Beware: Conspiracy Theorists May Be Prophetically Correct

Readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Psalm 63: 2-9; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

This Sunday’s readings are about truth, the world’s rejection of the same, and about the truth-teller’s willingness to take the consequences – even if they entail loss of one’s life.

The readings are extremely relevant to our moment in history. There, the current occupant of the White House has from day one (and before) challenged conventional ideas about truth itself. His administration popularized the phrases “fake news” and “alternative facts.” The Washington Post alleges that in less than one year, the chief executive told more than 2000 lies.

In the meantime, sources like QAnon have spread right-wing conspiracy theories that have many scratching their heads about what to believe. For instance, are Q’s assertions true that:

  • Antifa is a sworn enemy of Black Lives Matter (BLM)?
  • BLM itself is funded and controlled by George Soros and left-wing think tanks?
  • President Obama is really a Muslim?
  • Kamala Harris is ineligible to be POTUS?
  • Sandy Hook was a false flag event staged to justify disarming U.S. citizens?
  • Prominent Democrats have run a child-trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizzeria (“Pizzagate”)?
  • The entire world is run by a Satan-worshipping child sex-trafficking organization?

In the context of COVID-19, beliefs are widespread that:

  • COVID-19 is a fake “pLandemic” orchestrated by a “deep state” to eliminate democracy and reset the economy even more in favor of the rich.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is a key player in starting the pLandemic – to make billions for himself.
  • But the ultimate goal is to set up a New World Order under a single government.
  • Face masks and social distancing are means to deprive unsuspecting citizens of their civil liberties.

Debate Among OpEd Editors

With all of that in mind, a lively debate has erupted for the past couple of weeks among OpEdNews senior editors. It was sparked by an editorial penned by the website’s editor-in-chief (EIC), Rob Kall. Rob has taken a courageously firm editorial stance against articles that reflect the right-wing talking points of view just listed. According to Rob, they’re all “bad guy” theories. Moreover, the uncritical use of right-wing talking points and language (e.g. “deep state,” “pLandemic,” and “New World Order”) only serve to boost and promote right wing messaging. The EIC wrote, “When you use the language of the enemy, you help the enemy . . . So, stop using their language.”

For me, Rob’s stance makes a lot of sense. But I can also see how others (excluding the senior editors) might label it just another example of “cancel culture?” Are we to cancel well-written and well-documented articles because of their conspiratorial language?

More importantly (at least in the context of this Sunday homily) can we get away with classifying those we disagree with as “bad guys” or as “the enemy?”

[Believe me, I ask that question with some trepidation. I’m uncomfortable with the theories listed above. Many of them (not all – see below) seem outrageous. Most often, I think of Donald Trump and his cohorts as “the enemy” – as “bad guys.”]

Today’s Readings

However, such reflections bring me back to this Sunday’s readings and their faith underpinnings. All of the readings underwrite truth alternatives severely in conflict with unquestioned cultural convictions. They point to the embrace of those who hold “unacceptable” opinions.

And it’s not just the Judeo-Christian tradition I’m talking about. Instead, I’m referencing all the non-dual spiritualities that find home in all the world’s Great Religions. In their mystical forms, they all agree that there’s no distinction between us and those we’re tempted to “other” as bad guys and enemies. Despite our understandable antipathies, none of them is cancelable any more than we would like to be.

Even more familiarly, Jesus the Christ recommended loving “your neighbor as yourself” (i.e. because she or he is yourself). That’s because (as Marianne Williamson puts it) “There is really only one of us here.” Ken Wilber comes close to saying the same thing when he observes (uncomfortably for me!) that given their level of consciousness, everyone is right — at least partially. And then there’s Deepak Chopra who says everyone’s doing the best they can.

Again, with all of that in mind imagine, for instance, how Donald Trump or QAnon partisans would relate to today’s readings. Please check out the originals for yourself here to see what I mean. My “translations” run as follows:

Jeremiah 20: 7-9: Life is deceptive. When I explain how, everyone laughs and makes fun of me. Yet, despite my resolutions to stop talking, I cannot remain silent about the violence and outrages that no one else seems to see. My compulsion to tell the truth is like an out-of-control fire burning inside me.

Psalm 63: 2-9: In fact, truth-seeking is synonymous with my thirst for Life Itself. It’s like rain falling on parched soil. It involves an encounter with the Force that some call “God.” That meeting is what life itself is about. Hence despite rejection by the world, speaking truth is more satisfying than a rich banquet. It’s like water for my scorched soul.  

Romans 12: 1-2: So, sisters and brothers, be willing to endure rejection for your stubborn non-conformity – for your commitment to the true, the good, and the beautiful – for your enlightenment. No other way of life is worth living.

Matthew 16:21-27: Commitment to truth always brings some type of martyrdom. Jesus saw that clearly. However, he refused to be dissuaded from following his prophetic script – even by his closest friend. “STFU,” he told Peter in no uncertain terms. “You too,” he said, “and anyone wishing to follow me must be willing to endure even capital punishment. Yes, opposing the lies of church and state is more important than life itself.” 

The Unresolved OpEd Debate

So, if life is so mysterious and even deceptive, if our faith demands nonconformity and taking the heat for unpopular opposition to church and state, if transcendent truth really lies 180 degrees opposite of routinely accepted cultural bromides, what are we to do about “bad guys,” “enemies,” and their apparently wild conspiracy theories?

First of all, we must recognize that bad guys indeed exist. There are criminals in the world and the worst of them reside not behind bars, but behind desks in D.C., in state capitals, and on Wall Street. It may even be that CIA or NSA operatives are behind the more outlandish conspiracy theories in question.  Clearly, many of these perps belong in jail. And most of us look forward to the day of their incarceration.

Secondly, however, we must recognize that the bad guys are emphatically not the people writing for OpEdNews. In Ken Wilber’s terms, those persuaded by the earlier-referenced theories might simply be coming from mindsets Wilber calls “egocentric” or “ethnocentric.” These are not negative terms; all of us, even if we’ve transitioned to “world-centric” or even “cosmic-centric” levels, have passed through those stages (no one can avoid them). In other words, following the thread I’m trying to develop here, and given their stage of evolutionary development, these people are right and are doing the best they can.   

Thirdly (and most uncomfortably for me), it may be that the so-called “conspiracy theorists” are objectively correct or at least partially so. Here I’m thinking specifically about a video interview of Sasha Stone I posted on OEN a few weeks ago. There Stone (who sometimes appears angry and even unhinged) does endorse that claim that the world is run by a cabal of pedophiles and Satan worshippers. More importantly however, he’s endorsed in that position by Robert David Steele, an ex-CIA officer, who seems perfectly sane, objective, and entirely rational. Steele claims that 22,000 children are kidnapped and “disappear” every year into an underworld of pedophilia and Satan worship. That conclusion is supported by an entire panel of sober scholars and jurists belonging to Stone’s International Tribunal for Natural Justice.

What is one to think about all that – especially given what’s been revealed in the Jeffrey Epstein/Ghislaine Maxwell saga? Is that merely the tip of an iceberg?

Conclusion

Given the thrust of today’s readings (and even discounting them if you prefer) it could very well be possible that the conspiracy theorists now under threat of cancellation from OEN pages might be right – or at least partially so. With the readings’ recommendations of nonconformity and prophetic resistance ringing in my ears, here’s where I see that they might well be on the right path:

  • By his outrageous lies, Donald Trump has clearly pulled the curtain back from our culture’s ethnocentric prevarications. As the very incarnation of egocentrism, he has rendered untenable all claims to American exceptionalism. In that sense, he himself is a great (though completely unconscious) prophet.
  • Secretary of State and former CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has been even more explicit in his admissions about our government’s systemic lies. Pompeo’s predecessor under President Reagan, William Casey was more honest still. He said, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” (Think about that! How can we trust anything our government says?)
  • Trump, Pompeo, Casey and the revision of American history stimulated by their policies have shown that all of us have been duped about our country’s foundations and “noble traditions.” Most of it is fake.
  • Consequently, everyone should presume without contrary smoking gun evidence that our politicians (and mass media, church leaders, scientists and educators) are lying, though often unconsciously.
  • NOTHING is immune from such well-founded skepticism – including COVID-19, mask wearing, and social distancing.
  • Moreover, the Epstein/Maxwell saga coupled with the worldwide pedophilia scandal within the Roman Catholic Church and the massive profits gained from child pornography have all revealed the centrality of child sexual abuse that few previously suspected. (As Robert David Steele puts it: the five pillars of U.S. policy are guns, gold, cash, drugs, and child trafficking.)
  • Those same revelations have demonstrated that our country’s ruling class (and the world’s!) are corrupt to the bone. NOTHING – no crime, no degeneracy – is beyond them. The swamp is deep and fetid.
  • Joe Biden and the Democrats will be no better than Mr. Trump in draining that swamp. They have no interest in doing so.

Of course, I could go on with my list. However, the point is that there is more overlap than one might think between the convictions of those on the right and progressive readers and contributors to OEN. As uncomfortable as it might be, leftists must not cancel, but rather dialog with “the enemy” and seriously investigate their claims.

My Confusion & Fear of Walking on Water

Readings for 19th Sunday in ordinary time: I KINGS 19: 9A, 11-13A; PSALMS 85: 9-14; ROMANS 9: 1-5; MATTHEW 14: 22-23

In today’s Gospel, we hear Matthew’s iconic account of Yeshua walking on water – and of his invitation to Peter to follow the Master’s example.

The story is relevant to our times filled as they are with turbulence, polarization, and uncertainty. Those were the disturbing characteristics of Yeshua’s time as well – and of Matthew’s early church. In both contexts, there was turbulence everywhere. But despite it all, the early followers of Yeshua were asked to do the impossible – to walk on water themselves.

Before I get to what that might mean, here’s a reminder of how our own tempestuous times mirror those of Yeshua and Matthew.

My Own Confusion

If the truth be told, I must admit that I hardly know what to think anymore. The polarizing spirit of the day has me pretty upset. I can barely listen to the news each day.  And the mere images of the politicians I have come to despise cause my stomach to churn. I can’t stand to hear their voices – or those of their ever-harsher critics. And besides that, I see no alternatives. (How much better is Joe Biden than Donald Trump?)

However, the immediate cause of my upset and confusion is the video I posted here last week – an interview by Jason Dean of Sacha Stone, the founder of the International Tribunal for Natural Justice. It generated a lot of controversy when it appeared on OpEdNews on Thursday.

Subsequently, a whole ZOOM meeting of the site’s editors, contributors, and readers had everyone arguing about the interview’s truth claims. Is the coronavirus a pandemic or a “plandemic?” Does wearing a facemask make sense? There was wide disagreement during the call.

Those questions and emotions generated by the video were rooted in the polarizing figure of Sacha Stone himself. He’s charismatic, articulate, extremely outspoken, and given, I fear, to hyperbole. On the one hand, he is deeply spiritual and reflective of the best of the mystical traditions shared by all the world’s great faiths. His passionate concern about and energetic action against the trafficking of children for pedophilic purposes is unmistakable and genuine.  

On the other hand, he somewhat off-puttingly fills his discourse with references to evil, Satanic cults, the deep state, and to ruling class rituals devoted to drinking the blood of fear-adrenalized two and three-year-olds.  

Obviously, then Stone himself is controversial. He illustrated, I said, the difficulty of classifying people today on the basis of the traditional categories of “left” and “right,” liberal and conservative.

For instance, he is a supporter of President Trump. But he has long despised, he says, all politicians as liars and sell-outs to the rich 1% that govern our nation through the lawmakers they have long since bought and sold. Nonetheless, Stone sees Trump as one of the two modern-era U.S. presidents of true human worth. The other one? John F. Kennedy.

In all of this, Stone finds prominent support in a former CIA operative, Robert David Steele. Steele was described by one OEN ZOOM call participant who knows Steele well, has corresponded with him, and has interviewed him formally as “a brilliant guy.” In fact, as an elite insider, Steele not only backs Stone’s claims about cults and blood, he serves as Commissioner and Chief Counsel on Stone’s International Tribunal for Natural Justice. Steele says 22,000 children are disappeared each day for purposes of pedophilia and employment in those blood rituals.  

Is all of that disturbing and confusing enough for you? It’s almost more than I can bear. It has my head spinning with questions I thought resolved long ago about Trump, his portrayal in the media, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more seriously, it makes me wonder if our world is indeed controlled by sexual perverts who seem (in Stone’s words) “soulless” and as if they were aliens from another planet.

My only hope is that despite Steele’s endorsement, Stone’s claims about trafficked children are false or exaggerated. Failing that, my hope is that the truth of Stone’s accusations will all unmistakably come to light in the context of the explosive tip-of-the-iceberg saga of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Such revelation has world revolutionary potential.

Yeshua’s & Matthew’s Confusion

In the context of this Sunday homily, my thoughts about national and personal upset and about revolutionary solutions return me to the social and political circumstances of Yeshua’s own day and of the Gospel writer, Matthew some fifty years later. Both contexts were no less turbulent than our own. As a matter of fact, they were even more so.

Yeshua, of course, lived under Roman occupation. As a good Jew, he surely hated that. The four Gospels are filled with indications of his antipathy towards Rome. However, as a reformer of Judaism, the Master was even more upset about the collaboration between Rome and the Temple Establishment’s scribes and priests. In his estimation, they were even worse sell-outs than our own presidents, congresspeople, judges, media, police, and military.

I’m sure that Yeshua along with his inner circle and his poor and oppressed audiences hardly knew what to think.

The same was true for Matthew’s audience. More than fifty years after Yeshua’s death, tensions with Rome had exploded just as Yeshua had predicted they would. In the year 70, Rome had finally punished Jerusalem’s Jews for their insubordination. In fact, the genocidal Romans had attacked and brutally destroyed the Holy City of Jerusalem, killed more than a million of its inhabitants (including the entire leadership of the emergent Christian community) and razed its temple to the ground. Fifteen or 20 years later, when Matthew wrote his Gospel, his community was still reeling from that defining act of devastation.

It’s in that context that Matthew spins his iconic story of Yeshua walking on water.

The story goes that following Yeshua’s feeding of the 5000 (last week’s Gospel focus), Yeshua forces the apostles to get into their boat and row to the other side. [The text says, “Yeshua made (emphasis added) the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side.” Perhaps these experienced fishermen (as opposed to the land lubber, Yeshua) saw a storm was coming and were reluctant to set sail despite Yeshua’s urgings.] In any case, a storm does come up and the apostles fear they are all about to drown. You can imagine their cries for help.

Then they see a figure walking on the water in the midst of high threatening waves. At first, they think it’s a ghost. Then they realize that it’s Yeshua. He’s walking on the raging waters.

Peter, ever the impetuous leader of the apostles, doubts what he sees. So, he says “Prove to me that it’s you, Yeshua; let me walk on the waves just as you’re doing.” Yeshua says, “Join me then over here then.” So, Peter gets out of the boat and, like his teacher actually walks on water for a few steps.

Then, despite the evidence, he begins to doubt. And as he does so, he starts sinking below the water line. “Save me, Lord!” he cries out again. Yeshua stretches out his hand and saves Peter. Then he asks, “Where’s your faith? Why is it so weak? Why did you doubt?”

Of course, this whole story (like last week’s “Loaves and Fishes”) is one of the dramatic parables Matthew composed. If we get caught up in wondering whether we’re expected to believe that someone actually walked on water, we’ll miss the point of this powerful tale. It’s about Yeshua’s followers doing the unexpected and irrational in the midst of the seriously threatening crises life forces upon us.

You see, Matthew’s Jewish audience shared the belief du jour that the sea was inhabited by dangerous monsters – Leviathan being the most fearful. And courageously walking on water was a dramatic way of expressing what Matthew’s community believed about Jesus, viz. that he embodied the courage and power to do the completely unexpected in the midst of crisis and subdue the most threatening forces imaginable – even the most lethal they could think of, the Roman Empire.

Yeshua’s invitation to Peter communicates the truth that all of us have the power to confront monsters if we’ll just find the courage to leave safety concerns behind even in the most threatening conditions, to confront life’s monsters, and join Yeshua in the midst of its upheavals.

Problem is: we easily lose faith and courage. As a result, we’re overcome by life’s surging waves and by the monsters we imagine are lurking underneath.

Conclusion

So, what does it mean to confront today’s angry waters and invisible monsters. What are we to believe before those who tell us that everything’s fake, there is no truth, and that the world is run by leviathan beasts hiding below the waves boiling all around us? What are we to think for instance, when the police and military we were taught to trust, betray us utterly? What do we make of the fact that there are no leaders we can follow – when we fear that talking heads, pundits, and even the spiritually astute are only sowing confusion, spin, falsehood and doubt? What’s entailed in stretching out our hand towards our Great Teacher inviting us to walk on water and ignore the threatening confusion and fear engendered by our uncertain times dwarfed by those he himself and his followers endured?

Frankly, I’m not sure. As I said, I remain more confused than ever.

However, I do think that walking on water today means desperately grasping Yeshua’s hand in the sense of getting back to the basics of our Great Master’s message about the Kingdom of God. That’s the anchor for many of us. He told us that despite all appearances to the contrary – despite the engulfing waves:

  • We humans are not truly in charge. Life Itself is working things out in an evolutionary pattern that is beyond any of our thought categories (Matthew 6:25).
  • A New Era is in the process of birthing – a new heaven and a new earth is about to dawn (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15).
  • In that order, empires of all kinds (including our own) are doomed (See the entire Book of Revelation).
  • The new heaven and earth are destined for everyone – not merely for the 1% (Luke 4: 14-22).
  • In fact, the present reality will be turned upside down. Those now considered “first” will be last (Matthew 20:16).
  • The dawning Kingdom will prioritize the needs of widows, orphans, immigrants, the poor and the oppressed.
  • It will be governed by a politics of love (not fear or hate).
  • There, the identity of those now despised (the poor, hungry, thirsty, houseless, naked and imprisoned) will be revealed as embodying Yeshua himself (Matthew 25: 40-45).

Embracing those truths promises to save us from being overwhelmed and drowned. No matter what the “informed” or “experts” might say, living by those convictions represents what it means to walk on water in these uncertain times.