The “ARC” of the “American Dream”

The transcendent arc of the American dream, by years …

  1. 1765: Food, Shelter, Liberty
  2. 1865: Food, Shelter, Liberty (assuming you are white and a man)
  3. 1965: Food, Shelter, Liberty, House, Car, 1.5 children, College Education (and not being hung for being black, or gay ,or a woman)
  4. 1985: Food, Shelter, House, Car, 1 child, maybe some college
  5. 2005: Food (GMO), Shelter (30 year mortgage), Car (used), 1 dog, dropped out of Evergreen State College
  6. 2009: Food (worse yet), Shelter (apartment), bike, rat
  7. 2013: Crappy Food, Crappy Shelter, Having a job
  8. 2015: Food, Shelter
  9. 2016: Not being hunted by mobs
  10. 2017: First in line at soup kitchen
  11. 2018: First in line at suicide machine
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Anger …

Jesus, I have failed.

When I decided to move out to Indianapolis, one of my long-term goals was to let go of my anger, sadness, regret, and to learn to move onward.

At first,
when things so quickly went my way,
I felt burdens lifted and I even allowed myself to pretend,
dear Lord.

To pretend that my life could be normal.

That any of our lives could be normal.

And when that normalcy,
that tranquility,
was shocked by the realities of my life,
my rage rose to the surface,
and my patience ran dry.

It wasn’t just this last weekend,
the first moment was just days after starting my new job.

The next door neighbor,
a kind of bully,
neglected his kids,
allowed them to play basketball in the street,
a busy street,
and this placed his children and his neighbors at risk.

But worse,
his kids egged my new car.

I say “new car”,
because that was the first promise to myself broken.

I had decided to live without too much stuff,
to live light,
to live flexibly,
and to be prepared for what was to come.

That new car,
and the home loan,
were a rejection of my promise:

“Remember Dan, shit is about to get real – don’t get encumbered with too much crap.”

By raising my own expectations,
about this neighborhood,
a place I wanted to move into,
I raised my own ire.

This neighbor is a douche,
dear Lord,
and I let him know that I didn’t appreciate what his kids had done.

(they haven’t been playing much basketball in the street since)

Then there was the house …

That middle class fragment …

That pretense …

That declaration to myself,
and to others,
that I TOO could be a “home owner”.

What a lie.

It began slowly,
with the bankers,
not too much,
not too deep,
and then eventually they found a request that was too much.

Too much for me.

They asked for my divorce papers – too much.

They wanted me to explain WHY my sister’s death broke my heart,
why I needed to take time off after she died so rapidly,
so painfully,
so sadly,
of late stage meta-static cancer.

They wanted me to explain why,
dear Lord,
software engineers,
in Seattle,
worked contracts,
and made less than they had just a few years earlier.

They wanted me to explain,
for those evil men,
like Bill Gates,
who lie about the “engineer shortage”,
so they can depress wages,
salaries,
benefits.

I will not answer for them,
they will be answering before you,
sooner than they realize.

And my anger does not dissipate,
and I ask your forgiveness for this.

I realize,
Jesus,
it is your place to judge.

I have a lot of work to do.

AMEN

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“Home Ownership”: One American’s Nightmare

I’ve been dreaming about home ownership recently. With the new job, moving back to Indianapolis, it seemed like my life was becoming “normal” – whatever the hell normal means in 2014. I figured, “shit, the VA loan is a benefit for service and it’s not like I’ve used any other benefit or have any to use”. I frankly didn’t think much of it, and now I know why.

Those who follow me on TWITTER, or my blog, know I have serious reservations about the Federal Reserve easy money policy. It stinks. It punishes savers. It is a tax upon the world. By printing money and debasing our currency, we have become like the Romans and in that sense just as despised, as despicable.

So here I am, in Indianapolis, and allowing myself to pretend that the 3.25% interest rate, for 15 years, on 108,000 dollars, was the tiny piece of middle class life I would allow myself. I would be like everyone I know and join that new religious cult – “home ownership”.

It is an interesting cult, populated by believers in infinite growth without repercussions, believers in perpetual value accrual to one’s “home equity”. Believers in the idea that if the Federal Reserve prints money to allow the purchase of a home – it has no consequence, no one is hurt by this.

But that is a lie …

Consequence: older Americans, on fixed incomes, find it harder to live because of this evil policy.

Consequence: the poor of the planet, who already struggle to feed their families, find it near impossible to do so when we print money.

Consequence: never-ending wars and rumours of war to keep the planet in line, to keep them following along with the petro-dollar-industrial-war-complex.

There are many consequences to ZIRP (Zero-percent Interest Rate Policy) and quantitative easing, and all the other schemes the Federal Reserve has used to re-inflate asset bubbles post-2008. And, sure, Janet Yellen says “we are tapering” – but don’t let “bubbles” (I call her bubbles) fool you. They are using proxies in Europe (Euro-clear in Belgium) to pick up the slack, and they are using interest rate swaps to soften the blow. But these schemes will eventually run out, and old “Bubbles” will have to go in front of congress and discuss QE once again.

Back to the main story – my VA Loan mortgage.

It pancaked this last weekend, went kablooey.

One lie, after another lie, after another lie, made me lose it.

I decided to no longer pursue the mortgage and go back to, what I would call “Plan (A)” – rent, save money (by buying physical silver), store some extra water and food, buy more guns, and brace for impact.

Several times in the process of “getting the pre-approved” mortgage, the bank came back and asked “for a just a little more information” and also said “this is the last time we will need to do this”. They told me “this is the last time” like 4 or 5 times, in so many weeks.

The “first underwriter” would ask for something, and say “this is it Dan, we don’t need anything else”. Then another email, more questions, more intimate details of my life – until they reached a point they were asking for stuff I could not provide.

Finally, last Wednesday, I told them, “you can have the last pay stub, and the proof of home owners insurance, and we close by the 21st (of July) or the deal is off”. They all agreed – they being the employees of the bank.

Friday afternoon they demanded more information – and this time the information they wanted dealt with some of the most painful events of my life.

They demanded my divorce decree and associated documents – a divorce from a woman, whom if I were honest, I probably still love today. A divorce I didn’t want.

They demanded me to explain why my sister Nancy’s death, from aggressive meta-static cancer, impacted me in the way it did. Why did I take time off? Why did it make me so sad?

They demanded to understand WHY many software engineers in Seattle work short term contracts – given Bill Gate’s (Microsoft), Google’s, Apple’s and Amazon’s abuse of H1B1 visa programs makes it impossible to find any work BUT contract work, contracts that have a beginning and an end.

They wanted to know other things as well – all of which were none of their fucking business.

So, yesterday, I let them know that I believed the “pre-approved” loan was a lie, and that I should have stuck with my initial decision and steered clear of buying a home right now – given that total economic collapse is now months (if not weeks) away.

I let them know with many expletives, f-bombs, and other uses of the common tongue.

I was sad, because they had torn open wounds that were only just beginning to heal in the last few weeks – and their answer was “this isn’t personal Dan”.

Fuck yes it’s FUCKING PERSONAL!

This entire experience of trying to buy a home has been humiliating, degrading, and not at all an “American Dream” – more like an “American Nightmare”. They wanted me to re-ignite anger and pain I had hoped was subsiding, and they wanted me to know that it was just “business”.

Painful, personal, intimate – and none of the banking industry’s god-damn business.

And to the bankers who claim “we are just following orders”, and to the “cult members” who contend “the world is evil and that’s just the way it’s always been” – I am sorry.

I am sorry you are so morally bankrupt that you can no longer tell the difference between right and wrong.

I’m sorry you believe your free money has no impact on the world.

Because a storm is coming, and none of you are ready, prepared.

I’m probably not ready either.

But at least I know it is coming.

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Science Fiction: Technological dis-information in the era of Peak Oil

I’ve seen many sci-fi films.

There are the ones, showcasing space travel, with ships travelling faster than the speed of light.

There are the ones, dealing with super-computers, or robots, that take over the world.

There are the films which cover other dimensions or time travel or some other kind of technological hokum.

There are the conspiratorial sci-fi films, the thrillers, about “amazing technologies” that some evil corporation keeps hidden, because they still need to off-load their oil, coal, and nuclear power.

And I once thought these films were harmless, simple entertainment, just something for people to enjoy with a bowl of popcorn – but now I think they may serve a different purpose. These films construct a reality that is mainly populated with perpetual motion machines, flashing lasers, varying kinds of deus-ex-machina, and such machinery/systems that do the amazing, the incredible (or impossible and unbelievable). But when we walk into the movie theater, we can see that the concessions stand doubles as the ticket stand, and we can see that the theater is almost empty.

When we walk out into the light of the mall parking lot, we can see that it is quiet, deserted, and a vacant reminder that things may never be like what they once were and had only been for a short time (about 100 years).

For a century, OIL allowed mankind to do the impossible. To take it’s numbers from 1.5 billion to almost 7 billion. To travel to the moon. To build the atom bomb. To build the iPhone. All of this would have seemed like science fiction in the early 19th century.

Contemporary science fiction describes a world, not unlike the one described by Ray Kurzweil, when the “amazing and impossible” will become commonplace, ordinary and ubiquitous.

I believe that, even if inadvertent, these stories are used as a means to “keep hope alive” – even the scary stories describe transcendently powerful technologies that “must exist and will save us” from the inevitable, inexorable, frightening and depressing realities of Peak Oil. Aliens are scary – but what about a world torn to pieces by famine, war, economic collapse, and inevitable decline (that is scarier). “Global Warming”, the ultimate sci-fi story, channels us away from OIL – but no one ever asks, of the 6/10, whose “6″ are eliminated (all 10 cannot survive).

If these fantastic sci-fi possibilities are real, then maybe we won’t have to fight bloody wars over the last remaining conventional oil supplies.

If super robots can take over the world, then maybe we won’t have to drill holes in the bottom of the ocean at 30,000 feet below the surface.

If some evil corporation is hiding the secret to “water powered cars”, then maybe we can stop boiling tar, in Canada, to produce oil.

Marx once said, “religion is the opium of the masses”.

I would say, “science fiction is the opium of the present”.

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Land of Deception

On a daily basis, as a software engineer, I am inundated with opinions, beliefs, white-papers, spam, and “news-worthy articles” – all trying to spell out the next big thing in software design.

When I began as a developer, I was not easily suckered, but it was hard for me to say “wait a minute, that seems wrong”. My background is not pure-computer science, I actually have 3 degrees, one of these is a B.S. in Informatics from Indiana University – with a minor in computer science. But, if I may be blunt, it has been the course in “Algorithms and Data-structures” that has been my touchstone of truth and my means of checking bullshit. Sure, in the real practical world of applied problem solving or software engineering, there are usually several decent solutions to any given problem, but the “cost” of a bad solution ought not to be controversial or opinion based – hence my anger and frustration over being involved with Microsoft AMALGA in 2010/2011 at the University of Washington (not a story I want to go into in this post – but I address elsewhere).

I am am going off on this tangent, because the common “critique” I have received over the years usually takes on the form of “Argument from Authority”: the imbuing of something with “truthfulness” because a figure of authority states it. AMALGA was a great system, because one or more PhD(s) at the UW said so. Design patterns are the only correct means for building large systems, because your boss says so. A consultant sells TDD (Test Driven Development) or Agile or any number of methods (some of which may work) and because the company spent $100K on the consultant, the statements must be true – otherwise why would they charge so much? (this last one is a bit muddy, because it also deals with the issue of cognitive dissonance)

So, yes – in the world of computers, where Americans have been led to believe “logic and reason rules”, there is as much BS as you have anywhere else, arguably more so. Because applied machine intelligence is complex, the very complexity creates an aura of “magic” and this is the manure from which many forms of magical thinking sprout.

In the world as a whole, especially in America these days, we are surrounded by illusions, lies, confusion, deception, rhetoric and marketing. We attempt to filter through it, but it colors every aspect of our lives. I wish I could say, “well, sure, there are deceivers at my place of work but when I get home this ceases”. It would be nice to say that. In reality, the deception is 24/7.

The marketing or rhetorical techniques, that play on the themes of “authority”, “conformity”, “insider/outsider”, are reasonably well known. But then there is the manufacturing of truth. Those who observe the Federal Reserve and our Federal Government with respect to economic reporting see these lies daily. John Williams, of shadowstats.com, has an entire website dedicated to uncovering the truth with respect to unemployment, GDP, inflation, and other critical metrics relating to the health of our economy and our future. “Zero Hedge”, one of my favorite websites, publishes home-grown and re-postings of articles that provide an alternative view of our current economic conditions – but these are outsider, fringe, and marginalized by the “real” media. They are often called “sellers of doom-porn” and “mongers of fear”. Our mainstream media sells us (or rather feeds us) the “truth” and these other sources are the true deceivers – if you believe the mainstream media line.

I just finished watching a documentary, called “Mirage” – about Richard Doty (USAF RET) and the disinformation campaign, managed by our government, regarding UFO(s). I don’t know what to think regarding the UFO phenomena – I’ve never seen one, but I’ve met honest people who say they have. But, I also know enough history to understand that parallel-narratives, narratives sprinkled with truth, are often used to mislead and to control. Do I think the U.S. Government would use resources to convince people that “UFO(s) are real” in order to cover up TOP-SECRET programs? – Absolutely. There are documented cases, from World War 2, of our government constructing elaborate counter-intelligence illusions or tricks in order to fool the Germans and the Japanese. Yes, I think our government would use psy-ops and counter-intelligence to manipulate “believers” in the world of UFO(s) – but at what point do you ask the next question? – why? Simply to hide stealth fighters? – Perhaps. But what if the story, concerning the story, is fiction too? At what point does the search for “truth” become impossible? – who knows.

This screed, or rant, or essay, or just vanilla blog entry, is not meant as a random discussion of deception or illusion or lies. I rather want people to remember, including myself, that once you go down the road of questioning, then “questioning everything” is not that many leagues distant.

Descartes begins his meditations this way – he questions everything, but then reaches a point of truth, at least for him: “I think therefore I am”. Sean Paul Sartre, 3 centuries later, re-states this as “I think” and “I am” and in no way are those two moments of being by necessity connected. Even this foundation of modern philosophy does not protect us from the philosopher’s morass – solipsism.

I am critical of many things.

It was my critique of my “Catholic world”, as blunt as it was, while still a youth in grade school, that set me on a course away from God and towards Atheism – it was the same mind, when confronting the question of life and existence, that led me back to God. The very critical mindset that could lead to non-belief, led me back to belief, and in this I learned the simplest truth – none of us has the option of living without some kind of faith, even if the faith is to be faithless.

I continue to be critical, and not solely because it is part of my personality. I am critical because we live in perilous times when our leaders are constantly trying to cover up one mistake with a worse error. Economic problems? – no problem, we can just start a war. Presidential controversies? – no problem, we can talk about terrorists and looming attacks.

Our leader’s favorite dance partner, as is so oft stated, is fear.

Fear often is the root of illusion. Fear changes the chemistry of the brain and impacts our perception. Fear can turn a tiny noise into a “ghost” a “goblin” an “alien”. Fear can lead us to close our minds to new information – information that might actually help to clarify an issue. Fear is one of the dimensions of deception.

Paradigms – paradigms are crucial and they suck.

Paradigms are the models through which we perceive the world and are also cognitive traps that keep us from seeing the world “a little differently”. Thomas Kuhn, in the “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” actually coins the term “paradigm shift” and he points out that much of the history of thought is a history of conformity that is punctuated, and abruptly imploded, by radical new ideas. So, no – paradigms are not prisons without escape, but when you are stuck in one it is hard to know or even to conceive what sort of escape might exist.

Drugs …

We can all agree that any drug, when abused, is likely bad. What is more controversial is the use of psychotropic drugs for treating depression and other “behavioral disorders” and what their real impact is. I for one believe marijuana, in small amounts, might actually be therapeutic for most people, but I’ve used anti-depressants and I must say that the “legal” drugs feel more dangerous, more shattering of awareness.

Governments work with big-Rx to push “drug therapies”, and they are pushing these on almost every age cohort. This is troubling and one wonders what the long term impact will be.

I am beyond a 1,000 words – so I am going to close out this rant with the following:

I do not know if I know the truth. I believe I know the truth, but I cannot prove it. I cannot prove that the universe is real, but I act as if it is. I feel as if I am manipulated, every day, in every dimension of my life, into believing ideas that are false. I sense the manipulation, but I cannot prove that the manipulators are doing this purposefully or simply out of paradigmatic ignorance. I do not know if Janet Yellen, for example, actually believes the things she says about the economy OR if she is acting in a duplicitous way vis-a-vis the American people. We all know “mirages” are real. We don’t spend much time debating this. We all know liars are real, and we mostly agree the insane are real – though we should give Foucault his day and admit that “madness”, per se, is historically and culturally contingent.

I do not have a means of proving that I believe what I believe – this is true.

(or is it)

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Where are your churches, dear Lord?

Christ,
you once said:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mathew 18:20

So,
a church,
a place of Jesus and God,
a home for the holy spirit,
is available – for all.

But in this lies danger.

How do I know it is your Church? – so many pretenders, un-believers, apostates, deceivers.

How do I find your flock? – in a world where God is denigrated, destroyed, and his followers are beheaded.

I ask,
Dear Lord,
because I am lost in the wilderness.

The first church I visited,
up north “where everyone is white, middle-class, safe”,
was an “arena church”.

This first church had “flair”.

This first church had “special effects”.

This first church had big screen TV’s.

This first church had “rock N roll”.

The believers assembled there were good people,
but the church didn’t feel like your house.

The pastor who taught that day was enlightening,
but he taught concerning the “Pentechost” – the expansion of Christianity.

He taught this lesson in a homogeneous grouping,
of sameness,
of self-similar lives,
of insularity,
of fear.

So,
Lord,
the first church didn’t work out.

I then visited the second church,
and at first I felt:

“Jesus, thank you, I’ve found my home.”

But then,
last Wednesday,
I attended “Bible Study”.

And the reverend used the word “individual”,
several times,
as my long dead father,
who worked as a logger,
up in the woods,
used to use the word “fuck”.

She sold state worship,
not God worship.

She sold the evils of the invidual,
while forgetting that God’s compact is with each one of us,
individually.

She denigrated the outcomes of free-will,
the necessity of a free society,
and she did this with a courteous smile.

I felt sick after that “Bible Study” – as if I had food poisoning.

Interestingly enough – we were studying Jeremiah.

We were studying the prophets,
Dear Lord,
whom you spoke with during your people’s captivity in Babylon.

Prophets who explained WHY they were captive.

This reverend,
who claimed stewardship of your flock,
sold the very poison that led to the Hebrew captivity – and eventually ours.

I had been an Atheist for 40 years.

I had seen the evidence of good and evil,
all around,
but never once asked – how?

I knew I was free,
from the youngest age,
and never really asked – why?

So perhaps this is my cross to bear,
my punishment,
for my redemption,
that I should wander in a wilderness,
where there are no churches,
just empty shells,
filled with fearful people,
all bargaining with God,
all asking “for one more iPad”,
one more “job offer”,
one more chance to pollute,
destroy,
distort,
your creation.

I work in technology,
and this is why I am sceptical of it.

I have a good job,
and this does not comfort me when so many are in pain.

I bought a car with 0%,
I purchased a home with my VA Loan benefit,
at 3.25%.
I am congratulated for this,
and I feel I have really mortgaged my soul.

Lord,
help me in my confusion,
lead me to the still waters of your promised land,
forgive me my sins,
forgive the sins of all mankind,
grant us a chance to build a church again.

Not a church of men,
but of God.

Not a building,
or a 501C3,
or an organization,
or scheme,
or TV Network.

Grant us the chance to build churches,
of 2,
and 3,
of believers.

Men and women,
black and white,
rich and poor,
gay and straight,
who can find your word,
once again.

And,
Lord,
grant us peace.

AMEN

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Meditative Prayer on “Broken Covenants” …

Dear Lord,
God of the Israelites.

Christ,
who gave his life for our sins.

Jesus – why do we keep breaking our pacts?

Violating our agreements?

Being so untrue to our word?

1. The Covenant of Creation – between God and Adam and Eve:

You gave us paradise,
we had an agreement,
but ignorance won out,
and we were kicked out.

(first covenant broken)

2. The Covenant Following Expulsion from Paradise:

We flourished upon the Earth,
but the angels got horny,
and the way got thorny,
and men,
and women,
committed evil across the world,
and then Noah had to build his boat.

(second covenant broken)

3. The Covenant of Abraham:

You spoke to Abraham,
and said “I am”,
and that you go before us always,
and make the way safe,
and provide sustenance,
and wealth,
and yet we let ourselves be dragged into slavery,
and lived under the yoke of Egyptian rule.

(third covenant broken)

4. The Covenant of Moses – 10 Commandments:

You sent Moses,
and he broke the yoke,
and led the people through the wilderness,
and after many weeks,
and many mistakes,
Moses led them to the promised land.

But the men and women of Israel became wicked,
and even David,
much loved by God,
demonstrated mankind’s weakness,
with his slavish obedience to matters of no consequence.

So you sent your people into captivity in Babylon.

(fourth covenant broken)

5. The Covenant of Christ – “The Golden Rule”:

And then you sent your son,
Jesus,
and he gave us the new word,
and his mind was light upon the world,
and mankind learned a way to love,
to peace,
to understanding.

Then Jesus died for our depravity,
and rose,
and left us to carry onwards.

So we tried, at first …

But following his crucifixion,
mankind dwealt in a new wilderness of darkness,
Roman decay,
and selfish degeneracy.

Ages of “wars in God’s name” ensued …

Crusades,
slavery,
abuses,
torture,
inquisition,
murders …

All committed in the name of Christ.

And when finally,
men and women so imperfect,
settled upon a “New World”,
a new paradise,
they murdered,
raped,
plagued,
in your name once again.

(fifth covenant broken)

6. The Declaration of Independence

And then,
FINALLY,
as if the wisdom of our Lord touched us once again,
they spoke,
in one voice,
on July 4, 1776:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

And this was a new covenant,
an agreement to be kept,
to be cherished,
for all time,
between men and women,
between rich and poor,
between all irrespective of color,
creed,
sexual orientation,
et cetera.

A covenant designed to break the bonds of slavery.

A covenant designed to free women from centuries of tyrannical abuse.

A covenant designed to change the world.

A covenant designed by men,
but with the hand of God clearly visible.

But after barely 2 centuries,
we have turned our backs on this covenant,
and it is broken,
and we are broken,
and we have chosen the path of evil once again.

(sixth covenant broken)

Jesus,
I have no right to ask this,
nor does any American living today – but I will ask.

Christ – will you raise this republic?

Will you shine a light upon our nation and raise this dead-compact from the ashes?

As you once raised Lazarus from his tomb?

I ask this not for myself – for I too hold shame and guilt over the broken covenant.

And as Moses was forbidden to enter the promised land,
so none of us alive today should feel welcome in a new land of liberty,
even if we fight and die to bring it forth again.

Our sins are great,
but none greater than this:

We were given a republic,
and we failed to keep it.

Christ knows what befalls us now.

AMEN

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How can I be good, if not free?

Lord in Heaven …

Both my sister and my mom are with you,
and my father,
for whom my forgiveness is still due.

(I’m working on forgiveness Dad – for you and to forgive myself)

Lord,
I was made free by you.

I was free at birth,
and as such I cannot be other.

Both my sister and mom asked of me
one thing before they died:

“Dan, don’t be ashamed of who you are.”

I am not ashamed.

I am a sinner,
but I do seek the path of God.

I am weird,
a freak,
different,
and proud.

I am an individual,
but I see myself in the context of community.

I cannot imagine a just world that is not also a free world.

I see the necessity of community but I choose freely to help my friends,
my neighbors,
my family,
and it is a product of free-will.

I receive no moral value from simply paying my taxes.

I see no moral action in obedience to power or tyranny.

I can’t imagine a moral society that is controlled,
manipulated,
monitored,
or dominated by the rule of the majority.

If it is sin that man commits when he chooses to turn his back on you, Lord,
is it NOT a GREATER SIN to compel men and women to be good against their will,
and to deny them the fruits of their intellect and their liberty?

Lord,
I want to live in a good community where neighbors are concerned for their fellows,
for the strangers,
for the weak.

But Lord I do not want to live in a community where one man is compelled by the state to give his or her wealth to another, or where one group shames another into “behaving”.

I would rather we be punished as in each epoch,
for our sinful ways,
then to force an anti-kingdom upon the world.

No man or woman can be moral without the option of evil too – though we pray that good triumphs.

So,
I pray,
that I live in a free world,
in a free country,
where people choose to do what is right for your sake and NOT because of intimidation or FEAR.

AMEN

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