The High Priest of the Church of America

We tell ourselves fantastic lies. Oh the delicious things we believe, when we know, there’s no way to ever know the truth.

I would have gotten a scholarship if that stupid coach would have played me more.

My marriage would have lasted if she just would have appreciated me a little.

My kids are awesome and yours are screwed because of how wonderful a parent I am. And how much you’re not.

We lie to ourselves constantly. It’s our nature. The want to believe something is enough to believe it unless we’re presented with clear evidence to the contrary. For some of us, and for certain things, clear evidence isn’t enough either. We’ll ignore it. We’ll run away from it. Or we’ll shout it down. Because we humans have a need to believe in invisible things. Our ability to do it, despite all evidence to the contrary, is perhaps the thing most responsible for creating the world we know.

Corporations are make believe. A nation is make believe. The people are real. The things they make are real. But the entity is not. It’s written down. It exists in our minds. Our contracts. Our rights. Our money. None of it is real. But they are all powerful. Because we all believe them. And when we all believe something, the human force of action is the strongest thing the planet has ever seen.

Politics are all make believe too. Both sides of the fence believe in magical principles that are near impossible to point to consistently in action. And what we believe politically is a function of our personalities. Studies show us people with strong political beliefs dress the part. They are drawn to certain careers. They even organize their closet differently. Our political views are concrete personal identifiers. And the answers to the questions that form our political identities are the perfect things to lie to ourselves about. They are, unanswerable.

The perfect political question is one that elicits great emotion but has no answer. It allows one man to stand and argue long enough for those who agree with him to take his side. And if he’s good at the arguing part he might steal a few fence sitters. And gain some more power. And solve nothing in return.

When is an unborn child a person?

The economy works best when we do X. Doing Y never works.

These lives matter. Those don’t.

America is heading in the right/wrong direction.

That last one is the best one. The only direction America is or ever has been heading is into the future. And what’s right or wrong about that future, well, that depends on who you are.

The election to choose the President of the United States of America is where the lies we tell ourselves grow truly plentiful. It’s the only office we all get to choose. And it’s the only office, whose outcomes are almost all a matter of opinion. We’re still arguing the effectiveness of presidents from 200 years ago, with a clear view of the decades of outcomes their policies put in place. The impact of the office of the president on most national outcomes is indecipherable in the near term. And debatable in the long. And even for those things that are sudden and absolute, our biases render them useless. Repealing Obamacare without a replacement will certainly result in people losing their healthcare. But it disproportionately impacts those who didn’t vote for the man who will sign it. So it doesn’t matter in the vote. Invading Iraq certainly cost the lives of nearly 5,000 Americans. But the ones doing the fighting disproportionately vote for the party that drove it and will never change. And the dead don’t vote. So it doesn’t matter in the vote.

The office of the president is no longer an outcome of a healthy, civic democratic process. It’s something else now. We’ve created, in our mind, the icon of worship that we believe is the function of the presidency. And then we’ve picked the fraud who gets us lathered up the most by his sermons. Maybe it’s always been that way. In fact, to some degree, I’m certain it has. But the lies we had to tell ourselves for who we picked this go around were simply splendid. But we told them anyway. And we believed them. Because there are no lies, like the lies we tell ourselves about religion. America is a religion now. And Donald Trump is the high priest.

The idea that Donald Trump stood for a return to American character is a lie. The willingness of the religious right to endorse him as the Christian candidate exposes a fraud. The notion that he represented the party of family values is a lie. The absurd belief that the first African American president was responsible for the racial divide in a country who segregated its people of color for 350 years is insulting. The idea that someone who moved into the White House 30 years ago was representative of our urban poor’s interests is ridiculous. The notion that an ex-president moving back into the White House was a non-issue was nonsense.

Those are lies that only political people can tell themselves. They were told so often, and so loudly that even the rational few of us, began to believe some of them. At least enough, to lose the bubble on the problem. And get a poor outcome. 

The church is fractured now. One side holds power by worshiping at the altar of someone willing to pretend that government intervention has been successful at providing the American people with the path to the American dream. The other side worships at the altar of someone willing to pretend that they hate the institution they fought so hard to lead, and are therefore the unwilling servant sacrificing themselves in service to reigning it in. And we the people, are willing to tell ourselves fantastic lies to satisfy our need to kneel at one or the other because not kneeling is no longer a choice.

In do time, unless we make the men who preach to us, work harder at living a life and doing the work to make the lies just a little less fantastic, too many people like me are going to stop believing. And that’s bad. Because our beliefs in make-believe things, are all we have. And all we’ve ever had.

Liberty. Equality. Justice. The rights of man are all abstract ideas. But our belief in them is not. And the things that follow when we stop believing them are very real. And very dark.

So be careful what lies you are willing to believe.  And be wary of how long you believe them.

10 replies »

    • It’s a troubling notion. And a fair criticism of the writing because it’s right from a broad perspective. But in focusing narrowly as a principle of governing, liberty and equality are a relatively new idea. Especially equality. No two people are literally equal. We are unique. Equal treatment before the law and within society is an idea. It’s the best idea we probably ever had. But it’s not uniformly agreed upon even today, even in America, that it’s the basis of your society. And that’s troubling. And they are a part of a larger framework of beliefs that don’t simply materialize on their own. Same thing with basic rights.


  1. I do not understand your comment “. . . not kneeling is no longer a choice”. I believe we can still choose not to kneel, in the sense that you allude to. I feel it is imperative not to agree to kneel. I feel that having convictions is a comfort reserved for those on the sidelines. True leadership takes an educated (yes), but more importantly, an open mind; ready and eager to reflect on, debate, and discuss all kinds of ideas and/or solutions. Every moment is full of unlimited potentiality. We limit our access to these potentialities when we become polarized, and latch on to any one idea, person, or belief. I choose not to kneel.

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    • totally agree with you Rachel….unless I have taken the quote out of context, this ideology is over the edge……we all have choice to stand tall, and are given authority as a human being in the faith of knowledge as our salvation, and break down all barriers of ignorance under any condition of life. This is the very will of our existence, and to ignore this freedom, in some imaginary abhorrent denomination is self-destructive…give me a break, please…..you might want to take a look at some of my posts on facebook…….I should start my own blog, for gods sake…….what is this The High Priest b.s. ??????…..this entire world is due for some good change, and it will be coming from the young being born today, in an exponential manner…..this is our future, and it is up to us in getting it in order…..the young are catching onto this wave, and it going to be a fantastic ride on top of the crest, and up into space!!!!!….the future is our for the asking, and taking, and moving ahead together……..to kneel in anyway, in any form of ridiculous ritualistic worship, is living in the past…….I hardly can take this behavior, and find it hard to believe that our human race still acts in this way…..I see the change coming fast, in short order, of intelligent design, as the young come of age………billy mason keene