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King Stephen and Herr Trump: thoughts on the inauguration

Today Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States. He does so as the most hated and distrusted person to ever swear that oath, an oath that he refuses to uphold and will never uphold beyond his ability to use the government of the United States for personal profit, something explicitly forbidden by the Constitution of the United States and therefore the oath he is about to take.

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Taking an oath of office you have no intention of upholding is nothing knew.  Nearly every king and queen regnant of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom has sworn a coronation oath.  Here is that oath and coronation ritual as King Stephen swore it on 26th of December, 1135 when he usurped the throne of King Henry I’s daughter and heir, Empress Matilda:

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“Do you Stephen de Blois solemnly swear to uphold the three duties of the king of England? Will you swear first, that the church of God and the whole Christian people shall have true peace at all time by your judgment; Second, that you will forbid extortion and all kinds of wrong-doing to all orders of men; Third, that you will enjoin equity and mercy in all judgments?” asked the Archbishop of Canterbury as he stood before the assembly at Westminster Abbey.

“I so swear!” promised Stephen.

The archbishop turned to the nobles assembled before him, “Do you, members of the Witan council consent to this man ruling as your king?”

“We wish it and grant it,” confirmed the Witan.

“Stephen de Blois, it is the will of the English people that you are to be king!  Receive now the anointing from God through me that you may be blessed in your reign!” proclaimed the archbishop as he anointed Stephen on his hands, breasts, shoulders, and arms with holy oil prepared for the coronation. In honour of the king’s duty to protect his people, he girt Stephen with a mighty sword before placing the royal crown upon his head. The royal ring he placed on Stephen’s finger. The sceptre and the rod he placed in Stephen’s hands. Finally, and at long last King Stephen sat down on his throne, his ambition fulfilled.

 

Trump’s coronation today (for there’s nothing democratic about his “presidency”) will resemble King Stephen’s in many strikingly similar ways–as will his reign. Stephen of course did not have nuclear weapons.  But like Trump, Stephen was a sort of puppet, a weak-minded monarch who allowed shrewder and even more ambitious men to use him for their personal gain — at the expense of not only the English people, but the entire island of Britain. King Stephen’s reign and its impact on England, Scotland, and Wales is an important part of “Empress Matilda of England.”  

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Empress Matilda of England tells the story of Henry I’s sole surviving legitimate child.

Matilda herself did not cross the Channel to assert her birth right upon hearing of Stephen’s treachery for she was heavily pregnant at the time and crossing the English Channel was a dangerous matter.  Stephen of course did not have nuclear weapons at his disposal.  Four hours from this writing, Donald J. Trump will.

We cannot afford delay in Resisting. We cannot afford to wait and see and hope that maybe Trump isn’t as bad as he seems.  Do not let the gas-lighting convince you to mistrust your own eyes, ears, and judgement. Do not get lulled into a false sense of security.

King Stephen inflicted eighteen years of civil war upon Britain, years called “The Anarchy.” They were among the worst years in British history.  Let us not allow history to repeat itself here.  Let us learn from history. Only our lives and liberties are at stake.

 

 

 

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Not so innocent: Israel, genocide, and the myth of the “chosen people”

Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska and attending Temple Baptist Church, I grew up with the same beliefs that many Evangelical Christians hold towards Israel:  Israel is the promised land of the descendants of Abraham.  When I read in the books of Joshua and Judges about the legendary conquest of Palestine by the Hebrews after their 40 years wandering in the wilderness, no one seemed to even notice that these military campaigns of conquest amounted to GENOCIDE where civilians, including and especially women and children, were put to the sword so the Hebrews could come in and take their land.  This was GOD’S WILL and therefore it was okay.  If God wants it, the killing is moral and just, right?

In my 20 years in the Church, no one ever questioned this doctrine.  No one ever said “hey, wait, these are war crimes.”  Instead since it was divinely mandated, it must be right — and historically true, of course.

This sentiment is echoed in temples, both reform and orthodox, especially at Hanukkah and Passover.  Israel belongs to the Jews as a right forged in an ancient covenant with God.  Jews are the Chosen People.

Being the “Chosen People” of God carries a lot of weight.  Being chosen means you are granted a measure of special grace from God, the right to do certain things without consequences.  You can kill as you please because God wants you to.

Now before anyone gets in a huff and calls me anti-Jewish, let me be very clear:  I love Jewish culture, food, tradition, and especially my many Jewish friends and acquaintances.  I lived for over four years in a orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York as not only a gentile, but one of the Old Religion of Britain and Ireland who strives to honour and embrace the British-Irish part of my heritage in my day-t0-day life.

As a historian who often favours being the outsider because of the objectivity this offers me for learning and study, I was able to listen, learn, and observe without the social-psychological chains that often blurs most people’s perspective.  I have no agenda except discovering the truth.  This is why my writing is so powerful and my books are to be believed.  I’m not a slick politician or sales person trying to sell something to you; just an honest researcher looking for truth.

The Bible of course covers ancient history — legendary or literal is a matter of debate.  Yet in Christian churches and in many Jewish congregations as well this doctrine that Israel is the God-given promised land of the Hebrews/Jews persists.

This Zionist idea that Israel rightfully belongs to Jews transcends denominational differences and enters the realm of politics.  Israel has certain rights to behave in whatever is perceived as its own interests.  To gainsay Israel’s decisions is to be anti-Jewish.  I am here to say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Last week I found the above video in a facebook feed exploring the modern state of Israel’s history.  In it and you discover that Israel is hardly this innocent and moral God-blessed nation who can do no wrong.  Far from it.  Objectively speaking, the Israelis are guilty of genocide and war crimes such as the West typically condemns when done by any other nation — except Israel.

Indeed anyone from any country who even remotely questions what Israel does is quickly labelled as anti-Jewish, especially politicians.  It would seem that to be pro-Jewish means not noticing Israel’s faults — or its war crimes.

 

I stand here asking you to now question that dogma.  Take a step back towards objectivity. When Iraqis do this to its peoples, when Syrians do this in its civil war, when Russia treats a minority group this way, DO WE NOT CALL THEM WAR CRIMES and CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?

 

Perhaps it is time to abolish this whole “chosen people” propaganda and instead look at all human beings as humans.  No one is expendable.  Life is life!  Every single human in this world deserves a decent and safe home, clean and nourishing food and water, the best possible education, decent clothing, safety from harm, and the chance to live a satisfying life.  Anyone who steals any of these things from anyone else needs to be sanctioned and dealt with.  Everyone has the right to live.  Everyone.

Mid-night musing: I watch in horror at human complacency

America Poverty CoverI watch in horror the way that human life and human creativity‬ are regarded as worthless. Not since just before the black death swept the world in the 13th to 17th centuries have we seen such a poor regard for life, for human dignity. Books that take years to write are sold for pennies. Music that take 10,000 hours to craft are not even acknowledged as worth paying for. We have an epidemic of complacency, where no one relates to anyone, where everyone takes everything for granted. There is no more thanksgiving to our cultures. There is no more any sort of appreciation for the hardship of others. We are all calloused. We simply no longer care. We want to each live, but few around us respect who we are nor that we should continue to live.

In Star Wars episode I, Anakin Skywalker said, “The problem with this universe is that no one helps anyone.” He was right.

Instead of treating everyone else as “surplus population” we need to understand that there is abundance all around us. We only need to come together, to care about each other, to help one another instead of judging people to find it.

When I was a child, we did a little play called “stone soup” about a traveler who tricks a community full of people only concerned for themselves into working together as a community, of sharing what they had with those around them.

We need some stone soup. We need to care about each other once more.

Breaking the Religious Code of Silence in Rape, Incest, and Domestic Violence

May 16, 2012

May 10, a New York Times article reports, “Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse.” The story details the dire consequences many Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn continue to face for daring to report child molestation and abuse to secular authorities. As we have all heard reports about for the last few years with the recent controversy over Roman Catholic clerical sexual abuse, the incidents, and the religious community response to anyone daring to break the code of silence that keeps victims hidden and perpetrators un-noticed, transcends religions. Blaming the victims and protecting the abusers is not just a Roman Catholic problem, or an Orthodox Jewish one for that matter.

I know all about this from my personal life. I too grew up in a very conservative religious community. In my case, it was Evangelical, “Born-Again” Christian. I grew up hearing sermons from Jack Van Impe, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, and countless others whose names I’ve forgotten across the years, all of whom would probably be considered Tea Party today for their ultra-conservatism. When I was in junior high I remember an older, teen peer being shunned in a formal church service, ex-communicated and banned from our church for pre-marital sex. With so much hidden (or not so hidden) pain of my own to go through, I did not process at the time (or perhaps could not in that religious environment) exactly what I had witnessed in seeing that shunning.

It is time our organized religions stop this conspiracy of blame and conspiracy of silence. No one makes a man or woman beat another. No one makes someone rape anyone. Responsibility for these terrible things lies on the person who does them. Surviving doesn’t make you dirty or sinful or evil or corrupt or anti your religion. When you suffer this, you are NOT to blame, no matter what someone says. Churches, synagogues, temples, religious communities of every theology and structure all need to stop this behavior. No matter how many weapons a perpetrator has or how powerful s/he is physically, not one abuser can continue without the silent consent of the group. When the group stands against these horrible things, the violence STOPS.

Violence is not the victim’s problem; it is everyone’s problem. We are all diminished every time a person is verbally demeaned, every time someone is forced into a non-consensual sexual act, every time someone is physically assaulted. Responsibility lies with all of us. If we do nothing to help the person in jeopardy, if we ignore the screams, if we turn away instead of intervening, then we have only empowered those doing these things.

From Martin Luther’s Sola Scriptura to Modern Biblical Literalism

May 17th, 2012

Politicians swear by it. Conservative Christians insist upon it. It has fueled debates on evolution verses creationism in public schools, civil rights legislation (everything from slavery to racial equality to gay marriage and beyond), and shaped archaeological expeditions to the Middle East. It is Biblical Literalism, the belief that the Bible is the literal and infallible “word of God” that must be read and interpreted as absolutely and literally true-down to every single word.

Biblical literalism is not confined to Christianity. It is also a common position in both Islam and Judaism, both of whom also use, to one extent or another, Biblical texts as part of their theologies. In 2011, Stephen Tomkins of the UK’s “The Guardian” tackled the question of how and why Biblical literalism is so prevalent in our culture in his article “How Biblical Literalism Took Root,” explaining the roots of the Biblical Literalist movement with the Protestant Reformation and its anti-papist viewpoint.

In 1521 Martin Luther was called upon to answer for his previous writings against papal abuses of power at the Diet of Worms, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me.” (http://www.luther.de/en/worms.html) This doctrine of Sola Scriptura (only the Bible), does not actually dictate how the Bible is to be read, interpreted, and applied; it only dictates that the Bible alone is authoritative. Contrary to later Protestant tradition, Luther’s position was that scripture plus reason-not the rulings of the church-should guide a Christian’s life. This focus on reason precludes a truly literal reading of the Bible, particularly as science and technology revises earlier understandings of Nature.

In the centuries after Luther, the Bible came to be perceived as so infallible that every word can and should be taken literally. Modern Biblical literalism was born!

Yet perhaps the modern version is not as productive as we all thought. Perhaps it is time to return to Luther’s intended sola scriptura-scripture alone (as opposed to focusing on outside interpreters)-but viewed through the lens of reason-not blind literalism.

 

 

The Myth of Perpetual Trauma

Originally posted June 25th, 2012

“You really need to see a therapist” advises a perfect stranger responding to my comment on a news blog where I discuss the gross under-reporting of sex crimes and domestic violence. My remark is sociological in nature, referencing data I learned in my university education which included sociology, social psychology, and pre-counseling psychology courses. The person reading it regards my data as “angry” and “hurt” in nature and assumes that I am a survivor of some sort of domestic violence or sex crime who needs professional help.

She was correct in assessing that I survived something, but completely off-base in her assumption that surviving something automatically means that the person is so traumatized by the event(s) that she presently needs professional therapy. Knowing nothing else about me, she could not know my personal medical history, much less the details of the crimes, yet she felt it appropriate to stick her head into very private personal business. Her underlying assumption was “if victimized, then need help.”

As well-meaning as her intent was, it is faulty in its logic. Every single person and every crime is different. We each respond to the stressors in our lives differently.
Sometimes a stressor like domestic violence or rape un-nerves us, undermining our capacities to live normal life. In these cases, it is probably advisable to seek professional help in getting back to a more productive mental state.

But the point of therapy is not to stay in therapy forever; the point of therapy is to get BETTER and NOT be in therapy any longer. The point of therapy is to HEAL – just as you heal from a physical woundIt is SUPPOSED to end; if no end is in sight, then the treatment isn’t working and a new therapist and/or approach is needed, just as you would do for any physical condition – like my chronic migraines where prescription drugs didn’t help, but a change to holistic therapy DID in reducing my physical pain.

Just as a stressor may unnerve us, it may equally INSPIRE us; we can and typically do respond to stress POSITIVELY. Surviving domestic violence or a sex crime often provokes us to make positive changes in our lives, allowing us to break destructive habits, increase in wisdom/insight, and grow deeper in our chosen spirituality. We learn from every experience in our lives; the most stressful events are generally the best teachers.

Despite living my life today with physical scars on my body that will never really go away from the crimes I suffered, I can honestly tell you that I would not change anything about my life, even and especially the mistakes I’ve made.
I am not less of a person. I am not weak for surviving criminal behavior. All of these experiences have given me insight, forced me to grow religiously, and developed inner resources and skills I would never have been able to. Through the crimes I suffered, I came to finally overcome several bad habits I’ve had that, in hindsight, have been rather self-destructive. Under the stress of coping with these hurtful events, I have discovered that I BLOSSOMED as an individual. My insights and understanding of the world is rooted in them.

Have I ever gone to therapy? Absolutely, many times over the course of my life, and using many different approaches. But therapy did its job: to help me cope and move on.

Surviving a crime is not a life sentence, no matter how brutal, horrible, or long-lasting. We all heal and move on. Surviving is not weakness, not something to be pitied. The strongest people in the world all survived some sort of serious trauma. Remember that next time you hear someone suffered something; odds are really good they are tougher inside than you are!