Category Archives: ministry

Pastors That Embody The Gospel and Don’t Use it as a Weapon: Thoughts from My Friend Fr. Kenneth Tanner


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is the latest Facebook post of my friend Father Kenneth Tanner,  Pastor and Priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Before this he was on Staff and wrote for “Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.” His blog is located at https://medium.com/@kennethtanner 

As for me after doing some work around the house, I went out to watch Maddy playing in her little wading pool and slipped, causing me to do the splits, land hard on my right knee, and further aggravate my right hip. I have my bilateral knee injections on Monday and will have to bring up this, and the number of times I have had my knee or ankle go out, and my increasing number of falls. Since I had my VA evaluation Tuesday I have to send them an update. I think I will go back to using a cane, because it is really getting old. So I am going to go back to editing “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!”

Please have a good and safe day and read Fr. Kenneth’s Essay on being a pastor in a time like this. He is refreshingly honest and pretty much sums up why I will not be a Church pastor or fight the politics of institutional Chaplain ministry when I retire from the Navy in less than 100 days. But we do need pastors like him.

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

Father Kenneth’s essay follows…

 

Those who follow my social media know that the vast majority of my stories and images are about Jesus—his authentic humanity and his vulnerable divinity, how his unique person is our salvation and the salvation of the world. I’m astonished by and obsessed with Christ.

This same Jesus, who embodies the law and the prophets, who became one of us—a frail human who’s not immune to hunger, thirst, pain, and death—in order to liberate captives and set the oppressed free.

Those who bear the name and work of Jesus as they lead the church are not allowed to remain silent about the illnesses effecting their societies. We are held accountable for silence and inaction.

Our nation’s war on drugs and on terror has slowly eroded civil liberties and presents us with a crisis about personal freedoms, police powers, incarceration, and so on, and black Americans have shouldered the cross of what’s wrong.

Jesus came to set prisoners free—actual prisoners.

Justice systems are corrupt, are punitive rather than restorative, and America is not immune.

The gospel seeks to upend all of that with a profound trust in the ability of humans to heal—to be forgiven and to forgive—a trust that’s not shared by our nation’s “survival of the fittest” mentality.

Jesus stands with the poor, the refugee, the prisoner—not the ideal poor, or employable refugees, or model prisoners but the kinds we find in the real world, just as they are in all their inconvenience—and he expects us to lift up their cause.

What’s happened lately is that the political Left and the political Right define a lot of what the gospel urgently calls us to embody and to do as “political,” as supporting the ends of political movements, figures, or parties.

For the Left, if you believe that pre-born children have the right to life, for but one instance, then you must be a Republican or a supporter of the President.

No, you are simply applying to our public life together ideas of humanity, creation, and personhood taught in the Scriptures.

For the Right, if you want immigrants and refugees welcomed and treated with dignity, for but one instance, then you must be a Democrat or a supporter of their leaders.

No, you are simply listening to the law and prophets of Israel and applying to our public life together their relentless and ubiquitous warnings about God’s wrath toward any people who do not welcome and care for strangers and sojourners.

Salvation is not only about life after death but about this world, about our time and place in this world, and God is often waiting for Spirit-empowered humans to bring the kind of salvation he intends for the world by living the gospel.

So while I do not speak out about most things that concern me—I would never stop speaking right now if I did that—I do speak out loudly when I feel compelled before God to do so (as in this week’s meme about Breonna Taylor and our society’s collective responsibility for her).

It is a high wire act and something like a personal siege to be the leader of a spiritual community in this moment.

I don’t know any pastor who’s not disheartened, burned out, and ready to quit. They won’t tell you about it, but I will.

I preached Jesus Christ to the folks at Holy Redeemer for 15 years but like every other church in this town (and around the country), our congregations are divided between those who want everyone to wear masks at church all the time or they won’t attend and those you don’t want to wear a mask at all so they won’t attend, some who think the pandemic is a hoax and others who think it’s real, along with so many other silly binaries that divide us, driven by a media and a political class that thrives on our separation.

It rips me up. Day and night. I/we won’t be one of them by the grace of God but a tidal wave of pastoral resignations and church closings is coming.

I *thought* we were all centered in Jesus Christ. I thought we were different at HR. It’s a MAJOR gut punch. I don’t even hear from families we served for more than a decade. Not a phone call, not a text, not a peep, even though we reach out consistently.

Then I read something from Eugene Peterson, in his “Eat This Book,” about 1982 and economic and racial tensions that were present and how disappointed he was, after 20 years of preaching, to see his congregation as divided as the world.

He started reading Galatians and the Corinthian letters and realized that Paul had the same troubles with his congregations in the first century, divided over truly dumb stuff.

It’s a human problem.

Eugene realized he was not a failure.

And he decided to double down on Jesus Christ.

And that’s how The Message was born.

I decided months ago to double down on Jesus, too. And my joy in preaching and leading has returned, even though far fewer people hear my sermons. They feel like some of the best of my life and some folks are hearing them. And that’s OK with me. It really is.

When I do address matters of public concern I address them not as a person with political interests but as one called to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means that sometimes I sound like a “liberal” and sometimes I sound like a “conservative.”

And therefore a lot of times I am misunderstood by most everyone for all of the reasons I just laid out. And that’s OK with me, too. It really is.

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A Quick Note in the Midst of Life, Nightmares, Night Terrors, and Editing my Book

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a strange but good day. I was off from work because our military personnel Were given the gift of time off because over the past year we have had no sailors charged or convicted of Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence. That being said I went to bed late last night because I was doing my editing. When I went to bed and got to sleep I had a number of vivid and violent nightmares related to war, PTSD and betrayal. I got up so tired that after a couple of errands and appointments with Judy I took a nap, and the violent nightmares continued. Between last night and the time I got up from my afternoon nap I ended up throwing myself out of bed onto the floor four times to not just to defend myself from attackers but be an agent of vengeance against them. Thankfully my rearrangement of furniture prevented serious injury.

The nightmares were vivid. They included people I did and didn’t know, one strangely who never figured in any violence against me, but a retired Chaplain who I once considered a friend who used my knowledge to help his advancement in the Chaplain Corps. However, he and his wife had used my wife to care for their kids for more than a decade and a half when they were too busy, only to toss her away, and me when we were no longer profitable to them and their kids no longer needed the rides to school provided by Judy without charge regardless of the time, effort and gas money expended, or career advice given by me that helped him get promoted.

But he was in the nightmares, in them didn’t seem to do anything than pay me scant attention and walk away in doctors office waiting room just before people tried to kill me.

Somehow his presence in those nightmares alerted me to danger, and thus armed I was able to defend in my nightmare myself using guns and arrows against assailants who I injured but did kille because they proved the truth to me. I let them live because they were not the real threat, and I had maimed them for life. In fact we gained each other’s respect and friendship despite our differences, but my former friend was another matter. He didn’t appear again in those nightmares but he might again. Maybe he is simply a metaphor in my dreams.

I haven’t had anything to do with him years, and I cannot remember the last time I saw him. Even though he lives a few miles from me we don’t run in the same circles, I think that is because he wants to retain the respectability of his large mainline Protestant denomination, and to keep his complicit silence on so much of what he knows to be true of the secret dark heart of the Chaplain Corps. Likewise, people like me are becoming every more in  military Chaplains, remaining  true to our Ordination vows, and ours Oath to the Constitution to provide for all the rights to their religious beliefs without prejudice. Even so I speak the truth, at least as I have seen and experienced it and am not afraid to do so.

I am fascinated by the violent nightmares and in my former friends role in them, for those who betray us are not usually open opponents, but those that we once opened up to because we thought we were on the same side. But when such a person ghosts you, and then shows up prominently in your nightmares you have to think of their motivations. At this time I think it is because he is a spineless weasel under the thumb of his shrew of a wife, but I could be wrong, and since only Judy would know the details their identity remains safely concealed, as it should.

So anyway, until tonight’s sleep, be it pleasant or terrifying I wish you the best.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, life, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, ministry, PTSD

Trump’s Attack on History: The 1776 Project, Racism, Nationalism, and Fraudulent Patriotism to Conform History to his Twisted Ideology

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today President Trump launched a major attack on the history of the United States by announcing what he called The 1776  Project, a direct attack on the 1619 Project which aims to tell the story of how the English Colonists introduced what became the institution of slavery and entrenched racism in the United States. I know the subject well, my book which will be published sometime in the next year “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and why they Continue to Matter” deals extensive with this history, and I can say based on his actions and utterances that the President is using this to further divide the country on racial lines and to open American history as his next front of his culture war.

Trump said he would create a national commission to promote a “pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history,” which he said would encourage educators to teach students about the “miracle of American history.”

Here is the full text of his speech release by the White House:

“Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world. (Applause.)

To grow up in America is to live in a land where anything is possible, where anyone can rise, and where any dream can come true — all because of the immortal principles our nation’s founders inscribed nearly two and a half centuries ago.

That’s why we have come to the National Archives, the sacred home of our national memory. In this great chamber, we preserve our glorious inheritance: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

On this very day in 1787, our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It was the fulfillment of a thousand years of Western civilization. Our Constitution was the product of centuries of tradition, wisdom, and experience. No political document has done more to advance the human condition or propel the engine of progress.

Yet, as we gather this afternoon, a radical movement is attempting to demolish this treasured and precious inheritance. We can’t let that happen. (Applause.) Left-wing mobs have torn down statues of our founders, desecrated our memorials, and carried out a campaign of violence and anarchy. Far-left demonstrators have chanted the words “America was never great.” The left has launched a vicious and violent assault on law enforcement — the universal symbol of the rule of law in America. These radicals have been aided and abetted by liberal politicians, establishment media, and even large corporations.

Whether it is the mob on the street, or the cancel culture in the boardroom, the goal is the same: to silence dissent, to scare you out of speaking the truth, and to bully Americans into abandoning their values, their heritage, and their very way of life.

We are here today to declare that we will never submit to tyranny. We will reclaim our history and our country for citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed.

The radicals burning American flags want to burn down the principles enshrined in our founding documents, including the bedrock principle of equal justice under law. In order to radically transform America, they must first cause Americans to lose confidence in who we are, where we came from, and what we believe. As I said at Mount Rushmore — which they would love to rip down and it rip it down fast, and that’s never going to happen — two months ago, the left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.

As many of you testified today, the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.

The left has warped, distorted, and defiled the American story with deceptions, falsehoods, and lies. There is no better example than the New York Times’ totally discredited 1619 Project. This project rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.

Nothing could be further from the truth. America’s founding set in motion the unstoppable chain of events that abolished slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal, and prosperous nation in human history. (Applause.)

The narratives about America being pushed by the far-left and being chanted in the streets bear a striking resemblance to the anti-American propaganda of our adversaries — because both groups want to see America weakened, derided, and totally diminished.

Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed. Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors, and families.

A perfect example of critical race theory was recently published by the Smithsonian Institution. This document alleged that concepts such as hard work, rational thinking, the nuclear family, and belief in God were not values that unite all Americans, but were instead aspects of “whiteness.” This is offensive and outrageous to Americans of every ethnicity, and it is especially harmful to children of minority backgrounds who should be uplifted, not disparaged.

Teaching this horrible doctrine to our children is a form of child abuse in the truest sense of those words. For many years now, the radicals have mistaken Americans’ silence for weakness. But they’re wrong.

There is no more powerful force than a parent’s love for their children. And patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country. American parents are not going to accept indoctrination in our schools, cancel culture at our work, or the repression of traditional faith, culture, and values in the public square. Not anymore. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.

We embrace the vision of Martin Luther King, where children are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The left is attempting to destroy that beautiful vision and divide Americans by race in the service of political power. By viewing every issue through the lens of race, they want to impose a new segregation, and we must not allow that to happen.

Critical race theory, the 1619 Project, and the crusade against American history is toxic propaganda, ideological poison that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together. It will destroy our country.

That is why I recently banned trainings in this prejudiced ideology from the federal government and banned it in the strongest manner possible. (Applause.)

The only path to national unity is through our shared identity as Americans. That is why it is so urgent that we finally restore patriotic education to our schools.

Under our leadership, the National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a grant to support the development of a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history. (Applause.)

We are joined by some of the respected scholars involved in this project, including Professor Wilfred McClay. Wilfred, please. Thank you very much. Welcome. (Applause.) Thank you. Dr. Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars. Dr. Peter. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. And Ted Rebarber. Thank you, Ted. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Ted.

Today, I am also pleased to announce that I will soon sign an Executive Order establishing a national commission to promote patriotic education. It will be called the “1776 Commission.” (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. It will encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and make plans to honor the 250th anniversary of our founding. Think of that — 250 years.

Recently, I also signed an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans who have ever lived.

Today, I am announcing a new name for inclusion.
One of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was a patriot from Delaware. In July of 1776, the Continental Congress was deadlocked during the debate over independence. The delegation from Delaware was divided. Caesar Rodney was called upon to break the tie.

Even though he was suffering from very advanced cancer — he was deathly ill — Rodney rode 80 miles through the night, through a severe thunderstorm, from Dover to Philadelphia to cast his vote for independence.

For nearly a century, a statue of one of Delaware’s most beloved citizens stood in Rodney Square, right in the heart of Wilmington.

But this past June, Caesar Rodney’s statue was ordered removed by the mayor and local politicians as part of a radical purge of America’s founding generation.

Today, because of an order I signed, if you demolish a statue without permission, you immediately get 10 years in prison. (Applause.) And there have been no statues demolished for the last four months, incredibly, since the time I signed that act.

Joe Biden said nothing as to his home state’s history and the fact that it was dismantled and dismembered. And a Founding Father’s statue was removed.

Today, America will give this Founding Father, this very brave man, who was so horribly treated, the place of honor he deserves. I am announcing that a statue of Caesar Rodney will be added to the National Garden of American Heroes. (Applause.)

From Washington to Lincoln, from Jefferson to King, America has been home to some of the most incredible people who have ever lived. With the help of everyone here today, the legacy of 1776 will never be erased. Our heroes will never be forgotten. Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.

We will save this cherished inheritance for our children, for their children, and for every generation to come. This is a very important day.

Thank you all once again for being here. Now I will sign the Constitution Day Proclamation. God Bless You. And God Bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.“

What he actually is saying that anything that questions his White Racist beliefs about American history is unpatriotic, or Un-American. This goes back to two things: first his primary and secondary school education where American History was still taught from textbooks derived from the writings of the racist and revisionist ideologies who propagated the twin myths of the Noble South and the Lost Cause. But the second may be even more important. It was his mentor and legal counsel Roy Cohn, the chief counsel for Senator Joseph McCarthy who made his living as a Senator by attacking the patriotism of men like General George Marshall and many other American patriots as Un-American traitors or communists. There is only one degree of separation between Trump and McCarthy.

Edward R. Murrow spoke of McCarthy in his documentary See it Now, in words that could be equally descriptive of President Trump:

“No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Trump’s history it is the continuation of racist and nationalist propaganda. Yale historian Timothy Snyder wrote:

“The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist, ‘although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,’ wrote Orwell, tends to be ‘uninterested in what happens in the real world.’ Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others. As the novelist Danilo Kiš put it, nationalism ‘has no universal values, aesthetic or ethical.’ A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves. A patriot must be concerned with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained. A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.”

The President fits the descriptions of both Murrow and Snyder. Today’s signing of the Executive Order was yet another Orwellian move to whitewash American history of its 400 years of systemic racism, systemic oppression and enslavement of Blacks; the centuries long genocidal extermination of the people of our First Nations, more often referred to as Native Americans. But let us not stop there, let’s move on to the anti-Catholic immigrant campaign directed against Irish and German Catholics known as the Know Nothings, whose members attacked and killed Irish and Germans, burned their churches, businesses, and attacked them in the streets. On the West Coast there were the crimes committed against Chinese immigrants who though not slaves in a legal sense were treated in a similar manner to like slaves in building stone walls for landowners, and in the construction of the transcontinental railroad, and other railroads throughout the west. But let us not forget the racial and religious discrimination against southern and Eastern European immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s, who included Italians, Greeks, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians, Croats, Serbs, Bosnian’s, Turks, Armenians, Lebanese and too many others to name. And we cannot forget the Japanese American citizens placed in concentration camps after being forced to sell their homes and businesses for pennies on the dollar after the Pearl Harbor attack. Don’t let me forget to mention the conquest of Mexico which forced that country to surrender 40% or its territory to the United States, including what is now California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and much of Texas. 

At its dark and evil heart what Trump is doing is “whitewashing” history, writing out our long history of slavery and racism. It is designed to buttress his own ignorance of American history. Trump went to school at a time time American history was written by the most successful revisionist historians of American history, those who promoted the twin myths of the Noble South and the Lost Cause.

Trump’s “Patriotism” is nothing more than that promoted by the Confederates after they lost the war but succeeded in using violence, legislation, and the courts to return freed blacks to at best second class citizenship, at worst slavery by another name.

This is not honest patriotism, especially when he intentionally quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to whitewash his racism. It is the fraudulent patriotism of a draft dodger who despises military, legal, Judicial and diplomatic personnel, calls those wounded, killed, or prisoners of war losers, who despises the ideals, the Constitution, our laws, and the truth.

Trump can only support history if it supports his views which are authoritarian, nationalist, and racist.

When Samuel Johnson said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” he was referring to men like Trump, not people who have an honest love of their country despite its flaws, and use that love to “build a more perfect Union,” and not promote division and hatred as Trump does every day.

I say damn his nationalism, damn his fraudulent patriotism, damn his racism, and damn any Executive Order that he promulgates on re-writing history to fit his warped world view, and damn anyone who mindlessly follows him into the dark and sulphuric abyss of his soul.

I can abide a lot that political leaders do, but to knowing lie about our history for his racist political gain I cannot ignore. Unlike West Germany which acknowledged its war guilt And even after reunification has continued to pursue, charge and try Nazi War Criminals, the United States only executed one Confederate War Criminal, the Commander of the Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp, a lowly Major, while allowing Confederates up to Vice President Alexander Stephens, to go unpunished and to be allowed to hold state and Federal offices which they abandoned to join the rebellion.

While I wish no harm to come to the President in this life, but I do pray that if God is just that Trump will be held accountable for all of his crimes, in and out of office. These  include his infidelity to at least two wives, his other sexual assaults, affairs and infidelities; his numerous corporate bankruptcies that destroyed the lives of many of his employees and contractors; his multiple violations of the Hatch Act that prohibits any person holding Federal Office for using it for personal, financial, or political gain. The President is a yet to be convicted criminal, a serial liar, a serial adulterer, and an open, flagrant and unrepentant racist. I am sorry, if anyone claiming to be a Christian can support that, they have no right to call themself a follower of Christ.

As for me, I do not fear him. As the young Anti-Nazi German resistance leader Sophie Scholl said:

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

I won’t be among he millions who want to survive. I will resist, and I will embody what the German General Ludwig Beck said:

“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.”

And this:

“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here; history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.” 

This is were we are right now, but I am done for tonight but honestly I cannot imagine how anyone who considers themself a person of faith, especially a Christian can defend Trump’s actions and words as President. Now he and his cabinet, especially his attorney General are looking to using the police power of the government against any and all political opponents for the alleged crime of sedition.

As the German resister to Hitler, Henning Von Tresckow said: “I cannot understand how people can still call themselves Christians and not be furious adversaries of Hitler’s regime.”

As a Christian, a historian, and Priest I am a furious adversary of the President who tramples all that I hold dear.

I say the same about Christians who support Trump, Cover up his perversion of the Christian faith and repeat the conspiracy theories of QAnon, which from an orthodox Christian perspective is nothing more than a Gnostic apocalyptic cult.

As for me, I will tell the truth. Despite threats of death and violence, that I receive on a regular basis, I will speak out. For me this is a matter of my oath to the Constitution, my vows as a Priest, and my commitment as a historian committed to telling the truth. So help me I will tell the truth. I can do no other if I am to remain faithful to the Constitution, my Oath, and my vows as a Priest. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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It is Happening Again, Not in Nazi Germany: The Campaign Against “Life Unworthy of Life”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am reflecting about the present in light of the past, and how policy wise, the Social Darwinist policies of the Trump Administration, and the words of his cult propagandists about the value of human life during the Coronavirus 19 Pandemic since it first began. Throughout the pandemic President Trump and his ruthless enablers have done all tat they can to ensure that the pandemic has killed and infected more people in the United States than any nation in the world, and for a nation that represents barely 4% of the world population with one of the most advanced medical systems in the world that is saying a lot. The only answer for such a disaster is that Trump and his Cult want this to happen. Why else would he first deny the infection, then minimize it, then issue a series of contradictory guidance, leave the states to determine their own way through, and then sign a one time bill that provided some relief, but has not been followed up on. The answer to Republicans is that the people helped by it really are not worthy, while the hundreds of billions sucked up by Wall Street and major corporations is worth it. The program is so much like the Nazi economic plan that it defies the imagination.

Then there is the President’s continued resistance to testing, tracing, passive preventive measures such as cloth face masks, social distancing, and closing down the places where the infection spreads most effectively, bars, churches, discos, and sadly Schools too. He has sacked or marginalized many of the best immunologists, virologists, and public health officials in the country and has in the past few weeks appointed political hacks to key positions in his Coronavirus Task Force, who now argue for the Discredited and inhuman concept of Herd Immunity, which if it was employed in the United States would result in at least TWO MILLION MORE DEATHS, and countless more infections. That any President or Administration would even consider such measures places them in the realm of a criminal regime bent on the mass murder or American citizens without even having to fire a bullet or resort to poison gas. All they have to do is let the virus run rampant, which seems to be their plan. As of yesterday the United States reported 187,736 deaths, and 6,211, 796 total cases, 24% of the world’s infections and 22% of the world’s deaths. The American totals are no doubt serious undercounts due to the Trump Administration’s orders to minimize testing and reporting of Coronavirus 19 infections and deaths to minimize the political fallout of the catastrophe that Trump and his Cult Followers not only seek to minimize but pretend that it didn’t happen at all. Instead of reporting the truth the report the false narrative that Trump has saved the country, and the Coronavirus Pandemic was defeated by him even as it rages.

But regardless, the actions of Trump and his followers direct me to the Eugenics movement of the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, Weimar Germany, and other European nations, as well as Japan. But the eugenics movement was nowhere more malevolent, evident and active than it was in Hitler’s Germany. Likewise it is hard to believe that members of the administration as well as its supporters seem to believe, if you take them at their word that the elderly, disabled, mentally ill, and poor, especially those who are not white or Christian are a burden on the State, and are as the Eugenicists of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as Hitler’s Nazi Party believed, were ”Life unworthy of life .” 


It seems hard to believe for anyone born after the mid 1960s, that government through its laws, decrees, and policies could deem certain people to be “life unworthy of life.” The most malevolent of such governments was the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, but individuals and institutions in the United States promoted the same ideology in the 1920s and 1930s but, in spite of actions like the the Tuskegee Experiments, could not carry it to its logical conclusion because most Americans of the time couldn’t go along with it. But the moral, social, religious and ideological barriers to its implementation then no longer exist today.

In Nazi Germany life that was unworthy of life included the physically and mentally handicapped or disabled, those with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Polio, and people with other neurological conditions. Likewise the mentally ill, those suffering clinical depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses were considered to be life unworthy of life. Even the deaf were included, as well as veterans suffering from what we would now call PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury. Also included were people labeled as “asocial” a very loose definition that could include almost any metal disorder or criminal act, including being a homosexual. Sadly, the President himself has made statements that show that he has no regard for the lives of such people, his policies, especially his executive orders, and the men and women he nominates to the Federal Judiciary have similar views to him.

I have been to Hadamar, I have walked it’s grounds, toured its wards, and stood in its gas chambers and crematoria. Tens of thousands people deemed “Life unworthy of Life” were liquidated at the T-4 Euthanasia centers, most located in former hospitals, psychiatric institutions, or sanitariums.

Once the Nazis decided to eliminate them the same day as they invaded Poland in 1939, most of these people gassed with carbon monoxide gas from the exhaust of trucks or Diesel engines, and their remains were cremated. Others, especially children were either starved to death or given a lethal injection while they slept. In every case the next of kin of each victim was sent a standard form letter telling them that their relative had died of influenza, typhus, or some other disease while being given the best of care. The next of kin were then given the option of paying for an urn that may or may not have contained the ashes of their loved ones for inurnment near their home town. If they could not afford an urn the ashes were disposed of in the cemetery nearest to where they were killed. At Hadamar, it was on the grounds of the institution.

Despite the Nazis attempts to disguise their crime they could not be hidden, and after over 70,000 Germans were Euthanized the official T-4 Euthanasia program was ended in Germany.  The gas chambers, cremation ovens and facilities were disassembled by SS experts, and sent east to Poland, where they and their experienced technicians became key components of the Holocaust of the Jews at Soribor, Belzec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz. 

But the Euthanasia program, despite Nazi lies to senior clerics and officials of neutral countries didn’t stop, it simply moved eastward as the SS Einsatzgruppen killed the patients at every mental hospital, sanitarium, old folks home, or orphanage they came across. Inside Germany at the four T4 centers over 80,000 were gassed. At Hartheim in Austria a Party was held on the gassing of the 10,000th victim. Richard Evans wrote:

“At Hartheim the staff held a party to celebrate their ten-thousandth cremation, assembling in the crematorium around the naked body of a recently gassed victim, which was laid out on a stretcher and covered with flowers. One staff member dressed as a clergyman and performed a short ceremony, then beer was distributed to all present. Eventually no fewer than 20,000 were gassed at Hartheim, the same at Sonnenstein, 20,000 at Brandenburg and Bernburg, and another 20,000 at Grafeneck and Hadamar, making a total of 80,000 altogether.”

The tolls in Poland, the Baltic States, and the Soviet Union were much higher, but were conducted outside the auspices of the T4 program which “officially” ended in 1941, but continued in a more clandestine manner throughout the war.

Now in Trump’s United States of 2020 the laws guaranteeing health care to people are being challenged, the Secretary of Education has removed funding from the Department’s funding request for the Special Olympics, programs for the physically and mentally disabled under the SSI are being cut to the bone, and even care for disabled veterans is being threatened as not being economical because none of them are economically valuable to an administration for which profit is the bottom line of the insurance industry. Likewise, most supposedly pro-life Christians have no problems in cutting such programs because many have bought into the materialistic, Prosperity Gospel, whose fawning preachers have anointed President Trump if he were King Cyrus.

To Trump’s Cult of Evangelicals no criticism of the President can be tolerated, no matter how factual it may be, even if it involves the lives of the least, and most most vulnerable members of our society. Thus, for these supposedly “pro-life Christians” the  sick, the weak, the infirm, or mentally ill, who are not productive have no place in society. Inside the womb they are a remarkably powerful political issue; but once outside the womb they might as well be dead if you listen to Trump’s clique of Reichsbishofs, according to who cannot produce for the economy should not eat, get medical care, or live. They are life unworthy of life. This is even worse than the Nazis, for there is not even the Darwinistic idea of producing superior human beings, but rather to kill and let die for profit. The Nazis did that too, with the life of every human being that the considered sub-human, but the overriding the goal of the Nazi true believers, the idea of a perfect Aryan Germanic Master Race was always the ideal to be pursued.

Thus the propaganda directed at German citizens as to how much these men women and children cost the German taxpayer in order to get them to acquiesce to something they would never consider. Now today’s Republican leaders use the same arguments to justify cutting taxes and let the social contract we have with our fellow human beings collapse, because the to poor, the sick, the infirm, the disabled, prisoners, the mentally ill and the elderly simply cost more than they are worth, that also applies to infants and young children suffering any expensive chronic but treatable conditions.

You see, in the authoritarian world in which we live; a world where an uninhibited and unhinged executive backed by cult followers, profit minded billionaires, and greedy preachers, such lives; the old and infirm, the disabled, the mentally ill, the young but physically disabled, those with neurological issues, and birth defects stand in the way of profit, stand in the way of a “perfect” society. They have no value to them because they cost too much, and burden real Americans.

If you directly challenged such people may not advocate euthanasia per say, they would not advocate for gas chambers, or firing squads. Instead they would turn a blind eye to depriving their victims of citizenship, starving them, depriving them of medical care, and turning them out of care facilities knowing that their families lack the capability of caring for them. and if they have any capacity for work, work them until they die, so long as they Confess Christ before they die.

How do we know that life does not matter to them? One way is to note the many times that pharmaceutical corporations have increased the costs of previously inexpensive yet vital life saving medicines by thousands of dollars a dose all for profit with little to no pushback from the White House, or the FDA, much less the Senate GOP majority, or the Evangelical supporters of Trump.

Please understand, this dystopian future need not happen if people of any faith, or no faith at all make a stand against a twisted idea of dictatorship backed up by billionaires and corporate entities that suck billions of dollars from the taxpayer and pay almost nothing themselves. Of course they couldn’t do it on their own in not supported by a de facto State Media, and a cult like legion of followers who would follow Trump even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. His words, not mine.

I am now 60 years old, and I have served in the military over 39 years, and this does bother me enough to speak out. As a senior military officer facing the end of my career and retirement amid multiple physical and emotional issues, it does matter. I keep two things in mind today. First is that of my own responsibility to my Oath, and to fellow citizens.  In that I am reminded of the words of German General Ludwig Beck who wrote:

“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.”

And like Beck’s compatriot, Major General Henning Von Tresckow stated: “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.” Or in my case, Trump’s America.

Historian Timothy Snyder reminds of a certain truth, which should we forget, as I imagine a large number of Trump supporters have:

“The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”


Those are all hard truths to comprehend. As Americans we always presume that we are the good guys, when in fact many times we have acted in means contrary to the ideals of the Declaration as well as the Constitution, and other laws enacted by Congress. But our republic has survived, but its institutions are both resilient and fragile. History has proven this, we have even survived a civil war, but we may not survive an increasingly vindictive and unstable President, his compliant majority in the Senate, and the 35-40% of voters who are in effect no longer Republicans, but a Trump Cult which is largely buttressed by Conservative Evangelical Churches, and inspired by a President who uses force, legal, and extralegal alike to secure his rule. That my friends is what a Fascist Authoritarian does.

We live in extraordinary times which call for extraordinary strength if our Republic is to continue in any form that resembles the intentions of the founders and their liberal enlightenment beliefs. The German Pastor, Theologian, and Martyr to the Hitler regime wrote:

“The fearful danger of the present time is that above the cry for authority, be it of a Leader or of an office, we forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here is infringing eternal laws and taking upon himself superhuman authority which will eventually crush him. The eternal law that the individual stands alone before God takes fearful vengeance where it is attacked and distorted. Thus the Leader points to the office, but Leader and office together point to the final authority itself, before which Reich or state are penultimate authorities. Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God and the individual who stands alone before him, and must perish.”

If we do not want to see the return of a full fledged government and industrial sponsored campaign to eradicate life unworthy of life, we have to fight. It is a fight that we did not chose, but if the Republic is to survive without becoming a criminal dictatorship we must speak up, and we must do so now. If we do not we have no one to blame but ourselves.

As Yehuda Bauer said: “Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”

The choice is ours, and the time is now. As Bonhoeffer noted: “The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.” and also“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

Likewise he wrote: We in the resistance have learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the excluded, the ill treated, the powerless, the oppressed and despised… so that personal suffering has become a more useful key for understanding the world than personal happiness.”

If I as a Christian and an American officer sworn to uphold our Constitution cannot do that, I am worse than Trump and his cult. Over the past few years I have come to understand what Bonhoeffer wrote in prison:

“During the last year or so I’ve come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity.  The Christian is not ahomo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man…I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!) a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one.  By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.  In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world—watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian.”

“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”

In the midst of all the lies of Trump and his cult. In the midst of their attempt to kill as many people as possible, and to bring about a dictatorship I can only say as did Marin Luther at the Diet of Worms: 

“Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.

I double dog dare any Trump Cultist who calls themselves a Christian to refute that.

I am tired of the so called Evangelical Christians who damn Christ and his Gospel for their political gain and shit upon their evangelical forefathers like the great Virginia Baptist John Leland who in defense of religious liberty for all wrote:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

I will fight for the truth, I will fight for the rights of every American. But I will not ever concede ground to a murderous group of thugs masquerading as Christians whose only goal is the continuation in power of a man who will give them anything in exchange for his unbridled power and authoritarian rule.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The President Who Poisons All He Touches: Donald Trump, the First American Dictator


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a bit over three and a half years since President Trump took the oath of office as President of the United States. Over that time his actions have been similar to other leaders of history who have gravitated towards authoritarian rule, and his Party has only emboldened him. Former GOP House Majority Leader John Boehner noted on October 26th of last year: “There is no Republican Party, only the Party of Trump.”

Today I want to share the words of British military theorist and historian B.H. Liddell-Hart and some others of note as to what happens when authoritarian, or authoritarian leaders gain control of a government. His Liddell-Hart’s words, from his short, but profound book Why Don’t We Learn from History are worth the considered read for anyone with an open mind who can, despite the proliferation of propaganda can still see clearly. Liddell-Hart wrote:

They soon begin to rid themselves of their chief helpers, “discovering” that those who brought about the new order have suddenly become traitors to it. Now think of his early supporters who he has ditched, thrown under the bus, or fired them from his cabinet.

They suppress criticism on one pretext or another and punish anyone who mentions facts which, however true, are unfavourable to their policy. Whether it be Russia, COVID19, the Post Office, his deals with Kim Jun Un, and what has happened to every member of his staff, the GOP establishment, or member of Congress who has openly criticized him, including senior Justice Department, State Department, National Security Council Staff, the Military, the Judiciary, and on and on and on.

They enlist religion on their side, if possible, or, if its leaders are not compliant, foster a new kind of religion subservient to their ends. Trump would not be in power without his willful collaborators of the Christian Right who for all intents and purposes have become his Cult.

They spend public money lavishly on material works of a striking kind, in compensation for the freedom of spirit and thought of which they have robbed the public. The President has constructed nothing truly lavish, or of any cultural value, but he has built portions of a very expensive and ineffective border wall.

They manipulate the currency to make the economic position of the state appear better than it is in reality. He first did this with his tax overhaul of 2017 which improved the stock markets, and since the malfeasance of the Treasury Department has been to prop up the markets by purchasing stocks and bonds.

They ultimately make war on some other state as a means of diverting attention from internal conditions and allowing discontent to explode outward. This has not happened yet, but he continues to ratchet up tensions with China, North Korea, and Iran, and in the latter case he brokered a peace deal with two of Iran’s most strident enemies, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, effectively binding the United States to any military actions that they might take against Iran. These is also Venezuela which albeit a failed, and repressive dictatorship, which in Trump’s crosshairs for some time. He or any of the players in these geopolitical regions which resemble a full body dry heave could vomit all over the world, and Trump would us it to do what every authoritarian ruler does when he needs attention drawn away from himself.

They use the rallying cry of patriotism as a means of riveting the chains of their personal authority more firmly on the people. Since his announcement of his candidacy Trump has made the distinction that his supporters are Patriots and those who do not are traitors. He has amped this up every year he has been in office, and his supporters are now showing up armed in the streets as he has used the police power of the state to violently attack those who protest his policies and actions.

They expand the superstructure of the state while undermining its foundations by breeding sycophants at the expense of self-respecting collaborators, by appealing to the popular taste for the grandiose and sensational instead of true values, and by fostering a romantic instead of a realistic view, thus ensuring the ultimate collapse, under their successors if not themselves, of what they have created. The President has expanded and not cut the government, especially in the areas of its police powers, and appointed men and women who are dedicated to protecting him and not the Constitution, laws, or people as heads of agencies.

This political confidence trick, itself a familiar string of tricks, has been repeated all down the ages. Yet it rarely fails to take in a fresh generation. Sadly it has taken in yet another generation, but such is no surprise to anyone who seriously studies history.

But Liddell-Hart wasn’t the only one to warn us of such leaders, those who come to power legally and the work every day to destroy the democratic systems that brought them to power. In fact this was a concern of our founders who in the Declaration of Independence noted:  A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

I cannot think of an American President who these were more pertinent to, then  Donald Trump. He is the man who Alexander Hamilton warned us in his words and in the Federalist Papers: “Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.”

Yale Historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder warned after Trump was elected in 2016:

”The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions—even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.”

That is something I have understood since Trump first announced his candidacy in 2015. Two weeks before his election in 2016 I wrote this:

“As I watched and listened to Donald Trump before and after the third and thankfully final debate of the 2016 Presidential election, I was struck with just how viscous, vulgar, and venomous this man is. I cannot remember anyone in American politics at the national level, Republican or Democrat, or for that matter even Whig, who ever managed to immerse himself so deeply into the amoral, unethical, and undemocratic sewer that Trump has bathed himself, the Republican Party and this nation.

Trump’s toxicity is unparalleled in American politics. Everything and everyone who has ever had anything to do with him is poisoned by his touch. Wives, business partners, contractors, employees, political advisors, and supporters have all been stained by the Mustard Gas that Trump emits on a minute to minute basis. Maybe the most stained are the Evangelical Christian church leaders who have not only endorsed and defended Trump, but  who positively described his character as Christian and said nothing about Trump’s words and actions, which if an opponent had uttered, or had been accused, they would have excoriated with a particularly “Christian” self-righteousness.  Their actions have stained the witness of the church for at least the next generation and it is no wonder that young people are fleeing the church. I specifically use the imagery of Mustard Gas, not just because of its toxicity, but because of its persistence. The battlefields of World War One France and Belgium are still contaminated by it, and the toxic residue still injures people today. 

That my friends is the poisonous and corrosive effect of Donald Trump on this country.  He is a toxic and persistent threat to everyone, even his most devout followers. Race baiting, misogynistic, narcissistic, vulgar, and ignorant, Trump spews his vile venom of conspiracy theories wrapped in fiction, and coated in lies, and buttressed with near pornograpic misogyny in every direction. He has given his supporters in the heavily armed Alt-Right, the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and White Supremacists the boldness to come out of hiding because he has normalized their hate, something that no Western statesman or politician has done since before the verdicts at Nuremberg. 

I have long felt that Trump reminded me of Nazi leaders, but frankly most of them, while every bit as toxic as Trump were both more intelligent and were better able to cover the darkness of their amoral souls with a modicum of respectability, with the exception of one; the publisher of the infamous newspaper Der Sturmer, and Gauleiter of Nuremberg, Julius Streicher. 

Robert Jackson, the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court who served as the Chief American Prosecutor at Nuremberg referred to Streicher in his summation:

“Streicher, the venomous vulgarian, manufactured and distributed obscene racial libels which incited the populace to accept and assist the progressively savage operations of “race purification.” 

Is that not exactly what Trump has done during his seventeen month campaign to stir up race hatred against Mexicans and Arabs, not to mention Asians and Blacks? Of course it is, which is exactly why the leaders of the Alt-Right claim him as their candidate, the man who in their perverted minds has made them respectable again and ready to assume their place in Trump’s new order. Anti-Semitism and racism runs rampant in the words of his closest collaborators such as the Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon, as well as Alt-Right Neo-Nazi and KKK leaders like David Duke, Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, and Peter Brimalow. 

My friends, what you see in Trump is what you get. Unlike Hitler and Goering, but much like Streicher, Trump has no capability of maintaining any sort of respectability. He has been stoking the fires of violence by claiming that the election is rigged and pumping up his followers for violence if he loses.”  The link to that article for doubters is here: https://padresteve.com/2016/10/21/the-venomous-vulgarian-donald-trump-and-the-alt-right/

Based on what he says on a daily basis, including admitting that he was deliberately sabotaging the ability of the US Postal Service to ensure that the mail in and absentee ballots are not received in time to be counted for the General Election. If he is successful is an action that will ensure no clear result, confusion, and creating a crisis that our electoral system was not designed to handle and cast doubt on our electoral system that will allow him to win and then proclaim himself President for life.

That might seem cynical but Trump has said “Trump 2024, 2028, 2032” and so on. There is no doubt that his supporters would attempt to overturn the 22nd  Amendment to the Constitution which limits Presidents to two terms in office, including some who have encouraged that.

What President Trump and his appointees are doing is in direct contravention of the Declaration, the Constitution, U.S. Code, the intents of our Founders, and anyone that values liberty for all, not the few.

Judge Learned Hand spoke these words to a citizenship ceremony in which a million and a half people were present in New York’s Central Park, two weeks before D-Day and I think they are most applicable now:

“What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it… What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”

This is what is at stake today. We have a Venomous Vulgarian like Julius Streicher as our President. He is a man so open and unrepentant in his racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-American System of Government statements, tweets, and executive orders that it is glaringly obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, except to his Cult who have sworn their eternal allegiance to him. I am not one of them. I am bound by my oath to the Constitution and my vows as a Priest to oppose him at every opportunity. I will obey every legal order, but I will not sacrifice my sacred oath to the Constitution and vows as a Priest in the Holy Catholic Church, to him.

I have both witnessed and experienced what happens to those who merely speak out against his policies based on my oath to the Constitution and my sacred vows as a priest. All that matters to Trump is personal loyalty, which he has neither earned or deserved. He is a draft dodger, he is a serial adulterer, a racist, a serial bankruptcy artist who has left thousands of contractors, employees, and students in the lurch. Likewise he is a serial liar the kind of which has never been seen in history. He makes Hitler and his minions, Stalin and his successors until Gorbachev, Castro, Lenin, Mussolini, Franco, Quisling, Petain and Laval, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Jefferson Davis and the Lost Cause Cult, and all of the North Korean Kim Family look like pillars of honesty and decency. As an American, it shames me to have to admit this. He makes a mockery of the Christian faith yet his strongest supporters are supposed conservative and evangelical Christians, people who now believe more in the QAon lies than the Gospel.

How can I remain silent? I refuse to be one of his perpetrators, I will fight to ensure that I am not a victim, and most of all I cannot and will not be a bystander and turn my back on his crimes, those already committed and those that he is planning. The German Pastor, theologian, and martyr to Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing — for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’ — for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?”

And I stand by the 22 year old German University student and martyr Sophie Scholl who in writing about Hitler might have well been writing about Trump and his Christian followers:

“Every word that comes from Hitler’s mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the foul-smelling maw of Hell, and his might is at bottom accursed…. I ask you, you as a Christian wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, whether you hesitate, whether you incline toward intrigue, calculation, or procrastination in the hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defence? Has God not given you the strength, the will to fight? We must attack evil where it is strongest, and it is strongest in the power of Hitler.”

It is quite obvious to me that most American Christians are either completely supportive of Trump, or too afraid to say anything. Some of us do, and I will finish with the words of yet another German martyr to Hitler, Major General Henning Von Tresckow:

cannot understand how people can still call themselves Christians and not be furious adversaries of Hitler’s regime.”

Tresckow also said:

“It is almost certain that we will fail. But how will future history judge the German people, if not even a handful of men had the courage to put an end to that criminal?”

We have to put an end to the Trump regime at the ballot box, and even that may not cause him give up without a physical fight. His former attorney, Michael Cohen has said exactly that. Trump is destroying the hard work of Americans and our allies to build a better would, and in almost every country, Trump is destroying the image of the United States, like Tresckow said in his time:

“We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.”

I say to you, whether it is in the spoken word, the written word, the acts of non-violent protests, and at the ballot box we have to put an end to this before he destroys all of us, even his cult of supporters who he would not hesitate to abandon when he no longer needs them, or he knows his reign of terror is at an end, and blames them for his defeat.

If we are too timid or afraid to stand now, this will be forever Trump’s America. Not the America of our Founders or the reformers and resisters who successful fought for the end of slavery, the citizenship of every native born American, the right to vote for first black men, then all women, then the members of our First Nations, then Japanese and other Asians, overturned Jim Crow, fought for civil rights for all, including LGBTQ citizens who were denied the right to marry, property rights, and civil rights long after almost every other American had them.

We have to win this fight legally at the ballot box.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

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Justice, Mercy, Forgiveness, Raymond Reddington and Me

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In spite of being very busy working in the house and going  back to work to deal with the crisis d’jour I have been very reflective about all I have been through over the past couple of years. Unlike past times of reflection this has been a rather uplifting experience of grace and not a de-evolution into a morbid state of moroseness.

Two years ago I put in my papers for voluntary retirement from the Navy. The previous 28 months in my old billet as the Command Chaplain at Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek – Fort Story had convinced me that the pain of trying to care for and fight for unappreciative people, including people who tried to destroy my life and career was not worth the fight. But just days after I put it in and the retirement request was approved I suffered a fall down my stairs while dealing with bilateral knee, ankle, and right hip injuries while making home repairs. My request was to retire on 1 September 2019, but by April 2019 with failed surgeries, injection treatments, and physical therapy, I realized that more needed to be done and requested that my retirement date be shifted to my statutory retirement date of 1 April 2020. However, when I called the retirement branch at Naval Personnel Command, I was told that there had been a mistake and that my actual statuary date was 1 August 2020.

Since everyone was planning on my September retirement, and my relief was already in place, the new situation was unbearable to the command, and something had to be done. So they transferred me to an unoccupied billet in which they could hide me while sending me on temporary duty orders to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which turned out to be my earthly salvation. When the Coronavirus 19 pandemic hit, the Navy asked a few officers in certain specialties to volunteer to remain on service past their retirement date, until December 31st 2002. I had come to love the people I served and had my faith and call as a Priest renewed.There was no pressure, all I had to do was make myself known, get out among our people and be transparent, caring for and respecting everyone, not just Christians. In the past couple of years I’ve experienced and learned more about forgiveness and forgiving wrongs committed against me, and recognizing actions committed by me that hurt others.

The fact is that I have a tremendous ability to dwell upon injustices committed against others, especially those done by powerful people who use their position to deliberately cause harm or death to people. This you will see a steady stream of articles addressing things like slavery, racism, the Holocaust, unjust wars, government actions that do deliberately harm to the most vulnerable members of society.

While do really love the concept of forgiveness, as a Christian I have no idea of how Jesus managed to forgive, even to the point of sacrificing his life to forgive the sins of the world.  Nor do I really understand how the great saints of every faith managed to live lives full of grace and forgiveness. It probably goes back to my Irish-Scottish DNA,  that can make one a hilarious hoot one minute and a brooding bore the next regardless of whether or not alcohol is involved.

But there is something that I have learned: forgiveness doesn’t require me to be dishonest about how I feel about something. I learned that from Raymond Reddington, and yes I have been binge-watching The Blacklist of late and I find Reddington’s grip on philosophy, religion, and the human condition to be quite fascinating. Reddington observed:

“Sins should be buried like the dead. Not that they may be forgotten but we may remember them and find our way forward nonetheless.”

Truthfully I don’t believe in the forgive and forget bullshit, it’s a nice thought, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I can forgive someone every day, but the memories will still be there. That’s what makes it so hard. As Reddington said to Donald Ressler:

“There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And every day when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about. Until one day, it’s the second.”

That is why the Christian understanding of the forgiveness of sins is so important to me and so difficult. It certainly wasn’t meant to be easy or painless, but it might make a difference, as Reddington noted:

“A friend told me recently that forgiveness won’t change the past but could very well change their future. Apparently, everything is forgivable.” 

So that’s all for today. Yes I know there are many things going on that I can write about but right now I need to stay in this place for a moment.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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COVID19 Deniers and Enablers: Trump, His Cult and the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I hate having to write this, especially because the deliberate lies and intentional malfeasance of government officials, and their enablers who have allowed as of yesterday over 164,000 of their own citizens die from a deadly virus. That virus, the Coronavirus 19, while highly contagious and dangerous could have been contained with far less loss of life, economic carnage, and social disruption than the Cult built around President Donald Trump has saddled us with.

The cost to date: over 164,000 dead, over Five Million infected, of whom some 2.3 Million are still infected, about 1-2% are in serious or critical condition. Since 6% of the closed cases, that is known cases with some manner or level of recovery and deaths resulted in death, a statistic which is consistent with the world’s death rate, we can probably expect that of the 2.3 Million currently infected, that somewhere around 138,000 will die, not including those infected after I write this.

Of course that number could be lower or higher, but that really depends on how overwhelmed hospitals, especially rural or community hospitals which have very limited and critical care or ICU capacity are hit. If one looks at the statistics at the county level in predominantly rural states, this is worse than the major medical centers in the major cities and metropolitan centers of those same states being so overwhelmed by cases and deaths that they need refrigerated cargo trailers to put the bodies of the COVID19 dead that won’t fit in their morgues

But I have to ask: How can it be that a Modern, highly technological society with some of the most advanced medical centers, physicians and research institutions be the hardest hit country in the world by the Coronavirus 19? It is a fair question because we only have about 4.25% of the world’s population but have over 25% of the total number of infections, and just under 25% of the total deaths in the world. Add to this that we have a natural defensive barrier of two oceans to keep infected people out of the country.

But let us assume that better protocols and drugs that lower the death rate to one or two percent the deaths of those infected as of today would be 23,000 to 46,000 deaths. But that does not count the people being infected at 50,000 to 70,000 a day, before we reopen schools, which in states like Georgia are being reopened without social distancing or any requirement for masks. Sadly, despite the factual inaccuracy of President Trump’s statements that children and young people don’t get the virus, they do. Some die, but they spread the virus to teachers, cafeteria workers, administrators, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors. This is a game changer, because when we shut down schools we limited the spread of the virus. The same thing happened when we made a decision to lock everything down until certain criteria of infection rates, deaths and those hospitalized went down.

Unfortunately, when President Trump gave states the opportunity to reopen businesses, restaurants, entertainment venues they did so, many under the pressure of the administration, opened before any of their states had met the Center for Disease metrics for reopening. Since then, the virus has grown exponentially. The current and gold standard models for COVID19 related deaths, that of the University of Washington project that at current rates with no changes that by 1 December 2020, that if things remain as they are we will have almost 300,000 deaths,  if restrictions are eased that number rises to almost 500,000, but if they are strengthen by law that number could fall to 230,000 if every swinging Richard and Mulva wears their face masks. Of course the latter will never happen and even if an effective vaccine is developed and fielded in the requisite numbers, the dumb-ass anti-vaxers and their political, propaganda and religious allies will do all that they can to ensure that as few people get it as they can. If the religious among them claim to be pro-life, then they are liars, because once a baby leave the womb they don’t care if it lives or dies, and that is the brutal truth.

Now I admit that the charge of Crimes Against Humanity as currently defined by the U.N., the Treaty of Rome, and the Nuremberg and Tokyo International War Crimes Tribunals never anticipated any government acting in am manner to ensure the maximum number of its citizens are infected and killed by a virus that they though their willing negligence and malfeasance of their government were killed. Maybe it is time to amend international law to include such actions as crimes against humanity, and maybe it is time for the leaders of the United States to follow in word and deed what Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson when the charges against the Nazi War Criminals were developed before Nuremberg:

Sadly, there are now many Trump supporters, who claim that yes their is a pandemic, but that the numbers of deaths and infections are inflated. When you get to the hear of their arguments they are in substance no different than Holocaust Deniers. For such people are quite willing to sacrifice the lives those of less value than themselves, the elderly, the disabled, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, and Non-white immigrants, and yes, that includes pregnant mothers just to prove their point and say that their supposed freedom matters more than the lives of others.

As such they are no different than Joseph Stalin who said: “The death of one man is tragic, but the death of thousands is statistic.” 

Sadly the vast majority of Trump supporters who deny the evidence, make light of the deaths, and argue that certain lives are worth more than others prove their agreement with the Soviet Dictator. I say the hell with them and any other participant or bystander when human rights are being steamrolled, the Constitution being trampled, and the greatest commandments of the Jewish and Christian Religions are upended by their supposed defenders.

The German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

He also said:

“If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”


Another, Major General Henning Von Tresckow said: We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.”

General Ludwig Beck said: “Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here; history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.”


Sophie Scholl
a twenty-two year old student at the University of Munich and a leader of the anti-Nazi White Rose Resistance movement wrote:

The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

And finally, the words of  the leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”It is legend that Luther said the words “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.”

That being said, Luther’s, Scholl’s, Beck’s, Von Tresckow’s and Bonhoeffer’s words are my words today, both in reference to the Constitution and my vows as a Christian, Deacon, and Priest.

So until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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“They knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put Man Out” Religion and State: The Further Apart the Better

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Virginia Anglicans Persecution Baptists in the 1780s

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Robert Heinlein wrote that, “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” His words are quite relevant and in a way consistent with the desires of the founders of the United States.

Since I am still working to finish Mine Eyes Have Seen to Glory, in order complete it as soon as I can, I figured that I would publish a slightly edited older post about the the separation of church and state. They are not really original to me, but they are born of reflection on the palpable political anger of the politicians, pundits and preachers of the political-religious movement that I refer to as the “Christian Right.”

In order to be clearly understood it is important for my readers to understand that I am not lumping all “conservative Christians” into the political Christian right. In fact some conservative Christian traditions and their followers are diametrically opposed to the political theology of the Christian Right, which has as its heart the theology of Christian Dominionism, something I have written about many times. This is a modernized understanding of political Calvinism, which has sometimes known as “Seven-Mountain” theology, as such I make a profound distinction between such groups and the political movement which calls itself the Christian Right and assumes that as such it speaks for all conservative Christians.

Gary North, a prominent ideologue of the movement who has advised many of the current Christian Right leaders of the Republican Party, and whose ideas are widely promulgated by the politicians, pundits and preachers of the Christian Right was quite clear in what this movement desires. “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.” Thus, every time you hear the words “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” being uttered by them, please understand that they are talking about their religious liberty only, and that that liberty has at its heart the desire to establish their political-religious dogma as law of the land. Thomas Paine, the author of the amazing little book “Common Sense” which was so much a part of the thought of our founders noted, “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”

Robert Ingersoll, one of this first prominent skeptics in this country and acknowledged atheists wrote something quite profound in understanding the nature of what our founders intended and why there were protections both for and from religion in the Constitution:

“They knew that to put God in the constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping or in the keeping of her God the sacred rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship or not to worship that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality of all to prevent the few from governing the many and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.”

Ingersoll correctly reflected the thoughts of Jefferson, Madison, Adams and even George Washington as well as early Virginia Baptist John Leland, and other pioneers of religious liberty like Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island.

According to every scientifically based survey of Christians and non-Christian attitudes toward the church and its religious involvement show that ever-increasing numbers of Christians are fleeing the church. Likewise, increasing numbers of non-Christians want nothing to do with it, even if they are favorably disposed to Jesus and his teachings.

In light of this fact, maybe it is time for Christians to get off their high-horse expecting that they should hold the rights to the political franchise and remember the words of James Madison who said, “Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Finally, I want to add two quotes from the great Virginia Baptist leader who helped Jefferson and Madison in drafting the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty, and the First Amendment.

Leland wrote: 

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

And this:

“Is conformity of sentiments in matters of religion essential to the happiness of civil government? Not at all. Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics. Let every man speak freely without fear–maintain the principles that he believes–worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e., see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death, let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.”

I have to say these things because I refuse to be driven underground by a cult that neither believes or practices what it says, except in promoting their political and economic power at the expense of others, even if it means their subjugation and elimination of their Constitutional rights.

I especially say them for my Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other friends from smaller religions and traditions, as well as my friends who are Atheists or Agnostics.

With that I say Amen, and wish you a good night and day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Higher Standard: I condemn those that Deny Reason, Science, and Facts to push a Theocratic Agenda during a Pandemic


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

i didn’t get a chance to write last night because I left my iPad in my office and it took forever to do my updates to and get my MacBook Air updated, and my maxed out email storage brought under control. But I’m back and Friday is a good night for Fighting.

Over the past few weeks I have become more and more incensed and angry at the theocratic Christian Conservatives who deny reason, science, and even their own faith to enforce their political culture war agenda of reopening churches. Where allowed, many of the churches that restarted services and claimed to be obeying rules on social distancing and masked, didn’t really do it, just like a lot of bars, restaurants, and businesses. Now the pandemic has exploded across the country and many pastors and Christian leaders are playing the Christian persecution card to the hilt, though they are the ones applying for millions of dollars of government hand outs that they take while fighting against The rights of citizens that they hate politically, religiously, racially, of for their sexual identity or gender, and willingly serve a President who is willing to carry their water for them. President Trump and his theocratic supports is willing to use the police power of the state against their opponents to ensure his political survival. His Attorney General Bob Barr is the key to ensuring that happens.

Likewise, this supposedly “pro-military” President and his followers who proclaim that they “support the troops” have no problem demonizing and attacking military officers like Army LTC Alexander Vindman who in obedience to the oath he took to the Constitution and duty to the American people to testified to the truth of Trump and his administration’s collaboration with Russia and against both the United States and the Ukraine during his testimony during the House impeachment hearings.

Tonight on my Facebook Page I posted these words in response to an article about a pastor of a church in Sacramento California complaining that restrictions on signing during worship were discriminatory and infringements on his congregation’s right of worship and the against the Free Exercise of Religion of the First Amendment. Of course the arguments are spurious, because as our Founders and the Supreme Court have stated that all have limitations, especially when the cost is innocent human lives.  I wrote:

I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks of me but I am going to be blunt as hell about this. All the preachers of whatever church denomination who protest about their religious liberties being more important than the lives of a deadly pandemic that is blazing out of control, because governments are putting restrictions on their rights to gather are malevolent and need to be called what they are, “evil people” masquerading as saints. The Christian ones especially who claim to be “pro-life” are ministers of death who despite their pious words the the contrary. They don’t give a damn about the lives of their parishioners, those people’s families, friends, or coworkers, They have no problem using government to deny the rights of other citizens using their massed ranks of highly paid and funded lawyers and legal organizations, but want the government to support them with financial hand outs, while fighting against the civil rights of people whose lifestyles, genders, politics, religion, or even race and ethnicity that they hate. They do this for the sake of their political power, to turn the government into a wretched theocracy so they can persecute who they will, when they want to using the police power of the government. I will fight these ministers of death to the death. They eschew reason, science, and facts to claim that they are being persecuted. Well friends, there is religious persecution going on in this country, but it is the radical, politically motivated, and well off Christian Conservatives that are doing it. I will fight them because I believe in true freedom of religion, not their right to subjugate others like previous Christian leaders did from Constantine on. I also believe in the Gospel that they so blatantly deny with their actions. I close with this: “As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say the hell with it.” Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) Inherit the Wind.

By the way if you do not like it, don’t even try to engage me on it here. Too many people are dying because they went to church and spread the virus. Those churches are referred to as “super spreaders” because even the ones who supposedly were practicing social distancing and wearing masks were letting their choirs sing, and not enforcing masks, even if they limited numbers. I say these hard words because I give a damn about human lives, and place them above the right to gather inside a church and spread a killer disease, and I say the hell with anyone who values their right to gather unsafely, not just in church but anywhere, and bring sickness and death to others. However, I hold religious leaders, especially Christians that claim to be “pro-life” to a much higher standard.

I hate to say it but I will say that these Christian Theocrats who like a religious cult support a man whose words say that he is their “chosen one” but in his life and action shows him to be nothing more than a tinhorn wannabe dictator with no respect for the Christian Faith or religious liberty. The fact is that he realizes that gullible Christians whose only concern is taking over the government to establish a theocracy where they make the laws and heretics, dissenters, and skeptics who refuse to two their line are targets for retaliation, the Constitution, Declaration, and Message of Jesus be damned. If there is any threat to liberty or religious liberties in particular, they are at the center of it.

As Spencer Tracy playing Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind, the fictional version of Clarence Darrow during the Scopes Monkey Trial said: “As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say the hell with it.”

As far as these supposed defenders of religious liberty are concerned I also say the hell with them. That may seem harsh but if the God they supposedly represent takes his or her theology lessons from them, I need a set of asbestos water skis for my eternal vacation on the Lake of Fire. But as Henry Drummond said, said: “As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say the hell with it.”

So until tomorrow,

Padre Steve+

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“Who is Responsible?” The Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church and Racist Violence Today

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Tonight, something else from the archives as I do some work on my book. Even so it is very pertinent as we see White Supremacists rove in heavily armed groups, threatening and even attacking and killing Blacks and other minorities, disrupting civil rights marches, threatening Public Health officials, elected leaders, and even police who stand in their way.  In 2014 Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston was the target of a young White Supremacist who committed a mass murder there after sitting with members in a prayer meeting. A primarily Black Baptist Church where I live was threatened  with being bombed last week,  This time by by a White man from North Carolina who used racial slurs and threats on the message he left on their answering machine. Then there is the police violence directed at individual Blacks, as well as militarized police attacks people of all races protesting those murders, in one instance at the wish of the President.

So I am returning to a different time, over a half century ago that bears too much resemblance to today not to revisit. This is about the KKK bombing of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15th 1964. However, unlike today the event triggered no outraged, and the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, refused to help prosecutors with evidence that they had against the defendants.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

On September 16th 1963 a young Southern White lawyer in Birmingham Alabama spoke these words after a black church was bombed and the police attacked peaceful protesters:

“from anger and despair, from frustration and empathy. And from years of hopes, hopes that were shattered and crumbled with the steps of that Negro Baptist Church.”

Most Americans will not recognize the names and I would dare say that many do not even know about what happened in Birmingham Alabama 57 years ago today. At 10:22 in the morning on September 15th 1963 a bomb exploded during the worship service at the 16th Street Baptist Church. It was one of the most brazen attacks against a church in the modern era, and men who claimed to be “Christians” committed it.

MCNAIR ROBERTSON COLLINS WESLEY

Four young girls, three 14 year olds and one 13 year old were killed. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley lost their lives that day. Twenty-two other church members were wounded in an attack, which was carried out by members of the KKK and tacitly approved of by many political leaders including Alabama Governor George Wallace. Why were they killed and why were the others wounded?

The answer to that question is easy. They were murdered for the crime of being black, and the crime of their church serving as a focal point of the Civil Rights movement. Just five months before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been arrested while leading a campaign of protest and civil disobedience in the city and in its jail where he secretly penned his famous Letter from a Birmingham after he saw a joint article published by eight prominent White clergymen, who issued what they referred to as a Call to Unity. In it they denounced the peaceful demonstrations, led by “outsiders” a swipe at King and called for Birmingham’s Blacks to withdraw their support from King and wait for legislators and the courts rather than demonstrate. They also praised Bull Connor’s violent attack with police dogs on the protestors as “calm restraint.”  In January 1963 the same clergymen published “An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense.”  In that letter, published shortly after George Wallace’s “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” speech, these men and others tried to stake out a middle ground. They were uncomfortable with protest, peaceful or not but had done nothing to stop the violence other than ask their White congregations not to resist any court rulings granting it.

King could not let that go. In one section of the letter, a true classic of American patriotic dissent King wrote:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Likewise, most people today, including many blacks do not know that before the bombing of this church, that since 1955 there had been 19 other bombings of black churches as well as the homes of Black leaders in Birmingham that preceded it. But even before that outbreak of violence, Birmingham had become known as “Bombingham” because over 50 bombing attacks against blacks, black churches and black institutions in the years after the First World War.

The church had served as a focal point of the Freedom Summer where Civil Rights activists and students from around the country had met, trained and organized to register blacks to vote. This made it a prominent target for violence at the hands of the KKK and its political and police allies.

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Early in the morning of September 15th four members of the United Klans of America went to the church as it was still dark. Frank Bobby Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Cash and Robert Chambliss placed a box of 10 sticks of dynamite under the church steps near the basement. A time delay detonator was set to ensure that the church was filled when the bomb went off. The blast occurred as children were leaving Sunday School and going up the stairs to the sanctuary to listen to a sermon, ironically entitled “The Love that Forgives.”

The attack was a heinous crime and an act of cold-blooded premeditated murder that maybe a number of years before might not have made the news in much of the country. But this was 1963 and over the preceding months of the Freedom Summer opened the eyes of people across the nation to what was happening in the South. The brutal attacks on many blacks, civil rights workers and student volunteers during that time raised the profile of the Civil Rights Movement and shown the ugly hatred towards blacks held by many Southerners hidden underneath the veneer of polite Southern hospitality.

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Blacks protested and were met with a massive police response coordinated by Governor George Wallace that brought about more violence, and more dead blacks. The violence perpetrated by the police was similar to police responses to peaceful protestors so many times over the past few years following the deaths of Black men, women, and children.

The next day, a young white lawyer, Charles Morgan Jr.; a true Southerner by right and heritage spoke to the White Businessman’s Club of Birmingham. He was thirty-three years old and had an up and coming law practice.  His words were forceful and to the point and he did not mince words. Instead of simply asking why as so many in Birmingham were doing, the young attorney  began his speech with this poignant remark and kept on going.

Four little girls were killed in Birmingham yesterday.

A mad, remorseful worried community asks, “Who did it? Who threw that bomb? Was it a Negro or a white?” The answer should be, “We all did it.” Every last one of us is condemned for that crime and the bombing before it and a decade ago. We all did it.

A short time later, white policemen kill a Negro and wound another. A few hours later, two young men on a motorbike shoot and kill a Negro child. Fires break out, and, in Montgomery, white youths assault Negroes.

And all across Alabama, an angry, guilty people cry out their mocking shouts of indignity and say they wonder “Why?” “Who?” Everyone then “deplores” the “dastardly” act.

But you know the “who” of “Who did it” is really rather simple. The “who” is every little individual who talks about the “niggers” and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter.

The “who” is every governor who ever shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator.

It is every senator and every representative who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells the world that things back home aren’t really like they are.

It is courts that move ever so slowly, and newspapers that timorously defend the law.

It is all the Christians and all their ministers who spoke too late in anguished cries against violence. It is the coward in each of us who clucks admonitions.

We have 10 years of lawless preachments, 10 years of criticism of law, of courts, of our fellow man, a decade of telling school children the opposite of what the civics books say.

We are a mass of intolerance and bigotry and stand indicted before our young. We are cursed by the failure of each of us to accept responsibility, by our defense of an already dead institution.

Yesterday while Birmingham, which prides itself on the number of its churches, was attending worship services, a bomb went off and an all-white police force moved into action, a police force which has been praised by city officials and others at least once a day for a month or so. A police force which has solved no bombings. A police force which many Negroes feel is perpetrating the very evils we decry. . . .

Birmingham is the only city in America where the police chief and the sheriff in the school crisis had to call our local ministers together to tell them to do their duty. The ministers of Birmingham who have done so little for Christianity call for prayer at high noon in a city of lawlessness, and in the same breath, speak of our city’s “image.” . . .

Those four little Negro girls were human beings. They have their 14 years in a leaderless city; a city where no one accepts responsibility; where everybody wants to blame somebody else. A city with a reward fund which grew like Topsy as a sort of sacrificial offering, a balm for the conscience of the “good people”. . . .

Birmingham is a city … where four little Negro girls can be born into a second-class school system, live a segregated life, ghettoed into their own little neighborhoods, restricted to Negro churches, destined to ride in Negro ambulances, to Negro wards of hospitals or to a Negro cemetery. Local papers, on their front and editorial pages, call for order and then exclude their names from obituary columns.

And, who is really guilty? Each of us. Each citizen who has not consciously attempted to bring about peaceful compliance with the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, every citizen and every school board member and schoolteacher and principal and businessman and judge and lawyer who has corrupted the minds of our youth; every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred, is at least as guilty, or more so, than the demented fool who threw that bomb.

What’s it like living in Birmingham? No one ever really has known and no one will until this city becomes part of the United States.

Birmingham is not a dying city; it is dead.

After the speech he knew that he had little support, he began receiving death threats directed at him and his family. His law practice collapsed, and rather than remain as a target, he and his family left Birmingham.

Not only was the attack on Sixteenth Street Baptist Church heinous, but, the response of many in law enforcement at the local level and even at the office of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was criminal. Hoover refused to investigate, and although a witness identified Chambliss, he was not charged with the bombing; instead he was charged for having a case of dynamite without a permit. He was fined $100 and given a six-month jail sentence.

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Thought FBI agents had investigated the crime and discovered evidence against all four men, Hoover ordered the evidence not be provided to local or Federal prosecutors. So for eight years the crime was covered up.

However in 1971 Bill Baxley was elected Attorney General of Alabama. Baxley re-opened the case and requested the FBI files, which had been suppressed by Hoover, who had died in 1972. In 1977 Chambliss was indicted and convicted of first degree murder, he died in prison. Blanton was tried in 2001, convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Cash died in 1994 without ever having been charged with a crime and Cherry was convicted in 2002, sentenced to life in prison and died in 2004.

The attack and the deaths of the four girls served as a catalyst in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, the following year the Civil Rights Act.  However, those did not end the fight for equality, and others would die in its aftermath, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who died at the hands an assassin named James Earl Ray, less than 4 years later.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 many blacks have been elected to local, state and federal offices or served in some of the highest ranks of the military, judiciary, and at the Cabinet level. Two, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have served as Secretary of State, two, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, as Attorney General of the United States; one, Clarence Thomas, as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; one, Susan Rice, as National Security Advisor, as well as the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson. Finally one, Barak Obama was elected as President of the United States. There is a high probability the the presumptive Democratic Party nominee to oppose President Trump in November, former  Vice President Joe Biden will chose a Black woman as his Vice President running mate. Since it is widely believed that Biden sees himself a transitional President, that if he is elected that one of the women will at some point either inherit his duties should he become incapacitated or die in office, or that in 2024 he will pass the baton of leadership to his Vice President.

But despite these advances, racism is still quite prevalent in this country, not just the systemic racism, and pretend that it doesn’t exist racism, but the open and unabashed race hatred, that during the term of President Donald Trump seems to be getting both more open and violent as its proponents, unleashed and unhindered who, with good reason believe that have a supportive President in the White House go about terrorizing wherever they go.

One of my former co-workers from Georgia, a White, yet progressive  Southern Baptist minister and retired military chaplain noted that many whites may not be explicitly racists in their interpersonal relationships with blacks, but have an attitude that when it comes to places of power, that blacks still need “to stay in their place.” He noted that he thinks that for many whites who think this way,  that this is a large part of the reason that President Obama was opposed and even hated by so many Whites. It was not just politics, policy or ideology, it was blatant in your face racism. Obama was a Black man in the White House, he had overstepped his social standing.  While politics may play a role the root of the hatred of him, it is racism, admitted or not, that drove it. Honestly, I cannot for the life of me any White man occupying the office of the President receiving similar treatment.

But the sad truth is there still is an undercurrent of unrepentant and deeply embedded racism in the country, and not just in the South. In fact many there places in the South have seen greater advances in racial relations than other parts of the country, despite the actions of White Republicans in the region to gerrymander elections and to disenfranchise Black voters since the Roberts Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. That is not to say that there are those who would attempt to disenfranchise blacks, some of the voting laws recently passed are designed to ensure that significant parts of the black population, specifically the elderly and students living away from home have greater difficulty voting. It is actually a more insidious method than the past Jim Crow laws because the drafters of these laws hope to keep just enough black and other poor or minority voters from voting to ensure that they maintain power. Some of the men that drafted or supported these state laws designed to disenfranchise voters have openly admitted that fact.

Not only is racial prejudice experienced by Blacks, it is experienced by many Americans of Hispanic origins, some of Asian descent but also by those of Middle Eastern, Iranian, Pakistani or Indian descent. And yes, people of all races, including racial, ethnic and religious minorities can be as racist and violent as the men who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church 57 years ago. Racism is an ugly part of our human condition and no matter whom it is targeted against, and who does the targeting, it is wrong and needs to be fought.

In its 2019 report the Southern Poverty Law Center http://www.splcenter.org listed 940 active hate groups of all types operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. (See the Hate Map herehttps://www.splcenter.org/hate-map) The number is down from recent because a number of more the virulent White Supremacist and militia groups have gone underground, shut down websites and social media pages.

Too many people have died in this struggle to stop now, even as their deaths continue to mount. If you read this before or after going to church, remember those four little girls who died at the hands of four murdering, racist Klansmen. Likewise remember that there are others out there full of hate who would not hesitate to do the same again and others who would actively support those efforts. Sometimes in the name of “Law and Order” and  sometimes even in the name of God.

As for me I will fight it racism and violence of all types, especially against those who have been the victims of racism and violence for over 400 years. There are times that I wish I had gone to law school rather than seminary. Maybe after I retire I will do that or take up an advanced degree in Criminal Justice.

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                                                                  Charles Morgan Jr.

Charles Morgan died in 2009, but after he left Birmingham he went on to lead a remarkable life, especially in his commitment to Civil Rights and Justice. The New York Times obituary noted:

“Among his many cases as a civil rights lawyer, Mr. Morgan sued to desegregate his alma mater, the University of Alabama; forced a new election in Greene County, Ala., that led to the election of six black candidates for local offices in 1969; and successfully challenged racially segregated juries and prisons. After the civil rights movement began to subside, Mr. Morgan, as a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought three celebrated court cases involving protests against the Vietnam War.

He represented Muhammad Ali in his successful court fight to avoid being drafted. He represented the civil rights activist Julian Bond in the early stages of an ultimately successful lawsuit after Mr. Bond had been denied a seat in the Georgia legislature because of his antiwar views. And he defended an officer when he was court-martialed for refusing to help instruct Green Berets headed for Vietnam.”

We cannot ever let ourselves forget that it was supposedly Christian men who bombed a church and killed those four little girls, and that as long as all of us fail to live up to our responsibilities such things will happen again. If we do not, we are as guilty as those who throw the bombs, shoot the bullets, and those preachers, pundits and politicians who deny the fact that these things are still commonplace. This is especially true in the Trump era.

Yes, my friends, we too will be at least as guilty as the brazen killers who continue to try to kill the dreams of those who are not like them. I will fight for the oppressed and always seek to tell the truth and present facts as facts, and I hope that I will be as committed to stand for the rights of the oppressed and for justice as did Charles Morgan.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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