Tag Archives: george h w bush

Pouring Gasoline on the Fire: The True Believers and Unending War

The Consulate in Benghazi Burns

“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus 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.” Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

September 11th 2012 was a day that initially was marked by somber reflection on the attacks that killed nearly 3000 people 11 years before. However as the night settled over the Continental United States Americans were again attacked. This time two events, one in Egypt and one in Libya brought about the loss of American lives including Ambassador Chris Stevens and ignited a political firestorm.

It is no secret that extremist Moslems, Christians and Jews, each for their own particular theological and political reasons have been trying with all their might to bring about a global conflagration between the the Islamic world and the West, especially the United States and Israel.  Hatred of the other, power and the desire for vengeance against crimes real and imagined motivate all of them. The desire for the ultimate judgement of God being poured out on their enemies is a motivating force because their enemies are by necessity the enemies of their God.

The latest violence appears to have its genus in the release of a a film produced by someone named Sam Bacile who claims to be real estate broker and Israeli citizen. The Israelis say there is no such Israeli and some wonder if the name is actually a pseudonym and the AP reported that the cell phone led to a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula a man convicted of financial crimes who admitted a role in the film today.  Nakoula is neither an Israeli or a Jew and has used the the name as a pseudonym.

Koran Burning Pastor Terry Jones

The film, called alternately “The Innocence of Moslems” or “Mohammed: Prophet of Moslems” is being promoted extensively by Egyptian Coptic Christian expatriate and anti-Moslem zealot Morris Sadek and Koran burning “pastor” Terry Jones. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal the man who calls himself Sam Bacile claimed that the film was “a political movie” and that “Islam is a cancer, period.” One of his collaborators an Evangelical Christian named Steve Klein told Fox News that “we went into this knowing that this was probably going to happen.”

Bacile or Nakoula, whoever he happens to be released a 13 minute long trailer for the film on You-Tube in English and it was translated into Egyptian Arabic. It has gone viral in the Islamic world. The Islamic preachers of hate and the cottage industry that thrives on finding reasons to hate Americans used the film to launch demonstrations at the US Embassy in Cairo and the Consulate in Libya.

Egyptian Protestors desecrate the American flag after breaching the Embassy Wall

Warned of upcoming demonstrations the Press Officer of the US Embassy in Cairo published the following statement six hours before the protest. Please note it is not an apology, it is diplomats in danger trying to calm the situation:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

In Egypt the new government headed by Moslem Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi did little to break up the demonstration yesterday and the crowds entered the compound, pulled down and desecrated the American flag and raised the black Islamic banner. However, they did no more. Today more demonstrations have occurred but Egyptian security forces interposed themselves between the demonstrators but the Egyptian government did nothing to condemn the demonstrators.

However during the initial phases of the crisis Republican Presidential Candidate condemned the Obama administration and the Embassy for “apologizing” for the “right of freedom of speech” in response to the attack on the Cairo embassy. Romney was criticized for the statement by many Republicans for appearing to use the attacks for partisan political gain. After doubling down on the comments this morning many analysts believe that Romney has come out of the day worse off on how he is viewed than before.

Romney’s remarks were contrasted with those of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1980 when the military operation ordered by President Jimmy Carter to free the US hostages during the Iranian hostage crisis. Reagan made this statement: “This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united and to pray” while Bush said “I unequivocally support the president of the United States — no ifs, ands or buts — and it certainly is not a time to try to go one-up politically. He made a difficult, courageous decision.” Both Reagan and Bush would campaign using the “weakness” of Jimmy Carter as one of their key points of attack but on the day of the disaster both had the decency not to use it for their political gain.

Ambassador Chris Stevens

In Libya there was a small demonstration at the consulate. However that demonstration appears to have been pushed aside by an armed group of 20-30 men wielding RPGs, machine guns and other automatic weapons. The assault by the group lasted between 4-5 hours and during it Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans including two Marines were killed.

The Libya attack appears to be a planned and premeditated attack, possibly to avenge of Al-Qaeda’s Libyan born second in command Abu Yahya al-Libi on June 4th, which Libyan Al Qaeda allies have promised to retribution. The fact that the attack occurred when a Ambassador Stevens was on a visit to promote the opening of a new cultural center. Stevens was respected by many Libyans for his role during the Libyan revolution and the Libyan government has apologized and Libyans have marched to apologize for his death.

Libyans protest in Sympathy with the US

President Obama has order a Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) platoon  to Tripoli to bolster the embassy defenses and ordered two Guided Missile Destroyers to Libya. He has promised that “justice” will be served on Ambassador Stevens’ killers. Osama Bin Laden and many other Al Qaeda leaders have faced that justice during Obama’s term and I expect that these brutal killers will not live long. He also made a telling comment about how he and the administration now view the situation in Egypt:

“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy…I think it’s still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected.”

The operative words in his remarks about Egypt are that “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally.” It appears that the President fully recognizes that despite hopes that pro-western modernists would gain power after the revolution that the newly elected government of Moslem Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi is not our friend.

Tonight the demonstrations in Cairo continue, others are breaking out in other countries and many Arab leaders recognize the danger and are trying to defuse the situations.

The problem is that no matter who is President that the instigators of the attacks on the embassy and the consulate as well as those that egg them on and those that intentionally try to provoke them will not stop. They will continue to do all that the can to bring about the war that they think will bring the fulfillment of their apocalyptic visions, be they Islamic, Christian or Jewish.  The fire is burning and these fools are doing all that they can to spread the flames around the world.

I wish I could say that it was going to get better but it looks like we are being pulled even deeper into this war without end.

Pray for peace but know that those that want war do more than pray for it, they are willing to do anything for it, even kill.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, middle east, national security, News and current events

Remembering John F Kennedy

“And so my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

“Now the trumpet summons us again. Not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are; but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’, a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.”  John F. Kennedy

It is hard to believe that it has been 48 years since President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas on a sunny November afternoon.  The two shots that killed  the President were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald according to the Warren Commission and subsequent inquiries although there are a host of conspiracy theories regarding the assassination. My purpose is not to prove or disprove the official version or any alternative explanation although I personally believe that Oswald was the lone gunman.  It is merely to remember a horrible event in the life of our nation and how easily it could happen again.

Kennedy was not the first President killed by an assassin. Four Presidents of the United States have died by the hand of assassins. The first was Abraham Lincoln killed by John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday 1865.  The next was James A Garfield who was shot on July 2nd 1881 by Charles Guiteau a disgruntled supporter who claimed that he had been commanded by God to kill a the President who he believed to be ungrateful for his support.  Garfield died on September 19th probably due to the incompetence of his doctors.   The third was William McKinley who was shot by Leon Czolgosz on September 6th 1901. McKinley died on September 14th.  Over 20 other attempts have been made on incumbent or former Presidents of which one wounded Theodore Roosevelt after his Presidency and another which nearly killed President Ronald Reagan on March 30th 1981.  Gerald Ford had two close brushes with female assassins within 2 weeks of each other in September 1975. More recent attempts have been made on George H.W Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.  A man was arrested for shooting at the White House last week but President Obama was away from Washington during the attack.

However Kennedy’s assassination tends to be the most talked about and studied and has left a scar on the country that really hasn’t healed. I can remember the effect that it as well as the subsequent killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F Kennedy had on my parents in the following years.  My mother recounted how she felt when she heard the news of Kennedy’s death on Armed Forces Radio while we were stationed in the Philippines.  I remember the times around the anniversary of his assassination we would watch television shows about it and the movie PT-109. While I do not have direct memories of President Kennedy’s assassination I do remember those of Dr King and Senator Kennedy as well as the subsequent attempts on President Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush.

John F Kennedy is one of my favorite Presidents. I know that John F Kennedy was a deeply flawed man and I do not gloss over his failings either as a man or some of his decisions while President. He was certainly not perfect or That being said I still I admire him.  He volunteered to serve in combat on PT Boats despite having chronic lower back problems tht kept him out of the Army and necessitated a waiver to enter the Navy. His actions in saving his crew after his PT-109 was sunk were nothing short of heroic and his crew knew it. After he his crew was rescued Kennedy elected to remain in action and commanded PT-59 in combat rescuing Marines on Choisuel Island. Kennedy’s citation for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal read:

For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Theater on August 1–2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

His speeches still inspire me and as a child a had a copy of his book Profiles in Courage . I grew up with his promise to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, the creation of the Peace Corps, his backing of Special Forces, his love of the Navy, the great “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, his support of the Civil Rights movement and and his defusing of the Cuban Missile Crisis all inspire me.  His inauguration speech where he said “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” was and still is a lot of my motivation for serving in the Navy.  John F Kennedy symbolized to me as a young person the hope of a country that had he lived might be different today.

I could be critical and point out all of John Kennedy’s flaws and contradictions.  But then too easy to do. People make a living doing that. People often forget that Kennedy was a hero, not perfect but a hero. I wish a quarter of our current elected officials served their country in combat as Kennedy did and understood what real danger and heroism is. Instead with very few exceptions we have elected men as flawed and contradictory as John F Kennedy with none of the personal courage the vast bulk who would happily order soldiers to their death but have no earthy clue about the dangers of war and the sacrifice involved. That John F Kennedy understood. That earns my respect.

I tremble when I think that someone would have such a deep hatred of him or for that matter any other President that they would kill or attempt to kill them.  That kind of hatred goes beyond me.  Lee Harvey Oswald was a small and pathetic man who needed to be a revolutionary, who needed to be important failing everything else he killed the President. Unfortunately there are people like Oswald on all sides of the political, ideological and religious spectrum who will gladly trade the life of a President or any other public figure for their moment in the spotlight and need to demonstrate their importance to the world.

I fear for our country because of the intense hatred that has become part and parcel of our political landscape. The hatred is almost palpable and while much is directed at President Obama because he is the incumbent President his successor if a Republican would likely have similar hatred directed at him just from different people.  Thus I do pray for the safety of our leaders and for God to protect us from ourselves.

While I do so I remember the President whose life was cut short by the bullets fired by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, leadership, Political Commentary, US Navy

Yet another Meaningless Debate and Looking back to the Best Debate Parody Ever

Tonight is yet another in a series of rather meaningless Presidential debates for the Republican-Tea Party.  It should be relatively predicable unless Rick Perry was to draw his gun and shoot Michelle Bachmann.  Apart from something like that it should be about the same as the last two debates.  Everybody will attack Perry and Perry will shoot back hopefully in a figurative sense and beat on his chest about all of his Texas accomplishments while painting President Obama as a Commi Pinko Socialist who needs to face some Texas justice.

The rest will either be variations on the theme “Obama is evil and I am less like Obama than the rest of these dumb asses” or “if you elect me President I will wear a tri-corner hat at my inauguration and usher in utopia.”

Let’s face it, the debates we have now are simply time for every candidate to create his or her truth and sell it to us even if it is a complete lie. But then to quote Seinfeld’s George Costanza “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”  This is true of the candidates of both major parties.  Right now it just happens to be the Republicans in the spotlight.  However the title could be the 1992 same as the Saturday Night Live 1992 Presidential Debate “The Challenge to Avoid Saying Something Stupid”  and we know that is always a distinct possibility.

Of course there is the hope that Michelle Bachmann will say that Rick Perry supports illegal immigration which benefits Herman Cain’s Godfather’s Pizza chain and that Ron Paul sells marijuana to debate newcomer Gary Johnson from an illegal lemonade stand outside of Rick Santorum’s house while Newt Gingrich ogles her ass even as he accuses Mitt Romney of secretly wanting to marry John Huntsman in Massachusetts in a ceremony presided over by Barak Obama or something like that.

Unfortunately none of that will happen and we will be treated to the usual just on a different channel than last time.  For that reason I have my television on the MLB Channel and probably will put on season four of Boston Legal where Rick Perry’sBoston alter ego Denny Crane is played by William Shatner. As or the debate itself I will simple catch the lowlights later.

Unfortunately I cannot find the video of the 1992 Bush-Clinton-Perot debate anywhere on the web I will post the script here.  As you will see it is far more entertaining than anything that will be said tonight.

Saturday Night Live Debate ’92

Jane Pauley…..Julia Sweeney
Bernard Shaw…..Tim Meadows
Sam Donaldson…..Kevin Nealon
Bill Clinton…..Phil Hartman
President George Bush…..Dana Carvey
Ross Perot…..Dana Carvey (on tape)

Announcer: NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” will not be seen tonight, so that we may bring you this NBC News Special: “Debate ’92: The Challenge to Avoid Saying Something Stupid”. And now, here is your moderator, Jane Pauley.

Jane Pauley: Good evening. I’m Jane Pauley, and welcome to St. Louis for the first in our series of three presidential debates. Tonight’s debate among President George Bush, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, and diminutive Texas billionaire Ross Perot will begin in just a moment. But first, let me introduce my fellow panelists, CNN anchor Bernard Shaw and ABC News political correspondent Sam Donaldson. Now, let’s meet the candidates. Gentlemen. [ the three candidates enter the arena and stand behind their respective podiums ] The first question will be asked by Sam Donaldson.

Sam Donaldson: Governor Clinton, let’s be frank. You’re running for president, yet your only experience has been as the governor of a small, backward state with a population of drunken hillbillies riding around in pickup trucks. The main streets of your capital city, Little Rock, are something out of L’il Abner, with buxom underage girls in their cutoff denims prancing around in front of Jethro and Billy Bob, while corncob-pipe-smoking, shotgun-toting grannies fire indiscriminantly at runaway hogs.

Bill Clinton: I’m sorry, Sam, do you have a question?

Sam Donaldson: My question is: How can you stand it? Don’t you lose your mind living down there?

Bill Clinton: Sam, you must have watched too many of my opponent’s TV spots. I’m tired of the Bush campaign trying to portray my home state as some sort of primitive Third World country. The fact is, Arkansas did have a long way to go, but we’ve made progress. When I started as governor, we were fiftieth in adult literacy, and last year, I’m proud to say, we shot ahead of Mississippi. We’re #49, and we’re closing fast on Alabama. Watch out, Alabama – we got your number!

George Bush: Can I say something here? Two years ago, I went on a fishing trip in Arkansas with Baker, Fitzwater, Quayle, myself. We were chased and assaulted by a couple of inbred mountain people. I was sworn to secrecy as to those events, but suffice it to say, they felt that Dan Quayle – and I quote – “sure had a purty mouth.” Now, if that’s the kind of progress Bill Clinton brought to Arkansas.. I don’t think we need it in the White House!

Bill Clinton: That’s not fair. Just this year we passed Mississippi to become 41st in the prevention of rickets.

Ross Perot: Can I jump in here? Why are we talking about Arkansas? Hell, everybody knows that all they got down there is a bunch of ignorant inbred crackerheads! Peckerwoods, catch me? now, can we talk about the deficit? While we’ve been jabbering, our deficit has increased by half a million dollars. That’s enough to buy a still and a new outhouse for every family in Little Rock!

Bill Clinton: Will you shut up!

Ross Perot: Hold it there, cracker boy, I’m not finished!

George Bush: See that right there? Kind of makes you wonder whether these men have the temperament to be president. Would you tell Prime Minister Major to shut up? Would you call Boris Yeltsin a “Crackerhead”? Who wouldn’t you tell to shut up? Because you see, this election is about who can take the heat, who you want there when that secured phone in the White House rings at 3 AM. Do you want someone who will answer the phone politely: “Hello, this is the President. Speak slowly and clearly and tell me what the problem is.” Or do you want someone who’s cranky, who says, “This better be important,” or “Do you realize what time it is?” or simply says, “Shut up!” hangs up the phone and sleeps like a baby while the world burns!

Jane Pauley: Thank you, gentlemen. Now, Bernard Shaw has a question for Governor Clinton.

Bernard Shaw: Yes, Governor Clinton. If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor the death penalty for her assailant?

Jane Pauley: Mr. Shaw, really. You don’t have to answer that, Governor Clinton.

Bill Clinton: No, no, I’m happy to answer that. Obviously, none of us want to see Kitty Dukakis raped and murdered, but if she had to be murdered I would hope it would be in Arkansas – because no state is tougher on crime. Last year we passed Florida to become #2 in executions by lethal injection, and first in crushed by heavy stones.

Jane Pauley: Mr. Perot? Rebuttal.

Ross Perot: I was hoping we’d get into the issues, but if this is the way the game is played – fine. So, if somebody were to lay a finger on Kitty Dukakis, I wouldn’t kill him right away. That’d be too easy. I’d wait for a hot Texas day, see? Tie him to a stake, get an ant trail going. You know, Texas red ants, inch long! Just love to bite into human flesh, catch what I’m saying here? See, they’re eating him alive, nice and slow like. And I’d sit with him in the shade under an umbrella, maybe with a lemonade, sit back and say to the fella, “How do you like them apples?” And he’ll be screaming, “When am I gonna die?” and I’d say, “I don’t know exactly, and frankly, I resent your question.” Catch my drift?

Jane Pauley: THank you. Now, let’s turn to the deficit. President Bush, during your term, the deficit has grown by over a trillion dollars.

George Bush: I know.

Jane Pauley: Honestly now, don’t you feel some kind of tax hike will be needed to reduce the deficit?

George Bush: Jane, the answer is no! I will never raise taxes again! Never, ever, ever, ever.. never, ever again! And I mean never, ever, ever, ever, never ever..!!

Jane Pauley: Thank you, Mr. Presi..

George BushNever, ever, ever!

Jane Pauley: Mr. President, please..

George BushEver, ever again!

Jane Pauley: Sam Donaldson, with a question for Governor Clinton.

Sam Donaldson: Governor Clinton, this week the big story has been your 1969 trip to Moscow, and your involvement in antiwar activities. Some have ven suggested that while in Moscow, you had meetings with KGB agents. Isn’t it fair to say that you haven’t really told the American people the full story?

Bill Clinton: Sam, this kind of attack shows how desperate the Bush campaign has become. Yes, I did go to Moscow by train in 1969. And while on the train, I struck up a conversation with a man in the seat next to me. He gave me a package to take to Moscow and instructed me to leave it folded in a newspaper in a kiosk across from Lenin’s tomb. I’ve explained this many times. Yes, the KGB did subsequently pay my way through law school, but that was the last contact I had with the KGB until years later when Hillary and I were having problems, and it was a KGB agent, Nikolai Kuznetsov, who let me stay at his place for a while until we patched things up.

Sam Donaldson: But isn’t it true that during one of the peace demonstrations you burned an American flag in Red Square?

Bill Clinton: I tried to burn an American flag once. I didn’t like it. It gave off toxic fumes, so I didn’t inhale.

Ross Perot: Can I say something here?

Jane Pauley: Mr. Perot.

Ross Perot: I think that’s just sad.

Jane Pauley: President Bush?

George Bush: Once again, it all comes down to trust. Who’s been there? I’ve been with Mitterand, I’ve met with Major, I know the White House. I know the door outto the Rose Garden doesn’t lock unless you pull it. I know the toilet in the Lincoln Bedroom will run all night unless you jiggle that handle. It’s not enough to flush it, you’ve got to jiggle it! I know Air Force One. I know that seat 8G does not fuly recline. If we are flying the Prime Minister of Canada to a trade conference, I alone can say, “Mr. Mulroney, seat 8G does not fully recline, I suggest you use another!”

Jane Pauley: All right, Mr. Bush, our time is up. Each candidate will be allowed a brief closing statement. Governor Clinton?

Bill Clinton: Thank you, Jane. We’ve talked about many issues tonight. But this election is really about one thing – change. Over the last twelve years, more and more Americans have found themselves working longer and harder for less and less. [ President Bush glances at Clinton and sees the vision of a hippy standing behind the podium ] We need to invest in our people again. Because together, all of us, pulling as a team, we can do it! Thank you.

Jane Pauley: President Bush?

George Bush: My fellow Americans, this election is about leadership and trust. Now, our opponents have tried to portray us as the party of the rich and privileged, ignoring the fact that our economic program has created more opportunity for more Americans than in any twelve-year period in history. [ Clinton glances at President Bush and sees the vision of an old lady standing behind the podium ] Well, let me tell you something: I’m not worth $3.3 billion, and I wasn’t educated at Oxford. But I know how to lead this country to victory in the Persian Gulf, and I can do it again here at home!

Jane Pauley: Mr. Perot?

Ross Perot: This whole thing fascinates me, really. See, you don’t have to be a Ph.D. at Harvard to know that our kids are going to inherit a $4 trillion deficit, and that’s just a crime. [ Clinton and President Bush glance at Perot and see the vision of a munchkin from “The Wizard of Oz” ] Now, if I’m president, we start cleaning up this mess on Day One. It’s gonna take some sacrifice, no doubt about it. But I know the American people are ready to sacrifice as long as it’s fair. This is your country, let’s take it back.

Jane Pauley: Thank you, Mr. Perot, don’t you have one last thing to say?

Ross Perot: No, I can’t. I’m on tape. [ looks at Bush ] Why don’t
you do it, live-boy?

George Bush: “Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night!

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Filed under Just for fun, Political Commentary, purely humorous

The Radical Influence of the Christian Dominionism on American Politics: It’s All Jimmy carter’s Fault….Not Really but it is a Catchy Headline

Religious Liberty in the Massachusetts Bay Colony…the hanging of the Quakers…a model for the Dominionists

“When the pretended friends of religion lead infidel lives; when they carry religion to market and offer it in exchange for luxuries and honors; when they place it familiarly and constantly in the columns of newspapers, manifestly connected with electioneering purposes, and when they are offering it up as a morning and evening sacrifice of the altar of political party- these men are placing a firebrand to every meeting house and applying a torch to every Bible” Abraham Bishop in an oration at Wallingford CT on 11 March 1801

“See, the problem is, is that Satan has had too much of his way in our society because he has a government! And the only way to overthrow a government is with a government. It won’t happen otherwise.” C. Peter Wagner

Every time that I hear a politician of any party invoke God or quote scripture my stomach turns.  In our modern era this really began with Jimmy Carter, for better or worse the man wore his faith proudly. The Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher from Plains Georgia let it all out when he talked about his faith, sin, lust and adultery in a Playboy Magazine interview in 1976.  There was actually nothing wrong with what he said or that he identified himself as a “Born Again Christian.”  But it set a precedent and brought a previously apolitical part of the population into the process in a way never seen before.  Evangelicals like the young Michelle Bachmann rushed to the polls like flies to a honey trap.  Before long posturing political preachers were in the mix and now 35 years later we have radical preachers openly clamoring for a Christian theocracy and brazenly advocating the complete dominion of Christians over all areas of life. The theory is called “Dominionism” or “SevenMountains” theology.  Many of these preachers are openly allied with a number of high profile Republican Presidential candidates in a take no prisoners campaign to destroy their opposition within the Republican party and nationwide.

C. Peter Wagner a Professor of Evangelism at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena California is one of the most prominent proponents of this political theology and he wrote:

“Our theological bedrock is what has been known as Dominion Theology. This means that our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden. It is nothing less than seeing God’s kingdom coming and His will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.” Letter dated 31 May 2007

Of course by 1980 Carter was tossed aside by his Evangelical supporters like cup of boiled peanuts gone bad as the preachers disappointed with him over the Panama Canal treaty and the economy ditched him and whipped up support for Ronald Reagan.  Reagan wiped Carter off of the electoral map like Sherman marching to the sea.  When he did the now emboldened preachers pressed for more power.  Groups like Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition became major supporters and contributors to conservative candidates and politicians as did James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the American Family Association.

Now Reagan to his credit talked a lot about faith and God but he certainly could not be considered one of the real Evangelical Christian faithful.  He was divorced and a sparse attendee of the Mainline Presbyterian Church USA.  He was married to a woman who brought mediums into the White House to conduct séances.  He cut taxes but raised taxes when he needed to. He withdrew U.S.Forces from Beirut after the Marine barracks was destroyed with the loss of 241 American lives and he became Soviet Premier Gorbachev’s buddy.  Before he was President he raised the sales tax in California and signed one of the most liberal and permissive abortion laws in the nation well before the Roe v. Wade decision.  In short if he was running in 2011 for the 2012 nomination he would already be out of the race.  Since Reagan departed the Presidency the preachers and politicians are aided in their struggle for control by the third member of the Unholy Trinity the pundits.

Now the democrats were and are not above using preachers and scripture for their own purposes.  Some seeking to capitalize on the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other early civil rights pioneers not only used their pulpits to further civil rights which I have no issue with but to promote themselves and a place at the table in the Democrat Party and its policies. Others minsters mainly from liberal denominations used their pulpits to promote all sorts of other agendas that were called liberal, socialist or left wing, even though most had decent scriptural support.  However Liberal politicians have used these preachers over the years as brazenly as conservative politicians use Evangelicals, Charismatics and other conservative Christians including Roman Catholics.

Bill Clinton was a master of using scripture in his campaign as well as in enunciating his policies.  He got everyone going with his “New Covenant” acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention which was a masterful speech though it brazenly co-opted a Christian theme as its own.  Initially some of the current radical preachers we Clinton backers as the felt that President George H.W. Bush was leading the United States into the New World Order. What tickles me is that one of the leading Seven Mountain’s “prophets named Paul Cain spoke at my church after the election and said that “God told him that Bill Clinton would be elected and that it was because of Clinton’s “humility.” Joyner wrote in Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Prophetic Bulletin in 1993The Lord said that He was giving us a new president who is better than we deserve. He represents a reprieve from a New World Order that the Church is not prepared to face at this time…” I love it when self appointed prophets catch themselves on their own tangled Web of lies.  Of course the real reason had nothing to due with the Christian faith but the fact that Cain and his ilk didn’t like George Bush and believed that he was ushering in a “New World Order.  This was shameless, but then that is nothing new.  

Now as a disclaimer as a 16 year old I worked for Gerald Ford’s campaign and voted for Reagan twice.  Since I became a Republican because of the radicalism espoused by George McGovern in 1972 when my dad was in Vietnam surrounded by the North Vietnamese.  This made me a very pro-military and anti-Communist.  It was  because of Carters foreign policy flubs and weakness that  I supported Reagan. I was and still am a  Christian, but I didn’t vote for Reagan or any other Republican because of their faith or the faith of their opponent.  Now I do like it when men and women that I vote for represent the best of their faith and don’t lord it over those that are not of their faith. When I vote I vote the vote for a candidate based on what I see as their qualifications for the office and not their religious views.

Unfortunately there are a number of prominent candidates and their supporters that seem to want Theologian in Chief.  Politicians can see that and that pander shamelessly to their religious supporters often to the exclusion of all others.  If I want a theocracy I’ll go to Iran or Saudi Arabia thank you, but I don’t and you shouldn’t either unless you are planning to convert. But that is the plan of the Dominionists.

However those pursuing the radical Seven Mountains Dominionism actually want a theocracy will use any party or any President to establish it. Clinton didn’t give it to them so they went to the Republicans.  Their rhetoric is scary. Rick Joyner who is one of the big supporters of this movement within the Tea Party and Republican Party said something  that should give anyone that has a hankering for religious liberty and liberty of conscious chills.  Perry is not simply a ranting nut but a nut that has the ear of viable Presidential candidates.  Back in 1996 Joyner wrote about what was going to happen to Christians that didn’t agree with his understanding of his prophecy threatening to change “the very definition of Christianity….for the better….”

“On February 23rd of this year I was shown for the third time that the church was headed for a spiritual civil war … the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the accuser of the brethens’ strongholds in the church … this will in fact be one of the most cruel battles the church has ever faced. Like every civil war brother will turn against brother like we have never witnessed in the church before … this battle must be fought. It is an opportunity to drive the accuser out of the church and for the church then to come into unity that would otherwise be impossible … what is coming will be dark. At times Christians almost universally will be loath to even call themselves Christians. Believers and unbelievers alike will think it is the end of Christianity as we know it and it will be through this the very definition of Christianity will be changed for the better.”  Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin May 1996

Cindy Jacobs another one of these politically connected prophets made this claim on the internet back in 2000:

“For there is a radical sound that I have issued – there is a sound that has come from heaven, and it even now has come to earth. And the Lord says, these are going to be days where I am going to trouble the enemy through you. These are going to be different days than you have ever known, and I am going to require sacrifice of you that you cannot imagine. I am going to require a sacrifice of your children, says the Lord. And the Lord says, I’m going to shake everything that can be shaken…” and that “There are churches that will be command posts for revolution, and to these command posts I would say, I am going to bring a revolution. Look and see; I am calling radical revolutionaries to the church.”  http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/85

If you ask me that is a threat to all Americans. One of Joyner’s friends the late John Wimber who founded the Vineyard Churches said of his neighbors at Calvary Chapel “Calvaryites are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written Word.”  That is something Wimber criticized Christians that he saw as too heavily oriented to the Bible.  Simply being a Bible Christian is not good enough for the Dominionists, theirs is an all or nothing take no prisoners approach that discounts 2000 years of Christian history, theology and tradition in favor of their alleged “words from God.”

This is not about theology it is about power and money. Leading Dominionist C.Peter Wagner wrote: “nine of the components of GAN {Global Apostolic Network} are on my heart, but especially those related to wealth and wealth transfer. I am in touch with 17 potential wealth transfer brokers, some of them expecting release momentarily. It is hard to comprehend, but some of them go to multiple millions, billions, and more. My task is to prepare a high integrity infrastructure for distributing these funds when they begin to flow. Zion Apostolic Network and The Hamilton Group are in place as agencies to carry this out. Our motto is “Sophisticated Philanthropy for Apostolic Distribution.” Letter from Global Harvest Ministries dated August 20, 2007

The original Dominionist was R. J. Rushdoony who was very open in what he believed:

“One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state . . . Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.” R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law p.100

This is the real goal of Rick Perry’s The Response prayer meeting a few weeks back and the perverted gospel that these preachers use to get politicians to fulfill their agenda and Perry obliged them well. If it was simply a day of prayer then others that were not Christians would have been welcome.

Old Abraham Bishop was right; these people are setting fire to every meeting house and putting the torch to every Bible.  Unfortunately most of their supporters will ignore or quash what I and others write about these people. I had that happen with a man from my former church that actually knows me today.  Facts didn’t matter, all that mattered were the talking points and the agenda.  The founders of this country did not as these people say desire anything like this.  In fact Thomas Jefferson said “History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.” (letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813)

God help us all.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Primer on the Muddle East

“When you are up to your arse in alligators it is hard to remember that your mission is to drain the swamp.” Old British Colonial Saying

During the dark days of World War Two when Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was making fools of a series of British commanders in North Africa people including senior British military and government leaders sometimes referred to the theater of operations as “the Muddle East.” Some things never seem to change. The Muddle East today is quite frankly speaking in a real muddled state if there ever was one with world leaders and regional leaders muddling about as if they were the New York Mets.

A large part of the muddle goes back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the First World War when the victorious Allied Powers redrew the map of the Middle East and made alliances with various local tribal sheiks who many times were crowned king over other tribes who didn’t necessarily want them as king. This along with heavy handed European military actions such as the British using poison gas dropped from aircraft in Iraq and a real lack of effort to better the lives of the newly “liberated” peoples of the region was just the start. Add to the cesspool a bunch of oil presided over by major oil companies, the anti-colonial movements that flourished in the years after World War Two when the French, British and Italians had to divest themselves of their Middle Eastern holdings. The French had to fight a real war in Algeria but finally withdrew leaving Algeria’s new rulers to goof up the country and oppress their people for decades to come.  In the coming years many of these newly independent nations found that life still sucked so in a number of countries military officers overthrew the despised monarchs promising reforms but oppressing their people while blaming all their problems on the Israelis.  They got their asses kicked by the Israelis in a series of wars which did a number of things that made the Middle East Muddle even worse.

First it ensured that Palestinian Arabs ended up under Israeli rule and were used with great aplomb by the Middle Eastern despots to prop up support for their regimes while doing nothing to help the Palestinians other than to put them in camps in Lebanon.  Even when the Egyptians made a peace deal with Israel most of the Arab World ostracized them.  Then in 1979 the Shah of Iran was sent packing by a bunch of Mullahs and in 1981 Saddam Hussein’s Iraq attacked Iran in one of the bloodier wars of the late 20th Century which finally ended in 1988. Of course the United States was pissed at the Mullahs so Saddam became our favorite Arab despot for a while.  Add to the mix the Soviet Union and the United States arming their favorite Arab dictators who were given carte blanche to continue oppressing their people so long as it didn’t interfere with their support of either party or the oil supply. Finally the Soviets went Tango Uniform in 1989 not long after being forced out of Afghanistan by the U.S. supplied, Pakistani supported and Saudi Arabian fundamentalist financed Mujahedeen.

With the Soviets Tango Uniform and the Warsaw Pact nations trying to get into NATO the United States was now the uncontested Numero Uno country in the world Saddam presumed upon his late supporters and invaded Kuwait, albeit after thinking that the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq said that we wouldn’t mind. Well he was wrong we did mind and got a lot of countries from NATO and including a bunch of Arab countries like Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia to get on board on a mission to get Saddam’s troops out of Kuwait. It was a kick ass mission and since the United Nations didn’t authorize removing Saddam and because President George H.W. Bush was smart enough to not to drive on Baghdad to kick him out preferring the depot we knew to a quagmire despite Saddam’s crimes against his own people who thought we would help them.  So we stationed ground and air forces around the Gulf to keep Saddam and Iran in check and even put them in Saudi Arabia which a large number of radicals such as Osama Bin Laden equated to letting the Devil play in Allah’s Holy Sandbox.  So Osama went and set up a base with the Medieval bunch of Pashtun known as the Taliban in Afghanistan stirred up a bunch of shit killing Americans and blowing up stuff including the World Trade Center in 1993, the Khobar Towers barracks complex in 1996, the USS Cole in 2000 and then 2001 another attack on the World Trade Center which took down the towers with hijacked aircraft and also struck the Pentagon triggered an American response against Bin Laden and his Taliban hosts.  The United States then invaded in Iraq in 2003 and succeeded in taking out Saddam but also succeeded in alienating a good many Iraqis who greeted us with open arms because we goofed up the occupation and pissed a lot of them off by dissolving the Army, Police and Civil Service and letting thugs and opportunists take over. Unfortunately since we didn’t go in with enough troops to secure all the Iraqi bases, their weapons depots and actually take control of surrendering Iraqi units these newly unemployed and dishonored people launched an insurgency bolstered by Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters even as Sunni and Shi’a Moslems began to settle scores with each other. Insurgency and civil war, two great tastes that go great together, but what the heck right?

Of course it took years to get control of the situation on the ground and thankfully the United States forces in Iraq were helped when the Sunni Moslems in Al Anbar Province realized that these foreign fighters were a worse enemy than the United States and switched sides. This turned the tables in Iraq and the insurgency was brought under control and an elected government managed to start to get their stuff together and allow us to begin withdrawing from Iraq. Of course the focus on Iraq gave the Taliban a chance to regroup as the Afghani Government proved itself corrupt, incompetent and not to give a shit about the Afghani people. So the Taliban who had been hated made a comeback and made our lives much harder so that now almost 10 years into the fight we are having a really hard time.  Well enough about us there was plenty more going on in the Muddle East besides the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Let’s see….there was the law of unintended consequences in that by taking Saddam Down and weakening Iraq we took away Iran’s natural enemy and the key to the balance of power in the region. Iran was strengthened and began a nuclear program that everyone with half a brain knows in intended for military use and expanded its influence in Lebanon where the Iranian backed Hezbollah took power last year.  Now Hezbollah which actually has an experienced military force and probably owns 40,000 or so rockets and missiles a good number of which can hit deep in Israel seems to be ready for war especially because they fought the Israelis to a stalemate in 2008, the first time an Arab military ever did that.

Then was the effect that the wars in those countries made things harder for us in many other friendly Arab nations.  Of course there is the problem of a nuclear armed Pakistan which is about as stable as a Japanese nuclear reactor after getting hit by a tsunami and plays both sides of the street in the war on terror.  The Palestinians and Israelis continued their love affair and since Fatah which ran Palestinian Authority was so corrupt and gooned up a more militant group, Hamas took power in the Gaza strip. Hamas is a pretty bloodthirsty lot too but not the same level of threat as Hezbollah to the Israelis.  Of course the Israelis have done little to help the situation by their often heavy handed treatment of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

The witches’ cauldron of the Muddle East is getting even more muddled on a daily basis as young Arabs throughout the Muddle East are rising up against their despotic rulers and it doesn’t seem that any are safe, those allied with the United States and the West as well as those that have been a thorn in the side of the United States and the West. It just seems that despots and tyrants are no longer in vogue. The uprisings began in Iran after a disputed election where reformers were cheated of power and the revolt crushed by the Revolutionary Guard and other thugs of the Iranian regime. But then in December 2010 the people of Tunisia rose up and overthrew their President for Life Ben Ali in a peaceful uprising followed shortly after by the Egyptians who tossed out long term President and U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak.

This brought about spontaneous uprisings all over the Middle East with Libya and the long time pain in the ass Muammar Gaddafi being the current center of the action. However Yemen and Bahrain both are in trouble, Algeria, Jordan and Syria have or are experiencing demonstrations which look to be revolts in the making and even Saudi Arabia is trying to head off a potential popular uprising.

Yes my friends this is a mess and almost everybody that is anybody in the military and economic power houses of the world doesn’t have their handprints all over at least some part of this mess. All of these own some of the blame for what is going on, both the rulers of the nations in the region as well as world powers who all try to influence the nations and peoples for their own diplomatic, intelligence, military or economic gain. Almost no one is unsoiled by their involvement in the Muddle East over the past 90 years or so and so in a way all of world powers, as well as the despots who ran these countries are to blame.

The region is more volatile than at any time in recent history and events there could easily ignite a regional war with worldwide implications.  That is why the region has been called the Muddle East for decades.  We all hope and pray for the best and that somehow all of this will bring about a peaceful and democratic “Arab Spring” but there are better than even odds that things get way worse before they get better. There are just too many wild cards in this deck and the swamp is full of hungry alligators.

May God help us all and bring about peaceful change, or as my Iraqi friends simply say “Inshallah, God willing.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Acrid Smell of an Election is in the Air: The Toxic Politics of Mutually Assured Destruction

Bloom County copyright 1988 by Berkeley Breathed. www.gocomics.com

Yes that pungent stench that is in the air is not the smell of fall, not the scent of freshly run over skunk but yea and verily the scent of yet another poisonously pungent election season. Yes this year stinks more than most because of the division of the country and the absolute enmity between political parties.   Pundits, ideologues, mindless drones and their allied television, radio and print media shills echo whatever their party’s leaders and pundits say regardless of its veracity painting their opponents in the worst possible manner without ever dealing with the issues in a constructive manner.  Back in the 1990s I think it was Hillary Clinton who talked about the “politics of personal destruction” but I think while that still goes on we have entered the realm of “the politics of mutual assured destruction.” Yes candidates will win and lose this election season but the ways they will win will do great damage to the country, regardless of their party that ultimately triumphs.  Since this is a mid-term election expect this to only get worse as the Presidential election of 2012 approaches.

What triggered this article was a visit to Huntington West Virginia my family’s ancestral home where I worked in the 1990s as a hospital emergency department chaplain.  Huntington is in Cabell County and used to be the largest and most prosperous city in the state.  Huntington is located on the Ohio River and is across that river from Ohio and adjacent to Ashland Kentucky.  As a result the local television and radio media carry campaign ads from all three states.  Thus in the week that we were there I was treated with an absolute deluge of negative political advertisement from candidates of both parties in US Senate, US House of Representatives, Gubernatorial and State Senate and House races.  I have lived in Virginia for 7 years and while political ads here are similar to those in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio I think they are a bit more tame due to the large number of people from the rest of the country that have settled here due to the military and government related employment.

With the massive amount of exposure that I had to the toxic radioactive sludge that filled the airwaves from the various candidates for office I realized that we have been standing at the precipice of a political cliff for several years with both parties doing everything they can to push us over it. I guess like political parties in Weimar Germany they see a benefit to the chaos of an electorate that no longer sees the opposing party as Americans with opposing beliefs, but enemies of the America that they envision. I guess in a Machiavellian sense whatever tactics that you use to gain victory are irrelevant as long as you win.

Back when I was growing up the statesmen of American politics treated each other with respect and maintained friendships with people on the other side of the aisle; I think that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill epitomized the men of that era, fierce political opponents who remained friends until the end. George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton seem to have that kind of relationship as well.  But I detect little of that from the current crop of political ideologues in both parties and I think that they all share the blame for the mess that the country is in and I don’t see any change in political climate coming anytime soon.

Bloom County copyright 1988 by Berkeley Breathed. www.gocomics.com

I think that to use the Cold War term we have entered a phase of “Mutual Assured Destruction” regarding the tactics used by both parties in their attempts to keep or gain power. Issues are not discussed or debated they are reduced to sound bites and the opposition candidates views are usually taken out of the context that they were made. Both parties are doing this and when both politicians and their supporters in the media paint caricatures of their opponents using such methods truth suffers.  No one offers a positive vision for the country because I think they have stopped believing in it, all that matters as their party and their ideology truth and their opponents be damned.  What bothers me even more is how some religious leaders and churches have taken this same approach rather than simply preaching the Gospel and caring about God’s people. Even churches and pastors have become shills for political parties sacrificing the Gospel for a share in political power.

Bloom County copyright 1988 by Berkeley Breathed. www.gocomics.com

In spite of this I did my civic duty and voted for those who seemed behave with less rancor toward their opponents, politicians from both sides of the aisle as I have never been regardless of my political affiliation a shill for a party.  I voted for candidates that seemed to care more for my home state than an allegiance to their national party.  Now they may be just as bad and corrupt as the other candidates but as Tip O’Neill said “all politics is local” and my vote was cast in that light.  I am not an ideologue but think that somehow as Americans we need to find a way to work together as the problems of this country cannot be changed when the political climate is so toxic. Maybe I am just an idealist that believes that the people of this country are better at heart than our politicians believe us to be.

In the end I think that both parties, their respective candidates and media shills have decided to paraphrase a quote from the Vietnam War “that we had to destroy the country in order to save it.” God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Thoughts on the National Day of Prayer Controversy

Today like many institutions in the Federal Government our Medical Center observed the National Day of Prayer. Ours was a very low key affair which I led where we simply invited people to pray after reading the Presidential Proclamation for 2010 and a short opening prayer.  People were invited to pray silently and for the benefit of our Nation and its people, especially for those serving in the military and their families.  Likewise tom offer prayer for the victims of war, natural disasters and accidents in this county and around the world.

The National Day of prayer was recently ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb who ruled in favor of a suit brought about by the Freedom from Religion Foundation against The National Day of Prayer Task Force, former President George Bush and others which was expanded to name President Barack Obama when he requested that Judge Crabb to dismiss the case in 2009 when the administration argued that the foundation had no legal standing to sue.  The President and administration appealed the ruling and went ahead with the proclamation and observance of the National Day of Prayer.

The modern National Day of Prayer was enacted by President Truman and Congress in 1952 in the 36 U.S.C. § 119 : US Code – Section 119: National Day of Prayer and various Presidents at different times have called for days of fasting, prayer or thanksgiving.  The heart of President Truman’s proclamation is contained in this section:

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Friday, July 4, 1952, as a National Day of Prayer, on which all of us, in our churches, in our homes, and in our hearts, may beseech God to grant us wisdom to know the course which we should follow, and strength and patience to pursue that course steadfastly. May we also give thanks to Him for His constant watchfulness over us in every hour of national prosperity and national peril.

In 1982 a group of Evangelical Christians led by Shirley Dobson formed The National Prayer Committee. This organization was exclusively Christian and was formed to coordinate and implement a fixed annual day of prayer, the purpose of which was to organize evangelical Christian prayer events with local, state, and federal government entities.  This organization has since grown in popularity and prominence often being the primary organizer of such events.

Ronald Reagan eloquently stated the purpose and significance of the National Day of Prayer in his 1983 proclamation which in part read:

It took the tragedy of the Civil War to restore a National Day of Prayer. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

Revived as an annual observance by Congress in 1952, the National Day of Prayer has become a great unifying force for our citizens who come from all the great religions of the world. Prayer unites people. This common expression of reverence heals and brings us together as a Nation and we pray it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.

From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 5, 1983, National Day of Prayer. I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.

President Reagan’s 1983 and subsequent proclamations stood firmly in the American tradition of Civil Religion and was decidedly non-sectarian.  It acknowledged that our citizens “come from all the great religions of the world” and called on Americans to gather on the day “in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.”  In fact the spirit of the declaration is much like that of the hymn God of Our Fathers which is recognized as our National Hymn.  This hymn is not explicitly Christian and never mentions Christ or the Trinity yet it is widely sung in churches on days such as the Sunday nearest to Independence Day.  The lyrics to that hymn are here:

God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand, Leads forth in beauty all the starry band

Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies, Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past, In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,

Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay, Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence, Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;

Thy true religion in our hearts increase, Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way, Lead us from night to never ending day;

Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

While the American religious tradition is highly Christian and even more so from the Reformed tradition this has always existed in tension with a decidedly secularist philosophy embodied by many of the Founding Fathers who were very careful to recognize the importance of religion but at the same time both sought to protect religious liberty by NOT enacting laws to establish a particular religion nor to entangle the government in the affairs of religion which could in their view be detrimental to true religious liberty.

In fact both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were very careful about proclamations and ensuring that government was not favoring any particular religious body. Jefferson wrote to Reverend Samuel Miller in 1808 that:

Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it. …civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

Madison who was the author of the Bill of Rights and included religious liberty in the First Amendment in support of Virginia Baptists who were under pressure from those who were determined to make and keep the Episcopal Church as the state religion of the commonwealth. Madison wrote to Edward Livingston in 1822 that:

“There has been another deviation from the strict principle in the Executive Proclamations of fasts & festivals, so far, at least, as they have spoken the language of injunction, or have lost sight of the equality of all religious sects in the eye of the Constitution. Whilst I was honored with the Executive Trust I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere designations of a day, on which all who thought proper might unite in consecrating it to religious purposes, according to their own faith & forms. In this sense, I presume you reserve to the Govt. a right to appoint particular days for religious worship throughout the State, without any penal sanction enforcing the worship.”

Even Republican Presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were careful to attempt to keep this in tension only holding one official event each during their presidencies.  It was not until George W. Bush that the President hosted events in every year of his presidency.  Remember the language of the law was that the President shall issue a proclamation for the people of the nation to pray.  Likewise the proclamations are a call for Americans, as Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman wrote to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind. The Day of Prayer was not intended to entwine the government in exclusively religious observances by any particular religious tradition as many of the National Day of Prayer observances in many local, state and federal government agencies.

I have in my military career been ordered to attend such events.  I have no problem with praying or even gathering for prayer but there was pressure to attend and often the observances were quite exclusivist and dominated by Evangelicals aligned with the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

While I cannot agree with Judge Crabb who I think applies the law to the manner in how some groups brazenly enmesh their particular faith tradition into these observances.  However I think that she misses that actual intent of the law and proclamations which are both non-sectarian and voluntary focusing on people observing this in their homes and places of worship.  To make the blanket judgement that the law itself is unconstitutional as Judge Crabb did is a brazen overreach.  She may rule that observances which are sectarian but done or sponsored by government agencies where employees feel pressured to attend are unconstitutional is another matter. When any religious group uses their position to organize and promote their particular view in a setting where military members or other government employees are “encouraged” to attend and where the senior leadership of these agencies is present there is the presumption that attendance is mandatory even if it is not explicitly stated.  In such cases military personnel or government employees could feel that promotion or fair treatment could be negatively impacted by not participating in what some could arguably call an establishment of religion.  Such could be the case with any faith and not just the Christian faith. This was something that the Founding Fathers despite the overwhelming Christian make up of the country strove to avoid.  They recognized the importance that religion played in public and private life and many were not afraid to use explicitly Christian in referring God but did not want the Christian faith, any denomination of it or any other religion to be either the master of or the servant of the state as was the case in all of Europe at the time of the founding of this country.

What I think has happened within the time of my military career is that many Evangelical groups have made the National Day of Prayer “their event” and use people withing government agencies or the military to organize events which lean heavily toward Evangelical Christianity.  I have seen it myself especially when I was in the Army. Not only has this occurred but many times the leadership of these religious groups promote the political agenda of a particular political party or philosophy and as such that political philosophy sometimes becomes part of the event.  It happens quite often.  When it does happen a perilous boundary is crossed and the group or groups that do this invite opposition including legal challenges such as happened in Wisconsin because such proceedings give the appearance of the establishment of religion.

To be fair to Evangelicals and others it also appears to me that some strident atheist groups are bent on removing religion from the public square and quite often use the courts and legislatures to push their agenda.  I think that the founders did not intend for this to be the case either.  The secret to the American political and religious tradition is that for the most part we have maintained the tension needed to ensure that religious liberties are protected without establishing a state religion.  This is something that people throughout the world have admired about this country as opposed to Europe where state churches worked hand in hand with their governments to persecute religious minorities even engaging in progroms or religiously based mass murder.  The same is true in much of the rest of the world where leaders of other faiths act as agents of their government and persecute those who are not of their faith.

Our society now is extremely polarized and there is little middle ground or moderation in regard to religion, politics or civil behavior.  Instead rhetoric is heated. Liberals often mock conservative Christians or others who hold their faith deeply and believe their faith to have a public voice. Likewise some political and religious people that would trample the in response to the increased secularism of modern times want to restore some sort of balance even if it means overriding the long standing tradition in American life, that tradition of tolerance and protection of the rights of others, even those that that are different or even unusual.  Such behavior on both sides becomes more heated and less compromising.  The opposing parties mirror each others attitudes, actions and tactics and use the media to stir up people to support their side and use the courts and legislatures to promote their agendas which they all believe are more in keeping with the founders intent than the other side.

This is why there is such a controversy in an event that was intended to be a unifying activity, an event that was to help Americans of all religious traditions to work for the common good of all Americans and not just their party and I use the term in a non-political sense.  My hope is that Americans in all places will have the freedom to gather to observe the National Day of Prayer but in the sense that it was originally intended, a religious observance in a civil context which promotes the public good and recognizes the influence of God and religion in the life of the country.

I know that my views will not make zealots of both sides of many faiths and creeds happy.  It seems that moderation and civility is out and those who actually believe in tolerance, respect and civility are marginalized by extremists of many forms.  Since in the past few months I have been called various names including “Communist, Marxist, Liberal, non-Christian and unbeliever” I expect that once again I will collect some fan mail.  I’m okay with that so long as you don’t call me a Dodger fan.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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