus said—except in the case of a miracle by Almighty God—the rich have as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel has to squeeze itself through the eye of a sewing needle.
 
Despite the harm that billionaires do, they can’t change the reality that Martin Luther King Jr. described eloquently and frequently during his short life of suffering for the cause of freedom and equality: The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
 
We, everyone of us, should share Martin’s hope: non-violent resistance is not futile. Not yet. Not ever.
 
Billy Lee
 
 
Posted in Autobiography, Crime, Culture, Economics, History, Horror, Opinion, Race, Speculation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Nightmare

Merry Christmas

Babies are little miracles; gifts given in love.

What’s interesting to me about Christmas is that the man who saved the world from sin started life as a helpless baby. He slipped into history unnoticed and overlooked, I suppose, but his anonymity didn’t last more than a few hours.

According to the Christmas stories in the Bible, he was visited by both angels and people; Herod, the Roman administrator of the town where he was born, when he couldn’t locate him, gave orders to kill all boys under two, because the stories visitors were telling scared him.

People are afraid of babies. It’s not unusual. Sometimes—from ancient history until now—people kill them; who knows why? Everyone has their reasons. An ex-girlfriend once called to tell me she was pregnant. At the time, it seemed like the worst news of my life.

Yesterday, the child she carried—the baby who changed everything in everyone’s lives—won an amateur golf tournament in Florida. He will be celebrating Christmas with us in a few days.

The first time I saw Billy Lee Junior—a few months after he was born—I knew he carried my genes. The love I felt—in a doctor’s office of all places—came close to killing me; my heart pounded almost out of my chest when first I saw his beautiful face; his perfect feet; his tiny toes.

Jesus lived into his thirties before the prejudices and hatreds of his era coalesced to destroy him. He told us why he was born; he came to save the world, not judge it, he said. He came to bear witness to the truth—that God is love, as the Bible says.

Somehow, by some miracle, I know it’s true.

Billy Lee

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Flying Blind

It’s possible to fly blind and survive. It’s possible to fly a twin-engine Beechcraft through a wicked storm without instruments; without communication; find the airfield, locate an empty runway, and land safely.

It’s possible to feel the air disappear beneath your wings and freefall—even tumble—thousands of feet, time after time, dozens of times, recover the aircraft, and keep on flying. It’s possible for clouds to be impenetrable, lightning to be relentless and unceasing, rain to be thick as waterfalls—with a vomiting passenger in the seat next to you—and keep your wits, keep your senses, keep your fear in check, keep your focus, and keep flying.

Anything is possible during a storm, when all is lost except your training and skills and the belief that you really are the best pilot in the Navy—when you know deep in your gut that this storm the forecasters managed to miss is not how it’s going to end—for you or the high-ranking government official sitting next to you who hates to fly; who hitched a ride with you, who chose you, because he trusted you to get him to his meeting with the president, or whoever it was, in one piece.

It’s not possible to stay dry, however. During this flight I’m writing about, my dad the pilot sweat through his clothes. When I met him after his ten minute drive home from the airfield, I asked him, how did you get so wet?  His hair and face looked like he just stepped out of the shower. His flight-suit was dark with sweat; water dripped from his cuffs; even his shoes squeaked from pooling sweat around his feet.

I had a rough flight, he said. The worst flight of my life. I got overheated. Never sweat like this, ever. I’m ok. We made it. No problems.

Dad left it at that. But a week later, his passenger came to our house for dinner. He told the whole story. He said Dad saved his life during that flight. No one in the Navy was a better pilot, he insisted, and I believed him.  

It was 1964; I was a high school sophomore living at home in Arlington, Virginia near the nation’s capitol. It was the year when Barry Goldwater, the darling of the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, ran for president. He lost everwhere except Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Arizona—his home state. (Today—a lifetime later—lunatics are mainstream; go figure.)

In 1964, the American Nazi Party—led by retired Navy Commander Lincoln Rockwell—owned a field next to our neighborhood, where it maintained a barracks and its national headquarters. 

Rockwell’s few dozen men were heavily armed; we heard they used German shepherd dogs to keep gawkers away, but we never saw any when my friends and me snuck onto the property to fire bottle rockets at the barracks. One time a trooper in black boots and tee-shirt walked up on us and clicked the bolt on his rifle. We ran like hell to get away. He didn’t squeeze the trigger. We didn’t trespass again, either. 

Once, we visited the Nazi offices and barracks on a dare. A guard let us into the headquarters. I was amazed at how much red color there was. The carpeting on the floors, the walls—even the carpeting on the ceilings—all was red. It was quiet inside, like a church; even tranquil. One of the men invited us to take some pamphlets from a table in the foyer. We took some, but I don’t remember reading anything but a few of the headings. The content—what little I scanned—seemed ignorant to me. The Nazis despised Jews and Negroes. What else was new?

A few years later someone on a roof at a strip mall near our house fired a shot at Rockwell. He was leaving the laundromat where he washed his clothes, of all things. I always bought pop-sickles and stuff like that a few doors down at the Seven-Eleven. It didn’t seem particularly remarkable to learn in 1967 as I started my sophomore year at college that someone had assassinated the Nazi commander a mere half-mile from my house.

But to get back to my essay…

My dad crashed a couple of planes during his time in the Navy; it seemed like every pilot screwed up sometimes in those early days during World War II and a little after. During one accident Dad and another pilot collided over a town in Florida. My dad had to bail; he was flying low to the ground; his parachute opened immediately; he swung three times as he hung suspended beneath; he hit the ground hard. Except for bruises, he was fine. The other pilot tumbled into the ground and was killed.

The Navy court-martialed my dad, which came as a shock; an official inquiry followed; it lasted a few months and in the end Dad had to take the stand and testify; he was terrified the whole time, my grandfather told me. 

Dad confirmed it; he was never more scared before or since, he confessed to me many years later. The Navy cleared Dad of all wrong-doing; he lived to fly another day—with a clean record—which is all he ever wanted to do anyway, ever since as a boy he first saw an airplane fly over his farm.

Flying was freedom. It was so clear. He hated working in the mud and manure of a farm; if he could fly, he could escape—like the pilot flying overhead, he would be free. He would find a way.

It took planning and a little luck, but he did find a way. He took a train from Detroit to Chicago and managed to sign up for the Navy flight program five minutes before the deadline. The rest, as they say, is history. He rose rapidly in the ranks of both Naval Aviation and Navy intelligence; more specifically the National Security Agency (NSA), which in those days tracked ships, mostly. Early on, the Navy taught him to speak Russian; much later, they trained him in French, but it was too late. He never became fluent.  

People who know how I write, must by now realize that this essay is going somewhere amazing; somewhere they don’t expect. Have patience. Keep reading.

My dad was a leader with strong views about what good leadership was. He believed in taking care of his men; he believed in meting out justice to misbehaving officers and enlisted men in the same way—no favoritism to officers.

Military justice doesn’t work the same way as civilian justice. People who have served know that commanders can throw their people in the “brig” for any reason—or no reason. Commanders have absolute power, which they must have, if they are to lead an effective fighting force that obeys orders under the duress of combat and impending death. Dad punished officers with the same fairness he punished the men. (Editor’s note: women didn’t serve in fighting units until the 1990s.)

But my dad had another belief about power that people who have never wielded it don’t understand. To lead disparate and rebellious people—which large groups of humans tend to be—it is essential to keep them guessing; to keep them off guard; to keep them off-balance; and most important, to keep them uninformed. Never tell subordinates anything they don’t have an essential need to know. Make everyone unsure of what they think they know and what they think they don’t know.

How does this work in practice? Why is it effective?

My uncle Dean told me a story about a time when my dad took him to visit the anti-submarine helicopter squadron he commanded in Key West, Florida. It was dark—about nine o’clock at night (2100 hours as they say in the Navy). Dad parked his car outside the guard shack, and he and Dean got out and walked past the guard. The guard motioned them through with a salute and a smile.

According to my uncle, Dad whirled around and stormed up to the guard. He stood toe to toe, in his face, and dressed him down. You will demand identification from anyone who passes this point, sailor!  He pointed at my uncle. This man, here, he might be a spy. You put the security of the most important squadron of fighters on this island at risk. Report to my office tomorrow morning—1000 hours.

Yes sir! the guard said.

Dad took Dean into the hangar and showed him anti-submarine jet helicopters. He took him aboard his favorite and showed him the complicated arrays of instruments and armaments then available to the armed forces. Gages and dials, buttons and levers, advanced screens and switches covered the cockpit ceiling, its floor and doors and front panels. Belts and canisters and other incomprehensible items filled every available nook and cranny. There was no empty space, anywhere.

Dean got quite a show, I can tell you, because Dad once took me on the same tour. My thought after seeing how the Navy fights was, how does anyone learn all this complicated stuff, let alone fly these monstrous beasts, which they use to slay the Russian sub dragons?

Anyway, the tour ended after ten or fifteen minutes and the two men left the hangar to return to the car and begin the drive home. We lived on the base less than two miles from the squadron. Dad and Dean walked along laughing about something, when the guard stopped them. May I see your identification, gentlemen? he said calmly.

Once again, Dad spun on his heels. What? Can you not see who I am? Am I not the commander of this squadron? Do you not see me everyday? You checked Dean, here, ten minutes ago. He’s my guest. I expect you to leave us alone and show respect. Return to your post, sailor.

Sir… yes sir!  the guard shouted.

Later, Dean asked my dad. You ordered this sailor to always ask for ID. Later, when he did what you asked, you gave him hell. Why?

When you’re in charge, Dad said, the men have to know. You keep them guessing. You keep them off-balance. You make them determine in their own minds what they believe you expect from them. Everything works better that way.

Yeah, it’s weird. But I think my dad was onto something important. I’ve known other powerful men who operate in the same way. I’ve worked for some.

Our newly elected president seems to share this view of power. Disinformation seems to be his modus operandi. Not sharing information with “the help” is another sacrosanct principle of leadership. No one will ever see the tax returns, balance sheets, income statements, or health records of our newly elected president.

It’s called flying blind. Everyone flies blind except the pilot. He’s trained. He knows what to do. The world might seem to be falling apart all around. But with any luck at all, the pilot will land the plane—safely.

There is one thing that my dad once did that has been erased from history by disinformation. In the must-read book by Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States, Mr. Stone tells a story about an incident during the Cuban missile crisis that almost led to nuclear war. Here is an excerpt:

On October 27 [1962] an incident occurred that Schlesinger accurately described as “not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in human history.” A navy group led by the carrier USS Randolph began dropping depth charges near a Soviet B-59 submarine sent to protect the other Soviet ships approaching Cuba. Those inside the U.S. destroyers were unaware that the Soviet sub was carrying nuclear weapons. Soviet signals officer Vadim Orlov described the scene: “The depth charges [sic] exploded right next to the hull.

Get the book and read it to learn about the harrowing four-hours of hell the Russian men inside the sub endured. Many officers passed out. The bottom line is this: the submarine’s commanding officer gave an order to launch a nuclear missile, but the communist political officer on board, Vasili Arkhipov, overruled him. According to Oliver Stone, Arkhipov refused to launch, single handedly preventing nuclear war.

I can tell you that the only weapon of war we had in Key West capable of chasing a nuclear sub and dropping the depth charges with the accuracy described in the book was Sikorsky anti-submarine class helicopters, which were under the command of my dad.

Only one pilot in the Navy had both the ability and the nerve to release depth charges close enough to a nuclear submarine so as not hit it and release its deadly poisons. Only one pilot had access to intelligence about Russian subs in the area; intelligence that no one else but a few admirals shared. He was the only pilot in theater who wasn’t flying blind. He knew the rules of engagement on both sides. He spoke Russian. He could chase a nuclear sub out of Cuban waters and turn the confrontation in our favor. That’s what he did.

Enough said.

Researchers told Oliver Stone that we were flying blind; it was only luck and a Russian political operative who prevented a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. So he wrote it down. What else could he do? He wasn’t there. I was. I lived with one of the key players. We ate breakfast and dinner together almost every single day.

Maybe most on the aircraft carrier USS Randolph and its escort ships were sailing blind, like Stone suggested; maybe most of the pilots were flying blind; but not everyone. Maybe, sometimes, we can manufacture our own luck.

That’s what my dad believed. He always said, people make their own luck. Practice, preparation, persistence, plus perception based on the best intelligence—there is nothing lucky or blind about any of it. Add a little patriotism.

It’s why we win.

Billy Lee

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DISARMING CHRISTIANS

WARNING from the Editorial Board
Readers who dislike reading opinions they don’t share might want to consider reading something else. The essay below may not be suitable for rigid thinkers. Readers who enjoy rallies where angry crowds chant lock her up! lock her up! and USA! USA! are doubly cautioned.

Billy Lee believes that all religions and all governments—including our own—are crafted by elites to enhance their power. Religion and government sometimes work together like good cops and bad cops to maintain the order of society by both reassuring and intimidating those few citizens who may sometimes feel reluctant to cooperate.

Billy Lee thinks that all economic systems, whatever label they may carry, are nothing more than variations on slavery. One possible exception is democratic communalism—a system that has been thoroughly discredited.

Systems where wealth is shared more or less equally are no longer taken seriously, at least in the United States, because our elites want nothing to do with them. It’s a reason why our leaders have strangled Cuba with an embargo for 55 years with no end in sight. 

Income equality is not one of our core values. Everyone knows that alpha-males don’t share well; they fully intend to take everything they can until the end of time. Billionaires rule. They always have.

Fortunately, this essay isn’t about economics. Who wants to get all depressed about stuff they don’t understand and can’t do anything about?  No, this post was written to address a much deeper problem—the takeover of our country by lunatics.  

Billy Lee is suggesting that the conservative evangelical church in America is infested with men who are pushing a political agenda that might very well be opposed to the vision of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who they say they serve; indeed their aim seems to be to acquire political power; some prominent males have recently bragged that they made a deal with our newly elected president to help them better impose their will on America and the world.

According to Billy Lee, these leaders hope to guide the citizens of the United States into accepting a Christian form of what has all the appearances of a kind of Sharia Law. The president-elect promised Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham that he will help them; he is on-board.

Falwell, who attended the recent GOP convention, described during his speech a deal he made with Trump to repeal the 1954 law that forbids tax-exemptions to church groups who finance the campaigns of political candidates aligned with their pet projects, favored laws, and constitutional preferences. In return, Falwell promised to help deliver the presidency. 

The Board 


DISARMING CHRISTIANS

Let me begin by saying my hope is that the Bible verses below will provide readers with some context for the observations and insights that will follow. Politically conservative evangelical leaders believe that every word in the Bible is literally true; the Bible is inerrant and doctrinally pure; anyone who doesn’t bow before the concept of biblical inerrancy is a heretic and opposed to God.

Evangelical pastors cannot be ordained in almost every denomination in the United States, unless they sign legal documents that swear allegiance to inerrancy as one of their core beliefs. Yes, many who sign these documents have their own definitions of what inerrancy actually means. Pastors argue with one another all the time about it. Some sign what they call “conscience clauses” to keep them out of trouble with meddling denominational titans and even their own parishioners.

But enough of this inside baseball kind of talk.

The fact is, I too believe the Bible is inerrant. Just to make sure readers understand, I’m not a theologian; I’m not a pastor or an elder or a deacon either; I’m a pontificator—a lowly pontificator. I don’t even belong to a church. I go to church. My wife makes me. But I haven’t signed any dotted lines. I wrote an essay once, a couple years ago when I actually was a communicant member of a church, about the subject of inerrancy, which I hope readers will revisit. In it I asked this question:

Where does this idea about “inerrancy” of Scripture come from, since the Bible was written by men, and gently hides mankind’s many prejudices and ignorant ideas about history and science? If Scripture is inerrant—and I believe it is—its truth must come from God alone. God makes Scripture true, even when human logic, common sense and evidence seem to speak otherwise.

I would argue that my support of inerrancy gives me the right to challenge other Christians; to argue that the separation of church and state is necessary and essential, if we are to protect our freedoms from conservative politicians posing as clerics who are busy seizing control of churches and denominations in backwoods America.

It’s not just the backwoods. These political fights are going on in cities and college towns, urban centers and sophisticated suburbs. I side with reasonable people who don’t believe they have all the answers. I side with tolerant, open-minded thinkers who are kind to people who have been ostracized and hated, because they don’t fit certain stereotypical molds that conservatives seem to favor.

I certainly don’t think of myself as a heretic or a trouble-maker. In fact, I would like to believe that I am in submission to the will of Christ Jesus; I know I have experienced the forgiveness of sins and the healing power of God’s love. God has given me many gifts. I treasure them all.

mt-zion-church-nashvilleAnyway, it’s time to get on with this essay. Is there a better way to start than by quoting Bible verses? As is the convention in many Bibles, red words represent the spoken words of Jesus. Sometimes I use purple to call attention to some Scripture I hope readers won’t overlook. Hold on tight, everyone. I am about to take readers on a wild ride. Here goes:

Leviticus 17:10  I will set my face against [anyone] who eats blood, and I will cut them off from my people.

Leviticus 7:27  Anyone who eats blood must be cut off from their people.

Leviticus 19:27  … Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 25:11  If two men are fighting and the wife of one […] seizes [the other] by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

Psalm 118:11  They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.

Isaiah 9:17  …everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks folly.

Isaiah 29:20  The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—those who with a word make someone out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.

Isaiah 53:12  … he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Daniel 2:34-45  While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands.  … It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands…

Hosea 6:5  …I killed you with the words of my mouth…

Luke 22:33-38  But [Peter] replied, Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death. Jesus answered, I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.

Then Jesus asked them, When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? Nothing, they answered.

He said to them, But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. For it is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’, and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.

The disciples said, See Lord, here are two swords.

That’s enough!  Jesus replied.

John 6:53-59   Jesus said to them, … I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. … He said this while teaching in the synagogue….

John 6:66  From this time forward many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

John 12:47  … I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

John 16:2  …the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

John 16:8  When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world [Satan] now stands condemned.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

jesus-tomb

The Rock-Cut Tomb of Jesus is located in the East Talpiot neighborhood—three miles south of the Old City—in East Jerusalem. The body of Jesus has never been found.

John 20:1  …while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone [rock] had been removed…

1 Peter 2:16  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

OK. We’ve collected enough Bible verses to start a Hallelujah cacophony. Readers must by now have a lot of questions. Don’t worry. Hundreds of thousands of people have made careers answering questions about the Bible. Answers abound.

One obvious question is this: the Bible seems to forbid the eating of blood; if drinking blood gets one cut-off from God’s people; if it results in a kind of excommunication, why does Jesus insist that anyone who wants to live must drink his blood or die?

How does anyone drink the blood of Jesus, anyway? What does it mean—it must be true—what Jesus said; does his cure for death work? Is his promise—that eternity lives inside his shed blood and that we must drink it to live—inerrant?

Here’s another question: is everyone wicked? Really? Every single person? Is everyone a fool? Does everyone speak “folly”? Is there no one that anyone can truly trust? Even oneself?

How about this? Will folks who label people they hate with a single word—words like crooked (Hillary) or lying (Ted) or corrupt (____) or fraudulent (____) or dishonest (____) or hypocritical (____) or dumb (____) or killer (____) or guilty as hell (fill in the blank, if you dare)—will they really be cut down? Will the ruthless vanish and mockers disappear? Really? Does anyone believe these promises of the Bible? Do haters and mockers ever fall?

Here’s a good one. The title of this essay is called, Disarming Christians. Disarming is a nice word. It means charming or beguiling or winsome. Imagine meeting charming, beguiling, winsome Christians. It would be kind of nice, wouldn’t it?

Disarming can also mean taking away someone’s weapons of war. Christians are armed to the teeth with weapons of war, some of them. They carry guns in open-carry states; some carry concealed weapons with special licenses that permit them to bring guns into schools, libraries, and government buildings; even churches. 

But let’s not talk about right-now. Let’s not talk about today. Let’s talk about those yesterdays long ago when the deadliest weapon a civilian could carry was a sword.

Jesus must have thought his disciples were unarmed. At the end, just before He was arrested and crucified, he told them to sell their coats and buy swords with the money. Lo and behold, the whole lot of them were carrying weapons, it turns out. See Lord, they said. Here are two swords right here!  They might have added, How lucky we won’t have to sell our coats and drop what we’re doing to go buy swords from a bronze-smithy.

The followers of Jesus were already transgressors, and He lived among them—just as Isaiah 53:12 (in the list of verses above) said He would. They didn’t need to be told by Jesus to be bad. It didn’t matter whether anyone knew or not. In fact, Peter used his sword to hack the ear off a young man named Malchus—the servant of the High Priest. It’s about as low as a follower of Jesus could go, unless denying Christ three times when He needed him most counts for anything.

The Bible says we are free, but warns us to not use our freedom to sin and do evil, even when we are able to successfully hide our nasty acts so as not to corrupt others who are always watching. Really? Does the Bible mean to say that people can’t—as the old joke goes—pray to God for bicycles, but when they realize God doesn’t work that way, steal them instead and then pray for forgiveness?—in Jesus’ Holy Name, of course.

Evangelical political operators, as they always do, lobbied the public to vote against the Christian presidential candidates and go with the one person who has no history with any church; the one who refused to divulge his health records, his taxes, or his foreign entanglements.

These operatives urged followers of Christ Jesus to vote for a man who married three women—two, by the way, grew up in prominent, communist families from countries once hostile to the USA. Trump made a deal with evangelicals; he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. My essay Satan Surrender sorts through some aspects of the arrangement.

Jesus said: I was born for one purpose; to bear witness to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth hears my voice. Pilate asked him the famous question: What is truth? He didn't answer. Hours later, the Romans executed him. British actor Robert Powell portrayed Jesus in the 1976 television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, which won many awards.

Jesus said: I was born for one purpose; to bear witness to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth hears my voice. Pilate asked him the famous question: What is truth? He didn’t answer. Hours later, the Romans executed him. British actor Robert Powell portrayed Jesus in the 1976 television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, which won many awards.

Peter believed he was Christ’s most loyal supporter; his most devoted disciple. Jesus once called him Satan and told him he was unreliable. Peter may have been crude, possibly foul-mouthed; some Bible writers portrayed him as impulsive and on occasion violent.

It seems to me that the conservative evangelical church in America is a lot like Peter. Jesus will build his kingdom; he will someday make a spectacular entrance onto the world stage, which he promised to do 2,000 years ago. I think our date is still on. I don’t think we’ve been stood up. Christ Jesus is on his way. But Peter came to a bad end according to some accounts, and the conservative evangelical church and its blind-guides will as well, if folks don’t wakeup and make changes.

One change we can make is to turn off our TVs whenever possible. We all know television is unwatchable, if one is trying to live a holy and righteous life. People watch OAN and FOX; they visit web-sites like Breitbart, etc. Is it any wonder that many in the land of the free and the home of the brave are suffering from a psychosis of evil?

Perhaps the answer to my earlier question about the shed blood of Christ Jesus is to ask another question: is the blood of Christ Jesus holy and precious—so powerful to save—that any other blood is poison by comparison, even defiling to the sensibilities of an Almighty God? The sacred life of Jesus and the fearful agony of its end—suffered on the cross of a Roman executioner—brought a flood of life into the dark world of sinners, who God loves dearly by the way; He gave himself over to a crucifixion, of all things—to settle scores for all time for the terrible things we’ve done against Him and against each other.

Let’s face some hard facts: people sometimes do bad things for which they deserve to die. Everyone, it seems, has someone who wants them dead; everyone is hated by someone; and everyone at one time or another hates enough to kill. That’s reality as I see it, anyway.

In my mind, after years of reading the Bible and listening to sermons, I have developed some fantasies. Sometimes I imagine things that could never happen, but imagining their very possibility gives me a kind of emotional release. 

God forgive me. Sometimes I imagine I hear Jesus crying out on the cross in a loud voice; he’s yelling at me: Kill me, he screams. Eat my flesh; eat my blood; hurl your hate at me; do it now! I’m bleeding out and there’s no more time….

Jesus’ head falls forward. He is quiet, and I am witness to the horror of hatred satiated and injustice served. His face in death is unrecognizable. I recoil at the thought of God; that He could unleash such terror against a righteous man.

God forgive me. More hallucinations. Jesus slurs his words and looks past me into the storm. Strike me until your hate is spent; strike until you are exhausted and can no longer lift your arms or even stand; fall face down into the mud and blood at my feet and eat your fill. Make yourself sick on your hate. It is finished.

My mind is swirling like a carousel. Nothing seems real. Can you not see? Jesus is whispering now. His voice is a death rattle. Everything is accomplished.

A soldier appears out of nowhere and plunges a spear into Jesus’ belly. The soldier doesn’t look at Him. He walks past and pulls his collar for cover against the rain. Your sins are forgotten. Did Jesus just say that to a man who wouldn’t even look at him? Your sins are forgotten. Or was he talking to me? Or was it the soldier talking, maybe to us both? The blood from Jesus’ wound falls on me like a waterfall as I lie in the mud and the rain.

Speak louder, I can’t hear you, I scream back, because the storm is now raging and I can’t hear myself above the thunder and the rain. I forgive you, I think I hear Him say.  

My mind is in fever now. I don’t know what is real and what is pretend. Is Jesus dead, or not? Yes, he’s dead; of course he is. But I hear him talking into the wind.

Get up! Yes, he is yelling loud, like a young man; a warrior. I hear him clearly. Go find the brother and sister you hate; find the mother and father you despise; find the stranger who abused you; who robbed and beat you; find them all; find the bad people and forgive them.

I stagger to my feet. The rain is violent. It cleans my body completely. I look up at Jesus. His body is clean as well. His eyes are glazed by death. He doesn’t breathe. Water runs down his face and off the soles of his feet.

I turn and look into the storm. I’m cold. The temperature has dropped, and I’m really, really cold.  Find a way to love, I hear him murmur. Find a way to love the world we gave you; find a way to love everything in it including yourself, because we made you from the mud you are standing in.

I want you to live, I say. He doesn’t hear. How could he? He is stone cold dead. I love you, I say under my breath. You know I did.  

The way, the truth, and the life—it’s what he always said he was. They were sweet words; everyone wanted to believe. No one ever really knew what He was talking about.

I look up at Jesus for the last time. Death has a look that is best described by the word, horror. But Jesus looks like an angel in flight with his arms outstretched and his body washed clean by the storm. He is more beautiful in death than he ever was in life. You’re free, Jesus, I say at last.

You are free. Spread your wings and soar. Fly away to wherever your heart lives, to whoever your heart loves. You are free.

Billy Lee

Post Script by the Editorial Board:  Knowing Billy Lee the way we do, the Editorial Board has strongly admonished and chastised Billy Lee. We explained that his fantasy encounter with Jesus wasn’t an appropriate ending for an essay about disarming Christians. It’s not good enough, we told him. It doesn’t meet the high standards of the Pontificator. We insisted that he give Jesus the last word—not the fantasy Jesus that swims around in his head, but the real Jesus; the Jesus of history.

So here is what he picked—something Jesus said—from John 16:33.  

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus, the Christ
The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

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