I just finished reading my hard cover copy of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory and it was a far different experience than reading it on a computer or iPad screen while making edit after edit. The editing process was clinical and nothing like reading it in the flesh, it was to maybe misuse a term “sensual.” As I read it I found it hard to believe that when I started writing it, that it was just an introductory chapter to my Gettysburg Staff ride text regarding the role of religion and ideology to the men that fought the American Civil War.
Never in my wildest imagination did I expect that wildly aggrieved White Americans, following the lead of Donald Trump would have denied the results of a completely legitimate election, and assaulted Congress when it was in session to formally certify the results of the Electoral College. Nor did I then imagine that a former President and his followers would continue to deny election results long after he was out of office and the results were certified. Nor could I imagine at any former President would abscond with highly classified documents, not comply with subpoenas to return them and that the Justice Department and have to get a warrant to search his residence and retrieve them. Nor did I expect members of a political party supposedly committed to the “Rule of Law” to target FBI agents, other Federal Law Enforcement agencies and Judges for death because of a legal search.
Now my book is out and available for purchase at Amazon and will be available in bookstores on October 1st. But as I was thinking about what I had written and current events I began to ruminate on it I came up with this little essay.
Though the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th overturned the “Dred Scott” decision to give Blacks citizenship, and the 15th granted Black men suffrage, the ghosts of racism and twin myths of the Noble South and Lost Cause still haunt our Nation and contribute to our current divide. Sadly, the curse of White Supremacy and Christian Nationalism, which were prominent in causing the Civil War, defeated Reconstruction, and restored White rule remain a clear and present danger today.
Unlike 1860, ours is not a sectional divide, but a nationwide racial, religious and political chasm. The changing racial and religious demographics of the country, the passage of laws that gave Blacks, other minorities, Women, and LGBTQ+ people civil and voting rights echoing Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of ever increasing liberty found in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” provide grist for grievance.
The growing tensions exploded after Barack Obama shattered the Color barrier of the presidency, provoking massive growth in violent, militarized White Supremacist and anti-Semitic groups, and the dramatic reemergence of the “Great Replacement“ conspiracy theory. Conservative Christians found more grievance when LGBTQ+ citizens gained equal rights including marriage. In Donald Trump, these aggravated groups found a man who catered to their grievances and perceived victimhood. Trump’s ideas redound today in the pronouncements of many Republican elected officials who subordinate themselves to Trump, including all of the 2016 presidential candidates, who he mocked, insulted, and belittled at every turn.
Trump and his propagandists play upon the same fears of “White Replacement” evoked by Southern leaders and Secession Commissioners. Historian Charles Dew portrayed Georgia Supreme Court Justice and Secession Commissioner Henry Benning’s apocalyptic vision of the outcome of a Northern invasion of the South; he told his audience, “We will be overpowered and our men compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and for our women, the horrors of their state cannot contemplate in imagination.” This then, was “the fate that Abolition will bring upon the white race. . . . We will be exterminated”.
Trump encourages violence. The politicians, pundits, and preachers who serve as his propagandists whip his followers into a frenzy of hatred reminiscent of the worst moments in our history. This is evidenced by mass murders at Black churches, supermarkets, Jewish synagogues and community centers, and what amount to be lynchings of Black men by Whites.
On June 1st 2020, Trump used a violent attack by Secret Service, Park Police, Washington Metropolitan Police, and Bureau of Prisons officers against peaceful citizens in Lafayette Park gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd, as cover for a photo-op with a Bible outside St. John’s Church. The next day he tweeted with pride about the “Overwhelming Force and Domination” used by police. The violence echoed police attacks on Civil Rights marchers in the 1960s.
Trump’s “Big Lie” of the “stolen” election and the assault on the Capitol echoed the violence of the Confederate response to Lincoln’s election. In 1861 Southern Slave States seceded from the Union, seized Federal facilities, mints, armories, and military bases, and opened fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the bloodiest war in American history.
Some of Trump’s followers call for violence and civil war following the FBI’s legal search of Trump’s Mar a Lago home. Instead of trying to calm them, Trump and acolytes like Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, and Republican office holders or candidates continue to incite violence against law enforcement.
Lincoln mistakenly believed that Southerners would come to their senses and calls for secession and civil war would lessen after the 1860 election. Only fools would believe that Trump and his followers will back down now, in light of the January 6th insurrection and the mounting number of criminal and civil investigations against Trump. Like Southerners in 1860 they feel cornered, and are lashing out against their best interests.
Religious intolerance fuels race hatred. Authoritarian leaders like Trump fuse religious and the politics of race in a ruthless drive for political power. History, including ours shows that the result of such fusion results in war, and crimes against humanity. The damage to the victims, perpetrators, and society is felt for generations.
Like the antebellum period, faith has emerged as a political weapon. “But,” wrote British historian and military theorist B. H. Liddell- Hart, “one should still be able to appreciate the point of view of those who fear the consequences. Faith matters so much in times of crisis. One must have gone deep into history before reaching the conviction that truth matters more.” The Confederacy’s ghosts still haunt us through White Supremacy, Christian Nationalism, and Donald Trump. We must learn the lessons, or see our democracy torn asunder from within, with blood flowing in our streets.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been amazingly busy and where I have been pretty much too exhausted to write, despite the plethora of patently palpitating potboilers regarding the perfidious behavior of the twice impeached former President and his pernicious and parasitic promoters following the excruciatingly proper search warrant and search of Trump’s porous pleasure palace of Mar a Lago, issued by profoundly proper Attorney General Merrick Garland and proficiently pulled off by by the FBI. (Yes I know this was an excruciatingly long sentence but I could not resist trying to use all of those words beginning with the letter “p” when so many synonyms were available. It is just one of my peculiar proclivities, see I couldn’t even perchance avoid it in my parenthetical note, but I digress.)
When all of this dropped almost a week and a half ago I was blown away, not because I didn’t think that Trump had made off with classified materials, or in my opinion had already either shared them with hostile foreign powers, or was planning to do so for perfidious profit, and not in the interest of patriotism, but perfidy, or as better known as profit and treason.
The really fascinating but terrifying thing to watch was the mass hysteria that the legal and properly carried out search evoked among the Trump Cult, from the highest elected officials, the pernicious low life’s of the Trump propaganda machine, and his cult of hard core “true believer” followers for whom truth is less important than remaining faithful to the Big Lie, and the Bigger Liar.
My morbid fascination with the onslaught of profoundly disprovable propaganda put out by Trump’s Army of pundits, politicians, and preachers from Monday until Garland dropped the bomb requesting the Judge to unseal the search warrant and inventory of what was recovered was surreal. The demands went to protests, and the protests to terrorism directed at the FBI, including the release of the names and personal data of the agents and the Judge involved in the search warrant and its execution. In one case a former January 6th participant attempted a failed attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati Field office, after which he was killed in a shootout with law enforcement.
Since then, most of Trump’s cult has upped the ante, demanding the release of the Affidavit to the Warrant which the Justice Department is wisely resisting because of the sensitivity of the documents to the investigation. What we have here is a clear cut case of obstruction of Justice, mishandling of government documents, including Classified, Secret, Top Secret, and Top Secret SCI (Special Compartmentalized Information) none of which are to be removed from where they are stored or viewed in SCIFs unless to be briefed in similar secure facilities, of which Mar a Lago is not. Likewise, the need for a former President to require access to such information is not his, but of the current President, should the current President believe that a former President be able to help in a given situation might grant access. But such is not the case when a former President absconds with 11 sets of classified materials, as well as cases of numerous other official government documents, and then lies after being subpoenaed by the National Records Office of the National Archives and the Justice Department for them for over a year.
Trump was given so much latitude in returning the documents without penalty before the warrant was issued it makes one’s mind spin. If it were you or me, you bet your ass that we would be in jail, possibly without parole until trial. But Trump and his cavalcade of incompetent lawyers and cult like followers, whether elected officials or complete private citizen morons, would rather lie, obfuscate and possibly aid Trump in actions that while illegal, might also constitute treason of the former President shared them with any foreign leaders or agents. While serving as President, Trump was notorious for his complete disregard of classified materials and their potential impacts on national security, a fact attested to by two of his National Security Advisors, two Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Director of National Intelligence, and many others involved in his administration. Then there is the almost ejaculatory defense of Trump by Russian propagandists, and their transition to mourning that he is no longer an assest after the warrant and search. Dare call Trump’s actions treason. I do. There is much more to this story. There are multiple Federal and State criminal and civil cases moving through the court, and also the House Committee investigating the January 6th attack on Congress, an event orchestrated and encouraged by Trump in order to defy the results of a legal election to maintain his personal power.
There is much still to be added, but none of it will be good for either Trump or our national and the principals and laws it was founded upon.
As for me I will not give up the fight against totalitarianism, treason, and theocratic fascism. To quote the Christian German General Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life in the attempt to kill Hitler:
“A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.”
As my book “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond”, states: I am a historian, retired career military officer, and priest. As a historian I believe the truth, even when uncomfortable or damning, should be told. I take as inspiration a statement by Sir Patrick Stewart, in his role as Captain Jean Luc Picard, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The First Duty.” In the story Picard tells Cadet Wesley Crusher, “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based.”
I spent 37 years as an officer in the US Army and Navy. I fully agree with Captain Picard, charge me with living in the past, present, and future, but my duty, and anyone commissioned or appointed by his or her government must be committed to the truth and upholding the law, former Presidents, current politicians, pundits, and preachers be damned. Truth matters. The distinguished history professor Timothy Snyder wrote, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”Truth matters, but it is human nature to take solace in myths and believe they are true. However, many myths are deadly. The deadliest include American Slavery’s “positive good,” the “Noble South,” the “Lost Cause,” the evils of Reconstruction, the good of Jim Crow, and the nonexistence of institutional racism in the United States. These are lies so big and toxic that one has to call them whoppers.
With that I am done for the night. Wednesday will be busy. Be safe, take care and enjoy life all,that you can.
Pardon the delay in the publication of this article. I started it the day after the hearing and didn’t finish it because I was tired. The next night I went to dinner and Top Gun, Maverick. Then for the next few days between work around the house, catching, doing some work with publicity for the book, catching up on some reading, watching some movies and documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement as I ponder my next book, in light of current reverses to civil, voting, reproductive, and religious rights by Christian Nationalists and their militant supermajority on the Supreme Court. I need to get with my agent soon for his advice in regard to the five other books I in some stage of development.
I will be making a trip to Washington, DC tomorrow to see DC United play my all time favorite team, Bayern Munich. Thursday I will visit the National Museum of African American History, then have some dinner before heading back to my hotel to watch the live hearings on Thursday Night. Friday I will visit some of the preserved Civil War fortifications around DC, and spend the night in Annapolis and return home Saturday. I will be my first trip to see and do things I want to do since the beginning of COVID. So without further delay the long delayed article.
On December 14th, 2020 the Electoral College cast its ballots and elected Joe Biden as President Elect. Between November 4th and that day President Trump’s legal team had filed 61 challenges in State and Federal Courts, filing 61 lawsuits, losing 60 outright and winning a portion of another that had no bearing on that court’s final decision.
Likewise, Trump personally attempted to pressure Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger to find over 11,000 votes to flip Georgia into his column and disenfranchise Georgia voters. Raffensberger refused and testified as to that fact before the committee.
White House advisors and cabinet members told Trump that he lost and needed to concede. He did not, even as then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized the legitimacy of the election. However, Trump would not do so and turned to allies outside the administration willing to do anything, especially illegal, to keep him in power.
The situation came to a head on the evening and night of December 18th when in a surprise visit by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne obtained access to the President when a junior White House aid admitted to the White House without higher authorization. That is hard to get. I know, because in 2009 a friend of mine from Iraq, who was then Chief of Staff to the National Security Advisor, got Judy and me a private tour of the West Wing, not even to meet the President. The amount of background checks and security required was incredible. One does not get to casually drop in to the Oval Office unless something is seriously awry. Thus when the clown car of clueless, criminally minded, conspiracy theorists pitched a draft executive order for the President to order the Department of Defense to use the military to seize voting machines, and to appoint Sidney Powell as a ”Special Counsel” with full security clearance to do the job of ensuring Trump remained President despite having lost the election and having every lawsuit to overturn the election defeated, often dismissed by Trump appointed Federal judges.
At this point Cassidy Hutchinson, realizing that there were no adults in the room notified Pat Cipollone, and Mark Meadows. Cipollone was the first to arrive followed shortly by Meadows and senior advisor Eric Hirschmann. There was a heated argument which included much profanity and threats, with Hirschmann telling Flynn to ”sit his ass down.” Cipollone demanded their evidence which they failed to supply. There was much profanity, threats of fist fights and violence before the meeting finally ended, with Meadows escorting Giuliani off the White House Grounds. Trump, now realizing that there was no legal way to overturn the election, and the the clown car had no way to keep him in office, decided to use the mob of his supporters to do that very thing. Barely two hours later, Trump sent out a tweet for his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th because it ”would be wild.”
Almost immediately right wing activists, militia groups, and provocateurs, began calling for violence and revolt to keep Trump in power. One used an image from Game of Thrones to call for a ”Red Wedding”, a reference to the murder of people coming to what they thought was a wedding but in which they were massacred. Others, talked of a ”rope day” which is a reference to bringing ropes to hang Trump’s enemies, which included the gallows that was set up hang Mike Pence. Many provocateurs including Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and many others spread the call of Trump to overthrow the election, start a revolution and kill their opponents.
The violence incited by Trump’s YouTube, Instagram, and other social media propagandists became so vile, violent, and profane and murderous that it makes any person with a modicum of decency, a moral center, and respect for our laws and our system of government sick and frightened for our future as a democracy.
During the following two weeks leading up to 6 January there were meetings, a ”war room” was set up in the Trump Hotel where Trump’s cabal of coup planners made their contacts and gathering their shock troops that led the assault on the Capitol. These included the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Members of these group brought military grade weapons, including AR-15 type rifles, grenades, body armor, kevlar helmets, bear spay, stocks of ammunition, and a 30 day supply of food. They were primed for battle, and as the day grew closer and it became clear that Vice President Pence would most likely fulfill his duties to certify the Electoral College vote and formally declare Joe Biden as President, Pence became one of their targets for death.
The night before the assault on the Capitol and Trump’s own rally on the Ellipse, a large rally was held within hearing distance of the Oval Office, complete with Sidney Powell, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Proud Boys and other miscreants urging the crowd to fight like hell for Trump the next day. The language was that of a pre-combat pep talk. It was incendiary and promoted violence against anyone who opposed Trump or supported Biden, continuing to promote the big lie of the stolen election. According to testimony Trump had the doors of the Oval Office in order to take it in and enjoy it.
That same evening two pipe bombs were left near the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties near Congress. The person who left them has never been identified or arrested.
I will return to 6 January after I come back. between then and now I will post about my travels.
The past couple of weeks have been somewhat surreal. The continued revelations of former President Trump and his allies to attempt a coup to keep him in power, the decision of the Trump appointed majority on the Supreme Court to destroy the Establishment Clause in two cases, and to overturn Roe v. Wade by using poor history and case law to destroy any legal precedent regarding the Fourteenth Amendment after when it was ratified in 1868, when women had few rights to property, civil rights, rights to their medical treatment and the right to vote, the last which was enshrined in the 19th Amendment, 51 years after the 14th Amendment. While Roe v. Wade gave women some choice regarding their reproductive rights, and control of their bodies, the Equal Rights Amendement was never ratified, leaving women with far fewer Constitutionally protected rights than men.
That being said, I thought that rewriting an article from our last visit to Munich in 2018 worked very well considering the most recent actions of the court and Republican state legislatures to crush the civil rights of women ad blacks, uphold the rights of people to arm themselves to the teethe with military grade weaponry with few safeguards as to how they can be purchased. The understanding of settled law and precedent has been demolished such that no protections after 1868 can be safeguarded, based on the perverted legal doctrine of ”Originalism,” which is much like the various Christian Fundamentalist doctrine of BiblicalInerrancy, which though unprovable tries to deduce the meanings of the writers, without the tools of hermeneutics, historiography, or the Christian tradition and reason. The doctrine of originalism depends on interpreting the Constitution as if the Founders intended it to be enshrined as scripture rather than a compromised document that most felt at the time would need to be changed.
Now I am 62 years old. Many people of my generation and my parents generation elected these madmen. Those who will save us from tyranny have to be young people of ideals, integrity, and who believe in the founding principle of the Declaration of Independence, enhanced by the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, who also believe in the protections of the Constitution.
So I leave you with this for tonight. Please, read it and share it.
On one of our trips to Munich we had breakfast and then since Judy’s knees were not up to a lot of long walks or standing took our rental car out to see a couple of places that we had not visited. We went to the grave of the anti-Nazi martyr Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friend Christoph Probst who were executed in February 1943 for publishing anti-Hitler, Nazi, and war pamphlets. Following that we went to the BMW Museum and BMW World. The first was sobering, the second interesting because I like fast cars, but the visit to the cemetery was far more important.
I won’t write about the BMW Museum, that is something for true automotive enthusiasts. Instead I will write about that visit to the Friedhof at Perlacher Forst in Munich where Sophie Scholl is buried.
The cemetery is adjacent to the Stadelheim Prison where she was held before her trial and executed on February 22nd 1943. I have written about her and the White Rose resistance movement before. The year before I visited the White Rose Museum and study center at the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich but last year I didn’t get the chance to make a pilgrimage to her gravesite. I made it a priority this visit.
Visiting a memorial or museum is one thing. However, I find that visiting the gravesite of a martyr, or the mass gravesites of the victims of the Holocaust, other mass killings, or cemeteries where those killed in battle, engenders something of a personal or spiritual connection.
We parked on the street outside Stadelheim, which is still an active prison surrounded by tall walls and guard towers. While Judy waited with the car I walked to the cemetery and then to the gravesite which is on the opposite side of the cemetery from the main entrance. It is a very peaceful place, with many trees and the sections cordoned off by carefully trimmed grapevines.
When I reached the gravesite I paused, and remained for about ten minutes contemplating the cost of real resistance to tyranny. She and her companions had no political, military, or economic power. They were students, and a number had served as medics on the Eastern Front before resuming their studies.
Unlike the men who launched Operation Valkyrie 17 months later they had no connections to any kind of power: they were not part of the movement of German conservatives and militarists who initially supported Hitler and then had second thoughts. When Hitler came to power they were children. They resisted because they found what was happening to go beyond any sense of ethics, morality, or in some cases, like Sophie, their Christian faith.
At her trial she told the notorious President of the Nazi People’s Court, Roland Freisler:
Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.
While I was their I tried to imagine her courage as she testified to the truth and went to her death. The woman who shared Sophie’s cell wrote of her final words before going to her execution:
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
Many people today are being faced with the same questions that Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friends, including Christoph Probst who was executed the same day had to make. Thankfully, for the most part the future imitators of Hitler have not yet seized full power in Europe or the United States, but it wouldn’t take much for that to happen. Too many people, and not just conservatives, would be willing to sacrifice freedom in the name of security if a major war, terrorist attack, or natural disaster that threatened their well being and/or their economic or social status occurred. Likewise, we Americans have a pretty lousy history in dealing with suspect minorities and dissenters in times of crisis.
In such a situation, how many people would allow their government to oppress and terrorize people that they distrusted due to their race, ethnicity, or religion? I think that the numbers are a lot higher than we would want to admit. The preservation or self and wealth is often more of a motivation than faith, or the rights and liberties of others.
During the Nazi era many non-Nazis supported the Nazi programs because they thought that they benefited them. The same is true in any authoritarian State regardless of the ideology that it subscribes and its people hold dear.
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.
An addendum for tonight,
My question to you, and me is hers. If you think you are “safe,” you are only kidding yourself, no matter what your political or religious belief may be. Men like Trump or Boris Johnson, Orban of Hungary, Erdogan or Turkey, Bolsonaro Of Brazil, Marcos of the Philippines, Putin of Russia, or Kim Jun Un of North Korea have no real friends or allies. Their supporters, even the most loyal, are like those of Hitler and Stalin only are safe until they realize their mistaken trust in their leader.
As I write this more and more creditable and documented forensic evidence emerges during the various investigations into the crimes of former President Trump and his militant followers who attacked the Capitol Building on 6 January 2021 with the intent to stop the final ceremonial counting of the Electoral College Vote, even threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence and murder many members of Congress.
It’s up to you young people. I’ll fight as long as I can, as will other older veterans and resisters. But the long term fight belongs to you. What way will you choose to burn?
I have grown weary of domestic terrorists murdering and maiming innocent people. Most of them are young angry white men, who often target their victims based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Their preferred victims seem to children and the elderly. There are few places in our country that can be considered safe. I have dealt with PTSD and its aftereffects for over a decade. I have lost count of the hundreds of people I have seen die, many due to gun violence. If you have never stood over the bodies of those whose bodies are destroyed, literally torn apart by high velocity semiautomatic rifles and handguns, then this is simply an exercise in political rhetoric. When I saw the picture above with the police officer crying his hands as he walked through the carnage.
When I saw what was happening in Highland Park, I could not wish anyone a happy Independence Day. I say that because there are a significant number of our citizens and elected leaders, especially those of the Trumpified and QAnon GOP. They have private heavily armed so called militias like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, which function as did the Nazi Brownshirts who go around, even after their major role in attacking the Capitol and trying to force a coup to overthrow the government and invalidate an election that Trump lost decisively in both the Electoral College and the popular vote, still use intimidation tactics to target LGBTQ gatherings and even readings to children in public libraries.
I recognized that Highland Park terrorism was likely directed at Jews, first because Highland Park has a large Jewish population, second because I saw one of the terrorist’s bloody videos before they were taken down. The video was flooded with a Welsh rope Rune used as a symbol of right wing Finnish group, with Nazi leanings, known as Suomen Sisu.
It is indeed a time to mourn, but to get angry and to whatever is needed in the courts, in our legislatures, and in taking to the streets to demand that our local state and federal representatives take action to restore what the founders meant in the Second Amendment which the Roberts Court in an opinion written by the late Antonin Scalia which turned the amendment on its head in 2008.
We also need to be ready take up arms against these terrorist groups. Lest anyone be confused, these efforts have to be defensive in nature, not threaten any public official, but limited to working within the laws of our states and working with law enforcement to ensure that peaceful protestors, or the people to assemble.
However, I have to pause for the night. I have a long day tomorrow, and there is much more to say. But I will conclude with the words of the German general Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life to overthrow Hitler, “A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.”
Last night I posted an article about Robert E. Lee’s inability to understand the connection between national strategy and operational level command in regard to engaging in offensive operations that did nothing to help his rebellion. In fact his opposition to sending large forces to defeat Grant and relieve Vicksburg, combined with the incompetence he displayed during the Gettysburg Campaign ensured the defeat of the Confederacy, for which I am grateful, despite my ancestors fighting for the Confederacy and against the Union for their land and human property.
This article, like last night’s article demonstrates Lee’s unfitness as a senior commander, who despite serving as the Commandant of West Point and student of Henri Jomini’s understanding of Napoleon, whose two major offensive operations into Union territory ended in failure and the irreplaceable loss of soldiers in 1862 at Antietam and 1863 at Gettysburg. Lee’s strategic incompetence allowed the Confederacy to be cut in half, lose control of the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers, and the conquest of most of Tennessee, putting Union Armies under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman on the frontier of Georgia with Atlanta dangling as a prize.
Lee’s hubris in the Gettysburg Campaign showed the limitations of a man who despite every opportunity never grasped the consequences of treason and sedition. Nor a man who,fully appreciated, until it was too late the Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic aspects of modern war. Lee was still fighting Napoleonic warfare, without the benefit of Clausewitz and the Enlightenment. Likewise, he made decisions about who would command his Corps, and Divisions based on expediency and a preference for Virginians, regardless of better choices. That is where our story begins.
Discretionary orders are important to the success of commanders who desire that their subordinates have the necessary freedom to exploit opportunities within the broader operational context. They are a key element of what we now define as Mission Command and thus expressed clearly in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Desired Leader Attributes the ability to operate on intent through trust, empowerment and understanding. In this chapter we will look at how Lee conducted war and how his decision process and communications, particularly the use of discretionary orders influenced the outcome of the battle and how important the issuance of clear orders is to a successful campaign.
To be effective such orders need to be clear and concise and they must be employed in a manner that are within the capabilities of one’s subordinate commanders to both understand them and carry them out. Thus a commander must always be ready to adjust his method when his command goes through a major turnover of personnel. After the loss of Thomas ”Stonewall”Jackson at Chancellorsville and the subsequent reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee continued to operate as if nothing had changed, despite his own recognition that the army suffered from a want of qualified senior officers.
Robert E. Lee habitually issued discretionary orders with varying degrees of effectiveness. With Jackson, a man of ruthless battlefield instincts, Lee was able to do this, even when Lee’s intent was less than clear and even with Jackson such orders occasionally went awry as was the case during the Seven Days. Lee’s aide Walter Taylor noted that Jackson “took the suggestion of General Lee into immediate consideration, and proceeded to carry it into effect.” This was not to be the case with those that followed Jackson, something that Lee failed to adjust to that would doom his army at Gettysburg.
Part of this is attributable to Lee’s distaste for administrative routine. Taylor noted how Lee’s “correspondence…was constantly a source of worry to him. He did not enjoy writing; indeed he wrote with labor, and nothing seemed to tax his amiability as the necessity for writing a lengthy official communication.” But more importantly in the matter of communicating orders and following up, much of the issue came down to Lee’s near fatalistic understanding of faith and life in regard to the providence of God. For Lee victory and defeat came down to God’s will, as he wrote his wife after his ill-fated 1861 campaign in western Virginia “But the Ruler of the Universe willed otherwise and sent a storm to discontent a well laid plan and to destroy my hopes.”  But for Lee, the concept of “duty” became a secular manifestation of his religion.” 
J. F. C. Fuller attributes much of the manner in how Lee conducted battle to this sense of duty as well as belief in providence. Fuller notes that it “controlled the whole of his generalship.” Lee explained his concept of command to the Prussian observer, Captain Justus Scheibert:
“You must know our circumstances, and see in battle that my leading would do more harm than good. It would be a bad thing if I could not then rely on my brigade and divisional commanders. I plan and work with all my might to bring my troops to the right place at the right time; with that I have done my duty. As soon as I order the troops forward into battle, I lay the fate of my army in the hands of God.” 
That firm belief in providence and the hand of God was evident in Lee’s comments to Major General Isaac Trimble as the army advanced into Pennsylvania. “We have again outmaneuvered the enemy, who even now does not know where we are or what our designs are. Our whole army will be in Pennsylvania day after tomorrow, leaving the enemy far behind and obliged to follow by forced marches. I hope with these advantages to accomplish some single result and to end the war, if Providence favors us.”  Lee’s belief in Divine providence was little different than every religious fundamentalist who believed that faith would result in victory without reason.
Fuller is one of the harshest critics of Lee bluntly notes that “this lack of appreciation that administration is the foundation for strategy; this lack of interest in routine, and his abhorrence to exert his authority…” were key factors in many of his army’s problems, from command and control, discipline and the material and logistics aspects of war. Likewise his absolute reliance on his subordinates to carry out his orders, and unwillingness to interfere once the battle was joined was a major factor in his failure at Gettysburg, where Russell Weigley noted in a rather kind and subdued way that “Lee…was sometimes served less than well by his corps, division and brigade commanders.” 
Throughout the Gettysburg campaign Lee issued vague orders that his subordinates either failed to understand or willingly interpret in a manner that Lee did not intend. Lee’s biographer Michael Korda notes that “the phrase if practicable…led to many unfortunate consequences, since it provided subordinate commanders a kind of escape clause, allowing them to argue after the event that what they had been order to do was not, in their view “practicable.”
From the time that Robert E Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac had crossed the Potomac into Maryland on June 28th, he attempted to adjust his campaign plan and concentrate his army in preparation for battle. At that point his army was scattered and he did not want to provoke an engagement until he could concentrate his forces. Stuart’s cavalry, the absence of which was a matter of great consternation to Lee was chief among his concerns. Lee had hoped that Hooker would pursue him north, but finding the information out from Longsteet’s spy Harrison disturbed Lee greatly. 
Lee expected to know about Hooker’s movements from Stuart. However, Stuart was nowhere to be found; operating nearly fifty miles away separated from Lee’s main body much of the Army of the Potomac. Lee’s aide Walter Taylor wrote: “No tidings had been received from or of our cavalry under General Stuart since crossing the river; and General Lee was consequently without accurate of the movements or position of the main Federal Army.” However, while Stuart certainly can be blamed for taking his best cavalry off on a ride around the Federal army, he acted in accordance with how he interpreted Lee’s orders, as Douglas Southall Freeman wrote: “What was possible was permissible. That, as Stuart saw it, was the substance of his orders.” 
This was especially true after Stuart had been surprised at Brandy Station by the Federal cavalry and pilloried in the Confederate press, the Richmond Sentinel saying Stuart had been “outgeneraled” and the Richmond Whig predicting that “We shall not be surprised if the gallant Stuart does not, before many days, make the enemy repent sorely the temerity that led them to undertake this bold and insulting feat….” Lee’s orders provided just enough ambiguity and wiggle room for the wounded Stuart to do precisely what he did.
Lee’s orders gave Stuart the options of moving back to screen the army or passing around the Federal army, leaving the decision to Stuart’s discretion. “You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can…” Major Henry McClellan, Stuart’s aide recorded that he also received a “lengthy communication from General Lee…” which “discussed at considerable length the plan of passing around the enemy’s rear….”  Stuart in his official report wrote: “The commanding General wrote me, authorizing this move if I deemed it practical.”
That being said Lee was clear enough that he expected Stuart to “lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward.” Though Stuart had detected Hancock’s II Corps moving north near Manassas he elected to make his movement around the Federal Army. Stuart’s biographer Burke Davis noted that Stuart “sought no advice on the all-important detour of June twenty-sixth, which changed his direct. He did not so much consult his brigadiers as he swung his column southward to pass around the enemy.” Though Lee at a number of points during lead up to Gettysburg signaled his frustration with Stuart’s absence and its effect on his abilities, he failed to draw the appropriate conclusions that a prudent commander, operating deep in enemy territory would assume from the lack of contact. Lee should have assumed that Stuart was because of his move “become temporarily incommunicado” but instead, “inferred from Stuart’s silence that Hooker had not crossed the Potomac.”
Lee’s vague order was the first in a series of command and control issues that plagued him during the campaign and combined with Stuart’s vanity and need to redeem his reputation, Lee’s ill use of the cavalry he did have under his control were all contributing factors leading to the disastrous encounter at Gettysburg, but there was more to come.
Now that Lee knew that the Army of the Potomac had crossed into Maryland and was now under the command of George Meade he began to take action to reassemble his widely scattered army in the vicinity of Chambersburg and Cashtown. A.P. Hill’s Third Corps was already near Cashtown, and Longstreet’s First Corps was on its way up. The most important issue Lee had was to get Ewell’s Second Corps, then near Carlisle preparing to attack Harrisburg, back in contact with the rest of the Army.
Lee sent two sets of orders to Ewell on the night of the 28th, after getting Harrison’s intelligence, but they did not reach Ewell until the morning of the 29th. The first orders were for Ewell to move to Chambersburg, and the second, to concentrate at Heidlersburg where he could either continue to Cashtown or turn south to Gettysburg.  The intent was good, Lee appears to have desired to minimize congestion on the turnpike in order to more rapidly assemble his army, however the orders caused much discontent at the Second Corps headquarters and “made Old Bald Head most unhappy.” Many of his soldiers with Harrisburg in plain sight were likewise upset the “disappointment and chagrin were extreme” while a soldier in “Maryland Steuart’s brigade recalled the “ill-concealed dissatisfaction” of the men, who “found the movement to be as they supposed “one of retreat.” A staff officer noted that Ewell was “quite testy and hard to please” at the news and “became disappointed, and had everyone flying around.”
Despite his displeasure Ewell did move promptly to comply with Lee’s orders “Lee had not communicated any particular sense of crisis to the case, and the Second Corps’ march proceeded at the usual pace.” Likewise the fact that there were two orders caused several problems that would manifest themselves on July 1st all of which would affect the outcome of the battle.
The first regarded the movement of Second Corps. On receipt of the first order to proceed to Chambersburg Ewell promptly started Allegany Johnson’s division as well as the Second Corps Wagon Train and two battalions of its Corps Artillery Reserve down the turnpike.  When they arrived near Cashtown on the first they would become entangled with Anderson’s division of Hill’s Third Corps, slowing that unit’s attempt to move to battle. This massive traffic jam also delayed two of Longstreet’s divisions which were moving to link up with Hill’s Corps. 
Ewell was able to direct Rodes and Early’s divisions toward Heildlersburg, but the vagueness of Lee’s changing the objective of the march “to Cashtown or Gettysburg and leaving it up to the commander to choose between the two”caused Ewell problems. Had Johnson’s division and the rest of the corps been available early on the afternoon of July 1st at Heildlersburg with Rodes and Early’s divisions it might have completely changed the outcome of the battle. Ewell had been very successful under Jackson, whose orders “were precise and positive” where Lee had not only revered the course of Ewell’s advance on Harrisburg back to Chambersburg, but then modified with the order to proceed to either Cashtown or Gettysburg. 
Lee’s order again contained a discretionary clause, to advance to Cashtown or Gettysburg “as circumstances dictate.” Ewell was upset not knowing what “circumstances” Lee had in mind.”  On the night of the 30th he discussed the order with Rodes and Early as well as Major General Isaac Trimble, and complained of the order’s “indefinite phraseology” and made the comment “Why can’t a commanding General have someone on his staff who can write an intelligible order.” Ewell’s acerbic comment could easily be applied to many of Lee’s orders issued during the next few days, but in spite of it Ewell did handle his “first discretionary order very well indeed” as he issued his movement orders for July 1st in a manner that would allow his divisions to move on either location should the situation dictate.
As Ewell attempted to comply with Lee’s orders on the 29th and 30th to rejoin the army his other two corps were resting. Third Corps under A.P. Hill was at and around Cashtown west of Gettysburg. On the 30th Hill allowed Harry Heth to advance Johnston Pettigrew’s brigade to Gettysburg. When Pettigrew discovered Buford’s cavalry division there he withdrew and reported to incident to Hill and Heth who refused to believe it. Hill did pass on that news to Lee and alerted Lee that “that he intended to march there in the morning” but the “announcement seemed not to have disturbed the commanding general, since he expected to move his headquarters only as far as Cashtown the next day.”  This lack of reaction was to have enormous consequences for Lee.
On the morning of July 1st, Hill ordered Harry Heth to advance his division to Gettysburg without the benefit of cavalry support or reconnaissance and backing them up with Pender’s division. As they advanced the leading brigades under Brigadier General James Archer and Joseph Davis met Federal forces. Heth became embroiled in a fight with Buford’s cavalry, which developed into a fight with Reynolds’s I Corps, a fight that resulted in Heth’s division being mauled and helping to bring a general engagement. That engagement drew in Ewell’s corps as well before Lee knew what was happening.
Lee had a number of chances to prevent the meeting engagement that developed on July 1st 1863. Lee noted in his after action report that “It had not been intended to deliver a general battle so far from our base unless attacked…” but there are no records of him giving such instructions prior to the battle. There are no reports indicating that he urged caution on his commanders not to bring on a general engagement before July 1st, when the battle was already underway, nor are there records of any warning orders to his corps commanders upon learning of the presence of the Federal army north of the Potomac.
In the end of the day it was Lee’s “laxness with respect to reconnaissance and his lack of control of Hill’s movements caused him to stumble into battle.”  The battle began without him knowing it; his subordinate commanders committed nearly half of his army into battle before he issued an order, Lee wrote “A battle had, therefore, become in a measure unavoidable….” But such is not the case. Lee had the ability and command authority to break off the engagement before it took on a life of its own, but he did not do so.
Lee arrived early enough in the battle to make his influence known. He was told of Ewell’s movements by Major G. Campbell Brown of Ewell’s staff and instructed Brown in very strong terms to tell Ewell “that a general engagement was to be avoided until the arrival of the rest of the army.” Ewell, did not get that message until after his forces were heavily committed noting in his report “that By the time this message reached me….It was too late to avoid an engagement without abandoning the position already taken up.”
Lee was not happy that battle had been joined by Heth and Taylor observed that “on arriving at the scene of the battle, General Lee ascertained that the enemy’s infantry and artillery were present in considerable force”  and when Lee arrived on Herr Ridge, Heth asked permission to renew his attack when Rodes entered the fight. Lee’s initial response was negative “No, I am not prepared to bring on a general engagement today. Longstreet is not up.”
After observing the battle for a time it became evident that Ewell’s corps was also heavily engaged and Lee began to change his mind. Heth reported that the Federal troops in front of him were withdrawing and Lee sensed an opportunity to strike a blow that might bring the climactic victory that he sought. Lee analyzed the situation and with Heth back at his division Heth wrote that “very soon an aide came to me with the orders to attack.”
The order was given in the heat of the moment, and Lee always aggressive responded, but it was a bad decision. “It committed him to a major confrontation on this ground…without sufficient troops on hand and without knowledge of the whereabouts of the rest of the Federal army,” and Lee knew this. He told Anderson at Cashtown not long before- meeting Heth: “I am in ignorance of what we have in front of us here. It may be the whole Federal army, or it may be only a detachment. If it is the whole Federal force we must fight a battle here.” But he was worried, telling Anderson “If we do not gain a victory, those defiles and gorges which we passed through this morning will shelter us from disaster.”
Despite the success that his soldiers we now enjoying as they drove the I Corps and XI Corps back through the town Lee gave yet another vague order. This one to Ewell, who having already committed his corps to battle in the full knowledge that Lee did not desire a general engagement was confronted with another discretionary order, Lee said “General Ewell was…instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army.”
The Army of Northern Virginia came very close to sweeping Federal forces from the field on July 1st in spite of Lee’s lack of planning and clear commanders’ intent. But close was not enough. His forces which were committed in a piecemeal manner were unable to follow up their initial success. The situation faced by Ewell in Gettysburg was chaotic; his units were badly disorganized, and burdened by thousands of prisoners on the confided streets of the town. Rodes’ division had sustained frightful losses and he had no assurance of support from Hill. Rodes’ after battle report supported Ewell’s decision. He wrote that before “the completion of his defeat before the town the enemy had begun to establish a line of battle on the heights back of the town, and by the time my line was in condition to renew the attack, he displayed quite a formidable line of infantry and artillery immediately in my front, extending smartly to my right, and as far as I could see to my left in front of Early.”
Lee’s orders to Ewell, to take the high ground “if practicable” were correctly interpreted by Ewell despite his critics; he nature of the terrain, the number and condition of the troops that he had available for an attack, and the nature of the orders given by Lee late in the day was strong factors for Ewell to not attack. Coddington noted that these problems “upset Ewell, for he was faced with the prospect of organizing a new attack with tired men even while he felt constrained by Lee’s injunction not to open a full-fledged battle. No wonder he was uncertain!”The fact that Lee was not far away and did not issue a “peremptory order to Ewell” to attack also has to be noted.  If Lee had sensed that Ewell was not going to attack and really wanted him to he could have issued a direct order which Ewell, would have surely obeyed. “Lee realized that Ewell was not Jackson…and should have modified his method of command accordingly.” 
That evening Lee rode to Ewell’s headquarters and met with Ewell, Early and Rodes. “No reference was made to the possibility of an attack that evening on Cemetery Hill.” The question was put to them about what to do the next day. Lee asked “Can’t you with your corps attack on this flank tomorrow?” Jubal Early answered for Ewell saying “flatly that he did not believe an attack should be made from Gettysburg against Cemetery Hill the next day.” Early added, “even if such an action were to succeed… it would be at a very great cost.”  Lee suggested to Ewell and his commanders that Second Corps around to the right along Seminary Ridge “where it might be better put to use, and twice he gave in to Ewell’s pleadings to remain where he was.” This was yet another mistake that would haunt Lee during the rest of the battle, but the “notion of imposing his will on a subordinate was simply too alien to Lee’s nature for him to even to admit as a possibility.” Fuller wrote “it was Lee’s inexhaustible tact that ruined his army.” 
Whether Lee intended to engage the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg so early in the campaign is debated. His multiple and contradictory strategic aims left his commanders acting much on their own. Lee’s lack of clear commander’s intent to his subordinate commanders created confusion on the battlefield. They also paved the way to many controversies in the years following the war as Southerners sought to explain the failure of the Lost Cause, for which Lee could not be blamed.
Much of the controversy comes from Lee’s own correspondence which indicates that he might have not fully understood his own intentions. Some correspondence indicates that Lee desired to avoid a general engagement as long as possible while other accounts indicate that he wanted an early and decisive engagement. The controversy was stoked after the war by Lee’s supporters, particular his aides Taylor and Marshall and generals Early, Gordon and Trimble. Men like Longstreet and were castigated by Lee’s defenders for suggesting that Lee made mistakes on the battlefield.
The vagueness of Lee’s instructions to his commanders led to many mistakes and much confusion during the battle. Many of these men were occupying command positions under him for the first time and were unfamiliar with his command style. Where Stonewall Jackson might have understood Lee’s intent, even where Lee issued vague or contradictory orders, many others including Hill and Ewell did not. Lee did not change his command style to accommodate his new commanders.
That lack of flexibility and inability to clearly communicate Lee’s intent to his commanders and failure to exercise control over them proved fatal to his aims in the campaign. Stephen Sears’ scathing analysis of Lee’s command at Gettysburg perhaps says it the best. “In the final analysis, it was Robert E. Lee’s inability to manage his generals that went to the heart of the failed campaign.” 
The vagueness of Lee’s intent was demonstrated throughout the campaign and was made worse by the fog of war. Day one ended with a significant tactical victory for Lee’s army but without a decisive result which would be compounded into a strategic defeat by Lee’s subsequent decisions on the 2nd and 3rd of July.
 Taylor, Walter. General Lee: His campaigns in Virginia 1861-1865 With Personal Reminiscences University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln Nebraska and London, 1994 previously published 1906 p.45
 Ibid. Taylor General Lee: His campaigns in Virginia 1861-1865 With Personal Reminiscences p.25
 Lee, Robert Edward. Recollections and Letters of General Robert E Lee A Public Domain book, Amazon Kindle edition location 548
 Taylor, John M. Duty Faithfully Performed: Robert E Lee and His CriticsBrassey’s, Dulles VA 1999 p.35
 Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957 p.112
 Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2014 p.348
Tucker, Glenn. High Tide at Gettysburg, The Bobbs Merrill Co. Indianapolis Indiana 1958 p.24
 Ibid. Fuller Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship p.125
 Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973 p.116
 Ibid. Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee p.446
 Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston and New York 2003 p. 139
 Taylor, Walter Four Years with General Lee Original published 1877. Heraklion Press Kindle Edition 2013 location 1199
 Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, One volume abridgement by Stephen W Sears, Scribner, New York 1998 pp.554-555
 Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, p.552
 Nolan, Alan T. R. E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburg in the First Day at Gettysburg edited by Gallagher, Gary W. Kent State University Press, Kent Ohio 1992 p.16
 McClellan, Henry Brainerd The Life and Campaigns of Major General J.E.B. Stuart Commander of the Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia 1885. Digital edition copyright 2011 Strait Gate Publications, Charlotte NC location 6123 unfortunately this letter cannot be verified as no copy exists, McClellan presuming that it was destroyed sometime during the march.
 Dowdy, Clifford. Lee and His Men at Gettysburg: The Death of a Nation Skyhorse Publishing, New York 1986, originally published as Death of a Nation Knopf, New York 1958 p.60
 Lee, Robert E. Reports of Robert E Lee, C.S. Army, Commanding Army of Northern VirginiaCampaign Report Dated January 20th 1864. Amazon Kindle Edition location 503
 Davis, Burke JEB Stuart: The Last Cavalier Random House, New York 1957 p. 325
 Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York, 1968 p.183
 Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command p.189
 Ibid. NolanR. E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburg p.24
 Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian p.474
 Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, One volume abridgement by Stephen W Sears, Scribner, New York 1998 p.571
 Gallagher, Gary. Confederate Corps Leadership on the First Day at Gettysburg: A.P. Hill and Richard S. Ewell in a Difficult Debut in The First Day at Gettysburg edited by Gallagher, Gary W. Kent State University Press, Kent Ohio 1992 pp.54-55
The picture above is of the hand written letter sent to the wife of Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the January 6th Commission who voted for the impeachment charges against former President Trump during his second impeachment trial. The language is that of violence, and the direct threat to the life of Congressman Kinzinger, and to the lives of his wife and 5 month old son. Also note the explicitly of the threats to their lives, and the even more explicit damnation of them to Hell. These are the words of a fanatical Christian Nationalist, whose perverted understanding of the Christian faith has entered the mainstream of the Trumpified conservative Evangelical, Charismatic, and Fundamentalist movements and churches in the United States. It is not representative of the Gospel, but it reflects how Christians in this country and others have used twisted understandings of the Bible to persecute and often execute in made up drumhead ecclesiastical trials backed by the power of the state, and when that was not possible used mob violence, often on a large scale.
I am no stranger to death threats, threats of violence and online harassment, mostly from people who claim to be Christians. I see it several times a week when a friend who is the head of a major civil and religious rights organization asks me to respond to violent threats to him, his family, and his organization. He is Jewish and almost every one of these threats come from people who identify themselves as Christians. The blood curdling violence and specificity of these emails is frightening, very much in line with the threats directed at Congressman Kinzinger and others on the committee, or who in State or Federal offices resisted the attempts of Trump and his cohorts to conduct what would result in a violent coup attempt on 6 January, 2021.
The fact is that MAGA Christian Nationalists are deeply embedded in violent and heavily armed domestic terrorist organizations like the Proud Boys, the Patriot Prayer group, the, and the III Percent organizations, just to name a few of the most prominent. This is not new. Christians, including pastors were heavily involved with the Ku Klux Klan, the White Leagues, and the Red Shirts which terrorized Blacks and their White supporters in the Reconstruction and Post Reconstruction South. Such massacres included the Memphis Tennessee Massacre of 1866, the New Orleans Massacre of 1866, the Camilla, Georgia, Massacre of 1868, the Opelousas and St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana Massacres of 1868, the Jackson County, Florida Wars of 1869-1871 (an insurgency against Blacks and Republicans which killed hundreds of Black and White Republicans resulting in the return to White rule.)
But this was not all, the violence continued, all resulting in tens to hundreds of Blacks and Republican office holders throughout the South. They included the Meridian, Mississippi Race Riots of 1871, Colfax Massacre of 1873, the Coushatta Massacre and the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, all in Louisiana, the Eufaula, Alabama Election Riots of 1874, the Vicksburg, Mississippi Massacre of 1874, the Clinton, Mississippi Massacre of 1875, Hamburg and Ellenton Massacres of 1876 in South Carolina, and the Wilmington, North Carolina, Massacre of 1898.
Such attacks continued in the South and the North in the 20th Century. There were many, some small, others large but some of the more onerous included the Springfield, Illinois Massacre of 1908, Slocum, Texas Massacre of 1910, the Elaine, Arkansas Massacre of 1919, the Ocoee, Florida Massacre of 1920, the Tulsa (Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921, which included the use of aircraft to bomb Black residents, the Rosewood, Florida Massacre of 1923, Axe Handle Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida in 1961, and the Orangeburg, South Carolina Massacre of 1968.
Likewise there were thousands and according to some accounts tens of thousands of Lynchings.
I mention these specifically American massacres in which Christians often led and supported to show how deep the politics religion, and often race and ideology influence violent acts, including the threatening letter to Congressman Kinzinger is just the latest example.
One of the most important sections of that document is its description of what Christian Nationalism is and what it is not:
Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.
Christian nationalism is not Christianity, though it is not accurate to say that Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity.
The report is important and I will quote a couple more passages from it before moving on.
Christian nationalism and Christianity are not one and the same. It is the cultural influence of white Christian nationalism inclining many Christian and religious Americans toward beliefs and behaviors that harm minorities, democracy, and broader measures of social safety. Those Christian Americans who reject white Christian nationalism and are actively involved in their faith communities are generally more likely to advocate for a civil arena that protects and defends the rights of all people and groups.
It goes on:
Because Christian nationalism is identified (or, more accurately, because it identifies itself) with a religion, the movement is often understood as a set of religious and/or theological positions that are then assumed to lead in a deductive way to a certain set of cultural and policy preferences, and from there to a certain kind of politics. But Christian nationalism is, first and foremost, a political movement. Its principal goal, and the goal of its most active leaders, is power. Its leadership looks forward to the day when they can rely on government for three things: power and influence for themselves and their political allies; a steady stream of taxpayer funding for their initiatives; and policies that favor “approved” religious and political viewpoints…
When Mr. Trump launched the effort to overturn the election by promoting the lie that it was stolen, consider where some of the most militant and coordinated support came from. The Conservative Action Project, a group associated with the Council for National Policy, which serves as a key networking organization for America’s religious and economic right-wing elite, made its position clear in a statement issued a week before the insurrection.
It called for members of the U.S. Senate to “contest the electoral votes” from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states that were the focus of Republicans’ baseless allegations. Cosignatories included nearly two dozen powerful movement figures including Bob McEwen, a leader of the Council for National Policy; Morton C. Blackwell of the Leadership Institute; Alfred S. Regnery, the former publisher; Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council; the conservative lawyer and activist Cleta Mitchell, who was on the phone with Mr. Trump when he urged Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” extra votes; and Thomas Fitton of Judicial Watch.
Even as Republican figures like former President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney attempted to nudge Mr. Trump toward a graceful concession, many religious right leaders doubled down on conspiracy or denial or provided indirect support for election lies by articulating “concerns” about supposed “constitutional irregularities” in battleground states. Today, many of the movement’s most influential organizations have embraced the cause of “election integrity” as a fairly transparent means of undercutting faith in elections as a cornerstone of our democracy. A key to the movement’s durability is its influence on elected political leaders (and their appointees). Its influence on these leaders depends in large part on its ability to deliver large numbers of votes in a consistent way. And its ability to deliver these votes rests on at least three important mechanisms:
The first is that Christian nationalism serves as an effective tool for controlling information flows to a significant part of the population. It is a way of creating a population that will be receptive to certain forms of disinformation and immune to other types of information, which the present leadership often denigrates as “fake news” or “the lying media.” This gives the leadership cadre, and their political allies, a tremendous degree of power.
A second mechanism for mobilizing mass political power involves manufacturing and focusing a sense of persecution and resentment among the rank and file. To be clear, the movement draws on a wide range of pre- existing anxieties and concerns. But its real contribution consists in identifying and promoting grievance and then aiming it at political opponents.
And finally, the movement offers its supporters a means of reconciling two seemingly contradictory notions: that our nation is the greatest nation on earth precisely because it is a Christian nation; and at the same time that our nation is overrun with alien and evil forces. On the one hand, Christian nationalists are America, at least in their own minds. On the other hand, movement supporters are persuaded that America is in the grip of malevolent forces, which they variously identify as “secularists,” “the homosexual agenda,” “the communist threat,” and even “demonic organizations,” and they insist they need to “take America back.” The ability to keep a population in this state of tension — engaged in an apocalyptic struggle between absolute good and its opposite — is critical to the movement’s power.
All three mechanisms were on display during the attempted coup, which erupted in violence on January 6. On the matter of information flows, there was no shortage of publicly available evidence on the question of the integrity of the 2020 election. There was no factual support for the fraudulent claims that were repeatedly promoted by Mr. Trump and used as the pretext for his attempted coup. There are of course many sources of disinformation, and a number have become the focus of commentators: social media in general, Fox News, Breitbart News Network, and too many others to count. All played significant roles, no doubt. But it is clear that disinformation about the 2020 election was promoted by many Christian nationalist leaders and organizations, and it had a lasting impact among the rank and file. Within the Republican base, survey data shows that white evangelicals are the most likely cohort to believe in Mr. Trump’s election lies…
The leadership of the Christian nationalist movement conveys messaging to their followers through a wide range of means. Among the most important is the targeting and exploitation of the nation’s conservative houses of worship. The faith communities may be fragmented in a variety of denominations and theologies, but movement leaders have had considerable success in uniting them around their political vision and mobilizing them to get out the vote for their chosen candidates.
Leaders of the movement know that members of the clergy can drive votes. They also understand that if you can get congregants to vote on a small handful of issues, you can control their vote. And so they draw pastors into conservative networks focused on political engagement and offer them sophisticated tools that they can use to deliver the “correct” messages about the issues that they wish to emphasize in election cycles.
It is fair to say that the coup attempt started with the actions of Mr. Trump, who very few people identify directly with the “family values” that Christian nationalists frequently claim to support. But this misses the point about the way this kind of movement operates. Once the movement laid the basic groundwork for an antidemocratic politics, others in Mr. Trump’s position could have done what he did. The movement threw its support behind Mr. Trump at a critical moment, delivering to him the Republican Party’s most reliable slice of electoral votes. He in turn gave the movement everything he had promised them: power and political access, access to public money, policies favorable to their agenda, and above all the appointment of hard-right judges.
At the 2021 Road to Majority conference, a gathering of religious right activists, strategists, and political leaders, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “Bottom line is President Trump delivered, don’t you think?”…
I continue from the next section that deals with the actions of the Christian Nationalists after President Biden won the election.
As the previous section shows, there is a substantial structural network in place that allows a few leaders at the top to push Christian nationalist disinformation and motivate a massive cadre of followers.
Christian nationalists engaged this network to win the election. This was electoral politics, but it was sold to the masses as spiritual warfare. Almost immediately after the polls closed on Election Day, that machinery changed gears to stoke outrage and fear, exhort action, and work to give Trump a second term as president, no matter what the voters wanted…
During the lead up to January 6, Christian Nationalists took a major leadership role in organizing large demonstrations that served as dry runs for that fateful coup attempt.
Lance Wallnau, the father of American Dominionism, also frame the fight to overturn the election as a spiritual war. “Fighting with Trump is fighting with God,” he declared.5 This warfare rhetoric was tinged with violence — stochastic terrorism — that increased leading up to January 6…
The first was the Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020.
One of the first post-election rallies in Washington, D.C., took place on November 14 in Freedom Plaza. It was typical of the pre-January 6 rallies, with many of the same players and speakers. It opened with a prayer infused with Christian nationalism that set the tone for everything that happened later…
The Proud Boys attended the rally and knelt in prayer. The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist, white supremacist group whose founder, Gavin McInnes, “calls himself a ‘Western chauvinist,’ espousing the idea that Western civilization, which he associates with ‘Judeo-Christian values,’ is superior to all others.”
There were many prayers that day and even into the night as violence broke out. Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who also promotes Christian nationalism, urged them to march to the Supreme Court, just as Trump urged them to march on the Capitol on January 6.11 They marched — they called it the “Million MAGA March” — down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court for more speeches.
They marched with crosses, images of the Virgin Mary, “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” flags,”“An Appeal to Heaven” flags, and a red flag that proclaimed “JESUS IS LORD.” An RV bedecked in Trump paraphernalia declared, “PRAY FOR 45.” At the Supreme Court, they erected a massive white Christian cross. They carried yellow “Jesus Saves” signs and handwritten signs that said, “Jesus Saves, Trump Leads,” “Thank God for Trump,” “Jesus is King, Trump is president,” and “Ex: 28 vs. 11-19 [sic] It’s been done. My feet are on the ROCK,” which can be seen as someone preaches over a loudspeaker that “in the end, God has already won the victory.” One woman in a QAnon T-shirt carried two signs “WE LOVE TRUMP” and “WE LOVE AMERICA, GOD & BABIES.” Another protester held two signs on a pole; the top said, “Isaiah 45” (alluding to Trump as King Cyrus), and the bottom, “True Believer in Christ 4 Trump.” He also carried the “Proud American Christian” flag featuring a red, white, and blue ichthys, which is an image of a fish used as a symbol of Christianity, sometimes called a “Jesus fish.”
One Trump supporter warned that day: “[C]areful what you wish for, because a wounded bear is a lot more dangerous than a bear that’s not wounded.” As night fell on November 14, violence erupted in D.C.
The violence we saw on November 14 was not the last time an event of this nature took such a turn — the mobs also turned violent at events on December 12 and January 6. The threat of violence was clear in the weeks before the attack on our Capitol.29 The rallies, the marching to the Capitol, the violence: Dry runs like this are typical of terrorist attacks.
The next rehearsal for January 6 was the Let the Church ROAR event of December 12. It was similar to the previous rally but with much more Christian or biblical imagery from the account of the Israelites marching around Jericho. The Baptist Joint Commission report noted:
Jericho March organized several events leading up to January 6. Throughout December, it had people marching around state capitols blowing shofars. On December 12, less than four weeks before the insurrection, Jericho March organized a “prayer rally” on the National Mall. They named the event “Let the Church ROAR.”
Partnering with Jericho March on “Let the Church ROAR” were Stop the Steal (Ali Alexander’s organization, which he said was inspired by Roger Stone) and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles (Ed Martin’s group). In the press release for the event, Weaver, Grossu, Alexander, and Martin praised God and preached Christian nationalism. Martin said, “Our founder, the late Phyllis Schlafly, taught us to build bridges of faith, policy, and politics to keep America great and to always fight for God, country, and the family. Our groups are in this fight to save the Republic from all the forces that seek to destroy it and to restore America to the vision of our Founding Fathers.”
One video ad for the march made the violent undertones clear. It featured crowds chanting “fight for Trump” and multiple speakers talking about losing the nation, losing freedom, the last stand, and “fighting” to prevent that: “we will stand up and fight! … we’re going to protect this president … this is our fight, this is for our freedom.” The ad drew a clear line between Jericho March’s Let the Church ROAR event on December 12 and the Million MAGA March on November 14, showing those crowds and saying it was the “biggest rally….
Jericho March accustomed people to marching on the halls of power, just as they did on November 14 and as they would on January 6. In another promotional video for “Let the Church ROAR,” Grossu explained, “For the march, we are going to simultaneously go around the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and Department of Justice, after we do that … we will gather onto the National Mall to hear some wonderful talks and prayers by faith leaders, political leaders, and also be led in praise and worship … .” The biblical allusion made violence the implicit goal of the march. In the Bible, Joshua’s army marched around Jericho for several days; the insurrectionists marched in multiple locations across the span of several weeks. Both culminated in violence.
“Let the Church ROAR” was held on the National Mall a few blocks from the Capitol and was basically another dry run for January 6. The crowd waved signs and flags that were seen at the Million MAGA March on November 14 and everywhere on January 6, including the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag and the yellow “Jesus Saves” sign. The crowd chanted “U-S-A.” Nearly every speaker invoked the genocide at Jericho in adoring terms or prayed to Jesus. “One nation under God,” was perhaps the most common refrain. One sang “Ave Maria.” Another sang “God Bless America.” They played Christian rock tunes, like “Chainbreaker,” in between the various speakers (and had a worship concert before the rally began). At the December 12 “Let the Church ROAR” event hosted by the Jericho March, the crowd waved yellow “Jesus Saves” signs as a band led a singalong of the Battle Hymn of the Republic while the livestream displayed the lyrics for all to join; on January 6, the attackers would sing the battle hymn in the Rotunda of the Capitol.
Over the coming weeks the Christian Nationalists supporting the violent overthrow of the government and Constitution to keep Trump in power grew more intense and indicative of the violence of January 6. The Baptist General Commission report goes into far more detail than I will do today. The report is detailed and it describes the violent machinations of Christian Nationalists on January 6, which I noticed and wrote about that day. However, I will add one more section about how deep Christian Nationalism motivated the participants on January 6:
The Rev. Kevin Jessip made the Christian nationalism explicit. “Some have said this is not a Christian nation. I’m telling you this is a Judeo-Christian nation. … Today, I call this the warrior mandate, a battle cry, a call to arms.” And then, almost as an afterthought, he qualified the belligerence with “in the spiritual realm.”55 He explained that the “battle cry” is a “mobilization of God’s men made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ and empowered by the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This battle cry is a Christian call to all Christian men … as we prepare for a strategic gathering of men in this hour to dispel the Kingdom of Darkness.” This was a sermon of Christian conquest framed with military terminology: warrior, battle cry, mobilization, secret weapon, enlistment, strategic, prisoners of war, glory, deployed in hostile territory under enemy occupation, commissioned as special forces, stationed, final mission to ending this high treason, search and rescue team. And if the allusions weren’t clear enough, Jessip explained, “We are, without question, men born for war. We are fully equipped as warriors, with battle armor directed and suited for our assignment … to restore the Eden Mandate of occupation and expansion of the Glory of God, filling the earth.” He wanted an “Army of the Lord” and preached unadulterated Christian nationalism and a clear call to arms. Jessip himself had organized “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance” on September 26, in Washington, D.C., and he viewed the Jericho March event as the “culmination” of that work.
But to view this as a completely Evangelical led movement need to realize that there are many other Roman Catholic Christian Nationalists who don’t care about the promise of the Declaration, the pluralism specifically intended by Founders, which protected religious minorities which at that time included Catholics who faced often violent persecution. Most American Catholics including Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops don’t understand this because of the prominent position the Roman Catholic Church holds in our society. One has to remember the historic role of the Roman Catholic Church as the State Church of many nations, especially in Europe and South America and its role in barbaric wars, persecutions of non-believers, and even aid to Nazi War criminals.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò preached that fighting for Trump was a holy crusade with “the lies and deceptions of the children of darkness” on one side and, on the other, “the silent army of the children of Light, the humble ranks who overthrow evil by invoking God, the praying army that walks around the walls of lies and betrayal in order to bring them down.” He added, “We fight the battles of the Lord with faith and courage, carrying the Ark of the Covenant in our hearts, remaining faithful to the teachings of the Gospel of Our Lord!” After preaching about the “deep state” and converting every public official, Viganò invoked Christian nationalism: “Be proud, as Christians and as patriots, to be able to give witness today to your faith in God and your love for the United States of America, for its Constitution, and for its president, Donald J. Trump.” An Italian citizen, Viganò repeatedly talked of “our nation” and “our beloved nation,” and ended with a prayer that concluded, “… granting victory to those who served under thy holy banner, Amen. God bless our president. God bless the United States of America. One nation under God.”
During the assault the amount of Christian symbols, flags, songs, and prayers was overwhelming to me as I watched it in real time, but they were intermixed with the Confederate Battle Flag, Nazi symbols and imagery. The author of the section on Christian Nationalism during the attack goes into the sickening detail of all of those things, so I will only quote the end of that chapter:
An NPR journalist who is an expert in American extremist groups was struck by the diversity of the extremism that day:
Am I going to see an Oath Keeper? OK, there’s an Oath Keeper. Am I going to see the Three Percent logo? Definitely saw some of them there. Qanon, huge presence at this one. I saw neo-Confederates in the crowd, all sorts of white supremacist and neo- Nazi insignia, too. And all of the strands of American extremism were there in the same crowd. And what’s wilder is that they were in the same crowd with, you know, a grandmother from Arizona, you know, who fervently believes in her heart that the election was stolen and that her vote didn’t matter.
Yes, the groups were diverse. But it was the Christian nationalism that united them that day.
When writing this report and the epilogue of my book,I spoke with Luke Mogelson, the New Yorker journalist who filmed the shocking video of the attack from inside the Capitol. “The Christianity was one of the surprises to me in covering this stuff, and it has been hugely underestimated,” he said. “That Christian nationalism you talk about is the driving force and also the unifying force of these disparate players. It’s really Christianity that ties it all together.”
Despite their failure to keep Trump in power, Christian Nationalists have not given up, still promote the big lie of the stolen election, and labeling their opponents as Godless Communists and Socialists, and they remain committed to violence and every manner of activity contrary to the Gospel. Their warlike words and sermons have increased since January 6. This is most in evidence in Texas where the Republican Party of the State referred to Joe Biden to be an illegitimate President, and to urge a vote on secession in 2023.
Such talk in the light of a failed coup attempt is nothing more than sedition. But since the Texas Republicans are dominated by Christian Nationalists I expect nothing better. However, there are many Evangelicals who have the condemned Christian Nationalism that played such a large part in the insurrection, while others including Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress try to deflect blame on people who were not even there.
Christian Nationalists often refer to Trump as a deliverer like the Persian King Cyrus, who ended the Babylonian captivity and allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem. It is a false analogy. Instead, Trump was a modern day Constantine who made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. As the legendary Southern Baptist pastor of First Baptist church, Dallas and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said:
Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world… When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars.
So don’t expect the violence and threats to end. Instead, expect them to increase, and expect violence, killings, and even mass murder committed by true believers in a lost but unending war in which they like so many others before them is justified because they believe that ”God is with them.” As Eric Hoffer wrote:
A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.
A year ago, just six days after I retired from active duty a hoard of fanatical supporters of then President Donald Trump attack the Capitol Building with Congress in session in order to stop the usually ceremonial certification of the Electoral College vote. It should have not been a surprise as from the day of the election Trump and his cult like followers had been proclaiming that the election had been stolen from him, something that many if not most of them still believe despite incontrovertible forensic proof that the results were accurate.
As a historian I can only call this act of sedition and insurrection as something akin to the firing on Fort Sumter or the Bier Hall Putsch. Like those failed attempts at revolution this too failed, but its effects linger and are not over. The fact that an estimated 100 Republican members of the House and Senate knew of or supported the coup attempt, and many current active duty, reserve, and National Guard members, veterans, military retirees, as well as local and state law enforcement officers took part in it, all of whom violated their oath of office in attempting to overthrow the Constitution they had sworn to defend and overturn a valid and legal election because they did not like the result created a stain in our history and national honor that will never be erased.
These people are still determined to use every means legal and illegal to overthrow our Constitution, ignore Constitutional amendments that they hate, such as the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth, as well as Civil and Voting Rights. They are supported by a host of conspiracy theorists, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, in media, right wing think tanks, and popular propagandists.
Until today when President Biden and Attorney General Garland spoke the Democrats have spent more time fighting amongst themselves than countering Republican and QANON propaganda, or having all hands on deck to pass voting rights laws to counter the GOP Trump Cult using all means available, including working with the dwindling number of anti-Trump Republicans, despite the efforts of the House Committee investigating the assault which includes the now despised Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
Today, any man or woman in this country who cares about our freedom, democracy, and Constitution, needs to be willing to make a stand for it in every neighborhood, town, city, county, and state. by refusing to fight by every legal means available we will be the authors of the end of our Republic, democracy will die, and with it freedom.
Ulysses Grant, then a former Army Officer volunteered to fight at the beginning of the Civil War said, ”There are but two parties now: traitors and patriots. And I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party.”
I am now retired, but if these people push their plans for a theocratic dictatorship under the looming orange face of Donald Trump. They are a clear and present danger and I will stand by the oath of office that I first took over 40 years again.
I will stand and say ”Never Again” and my actions will match my words. So if any of the Trump Cultists who condemn me, wish me harm or threaten me or my family, or anyone else, I will fight. I am a proud American who served in peace and war for nearly forty years and never forsake my oath to the Constitution regardless of my political or religious beliefs. I will be damned if I let a buch of cowardly fake patriots and religious extremists shut me up.
Sorry for not posting for a week but my ass has been kicked by the work involved in clearing our home of things in order for the painters after having more contractors in the past week. Add to this the new new teaching job and my ass is kicked. Everything hurts, 60 is definitely not the new 40.
As I was getting things cleaned out I found a letter. It was the letter that greeted me at my office a few days that I preached sermon at the JEB Little Creek Fort Story Chapel in July 2017. It was from a fanatical Trump supporter who was upset that I condemned the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents and locking them up in cages on our border with Mexico. During the sermon I never said a word about Trump himself and stayed morality of his administration’s policies.
My accuser was a retired officer who never addressed me face to face and made heinous accusations against me. He sent a similar letter to my Commanding Officer demanding that I be relieved of my position as Command Chaplain and that I be tried by Court Martial. It was a seminal moment in my life. I discovered that the Trump movement was not simply about politics but it was a personality cult devoted to their “Leader” with profoundly racist motives bent on the personal destruction of anyone who opposed his policies.
My sermon actually had scriptural backing in that week’s lectionary readings and was based on the teachings of the Christian Church and backed by history. When I preach I do not deviate from the lectionary texts and seek to apply them to daily life, most of the time this was never about anything political.
The sermons of a chaplain are normally considered one of the most protected types of speech in the military and for that matter in the country, even if they stand against the policies of a President. In fact during my long career I have witnessed conservative Evangelical and Catholic Chaplains venture into politics on a regular basis, sometimes sitting through sermons that were much more partisan and disrespectful than anything I spoke that day, but I do not recall any to have been accused of crimes and investigated for what they said in a sermon preached as part of regularly scheduled religious services.
The official investigation of my “allegedly criminal conduct” in preaching the sermon was grueling. I was called into the investigating officer’s office and read my rights. I refused to answer questions without a lawyer. I had to retain legal counsel and went to Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation who has become a close personal friend. He spoke at my retirement ceremony where his words were remarkably similar to two of my previous commanding officers emphasizing my personal integrity, moral courage and commitment to care for all in my charge, regardless of their beliefs.
The investigating officer interviewed over half of the people present in the service as well as every member of my staff. My attorney handled the situation and in the end I was exonerated and no charges filed. I still have the investigation filed away, but it is now boxed up. Sadly, some of the people who denied that I said the things I was accused of saying also threw in political barbs. All were White male retirees and none ever spoke to me again. I was shunned, but the Black members of the chapel congregation were very supportive, some still keep in touch with me. One said that my sermon was like “hearing the thunder of the voice of God.” Honestly I do miss preaching, but I want nothing to do with the politics of the church.
I elected never to preach in that chapel again, in fact it was the last time I stood in the pulpit for anything other than an official ceremony or memorial service.
The assault on me and my rights by this Trump supporter and my treatment afterwards by the older White members of the chapel made me much wiser about the nature of the Trump Cult. It transitioned from a personality cult to a profoundly religious cult in which any disagreement with the former President was considered heresy and met by virulent attacks on the offenders, and if they were Republicans saw many expelled or driven from the Party, sometimes even threatened with violence.
The Trump Cult is deeply racist, openly White Nationalist and authoritarian in nature, and supported by violent Neo-Nazi groups, militias and Christian Nationalists, who are probably the most disreputable of the lot.
I get online threats on a fairly regular basis for what I write and truthfully I no longer feel safe in my country, a country I served for nearly 40 years in the military. Sadly, most claim to be “Christians” as if they even know what being a follower of Jesus means. It does not mean making death threats on behalf of a would be dictator, as a good number have done.
Less than a month after my sermon those White Supremacist groups conducted a violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said that there “were very good people” on both sides. Of course he and they only grew more threatening and violent and culminated in the 6 January insurrection and assault on the Capitol, but I digress…
The letter from that man reminded me just how personal this threat is for anyone who actually believes in truth, believes in the promise our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. There are so many times that I resist the urge to spam my accuser’s name all over the world. That man is a despicable moral coward who refused to even follow the clear teachings of scripture of how to confront another Christian over a matter of faith, and instead attempted to use the power of military law in order to destroy me. Of course for him like most of these Christofacists, the teachings of Jesus, Scripture, or the testimony of the Church mean nothing, because the worship Trump uber Alles. They would kill for him, not die for Jesus. That my friends is idolatry and a denial of their Christian faith.
But for me this is a fight that I will not shirk. I cannot stomach supposed Christians who have a higher loyalty to Trump and his racist Cult than they do to Jesus. I quote General Henning Von Tresckow who helped lead the opposition to Hitler and died after the failed assassination attempt, “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.”
Yes, I compared Trump to Hitler. This is because Trump has repeatedly shown that he wants to be like Hitler. True, he is not as smart and unlike Hitler never volunteered to serve his adopted country in wartime, and he has no one as gifted as Joseph Goebbels as his chief propagandist. Nor does he have anyone as Lani Riefenstahl to promote him as a God as she did in the film The Triumph of the Will.
That being said, Trump is both a demagogue and coward. He loves authoritarian government and hates the system of checks and balances created by our founders. Today he registered his disappointment that the Courts would not overturn the election, despite the fact nothing he and his lawyers could come up with that could win a single court case of over 60 they filed because they had no evidence and the facts did not support them. His continuous assault on facts and truth bodes ill for all of us, even his followers. Thus he and them and his followers remain a danger to anyone who actually believes that the Declaration or the Constitution.
But had Trump won the election, or had his insurgents prevented Congress from fulfilling its obligations under the Constitution there is no doubt that he would have gone full Fuhrer. Had he won or succeed in His coup attempt no opponent would be safe from his Neo-Nazi thugs backed by the full police power of the government and his Christian Theocratic base. The sad thing is that even though he is out of office the threat still remains, largely because of his Cult and a spineless Republican Party that sold its soul to Trump.
I’ll stop for now as it is late. However, it is a good thing that the man who tried to destroy me coming up on four years ago never properly introduced himself to me in person, thus I can’t match his face to my memories. It is a good thing for him because if I recognized him I might be tempted to beat him within an inch of his life if he did not admit his sin against me before my left jab right hook combination struck his jaw. Of course if that ever happened that sonofabitch would be the victim and I would be in jail. So I won’t give him that as strong as the temptation might be. But to quote the Psalmist in Psalm 139:22 when it comes to men like Jack who tried to destroy my life to defend Trump, “I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
I have watched every minute of the second impeachment trial. As one of the Deans of the Joint Forces Staff College once noted “Steve, you a a historian masquerading as a Chaplain.” Back in seminary I was asked by many classmates “why are you in seminary and not in law school?” As a historian I have spent a lot of time studying and writing about various criminal trials involving American politicians and International War Crimes Tribunals. If it would result in divorce I might at my late age go to law school, but I have put Judy through enough over our marriage. That being said I might take up a Legal Studies Masters degree on a part time basis. I think that would complement my History and Theology Masters Degrees. Since there are no History PhD. programs close to me that I would be interested in pursuing this might be the best.
I watch high profile legal cases with great interest, especially the lawyering and I have seen and read about some amazing lawyering resulting in convictions or acquittals of of the accused. These lawyers for former President put on an amazing display of ignorance coupled with incompetence, but then they are the only people willing to represent Trump and none of them have exactly great legal reputations to begin with.
The men representing the twice impeached and disgraced former President who besides impeachment is under investigation for multiple criminal charges including rape, attempting to pressure officials to change the results of the election and even more civil charges regarding gross financial and fraud charges.
These lawyers have embarrassed their profession. I know too many excellent attorneys military and civilian to count these jokers among them. David Schoen is best known for representing mob bosses, Trump’s ally Roger Stone during the Muller Investigation and most recently the late Jeffery Epstein. Interestingly Schoen began his career rathe nobly in civil rights cases, something he seems to have little interest in today. Schoen is the sharpest of the three but during the trial he has only spoken for about 45 minutes and will not be available for the closing. He is also said to have threatened to quit the defense Thursday night but Trump talked him out of it. If the impeachment trial ends tomorrow it won’t matter because he will be out of a job because he announced that he will not work on the Jewish Sabbath which ends at sundown Saturday.
This meant that the bulk of the defense was shouldered by Bruce Castor, a former prosecutor in Pennsylvania who most notably refused to charge O.J. Simpson while serving as District of Attorney for Montgomery County. He also promised Simpson that he would never would be convicted. He was wrong. Simpson was eventually convicted. In his initial statements on Tuesday regarding the constitutionality of the impeachment trial his representation was so bad that Trump Wanted to fire him and Senator John Cronyn said “”The president’s lawyer just rambled on and on.” “I’ve seen a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments, and that was not one of the finest I’ve seen.”
Castor did nothing to help his defense of Trump or his lawyering reputation on Friday. The other member of Trump’s defense team is personal injury lawyer Michael Van Der Veen who has made a career of litigating car crashes, motorcycle and bicycle crashes and dog bites. Van Der Veen managed not only to be ineffective but insulted and potentially alienated Senators who might vote in favor of acquittal and was cautioned on his profane language by Senate President Pro-Tem Patrick Leahy.
The defense team used just two and a half hours of their sixteen allotted hours in which they repeatedly played the same out of context videos of Democrat politicians and entertainers using the word “fight” while saying that Trump’s “free speech rights under the First Amendment were being denied” and using the dog whistle of videos showing mostly Black, Brown, Jewish, and Women opponents of Trump using the word fight in civil rights cases, Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and debates on policy questions that never resulted in violence or assaults on the Congress of the United States. The videos were spiced together without any context, not in any chronological order, and enhanced with chilling ominous music. Almost everyone shown in the video now called the #FightClub video are Black and Brown Women of Color, Jews, and other Democratic politicians and entertainers.
Say what you want about the House Managers video presentations on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they stuck to the facts at hand to document the insurrection minute by minute. They did not add music, and they put each video, statement and tweet in context. The counsels for the defense did not. They pieced together a vile and racist video worthy of Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher. The abject racism of Trump’s Counsel and Trump’s GOP in the Impeachment Trial are undeniable and irredeemable.
All arguments used by Trump’s Counsel were false equivalence arguments that would play well on the Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson propaganda shows, and possibly give GOP Senators an off ramp to acquit Trump. But none would stand in a real criminal trial which this is not, despite the facts that all of these attorneys have attempted to compare it to in order to deflect blame from Trump were nothing more than smoke and mirrors and not even very good ones, but good enough for 43 Republican Senators to vote to acquit.
After the traveling Trump clown attorneys finished on Friday the Senate went to the question and answer session where the Impeachment Managers and the former twice impeached President’s legal team answered written questions from the Senators. Once again the twice impeached, under criminal investigation former President’s bumbled their defense refusing to answer any factual questions from Republican or Democratic Senators. They never once actually answered a question but attempted to deflect and deny everything even questioning the actual evidence, saying that they were not permitted to see it though they had it on 9 February as a condition of the bipartisan agreement on the rules of the impeachment trial. They lied. They continued to lie in their closing statement repeating the same distortions, deflections and twisted arguments they made the previous day and went on to make unsupported and scandalous statements about Democrats who had supported the Black Lives Matter movement, and spoke out about the racist, unconstitutional, and criminal actions of Trump and his administration. Their defense on Friday and Closing arguments were difficult to watch, especially those of Counsel Van Der Veen who accused the Democrats of “trying to cancel culture, cancel the Constitution, and cancel the votes of 74 million Trump voters.”
This was despite the fact that for the past four years Trump and his administration have displayed contempt for the Constitution, and bulldozed the institutional guardrails designed to protect Americans from tyranny until the final day of his administration, issuing orders and appointing political hacks into sensitive jobs in the civil service, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and intelligence services. Nothing like this has every been attempted by any administration in American history. Likewise they attempted to cancel the votes and in some states are still attempting to cancel the votes of the 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden by trampling our laws and Constitution. If there is a Cancel Culture movement it is by Trump and his GOP cult who try to narrowly decline culture in its pre-Civil War White Protestant and White Supremacy context. Nothing else matters to them.
But overnight other evidence testified to by a Republican Senator and Representative came into play.
First there were the words of Senator Tommy Tuberville who testified that he told Trump about the break in at the Capitol and the threats to Vice President Pence wo was then fleeing for his life with his Secret Service detail, family, and his military aide who held his nuclear football. Minutes after being told by Tuberville that Pence was in danger and he had to flee, Trump tweeted a threatening message to his enraged and homicidal followers about how Pence had failed. Tuberville confirmed his comments Friday night, but voted to acquit today.
Republican House Member Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State who was with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who gave a statement undisputed by anyone, including McCarthy. Just before the gavel fell to open the Saturday session Lead Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin decided that the Managers wanted to call Herrera Beutler as a witness and depose her via Zoom since she was in Washington. In an incredibly angry tirade the defense led by Van Der Veen. threatened to call “hundreds of witness” in response. The Senate the voted on the motion to call witness and agreed by a 55-45 vote to do so. Then it recessed to discuss the matter. After about an hour of negotiations the Senators, especially the Democratic leadership bowed to the pressure that a call for witnesses, depositions and testimony pressured the Managers to accept a compromise regarding Herrera Beutler’s statement. It was read into the record and admitted in written form. It read:
“In my January 12 statement in support of the article of impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he’d had with President Trump while the January 6 attack was ongoing. Here are the details:
“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’
“Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment, I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues, and multiple times through the media and other public forums.
“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time.”
I am glad the statement became part of the record but wish she had testified in person, as well as the many insurgents who said that they “acted on the invitation and orders of President Trump.” The Managers said that they reached out to other Republican targets of the insurrection but none would come forward, and that to subpoena them would be an attempt to force potentially hostile witnesses into the dock. Thus they decided to compromise remembering that a witness subpoenaed during Trump’s first impeachment trial had not yet testified. I appreciate that reasoning but wish it had been different.
I think that the Senate should vote to suspend the proceedings as depositions of witnesses are taken was right but the pressure put on the Managers to compromise was ill-considered. But Raskin and other Managers were realistic and admitted that no amount of witnesses would have persuaded that they were already going to vote to acquit based on the technicality rejected by the Senate on Tuesday that a former office holder could be impeached and tried by the Senate.
Unfortunately all of the Democrats seemed to forget something that British Chief Prosecutor Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe told the American Chief Prosecutor Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as he wore out the trial judges reading documentary evidence into the record. Maxwell-Fyfe told Jackson:
“As legal strategy your documentary approach has been unassailable. But as drama, it is, I regret to say, absolutely stultifying. A trial is a show, Robert. Like it or not, it’s a show… And it’s ours to lose. A trial is a show, Robert. Like it or not, it’s a show. And those four learnt men sitting on the bench are as impressionable as any audience….
Witnesses will give this trial a human face. One compelling witness can outweigh a tonne of documentary evidence.”
Unfortunately I do not think any number of witnesses would have persuaded any number of the Republican Senators who voted to acquit.
A guilty verdict would have been true justice, despite the fact that as a private citizen Trump can be tried in multiple jurisdictions for criminal and civil actions. But the complaining party at the bar are not simply election officials Trump threatened, Republican and Democratic politicians who admitted that the results of the election were legitimate, but the 81 million people who voted for Joe Biden who Trump tried to cancel their votes and rights as citizens whose votes had been held as valid by every state and every one of over 60 courts from State Courts, up to the Supreme Court of the United States and multiple recounts in every contested state. In spite of that Trump persisted in proclaiming the Big Lie that he “won in a massive landslide, but that his victory was stolen.” Something he repeated on 6 January as some of his insurgents were breaching the Capitol as he encouraged those at the Ellipse to go to the Capitol. He promised to go with them but never did, instead laughing and reveling as the attack was broadcast on television, as was captured in a video taken by his son Donald Junior.
Not only this but the complaining party are free and Democratic societies around the world who look to the United States for leadership for what we were once considered, the best example of a successful pluralistic and multi-ethnic democracy. They have been disappointed and since Trump took office authoritarian governments back by groups like the Nazi Brownshirts and Mussolini’s Fascist paramilitaries have taken power in now former democracies in Eastern Europe, and are growing in influence around the world. This is in large part due to the distain for our Constitution, Republic and democracy.
This failed attempted insurrection or coup against the American Capitol to kill Vice President Pence, Senators and Representatives regardless of their political party in order to stop the ceremonial certification of the Electoral College Ballots, something that Pence had told Trump multiple times that he could not do under the Constitution and would not do.
Trump didn’t tell his private Army that Pence had promised to do his but instead let them hang on the hopes that Pence would stop the proceedings. When Pence opened the count and promised to do his Constitutional duty, Trump further inflamed his insurgents by telling them how Pence had failed them, this as they were racing through the Capitol building hunting for him and chanting “hang Mike Pence.”
I could go on but I am going to stop for the night. The House Managers put on an amazing case that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump was guilty as charged.Though they failed to convict they convinced the largest number of Senators from the accused party to vote against him. The votes of Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, and Pat Toomey were courageous. Regardless of if they were coming up for re-election in 2022 or 2024, or if the were retiring every one of them put a target on their backs. It won’t be Antifa or anyone on the Left who tries to kill them, but Trump’s violent armed Cult goons.
But to finish I will close with a Robert Jackson’s quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear in his closing at the Major War Crimes Trial at Nuremberg to finish this article adapting it to Trump. Trump stands “before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain King. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: “Say I slew them not.” And the Queen replied, “Then say they were not slain. But dead they are ….” If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.
That is true of every Republican who voted to acquit Trump Saturday, and every one who voted in the House or Senate not to recognize the results of the Electoral College vote. But the lives of those lost on 6 January 2021, especially Capitol Hill Police Officers cries out “Say they are not slain. but dead they are.” Their blood forever stains the hands of Trump and his insurgents who attempted to overthrow the United States Government by force and violence but who were acquitted by 43 members of the Senate, both true believers and followers of Trump, or cowards desperate to remain in office through the votes of those of Trump’s Cult who fully approve of violence and murder in the pursuit of power.
For the moment Trump and his Cult appear to have escaped justice, but even now over 200 of the insurgents have been arrested and charged, and many others being investigated and sought out. Hopefully thousands will be rounded up and their terrorist organizations exposed and broken up so they cannot commit such violence again. Likewise, as previously noted, Trump himself and many of his close associates are under criminal investigation by Federal and State authorities for a multitude of crimes. Likewise Trump faces criminal action for sexual assault and rape accusations, and financial crimes which threaten the ruin of his personal financial, real estate and entertainment empire. There are also a host of civil lawsuits that he can no longer use his office to escape prosecution.
Even so Trump broke his silence of over a month since the attack claiming that he was innocent and this was only the beginning of his movement. This means that he has tacitly given the authorization to his murderous followers to begin a protracted insurgency against the United States Government, State Governments and political opponents.
If you have not served in a country undergoing an insurgency you have no idea of the brutality. One of my major areas of study before and after I went to Iraq to serve with our advisors was Counter Insurgency Operations.Trust me, from history, theory, and practice I do know what I am talking about, and no local or state, and very few federal police agencies, or emergency services agencies are trained or equipped to deal with what we are about to face and regardless of the outcome our democracy will never be the same, provide that our foreign enemies don’t inflict terrible damage on our country first.
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