Travel isn’t Broadening – It’s Frightening

Mariner grows disinterested after hearing hour after hour day and night the same statistics, speculations and campaign ads intent on assassinating the character of the other candidate. Today he focused on the rest of the world. He should have stayed home.

We live in an age of rapidly growing nationalism. Most countries have had a form of nationalism but today it is the democratic nations that are switching rapidly. To name just ‘a few’: every member of the European Union (EU), most dramatic are England (Brexit), Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Germany – just a quick list. South America is awash in nationalism with Brazil and Venezuela in great disarray. Central America has long had several abusive, crooked governments but even there dictatorship is on the rise.

Drivers of nationalism include a slow economic recovery, an increase in people displaced across borders, and anxiety about terrorism, according to Harun Onder, an economist at the World Bank. Another factor, which perhaps is not as appreciated, is age. Many rich nations are in the grips of a big demographic shift toward older populations, and aging populations experience economic pressures that can lead to more nationalistic tendencies. Most frightening is that the newly elected nationalists in these democracies act and sound exactly like Donald! Racism and religious oppression are rampant around the world and are used to incite even more fear in stressed populations.

Median Age [qz.com]

On a more theoretical level, our global economy is 170 years old and shows signs of wear as oligarchical practices gather more and more wealth to fewer and fewer people. In the US, despite apparently good unemployment statistics, general wage levels are half of what they would be if wages kept up with inflation. Corporate power expands ever more rapidly as new digital technologies emerge.

Regarding migrations, mariner has noted that major migrations occur periodically throughout history. Humans moved out of Africa because food was becoming scarce; two very long droughts drove large numbers of humans further into Europe and Asia. Today, the reasons are war, violence and abject poverty. Ironically, the human population is growing to such an extent that soon there will be no room to migrate.

Global culture is in a state of severe turbulence. Change is everywhere and in everything. Is nationalism a solution? Is nationalism similar to a storm cellar during a tornado? Can democracy survive during hard times; during times of uprooted society and morality? Coming back to the US this evening, mariner is concerned about the state of western society. China may not know what it is getting into.

Ancient Mariner

Theologically Speaking

Theologically speaking, mariner believes there are so many people alive today that God has arranged to have some of us live longer so God has time to process purgatory before we die instead of afterward. For example, several years ago God arranged mariner’s life so that mariner would be retired to a small Iowa town on the Great Plains. Well, it’s been awhile now. Wait – what if mariner is wrong and this isn’t purgatory . . .

It may be that purgatory isn’t the issue at all; it’s the eternal places that are overcrowded.

God has many issues to overcome while managing the afterlife. There’s the old story about the less than scrupulous old man who died and was paired for eternity with a strikingly beautiful young woman. Speaking in an aside to one of the residents, the man said, “Wow, I must have done something good to deserve this.” “No,” the resident replied, “this is Hell and you are her punishment.”

The worst game loss the Chicago Bears ever experienced was September 27, 1964: Baltimore Colts 52, Bears 0. Colt Joe Don Looney ran for 82 yards – quite an effort and unusual for him. After he died, Looney asked God why God was so good to him in that game. “I’m glad you recognize my contribution to your life, Joe Don. I was unhappy with the Bears at the time.”

Mariner, an intense Baltimore Colt fan, watched that game but isn’t sure he wants to know God’s motivations. The Colts moved from Baltimore, MD to Indianapolis, IN on March 29, 1984. They left Baltimore unannounced suddenly in the middle of the night. What did mariner do to deserve this? Mariner chooses to believe God is testing his faith, like God did with Job.

– – – –

There will be a pause in mariner’s postings while he travels to visit family and friends. He plans to be back aboard on November 5. He leaves a prayer for you that unless you have done something terribly evil, God will arrange for you to vote on November 6.

Ancient Mariner

 

Watch the European Union

The European Union (EU) is having a more intense disruption with populism, nationalism and a drift toward totalitarianism. We in North America – particularly the US – should pay attention to what’s happening across the pond because the causes of disruption are quite similar.

IMMIGRATION – Donald has heightened the reactions of his base by taking the side of racist politics and exacerbating border issues with his fence initiatives; along with Jeff Sessions (lest we forget Jeff took Strom Thurman’s place as the leader of racist policy in the Senate), has eliminated sympathy, empathy, fairness and every other human instinct from ICE, tearing families apart not only in the Southwest but across the country. Further, Donald is defunding several assistance programs for immigrants, for example, DACA and aid programs for newly arrived legal immigrants. This legislative turmoil is magnified in the EU by confrontation in 28 member nations.

Actually, US citizens statistically are not as upset about global migration as Donald and his followers are. The proportion of immigrants in the US is quite a bit less than the proportions in EU nations; as of 2015 immigrant population in the EU was 19.9 percent of total population (1 of every 5) while the US immigrant population is 14.3 percent (1 in 7). These numbers reflect all immigrants, not just the headline wave in the news. Unlike EU migrations from the Middle East and Africa, US migrations largely are from Central and South America and some from Asia.

Having made this case, it can be seen that Donald did not cause immigration woes; he is the result of a populist condition energized by several circumstances in the US having to do with economic imbalance, technology and cultural transition. Fortunately, the size and democratic philosophy of the US have not permitted totalitarian leaders as in Greece, Turkey and other small nations suffering from the same woes – though Donald wishes it were so.

ECONOMY – The following chart from The Economist magazine shows a relative comparison between the US, EU and other nations for the quality of life for the poorest 10% and the wealthiest 10% in each nation. Note not only the relative quality between nations also note the US has the greatest spread between the poor and wealthy groups.

 

 

The US does have the widest spread between rich and poor. Further, with middle class income stagnant for forty years and still not climbing today with record profits among the wealthier, it is no surprise that there is a populist reaction in the US. As a philosophical note, the three countries with higher quality for the poor (Canada, Sweden and Australia) have constraints on capitalistic abuse: Sweden has a socialist economy, Canada has socialist policies and, as an entertaining note, Australia keeps capitalism in check with a robust news media!

TECHNOLOGY – While for the moment the US is the leader in several technologies, Europe is no slouch. In fact, the European population is 196,734,765 people larger than the US and is second only to the US in GDP – United States 19,390,600 and EU 17,308,862. The point is, although the US perception is that all countries including the EU are tiny in comparison to ourselves, the EU is a global competitor not only in commerce generally but a competitor in technology and in some ways a leader in responding to the emerging AI global market (witness an EU trade agreement only days ago with Japan, usurping US economic influence (thanks, Donald).

Just as with the United States, EU is struggling with the definition and role of jobs in the future. Although not as thoroughly capitalistic as the US, taxation and industrial strength both are up for reinterpretation in the near future; EU is suffering the emergence of AI as is the US but even more so because of multinational issues among EU member states. An example is the push back on privacy usurpers like Google et al – something the US has not begun to do at Federal levels.

 CULTURAL TRANSITION – Many decades ago, perhaps in the late 80’s, Oldsmobile introduced the world to the slogan, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” No one denied it was a different vehicle with newer technology but many opined that the older versions had more power and comfort. Since then the phrase has become an icon for claiming significant changes in familiar objects and circumstances. We can safely say today a variation: “This is not your twentieth century!”

The millennial generation was the pivot generation to new behavioral forces that today continue to erode our 20th century religion, job security, Federal conservatism (AKA Establishment) and class/race relations. Each generation has put more pressure on social change that is long overdue.

Mariner burns leaves in the fall. The approaching age of artificial intelligence, perhaps only one more generation into the future, has an effect on culture change that pouring gasoline has on a leaf pile.

Perhaps by watching the European Union wander into this vortex, we may have a few weeks lead on what will happen on this side of the pond.

Ancient Mariner

 

Everyone’s Main Topic

Mariner receives many emails from news services, magazines and news analysts. Today, with a rapid fire sort of experience, mariner copied the following quotes from his emails and could have copied many more:

֎ Trump won by speaking directly to voters who had the least experience with democratic institutions… A nation of passive observers watching others make decisions is a nation that will succumb to anger and resentment—witness the United States. [Yoni Appelbaum, journalist]

֎ “Whatever may be tolerated in monarchical and despotic governments, no republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them.” [Frederick Douglass, December 1866]

֎ “Human beings are tribal,” says Amy Chua, Professor of Law at Yale Law School. “We’re hardwired that way. We need to belong to groups.” The problem, Chua says, is when tribalism takes over a political system—and that’s just what is happening in America.

In a new video filmed at the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival in June, Chua explains that, in an unprecedented fashion for America, whites are on the verge of losing their majority status, leading to “destructive political dynamics” that are difficult to curb.

֎A longer article in the Atlantic marked the beginning of tribalism or identity politics to the influence of the Tea Party. Referencing a quote from Adolf Hitler who said early in his political life, “If they stop me early, I will not make it to power; if they don’t act early, they can’t stop me.” The reference alludes to the fragmentation of the citizenry and the government when one clique is allowed to derail normal democratic processes.

– – – –

The disappearance of democracy as a philosophical model producing equality for everyone regardless of tribe has malfunctioned quite dramatically in just 30 years. Today, it is the main topic of writers, thinkers, political practitioners and even many individual citizens.

Who should we blame? Just about everyone from our prominent political and corporate leaders, to Congress, Courts, and especially to the individual citizens who chose not to maintain the American experiment – democracy.

We could blame automation and electronics which make it easier to stay home rather than participating in clubs and civic organizations. We could blame public education for not requiring civics in 12 years of instruction. We could blame capitalism with its tendency to hoard. We could blame the media for championing tribal values, jousting at one another like knights in the lists – thereby creating fake news and alternative news. Each of these examples has, in its own manner, attacked democracy but at the core, it is the public citizen – the electorate. The electorate is Chairman of the Board for democracy.

Above, Amy Chua references an issue deep in this caustic salad bowl: racism. The penchant of the United States to sustain racism is about to turn around and bite the whites in their butts. Certainly a deep and visible characteristic of American culture, the transition may emerge subtlety as a shift toward socialistic governance.

On the other hand, more direct conflict emerges daily between tribes. Consider the following, each one entrenched with an attitude of ‘my way or the highway’:

-Theocratic dominance. The idea that a religion (Christianity???) supersedes state rights. There are several confrontations: abortion, gay marriage, right to deny service because of Christian values and the intent to oppress other religious principles, e.g., atheism, Islam and situational ethics as law (Roe v Wade). Whence the desire for equality?

-Libertarianism and Tea Party conservatism. (Modern libertarians defend the right of productive people to keep what they earn, against a new class of politicians and bureaucrats who would seize their earnings to transfer them to nonproducers.) Government must be kept to an absolute minimum; size and multiplicity are dangerous and unfair to the liberty of individuals to live prosperous, self-managed lives. One can imagine the conflict with a government whose discretionary (transfers to nonproducers) budget is more than half of the entire budget. Harari draws his opinion from this philosophy when he says useless people will not be cared for in the future.

-Progressives. The antithesis of libertarianism. Probably the least wordy description is to borrow Jesus’s words when he says,

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25:40]

In other words, equal value among everyone – regardless whether they are producers, nonproducers, wealthy, poor, healthy, sick, etc. An interesting reference, Native Americans were progressives in the sense that everyone was cared for. Of course, survival was more of an issue than it is today unless one is truly indigent.

-Conservatives. Share economic and capitalistic views of libertarians but more important is social order. Change is anathema. A good example is the persistence of racism; it is difficult for conservatives to change social order. The same is true of whatever subtribe is important, e.g., having a job is a universal discriminator, what neighborhood they live in, how the church service is run. In mariner’s town, well-kept lawns are an important demonstration of community unity and, if conservatives have anything to do with it, will be sustained into the future.

-Climate Change. This isn’t really a battle between advocates and deniers; it’s a battle between the massive, global investment in fossil fuel and those who want to shut down fossil fuel. It’s all about dollars and profit versus a slow, inevitable impact on the state of all economic and political circumstances. A characteristic of capitalism is greed – take the profit up front, push the overhead into the future.

Mariner can name several more tribal conflicts but already he is on his third page. No doubt readers understand that when tribal values dominate the overall political condition, fragmentation is bound to happen. The Russians understand this even if the US doesn’t. Remember Rodney King? He was right.

Ancient Mariner.

 

Conflict in Purpose

Mariner never has been able to fully reconcile the split between church and state in the United States. One can make convincing arguments for the authority of either over the other as a foundation for American culture. Each, in its own way, espouses equality; each endorses spiritual reward for compliance with its doctrine – one the New Testament, the other the Constitution.

The United States was begun in the midst of serious conflict between the Anglican (state) Church and several spiritualist sects that saw the role of faith in a different light. In many instances these sects migrated to North America. Their intent was to have the freedom to practice their religion without Anglican constraints. Freedom for any religion was not the intent – only that sect’s interpretation was acceptable; dissenters were burned at the stake, had noses split, were cast out from the community and suffered other harsh punishments during the early decades of settlement. For about half of the colonies, religion was the only law; governments had not formed independently until later.

The ‘state’ side followed early settlers to the US for economic and political reasons. 150 years after the first settlers arrived, a war broke out between Great Britain and France over who would colonize North America (Seven Years War AKA French and Indian War).

Mariner digresses. If the reader seeks more detail about how church and state began in North America, visit a preferred library or search engine.

The specific enigma about which mariner has difficulty is cultural morality. How can a singular national ethos and inclusive human rights be governed by two masters?

Mariner has personal interest in the conflict over abortion because Roe v. Wade didn’t exist in the 1940’s. No doctor would breach Christian decorum to perform an abortion; abortion was performed on the dark side – if one could find it. Mariner’s mother died at age 26 because she had to carry and give birth to a child doctors said she should not have.

To start, let’s read about Deborah Copaken’s life experience:

 

A quote from Deborah Copaken – an advocate to keep Roe v. Wade in place.

The day when you find yourself six weeks pregnant at the age of 17, as I did, is not a joyous day, particularly after doing all the right things, birth-control-wise, including getting yourself fitted for a diaphragm at Planned Parenthood. For one, you can’t have a baby. You’re still a baby yourself. You would (you know, even then) cause permanent emotional damage to a child, in not wanting to have one, never mind that you have neither the skills nor the means to raise one properly. For another, you’ve just been admitted to college, and though you love your high-school boyfriend dearly, you have no idea who you are or what you want out of love or life. Plus, raising a baby in a freshman dorm was never part of your plan. Nor your college’s. And adoption—for you, personally—is out of the question. The pain of handing over your child to another person would, you know, become a lifetime of “Little Green” sorrow.[1]

Your parents drive you to the abortion clinic in Maryland. No one in that car is happy, but everyone is nevertheless grateful for one another’s love and for your right to legally choose this option. The clinic makes you answer a bunch of invasive questions to prove you know what you’re about to do, as if you hadn’t been thinking only about this moment for the past week. You’re awake for the entire procedure, which is painful. You cry a bucket of tears into your saltines in the crowded recovery room after, because it hurts and because you’re still 17, the age of emotional roller coasters under the best of circumstances, which this is not. But not one of those tears can be traced back to shame or to regret over the decision to abort the minuscule embryo of cells inside you. In fact, it was not a “difficult decision.” It was easy: the only rational one, to your mind, to make.

– – – –

Deborah made a decision based on her situation. At that moment, a Federal law, Roe v. Wade, ergo a ‘state’ law rather than a religious one, allowed her to choose an abortion. Some would say Roe v. Wade is an affront to religious freedom.

The question always evaded is, doesn’t freedom of religion mean any religion can practice its unique doctrine and ritual but cannot restrict those who have another religion from practicing their doctrine and ritual? Following the Constitution in principle, the answer is yes. What confuses the dialogue is the total dominance of Christian-based religions versus nationally dominant state law; if other world religions had prominence in the US along with Christianity, ‘freedom’ would be better defined. There are dozens of Christian religions from the snake believers in Appalachia to the Mormons in Utah to… on and on. One of the major variations is the Evangelical Christian; there are enough members – particularly in conservative states – to influence legislators. Opportunistic legislators, which abound today, forego state law (Constitution) to placate those who would restrict not only state rights but other religions as well – thereby violating the Constitution. Unfortunately, legislators aren’t selected for their wisdom and ethic.

There is an unhappy truce for the moment because the Supreme Court is bound by the Constitution. Here is a challenge: would it be legal under the freedom of religion clause for some Islamic sects to eviscerate the clitoris of pubescent girls if this were practiced in the United States? Here is a similar challenge: Does the owner of a slave have the right to inflict torture, starvation, rape or religious practices on that slave? How about circumcision? This is relevant today; thousands, including family members, are held in slave relationships not to mention contemporary slave trading almost entirely with helpless women.

As we ponder these challenges, the core human issue is whether someone can impose bodily modification on another person. Is Deborah a slave? Is Deborah an Evangelical Christian? Is Deborah Islamic? Is Deborah a US citizen? It seems the value is one derived from social morality rather than religious doctrine. National statistics suggest social morality says no one can impose physical conditions on another person.

If one is abiding by one’s Christian doctrine, a case may be made that having an abortion is unchristian; if one is not Christian or is of a variety of Christianity where abortion is not an issue, having an abortion is subject to situational ethics which, typically, reflect cultural expectations.

Brett Kavanaugh, a well-known conservative and Roman Catholic is nominated to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. In an interview today he said, “A woman has a right to have an abortion but the Government doesn’t have the right to pay for it.” This is an excellent example of why mariner is so confused. With us since ancient times, the Byzantine two-headed eagle[2] is still around.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Song by Joni Mitchell; see lyrics at https://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/joni+mitchell/little+green_20075262.html

[2] The Emperor of Byzantium wore a crown topped by a two-headed eagle. One head represented his supreme authority over the politics and power of the empire; the second eagle head represented his authority over the Gods, of which he was one himself.

About that last post

Please view a very short animated video –

WITH CURSOR ON THE LINK BELOW PRESS CLICK then return to this post.

https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/567739/universal-basic-income/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=video-series-editors-picks&utm_content=20180901&silverid=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

In the last post mariner mentioned that many issues would be too large for nations to manage well given their current economic structures. As Harari suggested, massive numbers of people will be jobless by current definitions of ‘job.’ Many of today’s nations, especially smaller authoritarian nations, will experience a virtual disappearance of national economy similar to today’s situation in Venezuela where even today a crooked, profit-driven authoritarian government cannot hold an economy together.

The future phenomenon will roll out slowly; there will be time for nations to take several steps in preparation for the economic collapse of the Job Religion. If the reader watched the animated video, it will be clear that, like climate change, slowly a clearly unbalanced economy and its negative impact on the world’s population already is beginning to emerge; especially given the ill-fitting capitalist, oligarchical economy in place in the US at this time.

The current emigration reflects the same issue as millions and millions of humans are displaced by oligarchies, religious and political wars and shifts in the climate on several continents.

Needless to say, there is feedback: Mariner is a socialist; mariner is a communist; mariner is a lazy person who does not want to work. Without gathering numbers, mariner suspects virtually all these criticisms come from members of the Donald Party – rich and poor, entrepreneur and laborer. Mariner’s wife will confirm that mariner is not happy with any –ism. Nor is he happy with the American electorate in general – including all the identity groups across the rainbow.

For the record,

Capitalism works best to fill economic vacuum – like the early US or now, artificial intelligence.

Socialism works best to homogenize and pasteurize a disruptive and unstable culture.

Communism works best to standardize diverse cultures and contentious economies.

Humanism is the best generic umbrella for any –ism.

Somehow, somewhere, Christ’s second commandment, the 6 – 9th commandments in Islam, or achieving dharma in Hindu, will become central principles for governing the populations of the world. Albert would call it reverence for life.

Ancient Mariner

Who Shaped Your Religion?

Each of us has a religion and a faith (yes, they are different) influenced by specific life experiences, our station in society, our choice of religions and even specific houses of worship. A question that is rarely asked is “Who influenced you the most and set your religious understanding in place?”

Mariner pondered this question recently. Who had influenced him the most to establish his understanding of religion and faith? He had been a Methodist pastor; he had studied theology in college; he had a father who was a Methodist pastor for fifty years. None of these sources forged mariner’s position regarding religion. True, he is well schooled in Christian/Methodist doctrine; he worked as a probation/parole officer; he served on several state commissions dealing with drug abuse and criminal justice policy. While mariner participated in all these activities, they were pragmatic in nature and not experiences that formed his philosophy and understanding of religion.

Mariner became aware that four writers had shaped his religion: Albert Schweitzer Out of My Life and Thought and The Philosophy of Civilization, Joseph Campbell entire body of work, Paul Tillich Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions, and Reza Aslan God – a human history. Albert was a living example of a righteous life; Joe explained the paleological foundation of spirituality; Paul compared the survivability of religions faced with what he called the quasi-religions similar to communism, fascism, capitalism, etc.; Reza explained the sociologic structure of religion.

Albert Schweitzer. Early in the twentieth century Albert challenged the historical conveniences that interpreted the early Christian movement. With a scholarly method that earned him a Nobel Prize in 1952, Albert brought to light the context of first and second century beliefs that showed early Christians were apocalyptic and expected Jesus to return within their lifetimes. In place of the early, very Jewish expectations and the later orchestrated Christian doctrine, Albert reinforced the importance of a thoughtful and sympathetic life. He adopted his term “reverence for life” as his motto. Importantly, he lived his life according to his faith – something most of us find challenging.

Joseph Campbell. Joe was an anthropologist with an ability to interpret spiritual motivation as an act of human behavior. He studied older cultures as well as modern ones and with great insight gave human definition to spiritual phenomena such as transformation, ascension, and soul. He believed that everyone acts according to a set of myths that provide deeper meaning to one’s life. In Christianity the myth of the Trinity is a central belief that provides spiritual and behavioral value for Christians.

Paul Tillich. Paul’s book focused on the vulnerability of religion as a participant in a power game involving politics, wealth, social precedent and diverse cultural interpretations. He suggests that Baal worship is common, undisciplined and accepted even as one proclaims other religious values. An excellent example is the dollar – money. Money is the false Jesus; money is the route to salvation; money defines our worth and value as a human being – but make no mistake . . . we’re Christians.

Reza Aslan. Reza has traveled the world studying religions. His ability to compare commonality and differences between religions is impressive. Reza’s book, God – a Human History, is a culmination of his career as a theologian and student of our relationships with our god(s). His perspective is highly sociological, to the point that some may find his interpretations of spirituality less than spiritualists may desire. His key insight, if mariner may be so brief, is that God is us. Humans invented religion and needed a sense of self that was above the foibles of daily life – humans need a god exactly like themselves. He states that in every religion, just as in politics, doctrine is a manifestation of power and control. His common example is the holy chamber where one can commune with god but only the priests are allowed in the holy chamber. In Methodism it’s The Book of Discipline. In the Holy Roman Catholic Church, it is the Vatican.

As a footnote, there is one more influence. When mariner was twelve years old he read George Santayana’s abridged Life of Reason. Influenced by the book, Mariner remains a naturalist although his interpretation of religion is shaped by the four authors listed above.

Now it’s the reader’s turn: Who shaped your religion?

Ancient Mariner

Joseph Campbell was Right

It was 2:30AM. Mariner sat down in the living room with his hydrating nightcap of 12 ounces of fake sugar lemonade. He decided to see what crumbs were available at the end of a long TV day. He caught the last half of an old comedy series from long ago when comedies seemed more fresh and creative than they do today. Mariner knew, though, that ‘Your Show of Shows’, the ‘Nelsons’ and ‘Roy Rogers’ wouldn’t make it today – just like properly enunciated lyrics have gone by the wayside in modern music.

After an endless assault by commercials, a movie started. It was a generic Jesus movie – the kind where Jesus clearly is a white Caucasian with coifed hair such that the Breck women would be jealous; his eyes had that odd color of blue that seems translucent. Jesus looked about six foot three. Jesus was no Jew. Mariner watched the movie for about five or six minutes and had to turn off the TV. He sat thinking “Joseph Campbell was right:” Religions, and for that matter all other assumptions about reality, are based on myths.

A myth is something that makes sense and further, it implies a truth that is unaffected by the vagaries of daily life. Each of us at one time or another depends on our belief in a profound principle. The belief can range from the ridiculous to the sublime but the purpose is to carry us through a moment when reality seems arbitrary.

In one of his famous interviews with Bill Moyers, Campbell said the Christian faith struggles with a myth that no longer applies to today’s reality. Without the myth, Campbell says the core truths are still viable but have no common reference to daily life. One can imagine that a scruffy Jewish guy associating with the unemployed who campaigns against the law of the land doesn’t fit the role an Evangelical Christian expects today; history, like the Nelsons, is no longer meaningful. Hence a well-kept, blue-eyed, law abiding Gentile.

But what about those core truths Campbell mentioned? Do we still need them or are they part and parcel of the myth – another time in history, another economy, another place?

Just to establish a generic definition of core truths, generally they are a value system that promotes the merit of being human and requires behavioral allegiance to the value system. Let’s apply this generic definition to something besides religious doctrine:

Among the labor class and well into the middle class the entity ‘job’ is the source of salvation. ‘Job’ is the source of holistic transformation. If an individual has a job, they are righteous; if that same individual does not have a job, they are sinners – the scum of the Earth. This reads more like a prejudice but ‘job’ is sanctification in and of itself.

Further into the middle class, financial equity takes the place of job. Whether one has a job or not is less important but one’s accoutrement speaks to the truth of financial value and a comfortable bank balance is virtuous. Beyond middle class into the very wealthy, wealth is a given; it is continuous success and reputation that become the key truth in the myth.

Mariner reminds the reader that these descriptions of myth are quite general. There is a myriad subset of beliefs that are tied to the larger myths. For example, racism, nationalism, neighborhood, profession, even to the detail of how one manages their children or how well their lawn is kept. Joseph Campbell considered myths as tools for establishing the core truth of a given culture. Mariner notices, with respect to Campbell, that myths also breed prejudice. Core truths, it turns out, are easily compromised.

Ancient Mariner

 

Changing Signs

Back in the early 60’s, there was a British comedy show called Beyond the Fringe. Eventually it toured in Baltimore where mariner and his wife saw the show. It remains one of the best comedy experiences of our lives. The entire show is online at https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=beyond+the+fringe+1964&view=detail&mid=2391A28FEE931C54B1142391A28FEE931C54B114&FORM=VIRE

Mariner often recalls many of the short bits in the show. One of his favorites is changing road signs around to confuse German troops should they invade Great Britain (it is at 53 minutes on the video). Two men are standing beneath a sign with arrows showing the directions to three towns. The dialogue: “Let’s put Lyme Regis where Great Yarmouth was, Great Yarmouth where Ipswitch was and Ipswitch where Lyme Regis was. . . Here, how do we get home?”

Mariner does not expect the humor to carry after such an elaborate explanation but it speaks perfectly to today’s situation in US politics and culture. Some pieces of news that show we are changing signs:

NPR interviewed an individual in West Virginia of all places who said quite seriously and without malice that we should eliminate the Senate. (Mariner mentioned a few posts ago that the electorate may face conflict leading to a Constitutional convention)

The Republican Party ended Reaganomics by putting the US into the deepest debt in modern US history.

Donald is seeing to it that recent Democratic Party accomplishments (should mariner say recent Obama accomplishments?) are trashed whenever possible. Donald also has put the US at risk by denying climate change and disrupting international relations politically, militarily and economically. Further, the momentum that carries the US as a global leader is diminished by Donald’s immaturity and simplemindedness.

As the Democratic Party ramps up for the coming elections, a platform plank advocates eliminating Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) added 43,000 new members in 2018. It seems millennials aren’t afraid of the ‘S’ word.

Culturally, we are changing signs as well. Women in particular have pushed their agenda into public awareness for everything from abusive sexism to equal pay for every job. What lies ahead, especially with a different Supreme Court, are heated battles over Roe v Wade, voting suppression, gun laws, gerrymandering, privacy and security, single payer health care, and significant reworking of all Federal discretionary programs especially in education, Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security. Last but definitely not least is the role of religion(s) in a state-run culture.

Here, how do we get home?

Ancient Mariner

 

Immigration and the Church

In the days when Jesus was around, Israel was a theocracy. A theocracy is a nation run largely under the control of religion. The same was true in western culture when the Holy Roman Catholic Church dominated political entities and nations in Europe.

In Matthew 12, there is a confrontation between Pharisees and Jesus because he and his disciples are picking grain and eating on the Sabbath:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

It wasn’t until the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 that state was declared independent of church and had rights beyond the King (titular head of the nation who endorsed the idea of a state church). In its Constitution, the United States took the idea of separating state from church as a mandate. Today, church and state still are separated by legal and ideological arguments but few lawmakers and citizens are able to properly separate the two. Admittedly, there is conflict in interpretation not only between the US Government and the several religions but also between the religions themselves.

Trumpian religious groups (largely evangelical) have the attitude of the Pharisees claiming that religious principles trump state principles (enjoyed the pun). It is easily seen that Trumpians would prefer a theocratic rule of law.

Other religious institutions support humanistic and compassionate ideals as the higher ethic. Jesus’s rebuke of the Pharisees is right on the mark for today’s immigration debate:

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

The separation of church and state works best when the state manages state responsibilities and the church manages spiritual and ethical responsibilities. It is a tough choice for conflicted citizens: should we sacrifice immigrant’s lives because they violate state law or should we seek compassion and mercy as a separate influence on the matter.

Trumpians are Pharisees.

Ancient Mariner