Daily Archives: June 28, 2022

Christian Nationalism, Judicial Activism, and the Looming Threat to the Republic



Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

For the first seven years that I wrote on this blog I never imagined any real threat to the American Republic from within or without. That changed in 2016 when Donald Trump seized control of the Republican Party as I watched its leaders bow to him, and the true believers of the base rally behind him like fanatical Nazis.

I knew this because I had been a Republican for 34 years, from 1976 when I volunteered for the Ford Campaign, until 2008 when after coming home from Iraq to see Sarah Palin becomes the Vice President nominee despite her incredible inexperience, incompetence, and fanatical Dominionist Christian beliefs.

I saw the change over a period of over two decades as a member and later clergy in churches and denominations that taught this incredibly corrosive doctrine, which despite the words of Jesus who said ”my Kingdom is not of this world, insists that the Church is to take over dominion of all earthly life. It was taught at clergy conferences, where our study did not focus on anything to do with the faith of the Church but rather on extreme right wing politics, an anti-abortion crusade, and a lot of time on the importance of tithing.

I never openly admitted my change of political parties, but I began to question beliefs of my Church, not in any major theological matters, but in suggesting that women should be ordained to any office of the Church; of stating that many Iraqi Sunni and Shia Muslims had a higher regard for Jesus and the Virgin Mary than most American Christians, and that we should acknowledge that LGBTQ people could be faithful Christians with no strings attached.

The next day I was called by the Archbishop for the Military with the message that I was ”too liberal” and had to find another Church to endorse me, which as a military chaplain is the kiss of death since one needs a valid church endorsement to remain in the service. Thankfully, the Military Bishop of a large progressive denomination who I knew from active duty made contact with and recommended me to the Bishop of my current church, which gave me refuge and allowed me to remain in service. The bishop who banished me was later to banished by the church for attempting to take the entire military archdiocese into another Anglican denomination behind the backs of the other bishops.

All of that was simply preparation for the mind numbing obedience of friends that I had known for years who abandoned me after Trump began his campaign. A year and a half later a Trump supporting retired navy officer at my Chapel attempted to have me tried by Court Martial on entirely spurious charges that if true would have not only ended my career but put me in Leavenworth, for exercising one of the most sacred rights held by any military chaplain, to faithfully represent my faith tradition in the pulpit, and not to infringe on the religious and civil rights of others. That right was attacked by a man who blatantly lied about what I said in the sermon.

Nonetheless, I had to endure an investigated me which cleared me of the charges based on the testimony of other chapel members and staff, with the help of Mikey Weinstein and the legal team at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. I refused to use a Navy defense attorney, because the Navy and Marine Corps usually assign their most junior and inexperienced officers to trial defense, and winning cases, especially high profile cases as mine would have been a disaster to his young career, but he would have won. He was the only defense attorney on base, and though a nice young man, we would not have had a chance. The investigating officer was a man of honor, he interviewed almost everyone present among the parishioners and staff, including a man who loved all of the chaplains on my staff and recorded our sermons because he wanted to learn and study the scriptures and church teaching. His recording of the sermon help prove my innocence of the accusations of a Christian Nationalist, aided an abetted by a spineless Commanding Officer and the largely indifferent senior leadership of the Navy Chaplain Corps that refused to support the Constitutionally and Military protected rights of a Chaplain preaching in his pulpit.

It pains me to say that everything that I experienced prepared me for the day when Christian Nationalists in gerrymandered states that deny civil rights, voting rights, and religious rights to their citizens of racial and religious minorities, as well as women, LGBTQ people and others and have the backing of a six Justice, all Conservative Roman Catholics in overturning those rights.

In the past week these Justices, despite their assurances of respecting precedent and claims not to judicial activists overturned a century old New York law that required those seeking permits to carry pistols in public places why they needed to do so. Then they overturned a Maine law banning the use of taxpayer money to expressly fund Christian schools that publicly discriminate against non-Christians attending their schools. Then there was the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade on grounds that violated legal precedent, and used horrible historical examples to overturn it. Finally, yesterday they further demolished the Establishment Clause in Kennedy v. Bremerton.

The walls between the minority rule of Christian Nationalist fascists backed by a theocratic Conservative Catholic Supreme Court majority are on the verge of completely subverting the rule of law, destroying constitutional protections, and returning us the 1850s, when Blacks were chattel slaves and free Blacks in Free States were required by law to be returned to their supposed owners based solely on the word of a slave owner or his representative, given to extrajudicial magistrates paid more to return a Black to slavery than allow them to remain free. To a world where Native Americans were exterminated with the survivors herded into reservations. A world where women had no rights to their bodies, property, or suffrage. A nation that denied citizenship rights to Asians, a world where Mexican Americans were subjected to racial laws little different than Blacks, and where after Reconstruction the Supreme Court denied freed blacks civil rights, voting rights, and made them less than citizens.

I have written about all of this before, but to see the Supreme Court of United States upend over a century of progress based on incredibly bad history and legal precedent, shredding constitutional protections and what most people considered to be established law, which all six of these justices lied about in their confirmation hearings.

We have a choice. We most resist or be condemned by history. By the way for suggesting a manner of self defense and resistance on my last blog I was repeatedly defamed and attacked by a man in Austin, Texas.

To quote Major General Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life in the attempt to kill Hitler:

“I cannot understand how people can still call themselves Christians and not be furious adversaries of Hitler’s regime.” I say that about these Christo-Fascist minorities and their allies on the Supreme Court.

I know what I will do. I will remain within the law and Constitution, practice no violence, but prepare for armed defense once those laws and constitutional rights are voided, by a minority that will use every means to return us to antebellum America. As far as these Supreme Court rulings go I will quote from the words of Spencer Tracy playing Henry Drummond, the fictional version of the great American attorney Clarence Darrow in the film Inherit the Wind:

“I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy, you can only punish. And I warn you, that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys every one it touches. Its upholders as well as its defiers.”

Until next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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