Nel's New Day

May 12, 2019

Evangelical Christians, Radical Zionists Demonstrate Sociopathic Behavior

For almost a century, evangelical Christians believed that their religion should not be involved in politics. But their growing connection with the corporations fighting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal came to a head when they found Ronald Reagan as a puppet for their takeover of the United States. The mission of fundamentalist Christians is the same as ISIS—to take rights from anyone who disagrees with them, if necessary by violence. The evangelical coalition with white supremacists means attacks on immigrants, sometimes any people of color. Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, talked about how conservative Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s with “pro-life,” only for fetuses, and opposition to LGBTQ marriage. When “theology fell to the background,” evangelical Christianity moved to hatred and abuse, emblematic of sociopathy.

According to Tim Rymel, Psychology Today listed 16 characteristics of sociopathic behaviors: “untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).”

Church leaders and followers display these sociopathic characteristics. Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue” in a callous attitude toward immigrants. Lev. 19:33-34 and Mark 12:30-31 show that caring for asylum seekers is indeed a “Bible issue.” Graham treats tragic casualties in war-torn countries where immigrants try to flee with the same heartless approach.

After the terrorist attack on a Florida gay nightclub killed over 50 people, Pastor Roger Jimenez of Sacramento’s Verity Baptist Church said:

“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is—I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”

Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, wrote a blog titled “Giving Your Child to the Devil”:

“Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.”

She quoted Matthew 10:37:

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Her blog was a justification for rejecting her gay son; she posted these comment on his wedding day.

On this spring’s National Day of Prayer, the personal pastor of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Paula White-Cain, called him a biblical prophet and declared she cast off White House demons on the same day that DDT released regulations allowing healthcare workers to deny anyone care because of personal opinions.

DDT is choosing high-level officials to put the United States under evangelical Christian control. Former AG Jeff Sessions seemed like a major danger to the nation’s First Amendment, but his proposals were minor compared to those of the new AG, Bill Barr, who believes that his duty is to enforce god’s laws. According to Barr, there is no place in the nation for the abomination of secularism. He wrote that the government must impose “a transcendent moral order with objective standards of right and wrong that flows from God’s eternal law,” an eternal law best dictated by the Vatican and taught in public schools at taxpayer’s expense. Those moral edicts do, however, permit DDT’s criminality and corruption.

As the epitome of religious fanaticism, Barr blames all problems—divorce, crime, sexually-transmitted diseases, etc.—on “the federal government’s non-stop attacks on traditional religious values.” Barr demands taxpayer-funded religious instruction in Catholicism throughout public schools and calls for legislation to promote Vatican edicts to “restrain sexual immorality,” meaning bans on homosexuality, extramarital sex, and “artificial” birth control. Equality for LGBTQ people is determental to Barr:

“[Equality] dissolves any form of moral consensus in society. There can be no consensus based on moral views in the country, only enforced neutrality.”

“Enforced neutrality” is defined by Barr as the guarantee of equal rights for all people in the United States by the U.S. Constitution. And he runs the Department of “Justice” so that he can control everyone.

In his new mandate, Pope Francis similarly ignores the needs of his people. His recent church law requires clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups to be reported to church authorities, some of whom are the abusers, but not to the police. It’s a system that’s failed for centuries. Only a few bishops and religious superiors, accountable only to the pope, have been sanctioned or removed for sex abuse or cover-up. Theodore McCarrick, an example of how the pope’s new law can be corrupted, rose to the top of Catholic hierarchy while the Vatican received credible allegations of sexual misconduct with adults against him. He was defrocked only after the discovery that he also sexually abused minors.

The young man who shot and killed one person and wounded two others in the Poway (CA) synagogue was an evangelical who wanted to glorify God. He was a member of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church created to counter the mainstream Presbyterian denomination, and his father was an elder in the church. The young man’s manifesto delivered “a frighteningly clear articulation of Christian theology,” according to a pastor in another evangelical denomination sharing beliefs with the Escondido church who said that the shooter was following much of what he was told in his church.

Sociopathic behavior among religious people isn’t limited to evangelical Christians. Like many Christians, Zionism, the radical political arm of the Jewish religion, has gone overboard in victimization if they don’t get everything they want. All Palestinian support is anti-Semitic, according to Zionists who have pushed people into sending death threats to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after DDT gave Palestinian and Syrian land to Israel and U.S. Jews swore their first allegiance to Israel instead of the U.S. Even Democrats damned Omar for talking about the “Benjamins” that support Israeli interests in U.S. lawmaking, but hardliner Israeli supporter do exactly that when they declare taking over other countries’ lands is their biblical right. Republicans’ attempt at a resolution against hate speech was restricted only to anti-Semitism.

A high level of sociopathic behavior exhibited  in the 2016 election only increased since then. Once upon a time, James Dobson said that “character does matter” when he referred to Bill Clinton. Regarding his strong support for DDT, Dobson said, “I’m not under any illusions that he is an outstanding moral example. It’s a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief.”

One megachurch evangelical pastor, Dave Gass, decided to leave his church and dump his Christian faith because “the supernatural interactions between the deity of the Bible and mankind sounded like ancient mythology.” He added that his Christian belief didn’t help or save his marriage, “a sham and a constant source of pain for me.” In another tweet, he wrote that “church people are just sh*tty to each other.” He concluded:

“This massive cognitive dissonance—my beliefs not matching with reality—created a separation between my head and my heart. I was gas lighting myself to stay in the faith. Eventually I could not maintain the facade anymore, I started to have mental and emotional breaks. My internal stress started to show in physical symptoms. Being a pastor—a professional Christian—was killing me.”

Gass observed that people who strive to be in the evangelical leadership are the problem because they treat their church and religion as their “small kingdom for personal control and ego.” According to Gass, people who have nothing to do with Christianity have a better understanding on being good Christians.

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.

April 22, 2019

Judaism v. Zionism

One of the most sensitive topics in politics these days—other than Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—is Zionism. Despite his anti-Semitic ideology during his campaign, DDT now loves Israel, probably because the newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps farther right that DDT is. Republicans grab at any issue that they can use to criticize Democrats. Evangelicals want Israelis to control large swaths of land so that Jesus will have a big place to land during the rapture to save fundamentalist Christians. Some Democrats support Israel’s taking over Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Carolyn Karcher, author of Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, tries to unravel the difference between a religion and a political interest group. She points out that “ethical precepts lie at the heart of Judaism: pursue justice, love the stranger, love your neighbor and repair the world.” Zionist policy violates all these teachings. The new Basic Law, passed by Israel, calls for the nation-state of only Jewish people in the country and gives the indigenous Palestinians no rights.

Zionism’s main founder Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew, created a version of a settler colonial movement in the 19th century not as a religious group, but a separatist political society that excluded all non-Jews. Zionism has developed into a nationalist organization with the same approach as white nationalism, comparable to persecuted Puritans seeking a place where they could rule. Having left England for America in the 17th century, they dispossessed and killed the indigenous peoples with no ethical concerns. In both cases, one group of people elevated themselves over another and then tried to eradicate considered a sub-group.

Younger Jews are protesting this Israeli position of domination. Members of one group, “If Not Now,” were thrown out of Israel because of their difficult questions about birthrights in the Israeli-Palestinian region. Others in Jewish Voice for Peace started the “Return the Birthright” campaign with the claim that Palestinians as indigenous people have a birthright to the land.

Karcher states that questioning birthright and Israel can lead to “revitalizing Judaism and redefining Jewish identity that does not depend on identifying with a Jewish state, and that does not depend on claiming a right to a land that you were not born in and have no real connection to.” Like the philosophy of democracy, she espouses all people having the same rights and the same access to economic and political rights.

From another writer and Jewish voice, Michelle Goldberg, comes this column, “Zionists Deserve Free Speech”:

The Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was supposed to be on a speaking tour of the United States this week, with stops at N.Y.U.’s Washington campus and at Harvard. He was going to attend his daughter’s wedding in Texas. I had plans to interview him for “The Argument,” the debate podcast that I co-host, about B.D.S., the controversial campaign to make Israel pay an economic and cultural price for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Yet when Barghouti, a permanent resident of Israel, showed up for his flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport last week, he was informed that the United States was denying him entry. When I spoke to him on Sunday, he still didn’t know exactly why the country where he went to college and lived for many years wasn’t letting him in, but he assumed it was because of his political views. If that’s the case, Barghouti said, it was the first time someone has been barred from America for B.D.S. advocacy. He has proceeded with his public events, but he’s been appearing at them via Skype.

In recent years, the American right has presented itself as a champion of free expression. Conservatives are constantly bemoaning a censorious campus climate that stigmatizes their ideas; last month, Donald Trump signed an executive order on campus free speech, decrying those who would keep Americans from “challenging rigid far-left ideology.” The president said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.”

If that last line is true — and, uncharacteristically for Trump, I think it is — it says something about the insecurity of Israel’s defenders. There have indeed been illiberal attempts to silence conservative voices on college campuses, but they pale beside the assault on pro-Palestinian speech, particularly speech calling for an economic boycott of Israel. Around two dozen states have laws and regulations denouncing, and in many cases penalizing, B.D.S. activities, and the Senate recently passed a bill supporting such measures. According to the American Association of University Professors, some public universities in states with such laws require speakers and other contractors to “sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse B.D.S.” It’s hard to think of comparable speech restrictions on any other subject.

What are pro-Israel forces afraid of? The B.D.S. movement doesn’t engage in or promote violence. Its leaders make an effort to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism; the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee recently demanded that a Moroccan group stop using the term “B.D.S.” in its name because it featured anti-Semitic cartoons on its Facebook page.

Barghouti couches his opposition to Zionism in the language of humanist universalism. The official position of the B.D.S. movement, he says, is that “any supremacist, exclusionary state in historic Palestine — be it a ‘Jewish state,’ an ‘Islamic state,’ or a ‘Christian state’ — would by definition conflict with international law and basic human rights principles.”

The movement is agnostic on a final dispensation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it calls for the right of Palestinian refugees — both those displaced by the creation of Israel and their descendants — to return to their familial homes, which would likely end Israel’s Jewish majority. Barghouti told me he personally believes in the creation of a single state in which Israeli Jews, as individuals, would have civil rights, but Jews as a people would not have national rights.

I’d planned to argue with him about this view, which is largely dismissive of Jewish claims on Israel, and would likely lead to oppression or worse for Israeli Jews. My guess is that many if not most Jews find such a position offensive, even frightening.

But for years now, the right has been lecturing us all about the need to listen to and debate ideas we might consider dangerous. Barghouti wants this sort of dialogue. “We’ve been dying to debate anyone on the other side,” he told me. “We would debate anyone except Israeli government officials and professional lobbyists.” A government that tries to prevent Americans from engaging with his views cannot claim a commitment to free speech.

You could argue, I suppose, that Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state should not be up for discussion. If you do, realize it’s the exact same sort of argument that certain campus leftists make when they refuse to debate people they see as racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted. Sometimes this refusal is justified, because certain ideas shouldn’t be dignified with discussion. But sometimes it just makes the people unwilling to test their ideas in public look scared.

Ultimately, Barghouti threatens Israel’s American defenders not because he’s hateful, but because he isn’t. Israel has aligned itself with the global far right. Recently re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to unilaterally annex the West Bank, which would create a single state where Jews rule over Arabs. That prospect makes it ever more difficult for Israel’s American defenders to make coherent arguments against the sort of one-state solution that Barghouti espouses. “Israel is winning the far right around the world,” Barghouti said at an N.Y.U. event last week, where the journalist Peter Beinart interviewed him remotely. But, he added, “it is losing its moral stature around the world.” American authorities may be able to quash this message on some college campuses, but it won’t stop being true.

The United States has freely sanctioned countries that violate human rights to pressure them for change. Boycott has long been an individual practice from people on both the right and left to express displeasure about positions. Yet Ilhan Omar, a U.S. representative, black woman, Muslim, and Somali refugee, has been pilloried, not only by Republicans but by her own party of Democrats, because she was brave enough to speak out against the Israeli control over the U.S. federal government.

Pressure from Israeli is causing even Democrats to punish corporations that use their constitutional right to use a boycott as a form of free speech. A bipartisan House bill opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS,” movement and gives states the legal right to punish companies choosing not to do business with Israel or Israeli-owned enterprises. In the 26 states already passing anti-BDS laws, courts in two of them, Kansas and Arizona, have declared the legislation unconstitutional. To take free speech from companies, Congress would have to remove their classification as “persons” or take away the right of real people to free speech. Meanwhile Republicans have another wedge device by equating Palestinian support and human rights with anti-Semitism.

March 25, 2019

World Condemns DDT’s Golan Heights Proclamation

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 10:22 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) turned the Middle East upside down in his efforts to get Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-elected by his order that the U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights. Netanyahu faces a difficult re-election early April especially because he could be indicted on criminal charges, in his case for corruption, and DDT decided to shore him up.

Israel seized the Golan Heights in southwestern Syria during the 1967 when a six-day war also took over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. After deliberating for six months, the UN determined that Israel would return the territories in exchange for permanent peace. Israel declared that the West Bank and Gaza would be described as “disputed” instead of “occupied,” claiming that Palestine was not a sovereign nation. Israel decided to keep a legal presence through leaving military authority in the Palestinian territory and continually encroached on the Palestinian land.

Because Egypt and Syria were not questioned as sovereigns, only Israel disputed the disposition of the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel to regain its territories in 1973. Although Israel won the war, the UN passed a ceasefire and a U.S.-led Middle East Peace Process to return Arab territories in exchange for peace. Palestine was not recognized as a legitimate representative to regain the West Bank and Gaza until 1991, and Syria continue to object legitimizing Israel’s claims. The Camp David Accords in 1979, with the agreement of Israel and Egypt, returned the Sinai to Egypt and established permanent peace in which Syria would not go to war alone. Two years later Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights despite Ronald Reagan’s rejection because of its violation of international principle blocking taking territory by force. Israel refuses to return to the 1967 lines since then because it would lose access to the Sea of Galilee which provides one-third of Israel’s fresh water.

DDT ignored this history, international law, and U.S. policy. He claimed that the Golan Heights is a security buffer against Syria, but Israel has settled 20,000 civilians and 167 businesses, including a ski resort, on this land. Jordan established permanent peace with Israel in 1994, and Syria has not waged war since 1973. Libya and Iraq no longer threaten Israel, and Hezbollah has not initiated war from Lebanon. Israel has no credible military threat from Syria’s southern border.

DDT spent his first two years trying to destroy the Palestinians. He “took Jerusalem off the table,” closed the Palestinians’ mission in Washington and America’s mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and cut off aid to Palestinian civil society and humanitarian needs. His unilateral actions, however, oppose the support for both the U.S. people and the Israeli desire for peace with Palestine. For the first time since 2012, at least half of people in the U.S. favor the establishment of an independent Palestinian state “on the West Bank and the Gaza strip,” up almost 20 percent in the past four years.  In Israel, 71 percent of the Jewish public believe that Israel’s control over the Palestinians is a moral problem, and 78 percent of Israeli Jews think that control of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria is bad for Israel. The poll also showed that 78 percent of the Jewish public and 93 percent of the Arab public in Israel agree that peace with people of other faiths is an important value in their religion, and 51 percent of the Jews and 72 percent of the Arabs agree that religious leaders representing different religions in the region should take part in making decisions related to peace.

Before State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo left for a recent trip to the Middle East, he had a teleconference press briefing to discuss “international religious freedom”—with only “faith-based media.” He refused to submit either a transcript of what was said or a list of who was included. According to one invited news outlet, all those asking questions of Pompeo were Christian or Jewish. An invitation to a secular outlet was rescinded with the explanation that they were not “faith-based.” The House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Eliot Engel (D-NY), has demanded “more information” about Pompeo’s decision to exclude all non-Judeo-Christian media and what was said.

To Pompeo, U.S. military battles in the Middle East are part of a greater war of good against evil, including the elimination of both Israel and Islam. Regarding DDT’s meeting with evangelicals about his Middle East plan, Pompeo reported that this administration will achieve peace in the Middle East and that “persons of faith [i.e., only Christians] will have something to say about the plan.” DDT’s strong support of Israel comes from his evangelical base which needs the country to start Armageddon for the return of Jesus. A greater advantage for DDT in Israel’s takeover of Palestinian land, is that Jared Kushner’s family makes money from building developments on the West Bank.

On the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pompeo compared DDT to Queen Esther, celebrated on Purim last Thursday, saying that DDT was chosen by God to save Israel from Iran. Historian Jon Meacham called Pompeo’s position “idolatry,” a hypocritical approach toward the man who “never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness …, to ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins,” according to Joe Scarborough. Pompeo was caught off guard with DDT’s tweet about Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights after Pompeo’s statement that the U.S. policy had not changed.

The position to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be re-elected likely destroys any hope for peace in the Middle East as shown by the anger reverberating throughout its countries:

Syria stated that DDT’s “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity will isolate the U.S.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released this statement: “There is no legitimacy that can override UN Security Council resolutions, the UN General Assembly or the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Lebanon said the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty “violates all the rules of international law” and “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed,” according to his spokesman. The UN spokesman is holding to the unanimous resolution by the 15-member Security Council resolution in 1981 that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the U.S. move and said that the Golan Heights are occupied Arab land.

Saudi Arabia denounced DDT’s actions with the statement that “attempts to impose fait accompli do not change the facts” and that the Golan Heights was an “occupied Syrian Arab land in accordance with the relevant international resolutions. It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region.”

Turkey called the U.N. recognition unacceptable and said it would take action against it.

The Arab League condemned the move, saying that “Trump’s recognition does not change the area’s status.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called DDT’s “persistently violating international law … displays panic of an empire in decline.”

Other criticism directed at DDT’s land grab for Israel came from the EU, UK, Germany, France, Egypt, Russia, and Venezuela.

Pleased with himself, DDT and Netanyahu smugly grin at each other, but DDT’s decision to break international law leaves the U.S. even more isolated with only Israel as support. In the UN, 130 member countries have already voted against DDT’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. DDT’s actions will exacerbate war in the Middle East. Israel no longer has leverage for peace agreements with Syria, and Syria’s President Bashar al Assad can argue that the U.S. no longer has a right in his country’s future governance. Iran and Hezbollah have justification for terrorism and military operations against Israel. Arab nations will be reluctant to oppose Islam countries to protect Israel. Russia may no longer tolerate Israeli strikes to prevent Iran’s adversarial movements, perhaps blocking Israeli’s freedom in Syria’s skies. DDT’s approval of Israeli’s takeover of Golan Heights supports not only Russia’s annexation of Crimea but also its destruction of “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Republic of Georgia. With the disregard for international law, Saudi Arabia may take over Qatar.

Will DDT declare war on the world to continue his protection of Israel?

March 3, 2019

Religion, GOP’s Desperate Hypocrisy for Control

Yesterday, I wrote about the values of Republicans who attacked Michael Cohen, former fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during testimony before the House Oversight Committee hearing. Walter Einenkel, social media editor and writer on Daily Kos, has produced a compilation of their specific values. The following are all GOP committee members who attacked Cohen’s character. Their behavior reflects their personal values:

  • Jim Jordan (R-OH): He denies the allegation of complicity in multiple sexual assaults against athletes while he was assistant coach, but the accusations are credible. The other congressional Republicans protected him.
  • Clay Higgins (R-LA): He resigned his job as an Opelousas (LA) police officer to avoid disciplinary action for using “unnecessary force on a subject during the execution of a warrant and later lied during an internal investigation.”
  • Virginia Foxx (R-NC): She claimed that she didn’t know that “tar baby” is a racial slur and that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime, but instead “a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing [hate crimes] bills.”
  • Jody Hice (R-GA): He wants to remove Muslims from any First Amendment protections with the claim that Islam is not a religion.
  • Mark Green (R-TN): He said that people should get their health care from God, not Medicaid, and his disparaging comments about Muslims and LGBTQ people are so extreme that he had to withdraw his nomination for DDT’s Secretary of the Army.
  • Paul Gosar (R-AZ): His seven siblings opposed his election and supported his opponent, perhaps because he subscribes to conspiracy theories such as Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros funded and organized the neo-Nazi movement in the U.S., including the violent rallies in Charlottesville (VA) and most recently said that climate change doesn’t exist because of “photosynthesis.” He’s the one who said, in his adult fashion, “liar, liar, pants on fire” to Cohen during the hearing.
  • Thomas Massie (R-KY): He met with Maria Butina, arrested for being a Russian spy.
  • Mark Meadows (R-NC): He lied about having a college degree and claimed that he wasn’t a racist during the hearing although he campaigned as a “birther” while President Obama was running for a second term.
  • Ralph Norman (R-SC): He pulled out a gun at a townhall meeting and left it lying on the table in front of him in violation of state law, but high-level friendly officials exonerated his actions.
  • Bob Gibbs (R-OH): He compared serving in Congress to serving in the military to wipe out his veteran opponent and sent fliers to influence the Democratic primary.
  • Glenn Grothman (R-WI): He has a long history of saying crazy things such as marriage equality should be illegal because it does a disservice to men who fought in the Civil War and college Pell Grants “discourage marriage.”
  • James Comer (R-KY): He was sued for threatening a senior state legislative staffer who reported allegations of sexual harassment to his superiors while they were both in state legislature.
  • Kelly Armstrong (R-ND): He has a history of driving infractions—a DUI conviction in 2001 that he tried to get out of and more recent citations for using a wireless communication device while driving and speeding in North Dakota.

That’s over two-thirds of the GOP members of the Oversight Committee who failed to defend DDT’s actions in exchange for smearing Cohen throughout his testimony. The other five members are new—first or second term—and standard far-right, Christianity only, gun-loving, climate deniers.

Christian Republicans elsewhere are standing up for their religion.

Some of them celebrated West Virginia GOP Day with a poster connecting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the terrorism of 9/11 because she is a Muslim. The arguments about the image in the capitol rotunda became so heated that the state House’s sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned after her anti-Muslim remark and another person was injured. Last month, a West Virginia legislator was called on to resign after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.” It’s the state that believes in freedom of religion—if the religion is Christianity.

In December 2018, a girl was bullied after her mother sued the Mercer County School District for teaching the Bible as fact.

Fundamentalist Christians have become so rigid that they think even Catholics don’t deserve religious freedom. DDT’s waiver permitting a South Carolina foster care agency to discriminate kept same-gender parents from becoming caregivers for children; now the agency is discriminating against a Catholic because of her faith. The Catholic woman was not only rejected as a foster parent but also told that she could not volunteer with the agency because it wanted only the “right type of Protestant church.” The biggest foster care agency in the state, Miracle Hill Ministries refused to work with a Jewish family in 2017. The governor rescued them with an executive order allowing the government-supported agency to discriminate, and Miracle got its federal waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services in January. This sentence in Miracle’s foster care manual may need revision:

 “In accordance with Federal and State laws and South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) policy, this agency and contracted providers for foster care and adoption services are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability.”

During the past ten years, the number of South Carolina home placements has been flat while the number of children in foster care has spiked. In addition, South Carolina law requires that foster children receive religious education “in accordance with the expressed wishes of the child’s natural parents.” The exemptions for Miracle permits it to “effectively terminate biological parents’ rights to direct their children’s religious upbringing while those children are in the care of the child-placement agency or a foster family,” according to a lawsuit. Another lawsuit is challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” law for adoption agencies.

The evangelical legal service Alliance Defending Freedom is suing on the behalf of homeless shelter Hope Center in Anchorage (AK) for the “right” to deny assistance to transgender people. The shelter wants an exemption from the city to discriminate in violation of its law and say that charities should be able to deny access if they want. Assistant municipal attorney Ryan Stuart said that the suit has not proceeded because Hope Center refused to cooperate with the investigation. Rather than being threats, transgender people are the most likely targets of physical and sexual abuse.

In his speech at last week’s conservative CPAC conference, VP Mike Pence said that “freedom of religion” is under attack, and the above examples prove that he’s right. What he wants, however, is freedom of evangelical religion to oppress all others. Pence’s religion is attacking LGBTQ rights, denying health care to people, limiting medical providers to communicating only his own non-medical beliefs, keeping children from finding good homes, rejecting scientific education for young people, in short, complete control of all people in the United States with his far-right Christian sexist, racist, homophobic beliefs.

Many times, I’m proud to live in Oregon, and this week is one of those times. The City Council for the state’s largest city, Portland, unanimously approved a measure giving civil rights protections for atheist, agnostic, and other nonreligious residents in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Madison (WI) may be the only other city in the United states with similar protections.

What a strange country where people have rights–or no rights–based on where they live.

 

February 24, 2019

More Need for Wall on Religion

At the beginning of a four-day conference regarding clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to solve the behavior of the Church’s leadership. After four days of speeches about the need for action and the “outrage of the people,” Francis closed the summit by calling for an “all-out battle” but few concrete remedies. Sometimes avoiding the purpose of the meeting, Francis larded his speech with data regarding abuse in schools, at athletic facilities, and within families, talking about the dangers of the digital world.

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes about the problems of Christians who claims to be superior to all others:

When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.

“Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” The Chronicle reported.

Leathers told me he is glad he wrote the 2002 article, even if it cost him his career. He expressed frustration at Southern Baptist priorities: The church leadership would expel a church that appointed a woman as senior pastor, even as it accepted sexual predators.

The indifference to criminal behavior is an echo of what has been unearthed in the Roman Catholic Church over the decades. The latest sickening revelations are of priests getting away with raping nuns and with assaulting deaf students.

These new scandals provoke fresh nausea at the hypocrisy of religious blowhards like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who thundered at the immorality of gay people even as their own Southern Baptist network tolerated child rape.

I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

But then conventional hierarchies asserted themselves, and women were mostly barred from religious leadership.

After The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptists have promised greater training and more background checks, but what’s needed above all is accountability and equality.

“Prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity,” Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard, told me.

Baptist women have been ready to be heard for a century. I know because my great-grandfather John Howard Shakespeare was the leader of Baptists in Britain from 1898 to 1924 and practiced his sermons on his wife. When she once insisted that she had something else to do, he locked her in an upstairs room.

My great-grandmother Amy, wearing a long dress, then climbed out an upper window and onto a tree branch, and finally clambered down the tree to the ground.

Perhaps inspired by such a strong woman, Shakespeare favored the ordination of women. “That women are not yet permitted to take their proper share in the life and work of our churches is, to our thinking, a relic of barbarism,” he wrote in 1901.

So much has changed for women since then, yet even today a majority of religious women still belong to denominations that do not ordain women. And as long as inequality is baked into faith, as long as “men of God” are unaccountable, then sexual assaults will continue.

The problem is not just wayward pastors and priests. Rather it is structural, an inequality and masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.

And, perhaps, embarrasses God.

February 17, 2019

A Wall to Protect People from Religion?

If we used the same standards for religious figures that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to use for undocumented immigrants, the United States would build a wall between the country and all churches. Another former archbishop and cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse with no chance for appeal, Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power” and “solicitation” during confession. A study completed in 2002 found almost 11,000 cases of sexual abuse by almost 5,000 priests. Far more have emerged in the past 17 years, including the uncovering of over 300 priests in just one state who abused over 1,000 children.

Catholics aren’t alone in sexual abuse by their leaders: at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced charges of sexual misconduct against over 700 victims in the past 20 years—more in Texas than any other state. The church urged many of the victims to forgive the offenders and for becoming pregnant. Sometimes churches shunned the victims. Some sexual abusers returned to their churches to preach. Southern Baptist Convention officials shielded the predators and refused any reforms.

The above are just two examples of denominations in which people are sexual abused by their religious leaders. The stories go into the tens of millions, unlike DDT’s concerns about undocumented immigrants.

The Roman Catholic diocese has exonerated the male white students from Covington (KY) who appeared to invade the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. after they attended an anti-choice March for Life. The bishop claimed that their students were being threatened can called their behavior “laudatory.” The opinion was based on online video and interviews with 43 students and 13 adult chaperones. No one from the Indigenous Peoples group was interviewed. All of them are quite pleased with themselves.

Wyoming has failed to repeal the death penalty, and state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) is grateful because Jesus also got the death penalty. Without his execution, he could not have absolved the sins of mankind. Therefore, retaining the death penalty is vital. I’m a bit confused about her logic. Does she compare all executed people to Jesus? Self-identified on her FB as “your only true Conservative, Christian, Pro-Life Candidate,” she also made this argument for her homophobia while speaking to students from Cheyenne Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance:

“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Frustrated by two Muslim women in the newly-elected House, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has accused her of being anti-Semitic because she pointed out that Israel gets its power with the U.S. government because of its donations to legislators. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is right in her claim, but she left out the money that anti-Semitic evangelicals donate to conservative legislators while lobbying them to support Israelis and destroy Palestinians. It all comes from the Christian belief that Christ must convert the Jews after he returns to Israel before the great millennium, the golden age, can begin. Thus their obsession with strengthening Israel for Jesus’s return. Eighty percent of evangelicals viewed Israel’s new state in 1948 as a vital piece of the Second Coming, and 52 percent say they support Israel because of its role in the End Times. VP Mike Pence is one of these people.

The Center for Religion and Civil Culture at the University of Southern California divides evangelical Christians into five different sects since DDT developed power:

Trump-vangelicals:  Primarily white with a few Latinx or black pastors; DDT’s base who want access to political power with the belief that God picked DDT to “make America great again.”

Neo-fundamentalists: DDT supporters who try to keep some Christian values and separate themselves from DDT’s “moral failings.”

iVangelicals: Conservative but pretend to be non-partisan; ministering in big churches to mostly white, financially well-off suburbanites.

Kingdom Christians: Separate from evangelicals but with similar beliefs; keep to smaller, urban churches, sometimes rented spaces.

Peace and justice evangelicals: The left-wing with origins in the 1973 “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” urging evangelicals away from prosperity gospel and toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows that religious fundamentalism comes from a functional impairment in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage results in diminished cognitive flexibility and openness—a loss of curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness. Religious beliefs, socially transmitted mental representations of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real, differ from empirical beliefs based on the appearance of the world and updated with new evidence and new theories. People with lesions in the prefrontal cortex rate radical political statements as more moderate than people without the damage possibly caused by brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetic profile. Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas.

Conservatism is connected with religious beliefs because they are not updated with new evidence or scientific explanations. Fixed, rigid beliefs promote predictability and rules of evidence in the person’s tribe. Religious fundamentalism discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues—anything that challenges their beliefs. People can become aggressive toward others who are perceived because they don’t share their anti-science and supernatural beliefs.

Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas. Dr. Marlene Winell, daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and a human development consultant, addresses the problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) in her counseling and in her book Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She explains that emotional and mental treatment by authoritarian religious groups causes RTS from teachings such as eternal damnation, religious punishment and guilt, and neglect when people are denied information and opportunities. Indoctrination leads to fear and anxiety, and some people suffer from nightmares and panic attacks throughout their lives. The syndrome can also cause depression, cognitive problems, and difficulty in social functioning because the core message of fundamentalist Christianity is that people are wrong and deserve to die.

To control people, fundamentalists tell them that they are weak and dependent, keeping them from making decisions because they must follow the Christian leaders. Leaving can be almost impossible because of religious shunning if people don’t conform.  Departure from a church requires a complete change of one’s self of reality and belief systems. Traumas other than RTS are built into society because of an understanding about the horrors of domestic abuse and war-related PTSD. A person needed counseling because of issues related to RTS are sent back to religion.

One of the goals for fundamentalist Christians is to block marriage equality, and seven Kansas GOP legislators are using the concept of religion to accomplish their mission. Their proposed bill would eliminate all rights for sexual minorities because being LGBTQ is “a religion that does not fulfill any compelling state interest.” They maintain that secular humanism was recognized as a religion in the 1961 unanimous Supreme Court decision when the decision merely determined that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government prohibits a religious test for public office. The legislators’ proof is that the LGBTQ community is organized and has “a daily code by which members may guide their daily lives” along with its religious symbols, i.e., a rainbow-colored flag, and the creed of “love is love”—a shibboleth to oppress those outside their denomination.

Perhaps we need a wall to protect people.

February 10, 2019

Constitutional Religious Freedom Restricted to Fundamentalist Christians

The U.S. Supreme Court just proved that “religious freedom” is only for Christians. In a 5-4 ruling (you can guess the names), Domineque Ray must die without his spiritual adviser available to give him comfort because he is a Muslim. Until this ruling, a cornerstone for the high court’s religion jurisprudence prevents the government from discriminating among faiths. Larson v. Valente (1981) determined that a Minnesota statute treating religious organizations differently violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The conservative members of the Supreme Court justified their vote by stating that Ray waited until ten days before his execution to ask for the presence of his iman. The prison warden did not deny Ray’s request to have his imam present until five days before the suit, a time when Ray went through the prison’s administrative channels for his request.

Even some conservatives disagree with this religious bigotry and agreed with Justice Elena Kagan who wrote:

“That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”

From Seth Mandel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine:

“As a conservative who opposes both the death penalty and religious discrimination I find this story appalling.”

Southern Baptist minister Alan Cross tweeted:

“Every time we want the state to favor Christianity over other religions, the result is a loss of religious freedom for all.”

In another Christian-focused government action, at least six states are using the current administrative protectorate in an attempt to legislate Bible (aka Christian) classes in public schools. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cheered on their efforts after seeing a segment on Fox & Friends. This practice was common in the 19th century but waned when the federal government took a greater part in public education in the 20th century. In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Supreme Court sided with the First Amendment to declare that states cannot use public education to promote “religious faiths or sects.” Later, the ruling of Engel v. Vitale (1962) decreed that compulsory prayer in public schools violated the constitution. Now DDT is using the Bible, about which he is largely ignorant, to club non-conservatives over the head.

Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, may have gone deaf: he said that he has never heard a lie out of DDT. DDT told at least 8,158 false or misleading claims in the two years after his inauguration. Perhaps Graham has a different sense of “objective truth,” that is “Jesus is the savior of the world and died for our sins.”

DDT does have a “spiritual adviser.” Paula White came to his reality TV show The Apprentice to pray over him, and they maintained a friendship as she became a popular televangelist. At the beginning of 2019, she asked people to send her money or face divine consequences. Her rationale for donating to her ministry was that of “first fruit,” that all firsts belong to God including the first month of a person’s salary. She said that if people didn’t donate, “I don’t know what you’re going to face.” In 2007, she was one of the subjects of Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) investigation into finances of ministries that solicit millions of dollars in donations.

In its move toward allowing laws that mandate Christian beliefs, the Supreme Court slashed reproductive rights for women in Hobby Lobby. Current Courts are now using “Justice” Clarence Thomas’ opinion in NIFLA v. Becerra, removing disclosure requirements for “crisis pregnancy centers” that block abortion, to attack laws preventing the torture and abuse of minors through “conversation therapy” that people falsely claim will make them cisgender instead of Q (sexual minority). With Thomas statement that “[free speech] is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals,” he has enshrined the position that the First Amendment protects all lies by “professionals.” In that way, the Supremes leads lower courts in their effort to strike down anti-conversion therapy laws in 15 states, 50 cities and counties, and Washington, D.C., laws supported by every mainstream medical association in the United States.

Conversion therapy is more horrific than most people can imagine. “Christian” therapists force naked children to touch their genitals while others watch, have “group cuddling sessions,” use a tennis racquet to beat effigies of their parents, and grab two oranges from the other side of a human chain while others hurl gay slurs at them. Some of the therapists are closeted gay men who force their male clients to kiss them. Conversion therapy can lead to suicide. At the very best, conversion therapy causes depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal,  substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. Therapy cannot change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almost five years ago,Thomas openly supported the ability of states to avoid the First Amendment freedom of religion and create a “state-mandated religion” in the 2014 Greece v. Galloway ruling permitting prayers at a city public meetings.

DDT’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now echoing evangelical leaders who say that God picked DDT to sit in the Oval office. Satirist Andy Borowitz picked up on Sanders’ statements in “Did God Want Trump?” [Ivy Close Images/Alamy]

“Partially confirming Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s theory of divine intervention in the 2016 election, Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and strife, revealed on Friday that she had wanted Donald J. Trump to be President.

“Speaking from her temple on Mt. Olympus, the usually reclusive deity said that Trump was ‘far and away’ her first choice to be President in 2016.

“’I’d been following his career for years,’ the goddess of disorder and ruin said. ‘The bankruptcies, the business failures. There was a lot for me to love.’

“She complained that the media had given Vladimir Putin ‘way too much credit’ for Trump’s ascent, asserting, ‘Who do you think made Putin President of Russia?’

“Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Eris said that she was officially undecided about which candidate to back for President, but that she was leaning toward Howard Schultz. ‘What a shit show that would be,’shesaid.

Has anyone else noticed the difficulty of identifying between satire and fact in the current climate?

The evangelicals may have an opponent in their support of conservatism and DDT. Like progressive Christians in the 19th century who fought to end slavery, some 21st-century Christian leaders are supporting immigration rights, universal health care, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. The coalition Faith in Public life, with almost 50,000 members, is a part of these civil rights movements.

Tara Agnew Harris, member of Myers Park Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC), believes that “Jesus talked about reaching out to the poor, reaching out to the marginalized, reaching out to the oppressed.” She said that “traditional Christian beliefs have been hijacked,” that people connect it to “a certain fundamentalist mindset.” She acts on her faith by visiting a detention center for undocumented immigrants in Lumpkin (GA).

Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life leader and an ordained Presbyterian minister, said:

“There are over a hundred verses of Scripture that say we are to welcome immigrants and welcome strangers. Faith in Public Life] is driven by our moral values and not by politics.”

Despite a smaller base among liberal Christians, Butler cites an advantage in building bridges. Religion can also bring passion to a movement as in the case of William Barber, the black North Carolina preacher who started the “Moral Majority” movement. He calls himself “an evangelical Biblicist” for a nation in need of “moral defibrillators” to work on its weak heart:

“We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all!”

Since Russians have joined the evangelicals to take over the United States, democracy needs a way to fight against the fundamentalist conservatives. At the end of 2018, hackers discovered emails and documents from Russian officials, oligarchs’ confidants, and leaders in interference effort that revealed their connections with the Bradley Foundation, a primary financier of right-wing groups including anti-immigrant organizations. Its mission is “to restore, strengthen, and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism.” In other words, to make America great again by taking away the rights of most people. Another Russian connection is with the Home School Legal Defense Association, the most influential right-wing homeschooling group in the United States. Another Russian goal with these groups is to support pro-Russian “separatists” in Ukraine so that Vladimir Putin can take over the country and move on to more of Europe. Part of their belief is also anti-Semitism and pro-fascism. Basically, the U.S. evangelicals are supporting the same philosophy that caused the rise of Adolf Hitler and led to World War II.

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.”

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