God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Monday, May 22, 2006

It’s hard for many Americans to understand how theological disagreements and beliefs about the Second Coming of Christ and the apocalyptic End Times can play a significant role in how people vote for public policies and political candidates. For many influenced by the Christian Right, however, theological and apocalyptic beliefs shape their political participation in profound ways.

The word apocalypse refers to the idea that there is an approaching confrontation between good and evil that will reveal hidden truths and forever transform society.

For Christians the Apocalypse involves the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is tied to a Biblical prophecy of a vast Battle of Armageddon where God triumphs over Satan and then decides which Christian souls are saved and rewarded with everlasting life.

In England, the Calvinist Puritans developed an “apocalyptic tradition [that] envisioned the ultimate sacralization of England as God’s chosen nation” (Zakai, 7). This “chosen” nation would play a special role in the End Times, and was seen as fulfilling in some important way the Biblical prophecies in the book of Revelation.

Puritan settlers from England transferred this notion of a chosen nation to the New World colonies, where apocalyptic fervor and millennial expectation was common. If you think that time is running out, salvation–the saving of souls–takes on a central importance. After the United States was founded, these ideas were transformed into an aggressive variety of evangelizing to save souls for Christ before the final apocalyptic judgment that would send the unsaved to a fiery sulfurous lake called Hell.

From the pre-Revolutionary colonial period and up through the Civil War in the 1860s, most Protestants in the United States understood the timetable of the apocalyptic End Times prophesied in the Bible in a specific way called “postmillennialism.” This meant that they believed that Jesus Christ would return only after Christians had converted enough people to establish a Godly Christian society purified and prepared for his triumphant arrival. This period was generally thought to last one thousand years or a lengthy period of time, and the word millennium refers to a thousand year span of time. Since Jesus was expected to return at the end of the millennium, the belief is known as postmillennialism.

According to Michael Northcott, the postmillennial apocalyptic view in America “involves the claim that the American Republic, and in particular the free market combined with a form of marketised democracy, is the first appearance in history of a redeemed human society, a truly godly Kingdom” (Northcott, 42).

This could be interpreted in different ways. Social progress, especially in the framework of the Quakers and Unitarians, could be linked to the idea of preparing the kingdom on earth for the coming kingdom of God. In this progressive version of social welfare the focus is on changing social institutions. Another religious phenomenon, however, shifted the focus of social policies toward individual solutions as part of a theological split in Protestantism.

The Second Great Awakening, ran from the 1790s to the 1840s. Theologically, this involved “a vigorous emphasis on `sanctification,’ often called `perfectionism'” (Martin, 4). Sin was seen as tied to selfishness. Good Christians should strive to behave in a way that benefited the public good. This in turn would transform and purify the society as a whole in anticipation of the coming Apocalypse. America was seen as a Christian Nation that would fulfill Biblical prophecy, but it was individuals–not society–that needed to seek perfection in the eyes of God.

According to Martin, the evangelical Protestants involved in the Second Great Awakening:

…were so convinced their efforts could ring in the millennium, a literal thousand years of peace and prosperity that would culminate in the glorious second advent of Christ, that they threw themselves into fervent campaigns to eradicate war, drunkenness, slavery, subjugation of women, poverty, prostitution, Sabbath-breaking, dueling, profanity, card-playing, and other impediments to a perfect society (Martin, 4).

These theological beliefs were widespread, and they influenced public policy. In the mid 1800s, Protestants seeking the abolition of slavery sang “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” and that line in the Battle Hymn of the Republic was a direct reference to the apocalyptic End Times. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/b/h/bhymnotr.htm
Some of the aspects of this second evangelical revival were institutionalized into existing Protestant churches such as the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists; and these denominations grew even as they remained separate from the evangelical movement. Meanwhile, the Anglicans, Quakers, and Congregationalists who directly opposed the evangelicals began to fade in importance (Hutson).

By the late 1800s, most of the major Protestant denominations (called “Mainline” denominations) had found some accommodation with the discoveries of science and secular civic arrangements such as the separation of church and state favored by Enlightenment values (Ammerman). In addition, by the beginning of the 20th century there was “a growing interest by churches in social service, often called the Social Gospel, [which] undercut evangelicalism’s traditional emphasis on personal salvation” (Martin, 6). So there was a growing split between Christian evangelicals and Christians in the mainline Protestant denominations.

This split took several forms, including a disagreement over the timetable of the apocalyptic End Times. Most mainline Protestants remained tied in some way to postmillennialism, with its emphasis on social and political activism and a script that pushes the expected return of Christ into the future, or otherwise de-emphasizes actual date-setting. Many evangelicals, however, had embraced a form of apocalyptic belief called “premillennial dispensationalism.” In this view of the End Times, Jesus returns before the millennium of the perfect utopian society under the rule of God.

The “dispensations” are epochs believed to be prophesied in the Bible, and most premillennial dispensationalists think we are approaching the last epoch or “dispensation” and therefore the End Times are at hand. Evangelical premillennialists look at worldly events and then scan the Bible’s book of Revelation for “signs of the times,” by which they mean signs of what they think are the approaching End Times. This means the Bible has to be read as a literal script of past, present, and future events; and it increases the urge to convert people to a “born again” form of Christianity and thus save souls before time literally runs out (Martin, 7-8.). These ideas became central to several groups of Protestants, today represented by denominations such as the Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God (Oldfield 1996, 14)

One way to read the book of Revelation is as a conspiracy theory in which Satan’s agents attempt to build a collective one-world government and global religion in order to trick true Christians and prepare for the showdown between good and evil. Many evangelical and fundamentalist premillennialists concerned with the End Times looked at the burgeoning U.S. government apparatus under Roosevelt, the spread of Soviet and Chinese communism, and the United Nations as all part of the prophetic End Times Antichrist system (Oldfield 2004). In the same way, domestic social welfare policies that were built around collective institutional solutions rather than personal salvation not only promoted sin and sloth, but could also be framed as tied to Satan’s End Times strategy.


Sources:
Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 1-65. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Hutson, James. 1998. “Faith of Our Forefathers: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic,” Information Bulletin, The Library of Congress, Vol. 57, No. 5, May. Online at http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9805/religion.html.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Northcott, Michael. 2004. An Angel Directs The Storm. Apocalyptic Religion & American Empire.London: I.B. Tauris.

Oldfield, Duane Murray. 1996. The Right and the Righteous: The Christian Right Confronts the Republican Party. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
___. 2004. “The Evangelical Roots of American Unilateralism: The Christian Right’s Influence and How to Counter It,” Foreign Policy in Focus, Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, March, http://www.fpif.org/papers/2004evangelical.html

Zakai, Avihu. 1992. Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate
Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”
Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates
The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Saturday, May 13, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

The debates over social welfare and other domestic social policies in America today are shaped by three religious currents within Protestantism.  These theological views are seldom discussed openly, yet they play a powerful role in determining federal and state public policies toward the impoverished, the ill and disabled, and those unable to find work at a living wage.

Liberal and Progressive policies for social reform and public welfare are legacies of ideas pioneered by the Quakers, the Unitarians, and other dissident religious reformers who rejected the notions of the early Calvinists and evangelicals.
From the 1730s through the 1770s there was a Protestant revival movement in the colonies dubbed the First Great Awakening. A line of Protestant preachers including Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley shaped the theology of the First Great Awakening.

Edwards was a fiery preacher who still held to Calvinst orthodoxy: man was born bad, and God had predestined the Elect for Heaven. Alas, poor Edwards, he was a man mostly misunderstood. Those who heard and read his sermons (printing sermons in pamphlet form was a common practice) thought Edwards was saying people could change their fate by becoming more ardent Christians. Sometimes the theological fine points get lost in the oratory.

As the revival swept the colonies, many reported a highly emotional experience of conversion after hearing sermons at large public meetings. Unlike Edwards, Whitefield and other preachers broke with Calvinist orthodoxy and challenged the idea of predestination. They suggested that sinners who embraced Jesus in the conversion experience could find a place in Heaven.

Predestination of the Elect was too elitist and static a brand of Christianity for a new society that claimed to be a classless society and valued individuality and initiative in the quest to conquer the frontier. The ideas of spiritual growth, and equality before God, started a public discussion about the need for the government to provide for public schools. It also planted the seeds for the anti-slavery movement.

At the same time, this view could be adapted to tell alienated workers that by accepting Jesus as their savior, they could learn to live with their earthly stress and subjugated status by looking forward to the future day of salvation.

The new evangelists tended to be zealous, judgmental, and authoritarian. Not everyone was happy with the results of the First Great Awakening, and some rejected the trend and remained on the traditional orthodox Calvinist path. Others rejected both and developed what became Unitarianism as a response.

The three tendencies in colonial Protestantism during the early 1800s were:

1). Orthodoxy in the form of northern Calvinist Congregationalists and southern Anglicans;

2). Revivalist rationalism and evangelism that drew not only from the Congregationalists and Anglicans (later called Episcopalians), but also swept through the smaller Protestant denominations such as the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians;

3.) Unitarianism, still relatively small but influential in the northeast.

(Unitarianism emerged as a theological tendency before the name itself was formalized).

Recall that Axel R. Schaefer identifies these religious traditions with three different ways that the proper policies for social reform and public welfare are viewed today:

*  Calvinist/Free Market: based on changing individual social behavior through punishment.

*  Evangelical/Revivalist: based on born again conversion to change individual behavior, but still linked to some Calvinist ideas of punishment.

*  Liberal/Progressive: based on changing systems and institutions to change individual behavior on a collective basis over time.

Many ideas on social reform that are now supported by mainline Protestant denominations were initially promoted by religious dissidents such as the Quakers and later the Unitarians.

Quakers had been concerned with prison conditions since the late 1600s in both England and in colonial Pennsylvania, and they introduced the idea of prison as a means for reform rather than punishment.  They also promoted the “conception of the criminal as at least partially a victim of conditions created by society” which implied that society had some obligation to reforming the criminal (Jorns, p. 170). In the early 1800s Quaker activist Elizabeth Gurney Fry launched a major prison reform movement in England, and these ideas were carried to the United States.

The Unitarians rejected the Calvinist idea that man was born in sin and argued that sometimes people did bad things because they were trapped in poverty or lacked the education required to move up in society. In the early 1800s the dissident Unitarians split Calvinist Congregationalism and succeeded in taking over many religious institutions in New England such as churches and schools. Harvard (founded as a religious college in 1636 by the Puritans), came under control of the Unitarians in 1805 as the orthodox Calvinist Congregationalists lost religious and political power.

The Unitarians took the idea of transforming society and changing personal behavior popularized by the First Great Awakening and shifted it into a plan for weaving a social safety net under the auspices of the secular government.

This idea of a social safety net was expanded in federal public policy during the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt. While criticisms of New Deal social welfare policies are often packaged in political or economic language, the underlying theological basis for some of these arguments is seldom examined.


Sources:

Adams, David K. and Cornelis A. van Minnen, eds. 1999. Religious and Secular Reform in America: Ideas, Beliefs, and Social Change. New York: New York University Press.

Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991).

Hatch, Nathan O. 1989. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press

Jorns, Auguste. 1931. The Quakers as Pioneers in Social Work. Trans. Thomas Kite Brown. New York: MacMillan, pp. 162-171.

Marsden, George M. 1982. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans.

Moore, R. Laurence. 1986. Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schaefer, Axel R. 1999. “Evangelicalism, Social Reform and the US Welfare State, 1970-1996,” pp. 249-273, in David K. Adams and Cornelius A. van Minnem, eds., Religious and Secular Reform in America: Ideas, Beliefs, and Social Change. New York: New York University Press. (I have used slightly different language to describe the sectors identified by Schaefer).

Wallace, Anthony F. C. 1956 “Revitalization Movements,” American Anthropologist, 58, no. 2 (April): 264-281.

Whitney, Janet. 1936. Elizabeth Fry: Quaker Heroine. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co.


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series
Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism

Thursday, June 29, 2006

In the 1950s and 1960s conservatives in evangelical and fundamentalist churches, and conservatives in mainline Protestant denominations, felt themselves under assault by the growth of secular and humanist ideas in the society. Religious belief in general seemed to be waning. Godless communism seemed to be advancing while the Godly in America seemed to be retreating.
Conservative Christians were particularly horrified by a series of U.S. Supreme Court and other federal court rulings on pornography, prayer in schools, the tax status of segregated Christian academies, and abortion.

The country seethed with demands for justice and equality by the Civil Rights movement which spawned the student rights movement, and then the antiwar movement, the women’s rights movement, the ecology movement, and the gay rights movement. Conservative religious forces responded with campaigns to clean up the movies and stop smut, restore prayer in public schools, and end abortion.

A critical moment came when a group of parents in Kanawha county West Virginia launched a campaign in 1974 against new textbooks introduced into the public school system. Frank discussions about sexuality and race relations were seen as part of a coordinated attack on the moral values of traditional families. Several national conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation rallied to the side of the parents. In many ways the conservative framing of social issues in terms of “family values” traces back to this campaign against the influence of progressive secular and humanistic ideas. (Berlet and Lyons).

The idea that a coordinated campaign by “secular humanists” was aimed at displacing Christianity as the moral bedrock of America actually traces back to a group of Catholic ideologues in the 1960s (Mason). It was Protestant evangelicals, especially fundamentalists, who brought this concept into the public political arena and developed a plan to mobilize grassroots activists as foot soldiers in what became known as the Culture Wars of the 1980s.

A popular theologian named Francis A. Schaeffer caught the attention of many Protestants in a series of books and essays calling on Christians to directly confront sinful and decadent secular culture with its humanist values. Several other authors picked up this attack on “secular humanism” and extended it (Diamond, Martin, Berlet and Lyons).

George Marsden argues that this new focus on secular humanism “revitalized fundamentalist conspiracy theory.” The threats of “Communism and socialism could, of course, be fit right into the humanist picture,” Marsden notes, “but so could all the moral and legal changes at home without implausible scenarios of Russian agents infiltrating American schools, government, reform movements, and mainline churches” (Marsden: 109).

Two leading activists of the Christian right, Gary Bauer and James Dobson, called the battle pitting secular humanists against Christians over the moral foundation of America a “great Civil War of Values” (Martin:344).

The idea of a conscious and coordinated conspiracy of secular humanists has been propounded in various ways by a variety of national conservative organizations, including the Christian Coalition (Pat Robertson), the Eagle Forum (Phyllis Schlafly), Concerned Women for America (Beverly LaHaye), American Coalition for Traditional Values (Tim LaHaye), Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (Fred Schwarz), and the John Birch Society (Robert Welch).

By framing this set of claims as a conspiracy to provoke a “Culture War,” conservative Christians transform political disagreements into a battle between the Godly and the Godless, between good and evil, and ultimately between those that side with God and those that wittingly or unwittingly side with Satan. This has important implications when merged with neo-Calvinist ideas about the relationship between human nature and proper public social policies; and premillennial expectations about the proper role of Christians in the apocalyptic End Times.


Sources
Berlet, Chip, and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America. New York: Guilford.

Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Marsden, George M. 1991. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books

Mason, Carol. 2002. Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions

Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies

Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Friday, June 16, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies

The mainline Protestant denominations had learned to live with the secular civic arrangements of the American republic at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. Mainline Protestants supported separation of church and state. They saw the scientific method as revealing the wonder of God, and accepted scientific discoveries as complementary to religion rather than competition for hearts, minds, and souls.
This all was heresy to a group of conservative ministers who condemned church leaders and urged the rank and pew laity to return to what they saw as the fundamentals of orthodox Protestant belief.

From 1910 to 1915 these reactionary theologians published articles on what they saw as the fundamentals of Christianity. Thus they became known as the fundamentalists. Among their beliefs was the idea that the Bible was never in error and was to be read literally, not as metaphor.

While rejecting Calvinist ideas of predestination and the Elect, fundamentalists sought to restore many orthodox Calvinist tenets–thus they embraced the idea that man was born in sin and thus needed punishment, shame, and discipline to correct sinful tendencies. Some who opposed what they saw as the liberal and progressive ideas of the mainstream and mainline Protestant churches decided not to go as far as the Fundamentalists, and so they retained the identification of being evangelicals (Ammerman; Marsden 1982, 1991; Martin). Fundamentalists, therefore, are evangelicals with a more doctrinaire and aggressive approach to battling secularists and religious liberals. As Marsden quips, “A fundamentalist is an evangelical who is mad about something,” and yet both evangelicals and fundamentalists are “strikingly diverse” (1991: 1-2).

Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists have historically connected apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible’s book of Revelation to current political and social events (Boyer; Fuller). Robert C. Fuller notes that trying to match real life political figures with the evil Antichrist (prophesied as the sidekick of Satan in Revelation) became something of an “American obsession” in certain circles. This is especially true among those who embrace premillennial dispensationalism as their view of the End Times timetable. The rise of communism and anarchism during the post WWI period were easily viewed through the lens of a conspiratorial version of apocalyptic belief and was woven into the developing beliefs of premillennial fundamentalists. Liberalism and radicalism were not just heresies–they were part of a conspiracy against God.
According to Frank Donner:

“Bolshevism came to be identified over wide areas of the country by God-fearing Americans as the Antichrist come to do eschatological battle with the children of light,” as prophesied in Revelation. Although based in Christianity, this apocalyptic anticommunist worldview developed a “slightly secularized version,” explains Donner, and it was “widely-shared in rural and small-town America, postulated a doomsday conflict between decent upright folk and radicalism–alien, satanic, immorality incarnate (Donner: 47-48)

One skirmish against this cosmic battle against alien and secular ideas was aimed against science–especially Darwin’s theory of evolution–with “creationism” becoming a major cause for fundamentalists in the 1920s
(read more).
Evangelicals and fundamentalists, however, received such bad press during and after the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” that many of them withdrew from direct political and social involvement, building a separate subculture that lasted until the Cold War.
Michael Cromartie explains:

“For several decades, from roughly 1925 until the end of World War Two, a large sector of conservative Protestant social thought was influenced by a pessimistic form of eschatology and a pietistic individualism that looked with disdain on efforts to improve social conditions and political structures. These conservative Protestants had originally believed that the process of secularization was simply irreversible; this pessimism was reinforced by their pre-millennial theology. Some simply suffered from over-heated eschatological [End Times] expectations (Cromartie).

Leo P. Ribuffo has studied “The Old Christian Right” that flourished between WWI and WWII. He pays special attention to the influence of apocalyptic Biblical prophecy on the leaders of the Protestant “Far Right” such as William Dudley Pelley, Gerald B. Winrod, and Gerald L. K. Smith (Ribuffo: 2-24, 58-72, 83-116, 175-177). While these men all ended up on the political fringe, some of their ideas gained a wide following. In the 1930s and 1940s, a significant number of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists saw President Roosevelt and other “modernists” not only as moving inexorably toward collectivism, but also sliding down “a slippery slope from liberalism to atheism, nudism, and Communism” (Ribuffo: 110).
A large number of evangelicals and fundamentalists were highly critical and suspicious of the social reforms implemented during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. Liberals were widely seen as paving the road to communism as part of a vast conspiracy. Government welfare programs could be pictured as similar to the collectivism of Godless and perhaps Satanic Soviet communism.

Although fundamentalists and evangelicals tended to withdraw from the political fray, devoting most of their energy to inwardly-directed religious observance, they challenged modern ideas using such modern tools as radio and later television to communicate their message. Fundamentalists and evangelicals never went away. They lived within their own subcultures, saving souls, and watching for the signs of the times by matching current events to Biblical prophecies. To them, the social safety net and the welfare state were just more evidence that America was going to Hell.


Sources
Ammerman, Nancy T. 1991. “North American Protestant Fundamentalism.” In Fundamentalisms Observed, The Fundamentalism Project 1, eds., Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, pp. 1-65. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Cromartie, Michael. 2000. “Religious Conservatives in American Politics 1980-2000: An Assessment.”

Donner, Frank J. (1980). The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Fuller, Robert C. (1995). Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American Obsession. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M. (1982). Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marsden, George M. (1991). Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions

Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Decoding The Da Vinci Code:
Causa Merdae Flabellum Incursandae

Last Supper
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God help me, The Da Vinci Code movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The book by Dan Brown was a moderately fun thriller, but I had heard so many negative reviews, I went to the screening with my Tripe Belch sense of dread.

I had been talking with my friend Denise Griebler, a minister with the United Church of Christ (UCC) about The Da Vinci Code, and how it combines longstanding debates about Christian theology (based in part on the Gnostic Gospels) with conspiracy theories old and new.

The UCC is the media-savvy Protestant denomination that has been producing television advertisements about welcoming people from all walks of life to their church. All the major networks have refused to run them. These are the same TV networks that helicopter in film crews to cover marginal self-appointed Christian Right demagogues while ignoring statements by mainstream church leaders such as Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

That got me to thinking about how we can use the massive publicity around The Da Vinci Codemovie, and the early attendance rush to the theaters, to talk with our neighbors, friends, and others about the real struggles within Christianity. We need to decode The Da Vinci Code. Codes are fun. We should always be ready to seize an opportunity ubi merda flabellum incursat.

There are several themes we can decode, and in doing so separate the facts in The Da Vinci Code from the fiction. I started doing this on the “Uprising” radio show hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar at KPFK-FM, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles. There were a number of callers to this talk show, and we had a lively conversation. What follows are just sketches of ideas for starting conversations.

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As many others have pointed out, Jesus of Nazareth was not followed around be someone with a tape recorder–not even a stenographer lugging around parchment and ink. The Bible is based on an oral tradition converted into text after the fact.

The Bible was pieced together from a collection of materials, and some written texts were excluded. We can discuss the process of assembling the Bible. What was included? What was excluded? Why? How does Biblical literalism function with a text that was assembled by a committee?

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There was a struggle among the early followers of Jesus over the role of women. This grain of truth in the Da Vinci Code can be used to ask about how Peter and Paul introduced hierarchy and patriarchy into the Jesus movement.

Try exploring the very real writings on the sacred feminine especially in Gnosticism. Look for articles and books by Rosemary Radford Reuther, or for a really challenging set of texts: Mary Daly. Peter J. Gomes is the author of The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart. Gomes, a minister at Harvard, reminds us to read the Bible with an awareness that some passages represent contemporary prejudices and systems of oppression introduced into the text by the human authors.

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The Gnostic Gospels are some of the texts excluded (and denounced as heresy) by those that assembled the Bible. Elaine Pagels explains the Gnostic Gospels and sets the table for a great dinner conversation about what was really going on at the Last Supper. If Mary Magdalene wasn’t in the picture–why not?

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The recitation of creeds has been used as litmus tests to “out” heretics in Christianity. Creeds play different roles in different churches. For example: “The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of faith” according to the website at Denise Griebler’s church in Illinois. Is there only one exact way to practice Christianity? Who says? Do people who pray to God pray to the same God? Do humans get to decide what prayers are heard?

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Some members of the Catholic group Opus Dei serve as the enforcers of the most dogmatic, repressive, and authoritarian aspects of the Catholic Church. OK, the group probably never hired an masochistic albino hit man to track down and murder those who get in their way. But as author Penny Lernoux and others have pointed out, Opus Dei played a role in crushing Liberation Theology and siding with wealthy elites and right-wing dictators against poor peoples movements in Central and South America.

At Talk2Action Frank Cocozzelli provides details about Opus Dei in “The Catholic Right: A Series:Parts Two & Three.

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The current Pope is intelligent and witty–but very reactionary and patriarchal–as Cardinal Ratzinger he encouraged the most right-wing elements within the church hierarchy and laity. We can criticize the Catholic Church for sexism and homophobia and authoritarian impulses. See the first part of Frank Cocozzelli’s series on “The Catholic Right.

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I enjoy conspiracy theories as entertainment: the X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m currently reading a novel about a contemporary investigation of historical events woven around conspiracy theories, lost statues, hidden passages in a castle, the Catholic Church. The novel by Elizabeth Peters is Borrower of the Night, and before the novel begins, Peters lays out what parts of the novel are based on historic facts, and which are not. Dan Brown wrote a similar statement in the beginning of The Da Vinci Code, but he fudged the facts. Much of The Da Vinci Code is borrowed from longstanding conspiracy theories about the Freemasons and their interaction with the secret Illuminati group. Promoting conspiracy theories as fact is playing with fire. Why are conspiracy theories so popular right now?

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The Priory of Sion as the protectors of the Holy Grail are the good guys in the film. As such, the group does not exist. It appears to have been invented recently, and the hucksters even created faked papers they stashed in a library so they could be “found.” For more details, see this, andthis, and this. Was it appropriate for Dan Brown to imply that the Priory of Sion actually exists?

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The movie the Da Vinci Code gives us a golden opportunity, so let’s talk about some of these issues. Our cup runneth over–even if there is no chalice in the Last Supper painting by Da Vinci. There is a struggle over faith, religion, and God going on in our society right now.

The NCC’s Bob Edgar puts it this way:

I think there are two Christian Churches. I think one Christian Church was fascinated with the Old Testament Messiah, who was going to come and lead a mighty army. They see that Old Testament Messiah through the eyes of the Armageddon theology. You hear them talking a lot about the second coming. I think there’s another Christian Church who was surprised that God sent the Messiah in a humble birth and a person who was a conscientious objector talking about peace and cared about the poor. And this other Church think the second coming already happened. We call it Easter. God is in fact inviting us to help change the world in which we live. read more

Ruby Sales of Spirit House also puts matters in a clear perspective in her essay Empire v. Liberation Christianity:

The Empire religion espoused by George Bush and his white Christian conservative allies is headed by a God who appears to be white supremacist, patriarchal, and upper class, one who stood on the side of enslavement and the genocide of native peoples throughout the globe, including the Americas.

This is the message of conservative right wing Christians. They misuse scripture to justify their beliefs, and they hide their intentions behind self-centered and pious God talk that undergirds and propels exclusion and domination–whether it’s about the inferiority of women, black people, or lesbians and gays.

Liberation Christianity begins with the assertion that God is on the side of the oppressed rather than the side of the Empire. This is the good news of the radical Jew Jesus who challenged the Roman Empire.

Right wing Protestant evangelicals and Catholics have raised a rucus about the movie The Da Vinci Code. We can join the fray. What are some other questions we can ask in public based on what we see in the book and movie? And after this, we can look around and see if anything is Left Behind.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism

After World War Two, many American evangelicals and fundamentalists thought that it was the external threat of Soviet military power and the internal threat of communist subversion that was likely to send Americans hurtling into Hell. Global nuclear annihilation, in this context, might be preferable to a Godless secular collectivist society. The strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction earned its ironic acronym.

Meanwhile, social welfare was being framed as a communist plot.

Evangelist Billy Graham began a series of revivalist crusades during this period, originally through rallies scheduled by Youth for Christ. Graham struck off on his own and in 1949 a hugely successful Los Angeles crusade boosted him into public prominence, in part because anticommunist tycoon William Randolph Hearst instructed the newspapers he owned to “puff Graham.”

Graham started a national radio program in late 1950, The Hour of Decision, which in turn led to sporadic and rather dull television specials beginning in 1951. Graham in person and on the radio was a more charismatic and persuasive figure. In 1957 Graham went to Madison Square Garden in New York City to lead a crusade; and J. Howard Pew, who funded a variety of anticommunist groups, offered a financial guarantee to bring the crusade to network television.
Both Hearst and Pew viewed the New Deal social welfare programs as a form of collectivism that would lead to socialism and communism, and further saw that a particular brand of Christian evangelicalism rooted in libertarian Calvinist themes could provide a bulwark against further slippage down the slope from social welfare to communist totalitarianism, in their view.

Hearst and Pew had backed a winner with their support of Graham. According to William Martin:

“The first broadcast, on 1 June, [drew] approximately 6.4 million viewers, more than enough to convince the evangelist of television’s great promise as a vehicle for the gospel. A Gallup poll taken that summer revealed that 85% of Americans could correctly identify Billy Graham, and three-quarters of that number regarded him positively” (Martin, n.d.).

Graham’s homey view of the ideal individual in the idealized America fit neatly into plans by ultraconservatives to roll back the collectivist social welfare policies of the New Deal. Writers such as Ludwig von Mises wrote about the natural affinity between Christianity and Capitalism. There were also extensive mass media efforts to “teach” Americans of the benefits of a particular form of “Free Market” capitalism over communism, with material from the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Foundation for Economic Education with its magazine Freeman. Part of this plan included strengthening America against the external and internal threats of communism by increasing public participation in civic life.

Liberty Bell front

In 1956 the presidential election featured a “Get out the Vote” campaign built around the theme of “Let Freedom Ring.” Thousands of Boy Scouts hooked cardboard Liberty Bells onto doorknobs in an effort to attract new voters to the polls.
Some evangelicals were convinced to re-enter the political arena; which many had avoided since the embarrassment of the Scopes trial in 1925. Still, the evangelical voting patterns that emerged were not politicized. An evangelical’s preference for Republicans or Democrats was primarily determined by demographic factors other than theological belief or religious affiliation. This would change.

A series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1950s and early 1960s worried many conservative Christians, and some began to get involved in public policy debates and organizing over issues such as obscenity and pornography, and then other social issues. Groups such as Fred Schwarz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, the Church League of America, and the Freedoms Foundation joined other ultraconservative organizations in education and training against communist subversion by liberals in mainline Protestant denominations and even the Catholic Church. In 1959 the John Birch Society (JBS) was born. These and other institutions would form the foundation of what later emerged as the New Christian Right in the late 1970s (Diamond 1989, 1995, Hardisty; Berlet & Lyons; Goldberg)

Eckard V. Toy, Jr. explains that:

“The genesis of the JBS can be traced to a number of sources, but a meeting in New York City in early 1958 was a primary cause. Welch and several men who would later join him in the Birch Society attended a meeting held by conservative polemicist Merwin K. Hart at the University Club on February 14, 1958, to discuss ways to reverse what Hart described as the national trend toward collectivism” (Toy).

From the beginning, Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the social safety net were targets of intense criticism from the JBS and similar groups, and much of what was dismissed in the 1960s as dubious Birch Society ideological fantasy is now part of the Republican Party platform or enacted into law.


Sources
Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.

Burch, Philip H., Jr. 1973. “The NAM as an Interest Group.” Politics and Society, vol. 4, no. 1.

Diamond, Sara. 1989. Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. 1995. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Goldberg, Michelle. 2006. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. New York: W.W. Norton

Hardisty, Jean V. 1999. Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon Press.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. 1990. To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism.Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lyons, Matthew N. 1998. “Business Conflict and Right-Wing Movements.” In Amy E. Ansell, ed. Unraveling the Right: The New Conservatism in American Thought and Politics (pp. 80-102). Boulder, CO: Westview.

Martin, William C. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Saloma, John S. III, 1984. Ominous Politics: The New Conservative Labyrinth. Hill and Wang.

Toy, Eckard V. Jr. 2004. “The Right Side of the 1960s: The Origins of the John Birch Society in the Pacific Northwest.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 105, No. 2 (Summer); http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ohq/105.2/toy.html.

• For Billy Graham, see:

Martin, William C. “Billy Graham Crusades: U.S. Religious Program.” The Museum of Broadcast Communications, http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/billygraham/billygraham.htm.

Martin, William C. 1991. A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story. New York: William Morrow.

http://www.billygraham.org/mediaRelations/bios.asp?p=1

http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/bio.html

http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/191.htm

• Pew continued to worry about liberalism in the church: http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/192.htm#2

• On von Mises networking economic libertarians and 1940s-1960s Christian evangelical right-wing groups, see:

1945-1949.
1950-1954.
1955-1959.
1960-1964.
1965-1969.

See specifically:

Ludwig von Mises, 1950, “The Alleged Injustice of Capitalism,” Faith and Freedom. 1:7(June), pp. 5-8. Included as Part 3, Chapter 4, in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. Reprinted in 1952, Reflections on Faith and Freedom, Los Angeles: Spiritual Mobilization, pp. 39-45.

Ludwig von Mises, 1960, “The Economic Foundations of Freedom,” Christian Economics,12:2(January 26, 1960)1-2; online here.

Ludwig von Mises, 1960, “The Economic Foundations of Freedom,” The Freeman, (Irvington, N.Y.) 10:4(April), pp. 44-52; von Mises, “The Economic Foundations of Freedom,” in Essays On Liberty, VII.

• There is a longstanding relationship between the Freedoms Foundation and the anti-union National Right to Work Committee and its Foundation. See: here and here

• For a list of various “public service” campaigns in this period, see

http://web.library.uiuc.edu/ahx/uasfa/1302207.pdf


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions

Part Two: Calvinist Settlers

Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate

Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare

Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies

Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism

Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism


Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments on this article at www.Talk2Action.org.


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

New Front in the Culture War: Gay Rights Sacrificed on the Altar of the Mid-Term Elections

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Christian Right has regrouped and launched a new offensive in the ongoing Christian Right Culture War. Gay marriage and the “homosexual agenda” are the primary tactical scapegoats. These culture warriors are on a mission from God, and like a band of blue state brothers (and now sisters), they seek to mobilize “values voters” to go to the polls in November and vote for Godly candidates. They are encouraged by new evidence that this type of Christian Right voter mobilization plan did indeed help elect the Godly candidate, George W. Bush, President in 2004.

After attending two days of speeches at the “Washington Briefing: 2006 Values Voters Summit,” it was evident to me that the terms “Godly candidates” and “Republican candidates” are seen as pretty much identical by the Christian Right. The event was held from September 21-24 in Washington, D.C., with the main conference on Friday and Saturday, the 22nd and 23rd. The event was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council. Co-Sponsors included other political action arms of major Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon).

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins suggested the nation was under attack from without and within, which was a theme throughout the conference. The domestic forces of Satan–secularists, liberals, homosexuals, feminists, abortionists, pornographers–are the subversives within; while the barbaric terrorist Islamic fascists are the external enemy. Godly “values voters” should remember how they felt on 9/11, and then go into the voting booth and vote to prevent the Democrats from having the opportunity to appoint more activist judges who are wittingly or unwittingly in league with the evil forces of darkness.
Some speakers tried to make a distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorists, but others crossed the line into broad attacks. Perkins, for example, suggested the Pope was on target to have linked Islam and violence. Given the Crusades, the Inquisition, and witch hunts, one might have prayed that Perkins been more self-reflective. The Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has not been cited as a religious authority during much of the history of Protestant Christian evangelicalism in the United States, but there were Catholic speakers and participants at the event, although they remained a small minority.

This new Christian Right project seeks to replace the work of the Christian Coalition, a group that hosted similar “Road to Victory” meetings well-attended in the 1990s, but which recently has fallen on hard times. There were about 1,000 people at the opening sessions, with total participation reaching over 1,700 by the close of the event. Not as big as the biggest Christian Coalition meetings, but not shabby, either. The exhibit hall was much smaller, however.

According to Perkins, radical homosexuals and activist judges are a threat to religious freedom; and the nation is facing a clear and present danger. A clear theme was that it is all for the children–whether it is pro-life issues, opposition to gay marriage, restoring morality to America, or terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union was routinely denounced, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State was slammed, with its executive director, Barry W. Lynn, denounced by name several times. Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, apparently has a Godliness deficit. Other favorite targets were Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and Rosie O’Donnell. Pelosi (D-CA) is the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives.

The goal of the Godless liberal secular humanist horde, according to conference speakers, is nothing less than the suppression of religious expression in public. Not just eliminating prayer in schools, but banning any mention of God or religion across America. While some speakers chose their words more carefully than others, it was obvious that the Christian Right goal in the upcoming election is to elect Republicans and foil attempts by Democrats to seat “activist” judges.

Gary Bauer urged the audience not to be afraid of the ACLU, Ted Kennedy, or Nancy Pelosi, and told the attendees they should put Christian citizenship at the top of their list of priorities. We are close to winning these battles, Bauer said, and then we can give our children a shining city on a hill. This is a reference to the idea of early Christian settlers that they could create in the Puritan and Pilgrim colonies a New Jerusalem to build the kingdom of God, and light a beacon of hope for the world from Boston–the city on the hill. This idea was based on the belief that America should be a Christian theocracy.

Christian Right Moral Values Voters Helped Elect Bush in 2004

The Christian Right urges its core supporters to run for every political post “from dog-catcher on up.” as one speaker at the FRC Action conference this past weekend told the audience. It was obvious that the leaders of the Christian Right believe that Christian Right “Moral Values” voters helped elect Bush in 2004, and now there is scholarly evidence to back up that claim.
After the election in 2000, there was a brief flurry of media reports that voters who were concerned about “moral values” played a significant role in electing George Bush. Then there was an avalanche of reports claiming that since the question in the exit poll interviews was ambiguous, that values was not a factor. It turns out the initial reports were essentially correct, although at the time there was no proper evidence to back up the claim.

A study by John C. Green and Mark Silk, “Why Moral Values Did Count,” appeared in  Religion in the News, in Spring 2005.

http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol8No1/WhyMoral%20ValuesDidCount.htm

According to Green and Silk (who used highly sophisticated statistical tools), regional variations in how voters ranked their issue concerns demonstrate that “moral-values voters were more important to the president’s victory than the national totals imply.” And in Ohio especially, Christian evangelicals and “regular worship attenders and less regular attenders were both more likely to be Bush moral values voters.” Green and Silk conclude that as “Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell hoped, the coalition of the moral has expanded beyond evangelicals, but for the most part more in the evangelical heartland than elsewhere.” This group of “religious folks were more likely to choose moral values in the Bush regions than in the Kerry regions.”

This indicates that the Christian Right mobilization of voters in key states such as Ohio did make a difference in the 2000 election, and the FRC Action conference openly embraced that notion. It was clear from conversations with attendees that many felt the statewide initiatives to block gay marriage had drawn many evangelical voters to the polls, and that the vote for Bush came along for the ride.

Judge Pickering made this same point at the FRC Action summit when he said the Bush might not have won Ohio if the Marriage Amendment had not been on the ballot. Pickering said there was a culture war with the battle over the confirmation of judges a central front.

Gay Marriage as Scapegoat

Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) quoted scholar David Landes on the centrality of culture. According to Romney, every child has a right to have a mother and father.  Liberals, he said, support democracy only when they think that the outcome is a foregone conclusion that favors their views. Romney urged support for the Federal Marriage Amendment.
I think the warm reception for Romney is significant. The man next to me leaned over and said: “That’s our next President.”

Time and again speakers at the conference made it clear that gay marriage was the key battle in the campaign to protect religion, (and thwart the plans of the Devil). Gay marriage, we were told, will spread like a disease across America from the source of the infection–Massachusetts and its cabal of activist judges. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears in an FRC promotional video built around this attack on gay marriage. The video advertises “Liberty Sunday,” a nationally simulcast rally to be held October 15, 2006 at a Boston church.

The flyer for the event proclaims:

“For over 200 years the light of the church has illuminated the true meaning of freedom. Now a radical agenda seeks to extinguish that flame.”

The true meaning of “freedom,” based on many statements made at the FRC Action conference, is that real Freedom comes from God (and through his son Jesus Christ), and that the First Amendment was written to protect churches from government interferences. This is half a loaf, Constitutionally speaking. The flip side is that there should not be any state-sponsored religion–a concept brushed aside by comments suggesting that a specific mention of the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. This is like suggesting that when the Rolling Stones sang “Let’s spend the night together,” they were not thinking about sex.

As for gay sex, if we allow it to be sanctioned, then freedom is lost and God offended. Following this line of argument? Me neither….

Patriotism is Apparently Republican

Gary Bauer told the story of the passengers on United Flight 93 on 9/11 who met at the back of the plane to discuss forcing their way into the cockpit to prevent the aircraft from being used as a missile. Bauer observed the group of passengers voted, since they were Americans after all, and then they stood for family, faith, and freedom by running up the aisle to the front of the plane, forcing the hijackers to react, which sent the plane hurtling into the ground and prevented an even greater catastrophe.
Bauer looked at the audience and told them that they were just being asked to run to the voting booth. The connection between the Islamic terrorist attack on America on 9/11, and the threat posed to American society by homosexuals, liberal secularists, activist judges and Democrats was repeated a number of times throughout the conference.

Alliance Defense Fund

Beyond the mid-term election in November, there are plans to extend the Culture War.
Day two of the meeting dawned with the Alliance Defense Fund breakfast, where there was much food, little tolerance for gay marriage, and no room to get in. An overflow crowd of 250 sat through what was essentially an extended advertisement for the Alliance Defense Fund, which seeks to position itself as the major adversary to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Another topic was the alleged “War on Christmas,” which refers to disputes over the boundaries of bringing the religious aspects of the holiday into the classroom and shopping mall.

ADF speakers also described how they had launched the “Day of Truth” to follow the Day of Silence during which young supporters of gay rights attend classes but otherwise do not speak in a silent protest of oppression. The “truth” involves invoking Biblical interpretations that are claimed to denounce homosexuality as an affront to God–a matter disputed within Christianity.

This was a crowd that booed the ACLU, groaned at the mere mention of the city of San Francisco, and snickered at a crude jibe at Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which, along with the ACLU, has become a favorite target for speakers throughout the event.

Connie Marshner

There was only one short time period on Saturday for break-out workshops during the event, and I attended the one on “Voter Identification and Turnout: A Church Plan,” run by Connie Marshner. Not a name known to most on the political left, but Connie Marshner was one of the earliest key architects of the “pro-family” movement that helped mobilize the Christian Right, which became a key sector of the New Right coalition.
Marshner announced at the start of the workshop that she had used the set of techniques in her 17-page handout to help re-elect Rick Santorum (R-PA), one of the staunchest allies of the Christian Right in Congress.
She began to outline her very practical nuts-and-bolts techniques, which she plainly stated was based on first obtaining the list of members of a church, parish, temple, or Mosque if there are any pro-life Muslims, she added with a smile. She explained that if your pastor does not want to have the church involved in politics, then this is a people-to-people campaign that does not expose the church to IRS sanctions regarding tax exempt status. Oh really?
The process starts with anonymous cold calls to members of the church to determine their voting leanings. Marshner suggested the caller be someone not in the congregation who could pose as being from a polling company.  Hmmmm.
Someone in the audience wanted to know what to say if someone wanted to know where the caller got their name and phone number.
Say you got it from the list of registered voters, advised Marshner, it is a public record.
What if the number is unlisted?
Here is where I understood Marshner’s response to suggest that the good Christian folks in the room just tell a fib. And not surprisingly, there were some grumbles from the crowd. This advice seemed, shall we say, deceptive.

Sensing discontent, Marshner said individuals should leave it up to their conscience on how to answer the question.
I turned to the man next to me and asked if this all seemed questionable ethically.
“Yes,” he answered.
Read more about this at the AUSCS website:

“Speaker At ‘Values Voter Summit’ Recommends Church-Based Organizing Plan Based On Deception”

http://www.au.org/site/News2?JServSessionIdr006=wqm1z42sg6.app13a&abbr=pr&page=NewsArticle&id=8563&security=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241

Katherine Harris and Spiritual Warfare

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (an elected U.S. Representative now running for the Senate), recently announced she had studied in Switzerland with the godfather of the Christian Right, Francis A. Schaeffer.
http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/6298.article
She told the audience at the FRC Action meeting of the importance of winning in November, and then suggested it was a battle against “principalities and powers,” which many in the audience would hear as a Biblical reference to a struggle with the demonic agents of Satan.
http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=0813365&p=1004924
Schaeffer, the pop theologian who pioneered the concept of dominionism and helped spark the Christian Right, urged Christian to engage in civil disobedience against immoral civil authority.
A few websites reporting this story have confused generic dominionism (Schaeffer) with Christian Reconstructionism (Rushdoony). The two are not identical. See these articles that place Dominionism, Schaeffer, and Rushdoony in context:
http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm
http://www.publiceye.org/diamond/sd_domin.html
http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisrec.html

The Perfect Ending

A highlight of the closing “Family, Faith & Freedom Gala” banquet was a lecture by Newt Gingrich on Morality and Politics. Who says the Christian Right doesn’t appreciate the surreal?
At what could be more surreal than the emcee at the very end reminding the audience that we were engaged in “Spiritual Warfare”

One of the many subtexts here is the view of many premillennial dispensationalists that we are in the End Times and thus true Christians must struggle with the literal forces of Satan. Elite political and religious leaders are expected to betray true Christians during this period, according to certain readings of the book of Revelation. No mention of the End Times was needed, it simply could be read into the rhetoric by those so inclined. Thus the event sidestepped a specific theological mention of the End Times while hitting the hot buttons of many who hold those views–and thus the leadership of the event is avoiding potential criticism of pandering to apocalyptic beliefs.

On the way out, we were all handed a coupon for a free Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich.


More about the conference at:
People for the American Way’s Right Watch

“US Senator Inhofe Claims Global Warming is a UN Conspiracy” by Bruce Wilson


“Bill Bennett, God-Man : ‘When 4 Americans Are Hung…. You Level The City'” by Bruce Wilson


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Chip’s Blog

Liberty Sunday: Gay Bashing for Republican Victor

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Liberty Sunday rally on October 15, 2006 continued the orchestrated campaign of gay bashing for Republican victory in the midterm elections.
Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council which staged the event, told the audience, especially the viewers in other states, to vote their values, especially in states where gay marriage is on the ballot. And if they live in one of those states…they should call ten people on election day. Perkins said that for gay rights activists, tolerance is a one way street, and that the protestors want to silence the voice of the church, even to the point of intimidating voters.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney strode onstage live accompanied by his wife Ann. He had been scheduled to appear by video.

There were several pre-taped video segments opened with an audio of hoof beats, tied at the beginning to Paul Revere, warning of the impending attack by the British. Perkins noted that Revere was riding toward a church.

Bishop Wellington Boone once again stated that the “Sodomites” were engaged in the “rape of the civil rights movement.”

Dr. Roberto Miranda spoke of the “powerful  aggressive instinct,” of homosexual organizers, and described the struggle for gay rights, saying: “like a rogue foreign cell inside an organism, it will continue to replicate itself.”

The Rev. Donald Wildmon warned evangelicals that the day could come when government agents  could come into their church and arrest them for a hate crime just for speaking their mind as a Christian about homosexuality.

Dr. James Dobson observed that the two political parties have different perspectives about gay marriage, and with the election coming up, folks needed to know that one or two Supreme Court Justices are just hanging on, and that the confirmation of the next justice could be pivotal.

Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute warned that homosexual money is flooding into this state to deny evangelicals their right to vote and their right to free speech. And therefore everyone needed to vote their values on November 7.

Alan Chambers, Exec. Dir. of Exodus International, opened by saying that there but for the grace of God, I might have been outside protesting this event.  “There is an agenda to silence the truth.”  Freedom from homosexuality is possible, he claimed, and that is through an intimate relationship “with our savior Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Harry Jackson denounced the “attempt to hijack the civil rights movement.”

For background, visit:

my earlier story

The People for the American Way href=”http://www.rightwingwatch.org/religious_right/liberty_sunday/index.html”>rightwingwatch website.

The Americans United for Separation of Church and Statehref=”http://www.au.org/site/News2?abbr=pr&page=NewsArticle&id=8617&security=1002&news_iv_ctrl=1241″> website.

Official List of Speakers

    • Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
    • Dr. Roberto Miranda, Pastor, Lion of Judah Congregation
    • Bishop Gilbert Thompson, Senior Pastor, Jubilee Christian Church
    • Bishop Wellington Boone, Wellington Boone Ministries
    • Alan Chambers, President, Exodus International
    • Ann Romney, First Lady of Massachusetts
    • Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts
    • Ray Flynn, Former Mayor of Boston
    • Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family
    • Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship
    • Gary Bauer, American Values
    • Professor Robert George, Princeton University
    • Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado (R)
    • Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana (R)
    • Judge Charles Pickering
    • Alan Sears, Alliance Defense Fund
    • Rev. Don Wildmon, American Family Association
    • Maggie Gallagher, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy
    • William Donohue, Catholic League

Ported from Talk to Action
Post comments at www.Talk2Action.org.

Monday, October 09, 2006

October 15: Liberty Sunday – Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering

The event is billed as “Liberty Sunday: Defending Our First Freedom,” with the slogan, “Preserving the light of the Church.” Sunday, October 15, 2006 at 7pm eastern time, in Boston at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, “in response to the legal battles over marriage taking place in Massachusetts.”

One notice from FRC is titled “First Amendment Under Attack,” and reads: “Family Research Council will tackle one of the most divisive debates in the culture wars during a nationwide simulcast.” The program simulcast will be hosted on the Sky Angel satellite broadcast service.

These battles are destined to have an impact not only on marriage, but also on the free speech and freedom of religion rights of all citizens. Liberty Sunday will broadcast live in churches across the country via Sky Angel satellite system, and will also broadcast on Daystar Television, Bott Radio Network, American Family Radio and web-cast on http://www.libertysunday.com(Cite:)

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romey will appear by video, but he is sending his wife to the event to introduce his cyber appearance. Here is the announcement from FRC:

Mrs. Romney Joins Liberty Sunday

I am pleased to announce that Ann Romney, the First Lady of Massachusetts, will join us for Liberty Sunday, a nationwide FRC simulcast that will air from Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts. She will introduce her husband, Gov. Mitt Romney, who will join by video to discuss the legal battles over marriage taking place in Massachusetts. Governor Romney has seen the impact that these battles have had not only on marriage but also on parental rights, the well-being of children, and the free speech rights of citizens in his state. (FRC Email, October 9, 2006)

“Send us your Stories” urges the blurb on the front page of the FRC website.

Have you been forced to attend pro-homosexual “diversity” training at work? Have your children subjected to pro-homosexual rhetoric in school? If your religious liberties have been affected in these and other ways, we want to hear from you. Send us your stories. Then, join us as we address these issues. (Cite:)

Here is the full invitation:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

So begins the Bill of Rights with the first amendment to our Constitution–one that guarantees a God-given freedom. For over 200 years the light of the church has illuminated this freedom, but now a radical agenda seeks to extinguish that flame.

The expansion of non-discrimination laws to include homosexuality inevitably constricts our right to express and act on our religious beliefs. Recently, there has been a string of incidents involving government intolerance against those who live out their faith in the public square.

To respond to this growing threat, I’m pleased to announce that on October 15, 2006, FRC will host a nationwide simulcast from Boston, Massachusetts called “Liberty Sunday: Defending Our First Freedom.” I invite you to join us as we examine the cultural and legal influences that threaten to erode religious liberties and muzzle free speech.

Tony Perkins, President Family Research Council

Cite

Typical of FRC? Yes. Family Research Council Vice President for Government Affairs Tom McClusky recently posted: “Brad Pitt Apparently Endorses Bigamy, Pedophilia and Bestiality.” McClusky was commenting on interview in Esquire magazine where actor Brad Pitt said his partner “Angie [Angelina Jolie] and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.”

This sensitivity to the issue of gay marriage is ridiculed by McClusky on his FRC blog where he wrote: “So until people and animals can marry or one man can marry multiple women or a forty year old man can marry a twelve year old girl – Brangelina will stand strong.” (Cite:)

Sky Angel, which will be broadcasting the live feed of Liberty Sunday, features a full color online feature about gay marriage, Liberty Sunday, and two antigay specials being aired later in the month.

Author Nancy Christopher notes of Liberty Sunday:

it’s certainly no coincidence that the event is being held less than one month before mid-term elections, being that there are eight constitutional amendments related to marriage on the ballot across the country.

No kidding! Christopher interview with Perkins is also illuminating:

[According to Perkins:] “What we’ve seen in the last two years since Massachusetts (approved) same-sex marriage is the evidence of what we were projecting would happen, that there was a coming conflict between the homosexual agenda and Christianity that was vibrant and active in the public square,” he says.

A “hate crimes bill” making it a crime to speak out against homosexuality is imminent if Christians don’t continue to be engaged in this issue, according to Perkins.

“The ability to preach the Gospel is at risk because the Gospel fully preached is offensive,” says Perkins. “Same-sex marriage is the vanguard of the homosexual agenda. If it becomes the law that you cannot speak anything that offends, it’s just a matter of time before the Gospel itself will be unwelcome public speech.

(Cite:)

Sky Angel is also broadcasting two specials on gay marriage after Liberty Sunday and before the midterm elections: “Veil of Deception: The Impact of Same Sex Marriage on American Youth”; and “No Tolerance for Truth.”
Here are the blurbs:

Veil of Deception investigates the impact of same-sex marriage on today’s youth. It aims to show concerned citizens how critically important it is to stand up and oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage for the sake of the children. The special also reveals homosexual activism in schools and communities across America, how experimentation is encouraged to children, and how parents, community leaders and teachers are speaking out.

No Tolerance for Truth examines what our children are learning about homosexuality in schools, clubs and even church groups and shows how there’s an intense propaganda campaign to normalize homosexuality and gender confusion to our children. Viewers will hear from parents, teachers and school board members who have fought the homosexual agenda in their communities, as well as from experts who have been studying the issue.

(Cite:)

According to Romney, speaking at the Christian Right’s “Values Voter Summit” in Washington , DC, the “culture of America is under attack”

Now my state’s Supreme Judicial Court, about a year ago, struck a blow against that family unit, in my view.  It said that our Constitution, written long ago by John Adams, requires people of the same gender to marry.

But the Court focused on adult rights…The mistake was they should have focused on the rights of children.  Because marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children. The development of a child in the history of civilization has been enhanced by the opportunity to learn from the gender characteristics of a mother and a father.  Every child has a right to have a mother and a father….the impact on children will be felt not just in a day or two or a year or two but over generations as we think about the development and nurturing of children.

And what does Romney have to say about the ballot initiative in Massachusetts?:

those that are in control of the legislature may employ various tactical procedural moves to keep a vote from every occurring.  Now how is it that the liberals would be so active at assuring that democracy can’t have its way?  I’m afraid that in some cases liberals love democracy only so long as the outcome is guaranteed in their favor.

And on the federal level:

We desperately need to have a federal marriage amendment.

(Cite: Democracy in Action, Eric Appleman,  transcript of the Romney speech).

The “Values Voter Summit” was coordinated by the Family Research Council’s action arm. Liberty Sunday is the next move in their campaign.
Liberty Sunday: Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering. The quotes in this post tell the whole story.

Christmas 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

This is a special day for those of us who are Christians, yet there are a myriad of meanings in the hearts and minds of the people who gather around the world professing this religion.
When I took communion last night I did not do so thinking it made me better than people of another religious or spiritual tradition; or better than those who reject religion or spirituality altogether.  I am saddened by those who insist that to be a “real” Christian I must reject gay marriage, or the right of women to control their own reproductive system.

The hymns I sang last night did not speak of the need to wage war or cut taxes. None of the prayers were about vengeance or retribution. The sermon was not about the necessity to end affirmative action or welfare. I find no emphasis in our sacred text on voting for conservative Republicans who support a specific platform.

As a congregation we did pray for those who were sick or in pain or distress. We remembered those who had died. We requested protection for the homeless and those who live in poverty. We asked that there be comfort for those “who suffer in the sadness of our world.” We called for the strengthening of “those who work for justice and peace.”

What I recall most clearly, though, was the choir singing of the need to love one another; of a law based on love and a gospel calling for peace. How chains must be broken, because all slaves are our brothers and sisters. How we are called to demand that “all oppression shall cease.”

To me it does not matter how one comes to stand for peace and justice. It can be a theology, a secular philosophy, or just an inexplicable yearning to set things right. It can be based on logic, a spiritual sense, or the mysteries of a religious faith.

Here on Talk2Action we have a community that embraces many ideas on how to move forward in the defense of separation of church and state; the struggle for civil and human rights, and the demand for full equality–nothing more yet nothing less. We all have different ways of rededicating ourselves to these goals.

What matters most is that we move forward together.

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 2

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part two of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part two.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-02.mp3

Monday, January 22, 2007

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 1

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part one of a speech I gave in 2006. The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties:
Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part one.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-01.mp3

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The New Christian Right Leadership Network

Who will be setting the agenda for the Christian Right in 2007? Several groups would like to assume that role, although they will have to figure out exactly what happened in the 2006 midterm elections and how to ensure that White Christian evangelicals vote the Christian Right party line in 2008. For many years the Christian Right pre-election voter mobilization conference was hosted by the Christian Coalition, with the title “Road to Victory.” The Christian Coalition, however, has unraveled as a national group. In late September 2006 a coalition of Christian Right groups stepped into the void and staged a national pre-election conference, the Values Voters Washington Briefing.According to a report published by Political Research Associates, “The conference was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, with Tony Perkins at the helm. Cosponsors included the political action arms of three other Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon). Most of these groups have close historical ties. Dobson’s Focus on the Family created the FRC to lobby Congress before it was spun off as a separate entity. Gary Bauer ran the FRC from 1988 to 1999. The wild card in this coalition is Wildmon, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric and occasional detours into veiled anti-Semitism. His American Family Association pulls this coalition further to the right.”

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund has partnered with the Family Research Council, and is likely to get more media attention in the coming months as court cases are filed. What follows are some capsule descriptions from the PRA report, by Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain, Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006:


Family Research Council Action

Focus on the Family was originally located in Southern California, far from the Washington public policy debates during the 1970s. Founder James Dobson created a Washington presence for his organization by starting a think tank/lobbying arm and calling it the Family Research Council. Incorporated in 1983, the FRC was at first a closely aligned with Focus on the Family, becoming more influential under the leadership of Gary Bauer from 1988 to 1990 when Bauer then left to become a candidate for President. Issues around tax-exempt status resulted in a separation between Focus and the FRC, and now both organizations have 501 c (4) spinoffs, Focus on the Family Action and Family Research Council Action, to allow them greater permission to lobby.The organization has maintained its focus on its definition of family issues: opposition to reproductive rights, homosexuality, and support for strictly traditional gender roles. The current President is Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator.

Perkins maintains a strong connection to FRC members through his daily web messages from Washington and a print distribution center in Holland, MI, the home of the FRC’s original benefactor, Edgar Prince. In the twenty years since its founding, the FRC has become the premier lobbying arm of the Christian Right in Washington, well positioned to sponsor its recent summit.

Focus on the Family Action

From an Arcadia, CA radio show that began in 1977, Focus on the Family has grown to become the largest Christian Right organization in the country, with a campus of buildings on 50 acres of land in Colorado Springs, CO, an annual budget of $130 million, and its own zip code. James Dobson is its founder, a Christian conservative trained as a child psychologist. While Dobson has always emphasized the evangelical nature of the group, its mission, according to its own 2000 strategy statement, was to motivate “the people of God to practical action in their communities and our nation in defense of righteousness.”At two points in Focus’ history, it became clear that Dobson would need a separate organization to representing the group when it wished to lobby. First came the Family Research Council in 1983, but as that group developed its own identity, Dobson founded Focus on the Family Action in 2004 to represent his own advocacy interests and once again to protect the 501 c (3) status of his parent organization.

Focus on the Family Action takes a hard line on homosexuality, whether it be same sex marriage, the ex-gay movement, or normalizing homosexuality in schools. It holds positions against gambling, pornography, and activist judges, and in October 2006 it joined forces with FRC Action to produce a voter scorecard.

Americans United to Preserve Marriage

Gary Bauer, this group’s President, has been associated with a number of Christian Right organizations since he served in the Reagan administration. Assuming the post of President of the FRC in 1988, Bauer led the group through a major growth stage, leaving to run for President in 2000. Less successful in attracting popular support as a candidate than as a voice of Christian social conservatism, Bauer withdrew after faring poorly in the early primaries.In 1996 he founded the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), a political action committee, directing individual campaign contributions to the group’s endorsed candidates. The organization claimed credit for helping many conservative victories in 2002. Positioning itself as “Pro-life, Pro-family and Pro-growth,” the CWF reassured contributors that, “Supporting CWF takes the guesswork out of identifying the true conservatives from the pretenders.”
http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/values-voters/vv-toc.html

Christian Nationalist “Minutemen” Convening in Lexington, MA?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Some of the same Christian Nationalists who helped fan the media hysteria over the staged events tied to “Judge Moore in Alabama, Terri Schiavo in Florida, and the 10 commandments in Washington DC” have called for a convocation April 19th-21st, 2007, of contemporary Christian patriot “Minutemen” at the historic Battle Green in Lexington, MA to save America from the new tryanny of the courts and the spreading sinful stain of homosexual marriage.The convention is titled: “Someone Has Stolen My Country And I Want Her Back” and it is announced that at this meeting, just as the Minutlemen of 1776 rejected oppressive rule, the attendees will gather to reject the court decision at an event “Where we will have no other king but KING JESUS!” What prompted this new crusade is a federal court decision that the solution for parents who object to every aspect of a gay-tolerant curriculum is to send their children to private schools rather than having the courts favor their minority viewpoint by rewriting the curriculum. This, in the framing of the Christian Nationalists, is “judicial tyranny.”

According to an announcement from Minutemen United:

“It seems as if Lexington, Mass. is ground zero in the battle for the soul of America. Just last week a Federal Judge in Boston threw out a law suit by David Parker. To read more about the Parker’s legal battle with the government schools read here. When tossing the Parker case the judge said that normalizing homosexuality to young children is ‘ reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.’ According to Wolf, this means teaching ‘diversity’ which includes differences in sexual orientation. This case is about the rights of parents to ‘train a child in the way that he should go.’ The courts are consistently ruling against parents.”
http://minutemenunited.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=717

What follows is more detailed information:

The Convention

Sponsored by The Patriot Pastor & The Heroes of Liberty & The Minutemen United

LEXINGTON MASSACHUSETTS …

THE CRADLE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY AND FREEDOM

April 19th-21st 2007 AD

The convention has rented the Knights of Columbus Hall at 177 Bedford St. in Lexington.

The Trumpet is being sounded again

To All Who Can Hear The Clarion Call and Respond.

There is an Alarm being sent through out The Nation from Sea to Shining Sea.

http://www.thewelloflivingwater.com/lexington/

You can find one version of the flyer at: http://www.thewelloflivingwater.com/lexington/Lex07fly.pdf5.pdf

The Heroes of Liberty may refer to the “Black-robed” ministers of the colonies called the “Black Regiment,” according to Lear, who appears in full colonial regalia in photos on his website.

http://www.thewelloflivingwater.com/regiment.shtml

Lear appears a bit of a Falstaff in one photo where he stands next to an artful sign proclaiming:

Biblical View
of Government
…state is
Divinely
Ordained
…state authority is
Limited
…leads to
Patriotism
…results in Republic
…based on
Creation

Minutemen United

The group Minutemen United describes itself:

“Minutemen United is a group of men and women dedicated to creating an environment where Christian thoughts, ideals and leaders can get traction in the marketplace of ideas. We hail from New York to California and are headquartered in Ohio ‘the heart of it all’. “

“We recognize and honor those brave souls who prayed, lived and died for our Constitutional Republic. We believe the founding fathers “got it” when they created a ruling document and supporting instruments that serve and undeniably recognize our creator – the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob.”

http://www.minutemenunited.org/

According to Minutemen United:

“In April of 2006 a group of Christian Patriots traveled to Danbury, Connecticut and held a prayer vigil at the site of the original Danbury Baptist Church. It was at that church that the course of America changed when the Baptist constructed a letter to then-President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s response of 1801 contained the much-quoted line “separation of church and state” that was eventually made law by Justice Hugo Black and the Supremes in 1947.”
http://www.minutemenunited.org/

Minutemen United is run by Dave Daubenmire:

“Dave Daubenmire, a veteran 25 year high school football coach, was spurred to action when attacked and eventually sued by the ACLU in the late 1990’s for alledgedly mixing prayer with his coaching.”

“More than two centuries later we believe that America is facing another crisis. If God fearing men and women do not arise to action NOW, we believe that the very sovereignty of this great nation may once again be in jeopardy. It is our belief that the only thing that can save this nation is a return to Christ. We declare Him to be our Commander-in-Chief, and choose to fight the battle by standing on the Word of God.”

http://www.minutemenunited.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=14

Coach Dave Daubenmir also runs “Pass the Salt Ministries.”

http://www.ptsalt.com/

“Challenging the ‘church of the Status Quo’, Pass The Salt is calling Christians to engage the culture. By taking the fight to the enemy Coach Daubenmire has become a recognizable voice with the media as he is an unashamed, articulate, apologist for the Christian world view. Coach’s willingness to stand with Judge Moore in Alabama, Terri Schiavo in Florida, and the 10 commandments in Washington DC, has enabled him to partner with some of the nationally known voices in America.”

“In addition to his weekly radio show, Coach has made regular national appearances on Hannity and Colmes, CBS Evening News, Scarborough Country on MSNBC, Fox News, The Edge with Paula Zahn, Dayside with Linda Vester, and Court TV.”
http://www.ptsalt.com/about

Featured products include an audio series titled “Rebuilding the Walls:”

http://www.ptsalt.com/products/

Massachusetts was the site of the 2006 Liberty Sunday rally which I wrote about previously:

October 15: Liberty Sunday – Bigotry, Gay Bashing, and Partisan Pandering

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/10/9/19229/8084

Liberty Sunday: Gay Bashing for Republican Victory


Post comments on this article at Talk2Action.


Friday, March 16, 2007

God, Calvin, and Social Welfare – Part Eight: The Child, the Family, the Nation, and the World

This series has traced the role of early Calvinism on a particular aspect of theocratic Christian nationalism that fits neatly into what Michelle Goldberg calls a “totalist political ideology,” (p. 8).Christian nationalists do not just want to enforce narrow authoritarian frameworks on their own children and families–they see this hierarchical model as necessary for reforming the community, the nation, and the entire world.While Christian Right dominionists seem obsessed with gender issues, they have been melded into an ultraconservative political movement that shares with them an interest in two other issue areas: hyper-individualistic libertarian economic policies, and an aggressive unilateral U.S. foreign policy.

John Calvin

The ultraconservative coalition was carefully crafted over many decades. When ultraconservative political strategists saw how many Christian evangelicals voted for “born again” Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976, they set out to pull these voters back into the Republican Party to reshape it and move it to the political right (Berlet & Lyons: pp. 220-224; see note one).As Matthew N. Lyons and I explain in Right-Wing Populism in America:

“A key step in this movement-building process took place in 1979, when Robert Billings of the National Christian Action Council invited rising televangelist Jerry Falwell to a meeting with right-wing strategists Paul Weyrich, Howard Phillips, Richard Viguerie, and Ed McAteer. The main idea was to push the issue of abortion as a way to split social conservatives away from the Democratic Party. This meeting came up with the idea of the “Moral Majority,” which Falwell turned into an organization. The New Right coalition really jelled at this point with the creation of a frame of reference with which to mobilize a mass base, (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222; citing D’Souza, pp. 105-118; Martin, pp. 200-201; Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 49-63).

Anxiety over changing gender roles were linked in subtle ways to White tensions over race relations.

“Following Wallace’s example, the New Right used coded racial appeals while avoiding explicit ethnic bigotry. Racism was reframed as concern about specific issues such as welfare, immigration, taxes, or education policies. Movement activists such as Viguerie denounced liberal reformism as an elitist attack on regular working people. In some cases, this antielitism drew directly on the produceristtradition” (Berlet & Lyons: p. 222)

For example, ultraconservative activist William Rusher declared that a:

“new economic division pits the producers–businessmen, manufacturers, hard-hats, blue-collar workers, and farmers–against the new and powerful class of non-producers comprised of a liberal verbalist elite (the dominant media, the major foundations and research institutions, the educational establishment, the federal and state bureaucracies) and a semipermanent welfare constituency, all coexisting happily in a state of mutually sustaining symbiosis,”(Rusher: p. 14; see note two)

So gender, race, and collectivism were hot buttons to be pushed along with the classic staple of the Christian Right: fear of communism and the Soviet Union. As Kazin expalins, the New Right coalition was a “multi-issue, multi-constituency offensive” that developed a new set of frames through which to see politics in the United States:

“Conservatives talked like grassroots activists but were able to behave like a counter-elite. Within their coalition were Sunbelt corporations opposed to federal regulation and high taxes; churches mobilized to reverse the spread of “secular humanism”; local groups that protested school busing, sex education, and other forms of bureaucratic meddling in “family issues,” and foundations that endowed a new generation of intellectuals and journalists, (Kazin: p. 247).

The central scapegoats used to mobilize mass support included abortion, gay
rights, and prayer in schools. “Family Values” became a code word for a
particular form of Christian conservative social and political practice.

Since the 1980s and the rise of the Christian Right, public policy regarding social welfare (and especially the treatment of criminals) has echoed the patriarchal and punitive child-rearing practices favored by many Protestant fundamentalists. Most readers will recognize the phrase: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This idea comes from a particular authoritarian version of fundamentalist belief.

According to Greven:

“The authoritarian Christian family is dependent on coercion and pain to obtain obedience to authority within and beyond the family, in the church, the community, and the polity. Modern forms of Christian fundamentalism share the same obsessions with obedience to authority characteristic of earlier modes of evangelical Protestantism, and the same authoritarian streak evident among seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Anglo-American evangelicals is discernible today, for precisely the same reasons: the coercion of children through painful punishments in order to teach obedience to divine and parental authority,” (Greven: p. 198).

The belief in the awful and eternal punishment of a literal Hell justifies the punishment, shame, and discipline of children by parents who want their offspring to escape a far worse fate. This includes physical or “corporal” forms of punishment. “Many advocates of corporal punishment are convinced that such punishment and pain are necessary to prevent the ultimate destruction and damnation of their children’s souls,” (Greven: p. 62).

This is often accompanied by the idea that a firm male hand rightfully dominates the family and the society, (Greven: p. 199).

The system of authoritarian and patriarchal control used in some families is easily transposed into a framework for conservative public policy, especially in the criminal justice system.

Lakoff explains that on a societal level, according to conservative “Strict Father morality, harsh prison terms for criminals and life imprisonment for repeat offender are the only moral options.” The arguments by conservatives are “moral arguments, not practical arguments. Statistics about which policies do or do not actually reduce crime rates do not count in a morally-based discourse.” These “traditional moral values” conservatives tend not to use explanations based on the concepts of class and social causes, nor do they recommend policy based on those notions,” (Lakoff: p. 201).

According to Lakoff:

For liberals the essence of America is nurturance, part of which is helping those who need help. People who are “trapped” by social and economic forces need help to “escape.” The metaphorical Nurturant Parent–the government–has a duty to help change the social and economic system that traps people. By this logic, the problem is in the society, not in the people innocently “trapped.” If social and economic forces are responsible, then other social and economic forces must be brought to bear to break the “trap.”This whole picture is simply inconsistent with Strict Father morality and the conservative worldview it defines. In that worldview, the class hierarchy is simply a ladder, there to be climbed by anybody with the talent and self-discipline to climb it. Whether or not you climb the ladder of wealth and privilege is only a matter of whether you have the moral strength, character, and inherent talent to do so, (Lakoff: p. 203).

To conservatives, the liberal arguments about class and impoverishment, and institutionalized social forces such as racism and sexism, are irrelevant. They appear to be “excuses for lack of talent, laziness, or some other form of moral weakness,” (Lakoff: p. 203).

Much of this worldview traces to the lingering backbeat of Calvinist theology that infuses “common sense” for many conservatives. To this brand of conservatism, it doesn’t matter if it is the child, the family, the community, the nation, or the entire world: to avoid chaos and immorality, there needs to be a strong authority figure willing to apply punishment, shame, and discipline–verbally if possible–through physical force and violence if need be.

The Bush administration, with the backing of millions of Christian conservatives, seeks to reform the global village by spanking its perceived miscreants–and they have the military arsenal to back up this neo-Calvinist authoritarian worldview.


SourcesBerlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford.

Brooks, Clem, and Jeff Manza. (1996). “The Religious Factor in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1960-1992.” Paper, annual meeting, American Sociological Association, New York, NY. Revised and included in Jeff Manza and Clem Brooks, Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignment and U.S. Party Coalitions (pp. 85-127). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Diamond, Sara. (1989). Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. New York: Guilford Press.

Diamond, Sara. (1998). Not by Politics Alone: The Enduring Influence of the Christian Right. New York: Guilford Press.

D’Souza, Dinesh. (1984). Falwell, Before the Millennium: A Critical Biography. Chicago: Regnery Gateway.

Green, John C., James L. Guth, and Kevin Hill. (1993). “Faith and Election: The Christian Right in Congressional Campaigns 1978-1988.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 55, no. 1, February, pp. 80-91.

Greven, Philip. 1991. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Knopf.

Hardisty, Jean V. (1999). Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon.

Himmelstein, Jerome L. (1990). To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kazin, Michael. (1995). The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York: Basic Books.

Lakoff, George. [1996] 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Martin, William. (1996). With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway Books.

Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. (1994). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Phillips, Kevin P. (1975). Mediacracy: American Parties and Politics in the Communications Age. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Rusher, William. (1975). The Making of the New Majority Party. Ottawa, IL: Greenhill Publications.


Note One: On Christian Evangelical Voting Patterns:These are the cites Matthew N. Lyons and I used to explain how we arrived at our survey of voting patterns:

Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 55-56; Roads to Dominion, pp. 172-177, 209-210, 231-233; Not by Politics Alone, pp. 67-69; Himmelstein, To the Right, pp. 122-123; Green, Guth, and Hill, “Faith and Election”; William Martin, With God on Our Side, pp. 148-159, 197-220; Brooks and Manza, “Religious Factor.”

Viguerie estimated that between 5 million and 7.5 million “born-again Christians voted for Nixon or Wallace in 1968 and for Nixon in 1972, but switched to Carter in 1976,” and that he and his allies in the New Right set out to win them back to vote for Reagan in 1980 (Viguerie, New Right, pp. 155-174, quote from p. 156). This figure is probably unrealistically high, but the belief in those numbers helped shape the New Right election strategy.

Diamond credits the addition of 2 million new voters in 1980 to “the combined efforts of Moral Majority, Christian Voice, and New Right electoral vehicles” like Howard Phillips’s Conservative Caucus and Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation (Roads to Dominion, p. 233).

Note Two: On Rusher

The quote from Rusher in Making of the New Majority Party, is also quoted in Omi and Winant, Racial Formation, p. 127. Rusher, in his text, urges readers to consult Kevin Phillips’ book: Mediacracy.


God, Calvin, and Social Welfare: A Series

Part One: Coalitions
Part Two: Calvinist Settlers
Part Three: Roots of the Social Welfare Debate
Part Four: Apocalypse and Social Welfare
Part Five: Fundamentals, Prophecies, and Conspiracies
Part Six: Godlessness & Secular Humanism
Part Seven: Born Again Political Activism
Part Eight: The Child, The Family, The Nation, & the World


Based on the Public Eye article “Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration”

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates

Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Apocalyptic Thinking – 3

A Speech by Chip Berlet

This audio program is part three of a speech I gave in 2006.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-03.mp3

The full title of this speech was originally: “Theocracy, Christian Nationalism and Civil Liberties: Church and State in the New Millennium.”

The event was co-sponsored by Nebraska REASON (Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska), and the Nebraska Chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State.

The speech was delivered in Omaha, September 20, 2006 at REASON’s 7th Annual Fall Forum held at the Durham Research Center on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus.

The introduction is by Tim Butz, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and an old friend and ally.

The speech is divided into three segments, and has been edited.

This is part three.

http://www.cberlet.info/audio/2006/berlet-omaha-2006-03.mp3

Bush, Constitutional Threats, and the Christian Right

Monday, May 14, 2007

That the Bush administration is disturbingly power hungry is amply documented in a recent article, “The Assault on the Constitution: Executive Power and the War on Terrorism,” by Erwin Chemerinsky in the UC Davis Law Review. While some Christian Right leaders sleep tight in the secure knowledge that the brightly burning Bush has God’s help in illuminating the shadows of terror; others fear it is the flames of a new witch hunt prophesizing ungodly dangers.

So some of us who work to defend and extend civil liberties in the United States find ourselves in coalitions with Christian Right staff and ideologues inside the beltway; and sometimes outside the beltway in that vast area between New York and Los Angeles often overlooked by DC policy wonks. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and some of us have struggled with the questions surrounding such coalition work. Where are the proper boundaries for even limited cooperation?

There is a real danger facing civil libertarians (and all of us!) under the Bush Administration. Chemerinsky, a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, warns that

“Throughout American history, the government’s response to threats has been repression. The war on terrorism is now over four years old and shows no signs of abating. Authorities have imprisoned some individuals without due process for nearly that long and have given no indication about possible release. These detentions have lasted longer than either World War I or World War II. In addition, the loss of freedom to average citizens has been enormous and, most disturbingly, there is no reason to believe that the country has been made any safer by the loss of liberty.”

Serendipity brought me the Chemerinsky article; my son is on the board of editors of the UC Davis Law Review and sent me a copy. As it happens, Chemerinsky and I are both on the board of advisors to the Campaign to Defend the Constitution (DEFCON). We were bombarded with e-mails from supporters of Dr. James Dobson after DEFCON criticized Dobson’s refusal to find a problem in his being used as a shill in a questionable lobbying campaign cooked up by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

At the same time, I was on the board of a group, now renamed the Defending Dissent Foundation, with a DC staff person who found herself at meetings with representatives of several Christian Right groups such as Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation. This wing of the Christian Right was worried about civil liberties, executive power, and political repression.

As is often the case, Justice Louis D. Brandeis summarized the issue in elegant (if dated) language:

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”
–Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1928)

One reason to see the complexity in the various sectors of the Christian Right is that there are times when some of us find ourselves on the same side of an issue.

If our typical response to the Christian Right is to use alarmist and demonizing rhetoric, we miss opportunities for parallel tactical activities toward a common goal, even if we are reluctant (for good reason) to form long-term strategic coalitions.

Sources:

Erwin Chemerinsky, “The Assault on the Constitution: Executive Power and the War on Terrorism,” UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2006: pp. 3-20.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Real Christian Conscience and Commitment

On Sunday, April 29th hundreds of us gathered at the St. Paul United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, Illinois to celebrate the life and mourn the death of John Curtis Koehler. “Curt” was a high school teacher, journalist, printer, civil rights and labor activist, and fan of music and theater. Curt was born in 1950 and died April 7, 2007 after a mighty struggle against brain cancer. Curt’s wife, the Rev. Denise Griebler, and their two children were there when a seizure robbed Curt of life.

Curt’s sense of humor was indomitable. Being rolled into the operating theater for brain surgery, a nurse asked Curt what he wanted her to pray for. “Peace in the world,” he replied.

We both shared a strange sense of humor when we first met over 40 years ago in junior high school in suburban northern New Jersey. We also attended the same Presbyterian Church where we became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. In our youth group we read the essay by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Curt and I worked with another church youth group member, Sue Kaiser, along with several friends, to set up a church coffeehouse (it was in the sanctuary—our church had no basement). We traded entertainment with another church coffeehouse up the road. I went and read poetry at the “Escarole” coffeehouse, while our coffeehouse, the “Purple Kumquat,” got the teenage singing duo Maggie and Terre Roche, who later were joined by their sister Suzzy and became the folk trio the Roches. (So as it turned out, it was not an even trade).

Along with another young woman from our area, Curt, Sue, and I were sent as youth delegates to a National Council of Churches conference on Church and Society in Detroit in 1967. I’ve forgotten the name of the other young woman, and it was not reported in our local papers at the time, since she was Black, and thus was excised from the photograph of the four of us who were delegates from our region.

In Detroit we had our complacent White suburban ideas challenged. We saw an amazing multimedia presentation put together by Harvey Cox and examining racism, war, poverty, and other issues. One night some of us went over to the local underground newspaper. We joined other youth delegates to stage a “love feast” in a nearby park where we fed the hungry and celebrated life along with some Diggers who were driving back to California after the attempt to levitate the Pentagon in an antiwar rally. Margaret Mead sent over a pomegranate, with a note saying that it was the fruit of love, and thus no proper “love feast” could be staged without it. I’ve always wondered who ended up with that collectable note?

When we arrived back in New Jersey, our pastor, the Rev. Robert Hugh Reed, sent us a clipping from the December 1967 issue of a conservative Baptist newspaper, the Crusader. “Extremists Prominent in US Conference on Church and Society” blared the headline.

“The group studying ‘The Role of Violence in Social Change” sharply criticized the church for lack of action against what it calls the ‘systemic’ violence in our society—’practices which exact exorbitant interest rates from the poor, inadequate health systems…inadequate housing…police practices that result in death and injury….’ It urged that non-violent efforts to get rid of systemic violence should move beyond marches and picketing to massive campaign[s] in civil disobedience, non-cooperation with the state, strike, and economic boycotts.”

Precisely! Heavens…what are we waiting for? In King’s Letter he observes: ” We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed…. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.”
The Crusader also griped about our religious services:

“Worship services at the conference were almost as revolutionary as the problems the conference dealt with: A young dancer in an electric blue leotard interpreted words of the fortieth Psalm; and excerpts from the morning newspapers were interjected into the traditional liturgy.”

Heavens! Precisely! What’s the problem? Oh, that’s right, it is all “extremism.” Well, King had something to say about that too:

” though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love … Amos an extremist for justice …Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel … Was Not Martin Luther an extremist … Abraham Lincoln … And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.…”

The Rev. Denise Griebler, is the pastor at St. Michaels United Church of Christ in Illinois. She is also a longstanding social justice activist. The UCC is the target of another campaign against so-called “extremism,” this time funded by right-wing ideologues who claim the name of God to defend their unfair and disproportionate power, wealth and privilege. They have the audacity to use the name “Institute on Religion and Democracy,” when what they are doing is undermining democracy. They claim the name “renewal” when what they are doing is deeply reactionary, repressive, and regressive.

On the website of St. Michaels United Church of Christ is the note:

IF…

…you understand that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it cannot always be taken literally

…you know that God’s love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual identity

…you believe that Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that social expression of love is justice, and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from commitment to the natural world

…you’ve wished for a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture your spirit and raise your children

THEN…

…we invite you to join us at St. Michael’s UCC and explore all the ways that God is still speaking.

The Rev. Denise Griebler is one of the many Christian leaders throughout the world working for real democracy and renewal. I treasure the times that Curt and I celebrated communion together under the blessing of Denise and in the company of our friends. Curt will be remembered as one who walked the walk. We can do no less.

For Progressives who Vote Democratic but Value Human Rights

Monday, July 09, 2007

Human Rights are Not Political Commodities

We understand the same First Amendment that guarantees separation of church and state guarantees the rights of Christian conservatives to defend their views in the public square, and to seek redress of grievances through a variety of political and social channels.

In recent months, however, we have seen indications that some in the leadership of the Democratic Party, and some of its candidates for public office, are seeking the votes of Christian conservatives by suggesting there is room to compromise on reproductive rights and gay rights.

While public debates over social issues are a sign of a healthy democracy; we do not believe is proper for politicians to negotiate away basic human rights for any group of people in the United States.

The problem is not “abortion” or “reducing the number of abortions.” The problem is unwanted pregnancies, how to prevent them, and how to support women who get pregnant in the decisions they deem appropriate. This includes access to legal and safe contraception and abortion; as well as access to health care and child care for women who choose to give birth and raise children—concepts seen as fundamental rights in other industrialized countries. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors who are women, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

The problem is not “gay rights” or “gay marriage.” The problem is building a society where the basic human rights of all people are respected and defended. Under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, there is no such thing as “Special Rights.” When some Christian conservatives claim that gay people want “Special Rights,” it is a falsehood. Our rights, and the rights of our friends, relatives, and neighbors in LGBTQ communities, are not political commodities to be traded for votes.

We intend to vote in the upcoming elections in 2008, and we intend to vote for candidates who make it crystal clear that they support basic human rights for all. At the same time, we will continue to build broad and diverse coalitions seeking fundamental progressive social change. As we rebuild our progressive social movement, we will pay special attention to politicians who have through words or actions objectively undermined basic human rights for women, the LGBTQ communities, or any other group in our society.


If you agree with the above statement, visit the contact page for the Democratic National Committee: http://www.democrats.org/page/s/contactissues; fill in the contact form with your e-mail and Zip Code; and paste this pledge into the “Questions” box.

This is my personal tirade, and is not connected to any of the several organizations for which I work or volunteer.
Post comments at Talk to Action. –Chip Berlet