Nel's New Day

February 5, 2017

DDT Aims U.S. toward Bigoted Theocracy

With 80 percent of the evangelical vote in the recent election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is paying them back for their loyalty. He nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to get anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-death with dignity rulings. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he promised to allow tax-exempt churches to promote candidates from the pulpit and engage in other political action while keeping their tax-exempt status. And he appointed Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to an educational task force for the Department of Education that will use right-wing fundamentalist Christianity in controlling higher education through eliminating regulations to keep the institutions secular.

In a bizarre appearance, DDT gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that lambasted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on The Apprentice and asked the audience to pray for the series that he produces. Then DDT proceeded to justify his ban against Muslims entering the United States by saying that  it will ensure that everyone in the U.S. will follow “our values of religious and personal liberty.” About Senate Chaplain Barry Black, DDT asked, “Is that an appointed position? I don’t even know if you’re Democrat or if you’re Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year, the hell with it.” Yup. The hell with it.

DDT used Jefferson’s language at the prayer breakfast to argue for limiting worship in the United States to Christianity and eliminating the Islam religion:

“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. . . .”

The founding father believed in the “right to worship,” not the right to take away other people’s rights.

The last fragile vestige of separation of church and state came from the Johnson Amendment from over a half century ago, but Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have introduced legislation to eliminate that law. DDT declared he would destroy the law. The proposed bill would ban religious institutions from donating to campaigns, but there can always be amendments.

Under the existing Johnson Amendment, religious groups may discuss political issues but not endorse candidates. Religious groups may spend up to 20 percent of their operating budget on political organizing and advocacy without violating their tax-exempt status. LifeWay, a religious research organization, found that 79 percent of U.S. citizens don’t believe “pastors [should] publicly endorse political candidates during a church service.”

DDT has still not overturned President Obama’s executive order that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation, but he is considering an executive order allow religious beliefs to discriminate against anyone. The basis of the drafted order:

“This Constitutional protection ensures that Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their consciences, and will remain free to express their viewpoints without suffering adverse treatment from the Federal Government.”

Although the news media has focused on the order’s effect on LGBT people, it could be disastrous for children, non-Christians, unmarried heterosexual couples, unmarried mothers, and women’s reproductive rights, including contraception and abortion—in short, permitting anyone to refuse any services for any self-declared “religious” reasons. The order could permit child abuse, domestic violence, injuries, any persecution or humiliation, and perhaps even murder. Parents could deny medical attention to their children and allow them to die.

The order would cover “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”

In addition, the order would allow any church or charitable organization  to be directly political without losing their tax exempt status if  it “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

According to the draft of the order, agencies shall faithfully discharge their duty to accommodate the religion of federal employees and shall not promulgate regulations, take actions, or enact policies that substantially burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious exercise

Asked if DDT believes that Islam is a religion, senior White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart national security editor, refused to answer. Islamphobia has run rampant at the White House: its National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, described Islam as a “cancer,” which “hides behind this notion of being a religion,” and Steve Bannon has made other inflammatory comments about the religion. Avoiding to answer this question indicates that the answer would probably be “no—Islam is not a religion” from the White House administration.

Pope Francis called out DDT on his Muslim ban, criticizing “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.” Francis explained:

“The sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian.”

The pope cited the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 which concluded, “I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

[Note: DDT’s staff must have taken away his phone again. Thus far, he has not tweeted against the pope–just the “so-called judge” who overturned his Muslim ban.]

Fundamentalist Christians are accusing progressive women of being witches if they don’t support DDT. In the past men controlled women by declaring them witches and killing them. The water test meant that they were innocent if they drowned and guilty—and then burned at the stake—if they survived. Twenty-first century men are bringing back the threat of witchcraft for uppity women who marched for our rights.

According to “prophet” Rick Joyner, any opposition to DDT is the sign of devil influence and explained that the march’s “out-of-control rage” had to be Satanic. Lance Wallnau accused the nature of “the progressive spirit” in “a desire to control and intimidate, manipulate”—just like witchcraft. Jim Bakker chimed in with his second wife, Lori, to talk to Billye Brim who explained that the march was “driven by demons” and called on her viewers to pray in order to “control the demons that were in those women.” Bakker agreed that he sensed “the most evil spirit I have ever felt” in his hotel lobby on the day of the march.

Bakker was imprisoned for several years and then divorced after his sex scandal, including an alleged rape, and accounting fraud. Jerry Falwell, Sr. called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.”

Despite the founding of the nation on religious liberty, almost one-third of people in the United States think that only Christians can be real “Americans.” Once again, the youth of the nation may save the country: 44 percent of adults over 50 find Christianity being a key whereas only 18 percent of adults younger than 35 agree.

Religion as the key to being a part of the national identity is far more prevalent than it is in other countries. Only 13 percent of Australians, 15 percent of Canadians, and 15 percent of Europeans believe that belonging in their countries is tied to the Christian religion.

In answer to another question on the poll, the same percentage of people in the U.S.—32 percent—think that people have to be born in the country to be an “American.”

Under DDT, the United States is shifting from being a “flawed democracy” to a white supremacist theocracy.

January 29, 2017

Protesters Gather over Muslim Ban

Filed under: Donald Trump,Religion — trp2011 @ 8:44 PM
Tags: , , , ,

protest-boston-copley-squareThe women’s march was only a week ago, and now thousands of protesters, such as the ones in Boston’s Copley Square above, have gathered in opposition to President Donald Trump’s (PDT) ban on Muslims coming into the United States. PDT’s order, written by white supremacist Steve Bannon, bars all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and all Muslims from seven Middle East countries for 90 days. Although PDT staffer Reince Priebus denied on Meet the Press that the ban is also on legal U.S. residents who hold green cards, these people have also been retained. The order states that they will need a case-by-case waiver to enter the country. Especially notable about the order is that is poorly written and was not vetted by any legal members of the PDT administration.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, called the ban “a dark moment in U.S. history,” citing the need for suffering people to save their lives by seeking refuge. Cupich wrote:

“The world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values. These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life. They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.”

PDT has denied that his ban has anything to do with religion:

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion.”

trumpYet PDT’s order clearly identifies that refugee claims are for “religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” All seven countries’ majority religion is Islam; thus the ban clearly favors Christian refugees and violates the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment prohibiting one religion over another. Equal protection is also covered in the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. PDT is following his campaign promise of calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and his admission that he would pretend the ban would be a neutral immigration restriction. Another argument for overturning PDT’s ban is the violation of a federal law forbidding discrimination based on national origin in the immigration system.

Within the first 23 hours of the ban, at least 375 people were impacted before U.S. District Court judge Ann M. Donnelly of Brooklyn issued an emergency order last night, halting the deportations. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of those banned, which Donnelly said is likely to succeed when a full trial is held in several weeks. Several other federal courts also issued similar stays. Rulings in four other cities are limited to those already at U.S. airports or in transit, not to the legality of PDT’s ban.

A federal judge ordered the DHS to allow an Iranian man holding a U.S. visa to return to California from Dubai where he was awaiting removal to Iran. Judge Dolly Gee found that PDT’s ban “violates the Establishment Clause, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and his rights to Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Yet many people are still in airport detention. After issuing the ban, PDT provided no guidance to airports or airlines about actions, other than confirming that the ban will not be lifted. Canadian Prime Minister has offered to take any refugees holding green cards who are banned in the U.S.

PDT counselor Kellyanne Conway, promoter of PDT’s “alternative facts” on Meet the Press a week ago, hid on the Fox network today and still had a meltdown about the horrible press that prints information about the new president. Describing reporters, she said:

“We turn the other cheek. If you are part of team Trump, you walk around with these gaping, seeping wounds every single day…. I’m here every Sunday morning. I haven’t slept in a month.”

[Turn the other cheek? Gaping wounds? A comparison to Jesus?]

Conway was fortunate in her interview: Chris Wallace failed to point out that the ban most likely violates international treaties, federal statutes, and the U.S. Constitution. Yet she couldn’t even handle that situation.

Arguments from the PDT team are that the ban promotes safety at the cost of a small convenience. But bans on the basis of nationality or religion can be disastrous to national security. It can undermine efforts of security agencies and erode relationships necessary to fight terror.  Iran has already accused Congress of violating its agreement after lawmakers put new sanctions on the country last month. The ban will accelerate hostilities in a fragile relationship: Iran’s Foreign Ministry has called PDT’s order “an insult to the Islamic world, and especially to the great nation of Iran.” According to the statement:

“The decision of the Government of the United States incorporates certain requests that are illegal, illogical, and contrary to international law. The Islamic Republic of Iran will carefully examine and legally pursue any negligence or violation of the international obligations of the United States under bilateral and multilateral agreements and reserves the right to respond as necessary.”

A Bipartisan Policy Center report pointed out that the result can be reciprocal bans against U.S. citizens and commerce, costing the nation billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The Iraqi parliament is already contemplating a block on visas for people from the U.S. who want to travel to the country.

Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich called the immigration “ham-handed” because it “sowed so much confusion” among international travelers and “sent a message that somehow the United States was looking sideways at Muslims.” He added, “In probably many Arab capitals today, people are like, ‘What is America doing?’ ”

Showing that public outcry can be effective, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly issued a blanket waiver to immigrants holding green cards or entitled to permanent residence in the U.S., allowing them to enter the country, despite President Trump’s new executive order. But the damage to the nation’s reputation is already done. There’s no going back. World War III, anyone?

January 8, 2017

‘Understanding’ Won’t Change GOP Voters

If only Hillary Clinton were more likable. If only she had gone to the right states. And on and on.

After the election, Democrats used Clinton as the scapegoat for losing the election and skipped over the antagonistic media, the James Comey illegal releases, the Russian hacking, the Trump lies, and a number of other issues beyond her control. Ignoring all these reasons, Democrats decided they lost the presidency because they didn’t try to “understand” the white working-class segment of the population.

Forsetti’s Justice presents his perspective of “understanding” rural Christian white America.

“The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe…. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.”

The white Christian god is king in deep-red states. Tribal belief systems are shaped by religious fundamentalism which prevents curiosity, change, learning, and criticism. Democrats who think that these fundamentalists need “understanding” are wrong: they only want agreement. All educated progressives are enemies to fundamentalists.

“Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts.”

Fundamentalists believe in teaching reading and writing but reject any disagreement to their doctrine. Women should marry and have children the minute that they graduate from high school, and college for young men is a waste of time. Even young people who attend college automatically reject whatever doesn’t fit into their fundamentalist belief systems.

Justice defines rural Christian white Americans as racists. They may deny this description because they’ve—mostly—stopped burning crosses and lynchings, but their belief system tells them that they are superior because they are white, all made in the image of their white god. Religion teaches them that a less-than-white skin comes from sins instead of their ancestors. Fundamentalist belief that blacks are curse, for good reason, means that they shouldn’t be treated as equals. Internal change is frightening to fundamentalists so they ignore evolution, genetics, and science. No “understanding” from Democrats will make them less racist and more open to facts.

Propaganda works exceptionally well with fundamentalists because they have no protection against it, no openness, willingness to re-evaluate, critical analysis, and self-reflection. Fundamentalists grant some people “expert status” and believe everything they say, treating it like gospel.

“Rural Christian white Americans have let anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted racists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, the Stepford wives of Fox, and every evangelical preacher on television into their systems because these people tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being like them.”

These people are like DT: they have nothing in common with these fundamentalists except for their color and language of white superiority. Yet fundamentalists treat them as authorities.

Bad information stays with fundamentalists because of their “closed-off” belief systems. Justice compares this to spinal fluid, “great as long as nothing infectious gets into it. If bacteria gets into your spinal fluid, it causes unbelievable damage because there are no white blood cells to fend off invaders and protect the system. Without the protective services of white blood cells in the spinal column, infection spreads like wildfire and does significant damage in a short period of time. Once inside the closed-off spinal system, bacteria are free to destroy whatever they want.”

Anything outside their belief system is a threat to fundamentalists who want the behavior be blocked for everyone. Same-gender couples marrying, blacks protesting police killings of unarmed friends and family, immigrants performing cheap labor, Muslims celebrating a non-Christian religion, women making a working wage, people getting a college education, scientists warning about climate change—all these are threats. A black president is a threat. The Chinese are threats. Fear makes them create or believe false information such as “President Obama was born in Kenya, is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood who hates white Americans and is going to take away their guns.”

The solution isn’t “understanding” the irrational and unjustified fears based on the lies that come from their fundamentalist belief systems promoted by rural white Christians. Fundamentalists don’t trust Democrats and aren’t open to them. Finding “common ground” isn’t the answer. Justice wrote:

“When a 2,700-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, and edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, respect or evidence is going to change their minds and assuage their fears.”

One way fundamentalist belief changes is through personal occurrence. Acceptance of same-gender marriage switched from 68 percent of the people opposed 20 years ago to a 61-percent acceptance today. Even 40 percent of Republicans support marriage equality. Fundamentalists learned that their friends and family were part of the LGBT community, and the conflict between the belief system and personal experience more than reversed their opinions.

Changes in belief systems can come from catastrophes, especially if taken personally.Comedian Dennis Miller changed from using complex, left-leaning humor to right-wing anger and frustration after the 9/11 attacks. The reverse can also be true: the Great Depression and FDR’s progressive remedies moved GOP members into being Democrats who disagreed that the economy could be saved only by the free market but destroyed by the government.

George W. Bush’s disastrous recession didn’t have the same effect because Congress and the Obama administration saved people from the suffering in the 1930s. Without the shock of a devastating economic depression, conservatives stuck to their belief system of badly regulated markets, supply side economics, and ineffective ways to respond to financial crises. Instead they rewarded the political party causing the problem by voting them into a record number of state legislatures and House control.

Catastrophes also don’t always solve situations. A century and a half after the South lost the Civil War fundamentalists there think they were right and need to change the outcome.

The fundamentalist belief system supports lies that President Obama was in charge at the beginning of the financial crisis and that the mortgage crisis was because the government forced banks to lend to unqualified minorities. President Obama’s dark skin made their lies seem accurate.

Fundamentalists believe that only god can change the weather; that god thinks women should be subservient to men; and that god created whites superior to people of color, especially in an environment where white people interact with few people of color. The fundamentalist belief system requires fundamentalists to vote for massive tax cuts and cutting back government although it hurts their personal situation.

Justice wrote:

“’Rural white America needs to be better understood,’ is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as too upsetting, too mean, too arrogant, too elite, too snobbish. Pointing out that Aunt Bea’s view of Mexicans, blacks and gays is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about Aunt Bea’s views. It’s the classic, ‘You’re a racist for calling me a racist,’ ploy.”

Democrats are only avoiding the obvious—that the U.S. has always had a race problem. The divide will continue as long as rural Christian white Americans fail to accept such truths that their votes are responsible for the largest redistribution of wealth to the top in the history of the country, that white business owners are to blame for moving jobs overseas, that no one is going to block their buying guns if they are sane, that their churches won’t have to marry same-gender couples, that access to birth control won’t damage their lives, that they get more help from the government than people in the blue states, that health crises are not “moral failings,” that shopping at big-box stores destroys small businesses, and that most of their problems come from the Republicans who they elect. Economic policies that help rural Christians—increased minimum wage, unions, infrastructure assistance, renewable energy, closing climate change, healthcare reform, etc.—come from Democrats.

Until fundamentalist Christians quit voting against their personal interests just to hurt immigrants, they will continue to suffer—along with all the rest of the bottom 99 percent. Trying to “understand” the white voter isn’t going to change anything.

December 25, 2016

Time for a New Age of Enlightenment

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 3:36 PM
Tags: , , ,

Merry Christmas! Conservatives are now gloating that people can use this phrase again although no one was ever blocked from saying it. Today is the holiday that Christians use to celebrate the birth of Christ despite indications that he was born in the spring after lambs were born. (They’re either four months early or eight months late in their celebration.)

Conservative Christians are also unaware of the holiday’s strong pagan influence. Christians were so eager to proselytize pagans that they used their customs to draw them into the new religion, but there were no Christmas celebrations until the fourth century. In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation banned the practice for a few hundred years both in England and then America. The Puritans started the “War on Christmas.”

  • The choice of December 25 to celebrate the new Christian holiday came from its proximity to the Winter Solstice celebrating the sun god. Before the calendar was changed, Christmas was on the same day as this solstice celebration which falls between December 21 and December 23. It is the date of the longest night and shortest day introducing the rebirth of the Sun. In Old Europe, this date was known as Yule, the old Norse term, Jul, meaning wheel.
  • The Yule log was burned on the solstice to honor the sun. Christians changed the tradition to call is a sign of goodwill through the 12 days of Christmas.
  • Bells were always used to drive away evil spirits, and mistletoe was a druidic device, hung in the doorway to protect people from thunder and lightning. The traditions remained, but the reason changed to jollity and romance. Holly was the sacred plant of the Roman god Saturn. Laurel or bay leaves were sacred to Apollo, the sun god.
  • Greenery, including Christmas trees, was popular in pagan times because it reminded people that vegetation would return in the spring. Holly was the sacred plant of the Roman god Saturn.
  • Red and green colors traditionally represent fertility as shown by the green leaves  and red berries of holly, mistletoe and wreaths.
  • Feasting was popular during pagan times because food was scarce. Excessive eating showed that they had hope for an abundance of food in the new year. The act also came from the ancient Roman Saturnalian celebration between December 17 and 24 to honor the Roman god Saturn.
  • Candlelight was used for pagan celebrations honoring the sun. The first use of candles in December came during the Roman Saturnalia festival where tall tapers of wax presented to Saturn and given as gifts. were offered to Saturn as a symbol of his light and also given as a gift to guests. Jews may have absorbed the pagan tradition of candles for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
  • Christmas carols come from folk solstice songs. Oliver Cromwell tried to eradicate the songs during his reign in the mid-seventeenth century but failed because people sang them in secret. The Victorian era rediscovered them, and Christians wrote new ones.
  • Santa Claus may have come from the pagan god Odin, a tubby old man with a long white beard and flowing cloak. Others trace him to Nicholas, born almost 1800 years ago in a small town in Greece which has been subsumed by Turkey. A devout Christian whose parents died in an epidemic while Nicholas was young, followed Jesus’s teaching to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor.” He used his inheritance to help needy people who suffered from sickness and poverty, a far cry from the greed displayed today that rewards large corporations with billions of dollars. People didn’t exchange gifts at Christmas until Queen Victoria started the practice in 1850.

The Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva, “Mary on Top of Minerva,” is an Italian church dating back to 1280 when Christians built it on top of a temple to Minerva, the pagan goddess of wisdom, medicine, and war. A namesake for this goddess is Professor Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts.

This morning I read a column from conservative Paul Greenberg about the wonderful “Christmas spirit” causing people to do kind things for others. Why don’t Christmas believers follow the teachings of Jesus and perform kind acts throughout the year instead of confining their generosity to a few days between Thanksgiving and Christmas? And stop bashing everyone who doesn’t use the “Christian” terminology or who doesn’t follow their faith?

“Christmas” and Winter Solstice are a time to bring back the light, a time to consider enlightenment instead of darkness. The Age of Enlightenment during the 18th century was a movement to center ideas on reason instead of dogma. It was a time when governments moved toward liberty, tolerance, science, constitutional government,  and separation of church and state. The American Revolution was founded on freedom and questioning of religious orthodoxy, an opposite philosophy to the conservatives’ anti-science, anti-reason, anti-freedom anti-tolerant, anti-constitutional beliefs in the 21st century.

The motto of the Enlightenment was “Sapere aude – Dare to know.” Founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson helped incorporate these enlightened values into government leadership. It’s time for these ideas to return. We need a new “Age of Enlightenment” to free us from these dark ages.

Happy holidays and dive into the new year by joining the search for a return to enlightenment during the 21st century!

December 24, 2016

Happy Hanukkah!

Today, the United States is being taken over by an insecure, anger-ridden megalomaniac who rose to power through lies and election assistance from a foreign country. He’s already using his position for personal financial gain and nominating federal officials who will help him create further poverty and deprivation for 99.99 percent of the people in the nation. His opposition to any press that he doesn’t control violates the First Amendment, and his plan to stop any protests against him violates the constitutional right of assembly. Democracy as people in the United States is in great danger.

Today is also the first of an eight-day Jewish celebration for the defeat of an insecure narcissist ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, known for his excessively extravagant display of riches and cruelty over two millennia ago. Initially appearing congenial toward his subjects, he felt contempt for them and sold political positions to benefit only the wealthiest in the country. His quick anger earned him the nickname of “madman.” After he forced the Jewish people in his kingdom, which included Judea, to follow the country’s primary religion and culture, Judah Maccabee and his followers revolted. Through their skill and knowledge, they took back their freedom from Antiochus and showed that a minority can fight back against a repressive regime through intelligence and the ability to work together. The exact date of this Jewish festival of lights changes each year because it is tied to the lunar Hebrew calendar.

Last week, Michele and Barack Obama hosted their last Hanukkah party at the White House. His observations about the event demonstrate the articulate graciousness of the current President of the United States at a time when non-Christians are targeted by hatred and bigotry. I will miss President Obama and his leadership in the coming years.

“Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons: How a small group can make a big difference. That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time. How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation. It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have. The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world. So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.

“This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom. The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it—to publicize the mitzvah. And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here.

“Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition. Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be—and defending the rights of others to do the same—that’s our common creed. That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window—not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.

“The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance—these are one and the same. Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody. In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah. And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays. A stunned Elie asked him, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?” And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz. The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year. We lost a keeper of our collective conscience….

“Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled. Each wick an answer to the wicked. Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.

“Jewish leaders from the Maccabees to the Wiesels, to the college students who proudly sing Hebrew songs on campus, reaffirm our belief that light still drives out darkness, and freedom still needs fighters.

“As many of you know, the name ‘Hanukkah’ comes from the Hebrew word for ‘dedication.’ So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”

A video of President Obama giving these comments is here.

Fomented by Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.com, much has been said in the conservative media about the president’s “stabbing Israel in the back” by abstaining from the UN resolution to keep further encroachment into Palestine’s West Bank by Israel. Hillel Schenker wrote this in the Times of Israel:

“Thank you President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. And thank you New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia for moving forward with the resolution.  And thank you Egypt for drafting the resolution. The passing of yesterday’s UN Security Resolution on the settlements is the best Hanukkah gift you could have given to the people of Israel, and it provides a glimmer of light on the horizon amidst the current darkness.  It reaffirms the international commitment to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based upon a two-state solution, the only realistic solution to the conflict that can provide security and peace to both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.”

Schenker explains that, as the resolution states, “the status quo is not sustainable.” He also agrees with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power who said that continued settlement building “undermines” Israel’s own security. Schenker pointed out an appreciation from many Israelis who understand that “it was done in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948”:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The Declaration also requires that Israel “extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples” and “do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” It added that Israel will “cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947.”

The resolution passed with a 14-0 vote after the U.S. abstained. It states that Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory since 1967 are not legal and calls for a stop to “all Israeli settlement activities.” At this time, almost a half million from Israeli have claimed ownership of Palestine land and another 200,000 live in east Jerusalem, the area that Palestinians view as their capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to stop the vote with an appeal to Donald Trump (DT), who will not be U.S. president until January 20, 2017. DT also contacted Egypt, asking them to delay the vote indefinitely although he has no legal right to control the current president’s foreign policy. Egypt did so, but four other countries sponsored it.

With strongly pro-settlement David Friedman as his pick for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, DT is following his plan to move the nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, an act which should instead be determined by peace talks. At this time, DT doesn’t understand—or refuses to accept—that the United States has only one president at a time as he continues his thrust to support far-right Israelis in their journey toward creating strength that diminishes the power of oil-producing companies in the Middle East. In this way, DT can both win back evangelical Christian support and join Israel to take over oil fields.

As people have said about the next four years, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Meanwhile we can appreciate President Obama’s last four weeks in supporting the people of the United States. Happy Hanukkah!

November 13, 2016

Trump: Pick of White Christian Evangelicals

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:39 PM
Tags: , , ,

Donald Trump accomplished what another thrice-married, philandering candidate couldn’t do. He won the White House, and Newt Gringrich lost it. Exit polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals threw the support behind Trump. It was the first campaign for several years in which no one mentioned religion beyond Jerry Falwell trying to justify his support by saying that Trump is now “born again”—he isn’t—and Trump saying that Hillary Clinton isn’t religious. Considering Trump’s behavior, no one may talk about religion for the next four years.

The question now for white evangelicals may be the direction of their movement. They knew that his character is far more questionable than any other presidential candidate has been for a long time, but they chose him anyway. Eighteen years after these evangelicals fought to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, they fought to elect a man who brags about grabbing “pussy” and lies 80 percent of the time. As a result, these voters have lost all right to the moral high ground.

The same 80 percent of white evangelicals also voted for a man who supports racism, misogyny, religious bigotry, and nativism, a problem for many black evangelicals. Television is filled with Trump surrogates claiming that the president-elect isn’t racist and respects women, that he’s really a nice guy, but thousands of hours of video belie these false claims. Trump has claimed since his election that he wants to “unite” the country, but he continues to select advisors who lead movements to deport immigrants, disallow refugees into the country, and remove women’s rights.

White evangelicals evidenced concern during Trump’s campaign about whether he possessed conservative and biblical standards, but them managed to twist the bible to justify his behavior. Lying, murdering, and committing adultery are just fine for the new white evangelical–just follow the story of King David.

As Trump announces his direction, these conservative bona fides are becoming more and more questionable, for example slowly discarding the idea of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Gingrich explained about a major pillar of Trump’s campaign that he never really meant to build a wall, but it was a good campaign argument.

Proselytizing will become more and more difficult for white evangelicals because of their current stand of electing a severely flawed man. They have shamed people for moral weaknesses and sins ever since whites moved to America over four centuries ago. Now the unrepentant has no reason to follow the gospel if white evangelicals select politics over Christianity.

One anti-Trump voice speaking in the wilderness came from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who called for a gospel-driven Christianity rather than a focus on politics:

“The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ.”

Deborah Jian Lee, author of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, wrote:

“I’ve been hearing from evangelicals leaders and lay people who are people of color, women and LGBTQ who fiercely opposed Trump and are now stunned to see just how many of their white fellow believers supported a candidate that proudly demeans their humanity. Trump preached xenophobia, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and more, and the white evangelical base said ‘Amen.’”

Lisa Sharon Harper, chief church engagement officer at the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, described the 180-degree shift in U.S. culture:

“Our nation’s first African American president will be followed by a candidate backed and promoted by the Ku Klux Klan. What’s worse, white people who claim Evangelical faith (women and men) pushed him to victory.”

Long-time Republican Max Boot, now turned Independent out of disgust, describes the three GOP factions that may rip his former party apart:

“Movement” conservatives, led by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan: They want to cut taxes and entitlement programs, promote free trade, apply a “balanced” approach to immigration reform, reach out to minority communities, and increase a strong defense and internationalist foreign policy.

Trumpkins: These “nationalists” want to do exactly the opposite and achieve their isolationism by bombing any country that gets in our way.

Politicians and political professionals, led by past RNC and current Trump chief of staff Reince Preibus: They are happy to back anyone as long as they win and thus will support the victorious of the first two.

As president, Trump will support any position that makes him popular because he can’t stand being disliked. At this point, he fits the Trumpkins, but he could change in the next 30 seconds. He put far-right religious Mike Pence in charge of domestic policy, good news for white evangelicals, but Trump may not follow Pence’s directives because he doesn’t like being told what to do.

In the meantime, white evangelicals have a model for their children that treats females like meat, encourages bullying, brags about being ignorant, smears anyone who disagrees with him, and prizes lying and cheating to get his way.

That’s the life of a white Christian evangelical under the new regime.

October 16, 2016

Beliefs of Christian Right, Trump Match

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 6:30 PM
Tags: ,

A major question regarding Donald Trump is why the Christian right supports such an immoral man. Marlene Winnell has suggested reasons for this cognitive dissonance. She writes, “Trump actually represents the worst of what might be called ‘deep Christianity’ … deep-seated assumptions in orthodox Christianity.”

“The world is a bad and dangerous place.” Spreading fears about terrorism, violent crime, and financial ruin, Trump’s messages match the Bible with its threats of evil and peril, especially the threat of impending end times. Both Trump and the Bible preach the same message: Be very afraid.

“Might is right.” Trump’s values are strength without equality, peace, or justice. An example of this is his beating the drum with his demand that Hillary Clinton be put in jail—before she is tried in an impartial court and before there is any proof of wrongdoing on her part. Trump measures his success by how much money he makes and how much he has cheated the government. The Bible’s Jehovah displays his power by killing people with plagues, floods, and slaughter. Even Jesus, many times gentle and giving, physically drove merchants out of the temple and brags that his “Father” would send him “more than twelve legions [72,000 soldiers] of angels.” To many of those on the far Christian right, Trump is messianic.

“A savior is needed.” Trump continually tells his audiences that only he can save them. There is no team effort; he speaks only about himself in solving problems. He also doesn’t say how he will save the nation; he tells people that they should “trust” him because he is their “voice.” Fundamentalist Christians are waiting for the Messiah to return and save them from all their problems in a way that didn’t happen the last time Jesus appeared on earth.

“Simplistic thinking is adequate.” Trump’s sole solution to immigration problems is to “build a wall.” Trade deficits can be fixed by defaulting on loans. The sole solution to foreign policy issues is nationalism. Every answer to Trump comes from a black and white look at the problem with complete obedience that comes from either right or wrong—no alternatives. Both Trump and Jesus hold the believe that “whoever is not with me is against me.”

“Obedience is key.” Trump supporters don’t reject anything that he has done or said no matter how racist or misogynist. Their position is that others are worse. His fraudulent Trump University? His birther movement? His cheating Trump Foundation? No problem—he’s their leader and shall not be questioned. A Biblical story lauding Abraham when he obeys God by sacrificing his son Isaac praises Abraham. Devout far-right Christians must follow their pastors’ reading of the Bible instead of thinking for themselves, and Trump audiences at his rallies follow the same knee-jerk response to their leader.

“Violence is okay.” In fact, it’s beyond okay because Trump has called on people to beat up on protesters because it supports his purposes. This is the same premise in the Bible as people who don’t agree with God’s teachings can be burned, buried alive, or otherwise struck down. A constant in the Bible is God’s wrath, something visible in almost every Trump rally.

“Prejudice is acceptable.” God sanctions genocide in the Bible and punishment by death for homosexuality in the same way that Trump wants to punish people.  God regards the disabled as “unclean,” and women are ordered to be quiet and submit to their husbands. Slavery is endorsed in the Bible, and people who read the Bible literally are comfortable with Trump’s superior attitude toward LGBT people, women, disabled people, and racial and other minorities.

“Earth is dispensable.” Despite scientific consensus about the dangers of climate change, Trump believes it is a hoax. “Deep Christianity,” however, put apocalyptic vision over science and rationality. Like many fundamentalist Christians, who have no sense of responsibility for the Earth because of their belief in the End Times, Trump can ignore the problems of global warming in order to make more money.

“Exclusive self-interest is moral.” Moderate Christians believe in giving and helping people, but isolationist Christians and Trump are supremely selfish, in opposition to an ethic of working collectively for the common good. Evangelicals are focused primarily on getting to heaven. The nineteenth-century belief of Manifest Destiny, responsible for making the New World into a white man’s paradise at the cost of killing millions of people native to the country, holds a strong similarity to “making America great again.” Trump’s extreme position of American “exceptionalism” can lead to greater genocide by white men.

“America has lost its way.” Trump’s speeches are filled with false claims of the horror of the U.S.—the “hell holes” where blacks live, the way that blacks have never had worse lives (even during slave times), the disastrous economy, the dangers of ISIS and the global financial institutions, etc. Fundamentalist Christians who believe that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians (actually many of them were Deists) think that the U.S. has abandoned those mythical Christian principles; they’re happy to hear Trump claim that U.S. leaders—of both parties—are running the nation into disaster. They believe the biblical message that these “evildoers” will cause entire nations to suffer and be punished. To these people, every natural disaster, many of them caused by climate change, come from the behavior of sinners who don’t follow their belief. To them, Trump will be their savior.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is one of those people who look on Trump as the nation’s savior. He believes Janet Porter’s movie, Light Wins, in which she claims that the Old Testament flood described in the story about Noah’s Ark was caused by same-gender marriage. Gohmert claims that the same thing can happen in contemporary times because of legalized marriage equality and calls on people to vote for Trump in a goal of “saving America.”

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. has tried to convince the Christian school students to vote for Trump who reminds Falwell of his father. Ironically, there are some similarities as Jerry Falwell, Sr. used his Old Time Gospel Hour to spread videotapes accusing Bill Clinton of drug smuggling and murder when he was governor of Arkansas.

Falwell invited his Trump supporter friend Ralph Reed, who demanded Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, to convince the Christian school students that they have a Christian duty to vote for Trump. After a brief criticism of Trump’s bragging about sexually assaulting women, Reed launched into a diatribe about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and then urged them to not sit out the election or vote for a third-party candidate. He said:

“We are called to put away our ‘my way or the highway’ pride, forsake cynicism and negativity, and participate fully as citizens, always cheerful, always winsome, always ready to defend our faith.”

Pat Robertson also continues his support of Trump by explaining that the candidate’s delighted claims of grabbing women by the “p***y” is just his way of “trying to look like he’s macho.”

These are the people who support the bigoted, racist, sexist, violence, murderous, fearful, narrow, black and white perspectives that they glean from their readings of the Bible. These are the people who want to force everyone to follow their own beliefs without thinking for themselves without permitting any diversity. These are the people who are regarded as role models by the Christian right.

It speaks well for many of the 15,000 students and 500+ faculty at Liberty that they have signed a criticism of both Trump and Falwell. The group Liberty United against Trump wrote that Falwell’s support for Trump had cast a stain on the school’s reputation:

“We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him. … He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”

Of the over 2,500 signatures posted by yesterday, 1,100 of them had Liberty University email addresses, and some faculty members have not signed the petition because of concern about retribution. The issue is valid: after Liberty board member and confidant of Falwell, Sr., disagreed with Jr.’s Trump endorsement last January, he resigned, citing “concern about a lack of trust.” Jr. had supported his endorsement by saying, “Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught.”

Polls indicate that fewer than 100 Liberty students voted for Trump in the Republican primary. Unlike their president, Reed, and other Christian right leaders, they understand this dilemma: Can you still claim to be the “Moral Majority” when you support a man who has boasted about sexual assault? The tragedy for those who say “yes” to this question is that they believe Donald Trump will follow through with his promises to “religious liberty.”

October 2, 2016

Trump Needs Evangelical Votes

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 9:10 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Donald Trump has long known that Christian fundamentalists could provide him the path to the presidency. That decision led him to curry the favor of religious right leaders who claimed for a short time that he had become a “born again Christian.” Since then, he is working to destroy the freedom of religion part of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

As Trump does with all his campaigning, he is now going over the edge in trying to woo conservative Christians. At a rally last week, he asked people in the crowd to raise their hands if they aren’t Christians. After a few brave people put their hands in the air, he said, “That’s alright. I think we’ll keep them, right? Shall we keep them in the room? I think so.” Trump’s method of identifying and shaming non-Christians wasn’t a one-time practice. He did it at another rally that day.

Trump may be winning with the evangelicals, but he lacks popularity with Roman Catholics. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 23 points with this demographic group at 55 percent to 32 percent. The last three GOP presidential candidates received over 40 percent of the Catholic vote.

Political scientist Michael J. New wrote in the conservative National Review that Trump lost support because of his attacks on Latino immigrants, considered the future of the Catholic church, and his attacks on Pope Francis. Christopher Hale, the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, called the Trump-Pence ticket the “most anti-Catholic GOP presidential ticket in modern history.” In addition to Trump’s anti-immigration position, his running mate, Mike Pence, has a strong record of blocking the Catholic Church’s efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Trump’s ratings with the Mormons are also so low that he could lose Utah, a state that hasn’t voted Democratic since Goldwater’s debacle in 1964. Trump is still seven points ahead of Hillary Clinton, but an independent run by Evan McMullin is gaining momentum. In addition to Trump’s immigration problem, Mormon Mitt Romney is a staunch Never Trumper, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose Mormon pioneer ancestors settled in northern Arizona, refuses to vote for the GOP presidential candidate. Utah’s GOP Sen. Mike Lee has refused to support Trump because of his “religiously intolerant” statements in banning Muslims from the U.S. Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (a convert to Mormonism at Brigham Young University) told a group of 50 Utah Muslims that Trump’s call to ban Muslims is un-American, immoral, and does not represent “who we are as a people.”

Last May, former Sen. Bob Bennett, dying from a stroke, asked:

“Are there any Muslims in the hospital? I’d love to go up to every single one of them to thank them for being in this country and to apologize to them on behalf of the Republican Party for Donald Trump.”

Utah’s GOP governor, Gary Herbert, declared that Trump lacks “Utah values” because of his “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics,” as Mitt Romney describes Trump. Herbert pointed out that Trump’s campaign is based almost exclusively on creating “scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants”—something that Mormons have faced all their lives through violence and state-sponsored persecution. Mormonism, like Catholicism, is also dependant on Latinos for its growth. With close to 1,400,000 church members, Mexico is second only to the U.S. as the nation with the largest Mormon population.

Mormons on the political left ask GOP Mormons to pray for anyone except Trump to become president. On the popular Mormon blog By Common Consent, Russell Fox, a political science professor at Friends University, wrote about how Trump, as president, “would apparently be comfortable with trashing the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments.” He stated that it was up to the Mormons to save the country.

Recent polls show that 80 percent of white evangelicals intend to vote for Trump. It’s not because he’s a born-again; it shows how much their desire for political power has overcome their Christian principles. Trump has promised that he will allow non-profit, tax-exempt religious groups to endorse political candidates, destroying the separation of church and state. He has enflamed the religious right by falsely claiming that their religious institutions would lose their tax-exempt status “if they openly advocate their political views.” By spreading this lie, Trump hopes to get the votes of conservative Christians. He is the first presidential zealot who has advocated for overturning the law that was signed by GOP President Eisenhower.

After declaring his campaign, Trump used Christianity as an excuse for his decisions. In refusing to release his tax returns, he claimed that the IRS was persecuting him for his “strong Christian” beliefs. Christian leaders endorsing him had trouble justifying their position about a man who has bragged about his extramarital affairs. When Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson personally endorsed Trump, he said that his conversion had made him “born again.” Trump has never made this claim, and Dobson shifted his statement to saying, “Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard.”)

Evangelicals are a fertile field for an authoritarian candidate who praises the anti-LGBT leader of Russia who wants a “Christian civilization.” For example, Bryan Fischer called Vladimir Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called on legislators to eliminate free speech. Others have called Putin “the moral leader of the world” and champion of “traditional marriage and Christian values.” Franklin Graham, son of the great Billy Graham, puts Putin above President Obama and praised Russia’s actions in Syria, called a “holy battle” by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Trump’s other voting base comes from the white supremacy movement that believes in eliminating all except “the right kind of people.” Some of the “wrong kind of people” are non-Christians, including Jews.  The candidate shows himself in accord with these groups such as the Alt-Right led by Jared Taylor. As shown in the Frontline documentary, “The Choice,” Trump’s father taught his son that success is genetic. Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said:

“The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development. They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”

Like other Trump ideas, this philosophy matches that of Adolf Hitler who murdered over six million people because they lacked the right genes, because they weren’t “the right kind of people.”

A religious conversion may work for Trump if it fits into his business value of fleecing people with his scams. Last summer he selected televangelist Paula White, his “spiritual leader” as his evangelical outreach leader. White has a resurrection seed that will bring the dead back to life—for only $1,144. Russell Moore, leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, called White  a “charlatan” and a “heretic” who preaches a “prosperity gospel” that falsely claims that “God’s favor is seen in increasing wealth and freedom from sickness.” [Below: White and other prosperity preachers lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him at Trump Tower, from a video made September 2015.]

trump-laying-hands

White’s advice complements Trump’s goal: “Find your passion in life and figure out a way to make money.” Before her divorce from her second husband, Congress investigated them for an abuse of the tax-exempt status of their church. Trump and White are a matched set: religion is a scam for both of them.

September 11, 2016

Sad Hypocrisy of 9/11, Evangelical Christians

On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush’s head of the EPA at that time, has finally admitted that she was wrong about the air around Ground Zero being just fine following the attacks. She finally said that she was “very sorry” that people are sick and some have died, but she gets upset because people blame her. Over 37,000 people registered with the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) are declared sick, many with respiratory illnesses and/or cancer. Over 1,100 people covered by  WTCHP have died. Whitman had said that air in any areas other than the place of the attack did “not pose a public health hazard.”

GOP legislators also felt the need to comment about the need to “never forget” before they left town for a long weekend with the usual comments about the “heroism of our response” (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY), the need to help people understand the sacrifices made (House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI), etc. They also failed to lead Congress in a new 9/11 health and compensation law—never even signed on as sponsors–and instead used it as blackmail to lift an oil export ban. In talking about “sacrifices,” Ryan also commented that he had to drive home to Wisconsin because he couldn’t get a flight.

McConnell managed two anti-Obama care votes this week, but thousands of babies will be born with birth defects, thanks to the GOP failure to push Zika virus funding; residents of Flint (MI) and probably other cities will continue to be poisoned with lead in its water systems, thanks to any congressional action; the Supreme Court will have only eight justices, thanks to the Senate’s intransigence; etc.

Trump scammed the government for $150,000 in 9/11 money by claiming that he helped people after the attacks. Records, however, claimed “rent loss,” “cleanup,” and “repair” that were not allowable under federal gifts. He said that he let people stay free in his building, but that claim didn’t match the reports. He admitted that his property wasn’t affected by the attacks, and there is no evidence of any Trump from charity. He also lied about having “hundreds of friends” die in the attacks and watching “hundreds of Muslims” cheering when the Twin Towers went down.

The Values Voters Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council, met this weekend, and speakers made the same dire warnings of persecution for Christians. American Family Association radio host and government affairs director Sandy Rios failed to explain why people shouldn’t vote for Clinton other than “we can’t even comprehend what life would be like” if Clinton is president. Rios did claim that those who “name the name of Christ will have trouble finding jobs” and people will have to have the “right” opinions to get into college.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) followed up on the persecution threat by saying that he was correct in his prediction that the 2009 Matthew Shepard hate crimes act would persecute Christians. Before its passage he claimed that the law would make the U.S. into Nazi Germany and legalize pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia. He had no examples of how the law was “used against Christians” or legalization of sex with children, animals, and dead people. After diagnosing Hillary Clinton as “mentally impaired,” he accused her of planning to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Sharia law.” (The purpose of the Values Voters Summit is to “subjugating the U.S. Constitution to Christian law.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told the Values audience that he was qualified to legislate on abortion because he owned a small business. When an employee tells him that she is pregnant, Scott said, then he takes her to a Christian anti-abortion clinic. Being “in the private sector” make him realize the “importance” of anti-abortion.

Actor Jon Voight gave Trump an outstanding introduction, comparing the GOP presidential candidate to Saint Mother Teresa and Nobel laureate/theologian Albert Schweitzer. The presidential candidate who came in fifth at last year’s Values Voter Summit straw poll showed himself to be the typical reality-show star as he spoke to an audience that chanted “Lock her up!” Trump followed that with a New Testament verse: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Trump ridiculed the IRS regulation preventing churches from supporting or opposing candidates to maintain their tax-exempt status but ignored the fact that the law has been effect since 1954 during GOP President Eisenhower’s first term. Trump continued to lie when he declared that “pastors and ministers” cannot “talk about politics” and said that “all religious leaders should be able to freely express their thoughts and feelings on religious matters.” Religious leaders do that weekly if not daily, as proved by the religious leaders who speak at Trump’s rallies and other events.

Same-gender marriage appears to have disappeared from the evangelical radar if former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is any example. At the Summit, the politician who fought bitterly against marriage equality said, “It’s not an issue. In fact, it’s boring.” It appears that the Summit is also “not an issue” and “boring”: The internet has almost nothing about this year’s meeting.

Before cable television was overwhelmed today with Hillary Clinton’s illness, manifested at the 9/11 commemoration this morning, it concentrated on Clinton’s statement that half of Trump’s supporters are in a “basket of deplorable.” She did later apologize for having said this, and many people are saying that she was telling the truth because of a constituency for a racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic candidate.  (I’ll also add arrogant, narcissistic, and bullying, and you may have a few more adjectives.)

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, defended the GOP candidate at the Summit by saying that they are “hard-working” and “deserve your respect.” Hard-working they may be, but respect is an interesting term for Pence to use when he shows no respect for many of the people in Indiana after he was elected governor when he promoted laws against women’s reproductive rights, LGBT rights, immigrants, raped prisoners, poor people, religious diversity, and people at risk of HIV/AIDS. Pence’s “religious freedom” law in Indiana also permits parents to beat their children with a number of items, including coat hangers and cords. That’s a lot of missing “respect.”

These are a few of the people who Pence wants Clinton to respect:

In Alabama, a Christian pastor told an audience at a McKenzie High School football game that they should be lined up and executed by the military if they don’t stand for the national anthem. The crowd cheered and praised the pastor on Facebook.

In Ohio, a 31-year-old youth pastor sexually abused a teenage member of his church. Church leaders who discovered the abuse told the family not to return to their church until the daughter apologized to the pastor’s wife for being sexually abused.

More examples of evangelical positions:

  • Linking LGBT rights to ISIS.
  • Calling gay rights activists “intolerant,” “hateful,” “vile,” “spiteful” and “pawns” of Satan.
  • Defending Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill as a “laudable” effort “to uphold moral conduct.”
  • Accusing President Obama of using the health care reform law for a private army of loyal Brownshirts.
  • Claiming that the president promoted the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the U.S. government.
  • Alleging that the health care act will deprive the elderly of life-saving treatments.
  • Insisting that bisexuality means “orgies.”
  • Believing that public school officials are getting “condom profits” from opposing abstinence-only programs.
  • Tying same-gender marriage to failing public schools.
  • Blaming President Obama for “orchestrating” protests in Ferguson (MO) to exacerbate racial tensions.
  • Suggesting that the president is having a secret gay affair.
  • Comparing people who want Confederate symbols removed from government property to ISIS terrorists.
  • Stating that blacks abused during the Jim Crow era are “singing and happy.”
  • Calling an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity.”
  • Asserting that the U.S. government is working with drug gangs and Islamic militant to create turmoil and disorder.
  • Blaming the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the inclusion of women in the military.
  • Fearing that the government will use the military to persecute LGBT rights opponents and murder Christians.
  • Maintaining that the president will fake an assassination attempt or “intentionally” spark an Israeli-Irnaian war to “take control of the radio, TV, and internet” and “start usurping all kinds of power.”
  • Insisting that “78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party” and that President Obama uses Soviet messaging.
  • Positing that the president is waging “biological warfare” against Americans through enterovirus D68 or the Ebola virus.
  • Comparing Social Security to slavery.
  • Blaming football injuries on the separation of church and state.
  • Heralding Donald Trump as God’s choice to win the election.
  • And much more!

Pence wants people to respect all the people who want to kill people for thinking for themselves, who have diverse beliefs and religions, rape with impunity, and struggle to take away the rights of everyone except evangelical Christians.

September 4, 2016

Trump ‘Off Rhythm’

trump among church goers

“Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith…. Some politicians come and clap—off rhythm—to the choir. We don’t need that.” Barack Obama made this statement in 2006, but it holds true for Donald Trump’s appearance yesterday in Great Faith International Church, a black church in Detroit.

After the NYT leaked the script for his private infomercial with Bishop Wayne Jackson of Great Faith Ministries, plans changed a little. Trump taped a private conversation with Jackson that may be released on Thursday after Trump’s campaign edits the video and then talked with the media. Trump shook some hands and held a baby. Trump sat in the front row next to Ben Carson and Carson’s wife along with Theresa “Omarosa” Manigault, his head of black outreach and former Apprentice contestant before he spoke for about 12 minutes. Trump left the service before it was half over. At 70, Trump, who infrequently attends church, made his first visit to a black church.

[The view from the back of the church.]

Trump black church

Trump began his speech with words reminiscent of his wife’s plagiarized speech at the GOP convention:

“I just wrote this the other day, knowing I’d be here, and I mean it from the heart and I’d like to just read it and I think you’ll understand it maybe better than I do in certain ways. I am here today to listen to your message.”

People inside and outside the church were skeptical of Trump’s words. Many thought he came for a photo-op instead of to listen. Denaria Thorn said that she had expected an apology for Trump’s treatment of blacks, but that didn’t happen. Thorn said that the speech “was pretty negative and it was very, very hurtful in fact.”

Kim Witten, who has belonged to the church for 20 years, said:

“When somebody wants something from you, and they say the right words—I would have liked to hear him say those things before he wanted something. It was a very good speech. Whoever helped him did a good job on it. But I know that he wants something.”

Trump said that “those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what’s going on,” yet Hillary Clinton has been doing that for over a half century. He accused Hillary Clinton of not being religious, but this is her answer to a woman about her faith in a town hall meeting last January:

Clinton Mount Zion church “Thank you for asking that. I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. My study of the Bible … has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do. And there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up … I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith…. I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on.”

Clinton began her social activism over 50 years ago in her local Methodist church, thanks to its youth pastor. The photo below shows Clinton preaching at the Foundry United Methodist Church, which she started attending with her family during her husband’s presidency. Clinton preachingTrump is now trying to picture himself as a “unifier,” a person who will bring “civil rights” to the nation. This is the same man who began his long history of racism by discriminated against blacks in the buildings he owned, a violation of the Fair Housing Act. In the 1980s he had all blacks ordered off the floor when he and his wife Ivana went to the casino, and he lobbied to demand the death penalty for four black and one Latino teenager after a jogger was raped in Central Park. After they were exonerated, Trump refused to apologize because, according to him, they were probably committing other crimes that night. His record at The Apprentice also demonstrates his prejudice against blacks. Until a few months ago, Trump pushed the idea that President Obama, born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and that he was a good enough student to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Trump is an equal opportunity bigot: he’s also made racist statements against Native Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, Asians, etc. Until a few months ago, Trump pushed the idea that President Obama, born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and that he was a good enough student to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School. This running list of Trump’s racism shows a long-term pattern.

Part of his pandering to black voters uses the same claim that other Republicans use:

“Becoming the nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln … has been the greatest honor of my life.It is on his legacy that I hope to build the future of the party, but more importantly, the future of the country.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., September 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Technically, he might be correct, but party philosophy changes. Democrats in the early 20th century were a combination of Southern white bigots and northern blacks and white progressives. The Dixiecrats flooded into the GOP after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater used his opposition to this law as part of his platform. Goldwater won only six states in the general election so the GOP used their “Southern Strategy”—race-baiting, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and opposition to affirmative action—to build the Republican party. Democrats were on the wrong side of history in the decades after the Civil War, but that was over a century ago. Now the Republicans are a party of exclusion and white supremacy.

The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, said, “The difference between Donald Trump and Detroit is Detroit’s only gone through bankruptcy once.” Duggan also asked why Trump has converted to using scripted answers when he prides himself on speaking what he thinks.   Chuck Westbrook, a lifelong Detroit resident who attended the service, said Trump’s tone was unfamiliar, “like a weak little whisper from Donald Trump.”

Trump’s stop by Ben Carson’s old home in a Detroit suburb gave a touch of humor. When Trump talked with the house’s current resident, Felicia Reese, he told her that “this is a nice house” and that it’s “worth a lot of money.” She suggested that he might “come up with something associated with The Art of The Deal so I can sell it,” referring to the ghostwritten books published under Trump’s name. Asked how long he spent with her, Reese said, “Oh, just a minute or so. He was here briefly just to take some pictures.” The reporter asked what Reese might want people to know. She said, “Be polite.” And then, “go to vote.” She paused and added, “Democratic.”

The funniest piece of the visit can be seen on this 13-second clip as CNN’s Jeremy Diamond tries to interview Carson:

“We just saw Mr. Trump here and I asked him how did it go and he said ‘Great.’ He said he learned a lot of things. What do you think he took away from today?”

With a panicky look, Carson said, “Oh my luggage. Um—hold on.” And then he ran away. Other Trump surrogates might take notice of this method of avoiding embarrassing questions.

Trump’s constituency and the media have a very low bar for his “success.” He can read a speech, and the GOP leadership sighs with relief. He goes to a black church for the first time when he is 70, and all are agog. Hillary Clinton has been attending black churches, even preaching in them, for over 50 years, and the media focus on the what they perceive as the problems of her connection with the Clinton Foundation—which does very good work with 89 percent of donations contributed to charity.

Soledad O'BrienFormer CNN host Soledad O’Brien talked today about how the media has “normalized white supremacy”:

“I’ve seen on-air, white supremacists being interviewed because they are Trump delegates. And they do a five-minute segment, the first minute or so talking about what they believe as white supremacists. So you have normalized that.”

As she said, Trump claims that “Hillary Clinton, she’s a bigot,” and the media appears to make the two candidates equal as if the argument is simply “he said, she said” instead of one of them lying. O’Brien added that news outlets are rewarded for bad behavior because they like the big audiences for “hateful speech.” In effect, the media is responsible for Trump’s successes after he had only a ten-percent following during the primaries. And they continue to do it: over and over today, I heard about Clinton’s “unlikability” but nothing about Trump’s greater unfavorable ratings. The media will control the 2016 presidential election.

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