Tag Archives: sean hannity

The Stupidest Person on the face of the Earth? Todd Akin Tells Mitt, Sean and Rush to Pound Sand

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waf46eBajkw

The continuing saga of Todd Akin reminds me of the scene in the movie Ruthless People where Bill Pullman playing a hopeless stooge named Earl Mott attempts to rob Ken Kessler (Judge Reinhold) of ransom money being paid by Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) in front of an army of LAPD officers.

Lt Bender: [over a bullhorn] GIVE THE BAG TO BOZO, DROP THE GUN, AND PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR. 

Earl Mott: Who said that? 

Lt Walters: [to Lt. Bender] This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him. 

Lt Bender: [over the bullhorn] IT’S THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. 

Earl Mott: Really? 

Lt Bender: NO! WE’RE THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION! 

In any relatively normal time Todd Akin would have stood aside after making his incredibly stupid, remarks about rape. Akin has managed to give Mitt Romney’s Democrat opponent a gift that keeps giving. Akin single handedly has put the Romney-Ryan ticket in real danger, first by opening his big mouth, second by not shutting up and third by defying his party’s Presidential nominee. Even more importantly Akin managed to blow off the two leading conservative radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Hannity practically begged Akin on two consecutive days during interviews to quit the race while Limbaugh called him “stupid.” Say what you want about Limbaugh and Hannity, they don’t stay at the top of the radio ratings for nothing. They both know that Akin and his comments have the very real potential of sinking any chance of the Republicans taking back the Senate and possibly endanger the chances of Mitt Romney winning the Presidential election. They are not stupid. Disagree with them all you want but they know enough about politics to know that Akin’s continued defiance of their candidate only spells disaster for the GOP ticket.  The same is true of the National  Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Brian Walsh who said “The stakes in this election are far bigger than any one individual…” 

Akin’s action is having a ripple effect. Romney and Ryan had to flip flop on the abortion rape exemption which both had not supported until Akin made the position untenable despite it being in the GOP party platform.

Akin is in the process of killing his nominee. Most politicians that screw up their nominee’s chances realize that the guy at the top of the ticket’s campaign is more important than their campaign. In fact he is blaming the “liberal media” for trying to get him out of the race. It’s not the “liberal media” it is Akin’s friends at Fox News, talk radio and his own party that want him gone. However Akin seems to have little self awareness or realization of the effect of his comments on his party’s chances this fall saying today “Why can’t Mitt Romney run his race and I’ll run mine?”

I am sure that there are people in the GOP at this very moment who are think the same thing as Lt Walters (Clarence Felder). “This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him.”

What can I say? I’ll bet Mitt will spring for the ammo. He has lots of money to spend.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under movies, News and current events, Political Commentary

Be Careful of What you Vote Against: A Warning from History

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

Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemöller was a war hero.  He had served on U-Boats during the First World War and commanded a U-Boat in 1918 sinking a number of ships.  After the war he resigned his commission in the Navy in opposition to the Weimar Republic and briefly was a commander in a local Freikorps unit. His book Vom U-Boot zur Kanzel (From U-boat to Pulpit) traced his journey from the Navy to the pastorate. He became a Pastor and as a Christian opposed what he believed to be the evils of Godless Communism and Socialism.  This placed him in the very conservative camp in the years of the Weimar Republic and he rose in the ranks of the United Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union.  Active in conservative politics, Niemöller initially support the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor.

However, he quickly soured on Hitler due to his insistence on the state taking precedence over the Church.  Niemöller was typical of many Germans of his era and harbored ant-Semitic sentiments that he only completely abandoned his anti-Semitic views until after he was imprisoned.  He would spend 8 years as a prisoner of the Nazis a period hat he said changed him including his views about Jews, Communists and Socialists.  Niemöller was one of the founding members of the Pfarrernotbund (Pastor’s Emergency Federation) and later the Confessing Church. He was tried and imprisoned in concentration camps due to his now outspoken criticism of the Hitler regime.

Herman Maas

Herman Maas was another Evangelical Pastor.  Unlike Niemöller, Maas was a active participant in the ecumenical movement, built bridges to the Jewish community and defended the rights of Jews as German citizens.  He received a fair amount of criticism for his attendance of Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert’s funeral.  Ebert was both a Socialist and avowed atheist.  Maas too was active in the Pfarrernotbund and the Confessing church, and unlike Niemöller maintained his opposition to anti-Semitism and the Nazi policies against the Jews. He would help draft the Barmen declaration.  He too would be imprisoned and survive the war.  Maas was the first non-Jewish German to be officially invited to the newly formed state of Israelin 1950. In July 1964 Yad Vashem recognized the Maas as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer a young Pastor and theologian would also step up to oppose the Nazis and offer support for the Jews.  He helped draft the Bethel Confession which among other things rejected “every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.”  He also helped draft the Barmen declaration which opposed and condemned Nazi Christianity.  Bonhoeffer would eventually along with members of his family take an active role in the anti-Nazi resistance as a double agent for Admiral Canaris’ Abwehr.  For this he would be executed after his final sermon in the concentration camp at Flossenburg just a month prior to the end of the war. Bonhoeffer wrote “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” 

Another opponent of the Nazis in the Confessing Church was Swiss-German theologian Karl Barth.  Barth went into exile as a Swiss citizen but remained active in the criticism of the Nazi regime.

Bernard Lichtenberg

Catholic Bishop Galen of Münster and others including Father Rupert Meyer in Munich who opposed Hitler in the early 1920s would also oppose the Nazi policies toward the Church and the Jews.  Some like Meyer would end up in concentrations camps with some like Canon Bernard Lichtenberg of Berlin dying at the hands of the Nazis.

Rupert Meyer

All these men took risks to defend the Jews who were religious minority group that had been traditionally discriminated against in Germany.  They opposed the Nazi policies which were widely supported by much of the German populace making them unpopular in their own churches as among the traditionally conservative supporters of the Evangelical and Catholic Churches.  The Jews were not simply discriminated against as a racial or religious group but also identified with the political left, especially the Social Democrats, Independent Socialists, Communists and the Spartacists.

Since the Independent Socialists, Communists and Spartacists were all involved in attempts to create a Soviet state during the early tumultuous years of Weimar and been involved in many acts of violence against traditional German institutions and the state, they were viewed by Hitler and others as part of the Bolshevik-Jewish threat to Germany.  A sentiment harbored by many non-Nazi conservatives and Christians.

Karl Liebnicht and Rosa Luxembourg were among the high profile leaders of this movement in Germany and both were Jewish.  The fact that many in the leadership of the Bolshevik movement in theSoviet Union were Jewish added fuel to the fire that the Nazis stoked in Germany.  Hitler and the Nazis played on the historic, but muted prejudice against German Jews who in many cases were more secular and German than religious and had assimilated well in Germany.  Hitler’s rhetoric as well as that of other Nazis and Nazi publications helped identify the Jews as part of the “Stab in the back” myth that was commonly used by the German right to explain the defeat in the First World War.  Thus they were painted as a political and social threat to Germany.

Nazi Political and Religious Opponents in Concentration Camps

When Hitler took power persecution of the Jews began in earnest.  Jews were along with Communists, Trade Unions and Socialists enemies of the state.  They were banned from the military, civil service and other government employment, professional associations and forced to wear a gold Star of David on their clothing.  Their property was seized, many were abused by SA men acting as deputized auxiliary police and many times their businesses, Synagogues and homes were vandalized, burned or seized by the state.  Many would be forced to flee in order not to be sent to ghettos and concentration camps.  Even those leaving only escaped with the minimum of their possessions as the Nazi regime extorted anything of value from them as they left Germany.  This was all done because Hitler and those like him portrayed the Jews as not only an inferior race, but enemies of the state and the German people.

Hitler portrayed himself and his movement as defenders of Christianity. He was not the first or last to do so but his speech of February 1st 1933, the day after he was appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg made it abundantly clear that he was bent on securing the support of Christians to solidify his grip on power: “The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life. . . .”

The Sturmabteilung (SA) at Church

Churches became sponsors of Nazi meetings, the Swastika banner hung in the sanctuaries of churches throughout the Reich and Bishops, Priests and Pastors joined Nazi organizations and gave the Nazi salute. They had sold their soul to Hitler and the Nazis out of fear of the Communists, Socialists, Jews and Slavs.

Eric Hoffer noted that “It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable.” Hitler and his enablers spread fear and took advantage of it to bring those fearful of the left to his support.

Hitler leaving a Church

Today we face a similar phenomena in conservative circles in the United States.  This time it is not the Jews but Moslems, Gays, immigrants and racial minorities who are the targets of the xenophobic rage by many influential members of the “conservative” media including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and numerous others.  Their popularity in voicing support for “Christian morale values” such as being against abortion has ingratiated them with conservative Christians.  It is so bad that that many “conservative” Christians cannot differentiate between their vitriolic and un-Christian rage against Moslems, Gays and Lesbians, trade unionists, Democrats or anyone else portrayed by the big media talkers and the Gospel.

It is if they have become an appendage to Republican or “conservative” politicians rather than a Christian church.  It is not uncommon to see Christians on the web or on the call in talk radio programs identify lock stock and barrel with Limbaugh and others identifying the crass materialism and social Darwinism of “pure” Capitalism and the anti-Christian policy of pre-emptive war.   That may seem harsh, but many of these people in the “Conservative Bible project” seek to re-translate the Bible into their own political, social and economic policies even seeking to change or minimize any Scripture that might be equated with the “Social Gospel.”  Unfortunately many Christians and others have jumped in on the anti-Moslem and anti-immigrant crusades and anti-Gay launched by those on the far right.

There are those on the far right that advocate eliminating all Moslems from the military, government, security intelligence and police forces and even universities. Similar threats are made against non-European immigrants, legal and illegal alike especially those from Mexico or Latin America.  I have a friend; a Navy Officer who served a year in Iraq that was confronted by a member of the “Minutemen” in Texas to show his Green Card and threatened simply because he is Mexican.  Others especially conservative Christians suggest criminalizing homosexuality, jailing homosexuals or putting them in concentration camps, deporting them or even punishing gays with the death penalty.

This is so similar to the Nuremberg Laws and the Aryan Paragraph issued by the Nazis that it is scary.  Likewise the threats to American Moslems or Gays of placing them “behind razor wire” as we did to American Japanese citizens in World War II are chilling.  I wonder how Christians would react if an atheist or someone on the political left suggested all conservative Christians or members of pro-Life groups be imprisoned for the actions of Christians or pro-Life movement members like Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph who killed to stop abortion or Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church?

This new found militancy has swept up the “Christian right” and others since 9-11 and has reached proportions that I could never have imagined. After my tour in Iraq I realized that much of what these people were saying was not Christian at all and when taken to their logical conclusion would be a police state in which anyone who opposed them would be persecuted.  I question the motivations of the leaders of the movement but believe that most of the Christian conservatives have been caught up in the anger and the emotion of the times versus being true believers in what these men say.  That being said, you don’t have to be a true believer to be a willing accomplice in actions that first are not Christian and second trample on the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

I could keep citing examples but if someone can show me where this is condoned in the Gospels I would like to know.  The fact is that Christians are to place God first and defend the rights of others, even non-believers.  This is found not only in Scripture but runs through the Christian tradition across the denominational spectrum.

The persecution of American Moslems, minorities, Gays and others is dangerous, not just for those minorities but ultimately for Christians who endorse and advocate against those groups.  American and English law is based on legal precedence.  Once something has been determined to be legal, or constitutional it is considered by the law to be settled law.  This is a point made by Chief Justice Roberts regarding Roe v. Wade at his confirmation hearings.  If Christians want to use the law against Moslems or for that matter any other minority be it religious or political they tread on very dangerous ground.  Not only do they make a mockery of the Gospel command to love our neighbors, care for the foreigners among us and to be a witness to non-Christians support policies or laws that if enacted could and very well would be used against them by their opponents.

During the Republican Presidential primaries major leaders of the Evangelical movement and churches did all that they could to paint Mitt Romney as a religious cultist because he is Mormon. When Romney secured the nomination those same people started backtracking and committing their support to him because they believe that President Obama is an enemy of the country. They don’t like Romney, they are just against Obama. Romney will remember what they called him and their tepid support. If he becomes President he will not be beholden to them and will govern as he desires. Laws and Executive orders that give expanded power to the Executive Branch will not be overturned and if Evangelicals decide that they don’t like what he is doing and act toward him as they have President Obama they could find themselves on the outside and abandoned by the man that they supported.

Law is all about precedent and if such laws were enacted and upheld by the courts they would be settled law that could be used against anyone.   What these dear brothers and sisters fail to realize is that such laws can be turned against them if the state should ever decided based on the statements of actions of some that the Christian community is a threat to state security of the public welfare.  With the actions of some radical Christians who have committed murder and violence against political, social and religious opponents it would not be hard for the government to label whole churches as enemies of the state.  The law is a two edged sword and those who want to use it to have the state enforce their religious, social, ideological or political beliefs on others need to remember what comes around goes around.

The Confessing church understood this and many were imprisoned, exiled or killed for this belief.  The founding fathers of this country understood this too, that is why there is the Constitutional protection of Religion in the First Amendment.  This was put in because Virginia Baptists who had been persecuted by Anglicans lobbied James Madison for the amendment in the Bill of Rights threatening to withdraw their support for his candidacy if he did not.  Niemöller would discover the depths of his earlier folly in prison telling one interviewer after the war:

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

It is easy for well meaning people Niemöller to be bought with promises of support by politicians and media types who speak the words they want to hear in difficult times.  So today I suggest the formation of an ecumenical Pastor’s Emergency League which will not be bought by the empty and godless promises of hate mongers on the right or the left.  Such a group of men and women spanning the breadth of the Christian tradition and others that see the danger of extremism of all types is becoming necessary.  Such a step is becoming necessary due to the militancy of the Christian right as well as the militancy of atheist groups who lobby against all public religious expression by any religion.  Such a League would respect the various creeds and statements of faith of each member’s denomination.  The movement of the right has set a dangerous course fraught with perils that they do not comprehend.

We have entered a dangerous phase of American history.  These movements have the potential not only to oppress law-abiding and patriotic Americans of all faiths and to crush the religious freedoms of all in this county. Suggesting that American citizens, including those who serve the county in the military or government of entire religious, ethnic, political, religious affiliation or sexual preference be jailed, banned from office or fired is totalitarian and dare I say Nazi like.

Niemöller would say it well in this poem:

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

Peace,

Padre Steve+

8 Comments

Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion, Religion

Don’t go Akin my Heart: Todd Akin Earns the Ire of Mitt

Irony Personified

When one can’t think of anything else to do a political candidate should be like the Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas played by Charles Durning. One should dance around subjects and not say really stupid things, especially about things as sensitive topic as rape, which according to law and morality is a violent crime.  However there is no law against political stupidity. Good politicians know how to “Dance a little side step.” Stupid ones don’t know when to shut up.

Dance a Little Sidestep 

Todd Akin, until this morning a Tea Party favorite U.S. Congressman running for Senate in Missouri is obviously the kind of man who doesn’t know when to shut up or when not to try to play medical expert. While defending his anti-abortion position which gives no exemptions for rape he made one of the most bone-headed comments I have ever heard from a politician since Republican Texas candidate for Governor Clayton Williams did in 1990. Williams said that since rape is inevitable like bad weather that rape victims should “just relax and enjoy it.” Williams’ little off the cuff gaffe cost him the election as he was leading Democrat candidate Ann Richards with just a few weeks prior to the election by a hefty margin. I was a Republican in Texas at that time and was so disgusted that I couldn’t vote for the man.

Yesterday while being interviewed by a local news station Akin said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

I wasn’t watching much news yesterday and had been taking most of the day away from the computer spending time with Judy on her visit to the Island Hermitage. So when I head about late in the evening when making a quick check of headlines I was rather dumbfounded. I really thought that I had to be misreading it so I went to bed after finishing an episode of Boston Legal season four on my DVD. Then listening to The Morning Joe on my Sirius radio on the way to work I was really taken aback. I couldn’t believe that he actually said what he said.

I have dealt with a lot of rape victims in my time as a military chaplain as well as a civilian hospital chaplain. To quote the President who said the same thing that that  thought when I heard the comment: “Rape is rape.” So what is the difference between “legitimate rape” and “rape?” Is there such a thing as “illegitimate rape?”

Akin’s comments have drawn the fire of many of his backers including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan who co-sponsored legislation basically saying the same thing as did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Romney called the comments “insulting, inexcusable and frankly wrong.” Karl Rove’s Super-PAC Crossroads GPS which had spent $5 million in Missouri, withdrew it’s funding from the state. Radio talk-show host Sean Hannity and pundit Ann Coulter have all called on Akin to withdraw from the race, Coulter saying “for the good of the country.” He has been asked not to attend next week’s GOP convention in Tampa and the National Chairman of the GOP pretty much told him to withdraw from the race. Even major anti-abortion groups condemned the remarks. The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a long term anti-abortion activist and head of the Christian Defense Coalition called the remarks “offensive, repugnant and troubling.” But Akin, at least as of tonight is rebuffing their calls and claiming that he is staying in the race. Republicans are running from Akin like vampires from the sun despite having for the past number of years endorsed similar ideas.

I find the whole thing politically inept. I am not going into the politics of abortion on either side of the line. I am just commenting on the political ineptness of a candidate that has dropped a bomb on his party and his soon-to-be Presidential nominee the week before the nominating convention. It is not like that Romney himself has been great on the campaign trail routinely blowing himself up with unbelievable gaffes. It is also true that Romney is not liked by much of his own party, the only thing that many of his supporters find endearing is he is not Obama, who in the words of Hank Williams Jr. “they hate.”

Akin’s comments yesterday and actions today have taken the wind out of Mitt Romney’s campaign.   Romney now has to take his message off of the economy and defend a view that while popular among the conservative-Christian base is at odds with the majority of the electorate, even among those that support some restrictions on abortion. I fall into that category. In a close election which will be decided by a narrow minority of swing voters, especially women this could doom Romney’s campaign despite many people’s unhappiness with the Obama presidency and the continuing problems of the economy.

Regardless of what one thinks about abortion the political fact is that Akin has blown himself away and hurt his party’s nominee who has named an ideological clone of Akin as his running mate. It was a politically inept and stupid move by Akin. If the Republicans are smart they find a way to get him out of the race before he can cause more damage to their national campaign. Democrats of course are praying that Akin digs in and gives them a wedge issue that could give President Obama a slight edge and lessen support for Romney. Even Mahoney, who certainly has “street cred” among pro-life activists commented that if Akin stayed in the race “these comments will follow the Congressman throughout the entire campaign.”

He also may have driven a wedge into his own party as his supporters at the Family Research Council and American Family Association are digging in to support Akin, even making veiled threats at the campaigns of Akin’s Republican detractors such as Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Akin is breakin’ their hearts. We’ll see how long this goes. I think he will be gone from the race by Tuesday night but I do believe that the damage is done. He has given the Obama campaign and the re-election campaign of Senator Claire McCaskill a gift.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Update as of 2100 hours 21 August: I was wrong. Akin is digging in and the panic is only beginning. Even Rush Limbaugh is against him but he tweeted that the “liberal media” was out to get him. From my viewpoint I think that they want him to remain in the race while his conservative friends want him gone yesterday.

2 Comments

Filed under News and current events, Political Commentary

A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

“Baseball is a harbor, a seclusion from failure that really matters, a playful utopia in which virtuosity can be savored to the third decimal place of a batting average.”  ~Mark Kramer

Last night I went to see the home opener of the Norfolk Tides as has been my tradition since 2004.  It was a beautiful night for a ball game and my friend Dennis was gracious to invite me to sit with him in his season ticket section. It was a nice night and good company with a fellow veteran. There is camaraderie among veterans and others who have served in harm’s way, a camaraderie that recognizes reality in a way that most of the rest of society does not. I think that it a testament to the different worlds that the military and those that serve with us in harm’s way and the rest of society live in.

There is something about the ball park that does me good and helps bring a certain peace to my soul.  It has been this way more than ever since I returned from Iraq. While I can relax wonderfully with a ball game on television or radio there is nothing like being less than 50 feet from the playing field and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark.  I know others that find the same peace in  this setting a sense of safety and normalcy that we don’t find many other places.

The ball park is still one of the few places that I don’t find crowds of people intimidating or that send me into a state of hyper-vigilance, that is reserved for malls, Wal-Mart and other big retail venues as well as big churches.  I guess that is part of what makes going to the ball park so refreshing, I feel safe there.  But like all things ball games must end and we have to re-enter the “real” world.

But venturing back to the real world today I caught some news on the radio as I switched between ESPN regular news outlets while driving back to North Carolina.

First up was the news of Rick Santorum, the un-Mormon Anti-Mitt from the Republican Presidential primary campaign.  His campaign had struggled during the past few weeks following his Southern sweep.  At the beginning of the primary season he was probably considered the most likely to be one of the first out. But his worked hard and was tenacious taking the fight to Romney. Had other conservatives like Newt Gingrich left the race Santorum might have won more primaries and really made Romney’s life a living hell. However Santorum did not have the campaign organization or financial wherewithal to withstand Romney’s negative campaign ad carpet bombing blitz.  He also probably lost some support by getting too deep into the contraception debate and away from the compelling blue collar story of his family.  I found it interesting that he did not utter Romney’s name during his speech and wonder what this says about the depth of support that his more Evangelical Christian Social Conservative supporters will give Romney in the fall. My guess is that they are not thrilled with Romney and will likely do little or nothing to help him so Santorum or another like him can take the nomination in 2016 and not have to face an incumbent President.

Then there was Ozzie Guillen being suspended for his really stupid comment that “he loved Fidel Castro.” Not a good thing when you are the Manager of the Miami Marlins and call Little Havana your home.  It was as stupid as if you were the non-Jewish manager of a major Soccer team in Tel Aviv Israel and said the you just loved Hitler. Not smart. Now Ozzie who is known for his colorful off the cuff comments is having to try to make right with a Cuban community which is central to the life of South Florida many of whom are a generation or less removed from Castro’s persecution of political or other opponents. I know a lot of Cubans who have fled or been driven out of their homeland. I have been to the Northeast Gate at Guantanamo Bay which is kind of like the old Berlin Wall.  Now I like Ozzie and I think that he had the self awareness to realize that he screwed up royally and that his contrition is probably genuine. That being said he is going to have some rough times in Miami and in the end he better turn out a winner and find a way to become linked to an anti-Castro plot while he is doing so.

Finally the lawyers that were representing, advising or just helping George Zimmerman the man who killed a teenager named Trayvon Martin a month and a half ago quit. They held a nationally televised news conference to say that they have lost contact with Zimmerman, alluded that Zimmerman is no longer in Florida and that Zimmerman had done a number of things including talking to the Special Prosecutor office and Fox News host Sean Hannity about the case without counsel. This brought them to drop him as a client. Meanwhile the Special Prosecutor announced that she is going make a statement with more information regarding the case within the next 72 hours. My guess is that this will not be good news for Zimmerman. The only thing I can say about this is that Zimmerman must be stupid to disregard to counsel of his legal advisors. Who knows, maybe Zimmerman is on his way to Cuba?

Anyway, tonight is baseball on the MLB Channel and on my laptop with Molly my faithful dog at my side here at the Island Hermitage.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under Baseball, News and current events, Political Commentary

Hank Williams Junior’s Free Speech Violated? Give me a Break… it was Business doing what is best for Business

 

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.” Hank Williams Jr. announcement Thursday after ESPN announced that he would no longer be featured as the intro to Monday Night Football

Back when I was in college I did something incredibly stupid simply because I thought that I was being funny.  I had a part time job as a Peer Counselor with the Educational Opportunity Program.  The program was to help kids from poor families with not so great educations get a chance at college. Some kids did well and others didn’t.  My wife Judy was a student in the University’s program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students.  The office that ran the deaf program was called Support Services for Deaf Students or simply SSDS.

Judy had a roommate named Kendra and the three of us came up with some pretty sick jokes. In fact I learned sign language more to tell jokes with Kendra more than any other reason. Since Judy was “just hard of hearing” I used some sign with her but mostly to help her understand in difficult situations as for the most part she functioned as a hearing person despite having a 77% hearing loss.   Judy is also an artist and a cartoonist. One day we came up with a fake flyer for a parody of SSDS.  We called it Support Services to Dead Students.  Judy did the drawing and all would have been well had I not gotten the less than brilliant idea to “spam” the flyer out. Now this was way before e-mail and Facebook or any other social media.  So I went to a copy store and made about 50 copies and took them to work. I put them in messenger envelopes and sent them to most school departments through the internal school mail system.  I thought that it was hysterical and I must have let slip to someone that I had pulled this off this prank. Anyway a couple of days later I was called into my boss’s office and was told by him that he knew that I did it. He felt that it was deeply offensive and that I could resign or be fired.  I ended up resigning and my boss was grateful.  To be truthful it had nothing to do with the EOP students we were poking fun at the deaf students. Yes it was still crass and insensitive but I didn’t think that I would lose my job over it. I thought that it was a funny parody. My employer didn’t.

I learned a hard lesson. No matter how funny I thought that my parody was that it didn’t mean that my employer had to keep me on. What I did embarrassed my department and paid the price for it. Was anyone harmed? No. Was it malicious? No.  Could it be interpreted in ways that I didn’t intend it to be? Yes. Did it reflect on my lack of judgment? Yes.  Did my boss have a right to terminate me? Yes.  Did I learn? Most of the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eF6vCv13bw

Now of course Hank Williams Jr. made a complete ass of himself on Fox and Friends Monday morning.  Not only did he compare President Obama with Hitler but he went into a rant that just made him look like an angry idiot.  He called Obama “the enemy” and in making the Hitler comparison really made light of the Holocaust.  There is little that any American politician on the right or the left can do to be compared with Hitler.  Even his Fox friends who are not known for their love of Obama looked really uncomfortable as Hank ranted on.

Now to get things right I will defend people’s free speech rights and I don’t have to agree with them. If one decides to compare any American President with Adolf Hitler Joe Stalin, Pol Pot or the Ayatollah Khomeini he or she can say it without fear of being prosecuted by the State for doing so and if he is I will defend his right to that speech, even if I think it is hateful.  It may be hateful and ignorant to do what Hank did but there is no law against it and if he was prosecuted for it by the government I would defend his Free Speech rights.

That being said if one is the face of Monday Night Football as Hank was ESPN then there are risks to acting like an idiot. The producer of that show and the NFL had a right to end his relationship with the show.  It is about business, other companies with that advertise on Monday Night Football don’t want to be linked to the “H” word.  If they had not ended the relationship it would have been bad for business.

Let’s face it using the Hitler analogy tends to get people fired and it is not about free speech it is about business.  There are probably hundreds if not thousands of “conservative” commentators, bloggers and journalists who have made the Hitler analogy frequently on the internet and in print. It is protected Free Speech.  In fact when George W. Bush was President left wing bloggers and columnists frequently played the Hitler card against him. .  However none of them were the face of Monday Night Football and generally they work for employers that make money by criticizing Obama and the Democrats or Bush and the Republicans so they keep their jobs.  Remember each business determines what is good for their business.   Monday Night Football decided that Hank was now bad for business.

Hank is now saying that he decided to leave Monday Night Football “with his rowdy friends.” He said that what happened to him was a violation of his free speech rights. Now it seems like most people with the exception of Hank and Sean Hannity think that ESPN was within its rights to end their relationship with Hank.  If I recall one of the key conservative tenants is that employers are the ones that set the conditions for employing people.  The right to hire and fire at will is something that conservatives and Libertarians love.  Firing and shunning celebrities for doing stupid, ignorant or hateful things or even for benign associations is a sport in this country if a business deems the celebrity’s actions bad for business.

Let’s just go back 50-60 years, the McCarthy hearings and the Hollywood “blacklist” which tarred and feathered many actors, directors and others involved in the film industry being associated with the Communists or other unpopular causes at some point in their life, even if they had renounced that association.  Those people were not allowed to work, many for years simply because their loyalty to the country which had nothing to do with their acting abilities was questioned and producers fearing audience backlash simply blacklisted them.  Some of the many people blacklisted included Orson Welles, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Arnold and Edward G. Robinson.

Then there was an actress named Hanoi Jane Fonda, daughter of Hollywood icon Henry Fonda who had the dumb ass idea to go to North Vietnam, make anti-American and anti-war statements and be photographed on an anti-aircraft gun within a mile or so of the Hanoi Hilton POW camp.  She couldn’t get work for several years and when she did start working again, many people, me included boycotted her films and I still won’t watch them.  She was able to say what she wanted but she suffered the consequences and is still one of the most hated Hollywood celebrities in conservative circles.

There are so many other examples where celebrities have been fired or shunned because of their actions. Here are a few:

Gilbert Gottfried: Tsunami jokes got him fired as the voice of the Aflack Duck.

Megan Fox: Canned from Transformers due to Hitler remarks.

Madonna: Fired from her Pepsi sponsorship when the American Family Association boycotted Pepsi after Madonna released her controversial “Like a Prayer” music video.

Michael Phelps: After getting caught smoking dope was dropped by Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.


Mel Gibson: He was shunned after making anti-Semitic comments during a DUI arrest. His career has not been the same since.

Whoopi Goldberg: The Sister Act star got canned from her Slim Fast spokesperson job when she made double entendres about President George Bush at a John Kerry fund raiser.  She was also shunned by Kerry after it.

Sharon Stone: Dropped by Christian Dior inChina for suggesting that Chinese earthquakes were caused byChina’s treatment of Tibet.

The Smothers Brothers: Their hit comedy was cancelled by CBS for their controversial statements about racism,Vietnam and politics.

The Dixie Chicks: While touring “Old Europe” the country singers lashed out at President Bush and the Iraq War.  They were not fired but lost a huge number of fans in the process. The fans shunned them. They lost money and have not regained their former popularity.

The list can go on but I think I make my point. If people want to claim that business are free to do as they please and hire and fire people for whatever reason they deem fit on one hand, then they shouldn’t  that their Free Speech rights are being violated.  It is a two way street.  Think about it. If you are a business owner or in management and one of your employees does something that you think reflects badly on your business and may hurt your business would you fire them? You bet your ass you would and it doesn’t matter for what reason politics, religion or even your sense of humor.

What old Hank did was so stupid it defies imagination but he could say it. Fox didn’t cut away as he shot off his mouth, he wasn’t censored.  While his words and tenor were unbelievably stupid they were not illegal.  However I don’t blame ESPN for firing his sorry ass.  Hank is no victim of political correctness he shot his own balls off and I don’t care if he works ever again or he overcomes this and his career recovers.  However, he can say what he wants and believe what he wants and if he was prosecuted by the government for voicing those beliefs I would defend his Free Speech rights.  But that is not the case here.

Now I do have a lot of strong feelings about the often capricious ways that businesses use their liberty to mistreat or silence workers for speaking their political and religious beliefs in the workplace.  However if one wants to say that businesses should be free to do what they want to increase profits and market share without government interference then one has to expect that businesses will do best for business. Profit and not Free Speech is their number one concern.  Many celebrities and ordinary citizens have found this out before Hank; he can just join the club.  Heck, I’m no celebrity but it happened to me too… boo hoo Hank. Boo hoo. I’ll cry in my beer with you.  Wow that rhymed.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under celebrities, football, laws and legislation, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary

Return to the Great Montana Dude Ranch Sleepover: Padre Steve’s Cure to Politics as Usual

I wrote this about a year ago and after the fiasco that we have endured during this long and all too painful year think that it is time to revisit the topic. Since I have been rather morose of late I figure that this should break things up a bit.

I don’t know about you but as a passionate moderate I am fed up with the nasty politics as usual that is killing our country.  Our political ruling class appears to be hell bent on destroying the country all to satisfy their respective need for power and to satisfy the basest wants of their most strident supporters. The corruption and malevolence of the career politicians on both sides of the aisle have bankrupted the country, cost American lives in war, cost American jobs, destroyed our manufacturing base, placed the interests of financial traders who produce nothing except promote the evil practice of usury because it makes them money which they in turn contribute copious amounts of said money to their political patrons.  Then to top it all off they pass laws that make no sense and that you have to have an army of lawyers to understand.  They are out of touch with the everyday concerns of real Americans and have done their best to destroy the fabric of our society in their quest for power and they are many times an unseemly lot who do things that regular people could never get away with. The number of ethics violations, criminal charges and convictions and resignations due to shady financial dealings, backroom deals, sexual scandals and sometimes rather nasty criminal cases are too numerous to catalogue unless you are Matt Drudge.  I won’t list them here but they include notable Democrats as well as Republicans, nor will I go into all the idiotic things that our government, both Democrat and Republican controlled administrations or congresses have done as the task would be ginormous. Since we all get spun up about different issues usually in tune with our own political or social viewpoints I leave it to you my readers to fill in the blanks and comment on what you think they are screwing up.

Part of the problem is that our political ruling class, the Federal Government particular is completely out of touch because they live in the netherworld ofWashingtonD.C.  This city has become the symbol of all that ails the country and since our political class only leaves it to raise money for their next campaigns they have no earthly clue of what the rest of us are experiencing.  Thus they can coddle up to their big financial supporters and most demented party extremists and unseemly lobbyists representing some of the vilest elements of our society.  As a result for at least the past 10 years and I am sure a lot more they have for the most part forgotten the people that they are supposed to represent. The political class doesn’t live in our world, thus they do everything that they can not to look at what is best for the country but rather what is best for them, for their party, their supporters and their agendas.  If you ask me its all out of whack and they really all should be whacked.

Since they all spend far too much time inWashingtonor raising money to stay there it is high time that they get out of Dodge so to speak.  This is my idea of how we fix this situation.  My suggestion is definitely not politics as usual.  Instead it is based on relationships built from shared suffering and since we are suffering why shouldn’t they suffer too? So here’s my idea. First we shut down the government for a month. Now before you think that you won’t get what the government owes you I don’t mean the people that actually do the work.   What I mean is both houses of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court.   We shut them down.  Let the clerks of the court do their thing, let the White House staff do its job and congressional aides deal with constituents.  Give the Russians and Chinese, the Iranians, Al Qaida, the European Union and everyone else a message that we’re busy the next month so don’t bother us.  We’ll tell them that if they mind their own business that our stand ins with itchy fingers won’t nuke them. where is Al Haig when you need him the most?  Hey MAD (mutual assured destruction)  worked during the Cold War, after all nothing like an ICBM loaded with multiple nuclear warheads to keep people in line and not do anything really stupid.

So do you hear me Mahmoud and Osama? Do you hear me?  All that would come between you and nuclear annihilation are a few disgruntled civil servants with road rage that just got to work after being stuck in Beltway traffic for 3 hours. Go ahead make our day.

Once we shut the place down we put all of these guys and gals on Greyhound buses packed to the gills.  Each bus would have a mix of members of each party really making sure those that hate each other most sit next to each other.  Secret Service and FBI agents on the buses would have the option to Taser anyone that tries to switch seats.  Then we drive them all to some big assed dude ranch inMontana, outfit them in silly looking cowboy clothes with boots that are a bit too tight and leave them there in the charge of a bunch of cowboys at least two of which have had a recent “BrokebackMountain” experience.

They would have no cell phones, computers or communications with the outside world or even their minions back in D.C., nope, just them and Mother Nature sharing the experience of high plains living.  In fact to liven the place up we need to bring a few folks back into the mix, some former Presidents and Speakers of the House would do fine. Also the addition of the most strident Cable TV and radio talking heads and commentators would be good too, but I digress, too many extras might spoil the moment.  Maybe we should have a separate sleepover of Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd or Sean Hannity and Keith Olberman later?  No, we’ll throw them into this one to make it more fun.

This dude ranch living would be a bit Spartan. Since most of these folks a Spartan way is driving in a luxury car or SUV, having to fly First Class, staying in a luxury suite or eating at a 4 star restaurant they might have a hard time with what I propose but that would just be tough.    They made this mess and by God we’re going to get them back in touch with the real world and in the process get them to build real relationships with each other instead of the artificial life that they have led inside the beltway for years.

Once we get them to the big assed Dude Ranch we pair them up the best we can with a liberal and a conservative in each cabin.  We would try to keep the cabins of the same gender not to cause too much scandal but would make a few exceptions to that rule.  Now by cabins I don’t mean those really nice cabins that people take real vacations at, no I mean really rustic, Spartan tiny cabins with no amenities and only one bed, a full sized bed that our new roommates would need to share. The cabins would have no couches, easy chairs or love seats, no sleeping bags not even a bearskin rug, nope nothing else but the bed.  They would have a rather rustic communal outhouse to share with everyone else over a deep pit latrine and share their meals in a rather dilapidated chow hall eating off of tin plates and drinking from tin cups.  There would be a camp saloon but it would be like those of the old west, nothing but rotgut whisky, no mixed drinks, no foo-foo appetizers, no micro-brew beer. They would sleep together, eat together and have to participate in trail rides, fly fishing, Grizzly Bear hunting, rodeo events such as bull riding and calf roping as couples, odd couples, but couples nonetheless.  This togetherness would be enforced. Those Secret Service and FBI agents with their tasers… they’ll be out there too.  Anyway when our leaders go on the overnight trail rides the fun really starts.  After they eat their beans from tin plates, sing really bad western songs and take a swig or two or more of rotgut whiskey and then relieve themselves in the manner that the cowboys did in the old West they would get to curl up together in their own two person pup tent, a really small one and spoon.  This would help break down the walls that separate them and force them to get to know each other, some possibly in the Biblical sense of the word, but in the spirit of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell I won’t go there.

There is something about shared suffering to bring people together and make them realize that there is more to life than their own narcissistic agendas and power trips.  No this wouldn’t be prison for them as much as a lot of Americans think that prison would be fitting for them; prison is far too easy for our political class. Instead this would build character, character that if once they had they lost over their years inside the Beltway.

Of course they would not get to pick their room-mates so here are some of my suggestions:

President Obama and Rush Limbaugh: I know I said that the media should have their own version of this but since Limbaugh is the leader of the conservative movement he has to come and buck with his pal Barry.

Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch: They’re both Mormons so they can at least pray together.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Rachel Maddow: I don’t know it just sounds right.

Nancy Pelosi and Antonin Scalia: Sure it’s an opposite sex pairing but they are both Italians they should have fun.

Tom Tancredo and Janet Napolitano: Let’s make a run for the border and mend some fences together

Russ Feingold and Ron Paul: Government control and Libertarianism two great tastes that go great together

John Ensign and Barbara Boxer: He can’t seem to hold it in and she looks like that she could use some loving

Al Franken and Clarence Thomas: A comedian and a straight man…what a combination

John Kerry and John McCain: Both Vietnam Veterans, they understand the value of camaraderie

Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer: The just look like they need to be together

Diane Feinstein and Michael Savage: ASan Francisco treat

Barbara Milkulski and Kay Bailey-Hutchinson: Why not?

Joe Lieberman and Tim Pawlwnty: Not opposites but they seem to go together

Samuel Alito and Maureen Dowd: It just sounds right

Eric Holder and Glenn Beck: I sense real chemistry here

Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich: He’s running and she’s not but why not?

Barney Frank and Sean Hannity: They debate on his show often enough let them really get to know each other

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden: Not a recognizable cognitive thought between them all hormones and testosterone

Sheila Jackson-Lee and Ann Coulter: Salt and Pepper

Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and Pat Buchannan: It can’t get any better than this

John Boehner and Joe Biden: I think that they could really come to love each other

Plus some new additions

Allen West and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: Bringing Florida together

Michelle Bachmann and Ed Schultz: That Heartland feeling

Herman Cain and Kieth Ellison:  Building bridges of faith

Rick Santorum and Lawrence O’Donnell: It can’t get any better

Unfortunately some of our more interesting members of our political class have passed on I would have loved to throw Teddy Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and any number of others into the mix, but what can I say?

So after 30 days our political elites would board their buses and go back to their home districts or home towns.  Then they would have some real town meetings as couples, holding hands, looking dreamily into each other’s eyes and bringing peace to the political landscape.   With those pesky Secret Service and FBI agents and their tasers at the ready our leaders would have to listen to their constituents and not the lobbyists. Speaking of lobbyists they all get sent toNew Guinea.   As for the Congressmen and Senators they and their new found friends would have to spend 8 months a year living in their home state or district. The would give up their palatial estates in favor of homes that are in the median real estate price for their area. They would send their kids to public schools, go to PTA meetings, coach little league or soccer, deal with local government officials as the rest of us are forced to do.  They would have to do their own grocery shopping, fight lines at  Wal-Mart, take out their own garbage and spend time sitting in traffic behind the wheel of their average car or SUV. They would fly coach or business class and go through the TSA checkpoints like the rest of us, maybe even getting the full body scan once in a while. They would sit in the drive through line at Wendy’s, make a run for the border, Taco Bell that is and shop for the lowest priced gasoline.   The four months that they spend inWashingtonDCwill be devoted to actually fixing things that they have fouled up over the years.  They would have to pass non-pork laden budgets passed, reduce the deficit and do everything that they can to bring industry back into this country, rebuild the manufacturing base, protecting the environment as they rebuildour nation’s infrastructure and eliminate the barriers that keep small businesses and entrepreneurs from developing solutions to the challenges that face the country.  Likewise they would need to repeal all of the draconian laws that intrude on the everyday life of ordinary Americans. I want the Federal government out of our churches, out of our local public schools, out of our bedrooms and out of everything that they don’t belong in. Freedom baby, I love it.

Finally just to make sure that our now properly schooled public servants don’t forget the lessons of the Great Montana Dude Ranch Sleepover they would for two weeks each year have to do this again. Maybe it could be a trail ride inTexasandOklahoma, a swamp safari inLouisianacomplete with no mosquito repellent. Perhaps a winter camp out at the Donner Pass, a gang- reenactment camp in East L.A. or an Appalachian family get together, still building and moonshine making contest in some holler in West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky. The possibilities in our great country are endless after all learning should be a lifetime event.

Of course my pairings of political bedfellows may not work for you, maybe you have better ones.  If so feel free to add them as a comment and on this one no pairing will be denied because it’s all about togetherness.  Because as I see it everything comes down to relationships and if we can just get these folks out of Washington to share some hardship, to eat together, ride together and even spoon together after all who can’t say that they don’t feel closer to someone after spooning together?

Now before you think that I am advocating that they all have higgily-piggily sex together I am not.  However if it does happen and they get right with each other and start to work together for us what can be wrong with it? Half have probably had nasty sex with people that aren’t their spouses anyway so what difference does it make? It would be a sacrifice that they make for us, their fellow Americans.  I know that I don’t want to sleep with any of them and figure that you don’t either and I really don’t want to know what happens when they spoon.  Don’t ask don’t tell baby, don’t ask don’t tell.  Besides would you want to know what happens when Sean Hannity and Barney Frank spoon? I don’t. I’ll say it again, don’t ask, don’t tell that’s my rule for life.

If this works maybe just maybe that they will finally start looking to the issues that Americans care about. Maybe they will finally understand the desire that we all have to see our children grow up to have the opportunity to outdo us, that our children might have a better future and that the country that we live in would come together like we did in the Second World War to overcome all the obstacles that stand between us and a better future. Call me a genius or call me crazy, chalk it up to Mad Cow, after all I can’t give blood because I lived inEuropeand ate too much beef. But remember “Padre Steve” is a “Uniter” not a divider, a decider not a ditherer and a real American for real Americans.

Padre Steve: a passionate moderate with radical ideas.  Sleepover anyone?

Peace and laughs

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

The Clear and Present Danger of Unrepentant Ideologues

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.”The Barmen Declaration Article Three.

I have become amazed at the penchant for many Christians to sublimate the Gospel to their political ideology.  This is not a new phenomena at all, in fact since the Christian faith was legalized by the Emperor Constantine and made the State religion of the Roman Empire Christians have often done this with a great deal of gusto. There is a terrible tendency for Christians to turn the Gospel on its head by using it to justify their political, social and even military goals.  Frankly as a Priest and a historian I find this troubling especially when I see Christians all around me doing this not only blessing the leaders they support but many taking the lead in the often vile and hateful campaigns against those that they and their political benefactors oppose all while claiming to be “Biblical.”

We are now in what the Liturgical year is called Ordinary time.  It is a time of focus on the Christian life and our relationships with family, neighbors, other Christians and those that come across our paths, especially aliens, prisoners, the poor, the disenfranchised and those persecuted by the powerful regardless of their social class, race, citizenship or religious or political affiliation. In fact the term “Ordinary time” is often interpreted to mean less important than the rest of the liturgical year.  However such an interpretation is dismissive of the importance of the season which lasts from Pentecost until the Sunday before Advent, Christ the King.  In fact Ordinary time actually focuses on the “doing” aspects of the Christian life.

Unfortunately for some it will be a time of misplaced activity, not activity centered on prayer, good works and giving voice to the least, the lost and the lonely even as we renew our faith in the Crucified One. Instead for many, especially in the preliminary stages of a Presidential election cycle the focus in not this at all but rather in transitory political, social and ideological agendas advanced by people with no other goal than seeing the triumph of their ideology which often has little to do with the Gospel.

Hermann Maas

Herman Maas was another Evangelical Pastor.  Unlike Niemöller, Maas was a active participant in the ecumenical movement, built bridges to the Jewish community and defended the rights of Jews as German citizens.  He received a fair amount of criticism for his attendance of Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert’s funeral.  Ebert was both a Socialist and avowed atheist.  Maas too was active in the Pfarrernotbund and the Confessing church, and unlike Niemöller maintained his opposition to anti-Semitism and the Nazi policies against the Jews. He would help draft the Barmen declaration.  He too would be imprisoned and survive the war.  Maas was the first non-Jewish German to be officially invited to the newly formed state of Israel in 1950. In July 1964 Yad Vashem recognized the Maas as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Ideologues love times of crisis and turmoil because they are able to turn them to their advantage and co-opt people of faith by appearing to be their worldly saviors from their “ungodly” opponents.  Even the most faithful Christians can be lured in and deceived by such “saviors.”  Martin Niemöller a leader in the German Evangelical church noted how he was taken in by Hitler.

 Martin Niemöller

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

Like Niemöller well meaning Christians have been seduced into the false promises of ideologues of various persuasions that have no real interest in the Gospel but political or economic power be they conservative or liberal, capitalist or socialist. In fact one of the most heinous genocides of the late 20th Century was carried out by the good Christians of Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi tribes days after they worshiped together to celebrate Easter.  In many cases church leaders were complicit in mass murder.

The seductiveness of these ideologies appeals to the passion and emotion of people stoking the fires of fear with the fuel of hatred.  This is often true regardless of people’s political or religious persuasions when become enamored with ideology and reinterpret life, faith and relationships to fit the ideology.  When this happens to Christians this can lead to twisting Scripture and Tradition to fit the ideology much as did the theologians, pastors and lay people in German churches in the late 1920s and 1930s.

When two powerful ideologies collide as did Communism and National Socialism in Germany, Socialism and Gaullism is France or contemporary Liberalism and Conservatism in the United States the conflict often spills out and over into Churches and other religious institutions.  Well meaning people sublimate their faith beneath the ideology and political ethos that they most agree with and ideology overrides faith.  As fear and hatred is stoked the leaders of religious institutions and individuals within them conform their faith not to Christ crucified but to ideologies which are antithetical to the Gospel.

It really does not matter if the ideology is “liberal” or “conservative” because ultimately these poisonous ideologies now defended by pastors and theologians and “baptized” with Scripture are often set against the Gospel and seek to use the Church, Christians and others simply as pawns to sacrifice in their quest for total unadulterated political, social or economic power.

In our contemporary American culture the loudest and most prominent voices are the political ideologues of the right and the left who inhabit talk radio and the various cable television news networks.  Far too often well meaning Christians and others assume everything being spoken from lips of pundits, politicians and politically compromised preachers, the unholy Trinity is compatible with the faith.  However just because Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Keith Olberman, Chris Matthews or any other commentator on the airwaves claims that they are speaking for Christians does not mean that they are even when we agree with them. Likewise political party leaders and Presidential candidates who echo our passions and feed our fears about the other party does not mean that what they say is Christian or compatible with the Christian faith even and especially when those individuals claim the mantle of being a “Christian” leader.

The adoption and blessing of the often perverted theological ideas of media personalities, talking heads and politicians by individual Christians, Church leaders and denominations can only result in their enslavement by the individuals and organizations to which they give their blessing.  The ideologues will readily support social or policy goals of the religious groups but only to gain their vote and those that think otherwise are sincerely deluded.

This is proven by history and experience.  One only has to look at how German Christians of various traditions were seduced by the promises of Hitler and the Nazis. Germans had from November 1918 seen their society ripped apart by military defeat, economic humiliation, internal revolution and societal change which threatened the values that they held dear.  In reaction to Nazi promises many sold themselves and their country to the devil. This type of thing has happened in other countries but is most glaringly seen in the transition from the WeimarRepublicto the Nazi era.

Karl Barth

Swiss-German theologian Karl Barth was an outspoken opponent of the Nazis. He lectured about how ideology can become its own idol and the purveyors of ideology can themselves make it an idol from which they cannot separate themselves and to which they become willing accomplices.  Their ideology becomes an absolute from which no deviation is allowed, even when deviation from them is more in line with the Gospel.  As Barth so poignantly stated:

“[Ideology] comes about as [one] thinks he can and should ascribe to the presuppositions and sketches he has achieved by his remarkable ability, not just a provisional and transitory but a permanent normativity, not just one that is relative but one that is absolute, not just one that is human but one that is quasi-divine.  His hypotheses become for him theses behind which he no longer ventures to go back with seeking, questioning, and researching.  He thinks that they can be thought and formulated definitively as thoughts that are not merely useful but instrinsically true and therefore binding.  His ideal becomes an idol.  He thinks that he knows only unshakable principles and among them a basic principle in relation to which he must coordinate and develop them as a whole, combining them all, and with them his perceptions and concepts, into a system, making of his ideas an ideology.  Here again the reins slip out of his hands.  This creature of his, the ideology, seems to be so wonderfully glorious and exerts on him such a fascination that he thinks he should move and think and act more and more within its framework and under its direction, since salvation can be achieved only through the works of its law.  This ideology becomes the object of his reflection, the backbone and norm of his disposition, the guiding star of his action.  All his calculations, exertions, and efforts are now predestined by it.  They roll towards its further confirmation and triumph like balls on a steep slope.  Man’s whole loyalty is loyalty to the line demanded by it.  He thinks that he possesses it, but in truth it already possesses him.  In relation to it he is no longer the free man who thought he had found it in its glory and should help to put it on the throne.  He now ventures to ask and answer only within its schema.  He must now orient himself to it.  He must represent it as its more or less authentic witness and go to work as its great or small priest and prophet. At root he no longer has anything of his own to say.  He can only mouth the piece dictated to him as intelligibly as he can, and perhaps like a mere parrot.  His own face threatens already to disappear behind the mask that he must wear as its representative.  He already measures and evaluates others only from the standpoint of whether they are supporters of this ideology, or whether they might become such, or whether they might at least be useful to it even without their consent, or whether they must be fought as its enemies. Its glory has already become for him the solution not only to the personal problem of his own life but to each and all of the problems of the world.” ~ Karl Barth, The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV/4, Lecture Fragments, 225.

Barth saw good people surrender their faith to a hateful and destructive ideology. It is imperative during this season of Ordinary time that we should not take this danger lightly. This season is a time to acknowledge our need for the grace and mercy of God and find forgiveness for ourselves while extending the same grace, love and mercy shown to us to our neighbor, even the neighbor who does not agree with the ideologues that we prefer.

Our challenge in a time of turmoil and conflict is not to be seduced by the shameless appeals of ideologues but to return to faith in the God who comes to us, suffers for and with us and in himself provides the promise of redemption and the forgiveness of sins.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a sermon on Second Corinthians 2:9:

“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.”

Unfortunately it seems that many of those leading the “Christian” parties of theUnited Stateshave forgotten that even those that proclaim their faith the loudest.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, History, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

Taking the Wrong Train

Martin Niemöller

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Martin Niemöller was a war hero.  He had served on U-Boats during the First World War and commanded a U-Boat in 1918 sinking a number of ships.  After the war he resigned his commission in the Navy in opposition to the Weimar Republic and briefly was a commander in a local Freikorps unit. His book Vom U-Boot zur Kanzel (From U-boat to Pulpit) traced his journey from the Navy to the pastorate. He became a Pastor and as a Christian opposed what he believed to be the evils of Godless Communism and Socialism.  This placed him in the very conservative camp in the years of the Weimar Republic and he rose in the ranks of the United Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union.  Active in conservative politics, Niemöller initially support the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor.  After the war he said:

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

However, he quickly soured on Hitler due to his insistence on the state taking precedence over the Church.  Niemöller was typical of many Germans of his era and harbored ant-Semitic sentiments that he only completely abandoned his anti-Semitic views until after he was imprisoned.  He would spend 8 years as a prisoner of the Nazis a period hat he said changed him including his views about Jews, Communists and Socialists.  Niemöller was one of the founding members of the Pfarrernotbund (Pastor’s Emergency Federation) and later theConfessingChurch. He was tried and imprisoned in concentration camps due to his now outspoken criticism of the Hitler regime.

Herman Maas was another Evangelical Pastor.  Unlike Niemöller, Maaswas a active participant in the ecumenical movement, built bridges to the Jewish community and defended the rights of Jews as German citizens.  He received a fair amount of criticism for his attendance of Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert’s funeral.  Ebert was both a Socialist and avowed atheist.  Maastoo was active in the Pfarrernotbund and the Confessing church, and unlike Niemöller maintained his opposition to anti-Semitism and the Nazi policies against the Jews. He would help draft the Barmen declaration.  He too would be imprisoned and survive the war.  Maaswas the first non-Jewish German to be officially invited to the newly formed state of Israelin 1950. In July 1964 Yad Vashem recognized the Maasas one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer a young Pastor and theologian would also step up to oppose the Nazis and offer support for the Jews.  He helped draft the Bethel Confession which among other things rejected “every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.”  He also helped draft the Barmen declaration which opposed and condemned Nazi Christianity.  Bonhoeffer would eventually along with members of his family take an active role in the anti-Nazi resistance as a double agent for Admiral Canaris’ Abwehr.  For this he would be executed after his final sermon in the concentration camp at Flossenburg just a month prior to the end of the war.

Another opponent of the Nazis in the Confessing Church was Swiss-German theologian Karl Barth.  Barth went into exile as a Swiss citizen but remained active in the criticism of the Nazi regime.

Bishop Galen of Münster and others including Father Rupert Meyer inMunichwho opposed Hitler in the early 1920s would also oppose the Nazi policies toward the Church and the Jews.  They would also end up in concentrations camps with some dying at the hands of the Nazis.

All these men took risks to defend the Jews who were religious minority group that had been traditionally discriminated against inGermany.  They opposed the Nazi policies which were widely supported by much of the German populace making them unpopular in their own churches as among the traditionally conservative supporters of the Evangelical and Catholic Churches.  The Jews were not simply discriminated against as a racial or religious group but also identified with the political left, especially the Social Democrats, Independent Socialists, Communists and the Spartacists. Since the Independent Socialists, Communists and Spartacists were all involved in attempts to create a Soviet state during the early tumultuous years ofWeimarand been involved in many acts of violence against traditional German institutions and the state, they were viewed by Hitler and others as part of the Bolshevik-Jewish threat toGermany.  Karl Liebnicht and Rosa Luxembourg were among the high profile leaders of this movement inGermanyand both were Jewish.  The fact that many in the leadership of the Bolshevik movement in theSoviet Unionwere Jewish added fuel to the fire that the Nazis stoked inGermany.  Hitler and the Nazis played on the historic, but muted prejudice against German Jews who in many cases were more secular and German than religious and had assimilated well inGermany.  Hitler’s rhetoric as well as that of other Nazis and Nazi publications helped identify the Jews as part of the “Stab in the back” myth that was commonly used by the German right to explain the defeat in the First World War.  Thus they were painted as a political and social threat to Germany.

When Hitler took power persecution of the Jews began in earnest.  Jews were along with Communists, Trade Unions and Socialists enemies of the state.  They were banned from the military, civil service and other government employment, professional associations and forced to wear a gold Star of David on their clothing.  Their property was seized, many were abused by SA men acting as deputized auxiliary police and many times their businesses, Synagogues and homes were vandalized, burned or seized by the state.  Many would be forced to flee in order not to be sent to ghettos and concentration camps.  Even those leaving only escaped with the minimum of their possessions as the Nazi regime extorted anything of value from them as they leftGermany.  This was all done because Hitler and those like him portrayed the Jews as not only an inferior race, but enemies of the state and the German people.

Today we face a similar movement in conservative circles in the United States.  This time it is not the Jews but Moslems who are the targets of the xenophobic rage by many influential members of the “conservative” media including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and numerous others.  Their popularity in voicing support for “Christian morale values” such as being against abortion has ingratiated them with conservative Christians.  It is so bad that that many “conservative” Christians cannot differentiate between their vitriolic and un-Christian rage against Moslems, Gays and Lesbians, trade unionists, Democrats or anyone else portrayed by the big media talkers and the Gospel.

It is if they have become an appendage to Republican or “conservative” politicians rather than a Christian church.  It is not uncommon to see Christians on the web or on the call in talk radio programs identify lock stock and barrel with Limbaugh and others identifying the crass materialism and social Darwinism of “pure” Capitalism and the anti-Christian policy of pre-emptive war.   That may seem harsh, but many of these people in the “Conservative Bible project” seek to re-translate the Bible into their own political, social and economic policies even seeking to change or minimize any Scripture that might be equated with the “Social Gospel.”  Unfortunately many Christians and others have jumped in on the anti-Moslem and anti-immigrant crusades launched by those on the far right.

There are those on the far right that advocate eliminating all Moslems from the military, government, security intelligence and police forces and even universities as did Timothy Rollins of “The American Partisan.”

“this can best be done by enacting the Great Muslim Purge from our military and other national security apparatuses. These people need to be removed from every security post, even to be completely removed from all levels of government employment, be it federal, state, county, city or other municipality. This applies especially to universities….”

Glenn Beck made this comment about a people reacting against Moslems:

“When things—when people become hungry, when people see that their way of life is on the edge of being over, they will put razor wire up and just based on the way you look or just based on your religion, they will round you up. Is that wrong? Oh my gosh, it is Nazi, World War II wrong, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen.”

Doug Giles a seminary educated columnist for Townhall.com a leading conservative opinion site made this comment

“Please note: If Christ wasn’t cool with irrigating irate Islamicists for facts, I must admit, I would still have to green light our boys getting data from enemy combatants 007 style. Stick a fire hose up their tailpipe and turn it on full blast. I don’t care. I’m not as holy as most of you super saints or as evolved as some of you progressive atheists purport to be. Security beats spirituality in this scenario, as far as I’m concerned.”

Similar threats are made against non-European immigrants especially those from Mexico or Latin America.  I have a friend; a Navy Officer who served a year in Iraq that was confronted by a member of the “Minutemen” inTexasto show his Green Card and threatened simply because he is Mexican.   Others especially conservative Christians suggest criminalizing homosexuality, jailing homosexuals and even deporting them.

This is so similar to the Nuremberg Laws and the Aryan Paragraph issued by the Nazis that it is scary.  Likewise the threats to American Moslems of placing them “behind razor wire” as we did to American Japanese citizens in World War II are chilling.  I wonder how Christians would react if an atheist or someone on the political left suggested all conservative Christians or members of pro-Life groups be imprisoned for the actions of Christians or pro-Life movement members like Scott Roeder or Eric Rudolph who killed to stop abortion or Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church?

This new found militancy has swept up the “Christian right” and others since 9-11 and has reached proportions that I could never have imagined. After my tour in Iraq I realized that much of what these people were saying was not Christian at all and when taken to their logical conclusion would be a police state in which anyone who opposed them would be persecuted.  I question the motivations of the leaders of the movement but believe that most of the Christian conservatives have been caught up in the anger and the emotion of the times versus being true believers in what these men say.  That being said, you don’t have to be a true believer to be a willing accomplice in actions that first are not Christian and second trample on the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

I could keep citing examples but if someone can show me where this is condoned in the Gospels I would like to know.  The fact is that Christians are to place God first and defend the rights of others, even non-believers.  This is found not only in Scripture but runs through the Christian tradition across the denominational spectrum.

What the good people who suggesting these “collective guilt” actions against American Moslems do is dangerous, not just for Moslems and other minorities but ultimately for them.  American and English law is based on legal precedence.  Once something has been determined to be legal, or constitutional it is considered by the law to be settled law.  This is a point made by Chief Justice Roberts regarding Roe v. Wade at his confirmation hearings.  If Christians want to use the law against Moslems or for that matter any other minority be it religious or political they tread on very dangerous ground.  Not only do they make a mockery of the Gospel command to love our neighbors, care for the foreigners among us and to be a witness to non-Christians support policies or laws that if enacted could and very well would be used against them by their opponents.

Law is all about precedent and if such laws were enacted and upheld by the courts they would be settled law that could be used against anyone.   What these dear brothers and sisters fail to realize is that such laws can be turned against them if the state should ever decided based on the statements of actions of some that the Christian community is a threat to state security of the public welfare.  With the actions of some radical Christians who have committed murder and violence against political, social and religious opponents it would not be hard for the government to label whole churches as enemies of the state.  The law is a two edged sword and those who want to use it to have the state enforce their religious, social, ideological or political beliefs on others need to remember what comes around goes around.

The Confessing church understood this and many were imprisoned, exiled or killed for this belief.  The founding fathers of this country understood this too, that is why there is the Constitution protection of Religion in the First Amendment.  This was put in because Virginia Baptists who had been persecuted by Anglicans lobbied James Madison for the amendment in the Bill of Rights threatening to withdraw their support for his candidacy if he did not.  Niemöller would discover the depths of his earlier folly in prison telling one interviewer after the war:

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

It is easy for well meaning people Niemöller to be bought with promises of support by politicians and media types who speak the words they want to hear in difficult times.  So today I suggest the formation of an ecumenical Pastor’s Emergency League which will not be bought by the empty and godless promises of hate mongers on the right or the left.  Such a group of men and women spanning the breadth of the Christian tradition and others that see the danger of extremism of all types is becoming necessary.  Such a step is becoming necessary due to the militancy of the Christian right as well as the militancy of atheist groups who lobby against all public religious expression by any religion.  Such a League would respect the various creeds and statements of faith of each member’s denomination.  The movement o the right has set a dangerous course fraught with perils that they do not comprehend. Just allow those that they believe are oppressing or persecuting them now to be empowered with the precedent of laws discriminating against specific religious groups against the Christians that supported them in the first place.  It will be a bitter poison indeed when that happens to them later if American Moslems were to be targets by such laws.

We have entered a dangerous phase of American history.  These movements have the potential not only to oppress law-abiding and patriotic American Moslems and to crush the religious freedoms of all in this county. Suggesting that American citizens, including those who serve the county in the military or government of entire religious, ethnic, political or religious affiliation, sexual preference be jailed, banned from office or fired is totalitarian and dare I say Nazi like.

Niemöller would say it well in this poem:

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

Peace,

Padre Steve+

2 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, History, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

The Unchristian Christianity of Modern America

I cannot and will not recant

We live in an era where religion and politics especially in conservative circles have become one just as they were in the days following Constantine’s granting of religious freedom to all in the Empire while making the Catholic Church the State religion which went from a persecuted Church to an Imperial Church overnight. The Church in the coming centuries became an arm of the State something that until the enlightenment it remained in many nations. Most of the English Colonies that became the United States had State Religions even after the Bill of Rights the last to disestablish its state religion being the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1833.  Most European State Churches remained until the fall of the Empires after the First World War but many countries in Europe still have State Churches which are not very vibrant now days.

The curious thing is that until the 18th and 19th Centuries the powers of State Churches were great and heavily benefited greatly through their allegiance to the State.  To disobey the Church was to disobey the State and to disobey the State was often tantamount to disobeying God since the State and the rulers thereof were not simply ordained by God but in fact God’s instruments. Unfortunately this led to many abuses of power by those in the Church as well as the State and thankfully we in the United States were able to for the most part break with that tradition which was and is repugnant to the Gospel as well as human freedom.

In fact the United States has been the foremost proponent of religious freedom and tolerance of any nation in history. It was something that we enshrined, the right of all people to worship according to their faith. Now we haven’t been perfect practitioners of our ideal as there have been plenty of religious based prejudice and persecution in this country dating to colonial times, especially of religions outside the mainstream of Protestant Christianity, it took nearly 150 years for Catholics to become part of mainstream America and longer for others especially religions outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Despite those instances our experiment of religious liberty has been an amazing success in which many denominations have prospered.

All that being said I fear we are entering a stage where authoritarian religious groups closely allied with the rich and the powerful are on the ascendant in the United States just as radicals in other religions, particularly Islam but not limited to Islam are on the rise. Frankly I expect that people who are either living in a culture that still believes that the world is like it was back in the 13th Century and those that have become fantastically rich and enamored with the technology of the West to be that way. Let us face facts most of the counties in the Middle East lack the centuries of related social, political, philosophic or religious development that is part of Western culture and we still screw things up. The Islamic World has not experienced anything like the Renaissance, Reformation or Enlightenment. There is a chance that it might amid the pro-democracy and freedom protests that are occurring throughout the Middle East even as radical Islamists dream of a new Caliphate, something that seems to be anathema to many of the young protestors in Egypt and other Arab Nations.

In the United States the movement to religious authoritarian systems closely allied with politicians and the State to do their bidding comes from conservative circles, particularly conservative and fundamental Evangelical Christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church which since the reforms of Vatican Two has retreated into its old Ultramontanistic self.

That being said I figure I should go ahead and continue to dig my grave with my conservative brethren who view anyone to the left of them as a wild eyed raving liberal and quite possibly a Socialist.  I am a moderate and I might be classed as a liberal conservative or conservative liberal.  Thus I and people like me stand in the uncomfortable middle of a deeply polarized society where most to our left or right despise us for actually deviating from the established dogmas of the left or the right.

To the extreme right I might be a raving liberal, and the far left an intolerant conservative but the I choose to live in the tension between the two, although I think that in today’s Tea Party charged environment I would be called a liberal.  But I am a moderate and I will not give up the middle ground simply because others have adopted a scorched earth policy in faith and politics where “if you ain’t for us you’re against us” is the norm. In fact I think that Jesus stood against that kind of thought process, if you don’t believe me look at Mark 9:38-40 where Jesus says something different when the disciples confront him about others casting out demons in his name “he who is not against us is for us.”

As a passionate moderate who is also a Priest and Christian my goal in life is to get along, find common ground among disparate groups and care for God’s people.  I do this by acknowledging and maintaining the tensions that are inherent in a pluralistic society and not simply going along what whatever is popular or expedient. This takes a lot of effort and does not exclude being prophetic.  However that prophetic role comes in relationship with others where there is mutual respect, civility and care for each other even when we do not agree. It does not come from being angry or acting disrespectfully just because I can.  The prophetic role does not come from the outside looking in railing at your opponents.  That only increases your isolation, eventually to the point that you are no longer a player in the debate, simply an annoying pest with absolutely no say in anything.  It takes more courage to be open and dialogue with people respectfully than it does to rail against them.  Anyone can be a critic and anyone can be a wrecking ball.  That’s easy.  There is little personal risk in doing so, because you don’t have to open you self up to the possibility that there may be some merit in your opponent’s view and once you have a relationship with someone it is hard to demonize or dehumanize them.  Unfortunately that is what is happening across the religious and political divide in our society.

Despite the rancor on the extremes I think that there are more people out there like me than not. My belief is that voices like ours are drowned out by drumbeat of competing demagogues on the far right and the far left.  Since I am a priest my focus will be on the dangers that I see in the current climate and the captivity that churches have unwittingly placed themselves in making political alliances.  These alliances, particularly those of conservative Christians have become so incestuous and so intertwined that they are seen as one with supposed political conservatives. As such these churches and Christian leaders have become the religious voice of political movements fighting a cultural war in which only one side can win and in which there is no room for compromise or dialogue.

In doing so these religious leaders have compromised themselves so that only their followers give any credence to what they are saying.  They are so to speak “preaching to the choir” and not reaching out to or even caring about the welfare of their opponents, they are in a sense like the Taliban. They frequently demonize their opponents or for that matter anyone, even other Christians that might disagree with their understanding of the Christian faith.

That is why I say that many have become like the Taliban. If you do not agree with them on their social-religious agenda you are a heretic regardless of how orthodox you are in your actual theology.  Theology and belief is no longer the test, the test is if you agree with a social-political-religious agenda which often is at odds with the Christian faith proclaimed by Jesus.  This is like the Taliban because the goal is to gain control of the government and use the government to impose a social-religious theocracy where the church uses the “police power of the government” to achieve its goals.  Such a message is anathema to the Gospel and its redemptive message that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them.” What many churches and Christian leaders have done is to for practical purposes discard any real attempts to engage people with the message of the Gospel in favor of using political power to coerce non-believers into compliance through the police power of the government.  This in stark opposition to the early Church which was martyred for their faith in Christ versus their opposition to government policy or social ills, of which there were plenty that they could have protested.

Early in his “Reforming” days the young Martin Luther wrote a book entitled “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.” It was a severe critique of abuses in the Roman Catholic Church of his era.  I think churches today have become captive to various political parties, social and economic theories, movements and ideas.  These are not necessarily Christian even though any churches have “baptized” them so to speak.  Capitalism for instance is has many benefits, however unbridled capitalism which is not moderated with true concern for the least, the lost and the lonely, is nothing more that economic social Darwinism.  It is the survival of the fittest with little concern or regard for real people.  People in the world of baptized unbridled capitalism are not people, but consumers and economic units.  In the United States we can see this in practical terms where historically US corporations which at one time employed millions of Americans and produced actual good that were in turn exported to the world have outsourced so many jobs and industries to other nations.

This was done in order to increase corporate profits by paying foreign workers almost nothing and not having to abide by US environmental laws or tax codes.  This may bring cheaper goods in the marketplace but it has endangered our economic and even strategic military security. Economic power is one of the key elements of national security.  In the military we call this the DIME:  Diplomatic, Intelligence, Military and Economic power and unless your economy can keep up you will fail.  Just ask the Soviet Union.  It is interesting to see many Christian leaders and churches talk of capitalism as if came down from heaven even using the Bible to try to bolster their argument.  This is just one of many areas where the church is not longer a prophetic voice, but a willing captive mouthpiece for political and economic institutions which at their heart could care less about the Christian faith and wouldn’t mind it going away.

On the left many churches have embraced social reform, the civil rights movement, women’s liberation as well as left leaning and even socialistic economic models and a demonstrated preference for the Democratic Party.  While none of these goals of themselves are anti-Christian the linkage to the causes often over the Gospel has hurt progressive Christianity.

On the right conservative churches beginning in the 1970s in reaction to the social revolutions of the 1960s moved lock, stock and barrel to the Republican Party. They were led by men such as Jerry Falwell who founded the Moral Majority in 1979, Pat Robertson who founded the Christian Coalition and Dr D. James Kennedy who founded the now defunct “Center for Reclaiming America for Christ.”  Ronald Reagan was the political spokesman and was an outspoken advocate of the role of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. Conservative religious leaders solidified that relationship in the 1990s during the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose sexual proclivities did nothing to help his cause with Christians despite him signing the Defense of Marriage Act.  The 1994 “Republican Revolution” and “Contract for America” helped solidify Christian conservatives as a central component of the Republican Party and by that point there was a clear alliance between Christian conservatives and the Republican Party.  It was also during this time that politically conservative talk radio became a force in American politics and many on the Christian Right gravitated to broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh and later Sean Hannity.  Conservative Christians now stand at the center of the Tea Party movement and are a force that no Republican politician can ignore if he or she wants to keep their job.

Despite what I have said I am not saying that people’s faith should not play an important part of their political viewpoint.  Churches and influential pastors have been an important part of American life and has contributed to many advances in our society including the civil rights movement, which could not have succeeded without the efforts of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and many other clergymen and women, from across the denominational and racial spectrum.

Other examples of where churches spoke to societal wrongs included slavery and child labor.  Now this was not a unified front as many churches especially regarding slavery and civil rights opposed these measures.  This included the major denominations that split into northern and southern factions over the issue of slavery prior to the Civil War.  The Southern Baptist Church is a product of this split.  Other churches such as the Methodists and Presbyterians eventually came back together, the Presbyterian Church USA doing so in 1982, 117 years after the Civil War…better late than never I guess.  This will not happen with the Southern and American Baptist Convention’s as they are now theologically poles apart.

There has been a trend over the last 20 years or so by many clergy and laity in both liberal and conservative churches to be uncritical in their relationships with political parties. In my view this has emasculated the witness of the church.  I have experienced this on both the left and the right. When I was a kid my dad, a career Navy Chief Petty Officer was serving in Vietnam. New to the area we went to a church of the denomination that my parents had grown up in and in which I had been baptized.  This was a mainline Protestant church, the name I will not mention because it is irrelevant to the discussion.  The minister constantly preached against the war and the military probably assuming that he had no military families in the congregation.  At that church I had a Sunday school teacher tell me that my dad was a “baby killer” when I told her that my dad was serving in Vietnam.  If it had not been for the Roman Catholic chaplain at the little Navy base in town who showed my family the love of God when that happened, caring for our Protestant family without trying to make us Catholic I would have probably never reconciled with the church.

I trace my vocation as a priest and chaplain to that man. Since I have spent more of my life in conservative churches in the days since I have seen a growing and ever more strident move to the political right in conservative churches.  I think this has less to do with the actual churches but the influence of conservative talk radio which has catered to conservatives, especially social conservative Christians.  Conservative Christians are a key part of this demographic and it is not unusual to hear ministers as well as lay people simply parroting what these broadcasters are saying. I often hear my fellow Christians on the right talk more vociferously about free markets capitalism, the war on terror and justifying the other conservative causes which are general less than central to the faith in public forums like Facebook.  Some of what is written is scary.  People who pray for the government to fail, pray for the President to be killed, call anyone who disagrees with them pretty horrible names or prays the “imprecatory Psalms” against their opponents.  I saw an active duty Army Chaplain call the President “that reject.” The words of a lot of these folks are much more like Sean Hannity than the Apostle Paul.  When I have challenged conservative Christian friends on what I think are inconsistencies I have in some cases been attacked and pretty nastily if I might add.

I see this in stark contrast to the witness of the early church.  Pliny’s letter to the Emperor Trajan sums up how Christians responded to real, not imagined persecution for their Christian faith, not social-political cause.

“They stated that the sum of their guilt or error amounted to this, that they used to gather on a stated day before dawn and sing to Christ as if he were a god, and that they took an oath not to involve themselves in villainy, but rather to commit no theft, no fraud, no adultery; not to break faith, nor to deny money placed with them in trust. Once these things were done, it was their custom to part and return later to eat a meal together, innocently, although they stopped this after my edict, in which I, following your mandate, forbade all secret societies.”

Pliny was perplexed because although he thought their religion to be “fanatical superstitions” he could find no other fault in their lives; they even obeyed his order to stop meeting together.  My view is that Christians some on the left but especially on the right lost any prophetic voice not only in society, in their respective political party alliances.  They have become special interest groups who compete with other special interest groups, which politicians of both parties treat as their loyal servants.  This is what I mean by captivity.  I think that the church has to be able to speak her mind and be a witness of the redemption and reconciliation message of the Gospel and hold politicians, political parties and other power structures accountable for their treatment of the least, the lost and the lonely; caring for those that to those who seek to maintain political and economic control, merely numbers.  The church has to maintain her independence or lose submit to slavery.  There are many examples we can look to in this just a couple of relatively modern examples being William Wilberforce and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  We can find many others throughout Church history. These men were not apolitical, but they and their ministries were both prophetic and redemptive.  They maintained peaceful dialogue with their opponents and helped bring about justice.  Billy Graham never gave in to the temptation to endorse any political party.  Instead he had a voice and relationship with every US President during his active ministry, be they Republican or Democrat.

It is incumbent on Christians and other people of faith seek to embody this witness in our divided and dangerous world.  Christians especially cannot allow themselves to be ghettoized in any political party, or political faction where they are just another interest group even an important one. Nor can they allow their public witness to be absorbed and consumed by the promotion of political agendas or causes, even if those causes are worthy of support.  It is a matter of keeping priorities causes can never take precedence over the message of God’s love and reconciliation in Christ.  Unfortunately this is too often the case.

My view is that if you build relationships with people by loving them, caring for them and treating them with the same respect that you would want for yourself; even with those that you have major differences, then you will have a place at the table and your voice will be heard.  If we on the other hand cauterize ourselves from relationships and dialogue we will be relegated, and rightly so to the margins of the social and political process of our nation.  In effect we will ensure that people will stop listening to us not only on the social and political issues, but more importantly in our proclamation of the faith in the Kingdom of God which was proclaimed by Jesus which that comes to us from the Apostles.

Unfortunately I believe that Christians thinking that they are more influential than they are have marginalized themselves.  This is because many have compromised the faith by allowing extremists to be the public face of the Christian church in public debates on social, morale and political issues.  I hope someday we will rebuild our credibility as people who actually care about the life of our fellow citizens and our country and not just those who agree with us.  God have mercy on us all.

Peace, Steve+

 

9 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, History, philosophy, Religion

Loathe is Never Having to say You’re Sorry: Pundits and Politicians Point Fingers and Deny Responsibility for the Fruit of anything that they Say or the Climate that they create

Being a political hack means never having to say that you are sorry. Two days after the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the killing of 6 others including Federal Judge John Roll and the wounding of 13 others we are subjected to the incessant finger pointing and denial of responsibility by politicians but even more so by political pundits and talk show hosts. Partisans on both sides are pointing fingers at the other and attempting to place blame on others for the acts of a mentally disturbed individual who seems to have a rather eclectic set of influences.

Liberals have blamed the Tea Party and conservative talk show hosts without a clear connection between them and the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Conservatives immediately, like on Saturday jumped on a singular statement of a person that knew Loughner in high school who had not seen or talked to him since 2007 to label him a “dope smoking liberal” and even a “Democrat.”

Of course we know very little about Loughner other than to know that he is obviously quite disturbed with a diversity of political influences from the Communist Manifesto to Mein Kampf.  Loughner ranted almost incoherently vague references to the Constitution and unconstitutional Federal and State laws, the Gold Standard, illiteracy, distrust of the current government and government controlled currency as well as alleged government mind control.  In other words this angry and disturbed young man who also seems to come from a pretty strange family I might add does not fit your traditional liberal or conservative archetype.  In spite of this pundits and politicians of all stripes have made haven’t missed a beat in placing the blame on their political enemies. I don’t say their political opponents because they actually do hate each other and are intent on destroying each other and the country as we know it I might add.

I thought it unwise for Democrats to try to pin this on the Tea Party without evidence and I thought it was absurd and incendiary for those on the right to make hay of a singular statement by someone that hasn’t seen Loughner in 4 years that Loughner is a liberal Democrat.  For crying out loud both of these charges without conclusive evidence were blatant attempts to gain political leverage out of a tragedy by throwing out innuendo as if it were fact and then ignoring any repercussions.

There was a brief moment when many hoped that the vicious rhetoric would be toned down after the terrible evil perpetuated by Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson.   That is not the case and I said it would not be so. Like I have said before it seems that the extremists on both sides are willing to destroy the country in order to save it to borrow and slightly modify the phrase from the Vietnam War. It doesn’t matter if it is Keith Olberman or some Democrat Congressman on the left or Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neil Boortz, Michael Savage or Ann Coulter on the right there is simply no regard for truth. It is all about destroying the other side, demonizing them and finding some way to gain a political advantage from tragedy.

The political Left is guilty of some pretty crass and opportunistic behavior in many cases but the loudest and most heard voices are on the right particularly the “conservative” talk radio hosts. This is a fact as all of them proudly proclaim.  By their own proclamation they are the ones making the impact and who people are listening to and ratings show it.  For goodness sakes the Left has so little clout in this country it is not even funny despite claims of “media bias” so loudly chanted by the Right. Which is the most popular Cable News Channel? Fox News I think. Who gets the biggest radio rating? Limbaugh followed by Hannity, Savage and Boortz I think. Which are the most popular political websites? I think that internet traffic points to Worldnetdaily.com, Newsmax.com and Townhall.com.  For conservatives to complain about media bias is ludicrous now. They own the airwaves. Thanks to people like Dan Rather much of the “mainstream” media is discredited in the eyes of the American people.  Yet almost to a man those on the right keep crying about anyone who claims that they might be responsible on the intellectual level of people, both the sane and the insane who commit heinous acts which correspond with things that they preach.

In particular in the case of Congresswoman Giffords who protested outside her office? I think that it was the Tea Party. When was her office door shot out? I think that it was after she voted for the Health Care bill if I am correct. Who opposed the Health Care bill? I think it was conservatives. Who dropped a handgun at one of her rallies? Maybe it was a liberal supporter of the congresswoman? Not hardly. Which former Vice Presidential candidates PAC put a gun sight target over her district and left it up after the election? I think that was Sarah Palin. Whose Republican opponent urged his supports to come out with their M-16’s to support him? I think that it was Mike Kelly who ran against her in 2010. Need I say more?

Yes Jared Lee Loughner is a paranoid nutcase and probably will be ruled insane at some point. But people like him roam the streets easily influenced by extremists and radicals that stoke the fires of hatred. I don’t want to sound pessimistic but we are jumping headlong into the abyss and those of us moderates who want to see us back away from it are derided and in the case of Gabrielle Gifford shot in the head after repeated violent threats. I know what it is like to be threatened by violent deranged Neo Nazis on this website. It is frightening as hell to have people say that they will find you and harm you, hell I felt safer in Iraq than I do in this country. It is appalling yet the extremists don’t give a damn. They will destroy us all, even people that agree with them on some points.

I know something about the spirit of conservative talk radio. I was an avid listener from the mid-1990s until I returned from Iraq. I listened to Rush, Hannity, Boortz and Savage as often as I could and I can tell you that they are experts at manipulating facts and words to stir up the raw emotion of hatred of the left.  They all ask for hours of peoples time with good reason. When someone listens to the same message for hours on end eventually that is what they believe to be the truth.  When that is multiplied for 3, 6 or even 10-12 hours a day there is no other truth to believe.  From personal experience I can say that their tactics work well. They work their listeners into a rage against their political opponents creating anxiety and a sense of being victimized by the left wing media and political alliance.  I know I listened for years and my wife can attest to how angry I was.  When I came back from Iraq with a changed perspective I realized what had happened to me in those years. I have also listened to the left wing equivalents and with the exception of the invective of Keith Olberman they are little match for these guys. They command the airwaves and their internet presence is amazing and with a Republican-Tea Party controlled House they will not be silenced even if the left calls for the reinstatement of the so called fairness doctrine.

One of the last Chancellors of the Weimar Republic was General Kurt Von Schleicher. Von Schleicher who saw the dire threat posed by the extremes on the left represented by the Communists and the right by Hitler’s Nazi Party attempted to piece together a coalition of moderate parties which fell apart. Schleicher was then betrayed by conservative Franz Von Papen who then arranged for President Paul Von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. After he took power Hitler swiftly eliminated opposition parties and during his purge of his own radical SA Brownshirts exacted his revenge of previous political opponents including Von Schleicher who was killed at his home along with his wife. So much for moderation, what good is it anyway?

The night before she was shot Gabrielle Giffords wrote this e-mail to her friend Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, after he was named Director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics:  “After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation, I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”

Von Schleicher was killed, Giffords grievously wounded. Unfortunately that is the fate of moderates in any country where extremists battle for power. That is history and the verbal bloodlust being perpetrated by the extremes but in particular the right which has been much more militant of late than the left which will destroy our Republic. Mark my words. If I’m wrong I will admit it and plead forgiveness, but I know from history where we are going and it will not be kind. God help us all.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

3 Comments

Filed under History, philosophy, Political Commentary