America has been sold a “bill of goods” on gun rights

bill of goods

n.pl.bills of goods

1. consignment of items for sale.
2. Informal A plan, promise, or offer, especially one that is dishonest or misleading
It is stunning to hear politicians in the wake of yet another mass shooting say that it is “too soon” after the tragedy to talk about the problem of guns in America.
But it is just as disturbing in the wakes of repeated mass shootings, including 26 dead and more wounded in a Texas church, for God’s Sake, to hear the likes of actor James Woods throwing around shallow opinions about what constitutes responsible gun control.
His defense of the NRA in the wake of these mass shootings was breathtakingly shortsighted.  Woods Tweeted that none of the mass shootings of the last few decades were conducted by a member of the NRA.
NRA shooters.jpg
What James Woods cites as “actual facts” about NRA members never having been involved in mass shootings may or may not be true. But that is hardly the central point in the current debate about gun proliferation in America.  The NRA as spent decades promoting the idea that gun rights should not be restricted in any way. person. Even President Donald Trump, a noted kiss-ass for the NRA and its constituents, favored the recent removal of a law that blocked access to gun ownership for people with mental health issues.
Yet after the Texas shooting, Trump rushed to claim that the shooter was mentally ill.
So which is it? Are we concerned about people with mental illness having access to guns with which they can murder two dozen people in minutes? Or is the NRA correct in asserting that no amount of gun control can prevent such wanton slaughter?
To hear James Woods tweet, the bloody massacre of 26 people in a Texas church is of not the concern to the NRA since no NRA member committed the crimes. At what point do we point out the massive case of cognitive dissonance at work on gun rights in America?
Public emergencies
Consider the fact that mass shootings constitute a public emergency. Cities and towns across America dread the day that violence comes to visit them. Police and government officials set up entire protocols to manage gun violence of any kind. The structure of these protocols is always designed to define who is in charge, and who has authority and responsibility to act in the fact of violence, terror attacks, and other public threats.
The reason why public agencies work so hard to define who is in charge is to avoid confusion during times of public emergency. The parallel goal is to prevent mistakes in the face of terror or violence and manage the risks of even greater harm taking place.
Friendly fire in America?
Even America’s military struggles at times to avoid gunfire from taking out their own personnel. The most famous case of so-called “friendly fire” was that of former NFL player Pat Tillman who died in action not from the bullets of the enemy, but from his own military.
Yet the NRA has been a big proponent of the idea that Concealed Carry laws can prevent crime. The idea behind Concealed Carry is that the presence of “good guys with guns” will somehow act as a deterrent to violent gun crimes. Some gun proponents think the law does not go far enough in that regard. Those gun advocates insist that only Open Carry does the real job of deterring violence. Which means, if you open the pages of that action-based manual, a completely militarized society in which everyone is allowed to visibly carry weapons anywhere they want to go.
False heroes
Gun proponents are jumping on the fact that a couple Texas yahoos chased down the killer of all those people the killer shot up in the church. One of them opened fire before the chase and may have wounded the killer before he got into his car and embarked on a 90-mile-an-hour escape attempt that ended in a crash and his death. Whether he died from gunshot or the crash is not fully apparent. But gun proponents seem eager to claim the heroics of the two gun-toting vigilantes.
Somehow, twenty-six people still died in that church. The killer was walking down the aisles shooting crying babies. Some people struck by gunfire played dead and avoided further attack by the assassin. Who was not, according to James Woods, an NRA member. And that makes it all okay?
The Bill of Goods
The cognitive dissonance at work in all this the Bill of Goods we’ve been sold by the NRA. There is absolutely no substance to the argument that because the NRA cannot be finger-pointed for these and other killings, the organization, its members and the politicians who vote against gun controls bear no responsibility for the wanton slaughter of Americans that goes on every day.
So let’s walk this through in a clear and simple fashion. What the NRA has proposed and still supports is the idea that Concealed Carry laws are a specific deterrent to gun crimes, and that everyday citizens bear the responsibility (therefore) of engaging with any form of aggression they may encounter. It remains the sole right of that individual citizen to determine what the nature and level of that threat may be. There is no call to a superior authority required under this system. It is, in a word, a free-for-all on the streets of America.
Protocols
This contrasts starkly with the protocols of emergency and terror management standards all across America. Police, fire and other paramilitary organizations involved in the protection of public safety all have well-established systems of authority and even processes firmly structured to share andr delegate authority in situations of true emergency or terror.
That means there’s a big hairy gap between what the NRA is advocating as the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment as it relates to the life and liberties of everyday Americans. The NRA conveniently ignores the first and qualifying phrase of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…” in favor of the more selfish and individualized interpretation of the second phrase, “The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Lopsided interpretations
Constitutional originalists should be aghast at the destruction of that sentence as a wholly vested expression of law as it pertains to gun ownership. But the Supreme Court in its conservatively lopsided obsession with ‘personal rights’ has been an enabler to all people like James Woods who refuse to be held accountable for anything but their own selfish interests.
As a result, we do not have a “well-regulated militia” at all. That intention of the Founding Fathers has been tossed on a junk heap of Twitter-infused jingoism equating unrestricted gun rights with real freedom in America.
This lie has been exposed over and over, but it has been repeated so often the layers of gun fetishism cannot even be peeled back. This fetishism for guns is rampant as John Lennon pointed out more than forty years ago in his song Happiness is a Warm Gun:
When I hold you in my arms (oh, yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger (oh, yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm (oh, yeah)
Because, (happiness) is a warm gun, mama (bang bang shoot shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is (bang bang shoot shoot)
The security about which Lennon sang is, in reality, the massive insecurity of gun fetishists whose fearful worldview insists that only guns provide real protection from harm in this world. They must lie to themselves and even call the government itself a threat in order to sustain the pathetic lack of trust they have in fellow citizens.
Shallow concerns
In the end, this is what it’s all about. James Woods laid bare the shallow concerns of the selfish, insecure fears of an American populace that cannot manage to function without a finger on the trigger and while packing heat. But despite what James Woods says about NRA members, their fingers share the pressure of every trigger pulled in violent acts against fellow Americans. There is blood on their hands despite the fact that no supposed NRA member is doing the physical shooting. The NRA and its members have created, sponsored and supported the lack of accountability in the legal destruction of the first phrase of the Second Amendment in favor of a second, far more selfish interpretation that says bearing arms “shall not be infringed.”
Tell that to the thousands of first responders, the police and other emergency workers who do abide by the authority of a “well-regulated militia” in America. That’s how our public servants function, by the authority vested in the structure of a well-regulated militia.
But the NRA boldly ignores that fact, favoring instead the ugly vigilantism and unrestricted access to guns for those well-beyond the selfish political party we call the NRA. The organization and its supporters wash their hands of crimes every day in order to protect their supposed status as “pure” gun owners incapable of such violence. The fact of increasing violence by the police toward the public is is a direct result of the NRA’s wanton disregard for the safety of all citizens in America. The police are simply in the line of fire of the cognitive dissonance wrought by wanton disregard of the “well-regulated militia” phrase in the Second Amendment.
Moral perspective
For moral perspective, we can turn to the tenets of the Christian faith to debunk the seflish, deceitful lies of the NRA and its terror-driven impact on human life.
Jesus confronted all those that he perceived to ignoring the works of evil or worse, misleading the easily deceived into dreams of power and authority where it was not warranted. Jesus also condemned those who twisted the law to serve their own purposes, and who created stumbling blocks from legalistic ideology that prevented people from seeing or encountering the truth. All these are characteristic of the sins of the NRA.
Way back when, Jesus branded people like these “hypocrites” for lording themselves over others. He called them a “brood of vipers” for their calculating ways and chastised them for the offenses they imposed on the culture at large. Jesus would not, in other words, like the NRA or James Woods one bit.
James Woods and the NRA are selling America a hollow “bill of goods” on gun rights versus true freedoms in America. They have lied by method of exclusion, and they are avoided responsibility for gun violence by method of inclusion.
Hypocrites. Brood of Vipers. All of them.

Why Christianity needs healing

BruisesThere is so much pain in the world. Christians seeking to heal that pain rightfully turn to their faith as a means to promote forgiveness that can relieve personal and spiritual pain. That leads to healing.

The challenge to this process is in learning how to use the Bible to communicate the forgiveness that leads to healing. The Christian church with all its variegations and interpretations of the Bible is not much help.

The prime example of how to understand scripture rests with Jesus Christ, who taught using parables anchored in organic symbolism to convey spiritual principles such as love, mercy and justice. Christ’s parables made the kingdom of God accessible to all.

Authoritarians

This example was lost on those whose zealotry for godly authority drove them to turn scripture into law. Jesus, therefore, experienced conflicts with religious authorities who refused his often symbolic warnings and prophecies. When Jesus threatened to knock down the temple and rebuild it in three days, people mocked and laughed at him because the stone temple had taken years to build.

But that’s the point of scripture: it uses hyperbole to express the spiritual wonders of God.

People who take the Bible literally often miss these crucial examples. The Book of Genesis is one such book that has been raked and damaged by those mining it for literal interpretations of the Creation story. As a result, Christianity itself has been ripped up the middle by this divisive interpretation of Genesis. Jesus himself would be aghast at what has become of the Creation story in the hands of these so-called Christian perpetrators, religious fundamentalists without imagination, hope or trust that God’s Word can do more than talk like an ignorant child.

Recovery

So Christianity needs healing. It needs to be recovered from the wounding hands of those who try to use it as a weapon against modernity and science. It needs to be rescued from the medieval notion that Christianity necessarily needs to be a Crusade for religious anachronism and the threat of sending all to hell who do not abide by zealous literalism.

Conservative policies are often not what they seem

A viper waits below the surface.

Again, Jesus called that brand of believer “hypocrites” for casting blame against all those who broke the rules they created. He further characterized them as a “brood of vipers.” Take note of Christ’s use of naturalism to explain that powerful concept familiar to all. You don’t want to enter the den of venomous snakes, do you? Well, then we’re supposed to know that it’s best to avoid those who turn literalism into legalism.

None other than Pope Francis of the Catholic Church is promoting a departure from legalism, literalism and faith build on ramparts of dogma and divisiveness. Of course he’s getting tons of resistance from religious conservatives stuck in the past and happy to use the divisiveness of legalism to win political and religious converts to their own benefit, power and authority.

It will take quite an effort to recover the faith from the hands of these murderous intents.

Modernity

So the healing of Christianity needs to come from these clear warnings from Christ. There is no need to castigate science or evolution as oppositional to God. There is no call to avoid modernity at all, for the Word of God is eternal, not intransigent.

What follows is a passage of healing for all Christians to consider. It is written with all loving intent, for it is designed to heal the rent between old brands of faith and a new, truly born-again approach to faith in God and Christ.

This communicates the basics of a sustainable brand of faith that does not cower before science or force people to rent the gut of Christian faith in order to demonstrate their fealty to God. Consider it a creed of sorts, for Sustainable Faith in the modern age.

Healing Christianity

Evolution explains our material origins. The Bible explains our spiritual origins. Genesis represents humankind’s spiritual awakening to God, our birth, as it were, into that relationship. The entire Foundation of scripture depends upon deeply organic imagery to describe creation and how that is an expression of God’s love for the world. Jesus taught using parables anchored in naturalism as well. He did so to make spiritual concepts accessible to all those who would listen. When his disciples either refused these methods or did not get it, he called them “dull” for missing the vitality and purpose of these metaphorical stories. Christ’s example is how we need to look at the entire Bible in order to grasp its connections between material and spiritual truth. Jesus would have no trouble with Darwin, evolution or science.

Jesus taught using parables anchored in naturalism as well. He did so to make spiritual concepts accessible to all those who would listen. When his disciples either refused these methods or did not get it, he called them “dull” for missing the vitality and purpose of these metaphorical stories. Christ’s example is how we need to look at the entire Bible in order to grasp its connections between material and spiritual truth. We repeat: Jesus would have no trouble with Darwin, evolution or science.

Christ’s example is how we need to look at the entire Bible in order to grasp its connections between material and spiritual truth. In fact, he celebrated nature as expressive of God’s fidelity, but also free will and change. Evolution and free will go together, you see. Our lives are not predestined, and God makes no guarantees of happiness, wealth or favor. But our relationship with God and Christ overcomes all such circumstances with faith and grace.

In the end, it is our spirit that defines us. The body withers and fades away. This is true for all living things from amoeba to insect to bird to ape to human beings. Dust to dust. But explaining our evolutionary and proven material relationship with nature is no crime of thought. Through genetics, we understand that human beings share 98% of our genes with apes, and more than 60% of all our genetic material with every living creature on earth. We are connected, in other words, to all of creation.  

This worldview mimics that of Jesus Christ and the Bible, and we should grasp that worldview in the same way. There is only conflict between the world and God if you make it so. Yet that explains much of the state of religion and politics today. 

Christianity needs healing. It must begin with this understanding that Jesus Christ was our leader in how to approach and understand the organic roots of scripture and our relationship with God.

The Virgin Mary needs a better publicist

virginmaryPoor National Geographic. Since being purchased by the conservative scion Rupert Murdoch, the first issue out of the gates is a massive tip of the hat to conservative religious ideology. The biblical figure of Mary is hailed as the most powerful woman in the world.

Of course the figure of Mary carries with it some heavy theological baggage. That would be the so-called Virgin Birth.

How unsettlingly ironic this new testament to the power of womanhood really is. The Virgin Mary myth begins with the idea that the Son of God could not be conceived by conventional sexual means. Instead, it requires an immaculate conception in which the Holy Spirit essentially rapes a woman for God’s supposed purposes.

So, the question has never been answered. Is she still a virgin after this conception? Or is pregnancy not somehow an establishment of womanhood? Which is it?

How the Virgin Mother myth evolved

We know by now that the concept of a virgin birth (itself a malapropism) is adopted from other cultures to serve the idea that a supernatural being has entered the human race. The idea that some people become gods through status or divination was important to ancient cultures seeking leaders for military, cultural or religious purposes.

Buddha was ostensibly born of a virgin. So were many other goddesses and mothers in religious history. All impregnated by heavenly spirits.

Christianity was late to the game but just as determined to turn their Virgin Mother myth into a powerful religious meme. So the New Testament does a bit of work to make that a seeming reality. The Book of Matthew tells the story as a sort of scandal in which Joseph considers divorcing his wife when he learns that she is pregnant without his seed.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21 NIV

Virgin Births in the Modern Age

A group of University of North Carolina scientists dug into the issue of virgin births in the modern era. Their findings were interesting, as the main pool of people claiming “virgin birth” were Christian women who took the vow of chastity or some other indication of purity (abstinence education, for example).

The articles notes:

“Except for in the Bible, virgin births or asexual reproduction occur only in the plant world and among a small group of vertebrates: pit vipers, boa constrictors, sharks and Komodo dragons.”

Of course none of these creatures considers virgin birth all that important. Asexual reproduction is a matter of practicality, not miraculous events.  But it does make one think hard about the fact that both John the Baptist and Jesus referred to religious leaders of the day as “a brood of vipers.”

Brood of Vipers indeed

That was because the original fundamentalists of the Jewish faith were caught up in the process of turning religious laws into a power structure that conferred them political advantage and wealth. If you tried to divest them of that power, they struck at you like a brood of vipers. In fact that is exactly what got Jesus killed. He was bitten by the poison power of fundamentalism.

In his absence, the ministry of Jesus Christ was hijacked by similar zealots who then interpreted the story of his existence to fit their desires in some ways. They had already aggressively borrowed traditions like the virgin birth to make predictions in what Christians call the Old Testament.  It was now up to the authors of the New Testament to make those prophecies “pay off.”  Competitive prophecies have to fit together like a puzzle or they are unconvincing. Hence the Virgin Birth was canonized and copied over and again in the Gospel narratives.

Beyond theft and deceit

If this makes you sad to think about, don’t be alarmed. We can still believe in the power and majesty of Jesus Christ without the stolen myths of pagan religions to prop up the story. The teachings of Christ are sufficient in wisdom and transformative power to work miracles in the lives of everyone they touch. Men such as Thomas Jefferson saw this and extracted the miracle stories from the Bible to put greater focus on the wisdom of the man we call the Son of God.

But thanks to the conservative, patriarchal tradition in which men competitively want to cherish the notion of owning and then taking the virginity of a woman, we’re forced into reciting this falsehood in Christian creeds and other ways.

New Conservative Zealots

It’s no coincidence that the magazine National Geographic has been forced into parroting the Virgin Mary myth by its new conservative owner Rupert Murdoch. Oppression of women is a favorite habit of male conservatives.

One wonders how that actually squares with the supposed humility of Mary’s husband Joseph, who demurely accepts the idea that his wife is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Would conservative men of this day and age accept that as truth? Or would they behave like conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, who branded Sandra Fluke a “slut” simply for advocating the idea that birth control should be covered under health care plans? We already know the answer to that one, don’t we?

Perception and truth

Again, perception is often more powerful than truth. The University of North Carolina study found a not-too-surprising commonality among women claiming to be virgins and even men claiming to be virgins even though their wives were already pregnant. “For the larger original study in 1995, which included both males and females, she said scientists were surprised by some of the findings. “There were a few virgin fathers lurking around in data field,” said Herring.

The article states: “We found [the “virgin birth” phenomenon] was more common among women who signed chastity pledges or whose parents indicated lower levels of communication with their children about sex and birth control,” said Herring.

“The immaculate conception group may have been small, but researchers did find an even larger group, whom they called “born again virgins. “They reported in an earlier study a pregnancy, then later said they were virgins,” said Herring. “Those may have been a misclassification issue.”

False Virgins

Such may be the genuine case with the so-called virgin Mary. The controversy about her “virginity” stems from interpretation of the Hebrew word almah, which can just as logically mean “young maiden” as virgin. But given this prophecy from the book of Isaiah, one can understand the longing for fulfillment of this passage: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14).

Who made the original mistake? Likely a patriarchal author seeking to compete or outdo competitive religious claims to godhood. Then it got worse with the advent of Jesus.

As noted on the website Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, “The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This translation was made around 200 B.C. by 70 Hebrew scholars. In Isaiah 7:14, they translated the word, almah, into the Greek word, parthenos. According to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature,2 parthenos means virgin. This word is used in the New Testament of the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:23, Luke 1:27) and of the ten virgins in the parable (Matt. 25:1, 7,11).”

How the Virgin Birth hurts us all

What is the damage to all these Virgin Birth claims? For starters, it sets up an artificial standard for the divinity of Christ.

It undermines the notion that normal sexual relations can serve to fulfill holy means.

It depicts women as subservient to a male standard of desirability.

It enforces a power structure in which women are property rather than human beings.

It deceives millions of women into thinking that chastity is preferable over a healthy, normal sex life.

It egregiously twists the notion of bible prophecy to fit the aims of a perpetual “brood of vipers” seeking to control the biblical narrative for their own select purposes. Often these aims include the oppression of women. The fact that so many women buy into this narrative is a sad consequence of history.

What would Jesus say? 

None of this would have been necessary if it were up to Jesus himself to determine the notion of a Virgin Birth. He fully accepted the earthiness of life and embraced in his most intimate teachings the organic foundations of the world because these symbolized the creative powers of God. Is not conception itself a miracle? Ask anyone that has tried and not been able to conceive whether that is true or not.

Jesus would not have demanded that his mother be called a virgin in order to be blessed. It’s as simple as that. Of course the faith developed in his name will not likely abandon the falsehood of the Virgin Mary myth because it is a cult unto its own means. After all, we have politicians and religious leaders claiming to represent Christianity while simultaneously advocating greed, dunning the poor, espousing racism and discrimination and battling with other faiths over power and authority here on earth.

None of these things is Christian. They are as false as the Virgin Birth. So it should be no surprise that so many people are misled by the “brood of vipers” that continues to vex the world to this day.

But that doesn’t mean that rational believing Christians have to play along in the myth that disrespects and abuses real womanhood.

 

 

Ken Ham the Creationist versus Bill Nye the Science Guy proved a lot about how wrong Ken Ham has the Bible

By Christopher Cudworth

Bill Nye listens carefully as Ken Ham makes the claim that the Bible is a better source of fact than material science

Bill Nye listens carefully as Ken Ham makes the claim that the Bible is a better source of fact than material science

It appeared from watching the “debate” between creationist Ken Ham and scientist Bill Nye that Ham wanted desperately to prove science wrong about everything.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the conclusion of the so-called debate. Ham never mustered the ability to answer simple questions that would have proved creationism has any sort of relationship with science. His entire contention rested on the contention that the Bible must be understood “naturally” in order to understand the world. That is, the parts in the Bible Ken Ham judges to be crucial to a literal interpretation of scripture must be abided to the letter. The other parts, such as the “poetry” of Psalms, according to Ham, actually have no real bearing on the role of the Bible as science. Wow. That’s a whopper.

Yet that is the biblical foundation of Ken Ham’s creationist worldview. It begins with a denial of a significant portion of the Bible’s verity. Creationism literally starts with the assertion that not all the Bible can be trusted as fact.

And that’s just the starting point of a confused, frustrating and inaccurate worldview. Ken Ham seems to misunderstand and completely disregard the nature of what Christians call the New Testament. In fact he makes very few references to Jesus in any of his assertions about creation.

He certainly never mentions the methods by which Jesus himself taught by using organic metaphors. In simpler terms, Jesus used symbols from nature to illustrate spiritual principles. That way everyday people could comprehend what he was trying to teach about the nature of God.

But Ken Ham can’t seem to grasp or embrace that style of teaching, about nature, or about science. He prefers instead the literal view of scripture. His motive appears to be focused on leaving no room for interpretation. He is a zealot about that.

Of course that is the very same legalistic approach used by the Pharisees, leaders of the faith in Jesus’ day. He branded them a “brood of vipers” in clear reference to the Genesis depiction of Satan as a serpent.

You don’t have to take that reference literally to get the message. Jesus would not have liked Ken Ham. Jesus would have knocked the Creation Museum to the ground because it is a crass attempt to control the faith and belief of people through legalistic force and deception.

So the truth speaks for itself. Ken Ham is at odds with Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. Ken Ham considers Jesus’ method of teaching with metaphors inferior to his own brand of truth based on narrow interpretations of a book written 2000 years ago, conveyed originally as oral tradition and translated multiple times.

The simpler, more clear understanding that Jesus gave to all those who would listen is not good enough for Ken Ham. Jesus would gladly have accepted the findings of science.

Jesus said God is nature, and nature is God. All things worthy of consideration can be discerned through that simple statement. Anything else is fiction, or worse, a lie about the Word of God. And God is never happy about that.