Nel's New Day

December 7, 2014

Fundamentalist Christians Move toward Theocracy, Terrorism

A definition of “Christian” differs among followers of Jesus and Christ. More progressive people who follow the beliefs of the Christian bible rankle at the thought that those who want differ in thought are also Christians, but fundamentalists Christians do self-identify themselves as Christians. Moderate and progressive Christians do not seem to be successful in defeating the move toward a theocracy in the United States. Only by casting transparencies on the beliefs and actions of fundamentalist Christians, can people understand the dangers of Christians who want to force everyone in this country to follow their specific religion.

Last week, a reader to Nels New Day wrote, “Christian is such a widely used and mis-used tag that gets thrown around, it has lost all meaning.” I agree that the meaning has disappeared, but those who refer to themselves as Christians have gained a great deal of power in the country. As long as people self-identify as Christians, I’ll continue to refer to them in this way.

Conservatives Christians will control the Congress in less than a month, and the president could be a conservative Christian in two years. These are some issues we can expect.

According to research published by the Public Religion Research Institute, almost half the people in the United States (49 percent) and fully 77 percent of white evangelical Christians think that any natural disasters come from the biblical “end times” and not climate change. One-fourth of people in the United States believe that the Earth’s temperature has not been rising at all, despite scientific proof. Only 22 percent of Republicans think that humans have any connection with possible climate change, despite over 900 peer-reviewed scientific articles supply evidence. It appears that climate denial is a religious belief.

Rick Santorum, who may be a presidential candidate—again!—once said that the idea of separation of church and state makes him want to throw up. Now he’s telling his audience that the “words ‘separation of church and state’ is [sic] not in the U.S. Constitution, but it is in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.”

To be accurate, the U.S. Constitution does not use those exact words, but James Madison and Thomas Jefferson supported Roger Williams’ support of the concept from 1644. Madison, sometimes called “father of the constitution,” wrote, “Strongly guarded … is the separation between religion & Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States.” The USSR did copy—and ignore—some United States’ First Amendment principles such as freedom of speech and press, which might make Santorum think these are also Communist beliefs.

Bill O’Reilly is again using the mythical “War on Christmas” to improve Fox network’s ratings. According to fundamentalist Christians—and Fox supporters—anyone who tries to “diminish the celebration of Jesus’ birthday” is a “bully who tries to push other people down in order to make themselves feel better.” That’s the testimony of a therapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin, LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Counselor) who appeared on O’Reilly’s show in response to a billboard posted by a group of atheists. Ruskin and O’Reilly also claim that atheists who voice their opinion are gang-like and sadistic as well as being emotionally confused and in denial.

American-Atheist-Billboard-1024x298

Todd Starnes is another persecuted Fox pundit, this time by The Disney Channel. When their website didn’t accept an email from a 10-year-old girl, she and her mother assumed it was because she had used the word “God” in her email. Both Starnes and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, in a segment called “Looks like Disney has frozen out God,” complained about Disney. The company reported that their profanity filter lists the word “God” because many people use it in that context and would have explained if the family had contacted them.

Pope Francis has compared fundamentalist Christians to fundamentalist Muslims, and there are similar believes.  For example, the Fox network objects to women voting or being on juries, and some Christians believe that women cannot be raped by their husbands because the marriage vows give them consent to perform sexual acts anytime and in any way that they wish.

Most of the recent terrorist activity in the United States has come from radical Christians, white supremacists, and far-right militia groups:

  • Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people with a semiautomatic weapon.
  • The Dr. George Tiller Murder, May 2009: After Tiller’s clinic was firebombed in 1986 and he was shot five times in 1993 by Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon, the doctor was shot and killed by Christian Right terrorist Scott Roeder.
  • Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 2008: Shooting people at random, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson killed two and injured seven others. He gave hatred of liberals, Democrats, and gays as the reason.
  • The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 1996: Best known for the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics that killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others, Eric Rudolph used his Christian belief to bomb a woman’s clinic in Birmingham (AL) in 1998 that killed Robert Sanderson, police officer and part-time security guard, and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Pastor Steven Anderson, leader of Tempe’s (AZ) Faithful Word Baptist Church, has a way to “have an AIDS-free world by Christmas“: execute all gays. He claims to get the solution from Leviticus 18:22. With no college degree, Anderson’s claim to fame is that he has memorized over 140 chapters of the Bible “word-for-word,” according to his church’s website. He also argues that “remarriage is adultery” and in favor of keeping women silent in church. Pastor Vernon Meyer with Sun Lakes United Church of Christ compared Anderson to terrorist leaders: “That’s no different than what ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria. God tells them to go kill anybody who’s different from them.”

Some religions beliefs require parents to kill their children despite the 1944 Supreme Court ruling that “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose… [a] child… to ill health or death.” The District of Columbia and 38 states, however, provide religious exemptions on child abuse and neglect, preventing Child Protective Services from investigating and monitoring cases of religion-based medical neglect and discourage reporting. Seventeen states have religious defenses to felony crimes against children, and 15 states have religious defenses to misdemeanors.

One of these religions is Church of the First Born, with over 100 churches in 20 states. Over 30 years ago, Rita Swan founded Children’s Health Is a Legal Duty (CHILD); in 1998 she teamed up with pediatrician Seth M. Asser to investigate child fatalities associated with faith healing. Of 172 children withheld from medical care on religious grounds, 140 had a 90-percent likelihood of survival with routine medical care. At least 82 dead children were connected to the Church of the First Born.

Conservative Christian legislators believe that charities should be done through their religion and not through government. New Beginnings in Tampa (FL) is an example of what would happen with this shift of control. This program, that claims to help homeless people addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both, get clean and get back on their feet to live more productive lives free of substance abuse, uses what CEO Tom Atchison calls “work therapy.” Residents work for local businesses and events but get no income from doing this. The homeless people not only work on labor crews but also telemarketing, construction, landscaping, moving, and even grant writing. If they don’t participate in the labor program that puts money into the CEO’s pocket, they’re charged $600 a month for meals and rent.

There is evidence that the program also takes food stamps, Social Security checks, and other income from the residents, even over the $600. Part of the program’s mission is counseling to its residents, but the charity has no staff to work with residents’ mental illness and addiction problems. One contractor claims that New Beginnings has overbilled Florida for $80,000. Atchison is so pleased with the money that he is making that he’s trying millions of taxpayer money by taking control of Hillsborough County’s newest homeless shelter.

According to fundamentalist Christians, God—who is channeled through legislators—is completely in charge despite the U.S. Constitution, and he wants terrorism throughout the country to control anyone who believes in climate change, human rights, and freedom of thought.

March 16, 2014

Religion Turning People Off

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:14 PM
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Over one-fifth of the people in the United States report that religion does not play an important role in their lives. The 21 percent is up 50 percent from the 14 percent in 1997, the first year that the poll asked this question. Least religious people tend to be males under the age of 35 with an income over $75,000 and living in the Northeast or West. Millennials, those born between 1977 and 1992, are the least religious, possibly because they are better at looking through the problems perceive around them.

Maybe some of the following stories turn younger, more thoughtful people off the religious fanaticism throughout the country. For example, religious fundamentalists have long fought popular culture for youths. The latest rant is the accusation that the new movie Frozen will cause young girls to be lesbian.

The film is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen about Anna, who tries to rescue the kingdom, and her sister, Queen Elsa, from a freeze. Catholic film blogger Steven Greydanus found a “gay” message because Elsa has no romantic longings. The blogger also found bestiality because the song Fixer-Upper lyrics state: “His [Kristoff’s] thing with the reindeer, that’s a little outside of nature’s laws!”  Greydanus also called the abominable snowman Marshmallow a transvestite because he put on Elsa’s tiara.  Kevin Swanson, a religious right talk show host, is convinced that Satan is using Frozen “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian.” He also claims not to be a “tinfoil hat conspiratorialist.”

[I never cease to be amused by people who think that becoming LGBT can be done that easily!]

Criticizing children’s media is not unusual for conservatives. Fox network Eric Bolling was upset about the Muppets, Lou Dobbs was bothered by The Lorax, and Jerry Falwell hated Tinky Winky the Teletubby. Other groups attacked Shrek, Shark Tale, SpongeBob SquarePants, Happy Feet, and, of course, all the Harry Potter books and movies.

The same religion that thinks Satan causes lesbianism believes that God deliberately responds to people who believe in climate change. According to televangelist Pat Robertson, the high wind that shut down the exterior lights on the U.S. Capitol was to ridicule Democrats for their late night talk about climate change on the floor of the Senate.

In a belief that it is punishing LGBT people, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is purposely blocking funding to one charitable organization.  to punish LGBT people. As a result, Sunrise Children’s Services, which shelters and feeds more than 2,000 abused and neglected children every year, has a $7-million budget shortfall after Sunrise CEO Bill Smithwick suggested hiring LGBT people. He knew that discrimination could lose public funding, about 85 percent of Sunrise’s budget. In a fit of pique, the state’s Baptist community encouraged its affiliates to blacklist Sunrise until it re-established its policy of LGBT discrimination.

The board caved and shamed Smithwick into resigning after 17 years leading the organization. He has devoted his life to helping abused and neglected children. The Baptists told affiliate churches to once again donate, but it may be a case of too little, too late. And then there’s that taxpayer funding that requires no discrimination.

While Kentucky Baptists are willing to allow child abuse in the name of religion, Idaho lawmakers are willing to let religious groups kill their children, again in the name of religion. House Speaker Scott Bedke has refused to allow a bill on the floor that would protect children from deaths from faith healing. Oregon removed this protection after it found that the infant mortality in the religious groups was 26 times higher than in the general population. Children will continue to die in Idaho, however, because the state’s law permits Followers of Christ to reject medical assistance for their children. Idaho law sends people guilty of felony injury to a child—great bodily harm of death—to prison for about a decade, but believers in faith healing get a walk.  Oregon has a state law that removes religious belief as an affirmative defense for homicide. The United States needs the same law.

One way to get religious news out is through the New York Times bestseller list. That’s what Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of The Mars Hill Church in Seattle wants to do. Church funds of at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 went to getting Real Marriage, authored by Driscoll and his wife Grace, onto the list. It does make me look differently at the books considered “best sellers.”

Another form of Christian publicity is posting the Ten Commandments at state capitols, even if it’s unconstitutional. The latest state to order this is Georgia. I’m convinced that conservative legislators lie awake at night trying to figure out ways to waste taxpayer money through building the coffers of lawyers.

No matter how often religious conservatives are told that the constitution includes separation of church and state, they forget, ignore, or reject the facts.

 

  • Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay claims that God, instead of James Madison, wrote the U.S. Constitution.
  • David Barton, pseudo-historian revisionist, claims that the three branches of U.S. government were created in the Old Testament. That’s the document full of kings. The passage that Barton quotes as proof?  Isaiah 33:22: “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.”
  • Bryan Fischer wants to limit voting to property owners like the U.S. did in the 18th century. He claims that renters don’t care about their community.
  • Pat Robertson, like many others who want this country to be a theocracy under fundamentalist Christian control, says that there’s nothing in the Constitution about separation of church and state. With a law degree from Yale, Robertson claims that this concept comes from “the constitution of the communist Soviet Union.” He compares the “wall of separation between church and state”—a metaphor used by Thomas Jefferson—to the Berlin Wall.
  • Jay Sekulow, Robertson’s attorney, claims that the Ten Commandments symbolize American law, including the one that forbids worshipping “false gods,” to Sekulow any except the Trinity. There’s also no attempt by most people—even religious ones—to “keep holy the Sabbath. In a 2003 Alabama case, scholars provided that the Founding Fathers relied on English common and statutory law, Roman law, the civil law of continental Europe, and strains of international law. Nothing about the Ten Commandments.
  • Ben Carson, a surgeon who has shown a yen for being a presidential candidate, claims that divine intervention created America. Like most fundamentalist, Carson believes that God loves the United States best and will protect it against any other country. Like former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), Carson tells the false story of Benjamin Franklin leading the delegates in prayer.

 

The most bizarre religion story this month comes out of Edmond (OK). Dr. John Michael Lonergan, a former federal prison inmate convicted of mail fraud, tax evasion and insurance fraud in Ohio and debarred by that state, is now permitted to practice medicine under Oklahoma supervision, thanks to the Oklahoma Medical Board. According to a receptionist at the clinic where he works, Dr. Lonergan is injecting people with the “Jesus shot.” His employer, Barbie Schrick, doesn’t know what’s in the $300 injection which will supposedly take away pain for life.

One Oklahoma resident reported that Lonergan claims to be a Former Special Forces Doctor and developed a serum for the military called Jesus Juice that “cures any ailment.” She also stated that oilfield companies have allowed Lonergan to explain the shot to their workers and then charge them for injections. There’s no new news about Lonergan within the last ten days which may mean that he’s still shooting people up with Jesus Juice.

When it comes to religion, comments and actions from the faithful are stranger than fiction.

September 22, 2013

Religion Confronts Politics

Good news for the separation of church and state. According to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, corporations can’t belong to a religion even if they are persons, the second time that a federal appeals court has supported President Obama in the mandate to provide contraceptive services. A third court, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted the Hobby Lobby crafts franchise an injunction from the rule until it hears the merits of the case. The decision of that case will show whether the courts are split on the issue.

The Michigan-based manufacturing company Autocam must comply with the Obamacare mandate although its president, John Kennedy, protested because he is Roman Catholic.  “The Kennedys’ actions with respect to Autocam are not actions taken in an individual capacity, but as officers and directors of the corporation,” the 6th Circuit panel wrote. Houses of worship are exempt from the contraception mandate, and religious nonprofits have been extended an “accommodation” that would divorce corporate owners from managing or paying for their employees’ contraception coverage.

Judges on the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania-based company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, had to comply with the mandate. Over 40 secular, for-profit corporations, have alleged that providing contraception coverage in their employee health care plans at no cost violates their religious rights, and a total of 70 federal lawsuits have been filed by opponents to the birth control benefit.

A Tennessee’s religious ruling was overturned last Wednesday. During a paternity hearing between a mother and father over which last name a child should have, child support magistrate LuAnn Ballew ordered that the first name of the child, Messiah, should be changed. She claimed, “‘Messiah’ is a title that is held only by Jesus Christ.” Her ruling was overturned on the basis that it violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution (aka separation of church and state). According to records, 2,957 boys in the United States have been named Messiah since 1880 with 762 people given the name in 2012 alone.

Talk shows have been obsessed this week with Pope Francis’ statement that the Catholic Church should stop being obsessed with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. The lack of obsession was short-term: a day later the pope denounced abortions and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them. So much for his ranting about the church’s obsession with “small-minded rules” that are driving away the faithful.

Speaking about women, the pope said, “The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. … We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, translated the pope’s words as, “He warned against the feminine machismo.” The question now is what the pope will do about the U.S. nuns, led by Sister Simone Campbell, who worry about the poor and hungry rather than abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. A Seattle bishop still has the pope’s mandate to control the nuns.

The U.S. bishops don’t need to change just because the pope made this statement, according to Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University. Interviews with bishops across the country indicate that there will be no change in their push against abortion, marriage equality, and contraception.

While the U.S. media hangs on every word translated from the pope’s statements, we should consider that the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, has a status at the United Nations unlike any other religion. Because of the Vatican’s role as a Nonmember State Permanent Observer,  the pope’s representatives have special access to the leadership of the U.N. and vote along with the world’s countries at UN conferences. It is the only U.N. member that requires all its citizens to belong to one religion—although the United States conservatives would like to mandate only Christianity for all the country’s citizens.

In the U.S. House, 230 “Christians” including 60 Catholics, who voted to take food stamps from 3.8 million people last week, may be remembering Jesus’s mandate in the Bible that he wasn’t going to give bread to a hungry man because the man should get a job. (He really didn’t!)  Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) managed to dredge this quote out of 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” The reference is actually to Christians who stopped working in the false belief that Christ was returning soon; instead of working the fields, they gossiped and pried into the lives of others. Paul was warning those Christians to care for their crops.

  • Who goes hungry with the loss of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? A child, elderly person, or disabled person is in 76% of SNAP households which  receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.
  • How about the “lazy freeloaders,” who don’t earn their calories according to conservatives? All unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents receive only three months of SNAP benefits during any three-year period unless they work in a qualifying job training program. For every additional dollar a SNAP participant earns, benefits decline by 24 to 36 cents.

Cramer is really following Joseph Stalin’s 1936 Constitution:  “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Rep. Michele Bachmann has also quoted Stalin to support her anti-SNAP position. In November 2011 she said, “Self reliance means, if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.”

The good Christians missed some of these verses from the Old Testament:

  • Proverbs 14:31 – “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
  • Proverbs 22:16 – “He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty.”
  • Proverbs 29:7 – “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

GOP representatives, especially from the South, might want to examine the percentage of SNAP users in their states before they vote against them. Note that four of the five states that have doubled food stamp usage in the past five years have Republican governors.

food-stamp-map again

The Congressional conservatives love to create laws as a method of propagandizing their falsehoods. In the midst of House plans to defund Obamacare and shut down the government, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) plans to introduce the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act next Thursday to “ensure that any religious institution, organization or church that believes that marriage should continue to remain between one man and one woman will not be discriminated against by the federal government.” With 60 co-sponsors, including two conservative Democrats, the bill insinuates that the federal government is discriminating against religious groups through the overturn of DOMA. It isn’t.

More fundamentalist “Christian” stories:

Self-identified television prophet Cindy Jacobs proclaimed that her faith caused a woman to re-grow a cheek bone in seconds and that she self-healed a grapefruit-sized tumor “near—or behind my female organs or whatever”caused by Satan.

After Bill Nye the Science Guy told Bill Maher’s audience that the moon is not a “great light,” as the Bible claims, because it reflects the sun, Australian Pastor Ken Ham took umbrage. Known for his Kentucky Creation Museum that presents dinosaurs living at the same time as humans, Ham tried to explain that “Bill Nye still doesn’t understand the difference between historical science and observational science.” I’m guessing that Nye understands; he just doesn’t believe in unsubstantiated science.

The City Council of Porterville, California, removed Mayor Virginia Gurrola from office last week because she signed a declaration of LGBT Pride Month for last June. After people protested, the council declared June 2013 as “a month of community charity and goodwill to all in Porterville.” Gay rights activists protesting at the meeting were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace.

As far back as 1977 when Anita Bryant blamed the LGBT community for the California drought, LGBT people have been blamed for environmental disasters. They  must now take responsibility for the Colorado floods, according to Pastor Kevin Swanson. He was particularly incensed about the Denver Post cover photo of State House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino kissing his partner, Greg Wertsch. Swanson’s criticism was of state legislators who “committed homosexual acts on the front page of the Denver Post,” which, along with marijuana and abortion rights, prompted the “worst year ever in terms of flood and fire damage in Colorado’s history.”

Today’s winner for the most offensive statement, however, comes from a speech at Patrick Henry College, a school with close ties to the Christian homeschooling movement. At the annual “Faith and Reason” lecture, with mandatory attendance for all students, government professor Stephen Baskerville delivered a treatise entitled  “Politicizing Potiphar’s Wife.” His premise was that laws against rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are an attempt to put fine, upstanding white men in prison. Baskerville purports that the government has become a “matriarchal leviathan” manipulated by “the temptress, the seductress who lures men into a “honeytrap” by offers of pleasure before springing a trap that today can mean decades in prison.”

Meanwhile church membership keeps dropping in younger people. One-third of adults under the age of 30 are unaffiliated. Reading the above shows why.

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