Tag Archives: liberty counsel

Kim Davis’s 15 Minutes Are Up

kim davis flag

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I am busy today, a lot going on, so just a quick note about the soon to be irrelevant and already mostly forgotten Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky; Mrs. Kim Davis.

Mrs. Davis went back to work Monday, still claiming to be persecuted but not interfering with the five deputy clerks in her office who are issuing marriage licenses to all couples, including same-sex couples. She and her hack job lawyers are claiming that the licenses issued without her name on them may be invalid, a claim rejected by Kentucky’s Governor, Attorney General and the Federal Court.

Going back to work Davis was defiant and again played the victim, though it was she who used her office to deny the rights of others. She asked, “Are we not big enough, a loving enough and a tolerant enough state to find a way to accommodate my deeply held religious convictions?”  But why was she not big enough to find a way to accommodate the legal and civil rights of people whose lives that she does not approve? The irony is rich; especially when you understand the nature of the oaths of office that she swore to uphold nine short months ago, one that stipulated that she would “faithfully execute the duties of my office without favor, affection or partiality.”

The answer is readily apparent to anyone who has any discernment: Mrs. Davis was stupid enough to listen to politically motivated hack lawyers who used the case to fill their bank accounts with the donations of well-meaning people who neither understand history, the law, or the Constitution. For her decision she became a tool of unscrupulous politicians like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, and ended up in jail.

What will happen next is that she will do her job without interfering with her five deputies; the Kentucky legislature will do their job under the state Religious Liberty Restoration Act that they passed to create an exemption that will not compromise Mrs. Davis’s “deeply held religious convictions”; and her lawyers and supporters will abandon her. She is getting  religious liberty award from the Family Resesrch Council, an organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Povert Law Commission at their upcoming Values Voters Summit.  After that she and her husband may get a few appearances on the television programs of some televangelists and maybe a book deal which will net her little money; but she will be yet another casualty in the culture war that these politicians, preachers and pundits are waging. Sadly, she will not be the last. Her fifteen minutes of infamy are over and I though I am tempted to feel bad for her, I don’t. They may have encouraged her, but she made the decision. Call it schadenfreude.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, faith, LGBT issues, News and current events, Religion

Liberty Lies in Our Hearts: Kim Davis & Civil Rights

IMG_2667

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a short post today, and I do mean that. Yesterday, I promised a short article and a Facebook friend, a lawyer said, “That was short?” I replied that it was like an “Alan Shore closing.” For those who have not seen Boston Leal and watched James Spader play that character you really need to do so; but I digress…

In Boston Legal Alan Shore once quoted Learned Hand, a Federal Judge and judicial philosopher. He said, “Liberty lies in our hearts, and once it dies there, no constitution can save it.”

In light of my last few articles where I waded into the morass of the case of Kim Davis, the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, who was stupid enough to trust her money grubbing, politically motivated lawyers from Liberty Counsel and is now sitting in jail on contempt of court charges; I need to clarify a couple of things.

First, I feel bad that Mrs. Davis is being used as a pawn and sitting in jail while her lawyers collect all kinds of donations to support their next cause; and that as soon as they can they will jettison her. That is a fact, because these supposedly Christian legal groups are known for this. They take a case, promise the moon, usually lose and they abandon the person they represent after they have milked the case for every penny they can get. Sadly, other than their fifteen minutes of fame most of the clients get nothing for their efforts. Mrs. Davis is paying the price for that. She is going to be in jail at least a week while her lawyers try to appeal something that there is no precedent to appeal and which has not hope of succeeding. During the time they will make still more money. The truth is to get out of jail Mrs. Davis can find a way to do her job without violating her conscience, or she can resign and allow another to do it. However, when you, like Mrs. Davis, occupy an elected office that pays $80,000 a year in a county where the per capita income is well under $20,000; an office that your mother held for 37 years prior to you taking it less than a year ago; that can be tough.

Second, I cherish the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and my philosophy of life, professional and private is guided by the premise found in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men….”

That my friends is the essence of civil rights, and for that matter the foundation to protect religious rights of all people as well. Those rights are for all, not just Christians; and it is incumbent on elected and appointed officials of the government to follow the law in order to secure those rights for their fellow citizens. If they cannot they should not hold office. People can believe whatever they want. They can believe in any God, they can believe in any secular philosophy, they can hold any political ideology, they can believe that those who do not believe like them are going to hell or whatever; but when they swear to uphold the laws of the land in a public office where they are required to secure the freedom of others by serving them in accordance with the law; they have to either find a way to reconcile their personal beliefs or resign their office.

In fact I have for over 32 years as a commissioned officer in the United States military have had to do that. If by some chance this lands me in someone’s hell, or if indeed God is that petty, vindictive and capricious as to send me to hell for following the law of the land; then I will deal with that during my eternal vacation on the Lake of Fire. But I will not allow fear of what might happen to me in eternity to interfere with safeguarding the rights of the people in my care. My God is certainly big enough, loving enough, and gracious enough to deal with that; otherwise there would not be explicit commands in the Bible to obey the government.

A final thought and clarification on the rules for commenting on this site:

I welcome comments, especially from people who do not agree with me. I get many comments on my articles from different people and welcome comments, especially from people who do not agree with me. As long as they stay on point and are civil I enjoy them.

I have one man who frequently disagrees with me on my views of the Civil War, Reconstruction and Civil Rights. He is an honest man and pretty intelligent. He keeps his comments in line with the subject of the articles in question. He does not venture into tangents that have little to do with the articles in question. Likewise, even when he strongly disagrees he is polite and respectful. We do not agree on much, but I think that we could be friends and I welcome those kinds of comments.

Then I have other commentators. Sadly, most of these people are conservative Christians. These people seldom deal with the article itself, but decide use this site as their forum to promote or defend their denomination or their theology; most of the time in the most crude, ignorant and condescending manner possible.

As of today, I will not allow the comments of people who do not stay on point with the article, attempt to hijack this site as their forum; or who treat me with contempt. As of today I will simply disapprove those comments. If a person wants to comment they can deal with the article, if not I welcome them to start their own blog where they can spew their ignorance at will. But I will not give such people a forum ever again. I don’t have time and as much as I love bacon and pulled pork barbeque, I refuse to cast my pearls before swine.

So I am off to the Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire concert tonight. Was that short enough?

Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

11 Comments

Filed under civil rights, faith, News and current events, philosophy, Political Commentary

Heaven, Hell, Homosexuals & Kim Davis: The Pandora’s Box of Political Religion

kim davis flag

Kim Davis Greeting Supporters (above) Her Pastor Below

kim davis pastor

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Kim Davis, the recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky has now decided that the reason that she cannot issue marriage licenses to Gays is that it is a heaven or hell decision, in other words, if she complies with the court order she will quite possibly go to hell. Actually as a theologian and historian I find this fascinating, and regardless of what happens next in this sorry saga, we must remember the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard “But she, or someone like her, will always be with us. Waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness….”

Davis, who was elected to the office last November, following her mother who held the office for the 37 years prior, makes $80,000 a year to serve as the Country Clerk and one of her big duties is issuing marriage licenses to citizens of the county. The only problem is that Marriage Equality is the law and gays are entitled to the full rights of all citizens based on a Supreme Court ruling which said that based on the 14th Amendment that Gays, like all other American Citizens were legally entitled to the same rights as all other citizens. Likewise it appealed to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. By refusing the recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky is in violation of the law. However, because she is an elected official she cannot be fired. She can only be impeached by a state legislature whose members need the votes of her supporters in the state. 

Mrs. Davis is an Apostolic Pentecostal Christian. Her Church, Morehead First Apostolic Church belongs to the United Pentecostal Church International. This denomination is one of the early Pentecostal denominations in the United States, founded in 1905 during the Pentecostal Awakening. It split from another Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God over the issue of the Godhead. The United Pentecostals reject the traditional understanding of Trinitarian Christianity. Their theology is Monotheistic and they interpret the references to Father, Son and Holy as modes in which God reveals himself. In other words, God was the Father, and then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit.

According to mainstream Christianity since the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. the theology of the United Pentecostals was considered heretical, by all Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. This means, and I hate to be a theological hard ass here, but technically, they are not Christian, because they worship a different God. Now personally, I am not such a hard ass and believe that God forgives a lot of bad theology, even my own; but the United Pentecostals don’t, and here is where it gets really interesting.

The United Pentecostal Church believes that in order for a person to be “saved” that they must first repent of their sins. No problem there, I think repentance is a good thing. Next one must be baptized, and here is where it gets tricky. If you are not baptized “In Jesus’ Name” your baptism doesn’t count. Sorry all you folks that were baptized “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” you may have repented but you are not saved and yes you are heading for that eternal vacation on the Lake of Fire, so don’t forget your asbestos water skis.

But that’s not all my friends; to Kim Davis and the United Pentecostals you must also be baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of Speaking in Tongues. If not, by their doctrine you are going to hell, and don’t forget to go to bathroom first because it is “damnation without relief” and if you do not go it will be a very uncomfortable eternity. But wait there’s still more…. Even if you a member of these churches, like Kim Davis is and you make it through those first three gates, you can still go to hell; you have to Persevere to the End, that means that she must wear those frumpy clothes, no makeup or jewelry, and avoid doing sinful things and that is kind of tricky because there are so many ways to screw up. No wonder she is afraid of going to hell for doing the duties required by the law.

I find it fascinating that Mrs. Davis and her supporters are so hell bent on making sure that homosexuals cannot get married, or enjoy the same rights as other citizens and condemn homosexuals all to hell based on their interpretation of the Bible. Interestingly enough many of her big supporters are Trinitarian Evangelicals and other Conservative Christians, who by doctrine Kim Davis and the United Pentecostal Church does not consider Christians.

This is the fascinating part. Her biggest defenders and her lawyers are all Trinitarian Christians who Kim Davis and her church believe are going to hell, at least which is what their doctrine says, and these wonderful Trinitarian Christians are so full of animosity to homosexuals that they will defend a person who believes that they too are going to hell with those horrible homosexuals. Imagine, if Kim Davis and her church are right, Mat Staver, lawyer from Liberty Counsel will be sunning himself on the banks of the Lake of Fire with the homosexual that he so loathes, and I hope he takes some tanning oil. The irony is rich, but I digress….

You see this is the problem when you decide to let theologically and historically ignorant religious fanatics run government. But that is the morass that conservative Christians in the United States have created for themselves. Ever since the 1970s when Jerry Falwell began the charge the situation has got increasingly stickier with every passing year. Odd alliances are made by groups who all believe that they have to only way to salvation and that all others are going to hell. The problem is that this alliance cannot hold. Should the Religious Right ever get control they will start persecuting each other in the areas that they are strongest, because it is an alliance of convenience and in their hearts they despise each other almost as much as they do the gays. It will Balkanize and fracture our society beyond belief; but then who cares so long as our religion wins.

Robert Heinlien observed, “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” That is what Davis and her backers want, if they cannot stop the law they want legal authority to disobey it while getting paid to administer it as government officials.

Is it no wonder that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and others of our founding fathers were so adamant about separating church and state? Madison said why this is so necessary, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” And why Conservative Atheist Christopher Hitchens remarked “How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.”

Mrs. Davis can hold whatever religious views that she desires, and she can chose to worship the God of her choice and take her chances on landing in hell or heaven. However, her duties as an officer of the government require her to carry out the law. If she cannot carry out the law her choice is to resign. She has no right to be paid by the government and then substitute her religious beliefs for law she is to carry out, and thereby sabotage the law, which is meant for all citizens. Since she is unlikely to resign, cannot be fired, and most likely will not be impeached, there is no remedy for the citizens of Rowan County, none of who are able to get a marriage license. It reminds me of the days when White officials in the South defied Congress and the Courts to defend Jim Crow Laws in the 1959s and 1960s. 

Let’s turn this around for a second and put Mrs. Davis standing at the counter trying to get a marriage license following one of her three divorces. Imagine how Mrs. Davis would have felt if some hard-assed Trinitarian Catholic Christian denied her application for a marriage license due to her three divorces, and his belief that divorce was a mortal sin and that to issue a marriage license violated his religious beliefs.

That my friends is the path that Mrs. Davis and her supporters are taking us down. It is the path where a personal belief trumps the law, and one’s duty as an officer of the government to carry out that law.

Mrs. Davis needs to resign, or face the consequences. She will be considered a martyr for a cause by people who she, if she actually believes the teachings of her church, are going to go to hell alongside of the homosexuals that they are defending her from. I love that irony, and since Davis and many of her supporters would probably beleive that I am going to be damned for my support of the civil rights of Gays then I will have to agree with Captain Jean Luc Picard who once said “If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”

Make it so…

Peace

Padre Steve+

19 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, ethics, faith, History, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

In Exclusion of All Others: Kim Davis & God’s Authority

Marriage-license-denial

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Thomas Jefferson so eloquently and correctly observed, “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 civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” It appears that we have some Christians stooping to that “lowest grade of ignorance” which Jefferson noted.

I have been holding back on the case of Kim Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky who has strenuously refused to issue marriage licenses of Gay couples based on her “strongly held” or “sincere” religious beliefs. After the rule went into effect she has refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone in her county, citing fairness. Personally when this started I thought this was a publicity stunt by the Christian Right, and especially her lawyer, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, the legal activist wing of Liberty University and that it would blow over in a few days.

But then forgot just what a self-righteous bigot and extremist that Staver is when it comes to this issue. He has made a fortune demonizing gays over the years and his words are always extreme, polarizing, and play to the basest prejudices of his audience; angry, politically charged conservative Christians. Yes, in some ways this is still a publicity stunt, because Staver and others like him are using Davis, a woman who according to what Jesus said is an adulteress, having been married four times and divorced three, to make a profit and her a martyr for their cause.

So I was wrong and the circus continues. Davis disobeyed orders from the Governor and Attorney General of Kentucky to comply with the law; she has lost in every court including the entire U.S. Supreme Court. Interestingly enough the conservative Supreme Court Justices who were in the minority in the Obergfell v. Hodges case which legalized Marriage Equality; Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Thomas, refused to hear her case and summarily dismissed her appeal. But she still continues.

Today, after the Supreme Court ruling Davis still refuses to obey the law and do the job that by law, and the dictates and responsibilities of the government office she occupies that she is supposed to do. Citing “God’s authority” for her refusal, Davis has again refused to issue marriage licenses. The fact is that she is denying the rights of every couple in Rowan County to a marriage license is of no concern. The fact that if you swear an oath as a public official to uphold the law, likewise, is of no concern to her. All that matters are her rights, not the people she swore an oath to serve, not the law.

It is being framed by Davis, Staver and their allies as s test of religious liberty, in that Mrs. Davis cannot in good conscience issue a marriage license to a Gay couple because it violates her religious beliefs. I do not disregard those beliefs, I defend the beliefs of people like Mrs. Davis on a daily basis. I do not agree with her but I agree that she can believe whatever she wants. But there is an important caviot to this, Mrs. Davis is not a private citizen. She is an officer of the government who has certain legal responsibilities, among them issuing marriage licenses to eligible people in Rowan County, Kentucky. She took an oath to carry out the laws of the State of Kentucky, and she is not doing that. If she does not to comply she needs to resign or face the legal consequences of her actions.  No officer of the government at any level gets to chose what laws they will obey and which they will not. Her actions violate the 14th Amendment rights of all her citizens, as such they are unconstitutional. This is not like abortion where many medical professionals can opt out of based on a conscience clause. In those cases those physicians refer to others. In this case, which is qualitatively different that abortion, in that it does not involve life or potential life, Mrs. Davis gives the people of her county no option. She is the only one who can issue these licenses and she refuses to do so.

The reality is that no one is forcing Mrs. Davis to change her opinion on Gay marriage. She can do that as a private citizen and in her church, but she cannot use her beliefs to deny the legal rights of others. To allow her to do so would set a dangerous precedent, but it seems neither Davis, her lawyers, or many conservative Christian state and local politicians and activists understand this. Once you set the precedent that a public official can use their religious rights to deny the rights of others you open Pandora’s Box. Our founders understood, that, James Madison correctly observed, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

Can you imagine what Staver’s reaction if a fundamentalist Moslem County clerk decided to not issue a marriage license to a Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or an unbeliever of any kind? You can bet that he would not be defending that Moslem’s right to disobey the law. Instead, he would be apoplectic and claiming that the Moslems were attempting to impose Sharia on non-Moslems would be demanding that the official comply with the law or go to jail.

What if an Orthodox Jewish elected official refused to work alongside or in the same office as a Christian woman? Would Staver defend him? I think not.

But that is the problem here. Davis and so many others like her believe that their sincerely held beliefs trump the law, and their sworn duty as public officials. My friends, to allow that is to open the way for a theocracy, where in the name of God and the church, the rights of non-believers are disregarded. Sadly, it goes beyond simply refusing rights, but it ends up in religious tyranny and persecution; “witch trials,” the killing of “heretics and unbelievers.” In fact as far as Gays are concerned, there are militant Christian proponents of theocracy in this country who openly state that Gays should be killed, and they are not limited to the fringe of the late Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Some of them are frequent speakers at Republican campaign rallies, Tea Party events and court major conservative political leaders and candidates for office.

Barry Goldwater of all people warned us about them as early as 1981, “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

As much as we want to believe differently, we are not nearly as civilized or tolerant as we claim to be; and the words in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” only apply to a certain in group; in Davis’ and Staver’s case, Christians. All others, especially Gays, need not apply. Believe me, while people like Davis and Staver are a minority they are benign. Their words and their actions demonstrate that. Like the Nazis of the 1920s they claim to be the victims and decry laws that do not allow them to discriminate. Should they ever gain the reins of power, or more likely, succeed in carving out exemptions in the law that allow them to discriminate against others based on their personal, strongly held religious beliefs; they will become tyrannical, and Davis, even without a shred of law to back her up is behaving as a tyrant, and being applauded by many so-called Christians.

That is something to ponder.

Peace

Padre Steve+

5 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, ethics, faith, laws and legislation, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary, Religion

Saturday Night Special: Deny Liberty to God’s Enemies

BrkS9zWIgAEUS3L

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I am so worn out by some that call themselves Christians who seem to me to do their damnedest to ensure that anyone that they deem to be an enemy of God has no rights. This is an older post that I am simply throwing up again with a few edits because I just want to because for me the subject never gets old, especially when almost every single one of the Republican party’s clown car of potential presidential candidates for 2016 use their supposed “Christian” faith as a bludgeon against anyone who would dare criticize them and stand up for those that truthfully they, in their heart of hearts hate, Gays, women, Moslems, progressives, liberals and even little old me. For me this is not a matter of partisan politics at all, but it is a matter of my Christian faith and my belief in the principles of those who founded our country who opposed any form of state entanglement in religion. But I digress…

On to the article…

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches it’s all ancient history. Then – before you can blink an eye – suddenly it threatens to start all over again.” Captain Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek the Next Generation “The Drumhead”

I expect that this article and subject might make some people uncomfortable but it is something that I need to return to yet again. I fear what is happening to our country, and the agenda of the politically motivated Christian Right and its leaders, especially those who are using what is known as Seven Mountains or Dominionist theology to implement laws at local and state level. These laws damage the fabric of society and encourage discrimination in order to solidify the political power of a minority of conservative Christians.

It is interesting that conservative icon Barry Goldwater both warned us and opposed the these people. Goldwater said:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” November, 1994, in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience.

Decades before Goldwater,  Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson who prosecuted the major Nazi War Criminals at Nuremberg issued a similar warning:

“[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.” — Justice Robert H Jackson, American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 US 382, 438; 70 SCt. 674, 704 (1950)

Thus, like Goldwater and Jackson before me, I get very frustrated and tired of the way many leaders of the American Religious Right, that political animal that only thinks of itself, have worked so fervently to poison any sense of unity and community that we might have as Americans regardless of our religious faith, or lack of faith. Back in the 1940’s through the 1970’s that was unity was referred to as “American Civil Religion.” Robert Bellah defined it “at best” as a “genuine apprehension on universal and religious reality as seen in, or as one could almost say, as revealed through the experience of the American people.” (Huntington, Samuel P. Who are We? America’s Great Debate p.103) While I do have a lot of issues with the concept of American Civil Religion, and h0w it has been used to justify some pretty horrible actions undertaken by leaders of this country, as well as some harmful myths as to our system of government and God’s blessing of our actions, even the immoral ones, it did provide some positives in regard to how Americans of different faiths treated each other with respect in the public square. As Huntington noted: “America’s civil religion provides a religious blessing to what Americans feel they have in common.” (Huntington p.104)

In the decades since the United States has undergone a seismic transformation in terms of religious makeup, and while those faith traditions who dominated the religious history of our first two hundred years are still dominant in many ways, they are in decline, especially in terms of the fastest growing segment of the population, those who identify themselves as The Nones those with no religious preference. In response the more conservative and politically minded Christians of the Christian Right have launched a culture war to ensure their dominance in all areas of society. Known as Christian Dominionism, Reconstructionism, or the Seven Mountains theology it is a blatant attempt to legislate a particular type of Christianity as the law of the land. As Gary North, an adviser to Ron and Rand Paul as well as other conservative Christian political leaders wrote:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

You can see the influence of this theology in many of the state legislatures of what are called Red States where laws specifically intended to solidify conservative Christian dominance of government which allow for legal discrimination against others, by public officials and private businesses are becoming law. Likewise, such legislatures pass laws which crush the ability of local communities to pass non-discrimination ordinances against gays. This has happened in both Arkansas and West Virginia and similar proposals are being put forth in other states.

One of the leading proponents of this theology is Dr. C. Peter Wagner who wrote a number of influential books on evangelism used in many conservative evangelical seminaries and churches. Wagner is credited with beginning what is called the New Apostolic Reformation and taught at Fuller Seminary until his retirement from teaching in 2001. Wagner has written:

“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

I am a Christian, albeit one with many doubts and concerns. I am a Priest and I am a Navy Chaplain, I have grown up and seen this transformation of our society, especially over the last twenty years as a chaplain in both the Army and the Navy, I have concerns in the trends I see but mostly I am concerned about this radical theology that has helped turn faith into a war zone and is destroying the fabric of American life. In fact if you wonder why so many of these “Christians” are doing their best to disenfranchise voters and supporting policies that have turned this country from a republic that functioned on the basis of democracy, to an oligarchy controlled by a few one only has to look to the words of the original Dominionist, the father in law of Gary North, R.J. Rushdooney:

“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)

That being said, with all the change in the composition of the population of this country I really don’t fear that change. But for the most part I fear these politically minded Christians who are bent on imposing their form of Christianity on the people of this country. There are many reasons for this. Some are more general in the way I see Christians treat others; their own wounded as well as non-believers, the political machinations of pastors and “Christian” special interest groups masquerading as ministries. Wagner once said:

“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.”

This is radical, for it is the basis of theocracy. Franklin Graham, son of Billy used words of fear to motivate his base saying at the Liberty Counsel Awakening Conference “But we’re going to lose everything if we don’t win in this next election – and we only have this next election, I think for our voice to be heard.” I think that it is pathetic that Graham has to resort to such fear and loathing in order to galvanize people to fight against the rights of others not to be discriminated against.

These groups have turned the Chaplain Corps into a political football. I once found the chaplain ministry to be the epitome of how ministers of various denominations or religions should be able to work together for the benefit of others. Some of the Chaplains that I served with from across the denominational and religious spectrum helped ingrain a respect and care for others that I would never had received working in a civilian parish. While I can do this with some chaplains even today they are few and far between. The highly politicized environment is destroying the effectiveness and community of the Chaplain Corps. As a result I plan on retiring without seeking a promotion to Captain, which I would be eligible for the promotion boards in 2016. While I may help other priests and ministers in their parishes I have no desire to work in any other form of chaplaincy when I retire.

I have been worn down by all of this and sadly the controversies are now unavoidable. As a result I have experienced a lot of pain, heartache and rejection at the hand of many Christians, some of whom I had counted as close friends, and many of whom are pastors, priests or chaplains. To experience rejection or being shamed by people that you thought were friends is very hard, especially when that at one time you trusted them implicitly to care for you. However to be rejected by those that you trusted “in the name of God, ” or rather because you violated supposedly “correct” doctrinal beliefs about God is frightening.

It seems to me that with many Christians and churches that the “unconditional” love of God that they proclaim not really unconditional. It is totally conditional on believing what they believe or behaving in the way they think that you should.

For those that do not know me or my story I am a career military officer with over 30 years of service between the Army and Navy. I have been a chaplain since 1992 and served in the National Guard, Army Reserve, Active Duty Army and the Navy. I am a trained hospital chaplain; I have a great academic background. I went to Iraq in 2007 and came home with a terrible case of severe chronic PTSD. I still suffer from some anxiety, depression and plenty of insomnia. I find mental health care hard to get in my new assignment and I realize how woefully unprepared that our medical system, military, VA and civilian is to care for that vast numbers of veterans like me.

After Iraq I suffered a collapse of my faith and for close to two years was a practical agnostic. Only my deep sense of call and vocation kept me going and there were times that I wondered if I would be better off dead.

When faith returned through what I call my Christmas miracle it was different. I totally relate to author Anne Rice who said:

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

I have always questioned a lot that is taught by the church, but after my crisis of faith I really began to see through the bullshit. I began to not only question things my former church taught, but openly stated my convictions about how we treat others as Christians, the equality of people in general and tolerance for those different than us including gays and Moslems who for some Christians are rather low on the scale of those that God might love. As such I openly support the LGBT community, American Moslems and Arabs in general, as well as those who adhere to other non-Christian religions, are agnostic, or even atheist when they are attacked in the media, or by supposedly Christian politicians, preachers and pundits.

After Iraq I was sickened by the crass politicization of conservative American Christianity and many of its leaders. Men and women who advocate war without end, be it real wars against “enemies” of American, or promote a culture war even against other Christians that they do not like or agree with. Of course this is all done in “Jesus name.”

Likewise I question the opulence and materialism of the church. I question the nearly cult like focus and near worship accorded to the Pastor-CEOs of the mega-churches and the television preachers and teachers. I wonder in amazement about how many of these leaders live like royalty and have devoted followers who despite repeated scandals treat them as the voice of God.

Along with the that I question the preference of many American Christian leaders for the rich and their disdain for the poor, the alien and the outcasts among us. This actually comes from baptizing capitalism and objectivist philosophy as Christian and leaving the Gospel behind.

All of that got me thrown out of a church that I had served 14 years a priest and chaplain back in 2010. I thought I had a lot of friends in that church. I still have some that keep in contact with me but after my dismissal most abandoned me. That hurts worse than anything.

In fact when I came home from Iraq in crisis and falling apart the first person who asked about how I was doing with God was not clergy. It was my first shrink. I was asked by a commanding officer after Iraq “where does a chaplain go for help?” I told him “not to other chaplains.” The sad thing is that man who did care about me suffered untreated terrible PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury and committed suicide in January 2014.

I have had a few experiences the past few weeks that have opened that wound again and reminded me of why I am afraid of many that call themselves Christians. I have shared some of those so I will not belabor them here.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening.”

That being said I am thankful that I have a number of friends, including a good number of Christians from various backgrounds and some chaplains who have stood by me even if they disagree with my theology, politics or favorite baseball team.

That being said with the exception of such people who have been with me through thick and thin I am mostly terrified of being around conservative Christians.

Church in most cases is a frightening place for me, and the sad fact is that if I were not already a Christian there is little in American Christianity that would ever cause me to be interested in Jesus. I can totally understand why churches are hemorrhaging members, especially young people whose religious preference is “none,” for I too am in some sense an outcast.

I would like to think that we have come so far in our understanding of people, and of civil rights. But as Jean Luc Picard said, it is threatening to happen again.

Pray for me a sinner,

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, faith, History, News and current events, Political Commentary

Deny the Liberty of the Enemies of God: Christian Politics

valuesvoterssummit

“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches it’s all ancient history. Then – before you can blink an eye – suddenly it threatens to start all over again.” Captain Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek the Next Generation “The Drumhead”

I expect that this article and subject might make some people uncomfortable but it is something that I need to return to yet again.  I fear what is happening to our country, and the agenda of the politically motivated Christian Right and its leaders, especially those who are using what is known as Seven Mountains or Dominionist theology to implement laws at local and state level. These laws damage the fabric of society and encourage discrimination in order to solidify the political power of a minority of conservative Christians.

I get very frustrated and tired of the way many leaders of the American Religious Right, that political animal that only thinks of itself have worked so fervently to poison any sense of unity and community that we might have as Americans regardless of our religious faith, or lack of faith. Back in the 1940’s through the 1970’s that was unity was referred to as “American Civil Religion.” Robert Bellah defined it “at best” as a “genuine apprehension on universal and religious reality as seen in, or as one could almost say, as revealed through the experience of the American people.” (Huntington, Samuel P. Who are We? America’s Great Debate p.103) While I do have a lot of issues with the concept of American Civil Religion, and h0w it has been used to justify some pretty horrible actions undertaken by leaders of this country, as well as some harmful myths as to our system of government and God’s blessing of our actions, even the immoral ones, it did provide some positives in regard to how Americans of different faiths treated each other with respect in the public square. As Huntington noted: “America’s civil religion provides a religious blessing to what Americans feel they have in common.” (Huntington p.104)

In the decades since the United States has undergone a seismic transformation in terms of religious makeup, and while those faith traditions who dominated the religious history of our first two hundred years are still dominant in many ways, they are in decline, especially in terms of the fastest growing segment of the population, those who identify themselves as The Nones those with no religious preference. In response the more conservative and politically minded Christians of the Christian Right have launched a culture war to ensure their dominance in all areas of society. Known as Christian Dominionism, Reconstructionism, or the Seven Mountains theology it is a blatant attempt to legislate a particular type of Christianity as the law of the land. As Gary North, an adviser to Ron and Rand Paul as well as other conservative Christian political leaders wrote:

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

You can see the influence of this theology in many of the state legislatures of what are called Red States where laws specifically intended to solidify conservative Christian dominance of government which allow for legal discrimination against others, by public officials and private businesses are becoming law. Likewise, such legislatures pass laws which crush the ability of local communities to pass non-discrimination ordinances against gays. This has happened in both Arkansas and West Virginia and similar proposals are being put forth in other states.

One of the leading proponents of this theology is Dr. C. Peter Wagner who wrote a number of influential books on evangelism used in many conservative evangelical seminaries and churches. Wagner is credited with beginning what is called the New Apostolic Reformation and taught at Fuller Seminary until his retirement from teaching in 2001. Wagner has written:

“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

I am a Christian, albeit one with many doubts and concerns. I am a Priest and I am a Navy Chaplain, I have grown up and seen this transformation of our society, especially over the last twenty years as a chaplain in both the Army and the Navy, I have concerns in the trends I see but mostly I am concerned about this radical theology that has helped turn faith into a war zone and is destroying the fabric of American life.  In fact if you wonder why so  many of these “Christians” are doing their best to disenfranchise voters and supporting policies that have turned this country from a republic that functioned on the basis of democracy, to an oligarchy controlled by a few one only has to look to the words of the original Dominionist, the father in law of Gary North, R.J. Rushdooney:

“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)

That being said, with all the change in the composition of the population of this country I really don’t fear that change. But for the most part I fear these politically minded Christians who are bent on imposing their form of Christianity on the people of this country. There are many reasons for this. Some are more general in the way I see Christians treat others; their own wounded as well as non-believers, the political machinations of pastors and “Christian” special interest groups masquerading as ministries. Wagner once said:

“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.”

This is radical, for it is the basis of theocracy. Franklin Graham, son of Billy used words of fear to motivate his base saying at the Liberty Counsel Awakening Conference  “But we’re going to lose everything if we don’t win in this next election – and we only have this next election, I think for our voice to be heard.”  I think that it is pathetic that Graham has to resort to such fear and loathing in order to galvanize people to fight against the rights of others not to be discriminated against.

These groups have turned the Chaplain Corps into a political football. I once found the chaplain ministry to be the epitome of how ministers of various denominations or religions should be able to work together for the benefit of others. Some of the Chaplains that I served with from across the denominational and religious spectrum helped ingrain a respect and care for others that I would never had received working in a civilian parish. While I can do this with some chaplains even today they are few and far between.  The highly politicized environment is destroying the effectiveness and community of the Chaplain Corps. As a result I plan on retiring without seeking a promotion to Captain, which I would be eligible for the promotion boards in 2016. While I may help other priests and ministers in their parishes I have no desire to work in any other form of chaplaincy when I retire.

I have been worn down by all of this and sadly the controversies are now unavoidable. As a result I have experienced a lot of pain, heartache and rejection at the hand of many Christians, some of whom I had counted as close friends, and  many of whom are pastors, priests or chaplains. To experience rejection or being shamed by people that you thought were friends is very hard, especially when that at one time you trusted them implicitly to care for you. However to be rejected by those that you trusted “in the name of God, ” or rather because you violated supposedly “correct” doctrinal beliefs about God is frightening.

It seems to me that with many Christians and churches that the “unconditional” love of God that they proclaim not really unconditional. It is totally conditional on believing what they believe or behaving in the way they think that you should.

For those that do not know me or my story I am a career military officer with over 30 years of service between the Army and Navy. I have been a chaplain since 1992 and served in the National Guard, Army Reserve, Active Duty Army and the Navy. I am a trained hospital chaplain; I have a great academic background. I went to Iraq in 2007 and came home with a terrible case of severe chronic PTSD. I still suffer from some anxiety, depression and plenty of insomnia. I find mental health care hard to get in my new assignment and I realize how woefully unprepared that our medical system, military, VA and civilian is to care for that vast numbers of veterans like me.

After Iraq I suffered a collapse of my faith and for close to two years was a practical agnostic. Only my deep sense of call and vocation kept me going and there were times that I wondered if I would be better off dead.

When faith returned through what I call my Christmas miracle it was different. I totally relate to author Anne Rice who said:

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

I have always questioned a lot that is taught by the church, but after my crisis of faith I really began to see through the bullshit. I began to not only question things my former church taught, but openly stated my convictions about how we treat others as Christians, the equality of people in general and tolerance for those different than us including gays and Moslems who for some Christians are rather low on the scale of those that God might love. As such I openly support the LGBT community, American Moslems and Arabs in general, as well as those who adhere to other non-Christian religions, are agnostic, or even atheist when they are attacked in the media, or by supposedly Christian politicians, preachers and pundits.

After Iraq I was sickened by the crass politicization of conservative American Christianity and many of its leaders. Men and women who advocate war without end, be it real wars against “enemies” of American, or promote a culture war even against other Christians that they do not like or agree with. Of course this is all done in “Jesus name.”

Likewise I question the opulence and materialism of the church. I question the nearly cult like focus and near worship accorded to the Pastor-CEOs of the mega-churches and the television preachers and teachers. I wonder in amazement about how many of these leaders live like royalty and have devoted followers who despite repeated scandals treat them as the voice of God.

Along with the that I question the preference of many American Christian leaders for the rich and their disdain for the poor, the alien and the outcasts among us. This actually comes from baptizing capitalism and objectivist philosophy as Christian and leaving the Gospel behind.

All of that got me thrown out of a church that I had served 14 years a priest and chaplain back in 2010. I thought I had a lot of friends in that church. I still have some that keep in contact with me but after my dismissal most abandoned me. That hurts worse than anything.

In fact when I came home from Iraq in crisis and falling apart the first person who asked about how I was doing with God was not clergy. It was my first shrink. I was asked by a commanding officer after Iraq “where does a chaplain go for help?” I told him “not to other chaplains.”  The sad thing is that man who did care about me suffered untreated terrible PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury and committed suicide in January 2014.

I have had a few experiences the past few weeks that have opened that wound again and reminded me of why I am afraid of many that call themselves Christians. I have shared some of those so I will not belabor them here.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening.”

That being said I am thankful that I have a number of friends, including a good number of Christians from various backgrounds and some chaplains who have stood by me even if they disagree with my theology, politics or favorite baseball team.

That being said with the exception of such people who have been with me through thick and thin I am mostly terrified of being around conservative Christians.

Church in most cases is a frightening place for me, and the sad fact is that if I were not already a Christian there is little in American Christianity that would ever cause me to be interested in Jesus.  I can totally understand why churches are hemorrhaging members, especially young people whose religious preference is “none,” for I too am in some sense an outcast.

I would like to think that we have come so far in our understanding of people, and of civil rights. But as Jean Luc Picard said, it is threatening to happen again.

Pray for me a sinner,

Peace

Padre Steve+

8 Comments

Filed under christian life, civil rights, ethics, faith, laws and legislation, LGBT issues, philosophy, Religion