Morality is not a Popularity Contest

I have noticed that, quite often, when an organization determines that a certain course of action is the right course of action their next step is to enter into a long process to determine how to best implement that course of action. What they really seem to be doing is determining how to implement their decision in the way that will create the least amount of public relations damage possible. While I agree with the old adage that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, there are some problems that require action sooner rather than later. If your house catches fire, you want the fire department to arrive as soon as they can rather than wait until they determine the route that will offend the fewest people with their sirens and horns. The humanitarian crisis at our borders is a house on fire, but the issue is being referred to committees at a frantic pace.

second-guessingI understand that everybody wants to afford everybody else the illusion of empowerment (God help us all), but in some situations the reason we have placed leaders in  position is to take action while some well meaning soul forms committees in hopes that nobody gets offended. We have so battered many of our leaders that they are afraid to take action because they don’t want to weather the second guesses of their constituents, and so they fail to take action when required. We have a lot of damage to repair!

We might start that repair by learning to trust our gut. I believe there are many ways in which we communicate with one another that we can’t see or measure, but they exist nevertheless. Whether we call it intuition, a hunch, or trusting our gut, we respond to that information that is subtly communicated. How many times have each of us ignored our hunches only to later discover we should have listened to them? Sometimes we just need to take action. If we lose our position for doing the right thing, or the best thing we could, we need to ask ourselves if we would have wanted to remain in a place that confuses popularity with right action. I hope not.

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Violence

The journey of faith is an arc, beginning at a point in life when we have little understanding of spiritual truth. Hopefully that journey moves toward realization that it is absolutely contrary to the life of faith to kill another human being, no matter the reason.

Needless to say, as a nation we have quite a long way to go.

Honesty is Such a Lonely Word

Billy Joel was right, not only about love but also about spiritual and religious circles – though he may not have had that in mind when he wrote his song.

There is a practice that I have seen both in Newage* circles and in Evangelical circles of 220px-Honesty_singleblatant dishonesty about the ideas and even the integrity of other teachers and preachers. If you run in the motivational speaker/Chicken Soup book circles, the odds are you do nothing but heap praise on others in those circles. According to these folks, everyone is wonderful at everything they do. Indeed, some of them are. Others mostly push content that is rather vacuous, largely rehashed and diluted ideas from long ago. The problem is that when everyone says everything is wonderful, people tend to believe them and go out an spend their hard earned money on books and conferences that are largely newage.

In Evangelical circles, particularly the Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swaggert circles, the same sort of things happen on a regular basis. I have seen it for myself. Almost every one of these high profile organizations gets hit with a scandal sooner or later, and they run to each other’s defense – especially if the person currently in the fire stood behind others when they were in the fire. I have witnessed these discussions. The problem here is even worse than it is in newage circles, because quite often what is being covered up and dismissed is serious misconduct that is abusive toward those the offender is supposed to be serving. If you think that only the large denominations traffic in cover ups, you are fooling yourself.

What we need in all corners of our world is a lot more honesty, no matter what the consequences may be. This may cause some sort term discomfort, but it will protect people from getting hurt by the unqualified and disqualified charlatans posing as authentic teachers and leaders. Imagine what might happen if we went so far as to require honesty from politicians!

 

*I borrow the term “Newage,” which rhymes with “sewage,” from Lama Surya Das to distinguish between solid and dubious New Age teaching.

Faith, or Politics?

The time has come – in fact, it probably came long ago – when no person of any faith whatsoever can support the current President of the United States. I say that because this President has repeatedly said and done things that are contrary to the teachings of every legitimate faith tradition. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but rather a sufficient list, of his speech and action that forces every person of faith to make a choice between their faith and the President:

  • Repeated misogynistic actions and speech, including confession on tape of (at least) fourth degree sexual assault.
  • Repeated racist speech and actions against virtually every ethnic group and Trumpincluding members of Congress and his predecessor, President Obama.
  • Holding rallies at which he has incited violence against political opponents including (but not limited to) Hillary Clinton, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • Violating long-standing ethical standards by refusing to divest of his business holdings in such a way that he derives no profit from being President of the United States. Most flagrant are his repeated trips at taxpayer expense to a golf resort he owns.
  • Separating children from their families in detainment centers, and also holding those children for longer than 72 hours in direct violation of United States Law.
  • Denying those detained at the border due process and their right to legal representation – again, including children.

There are many more problems I could list, but the above are more than sufficient. What’s more, the President has transformed the Office of his Press Secretary and others into Propaganda Offices that no longer serve their intended function. Much like those offices, supporters of the President do not engage in discussions but rather parrot the same lies his propaganda officials spout. The time for talking is past, because the President and his supporters have repeatedly shown that talking is ineffective. We must now move to concentrated, non-violent resistance to this man and his actions. Failing that, we must confess that we really aren’t people of faith at all, but rather political hacks interested primarily in getting ahead at the expense of others. Where will you stand?

There are no Gurus

The fascination that has grown in the west over the past several decades with eastern spirituality has become problematic, especially regarding gurus. As spiritual teachers and so-called gurus have moved from east to west, one thing that has become apparent is that they have a propensity toward sexual misconduct with their students. This in turn creates not only the problems that come with every form of sexual abuse and misconduct, but also a problem with the whole notion of gurus.

A guru is supposed to be a fully enlightened being. By definition, a fully enlightened being would never act out in any way – including and perhaps most especially sexually. The simplistic approach would be to say that anyone who acts out sexually is not a true barkley guruguru. I would agree as far as that goes, but what this approach leaves unanswered is whether we should just head on down to the next guru or whether the whole idea of guru is somehow part of the problem.

It seems you can’t scratch the surface of many so-called gurus without finding problematic behaviors. Whether they have quietly amassed fortunes, built large networks of volunteers who work for them without pay, have a secret stash of luxury automobiles, abuse their students physically or sexually, throw lavish parties that celebrate hedonism more than spirituality, or some other unacceptable behavior, many if not most highly regarded teachers who have migrated to the west have fallen from grace. What is the problem?

The problem is that most gurus achieve recognition as gurus in a highly protected environment. Living as celibate monks in a monastery, they are able to make spiritual progress is what is a very sheltered environment. In these environments money, sexuality, fame, and western style social interactions simply aren’t an issue. What these systems generate aren’t fully enlightened beings but rather semi-enlightened man-children. In a sheltered, cloistered environment they are just fine but they fall to pieces when they step out of the monastery and into the world. Stated another way, when they have to cope with the same things everyday people like you and I cope with, it becomes apparent they aren’t so enlightened after all. Go figure. You can’t “educate” someone in a sheltered environment and believe that will equip them to function well outside that environment. It’s not just ill-advised, it’s stupid.

We have this notion that spiritual leaders should live in an environment where they guru fraudnever have to navigate the complex web of human relationships (most especially romantic and sexual relationships) or be responsible for their own financial well-being. Then we let them into the world and they set about raping and pillaging. Would you give the keys to your brand new car to someone who had never seen a car, much less had any driver’s education or driving experience? Then why in the world do we send these adult children into the world and give them the keys to our spiritual well-being?

Spiritual teachers are precisely that – teachers. Since no human being is perfect, whatever enlightenment may be it cannot be equivalent to perfection. We still need to exercise our best judgment and to understand that when it comes to our safety, our opinion is the only one that counts. Never do something that feels wrong because someone you trust tells you it is right. The external guru, if such a thing exists, is there to show you the internal guru – and your internal guru would never betray you!.

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If aliens from another planet tried to learn something about us from advertising, what would our priorities seem to be?

  • Weight loss
  • Erections
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • And?

That’s a sad statement!

Truth

The days in which anyone with even a shred of honesty or integrity could say “my religion is the only right one” have been consigned by the advances in human capacity to the waste bin of history. There are no serious or worthwhile conversations to be had from this archaic stance.

America Prefers its Veterans KIA


memorial dayHappy Memorial Day, everyone! In case you haven’t been besieged by this reminder already, today is the day that America honors her fallen veterans – the only kind of veteran America really likes. As you have probably heard, you shouldn’t have too much fun this weekend. We would much prefer you be somber, but do come to the parade and other celebrations! Just remember, this isn’t about picnics and drinking, no! You must have the proper attitude to honor our fallen veterans, because America honors her fallen veterans!

The living ones, not so much.

Oh, sure, they have their special days as well. We have Armed Forces Day coming up on American as fuck shirtJune 29th, but you probably didn’t know when that day was because we don’t want to make too big a deal about our currently serving military or we might have to face the fact that we don’t pay them a living wage to put their lives on the line for our freedom. New recruits with four months time enlisted make $1681 a month, or $20,171 per year and the privilege of living in base housing free of charge to put their lives on the line for us. That’s roughly $10 per hour, plus housing and health care. Overwhelmed yet? The top of the scale for the highest ranking enlisted person with over sixteen years of service is $69,000 plus a housing allowance and health care. Not exactly a wage that reflects the value one might place in one’s leaders in corporate America, is it.

You might be thinking, we love and take care of our veterans who have completed their service! We honor them on Veterans Day, which gets a little more attention than Armed Forces Day but not quite as much as Memorial Day! What’s more, if they qualify (which they most likely don’t), they can get healthcare free of charge at our completely broken VA system where they will get the privilege of waiting months for substandard care. If you retire after twenty years as an E-6, you’ll even get a pension of $1600 a month. Stick it out thirty and leave as a E-7 and that figure will skyrocket to $2300. Try not to be overwhelmed.

If America really loved her veterans, we would provide them the best healthcare mem day saleavailable – including psychiatric services, free education, low interest loans for housing, and a host of other, much needed services. The problem is that costs money, and the government isn’t really interested in spending money on something so inconsequential as human beings. They have other priorities. They would much rather fund the next war that will create even more veterans we won’t care for or, even better, give corporations tax breaks. If you think that’s too harsh, consider the other highly celebrated memorial day subject – consumer capitalism. Don’t have fun, go to the parade, and then spend money, because if there’s one thing America does love and encourage, it’s spending. So, get out there and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could get shit on sale.

One last sticky point. Some Americans get all energized over people who kneel or kaepernick kneelingotherwise refuse to stand during the National Anthem. They carry on about how it disgraces the flag and our veterans, sometimes at the very sporting events we ask veterans to stand up at to receive our applause to honor their service and make them forget we really don’t do more than pay them them lip service in return for their service. That Colin Kaepernick and his ilk, kneeling in response to societal injustice and racism, we won’t tolerate that at our Memorial Day celebrations!

Did you know that a veteran commits suicide every sixty-five minutes in America? That our VA system is completely ill-equipped to deal with that, and you want me to get riled up about who kneels during the National Anthem? Maybe those “kneeling bastards” are the only ones who understand!.

Fuck.

Notre Dame

notre dame post fireHow sad it is that the wealthy are willing to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild a finger pointing at the moon, but aren’t willing to be equally generous to the starving and dying around the world. Idolatry is like that. It convinces us that we are following the precepts of Divinity when in truth we are only whitewashing tombs.

It’s fine to want to rebuild Notre Dame, but if starving children yemeyou suppose that is God’s priority then you worship a God I do not know. What’s more, if you think that God cares more about any building than a child, then you are surely worshiping evil while believing it’s good. You see, the wealthy tend to be all about easy solutions, about throwing money at a problem – especially when it will enhance their next vacation. When the problem is complex and not likely to be resolved so quickly, their attention wanes rather quickly. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant about a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Enough is Enough

Spiritual teachers, no matter the tradition, should never be sexually involved with their students. Period.

karma-sakyong-mipham-buddhism-waylon-lewis_629
And it’s about to slap the Sakyong on his ass big time.

Spiritual teachers who are sexually involved with their students are not, in fact, qualified to be spiritual teachers.

The notion that one can be partially enlightened but somehow not have that awakening reach their genitals and attitudes toward women is nothing other than absurd apologetics for rapists and an ill disguised attempt to help them avoid responsibility for their actions.

You cannot be awakened and a perpetrator of violence at the same time. You cannot be awakened and commit crimes against at risk populations at the same time. You cannot be awakened while at the same time making excuses for your bad behavior.

Is it clear yet?