Nel's New Day

April 28, 2019

The Religions of the Right

The religious right loves guns, wants to own women’s bodies, and listens to rantings of hatred and violence from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). These leading stories are since their holy time of the Easter weekend on April 19-21:

Yesterday, a young white man killed a woman and injured another three people at a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego, because he hates Jews. The tragedy occurred on the last day of Passover and six months to the day since another gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At his rally in Green Bay (WI), DDT made a short statement against anti-Semitism and hate “which must be defeated.” Then he launched into his familiar diatribes. The FBI people who investigated him are “scum,” according to DDT. He welcomed “lock her up!” chants about Hillary Clinton—who hasn’t committed any crimes—and then lied about Democrats wanting to execute babies. He denounced the media who covered the event as “sick people.” The day before he again defended protesters at United the Right, the Charlottesville (VA) protest organized and advertised as a racist and which supremacist event. [Photo: the self-described “young, vibrant man” at his rally.]

Two days before the Poway shooting, hundreds of people admired the guns filling a football-field-size venue at the NRA convention, and DDT bragged about pulling out of the international agreement, the Arms Trade Treaty, that regulates arms sales to keep weapons from human rights abusers. Technically, the U.S. has never been in the agreement because the conservative Senate has refused to ratify it since 2013. At least 101 countries have formally agreed to the treaty, and the U.S. joins Iran, North Korea, and Syria in the 29 countries refusing to sign thus far.

Other messages sent to the NRA cult members include “the first to uphold ‘Judeo-Christian values’”; VP Mike Pence’s opposition to the Green New Deal; Sen. Ted Cruz’s (D-TX) ridicule of the Democratic primary; and DDT’s mocking presidential candidate Joe Biden. The biggest cheers came from DDT’s “building the wall” and his lies that 400 miles supposedly built “by the end of next year.”

It was on his way to speak for the fifth consecutive year at the NRA convention that DDT spoke about his being “a young, vibrant man.” The convention was as woebegone as DDT looks in this photo. A schism in the NRA led to Oliver North leaving as president after only one year and Wayne LaPierre staying on as CEO. North didn’t show up at the convention in Indianapolis, leaving LaPierre the floor to accuse North of “extortion” for threatening to release “damaging” information about him.

The NRA had spent $30.3 million for DDT’s presidential campaign, but the money may have been funneled from Russia. Now the NRA has serious financial problems plus the New York AG, Letitia James, is investigating the NRA’s tax-exempt status. Some of the organization’s related businesses have also received subpoenas. James said that the NRA claims to be “a charitable organization” when he’s really “a terrorist organization.” The NRA is chartered in New York. NRA sued its ad firm, Ackerman McQueen, claiming that it won’t turn over financial records. Ackerman was paid $40 million in just 2017. LaPierre accused North of siding with Ackerman to the alarm of some board members. Ackerman is behind NRATV, the online streaming network that annoyed some board members from straying from Second Amendment issues. The network had addressed race wars and depicted trains in the children’s show Thomas & Friends in KKK hoods.

One difficulty came from the NRA Foundation, a charity, transferring over $100 million to the NRA and lending the NRA $5 million in 2017. Unlike donations to NRA, the ones to the Foundation are tax-deductible, which makes the transfer legally questionable. The NRA also paid $18 million since 2010 to the company that produces Under Wild Skies, a hunting show on NRATV. The NRA’s advancement director had a stake in the production company for most of that time, another possible nonprofit violation. These problems could lead to the NRA’s nonprofit status being revoked. In addition, the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo questioned the NRA for insurance it offers to gun owners.

NRA members also think that leaders of the embattled gun rights group have lost their way and sense of mission. Members also complained about the NRA’s close ties to DDT. One member said to “stick to guns” and “keep your mouth shut about the wall.” Another one cancelled her membership because of the financial scandals. People might want to send IRA their “thoughts and prayers.”

Last Tuesday, the Saudis beheaded 37 citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a sectarian-driven mass execution. One of them was well-known Shia religious leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah. Thus far this year, the Saudis have killed 100 people.  At least six of the 37 killed were minors despite international law that prohibits death sentences for minors. Saudi Arabia has a pattern of executing minors.

Radical Rabbi Shloo Aviner told Jews that burning churches is acceptable if it’s in retribution for Christian actions. He claims that the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire is justified because of “the mass-burning of Talmud volumes by French Catholic priests” in 1242. “Christians must be punished,” Aviner said. The burning of the Talmud almost 800 years was triggered by Nicholas Donin, a Jewish man who converted to Christianity. Aviner doesn’t recommend burning of churches generally—“for the time being”—but in Israel “the issue is more complicated.” The targeting of homes, vehicles, and Palestinian individuals in Israel is a daily occurrence, and the website Mondoweiss notes:

“Several churches have been burnt in Israel in the last few years, and the police have been spectacularly useless in capturing the arsonists. In several cases, the arson was accompanied by slogans familiar from ‘price tag’ attacks in the West Bank (mostly along the lines of Jewish vengeance).”

Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has said that God should kill gay people, and he’s applying that ethic to presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Asked about the heckling that Buttigieg has received for being gay, Franklin responded with Leviticus 20:13:

“The Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.’ (Leviticus 20:13). That’s what God says and that settles it for me. I stand with the Word of God. I care enough about people to tell them the truth and to warn them about the judgment to come for all sin.”

The verse finishes, “They shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’”

The D.C. Circuit Court agreed with the House rules that prayers for the chamber must be “religious.” A self-described atheist is forbidden to offer a secular prayer in the House of Representatives. The judge made the decision, not against the person delivering the prayer, but against its content. The House had defended its position that the rules require “a religious invocation” from the time of former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

On the flip side, the IRS has determined that the Satanic Temple is a church. The group will have the same benefits as other religion organizations such as tax exemption and protection from discrimination. Its founder, Lucien Greaves, said, “I am following a code of ethics, having fellowship with brethren. Why can’t I be a religion?” Once called a cult, Christianity has entered mainstream religion. Benjamin Zeller, religion professor, described a letter that Pliny the Younger wrote in the second century to Emperor Trajan about Christianity at that time:

“This Roman governor is complaining about the Christians and using all this anti-cult language. He says that they have these secret gatherings, they’re stealing children from families, they’re engaged in weird sexual practices, and they’re disrupting the social order. Just replace ‘early Christians’ with whatever your current cult fear is.”

In the 19th century, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, was regarded as a con man. The church became a political movement after their establishment in Utah, and the 20th century saw them as a business. Now they’re mainstream. Protestants think that religions must have beliefs and a deity, both of which need to be taken seriously.

Maybe DDT followers and the NRA can declare themselves religions.

Careful! Jesus Christ has risen. And he’s watching.

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