Nel's New Day

December 1, 2013

Religion at War

How can we attack President Obama? Let me count the ways.

Rev. James David Manning, birther pastor of Atlah World Missionary Church, has presented another conspiracy theory surrounding President Obama. Miriam Carey, the mentally ill woman shot and killed after she tried to ram her car into a barrier outside the White House during the October government shutdown, was the mother of President Obama’s illegitimate child. People will know the truth by giving Carey’s child a DNA test. Also Michelle Obama is biologically male—according to Manning.

More reasonable people—at least when compared to Manning—have other conspiracy theories about the president. The Washington Post started the most recent religious kerfuffle one in this report about the U.S. embassy’s move from the Vatican:

“The Obama administration, in what’s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See–a free-standing facility–and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.”

The Breitbart blog, which lives on long after its namesake’s death, changed the story from “moving” to “shutting it down.” Fox Nation loved the change and used its top story to declare that President Obama intends to “close” the embassy to the Holy See.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) called the action a “slap in the face” to the nation’s Roman Catholics, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a petition drive to protest the move, calling it “the latest anti-religion pursuit” of the Obama administration and a decision that “weakens America’s position as a global leader.”

Even Jeb Bush, who holds no elected office at this time, decided that the issue would provide fodder for a possible presidential run in 2016 and called the move a “retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.” In reality, his brother started the re-location: George W. Bush’s administration bought buildings for a new embassy location that is one-tenth of a mile closer to the Vatican. There is no reduction in staff or activities. The new location is part of the larger U.S. compound in Rome which houses the U.S. Embassy to Italy and the U.S. mission to the U.N. offices in Rome. The move increases security and saves up to $1.4 million a year.

There is wide-spread Catholic support for the Affordable Care Act. The Catholic Hospital Association (CHA), a trade group of Catholic hospitals, endorsed health care reform and in July of this year announced that it is also satisfied with the administration’s contraception rule. A majority of U.S. Catholics also agree that religiously affiliated groups should comply with the mandate.

Pope Francis himself caused a kerfuffle this week after he released the first major document as head of the Catholic Church. In the Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel, he condemned “trickle-down” economic policies, calling rampant capitalism “a new tyranny. The pope also compared the obsession with wealth to a “new and ruthless” form of worshiping a false idol and argued it reduces humans to creatures of consumption. He may have been referring to a permanent “Black Friday” mentality.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Francis also called on the rich to share their wealth, arguing that there should be a commandment that guides humans to be inclusive of all people and eliminate economic inequality from society.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.”

Most of his 224-page document, an “apostolic exhortation” that lays out the pope’s platform for his rule, was a concern regarding economic inequality. The pope has thus far led by example, using a Ford Focus for travel instead of the traditional luxury vehicles for Pope Benedict XVI and living in a guest house rather than the palatial papal apartments.

Calling for an overhaul of the financial system, the pope warned that the inequity of wealth will inevitably lead to violence.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

The action that the pope wants will go “beyond a simple welfare mentality.” He wrote, “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”

The pope’s position directly opposed Ronald Reagan’s signature economic theory, which continues to be the ideology worshipped by conservative Republicans. Francis’ lament that people had “calmly accepted (the) dominion” of money over themselves and society, expressed in the recent financial crisis and the continuing promotion of consumer-based economies, was not well-taken by far-right wingnuts.

Stuart Varney, Fox Business host, lectured the pope on the U.S. system that gave 40 percent of the country’s wealth to four people:

“Capitalism, in my opinion, is a liberator. The free choice of millions of people is the essence of freedom. In my opinion, society benefits most when people are free to pursue their own self-interest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not.”

Fox is big on mixing religion and business, but Varney thinks that the pope shouldn’t do this—at least when the pope disagrees with Varney:

“I go to church to save my soul. It’s got nothing to do with my vote. Pope Francis has linked the two. He has offered direct criticism of a specific political system. He has characterized negatively that system. I think he wants to influence my politics.”

Varney never criticized the former Pope John Paul II, who really liked private property and hated communism. That religious leader never tried to make rich people who had too much feel bad because millions of people had too little.

Cliff Kinkaid, director of the misnamed Accuracy in Media, went farther when he spread a video on the Internet to explain that Marxists have infiltrated the Catholic Church. He insisted:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not here to beat up on the pope. That’s not my job. But I can read. I can read this document. I can see what he is saying, and I can tell you right now that this is a very, very disappointing document, and it makes me wonder about the future of the Roman Catholic Church in this world and what they’re heading towards.”

Kinkaid found an evil commie plot in the Roman Catholic Church supporting one world government. According to him, Pope Francis uses “flowery language” to camouflage this sinister plot, or  “what we might euphemistically call a new world order, a new world economic order.”

Pam Geller, Islamophobic blogger/activist, is upset because the pope doesn’t want to destroy all Muslims:

“At a time when Christianity worldwide is under siege by Islamic jihadists, the leader of the Catholic Church claims that the quran teaches non-violence. As Christians across the Muslim world live in abject terror and fear kidnapping, rape and slaughter to the bloodcurdling cries of ‘Allahu akbar,’ the pope gives papal sanction to the savage.”

Pope Francis offended Geller by comparing “violent fundamentalism” with “authentic Islam.” The latter, he wrote, was “opposed to every form of violence.” Geller asked when the pope became an imam, a requirement to read the Koran, although she too has quote passages from the Islam holy book.

Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association (AFA), is as anti-Islam as Geller. This week he told his followers that the Constitution allows U.S. officials to “make Islam illegal” and “prohibit the building of mosques.” Because the First Amendment, that protects freedom of religion, begins with the word “Congress,” it only applies to the federal government and not the states until the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868.

The argument makes no sense, but far-right evangelicals never concern themselves with reason. After all, this is the same person who claims that the Bible requires an orca at SeaWorld to be stoned to death because the animal caused the death of its trainer.

The last piece of craziness in this week’s column comes from Southern Baptist leader Richard Land who wrote that “the best option” for unmarried mothers is giving up their children for adoption. “A single mother who keeps her baby is quite often denying that baby the father that God wants for that baby, and every baby, to have,” Land argued. He said he knew there are 100,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. but still wants 11 million single mothers to give up their 20 million children.

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