It is likely that it was not Cain’s offering but Cain’s attitude that was unacceptable to God. In a warped sense, Cain may have hoped to incur favor with God, thinking, perhaps, that, with Abel out of the way, he himself might become the favored son. This is the criminally warped thinking of Church Folk—both white and black: committing sinful acts in an attempt to gain stature or favor with God. The murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like the ongoing political assassination of President Barack Obama, elicited mostly silence from the conservative Christian right. These are people who claim, in every conceivable way, to be better and more moral and more like Jesus Christ than, well, anybody else. And yet they eagerly partner with politicians who divide this nation and blatantly encourage racism and hate.
I keep wondering what’s the point of having money if you have to
sell your soul to earn it. If you have to hollow yourself out as
a human being to lie, to cheat, to steal or to kill. Whether
you’re an investment banker fleecing pension funds or a teenage
girl with a secret life, holding your nose while giving yourself
to sleazy older men, earning the big bucks often involves
shutting down our conscience—our moral center, that small piece
of God we are all born with. Let’s presume, for example, that
the cluster of 1960’s political assassinations—President John F.
Kennedy, Minister Malcolm X, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., Senator Robert Kennedy: all implausible
million-to-one shots by unstable lone assassins—were executed by
the same top-secret military intelligence group created by
President Dwight D. Eisenhower to kill Fidel Castro, and that
their motive for these political killings was to prevent these
men from turning public opinion against the highly-profitable
war in Vietnam, the opposition to which is the single common
thread between those four men. And, let us suppose that, for
every high-profile murder we know of, there were certainly
dozens of others we don't know about. Murders committed either
to cover-up the big political assassinations or to lead
investigations in wrong directions. Then there are the untold
hundreds of thousands of dead people in Southeast Asia under
President Lyndon Johnson and the hundreds of thousands dead
under President George W. Bush, who is personally responsible
for a minimum of thirty times as many dead innocents as the
man he was allegedly hunting—Osama bin Laden.
Let’s just say, for a moment, all that’s true. At the end of the intrigue and mystery it is money that motivated it all. People stuffing their pockets with cash. People who, admittedly or not, lived very hollow lives. People who eventually grew old and dropped dead.
If you believe the bible, and I do, murder for personal gain is as old as mankind itself. Cain and Abel, sons of The First Man, were, respectively, a farmer and a shepherd. Cain, the older brother, brought God an offering of grain, Abel, the younger brother, brought God the firstborn of his flocks. Abel’s offering pleased God while Cain’s offering was rejected. Furious and likely jealous of his younger brother, Cain led Abel out into the wilderness and killed him, thus committing mankind’s first murder.
In a warped sense, Cain may have hoped to attain Abel’s position in the family and with God, thinking, perhaps, that, with Abel out of the way, he himself might become the favored son. This is the criminally warped thinking of Church Folk—both white and black: committing sinful acts in an attempt to gain stature or favor with God. Or committing what they believe to be righteous acts but which are, by any o9bjective measure, simply an outgrowth of their bigotry, paranoia or fear, in the name of serving God.
Cain hoped to achieve some purpose by the murder of his brother, but it destroyed his soul. The key men, whom we may never know, who profited most from the wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, most certainly enjoyed a king’s life. But, at what cost? And, at some point, disease came for them, as it will come for each of us in turn. Or their own secret cadre of violence ultimately came for them. And these people will find themselves standing before the Lord, without a dollar in their pocket and with no means to please God or to buy God off. Then what?
I Got Mine
Like many African Americans, I pray every day for the president
of the United States. We are a country of professed values, but,
at the end of the day, are simple and often uninformed human
beings. We are manipulated and motivated first and foremost by
fear. Filtered through our pride (it’s difficult to admit we’re
afraid of something), fear can and nearly always does express
itself as aggression and hatred. This irrational loathing of the
black president often presents itself as bare-knuckled racism
verging on violence. Most all of that hatred, racism, and
violent threat comes from white conservatives. This is not
African American reactionism, those are white faces on the
video, white voices screaming hate. White people, at those
health care town halls, violently against any program to extend
compassion to the uninsured. I Got Mine, was the general
attitude. Ironically, millions of those very same screamers are now
themselves without health insurance and are quietly hoping a
President Romney doesn't eliminate health care reform before it
kicks in fully in 2013.
There hasn’t been a day of Barack Obama’s presidency when I haven’t held my breath before reading the news of the day. Whatever you think of his presidency, its existence and, certainly, his re-election bid, threatens the very core of power and profit in this country. The powerful who profit from the status quo invest hundreds of billions in campaigns of hate designed to provoke fear and anxiety most especially in white conservatives and gin up the lunatic fringe. This atmosphere of hatred and paranoia is a necessary component of the kind of political manipulation the far-too-similar “coincidental” assassinations of the 1960’s suggest took place.
People who preach truth become targets. The more truth Dr. King preached, the bigger a target he became. Without dressing the president in saintly robes, most nonpartisan examinations of his record and rhetoric discovers far more truth in his words and deeds than in conservatives whose façade of austerity provides a very thin veil for their more obvious investment in corporate greed. In fact, I’m not even sure these guys actually are racists. I think, for them, it’s all about money and power. Racism is simply a means with which to communicate and motivate White America, and these guys are so greedy they actually don’t mind being thought of as racists so long as it gets the job done.
The parallels between President Obama's and Dr. King’s campaign seem obvious and noteworthy. Both claim to be disciples of Christ. Both refuse to engage in hateful rhetoric or be brought down to the same sophomoric level as the irrational, hateful screamers rallying White America against them. Both had enemies within as well as those who are obvious. And both war not against racism or even war itself but against money. Against men who’ve made a god of money, and to whom people like Obama—like the Kennedys, like King—were a direct threat.
A repressed conscience is an open sore. I’ve met many people who’ve become quite good at ignoring the festering emotional wound. Doesn’t mean it’s not still there. These people stirring up hatred and evil to accomplish political change are counting their billions in hell. Whether you believe the bible or not, there is an undeniable truth: death comes for us all. It’s only a matter of when. A compassionless, hateful, selfish existence is simply not one worth living. I believe, in their dying hours, most of these hateful people are confronted with that reality. It is, by that time, much too late to actually do anything about it.
God responds not to our words or even our actions but to our motives. You know that old adage about gift-giving, “It’s the thought that counts?” This is true of God. We can go through all the motions of living a clean and pious life, of giving sacrificially, of loving our brother, and still offend God if our reasons for doing these things are improper. If we profess love to God only to avoid hell, that’s not a motive He can honor. If, in our heart, we’re lording it over others or thinking of ourselves as better Christians than that guy, God cannot accept our sacrifice.
It is likely that it was not Cain’s offering but Cain’s attitude that was unacceptable to God. Cain's walk in the woods with his brother was a heinous act he'd likely practiced in his mind over and over. In presenting his offering to God, it’s possible Cain may have been simply going through the motions, while his heart was full of jealousy of his younger brother. It’s possible Cain resented the favor Abel obviously received from God. This is all just speculation no my part, scripture is not explicit about why God rejected Cain’s offering. However, the fact that that rejection set Cain on a path of premeditated—planned, intentional, non-spontaneous—murder is a reasonable indication that something was jacked-up about Cain to begin with. That he could lead his kid brother into the woods knowing he was leading him to his death makes Cain particularly warped. And that Cain’s ultimate motive may have been to gain the love and favor which had been so richly showered upon Abel makes it worse.
The First Mourning: Bouguereau, 1888
Step One: Deny It Is Hate
This is how hate works. First it deceives us into denying its
very nature. Conservative Christians frothing at the mouth and
spewing hatred at blacks and gays and women who have abortions never consider
hatred as their motive. They believe they are currying favor
with God, a God obviously too weak to speak for Himself or to
take action against these terrible people, so these
conservatives feel its their duty to help God out by passing
laws and dragging God into a political process in order to
establish the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Faith, on the other hand, trusts God to handle His business. Trusts the power and the purpose of God, even when we ourselves do not entirely understand why God allows imperfection—events and behaviors condemned in His holy word—to exist. Why He allows the wicked to prosper while so many of His children suffer. It’s like this reverse life-lesson: faithful Christians suffering debilitating disease and living in abject poverty while hateful and selfish people live lives of splendor. I Got Mine. Why God allows this is a mystery. But, what is clear is there is no biblical model for imposing God’s will on others. No biblical model for the church to organize politically, back candidates or promote ballot initiatives to impose our dysfunctional and raggedy sense of righteousness on others. Jesus preached against sin but showed love to sinners.
The Christian right’s lock-step with the political right is sin. It is an embrace of morality, which is culturally subjective and has nothing whatsoever to do with the word of God or the purpose of the church. The Christian right routinely turns a blind eye and deaf ear to the hateful rhetoric of the political right, to naked hate fueling political agendas and making use of racism, homophobia and misogyny to gin up the mob. The political right are proven, demonstrable hate mongers. Their veneer of Christianity is a stink in the nostrils of God, and the Christian right’s willingness to whistle past the graveyard, arms akimbo with these evil people, exposes them for the hypocrites they are. There is no excuse for racism. There is no excuse for homophobia. There is no excuse for misogyny. There is Christ and there is antichrist, period. Choose.
The murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like the ongoing political assassination of President Barack Obama, elicited mostly silence from the conservative Christian right. These are people who claim, in every conceivable way, to be better and more moral and more like Jesus Christ than, well, anybody else. And yet they eagerly partner with politicians wholly owned by corporate interests who are intent on denying relief to the poor. And they stand idly by while these huge political and corporate machines divide this nation and blatantly encourage racism and hate. You people are not Christians. You are people lost in self-deception. You are Cain. Your Christianity is fake, your offering worthless. You are filled to the brim with hate your pretense of Christianity cannot disguise.