An 82-Year Old’s First Experience with Marijuana

Well, o.k., I finally did it. I smoked some dope here in Spain.

I had always wanted to. It’s been on my bucket list. But the opportunity never really presented itself – not in all my nearly 83 years of life.

That’s all changed now that I’m in Granada where recreational marijuana is legal and easy to get.

Besides that (as I’ve written in recent posts) I’ve fallen in with a group of Albaycin street musicians. They routinely smoke marijuana mixed with tobacco. They’re always rolling joints, and nobody bats an eye.

As a matter of fact, smoking in general seems very popular here. And down in the gritty Plaza Larga, where I usually meet my troglydite friends, people constantly roll cigarettes.

One reason is because Lucky Strikes and Marlboros are now so expensive. They’re nearly five Euros a pack. Taken together, loose tobacco along with filters and paper (often sold in the same plastic pouch) are much cheaper.   

Nonetheless, my friends tell me that the people of all ages I see in restaurants rolling cigarettes for an after-dinner smoke are probably doing a joint. Again, nobody bats an eye.

Anyway, let me tell you about my recent experience, how it arose, its particulars, and resulting advice from smoking experts.

The Idea Occurs

As I was saying, my musician friends smoke all the time. But they’ve never offered me even a drag. I suppose that has something to do with my age. Also, they know I was a professor in some U.S. college, and a former priest. I think in some weird way, all that related to their never offering. But it made me wonder all the same.  

Anyway, head shops are plentiful here in Granada – especially if you count the omnipresent “Tabacs” where they sell lottery tickets, bus passes, cigarettes, loose tobacco, pipes, bongs, hash grinders, rolling machines, and other cannabis paraphernalia.

So, when I was walking down Calle Puentezuelas a week or so ago, I found myself amid tiendas like those. In fact, there were lots of interesting stores there – especially in the light of my practice with Tarot cards over the last few months. (I’m trying hard to become what they call here a “Tarotista.” I practice every day with readings exploring my own psyche and spiritual state.)

For example, one store not only sells cards, incense, crystals, etc., it also offers Tarot card readings (25 Euros), along with shell divinations, and cigar smoke interpretations (40 Euros). Another store offers similar services for twice the price.

For me, the most interesting shop is a rather large one that has a Buddhist orientation. It sells things like statues, medals, pulseras, fountains, meditation cushions and clothes, prayer flags, and those incense sticks and crystals I mentioned. I often go in there just walking around and looking. Very interesting and somehow calming.

On one of my most recent visits to Puentezuelas, I saw for the first time a shop specializing in legal marijuana. I went in and inspected.

“Just looking,” I said when the clerk asked if he might help. Later, I added, “What would you recommend for a beginner like me?” He showed me a node of “Wedding Cake.”

“This might be a good start,” he said. “It’s pretty mild.”

On impulse, I bought a packet for five euros. Later, I visited a Tabac on the Gran Via Colon and added a plastic grinder along with some paper, filters, and a butane lighter.

I went home, rolled a joint, and lit up.

My First Time

Well, to tell the truth, it wasn’t that smooth.

First, I had a hard time rolling the thing. Yes, I watched a video on YouTube. But that didn’t help much. Eventually though I did get it together — kinda.

Also, before smoking, I watched a well-done cartoon video about a college student’s first experience of marijuana. It was quite entertaining and raised my anticipation level. The student reported:

  • A non-stop laughing fit.
  • Disappearance of time-consciousness.
  • Seeing the colors of everything like trees, flowers, billboards, cars, and clothes with greatly enhanced hues and degrees of intensity.
  • Experiencing his feet and hands growing by meters in extension.
  • But being able nonetheless to walk with delight and exhilaration.
  • Having such a good time that he smoked another joint immediately afterwards.
  • With similar effect.

So, with all that in mind, as I said, I lit up.

At first nothing happened. After my first couple of drags, I started coughing. But I finished the joint anyway.

In a few minutes, I could feel my perceptions changing. It was like I was getting drunk. So, I went to my room and stretched out in bed.

Then I realized:

  • I had no urge to laugh.
  • My mouth was extremely dry.
  • My tongue felt swollen.
  • I couldn’t get out of bed.
  • If I were to try, I I’d fall down for sure.
  • I was immobile.
  • I felt completely drunk.
  • For about an hour.

Expert Advice (from Three)

1.     Matteo’s Counsel

The next day, while doing my daily walk down the Gran Via Colon in Granada’s center, I came across Matteo, a young musician friend from Italy. As usual, he was carrying his guitar uncovered despite the season’s slight drizzle.

We stopped and talked. I told him of my experience with “Wedding Cake.”

“Oh, that’s no good,” he said. “That’ll never get you high. Here, let me share what I smoke.”

So, then and there on the Gran Via, in front of the Cathedral, in that slight shower, he rolled me a joint all the while giving me step-by-step instructions about doing it right.

“Try that,” he said.

I went home and did.

Same effect as described above.

2.     Simon Knew Better

The next day, I spoke with my closest street smart friend, Simon. He’s the busker I first met in the Plaza Larga – the 60-year-old Chilean who’s helping me with my Spanish (with my “Castellano,” he insists on calling it).

Simon had already heard from Matteo about my experimentation and experience. He was laughing about it.

“The problem is,” Simon advised between chuckles, “you’re smoking alone. Also, even the stuff Matteo gave you probably isn’t strong enough for you. Give me ten euros and I’ll buy you some good stuff and we can smoke it together. It’ll get you laughing in no time.”

I gave Simon ten euros.

The next day, we met. We walked to Simon’s favorite haunt near the Plaza Larga, sat on a bench and lit up alternating drags and just talking.

Then it hit me. But it was the same experience I shared earlier. I soon felt completely drunk and unable to walk. My tongue was thick. My mouth was dry. And I was slurring my words. It was an hour before I dared to get up from that bench. The weed hadn’t produced even a smile.

I resolved that my experimentation was over. I don’t like that drunk feeling.

3.     Mauricio’s and Filson’s Guidance:

Nevertheless, the next day, when I went up to our roof patio overlooking the Alhambra’s environs, I found Mauricio, a 60-something next-door neighbor, smoking weed on the adjoining patio. He was talking and toking with Filson, a young African woman from London. Mauricio is a pianist from the Netherlands. Filson is a writer and lives in a cave not far from Simon’s. I had met her previously in the Plaza Larga, where we had talked about mushrooms.

Anyway, I had gone up to the patio for my morning coffee and tostada. I noticed the two smoking, so I interrupted. I told them of my two recent experiences with marijuana.

A suddenly interested Mauricio said, “Oh, that’s because the weed you smoked wasn’t the best. Here, let me give you some of mine. No, I insist. Take it. It’s great. See if it makes a difference.”

Mauricio went inside and returned with a handful of the stuff he was recommending.

“Anyway,” he added, “weed isn’t for achieving those changed perceptions that YouTube video described. It’s just about relaxing. Lots of times, when I can’t sleep because of some worries I might be having, I just light up. It relaxes me, and my worries disappear. The other stuff about colors and limb extension is a myth – at least in my experience.” Filson agreed.  


Later, when I told Simon about Mauricio and Filson, he just smiled. He knew of my resolution to smoke no more.  

“Well,” he said, “why don’t you just let me roll you a joint with Mauricio’s stuff? And then when and if you might feel ready for another go sometime in the future, we can smoke it together.”

He rolled and gave me the joint. I put it in a safe place.

I’m still thinking about the matter.

Marianne Williamson vs. Sean Hannity: the Radical Jesus vs. the Mainstream Christ

Readings for Ascension Sunday: Acts 1: 1-11; Psalm 47: 2-3, 6-9; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Matthew 28:16-20

The readings for this Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension Sunday) should be thought provoking for people with ethical concerns around our upcoming presidential election. In that context, they illustrate the mainstream tendency to domesticate the radical social justice teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth – a tendency vigorously resisted by candidate Marianne Williamson.

The tendency in question stemmed from an early church interested in softening Jesus’ identity as firebrand advocate of social justice who was executed by Rome as an anti-imperial insurgent.

Intent on making peace with Roman imperialism, Christianity’s early message sometimes bordered on “You have nothing to fear from us. We’re not troublemakers. The two of us can get along. We’re not interested in politics.”  

The process is especially noteworthy these days when social justice advocate, Marianne Williamson, raises questions of equity on specifically spiritual grounds.

As a longtime teacher of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) that centralizes the voice of Jesus, Ms. Williamson constantly does so in the context of her own insurgent campaign to unseat Joe Biden as president of the United States.

In that context too, Christians have domesticated Jesus. As a result, Ms. Williamson’s policy positions are portrayed as kooky and incomprehensible even by professed Christians who don’t understand Jesus’ program (Luke 4:14-22) as well as Williamson does.

That was illustrated two weeks ago when the candidate appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox news program. (See video at the top of this posting.)

In their exchange Hannity ended up specifically advocating the domesticated Jesus. Meanwhile, Ms. Williamson (without directly referencing Jesus) proposed a political spirituality concerned with Spirit, love, equity, and social justice.

To show you what I mean, let me compare the Jewish Ms. Williamson’s understanding of faith with that of the professed Catholic Sean Hannity. Then I’ll show how the roots of the two versions are found in today’s readings. Finally, allow me to draw an important conclusion relative to the current presidential campaign.

Hannity’s Interview

To begin with, Hannity was completely rude. He hardly let his invited guest get a word in edgewise.

His questions were all gotcha queries. For instance, he tried to associate Ms. Williamson’s call for a wealth tax on Americans earning more than $50 million per year ($50 million!!) with Communism’s motto “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.” He said the concept came from Karl Marx. [Too bad Ms. Williamson hadn’t read my homily of a month ago. She would have been able to counter that the concept originates not from Marx, but from the Acts of the Apostles. (See ACTS 2: 45, 4: 35, 11: 29.)]

Of course, Hannity’s bullying style of constant interruption and talking over his guests was absolutely to be expected. That’s what he does.

However, in terms of today’s homily, what was most interesting was the exchange between the Fox News host and Ms. Williamson about faith.

To that point, Hannity ended by saying, “I gotta ask you about some of the weird stuff you’ve said. You have said, ‘Your body is merely your space station from whence you beam your love to the universe. Don’t just relate to the station, relate to the beams. Everyone feels on some level like an alien in this world because we are. We come from another realm of consciousness and are long way from home.’”

With his probably largely “Christian” audience laughing in the background, Hannity asked derisively, “What the hell does that mean?” Ha, ha, ha!

With admirable calm, Ms. Williamson replied, “I’m really surprised to hear you say that. I would think that you would realize that as a very traditional religious and spiritual perspective – that we are spirits, that God created us as spirits. And that is what we are and are here to love one another. And we don’t feel deeply at home on a spiritual level on this planet because this world is not based on love the way it should be. I believe that agrees with the teachings of Jesus.” (That last sentence is my guess. It was obscured by Hannity’s over-talking interruption.)

Then the ex-seminarian said, “That’s fair answer. I’m a Christian. I believe in God the Father, that God created every man, woman, and child on this earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son, that died and resurrected (confused pause) – uh, came back from the dead – to save all of us from our sins. That’s what I believe.”

Do you see what I mean? Williamson’s faith is mildly in tune with the early church’s most radical ideal of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In tune with Jesus’ teachings, she holds that we are primarily spiritual creatures called to love one another in a world that believes such idealism is “weird stuff.”

Accordingly, Williamson champions what she calls an “economic and political U-turn.” That involves (among many other policy positions) a wealth tax on the super-rich, something like a Green New Deal, and less of our money transferred to the military industrial complex. For her, all that is a practical expression of Ethics I01.   

Meanwhile, Hannity owns a Christianity whose belief supports (as he put it twice in the interview) limited government, more freedom, lower taxes, and energy independence. In his second iteration of his faith, he added “I want borders secure; I want law and order . . . and freedom from the climate alarmist religious cult.”

As a Republican, Hannity was really saying he wants lower taxes for the rich, fewer restrictions on fossil fuel extraction, the right to ignore international law around asylum for refugees, more policing of poor communities, and less environmental regulation. (He evidently hasn’t read Pope Francis eco-encyclical Laudato Si’ that intimately connects the following of Christ with that U-turn Williamson referenced.)

Today’s Readings

This Sunday’s selections describe Jesus’ ascension into heaven. However, taken together the readings indicate a struggle even in the early church between Hannity’s domestication of Christian faith contrasted with Williamson’s position that gently gestures towards Jesus’ radicalism.

According to the story about following Jesus as a matter of this-worldly justice, the risen Master is said to have spent the 40 days following his resurrection instructing his disciples specifically about “the Kingdom.” For Jews that meant discourse about what the world would be like if God were king instead of Caesar. Jesus’ teaching must have been strong. I mean why else in Jesus’ final minutes with his friends, and after 40 days of instruction about the kingdom, would they pose the question, “Is it now that you’ll restore the kingdom to Israel?” That’s a political and revolutionary question about driving the Romans out of the country.

Moreover, Jesus doesn’t disabuse his friends of their notion as though they didn’t get his point. Instead, he replies in effect, “Don’t ask about precise times; just go back to Jerusalem and wait for my Spirit to come.” Then he takes his leave.

The other story endorsed by Sean Hannity is conveyed by today’s reading from Ephesians. It emphasizes God “up there,” and suggests our going to him after death. In Ephesians, Jesus is less concerned about God’s kingdom, and more about “the forgiveness of sin.” For Ephesians’ Pseudo Paul (probably not Paul himself) Yeshua is enthroned at the father’s right hand surrounded by angelic “Thrones” and “Dominions.” This Jesus has founded a “church,” – a new religion; and he is the head of the church, which is somehow his body.

This is the story that emerged when writers pretending to be Paul tried to make Jesus relevant to gentiles – to non-Jews who were part of the Roman Empire, and who couldn’t relate to a messiah bent on replacing Rome with a world order characterized by God’s justice for an imperialized people.

So, they gradually turned Jesus into a “salvation messiah” familiar to Romans. This messiah offered happiness beyond the grave rather than liberation from empire. It centralized a Jesus whose morality reflected the ethic of empire: “obey or be punished.”

That’s the story that has prevailed for most Christians.


When Sean Hannity professed his faith that “Jesus died for our sins,” Marianne Williamson should have asked, “What sins are you referring to?”

As a traditionalist, Hannity was probably thinking about personal failings – especially anything to do with sex.

However, what actually killed Jesus was the Roman Empire and Jesus’ religious community that (like mainstream churches today) cooperated with empire by going along to get along. That sin accounted for Jesus’ death. It was the sin he died for.

Put otherwise, opposing his people’s cooperation with Rome led to Jesus’ crucifixion – a form of capital punishment reserved for insurrectionists, insurgents, and revolutionaries.

Following in Jesus’ footsteps led his early disciples to “weird” practices like wealth redistribution “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.”

Unlike Jesus’ earliest followers, our compromised contemporary (Christian) religious community as embodied in Sean Hannity finds such practices threatening, ridiculous, laughable, and “weird.”

In tune with today’s Ascension Sunday readings, Marianne Williamson’s candidacy reminds us that they shouldn’t be.



I’m Stopped and Frisked by Granada’s Puta Policia

It was an extraordinary experience. As an 82-year-old American tourist, I never anticipated anything like it happening to me in Spain.  

I had spent the early evening in the nearby Plaza Larga with friends I’ve written about previously. It’s become my favorite spot in Granada.

Together, we had done some Tarot Card readings and discussed Bob Dylan, the Frankfurt School of critical thought (especially Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization), conspiracy theories, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the images on the back of U.S. dollar bills, and the direction of “universal history.”

About the latter, I had recommended to Francesco, a brilliant intellectual and bibliophile from Italy, the work of one of my Great Teachers, Argentina’s Enrique Dussel. His work on universal history has been mind-blowing to me. Since he is also an historian, I was anxious to hear Cesco’s evaluation of Dussel’s work.

In the midst of such conversation, as if from nowhere the puta policia (“effin cops” as my friends call them) showed up. There were four of them. – all about the age of 40, around the age of my own children. (Actually, I could have been their grandfather.)

They frisked us all (including me!) and wrote us up in their ledgers. (I’m not sure what they’ll do with the papers they filled out. None of us was given a copy.)

It was a clear exercise of “power over,” of classism and discrimination against people simply because they are poor.

Earlier in the day, I had witnessed something similar in a place they call “El Huerto” (the Garden) where I spend a good deal of time. The Huerto is an extensive park very close to the Alhambra. The still snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada stand breathtakingly in the far horizon.  

The park features a kids’ playground and exercise machines installed especially for elderly people like me. It’s also a gathering place for hippies and street people. Some of them sleep there overnight usually in sleeping bags. It’s also a kind of dog park as evidenced by dog waste lying here and their awaiting the morning visit of street sweepers who keep the Huerto relatively clean.

The place is also “decorated” with graffiti denouncing the puta policia, pledging love to Noemis and Rodrigos, and expressing support for Palestinians and Ukrainians. One of the inscriptions reads “I’m in the love.”

Anyway, I had just finished my morning workout and was sitting in the shade catching my breath.

A young African man sat off to my right, about 20 meters distant.

Then all of a sudden, two police motorcycles converged on him, seemingly from nowhere. They hemmed him in, though he made no effort to “escape.” The cops made him stand up with his hands in the air. They pushed him around a bit, had him empty his pockets, and then patted him down. I watched the whole thing thinking “I should be filming this.” I didn’t dare.

The young man offered no resistance and gave the impression of having gone through the drill many times before. He was harming no one.

I make that observation because my busker friend, Simon, constantly complains about gratuitous police harassment. It’s something I’ve previously written about here. Again, it’s all about classism and criminalization of poverty. When I later told Simon about what I witnessed in the Huerto, he said, “Of course, they harassed him. He’s black.”

In any case, and as I was saying these cops were suddenly on our case too – criminalizing us as we sat around a stone public bench not ten meters away from the outdoor Aixa Restaurant. That’s where I often take breakfast of tostada and café. Aixa’s patrons were enjoying wine, beer, and tapas.  

“You know you’re not supposed to be drinking beer in public, don’t you?” the cops accused, ignoring the diners so close at hand and the fact that no one harasses normal tourists walking around the Albaycin with red-canned Cervezas Alhambra in hand.  

“Empty your pockets, all of you,” they demanded. We all did so obediently. My friends demeanor showed me how to act. Eyes were cast down. No talking back. Serious looks on everyone’s faces. Wordless glances exchanged between us expressing exasperation about the whole reason for the unfolding process.

“They just don’t have enough work,” one of my friends growled sotto voce. He nodded towards the cops.

The latter were especially interested in examining and sniffing the tobacco pouches nearly all my friends carry. (All of them roll their cigarettes.) The cops were looking for marijuana. They found some. It was confiscated.

Then one of them turned his attention to me. “Stand up,” he demanded. I obeyed. “Turn around!” He patted me up and down and actually grabbed my genitals and squeezed them. Again, I’m 82 years old! I’m obviously a tourist. “Por favor!” I objected. The cop was unphased.

[By the way, I find interesting my internal reaction to that manhandling by the cop. I had never experienced anything like that. Afterwards I almost felt guilty – the way women who are sexually assaulted often report feeling.  I thought, “Why did I let him do that?” Should I have resisted or pushed him away? But of course, I couldn’t. That’s because the cop wasn’t really looking for something hidden in my crotch. (What, I, this elderly American tourist was hiding marijuana or something in my drawers?) No, he was asserting power. That’s what law enforcement does everywhere to poor people. It tells people like my friends, “You’re nothing. We can do whatever we want with you. Never forget that. We’re the law!”]

“Show me your identification,” the cop ordered. I obliged producing my residential permit.

“You’re an American, right? Why are you here?”

“I’m a tourist staying with my grandchildren and their parents. We’re all here to learn Castellano.”

“Are these your friends?” the cop asked bruskly.

“Yes, they are,” I confessed.

“They shouldn’t be,” came the reply. “They’re bad people.”

“That’s not my experience,” I said. “They’re some of the finest people I know.”

China’s More “Christian” Approach to Homelessness Than “America’s”

Readings for 5th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 6: 1-7; PS 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19; I PT 2: 4-9; JN 14: 1-12.

This will be a quick “homily” this week — largely to share with you the difference between China and the United States in terms of housing and feeding the hungry.

The point is to show that China’s system is superior to that of the United States relative to concerns of Jesus and the early church as described in today’s readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. (That’s why I embedded the above video about lack of homelessness in China.) In fact, care of the poor, hungry, and homeless has been a recurring theme in our Sunday liturgies of the word since Easter.

Previously we saw that the early Christians practiced a kind of “communism with Christian characteristics.” Remember that? I mean, we’re told that the Christians eliminated poverty in their communities by sharing their goods and property “from each according to their ability to each according to their need” (ACTS 2: 44-45 and 4: 32-35).

China, we saw, is doing something similar and as a result (unlike capitalist economies) it’s succeeded in eliminating extreme poverty for more than 700 million people. That’s unprecedented – and dare I say it, very Christian.

Today’s readings emphasize once again the importance Jesus’ early followers gave to feeding the hungry — specifically, the children of single moms. But the selections also emphasize the Christian ideal of providing decent (and even luxurious) homes for everyone. According to today’s pericope from the Gospel of John, everyone deserves a mansion.

Such provision, the readings tell us, is based on the direct example of Jesus, who, we’re reminded, is the very image of God. Or as John the Evangelist has Jesus say, “I and the Father are one. Whoever has seen me has seen the father.”

Traditionally, those words have been taken to mean simply that “Jesus is God.”

But I’d venture to say that that’s not the most accurate way of putting it. I mean, more penetrating reflection shows that it seems more consonant with Jesus’ words not to say that “Jesus is God,” but rather that “God is Jesus.”

What’s the difference?

Well, it goes like this. . .. Saying that Jesus is God presumes that we all know who God is. However, we don’t.

Oh, we can speculate. And theologians and philosophers throughout the world have done so interminably. Think of the Greeks and their descriptions of God as a Supreme Being who is all-knowing, omnipotent, and perfect. Such thinking applied to Jesus leads to a concept of him that is totally abstract and removed from life as we live it from day to day. The God in question is well removed from the problems of hunger and homelessness addressed in today’s readings.

Those selections do not say that Jesus is God, but that God is Jesus. It’s not that in thinking about God one understands Jesus. It is that in seeing Jesus, one understands God. Jesus says, “He who sees me, sees the Father.”

To repeat: the distinction is important because it literally brings us (and God) down to earth. It means that Jesus embodies God – inserts God into a human physique that we all can see and touch and be touched by.

If we take that revelation seriously, our gaze is directed away from “heaven,” away from churches, synagogues, and mosques. Our focus instead becomes a God found on the street where Jesus lived among the imperialized, and the despised – the decidedly imperfect. In Jesus, we find God revealed in the offspring of an unwed teenage mother, among the homeless and immigrants (as Jesus was in Egypt), among Jesus’ friends, the prostitutes, and untouchables, and on death row with the tortured and victims of capital punishment. That’s the God revealed in the person of Jesus. He is poor and despised, an opponent of organized religion and imperial authority.

Following the way and truth of that Jesus leads to the fullness of life.

Take, for instance, today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It shows us a faith community focused on providing food for those single moms and their children. The first Christians worship a God who (as today’s responsorial puts it) is merciful before all else. That God, like Jesus, is trustworthy, kind, and committed to justice.

So, we sang our response, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” In doing so, our thoughts should have been directed towards the corporal works of mercy which the church has hallowed through the ages. Do you remember them?  Feed the hungry, they tell us; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; visit the sick and imprisoned, bury the dead, and shelter the homeless.

In fact, providing shelter – homes for the homeless – was so central for early Christians that it became a fundamental metaphor for the human relationship to God. So, today’s reading from First Peter describes the early community as a single house whose cornerstone is Jesus himself.

Then in today’s gospel, John refers to Jesus’ Father as the one who provides a vast dwelling with many luxurious apartments. You can imagine how such images spoke to impoverished early Christians who would have been out on the street without the sharing of homes that was so important to early church life.

So don’t be fooled by the upside-down version of Christianity that somehow identifies our land with its homelessness, hunger, and widespread poverty as somehow Godlier that China, where extreme poverty and homelessness have been eliminated.

Rather, remember that God is Jesus. God is the one reflected in the lives and needs of the poor, the ill, and despised. With Jesus, the emphasis is on this world – on eating together, feeding the hungry,
sheltering the homeless, on elimination of poverty, and sharing all things in common. That was Jesus authentic Way – the one followed so faithfully by the early church focused on God’s mercy and the merciful acts it inspires. It should be our Way as well.

So, look at the video above with the example of Jesus and the early church in mind. Notice the contrast (in the video itself) between China’s approach to poverty and homelessness and the laissez faire (i.e., unchristian) approach we have in this country.

Then reflect on the need for (Christian) revolution here in the United States. China shows it’s possible.

The Mainstream Media Finally Discovers Noam Chomsky: For All the Wrong Reasons

For years, many progressives have complained that the mainstream media (MSM) have ignored perhaps the most insightful political commentator in the western world. I’m referring to Noam Chomsky who in a rare moment of recognition was identified (nearly 45 years ago!) by Time Magazine as “arguably the most important intellectual alive today.”

Despite the unaccustomed mainstream kudo, the iconic scholar, social dissident, and progressive hero has for all the intervening years been systematically excluded from news show interviews. He’s virtually never asked for commentary or quoted in the mainstream press.

And why not? After all, he’s the harshest, most relentless critic the MSM has. It’s no stretch to say he’s their Public Enemy #1.

For instance, Chomsky’s magisterial Manufacturing Consent details how organs such as The New York Times (NYT) and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) serve not to inform the public, but to deceive them into accepting public policies that harm not only “Americans” but the entire world. Most recently, he has argued that the only western politician to tell the truth about the Ukraine War is Donald Trump.

One would think such provocative argument (always backed by impeccable documentation) would merit an interview on “Meet the Press” or somewhere on NPR. But no such luck. For the MSM, the otherwise celebrated MIT Professor of Linguistics continues his relegation to a proverbial voice in the wilderness.

However as of last week, all of that has changed. Since then, the MSM has finally taken notice. And when Professor Chomsky declines comment, Rupert Murdoch’s gang (along with “progressive” online commentators) are scandalized by his refusal to engage about what even those progressives characterize as the Wall Street Journal’s “fantastic” journalism. They accordingly shift into cancel culture overdrive.

For instance, Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti hinted they might have to remove from the set of “Breaking Points” a prominently displayed copy of Manufacturing Consent. Kyle Kulinski ruefully described the revelations as a severe “gut punch” discrediting his hero. He just couldn’t get over it.

Why the change?

You guessed it: SEX.

Chomsky’s Sex Scandal

New documents released by The Journal reported that the 94-year-old Chomsky met several times with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein, of course, is the convicted and “suicided” pedophile who probably worked for the CIA and the Israeli Mossad. Chomsky’s meetings, we’re told breathlessly, occurred well after Epstein had been convicted and jailed for soliciting minors for prostitution. So, the esteemed professor must have known.

The document in question was a previously undisclosed Epstein appointment calendar that also included CIA director, William Burns, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Bard College President Leon Botstein. 

This was not a question, everyone hastened to add, of Chomsky’s presence in Epstein’s infamous Black Book; nor is his name listed in any flight log for the pedophile’s “Lolita Express.”

Still, why his silence and abrupt, “It’s none of your business,” when questioned about his admissions that he met several times with the infamous Epstein?

Moreover, we’re told that Chomsky and his wife once even attended a dinner Epstein arranged for them with Woody Allen and his wife – after which (shudder) Chomsky identified Allen as “a great artist.” (How incriminating is that?! I mean, Allen has only 16 Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay – the most such nominations ever.)

Chomsky’s Response

Yep, that’s it. By all accounts, that’s the heart of the scandal. Again, it’s not that the 94-year-old is suspected of having illicit sex. It’s not even that (unlike Bill Clinton) he got a massage from a possibly underaged “masseuse.” Rather, it’s that he met several times with a convicted felon, Jeffrey Epstein, and had dinner with Woody Allen and his wife, that he admired Allen as an artist, and that he reminded suddenly interested journalists of his right to privacy about such matters.

That’s it.

In his own defense, Chomsky reiterates:

  • His private life is no one’s business.
  • He has no moral obligation to disclose information about its details.
  • In any case, the answers to relevant questions about his meeting with Epstein are already in print and so have no need to be rehashed.
  • Moreover, Chomsky invokes “a principle of western law that once a person has served his sentence, he’s the same as everybody else.”
  • And so, as a believer in the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution, Chomsky looked on Epstein accordingly.
  • When reminded that (thanks to U.S. Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta) Epstein’s “punishment” was far less than merited, Chomsky points out that the one to be blamed in that case is Acosta, not Epstein.
  • Finally, Chomsky notes, though Jeffrey Epstein did give large contribution to MIT, he is by no means the worst person to do so. (Chomsky observes for instance that outside his office window at MIT is a university building called The David Koch Cancer Center. Now, in Chomsky’s eyes, that’s the real scandal at MIT. He describes Koch as a candidate for one of the “most extraordinary criminals in human history.” Koch, he says, was responsible for shifting the Republican Party from a moderately sane political organization to being the most dangerous organization in human history which may destroy us all. No one, Chomsky charges says anything about that.)

Thus runs Chomsky’s impeccable, basically libertarian, and anarchistic reasoning.

In addition, we know that:

  • Part of Epstein’s “cover” included his habit of meeting, patronizing, and being photographed with famous people including prominent academics. Michael Wolff’s Too Famous reports that Epstein’s collection of framed photographs included pictures taken with a pope, several U.S. presidents, the Dali Lama, Bill Gates
  • According to former Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz (who despite having been accused of rape by one of Epstein’s underaged “proteges” remains a regular commentator on Murdoch’s Fox News), Epstein maintained relationships with prominent academic leaders to prop up his own social credentials.
  • He accordingly met with top scientists and intellectuals.
  • For their part, the academic leaders in question understandably courted Epstein who had built up a reputation as a generous funder of higher education.
  • It would make sense then for an academic of Chomsky’s stature to function as an MIT fundraiser.


In view of the above, who could be surprised at Professor Chomsky’s “It’s none of your business” impatience with reporters and news sources who have ignored him for years. Of course, he’s impatient with their sudden “interest” not in his trenchant analysis of their own journalistic crimes, but in what turns out to be “human interest” and “personality” issues that ignore his huge body of work and the bigger picture. Such misdirection has for decades been the very target of Chomsky’s criticism in the more than 100 books he has written.

Similarly, the same media so anxious to pursue the superficial, remain strangely incurious and un-investigative in pursuit of the real issues connected with Jeffrey Epstein, viz.:

  • The hidden details of and responsibility for his “suicide.”
  • Epstein’s connections with the CIA and Mossad.
  • The content of the vaults of Epstein’s endless films recording the crimes of the rich, famous, and politically powerful – all now in the possession of U.S. law enforcement agencies.
  • Why no plea deal has been made with Epstein accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, in exchange for what she knows about those same prominent figures.
  • The full details of Epstein’s Black Book.
  • Those Lolita Express flight logs.
  • And why the Epstein records have remained sealed for so long and possibly will remain sealed for decades to come?

And why are progressive media so ready to take seriously the suddenly “fantastic journalism” of Rupert Murdoch’s crowd? Why did they shift so abruptly into Cancel Culture overdrive? Evidently, all is forgiven for Fox News and WSJ, while all is cancelled and forgotten about the incomparable contributions of the previously “most important intellectual alive today.”

Can no one recognize a hit job when they see it? Can’t they recognize the fingerprints of the CIA? Can’t the left identify a classic case of guilt (or character assassination) by association? Why no suspicion that Wall Street Journal and Fox News magnate, Rupert Murdoch have finally seized upon a chance to discredit one of their harshest critics? Why no curiosity about a possible CIA attempt to draw attention away from William Burns’ association with Epstein disclosed on the same appointment schedule with Chomsky’s name on it?

However we might answer such questions, the bottom line here is that Noam Chomsky’s reputation should in no way be sullied by any sensationalism surrounding  this latest “revelation.”

Williamson & RFK Jr. vs. Biden & Harris = Democracy vs. An Unelected Bureaucracy 

Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41; PSALM 23: 1-6; 1 PETER 2: 20B-25; JOHN 10: 1-10

This 4th Sunday after Easter is sometimes called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” That’s because in today’s final reading (Jn. 10:1-10), Yeshua identifies himself in those terms, and the responsorial from the Book of Psalms (23:1-6) is the very familiar selection that begins with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

What often goes unrecognized in such readings are their highly politicized meanings. In Jewish tradition, they describe the qualities scripturally idealized in Israel’s leadership. All of them, “The Book” says should be “good shepherds” at the service of their flocks.

The readings are particularly relevant this week when our incumbent president has declared his intention to run for a second term. His declaration has raised questions about the nature of American democracy.

In addition, he is described by many as running “unopposed,” despite strong challenges from two fellow party members, Marianne Williamson, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK).

In fact, Williamson’s domestic agenda offers a clear alternative to Biden’s. The same is true of Kennedy’s foreign policy directions.

Taken together Williamson and Kennedy suggest an interesting president-vice president duo.

With that in mind, let’s break convention by evaluating Biden and his opposition in the light of today’s liturgical readings.

Biden’s Candidacy & Democracy  

Yes, just last week, octogenarian Joe Biden declared that he wants to be U.S. president for another four years.

Given concerns about his declining mental capacities (and even his biological continence), that’s quite breathtaking.

Nevertheless, it’s okay with the New York Times (NYT). Their morning-after editorial reminded readers that

“Strange as it may sound, the American government can function without a healthy president. The U.S. marched toward victory in World War II while Franklin Roosevelt was ailing in 1944 and 1945. Four decades later, the government managed its relationship with a teetering Soviet Union while Ronald Reagan’s mental capacities slipped. In each case, White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders performed well despite the lack of a fully engaged leader.”

In other words, it’s all happened before. So, don’t worry. It’s somehow the American way. There are historical precedents for governance under incompetent figurehead presidents who willy-nilly have surrendered power to unelected bureaucrats.

And there should be no debate about it.

I mean, it’s also fine with NYT editors that Biden’s simple declaration was enough for the National Democratic Committee (NDC) to decree no need for presidential debates on the Democratic side.

And this despite those two other declared candidates for Democratic leadership, viz., Marianne Williamson and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  

Currently, Williamson is polling in double figures. And if a primary between her and Biden were held today with voters under 50, she would win by a landslide. RFK’s numbers are similarly on the rise. He’s polling at 14% — well above several of Trump’s rivals considered to be legitimate candidates and worthy of debating him.

Nonetheless, no voice for Williamson and Kennedy. No debate. That’s democracy American style.

And by the way, all of this takes no account of the fact that even a clear majority of staunch Democrats though somehow approving of Biden’s first-term performance, wish that the old man would forgo running for a second term.

He’s just too old.

Biden vs. Williamson

All of this raises questions about “American” democracy. Is it really a democracy? I mean apparently, we’ll vote for some old white guy who may well be losing his mind. However, in the end, we’re just choosing neocons like Jake Sullivan, Victoria Nuland, and Antony Blinken and anonymous “White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders”?

What a shame – literally!

In terms of today’s readings, we already know the neocon agenda. It has nothing to do with care for people. They ignore us completely. Their agenda is spelled out clearly by NATO and in the declaration of The Project for the New American Century composed by Victoria Nuland‘s husband, the arms merchant, Robert Kagan. Domestically their program comprises tax breaks for the rich, privatization of public services, and market deregulation. That’s Neoconism. It’s unjust. But old Joe’s promise is that his version will be less painful than the Republicans’ outright fascism.  

Internationally, Biden’s neocon program is:

  • Amerika Uber Alles – i.e., the superiority of 4.1% of the world’s population over the other 95.9.
  • No tolerance of economic or military rivals.
  • Forever wars.
  • Bombing, sanctions, and regime change for the West’s former colonies who dare chart their own paths.
  • In general, keeping the Russians out, Americans in, and the Germans down.
  • Unconditional support for Ukraine

That’s It.

Now compare that with Williamson’s domestic policy. Most prominently, it calls for:

  • Medicare for all.
  • Transformation of our nation’s primary and secondary schools into “palaces of learning.”
  • Universally free college education.
  • Government sponsorship of a serious national conversation about race and reparations.
  • Empowerment of labor unions.
  • Infrastructure spending consonant with a Green New Deal.
  • Redirection of military spending into social programs such as housing and mental health services.
  • Demilitarization of the nation’s police forces.
  • Establishment of a cabinet level Secretariat of Peace.

And then there’s RFK Jr.’s foreign policy that is stronger than Williamson’s which I’ve criticized elsewhere. RFK’s approach calls for:

  • Facing the fact that Ukraine is losing its war with Russia (suffering casualties seven or eight times as great as their opponent).
  • Prioritizing diplomatic solutions to the war.
  • Establishing strict controls over the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC).
  • Defanging the CIA as responsible for most of the world’s international problems.

Today’s Readings

Keeping such differences in mind for purposes of comparison, consider today’s readings as they centralize the primacy of Jesus’ “Way” over the policies advocated by the Democratic neocons and the Republican fascists.

Today’s selections present the ideals that should move people of conscience regardless of their attitudes towards transcendent faith. Please note that the ideal is not the lesser of two evils.  

ACTS 2: 14A, 36-41Jewish Peter continues last week’s first Christian sermon: Peter says, “The crucified Jesus whom you mistakenly executed achieved the full Christ-consciousness the world has been waiting for.” When the crowd heard this, they asked, “What then must we do?” Peter answered: “In the Spirit of the Christ, reject the world’s values and join us in the reformation of life dictated by our own holy faith.” Thousands of good Jews said “yes” that very day.

PSALM 23: 1-6His listeners’ “yes” was premised on a traditional Jewish understanding of God: The Divine One is an accompanying kind Good Shepherd – the traditional symbol of a king. The divine order leaves no one in want, but provides food and drink, housing, rest, comfort, refreshment, courage, protection for everyone without distinction. 

1 PETER 2: 20B-25In a later letter Peter elaborated: If the world hates and hurts you for trusting such a God, know that you must be doing something right. You’re actually following in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember how they insulted him and that he remained nonviolent even when it cost him his life. Such awareness will keep you whole and on the right path blazed for us by our beloved Good Shepherd.

John 10: 1-10An even much later reflection on Jesus as Good Shepherd: Jesus often used strange imagery to confuse his enemies. For instance, he referred to himself as a shepherd and to foreign occupiers (“strangers”) as sheep rustlers. In today’s reading, he calls himself the “gate” of the sheepfold, but also the “gatekeeper.” In the spirit of Psalm 23 (above), he speaks of his friends as his “sheep” and the purpose of his shepherding as protection and fullness of life for them.


On this Good Shepherd Sunday, it’s time for Americans to say, “enough is enough.” We must open our eyes to the fact that Joe Biden is a mere out-of-touch figurehead. He’s a sheep rustler — not our friend.

Arguably, his foreign policy is worse than Trump’s. He’s surrounded by unimaginative warmongers whose only concern appears to be the welfare of Wall Street and its Military Industrial Complex (MIC).

Choosing to support the Democrats and its confused “leader” and his unimaginative, undemocratic agenda is suicidal.

It’s time to support genuine alternatives. Marianne Williamson and RFK Jr. provide them. At the very least, we’ve got to push to get the three candidates up on the stage for a series of real debates. That’s doable.

That in itself would represent a decisive step towards democratic process currently denied us by our system hijacked by the DNC.

Are We Meeting the Risen Christ in Russia and China?

Here’s a video I made fully 9 months ago — at the end of July — about the Ukraine War. It elaborates the argument that I centralize in the homily below.

Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2, 14, 22-33; PSALM 16:1-11; 1 PETER 1: 17-21; LUKE 24: 13-25

Our celebration of the resurrection myth, and of Life’s unlimited powers and possibilities continues for a third week. It invites thoughtful people to scan the list of contemporary events to identify where resurrection might be happening – where death is being defeated by Life’s overwhelming force.

With that in mind, today’s readings for this Third Sunday of the Resurrection suggest that we embrace resurrection as an unexpected new world order arising unperceived before our very eyes.

Could it be that it is surfacing at the hands of Russia, China., and other BRICS Plus nations?  

That emerging order can remind attentive truth seekers that movement towards the entirely new and seemingly “impossible” arrangement that Yeshua referred to as the Kingdom of God is not only possible, but necessary. It’s required to draw our species back from the brink of annihilation habitually fostered by a necrophilic United States with its cult of bombing, sanctions, and threats of total annihilation.

Though it might be hard to endure, please let me show you what I mean.

U.S. As Enemy of Humankind

To begin with, resurrection calls us to face death. And in the context, I’m suggesting, we must face the fact that the entity most responsible for plunging the world towards omnicide is our own country.

The Sandinista hymn of the 1980s expressed that clearly when it denounced Yankee imperialism as the “enemy of humankind.”

With that shocking phrase, the Sandinistas were only echoing what in 1967 Martin Luther King had said about the U.S. when he identified it (not the Russians or the Chinese) as the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.”

Even closer to our own time is Vijay Prashad’s description of NATO (of course headed by the United States) as the “machine that destroys humanity.”

Careful thought makes it difficult to deny the truth of such denunciations:

  • “We” are the most belligerent country in the world maintaining about 750 military bases across the planet – about 3 times as many as all other countries combined.
  • “Our” war budget is similarly unprecedented, outlandish, and grossly inflated to more than $2 billion per day.
  • “We” are the ones responsible for wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, and who know where else?
  • Besides all of that and on an unprecedented scale, “we” have intervened militarily and wantonly changed regimes across the planet for more than a century, especially where the regimes in question have tried to improve the lives of ordinary people rather than the bottom lines of American corporations.
  • “Our” country is the only one that has ever actually used nuclear weapons and has repeatedly and unilaterally opted out of arms control agreements.
  • With just 4.6% of the world’s population, the United States aspires to control countries like Russia, China, India, and the whole continent of Africa whose populations (not counting the rest of the Global South) total more than half the world’s inhabitants.
  • “America” is historically the world’s greatest polluter and is even responsible in large measure for environmental degradation in the Global South (including China), where U.S. corporations have largely relocated for the last forty years.
  • In summary, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that it possesses the same control of the world that Hitler coveted for capitalist Germany.

Accordingly, it is easy to see how victims of such policies might well see the U.S. as the greatest purveyor of violence, as the enemy of humankind, and as heading a belligerent organization well characterized as the machine that destroys humanity.

Today’s Readings

Such stark realizations no doubt weigh heavy on the minds of once-proud “Americans” – if they even let them in. We might be like the two disciples in today’s Gospel reading. Like Americans with the historical consciousness just rehearsed, the two were sad and discouraged. For them, all seemed lost. They could think and talk of nothing else but their disappointment about Yeshua’s crucifixion and their frustrated hopes and convictions that he was the messiah their people had hoped would liberate them from Rome’s oppression.

But then amid their sad commiserations, the risen Yeshua somehow joins them. Improbably, the two men don’t recognize him. So, they recount the tale of their dashed hopes for the stranger’s benefit.

But then by breaking bread with them, Yeshua gets his friends to see the truth of what I said earlier – that death must precede resurrection. The old must die, he says, before the ultimately new can arise. Death and resurrection manifested in bread sharing are part of Life’s process – part of the divine “prophetic script.”

For us, and according to that blueprint, death of “America’s” preeminence must precede the New Life our world absolutely requires.

Hope from Russia & China

Still, prophetic script or not, if you’re like me, you remain discouraged by the awful realization of what our country has become. But where’s the resurrection hope to be found?

Strange to say, I see it in two great movements taking place before our eyes – one that’s violent with Russia as its protagonist, the other that’s non-violent and headed by China.

“What?” you might object. How can Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have anything to do with resurrection? The same might be asked about China and its authoritarianism we’ve heard so much about.

Though we might not be able to see the Ukraine War as “resurrectional” (Let me coin that word!) – as changing the world for the better, our brothers and sisters in the Global South can. That’s especially true if they adopt liberation theology’s understanding of “violence.”

You see, according to Global South church leaders like archbishops Dom Helder Camara and El Salvador’s St. Oscar Romero, all violence is not the same. Much of it isn’t even recognized as such. And a great deal of what we do denounce as violence is justified self-defense. For instance, most don’t even recognize international sanctions as violent. But they are. They kill hundreds of thousands.

Neither do mainstream commentators see regime change policies and coups as violence. But they are, especially when regimes that would prevent starvation are replaced by business-friendly governments concerned only with corporate profits.

According to this kind of analysis, Russia’s action in Ukraine is justified self-defense. It’s defense against a U.S.-led NATO’s attempts (since 1990) to reduce Russia to the vassal-like status of the west’s traditional colonies.  

It’s no stretch to say that Russia’s resounding “NO” to NATO represents what most Global South countries would choose to shout at NATO if they had Russia’s military might. Arguably, that’s why so many from what we used to call the Third World refuse to condemn Putin or Moscow.

As for China’s non-violent movement towards the “other world” required by our times. . .. It’s enough to point out that China hasn’t bombed anyone in more than 40 years. Instead of dropping bombs on the poor, in effect its Belt and Road Initiative drops schools, roads, ports, high speed railroads, and other infrastructure on them. Like the risen Christ, it “breaks bread” as a sign of God’s presence. It has eliminated extreme poverty for almost one billion of the world’s starving. No wonder Latin America, Africa, and South Asia embrace Beijing and reject DC.  


Let me hasten to conclude that I’d be among the first to admit that any war, self-defensive or not, can only be justified as a last resort. And it should justifiably shock anyone to find an alleged follower of the risen Christ lending anything like approval to armed conflict.

But then, it’s also true that most would-be Christians (me included) are emphatically not pacifists. Are you? They (we) fight wars against fellow Christians all the time – as exemplified in Ukraine itself.

However, in attempting to justify violence, one must ask several crucial questions as explained in today’s Sunday reflection. We must ask what kind of violence are we talking about?

  1. Is it largely unperceived structural violence like that embodied in NATO, the machine that destroys humanity?
  2. Is it the violence of self-defense as seems the case in Russia’s refusal (on behalf of the world habitually bullied by the U.S.) to submit to humiliating and suicidal surrender to the 4% attempting to impose its will on everyone else?
  3. Is it the reactionary violence of that 4% to the second level of violence (expressed e.g., by the U.S. arming and advising Ukrainian proxies) to punish Russia’s “NO”?
  4. Or is it the violence of state terrorism represented by all those wars and policies of regime change implemented on weaker (mostly non-white) nations over decades upon decades by the United States?

Of these, only the second level of violence can (reluctantly) be justified in any way.

Ironically, however, the other three are routinely accepted (even by people of faith). Meanwhile, the second level is usually vilified as somehow violating imperialism’s sacrosanct “rules-based order.”

The suggestion here has been that recognizing and accepting the distinctions just explained have something basic to do with resurrection. So does “breaking bread” with the hungry as a sign of resurrection and God’s presence. It’s all about the experience of death to old necrophilic practices and beliefs while recognizing newness of life and new world orders as unlikely manifestations of the risen Christ.   

Communism with Christian Characteristics: China’s Good Example  

Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 2: 42-47; Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; First Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31

Today’s rich reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles shows how China’s socialist policies – relentlessly vilified by our political leaders, educators, mass media, and churches – are far more in accord with the spirit of Yeshua and the early church than the corresponding policies of the United States.

That shocking fact is born out by the results of measures that China has for decades identified with its drive towards “Common Prosperity.” Even since the time of Mao Zedong, the campaign’s goal has been to narrow the wealth gap between the country’s rich and poor.

And in a very short time, China has advanced towards its goal far beyond what Americans have been led to understand. That is while hunger, tent cities, ineffective schools, deteriorating infrastructure, and large population swaths without health care proliferate among us, things are quickly moving in the opposite direction under the aegis of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Think, for instance, of the CCP’s verified announcement (vastly underreported in the United States) that it has virtually eliminated extreme poverty for over 800 million of its people.  No wonder that according to surveys sponsored by U.S. pollsters, the Chinese government boasts approval ratings of nearly 90% of its people.

One might think that such unprecedented accomplishments and support would be widely celebrated across the planet. You’d think that it would be taken as a sign that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is superior to neoliberalism’s laissez-faire system.

However, China’s success is not even widely acknowledged or celebrated among Christians who (judging by the reading from Acts just referenced) would embrace such accomplishment as a sign of progress towards the North Star Yeshua proclaimed as the “Kingdom of God.” You’d think they’d embrace it because the early Christians practiced what might be called “communism with Christian characteristics.”

Let me show you what I mean. Take that reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Today’s Reading

Think about what we read there – a description of life among Jesus’ first followers after the experience they called his “resurrection”:

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.”

Luke the evangelist repeats that refrain later in the same source when he writes:
“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to any as had need.” (Acts 4:32-36).

There you have it. The early Christians:

* Lived communally
* Rejected private property
* Including land and houses
* Instead held everything in common
* Pooling all their resources
* And distributing them “from each according to ability to each according to need.”
* As a result, they eliminated poverty from their midst.

Did you catch the operative words: they divided their property “among all according to each one’s needs?” As Mexican biblical scholar Jose Miranda points out in his Communism in the Bible, those are the words of the Bible not of Marx or Engels. In other words, the formula “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” comes straight from the Acts of the Apostles. They have nothing to do with atheism. On the contrary, they have everything to do with faith.

They have everything to do with following Jesus who himself might be called a communist. He’s the one who said, “Every one of you who does not renounce all he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:3).

Jesus, not Marx, is the one who set concern for those in need as the final criterion for judging the authenticity of one’s life. He said, “I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink, was a stranger and you took me in, was stripped naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to see me” (MT 25: 35-36). Everything, Jesus insists, depends on recognizing his presence in the poor and oppressed and responding accordingly.

Common Objections

Of course, it’s often pointed out that the Christian experiment in communism was short-lived. Jesus’ followers soon backed off from their early idealism. That observation is supposed to invalidate their communistic lifestyle as impossibly utopian and therefore no longer applicable as Christians’ guiding North Star. In fact, this objection is taken as justifying the persecution of the communism the text idealizes and recommends!

But the same argument, of course, would apply to the Ten Commandments in general or to the Sermon on the Mount – or to the U.S. Constitution for that matter. In our day (and in the course of their histories) all those statements of ideals have only sporadically been lived out in practice. Should we then throw them all out? Should we persecute those espousing the Sermon on the Mount ideals or observance, for instance, of the Fourth Amendment? Few in the Christian community or in the U.S. political world would make that argument.

Others anxious to distance themselves from the communistic ideals of early Christianity would point out that the communal life adopted by Jesus’ first followers was voluntary not imposed from above. In doing so, they point to another passage in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. That’s the one involving Ananias and Saphira – a couple whose life is exacted for claiming to have sold their property while keeping some of it back for themselves.

Referring to their property, Peter says to Ananias, “Was it not still yours if you kept it, and once you sold it was it not yours to dispose of?” (Acts 5:4) But (again as Miranda points out) what was optional was not selling their property – Christianity’s indispensable condition. What was optional was the choice to become a disciple of Christ. Choosing the latter option required practicing communism!

As for economic systems imposed from above. . .. Can you name one that isn’t?

How many of us have really chosen to live under capitalism? The answer is that none of us have. That’s because to make an informed choice, one must know the alternative. However, our families, schools, churches and civic organizations, our films and novels and news programs mostly conspire to vilify alternatives and keep them hidden.

Besides that, our government and military have made sure that experiments in alternatives (like the one implemented in China) are consistently portrayed as failures – lest their “bad example” undermine capitalist claims to be the only viable system.

Even worse, our church leaders (who should know better) jump on the anti-communist band wagon and present Jesus as a champion of a system he would despise. Church people speak and act as if Luke’s passage from Acts had read:

“Now the whole group of those who believed lived in fierce competition with one another and made sure that the rights of private property were respected. They expelled from their midst any who practiced communalism. Consequently, God’s ‘invisible hand’ brought great prosperity to some. Many however found themselves in need. The Christians responded with ‘tough love’ demanding that the lazy either work or starve. Many of the unfit, especially the children, the elderly and those who cared for them did in fact starve. Others however raised themselves by their own bootstraps and became stronger as a result. In this way, the industrious increased their land holdings and banked the profits. The rich got richer and the poor, poorer. Of course, all of this was seen as God’s will and a positive response to the teaching of Jesus.”

When are we going to stop this bastardization of Christianity?


The emphatic answer should be RIGHT NOW – beginning today on this Second Sunday of Easter!

To do so, we must before all else face it: Jesus’ followers practiced “communism with Christian characteristics!” Yes, they did!

Then as followers of Yeshua the Christ, we should:

* Read Jose Miranda’s manifesto, Communism in the Bible.
* If we can’t bring ourselves to sell what we have, give it to the poor, and live communally, at least conspire with like-minded people to share tools, automobiles, gardens – and perhaps even jobs and homes in an effort to reduce poverty and our planetary footprints.
* “Out” the “devout Catholic,” Joe Biden and other “Christians” in our government whose budgets attempt to balance federal accounts by increasing the ranks of the poor whose poverty the communism of the early Christian community (and of contemporary China) successfully eliminated.
* Pressure our government to get off China’s back and allow it to experiment in prophetic ways of living that can save our planet.
* I’m sure you can add to this list.

Please do so in your comments.

The Hidden Politics of Holy Week in Spain

So here we are back in Spain after a couple of months (February and March) back in the States.

You might remember that Peggy and I had come here last September to be with the family of our daughter and son-in-law. They had decided to spend the entire school year here in Granada so that their five children (aged 14 to 4) might learn Spanish while broadening their cultural horizons in Europe.

Peggy and I arrived back here yesterday afternoon on a thankfully uneventful seven-hour Delta Airlines flight from New York’s JFK airport. We landed in a rather frigid Madrid and then took a six-hour bus trip from Spain’s capital city to Granada.

There we’re living in the Albaycin neighborhood alongside a mosque within sight of the famous Alhambra, the Moorish walled city built in the 13th century. It’s such a privilege to be here absorbing the rich Spanish culture highlighted in our neighborhood five times a day by Islamic calls to prayer from a minaret right next to our rented apartment.

Our return coincides with Holy Week and the Spanish custom of elaborate processions ostensibly recalling the events of that first Holy Week when the Prophet from Nazareth celebrated his Last Supper with his disciples, was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, was tortured, and crucified by the Romans, and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

The events however are highly political in both the historical and contemporary senses that might largely escape the casual tourist. In that hidden sense, they are marches against Spain’s original and actual enemies and those of its ideological mentor, the Catholic Church.

Let me show you what I mean.

Holy Week Processions

The processions are spectacular. In Granada they wend their way down the Gran Via Colon, past the city’s monstrous cathedral, and passing before the giant statue depicting the “Reyes Catholicos” (Catholic kings) Ferdinand and Isabella (1474-1504) giving permission to Christopher Columbus to embark on his world-changing voyage.  

The processions feature huge golden floats burdened with dozens of enormous flaming candles and centralizing much larger-than-life statues of a regal, purple-clad Virgin-in-mourning, or of crucified and tortured Savior. Clerical types (including women) walk behind the statues dressed in cassocks and surplices and carrying candles, crucifixes, and thuribles that fill the air with fragrant incense.

Each float is borne aloft by perhaps 30 unseen men whose humble identity is concealed by brocaded veils beneath which they perform their shared demonstration of macho strength and endurance. From time to time along the parade route, the anonymous bearers stop, fall to their knees. Then suddenly they arise as a single body to the delight and applause of the adoring crowds.

Others in the procession include participants whose costumes inevitably remind Americans of the Ku Klux Klan. However, their pointed hats, veiled faces, and white or red robes are really signs of penitence by sinners admitting their guilt, but mercifully shielding their identities.

Other processors include black-clad gypsy women carrying long, lit candles in their right hands just below their waists.

All of this is accompanied by band after band of drummers, trumpeters, trombonists, and tuba players. They march to deafening rhythmic beats. Here and there, they stop to play mournful dirges in honor of the suffering Jesus.

Hidden Meanings

All of this is quite beautiful and quaint – that is until you analyze what’s really happening in terms of Spain’s history that includes:

·       The emergence of the nation-state under Ferdinand and Isabella.

·        Their project’s unprecedented political goal, viz., the erasure of diverse Andalusian cultures [including Jews, Visigoth Christians, Muslims, Gitanos, pagan naturalists, (think “witches”], and emerging Protestants of various “heretical” descriptions].

·       To that end, the institution of the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834)

·       Its infamous persecution of Jews, Muslims, Protestants, gypsies, witches, and “heretics” of all sorts  

·       The folding of all those identities into a single nationalty called “Spaniard,” which had never till then existed.

·       Our contemporary loss of Christian faith and its replacement with the worship of capitalism and its God called “Market.”

In the light of those realities, think about the processional elements earlier described. With their 15th-century historical context in mind:

·       The statue of the regally clad virgin Mary becomes an image celebrating Queen Isabella whose royal robes have nothing to do with the decidedly non-royal mother of the poor construction worker from Nazareth.

·       Those wearing those pointed hats reminiscent of the Klan become persecuted “heretics” wearing “dunce caps” (so named by those ridiculing the 13th century Scottish mystic, John Duns Scotus).

·       The statues depicting the batterers and humiliators of the suffering Jesus become the Jews expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella and whom Christian tradition blamed as “God killers” instead of Jesus’ real assassin, the Roman Empire.

·       As well, Jesus’ torturers include the dunce heretics par excellence, viz., the hated Moors.

·       The black clad women carrying long lighted candles just below their waists become the witches persecuted by the Inquisition. The candles are phallic symbols of their true purpose in life – viz., giving sexual pleasure to men.

·       The processions’ martial war drums become warnings to the enemies of the Reyes Catholicos (again, Jews, Muslims, heretics, witches, gypsies) to be afraid – very afraid. The crown’s Catholic inquisitors will kill you.

·       The unseen statue bearers become the oppressed artisans and workers who have always borne the burden of supporting royalties and church hierarchies of all types.

·       The secular crowds jamming the Gran Via Colon are believers now transformed into mere “Tourists” who represent for Spain a huge influx of cash in service of the only God that matters, the only we’re left with – Capitalism and Market.


When you think about it, Lent and its Easter conclusion represent the ongoing spiritual struggle that involves us all. The season is bookended by Mardi Gras and Holy Week both of which feature political marches masquerading as parades and processions.

Mardi Gras celebrates the human drive towards happiness and community fulfillment – both of which were embodied in that Nazareth construction worker whose first recorded miracle changed gallons upon gallons of water into the finest of wines. Shrove Tuesday’s parades are joyful, drunken, and highly sexualized. Think of those images of dancers from Brazil. Recall Louis Armstrong and New Orleans jazz.

Happiness, joy, fun.

The second of Lent’s bookends is more somber. It’s what I’ve been describing here – the so-called sublimation of all that’s human and joyful into what’s dark, threatening, serious, churchy, and oppressive. And it’s all performed in the name of religion that contradicts that spirit of water changed to wine at a young couple’s wedding.

Why the change?

The answer’s contained in the politics of it all – then and now. More than anything, Spain’s Holy Week processions are reactionary protests intended to obscure and deny the enriching diversity of human experience. The processions are monuments against variety in national identity, in beliefs, in spiritualities, and cultures. They celebrate the elite. They militate against Jews, Muslims, gypsies, witches, Protestants, workers, artisans, and heretics of all sorts. Their musical background is martial and warlike.  

To the discerning eye, Spain’s Holy Week events are also stark reminders of contemporary culture’s inheritance of Inquisitional intolerance.  Like Ferdinand and Isabella, capitalism and its Market God would flatten out the differences that make us human. No variety called socialism, communism, anarchism, or e.g., China’s “whole process people’s democracy” is permitted. Everyone must conform to the nation-state’s sameness.

When you think about it, that syndrome transforms the crucified and risen Jesus into the patron of oppression.

What a distortion!

Its realization alone might be enough to rescue his message: It’s spring. It’s Easter. Celebrate life, not death. The nation-state is a fraud.    

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.