Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Orphans of God

by Mark Heard

I will rise from my bed with a question again
As I work to inherit the restless wind
The view from my window is cold and obscene
I want to touch what my eyes have not seen

But they have packaged our virtue in cellulose dreams
And sold us the remnants 'til our pockets are clean
Til our hopes fall 'round our feet
Like the dust and dead leaves
And we end up looking like what we believe

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins and make flutes of our bones
And blow a hymn to the memory of the orphans of God

Like bees in a bottle we are flying at fate
Beating our wings against the walls of this place
Unaware that the struggle is the blood of the proof
In choosing to believe the unbelievable truth

But they have captured our siblings and rendered them mute
They've disputed our lineage and poisoned our roots
We have bought from the brokers who have broken their oaths
And we're out on the streets with a lump in our throats

We are soot-covered urchins running wild and unshod
We will always be remembered as the orphans of God
They will dig up these ruins And make flutes of our bones
And blow a hymn to the memory of the orphans of God
With thanks to the Mark Heard Lyric Project

You can listen to the song here. It is song #4.

You can get his High Noon CD (a compilation of his best songs from his last three CDs) from

This is an example of the kind of musical poetry that has had such a profound effect on me. Although it probably was never meant to have a political application, I thought of this song when I heard about David Kuo's new book about how the Bush administration secretly laughed at conservative Christians who gave them all of their political support. I have boldened the passages that can be interpreted to apply to the current political situation.

I had my disillusionment with political conservatism just before I entered law school and the Republican party in general in 2002. My disillusionment with Christian fundamentalism happened around 1990 (I entered law school in 1992). That is partially why I did not discover Mark Heard's later works (such as this one) until a few years after law school. And it was only recently that I could find his music on CD.

Mark Heard was one of my favorite artists in my early formative years as a teenager and young adult. Even his early music on Stop the Dominoes, Victims of the Age and the "unplugged" Eye of the Storm still seems way ahead of its time lyrically; although his later albums are definitely more refined both musically and lyrically.

Anyway, back to David Kuo's comments that I saw: many of his complaints are about lack of funding for government programs to assist the poor through the churches. His focus is too narrow. He, like many of the conservative Christian movement, think that any help for the poor must come through the churches so that the help they provide can be used to further their ministry. However, there is nothing that I read in the Gospels or the New Testament that says that helping the less fortunate or disenfranchised must come through the church. I see nothing unchristian about helping the less fortunate in their worldly needs by lobbying our elected officials to fund programs to feed, shelter and clothe the needy and provide them with medical attention when they need it. For that matter, as I have pointed out several times before, I think that everyone should have access to medical care -- because it is the humanitarian thing to do. Medical care, at its core, is based the humanitarian concept of alleviating unnecessary suffering and promoting the welfare of mankind.

There was a time when the Christian movement was one that promoted humanism. Martin Luther and Erasmus during the Renaissance promoted Religious Humanism. An excerpt from

Religious humanism

Religious humanism is the branch of humanism that considers itself religious (based on a functional definition of religion), or embraces some form of theism, deism, or supernaturalism, without necessarily being allied with organized religion, as such. It is often associated with artists, liberal Christians, and scholars in the liberal arts. Other types of people that may be considered religious humanists are those who, despite believing in a religion, don't consider it necessary to derive all their moral values from it. Some feel that, because their religious beliefs are moral, and therefore humane, they are humanists. In particular, it is not uncommon for religious humanitarians to be referred to as humanists, although the accuracy of this usage is disputed.

A number of religious humanists feel that secular humanism is too coldly logical and rejects the full emotional experience that makes us human. From this comes the notion that secular humanism is inadequate in meeting the human need for a socially fulfilling philosophy of life. Disagreements over things of this nature have resulted in friction between secular and religious humanists, despite their commonalities.

I have always used the term "Theistic Humanist" to describe my philosophy. It is similar to Religious Humanism as described above, but I accept the power of reason to solve many -- if not most -- of life's problems.

So, from my perspective, David Kuo is trying to bring Christianity's humanism to an administration that, in reality, believes in an Ayn Randian objectivism. The two are not really compatible ideas. The objectivists are untimately going to see any government spending to help the less fortunate as a movement toward socialism -- which they oppose feverishly. If Mr. Kuo -- or any other Christian -- wants to push for more government funding to alleviate social problems related to poverty, they will need to support a political group or party that is not opposed to government spending to relieve those problems. Pretty much by definition that historically means supporting the Democratic party (at least as it has existed in the last 50+ years).

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