Epstein Conspiracy Theories Are Inevitable Good and Necessary

Sunday’s New York Times carried a thought-provoking editorial by opinion writer at large, Charles Warzel. It was entitled, “Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System Is Poisoned.” The article lamented the power of Twitter and other social media to spread toxic conspiracy theories reflecting our current culture’s worst “choose your own reality” tendencies.

According to Warzel, Twitter and other versions of social media have actually “outmatched” the power of the mainstream media (MSM). And this to such an extent that an FBI field office recently identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terror threat.

Warzel illustrated his point by focusing on Twitter speculation regarding the Clinton’s involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein “suicide” and on President Trump’s role in advancing the theory. The editorial complained about resulting “dueling hashtags” with their viral accusations of foul play.

The unexpressed message of the whole exercise seemed to be that conspiracy theories are bad in themselves and that one would do better to simply accept the more reasonable official story emanating from the CIA, FBI, and prison officials that Epstein actually did commit suicide as explained by those official sources. Fevered accusations of foul play are ipso facto unreasonable.

Others whose opinions have appeared in sources such as OpEdNews have made that point more explicitly. Forget exciting conspiracies, they cautioned, simply accept the boring reality that Epstein killed himself just as we’ve been told.

The point I wish to make here strongly disagrees. I contend that in cases like Epstein’s mysterious death, conspiracy theories are not only good; they are inevitable and necessary. Additionally, the overwhelming power of Twitter and other social media to “outmatch” that of mainstream media represents the public’s healthy recognition of the fact that the government officials and the MSM (like The New York Times) are no longer reliable. Their “official stories” must be presumed false unless otherwise demonstrated by irrefutable evidence. Such evidence will come to light not by internal investigations, but by full legal process involving (yes!) conspiracy theories, discovery and trial.  

“Conspiracy” Is A Legal Category

My first point is to recognize the fact that the term “conspiracy” is not synonymous with fiction or paranoid fantasy. It is a legal term referring to the crime that occurs when two or more people plan actions forbidden by law. In other words, criminal conspiracies happen all the time. People go to jail for them.

In fact, “conspiracy theories” are routinely employed by prosecutors who use them to initiate investigations when such crime is suspected. Without lawyers’ conspiracy theories, there would never be any criminal trials involving two or more suspects.

With such theories in mind, prosecutors gather evidence. Some of it is circumstantial or inferential (it’s usually what sparks legal inquiry). Other evidence constitutes direct or “smoking gun verification. Juries and judges evaluate evidence of both kinds. When it is convincing beyond reasonable doubt (based on direct and/or circumstantial evidence), the legal system convicts conspirators and sentences them accordingly.

The bottom line here: It does not discredit a theory to call it “conspiratorial.”

Official Stories Are Suspect

My second point is that the public has not merely good, but excellent reason to discount official theories about, well, EVERYTHING! Think about:

  • Iraq and Colin Powell’s testimony before the United Nations about the certainty of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction
  • The New York Times’ endorsement of his testimony as “masterful and compelling”
  • The literally thousands of obvious lies that our current chief executive has uttered – and how he adds to them each day
  • Secretary of State (and former CIA chief), Mike Pompeo’s boastful admission that he and the agency he formerly headed lie, cheat, and steal on a routine basis. In fact, he said, the CIA sponsors whole courses for its agents on how to do so effectively. (Imagine a witness at trial admitting on stand that he is an inveterate liar. Would his testimony be taken seriously?)
  • The testimony of numerous CIA defectors revealing that the CIA has routinely conspired to assassinate heads of state and others considered enemies or persons who know too much

Epstein’s Death Is Welcome

My third point is that there exists reasonable circumstantial and direct motive for suspecting that important people had good cause to want Jeffrey Epstein dead and that he was murdered accordingly. All of them are related in Whitney Webb’s comprehensive historical account of government-sanctioned sex enterprises like Epstein’s. In fact, Webb’s four-part series ends up detailing motives for Epstein’s murder on the part of the powerful including the following:

  • Epstein was a convicted pedophile who preyed on underage girls. (He even called his private plane “the Lolita Express.”)
  • Bill Clinton with his checkered sexual history traveled on Epstein’s plane at least two dozen times.
  • Donald Trump admired Epstein for his taste in younger women.
  • Trump has been described (e.g. in Webb’s series) as “mentored” by Roy Cohn, another pedophile who used tape recordings and videos for purposes of blackmail.
  • Alexander Acosta was told to back off prosecution of Epstein because of the latter’s association with “Intelligence.”
  • It is standard operating procedure for “Intelligence” to film and record sexual deviance for purposes of blackmail and evidence-gathering.
  • Epstein sponsored frequent parties involving a virtual Who’s Who of world leaders and other celebrities.
  • The parties were also said to be attended by “call boys” and “call girls.”
  • Epstein had tapes of sexual deviance, some of them locked in a safe indicating their special content.

Reasons for suspecting that Epstein was killed or purposely allowed to commit suicide include the following:

  • Epstein was an extraordinarily important federal prisoner.
  • After his arrest, he was placed on suicide watch – at least for a time following his apparent suicide attempt last month.
  • He was sequestered in a highly secure federal prison presumably with special capacities for monitoring inmates on such watch, including video cameras and guards trained for such duties.
  • Nonetheless, Epstein somehow found himself with a rope, a belt, with sheets or some other material sufficient to hang himself.
  • He was inexplicably given unmonitored time to accomplish the task.

Where Do We Go from Here?

There is no claim here that the details presented above somehow “prove” foul play regarding the “suicide” of Jeffrey Epstein. However, they do provide basis for reasonable conspiracy theories sufficient (and necessary) to warrant legal indictments – perhaps of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s reputed procurer of unsuspecting girls. The conspiracy theories in question warrant discovery processes, trials, presentation of evidence, deliberation by juries of peers, verdicts, and eventual clarification of the whole Jeffrey Epstein saga.

Only such legal processes will yield truthful conclusions. Internal investigations by proven and admitted liars will not do. Neither will out-of-hand dismissal of “conspiracy theories” as though the phrase exclusively describes fictional fantasies or paranoid imaginings. As presented by Charles Warzel and others such dismissals simply mean that the theories in question are socially, culturally, and politically unacceptable – too threatening to consider. So, rational analysts should back off.

Actually, as shown above, the theories are good and necessary. And so are the vilified social media through which The People thankfully counteract MSM disinformation and its defense of the given order and the official stories undergirding its undeserved legitimacy.

Why Jeffrey Epstein’s “Suicide” Is So Suspicious

I could hardly believe my eyes Saturday morning, when I read in Alternet that Jeffery Epstein was found dead in his jail cell of apparent suicide. And I find it hard to believe that he killed himself, especially since he’s been on “suicide watch” since the discovery of apparently self-inflicted bruises on his neck last month. Instead, I suspect he was killed by the CIA. My suspicion is based on my close reading for the past few days of muckraker, Whitney Webb‘s three-part expose´, “The Jeffery Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail.”

Webb’s series makes the point that the Epstein pedophilia scandal threatened to blow apart the entire U.S. government house of cards. It opened up a potentially devastating window not only on the sordid lives of Epstein and his close friends, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, but on the profound corruption of the entire U.S. government and of international politics as a whole. Though connected with the pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church, the scale of the Epstein branch of institutionalized child abuse absolutely dwarfs the shameful hypocrisy of justly vilified ecclesiastical criminals.

Epstein’s federal trial was scheduled to begin next summer. This means that the details of his crimes (and, more importantly, those of his high-placed patrons’) would steal headlines at the height of the general election of 2020. The evidence to be presented there is said to comprise more than one million pages.

In the light of what I’ll detail below, one can only imagine the surprises contained therein and whom those pages implicate. And given Epstein’s close association with Donald Trump and the Clintons (not to mention the other billionaire residents of Palm Beach Island in Florida), the trial and evidence presented at that crucial moment would likely have had an impact of the presidential election. Wayne Madsen for one,  speculates that it may have already influenced the resignations of several Republicans from the House of Representatives.

Epstein, of course, is the alleged hedge fund tycoon whose central role in a pedophilia network came to light when he was arrested last July on Federal charges of sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. Previously, he had been convicted of molesting an underage girl, but had mysteriously served what’s been described as the most lenient sentence in history for crimes like his — 13 months in a county jail during which he was free to leave during the day.

Alexander Acosta, Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labor was responsible for securing the ludicrous sentence, when Acosta served as Attorney General for the Southern District of Florida. On Epstein’s arrest last July, the FBI found hundreds of photos, videos, and recordings of child molestations some of them allegedly involving prominent public figures.

According to Webb’s expose´ , the Epstein story is merely the tip of a dark iceberg much bigger than most of us realize. The darkness below the surface stretches back more than 75 years. It involves not only Epstein, but the CIA, its Israeli counterpart the Mossad, the Mafia as a CIA asset, the mysterious MEGA Group of influential billionaires, many government officials, and other high rollers with familiar names.

Webb’s series unveils what she terms “Government by Blackmail” an all-encompassing political strategy that began at least as far back as the conclusion of the Second Inter-Capitalist War. As the phrase suggests, Government by Blackmail consists in luring heads of state and other powerful world figures into compromising situations (often with underage “prostitutes” of both sexes), filming them in the process, and then using such evidence as leverage to extort huge sums of money, to extract favors and actually shape the world’s political economy. It extended to the Mafia, for instance, a virtual license to kill without legal repercussion.

As an alleged intelligence asset himself (of either the CIA, Mossad, or both) Epstein’s job was to gather the required evidence. To that end, he placed in compromising and seductive situations government officials from across the world. His mansions, private islands, and fleet of jet planes provided the venues. They were the sites of fabulous parties featuring alcohol, drugs, and underage “call boys” and “call girls.” All the locales were equipped with sophisticated recording devices, both audio and video, and two-way mirrors for recording acts of criminal pedophilia and other crimes or embarrassments on the parts of Epstein’s “friends” and acquaintances. Invitees included heads of state from across the planet Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, of course, among them.

But, Webb reveals, Epstein is only the latest iteration of Government by Blackmail. He’s the clone of figures like the Mafia kingpin Myer Lansky, and Lew Rosenstiel (of Schenley distilleries). During the ’70s and ’80s Rosenstiel, Lansky’s close friend, regularly threw what his fourth wife (of five) called “blackmail parties.” According to Webb, the photos and recordings gathered there long kept Lansky out of trouble from the federal government. They also delivered entire cities to Mafia control in the post WWII era. In fact, Lansky entrapped for blackmail purposes, numerous top politicians, army officers, diplomats and police officials. He had photos of FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover in drag and performing homosexual acts.

Rosenstiel’s protegee and successor as blackmailer-in-chief was Roy Cohn, who at the age of 23 was a close adviser of Senator Joseph McCarthy. More importantly, he was also associated with Mafia bosses, J. Edgar Hoover, the Reagan White House and has been described as a mentor of Donald Trump. His mentor!

Simultaneously, Cohn took on the central role in the blackmail pedophile racket Lansky and Rosenstiel had started. As usual, its main targets were politicians often interacting with child prostitutes. That was the source of Cohn’s power. So were his dear friends in high places including (besides Clinton and Trump) Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy, Barbara Walters, Rupert Murdoch, Alan Dershowitz, Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Chuck Schumer, William Safire, William Buckley, William Casey, and top figures in the Catholic Church.

It’s those latter figures that connect Cohn’s pedophile ring as inherited by Jeffery Epstein with the Church’s scandal. It directly involved “the American pope,” Francis Cardinal “Mary” Spellman, and Cardinal Theodore “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick. Father Bruce Ritter’s Covenant House (a multi-million-dollar charity for homeless and run-away boys and girls) was also deeply implicated. In fact, when Ritter’s involvement in sex acts with his underage protegees came to light, it was secular powers more than ecclesiastical forces that rallied to his defense.

Another pre-Epstein blackmail king was Craig Spence, a former ABC News correspondent who became a prominent DC lobbyist and CIA agent. All during the 1980s he provided child prostitutes and cocaine for Washington’s power elite. For purposes of blackmail, Spence used the now-familiar devices of video cameras, tape recordings, and two-way mirrors. His little black book and “favor bank” records have been described as involving a Who’s Who of Washington’s government and journalistic elite, this time including Richard Nixon, William Casey, John Mitchell, Eric Sevareid, John Glenn, and key officials of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, as well as media celebrities and military officers. According to the Washington Times, during the Bush administration, Spence had permission to enter the White House late at night to supply “call boys” to top level officials there.

Significantly, in the light of Epstein’s demise, just shortly before his death (also quickly ruled a suicide) Spence expressed fears that the CIA might kill him — apparently for knowing too much about connections between Nicaragua’s Contras and CIA cocaine smuggling to support them. But according to Spence himself, his knowledge went much deeper. Shortly before his similarly alleged suicide, he told Washington Times reporters: “All this stuff you’ve uncovered (involving call boys, bribery and the White House tours), to be honest with you, is insignificant compared to other things I’ve done. But I’m not going to tell you those things, and somehow the world will carry on.”

The Contra connection shows how in all of this, the Great Enemy of the hidden powers described here (involving the White House, CIA, FBI, Mafia, Mossad, powerful lobbyists, “fixers,” and billionaire political donors) was socialism and communism. The latter’s world project was 180 degrees opposed to governance by the moneyed elite as represented by the blackmail project of Epstein and his predecessors.

And so, it was important for blackmailers to support the prosecution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, back McCarthyism and J. Edgar Hoover, to undermine the Soviet Union, attack Cuba and Fidel Castro, protect organized crime bosses, and to make sure that projects like the Sandinista Revolution of 1979-90 failed. To those ends, it was even more important to inveigle left-wing politicians and officials from socialist countries into the international blackmail dynamic described here.

As for Epstein himself, following Cohn’s death (from AIDS) in 1986, he quickly took up his mentor’s mantle. As described earlier, Epstein became an FBI informant in 2008 — yet more evidence of the agency’s long-standing involvement with and protection of pedophile rings for purposes of blackmail.

In summary, the Epstein scandal has finally made public a decades-long pedophilic blackmail operation at the highest level. Ultimately run by the FBI and CIA, (i.e. with the knowledge, approval and participation of law enforcement), it has involved prominent politicians, businessmen, police and military officials, celebrities, and ecclesiastical officials. The scandal has touched the current U.S. president and may still bring him down.

In the meantime, it has left behind a trail of broken lives in the persons of the children exploited for the pleasure of old white men whose debauched proclivities have been parlayed into economic and political power. On Epstein’s watch, the operation has spread to Central America and beyond, becoming truly international in the process.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Pizzagate fascinated right-wing conspiracy theorists. It alleged that the Clintons were somehow involved in a child prostitution operation run out of the Comet Ping Pong restaurant and pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

If an allegedly debunked (?) Pizzagate theory caused such stir, and if an epidemic pedophilia expose´ within the Catholic Church has brought it to its knees, one can only imagine the revolutionary potential of the documented disclosures that would inevitably have come to light in a Jeffrey Epstein trial. It had potential to reveal pedophilic involvement by public figures far surpassing the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. It could still bring down not only the Trump administration, but the whole international House of Cards.

One can only hope . . . 

This Is What A Good Samaritan Looks Like (Sunday Homily)

Today’s Gospel selection, the familiar story of the Good Samaritan, couldn’t be timelier.

It’s read at a juncture in American history, where a Christian acting specifically according to the teaching of Jesus’ parable faces 20 years in prison. His crime? He provided food, water, lodging and hospitality to people whom the Trump administration would rather see die of thirst and exposure, because the president considers them sub-human.

I’m talking about Dr. Scott Warren (pictured above), a humanitarian aid volunteer and immigration rights activist. For years, he has worked with an organization called No More Deaths (NMD). Its members leave water jugs, clothing, and medical supplies for refugees and immigrants crossing the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. Warren and NMD also keep track of the numerous cadavers they find there and have filmed U.S. border agents emptying more than 3000 NMD water jugs in their clear effort to create more deaths by dehydration. In fact, those border agents are the sadistic executioners who staff Mr. Trump’s concentration camp system. (Watch what they do in this film clip. Doesn’t their sadism remind you of the Nazis we’ve all seen in all those WWII movies?)

Coincidently, I guess, and soon after filming the murderers, Warren was arrested and tried for aiding two undocumented migrants. A hung jury failed to convict him. However, the Trump administration wants the man retried – again, for the crime of obeying Jesus’ mandate in today’s reading. (In fact, most reports of Warren’s case specifically invoke the imagery of “the Good Samaritan.”) His second trial will take place in November.

The sad irony is that so many of Trump’s supporters consider themselves Christians. Their single “Christian” issue seems to be abortion about which Jesus and the Bible in general says absolutely nothing. Nothing at all! And yet, when someone obeys Jesus’ clear and unambiguous teaching as in today’s Gospel, they want Jesus’ follower punished to the full extent of the law whose essence Moses describes as Love in today’s first reading.

It’s like what happened in Germany after Hitler came to power. There, the birthplace of Luther and his Reformation, Christians not only enthusiastically approved of der Fuhrer; they worked in his concentration camps. And then (as Elie Wiesel puts it) after cremating Jews all week, they went to confession on Saturday and received communion on Sunday. They could do so, because, mirroring Trump’s attitude towards immigrants, they believed Jews were sub-human.

That’s the same attitude Jews themselves in Jesus’ day had towards Samaritans. They were considered enemies of the state, because their ancestors back in the 8th century BCE, intermarried with Assyrian occupiers of the Jewish homeland. Intermarriage rendered Samaritans unclean. They were as sub-human as Trump’s immigrants or Hitler’s Jews.

So Jesus’ making a Samaritan the hero of his challenging parable, and contrasting the outcast’s compassion with the “couldn’t-care-less” attitude of professional holy men – the priest and the Levite – connects directly with the hypocrisy of Christians, the Trump administration, and those border agents all of whom have criminalized the fundamental human right of immigration.

No; I’m wrong:  they’ve actually criminalized God’s law of love as described throughout today’s liturgical readings. Read them for yourself here. In any case, what follows is my “translation” of their main ideas:  

 DT 30: 10-14
 
The Great Liberator, Moses
Exhorted the former slaves
To return to LOVE
The most obvious, uncomplicated
Reality
In the world.
 
PS 69: 14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37

Love is all we need
From Life Itself.
It is always kind
And helpful
Overflowing with gifts
And ready to protect
The poor, the imprisoned,
The exiled,
And those in pain.
Yes: All we need is Love.
 
COL 1:15-20
 
Jesus, the Christ
Shows what Love means –
That absolutely everything
Was created for Love,
The bond, the glue
That holds us all together
In complete at-one-ment
Transforming the human race
Into a single body
Despite resistance
And crucifixion
By a hostile world.
 
LK 10: 25-37

For Jesus (like Moses)
Love of God and Neighbor
Is the only law
Promising fullness of life.
The two laws are one.
Being “neighbor”
Means rejecting
The ignorance of
Professional holy men
And politicians,
Adopting instead
The compassion of
The very minorities
We’re taught to hate
Who provide
Health care, transportation,
Lodging, mercy
Follow-up,
And money,
For those they have every reason
To hate.
That’s what it means
To love Our very Self!

Moses was right: Love is really all we need. It couldn’t be clearer. Jesus was right: Love is God’s only law. There is no other.

Trump, his followers and agents are wrong. They are criminal.

Or as the Master put it in another place (MT 10:42) “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

How Marianne Williamson Won Thursday’s Debate (Sunday Homily)

Readings for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: I KGS 19: 16 B, 19-21; PS 16: 1, 2, 5, 7-11; GAL 5: 1, 13-18; I SM 3:9; JN 6: 68C; LK9: 51-62

So, we all watched Thursday’s debate in which Marianne Williamson finally participated and showed the country who she is. And she was magnificent. She demonstrated what her spiritual guidebook, A Course in Miracles calls a refusal to be insane. She embodied that still small voice of conscience – the voice for God – that today’s liturgy of the word distinguishes from the world’s madness.

To begin with consider the madness we witnessed Thursday night. It was a perfect reflection of our insane country, of our insane world, of our insane electoral system. There they were: ten of our presumably best and brightest aspiring to occupy what we’re told is the most powerful office in the world. They shouted, talked over their opponents, self-promoted, bragged, and put their opponents down. They offered complicated “plans” that no one (including themselves) seemed to understand. They ignored the rules of the game, recited canned talking points, and generally made fools of themselves – and of viewers vainly seeking sincerity, genuine leadership and real answers. Except for that brief exchange about busing between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, it was mostly embarrassing.

And then there were the so-called moderators who allowed the circus to spin so completely out of control. They issued stern warnings about time limits, frequently set them strictly at “thirty seconds,” but then proceeded to allow speakers to go on for three minutes or more. The celebrity hosts were completely arbitrary in addressing their questions unevenly. They repeatedly questioned some of the candidates and ignored others.  

Meanwhile, there was Marianne Williamson off in the corner almost completely out of sight and generally ignored by the hosts. When they finally deigned to notice her polite attempts to contribute, no one seemed to know what to do with her comments. There was never any follow-up or request for clarification. Instead, what she said seemed completely drowned out by the evening’s “excitement,” noise, general chaos, and imperative to change topics. It was as if she were speaking a foreign language. I mean, how do you respond to that “still small voice of conscience” that says:

  • Immigration problems should be understood in historical context; their roots are found in U.S. policy in Central America especially during the 1980s. Such comment invites further discussion. None took place.
  • Removing children from their parents’ arms is kidnapping; putting preschoolers in concentration camps is child abuse. Such crimes should be treated accordingly. What retribution did Marianne have in mind? The question went unasked.
  • Health care “solutions” should address environmental questions about chemicals in our foods, water, and air that make Americans sick. The response: “My next question for Vice-President Biden is . . .”
  • Government programs should be expressions of love, not fear.

As expected, the pundits who afterwards declared “winners” and “losers,” generally put Marianne in the latter category. Their criteria for that judgment were just what you’d expect: Who was louder? Who was more aggressive, more interruptive? Who spoke for more minutes? Who more effectively transgressed the debate “rules” and thereby showed leadership and dominance?

None of this could be further from the spiritual principles Marianne Williamson has espoused for the last 40 years. That spirituality, like Elijah’s, Elisha’s, Paul’s, and Jesus’ in today’s liturgical readings holds that the problems that plague our world have simple answers that have nothing to do with bombast, filibusters, or spectacle. However, the world rejects out of hand the solutions of that still-small-voice of conscience as unrealistic and “out there” in the realm of the irrelevant and impractical. Such blind dismissal is what Paul in today’s reading calls “flesh;” it’s what Jesus elsewhere rejects as “worldly.”  

So, in an effort to put Thursday’s debate in perspective, let me begin by describing where Marianne is coming from; then I’ll get to the relevant readings.

A Course in Miracles

For more than forty years, the foundation of Marianne Williamson’s life and teachings has been A Course in Miracles (ACIM). It’s a three-volume work (a text, 365 daily exercises, and a manual for teachers) that was allegedly (and reluctantly) channeled by Helen Schucman, a Columbia University psychologist and atheist in the three or four years leading up to 1975, the year of the trilogy’s publication. It has since sold millions of copies. Williamson has described ACIM as “basic Christian mysticism.”

The book’s a tough read – certainly not for everyone, though Williamson insists that something like its daily spiritual discipline (a key term for her) is necessary for living a fully human life bent on serving God rather than self. Its guiding prayer is “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?”

Even tougher than the cryptic text itself is putting into practice the spiritual exercises in Volume II whose entire point is “a complete reversal of thought.” According to ACIM’s constant reminders, we are all prisoners in a cell like Plato’s Cave, where everything the world tells us is exactly the opposite of God’s truth.

To counter such deception, A Course in Miracles has the rare disciple (possessing the discipline to persevere) systematically deconstruct her world. It begins by identifying normal objects like a lamp or desk and helping the student realize that what s/he takes for granted is entirely questionable. Or as Lesson One puts it: “Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything.” The point is to liberate the ACIM practitioner from all preconceptions and from the illusory dreams the world foists upon us from birth. Those illusions, dreams and nightmares are guided by fear, which, the course teaches, is the opposite of love. In fact, ACIM teaches that fear and love are the only two energetic forces in the entire universe. “Miracles” for A Course in Miracles are changes in perception – a paradigm shift – from fear to love. For Marianne, Donald Trump’s worldview is based primarily on fear; her’s is based on love (which means action based on the recognition of creation’s unity).

According to Williamson’s guide, time, space, and separation of humans into separate entities are all entirely illusory. Such distinctions are dreams that cause all the world’s nightmares, including all the topics addressed in Thursday’s debate. For instance:

  • The illusion of time has us all living in past and future while ignoring the present – the only moment that actually exists, has ever existed, or where true happiness can be found. This means, for example, that inspirational figures like Jesus are literally alive NOW just as they were (according to time’s illusion) 2000 years ago. His Holy Spirit is a present reality.  
  • The dream of space has us taking too seriously human-made distinctions like borders between countries. Yes, they are useful for organizing commerce and travel. But the world as God created it belongs to everyone. It’s a complete aberration and childish to close off borders as inviolable and to proudly proclaim that “From now on, it’s only going to be America first, America first!”
  • Similarly, the dream of separation between humans has us convinced that “we” are here in North America, while refugees are down there at our southern border. According to ACIM however, “There is really only one of us here.” This means that I am female, male, white, black, brown, straight, gay, trans, old and young. And so are you. Others are not simply our sisters and brothers; they are us! What we do to them, we do to ourselves.

With such clarifications in mind, the solution to the world’s problems are readily available and far easier to understand than complicated health care systems or carbon trading. The solutions are forgiveness and atonement. But for ACIM, forgiveness does not mean overlooking another’s sins and generously choosing not to punish them. It means first of all realizing that sin itself is an illusion. It is an archery term for a human mistake – for missing the mark – something every one of us does.

Forgiveness, then, amounts to nothing more than realizing that truth and acting accordingly – as though the forgiven one were our Self (because s/he is!). In a world of complete deception, it means accepting the truth that the ones our culture blames – like immigrants, refugees, people of color, the poor, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQQIA community – are not only completely innocent. Accepting them as our very Self represents the source of our personal and political salvation.  

In this light then, prisons (for particularly dangerous people) become re-education centers for rehabilitation, not punishment. This means that even pathological criminals like Trump, Pence, Pompeo, and Bolton can helpfully be sequestered for a while and then returned to society as reformed, productive people. (I know that’s hard to believe; but it could happen!)

Yes, for Williamson, the goal of it all (of life itself!) is atonement – At-One-Ment – practical realization of a world with room for everyone with illusory distinctions either ignored, or played with, or celebrated in the spirit of party and game. Practically speaking, atonement looks like reparations not only to the descendants of African slaves, but to countries we have destroyed like those Marianne referenced in Central America – but also like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, and a host of others. Instead of dropping bombs on them or applying sanctions, we should, in effect, be showering them with schools, hospitals, infrastructure, technological assistance, and money. It’s all part of the reparations due.

Imagine what that kind of foreign policy would accomplish and how much cheaper it would be than the trillions we’re now wasting on weapons and war.

As her books, Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love show, Williamson stood ready to share such convictions last Thursday night. But she was never asked. And we’re all poorer as a result.

Today’s Readings   

So how is all of that related to this Sunday’s readings? They’re about the contrast between the world’s wisdom – its way of debating, judging, condemning, and praising – and God’s way of interacting with one another and with creation itself. Check out the readings for yourself here and see what you think. My “translations” follow to clarify their cumulative point:

I KGS 19:16B, 19-21
 
We are called
To be prophets
Like Elijah
And his disciple-successor
Elisha
A wealthy farmer
Who understood
That God’s call
Required renouncing
Everything the world
Holds dear:
Family, possessions,
And independence
In order to
Comfort the afflicted
Afflict the comfortable
And feed the hungry.
 
PS 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
 
For what ultimately
Belongs to us
Is not
The world’s
Corruption and condemnation
But the God
We deeply are
Who is our very
Food and drink,
The ability to see
Even amidst
The world’s darkness,
The source of calm,
Gladness, and health
Who shows
The path to life,
Joy, and unending delight.
 
 
GAL 5: 1, 13-18
 
As Elisha realized:
World and Spirit
Are completely opposed.
Paul terms
Those worldly values
“Flesh.”
It demands
Slavery and consumption
Of one another!
What God values
Is Christ’s “Spirit.”
Demanding
Nothing more
Than love
Of the other
Who is
(Believe it or not)
Our very Self.
 
I SM 3:9, JN 6: 68C
 
Deep down
We know
All of this
Is true.
 
LK 9: 51-62
 
Jesus did too.
So, on the way
To ultimate destiny
He rejected
The world’s spirit
Of xenophobia, revenge,
Ethnocentrism –
And Hell-Fire missiles.
Instead, he identified with
The homeless,
With life, not death,
And with the Spirit
Of Elisha
Who also
Left plow and oxen
For the sake of
God’s reign.

Conclusion

Please think about those readings in the light of what we witnessed on the debate stage a few nights ago. The other candidates represented what Paul calls “flesh” – you know: the world’s wisdom and way of doing things involving corruption, condemnation, devouring one’s opponent, xenophobia, and addiction to those Hellfire missiles. Meanwhile Marianne seemed bemused by it all. Her few thoughtful remarks said far more than the ones filibustering, pointlessly arguing, self-promoting.

As she says herself, Ms. Williamson is not in this campaign to run against anyone. She’s there to run with her fellow Democrats and to help Americans decide which candidate is best.

I think that candidate is Marianne. She deserves better consideration and a closer hearing than she received on Thursday. Like Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Paul, she is a voice for our Deepest Self. She was the winner.  

U.S. Concentration Camps Are Already Worse than Hitler’s

Recently Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) stirred controversy by characterizing U.S. immigration detention facilities as concentration camps. Critics said her comparison was over the top

It was an insult, some said, to families of Holocaust survivors. After all, none of the U.S. detention facilities is an extermination camp like Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

In response, AOC doubled down on her charge. Along with others, she was joined by historians, and even by the editors of The National Catholic Reporter in affirming her accusation. Concentration camps, they all said, are not synonymous with extermination camps. In essence, the former are locations where prisoners are held without charge. In that sense, the U.S. indeed maintains concentration camps, but nothing like German practice. The intention in making that distinction was evidently to distance U.S. camps from the horrors and death of Hitler’s infamous hell-holes.

The argument here takes issue with that distinction. It maintains instead that our burgeoning camps are every bit as brutal as Hitler’s. In fact, the number of deaths connected with the U.S. system dwarf the iconic number of six million incinerated, gassed, shot, or otherwise executed.

To begin with, we must first of all realize that U.S. concentration camps are not a new phenomenon begun with the presidency of Donald Trump. No, they have been with us at least since the end of the Second Inter-Capitalist War in 1945.

In fact, the argument can be credibly made that our country was explicitly founded on extermination, genocide and concentration camps. Using rationale supplied by John Locke, our Founding Fathers wiped out 90% of North America’s indigenous peoples, eventually confining survivors and their descendants in concentration camps (called “reservations”). They employed the same logic to enslave workers kidnapped from Africa imprisoning them in labor camps (called “plantations”).

For Locke, who inspired Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the crucial and ironic pronouncement behind such operations was that “All men are created equal.” But note well that in his formulation, the statement had no liberating relevance for Native Americans, African slaves, women or propertyless whites. Instead, its expressed intention was to establish the right of imperialists like him and his cohorts to steal land and resources from the continent’s indigenous inhabitants and to exterminate resisters.

Locke’s point (as explained in my book, The Magic Glasses of Critical Thinking) was that just because the “Indians” were here first, they had no special claim on the lands they called home. That is, since (in Locke’s estimation) huge tracts were not being farmed as they would be in England, they were there for the taking by the Indians’ equals from Great Britain.

Locke said that a refusal by the Indians to recognize such equality amounted to a declaration of war against the British. So, the natives could be slaughtered with abandon – a task our country’s great Indian Fighters took on with enthusiasm and relish creating a holocaust that killed millions.

Adolph Hitler himself took inspiration from the examples just cited. He liked the concept of concentration and work camps. He was expressly impressed by the efficiency of U.S. extermination of our continent’s First Peoples. It inspired him and evidently the minds behind contemporary concentration camps.

With all this in mind, it is no exaggeration to say that the camps are reincarnating today before our very eyes. Our government has set them up world-wide. They are so ubiquitous and normalized that they remain practically invisible. But consider their contemporary equivalents in:

  • The U.S. prison-industrial complex itself for blacks, browns and poor whites transforming “Americans” into the most imprisoned population on the planet
  • Guantanamo Bay for holding “terrorists” who after years of internment and torture have yet to be charged with crime and which Fuhrer Trump promises to fill to the brim
  • Black Sites (sic!) concealed throughout the world where kidnapped Muslims and others disappear without a trace and are tortured without mercy
  • Fort Bliss (sic!), a concentration camp for immigrant children
  • Baby Prisons for infants as young as four months
  • Detention centers for refugees from U.S. wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere
  • Family prisons for immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America as they await trials which can be postponed indefinitely  
  • The Gaza Strip, the world’s largest open-air prison for Muslim Palestinians, “the Jews’ Jews” – unconditionally endorsed by U.S. politicians of all stripes

In such hell-holes the criminals (often the guards) commit murders, rapes and inflict torture with impunity. Nonetheless, after Hitler, it is no longer permissible for such polite company to crudely incinerate victims in ovens or to poison them in gas chambers. (That would be too “inhumane” and reminiscent of the unspeakable.) So, today’s executioners murder and incinerate Muslims (today’s “Jews”), and others on site. (It saves the trouble and expense of packing them into box cars.)

In other words, the executioners travel to the victims’ countries of origin in the Middle East and Africa and do the dirty work there – often from 10,000 feet in the air, where the screams of incinerated Muslim children cannot be heard. They cremate their victims more humanely in the  targets’ own homes with napalm and white phosphorous. Alternatively, “pilots” seated comfortably in their air-conditioned “theaters” send automated Gestapo (killer drones) to decapitate those suspected of evil thoughts. In the process, the system’s butchers have massacred millions far exceeding anything imagined by that little man with the toothbrush mustache:

  • Already by 1978, John Stockwell, the highly decorated ex-CIA Station Chief in Angola, estimated that his agency’s “Secret Wars” had killed more than six million in its dirty wars against the world’s poor. In Stockwell’s own words, every one of those wars was illegal and “bloody and gory and beyond comprehension almost.”
  • Add to that
    • The hundreds of thousands slaughtered during the 1980s in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras
    • More than a million victims in the completely illegal war in Iraq
    • Untold fatalities in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia,
    • The 10,000 already killed in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East – with the numbers increasing each day from cholera and intentionally-inflicted starvation

Again, the numbers are staggering – far beyond anything accomplished in Hitler’s death camps.

Meanwhile, at home, “Americans” are dissuaded from protest by a militarized skin-head police force of body-builders and thugs. “Dressed to kill” in their black or camouflaged flack suits, and anonymous under their helmets and behind polarized face-shields, they stand ready with batons, tasers, and AK47s – as well as employing surplus military tanks, and Humvees – to punish anyone who dares opposition.

So, congratulations to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. She’s right again – this time about concentration camps. However, she and others are wrong to downplay the comparative horror of the U.S. system. It is every bit as horrendous as Hitler’s. To see the misery all one has to do is connect the dots. They’re there and though scattered are just waiting to be linked (exactly as they were in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power).

In fact, their presence is becoming more evident each day as is the emergence of Hitler-like fascism. We have only to open our eyes to see both phenomena, even though the camps, holocausts, and the system itself have been effectively renamed and camouflaged.

Thanks to AOC and others, the veils are beginning to fall; the issue is now before us. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s message: It’s high time for the rest of us to take note before it’s too late!   

Christians Supporting Donald Trump: How Luke’s Passion Narrative Prepared the Way

Readings for Palm Sunday: LK 19:28-40; IS 50: 4-7, PS 22: 8-9, 12-20, 23=24, PHIL 2:6-11, LK 22: 14-23:58.

It’s puzzling to see white Evangelicals rallying around Donald Trump. He’s the one who owns casinos and strip clubs, who has been married three times and brags about sexually assaulting women. 

How is it possible for white evangelicals to support such a person whose policies favor the rich and punish the poor, who despises immigrants, advocates torture, and whose appetite for profit seems insatiable.

After all, Jesus was a poor laborer who criticized the rich in the harshest of terms. He and his family knew what it was like to be unwelcome immigrants (in Egypt). He himself was a victim of torture, not its administrator. Far from a champion of empire, he was executed as a terrorist and enemy of Rome.  His followers were not about accumulating wealth but shared what they had according to ability and need.

When you think of it, all of this seems antithetical to not only to Trumpism, but to the declared positions of virtually the entire Republican Party. They’re all imperialists. All of them are friends of the one-percent. They all want to increase military spending — apparently without question or limit.

How did all of that happen?

Today’s Palm Sunday readings provide some clues. Luke’s Passion Narratives reveal a first century Christian community already depoliticizing Jesus in order to please Roman imperialists. The stories turn Jesus against his own people as though they were foreign enemies of God.

Think about the context of today’s Palm Sunday readings.

Note that Jesus and his audiences were first and foremost anti-imperialist Jews whose lives were shaped more than anything else by the Roman occupation of their homeland. As such, they weren’t waiting for a Roman-Greco “messiah” who, like the Sun God Mithra, would die and lead them to heaven. They were awaiting a Davidic messiah who would liberate them from the Romans.

So, on this Palm Sunday, what do you think was on the minds of the crowds who Luke tells us lined the streets of Jerusalem to acclaim Jesus the Nazarene? Were they shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” (Save us! Save us!) because they thought Jesus was about to die and by his sacrificial death open the gates of heaven closed since Adam’s sin by a petulant God? Of course not. They were shouting for Jesus to save them from the Romans.

The palm branches in their hands were (since the time of the Maccabees) the symbols of resistance to empire. Those acclaiming Jesus looked to him to play a key role in the Great Rebellion everyone knew about to take place against the hated Roman occupiers.

And what do you suppose was on Jesus’ mind? He was probably intending to take part in the rebellion just mentioned. It had been plotted by the Jews’ Zealot insurgency. Jesus words at the “Last Supper” show his anticipation that the events planned for Jerusalem might cause God’s Kingdom to dawn that very weekend.

Clearly Jesus had his differences with the Zealots. They were nationalists; he was inter-nationalist who was open to gentiles. The Zealots were violent; Jesus was not.

And yet the Zealots and Jesus came together on their abhorrence of Roman presence in the Holy Land. They found common ground on the issues of debt forgiveness, non-payment of taxes to the occupiers, and of land reform. Within Jesus’ inner circle there was at least one Zealot (Simon). Indications might also implicate Peter, Judas, James, and John. And Jesus’ friends were armed when he was arrested. Whoever cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant was used to wielding a sword – perhaps as a “sicarius” (the violent wing of the Zealots who specialized in knifing Jews collaborating with the Romans).

But we’re getting ahead of our story. . . Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus soon found himself and his disciples inside the temple participating in what we’d call a “direct action” protest. They were demonstrating against the collaborative role the temple and its priesthood were fulfilling on behalf of the Romans.

As collaborators, the temple priests were serving a foreign god (the Roman emperor) within the temple precincts. For Jesus that delegitimized the entire system. So, as John Dominic Crossan puts it, Jesus’ direct action was not so much a “cleansing” of the temple as the symbolic destruction of an institution that had completely lost its way.

It was this demonstration that represented the immediate cause of Jesus’ arrest and execution described so poignantly in today’s long gospel reading.

Following the temple demonstration, Jesus and his disciples became “wanted” men (Lk. 19:47). At first Jesus’ popularity affords him protection from the authorities (19:47-48). The people constantly surround him eager to hear Jesus’ words denouncing their treasonous “leaders” (20:9-19), about the issue of Roman taxation (20:20-25), the destruction of the temple (21:1-6), the coming war (21:20-24) and the imminence of God’s Kingdom (21:29-33).

Eventually however, Jesus has to go underground. On Passover eve he sends out Peter and John to arrange for a safe-house to celebrate the feast I mentioned earlier. The two disciples are to locate the “upper room.” They do so by exchanging a set of secret signs and passwords with a local comrade.

Then comes Jesus’ arrest. Judas has betrayed Jesus to collect the reward on Jesus’ head – 30 pieces of silver. The arrest is followed by a series of “trials” before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin), before Pilate and Herod. Eventually, Jesus is brought back to Pilate. There he’s tortured, condemned and executed between two other insurgents.

Note that Luke presents Pilate in way completely at odds with what we know of the procurator as described for example by the Jewish historian Josephus. After the presentation of clear-cut evidence that the Nazarene rabbi was “stirring up the people,” and despite Jesus’ own admission to crimes against the state (claiming to be a rival king), Pilate insists three times that the carpenter is innocent of capital crime.

Such tolerance of rebellion contradicts Crossan’s insistence that Pilate had standing orders to execute anyone associated with lower class rebellion during the extremely volatile Passover festivities. In other words, there would have been no drawn-out trial.

What’s going on here? Two things.

First of all, like everyone else, Luke knew that Jesus had been crucified by the Romans. That was an inconvenient truth for Luke’s audience which around the year 85 CE (when Luke wrote) was desperately trying to reconcile with the Roman Empire which lumped the emerging Christian community with the Jews whom the Romans despised.

Luke’s account represents an attempt to create distance between Christians and Jews. So, he makes up an account that exonerates Pilate (and the Romans) from guilt for Jesus’ execution. Simultaneously, he lays the burden of blame for Jesus’ execution at the doorstep of Jewish authorities.

In this way, Luke made overtures of friendship towards Rome. He wasn’t worried about the Jews, since by the year 70 the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem and its temple along with more than a million of its inhabitants. After 70 Jewish Christians no longer represented the important factor they once were. Their leadership had been decapitated with the destruction of Jerusalem.

Relatedly, Jesus’ crucifixion would have meant that Rome perceived him as a rebel against the Empire. Luke is anxious to make the case that such perception was false. Rome had nothing to fear from Christians.

I’m suggesting that such assurance was unfaithful to the Jesus of history. It domesticated the rebel who shines through even in Luke’s account when it is viewed contextually.

And so what?

Well, if you wonder why Christians can support Donald Trump . . . if you wonder why they so easily succumb to empires (Roman, Nazi, U.S.) you’ve got your answer. It all starts here – in the gospels themselves – with the great cover-up of the insurgent Jesus.

And if you wonder where the West’s and Hitler’s comfort with xenophobia in general and anti-Semitism in particular come from, you have that answer as well.

The point here is that only by recovering the obscured rebel Jesus can Christians avoid the mistake they made 80 years ago. Then instead of singing “Hosanna” to Jesus, they shouted “Heil Hitler!” to another imperialist torturer, xenophobe, and hypocrite.

The readings for Palm Sunday present us with a cautionary tale about these sad realities.

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern’s Example of Lenten Repentance

Readings for 3rd Sunday of Lent: Ex. 3:1-8A, 13-15; Ps. 103: 1-4, 6-8, 11; I Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk. 13: 1-9

The entire world was shocked last week when a right-wing gunman and admirer of Donald Trump slaughtered at least 50 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

At the same time, the world edified when the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest head of state, donned a hijab in a sign of solidarity with the Muslim community. The Muslim worshippers, she said “are us.”  She resolved immediately to change her country’s gun laws (in defiance of the international gun lobby) including a ban on assault weapons.

Her response contrasted sharply with that of President Trump following a similar massacre in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue last October. Then, instead of calling for solidarity and disarmament, the president famously advised placing armed guards at synagogue doors.

Prime Minister Ardern’s words and symbolic action were a demonstration of the very type of repentance to which the non-violent Jesus called his own community (and us!) in the puzzling episode recounted in today’s Gospel reading for this third Sunday of Lent.

To make his point, Jesus comments on two contemporary tragedies that were “in the news of the day” as prominently as last week’s New Zealand catastrophe. Then he adds an explanatory parable underlining the time-urgency of his summons to non-violence. All three elements are highly relevant to Christchurch and our president’s and our culture’s tendency to solve everything with violence.

The similarities between Christchurch and the Gospel’s first-mentioned tragedy are undeniable. Like what happened in New Zealand, it involved the slaughter of worshippers by reactionary outsiders who despised their victims’ religious faith. Some Galileans (no doubt identified as insurgents) were killed by Roman soldiers while offering sacrifice in the temple.

Jesus asks, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way because they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?” Then he answers his own question, “By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

The second tragedy had eighteen people killed by the collapse of a tower located in the section of East Jerusalem called Siloam. In this case, it seems that a tower had fallen by chance and killed some innocents.

Regarding that second tragedy, Jesus asks, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were guiltier than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

But what does Jesus expect his audience to repent from? Does he want them to stop being insurgents against Rome? Does he want them to be more faithful to the Ten Commandments or something?

As Jesus would say, “By no means!”

How then do these two events connect?

To get the connection, put the incidents in context. There they become statements about violence, counter-violence and the need for non-violent resistance. Again, that contextualization sheds light on the Christchurch tragedy and our own culture’s worship of guns, as well as the permission it gives our military to kill people in their mosques and schools, at their funerals and weddings.

This approach takes seriously the political intent of the news item shared with Jesus at the very outset. Luke tells us, “Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.”

No doubt, this was not news to Jesus. The opening words of today’s gospel were not meant to communicate news but to complain about the Roman occupiers. Those introducing the topic were looking for sympathy and agreement. Jesus does not disappoint.

Pilate, of course, would have claimed that his temple victims were insurgents against the Roman occupation; they were “guilty” as terrorists, he would have said. That was his official line.

Jesus says, “Don’t believe it” – as if his audience were tempted to believe Roman lies. “Do you think they were guilty?” Jesus asks. “By no means,” he answers.

Here Jesus is agreeing with his Galilean compatriots. If the ones Pilate killed were terrorists, he says, so are all Galileans; we’re all guilty in Pilate’s eyes. None of us wants the Romans here, Jesus implies. After all, it wasn’t the Galileans who threw the first stone; it was Pilate and the Roman soldiers who did so by invading Israel’s sovereign territory.

But then Jesus suddenly takes another tack. He connects Pilate’s butchery with another headline of his day – an act of counter-violence taken by the “Zealot” forces Pilate was attempting to punish. (Zealots were the revolutionary force committed to ousting the Roman occupiers from Palestine.) Pilate’s action, Jesus suggests, started the cycle of violence that evoked a disaster at Siloam at a spot near the Fountain of Ezekias. Siloam was the location of a small arsenal, where the Romans kept their swords, shields, battering rams and other weapons.

According to Maria and Ignacio Lopez-Vigil, a group of Zealot insurgents had tried to dig a tunnel up to the tower with hopes of seizing the weapons and turning them against the Romans. But the tower’s foundation was already in a state of decay, and the tunnel caused the entire construction to suddenly collapse. The falling tower claimed the lives of several Galilean families who had built their houses near the arsenal.

Jesus point: Pilate is certainly a bloodthirsty man. None of us want him or his armies on our soil. However, those who resist the hated Romans by resorting to arms are bloodthirsty too. And if we follow their example, we’ll all drown in a bloody deluge. Or as Jesus put it, “I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

And time is running short, he adds with his parable about a fig tree. The bloody deluge has been building for at least three years. We have maybe another twelve months before the chickens of the deadly cycle of violence come home to roost. Without repentance, without replacing violent resistance to Roman butchery with non-violent tactics, we’ll all be cut down like a barren fig tree. (Later on, remember, Jesus himself demonstrates the kind of non-violent direct action he had in mind, with his “cleansing” of Jerusalem’s temple.)

Jesus’ prediction of bloodbath, of course, eventually came true, but not as soon as he thought. The Romans would defeat the Zealot uprising in the year 70, and definitively squash all Jewish rebellion in 132. Jesus was right however about the extent of the slaughter. It was horrific resulting in the deaths of more than a million Jews. Such disaster is inevitable, Jesus teaches for all who “live by the sword.”

What does all of this say to us today? The message is quite relevant. It reminds us first of all that empire represents the systematized oppression of the poor and defenseless by the rich and powerful. That was true of Rome; it’s true of U.S. empire today. We’re still killing those identified as insurgents in their churches and mosques. In fact, our soldiers do it every day. And far from being outraged, we applaud them as heroes.

Secondly, this passage calls us to non-violence and warns us about where the cycle of violence will inevitably lead. Christchurch NZ provides a window into the world created by the worship of guns. Another window is provided by Afghanistan and Iraq, Vietnam, Hiroshima, the Cold War, and the general impoverishment of our country and world brought on by so-called “defense” spending. All of it has us drowning in a deluge of blood. And it promises to get worse and eventually destroy us all. How much time do we have before our chickens come home to roost – three years, one year. . .?

Christians represent about 30% of the world’s inhabitants. There are more than two billion of us. Imagine the world we’d create if we insisted on following the call to non-violence represented by Jesus’ words in this morning’s gospel!

Imagine the country we’d create if our politicians followed the example of Jacinda Ardern ‘s identification with the Muslim community instead of following the divisive policies of Donald Trump and endorsing the genocidal violence of our armies.