Author Archives: Paul Nyklicek

We Are Family

Why are some people so opposed to refugees coming into our country? Why do some see them as a threat and believe that it is acceptable to treat them as somehow less than fully human?

These questions point to a source of major suffering in our world now.

There is something of a mythology associated with the perceived threat posed by frightened, desperate people entering our country.

The deeper problem, though, is that we are clinging to a far too limited and frankly obsolete understanding of what a family is. It is this narrow vision of what makes a family that is keeping us stuck in fear of whoever we perceive as “different” and conflating “different” with dangerous.

We need to radically expand what we mean by the word “family.” Our definition of what makes a family has been far too narrow for far too long. There has been a strong tendency to think of family in terms of those who are our blood relatives as well as those who we are related to through marriages. This has been our means of determining who “we” are and who “they” are.

Although a traditional extended family is more expansive and inclusive than the traditional nuclear family of biological parents and their children, it still leaves us with a perspective that invites us to see everyone else as non-family. In others words: not one of us. As soon as we recognize someone as “one of us” or “not one of us” we quickly decide how we will treat that person based on which category we place them in. We human beings have a long history of social programming that predisposes us to give preferential treatment to those we see as “one of us” and a heightened sense of suspicion toward everyone else.

There are, of course, additional dimensions of the “one of us” family paradigm. We may identify with our professional colleagues as our “work family.” We can also attribute a family-like affiliation to various other kinds of groups that we have at some time been a part of: schools, sports teams, the military, political parties, clubs, fraternities, sororities, etc.

So there are some added circles of inclusion with respect to who we regard as family but even so, there are always those “others” who are outside those circles who do not get included in any way as part of “us.”

Have we reached the limit of expanding our definition of family or is there still somewhere else to go with it?

Although it may seem that we have reached a dead end with respect to how we understand the meaning of family, we have actually come to a closed door rather than a solid wall. This door can be opened and we can step through it and enter what lies beyond it.

Stepping through this door requires the proverbial leap of faith. This step is the acceptance of the idea that everyone and everything is our family. There is no one and nothing that isn’t a family member. There is no human being anywhere on this planet that isn’t your brother or sister. There is no animal or plant that isn’t a relative. The land, the water, and the air are members of the same family to which we all belong.

This is actually quite realistic and practical when we remember that a central truth common to all families is that every family shares a common point of origin. They all start somewhere at a particular time. Maybe this is why lovers reminisce about where and when they first met. It matters.

Human beings all share a common point of origin on our little blue planet. We have been referring to her as Mother Earth for a very long time. This is where we all started. We human beings all share 99.9% of the same DNA. That’s how much we are all more alike than different from each other. If we allow our vision to be a bit more expansive, our home planet and our home solar system all originated from the same recycled stardust. On a cosmic level we all come from the same raw material.

So much changes when we realize that we are all part of the same family.

We realize that “othering” a family member just doesn’t work. We cannot escape our relatedness. Competing with and defeating a family member just doesn’t feel right. Competition somehow becomes less interesting while cooperation becomes very interesting.

We realize that generosity and compassion are sensible and natural. Giving something good to a family member becomes an act of giving to oneself. Receiving from a family member is a gift back to the giver.

We have no need to be afraid of refugees. It is they who come to us afraid and needing our help. They are our brothers and sisters.

We are all children of the Ultimate Mystery. We are all members of the same family.

Too Political?

How can it be that veterans who want to speak to schoolchildren about their experiences in the military are told that they cannot do so because their pro-peace views are deemed “too political” for young ears to hear? Is peace really too controversial a subject to be discussed openly in our schools? What makes peace “too political” but war somehow apolitical?

Our children go to school to learn about a variety of subjects. They learn facts about the world they will inherit and ultimately inhabit as young adults. They will make meaningful decisions that will significantly impact their own lives and the lives of others. There is great hope that they will learn to think critically and creatively. To achieve this skill they will need to be exposed to different perspectives and supported in analyzing those perspectives intelligently.

So if this is the purpose in educating our young people why would they not be served by hearing from those who have served in wars of the past and hear what those individuals have to say about the subject of peace? Our present-day culture goes to great lengths to honor veterans (e.g. “Thank you for your service.”) when such recognition is in alignment with the power structure and agenda of our government. This kind of national etiquette effectively separates those who serve in the military from the government foreign policy of which they are the tangible extension. This also serves to discourage questioning that policy. The pro-military paradigm is now constructed in such a way that if one openly disagrees with the government’s actions it is equated with “disrespecting the troops” who are “fighting over there so that we can be safe and free here” at home.

This framework encourages us to assume that all veterans are unified in their support of our government’s policy of military interventions around the world. This is, in fact, a false assumption. A recent survey of veterans by the Pew Research Center indicates that the majority believe that our current military involvement in the Middle East (casually known as the War on Terror) is a waste of human and material resources.

Why do we choose to value only those veterans whose perspectives agree with our government’s military actions and try to silence those who express skepticism and disagreement with how our government is using our military in the world?

How can we “respect the troops” if we don’t listen to them, particularly when they are saying what some of us (and our government) don’t want to hear? The fact is that we need to listen to what all of them have to say if the respect we say we feel toward them is more than just a matter of social etiquette.

As to the matter of whether or not it is “too political” to allow students to hear from pro-peace veterans we must come to terms with the pre-existing condition of pro-military bias in our schools. Students are already exposed to the political aspect of military service in various ways that have become so normalized that they blend in without much notice. Military recruiters are allowed direct and indirect access to students. Posters promoting careers in military service are in school hallways along with the various colleges student can attend after high school. And, of course, students are allowed hear from veterans as long as they don’t invite students to think about the possibility that peace is a real alternative to war.

This is the established pro-military status quo in most schools. Veterans who are overtly pro-peace may represent an uncomfortable disconnect for some who expect them to support our government’s military interventionist behavior. This position of explicit support for and implicit endorsement of this status quo is certainly political but is assumed not to be because it has become so normalized. It is a mistake to assume that such inherent biases are somehow apolitical.

Do we really want our students to grow up without the capacity for appropriately expressing and demonstrating dissent? We need our future leaders and contributors to be ready, willing, and able to question authority. If our education system succeeds only in teaching young people how to conform to existing social, political, and economic power structures we are doing them a great disservice.

Everyone agrees that we want our children to live in a better world and we all agree that that this better world needs to be one of meaningful justice and peace. There are members of our society who have had the direct experience with the unglamorous reality and horror of war. They have valuable lessons to share from their experiences. It would be a mistake to try to silence those voices that are calling for precisely that better world we all want. Our students need to hear the messengers that invite them to be participants in that cause.

Loving the Strongman

The Strongman says “My way or no way” to the Different One. He demands conformity to his way “or else”. He sees and understands only in absolutes. Black or white. All or nothing. Total Good or Total Evil.

The Strongman always sees harmful characteristics in the Different One and refuses to acknowledge them in himself. The Strongman declares himself to be highly intelligent and rational. Whoever disagrees with him is obviously wrong. He projects his extremism onto the Different One who is thus framed as the threat to society that must be contained, converted, excluded or eliminated.

When anyone dares to challenge the virtues of his Empire, the Strongman wastes no time in attacking whoever has blasphemed in any way. The flag must be stood for and the anthem must be sung. No dissent is acceptable.

The Strongman thrives on the fear he cultivates in his followers as he presents himself as fearless in the face of the looming danger. He is the Only One who can stand up to the Approaching Evil and defeat it.

The Strongman craves uniformity that fits his vision of reality while at the same time he desperately needs someone to oppose him so that he has someone to fight with. He has no idea what to do if he has no one to attack.

The euphemism of the “strongman” has been around for a long time. It has been a way to refer to the leaders of nations who operate as ruthless dictators. It’s a code word for despot or tyrant.

It may be tempting to imagine that the individual Strongman is the only problem and that his elimination solves everything. If only it were so easy! The real problem is that the Strongman is only the most visible representative of an evil system. It is this system that supports his power. The reality of this system is more dangerous and more powerful precisely because of its comparative invisibility. We tend to see people not social systems yet social systems have the quality of magnifying whatever people put into them. They also tend to organize people into their framework.

The Strongman System poses a very real danger to many. There is not much real debate about whether or not to oppose it. This system and its figurehead must be opposed because of the extreme dehumanization it imposes on everyone, including its proponents. The Strongman System is inherently exploitative and sees human beings as well as the rest of the Natural World as mere resources to be taken and used for its own purposes. This is the system that strives to crush one’s spirit. It is anti-Love.

The real question is how to oppose the Strongman System.

One option is to “fight fire with fire” which amounts to being empowered by our own fear and hatred and attempt to use this energy against the Strongman System. This is a dangerous option because it defines the framework of opposition in terms that are extremely familiar to and comfortable for the Strongman System. It knows very well how to fight within this context. It has an enormous “home field advantage” and in all likelihood is eager to have the fight on these terms and on its “home turf.” Even if this approach “succeeds” it is dangerous because of the toxic levels of hatred and fear that those engaged in such an opposition group would be exposed to in the process. The real danger is in the replacement of the original Strongman System with a newer version of the same thing. We risk becoming the evil we are trying to overcome.

Love is the radical alternative to the dubious approach described above. Love is the means to the desired end that is not contradictory. We don’t get to a loving place by hating. We get there by loving. When we adhere to the principles of Love and act accordingly we are no longer on the opponent’s “home field” but instead we have determined the framework of the conflict. We force him to meet us on our turf and on our terms. He will not be comfortable. The Strongman System will bring its materialistic power to bear against the followers of Love. Those who follow Love will bring their spiritual power to bear against the Strongman System.

What does it really mean to love one’s oppressor?

Arguably the most difficult of all commandments to follow is the one where we are directed to Love Our Enemy. This is very counter-intuitive for most of us. We may find ourselves pleading “Oh God! Do I really have to?” hoping that we will receive some sort of divine dispensation. This directive offers no such loophole.

Perhaps first we should be clear about what this kind of love does not mean. It does not mean that you have to like the oppressor or condone his behavior. It is not affectionate love. It also does not mean that we must comply with the oppressive system that the strongman manages. It is not submissive.

So what does it mean?

I believe that this kind of love contains a crucial understanding of the deeper nature of who we are as well as the real identity of the Strongman. This love recognizes that the Strongman is, in fact, profoundly ill and spiritually lost. It is through this kind of love that we comprehend that the Strongman is trapped in a form of deep suffering. Love sees that the cruel oppression of the Strongman is the projection of his suffering onto those around him. This is his futile attempt at escaping his agony. This agony is likely compounded by a very deep sense of shame that prevents him from acknowledging to anyone how much internal pain he is experiencing. In understanding this, those who are oppressed can act from a sense of deep and powerful compassion. This loving compassion allows one to see how sick and lost the Strongman actually is and then to act accordingly toward him. This compassion is possible because of our recognition of him as one of us. He is our lost and suffering brother.

What might this type of action look like?

I think it looks a lot like the way a good doctor interacts with a sick patient. The doctor’s first goal is to “do no harm” which means not to cause any new damage or in any way to worsen the patient’s condition. That translates into nonviolent noncooperation with the dictates of any oppressive system. We don’t enable someone who is caught in the cycle of a destructive addictive process. At the same time, we take great care not to shame or humiliate the patient who is already suffering. If laws are unjust and dehumanizing then submission to these laws becomes a form of enabling the suffering addict-Strongman. Enabling is a violation of “do no harm.”

This kind of radical love seeks to very actively promote healing in the one who is sick and suffering. This healing process flows out of the awareness and acceptance of who we really are as beings.

There is an established view that we humans are an incredibly complex arrangement of sub-atomic particles that fit together in just the right way such that we live, learn and have awareness of ourselves and the world around us. In this paradigm we mysteriously transcend the inanimate and non-conscious nature of our sub-atomic particles to reach a state of animated life and consciousness.

There is an alternative perspective that states that our fundamental reality is consciousness itself and that energy and matter are secondary to that consciousness. This brings us into the realm of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s assertion that: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If this is in fact true, it has staggering implications for all of us. It says something crucial about who we really are. It points us all to our sacred identity as manifestations of the Source of Ultimate Love. It would mean that each of us is part of a vast spiritual family within which there can be no strangers. It would also mean that differences of culture, religion and nationality are largely superficial and insignificant and can no longer serve as excuses for conflicts.

In the language of traditional religion: Each of us, without any exceptions, is a Holy Child of God.

This is the basis and rationale for loving the Strongman. He is a Holy Child of God just like the rest of us. He is no exception. He has become trapped in his sickness because he has so detoured away from who he really is that he has become lost. We have a family responsibility to help him rediscover his true identity because we are his brothers and sisters. Giving him hatred will not help. Giving him punishment will not help. What will help him is this Radical Love. This Love says “We know who you are behind that mask. You can take it off now. It’s time to come home.”

Befriending Strangers

How are we to deal with people who come to us from the homes they have left behind?

These people are strangers to us at first. He or she is the Unknown Person and at this point we know practically nothing about this Stranger. Maybe we know something of his or her homeland’s reputation or maybe all we know is what this person looks like to us. Until there is initial contact there is no real knowing of the person and no meaningful shift can begin toward “de-strangerizing” the Unknown Person. Before we can actually know the Stranger as a fellow human being it is all too easy to project our own fears onto that person.

Perhaps the most common thing to imagine, as well as perhaps the most understandable, is to see the Stranger as a threat. This is a bit of ancient survival programming we have inherited courtesy of our distant ancestors. We modern people might be tempted to Boo and Hiss at our primitive ancestors for burdening us with this innate fearfulness but let’s not. Instead let’s honor them because the truth is that without their survival skills we wouldn’t be here to reflect on this issue. We, their descendants, need to recognize that bit of ancient programming for what it is: A once-upon-a-time necessity. The mistake that we must avoid now is to use this relic of human programming as if it is today’s cutting edge technology.

One of our characteristics as human beings is our inherent capacity to transcend our primitive instincts. We are built to learn and grow from our mistakes and slowly evolve toward becoming more enlightened beings. As a species, we are a work-in-progress, thousands of years into a process that is still quite incomplete.

Growing up requires us to move beyond our primitive Fear-based orientation to life. We need to mature into a Love-based orientation to living in our world. Embracing a Love-based mode of being and interacting does not mean that we no longer get scared. We cannot simply delete the old programming. Like it or not, it is part of who we are. What it means is that we no longer have to be limited by fear as we live our lives. As we increasingly move into a more mature level of consciousness we have greater access to our intrinsic capacity for Love-based interactions with others.

None of this means that we suddenly throw all caution to the wind. It means that we move through our situations with appropriate care based on a rationality that naturally emerges from healthy love.

As we return to our hypothetical Stranger, we need to make contact with this as yet Unknown Person in order to have actual observations to take the place of our primitive fear-based fantasies. A meaningful question to consider is: How shall we choose to initiate contact with the Stranger?

The most reasonable way to make contact with Strangers is to welcome them as potential friends. Yes, we still need to be aware of possible dangers and observe proper caution as we start making contact but this choice represents the best way to utilize our own freedom for maximum advantage. If we initiate our encounter with the Stranger in a benevolent fashion the probability is that the Stranger will reciprocate. If we treat him or her as a threat it is likely that he or she will respond to our fear with fear of their own and start seeing us as a threat as well. This ultimately leads to preparation for the anticipated attack.

Perhaps our greatest “sin” is our willingness to de-humanize and demonize our fellow human beings. Under the right conditions it becomes tempting to reduce the Different Other to some sort of Offending Impediment to our way of life. Part of this temptation may also include a component of righteousness that can (and too often does) reach the level of the Arrogant Assumption that one is “doing God’s will” by de-humanizing the Different One. There is, however, something vitally important that needs to be recognized: It is entirely possible to escape from the prison of fearing and hating the Different One and emerge into what can legitimately be called a state of recovery. This involves an initial process of step-back-from Untruth and then a step of move-toward Truth. At first this recovery can be understood as a growing awareness and conscious rejection of the lies previously assumed to be truths: the mental-trap illusion of “Us vs. Them” and the associated false belief that there just isn’t enough of what we all need so someone will have to do without (“and it’s not gonna be us!”). It is also becomes a process of discovering what is actually true and consciously moving in that direction: every one of us is very human and we are not nearly so different or separate from each other as we once thought. There is also enough for all of us if we are willing to let go of our fear and the greed that emerges from it.

Our fear of the Stranger is solvable and it is solved by becoming aware of the Truth. The Truth, in this case, comes as the answer to the question of who we and the Stranger really are. In each case the answer is the same. Each of us, without exception, is a Sacred Child of the Ultimate Mystery. We all come from the same Original Source of Creation regardless of whether one prefers to think of this as the story of the cosmic “Big Bang”, the Genesis story or any of the countless creation stories human beings have been sharing with each other for thousands of years. If we can accept this perspective, the Stranger is nothing more than someone at a costume party who has not yet taken off their mask and allowed us to see their true face. It may help them to do so if we are willing to show them our true face first.

Finally, it is not so much a question of who the Stranger is but rather a question of who we are and what kind of people we want to be in relation to that Stranger. What are our intentions? Do we want them to be afraid or do we want them to feel welcome?

How would we want to be treated if we were the Strangers?

Sacred Cows and False Gods

Military spending is the Sacred Cow of present-day America.

It makes no difference who the President is or which party has a Congressional majority. There can be heated debate about whether there is enough money for healthcare or education or infrastructure maintenance but there is to be no consideration whatsoever to the idea of reducing defense spending in order to allocate those funds to other purposes. This Sacred Cow must be fully insulated from all critical thinking and examination. Its virtues are assumed to be self-evident and are not to be questioned.

We must not question or criticize the Military-Industrial Complex or any of its supporters. Instead we must keep repeating the National Mantra of “Support the troops”. We must always remember to say “Thank you for your service” when speaking to someone who is or has been in the military. Beyond this point of social etiquette there are to be no serious discussions about the actual merits of the Multiple Wars that America is currently engaged in. Or how much this costs us. Asking veterans how they actually feel about their time in uniform and really listening to what they say is not part of our protocol.

When we thank a veteran for their service to our country we need to remember that this person has chosen to risk their life on our behalf. This willingness to make the Ultimate Sacrifice deserves the greatest respect. If we are being fully honest, however, there is more appreciation that we need to express to every veteran that we acknowledge in this way. Not only must we thank them for their willingness to die on our behalf, we must also thank them for their willingness to kill on our behalf. The truth is that every member of the armed services is making a contribution, directly or indirectly, to the death of the designated enemy. They risk being killed by strangers while they try to kill those same strangers.

Why do so many veterans struggle with their return to civilian life? Is it improper ask why so many in the military are committing suicide every day during and after their time in uniform? Can we ignore the meaning of “moral injury” sustained by the men and women who have served in our military? Should we seriously investigate the extent to which soldiers during and after their time in the service are suffering from PTSD and CTE? Posing such questions will make people too uncomfortable.

Another uncomfortable question to avoid is the matter of why the most powerful military force in human history has not been able to “win” the War on Terror after 16 years of fighting. Don’t ask that one.

We must certainly not inquire about who in our society has benefitted financially from so many years of continuous warfare. That sort of question is unwelcome in polite society. That sort of question might suggest that the “War on Terror” is not actually meant to be won but rather is meant to go on indefinitely so that certain groups of people can become exceedingly wealthy. It is not appropriate for us to think about these possibilities.

It is in poor taste to question if, as a nation, we are doing what is right as we intervene around the world. It is improper to ask whether or not spending millions of dollars per day for the past 16 years to pay for these wars has been money well spent.

We certainly should not wonder if this Sacred Cow is just a Cash Cow in disguise.

The never-ending quest for “National Security” ends up being the worshiping of a kind of false god. We go to great lengths to convince ourselves that if we have enough weapons we will finally be safe. We may imagine that our legitimate desire to feel safe can only be accomplished by making others sufficiently afraid of us. As we have come to believe that this is true, we have made a modern-day Golden Calf in the shape of a Pentagon. In various ways we have been taught to worship this false god as if it the source of our salvation.

What if real security does not flow out of the Department of Defense? What if our safety does not depend on threatening someone else with superior firepower?

What if we actually consider embracing the radical idea that real safety and security comes from God?

Imagine a group of children placed in a very large playroom. Almost immediately they discover that it’s full of Legos that they can use to build whatever they want. They quickly start building all sorts of things. We notice that some of the children seem to like each other and play well together and others do not. The children start to arrange themselves and the playroom accordingly. They form groups and try to create ways to feel safe in the playroom. They fortify their territories, develop defense strategies and build various Lego weapons because they feel unsafe with the “other children” who are part of other groups in the playroom. Every group is fearful to some degree that if they are not strong enough and careful enough the others will quickly act to take or destroy the little societies they have created.

This is the situation we find ourselves in.

Here is an experiment to attempt to answer the question about where our true security can be found.

Imagine having a private audience with Jesus. Imagine being face to face with him. You look him in the eye and tell him that his teachings are wrong. Tell him that he is wrong about teaching us to have faith in God. Wrong in how he taught us about God’s love for us. Wrong in what he taught us about who we really are as human beings.
Tell him how wrong he was for teaching us to love each other the way he loves us.

Can you imagine doing this without hesitation or is there something inside you that doesn’t want to allow such a confrontation? If there is something inside you that doesn’t want to let you go through with the experiment, what do you suppose it might be?

So we come back to the central question: How can we trust God for our security?

The problem with this question lies in our desire to answer it in accordance with the rules we have established for ourselves in the Lego World we have created in the playroom. We assume that our rules, based on our perceptions, are the correct ones. We make the assumption that the playroom is ours because we created everything in it out of the Legos. We “forget” that our playroom is just one of a great many such rooms in an incredibly expansive House.

The real Builder and Master of the House must not be confused with the sacred cows and false gods fantasized by some of the children in the playroom.

We need to be clear about what trusting our security to God actually means and what it does not mean. It does not mean that we have some sort of mystical permission to behave recklessly. We still need to look both ways before crossing busy streets. It does not mean that we wash our hands of personal responsibility. What we choose to do matters and has consequences.

It does mean that we need to remember whose House we’re living in and that we have a responsibility to be good guests in that House.

That Which Divides Us

That we are a divided people is not breaking news.

Our divisions are reflected back to us every day. We are consistently presented with the forced-choice of our social, political and religious identities. One belongs to a particular social class and not others. One is either a “conservative” or a “liberal”. One is a “Christian” or a “Jew” or a “Muslim” or a “Hindu” or a “Buddhist” or some other religious label. These are just a few of the ways we identify ourselves. Somehow it became very important to label ourselves and each other. Perhaps this helps us stay with the illusion of “knowing” who we are.

There is another form of division that transcends the “usual suspects” of the various labels already described. This is the division between the opposing agendas of materialism and spirituality. One of the central features of these differing agendas is the question of whether or not violence is deemed acceptable as a means of solving problems. This question also correlates with the contrasting views of separation and connection. Materialism emphasizes the separateness between each of us while realistic spirituality focuses on the connections we share with each other and our world.

The materialistic perspective attributes the highest priority to creating, selling and acquiring Things. This view asserts that the centrality of Things is what life is really all about. In this framework, people are a means to an end. This is sometimes known as “productivity”. If one is “productive” in the proper way then one is recognized as a valuable person. One is considered an “asset”.

The spiritual perspective embraces a very different orientation. It holds to the belief that it is not things that have significant value but rather it is Love and Life itself that is truly valuable. People are to be loved and things are to be used. This perspective is grounded in the belief that all life is inter-connected and inter-related rather than separate and in a state of competition.

This division becomes most apparent in terms of those who are willing to use violence to get what they want and those who refuse to resort to violence to achieve their goals. When a person, when life itself, is seen as a means to an end it becomes acceptable, even laudable, to control, exploit or destroy if that’s what it takes to reach a goal. Domination and destruction are contradictory to the goals of healthy spirituality.
When life is considered sacred it can no longer be objectified as simply a means to an end but instead is known and related to as part of the infinite manifestation of Love.

We can belong to the World of Things or the World of Love. We cannot avoid this choice.

Why focus on the contrast between violence and nonviolence? This framing points to the question of how human problems are to be solved. It is the desire to solve our problems that unites us while it is the methods for achieving those solutions that causes us to diverge into the contrasting problem-solving forms of violence (materialistic power) and nonviolence (spiritual power).

The exercising of Materialistic Power essentially says: “Comply or die.” This “death” may be quite literal or it may be metaphorical in terms of deprivation of needed resources or basic freedoms. It is the straightforward imposing of physical force or intimidation on a person or group to induce their obedience.

The exercising of Spiritual Power, on the other hand, presents a perplexing set of refusals and active responses. When operating from a sense Spiritual Power a person refuses to “fight fire with fire” with the oppressor, refuses to run away from threatened harm, refuses to disengage from the oppressor and refuses to comply with the oppression process. Essentially a person acting from this orientation says: “I won’t fight with you on your level. I won’t run away from you. I won’t end my relationship with you and I won’t obey your unethical manipulations.” The active response is at least as perplexing. While under siege from the oppression of Materialistic Power the active response from one grounded in Spiritual Power is an unwavering “I love you.”

Violence exists as a broad spectrum of attitudes and actions. Its trademark is in its seeking to dominate and diminish the Other who is always regarded as quite separate from the perpetrator of the violence. It seeks victory by destroying or controlling the Other who is defined as a threat of some sort. Its manifestation may take the form of a physical attack with weapons designed to amplify the intended destructive power of the attacker. It may also take the form of a more subtle, non-physical attack (e.g. character assassination) that can nevertheless produce devastating results.

Violence as a process can also be understood as a projection of a person’s pain and/or fear. If one has not dealt constructively with these experiences the temptation to disown them becomes very powerful: “I will hurt you so that you will have to deal with my pain and I won’t. It will become your pain. I will scare you so that you will have to deal with my fear and I won’t. It will become your fear.”

There are those who believe in the use of violence as the method of choice to solve a broad range of human problems. If the end result is sufficiently valued then the means are considered justified. Counted among these believers are women and men, young people and old people, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, liberals and conservatives and the full spectrum of religious labels. Those who accept this kind of problem-solving are represented across a wide range of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. There are law-makers and law-breakers, from the local level to the international stage, who subscribe to the idea that the end justifies the means and that this is how problems get solved.

There are also people from all of the groups just named who completely reject the notion that violence is an acceptable method for solving human problems. They maintain that the means to the desired end cannot be contrary in nature of that end: War cannot create Peace, Oppression cannot create Freedom, Hatred cannot create Love. This group holds that the Means and the End are inseparable.

Nonviolence can be best understood as the active expression and demonstration of love and not as the mere absence of destructive attitudes and actions. When we speak of love it is easy to go off on some wild goose chase as to what this really means. The love conveyed in active nonviolence is a kind of sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that consciously chooses to accept and endure real suffering for the sake of another, specifically for the sake of healing the perpetrator. This kind of love does not define the perpetrator as the “enemy” who must be destroyed or defeated. Instead, Sacrificial Love seeks to help the perpetrator become aware of the truth of his or her real inter-relatedness to the person or people he or she is hurting. In traditional language, it is the deep truth that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.

No less an intellect than Albert Einstein stated: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

If we give credence to Einstein’s claim about the nature of problem-solving it becomes logically impossible to believe that the problem of violence, whether this is a problem between nations, between individuals or within ourselves, can be solved through violent methods. The time has come to free ourselves from the mental prison that holds us in the insane belief that declares: “We have to kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong.”

It becomes necessary to change our way of thinking and understanding in order to solve our problems. It is necessary to shift our awareness and our perspective in order to successfully solve our problems. We cannot solve our problems with the same low-level thinking that got us into trouble in the first place. If our house is burning down we cannot save it with a flame-thrower!

The problem of violence within ourselves is a crucial one. As previously stated, if one does not successfully heal his or her inner violence and the injuries from it then one will be very likely to project this destructiveness onto someone else. It is necessary to establish this internal healing as the foundation to solving human problems on an interpersonal level as well as between various social groups.

No less a wisdom teacher than Jesus of Nazareth explained metaphorically that one must first take the wooden beam out of one’s own eye before attempting to remove the splinter out of another’s eye. (Luke 7:5)

If we are to take him at his word, this means that we need to start healing our own impairment and suffering in order to stop perpetuating violence against ourselves which is often invisible to the rest of the world but the individual (who, in this case, is both perpetrator and victim) is acutely aware of his or her own internal self-torture process (e.g. “I’m such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be good enough!”, “No one would want to be with me if they knew what I was really like.”, etc.). We need to attend to our own healing and make peace within ourselves before we start telling, coercing and demanding that the other person (or group or nation) act a certain way to put their house in order.

What divides us is a faulty perception of how separate we are from each other. This misperception supports the belief in the “win-lose” form of problem-solving in our lives. When all we see is our disconnectedness is becomes easy to assume that competition in the only way to achieve needed solutions.

We move from division to unity when we start to see that the truth of our existence is one of connection and belonging. What were once seen as major differences between one another can now be recognized as largely superficial. We begin to love more and more inclusively as we realize that any injuries we do to others we do to our selves and that the compassion we extend to others is also the compassion that we receive.

American Narcotic

America has a serious addiction problem.

I’m not talking about the usual suspects of alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine or marijuana. I’m not even talking about the epidemic of legal drug addiction to prescription medications. I’m speaking of our addiction to the use of deadly force to, at best, attempt at solving real problems and, at worst, feed our egos with delusions of righteousness, dominance and superiority. As a nation, we have so bought into the idea that using lethal force is good and right and necessary that it has become a kind of secular religion. Indeed, for many this is the foundation of our national “Greatness”. “Greatness” becomes defined as our capacity to be physically overpowering in order to get what we want. Many of us worship at the altar of Military Power and make unholy communion with Police Brutality. As a nation, we “entertain” ourselves by watching countless murders at the movies and on television. We perpetrate countless more in the multitude of video games we play.

Violence is the American Narcotic. Whether we are witnesses or perpetrators, it is our drug of choice.

A narcotic is usually understood as particular type of drug that induces and reinforces repetitive, destructive behavior. In other words, active addiction. The addiction process operates from a very primitive part of the human brain and bypasses the part of the brain that is associated with compassion and rational thinking. This primitive part of the brain is associated with what could be called the “small self” or the ego. This is the “I-Me-Mine” part of each of us. It is the part of my brain that believes that the universe revolves around me. “I am all-important and you don’t matter.” Not surprisingly, that is why people react with such disbelief when they see or hear of an addict acting as if they just don’t care about anyone else. In this case the difference is that the addiction to Narcotic Violence is not based on putting some type of substance in our bodies. It is an addiction to a particular type of experience.

Our national “brain” is impacted by State-sanctioned violence in the same way an individual addict’s brain is effected by their drug of choice. This has major implications for how we “think” and act as a nation. When our National Ego gets hurt we look for a way to self-medicate. So we do what we know best: We lash out. We identify an enemy and we attack them. We hurt them and we do a lot of damage to their world. We give ourselves a “rush” by re-asserting our dominance and our sense of righteous power. Then we feel better. This is our “brain” on drugs.

America is addicted to feeling righteous, powerful and dominant.

There is a memorable scene in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that illustrates this point very clearly. Indiana Jones, the American hero of the story, is confronted in a Middle Eastern marketplace by a man dressed in a dark robe.  The robed man laughs menacingly as he begins twirling a large sword in a threatening manner. Indy pauses briefly, looks mildly annoyed, and calmly pulls out his gun and kills the man with a single shot. There is enthusiastic applause when “our hero”, the character who is supposed to represent us “good-guy” Americans, commits murder without a hint of remorse or regret.

How did it come to this?

As a nation we were born in bloodshed.  Our very existence began with a revolution of violence that should not have succeeded and yet it did. We were Rocky Balboa knocking out Apollo Creed. Our national ancestors were the rebels that somehow defeated the far more powerful empire.

The irony is that America has become a much more powerful version of the very empire it once defeated.

Is God really on our side?

During the course of our nation’s history, we increasingly saw ourselves as the world’s best hope. How could it be otherwise?  How else could we have won our independence unless God was on our side?  Clearly ours must be a divinely-supported destiny.  When we believe that God is on our side we don’t question our authority and use of power. When the power of the State is beyond question the exercising of the power to intimidate, control and destroy is unrestricted.

Here begins our toxic mythology of so-called American Exceptionalism. This is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. This our narrative of how we are the “chosen ones” to lead the world to a better way of life. Sadly, it is also a mythology that has been built upon the oppression and exploitation of various disadvantaged groups throughout our history. It is a mythology that rests upon the genocide of Native Americans (ask Native Americans if they think “genocide” is too strong a term) at the hands of uninvited European immigrants. It stands upon the indefensible terrorism of kidnapping non-Europeans from other lands and selling them into slavery. It weighs heavily on the violence, both subtle and obvious, against women. This is by no means a complete list.

So begins our addiction to the American Narcotic, the American Way of Violence: “This is America and this is How We Solve Problems and Get Things Done.” When we see something as a Problem we declare “War” on it and quickly get into combat mode. We have declared a War on Poverty, a War on Cancer, a War on Drugs, and, of course, we now have the perpetual-motion machine known as the War on Terror (recently re-branded as the War on Radical Islam). It’s as if we only have one pair of glasses that we see through but instead of rose-colored glasses we keep putting on our War-Colored glasses.

As a nation, America has lived in a delusional bubble in which we think we “know better” and are entitled to more than anyone outside our bubble, anyone who isn’t one of US.

If we are truly to be a Great Nation, our greatness cannot be built on a foundation of oppression and exploitation. No pathological addiction can lead to greatness that is healthy or legitimate. Real Greatness can only be supported by a foundation of compassion and generosity that applies to everyone without exception. We have always had, and we still have, an abundance of the raw materials we need for this kind of foundation.

How do we, as the people who form this nation, recover from our dependency on the American Narcotic?

I believe we need to begin by recognizing and admitting that we have become an Addict Nation. Our denial needs to end. The delusional bubble that keeps us cycling through the lies of our superiority needs to pop. These are lies that we have absorbed and believed for far too long.

As Americans we need to openly admit that we are not smarter or better than anyone else in the world. We need to publicly reject the lie of American Exceptionalism. We need to to come clean and sincerely admit to the mistakes we have made as a nation and the suffering we have caused throughout our history.

We need to ask to be forgiven by all those who we have hurt by our dependency on the American Narcotic. We must be prepared to receive the anger of those we have caused to suffer so much. We need to accept the hatred and rejection of anyone who has been harmed by US.

We must continue to be very honest with ourselves. We need to be honest about our vulnerability to relapsing. There will be a strong temptation to escape back into our delusional bubble of superiority. Resisting this temptation won’t be easy because it means feeling our own pain and being aware of how much suffering we have caused others.

This is genuine humility and it is the price of real greatness.

Burkini Bans and Sit-Down Stands

What is going on here?

This past summer, on a beach in France, a Muslim woman was confronted by police and required to remove part of her burkini in accordance with a prohibition on such religious swimwear. Meanwhile, on the west coast of the United States, a professional football player remained seated for the playing of the national anthem before a pre-season game. He was quickly vilified in the media.

What do these apparently disconnected events have to do with each other?

They represent different forms of systemic discrimination: racism, sexism, and religious prejudice.

Some have argued that the reason for the burkini ban is actually to legally reject the religiously-based objectification of women. If true, this may have some merit but the problem here is the government’s stance of “it’s for your own good that we enforce your compliance”. In other words: We have to strip you of your freedom in order to protect your freedom. This is also problematic in that it does not take into account that at least some women may want to wear the burkini of their own free will.

There is also reason to suspect general anti-Muslim sentiments within the population. France has experienced a number of terrorist attacks in recent years that have been associated with Islam. It is understandable that some people could come to fear and suspect a Muslim person of being a potential terrorist in light of this recent history.

There is also something rather sexist about the burkini ban: It aims to specifically regulate women and how they may present themselves in public. There does not seem to be a corresponding regulation concerning how a Muslim man may or may not be attired at the beach. Consider for a moment how you would feel if the Muslim woman on the beach happened to be your sister or your mother or your wife or your daughter being forced by male police officers to remove any article of her clothing.

Halfway around the world we have a well-known professional football player who decided that he will not stand up for the national anthem of the United States of America. This has shifted from sitting to a more symbolically powerful kneeling posture. He has stated that this is in protest of the racial injustices in the United States. His actual statement is as follows:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

He expresses recognition that there may be painful consequences that he will have to face as a result:

“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people who are oppressed….If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Refusing to stand for the national anthem is not the first time someone in America has taken a stand by sitting down. The individual’s body language quite clearly expresses: “I won’t stand for the status quo of injustice and oppression.” It was true when Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on the bus decades ago and it is true now.

While some have expressed support for this protest, the backlash has been considerable. Many have referred to this person as a “traitor” and expressed outrage that this professional athlete would show such disrespect to the men and women of the armed forces and domestic law enforcement. He has also reportedly received death threats for his actions.

Some expressions of public outrage are variations of the following:

“How dare he refuse to stand for the national anthem!”

“The real heroes of this country sacrifice their lives so this guy can make millions playing a game once a week.”

There is, of course, this inevitable expression of indignant anger:

“If he doesn’t like it here he should go live somewhere else!”

We want our celebrities, our star athletes, our popular entertainers to know their place! We get angry when they cross the line and go beyond their assigned roles in our society. We don’t want anyone who might be a role-model to rock the boat and make existing social power structures unstable (and the people who maintain them and benefit from them uncomfortable). We want Muhammed Ali to shut up and box. We want Marlon Brando to accept his Oscar and thank everyone instead of refusing it in protest. We want the Dixie Chicks to shut up and play their music. We don’t want well-known, well-liked public figures to challenge The System. It makes us uncomfortable to consider that, in our apathy, we may be complicit with some injustice. We want our discomfort to go away and so we want the reminders to go away.

The clear implication here is that a wealthy celebrity is ineligible to express thoughtful dissent by virtue of the fact that he or she is rich and famous. The logical extension of this formula is that only people who are relatively poor and unknown have the right to voice their opposition to any social injustice. Of course, relatively poor and unknown people are much easier to ignore and control. The paparazzi do not hound them for pictures, videos or sound bites so they are not much of a threat.

“Bad apples.”

When the status quo of society-as-a-whole is threatened by accusations of unethical behavior it has become almost obligatory for representatives of the social order move into “damage control” mode. One way that this is done is by conceding that there is some validity to the accusations but that this is because of a “few bad apples.” This means that the problem only exists on an individual level. The “game” itself, it’s rules and goals are maintained as right and worthy of continuation. The point of this kind of diversion is to sacrifice a few pawns to save the King and the Queen and the “monarchy” as a whole. The System, the Established Order, is to be preserved at any cost. If this means throwing a few individuals under the bus, so be it.

When injustice is institutionalized it becomes part of The System. It becomes the social norm. When systemic injustice is operational (e.g. apartheid, the Abu Ghraib prison) it automatically emboldens individuals who represent The System to go beyond the limits of decency when it comes to their interaction with any minority group. A minority group is viewed as the fictional “them” contrasted to the “us” of the majority faction. “They” are categorized as the source of the Problem so the Solution is to control “them” or maybe even get rid of “them”. Unfortunately, history provides us with many examples of this kind of “Problem Solving.”

Why do we prefer to blame a few individuals (e.g. criminals) and remain functionally blind to the structural flaws (e.g. consumerism, militarism, racism, poverty, etc.) in our social system?

Maybe it’s just easier to blame individuals and make them the villains as opposed to solving social problems on a systemic level. That way “they” have to be responsible for the problems and “we” are off the hook. Owning personal responsibility takes much more work than blaming someone else. In addition, we may have a strong reluctance to accepting that, as individuals, we are significantly influenced by group dynamics (pressure to conform to social norms). We want to believe that we make up our own minds and choose our own actions in life. This, however, is only part of the truth. The other part of the truth is that, as human beings, we are social animals and we are greatly influenced by our environment and the social dynamics within it.

Not only is it easier to address the symptoms of a problem rather than to deal with its root causes but it also allows those who benefit the most from the inequities of the existing social structure to keep enjoying those benefits. The King and Queen know full well how important it is for them to keep the game going. That’s how they maintain their “royal” status.

If the structural inequities of society are addressed on a systemic level it would lead to a significant shift in how economic and political power are actually distributed. That is the crux of the problem. The individuals and groups who currently hold and wield such power are very reluctant to voluntarily relinquish their power for the common good. The truth is that the existing social, economic, and political power structures cannot hold if the level of noncooperation starts approaching 10% of the general population. That’s the tenuousness of the established social structure.

When The System gets greedy and goes too far and pushes people too much, it inspires resistance and rebellion. People become aware that they have little left to lose and potentially a lot to gain. Refusing to cooperate, refusing to keep playing the game becomes the most reasonable course of action. Noncooperation becomes a direct assault on the legitimacy of the Established Order. I suspect that’s why dictators cannot tolerate being ridiculed. The message within the ridicule says:

“The game you’re running is a joke. I won’t take it seriously anymore. I won’t play your game anymore. I won’t take you seriously as long as you try to keep the game going.”

The ego of the authoritarian is so inflated that it becomes quite fragile and vulnerable to humiliation. They find being laughed at more threatening than any Weapon of Mass Destruction.

So, what is going on here?

People are getting very tired of being pushed around and mistreated. While the “game” can be seen as a joke, the suffering of those caught up in the game is no joke at all. They are looking for, and finding, different ways to respond to injustice and oppression. They know that they cannot match the materialistic power of the King and Queen. They cannot fight fire with fire and hope to actually change anything. The fires of injustice and oppression need to be put out with water of a very different caliber. This is the water that heals rather than hurts the perpetrator, that reconciles us with each other instead of dividing us against each other. It is the water of sacrificial love and genuine compassion directed relentlessly at the arsonists. The purpose is not to drown the oppressors but rather to wake them up from the old fairy tales of “survival of the fittest” and “us vs. them”. This is the water that wakes the dreamer from the obsolete nightmare.

Who Owns Our Children?

The United States of America has quietly declared that its citizens’ children are Government Property.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a Bill (2017 NDAA) which seeks to establish, as law, several items pertinent to U.S. military operations. Among those provisions is the elimination of the exemption for women from Selective Service registration (a.k.a. draft registration). Since 1980, young men, upon turning 18, have been required to register with the Selective Service. Failure to do so carries various penalties: no driver’s license, no student loans, and no government employment. As a special bonus: non-compliance brings the possibility of being arrested and incarcerated for up to 5 years as well as possible fines up to $250,000.00.

If this Bill is fully approved, young women will also need to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. They will presumably face the same penalties if they choose not to comply.

“Selective Service” is one of many government-speak euphemisms that is essentially a fresh coat of paint on a condemned building. The old term for this euphemism is conscription. The dictionary definition of conscription is: “compulsory enrollment of persons especially for military service: draft”. The modern qualifier “selective” misleadingly implies that one is making a choice to serve. In truth the individual has no choice. Government does all the selecting.

Selective Service registration is unnecessary, coercive and dehumanizing.

Some have argued that registration is really not a big deal. We have not had an actual draft since 1973 when U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended and draft registration was discontinued for the remainder of that decade. Since then the U.S.military has maintained itself quite adequately with an all-volunteer force. It can be argued that registration is nothing than more than a bureaucratic dance between young Americans and the federal government. Kids fill out the paperwork at the Post Office or online and then forget about it. The sales pitch proclaims: “Men…You can handle this.” The implication here is that this task will not put too much physical or mental strain on them. The other parts of the marketing campaign appeal to the young person’s sense of morality (“It’s the right thing to do.”) and need for obedience to State Authority (“It’s the law.”).

If it is not really such a big deal, if it is really nothing more than filling out a simple form then why make an issue of it? Why not just comply with the law and not worry about it? On the other hand, if the actual draft is really a thing of the past, why not just get rid of it? Why not let it be a thing of the past?

The argument has been put forth that if the United States were ever attacked, the government and military would need a system in place to have efficient access to young Americans to be placed into military service. The premise, theoretically, is that not enough young people would volunteer to fight if our nation was threatened. This makes drafting the non-volunteers a necessity. It’s a matter of National Security.

Please notice how all such discussions are expected to be settled simply by declaring that one’s position is vital to National Security!

This argument in favor of maintaining draft registration is somewhat plausible except for the fact that it is wrong! It is wrong because the United States was attacked (we efficiently remember it as 9-11) and we subsequently went to war (and have stayed at war) in the Middle East. As a nation, we have remained actively engaged in warfare in multiple countries for well over a decade. Under these conditions, there has been no need whatsoever to return to an active military draft to recruit additional young people to wear the uniform and “fight for their country.” In fact, the number of young Americans volunteering for military service increased after 9-11 (just as it did after Pearl Harbor).
The U.S. Armed Services recruitment has come a long way from “Uncle Sam wants you!” to the sophisticated marketing techniques currently used to enlist new volunteers. Today’s military advertising is very slick, very Madison Avenue and very effective.

So with the failure of this rationale for maintaining draft registration, what are we left with to explain not only the requirement for young men to register but now also to include young women in this process? What remains is the subtle assertion (if you don’t look too closely or think about it too much) that our children are Government Property. This claim is the result of a highly coercive arrangement by which young people must “voluntarily” sign a government contract in which they agree to serve in the military should the time ever come when they are told to do so:

“In exchange for the State Privileges of driving a car and getting student loans (that I will have to pay back at an obscenely high interest rate when I get out of school and start working at my entry-level job), I_______________ , agree that, whenever I may be called upon to do so, I will serve as cannon fodder for the American Empire. I agree to go where I’m told, do what I’m told to do, kill whoever I’m told to kill, and willingly die painfully and prematurely as may be required.”

As a parent, I am obviously biased on this issue. I do not want my children risking their lives while they try to kill other parents’ children while those other parents’ kids are trying to kill my kids. The mouthpieces of government policy and their corporate media partners euphemistically refer to soldiers as “boots on the ground” as if they are chess pieces to be strategically manipulated to win “the game.” Those “boots” are filled with the barely-grown-up children of mothers and fathers everywhere. These young people are our children and yet we do not own them. They are not our property.

This system has very little to do with patriotism. It has a great deal to do with government exercising control over what it sees as its property. When the government of any nation treats its citizens as property to be managed and utilized it dehumanizes and commodifies the very people without whom there would be no nation. When people are dehumanized in this way it reduces the nation to the status of a mere machine. Citizens are reduced to consumers.

Any system, any corporate entity, that acts to reduce human beings to objects is wrong and deserves a response of nonviolent, noncooperation. Rather than including young women in the mandatory draft registration process as some expression of phony equality, the entire system should be eliminated for all American citizens.

As a society and as parents we bear the responsibility for our children until they are ready to bear that weight themselves. That is the cost of personal freedom. This freedom is not a privilege that our “adult” society bestows upon each new generation but rather it is the repayment of our debt to the generations that came before us and sacrificed for us. It is not the current generation of young people that owe something to the current generation of adults in this world but rather it is the current generation of adults that owe something to the generations of parents who preceded us. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren are our responsibility and not the property of any person or any government.

No one owns our children.

Talking to Christians

My fellow Radicals and Subversives in Christ:  I am so very glad to be with you!

Why do I refer to you this way?  I know that those words may make some of you uncomfortable. I assure you that that is not my goal.

My point is simply this:  The One that we are privileged to follow was and is the greatest radical and subversive who has ever walked on the surface of planet Earth.

Did he support the socio-economic and political status quo of his time? Hardly. He taught and demonstrated a radical departure from the social and political systems established by human beings.  He actively subverted The System of Empire. In response to his radicalism and subversiveness, he was captured, convicted and tortured to death by that Empire.

Why was he a threat to The Establishment?  I suggest that his primary threat was in his challenge to their assertion that they were God. Jesus countered that only God is God and that no human political or military leader or system is any sort of god at all.  That posed a major threat to their power base.  Therefore “The System” moved to eliminate this threat.

What does this mean for us now?

We are called to follow Jesus. He didn’t ask us to adore him or worship him. He told us to follow him.  How can we interpret this directive?  We can follow his example behaviorally.  We can do our best to act as he did. We can follow his teachings and do our best to cultivate an internal attitude similar to his and practice corresponding external behavior.

I believe that following Jesus means following his path of Radical Love. What is radical about his kind of love?  At the Last Supper, he told his disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.”  This is his instruction as to how we are to love each other (and love ourselves).  He did not direct them (or us) to love any old way. He specifically tells them (and us) to follow his example and do it his way.

So what does it mean to love the way he taught and demonstrated?

He tells us to love those who hurt us. He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who have hit us already. He tells us to love our enemies.  Even as he is being tortured to death on the cross he expresses:  “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.”  He provides a live demonstration even as he is dying. His way of loving is so counter-intuitive, so alien to us.   It would seem that he wants us to actively forgive and love everyone who hurts us.

When we use the words “radical” and “subversive” it’s important to ask:  A radical departure from what?  Attempting to subvert what existing system or situation?

I would argue that the radicalism and subversiveness of Jesus was and is this kind of “movement” away from the Violence of Lies and toward the Reality of True Love. It is the conscious subversion of the idolatry of worshiping The-State-as-if-it’s-God.

Does this mean that we are called to do likewise? I think it does. I think it means that we need to recognize the various ways that each of us is invited or coerced into deifying and worshiping phony gods in our everyday lives.

Who and what are these phony gods?

Who are the individuals that are promoted as heroes in the public eye? Who are those that are advertised as great and powerful that the rest of us are supposed to cheer for and adore? What are we repeatedly told to buy and buy into? What are we directed to glorify by those with materialistic power? What are the institutions and products that are endlessly marketed as “must have” if we are to be acceptable as human beings?

Who wants us to be afraid?

Phony gods.

If we choose to follow Christ, we commit to the path that is a radical departure from the System of Empire and the lies that sustain it. We commit to a path that is a radical movement toward the Unity of Real Love. We express and accept the “Yes!” to who and what we truly are: Manifestations of Love.

If we choose to make this claim, we can expect to be labelled as “subversive” by the world of phony gods. If we take this stand, we should expect The System of Empire to react with violence of some kind. That is consistent with its philosophy. We must be prepared for this reaction.

No empire likes to be told that its “new clothes” are an illusion!

My fellow radicals and subversives, we have choices to make.

We can choose to conform to the System of Empire and enjoy the materialistic comforts that come with it. This option requires behavioral obedience to The Establishment as well as psychological acceptance of its worldview. We must do and think and feel as we are told.

There is another choice.

We can choose to follow Christ’s Way.

This means letting go of the Temptation Traps of the human ego. These are traps like: “I want what I want when I want it” and “I”m more deserving than you” and “Us vs. Them”. It means accepting discomforts we may be unaccustomed to and suffering rejections and criticisms from both strangers and loved ones. It means embracing a lifestyle of all-inclusive compassion and forgiveness. It is a matter of choosing what is real instead of a hollow fantasy. It is a matter of choosing love over fear, freedom over slavery.

It is the choice of redemptive nonviolence over non-redemptive violence.

My fellow Radicals and Subversives in Christ, we have choices to make.