Tag Archives: Rev. Todd Eklof

Media fuels The Polar War

By Contributor Rev. Todd Eklof

Rev. Todd Ekloff

“I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to take him out!” This lone sentence, spoken by Newt Gingrich about President Barack Obama, is a succinct example of the verbal warfare that has become the primary form and function of communication today. The Polar War, a war of opposites and extremes, began gearing up even as the Cold War was winding down more than 30 years ago. At the time America’s greatest perceived threat was considered external. But when Mikhail Gorbachev became the head of the Soviet Union in 1985 and introduced his doctrines of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), the iron curtain parted and most of us realized the Russians weren’t such a bad lot after all.

Communism collapsed like cascading dominoes across the globe and we seemed destined for an unprecedented era of world peace. But, alas, in order to continue winning elections and influencing voters, the fear mongers among us would need to find a new enemy to fill our lives with dread. Tragically, this time they chose an internal enemy upon whom to project our darkest fears: the liberals. In addition to turning Americans against Americans by demonizing anyone who values social equity and equality, this cleared the way for the unfair and unbalanced national news media that now controls the flow of mass information.

Even while promoting an exaggerated air of paranoia and mistrust toward our nation’s news organizations, by labeling them the “Liberal Media” (which, by the way, is synonymous with “Free Press”), the Reagan Administration abolished the time-honored Fairness Doctrine which required broadcasters to act in the “public interest” by “covering important policy issues and providing equal time to both sides of public questions.”

Reagan’s chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Mark Fowler, also deregulated the industry, making it possible for just a handful of corporations to begin monopolizing it. Since then, according Robert Kennedy Jr., “The right-wing radio conglomerate Clear Channel, which in 1995 operated 40 radio stations, today owns over 1,200 stations and controls 11 percent of the market. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is the largest media conglomerate on the planet, one of seven media giants that own or control virtually all of the United States’ 2000 TV stations, 11,000 radio stations, and 11,000 newspapers and magazines.” Since 2004, when Kennedy wrote these words, the number of corporations owning our nation’s press has fallen to just six.

Limbaugh/Wikipedia

Although Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are by far the worst at taking advantage of this new paradigm, more “progressive” mediums like MSNBC and The Rachel Maddow Show aren’t helping matters. Very recently, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California democrat, sounded about as extreme as Newt Gingrich when she referred to House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican colleague, Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as “demons.” She went on to defend this extreme characterization by mentioning their political agendas. After launching this verbal grenade, a Fox News host fired back by telling Waters to, “step away from the crack pipe.”

In our nation, as a whole, we no longer communicate for the purpose of working out our differences, or seeking solutions to problems or answers to questions. We communicate in order to destroy our enemies and win the argument, with little regard for ascertaining the truth. “Hence, the word most often used to describe such interaction,” explains philosopher Lou Marinoff, “is ‘discussion,’ whose etymology is shared with that of ‘concussion’ and ‘percussion.’” Discussion is verbal warfare, compared to its opposite, genuine dialogue, through which differing parties both speak and listen to each other, in the interest of genuinely acquiring new understanding, and not merely in defense of old ideas. Talking has become a form a battle, conversation a war of words.

Recently, however, Rush Limbaugh, a powerful veteran and commander in the Polar War, may have inadvertently provided us with the best opportunity to begin turning things around. His blatant attempt to destroy the good name of Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke has backfired, as if his verbal grenades were tossed back his direction before they could explode and have now blown up in his face. But then, as a wise man once said, that’s what eventually happens in warfare, those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

It seems to me the time has come for religious leaders to help put a stop to this devastating civil war by both modeling and calling for genuine dialogue. We can put an end to the Polar War the same we ended the Cold War, through restructuring and openness, through reestablishing the sacred Fairness Doctrine and promoting a culture in which we listen respectfully to one another again. Perhaps, sometime soon, we’ll all watch in amazement at the Rush Limbaugh Show, and Fox News, and MSNBC, and other propaganda machines, fall like dominoes and a new era of civil discourse and peaceful dialogue emerge to take their place.

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The Sanctity of Equality

By Blogger Rev. Todd F. Eklof

Rev. Todd Eklof

As activists in Washington are gearing up to take another go at getting a marriage equality bill on the state ballot, perhaps we should all begin reconsidering the meaning of the word “sanctity.”

In 2004, President George W. Bush made what he called, “the sanctity of marriage,” a major reelection issue, calling for a constitutional ban on all same-sex marriages. “Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society,” he said (without further explanation). He also asked Congress to draft an amendment, “defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as a husband and wife.” Not only did he narrowly win a second term that year, but 11 states also passed their own constitutional laws officially prohibiting gay marriage, including Kentucky, where I was living at the time.

What’s most disturbing about this to me, as an American, is that it’s entirely unconstitutional for our government, state or federal, to pass laws protecting the “sanctity” of anything! “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion!” Given the expensive, “One Man, One Woman: God’s Plan for Marriage,” campaign funded by religious conservatives across the land, it seems our nation’s top executive, along with many other elected officials, decided to disregard the Constitution in favor of the mob mentality.

Although I do not question the value of marriage for those who freely choose it, I cannot comprehend where this belief in its “sanctity” comes from. In Western theology God is a “single male” whose most intimate relationship is with another man, Jesus. Jesus himself did not marry and, in fact, suggested that ideally people, “will neither marry nor be given in marriage, they will be like the angels in heaven.” [Mark 12:25] And we all know that Jesus’ vision was to create Heaven here on Earth, among us, which, apparently, he saw as being egalitarian and androgynous. Likewise, Paul, the most influential founder of Christianity, discouraged marriage because those who do, “will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.” [I Cor. 7:28] Although he did not advocate divorce for those who were already married, he did say, “from now on those who have wives should live as though they had none.”

As for God’s “One Man, One Woman,” plan for marriage, tell it to Abraham, the founder of Israel, who was married to Sarah and Hagar; to Jacob, its favorite son, who married both Rachel and her sister Leah; to David, its most revered King who had six wives; to Solomon, considered its wisest ruler ever, who had 700 wives; not to mention his grandson, Rehoboam, the nation’s greatest reformer, who had a modest number of only 18 wives. Historically speaking, marriage has been but a one-sided social contract arranged between males exchanging females, and has been mostly polygamous (one male, many wives). Both Jesus and Paul favored more egalitarian arrangements in which men and women were considered the same, in which, as Paul put it “there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.”

But equality is difficult for those dominator cultures that thrive on the very few exploiting everyone else. So, after Rome made Christianity its official state religion, the first thing its legislator-priests did was to take control of marriage by maintaining exclusive authority over all social contracts. By the 16th century, just 500 years ago, the Council of Trent made it necessary for every marriage to be performed in the presence of a priest and only then defined it as the union of a man and woman who were obligated to live together for the rest of their lives. In doing so, they usurped Paul’s vision of a society without ethnic, economic, or gender divisions, adhering, instead, to a verse of scripture illegitimately forged in his name; “the husband is the head of the house as Christ is head of the church.” [Eph. 5:23] Those who could not handle living in an egalitarian society made the nuclear family the nucleus of its hierarchical, patriarchal culture.

For years in our country conservatives have been promoting traditional “family values” for this very reason, although the only families they’re really in favor of are those that reflect this dominator model. As linguist George Lakoff has noted, “The strict father is moral authority and master of the household, dominating the mother and children and imposing needed discipline. Contemporary conservative politics turns these family values into political values: hierarchical authority, individual discipline, military might.” And the one thing certain about this model, he continues, is that, “Marriage in the strict father family must be heterosexual marriage.”

Jesus, by contrast, in whose name such bigotry is somehow being justified, clearly said, “Call no one on earth your father.” [Matt. 23:9] He challenged the patriarchal structures of his day and ended up paying with his life. In their place he promoted an egalitarian society in which everyone shared what they had in common, and loved one another as their equals, as themselves. The early Christians took this so seriously, in fact, that they actually began cross-dressing in church. That’s right, some of the first Christians were gender-benders! The controversy over men appearing as women and women as men is explicitly mentioned in I Corinthians, chapter 7. Paul supposedly ends up criticizing such behavior as “disgraceful,” although many scholars consider these words to have been inserted into the text by someone else, since they contradict his other egalitarian, free-spirited, “all things are lawful for you,” teachings. But that this controversy existed at all shows just how seriously the first Christians took equality! Thus, according to the biblical evidence, it’s not really the “sanctity of marriage” believers should be worrying about, but the “sanctity of equality,” and the unholy marriage between Church and State that continues to have a foothold in our nation today.

Meet Rev. Todd Eklof, our Unitarian contributor

Rev. Todd Eklof

Rev. Todd F. Eklof is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane.

Although he was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area, he spent most his adult life in Louisville, Ky., where he worked 16 years in TV news and corporate video production, in addition to serving as the minister of the Clifton Unitarian Church from 1999 to May of 2011.

He’s a former Southern Baptist minister turned religious liberal who now likes to call himself an “atheistic mystic.” He’s become nationally known for his work in the area of environmental justice, gay rights, restorative justice, and the peace movement – all of which writes about for SpokaneFAVS.com

He and his spouse have been married since 1988 and have two teenage children.