Chronicles in Ordinary Time 165: The Human Propensity to Foul things Up

Francis Spufford, in his absolutely wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses a different four-letter F-word than I’ve used above; I have readers that remember, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, that this word [historically accurate or not] stands for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge; aka rape. I remain amazed that such a vicious word has become common grammar in the 21st Century; particularly in the light of the #MeToo situation in our world. It raises the question as to whether the way we speak can change the world…

I’m going to quote, frequently, from Spufford in the coming weeks:

    “Christianity parts company with the other two monotheisms. Unlike the oldest (Judaism) and the youngest (Islam) of the one-god religions, the middle sibling isn’t interested in coming up with a set of sustainable rules for living by. Jewish laws of behavior and Muslim laws of behavior may be demanding to keep at times, but they can be kept. That’s the point of them, that’s what they’re for…
    “The idea is to have a set of laws like a wearable coat, a coat that everyone can put on if they are willing to make the effort. In Judaism and Islam, you don’t have to be a saint to know that you are managing to be an adequately good woman, an adequately good man. Islam and Judaism accomplish this livability, this wearability, this sustainability, by paying more attention to what people do than to what they feel about it. They’re religions of orthopraxy, right doing, not orthodoxy, right thinking or teaching. Do the right actions, and you can be hissing and spitting inside, or bored senseless, or going through the motions to please your family, and it still counts. Virtue has still been achieved. The result is in some ways a lot more moderate, a lot more stable than Christianity; and it can be very humane too, with plentiful opportunities for the unvirtuous or ex-virtuous to rejoin virtue’s ranks. But it does, indeed, produce a judged picture of the world. It produces a moralized landscape in which the good people can be told from the bad people; in which all human actions can be split into two categories, pure or impure, clean or dirty, permitted or forbidden, kosher or trayf, halal or haram.
     “Christianity does something different. It makes frankly impossible demands. Instead of asking for specific actions, it offers general but lunatic principles. It thinks you should give your possessions away, refuse to defend yourself, love strangers as much as your family, behave as if there’s no tomorrow. These principles do not amount to a sustainable program. They deliberately ignore the question of how they could possibly be maintained. They ask you to manifest in your ordinary life a drastically uncalculating, unprotected generosity. And that’s not all. Christianity also makes what you mean by your behavior all-important. You could pauperize yourself, get slapped silly without fighting back, care for lepers and laugh all day long in the face of futures markets, and it still wouldn’t count, if you did it for the wrong reasons. Not only is Christianity insanely perfectionist in its few positive recommendations, it’s also insanely perfectionist about motive. It won’t accept generosity performed for the sake of self-interest as generosity. It says that unless altruism is altruism all the way down, it doesn’t count as altruism at all.
    “So far, so thrillingly impractical. But now notice the consequence of having an ideal of behavior not sized for human lives: everyone fails. Really everyone. No one only means well, no one means well all the time. Looked at from this perspective, human beings all exhibit different varieties of fuck-up. And suddenly in its utter lack of realism Christianity becomes very realistic indeed, intelligently resigned to our vast array of imperfections, and much more interested in what we can do to live with them than in laws designed to keep them segregated. Christianity maintains no register of clean and unclean. It doesn’t believe in the possibility of clean, just as it doesn’t believe that laws can ever be fully adequate, or that goodness can reliably be achieved by following an instruction book.”

Many Christians do not understand the teachings of Yeshua; they remain stuck in a rule book, one I’ve heard described as the “Owner’s Manual” more times than I can count.
Human beings, in spite of our best intentions, have a Propensity to F**k things Up [HPtFtU]. Not always, not because we intend to do so, but because we are fallible human beings. If someone tells you they never exhibit their HPtFtU, they’ll lie about other things as well.

Religion states that you can follow rules that will ensure that your HPtFtU does not occur. Since we all fail at some points in our lives, this notion is a lie. When Yeshua [Latinized as Jesus] began teaching, he angered all of the religious leaders in the vicinity. When they became angry enough, they persuaded the local Roman government to execute Yeshua as a heretic and an inciter-to-violence. More lies.

kids in cages
Case in point: the Human Propensity to F**k things Up

The United States has become a country that kidnaps children and does not believe it’s a crime because those children have brown skin. We are back in the first half of the 20th Century. We don’t lynch the children; we steal children from their parents and put them into the overworked Foster Care system; often to private corporations whose sole business is the incarceration of human beings. Pundits talk about how their lives are so much better than in the cardboard shack where they lived; ignoring completely the fact that Home is first of all, the family. The mother who carried these children in her body for 9 months; the siblings who teach each other about love. The father that guides.
Depending upon the news service you choose, the number of stolen children our Administration is ignoring is 500, ± 20. The government is making no effort to reunite these children with their parents. Many of the parents were deported without their children; having signed documents they did not understand, which stated that they were giving up their children as a condition of their deportation.
The major problem that too many seem oblivious to: you and I are complicit in this crime. We, the citizens of the United States, without our consent, have become kidnappers. We have possibly ruined the lives of at least 500 children, who were ripped from their mother’s arms with no explanation; and having committed no crime beyond the crime of being born.

Let this settle in for a few minutes.

This crime was committed on purpose, one more crime among many:

There are currently five separate investigations into Trump and his associates from four different investigative bodies. An additional lawsuit brought by two state attorneys general challenges whether Trump is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. There are further reports about probes into the financial dealings of the president’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his second eldest son, Eric Trump.
The worst may be yet to come for Trump. Zephyr Teachout, a candidate for the Democratic nomination to be the next New York attorney general, has made a promise to fully investigate Trump’s business the central thrust of her candidacy. “Donald Trump’s businesses are here,” Teachout told The Atlantic in August. “What the New York attorney general can do, and as attorney general I’ll make a priority, is investigating those businesses. That power extends to, in the case of extreme illegality, dissolving businesses.”

Democrats also have compiled a massive list of subpoenas targeting the Trump administration and the Trump Organization they hope to file if they win control of the House of Representatives in November.
The number of investigations and lawsuits targeting the president could easily ― and quickly ― metastasize to more than six.

Is the President a bad man? Probably; as are we all. It isn’t my job to make these determinations about other people. In my opinion, he’s an incompetent man, who had no idea what was needed to lead a country. He seems to have not made the intellectual leap of realizing that a country is not a business. Given that he’s bankrupted five businesses in the past, is acumen as a businessman is in doubt.
Not only has our country kidnapped a large number of children, we have also turned our backs on the brown-skinned American citizens who live in Puerto Rico:

The latest attempt to get an accurate death toll in Puerto Rico following last year’s Hurricane Maria paints a grim picture: 2,975 “excess” deaths could be attributed to the storm, according to George Washington University researchers. That’s 46 times more than the 64 deaths first reported last fall.
But the counting is far from over, and nobody should be surprised if the death toll in Puerto Rico reaches or exceeds 4,000 by the end of the year.
Here’s why: Many of the conditions responsible for continued excess deaths remain and are unlikely to be appreciably ameliorated anytime soon…
Hurricane Maria has been one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history, killing roughly the same number of people who perished on 9/11 and about 40 percent more than the number who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. If Congress doesn’t help the more than 3 million American citizens who live in Puerto Rico recover from this catastrophic disaster, who will be held accountable?

I worked on the Gulf Coast for a brief period of time, after Katrina; the devastation can’t be adequately described.

Spufford again:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me . . .
There! Did you hear that? He just called himself a wretch. He’s beating himself up in public. Sorry, mate: lovely tune, loony sentiment. Except that “wretch” is actually a very polite word for what John Newton, the eighteenth-century author of “Amazing Grace,” was. John Newton was a slave trader. He made his living transporting cargoes of kidnapped human beings, in conditions of great squalor and suffering, to places where they and their children and their children’s children would be treated all their lives as objects to be bought and sold and brutalized. Some of John Newton’s contemporaries (the ones who weren’t chained below decks in their own shit) may have thought that his profession was only a bit unrespectable; we, on the other hand, recognize that he was participating in one of the world’s great crimes, comparable to the Holocaust. Wretch? John Newton was a horror.
But at least he came to know it. At least he made the journey from comfortable acquiescence in horror to an accurate, and therefore horrified, sense of himself. At least he learned that something was wrong. And “Amazing Grace” is a description of the process by which he began to awaken. The wrinkle is that he wrote it before he gave up slaving. He wrote it under the impression that he had already seen the stuff he should be worrying about—booze and licentiousness, presumably, and playing tiddly-winks on the Sabbath, and not running his slave ship with a swear-box screwed to the mast. In the Holocaust analogy, it’s rather as if a death- camp guard had had a moral crisis, but over cheating his colleagues at poker, and then continued to come to work stoking the ovens, while vowing shakily to be a better person. Yet Newton’s guilt, once found, wouldn’t leave him alone. It went on gradually showing him dark, accurate visions of himself; it went on changing him, until eventually he could not bear the darkness of what he did daily, and gave up the trade, and ended his life as a penitent campaigner against it.

John Newton found Grace.
I found Grace.
Hopefully our President will find Grace.

Donald on the Road to Damascus By Claire Palmer
Donald on the Road to Damascus By Claire Palmer

In June of last year, I was working on an image based on the story of Saul, who was blinded and thrown off his horse, on the way to hunting down the hated members of The Way—followers of Yeshua, who were becoming greater in numbers, and more bothersome for the Religious leaders of Israel. I was pondering the notion of what it would have ‘looked like’ to be there in Damascus at the time Saul was knocked off his horse; or even the more currently applicable incident found in Daniel 4, where:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar [who was king of Babylon c. 605 BE – c. 562 BCE, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire]. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird…

King Nebuchadnezzar ended up living in a pasture, eating grass like a donkey, for a very long time, until he finally was ready to admit his arrogance, his wretchedness.

 And the King found Grace…




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: