Loving In The Loser’s Club: The Gospel According To Stephen King’s IT

“A frightening possibility suddenly occurred to him: maybe sometimes things didn’t just go wrong and then stop; maybe sometimes they just kept going wronger and wronger until everything was totally fucked up.”

“OH SHIT! I BELIEVE IN ALL OF THOSE THINGS!” he shouted, and it was true: even at eleven he had observed that things turned out right a ridiculous amount of the time.”

“There was power in that music, a power which seemed to most rightfully belong to all the skinny kids, fat kids, ugly kids, shy kids—the world’s losers, in short.”

One of my favorite things about Autumn is October because, well, Halloween. I mean, Hallowen. HALLO-FREAKING-WEEN. As I wrote elsewhere, I believe Halloween can be observed in a very Christocentric manner, all month long.

My main way to observe this sacred time has been to reread through Stephen King’s masterpiece, IT, once again. I cannot rave about this book enough. If you are even vaguely interested in reading it, please for the love of everything holy and uholy, read it. Haha, get it? IT. What’s that? Puns are evil? Nah.. oh.. okay..

If you haven’t read IT and are still interested in reading this post, please check out this brief plot summary so as to make sense of this gibberish I’m conveying. However, if you’ve seen the original film adaptation, that should be sufficient. If you’ve only seen the first part of the recent remake, be aware there are spoilers ahead.

There are many themes I would love to draw out, but for the sake of brevity let’s tie some random threads together and hope we acquire something sensible! Seriously, though, this book conveys many beautiful truths: the Christocentric gospel, mimetic theory, death anxiety,  and the centrality of love (here I mean agape, not eros) in living a satisfactory life. To name a few.

The first thing I’d like to point out about this book is that Stephen King manipulates the ‘haunted house’ horror trope. He expands this common microcosm from haunted house to haunted town (ie: Derry). Pennywise doesn’t live in a house, It lives in Derry.  Pennywise appears to be an almost omnipresent being in Derry. It can appear just about anytime and anywhere. Derry is Its town – one could say It owns Derry. It influences people and events. In this way, Pennywise is symbolic of the zeitgeist of a town. Now, the dictionary definition of zeitgeist reads as such:

the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time

and while I am using it in this way, I’d like to expand a bit. The zeitgeist is not simply covering a particular period of history, although it certainly embodies that. It can also mean the cultural atmosphere of any place, period of time, or group of people . For example, here are some questions that can get at the zeitgeist of one’s workplace: how casual is one permitted to dress, what goals does one’s workplace have and how does it seek to implement them, and what are the policies for showing up early or late? In relatively simple terms, I’m referring to culture. On a smaller scale this means the culture of a house, a workplace, a family, a person (ie: one’s psyche and way of thinking). On a larger scale, this could look like a county, a state, a nation, a non-geographically connected group of people.

The thing about culture is it is very real, and many ways even tangible, but it is often overlooked. People live in it, and often follow its mandates, without consciously thinking, “I’m obeying the rules of my culture.” Those who don’t obey get punished whether most explicitly via prison, mental asylums, or social stigmatization. Most people do not go through life self-examining themselves to choose what they want to consciously absorb and meld into and what they don’t. People just go with the flow.

Some, though, consciously follow the rules for fear of being cast out. They may theoretically disagree with an aspect of their culture, but we live in the postmodern age, and who knows what the hell is right…right? Let’s just do this thing, or go with this motion – why stir the pot and be looked down upon?

This is Pennywise. It manipulates Derry through apathetic ignorance and fear, just like the zeitgeist. Pennywise is simultaneously Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann. It is in-your-face evil, but It is also the type of evil that apathetically pushes papers and blindly follows orders, irregardless of compassion and empathy.  It is not mere malice, it is willful ignorance, which, I would argue, is just as heinous.

“I started after him…and the clown looked back. I saw Its eyes, and all at
once I understood who It was.”
“Who was it, Don?” Harold Gardner asked softly.
It was Derry,” Don Hagarty said. “It was this town.”

See, almost all of the residents of Derry ignore Its presence. It is implied they are all very well aware of It, but they refuse to really acknowledge It, think about It, talk about It. They quite literally just live with It. But they can’t just ignore the mass murder of children. They have to put the blame on someone or something, even if that blame is not directly or consciously related to the initial problem. In other words, the people of Derry conjure up some form of scapegoat.

This sort of thing plays out everyday in a multitude of ways. On a microcosmic scale, imagine a father having a terribly stressful day at work, not dealing with the problem directly and consciously, but instead taking out his frustrations on his unassuming child. The child becomes the scapegoat for something unrelated to him, and the father’s stress may be relieved (sort of…not to speak of the guilt that should come from within). On a macrocosmic scale, one need only look at the current state of American politics – we have two generalized political bodies blaming the other for seemingly every problem in the nation state. It’s scapegoating on a broader scale.

More specifically I am referring to the Mimetic Theory proposed by Rene Girard. If you are unfamiliar, please read here. Briefly, the scapegoat functions as the guilty person/party, whether directly involved with the issue at hand or not. The scapegoat may be a person of blemish, embarrassment, quirkiness, etc… they just have to be an easy target which the larger body of people can unify against. In Christian theology, the scapegoat is Jesus Christ. On a practical, socio-politic-historical level, the political powers of His day (ie: Caesar) and the religious authorities (ie: the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc…) used Jesus’ crucifixion as a means to unify the people in the midst of political and religious crisis. On a theological metanarrative level, the Trinitarian God lets humanity kill Him in order that His love may be known, and the absurdity of violence and vengeance is shown. In other words, Jesus Christ functions as the scapegoat for humanity’s own self-inflicted harm. However, unlike other scapegoats, the victimization of Jesus Christ leads to the eventual end of violence and the absolution of sin, therefore ending the need for a scapegoat mechanism.

Now, in Stephen King It, the scapegoat just happens to be The Loser’s Club. As stated above, this scapegoat process is hardly conscious. There isn’t the clear and coherent thought: “We have to ignore Pennywise, but deal with this problem. Let’s indirectly take out our frustrations and qualms with the inhumane aspects of our zeitgeist (personified in Pennywise) on these weird kids.” I’d like to point out, as well, that The Loser’s Club may not be the only scapegoats. Because the narrative is centralized around this group of people, they are the scapegoats given, but that does not mean they are the only people of blemish in Derry. For example, King writes that Derry is extremely hostile to the LGBTQ+ population. This group of people are also scapegoats in Derry’s zeitgeist.

The Loser’s Club consists of a ragtag band of outcast kids who all have some sort of turmoil or social abnormality that makes them just not quite…right. These social quirks make them easy targets. Many would consider them to be a curse – but it is these very oddities that bring The Loser’s Club together in the first place. They bond over them, gain the strength to face Pennywise, and learn to love themselves and each other in the process. (Blessed are the persecuted.) The Loser’s Club comes together over their own insecurities and abnormalities to form a community. This community is guided by the gentle voice of the Turtle. The Turtle appears to be an omniscient Being of benevolence. The Turtle occasionally steps in to guide and assist The Loser’s Club toward agape love and victory of evil personified. The Turtle represents the Trinity, especially the Holy Spirit.

In Christian theology, the Holy Spirit guides humanity toward truth, holiness, and love. The Turtle in It does the same, and while I think this comparison is the biggest stretch I provide in this analysis, I still think it works. Some Christians may argue it is a bit blasphemous because the emphasis in the narrative is obviously on the power of love as found in The Loser’s Club and the Turtle is only in the background helping out. The kid’s do not explicitly worship the Turtle, and care far more about loving those around them. But that’s just it – Christ himself calls the Church his body, and therefore any true agape love found in the Church is also the love of Christ manifested on Earth.

Which leads me to my next point: The Loser’s Club is the Church. Now, you may be thinking, “hold on a minute. You’re comparing the scapegoat, outcast, loser group with one of the most powerful religions in the history of mankind?” but just bear with me a second. I do not in any way mean the powerful church, lower case c. I mean the Church, capital C.

Okay, that probably doesn’t clear things up all that much. I’m sorry. What I mean is that I believe the Church is always powerless. If the Church has political power or privilege, it is not the Church, just some piece-o-shit sham. In fact, that church is Pennywise. A modern day example: Pennywise embodies many aspects of the American Evangelical Church movement. This movement, culture, zeitgeist, is full of middle/upper class, white privileged, cisgender, powerful men and blindly submissive women that knowingly (or often more common: willfully and blindly) use their power to oppress many groups of people and spit in the face of Christ. Now, I’m not saying that if you or someone you know considers themselves to be an Evangelical in America that they (or you) are equivalent with Pennywise. But I’m definitely saying there is some truth to the claim that, by and large, American Evangelicalism is heinous, blasphemous, and evil.

Before you flip and get pissed at my statement, I’m not saying that other forms of Christianity aren’t evil, either. I’m pinpointing a group of people I myself am a part of. I’m not singling it out to, well.. scapegoat it. I’m using American Evangelicalism as an example because I am well acquainted with it, and feel more comfortable critiquing my own circle than another’s.

But what does this mean for the real Church? The real Church is, according to the precepts of the ‘world,’ powerless. It is all those Christians who consciously attempt non-conformance to the evils found in the institution of Christianity. It is those who refuse to simply go through the motions to make themselves feel better – to numb themselves with the opiate of the masses, as Marx so eloquently put it. Those actively working against the principalities and powers of the zeitgeist – they are Its explicit enemies. But they don’t work against people, they work for people, all people, seeking the reconciliation of everyone.

The real Church is often oppressed, sometimes willfully so. Oppressed not by “happy holidays,” or some non-existent Islamic overlord, but by choosing to live with the oppressed. The real Church works to end the oppression of peoples everywhere, all the while taking residence with them, if the oppressed are so willing to accept them into their community. The real Church gives up its power to become one with the powerless. The real Church is a co-suffering Loser’s Club. And just like the Loser’s Club, the real Church flips the principalities and powers on their head to reveal it holds true Power, thanks to the co-suffering love given by the Trinity.

The Loser’s Club overcomes the evil of Pennywise twice. The first time is while the members are children. During this period they defeat It, but don’t kill It. However, they hope it is over and finished. They promise each other if It ever comes back, they will reunite and fight It again. Almost 30 years pass, and It resurfaces as strong as ever. They reunite and fight It, of course succeeding because, c’mon, all you need is (co-suffering) love.

All this is sweet and thematic, but the thing I’d really like to point out here is the 30 year gap. King tells us that The Loser’s Club almost completely forget about It as they ‘mature’ into adulthood. Only one original member stays in Derry, and while he does his best to remember and stay vigilant, he eventually forgets. The perspectives of all members as adults are shown to us one by one. Some of them appear content while others appear discontent. All of them are comfortable though – even those in abusive relationships. They are comfortable in what they know, or refuse to admit. But none of them remember any of the others, and life has completely moved on.

Until Pennywise’s activity is made aware to Mike by the Turtle. Once Mike remembers he reluctantly phones each of them. The individual club members are forced out of apathy to confront the zeitgeist, to confront the true way the world works. It wrecks one of them, driving him to the point of suicide. He simply couldn’t deal with the difficult journey of non-conformity.  The rest forcibly move out of the comfort of their blind stagnant lives, and decide to face the current.

But for about 30 freaking years they conformed. They grew into the adults society told them they should be. Self-absorbed, afraid, loveless (agape-less). Despite a very explicit face-to-face victory against evil incarnate, they succumbed to blind ignorance. They assumed one battle, one victory was enough. But that’s not how the zeitgeist works. Evil is paradoxically constant and malleable. As soon as it is conquered (if it ever truly is this side of life), it manifests itself anew. This is why political revolutions just never work. The Church always trips up here. It justifiably stops to celebrate a victory, but quickly gets lost in said victory and loses focus. It quickly conforms to the status quo and trots forward.

Herein lies one of the most important lessons of King’s masterpiece: as a unified group, we are able to maintain our focus. We are able to encourage each other to keep moving, to stay the course. Separated, we become weaker, the temptation toward apathy grows stronger, and we lose sight of everything we once strove for. Agape becomes impossible if we are isolated – there is no one to love.

The other important bit we cannot forget lest our undoing ensue is found in a simple quote from It:

“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.”

The point is we are all, always, a little bit apathetic, a little bit compassionate. A little bit evil, a little bit good. One may outweigh the other at a given point in time, but we are ever-moving creatures, always growing, always changing. We are nuanced and beautiful, even at our worst. The person you have demonized as evil is still a person, there is still some good in there somewhere. The person you have glorified as divine is still a person, there is still some evil in there somewhere.

In the novel, people are not the problem that must be overcome. The evil is Pennywise. As stated above, Pennywise is the zeitgeist incarnate. Evil manifested. One must work to lovingly change and challenge the cultural zeitgeist of one’s place. One must fight those things, not people. Love people. Our enemies are institutions, principalities, cultures. Our enemy is Pennywise. Not the people It manipulates. People are always precious. No nuance about that.

While King himself may not agree with this interpretation, and while I have taken some liberties, this shows only a fraction of why I love this piece of literature so friggin’ much.  It’s the gospel in horror narrative form. Many Christians I know find it to be abhorrent, find horror and Halloween to be abhorrent. They’re missing out.

Perhaps they’re too blind to see that

“…God favors drunks, small children, and the cataclysmically stoned…”

 

Peace be unto you this spooky season. May you learn to overcome the ego and the fear of death so as to truly live a life in and for Love. ❤

Universalism by John Wesley Hanson

I just finished reading John Wesley Hanson’s Universalism. It was a short and easy read. Well, easy insofar as it wasn’t very theologically academic. It was difficult in that the edition I purchased was a print-on-demand from Amazon…the transcription was so poor I found typos and grammatical errors every few sentences. This lead to a lot of double takes, but honestly didn’t interfere too terribly with the process.

I’d like to share the last couple pages of Hanson’s book, because he basically outlines the previous 200 pages in a very succinct and compact way. A way that is potentially more palatable to my social media friends who have no time to sit down and read a dry book on universalism. I added a few thoughts of my own to his points, and tried to clarify some things that my be confusing, but for the most part, this is quoted from his work. I believe his work is now considered in the public domain. Please inform me if this isn’t the case, as I will swiftly remove this.

The whole premise of Hanson’s book is that universalism, as manifested in Christian theology, is not, and was not, considered heretical to Christians from 0-500 A.D. He outlines the history of the belief among prominent and minor Church Fathers (and Mothers) and shows that universalism was actually the dominant belief of Christians, and if we are going to be honest with ourselves, we cannot truly claim the belief to be heretical.

“If we want to be true and honest Christians, we must go back to those earliest ante-Nicene authorities, the true fathers of the church.” ~ Max Muller

1) During the First Century the primitive Christians did not dwell on matters of eschatology, but devoted their attention to apologetics; they were chiefly anxious to establish the fact of Christ’s advent, and of its blessings to the world. Possibly the question of destiny was an open one, till Paganism and Judaism introduced erroneous ideas, when the New Testament doctrine of the apokatastasis was asserted, and universal restoration became an accepted belief, as stated later by Clement and Origen, A.D. 180-230.

2) The Catacombs give us the views of the unlearned, as Clement and Origen state the doctrine of scholars and teachers. Not a syllable is found hinting at the horrors Augustinian endless terror, but the inscription on every monument harmonizes with the Universalism of the early fathers.

3) Clement declares that all punishment, however severe, is purificatory; that even the ‘torments of the damned’ are curative. Origen explains even Gehenna as signifying limited and curative punishment, and both, as all the other ancient Universalists, declare that ‘everleasting’ (aionion) punishment, is consonant with universal salvation. So that it is no proof that other primitive Christians who are less explicit as to the final result, taught endless punishment when they employ the same terms.

4) Like our Lord and his Apostles, the primitive Christians avoided the words with which the Pagans and Jews defined their versions of endless punishmen: aidios or adialeiopton timoria (endless torment), a doctrine the latter believed, and knew how to describe; but they, the early Christians, call punishment, as did our Lord, kolasis aionios, discipline, chastisement, of indefinitie, limited duration.

5) The early Christians taught that Christ preached the Gospel to the dead, and for that purpose descended into Hades. Many held that he released all who were in ward. This shows that repentance beyond the grave, perpetual probation, was then accepted, which precludes the modern error that the soul’s destiny is decided at death.

6) Prayers for the dead were universal in the early church, which would be absurd, if their condition is unalterably fixed at the grave.

7) The idea that false threats were necessary to keep the common people in check, and that the truth might be held esoterically, prevailed among the earlier Christians, so that there can be no doubt that many who seem to teach endless punishment, really held the broad universalistic views in more academic works, as we know the most did, and preached terrors pedagogically to the laypersons.

8) The first comparatively complete systematic statement of Christian doctrine ever given to the world was by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 180, and universal salvation was one of the tenets.

9) The first complete presentation of Christianity as a system was by Origen (A.D. 220) and universal salvation was explicitly contained in it.

10) Universal salvation was the prevailing doctrine in Christendom as long as Greek, the language of the New Testament and its writers, was the language of Christendom, rather than Latin, as used by Augustinians.

11) Universalism was generally believed in the first three centuries, when Christians were most remarkable for simplicity, goodness, and missionary zeal, giving communally to all, freely sacrificing their lives as martyrs (thus, one does not need the fear of eternal torment to evangelize or love others).

12) Universalism was least known when Greek, the language of the New Testament was least known, and when Latin was the language of the Church in its darkest, most ignorant, and corrupt ages (ie: medieval period).

13) Not a writer among those who describe the heresies of the first three hundred years intimates that Universalism was then a heresy, though it was believed by many, if not by the majority, and certainly the greatest of the fathers (Origen, the Gregorys, Clement, Basil, etc.)

14) Not a single creed for five hundred years expresses any idea contrary to universal restoration, or in favor of endless punishment. All of the creeds we use in modern times, that were written in the Patristic period, were created and written by proponents of universal salvation. These are some of the very creeds biblical inerrantists use to claim in our contemporary times that universal salvation is a damnable belief.

15) With the exception of the arguments of Augustin (A.D. 420), there is not an argument known to have been framed against Universalism for at least four hundred years after Christ, by any of the ancient fathers, even those who did not believe Universalism.

16) While the councils that assembled in various parts of Christendom, anathematized every kind of doctrine supposed to be heretical, no oecumenical council, for more than five hundred years, condemned Universalism, though it had been advocated in every century by the principal scholars and most revered saints.

17) As late as A.D. 400, Jerome says ‘most people’ (plerique) and Augustine says ‘very many’ (quam plurimi), believed in Universalism, notwithstanding that the tremendous influence of Augustine, and the mighty power of the semi-pagan secular arm were arrayed against it.

18) The principal ancient Universalists were Christian born and reared, and were among the most scholarly and saintly of all the ancient saints, as many were the founders of famous seminaries, theological/philosophical libraries, and conducted
themselves in a loving manner, as testified by contemporaries and historians.

19) The most celebrated of the earlier advocates of endless punishment were heathen/pagan born, and led corrupt lives in their youth. Tertullian, one of the first, and Augustine, the greatest of them, confess to having been among the most vile, and believed they deserved to be punished for it.

20) The first advocates of endless punishment, Minucious Felix, Tertullian, and Augustine, were Latins, ignorant of Greek, and less competent to interpret the original meaning of Greek Scriptures than were the Greek universalistic scholars. The prior relied on faulty and erroneous Latin translations.

21) The first advocates of Universalism, after the Apostles, were Greeks, in whose mother-tongue the New Testament was written. They found their Universalism in the Greek Bible and passed down through disciples of the Apostles. Who should be correct, they or the Latins?

22) The Greek Fathers announced the great truth of universal restoration in an age of darkness, sin and corruption. There was nothing to suggest it to them in the world’s literature or religion. It was wholly contrary to everything around them. Where else could they have found it, but where they say they did, in the Gospel? Many in these modern times think universalism is paganistic, but that is quite the opposite: Christian theology is the first to have birthed universalism.

23) All ecclesiastical historians and the best Biblical critics and scholars agree to the prevalence of Universalism in the earlier centuries. Many scholars who once wrote of the lack of Universalism have corrected themselves apologetically after further research and discovery.

24) From the days of Clement of Alexandria to those of Gregory of Nyssa and Theodore of Mopsuestia (A.D. 180-428), the great theologians and teachers, almost without exception, were Universalists. No equal number in the same centuries were comparable to them for learning and goodness in Christian theology.

25) The first theological school in Christendom, that in Alexandria, taught Universalism for more than two hundred years.

26) In all Christendom, from A.D. 170 to 430, there were six Christian schools. Of these four, the only strictly theological schools, taught Universalism, and but one endless punishment.

27) The three earliest Gnostic sects, the Basilidians, the Carpocratians and the Valentinians (A.D. 117-132) are condemned by Christian writers, and their heresies pointed out, but though they taught Universalism, that doctrine is never condemned by those who oppose them. Irenaeus, in his famous ‘Against Heresies’ condemned the errors of the Carpocratians, but does not reprehend their Universalism, though he ascribes the doctrine to them.

28) The first defense of Christianity against Infidelity (Origen against Celsus) puts the defense on Universalistic grounds. Celsus charged the Christians’ God with cruelty because he punished with fire. Origen replied that God’s fire is curative; that he is a ‘Consuming Fire’ because he consumes sin, but not the sinner. The sinner, he saves.

29) Origen, the chief representative of Universalism in the ancient centuries, was bitterly opposed and condemned for various heresies by ignorant and cruel fanatics. He was accused of opposing Episcopacy, believing in pre-existence, etc., but never was condemned for his Universalism. The very council that anathematized ‘Origenism’ eulogized Gregory of Nyssa, who was explicitly a Universalist as was Origen. Lists of his errors are given by Methodius, Pamphilus, Eusebius, Marcellus, Eustathius, and Jerome, but Universalism is never named by one of his opponents. Fancy a list of Ballou’s errors and his Universalism omitted; Hippolytus (A.D. 320) names thirty-two known heresies, but Universalism is not mentioned once. Epiphanius, ‘the hammer that crushes heretics,’ describes eighty heresies, but he does not mention universal salvation, though Gregory of Nyssa, who as we have said, was a strong universalist, was, at the time Epiphanius wrote, the most conspicuous figure in Christendom. Why, if Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, two of the most influential figures of their time, who were both strong universalists, were never called out for their universalism if it was considered heresy?

30) Justinian, a half-pagan emperor, who attempted to have universalism officially condemned, lived in the most corrupt epoch of the Christian centuries. He closed the theological schools, and demanded the condemnation of Universalism by law; but the doctrine was so prevalent in the church that the council refused to obey his edict to suppress it. Lecky says the age of Justinian was ‘the worst form of civilization has assumed.’

31) The first clear and definite statement of human destiny by any Christian writer after the days of the Apostles, includes universal restoration, and that doctrine was advocated by most of the greatest and best (here meaning the most influential, those we know lived their lives according to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, those who did not want to persecute heretics [such as the likes of the vicious Augustine], etc.) of the Christian Fathers for the first five hundred years of the Christian Era.

In one word, a careful study of the early history of the Christian religion, will show that the doctrine of universal restoration was least prevalent in the darkest, and prevailed most in the most enlightened of the earliest centuries — that it was the prevailing doctrine of the Primitive Christian Church.

~John Wesley Hanson, Universalism~

Let Us Remember: Slavery Built America

American slaves are veterans just as much as those who have served in the military.

Today is Memorial Day. A day where we celebrate our ‘victories’ and mourn our losses, while respecting those who have sacrificed their lives. The past two years, I have written pieces regarding my frustrations and moral qualms with Memorial Day. While I could write further on the subject, this year I don’t want to be re-writing the same old thing. What I want to do, instead, is show how if we demand to participate in this day of remembering what our ‘freedom’ costs, we must remember the black slaves and anti-Black culture that dominates America. Without our racist practices, and without the free labor that slavery provided, our capitalist society, our war machine (and therefore military), and the ‘liberties’ we have today would be nonexistent at the level we have them. Our heinous, evil practice of dehumanization is what got us to where we are today. Freedom costs us, yea – it costs us our conscience. Which begs the question – are we really free?

Much ink has been spilled to show that without slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, the economic strength of America would be much less robust. When one wants power, one must take it from someone else. Whether that be nationally, culturally, or individually. America is great at it!

The point: we are not the good guy. Remembering sacrifices today should not look like the sacrifices on a battlefield in Iraq to gain more oil to shine the shoes of the 1%. No, let us remember our heinous, wholly evil acts. We have enslaved. We have pillaged. We have raped. We have destroyed. We have murdered. All for our own desire – no questions asked. How dare we celebrate that? To do so is to spit in the face of Christ – The Suffering. The One who would rather die than kill. Who would rather carry a cross than a gun. It is to spit in the face of the 20 million Africans enslaved in the making of the American Empire. Without their forced free labor, without their lives totally given to the American machine, without any say on their part, the American experiment would not have been nearly as successful as it is, economically speaking. Without the 200-300 years of explicit slavery (slavery still exists in America, it is much more implicit. Look up mass incarceration), we would not have had the resources to ‘win’ the wars we did. The irony of a country that celebrates the “self-made man.” No such thing. If you’ve made it, you’ve made it because we have a history resting on a precedent of human bondage.

May God have mercy on us.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful (okay, maybe I do), but in the broader narrative of American history, these black slaves, so dearly unappreciated, gave at least as much as veterans in the military, if not moreso. They didn’t give a year or two to a morally questionable war effort – they gave the entirety of their fucking existence. Hundreds of years later, to this day, American culture is such that we have to raucously scream over the sea of white: Black Lives Matter! When we don’t make a noise, we forget. Hell, when we do, we’re deaf, dumb, and blind. Black people are the unsung heroes of this nation. They built it. We forced them to. They gave us our ‘victories.’ They are veterans. They deserve to be recognized. So goddamn, celebrate Blackness this Memorial Day, not greed, not war, not murder!

As I always try to do, I want to be clear: I am not trying to de-value American veterans. While I think war is anti-Christ in nature, and to participate in killing is contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, I respect veterans, insofar as I am morally capable. They are truly an underappreciated, disregarded piece of American society. I appreciate that they have sacrificed their time, their energy, their limbs, their minds. They have given a lot. I would just argue, they did so for all the wrong reasons. They did so for America, not for Christ. Christ has absolutely nothing to do with allegiance to a nation, especially an empire as oppressive as America. That does not, however, diminish their importance as human beings. That does not mean Christ does not love them, nor does it mean I do not wish to try to myself, in my own frail way. That does not mean when they come back home injured, bleeding, scared, alone, that we should discard them. We should care for them, help them along – welcome them with open arms. If you have served in the military, whether for this country, for North Korea, or the Nazi regime – you are beloved to Christ. But…so is the person you were sent to fight. Therein lies an issue.

Below are some articles regarding how 300 years of slavery made our capitalist system possible, and therefore, our victories at war (given our economic abilities) possible. I encourage you to research, research, research. Ask questions. Seek to understand the world outside your own experience. And for Christ’s sake – celebrate Blackness today. Not war.

Peace be unto you.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2017/05/03/the-clear-connection-between-slavery-and-american-capitalism/#597eac097bd3

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-slavery-gave-capitalism-its-start

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/slavery_n_4847105.html

https://www.chronicle.com/article/SlaveryCapitalism/150787

https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/slavery-and-rise-capitalism

https://isreview.org/issue/99/slavery-capitalism-and-imperialism

https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/18/how-slaves-built-american-capitalism/

http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15556.html

 

 

A Perfect Cocktail of Disgusting Lies!: Matthew Distefano’s “Heretic!”

What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned.

Attending a Conservative Christian university while visiting about one hundred urban churches after having grown up in the conservative Midwest, I have been well acquainted with the dominant manifestations of North American Evangelical Christianity.

I have found it wanting.

My relationship with it still exists, largely due to my introvert personality and general lack of verbally sharing what I truly believe with my conservative peers which make up a significant portion of my circle. One must pick their battles.

That said, Matthew Distefano’s newest book, Heretic! An LGBTQ-Affirming, Diving-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist’s Response to Some of Evangelical Christianity’s Most Pressing Concerns, resonates with me, as I believe it does an ever-increasing number of, for lack of better term, Post-Evangelicals. As the mouthful-of-a-title makes clear, it tackles some of the most heated topics among Evangelical Christians in the North American context with some tongue-in-cheek humor and signature Distefano wit to boot. Also, take the Parental Advisory warning seriously – Distefano uses some, ahem, colorful language.

Now, if you’re an Evangelical Christian, you may be thinking, “Universalism?? LGBTQ?? God as totally and wholistically nonviolent? Are you on pot? (A topic which Distefano has covered elsewhere) Of course he’s a heretic!” Except you’d be wrong, at least according to Christian tradition. Distefano still adheres to the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds (which were largely influenced by theologians who believe a variety of things that Distefano proposes in his book). The term heretic, historically, is less referring to what someone believes within the Christian tradition, and more about being divisive – someone who tears a community apart, often intentionally so.

For example, when an Evangelical church shuns a practicing homosexual – that congregation is being heretical, according to historical definition. When churches separate over minute doctrinal differences such as full or partial immersive baptism. Protestantism is about the most heretical manifestation of Christianity in the 2,000 year history of the religion – it just can’t agree on anything.

What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned: those who refuse to believe that God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is an abusive father who wants to torment 99% of the human population forever, to those who don’t maintain heterosexual relations or feelings, to those who believe violence is a never-ending self-perpetuating cycle. It seeks to cultivate community, not divide it. As far as I can tell, Distefano is even inviting those whom disagree with him to participate – if they can do so without themselves being divisive.

If you’re interested, Distefano’s book officially releases April 1, 2018. For the entire month of April, the Kindle edition will be 99 cents and all proceeds will go to the Preemptive Love Coalition. Check it out!

Distefano was kind enough to send a signed copy of Heretic! to me himself. Of course, I gave a donation to him in return. Being a shunned theologian certainly does not pay the bills very well!

Visit Matthew Distefano’s website!

Psalm 136 in Contemporary Realities: “God’s Work in Creation and History”

A small liturgy for our contemporary context set on Psalm 136. Expect to set aside around 1+ hour(s) to go through it. The challenge: how do we reconcile the call of a historically oriented psalm to worship God in an age full of suffering and evil, especially when the refrain beckons us each verse: “for his steadfast love endures forever?” Take from it what you will.

Sources for each verse will be listed after each section. If I have breached any copyrights, please forgive me. I do not mean to plagiarize in anyway, but rather, link to original sources whenever possible. If you want me to remove something, please inform me, and I ask for your forgiveness.

Psalm 136: “God’s Work in Creation and History”

(1) O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Rape Statistics

rape1

rape2

For more statistics, please view the links below, with many more visuals and detailed explanations of the numbers.

https://www.visualnews.com/2015/07/28/the-rape-statistics-you-need-to-know/

https://www.rainn.org/statistics

(2) O give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Drone Warfare

Credible, independent attempts to determine how many civilians the Obama administration has killed [via drones] arrived at numbers in the hundreds or low thousands.  And there is good reason to believe that they undercount the civilians killed.

Casualty estimates

Reported deaths and injuries

Pakistan 2004 onwards
US Drone Strikes
Our complete
Pakistan datasheet

Most recent strike:
May 21 2016

Total strikes: 424
Obama strikes: 373
Total killed: 2,499-4,001
Civilians killed: 424-966
Children killed: 172-207
Injured: 1,161-1,744

Yemen 2002 onwards
US Covert Action

Our complete
Yemen datasheet

Most recent strike:
October 18 2016

Confirmed drone strikes: 137-157
Total killed: 581-848
Civilians killed: 65-101
Children killed: 8-9
Injured: 100-235

Possible extra drone strikes: 90-107
Total killed: 354-508
Civilians killed: 26-61
Children killed: 6-9
Injured: 82-109

Other covert operations: 19-82
Total killed: 205-438
Civilians killed: 68-102
Children killed: 26-28
Injured: 43-132

Somalia 2007 onwards
US Covert Action

Our complete
Somalia datasheet

Most recent strike:
September 28 2016

Drone strikes: 32-36
Total killed: 241-418
Civilians killed: 3-10
Children killed: 0-2
Injured: 18-24

Other covert operations: 9-13
Total killed: 59-160
Civilians killed: 7-47
Children killed: 0-2
Injured: 11-21

Afghanistan 2015 onwards

Our complete
Afghanistan datasheet

Most recent strike:
October 22 2016

Bureau data
Total strikes: 626-631
Total killed: 2,199-2,851
Civilians killed: 90-145
Children killed: 4-21
Injured: 268-290

USAF data
Missions with at least one
weapon release: 800
Total weapons released: 1,760

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-obama-administrations-drone-strike-dissembling/473541/

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/25/as_us_faces_new_scrutiny_on

https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/drones-graphs/

 

(3) O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Syrian Civil War

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State. This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.

syria1

syria2

syria3

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868

 

(4) who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Dehumanizing Syrian Refugees: “They’re all criminals!”

At the same time, the pervasive fear of refugee-related crime on display both in German public-opinion polls and Hoaxmap rumors is out of sync with the data so far on the actual relationship between refugees and crime rates in Germany. Recent numbers from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA) suggest that the influx of refugees into the country this fall had a low impact on crime numbers relative to the natural uptick that would happen with any population increase: Although the number of refugees in the country increased by 440 percent between 2014 and 2015, the number of crimes committed by refugees only increased by 79 percent. (The number of crimes against refugees increasedas well.) Furthermore, according to Deutsche Welle’s analysis of the report, the number of offenses increased in the first half of 2015 but “stagnated” in the second half, precisely when most of the refugees were arriving and the rumor mill switched into overdrive. And although sexual offenses account for over 25 percent of the rumors on the Hoaxmap, the BKA data showed that only 1 percent of refugee-related crimes fell into the sexual offense category.

Finally, there’s another possible contributor to the prevalence of rumors about refugees and crime, especially sexual assault: the media’s own apparent reluctance to offer reliable reports of refugee crime. Although police reportedly received 170 complaints regarding women being groped and robbed near the train station in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, it took until January 5 for the story to make national and international headlines, and even longer for arrests to be made. The perceived foot-dragging and bias, according to Banulescu-Bogdan, “really exacerbated people’s fears. They thought ‘everybody’s trying to tell us that we have no reason to be fearful, that our anxieties are illegitimate in some way and look what happened. What else are they covering up?’

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/refugees-crime-rumors/480171/

https://www.thelocal.de/20160610/why-refugee-crime-numbers-have-plummeted

(5) who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Democracy?

(6) who spread out the earth on the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Polluted Pacific Ocean – Fukushima and Nuclear Radiation

NOAA energy map shows the intensity of the tsunami caused by Japan's magnitude 8.9 earthquake

…if that weren’t bad enough, Fukushima continues to leak an astounding 300 tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean every day. It will continue do so indefinitely as the source of the leak cannot be sealed as it is inaccessible to both humans and robots due to extremely high temperatures.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Fukushima has contaminated the entire Pacific Ocean in just five years. This could easily be the worst environmental disaster in human history and it is almost never talked about by politicians, establishment scientists, or the news. It is interesting to note that TEPCO is a subsidiary partner with General Electric (also known as GE), one of the largest companies in the world, which has considerable control over numerous news corporations and politicians alike. Could this possibly explain the lack of news coverage Fukushima has received in the last five years? There is also evidence that GE knew about the poor condition of the Fukushima reactors for decades and did nothing. This led 1,400 Japanese citizens to sue GE for their role in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Even if we can’t see the radiation itself, some parts of North America’s western coast have been feeling the effects for years. Not long after Fukushima, fish in Canada began bleeding from their gills, mouths, and eyeballs. This “disease” has been ignored by the government and has decimated native fish populations, including the North Pacific herring. Elsewhere in Western Canada, independent scientists have measured a 300% increase in the level of radiation. According to them, the amount of radiation in the Pacific Ocean is increasing every year.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-10-02/fukushima-radiation-has-contaminated-entire-pacific-ocean-and-its-going-get-worse

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-fukushima-pm-idUSBRE97601K20130807

http://www.neonnettle.com/features/448-officials-fukushima-has-now-contaminated-1-3-of-the-worlds-oceans

(7) who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Nuclear Warheads

warheadsgraphic_160726

warheadinventories_160815

For more information on current rates of production and maintenance, see the link below.

https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat

(8) the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Carbon Dioxide

claimechange

Scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii announced in 2013 that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached a daily average above 400 parts per million for the first time in history. CO2 concentrations “haven’t been this high in millions of years,” said scientist Erika Podest at the time. “This milestone is a wake-up call.”

But the situation has only gotten worse. Worldwide, 400 ppm, which indicates the ratio of carbon dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere, started to be read more consistently and in more locations. Last March, global CO2 levels topped the symbolic benchmark for an entire month — a first since record-keeping began. Antarctica, the last place on Earth without a 400 ppm reading, finally reached it in May.

Now scientists say we’ve arrived at yet another critical climate change juncture: CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm this month— and it may not fall below that mark ever again.

“I think we’re essentially over for good,” said Ralph Keeling, director of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography’s carbon dioxide monitoring program in May.

Though one-off lower measurements could still be read in the coming weeks, Keeling said “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year ― or ever again for the indefinite future.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/carbon-dioxide-400ppm-permanent_us_57eb7636e4b082aad9b7e9ab

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/world-passes-400-ppm-threshold-permanently-20738?utm_content=bufferd6901&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

(9) the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Pentagon Supplied Propaganda: Fake Terrorist Videos

The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq in a secret propaganda campaign exposed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

PR firm Bell Pottinger, known for its array of controversial clients including the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation, worked with the US military to create the propaganda in a secretive operation.

The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon on the project with a mandate to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.

Both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.

The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light as well as creating content to look as though it had come from “Arabic TV”. Crews were sent out to film bombings with low quality video. The firm would then edit it to make it look like news footage.

https://www.rt.com/usa/361385-pentagon-pr-firm-terrorist-videos/

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/10/02/pentagon-paid-firm-millions-of-dollars-to-create-false-flag/

(10) who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Police Violence

blackpeoplemorelikelytobekilled

noaccountability

Police have killed at least 234 black people in the United States thus far in 2016.

http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

(11) and brought Israel out from among them,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Mass Incarceration

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The increase in the jail and prison population from less than 200,000 in 1972 to 2.2 million today has led to unprecedented prison overcrowding and put tremendous strain on state budgets. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

In the 1990s, as lawmakers campaigned to “get tough on crime,” America built a new prison every two weeks and still could not meet the demand for prison beds. Violent crime has fallen by more than 51 percent since 1991, and property crime has decreased by more than 43 percent. Although the crime rate has dropped steadily to about half of what it was in 1991, spending on jails and prisons reached nearly $81 billion in FY 2010. Today, nearly seven millionpeople in this country are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.

The politics of fear and anger fueled “tough on crime” policies—including mandatory minimum sentences, extraordinarily harsh and racially disparate penalties for even minor drug offenses, and the explosion in life sentences without parole—that led to the unprecedented and unparalleled incarceration rate in America today. Private prisons operated by for-profit corporations multiplied from five in 1998 to a hundred in 2008, and profits have increased more than 500 percent in the last 20 years, creating perverse incentives and hindering efforts to reform sentencing laws, emphasize rehabilitation goals, and reduce the prison population.
———

You’re exhausted. You just got done working for the day. You aren’t blessed with a desk job, your work is manual labor. The only thing that got you through today was this moment right now — waiting in line for the money you earned after a hard day. You smile as you walk up to the man, tell him your hours for the day, and watch as he drops a whopping 17 cents into the palm of your hand.

I didn’t just describe a third world country, or a western nation prior to labor laws. The exact scenario described above is an everyday reality for inmates at for-profit prisons. The United States prison system is inherently flawed, both with mass incarceration and inhumane living conditions.

With the United States representing only five percent of the world’s population, it is completely ridiculous that around
22 percent of the total prisoners in the world are stationed in prisons within the United States.

In fact, in some parts of the United States, there are more people in prison than in college. The United States isn’t within the top 30 countries with the highest crime index, so the mass incarceration speaks to a much larger problem with the American prison system.

http://eji.org/mass-incarceration

https://thetartan.org/2016/10/3/forum/prison

(12) with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Starvation

About 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every four seconds, as you can see on this display. Sadly, it is children who die most often.

Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.


Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth.

If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children. [The US spends far more than that every year on the military industrial complex.]

http://www.poverty.com/

https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats

(13) who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Abortion

abortions-in-america

abortion-outcomes-of-unintended-pregnancies

abortion-gallup-legal-certaincirc-illegal-trend

  • Based on available state-level data, an estimated 954,000 abortions took place in 2014—down from approximately 983,000 abortions in 2013 and 1.02 million abortions in 2012.

  • Twenty-one percent of all U.S. pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. (AGI).

http://www.operationrescue.org/about-abortion/abortions-in-america/

http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/

(14) and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Orphans & Children

  • It is estimated that 140 million children worldwide are orphans. (UNICEF).

  • Worldwide, there are 168 million who are child laborers, accounting for almost 11 percent of children (ILO).

  • 124 million children and adolescents are out of school (UNESCO).

  • As of the start of 2014, 1 in 11 children of primary-school age is out of school, totaling 59 million children (UNICEF).

  • There are over 250 million children living in countries affected by conflict (UNICEF).

  • 1 out of every 8 babies born in the world is born into conflict (UNICEF).

  • There are 30 million children who have been forced from their homes (UNICEF).

  • There are roughly 400,000 children in the US foster care system. Of that number, approximately 100,000 are waiting to be adopted.

  • Of the children waiting in foster care, 30,000 age out every year, without families.

  • The top five sending countries in inter-country adoption in 2010 were China, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine.

  • Asia is home to the largest number of orphaned children in the world: 60 million, at last count.

http://www.sos-usa.org/our-impact/childrens-statistics

http://showhope.org/4-statistics/

(15) but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Military-Industrial Complex

The table below compares average annual Pentagon budgets under every president since Truman, using “constant dollar” figures from the FY2016 Green Book. I’ll use these same inflation-adjusted figures throughout this article, to make sure I’m always comparing “apples to apples”. These figures do not include additional military-related spending by the VA, CIA, Homeland Security, Energy, Justice or State Departments, nor interest payments on past military spending, which combine to raise the true cost of U.S. militarism to about $1.3 trillion per year, or one thirteenth of the U.S. economy.

U.S. Military Budgets 1948-2015

Obama FY2010-15 $663.4 billion per year
Bush Jr FY2002-09* $634.9 “ “ “
Clinton FY1994-2001 $418.0 “ “ “
Bush Sr FY1990-93 $513.4 “ “ “
Reagan FY1982-89 $565.0 “ “ “
Carter FY1978-81 $428.1 “ “ “
Ford FY1976-77 $406.7 “ “ “
Nixon FY1970-75 $441.7 “ “ “
Johnson FY1965-69 $527.3 “ “ “
Kennedy FY1962-64 $457.2 “ “ “
Eisenhower FY1954-61 $416.3 “ “ “
Truman FY1948-53 $375.7 “ “ “

*Excludes $80 billion supplemental added to FY2009 under Obama.

The U.S. military receives more generous funding than the rest of the 10 largest militaries in the world combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, U.K., France, Japan, India, Germany & South Korea). And yet, despite the chaos and violence of the past 15 years, the Republican candidates seem oblivious to the dangers of one country wielding such massive and disproportionate military power.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicolas-j-s-davies/the-record-us-military-bu_b_8227820.html

I highly encourage looking at the interactive websites below to examine individual contracts and costs per day, month, and year. It is astounding how much money goes to keeping this active, while, as said above, a comparatively measly $3.2 billion is needed to get foodstuffs to all 66 million starving children in the world.

http://www.militaryindustrialcomplex.com/

https://www.nationalpriorities.org/cost-of/category/military/

(16) who led his people through the wilderness,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Domestic Violence

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.1

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1

  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.1

  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.9

  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.10

  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.2

  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.2

  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.2

  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.2

  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.2

http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/a37005/statistics-about-domestic-violence/

(17) who struck down great kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Varieties of Drug Abuse & Addiction

abuseofprescription01

abuseprescription02.jpg

A table showing the prevalence of a large variety of drug use:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/national-survey-drug-use-health

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics

(18) and killed famous kings,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Illness

depression-statistics-infogrpahic_updated

anxiety-disorder

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

  • Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(7), July 1999).

    • More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.

  • People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic

https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

(19) Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Autoimmune & Uncurable Lifelong Diseases

autoimmune-infographic_03-1

Autoimmune Disease…

…is a major health problem.

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH estimates up to 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising. We at AARDA say that 50 million* Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Why the difference? The NIH numbers only include 24 diseases for which good epidemiology studies were available.

  • Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening.

  • Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age.

  • A close genetic relationship exists among autoimmune disease, explaining clustering in individuals and families as well as a common pathway of disease.

  • Commonly used immunosuppressant treatments lead to devastating long-term side effects.

  • The Institute of Medicine reports that the US is behind other countries in research into immune system self recognition, the process involved in autoimmune disease.

  • Understanding how to modulate immune system activity will benefit transplant recipients, cancer patients, AIDS patients and infectious disease patients.

…faces critical obstacles in diagnosis and treatment.

  • Symptoms cross many specialties and can affect all body organs.

  • Medical education provides minimal learning about autoimmune disease.

  • Specialists are generally unaware of interrelationships among the different autoimmune diseases or advances in treatment outside their own specialty area.

  • Initial symptoms are often intermittent and unspecific until the disease becomes acute.

  • Research is generally disease-specific and limited in scope. More information-sharing and crossover among research projects on different autoimmune diseases is needed.

…offers surprising statistical comparisons with other disease groups.

  • NIH estimates up to 23.5 million Americans* have an AD. In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million.

  • NIH estimates annual direct health care costs for AD to be in the range of $100 billion (source: NIH presentation by Dr. Fauci, NIAID). In comparison, cancers costs are $57 billion (source: NIH,ACS), and heart and stroke costs are $200 billion (source: NIH, AHA).

  • NIH research funding for AD in 2003 came to $591 million. In comparison, cancer funding came to $6.1 billion; and heart and stroke, to $2.4 billion (source: NIH).

  • The NIH Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan states; “Research discoveries of the last decade have made autoimmune research one of the most promising areas of new discovery.”

  • According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, autoimmune disease and disorders ranked #1 in a top ten list of most popular health topics requested by callers to the National Women’s Health Information Center.

http://dimostrong.org/autoimmune-disease-infographic/

https://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/autoimmune-statistics/

(20) and Og, king of Bashan,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Student Debt

debt-at-grad-school-graduation

General Student Loan Debt Stats

  • Total Amount of Student Loan Borrowers: 43.3 million +

  • Total Outstanding Student Loan Debt: $1.35 trillion +

  • Average Federal Student Loan Default Rate: 11.8%

  • Average Number of College Grads with Student loan Debt: 60%

  • Average Debt Per Borrower: $28,400

  • Average Debt Per Graduate: $16,033

Note: These stats are often misquoted. Many sites post the average debt per borrower statistic as the average debt per graduate.

  • Average Debt Per Graduate Student: $57,600

  • Average Debt Per Borrower at a Public School: $26,872

  • Average Debt Per Borrower at a Private School: $31,710

  • Department of Education’s Estimated Profit Over Next 10 Years: $127 billion

Federal Student Loan Debt Stats (Q2 2016)

Stats By Loan Status

  • In-School: 8 million borrowers holding $155.5 billion

  • In Grace Period: 1.5 million borrowers holding $27.5 billion

  • Repayment: 25.8 million borrowers holding $658.3 billion

  • Deferment: 4.9 million borrowers holding $129.8 billion

  • Forebearance: 4.2 million borrowers holding $139.4 billion

  • Default: 400 thousand borrowers holding $11.5 billion

Stats By Loan Type

  • Consolidation: 12 million borrowers holding $431.2 billion

  • Stafford Unsubsidized: 27.3 million borrowers holding $421.8 billion

  • Stafford Subsidized: 29.2 million borrowers holding $269 billion

  • Parent PLUS: 3.3 million borrowers holding $75.2 billion

  • Grad PLUS: 1 million borrowers holding $49.4 billion

  • Perkins: 2.8 million borrowers holding $8.2 billion

Direct Loan Stats By Repayment Plan (not FFEL)

  • Standard 10-year: 11.27 million borrowers holding $197.9 billion

  • Standard Over 10 years: 1.67 million borrowers holding $73.2 billion

  • Graduated Under 10 years: 2.63 million borrowers holding $67.9 billion

  • Graduated Over 10 years: 280 thousand borrowers holding $12.7 billion

  • Income-Contingent: 600 thousand borrowers holding $22.8 billion

  • Income-Based: 3.1 million borrowers holding $175.1 billion

  • Pay As You Earn: 960 thousand borrowers holding $41.2 billion

  • Revised PAYE: 190 thousand borrowers holding $8.1 billion

  • Alternative: 310 thousand borrowers holding $6.2 billion

  • Other: 450 thousand borrowers holding $45.5 billion

Private Student Loan (PSL) Debt Stats

  • Total Amount of Outstanding PSL Debt: $165 billion +

  • Average Amount of Students Using PSLs Each Year: 1.4 million

  • Average PSL Amount: ~$10,000

  • Percentage of PSLs Taken Out With a Cosigner: 90%

  • Number of PSL Lenders: Over 100

Graduate Student Loan Debt Stats

Combined Undergrad and Graduate Debt by Degree (as of 2012)

  • M.B.A. : $42,000 (11% of grad degrees)

  • Master of Science: $50,400 (18% of grad degrees)

  • Master of Education: $50,879 (16% of grad degrees)

  • Other Master’s Degrees: $55,489 (15% of grad degrees)

  • Master of Arts: $58,539 (8% of grad degrees)

  • Law: $140,616 (4% of grad degrees)

  • Medicine/Health Sciences: $161,772 (5% of grad degrees)

  • PhDs: Not Reported

st_2016-05-24_young-adults-living-01

https://lendedu.com/blog/student-loan-debt-statistics

https://studentloanhero.com/student-loan-debt-statistics/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/05/24/for-first-time-in-modern-era-living-with-parents-edges-out-other-living-arrangements-for-18-to-34-year-olds/

(21) and gave their land as a heritage,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

The Locust Effect: The Problem of Everyday Violence

“Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros, authors of The Locust Effect, Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, mine a rich field of data from international development experts who reveal that violence against the poor undermines the Millennium Goals relating to health, women’s empowerment, education, and economic development. For example, one out of three women around the world has been beaten, forced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.i The rates of violence against women and girls are even higher among poor women.ii Studies suggest that 49% of Ethiopian women will be assaulted, 48% of Ugandan women, 62% of Peruvian women, 35% of Indian women, and 34% of Brazilian women.iii According to World Bank data, the epidemic of gender violence puts more women and girls between the age of 15 and 44 at risk of death or disability than cancer, traffic accidents, malaria, and war combined. iv Efforts to address women’s health needs are substantially undermined by failure to develop government capacity to protect them from violence and deter it through effective law enforcement. Another area of vulnerability for the poor, especially women, is lack of access to land title and inheritance. As IJM has seen in our programs in sub-Saharan Africa to restore property that has been violently expropriated from widows and orphans, the lack of functioning justice systems to assure access to land substantially undermines economic development for the poor. Global studies show that 90% of rural sub-Saharan Africans (of whom 370 million are considered poor) live and work on land that has no formal or secure title. The same is true for 40 million Indonesians, 40 million South Americans, 40 million Indians, and about 350 million impoverished indigenous people around the globe. Indeed, around 1.5 billion of the globe’s urban poor live in informal settlements and slums without any secure right to their property.v One of the most pernicious sources of violence against the poorest is the police themselves. The UN Study “Making the Law Work for Everyone” reports: Perhaps one of the most striking revelations of the study is the extent to which the police and official justice systems side with the rich, persecute poor people and make poor people more insecure, fearful and poorer. Particularly in urban areas, poor people perceive the police not as upholding justice, peace and fairness, but as threats and sources of insecurity.”vi Development institutions are recognizing the impact of this violence on their objectives. The World Bank affirms that “crime and violence have emerged in recent years as major obstacles to the realization of development objectives.”vii Further, the bank has stated , “In many developing countries, high levels of crime and violence not only undermine people’s safety on an everyday level they also undermine broader development efforts to improve governance and reduce poverty.”viii Multiple studies by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have concluded that restraining violence is a precondition to poverty alleviation and economic development, plainly stating that “a foundational level of order must be established before development objectives can be realized.’”ix x Leaders of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) have concluded that, “Poor people want to feel safe and secure just as much as they need food to eat, clean water to drink and a job to give them an income. Without security there cannot be development.”

Quote above from the “Issue Brief” PDF below. I suggest watching the Ted Talk below to get a better grasp of what is going on here, and then explore the website.

http://www.thelocusteffect.com/sites/default/files/TLE_Issue_Brief.pdf

http://www.thelocusteffect.com/the-problem

(22) a heritage to his servant Israel,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Environmental Racism

er-mother-jones-1er-vox-infographic

“The element of racism appears from the fact that poor areas are overwhelmingly nonwhite. In these areas, policies are also less regulated and there is an insufficient maintenance of environmental resources. Poor white areas, however, are more likely to have their environmental needs addressed quicker than poor racially marginalized ones.

People of color are unable to enjoy the full benefits of being heard or attract policy makers to change and enforce policies that accommodate the environmental needs of their community. Instead, they bear the burdens and cost of industrial and corporate policies that cause conditions that reproduce racial inequality by placing hazardous facilities in their areas with insufficient representation and resources. The distribution of pollution is, as a result, discriminatory to communities of color as the response level to their environmental needs is lower than white communities. This makes it harder for people of color to resist toxic exposure or to take part in advocating or speaking up against it.

Environmental racism is a major obstacle to achieving equitable distribution of health outcomes as well as protection against industrial pollution. From redlining to lack of political representation among people of color, the South Bronx has been the face of injustice as threats on environmental safety continue. This disproportionate burden of pollution dumped on racially marginalized areas like the South Bronx demonstrates how vulnerable poor people of color are to toxic waste sitting and lack of environmental and financial investment in their community. As Mychal Johnson exclaims, “poor people do not get enough representation. People of color do not get enough representation either. So how do you expect poor people of color to even be counted?”” [From the Huffington Post article linked below.]

http://www.rac.org/blog/2016/03/06/four-infographics-understand-environmental-racism%20

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sabrina-sultana/its-harder-to-breathe-wit_b_10253544.html

(23) It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Divorce

divorces_ratio_infographics_3_upd.jpg

http://www.ruvololaw.com/blog/divorce-rates-around-world-infographic-0

http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/world/worlds-10-most-divorced-nations/

(24) and rescued us from our foes,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

Human Trafficking

inplainsight-sextrafficking-101

mythbusters_final_EHTC_v3

http://aheartforjustice.com/2014/01/11/human-trafficking-infographics/

https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/

(25) who gives food to all flesh,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Documented Civilian Deaths In Iraq War

multigraph

This data is based on 49,429 database entries from the beginning of the war to 31 Jul 2016, and on monthly preliminary data from that date onwards. Preliminary data is shown in grey when applicable, and is based on approximate daily totals in the Recent Events section prior to full analysis. The full analysis extracts details such as the names or demographic details of individuals killed, the weapons that killed them and location amongst other details. The current range contains 32,685–34,136 deaths (20%–18%, a portion which may rise or fall over time) based on single-sourced reports.

Graphs are based on the higher number in our totals. Gaps in recording and reporting suggest that even our highest totals to date may be missing many civilian deaths from violence.

From this website:

https://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/

(26) O give thanks to the God of heaven,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Death

Inevitable.

(1 John 3:16) We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

 

Psalm 136 and 1 John presented here are from the NRSV version from Biblegateway.com

Seeing with St. Ignatius

As you may be aware, I have a host of health issues that easily become overwhelming. My mentor recommended that I seek out a health mentor who can help me stay focused on health goals and discipline.

During my first meeting with my health mentor, she and I decided we both need to slow down. Personally, I should because of my anxiety. She suggested we start attending a 9-part weekly class at Francis House of Prayer. The class condenses St. Ignatius’ 30 week (or 30 day, depending on the version one undertakes) Spiritual Exercises into a 9 week program.

st-ignatiusYesterday was the first day we attended the class. It was a tad bit ironic, because we did not RSVP, which apparently was suggested on the brochure. Only one person actually RSVP’d, and she did not want to participate in the program if she was alone. Thus, FHOP was not going to facilitate the program. The leader of the class was actually going to leave because no one was interested, but she randomly decided she was going to stay and work a couple extra hours. We showed up half an hour later (right on time for the first class), and she was elated upon finding out that we were interested. Within no time at all, Jill, the teacher, was able to contact the other willing participant and we were all gathered together. Had Jill left when she originally planned on it, none of this would have been possible. Thanks, Jill!

According to Jill, St. Ignatius was a troubled man who went through various seasons of darkness and despair. He was on the brink of ending his life. With the Spirit’s help, he was able to work himself out of this state of mind, and find comfort and life in our Trinitarian God. He wrote Spiritual Exercises in an attempt to help others work through their own seasons of darkness.

St. Ignatius utilizes Lectio Divina, imaginative prayer, journaling, and community dynamics to encourage spiritual growth and reliance on God. While he emphasizes other disciplines, these are the focus of the “syllabus.” Week one specifically focuses on how God views human beings individually, and utilizes the practice of Lectio Divina.

For those of you who are not familiar with Lectio Divina, it is the idea of letting the Word of God seep into your soul in a personally enriching way. Less poetically, you read a passage of Scripture to get a grasp of the content and to notice specific words or phrases that stand out. Then reread the passage and pay extra attention for outstanding words or phrases. If you feel a final reading is in order, repeat. After the readings, reflect on why the words/phrases stand out to you. Talk to God, as conversationally as possible, about what this may mean for you personally. Then take a moment to rest and sit in it. Once you feel comfortable and ready, journal about the experience.

Obviously, Lectio Divina is not extremely focused on exegesis, and functions more as a mystical and spiritual practice than a hermeneutical and systematic theological tool.  The goal is to look at Scripture in a new way and gain insight regarding what God may be trying to speak to you amidst your current context. For those mainline Evangelicals out there, think of it as a structured way to do devotionals…without reading a paragraph that a pastor or extra-biblical author wrote.

The first day’s reading was Genesis 1:26-31, which is a part of the creation account. I have read this passage innumerable times. It’s an extremely well known passage in the OT. But I gleaned new insight I had not before, despite the obviousness of it.

In verse 31, God is said to have “seen” everything that He has made as “very good.” A couple verses before this, in 29, He commands the newly created humans to “See [that] I [have] given you every plant…”

For me, this is important. I consistently struggle with an underlying depression and boredom with life. I more often than not struggle to see all of life as a gift, all of life as good, and all of life the way God sees all of life. I forget to see that I do not have to be enslaved to sin, death, principalities, and the devil. I forget to see that we are all interconnected, and that what I do, for good or ill, both harms and helps a brother and sister. I forget to see that I have been given dominion over the wilds of creation, rather than the wilds of creation having dominion over me. I forget to see that I am no longer enslaved to the fear of death, and that in fact, death is dead. I forget to see Christ in everything, the way the Trinity does.

Another facet of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises is repetition. Jill informed us we would frequently refer back to our journal entries, especially the first few, as they will help show us where we start and where we end up along the journey. I am quite grateful that the Trinitarian God, in some providential way (depending on your definition and views of providence), led me to see this in Genesis 1. I believe it will be a necessary reminder that will help guide my experience.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forevermore. Amen.

Grace and peace,

Jacob