Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I have longed warned that President Trump and his supporters would not go quietly. I have lost count of the number of warnings I have given since Trump announced his candidacy in 2015 and how he described the loyalty of his supporters when he said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible…”
At the time many thought that he was joking. I knew he wasn’t joking because I had run ins with those supporters long before he ever announced his candidacy. They were a ready made constituency. Since the late 1980s frustrated conservatives led by pundits like Rush Limbaugh and dozens of others, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, hundreds of right wing radical pastors, and an increasingly radicalized Republican Party with the Tea Party Movement, and the Congressional Freedom Council.
Over the past three decades the Republican Party, once a mainline Conservative party was transformed into an anti-democratic, theocratic, racist and authoritarian party completely devoted to overthrowing the Constitution and Republic all because Trump lost the election and incited them to violence. That violence culminated today after Trump and Rudy Giuliani encouraged them to violence at a rally. Trump told them to continue to fight, Giuliani told them to prepare for combat, further inflaming the mob which charged down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building.
Following that rally the crowds marched on the Capitol Building, where they were met by Senator Josh Hawley who encouraged them from the beginning and then threw up a clenched fist as if he was leading a revolution. The insurgents overwhelmed the few Capitol Police who were manning the barricades giving little resistance to the insurgents. Some actually appeared to be friendly and supportive of the insurgents. After breaking through the lines broke into the building and took over both chambers of Congress, occupied Senate and Congressional offices, and vandalized the building, causing a great deal of damage. During their rampage those outside the buildings they attacked reporters and bystanders. Inside the building they planted Improvised Explosive Devices, and and someone shot and killed a woman, while the insurgents trampled her body as they advanced.
They flew many flags with the name of their leader on them, Donald Trump. They flew numerous variations of the Confederate Battle Flag, the Gadsen Flag, White Nationalist flags, Christian Flags including one that had a Jesus Fish with the name Jesus in black, in a white oval surrounded by a red banner. I have never imagined that the most ancient symbol of the Christian faith would be turned into a Nazi symbol. By the way, Wal-Mart sells it and it is out of stock.
Vice President Pence and the members of the Senate and House had to be evacuated to safe areas where they holed up for hours as the building was cleared.
Trump and his Fascist thugs are trying to overthrow the election and the Constitution. Don’t call them “conservatives” because they are radical, anti-democratic, insurrectionists bent on sedition and treason. How they were so easily breach security at the Capitol is beyond me. This attack was telegraphed by Trump, Giuliani, Cruz, Hawley, and others. Trump is still even this moment inciting them on Twitter justifying their actions. One woman was shot and killed, circumstances still unknown, numerous others injured, IEDs inside the Capitol disarmed, much of the Capitol damaged, further threats of violence and worse is to come.
In June the crushing police and military assault on the peaceful protesters of the George Floyd Murder, begs me to ask how come peaceful protestors, mostly Black were the subject of an unprovoked violent assault while mostly White Trump supporters who violently attacked the US Capitol were treated with kid gloves. There are two systems of justice. One for the violent Trump Cult and one for others, especially Blacks.
In the wake of this very few of the insurgents were arrested or charged. Can you imagine if Black Lives Matter protesters had done the same how law enforcement would have reacted. They would have opened fire, beaten, arrested, and maybe killed the protestors. The protestors would not gotten past the plaza in front of the Capitol before their protest would have been crushed. You and I know it. The evidence from Charlottesville, Lafayette Park, and so many other cities is irrefutable. The racist tenor of how Whites and Blacks are treated under the law has not changed since Dred Scott, or Plessy v. Ferguson.
President Trump and his allies and enablers have ensured that the stain of racism, nationalism, and Trump’s cult will remain free to infect our country for the foreseeable future. In the next few weeks I believe that these insurgents will attack various state houses. After President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris I expect the insurgents to take a lower profile but engage in targeted assassinations of Trump’s opponents regardless of their party. They are domestic terrorists and should be treated as such. They need to be hunted down arrested and brought to justice. While we want them to be arrested and brought to justice, if they decide to resort to violence in that they deserve whatever happens to them. Though I am against the death penalty I believe that those who assault our Constitution and Republic are deserving of death, and I hope that these people are brought to justice, and if these choose to resort to violence then they deserve whatever happens to them. If we cannot depend on Trump’s Department of Justice to do the job then we will have to depend on Attorney General nominee Merrick Gerland to prosecute them To the full extent of the law.
Tonight the Senate and House are going through what used to be a ceremonial vote to approve the results of the Electoral College vote. The violent coup attempt shook up many Republicans including those who were willing before to to support the objections. It appears that they now lack the fortitude to support Trump’s Coup attempt. It is amazing to see what happens to people when they are threatened by violence, especially by the people of your political party.
“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors”
That being said Senator Hawley, Senator Cruz, and the four others who supported the move to invalidate Arizona’s Electoral vote still did so without censure by their party. Not only that but Senator Pat Toomey who excoriated Trump as a demagogue but said in rejecting further objections said that he wanted Trump to win. I cannot understand how someone can call a man a “violent demagogue” could say they wanted him to win. Really, what kind of morality and ethics allows that?
Their votes are still going on but Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be the President and Vice President of the United States with a House and Senate Majority that would not have occurred without Trump’s hubris. He has destroyed his presidency, he has destroyed the GOP Senate majority, and he has done everything he could to destroy the foundations of our nation. The man is a criminal, a traitor, a seditionist, and a serial liar, except for one tiny thing: he has promised to overthrow the election, he has promised not to give up his fight, and not to leave power peacefully. In those things he was telling the truth, proving that a serial liar can on occasion tell the truth, and many people will fight and die for his illegal actions.
That is why I said that this is the beginning of the Trump Coup and Insurgency. He and his followers will begin a campaign of violence like the KKK, the Red Shirts, the White Leagues, White Liners, and Nazis. They are a doomsday cult led by an unbalanced, unhinged, unstable and unimaginably evil and demented President who still has two weeks to do his worst.
He needs to be removed from office by Vice President Pence and the Cabinet by the 25th Amendment or by an immediate move to impeach him. Military commanders need to be ready to disobey any unconstitutional actions by Trump in the country or attempts to send the nation to war.
In the next few hours the Senate and House will certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but that will enrage these insurgents, elected or not to more violence.
I fully expect the situation to get worse before it ever gets better. Our nation’s reputation and honor is stained with the blood of Trump and his Cult. Over half of the GOP House still supports Trump and his illegal actions. That shows that the GOP is hopelessly corrupt and unable to reverse the decades or rot that it has cultivated and encouraged.
That is not the worst. The fact is, unless Trump is removed through the action of Vice President Pence and the cabinet by removing Trump from by the 25th Amendment, or the House fast tracking impeachment chargers and the Senate trying and convicting him, he retains the control of the Presidency and could even launch us into war or further attempts to overthrow the Constitution and Republic. The next two weeks are going to be incredibly dangerous and violent as Trump and his Cult, including those in elected office or law enforcement work to throw the country into chaos. Such people are domestic terrorists but our laws don’t treat them as such. Laws on terrorism need to be changed to include such people.
Sadly, I fully expect that these people will resort to further violence before Trump leaves office. If they do commit further violence they deserve no mercy. Hopefully they can be arrested and tried, but I do not believe that many will submit to that. I expect them to commit violent acts including murder of law enforcement officers attempting to arrest them, as well as assassinating those they believe are their political enemies. If they do so law enforcement officials should be able to resort to deadly force to put down their insurrection.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Be ready for anything. I know these people, many are decent people but others are lawless, racist, authoritarian, and theocratic and they do believe that their so called “God” is one their side. That is what the Taliban, Al Qaida, the Nazis, and others believed. Should they commit any more violent acts I believe that our only recourse is force, and if the situation requires, the lifting of Posse Comitatus and use of the active duty military to crush them. This is no longer about the election, it is about an insurrection to overthrow our government.
The President is committing criminal acts, inciting insurrection and needs to be removed from office before he can destroy the country and Constitution.
This is not some histrionic prediction, it is based on his words and actions since 2015. The man is certifiably insane and willing to commit violence to keep power. What happened today was an attempted coup and what happens next will be violent insurrection and assassinations, as well as possible war against foreign enemies.
Donald Trump, his enablers and the violent actors who attack Congress today have to be brought to justice. Senators Cruz and Hawley need to be removed from office as well as 130 house members who have completely disregarded their oaths of office to fight for Trump. Senator Mitt Romney offered a devastating critique of Republican objections. My respect for Romney has risen incredibly since 2012. Romney has become a voice of conscience for conservatives but far too many supposedly “conservative” Trump supporters don’t get it. That is because they are cultists, and one cannot convince cultists, be they religious or political.
So until tomorrow this now retired Navy Chaplain, veteran of nearly 40 years of military service, and historian of both the Weimar, Nazi, and post-war Nuremberg trials, as well as American slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow Eras will settle into bed. However, I will never stop exposing these criminals for what they are. How can I not as a Priest sworn to my vows, a military officer sworn to uphold the Constitution, and a historian who is committed to speaking and writing the the truth.
The President and his violent supporters attempted a coup, the began an insurrection and they are not done. They will kill many more people before they are done. Any American regardless of their party needs to stand against them. As Stephen Douglas said after he lost the election of 1860 and his former friends attacked Fort Sumter in 1861:
“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots – or traitors”
That my friends is the the crux of the question. Trump encouraged yesterday’s violence and failed. That doesn’t mean that this amoral narcissistic sociopath is done and neither are his supporters.
If Americans of all political types do not resist the damage will take decades to repair if ever. All over the world allies are weeping and enemies rejoicing over what happened yesterday. Some things cannot be unseen or undone, and those events will forever redound against the United States. Honestly, with so many Trump supporters now fighting an insurgency against our legally elected government what nation or people could ever trust us regardless of how hard President Biden tries to repair the damage to our Republic?
If you can answer that with any positive response you are much more optimistic than me. However, we are now facing a long term violent insurgency with right wing death squads similar those we have condemned in other nations or the insurgencies in Iraq or Afghanistan.
This is all on us, our President and his cult. The threat is real because you can bet that Russia, China, Iran, and many other adversaries are now wondering and planning how they well take advantage of the unpatriotic chaos unleashed by Trump and his goddamned cult are done. This is far more than a domestic political crisis, it has ramifications for our national security and peace around the world.
This was an attempted Coup no different that the Kapp Putsch or Bier Hall Putsch in Weimar Germany. We need to be vigilant and very concerned. In an hour or so Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the undisputed President and Vice President elect and nothing apart from a violent revolution and insurgency can stop it. If that happens all bets are off.
So until tomorrow,
Another Year on the Margins of the Church
Me and my Little Buddy, Minnie Scule
I have been living on the margins of American Christianity for a bit over seven years now. The watershed moment was when I returned from Iraq in February 2008 my faith shattered and my soul wounded suffering from severe PTSD. I was not in good shape then and two years later after faith returned, albeit in a different form I realized that I no longer fit in the mainstream of conservative American Christianity.
The process of return took me to the margins of the faith that I knew and grew up in. For a while I felt like a victim, but over the course of the years I have discovered a tremendous freedom in living on the margins of the church. Jamake Highwater wrote something that really struck me as true:
“What outsiders discover in their adventures on the other side of the looking glass is the courage to repudiate self-contempt and recognise their “alienation” as a precious gift of freedom from arbitrary norms that they did not make and did not sanction. At the moment a person questions the validity of the rules, the victim is no longer a victim.”
When I began to express some of those changes, which mainly had to do in the manner of how I viewed others I got in trouble. At the time I was part of a pretty conservative Episcopal-Catholic denomination with very strong Evangelical and Charismatic leanings. I wrote that I thought that homosexuals could be Christians and not automatically damned to hell. I wrote that not all Moslems were bad. I expressed a great deal of empathy for non-believers, particularly Atheists and Agnostics having recently come out of a period where for all intents I was an Agnostic praying that God really did exist and care. I also asserted that I saw no reason why women could not or should not be ordained to the Priesthood and the Episcopacy and I expressed other views that while not connected with anything to do in the Christian faith was not politically correct in conservative circles.
During that time period I found that I was getting slammed and “unfriended” on Facebook by people I had previously considered friends whenever I had the nerve to disagree with them, or innocently post something that they disagreed with on my Facebook page. I think that was the hardest part for me, I was shocked that people who I had thought were friends, who knew what I was going through were so devoted to their ideology that they condemned me and threw me away. I found that I agreed with Mahatma Gandhi who observed: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Of course I say that with a fair amount of humility because most of the time I am not a very good Christian, if that means actually trying to emulate Jesus.
Of course that is not uncommon in the annals of Christianity. Ulrich Zwingli, the Reformer of Zurich was so upset when his students and closest associates became Anabaptist that he had them drowned in the Rhine River. In fact any time Church leaders have had significant powers over people through the levers of the State they have quite often used that power to crush anyone that did not believe like them or questioned their authority.
In a sense for two millennia various groups of Christians have been creating God in their own image and inflicting their beliefs on others. Christians punishing other Christians for having views that they do not agree is so common. Last week a Chaplain of a Nazarene college was fired for questioning Christian support for war in the wake of the movie American Sniper. Sadly most of the time that Christians are condemned by other Christians it is not even for any of major doctrinal beliefs found in the Creeds, the great Ecumenical Councils of the Church, or even of the various Confessions or Statements of Faith of any denomination. Instead they usually have to with unpopular stands on political or social issues. Anne Lamott has a pithy little thought that I love which I think describes this type of Christian persecution: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
In September of 2010 I was asked to leave that church, even though my actual theological orthodoxy, as to what I believed about God and Christ was unchanged. Thankfully another church, the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, a denomination of the Old Catholic tradition took me in. It is a tiny denomination, much like the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, but very affirming and I fit well in it.
As far as my old church, it was going through a difficult time and the Bishop who threw me out was a big part of the problem. He was removed a few months later when it was revealed that he was plotting to take all of the military chaplains out of the denomination to another without consulting the other bishops. One friend who is still in that church speculated that I was asked to leave by the bishop because he thought I might reveal his plans, even though he had not told me directly about them.
What was odd about that church was that in 2004 I was censured by the then second ranking archbishop in that church, forbidden from publishing and even having or having any personal contact with his clergy where I was living because I was “too Catholic.” The irony was that this bishop was a big cause of the trouble that the church went through including the massive splits that occurred in 2005-2010. He left that church, became the editor of a conservative Catholic website and now is a Priest in the Anglican Ordinate and effectively a Roman Catholic Priest. I love irony.
Thankfully I still have a number friends in my old church, and thankfully there are good people there doing their best to live the Gospel. I can’t say that I would fit in there anymore, but I have no residual animosity to the current leadership of that denomination and pray that they continue to recover from the tumult and division that marked their struggle from 2005-2011. I admit that it was a painful time and for a while I was quite bitter about how I had been treated, but it has been easier to live by forgiving. C. S. Lewis noted: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Since I have been forgiven for so much how can I not at least try to live in a forgiving manner?
I have written a lot about my frustrations with American Christianity in particular the conservative Christian subculture. Looking at what I wrote I can see that I definitely exist on the margins of that world. But that is not a bad thing, there is a certain amount of freedom as well as intellectual honesty and integrity that I have now that I could not have being for all intents closeted in my former denomination.
Living on the margins allows me to echo Galileo who wrote: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” It allows me to be at the intersection of faith and unbelief and allows me entry into both worlds, both of which I believe to be sacred and both need to be heard, as well as protected.
Thus when I champion religious liberty, it is not the liberty to use religion to bludgeon others or to use the police power of the State to enforce their religious views on others. Unfortunately that is what I see going on in this country as conservative American Christians especially Evangelicals, Charismatics and conservative Roman Catholics wage a Kulturkampf against modernism and secularism. It as if many of the leaders of that movement desire to set up a Christian theocracy. Gary North, a longtime adviser to Ron Paul and many in the Tea Party movement wrote:
“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”
Personally, and with no invective intended I have to imagine that if a Moslem leader in this country said something similar that the Religious Right would be screaming bloody murder and that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News would be leading the charge.
Thus we see a reprise of the Scopes Monkey Trial in efforts to diminish the teaching of real science in schools and replace it with various religious theories of origins such as Young Earth Creationism. It doesn’t seem to matter what the issue is: equality for women, minorities, gays, teaching science, caring for the poor, the sick and the weak, acknowledging the value of other cultural traditions and religions it seems that many politically charged conservative Christians have no tolerance for anyone outside their often quite narrow belief system. North wrote:
“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”
I’m sorry but again this sounds not too dissimilar to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, without the sheep and the comfortable clothes, or the Moslem Brotherhood types, Hezbollah or the Iranian Imams. The religion of North might be different from the Taliban but the goals are eerily similar, and only a fool would not see that. But then we Christians are quite good at ignoring the hate being preached by those that claim to be defending us from those “evil” Moslems.
This is no empty threat, throughout the country Christian Conservatives and their political front men are ramming through laws that have but one intent, the establishment of a Christian theocracy and the persecution of those who do not agree. Allegedly all of these laws are designed to “protect religious liberty” but in fact are nothing more than a legislative attempt to disenfranchise non-believers or others that the majority does not approve. Unfortunately the people pushing these laws do not understand that once the become law they can be used against them if another group comes into power. They set precedent and under such precedent even Sharia Law could be enacted in Moslem dominated areas of the country, such as Dearborn Michigan, or polygamy in separatist Mormon communities in Utah and Idaho.
I am sorry but that is antithetical to the thoughts of our founders and the real defenders of religious liberty in the early days of our republic. John Leland, head of the Virginia Baptists and a key player in the drafting of the First Amendment and religious liberty protections in Virginia wrote:
“The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”
Leland understood what he was talking about, because in Virginia Baptists and others were being persecuted by Anglicans who before the Revolution had been the State Church of Virginia and wanted to be again in the new republic. James Madison wrote of the danger: “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”
I will defend the right of religious conservative to believe what they want, including the right to teach it in their churches, church schools and homes and to express those views in the public square as part of real dialogue. I may not agree with them, but if I want my views to be protected I should grant others what I would want. What I cannot support is the attempt of some politically active Christian conservatives to force those views on others through the power of the State, the public schools or any other place where the citizens of our very diverse and pluralistic society have to co-exist.
Likewise, I have become much more outspoken in defending those who are the targets of real Christian hate, in particular the LGBT community, unbelievers, especially atheists and agnostics and Moslems. That may seem odd, but really, if we as Christians do not show God’s love to them, just how do we expect that they will embrace what we believe?
I love the movie Inherit the Wind. I especially love the scene where Spencer Tracy playing the fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow gives a logical yet passionate defense of religious, civil and intellectual liberty.
“Can’t you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”
Since I don’t want to go back to the 16th Century I will be content to live in the freedom that I have on the margins of contemporary American Christianity. Personally I would rather be there than in the 16th century.
Back in 2010 when I was getting kicked out of my old church and suffering the rejection of friends it wasn’t something that I enjoyed. However, I am grateful to be where I am now and to have the freedom that I enjoy. I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but I am definitely okay with the way things have turned out. Living on the margins of American Christianity beats the hell out of living within the hateful, greedy and oppressive structures that permeate our American Christian landscape.
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