Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Totally Unsubstantiated Parallels to the Church

First of all, the modern Church could not exist without the New Testament (Or New Covenant as it is properly called).  I am fascinated by the Bible as a human artifact.  First off, the Bible is open source.  Think about it.  There was no top down command structure that caused the Bible to be developed on certain lines.  The “design” was open source.   All kinds of people wrote their stories, their advice, their point of view.  The word Gospel means good news, but it doesn’t just mean that in the sense we mean it today.  It was a common way for a traveler to begin a positive story.   The Gospel according to Mark could be changed into the expression “The Big story, according to Joe”.   Tons of people wrote original work, many more people copied the original work and made minor changes.  A lot of the original work was not that great and many of the changes were pointless.   The really good stuff was kept and the not so great stuff discarded. Eventually a certain writing style, presentation, and language developed.  Sound familiar?  The Bible was the original wiki!  (You might consider the Koran the original Linux. The source document was written by one vision, but the most of the Koran is actually inspired commentary on the source.  The inspired commentary was written by experts of the source document in collective, co-operative, and Darwinian manner.)

Then there is the early Church.  The church began with a handful of true believers, profoundly affected by what they had seen.  Each formed his own following, a small group that respected and obeyed him.  In modern middle eastern cell ideology this called the cell ring: the core cells in the center of the org chart that basically independent but lead with a connection to each other.  The churches under them met in houses, this would be the secondary cells.  Rituals began to develop that encouraged a sense of intimacy and family between people who had not previously been related.  (The siblinghood of all man under God and through Christ encouraged this.)  Then, increasing notoriety and public knowledge resulted in increasing religious cleansing. The movement went underground.  The leaders began to die, and the cell structure split into two separate cultures depending on local tradition and local acceptance. One was leaderless resistance movement, where the cell don’t communicate much, but work independently towards the same basic goals. The other movement became more of a top down cell group structure of a Western rather then middle-eastern tradition.  Sound familiar?  It’s the same with every small group of political or philosophical resistance fighters world over.   It is how terrorists organize their cells, how the special forces organize theirs, how the NVA fought in Vietnam, how the Communist fought in China, and so on.  It is the premiere method of organization for asymmetrical warfare.

Then, when the church became accepted, the western style bureaucratic cell structure prevailed, gradually absorbing the leaderless cells, and setting up a chain of command.  There was the individual, the decons, the elders, and a bishop.  Due to the social welfare provided by the church, a geo-political government formed, with a chain of command and hierarchy.   Everyone paid the church (tithes were not voluntary, making them de facto taxes), but not everyone one in leadership.   The church was divided between clergy and laity.  The low level clergy had some say in political issues, and were appointed from the top down.  Because this was a source of wealth and power, becoming part of the clergy was the route to wealth and power.    Sound familiar?  It’s the communist party in Russia.   Just as junior level party members had some power, and high level ones all the power.  The discongruous enormous personal wealth, power, and luxury of senior level party officials was identical to that of senior level Church officials.

Then the Church grew into a machine that took and took.  The message of all the world under one cross was taken to the farthest corners of the world, and the old states of the Roman empire became the Satellite states of the Church.  The Church provided military aid and advice to accomplish it’s goals.  Improper expressions of the Gospel (ie, ones that didn’t pay tithe to Rome or refused to serve the Church’s armies) were viciously eradicated.  Sound familiar? Soviet history anyone?

During this time the Church maintained itself as the world’s first multinational brand, with immediately recognizable franchises in every city of any importance in Europe, and small branch centers is smaller towns and villages.  (Read the history of McDonalds)

Then, the Reformation.  The massive bureaucracy was unable to respond to the new paradigm of freer, more democratic leadership selling a religious experience for the individual rather than the city or village. (IBM vs Apple, Cars vs. Trains, landlines vs. cell phones)

Everything you need to know about business, about management, about wealth, about power, about technology, about organization, about counter culture, about revolution, about change, is all there in the history of the Church.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Linux, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Absurdity of “Asymmetric warfare”

some insurgentSo, recently, I’ve been reading military history and tactics again, inspired partly by my nightly reading of the the Air Force PFE study guide (Promotional Fitness Examination).  I’ve run into this gem of a term “asymmetric warfare”.   A quick pursue of the Google News showed 51 entries under the title “asymmetrical warfare”.  All I can say is this:  What a crock of crap.

Wikipedia defines “asymmetrical warfare” as:

“…originally referred to war between two or more actors or groups whose relative military power differs significantly. Contemporary military thinkers tend to broaden this to include asymmetry of strategy or tactics; today “asymmetric warfare” can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the “weaker” combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality.”  This is in turn quoting Robert R Tomes, a Senior Adviser for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.  (Say that 10 times fast.)

The Air Force defines asymmetrical warfare this way “Asymmetrical warfare is based on countering an adversaries strengths by focusing on its actual or perceived weaknesses.”

The first problem is the very phrase “asymmetrical warfare”.  Terms have implied meanings that they smuggle in with their overt meaning.  For example: pro-life and pro-choice.  By overt meaning we could also say pro-life and anti-life (or even pro-death) or anti-choice and pro-choice.  But people who identify with the pro-life side resent the heck out of being called “anti-choice”  Just as people on the pro-choice side resent the heck out being called “anti-life”.  So both define themselves with “pro” statements. They say what they are for rather than what they are against.  In this way, both terms smuggle in the idea of what should be, according to their respective believers.

The phrase “asymmetrical warfare” sneaks through the back door an idea, and that idea is that warfare should be symmetrical, a basically fair contest between two basically matched adversaries, much like say, formula racing or boxing.  In some forms of formula racing, every driver races an identical car with identical engine.  In fact, the engines are sealed, and if at the end of the race the seal is broken, the competitor loses the race and may well be kicked out of the racing league.  In boxing, competitors are matched up in narrow and rigidly controlled weight categories. The purpose in both cases is to limit the role which technology, and genetic luck play in victory, ensuring that the contest is between how much heart and skill the competitor has at the expense of any other characteristics.

The problem with applying this to war is: war is not a game. If a race car driver loses a race, or a boxer a match, he remains able to fight again. In fact he will often use the knowledge of his defeat to compete more successfully next year.  Warfare offers no such grantees, quite the opposite actually.  No less a expert on the subject than Genghis Khan said “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”   And by “gather into your bosom” he meant rape to death the ugly ones keep the pretty ones as concubines. (Other translations of this quote say “ravish” rather than the bowdlerized “gather into your bosom”.)

The second problem is more clear from the Air Force definition.  “…countering an adversaries strengths by focusing on its…weaknesses”.

Um… isn’t that what warfare is all about?  What do you think every successfully concluded war in history was about?  Begin with Alexander the Great.  When he had his point leaders take battle axes (not a common weapon in the middle-east) to attack the enemy’s elephants by severing their trunks and destroying their legs, wasn’t that asymmetric?  When the English decimated the French by striking them with longbows while staying out of French bow range wasn’t that asymmetric? When the Prussians had quick loading needle guns against the muskets of their enemy wasn’t that asymmetric?  When the French had recoil absorbing cannons (they keep aim between firings) and their enemy had none, wasn’t that asymmetric?  When the Germans had the Blitzkrieg and the Allies didn’t wasn’t that asymmetric? I could go on with these polemics but I let me get more specific.

The German Air Force was quite good at first.  The Allies could only attack with precision bombing if they were willing to take large causalities.  Studying the nature of modern war, they decided the most valuable possible target would be ball bearing plants.  (Almost all modern machinery needs ball bearings. This was a logical and effective strategy.) Well, by the argument of symmetrical war, the British should have left those ball bearing factories alone.  They should have stood by their guns, stayed on the battlefield and lost in gentlemanly and symmetrical way.

So this carping about asymmetrical warfare is totally bogus.  In fact, I think its pretty much clear that the way wars are won is by achieving asymmetry.  Let me say that again for clarity.  The key method of victory is discover and exploit asymmetry. Only a fool or a mad man would fight a war in such a way that gave his enemy a fair chance at victory.

In fact, I put forward this idea: The greatest single impetus to the evolution of warfare is the desire to achieve asymmetry.

So now I need another explanation of where this asymmetry BS comes from.  I think it comes from xenophobia.  Its not labeled “asymmetric” when we use semi-autonomous robotic planes to shoot bearded goat herders on camel back.  But when they use cell phone bombs to hit our trucks, well that’s just plain un-American.

Now, let me add my usual qualification here, I’m not saying that the terrorist are right, or that we are wrong.  I don’t want to live in a world with terrorists.  I may not always agree with the way we fight them, but I agree whole heartily that they need to be fought, and like any good service member in a democracy’s military, I can put my personal preference aside to fulfill the oath of enlistment that I took.  That’s not with this is about at all.

I am more saying to the American public at large: xenophobia isn’t cool.  Stop complaining about asymmetrical warfare.  Warfare is supposed to be asymmetrical, at least if you want to win, and they want to win as badly as we. The side the finds and exploits asymmetry the best will win. Period.

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzlez

So, I finished reading The Story of Christianity by Justo L. Gonzalez. This is the early Church History text book of the Bible college several of my friends went to, Forerunner School of Ministry. It was good. It just very honestly went through the issues and the happenings in plain language. When there was controversy, Mr. Gonzalez excelled at telling the two sides and explaining why one side believed one thing and why another side believed another.

Church History is probably not something you learned in Sunday school as a kid. I’ve met few people who really know about it, perhaps the Protestant schism from the Catholics has something to do with this. Protestants can sometimes struggle to trace their past back to through the Catholics, particularly if they are raised as a rightist Protestants who believe the office of the Pope will the tool the Antichrist will use to imitate Christ, which I was.

So, reading Justo Gonzalez was good for me, tying together a lot of bits and pieces that had floated through my somewhat wikified mind, as well as expanding on the very sketchy foundations I learned in Christian high school, but saying it was “good for me” doesn’t mean it was fun for me. My dad used to enjoy eating those canned Vienna sausages until he worked in a packing plant. Seeing the actions that made the responses that made the traditions explained what the Protestants were protesting against, and in turn created the Protestant traditions, makes Christianity look pretty, well, ugly.

For my concerned readers I must place my usual disclaimer here: I’m not saying that the teachings of Christ are ugly. I’m saying that studying church history has given me a new understanding of the modern traditions, ideals, teachings, and ways of the Church have absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. They a have a lot to do, however, with pyramid schemes, organized crime practices, and confidence tricks.

There is a hierarchy of truth in the introduction to narratives. Its starts with research papers and biographies, then based-on-the-events, then inspired-by-the-events, then finally, grabbed-from-the-headlines. “Grabbed from the headlines” basically means “the following is in some shallow way related to a selected parts of third hand information about something the story teller cannot be bothered to research or present deeply.” It is that level of truth following, or perhaps below, which is reserved for the church.

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment