"Apokalipsa" by Albert Goodwin is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus is usually thought of as a major ethical teacher (the famous slogan “What would Jesus do” is a major testament to this), but most of his preaching was not so much about how we should live, but rather, what will happen in the upcoming apocalypse. Yes, he gave a lot of ethical advice, but as Albert Schweitzer frequently reminded us, his ethics must always be understood in the context of apocalypticism. Jesus was, above all, a doomsdayer.

"Hollywood" by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

Recently, we have seen some upward changes to the Hollywood film industry. For example, six Black actors from four movies were nominated for this year’s Oscar awards, unlike the past two #OscarsSoWhite years. These nominated movies are about, directed by and/or starred by Black people. The 68th Emmy Awards nominees and winners are also a diverse group of actors and actresses. But has the industry really become more inclusive?

"Buddha" by Francis Chung via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the beginning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, people of all faiths all over the world are asking the question, “How should our faith respond?” Buddhists are no exception to this. With important religious precepts centered on nonviolence and compassion, Buddhists are asking how they can apply their code of ethics to help those in need. Unique from other religions like Christianity and Islam, Buddhist texts and teachings make little reference to organized political or social activism. However, past historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi have used Buddhist precepts to dramatically change society. Gandhi used the profound principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, to dismantle the British occupation of India. Once again, a turn to Buddhist principles is needed to encourage compassion in the unfolding months ahead.

"Monumento a la Federacion Venezolana I" by Rjcastillo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, Venezuela’s government honored the 200th anniversary of Ezequiel Zamora’s birth, in national celebrations. According to the official leftist party line, Zamora was a national hero that led guerrilla warfare against Venezuela’s corrupt governments in the mid-nineteenth century. Hugo Chavez’s political ideology was founded on the so-called “tree of three roots” (árbol de las tres racíces): Simon Bolivar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora.

Bolivar and Rodriguez are heroes universally admired and respected by Venezuelans throughout the political spectrum. Zamora, on the other hand, is a much more divisive figure. According to historical revisionists, Zamora is no hero.

"Plato's Symposium" by Anselm Feuerbach is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Is colonialism a bad thing? It is fashionable to think so, and with good reason. Genocide, racism, slavery, depredation, epidemics, cultural inferiority complexes, etc., are all traceable to Europe’s colonial expansion beginning in the 16th Century. It would be naïve to think it is over, even if the United Nations’ list of non-self-governing territories is rather short. Colonialism persists. Whether it is America invading Iraq to get its oil, or Nike setting up sweatshops in Bangladesh, colonialism is alive and kicking, and it continues to cause great damage to people of color.

"Newspaper" by Pezibear is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

Last week, I saw a group of people cross the street to avoid a guy wearing a Trump t-shirt.  On Facebook several days ago, my friend shared some pictures of a big pile of pink hats made by her knitting circle.  Her aunt, also a crafty type, asked her what they were.  When my friend replied that they were “pussy” hats for the Women’s March in L.A., her aunt replied, “Geez.  Sorry I asked.”  

"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

It is a time-tested notion of politics that the delivery matters just as much as, perhaps more than, the message. It is also a notion that feels painfully appropriate to describe our current times, as the country prepares to inaugurate a former reality show star to its highest office. In light of Donald Trump’s ascendence, and in preparation for the days to come, those looking to rein in the President-elect’s most unethical tendencies are approaching this lesson with fresh eyes.

Image by Conner Gordon

Secret meetings in Moscow and Prague. Business leaders conducting sordid affairs with prostitutes. Russian intelligence services blackmailing the President of the United States.

The allegations sound like they found their way out of a political thriller. Yet they are all allegations leveled at Donald Trump and his presidential campaign in a dossier published in full yesterday by Buzzfeed. The report, formulated by a private intelligence firm during the 2016 election, was commissioned by Trump’s political opponents and details allegations that Russia has amassed embarrassing information to blackmail Trump once he becomes president. The dossier also alleges that surrogates for the Trump campaign met repeatedly with high-level Russian actors and discussed matters, including the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

"Derek Parfit at Harvard" by Anna Riedl is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Philosopher Derek Parfit died on January 1st. Let us hope he will go to heaven. Will he? Parfit, who was an agnostic, was not much concerned with the existence of heaven or hell. But, he did famously argue that, even if such places do exist, the person going there would not be the same person who previously died. And, thus, someone would be punished or rewarded for the deeds of another person. This is deeply unjust, as unfair as sending someone to prison because of the crimes committed by his identical twin brother.

"Bob Goodlatte" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

As Donald Trump prepares to assume the Presidency of the United States, many have speculated on whether the candidate will be constrained by the United States’ system of checks and balances. Some, such as Newsweek’s Stacy Hilliard, have assured concerned citizens that U.S. democratic institutions will function as designed, ultimately withstanding any single leader and keeping Trump in line. Writing just days after Trump’s victory, Hilliard argued that Congress would provide the strongest check on the President, noting that, “The legislative branch’s purpose is to be the voice of the people, and it historically does not like being dictated to from the White House.” Though Trump’s policies may be worrying, she argued, Congress would act to filter out the workable from the impractical, discriminatory and unconstitutional, constraining his presidency within the bounds of a long-stable governmental system.