Archive for the “American Religio-Politics” Category

Religion as it relates to U.S. politics

Nuremberg Chronicles - Devil and Woman on Horseback (CLXXXIXv) / via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve already blogged a time or two about some of the asinine things retired neurosurgeon — and militant Christianist — Dr Ben Carson has said. The guy clearly is brilliant enough to have had a remarkable medical career; no one can take that away from him. But sometimes he can be an idiot. During an address at the Republican National Convention, as CNN reports, he offered up a “proof” of sorts that Hillary Clinton is a Satan worshipper (WebCite cached article):

At Tuesday’s Republican National Convention, Carson asked attendees if they could elect Clinton given her relationship to Alinsky, who critics have long accused of harboring communist sympathies.

“Let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky,” he said. “He wrote a book called ‘Rules for Radicals.’ On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom.”

Carson asked, “So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?”

So here’s Carson’s “proof”: Alinsky is a Satan-worshipper; Hillary met him once; this means she was his sworn disciple; therefore Hillary worships Satan too. If this sounds a little Glenn Beckian to you, you’re not alone. It sounds that way to me, too.

Alinsky has long been a bee in the Right’s bonnet. They’ve been incensed over the guy since before his famous book, Rules for Radicals, was published. It does contain a reference to Lucifer (aka Satan) in its acknowledgement, but that hardly constitutes any proof that he was a Satan worshipper. Mentions or portrayals of Lucifer (aka Satan) as the original rebel aren’t exactly uncommon in literature. For example, John Milton arguably did this in his famous Paradise Lost. But I don’t know anyone who’d claim Milton had been a Satan-worshipper (quite the opposite, actually).

Also, the degree to which Alinsky was Clinton’s “role model” is open to interpretation, too. Politifact reviewed Carson’s statement, including the relationship between Alinsky and Clinton (cached):

So is Alinsky a “role model” for Clinton? The most direct connection between Alinsky and Clinton is that she wrote her undergraduate thesis about Alinsky and interviewed him before he died. At the time, Clinton was Hillary Rodham and the student government president at Wellesley College.

The New York Times reviewed the 92-page thesis and summarized [cached] her views this way:

“Ms. Rodham endorsed Mr. Alinsky’s central critique of government antipoverty programs — that they tended to be too top-down and removed from the wishes of individuals.

“But the student leader split with Mr. Alinsky over a central point. He vowed to ‘rub raw the sores of discontent’ and compel action through agitation. This, she believed, ran counter to the notion of change within the system.”

It’s also true, as Politifact explains, that Alinsky offered Clinton a job, but she refused it because of her differences with him. That is, not only in words but in her actions, Clinton showed she was no lock-step sycophant of Alinsky.

The problem with Carson’s claim is that his audience (i.e. other militant Christianists) are predisposed to believe this, so the presumption that Hillary is a Satan worshipper is one of those lies that will, no doubt, stick to her (just as the very same folks are convinced President Obama isn’t an American citizen and is a secret Muslim).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 2 Comments »

Robert JeffressIt’s amazing how resistant many conservative Christians are to the idea that, perhaps — just perhaps! — too many blacks (mostly men) are dying at the hands of police (often white) in confrontations that didn’t necessarily have to end that way. As a rule, conservatives tend to be very distrustful of government as a whole, so theoretically at least, one would think they’d be predisposed to question police officers’ motives and actions. But in the face of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, they’ve become sanctimoniously outraged that anyone might ever question the judgement of any police officer anywhere in the country. In their minds, all killings by police must automatically be viewed as “righteous kills,” so that means anyone who disagrees must be “anti-cop” and want all police killed. Or something.

Since their petulant refusal to accept even the remotest the possibility of error or even criminality on the part of an officer contradicts their overall anti-government philosophy, it’s fair to wonder why this is so. Well, evangelical megapastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas revealed at least one reason for this, as Raw Story explains, when he appeared earlier today on Fox & Friends (WebCite cached article):

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, lashed out at what he called “bogus ministers” who did not preach about having “respect for the police.”

“The New Testament says in Romans 13:4 that law enforcement officers are ministers of God sent by God to punish evil doers,” he opined. “When you think about it, police officers are just as called by God to do what they do as pastors and priests are called by God. And I think we need to remind our members of that.”

Now, Jeffress cited Romans 13:4, but I’ll quote the whole passage in question (including that specific verse):

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

If Jeffress — following Paul — is correct, then questioning any police officer’s actions is un-Christian, since as representatives of the state, they’ve been appointed by the Almighty as his/her/its direct agents and therefore are sacred, inviolate, and ever-perfect. This passage from the epistle to the Romans is often cited in Christian circles to back up authoritarianism and the presumption that government is always right and that total obedience to the state is a Christian virtue. Back in my fundie days, this passage and a few others were bandied about this way.

But let’s face it, these folk are selective in how they apply their principle of Biblical authoritarianism … and Jeffress himself shows exactly why, in this very same segment on Fox:

The megachurch pastor also claimed that President Barack Obama had “exacerbated the racial divide instead of healing it.”

“I’m afraid the president, just like he did with conservative Christians after the beheading by ISIS of Christians, it seemed like he wanted to blame conservative Christians in the past,” he said, “instead of putting the blame when it belongs.”

Note that Jeffress — who had just moments before pontificated on how Christians are required by Jesus to submit wholly to the government and to their rulers — just questioned his own president, accusing him of having rhetorically gone after police and “conservative Christians.” So while he advocates unquestioning acceptance of all police officers’ words and actions, he refuses to do the same for the president’s. Hmm. I see more than a little hypocrisy here, not to mention cherry-picking. I’m guessing Jeffress is unaware his own Jesus clearly and unambiguously forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.

What’s more, I’ve searched and searched, but have yet ever to find that President Obama has ever blamed ISIS’s beheadings, police killings of blacks, or the public reaction to such killings (e.g. the BLM movement) on “conservative Christians.” He never used words to that effect, that I know of. I challenge Jeffress to show that Obama explicitly stated “conservative Christians” (using those words) were behind either. Go ahead, Pastor. Prove your contention — if you dare! Citations, please, or it didn’t happen. And if it didn’t happen, that would make you a lying liar for Jesus.

Here’s video of Jeffress’s appearance, if you care to view it:

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Governor Phil BryantChristianists’ persecution complex ramped up severely in light of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). They actually think it causes them injury to have to treat gays as though they’re fellow human beings. I’m not sure how or why that’s the case, but they’re convinced of it, and that conviction drives them to keep pitching fits over it.

Of course, a desire to be persecuted for their Jesus is inherent in Christianity’s psychopathology, and has been since its inception. To a large extent, they can’t help themselves. That’s especially true for fundamentalist Christians, because their fundamentalism has infantilized them to the point where they’re incapable of knowing any better.

This persecution delusion explains something Mississippi governor Phil Bryant recently said. As the Associated Press reports via the Washington Post, he made some telling comments during a Religious Right conference in Washington (locally-cached article):

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says the “secular, progressive world” vented at him for signing a bill that would let clerks cite religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Republican governor spoke in Washington as the conservative Family Research Council gave him an award last Thursday for signing House Bill 1523 this year and a similar one in 2014 called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.…

During his speech at the Family Research Council event, Bryant asked whether critics believe people of faith will abandon “freedoms that our forefathers died for,” including religious freedom.

“They don’t know that Christians have been persecuted throughout the ages,” said Bryant, who is United Methodist. “They don’t know that if it takes crucifixion, we will stand in line before abandoning our faith and our belief in our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

Yes, indeed, folks. You read that right. Bryant actually said that Christians would prefer to be crucified than treat gays fairly. Seriously. He said it. He said it proudly and gladly. Bryant spoke for all Christians as though all of them agree with him and share his deluded martyr complex … even though some churches don’t actually object to gays the way he does.

Still, that means nothing to Christianists like the governor. He’s very myopic where his faith is concerned: In his eyes, all Christians think and believe precisely as he does, and there is no variation. Should any disagree, they’re the proverbial “not ‘Real’ Christians” who — in his mind — make him and his religion look bad. In truth, Bryant is making his religion look bad, all by himself. And he’s done a marvelous job of it! Way to go, Guv! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

2nd floor entrance of a Target store, Springfield town centerThe recent Religious Rightist bullshit over transgender access to bathrooms continues. Christianists’ sanctimonious fury has only ramped up in light of the various criticisms that have been leveled at them. They just can’t handle being told they’re out of their fucking minds.

The latest example of their juvenile outrage is over the retail chain Target, which — in light of the laws and other assorted bellyaching the R.R. has thrown at transgenders — declared that they’re free to use any bathroom they want, in their stores (WebCite cached page). As the Christian Post reports, Christofascists have called for a boycott of Target (cached):

More than 392,000 people have signed an online pledge to boycott Target after the retail giant said that transgender employees and customers could use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, irrespective of their biological sex.

“This means a man can simply say he ‘feels like a woman today’ and enter the women’s restroom…even if young girls or women are already in there,” says American Family Association’s online #BoycottTarget pledge, which was launched after Target announced Tuesday, “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

“Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” the pledge asks.

“Corporate America must stop bullying people who disagree with the radical left agenda to remake society into their progressive image,” says AFA President Tim Wildmon in a statement.

First, let me get something obvious out of the way: In spite of its name, the “American Family Association” does not represent “American families.” It represents “American Christofascists.” Moreover, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them a hate group (cached).

Second, note their laughably reductionist view of transgenderism: To the AFA it amounts to nothing more than “he ‘feels like a woman today’.” Last I knew, there was a lot more to it than just how someone feels on any given day.

I note, too, that after working to disparage transgenders and implying they’re all rapists or something, the AFA backpedaled from that:

“We want to make it very clear that AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public,” Wildmon clarifies.

Gee, thanks for that “clarification,” Timmie. Yeah, that makes it all clear … as clear as mud.

The Christian Post‘s headline for this article reads, “392,000 Signers Pledge to Boycott Retailer Target Over Transgender Bathroom Decision.” The large number of petition signers, presumably, grants this boycott veracity or something. That large a number of people simply must be right … right? Actually, no. It doesn’t work that way. This sort of thinking is known as “the bandwagon fallacy,” “appeal to the masses,” “the democratic fallacy,” or more formally, argumentum ad populum, and it’s fallacious. Lots of people can be, and often are, very wrong about things. So call me unimpressed with this 392,000 number. They could have said 392,000,000 and I still wouldn’t give a flying fuck what any of them think.

The objection that male sexual predators will use the pretense of being transgender in order to get into women’s restrooms so they can expose themselves or attack them, is just ludicrous. There’s no evidence that any of them ever have done so. As Chris Wallace of Fox News said earlier today, “bathroom laws” like the one that passed in North Carolina are “a solution in search of a problem.” What’s more, it would still be illegal for such a person to expose him/herself or attack someone in a restroom, whichever one they go into and regardless of whether or not s/he is transgender.

I also love how these so-called “conservatives,” who ordinarily would love to let American businesses run themselves however they wish without undue “government regulation,” somehow disapprove of what a private company is doing and want to pass legislation preventing them from doing so. What fucking hypocrites.

Look, I understand Christofascists are creeped out by transgenders. Yeah, I get it. Christianists don’t understand them. For that matter, neither do I. Nor do I expect I ever will understand what it means to be transgender. But do you know something? That doesn’t matter! I don’t need to “understand” transgenderism in order to realize that transgenders are people, too! They’re people who deserve to be treated like fellow human beings, and with dignity, not used as pawns in a religio-political game to acquire more power. What these putative “people of God” are doing in the name of their god — i.e. harassing transgenders, gays, and other “undesirables” — is horrific and inexcusable. They’d do well to re-read their own scriptures, particularly this little part:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

With all of this said, I plan to do more of my shopping at Target. Even if something costs a little more there. I encourage everyone to “reverse-boycott” this retail chain.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

My Guitar (lil' Backie)I blogged about the gay oppression “religious freedom” laws recently passed in North Carolina and in Mississippi. Christianists in both states are ecstatic that they now have additional legal weapons to use against a class of person they despise. But there’s been something of a backlash. Businesses, for example, are boycotting both states.

But things ramped up when two famous rockers canceled shows in those states. Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, NC (WebCite cached article), and Bryan Adams canceled another in Biloxi, MS (cached).

As one would expect, the Religious Right is none too pleased about any of this. They view these counter-measures as a vile attack upon their beliefs and, in turn, their persons. They remain steadfast in their refusal to bend, and they continue to press the lie that these laws promote “safety.” For example, as The Hollywood Reporter explains, an NC Congressman went after Springsteen over his Greensboro cancelation (cached):

A U.S. congressman who represents portions of Greensboro, N.C., is accusing Bruce Springsteen of being a “bully,” after the rock star canceled a concert there to protest a new law that’s being described as anti-gay.

“It’s disappointing he’s not following through on his commitments,” said Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican freshman congressman.…

“Bruce is known to be on the radical left,” continued Walker, “and he’s got every right to be so, but I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”

Walker explains the reasoning behind this law:

“I choose to stand with our sheriffs, who support this bill, which doesn’t target the LGBTQ community; it targets imposters,” said Walker. “It’s a little crazy to think sexual predators wouldn’t be devious enough to pull something off if they were free to go into any bathroom they want.”

There are some problems with this rationalization. First, just because sheriffs support a bill doesn’t automatically make it a good law. Second, there are already laws against “sexual predators” and this one does nothing to stop any of them (since, unless police are posted at restroom doors to prevent entry, it can be enforced only after-the-fact, and by that time a true sexual predator could already have attacked someone). Third, this justification assumes that transgender folks are “sexual predators” in disguise, which isn’t generally true. Yes, I suppose a criminal might pose as transgender, but how often does that really happen? Can Walker or anyone else show it’s common enough to merit such a law? I haven’t seen any statistics along these lines, just a lot of innuendo and slander against gays and transgender folks.

Oh, and it’s nice how Walker dismisses Springsteen as a “radical leftist” and a “bully.” He doesn’t seem to realize his own fellow Religious Rightist movement is, in its own way, also quite “radical” and guilty of a lot of “bullying” of its own. What a fucking hypocrite! I hope he understands his own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01Note: There’s been a little news about this; please see below.

The people of the great Bible Belt (or should I say, Bobble Bay-elt) state of Tennessee are at it again. Because their precious Christianity is under attack or something, they’ve decided they need to act to protect it. What Tennessee needs, they think, is more God. Toward that end, as NPR reports, the TN legislature has approved a law to make the Bible the state book (WebCite cached article):

In what is believed to be a first, the Bible could be adopted as a symbol of Tennessee, after the Legislature narrowly approved a bill designating “the Holy Bible as the official state book.” The measure now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam.

“Critics called the proposal both unconstitutional and sacrilegious,” Nashville Public Radio reports [cached]. “They also pointed out there are many versions of the Bible, none of which are specified in the resolution.”

The Senate version of the legislation, HB 0615 [cached], was sponsored by state Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, who noted the importance of the Bible in Tennessee’s history — both in its role as a historic record of important family milestones and as the heart of the state’s multimillion-dollar Bible-printing industry.

I’m not aware that the presence of well-known religious publishers in Tennessee required the state government to make the Bible the state book … but what the hell could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about anything this important? Southerland dismisses the obvious state promotion of religion angle inherent in this story:

Responding to criticisms of the bill, Southerland said the Bible is not only about religion but also about ethics, economics and other matters. He drew part of that response, he said, from a study Bible.

“What we’re doing here is recognizing it for its historical and cultural contributions to the state of Tennessee,” Southerland said.

Lots of books have made “historical and cultural contributions to” Tennessee and other states. That doesn’t mean the state should actively promote any of them. If a book has made enough of a “historical and cultural contribution,” then no recognition should be required at all!

The law doesn’t state which Bible, exactly, is the state book. Theoretically this means it avoids sectarian conflicts (since Catholics, for example, might object if a Protestant Bible version were to have been named the state book). But it would still seem to exclude Jews, as well as anyone else who doesn’t revere the Christian Bible. So it does have a sectarian effect nonetheless.

Tennessee’s governor and attorney general have both expressed reservations about this law, so it’s not clear it will be signed or implemented. A similar effort died in Lousiana. But even if it dies, the TN legislature shouldn’t have wasted its time on this religiofascist lunacy.

Update: It turns out that passing this law was a waste of time. Governor Bill Haslam vetoed it (cached).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)By now most of my readers will have heard about the passing of North Carolina’s “bathroom law” a couple weeks ago (WebCite cached article), and yesterday’s signing of an anti-LGBT law in Mississippi (cached). The Religious Right has marketed laws of this type — along with a similar law in Georgia that was vetoed (cached) — as providing “religious freedom” to a downtrodden minority that’s about to be wiped out by the vile forces of secularism. They erupted in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made gay marriage available nationally. Ostensibly, these laws are intended to prevent forcing anti-gay florists, bakers, and caterers from being hired to work gay weddings. That, you see, would be a horrible form of oppression that they simply can’t tolerate. I guess. Oh, the poor little things!

These two particular laws, however, go further than just doing that … much further. The North Carolina law, for instance, is known as “the bathroom law” because it requires transgender people in government buildings to go to bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates (cached). The Mississippi law appears to have been so broadly worded that it allows any business to discriminate against gays, not just for their weddings, but any time (cached).

What makes the NC law stupid is that, even in public restrooms, it shouldn’t really matter which one someone goes into; ordinarily no one is fully exposed while they’re “doing their business.” So it’s quite possible for transgender people to go into a restroom, use it, and leave without anyone being any the wiser. In other words, then, does it really fucking matter which bathroom a transgender person uses? Also, it’s stupid because it can’t be enforced without police having access to people’s birth certificates so they can verify which facility someone must legally use. School officials might have these in the case of students, but it wouldn’t be the case for everyone who uses a restroom in a government building.

What makes the Mississippi law objectionable is that it could easily make gays into second-class citizens, barred from businesses that don’t like them. If enough of them in a community should do this, it could make gays’ lives very difficult. One can’t help but view this sort of thing as being akin to the “Jim Crow” laws used to oppress blacks, just a few decades ago.

The problem with all of this is its basic premise, which is that the Religious Right is entitled to meddle in others’ private lives, because they have metaphysical beliefs about how everyone should live. Obergefell v. Hodges, among other things, forces them to have to treat people whom they disapprove of as though they were fellow human beings — and they just can’t stand that for even one second.

Look, I’m all for “religious freedom,” but granting religious believers power over the lives of others — in the name of granting them “freedom” — just isn’t going to fly. “Religious freedom” applies to believers’ churches and homes. It’s not a license to impose their metaphysics on everyone else.

I get that religious florists, bakers and caterers don’t like having to work gay weddings. But in truth, flowers, cakes, and meals don’t make weddings happen! The couple, their witnesses, and the officiant make a wedding happen. Everything else is superfluous. That there are flowers, or a cake, or a dinner makes no difference whatsoever. The couple will end up just as married without them, as with them. So gay-hating florists, bakers and caterers withholding their business, isn’t going to stop gay weddings from occurring. For believers to think they have not only that power, but the right to exert it, is arrogance of the highest order — not to mention, a delusion. Florists, bakers, and caterer are in the business of arranging flowers, baking cakes, and catering receptions. They should do so, and stop sniveling and whining about gays getting married, fercryinoutloud.

But even with all of that having been said … the aforementioned folks are only the tips of the icebergs in North Carolina and Mississippi. As I noted, both of the laws just passed do a lot more than just “protect” florists, bakers and caterers from having to work gay weddings. Additional provisions were thrown in, with the intention of making gays’ lives much worse, overall. It’s time the Religious Right grow the fuck up, admitted that they hate gays and LGBT folks simply because they’re gay or LGBT, and stop acting as though their hatred is holy. Their mischaracterization of their own motives and wishes makes them lying liars for Jesus. I wonder what he’d have to say about that? It’s possible that what he might tell them isn’t something they want to hear … !

Photo credit: Graphic based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »