What American originalism really looks like

American originalism is founded in its government, and ever shall be

American originalism is founded in the equity of its government, and ever shall be

According to a certain brand of conservatives, government is the problem in the America. To be more precise, they say the size of government is the problem.

Ronald Reagan once said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

He may have been speaking about a specific economic or social issue relevant to the early 1980s. Yet the quote by Reagan has since been distilled into a blanket statement that blames government for everything is wrong with America. Not too long ago the tax zealot known as Grover Nordquist once said, “Our goal is to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bath tub.”

Looking for the real enemy

Norquist is one of the so-called conservatives seeking to agitate American citizens into thinking government and the taxes collected by said government are the enemy.

But if we study how our nation came to be, and why some political firebrands seem to be so pissed off at what America has become, the answers are quite surprising. Government is not the problem with America.

To understand that statement, let us consider for a moment how America got started.

The progression toward equality

In order to have an America there needed to be a government. That was the first step. The Constitution was written to address the needs and rights of the people that government would affect. But America did not exist until the government was formed. The size of a government also evolves to match the size of the nation is upholds. To radically shrink government for the sake of drowning it in a bathtub as some symbolic sort of ideological statement is not just naive and selfish, it denies why the nation was founded in the first place, and why government is a necessary and beneficial expression of that foundation.

The formation of our nation’s government was followed and further defined by a Bill of Rights, which meant the establishment of laws to govern the nation and protect the basic principles of liberty and freedom. The form of government we have is called a republic is undergirded by a philosophical principle we call democracy. Government by the people.

That is what our government does. It protects the republic, promotes democracy and represents the will of the people through laws that define the nation.

We have a Congress to legislate new laws and determine the expenditures of the nation. Our Supreme Court ostensibly enforces both the voice of the Constitution and the laws that spring from it. Arguably we also have the entity known as the 4th estate and freedom of the press to keep even the executive, congressional and judicial branches honest and in balance.

These collective activities along with departments designed to manage our treasury, protect our environment and conduct the defense of the nation are all part of our government, our nation, this thing we call America. Government.

Things begin to change quite rapidly once we emerge from the halls of government and the laws it issues and manages.

After laws comes commerce. The act of doing business.

After commerce comes the economy. The dynamic of free market enterprise, our chosen model for commerce.

After economy comes wealth. The accumulation of assets, property and money.

After wealth comes equity. This is both a monetary and social principle that measures how wealth is distributed. Equity is both a description of value (monetary, for example) and a description of values (fairness). When equity is out of balance in either respect the nation is prone to falter.

Some like Grover Nordquist currently blame the government for falsely redistributing equity and wealth. In fact the opposite may be true. When wealth becomes so concentrated in one segment of the economy or in the hands of too few, there is no equity of purpose, fairness or equal opportunity. We have oligarchy instead of democracy.

We also know that the distribution of wealth affects both personal and national security. Gun crimes are rampant in areas where economic security and health are compromised. So people invent their own form of law, and commerce, and justice. The Second Amendment advocates a well-regulated militia, but the one we have now in America has killed more than 1,000,000 people since 1980, more than all the soldiers who’ve died in America’s wars. Many of those deaths were suicides, granted. But people commit violence against themselves for reasons of despair. Often that despair is over economic circumstances, or failure of hope. Inequity.

The whole nation suffers as a result. Because whenthere is no economic health, there are no customers for the people who create and sell. It doesn’t matter what the so-called “job creators” do if there are not enough customers to buy their wares or services. The rich can create all the jobs they want–or are wont to do. Without equity in America their enterprises are due to fail.

Worse, when the nation and our government fails its responsibility to regulate commerce, maintaining fairness as a foundation for the economy, the inequity of wealth begins to assert itself on the lives and welfare of all.

So the inequity of wealth is also the iniquity of a nation. Iniquity is immoral or grossly unfair behavior. It almost always occurs in relationship to inequity.

The Bible warns us against such iniquity. Yet the propensity of a people to tolerate and even admire the inequity of wealth and the iniquity that comes with it is one of humankind’s most famous foibles. America is currently a nation of both inequity and iniquity.

What the Bible says about it

In the Bible, Jesus encourages us to stand up against inquity. “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated inquity, therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

Men like Grover Nordquist never seem consider the furrowed brow of iniquity, which casts hateful words against those who oppose it, or who seek to rectify iniquity through criticism of inequity. The typical defense of iniquity is the turnabout of accusation, such as;  “Why do you hate the rich?”

Men like Nordquist blame the government for stealing the wealth of all those who call America home. They point fingers at social programs, calling them “entitlements” when in fact they are simply insurance programs in which Americans invest in the wholesale support of those who are aged, with social security. That is nothing more than prudent savings in advance of the time when people are too old to work.

How ironic that a group of conservatives should force the US Postal system to pay its pensions 75 years in advance, yet hate the idea that the collective wealth of the nation is sufficient to provide dignity and economic security to people in their old age. The same goes for Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are not hard to fund if ideology does not stand in the way. Yet the richest Americans pay nothing into Social Security. If they make a certain amount of money per year, they get to take a pass. Like getting out of gym class if you’re already in a sport in high school. That’s how childish our nation’s economic policies are, a distressing habituation to worshipping the wealthy to the point that we do not force them to contribute like everyone else. Likewise with corporate welfare. We give billions to industries that do not need the government’s money. Who make billions upon billions in profits, and still come begging because it lines their pockets. Or buy off politicians to make sure the money flow keeps coming. That is inequity and iniquity balled into one.

It is not the government per se that is at fault here. But the iniquity of those whose selfish behavior is sucking the nation dry.

Grover, in other words, is a shortsighted man. Because a nation starts with government, which sets the laws, legislates and regulates commerce, fuels the economy, and that creates wealth. But Nordquist wants to put a twist in the hose at the very source of commerce, the government that runs our nation. He’s aiming at the wrong target. It’s not the amount of taxes that are collected that affect the economy. The Clinton era proved that. It is the amount of the economy that is fairly and truely available to We The People that matters. Government is not the problem. Financial iniquity is the problem.

That’s pretty rich

No one hates the rich without the rich first coveting their wealth above all other things, taking advantage of others and even exploiting the poor. Then wealth leads to inequality, the opposite of equality, which is the true and original foundation of the United States Constitution. Take note, Justice Scalia. Two can speak the language of originalism.

Of course it has taken more than 200 years for America to achieve anything near the principles of equality proposed by the Founding Fathers. Let us not forget that they somehow forgot to grant equal rights to all citizens. Actual and true civil rights have taken more than 200 years to come to fruition, including racial, women’s rights and now gay rights. All have had to be wrested from the hands of iniquitable power and authority. People who already had wealth and position in society and did not care to share it.

The War On What?

That is wrong. Equality means equal health, welfare, liberty and justice for all. Clearly we are still nowhere near a level playing field for millions of Americans whose civil rights are not guaranteed or protected in our society. That holds true for our economy as well, where the rich and powerful have seen fit to declare themselves above the law and “too big to fail.” So they walk off from heinous financial crimes, unscathed. No one questions these crimes. Instead we’re busting millions of minor potheads and throwing them in jail as if they’re the scourge of society. The War On Drugs. What a joke. We should be conducting the War On Bankers. They’re the ones who have gutted the nation’s economy. Over and over again.

The real costs of war

And recent so-called conservatives even took our nation to war under false pretense, then squandere billions from the national trust in undbudgeted warfare that is still costing the country $2B a month in Afghanistan alone, $800M of which is borrowed money.

And Grover Nordquist thinks government is the problem? As if shrinking government and cutting taxes would solve everything. As if the good nature of people with money will step in to save our country when it runs astray.

No one has volunteered so far to do that. Instead we saw wholesale war profiteering under the Bush-Cheney regime where billions in government money got spent and wasted on soldiers of forture and firms that overcharged our own military by 1000% because they knew they could. Iniquity. It’s the same pattern whether it’s in banking or in war. Take what you can. Laugh at the suckers. Like Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. Despise the rabble while you seek monopoly.

We’ve allowed, even encouraged the wealthy to exist in a world apart from our nation. Look at the last candidate the Republican Party threw up for the presidency. Mitt Romney. Vulture capitalist. Offshore banking. A seemingly moral man whose living is made from the proceeds of iniquity. This is no coincidence. This is what the American system has been manipulated to encourage.

Hence the offshoring of money in tax havens, the offshoring of labor to foreign shores. And with it, the capital that is supposed to flow back into American society through fair pay to labor is no longer here. Manufacturing has dropped from 47% of the American economy in the 1960s to just 9% or so in 2013. We still make a lot of good things, and still can. Our government can help us compete worldwide. See, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Government helping business in the interest of the nation. Duh.

It works like this: citizens who are employed in manufacturing, infrastructure development, science or any other host of government boosted industries (like the automotive industry we bailed out, now doing fine…) will buy the goods that the so-called jobs creators produce.

Without equity and equality for those citizens, there is no nation, no exchange of commerce. Our very nation is otherwise dissipated and soon enough austere when we yank our government out of the business of building our economy and competing on the world stage. Reducing taxes for the sake of reducing taxes, as Nordquist proposes, does nothing to help our economy. Rich people don’t take the money they earn in profits and just hire people for the sake of doing so. That’s a lie! Grover Nordquist and yes, Ronald Reagan had it all wrong.

The Supreme Court of inquity and inequity

How ironic as well that our Supreme Court has taken the “liberty” to further grant corporations the full status of personhood. That allows further abuse and corruption of free speech and yet another push of money again up the ladder of iniquity so that average, individual people have an even harder time getting their voices heard in government. That’s called “fixing the game,” and no amount of tax cuts will help average people even up the score. In fact tax cuts generally favor the wealthiest of Americans, especially loopholes that only the wealthiest can gain, such as low taxes on capital gains. That’s Mitt Romney’s game. He tried hard to hide it in his campaign.

Thank God there is still enough common sense in America to vote against candidates who would further rape the nation if given the chance.

Let’s drown iniquity in the bathrub, not the nation

The problem isn’t government, or the size of government. It is the iniquity of those who not only refuse to share the wealth, but aggressively seek to exploit everyone in the nation. Our Constitution and our government are under attack throgh laws that are being undermined. Commerce is being manipulated along with an economy whose equitable foundation has been lost through the iniquity of those who steal and cheat and lie for their own advantage.  The very merits of equality are in a constant struggle to survive against  people who see no shame in using even the mantle of religion to claim the economic righteousness in their own iniquities. Jesus would puke if he saw us now.

Men like Grover Nordquist and yes, Ronald Reagan are the problem with America. Reagan had it all wrong back then, and it is still wrong today. Government is precisely the solution to our problems. But we had better use its power quickly and directly, for the forces of iniquity are gathering strength.

What Christian nation? 

So many people claim that America is a Christian nation. Yet the Bible warns those Christians who partner with the forces of iniquity that they are the ones who will be cast out in the end. Matthew 7:21-23. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; be he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in my name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess to them, I never knew you; depart from me, yet that work iniquity.”

Now that, in a nutshell, is what a Christian nation would really look like. Throw the iniquital bums out. They don’t deserve a seat at the table, much less the head of the table.

 

This piece is also published on my blog at RedRoom.com

 

 

 

 

Who are my mother and brothers?

Mark 3:33 New International Version (NIV) 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

By Christopher Cudworth

It is not often preached from the pulpit that Jesus so profoundly emphasized the isolation of the human condition. In 50 years of cognizant Christian worship, I have not heard this isolation emphasized with much clarity or conviction. It is too lonely a piece of scripture upon which to focus. It can frighten believers and frighten away possible converts.

The power to stand alone is important, but not the point of Christianity.

The power to stand alone is important, but not the point of Christianity.

Yet the Bible clearly shows that Jesus, and God especially, want us to know that to be human is ultimately to be alone.

Part of the plan?

Of course that is what Christian fellowship is designed to conquer. And the Kingdom of God is created here on earth to prevent this form of isolation. From others. Even from oneself.

Yet the undeniable message of Mark 3:33 is this: Even your family and friends can and will let you down. God alone is the ultimate solace.

This isolating message is likely ignored in the Christian church because it flies too near the methods used by cults to trap people into wicked devotion. The famously devious method of some network marketing organizations is to have you try to sell and recruit your friends into the organization. But people are repelled by such efforts. Those who see the folly and the scam are legitimately repulsed. Yet a desperate soul often tarries on, convinced perhaps of possible wealth if only friends and family really understood the potential in the scheme.

The ultimate effect of network marketing schemes is that they can divest people of their human network. Then the “organization” or whatever you want to call it (some call it “my business”) has you dead to rights. Because once you have scared off your friends and family, the network marketing organization (or a cult) sets out to replace that network with whatever they tell you is vital and true.

Who are my mother and my brothers? 

How does that compare to Christianity? To the example set by Jesus in saying, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

We can take another example from the Bible to examine the issue of isolation. Just before he was taken into captivity by a calculating band of priests from the very faith he had come to fulfill, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

Mark 14:32
Gethsemane ] They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Of course we know how that segment of the story comes out. His disciples, who are depicted in the Bible as often failing in tasks of devotion and understanding, cannot stay awake while Jesus goes to pray. They fall asleep and when Jesus returns, having prayed to understand the very life he would soon give away as redemption for all, finds his devoted friends asleep on the job.

The deeper meaning of disappointment

It happens often to all of us. People disappoint us. We disappoint other people. And look at the word structure of that word, “disappoint.” To dis-appoint is to disassociate, or to send away either by intent or by mistake.

Jesus tries to warn us that disappointment is a big part of the human condition. Our failures are characterized by many as our sins, or our almost predestined capacity to sin.

Sin is the ultimate isolation from God. It is what separated the proverbial Adam and Eve from God in the Garden of Eden. Another garden. Another time. The garden is supposed to be a place of consideration and worship, our connection to stewardship and creation. And yet here we have two biting examples in the Bible where a garden is a rife example of disappointment. God disappointed in Adam and Eve. Jesus disappointed in his disciples.

And what are we to make of the idea that the world can be such a disappointing place?

Friendship and fellowship

This message seems to run counter from the idea that our fellowship here on earth can be a salve for the soul. Well, it is not wise to give up on friendship and love so easily, now is it? Our relationships are clearly of great value in this world. Love is built around and in them. Our families are designed, both in faith and through nature, to be a sustaining force in this world. The friends we gather around us and trust are people in whom we find joy and support.

None of those truths is undermined by the example Jesus makes in both his statement about his mother and brothers or his disappointment in his disciples. Jesus is master not only of this world in the spiritual sense, but also of necessary hyperbole. His teachings are full of striking examples that cut through our perceptions of what human relationships really are, and what they offer.

Salvation

Our disappointment is our salvation, you see. Friends and family can and do disappoint us, just as we sometimes disappoint them. It is the isolating nature of the human condition to disappoint those we need and love the most.

But the real message of disappointment and resultant isolation is that God provides a model of unifying faith. Because to love is to forgive, even when our friends and family doubt in us, and disappoint. We trust in God because God trusts in us to make choices that reach across that disappointment to heal and forgive. God even asks us to love our enemies. That is a potent message if you want to understand the true “way of the world” through the eyes of God. You cannot ultimately conquer disappointment and isolation if you do not choose to love. You will be alone if you choose not to forgive, or fail in your devotion to a friend.

Yet when hurt comes calling, our natural tendency is to withdraw, pull back, and feel disappointment. We feel it so keenly we can begin to hate. Then we begin to seek targets for our hate because it becomes part of our nature. We look for the disadvantaged and the weak because in our own weakness and fear we want only to feel superior to others, somehow, so that we do not feel put down or pushed away from life itself.

The dangers of prejudice

Those are the foundations of prejudice of course. And of economic inequality, and caring not for the poor. We find the wealthiest among us susceptible to this isolating force of the “other.” Often that sense of disgust toward those we consider inferior becomes magnifying the more life seems to dispense fortune upon us.

Jesus recognized all this potential for prejudice, power and loss of imagination. Because imagining ourselves to be superior to others in any way is the ultimate sin, at least in the eyes of God. That is why Jesus told the wealthy to give away their riches and follow him. That is why it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to gain entrance to heaven. Wealth can be an isolating force.

It can, of course, also be an instrument for good. We see many examples of people who use their wealth for good. Even the robber barons of the early 20th century, who built monopolies and wealth beyond imagination through industry did turn around and do great things with their money. Carnegie. Rockefeller. The list goes on, and continues to this day.

So it is not wealth alone that is a sin, but wealth in some way that combines with isolation that God does not appreciate. Jesus broke through social strata and perceptions that people who were disadvantaged or different were somehow victims of their own sin. He also forcefully resisted the practice by priests of his day (and ever after, it seems) to turn scripture into laws that trap and hurt others. Jesus did not tolerate using God’s word for punishment and isolation. He would definitely not approve of the manner in which so many supposed Christians  use scripture to create false social and economic strata today. The practice of using literalism to ostracize gays and women, for example, is abhorrent by nature to Jesus. The idea that the Bible is somehow a scientific text would also be absurd to Jesus, who taught in organic parables using examples from nature to teach spiritual concepts. Jesus was no literalist. He was no fool, in other words. Jesus disliked the actions of fools like that.

And what do we find as a result of such actions today? An increasingly divided faith, in Christianity. It has been that way since the start, it seems, where zealots who wanted a literal earthly kingdom ruled by Jesus were “disappointed” to find that his kingdom was one of spirit, not earthly wealth and power.

The many kinds of wealth, and corruption

Wealth is relative, of course. One of the catchiest devices of certain political parties is to figure out how to make people feel like they have ownership or a stake in the result of an election simply by making people feel like they will “win” somehow if they cast their vote in favor of the party making the promises. Of course, people can often be found voting against their best interests, be they economic or even spiritual, and voting on a one-issue platform that hands over power to people who pretend to care but really do not.

So we see that it is at times the power of isolating people from their best interests that is the most powerful political tool of all. Politics is the ultimate form of network marketing. It is the cult of all human cults.

Cutting through the lies

Jesus cut through the lies to make us understand that disappointment and fear of isolation is our worst enemy. Yet he calls us to stand alone first, to accept and understand that with the love of God, the grace of acceptance, we are never alone.

So have the courage to stand alone, and not be disappointed to the point of isolation when your friends or family fail you, or your work environment seems poison, or the very church that you attend turns out to be a flawed human enterprise. All these things are to be expected. Jesus and God want us not to be surprised by events like these.

Yes, we can still love the world, our friends and ourselves if we understand that the kingdom of God is made from the commitment to love and forgive. Then we will find and know our mother and our brothers, our sisters and our friends. They will be drawn to us by our humility and our example of faith. That is how it is all supposed to work.