Tag Archives: true believers

Look Who’s Back: A Film Far too Pertinent in Europe and the USA “At Their Core they are Just Like Me” The Trump and Hitler Cults

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

A bit earlier we watched, and I re-watched the German film Look Who’s Back (Er ist Wieder Da) which is about Hitler rising from his bunker in 2014. It is a very dark comedy where the actors mingle with regular people, and the actor playing Hitler mingles with them, but no-one really believes that he is really Hitler, but many are willing to make public support of Hitler’s policies. Finally, the amateur filmmaker who discovered Hitler realizes that the man he thought was an actor is really Hitler, and the following conversation ensues:

Hitler: I was wondering when you would show up.

Sawatski: It’s you. You’re him.

Hitler: I never claimed to be anything else. History repeats itself. I guess it’s my fate to have to part with my dearest companions.

Sawatski: That way. Yes, history repeats itself. You’re fooling people with your propaganda.

Hitler: Oh, Sawatski. You don’t understand. In 1933, people were not fooled by propaganda. They elected a leader, one who openly disclosed his plans with great clarity. The Germans elected me.[At gunpoint, Hitler takes the elevator to the top of the building and walks out on the rooftop, standing close to the edge.]

Sawatski: You’re a monster.

Hitler: Am I? Then you have to condemn those who elected this monster. Were they all monsters? No. They were ordinary people, who chose to elect an extraordinary man, and entrust the fate of the country to him. What do you want to do, Sawatski? Ban elections?

Sawatski: No. But I’m going to stop you.

Hitler: Have you never asked yourself… why people follow me? Because at their core, they are just like me. They have the same values. And that’s why you won’t shoot.

[Sawatski shoots, and Hitler falls backward off the rooftop. Sawatski looks over the edge and sees no body.]

Hitler: You can’t get rid of me. I’m a part of you. A part of all of you. And look; it wasn’t all bad.

The film should be required viewing, not just in Germany but in Trump’s America.

Being an ideologue of any kind is easy, you adopt an ideology and then use it to interpret the world. That is why there are so many of them of so many different varieties: right wing, left wing, religious and so many more. In fact if you take a look at the most strident supporters of any ideology, politician, or religious leader you can see that they are little different from one another. But in terms of the ideologies they espouse the most enduring of them, and the only to have ever been the foundation of state power or those dealing with economics such as the Soviet Union; or race such as Nazi Germany or the American Southern Confederacy. Hannah Arendt wrote:

“For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.” 

The fact is that there is a difference between people who lean a certain way politically or religiously, and the people Eric Hoffer called, the “true believers,” the people who chose a side and never wrestle with the hard choices of life. They simply declare all who oppose their ideology or theology to be unworthy of life. If one is honest one has to admit that all kinds of ideologues of various persuasions, right wing, left wing, religious, atheistic, or racist have committed crimes which are incomprehensible and abhorrent. History shows that this is truth, but then when a regime decides to censor the past, as the Trump Administration is currently doing, and many other regimes have done, all bets are off. Likewise, when a government decides to admit to what its predecessors have done, as has Germany has done with World War II and the Holocaust, there will always be people who wish for a fictional better time, and either deny the truth, or seek to bring back the horrors of the past.

I am a liberal and a progressive, but I often find left-wing ideologues to be as off putting as militant right wingers. I guess that is because despite everything I am a realist. I wake up every day to try to do the hard thing of deciding what is right and what to believe.

My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing. I see examples of this every day, especially in my Twitter feed and on Facebook.

While I’m sure that many, if not most of these people are good and well meaning people, they seldom display any originality of thought or true character. A while back I had one left wing Twitter follower attack repeatedly me because to her I was supposedly a sellout. I have had right wing religious friends and followers on social media do the same, as well as making actual death threats.

While they attack me and each other from different ends of the political spectrum, the intellectual commonality they share is the fact that they are ideologues and zealots; and while they espouse different beliefs they are almost indistinguishable from each other in their inability to think critically and that wears me out, but I refuse to stand down.

I guess that is one of the things that bothers me the most about so much of what I see going on in the United States today. Too many ideologues, not enough critical thinkers. Too many people who value absolute consistently of thought without asking if what they preach is still true today, or if it might be tomorrow, and far too many more who are unwilling to by more than apathetic bystanders waiting to see which way the wind blows before deciding on a position.

Of course there are also the people who would be the victims of ideologues of any type, and the ideologues will be the perpetrators. At this time, after the Senate voted to acquit Trump, the President has mounted a campaign of revenge against his opponents. My money is on the Trump ideologues to take the first shot.

From the beginning of his campaign he never hid what he believed or who or what he is. In the process he has built a cult following around himself, taken over the Republican Party, used all media, but especially that of the Right Wing media to propagate his hateful ideology. He has bulldozed the Constitution, the law, and the institutional guardrails that protected our Republic for over two centuries; and must of his cult like supporters, just like Hitler’s won’t abandon him, but will become more violent in their actions toward his opponents. Likewise, he will use the organs of the State to implement his policies, as he is doing with the Border Patrol, INS, and every other part of the executive branch that his Cult controls. Against this I don’t think that left wing ideologues, who often are a mirror image of their right wing cousins have a chance; but men and women of conscience must make a stand.

One thing that I have learned over the past decade or so is that I have to ask what is right today, and make a choice of when to stand up, or to stand down. Sometimes, I don’t like those choices, but I make them. As Sophie Scholl said:

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

I guess that is why I like reading about the lives of complicated and often conflicted people; men like T.E. Lawrence, William Tecumseh Sherman, Henning Von Tresckow, Ludwig Beck, and the fictional Raymond Reddington so fascinating. I find much to admire and to criticize in all of them even as I empathize and understand each one of them. Interestingly, each of my heroes all have feet of clay. As Reddington said, “We become who we are. We can’t judge a book by its cover… But you can by its first few chapters, and most certainly by its last.” 

But in such a perilous time, how can we not see what Trump has openly proclaimed he would do when he became a presidential candidate, and since his election. However, we cannot blame it all on Trump. He was clear in what he would do as President, and as the fictional Hitler asked “Have you never asked yourself… why people follow me? Because at their core, they are just like me. They have the same values.” 

Have a great day, until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, film, germany, History, leadership, movies, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Courageous Versus the Ideologues

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today is a bit of a detour following my last two articles dealing with the Reichstag Fire and Reichstag Fire Decree, but it does have some ties to them and I will pick up on the Reichstag Fire theme tomorrow.

Being an ideologue of any kind is easy, you adopt an ideology and then use it to interpret the world. That is why there are so many of them of so many different varieties: right wing, left wing, religious and so many more. In fact if you take a look at the most strident supporters of any ideology, politician, or religious leader you can see that they are little different from one another. But in terms of the ideologies they espouse the most enduring of them, and the only to have ever been the foundation of state power or those dealing with economics such as the Soviet Union; or race such as Nazi Germany or the American Southern Confederacy. Hannah Arendt wrote:

“For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the “riddles of the universe,” or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man. Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others: the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races. The appeal of both to large masses was so strong that they were able to enlist state support and establish themselves as official national doctrines. But far beyond the boundaries within which race-thinking and class-thinking have developed into obligatory patterns of thought, free public opinion has adopted them to such an extent that not only intellectuals but great masses of people will no longer accept a presentation of past or present facts that is not in agreement with either of these views.” 

The fact is that there is a difference between people who lean a certain way politically or religiously, and the people Eric Hoffer called, the “true believers,” the people who chose a side and never wrestle with the hard choices of life. They simply declare all who oppose their ideology or theology to be unworthy of life.

I am a liberal and a progressive, but I often find left-wing ideologues to be as off putting as militant right wingers. I guess that is because despite everything I am a realist. I wake up every day to try to do the hard thing of deciding what is right and what to believe.

My favorite television character, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader in The Blacklist once said “I know so many zealots, men and women, who chose a side, an ideology by which to interpret the world. But, to get up every single day and to do the hard work of deciding what to believe. What’s right, today? When to stand up or stand down. That’s courage.” The fact is, no matter how stridently they espouse their beliefs, ideologues are by definition not courageous, because courage takes critical thinking, something that ideologues of any persuasion are incapable of doing. I see examples of this every day, especially in my Twitter feed and on Facebook.

While I’m sure that many, if not most of these people are good and well meaning people, they seldom display any originality of thought or true character. I had one left wing Twitter follower attack repeatedly me because to her I was supposedly a sellout. I have had right wing religious friends and followers on social media do the same.  While they attack me and each other from different ends of the political spectrum, the intellectual commonality they share is the fact that they are ideologues and zealots; and while they espouse different beliefs they are almost indistinguishable from each other in their inability to think critically and that wears me out.

I guess that is one of the things that bothers me the most about so much of what I see going on in the United States today. Too many ideologues, not enough critical thinkers. Too many people who value absolute consistently of thought without asking if what they preach is still true today, or if it might be tomorrow.

One thing that I have learned over the past eight years or so is that I have to ask what is right today, and make a choice of when to stand up, or to stand down. Sometimes, I don’t like those choices, but I make them.

I guess that is why I like reading about the lives of complicated and often conflicted people; men like T.E. Lawrence, William Tecumseh Sherman, and the fictional Raymond Reddington. I find much to admire and to criticize in all of them even as I empathize and understand each one of them. Interestingly, each of my heroes all have feet of clay. As Reddington said, “We become who we are. We can’t judge a book by its cover… But you can by its first few chapters, and most certainly by its last.” 

Have a great day, until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, philosophy, Political Commentary

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Racism, Slavery and Religion

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Today my friends another installment of my chapter in my Gettysburg text dealing with religion, racism and ideology as causes of the American Civil War. While many people, especially modern Southern White politicians like to repeat the mantra that we live in a “post-racial”  society where racism no longer exists. I discussed that ridiculous assertion yesterday in my intro to the series so I won’t bother to repeat it now.

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What I will do is discuss how religion has been used and in still being used by “true believers” of many religions to justify all sorts of evil in the name of their God. The latest and most newsworthy of such people are the practitioners of terror in the name of Allah, the Islamic State and Boko Haram in central and west Africa. These groups have brought back the concepts of what we would call public lynching of their enemies, burning them alive, beheading them, enslaving them, and engaging in ethnic and religious cleansing. They are ruthless and are a throwback to times that most of us had hoped had passed into recess of history.

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But history has a way of never dying, especially for those who don’t stop believing in their cause. In resp0nse to the acts of ISIL and Boko Haram I have heard numerous American Christian politicians, pundits and preachers claim that Christians have never acted in such a way. I could go through the litany of crimes committed by Christians, Churches and the actions of nations whose state supported churches provided the theological justification for genocide, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, crusades, imperialism, slavery and a host of other crimes against humanity. Instead I am just going to focus on the theological justification of those who defended the institution of slavery, as well as their abolitionists opponents in this posting, because they are really not that too far removed from the actions of ISIL and the words of many supposedly Christian politicians, pundits and preachers in this country today.

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This section begins with the Compromise of 1850, an act which included the Fugitive Slave Act which gave Southern Slaveholders the right to go into any state or territory to reclaim their human property and provided them with a extra-judicial system to support them.  From this it transitions to the theological arguments and proclamations of those supporters of slavery and their opponents. The section ends with a note about a case that Virginia was pushing through the Courts in 1860, just prior to the Civil War, it was a case that they hoped would destroy any remaining legal obstacles to expanding slavery into Free States and territories against the wishes of the citizens of those states. I find it interesting that for people then as well as today the concept of “States Rights” only applies to them and their attempts to deny freedom to others.

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion, Ideology and the Civil War Part 2

Tomorrow I will post the third section of this chapter which begins with Bleeding Kansas, John Brown, the link between church and state in the Confederacy, the election of Lincoln, Emancipation, and the pervasive and poisonous myth of the Lost Cause in the United States.

Racism, as well as other forms of hatred backed by religion is still alive and it is not just in the Middle East and Africa. It is still here, and it is still happening now. It may be a bit more subtle and certainly not as violent as it was in the ante-bellum days, or Post-Reconstruction, but it is here. Like in the Middle East it bides its time until extremists can invent an excuse to resort to violence and terrorism.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, civil war, faith, History, iraq,afghanistan, laws and legislation, leadership, Political Commentary, Religion

Right Wing Christian Political Correctness

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“religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

There is an epidemic of political correctness in the United States today.

Of course if you listen to Fox News, most Evangelical preachers, or conservative pundits that is always blamed on secularists or liberals who are almost universally defamed by such critics. They are accused of being communists, fascists, atheists and even worse for simply positing that they don’t believe, that they might have doubts, or that like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison or the early Virginia Baptist leader and friend of both Madison and Jefferson, John Leland argued that no religion should have the franchise on or control of the government.

For this they are accused of being politically correct, or enforcing political correctness, when in fact they are actually politically incorrect, because they dare question the minority of people who have the real political and economic power in this country, Conservative Christians.

I have run into this political correctness, that of Christian political correctness. Dare come to the defense of the civil rights of Gays or Lesbians and see what happens. Defend someone who questions the faith, see what happens. Defend the rights of non-Christian minorities and see what happens. If you do you will be attacked, condemned, and defamed. You will be called all matters of things, and if you are a member of such a church you will be expelled. I know, because I was.

You see for me I am an American and I will defend the rights of all Americans to their beliefs so long as they do not try to use the police power of the government to shove those beliefs down my throat. Equity is for all. I have served for over 33 years in the military alongside Americans of every race, creed, political belief and ideology, and yes even sexual preference. I have seen people excel, I have seen people promote the rights of others, and I have seen witch hunts done not in the name of the law, or any real American principle, but on the basis of conservative Christian religious beliefs being sold as the only true American beliefs.

That my friends is the ultimate political correctness. It is the political correctness that has to defend itself by invoking the wrath of the Almighty against unbelievers. It is that of the Inquisitors, the Crusaders, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Calvin’s Geneva, Zwingli’s Zurich, Cromwell’s England, Orthodox Russia and a host of other theologically based “government.”

That kind of government is called “theocracy.” It is what many of those who came to this country sought to flee, except that some like the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided to use their new freedom away from the Church of England to persecute Baptists, Quakers and others, especially women who they accused of witchcraft. It as as Robert Heinlein said: “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

I have seen the results of such religious hatred in the Balkans and the Middle East. I will fight to make sure that it doesn’t happen here, even if that means that fellow Christians condemn me and dare to say that I am not a Christian. I will be politically incorrect, the real kind of political incorrectness that is the most unsettling to “true believers,” that of the questioning believer who defends unbelievers.

Like Eric Hoffer, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and so many others I recognize the danger posed by those who believe that they are God’s chosen people destined to carry out their understanding of God’s will on earth.

As Jefferson said:

“I know it will give great offense to the clergy, but the advocate of religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them.” 

I expect neither, and I will advice for all, inspire of the Right Wing Christian Political Correctness that dominates in this country. The people that Eric Hoffer called “true Believers.” people who are likely to see themselves  “as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

Just read the people who write and espouse Dominionist or Seven Mountains theology. They are the ones running the asylum of the Christian Right today. Look it up, or look at any of the articles that I have written about them. They are not the fringe anymore, they run the Republican Party and almost every one of the potential Republican Presidential Candidates espouse those views, or are afraid to stand up to them. Likewise most of the mainstream media gives them a pass, because they too are afraid of them, they are afraid of being called “politically correct.”

Barry Goldwater, the progenitor of the modern conservative movement warned us about them: He said in 1994:

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

I am no longer afraid, because I have nothing to lose besides my soul, at least that’s what I am told. Frankly I would rather be [part of the inferior “out group” than any part of this supposedly superior “in group.” 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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

UPDATE: It Depends on What Your Definition of “Christian” Is…

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This article was updated Sunday 23 November to clear up some grammar issues, and in doing so I have provided some updates to let you know what is currently happening, and to better enhance my arguments.

My friends, last week I had something occur that was so troublesome that I had to report it to certain Federal law enforcement authorities as well as a nationally known advocate for religious liberty issues.

Since the Feds are still doing their investigation I have to wait to post the article. I spoke with and I am in contact with the head of that group. Like me he is waiting to see what the investigators report. As things stand right now I expect that it may be sometime in December before I can publish in any detail what happened.

Conceivably this could end up getting some media attention because it involves a military member, civilian or contractor working for a military command that deals with IT issues. It is an organization which has been accused of hacking people and organizations across the political spectrum. Stupidly the individual did not think that I could look up his IP address and in this case track it down to the exact base, command and building where it originated.

The individual used the government network to post demeaning and harassing posts about my religious beliefs on this site under a pseudonym. What they said,their pseudonym and e-mail moniker left no doubt that they are some kind of politically minded and motivated right wing Christian intent on shouting down their opposition.

I cannot go into any more detail but it is troubling. If the comments had come from a civilian network I would blow it off as the work of a crackpot. The person may be a crackpot, but I figure that based on where this message originated it was someone working for the military who has a Top Secret security clearance. Why such a person would be attacking me, a senior Navy Chaplain and combat vet about my religious beliefs from a military network is beyond me.

But then maybe It all depends on what your definition of being a “Christian” is, and based on the religious-political hyperbole of the Christian Right, I don’t think I am a Christian anymore. But then being a “Christian” really does depend on what your definition of being a Christian “is” to use the words of former President Bill Clinton.

I am not a Christian if it means…

Elevating your interpretation of the Bible over Jesus…

Using your interpretation of scripture to damn other people to Hell or anywhere else, including Mississippi, even if there are equally valid interpretations from other Christian sources…

Elevating partisan political issues above the commands of Jesus…

Being more concerned with maintaining your political power than caring about people…

Demonizing anyone that disagrees with whatever pet doctrine that you hold dear, even if that doctrine was condemned by other Christians throughout history to be heretical…

Accuse others of the most horrible, unbelievable and false conspiracies and then claim that God told you to do it…

Claim a right or privilege for yourself based on your Christian Faith, and the use the police power of the state to enforce it, all the while denying the same rights to others…

When you are criticized by the very people that you condemn to Hell, or use economic boycotts against, or use the power of the state to condemn claim that you are now the victim of persecution…

The funny thing this is not new.

Such behavior by Christians goes back over a millennium.

In 1054 the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox split over one word in the Nicene Creed that described the precedence of the Holy Spirit.

The Protestant Reformers elevated their interpretation of scripture over the Roman Catholic instance on scripture being interpreted through Church Tradition and the theology of Thomas Aquinas.

The Radical Reformers insisted on believer’s  or adult baptism over infant baptism…

Early Pentecostals, as well as some today, insisted that unless one had been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of “speaking in tongues” that you were not a Christian…

Sadly, the trend continues as every new Christian sect insists on its own version of “the truth” being absolute truth. History shows that nearly every time such religious absolutists gain control of a civil government that they either by legislation or fiat make their religious law the law of the land.

Among these various denominations and sects these doctrinal issues are still officially in place, even if many church members don’t understand. The only difference is now that many of these people, who I would say are sincere in their beliefs have come together under a political banner, condemning secularists, atheists, and other non-believers to ensure that the Christian franchise remains on top.

This was the whole intention of the Manhattan Declaration of a few years back. Throw aside centuries or actual theological and doctrinal differences in order to keep political power, yes that is the Christian way.

After the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the empire a theological dispute between Trinitarian and Arian Christians became political. Whenever an Arian Emperor was in charge Trinitarians were persecuted, and when Trinitarian emperors were in power the payback was hell.

The Cathars in France were exterminated in military crusades by the Roman Catholics.

The early reformation led by John Huss in Czecheslovkia was not only condemned theologically but led to a series of wars as the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire sought to suppress it.

Martin Luther united with the “anti-Christ” Roman Catholic Church to exterminate the “enthusiasts” and Anabaptists during the Peasant’s Revolt.

Ulrich Zwingli executed his former students who had become Anabaptist and been re-baptized to demonstrate their new faith by “re-baptizing” them until they drowned in the Rhine River.

John Calvin ran a religious theocracy in Geneva where any dissent was punishable as heresy. and his government routinely executed “heretics” who did not hold his truth.

The Roman Catholic Church ran the Inquisition in conjunction with with the Spanish crown, as well as other Catholic monarchies, condemning anyone who strayed from the Catholic faith to persecution, imprisonment and often death.

Of course there was the Thirty Years War in which nations with state religions, Protest or Catholic launched wars of brutal extermination against each other, wars which devastated Germany and which the ruins of castles along the Rhine testify to even today.

The Anglican Church in conjunction with the British crown made Catholicism an act punishable by death, and persecuted other dissenters from the state church including early English Baptists, and the Calvinist dissenters who eventually came to the new colonies as the Pilgrims and Puritans….

The Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had the exclusive rights to the franchise, and persecuted early Baptists and Quakers often executing them, and in the case of female dissenters accusing them of witchcraft…

Sadly many in the Christian Right under the sway of a Neo-Calvinist political theology called “Seven Mountains” or Christian Dominionism are working at the local, state and federal level in this country to institute a theocracy in this country, with them, like their Puritan and Genevan ancestors having the franchise….

I could go on as there are plenty of other examples that I will not cite here. However, forgetting doctrine and even forgetting Jesus to keep power is nothing new for Christians.

Be assured that if all the groups that the now supposedly politically unified Christians now oppose were wiped out and no longer existed, that these same people would start fighting each other again to gain the exclusive franchise of a state religion. That is the unalterable nature of humanity. That is the unalterable nature of religion, that is the unalterable nature of life.

If you are a “true believer” in any of these Christian traditions you may disagree with me. But in your heart you know that I am right because you know that you are right, and if you are right then no one else is. Thus your power and status must be maintained regardless of the cost. That my friends is the nature of the political Christianity which is more grounded in politics and power than it is in Jesus. Eric Hoffer wrote about people that he called the “True Believers”:

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

Disagree with with me if you want, but since I paid a lot more attention to church history, systematic theology and philosophy in seminary than most people do I can whip this stuff out without even looking at my notes.

The fact is that once an external enemy is defeated, those within the politically motivated Christian churches turn on themselves. Christians of different denominations or are different must also be defeated, humiliated and destroyed.

That my friends is the truth of history. That is the ever present witness of supposed Christians who value their political power, their economic position, and their place and status above all others. Alliances between various Christian sects are almost always temporary, never once have Christian sects who have united to face down what they think is an existential threat to themselves  have maintained their unity after the threat is eliminated.

And so it is… For such people it is not about a truth, nor is it about really about faith, nor is it about love. Those are ruses used to justify the naked brutal power and domination that they strive to achieve. Power and domination that is only satisfied when the ones seeking it have eliminated all opposition, even that of former allies.

That is why I say that it is all about “what your definition of Christian is.” 

So if my belief and trust in Jesus is not enough for the true believers… I am okay with that.

If the fact that I am baptized, confirmed and even ordained is not enough for the true believers… I am okay with that.

If the fact that I have had a “born again” experience where faith in Christ became real is not enough… I am okay with that.

If my belief which is grounded in scripture, tradition and reason is not enough for the true believers is not enough… I am okay with that.

If I do not use the name of Jesus to bludgeon non-believers and  if I do not ally myself to the Christian true believers who seek their political power and are willing to make temporary alliances with  those that they despise in the process…. I am okay with that.

If all of that means that I am not a Christian…

Then I am not… and I am okay with that.

I guess that if valuing the rights of Christians above all others and forcing others to follow whatever version of the Christianity is allowed by the state means to some to be a Christian then I am not a Christian… and I am okay with that.

If being a hateful, self righteous person who despise all that do not believe like them,mor do not meet their slitmus test of what it is to be a Christian then I am not a Christian… and I am okay with that too.

If those are the things that are now what are the marks of being a Christian, then I do not want to be one… I am okay with that.  I would rather follow Jesus than be labeled that kind of Christian.

After all, in the end it is about what God thinks, and not what your definition , or my definition of what being a Christian is.

I guess that Bill Clinton was really on target when he said that it all “depends on what your definition of is is” especially for politically minded Christians. People who have sold their souls to maintain political power but who don’t give a wit Jesus. Who don’t care about what their churches actually teach until they eliminate external opposition; and who then can concentrate on eliminating  the “heretical” Christians who were at one time their allies.

That is the ugly truth of “Christian” history.

Condemn me if you want. But before you do please take a look at history, especially the history of other Christians who once they eliminated external threats persecuted other Christians that did not believe just like them.

As far as me, I am now no longer on the defensive. I am taking the offensive against people who value their privilege, power and place in society more than they do the simple command of Jesus. That command of Jesus, to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself matters more than political power.

As far as me, I will fight and protect the rights of the same people that condemn me to Hell. I do this  because as an American who believes deeply in the ethos of our Declaration of Independence says that “all men are created equal” and because of my office and oath to the Constitution that am demands that I defend them.

I am obligated to give them the protections and freedom that they refuse to give others. That being said, when they decide to mock me, attack me or threaten me using government equipment on taxpayer time, I will not play the victim. I will use every legal and moral option available to me to expose those that do for what they are.

So I cannot say anymore about what is happening regarding what I mentioned up front, but I will update you when I can.

You cannot believe how much that I want to expose those that attack me using the freedom that I by my service and oath strive to protect. But at some point I will.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Tsaraev Brothers and the Danger of Faith Without Love

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“The separation of faith and love is always a consequence of a deterioration of religion.”  Paul Tillich 

There are many who claim faith of every type, be it religious, political, economic or scientific who have nothing but hatred in their hearts for others.

This was again made manifest this past week in the actions of the brothers Tsaraev in their orgy of violence inflicted on the people of Boston. Their crimes were committed in the name of Islam, as are many like them. However, such actions be they in the name of Allah, Yahweh, Jesus or any other deity show the intrinsic falseness and evil of such “faith” no matter how orthodox it may be.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Faith can be a powerful thing, for good or for evil. However when that faith is separated from love it is no longer of God, or even human. I do think that the apostle was absolutely right when he noted that if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Love is actually the key and love of God is always connected to love of neighbor, practical, observable and tangible love, not mere words. G.K. Chesterton said it well in this. “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

However to the “true believers” of so many religions, political, social and scientific orthodoxies, the two sometimes seem inexorably linked by the often fanatical actions of their most devout adherents being more concerned with power than love. The sad thing is that I don’t think that any of us are completely immune to such behavior and attitudes and probably all of us have a at least a little potential to be terrorists given the right circumstances.

When I read some blogs and websites written by some people that can be best described as “true believers” I am amazed at the violence of the words as well as the hatred and derision for others that do not believe like them that are contained. The fact that those are not occasional slips, errors of judgement on bad days like all of us are capable of making and do make all the time.

If that was the case it would not be that much of an issue. However, the authors of the majority many of these site are consumed with hatred toward others as a means of “defending” their beliefs. Some advocate violence in doing that, unencumbered by any doubts in their beliefs no matter what “orthodoxy” they believe in. Eric Hoffer wrote “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.”

I think this is exactly what motivates men like the Tsaraev brothers to kill the innocent and which lurks in those that preach hatred in the name of their god or whatever belief system is the functional equivalent of a god for them. The only difference is that most have not crossed the physical boundary from “nursing a fanatical grievance” and advocating violence to actually killing. Somehow I think that once that seed is planted, and cultivated that it sometimes takes on a life of its own.

The apostle was right: “If I have not love….” 

Peace

 

Padre Steve+

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Terrorists Don’t Get to Be Heroes

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“How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”  Salmon Rushdie

The events in Boston this week have shown us once again that we in the United States are not able to completely be safe from the acts of terrorists. While we do not know the motivations or affiliation of the Tsarnaev brothers, nor if they are connected to others in this country or abroad who would attempt similar acts of terrorism.

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The attack by the brothers Tsarnaev was unsettling but it did not fill the city of Boston with fear. Instead, that city, its citizens, its law enforcement agencies as well as Federal and State law enforcement showed a resolve that I do not think that either the Tsarnaev brothers or other terrorists, foreign or domestic expected. Even as the citizens of the city grieved a systematic investigation that relied on the help of citizens identified the brothers and flushed them out of hiding. When the battle with the terrorists began in the streets of Watertown the city went on lockdown until one was killed and the other captured. The operation to identify and capture the two brothers was like nothing seen in this country.

Americans, especially those in the “liberal” Blue states like Massachusetts are supposed to be soft and cowardly. However the people of Boston showed how wrong they are in their assessment.

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Terrorists tend to be rather dismissive of how Americans will react when attacked. They are a rather arrogant type of people. They are “True believers”  who believe that they alone and those that agree with them completely are right, that they alone have heaven’s blessing and that others be damned. Salmon Rushdie, the Iranian novelist who has lived under the threat of death for decades said of them: “The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong.”

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It was fascinating for me to read that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thrown out of the Boston Islamic center recently for going into a tirade against the Imam for using Dr Martin Luther King Jr as an example to emulate. Tamerlan shouted “You cannot mention this guy because he’s not a Muslim!” to the shock and dismay of those in attendance. When I read this I immediately thought of something written by Eric Hoffer: 

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

Somehow I do not think that this will be the last terror attack that we see from some true believer, be they Islamic and connected with one of the myriad of Islamic terrorist groups, or domestic American ant-government or anarchist types from the right or the left. Their world views may seem disparate, religious, political, economic or social from points all around the spectrum of belief but they are surprisingly alike. They believe that they are the holders of truth and righteousness. Those that do not agree with them or who they believe have offended them, their “god” be that “god” a deity, a book of scriptures or their political, economic or social beliefs are the enemy and worthy of desruction. However, I think that Charles Dickens writing in David Copperfield said was right when he said “what such people miscall their religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance.”

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This week we saw two young men who had lived in our country for over a decade decide to, for yet unknown reasons decide to attack, kill and maim fellow citizens as well as visitors to this country. I’m sure that they thought that they were doing something heroic. However, the real heroes were the people of Boston who responded to the attack providing help and hospitality to those injured or displaced and the men and women of law enforcement who helped hunt the Tsaraev brothers down. Salmon Rushdie was right the way to fight terrorism is not to be terrorized and not to live in fear. It is time that we learned that lesson like so many Bostonians did this week.

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As far as the terrorists themselves, to quote Major Kira Nerys from Star Trek Deep Space Nine “Terrorists don’t get to be heroes.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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