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The Wheat and the Tares

wheat-field-640960__340R. W. Teesdale – Most people interpret the parable of Jesus about the wheat and the tares as a prophesy of the final judgment by God of believers and non-believers.

The story goes, roughly, that a farmer plants wheat seeds in his field.  Then, and evil rival of his comes in the night and spreads the seeds of weeds all over his field.  When they start to sprout, the farmer’s helpers notice the weeds growing up with the wheat, and ask him if they should go and weed the garden.  But at this stage of their development, it is hard to tell the wheat from the weeds.  So the wise farmer tells them to let everything grow together and wait until harvest, when the wheat blossoms and they can easily see the difference between the wheat and the weeds, and then just pick out the wheat.

Later, his disciples ask Jesus, in Matthew 13, the deeper meaning of the story.  “He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is kthe sons of the kingdom. The weeds are lthe sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. mThe harvest is nthe end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds oare gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at nthe end of the age. 41 pThe Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all qcauses of sin and rall law-breakers, 42 sand throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place tthere will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then uthe righteous will shine like the sun vin the kingdom of their Father. wHe who has ears, let him hear. “

This explanation seems clear enough.  But like so many parables and stories in the Bible, the truth is true on many levels.  Consider for a moment, however, that the story may yet hold more wisdom for those with ears to hear than merely a prophesy of what will happen to us at the end of days.  I’m thinking of something of practical use in our daily lives, specifically, how to reasonably distinguish truth from falsehood.

Suppose the farmer is you and you want to grow your “field” of knowledge, increase your wisdom.  You “plant” ideas, premises, which you believe to be true.  You may have gained these ideas from your experience, or learned them from your parents, etc.  Other people, however, may try to plant false ideas in your mind, give you bad information, mix half-truths with truth.  Your mind takes it all in, though, and those thoughts take root and start to grow along with the truthful ideas you had planted.  At this point, you are confused, because you don’t know what is true and what is not true.  The proof will finally come, though,  in the fruits of the ideas, at “harvest”.  In other words, when you try them out in action and find out their consequences.  Then the ideas which were true will be demonstrated by their good results, and the false ones can be easily recognized by their poor results.

In other words, we must put our thoughts to the test with actions.  We can argue all day about which ideas are true and which are not true, but unless we try them out and observe the results, we’ll never know.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.”  What they say may sound right, it may be emotionally appealing,  may seem fair and just, but look at the results instead of blindly accepting the fantasy as truth on faith.  Then you will know the truth.

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That’s Entertainment

This year, I am celebrating my fiftieth year as an entertainer – a milestone that in my youth I was unsure I would ever reach.  Back in the day, what my father would describe as a “real job”, a worthwhile career for a young man like me to pursue, would be something to do with construction, manufacturing, medicine, education, or law.  In other words, something of pragmatic value, something productive for society.  To him and others of his generation who came through the Depression and WWII, entertainment was something frivolous, like the circus, the icing on the cake, not to be taken seriously, and certainly not something you would want to do for a living, when compared with such careers as engineering, medicine, law, or education.

When I took off for “the road” in my twenties, he was afraid I would end up on Skid Row somewhere, with no job, no house, no family, no money, nothing to show for my years of life on the planet.  To tell the truth, I have often struggled with those same fears myself.  However, I was on a quest – a quest of self-discovery, personal growth that I knew I would never find working in some factory,  fixing cars, or working behind a corporate desk.  I had the wanderlust.  Entertainment for me was the vehicle to get out and explore the world.

As it turns out, I lived an alternative lifestyle, outside of the box that society had designed for me.  I was an entertainer.  Sometimes I was treated like the king and sometimes the court jester.  I was never a star, never got rich and famous, but I always had what I needed.  But, in many ways I felt rich.  I remember thinking about how it might have been had I done like many of my classmates who were busy getting degrees, starting careers, making families, buying homes, cars, boats, working their nine-to-five jobs, building up 401Ks, and saving for rainy days, vacations, and retirement. Was I missing out?

In my youthful mind, I had made a conscious decision to live my life backwards from them. I started with the retirement – I lived life everyday as if I was on vacation.  I followed my bliss.  Instead of saving up money for a day I seriously thought would never come, I spent it before I made it.  Outside of a couple of forays into entrepreneurship, I remained an entertainer.

Music was my love, so, to me it wasn’t work at all – nothing to dread, nothing to retire from.  I eventually went back to school at 60 for bachelor and master’s degrees.  At that point I appreciated the education more for my own enrichment than as a tool to land a career.  It helped me make sense of where I’d been more than preparing me for where I was going.  Now, I can write about it.

Looking back, though, I think I wound up in the same place I would have, had I slaved at a menial job for my whole life, buying a big house and losing it in the housing crisis, saving my money only to have it evaporate in market crashes, being stuck in a manufacturing career that later became technologically obsolete, or exported to some other part of the world.

I just kept doing what I do best – entertain.  I am extremely grateful that I have lived the life I chose, did all that exploring, met all those wonderful people, had all those wonderful experiences, and still wound up with a wonderful wife, an awesome house in Florida, with six kids, five grandkids, two degrees, and something meaningful to do with the rest of my life.  Who would have thought it?  My dad’s probably having a good chuckle right about now.

It turns out I was ahead of my time.  The world of industry and production in which I grew up has become one of leisure and entertainment.  Everybody’s an entertainer today.  News does not inform us – “news-ertainers” entertains us.    Politicians don’t do useful things for us – “poli-tainers” entertain us.    Teachers don’t teach our kids – “edu-tainers” entertain them.    Even churches don’t minister – “religio-tainers” entertain.  Today, entertainers are not the circus freaks or the clowns.  They are the elite, the royalty.  They tell us what we should think and how we should feel.

I remember going to the 1962 World’s Fair in New York City.  “What a wonderful world it will be in the twenty-first century!” we thought.  A world of leisure and wonder, a whole new world made possible by technology.  Robots would do everything for us, and we would spend our days relaxing and enjoying our margaritas on the beach.  Nobody ever thought that would be a problem.  Nobody foresaw what a problem living the purposeless life would present.

We have in our postmodern society a crisis of meaning.  What does it all mean?  It is hard to get up everyday with any optimistic sense of conviction when all you have to look forward to is watching sports or movies or old reruns on television, lying on the beach, going to the mall, and maybe going out to dinner later on.  Why get out of bed?  To be entertained?

Back in the day, we knew how to entertain ourselves and each other.  As kids, we played outside – all day!  If we didn’t have a playground, we made a playground.  If we didn’t have a game, we made up a game.  As adults, we threw house parties, we had civic clubs where we did things together besides drink and be entertained.

Consequently, families and communities were closer to each other than they are now.  We were involved in each other’s lives and joys and struggles, rather than the latest episode of some reality TV show.  We played softball and football at the park instead of watching it on TV.  But we have stopped entertaining each other, and what is worse, we’ve stopped teaching our kids how to entertain themselves.

Today’s youngest generation is totally addicted to entertainment.  They are entertained practically 24/7 from the time they come home from the hospital.  We don’t allow them to cry themselves into boredom and fall asleep without being somehow “entertained” to sleep.  We don’t dare take them on a car trip or out to a public place without some electronic entertainment to keep them quiet. So, what’s bad about that?  At least they are quiet and not bothering us!

What’s wrong with that is your children are not developing the skills to entertain themselves.  They are not developing their imaginations.  They are not learning how to make music – they listen to music.  They are not learning how to make art, but to consume art.  They are not learning the same motor skills and physical strength developed in physical play when they play nothing but virtual games.  They end up weak and fat and near-sighted.

Consequently, they will depend on others for their entire lives to entertain them, andimage that makes them addicted consumers of entertainment – good for entertainers like me who know how to entertain, and good for the entertainment industry as a whole.  Like Disney and Google.  Ask yourself who benefits most by creating a society addicted to entertainment and incapable of entertaining itself?  Who are the richest corporations in the world?  Entertainers.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

We may remember the past or forget it, treasure or regret it, but can never recreate it.

Human beings love repetition.  We love the Instant Replay.  When something wonderful happens we want more of the same.  One good turn deserves another.  The “repeat” and the “three-peat.”  We never seem to get enough of a good thing.  This is probably in our DNA, it’s so universal.  Anyone who has raised a toddler knows that once you lift them up or swing them around, you are stuck lifting them up or swinging them around until your muscles are so sore you cannot do it anymore.  “Again!”  “Again!”, they demand.

Year after year at Christmas, we try to recreate the magic it had for us in previous years.   We drag out the same decorations, make the same cookies, write the same cards, eat the same foods, sing the same songs, go the same places, and do the same things.  We think that if we could only get everything back to where it was and get the same people together, we’ll have the same good time we did before.  Only it never works.  Why? Because Christmas is not a thing nor a collection of components that can be taken apart and later reassembled to recreate it.  You can do that with a car or a machine – but not a living thing or a lived experience.

 Just as the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus observed, “You cannot step into the same river twice”, the precious moments in our lives are precious precisely because they are once-in-a-lifetime events.  So let’s enjoy them to their fullest while they are happening.  Know that it is never going to happen this way again in the future, no matter how many details you remember about it.

Don’t miss the experience of the moment by stepping out of it to take pictures of it.

What is up with the obsession of constantly taking selfies with our phones, anyway?  It’s not just narcissism.  Taking a snapshot of a moment in time is an attempt to hold onto the feeling, to perpetuate it, and to experience it again and again every time we look at the pictures.  The only thing is, the experience itself can only be lived once and any “recreating” of it can only be a mental experience – not quite the same feeling.

We already live in our heads too much.  We miss so much of what is happening right now because we spend so much time “living” in our memories.  We are not fully present to experience life ‘as it is’ when we keep trying to make it ‘like it was.’

So, why do we keep trying to recreate the past?  Because the future is unknown, and the unknown is uncertain, threatening.  The past is familiar.  We’d rather relive the past we know than to take a chance on something random happening in the future.   Even if the past was somewhat boring or negative, we’d still rather repeat that than experience an uncertain outcome.   And, in this way we limit ourselves not only from danger, possible failure, embarrassment, or pain, but also from experiencing anything new and exciting.

Heraclitus nailed it when he saw life as a moving river.  It still looks the same as it did a minute ago, but all the water is different now.  The water that was there is long gone on its way to the ocean, never to return to exactly the same place.  Yet, in our minds, we see the river as a static thing.  We see its bends and curves, its ripples and eddies, its reflective surface – it all appears to stay the same.  Of course, over time those things change too.  The river dries up or expands, the banks change shape, but those changes are gradual.  But aside from that, what stays relatively the same is the appearance, but the essence of the river – the water itself – is all different.

That is analogous to the holiday rituals we go through every year.  We can make it all look the way it did last year, but somehow the “life” or essence of the experience is long gone, like the water under the bridge.  All that can be “re-created” is the appearance, and that by itself, even though it looks the same, feels empty.   That’s not the Spirit of Christmas.  That’s just the appearance of Christmas.

So, the only way to really experience the Spirit of Christmas this year is to willingly experience something new.  Stop trying to recreate the past, and instead make something new happen.  Improvise!  Birth something new in the moment!  Sure, the experience will be different from any you’ve had before.  It could be worse, but it could be better than ever!  But that’s what faith is for – believing it’s going to be better.

Isn’t the Spirit of Christmas essentially about manifesting something new in the flesh in the present?  Isn’t that the very idea of the Christ being born in the manger – God incarnate, or Spirit becoming flesh?

Have a Merry Christmas and an exciting New Year!

Time Is Not Money

clockYou have no doubt may times heard or used the idiom, “Time is money”.  An employer might use it to encourage his or her employees to work faster.  You might use it to tell someone who is rambling on to get to the point, or to end a trivial conversation when you have something more important that you need to do.  Ben Franklin is attributed with the phrase from a 1748 speech of his, but Greek politician and orator, Antephon,  long ago in the 5th Century B.C. had said that “the most costly outlay is time.”

However, I want to think seriously about this idiom for a minute.  The idea that time is a precious commodity that can be bought and sold, traded for money, wasted or used wisely, borrowed or stolen, is simply a fallacy.  If time had any real value, it would be universal.  If time is money, what value, exactly, would we put on it?  The price of gold, for example, is a universally accepted value.  Sure, it goes up and down in value with the market, but an ounce of gold in Taiwan or London or New York is relatively the same at any given time.  Time is nothing like that.  Time is very valuable to a doctor or a brilliant lawyer, and much less to a laborer or burger-flipper, and practically worthless to a unemployed or retired person, someone lying in a hospital with a terminal disease, or someone “doing time” in a prison.

money

Yet people working for an hourly wage might think that they are being paid for their time.  They may believe, in an egalitarian way, that one person’s time is as valuable as another’s.  They come to work and put in eight hours of time, and at the end of the week they get a check and go home.  So, why is an hour of the boss’s time worth so much more than the burger-flipper’s?  Why is an hour of the CEO’s time worth so much more than an hour of the sales rep for the corporation, or the person manufacturing the products?

So, time has no absolute value, but a relative value.   That is not to say that time is not precious.  We all have a short 80 or 90 years, give or take, to experience all we can on this planet.  We can squander that, waste it on trivial pleasures, play games, exchange years of our time for a few dollars per hour working at meaningless jobs, or we can manage our time, learn new skills, be productive, and do great things, and make a difference in the world with the time we have.   So, it is what we choose to do with our time that gives time its value.

I remember when I was a kid, spending endless idle days out in the fields, watching the clouds pass overhead, or in the woods, or at the lake, playing in the water or fishing.  Time meant nothing to me.  Every day was an eternity.  As an adult, in my experience managing a senior community, I heard many elders talk in the same way about  irrelevance of time for them.  But, for the people in between their youth and their old age it is a completely different story.  Every minute is an opportunity to do something, make something, build something, earn money, acquire things.  For them, time is money.

If you spend time educating yourself, or developing a special skill, your time is worth more than a person who doesn’t.  Isn’t that fair?  After all, you spent extra years of your life learning things others know nothing about, learning to do something no one else can do as well as you.  Should your time be worth the same as someone who just walked in off the street with no knowledge or skills?  Why work harder and be productive if there is no special reward or incentive for your efforts?

If everybody gets the same wage for their time, the only logical thing to do is the bare minimum required of you.  Just show up, hang around, look busy, and get your check.  And, employers, knowing they are only going to get the bare minimum from their employees will pay them the bare minimum they can get away with.  And, it doesn’t matter if you are working for a greedy corporation or a greedy government.  The same principle applies.

That is why the socialist pie-in-the-sky idea of a “living wage” for everybody will naturally level out below the poverty line for everybody.  Everyone doesn’t get the nice house, the nice car, the gourmet food, or the latest electronic gadgets.  The government will give them all the bare minimum.  Now that may seem fair and perfectly acceptable to those already living below the poverty line, but it sure is not fair for those who work hard and aspire to improve their lot in life!  The only thing fair about that situation is that the poverty and misery are equally shared by everyone.

Such a society does not progress, but stagnates and falls behind, for lack of purpose, as was evidenced by the contrast between communist East Germany and capitalist West Germany in the late 20th century, or between North and South Korea.  No, time is money only in a free and productive society.   Time is only precious to the productive.  For the productive, time is to be utilized.  For the unproductive, time is to be endured.

An hourly wage-earner must realize that it is the knowledge and skill they bring to the workplace and the service they provide that has value, not the time they put in.  Therefore, invest in yourself.  Educate yourself.  Develop your skills.  Earn your credentials.  Work hard and be productive.  Your time will be worth more money than if you didn’t.   You have only perhaps 40 years, between age 25 and 65 to do something worthwhile.  That makes your time precious.  But, it is up to you how much money your time is worth.

Don’t Mix Politics and Religion

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R. W. Teesdale – The Founding Fathers knew this truth. Religion has no place in politics and politics has no place in religion. They fought to free themselves from the tyrannical monarch and Church of England that persecuted many for their religious beliefs.  They worked hard to design a republic where the realms of religion and politics were separate.

We should fight to keep it that way.  Why?  Because theocracies are authoritarian and notoriously tyrannical.  Government is suppose to serve its people, but people are supposed to serve God.  When government represents God, the people are serving the government, which is backwards.  Political issues automatically become moral issues.  It is a government based on moral judgment rather than rational discourse.  In such a system, if you oppose me over some political issue, you are not simply a person with a different viewpoint – you are evil.  There is no compromise in a battle of good and evil.  Yet, compromise is one of the founding principals of our republic.  If you make a religion out of politics, it is going to end badly.

Do you think people are less religious today than they used to be?  I say no.  People are just as religious today as they ever were – they just changed what they worship, that’s all.  God is not dead – he’s just been replaced.  The human psyche still has a need to believe in something greater than itself, but in the postmodern world of the past century, traditional religions have fallen out of popularity, and secular humanitarian religions have gained ground.

We modern humans have great faith in our humanity, our science and technology, our ability to figure things out, to diagnose and cure illness, to save our planet, our ability to alter and perhaps even create basic life. Proponents of artificial intelligence hold the belief that it may be the answer to incurable diseases and mortality as they try to figure out a way to merge human consciousness with machine.

Now, all of us cannot know all there is to know, so we believe those in whom we trust to tell us the truth.  Just as the ignorant peasants of the Dark Ages believed in the priests to tell them the truth.  But has our faith in science and its theories become just as much of a religion for us as faith in the old axioms of traditional religions was for our ancestors?  We are still ‘believers’ – we just believe in different things.

It has been said that if God didn’t exist, man would have invented him.  Well, many have exchanged the idea of God in heaven for gods in Washington, or Hollywood, or in the halls of academia, and deserted their churches and altars of worship for their living rooms and televisions.  Their high priests are no longer clergy but media figures, celebrities, actors, singers, sports stars, politicians, scientists, and academics.

Proponents of this religion may differ in their specific messages, but there is an underlying common theme in all of it.  It wears many faces, but they all essentially are saying the same thing.  They are broadcasting a top-down authoritarian ideology from a central source out to the general public.  This system establishes themselves as the experts, the righteous, the elite opinion leaders who feel entitled to  lead the ignorant and unthinking masses to what they call their progressive policies, which are in fact regressive.

The methods they use to influence you are ancient even if the technology they use is new.  It’s a top-down method of control, like any other religion or authoritarian empire in history.  They just don’t call it that.  They call it democracy, as if the will they impose upon the people is the actual will of the people.   But, they, in their infinite wisdom, know best what is best for the public.  Because of their fame, their position, the fact that they have the spotlight and the microphone, they believe they have the power, and their opinion is more important than ordinary folks.  Their faithful followers parrot them instead of voicing their own opinions.

It is a religion because it is faith-based.  It is a belief system.  It is not rational.  It is not based on what you know to be true, but who you believe.  No rational person in their right mind could justify believing an obsolete ideology and narrative that has consistently proven itself wrong over the course of history.  But, they don’t teach history, or they change the story, so that you don’t know that what’s going on today is but a slight variation and a continuation of what has failed before.  In other words, they want you not to think, but to believe and obey.

Today our streets are occupied with more religious zealots than ever.  Why can these new religious zealots not listen and converse civilly with anyone who questions their authorities or holds a differing opinion?  Because they have no rational defense for their beliefs, but they still need to believe in something.  Unable to reason, they shout down and bully any dissent rather than discuss issues.  Because they feel weak and vulnerable as individuals in this increasingly complex and intimidating world, they seek the shelter of like-minded people, a tribe, a support group.  It is comforting to belong.  That is why it is a religion.

It attempts to reduce the complex world to a manageable set of concepts and few simple slogans to be chanted over and over as mantras by the faithful.  But, the world is not so simple, and if you think you have it all figured out, or that your group has all the answers, that is because you are only seeing part of it.

In a religion, you are not encouraged to think deeply or critically, to read, or question.  You just need to trust authority and your feelings.  Emotions are so much easier for authorities to control than thought.  So they want you to act on your feelings, vote with your feelings.  It is so much easier to be impulsive and do what you feel instead of thinking about it first. In a world where thinking has gone out of fashion, independent thinkers are feared – and demonized.

It is obvious that most people simply don’t want to think, or don’t know how to think.  It is just too much trouble.  They don’t want to read anything longer than a few words, a talking point, or a bumper sticker. In the old days, the illiterate peasants relied on the ordained priests to read for them and tell them what to do. Likewise, most people today leave their thinking to the credentialled experts, or to their technology, to do their thinking and solve problems for them.

But now, who says that what you read in a modern textbook is true?  Isn’t your belief based solely the power of authority?   It’s a textbook.  The author must be an expert, right?  She got her book published, didn’t she?  Do you know who funded the publication?  What their political leanings might be?  At which politically or corporately influenced university the author earned her credentials, or what grants she received and by whom?  If you were to compare a recent history book with one, say, from fifty years ago, it would be like reading about two different worlds.  Which are you more likely to believe?  The one written in today’s Blue Church academic environment, or the one written before such influences existed?

When the doctor diagnoses you with a condition, do you go somewhere else for a second opinion, or do you just believe the doctor and take the medicine he prescribes for you?  If you are like most people, you simply accept his authority about the things you know nothing about.  But, where did he get his information?  From a pharmaceutical company trying to push a new product before it has been properly tested? He is believing in their authority while you are believing in his.  Nobody knows for sure.  In fact, a U.S. News and World Report article recently stated that “medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, causing at least 250,000 deaths every year.”

My point here is that we live in an authoritarian society.  Very few people think independently.  Most follow along and believe what they are told by ‘experts’, or authority figures, celebrities, or the collective wisdom of their friends and family.  First, where did these ‘experts’ get their information, and second, who made them the authority when it comes to what you should do?

Valid or not, the media typically broadcast the opinions of a few expert authorities to the subservient masses conditioned to dutifully accept and repeat the good opinions of those authorities.  Anyone who questions or dissents from this generally accepted opinion is promptly condemned and excommunicated from the group.    This is nothing new; it has been happening for years.  Certainly in our schools, churches, and in the corporate world.

This kind of system squelches the human spirit, free will, and creativity.  It is deterministic. It sees the public not as free and independent agents, but as algorithms, predictable masses, with the built-in machine-like limitation to never rise above their programming.  That is why so much education focuses on training the creativity out of children, and conditions them to follow directions and cooperate with and rely on ‘the team’ rather than develop individually.

Of course, the more machine-like people become, the easier it is to control them.  The analogy of a rowing team has been used to illustrate how this works.  It is complex enough for one person to coordinate right and left hands to work synchronously to keep both oars going in a straight line.  With each additional rower, the problem becomes more complex.  With ten rowers rowing the same boat it becomes necessary to get someone with a bullhorn to shout, “Stroke … stoke … stroke” to keep them all in sync.

Jordan Hall wrote a brilliant essay in 2017 explaining that “just like the rowers entrained to the cadence of the coxswain, we have all of us been trained for the vast majority of our lives to find, adopt and execute on some kind of master narrative. Some story that is complicated enough to respond to life but simple enough to be managed. Some framework of assumptions, axioms, truths, truth making and authority that takes the absolutely overwhelming complexity of the modern world and allows us poor apes some easy way to move forward in a coordinated fashion.”1

Think now about how this principle applies to culture in general.  One of the main problems that led to the demise of the sprawling Roman Empire was that it became too big to manage with a central authority.  If they had had TV, it might have been easier to keep those outlying districts under Rome’s control.  Instead, they set up a system of religious control – the Church hierarchy.  Each village was under the protection and control of a local priest who answered to a regional bishop, who answered to an archbishop, who answered to a cardinal, who answered to the pope.  Big corporate hierarchies work the same way.

The Church dominated the Western world with this kind of system in the 12th and 13th centuries, but, “Surprise!”, the Renaissance happened, and the Church’s centralized system couldn’t handle it.  Eventually the monolithic Holy Roman Empire became too large for a central authority to control, and Europe split up into nations.  Later, the Spanish, French, Dutch, and British also failed to maintain control of the colonies of their global empires of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Communists of the 20th century similarly failed to control their sprawling centrally-controlled empires.

Fast forward to now, with worldwide media disseminating the opinions of authority to the public, we have a system of mass control analogous to the medieval Church, or the great empires of the past, only now, the message is broadcast via media to a much larger audience, directly influencing the beliefs, emotions, and actions of the population right in the comfort of their own living rooms.  The ‘word’ comes down from the few top syndicated news services and is passed along by local stations to their audiences.

There are numerous hilarious videos of newscaster after newscaster parroting the exact same words on a given story,  demonstrating that they are all reading the same copy that was handed down to them, as if it were the very word of God.  No need to go to church once a week to be told how to act and what to think, you hear it 24/7 at home!  The media, the deep state, the left, have combined to become what many are calling the Blue Church.

It is a one-way, asymmetrical form of communication. Information is broadcast down to you from a central authority, and you are supposed to be the passive, faithful  audience with nothing to do but absorb and parrot the information and act accordingly.  No chance for two-way conversation, or three or four-way debate.  You can yell at your screen all you want, but it does no good.

Hall goes on to say, “This fact explains a whole lot about what is going on in America (and most of the West) today. Perhaps it helps explain why the left is always trying to find a narrative to simplify and make the world manageable. It might even explain the mania on the left for psychoanalysis. After all, when your principal social responsibility is to respond correctly to authority and deftly read where you are in the field of good opinion, being able to peek behind the psychological curtain is an advantageous skill. And if you really want to go deep, the ability to dismiss bad opinion as psychopathology is one of the most subtle, and surprisingly common, techniques of the Blue Church.”1  (For instance, how the press characterizes Kanye West or President Trump, or any other conservative, for that matter).

But, the Blue Church, as the Catholic Church or any authoritarian empire in history, is in trouble, which has many of its faithful followers in panic mode.  Hall explains: “In any event, the near monopoly of the Blue Church on our ability to make sense and meaning of the world certainly helps to explain why the ongoing collapse of the Blue Church is creating so much anxiety.  One primary driver behind the collapse of the Blue Church is the swift replacement of the very mass media it is premised upon with a new symmetric kind of media — the Internet”.  More and more people are getting their information from decentralized sources, and sharing information peer-to-peer, in contrast to the asymmetrical broadcast from a single source.  It is another one of those “Surprise!” moments, a modern-day Renaissance, that may signal the beginning of the end for the Blue Church.

Now, when most people think of the internet, they think of Google.  What do you normally do when you don’t know the answer?  You Google it. But, Google is a prime example of Blue Church ideology applied to the internet, with its attempts at censoring what it considers “bad opinion” from public view.  And, the idea that data should be stored and filtered and disseminated by a single source accessed by all is authoritarian.  It is dangerous because it discourages and discredits any new thoughts or solutions from arising from independent sources.  Such a system is doomed to fail to keep up with the ever-changing reality of the world.

Google is another asymmetrical broadcasting system, and that is why it eventually will slip into irrelevance with other centralized broadcast news services as new architectures for sharing information emerge in the future.  Many creative minds collaborating together are better at solving problems than one authority with many parroting followers.

With only one central information source, it is difficult to detect bias.  Who says that the person whose opinion is broadcast by Google is correct or unbiased?  Who is going to check?  Who is going to check the fact-checkers? Hey, for fifteen hundred years, while the Church was the only accepted authority, people believed the world was flat and the center of the universe!  Anyone who disagreed was called a heretic.

So what are you going do?  If you can’t trust your trusted information sources who can you trust?  If you have stuck with me this far, you are among the few remaining individuals who still have the lights on.   So, let’s think of something.    We are up against three things:  the herd mentality, the monkey-see-monkey-do mentality, and the lack of critical thinking skills to determine who is telling the truth and who is not.  In other words, are the people in charge there because somebody in power put them there, or because they deserve to be there?

Are the “experts” really expert, or are they paid advocates hired to push a given narrative?  The first critical-thinking question to ask is, who pays them?  Who funds their research?  Who benefits from the results they find and the conclusions that they reach?  But, most people will not investigate this far, and just accept what authorities or celebrities say as gospel.

The herd mentality is a difficult thing for most of us to avoid.  It is a long lonesome road to travel being responsible for yourself and your actions, and easier to share that responsibility with a group.  Everybody feels vulnerable on their own in the world.  Everyone wants to be liked.  Everybody wants to be included, to be asked to the parties, to be offered the promotion.  So, as not to stand out as a target, we try to blend in, to become invisible in the herd, talk the popular talk, walk the popular walk.

Hall says, “one of the most important reinforcement functions that maintains the Blue Church: social signaling.  In Blue Church society, to hold and express good opinion means that you are part of the pack, in the tribe, on the team. Holding and expressing good opinion brings social benefit. More importantly, failing to hold and express good opinion can be ruinous.”

“This social dynamic means that good opinion is self-reinforcing. There is no need for a top-down thought police or such. Once enough people are coherent around good opinion, natural human social dynamics will kick-in to maintain that coherence.”1  Social media is not just for your entertainment, or to keep you in touch with your friends and family, but conveniently serves to keep the public policing each other.

Just for kicks, try expressing an opinion on Facebook, or at a party, that is not aligned with Blue Church dogma.  Then watch what happens.  They will swarm on you like angry bees, trying to shame you back into the safety of the herd, or if you don’t straighten up and conform you’ll be unfriended and excommunicated.

The monkey-see-monkey-do mentality is slightly different, in that it has more to do with our actions than our opinions.  Humans learn by imitating behavior.  We tend to do as others do rather than what they tell us to do.  So, when we see others behaving badly, that gives us a license to act badly as well.  This is how a group of protesters becomes an angry mob.

The third difficulty I mentioned was in determining who is telling the truth.  We must discern the truth from the lies apart from the people speaking them.  Both sides of an argument claim to be telling the truth and that the other side is lying.  So if your friend tells you a lie, is it anymore truthful than if your enemy tells you the lie?  Will you believe it because your friend told you?  Will you not believe it because your enemy told you?  Or will you investigate and judge for yourself regardless of who told you?

The main strategy of the Blue Church Seems to be to name everything the opposite of what it is.  Whatever you are doing, accuse the opposition of doing it first.  Whatever vices you have, label the other side with them first.  Then you can claim the moral high ground in the battle to win good public opinion.

The Blue Church is definitely the Establishment, the deeply embedded government/education/media complex, the bureaucrats, the reason things seldom change regardless of who is in the Oval Office, yet it calls itself the “Resistance.”

Resistance to what, resistance to change?  Not too long ago Hope and Change used to be its mantra.  Now we understand that was just a campaign slogan.  Now the Blue Church is being exposed as the established deep state it is, trying desperately to resist change or reform of any kind.

The Blue Church likes to call itself “liberal”, but there is nothing liberal about it.  It is as bigoted, racist, and sexist as the Puritans of old.  Though it likes to label its opposition with those names, it is obviously bigoted against its opposition.  It hates white people for being white.  It hates men for being men. It hates Christians for being Christians.  “But it’s okay to hate the haters,” it maintains.  But, that is just righteous indignation, and never is it okay to hate.

The thing that I cannot fathom is how someone who professes to have a faith based on the responsibility and sovereign divinity of the individual spirit, the immutable laws of the universe, that only love can overcome hate, could ever forget all that and align themselves politically with the Blue Church, seeing how its tenets directly contradict just about every spiritual truth taught by the great masters throughout the ages.  Trying to reconcile those two philosophies has got to create a cognitive dissonance in anyone with a conscience.

So, maybe that’s why they don’t want you to think so much – because you couldn’t live with yourself, faced with such a deep inner conflict.  A person cannot stand all of that internal conflict, so they project it externally out into society, and so we see a divided nation out there instead of seeing our own divided selves.

Maybe that’s why they are so eager to project all of their sins and negativity onto the opposition, a psychological trick of the ego, for the alternative would be to hate themselves for their own negative thoughts and behavior.  But, self-criticism is not a capability of a narcissistic personality.  “We are always right; they are always wrong.  We hold the moral high ground; they are deplorable.  We are reasonable; they are the crazy ones.”

But reality is not reality because you say so, because you have power to persuade people to agree with you, to sway public opinion, or make others do what you want them to do.  Regardless of how many people believed the doctrine that the world was flat, the reality is the world is a sphere, like all the other observable spheres in the heavens.  The truth was eventually discovered.  The Buddha said that three things are not long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

In pragmatic terms, the truth is what works.  And the Blue Church is not working, and that is quite evident to those with their eyes open.  Salvation is always individual, not collective.  No matter what group you are popular with, you come into this world and go out of this world alone, and you alone are responsible for your being.

The tragedy of the last half-century is that we have allowed the doctrine of the Blue Church to infiltrate our churches.  Consequently, we hear ideology rather than theology coming from our pulpits.  Our churches have become social groups, political action groups, more concerned with social justice than Divine Truth.

So what is the payoff, what is in it for a person to become part of the Blue Church?  Acceptance? Belonging to the club?  Making the ‘right’ connections?  Financial support?  Friends?  “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” James asks in Chapter 4, verse 4.  “Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” – Mark 8:36.

It is certainly true that humans are social animals that seek approval, that form hierarchies of power and constantly compare themselves to others to find out their place in that hierarchy.  They want to be a member of the tribe. They suck up to the ones higher up and lord it over the ones below them in the group to gain status.

But all of that aside, the biggest reason to identify with a  group is that it makes it possible to hide from the responsibility for your actions and your  personal vulnerability.  You disappear in the heard, like a zebra in the middle of a herd of zebras, like a fish in the middle of a school of fish.  The identity of the group is your shelter.

When you identify yourself with a group, you think you don’t have to face the challenges of life personally.  Just be part of the group.  Conform in thought, word, and deed. “After all, we’re all in this together.  You don’t have to go it alone.  It takes a village.”  No, it doesn’t.

It takes more than a mob of irresponsible, codependent automatons who only know how to think, say, and do what they are told and are afraid to question or step out of the confines of the group’s parameters and think for themselves.  It takes responsible, aware individuals working cooperatively to face the challenges of the future.

Salvation is personal, individual, not collective.  In life, either you do the work, or you don’t, and then you face the consequences.  You can hide all your life in the herd, but no group is going to defend you from death, from the inadequacy of your own being.  There is no virtue in your loyalty to the group outside of the group.  They will use you as long as you are useful to them, then they will throw you under the bus.  One day the herd will move on and the lions will get you.

This is true in the corporate world and in the social world as well.  The truth is, life is as harsh and tragic as well as it is wonderful and beautiful.  Everybody wants the happiness, the wonder, and the beauty, and wants to avoid the pain and tragedy.

Some of us think that we can hide from the pain and tragedy by hiding in a group, or to somehow distribute the pain among its members, as if it is a commodity that can be shared.  No, nobody shares your pain.  They have their own pain, and perhaps that is some comfort to you, as you commiserate in your support group, knowing everyone else is also suffering, but your pain is yours alone to experience.  Now, or later.  That’s life.

If that is too scary and depressing a thought for you to consider, I have some good news.  There is a way out.  It is not easy.  It is a personal quest.  You will not avoid the pain of your life, but you will go through it and overcome it.  There is something inside you that is stronger than what life can dish out to you.  Like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings,  you bear the ring of infinite power, ultimate responsibility.

The power is inside you, inside every individual, not outside of you in any group or human social construct.  Your salvation is in tapping that power to rise to your challenges, not to limit your challenges, or hide from them in a group.  You are not alone, but salvation, the kingdom of heaven,  is not to be found anywhere ‘out there’ – it’s inside each of us.

This is not to say that we are isolated individuals, and that our actions do not affect others.  Everything we do affects the rest of the world.  Every time we tell the truth or do the right thing we make the world a better place for it.  Every time we lie, deceive, or cause others to suffer needlessly, we bring the world closer to destruction.

We have compassion for others, knowing they too face similar challenges, but we can’t really live their lives or bear their pain for them, and we cannot depend on them to take our burden for us.  We have what it takes inside to meet our challenges.  Facing the unknown and meeting its challenges builds our character.  Life is more than simply “being”; it is the act of becoming more than we are now.  Better today than yesterday, and even better tomorrow.

“To what end?”, you might ask.  If you believe there is no God, no eternal existence, no reality beyond the one you currently experience, that you are here for a brief moment in time and then vanish into oblivion, then perhaps it is not important to you whether you do right or wrong.

If you don’t believe in God, that elevates man to the ultimate moral authority.  Truth is what we say it is. Right and wrong are what we say they are.  Man is the measure of all things, as the Sophists of ancient Greece maintained, and so does the postmodern Blue Church.  If man is the ultimate judge, political power is the ultimate power.

If you believe that, you will probably just do whatever is expedient for your immediate pleasure, because it will all be over soon.  Life has no ultimate meaning or purpose.  Just have a good time while you are here.  It’s all fun and games, until tragedy strikes.  Cancer, death, the loss of loved ones, natural disasters. Then Life gets ‘real’ very quickly.

Some glibly say that Life is what you think it is.  That is only partly true.  Regardless of what you think about it, Life is what it is.  You believe it is what you think it is. You can believe it is beautiful, you can believe it is unfair, you can believe it is exciting, you can believe it is scary.  These are all opinions, judgments, personal realities, not Absolute Reality.

Beliefs are what you accept and hold to be true about reality.  You perceive the world, not in its totality, but only that part your beliefs allow you to perceive.  So, only that part of life that you see through the filter of your beliefs is what you think it is.  You have control over your opinions, and that suits you just fine.  For you, the rest of reality does not exist, or so you think.

When you get with a group of people who believe as you do, your beliefs are reinforced, validated.  That still doesn’t change the nature of Reality, but it does for you and your comrades, for you are only seeing what you and your friends believe the world to be.

As long as you stay in your group, talk only with those in your group, listen only to your group, you will believe that is the how the whole world is.  But, there’s a whole other world of people out there who believe differently about the world, and they are not any crazier than you are.  They are seeing the same world only through a different set of beliefs.

People throughout history have been known to fight and die for their beliefs.  Now, it makes no sense to fight over our beliefs if our beliefs don’t change the world, but only our opinion of the world.  Forcing everybody to believe the way you do would not change the nature of Reality.

It’s not a matter of your right to see the world the way you see it; you can’t help but see the world the way you see it.  And neither can anyone else.  You believe you see it correctly and so do they.  Nobody sees it correctly.  It is beyond the human mind’s capacity to see it all as it is.  So let’s all just take a few steps back in humility and learn how to tolerate people with different beliefs. Namaste.

We have the technology to destroy each other or to build a better world together.  A better world is not one where we force everyone else to agree with us or submit to us, but one where we can peacefully share the planet with the people who do not agree with us.  Regardless of our beliefs, we could all at least work together to reduce some suffering in the world, not to cause more needless suffering.

 

 

  1. Hall, Jordan, Deep Code, https://medium.com/deep-code/understanding-the-blue-church-e4781b2bd9b5

 

Truth and Power

gavelR.W.Teesdale – What is Truth?  That is a question many philosophers through the ages have asked.  Although some post-modern philosophers will try to tell you that there is no absolute truth, truth is generally accepted as that which is factual, or demonstrable.  Words that correspond with actuality are considered true.  We can count on a truthful statement.  It is obvious, reliable, responsible, safe, secure, and trustworthy.

Truth is universal, applying to everyone in all cases.  Scientifically, if a theory is proved false in one case, it is false in all cases.  So, the truth applies to all, regardless of social status, political position, religion, gender, race, age, or whatever distinction you might make.  It has a power of its own that transcends political or social hierarchies.  Therefore, it is dangerous, especially to those in power.  It takes guts to tell the truth.  Therefore, we lie.  The powerful are known to kill people who tell the truth.  For example, Socrates or Jesus.

Now, faith is what you believe, which is only a portion of what is reality.  It may be your whole world, but it is not my whole world.  People on the other side of the world know a completely different reality than we do.  The total of reality is beyond human comprehension.  So, no one should think they know it all, or that they have it all figured out.  The greatest minds in the world know that we know but a fraction of what exists in the universe.  Consequently, what you think you know is what you believe to be true, whether it is true or not.

However, reality exists whether you believe it or not.  It is the “elephant in the room” that you refuse to acknowledge.  It is the truth that is too inconvenient to admit.  The only things you know are what you have experienced personally.  That is first-hand knowledge.  You have tried, tested, and proved it for yourself.  That is hard evidence, and the closest thing you will ever come to knowing anything.

I say that because our very senses are fallible.  You might have seen something with your own eyes, and yet what you thought you saw was really something else.  You perceived it differently that I might have.  Whose perception is accurate?  That is why, despite what you’ve been told, perception can never be reality.

Everyone, therefore, sees the world in a different way.  An ideology is a belief system.   It is a religion.  Believers can only see their side of the story, for they believe their side of the story is the whole story.  Therefore, no other story exists for them.  In their minds, they are right, and others with differing opinions are either fools or liars.  Our beliefs make us blind to other points of view.

A fair justice system must be evidence-based and reasonable, not based on beliefs.  The reason a faith-based justice system doesn’t work is that people have diverse beliefs.  Half of the people believe in the wisdom of tried and true, established traditions and institutions, while the other half would like to do away with all such traditions and create a whole new system that they believe would be more just than the old ones.  Consequently, the nation is divided right down the middle on most issues.  Nothing gets done, we do not move forward, because we are always arguing over our beliefs and opinions.

Politics is about persuading others to believe as you do, to see things the way you do, for what we see of reality is what we believe about reality.  It is not reality itself, but only what we believe about it.  We have selective eyesight and hearing.  We see the world through the filter of our beliefs.  We only listen to one side of the story and then we pass judgment.  We ignore the evidence because it is what we believe that is important to us, not what the evidence shows.  That is no way to arrive at the truth.

Our “truth”, then, becomes what we and our friends believe it is, not what factually exists.  Determining the “truth” becomes a game of convincing a majority of people to agree with us.   The idea is that if you get enough people to agree with you, then what you say becomes the truth.  It has nothing to do with the evidence or proof.  It has to do with political power.

As long as you are a loyal member of a group, and the group believes certain things, you believe them as well.  It might be that all men are pigs, or all white people are privileged, or all conservatives are evil, or that the wealthy exploit the poor, or anyone outside your group is ignorant, deplorable, or otherwise reprehensible.

The “truth” becomes whatever your group stands for.  Whether your “truth” or your group’s “truth” is in fact true is irrelevant to you.  If you identify yourself with this group and stay a loyal member of this group, you will align your beliefs with it.  You will not see the world objectively, but through the filter of the group’s beliefs.

Consequently, you cannot logically argue your opinion with someone who disagrees with you because you don’t know the facts.  So, you shout them down instead.  You cannot allow yourself to consider other points of view.  You cannot substantiate your opinion because it is a belief, and you have no hard evidence to corroborate it.  Therefore, your world just got smaller, by about half.  Now, you can only associate and talk to people who agree with you, go the places where your group goes, listen only to news sources that reinforce your belief system.  You are restricted.  You cannot question the authority of your group leaders.

Have you ever considered what happens if your group wins?  For your group to win, they must have complete power.  That is the end they have in mind.  Total agreement.  Total control.  No dissent will be tolerated.  No questions.  No freedom.  It must be this way, because logic says that true is true and anything else is false.  If what is “true” is a belief and not based on evidence or fact, then other beliefs must be eliminated for this “truth” to stand.  “Convert or die” was the battle cry of Charlemagne, as he slaughtered countless dissenters who resisted the Roman Catholic authority and doctrine in the 8th and 9th Centuries, and it is the only two options available in a faith-based political system.

Is that the world you want?  Unity?  Is it okay with you to sacrifice your individual will for the will of the people?  Will you be contented with your allotted portion of what your group believes you should have, do whatever your group believes you should do, speak only the words your group believes you should speak, and think only what your group believes you should think?  Human nature and history says you will not.  The human spirit always wants to have more, to expand and grow.  We cannot help it, that is the way we are made.  Someone will always seek an advantage, an angle to get ahead.  That is not greed, it’s just human nature, or even divine nature, if you believe you have one.

Everything in the universe is expanding.  The trees in the forest grow taller and taller to claim more of the sun and more of the available water, choking out other plants in the forest.  The strongest animals rise to dominate other animals.  They are not mean.  They are becoming all they can be.  People are the same.  The smartest, the fittest, the most talented, the most skilled, and the most industrious rise to dominate the others.  It is the natural order.  That doesn’t seem fair and just to some of us, especially those not as industrious, talented, fit, or smart.

But here is the thing that makes it fair and just: You get to decide what your portion will be in life, according to your belief about yourself, and the actions you take.  You can work hard.  You can educate yourself and become smarter.  You can hone your skills and talents and rise to excellence.  You can contribute something positive and useful to the world.  That is what you are meant to do.

Now, it seems to some people that certain people are born with more talent and intelligence, better looks and abilities than others, but history tells us that the people who succeed are not necessarily the most talented, intelligent, or good-looking, but the ones who fully use whatever they are blessed with in the pursuit of worthwhile goals.

Or, if that sounds too much like work, too difficult, or impossible for you to rise above your station in life, you can sit back and complain that others are privileged, and that you deserve the fruits of their labor.  You can even join or form a political group to forcefully take the fruits of their labor and distribute them among the members of your group.  You may believe that is fair for you and your group.

Not fair, though, when they come for the fruits of your labor.  You worked for that!  “No, you didn’t do that,” they will say.  “We all did that, and we all deserve a piece of that.” So, you become a slave of the state.  You end up with next to nothing, but your only consolation is that nobody else has more than you.

Then you find out the ugly truth – that the people at the top of your group have been holding out on the rest of you, skimming a generous portion off the top for themselves, and then distributing what is left among the peons.  But, you’re not allowed to question that.  You’re not permitted to say anything against that.  You cannot argue.  You cannot present the evidence, because no one will look at it.  They already know what the truth is – the truth is what they believe it is.  So, you must be a liar.  You must be discredited and silenced.

That is why a just system must be based on what can be known, verified, and proven, and not what is believed to be true.  That is why politicians have no business regulating the justice system.  Politicians should not be picking judges based on their political beliefs.  That is why judges are not elected, tainted by the interests of people or groups that elect them.  “Lady Justice” has a blindfold on, weighing the evidence on the scales, signifying that justice is not prejudiced by how things might appear on the surface.  The truth is determined solely on the weight of the evidence, not the appearance of circumstances or the political affiliations of the plaintiffs or defendants.

For justice to be served, an individual must be assumed innocent until proven guilty, not assumed guilty until proven innocent.   Why?  Because if a person is assumed guilty just on suspicion or accusation, without any evidence presented to prove them guilty, then everyone in society is guilty, until they prove themselves innocent.  Everyone is unworthy until they prove themselves worthy.

The core belief here is that everyone is evil, unworthy, deplorable, irredeemable, until they prove otherwise.  The problem is, they can never prove otherwise, no matter how much evidence they present, because evidence doesn’t matter.  The only thing they can do is agree with the group in power, join the group, pay the group, and repent.  There is no trust in such a system.  Everyone is suspected, so they must constantly affirm that they believe what the group believes.  They must constantly support and make individual sacrifices for the group to prove their loyalty.

Can you see how what I am describing is true of many religions, criminal organizations, or corrupt totalitarian governments around the world?  It is the same tactics used in the Spanish Inquisition, the slaughter of the Cathars, the persecution of the Huguenots in France, the torture and genocide against the protestants by the Hapsburgs in Hungary and Austria, the Salem witch burnings, the Holocaust, Mao’s Communist re-education, ethnic cleansing, and genocide anywhere in the world.  This is where identity politics and group-think leads.  America is the last stand in the world for individual rights against global control and dominance.  Our constitutional government, flawed as it is, is still our only hope for individual liberty.  It is worth defending.  Many have laid their lives down for it.

With that individual liberty, however, comes great responsibility, and many people cannot handle the responsibility for their own lives.  They want the safety and security of belonging to a group and prefer the protection of the government over the freedom of the individual.  They want to blend in with the crowd, to disappear in a sea of mediocrity, rather than stand out and be the possible target of envy, resentment, and persecution.  They want to blame others, lean on others, take from others what they are unwilling to make for themselves.  They are sucking the life out of the productive ones in society.

What can we do about it?  We can use the transformative power of the truth to overcome the power of politics.  We have the responsibility as citizens of a free society to stand up for what is right, do the right thing, and tell the truth, to our family, our friends, to authority, to the powerful, even though it is not welcomed.  Even when no one else is looking, or listening, or seems to care.

We as a nation will never get anywhere as long as truth is a relative term.  As long as what is said is less important to us than who said it.  That is the definition of authoritarianism – when whoever is in power is determining what the truth is according to their beliefs.  We need Constitutionalist judges without any personal political axe to grind, right or left, but only the Constitution to uphold, to be determining what the truth is.

Rule by the Constitution rather than authority is a good idea because it was drafted by individuals committed not to any political ideology, but to individual freedom and protection against the tyranny of authority, whether it be a monarch, a dictator, or a mob.

Live Your Prayer

praying handsR.W.Teesdale – We love to hear the preacher pray.  He or she knows all the right words, the right spiritual lingo.  The inspiring and articulate words seem to flow effortlessly from them, making us wish we had that kind of eloquence to put our deepest needs and desires before the Almighty.  We like to have them pray over us, bless us, petition the Lord for us.  Surely, He will hear their beautiful words and answer their requests over anything we might humbly offer.  So, we go to church on Sunday to get a blessing, to be prayed over.  We submit a prayer request, so that a pastor, chaplain, or a practitioner might more effectively present our case before God.  Then we go our way the rest of the week and forget about it, trusting that someone more spiritual than we are has our back.

I’ve got some news for you.  Your relationship with God is a personal one.  No intermediary is going to fix it between you and God.  God is not impressed by you using other people to ask for what you want.  You must ask yourself.  And, if you are worried that you might not say the “magic words” just right, think about this.   It’s not so much what you say, it’s what you do that counts.   Every move you make, every breath you take (to steal a few lines from Sting) God is watching you.  Every breath is a prayer.  Every action is a prayer.

The prayer that makes the most difference in your life is not the prayer that you speak, but the prayer that you live.

You can have the pastor, priest, minister, practitioner, or chaplain pray the most eloquent prayer for you, but if you are unwilling to change, to take steps toward your desire or do all you can do to alleviate your problem, then don’t expect good results.  Even when Jesus healed the lame and the sick, he required them to do something, to get up, take up their bed and walk.  It was their action on faith that brought the healing.  He said it was their faith that made them whole, not his words.  The real prayer was in their faithful acts.  Actions speak louder than words.

Remember, God tells us to judge others not by their words but by their actions.  How do you think he judges us?  Everything you do is telling God how serious you are about changing.  Most of us pray that God will change the world, change someone else, or change the circumstances for us.  We have it backwards.  We are far better off asking that God will help us to change, to become stronger,  to rise above our circumstances, to use what seem to be difficulties to our advantage.  Nothing changes until we change.   We cannot go on living the way we have always lived and expect something different to happen, no matter what kind of prayers we say or have someone say for us.

God is not fooled.  God listens to your heart, not your mouth.  That’s a good thing, too, the way we run our mouths sometimes.  You may not be a poet or an eloquent speaker, but God is not listening to what you say, he is watching what you do.   I’m not saying prayer is unnecessary.  Prayer works.  We speak the world into existence – with every word we say.  And, not just when we are “praying”.

When you curse somebody out, when you complain that life sucks, that everyone is against you, that you can’t catch a break, that all the good jobs are taken, that all the good ones a married – every one of those is a prayer.  Considering everything you are “saying” all week long with your every action versus what you are “praying” for a few minutes once a week, or a few times a week, which do you think God is hearing and responding to the most?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk to God; 

I’m saying it’s better to walk with God.

Lots of people ask others to pray for them on social media.  They think that if they get hundreds of people praying for them, God will get the message sooner or louder.   That idea goes back to getting others or a priest or a saint with more spiritual power to petition the Lord on your behalf, which made the church tons of money over millennia on the backs of impoverished sinners.  Remember how Charlemagne’s knights would go out and slaughter thousands of people, rape and pillage, and then come back and pay huge amounts in penance for forgiveness and a blessing from a priest, and then go back and do more of the same.  God listens to your heart and knows what you mean.

Of course, it is wonderful and comforting to know, especially when you are having a rough time, that people care about you and support you, but I’m telling you now that one step of faith you take in the direction of your dreams will do more to impress God than all the incantations of all the holy men or social media friends you can find.

You might want greater prosperity in your life.  You have people praying for you. You say your prayers.  But, are you actively looking for a better job?  Are you reading books, taking courses, increasing your knowledge, learning new skills that would help you qualify for a higher-paying job?  Or, are you sitting on the couch or in the bar watching the games at night?  You are sending God mixed prayers.  On the one hand, you say you want more money,  and on the other, you do the same things you always have done, which got you where you are right now, and will keep you where you are right now.

God gives you what you believe you can have,

not what you say you want.

You pray that you want to be rich, successful, well-loved, and healthy.  Who doesn’t?  Some people appear to be.  Why not you?   Is it your social status, your upbringing, your limited education, your limited skills, or your circumstances that are holding you back?  No.  It is your belief.  You say you want more out of life, but your actions are not governed by what you say you want, but by what you believe you can have.  Remember God responds to your actions, not your words.

You need to do more than change your mind to change your life; you have to change your old habits.  This requires effort at first.  You are going against the grain, your momentum, against your deeply held beliefs about yourself.  It’s a rough road.  It leads to a certain amount of chaos before things change.  Things have to break down and die before new things emerge.  That is the significance of the death and resurrection.  That is what faith is all about.  Holding on to a greater vision of yourself while the world you know falls apart.  Keep doing what is right, though, not what feels good.  The old familiar thing always feels good, but it won’t get you to where you want to go.

It is always easier to keep on doing what you have always done.  It’s familiar.  After all, it got you this far.  You survived.  You could go on surviving this way for the rest of your life.  Sure, you could accept that and be content with your lot in life, but you want more.   It is not greed.  It’s not a fault.   It is your divine nature that tells you that you deserve better, that you should strive to become more.   So, you start changing your behavior consciously.  You have been running on automatic for too long.  Think before you act, but make sure you act.

An act of faith is the evidence of faith.

You may be able to fool yourself, but you can’t fool God.  The prayer is in the action, not the words.  God will help you if you take the first few steps.  Peter had to step out of the boat and sink a little before he walked on the water with the help of Jesus.  That was a test of his faith.  When you dare to step out of your boat, your faith will be tested.  Know that is coming.  Do it anyway.  Live your prayer.  And remember, God is always there for you.