Faux News Special: New Plans for Iran

Our  Faux News secret reporter, disguised as delivery boy, was present when the following confidential conversation occurred today in the Oval Office between President Trump and his National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

Bolton: You summoned me, Your Highness, I mean, Mr. President?

Trump: Yes, I have a potential problem, John. Biden is looking like he could be a real threat, and the farmers in the Midwest are balking at the China tariffs. Plus the Mueller stuff just won’t quit. I am wondering if you have any ideas as to what I need to do to protect my flank. My base loves me as you know, but I am worried about some of the moderates.

Bolton: Easy answer, Mr. President. Start a war.

Trump: I thought you would say that, but with who [sic]? I have thought about maybe the UK or France, but in the past they have been friends. But we would have the support of Turkey, Egypt, Poland and Hungary for sure as well as Russia and North Korea. I think we could win it pretty easily.

Bolton: With all due respect, Your Excellency, I mean, Mr. President. That might create some pushback from Congress. But you are right: You need a war. Americans  love a good war, especially one we can win. You would be sure to go up in the polls.

Trump: But start a war with who [sic]?

Bolton: Iran, of course.

Trump: Why didn’t I think of that? After all, they broke the dumb, Obama, nuclear arms treaty that was in place and are just itching to get nuked. In fact since they have no nuclear weapons, would you recommend just wiping out the entire country? It would get it over with fast, and they couldn’t do a damn thing about it. It would serve them right for breaking the dumb, Obama treaty.

Bolton: Great idea, Mr. President. It would serve them right for breaking the treaty though there are Democrats in the Senate who would argue that actually we were the ones who pulled out of the treaty, but do not let that bother you.

Trump: How many bombs would that take.?

Bolton: Let’s see. There are 82 million people living in Iran. To take care of all of them, you are probably talking about 50 or 60 nukes depending on which kind we use, but you have got to admit, it would get everyone’s attention. And no Americans would be killed. Your base will love you for it, especially some of the Evangelicals since the 82 million Iranians are mostly Muslims, infidels. 

Trump: Any downsides?

Bolton: Yes, Russia would probably have to respond and that could possibly trigger a thermo nuclear war with us, which could lead pretty much to the destruction of the entire planet.

Trump: Hmmm. Well, I would go down as a great president, right? It would be something people would remember.

Bolton: Yes, except there probably would not be anyone left to remember. But still it is a bold idea that should be considered. 

Trump: Well, let’s put that on the shelf for now. What else might we do?

Bolton: Okay, if we do not decide to use the nuclear weapons that we have spent so much money on and which have not been used since World War II, there are other options. My recommendation would be to invade Iran just like we did with Iraq. That was an extraordinary victory for the U.S., getting rid of Saddam and all of that. We could do it again with Iran. Get rid of those awful Ayatollahs. 

Trump: How many American lives might be lost if we invaded them? 

Bolton: Not all that many. Only about 4,000 American soldiers lost their lives during the second Iraq War, and another 30,000 were wounded. That compares to several hundred thousand Iraqis, and the country is still in turmoil with roadside bombs exploding, suicide bombings and temples getting bombed all the time. It was a great victory for us. We showed them and the world who is boss. Shock and awe. And we can do it again with Iran. Your base will love you for it. 

Trump: Great idea. So how do we get this started?

Bolton: Well, first of all you get everyone out of the US Embassy. Start with non essential personnel and then everyone else. And then you start sending in American troops. Start with, say, 150,000 and then escalate up to 500,000 if you have to. Tell the American people you are doing this because of “threats,” but don’t tell them any more, just that the threats are very, very serious. Tell the generals to take over the cities and the whole country. You will go down as a great president for standing up for America and showing what happens to treaty breakers. You will get the respect you want and deserve from everyone. You will beat Biden or whomever the Democrats come up with and will rule America and really the world for another six years or even more.

Trump: Any downsides?

Bolton: Well your buddy, Putin, will be in a bit of a bind, and I am  not sure what he will do. They are allies with Iran, you know. But since you both love each other, he will probably just sit on his hands and do nothing. But if he does do something, it could lead to a world-wide conflict, possibly resulting in thermo nuclear holocaust which could lead to destroying all life on this planet. But look on the bright side: It would also create a nuclear winter and end all this nonsense about global warming.

Trump: Sounds great to me. Anything to squelch all the talk about global warming. This will make America great again. It will show the world who is boss and my friend, Vladdy, would never come after me. I don’t think he really cares all that much about Iran anyway. Plus I already have his word that a new Trump Hotel will go up in Moscow as soon as I get reelected. 

Bolton: I will start the engine running. But be sure to be tightlipped with Congress and  the American people. Probably should keep your Cabinet in the dark too. We need to keep the plans secret until it is too late for anyone to do anything about it. This will show the world what happens when you break a treaty. Your base will love you even more.

Trump: Go for it!

Bolton: I am on it! Thank you, Mr. President.

Okay, God 5: The Final Interview

Me? Me, God? You want to interview me? I am honored and humbled. But I don’t understand.

Silence

Oh, it is the Christian Church that you are worried about, and you want the views of someone on the ground, someone who has stuck with it all these years, even though as you know, my experience has been somewhat mixed.

Silence

Yes, you are right that the two billion number I quoted in our last interview about the number of Christians on the planet Earth is a bit misleading. I think the source I read said there were something like 40 million Christians in the UK, and we know that is nonsense. Ditto for all the high numbers in countries like Italy and Spain and France where people are nominal Catholics, but hardly anyone goes to church anymore. But you should not feel too bad, God.  Christianity is growing in many undeveloped countries and especially in China. But I agree. Many churches are struggling in the U.S. and attendance numbers are down.

Silence

Yes, I know that it is not just the Christian Church that you are concerned about. It is about all people and all of humanity and our small planet. Thank you for reminding me. So how can I help you?

Silence

So for this interview you want to focus on the Church in the U.S., right? You want to know what has happened to the Millennials and to many GenXers. Why are they staying away? Of course, at my age I am not close to being part of those cohorts, but from personal experience I know this to be true. Our two children—wonderful people, I might add—who were brought up as Episcopalians do not attend church, nor do their spouses, and I am sad to report that none of our four grandchildren are even baptized.

Silence

Thank you, God, for being understanding and forgiving on this sensitive matter. Anyway it is not just me. I belong to a men’s group at the apartment complex where we live—about 20 old codgers like me—and during one of the meetings someone asked how many men in the group belonged to a church or synagogue. Almost all hands went up. Frankly, this surprised me that there were that many of us who had stuck with it, but we are of another generation. Then he asked, how many had children who attended church or synagogue regularly. A couple of hands went up. And the killer question was how many had grandchildren who were baptized or had had a bar mitzvah. No hands. And I might add, this situation applies to many, if not most, of our friends as well. So you are right. Something is going on here.

Silence

Well, it is complicated. I agree it is not just that soccer games are now routinely scheduled for Sunday mornings or that families are so exhausted from trying to balance work, careers and family. There is something deeper.

Silence

Okay, I will try my best to give it a shot. But you must know these are only guesses. I have two initial observations about this, which may seem contradictory. One is that the reason why the Christian Church in the U.S.—especially the mainstream Protestant Church, which is what I know most about—is losing members is that a lot of people think it is too wishy-washy and does not offer a firm spiritual or ethical foundation to give people a reason to go to church.  The Church is  “too secular.” Their attitude is “why bother” since there are plenty of other ways to pursue spirituality—yoga, meditation, private prayer, nature walks—that sort of thing, and these can be scheduled around Sunday morning soccer games. The second reason is that Christian churches are seen by others as “too extreme, narrow minded, and exclusive.” This applies mainly to perceptions about the Catholic Church and its hardline position on abortion, gay marriage and women in the priesthood and to the Evangelical movement, which takes similar hardline positions and supports our controversial president, who many people, myself included, do not care for. Some people who did not attend any church as children think that the Catholic Church and Evangelicals represent what Christianity is all about and want nothing of it.

Silence

No, I am afraid to say that I do not have an answer. I do have some opinions based entirely on my own personal experience, so I will share those.

First of all, I have got to say that most of the time I have not found the experience of worship in most of the churches I have attended very engaging or fulfilling. I understand how the “nones” feel: If you don’t get anything out of the church worship service, then why put yourself through it?

But I also have to point out that there are a lot of other reasons people attend church besides wanting to get good spiritual vibes or to hear a good sermon. (Good sermons are very rare, I might add, and also very, very difficult to pull off.). I believe that a major reason people attend church is to be part of a loving, welcoming community where they feel they belong and are accepted for who they are. Frankly, I think that if you want to get down to it, this is a very important thing that the Church has to offer but also where it often falls short.  So if you want to know the reason I have hung in there, it has to do in part with being part of a diverse, religious community where I feel I belong. 

 I also believe that a church or synagogue or mosque or Hindu or Buddhist temple is not just any community organization like a country club or civic association or  a political organization because religious institutions at least try to deal with the big issues having to do with  the meaning of life, death and (but too infrequently) social justice. You are not going to get this at a social, civic or political club.

Silence

Thanks, God, for your kind comments and for pointing out that the community part applies to all spiritual pathways and religious institutions and that I do not need to apologize. It is part of the human experience.

Silence

Okay, here is my next observation—and I think while controversial, it helps explain why so many in the younger generation have said thanks but no thanks to belonging to a church. And this gets down to belief and to what might be called the exclusive nature of the Christian “elevator speech.” This is really sensitive because it deals with the very nature of Christianity itself, the reason for the religion in the first place.

A core message of Christianity–if not the core message– is this: Jesus Christ died for our sins. If we believe in him–and only if we believe in him– we will be “saved” and be assured eternal life. Sure, there are a lot of other important things; but you can’t avoid this central message.

The problem arises when someone has difficulty believing this. A person might see a lot of value in Christian teaching and in the message of love and acceptance as I pointed out in our last interview. But what if someone does not buy into this central message as being the exclusive ticket to being a Christian?  What if somebody believes that you, God, provide many pathways to spirituality and that while Christianity offers one pathway, it is not the only one, and that people who are not Christians are not automatically excluded from having a valid spiritual journey or  hope for eternal life? What if somebody believes that you, God, are bigger than Christianity or any one faith but have provided clues, like we talked about in our last interview, for all humans to follow? That you are real but your mystery is beyond human understanding.

Silence

No, I wouldn’t say that I learned this at Union Seminary, but I surely learned enough about biblical criticism and scholarship to make me wary of any literal interpretation of the bible. While few mainstream Protestant churches would say they are fundamentalists, more rigidity creeps in than you would expect. And this is my point: the rigid adherence to what some believe is the “true Gospel” is a turn-off for a lot of people—especially those in the younger generation who were not compelled to go to church as we were in the South (mainly for social reasons) when I was young. Nowadays church attendance is viewed more as a liability than a social requirement. People think you might be some kind of superstitious nutcase.

Silence

You are right. I am generalizing again and probably overstating the case. It is also true that many mainstream Protestant churches are trying to deal with this as best as they can, and many have softened the Christian message and provided some spiritual, wiggle-room so to speak. The Episcopal Church—where I have been a loyal member for essentially my whole life–has, I think, been a leader in this effort in some ways, but the fact is we still say the Nicene Creed every Sunday. And I have to tell you, God, I do not believe the words in the Nicene Creed and for that reason do not say it. I just sort of mumble when the time comes.

(For the record I have spent a considerable amount of time studying the history and background associated with the Nicene Creed. It is primarily a quasi-political statement by the Early Church to achieve theological consensus and get Constantine off their backs.  I believe it is confusing and counterproductive.  They should ditch it. Keep it in the prayer book if they like, but for goodness sake do not require anyone to actually say it!)

Silence 

Okay, I will calm down.

Silence

But you asked why young people are not coming to church. This is one reason: the spirituality of Mellenials and GenXers–and a lot of others–is not rigid and top down. The message they (we) hear from the pulpit and from the prayers must ring true to their (our) experience. Until we address this better, mainstream churches will continue to struggle.  

Silence 

You are right, God. This does run the risk of making churches seem more wishy-washy, watered down, and more secular.  But if the spiritual quest is honest, genuine, and sincere, I believe the wiggle-room will be welcomed. I would describe the approach as “more kind and gentle” with a strong commitment to good works and to social justice and a fairer world. The bigger the tent the better.

Silence

So,you want to know why I just don’t call it quits and become a Unitarian? Good question. Two reasons: inertia and incense. And, oh yes, there is a third: belonging to a community where I feel welcomed and needed.

Silence

Thank you, God, for asking my opinion and allowing me the chance to blow off some steam. I know that I am only one small voice and really do not have an answer. Certainly you will be interviewing many others. I will be interested in knowing what you learn from them.

Silence

What? This will be your last interview with Faux News? Well, I have got to say that you have been kind and generous with your time. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I have many more questions to ask but I guess they will have to wait. We humans on the planet Earth must be a thorn in your flesh. Thanks for sticking with us. 

Okay, God 4

At the end of my last interview with you, I said that this time I would ask you about clues.  So what about the clues you have given us humans as to how we experience and understand the Divine? As you know I have been a loyal church goer my entire life. I am what they call a cradle Episcopalian and will end up surely a cradle-to-grave Episcopalian. My mother pointed out to me at a young age that being an Episcopalian was not the same as being an ordinary Christian like a lowly Baptist or Methodist or even a Presbyterian. But even so I think we Christians all pretty much believe the same thing about your clues, and that is that the biggest clue you have given us is Jesus. So this one is a no-brainer.

Silence

Why do you say “Be careful, it may not be a no-brainer.”

Silence

Well, I certainly can’t disagree that there is a whole lot of difference in understanding what Jesus really means or what he did or who he was. In fact I have done a lot of studying myself on this very subject. I remember when I was in college reading Albert Schweitzer’s book, Quest for the Historical Jesus and concluded that there is no way that anyone can actually prove any of the details about the life of Jesus or that the resurrection actually happened. I even got a masters degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York, which resulted in more questions than answers. So I realize it boils down to a matter of faith and belief, and people believe a whole lot of different things. So where does that leave us?

Silence

So what do I think the meaning of Jesus is? Gosh, this is a really hard question, but I do not think that you need definitive, historical proof about Jesus to draw some conclusions about what the Jesus story means. I believe it all has to do with understanding that the Divine as we experience it on Earth has to do with love, not romantic love, but with selfless love for our fellow humans and, really, love for life itself. So Jesus is a clue you have given us that the true meaning of the life we humans experience on Earth is love for our fellow humans and, I believe, acting on this. Doing something about it. The Jesus story involves healing, making people whole, caring for the poor and the sick and making the world a better place. I would go even farther and say it has to do with social justice and changing the structures in society that enslave people. It means that in a mystical way that through selfless love we can experience the Divine, in other words, we can experience you. It also offers hope that maybe there is something beyond death.

Silence

You are right, God, this is just one person’s interpretation, and I will be the last person to even suggest that I have got it all right. I know there is much more to it than this. I am just saying what I understand to be true.

Silence

What do I think about the resurrection? Well, this is another tough one. What happened after Jesus died that we know is true is this: That his disciples experienced what they called the “resurrected Jesus.” They truly believed that Jesus, who had been crucified and declared dead, was still alive and then “ascended into heaven” to be with you. Their belief became contagious, influencing a whole lot of other people to become believers who had not themselves experienced the resurrected Jesus or the “Risen Christ” as he soon became to be known. They believed that you, God, in a mysterious way had become part of human history giving us a clue as to what the meaning of life is and how we should lead our lives.  Maybe even more important, it provided a clue as to what you are like   and through prayer how we humans can relate to you. That led to a growing movement throughout the Roman Empire resulting in a new religion, Christianity, becoming the generally accepted religion in the Roman Empire by the fourth century. The rest is history. There are today over two billion people on Earth who are classified as Christians, almost a third of all people living on the planet, and more than any other religion. Pretty impressive if you ask me, but still, in my opinion, not the only pathway to truth.

Silence

Yes, you are exactly right that I should not forget about the Apostle Paul. He was the guy who figured out before anyone else did that the most important meaning of the Jesus story is that you, God, actually love us humans. Now given the sorry state we humans are in and have been in  forever as far as I can tell, this was back then a pretty big deal. In fact it still is. Paul put it in terms of a sacrifice that you, God, made in order to make us humans whole from a spiritual perspective. It is kind of like, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” on steroids. And that is why they called this message, “The Good News.”

Silence

Agreed, God. There is a whole lot more to the story than that, and I would like to return to this again later. But assuming for the moment that the Jesus story is one clue you have given us—even though there are lots of dimensions to the story and different ways of interpreting it—what I also want to know is are there other clues you can point to.

Silence

More than I will ever know? Like what?

Silence

Well, I certainly would agree that Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament would fall into this category along with a long list of other “holy people” who have lived “holy lives” and have had a profound, positive, spiritual influence on peoples lives—Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Zarathustra, just to name a few. I would probably throw in the names of some philosophers to boot and even artists and writers, but maybe that might be stretching it a bit.

Silence

Well, I have also got to agree that it is not just the “rich and famous” holy people we are talking about here. Just a figure of speech, God, I know these holy people were not rich. It is ordinary people whose lives are filled with mercy, kindness and understanding. And what really resonates with me is what you just said about “clues everywhere, all the time for people who have eyes to see and ears to hear.” Now I have to admit my hearing is not so good—and I do not  mean this in just a metaphorical sense—and my eyes do not see these clues very often. But occasionally they do. And my faith tells me that you are right. The Divine is real, if mysterious, and there is more to life than what can be “proved” from science and observation. This mystery is important in our effort to make some sense out of our lives and the universe and to try to understand the meaning of life.

Silence

Yes, I am aware that there are a lot of very good people who do not agree with me on this and many who are leading moral, ethical lives without having any belief in the Divine. I hope that that does not hurt your feelings too much. I might also add that I have had my doubts more often than I would like to admit. My guess is that this comes as no surprise. I have trouble reconciling the suffering in the world—surely some deserved, but a lot that is not. I have trouble reconciling this with the kind and merciful God that I know you to be. You add to that the pretty poor track record of the Christian Church, and probably all religious institutions, and I can understand where the skeptics are coming from. But in my advanced age I have come to accept the fact that our knowledge as humans is limited. Questions remain. But I promise not to push you too hard on this in future interviews.

The main problem for me gets down to the alternative, which is to believe that there is no meaning or purpose to the universe or to our lives here on Earth. That life is just a matter of chance. Quantum physics rules the day. Life is only what we make of it, and there are winners and losers. It is a roll of the dice. I just can’t go there because I realize, as you have reminded me in our interviews, how little we actually know and I also know how much you have meant to so many people during our times of suffering and grief.  You are there for us when we need you. 

Silence

Glad to hear that you understand the human dilemma, and really glad to hear you love us humans, warts and all, regardless of race, creed or no creed, color, or national origin, and that this is really the message you want me to get out to the vast readership of Faux News.  

Well, I will do that, and will do even more. I will ask the skeptics if they think they know everything to explain the Big Bang and to answer the big question “Why.”

  And I will ask them an even more important question: If God is not a Tar Heel, then how come the sky is Carolina blue. 

Okay, God 3.

Okay, God. I am back. Thanks for allowing Faux News to continue the interview. When these interviews hit the mainstream media, we will be really famous!

Silence

Yes, forgive me. You already are famous.

But I still have a lot of questions, and here is my first one: Man was created in your image, right?

Silence

Okay, “human beings were created….” I need to be more sensitive here, “politically correct,” as they say, but being created in your image is what it says in the Bible– Genesis 1:26-27 and a bunch of other places in the Bible too. So if man–I mean, if humans are created in your image, doesn’t that imply that you look like us? What I mean is that if we look like you, then wouldn’t it figure that you look like us? So I have a check list that I am going to go over, and really all I need is a yes or no answer: First, do you have two eyes?

Silence

Nose?

Silence

Two ears?

Silence

Mouth?

Silence

Two arms, hands, and five fingers each?

Silence

Legs, feet, toes?

Silence

And here is a sensitive one: skin color. We humans tend to have problems accepting people with a different skin color. And are you really a “he” and not a “she” or even an “it.” And why is that? And how tall are you anyway? I could keep going….

Silence

God, why aren’t you answering any of these questions on my check list? I know your patience is wearing thin but….

Silence

What do you mean that I am missing the whole point?

Silence

You mean that I have it backwards? That man–I mean humans— came up with the idea of how you look based on how we look?  In other words it’s vice versa?

Silence

Okay, I understand that these questions sound like I am a skeptic, but do not take it personally. Do not think for a moment that I do not believe in you and trust you. Sure, I have had my doubts every now and then, especially when I do not hear from you for a period of time.  I get antsy. I know that you are busy with a lot of things, lots of calls to answer, and it could be a bandwidth issue, but still.  Hey, I am talking to you right now, and that is good enough for me. Count me as a believer.  How you look is really not an issue. 

But I would not mind asking, if you don’t mind: if you do not look like us, then whom do you look like?

Silence

What do you mean that I just fail to get it? Yes, I know that you created the universe about 15 billion years ago and that there are trillions and trillions of stars and planets and that the Earth is just one small spec of sand in an endless desert, a drop of water in a vast ocean…I know that there are lots of things we will never understand and are not supposed to understand.

Silence

Why do you say that we humans on Earth are incredibly planet-centered and small-minded by thinking that we  are the only intelligent life in the universe and that all the other stuff you did is for naught? That we think we are the center of everything? Of course we respect all the hard work you have done and we are grateful for it. On a clear night away from city lights there is nothing better than gazing up at all your handiwork.

Silence

Okay, maybe saying we humans are examples of “intelligent life” is an overstatement, but still we have somewhat advanced brains, and we can’t help asking all these questions about why. Why is life the way it is? Why do we die?  Is there life after death? Why do awful things happen to good people? Why is evil alive and well on this planet …?

Silence

No, God, I am not really complaining. The fact is I love it here. As I think I have told you, I think you did a really good job; and while maybe the planet Earth is not as perfect as it might be, I can’t think of another world I would rather live in. In fact I would go as far as to say that if everything were perfect here, it would be pretty boring. I am just trying to get more information for our readers. There are a lot of readers who ask  these questions and would love to hear the answers.

Silence

Yes, you are right, God, we humans have been asking these questions from time immemorial. But are there no answers? No definitive ones? 

Silence

So what you are saying is that this is the nature of life as we humans know and experience it. There are definitive answers, but these answers are beyond our capacity as human beings on the planet Earth to understand fully.  When we humans try to make these answers definitive, it often just confuses things and leads to bad things happening like religious intolerance and hatred of people who do not believe the same thing I believe or someone else happens to believe? I get that.

Silence 

Thank you, God, for your thoughtful answer; and yes, I know that this does not get me off the hook. I should not give up. I should not keep trying. I should keep asking these important questions because, as you say, it is part of being human. And I really appreciate it when you say that you aren’t holding this against me. And as you suggest  I should keep my eye on the ball as to the clues you have given us along the way and still give us humans.  These clues will be the subject of my next interview.