Archive for July, 2019

Trump as Explained by Dr. Henry Goose
Fr. Larry Hart

First A Vignette Regarding Wealth
Saint Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome in the time of Pope Sixtus. The Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death and their goods confiscated by the Imperial Treasury. Pope Sixtus was arrested while celebrating the liturgy and immediately executed. After the death of Sixtus the Prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. He was given three days in which to complete the task. During that three days he distributed as much of the Church’s property as possible to the poor. On the third day he presented himself before the Prefect, and when ordered to turn over the treasures of the Church he presented the indigent, the blind, the crippled, and the suffering he had gathered, and declared that here were the true treasures of the Church. I would tell you that this act of holy defiance led to the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence the last of the seven deacons, but then you would think that is the point of the story.

Dr Henry Goose
If you have never seen the movie or read the novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, I would recommend you do so. It is a thoroughly postmodern work with ever shifting perspectives of time and space and mood. The film’s synopsis describes it as “an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future” Mitchell has said that his book is about reincarnation and the universality of human nature. Cloud in the title represents that which is ever moving, ever forming and reforming, ever gathering and dissipating, ever changing, while atlas is that which does not move, the mountains (the pillars), that support the seemingly whimsical clouds of the heavens. Atlas, then is a metaphor for fixed human nature. I find the film, and this may be too idiosyncratic an interpretation, but I find the film an apt metaphor, or parable, or whatever along those lines you might call it, providing a kind of impressionistic portrayal of the human condition here in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
I say this based in part on the single most memorable line in the whole book or film. The line I have in mind, and which is so essential to my interpretation, is spoken by the smarmy Dr. Henry Goose who is imperialism personified. “As philanthropists,” he asks calling evil good during a refined dinner discussion, “might it not be our duty to likewise ameliorate the ‘savages’ sufferings by hastening their extinction?” Dr. Henry Goose argues that, “There is only one rule that binds all people. One governing principle that defines every relationship on God’s green earth: The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.” This is no abstract or academic principle for the satanic Dr. Goose, it is the rule by which he lives. If Cloud Atlas is about reincarnation, which seems evident, it is not about reincarnation in any hopeful sense, but rather more in the sense in which the Buddha saw it––reincarnation as the ever turning wheel of birth, and life and death in which the constant of human pain, suffering, and grief is manifested. Cloud Atlas whatever else it may be about is, intentionally or unintentionally, about the relentless struggle, not only to survive against implacable evil, but to overcome it. But in spite of men and women of remarkable courage and wisdom Dr. Goose’s one rule, his one principle, remains: “The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.”
Devouring Evil
Now, although it has taken me some time to get here, I am sure you have seen where this was going all along. The whole world is being devoured by evil––by the greed, the violence, the deceit, and the pathological cruelty of the strong. It is no longer any use in denying the complicity of the United States in all this, for in our internal practices and external support we have joined virtually every corrupt and murderous regime in the world––Russia, North Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on. If there is money to be made or power to be grabbed count the United States in regardless of who it hurts or kills.
Tucker Carlson, sounding a lot like Dr. Henry Goose, recently said on Fox and Friends, “You’ve got to be honest about what it means to lead a country, it means killing people.” In Tucker’s interview with Trump the two of them lamented how the “filth” of homelessness is destroying a whole way of life. By “filth” the two did not mean trash as in paper wrappers, cups, uneaten fast-food, or cigarette butts, but people living on the streets––many of whom we might note are veterans for whom Trump promised to provide care. Ignoring the economic policies, lack of health care, and endless wars that fuel homelessness, Trump claimed, with Tucker’s prompting, that cities with liberal attitudes toward immigrants are largely the cause of the problem. There was no discussion of any remedy that is both compassionate and practical. Only the assertion that this “filth” must not be allowed to destroy our cities. There are people, the interview observed, working in prestigious buildings (you can be sure they did not mean the janitors or receptionists) who should not have to see this “filth.” The trajectory toward a “final solution” is all too obvious.
Russell Moore, is a Southern Baptist ethicist, theologian, pastor, and current head of the Southern Baptist Public Policy Committee. Recently he commented on the conditions of the border concentration camps like this: “The reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences. Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this.” A refreshing, surprising, and welcome perspective from a fundamentalist. But Jerry Falwell Jr., betraying his own anti-Christian values, ripped into Russell Moore saying, “Who are you (Russell Moore)? Have you ever made a payroll? Have you ever built an organization of any type from scratch? What gives you authority to speak on any issue? I’m being serious. You’re nothing but an employee –– a bureaucrat.” In a similar vein Falwell, in an interview with the Washington Post, denigrated the poor saying: “A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume. It’s just common sense to me.” In regard to the San Bernardino shooting Falwell told students at Liberty University: “If more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they go out trying to kill us. . .Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.” He has repeatedly said that the character of the people we elect to office, specifically the president, is irrelevant. Falwell’s ignorant rants, and I use the word “ignorant” in its most literal sense, should be entirely expected. What kind of “Christian” man makes pornographic pictures of his wife, attacks the poor, the homeless, the helpless, and claims the criminally corrupt and sexual predators as personal friends on whom he can call to “fix” his sordid indiscretions? I do not use the word “pornographic” above loosely, for even a wife may be seen and treated as a pornographic object. What is inside a man who regards his wife in that way? What is in the heart of a person who thinks it acceptable to torture children in cages that smell like filth and piss and shit and fear? What is in the heart, mind, and soul of Jerry Falwell Jr., who has never built anything from scratch (to use his own worldly and diabolical criteria), who has no more theological credentials than a B. A. in Religion from a university of dubious quality and reputation, who has nothing that did not come to him except through what was given to him by his father –– money from men and women of simple faith who could never have measured up to Juniors standard of real worth––a standard denounced in Holy Scripture from beginning to end? There is only one explanation: “There is only one rule that binds all people. One governing principle that defines every relationship on God’s green earth: The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.” I think, Jerry, I prefer to be the failure I am.
And, what are we to say of the concentration camps. Let’s be both clear and honest, these are not “detention centers” but concentration camps in the horrific sense of that term, camps in which children, women, and men (entire families) are physically, psychologically, and sexually abused and (by definition) tortured. Trump’s response is if immigrants don’t like the treatment they receive they shouldn’t come here. For him cruelty is an acceptable deterrent. Donald Trump is, clinically speaking, a psychopath. He is without normal human feelings of empathy, compassion, and remorse, and exhibits bold, uninhibited egotistical traits. He is without any inner religious, philosophical, moral or ethical restraints. He is fundamentally antisocial as revealed in his behavior as an advocate of violence against those who disagree with him, as a misogynist and rapist, as a congenital liar, and in his long career of fraudulent business practices. His philosophy is that of Dr. Goose: “The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.”
Trump likes to describe the armed services as “his” military. He must, then, feel a special affinity for ICE with its Gestapo like attitudes. I am, of course, thinking of its treatment of immigrants–– of its willingness to follow Trumps advice not to be gentle or even civilized in its treatment of the poor and desperate under their control. And I am thinking of its vile Facebook page of violence, sexual assault, depravity, and fantasies of humiliating people whose humanity and Christian faith not a one of the 9,500 of them will ever match even if they could fulfill their fantasies –– well especially if they fulfilled their fantasies.
As Hitler rose to power the Nazi government, step by step, ushered in key changes to the Protestant churches. One of those steps was to urge all Protestants to unite regional churches into a national church under the centralized leadership of Ludwig Müller, a well-known pastor and Nazi Party member, who was appointed as Reich bishop. Amazingly, most German Protestants embraced these changes. They were rather like the man who said, “Even if Jesus Christ came down from heaven and told me otherwise I would still believe Donald Trump.” Actually Jesus is telling him something entirely different than Trump, and the man does indeed believe Trump rather than the Christ from Heaven. All of Hitler’s proposals were ultimately approved in a national vote by Protestants taken in July 1933. The national church supporting Hitler and the Nazi party was approved by two-thirds of the voters, and Müller won the election to lead them. By January of 1934, Müller was vowing to purge Protestant churches of all “Jewish influence,” including removing the Old Testament from the Bible because it is based on the Hebrew Scriptures. Church leaders claimed, sounding very much like Jerry Falwell and his ilk, that God’s will for the German nation was given shape in the Leader Adolf Hitler, and in the National Socialist state created by Hitler. An opposition group called the Confessing Church was formed. Confessing Church pastor and theologian Martin Niemöller and two Protestant bishops met with Hitler and his top aides. They reaffirmed their support for Hitler’s domestic and foreign policies and asked only for the right to disagree on religious matters. Hitler did not compromise at all, and after the meeting both bishops signed a statement of unconditional loyalty to Hitler; Niemöller did not. As a result, Niemöller was imprisoned for seven years in concentration camps.
Even in the Confessing Church the overwhelming majority of pastors and members supported the Nazi regime. A few, like Niemöller and Bonhoeffer, did resist. When a protest statement was read from the pulpits of Confessing churches in March 1935, Nazi authorities quickly arrested over 700 pastors. After the 1937 papal encyclical “With Burning Concern” was read from Catholic pulpits, the Gestapo confiscated copies from diocesan offices throughout the country. But in general both Protestant and Catholic Churches followed a policy of compromise with the Nazi government as it carried out its program of unutterable horror––of course, the economy was great.
Remembering Who I Most Want to Be
George Santayana, the nineteenth century philosopher, once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, I find myself wondering whether self-absorbed clergy, and sheep eating bishops, inattentive churches and unconverted but professing Christians have any memory at all––any memory of history, of Holy Scripture, or of Christ and his teaching. Or, whether they have been so seduced by the materialism of our age and the delusion that if they co-operate with evil, call evil good, they too may hope to join the oppressors and eat the meat. It is a decision that the various characters of Cloud Atlas must make across great expanses of time and in different settings––whether to resist evil and risk being eaten; or, to acquiesce and perhaps be eaten anyways. My personal opinion is that my Mama was right: “It is better to fail in loving-kindness than to succeed in someone’s destruction.”

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