Wednesday, April 30, 2008

So few fear that God is on the other side of the fight

George Will wrote a column for the Washington Post yesterday that’s such junk, I’m not going to link to it. In it he calls Jeremiah Wright a demagogue and says that Obama’s association with such a man for 20 years should be a central issue for the Presidential campaign. Ah yes, judging a black man for having poor judgment while all these white people making that judgment don’t worry at all about how strangely any white preachers preach. What a world.

Reverend Wright doesn’t strike me as a demagogue, defined in my dictionary as a leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace. Wright only has power inside a church, where being a pastor is a lot more about getting things done and serving people than manipulating them. Yes, he is emotional, and that is unacceptable to some people, isn’t it? So many people have such inexperience with emotion that they see anger and they say it is hate. No, not necessarily.

A big part of my story since first experiencing God 19 years ago is that I wanted to know God wherever I could find him. I went to liberal churches and conservative churches. The difference there is simple enough. The latter believe the Bible was almost dictated by God. The former drifted away from that. They don’t often drift away as far as I have. I’m sure the Bible is strictly the words of men, even if some of those men knew a little about the real God.

There is another dimension that defines churches, namely how emotional a church is, what kind of music they play. Unfortunately for me there isn’t such a thing as a very liberal, very charismatic church, not one with a grip on reality as well as spirituality. That’s where I’d like to go. I know that from my time in more sedate liberal churches and fairly conservative, charismatic churches like the Vineyard fellowships. Ooh, I’d like to do some cultural engineering combining things I like about those while leaving out things I don’t like, such as the prejudices of sedate liberals against strong spiritual experience and the prejudices of conservatives against both liberal religion and liberal politics.

It’s occurred to me before that a Spirit-filled African-American church might be closest to what I want, but then I have this obvious reason not to fit in there, even if there’s plenty of testimony from whites attending Trinity United Church of Christ that they felt comfortable there, testimony lost on so many who have judged Reverend Wright recently. Still I wouldn’t fit in that well culturally, and I’m still too liberal for them theologically. I don’t think God punishes anyone with weather or strife. I don’t see that God controls the physical world at all. I don’t see any reason to believe in physical miracles. I don’t receive any revelation from God that I should believe in them anyway, just the opposite. I’m not sure what kind of church would put up with such beliefs from me.

I do know that I can have church just with God, communing with Him away from any distractions in prayer and in other ways. From that I’ve received God’s direction, comfort, strength, love, and hope for many years. Anyone could join me in that church. No one has wanted to. I understand. It’s too different.

I could be wrong. Maybe those few Catholics are right who claim their church is the only one God established. Maybe it’s that broader belief that conservatives have that believing the Bible to be the Word of God is what is critical. Maybe the real God goes even further than that, but not as far as I go.

I’ve worried about that at times, talked with God about that many times. That’s one reason I’ve explored every kind of church, even religions beyond Christianity. Where is God? I’ve wanted to know, relentlessly.

That’s how I’ve come to seeing my basic belief as being that God is whoever and whatever God is, not what any human being says God is, as that human being has no way of knowing anything of God except by God, and the mistakes human beings have made about this are plentiful and obvious.

That doesn’t exclude God being the traditional God of absolute power, knowledge, love, and goodness despite how this world looks, but that’s not the God I experience. My experience is no guarantee that God is as I experience Him to be. I can only rely on God to lead me past my experience if that is the direction I should follow, so that has been my constant prayer for years, for God to do just that. So from that, here I am, an extremely liberal, extremely charismatic Christian who understands Jeremiah Wright a lot better despite my light skin than so many know-it-alls in the media.

I know God might be very much with Jeremiah Wright. “God Damn America” is just as biblical as he said it is. Every “woe to” in the Bible, such as Luke 6: 24-26, can be replaced by “damn”. Instead of “woe to hypocrites”, “damn hypocrites” means the same thing.

Is that for this world or the next world? You can do what I do and ask God such questions. It’s usually slow getting an answer that way, but I’m quite grateful for how that’s worked for me. It doesn’t seem Sean Hannity has gotten good answers about Jeremiah Wright. Who do suppose Hannity asked? Perhaps it was his image in the mirror.

God is whoever and whatever God is. One can call that a tautology, but it isn’t if each “is” is somewhat different. Oh, someone beat me to that one, but it’s true. Words can be so ambiguous, any of them. How can people never wonder if God is on the other side of their fight? How can people dismiss the possibility that they’re wrong so easily?

It must be human nature. Yet when one becomes aware of the true range of possibilities, such as what science shows compared to what we learn only directly with our senses, one can learn not to be so limited, even to think that there might be more than just the physical universe. Experience helps in many ways. One way is that once you have considered that you are on the wrong side of God, it’s not as hard to imagine that possibility the next time.

My first experience with God was God telling me that I was wrong in giving up on the possibility that there is a God who loved me. That teaches me that I can drift off into being wrong again. It’s easier to consider the second time, the third time, ….

So many in politics and religion don’t seem to know this. I find that to be much more important than whether one expresses emotions “arrogantly” or suppresses one’s emotions so much that one’s anger and fear only comes out in intellectual prejudices.

Is God on the other side? I’ve asked that regularly. I’m with Jeremiah Wright, not that everything he says is right, but I’m with him, and I’m against the uninformed judgments in the media that says Wright should be shunned. That doesn’t mean God is with him also, unless you’re willing to believe how God answers me.

Yet all these conservatives are sure that God is with them or maybe that God is above all this. How do they know if they don’t ask that question from the only One who can answer it accurately?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Will lies ever be completely unacceptable?

I paused on Fox News while channel surfing today. Fred “Beetle” Barnes and Morton Kondracke were expressing such sympathy for the Democratic Party. Barack Obama is in trouble they say because he can’t carry the traditional Democrats Hillary Clinton won in Pennsylvania, such as union members. Yet it would divide Democrats terribly for superdelegates to give the nomination to Senator Clinton. I guess Democrats just have to get used to the inevitability of President John McCain. I’m glad that such a mainstream neo-con as Barnes and Republicanly minded independent as Kondracke would take the time to give us Democrats such compassionate advice as just to give up all hope.

The lies these two were telling were not entirely invented. The exit polls indicating how union members voted in Pennsylvania are a matter of record. Yet consider the possibilities that The Beltway Boys didn’t, that Obama will win the votes of many who voted for Clinton in the primary, that there are many groups that will determine the next President, not just union members, that the number of McCain Democrats will not challenge the phenomenon of Reagan Democrats. There are always many more possibilities than know-it-alls on TV are likely to consider. Why don’t they consider them? Well, there are a number of possibilities.

However one labels lies that aren’t complete fiction, be that spin, concern trolling, a false front, partisan speculation, poor documentation, rationales or false hope, they are less than the whole truth. People tend to pick out what’s wrong with the other guy instead of what’s wrong with me or my guy. It seems to be human nature. Was that nature all The Beltway Boys were expressing, or were they more deliberately being optimistic for McCain and pessimistic for us enemy Democrats? I don’t know, but I know it was some kind of lie. Otherwise why didn’t they consider other possibilities? Why didn’t they consider how they might be exactly wrong? Oh, would that be bad for ratings? So that’s just another type of lie, irrational confidence so as to impress viewers.

Everyone lies sometimes, but some go farther than others. Both Obama and Clinton claim to have misspoke in the past month, “misspoke” for me meaning someone made a slip of the tongue such as if I said Iran when I meant Iraq. Neither misspoke in that sense. Senator Clinton told the same story about her courageous experience several times, and it was so different from what actually happened when she landed in Bosnia that to say she “misspoke” is just another lie. Then Senator Obama copied her “misspoke” label to explain away his going too far in his analysis of the sociology of bitter votes.

Some in the media essentially called Senator Clinton a liar by juxtaposing her story with what is documented. I didn’t hear anyone suggest Senator Obama did more than misspeak, but then I didn’t search for that. Yes, I’m sure there are different degrees of lying, and this is an example. To me Senator Clinton’s lies are simply unacceptable. They are forgivable if she wanted forgiveness for them, but I have no reason to think she wants that. It seems she wants to say she’s said nothing morally wrong, just factually incorrect. Oh come on. You may keep most of your supporters with that claim, but not me.

Senator Clinton continues to lie today by saying she is ahead in the popular vote without explaining what an eccentric definition of popular vote she is using. That’s a lie. It’s deception. It’s deliberate. It’s to make her look better than she is. It is immoral according to any moral system that says love and truth are the ultimate good things. There are many such systems, theistic and atheistic.

How many people care if the person they support politically lies? I’m sure it depends on how bad the lie is and what trouble that lie causes. I myself have given up on Senator Clinton because of her lies after voting for her on February 5. I haven’t done that with Senator Obama’s lies. They aren’t as bad as Clinton’s lies, in my judgment.

Is it OK if every individual decides for himself or herself when lies are unacceptable? It doesn’t seem to be OK, judging by how much politics is full of lies. It seems many individuals are letting political liars off the hook. Of course religion is also full of lies. Just about anything people believe about themselves, other people, life and the world is full of lies, from nutritional fantasies to what one thinks about one’s job. Human beings desperately want to be seen in a certain way, such as how Bill Clinton doesn’t want his wife to be seen as a quitter. So people tell lies that they like better than reality. Not many people tell them they can’t do that. In this current world I observe I’m not sure whom I would trust to be a judge of who’s lying except doing that for myself. That’s one reason I wish we could be more effective at identifying and having sanctions against all lies, not just the worst ones. I actually would like to be able to trust some random purveyor of information, instead of thinking through or researching whom I can't trust.

I don’t suppose this will change anytime soon. Will it ever? Experience does make people more sensitive to why people say and do what they do. “Concern troll” is recognized by many in the blogosphere, when the deception involved in that wouldn’t have been as obvious in the past. Will people in the future be even less easily fooled, sometime after the Fox News Channel collapses in shame around 2025?

I hope so. Can you imagine just how many words 6 billion people waste on lies? What if we used those words to work on reality instead of on fantasies?

Will cultural evolution go in the direction where lies are less acceptable today? Will people be less partisan so that when they say, “That’s a lie,” they’re more likely to be right than telling their own lie? Will voters and other supporters abandon their leaders if that leader tells lies as big as Hillary Clinton’s lies? It hasn’t happened yet, but I for one don’t want to go through another 8 years where every communication from the government is as creative as they have been in the last 8 years. The specter of that is unacceptable to me. Experience changes us, both individually and collectively. I’m not sure if there are sufficient forces to keep lies as prevalent as they are despite such experience. I don’t find that I want to explore them much. If my hope for the future is false, I don’t mind. False hope is sometimes better than no hope at all. That makes us suckers for some lies, but I hope not too much.