We Should Have Listened to Marianne Williamson

Readings for Third Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14, 22-32; PSALMS 16:1-11; 1PETER 1:17-21; LUKE 24:13-35

Today’s Gospel story is about dashed hopes redeemed by acceptance of Jesus’ Spirit of love encapsulated in the simple act of breaking bread with strangers. It’s about the replacement of discouragement and fear with hope and the prospect of entirely unforeseen, even miraculous possibilities.

Given our present context of pandemic, quarantine and presidential campaigns, I can’t read it without thinking of the dashed hopes of progressives. I can’t help thinking about the defeat of the self-styled revolutionary, Bernie Sanders and the presumed nomination of the de facto restorationist, Joe Biden.

For progressives, it all seems disastrous and beyond redemption. Where’s the hope? However, the example of former candidate, Marianne Williamson who synthesizes her Jewish tradition with that of Christians, offers reason for hope. It’s just too bad that we didn’t listen to her sooner.

Before I get to that though, think first about our context.

Our Lost Campaign

Begin by considering the irony of the present moment. Here we are stuck with, Joe Biden, the weakest entry in the original candidate field. Meanwhile, the strongest candidate – the one absolutely demanded by our extraordinary times – has slipped into political oblivion. I’m talking about Marianne Williamson.  

Recall that at the beginning, more than 20 candidates announced themselves as contestants for the Democratic nomination. As far as the mainstream media (MSM) was concerned, Joe Biden was the odds-on favorite. Marianne Williamson, a spiritual teacher by vocation, was dismissed out of hand.

The irony is that now that the smoke has cleared, Joe Biden has indeed prevailed. And Marianne Williamson is looking better all the time.

Biden prevailed despite his pedestrian debate performances. All of them were entirely unnoteworthy except for his appearing generally confused, inarticulate, and (as ever) prone to embarrassing gaffes.  

More specifically, doddering Uncle Joe showed himself to be a staunch upholder of a moribund status quo that the Coronavirus crisis has revealed to be crumbling all around. Clearly in cognitive decline, and even as the United States registers more COVID-19 deaths than any country in the world, the man can’t even acknowledge what’s apparent to most people everywhere. The U.S. healthcare system is a complete and utter disgrace. It must be replaced by a single payer arrangement like that afforded the citizens of all other industrialized nations. For more than 50 years, none of them has had trouble figuring out how to pay for public healthcare. Old Mr. Biden can’t seem to wrap his mind around that simple fact. Poor man.

Marianne Williamson

Then there was Marianne Williamson. At the beginning, she was an object of media ridicule. She was portrayed as a fluffy woo-woo new ager. Her inspiration drawn from A Course in Miracles (ACIM) was laughed at by the pundits. “Miracles?” They didn’t understand that in ACIM vocabulary, the term refers to any change of perception from fear to love. And such change is exactly what’s demanded by our times – particularly, as it turns out, during this COVID-19 pandemic.  

Yes, Marianne was dismissed out of hand. However, those of us who have been following her for years and who had read her Healing the Soul of America, knew better. For us, she was a much deeper Bernie Sanders. In fact, when candidates like Mayor Pete, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke, and Tulsi Gabbard rushed to stop Sanders and endorse Biden, virtually alone among former candidates, Marianne stuck with Bernie.

She advocated all of his programs, but her rationale for doing so was much deeper. It was grounded in what she called a “politics of love.” It recognized clearly that our country’s fundamental malady is spiritual rather than economic. Hers was the very message Americans need to hear at this watershed moment. Fear is the world’s way; love is the Spirit of Life. A politics based on love is not only possible, we must realize, but required.

And over the years, Marianne has proven herself more eloquent in delivering that message than any of her candidate peers. She is far more articulate and inspiring than any of them – any of them! If she were in Silent Joe’s place, she’d be on TV every day encouraging all of us in this season of distress and explaining how to deal with it internally and externally. And she’d crush Lyin’ Donald Trump’s tedious pressers by contrast.

But even more valuable at this time of COVID-19, Ms. Williamson would lay out her inspiring policy rationale. It is first of all, that we can’t believe any of our politicians who mouth the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” with its trickle-down rationale and its idea of American exceptionalism. Even more generally, she’d insist that the wisdom of the world is 180 degrees opposite that of the underlying wisdom of Life Itself, whether we refer to it like that or call it Mother Earth, Nature with a capital ‘N,’ the Ground of Being, or for that matter, “God.”

Yes, she says, America has been great. And that greatness must be restored. However, it is found not in some top-down arrangement, where leadership comes from billionaires, bankers, hedge funders, giant corporations, or politicians. Instead, the greatness of the United States is found in its founding fathers and mothers, in abolitionists, women suffragists, labor unions, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Green New Deal. Such understanding means that we must look for bottom-up leadership and policies rather than the stale top-down proposals emanating from D.C. and the likes of Biden and Trump.

In the current crisis, she’d say, American greatness is found in the immigrants (many of them undocumented) whom we’ve come to depend on to harvest our food, serve us in grocery stores, deliver our packages, and sweep floors and clean toilets in our hospitals. Ironically, the very ones vilified by President Trump are our economy’s real essential workers – more so than any of our politicians. Those workers are heroes and we all owe them a huge debt. They should be bailed out first. In fact, if bailouts are in question, the order of rescue should be (1) ordinary people, (2) mom and pop businesses, and (3) banks and corporations – not the reverse.

Today’s Readings

To get all of this in faith perspective, please read today’s liturgical selections for yourself here. See if you can discern the connection with what I’ve been saying. My own “translations” runs as follows:

ACTS 2:14, 22-32: The Earliest Christian Faith Addressed by Jews to Jews: Jesus was a wonderworker who fulfilled the “prophetic script” of being rejected and assassinated by his own people. But as with past prophets (as described by David) his soul has proven to be immortal. He lives! His Spirit cannot die.  

PSALMS 16:1-11: Jesus’ Spirit Shows Us the Path to Life: We take refuge in that Spirit which his followers have inherited. When we’re disturbed it tells us what to do. It makes us happy, joyful, and confident even in the face of death.

1PETER 1:17-21: Follow That Path: Yes, they spilled Jesus’ blood like a lamb led to slaughter. But that wasn’t the end of him. His Holy Spirit remains (as it always has) to save us from a meaningless life devoted to the mere accumulation of gold and silver.

LUKE 24:13-35: The Miraculous Walk: That firstEaster morning two of Jesus’ disciples were walking to a town seven miles from Jerusalem. Sadly, they could talk of nothing other than the tragic events of the previous weekend. Jesus joined them unrecognized. With a jester’s smile, he asked about himself and his story. The two earnestly recounted the tale of their dashed hopes concerning a wonder worker from Nazareth assassinated by the religious establishment – and the women’s crazy account of a miraculously empty tomb, angels and new life. “There’s nothing odd about that,” Jesus explained still smiling. It’s the “prophetic script.” It’s what has always happened among our people. Still not recognizing Jesus, the two begged him to have supper and stay the night with them. During the meal, Jesus broke bread as he had at his Last Supper. And in that action, the two disciples recognized Jesus. Suddenly, he disappeared. The disciples practically ran back to Jerusalem to report what they saw as the result of breaking bread with a stranger who turned out to be the (risen) Christ. The world has never been the same since.


Yes, instead of Marianne Williamson, we’re stuck with sleepy Joe Biden. And, if you’re like me, you’re discouraged by this awful turn of events. Together we’re like those two disciples that first Easter Sunday walking down the road to Emmaus. And so far, this homily has been like the conversation of those two before Jesus joined them to put everything in perspective. It’s been about what might have been. All seems lost.

But the Christ-consciousness championed by Marianne (and Jesus himself) asks us to bring our darkness into the light of resurrection belief (however we understand it). That consciousness makes it clear that miracles are possible. In ACIM’s sense of fundamental changes in perception from fear to love, they happen all the time.

And at the moment, with the entire world shut down (who would have thought that possible?) we stand before what Arundhati Roy calls a “portal.” The doorway leads from our old world to a new one of the type described for us not only by Marianne Williamson, but by Jesus himself and all the great avatars of human history.

While Joe Biden calls us to turn back, Marianne Williamson joins Jesus in urging us forward into an awaiting new world. There the first are last and the last are first. It’s a planet with room for everyone.

We now know Marianne Williamson won’t be the one to lead us through the beckoning portal. It’s up to us all to rise to the occasion and resurrect everything to a new way of life.  Yes, it’s up to us.

Somehow, we must play the risen Christ.

“Murder Most Foul”: My Translation of Bob Dylan’s New Song

I found “Murder Most Foul” intriguing. Its retelling of the assassination of JFK was provocative as it attributed it to Deep State forces. But the lack of melody was disappointing. It was also difficult to understand the connections between Dylan’s narrative and the over-long list of songs he centralized. It seemed mostly random and unconnected. Along with references to his story, my own “translation” tries to subtly connect as many of those song titles as I could to Dylan’s well-told tale. I’ve referenced “Only the Good Die Young,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Scratch My Back,” “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Twilight Time,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In God We Trust,” “Cry Me A River,” “That Old Devil Moon,” “One Night of Sin,” “Misty,” “Anything Goes,” “Blue Sky,” “Deep in a Dream,” and “The Blood-Stained Banner.”

Near the Ides of last March
The Seer from Duluth
Sang a swan’s song
To all
About murder and truth.
He sang to a world
Sick and under arrest
In a globe-wide pandemic
And put to the test
By an earth in decay
In the Antichrist’s age
When faith, hope and love
Disappeared from the page
(Of our nation’s own book).
It all began
(He said)
On a Dallas dark day
In the blinding-bright sun
Which brought hell to pay
To an Aquarian Age
Shaped by spinning magicians
With a shot that all heard
But nobody listened.
They exploded the head,
They blew the brains out
Of the King JFK
(But we’re all left in doubt)
He was a sacrificed lamb
Put down like a dog
Mocked and shocked
By the killers
While spreading a fog
Yes, everyone watched
But few can recall
What our own eyes revealed
We saw nothing at all.
It was carefully planned
During nights filled with sin
And carefully timed  
With LBJ in
Standing prepared
To step forward and take
The place of late Claudius
At 2:38.
The message was sharp:
We forbid New Frontier
Segregation will stay
With everyone here
With ghettoes in ruins
Illumined at night
By red lights and crime
It’s all such a fright
Ruled by cops on the beat
To enforce
Elm Street’s nightmare
For the sake of elite
For the sake of what’s right for
Cash on the barrelhead
(After all, business is business).
We’ve seen this crime’s movie
Again and again
But frankly, Miss Scarlet,
We don’t give a damn
We’re distracted by Woodstocks
Beatles, acid and flags
We’re forbidden to ask
As if mouths filled with gags
Prevented owl’s questions
Beyond what we’re told
About Oswald and Ruby
We’re left out in the cold
With mouths firmly shut
With those questions so old
All left unanswered
(And subject to scold).
It’s all unfair to Jackie
And Marilyn too
It’s unfair to us
To me and to you
We’re blind by our choice
To back-scratchers all
Who refuse to take questions
Whenever we call.
They kill all the young
The brave and the good
They make us all fearful
That we’ll be misunderstood
At this twilight time
As rivers we cry
Watching our heroes
All bite dust and die
As we sing about crosses
And the God who’s a lie.
So, we’re all feeling misty
Lonely but brave
Under the old devil’s moon
As in Plato’s dank Cave
We wander in mystery
Where anything goes
We’re deep in a dream
When we’ll wake
No one knows.
We’re surrounded by darkness
Nightfall and death
Under a banner
That’s blood-stained
With nothing that's left
But music and jazz
And that prophet
In howl
Who shakes us to wake us
About murderS most foul.

What If Mumia Abu-Jamal Were President: Communism in the Bible

Readings for 2nd Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2: 42-47; PSALMS 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1st PETER: 1: 3-9; JOHN 20: 19-31

Last week, on Easter Sunday, I presented Jose Mujica as a model president. Mujica, I pointed out, was the president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015. He had been a Marxist Tupamaros (Robinhood) guerrilla since his student days. He was arrested, imprisoned and tortured for 12 years – 3 of them spent in solitary confinement at the bottom of a well. As president, he introduced profound changes in Uruguayan politics. As I noted, he took steps towards the legalization of all drugs in an effort to defeat the country’s drug gangs.

But perhaps Mujica’s most impactful step came in the example he offered national chief executives everywhere in his rejection of the typical presidential lifestyle. He gave away 90% of his yearly salary to the poor and dedicated that money to providing housing for the country’s homeless. He sold the presidential limousine in favor of retaining his old Volkswagen beetle. He continued living with his wife in his run-down peasant farmhouse.

In my frustration over this year’s Hobson’s choice between Trump and Biden, I couldn’t help thinking: what if we chose a U.S. president who did something like that? What if, instead of looking for leadership to billionaires like Trump or lifelong politicians like Biden, we elected someone like Jose Mujica – a peasant, a worker, a radical thinker? How would that change American politics? How would that change the world?

What if we elected someone like Mumia Abu-Jamal? Abu-Jamal, of course, is the Marxist Black Panther journalist who had spent years as a political prisoner on death row. Allegedly he killed a Philadelphia police officer in 1981 – a charge he has always vehemently denied. In any case, he regularly publishes insightful, edgy comment from prison and is often interviewed on NPR and programs like “Democracy Now.” What if Mumia were our president?    

I raise those questions because they’re suggested by the readings for this second Sunday of Easter. They expose us to the shocking fact that resurrection for the first Christians turned everything completely upside-down. They actually embraced communism and recognized as their leader a worker, a victim of capital punishment from death row. Yes, they embraced the communist ideal that inspired both Mujica and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Today’s Readings

The readings are brilliant and timely in that they not only give us an insight into the primitive Christian community. They also urge us to turn our politics upside-down. They do so first by offering an abstract description of the original Christian community, and then by fleshing out that description with narrative about a key encounter of a skeptic with the risen Christ who embodies the basis of the communist vision – identification with society’s victims and despised.

Here are my “translations” of those readings. You can find the originals here to see if I’ve got them right:  

ACTS 2: 42-47: The first Christians were communists. Following the teachings of Jesus, they prayerfully shared meals each day and all their possessions – from each according to ability to each according to need. Their example was so awe-inspiring that everyone loved them, and their numbers grew rapidly.

PSALMS 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24: Christian communalism was a dim reflection of the benevolence of Life Itself as demonstrated in nature and throughout human history. No one truly owns anything; it’s all GIFT. Though unrecognized by the world, renouncing private property is the rejected cornerstone of human community – the key to surmounting every human problem. Accepting this truth, even in the worst of times, those committed to justice manifest super-human strength, courage, and joy.

FIRST PETER: 1: 3-9: It’s as if they were all born again into a new creation filled with hope that is stronger than death itself. Talk about inheritance! Communal sharing has made us richer than kings and their vast storehouses of gold. We’ve experienced the very goal of history – even though the world’s opposition to our sharing obscures the fact that we are on the right path – the one blazed by Jesus himself (and the other great divine incarnations). There is no other portal to human happiness.  

JOHN 20: 19-31: Fear of the world, its violence and opposition to Jesus’ communalism has intimidated us into denying his way. Yes, we’re all denialists like the one they called “The Twin” (Didymus). He is our double in rejecting in absentia Jesus’ Holy Spirit of peace and forgiveness, of sharing and community that make peace possible. Correcting false perception means recognizing Christ himself in those the world has wounded and assassinated for daring to follow him.

Christian Communism

Please do read for yourselves today’s first reading, ACTS: 2: 42-47. It’s significant that on this week after Easter, the passage immediately directs us not to “spiritual” concern with heaven and the afterlife, but to material property, land and the primacy of the marginalized in organizing community life. Here’s a fuller description of the way the early Christians lived. You’ll find it in ACTS, Chapter 4:

“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. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 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 each as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35).

Note that the description immediately connects the interior lives of believers (heart and soul unity) with communizing the group’s possessions. They sold their land and houses, pooled the resulting resources and redistributed wealth on the basis of need. All of this was an expression, the passage says, of early Christian belief in the new way of life expressed in the term “resurrection.” Communism was the logical, practical expression of following Jesus’ teaching. Doing so brought the community grace, i.e. favor with God and with those outside their community.

How different that understanding is from what, in effect, we’ve been taught since infancy about capitalism as somehow God’s way. It’s as if the above passage read:

“Now the whole group of those who believed entered into competition with one another. They fiercely guarded their possessions and considered private property as sacred. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the dog-eat-dog world Jesus described as God’s Kingdom. So, they all viewed the “needy” as lazy and unproductive. They evicted them when they defaulted on rent and then tore down their hovels to enrich themselves and develop gentrified neighborhoods. In this way, Jesus’ early followers became rich and prosperous, while the poor got their just deserts – poverty and misery.” 

I’m not exaggerating. That emphasis on private property, on the law of the jungle, and justifying a resulting gap between rich and poor is embraced by many Christians as if the godly life Jesus endorsed could be described exactly as above.

Jesus’ Place in Communism

Now switch your attention to the Gospel reading for today. It brings us inside the first Christian house church whose communism was described abstractly in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It shows Jesus’ closest followers affirming the enduring relevance of their hero as a leader remarkably like Mumia Abu-Jamal. He’s dark-skinned and condemned under false charges by the state. He not only comes from death row; he was actually a victim of torture and capital punishment. And yet, he somehow lives and continues to teach his way to community happiness!

Recall the scene. Jesus’ closest friends are in hiding, imprisoned by fear of the Romans who had just executed their great teacher and of their traitorous fellow countrymen – the Temple priests and scribal establishment – who cooperated with the foreign occupiers.

So, the doors are locked and bolted. Jesus’ inner circle feels threatened, lost and betrayed by their own naivete in following a quixotic revolutionary who had filled them with such hope for the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

Inevitably, however, conversation must have turned to Jesus, his teachings and to rehearsal of the tragic events of the Passover weekend just completed. And those memories evoke Jesus’ presence, even for the iconic skeptic, Thomas called Twin (Didymus) and “Doubting.”

Thomas is really our Twin in his reluctance to believe that salvation can come from an executed criminal – or, perhaps more accurately, that life is stronger than death. And yet, like Karl Marx, he discovers that the deliverance of the human race comes from below, from a despised member of the working class, not from above and the royal or priestly classes so admired by the mainstream.


Thomas’ reluctant faith and that of his community as presented in today’s readings, call us to a twofold realization. The first is that our entire way of life is on the wrong track. Happiness and the good life (escape from out profound unhappiness) are not found in individual pursuit of wealth as the capitalist story of Jesus would have it.

No, it’s found in radical sharing that has us orienting community life towards the welfare of the least among us – as was the practice of the first Christian community. (That is, as I’ve shown elsewhere, mixed economies are all we have. But they should be mixed in favor of the poor in percolate-up ways rather than in favor of the rich with trickle-down policies.)

The second Thomistic (and Marxist) realization is similar. It’s that we’ve been looking for community leadership in all the wrong places. Our leaders need to come not from David’s palaces, not from Temple priests, but from the streets, from carpenters’ workshops, and even from death row.

Imagine, if we embraced the communism exemplified in today’s readings as our guiding North Star. Imagine if instead of Trump or Biden, Jose Mujica or Mumia were our president. Imagine if we could overcome the denialism of our twin, Thomas the Doubter. That’s the kind of radicality followers of Jesus are called to.

Doubling-Down on Not Voting

I recently wrote a piece here and for OpEdNews entitled “Why I Won’t Vote in November.” It evoked passionate response from readers I greatly respect. They saw it as conceding the reelection of Donald Trump. It was an exercise, I was told, in elitism. It ignored the plight of children in cages at our border as well as Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. It overlooked what should be the main goal of progressives – the defeat of Donald J. Trump at all costs.

My point however was that the goal of defeating Donald Trump is indeed not enough. It won’t cure what’s wrong in America. And that’s because it’s the entire system we live under that must be replaced. It’s entirely corrupted. Democracy has already been all but exterminated in our country. And I deceive myself if I think otherwise.

The whole system (from the executive office to the Congress to the Supreme Court) is anti-worker, anti-people, and pro-corporation. It must be allowed to fall and be replaced. More specifically, the nation’s voting system is corrupt beyond recall, Democratic candidates (like Biden) are perennially pathetic – only marginally different from the Republicans – and Joe Biden epitomizes the pathos and systemic failure as few have before him. 

A Corrupt Voting System

Begin with the voting system.

They don’t even want us to vote! They’re quite clear about that. And I’m not just talking about the Republicans. No one – Republican or Democrat – is  taking serious steps towards eliminating the Electoral College, instituting public funding of all campaigns, creating a voting holiday, establishing same-day voting registration, eliminating hackable voting machines, or turning over the electoral process to a bi-partisan centralized commission to eliminate gerrymandering and ensure that the same rules apply to every state. That’s how bad it is.

As a result of all that, voting has become a complete sham. It contradicts the received wisdom insisting that “every vote counts.” That’s a lie. Look at all the electoral shenanigans in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere. The whole point is to remove partisan-threatening voters from the rosters. No wonder fewer than 60% of eligible voters participate. Consciously or unconsciously, the dropouts know the system’s rigged. They have no dog in the fight.

And let’s be clear, it’s not the “elites” that aren’t voting. It’s the poor, minorities, and working classes who long ago came to the conclusion that their votes don’t matter. To begin with, their ballots might not be counted. But even if they are, those elected won’t attend to the concerns of wage workers, the unemployed, homeless and uninsured.

Still, our overseers (and others) want to shame the rest of us into voting, even when the “lesser of two evils” brings us the same tired polices that serve no one but themselves and their rich employers. What I’m saying is that despite those efforts at shaming, I more and more see the point of working-class non-voters. And if nothing fundamental changes, I’m going to join them.

Perennially Weak Candidates

As for the position of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that my not voting equals a vote for Donald Trump. . . How about huge VOTE that the DNC itself has cast for Trump by its absurd choice of yet another milk toast candidate – this one far weaker than their last? She couldn’t beat Trump; so, how can he? He’s weaker than Hillary, Gore, Kerry, Dukakis, or Mondale. And how did those centrists work out for us? No, it’s the Democratic Party that’s voting for Donald Trump. They love Republican policies. In fact, they’d rather have Trump than Bernie Sanders. They are champions of the status quo.

That’s shown by the fact that their “victors” like Clinton and Obama came to represent nothing more than Republican Lite. What disappointments both of them turned out to be! Big promises followed by the same neo-liberalism, the same trickle-down nonsense, the same wars, the same destruction of the planet. Despite Obama’s slogan, there was no hope, no change.

It all makes me wonder why the Democratic Party keeps giving us such uninspiring, self-defeating choices? That’s on them. It’s on them for giving us a candidate this time who, even in the midst of the present pandemic, insists that he’d veto Medicare for All – which the majority of Americans desperately need. He’s also like Trump in wanting us all to go back to work even if it means that many will die as a result – for the sake of the economy and Wall Street profits. And don’t even talk about his positions on the Green New Deal, free college tuition, forgiveness of debt, or Social Security.

The Case of Joe Biden

In fact, have you ever heard Mr. Biden offer a single defining policy initiative of any kind? Even one? I haven’t.  And that’s because (Correct me if I’m wrong) he hasn’t given us any. His only claim is that he’s not Donald Trump. That’s it.

I’m asking then: do citizens deserve blame for perceiving that the fight is fixed in favor of the donor class of both parties? Both candidates are their champions not ours. So, are we blameworthy for realizing that we’ve seen this movie before? Should we be ashamed for demanding that Biden actually earn our votes – that he take action to convince voters that he’s worth voting for as someone other than a leering old man marginally nicer than the other imbecile?

In fact, Biden’s not that much better. Like Trump he’s a pathological liar. He’s also a worse mass murderer. Remember, Biden promoted the Iraq war. (It was no mistake. Anyone paying attention could see right through his justifications and those of Colin Powell.) That war has killed more than a million Iraqis. Even Trump hasn’t gone that far.

Moreover, the immigration policy Biden cooperated with was overseen by a president who quickly became known as the “Deporter-in-Chief.” Additionally, with the cooperation of the mass media, Biden has managed to evade addressing credible charges of sexual assault.

As I said, the system’s rigged. The Democratic Party is as bought-off as the Republicans. Neither the reigning system of political economy nor the Democratic Party is worth supporting. We’ve got to let them fall and be replaced. And the sooner we all realize that, the better.


Yes, I agree that it might make one feel heroic (in a quixotic sort of way) to pledge standing for hours in a driving rain to vote for a near corpse to save us all from Donald Trump. Still, those in soaking sneakers will surely know that their votes very literally might not count. And even if, by some miracle they do, voting for the geezer in question won’t significantly inhibit the inexorable process of climate change. Neither will it lessen the prospect of nuclear war. (After all, it was the Obama administration that decided to modernize the nuclear arsenal.) And it won’t bring us Medicare for All, forgiveness of student debt, or even guarantee the salvation of Social Security.

But you can bet it will mean millions, billions and trillions for the donor class.

Remember, our savior from Mr. Trump has promised those all-important constituents that “Nothing fundamental will change.” Take him at his word. What’s the point?

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

It was a miracle
No one thought possible
Before Ash Wednesday.
Traffic stopped,
Stores closed,
Schools shuttered,
Even churches.
Focus shifted
To health, family,
Jokes, stories,
Children, grandchildren
Reading, studying,
Conversing, writing,
Napping, dreaming,
Cooking and eating
Houses never cleaner –
Or messier (Your call).
Finally knowing
That Special Other,
And our very selves.
Imagining and living
Without hated jobs
And nosey bosses.
With cards freshly reshuffled.
The New Deal came
They said couldn’t be.
Hearts opened
Skies cleared
People sang
From porches
And open windows.
Eyes smiled
With other masks
Dropped and replaced.
Could you tell?
And now it’s Easter
Sad tears for the dead
Clear eyes
To see that their passing
Was no Act of God
Or preordained,
That New Life,
Another way
Is possible NOW
(It always was)
Where no one
Dies like that,
And no one’s work
Brings tears,
Where all finally
Get that recompense
Guidance and well-being
Each child deserves.
So, no matter what
Wall Street’s
Wolves and vultures
Might howl and screech,
From behind
Presidential Podia,
Tell them:
There’ll be no return
To the tombs we knew
Before Good Friday,
Ash Wednesday
And our cleansing
Lenten fast.
Seize the day:
It’s Easter
Like never before!

Resurrect the World: End the War on Drugs

Readings for Easter Sunday: ACTS 10:34A, 37-43; PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3: 1-4; Pascal Victim Sequence; 1 Corinthians 5: 7B-8A; John 20: 1-9

On this Easter Sunday, I want to tell you a story of resurrection. It involves the ex-president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, and his personal resurrection from three years in a tomb. It’s about how he not only advanced his country’s resurgence from its profound drug problem, but set a shining example of national leadership from his country’s highest office.

The story is intimately connected with that of the poor man, Jesus, whose immortality billions celebrate today. As today’s readings tell us, this healer, teacher and champion of the poor spent three days in a tomb and is more alive today than ever he was 2000 years ago.

Focus on Mujica’s story comes from a personal experience that I had last January when I spent a couple of weeks at the border in Tijuana Mexico. There I worked with pro bono lawyers and volunteers offering legal help to immigrants, refugees and asylees. The group is called Al Otro Lado

In helping clients fill out paperwork, I discovered that most of the Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and others I interviewed were driven from their countries of origin by drug gangs.

On the one hand, the experience made me think in general about drugs, addiction, and our country’s century-long “War on Drugs.” On the other hand, it drove me to reflect more deeply on resurrection and the possibilities for new life we celebrate on this Easter day.

The War on Drugs

Start with the war on drugs. Of course, we’re no closer to winning it than when first it began in 1914. (Before then, you could buy cocaine-based remedies, for example, at your local drug store – and at a low price.)

Moreover, so many of the problems that plague our world can be traced back to that spectacularly unsuccessful war. It’s not just the addiction and the gangs. It’s also the billions upon billions of dollars that have been wasted, the corruption of governments and law enforcement agencies throughout the world, the millions of souls who have been incarcerated or forced to leave their countries, as well as the thousands upon thousands who have been murdered by drug gangs and their police mob counterparts.

It all made me think: what if there were no drug war? What if drugs were entirely legal again? Wouldn’t that drive the gangs out of business? And wouldn’t all those other related problems disappear? Wouldn’t that lead to a kind of resurrection of humanity?

Think about it. Drug decriminalization and legalization would profoundly change the world!

But you might wonder (as I did) wouldn’t drug decriminalization and legalization also vitiate the planet? Wouldn’t our kids (and maybe we ourselves) all get hooked and end up staggering around in drug-induced stupors?

As it turns out, the answer is No. As Johann Hari points out in his page-turner study, Chasing the Scream, (as is the case with alcohol) less than 10% of those who use even cocaine, crack, and Oxycontin get hooked. The other 90% often take those controlled substances for recreation every weekend (and even on some weekdays) and still carry on normally in their families. They hold steady jobs and contribute to their communities. Even those who become addicted mature out of their problem after about 10 years. This means that the War on Drugs, laws against narcotics, and the resulting havoc are connected with something like 10% of users.

All of this is because drug addiction is not the result of chemical “hooks,” so that anyone taking them becomes ipso facto obsessed.  Instead, addiction is caused primarily by personal and social problems connected with childhoods marked by abuse, with loneliness, meaningless work, and lack of human connection.

Addictions are psychological and social diseases. They are not crimes. Punishing drug use as criminal only causes more drug use by aggravating its causes. It also feeds the gangs.

The Case of Uruguay

And that brings me to Jose Mujica and his resurrection from three years in a tomb. Mujica was a Tupamaros (Robin Hood) guerrilla during Uruguay’s revolutionary war against the country’s military dictatorship during the 1970s and ‘80s. He was captured by government forces, tortured mercilessly, and imprisoned for 12 years – three of them in the bottom of a well that his captors thought would be his final resting place. Those years gave him lots of time to think about life and his country’s problems.

When the revolution Mujica supported eventually triumphed, he in effect returned from the dead only to be elected his country’s president for five years (2010-2015). It was then that he set about decriminalizing the use of drugs beginning with marijuana. Contrary to all expectations, he was successful in reaching that goal.

[Not only that: as president, Mujica himself continued to live with his wife in their simple farmhouse. He gave 90% of his income as president to the poor (living on $775 per month), sold his presidential limousine to travel on public transportation, and passed legislation to give a laptop to every child in the country.]

The point here, however that the president’s action on the drug front represented a first step towards bankrupting his country’s drug cartels. His ultimate goal was to provide for users of all drugs a cheaper, safer, cleaner product, and set up locations for safe drug consumption. The facilities would be staffed by medical personnel, and by counsellors and life coaches intent on helping their clients find work, housing, and more meaningful lives.

In this way, drug cartels would suffer defeat and the country’s drug problem would be solved. Similar results from comparable policies had already been achieved in Switzerland, Portugal and elsewhere.

Easter Readings

Now, keeping in mind what I’ve just said about Mujica and drug use in general, connect it all to Easter. Read today’s liturgical selections. They recall that like Jose Mujica, Jesus of Nazareth set about bringing healing to the sick, liberation of captives from prison, and relief for the oppressed. Christian faith professes that such commitment brings enlightenment and (somehow) never-ending life. (What follows are my “translations.” The originals can be found here.)

ACTS 10:34A, 37-43: Peter’s First Proclamation of Jesus’ Resurrection: From the beginning, Jesus of Nazareth embodied God’s Holy Spirit of healing the sick and liberating the oppressed. For that, the Romans crucified him (their policy with all rebels). However, three days later, some of us (not all) were privileged to recognize him as still alive during our ritual meals together. Inspired by that experience, we ask you to join us in continuing Jesus’ work of healing and liberation.   

PS 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23: Response to Peter’s Proclamation: Thank you, Divine Mother for this happy day! You have been so good to us, so powerful and unfailingly compassionate. You use the world’s “weakest” to contradict its idea of power. With you, we acknowledge that the “weakest” are actually the strongest. Thank you, again!

COL 3: 1-4: Where God’s Holy Spirit Is Found: Yes, our Easter faith is that the Holy Spirit is found in the sick, the oppressed, in those executed by the state, and in those the world despises. Realizing this truth represents OUR resurrection! Let’s keep our eyes on the prize – the ultimate triumph promised us by the example of Jesus (and Jose Mujica).

Easter Sequence: On Death Row and in Drug Addicts: Thank you, Divine Mother, for contradicting the world’s judgment that the poor and despised (like Jesus on death row or drug addicts today) are somehow sinful. In fact, the supreme victim of empire’s capital punishment has proved more immortal than Rome itself. Jesus lives; Rome is all but forgotten! We can’t even find his tomb or decaying body. Help us, Divine Mother, to synchronize our lives’ energies with those of our Master.

John 20: 1-9: And in Female Leadership: Jesus’ beloved and dearest disciple, Mary Magdalen, achieved full enlightenment when everyone else was in dark mourning over Jesus’ death. Three days later, on visiting Jesus’ tomb, she realized that his True Self was not even there! So, she (even as a woman without standing before the law!) became the first to recognize what later was called Jesus’ “resurrection.” Meanwhile, Peter, “the first pope,” was slower than others to accept what Mary saw immediately. She (the despised) rather than the men, was the first truly enlightened follower of Jesus. As the Master himself said (in the Gospel of Thomas) she rather than Peter should be recognized as the “apostle of apostles.”


Today’s readings along with Chasing the Scream and its story of Jose Mujica invite readers to imagine a world turned upside-down — where death and burial do not have the final word — where prisoners are freed and those the world writes off as dead return to fullness of life. In our world torn apart by a futile drug war, the readings can call us to imagine a human community where those sick with addiction are treated as human beings instead of being criminalized. In the spirit of Easter, that would be a resurrected world:

  • With greatly reduced crime and a shrunken prison system
  • Where police forces could be downsized and rehabilitated in the eyes of poorer communities as a welcome rather than a threatening presence
  • Where countries like Mexico would be liberated from control by drug cartels
  • Where refugees from those countries would be dramatically reduced or eliminated, thus greatly impacting immigration problems and the perceived need for baby jails and expensive border walls.
  • Where the billions upon billions of dollars currently spent in a clearly unsuccessful war on drugs including those huge police forces, overcrowded prisons, and enormous bureaucracies intended to administer it all could be re-channeled to help the merely 10% percent of drug users whose habits are problematic.

In short, cessation of the Drug War, decriminalization and legalization of drugs of all kinds, would reshape our world in ways that would reduce and/or eliminate many of its most vexing problems. It would truly be an Easter event.

Why I Won’t Vote in November

As things stand now, I’m not going to vote in the general election in November 2020. What choice do I have?

Now that Bernie’s dropped out, It’s between two mentally impaired dirty old men – Donald Trump on the one hand, and Joe Biden on the other. Both are showing clear signs of dementia.

Trump stands accused of sexual assault by multiple women. Biden has a still unanswered but very credible similar charge outstanding. And no one in Biden’s party or in the press will even raise that accusation for discussion. (Trust me: Trump will! So, goodbye, Uncle Joe.)

And both men are serial liars. With Trump, that is a foregone conclusion. But Biden’s a liar too.

In one of his previous candidacies, his history of plagiarism made him surrender his bid. He’s lied about his education and his achievements in law school. Then there are those lies about his civil rights activism, about his history with Nelson Mandela, and about his attacks on Social Security. He just makes stuff up.

And neither one of them – neither Trump nor Biden – can put two sentences together without confirming their dementia. Every time he opens his mouth, Trump sounds like the doddering Mafia Don he is. He slurs his words, repeats himself, and can’t even remember what he just said. He hasn’t a worthwhile thought in his head. Never has.

Biden’s even worse! His sentences wander; he forgets what he’s talking about; he constantly leaves his audiences wondering, “What?” Or “That’s (to put it nicely) simply embarrassing!”

In a country of more than 350 million people, is this the best we can do? Are these our best and our brightest?

(However, I have to say that debate between these buffoons will make great television. It will be highly amusing and comical. But that’s what politics in this country has come to. It’s all Kabuki theater; it’s a cruel joke.)

That’s another reason I’ll not vote in November. The political system in general is completely broken. The politicians that are supposed to represent me have nothing to do with my concerns. They’ve completely sold out. They represent no one but their rich cronies. (Now I know how people in the Soviet Union must have felt in the late ‘80s.) The system just isn’t worth my participation.

And that goes for AOC, Ilhan Omar, the rest of the so-called “squad “(and Bernie too). In the most recent bailout, they all caved. They gave grandstanding speeches about the injustice of it all. But in the end, they voted against us, didn’t they? Their loyalties are to party and career, not to me or to you. We have NO ONE to represent us.

Democracy in this country is dead. The system is completely rigged. They don’t even want us to vote. The obstacles they’ve set in terms of the electoral college, gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, crooked voting machines, interminable lines, and Citizens United make a mockery of the entire process.

And please don’t try to shame me into voting because of the Supreme Court. That body is totally corrupt as well – completely politicized. No justice there – not even a glimmer of hope. Only clowns like the sexual predator Clarence Thomas (whom Biden ended up supporting over Anita Hill), the accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh, and a coward like John Roberts (who, remember hardly spoke a word while presiding over the recent sham impeachment hearings). The SCOTUS has no credibility at all. It’s irreformable. So, dear Ruth, you may go in peace.

The hell of it is that we don’t have any time for reform. Mother Nature won’t allow it. Climate change is breathing down our necks. What are the scientists giving us – 10 more years – or is it 8? You can now subtract 4 from that number. Neither Trump nor Biden will do what needs to be done. (Remember, Joe told his corporate friends, “Nothing fundamental will change.”)

And no one cares. I mean, with COVID-19, we can make the entire world stop. But with the far worse threat of climate change: not so much. It’s all business as usual. And it’s all nuts.

But in a way, maybe that’s the only ray of hope we have – from Mother Nature. While our system won’t object to climate destruction, maybe Our Great Mother just won’t allow this madness to go on. In any case, it’s now up to her. She will have her way.  

It’s all so discouraging on this morning after Bernie’s surrender. In the face of it all, and as things stand now, that’s why I’ll boycott this election in November.

The Great Health Market Crash of 2019: Are the Bread Lines Coming Too?

Remember as a child reading about the “Great Stock Market Crash of 1929?” Well, in the same way our grandchildren will read about the “Great Health Market Crash of 2019.” And the latter will impress them as more devastating than the former.

Yes, the present crisis is much more revelatory and potentially devastating than the infamous crash of ’29. And President Trump’s mismanagement of the disaster will be recalled as even more out-of-touch than Mr. Hoover’s. However, Franklin Roosevelt’s analog may surprise us. It’s not Bernie Sanders.

To begin with, what we’re currently witnessing is a U.S. health market failure; make no mistake about that. It’s no unforeseen act of God before which any leader worthy of the name can claim “I take no responsibility for it at all.”  Rather, what we’re facing is a completely predictable crash of a public good (health and healthcare) that has been stupidly marketized. The failure of the health market has caused all related systems (i.e. everything) to grind to a halt.

Privatized health markets now stand unmistakably shown to be completely shortsighted and fatuous. They have proven entirely incapable of responding to anything but the bottom line and short-term quarterly reports.

Such limitation and uncoordinated focus come from the fact that there’s no money to be made in stockpiling face masks, ventilators, available hospital beds or in maintaining reserve armies of doctors and healthcare workers who might be needed well after the publication of next month’s statement of profit and loss. Yet those standing armies with ample supplies of ordnance for fighting disease are now proving more vital than their make-work military counterparts stationed in more than 300 bases across the planet. And for what?

Additionally, we’re also witnessing a complete collapse of national leadership. For the first three months of the impending crash, Mr. Trump actually made fun of the virus and called it a “hoax.” He promised that it would “miraculously” disappear if people only continued their normal lives and work habits without paying attention to the medical experts. Then, finally, three months into the emergency, he claimed he always knew it was a pandemic – even before anyone else. So much for his leadership.

Moreover, Trump’s preparation for this foreseeable plague took the incredible form of funding reduction for the Center for Disease Control and his disbanding of the Pandemic Response Team established precisely for eventualities like the current epidemic. Now, that in itself is prima facie cause for resignation or impeachment.

It’s also enough to make the unperceptive despair and throw up their hands in helpless disgust especially after the apparent demise of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Without Bernie, who’s going to assume political leadership on a par with Mr. Roosevelt’s. (And it’s here that FDR’s surprising equivalent emerges.)

The sad truth is that he’s on the other side of the globe. He’s in China in the person of Xi Jin Ping. He heads a centrally planned system which for all its limitations is proving to be the only kind capable of responding efficiently to crises like COVID-19.

For example, did you know that the Chinese system enabled Wuhan authorities to build a large state of the art hospital in just ten days? The emergency medical facility is two stories tall and is complete with several isolation wards and 30 intensive care units. It can hold up to 1,000 patients. Under the U.S. form of capitalism, it would take years just to obtain property rights for such an undertaking – not to mention waging the court battles that would ensue. The Chinese did it in a week and a half.

In other words, only our culture’s endemic ethnocentrism prevents us from seeing the limitations of capitalism-as-we-know it. Our blindness locks us in despair and keeps us from recognizing that the world no longer depends on U.S. leadership for anything. What we’re witnessing instead is the collapse of the United States into the status of failed state and embarrassing underdevelopment. We’re beholding instead the passing of the baton of world leadership to China.

This brings to mind the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union exactly 30 years ago.

Put otherwise and bluntly, the COVID-19 disaster understood as a Great Health Market Crash:

  • Involves a market failure just as devastating as the one in ’29.
  • It has consequently brought the world economy to a depression-like standstill with overwhelming unemployment, resulting poverty and disastrous loss of life and the possibility of long breadlines
  • The crisis is worldwide in scope and as such puts on display varying national responses that can easily be compared and evaluated
  • It shows clearly that countries like South Korea, China, and even Cuba (with its army of doctors), all of which used to be considered “underdeveloped” countries, have surpassed the United States in categories much more important than stock market averages and military strength. In fact, all those nations and others as well take better care of their people who enjoy superior health care, longer lives, and more flexible and efficient economies.
  • The entire complex of events definitively demonstrates the passing of the baton of world leadership to China

Or as Nicholas Kristoff recently put it so gently:  “The United States is in a weaker position than some other countries to confront the virus because it is the only advanced country that doesn’t have universal health coverage, and the only one that does not guarantee paid sick leave. With chronic diseases, the burden of these gaps is felt primarily by the poor; with infectious diseases, the burden will be shared by all Americans.”

I can think of no better description of a failed state and underdeveloped country brought to its knees by “The Great Crash of ’19.”

From the Beatification of Pontius Pilate to the Sanctification of Donald Trump: Two Peas in a Pod

Readings for Palm Sunday: LK 19:28-40; IS 50: 4-7, PS 22: 8-9, 12-20, 23=24, PHIL 2:6-11, LK 22: 14-23:58.

It’s puzzling to see white Evangelicals rallying around Donald Trump. He’s the one who owns casinos and strip clubs, who has been married three times and brags about sexually assaulting women. 

How is it possible for white evangelicals to support such a person whose policies favor the rich and punish the poor, who despises immigrants, advocates torture, and whose appetite for profit seems insatiable.

After all, Jesus was a poor laborer who criticized the rich in the harshest of terms. He and his family knew what it was like to be unwelcome immigrants (in Egypt). He himself was a victim of torture, not its administrator. Far from a champion of empire, he was executed as a terrorist and enemy of Rome.  His followers were not about accumulating wealth but shared what they had according to ability and need.

When you think of it, all of this seems antithetical to not only to Trumpism, but to the declared positions of virtually the entire Republican Party. They’re all imperialists. All of them are friends of the one percent. They all want to increase military spending — apparently without question or limit.

How did all of that happen?

Today’s Palm Sunday readings provide some clues. Luke’s Passion Narratives reveal a first century Christian community already depoliticizing Jesus in order to please Roman imperialists. The stories turn Jesus against his own people as though they were foreign enemies of God.

Think about the context of today’s Palm Sunday readings.

Note that Jesus and his audiences were first and foremost anti-imperialist Jews whose lives were shaped more than anything else by the Roman occupation of their homeland. As such, they weren’t waiting for a Roman-Greco “messiah” who, like the Sun God Mithra, would die and lead them to heaven. They were awaiting a Davidic messiah who would liberate them from the Romans.

So, on this Palm Sunday, what do you think was on the minds of the crowds who Luke tells us lined the streets of Jerusalem to acclaim Jesus the Nazarene? Were they shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna!” (Save us! Save us!) because they thought Jesus was about to die and by his sacrificial death open the gates of heaven closed since Adam’s sin by a petulant God? Of course not. They were shouting for Jesus to save them from the Romans.

The palm branches in their hands were (since the time of the Maccabees) the symbols of resistance to empire. Those acclaiming Jesus looked to him to play a key role in the Great Rebellion everyone knew about to take place against the hated Roman occupiers.

And what do you suppose was on Jesus’ mind? He was probably intending to take part in the rebellion just mentioned. It had been plotted by the Jews’ Zealot insurgency. Jesus words at the “Last Supper” show his anticipation that the events planned for Jerusalem might cause God’s Kingdom to dawn that very weekend.

Clearly Jesus had his differences with the Zealots. They were nationalists; he was inter-nationalist who was open to gentiles. The Zealots were violent; Jesus was not.

And yet the Zealots and Jesus came together on their abhorrence of Roman presence in the Holy Land. They found common ground on the issues of debt forgiveness, non-payment of taxes to the occupiers, and of land reform. Within Jesus’ inner circle there was at least one Zealot (Simon). Indications might also implicate Peter, Judas, James, and John. And Jesus’ friends were armed when he was arrested. Whoever cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant was used to wielding a sword – perhaps as a “sicarius” (the violent wing of the Zealots who specialized in knifing Jews collaborating with the Romans).

But we’re getting ahead of our story. . . Following his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus soon found himself and his disciples inside the temple participating in what we’d call a “direct action” protest. They were demonstrating against the collaborative role the temple and its priesthood were fulfilling on behalf of the Romans.

As collaborators, the temple priests were serving a foreign god (the Roman emperor) within the temple precincts. For Jesus that delegitimized the entire system. So, as John Dominic Crossan puts it, Jesus’ direct action was not so much a “cleansing” of the temple as the symbolic destruction of an institution that had completely lost its way. It was this demonstration that represented the immediate cause of Jesus’ arrest and execution described so poignantly in today’s long gospel reading.

Following the temple demonstration, Jesus and his disciples became “wanted” men (Lk. 19:47). At first Jesus’ popularity affords him protection from the authorities (19:47-48). The people constantly surround him eager to hear Jesus’ words denouncing their treasonous “leaders” (20:9-19), about the issue of Roman taxation (20:20-25), the destruction of the temple (21:1-6), the coming war (21:20-24) and the imminence of God’s Kingdom (21:29-33).

Eventually however, Jesus has to go underground. On Passover eve he sends out Peter and John to arrange for a safehouse to celebrate the feast I mentioned earlier. The two disciples are to locate the “upper room.” They do so by exchanging a set of secret signs and passwords with a local comrade.

Then comes Jesus’ arrest. Judas has betrayed Jesus to collect the reward on Jesus’ head – 30 pieces of silver. The arrest is followed by a series of “trials” before the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin), before Pilate and Herod. Eventually, Jesus is brought back to Pilate. There he’s tortured, condemned and executed between two other insurgents.

Note that Luke presents Pilate in way completely at odds with what we know of the procurator as described for example by the Jewish historian Josephus. After the presentation of clear-cut evidence that the Nazarene rabbi was “stirring up the people,” and despite Jesus’ own admission to crimes against the state (claiming to be a rival king), Pilate insists three times that the carpenter is innocent of capital crime.

Such tolerance of rebellion contradicts Crossan’s insistence that Pilate had standing orders to execute anyone associated with lower class rebellion during the extremely volatile Passover festivities. In other words, there would have been no drawn-out trial.

What’s going on here? Two things.

First of all, like everyone else, Luke knew that Jesus had been crucified by the Romans. That was an inconvenient truth for Luke’s audience which around the year 85 CE (when Luke wrote) was desperately trying to reconcile with the Roman Empire which lumped the emerging Christian community with the Jews whom the Romans despised.

Luke’s account represents an attempt to create distance between Christians and Jews. So, he makes up an account that exonerates Pilate (and the Romans) from guilt for Jesus’ execution. Simultaneously, he lays the burden of blame for Jesus’ execution at the doorstep of Jewish authorities.

In this way, Luke made overtures of friendship towards Rome. He wasn’t worried about the Jews, since by the year 70 the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem and its temple along with more than a million of its inhabitants. After 70 Jewish Christians no longer represented the important factor they once were. Their leadership had been decapitated with the destruction of Jerusalem.

Relatedly, Jesus’ crucifixion would have meant that Rome perceived him as a rebel against the Empire. Luke is anxious to make the case that such perception was false. Rome had nothing to fear from Christians.

I’m suggesting that such assurance was unfaithful to the Jesus of history. It domesticated the rebel who shines through even in Luke’s account when it is viewed contextually.

And so, what?

Well, if you wonder why Christians can support Donald Trump . . . if you wonder why they so easily succumb to empires (Roman, Nazi, U.S.) you’ve got your answer. It all starts here – in the gospels themselves – with the great cover-up of the insurgent Jesus.

And if you wonder where the West’s and Hitler’s comfort with xenophobia in general and anti-Semitism in particular come from, you have that answer as well.

The point here is that only by recovering the obscured rebel Jesus can Christians avoid the mistake they made 87 years ago in Germany. Then instead of singing “Hosanna” to Jesus, they shouted “Heil Hitler!” to another imperialist torturer, xenophobe, and hypocrite.

The readings for Palm Sunday present us with a cautionary tale about these sad realities and the trend among white evangelicals that impossibly transforms Donald Trump into a Christian hero. The imperialists Pontius Pilate, Adolf Hitler, and Mr. Trump all belong in the same anti-Christ category.

COVID-19: The Great Social Equalizer and Liberator from Unnecessary Work

The Coronavirus plague should be putting everything in perspective for us all. It should make us ask what life’s really about, no matter if we’re rich or middle class. (The poor are another story.) That’s because COVID-19 has forced everyone who’s solvent into something like the same boat. It’s made us realize that the vessel has just sprung a huge leak that threatens to take us all down collectively and personally – unless we make some fundamental changes on both fronts. The possibilities for change are endless, hopeful and encouraging.

Our Shared Reality

First of all, think about our shared boat. All of us have been born into a consumerist culture that tells us life’s about money, beautiful clothes, luxury automobiles, travel to exotic places, entertainment, and eating in fine restaurants.

Suddenly though, none of that has much meaning.

In my own case, since the springing of the Coronavirus leak, I don’t even have anywhere to spend the money I already have. My two old Volvos have been parked in our driveway for 2 weeks; I haven’t used a drop of gasoline; there’s no place for us to go. I can spend all day in my pajamas, and nobody will know the difference. I live a 70-minute train ride from Broadway, but it’s all been shut down. I can’t even watch March Madness or Lebron on TV. There’s no spring training or the prospect of a baseball season. And as for fine restaurants, I can’t even buy a donut and java at “Coffee An’,” our local hangout, or even at Starbucks.

And I imagine it’s like that for billionaires too. I mean, what do they do all day? Like me, they’re confined as they shelter in place. Like me, they get up in the morning, read the newspaper or some online source, eat breakfast, maybe go for a run, take a shower, eat lunch, nap for a while, talk with some friends or associates on the phone, read a chapter or two in a book or an article in a magazine, have a drink for happy hour, eat supper with family, watch a Netflix movie, have a nightcap, and go to bed. That’s it.

And tomorrow will be the same. What else can they do? What more can their money buy them? I mean, it’s pretty much the same for all of us who are lucky enough not to be homeless or in prison. Under the Coronavirus regime, Jeff Bezos’ life can’t be that much different from my own.

So, as I watch financiers thrilled at the prospect of a surging stock market stimulated by a number I can’t even imagine, I wonder what for? Where are they going to spend the profits they anticipate? Who’s going to buy the stuff they imagine will be produced? Their situation is the same as mine.

And where did all that money come from anyway? (They didn’t have it for Bernie’s Medicare for All.) What does it mean? Why is green paper – or fiat numbers someone decided to put on investors’ computer screens – so powerful? And what did any of those Wall Streeters do to earn it? In present circumstances, how does it make their lives better than mine?

It all seems somehow made up. And in a very real sense, so does the rest of the stuff I’ve mentioned so far.


And then there’s Mr. Trump’s solution to this health crisis. In a word, it’s DENIAL. Of course, that’s one way of dealing with our sinking ship. Just ignore the problem and get back to normal. Or as Trump puts it: “Open the country for business again. Right now! Start driving those cars and buying that junk. Eat up those Big Macs and put some fat on those bones of yours. Fire up those plants and darken the skies with smoke again. Bury those pipelines and frack like fu*k. (I’m sure he puts it that way.) Cut down some more rainforests. Fill up those plastic shopping bags and throw them in the ocean. Get on with the business of poisoning the planet. Above all, produce those bombs, planes, tanks, and missiles. And be sure to use them. There are so many sh*t-hole countries to destroy and so little time.

“And, by the way, be sure to ignore the scientists (again!). Hell, if we left it up to the doctors and their hypochondriacal tendencies, the stores, stadiums, shows and showrooms would be shuttered for two years. And then what?

“So, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and for the sake of our grandchildren, let the old people and other weaklings die – even if millions expire prematurely. Who cares? With the market in the tank, there’s nothing for them to live for anyway. Better dead than bored and broke.”

That’s the Trump many of us know and loathe. Thankfully however, his denial’s not the only way of dealing with the problem – although (disappointingly) the congressional bail-out package shows that ALL of our politicians (including Sandberg and Warren) pretty much agree with the president!

For the rest of us however, it’s high time to move in another direction – to reassess what we take as “normal,” cut our losses, and get back to the basics that lockdown has forced upon our awareness. In fact, COVID-19 might be the Process of Life, it might be Mother Nature, it might even be God (!) telling us to review and revise our entire way of life – the way environmentalists have been suggesting since Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, and Jacques Cousteau.  

But our world has gone beyond them too. I mean, given the beneficial developments unforeseen by those proto-ecologists, we might finally be able to transcend their insights and pressure our politicians to move towards the prospects that futurists described for us in the 1960s and ‘70s. Remember their speculations about “the leisure society” that computers and “cybernation” would make inevitable? What will we do, they asked, with all that free time?

Now’s the time to stop and answer their question. Despite our dear leader’s recommendations, it would clearly be insane to return to the suicidal “normal” that seemed inescapable just two weeks ago. We have to make everyone understand that.

New Directions

So, if not in Trump’s and our senators’ direction, where should we go? How about:

  • For sure, nationalizing health care into a single payer system. If nothing else, the present pandemic has revealed the absolute inadequacy and intolerability of the healthcare status quo. Medicare for All needs to be the sine qua non element of effective response.
  • Break up any business that’s “too big to fail.” (Aren’t you tired of bailing out the rich?) Breaking up corporate giants makes sense even according to strict free market principles. Adam Smith himself saw monopolies as counterproductive. If businesses make inadvisable decisions, they should be allowed to crash, burn and be replaced by more efficient firms.
  • Mimic the success of FDR by implementing a Green New Deal (GND) to absolutely restructure our economy in ways that take seriously the crisis of climate chaos. Besides redirecting production away from carbon and towards green technology, the GND would provide enhanced unemployment insurance, forgiveness of college loans, paid maternity leave, free childcare, higher minimum wages. . .
  • Almost as certainly, our country also needs some form of Universal Basic Income (UBI). As we’ll see immediately below, the work furloughs forced upon us by COVID-19 have made it clear that many of our jobs are pretty close to busywork. So many of those jobs can be safely eliminated.

Yes, when you think about it, so much of the work we do is unnecessary. Do we really need advertising, health insurance companies, defense contractors, malls and retail outlets, oil giants, and businesses that destroy our health and environment? Do we really need McDonalds and Burger King?

What we’re learning now is that we can get along without any of them.

And certainly, we don’t have to do all that traveling – the hours upon hours spent in morning and evening rush hour traffic. And then there’s all that time that road warriors waste in airports traveling to meetings that might just as well take place via Skype or Zoom.

The same is true for a lot of our schooling. Do we really need to maintain all those expensive campus plants, when present experience teaches us that remote learning is quite effective, inexpensive and time saving?

And above all, worldwide focus on real national security problems like pandemics and lack of adequate medical care has put in perspective those other completely manufactured problems connected with our endless wars. Is our national security really served by them? Or is that make-work – is it busywork too?

So, how about eliminating those 300 foreign military bases and the millions of soldiers, independent contractors, and related jobs as well? Again, it’s busywork – make-work that’s completely unnecessary and wasteful of taxpayer money.

Additionally, the release of non-violent inmates from Rikers and other prisons brings to light the fact that if we’d legalize drugs and treat addiction as the health problem it is, we wouldn’t need all those penal institutions either.


So, the present pandemic, at least in some respects, might be the proverbial blessing in disguise.

It’s suggesting that we eliminate all the jobs now revealed as unnecessary. Doing so will suddenly make it possible for us to reduce the time we all spend trying to “look busy.”  Suddenly, it becomes possible for us to share the decreasing number of jobs that can’t be done cybernetically. We could share the remaining jobs working just 4 hours each day, or 3 days a week. We could work 6 months each year and have 6 months off. Or we could spend 1 year on the job and take 2 off.

The list of changes suggested by our current crisis is endless. And I’m sure any of us could add to the list of labor-saving discoveries the current lockdown has brought to light.  

In summary, our forced retreat invites us to realize that we’re all in the same boat and (and as someone else said) once our basic needs have been met, the best things in life are free.