The Hypocrisy of Non-Religious People Regarding Women

Historical painting altered to show which of those signing the Declaration of Independence were slave holders.

Recently, a valued contributor to OpEdNews (where I’m a senior editor) published an article entitled “The Hypocrisy of Religious People Regarding Women.” In it, he argued that all “revealed” religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism and Baha’? (sic) are guilty of promoting misogyny.”

They are hypocritical regarding women, he wrote, because of the many “pathetic and damaging examples of misogyny in the Hebrew Bible.”

In support of his argument, he referenced the Genesis story about the first man and first woman (Gen1:26-27 and 2:21-23) and the interpretation of that story by the anonymous author of First Timothy. The latter took the myth to mean that women sinned first and therefore deserve punishment and subjection to men (1 Tim 2:11-14).

Moreover, the author alleged, the hypocrisy of religious people extends far beyond Judaism and Christianity to include Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam was highlighted as especially hypocritical since, he wrote, it encourages husbands to beat their disrespectful or disobedient wives.

To remedy such outrages, our friend called for the replacement biblical teachings with Deism, especially as espoused by the Founding Fathers like Thomas Paine. The Founders, he inferred, were not only champions of women, but adopting their free thought and nonreligious approach to God would save humanity from the social evils hypocritically supported by “religious people.”

In this brief essay, I’d like to respectfully disagree with my OEN colleague. Let me do so by (1) saying a word about hypocrisy, (2) showing the diversity of “religious people,” who are not nearly all guilty of misogyny, and (3) suggesting that Deism as represented by our Founders (including Thomas Paine) is itself deeply embedded in extreme hypocrisy not only towards women, but towards indigenous and black people as well.

Hypocrisy’s Meaning

Here I can be quite brief.

Hypocrisy does not mean “beliefs harmful to others” as my colleague seems to imply. Rather and relative to misogyny, it entails adopting an anti-woman course of action while knowing and even affirming that doing so is wrong. That’s what hypocrisy means – lack of correspondence between one’s professed convictions on the one hand and one’s actions on the other.

This means that proving that all “religious people” are “hypocritical regarding women,” would entail showing that what all of them believe and say about women is insincere. Alternatively, the author s use of the term hypocrisy might suggest that all “religious people” (or maybe just most of them?) mistreat women and hate them (that’s what misogyny means) because of the believers’ religious convictions.

Obviously, such assertions are untrue.

And that brings me to my second point which needs fuller explanation.

Religious Diversity

Here I must make two obvious points. The first is that all “religious people” cannot be tarred with the same brush. And besides, the beliefs of religious people about women and those “revealed texts” are also quite diverse.

That many believers might be hypocritical cannot be denied. However, it’s difficult to identify just who falls into that category (as defined above). It’s risky for anyone who can’t read minds. Perhaps rather than identifying the beliefs of some as hypocritical, it would be better to call them uninformed, immature, or simplistic.

As for religious diversity, one must understand this about religion: It’s just religion.  It’s just part of the intellectual and spiritual makeup of most humans. If they’re hypocrites, religious folks will be religious hypocrites. If they’re conservative and reactionary, their interpretation of their religious books will reflect that. If they’re not, they won’t. The same is true of liberal and radical believers.

Regarding “revelation,” not all religious people share the same convictions. For instance, some religious people think their holy books are magical, inspired, revealed, and/or inerrant – the very word of God.

Many others have a broader understanding of inspiration and revelation. Even if they regard their “holy books” as somehow inspired, they realize that they’ve been mediated through or simply composed by fallible human beings who often write into them their own prejudices e.g., towards violence, misogyny, racism, and/or nationalism.

Critical thinkers anxious to avoid the simplistic prejudice of simply ignoring such differences and tarring all “religious people” with the same brush overlook such uncritical preconceptions. They often end up throwing the baby out with the bath.

The “baby” in this case represents the monumental achievements for which “religious people” have been responsible (precisely as religious) in world history and our own local story here in the United States – even regarding women’s rights.

Remember that the abolitionists were mostly Quakers, i.e., religious people. Moreover, there would have been no Black Civil Rights Movement without black Baptists. More specific to the argument here, neither would the ‘60s and ‘70s have seen the emergence of the women’s liberation movement, or that of gay rights, prison reform, and anti-war demonstrations without the example set by the civil rights activists centered in community churches.

Then, internationally, there are the cases of the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi, who played such a key role in the liberation of India from European colonialism — and his Islamic counterpart, Badshah Kahn (sometimes called the Muslim “Gandhi”). Gandhi so identified with women that he once said, “Mentally I have become a woman. . ..”

It’s also a fact supported by Islamic scholars that Muhammad himself in the early 600s CE was far more a champion of women than his cultural contemporaries. He was responsible for greatly expanding their legal entitlements to include inheritance and property ownership. In contradiction to the customs of his day, he recognized that women have rights within their own marriages.

Additionally, and returning to our own hemisphere, one cannot adequately explain movements in Latin America for social justice (including for women) in places such as in Nicaragua and El Salvador without understanding the impact of liberation theology. To characterize such inspiration as “hypocritical” is insulting to thousands of Christian students, teachers, union organizers, social workers, priests, and nuns who gave their lives because of the inspiration to work for social justice (again, including for women) they found in their faith.

More specifically, think about El Salvador and its martyrs including Oscar Romero, the five women religious murdered and raped there. Think of the team of six liberation theologians (along with their housekeeper and her daughter) assassinated for their “crimes” by members of the Atlacatl Battalion trained in the United States. None of them was a hypocrite. All of them were “religious people.” Many of them were women.

Deist Hypocrisy

And that brings me to my third point. It’s this: Deists among our Founding Fathers were profoundly hypocritical (in the sense defined above). They were especially so towards women, the indigenous, and slaves from Africa. I’m referring to men like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and even Thomas Paine.

We can assert their hypocrisy unmistakably because all of them agreed that “everyone” was created equal. Their writings show for example that they had no doubt that slavery was wrong. Yet, despite their frequent assertions to that effect, most of them continued holding slaves till their dying day.

Similarly, despite their statement about “all men,” they were responsible for the genocide of First Peoples in the land they settled.

And, of course, everyone knows that they refused to recognize women as the equals of men. In fact, it wasn’t until 1920 that women were even allowed to vote. And this country still has not passed the Equal Rights Amendment, much less had a woman fill the office of president. Meanwhile, for example, fully sixteen Muslim countries have voted in women as their head of state.


Yes, there are “pathetic and damaging examples of misogyny in the Hebrew Bible.”

And yes, despite their claims to be “free thinkers” and “rational,” the Deists of the Thomas Paine era also provide equally pathetic and damaging examples of misogyny, genocide, and enslavement of human beings they knew to be the “men” that God created equal to themselves.

Moreover, as revealed in their own writings, the Deists in question fulfilled the definition of “hypocritical” more unmistakably than their religious counterparts. That is, they said that slavery was wrong, but mostly held slaves till their dying day. They prosecuted genocidal wars against millions of First Peoples, even though as “brilliant” and rational free thinkers, they knew the “Indians” were human beings.

And despite the appeals of their own wives (like Abigail Adams), they refused to recognize women’s equality. In other words, they left themselves quite open to charges of being wildly hypocritical misogynists.

In summary, I reiterate to my earlier points. That is, despite the huge generalities in the OEN article “The Hypocrisy of Religious People Regarding Women”:

  • All “religious people” cannot be tarred with the same brush.
  • They are not nearly all hypocritical.
  • In fact, many of them have been champions of women (and the enslaved and indigenous) precisely because of their religious faith.
  • Neither is any religion inherently misogynist, racist, or genocidal.
  • Including Deism.
  • All of them are just religions.
  • If their adherents are misogynist (or racists) their religion will reflect that.

 If not, they won’t.

  • Generalizations about the beliefs of others are not only disrespectful, but they also run the risk of hypocrisy.

“Argentina 1985”: Its Untold Story That Americans Should Know

This Sunday, I’ll be watching the 95th Oscars Ceremony with special interest. That’s because of my concern about U.S. atrocities abroad and the related fact that the nominee for best international film is “Argentina 1985.”

It tells the gripping story behind Argentina’s “Trial of the Junta,” which in 1985 brought to justice the country’s military dictatorship responsible for the prosecution of its infamous “Dirty War” (1976-1984).

Apart from its artistic merits and my already noted focus, the film interested me personally, because precisely in 1985 while I was studying liberation theology in Brazil, my family and I lived under the related military dictatorship for more than six months. We even passed several nights lodged in Rio’s Clube Militar (Military Club), thanks to my Portuguese language instructor in Boulder Colorado whose father was a general in the Brazilian army.

Knowledge of Brazil’s then-recent history, its 1964 military coup, and its prosecution of liberation theologians made the Clube a scary place. We all knew the days of Brazil’s junta were numbered too. So, what was happening in Argentina sparked deep thoughts about a coming day of reckoning further north.

With all of that in mind, let me recommend “Argentina 1985,” point out a key omission relevant to North Americans, and indicate some of the film’s implicit and salutary political portents for us all. (Spoiler alert!)

Argentina 1985    

“Argentina 1985” is dark and gripping. It’s about fascism, government corruption, absolute cruelty, torture, death squads, bomb threats, child abuse, propaganda, and citizen intimidation.

At the same time it’s the cinematically familiar story of a reluctant leader who turns a group of unprepared and unlikely players into an unstoppable team eventually victorious over an invincible foe.

At the film’s outset team members are introduced one after another. We find them naïve, idealistic, practical, wise, funny, focused, and hard working in the extreme. Perhaps its most effective unofficial member is the main character’s pre-teen son who comically demonstrates wisdom and savoir faire far beyond his years.  

The film’s real hero though is Julio Cesar Strassera, Brazil’s Chief Prosecutor. He’s aided by his young Assistant Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo who’s constantly worried about his mother’s opinions. She’s extremely conservative and a loyal supporter of Argentina’s military. She’s Catholic and a co-parishioner of one of the junta’s main defendants.

Together Strassera and Ocampo guide their young team (despite crippling time restraints, death threats, and bomb scares) in fulfilling their superhuman task of gathering an overwhelming number of testimonies from hundreds of Dirty War eyewitnesses, victims, and their family members.

The dramatic result portrayed convincingly in “Argentina 1985” is a whole series of moving accounts of torture, rape, and murder. Responsibility for all those crimes is inexorably laid at the doorstep of the country’s military dictatorship.

Toward the film’s conclusion, after hearing Strassera’s summarizing argument, most audience members, I’m sure, feel (as I did) like joining the packed Argentine courtroom in its ovation of thunderous applause. That feeling of vindication is reinforced when the worst of the accused generals receive severe sentences including life behind bars.

What’s Not Told

Unfortunately for North American audiences, what’s not told in “Argentina 1985” is the key role that the United States government played in that sad country’s Dirty War. That’s unfortunate because the omission allows U.S. viewers to experience the film as exclusively about Argentinians and not about us. Consequently, as we’ll see presently, casual viewers likely miss the salutary lessons the film contains for viewers like us.

Let me be specific.  

According to US archives, the United States government aided Argentine generals throughout the dictatorship’s bloody time in office. That means that Henry Kissinger’s hands are red. But so are Jimmy Carter’s and Ronald Reagan’s.

The blood in question belonged to more than 30,000 Argentinians. It was an old U.S. story about supporting fascistic right-wing forces employing a scorched earth policy against leftists. The idea was to kill everyone who might possibly be on “the other side.”

The resulting victims included teachers, student activists, indigenous leaders, union organizers, social workers, radical clergy, and nuns, along with their friends and family members who might have been influenced by their ideas, words, and examples. Most of these were identified as suspected communists, socialists, subversives, guerrillas, and terrorists.

It was all part of Operation Condor, a U.S.-backed anti-leftist campaign that from 1975 to 1989 wreaked havoc throughout Latin America, especially in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil. Conservative estimates say the Operation took 60,000 to 80,000 lives in the Southern Cone. Condor involved a series of military coup d’états within the countries just named.

In those contexts, the U.S. role was to plan the campaigns and coordinate them across national boundaries. The Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations also provided the dictatorships in question with military training, economic assistance, and technical instruction including methods of kidnapping and disappearance, assassination, the use of torture, and the operation of death squads. In Argentina, hundreds of babies were taken from imprisoned and disappeared female victims only to be “adopted” by associates of the ruling generals.

An indispensable element of Operation Condor was near total control of the mass media for purposes of disseminating pro-regime propaganda. The latter consistently described the relevant countries as under siege. It attempted to garner public support by invoking nationalism and patriotism against “criminal” subversives threatening revolt and chaos. Pro-regime media encouraged citizens to report any suspicious activities on the parts of their neighbors.

And yes, “Argentina 1985” is right. All of this came to light in 1983 when democracy was restored in Argentina. It was then that the new government established the National Commission for Forced Disappearances (CONADEP). That commission eventually engaged Chief Prosecutor Strassera and his team of young lawyers and volunteers to collect testimony from hundreds of victims and witnesses. In the process, the investigators were able to identify by name the leaders of the dictatorship’s death squads and torture centers. As well, Strassera’s team documented the existence of hundreds of secret prisons and detention gulags throughout the country.

Eventually, in 1985, enough evidence had been gathered to present a convincing case before the “Trial of the Juntas.” Again, this was correctly depicted in “Argentina 1985.” As described in the film, the trial convicted the dictatorship’s top officers with many of them receiving sentences of life in prison.

All of that was in 1985. However, just four years later, Argentine President Carlos Menem pardoned the powerful convicts in what he described as an act of “healing and reconciliation.”

So much for Strassera’s victory.

Lessons for U.S. Viewers

In the light of the film’s information and omissions, here are just a few of the valuable lessons it contains:

  • It could happen here! I mean, I’m sure you’ve noticed our country’s creeping fascism. And if you’ve read e.g., Jonathan Katz’s Gangsters of Capitalism, you know that fascism has always been popular among the U.S. elite. In fact, at the moment, they seem on the verge of taking over even formal control.
  • Atrocities wreaked abroad have their way of returning home to plague those not paying attention to history or foreign policy.
  • It’s totally dangerous to revere the military. Their job is to kill people and destroy their property – usually quite indiscriminately. They are protectors of the status quo. They are not our friends. It’s not hard to imagine U.S. soldiers or police torturing you or your children tomorrow. Ask Chelsea Manning or Julian Assange.
  • The laudable ideals of “healing and reconciliation” and even nonviolence are typically weaponized by the powerful to benefit them and override more important democratic values such as justice, equal standing before the law, and legitimate self-defense.
  • The powerful rarely pay for their crimes. Impunity is their rule.
  • Since they are owned by the rich and powerful, the mass media (MSM) cannot be depended upon as reliable sources of information. Like the military, MSM presenters are not our friends.
  • Most often, the young and inexperienced are better servants of truth than the “veteran” old who have been co-opted by the unjust systems that bought-and-paid-for governments represent.
  • Our government is no better than the ones it arms and supports.

With all of this in mind, be sure to watch “Argentina 1985.” And let it be a lesson about history and U.S. atrocities. Let it also be a forewarning.

International Women’s Day: The U.S. Role in Repressing Afghan Women

This is International Women’s Day. And what was once my favorite news program, Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” (DN) was full of relevant coverage. One of the featured pieces was entitled “Stand up for Afghan Women”: U.N. Calls Afghanistan World’s Most Repressive Country for Women, Girls.” The piece lamented the sad situation plaguing Afghanistan’s female population.

By now the story has become familiar: women required to wear hijabs, girls excluded from schools, and both forbidden to drive cars, work outside the home, or to travel without male accompaniment.

And all of this decried by the United States government which is, we’re told, the champion of women’s rights not only in Afghanistan but throughout the Muslim world.

The problem however with that picture is that the last part is false. That is, far from being the champion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, the United States is the one ultimately responsible for their oppression in that sad country and elsewhere.

In effect, the U.S. is the creator of the Taliban which in 1992 overthrew the Russian-sponsored socialist government that beginning in 1973 freed Afghan women from the repressive restrictions just referenced.

More specifically, supported by the Soviet Union, the so-called “Saur Revolution” improved immeasurably the lives of Afghan women. It introduced progressive policies including land reform and mass literacy projects that benefitted both genders. Child marriage was abolished. Female dress codes were eliminated, freeing women to wear western clothing if desired.

Under socialism, formerly closed employment opportunities for women were opened in both the public and private sectors. Women were allowed to enter schools at all levels. They became university professors, government officials, doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, parliamentarians and more. In record time, women comprised 50% of the government’s bureaucracy, 70% of the country’s teachers, and 40% of its doctors. Sixty percent of the faculty at Kabul University (KU) were females. For the first time in Afghanistan’s history, women comprised most of the KU student body.

All of that was reversed by United States now familiar divide-and-conquer regime change strategies – this time in Afghanistan. Alarmed by socialism’s advance, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski saw that Saur progressive reforms though popular in urban centers were not well-received in rural tribal areas. So, he decided to support the landlords, warlords, and religious mullahs there to work regime change in Kabul.

The assistance included the Carter administration’s arming and training Islamic fundamentalists (the Mujahidin) beginning in 1979.

That movement eventually drove from power Afghanistan’s progressive socialists (along with their Russian supporters) with their women-friendly policies. Eventually too, the Mujahidin morphed into the Taliban.

We know the rest of the story:

  • 20 years of U.S. occupation and bombing of Afghanistan
  • With the expressed intent of preventing the Taliban from returning to power
  • But leading directly to the deaths of more than 250,000 Afghans
  • With the same number of deaths caused indirectly
  • Including (between 2015 and 2019 alone) more than 26,000 Afghan children
  • Along with the creation of over 2.2 million refugees.

We also know about:

  • Last year’s chaotic U.S. departure from the country
  • The immediate return of the Taliban to power
  • And the subsequent application of U.S. sanctions
  • That are currently causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that affects women and their children much more than the Taliban officials.

Everybody knows, of course, that all of this is intentional. The real target of U.S. sanctions is not the Taliban government. No, it’s all part of our government’s familiar regime change strategy aimed at making the lives of ordinary people (including women and children) so miserable that they will arise and overthrow their government.

We shouldn’t be fooled by any of it. Instead, (especially on this International Women’s Day),  we should face up to the fact that the United States government doesn’t give a damn about women’s rights either abroad or at home.

At home, its Christian Taliban wing led by its SCOTUS Catholics, Donald Trumps, Ron DeSantises, and Marjorie Taylor Greenes would entirely control women’s bodies and their reproductive rights from the exclusion of sex education to the outlawing of contraception and abortion. Remember that for more than 50 years, “America” has found itself unable to officially recognize that under the Constitution, women have the same rights as men.

In summary, while portraying Muslim-majority countries as inherently misogynistic, U.S. government propaganda and even news sources like “Democracy Now” ignore the fact that the United States was responsible for overthrowing Afghanistan’s progressive governments attempting to improve the lives of its women.

In other words, history shows that our government is as misogynistic as the forces it sponsors.

Marianne Williamson Should Go for Broke As The Peace Candidate

Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent: Genesis 12: 1-4A; Psalms 33: 4-5, 18-22; 2nd Timothy 1: 8b-10; Matthew 17: 1-9

On this Second Sunday of Lent and in the context of the Ukraine conflict, I want to return to the topic I addressed in last week’s homily – Marianne Williamson’s apparent sell-out to western warmongers in her position paper called “The Tragic Conundrum of Ukraine.”

Since then, Ms. Williamson has become the first Democrat to declare her candidacy to unseat Joe Biden as President of the United States. Yes, it’s official; she’s running again for president.

My point in what follows is this: For Williamson to have even the least chance of achieving her goal, she must go for broke. She must reverse her position on the Ukraine war and declare herself in no uncertain terms THE PEACE CANDIDATE.

Doing so would not only separate Williamson from Biden and the others who will eventually enter the 2024 race. More importantly, it would align her more securely with the principles of her own spiritual guidebook, A Course in Miracles (ACIM). As well, it would embody the example of Yeshua (the voice ACIM claims to channel) as reflected in today’s Gospel reading. There following what we’ve come to see as his “transfiguration,” Yeshua too decides to go for broke in his opposition to imperialism.

My point here is that to garner any meaningful notice as a candidate, Williamson needs to spiritually transfigure as well.

To show what I mean, let me (1) address Williamson’s candidacy as it relates to the war in Ukraine on the one hand and to ACIM on the other, (2) recall Yeshua’s adoption of a “go for broke” strategy in opposing Roman imperialism, and (3) recommend a similar strategy for Williamson if she truly wants to be a player in 2024.

Williamson & ACIM

First, recall who Marianne Williamson is and how easily she will be dismissed if she continues endorsing business as usual by adopting “the official story” and conventional wisdom about Ukraine as expressed in her “Conundrum” statement: She’s the one:

  • Dismissed by many as a “vanity candidate” intent only on selling books.
  • Characterized as “new agey, soft, and unrealistic.”
  • Portrayed by SNL’s Kate McKinnon as “woo-woo,”
  • And as one who would address political problems by burning sage and manipulating crystals.
  • Ridiculed for alleging that “a dark psychic force” has made us all victims of collectivized hatred advanced by Donald Trump.

This time around, the same accusations will inevitably surface again unless Williamson does something authentic to distinguish her from Biden and the neocons and their bellicosity on Ukraine.

Instead, however, her statement on the war aligns itself with the largely white “West” (13% of the world’s population) as if it rather than the world’s mostly non-white majority “knows better.” She says, for instance,

“I believe there is legitimate justification for military support for Ukraine from Western allies, including the United States.” And “. . . Vladimir Putin’s actions today are a threat to which the Western world must now respond.” (Emphasis added).

One wonders why this emphasis on the largely white west. Again, does it somehow know better than mostly non-white cultures (e.g., in China and India) that have developed insights, wisdom, and spiritualities based on experiences thousands of years older than our own?

Does this western centrism represent an unconscious hangover from the colonial past that has enriched “the west” and impoverished the rest?

But more especially, how explain Williamson’s apparent rejection of the most obvious teachings of A Course in Miracles, which she has championed for decades?

Here’s what I mean. According to A Course in Miracles:

  1. Its teachings are basically Christian mysticism that finds the root of all problems in a skewed relationship with God – or Source, the Ground of Being, the Great Spirit, the Tao, Brahmin, Allah, Life, Cosmic Consciousness, etc.
  2. That mysticism also reveals that “America” is not an exceptional nation. (Or as Ms. Williamson is fond of putting it “No one is special, and everyone is special.”)
  3. Instead, all of us are living in a pseudo-reality reminiscent of Plato’s Cave, where prisoners mistake shadows manipulated by their keepers for reality far removed from the real world.
  4. Consequently, what the dominant culture accepts as “reality” is actually 180 degrees opposite the Truth.
  5. Its upside-down “reality” is rooted in fear, greed, dishonesty, and violence.
  6. This means that while the prevailing culture would blame our problems on others (like Russia), the Truth is that we (the United States) are 100% responsible for our own “conundrums.”
  7. Facing and correcting our own behavior are necessary first steps in solving any dilemma or conflict.
  8. Such inventory and rectification reveal that no one is attacking us. Instead, we are the attackers.
  9. Recognizing all of this is the key to peace.  
  10. It embodies the miraculous in the ACIM sense of “a radical transformation of consciousness.”

Now, imagine if Marianne Williamson’ presidential campaign emphasized those ten points. It certainly would get attention. It would separate Williamson from the homogenized gaggle of candidates. It would raise the essential questions that no one dares raise. It would mark Ms. Williamson as a true leader worth following.

What I’m saying here is that unless Williamson finds the courage to go for broke by embracing the principles that she has taught for so many years and by identifying as The Peace Candidate, she’ll be lost in the shuffle. She’ll be ridiculed and dismissed once again.

Yeshua Goes for Broke

Today’s Gospel reading presents Jesus as setting an example Marianne Williamson would do well to follow. By resolving to take a leading part in a Passover demonstration against Jewish cooperation with imperial Rome, Yeshua risks it all.

Think about it.   

Today’s reading finds the young construction worker from Nazareth on his way to Jerusalem, where he knows something extremely risky is about to happen. Yet he’s determined to be part of it. The risky action has to do with the temple and opposing the collaboration of its leaders with the Roman Empire.

The temple has become worse than irrelevant to the situation of Yeshua’s people living under Roman oppression. What happens there not only ignores Jewish political reality. The temple leadership has become the most important Jewish ally of the oppressing power. And Jesus has decided to address that intolerable situation despite inevitable risks of failure.

Everyone knows that a big demonstration against the Romans is planned in Jerusalem for the weekend of Passover. There’ll be chanting mobs. The slogans are already set. “Hosanna, hosanna, in the highest” will be one chant. Another will be “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Hosanna” is the key word here. It means “save us!” (The Romans won’t notice that the real meaning is “Save us from the Romans.” “Restore an independent Israel – like David’s kingdom!”) It was all very political.

Yeshua has heard that one of the main organizers of the demonstration is the guerrilla Zealot called Barabbas. Barabbas doesn’t call what’s planned a “demonstration.” He prefers the term “The Uprising” or “the Insurrection” (Mk. 15:6-8).

Barabbas has a following as enthusiastic as that of Yeshua. After all, Barabbas is a “sicarius” – a guerrilla whose solemn mission is to assassinate Roman soldiers and their Jewish collaborators. His courage has made him a hero to the crowds. (Scripture scholar, John Dominic Crossan compares him to the Mel Gibson character in “The Patriot.”)

Yeshua’s assigned part in the demonstration will be to attack the Temple and symbolically destroy it. He plans to enter the building with his friends and disrupt business as usual. They’ll all loudly denounce the moneychangers whose business exploits the poor. They’ll turn over their tables.

As a proponent of nonviolence, Yeshua and his band are thinking not in Barabbas’ terms of “uprising,” but of forcing God’s hand to bring in the Lord’s “Kingdom” to replace Roman domination. Passover, the Jewish holiday of national independence could not be a more appropriate time for the planned demonstration. Yeshua is thinking in terms of “Exodus,” Israel’s founding act of rebellion.

And yet, this peasant from Galilee is troubled by it all. What if the plan doesn’t work and God’s Kingdom doesn’t dawn this Passover? What if the Romans succeed in doing what they’ve always done in response to uprisings and demonstrations? Pilate’s standing order to deal with lower class disturbances is simply to arrest everyone involved and crucify them all as terrorists. Why would it be different this time?

So before setting out for Jerusalem, Yeshua takes his three closest friends and ascends a mountain for a long night of prayer. He’s seeking reassurance before the single most important act of his life. As usual, Peter, James and John soon fall fast asleep. True to form they are uncomprehending and dull.

However, while the lazy fall into unconsciousness, the ever alert and thoughtful Yeshua has a vision. Moses appears to him, and so does Elijah. (Together they represent the entire Jewish scriptural testament – the law and the prophets.) This means that on this mountain of prayer, Yeshua considers his contemplated path in the light of his people’s entire tradition.

According to the Jews’ credal summary in Deuteronomy 26, their whole national story centered on the Exodus. Fittingly then, Yeshua, Moses, and Elijah “discuss” what is about to take place in Jerusalem. Or as Luke puts it, “And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Yeshua’s Exodus!!

It is easy to imagine Moses’ part in the conversation. That would be to remind Yeshua of the chances Moses took when he led the original Exodus from Egypt. That might have failed too. Nevertheless . . .

Elijah’s part was likely to recall for Yeshua the “prophetic script” that all prophets must follow. That script has God’s spokespersons speaking truth to power and suffering the inevitable consequences.

Elijah reminds Yeshua: So what if Barabbas and those following the path of violence are defeated again? So what if Yeshua’s nonviolent direct action in the temple fails to bring in the Kingdom? So what if Yeshua is arrested and crucified? That’s just the cost of doing prophetic business. Despite appearances to the contrary, Yeshua’s faithful God will somehow triumph in the end.


Is there a message in today’s reading for Marianne Williamson, who is undoubtedly the best equipped public figure to take on the essentially spiritual role of Peace Candidate?

I think there is.

The readings call her to:

  • Insist that we’ve indeed all be grasped by a “dark psychic force” that ignores shared humanity and sees war as a first option rather than as a last resort.  
  • Be transfigured into 2024’s Peace Candidate by heeding Moses, Elijah, and Yeshua, the champions of her native Jewish faith.
  • Be transformed as well by listening to the world’s non-western, mostly non-white majority and their reluctance or downright refusal to endorse U.S. insistence on controlling the world far from its own shores.
  • Recognize that in line with the teachings of A Course in Miracles, the U.S. and NATO are 100% responsible for the Ukraine crisis.
  • Call for an immediate ceasefire and diplomatic negotiations to end the war.
  • Go for broke by ignoring those who will characterize her opposition to the war as naïve and unrealistic – as if risking nuclear annihilation were more sophisticated and mature.
  • Truly embrace the teachings of A Course in Miracles that identifies the source of peace in its refusal to be frightened by non-existent threats and attacks.
  • Or as The Course puts it: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the PEACE of God.” (Emphasis added)

About Ukraine, Even Marianne Williamson Has Sold Out To Imperialism & Conventional Thinking 

Readings for the first Sunday of Lent: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51: 3-17; Romans 5: 12-19; Matthew 4: 1-11

This is the first Sunday of Lent. It’s that miraculous time of year when followers of Yeshua call into question their ways of life – the way they eat, drink, read, and think.

It’s also an intense time for questioning convention – the way the culture reasons, its values, its tales, and narratives. It’s a time for facing the fact that the world’s key perceptions stand 180 degrees opposite those of the Master.

That’s how Marianne Williamson describes miracles. Remember her?  She’s the best-known exponent of the modern handbook on Christian mysticism called A Course in Miracles (ACIM). She ran for president in 2020 and hints that she’ll run again in 2024. She describes miracles as changes in perception that completely contradict the world’s “wisdom.”  

I bring up Marianne Williamson, today not only for the Lenten and political reasons just mentioned, but because her recently articulated position on the Ukraine war contradicts the spirit of Lent just described. More to the point, it contradicts Marianne herself as well as A Course in Miracles.

As such, it reminds us of the seductive power of American culture based on arms manufacture, war, and deception. Ironically, what I’ll describe as Williamson’s fall from grace and from her own ideals represents a wake-up call not only for her, but for those who would take Lent seriously.

Accordingly, what follows will share Ms. Williamson’s recent thoughts about Ukraine as utterly conventional and (in her terms) completely un-miraculous. I’ll contrast them with the example of Yeshua found in today’s readings for the first Sunday of Lent. There, in the spirit of ACIM, he completely rejects as intrinsically evil any possibility of endorsing empire of the type embodied in the United States’ and NATO’s policy in Ukraine.

My hope is that in the name of the gospel and even ACIM, my words might lead readers to reject the conventionality of the world’s “wisdom” as found in the official narrative Williamson so shockingly endorses.

Marianne Williamson     

Let me begin by saying that I feel I know Marianne Williamson. I like her. I used to think of her as a lone prophetic voice in an American political context dominated by warmongers and short-term thinkers with no historical perspective. In fact:

  • I’ve been a longtime student of A Course in Miracles and have started a podcast called “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.”
  • I once had dinner with Marianne and a few colleagues when she came to speak at Berea College where I taught for 40 years.
  • Afterwards, we spent two hours in personal conversation as my wife and I drove her and Marianne’s secretary to the Cincinnati airport.
  • Subsequently, we even exchanged ideas entertaining the possibility of a shared writing project connecting the teachings of Jesus (my focus as a liberation theologian) and A Course in Miracles.
  • I actively supported Marianne’s candidacy during her 2020 run for president,
  • Attending rallies, campaign speeches, and a debate in her support,
  • And publishing 9 articles on OpEdNews to that effect.

You can imagine, then, my disappointment when I read a piece she published last week called “The Tragic Conundrum of Ukraine.” My disappointment stemmed from the fact that the brief essay uncritically parroted the liberal, neocon, U.S. party line about Ukraine. – anything but the “miraculous” thinking she describes and advocates.

Marianne’s words reflected the ambition of a woman intent again on running for president in 2024 and therefore in need of assuring the public: Don’t worry, I won’t be reluctant to kill designated enemies like the Russians. Or as Williamson herself put it, “As president I would always seek to avoid the use of military force, yet I would not shy away from it if I felt it necessary.” (Emphasis added)

You can’t get more conventional than that.

More specifically, here’s what she said:

  • Despite her support for the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace to counterbalance the egregious influence of America’s military industrial complex,
  • And despite the U.S. track record in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere,
  • The U.S. still retains moral authority to condemn Russia and conduct what she evidently judges as its “surgical” interventions in Ukraine.
  • After all, countless U.S. interventions (often halfway across the world) were “misadventures” and “mistakes” (not crimes) while Russia’s special military operations on its own borders are cynically illegal and therefore subject to unequivocal condemnation — even by those living in glass houses.
  • Russia must therefore be stopped by “the Western World” (i.e., the predominantly white 20% that includes the traditional colonial powers like the U.S., EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
  • While ignoring (she omits saying) the reluctance or downright refusal of 80% of the (colonized, mostly non-white) world to go along – including China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia – virtually the entire Global South.

In Williamson’s pro-war position, there was no mention of historical context. Nothing about the facts that:

  • By all accounts Ukraine’s government is one of the most corrupt in the world and prominently includes Nazis and Nazi sympathizers.
  • The war in Ukraine did not begin on February 24th, 2022, but with a U.S. sponsored Ukrainian coup in 2014 that ended up with Kyiv killing more than 13,000 civilians in the country’s Russia-friendly Donbass region.
  • The stated objectives of U.S. policy in Ukraine have long been regime change in Moscow and the weakening and even balkanization of Russia.
  • In pursuit of those aims (according to the current German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Analena Baerbock) the war is NATO’s. In other words, NATO is using Ukrainians as proxies for the alliance’s war against Russia.
  • According to former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, NATO had no intention of observing the Minsk Peace Agreements that would have prevented the conflict.
  • The U.S. ignored Russia’s diplomatic overtures in the runup to its special military operation.
  • Similarly, (according to Israel’s former prime minister Naftali Bennett) a month into the war, Moscow and Kyiv had achieved progress towards a negotiated settlement to the conflict only to be overruled by NATO.
  • U.S. history, its Monroe Doctrine, and constant violent interventions in its hemisphere show that America would act no differently from Russia in the case of similar circumstances in its “backyard.”

How disappointing is all of that coming from an advocate of miraculous, non-conventional, re-conceptualizations?

Today’s Readings

Moreover, Williamson’s reasoning (or its lack) amounts to a contradiction of Yeshua’s own example in today’s featured selection from the Gospel of Matthew. There, the Master rejects empire and its endemic wars out of hand as the invention of the world’s Evil Spirit.

Recall the scene. It’s the famous story of Yeshua’s temptations in the desert. With variations, it is contained in all four of the canonical gospels.

Jesus has just been baptized by John. In Luke’s version, a voice has told him that he is somehow the “Son of God.” He goes out to the desert to discover what that might mean. Yeshua is on a vision quest. He prays and fasts for 40 days.

Afterwards come the visions of devils, angels, and of his own life’s possibilities. Satan tests him. In Matthew’s account, the culminating enticement is unmistakably imperial. It occurs on a high mountain. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth – an empire much vaster than Rome’s. The tempter says, “All of this can be yours, if only you bow down and worship me.” Jesus refuses. He says, “Be gone, Satan! It is written, the Lord God only shall you adore; him only shall you serve.”

In other words, Matthew endorses a tradition that has Yeshua rejecting empire in no uncertain terms. The story at the beginning of the accounts of Jesus words and deeds establishes him as fiercely anti-imperial. Empire belongs to Satan and has nothing to do with Life’s Source.

No hint of such thinking is found in Williamson’s piece about Ukraine. Instead, she supports “the west’s” right to determine the trajectory of world history even in the face of its rejection of diplomacy and the reluctance and/or refusal of 80% of the world to condemn what it evidently sees as none of its business.

And why does she abandon “miraculous thinking” when it’s needed more than ever? I must confess that I can’t answer that question for sure.

My guess is that it comes from realization on her part that miraculously contradicting conventional thinking would not serve her presidential ambitions. Empire on the one hand versus Christianity and miracles on the other prove simply incompatible.

Put otherwise, it seems that for Williamson, in the choice between presidential aspirations and A Course in Miracles practicality wins out. ACIM loses.   


I still like Marianne Williamson. She is a nice lady and an effective spiritual teacher. Her explanations of A Course in Miracles have helped millions (including me) to improve our lives.

However, her essay shows that the world’s wisdom is a difficult beast to tame. Attempting to do so will likely get one cancelled. It will certainly eliminate you as a viable presidential candidate.

That means to get along in our culture and certainly to run for president, one must:

  • Lie.
  • Stop thinking contextually.
  • Or historically.
  • Or unconventionally.
  • Critically
  • Or miraculously

I regret to say that I expected more from Marianne Williamson. Lent expects more from all of us.

Tarot: Last Six Cards of Major Arcana

In this final posting on the last six cards of the 22 Major Arcana (including Card # 0, the Fool’s) we’ll look at the remaining portrayals of the classic stages of spiritual growth. Remember, the first of those seven cards was The Devil reviewed at the end of my last blog entry. The Devil represented the Fool’s realization that something is deeply wrong within himself and in the world.

16. The Tower: With that realization, the Fool’s inner world comes crashing down. Discouraged and devastated, s/he sees that structural change and rebuilding (both inner and outer) is required, because his or her “tower” though apparently founded on rock is crumbling nonetheless. S/he looks to the stars for help. [This is a highly symbol-rich card. To begin with, its number, 16 = 1+6= 7; and that connects with#7 of the Major Arcana, viz., the Chariot card which is all about movement and finding control and mastery over opposing forces. Here the movement is downward and deconstructive as symbolized by the card’s black background and prominent gray clouds. Also centralized in the card is the couple we’ve already met in card #6 (the lovers) and in card #15 (the devil). We’re evidently watching the downfall of the basically masculine (phallic symbolled) ivory tower which has been struck by a bolt of lightning and is on fire. There are two crowns in this image, one at the top of the tower signifying the dissolution of some imperious order and the other on the head of the female figure who is falling upside down (i.e., in the hanged man position) on the card’s right. Her crown remains fixed firmly on her royal head. However, her spiritual viewpoint (designated by the color blue) is in complete transition. The same is true for the male figure whose accompanying passions are signified by the color red. This card suggests radical change.]

17. Star: The priestess’ star reappears when the Fool needs it most. The new, healthier ideas the stars represent guide the Fool into the future. “Follow your star” is the message here. [As opposed to the previous card, # 17 is calm and encouraging. This card is about cosmic order, hope, peace, ease, relaxation, persevering, and hanging on. The unclothed female figure has dropped all the pretense of royal robes, crowns, and symbols of power. She is concerned only with heavenly order, purifying water, connecting with the collective unconscious (symbolized by the pool) and with the earth itself (shown by her left-side intuitional knee kneeling on the earth’s surface). There are seven prominent but minor stars in the card’s image referring to the body’s seven chakras — as well as a large and bright golden central star that connects with the golden hair of the card’s central figure. The card’s protagonist is enlightened and following her star. Though her weight is on her forward foot, that foot is not submerged. The figure can walk on water. In some sense, she is the card’s star. In the background perched in something like the Tree of Life, a scarlet Ibis bird is about to take flight. In Egyptian mythology, the scarlet Ibis was considered the earthly manifestation of Thoth, the god of wisdom.]

18. Moon: The mystic moon provides relief from darkness. But it is mysterious and uncontrollable. The sleep suggested by the moon generates insights and clarity, but also nightmares, anxieties, and fears. [The moon card represents the 4th stage of spiritual unfolding (after the Devil, the Tower, and the Star). It evokes reflection on sleep and the insights that occur during that inevitable process. Sleep provides time for personal repair and reorganization at physical, psychological, and spiritual levels. In fact, this card means “Sleep Brings Counsel.” Its background mountains remind the querent not to be deceived by the highs and lows of any day or by the past itself. Instead, s/he’s called to advance steadily towards the uplifting mountainous horizons towards which a moon-illuminated golden path wends its way. The card is also about evolution. A dog and its evolutionary predecessor, a wolf, join together to bay at the moon. The dog, of course, has evolved from wolves to become the “best friend” nature has provided human beings. Similarly, the crayfish-like creature arising from the pool of the collective unconscious recalls our mind’s origins from that pool where both imagination and confusion reside. The twin towers that frame the card invite the querent to pursue wisdom beyond the boundaries of the known. The moon itself profiled in this 18th card reminds the attentive reader of the ninth (Hermit) card in the Major Arcana (1+8=9). Like the profiled hermit with his lamp, the profiled moon comes each night to teach us (through dreams and our especially precious thoughts just before sleep arrives) what we have learned during the day as well as during our entire lives.]

19. Sun: But the night doesn’t last forever. The sun shines brightly with a promise of homecoming and return. The Fool can now answer his child’s questions with joy, love, and positivity. At last s/he is at peace enjoying the good, the true, and the beautiful. [This card is about rebirth, happiness, and illumination. The haloed, reborn, and unclothed child finds her/his place bathing in the sun’s illuminating rays and seated on a white horse amid sunflowers. This is a triumphant card evoking joy and new beginnings.]

20. Judgment: The Fool has now returned to his interior ancestral castle. S/he is ready to share with others all that has been learned during a life of wandering, trial, and triumph. The Fool’s inner work has been completed. S/he is at peace with the past. [This card is about a journey completed. Its message is “Forgive yourself; lay your past to rest; let go of all past selves.” It is about resurrection and release. Note that the familiar man and woman from the Lovers’, Devil, and Tower cards have changed sides. The man now stands on the left, the woman on the right. This suggests that they have successfully appropriated their complementary animus or anima. The flag pictured below the angel’s right elbow is that of St. George noted for the bravery and chivalry it has taken to complete the Fool’s journey.]

21. The World: As a final step, the Fool embraces the world while knowing that the whole cycle is about to begin once again in life’s endless circle. However, this time his/her journey will not be foolish, but that of an evolved Page, Knight or Female Warrior — all to be centralized in Tarot’s Minor Arcana [Here notable symbols include those for the four Christian Gospels which we already saw on the corners of the Wheel of Fortune card (#10). Matthew is portrayed as an angel, Mark as a lion, Luke as an ox, and John as an eagle. Their appearance here indicates that the gospels’ overriding concern is Life here below not principally life al di la in the heavens. The same goes for the unclothed woman at the card’s center. We met her most recently as the Star in card #17. Here her presence and the card’s number 21 (2+1=3) suggests the High Priestess (the real 3rd card of the Tarot deck — when including the Fool’s “number,” 0) and the Empress card actually numbered as 3. The reference suggests that women, their mysteries, intuition, and closeness to nature are at the center of Life’s circle portrayed in this last card of the Major Arcana. Note that the circle is actually a green astrological ellipse tied together above and below with red ribbons. Their color symbolizes passion, energy, and fire. That same symbolism is conveyed by the Magician’s wands the card’s central figure grasps in her hands. In this last card the previously unconscious Magician and High Priestess are at last consciously integrated. It is interesting to see which figure attains most prominence at the end.]

Cave Dwellers and Cops in Granada’s Albaicin

Protestors gather at Granada’s City Hall to protest evictions of cave dwellers from their homes. The sign on the left reads “San Miguel Hill is a neighborhood.” The big black and white banner says “The Caves Resist.” One of the chants during the protest had us all shouting “La Cueva, Mi Techo, Es Mi Derecho” i.e., “The Cave, My Roof Is My Right!”

As everyone who follows this blog knows by now, Peggy and I have been living in Granada for the past five months. We’ve been in Spain with our daughter, Maggie, our son-in-law, Kerry, and their five children Eva (14 years of age), Oscar (12), Orlando (10), Markandeya (7), and Sebastian (3).

Maggie’s family has been here on sabbatical so that our grandchildren might learn Spanish by attending school where only that language is spoken. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us.

Now Peggy and I are about to return to the States for February and March. We’ll spend most of that time in Florida, and then come back to Spain in April. Our plan is to remain here till the end of June. We’ll then fly on to Rome, where we’ll spend a month or so with our son Brendan’s family. (Brendan State Department assignment will have him living there for the next three years.)

In the meantime, very unexpected things have happened to me in Granada. Here we’ve been living in its Albaicin barrio overlooking the famous 13th century Islamic city, the Alhambra. We’ve walked part of the Camino de Santiago, along with traveling to Madrid (and its Prado Museum), to Bilbao (and its Guggenheim Museum), as well as driving to Tarifa (with its nearby Roman ruins), to Valencia, and Cadiz (which so reminded us both of Havana).

However, most unexpected of all have been some friendships I’ve made with cave dwellers and street musicians here in the Albaicin. I’ve already written about that here and here. My new friendships have introduced me to a way of life that I truly admire. With one cave dweller I’ve studied the “Mayan Bible” (the Popol Vuh) and have been introduced to Tarot (which I never thought I’d study, but which now greatly fascinates and benefits me).

The cave dwellers are constantly harassed by the police — or as they call them, “the puta policia” (or effing cops). Last week, those harassers once again invaded the caves, cut off their access to water, and destroyed the property of my friends and their neighbors — all in the name of “protecting” those concerned from their unhealthy way of life.

The other day, I attended a rally by about 200 cave dwellers and sympathizers in front of Granada’s City Hall (pictured above). Some have taken to wearing black nail polish on their left hands as a sign of solidarity with the Cuevistas. I surprised (and maybe scandalized) my family members by doing so myself.

In any case, immediately below, you’ll find an account of all this in another of my poor attempts at poetry. I wrote the “poem” so I’d never forget these people I’ve come to cherish and treasure.

Cave Dwellers and Cops 
in the Albaicin’s Plaza Larga
(Jan. 27, 2023)

Since coming to the Albaicin
In Granada five months ago,
Its Plaza Larga has drawn me in,
Its cave dwellers have helped me grow.

Yes, they all live in Cuevas
Dug by gypsies and Moors
They’re troglodytes and drifters
Rebels all to their very pores.

They’re committed to music
Painting, poetry, and Life
Smoking hash and drinking cervezas
To peace and not the knife. 
Yes, the Larga’s a place
For outsiders like me
They’re poor, ill-clad
But happy
Living NOW as all can see.

One of them there
Wears a jellabiya on Fridays
And yells in a voice
Much too loud.

But no one’s upset by his antics
Or his shouting at the crowd
Instead, they roll eyes or support him.
Ridicule’s never allowed. 

I’ve met a man there called Simon
A street busker and shaman indeed
He helps me with my Spanish
Oblivious to any need

Because he’s rich, you see
Not with money, playthings, or goods
But with time, wisdom, and kindness
And absolute freedom from “shoulds.”

There’s another Simon
(I’ve met him).
Much younger and from France
There’s Ida from Denmark
And Ramon from north Spain
And Juan whose Traveler ancestors
Set the Cuevas as their reign. 

There’s a girl from Somalia called Filas
She’s dark, skinny, and profane.
She’s friendly and kissy and cheerful
Eats mushrooms and smokes in a chain.

And I’ve met 
A young man they call ‘Cesco’
He’s moving here this fall
From his home far away in Italia
(Perhaps he’s the wisest of all).

He’s a Bob Dylan scholar and tarotista
(He did my Tarot today)
He knows everything about Dylan
“Desolation Row,” and what his cards say.

So, I’m grateful to Andalusia
For giving me a gift so unexpected, and so fine
Of friendships with the Chusma
It’s been like draughting aged wine. 

Yes, I love crossing borders 
With campaneros like these
I’m grateful to Simon and the drifters
Who do whatever they please.

That is. . ..

If not for the “Puta Policia” . . ..
Anxious to show my friends who’s boss
They harass them and fine them. 
They smash their guitars
Understanding nothing about them
As if coming from Mars

They sack their poor Cuevas
Burn their goods and possessions
Interrupt their love making,
Their meditation sessions.

They render them homeless.
As if that were good
Can you imagine
Cops destroying their food?

But that’s the lot of drifters
Living everywhere it seems.
Of dropouts whose simple existence
Challenges our bourgeois dreams.

The system just can’t stand them
Detesting their sight and smell
So, it robs the poor of the little they have
And sends them all to hell.

I’d know nothing about this
If not for Simon and friends
If not for the Plaza Larga,
Where singing never ends.

If not for my new friendships
If not for Tarot and song
If not for gypsies and buskers
If not for my stay here so long.

So, despite the puta policia,
I’m grateful to be here
Learning from friends in the Plaza Larga
May God remove their fear.

Jesus: “Blessed are YOU Poor” Vs. Matthew: “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Readings for Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: ZEPHANIAH 2:3, 3:12-15; PSALM 146:6-7, 8-10; I CORINTHIANS 1: 25-31; MATTHEW 5: 1-12A.

So we’re a Christian nation, right? At least that’s what right wingers would have us believe, despite the presence of millions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists (and atheists!) among us.

Well, if we’re so Christian, here’s an idea for you. How about posting the Beatitudes in front of U.S. courthouses instead of the Ten Commandments? How about posting them on the walls of our schools, and in front of the White House? Doesn’t that seem more appropriate? I mean the Beatitudes come from the specifically Christian Testament. The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, come from the Jewish Testament.

I predict that will never happen. In fact, I’ll bet you anything there’d be a hue and cry (on the part of Christians, mind you) that would prevent the move. And do you know why? Because the Beatitudes centralized in today’s liturgy of the word are too radical and un-American for the “Christian” right. The Beatitudes make sweeping judgments about classes. They indicate that the rich (evidently no matter how they got their money) are at odds with God’s plan, while the poor (regardless of why they’re poor) are his favorites.

No, I’m not so much talking about the version of the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Matthew which were read in today’s Gospel excerpt. In Matthew, Jesus’ words are already softened. Instead, my reference is to Luke’s probably earlier version that expresses harsher judgments.

Here’s the way, Luke phrases Jesus’ words in Chapter 6 of his Gospel:

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. . .
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Do you see what I mean? Luke’s version doesn’t spiritualize poverty the way Matthew does. Matthew changes Jesus’ second-person statement about poverty (“Blessed are you who are poor”) to a third-person generalized and spiritualized “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Similarly, Luke’s “Blessed are you who are hungry now” becomes “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice” in Matthew.  In this way physical hunger is turned into something spiritual or psychological. Obviously, Matthew’s community was not as poor as Luke’s – or as the people Jesus habitually addressed.

In fact, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition is so valuable exactly because – unlike most of ancient literature – it represents the lore of poor people about their relationship with God.

Granted, that tradition became the object of class struggle about 1000 years before Jesus’ time, with the contested emergence of a royal class.

That is, starting with King Saul, the royalty of Judah and Israel tried mightily to turn a poor people’s faith into an ideology supporting the country’s elite. More particularly, under King David, palace oligarchs distorted the divine promise to slaves escaped from Egypt. That promise had been “I will be your God and you will be my people.” David turned it into a promise of a permanent dynasty for himself and his descendants. In other words, the country’s royalty transformed the Mosaic Covenant into a Davidic Covenant serving the elite rather than the poor.

However, the people’s prophets resisted them at every step. We find examples of that in all of today’s readings. For instance, in our first selection, the seventh century (BCE) prophet, Zephaniah, addresses the world’s (not simply Israel’s) poor. With his country’s aristocrats and priests in mind, he denounces their lies and “deceitful tongues” and urges them to treat the “humble and lowly” with justice as was prescribed by Moses.

Then with the responsorial Psalm 146 (probably written in the late sixth century) we all found ourselves chanting the words Matthew attributes to Jesus: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of God is theirs.” The “Kingdom of God,” of course, is shorthand for what the world would be like if God were king instead of those corrupt royal classes. The psalmist says that change would bring justice for the oppressed, hungry, imprisoned, physically handicapped, the fatherless, the widow, and the resident alien. All of these were specific beneficiaries of the Mosaic Covenant.

Today’s third reading from I Corinthians promises a connected Great Reversal. There Paul of Tarsus (in modern day Turkey) identifies Jesus’ earliest followers as those who “count for nothing” in the eyes of the world. (Do you see the return to the Mosaic Covenant?)  Jesus followers are riffraff. Paul identifies them as unwise, foolish, and weak. They are lowly and despised. Yet in reality, Paul assures his audience, the despised will finally be proven wise and holy. Ominously for their betters, Paul promises that those who count for nothing will reduce to zero those who in the world’s eyes are considered something.

Jesus, of course, appears in Zephaniah’s and Paul’s prophetic tradition as defender of the poor and the Mosaic Covenant. Matthew makes that point unmistakably by changing the location of Luke’s parallel discourse. In Luke, Jesus announces the Beatitudes “on a level place” (LK 6:17). Matthew puts Jesus “on a mount” for the same sermon. His point is that Jesus is the New Moses who also received the Old Covenant on a mount (Sinai). Put otherwise: the so-called Beatitudes represent the New Law of God.

That’s why it makes more sense to place the Beatitudes on a plaque in front of our courthouses, on the walls of our schools, and in front of the White House.

But as I said, don’t hold your breath. Can you imagine our super-wealthy politicians (not to mention their donors) having to read Luke’s words every day?

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, 
for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

No, in its essence, the Judeo-Christian tradition belongs precisely to poor people. It belongs to those whom Americans in general think “count for nothing.” As Paul intimates, those are the very ones who will rise up and reduce to zero those who in the world’s eyes are considered something.

That message is no more welcome today than it was 2000 years ago.


Tarot: Cards 11-15

This is the third in my series on Tarot. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover for myself how helpful the cards have become for making sense of my spiritual and material life.

Each morning, first thing, I do a Tarot reading. As previously mentioned, I “throw” three cards. The first yields a preview of the coming day, since it is meant to express the hidden “energy” of what lies before me. The second card is about gratitude; it reminds me of what I’m particularly grateful for in my long life. The final card (which I place between the other two) suggests what or whom I should incarnate during the coming day. For instance, this morning the latter was Card 14 as pictured below. I took it as a call to incarnate my patron saint, Michael the Archangel. (Look below for the explanation.)

During the day, I leave the cards out. I glance at them as the day unfolds. Their meaning deepens as I do so.

As I’ve said before, Tarot is like a 78 page book. It’s living, dynamic, and interactive — and uncanny in its practical inspiration.

What follows are the cards of focus today. Remember, the Major Arcana outline everyone’s story of passage from status as a naive “Fool” (card zero) to deeper levels of awareness.

So far the Fool we’ve been following is unaware of his/her true inner Self, a blended Magician and mysterious Priestess. The Fool has received instruction from the mother figure in his/her life (the Empress), and from a father figure (the Emperor). The Fool has also gone to school and church, where s/he’s learned community traditions and rules from representatives of a Hierophant or Pope. Then came Love, Conflict, and the early dawning of some kind of critical awareness that imparted a kind of inner Strength to think autonomously. This drove the Fool to introspection in his/her Hermit phase which brought wisdom about the nature of life as a spin of the Wheel of Fortune with an accompanying need for self-forgiveness.

The story unfolds from there in the following 5 cards:

11. Justice: From introspection and the wisdom it imparts, the Fool realizes that justice – i.e., balance between worldly achievement and care for others – is necessary to start a new chapter in life. [Here Lady Justice is pictured as a royal figure. She holds the sword of clear thinking in her right hand and the scale of justice in her left (the side closest to her heart and its intuition). The red hue of Lady Justice’s robes indicates her passion for fairness. Her golden crown and corresponding cape as well as the “halo” above the violet background drape call attention to her connection with Life’s Great Source of enlightenment and illumination. Violet is the color of integration of masculine and feminine characteristics. Achieving justice is a highly spiritual affair that combines the best of both genders. The closed-in pillars on either side of Lady Justice indicate a commitment to a path that is “straight and narrow.”]

12. Hanged Man: Since the world is committed to injustice, the Fool now finds herself/himself suspended between two contradictory worlds. As a result, s/he feels called to adopt a new upside-down perspective on life. Though uncomfortable, s/he realizes that former perceptions of “truth” were nothing but simple repetitions of “teachers’” opinions. [Notice the golden halo around the upside-down figure. This is a stage of enlightenment that is highly spiritual (indicated by the Fool’s blue tunic). Enlightenment also includes coming to grips with the passion of the Fool’s root and sacral chakras (indicated by the figure’s red tights).

13. Death: Seeing the world upside-down makes the Fool realize that spiritual growth will demand “dying” to the inherited opinions which do not belong to the inner Magician/Priestess, but to the Empress, Emperor, Hierophant, and other lesser authority figures. The Fool is now ready for rebirth, improvement, and transformation. S/he is wiser and more confident – ready to begin Life’s next chapter. [Virtually everyone who has ever heard of Tarot know of the Death Card. Close examination, however, reveals nothing to fear. Though the card can be about impending physical illness and/or death, 99.9% of the time, it’s about change — death to old ways of thinking and acting and imminent new beginnings (indicated by the sun rising in the “eastern” part of this card framed by two “Towers of Hermes” — the ancient symbol for the boundaries of the known.) That the card is about spiritual death to the past and subsequent transformation is indicated by the very prominent white horse and the white rose adorning the the black flag. The skeleton riding the horse directs attention to the most lasting part of our physical form. The dead and crownless royal figure beside the horse tells the truth that death is the great leveller; it comes to everyone regardless of positions attained during life. Then there’s the young girl turned away from the approaching horse; she seems to be in denial. Meanwhile, the small child holding out a bouquet seems to be more open to death’s approach (as young children often are). The bishop in golden robes is facing the horse directly. Is he bargaining with death? Notice the river (Styx) in the background with a small boat floating down this traditional image for life’s journey. In summary, the Death Card represents the void between death and rebirth.

14. Temperance:  Preparing to enter that void involves living temperately – in peace, patience, balance, and harmony. It invites us to choose the middle path between extremes. [The powerful symbolism of this card is undeniable — especially for someone blessed with the name Michael. Notice the angel’s powerful wings tinged with red, the color of passion, energy, and activity. The angel is pouring water (the symbol of life itself) from one cup to another in a motion of giving and receiving (from the left, heart-centered hand, to the right, intellect-centered hand). Note that the angel has one foot on dry land and the other dipped in the water attempting to balance the mystical and physical realities of life. That same message of balance is indicated by the middle path behind the angel as it wends its way towards the sun. The flowers on the card are irises named after the Greek messenger-goddess. They are symbolic of hope, valor, trust and wisdom. The angel’s golden third eye under a head of golden hair also symbolize enlightenment and illumination. The gold triangle (spiritual energy) over “Michael’s” heart chakra is hemmed in by a black square (earth) again speaking of balance or temperance.

15. The Devil: But transformation and transfiguration also mean confronting the world and its extreme values of pride, covetousness, lust, anger, envy, sloth, and gluttony. It means confronting the devil, evil itself along with addictions and destructive impulses. The Fool now knows that s/he has a choice. S/he does not have to live like everyone else. [This is a very intense card – very dark (the background is entirely black). However, it signifies one’s desire to make a change. This 15th card is the first of the Major Arcana’s final seven cards that depict the seven stages of spiritual enlightenment. This initial stage is about “Consciousness of Bondage.” (If we don’t know we’re bound, we can never achieve freedom.) When the card comes up, it indicates that one is yearning for freedom. This devil card is about addictions, unhelpful habits, and giving our power away. Note that the man and woman pictured here are the same figures that appeared in card # 6, the Lovers’ Card. Here however they are bestialized with horns on their heads and now wearing long tails. The man’s tail is on fire signifying sexual passion. The woman’s tail relates to grapes perhaps connecting this picture with wine and alcohol. (As we all know, sex and alcohol are major human addictions.) Key to understanding the card is the hand gesture of the pictured devil. It is an ancient mudra that signifies “What you see is all there is.” That of course is the devil’s basic assertion – a denial of the unseen spiritual realm. It has the devil seated on a half-cube signifying his connection with half-knowledge rather than whole. This denial makes it easier for humans to sell their souls and make Faustian bargains. Unlike the Hermit’s lamp in card # 9, the devil’s torch is turned upside down setting aflame the man’s tail (passions?). In terms of escaping the devil’s thrall, it is interesting to note that the chains around the man and woman are very loose and could easily be removed. This suggests that the bondage in question is purely illusionary. Think of this card as the inverse of Tarot Card #1, the Magician, whose right hand was fully extended upward pointing to the reality of the spiritual realm. Questions suggested by this card include:

  • What am I addicted to?
  • What primal need are my addictions attempting to meet?
  • How can I meet them in a more constructive way?
  • Which addiction am I ready to break free from?
  • To whom or what am I giving my freedom away?
  • What fears relate to my addictions and/or unhelpful habits?

Stay tuned for my next installment on Tarot. It will address the final six cards of the Major Arcana.

“Indecent” Women Doing Liberation Theology Without Underwear: Saints Tina Turner & Chuck Berry

What is the connection between liberation theology and its feminist theologians refusing to wear underwear while writing their articles and books? That’s right: no underwear.

And what is the connection of their resulting theology with the poor lemon vendors in Buenos Aires who, also without underwear, squat defiantly in their full skirts and urinate on the sidewalks in front of watchful and disapproving city police? (Meanwhile, the lemon sellers complain about their “shi*ty priests”, “mafia politicians” and those “puta policia” – fu*kin’ cops).

And what about the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, who proudly display their completely unrobed bodies on so many contemporary internet sites? Presumably many of them identify as Christians. But by religious standards, isn’t such display “indecent?”

And finally, is there any relationship between feminist theologians and those Argentine lemon sellers, on the one hand, and rock ‘n’ roll music, Tina Turner, and Chuck Berry on the other.

The late liberation theologian Marcela Althaus-Reid (1952-2009) provocatively raised and addressed questions like those during her brief career as Senior Lecturer in Christian Ethics, Practical Theology, and Systematic Theology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. In doing so, she shed light on women’s rebellions against oppressive patriarchal norms across the planet.

You know what I mean. Think about the reaction to the effective repeal of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. Think of those Muslim women in Iran who cut their hair in public and refuse to obey the “morality police.” Even consider, if you can, the unspoken meaning behind those mature women around the world who provocatively display their unclothed bodies online for all to see.

Althaus-Reid argued that the above are all doing what she called “Indecent Theology.” Here the reference is to her thesis from her 2004 theological potboiler, From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology: Readings on Poverty, Sexual Identity, and God.

Because of the important light the book sheds on the feminist rebellions just referenced, as well as on liberation theology itself, please consider with me what Althaus-Reid means. Consider the relevance of indecency to liberation theology and to issues like abortion, the morality police, what some might call “pornography,” as well as to patriarchy in general. Consider its connection to rock ‘n’ roll and to popular “saints” like the recently deceased Tina Turner (1939-2023) and Chuck Berry (1926-2017).

Female Indecency

Althaus-Reid begins by reminding readers that Christianity itself is a highly sexualized affair. It is claustrophobically decent. (In what follows, all references in parentheses are to the book just cited.)

She says it’s not that the morality of the Bible in any way endorses Victorian sexual standards. It does not. Instead, its main concerns are liberation in all the senses (economic, political, and spiritual) that the word “liberation” connotes.

That’s because the Biblical tradition was based on the freeing of slaves from Egypt. Its resulting concern was for the welfare of widows, orphans, and resident aliens. Its prophetic tradition boldly spoke radical truth to priests, kings, and other bosses who legislated against, ignored, and/or exploited the poor.

In general, the biblical tradition promised the latter a new and brighter future. The prophet Yeshua called that future the “Kingdom of God.” By that he meant what the world would be like if God were king instead of the world’s oppressive “Caesars.” Such a world would be turned upside down. Its standards of decency would be transgressed at every turn.

Yet despite such a clear emphasis on social justice, it was the biblical tradition itself that ended up doing a headstand instead of the imperial world order. The revolutionary thrust of “The Book’s” pivotal story was tamed by the kings, princes, and popes of the world (27, 28). Far from being scandalous and revolutionary, the Judeo-Christian tradition thus became the defender of the status quo. Its point became the social control of the revolutionary lower classes, with oppressive standards of decency, especially for women.

And why so much attention to women? It is because of their embodiment of the revolutionary energy that the Greeks called eros. As psychologists and philosophers such as Sigmund Freud and Herbert Marcuse have pointed out, eros represents the basic creative energy of the universe.

In a capitalist patriarchal order dependent on overwork, the powers of patriarchy identify eros in the form of female sexuality as the fundamental factor threatening to undermine their entire project. Hence the powers-that-be covertly vilify women for deliciously “tempting” men to find meaning, fulfillment, happiness, and joy in human (and sexual) relationships that undermine the system’s requirement of “surplus repression” in the form of overwork.

And so, repressive concepts of decency in general and of theological decency in particular emerge to dominate women and, by extension, their potential partners. Theological decency decrees that:

• The woman’s body is a source of temptation

• Therefore, it should be covered by layers of clothing.

• Women need men to regulate female bodies and behavior through special rules written by men and (depending on culture and historical period) governing the integrity of women’s sexual organs, their menstrual periods, and issues surrounding marriage, birth control, abortion, divorce, voting and the ability to own property.

• To do theology (i.e., to speak authoritatively about God even in relation to themselves and their bodily processes), women must earn professional degrees grudgingly bestowed by the patriarchal establishment of academia.

• Therefore, the “degrees” informally awarded by the “School of Life” with its deviant and indecent logic are invalid (14, 32, 137). So is the spirituality resulting from lemon vendors engaging in “witchcraft,” in the informal healing arts, working as midwives, abortionists, and spiritual guides.

Theological Indecency

With all this in mind, feminist liberation theologians like Althaus Reid insist on transgressing the limits of theological decency. They insist that:

• Doing theology is a profoundly sexual act (4, 76). To repeat: this is not because sex was central to Jesus’ preaching. Rather it is because the church has for centuries distorted the teachings of Jesus in the service of the empire, acting in the process as an instrument of social control as explained above. Therefore, theologians are forced to write endless pages refuting such distortions.

• Poor women provide the most radical view of theology (16). Their enforced “otherness” teaches us something new about life and about the Greater Queer that some still insist on calling “God” (19).

• Yes, God is Queer (9, 146) in the sense of exceeding all categories and definitions (175) while subverting decent bourgeois concepts like family. [For those who live on the peripheries of society – under bridges, in slums, favelas and shanty towns, “family” ends up being an oppressive category. It arrogantly invalidates alternative basic social groupings that are just as valid, functional (and dysfunctional) as their bourgeois counterparts (159, 160, 164).]

• Far from being a liberating model for Latin American women, the cult of the Virgin Mary ends up functioning as another instrument of social control, this one aimed directly at women (13, 23, 39, 55). After all, Mary is presented as “a gadget” (88) having sex with God without any pre-coital romantic relationship (85). She does not experience sexual pleasure or orgasm from the union (88). And then afterwards she enjoys no meaningful sex life with her husband, Joseph. Such factors are supposed to set an example for all Christian women.

• Similarly, Jesus himself is strangely asexual: a young Hebrew man with no compañera and no unambiguous sexual interests. He also serves as a model of sexual abstinence (45).

• Thus, Jesus was queer in the sense indicated above: an outcast who rejected and was rejected even by his own family. They thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21). He spent a lot of time in the desert. At least once he was tempted to commit suicide by jumping from the pinnacle of Jerusalem’s Temple itself (170).

• In addition, the evangelical representations of Jesus show him as a victim of the machismo of his own culture (45, 48, 51, 80). Yes, he comes to the aid of a woman considered “impure” because of a menstrual problem (Lk 8, 43-48); and yes, he rejects the male executioners of a woman sentenced to death for adultery (John 8: 1-11). However, Jesus never questions the misogynistic patriarchal laws that govern those situations. He does not reject the laws regarding the stoning of women caught in adultery, nor those that classified menstruating women as “unclean” (6, 13).

• In summary, if liberationists take Jesus’ poverty and otherness seriously along with Paul’s dictum that in Christ there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28), perhaps the best contemporary identification of “the Master” would be a twelve-year-old girl prostituted by two men in a public toilet in Buenos Aires (84).

Unclothed Theology in the U.S.

Those are just some of the reflections of Althaus-Reid operating as a professional theologian. Meanwhile, she points out, her less academically prepared Latinx sisters do their theology based on popular beliefs and practices. Their well-earned degrees come from the school of very hard knocks. Their insights, Althaus-Reid suggests, are no less valid than their sisters’ teaching in places like the University of Edinburgh.  

So, they defiantly continue to honor Santa Evita Perón. She, after all, secured voting rights for Argentine women over the objections of Argentine bishops (79). They also pray to Santo La Muerte (St. Death), Jesús Bandito, and local popular “gangster saints” who are seen as robbing and stealing from the real thieves and criminals who support those who run the government (161). They have “canonized” deceased popular singers like Rodrigo and Gilda offering them prayers and novenas in chapels dedicated to El Angel Rodrigo and La Santa Gilda (157). Those who honor such avatars kneel in church like Althaus-Reid herself without underwear, engulfed, she says, in the fragrance of female sex, and offering fervent prayers to rock stars no doubt considered “indecent” by church authorities.

All of which brings me to rock ‘n’ roll, Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and those unclothed grandmas.

Take the grandmas first. Althaus-Reid I think would see them as doing a kind of negative theology protesting the false church-supported Victorian standards earlier referenced. They take indecency to the extreme not just rejecting underwear, but displaying their bodies completely unclothed — not for personal gain like strippers or aspiring models, but just for the hell of it.     

Their wordless indecency is consistent with Althaus-Reid’s identification of the female body as a privileged locus of rebellion against patriarchal systems of power (45). Such rebellion echoes the status of their sisters in the Global South as “single women” with no visible men (35).

After all, under patriarchy, the skirts that once signified femininity and even priesthood (37), now only convey a deep alienation (20). Set them all aside!

“Do you want indecency?” rebellious women seem to say. “Well, take a look at this! The patriarchs will not tell us how to behave and what to do with our bodies!”

As for rock ‘n’ roll, Tina Turner, and Chuck Berry. . ..  How much saintlier can you get?

During their lives, their music performed the basically feminine function of distracting millions from the overwork mandated by the reigning system denounced by Marcuse. In the process, they brought joy, fun, and happiness to millions of people who ended up attending and participating in the huge liturgies we call “concerts” – even over the protests and askance gazes of uptight Victorians and clergy.  

By the standards of Althaus-Reid nothing could be more constructively indecent and therefore holy. Thank you, Saint Tina! Thank you, holy Chuck! Thank you, dear Marcella.