Tag Archives: robert jeffress

The Murderous Heart and Intent of Trump’s Christian Nationalist Subjects


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The picture above is of the hand written letter sent to the wife of Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the January 6th Commission who voted for the impeachment charges against former President Trump during his second impeachment trial. The language is that of violence, and the direct threat to the life of Congressman Kinzinger, and to the lives of his wife and 5 month old son. Also note the explicitly of the threats to their lives, and the even more explicit damnation of them to Hell. These are the words of a fanatical Christian Nationalist, whose perverted understanding of the Christian faith has entered the mainstream of the Trumpified conservative Evangelical, Charismatic, and Fundamentalist movements and churches in the United States. It is not representative of the Gospel, but it reflects how Christians in this country and others have used twisted understandings of the Bible to persecute and often execute in made up drumhead ecclesiastical trials backed by the power of the state, and when that was not possible used mob violence, often on a large scale.

I am no stranger to death threats, threats of violence and online harassment, mostly from people who claim to be Christians. I see it several times a week when a friend who is the head of a major civil and religious rights organization asks me to respond to violent threats to him, his family, and his organization. He is Jewish and almost every one of these threats come from people who identify themselves as Christians. The blood curdling violence and specificity of these emails is frightening, very much in line with the threats directed at Congressman Kinzinger and others on the committee, or who in State or Federal offices resisted the attempts of Trump and his cohorts to conduct what would result in a violent coup attempt on 6 January, 2021.

The fact is that MAGA Christian Nationalists are deeply embedded in violent and heavily armed domestic terrorist organizations like the Proud Boys, the Patriot Prayer group, the, and the III Percent organizations, just to name a few of the most prominent. This is not new. Christians, including pastors were heavily involved with the Ku Klux Klan, the White Leagues, and the Red Shirts which terrorized Blacks and their White supporters in the Reconstruction and Post Reconstruction South. Such massacres included the Memphis Tennessee Massacre of 1866, the New Orleans Massacre of 1866, the Camilla, Georgia, Massacre of 1868, the Opelousas and St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana Massacres of 1868, the Jackson County, Florida Wars of 1869-1871 (an insurgency against Blacks and Republicans which killed hundreds of Black and White Republicans resulting in the return to White rule.)

But this was not all, the violence continued, all resulting in tens to hundreds of Blacks and Republican office holders throughout the South. They included the Meridian, Mississippi Race Riots of 1871, Colfax Massacre of 1873, the Coushatta Massacre and the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874, all in Louisiana, the Eufaula, Alabama Election Riots of 1874, the Vicksburg, Mississippi Massacre of 1874, the Clinton, Mississippi Massacre of 1875, Hamburg and Ellenton Massacres of 1876 in South Carolina, and the Wilmington, North Carolina, Massacre of 1898.

Such attacks continued in the South and the North in the 20th Century. There were many, some small, others large but some of the more onerous included the Springfield, Illinois Massacre of 1908, Slocum, Texas Massacre of 1910, the Elaine, Arkansas Massacre of 1919, the Ocoee, Florida Massacre of 1920, the Tulsa (Black Wall Street Massacre) of 1921, which included the use of aircraft to bomb Black residents, the Rosewood, Florida Massacre of 1923, Axe Handle Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida in 1961, and the Orangeburg, South Carolina Massacre of 1968.

Likewise there were thousands and according to some accounts tens of thousands of Lynchings.

I mention these specifically American massacres in which Christians often led and supported to show how deep the politics religion, and often race and ideology influence violent acts, including the threatening letter to Congressman Kinzinger is just the latest example.

The reality is that many of the leaders and supporters, including Republican Senators and Congressmen, of the January 6th attack were or are Christian Nationalists. The Baptist Joint Commission published a report on Christian Nationalism and the January 6th attempted coup. The link to it is here: https://bjconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Christian_Nationalism_and_the_Jan6_Insurrection-2-9-22.pdf

One of the most important sections of that document is its description of what Christian Nationalism is and what it is not:

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as
a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

Christian nationalism is not Christianity, though it is not accurate to say that Christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity.

The report is important and I will quote a couple more passages from it before moving on.

Christian nationalism and Christianity are not one and the same. It is the cultural influence of white Christian nationalism inclining many Christian and religious Americans toward beliefs and behaviors that harm minorities, democracy, and broader measures of social safety. Those Christian Americans who reject white Christian nationalism and are actively involved in their faith communities are generally more likely to advocate for a civil arena that protects and defends the rights of all people and groups.

It goes on:

Because Christian nationalism is identified (or, more accurately, because it identifies itself) with a religion, the movement is often understood as a set of religious and/or theological positions that are then assumed to lead in a deductive way to a certain set of cultural and policy preferences, and from there to a certain kind of politics. But Christian nationalism is, first and foremost,
a political movement. Its principal goal, and the goal of its most active leaders, is power. Its leadership looks forward to the day when they can rely on government for three things: power and influence for themselves and their political allies; a steady stream of taxpayer funding for their initiatives; and policies that favor “approved” religious and political viewpoints

When Mr. Trump launched the effort to overturn the election by promoting the lie that it was stolen, consider where some of the most militant and coordinated support came from. The Conservative Action Project, a group associated with the Council for National Policy, which serves as a key networking organization for America’s religious and economic right-wing elite, made its
position clear in a statement issued a week before the insurrection.

It called for members of the U.S. Senate to “contest the electoral votes” from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states that were the focus of Republicans’ baseless allegations. Cosignatories included nearly two dozen powerful movement figures including Bob McEwen, a leader of the Council for National Policy; Morton C. Blackwell of the Leadership Institute; Alfred S. Regnery, the former publisher; Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council; the conservative lawyer and activist Cleta Mitchell, who was on the phone with
Mr. Trump when he urged Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” extra votes; and Thomas Fitton of Judicial Watch.

Even as Republican figures like former President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney attempted to nudge Mr. Trump toward a graceful concession, many religious right leaders doubled down on conspiracy or denial or provided indirect support for election lies by articulating “concerns” about supposed “constitutional irregularities” in battleground states. Today, many of the movement’s most influential organizations have embraced the cause of “election integrity” as a fairly transparent means of undercutting faith in elections as a cornerstone of our democracy.
A key to the movement’s durability is its influence on elected political leaders (and their appointees). Its influence on these leaders depends in large part on its ability to deliver large numbers of votes in a consistent way. And its ability to deliver these votes rests on at least three important mechanisms:

The first is that Christian nationalism serves as an effective tool for controlling information flows to a significant part of the population. It is a way of creating a population that will be receptive to certain forms of disinformation and immune to other types of information, which the present leadership often denigrates as “fake news” or “the lying media.” This gives the leadership cadre, and their political allies, a tremendous degree of power.

A second mechanism for mobilizing mass political power involves manufacturing and focusing a sense of persecution and resentment among the rank and file. To be clear, the movement draws on a wide range of pre- existing anxieties and concerns. But its real contribution consists in identifying and promoting grievance and then aiming it at political opponents.

And finally, the movement offers its supporters a means of reconciling two seemingly contradictory notions: that our nation is the greatest nation on earth precisely because
it is a Christian nation; and at the same time that our nation is overrun with alien and evil forces. On the one hand, Christian nationalists are America, at least in their own minds. On the other hand, movement supporters are persuaded that America is in the grip of malevolent forces, which they variously identify as “secularists,” “the homosexual agenda,” “the communist threat,” and even “demonic organizations,” and they insist they need to “take America back.” The ability to keep a population in this state of tension — engaged in an apocalyptic struggle between absolute good and its opposite — is critical to the movement’s power.

All three mechanisms were on display during the attempted coup, which erupted in violence on January 6. On the matter of information flows, there was no shortage of publicly available evidence on the question of the integrity of the 2020 election. There was no factual support for the fraudulent claims that were repeatedly promoted by Mr. Trump and used as the pretext for his attempted coup. There are of course many sources of disinformation, and a number have become the focus of commentators: social media in general, Fox News, Breitbart News Network, and too many others to count. All played significant roles, no doubt. But it is clear that disinformation about the 2020 election was promoted by many Christian nationalist leaders and organizations, and it had a lasting impact among the rank and file. Within the Republican base, survey data shows that white evangelicals are the most likely cohort to believe in Mr. Trump’s election lies

The leadership of the Christian nationalist movement conveys messaging to their followers through a wide range of means. Among the most important is the targeting and exploitation of the nation’s conservative houses of worship. The faith communities may be fragmented in a variety of denominations and theologies, but movement leaders have had considerable success in uniting them around their political vision and mobilizing them to get out the vote for their chosen candidates.

Leaders of the movement know that members of the clergy can drive votes. They also understand that if you can get congregants to vote on a small handful of issues, you can control their vote. And so they draw pastors into conservative networks focused on political engagement and offer them sophisticated tools that they can use to deliver the “correct” messages about the issues that they wish to emphasize in election cycles.

It is fair to say that the coup attempt started with the actions of Mr. Trump, who very few people identify directly with the “family values” that Christian nationalists frequently claim to support. But this misses the point about the way this kind of movement operates. Once the movement laid the basic groundwork for an antidemocratic politics, others in Mr. Trump’s position could have done what he did. The movement threw its support behind Mr. Trump at a critical moment, delivering to him the Republican Party’s most reliable slice of electoral votes. He in turn gave the movement everything he had promised them: power and political access, access to public money, policies favorable to their agenda, and above all the appointment of hard-right judges.

At the 2021 Road to Majority conference, a gathering of religious right activists, strategists, and political leaders, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “Bottom line is President Trump delivered, don’t you think?”

I continue from the next section that deals with the actions of the Christian Nationalists after President Biden won the election.

As the previous section shows, there is a substantial structural network in place that allows a few leaders at the top to push Christian nationalist disinformation and motivate a massive cadre of followers.

Christian nationalists engaged this network to win the election. This was electoral politics, but it was sold to the masses as spiritual warfare. Almost immediately after the polls closed on Election Day, that machinery changed gears to stoke outrage and fear, exhort action, and work to give Trump a second term as president, no matter what the voters wanted

During the lead up to January 6, Christian Nationalists took a major leadership role in organizing large demonstrations that served as dry runs for that fateful coup attempt.

Lance Wallnau, the father of American Dominionism, also frame the fight to overturn the election as a spiritual war. “Fighting with Trump is fighting with God,” he declared.5 This warfare rhetoric was tinged with violence — stochastic terrorism — that increased leading up to January 6…

The first was the Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020.

One of the first post-election rallies in Washington, D.C., took place on November 14 in Freedom Plaza. It was typical of the pre-January 6 rallies, with many of the same players and speakers. It opened with a prayer infused with Christian nationalism that set the tone for everything that happened later

The Proud Boys attended the rally and knelt in prayer. The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist, white supremacist group whose founder, Gavin McInnes, “calls himself a ‘Western chauvinist,’ espousing the idea that Western civilization, which he associates with ‘Judeo-Christian values,’ is superior to all others.”

There were many prayers that day and even into the night as violence broke out. Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who also promotes Christian nationalism, urged them to march to the Supreme Court, just as Trump urged them to march on the Capitol on January 6.11 They marched — they called it the “Million MAGA March” — down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court for more speeches.

They marched with crosses, images of the Virgin Mary, “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” flags,”“An Appeal to Heaven” flags, and a red flag that proclaimed “JESUS IS LORD.” An RV bedecked in Trump paraphernalia declared, “PRAY FOR 45.” At the Supreme Court, they erected a massive white Christian cross. They carried yellow “Jesus Saves” signs and handwritten signs that said, “Jesus Saves, Trump Leads,” “Thank God for Trump,” “Jesus is King, Trump is president,” and “Ex: 28 vs. 11-19 [sic] It’s been done. My feet are on the ROCK,” which can be seen as someone preaches over a loudspeaker that “in the end, God has already won
the victory.” One woman in a QAnon T-shirt carried two signs “WE LOVE TRUMP” and “WE LOVE AMERICA, GOD & BABIES.” Another protester held two signs on a pole; the top said, “Isaiah 45” (alluding to Trump as King Cyrus), and the bottom, “True Believer in Christ 4 Trump.” He also carried the “Proud American Christian” flag featuring a red, white, and blue ichthys, which is an image of a fish used as a symbol of Christianity, sometimes called a “Jesus fish.”

One Trump supporter warned that day: “[C]areful what you wish for, because a wounded bear is a lot more dangerous than a bear that’s not wounded.” As night fell on November 14, violence erupted in D.C.

The violence we saw on November 14 was not the last time an event of this nature took such a turn — the mobs also turned violent at events on December 12 and January 6. The threat of violence was clear in the weeks before the attack on our Capitol.29 The rallies, the marching to the Capitol, the violence: Dry runs like this are typical of terrorist attacks.

The next rehearsal for January 6 was the Let the Church ROAR event of December 12. It was similar to the previous rally but with much more Christian or biblical imagery from the account of the Israelites marching around Jericho. The Baptist Joint Commission report noted:

Jericho March organized several events leading up to January 6. Throughout December, it had people marching around state capitols blowing shofars. On December 12, less than four weeks before the insurrection, Jericho March organized a “prayer rally” on the National Mall. They named the event “Let the Church ROAR.”

Partnering with Jericho March on “Let the Church ROAR” were Stop the Steal (Ali Alexander’s organization, which he said was inspired by Roger Stone) and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagles (Ed Martin’s group). In the press release for the event, Weaver, Grossu, Alexander, and Martin praised God and preached Christian nationalism. Martin said, “Our founder, the late Phyllis Schlafly, taught us to build bridges of faith, policy, and politics to keep America great and to always fight for God, country, and the family. Our groups are in this fight to save the Republic from all the forces that seek to destroy it and to restore America to the vision of our Founding Fathers.”

One video ad for the march made the violent undertones clear. It featured crowds chanting “fight for Trump” and multiple speakers talking about losing the nation, losing freedom, the last stand, and “fighting” to prevent that: “we will stand up and fight! … we’re going to protect this president … this is our fight, this is for our freedom.” The ad drew a clear line between Jericho March’s Let
the Church ROAR event on December 12 and the Million MAGA March on November 14, showing those crowds and saying it was the “biggest rally
….

Jericho March accustomed people to marching on the halls of power, just as they did on November 14 and as they would on January 6. In another promotional video for “Let the Church ROAR,” Grossu explained, “For the march, we are going to simultaneously go around the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, and Department of Justice, after we do that … we will gather onto the National Mall to hear some wonderful talks and prayers by faith leaders, political leaders, and also be led in praise and worship … .” The biblical allusion made violence the implicit goal of the march. In the Bible, Joshua’s army marched around Jericho for several days; the insurrectionists marched in multiple locations across the span of several weeks. Both culminated in violence.

“Let the Church ROAR” was held on the National Mall a few blocks from the Capitol and was basically another dry run for January 6. The crowd waved signs and flags that were seen at the Million MAGA March on November 14 and everywhere on January 6, including the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag and the yellow “Jesus Saves” sign. The crowd chanted “U-S-A.” Nearly every speaker invoked the genocide at Jericho in adoring terms or prayed to Jesus. “One nation under God,” was perhaps the most common refrain. One sang “Ave Maria.” Another sang “God Bless America.” They played Christian rock tunes, like “Chainbreaker,” in between the various speakers (and had a worship concert before the rally began). At the December 12 “Let the Church ROAR” event hosted by the Jericho March, the crowd waved yellow “Jesus Saves” signs as a band led a singalong of the Battle Hymn of the Republic while the livestream displayed the lyrics for all to join; on January 6, the attackers would sing the battle hymn in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Over the coming weeks the Christian Nationalists supporting the violent overthrow of the government and Constitution to keep Trump in power grew more intense and indicative of the violence of January 6. The Baptist General Commission report goes into far more detail than I will do today. The report is detailed and it describes the violent machinations of Christian Nationalists on January 6, which I noticed and wrote about that day. However, I will add one more section about how deep Christian Nationalism motivated the participants on January 6:

The Rev. Kevin Jessip made the Christian nationalism explicit. “Some have said this is not a Christian nation. I’m telling you this is a Judeo-Christian nation. … Today, I call this the warrior mandate, a battle cry, a call to arms.” And then, almost as an afterthought, he qualified the belligerence with “in the spiritual realm.”55 He explained that the “battle cry” is a “mobilization of God’s men made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ and empowered by the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This battle cry is a Christian call to all Christian men … as we prepare for a strategic gathering of men in this hour to dispel the Kingdom of Darkness.” This was a sermon of Christian conquest framed with military terminology: warrior, battle cry, mobilization, secret weapon, enlistment, strategic, prisoners of war, glory, deployed in hostile territory under enemy occupation, commissioned as special forces, stationed, final mission to ending this high treason,
search and rescue team. And if the allusions weren’t clear enough, Jessip explained, “We are, without question, men born for war. We are fully equipped as warriors, with battle armor directed and suited for our assignment … to restore the Eden Mandate of occupation and expansion of the Glory of God, filling the earth.” He wanted an “Army of the Lord” and preached unadulterated Christian nationalism and a clear call to arms. Jessip himself had organized “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance” on September 26, in Washington, D.C., and he viewed the Jericho March event as the “culmination” of that work.

But to view this as a completely Evangelical led movement need to realize that there are many other Roman Catholic Christian Nationalists who don’t care about the promise of the Declaration, the pluralism specifically intended by Founders, which protected religious minorities which at that time included Catholics who faced often violent persecution. Most American Catholics including Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops don’t understand this because of the prominent position the Roman Catholic Church holds in our society. One has to remember the historic role of the Roman Catholic Church as the State Church of many nations, especially in Europe and South America and its role in barbaric wars, persecutions of non-believers, and even aid to Nazi War criminals.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò preached that fighting for Trump was a holy crusade with “the lies and deceptions of the children of darkness” on one side and, on the other, “the silent army of the children of Light, the humble ranks who overthrow evil by invoking God, the praying army that walks around the walls of lies and betrayal in order to bring them down.” He added, “We fight the battles of the Lord with faith and courage, carrying the Ark of the Covenant in our hearts, remaining faithful to the teachings of the Gospel of Our Lord!” After preaching about the “deep state” and converting every public official, Viganò invoked Christian nationalism: “Be proud, as Christians and as patriots, to be able to give witness today to your faith in God and your love for the United States of America, for its Constitution, and for its president, Donald J. Trump.” An Italian citizen, Viganò repeatedly talked of “our nation” and “our beloved nation,” and ended with
a prayer that concluded, “… granting victory to those who served under thy holy banner, Amen. God bless our president. God bless the United States of America. One nation under God.”

During the assault the amount of Christian symbols, flags, songs, and prayers was overwhelming to me as I watched it in real time, but they were intermixed with the Confederate Battle Flag, Nazi symbols and imagery. The author of the section on Christian Nationalism during the attack goes into the sickening detail of all of those things, so I will only quote the end of that chapter:

An NPR journalist who is an expert in American extremist groups was struck by the diversity of the extremism that day:

Am I going to see an Oath Keeper? OK, there’s an Oath Keeper. Am I going to see the Three Percent logo? Definitely saw some of them there. Qanon, huge presence at this one. I saw neo-Confederates in the crowd, all sorts of white supremacist and neo- Nazi insignia, too. And all of the strands of American extremism were there in the same crowd. And what’s wilder is that they were in the same crowd with, you know, a grandmother from Arizona, you know, who fervently believes in her heart that the election was stolen and that her vote didn’t matter.

Yes, the groups were diverse. But it was the Christian nationalism that united them that day.

When writing this report and the epilogue of my book,I spoke with Luke Mogelson, the New Yorker journalist who filmed the shocking video of the attack from inside the Capitol. “The Christianity was one of the surprises to me in covering this stuff, and it has been hugely underestimated,” he said. “That Christian nationalism you talk about is the driving force and also the unifying force of these disparate players. It’s really Christianity that ties it all together.”

Despite their failure to keep Trump in power, Christian Nationalists have not given up, still promote the big lie of the stolen election, and labeling their opponents as Godless Communists and Socialists, and they remain committed to violence and every manner of activity contrary to the Gospel. Their warlike words and sermons have increased since January 6. This is most in evidence in Texas where the Republican Party of the State referred to Joe Biden to be an illegitimate President, and to urge a vote on secession in 2023.

Such talk in the light of a failed coup attempt is nothing more than sedition. But since the Texas Republicans are dominated by Christian Nationalists I expect nothing better. However, there are many Evangelicals who have the condemned Christian Nationalism that played such a large part in the insurrection, while others including Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress try to deflect blame on people who were not even there.

Christian Nationalists often refer to Trump as a deliverer like the Persian King Cyrus, who ended the Babylonian captivity and allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem. It is a false analogy. Instead, Trump was a modern day Constantine who made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. As the legendary Southern Baptist pastor of First Baptist church, Dallas and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said:

Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world… When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars.

So don’t expect the violence and threats to end. Instead, expect them to increase, and expect violence, killings, and even mass murder committed by true believers in a lost but unending war in which they like so many others before them is justified because they believe that ”God is with them.” As Eric Hoffer wrote:

A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.

That my friend defines the Christian Nationalist.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Trump’s Christian Theocrats, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists will Bring About another Holocaust


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The day after the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and three weeks after the attack on the Capitol by conspiracy theory believing, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, QAnon believers and run of the mill racists, Christian theocrats and others determined to overthrow an election, usurp the Constitution and kill the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and any member of the House or Senate who upheld the Constitution I have decided to continue my counter-attack against these who are guilty of the murder of a Capitol Police Officer and the wounding of two dozen officers by fighting back.

Robert Heinlein wrote:

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

Over the past year or so I have received emails from a well known Jewish friend who represents the religious rights of many, mostly Christians in the military Those emails have been some of the most despicable Anti-Semitic, racist, and Nazi-like screeds that I have read in a long time and every week he shares at least one for me to investigate, reply, and expose.

Unfortunately my friend gets many of these emails, usually from self-proclaimed Christians who are so cowardly that they use pseudonyms and fake email addresses, but some are foolish enough to use their real names and email addresses which makes them incredibly easy to track down. Many actually are real live Neo-Nazis who I actually find entertaining to expose. Sometimes the ones who use pseudonyms and false email addresses sometimes make mistakes that allow me to identify them, but I digress…

These emails often use the language of Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis referring to my friend’s “Jewish looks,” other blatantly racist and religious comments that might appear in Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer, nearly pornographic in their descriptions and attacks on him.  On occasion they make some very disturbing theocratic Christian views and referred to my friend as a Christ Killer and member of the Tribe, both terms used widely among the German Nazis.

The historian Yehuda Bauer wrote:

“The horror of the Holocaust is not that it deviated from human norms; the horror is that it didn’t. What happened may happen again, to others not necessarily Jews, perpetrated by others, not necessarily Germans. We are all possible victims, possible perpetrators, possible bystanders.”

The sad thing is that many of the most active Anti-Semites are Christians, or people who label themselves as Christians. Before he was banned from social media platforms these people often echoe the words and Tweets of former President Trump and many of his conservative Christian supporters, including prominent preacher like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, James Dobson, Kenneth Copeland and others too numerous to list.

These preachers beat their chest and loudly proclaim their support for the State of Israel, but such support is only to usher in Armageddon, the annihilation of two thirds of living Jews, and the conversion of the survivors to Christianity. Their theology is one of genocide. It is a theology that has allowed Christians since the time of Constantine to use the police power of the state, its courts, police and military organizations to exterminate Jews, or any heretical sect of Christians, Pagans, or other traditional Greek, Roman, or Persian religions.

Likewise, the late arriving but incredibly militarily successful and religiously persuasive Muslims who overran most of the Christian Middle East, North Africa, and Southern Europe were the enemy. This was only possible because the Byzantine Empire was corrupt to the core, and the Roman Church had become the de facto government in much of Western Europe because civil authority had collapsed.  The Roman and the Orthodox Churches which grew apart in culture and doctrine finally split by mutually excommunicating each other in 1451. But both persecuted any sect that opposed them to great acts of systematic murder in the name of Jesus. To steal a quote from a very bad Baptist preacher, the Roman and Orthodox Christians blazed a “Trail of Blood.”  across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

It is no wonder to me that a man like my friend who actually stands for the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the actual beliefs of the Founders who did not create a “Christian nation,”  is targeted by such people.  The great Virginia Baptist, John Leland, who was in large part responsible for the Bill of Rightsthe religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment and the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty wrote:

“Is conformity of sentiments in matters of religion essential to the happiness of civil government? Not at all. Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics. Let every man speak freely without fear–maintain the principles that he believes–worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e., see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death, let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.”

My friend is constantly threatened by supposed Christians, who are no doubt more nationalist and members of the Trump Cult than they are Christians, as were the German Christians, the official Christianity of Naziism. They are not oppressed but use their political power, especially at State and local level to deprive anyone they disapprove, of the civil, political, religious, and basic human rights.

But the Nazis weren’t the only ones to have such visions of religious superiority aided by the police power of the state.

Gary North, one of the most eloquent expositors of the Christian Dominionist movement and a long time adviser to Ron and the now infamous inciter of sedition, violence, and rebellion, Senator Rand Paul who believes that it is okay for a President to incite sedition and an attack on the Capitol that came within seconds of claiming the life of his Vice President and others Senators and Congressmen and women in the act of doing their Constitutional duty to approve the results of the Electoral College wrote:

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

That is not a criticism of the former President, for he was and remains an opportunist who understands the insatiable needs of his supporters better than they do. The former President really doesn’t believe a word of Christian doctrine, or exhibit one iota of Christian morality or ethics. As a businessman he just realizes an easy mark, a gullible customer, willing to believe whatever he says because he tickles their ears with what they want to hear. He found that in theocratic Christians, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists is being what he is, while they are denying their faith and God, while at the same time aiding and abetting the persecution of American Jews.

This occurred in spite of the fact that his son-in-law Jarod Kusher and most racist of advisors Stephen Miller are Jews, who advocated Nazi like policies against American minorities, immigrants and Muslims. One cannot say that either stood for the rights of Jews except Kushner working to build political and military alliances with Sunni Muslims and Israel to fight Shia Iran and its Proxies in a Muslim civil war.  The involvement of Christians and Jews in in such a religious civil war that could kill millions of people is simply stupid. If the Iranians were to succeed in hitting Israel with more than one nuclear weapon it would be another Holocaust brought on by American Christians and the complicated political and theological web they have wove across the Middle East.

It is late, I am tired, but believe me, the Anti-Semitism of the Holocaust was not abnormal, but an ever present reality, even and maybe especially in the United States and Europe because we so easily forget the truth and believe the lies of Holocaust deniers.

Oh, I forget to mention, as Yehuda Bauer did so well, that these people not only despise Jews, they are equal opportunity haters, willing to exterminate anyone who does not agree with them, including Christians.

Former President Trump has enough of his own crimes to be tried and convicted of not to be blamed for a more than a millennium of Anti-Semitism and the hatred and persecution of supposed heretics by Christians who wield the sword of the state in one hand and their particular versions of the Bible in the other. Trump was just shrewd enough of a con-man to scam the religious con-men.  If the stakes weren’t freedom and life itself I would think it amusing.

But hopefully they will turn on each other before they can destroy the ever expanding idea of liberty that our flawed founders believed in. Unfortunately we have have drifted so far that 90% of Senate Republicans voted to attempt to table the impeachment trial of former President Trump. The fact that Trump as President endanger their lives, those of the staff, colleagues, and others is extraordinary in the banality of evil they practice. But obviously what they claim as Christian faith and ethics forgives insurrection, murder, the attempted overthrow of the Constitution and our Republic for a dictatorship. I am sorry, those are crimes that are not forgivable on this earth. If God in his or her mercy decides to give it to them, that’s on God.

But as for me I will be God-damned if I let these people escape justice for their crimes especially when the claim innocence or deny any responsibility at all. I cannot judge what God does with them, but I can shout out loud that by any measure of the imagination these people are guilty of such crimes against our Constitution and Republic that they are guilty and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in our land.

If others chose to follow their path of violent sedition, treason and rebellion over the next few weeks they should be met with the strongest police and military force needed to end it once and for all.

As for me until they confess and repent there can be no forgiveness and I will not let Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other racist antisemites willing to overthrow our democracy have the final say. The best thing about being retired from the military is that I can speak the truth even more boldly than I could ever do while on active duty, not that I ever did not tell the truth.

So, until tomorrow, I wish you the best,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“The notion of a Christian Commonwealth should be exploded forever…” The Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty at 235 Years

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Two hundred and thirty five years ago, in the year 1786, the the legislature of the Commonwealth Of Virginia ratified a law written by Thomas Jefferson. It was the precursor to the Establishment and the Free Exercise Clauses Of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

It is the antithesis of, and the antidote to all theocratic movements, to include contemporary Christian Nationalism and it’s close cousin Christian Dominionism, or as it is sometimes called Seven Mountains Theology. The tragic thing is that despite their declining numbers the theocrats have continued to gain power and influence government policy over the last four years in way the framers would have opposed. Not only do this they attempt to threaten and shout down their opponents in the most unseemly manner. I have had to deal with one of these asshats over the past week.

Likewise I continue to discover that with few exceptions that if you are a minister that with few exceptions most ministers or chaplains will use you, abuse you and when done abandon you. Truthfully, most ministers are thin skinned, cowardly sonsofbitches who if you are a ministerial colleague will smile to your face as they plunge a dagger into your back, this is especially true of Christian ministers across the theological and political spectrum. They would rather make their beds with the powerful than care for the weak, broken, hurt, or damaged in their ranks. I know this from personal experience, the experience of my friends, and from numerous amounts of analytical and polling data, but I digress.

In the 1770s and 1780s Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and their Virginia Baptist ally, John Leland understood the threat to a republic such as ours posed by religious theocrats of any type, to include Christians.

The Virginia statute was necessitated by militant Anglicans who desired to re-establish themselves as the state religion in Virginia and had gone about using physical violence against various dissenters, especially Virginia’s Baptist minority. It is fascinating, in a frightening and grotesque sense of the word to see Virginia Baptists like Jerry Falwell Jr., and other Evangelical leaders of the Free Church tradition, including Pat Robertson, Franklin Gresham, Paula White, Tony Perkins, John Hagee, Robert Jeffress, Rick Wiles, and a host of other contemporary theocrats interpreting Religious Freedom in a manner similar to the Anglicans of Virginia in the 1780s, or in the manner of all Christians who follow the path of Constantine.

Not all of these religious leaders are Baptists, but many are independents, charismatics, Pentecostals, and other conservative Evangelicals of many denominations have thrown their lot in the hat of theocracy and authoritarian rule.

The late great Southern Baptist Pastor and seminary president George Truett, wrote about them:

“Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world…. When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars…. The long blighting record of the medieval ages is simply the working out of that idea.”

The Virginia Statute stood in complete opposition to theocratic minded Americans then, and now. The statute which I post below in its entirety is must reading for anyone who thinks that they understand what the founders of the United States believed about religious liberty:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;

That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;

That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

Please, take some time to let those words sink in, especially if you think that religious liberty is only for people of your favorite religion, or the one that you belong to. The fact is, that those who established religious liberty in the United States, many of them like John Leland, professing Christians, did not think that religious liberty was for the powerful, or those who wanted to dominate others on the basis of religion wedded to government and political power.

Leland wrote:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

With that I bid you a good night, or maybe a troubling one. It all depends on ones perspective. I don’t say that lightly; but really, considering my vivid dreams, nightmares, and night terrors brought on by PTSD and a neurological condition that ensures that those dreams, nightmares, and terrors are acted out when I am in REM sleep, maybe it is a necessary step to healing.

If you value freedom those words may be hopeful; but if you don’t, they are a threat, a threat of unlimited government and religious power. The fact is, that all of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, or lack thereof must take them to heart when we proclaim our loyalty to the Constitution, and our belief in the First Amendment to it, if we don’t we actively proclaim our opposition to the ideals of our Founders, but I digress. The simple fact and problem is that authoritarians and theocrats hate the First Amendment, and have to twist it to ensure that only their rights are protected and enhanced. However, the Virginia Statute, and the First Amendment at meant by the Founders, threatens their desires of theocracy and unbridled state power, and so long as we believe it and fight for it, undermines their power. My friends, if you know history, that is not a bad thing. As John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton wrote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”,

Think about it, the police power of the state married to religion. For God’s sakes, we are not Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, the perverted Shinto of Imperial Japan, the Tsarist and Putin’s Russia, or any other state that relies on the unwavering loyalty of its religious majority, or powerful minority, to maintain power. In time they all come crashing down, as will Trump’s Cult.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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To Kill a Mockingbird at 60: Yes, the Bible in the Hand of One Man is Worse than a Bottle in the Hand of Another

mock

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today marks the 60th the anniversary of the release of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. I have read the book, and seen the film many times. Sadly, it is all too relevant in our time. Race hatred and a belief in the absolutes of aberrant forms of Christianity which bless White Racism are rampant in the United States and Europe, many of these groups are overtly Fascist and Authoritarian. Sadly, with the looming 2020 General Election, many of President Trump’s base is Cult of Christians who have forgotten what the Gospel is in their slavish devotion to Trump.

That alone is to make the novel and the film worth reading and watching, especially if you haven’t read the book or seen the film.

Sadly, such people would “kill the Mockingbird” to ensure that they keep their privileged position in society. The Mockingbirds are those that they have condemned to social inferiority and discrimination and eternal punishment, especially gays and the LGBT community, but others as well.

This is especially the case of the preachers, pundits and politicians that crowd the airwaves and internet with their pronouncements against Gays, immigrants, Arabs, poor blacks, political liberals, progressive Christians, and for that matter anyone who simply wants the same rights enjoyed by these Christians.

In the book there is a line spoken by Miss Maudie Atkinson, a neighbor of Atticus Finch and his children. She says to Atticus’s daughter Scout:

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

As I survey the world of Christian conservatives I become surer of this every day. I’ve often wrote about my own fears in regard to dealing with such people as well as the troubling trends that I see. Last week I wrote five articles on the trends that I see in the church, trends toward greed, political power, social isolation and the active campaign of some to deny basic civil rights to people that they hate on purely religious grounds.

The language of some like Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, Tony Perkins of the American Family Association and a host of others describe actions of governments and courts to ensure equal treatment of all people under the law as threats to Christians, affronts to them and of course to God. Their words are chilling. Matt Staver commented a few years back that if the Supreme Court upheld marriage equity for gays that it would be like the Dred Scott decision. Of course that is one of the most Orwellian statements I have ever heard, for the Dred Scott decision rolled back the few rights that blacks had anywhere in the country and crushed the rights of people in non-slave states.

Again, as a reminder to readers, especially those new to the site, I spent a large amount of my adult Christian life in that conservative Evangelical cocoon. I worked for a prominent television evangelist for several years, a man who has become an extreme spokesman for the religious political right. I know what goes on in such ministries, I know what goes on in such churches. I know the intolerance and the cold hearted political nature of the beast. I know and have gone to church with Randall Terry, the former head Operation Rescue who once said: “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…” I have walked in those shoes, I have been whipped up by those preachers. I fully understand them, and because I do I am in a unique position to critique their words and actions, especially as the supposedly moral majority snuggle up with one of the most amoral men ever to become President, solely to protect and crease their political power. They have surrendered their claim to being a party of morality, and embraced evil for the sake of their power. Without empathy, they judge and condemn others not like them. They are incapable of understanding anything that conflicts with their visions of White Power, racial superiority, and an interpretation of Christianity which needs state support in order to survive.

As Atticus Finch told his children:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

They cannot, thus I total reject the message of such people now, not out of ignorance, but because I have walked in their shoes. At times I supported their causes, not to any extreme, but all too often my crime was simply said nothing when I knew that what they preached, taught and lived was not at all Christian, but from the pits of Hell.

As far as them being entitled to hold whatever opinion they want, even if I disagree, yes that is their right. But as Atticus said:

“People are certainly entitled to think that I’m wrong, and they are entitled to full respect for their opinions. But before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The only thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

My conscience will not allow me to be silent when I see men like Staver, Perkins, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson, and so many others preach hatred towards those who are different than them. Their reach and power has only increased with their support of President Trump.

In the movie and the book the Mockingbirds were Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of rape and assault and Boo Radley, a shy recluse feared by his neighbors, a man who stories were made up about; stories that turned a simple man into a monster in the eyes of people who did not know him. Today they are others who fit the Mockingbird role, people who just want to get along and live in peace, but who endure discrimination and damnation from those who call themselves Conservative Christians.

Jem Finch, the son of Atticus asks his sister a question in the book and the film:

“If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?”

I ask the same question on a daily basis.

So until tomorrow I wish you a good night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Antidote to Theocracy and Authoritarian Dictatorship Done in the Name of Any God: The Virginia Statute of Religious Rights

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Two hundred and thirty four years ago, in the year 1786, the the legislature of the Commonwealth Of Virginia ratified a law written by Thomas Jefferson. It was the precursor to the Establishment and the Free Exercise Clauses Of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

It is the antithesis of, and the antidote to all theocratic movements, to include contemporary Christian Nationalism and it’s close cousin Christian Dominionism, or as it is sometimes called Seven Mountains Theology.

Jefferson, James Madison, and their Virginia Baptist ally, John Leland understood the threat to a republic such as ours posed by religious theocrats of any type, to include Christians.

The Virginia statute was necessitated by militant Anglicans who desired to re-establish themselves as the state religion in Virginia and had gone about using physical violence against various dissenters, especially Virginia’s Baptist minority. It is fascinating, in a frightening and grotesque sense of the word to see Virginia Baptists like Jerry Falwell Jr., and other Evangelical leaders of the Free Church tradition, including Pat Robertson, Franklin Gresham, Paula White, John Hagee, Robert Jeffress, Rick Wiles, and a host of other contemporary theocrats interpreting Religious Freedom in a manner similar to the Anglicans of Virginia in the 1780s, or in the manner of all Christians who follow the path of Constantine.

Not all of these religious leaders are Baptists, but many are independents, charismatics, Pentecostals, and other conservative Evangelicals of many denominations have thrown their lot in the hat of theocracy and authoritarian rule.

Such was the warning of the great Southern Baptist Pastor and seminary president George Truett, who wrote:

“Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world…. When … Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the spirit of the Caesars…. The long blighting record of the medieval ages is simply the working out of that idea.”

The Virginia Statute stood in complete opposition to theocratic minded Americans then, and now. The statute which I post below in its entirety is must reading for anyone who thinks that they understand what the founders of the United States believed about religious liberty:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;

That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,

That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;

That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

Please, take some time to let those words sink in, especially if you think that religious liberty is only for people of your favorite religion, or the one that you belong to. The fact is, that those who established religious liberty in the United States, many of them like John Leland, professing Christians, did not think that religious liberty was for the powerful, or those who wanted to dominate others on the basis of religion wedded to government and political power.

Leland wrote:

“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. … Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”

With that I bid you a good night, or maybe a troubling one. It all depends on ones perspective. I don’t say that lightly; but really, considering my vivid dreams, nightmares, and night terrors brought on by PTSD and a neurological condition that ensures that those dreams, nightmares, and terrors are acted out when I am in REM sleep, maybe it is a necessary step to healing.

If you value freedom those words may be hopeful; but if you don’t, they are a threat, a threat of unlimited government and religious power. The fact is, that all of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, or lack thereof must take them to heart when we proclaim our loyalty to the Constitution, and our belief in the First Amendment to it, if we don’t we actively proclaim our opposition to the ideals of our Founders, but I digress. The simple fact and problem is that authoritarians and theocrats hate the First Amendment, and have to twist it to ensure that only their rights are protected and enhanced. However, the Virginia Statute ,and the First Amendment at meant by the Founders, threatens their desires of theocracy and unbridled state power, and so long as we believe it and fight for it, undermines their power. My friends, if you know history, that is not a bad thing. As John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton wrote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”,

Think about it, the police power of the state married to religion. For God’s sakes, we are not Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, the perverted Shinto of Imperial Japan, the Tsarist and Putin’s Russia, or any other state that relies on the unwavering loyalty of its religious majority, or powerful minority, to maintain power. In time they all come crashing down, as will Trump’s Cult.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Silent Witnesses of Evil Deeds… Are We Still of Any Use? Trump’s Christian Advocates


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Over his three years in office President Trump has managed to tell over 15,000 lies or distortions of the truth as of December 16th 2019 according to the Washington Post. That being said we all expect politicians to lie, it’s part of American life and political discourse. Will Rogers once said “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.” I think that the expectation that elected officials will lie is one reason that Mark Twain quipped: “An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere.”

However the shear numbers of lies and falsehood proclaimed by the President is having a toxic effect on our society, in particular on those in the church, men and women who call themselves by the name of Christ who not only believe them, but repeat them, and defend them.  The fact is that for decades these same Christian leaders and people have proclaimed their allegiance to what they call “moral absolutes”and  “Biblical values”while excoriating Democrats, particularly Bill and Hillary Clinton for their lies. The fact is that by doing this Christians simply become another political interest group hustling politicians for favors that benefit them, even at the expense of the credibility of their witness to Christ.

The constant repetition of the President’s well documented lies, and their defense by administration flacks, Congressional supporters, the Fox News media empire, and the big name Evangelical Preachers who have sold their souls in his defense have damaged the soul of the country and yes the Church.

Of course one would expect the President’s opponents to point out his lies but in normal times you wouldn’t expect his conservative religious supporters to go to the mat defending him and his lies, and even calling him a “role model” for young people.  In a recent survey some 70% of his predominantly Christian, Republican supporters say that he is and that my friends is, if you value the long term witness of the Christian Church absolutely devastating, especially since for over a decade young people have been fleeing the church in never before seen numbers while unbelievers, even those that admire Christ and what some would call Christian values want nothing to do with the Church.

The fact is that the repetition of lies and falsehoods, whether you are a Trump supporter or opponent there is a not a good thing either for the Church or for the country. It has a terrible effect, and one only has to look to the countries of Europe to see how Christian support for malevolent leaders has reduced it to irrelevance. Whether it be the support of ethnic and religious persecution, or the participation in and protection of sexual predators masquerading and Bishops, Priests, and Nuns has eviscerated the witness of the Church.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this and asked a question that should be asked by people that call themselves by the name of Christ who at the same time defend the indefensible and not only defend, but take great pleasure in defending the lies of the President. Bonhoeffer observed the same dynamic in his day. He wrote:

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?”

Please believe me when I say that I am not being an alarmist about this situation. I know too much about history, human nature, and yes the Church not to see the danger. Sophie Scholl, a leader of the Anti-Nazi White Rose Resistance who was martyred two years before Bonhoeffer wrote:

But that’s part of the problem. The lies and actions of the President and his administration have been cumulative; and toxic to our political, social, and even religious institutions. What was shocking to most on day one became normalized over the course of the past three years, four and a half if you go back to the time Candidate Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his Presidential candidacy.

The effect is both numbing and corrosive: first on the President’s defenders who surrender all pretext of moral or religious authority, and on his opponents who gradually are worn down by the barrage of lies and the fact that they are also the minority party, or if the are Republicans, the minority in the President’s party. In addition to his lies and obfuscations the President appears to have directly collided with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, use his office for personal gain, pardoning war criminals, breaking treaties, and offering support for nations who kill American based reporters, and even assassinating a military leader of a nation we are not at war with on the soil of a badly needed, but fragile ally; and finally today made comments that he would commit US troops to nations who paid the most for them. In essence, he has agreed to turn the U.S. Military from a force dedicated to supporting and defending the Constitution, to a force for hire, mercenaries if you will.

Sophie Scholl, a leader of the Anti-Nazi White Rose Resistance who was martyred two years before Bonhoeffer wrote:

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

Since President Trump first announced his candidacy for President in 2015, I have been sounding out a warning about the President, mostly for my Christian friends. By doing so I have lost friends and been ostracized or attacked by others for doing so, despite the fact that until my return from Iraq in 2008, I had been both a politically active Conservative Christian and Republican for over thirty-two years. That being said regardless of the cost I would rather follow my conscience than surrender it to the cacophony of lies and acceptance of evil by people who were once friends.

I do not consider myself to be a victim of my former friends. In fact I understand how they got to this point. In fact what has happened with them did not begin with the lies of President Trump. For decades, they, like I did until 2008, bought the repeated lies of the politicians, pundits, and preachers of the American conservative movement. The leaders of this movement coopted them by constantly repeating that they were under attack and needed to take control of the government in order to both defend the faith and implement a Christian government.  Whole theologies were built around this and gradually many, if not most conservative and Evangelical Christians accepted the idea that Christians had to “take dominion”over the country regardless of the cost. The leaders of the so-called “Christian Right” including Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Albert Mohler, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, and far too many others have sacrificed every bit of their integrity in defending the President and excusing his lies to further their own power. His Secretary of State, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and others in his administration hold the same views as the Trump Court clergy.

Truthfully, I understand how they got there. If I hadn’t gone to Iraq, seen what I saw there, realized the lies that went into the propagation of the war and the lies of Christians who demonized all Muslims because of some after the attacks of September 11th 2001, I would probably still be one of them. For me it took war to understand the moral and theological bankruptcy the politics and theology of the Christian Right, of which over 80% voted for the President and over 75% still support him.

But there is a critical difference for those in the military versus religious sycophants. Above everything our oaths demand obedience to the Constitution above personal loyalty to any President, any Political Party, or any personal religious preference. Members of the military must remember the words of men who served under men with similar personality traits as our President. General Ludwig Beck, Chief of Staff of the German Army, resigned his post in 1938 over Hitler’s threatened invasion of Czechoslovakia. He wrote:

“It is a lack of character and insight, when a soldier in high command sees his duty and mission only in the context of his military orders without realizing that the highest responsibility is to the people of his country.”

Beck also wrote something that is all to important to any military officer, intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as diplomats in such times as we live today:

“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here; history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.”


Likewise, another German officer, Major General Henning Von Tresckow, who Like Beck lost his life in the attempt to kill Hitler on July 20th 1944, noted:

“I cannot understand how people can still call themselves Christians and not be furious adversaries of Hitler’s regime.”

Finally, the German pastor Martin Niemoller, himself a Conservative Christian, nati-Communist, and early supporter of Hitler wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

As I said, Niemöller was an early supporter of Hitler, until he saw the truth about him. I think the same of Christians who support the basest and most immoral, unconstitutional, and deranged aspects of Trump’s policies. But I think that it was Bonhoeffer who asked the right question in terms of Christians and their support of morally bankrupt regimes, not just Trump’s, but those in many nations where Christians back such regimes. “Are we still of any use?”

It’s a pretty good question, I would ask anyone who calls themself a Christian to meditate upon it.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Threats of Civil War and Accusations Of Treason: Trump, His Reichsbishof, and Those Ready to Kill in his Name

Friends Of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a couple of thoughts tonight. We celebrated Judy’s Birthday with our friends in Germany and even made a trip over the border to France where we got her birthday cake. But I digress…

Tonight I am very concerned about what President Trump and some of his leading supporters, especially his Reichsbishof , Pastor Robert Jeffress, of First Baptist Church Dallas threatened that if he were impeached that it would bring about a civil war. During his Twitter tirade the President accused the Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee of Treason.

First, the whole concept of Treason when it comes to United States law and the Constitution, which set very tight limitations on what can be charged as treason.

In fact it is spelled out in the Constitution:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” 

That does not sound like Schiff, the Whistleblower, or any of Trumps political opponents or media critics. The only ones coming close to the definition is Trump himself, Rudi Giuliani, Attorney General Barr, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who all seem to be neck deep in not only the Ukrainian affair, but those involving other countries as well. Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Unlike Hitler’s Germany, the Soviet Union Of Stalin, or for than matter any government ruled by a dictator, our Constitution does not say that the President is above the law. That is why the process impeachment of impeachment, and what can trigger it is in the Constitution. It is not about where you like a President or his policies at all, it is about holding the Chief Executive accountable to the Legislative Branch, which is given first place in the Constitution, including oversight of the Exectutive Branch, and advice, consent, and voting on the appointment of those of the Judicial Branch.

Okay, that was bad enough, a President who does not respect the Constitution and law is pretty bad, but one who re-tweets men like Jeffress that make threats of civil war is repugnant and repulsive. Trump tweeted Jeffress’s comments with his own his own comments:

If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,”

This is dangerous. The fact that first a Pastor would threaten civil war should the man he supported for president and defends today is much more like an Ayatollah, Taliban preacher, or somebody out of the religiously supported wars of the Reformation, or the Crusades than anything our Founders accepted. The fact that Jeffress pastors the flagship church of a denomination which was founded upon its support of slavery and later secession and civil war is ironic. They are remarks that any Southern Baptist today should flee from, and I am a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, class of 1992.

Likewise I am a historian who has studied and written extensively about the American Civil War, Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim, Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, the German Civil War that followed World War One, during the Weimar Republic, and the wars which followed the Reformation in Europe and England. I have also visited countries in the Balkans after their civil wars of the 1990s, and been in the middle of of the Sunni-Shia Civil War in Iraq in 2007-2008.

The civil war that Trump, Jeffress, and other Trump supporters, including the so-called Oath Keepers threaten, will not be like the American Civil War with massed armies fighting a continental war, instead it will be much more like the Spanish Civil War, Iraq, Syria, Ireland, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, or those of the 1970s and 1980s in Central America. They will be murderous, terrorist type wars, insurgencies with no end. I have seen and studied these wars. Anyone advocating them is either evil, or insane.

I think that applies to both the President, the Pastor, and their armed fanatical supporters.

I say, let the Congress do its job and follow the law and Constitution regardless of where it leads.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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To Kill a Mockingbird at 59: Sometimes the Bible in the Hand Of One Man is Worse than a Whiskey Bottle in the Hand Of Another

mock

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tomorrow marks the 59th the anniversary of the release of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. I have read the book, and seen the film many times. Sadly, it is all too relevant in our time. Race hatred and a belief in the absolutes of aberrant forms of Christianity which bless White Racism are rampant in the United States and Europe, many of these groups are overtly Fascist and Authoritarian.

That alone is to make the novel and the film worth reading and watching, especially if you haven’t read the book or seen the film.

Sadly, such people would “kill the Mockingbird” to ensure that they keep their privileged position in society. The Mockingbirds are those that they have condemned to social inferiority and discrimination and eternal punishment, especially gays and the LGBT community, but others as well.

This is especially the case of the preachers, pundits and politicians that crowd the airwaves and internet with their pronouncements against Gays, immigrants, Arabs, poor blacks, political liberals, progressive Christians, and for that matter anyone who simply wants the same rights enjoyed by these Christians.

In the book there is a line spoken by Miss Maudie Atkinson, a neighbor of Atticus Finch and his children. She says to Atticus’s daughter Scout:

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

As I survey the world of Christian conservatives I become surer of this every day. I’ve often wrote about my own fears in regard to dealing with such people as well as the troubling trends that I see. Last week I wrote five articles on the trends that I see in the church, trends toward greed, political power, social isolation and the active campaign of some to deny basic civil rights to people that they hate on purely religious grounds.

The language of some like Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, Tony Perkins of the American Family Association and a host of others describe actions of governments and courts to ensure equal treatment of all people under the law as threats to Christians, affronts to them and of course to God. Their words are chilling. Matt Staver commented a few years back that if the Supreme Court upheld marriage equity for gays that it would be like the Dred Scott decision. Of course that is one of the most Orwellian statements I have ever heard, for the Dred Scott decision rolled back the few rights that blacks had anywhere in the country and crushed the rights of people in non-slave states.

Again, as a reminder to readers, especially those new to the site, I spent a large amount of my adult Christian life in that conservative Evangelical cocoon. I worked for a prominent television evangelist for several years, a man who has become an extreme spokesman for the religious political right. I know what goes on in such ministries, I know what goes on in such churches. I know the intolerance and the cold hearted political nature of the beast. I know and have gone to church with Randall Terry, the former head Operation Rescue who once said: “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…” I have walked in those shoes, I have been whipped up by those preachers. I fully understand them, and because I do I am in a unique position to critique their words and actions, especially as the supposedly moral majority snuggle up with one of the most amoral men ever to become President, solely to protect and crease their political power. They have surrendered their claim to being a party of morality, and embraced evil for the sake of their power. Without empathy, they judge and condemn others not like them. They are incapable of understanding anything that conflicts with their visions of White Power, racial superiority, and an interpretation of Christianity which needs state support in order to survive.

As Atticus Finch told his children:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

They cannot, thus I total reject the message of such people now, not out of ignorance, but because I have walked in their shoes. At times I supported their causes, not to any extreme, but all too often my crime was simply said nothing when I knew that what they preached, taught and lived was not at all Christian, but from the pits of Hell.

As far as them being entitled to hold whatever opinion they want, even if I disagree, yes that is their right. But as Atticus said:

“People are certainly entitled to think that I’m wrong, and they are entitled to full respect for their opinions. But before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The only thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

My conscience will not allow me to be silent when I see men like Staver, Perkins, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson, and so many others preach hatred towards those who are different than them. Their reach and power has only increased with their support of President Trump.

In the movie and the book the Mockingbirds were Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of rape and assault and Boo Radley, a shy recluse feared by his neighbors, a man who stories were made up about; stories that turned a simple man into a monster in the eyes of people who did not know him. Today they are others who fit the Mockingbird role, people who just want to get along and live in peace, but who endure discrimination and damnation from those who call themselves Conservative Christians.

Jem Finch, the son of Atticus asks his sister a question in the book and the film:

“If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?”

I ask the same question on a daily basis.

So until tomorrow I wish you a good night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Vice into Virtue, Slander into Truth… Sadism into Justice” The Miraculous Rationalizations Of Trump’s Christian Cult

Catch-22 (1970) Alan Arkin Mike Nichols 24

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The government is partially shut down, nearly an million government employees and contractors have either been furloughed or working without pay for almost three weeks. A large number of those are employees of the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department, and the Department Of the Interior. A huge number of them are law enforcement: FBI, Border Control Agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents, TSA, Federal Prison Guards, a host of other Federal Law Enforcement Officers, Court employees, and too many others to list. All have vital functions to making sure the country is safe and that the government is able to fulfill its responsibilities to its citizens and the nation, and this partial shutdown for the sake of a wall of folly endangers national security.

Sadly, neither the President nor his most faithful supporters, mostly Evangelical Christians and those in media who have long supported theocratic, authoritarian, fascist, and racist policies. Of the Christians most claim to be pro-life, which more accurately stated is anti-abortion, as most do not seem to care about any life once it has left the womb, especially if that life is darker skinned, or the progeny of poor people, or non-White Christians.

This, when I see and hear the political-religious leaders of the Christian Right like Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, and a host of other Evangelical and Conservative Christian leaders defend the indefensible actions of President Trump I am reminded of the words of Joseph Heller in his classic novel Catch 22, who wrote about the Chaplain:

“The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” 

As much as I doubt at times, I still remain a Christian. However, if I wasn’t already a Christian I couldn’t think of a single reason to follow the false God of men like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, or any of the host of big name Evangelical Christian preachers who excuse the behaviors of President Trump and his decadently despicable defenders, including people that I once thought that I knew and considered to be friends.

I used to think that most people like to believe that religion is a benign or positive influence in the world. As much as I want to believe the positive aspects I have to admit based on the historical and sociological evidence that this is not so, especially during unsettled times of great change. We live in such an era and when it comes to identity, God is the ultimate trump card.

If one wonders why the most fanatical individuals and groups on earth are tied to religions, whether it is the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Orthodox Jews, radical Hindus and Buddhists as well as militant Christians. Of course all of these groups have different goals, but their thought and philosophy are quite similar.

Robert Heinlein wrote:

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

Heinlein, the author of the classic Starship Troopers was absolutely correct. Just look at any place in any time where any religion, sect or cult has gained control of a government. They are not loving, they are not forgiving and they use the police power of the state to persecute any individual or group that is judged to be in error, or even worse has the gall to question their authority.

Since the Christian groups tend to thrive in the West, they only speak in terms of violence, most, with the exception of Russian Orthodox Christians, do not have a government to translation of those words into action. Many, especially conservative Catholics and some Evangelical and Charismatic Protestants seem for a long for the day when they can assume control of a theocratic government.

Samuel Huntington wrote in his book The Clash of Civilizations:

“People do not live by reason alone. They cannot calculate and act rationally in pursuit of their self-interest until they define their self. Interest politics presupposes identity. In times of rapid social change established identities dissolve, the self must be redefined, and new identities created. For people facing the need to determine Who am I? Where do I belong? Religion provides compelling answers….In this process people rediscover or create new historical identities. Whatever universalist goals they may have, religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

Huntington was right, you see the true believers, those who follow their religion without question and believe that it is superior to all others also believe that their religion entitles them to be atop the food chain, others who don’t believe like them be damned, if not in this life, the next. That is the certitude of the true believer, especially the religious one. Secular or atheistic fanatics could care less about the next life, for this life is all that they have. But the religious “true believers” are not only interested in destroying someone in this life, but ensuring that in the next that they suffer for eternity, unless they believe in the annihilation of the soul after death, which really spoils the whole Dante’s Inferno perspective of the damned in the afterlife.

The great American philosopher, Eric Hoffer wrote:

“The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

That is why they, the religious true believers of any faith are capable of such great evil, and why such people can murder innocents in the most brutal manner simply because they do not believe correctly. In fact today when I see the words and actions of these supposed Conservative Christians.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a Christian, a priest, a historian and a theologian, but I also know just how insidious those who hold their religion over those of others can be. While I hold faith dear, I know that it can be abused for the claim of some to have God as their final authority is a sort of trump card with which they are able to justify the most obscene and evil acts against others.

Likewise I struggle with faith every day. If you have read this blog from the beginning you will see chronicle my struggles with faith and its practice, especially in life and politics.

I guess that is why I am even more frightened of religious true believers than non-religious true believers. While the non-religious true believer may sacrifice everything for the sake of power and control in this life, and may in fact commit the most heinous crimes against humanity, their hatred is bounded in space and time to this earth. The religious true believer is not content with that; their enemies must be damned and punished in this life, but for eternity, without hope of salvation.

When the true believers look at people like me, or Yossarian, I am sure they believe what Heller wrote:

“Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian’s fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.” 

I will be a Yossarian any day of the week rather than the Chaplain in Catch 22, who like Falwell, Jeffress, Graham, and so many other have “turned vice into virtue, slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted:

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

As the President considers declaring a national emergency to build his wall, it would be good for all,of us to remember that tyranny does not arise in a vacuum. It requires accomplices who are willing to embody the Chaplain of Catch 22.

With that I wish you a good day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Trump and the Evangelical “Outburst of Folly”

D.Bonhoeffer im Gefaengnis Berlin-Tegel

D.Bonhoeffer im Gefaengnis Berlin-Tegel Bonhoeffer, Dietrich evang. Theologe, Widerstandskaempfer Breslau 4.2.1906 – (hingerichtet) KZ Flossenbuerg 9.4.1945. – Bonhoeffer im Hof des Wehrmachtunter- suchungsgefaengnis in Berlin-Tegel, Sommer 1944. – Foto.

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I watch those who bend over backwards to defend the indefensible actions and words of President Trump, especially those who are very prominent “Christian” leaders I shake my head.

The naked aggression and reveling in their new found political power seems to have made many Evangelical Christians fools who will sacrifice all to bow in obeisance to a man who while delivering what they want, mocks the very Savior that they say they serve.

Observing this I am reminded of the words of the German Pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer who died at the hands of the Nazis in Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 9th 1944 on the express order of Adolf Hitler. From prison Bonhoeffer penned these words which are most descriptive of our times:

“If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of others. It is not that certain human capacities, intellectual capacities for instance, become stunted of destroyed, but rather that the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgment, and…give up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves.” 

President Trump found in Evangelicals people who would blindly follow him in actions that they would have never tolerated in any other political leader. Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas defended Trump on Fox News saying that Trump paying hush money to silence porn-star Stormy Daniels:

“And let’s be clear — Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star,” Jeffress continued. “However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.” 

But he is not alone. As a whole Evangelicals have been the most loyal of all of Trump’s supporters and regardless of his actions they are willing to look past them because he dishing out policies that they approve; even if the majority of those policies go completely against the Gospel, the words of Jesus, the condemnations of the Old Testament prophets, the writers of the New Testament, and the words of every martyr of the ante-Nicene era; before Constantine made the Christian Church the State Church. Since men like Jeffress and countless others like him are complete Theocrats who desire to overthrow the religious liberty of the First Amendment propounded by our Founders the see nothing wrong with it.

Trump may be a scoundrel, but they are fools, and dangerous ones at that.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self- satisfied; in fact, he can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make him aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel.”

Their outburst of folly in support of the President has the potential to doom all of us.

This is something that any thinking person regardless of their faith or ideology must be aware of and must resist. So until tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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