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The Anti-Christ Immigration Response of US Governors and the Kingdom of God

Christians are called to be a light to the nations. The world can’t wait any longer for us to live into that mission.

And make no mistake about it – that mission is political. After all, Jesus preached the Kingdom of God.

Kingdom. Of. God.

This is not simply a personal ethic. I often hear evangelicals and conservatives say, “God wants everything from us” and “God demands our all.” But somehow many also claim that “everything” and “all” doesn’t include our politics because Jesus only gave us a personal ethic.

The fact is that the Kingdom of God is more than personal. It is political, but it is a radically different kind of politics because it subverts the political status quo. From the beginning of human history, the political status quo has been run by the same dynamic – violence.

But the Kingdom of God subverts the politics of violence. Make no mistake: When Jesus used the term “Kingdom of God,” he was being politically subversive. He was charged with high treason, because in using that phrase he was directly confronting the Kingdom of Rome.

These two political realms function in entirely different ways. The Kingdom of Rome functioned with violence, terror, and exclusion. But this point is crucial: Rome wanted peace. In fact, Rome named its project the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, and wanted to spread it throughout the known world. Unfortunately, the only method Rome knew to achieve “peace” was through violence. As Rome conquered new lands in the contradictory name of the Pax Romana, it carried the sword and the crucifix along with it. And if anyone resisted, they would likely be killed.

As all Christians know, that’s exactly what happened to Jesus. Why was Jesus killed? It wasn’t because he said, “Hey guys. I’ve got a personal ethic here, let’s all just love each other! Look, bunnies. Yay! Aren’t they cute!”


Jesus resisted the Kingdom of Rome with the Kingdom of God. But let’s be clear: Jesus subverted Rome in the most subversive way possible – he stood up for justice with nonviolent love. Jesus knew that Rome wasn’t the real enemy. As one of his earliest followers stated, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The real enemy wasn’t Rome. The real enemy was the anti-Christ – the forces of evil, hatred, and violence. So here’s the crucial contrast:

Where Rome sought to terrorize, exclude, and kill their enemies, Jesus taught us to love our enemies in the way that Jesus loved his enemies, with self-offering love and nonviolence. Yes, Jesus, along with the prophets before him, stood up to political, economic, and religious injustice. He named it. He confronted it. He resisted it.

But why didn’t Jesus ever kill in the name of peace and justice, like Rome did? Because he knew that violence and exclusion would make him just like his enemies. He would become the enemy twin of those he opposed. On a personal and political level, mimicking the violence, hatred, and exclusion of our enemies makes us exactly like our enemies. And so Jesus offers the only alternative – renounce violence by loving your neighbor, who includes even your enemies.

René Girard makes this point while quoting Jesus on love in his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World:

Since violence is mimetic, and no one ever feels responsible for triggering it initially, only by an unconditional renunciation can we arrive at the desired result (of peace):

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:33-35).

In the face of terrorism in France and throughout the world, those who follow Christ can have only one response – resist violence with nonviolent love.

In the face of refugees fleeing countries torn to shreds by terrorism, those who follow Christ can have only one response – resist the urge to exclude refugees by showing them gracious hospitality that lends without hope of receiving anything in return.

If we choose any other personal or political ethic, we aren’t living by the Kingdom of God. We deny God and worship at the feet of the anti-Christ. And Jesus had harsh words for those who claim to follow him but refuse to live by the love, nonviolence, and radical hospitality of the Kingdom of God:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father. On that day, many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.”

For those of us living in the 21st century, that prophetic warning is as important as ever. If Christians are serious about following Jesus and being a light to the nations, then we must follow Jesus by living into his personal and political ethic. Otherwise we become just like those we call our enemies.

If the governors of the United States exclude refugees who are fleeing from the violence of ISIS, then that act of exclusion by the United States makes us just like ISIS. But it’s actually worse than that. If we are honest with ourselves, we in the United States will admit that ISIS is just like us. We are the violent models that ISIS is imitating. We are the ones who, like ancient Rome, have been spreading “peace” and “justice” through violence. ISIS is simply mimicking our methods. If the United States really wants to lead the world into a more just and peaceful future, then we need to change our methods in fighting for justice from violence to nonviolent love.

Because if we continue down this path, we will ensure ourselves a future of apocalyptic violence. And Jesus will say to us, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.”

But fortunately there is a clear alternative. Jesus calls us to love. That love is risky and can be scary. That’s because love doesn’t guarantee security, but neither does violence. The point for Christians is to not be run by fear, but by love. To follow him means to trust that as we live into the Kingdom of God we can show hospitality and lend to everyone in need, without expecting anything in return, because we know that there will be enough for everyone.


Image Copyright: adrenalinapura / 123RF Stock Photo

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Talk To Me Tuesday: The RavenCast: Episode 4 – The Politics of Terrorism and the Politics of Jesus

The Discussion:



Show Notes*

How should we respond to terrorist attacks in Paris?

Nearly 90% of people killed in American drone attacks were not targeted. American violence is terrorizing the Middle East, labeling all “unknown people it kills as ‘Enemies Killed in Action,’” but they are often civilians. (The Intercept: The Drone Papers: The Assassination Complex.)

Last Thursday, the United States killed “Jihadi John” in a drone strike, killing the man responsible for beheading Western journalists. (In the discussion, Adam mistakenly said he beheaded monks. That was a different ISIS group.) The Huffington Post wrote, “Britain said the death of the militant would strike at the heart of the Islamic State group.” Tragically, killing Jihadi John didn’t stop ISIS from striking back. The mimetic nature of violence reveals that violence is imitative and it escalates. Jesus gave the prophetic message that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” We are experiencing the horrific pattern of escalating violence at work.

The logic of terrorism hopes to get a violent response in return for violence. That way terrorists can continue a narrative that they are actually the victims of Western aggression. In striking back, we give terrorists exactly what they want.

The Politics of Violence and the Politics of Jesus

Our violent political message isn’t working. Francois Hollande, President of France, said, “We are going to lead a war that will be pitiless.” He vowed to show “no mercy.” For Christians, this is in stark contrast to the Kingdom of God that Jesus invites us to living into. In the Beatitudes, Jesus claimed, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Just as violence is mimetic and will lead to a future of more violence, mercy is also mimetic. In other words, violence only ensures a future of violence. Mercy is our only possibility for a future of mercy and peace.

Negotiations alone won’t work. We also need reparations. So, what is a better solution to terrorism than responding with violence? Girardian Jean Michel-Oughourlian provides the answer in his book Psychopolitics,

Instead of spending astronomical sums on arms, let us spend instead on roads, hospitals, schools, houses, businesses, to create jobs and so on. Instead of financing war, let us purchase peace. (page 23)

*You may hear sounds in the background. That’s Lindsey’s toddler, which is also the reason for Lindsey’s side-glances.

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The Soul of Shame: Republicans and the CNBC Debate

There is one reason that political debates are so intriguing. And let’s not fool ourselves about this. We are not intrigued by these debates because we get to learn about the different positions candidates take on issues. That would be boring. And besides, at this stage of the primary debates, all the candidates have similar positions on the issues.

No. The real reason we are so fascinated by these debates is the drama. We want to see who wins and who loses. Debates are like a sporting event. Candidates, moderators, television networks – they are all playing the game to win.

And in this zero-sum game, in order to win somebody has to lose. Somebody has to be shamed. The game is rigged. They aren’t fair. They are set up to ensure that somebody gets humiliated.

But many Republican candidates are complaining that CNBC’s debate last week was unfair because the moderators asked “Gotcha” questions and acted in “bad faith.” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote that the moderators’ questions were “petty and mean spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.”

I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing Priebus or the Republican candidates who are complaining that the debate wasn’t fair. Essentially, they are right – the debate wasn’t fair because none of the debates are fair. They aren’t supposed to be fair; they are supposed to entertain us through the mechanism of shame. Until the American people demand changes, we shouldn’t expect anything different.

According to Curt Thompson’s latest book, The Soul of Shame, shame is the feeling that, “I am not enough; There is something wrong with me; I am bad, or I don’t matter.” But as Thompson states, shame is more than a feeling. It’s relational. Shame exists inside our minds, but it also exists between us. It is one of the many ways we influence one another. “In other words,” as Thompson explains, “there is rarely anything I do that is not either influencing or being influenced by other minds. And shame has no trouble swimming in the current that is constantly flowing between us.”

How we manage the current of shame that flows between us is crucial for finding healthy ways to heal our sense of shame.  Typically, we manage our sense of shame in unhealthy ways by mimicking others who have embarrassed us. Unfortunately, countering shame by shaming others is the natural default position of being human. It’s what the anthropologist René Girard calls this imitative type of behavior mimetic. You can see it everywhere, Reince Priebus and the Republicans who felt shamed. How did they respond? By shaming the CNBC moderators. But Priebus and those Republicans are not much different than any of us. We all tend to swim quite comfortably in the current of shame that constantly flows between us.

But we can swim in other currents. Instead of responding to shame with more shame, we can expose the cycle of shame by naming the game that we’re playing. Thompson alludes to this by writing, “. . . exposure is the very thing that shame requires for healing. Given how compelled we feel to turn away, strike inward at ourselves or strike out at others in response to shame, it is not our intuition to then quickly turn toward the other as a means to resolve the problem.”

I think this is what New Jersey Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Christ Christie did in a recent interview.* Christie named the game recently by asking the rhetorical question, “Are we shocked” that moderators are biased? Of course we shouldn’t be shocked. It doesn’t matter if the moderator is from Fox News, CNBC, Telemundo, or PBS – to be human is to be biased. There’s no such thing as fair and balanced. We’re all politically biased. Even claiming to be anti-political is a political bias.

Christie also stated in the interview that “Debates are about seeing how someone responds under pressure, seeing whether you can think on your feet. Because, by the way, the presidency is going to make you think on your feet. And if you can’t do that and we gotta keep looking for the talking points, that’s going to be a problem.”

Now, I’m fully aware that Chris Christie has a checkered political past. There is evidence that he has bullied and shamed people during his political career. He’s as tough as any political candidate and can be rude. But I think he’s pointing to something in his interview that’s important. And that’s this: because political debates are full of shame, they are a microcosm of life, where we swim in the current of shame. Indeed, “Debates are about seeing how someone responds under pressure.” That pressure is the current of shame that flows between us. And if we continue to swim in the current by shaming one another, then we will doom ourselves to a more hostile and violent world.

Responding to the pressure of being shamed by shaming others is easy. Thinking on our feet requires an alternative and more intentional response. Whether in a political debate or in a business room or at the kitchen table, we would benefit from swimming in a different current. That different current requires naming the shame game, exposing how it functions in our lives, and refusing to participate in the game.

Then we can swim in a different current that foster a more compassionate and peaceful world.

Photo: Republican Candidates at the CNBC Debate (Photo: Screenshot from YouTube)

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Sanders Debate

Challenging The Washington Consensus

Political wisdom always has a sharp, cynical edge. You can’t utter it without feeling the throb of ancient wounds.

For instance: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

Emma Goldman’s observation nestled into my subconscious decades ago, and each presidential go-around aggravates it with new intensity. The Washington consensus never changes. The mainstream media shills never cease their efforts to bully all seriousness — all reality — out of the process. And money and militarism silently, invisibly rule, no matter who wins.

The alleged result of this is an entrenched public complacency, as Americans settle for techno-consumerism as a substitute for participation in real, political life and a voice in who we are as a nation. Beyond our shores . . . whatever. Empires will be empires. What can you do?

I don’t really believe this, but election campaigns bring out this despair in me — or, at any rate, they used to.

“Donald Trump is throwing the GOP primary into chaos by channeling the GOP’s id, spinning out wild fantasies of the Mexican government deliberately sending a flood of rapists and murderers across the border,” Paul Rosenberg wrote back in July at Salon. “But Bernie Sanders is disrupting Hillary Clinton’s coronation on the Democratic side by channeling the party’s soul, with a specifically issue-based focus.”

Could it be?

At the very least, something unexpected and against the wishes of the Washington consensus is happening in both major parties here in 2015, as the absurdly lengthy presidential election season begins to shake and rattle. At this early phase, it’s difficult to assess the extent and significance of the change. Trump is beyond the edge of weird, as he lights up the Republican base with code-free racist diatribes and a political agenda he seems to be making up as he goes along.

But what about Sanders? And I don’t mean, is he “electable”? I’m willing to suspend my doubt in that regard, but I have yet to fully embrace him politically. Does he simply look good because the Democratic Party has fled so far to the right over the last three decades?

There was a moment in last week’s Democratic presidential debate that exemplified all of the above for me: the mainstream media’s determination to continue shaping and defining the American political consensus and the still-marginalized but emerging counterpoint to the militarism of that consensus.

At one point, CNN’s Anderson Cooper tried to nail Sanders with a “tough” question, bringing up the fact that the Vermont socialist had applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. “What would you say to a young soldier in Afghanistan about this?” Cooper asked, his question quietly loaded with implication.

Here’s a young soldier in Afghanistan, risking his life to defend America’s freedom! And here’s a presidential candidate who not only didn’t serve in his generation’s war back in the ’60s, but actually had the temerity to apply for I’m-against-war-in-general status, which politically speaking has the feel of a mortal sin.

Fascinatingly, this was the only time Cooper — or anyone else on the stage, except the seriously marginalized Lincoln Chafee — mentioned any of America’s failed-but-ongoing wars in the Middle East. The moment was a glaring demonstration of how the media shape public consensus: not by overt propaganda but, far more effectively, by silent implication. An imaginary GI is trotted out in his battle gear to stand briefly in judgment of the CO applicant who, 50 years ago, wanted only to avoid risking his life in service to his country. Shame, shame.

I repeat: The wars themselves were never discussed, because that would have been  . . . well, awkward.

Sanders could have stepped directly into the question and talked about the courage and moral clarity it takes to declare oneself a conscientious objector. He could have discussed the cost and pointlessness of our current wars, including the bombing, barely a week earlier, of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. He could have embraced the very GI Cooper had summoned in moral judgment, addressing PTSD and the dismal inadequacy of vets’ health care — in the process disrupting and exposing the game Cooper was trying to play.

Instead, Sanders settled for pointing out that, while he had been against the Vietnam War, “I’m not a pacifist.” He added: “I supported the war in Afghanistan. War should be the last resort, (but) I am prepared to take this country to war if necessary.”

OK, fine. The moment passed and (almost) disappeared. The debate went on. And while I was disappointed in Sanders’ answer, I was fascinated that the issue had come up at all. Conscientious objection to war has a consensus-threatening volatility even at this marginal level of acknowledgement.

And the presidential campaign is still in its early stages. And Sanders, to his immense credit, is refusing to run as a candidate beholden to big money. And, as a blogger named Karim pointed out at the website Secular Nirvana: “An incredibly large portion of Bernie’s supporters aren’t just voters, they have become activists.”

Being not just a voter but an activist is the antidote for Emma Goldman’s observation. This is how to change the world.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


Image: “[Full] Democratic Presidential Debate 2015: Bernie Sanders, Clinton, Webb, Chafee & O’Malley” on CNN. Published by SR Videos. Screenshot via Youtube.

Jeb Bush and Stephen Colbert on the Late Show. (Screen shot from YouTube)

The Political Wisdom of Jeb Bush, Stephen Colbert, and Jesus

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Bernie Sanders. My point was to highlight how Bernie refuses to play the game of political scapegoating. He was baited by an interviewer to attack Hillary Clinton and he refused to do it. Instead, he spoke about the issues. I argued that we need political leaders like Bernie Sanders.

Well, I was accused of endorsing Bernie. The accusation might be fair because I am feeling the Bern.

But I’m also feeling the Jeb.

Jeb Bush was recently on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Before taking a few late night obligatory jabs at the “Big orange elephant in the room … Donald Trump,” Stephen asked Jeb about the political hostility that divides Washington.

Stephen: Do you think that you could bring people together? Because everybody says they want to bring people together, but when you get down to the campaigning or get down to what passes for governing now, it often ends up being just a game of blood sport where you attack the other person and the other side can’t possibly do, say, or have planned for anything good.

Jeb: So I’m going to say something that’s heretic[al] I guess. I don’t think that Barack Obama has bad motives. I just think he’s wrong on a lot of issues … If you start with the premise that people have good motives you can find common ground … Look, in state capitals all across the country this doesn’t happen to the same extent that it does in Washington. In the mayor’s offices there are people who disagree with one another and they are allowed to talk to one another. You can be friends with people that you don’t agree with on everything. I mean, we have to restore a degree of civility.

Assume the Good

Jeb has provided some important political wisdom. Politics has become infected with what René Girard calls “mimetic rivalry.” We often think that rivalry is based on our differences. For example, we might think that Republicans and Democrats are in a bitter rivalry because they have differences of opinion about how to govern. Political rhetoric emphasizes the differences, of course, because each side completely believes in their own propoganda! If only they were really arguing about their different objectives, then we would be having substantive discussions on solutions to the problems that we face as a nation. But political rivalry isn’t based on differences; it’s based on similarities.  For example, Republicans and Democrats are in a bitter rivalry because each side wants the same thing – they each want to win and each views the other as a threat to their desire. In order to win, Democrats and Republicans forget their political mission to promote the common good and instead spend much of their time demonizing one another and telling us why electing the other side would be disastrous for America.

In human relationships, mimetic rivalry quickly escalates to the point where the object is completely lost and the only thing left is defeating our opponents. In other words, winning becomes the all-consuming objective rather than finding solutions to our nation’s problems. It’s a dangerous scenario that leads to verbal, emotional, and physical violence.

We need political leaders like Jeb Bush to guide us beyond the trap of mimetic rivalry. Jeb’s advice to “start with the premise that people have good motives” is an excellent place to start healing the political divide.

But as Jeb points out, to assume the good in the other is often viewed as heretical. There may be a price to pay when we stop demonizing our opponents and acknowledge that they are motivated by something good. We may be seen as traitors if we reach across the political or religious or racial or economic divide. We may even become our own group’s scapegoat.

Jesus and Jeb: On Being Heretics

This is the danger of fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies. When we love our enemies, which includes the ability to assume that they have good motives, our friends can quickly turn against us. Jesus knew the tragic outcome that his message of love would bring to a violent world. His message of love for even our enemies wouldn’t bring peace, rather it would bring division. It would split families and social groups apart because our group identity is so often based on uniting in hatred against a common enemy. But Jesus doesn’t allow for that kind of unity. He commands that we love our enemies as we love ourselves. Yet, he’s also very clear about the cost,

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Jesus’s call to love all people evokes the paradoxical truth that all-inclusive love brings division within group dynamics. He was accused of being a heretic because he challenged the status quo of hatred and hostility that divides groups from one another. When we love with the radical inclusiveness of Jesus we will be labeled as heretics by our own group. And that’s okay, because when our friends become enemies, we are still called by Jesus to love them. We are called, to paraphrase Jeb’s comment on the Late Show, to “start with the premise that our enemies, even our friends who have turned against us, have good motives.” Once we find and acknowledge those good motives, we have a better chance of working together toward the common good.

We need political leaders who will reach across the political divide and assume the good motives of the other. We need political leaders like Jeb Bush.

Photo: Jeb Bush and Stephen Colbert on the Late Show. (Screen shot from YouTube)

Bernie Sanders Interview with Andrea Mitchel (Screenshot from YouTube)

Why Bernie Sanders Is the Political Leader We Need

Last week while American culture was absorbed by the Kim Davis scandal, you may have missed the most important interview of the political season. Andrea Mitchel of MSNBC interviewed presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. You may disagree with his policies, but this interview reveals why Bernie Sanders is the political leader that we need.

Andrea Mitchel began the interview by framing Sanders in opposition to Hillary Clinton. Mitchel asked if Sanders’ ability to close the gap between himself and Clinton in the polls was “due to the email controversy and the trust factor.” As she continued to bait Sanders into attacking Clinton, he stated,

Let me reiterate, this campaign is not against Hillary Clinton or anybody else. It is for an American people who are sick and tired of seeing the middle class disappear and huge numbers of people living in poverty. And as a candidate, what I am going to do is focus on the real issues facing the American people: Why we are the only major country on earth not providing family and medical leave, the only major country not guaranteeing health care to all people, the need to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour over the next several years.

But Mitchel wasn’t done luring Sanders into attacking his Democratic rival. Instead of asking him about those issues, she immediately referred to a Quinnipiac University Poll that stated the first word that came to mind for voters about Hillary Clinton was “liar.” She asked, “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?” Sanders’ reply symbolizes everything that we need in our next political leader:

I have known Hillary Clinton for 25 years and I know her to be a very hard working, intelligent person. Somebody I worked with in the Senate. So I am sorry. I’m not going to get into the media game, Andrea, of making personal attacks against Hillary Clinton … I don’t think that’s what the American people want and I think we have got to focus on the real issues. Why is the middle class disappearing and almost all new income and wealth going to the top one percent? Why don’t we have a trade policy that works for the American worker and not the CEOs of large corporations? Why do we have a system where families cannot afford to send their kids to college? A lot of issues to be talked about. You’ll forgive me, but I’m not going to get into attacking Hillary Clinton personally.

Bernie Sanders is the political leader that we need. On the left and the right, presidential campaigns, interviews, and debates we are served a toxic helping of candidates blaming others for the problems that we face. The political blame game is a classic example of scapegoating. It’s an unfortunate fact that in American politics, the most “successful” politicians is the one who can attack others most effectively. For example, we love the drama of presidential debates, not so much because we want to hear a debate about the issues, but because we want to see who will score more points by making the other look like a fool.

Bernie Sanders is refreshing to me because political campaigns are usually established over and against other politicians. It creates a spirit of hostility within political campaigns that spreads throughout our culture.

There is only one way to stop the spirit of hostility from spreading, and Bernie is showing us the way. It is to remain focused on political policies, not on demonizing our political opponents.

We can disagree with Sanders about his policies, but he’s currently the most important political leader that we have because he’s naming the social disease that infects American culture. That disease is the imitative aspect of scapegoating an enemy. Sanders refuses to play that game and instead is focused on policy.

I hope he’s right. I hope that the American people don’t want politicians who make personal attacks against others. I fear that we are easily seduced by political attacks. But frankly, it doesn’t really matter what the American people want. What we need are political leader who refuses to get sidetracked by personal attacks. We need political leaders who stay focused on the issues. We need political leaders who will model for us how to have debates without demonizing the other side.

In other words, we need political leaders like Bernie Sanders.

Photo: Bernie Sanders Interview with Andrea Mitchel (Screenshot from YouTube)

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Screenshot from Youtube

Dr. Seuss and the Gospel Part 5: Yertle the Turtle and the “Wrath of God”

Dr. Seuss’ book Yertle the Turtle is about a King who rules through violence, oppression, and scapegoating. But the more he builds his kingdom on the backs of his subjects, the more likely his kingdom will come tumbling down into the mud. [Video Below]

What does Yertle the Turtle have to do with the Gospel? In his book, Must There Be Scapegoats, Raymund Schwager discusses St. Paul’s statement about that the “Wrath of God” in Romans 1. The “Wrath of God” isn’t something inherent to God. In fact, wrath is a purely human phenomenon. But God’s “wrath” for Paul has nothing to do with violence. Rather,

According to Paul, God’s anger consists only in the deliverance of humankind to themselves, their desires, passions, and perverse thinking. No external violence plays any further role. God’s wrath is identical with the granting of full respect for the human action that turns against God and leads to complete perversion of personal relationships.

We see the “complete perversion of personal relationships” as Yertle builds him empire on oppression, but his kingdom soon falls. The biblical prophets gave the same message to the ancient kings – if continue to scapegoat the poor, weak, and marginalized, your kingdom will fall. The alternative is to care for those who are marginalized.

Jesus picked up that strand within the prophets and showed that the kingdom of God was based not on oppression and scapegoating, but on caring for the marginalized. Schwager states that this is the new order of human relationships. “Whereas the old social order was founded on the scapegoat mechanism, the new people distinguished themselves by the fact that they no longer needed to compete with one another for supremacy.” This new way of life frees us to live into God’s realm of love and compassion for all people, including our scapegoats.

“The uncovering of the underlying process of violence through the message of boundless love must lead inevitably to a fundamental change in power structures,” writes Schwager. Those in power may experience that change in power structure as the “Wrath of God.” But it isn’t wrath. Rather, it’s God’s loving justice that seeks to heal our relationships with “boundless love.”

For more in the Dr. Seuss and the Gospel Series, see:

Part 1: On Beyond Zebra and the Restoration of all Things

Part 2: The Lorax, the Prophets, and the iPad

Part 3: The Cat in the Hat, Jesus, and Chaos

Part 4: How the Grinch Stole Christmas



Donald Trump

The Donald’s “Inclusive” Racism

The central assumption of democracy — beyond the assumption of fair elections, which is disturbingly questionable — is that voters are the possessors of their own “interests,” and vote for the candidate most sympathetic to them.

But of course those interests are fair game for advertising, bombast and propaganda — and the psychology of fear.

Thus, not only are candidates capable of misrepresenting their support of people’s interests, even more insidiously, they engage baldly in manipulating them. This is a game that turns the endless presidential campaign season, especially as it is conveyed to us in the mainstream media, into little more than a mish-mash of clashing sound bites: full of sound and fury, you might say, but signifying nothing, or at least nothing much.

The two-party system, which comes to us courtesy of Big Money and is taken so seriously by the media — as seriously as any advertising campaign takes itself — is, essentially, a race to seize control over the nation’s collective reptile brain.

Let’s make America great again!

Welcome to the 2016 presidential campaign, underway well over a year ahead of time and already devolving into cartoonish absurdity, thanks to the loudmouth billionaire who leads the Republican fray.

Donald Trump, with the help of his money and his ego, is exposing the absurdity of American politics like no one else I can remember. Whoosh! Gone is the protective veil of political correctness. Let’s hear it for naked cynicism!

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

As far as I can tell, Trump is the unapologetic standard bearer of late-stage, theater-of-the-absurd American exceptionalism. He directly addresses the prerequisite for national identity: an enemy. Someone to hate. Someone to fear. This is nationalism; this is Republicanism. And Trump brings his own special twist to it: a gleeful American inclusiveness.

And not a moment too soon, here in “post-racial” America. As Rick Perlstein astutely pointed out last month, Trump’s inflammatory, anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant announcement of the start of his presidential campaign — presenting a gift-wrapped enemy to the racist that secretly lurks in so many American hearts — was almost precisely juxtaposed with the immensely symbolic lowering of the Confederate flag in South Carolina. “And, immediately, Trump shot to the top of the Republican charts — with a bullet,” Perlstein wrote.

He added: “I’ve never seen anything that lays bare the core lineaments of conservatism so neatly: There is our tribe, which is good, true, and pure; and there are those other tribes, who are existential threats to you and me (Reagan’s favorite phrase), and must be suppressed in order for good to be preserved. ‘We’ all know this, even if ‘they’ don’t allow us to say this. If anything, the lowering of the Confederate flag in South Carolina opens space for this particular new longing to air this other silent truth more freely.

“This is important: Conservatism is like bigotry whack-a-mole.”

But there’s a special brilliance to the reconfigured racism Trump is offering to the American people.

Consider this paragraph from Trump’s campaign website. When you click on “positions,” only one topic shows up: immigration reform. And it’s not just any old immigration reform, it’s IMMIGRATION REFORM THAT WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

As the website explains: “For many years, Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country (as well as in other Latin American countries). They have even published pamphlets on how to illegally immigrate to the United States. The costs for the United States have been extraordinary: U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc. . . . The effects on jobseekers have also been disastrous, and black Americans have been particularly harmed.”

There are several reptile-brain subtleties of note here. First of all, the illegal immigration flow, according to Trump, begins with the machinations of “Mexico’s leaders.” It’s not a poverty-induced bleeding of the poor across the U.S. border but a deliberate, provocative act by one nation against another: something like an invasion. The Donald is not only giving us a subgroup to hate. He’s giving us war!

Perhaps even more appallingly, Trump makes a point of saying that “black Americans have been particularly harmed” by this invasion. Thus he opens the door to Black America to join the “We Hate Mexicans” club, in effect, creating a more inclusive form of American racism — the benefits of which, of course, will be reaped by his campaign.

Perhaps what this is really about is the slow-motion collapse-into-absurdity of the American empire, as Trump makes the emotional glue of hate and fear that has held it together for two and a half centuries unbearably obvious. The question he inspires, which lurks just beyond the horizon, is what sort of political entity we can build that isn’t based on these shadow “interests.” What happens after we stop seeing ourselves as conquerors? Can we build a country that honors, and fits into, a global whole?

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


Image: Copyright: Gage Skidmore via Flickr. Available through Creative Commons license.

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ISIS’s Anti-Islamic Theology of Rape

My blood boiled with rage as I read the New York Times article “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape.” ISIS has been promoting the systematic rape of women and girls, some girls even younger than 12. The article starts with a horrific description,

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her. When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

I have a daughter who will soon be 12. I’ve also been the youth pastor of teenage girls. Although I’m a staunch supporter of nonviolent action in the face of evil, and I don’t believe in hell as a place of torment after death, there is a significant part of me that wants to blow those bastard into a million pieces, sending them to the hell that they so richly deserve.

But there are two points that I would like to make in response to the article. First, ISIS is not Islamic. We need to stop calling ISIS a form of “radical Islam.” ISIS and other terror groups don’t deserve to have the name “Islam” attached to their identity.

As a Christian with many Muslim friends, I cannot allow ISIS to set the theological terms of Islam. When an ISIS fighter prostrates himself in prayer before and after raping a woman or a girl, he is not praying to Allah. He is praying to the devil.

Who Is Allah?

In Islamic terms, Allah is not a god who justifies rape and murder. Rather, Allah is the God of Mercy and Compassion. The chapters of the Qur’an begin with the phrase, “In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.” In Islam, mercy is God’s fundamental nature and Muslims are to imitate God’s mercy by acting in the ways of God’s mercy.

God states in the Qur’an that, “My Mercy and Compassion embrace all things” (7:156), but just what is God’s mercy like? The Arabic word for mercy is rahmah. It is intimately related to the Arabic word rahim, which means “womb.” In his book The Heart of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr claims that the connection between mercy and womb indicates that, “the world issues from the womb of Divine Mercy and Compassion.”

In Islam, Allah is like a Merciful Mother who loves and cares for her children. Now, one might claim that Allah’s children are only Muslims, and thus, only Muslims deserve mercy and compassion. But that would be false. As the Qur’an states, God’s “Mercy and Compassion embrace all things.” All that exists is embraced by God’s mercy. It doesn’t matter whether we are believers, polytheists, or atheists. In Islam, Allah responds to all things, including all people, with Mercy and Compassion.

Mercy and Compassion are so integral to Islam that Nasr states, “It is impossible for a Muslim to pray to God or even think of God without awareness of this essential dimension of Compassion and Mercy.”

Which leads me back to heinous acts of rape committed by ISIS. Their “theology of rape” has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, it is anti-Islamic because it goes against the very Mercy and Compassion that is the nature of Islam’s theology of God. True Islamic theology doesn’t lead to rape; it leads to compassion and mercy. ISIS is anti-Islamic because, as Nasr claims, “There are numerous teachings in the Quran and Hadith emphasizing the importance of having compassion toward the people who are one’s neighbors and being aware of their needs. Then beyond one’s neighborhood there is society at large, in which the same attitude of compassion and kindness must exist even beyond the boundary of one’s religion.”

Responding to ISIS: Violence or Mercy?

This leads me to my second point. As much as I’d like to blow those bastards away, if we are to take seriously the fact that God’s “Mercy encompasses all things,” then God’s mercy might extend even to ISIS. Will bombing ISIS stop their violent quest? Well, it might stop their violent quest, but as we’ve seen during the last 13 years in the “War on Terror,” when we violently destroy one enemy, another more dangerous enemy emerges.

In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that the mismanagement of Iraq by the United States has “encouraged thousands of skilled Iraqis to take their expertise to the anti-American insurgency that eventually became the Islamic State.”

We don’t need more bombs. The “War on Terror” has taught us that attempting to solve our problems with violence only reinforces a worldwide culture of violence. It teaches us and our enemies that violence is the only real solution to our problems. It reveals that we don’t really believe in God or Jesus or Allah. We and our enemies believe in the same god. And that god’s name is Violence. Our faith in the demonic god of violence will only lead us to a future of mutually assured destruction.

I believe that the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam would have us look reality in the face. Violence is mimetic; it only leads to more violence. We must lay down our weapons and find more creative ways to solve our problem of violence. We have wasted enough money on war that will only doom us to a future of apocalyptic violence. I’ll end with a quote from Jean-Michel Oughoulian, who describes a better and more merciful way to solve our worldwide problem of violence in his book Psychopolotics:

Instead of spending astronomical sums on arms, let us spend instead on roads, hospitals, schools, houses, businesses, to create jobs and so on. Instead of financing war, let us purchase peace.

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Copyright: kagenmi / 123RF Stock Photo

The Iran Deal and American Self-Deception

Politicians and pundits on both sides of the American political divide are debating the merits of President Obama’s deal with Iran. While Obama claims he has forestalled an Iranian nuclear weapon for at least another 10 years with unprecedented weapons inspection, Republicans state that the deal will only encourage the world’s most dangerous sponsor of terrorism.

Only time will tell us about the merits of the deal. For now, I’m interested in the response from our Republican presidential candidates.

The Republican candidates are swirling around, trying to point the finger at the greatest enemy of the United States. Is it the dreaded Mexican immigrants? (Gasp!) Or is it the terrorism that Iran threatens to unleash upon the globe? (Double gasp!)

American Terrorism

Forgive me if it looks like I’m picking on the Republicans. After all, this is American politics per usual. And maybe it’s just human politics. But Republican candidates in particular are trying to convince us that there is an extremely dangerous enemy out there that threatens our freedom. But that’s not all. They are also trying to convince us that the Democrats are enabling our enemies. And so we should vote for Republicans because they will be tough on our enemies.

This response from the Republicans is an act of American self-deception. They, and we the American people, should know better.

The United States has met our greatest enemy that leads the world in global terrorism. And it is us.

To prove my criticism of violent American foreign policy is bipartisan, I’ll point out that the Obama Administration’s indiscriminate drone strikes are terrorist crimes against humanity. While the Obama administration rightly criticizes al-Qaeda’s practice of attacking enemies during a funeral as morally heinous acts of terrorist monsters, nothing stops Obama from using drones to kill our “enemies” as they attend funerals.

I put “enemies” in quotes because they ended being regular civilians, many even children. You know, “casualties of war.” Aka, “Oops!”

And Iran is the most dangerous supporter of state terrorism in the world?

No, we are. And Republicans are trying to gain our vote by criticizing Obama’s terrorist policies and promising that they will be far better terrorists. Which, our politicians claim, will keep us safe.

A Relationship of Fear and Desire for Peace

The fact is that Iran wants to be just like the U.S. We fear Iran and Iran fears us. A relationship of fear is a recipe for disaster. But the U.S. and Iran want the same thing. Iran has a fearful political regime that just wants peace. Iran feels threatened, and it has learned from the U.S. how to respond to threats – by mimicking those violent threats with violent threats of its own.

We are enemy twins, who, even in negotiations, won’t take violence off the table.

The way that the U.S. can free ourselves from this relationship of violence is through honest self-criticism. Instead of accusing Iran of being a great threat to global security, we would do well to have the courage to admit our own terrorist acts of foreign policy.

American Honesty and Genuine Peace

It is the height of American self-deception to claim that we are completely innocent and Iran is completely guilty. Just look at our modern history with Iran. In 1953, the U.S. orchestrated a coup to topple the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh. Why? So that the U.S. would have “a major ownership in the strategic and highly lucrative trade of Iranian oil … with the additional bonus of a pliable client state in the heart of the Middle East.”

In 1985, the U.S. secretly shipped weapons to Iran and sent profits to Nicaraguan rebels. In 1988, the U.S. warship Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian airplane. The U.S. says it mistook the Airbus A300 for an Iranian fighter jet.

Our greatest enemy is not Iran. It’s not Russia. Nor is it China. Our greatest enemy is ourselves. We have modeled for the world how to gain temporary peace through violence, which is a pattern that will only ensure a future of apocalyptic destruction.

The only alternative is to model a different method to achieve peace. American politicians must have the courage to stop deceiving the American people about our perceived innocence. Rather, we need our politicians to be honest about American involvement in terrorism and lead us in repenting of our violence. Modeling that honesty and repentance to other nations is the only possible way that the U.S. can help foster genuine peace in the world.

Photo Copyright: kagenmi / 123RF Stock Photo

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