politics, theology

Stimulus Was Always The Wrong Word

So was jump start.

Here is Judd Gregg: “This bill, therefore, is not timely, targeted, and temporary, which is what a stimulus bill should be.” SOURCE

You are right Judd. Instead of timely substitute blueprint and long term, instead of targeted substitute all Americans and instead of temporary substitute permanent. The bill that is being hailed as an Obama victory is, as the President was quick to say, a step, not a solution.

The Obama agenda has always been a common sense effort to do what needs to be done to move our society away from the lesser angels of our nature to a self-image that is easier to live with — like decent, like not knee-jerk patriotic, like willing to put others first, like living within your means and so forth.

This is why decent conservatives like President Obama and why progressives understand him only two months after whatever fit they have had about him. The people who understand the President are long-suffering human beings whose cynicism and hopelessness has been leavened with a sense of what it would take to alter the equation of life.

What alters the equation is the skillful application of the values of democracy, tolerance, helpfulness and a rejection of all forms of idolatry. MORE ON THESE KEY VALUES

So we have step one. Stimulus is the wrong word to use. Stimulus come when the nation feels it is moving in the right direction and that could take a while. Though if enough  people took the trouble to read 194 Things Barack Intends To Do As President, there might be more hope more quickly.

politics, theology

The Benevolence Conundrum

To sink into this issue read the followiing from 3 Quarks: THE FOLLOWING

It starts:

Don’t give me anything, one sign says. Gifts are unacceptable and will be disposed of, asserts another. Pay no attention! The signs are held by a homeless woman on the subway, a heavily bundled figure who appears as interested in warding off charity as she is the cold, and the severity of her warnings are such that every vowel snarls at the nearest onlooker.

During my years at the UN in the late 90s and early 00s I was inundated by the issues of benevolence. By the end of my time there, I was tolerably convinced that the world needed to move beyond conventional philanthropy, benevolence and charity to value system based on nonidolatry, helpfulness, democracy and tolerance. Within such a system one would want to look very carefully at current modes of charity and benevolence, and even philanthropy in the widest sense, to see if they in fact serve the very elements of a system of widespread injustice.

I ended up linking capitalism and philanthropy as the twin engines of a system which I called benign genocide. This simply refers to the obvious fact that the current system inexorably does in millions annually, as the likes of Bill Gates painfully realizes.

What would replace benign genocide?

Not a wholesale rejection of capitalism nor of philanthropy, but a withdrawal of the idolatries that turn these ventures into objects of veneration. We need a widespread, indeed universal, skepticism regarding the utility of our systems. We need, in short, an Obama type of “what works” mentality. And an end to fatuous “binary” silliness.

The 3 Quarks piece referenced above is a vignette of a person who is intentionally flaunting the most elementary situation that raises our consciousness about having and not having, the very origins of benign genocide. The answer to the question it poses lies in such notions as linking radical individualism to the articulation of values (or as Nietzsche might suggest re-values) that have universal validity.

Benevolence these days is a conundrum inviting us to the most creative task that human beings can take up. Revaluing values.

Read more about Benign Genocide


Authority Problems in Theology

Theology has an authority problem. At the root authority is a choice.

If you are knocked on the side of the head by a bully, you can ascribe authority to what you reason to be the issue involved. Such as: He does not like me. Or you can see the blow as a summons to respond in kind. Or you can shake the dust from your feet in response to an inner voice that says, I want no more of this. Enough.

Authority is essentially your voice or mind, suggesting at every instant what your response should be. Even the ascription of authority to a document or text is a matter of having processed what you have seen and heard, and arriving at a blanket conclusion. The Bible is true. The Constitution is sacrosanct. These VCR directions suck. Whatever.


When I read blogs which ascribe authority to the Bible or Jesus or God, I respond that the authors are reflecting what they have been told, what they have heard. There is no authority for anything except the authority you give to it. I would of course add that there is no God save the One you experience within you.

What most theology does is concede this, but add that you must have faith in a mass of propositions that have no correlative with anything you experience within. Much theology is simply an argument about what faith means. If you accept that “all that follows” is “faith”, you step into the realm of religion or metaphysics, that is to say of supposition. Entire institutions get predicated on suppositions and then articulate cultures that judge others by their willingness to share them.

Methodists, Christians, seminarians of this or that seminary, members of this or that church, cult or whatever.

There is a way past this.

One could make the first premise of any suppositional venture the proviso that this is supposition and that its only authority is what you ascribe to it. That would essentially make theology a matter of honest self revelation, built more on humility than grandiosity.

I could, for example, say that when I take the Gospel of Mark and sing it, I emerge with some values I respect and even honor. They are not the values society honors, such as courage on the field of battle or loyalty to the state. They are tolerance, democracy, helpfulness and, mainly, nonidolatry.

This last value, nonidolatry, is the linchpin (theologically) of the radical empiricism or radical individualism I believe is the end of a consideration of authority. I do not believe that reason can move beyond the immanent frame. It can suppose beyond, but it cannot claim truth beyond.

What are the authorities within us that make a real difference in our lives? For me they are those occasional moments when one’s inner compass is sufficiently at odds with the social authority out there that there is a conflict. In my case this has shown itself in resigning from my fraternity in college, in entering seminary rather than a more “appealing” career track, in other decisions of a similar sort.

Authority is related inextricably to values. We do live by values, by the ascription of authority to this and that.

Now is theology a fertile means of seeding our inner value structure? Yes, to the extent it makes a distinction regarding its own truthfulness and practices some meekness in the face of the unknowable. This Beatitudinal virtue is not in large supply on sites I have been reading of late.

benign genocide, genocide, politics

Benign or Casual Genocide

Ported and revised.

Benign or casual genocide is a way of describing the largely unprotested (accepted) death of largely-invisible millions in our world.

This is the term I believe Dr. Sachs and others at the forefront of efforts against deep poverty in the world should use. We have thus far failed to shock the “benign billions” into an acceptance even of the one percent GNP solution, which is a minimal response but vastly beyond what we are now doing.


Benign or casual genocide is an honest name for the capitalist-philanthropic system that, in a macabre dance of mutuality, allows these terrible deaths to take place year after year.

Let the definitions be plain and simple.

By capitalist I mean to embrace the entire realm of business conducted for economic gain. The entire culture of consumer desire. The entire tendency of the world to accept this on its face as the “way things are” economically. The issue I wish to press is not guilt but truth. A true description.

Linked to this is the civilization-destroying growth of gaps between rich and middle class and down (economically) in the rich or privileged parts of the world, creating a culture of acquisition based on an acceptance of predatory principles.

By philanthropic I mean the entire complex of “not for profit” enterprises, ranging from movements and non-governmental organizations to institutions of learning to explicit “charities”, to many government agencies whose purposes are (presented as) eleemosynary. Education, health, so forth.

My contention is that we can call this partnership the engine of Benign or Casual Genocide.

Globally, it represents a failure of mammoth proportions. It need not be. At its heart lies a spiritual failure of nerve and apparent ignorance, even among our most sophisticated media, of this failure.

I am not ignoring the cries of those in media who do understand. I am lamenting the naive belief that anything less than a sea-change of global consciousness will have a remedial effect.

We casually read myriad death statistics and projections. Each year UNICEF and other agencies — ambivalent partners in this promenade — inundate us with these figures.

Even Presidents quote UNICEF.

It is a dance of hypocrisy and idiocy, given the resistance of peoples to a revaluation of the values by which we live. Proper development requires such a revaluation and it is profoundly in eddor to believe anything less.

Essentially, the world system we now have, largely uncontested, accepts Capitalism as the big engine to fuel an unequal wealth/power machine and Philanthropy as the little engine that will toot along and clean up the uglier evidences of a world where wealth, power and place continue to rule under the umbrella of hypocrisies that have been transmuted into simple “realism”.

We need to openly identify the partnership and observe that it does not work. We need to say what the solution is: The very leaders who most understand the problem need to admit that we are engaged in benign and casual genocide. We need to remove the emperor’s clothes. Until this occurs, the the great poverty experts are simply rubbing salt into the world’s gaping wounds.


The truth of the wholesale destruction of millions (dare we add the words women and children?) is currently left to marginalized observers who are never taken seriously by media, governments or the philanthropic-educational community.

Or, even worse, the truth is the province of house prophets in these institutions who deliver ritual Jeremiads to salve conscience as nothing continues to get done.


The name for the hegemony of Capitalism and Philanthropy is benign or casual genocide. We all contribute to this. We are all players on the stage of this sordid and terminally dehumanizing reality. The sooner we acknowledge what we are doing to the point that it convicts governments and media and mobilizes international leadership for a round of hopefully efficacious response, the better.

This is not about yelling louder. It is about saying the present system does not work.

al queda, shock and awe, time line, values, wars

How The War on Terror Went Wrong — A Poem

The Time Line That Was Not (How The War on Terror Went Wrong — A Poem)

The President did not declare to us
That in the space of say 300 days
We would bring down Al Queda at the core

That would have been a time line we could hold
Like going to the moon in one decade
Instead a desultory swing or two
And then the whole banal scenario
Death dealt like poison in a dance of doom

We would have made a noose that could be drawn
Around a remote region flecked with caves
We would have shared our knowledge and our aims
We would have made our action speak a word
About the values that might save this world

Instead we chose the ancient losers’ game
Made double tragic by the bravery
Of those who did the grunt work on the ground
Only to leave their limbs and lives to mix
With limbs and lives of endless thousands more

We know the litany and we’re ashamed
So how might we repent such reckless loss

Admit the error turn and start again
Compare it to our journey to the moon

Our wars cannot be won by shock and awe

We live amid cacaphony and rot
And fail to see the time line that was not

by Stephen C. Rose

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