There are a lot of Christians who think the Ten Commandments are the pinnacle of human morality. They view them not only as the rules everyone should live by, but they think of them as having a kind of magical power to make everyone better and more moral. Or something. I guess. That’s why many of them want to post the Ten Commandments everywhere. Supposedly, being constantly confronted by the Decalogue will turn every American in to an upstanding, law-abiding citizen.
Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold pleaded guilty Wednesday to three of 14 counts stemming from a two-year criminal investigation into illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes.
Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business to the county.
As I always do in cases like this, I like to point out that, for Christians, putting up Decalogue monuments (or plaques, or signs, or whatever) is incredibly problematic. First, it’s an expression of public piety, which Jesus explicitly forbid his followers ever to engage in. Second, one of the Ten Commandments is, itself, a prohibition against idolatry; depending on one’s sect, it’s either part of the First Commandment, or it’s the Second. But, given that Christians are generally unwilling to follow the words of their own scripture, I guess it’s just too hard for them to stop posting the Ten Commandments all over the place. The poor little things, they just can’t help themselves … right?
I expect Arnold and his supporters will, no doubt, consider his corruption — which he admitted in court — a kind of insignificant aberration. After all, I’m sure they’d tell me, “he’s not perfect, just forgiven.” So hey, it doesn’t really matter if he fails to live up to the faith he supposedly follows. Right? Once he’s out of jail, Arnold might even go on the Christian lecture circuit, propounding his past “sin” of corruption to his co-religionists and touting his “fallen” status as a kind of perverse credential of piety. Such is how Christianity works … as freakish as it seems.
Or should I have titled this post, “War on Christmas Finally Ended!”? I don’t know for sure, but that’s what Bill O’Reilly — effectively, the field marshal of this annual phantasmal conflict — has said. It sounds amazing that he’d make such a concession, but he did. It’s right there, for all to see, on his own Web site (WebCite cached article):
You may remember, about 10 years ago, The Factor began spotlighting companies that refused to say the words “Merry Christmas.”
In fact, some of those businesses actually ordered their employees not to say it.
Well that culture war issue ignited, and we won. Most companies stopped the nonsense and Merry Christmas became a common greeting once again.
The only problem is, it’s all a big, fat, lie. A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. So what if a company doesn’t want its employees saying “Merry Christmas”? As private companies, isn’t it within their rights to have such a rule? In reality, though, it’s never been common, and in fact many employees said “Merry Christmas” in spite of it. So really, it never was a problem to begin with. It was just made-up bullshit that O’Reilly and the rest of the Religious Right have used to force everyone in the country, Christian or not, to celebrate Christmas too.
In his declaration that his own fictional “war” has concluded, Billy said:
And because it is a federal holiday, there is no reason to diminish Christmas or insult those who believe in it.
This is an allusion to Billy’s longstanding position that, since president Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a federal holiday, all Americans are required to celebrate it. Or something. I haven’t really figured out how that works, to be honest with you. I wasn’t aware that federal holiday declarations had that much power over people’s personal lives. But Billy has been saying this for years, so I guess it must be true. Somehow. Some way. Maybe someday he’ll disclose the exact mechanism by which this works … but I don’t plan to hold my breath waiting for him to cough it up.
Now, although Billy has declared the “war on Christmas” concluded, I don’t expect that the Religious Right will let go of it. It remains a great way for them to indulge their Christian martyr complex and convince themselves they’re being persecuted for their Jesus, even though they aren’t.
A state district judge on Thursday ordered a “Charlie Brown Christmas’ display at a Killeen school restored after it was ordered taken down over a biblical message that educators said could be offensive.
After an hour-long hearing, Judge Jack Jones ruled that the door display featuring the Peanut character Linus, and his explanation of why Christmas matters, should be put back up with an added line: “Ms. Shannon’s Christmas message.”
Note the supposedly clever, legalistic workaround which (the judge thinks) will allow Ms Shannon to skate out from under the longstanding principle that government entities in the US can’t promote religion. And that is, by calling it merely “Ms. Shannon’s Christmas message” — as though it’s just a personal message from her to individuals. Unfortunately that doesn’t actually work, since this is still a government facility, and any poster within it constitutes government promoting something (in this case, Christianity). It’s a transparent maneuver.
The Chron article includes a standard Christianist whine:
“Religious discrimination towards Christians has become a holiday tradition of sorts among certain groups,” Paxton said in a statement after the judge’s decision.
Boo hoo hoo! Listen up, Kennie, and the rest of you militant Christofascists: No one is “discriminating” against you in cases like this, where overt Christian messages are removed from government property. No one — I repeat, no fucking one! — is preventing you from worshipping your Jesus any way you see fit, nor is anyone keeping you from celebrating Christmas in your homes, businesses, or churches.
Christmas has never been outlawed, anywhere in the country. It. Just. Hasn’t. Fucking. Happened. (Since colonial times, anyway.) So stop your fucking whining and crying that it has.
It’s time for you, Kennie, and the rest of your bellicose, whiney, paranoid Christianist pals, to fucking grow the hell up for the first time in your lives and stop claiming persecution that doesn’t exist. I get that you want to be persecuted for your Jesus. Really, I understand it. I was once a fundie like you, and I get it. Honest! I really am aware that this desire is deeply embedded in the psychopathology of your religion. But you have to stop fucking deluding yourselves over it and lying about it to others.
Oh, and yes … in all likelihood, I do know more about your own religion than you. So I am in a position to explain to you what it teaches, and to point out when you’re brazenly defying those teachings.
Nearly 100 people and four news outlets — including Austin’s Fox News affiliate — crammed into Killeen Independent School District’s board room Tuesday to weigh in on the fate of a religious Christmas poster.
After more than an hour of discussion, the board decided, in a 6 to 1 vote, to uphold the district’s decision to remove the “Charlie Brown Christmas” decorations Dedra Shannon put up on her door at Patterson Middle School in Killeen.…
The door decoration in question was inspired by a scene in the Peanuts classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” in which Linus van Pelt stands on a stage and recites a biblical passage describing the Christmas story: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
The people’s revolt over this was inevitable, in a state which is — in many ways — the buckle of the Bible Belt (er, the Bobble Bayelt). These people are fucking pissed! Their reactions included vague threats:
The removal of the decoration sparked nearly 500 comments on the Killeen Daily Herald’s Facebook page and became state and national news over the past five days leading up to Tuesday’s meeting.
Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, who is now Dedra Shannon’s legal representative, had much to say about his displeasure with the board’s ruling.…
Prior to the board’s decision, Saenz warned the board of his intentions if they did not allow the poster back up on campus.
“Allow the Charlie Brown poster to go up. If not, we will be forced to take other action,” he said.
Wow. I mean, just “wow.” The article goes on to quote people who vomited any number of childish and irrational objections. Among the complaints was that the poster doesn’t coerce anyone to be a Christian; and that soon, merely saying the word “Christmas” will be outlawed. Both are untrue! Putting Christian scripture on the door of a public school classroom does constitute an endorsement of Christianity by a government entity, and implicitly marginalizes those who aren’t Christian. Also, removing this poster from a public school classroom door cannot and will never lead to the saying of “Christmas” being banned. That’s just an infantile whine.
To be clear: No, celebration of Christmas is not being outlawed anywhere in the US. No, removing this one poster from a public school classroom door cannot and will never prevent any Christian from celebrating Christmas however s/he wants in his/her own home, business, or church. It just won’t!
It’s time for the good Christian folk of Killeen to fucking grow the hell up, for the first time in their sniveling little lives, and quit their childish beefing. For that matter, it’s time for all American Christianists to just fucking stop already with the incessant, persecutorial Christmas whining. Take your Christian martyr complex and shove it!
David Grisham Jr. is a self-described Christian “pastor” who once ran the fringe group Repent Amarillo. How fringe? In 2010, he posted a video of a firing squad executing Santa — because it distracted people from Jesus.
His latest stunt, done on behalf of his new group Last Frontier Evangelism, is just a step away from that. He strolled into a Texas mall, found a bunch of kids and parents waiting in line to take a picture with Santa, and yelled out that Santa wasn’t real… because Jesus was the true reason for the season.
As one might imagine, this didn’t go over well with those around him, and they reacted accordingly. And as befitting the adherent of a martyrs’ religion, Grisham dutifully whined he’d been attacked:
On Facebook, Grisham posted the video with the description that he was “ASSAULTED by parent at Amarillo Texas Mall” for talking about Jesus. There’s no evidence of that in the video other than a man coming close to him and asking him to stop yelling.
I’d considered embedding the video here, but won’t. Note how Grisham spelled “assaulted” with ALL CAPS in order (he thinks!) to provoke maximum outrage from his readers, as part of his Christian persecutorial complex. Imagine that … people don’t actually like being screampreached! Whodathunkit!?
As for Christians who think Santa Claus is unChristian, that’s actually old news. Back in my own fundie days, we were discouraged from having anything to do with Christmas symbols that weren’t directly tied to Jesus and Christian theology. For instance, snowflake, reindeer, and snowman decorations were frowned upon, as opposed to candles, stars, or bells (because Jesus was “the light of the world”; due to the “star of Bethlehem”; and connections to the ancient Hebrew priesthood, respectively) as well as, more obviously, creches.
In fact, there have been Christian movements which objected to Christmas outright. It has too many pagan overtones for their taste, you see. The Puritans, for example, outlawed it when they ruled England and some of the Colonies.
At any rate, the only thing I find surprising about this, is that — given the prevalence of Christian fundamentalism in many parts of the country, as well as the militancy with which it’s often followed — moments such as this aren’t more common than they are. I wonder if most of the Christians who object to Christmas entirely or to certain aspects of it, are just keeping their mouths shut for reasons of their own. Perhaps they fear that any apparent infighting over Christmas might make their religion look bad, or something. I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s not just “secular progressives” who’ve criticized certain aspects of Christmas (e.g. nativity scenes on town-hall lawns) … sometimes other Christians have beefs with Christmas.
At the outset, I have to concede this is something of a tempest in a teapot. We aren’t talking about very much money here, and the stakes aren’t very high, on either side of this conflict. Still, it is an example of someone daring to take on a well-known and vocal Religious Right group, which is actually rare, since they’ve been so successful at intimidating others and bullying them into acquiescence.
Now then, on to the story … !
The state of Connecticut has a program by which its employees can have money deducted from their paychecks and sent directly to a number of charitable organizations. To be included in this program, charities must sign up and agree to abide by certain standards. But in the case of the American Family Association, that proved to be a problem. CT’s comptroller, Kevin Lembo, whose office administers the program, wants to find out if the AFA is actually living up to that agreement; but as CT News Junkie reports, the AFA is none too happy about that (WebCite cached article):
After asking a Christian organization that’s against LGBTQ rights for more information about how it conforms with Connecticut’s nondiscrimination clause to qualify for state employee payroll deductions, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo became the group’s newest target.
The American Family Association, a Mississippi-based group that is known for its anti-gay and anti-transgender boycotts of businesses, is flooding Lembo’s office with calls and emails. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Lembo said his office had received 4,455 emails from people associated with AFA.…
Last week, Lembo, who is the Connecticut’s first openly gay constitutional officer, announced that his office was investigating [cached] whether the group conforms with the anti-discrimination policy for the Connecticut State Employee Campaign for Charitable Giving program. Lembo said the group signed the anti-discrimination clause, but their website seems to offer a different story.
As one would expect, the AFA went ballistic over Lembo’s investigation. It probably didn’t help that Lembo is openly gay. They claim his move is an “attack” on their religious freedom, and Lembo’s way of trying to wipe out devout, dutiful Christians like themselves … but it’s not. At stake here is just one very small question: Whether or not the AFA is allowed to remain in CT’s payroll-deduction program for state employees. That’s all. Nothing more. Whether they’re in this program or not, will not change their lives in the slightest. It won’t force them to give up their beliefs. It won’t close any of their churches, it won’t rip Bibles out of their homes or hands. It won’t do anything of the sort, even if they claim it would. What’s more, as CTNJ explains, we’re talking about a small amount of money:
Between 2011 and 2016, AFA has receive $202 from three state employees. Since the group is part of a larger group of 13 charities within the account, it’s unknown exactly how much it received in undesignated funds. The group of 13 charities under the Neighbor to Nation heading received a little more than $4,000 a year between 2011 and 2014.
That kind of money isn’t going to make or break the AFA. It just won’t, no matter how sanctimoniously enraged they may be at this insolent, profane gay man who dared take them on, even in a small way such as this.
Really, the problem here is with the AFA. They reached an agreement with the state of CT in order to be included in this program, and that agreement included anti-discrimination terms, which they haven’t abided by, and which they even insist they’re obliged to ignore by dint of their religious beliefs. In other words … they signed an agreement whose terms they damned well knew, from the very start, that they never intended to live by. They weren’t coerced into signing up for that program or signing that agreement; no one put a gun to their heads and forced them to do so. They did that of their own volition. It now appears they did so dishonestly. I salute the Comptroller for pointing out their duplicity and for taking them on … even if the end result won’t accomplish very much (at best, the AFA will be deprived of a few hundred dollars a year in contributions, should they be removed from the program).
Really, for me — as I stated at the beginning of this post — what’s significant here is that Lembo was even willing at all to try to take on the AFA. Most of the time, public officials won’t contend with Christofascists. Rather, they tend overwhelmingly to bend over for them and give in to their bullying tactics. This is how they’ve succeeded as much as they have over the last three or four decades. They always seem to resort to their claim of sincere belief and “religious freedom,” as though this means all of humanity is required to knuckle under to all their demands, all the time, and that they’re never to be questioned, ever, for any reason. The world doesn’t work that way, and there’s no reason officials should act as though it does.
Now that Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump has been elected president, he’s begun assigning roles to the various men (many of specious character and/or ability) who supported his campaign. The transition process has turned out to be a clusterfuck, which should surprise exactly no one (WebCite cached article).
In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Flynn had delivered a speech to a Dallas gathering of the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, in which he had called Islam “a political ideology” that hides behind “being a religion,” and “a cancer.”…
“Islam is a political ideology.… It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion. And I have a very, very tough time because I don’t see a lot of people screaming ‘Jesus Christ’ with hatchets or machetes or rifles shooting up clubs or hatcheting, literally axing families on a train, or like they just killed a couple of police officers with a machete.”
Flynn’s complaint that Islam isn’t a religion, but rather a political ideology, is an oldone amongReligious Rightists. By saying Islam isn’t a religion, the R.R. rationalizes outlawing that religion and robbing Muslims of their religious freedom. Their assumption that Islam could be abolished in the US if it’s found to be a political ideology and not a religion, is — of course — foolish, since in addition to religious freedom, we also have political freedoms. The R.R. could no more ban Islam-as-a-political-ideology than it could the ideology of Leftism (which it would very much like to do, but can’t).
As I’ve blogged many times before, these Neocrusaders view Islam as the chief rival of their own religion (which, for nearly all of them, is Christianity). Their “war” against it is basically just a form of religious one-upmanship … i.e. a way of pushing the narrative that their god is bigger than the Muslims’ god. By agitating against Muslims, they hope to “prove” the virtues of their own religion and make Muslims cave in to them.
As such, it’s all very childish, but this is the ideology that elected Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump. So what can one expect?