Nel's New Day

January 6, 2019

Christians Lead the Way to Making DDT King

Day 16 of the government shutdown: On the day that the debacle caused by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ties for the third-longest shutdown in history, U.S. lawmakers on the Mexico border are rejecting DDT’s wall in favor of technology and staffing at legal ports of entry for improved security and crossing times. DDT offered $400 million for these purposes but still demands $5 billion for his wall.

Part of Mike Pence’s job as vice president is to swear in newly-elected senators, and the far-right Christian evangelist is the first VP to swear in an openly pagan and bisexual person for the chamber. Even more horrifying for Christian conservatives was Kyrsten Sinema’s use of the Constitution for her swearing in. When she saw the photo marking for “spouse,” Sinema asked, “Can we get a spouse?”

People who think that the Constitution begins with the Second Amendment—skipping freedom of press, religion, assembly, etc—were resentful when they thought Rashida Tlaib, the new representative from Michigan, who they claimed was sworn into office on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. One person wrote a concern that Muslims will “both receive a security clearance given to congress members.” Another one sputtered in a tweet:

“This is a disgrace of epic proportions. It is also unlawful. I am disgusted for every soldier who ever gave their life to protect our Constitution!!! I feel sick.”

Not much has changed since the fury of then Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) carrying the same Koran during his swearing when he became the first Muslim in Congress.

Representatives, unlike senators, simply raise their hands while swearing to support the Constitution of the United States. The House member with the longest continuous service, in the 116th Congress Don Young (R-AK) with 46 years of service, swears in the duly-elected Speaker who then swears in the other members en masse. A book of choice, whether it be a bible or koran, is used for photographs with the Speaker after the general swearing in.

Although many conservatives claims America only for Christians, Islam came to the continent in the 17th century with the West African slaves. Thomas Jefferson bought a Koran when he was 22 years old, 11 years before drafting the Declaration of Independence. He criticized Islam as well as Catholicism for “stifling free enquiry” because both religions tied religion to government, yet he supported the rights of believers. His private notes paraphrase the English philosopher John Locke’s 1689 “Letter on Toleration”:

“(He) says neither Pagan nor Mahometan (Muslim) nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”

Jefferson copied Locke’s ideas in writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

“(O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”

Drafted in 1777, the Statute became law in 1786 and thus the basis for the U.S. Constitution’s “no religious test” clause and the First Amendment.

In Jefferson’s 1821 autobiography, he affirmed that the failure to add the words “Jesus Christ” to his legislation’s preamble proved the application of his Statute to be “universal.” Therefore religious liberty and political equality cannot be exclusively Christian but protect “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.” “Universal” includes every one of every faith or non-faith.

Jefferson also welcomed the first Muslim ambassador, one from Tunis, to the White House in 1805. Because it was a time of Ramadan, Jefferson changed the time for the state dinner from 3:30 pm to be “precisely at sunset” to recognize the ambassador’s religious beliefs.

The month of Ramadan celebrates when Prophet Muhammad is believed to have first received revelations from God by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Each year, the event begins ten or eleven days earlier than the previous year, beginning on May 6 in 2019. Beginning in 1966, the White House commemorated Ramadan for two decades with an iftar dinner that broke the fast at night; DDT chose to ignore Ramadan in the first year after his inauguration.

While DDT’s supporters completely reject the Islam religion, they compare his election to the anointing of King Cyrus by God, a nonbeliever used by the faithful, as told by Mark Taylor, a former firefighter in The Trump Prophecy. Evangelical author Lance Wallnau, also in the film, said, “I believe the 45th president is meant to be an Isaiah 45 Cyrus,” who will “restore the crumbling walls that separate us from cultural collapse.”

DDT’s anti-Christian and anti-democratic attitudes make him popular with Christian nationalists who claim to follow the constitution and Founding Fathers while preferring autocrats and kings. Ralph Drollinger, the White House evangelist leading Bible study groups, has made “king” into a verb, i.e., “Get ready to king in our future lives.” DDT follows King Cyrus by making himself above the law, for example his most recent claim that he will build the wall with no authority from Congress. DDT’s evangelical followers also want only a king—no queens. Drollinger maintains that the Bible allows only “male leadership.” Even people who question his sexual language and behavior think that he’s a miracle sent from Heaven to lead the United States to God. To them, resisting DDT is resisting God. The current leading Christian movement in the U.S. today is unbending, authoritarian, patriarchal, and paranoid; it is an attack on democracy.

A sample of the far-right Christian sects and movements supporting DDT:

POTUS Shield: Televangelist Frank Amedia, leader of these self-described “warriors, worshippers, and watchmen,” insists that God visited him before DDT’s inauguration to ask him for a protective shield of prayer around DDT because he was sent to create a Christian fundamentalist takeover of the government. Members are Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, and Lou Engle, promoter of the Ugandan “kill the gays” bill—among other hate policies. One of their goals is doing away with Islam.

People of Praise: Predominantly Catholic, the group incorporates Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, and requires members to swear an oath of loyalty to the group. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sits on the 7th Circuit Court and on DDT’s short list for a Supreme Court justice appointment, belongs to this group believing that women must submit to male authority. The terms “handmaid” and “handmaiden” to describe women are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, popularized in the 1990 film and 2017/2018 television series.

Quiverfull: This movement within fundamentalist Protestant Christianity claims that preventing a pregnancy is a sin and that all contraceptives are tools of the Devil. Christian wives, who must be submissive to their husbands, should have as many children as possible. Author Nancy Campbell called the womb a “weapon against Satan.” Kathryn Joyce wrote:

“If just eight million American Christians began supplying more ‘arrows for the war’ by having six children or more, they propose that the Christian Right ranks could rise to 550 million within a century.”

Wives are not allowed to have bank accounts or email addresses with their husbands’ permission, and they are to be always sexually available to their husbands.

Project Blitz: This coalition of Christian fundamentalist activists floods state legislatures with bills promoting a theocracy with the hope that a few may succeed in passing. Model bills come from the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) playbook under the guise of “religious freedom.” Five states have passed “In God We Trust” bills mandating that the phrase be on public buildings, schools, and public vehicles include police cars. Other bills could provide proclamations that move religious teachings into schools through something like a Christian heritage week, followed by anti-LGBTQ bills to promote “biblical values concerning marriage and sexuality.” Christians are to rule the United States with their far-right vision, according to Project Blitz; all other people are second-class citizens.

WallBuilders: Founder David Barton, also active in Project Blitz, is a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party and director of Keep the Promise PAC that supported Sen. Ted Cruz’ 2016 presidential campaign. A history revisionist, he teaches that separation of church and state is unconstitutional and that the government should be based on strict biblical law.  Barton has advised Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, and Mike Huckabee and regularly appeared on Glenn Beck’s Founders Fridays radio broadcasts. God established national borders, according to Barton, who opposes any immigration. In 2010, he tried to keep Martin Luther King, Jr. from Texas textbooks because “only majorities can expand political rights.”

Through the National Prayer Breakfast, far-right Christians connected with Russia to maintain the GOP leadership of the United States. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, explained the background for the National Prayer Breakfast and its connection to Russia:

“It’s run by a private, sectarian, fundamentalist organization called The Fellowship and The Family that believes in precisely this kind of action. In fact, the long-time leader of the organization has called it quiet diplomacy, back channel, back door interactions between international leaders, that they use the prayer breakfast to bring them together. As recently as a year ago, the current leader, Doug Burleigh, was predicting alliance between [President Donald] Trump and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He predicted that at a Russian prayer breakfast.”

Russian Maria Butina, recently admitted to being a Russian spy, allegedly sought to influence U.S. officials not only through organizations such as the National Rifle Association, but also by exploiting the National Prayer Breakfast. Butina was denied entry into the United States until the NRA pushed through a visa for her. The affidavit stated that she intended to use the prayer breakfast to “establish a back channel of communications” between influential Russians in the U.S. with power U.S. citizens. This year, the Breakfast had the biggest group of any country. One of the Russians formally invited was sanctioned two months after the prayer breakfast.

Christian evangelicals are leaders of the movement to involve Russia in making DDT king of the United States with his support from Pence and the GOP base.

December 25, 2018

DDT’s Version of ‘Merry Christmas’

Day Four of Government Shutdown: Retroactive pay doesn’t mean anything for small businesses when people stop spending for the holidays out of fear that paychecks will not be coming for a long time. No more perks like manicures or more presents. After Christmas, forget sales for clothes and other things that people load up on at the sales. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) says he won’t stop the shutdown until he gets his money. Sounds like blackmail on Christmas Day.

DDT wants people to say “Merry Christmas,” but he debunked Santa Claus to a seven-year-old girl when she called to check on Santa’s progress on NORAD. When DDT answered the phone, he asked While answering telephone calls from children tracking Santa’s progress on NORAD, DDT asked Collman Lloyd of Lexington (SC) if she is “still a believer in Santa Claus.” After she said yes, DDT said, “Because at 7 that’s marginal, right?” Fortunately, Collman doesn’t know the meaning of “marginal,” and she still believes in Santa because the milk and cookies left for him overnight disappeared. DDT, who threw rocks at other toddlers in play pens before he was three years old, just shot down Santa Claus for a lot of people.

The day before DDT tried to burst Collman’s bubble, he moaned on his Twitter account:

 “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security.” [DDT’s version of “all alone.]

Earlier this year, DDT turned down $25 billion in border security, but he claims that “the wall is different” and that it “will be built with shutdown money plus funds already in hand.” He’s missed the fact that the shutdown costs money; it doesn’t increase funding. And that’s just part of the anger-filled, hateful tweets that he sent from the White House in the days before Christmas when he wanted to be cheered on with Mar-a-Lago members.

In several tweets, DDT scapegoated Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for his own mistakes that led to the massive drop in stock markets during December. After a disastrous week, the Dow Jones plunged another 653 points in a half-day session yesterday. Economists have been muttering about an upcoming recession for months, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, formerly king of foreclosures who didn’t let an elderly widow escape when she owed $.27, tried to block the fall. On Sunday, Mnuchin tweeted that the public has plenty of money to borrow because he talked with CEOs of six large banks. The CEOs were confused by his tweet, and the stock market had its worst Christmas Eve in history. The other major stock exchanges dropped in equally disastrous percentages, and crude oil fell over six percent to below $43 a barrel.

DDT added to the roiling market by threatening to fire Powell, his own appointment, and asking if he has the right to carry through with his threats. Mnuchin told DDT Saturday night that Mnuchin didn’t have the right to fire Powell although the law permits the president to fire a Fed board member “for cause.” Mick Mulvaney, Budget Director/acting chief of staff, said Saturday that DDT wasn’t going to fire Powell, whose term as chair ends in 2022 and board member in 2028. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that DDT’s war on the Fed has caused some of the problems:

“Investors are increasingly spooked by the president’s wrong-headed attacks on the Fed and the Treasury Secretary’s ham-handed efforts to convince everyone Trump doesn’t mean it and that everything is fine.”

Although DDT claimed today that he was happy with Mnuchin, insiders are saying that he is upset with him. Mnuchin may follow former Defense Secretary James Mattis out of the Cabinet.

Christmas 2018 is the date that DDT cut off aid for abused women. Funding for the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) stopped when DDT’s shutdown began. Women lose their resources to be safe just before the holidays, a particularly dangerous time for them.

DDT has cut off paychecks for about 800,000 federal workers as well as planning to cut food stamps from another 800,000 people. Upset because the farm bill did not have provisions to starve people, DDT has announced his own orders last week to circumvent a law passed by Congress. DDT follows the conservative argument that people who get benefits aren’t working because they are lazy. DDT’s proposed rule removes the 20-year-old states’ rights to issues waivers if unemployment is 20 percent over the national average or there are significantly fewer jobs available than people who need work. DDT’s order to remove waivers in areas of unemployment under 7 percent will be made worse with bureaucracy such as Arkansas’s Medicaid overhaul where no waivers can be issued even in places with proof of insufficient jobs. Less than ten percent of food stamp recipients qualify as “able-bodied adults without dependents,” and over half of them work or volunteer enough time for the 20-hour work rules.

The Fox network final salvo in its “war against Christmas” blended with its war on gender identity and came from Tucker Carlson’s diatribe against gingerbread people with his guest Tammy Bruce. She claimed that gingerbread men are “obviously… they’re men.” She did indicate that she couldn’t tell the gender, “because they’re also not wearing clothes. So, it’s hard to say what they are and what they’re doing and not doing.” She probably refers to the fact that gingerbread cookies lack external genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics. Carlson called on people to not participate in the “spiritual neutering” of cookies. Part of the outrage came from false news reporting that the Scottish Parliament had banned the use of the term “men” when referring to gingerbread cookies. With 30 percent of women in the Scottish Parliament building stating they had been sexually harassed, the bakery renamed their cookies in solidarity.

A true war on Christmas this year is the war by DDT and the GOP against immigrants both documented and undocumented, especially those seeking asylum. A Guatemalan child died in DHS custody early this morning, the second one in less than three weeks. The cause hasn’t been announced, but children are put in extremely cold rooms when first in custody, supposedly to kill germs, and experience limited medical screening only for scabies, lice, and chickenpox. Children sleep side-by-side on mats on the floor with only a Mylar blanket. All their belongings are removed. The facilities were built in the 1980s and 1990s to temporarily house migrant adults. The 8-year-old boy’s death went unnoted in DDT’s furious tweets. Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, has called for an investigation of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin after her death in custody on December 7, 2018 although the death was kept secret from Congress for almost a week.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during her testimony to a House hearing that DDT’s immigration policies are unchristian and that they would have blocked Jesus Christ and his family from their flight to Egypt:

“During Christmas, a time in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ—a Jesus Christ who had to flee for his life with Mary and Joseph—thank God there wasn’t a wall that stopped him from seeking refuge in Egypt.”

DDT skipped a presidential tradition on Christmas by avoiding any direct contact with military members on Christmas Day, instead addressing some service members on safe bases. He told them that drugs are flowing across the southern border, the Federal Reserve is endangering the U.S. economy, and Democrats are planning to harass him with oversight hearings. He said, “It’s a disgrace …, but other than that, I wish everybody a very merry Christmas.” Merry Christmas to you too, DDT!

On this Christmas Day, 705 days since DDT’s inauguration, I am grateful for a safe home with food and warmth. I don’t live in a war-torn area, I’m not a refugee from violence, I no longer teach where someone could come in to kill me and my students, I have health insurance—I could keep going on and on with the privileges that many of us have, even more privileges after DDT has declared war on every minority. The best gift for my Christmas Day—for my year—is that the nation may have a chance to save a small piece of its democracy. After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had two malignant nodules removed from her lung last week, she’s back at work in her room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Doctors say that that there is “no evidence of remaining disease.”

December 24, 2018

A Gift to Me from a Good Friend

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 4:46 PM
Tags:

It’s almost December at the White House, and Donald Trump orders his aides to put up a nativity scene on the lawn. They all grovel before him and begin their task.

After working for a few hours to set one up, the aides step back to look at their work.

“It looks pretty good,” says the first one.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure the boss will like it,” says the second.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, look at these three wise men. Three wise men? That sounds like Ivy League elitists to me. Plus, frankincense and myrrh? I bet these guys are Arabs. The president wouldn’t like this at all.”

The other aide agrees he has a point, so they take out the wise men and chuck them over the fence.

“Do you think it’s ready now?” says the first aide.

“Not really,” says the second one, “Look at Mary and Joseph – they’re refugees! I bet they’re bringing drugs and crime to Nazareth.”

So they take out Mary and Joseph too.

“Ok, I think we’re ready,” says the first one.

“Not yet,” says the second, “look at the baby. His parents came from Egypt just so he could be born in Nazareth? Sounds like an anchor baby to me.”

So they chuck out Jesus as well.

Proud of their work, they head back to the Oval Office to let the president know they’ve finished.

“Well?” He asks, “have you finished the most bigly tremendous decorations? We’re going to make Christmas great again.”

“Yes, Mr President. We’re sure you’ll be very happy with it. We took out the wise men, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus.”

“Well,” Trump asks, “what’s left?”

“It’s just the way we thought you’d like it sir. One jackass and a whole bunch of sheep.”

Merry Christmas!

 

December 16, 2018

‘War on Christmas’ Continues

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 7:34 PM
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The “War on Christmas” rolls on with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) a major perpetrator. He may be telling people “Merry Christmas,” but he cancelled the annual Christmas White House media event, inviting only “nice” commentators “nice”—especially Fox—to other White House holiday parties. Those are the ones who continue to shout “War on Christmas.”

Last year DDT and Melania had a gathering but made a brief appearance and didn’t pose for photographs. The guest list also avoided the inclusion of many black and LGBTQ reporters. Even Bill Clinton was willing to have his picture taken with journalists days after he was impeached. DDT’s relationship with the media has become increasingly frayed during the past year, especially after he pulled Jim Acosta’s press credentials and told the world that his business with Saudi Arabia was more important the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. journalist for the Washington Post.

In their passion about the “war on Christmas,” conservatives forgot to notify the importance of rejecting “Happy Holidays” to its own religious right group Heritage Foundation. Although that political organization has typically used the winter holidays as a wedge against inclusiveness, this year’s gifts fail to represent their battle.

Conservatives—who don’t care about climate change killing polar bears—are up in arms against Starbucks for their sugar cookies decorated as polar bears. The major problem with their complaint is that the cookies disappeared eight years ago.

In Elkhorn (NE), Manchester Elementary principal Jennifer Sinclair banned a long list of Christmas traditions, including candy canes. She wrote, “Historically, the shape [of the candy cane] is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.” Her order has been reversed, and the principal is on administrative leave. Because of a high level of “concerns,” a police officer has been posted at the school.

Other signs of the GOP/DDT war on Christmas:

  • Gassing asylum seekers trying to legally come into the United States from Mexico.
  • Separating children from parents, especially with no intent to return them, and imprisoning them.
  • Killing civilians, including those in schools and hospitals, throughout the Middle East.
  • Refusing health care for low-income people after denying them a living wage.
  • Destroying the planet through ignoring renewable energy sources.
  • Depleting the world’s resources to make the wealthiest people wealthier.
  • Building white supremacy over minorities.
  • Insisting on war to build corporate profits.
  • Making dangerous decisions about the economy.
  • Putting unqualified conservative bigots on federal courts.
  • Removing women’s and voting rights.
  • Rigging elections and winning them by fraud to achieve the above.

The Vatican is also having a problem this Christmas season. Pope Francis has removed two cardinals from the Council, his international advice body, for alleged sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell, still the Vatican treasurer, will be on trial on sexual abuse charges in Australia, and Chile’s Francisco Javier Errazuriz has been accused of covering up child abuse while Archbishop of Santiago. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 79, also resigned from the Council leaving only six in the group. There are no plans to immediately the empty seats.

DDT’s firm Christian evangelical beliefs did not extend to reciting the Apostles’ Creed at the funeral of George H.W. Bush. He and Melania stood in stone silence while three former presidents—Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—participated in the service with their wives.

Over a month after the midterm elections, the Democrats still have no intention to “slaughter” tens of thousands of Christians, as Christian broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles warned if the Dems win. He pronounced that “they hate God. These people are against God. Every nation that has been taken over by Marxist-communists, they immediately kill the pastors. They immediately kill Christians. They immediately burn the churches.” He’s also maintained that MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, an out lesbian, will lead a coup against DDT.

“Be prepared for a mob—a leftist mob—to tear down the gates, the fence at the White House and to go into the White House and to drag him out with his family and decapitate them on the lawn of the White House.”

Matt Shea, a Republican state representative in Washington, wants to kill all people he identifies as non-believers. In his “Biblical Basis for War,” he follows “Dominionism,” also advocated by Ted Cruz’s father, that describes God as a “warrior” and demands that his holy war “kill all males” who do not submit to the document’s rules. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who gave the material to the FBI, described Shea’s document as “a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement and the Redoubt movement of the 1990s.” Shea won his sixth term in 2018 with 58 percent of the vote.

Conservative pastor E.W. Jackson maintains that he isn’t Islamaphobic, he is horrified that two Muslim women may be able to wear their hijabs on the floor of the U.S. House starting in January 2019. “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,” Jackson said. “We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that.”

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted:

“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America… And you’re gonna have to just deal 😂”

The ban stating “every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House” began in 1837 to break tradition with members of the British House of Commons who were required to wear hats in order to speak. The House of Commons continued its tradition until 1998; the Senate has no rule regarding head coverings.

Jackson, who lost a GOP Virginia primary for Senate in May said:

“Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the First Amendment, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. Period. I’m not doing it.”

DDT plans to leave for a two-week vacation at the end of the week. Isolated at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, he will have lots of time for more vicious tweets about the media and his opponents with little monitoring to help him be more rational.

Merry Christmas!

December 9, 2018

‘War on Christmas’ Returns

Thanksgiving is over, and the stores have filled with winter holiday decorations. Time for the “War on Christmas.” Fox network Sean Hannity opened his salvos in the war in all caps warning that “CHRISTMAS IS UNDER SIEGE.” He went far beyond protesting a greeting of “Happy Holidays” or a lack of Christmas items in retail stores to lambast a Massachusetts church that used a figure of baby Jesus in the Nativity scene behind a fence, pointing out what would have happened 2,000 years ago if the family faced the same problems as current refugees. Church leaders hoped that the display “will provoke conversations about how immigrants are being treated at the U.S.-Mexico border, including the controversial separation of children from their parents.”

Hannity warned his audience that they might not want their children to see an image of a doll in a cage although he lacked similar reservations about showing photographs of real children in cages. Laura Ingraham continued the barrage on her show after Hannity, and her guest, Dan Bongino finished Ingraham’s segment by exclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends mess with baby Jesus!” Earlier this year, Ingraham called the separation of migrant children from their parents as a summer camp.

On Christmas Day, white right-wing Christians join others in celebrating the birth of Jesus, a Palestinian, while they celebrate the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Israelites. He came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee in the northern territory of Palestine and spoke Aramic. Israelites began the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians in 1000 BCE, a process that is continued in current times. One story of Jesus’s birth describes the family’s flight as refugees from the genocidal infanticide of King Herod.

More than 100 migrant children continue to be separated from their parents seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border after last summer’s purge and remain in custody, sometimes in abusive situations. Despite DDT’s claim that he has stopped separating families, any vague or unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing of minor violations against parents are currently used to resume the separation process as a deterrent to asylum seekers. DOJ asserts that a court order does not require them to report these new separations to the ACLU.

Bill O’Reilly, gone from the Fox network because of expensive consequences for his sexual misconduct, brought the “war on Christmas” to media’s forefront in 2005. Chauncey DeVega, politics staff writer for Salon, theorizes about reasons for conservatives’ obsession with the subject. A half-century ago, history Richard Hofstadter pointed out that the conservative movement employ emotional appeals for manipulation and control of political power of its anti-intellectual audience who are prone to belief in conspiracy theory that lack any factual basis. The GOP and conservative control of the Fox network content provide effective state propaganda that conditions viewers to believe falsehoods.

Conservatives use their form of Christianity to weaponize religion by falsely purporting that liberals, gays, Muslims, atheists, “secularists,” and any other “enemy” oppresses white Christians, the most powerful and dominant group in the United States. The “war on Christmas” comes from white identity politics designed to make white right-wing Christians control all other groups.

University of Oregon sociologist Randall Blazak, a leading expert on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement who gained his information from infiltrating neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist hate groups, discussed this movement. According to Blazak, the white working-class men have lost their picture of the American Dream through the demographic changes during the last half century which has made others more equal to them. They perceive this growing equality as a loss of status from the 1950s when white males reigned supreme.

The Tea Party, which took over Congress in 2010, holds similar false narratives to white supremacists—President Obama as the Muslim outsider, the media as “enemy of the people,” desire for Christian control of the nation—ideas that evolve into violence. White supremacists told the murderer of nine people in a black Charleston church that he couldn’t get a date because black men were taking white women, and the killer’s actions progressed from that fear. The simplistic world view for white supremacists is that if other people gain, then they are losing. It’s their job to take back the country through violence.

The simplistic view of these people is the importance of saying “Merry Christmas” to suppress the multiculturalism taking over the United States. Supporters of the “war on Christmas” concept lack the skills or refuse to develop ones to cope with social change.

Fundamentalist Christians continue to boycott stores in their “war on Christmas”: Target for allowing transgender people to use bathrooms (although the Liberty Council also complains that Target doesn’t make Christmas its main advertising focus); Barnes & Noble for losing “focus on the Reason for the season”; Burlington Coat Factory for “severe lack of Christmas advertising with biblical meaning”; and Lord & Taylor (“reindeers and Santas hide the love of the Nativity”). Nothing yet about Starbucks not putting the word “Christmas” on its cups and J. Crew for not using nativity scene clipart to sell sweaters.

In accordance with the freedom of religion laws, the Chicago chapter of the Temple of Satan put up its celebration of the holidays in the Illinois state capitol. The four-foot sculpture of a snake coiled around an outstretched arm holding an apple sits between a Christmas tree and a menorah. The plague reads “Knowledge Is the Greatest Gift.” In previous years, the building has hosted a “Festivus” pole, a fictional holiday from the TV sitcom Seinfeld. The mission of the Temple of Satan is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.”

Last year, 90 percent of people in the U.S. said they celebrate Christmas, but only 46 percent do so in a religious way—a drop of almost ten percent from 51 percent just four years earlier.

This year, Starbucks seems to have avoided the political accusation that its cups show a “war on Christmas.” Or maybe people are just tired of complaining that the cups aren’t Christmasy enough. Four lovely cups feature red stripes, red and white flames, mistletoe-like coffee cherries, and stars—all pagan designs. Lest we forget, Christmas evolved from a rowdy pagan winter celebration and was banned by the Puritans who settled America. Now it’s a patriotic holiday in which God is wrapped in the U.S. flag. And the White House celebrates it in blood red.

October 21, 2018

Why Atheism

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 7:45 PM
Tags: , , ,

Author Greta Christina has an excellent blog about questions that people ask of atheists.  Many people ask routine questions of minorities that reveal offensive assumptions or simple ignorance. They may not intend to be rude, but the inquiries may reflect a bigoted marginalization—or just bad manners. They may ask blacks if they can touch their hair or Latinx if they are in the U.S. legally. “Where do you come from” can be questions of other people of color. LGB people are asked, “How do you have sex?” and transgender people suffer even more abusive questions about biology.

Christina lists nine of these offensive questions to atheists—and provides answers.

1: “How can you be moral without believing in God?”

Answer: Atheists have the same compassion and sense of justice as Christians—or at least as Christians are characterized as having. As social animals, humans evolved with core moral values hardwired in the brain—fairness, loyalty, concern for others who are harmed. Christina asks the question of religious believers whether they would lose all sense of morality without a sense in a god. She points out that these same believers often reject some parts of their holy book while accepting other parts. How many Christians support the stoning of adulterers—for example, the man sitting in the Oval Office—or not planting different crops in the same field? God is not responsible for whether people are good. Take Pat Robertson, for example, who doesn’t mind that a U.S. reporter was killed in a Saudi embassy in Turkey and wants to sell arms to Saudi Arabia so that they can kill more people. Being moral is a fundamental part of being human; saying that it comes from fear of punishment and desire for reward insults religious believers.

2: “How do you have any meaning in your life?” Or, “Don’t you feel sad or hopeless?” Or even, “If you don’t believe in God or heaven, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

Answer: All people find joy and meaning in the same things—family, friendship, work, nature, art, learning, love, kittens, cookies. Religious believers just tack on “making my god or gods happy and getting a good deal in the afterlife.” A belief that life is finite gives it more meaning, not less, because every moment must matter.

3: “Doesn’t it take just as much/even more faith to be an atheist as it does to be a believer?”

Answer: No. Atheism is not “100% certainty that God does not exist, with no willingness to question and no room for doubt.” It means “being reasonably certain that there are no gods,” or, “having reached the provisional conclusion, based on the evidence we’ve seen and the arguments we’ve considered, that there are no gods.” The question makes the assumptions that atheists don’t bother to think about their beliefs and that people are unable to come to conclusions by evidence, reason, and thinking instead of the “faith” in believing what someone else says.

4: “Isn’t atheism just a religion?”

Answer: No. Unless a definition of “religious” is “any conclusion people come to about the world,” or, “any community organized around a shared idea.” A belief of religion that includes atheism will also include Amnesty International, the Audubon Society, heliocentrism, the acceptance of the theory of evolution, the Justin Bieber Fan Club, and the Democratic Party. Claiming atheism as a religion changes it to a “faith-based” belief, not one from rational thought.

5: “What’s the point of atheist groups? How can you have a community and a movement for something you don’t believe in?”

Answer: Back to humans being social animals. People enjoy time with others who share interests, values, and goals. Like LGBTQ people, atheists sometimes lose friend and family support, which causes the creation of other communities. Then religious believers sometimes accuse atheism as being just another religion. See #4 above.

6: “Why do you hate God?” Or, “Aren’t you just angry at God?”

Answer: People cannot be angry with something that they believe does not exist—like gods and Santa Claus. This question comes from an assumption that non-belief is insincere, an emotional trauma, and/or rebellion. It’s just non-belief by people who see the world differently from religious believers.

7: “But have you [read the Bible or some other holy book; heard about some supposed miracle; heard about a religious experience]?”

Answer: Most likely. Atheists tend to be better educated about religion and its tenets than most religious believers. Reading the Bible may have led atheists to a decision in non-belief. Religion is so pervasive that it’s impossible to ignore; religious privilege permeates the culture through the arts, economic and political life, the media—everywhere.

8: “What if you’re wrong?” Or, “Doesn’t it make logical sense to believe in God? If you believe and you’re wrong, nothing terrible happens, but if you don’t believe and you’re wrong, you could go to Hell!”

Answer: Or that if believers are wrong about Allah? Or Vishnu? Or Zeus? Or whether God is the wrathful jerk who hates gay people, or the loving god who hates homophobes? What if you’re wrong about whether God wants you to celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday? What if you’re wrong about whether God really does care about whether you eat bacon? As Homer Simpson put it, “What if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder!” Climate disasters bring out religious believers who blame anyone not supporting their personal religion. What if God isn’t personally managing nature to attack atheists, LGBTQ people, and other minorities? Religious believers who bet on their personal god or gods are betting against the thousands of other gods. Is that safe? The assumption behind this question also wants atheists to fake believe in a god against their personal intelligence and values to take on a convenient idea. Is that belief?

9: “Why are you atheists so angry?”

Answer: In Christina’s book Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, she writes that not all atheists are angry about religion—and those of us who are angry aren’t in a constant state of rage. She pointed out that some anger comes from the terrible harm being done by religion to both atheists and religious believers. The question assumes that atheists are “bitter, selfish, whiny, unhappy, because we lack joy and meaning in our lives, because we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. The people asking it seem to have never even considered the possibility that atheists are angry because we have legitimate things to be angry about.” Christina continues:

“This reflexive dismissal of our anger’s legitimacy does two things. It treats atheists as flawed, broken, incomplete. And it defangs the power of our anger. (Or it tries to, anyway.) Anger is a hugely powerful motivating force—it has been a major motivating force for every social change movement in history—and when people try to dismiss or trivialize atheists’ anger, they are, essentially, trying to take that power away.

“And finally: The people asking this question never seem to notice just how much atheist anger is directed, not at harm done to atheists, but at harm done to believers. A huge amount of our anger about religion is aimed at the oppression and brutality and misery created by religion, not in the lives of atheists, but in the lives of believers. Our anger about religion comes from compassion, from a sense of justice, from a vivid awareness of terrible damage being done in the world and a driving motivation to do something about it. Atheists aren’t angry because there’s something wrong with us. Atheists are angry because there’s something right with us. And it is messed-up beyond recognition to treat one of our greatest strengths, one of our most powerful motivating forces and one of the clearest signs of our decency, as a sign that we’re flawed or broken.”

In a recent example of religious harms, the “prayer of the day” email that Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, sent to his millions of followers begs God to elect people who will harm LGBTQ children by trying to make them straight. He wants to reinstate “conversion therapy” that causes suicidal thoughts and psychologically damaging guilt from prayer and other quack rituals.

Christina adds other questions that people shouldn’t ask atheists:

  •  “How can you believe in nothing?”
  • “Doesn’t atheism take the mystery out of life?”
  • “Even though you don’t believe, shouldn’t you bring up your children with religion?”
  • “Can you prove there isn’t a god?”
  • “Did something terrible happen to you to turn you away from religion?”
  • “Are you just doing this to rebel?”
  • “Are you just doing this so you don’t have to obey God’s rules?”
  • “If you’re atheist, why do you celebrate Christmas/ say ‘Bless you’ when people sneeze/ spend money with ‘In God We Trust’ on it/ etc.?”
  • “Have you sincerely tried to believe?”
  • “Can’t you see God everywhere around you?”
  • “Do you worship Satan?”
  • “Isn’t atheism awfully arrogant?”
  • “Can you really not conceive of anything bigger than yourself?”
  • “Why do you care what other people believe?”

She—and I—urge people to research questions that reflect dehumanization and religious privilege. And people should do the same to avoid bigotry and a sense of superiority when asking questions of other minorities.

Factoid: Ten percent of people in the United States don’t believe in God—that’s ten times as many as in 1944.

October 14, 2018

Persecuting Evangelicals Play the Victim Card

Evangelical Christians are expressing their dismay with the “grotesque caricature” of their faith as they worship Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), a viciously cruel man who ridiculed the victim of sexual assault so that he could “win” and has a long history himself of sexual assaults, even during his three marriages. At a meeting on the campus of conservative Wheaton College, leader Doug Birdsall lamented that the term “evangelical” has negative associations, including its connection with racism and white supremacy. He would like to see the term used for “a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus’ work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.” Instead, “evangelical” refers to a selfish, power-hungry political movement that takes the side of the devil to be victorious.

In 2008, John McCain described evangelicalism as “agents of intolerance,” and that image has only worsened in the past decade as 80 percent of self-identified evangelical voters support DDT. Thus the image has become the reality as this 80 percent overlook any of DDT’s sins for political expediency. Little has changed since Jerry Falwell’s time of the Moral Majority that was also devoted to political control; it’s just become far more obvious—a distressing position for evangelicals who want people to think that they are Christians, i.e., “like Christ.” Following the Bible, evangelicals concentrate not only on caring for the poor and oppressed but focusing on the Old Testament’s calculating self-centeredness and self-preservation despite evangelicals’ anti-Semitism.

While evangelicals fight their representation at the same time clinging to its manifestation, they falsely play the victim. In a recent survey, white evangelical Christians in the U.S. see themselves experiencing more discrimination that Jews, Muslims, atheists, Latinx, and blacks. No one is burning their churches, beating them up, and taking away their rights, but they claim victimization. Their churches and wealthy leaders aren’t taxed, they get federal funding for Christian schools and repairs of churches, and they control of politics, yet they claim to be victims. At the same time, unarmed black youth are killed, LGBTQ people are exempted from jobs and housing, women are denied reproductive rights, Muslims are physically persecuted, Latinx legally in the country are being deported—the list goes on and on.

Alan Nobel, professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, writes about privileged evangelicals using the Bible to support their persecution complex of victimization. From the beginning of Christianity, believers emulated themselves as persecuted, just like Jesus was, in their glorification of suffering caused by outsiders. The victimized evangelicals operate just as DDT does in bullying others. One young man was told how to behave if he caused a car accident. He should immediately yell at the other person to put them on the defensive. “Maybe the police will believe you,” the young man’s father told him. Republicans falsely attack everyone in their craving for control.

Those who present themselves as being wronged can never see that they are also committing wrongs. They also stop the ability to improve situations by becoming helpless victims. Evangelicals who believe themselves to be victims cannot accept that they strike out at others first; instead they believe only that their faith causes any hardships they face, expecting persecution whether it doesn’t exist.

Evangelicals also get assistance from their belief in an all-powerful God, typically blaming a population such as the LGBTQ community, for all disasters—9/11, hurricanes, etc. The latest blame-game came after Hurricane Michael’s devastation across five states from the Florida panhandle to Virginia. To blame this time, according to Christian “prophet” Mark Taylor, are the Democrats, who are so powerful that they created this destruction because Kavanaugh is now on the Supreme Court.

A semi-secret evangelical society, the Council for National Policy (CNP), are hoping that Kavanaugh will reduce their imaginary persecution by achieving their goal of a theocracy and protect the “religious liberties” that they think is under attack in schools. Members at the celebratory even included Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas; recently retired U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley; former senator and former president of the Heritage Foundation, Jim DeMint; pollster and man who teaches Republicans to twist words to their benefit, Frank Luntz; and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), striver for House Speaker who allegedly did not report the sexual molestation of athletes at Ohio State University.

A new film, Trump Prophecy, is pumping up DDT’s religious image in an adaption of a book co-authored by Mark Taylor, who claimed that he received the message from God in 2011 that the presidency is divinely ordained. The movement, called Independent Network Charismatic (INC) Christianity, believes that anyone who condemns DDT and his election are Satan’s servants. Its leaders, called “apostles,” are popular independent religious entrepreneurs with close ties to such politicians as Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry. INC seeks “to bring heaven or God’s intended perfect society to Earth by placing ‘kingdom-minded people’ in powerful positions at the top of all sectors of society.” DDT has cited Norman Vincent Peale, who believes in pro-Christian nationalism (aka white supremacy) and the INC beliefs, as his “major religious influence.”

INC is patterned after the 19th-century New Thought movement that led to the prosperity gospel—religious faith leads to material wealth. The popularity of evangelical Christianity developed when immigrants caused Protestants to lose their control over schools and ability to teach religion in taxpayer public institutions. They tried to institute an amendment proposed during the Civil War to put evangelical Protestant language in the U.S. Constitution, including references to God and Jesus while declaring the Bible “the supreme rule for the conduct of nations.” Like Jeff Sessions, Justice William Strong wanted public acceptance of evangelical Christianity and warned that the Constitution must be made “explicitly Christian” to keep his religion from being “obliterated.”

Fortunately, Strong was opposed by the minister Washington Gladden, religious editor of the New York Independent. Although the publication was evangelical, it did not endorse government support of the religion and argued for “equal footing” instead of special protection. Gladden wrote that a religion that need government protection had no right to exist:

“If our Christianity is of such a flimsy texture that nothing but a constitutional amendment will save it, the sooner it is obliterated the better for the land.”

When Christian leaders began to understand that support for the amendment was a sign of weak faith, they refused to back the Christian amendment. They began to understand that demands for special treatment were averse to both U.S. and Christian values. The United States will be destroyed if a group with this belief does not oppose the evangelical control of the federal government.

Evangelicals may be of help to keep democracy: evangelical Christians who oppose DDT are on a cross-country bus tour to break the GOP control of Congress in the upcoming election. Believing that GOP legislators fail to advocate for Christian values, the “Vote Common Good” bus tour is headed for over 30 congressional districts in 14 Midwestern and Southern states with the hope that Democrats can unseat GOP incumbents. Minneapolis pastor Doug Pagitt said:

“What we’re doing is trying to give courage to people whose hearts are already opened, whose beliefs have already shifted, to say that they can vote and act according to their own beliefs.”

Participants compare the rallies to “revival” meetings with Christian authors, ministers, and activists. They preach voting for issues of concern to Christians such as immigration, health care poverty, and care for the environment. Vote Common Good website encourages people to vote “with religious, racial, and gender minorities” and against policies and politicians who “promise special privileges for any religion, including our own.” Arkansas pastor Robb Ryerse said that he thinks “people are more important than party.” The organization’s support for the Democratic Party is tied to this year’s goal—to shift congressional power away from the GOP as “a reaction to the policies, actions, and tone of the Trump administration and Congress in recent years.”

Nuns on the Bus is also holding rallies during the month of October. I wish both of these efforts luck in overturning the movement to ignore Christian teachings.

September 16, 2018

Sexual Abuse: Religion Wants Silence

Pope Francis wants silence about the Catholic Church’s leaders sexually abusing members, but more information about the epidemic is pouring into the media. New York has issued subpoenas against the state’s eight dioceses, and New Jersey created a task force to investigate allegations of clergy sexually abusing minors and any attempts of the church to hide the abuse. In charge of the New York investigation, the state’s AG Barbara Dale Underwood also encouraged the state legislature to pass the Child Victims Act that would permit civil suits until victims are 50 years old and seek criminal charges against abusers until age 28. Pennsylvania prosecutors who recently concluded that 300 priests in the state had sexually abused over 1,000 children during the past 70 years. New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri have already started investigations or inquiries.

In West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, whose diocese covers the entire state, resigned after allegations of sexually harassing adults. Bransfield is a close associate of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick who left his position after allegedly molesting an altar boy and coercing seminary students to sleep in his bed. McCarrick was elevated to cardinal despite warnings over many years.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington since 2006, told his parishioners that he is leaving because of poor judgment when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania investigators named Wuerl over 200 times in its report about the systemic abuse of more than 1,000 children by over 300 priests when bishops and other church officials concealed crimes and protected predatory priests. Wuerl allowed an accused abuser to stay in his ministry and banned victims from speaking during a settlement agreement.

The bishop of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone, has thus far ignored calls for his resignation after an investigation from a local radio station revealed he kept priests in ministry who might be threats to children. When Malone pretended transparency and released the names of priests accused of abuse, he omitted dozens of names.

Four U.S. cardinals went to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the problems of Catholic leaders’ sexual assault. One, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, has been accused of knowing about a priest’s sexual abuse and allowed him to remain in his ministry. DiNardo had appointed the priest, arrested last week on charges of indecency with children, to a leadership role as episcopal vicar for Hispanics after he met with accusers at two separate times.

Knowledge about sex abuse by Catholic Church leaders has erupted around the world with revelations of abuse and cover-ups in Australia, Ireland, Belgium, France, Chile and other countries. A leaked report from Germany included information about 1,670 church workers—over four percent of the clergy—were involved in the abuse of 3,677 children over seven decades. Researchers said that many more cases probably existed because they were not allowed access to confidential records.

A Dutch newspaper found that 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops, and their auxiliaries are accused of covering up the sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010, four of them accused of sexually abusing children. The report stated that the church destroyed files of accused clergy.

As states ponder dealing with Catholics abusing children, the evangelicals have decided that AG Jeff Sessions’ virulent anti-LGBTQ policies and “religious liberty” discrimination aren’t enough for their approval. Fundamentalist Christians are throwing him under the ever-growing bus because he recused himself from investigation into the Russian scandal after meeting with Russians during the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Jerry Falwell Jr., is calling on DDT to fire Sessions because Sessions “really is not on the president’s team, never was.” Never mind that Sessions was the first senator to endorse DDT when he looked like a loser, agreeing with DDT’s hardline immigration policies. To Falwell and other evangelicals, the only real leader is the serial liar who attacks women.

At the “state dinner” with evangelicals, DDT told them that Democrats will “overturn everything that we’ve done … quickly and violently” if they get elected and called the election “a referendum on your religion.” To evangelicals, VP Mike Pence, the real believer, is invisible because they want power, not religion.

Evangelicals are also calling for parents to shun their LGBTQ children. “Ex-lesbian” Assemblies of God pastor Janet Boynes published an article on Charisma News, a Christian website, urging parents to refuse to meet their children’s partners and cut the children out of their life. Her solution:

“As pastors, people look to us to take the lead on showing love and hospitality, embracing those who do not know Christ…. You are willing to throw God under the bus because this is your child or loved one. What does that say to God about where your heart is?”

Last November, Ralph Shortey, an anti-LGBTQ former state senator in Oklahoma who served as DDT’s state GOP chair, was charged with felony child prostitution, child sex trafficking, and possession of child pornography. The 35-year-old father of four girls resigned from the state legislature last March after he was found in a hotel room with a 17-year-old male. Both were naked. Shortey cited his Christian beliefs as the reason that he voted against a transgender “bathroom bill” and for other anti-LGBTQ bills including a measure allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people. He pled guilty to child sex trafficking and appeared in court last week, seeking leniency. In his 14 Craigslist ads, he sought a “boy,” offered sex with his wife, and requested group sex with strangers. On the message app Kik, some with usernames referencing child pornography, Shortey wanted interaction with children, listing his background as work as church bus driver and activities with the state YMCA Youth and Government programs and the state American Legion leadership week Boys State.

In Ohio, Wesley Goodman, a GOP first-term representative and proponent of “natural behavior,” resigned the week before Shortey’s fall after Goodman engaged in sexual activity with a male visitor in his legislative office. During his campaign years earlier, a father had gone to Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, to complain after Goodman sexually fondled his son. Perkins promised action but did nothing, and Goodman won his next election because evangelicals protected the sexual predator.

Another anti-LGBTQ “Christian” minister has resigned because of sexual misconduct and “undesired physical displays of affection.” Father Eric Dudley, married and father of three, left the Tallahassee St. Peter’s Anglican Church after complaints followed by an inquiry by senior priests. Dudley had left St. John’s Episcopal Church after ten years because of the Episcopalians’ pro-LGBTQ position and founded a church associated with the Anglican Church of Uganda. He called marriage equality a “well-oiled political scheme involving the media and Hollywood” that caused people to accept bisexuality, polyamory, and identification as “any gender.”

The Mormons also failed to refer cases of sex abuse allegations after investigating missionaries and a stake president. The leaked document read, “The missionary department is reluctant to send this elder home where he may face prosecution for a felony.” When a missionary accused of sexually abusing a child in a foreign country was sent back to the U.S., the Mormon leadership “determined no action would be taken.”

These sexual predators are only a few of the people who take the moral high ground in their war to make the United States a theocracy while abusing others.

Dylan Charles writes:

“Of the world’s two major religions, one is engaged in a generations long campaign of torture and murder of non-believers, and the other is always mired in sex scandals involving child rape, pedophilia, molestation and high level cover ups.”

These authoritarian religions control behavior from fear, forcing people to follow the leaders without doubt, without evidence. These rigid patterns eliminate the opportunity for open minds and education because dogmatic religious leaders don’t permit questioning. The superiority of conservative religious leaders—usually males—is rapidly taking over the United States. The leadership in the federal government, consumed by making more money, will do anything to get their own way—cheat, lie, abuse, cover up wrong doings. The result is a class society of haves and have nots in which people constantly experience more and more abuse—physical, sexual, and emotional.

August 26, 2018

Religious Leadership, Abusive and in Control of the U.S.

The Nuns on the Bus are traveling again in October, this time from Los Angeles through 21 states with 54 events during their 27 days and aimed directly at Mar-a-Lago, where they finish with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.” For the sixth time since Sister Simone Campbell, leader of a Catholic social justice lobby, fired up her followers, the nuns plan to protest, this time the GOP tax plan just in time for people to pick their candidates at the 2018 general election. Critics of the $1.2 trillion tax cut, mostly going to the richest people and biggest corporations, point out that it increases the budget deficit and income inequality. Even worse, Republicans plan to use the tax cut’s deficit from giving money to the wealthiest Republicans to eliminate or at least reduce Social Security and Medicare.

After Pope Francis addressed a letter to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, lamenting the horrific sexual abuse by church leaders in Pennsylvania, Sister Simone spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The sister called on the pope to go beyond writing a letter and take action.

Goodman pointed out that she and the nuns, who fought for social justice, “were investigated more than any of these priests, who preyed on children and adults, seminarians as well.” “When attacked, let’s deflect it,” Sister Simone said to explain the Catholic approach toward the abuse. “We certainly see that in politics right now in our nation,” she added. Sister Simone called on “serious change” in the leadership in a church that ignores women in leadership positions.

“We have all this pious talk about how men and women are created in complementarity and all that, but then we leave women out entirely….”

Sister Simone and her small network was criticized by the Catholic church for “being a bad influence on Catholic sisters in the United States, because we worked too much on the issues of poverty.” The leadership’s focus on abortion and sexual orientation focuses its perspective on sex, “and they become the righteous judgers. And this is wrong. This is wrong.”

Asked if women should be priests, Sister Simone described the “priestly functions” that she performs and “should be acknowledged.” She also thinks that priests should be able to marry, the way that they could before 1200. At that time, a wife might be able to inherit a cathedral if she were married to a bishop. The solution was mandating celibacy.

Pope Francis’ letter promised that “no effort” will be spared to change a church culture that allows both the abuse and the conspiracy to hide it. In Ireland, where the pope is visiting, he may have trouble convincing people after his recent appointment of Philip Boyce as bishop. With only 160,000 residents, County Donegal has the worst record of sexual abuse in Ireland. Four of the 14 accused priests were convicted, including the Rev. Eugene Greene who was imprisoned for nine years after raping and molesting at least 26 boys between 1965 and 1982. Boyce refused to defrock Green in the late 1990s. Residents said that the pope’s appointment of Boyce belies his words, as Francis continues to shuffle along those who protect abusers.

In another case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Pope Francis ignored his information about Theodore Carrick by removing sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI placed on McCarrick in 2013. McCarrick, a long-time successful fundraiser for the Vatican, had been aged out of his position of Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Benedict’s sanctions limited him from leaving his residence at a seminary and performing public Mass. Francis repealed the sanctions and “continued to cover” for McCarrick, making him “his trusted counselor” who advised Francis on several bishop appointments in the United States. The Catholic Church made several settlements to McCarrick’s sexual abuse traced back 47 years, but the Church always covered for his activities until he was blocked from public ministry on June 20, 2018.

Viganò calls for Pope Francis and others involved in the coverup of McCarrick’s abuse to resign, adding that complicity of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s respective Secretary of States, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone had led to the delay of the sanctions.  Benedict had ignored both of Viganò’s memos about McCarrick from 2006 and 2008 until Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and specialist in clerical sexual abuse, sent Benedict a statement about McCarrick’s abuse. Viganò also reinforced the record of cover-up in Honduras by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and his record of cover-up in Honduras, saying the Pope “defends his man” to the “bitter end,” despite the allegations against him.

In the past three decades, the Catholic Church has paid out over $3.6 billion to settle abuse case.

During his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis largely addressed the “family” with no specifics about stopping the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor, called the pope’s remarks an “extraordinary deflection.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke about actually doing something rather than merely express regret and sadness. Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor and the director of Amnesty International Ireland, called the pope’s remarks on Saturday morning an “extraordinary deflection.” He also said that the pope’s statement that Catholics should share the shame were an “insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institution church.”

Francis received a far more lukewarm greeting than the one for John Paul II in 1979, and thousands of protesters gathered in Dublin.

More deflection came from Cardinal Raymond Burke who blamed homosexuality for the child abuse, ignoring the science that this abuse is a sexual disorder, more common in men,that has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Men have more access to boys than girls, especially in the Catholic Church where women have few leadership responsibilities.

High profile U.S. Catholics such as Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington, canceled their trips to be with Francis in Ireland. O’Malley has been accused of concealing sexual abuse among clerics, including a 2015 report about McCarrick, and Wuerl, bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, granted reassignment and retirement requests to priests accused of sexual abuse without reporting their behavior. Current bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, claims that there are no confidentiality agreements about sexual abuse, but he offered a victim money for his children’s college tuition and some counseling in return for his silence.

A letter calling for the resignation of all U.S. bishops is gaining traction since massive reports of sexual abuse coverup; last May, Chile’s 34 bishops all resigned after a sexual abuse scandal. The letter declares:

“The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of ‘a few bad apples,’ but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill.”

The Irish Catholic Church has a long history of abusing children and women. In a Catholic program that finally ended in 1996, at least 10,000 unmarried mothers or “morally wayward” women were enslaved against their wishes in Magdalene laundries where they worked for no pay, no pension, and no social protection—sometimes for their entire lives—to wash clothes and linens for major hotel groups and the Irish armed forces. The report begins only in 1922; they may have a much longer history.

Many of the women were sent to these laundries after they gave birth in homes run by nuns, one of the most infamous in the small town of Tuam. An investigation found a number of tiny skeletons on the grounds after an historian raised an alarm, who reported that almost 800 children, mistreated at the home are buried there. Her evidence comes from 800 death certificates found at the home, some of them with malnutrition as the cause, but records of only four burials. Conservative Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, ranted against any accusations against Catholic abuse, but Ireland has failed to continue its investigations after discovering the first 35 skeletons. Children who lived were all sent off to foster families.

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as Supreme Court justice, Catholicism will continue to dominate the high court with two-thirds constituency. Meanwhile, DDT is packing the other courts and the government agencies with radical fundamental Christians—almost all male and many of them also abusers. Running the U.S. House are a Catholic and a fundamentalist Christian—both male. Over 45 percent of Congress is Catholic—twice as many as the Catholic percentage in the U.S. Over half the U.S. population is female, but only 20 percent of Congress are women.

Most conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians don’t object to DDT’s sexual misconduct, cruelty, lies, and illegal activity. Until the conservative religious and male control of the United States changes, the nation will continue to be run by people who are obsessed with sex and have no interest in social justice.

August 19, 2018

DOJ Protects Discrimination, Sexual Assault by Christians

Hypocritical evangelist Franklin Graham brought his religion that supports sexual assault and serial lying to Oregon in an attack on Gov. Kate Brown in an address to 12,000 people in Canby (OR). Because Brown practices yoga, an exercise used for health and relaxation, Graham accused her of not being a Christian and called on the crowd to pray for her to “come to know your son Jesus Christ as her lord and savior.” Graham’s speech, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” claimed that “secularism and communism are one and the same.”

[According to Christian thought, the sins of Sodom are gang rape, violence, inhospitality, pride, arrogance, inhospitality, and failure to help the poor and needy—not exercise. Note Matthew 6:1 – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”]

Following Graham’s determination to make the United States a mandated Christian nation, AG Jeff Sessions has created a “Religious Liberty Task Force” to enforce his mandate that federal agencies take the broadest possible interpretation of Christian “liberty,” which he calls “religious liberty.” Sessions’ action prevents the IRS from removing the tax-exempt status of churches that actively promote political candidates, prohibited by law. Grants from any agency for sex education and reproductive care will require an abstinence-only approach, workers can be denied insurance for contraception, and employers can hire only Christians.

As the number of Christians in the United States shrinks, their rights increase through their Supreme Court wins in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) and Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017), the latter forcing taxpayers to give funds to Christian churches. Last May, Sessions created a new office to watch for “any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.” In July, he tried to use the bible, Romans 13, as justification for his cruelty in separating immigrant children from their families. Sessions personal religious group, the United Methodist Church, formally censured him, including his misrepresentation of the Christian faith.

Sessions’ speech announcing his new task force emphasized the need to eradicate secularism, calling it a “dangerous movement.” He claimed that “courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law” and people can label religious groups as a “hate group,” possibly referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Christian Family Research Council that constantly lies about and attacks LGBTQ people and Muslims while it supports white nationalists. Sessions also reassured the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that he believes that they are not a hate group for their hate attacks against LGBTQ people and claimed that the DOJ does not “partner with any groups that discriminate.”

Rev. Dr. Barber said:

“The rationale that is used to say businesses ought to be able to deny an LGBT person, is the same rationale that segregationists used.”

In his announcement speech for his task force, at the DOJ “Religious Liberty Summit,” Sessions said, among other falsehoods,“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives.” Nuns had been required to sign a form refusing to include contraceptives in insurance for employees. Other accusations concerned a confirmation question to HUD Secretary Ben Carson about supporting LGBTQ rights and questions to judicial nominee Wendy Vitter about her anti-reproductive rights activism. Sessions also referred to “the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” whose case refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple was decided by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission this past June. (Phillips may be back; he has now refused to serve a transgender woman.)

Another speaker at the announcement, Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote discrimination against LGBTQ workers and same-gender couples who want to legally marry. Kurtz advocated for state-funded adoption agencies’ permission to reject prospective LGBTQ parents.

Sessions and Kurtz want to put everyone in the United States under control of Christian religion including the Catholic Church that protected over 300 leaders sexually abusing over 1,000 victims during the past 70 years— just in one state. If a secular institution were in charge, the sexual abusers “would have been arrested under the RICO federal laws [and] considered organized crime,” according to Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi. Instead, the Catholic Conference spent millions of dollars to block any legislation to protect future victims and still continues to fight laws to prevent further victimization. Sessions’ actions in his leadership of the DOJ helps protect the sexual abusers in any church.

How the Church and law officials protected sexual abusers, according to the grand jury:

  • Those with information about sexual abusers were told, “Never say ‘rape’; say ‘inappropriate contact’ or ‘boundary issues.'”
  • Fellow clergy members who investigated were ordered  to “ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations” about their colleagues, with whom they lived and worked.
  • Clergy members were sent to church-run psychiatric treatment facilities “for an appearance of integrity.”
  • A priest’s removal was explained as his being “sick” or having “nervous exhaustion.”
  • Priests who raped children were still provided with housing and living expenses.
  • If communities learned about the priests’ abuses, the clergy stayed in the priesthood but were moved new to locations where no one knew about their crimes.
  • Child sex abuse was not treated as a crime.
  • Law enforcement who learned about the abuses “simply deferred to church officials.”

Stories about protected crimes committed by Catholic priests that came out from the grand jury are horrifying:  

  • “A priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The bishop expressed his feelings in a letter—[to the priest]: ‘This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.’” The priest remained in his position.
  • The bishop in the Diocese of Erie heard a priest confess to anal and oral rape “of at least 15 boys, as young as seven years old” before he called the priest “a person of candor and sincerity,” and congratulated him on “the progress he has made” in handling his “addiction.”
  • In the Diocese of Harrisburg, a priest abusing five sisters in one family “collected samples of the girls’ urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood,” but the diocese “remained unwilling” to confront the priest after finding his “collection.
  • The Diocese of Pittsburgh dismissed a priest’s abuse because he said he was “literally seduced” by a 15-year-old boy despite his admitting to “sado-masochistic” activities with several boys; the diocese said that the sado-masochism was only “mild” and at least the priest was not “psychotic.”
  • A boy was forced to stand naked, posing like Christ on the cross, while priests took pictures and added them to a collection of child pornography that they produced and distributed on the church campus.

As horrific as these revelations are, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been known for decades—perhaps even centuries. And Catholics are not alone: the evangelical Christian churches, those now running the United States, also conceal their sexual abuse, largely with impunity. High-profile leaders such as Paige Patterson and Bill Hybels fell from their pedestals, but a decentralized church structure ignores sexual abuse. Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson said, “Sexual abuse is the most underreported thing—both in and outside the church—that exists.” A former Florida assistant state attorney, he saw dozens of sexual assault victims unprotected by church leadership and church constituents who abused members of their flock.

Tchividjian said that sexual abuse in evangelical churches is worse than that in the Catholic Church, adding that the Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers. Columnist Dan Savage found over 100 instances of youth pastors who, between 2008 and 2016, were accused of, arrested for, or convicted of sexually abusing minors in a religious setting. The tip of the iceberg, these cases are just those publicized. Wade Mullen, director of the M.Div. program at Capital Seminary & Graduate School, found 192 cases in 2016 and 2017 of leaders in an influential church or evangelical institution charged with sex crimes involving a minor, including rape, molestation, battery and child pornography —and these didn’t include those committed by other than leaders or against adults and those who weren’t charged.

Of 166 people at Bob Jones University who reported being victims of sexual abuse, the school discouraged half of them from going to the police, and one BJU official told a victim who reporting sexual abuse by his grandfather that he “tore your family apart” and “you love yourself more than you love God.”

Those who claim that sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is in the past refuse to see how religious leaders block any laws against sexual abuse in Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant. While Sessions promotes discrimination by Christians against all others, he fails to protect victims of sexual assault,many in the name of Christianity. Evangelicals who rant against consenting same-gender relationships and same-gender couples trying to adopt unwanted children should clean their own house before attacking others–but they won’t. It’s all a matter of power over others.

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