Daily Archives: September 24, 2011

I Don’t Like Bullies: The Troubling Trend in Conservative Politics

I don’t like bullies. I didn’t like them as a child and I certainly don’t like them any better now.  Unfortunately the bullying that I address is not the simple schoolyard type, but a kind that has infected our politics and religion to such an extent that I fear the worst for our country.

Last night there was a most troubling moment during the Republican debate.  Fox news anchor Megan Kelly aired a video from a soldier inIraqasking what candidates would do regarding the recent repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.   What followed was shocking. First a number of people in the audience booed the soldier. Second, former Senator Rick Santorum answered Kelly’s question about DADT saying that he would reinstate the policy which he called “social experimentation” which was “detrimental” to gays and lesbians.

Sanorum also mischaracterized the repeal saying that that “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don’t ask don’t tell. I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country….”  The repeal didn’t give gays a special privilege but merely allows them to serve as others in the military do without fear of being thrown out if someone discovered that they were gay.

Santorum also showed his ignorance by ending his comments with this “sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.” Well that is the policy that was enacted, except we don’t throw people out because they are homosexual.  The military is built on discipline and professionalism, if heterosexual military personnel cannot do something the same applies to homosexuals. The policy actually makes the case that sexuality is not an issue. It was under DADT and it put honorable men and women that wanted to serve their country under a rule that no-one else in the military had to live with. That policy emphasized that they were different and made their sexual orientation the issue so that they could be prosecuted at any time should a person turn them in or they make any statement that they were gay.

The repeal was voted by congress and DADT has been found unconstitutional by a number of Federal Courts.  It was going to go away one way or another and the way it was done the military had a chance to get ready for it.  Because of this nothing changed on September 20th. The military still continues to do its job without any disruption, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen are being professional and perhaps the one shock will have is when they find out that men and women that they admire and that they have served in close quarters or in combat with are gay. They will adjust and realize that all the hyperbole put out by people like Santorum was politically and sometimes religiously motivated bigotry.  The same happened in 1948 when President Truman integrated the military. Military personnel adjusted over time and now compared to most of society the military stands as a beacon to the rest of the nation.

When Santorum finished his answer he was greeted with thunderous applause and not one candidate stopped during the debate to call out the people that launched the chorus of boos.  A few notably John Huntsman and a spokesman for Rick Perry commented after the debate about how “unfortunate” the incident was, later on Friday candidate Gary Johnson condemned the action. Unfortunately most of the other candidates by their silence showed that they either agreed with the hecklers or that they are too afraid of political retribution to speak out against such behavior.

I was told by a Christian friend whose opinion I value that he thought that I was over-reacting to the actions of a few people.  God how I wish it was just a few knuckleheads doing this.  However I have seen many bloggers and quite a few allegedly “conservative alternative media” sites and “Christian” ministries blasting the same message ever since Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen announced that the military was moving toward the repeal.

The fact that others in the crowd did not challenge the boo-birds and Santorum didn’t censure them was scary. Later Santorum said that he didn’t hear the people that booed but they were loud and I have a hard time believing him. In light of his many other statements on this subject.

Part of the problem is that I am a historian and my focus was on Weimar Germany and the Nazi era. I have studied that period since I was an undergraduate as well as in seminary and for my second Masters in Military History. I talk about this with my German friends and they see parallels to their history. It unnerves them to see it happening here.

The tactics being employed by these “few” are eerily reminiscent of what the Brownshirts did to their opponents. If I “over react” as my friend said it was because acts like this do breed discrimination and violence.  Those that take power after having used or tolerated such behavior from their followers tend to become tyrants and oppressors in their own right, especially religious people.  Simply look at history to see how badly these events turn out.

But this is bigger than the repeal of DADT and gays.  Last week in another debate, the same type of crowd people shouted “let them die” in relation to a debate question about an uninsured man.  The week at another Republican debate people cheered the use of the death penalty even in cases where reasonable doubt was obvious. And then Pat Robertson told a caller that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease was justified. It is about the lack of outcry from Christians or even the willing participation of Christians in brutal behavior. These are scary things and it is the totally of them that brings my reaction.  This has happened in other countries and I fear that we are going down the same path.

We have a great number of very angry people including many Evangelical Christians that feel that the left has marginalized and persecuted them.  To some extent there has been some of that.  But the answer cannot be found in vengeance.  From what I read on many “conservative” or “Christian” websites the issue is revenge.   The revenge is in that they intend to take over by the ballot and if need be by the bullet to “take dominion” over every arena of public life and rid us of those that do not agree with them or strip them of any influence in society.

The people in the “Dominionist” movement and those that preach the “7 Mountains Theology”  have said that they are intent on establishing a theocracy in this country and others. In their new society people that disagree with them are the enemy, not only of them but of God, even other Christians. Rick Joyner, one of the leaders of this movement and one of the players in Rick Perry’s “The Response” said: “On February 23rd of this year I was shown for the third time that the church was headed for a spiritual civil war … the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the accuser of the brethens’ strongholds in the church … this will in fact be one of the most cruel battles the church has ever faced. Like every civil war brother will turn against brother like we have never witnessed in the church before … this battle must be fought. It is an opportunity to drive the accuser out of the church and for the church then to come into unity that would otherwise be impossible … what is coming will be dark. At times Christians almost universally will be loath to even call themselves Christians. Believers and unbelievers alike will think it is the end of Christianity as we know it and it will be through this the very definition of Christianity will be changed for the better.”

Others of this theological bent advocate chilling police state type methods in dealing with opponents and those that dissent and justify themselves by say that they are “doing God’s work” or “ushering in the Kingdom.

So this is not just about the gays, it is about protecting the weak and those that dare to dissent from a party line. It is about the use of  Brownshirt type tactics to intimidate and silence opposition.  The combination of radial politics and radical religion never produces anything good.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi Prison:

“Radicalism always springs from a conscious or unconscious hatred of what is established. Christian radicalism, no matter whether it consists in withdrawing from the world or in improving the world, arises from the hatred of creation. The radical cannot forgive God his creation. He has fallen out with the created world, the Ivan Karamazov, who at the same time makes the figure of the radical Jesus in the image of the Grand Inquisitor. When evil becomes powerful in the world, it infects the Christian, too, with the poison of radicalism. It is Christ’s gift to the Christian that he should be reconciled with the world as it is, but now this reconciliation is accounted to be a betrayal and denial of Christ. It is replaced by bitterness, suspicion and contempt for men and the world. In place of the love that believes all and hopes all, in the place of the love which loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), there is now the pharisaical denial of love to evil, and the restriction of love to the closed circle of the devout. Instead of the open Church of Jesus Christ which serves the world till the end, there is now some allegedly primitive Christian ideal of a Church, which in its turn confuses the ideal of the living Jesus Christ with the realization of a Christian ideal. Thus a world which is evil succeeds in making the Christians become evil too. It is the same germ that disintegrates the world and that makes the Christians become radical. In both cases it is hatred towards the world, no matter whether the haters are the ungodly or the godly. On both sides it is a refusal of faith in the creation. But devils are not cast out through Beelzebub.” (Letters and Papers from Prison p.386)

It is time that we recognize this before it is too late because the train has left the station.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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