Tag Archives: religious rights

Liberty Lies in Our Hearts: Kim Davis & Civil Rights

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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+

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Fiery Trials: Emancipation & Equality Today

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Just a coupled of thoughts on this Sunday night. Like yesterday I have been spending a lot of time on my Civil War-Gettysburg Staff Ride text. I have been working on re-writing the chapter on ideology and religion as they related to the causes of the war, its conduct and its aftermath. One thing that caught my attention was something that I think is profoundly important today.

In December of 1862 as he spoke to Congress prior to the the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln spoke these profound words:

“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history….This fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation….In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.”

His words in giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free are part of an understanding of freedom, especially Lincoln’s radical understanding that the Declaration of Independence actually meant what it said that “all men are created equal.” For Lincoln this meant African Americans, inlacing those that labored as slaves. Lincoln understood the Declaration in its most broad understanding, he saw it as a universal liberty. As early as 1854 Lincoln posed the idea that the Declaration of Independence was the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.”

Today there are a lot of people, especially the loudly political preachers, pundits and politicians of the Christian right and their allies who are committed to rolling back the rights of blacks, but also of women, and to prevent Gays, Lesbians and others of the LGBTQ community from having any rights commensurate with their status as citizens. In many states we have seen the protections of the Voter’s Rights Act being eroded as state legislatures enact laws to restrict voting rights and make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote. State legislatures are enacting laws that allow people to discriminate against others based on “a sincerely held religious belief” and while those laws are targeted against Gays they are in many cases written so broadly that they will protect just about any form of discrimination based on religion, even by public officials in the conduct of their duties as happened in  North Carolina last week. 

That is why what Lincoln said as he was preparing to sign the Emancipation Proclamation matters today. When we give freedom to people, we protect the freedom of everyone, but that my friends is not how many people in the so-called Christian Right see it. For them it is their freedom to discriminate in God’s name, because they like the anointed lords of the Southern Aristocracy believe that it is God’s will for them to do this. Sounding like a Southern planter, preacher or politician of the 1850s the founder of the movement known and Christian Dominionism R.J. Rushdooney wrote: “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.”

British Evangelical-Anglican theologian Alister McGrath notes how “the arguments used by the pro-slavery lobby represent a fascinating illustration and condemnation of how the Bible may be used to support a notion by reading the text within a rigid interpretive framework that forces predetermined conclusions to the text.”

That my friends are what we are dealing with today. There is a party of Christians who have tremendous political power who are using it for the most nefarious of purposes, using the law and the police power of the state to deny rights to others while preserving their own while claiming to be the victims of persecution, just as did Southern slaveholders in the 1830s to 1861.

So, that is all for the night. I expect to put out something related to this topic again tomorrow, perhaps a full section of the chapter on religion and ideology from my text.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Election 2016: The Coming Christian Holy War

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My friends, there is a Holy War that is about to overwhelm us, and it is not an Islamic Jihad. No it is a very American and allegedly Christian version of jihad, without the beheadings, at least for now. Pat Buchanan announced it in 1992 during the Republican National Convention:

“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

For those that do not know me well and just think that I am a run-of-the-mill liberal type, they need to understand that I was at one time a solid Republican who had strong ties to the religious right and though moderate almost always followed the party line on the issues supported by the political preachers of the religious right.

Frank Schaefer, the son of the late Dr. Francis Schaefer was one of the leaders of that movement. Eventually, he left it and has become a stalwart critic of the rabidly political nature of conservative Christianity in the United States, Evangelical and Roman Catholic alike. Schaefer has written and talked about how he and other leaders of the religious right in the 1970s and 1980s worked to build an alliance with the then, relatively secular Republican party. Though conservative, may Republicans, including men like Barry Goldwater, a conservative icon were suspicious of and opposed the goals of religious conservatives. In 1994, Goldwater who was the leader of the conservative takeover of the GOP told John Dean something that made Christian conservatives profoundly different from secular conservatives:

“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.”

The problem is unlike 1994 when the preachers were on the outside attempting to force the GOP into their ideological mold, they now are the leadership of the GOP. There is not one of the leading potential candidates that the GOP will field for the 2016 Presidential campaign who are not either wholly or in part either a leader, an ally or completely controlled by the religious faction of the GOP. Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and probably Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin as well. Some like Huckabee rate not only political leaders, but former pastors and religious leaders as well.

If Barry Goldwater was alive today he would oppose them all. He understood, even as an unabashed conservative that they were a dangerous crowd.

He contrasted them with old line conservatives:

“Well, I’ve spent quite a number of years carrying the flag of the ‘Old Conservatism.’  And I can say with conviction that the religious issues of these groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics.  The uncompromising position of these groups is a divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system, if they gain sufficient strength.” 

I came to realize that in 2008 when I returned from Iraq after having believed the lies for decades. When I finally began to speak out about what I saw I was kicked out of the very conservative and evangelical Anglo-catholic denomination that I had served as a priest for 14 years. Why? Because I openly stated that I believed that Gays could be Christians, that women should be allowed to be priests and that not all Moslems were bad. Since that time I have been castigated by many in my former denomination, including people who I thought were friends, not to mention of host of other Christian fanatics.

The fact is that to them, anyone who they think deviates from their interoperation of God’s law is the enemy. In fact if the religious conservatives now running the GOP every took all their reigns of government, after quashing all secular or religious dissent that they opposed would turn on each other. The alliance would split along ancient and unresolved theological lines, Catholics against Evangelicals in a struggle to establish the true government of God.

Most Democrats, progressives, secular conservatives or Libertarians cannot understand how such people think and what motivates them, simply because they are much more pragmatic and less motivated by religious ideology. President Obama is a good example. He like many others are willing to defy his liberal base to compromise, even if he does not get all that they want. This was a fatal flaw of what is now know as Obamacare. Instead of simply expanding Medicare for all, Obama used the plan of the Heritage Foundation which Mitt Romney used in Massachusetts. Obamacare is not socialized medicine. Far from it, it is a hand out to insurance companies who now feed at the government tax money feed stalls that they never had access to before.

But you have to understand the mindset, the theology, the history and the sense of destiny motivated by faith that these people bring to the table, even the most cynical and openly hypocritical of them.

Religious conservatives cannot do this, because for them it is not merely about temporal politics, it is about establishing “God’s law ” (as they interpret it) as the norm and are willing to use every means, constitutional or not, fair or unfair, kind or evil to accomplish their goals. Why can’t they compromise? Simply put, because to do so would be to deny God.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who oversaw the prosecution of the major war criminals at Nuremberg noted:

“[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.” 

Goldwater stated on the Senate floor in 1981 about the danger of the religious conservatives, of which I was an early convert thanks to the Dominionist theology promoted by the Presbyterian Church that attended in college: Goldwater said:

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism….

Being a conservative in America traditionally has meant that one holds a deep, abiding respect for the Constitution.  We conservatives believe sincerely in the integrity of the Constitution.  We treasure the freedoms that document protects. . .  “By maintaining the separation of church and state,” he explained, “the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars . . .  Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers?  Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?’ ”

Well my friends, those religious leaders now own the Republican Party. Those religious leaders are one in the same as the politicians they are influencing, and dare any stray from the reservation, as did Eric Cantor, they will be cast aside and replaced with a Christian religious extremist.Such is only possible where people adopt the theocratic presuppositions of the Christian Dominisionists, as so many have. Gary North, one of the prominent leaders of this movement whose reach goes to the heart of the “Conservative Christian” political movement and who has served as an advisor to both Ron and Rand Paul 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.”

My God, in what country could a disgraced, pathological liar, who had been court-martialed and cashiered by the Navy be elected to any office? But Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, was elected to the Colorado State Senate by a sizable margin and still keeps his extreme radio program. How can that be unless Goldwater was right?

Such people, even supposed faithful Roman Catholics  even condemn Pope Francis when he disagrees with their political ideology. Their hatred and need for control knows no bounds.

I came to realize too late the dangers of these people. I scoffed at Goldwater in the 1980s, and hesitated to believe him in the 1990s. Sadly it took me a tour in Iraq, visits to the Balkans, a lot more study, and getting thrown out of a church that I had faithfully served, to realize that I had been deceived. Sadly, I don’t think that most of my Christian brothers, smothered in the hateful dualistic “us versus them” ideology of the religious right will understand this.

Martin Niemoller, a German War hero of the First World War who became a pastor and hated the secular Weimer Republic. Out of that hate, Niemoller initially supported Hitler realized too late the evil that he had helped put into power. He ended up being jailed and put in a concentration camp for the duration of the war. He wrote:

“I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.”

Niemoller’s fate will be the fate of the people who elect any of these religious extremists to the Presidency. My advice to any is neither to fall for their promises nor disbelieve their most hateful and incendiary proposals. Those lay at the heart of the movement, and millions of otherwise faithful Christians have already been decided by them. In fact, look around around you. You probably know a few.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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The Chicken Jihad: Chick-Fil-A and the Culture War

“We are famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.” David Kinnamon President Barna Polling

I seldom eat at Chick-Fil-A. Just never have been a fan.Not because of anything in particular, it’s just that I don’t eat much fast food to begin with. The fact that Chick-Fil-A isn’t open on Sundays means that they have one less day a week to get my business and that they don’t serve beer puts them low on Padre Steve’s food chain regardless of their religious or political leanings.  I do get a kick out of the Chick-Fil-A cows but that doesn’t get me in the door or drive thru. t have close friends on both sides of the culture war and try to be respectful of their opinions even if I don’t fully agree or disagree with them. However there are times when I think that culture warriors do more damage to their causes than necessary. But as a Christian I have to agree with Mark Twain who said: “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be – a christian.”

I am generally apolitical when it comes to my appetite. I like what I like, I appreciate good food and good service and I try not to ask the politics of the restaurants that I frequent.  I am not a food crusader, nor am I a fan of the huger fast food chains that dominate our landscape regardless of their political or social leanings. To some on the extreme right and extreme left that would mean that I am somehow immoral. But I like what the Lord said to Peter when Cornelius the Centurion offered him a really good meat, cheese and pasta dish that was not Kosher. “He Pete, dude, don’t be uncool, it’s not freaky, if I made it’s good to eat brother, eat up.” (Acts 10:15 Rick James Version)

Now I can understand why my gay friends are upset with the remarks of Dan Cathy the Owner, President and Dictator of the Chick-Fil-A enterprise.  While I think that he has a right to his opinion, his religions beliefs and who he gives his political contributions his comments said as they were make him and those who rally around him look like intolerant boobs.  However, having a kiss in and public boycott as has been promised for today by LGBT groups just throws gasoline on the fire of intolerance. My advice, is to ignore him and don’t patronize his restaurant unless you actually like the food, service and the people at the local store that you know as people.  My goodness there are gays that work at Chick-Fil-A and they are the ones caught in the middle between Talibanesque religious leaders and LGBT activists.  They make their livings there.  I want to put the human face on this and and I think that they are the real victims of this jihad.

All that being said I think that American Christians, Evangelicals and Conservative Roman Catholics for the most part are making themselves look like idiots every time they decide to boycott a business every time that they disagree with that corporation.  Christian groups and ministries have been doing this for decades now. The fact that their opposites on the political left are now doing it to their favorite organizations and businesses is a bad Karma.

A recent Barna poll revealed what the new generation thinks of Christianity and the Christians does not paint a pretty picture: When asked to describe Christianity and Christians the findings said that Christians were viewed as “Hypocritical: Christians live lives that don’t match their stated beliefs;  Antihomosexual: Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians – “hating the sin and the sinner” as one respondent put it; Insincere: Christians are concerned only with collecting converts; Sheltered: Christians are anti-intellectual, boring, and out of touch with reality. Too political: Christians are primarily motivated by a right-wing political agenda.” 

I am a historian and have done a lot of study of Church history. The funny thing is that when Christians and the Church get to this point in any society it generally means that their institutional structures and beliefs are less about Jesus and the Gospel and more about maintaining their political, social and economic power and prominence.

But I am not surprised that we have reached this point. It shows that church leaders are decidedly ignorant when it comes to church history. I remember back in my seminary days how my fellow students did as much as the could to take the minimum amount of church history, systematic theology or philosophy. You see those things were not important and I would dare say are less important to church leaders than at any time in recent memory.

It has been said that those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The cultural jihad will only serve to drive people away from God and the Church and instead of reaching the culture for Jesus, they are doing exactly the opposite. It will result in hastening the decline in influence of Christians in society and continue to drive people away from Jesus.

The Chicken Jihad has become another ring in the cultural circus.

Eat hardy and stay thirsty. I’m going to get a burger and a beer and then go to a ball game tonight.  I just say to my friends and readers on both sides of this issue: Don’t have a cow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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