Covering The Cali Recall Pt. 1

Aquarian Weekly 9/10/03 REALITY CHECK


The meter is running up quite a tab in Iraq, and to think we can’t get anyone to help us pay for it. Half the states in the union are broke, fuel prices are bloating unmercifully, North Korea has turned into a 21st century nuclear madhouse, and it looks like it’s almost inevitable now that J-Lo and Affleck are going to perpetuate their banal genes into the species. As for Georgetown, this column’s most requested, and recently, pitifully absent contributor; he’s in California covering what by all accounts should be only the second successful voter-instigated revulsion of a governor in the 127-year fun-loving history of this republic.

This two-part conversation took place over the phone late on 9/3, 34 days before the California Recall, as the anonymous Republican insider dutifully manned his post at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. His pricey room service order not withstanding, the bankrolling of “the trip” was very much a GOP mission. His mood, although conciliatory at first, had begun to foul when we began the following dialogue:

jc: What the fuck are doing in California? You hate California.

“Nearly a third of the current California voter base is on the verge of anarchy. But who can blame them?”

Georgetown: Christ, I’m working for the party. This is where the action is for the next month. You do know they pelted Schwarzenegger with eggs at a rally last night in Long Beach.

jc: So I’ll take your presence there as proof the national wing of the party is now entrenched in California, despite rumors out of the White House that a changeover might actually harm the numbers for Bush in 2004?

GT: Don’t listen to that bullshit. There are very good sources that project an inevitable up-swing in the economy here that will reflect in the national numbers by Christmas, and that cannot happen with a Democrat in the governor’s chair.

jc: So you guys are playing this like the stock market. Less politically, I mean.

GT: As always, on the state level, politics is economically driven. We knew once the Recall started to become a reality that it was a fair in to open ideological debates. This state is so bad off right now it could severely cripple the national economy. Blurring the lines politically was the only choice.

jc: You are aware that almost a third of the states in this republic are going belly up. They’ve proposed significant tax hikes in Alabama for the first time ever. Nightline had a militia group from Tuscaloosa on last night threatening to burn down the capitol building this weekend.

GT: Yes, I heard Jesus Christ has been called in as a Socialist icon for the horsewhipping.

jc: Anyone with half a brain has come to the sobering understanding that the Pentagon is currently running domestic policy.

GT: Pretty good comeback for a flaccid concept a mere 16 months ago.

jc: Back to Schwarzenegger. Listen, I’m all for anyone running for anything anytime, and if he doesn’t want to be exposed by a debate, it’s his right. I actually like Arny. But is this ass wipe going to say anything concrete beyond repeating “California is the golden state” with forcibly veiled references to The Terminator every five minutes?

GT: I think Schwarzenegger has been very clear that he is merely a figurehead for an economic strategy conglomerate to audit and strip down the current criminal activity running unchecked through this atrociously run state government. Anything beyond that is gravy as for this campaign. People teetering on leads with an exclusive celebrity monopoly on the local and national media do not waste time debating pollution, medicinal marijuana and illegal aliens with dime-store plebeians.

jc: So the party’s stance is that Schwarzenegger is nothing more than a fancy car being driven by far more qualified passengers.

GT: Schwarzenegger is the hood ornament.

jc: You know there is still a chance this Recall might not happen. The LA Times released a poll last Friday (8/29) that the number for ousting Davis is now at 50%, down from 58% in mid-August.

GT: When I came out here early last week, the party’s goal was to rally the conservatives around Schwarzenegger. By as late as two weeks ago, that was still a problem. Then I get out here and their telling me the Davis comeback is starting to become a concern. Now my feeling, and it’s in the minority right now, is that Davis cannot come back from this because the people who refute booting him won’t make it to the polls.

jc: You only expect a significant turn-out for voters supporting the Recall?

GT: What the fucking LA Times poll does not factor is our extensive research that most Californians opposed to the Recall will choose to abstain from the process as protest to their original votes being appropriated by what they feel is an unfair coup. Their opposition is merely vocal, not political. They will bow out from a process they feel was initially pointless. They’ve already voted, and now they have to vote again? This is the reasoning here among an alarming number of Recall detractors.

jc: That’s insane.

GT: Welcome to California. When was the last time you were out here? When we spoke in San Francisco in ’99? Nearly a third of the current California voter base is on the verge of anarchy. But who can blame them? I’m only here as part of a political strategist conference. People who pose a threat to a Republican victory are my only concern. If they affect Schwarzenegger’s electability, I pay attention. Otherwise, I can’t be bothered. The way I see it, possible anarchy only helps us.

jc: Have you met with Schwarzenegger?

GT: Only in a group, last week. He’s a bright man, with a good heart, and it’s a fucking shame the press out here has seen fit to take his two-week campaign to paint him as a womanizing, pothead, son of a Nazi.

jc: That’s nothing. All of us on the east coast were convinced Gray Davis was feeding live infants to Incubus in his basement.

GT: I heard that.

jc: Before we move on to national affairs, how do you see this playing out?

GT: Davis is finished. The media is lost on this. Our only hurtle is Cruz Bustamante, who is alienating the voter base I just mentioned. Here is a guy who is at once trying to hoist the “don’t recall” flag up the pole, while aggressively running a campaign for governor. It’s the most blatant two-faced hypocrisy known to the political system, and this from a man who is the fucking lieutenant governor under the man who is weeks from being exiled. The only way we don’t take this deal is because it takes place in California. And anyone who claims they know what these people might do are either drugged up or plain stupid.

jc: Didn’t you just predict…

GT: Fuck you.

Next subject. NEXT WEEK PART II – Iraq, North Korea, Democratic Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton, Britney kisses Madonna & more.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Gay Bishops & Other Modern Illusions

Aquarian Weekly 8/13/03 REALITY CHECK


A gay Episcopal Bishop.

What’s next? A Jewish Pope? A black Grand Poobah of the KKK? How about Larry Flynt heading up the National Organization of Women or Rush Limbaugh gaining a chair in the ACLU? Maybe I’d like to be a Wiccan priest? That would be a good one.

It’s freeform dogma.

Get on board.

That’s the rub of the Bible. It’s not the US Constitution. It doesn’t have amendments. Moses has been gone a good long time, and the last guy to question its veracity in the realm of human spirituality was hung up on a crossbeam. And that was two thousand long years ago.

I love humans. I am proud to be one. We set up these insane rules around metaphysical concepts like God and attach tangible regulations surrounding culture and clothes and sexuality and food and all sorts of ridiculous things to it, then we like to excuse these rules willy nilly to allow us to still participate in the metaphysical concepts based on new sets of intangible rules and laws.

I don’t care if Reverend Gene Robinson of the New Hampshire Episcopalians is a homosexual. But that doesn’t matter here. Others who have commented on this hot-button topic do. And that doesn’t matter either. What matters is Episcopalian law. Like other monotheistic institutions that utilize the Holy Bible as a guideline, it deems homosexuality a sin banned by God in the language of Moses in Leviticus circa 1445 bce.

Episcopalians, as all Christians, use the Letters of St. Paul to both the Corinthians and the Romans as a guideline of metaphysical law to damn homosexuality.

Some may agree or disagree with any part of these documents, but you cannot deny their language or intent. And you certainly cannot expect to ignore them while heading up a religion that calls these things immutable laws of the universe.

How can Mr. Robinson claim dominion over the other laws within his institution now that he has sidestepped one? What, some interpretations of Biblical law are debatable, but others are not?

It’s like Thou Shall Not Kill.

There’s no comma after this.

It’s not Thou Shall Not Kill, unless Congress declares war or unless you’re hungry or pissed or happen to not like the culture of the indigenous inhabitants of a continent you feel destined to rule.

What a bunch of fucking phonies we are.

This is why I have no use for institutions based on stringently nonsensical regulations, but some people do, and if they do, they should stick to these laws and boundaries or get the hell out.

It’s like these supposed vegetarians who eat fish or these Catholics who want to get divorced and still get married in the church, or people of the Jewish or Islamic faith mixing their precious cultures or people making fifty-buck bets and calling that gambling.

I’m reminded of that guy who recently claimed contentious objector status after joining the army. What did he think the army was, summer camp with tanks?

If you choose to head up some religious institution that uses the Bible as the immutable Word of God, then you cannot also be gay.

Has anyone read the Bible lately?

I mean really read it. Study its intentions and messages and metaphors? Because I have, several times during the research for my last book; and I’m here to report that if people actually read the damn thing, they would not be too quick to start restructuring it to meet their generation’s needs or evolved point of view.

That’s the rub of the Bible. It’s not the US Constitution. It doesn’t have amendments. Moses has been gone a good long time, and the last guy to question its veracity in the realm of human spirituality was hung up on a crossbeam. And that was two thousand long years ago.

And if you are one of those who think the Bible the absolute direction of the cosmos and the central theme of an omnipotent creator of the universe, and consider its verse the conscience of your judger and redeemer, its time to come to grips with its serious nature. Serious, unwavering balls-to-the-wall nature.

I think if people actually read the Bible, there could be trouble. But people don’t read. They watch television and snowboard and make money and try and get laid. And when it comes time to do whatever they feel like doing or hating or co-opting, they interpret things like the Bible in their own interesting way.

People like to take their righteousness in doses, or like some wise person said: Anything in moderation cannot hurt you.

Here’s where I quote a great man of fiduciary wisdom for our age, James V. Campion, my pop, who, when addressing the sticky subject of income tax says; “People must have it taken out little by little in each paycheck throughout the year, because if people actually knew what percentage they paid in annual income tax, they’d be jumping out of windows.”

Listen, I have no problem with anyone doing whatever they want. I love it. But for the religious set, isn’t there a set of rigorous rules, however insane, that must be abided to be part of the clan, much less lead it?

If not, all Wiccan incantations can now be ordered through me here at The Desk.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Gray Davis & California Recall

Aquarian Weekly 8/6/03 REALITY CHECK


The wife and I plan on moving out to northern California when I’m closer to a natural demise; let that read, if I survive this daily boogie with death I’ve fashioned into a career. But if or when we get out there, we do not plan to vote. Voting does not count in California. It’s what the insiders like to call a “do-over” state. And soon, if a Recall on its Democratic governor, the wildly abhorred, Gray Davis goes through without a hitch, there may be little reason to vote on a local basis anywhere on this continent.

Right now California is broke. Its $38 billion gap between revenues and expenses has crippled the state’s economy to an all-time low, a slow deflation that many economists believe started in 1978 with the infamous Proposition 13 that put a hard cap on the government’s taxing power. The rub is this nifty initiative did not stop subsequent civic officials, including the doomed Davis, to spend freely on schools, prisons and other expensive projects.

People hear Recall and think something is wrong with Gray Davis’ fuel system, like he’s some kind of faulty vehicle sent back to the plant for exploding on national television test runs.

California has become a metaphor for the credit madness that currently engulfs this nation; it has stretched itself far beyond its means. It is also a glaring example of schizophrenic politics; a paradoxical helter skelter of citizen rule that wants everything without paying for it. Less government with more perks. Bold government programs with healthy tax cuts. Few state regulations with a needy increase in bureaucracy.

Thus, California is a deadbeat debt fiend with a tattered figurehead about to be shown the door.

People hear Recall and think something is wrong with Gray Davis’ fuel system, like he’s some kind of faulty vehicle sent back to the plant for exploding on national television test runs. True, the man is a condescending twit who used a $70 million smear campaign to retain power, and a frighteningly easy scapegoat, but hardly the sole proprietor of the disaster he now sits upon.

But Californians are historically fickle with politics. In a bizarre 17-year period from 1967 to 1983, the state posted a gubernatorial experiment in polar opposites the likes of which have been rarely seen in the history of this republic. Ronald Reagan, a reborn icon of hard-core conservatism smoothly gave way to the socialist hippy dreamscape that was Jerry Brown, a collective Freudian episode worthy of a straightjacket. So the Davis Recall, although a clear manifestation of bad legislation and identity crisis, is hardly unexpected in the Golden State.

Order Books by jc Now! Trailing Jesus Autographed CopyAmazon Barnes & Noble Fear No Art Autographed CopyAmazonBarnes & Noble Deep Tank Jersey Autographed CopyAmazonBarnes & Noble

Nearly a century ago the concept of Recall was the reactionary brainchild of California governor, Hiram Johnson, a Teddy Roosevelt reformer nut who used the burgeoning “progressive movement” to weed out the manipulation of special interest concerns. Under the guise of preventing private conglomerates like banks or railroads from sending puppeteer candidates to log jam mandates, Johnson’s edict meant to use the power of populist democracy to right election wrongs.

But the language in Johnson’s law is vague. Grounds for Recall could range from questionable hairdos to odd eating habits, a dangerous legal landscape for the directionally challenged Californian.

Currently 18 states have some law allowing Recall, New Jersey is one, but only six have specific grounds, with two of those states -Minnesota and Georgia -allowing a judicial review of those grounds. California, the broke schizo state, is not one of those.

But enacting an actual Recall on a governor is rare. North Dakota is the only state on record to have successfully booted its leader from office. In 1921, Non-Partisan Party member, Lynn Frazier, a well-known socialist with little ideas about handling farm budgets, was also sent packing under the cloud of being a fiscal boob.

The current California petition in question, now boasting well over 1.5 million signatures (easily eclipsing the approximately 900,000 needed), has delegated a Recall of Davis for 10/7. But many state Democrats have been waging a predictable, if not futile battle on its authenticity, mainly because Republican congressman, Darrell Issa has used roughly $1.7 million to bankroll the petition efforts.

The California Left has argued that Issa’s strong connection to pro-life filibusters has procured funds to oust an elected official because of social, not economic woes. But although Davis is a staunchly pro-choice advocate, the argument holds little water. Issa, who has shockingly thrown his hat in the ring for governorship, is a wealthy Californian entrepreneur known for using such pocket-change to fuel grass-roots movement on ego alone. And, as stated above, distinctions between social or economic reasons for canning a governor is laughable in the face of such an ambiguous law.

Needless to point out, the whole Recall thing, although gangbusters in the wild, wild west, could set dangerous inroads nationwide, opening a fun-filled can of worms that would define any election as merely temporary, even within the boundaries of a term; hence, a “do over”.

These kind of vacillating principles do not necessarily raise my personal ire, except to provide more evidence that most of us don’t know what the hell we want from our appointed officials beyond blaming them for a falling sky.

And damn it, if that isn’t democracy in motion.

The wife and I like democracy. So, hopefully by the time our little caravan shuffles off to Big Sur to sit on a cliff and contemplate saner human aspirations, what is left of California’s political scene will include a mass council of weekly votes based on the performance and likeability of state officials. I hear the elderly love to hit the polls, if for nothing else but the laughs.

The wife and I like to laugh.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Kobe Bryant is Not Going to Jail

Aquarian Weekly 7/30/03 REALITY CHECK


Kobe BryantKobe Bryant is not going to jail.

Innocent or guilty, matters not. The rich and famous don’t go to jail. Let that read the rich and famous who are worth a great deal of scratch to the not-so famous rich and their public concerns. Kobe Bryant falls into that category big time, thus he is not going to jail.

The merely rich, but not famous, who lord over doomed corporate malfeasance like Enron go to jail. Some of the rich and famous go to jail for short periods of time like Robert Downey Jr. and Mike Tyson, but that is usually when there isn’t too much more money that can be made to warrant keeping them free. Politicians don’t go to jail either. And even if they happen to stumble in there by mistake, they go to a country club with bars on the windows.

Then there is O.J. Simpson.

No use getting angry with Bryant over this. He is a two-dimensional test tube human. He does not deal with life as we do. He is a walking billboard, a public relations machine. He plays basketball and sells fast food and sneakers. He wears expensive suits and hangs with big celebrities. Everything that exists around Bryant is barely real, like a parallel universe, only with more fun.

Evidence of Bryant’s inability to understand our reality versus his own became apparent when he was first accused of raping a woman weeks ago. That is when he laughed at the ridiculous nature of doing such a thing. Not him. He was adamant about that. The whole thing didn’t compute for him.

Everything that exists around Bryant is barely real, like a parallel universe, only with more fun.

Then emerged the famous three letters that once had a president going from vehement denials to mia culpas in a Washington minute; DNA. With DNA involved, Bryant went from guffawing at the Espy Awards in an Italian suit to a conciliatory press conference in a Gap sweater and loafers in 24 hours. This kind of backtrack would give most humans whiplash. But not the two-dimensional test tube types. They’re pliable.

Alas, physical evidence is tough on the rich and famous, but it doesn’t mean jail.

However, it is always nice hearing the two-dimensional test tube person offering pangs of love in public displays of humility. This is their substitute for excusing all possibility of higher crimes by referring to reality fuck-ups as “mistakes”. This is what these people do. They talk about mistakes as if victims of circumstance, that by merely existing outside their two-dimensional pods they are vulnerable.

Take Michael Jackson for example. His is the mother of all two-dimensional test tube lives. Kobe Bryant has only been two-dimensional since the age of 18. Jackson has been at it since 7. He is so far gone on the parallel universe that a mountain of physical evidence and heinous crimes, financial misappropriations or irrational maneuvers with infants could not get him near a jail cell. We don’t even see Michael as human anymore.

But back to Bryant.

It’s important to point out that there is a good chance that the man, while guilty of the two-dimensional test tube “mistake”, is innocent of a crime. Impressionable youth around two-dimensional test tube lives can be heady. Things happen. Things us reality people wouldn’t understand. Mistakes.

But all that is window dressing, because Kobe Bryant is not going to jail. High-priced lawyers, media smear campaigns, well-orchestrated news events and quiet pay-offs, but jail?

That’s three-dimensional thinking.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

George Bush War Lies

Aquarian Weekly 7/23/03 REALITY CHECK


The President of the United States lied to the American people about the extent of an enemy threat to our borders to perpetuate a war. And so now George W. Bush joins every other man who has held his office while faced with the same stretch of history. Look it up. I only have so much space.

And that last line is specially packaged for those of you who think that a thousand words on a jabbering cunt like Ann Coulter was not enough. Some of you assume I had to fill forty pages with a lecture on American history to educate the masses on the crimes of McCarthyism.

Fuck off.

Put down the video game and turn off the porn for five minutes and read a goddamn book.

It is a moral imperative. Fish swim. Trees grow. Governments lie before, during, and most definitely after war.

Let’s face it; you need history lessons from me like you need MTV babysitting your kids.

Of course the White House and the CIA, and whatever else culling a paycheck from your taxes to keep this government running lied to you about the war. That is what they do. That is what they have always done. And not just this government, but governments across the globe for eons.

You don’t like it, chief? Ready your muskets.

But I would give that some serious thought. I too believed in anarchy once, but that was before I enjoyed the trappings of running water, utilities, traffic lights and civil servants to summon when the crazed neighbor starts shooting off his baby canon over the lake at midnight.

But I digress.

Sure the government lied, the media lied, I lied. This is what happens during war, Churchill and all that “first casualty” stuff. It is a moral imperative. Fish swim. Trees grow. Governments lie before, during, and most definitely after war.

Where the fuck have you been?

Are we only dealing with dumbstruck hippies, Madison Avenue shrills and Bible waving freakazoids now? Is that all that is left us?

Those of us in the trenches see things far more clearly. We examine Paul Simon’s writings “on the subway walls”, and you can damn well be sure we keep our ears peeled for the sounds of silence. And those sounds could not give a fairy fart whether George Walker Bush tells Congress he invented Scrabble or composed the Star Spangled Banner. Down here in the mud, you learn to forgive mouthpieces for the flawed machine. It’s a tough ride, like that yawping loon straddling the A-Bomb at the end of that Kubric film.

You think this president could ever tell you anything binding about uranium in Africa? This is a man who’s own campaign czars tried to keep out of foreign policy debates like it was political cyanide for sixteen months of stumping.

In the face of that, I think the man’s done a pretty good job on the foreign stage. He was only in office for nine months when New York City burned. What did he know? He must have gotten bad intelligence for that one too.

Sure, the world thinks us half-mad, arrogant warmongers, but that was long before Captain Shoe-In got the key to the missile silos.

Iraq was Daddy’s fault. Everyone knew that. The other George Bush has to take the hit for irking those maniacs, with an assist from the Sleeping Clinton Brigade, who thought it wise to pussyfoot with homicidal goons for eight years.

The festering boil of the Arabian Sea had to go. Period. Who cares why anymore?

What those of us in manning the front lines do care about is this horrific budget deficit, escalated now to an historic level of $450 billion and rising 50% higher than estimated last Christmas, and the piss-poor abortion of an economy that the current administration has stood watch over for nearly three years now.

There is something for your outrage. Why don’t you crank up some of the righteous indignation over that nugget?

Lying about war? That’s a given.

Weapons of mass destruction? Maybe. Maybe not.

That’s a debate for those who believe continued negotiating with murderous thugs and suicidal fanatics makes sense. The trench dwellers don’t. And neither do the sounds.

There are clear reasons why Saddam Hussein was in uniform for every picture and video you saw of him. He was a soldier, a fighting man, and he wanted to fight. Our president wears a suit. He can’t get dirty with that kind of nonsense. He’s the CEO of America Enterprises, and right now its going belly up.

The executive branch of the current system we employ here in America has to answer for two things eventually; domestic policy and the strength of the economy. This is not always fair, but it is fact. Look that up too, junior. And what is left of ours will likely decide his reelection, and seal his legacy.

Right now it is in the shit can and my pal Georgetown tells me many steadfast conservative Republicans in Congress think the Bush people have gone around the bend in spending, and no one inside the Beltway has the slightest idea what kind of financial strain rebuilding Iraq and funding Tom Ridge’s folly will do to cripple the nation in the next twelve months.

And these are key months for a first term president planning on keeping the gig.

But the rat pack the Democrats are lining up for slaughter right now couldn’t best Hermann Goering in a race for dogcatcher. And that is not particularly good for the national debate or a balanced election, no matter what side of the infernal fence you reside.

But make no mistake, riling up the troops for battle with anything from questionable innuendo to bold faced lies is a president’s duty.

This is not news.

As usual, it is nothing more than a minor distraction from real problems.

Sounds of Silence, indeed.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Ann Coulter: Champion of the Dumb

Aquarian Weekly 7/2/03 REALITY CHECK


For those who merely get their junk food media jones from Reality TV or Eminem or video game violence, you are missing one of the great purveyors of grandiose stupidity on the market today; Ann Coulter. Noted author, and celebrated carnival barker; Coulter is the living embodiment of modern pop culture genius, well-dressed freak show merchants masquerading their commentary with bombastic rhetoric, mixed daringly with a waft of jingoistic perfume.

I worship her beatific vision.

Coulter’s efforts are noble and sound. She knows well the avenue of history has long been open for armchair revisionists to sidle up to the microphone and trump hyperbolic issues and hot-button names in an ostentatious peddling of merchandise. Having pitched a book for the past few months, I bow to her prescient supremacy.

Mostly, Coulter is a wonderful siren for our greatest attributes, the inability to understand rudimentary ideas beyond our own prejudiced hallucinations. No other social or political essayist possesses more of a keen eye for P.T. Barnum’s vast audience of ravenous lap dogs in the American heart.

Coulter is a wonderful siren for our greatest attributes, the inability to understand rudimentary ideas beyond our own prejudiced hallucinations. No other social or political essayist possesses more of a keen eye for P.T. Barnum’s vast audience of ravenous lap dogs in the American heart.

This is a sorely needed talent in today’s politically correct world of pusillanimous frauds. She is a maverick among sheep, but Coulter is often vilified for this, while she should be lauded as a hero for our most precious national resource: The Dumb.

In the grand tradition of Jerry Springer, Colonel Tom Parker and Joseph Goebbels, Coulter is merrily plugging her new cantankerous volume entitled, “Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War To The War On Terrorism” with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And from recent quotes, the book appears to brilliantly reveal how Americans understand history and its effects on today’s social fabric.

For instance, last night on MSNBC, Coulter wildly defended Senator Joseph McCarthy as “a misunderstood American hero whose sacrifices preserved America’s sovereignty for thirty-plus years.”

This is the very same McCarthy whose incredible ride to infamy included an historic monopoly of world-class fear mongering this democracy has ever had the displeasure to endure.

Understand Coulter’s genius here. Aside from Hitler or Manson or Nixon or Liberace, the very name McCarthy, attached as it is to a period of madness called McCarthyism, is notable for its enviable shock quotient. A monument to hate bating and paranoia run amok, McCarthy’s legacy is nothing if not noteworthy. He was a tremendous brute of his times, clinically insane and furiously malevolent, a true celebrity monster. But apparently in Coulter’s luminous tome we relearn that McCarthy’s savagely clumsy attack on basic democratic liberties was “bravery” and that “The myth of ‘McCarthyism’ is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times.”

Order Books by jc Now! Trailing Jesus Autographed CopyAmazon Barnes & Noble Fear No Art Autographed CopyAmazonBarnes & Noble Deep Tank Jersey Autographed CopyAmazonBarnes & Noble

On the heels of Hillary Clinton’s fantastically successful, “Living History” – an embarrassingly potent political manifesto wrapped neatly in a package of scrumptiously infantile musings – Coulter’s grandstanding is sublime, painfully striking, and a clear roadmap to 21st century thought. Clinton’s book aimed to put distance between her and her ass of a husband. Coulter’s work puts a loving stamp on what her president’s dissenters have dubbed “fear-mongering” in the guise of patriotism. But Clinton is a politician, and nothing politicians have written has really meant anything binding since “Mein Kampf”.

Coulter is different. She is a pro, in every brutal sense of the word. Coulter writes: “Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie.”

This is excellent hyperbole, with just the right amount of stern recognition, but having not read the entire thing, I can only assume she gets to the bottom of these lies about McCarthy; lies which are a matter of overly analyzed public record for half a century. But the book, or the childish assumption that only Liberals held, or hold, McCarthy contemptible, is not the issue here. It is the use of McCarthy as a notorious figure, and an effigy of politics gone frightfully awry, as a weapon against Coulter’s enemy, The Left.

Trashing The Left, like Senator Rodham’s subtle forms of trashing The Right in her book tour, allow both to employ an important ingredient to mass appeal, consistency. No one wants their Bruce Springsteens jamming funk or Bill Bennetts strung out on cheap wine and loading up on seven-figure Vegas bets.

Some may find championing terrible goons as political martyrs for the benefit of ideology wrong.


Getting massive digs in on the enemy, while refiguring the legacy of a national embarrassment for personal profit has merit. This is what many books have done for decades, rediscovering the Kennedy assassination or the Vietnam War or the Nixon Tapes. It’s good press, even in the face of complete and utter contempt for common sense and truth.

Another fine example from Coulter: “McCarthy was not tilting at windmills. Soviet spies in the government were not a figment of right-wing imaginations. He was tilting at an authentic Communist conspiracy that had been laughed off by the Democratic Party.”

Beautiful craziness.

Did the overall manic dismantling of McCarthy’s crusade have a tinge of backlash fanaticism? Of course. Were there Communists in the government? Sure. In the pall of a Cold War, was it a threat to national security? Correct. Was this why McCarthy was finally harangued by his contemporaries or forever noted as a criminally insane lunatic? No. It was McCarthy’s methods of sidestepping laws, using media outcry and troubled times to promote a sick obsession to shamelessly self-promote his career.

Even Coulter sheepishly admits to McCarthy’s famous lie about a list of 57 names in the US government with Communist ties. But you won’t find that as a headline on the day I write this. You see, in a way, what Coulter is doing is a metaphor for McCarthy’s greatest legacy: Say something completely shocking and outlandish, and make someone deny or address it.

Artistic grace.

And finally the second most successful slant on truth used by Coulter here is her assessment that the Democratic Party was more or less run by a radical anti-American Communist regime since McCarthy’s public demise. This scoffs in the face of horrific mistakes made by Democratic administrations, not the least of which would be the Korean and Viet Nam Wars, instigated, by the way, by Democratic presidents, or the Bay of Pigs disaster, or blah, blah blah.

Coulter is silly, surely, but I, for one, salute her moxy, her guts, her complete disregard for clear thought and simple research to bolster her debate. She is a hero to our trade, and a great patriot, pointing us to the core of our being; not letting facts get in the way of making a buck.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Traveling the Holy Land With James Campion – Ray Ford


Minneapolis Star-Tribune 6/29/03


by Ray Ford

In the spring of 1996, author James Campion became a “Jesus groupie,” traveling to the Holy Land to write Trailing Jesus (Gueem Books, 585 pages, $18). Campion, raised a Roman Catholic, admits that despite becoming a man of “no faith of any kind,” he still remains a practicing “fan of Jesus.”

Garden of GethsemaneReaders get a detailed, but somewhat rambling, tour of the Holy Land, seen through the eyes of Campion, whose knowledge of the Bible illuminates his prose with the political, social and religious background against which Christ’s travels and ultimate end were set.

The book is an account of Campion’s traipse over most of the places of Christ’s life, including the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the gates of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley and Golgotha, “Place of the Skull,” but Campion shuns large, guided tours, instead doing it pretty much with an experienced guide named Avi.

Campion reveals his own struggle with his beliefs in alternate chapters that speak of an interior “nothing” that he unsuccessfully tries to define, as well as his poignant memories of growing up in New York City, attending St. Dominic’s Grammar School and, later, the evolution of his questioning of all religions.

Campion’s accounts of the geography of Jesus’ public life go from the Jordan River, scene of Christ’s baptism, to the “Via Dolorosa,” the way of his crucifixion. Campion lingers at all 14 defined points of the “Way of the Cross,” which describe Christ’s final hours and death. At one point during this journey, he breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing, which guide Avi calls entirely natural for pilgrims on this journey.

Upon leaving the Holy Land, Campion concludes his book with this: “Indeed, I found Jesus of Nazareth on this soil. He is out there still, burning as brightly as the glistening pearls along the lake of his youth.”

More Info On Trailing Jesus

Read More

“Road Map To Peace” Vilified

Aquarian Weekly 6/25/03REALITY CHECK


Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. – Mark Twain

I have been on the road for more or less this entire spring promoting and discussing my new book, “Trailing Jesus”, and because several people are terrified about speaking too deeply on the subject, and because the fanatical culture goons have escalated their daily mutilations in Israel, my publicists have decided it would be a good idea to get me on the radio and in the newspapers and in the bookstores talking about Strife in the Middle East.

Sure, why not? Campion was nuts enough to visit a war zone to chase ghosts while holed up in the desert frantically taking notes on the back of Palestinian propaganda sheets and cocktail napkins from the King David Hotel; why don’t we crank up his acid tongue and have him chime in on the matter?

That’s entertainment.

People – not ideologies or governments or religions – people, who just want to send their kids off to school without gas masks or their husbands off to the office without a flap jacket or head down to the local grocery for dinner without the very real possibility that they will die, simply want to live. Not for God or country, just live for what is: a possibly vibrant and relatively safe life with friends, family and loved ones.

Yes, this is why some weeks back a blathering simpleton from CNN radio had me follow up his ten-minute monologue on the merits of another peace process, neatly entitled “A Roadmap to Peace” or some such insipid nonsense, with a dose of the old Reality Check.

That’s when I whipped out my Twain Quotables and dove in for some fine wisecracking country wisdom. Because if there is one thing Mrs. Clemens’ baby boy knew something about, it was the madness of the human psyche and its most lethal crutch, religious fanaticism; religious fanaticism with a smattering of world-weary providence.

You want to hear the palpable results of unloading a taste of Twain on an unwitting talk show host: Welcome to the silence of the stunned.

“But Mr. Campion, there is more hope now than ever before,” the poor bastard stammered after the engineer repeatedly screamed at him to say anything to fill the dead air.

“Hope is a concept for the grotesquely rich Hollywood types and dumb struck southern senators who have the luxury of getting their morning paper without losing limbs,” I said.

More silence.

“But would you have us stand by and watch these people kill each other?”

“I didn’t realize I was speaking to an us.”

“Would you have the world sit idly by and watch the parade of death and destruction?”

“In a perfect world perhaps the forty-seventh peace process will stick when motivated by the same tired rhetoric and photo ops, but in the one we’re forced to work in, it isn’t really making the grade, is it?”


Blah. Blah. Blah.

I will now write down for posterity what I told that lovable CNN rogue two weeks ago, and every kind and hearty soul who meandered out to hear me speak on matters of metaphysical mayhem and applesauce for the past weeks, and that is whatever politics and debate and carefully worded rhetoric has come down the pike in new and improved packaging, the fact still remains, peace in the region is futile.


Unless those involved are willing to let go of their eons of religious and cultural madness about whatever God promised to what sibling of Abraham and what is the birthright of generations of dead soldiers for Allah and Yahweh.

And we all know this is not going to happen.

See? Futile.

Peace processes in the desert are as perfunctory as mirages for those not used to the heat descending from the vast unwavering landscape before them. People not used to being inside of a desert, or who have not lived with the kind of lunacy that passes for righteousness in Israel right now, cannot begin to pontificate on peace or political compromises.

This is not, nor has it EVER been about politics. It is not about sovereignty either. If so, matters should have been settled in 1967. What no one wants to admit is that the playing field is fixed for a result of total annihilation or bust. And certainly no one – and I cannot stress this enough – no one that is not part of some freedom-fighting plan on the West Bank or treaty wrangling in the Israeli government cares who is victorious.

That is something I can tell you first hand, something I have broached in this space before. People – not ideologies or governments or religions – people, who just want to send their kids off to school without gas masks or their husbands off to the office without a flap jacket or head down to the local grocery for dinner without the very real possibility that they will die, simply want to live. Not for God or country, just live for what is: a possibly vibrant and relatively safe life with friends, family and loved ones.

I know this because I spoke to these people, Jew, Christian, Arab, Armenian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Atheist. They’re out there. Many are the victims of this circle of savagery that will continue long after those who read this, and the caustic jerk who is writing it, will be dust.

And that is why promoting a book about finding the real Jesus among the reams of drivel written and perpetuated in his name for centuries, and talking about peace processes enacted by countries and armies and politicians is as insane as the person failing again and again with the same action and expecting a different result.

Insanity personified.

There will soon come a time to put down the flags and the religious garb and the Torah and the Qu’ran and begin talking to each other as people, real people, not factions of cultures that were purportedly promised land by pie-in-the-sky concepts dreamed up by patriarchal con artists. Either that, or I hope those left standing after the final carnage will have won something for the correct God.

Until then, enjoy your sideshow to reality.

I abstain.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Bear Hunt Madness

Aquarian Weekly 6/21/03 REALITY CHECK


If you live in my neck of the mountainous woods, or some points beyond, like places in New Jersey where no one reads or down in NYC, where the Village Voice is now being run by despots, you will hear a great deal of nonsense about some letter that was written to PETA (Protection for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) about organizing a vigilante group to shoot bear hunters here in the greater Vernon area.

You will also hear a lot of crazy talk about hooded nefarious types involved with The Desk and other seedy individuals seen leaving Fort Vernon with fatigues and bull horns and detailed maps of black bear hunting routes.

This is wrong.

Killing hunters? The irony is admittedly sweet, but it is still a crime here in New Jersey.

Slander is the better word. And those who wish to attach me to such scurrilous rumor will pay dearly, but not with their life. We here at Fort Vernon preach pacifism and civil disobedience, and even though the odd ass stomping must be administered to the right people, a glorious acceptance of peace and love.

I say let the bear fend for themselves. It’s natural selection. I’m sure there were plenty of Native Americans perfectly happy to hang here without any of the white man’s bullshit. But they are gone now, and so soon will the bear be gone.

I didn’t invent madness. I just comment on it. And now people who contemplate the parameters of my wife’s animal rights zealousness now think it necessary to drape me with all kinds of sick innuendo about feeding puppies to traveling bear to properly arouse their taste for blood and then dangle fresh raccoon meat from car antennas during midnight runs off side roads on Route 23.

As if the odd prank could even begin to organize the bear population to break into kitchens or feed on discarded infants.

I know the images are harsh, but you have no idea what kind of bizarre shit goes on up here late night when the bear comes out. It’s like a concentrated microcosm of SARS or Anthrax scares when nothing really happens but panic.

We don’t have terror alerts in the mountains. We have black bear.

Why do you think Orson Wells picked Jersey for his little radio ruse? It works well on the panicky kind. And we have so many up here it’s hard to fathom.

The good people of Sussex county or PETA have apparently not heard of Manifest Destiny or the United States army or the NJ State Police, and they want to shoot off their mouths and get smarmy about citizens taking up arms and cutting down those involved in some Neanderthal hunting activities up here.

I must rail against such nonsensical talk. Killing hunters? The irony is admittedly sweet, but it is still a crime here in New Jersey. At the very least it coincides with the Ten Commandments, and in my continued study of the Bible and other subversive material, that is where the fun stops.

No, I must not only take my name off such irresponsibly and criminally insane rhetoric, but I must implore my fellow Vernonites to bow to clearer solutions and allow the natural order of things to take hold. That is what we were taught in Civics 101 and Sunday school and at the lap of Grandpa, who told us to “Keep our friends close and our enemies closer” and “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” and other bits of wisdom that has outlasted dusty paperweights like the Bible.

But one thing this kind of reverse guerilla media warfare accomplishes is to alert us to this latest ham-handed attempt at silencing strange journalists with methods best left unsaid and unwritten and understood quite differently by people who don’t consider their environment and the dangers it presents.

The truth dies hard up here.

Bear are a much easier target.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

“Trailing Jesus” Interview – WKUO, St. Louis



WKUO LUTHERAN RADIO ST. LOUIS Living Jubilee with Paul Clayton & Diane Summers Interview 6/20/03

jc - Freehold, NJ - 2002Paul Clayton: All right, let’s welcome our next guest.

Diane Summers: James Campion was born in the Bronx, New York to a devoutly Catholic Italian /Irish family. He was raised in the faith and has struggled with organized religion and has decided to make a personal truth quest to Israel, where he spent a month retracing the steps of Christ. His account is contained in Trailing Jesus – A Holy Land Journal published by Gueem Books. Welcome to Living Jubilee, James.

jc: Nice to be with you both.

PC: Good to have you here. Man, this is a big book.

jc: (laughs) It’s a big subject.

PC: Over 500 pages, yeah. Where do you want to begin?

jc: Uh, wherever you guys would like to begin. I would just like to say right off the bat that I’m not a theologian or a scholar, and I don’t, as you said in your intro there, subscribe to any particular faith, but I have always been fascinated with Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus message, the original Jesus movement of the first century. I always wanted to visit Israel and Jerusalem, and it took a long time to map the whole thing out and be able to make the sojourn, so I hope in my own humble view of it as a journalist interested in these stories, I was able to impart some of that fascination in a different way than that of a theologian or a scholar.

PC: It sounds like you started off as a cultural Roman Catholic. You were born into that situation, and then you questions things, and then you decided to go much, much deeper than what your earlier tradition was.

jc: Sure. Much like so many young men and women who go off and learn different aspects and tenets of philosophy and science, and have their own personal enlightenment, so to speak, I did as well. But I found out through having many discussions with people throughout my life, no one could really speak on an intellectual or historical level about these stories. It’s almost as if you were to believe them, then you had to suspend any intellect or understanding of it, or the other way around, you couldn’t have any faith, and I thought that unfair. By studying over the 12 years before taking my trip to Israel in 1996, I realized that many of my contemporaries knew more about the Beatles or the New York Yankees then they knew about their own faith or these actual historical events that framed their religious beliefs. So I thought, I better educate myself on these things if I were to believe them or be inspired by them as strongly as I claimed.

PC: So how did you begin this quest? How did you prepare the make the travel?

jc: That’s a great question.

PC: For instance, what did you read?

jc: Well, I spent about ten-plus years as a labor of love styudying the boom of the late-80s’, early 90s’ of the Jesus scholarly movement begun years ago by Albert Schweitzer with his Quest of the Historical Jesus. I read many of the books by some of the more publically celebrated Jesus scholars like Robert Funk, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and many of the Biblical scholars who made up the controversial, but engaging Jesus Seminar and much of the modern Jesus scholar movement of the 90s’.

PC: So you went beyond the Bible.

jc: Yes I did.

PC: Did you read any of the unpublished gospels?

jc: Yes, in fact there is a wonderful compendium of translated gospels not accepted by any sect of organized Christianity called The Complete Gospels, compiled by the aforementioned Jesus Seminar. These, as you alluded to are known as the apocryphal gospels. Some are merely sayings gospels that are seen among scholars as the foundation for the canonical gospels read today in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Of course, I also included all the material accepted by canon in the New Testament as well. At least everything available in the English language like the King James Bible, the New American version, the Catholic version, which all include, of course, the Letters of Saint Paul, the Acts of the Apostles and so forth. Coupling this with my understanding of what we can derive from the other gospels available to us like the Gospel of Thomas, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and James, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary.

PC: Mary Magdalene?

jc: Right.

DS: Did you think that what was published was not enough? What was the reason for all of that?

jc: Well, firstly, I have to respectively correct you; all these gospels have been published in every language imaginable. Several Christian, Muslim, and Jewish scholars and theologians have studied them copiously. It’s just that they have never, for one reason or the other, been accepted by the organized minds of the Christian faith. At least not by the structure or hierarchy of the church. But for me, I have always been fascinated in finding out different voices from the past to frame this incredibly complex character of Jesus of Nazareth as an historical figure set against the grandiose notion of the Christ of faith, the religious icon. That is the job, more or less of a historian or storyteller or a journalist, to scour everything. To accept what is given to you – sight unseen – would not be investigating, per se. It is failing the complete quest and it fails the reader as well.

Mainly, I have to say the discoveries of some of these gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas, really my personal favorite, unearthed in 1947 in a cave in Nag Hammadi, Egypt intrigued me greatly. To know that something, like, for instance, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I have also read pretty extensively, exists for us to read today is beyond captivating. And reading them, discovering them for myself truly opened my mind to new aspects of Jesus of Nazareth and his original movement and how it is fully depicted in the four gospels of the New Testament. Only then did a complete story begin to emerge for me. Once I opened my eyes to all the available evidence, and this includes archeological finds as well, this project, for me, and I hope it translates to the reader of Trailing Jesus was to absorb everything available in the English language about Jesus of Nazareth, and by doing so, bring me and the reader closer to the man. There is inspiration there for the believer and non-believer. And there is much to glean on every possible level.

DS: Did you have people in your background, I guess, that showed you confidence in faith as you grew up, and did these people, you know, haunt you, for lack of a better word, and make you wonder if there was that kind of peace for you too?

jc: I was very lucky growing up. My parents, who were devout Catholics and still believe strongly in The Word, and my mom, who edits most of my work – she was an English teacher for many years – of course were a little shocked and put-off by my journeys and some of the resulting theories counter to their deeply held beliefs, but they’ve been very supportive, because they realize through my in-depth studies I keep the hope alive of achieving a greater understanding of existence, of compassion, and humanity, which, of course, Jesus originally taught. So, I think, yes, they were a great influence, but not with conditional boundaries. And I thank them so much for that. Even in my Catechism studies as a kid, it was the late 60s’, early 70s’ after all, and there was a more progressive, liberal movement in the church, wherein we would broach subjects outside the dogma and deconstruct, with respect to them, the icons and beliefs of my predecessors in the faith. And once you are freed to do so, it makes you, or at least it made me yearn to understand more than what I was given, to confidently reject merely receiving information robotically without questioning or better understanding it, and it was a great lesson for other endeavors in life.

People always want to you accept what is their reality, but it might not be, or I should say it rarely is, yours. This, to me, is the very essence of freethinking, and my pursuit of that end of things has forever been my passion. It has more or less framed most, if not all of my work, so a lot of people have asked me if this journey, or if the book breaks down icons and boundaries of the Christian faith, and I answer that it is the opposite. I think the more you know about your supposed faith, if you truly possess it, the more you can grasp the original ideas behind it, because they’re right there. You cannot deny that there is a history there. If you think it made up and not history, then that is another discussion, but if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth and started this movement based on a certain and distinct philosophy and was murdered as a cause and effect of it, then it is incumbent on you to dissect and study it. Ignoring it, or taking an insitiution’s take on it as pure is never the answer for anything. It spits in the face of the intellect we possess and should cherish as humans. And this is true of studying Mohammad, the Buddha or Jesus Christ; how we take these lives, these teachings, and enact them for ourselves right now.

PC: And you wanted to find out for yourself, rather than take somebody else’s word for it, huh?

jc: I guess that’s the way it’s always been for me, and my generation as a whole. Too often we only go halfway with it. I’m still at it. People are motivated to ask me along the way if I know all there is to know, and I answer the way I always do when diving into a subject as a journalist: “the more you know the less you know.” So it just drives me on. In the case of the historical Jesus, there’s always going to be new archeological finds like the ossuary of Ciaphas a few years ago, a stone I saw and actually touched that had Puntius Pilate’s name carved on it. They found ruins and pottery in the House of Saint Peter in Capernaum that I visited along my journey, which is in the book. So there is always this living, breathing, growing history that adds to the faith, I think.

PC: And I guess you not only learned more about Jesus from this quest, but the people around Jesus, huh?

jc: Yes, I did. Absolutely. Another good point. Especially when I went to Israel. When I began Trailing Jesus as a project I learned so much about the cultures of Israel today, as well as 2,000 years ago during the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Whether it’s Islam, Judaism, many sects of Christianity, even Buddhism and Hinduism, and even atheism. I learned so much about humanity and its levels of compassion and hatred and everything in between, how we use concepts of religion to build and destroy, as it continues today in the horrors of the Middle East. I also learned that beneath all of that, which, again, is a foundation of the original Jesus movement, which can apply here, that ordinary people who are harmed by these extremes in faith merely want peace and harmony and crave safety and tolerance. And this has given me a great sense of hope and inspiration for the human race as a whole and ultimately what Jesus’ quest was to discover; the parameters of the will of God on this earth, whatever that interpretation might be.

DS: So did you come up with any solutions to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? (laughs)

jc: None at all. The only thing I can say is, and I just wrote a column about that for a paper I write for here in New Jersey, it will continue the course of mayhem unless we change our views on how we go about our business of negotiating in good faith, and I think, again, this is part of the Jesus message for me. It’s like that old definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” I don’t think that politics, nationality, culture or religion can save those people from their own demise. I think the only thing that can save them is a completely new vision and understanding. They have to put down the flags. They have to release themselves from tradition. They have to destroy these cultural barriers. They have to speak to each other as human beings, cross the lines of Jewish and Arab and Christian. They have to say, “That’s a person who bleeds such as I. That’s a person who weeps and cares for his/her children.” No one on this planet is that different. We all want to pursue happiness, safety and love. They want to go to the grocery to buy a loaf of bread or take a cross-town bus without having to risk being blown up. So I think they have to look at the whole mess from a completely new way, and see what they are doing to others and how it is being done to them in the same, heartless, blind way. Until they do that, and I fear they never will, but until they do, I don’t think they’ll know peace. I’m sad to say.

DS: It sounds to me you’ve gone a whole lot of places here, James, that maybe the places that you’ve ended up would be uncomfortable for a more conservative Christian. Do you think so?

jc: I can’t speak for everyone, certainly, but I would say, not at all. One of the first sayings of the Gospel of Thomas, which is said in a different way in the Gospel of Mark, the first gospel written about 30 to 35 years after the death of Jesus, so many scholars conclude that it is closest to the actual aim of the original Jesus movement and all the other gospels derive from it, but anyway, that first saying in the Gospel of Thomas says, and I paraphrase for the purposes of making this point; “When you come to understand what I’m trying to teach you, at first you’ll be disturbed, but then you’ll marvel, and then you will see.” So I think, and I often say this when I do my speaking engagements and interviews and book signings, that Jesus of Nazareth was a “confusion teacher”. He believed if he could confuse you, and he did it a great deal in his parables, present them half-jokingly like riddles to get the listeners to think for themselves, that they would be forced to see the world through new eyes, through a new perspective. On a simple level it would be to look at blue and consider it green, or look into darkness and see it as light, and then perhaps have new eyes and then new thoughts about how the world should work – “The last first, the first last”, as he is quoted in every gospel. So I think being a tad disturbed, a little shaken in your conservative thought in the world you have fashioned for yourself, a little confused, as it were, is what Jesus intended for his original message. It might even help create a new wisdom in itself. And that’s what drives me to discover more and more about this man, and why I wrote Trailing Jesus. It’s what I admire most about Jesus of Nazareth. He knew how to get to the core of things, and I think that more than anything else has helped his ideas survive for 2,000 years.

DS: When I was working over at our sister station that plays classical music called Classic 99, I asked about a fellow who wrote symphonies by the name of Mahler. Gustaf Mahler writes very cacophonic sort of symphonies, and I asked someone familiar with his style, how can I possibly enjoy Mahler, and why do you like Mahler? And the announcer I asked the question of answered, “Well, do you like to be in pain?” I said, I guess I don’t. I guess I’m more of a Mendelssohn kind of person, you know? He then said I couldn’t appreciate Mahler, because you must enjoy being in pain and being delivered from it. And all of this leads me to a point, that there are a lot of Christians who are very angry about what the Jesus Seminar has done to the way people look at scripture, for example, and don’t appreciate being in pain and delivered from it, to understanding what culture has done to the way we look at scripture, I guess. Is that sort of person going to benefit from your book, Trailing Jesus?

jc: I think they would. I tried to write as universally as I possible could in the book. I did not come away with any steadfast answers. I just threw out all the possibilities that I discovered along my journey, also in my personal experiences, which I think anyone can relate to. We’re all in the same boat, so to speak. We just have different intepretations of that boat. But we’re still in it. That much is for sure.

Speaking of the Jesus of Seminar, I have one thing I’ve been saying in many of the interviews I’ve done this spring, and that the problem with the Jesus Seminar and most historians, per se, is they choose to remove all the mysticism, all the religiosity, all the iconic aspects of the Christ to find Jesus of Nazareth behind it all. And I think that’s not being entirely fair to the story. Now, certainly it’s their parameter as historians and scholars to not play around with conjecture and faith. They have to stay on the course of what can be proven, beyond any doubt, which is nuts when tossing around the life of Jesus of Nazareth, because that would be tantamount to writing about Babe Ruth and never discussing his baseball career. Now you can write a fantastic biography of Babe Ruth and never mention baseball once, but that is leaving the core of his whole story out. We only know about Ruth first as one of or arguably the greatest baseball player ever, and everything from that is how the story evolves. To depict Jesus of Nazareth merely as an ascetic political and social revolutionary, of which he is no doubt a significant one, is the same as simply or narrowly calling him the Son of God, and saying that his only purpose was his death and resurrection. I believe both sides do a disservice and severe injustice to Jesus in their own ways. To leave out the miracles and the resurrection story in the Jesus pantheon is wrong and too convenient, just like leaving out his revolutionary aspects as well. You must formulate the mystic qualities of Jesus of Nazareth to know the full Jesus story. This is true outside the documents of faith like the writings of Jewish historian and contemporary of Jesus, Josephus, who wrote his only description of Jesus as a healer who was believed to have risen from the dead by his followers. Leaving those extremely important elements out are unfair, whether they can be proven without a doubt or not. There is written evidence, however flimsy, that point to its pertinence in the original Jesus movement.

Listen, the hardest part in writing Trailing Jesus for me was to marry the mystical with the historical, the faith with the logical conclusions of history, but I believe sometimes the great things about life and discovering life are illogical. When I fell in love with my wife it made no logical sense at the time, but it is the greatest of my achievements, loving my wife. So I think therein lies my problem, really, with the Jesus Seminar, which I adore on many levels. You can learn a lot from it, which I did, but I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all of a study of the historical Jesus, nor do I think anyone should be threatened by it either.

PC: So would you say you were in pursuit of the historical Jesus, or the Jesus of the Bible? And using these outside works, were they able to fill in the blanks for you?

jc: Sure. Reading the gospels truly is amazing. It’s incredible writing. It’s inspiring and scary all at the same time, just fantastic literature. But the gospels are not, nor were they ever meant to be, historical documents. I say it in the book. Far from it. These writings were never meant to be taken as history. These were men literally writing sonnets to Jesus, especially John’s gospel. If you read the Gospel of John and substitute the words “I” for “We”, it will give you chills, especially that first stanza. I use the word “stanza”, because I see John’s gospel as more poetry than the others. It gets inside the aura, the soul of Jesus, and out comes the Christ figure, wherein with the other gospels a Christ emerges. But getting back to my point, the gospels are not historical documents. You get aspects of history from them, but they’re pimarily spiritual in many, many ways. So you have to get outside of them to clearly see the cultures Jesus was speaking to, the mysteries of his early life, what happened the first 29 years of his life, before his public persona emerged, how he was clearly influenced by his culture. If we still come to conclusions that Jesus was human, and as faith defines it, still fully divine, where does it go from there?

What I also love about the gospels in and of themselves is we get four different Jesuses. Then when you also read the other gospels outside the New Testament, you get still other Jesuses, and then you come to respect them all for what they can give you in your research. They present different sides of one man, just like we all have different sides of our personalities, that we’re never known for just one thing or one personality, even though we have this penchant to take our celebrities and icons of today and in recent history and give them one dimensional personalities. It’s not real.

DS: Now, what your saying is that those people who experienced what Jesus did when he walked this earth had no idea about what they saw, that you can’t get history from the gospels?

jc: No, that’s not true either. As I’ve said, there are moments, glimpses of history in the gospels, and really, as an interested party to the Jesus story, they are the main source, but I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about; this history vs. propoganda or worship writing. If you were to write a biography of Jesus, you certainly would talk about his childhood, his young adult life, his influences and growth, how he became this great and influential person, and how those experiences helped form the man he was from the ages of 30 to 33. You’d want to know and then let your readers know. You don’t get that from the gospels. Mark starts off in the Jordan with the baptism of Jesus by John. Mark gives you no background. Matthew talks about what happened with Herod after the birth of Jesus, how his parents, Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt and all that, but he never broaches an Immaculate Conception or mentions a pre-birth trip to Bethlehem. That was Luke’s story. It’s okay, I guess, to jam them all together to create a story of Jesus, which filmmakers, for instance, have done for decades, and to a great degree the Christian faith has done as well, but it isn’t really a biography or an historical record that can be completely trusted. Also, the gospels, all the gospels are written from one point of view, the point of view that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah of Jerusalem and the first century Jews, and I was always taught as a journalist to get several points of view to form your story. This is simply not available in the gospels, but then again it isn’t supposed to be, so that’s okay. And like I said before, most scholars, or the members of the Jesus Seminar, conviniently take out what they can of history in these documents, and it’s a charade, really. I tried to marry all the elements together for the reader to decide how he/she sees it, but I could not, nor should anyone, pick or choose what they think is history or not.

There is both the peasant, artisan Jewish, ascetic, Jesus of Nazareth of history and also the Christ of faith. He is both represented in the gospels in their own inimitable fashion. That is the fun of extrapolating an historical, living, breathing figure from that. It is a difficult task, and one that took me over a decade to realize, and six years to write as Trailing Jesus, but it was a labor of love. And I honestly think I’m a better person for it, and I hope anyway you lean, religious or historical, you can get something out of my book.

PC: In what way are you a better person for it? What do you think you’ve accomplished now?

jc: I have a better sense of compassion for the people who study and feel very strongly about their faith, any faith. I’ve tried to be tolerant of everyone and whatever they choose to believe all of my life, and I’d like to think that I ‘ve had an open mind about most things. That wasn’t always the case. It’s a process. When you’re younger, you know, you’re defiant. You want your own way. You want to view things through the lens of invincibility. But you skin your knees a few times and you dust yourself off and get back in the ring with a renewed perspective, hopefully more understanding and compassionate of others besides yourself.

People always ask me, “Did Jesus enact miracles? Did he really enact these miracles?” And I tell them to forget all this stuff you’ve read, and all the details of the miracles as depicted in the Bible. If you don’t go for that, or can’t get your mind around that, know this; If one man can take Samaritans and Jews and gentiles and Romans and zealots, and the socially ostracized and the diseased and the thieves and the prostitutes and the tax collectors and get them all together, march them into the heart of Jerusalem brimming with thoughts of love and compassion and a personal understanding of faith and God, then, my friend, that is a miracle, possibly the most important one of all. And, best of all, you don’t need to be the Son of God to enact it. Beyond that I do not discuss anyone’s personal experience with the Christ of faith. For me, that one idea, that one image of Jesus of Nazareth will put you on your head. Period.

DS: Well, you know, James. I’m a little upset with this (laughs) what we’re talking about today. I guess I see a fellow who has been trying to find peace everywhere but where God says you can find peace in this world, in the scriptures, in His holy word, in His inspired documents, and have looked everywhere else to find where God has not declared he can be found. And I wonder sometimes if you write from a deep confusion about God, whether you’re the kind of person that’s still…

PC: Searching?

DS: Searching, yes, and rediscovering the wheel in a way, because scripture is very plain and very easy to understand.

jc: That is true, in many ways. It is also a little naive. What is easy to understand for one, could be an arduous task for another. And one must not forget that faith is not like math. There is no concrete answer. Everything is up for discussion in understanding it intellectually, if you choose to go that route. I chose to go that route. I did not write a book merely about faith. It is a book about understanding that faith. We’re just looking at this from different points of view, which is great.

I see Trailing Jesus as a microcosm for the world. The world does not work in the ways of the scriptures. The world, in many ways, is the complete polar opposite of what you’re talking about. There’s a great line from the film, “Philadelphia”, in which Denzel Washington, who plays a lawyer defending his client, played by Tom Hanks, who is ostensibly depicted as being discriminated against for his homosexuality and the affliction of Aids. In this scene, Denzel’s character begins blurting out vicious terms for the gay community, which, of course, shocks the courtroom, and the judge understandably shouts him down and asks the lawyer why he would do such a thing. Denzel’s character responds that he is pointing out how bigotry and hatred formulate the actions of people and make them decide one way or the other on how they will think. The judge tells him that the courtroom is no place for bigotry, that law is blind to variations in understanding. And the lawyer, Denzel Washington astutely says, “In all due respect, your honor, we don’t live in this courtroom.”

So to me, that says all there needs to be said about the world of God and the scriptures and how they are a part or a reflection of the world we live in, not a fantasy, utopian kingdom of heaven, but the one we are born into. The scriptures, or the understanding of them, as you put it, this “simple as the wheel” as you put you, is only simple when you remove reality out of the equation. I cannot do this. I try to derive a sense of purpose and inner strength and peace, not from a book, or in a theory or philosophy or religion. It’s good for some, but not what truly affects survival on this planet, really.

What I face in Trailing Jesus, what I confront as far as the confusion and mayhem of the world, the natural order of events, and the people, us, all of us who are affected by it all, do not find peace in theory and belief that perhaps yourself or your listeners have. They do not see the scriptures or faith easy or simple. There is death and destruction, political genocide and starvation, racism and hatred rampant upon this world, the real world, the one we live in right now. Their easy way out of it may be pills and booze or sex and easy gratification to take the pain of life away. Their answers are therapy or whatever they do to survive. Now you say the answers are in the scriptures, a lot of people don’t see it that clearly, to accept it as an elixir to the suffering or indecision of existence. I look at my book, if anything, as a bridge, somewhere between your way of seeing the answers of peace in scripture and not seeing it at all. Those people are out there. It would be great if they had a road to be being spiritually pure, but it is not there for them or they do not see it as you do. And I see that, and therefore did not have an agenda in the book, beyond my discoveries.

Everyone has his or her own path. Trailing Jesus is the story of my path and how the discovery about the historical Jesus, a very dear portrait to my heart, has enabled it. One thing I will say about me, personally, is that I am always searching, and through the search I find a kind of peace. It’s the journey, for me. It’s the end game for others. Hey, I always say that I hope I’m on my deathbed and not know what anything is truly about. I want o fight for knowledge to the bitter end. There is so much more to learn. I never want to be complacent in my soul or in my mind.

DS: Well, you know, all of the scriptures were written so all of us would know that Jesus is the savior, that we might know Him. All of it points to Him. When we get to the end of Trailing Jesus are we brought to that same conclusion?

jc: I never like to give away an ending of a book. (laughs) Sorry. I will say that I’ve had Chrisitians, both practicing and wavering on their faith, Born Again Christians, Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Protestants of all kinds, Jews, Muslims, atheists, all different sects and groups reading the book with wildly different backgrounds, and they’ve all come away with something different from reading it. And I would hope that would be the case, because I can’t speak for everyone, or how my personal experience goes. We’re all different, thank goodness, and we all have different views. That’s what makes the core of humanity great, and that’s what makes your show and other shows who think differently so compelling to its audiences, because everyone has a different viewpoint. If they’re honest to that viewpoint, they will see the differences between their own beliefs and others, and hopefully respect those differences and engage in a sane and sober discussion about them, without demanding that only their views be heard, no matter how strongly they feel about them. Of course, as long as those views do not hurt anyone or keep anyone from discovering their own freedom of thought.

I’m not really sure if you can define what it is I’m searching for in Trailing Jesus except that elusive definition of existence of divinity within the human spirit. I’m sorry if you feel I am lost or haven’t found it, because you have found a view that works for you. And I would agree, in part, with you. But I have learned through the journey of my art and my work that there’s something you can get out of it in the journey, as opposed to a conclusion. The conclusion doesn’t always work for me. I like having gone through the experience.

PC: Then you don’t point towards Jesus as being our salvation?

jc: That’s not necessarily true, either. I don’t mean to be elusive with these answers, but I will not be held down to what I feel in my heart as an intellectual concept, like conversation on a radio station. Again, as a rule, I don’t want to give up anything depicted in years of discovery, years of work on a book that’s 600 pages long with a sentence or two. It’s not fair to you, your audience, the work or me. I would say that each and everyone in your audience should read it, as they read all things, with an open mind, and decide for themselves what it is they derive from it.

PC: But you do not identify Jesus as the source of our salvation in your book.

jc: I guess I should ask you to define “source of our salvation” for me.

PC: That’s it. That’s the only way to get there.

jc: I understand, but what is the “source of salvation”?

PC: Jesus Christ.

jc: So, how do you describe…if you would describe to me “salvation”, what does that word mean to you, that emotion? Salvation.

PC: Belief in Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins.

jc: Okay, well, I certainly cannot divulge what an entire audience would derive from reading Trailing Jesus, especially in the spiritual realm of the Christ, which I have maintained is a separate entity to that of the Jesus of Nazareth I have spoken about today or who is depicted in Trailing Jesus anymore than I can read the minds of the people listening to this interview. The book states events and the results of those events. It’s really a personal journey to come to conclusions on those events, isn’t it? And you would agree that it is patently unfair to attempt to encapsulate in a sound bite for the purposes of this discussion, those conclusions, or at least explain them. You might as well ask me to describe the Civil War in 30 seconds. I guess you could, but what would that really tell you about the Civil War? You’d have to go through the journey, spend the time to really know about the Civil War to understand it all and what it means to different people of different generations of various political and social beliefs.

All the words in your statement, your testimony, the word “belief”, the phrase “dying for our sins” or just who is defined in the word “our” and what is meant or defined as “sins” is hard to answer with certainty. It is certain for you, obviously, but not so for others, and not so for me.

DS: So in your heart, James, I’m talking about you directly, when you think of the very simple phrase that Jesus said, “I am the way and truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father, but by Me”, does this give you a sense of rightness? Do you understand that in your heart?

jc: I understand it in my way, but I don’t know if necessarily saying it on a radio station at this point to you or whomever is an indictment of whether we are both talking about the same thing, viscerally, because I believe, and I apologize if this is not the case, but I believe what you are offering to me is an absolute emotionally and spiritually. And that is not what I have come to on a personal level. You might understand these statements thoroughly in your way, but a person driving around listening right now might understand it another way.

PC: First of all, James you’re talking to an audience here, the majority of, believe that Jesus is their personal savior.

jc: Right. Sure.

PC: And it doesn’t sound like He’s your personal savior. That’s why we have a little problem here today. Well, a major problem. (laughs)

jc: Right, but what you’re saying is, I guess, is that I threaten your beliefs. Do I threaten your beliefs?

PC: No. No.

jc: Great. So where’s the problem? Your inquiry does nothing to my beliefs, regardless of what I am asked to share, in my work or in my answers on your show today. There really shouldn’t be a problem. It’s all just dialogue. There should not be any problems with that; it should be how you feel as strongly about what it is you are and how you interact with the human race. And that’s the most important thing, right?

DS: Well, you certainly have gotten me thinking here, James.

PC: (laughs)

DS: And we sure do appreciate your time this morning, and thanks.

jc: Thank you, guys.

PC: You keep seeking, thank you, James.

DS: Whew. Wow.

PC: Our producer says, “Hey, I just book ’em”. (laughs)

DS: Well, James is a seeker. And I knew it was not going to be a tidy interview, but I didn’t think it was going to be that messy.

PC: Well, good for us.

DS: Yes it is.

PC: Even though it was Friday, thanks.

DS: Sorry to make you deal with that on Friday.

PC: Next time on a Tuesday, thank you very much.

DS: (laughs)

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More