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When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME

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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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A Time to Stand Against Hate

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First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

 Martin Niemöller

There comes a time in every nation where people of faith need to stand up for the rights of others who do not share their faith. There are times at all decent citizens no matter what their religion, or lack of religion need to stand up for those deemed less than full citizens, less than loyal, and in some cases less than human. This is one of those times.

On Wednesday three young America students at the University of North Carolina; Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were gunned down, execution style, in their home.  They were each shot multiple times in  the head. They were Moslems, and from all account not only good law abiding people who hated intolerance of any kind, even to Jews and Israelis, who were active in helping the poor and homeless in their local community, and just basically good, idealistic, humanitarians.

Their assailant Craig Stephen Hicks, was a man who doesn’t fit a typical right wing, at least from the terms of the Religious Right, or Left Wing stereotype.

All that we really know about him was that neighbors described him as angry and confrontational, that some feared him, that he was anti-government, unemployed, and hated the major religions; especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. He was also evidently a pretty big fan of expanded gun rights, which for a man in his state of mind isn’t unusual. His current wife, who is in the process of divorcing him described him as supporting marriage equity, abortion rights and other socially progressive causes.

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It is quite fascinating to me that Craig Stephen Hicks, was a follower of Richard Dawkins and what is called “the New Atheism” which more appropriately should be called anti-theism. This makes his case somewhat unusual, because he would be one of first of this breed in the United States to kill others in such a manner. Of course this is not to say that such people haven’t committed such acts on a mind-numbingly large scale in the former Soviet Union, Red China and other repressive atheist regimes. Likewise there are nations where state religions working hand in hand with the state do that as well.

But most of the time, recently in this country and Western Europe, those who kill others because of those  peoples religious beliefs, are religious themselves and defending their idea of God and righteousness. That my friends is what makes the act of barbarous hatred committed by Hicks so interesting from a sociological and historical point of view.

It is also why I don’t believe the claims by the soon to be ex-wife of Hicks, the police or the prosecutor that this was an isolated incident dealing with a dispute of guest parking in the condominium complex where the victims and the killer lived. That’ why the story just doesn’t wash, and the fact that it doesn’t wash causes it to stink.

Really, let’s face it, if Hicks was a Moslem and the victims were atheists would anyone believe that story? The hell no. But there are people who will not only believe it but as usual say this is a “isolated incident” because after all, white people in America don’t kill others for their religion, but that Moslems do and so a Moslem is automatically guilty of crimes simply by being a Moslem.

Evidently the killer’s ex-wife described him Hicks as a man without empathy, who incessantly watched the movie Falling Down while laughing his way through it. If you don’t know the movie it is about an unemployed engineer, angry for many reason, who goes mad and ends up in a killing spree. It is a tragic film, and I wonder if Hicks if Hicks saw himself as similar to the lead character played by Michael Douglas.

I don’t know what the final tipping point was for Hicks. From what I read he seemed like a mountain of hatred and anger just waiting to erupt.

While I don’t know his entire motivations, I do know that somewhere in his perverted psyche, he was motivated by hate, and that is all too common. Eric Hoffer said: “Passionate hatreds can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.”   

Hicks found some measure of purpose in his hatred of religion. It is said that he was quite angry at the Christians and Jews who  participated together with Moslems and others in the ecumenical memorial services after the attacks of September 11th 2001. Evidently, that anger toward religions and religious people grew until it reached the point of murder.

Sadly, there are many people like this man who are consumed by some kind of hatred. In this case it appears to me, and I could be wrong, that it was Hicks’s hatred of Moslems and other religious people. I cannot think of any other reason why the man would execute unarmed people for a parking space, unless they represented something more to him.

The hatred something that the actions of the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups that claim the mantle of Islam  have helped to inspire. That hatred is also fed by much of the media, as well as supposedly Christian political pundits and preachers who lump all Moslems into the same camp as the terrorists and ignores the Moslems who condemn such actions and who put their lives on the line to fight those groups. This “reporting” feeds the fear, it feeds the anger of some, and it leads to people, especially people who are already angry, disturbed and possibly even mentally ill, to commit crimes in name of their religion or their ideology. In Hicks case it appears to be his militant atheism.

But let’s step back from that right now, and sometimes it is good to look at things in with a broader lens.

It seems to me that among the worst of the types of people promoting such hatred of Moslems are supposedly conservative “Christian” preachers. So I feel that I need to speak up. I say this because such hatred against a religion, any religion is not new. Militant Hindus in India kill Moslems and Christians, of course we know of the crimes of the terrorists who kill in the name of Islam, but there are places in Africa where Christians do the killing, and sometimes not even for religious reasons. Does anyone remember the Rwanda Genocide? But that is not an isolated instance, in Central and South America there were the American funded dictators and terrorist groups who had death squads all over the place, many killing to defend their “conservative Christian regimes.”

This kind of thing happens all the time and sometimes it takes place under godless regimes who co-opt religious people to bolster their evil. Chief among the times this happened was in Nazi Germany. My examples from that era include Protestant pastors Martin Niemöller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Herman Maas, and Catholic Biship Galen and Jesuit Priest Father Rupert Meyer of Munich. All were imprisoned or placed in Concentration Camps by the Nazis, and Bonhoeffer was be killed. Maas was the first non-Jewish German to be officially invited to the newly formed state of Israel in 1950. In July 1964 Yad Vashem recognized the Maas as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Of course there were others who died for attempting to help the Jews, including some European Moslems.

When Hitler took power the Jews, along with Communists, Trade Unions, Socialists were enemies of the state.  They were banned from the military, civil service and other government employment, professional associations and forced to wear a gold Star of David on their clothing.  Their property was seized, they were abused by SA men acting as deputized auxiliary police, times their businesses, Synagogues and homes vandalized, burned or seized by the state. Eventually those who remained were condemned  and sent to concentration camps, where most with nearly 6 million other Jews they would be exterminated.

Today we face a similar situation in United States and Western Europe.  This time it is not the Jews, but Moslems who are the targets of xenophobic rage by many influential members of the “conservative” media.

The ideological inspiration for the killings at Chapel Hill seems to be from English Atheist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins wrote something that the killer repeated almost verbatim in his social media posts: “All three of the Abrahamic religions are deeply evil if they take their teachings seriously. Islam is the only one that does.” Of course Dawkins statement is overblown because there are some Christians and Jews who kill in the name of religion. In fact as far as Christianity goes we have a host of them who litter our history justifying killing in the name of the Lord. To his credit Dawkins condemned the killings soon after they happened, however, his hyperbole and lumping together all religion as evil has the same effect on some people as the teachings of the radical religious preachers of hate whose ranks seem to grow daily.

Others, especially in parts of the Christian Right who have great sway in conservative politics and the Republican party advocate policies similar to the Nazi Nurnberg Laws and the Aryan Paragraph.  Threats to deny loyal American Moslems the right to serve in the military, security organizations, government positions and academia are common today. More extreme are threats to put all-Moslems “behind razor wire” as we did to American Japanese citizens in World War II, or to deport them as the Nazis did to the Jews before the “Final Solution”  are even more chilling.

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Wade Page

Of course there was the mass killing by neo-Nazi Wade Page in Oak Park Illinois in October 2012, like Hicks he was filled with hate toward religion, and took his out on the members of the Sikh Temple.

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Scott Roeder

I wonder how Christians would react if an atheist or someone on the political left suggested that all conservative Christians or members of pro-Life groups be imprisoned for the actions of Christians or pro-Life movement members like Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph who killed to stop abortion or the late Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church? Likewise I wonder what atheists would do if someone suggested putting everyone who followed Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, or Sam Harris in camps or depriving them of citizenship for the actions of someone like Hicks?

Thankfully, there are a few on the  Religious Right who have taken a stand. Reverend Rob Schenck, President of the National Clergy Council, commented in regard to the Moslem prayer vigil in Washington D.C. in 2009:  “With over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, it is important that Christians have an open dialogue with the Islamic community. The church must never be timid in reaching out to peoples and groups with differing beliefs and traditions. Too much is at stake for future generations not to begin this historic conversation. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.”

What the people who advocate punitive actions against American Moslems do is dangerous, not just for Moslems and other minorities but for them.  American and English law is based on legal precedence.  Once something has been determined to be legal, or constitutional it is considered by the law to be settled law.  The law is a two edged sword and those who want to use it to have the state enforce their religious, social, ideological or political beliefs on others need to remember what comes around goes around.

Niemöller would discover this the hard way prison telling one interviewer after the war:

“I find myself wondering about that too. I wonder about it as much as I regret it. Still, it is true that Hitler betrayed me. I had an audience with him, as a representative of the Protestant Church, shortly before he became Chancellor, in 1932. Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the Church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreed not to allow pogroms against the Jews, assuring me as follows: ‘There will be restrictions against the Jews, but there will be no ghettos, no pogroms, in Germany. I really believed given the widespread anti-Semitism in Germany, at that time—that Jews should avoid aspiring to Government positions or seats in the Reichstag. There were many Jews, especially among the Zionists, who took a similar stand. Hitler’s assurance satisfied me at the time. On the other hand, I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.”

It is easy for well meaning  to be bought with promises of support by politicians and media types who speak the words they want to hear in difficult times. We have entered a dangerous phase of American, and for that matter world history.

The killing of these three young American by this hate filled man should be a wake up call to all of us. It is time to start giving a damn and standing up to those who inspire and promote such hatred, no matter what their race, creed, or ideology. We have to stand up against hate. If we do not we are no better than all of those who throughout history turned their backs as others committed the most horrible crimes against humanity.

Peace,

Padres Steve+

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Power Hungry Religionists Will Inherit the Wind

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“An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters.” Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) in Inherit the Wind

Evil is evil is evil, especially when it is done in the name of God, no-matter what one’s name is for God is. Since the attacks of 9-11-2001 most of the attention for terrorist attacks and murder in the name of God have been focused on radical militant Moslems, a I dare say with good reason. Whether it was the 9-11 attack, the 3-11-2004 attacks in Madrid which killed 191 people and wounded another 1800, 7-7-2005  attacks on in London which killed 52 people and wounded over 700 more, the 26-11-2008 attacks in Mumbai, India which killed 164 people and wounded another 308, and the most recent attacks in Paris are the wave tips of radical Islamic terror. 

Done in the name of Allah and his Prophet, allegedly for the misdeeds and foreign policy of the West and Israel, the attacks are meant as revenge and retaliation for the deaths of Moslems in various places, or in the case of the Paris massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff, blasphemy.

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These attacks are rightful condemned, as are thousands of others committed by Islamic extremists, most of which are directed at other Moslems. While those against the West and Israel get the most attention, the vast majority of these ruthless killers victims are other Moslems. I think just last year alone over 15,000 Iraqis, the vast majority of whom were Moslems were killed by other Moslems, especially those of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Also victimized were Arab Christians and others. Their crime, not being the right sect of Moslem, or some other similar reason.

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Said Kouachi

However, though a sizable number of Moslems agree with, condone and support such actions, in a religion that numbers close to 1.6 billion adherents, they are a minority and the vast majority of Moslems condemn their radical beliefs.

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Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi after killing Paris Policeman Ahmed Marabet

While Moslem extremists account for most of these crimes committed in the name of God, they are not alone. In India there are fundamentalist indus who routinely kill Moslems and Christians, burn their villages and commit other atrocities. There are some Orthodox Jews who routinely take out their violence on Israeli Arabs, many of whom are Christians as well as Jews who are, well to put in in the words of the Orthodox, heretics, no better and maybe even worse than non-believers.

But sadly there are Christians who committed similar murderous acts through terrorist activity.

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Anders Behring Breivik

Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian went into action to kill the enemies of Western Civilization and Christian culture on July 22nd 2008.  In an assault that included a car bomb which killed 8 people and wounded 209 and an attack on a youth camp which killed 69 and wounded another 110, almost all of them children.

Eric Rudolph justified his 1996 bombings of an Atlanta abortion clinic and the Olympic village on his “Christian” faith. Likewise, Scott Roeder a professed “pro-life” Christian murdered Dr. George Tiller in Wichita Kansas, in Tiller’s church, because the latter was an abortionist. Both Rudolph and Roeder claimed their authority as Jesus and the Bible.

Timothy McVeigh who killed 168 people and wounded over 400 more was to a Moslem, but a lapsed Catholic who had what best can be said a confused religious identity alternating between Catholicism, whose last rights he received before his execute, the Nazi concept of a Believer in God, and that of an agnostic. His motivations were not religious but political.

And sadly, those again are just the wave tops of terrorism, and that does not count the supposedly Christian members of the Irish Republican Army and Protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, the murder of liberal Catholics and those accused of being Marxists in Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador and other South and Central American countries by “conservative Catholics” or “Evangelical Christians,” or the Rwanda genocide when Christian Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other with abandon killing about a million people.

Back in the days of state churches British Anglicans persecuted Roman Catholics as well as Separatists and Baptists, Catholics in France, Austria, Spain and Italy used the power of state religion to persecute dissenters of any kind, and in the American Colonies Puritans conducted witch trials, persecuted and executed Baptists and Quakers, and practiced genocide against native Americans, including those who had converted to the Christian faith. Need I even go into the extermination of the Native American tribes by English and Spanish colonists and those who followed them in the name of Manifest Destiny; or those who enslaved African Americans in this country, claiming the backing of God and the Bible?

Almost all of these acts were done in the name of God, as are hundreds, if not thousands of acts done every year. I shan’t go into the crimes committed by the Nazis, which though done in the name of the Nazi ideology included the justification that the Jews were the “Christ killers,” nor shall I go into depth about the various pogroms in Russia, be they Czarist, Communist or by the new Russia state, or the crimes committed by the Chinese Communists or Imperial Japan.

I could go on and on and on, but that would just be beating a dead horse and I am against abusing animals, even after they are dead; but the list can go on, and on, and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

The fact is that no-matter what group kills in the name of their God, or if no God, their ideology, race hatred, or tribal rivalry, it should be condemned by all.

What happened this week in Paris was just another chapter in the inhumanity of people motivated by their interpretation of God, and their attempt to punish non-believers. Some might attempt to accuse me of using false equivalents, or attempting to deflect legitimate blame for these horrible murders in Paris, but that is not so. I condemn them, those who conducted and supported them and those who plan the next round: which sadly will happen again, and again and again; because the bloodlust of the true believer cannot be satiated.

The Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for the attack and one of its leaders, Sheikh Usama (RA) said in his message to the West: “If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.” 

In our time it appears that the Islamic extremists have ensured that a generational war between radical Islamists and the West occurs. That war will likely claim the lives of millions of people before it is done. I would hope that saner heads would prevail, but religion and ideology are powerful motivators. If we still value the rights of freedom, freedom of speech, dissent and thought we have to defeat them, sadly with the these extremists that will mean taking them on in a war, since others of the Al Qaeda and Islamic State have promised to continue such attacks. We would be fools to bury our heads in the sand. 

What happened in Paris was an attack against the values of freedom of speech and expression which lie at the heart of modern Western and American political belief. Sadly, though, even in the West there are men like Catholic professor and philosopher Peter Kreeft who call for an “Ecumenical Jihad” of Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Christians, Jews and Moslems against secularism, which he has identified as the common enemy of all. To such people ideas and thought contrary to their doctrine, and the people that support them are the enemy.

You see the attack on Charlie Hebdo was a blow against secularism and the freedom of speech and expression. It was a crime not only against humanity, but ideas. Just because radicalized Moslems did it doesn’t mean that others, like Breivik, Rudolph, Roeder and their fellow travelers would not do the same in the name of their God given the opportunity. 

But then in our own country there are those who want to want to establish Biblical Law as the law of the land in this country. These Christian religionists and extremists have claimed a powerful place in American politics and daily advocate silencing and persecuting all who disagree with them. Against science, against tolerance, against pluralism, against the rights of all who disagree with their theological construct they believe it is God’s will that they rule the earth. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote:

“[I]n our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds — that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous.”

Gary North, a leader in the Christian Reconstructionist movement and advisor to both Ron and Rand Paul and leader of Evangelicals in the Tea Party movement wrote:

“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”

Such words cause me to tremble for they strike at the heart of the American republic. Madison, Jefferson and other founders warned against such religious-political ideology. In Inherit the Wind Henry Drummond, a fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow protested to the judge and jury:

“Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”

As a Christian, or rather what I would rather say now as a follower of Jesus, I agree with Henry Drummond played by Spencer Tracy when it comes to religious extremists and other no-compromise ideologues:

“As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say the hell with it.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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