On the eve of the birth of Jesus, believed by many millions worldwide to be the Messiah, Son of God, Prince of Peace, I’d like to wish the baby a very happy life. His story is an awesome, terrible story. He was born into a world stubbornly impervious to his wisdom, angry about his preaching on love, treating his best ideas for a moral life as revolutionary heresy and nailing him to a cross for a slow, cruelly painful death. It is hard to feel anything but great empathy for a baby born to live this life. To all who celebrate, a very merry Christmas, a happy, healthy Christmas to you, as my grandmother would say. Now a few words on how the teachings of Jesus have been wielded for evil purposes by cynics whose love of Jesus is highly suspect.
There is regular ignorance, which is simply not knowing anything about something. If the conversation suddenly turns to ballet, I will be mostly listening, since I’m basically ignorant about the subject. I know nothing about ballet, aside from the names of a few superstar dancers from many decades ago. There was a photo of one of them, Edward Villella, in LIFE magazine, that impressed me when I was a skinny adolescent, and caused me to increase my number of daily pushups. The guy was captured at the height of his leap, suspended in air, high above the ground, torso a knot of muscles, legs strung with what looked like steel cables. Here you go:
So there is ordinary ignorance, which is nothing to worry about, really, since you can always ask questions, learn about something and cease being ignorant, if you ever feel the need. Then there is a much more destructive kind of ignorance, pugnacious ignorance. It is ignorance with an attitude, provocative fighting ignorance that wants to make you mad enough to say or do something stupid so they can beat the snot out of you or kill you.
Pugnacious ignorance is supremely useful for guys like Charles Koch, or Donald J. Trump, who use crowds of excitable, pugnaciously ignorant people like I use kleenex when I have a head cold. Koch, it turns out, just like he did with the “spontaneous” “grassroots” radical right Tea Party-Freedom Caucus that arose to angrily oppose the last Democratic president, funded anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine and anti-mask rallies all over the country, to galvanize resistance to government “tyranny” and get traffic flowing on the highways again, burning oceans of lucrative gasoline . Most of the thousands of Americans currently dying of Covid every week embrace this freedom to resist “tyranny.” In every “anarchist jurisdiction” where a damned Democrat radical had the final say, the pugnaciously ignorant story is that these freedom-hating, anti-religious Commies were forcing tyrannical so-called health mandates on people that were really all about depriving them of their God-given liberty to do whatever they feel like doing. Bring God and Jesus into it, you know, and you can really seal the deal, as our top psychopaths have learned.
Jesus, of course, it is widely believed, was God’s son, is God’s son and the world celebrates his birthday tomorrow. In the New Testament Jesus is a gentle friend of the poor and the meek and protector of the helpless. Not a very useful Jesus for obscenely wealthy autocrats to weaponize for their own ends, not at all! So now tens of millions of Americans faithfully believe that Jesus loves freedom, the right to carry assault weapons, the right to defy health precautions, a strong military, militarized police and paid firemen. The rest of the government, for the most part, Jesus believes, according to wealthy American preachers, is a bunch of anti-freedom haters who won’t even let you say “Merry Christmas” to each other any more because, and this is a key point, they hate Jesus Christ. Just like the Jews hated Jesus, just like the Muslims, who took up swords against good Christian defenders of the faith who went on crusades to Muslim lands to put infidels to the sword.
I’m not here to pick a fight with anyone on the eve of the birth of the Prince of Peace. I am a big fan of Jesus, the man of peace who, as he was being arrested, to be crucified, told his followers to put down their swords. This was right after one of the Romans who came to arrest him had his ear slashed off by one of Jesus’s followers. Jesus picked up the ear and miraculously reattached it to the Roman’s head. On this detail all of the Gospels agree (even though they vary widely in most other details). Hard not to love that Jesus, I’d say. Talk about practicing what you preach and loving thine enemies.
The problem with any religion is not the highest ideals of the religion, which can be mobilized among the faithful to do wonderful things, but the lowest impulses that can be called forth in the name of defending the holy. It’s not a religion, of course (though in a way it is) but corporatism, embraced by many of our wealthiest, most influential Americans, believes corporations have the same rights as all other persons. They have immortal souls, you understand.
Corporatism is another massively influential belief system that encourages humanity’s lowest impulses. A corporate “person,” though brilliant and strategic, has no conscience, therefore is capable of anything in pursuit of profits. Think of the difference between an armed human sentry and a deadly robot sentry who instantly directs deadly force at any movement. Dead workers, a ravaged ecosystem, child cancer clusters downstream from a factory? Externalities. This is the unfortunate downside of corporatism, some must die that others may live very, very, very well. You must factor these externalities into your budget, since sometimes they will cost the corporation a pile of copeks. Otherwise, like Jesus always said, wealth is the only true blessing of God. Health? Not as much. Wealth is the real test of a blessed life. Hallelujah.
As a teenager wrestling with the question of the existence of God in a world of massive brutality and injustice, a world that ends in death for each of us, and wondering whether God is merely “a concept by which we measure our pain,” I thought of an image that resonates with me still. If we defend God’s goodness in the face of evil, and evil there is in this world, aplenty (why else crucify a teacher instructing people to love each other as they love themselves?) then here is an explanation as likely as it is not.
God gave us all Free Will , defenders of God’s mercy in the face of murderous greed, genocides and hate crimes teach, and if we use it for evil ends, the fault is our’s, not God’s. Still, why doesn’t an all-powerful, loving God simply stop shit like the regular slaughter of innocents?
God is now very, very old, and He has watched for millennia as the most evil humans persecute everyone else out of their own lust for unlimited profit and power. At seventeen I concluded that humanity had finally broken God’s heart, that He was now in heaven weeping, unable to even look at what has become of His loving creation.
What does God do on Christmas Eve? He weeps, with Jesus, no longer a baby, but a full-grown man who was killed in the most vicious way imaginable. For the unpardonable crime of teaching love, you understand.
A new report titled “How The Koch Network Hijacked The War On COVID” reveals how a right-wing network linked to billionaire Charles Koch has played a key role in fighting public health measures during the pandemic, including mask and vaccine mandates, contact tracing and lockdowns. The groups include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), Donors Trust, the Hoover Institution and Hillsdale College. We speak about the contents of the report with co-author Walker Bragman, who says the right-wing network’s attack on public health is designed to “maintain corporate profit at the expense of human life.”source
I can’t help but think of Free Will as the same sort of term as Free Market. In each case, we possess as much freedom as the accident of our birth allows for.