Driving While Black is still a death sentence

WN: Words fail. . . .

Please also see here and here: Black Toronto residents 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police, study says.

Canada is also deeply racist: rampant in the criminal justice system.

excerpts:

Some were already aware that a DWB — Driving While Black — is justification for a traffic stop.

Now America is seeing the range of punishments for such an infraction can be at the very least, pepper spray to the face. And at worst — a death sentence.

Two police encounters involving Black motorists came to light over the weekend. One took place months ago in Windsor, Va., but surfaced only after the driver filed a lawsuit this month. The other took place Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis.

In each instance, police said the initial reason for the traffic stop involved issues with license plates.

Daunte Wright was shot, allegedly by accident, by an officer who mistook her service weapon for a Taser — roughly 10 miles from the courthouse where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the killing of George Floyd. Wright, who was biracial, had a gross misdemeanor warrant and — perhaps — something hanging from his rearview mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. Three officers were involved in his stop.

He’s dead now.

Caron Nazario, an Army lieutenant, who is Afro-Latino, was pulled over in December in rural Virginia. His big SUV had dark tints and temporary tags visibly taped in the back window.

He did what virtually every Black man would do at the sight of cop lights flickering behind him. At night. On a dark road.

Get somewhere — like a gas station — where there are bright lights and perhaps some witnesses.

After completing this first step of self-preservation, he goes on to the next steps of engaging an officer. He repeatedly and calmly asks officers what he had done wrong. Shows his hands. Doesn’t make sudden moves.

Two officers with guns drawn bark contradictory orders: Show your hands. Get out of the car.

“I’m serving this country and this is how I’m treated?” he asks.

Being told, “You’re fixin’ to ride the lightning, son” does not instill confidence that those who swore to protect and serve are committed to keeping you alive.

One thing was also clear — Nazario’s Army uniform was not enough to protect him from aggressive police tactics.

He was eventually sprayed at point blank range, removed from his vehicle, arrested and later freed. No charges.

The question is: Why?

THE ROUNDTABLE

To be sure, stress and danger are part of being a law enforcement officer. Still, policing in the U.S. deserves to be scrutinized so police and the communities they serve, particularly communities of color, can feel safe during encounters with law enforcement. We wanted to put the recent Virginia and Minnesota incidents in context with the greater national reckoning conversation on race and policing, politics and power.

So we reached out to Charles Wilson, the chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NABLEO), a 45-year law enforcement veteran and former police chief. Also joining the conversation is Deborah Ramirez, a law professor at Northeastern University School of Law and chair of the school’s Criminal Justice Task Force.

CHARLES WILSON: What I’m seeing is in a word: disturbing. I see this as a lot of overreach in what officers are doing. I see it as an excuse, if you will, to further that concept of racial profiling and police brutality.

You have to take into consideration that the institution of policing, as it is currently practiced in the United States, was inherently biased against people of color and low income. It was designed to be that way. It’s been that way for over 400 years.

DEBORAH RAMIREZ: I really think right now American policing is on trial and police accountability for police brutality is on trial. The reason that we keep seeing police brutality is because police brutality remains unchecked, because the police unions, through collective bargaining, have created a system that makes it nearly impossible for police chiefs to discipline or fire officers for this kind of misconduct.

Please click on: Driving While Black a Death Sentence

How Trump Unleashed a Domestic Terrorism Movement—

“He tells them what to do. He tells them why they’re angry.”

photo above: Nate Gowdy

WN: Trump continues to inspire hatred and acts of violence worldwide. His is the height of White Grievance Politics–and so tragic for the millions of victims who fall prey to such xenophobia. A rewording of his cry excerpted below is in fact: “They’re not making this White House Black. . .  –or any other colour!” But too late! We Canadians (well, British forebears) already did that (“kicked ass” to use Mo Brooks’ words seen below) in the War of 1812!

That said: The United States’ signature foreign policy worldwide has ever been about “promoting terrorism!” (Juliette Kayyem)–as so much of this website is taken with, in its dedication to “The Gospel as Counter-Narrative to Empire.

excerpts:

Even the wifi password was a signal. Attendees at President Donald Trump’s rally in Dalton, Georgia, on January 4 who wanted to log in to the Make America Great network had to enter the phrase into their devices: “SeeYouJan6!” Trump was in town that night ostensibly to boost two Republican Senate candidates, but he spent much of his speech railing about the “stolen” 2020 election—and inciting supporters to descend on the nation’s capital two days later. “They’re not taking this White House,” he declared, Marine One spotlighted behind him. The crowd roared. “We’re going to fight like hell.”

Trump did more than just invite supporters to a rally. He also repeatedly shared a slickly produced video, titled “The Plot to Steal America,” that warned ominously of a Chinese communist scheme involving Biden, the Democrats, and the news media, and called for Trump supporters to mobilize. “We know that our rights don’t come from the government, but from God,” declared the narrator, an Ohio jewelry buyer formerly employed by the pro-Trump propaganda outlet the Epoch Times. “And we will fight to the death to protect those rights.” In a tweet the day after Christmas, Trump suggested that if the Democrats were in his position, the “Rigged & Stolen” presidential election would be considered “an act of war, and fight to the death.”

This drumbeat all built toward the cold gray morning in early January when thousands of fervent Trump supporters gathered for a “Save America” rally outside the White House. “We’re coming for you,” vowed Donald Trump Jr. from the stage, targeting members of Congress who didn’t support overturning the November results. “Let’s have trial by combat,” said Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, adding, “I’ll be darned if they’re going to take our free and fair vote.” “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” shouted Alabama congressman Mo Brooks. “Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives… Are you willing to do the same?”

The mob assault on Congress that left five people dead, scores injured, the Capitol building desecrated, and American democracy deeply shaken was the culmination of a campaign of terrorism. It was led by the president of the United States.

The description of Trump as a terrorist leader is neither metaphor nor hyperbole—it is the assessment of veteran national security experts. Trump, those experts say, adopted a method known as stochastic terrorism, a process of incitement where the instigator provokes extremist violence under the guise of plausible deniability. Although the exact location, timing, and source of the violence may not be predictable, its occurrence is all but inevitable. When pressed about the incitement, the instigator typically responds with equivocal denials and muted denunciations of violence, or claims to have been “joking,” as Trump and those speaking on his behalf routinely made.

Throughout his presidency, numerous violent actors directly invoked him and his rhetoric, including the mass shooter who murdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, whose writings echoed Trump’s talking point about a supposed migrant “invasion” of the United States. After Biden’s victory, extremists responding to Trump’s lies about fraud stalked and menaced public officials, election workers, and Trump’s Democratic and Republican critics. “Stop the Steal” rallies led to beatings, stabbings, and a shooting. When the president’s enraged backers roamed the Capitol hallways, some were hunting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and vowing to “hang Mike Pence” for refusing to interfere with the election certification.

“Stochastic” derives from the ancient Greek words stochastikos and stochazesthai, meaning “skillful in aiming” and “to target.” Among counterterrorism experts, the term historically was applied to the techniques used by ISIS and al-Qaeda as well as anti-abortion religious extremists, all of whom used inflammatory rhetoric to radicalize others to carry out horrific attacks. Trump did the previously unthinkable: He brought the method into the White House.

“The term ‘dog whistle’ is too benign here,” says Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. Kayyem first brought wider attention to stochastic terrorism in 2018 when discussing Cesar Sayoc, a diehard Trump supporter who sent mail bombs to CNN and nearly a dozen Democratic figures, including Biden, Kamala Harris, and Barack Obama. “This is true incitement,” she says. “This is an understanding of how language is going to be interpreted for action.” Most media and political analysts hesitated to talk about Trump in such stark terms, but Kayyem concluded that Trump’s behavior had to be called out for what it was: The president, she told me in December, was “promoting terrorism.”

Please click on: Trump Promoting Terrorism

Everyone Belongs to God

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt.  Foreword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Plough Publishing House, 2015.

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842–1919) was born in Möttlingen, Germany, at the very time his father, Johann Christoph Blumhardt, was engaged in the amazing events recounted in Plough’s book The Awakening. The younger Blumhardt was raised in an atmosphere of the reality of the presence of God, where faith was lived out practically and miracles came naturally. As his father had done before him, he began training for the ministry, studying theology at Tübingen. However, he became disillusioned with theology and decided, in 1869, to return home to Bad Boll to support his father in his healing ministry. In 1880 the elder Blumhardt died, and the son carried on his father’s work.  Read Full Biography

4.12 Stars on Goodreads Read Reviews

How can Christians represent the love of Christ in an age when Christianity has earned a bad name from centuries of intolerance and cultural imperialism? Is it enough to love and serve your neighbor? Can you be a missional Christian without a church?

Read a Sample

WN: The book highlighted is powerful and immensely hopeful! There is a free download available too.

From Plough’s Introduction:

About The Book

Gold Medal, 2015 Illumination Book Awards

How can Christians represent the love of Christ to their neighbors (let alone people in foreign countries) in an age when Christianity has earned a bad name from centuries of intolerance and cultural imperialism? Is it enough to love and serve them? Can you win their trust without becoming one of them? Can you be a missional Christian without a church?

This provocative book, based on a recently uncovered collection of 100-year-old letters from a famous pastor to his son-in-law, a missionary in China, will upend pretty much everyone’s assumptions about what it means to give witness to Christ.

Blumhardt challenges us to find something of God in every person, to befriend people and lead them to faith without expecting them to become like us, and to discover where Christ is already at work in the world. This is truly good news: No one on the planet is outside the love of God.

At a time when Christian mission has too often been reduced to social work or proselytism, this book invites us to reclaim the heart of Jesus’ great commission, quietly but confidently incarnating the love of Christ and trusting him to do the rest.

Read the foreword by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Read excerpts from chapter three: See How Christ Is Already at Work.

See the introductory video:

Below is my Personal Mantra in light of the above, also found on the HOME page:

Personal Mantra

The Gospels indicate that the test case for love of God is love of neighbour.

The test case for love of neighbour is love of enemy. Therefore, to the extent we love neighbour and enemy, to that extent we love God. And to the extent we fail to love neighbour and enemy, we fail to love God. “Love” (agapao) is a New Testament action verb that constantly reaches out to embrace as friends, draw a circle of inclusion around, neighbour and enemy (agape is the noun form, almost invariably referencing God’s unconditional love in the New Testament).

Therefore, the ultimate theological bottom line is: GOD IS ALL-INCLUSIVE LOVE. PERIOD. This is a great divide in Christian theology, on the one and the other hands:

• Those who affirm that God is All-Inclusive Love. Period!

• Those who assert God to be Anything Less!

In light of the mantra, I love this quote:

Without the moral command to non-violence, the teaching on prayer would become merely a pietistic escape from life’s troubles. Without the teaching on going into the inner room and shutting the door, setting our mind on God’s kingdom before everything else, and leaving self behind, the moral command to turn the other cheek would be empty idealism. We cannot love our enemies without doing so from a profound contemplative source of energy. We cannot meditate without becoming more loving and less violent.A Letter from Laurence Freeman March 2013, Laurence Freeman Blog

Please click on: Everyone Belongs to God

Dianne Tramutola-Lawson–Class of ’60

WN: Dianne is one of the amazing volunteers in charge of Colorado CURE.

Please enjoy this brief interview:

You may also click on St. Mary’s Academy link to article; and here is the link for St. Mary’s Academy.

My wife and I have had the good fortune of being members, and I represent Canadian CURE. It has chapters in most American states, and internationally, especially in Africa. I agreed to chair an emerging “CURE of the Americas” (COTA), focussed on Restorative/Transformative Justice.

I have but one quibble with the CURE byline above: “Inmates” should instead read “Prisoners.” That is calling a spade a spade–while pointing to prisons’ supreme horror: the actual caging of human beings!

I learned this lesson in 1976 from the amazing publication: Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Abolitionists. Click here for the full content.

Then “Neighbours” (correct English spelling! 😉 ) could as readily be swapped out for “Returning Citizens,” the alternative nomenclature brilliantly promoted by a friend, Charle Thornton, as seen here: Preparing Formerly Incarcerated Returning Citizens as Part of the Crime Prevention Solution: Fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Convention and Criminal Justice, Kyoto Japan, 7 – 12 March, 2021.

The CURE Founders–Charlie and Pauline Sullivan–mentioned by Diane are truly amazing and selfless! Charlie travels to all the International Conferences, so my partner Esther and I have gotten to know him fairly well. I first met Charlie at a Conference in Toronto about 25 years ago. He always sent me their newsletter, and there was invariably a handwritten note.

Here is Charlie introducing CURE in 2009:

This from their website:

WELCOME to International CURE

International Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) is a grassroots organization dedicated to the reduction of crime through the reform of the criminal justice system (especially prison reform.).

Prisons should be used only for people who absolutely must be incarcerated. And that those who are incarcerated should have all of the resources they need to turn their lives around.  A person is sent to prison  AS PUNISHMENT AND NOT FOR PUNISHMENT. The only punishment is the loss of freedom.

We encourage members to become  VOCAL especially when you are struggling with a criminal justice system.

Certainly, it is often easier to feel very helpless and isolated.  Also, it may be difficult to understand the system and you are treated disrespectfully when you talk about it. Finally, You may be overwhelmed by other responsibilities while you have a loved one who is incarcerated.

We understand those feelings. At the same time, if the criminal justice system is to improve, we need many people to speak up about the problems.  Lots of voices can result in change.

Please click on V-O-C-A-L  for a few things you can do.  These are just suggestions. They may not work everywhere. If these won’t work where you live, perhaps they will inspire you to think of something that will work. No one can do all of these things. Anything you can do is likely to help.

Finally,  CURE is a membership organization. We work hard to provide our members with the information and tools necessary to help them understand the criminal justice system and to advocate for changes. Click to Join today

Other links:

Former inmate taps into her prison experience for ‘groundbreaking’ PhD research

CBC Radio ·

photo above: Prison For Women, or P4W, in Kingston, Ont., opened in 1934 and was shut down in 2000 after decades of reports about prisoner mistreatment. (Google Street View)

Listen to Ideas from the Trenches: The Resilience of Incarcerated Women

This episode is part of an on-going series, Ideas from the Trenches. PhD students sacrifice years of their lives in pursuit of answers to the world’s unanswered questions. IDEAS shines a light on the work of these emerging scholars.

WN: This kind of research is so essential!

Esther, my partner, co-facilitates (with Kathy Moodie) Respectful Relationships for Survivors of Trauma at Fraser Valley Institution (FVI) in Matsqui British Columbia, a sister institution (one of five in Canada) to that in which the researcher served time. Esther constantly references the amazing resilience of women whose life circumstances–so often from birth–were stacked against them. She readily acknowledges where she could have ended up–with similar life experiences. Celebration of their resilience and hope for a better future are key. . .

excerpts:

While crime rates in Canada are among the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, the number of women in federal prisons continues to rise.

Rachel Fayter’s says her time in prison led to her criminology PhD work at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on how women in prison build the resilience they need to survive. (Nicola Luksic/CBC)

PhD student Rachel Fayter hopes her work will contribute to shifting that trend.

Fayter spent just over three years serving time at the Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVI) for breach of bail and possession for the purpose of trafficking charges. During her time in prison from 2014 to 2017, she got to know dozens of her fellow inmates. Her experience with them inspired her criminology PhD work at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on how women in prison build the resilience they need to survive.

“I want to show that criminalized women, despite all the trauma and negative things that we’ve been through, we have a lot to offer,” says Fayter.

“I want to shift public consciousness about who we are.”

The vast majority of women who receive federal prison sentences are victims of abuse and poverty. According to a 2003 Canadian Commission of Human Rights report, 85 per cent have suffered physical abuse and 70 per cent have suffered sexual abuse. Indigenous women are vastly over-represented — they’re just 4 per cent of the female Canadian population, but they constitute nearly 40 per cent of incarcerated women in federal prisons.

“If you’re taking somebody who’s been traumatized and grown up in horrible circumstances, many times they commit a crime out of just survival,” says Fayter.

“And many of these women are single mothers too. They’re losing their children. So all of this trauma on top of trauma. And then they’re going back out to the community and then we don’t have enough support. It ends up being a revolving door.”

‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’

Jennifer Kilty is a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa. She met Rachel Fayter inside GVI in 2015 as part of a “Walls to Bridges” course, which brings university students together with inmates to study in the same classroom.

Kilty is now Fayter’s PhD supervisor.

“It’s absolutely central to involve individuals [in research] who have lived experience,” says Kilty. “It’s this idea of ‘nothing about us without us.'”

She says that by focusing on community relationships and resilience, Fayter’s work will be “groundbreaking in Canada.”

“Our ability to empathize with people is a source of strength,” says Kilty. “Especially when you’re thinking about criminology in the context of the prison, developing relationships can be a survival technique on the inside.”

Please click on: Groundbreaking PhD Research on Women’s Prisons

End Abuse Programs

WN: Esther, my partner, and I have been hugely privileged to have been connected to the End Abuse Programs for many years: Esther since 2009. She co-facilitates groups of women in Phase Two at the MCCBC Office (33933 Gladys Avenue, Abbotsford–all Phases are for 10 weeks), and a Respectful Relationships for Survivors of Trauma Program in Fraser Valley Institution (FVI) for the same duration as above. There have been multiple contracts through MCCBC for the latter.

Together we have facilitated the Home Improvement Program for Men: 15-week sessions, two a year, since 2017.

The video below was done by Simon Fraser University students. We all feel it is excellent!

If you click on the “Pop out” in the top right, you can view the 10-minute video. The students could not access women in the federal prison. Many have told the facilitators that it has been life giving.

There is contact information at the end of the video, and also of course by clicking on the highlighted above.

You may also click here.

Easter Song, Keith Green, and Reflections on the Resurrection

Easter Song, Keith Green, and Reflections on the Resurrection

NOTE: Please check out the footnotes for additional, more detailed commentary. Also, there are poetry and songs in the final footnote; and four additional songs below that.

Please also see two great sermons, one on Good Friday, the other on Easter Sunday, by my colleague Randy Klassen: both in the context of criminal/restorative justice.

Easter 2014

Breath held through long wintry snow and rain
Orchestral stage, hushed audience before first baton thrust
Shimmering dancers at every bush and tree tip
All wait.
Signal flares.
New life rises!
Concert begins.

I wrote this moments before we celebrated Easter with 19 family members.

WN: While I do not get off on his style of worship, or his seeming smugness about “knowing Jesus” (seen in some other YouTube videos of his performances), Keith Green’s song here (originally composed by Annie Herring, 2nd Chapter of Acts) is top of the charts for me! Forty plus years ago, we used to listen to this often at Easter! I’m happy to “resurrect” it this Easter Season.

Speaking of resurrection: there is a person of my acquaintance who used to love this song, once at least by his account pulling over on the road to deal with overwhelming joy in response to its sheer power, an exuberance that touched him emotionally to the core. There came the day however, sadly long since, that it was all rejected, and his “Jesus” became so completely watered down that it is impossible to conjure up an understanding of why such a “Jesus” was viciously rejected and crucified–if one holds to his (un)belief. As to then rising again, Dead men simply do not rise, his “scientific” mind asserts dogmatically like the best (or worst) of any religious fundamentalist I have known.

At least as hard or more so to imagine is why a whole rabble of Jesus followers joyfully joined the ranks of martyrdom in allegiance to that belief–then or since (a rather gargantuan throng of such in fact).

So is it the case, as my acquaintance now claims rather dogmatically, that the Gospels are barely “historical,” that it is simply known that scientifically, the resurrection is at best mere fairy-story, at worst a belief to be jettisoned if one time held, or rejected if considered? (I have concluded that there is no more rigid fundamentalist than one who comes to reject what once was held near and dear: in whatever field of inquiry/activity).

There is a problem with my acquaintance’s fundamentalist pontifications: he is in no way qualified to make such sweeping denials–at least not as an historian, not as a scientist, not as a theologian. He is none of them. But it’s ok with me. I bear him no ill-will for his unbelief. He’s welcome to his opinions.

I do however demur when his (un)beliefs are pronounced as, for all intents, incontestable truths. As though if one only had intellectual/academic/moral integrity one would just know his new fundamentalism with contrary content is the only show in town . . . I do not mind that he rails against/mocks Christian fundamentalists; that a Bishop Spong is/was his particular cup of tea. (Spong who in the books by him I read repeatedly showed himself to be one of the greatest fundamentalists of them all!) I just wish he’d dial down the unbelief dogmatism (a variation of rather silly “religion-poisoning-everything” à la Christopher Hitchens mantra). Sigh.

Jesus throughout history has transfixed lives, making it for starters a challenge to those who deny the Gospel’s transformative power once it gets a hold of one’s life. An illustration of myriad/which is this book published in 2012:  Subversive Orthodoxy: Outlaws, Revolutionaries, and other Christians in Disguise. Of it we read:

It may seem a surprising claim, but some of the most brilliant and original critics of modernity have been shaped by Christianity. In Subversive Orthodoxy, Robert Inchausti maps out a tradition of twentieth century thinkers-including philosophers, activists, and novelists-whose “unique contributions to secular thought derive from their Christian worldviews.” Inchausti revisits the lives and work of a stunning array of well-known Christian thinkers as well as figures not often thought of as Christian. From Walker Percy to Dorothy Day, Jacques Ellul to Marshall McLuhan, Inchausti offers a fascinating who’s who of what he calls the “orthodox avant-garde.” Subversive Orthodoxy will be an informative and encouraging read for pastors, laypeople, and students concerned about the Christian response to secular ideologies.

We read further in the Forword by Ward Mailliard:

In poetically articulate voice, [the author] amplifies the revolutionary truth that when principles of great ethical and spiritual tradition such as Christianity are ‘lived,’ they become both “subversive” and “orthodox.”

My other problem is simply: there is no historical, scientific1 or theological evidence that compels one to disbelieve what my acquaintance once believed and found great joy in. None on all three counts.

And while his outright rejection of the Church is another story, and such likewise seems as brittle fundamentalist as his other sweeping contestations about what one now must (dis)believe (he demonstrates–to my thinking–significant lack of historiographical discernment), I’m at a loss as to what to do with such overwhelming prejudice and closed-mindedness with so underwhelming historical evidence.

On the contrary: he could benefit from a bracing read of Sir Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, that does a sweep of 1800 years of Western history, claiming that

The roots of liberalism—belief in individual freedom, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, in a legal system based on equality, and in a representative form of government befitting a society of free people—all these were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early Church. These philosophers and canon lawyers, not the Renaissance humanists, laid the foundation for liberal democracy in the West.–from description of book highlighted above; emphasis added).

It’s Hard to Believe

I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.–Source: Flannery O’Connor in The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

So I leave it to him in his fiefdom of two–his wife concomitant Lady of the Manor, perhaps even more stringently/arrogantly fundamentalist? And both seemingly so unaware of their own entrenched fundamentalisms? While they may have rejected their earlier black-and-white religious fundamentalism,  the spirit of fundamentalism appears to have arisen like a phoenix within them. Pot calling the kettle black, it seems.

My wife and I however long since gratefully committed lèse-majesté and self-expulsion from that sorry realm of facile, faux deontological unbelief. Well, we really never were inhabitants (though we likewise abandoned an earlier Christian fundamentalism).2

Of course, my acquaintance is welcome to his (un)beliefs! No I don’t believe he is going to hell for rejecting the Christian faith of his previous self. But I have not heard him express for many a year the kind of high-spirited joy he once had in the resurrection–and with it the whole bag of for him once life-giving tricks.

We receive the Spirit of truth so that we can know the things of God. In order to grasp this, consider how useless the faculties of the human body would become if they were denied their exercise. Our eyes cannot fulfil their task without light, either natural or artificial; our ears cannot react without sound vibrations, and in the absence of any odour our nostrils are ignorant of their function. Not that these senses would lose their own nature if they were not used; rather, they demand objects of experience in order to function. It is the same with the human soul. Unless it absorbs the gift of the Spirit through faith, the mind has the ability to know God but lacks the light necessary for that knowledge.From the treatise on the Trinity by Saint Hilary of Poitiers

I find that sad . . . (Not that what I believe is “certainty” either. It is after all “faith.” But it does bring great joy!)

For those however who might be on the contrary more open-minded, I’ll point you presently to (if unaware) some of the historical/scientific scholarship that influences me–if as well you are considering these things. In light of Dr. Shapin’s statement above (Footnote 1) about trusting these various voices: I do.

Paradoxically though, there are many who have come to the Christian faith entirely outside of any “rational” path. One such is classicist, “anthropologist of everyday life,” researcher, broadcaster, filmmaker, award-winning author, and delightfully enthusiastic about wherever she directs her brilliant mind, Margaret Visser.  She is a deeply committed Christian, who came to faith through a mystical experience in a gym exercise class at the University of Toronto.3 She gives no indication that any of the foregoing was at play at all in her conversion.

So to be clear: I make no assertion that what is offered compels belief–or “demands a verdict” as a pseudo-intellectual Christian apologist contends. I only claim it is not irrational to ask for somewhat stronger arguments on my acquaintance’s (un)beliefs’ behalf.

God from experience and what otherwise I can tell does not force anything on anyone! God is the great Cosmic Wooer not a Crusader . . . Therefore, how dare I in matters of faith presume to impose anything on anyone?!

There of course are (am I bending over backwards here?) valid personal reasons people leave/fail to embrace Christian faith. How dare anyone dispute/critique that?

Further: I subscribe to Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt‘s (an amazing 19th-century theologian) affirmation: Everyone Belongs to God: Discovering the Hidden Christ. So I can leave all that (thank God!) to God.

My more modest contention is simply: what follows in point form (for me!) precludes any facile unbelief.4

  • .Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume I, James D. G. Dunn, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.5On the resurrection, Dunn avers:

    As a historical statement we can say quite firmly: no Christianity without the resurrection of Jesus. As Jesus is the single greatest ‘presupposition’ of Christianity, so also is the resurrection of Jesus. To stop short of the resurrection would have been to stop short (p. 826).

    By stark contrast, I once listened for 4½ hours or so to my acquaintance mentioned above as he trashed the Gospels as unhistorical and hence quite dismissible–in his loquacious rendition of a virulent anti-creed. Perhaps ( 😉 ) one can guess whom I find  more credible: the three historians mentioned above (and so many more!)–over against the profound, comparatively (though “comparison” is not even a register in his case) uninformed bias of my acquaintance . . .

The fact that dead people do not ordinarily rise is itself part of early Christian belief, not an objection to it. The early Christians insisted that what had happened to Jesus was precisely something new; was, indeed, the start of a whole new mode of existence, a new creation. The fact that Jesus’ resurrection was, and remains, without analogy is not an objection to the early Christian claim. It is part of the claim itself (p. 712).6

  • A world-renowned journalist/historian with prodigious output is Paul Johnson. An octogenarian when he wrote Jesus: A Biography from a Believer, he invites readers to request any substantiating scholarship–readily available from him–for his biography of Jesus. (For those who object that he is clearly biased in light of the subtitle, the very objection of course carries its own objection of bias in turn!) Johnson writes at the end of the book:

The Gospels are designed to be read and reread. The oftener we do so, the greater our delight in them, the deeper our understanding, and the more we grasp their realism. They are the truth. What they tell us actually happened. The characters are real. The details are strangely, sometimes mysteriously, convincing. As we go on reading, the many centuries which intervene gradually slip away, and we become familiar with a world not so different from our own .  . . [The Gospels’] message, at its simplest, is do as Jesus did. That is why his biography, in our terrifying twenty-first century, is so important. We must study it, and learn (pp. 224 – 226).

In the face of the above scholarly testimonials, I find my acquaintance’s dogmatic fundamentalist unbelief wears thin . . .

Again: mine is not a contrary dogmatic fundamentalist belief critique.  Rather, to cite Professor Barr’s words yet again (also in Footnote 1), slightly paraphrased:

It is certainly conceivable, if to many of us not credible, that [my acquaintance’s inverse fundamentalism] is true, but surely it is not irrational to ask for somewhat stronger arguments on its behalf.

Hope you too can thrill to the joy of the resurrection! If you can, I hope the above song and reflections will contribute to it!8

In that joyful affirmation, you may take to heart then act on Bishop Thomas Gumbleton’s challenge to us in his Easter Sunday 2019 homily: “Have complete faith in the Resurrection.”

Then take in this joyful Easter rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah:

The phrase “. . . save us from ourselves” is used in the song above. The following video, a beautiful plaintive cry of the heart written and sung by Dee Wilson in the context of the huge Black Lives Matter summer protests of 2020, and against the backdrop of the pandemic, also uses that phrase and explains why we all stand in need of that kind of salvation. . .

OK: One more hugely hopeful Easter Song!–from Good Shepherd Music Collective:

I’ll end with this:

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.

Footnotes
  1. In this brief commentary, I point below to works related to issues of historical credibility of the Gospels. 

    There is a rough parallel between earlier “Historical Jesus Quest” historians in their dismissal of New Testament historical reliability, and earlier scientific research that to this day (scientific) materialists claim explains everything–without reference to God.

    A classic text on this is by physicist Stephen M. Barr who writes:

    The question before us, then, is whether the actual discoveries of science have undercut the central claims of religion, specifically the great monotheistic religions of the Bible, Judaism and Christianity, or whether those discoveries have actually, in certain important respects, damaged the credibility of materialism (Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (2003), pp. 2 & 3.)

    The author, in an irenic, often understated manner, concludes the latter, saying at the end of the book:

    It is certainly conceivable, if to many of us not credible, that materialism is true, but surely it is not irrational to ask for somewhat stronger arguments on its behalf (p. 256).

    So with issues of historical reliability of the New Testament: it is conceivable that the documents are overall not very historically reliable. But the evidence does not compel one towards that conclusion. It is not irrational to assert that.  (There is more on this below.)

    When I wrote a major essay on Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (see also below) in my undergraduate German literature program, with a view to challenge Lessing’s presuppositions about the general historicity of the New Testament (“accidental truths of history” he dubbed them), and the inviolability by contrast of reason as ultimate guide to truth (“necessary truths of reason” he called them), my prof thought it rather presumptuous that I would tackle one of the Enlightenment founding notions about religion. He indicated surprise upon giving me a high mark for the paper: it was “reasonable,” he felt.

    Anti-religious bias is ubiquitous in our culture, and rarely acknowledged: both product of the Enlightenment.

    Reality is: the Judeo-Christian Tradition is one of the most ancient, and has throughout engaged brilliant thinkers butting up against what is known about the wider world/universe–and making sense in light of faith. Fides quaerens intellectum, was the widely-embraced 11th-century articulation by Saint Anselm, meaning: Faith seeking understanding.

    In modernity, it was claimed that “Science” displaced Faith as authoritative portal to understanding. But this is modern mythology. Noted former CBC Ideas broadcaster David Cayley highlights this in How To Think About Science, 24 hours of broadcast interviews with top historians and philosophers of science. (Yes, I listened to them all.) One may also read his subsequent book: Ideas on the Nature of Science. Though it does not include everything from the series. The full transcript may be found on Cayley’s website, and here.

    In that transcript, p. 148, during an interview with Steven Shapin (who is an historian and sociologist of science at Harvard University, co-author of Leviathan and the Air Pump, and author of A Social History of Truth and the Scientific Life), he contends that “. . . trust is imperative for constituting every kind of knowledge. Knowledge-making is always a collective enterprise: people have to know whom to trust in order to know something about the natural world.) We read:

    We might mean that the idea of science has some authority, that people think that science has got a method that guarantees the production of reliable knowledge, and that’s an intriguing idea, except the evidence is that not just lay people, but scientists themselves, have tremendous disagreements about what it is that method–the scientific method–might be. So we’re left with rather a puzzle about what we might mean by saying science is the characteristic culture of modernity, and I’d like to leave it at that because I’d like to encourage a lot more interest in the conditions under which we can talk about science and the modern world.

    Religion, we should understand now, has enormous authority. Whether or not it’s increasing its authority in our public life, especially in this country [the USA], is another matter. But religion did not go away. Religion was not killed by science. For all that the commentators at the end of the 19th century or early 20th century said so, they were wrong. Religion is alive and well.

    The Wikipedia article states about Stephen Barr’s book adduced above:

    Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (2003) is a book by Stephen M. Barr, a physicist from the University of Delaware[1] and frequent contributor to First Things. This book is “an extended attack” on what Barr calls scientific materialism. National Review says of the book: “[A] lucid and engaging survey of modern physics and its relation to religious belief. . . . Barr has produced a stunning tour de force . . . [a] scientific and philosophical breakthrough.”[2]

    And further:

    The book is divided into five parts spanning 26 chapters. The main religious and philosophical themes include determinism, mind as a machine, anthropic principle, and the big bang theory.[3] Its main thesis is that science and religion only appear in conflict because many have “conflated science with philosophical materialism.”

    . . . except the evidence is that not just lay people, but scientists themselves, have tremendous disagreements about what it is that method–the scientific method–might be.

    Barr repeatedly disclaims offering “rigorous scientific proofs” for traditional Judeo-Christianity. (There are none!) Rather, he systematically carves out room for its possible embrace based on what is known from modern physics. Not a few surprises await (at least the previously uninformed reader–like me).[]
  2. For insight, though from the (but-not-unlike) American side, see my review of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation . . .[]
  3. She speaks of it in a documentary called The Geometry of Love. (The book by the same title is an amazing read.) You can also hear various pieces of interviews with her on a CBC retrospective. You’re in for a treat! I also reviewed her The Gift of Thanks: The Roots, Persistence, and Paradoxical Meanings of a Social Ritual (another treat), along with two others on gratitude (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2010.) []
  4. The Easter 2019 article (“The ‘literal flesh-and-blood’ resurrection is the heart of my faith”) by James Martin, S.J. captures the essence.The reader may weigh it.

    In it we read:

    Let me offer my own perspective on this. I believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday. And I do not see that as any sort of parable or metaphor. This is, frankly, the very heart of my faith.

    Also, I do not believe that we can or should reduce the great mystery of the resurrection to an experience that occurred within the community. This is what some contemporary theologians have posited: that Christ “rose” within the community.

    Theological approaches differ, but, in essence, some theologians offer the story of how, as the disciples came to reflect on the life and death of Jesus Christ, he became “present” to them in a new way, through the Spirit. This, in turn, empowered them to proclaim the good news of his Gospel. Some theologians offer this as a more credible or contemporary way of understanding the “resurrection.”

    But there is a problem with this idea of the resurrection as the after-effects of a “shared memory.” Certainly, after the resurrection and the ascension the disciples would have “remembered” Jesus, and certainly they may have had powerful Spirit-filled experiences as they did so, often as they gathered in community. But, to my mind, only something as vivid, dramatic and, in a word, real as the multiple appearances by the risen Christ could have moved the disciples from abject fear (cowering behind closed doors) to being willing to give their lives for Jesus. Nothing else can credibly account for the transformation of terrified disciples into willing martyrs.[]

  5. The two other volumes are: Beginning from Jerusalem (Volume 2, 2009) and Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity (Volume 3, 2015). Together, the three volumes add up to 3,312 pages, including vast bibliographies and footnotes! This besides massive works by the same author on Jesus and Paul.A sampling of others:The Theology of Paul the Apostle (2006); The New Perspective on Paul (2007); a collection of earlier essays, Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels (2011); his collection of essays on The Oral Gospel Tradition (2016); Jesus According to the New Testament (2019); and he has authored other books, commentaries and innumerable articles contributing to a wide assortment of scholarly works in his field.
    There is no more top-notch and prolific Early Church historian writing today![]
  6. In my university German studies, we read Gotthold Ephraim Lessing‘s famous and what became normative Enlightenment dictum that There is an ugly broad ditch between the accidental truths of history and the necessary truths of reason. In other words, “historical” events so claimed by Christians such as the Resurrection are not in themselves self-evident truths compared to axiomatic truths of reason, accessible to any rational mind. Or: it is impossible to prove faith from history. Two characters in my Chrysalis Crucible novel respond thus to Lessing:

    Andy replied, “There was a ‘self-evident’ truth Lessing himself was overlooking. The truth is, ‘truth’—even the ‘necessary truths of reason’—are not so obviously ‘true’ or ‘necessary’ after all.”

    Dan could not hold back. “The great Michael Polanyi objection, precisely! [More on Michael Polanyi is in the next footnote.] Had Mr. Lessing been able to transport himself magically and linguistically to the head hunters roaming around New Guinea at the time, he’d have quickly found out how non­universally-self-evident were his ‘necessary truths’ after all, perhaps only moments before falling prey to their ‘necessary truth,’ namely, outsiders were best in the cooking pot, and his sun-shrunken head pride-of­-place charm above the chief’s doorway.

    James D.G. Dunn comments:

    In short, the tension between faith and history has too often been seen as destructive of good history. On the contrary, however, it is the recognition that Jesus can be perceived only through the impact he made on his first disciples (that is, their faith) which is the key to a historical recognition (and assessment) of that impact . . .

    It should not go unobserved that if this insight is justified it provides some sort of solution to the long-perceived gulf between history and faith. For in the historical moment(s) of creation of the Jesus tradition we have historical faith. The problem of history and faith, we might say, has been occasioned by the fact that further down the stream of faith and history the two have seemed so difficult to reconcile . . . All I am saying at this point is that the actual Synoptic tradition, with its record of things Jesus said and did, bears witness to a continuity between pre-Easter memory and post-Easter proclamation, a continuity of faith (Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume I, pp. 132 & 133).

    In other words, the Historical Jesus Quest for 500 years has attempted to get behind the scenes of the Gospels to see what was really happening on the other side of the curtain, the axiomatic assumption since the Enlightenment generally being, what is going on in front on the Gospel stage, the actual play as recorded in the Gospels, is untrustworthy because in Lessing’s word merely “accidental.” 500 years of failure in, one may rather definitively say, the stage or front of the scenes–the play as recorded in the Gospels–is all one will ever be able to see! And in the paraphrased words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “the play’s the thing wherein to catch the conscience of us all . . .”

    Dunn’s entire study is of a “Jesus Remembered” who is accessible equally to history and faith, wherein the only Jesus of history it is possible to discover is the Christ of faith. In light as said of 500 years of failed “historical Jesus questing,” yielding only a multiplicity of Jesuses historically “reconstructed” to look each time suspiciously like the reconstructionist him/herself is simply projecting his/her bias (or preferred “Jesus” if you will) onto the Gospels’ Jesus,

    it becomes clear that a theological and cultural agenda is the driving force rather than a desire to do better history (The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, Third Edition, Luke Timothy Johnson, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010, p, 629–in Second Edition).

    It’s just possible then that Lessing’s “ugly, broad ditch” was needlessly dug by him and his contemporaries . . . into which many since subsequently and haplessly fell. A further discussion of Lessing’s ditch is: Leaping Lessing’s Ugly Broad Ditch.

    Michael Polanyi emphasizes that personal knowledge is dependent on “communities of dialogue” within given cultural traditions which we all inhabit. It’s just that different cultural traditions yield different knowledge/rationalities.
    He writes:

    Articulate systems which foster and satisfy intellectual passion can survive only with the support of a society which respects the values affirmed by these passions, and a society has a cultural life only to the extent to which it acknowledges and fulfills the obligation to lend its support to the cultivation of these passions . . . The tacit coefficients by which these articulate systems are understood and accredited . . . are also coefficients of a cultural life shared by a community (Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1962, p. 203.)

    Our formal upbringing evokes in us an elaborate set of emotional responses, operating within an articulate cultural framework. By the strength of these affections we assimilate this framework and uphold it as our culture… (ibid, p. 70.)

    Lessing was a white adult male within an educated elite European circle of white males in the 18th century at a time of the incipient Enlightenment, whose shared rationality was moulded by that community. There is otherwise no shared universal rationality. (Widespread received rationality for instance throughout the South of the USA amongst Whites for more than a century dictated the necessity of Blacks hanging from trees . . .)

    A helpful study that discusses Michael Polanyi and philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre together in this regard is here.

    Larry Siedentop also traces in the study noted above the profound changes in the basis/understanding of “rationalism/reason” from ancient Greco-Roman culture to the modern era under the enlightened (read “liberalizing”) influence of the Church. The burden of his monograph is to demonstrate that without that influence/by continuing with ancient pagan cultural conceptualizations of rationality, there would never have been development of the Western liberal concept of the individual.[]

  7. Please also see this article: “Katharine Hayhoe, Santa Ono featured in major science/faith conference.”[]
  8. You might also be drawn to some of the glorious poetry and music on Canadian award-winning singer/songwriter Steve Bell’s page: Thoughts, Songs and Poems for Easter Morning 2020.[]

I’ve been a priest for 50 years and still struggle with the problem of evil


John J. Strynkowski

March 28, 2021

photo above: Photo by Markus Schumacher on Unsplash

WN: The reflection highlighted below is profound and humbling.

excerpts:

I have been a priest for 57 years. Ever since I read The Brothers Karamazov as a seminarian, with its description of the rejection of God by Ivan, the middle brother, because of innocent suffering, I have struggled with the tension between my belief in a loving God and the presence of so much evil and pain in the world. I have come to recognize increasingly the cross of Christ as God’s response to that suffering and as the force that inspires his followers to immerse themselves in action to overcome suffering. What has helped me is the image of “dispossession” which characterizes human life, tragic crises such as a pandemic, the very cross of Christ and Christian discipleship.

Dispossession and discipleship

Jesus was dispossessed of life on the cross. Jesus also willingly accepted that dispossession. He knew well in advance of his triumphant return to Jerusalem that his enemies were plotting to kill him. He accepted that as the price of his mission. His entire life had been one of dispossession. At the very beginning he entered into a people who had been dispossessed of freedom and true nationhood by the oppressive Roman empire. His family was possessed of no abundance. Upon birth he was laid in a manger. His earnings as a young worker were likely meager.

Adding to the dispossession that his nation and neighbors endured politically and economically, Jesus embraced dispossession all the more as he began his public ministry. He left home and became dependent on others for shelter and food. His sharp calls for conversion dispossessed him of the esteem of many, even his own relatives. His bold proclamation of himself as an instrument of divine forgiveness, his insistence on faith in him as a prerequisite for healing, his interpretation of the love of God and neighbor as underlying all human laws, his severe challenge to those who stubbornly refused to hear him—all of this led to the ultimate dispossession of the cross.

I deliberately choose the word “dispossession” to describe Jesus’ life and crucifixion because it strongly contrasts with the possessiveness of our culture. Seventy percent of U.S. gross domestic product comes from personal consumption. That means not only the basics of life but also the superabundance of the “stuff” we own, to the point where there are professional advisors to help people “declutter” their homes. We become overwhelmed by our possessions even as the media entice us through advertising—often quite subtle—to possess more. Even more perverse is the accumulation of wealth by a few at the expense of the many. Some own multiple homes in different parts of the world, while vast majorities have little more than a fragile roof to call home.

The current pandemic has thrown all of humankind into a state of dispossession. Familiar routines of daily life have been taken away. More tragically, millions have lost their lives or suffered serious illness and its consequences. An economic recession has caused massive unemployment, deprived multitudes of the basics of life and intensified inequalities. The bulk of dispossession has fallen upon the poor.

Christian reflection on the cross of Christ has yielded so many meanings. Most importantly the cross is the sacrifice Christ made, a dispossession of his life for the sake of all of humankind. In our culture of massive possessiveness, the cross stands as judgment and salvation. That is all the more true because the cross reveals the very nature of God.

I deliberately choose the word “dispossession” to describe Jesus’ life and crucifixion because it strongly contrasts with the possessiveness of our culture.

The Son of God “emptied” himself in taking on our human nature. He did not dispossess himself of his divine nature but revealed it in the humility of earthly dispossession. This mirrors and brings into human history the eternal self-emptying that takes place in the life of the Triune God as each person surrenders to the others the divine being so that there is one God but three persons with, as is said in the preface for the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, “their unity in substance, and their equality in majesty.”

The perfect and total self-emptying of each divine person means that the Son, in becoming incarnate, could not do anything but embrace a life of radical dispossession that culminated on the cross. That dispossession of Jesus was passive insofar as he entered into a history of oppression and poverty, but active insofar as he voluntarily embraced the life of a wandering prophet at the price, ultimately, of crucifixion.

Unwelcome message or promise of salvation?

From the beginning, the cross has stood in judgment over the church and world. It stands in sharp contrast to all greed, obscene consumption, exploitation of people and earth, unnecessary accumulation of goods, abusive power, excessive competitiveness, unbridled ambition and manipulative dealing. Because of that, the cross often does not offer us a welcome message.

In the Catholic Church, we lament declining numbers of practicing Catholics, for which there are many reasons, one of them being perhaps the worship of a naked messiah on a cross. In the developed world, with its comforts purchased at the expense of cheap labor, the cross is not a welcome message. When economies are built on possessions, the story of a man who dispossessed himself of everything does not easily get a hearing. More welcome is the story of Jesus the friend who understands.

But the cross also saves. The primary beneficiaries and heralds of that salvific message are the poor. Most Catholic homes have crosses, but almost always among the few possessions of the poor is a cross. I grew up with Polish grandparents who came from a poor village in the Tatra Mountains and brought with them a cross that was prominently displayed in our home. The message of the cross for the poor is simple: God died on the cross. It is the sheer event and image prior to doctrinal refinement that speaks to the poor.

The message is straightforward: Jesus, poor like us, God, crucified like us, still lives for and with us. It is the unspoken “sensus fidelium.” Poverty deadens and kills. Many survive because they find in God crucified solidarity, hope, purpose, love and destiny. Though the poor are the primary beneficiaries and heralds of the cross, those who are possessed of much can also be touched by the power of the cross, most especially in moments of tragedy and death itself.

When economies are built on possessions, the story of a man who dispossessed himself of everything does not easily get a hearing.

Every person is born into some situation of passive dispossession. Some may be surrounded by favorable circumstances, although they eventually must face dispossession. But for untold masses of human beings since the beginning of history, there has been dispossession of fundamental rights to nutrition, health, education and freedom. Children have been born into abject poverty that then remains their destiny. We generally define abortion as cutting short the life of an unborn child, but the lives of so many born children have also been cut short or diminished by famine, disease, migration and war. To neglect these children is immoral and criminal, too.

In the Old Testament, Job is the quintessential poor man, dispossessed of everything, lamenting before God and friends his miserable state. In the end God responds by revealing the awesome mysteries of creation and his wise establishment of order. Job can only surrender in humility to this overwhelming revelation. Can we hope that every dying person surrenders to the mystery that lies at the root of all human consciousness? A doctor I know once told me she had never met any atheists on their deathbeds.

In the New Testament, God reveals himself definitively in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This poor man is crucified and dispossessed of all. All the dispossessed of the world can see him in themselves and themselves in him. Simply speaking that he is God crucified is all that is needed to have some meaning in the midst of dispossession. We are not alone. Merely to gaze on the cross is to gain a sense of solidarity. One of the actions by which Jesus identifies his mission is in the good news he proclaims to the poor. Is this the good news? God crucified, but living?

Empathy and solidarity

To take seriously that sacrifice requires that we recognize the solidarity of all human beings in the experience of dispossession, and therefore respond with empathetic and compassionate action. In the words of St. Paul: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Or, in the words of Dostoyevsky: “We are responsible to everyone for everything.” In “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis calls for a gratuitousness that works for the good of others without seeking recompense for ourselves (Nos. 139-141). Ultimately all we possess is gift—gratuity that then should provoke generous sharing of gifts.

Please click on: Struggle With Problem of Evil

Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking; Transformative Justice: Penal Abolitionism Not Prison Reform

by Wayne Northey for The Kenarchy Journal, Volume 2.

image above: cccu.org

PLEASE NOTE: Below are excerpts of my paper for the above-noted Journal. At the very end of this post, one may click on the highlighted text, and read the full article in PDF. And of course one may also read it on the Journal’s website. Sign-up is free.

I chose to add “Notes:” at the end of each excerpt, that match those in the excerpt.

I chose also not to make clickable the numerous books and articles cited.

I chose finally to include all the References at the end of this post.

excerpts:

NOTE: Appreciation goes to Dr. Brad Jersak, friend, encourager, mentor. In October 2020 at his invitation a Q & A format was adopted for a presentation on what most commonly is known as “Restorative Justice.”[1] What follows is a reworking of that material and addition of new. I decided to retain the Q & A format.

 Wayne, you claim that the modern nation-state is closer in origin to what was dramatized by Marlon Brando’s character in The Godfather: namely the modern Western nation-state originated and operates on similar principles to a criminal protection racket. Historian/theologian William Cavanaugh states:

The main difference between Uncle Sam and the Godfather is that the latter did not enjoy the peace of mind afforded by official government sanction.[2]

 I understand you to mean: the State vis à vis external enemies—of whatever in-the-moment flavour—and in its exercise of population control (that is control of its domestic enemies—criminals).

Yes. One could get at this in several ways, of which I’ll give three pointers:. . .

Notes:

[1] It can be found here: Northey, “Restorative.”

[2] Cavanaugh, “FIRE,” 413.

Noted 20th-century American sociologist Charles Tilly in “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime” posits an irrefutable maxim:

If protection rackets represent organised crime at its smoothest, then war risking and state making—quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy—qualify as our largest examples of organised crime. [1]

Drawing mostly on Western European history, he continues:

This essay, then, concerns the place of organised means of violence [“protection rackets”] in the growth and change of those peculiar forms of government we call national states: relatively centralized, differentiated organizations the officials of which more or less successfully claim control over the chief concentrated means of violence within a population inhabiting a large, contiguous territory.[2]

Not unrelated, famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger in 1966 wrote The Crime of Punishment,[3] a book that has stood the test of time—claiming punishment in the United States is hugely disproportionately meted out by white élites to the poor (lower classes and minorities); and is greater annually in commission of crimes against prisoners than the sum total of crimes committed by all criminals in prison. Hence “the crime of punishment.”

Or in Jeffrey Reiman’s telling book title: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice.[4]

In 1993, activist, author, and theologian Lee Griffith published The Fall of the Prison: Biblical Perspectives on Prison Abolition. In it we read:

But prison abolitionists have always been a small minority. In the mainstream of Christendom, church and state have been and remain prison collaborators.[5]

To that he says by way of understatement:

‘Correctional’ management may be perfectly comfortable with the teachings of the contemporary church. But it is likely that the teachings of Jesus would wreak havoc.[6]

I shall return at length to Griffith’s theme, one seldom raised in the Restorative Justice field.

Notes:

[1] Tilly, “Organized,” 169, 170.

[2] Tilly, “Organized,” 170.

[3] Menninger, Crime.

[4] Reiman, Richer.

[5] Griffith, Fall, 175.

[6] Griffith, Fall, 176.

***

But I shall move on to his understanding of New Testament prison and justice. In biblical “principalities and powers” language, prison is ever associated with the power of death. He writes:

As such, the problem is not that prisons have failed to forestall violent criminality and violent rampages; the problem is that prisons are identical in spirit to the violence and murder that they pretend to combat . . . Whenever we cage people, we are in reality fueling and participating in the same spirit we claim to renounce.[1]

Therefore, when Jesus announced in Luke 4[2] “freedom to the prisoners,” it broadcasts a renunciation of  . . . the power of death, and it therefore points toward the resurrection itself.[3]

So when Peter was miraculously delivered from prison in the Book of Acts (the holiest jailbreak ever!), this is at once enacted parable of “freedom to the captives,” and descriptive of what the Spirit of God wants for all prisoners: their deliverance from the power of death—concomitantly the abolition of prisons. And as Karl Barth noted, the first true Christian community was composed entirely of prisoners—the three criminals on the crosses at Golgotha.[4] It should in this light never be lost that Jesus himself indeed was “numbered with the transgressors.”[5] Or, as theologian Mark Lewis Taylor puts it, Jesus was “the executed God.”[6]

Taylor also quotes the searing words of long-time Black (formerly) death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal1:

Isn’t it odd that Christendom—that huge body of humankind that claims spiritual descent from the Jewish carpenter of Nazareth—claims to pray to and adore a being who was prisoner of Roman power, an inmate of the empire’s death row? That the one it considers the personification of the Creator of the Universe was tortured, humiliated, beaten, and crucified on a barren scrap of land on the imperial periphery, at Golgotha, the place of the skull? That the majority of its adherents strenuously support the state’s execution of thousands of imprisoned citizens? That the overwhelming majority of its judges, prosecutors, and lawyers—those who condemn, prosecute, and sell out the condemned—claim to be followers of the fettered, spat-upon, naked God?[7]

In this light, it must never be forgotten that Jesus was executed by the best criminal justice system of the day (Roman—in the name of good government), and by the singular monotheistic faith of the day (Judaism—in the name of good religion).

There is a remarkably rich treasure-trove of reflections on prison abolition throughout the book. Its seams could be mined repeatedly. Near the end the writer declares:

We need to hear the Good News that Jesus is Victor. The prison is fallen. The kingdom of God is in our very midst, and we can no longer pretend that our human warehouses serve good or restrain evil. The power of the prison is the spirit of death, and death itself has been defeated by resurrection. These imprisoned people belong to God, not Caesar. In the name of Jesus, unlock the prisons![8]

My response is an ever so weak—still for me resounding—Amen!

Notes:

[1] Griffith, Fall, 106.

[2] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.

Because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are downtrodden,

To proclaim the favourable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

[3] Griffith, Fall, 107.

[4] Griffith, Fall, 118.

[5] Isaiah 45:12.

[6] Taylor, Executed.

[7] Taylor, Executed, ix. My book review may be found here: https://waynenorthey.com/book-review/the-executed-god/; last accessed January 11, 2021.

[8] Griffith, Fall, 227; emphasis added.

Whatever else, this kind of justice is non-punitive, non-retributive. [Dr. Herman] Bianchi directly contrasts the “tsedeka” model with the conventional justice model. “Give everyone his due” in the latter leaves the status quo unchallenged, rank inequality the norm. Whereas in “tsedeka” there is a constant dynamic of change and equal treatment. Intention is paramount in the retributive system; results—a genuine experience of healing justice—vital in the other. “A tree is recognized by its fruit . . . (Matthew 12:33)” is the Judaeo-Christian wisdom about the primacy of the outcome of justice. Bianchi stated elsewhere[1] that, though the intention of prison reformers in initiating the “American penitentiary experiment” in 1790 was to better the lot of criminals, in fact, the results as earlier said were generally afterwards disastrous, a fact so thoroughly documented as not to need further repetition.

Moving on: in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries in Europe as one historian explains:

… the state began to replace the individual as the guiding force behind prosecutions… With the [eventual] appearance of the state as the sole source of prosecutorial energy, the criminal act could no longer be viewed as an attack by one person on another; it was now an offence committed against society at large.[2]

Regina versus the individual in British common law which Canada and the British Commonwealth inherited (we the people of whatever state versus the individual in the U.S.), gradually became the new state-centred justice system. I know for instance of a rape victim who fantasizes about calling the Queen (Regina versus the accused in Canada) on the anniversary of the rape to ask how the Queen is doing . . .

 The elements of this enduring move to state law in Western jurisprudence—this “stealing justice-making from the community” were:

  1. the separation of criminal and civil wrongs;
  2. the assumption of the centrality of the state, thus moving all criminality to the public realm;
  3. the assumption of harsh punishment as normative—i.e., “pain delivery,” as a distinguishing mark of criminal law;
  4. a move to formal rationalism and codification of law, displacing informal, relationship-oriented custom

In short: the developing Criminal Justice System in the West over the past millennium lost an earlier peacemaking orientation to crime; in its place became dominant what the Nixon administration in the 20th century declared to be a “War on Crime.” And prison populations have exploded in the United States ever since! Today, with over 2.1 million incarcerated,[3] it is the highest per capita prison population in the world. Land of the Free, indeed!

 Already alluded to, Nils Christie authored Crime Control as Industry: Towards Gulags Western Style?, which looked at the American system. When first published in 1994, there was a question mark after the last word: Style. In subsequent editions, the question mark was removed . . . The industrialization of punishment had arrived—indeed exploded! And Christie, like Karl Menninger in The Crime of Punishment, insisted that the true and present danger in Western society were not the criminals in their confines or at large, rather, the crime control industry itself, that in so many ways holds entire societies hostage behind prison walls of fear and neglect, imitators indeed of the very darkest urges of our collective human condition.

The United States has roughly 5 percent of the world’s population, and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. In 1975, the combined state and federal prison population of the United States was 300,000 men and women. By 2006, in three decades, it had arisen to 2.3 million, and has remained so more or less since.  In other words, as social critic Ivan Illich also warned, the Western state, supremely modelled in the United States, had become in turn a state modelled after the notorious Russian gulag, in which we are all imprisoned.[4]

The third edition of Christie’s book was published before September 11, 2001. His forewarnings have been so much more profoundly the case ever since.

Notes:

[1] Keynote presentation at ICOPA II, 1985, Amsterdam. I was there.

[2] See Weisser, Early, 100; emphasis added. Compare also Berman, Revolution.

[3] At its lowest in 20 years! See: https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/prison-population-by-state.

[4] In a brilliant work by a friend, David Cayley, The Expanding Prison: The Crisis in Crime and Punishment and the Search for Alternatives, there is a section devoted to Ivan Illich’s understanding of prisons as characteristic of religious ceremonies. Imprisonment is thus, in Illich’s words,

A huge ritual which creates a scapegoat, which we can drive out into the desert, believing that by loading onto that scapegoat all that we experience we’ll get rid of it . . . Prisons are the place in which we can face horror too terrible for us to recognize that we are ourselves immersed in it . . ., 83.

Cayley’s entire book is a profound indictment of the “prison industrial complex” and pointer to how else crime might be addressed. It also brings Illich and René Girard together somewhat in their understanding of criminals as societal scapegoats. See also: Rempel, Life at the End of Us Versus Them that does the same more generically in a full monograph discussing both thinkers. Nils Christie whom Cayley counted as a good friend, is also discussed at length.

Both publications are exciting, insightful and disturbing reads!

So, where did such violent notions of punishment originate and become the norm in Criminal Justice in the West?

 Ubiquitous Cultural Scapegoating Violence and Criminal Justice

This gets us into sketching some of the intellectual developments of our Western System.

I’ve discussed already how the formation of Western Criminal Justice Systems were prima facie protection rackets akin to the Mob—only with societal legitimation.

When one goes back further and poses the above question generically, even of all cultures

past and present, anthropologist René Girard as stated earlier argues that the founding moment of every society known to history is in fact violence. All human societies then employ a scapegoat mechanism in order to contain the violence, in turn to restore social cohesion.

In Western Christian cultures, this form of scapegoating violence eventually was supportive of and spread by a highly retributive interpretation (many say wrongly) of Saint Anselm’s 11th-century satisfaction theory of the atonement.[1]

Early in the development of Restorative Justice in Canada, my friend Professor Vern Redekop[2] of St. Paul University, Ottawa Canada, authored a widely approved piece: Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard.

In it Redekop posed the question:

Is it possible that what we call a Criminal Justice System is really a scapegoat mechanism?[3]

He then analysed Girard’s thesis about cultural scapegoat mechanisms found in all historical periods and cultures. He answered the question he posed affirmatively, writing:

It [is] possible to think of the Criminal Justice System as one gigantic scapegoat mechanism for society.[4]

He explained:

When one considers how much crime is unreported, how few crimes are brought to trial and among those how few result in conviction and prison sentences it turns out that we in Canada imprison on the order of 3% of criminals . . . This tiny percentage of offenders who are severely punished can be thought of as a collective scapegoat for society. Those individual criminals who warrant sensational news coverage, can function as scapegoats themselves.[5]/[6]

The case of Bobby Oatway was a classic Canadian example. You may read the paper Chaplain Hugh Kirkegaard and I did on my website,[7] and in Volume One of my publication series, Justice That Transforms, entitled: “The Sex Offender as Scapegoat: Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response.”[8]

In this context of criminal scapegoating, Restorative Justice poses perhaps the most troubling yet simple rhetorical question:

Why harm people who harm people to teach people that harming people is wrong?

The Restorative Justice vision moves away from a warmaking, scapegoat mechanism to a peacemaking way of nonviolence in a bid to break definitively with the endless cycles of recurrent scapegoating violence in Western Criminal Justice.

Thanks Wayne for this Q & A. Please now bring this all to a close.

Conclusion

I have used at times the term “Inclusive Justice” to capture the deep theology and practice of a peacemaking theory of the atonement.

For a millennium the Judaeo-Christian tradition has largely given the West a legacy of violence in response to crime. It need not have according to its original trajectory and its central protagonist, Jesus. We need to revisit the powerful dynamic of subversion of all violence in that tradition, in order for society to internalize deeply the very human story of Inclusive Justice, which is our cosmic destiny. Then we need to connect ourselves to it existentially with all the will, energy, and imagination we can muster.

And one day, according to the biblical image of the Peaceable Kingdom,

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them… They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.[9]

Transformative, Inclusive Justice that never excludes, and the promise of the Peaceable Kingdom are the (pace Justice Holmes’ “rules game”) endgame of Restorative Justice—hence the “only game in town,” to which I say resoundingly:

Amen!

References

 Armenic, Jerry. Victims, The Orphans of Justice, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart-Bantam, 1984.

Bailie, Gil. Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. New York: Crossroad, 1995.

Berman, Harold J., Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983/1997.

Bianchi, Herman. Justice as Sanctuary: Toward a New System of Crime Control, Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1994; Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2010.

___ and René van Swaanigen, Eds., Abolitionism: Towards a Non-Repressive Approach to Crime, Amsterdam: Free University Press. 1986.

___ “Tsedeka-Justice”, in Review for Philosophy and Theology, September, 1973.

Cavanaugh, William.  “A FIRE STRONG ENOUGH TO CONSUME THE HOUSE:” THE WARS OF RELIGION AND THE RISE OF THE STATE, in Modern Theology 11:4 October, ISSN 0266-717, 1995.

Cayley, David, The Expanding Prison: The Crisis in Crime and Punishment and the Search for Alternatives, Toronto: Anansi, 1998.

Dickens, Charles American Notes, 1842; New York: Penguin ed., 1972.

Christie, Nils. Limits to Pain, Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1982.

___. Crime Control as Industry: Towards GULAGS, Western Style, London: Routledge, 1995.

Cleaver, Eldridge, Soul on Ice, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Modern Prison, New York:Vintage, 1975/1995.

Gatrell, V.A.C., Bruce Lenman, and Geoffrey Parker. “The State, the Community and the Criminal Law in Early Modern Europe” In Crime and the Law, The Social History of Crime in Western Europe since 1500, London: Europa Publications, 1980.

Gorringe, Timothy. God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence and the Rhetoric of Salvation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hari, Johann, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, New York: Bloomsbury, 2015.

Herz, Michael. “ “Do Justice!”: Variations of a Thrice-Told Tale.” Virginia Law Review 82, no. 1: 111-61, 1996.

McCoy, Alfred W., The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003.

McMurtry, John. “Caging the Poor: The Case Against the Prison System.” In The Case for Penal Abolition, eds. W. Gordon West and Ruth Morris, 167 – 186. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Inc., 2000.

Menninger, Karl. The Crime of Punishment, New York: Penguin, 1966/1977.

Menzies, R. & Chunn, D. & Webster, C. D., “Risky business: The classification of dangerous people in the Canadian carceral enterprise.” In Canadian Penology: Advanced Perspectives and Research, K. R. E. McCormick & L. A.Visano, Eds, Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1992.

Morris, Mark. Ed. Instead of Prisons: a Handbook for Abolitionists, Syracuse, New York: P.R.E.A.P. [PRISON RESEARCH EDUCATION ACTION PROJECT], 1976.

Northey, Wayne. “Call For a Church Apology”. https://waynenorthey.com/2015/03/12/call-for-a-church-apology-vis-a-vis-crime-and-punishment-2/ accessed January 11, 2021

___,  Justice That Transforms: Volume One. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2000.

___. Justice That Transforms: Volume Two. San Bernardino: Kindle Direct Publishing, 2018.

___. Justice That Transforms: Volume Three. San Bernardino: Kindle Direct Publishing, 2018.

___. “Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking”, interview by Brad Jersak, IRPJ.org (Institute for Religion, Peace & Justice), https://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2020/10/restorative-justice-peacemaking-not-war-making-wayne-northey-interview-host-brad-jersak.html, 2021.

___. “Towards a New Paradigm of Justice”, in Bianchi, Herman, and René van Swaaningen, Editors . Abolitionism: Towards A Non-Repressive Approach to Crime, Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1986.

Peachey, Dean. “The Kitchener Experiment” In Martin Wright and Burt Galaway, Eds., Mediation and Criminal Justice: Victims, Community, and Offenders, 14-26, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1989.

Redekop, Vern, “A Post-Genocidal Justice of Blessing as an Alternative to a Justice of Violence: The Case of Rwanda”, Barry Hart, Editor. In Peacebuilding in Traumatized Societies, Lanham: University Press of America, 2008.

___. From Violence to Blessing: How an Understanding of Deep-Rooted Conflict Can Open Paths to Reconciliation, Ottawa: Novalis, 2009.

Reiman, Jeffrey. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, New York: Routledge, 2016.

Rempel, Marcus Peter, Life at the End of Us Versus Them, Victoria: Friesen Press, 2017.

Schweizer, Eduard, The Church as the Body of Christ, Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964.

Taylor, Astra. Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2020.

Taylor, Mark Lewis, The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America, Fortress Press, 2001.

Tilly, Charles. “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime,” In Bringing the State Back In, Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol, Eds, 169– 87, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Tutu, Archbishop Desmond, No Future Without Forgiveness. New York: Image Books, 2000.

Weisser, Michael R. Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Europe, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1979.

West, W. Gordon, The Case for Penal Abolition, eds., Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Inc., 2000.

Wikipedia, “Transformative Justice,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformative_justice; last accessed January 12, 2021.

___, “Goethean Science,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goethean_science; last accessed January 12, 2021.

Wilson R.J., F. Cortoni, & A.J. McWhinnie. “Circles of Support & Accountability: A Canadian national replication of outcome findings”,  Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research & Treatment, 21, 412-430, 2009.

Wink, Walter. The Powers Trilogy:

___. Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

___. Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.

___. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

Zehr, Howard. Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, Scottdale: Herald Press, 1990.

Notes:

[1] See Gorringe, Vengeance.

[2] He has been working creatively in conflict studies for decades. You may see more of Professor Redekop’s work in relation to René Girard, here: https://ustpaul.ca/blog/post/28-celebrating-the-life-and-thought-of-rene-girard/—last accessed January 11, 2021.

[3] Redekop, Scapegoats, 1; emphasis in original.

[4] Redekop, Scapegoats, 33; emphasis in original.

[5] Bailie, Unveiled, supplies a particularly sinister example, the 1989 execution of serial killer Theodore Bundy, when hundreds of men, women and children camped outside the Florida prison in a festive spirit one reporter likened to a Mardi Gras. The same reporter described the event as:

… a brutal act… [done] in the name of civilization, 79.

Bailie reflects on that commentary thus:

It would be difficult to think of a more succinct summation of the underlying anthropological dynamic at work: a brutal act done in the name of civilization, an expulsion or execution that results in social harmony. Clearly, after the shaky justifications based on deterrence or retribution have fallen away, this is the stubborn fact that remains: a brutal act is done in the name of civilization. If we humans become too morally troubled by the brutality to revel in the glories of the civilization made possible by it, we will simply have to reinvent culture. This is what Nietzsche saw through a glass darkly. This is what Paul sensed when he declared the old order to be a dying one (I Cor. 7:31). This is the central anthropological issue of our age, 79; emphasis in original.

[6] Redekop, Scapegoats, 33–34; emphasis added.

[7] See: https://waynenorthey.com/2014/03/10/the-sex-offender-as-scapegoat/—last accessed January 12, 2021.

[8] Northey, Transforms, 159-175.

[9] Isaiah 11:6-9.

For the full PDF, please click on: The Kenarchy Journal, Volume 2, Article

Footnotes
  1. In March, 2021, Mr. Abu-Jamal contracted COVID-19. We can pray for his recovery.[]

America Must Understand How Bad Trump Truly Was in Order to See What’s Coming

By Jake Jackson

March 24, 2021

image source: Blog for Arizona

WN: The situation in the U.S. continues to be dire, as it teeters on the brink of fascism.

excerpts:

Seldom do you come across a man who changed so much in so little time. His efforts normalised authoritarian tendencies, legitimised fascism, and shaped the future of one of America’s two political parties. With the GOP focused on its quest for voter suppression, Trump’s increase in popularity, and the party’s adoption of Naziism, America’s future hangs on the outcome of the midterms. But in order to fully understand where it’s going, America must first understand where it’s been.

And that starts with 2016. Pundits falsely put Trump’s win down to him being a “wildcard.” He wasn’t. His win was tactical. He tapped into a part of the American electorate that hadn’t been appealed to. And he realised if he was ever going to be successful in his attempts to label himself as a “man of the people,” he needed to find someone the people could be afraid of first. Why? Fear is one of the strongest human emotions. It’s enough to override logic and rational thought come election time. So like a true fascist, he blamed Mexicans and Muslims for the problems Americans were facing. And then — and here’s the crucial bit — he told Americans he’d keep them safe. He’d build a wall. He’d stop them from coming to America. He’d be the one who’d “protect them.” And just like that — he became their man.

What that does is — well, three things. First, it creates hatred. When people are told foreigners are coming to their land and destroying it, it’s inevitable. But when the woes of the average American are so severe, the hatred becomes embedded in society. And that’s good for fascists. Why? Because scapegoating doesn’t fix a country’s problems. If anything, it diverts attention from the real cause. That leads to continual decline. What happens then? The emotions that drove them to victory the first time round are even stronger.

Second, hatred becomes mainstream. You see it on the news, on social media and in political discourse. With that level of hatred, society becomes a ticking time bomb — waiting to explode. Sure enough, with Trump and Rudy Giuliani adding some fuel to the fire on the morning of January 6, it exploded. America saw what it thought it would never see. I called it a coup, others chose the word “insurrection.” The consequences of choosing either aside, what is undeniable is that the events of January 6 announced to the world that fascism was now a political force in America — and a violent one at that.

Seeing the people — ordinary citizens — take up arms at the call of a demagogue is what gives authoritarians confidence. It tells them their task of undermining democracy is easier than they had first imagined. Because they don’t need the military on their side. They need your local real estate agent. What you’re left with then is a society that faces its greatest threat from within. It turns a country into a soft battleground where no one is safe; where anyone could be “the enemy.” It changes the divide between the Left and the Right from being one that’s ideological to one you’d see between two warring factions. In short, it “divides and conquers.”

Third, America was divided to the point where it provided just the right conditions for authoritarianism to flourish. You see, when fascism has a vote bank large enough to win, and its supporters are banded together in unison against everyone else, the fascist at the helm can’t compromise. Anything less than the extreme and he runs the risk of losing the voters that put him in power in the first place. What you see then is the rhetoric get dialled up, the lies become even grander, and political violence become a reality. That incessant ramping up only serves to stir the pot even more. It fuels anger until it turns into rage. Stir the pot long enough, and you turn society into a volcano that’s itching to erupt. What happens then? The emotions that drove fascism to power become stronger, more deep-rooted. And in order to keep them that way, fascists continuously add fuel to the fire. And so the cycle continues.

Why? Power. They all want it. And if you can come along, break the rules everyone was too scared to break, you open the floodgates. Suddenly, it’s all achievable. The mountain the next ones will have to climb just got a little bit smaller. And you showed them they don’t have to pay a price on the way up.

That message, mind you, has been received by the Republican party. The young blood — Boebert, Greene, Hawley — are in many ways a spitting image of Donald Trump. And in others, even worse. Again, it’s not a coincidence. Ask yourself, are they really the first of their kind in American politics? So why didn’t the ones before them spew the same kind of hatred?

Because the limits of power hadn’t been tested. Codes of decency hadn’t been trampled. Being like this would’ve been stepping into the unknown. And for all they knew, it could have cost them their careers. But the young blood in the GOP doesn’t have that problem. Trump showed them hate, fear, violence and conspiracy theories are a route to power. And with a vote bank of 74 million, it’s almost guaranteed.

It’s only once you combine the two — the cycle of fear and hate that fuels fascism that started with Trump with the fascists of tomorrow not only acknowledging it but being shown how to perpetuate it — that you realise how bleak America’s future can truly be. It’s like a lab experiment where the perfect conditions for authoritarianism, evangelical extremism, and white supremacy to flourish are being maintained.

Please click on: America the Super-Endangered

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