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A Christian Coup Attempt, 2021

Among the flags and symbols brandished in the recent attempted coup was the cross, with flags declaring “Jesus 2020” and “God wins.” While many faith groups are condemning the attempted coup and are calling for Trump’s removal from office, the long-term question for Christians is what they will do to excise the theme of supremacy and authority within Christianity’s narrative, theology and scripture.
            This strain of belief, which some call Christian Nationalism or Christian Supremacy, is authoritarian, not democratic. Senator Josh Hawley, a leader in the attempt to overturn the election, has publicly declared that his charge is to “Take the Lordship of Christ, that message, into the public realm, and to seek the obedience of the nations. Our nation.” (Katherine Stewart, NYTimes, Jan. 11, 2021) He does not take his charge to be to uphold the US Constitution or the integrity of elections. When he was sworn in to the US Senate, he must have been lying.
            When Pastor Brian Gibson declares that “The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America,” he has a strong point. In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII, in his bull, Unam Sanctam, (One God, One Faith, One Spiritual Authority) declared the authority of the church over political authorities, like Christian Nationalists do. As European nations acquired the wherewithal to travel to all parts of the earth, several popes blessed them in doing so, so long as they carried out Christ’s directive that his followers convert all nations of the earth. In doing so, Christ declared that all authority on heaven and earth had been given to him. He transferred that authority to his church. The popes were insistent on the requirement that the conquerors convert whomever they encountered who was not Christian. The mission of colonialism was the mission of the church. And the justification of the popes, referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery, was recognized as law in US jurisprudence with the 1823 U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. M’Intosh. This precedent of this decision holds sway even today.         
            Pastor Gibson is correct. The Christian church founded America. In 1510, the Council of Castille formulated a statement for Spanish conquerors to read to the native peoples they encountered. It was a declaration of Christian dominance.
            That declaration, Requieremiento(Requirement: To be Read by Spanish Conquerors to Defeated Indians) stated that what the conquerors were doing was ordained by God, and that the Church was “the Ruler and Superior of the Whole World.” The Native peoples were informed that they were invited to voluntarily convert to Christianity. When they did, they would lose their autonomy and become “the subjects and vassals” of the Spanish crown.  Belying the fact that this was not at all voluntary, if they did not convert, “with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.”
Any wonder that some would now claim that “Christianity represents the worst of the history of colonialism among Indian peoples in North America.” (p. 72, A Native American Theology) When Christians came from Europe to occupy the land they call the Americas, they did so with the belief that they were God’s chosen people, and this was their promised land. The narrative of Manifest Destiny was unquestioned by ordinary Christians while it was the program of their church leaders. As Simone Weil observed, “Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.” 
            At this point, it is easy for liberal Christians to blame white supremacy or fascism for the danger of Trumpism. This ignores the growing realization that white supremacy had its roots in Christian supremacy. (See Hill Fletcher The Sin of White Supremacy). Liberal Christianity does not take ownership of this problem, rather treating Christian nationalists and not being true Christians. As we have seen in Germany with Nazism and in South Africa with apartheid, health and healing requires taking ownership of the problem by people who initially deny any role. Christian Nationalists and liberal Christians draw from the same source material. And, in many ways, liberal Christianity is the benefactor of the Christian domination that founded this nation and structures it yet today.
            In addition to addressing systemic racism, we would do well to address systemic Christian domination, which may be even more difficult to recognize and admit to. We can begin by identifying the authoritarian themes embedded in Christianity’s narrative of chosenness and its promise to what others have, the hierarchical nature of its theology, and the foundational threads in the Christian bible liberal Christianity shares in common with Christian Nationalism.

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Insurrection is not Protest

With the current crisis in our nation, we need to be clear about how to think about what is happening. People with agendas are trying to influence how we think about the vandalism and trespassing on the US Capital. We need to be clear. Insurrection is not a form of protest. Insurrection is not a form of communication; it is an attempt to seize power through illegal means. Protest is not. They should not be equated. Insurrection should not be afforded the protections that protest deserves. Nor is vandalism a form of protest. It is merely self-indulgent exploitation of a situation. With vandalism, there is no desire to reason together or come to resolution, as is the case with healthy protest.
                Another important distinction we need to make is between political action that is reality based and action that is based on delusion. When it is fueled by delusion, people simply need to be stopped. They will not stop themselves. There is no reality-testing possible, no reasoning that will change things. No additional recounts or court cases will get them to recognize that they were wrong. There is no additional fact-finding by congress that will convince them. Delusion does not work that way. Delusion based behavior simply needs to be contained. It is simply too compelling for most people to self-regulate without professional help. In this case, there is no willingness to recognize that one is wrong, which is required of discourse. In this case, what also leads to insurrectionist motives is simply a refusal to accept the loss of power that is inevitable with the ebb and flow of democracy. Some people don’t act democratically because they are incapable or unwilling to do so. Such people need to be stopped. And we can do so with compassion.

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The Truth About White Protest Distress

Confession:

White liberals, this message is for you too.

“You want me to tell the truth? Sure, I want you to get what you need to be free from injustice. I just don’t want it to cost me anything. I don’t want to be afraid or insecure for my future. I don’t want your protest to make the stock market go down. I don’t want to lose symbols I am attached to. I don’t want to lose my favorite boutique. I don’t want to look to the future with uncertainty. I don’t want to look at what you are doing and be confused. I hate confusion, insecurity, fear and loss more than I hate the injustice you endure, if I’m really honest.

So, I will keep my certainty. If what you protestors are doing doesn’t make sense to me, then I will insist that it doesn’t make sense. If your way of protesting doesn’t seem right to me, I will insist that it isn’t right. Why can’t you be like Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Their protests didn’t threaten or disturb anyone, did they? Their protest followed the established rules of engagement for change, didn’t they?”

Commentary:

Well no. Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King succeeded in large part because they engaged by different rules. People in positions of power think they have the right to decide the rules of engagement for anyone taking issue with them. Of course, they only do so in a way that gives them the advantage. They aren’t stupid.”

European soldiers and European American soldiers fought in straight lines, faced off, in open terrain. Those native to this land did not fight that way. Had they tried to, they would have had no chance. They hid behind boulders, ridges, and trees. They used the element of surprise. So the Europeans, our ancestors, condemned this way of fighting as being uncivilized, morally wrong.

Those in power fault protestors for not working through the system rather than trying to settle things in the court of public opinion. They have more control over the system than the wild card of public opinion, which can force their hand. People in power know they will win if the issue is handled in the system they control. Anything else, they want to be wrong

Do white liberals really want what protestors of police racism and Black Lives Matter Advocates want, as they claim? What makes it suspicious are things like lumping all protestors together, to make them a “them,” a coherent group in our minds. It isn’t true and they don’t want that. If we don’t want nuance and complexity, then we don’t really want what they want.

When we insist they have clear goals and strategies, maybe we don’t really want what they want. If we can’t tolerate their process, we can’t really know if we want what they want. Our distress blocks our ability to understand the complexity of what they long for. Our impatience may be hiding our real desire for the protests to fail. When we insist that they aren’t protesting right, it is suspicious that we really want them to fail.

We are confused; we are threatened. We don’t trust the protestors to have power. What would become of us if they got what they wanted? We can’t possibly know. Maybe we are unwilling to do find out, to live with an uncertain future when the present is working so well for us. We want guarantees.

If we care enough to manage our distress internally, then we might be able to make the charitable assumption that the fact that I don’t understand means I have something to learn, not that they are wrong. The charitable assumption that if I feel threatened, I am invested in what is oppressing them, not that they need to be stopped.

With so many others wanting an end to the injustice that they endure, some of the hardest work for those who feel no need to be liberated, is to learn to get out of their way. And that means learning to manage our distress internally and being willing to lose something for the sake of what others can gain. For them to be safer, maybe we need to be less safe. For them to have more power, maybe we need to have less.

Hey! Not That Monument!

It is one thing for people to remove monuments that we also think are offensive. Quite another when they attack monuments that we are fondly attached to. As monuments have been toppled in protest, white liberals were apparently unprepared for monuments of their own to come down. As this happens, as it has in the past week, we will see if white liberals are any better than confederates at seeing things through others’ eyes, any better at being willing to broaden their perspectives.

White liberals are having trouble with statues coming down that they identify with.

A statue in Madison, Wisconsin came down that is named “Forward.” Local liberals are shocked and dismayed. They couldn’t imagine anyone taking offense at it. They are hurt and outraged, exhibiting the fragility many white liberals have been trying to overcome.

The statue was constructed in the 1890’s to tout the progressive values of Wisconsin.  This was also the time when sacred mounds were being ploughed through by European immigrants who now had ownership of land that had been taken from the First Nations.  This was the time when a lake sacred to the local tribe was being called “Devil’s Lake,” not translated “Spirit Lake,” which would have been more accurate in conveying its sacredness. If it wasn’t Christian spirituality, it must be demonic.

The statue depicts a white woman with her right arm outstretched in front of her. In her left hand she grasps the American flag. The statue became a source of pride for Madison liberals and of women’s rights. The sculptor was a woman.

So why would anyone want to topple this statue, with its virtuous values? Protestors say it was deliberate. Madison, the home of the statue, is guilty of great disparity in wealth and educational attainment between its white citizens and those of color. So people of color can easily see Madison’s  image of itself as progressive as distortion that just might be standing in the way of progress for people of color.

In California, Catholic Bishops have made written objection to one of their monuments being misunderstood and taken down. They claim the protestors failed the test of history.  St. Junipero Serra, they claimed, was instrumental in getting better treatment for indigenous peoples in the area. The statue is of a man in an official position in the church that had brutally oppressed local people. He is holding out a large cross. Consciously or unconsciously, it is an image of domination, not a posture of service.

Also lost on these bishops is the role kindness plays in successful domination. In The Prince, Machiavelli surveys history for the best ways to dominate large populations of people. Genghis Khan did it masterfully. Start out by being brutal enough to break people’s will. Then be kind to them so they won’t feel the need to rebel. So why would they honor someone who led the kindness phase in the campaign of domination? Why? Because it served their interests to do so.

While monuments seem to honor others, they have social agendas to immortalize the values of the people with the means and the power to erect them. But those values are from positions that inevitably include blinders. Some native American tribes were staunchly against erecting monuments of any kind. Perhaps there is wisdom in that.

Anti-Racism Needs Difference More Than Commonality

People of color in our society who become more white have greater opportunity than those who do  not. The more like the people in power you become, the more opportunities they will give you. Unfortunately, as unjust as that is, it does work that way.

When a person is interviewing someone for a job, they unconsciously, if not deliberately, look for what they have in common with the applicant. It can be trivial – shared backgrounds of some sort, shared interests, knowing someone in common. The more in common, the more comfortable they are with the applicant. The more in common, the more likely the person will hire you. This is one aspect of how race and subculture systematically work for some and work against others.

If hired, the more in common, the more easily collaboration with co-workers will take place, so people can justify the wisdom of hiring and promoting based on commonality, comfort level, fitting in. This, despite the fact that it is unjust. Also, research shows better team outcomes with groups of greater diversity. The reason? More information to draw on. A system that tries to get people to be more similar will have fewer ideas to draw from. And, it will be engaging in injustice. There is a moral motive and there is a pragmatic one.

Despite moral reasons not to, the human brain looks for commonality, and race and culture are big ones. Some people try to overcome racism with the belief that down deep we are all the same. Differences are only skin deep, they think. All people really want the same things, is another. Some religiously and spiritually minded people try to promote focusing on the fact that we are all members of the human race. The strategy is to see beyond color to focus on what we universally have in common.

It is true that some unconscious racist reactions are negated by putting the other person into the groups you identify with. A person of a different color in the uniform of a team you don’t care about will be judged negatively. Put the same person in the uniform of your favorite team and you rate them higher. This has been shown to be the case.

But focusing on commonalities is how relationships become cordial but superficial. We can do better that that. To search for and value differences takes us farther than finding comfort in what we have in common. The marvelous truth is that others have accessed inside themselves things I cannot seem to access inside myself. I lose out on expanding my access if I just look for what we have in common.

This takes a commitment to retrain the brain to not seek comfort, but rather seek the stimulation of what is new and different. This is actually how many people learn to get along with different kinds of people in college or the military or work settings. They find that people who are different from them expand their horizons. People often realize they have hidden what is different about themselves. It is a fearful process only because of the expectation of judgment that is not diminished by the common practice of seeking commonality. When they don’t let themselves be constrained by that fear, they experience the joy of breaking free.

The cause of justice and the joy of human liberation are both served by learning to value differences more than seeking commonality.

Free To ≠ Morally Neutral

“It’s a free country,” the bully declared when his classmates pushed back against him harassing one of them. Some adults, it seems, are stuck at the same level of moral development. If they are free to do something, that makes it morally neutral.

The second highest ranking member of the US Senate said President Trump was free to aggressively disperse peaceful protestors in front of the White House so he could show how tough he was and clear the way to get himself a photo op in front of someone else’s church and then hold up a Bible to the cameras. He was free to do that. The Senator said that as if to declare that Trump’s actions were morally neutral and beyond question. This, while the bishop of that church was outraged by the sacrilege of the President’s actions.

We all to often hear the same reasoning about following best practices for dealing with the pandemic. People say store employees are free to wear masks or not; it is their choice. And if you don’t like it, you are free to shop elsewhere. When these people go out in public, it is there choice whether they do social distancing or not. That is as far as their moral reasoning goes.

The idea that what is legal is morally neutral has led to the breakdown of community trust. When neighbors are unwilling to take others’ safety into account, neighbor has no meaning. We must address this position wherever it occurs, or it will only get worse.

What I say when faced with this attitude is where you see right, I see obligations that we have to others. Someone tweeted to me that I needed to start thinking for myself instead of just blindly following the experts. But I’m not trying to think for myself, I’m trying to think like Jesus.

The Lesson in the Pandemic: Choice or Obligation?

Fill in the blank as many ways as you can: “I owe it to my community to_________________.”

While some of us will have many ways to complete the sentence, others will balk at the suggestion they have any such obligation.

NY Times columnist David Brooks is rightly impressed with the good pandemic judgement of the vast majoring of Americans, regardless of political leaning. The exceptions are dangerous when it comes to COVID-19.

When asked by a reporter whether it wouldn’t be good modeling for the President Trump to wear a mask it public, the White House press secretary replied by saying it was his choice. Too bad the reporter didn’t respond by asking whether it is his choice to urinate in a public pool. Her reply about individual choice is meant to put a stop to the discussion. Too often, it does. It is important, though, that this not be the last word, as it would return us to the Wild West – people spewing viral bullets wherever they choose.

Surveys suggest that a huge percentage of Americans suspect that the pandemic happened for a reason, to teach the human race some kind of lesson. It is certainly an opportunity for just that. But we can’t just think of it as a lesson for other people. It looks like one of those lessons is to give more weight to the well-being of others in our decisions. This is all about moral judgment and self-control. The other lesson is how to effectively deal with those who are willfully reckless toward their neighbors. Doing nothing does not move us forward as a species.

People talk about a new normal that will follow the pandemic. Hopefully, that will include more neighborly norms for our behavior that take others’ well-being into account, not just personal choice. We each have a role to play in that, in our own choices, and in how we respond to the choices others make.

Could NASCAR Help Save Us From the Pandemic?

Perhaps I’m wrong. I doubt that NASCAR fans are very PC.  What does PC have to do with it, you wonder? While it shouldn’t have anything to do with it, it has been made to.

NASCAR will be starting their season of live racing May 17. They will be trying to enforce strict COVID-19 safety protocols for the racing teams. Will this be too PC for some people?

President Trump complained that it was too PC when the Air Force Academy sat their graduates 10 feet apart at their graduation instead of the 6 minimum. He pushes us to open things up before they are ready to meet safety standards.

While President Trump has been unwilling to model safe practices or allow his staff to, if NASCAR does, as they say they will, it could take some steam out of the movement of disdain some people have for safe practices. Will they turn their wrath on NASCAR, that NASCAR officials have fallen for the liberal media lie that there is a pandemic? NASCAR is a pretty macho sport, so I doubt that would get any traction. NASCAR, though, has a pretty high degree of professionalism. They have relied on engineers to make the sport safe when it used to be deadly dangerous. Now they are relying on other science-based experts to create safe pandemic health practices. If NASCAR follows safe practice protocols as they say they will, and we all are able to see it, this will be helpful modeling. Just what we need.

Other sports will be watching. The self-discipline it will take in sports like baseball will be greater than in NASCAR. Get this – baseball will become easier to watch. Yes. Baseball players, coaches and managers have well-established habits to reduce tension that involve spitting.  I will not list them. No more. Can’t spit anymore. What a relief! They will need to learn new methods for reducing tension. Hopefully, the new ones will be easier for the rest of us to watch.

Store Wars & Safety Radar

Am I safe for you to share space with? What are the cues that you use, consciously and unconsciously? What is your radar looking for?

Human beings and animals unconsciously look for signals of safety or danger as we encounter each other. We used to rely on body language and facial expressions to tell us whether a person was physically and psychologically safe to be around or interact with.

With the pandemic, the type of danger we now pose for each other is invisible. What you are scanning for is whether I pose a risk of infecting you. There may not be visible signs that I am infected. There may be no runny nose or cough or red eyes. I may not know that they are carrying the virus. So we are all coming to rely on other cues – safe or unsafe behavior. When you encounter me you look at what I am touching with my hands. Am I wearing a face mask? Am I aware of my distance from others and doing what I can to keep safe distance? I either help you feel safe or not based on these things. These are what our safety radars are now scanning for. And this is relatively new, so it is still stressful to get used to.

This radar is actively scanning any time we leave home. Seeing people wear masks, we relax. No mask, we are on caution. Several people talking at safe distances, we are happy. Too close to each other, we feel threatened. All of these calculations happen consciously and unconsciously. Our radars will become a much more active as stores and other activities open up. This is an added stress we aren’t fully used to yet.

Stores like Costco and Mendard’s are now requiring face masks of all customers and that we keep at least 6 ft spacing from each other. We can only touch products in order to put them in our carts. We can’t feel fruits or vegetables and then return them to the display. If we see someone doing so, we wonder what else has been touched. Airlines will require face masks to board their planes. These requirements will signal to their employees that they are as safe as we know how to make it. And it will signal the same to us as customers. The safety radar gives us a green light in those places.

Then there are stores that will only request or suggest that we wear masks. Knowing this, our radars will signal caution.  If we go in anyway, radar blips will go off as we see people without masks or not keeping safe distance. We know full well by now that some people in our communities won’t wear masks or keep safe distance as a matter of some sort of principle. Some store owners feel the same way. So if stores won’t do all they can to protect their employees and customers, blips of danger go off on the radar. These signals will move us to avoid those situations in order to be safe.

Some stores say they will only do the minimum that the state requires them to do. Caution! Anyone who only does the minimum because they have to is not fully appreciating the nature of the risk of COVID-19.

Some of us are vowing now to only shop at stores that require masks while others are boycotting them. For many of us, the requirements of masks and safe distance signal safety, that the store cares about everyone’s safety. They will do what they can, not just the minimum.

Some people and stores think we should trust their judgment about safety instead of requiring standard safe practices. It is unreasonable for me to expect you to trust my judgment when you don’t even know me. Furthermore, I am fallible; I can slip up. Do I always catch my hand before it touches my face? Don’t I wish! Our radars won’t give people a green light who think we should trust them when the don’t follow best practices. There is too much uncertainty. How can we know what they mean by safe? A small percentage of employees admit to not following safe practices at work. No, I won’t trust their judgment. I need their employers to require safe practices of them.

Early in this pandemic people were fond of saying that we are in this together. Now it is clear that we are not. Some people haven’t even bothered to educate themselves about safe practices, despite the best efforts of public officials and medical experts. Some people are misinformed and act like experts. A few are actually hostile toward people wearing masks.

Some people don’t realize that they still need to protect the medical system from being overwhelmed so their neighbors can get the elective surgeries that are on hold, and the hospitals can begin to financially recover. Their awareness and concern does not extend beyond themselves.

Sadly, we are not in this together. Some people have opted out. While the public health threat may be from a small minority, they may be enough to keep this thing spreading if we don’t require things of them.

Picking where we shop based on requiring best practices is the best we can do to protect our health care workers, hospitals, store employees and each other. Hopefully it will encourage more business to have these requirements, rather than subject us to the least people are willing to do.

Pandemic Aid for those with Unmet Needs

Wisconsin Organizations Providing Cash Relief to Undocumented People in the US (who do not qualify for unemployment insurance and stimulus relief): 

Centro Hispano: http://www.micentro.org/LCA-COVID-19-relief.html

Voces de la Frontera: https://vdlf.org/covid-19/

Organizations Providing Relief to Vulnerable Workers and People in the US:

ROC United Restaurant Worker Disaster Relief Fund: https://rocunited.org/relief/donate/

The National Domestic Workers Alliance Coronavirus Care Fund:https://secure.actblue.com/donate/coronavirus-care-fund?refcode=covidfundhomepage

Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund (The Navajo nation is experiencing higher coronavirus infection rates than the US on average, and around 30% of people on the Navajo reservation do not have access to running water): https://www.gofundme.com/f/NHFC19Relief?utm_medium=email&utm_source=product&utm_campaign=p_email_m_pd-5311-donation-receipt-wp-v5&utm_content=internal

Feeding America COVID-19 Response Fund (provides food to and funds food banks throughout the US): feedingamerica.org    

Organizations Providing Medical and Food Aid to People in Countries Experiencing Poverty, Famine, War, and Occupation:

Doctors without Borders:  https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org/onetime.cfm

Partners in Health: https://www.pih.org/

World Food Program (Approximately 2 billion people are now facing hunger because of this crisis. WFP provides food to regions facing famine, war, and starvation.): https://secure.wfpusa.org/donate/saves-lives-during-pandemic-donate-now-4?ms=2003_UNR_Covid19_WFPUSA.ORG_WEB

World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (Trump recently withdrew the US government’s funding of the WHO, which is providing testing kits and PPE globally as well as working on potential coronavirus vaccine and treatment):  https://www.who.int/

UNRWA USA National Committee (provides humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees since Trump withdrew US government humanitarian funding for Palestinian refugees. There are approximately 40 ICU beds for all of Gaza, which contains 2 million people.):  https://getinvolved.unrwausa.org/campaign/2019-ramadan/c230371

Al Otro Lado COVID-19 Humanitarian Migrant Fund (assists asylum seekers and migrants stuck ininformal migrant camps, largely without services, on the Mexican side of the US border because US Customs and Immigrations is enforcing Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy and making them wait in Mexico for it to process their requests): https://alotrolado.networkforgood.com/projects/96006-covid-19-migrant-humanitarian-fund