Political Life Contra Salvation

The seclusion of the church has become a tool that has dulled the political acumen and the weapon for the oppressed. There was a time when churches were the harbingers of social justice. Now they often prefer tax exempt status over empowering their congregants. To provide clarity, there was a time that churches fought loudly for the political favor in the black community. Leaders like MLK and Malcolm X stemmed from very politically active churches (*Nation of Islam is a quasi-church in my mind and now bears some strange resemblances to prosperity gospel groups). Their harm was inextricably linked with their ability to lift up others with them. Now, we get souls who laud themselves and their money. Prosperity gospel, that prayer and God chooses who should be rich, generates an inwardness that was not a mainstream approach to religion until the rise of televangelism. Now it haunts the religious community around every corner. Even to the point that yoga isn’t safe. Bikram yoga is an excruciating practice where you engage in yogic practice in a 100+ degrees Fahrenheit room. It spread like wildfire and though many are there for the exercise portion it also carries a religious engagement similar to prayer. Its founder is now on the lam from the law for sexual assault and tax evasion. He believed his own hype and had some outlandish words and beliefs.

Joel Osteen, the sole weasel to escape from Roger Rabbit’s world, has established an elaborate series of machinations to funnel money into his own pockets. His narrow skull filled with gleaning teeth can be seen at Wal-Marts across the US. Preaching an independence that suggests an inward and isolationist approach is his “shtick”. Essentially saying your problems are just God testing you, go further inward and you will work your own way out. Oh, and most importantly, give money to me because God wants me to thrive. The gall. The shamelessness. Yet, people give. Osteen has a net worth of about 40-60 million. He claims that there is no need to be ashamed about being rich. I guess when you are that rich, you can swallow the pride. Not someone who brings good into the world. Certainly not to the public at large. And, easy as it would be to criticize so many other elements, including his time working under Judge Doom, we must admonish him for the looking inward instead of engaging the injustices of this world. Not even willing to open his vast megachurch in Houston to help those suffering immediately after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the city. Yet, the power of shame can only sway Joel so much. He opened after the internet barraged him with criticism but he persisted on making excuses.

If I were to say what these congregations are good for, it would seemingly be only in their ability to further fleece the government for tax purposes.  Perhaps the inward turn from the churches at large was because they were simply afraid to lose their tax exempt status. If that is the case, then money has triumphed over salvation.

 

 

Mother Night and the Call for Sincerity

Howard Campbell is a fictional character in the Kurt Vonnegut novel, “Mother Night”. This text has its protagonist appear to be a reprehensible soul. An American turned Nazi propagandist who we later find is working as a double agent. His charisma laden speeches are used to inspire der Volker and to provide hidden messages to the American forces. When the story begins Howard Campbell is in an Israeli holding cell – awaiting trial for his crimes as a Nazi. We learn the truth through his story.

There are so many great Kurt Vonnegut books. Why does this book mean to much to me? One quote resonates: “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

Even when I was reading the book, there drew some parallels to the various demagoguery on cable news. Almost a decade later, that quote comes home to roost. This story, much like Vonnegut’s carries some humor though.

Infowars grew to popularity in the early 2000’s and pushed conspiracy theories of all sorts. At its helm was a man named Alex Jones. He appeared to be a very zany personality that professed insane amounts of virility with deep understanding of the forces managing the world.

He is a character straight out of a wrestling promo. Until recently, it was so hard to glean anything else about this foolish being. His machismo runs rampant in the supplements he endorses. Brandishing a torso followed with explanations of how we can boost one’s manliness, muscles and, most importantly, attraction from the opposite sex.

His abrasive nature has helped push some joyful food for conspiracists such as: 9/11 was an inside job, Justice Anthony Scalia was murdered, and labeling the Newton shooting as a false flag. The last one has enabled a constant harassment of the victim’s families. An immeasurable agony inflicted by a talking head. Emboldened souls even take to calling and accusing the parents of faking everything – even their mourning.

The strongest of men. The most insightful person in media. Dodging any and all provocateurs.

Then he got divorced.

We bore witness to the travesty of his life and the struggle to contain his act. While in the courtroom, he was unable to answer simple questions and blamed a bowl of chili. The southwestern comfort food. His wife accused him of general foolishness that could only be permitted by a caricature of a man. Twelve years of marriage with someone as braggadocios as Alex Jones would garner some “interesting” tales. I am certain more tales will come.

One of the most prudent elements that came from when Jones’ lawyer. The lawyer conceded that Alex Jones’ radio and video personality was just that: a personality. What does that actually mean for our hero? He immediately released a video saying the lawyer was wrong! That it was just kabuki theater and to disregard the lawyer’s statement.

Should we get deep insights into the woes of personalities? Yes. Absolutely. The unmitigated power provided to the charlatans can only be mitigated by the light of their flaws. While Jones may be a family man, when he is not behind the microphone, his listeners/viewers can never be so certain. They can picture him as the champion for their ideology but he can see it as just something he does.

Vonnegut’s character seems to struggle. He loses his love, his freedom, and his integrity. Unlike a fictional character, I don’t have the privilege to know what resides in the hearts of men.  So, I am not sure what grew first and who is real anymore: Alex Jones or Alex Jones. Regardless, it doesn’t seem that he was sufficiently careful enough in his pretending.