Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Once upon a time, and oh, so far, far away from these here United States, many of our ancestors lived and worked in the Old Country.
It was a feudal society over there. The royal houses would feud among themselves while their servants labored to bring home the bacon.
Back then, the countries had not even assembled themselves into nations yet. The lands of the Old Country were divided into kingdoms and fiefdoms. Vast estates were owned and ruled by kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses. In the domain of each royal arrangement, lords and ladies would call the shots, while their loyal serfs and vassals would toil every day, out in the hinterlands amongst the hedgerows and fields where they produced a bounty of crops and goods. In this manner, everybody—the royals and the peasants— were fed and housed, and even in some cases fat ’n happy.
Or so the story has been told. . . once upon a time, in a land far, far away.
By ’n by, the times they were a-changin’ and all things became different from what they had been before.
Fresh breezes of liberty swept through the hearts and minds of men and women. Notions of liberty and equality arose among the people. These zeitgeist winds of change compelled many a former vassal to cast off the ancient bonds of indentured servitude. Many a craftsman forsook the security of the royal house, to move into town and set up shop. Striking out on their own, many a blacksmith, many a weaver, butcher, baker and candlestickmaker established paths of industrious productivity of their own, apart and independent from the Old Order.
And a New Order arose in the Old Country.
Long about this time, folks heard about a new place called America, and . . . well, you know the story. All this American stuff that you see around us now rose up in about two or three hundred years, whereas the heavily stratified infrastructure of the Old World had taken two or three thousand years to develop.
By ’n by, here in America, we got fed up with King George and his taxing shenanigans. We threw his red-coated soldiers out, sent ‘em packing back to Britain with their tail between their legs.
Our American revolution was no small accomplishment. A lot of our people, having caught a whiff of that Enlightened wind, got inspired toward liberty big time, and so we took up our muskets and fought our way to independence. Many a minute man and backwoodw farmer died while defeating them redcoats at Bunker Hill and Yorktown and Valley Forge.
But really it was a walk in the park compared to the bloody French Revolution, which came a few years later in the Old Country. Those madcap peasants chopped the king’s head off and the queen’s head and a lot of other royal heads, heads of privilege, heads of power, even a bunch of innocent heads, because the rabble crowds, so caught up in their egalitarian frenzy went plum crazy once the blood started to flow in the streets and sewers of Paris. Those furious French shocked their way into the 19th-century, whereas we merely fought our way into it.
You see, those French revolutionaries were dealing with ancient bands of power that went way back in time; there was huge institutional baggage that they felt they had to throw out with all those bloody royal heads.
Whereas, we here in America only had to send the king and his army packin’ back to England. Once we had gotten rid of them, we only had a vast, undeveloped virgin contintent to deal with.
We had four thousand miles of opportunity stretched westward before us, whereas the proletarians of Europe had thousands of years of old habits and old baggage to try to reconstruct in order to usher in a New Order. Those former vassals found themselves with a lot of unpleasant work to do before they could see their way clear to this new thing called democracy and/or republic. (Actually the liberating notions were very old, but that’s another story, a Greek and Roman one.)
Well, by ’n by, the times were a changin’ . . . but sometimes things have to take a few steps backward before the forward motion cranks up again.
Whereas, in the Olden days Once upon a time, all the peasants were gathered around a castle, now it seems we’ve found, in our modern liberty, ourselves a new castle to gather around. . .
Now that every man is a king, every woman a queen of her own destiny, now that every son is a prince and every daughter a princess, the New Order has morphed into a revised version of the Old Order. What goes around comes around. Take your place on the great Mandela. Millions of us from all over the world congregate at a New Castle every year, yearning for something special, hoping to find something magical, wishing upon a star . . .
What is it we’re really wishing for?
King of Soul
Saturday, March 10, 2018
You may have read somewhere that Karl Marx, the chief promoter of early communism, said that religion is the opiate of the people.
During the time that he wrote of such things—mid-1800’s—industry was rapidly progressing in the modern European world. Things were changing so fast that industrialists and capitalists were able to take advantage of poor working folk who did not understand the cataclysm of enslavement they were themselves getting into.
As the Western world industrialized at a whirlwind pace during the 19th-century, millions of people (the masses) got left behind in the rush.
Economically, that us. They got left behind in the money and wealth part, while the the fat cats and movers and shakers ran roughshod over them with a burdensome industrialism that slowly robbed the poor working-stiff proles of their only real precious asset—their labor—and nullified the workers' ability to prosper and get ahead of the game.
Marx wrote in 1843 that religion was the opiate of the people. He explained that religion allows oppressed workers to be be inappropriately consoled, comforted, while they are being taken advantage of. The fulfillment that religion brings people cultivates a false comfort among the masses. Such stupor enables an old autocratic system—or a new capitalist one— to justify its uncaring abuse of the masses.
This idea was used in a very big way when the Bolsheviks took control of Russia in the early 1900’s. Those rabid revolutionary communists worked relentlessly among the people to eradicate religion, because, according to developing communist doctrine, clueless Orthodox faith was the opiate that allowed the rich people to take advantage of everybody else.
But things have changed since then.
Now here we are, a hundred years past the forced imposition of communism on this gullible world, and we see that everything has morphed into a quite different scenario. Communism—at least the official version of it— appears to have been tossed into the dust heap of 20th-century Berlin Wall history.
And now Religion is no longer the opiate of the people, because it is way out of fashion. Who the hell believes all that old stuff anyway?
Well, there are still a few of us around, and we are noticing a thing or two about the present state of affairs.
We find ourselves mired in a new opiate: entertainment. It’s all around us. Can’t get away from it. I confess that I, too, have at times succumbed to this counterproductive opioid.
Being overtaken by Entertainment is, as some promoters love to proclaim—addictive. And it has an agenda.
Can you figure out what the agenda is?
Some media pushers promote product this way: “It’s addictive!” as if that that’s. . . something good!
Habit-forming, bingeful, cringeful, winkin’ blinkin’ and nodding as we in our tickee-tackee nests drift off to sleep in front of the screen only to drag ourselves to bed and then to work the next day. Talk about your opiate of the masses.
But hey, sleepers Awake! The infamous opiating old-time religion’s got to be more productive than this.
Picture it: bunch of seekers gathered in a room reading out-of-style scriptures, singing songs and praying, maybe even proseletyzing other wandering souls.
Seems pretty to active to me, maybe even subversive—downright vitalizing and invigorating compared to the passivity of comfortably numb binge-watching video and obsessively tapping our tickee-tackee deviant devices as we scrunch down the manufactured munchies.
Something needs to change. We need to take back the means of fulfillment.
Believers of the World Unite! because
He is risen! and I ain’t talking about Marx.
King of Soul
Monday, March 5, 2018
If you depart the city of Charlotte driving northward on I-77 toward Virginia, you will, about an hour later, cross over US highway 421. The traffic interchange there consists of a typical cloverleaf-type interstate-highway overpass with a looping exit ramp on which your vehicle descends from the overpassing I-77 down to the underpassing perpendicular US 421.
As I am a frequent sojourner between Charlotte and my Blue Ridge mountain home, I have performed this little maneuver many, many times over the last 39 years or so. Possibly hundreds of times.
Over the years, there is something very special I have noticed about this exit ramp, by which I steer the Subaru, veering slightly rightward and onward down the ramp, decelerating slightly and moving in a steady arc along a quasi-circular path to the destination highway below, on which I have then been redirected westward (although the sign says US 421 N) toward my domicile in the mountain town of Boone.
I say I have noticed “something very special” about this exit ramp, although this unique speciality is probably common to most every overpassing intersection that we’ve ever crossed o’er; and it is this:
As I turn the steering wheel for exiting onto the ramp, there is a point to which I can—less than halfway through the turn— adjust the wheel and cease its turning, having set the steering mechanism to a precise degree. This adjustment is sufficient to complete the onward arcing of the vehicle’s path as it egresses with no further turning of the steering wheel, until the turning maneuver is completed as I have redirected the Subaru, now on a westward vector instead of the northward one we had previously sped.
Recently on one of my trips homeward, I realized that the reason this maneuver can be performed so smoothly is this: some engineer designed the exit ramp on what appears to be a perfectly constant curve. Cool! The perfect curve, thought I.
So now I take back everything bad I ever said about freeways and modern vehicular transportation systems.
My new theory is that there is probably no curve on earth more perfect than that one.
Except for one— the curve of my wife’s hip, which I noticed while we were dating many and many a year ago, when I first visited her family in Charlotte.
Now that’s what ahm talkin’ about! The Perfect Curve.
King of Soul
Sunday, February 25, 2018
Maybe you feel that somehow we are all spiritually connected. Perhaps there is a spirit-world out there somewhere; it could be up there in the clouds, in the great beyond.
You’re not the only one. People on earth have felt this for a very long time. The story of Man reaches deep, far back into our history, and it is full of evidence that humans have always related to spirits, maybe the souls of dead men and women, maybe aliens from somewhere else, nature spirits or gods, or the One God, or maybe all these notions are just the ghostly products of our overactive imaginations.
If there were, in reality, no spirit world out there, I think we would make one up. We would, if we haven’t already, imagine a pantheon of gods or spirits that sort of hover around and make stranger things happen that we can’t explain.
Our ancient cultures have throughout history brought forth plenary evidence that something freaky is going on out there, whether it is in our minds, or otherwise.
The myths of ancient Greece presented a scenario of multiple gods who were, in some ways, very much like us. The movers and shakers among them strove to gain attention and favor from the potentates who seemed to be in charge, like Zeus and Hera, or Poseidon and Athena. Although they were thought to be somehow supernatural, those deity wannabees were generally chomping at the bit to outdo each other.
Just like, you know, us schizoid homo sapiens.
Age after age, we love to get off by summoning them up from the pit of our imagination or the abyss of wishful thinking.
Now our long postmodern 3.0 world-narrative has generally relegated these old fogies of the spirit world to the back pages of your garden-variety goggle search.
On the other hand, our historicsl narrative presents testimony from multiple fronts that the spirit world is actually created and headed up by One God. Yet we argue about what the correct name is. Is it allah or jehovah of krishna or lady godiva or whatnot, and who is the true prophet and so forth and so on.
Our postmodern pervasive intrusive web-babel of electronic media has now given us humans a host of bandwith opportunities to bandy this thing around and make a big deal out of it. Our overactive imagination can now have a field day of competing gods and goddesses, a plenary plethora of super-heroes and heroines, to whom we give our attention and in some cases even our devotion and veneration.
But hey, you won’t catch me fortifying any fan-fixation with the Ba’al or Dagon; I won’t be doing hocus-pokus with the Wicked Witch, nor will you find me hobnobbin’ with Darth Vader or joking with the Joker. Nosiree. I’ve got too much going on to waste time on those misfits. Let Superman and Obie-wan and Wonder Woman and Spiderman handle them. They can waste all the time they want chasing those villains all around the solar system.
Let ‘em play their game of thrones ’til the cows come home. I don’t care if you drag all the dungeons and dragons this side of Hades out to array themselves in full battle paraphenalia to take down whosoever’s in charge at the moment. They can pokemon forever for all I care. They’re probably a bunch of gropers and pedophiles chasing fairy tails in hell anyway.
All this fantasy fluidity is about as useful as a freakin’ fentenyl freeze-pop on a free ferry to fairy land. Something’s rotten in fandom. The likes don’t tell the whole story, y’all. We gotta find a way outta here.
I really think all these dreamed-up deities have been, just like us, screwing things up all along. They don’t know what they’re doing, don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. When God finally did show up to get us straightened out, they nailed him up on a cross.
I believe somehow we’ve got to rise above all this fantasy.
I recommend an alternative: faith in Christ resurrection, which would be a better use of our time, and it would solve a deadly problem for you and me.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
In the late ’70’s many of us wandered up to a cool mountain town; we were trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Some had survived the excesses of countercultural lifestyle; others were just there to do the college thing.
By that time, the ’60’s flower-power revolution that had failed to actuate had been appropriated into the Establishment. Now you could buy faux hippie threads from the JCPenney catalog; that reality was really a bummer, but people were buying the stuff anyway.. The free love thing had been commandeered by Hollywood. It seemed like everybody was “doing it.”
Our little group of wanderers and students found ourselves congregated in the mother-earth lap of an Appalachian river valley. We had gravitated here to, as John Denver had phrased it, “find Jesus on our own.”
“On our own” turned out to mean: apart from the institutional Church, because it was out of touch with what was happening in the real world and everybody knew it was full of foolishness and hypocrites. Haha.
As the gathering developed, however, our little charismatic experiment turned out to be a little more infected with the ways of the world than we had anticipated. Even though we were a bunch of young bucks and does banded together, raising our kids as a sheltered new testament tribe, showing all the local old-school religious folks what the kingdom of God was all about, eventually after about 20 years it flew apart and we all went our separate ways.
But the failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.
By the late ’90’s when our little congregation fell apart, our three offspring had gone off to University, where they got a different view of things, different from the churchified bubble they had been raised in. Long story short: it was good for them to be educated, and all three retained their faith.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, some of us maturing saints—shell-shocked survivors of the great postmodern charismatic reactionary push—began gathering in our homes to “on our own” collectively continue our covenantal search to discern the Lord’s will for us. So we were then, and still now, gathering in our living rooms to read the Bible, pray, and seek God.
As for me and my wife, we have walked a middle road between that house-church body of Christ and another church, which is a more conventional arrangement for presenting and living out the gospel in society.
This has worked well for us.
By ’n by, all three of our offspring became world travelers for one reason or another. Over the years we have done a lot of globetrotting, following them to various fascinating destinations around the world.
Like for instance, Europe. When we went to that Old World, I began to understand that America is the new kid on the block. Over there, they’ve been doing this Christianity thing for a very long time, about 2000 years.
While it is plain to see that there is a huge institutional legacy of the “Church” in the Americas, the cathedrals of Europe can be seen as indicators of a very different religious experience in days gone by. Every major city presents evidence of some stupendous religious megalith that dominated European society in a big way for a very long time, until the purveyors of human rationalism came along to challenge their authority.
This Church as a human institution, whatever it shoulda woulda coulda been spiritually, was for a very long time the big kid on the block, the elephant in the room, the megalith institution that dominated Old World society and cultural In a BIG way.
Those 1st-millennium continental Catholics erected a bunch of huge, monumental edifices. You can find them in every major city and small town. Europe displays an infrastructure of past religious hegemony on a massive scale. The Reformers later did more of the same.
Case in point. Last year, when we were in Prague, Czech Republic, I snapped this pic inside a cathedral:
So I’m thinking. It’s plain to see, this Christianity thing is much, much larger than what is represented by, say, the quaint quasi-classical structure down on our Main Street USA. Beholding this magnificent structure presents a challenge in many ways: it’s a theological, cultural, architectural wonder!
Who built this thing? Was it erected through the blood and toil and sweat of impoverished medieval slave-serfs? Was it founded upon the heretical manipulations of indulgence-selling ecclesiastical con-men? What kind of empire were they building here? A corrupted hierarchy of covetous clergy? Does it give glory to God, or to the works of Man?
Now I could speculate vainly about the motivations and corrupt practices of those who went before me as constructors of what is purported to be the Kingdom of God. I could judge them as users and abusers who took advantage of clueless poor people who probably could barely afford to pay the light bill and keep gas in the cart and the kids in shoes while they were fretting about their deceased relatives in purgatory or limbo. I could conclude presumptuously that this humongous structure is nothing more than a work of vanity and hubris and systemic abuse that was erected by men who were surely just as guilty, just as culpable, just as sinful and suspect as myself. I could condemn them as robber-baron ecclesiastic manipulators who were no doubt serving Babylon or Rome or the Pride of Man.
But, sinner that I know myself to be, I shall not so judge them. Rather, I shall admire the building for being, in an imperfect world, what it should have been, and is generally in retrospect considered to be: overpowering evidence of the human impulse that strives to glorify God.
Furthermore, I understand that my assessment is considered to be an obsolete way of thinking. I realize, from both my common observations and study of history, that the religious hegemony of this huge institutionalized Church has been supplanted, governmentally and socially, by the humanistic, democratic and socialistic movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.
And that’s okay. Shit happens and nobody’s perfect, not even the humanists, who havre proven through their own systemic abuses that human government and politics falls far short of true justice.
We Christians do need reminders that there are other people in this world who have different fixes than we do for rectifying human injustice and misery. We don’t have to agree with everybody, but we do have to, as Christ and his apostles commanded, live peacefully with everybody insofar as it its possible.
What I am seeing now, in the present predicament of our world is this:
That big guilty-as-charged Churchified juggernaut that sought to order human activity and governance in the last sixteen hundred years—it is being challenged and threatened by a newer Religious juggernaut from the east.
And if I must choose between the two, I’ll go with the one that I know to be true, even though it has not always been righteous. In the end, I think it is better to build upon the testimony of the one who died on a cross and was, three days later, resurrected. It is better to stand with Him than with another religious empire whose plan would be to get us kaffirs all on our knees five times a day.
In his final revelation to those he loves, Jesus counseled his friend John to “strengthen the things that remain.”
So therefore and henceforth, I say unto thee: I’m with Jesus.
The failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.
That’s my faith and I’m sticking to it.
King of Soul
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Is this world screwed up or what?
Tell me about it.
Nevertheless, there may be reason enough to find happiness,
contentment fulfillment and all that stuff
in the silver lining that highlights those dark clouds.
We baby boomers do have a choice, you know,
about whether to cry in our beer
or find cause enough to rejoice while
we’re here on planet earth.
Have a listen:
Well, the boys came marching home from Germany and France
and the bomb had made a blast in in Hiroshima.
We were driving brand new cars; we were waving
stars and bars
and everywhere was another factory.
Back in 1953,
cruising with Dwight E.,
Elvis sang the whiteboy blues,
McCarthy looking under every bush.
In the home of the brave and the free
rolling on prosperity
and all the kids were going off to school.
Ten years down the road
another dream had come and gone
and the power of one gun had made itself known.
Back in 1964
big Lyndon opened the door
for civil rights and a bloody Asian war—
young men on porkchop hill
young women on the pill.
At home they said don’t kill;
get a psychedelic thrill.
But the dreams of a woodstock nation
were just an imagination
when the boys came trudging home in ’73.
So it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home
and its hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day:
the dreams of a woodstock nation
were just an imagination
when the boys came trudging home in ’73.
Well, it just don’t pay to sob;
guess I’ll get myself a job
selling leisure suits, maybe real estate.
I’m not moving very fast,
just waiting in line for gas
and Johnny Carson gives me all my news.
Back in 1976,
overcoming dirty tricks,
some were moving back to the sticks;
some were looking for a fix.
Ayatollahs on the rise
sulfur dioxide in the skies
and the system makes the man that’s got his own.
They say an elephant won’t forget;
let’s play another set.
There’s always another ghost on pac-man’s tail.
Don’t let this boom go stale.
Let’s find an airline for sale
or pop another tape in the VCR.
Back in 1989,
we’re living on borrowed time
getting lost in subtle sin
eating oat bran at the gym.
But there’s an empty place inside
and I was wondering why
these vanities don’t suit.
I’m going back to the gospel truth.
And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home
and it’s hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day;
There’s an empty place inside and I was wondering why.
These vanities don’t suit;
I’m going back to the gospel truth.
Put on your Sarejevo, Mogadishu, Kalishnikov and Columbine shoes,
for the way is treacherous with ruts and rocks.
Yeah, we figured out digits out
before that Y2K could spoil our rout,
but that 9/11 call was in the cards.
Did you consider the question of heaven
before the wreck of ’07?
Will you hear the trumpet call
from the Ancient of Days.
Our way is littered with freaks and fads
from Baghdad through our mouse pads
as the reaper swings his steely scythe
across our wicked ways.
And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home?
And it’s hie hie hey, seeking light of day.
It’s a dangerous place outside
and I was wondering why.
This world don’t give a hoot;
I’m going back to the gospel truth.
King of Soul
Monday, February 5, 2018
Floating in New York Harbor, this message was found in a bottle:
Sorry to burst the bubble here but
What the hell happened at 3 o’clock?
Somebody yell fire in crowded theater?
Thundering herd, caught up in the Smoke and mirrors!
Blindsided by a Flash Crash?
Blame it on the ‘bots!
Gotta be them damn short-selling ghosties
in the machine
Oh . . . what the hey. . .
The last thing I remember, Doc
I slid into the curve.
Downward, I remember
Downward, I can tell you that.
In the winkin’ of an eye, and suddenly it’s every man for himself—
and the thundering herd turns tail, reverse
like some slumbering bearish curse,
Blind-sided by the ‘bots, or so I’m told.
Or did Jerome grab the punchbowl
Did he pull the plug?
Did he pull the rug
out, already, from under,
toppling now, asunder
the elephant in our room?
We’re coverin’ our assets here. But it’s hard to hit
a moving target.
So I’ was thinkin’
This is more dire than a bull in a China flop;
caught in a freefall only the ’bots can stop.
Or until the final bell doth drop
Hell! It’s 4 o’clock;
but I’m still in shock.
We didn’t see it coming, from near, nor far!
you know how your assets are?
What about my precious metals?
Now the dust settles:
punch bowl, where have we landed?
America has disbanded.
Yet the Eagles have landed.
Where the Eagles gather—’tis there the body’s found.
No more Patriot tricks to score touch down.
No, nay, hardly a sound
there’s no more joy in BeanTown;
might Brady has struck out!
Dynasty done, without a doubt.
Who’d’ve thunk it,
equivalent to a Philly gridiron dunk it!
Oh, you couldn’t hear the clock stop
as we watched the black swans flop.
No, we ne’er did detect that long-dreaded pin prick
as it burst our bubble like an e.d.wick,
yet we caught a twit from way, way down
in the beltway, political town
struck dumb now with some eerie Nunez memo
more cryptic than a dreary Ruuskie demo.
But I remember
it was 3 o’clock and then . . .
That’s all she wrote.