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Criminal Propagandists: Then and Now

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Over the past few weeks we have seen heinous acts of terrorism committed by people who believed that what they were doing was the will of God. They believed that their killing of innocent people was justified by their religious beliefs and their belief that they were the instruments of God to bring about God’s justice on sinners. But these are just the latest in a long series of such events in this country and around the world.

The people who commit the acts are certainly guilty of them, of this there is no doubt, but what about those from whom they draw their inspiration? Why are they not in the dock as well?

In the movie Judgement at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Heywood said, “The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime. Any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty.”

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At the trial of the major war criminals the Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher was condemned to death for crimes against humanity. He had never killed a Jew, nor was he active in planning the war. However, it was the incessant propaganda that Streicher published week after week for twenty-five years which made him an accessory to the deaths of millions of people. A generation of Germans who had been brought up on Streicher’s anti-Semitic hate speech committed acts “so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination.”

The tribunal said of Streicher:

“For his 25 years of speaking, writing, and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as ‘Jew-baiter Number 1.’ In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German people with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution… Streicher had charge of the Jewish boycott of April 1, 1933. He advocated the Nuremberg decrees of 1935. He was responsible for the demolition on August 10, 1938, of the synagogue in Nuremberg. And on November 10, 1938, he spoke publically in support of the Jewish pogroms which were taking place at that time. But it was not only in Germany that this defendant advocated his doctrines. As early as 1935 he began to call for the annihilation of the Jewish race… With knowledge of the extermination of the Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories, this defendant continued to write and publish the propaganda of death… Streciher’s incitement to murder and extermination at the time when the Jews of the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on racial grounds in connection with war crimes, as defined in the charter, and constitutes a crime against humanity.”

“The defendant Streicher is an accessory to the persecution of the Jews within Germany and in occupied territories which culminated in mass murder of an estimated six million men, women, and children. The propaganda in Der Stürmer and other Streicher publications, for which he had admitted responsibility, was of a character calculated to stir up fanatic fear and hatred of the Jewish people and to incite to murder…Through propaganda designed to incite hatred and fear, defendant Streicher devoted himself, over a period of twenty-five years, to creating the psychological basis essential to carrying through a program of mass murder. This alone would suffice to establish his guilt as an accessory to the criminal program of extermination.”

There are propagandists like Streicher at work in our own country and around the world today, who have for years advocated the exclusion, persecution, and even the execution of people whose lifestyles, religion, faith, or race, in this country and in others and we have seen the results. However, when a crime is committed against the targets of these propagandists they are seldom held accountable, in fact I cannot recall a time in recent memory where those who planted and nurtured the seeds of hate in the hearts and minds of terrorists have been brought to court. Why are not the propagandists who the Muslim terrorists who killed over 130 people in Paris and 14 in San Bernardino, the Tsarnaev brothers who attacked the Boston Marathon, the 9-11 attackers brought to trial? Why are those who inspired the Christian terrorists who killed and wounded a dozen people at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, or Eric Rudolph to bomb the Olympic Park in Atlanta not brought up on charges? What about those that inspired Dylann Storm Roof, the young white supremacist/neo-Confederate terrorist who killed nine people at the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston brought to justice? There are those who also attack, vandalize, burn, or desecrate churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious shrines or schools, of course in the name of God. But I think that one of the most terrifying comments by a terrorist were those of Frazier Glenn Cross, a former KKK leader and militant white supremacist that killed three people near a Jewish Community center in Overland Park Kansas on the Eve of Passover, 2014. He claimed, “I had no criminal intent, I had a patriotic intent to stop genocide against my people,” and “I hate Jews…. They are the ones who destroy us.” He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death.

I cannot speak for the rest of the world, but I know that in the United States that propagandists of all kinds, often hide behind our most cherished freedoms; those of freedom of speech, religion, and association, to proclaim their message of violence and murder in the name of God or their own perverted ideologies. We may never bring these people to trial, but they are by definition as guilty as the men and women who follow their words and commit these terrible crimes.

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The scary thing is that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg the hatred is flowing, and as Randall Terry, the former head of Operation Rescue once exhorted his followers in 1993, “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…. If a Christian voted for Clinton, he sinned against God. It’s that simple…. Our goal is a Christian Nation… we have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I’ve got a hot flash. God rules.”  [Randall Terry, Head of Operation Rescue, from The News Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Aug 15, 1993]

The scary thing is that I went to the same church that Randall Terry attended for a while when I was stationed in Jacksonville Florida. The church of my former denomination, was a bastion of the “pro-life” movement. To be honest many of the people in the church were good people, but they were taken along by the propaganda of men like Randall Terry and others. I got to know Randall when I was there. He is a very smart and affable person, that being said, he had no empathy for any opponents, including his adopted son Jamiel who came out as Gay in 2004, or his two adopted daughters who became pregnant outside of marriage who he threw out of his home, with no-one in the pro-life movement to support them. He remains virulent in his bombastic statements about murdering abortion providers, punishing gays, and making blatantly racist political advertisements, and anti-Muslim videos.

I guess the thing that troubles me most about this now is how my former church embraced a man who was a well known extremist, a man who had left his wife for his secretary and then married her with no serious questions asked because they too were “pro-life.” It was as if Terry was some kind of folk hero to them. Interestingly enough Terry converted to Roman Catholicism a few years later and has had no problem attacking the leaders of that church when they fail to heed his uncompromising views, even so the leaders of that church not only welcomed him, but have not dared to discipline hi, even after his wife committed acts of vandalism on church property. But then, like them, Terry is “pro-life.”

When I was going to that church I found Terry’s methods and words to be extreme and they troubled me, but I said nothing to oppose or contradict them. If I had spoken out I would have been punished by the local bishop, and having been censured for my earlier writings in a theological journal which were considered “too Catholic” by another bishop of that church, I kept my mouth shut.

It was not until I came back from Iraq having seen the real world implications of what happens when religious fanatics inflict violence on their neighbors that I really understood and took a stand against such words and actions. It was only after I began to speak up against the church’s positions on rights for Gays and the LGBTQ community, the ordination of women, respect for Muslims, and the need to protect the legality of abortion that I was forced out of that church for being “too liberal.” You should have read some of the things that people said about me when I started speaking out after being thrown out of the church. It was amazing, I shake my head now, but then when I was still in the midst of post-Iraq PTSD crash the comments were very hurtful and destructive, and sadly the people who said them, many who knew me, didn’t seem to care.

Randall Terry and so many others like him, be they Christian, Muslim, or any other religion or ideology are no different than Julius Streicher. What they are preaching is nothing more than hate, masked in the words of faith, which has been, and will continue to be used by terrorists.

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Sadly, Terry is not the only one out there doing this, in fact he is now minor league compared with the propagandists of the current day including Alex Jones, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and so many others, including those of the self-proclaimed Alt-Right, who are nothing more than Nazis.

yes my friends there are thousands of others like him, and many with much more of a following than Terry will ever command, and they are for more dangerous for their words will be the ones that terrorists will follow, and for which death squads will kill. They, like the tribunal said of Streicher create “the psychological basis essential to carrying through a program of mass murder.” For this reason, and every murder their followers commit they should be held accountable.

At Nuremberg an unrepentant Streicher was asked by a prosecutor, “And do you think to call them “blood-suckers,” “a nation of blood-suckers and extortioners– do you think that’s preaching hatred?” Streicher replied, “No, it is not preaching hatred; it is just a statement of facts.” Sadly, this is the same attitude shared by the vast majority of the current propagandists. It does not matter who they demonize, gays, women, Christians, Jews. Muslims, immigrants, the targets of hate may differ for each of these propagandists, but the message is the same, it is hatred pure and simple.

With the election of Donald Trump as the next President expect these propagandists to expand their influence and ratchet up the conspiracy theories and hatred against minorities, Women, the LGBTQ community, as well as Liberals and Progressives in general.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Rearview Mirror of 2015: Religion, Politics, and Terrorism

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and depending who you are or where you live it could have been one, the other or both. For me it has been one of those, not that there is anything wrong with that, and truthfully as rough as it has been at times, I cannot discount the importance of these events in my life. Back in October I wrote an article that kind of sums up how important each of these threads is in my life, Tapestry: The Importance of Just One Thread.

The year was difficult, but we have made it through, and all of the threads of this year are now part of the tapestry of our lives. I am still dealing with PTSD, chronic insomnia and trimmings, but on the whole doing better than I was a year ago. We lost our wonderful dog Molly, a dog who more than once save my life in the years after Iraq, but that being said, the ghost of Molly is still around and doing some of the same things that she did when I was at my lowest, if you want you can read about that here, Ghost Dog Central. Though we lost Molly we still have Minnie Scule who was joined by Izzy Bella, our now one year old Papillion. They are both great dogs, totally different in personality, and Izzy is a lot like Molly in temperament and personality.

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The same day we lost Molly, my wife Judy found out that she had an abnormal pap-smear and was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer. She went through surgery and a long post-surgical recovery, but her doctor says she is now cancer free, though she gets regular checkups to make sure that it does not come back.

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On a lighter side we also made our second trip to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, and a side trip to Salzburg, Austria where we discovered that the hills really might be alive, but I digress… I was also able to see some groups as musical artists from my bucket list. I saw a combined Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire concert as well as the legendary Boz Skaggs.

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But 2015 was eventful, in a very dark way….

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Terrorism of a number of varieties seemed to dominate much of the year. In January there were the Charlie Hebdo attacks made by radical Islamists in Paris, Je Suis Charlie: An Attack on Freedom, Do Not Give in to Fear: #Je Suis Charlie. If that attack had been all it would have been enough, but terrorism, mostly committed in the name of God, or racist ideology seemed to be everywhere. Of course there were the continued attacks of Islamist militants in sub-Saharan Africa, in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Mali. The Horn of Africa, including Somalia and the Sudan; and North Africa, in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt. Those attacks, and incidents are too numerous to be listed, but sadly in the west, or the industrialized areas of Asia, no one seems to take note of them. Truthfully, the only thing the west and countries like China care about in Africa are the natural resources, dead Africans don’t seem matter as long as we get our resources.

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But there were terrorist attacks in the United States as well. There was a murder of three young Muslim UNC students in Chapel Hill North Carolina A Time to Stand Against Hate; a clash between incendiary Muslim and anti-Muslim groups in Garland Texas, Hate vs. Hate: A Clash in Garland. 

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The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South. Nine people died in a hate crime shooting on June 17, 2015.

 

Of course the massacre of the pastor and other members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, by a young White Supremacist named Dylann Storm Roof Call it Terrorism: Massacre at Emmanuel AME, When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME.

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Then terror returned, in the space of two weeks a Russian airliner was downed by a bomb most likely planted by sympathizers of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or DAESH Can You Live with It? War, ISIL & a Downed Airliner; an attack by DAESH in Beirut Lebanon which killed 43 people, and then a massacre that stunned the world in Paris, Terror in Paris, The Lamps are Going Out: Paris & the End of the Illusion of Peace. The latter seems to have spurred the west into doing more to fight DAESH and it appears that the war that DAESH has desired with the west is now an accomplished fact.

An SUV with its windows shot out that police suspect was the getaway vehicle from at the scene of a shooting in San Bernardino, California is shown in this aerial photo December 2, 2015. Gunmen opened fire on a holiday party on Wednesday at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, then fled the scene, triggering an intense manhunt and a shootoutout with police, authorities said. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1WX2P

But this terror came to the United States not long after when a DAESH inspired couple massacred people gathered for a holiday party in San Bernardino and the chilling thing was that they were the co-workers of the man, True Believers & Terrorism. I ended up reflecting on all of these attacks in a number of articles, including Power Hungry Religionists Will Inherit the Wind, Faith & Terror, and Accessories to Murder: The Propagandists who Inspire Terror.

These attacks caused me to write a number of articles about racism, propaganda, ideology, politics, mass movements and genocide. I think this article Dehumanization & Genocide helps to bring a certain historical perspective to these subjects, as does this one, Civilization Is Tissue Thin: Holocaust & Genocide as Warning. I also decided to frame some of the current fear of terrorism and the hateful invective being hurled at many American Muslims through the lens of Star Trek in these articles, Your Fear Will Destroy You and The Belief in a Devil. Another article which brought chills to me as I wrote is was just how easy it seems for some people to rationalize genocide, Just Following Orders: The Rationalization of Genocide and for ordinary people to take part in them Vast and Heinous Crimes: Ordinary Men & War Crimes.

Religion did not only inspire terror in 2015, but it was more closely than ever a part of American politics, and not necessarily for the good. As such I spent a lot of time on the intersection of church and state issues. This was especially true when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obegfell v. Hodges decision and much of the Christian Right including prominent Republican presidential candidates went haywire. There were times that their reaction reminded me of the great film Inherit the Wind.

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Supporters of same-sex marriages gather outside the US Supreme Court waiting for its decision on April 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether gay couples have a constitutional right to wed -- a potentially historic decision that could see same-sex marriage recognized nationwide. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Since I firmly believe in religious liberty, and the separation of Church and State I wrote a number of articles dealing with that subject, including these, Religious Liberty or Tyranny?, this, Religion & State: The Less Mixed the Better and one about one of my heroes, the Virginia Baptist, John Leland, Exploding the Myth of Christian America. That crossed into some political commentary in this article Strike Down the Sinners: The Politics of the Christian Right.

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Since much of the focus on religious liberty in 2015 revolved around the recalcitrant county clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davis, and her political allies to deny legal rights to gay couples to marry I ended up writing a good number of articles during that political circus. If you want to read those just put her name in the search box. But as the dust cleared I wrote an article about a man who though he was a Christian, did not allow religious propaganda and hate to trump his sworn duty. The article about the late Dr. C. Everett Koop should be required reading for those who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, even when it conflicts with their religious beliefs, Separate Ideology & Religion from Sworn Duty: The Legacy of Dr. C. Everett Koop.

Political commentary based on historical analysis has become more important to me, and I try to shy away from the more bombastic and partisan that I see and instead focus on rational comparisons that can help us understand events, and hopefully do better than our ancestors. One of these articles compares the political implosion of the Democratic and Whig Parties in the 1850s and what is currently transpiring in the Republican Party, a party that I belonged to for 36 years before leaving it in 2008. When Political Parties Implode: The Battle over the Lecompton Constitution and its Relevance Today. Unlike some on both sides of the political chasm, I do not see what is happening as good, and I wrote this article to emphasize the importance of reason in political debate, Reason, the Salvation of Freedom. Interestingly enough, well before Donald Trump became the frontrunner in the GOP presidential campaign I wrote this little article, with a great cultural reference to a Bloom County comic strip published over 20 years ago, There Comes a Time… A Bloom County Reality Check.

Finally, a lot of what I wrote on the site was intensely personal and dealt with my battle with PTSD, my struggles with faith and belief, as well as my continued religious, social, and political transformation. These included My Faith: A Journey and Mission, but I think that one of the better articles I did about this process is It Fitted In: A Personal Reflection on Propaganda. I also wrote a number of articles for Memorial Day and Veterans Day which reflected my thoughts regarding my own military service and some social and political commentary related to who we as a nation deal with veterans and go to war, one of those was done just before Veterans Day, They Thanked Us Kindly: Reflections on Veteran’s Day 2015. My journey also brought new insights as I studied iconic Civil War heroes from the battle of Gettysburg, some of those articles included Tragic Heroes of Little Round Top,

I wrote a number of articles dealing with depression, suicide, PTSD and other issues that veterans and others struggle, I think this article sums up how I think we should treat those who struggle, Try to Understand: The Kindest, Noblest, & Best Thing You Will Ever Do. I also tried to bring attention to the continued crisis of veteran suicides in The Uncounted Cost of War: Veteran Suicides. I wrote about PTSD and the things that never seem to go away after war in this article, There Will be Nightmares: PTSD & Memories of War.

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Of course there was more, police shootings, the Syrian refugee crisis, and too much more to cover today. But be assured I will continue to write and do my best to present all of these events the best I can in the light of history. I may end up sounding like Spencer Tracy’s characters in Inherit the Wind and Judgement at Nuremberg, but what I can I say?

I am continuing to learn through all of the evil being perpetrated by so many, is that  the perpetrators have no ability to empathize with people. It is the one defining characteristic that they all share. Captain Gustave Gilbert, In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” I find that more true every day.

Well, just one more day until we usher in 2016, and I do hope it will be better for everyone. By the way, a friend was able to get me a site over that the Daily Kos where I do some writing, and also post modified versions of what I write here as the mood hits me. The link to my blog there is, http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Padresteve

Have a great day and hopefully a Happy New Year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Accessories to Murder: The Propagandists who Inspire Terror

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Over the past few weeks we have seen heinous acts of terrorism committed by people who believed that what they were doing was the will of God. They believed that their killing of innocent people was justified by their religious beliefs and their belief that they were the instruments of God to bring about God’s justice on sinners. But these are just the latest in a long series of such events in this country and around the world.

The people who commit the acts are certainly guilty of them, of this there is no doubt, but what about those from whom they draw their inspiration? Why are they not in the dock as well?

In the movie Judgement at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Heywood said, “The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime. Any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty.”

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At the trial of the major war criminals the Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher was condemned to death for crimes against humanity. He had never killed a Jew, nor was he active in planning the war. However, it was the incessant propaganda that Streicher published week after week for twenty-five years which made him an accessory to the deaths of millions of people. A generation of Germans who had been brought up on Streicher’s anti-Semitic hate speech committed acts “so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination.”

The tribunal said of Streicher:

“For his 25 years of speaking, writing, and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as ‘Jew-baiter Number 1.’ In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German people with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution… Streicher had charge of the Jewish boycott of April 1, 1933. He advocated the Nuremberg decrees of 1935. He was responsible for the demolition on August 10, 1938, of the synagogue in Nuremberg. And on November 10, 1938, he spoke publically in support of the Jewish pogroms which were taking place at that time. But it was not only in Germany that this defendant advocated his doctrines. As early as 1935 he began to call for the annihilation of the Jewish race… With knowledge of the extermination of the Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories, this defendant continued to write and publish the propaganda of death… Streciher’s incitement to murder and extermination at the time when the Jews of the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on racial grounds in connection with war crimes, as defined in the charter, and constitutes a crime against humanity.”

“The defendant Streicher is an accessory to the persecution of the Jews within Germany and in occupied territories which culminated in mass murder of an estimated six million men, women, and children. The propaganda in Der Stürmer and other Streicher publications, for which he had admitted responsibility, was of a character calculated to stir up fanatic fear and hatred of the Jewish people and to incite to murder…Through propaganda designed to incite hatred and fear, defendant Streicher devoted himself, over a period of twenty-five years, to creating the psychological basis essential to carrying through a program of mass murder. This alone would suffice to establish his guilt as an accessory to the criminal program of extermination.”

There are propagandists like Streicher at work in our own country and around the world today, who have for years advocated the exclusion, persecution, and even the execution of people whose lifestyles, religion, faith, or race, in this country and in others and we have seen the results. However, when a crime is committed against the targets of these propagandists they are seldom held accountable, in fact I cannot recall a time in recent memory where those who planted and nurtured the seeds of hate in the hearts and minds of terrorists have been brought to court. Why are not the propagandists who the Muslim terrorists who killed over 130 people in Paris and 14 in San Bernardino, the Tsarnaev brothers who attacked the Boston Marathon, the 9-11 attackers brought to trial? Why are those who inspired the Christian terrorists who killed and wounded a dozen people at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, or Eric Rudolph to bomb the Olympic Park in Atlanta not brought up on charges? What about those that inspired Dylann Storm Roof, the young white supremacist/neo-Confederate terrorist who killed nine people at the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston brought to justice? There are those who also attack, vandalize, burn, or desecrate churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious shrines or schools, of course in the name of God. But I think that one of the most terrifying comments by a terrorist were those of Frazier Glenn Cross, a former KKK leader and militant white supremacist that killed three people near a Jewish Community center in Overland Park Kansas on the Eve of Passover, 2014. He claimed, “I had no criminal intent, I had a patriotic intent to stop genocide against my people,” and “I hate Jews…. They are the ones who destroy us.” He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death.

I cannot speak for the rest of the world, but I know that in the United States that propagandists of all kinds, often hide behind our most cherished freedoms; those of freedom of speech, religion, and association, to proclaim their message of violence and murder in the name of God or their own perverted ideologies. We may never bring these people to trial, but they are by definition as guilty as the men and women who follow their words and commit these terrible crimes.

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The scary thing is that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg the hatred is flowing, and as Randall Terry, the former head of Operation Rescue once exhorted his followers in 1993, “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…. If a Christian voted for Clinton, he sinned against God. It’s that simple…. Our goal is a Christian Nation… we have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I’ve got a hot flash. God rules.”  [Randall Terry, Head of Operation Rescue, from The News Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Aug 15, 1993]

The scary thing is that I went to the same church that Randall Terry attended for a while when I was stationed in Jacksonville Florida. The church of my former denomination, was a bastion of the “pro-life” movement. To be honest many of the people in the church were good people, but they were taken along by the propaganda of men like Randall Terry and others. I got to know Randall when I was there. He is a very smart and affable person, that being said, he had no empathy for any opponents, including his adopted son Jamiel who came out as Gay in 2004, or his two adopted daughters who became pregnant outside of marriage who he threw out of his home, with no-one in the pro-life movement to support them. He remains virulent in his bombastic statements about murdering abortion providers, punishing gays, and making blatantly racist political advertisements, and anti-Muslim videos. 

I guess the thing that troubles me most about this now is how my former church embraced a man who was a well known extremist, a man who had left his wife for his secretary and then married her with no serious questions asked because they too were “pro-life.” It was as if Terry was some kind of folk hero to them. Interestingly enough Terry converted to Roman Catholicism a few years later and has had no problem attacking the leaders of that church when they fail to heed his uncompromising views, even so the leaders of that church not only welcomed him, but have not dared to discipline hi, even after his wife committed acts of vandalism on church property. But then, like them, Terry is “pro-life.” 

When I was going to that church I found Terry’s methods and words to be extreme and they troubled me, but I said nothing to oppose or contradict them. If I had spoken out I would have been punished by the local bishop, and having been censured for my earlier writings in a theological journal which were considered “too Catholic” by another bishop of that church, I kept my mouth shut.

It was not until I came back from Iraq having seen the real world implications of what happens when religious fanatics inflict violence on their neighbors that I really understood and took a stand against such words and actions. It was only after I began to speak up against the church’s positions on rights for Gays and the LGBTQ community, the ordination of women, respect for Muslims, and the need to protect the legality of abortion that I was forced out of that church for being “too liberal.” You should have read some of the things that people said about me when I started speaking out after being thrown out of the church. It was amazing, I shake my head now, but then when I was still in the midst of post-Iraq PTSD crash the comments were very hurtful and destructive, and sadly the people who said them, many who knew me, didn’t seem to care.

Randall Terry and so many others like him, be they Christian, Muslim, or any other religion or ideology are no different than Julius Streicher. What they are preaching is nothing more than hate, masked in the words of faith, which has been, and will continue to be used by terrorists. Terry is not the only one out there doing this, there are thousands of others like him, and many with much more of a following than Terry will ever command, and they are for more dangerous for their words will be the ones that terrorists will follow, and for which death squads will kill. They, like the tribunal said of Streicher create “the psychological basis essential to carrying through a program of mass murder.” For this reason, and every murder their followers commit they should be held accountable.

At Nuremberg an unrepentant Streicher was asked by a prosecutor, “And do you think to call them “blood-suckers,” “a nation of blood-suckers and extortioners– do you think that’s preaching hatred?” Streicher replied, “No, it is not preaching hatred; it is just a statement of facts.” Sadly, this is the same attitude shared by the vast majority of the current propagandists. It does not matter who they demonize, gays, women, Christians, Jews. Muslims, immigrants, the targets of hate may differ for each of these propagandists, but the message is the same, it is hatred pure and simple.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under civil rights, faith, History, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion

Murderers, Evil & the Absence of Empathy

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Like so many people this week I was stunned, shocked and sickened by the execution style murders of Roanoke Virginia reporters Allison Parker and Adam Ward by former reporter Vester Flanagan. Then later in the week the same type of murder of Houston Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth by a man named Shannon Miles. The first was particularly upsetting as a local news station had a story on it early in the day with a video, which I thought was their coverage, but instead it was the live video which had been broadcast at the moment of the shooting. Then I saw the pictures published by the New York Daily News taken by Flanagan as he shot Allison Parker. Those pictures which showed Flanagan’s view down his gun sight as he aimed, fired and aimed again were chilling. They are so troubling that I will not post them here.

I think it was so because I have been on the other side of the gun barrel. Back in 1979, when I was first starting to date Judy we were out with her parents and help up at gunpoint. I had a .38 caliber revolver to my head, the criminals took our wallets, the women’s purses and as they left the one on the other side of the car ripped Judy’s glasses off of her face and ground them into the pavement. I thought about trying to get the gun from the man on my side of the car but realized that if I failed fired that Judy or her parents might have been killed. If I had my own gun, which I did not I would have probably not been able to get a shot off without getting them killed. Likewise, on a number of occasions in Iraq, serving as an unarmed chaplain, I was under enemy small arms or rocket fire. Thus when I think about what happened to the victims there is a certain amount of kinship I feel.

They reminded me of a picture that I saw of a member of a Nazi Einsatzgruppe individually killing women who had survived a mass execution in Russia during the German invasion. In one picture a woman, appears to be trying to rise up to crawl away from the piles of bodies, and a tall SS man walking up a few feet away with a sub-machinegun aimed at her.

I wondered how people of any sort could be so cold as to look someone in the eye and commit such brutal crimes. It was horrifying. I was up that night thinking about so many others that have happened in this country in just past few years. Dylann Storm Roof going to a Bible Study at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church and then murdering the people there because they were African-American and he was a White Supremacist. There was Frazier Glenn Cross, a former KKK leader and militant white supremacist that killed three people near a Jewish Community center in Overland Park Kansas on the Eve of Passover, 2014. He claimed, “I had no criminal intent, I had a patriotic intent to stop genocide against my people,” and “I hate Jews…. They are the ones who destroy us.”

Then there was Neo-Nazi Wade Page who walked into a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin and killed six people in cold blood. There was James Holmes who went into a crowded theater in Aurora Colorado and killed twelve and wounded fifty-eight more in a mass killing spree. Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Of course there was the Boston Marathon Bombing, and other killings committed by the Tsarnaev brothers, and twenty-year-old Adam Lanza who murdered twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Then there is George Zimmerman, a man in a league of his own, who killed an unarmed black teenager  and got away with it, much like so many murderers of so many others, not just in this country, but others as well.

Of course this is nothing new, we can look back that the 9-11 hijackers who killed almost 3000 people; Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols who killed 168 and wounded hundreds more when they bombed the Murrah Federal Building; as well as the terrorists of ISIL who routinely look into the eyes of their victims and then kill them.

The list can go on and on, and the murderers span the spectrum of American. Native born and immigrants, whites, blacks, Latin Americans, Asians, well educated men such as Holmes, children of privilege, Christians, Moslems, Jews, various other religions as well as atheists and agnostics. Some seemed to be motivated by some kind of intense hatred, religion, ideology, race; others apparently with some kind of mental imbalance or sense that they, or their race were the victims of the people that they killed.

Whether people murder others in cold blood, be it in large numbers or by looking them in the eye and pulling the trigger, no matter what their motivation for doing so, there is a common factor. It is not the weapons, though I do think the easy availability of so many lethal weapons is a factor, and that we need to tighten the requirements and even limit the types of weapons and amount of ammunition one can legally have, there were over 11,000 gun related homicides in the United States in 2014, I have left out suicides, which were close to 20,000 and justified defense using a gun which are so few that they don’t hit the chart. That number for one year dwarfs the number of all Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I digress…. I am not against people owning guns, I will probably get myself a carbine for marksmanship practice someday, preferably a bolt action World War II Mauser if I can find one in good shape, but again I digress…. The easy access to guns too, is just a part of the equation.

It is not religion, ideology, or political differences, while that certainly plays a part, they are just contributing factors; the same is true of mental illness.

But there is something else, something that an American Army psychologist assigned to the major war criminals noted at the Nuremburg trials: “In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” 

If you look at the video evidence provided by the killers, their writings, their Internet postings, or the testimony that any of them who survived long enough to go to trial; there is one thing that comes through loud and clear. None of them, not a one have any empathy for their fellow human beings, and as such when they look the people that they are about to kill in the eye do not feel anything.

It does not matter if they are men who perpetrated genocide or killed, or enslaved hundreds of thousands or even millions of people in the name of their religion, ideology, or political-economic systems; or if they are mass murderers or terrorists not connected with a state; who kill in the name of God, race, or ideology; or simply those who hate others and kill to avenge a real or perceived wrong against them. or even those who can look their victim in the eye and then murder them, they all lack the ability to feel for their victims.

The lack empathy, the totality of narcissism, the inability to see others as valued human beings; that it the definition of evil; and there is so much of it in our world. When I saw those pictures that the New York Daily News posted I was reminded of that; and I have had a hard time sleeping since.

I realize all too well that Gustave Gilbert was right; evil is the absence of empathy. The fact is that almost anything else is solvable, but the absence of empathy is the one characteristic that cannot be solved by humanity, and it may be the instrument of our demise as a species.

I say that because there are men and women who would not hesitate to unleash the hell of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons of mass destruction on their enemies and the world. Despite their differences of their belief systems, religion or ideology, these people all display a certain absence of empathy; and that my friends makes them dangerous. Those who can look a single person, or a number of people in the eye and kill them are no different than those who have the ability, or desire the ability to kill millions; for none of them truly believe that their victims are worthy of life. Life unworthy of life, that is how the Nazis referred to their victims, and how those without empathy see their victims.

I’m hoping that his will not be the case and I’m hoping that I will be able to sleep,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Confederate Sunset in South Carolina 

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Historian George Santayana said “Loyalty to our ancestors does not include loyalty to their mistakes.” Today it appears that at least one legislature and governor has agreed with him.

This afternoon South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill passed by overwhelming majorities in the South Carolina Senate and House to remove the Confederate Battle flag from grounds of the South Carolina State Capital. The ceremonial lowering will occur at 10 AM tomorrow, July 10th 2015, when it is lowered it will be transferred to a museum, which is an appropriate place. 

This is important, I did not imagine that it would occur in my lifetime, and I expect to live a fair number of years. The sad thing is that it took the murder of nine innocent African American church members at Emmanuel African American Episcopal Church in Charleston by a young man named Dylan Roof, who harbored White Supremacist dreams of a race war to bring this about. It took the abject horror of people being murdered in church to do make people begin to realize that maybe, just maybe that continuing to display this symbol of the Confederacy on state grounds was not a good idea.

I know that there are many who defend that flag. I am not among them, although I once was as members of both sides of my family fought under it during the Confederate rebellion against the United States. But it does belong to history and what it stood for, not what it stands for in myth, but what it stood for the men who raised it in rebellion in order to defend and expand what they referred to as the “peculiar institution,” the political, social, religious and economic system known as slavery.  That is a fact, simply read Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephen’s Cornerstone Speech of 1861 where he said:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

In fact if you read every declaration of secession issued by the various states of the Confederacy, all insist that slavery was the main issue for which they seceded and for which they went to war. That did not change during the war and after the fighting was over, the flag of the Confederacy became the standard of White Supremacists throughout the South as they worked in the legislatures and in the courts to roll back the rights of blacks, using violence, intimidation and fraud to do so.

However, it was not until April 11th 1961 during the early days of the Civil Rights movement that the legislature of South Carolina voted to fly the Confederate Battle Flag over the state house in Columbia. This coincided with the centennial of the beginning of the Civil War when South Carolina troops on the orders of President Jefferson Davis opened fire on Fort Sumter. Ten years ago the flag was moved from the dome of the state house to a monument to Confederate veterans on the grounds of that complex.

Tomorrow morning that flag will come down, and I think that is a good thing for I do not believe that this symbol of rebellion and sadly white supremacy and racism should fly from any government building or complex. That being said if an individual chooses to fly the flag they should not be forbidden from doing so. I may object to that but I can only hope that with time and exposure to the truth that even these displays will come down. As to the people that fly these banners in order to display their racism, their hatred of other Americans and their desire for yet another rebellion, I am glad that they fly it so that I will know who they are, after all I favor truth in advertising and if I see this flag flying from a business I am sure that I will not spend my money in  those establishments.

As far as the people who honestly believe that in flying the flag they are honoring their heritage or ancestors, I can offer a measure of sympathy, but I encourage them not to sanitize history from facts. The fact is that the sacrifice and “heritage” our our ancestors, and I do include mine cannot be separated from the cause for which they fought, slavery, and for which those that came after them worked to ensure; racism, discrimination and even murder.

As gallant and even as chivalrous soldiers as many Confederate soldiers were, their sacrifice cannot be separated from the cause for which they fought, just like any other “honorable” soldiers who fought for evil causes. There are many such people that I admire for their soldierly qualities, while not espousing their cause.

Like Ulysses S. Grant I can mourn their sacrifice and admire the gallantry of soldiers even while acknowledging the injustice of the Confederate cause. After Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Grant wrote, “I felt…sad and depressed, at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people has fought.” He later noted: “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.”

It is time for this symbol of the Confederacy to come down forever and for the war that three quarters of a million American soldiers, Union and Confederates died, and for which millions of African Americans were enslaved and after the war thousands of freed blacks murdered or lynched, even as millions more were legally disenfranchised and discriminated against under Jim Crow. It is time for that to end, here and now. As far as me, I may honor my ancestors, but I will not honor the cause for which they fought.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Silence and Shame after Charleston

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I have been amazed over the past couple of days following the terrorist attack committed by Dylann Roof on the pastor and parishioners of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. What has amazed me is the number of prominent Republican politicians, including a number running for president who are in full denial mode about the motivation of this young man. Not only that, anyone now asserting the truth that this was a racially motivated terrorist attack committed by a White Supremacist who evidently wrote a manifesto on a White Supremacist website, who told his victims “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” He confessed to the killings and even said that he almost didn’t go through with them because the people were so nice to him.

Even so prominent Republicans, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum can’t admit that the motivation was race hatred. It is mind boggling and disgusting. I’m sorry these men are no better than the German citizens and politicians of non-Nazi conservative political parties who turned a blind eye as Nazi thugs harassed and murdered Jews even before the Nazi takeover, who then turned a blind eye as Hitler passed his anti-Semetic laws. They may not have committed the act but their silence makes them complicit in the continuing racism that infects our country. They should be ashamed and they should be shamed by all of us for their silent complicity in the face of evil.

However, by saying this, I am now guilty of the latest attempt to silence those who condemn the abject racism which still exists in this country, white shaming. In fact someone accused me of that last night on a social media site. I had never heard of it, so I had to look it up. I was amazed be because of how disingenuous the argument is. If you are honest and speak up you are yourself racist, and if you are white you are suffering from white guilt syndrome. The people who posit this remind me of Reverend William Leacock of Christ Church New Orleans who said in 1860:

“Our enemies…have “defamed” our characters, “lacerated” our feelings, “invaded “our rights, “stolen” our property, and let “murderers…loose upon us, stimulated by weak or designing or infidel preachers. With “the deepest and blackest malice,” they have “proscribed” us “as unworthy members… of the society of men and accursed before God.” Unless we sink to “craven” beginning that they “not disturb us,…nothing is now left us but secession.”

I’m sorry but we American whites have a lot to be ashamed of in our history; slavery, the extermination of the Native Americans and their subsequent de-facto incarceration on reservations, the war with Mexico where we forced Mexico to cede 40% of its territory to us, the exploitation of the Chinese immigrants who helped build the transcontinental railroad and other projects, the Jim Crow laws, the Tuskegee medical experiments on African Americans, the incarceration of Japanese Americans in our own concentration camps in World War Two, the exploitation of Mexican immigrants who labor illegally for American agribusiness and construction firms doing the work Americans will not do all the while treating them with contempt. 

We don’t even hide it, the use of racist terms of nigger, gook, wetback, chink, jap, slope, flip, rag head, camel-jockey and so many others to describe people racial and ethnic minorities are still prevalent in parts of white society. You see them on social media, blogs, and occasionally some political, pundit, preacher, or celebrity gets outed as a racist when they slip up and say those words. I have had people that I know come up and show me supposed “jokes” and cartoons the content of which is racist bile and they don’t even think twice about it.

I could go on and on and on but I would be beating the dead horse that will not die. But then maybe we need more than a little white shaming, after all our history is full of things that we should be ashamed about.

If this is offensive to anyone I dare say that I am not sorry. As a historian I am committed to the truth, and sometimes the truth is unpopular and it matters. It is my first duty. As Marcus Aurelius said:

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.” 

Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME

Dylann-Storm-Roof

Dylann Storm Roof has confessed to the terrorist action committed against the people of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina. He went to the church with the intent of killing blacks. However, he almost did not do it. According to NBC News:

“Roof, 21, told police he “almost didn’t go through with [the shooting] because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News’ Craig Melvin. But he ultimately decided to “go through with his mission,” the sources said.”

That cold blooded admission sent chills through my body. It reminded me of the way that many Nazis went through with killing the Jews during the Holocaust. For most of them it was not personal and many knew Jews, some who had even befriended them in their early years. But still, blinded by their ideology and belief that the Jews were less than human and were taking over their county, these men, like Dylann Roof committed atrocities that beggar the imagination.

Yet Dylann Roof killed those nine innocent and defenseless people, most of whom were elderly with cold blooded precision, none of the people he shot survived, that if you do the math is a 100% kill ratio.  He coldly told his victims “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

In writing about the actions of those in the Holocaust, in particular Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt wrote: “it was of great political interest to know how long it takes an average person to overcome his innate repugnance toward crime, and what exactly happens to him once he had reached that point. To this question, the case of Adolf Eichmann supplied an answer that could not have been clearer and more precise.”

For Eichmann this took years, but for Dylann Roof this took one hour of sitting with people who show him kindness before he decided to go through with his mission. Sadly there are other people in this country who harbor the same kind of ideology as Roof and while a minority a lot of their though is seeping into the mainstream through alleged “think tanks” and “new organizations” posing as mainstream but which instead argue for the systematic exclusion of blacks, other racial and religious minorities, women and gays in society. Their spokesmen routinely show up as “experts” or “commentators” on the various cable news channels and talk radio and very seldom are confronted by the hosts of these shows.

The purveyors of this type of ideology play on the fears of people who feel they are “losing their country.” They play on the worst stereotypes to increase that fear and loathing and the result is what happened on an unmatched scale in Germany and for us on Wednesday a large scale. Like the German judge being tried for his part in the Holocaust played by Bert Lancaster such people are swept up in that fear, as Lancaster’s character said:

“There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that – can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: ‘Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed. It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. Hitler himself will be discarded… sooner or later. The country is in danger. We will march out of the shadows. We will go forward. Forward is the great password. And history tells how well we succeeded, your honor. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied to us as a democracy were open to us now…”

It does not take long before a culture can be poisoned by such ideology and become a place where no person is safe. Dylann Roof is not an isolated case. Craig Stephen Hicks killed three Moslem students who lived in his condominium complex near the University of North Carolina. Wade Michael Page, a Neo-Nazi murdered six people in an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin. Scott Roeder, a militant anti-abortionist walked into a church and gunned down Dr. George Tiller who was a doctor who provided abortions at his clinic. Jim David Atkisson walked into a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee during a children’s play, he killed two and wounded seven and said that he was motivated by a hatred of liberals. Eric Rudolph committed two bombings to stop abortion, one at the Olympic Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics which killed one person and wounded 111 people, and that other at a Birmingham Alabama abortion clinic in 1998 which killed a police officer and wounded a nurse. Of course the biggest act of terror committed for political reasons by an American was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal Building in Oklahoma City. In that act Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and wounded more than 600. That bombing was motivated by his hatred of the U.S. Government.

The problem is that there are many more just like these guys, who for various reasons who given the opportunity would do exactly what Dylann Roof and these other terrorists did when they committed their crimes. Some of these men were motivated to kill based on their supposedly “Christian” beliefs, others not by faith at all but due to their unbending political and ideological hatred of the government, minorities, or political opponents. In the film To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch played by Gregory Peck noted “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

Likewise, the ideology of hatred, of racial and religious superiority be it Christian or not, even the atheistic nihilism of Timothy McVeigh will claim many more lives, unless we as a society wake up and fight back. It is not enough to pray, we have to speak up and be counted, or this Red White and Blue, supposedly patriotic American non-Islamic terror will become more commonplace.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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