There’s a lot of talk about racism in the American Right, and especially in the Religious (or Christian) Right movement. Rightists themselves deny any racism on their part, and the more religious among them point to two things: First, that the Abolition movement of the 19th century was primarily a Christian movement; and second, that the Republican Party, to which nearly all Religious Rightists belong, was founded as Abolitionist. What’s more, they say, the Democratic Party had done more to block the advancement of civil rights, during the 50s and 60s.
All of those things are true, particularly that many Abolitionists were devout Christians and many strongly motivated by their faith. But that doesn’t mean that it’s Leftists and Democrats who’re now (according to the Right) the chief promoters of racism. The reality of the Religious Right movement is that it was founded on opposition to desegregation (in other words, it was predicated on racism). Also, those conservative southern Democrats who once tried to stonewall civil rights reforms, have since then moved over to the GOP.
Put bluntly, “the Party of Lincoln” has become something very different from what it was in Lincoln’s time.
Parents and students of a Catholic high school received a letter, apologizing after a student’s essay that chastised African Americans circulated on the internet.
The essay, assigned to a class at St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge, was about Black History Month. Instead of writing about events in February in support of equality for all races, a white student wrote she was “unpleased” with having to write such a paper and continued not everyone is created equal.…
The student referenced what she thought were passages from the bible, supporting a claim that the only race on the earth during biblical times were Caucasians.
The school has disavowed the essay, and I have no reason to assume the student who wrote it learned her racist theology there. But, she learned it from somewhere. She didn’t come up with the idea that Jesus’ apostles were all white and there were no “different ethics” [sic] in Jesus’ time on her own. Someone — and an adult someone, at that! — had to have taught her this bullshit. To be clear, there were most assuredly different ethnic groups in Jesus’ time. There were even different ethnic groups coexisting in the Levant, back then. They spoke different languages and followed different religions, and they didn’t always get along … but they were definitely there.
It’s easy to dismiss this sort of thing as a kind of “one-off,” a unique expression of Christianist racism that doesn’t reflect what others think. But I’m not sure it can be dismissed that easily. Along with the B.S. about there being no “different ethnics” in Jesus’ time, the author complained about blacks wearing ill-fitting pants, and more. Tropes like this have been going around for a long time. This student absorbed them, and will — along with other kids her age — carry them forward into the next generation.
What I’m getting at is that this story is an indicator of a larger phenomenon, one that has a very old pedigree and which doesn’t seem to be going away.
That’s quite bad enough, but really, pandering to Confederacy lovers is par for the course for a Republican in Congress, so in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal. What is a bigger deal is what King said, this morning, live on national television. Vanity Fair, among numerous other outlets, reports on what he accidentally revealed (cached):
During a panel discussion on MSNBC on Monday evening, Rep. Steve King of Iowa said that white people contributed more to civilization than any other categories or “subgroup of people,” causing a live segment to devolve into on-air chaos.
As the show broadcast from Cleveland, where much of the conservative establishment has gathered for the Republican National Convention, King responded to comments made by Esquire writer Charles Pierce as the panel discussed Monday’s upheaval on the convention floor.
“If you’re really optimistic, you can say that this is the last time that old white people will command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, and its public face,” Pierce said. “Of course, I thought this was going to happen after 2012, but thanks for the good work of Congressman King, I was disappointed . . . But I’ll tell you what, in that hall today, that hall is wired. It’s wired by unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”
“This whole ‘white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where have these contributions been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
“Than white people?” host Chris Hayes asked.
“Than—than Western civilization itself, that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world,” King said. “That’s all of Western civilization.”
Let me start by pointing out Pierce’s condescending and dismissive comments about “white people” were pretty snide. I can see how King might have been offended, which appears to have caused him to open up a little too much, but what Pierce said is nowhere near as bad as King’s remarks. Not only are they white supremacist in nature, they’re ahistorical as well. Let’s look at what non-white, non-Europeans have provided to civilization, shall we?
Most modern music genres (jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, etc.) evolved from the blues, which was the product of older African-American musical traditions going all the way back to Africa.
Yes, I get that Rep. King and his white-supremacist cohorts are upset they’ve been eclipsed, culturally and politically. But the cold fact is that “civilization” is not how he, or they, imagine it. Civilizations are enormous entities that embrace many people; they’re both widely spread and widely absorbed. They’re also nearly borderless, with fuzzy edges and lots of overlap. It’s impossible for a single “race” or ethnic group to retain sole control of one. Other sorts of people are touched by civilizations, and then influence them in return. King’s apparent carving up peoples into “groups” and “sub-groups” is pseudohistorical and invalid.
A bunch of hateful wingnuts in Chesterfield county in Virginia have been recruiting lately. That’s not really surprising; it’s in the South, after all (although it’s part of the somewhat cosmopolitan Richmond region). The leaflets and assorted hateful bilge they’ve been distributing there kicked up a bit of a controversy. But the KKK chapter there has responded to that, and as WWBT-TV in Richmond reports, they’re defending their efforts to expand (locally-cached article):
We are now hearing from the man behind all those KKK fliers being distributed across Chesterfield. The Klan documents have been reported in multiple neighborhoods since January.…
NBC 12 spoke to Frank Ancona who is Imperial Wizard of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He is president of the group distributing the fliers in Chesterfield County. Ancona says KKK membership is up across the country.
“In the last 6 years that I’ve been president of this organization I’ve seen the numbers probably triple,” said Ancona.
He says members are tasked with recruiting new members.
“We don’t hate people because of their race,” said Ancona. “We are a Christian organization.”
Aha. So, because they belong to “a Christian organization,” they cannot — by (Ancona’s) definition — be haters. OK, got it. It’s a weird tautology, and one that defies logic (I wasn’t aware that being a Christian meant one cannot possibly “hate” anyone else), but it’s a free country and I suppose he’s entitled to his juvenile irrationality.
In any event, Ancona trots out the usual apologetics:
Ancona claims the packets are meant to recruit, and he says they are tools used to “set the record straight.”
“Because of the act of a few rogue Klansmen,” said Ancona. “All Klansmen are supposed to be murderers, and wanting to lynch Black people, and we’re supposed to be terrorists. That’s a complete falsehood.”
This is the old “don’t judge us by the few extremists in our midst,” but that’s belied by the Ku Klux Klan‘s history. It was founded rather specifically as something of a terrorist group. The killings its members did, do in fact reflect on the organization as a whole, because the organization was founded in order to foster conspiracies to commit violence.
A couple of Ancona’s other points of “clarification” also reveal yet more illogic on his part:
“We want to keep our race the White race,” said Ancona. “We want to stay White. It’s not a hateful thing to want to maintain White Supremacy.”
Actually, Mr Imperial Wizard, it is rather hateful to fear losing your “whiteness” to other races or to worry about loss of numbers or power. There would be no reason to worry about any of those things without first hating those of other races.
Ancona also implies that, because “KKK membership is up across the country,” what he — and they! — are doing must be right. That, however, is a form of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to consensus, bandwagon fallacy, appeal to the majority, authority of the many, appeal to popularity, and democratic fallacy). The problem is that just because people think something … even very many people … does not necessarily mean it’s true. Veracity is not up for a popular vote, and popularity doesn’t make an invalid notion magically become fact.
As for KKK members being Christians, most of them very likely are Christians. And the KKK organization itself views itself as Christian. Here, for example, is their own Web site, making exactly this declaration (note, this is a link to a cached version of their page, not the page itself; I will not dignify them by directly linking their site in my own). It can be traced directly to Southern Baptists in the post-Civil War South. Other Christians certainly may disagree with the KKK’s version of Christianity, but its origins as a Christian group are not in dispute. The same is true of the related Christian Identity movement, which is predicated on its own Christianity-inspired mythology, including the idea that so-called “dark races” are descendants of “beast-men” mentioned in the Old Testament (e.g. Jonah 3:8), as well as Anglo-Israelism, a hateful anti-Semitic philosophy I’ve mentioned a few times previously. It is quite literally impossible to extract Christianity from what these hateful pricks believe, and have it remain intact.
The question of interest to me is, how is it that a supposedly divinely-founded religion propounded by a supposedly loving God who embraces all peoples everywhere, can possibly be used as a refuge for people like this? One can argue they’ve distorted their religion in order to suit their hatred, and maybe they have … but how could this have happened, if Christianity were truly divine in nature? Would it not be incorruptible in such a way? If not, why not? And how divine can it really be, if it is so easily corrupted?
Moreover, if it were true that KKK members are part of a “lunatic fringe” and don’t represent Christianity as a whole, how is it that the KKK has survived, in one form or another, for close to 150 years? If they’re such a tiny minority, one would think their hatred would have been stamped out long ago. But it hasn’t been. It persists. Sure, it runs into roadblocks here or there, but it always comes back, and it continues to have a voice. That an Imperial Wizard of the KKK would speak with, and reveal his identity to, a television station in a fairly large city like Richmond, tells me he doesn’t fear any repercussions. He must think none of the other Christians in his area — and there are many! — are going to try to discipline him for having stepped out of bounds. Why are Ancona, and others like him, still skulking around, doing what they’re doing?
The Most Rev Justin Welby told an audience of traditional born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated in the past and said most young people viewed Christians as no better than racists on the issue.
These are noteworthy words, coming from a man who, as the Telegraph explains, had campaigned against permitting gay marriage in the UK and voted against in the House of Lords. He has a long way to go, himself, but he clearly has begun opening his mind to the concept that gays are human beings, too, and is telling other Christians so.
He further took note of the significance of the date on which he was speaking:
Noting the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, he urged Christians to speak out about what they are in favour of rather than simply what they are against.
He praised the Alliance’s work tackling social problems by promoting food banks, working in social care or recruiting adopters and said that it was time for the Church to make “an alliance with the poor”.
But he went on: “One of things that I think is most noticeable where we make a bad impression in society at the moment is because we are seen as against things, and you talk to people and they say I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic, that is this that that, that is the other.”
The Archbishop is correct in that Christians … and in fact, most religious people of whatever tradition … are much quicker to declare what they dislike and what they’re against, and to go after others, than to declare what they like and what they’re for, and to support others. The very nature of religionism is that it tends to define itself negatively rather than positively.
Oh, and I can see the whining now, before it’s even happened. “Welby called us ‘racist’ because we hate gays!” the more militant Christianists will scream. The trouble is, if they say that, they will have lied. Because Welby absolutely did not say that gay-hating is racism. Not at all! What he actually said is that “people under 35 … equate it to racism.” Which is not the same thing as saying gay-hating is, itself, racism.
In any event, let the screaming and crying from Christofascist quarters commence. I’ll be watching with glee as they show themselves, once again, to be sniveling little crybabies.
It was to be their big day, but a Jackson couple says the church where they were planning to wed turned them away because of their race.
Now, the couple wants answers, and the church’s pastor is questioning the mindset of some of members of his congregation who caused the problem in the first place.
They had set the date and printed and mailed out all the invitations, but the day before wedding bells were to ring for Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson, they say they got some bad news from the pastor.
“The church congregation had decided no black could be married at that church, and that if he went on to marry her, then they would vote him out the church,” said Charles Wilson.
That pastor claims to have been on the couple’s side, yet he ended up giving in to his bigoted congregants by sidestepping the matter:
The church’s pastor, Dr. Stan Weatherford, says he was taken by surprise by what he calls a small minority against the black marriage at the church.
“This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that,” said Weatherford.
Weatherford went on and performed the wedding at a nearby church.
That’s Christian courage for you. Faced with what he calls a small group of congregants who didn’t like what he’d planned to do, he scooted off and ended up doing it somewhere else. Nice work, Pastor. What a marvelous job of triangulation you’ve done!
Residents of Crystal Springs don’t seem to be too pleased about this turn of events, as WBLT further reports (cached) … but so far as I can see, no one has yet confronted the bigots in question and corrected them. So whatever kind of upset has been churned up, hasn’t really produced anything meaningful. Like Pastor Weatherford, the people of Crystal Springs are more or less just triangulating … claiming to be upset by the bigotry, yet unwilling, themselves, to do anything about it. Again, well done, Christians. Well done! Your Jesus must be so proud!
OK, I was being sarcastic in that last sentence. The truth about Jesus is that, according to the gospels, he associated with undesirables, outsiders and outcasts, and he was vocal about doing so. For Christians to make others into outcasts … no matter the reason they might have to do it (whether it’s occupation, skin color, whatever) … is decidedly and certainly un-Christian. Period. They need to fucking stop this kind of bullshit already and start living according to Jesus’ own teachings as he supposedly delivered them.
The killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL is another of those stories I’d assumed I’d never mention on this blog. But it turns out I was wrong about that (as was the case with a few other major stories I hadn’t thought could end up having a religious angle). But people’s desire and ability to shoehorn religiosity into just about anything is boundless, so it’s going to happen from time to time.
It was “God’s plan” that brought together George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin in a fatal confrontation in February, Zimmerman told Fox News host Sean Hannity Wednesday in his first television interview. …
Zimmerman, who said he routinely carried a gun except when he was at work, told Hannity he didn’t regret deciding to follow Martin that night, after deciding the teen was acting suspiciously, and he didn’t regret having a gun.
“Do you feel you wouldn’t be here for this interview if you didn’t have that gun?” Hannity asked.
“No, sir,” Zimmerman responded.
“You feel you would not be here?” Hannity pressed.
“I feel it was all God’s plan and for me to second guess it or judge it…” Zimmerman said, pursing his lips and shaking his head.
The degree of Zimmerman’s culpability for Martin’s death has yet to be assessed by Florida courts. That will be decided only after months of legal wrangling and what’s sure to be a senationalized trial (assuming Zimmerman doesn’t plead guilty before then). But what’s incontrovertible is that his encounter with Martin ended in Martin’s death. For Zimmerman to blithely wave this away as “God’s plan,” and to say therefore that he has no regrets, is bone-chilling. The obvious logical ramification of the idea that “God’s plan” is for terrible things to happen to people, is that believers ought to just sit back and allow all manner of terrible things to happen to people — otherwise they might be thwarting “God’s will.” Despite this (and I do realize that most of them don’t think that way), most Christians … and people of other faiths, too … frequently use the “it must have been ‘God’s plan'” mantra to comfort themselves when something awful happens.
It’s natural Zimmerman would use an appeal to religion as a way of defending himself. The Right in the US has been on his side since the story of Martin’s death broke nationally. Their support for him accelerated after Leftsists they despise — such as Al Sharpton — condemned Zimmerman, and President Obama mentioned that, if he’d had a son, he might have looked like Martin. But it’s been a while since then; now that he’s has resumed trolling for donations for his defense, Zimmerman needed to curry the Right’s favor once more — and there’s no better way of getting the legions of the Right to do whatever one wants them to, than by appealing to their religiosity. (Hey, it worked for the shamed-out-of-officeconvicted-felon ex-governor of Connecticut John Rowland, didn’t it?)
As I’ve noted previously, it’s not to any religion’s credit that it can be used to justify something that’s otherwise indefensible. The cold fact here is that, one evening this past February, Zimmerman and Martin ran into each other, and the result was that one of them died. No one who adheres to the supposed “religion of love” could reasonably fail to regret that having happened.
A Kansas church that attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members has won its appeal at the Supreme Court, an issue testing the competing constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.
The justices, by an 8-1 vote, said Wednesday that members of Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars. The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
While I’m not in favor of hyperreligious lunatics broadcasting hatred wherever they can, I can’t disagree that the Phelps clan has the right to say what it wants to, in a public place.
The real issue here … which is (conveniently) being dodged by a lot of folks, is: What is it about religion that gives sanctuary to hateful people like the Phelpses, so that they can justify their horrific “message”?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just about the Phelpses. Religiously-inspired bigotry and hate is nothing new. Through most of its history, Christianity has worked to foster a certain amount of anti-Semitism; even now, hatred of Jews still exists among Christians, and is even more pronounced in the Islamic world. White supremacy also has a Christian orientation.
I understand most Christians are not hateful pricks like Fred Phelps, Hutton Gibson, and Wesley Swift, to name just a few. I get that. The problem is, if Christianity means something … and if that meaning is both plain and not the hateful one that people like the Westboro Baptists claim … then it should not be possible for anyone to use Christianity as a “safe harbor” to justify their hatred. That Christianity — or any other religion — can be used as a rationale for hatred, is not to its credit.
It means its message is — by definition — less than clear, and easily muddled by external considerations. It means that religion can be twisted into something it had never been intended to be, and say things it had never been intended to say. It means that, in the name of doing good, people of that religion can — ironically — promote a lot of evil.
If there are any Christians out there who truly think their religion has a definite meaning which is not what the disgusting Phelps clan trumpets all over the place, I must ask you: What are you doing about them? How, exactly, do you plan to prevent them from absconding with your religion? If you aren’t willing to do anything, then how is any objective, outside observer of Christianity supposed to know that Christianity’s message is not what the Phelpses say it is?
Think about the message you send to others, about your own religion, in your dealings with Fred Phelps and his clan.