It was many years ago, early one Monday morning. It felt like Monday too, with all that entails. I was making the commute in from suburban Atlanta through stop and go traffic. Just out of the corner of my eye I saw something dart out from ahead, but had no idea what it was. A second or two later, I saw this horrific spectacle. It was a cat, barely more than a kitten. It had been crushed by the wheels of a car. Its hind quarters were crushed flat, the cat was screaming in agony, as blood poured out from its mouth and nose.
I just felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do about it. In the traffic congestion, it would have taken me at least ten minutes to turn around and reach the cat and I’d have been taking my life in my hands to do so, trading the loss of a doomed kitty for the potential loss of my own life. I was a husband and father of two small children and couldn’t risk it for a creature so obviously doomed. This is the crux of our nature, the Yin and the Yang of our humanity. On the one hand, we can feel absolutely dreadful about such a piteous scene, when it wasn’t our cat and we didn’t run it over. We can feel such compassion deeply for a non-human creature and remember it sadly, forever.
At the same time, we can rationalize it away so casually. Heavy traffic and potential dangers; if I’d rescued the cat, what then? Take it to the animal hospital and further obligate myself? This was back in the days of my own warm prosperity, when I was a good capitalist soldier. My boss however, was an aggressive capitalist general, and if I’d called work to explain about rescuing an injured cat, the general would have envisioned the act as senseless as being late for work because I’d stopped to pick daises.
Human beings are predators, we’re capable of shutting the doors to our mind and locking out our empathy. We’re capable of blowing Bambi’s brains out, if it suits our needs, if we’re hungry, or even to kill other humans, if programmed to do so for God and Country. A male lion, who finds a female with cubs, but without a mate, will kill her cubs. They say it’s to pass on his own DNA and maybe that’s so, but I think there’s another reason: being a predator is a kill or be killed sort of occupation. You win or you lose! One way or the other, if you’re the top predator in the food chain, you expect to win every time. Lions prefer hunting the young and the old for their prey. They feel no empathy for the immature water buffalo or the injured elder bull.
At the same time, they’ll fight to the death to preserve their own cubs, proving the empathy is inside of them, but only for their own. Otherwise, it’s I’m hungry, let’s eat, and you’ll do nicely.
With our alleged higher human reasoning, it’s humans alone who have concocted this theory of fairness. A big guy jumps on a little guy and we declare it as not fair. This empathy of ours is wrestling with the Yang of our predatory nature. So who’s to be the final arbiter of fairness in this life? How can we reconcile all in the world that is fair, and all that is not? Why that could only be the providence of the almighty God. But why, oh why, did God let that kitten run into the street? Of course, the answer we’re told is that we shouldn’t question the will of the almighty.
When I was fifteen years old, my mother died of a massive heart attack. Why did God do that? My mother was a wonderful person, the baby and favorite of her own brothers and sisters. How could a just God do such a thing? She was only 45 and had so much ahead of her. Her death ripped asunder the lives of a dozen or more people, who were equally innocent. The answer given from the pulpit was that God works in mysterious ways and we should not question the will of the Lord. You know what… that sounds like a cop out to me. If we find a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk, God is looking out for us, that gray haired daddy of the clouds, just knew we needed twenty bucks, and needed it more than the poor guy who dropped it.
My mother was a Christian, she believed in Jesus and Moses and the Holy Spirit. She believed in them so much, she thought they would protect her from harm. So much, she didn’t give a thought to her two-pack a day cigarette habit — God was by her side. She was well aware; her own mother had died young from a congenital heart defect, but with the almighty, she had a mighty ally by her side, she was able to put those logical fears away and smoke’em if you got’em. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For Thou art with me.”
Pardon the pun, but, holy smokes! Maybe a little fear is a good thing. Maybe a little rational thought might keep golfers off the course during a thunderstorm.
On the other hand, my father was an atheist, but also a capitalist. He couldn’t accept the choices which had made his life. His capitalist nature demanded he win, when clearly, he’d lost. Capitalists don’t like to lose, so when the workers in the factory ask for a raise, the boss says no, even if the workers deserve a raise and profits are good. It’s all about control, it’s all about I win and you lose! I’m in control and I’ll kill your cubs if it suits me; kill or be killed, with your shield or on your shield. So what does an atheist do when he can blame no god? What does a capitalist do when he cannot win? He takes it out on the powerless; he unloads his rage on others, as if, it will then disappear.
At twenty, I was riding in an MG convertible, headed for Panama City, Florida. My buddy lost control at over seventy miles an hour, flipping the car. I was ejected and found by paramedics 300 feet from the wreckage. I’d broken my collar bone, but was otherwise uninjured. Praise God? I got lucky, the thunder bolt had missed. What was up with this god? I was guilty and deserving of the long dirt nap, but that was just it, I got lucky. If you flip a penny one hundred times, it will come up heads or tails in roughly equal numbers, unless, it bounces off the table and falls down the heat register, in which case, you’ll never know; but one thing is certain, God didn’t do it.
It was gravity and probability, not divine intervention. If you take a group of senior citizens and track their mortality for a decade, you’ll find the Lord takes up the church goers at an equal rate as the sinners and how does the Lord account for this discrepancy of faith?
Mathew 5:45 – “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Deal with it – sayeth the lord.
So if I’m righteous and live a good life and tithe faithfully, the Lord promises eternal paradise on some other, higher and grander plain, but promises no help at all on this one. What a strange creator he is, to send us a messiah preaching peace, meekness and gentleness, but when it suits him, he overthrows the stalls of innocent merchants and money changers, just to make a theological point. This messiah then rides into Jerusalem on an ass to show us his humility and compassion. The Bible tells us the messiah didn’t have an ass, right at that exact moment, but that God provided him with one. Now that’s just downright favoritism; either that, or the messiah borrowed someone else’s ass, assuming its rightful owner could handle a little of God’s rain.
Let’s be honest here, an ass doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, unless, of course, it’s an election season. The Lord was attempting to make a covenant with his people, but this Christianity seems to be a flawed contract. It’s overloaded with loop holes and veiled promises, with no demonstrable ability to deliver. It is preached from on high to those down low. If you are humble, God loves you. If you are rich, God demands of you, but won’t lift a finger to enforce the contract. For two Millennia this has gone on. Kings, tyrants, and insanely wealthy potentates, all devoutly declaring their love for this humble and meek prince of peace. It is the religion of capitalism, the predator telling the prey, God is with you and always remember Ephesians 6:5 – “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ.”
I don’t believe a word of it; the predator laying the snare, baiting the trap and hedging his bet by promising pie in the sky, without ever paying the check or washing the dishes.
So as millions are made destitute through Neo-liberal Free Trade policies, the Bible tells us in Mark 14:7 – “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.”
As 23 percent of American children are living in poverty and forced to endure substandard schools, poor diets and in some cases neighborhoods as violent as prison yards, the Bible tells us in Matthew 19:14 – “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
What should we do about such things, should we revolt and overthrow our leaders who commit these abominations against us? What does the Bible say?
Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself, but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.
Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality, but by the higher duty I owe to myself. What would you think of me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death?” ~ Eugene Debs May 23, 1908
About the Author: David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, “The Servants of Pilate”.