Archive for the “American Religio-Politics” Category

Religion as it relates to U.S. politics

Unsplash, via PixabayThe Commonwealth of Kentucky has an awful lot of problems … or so I thought. I mean, last I knew, it’s home to some of the most impoverished counties in the entire US (WebCite cached article). It’s taken decades for Kentucky to devolve into its current dismal status. Yes, it’s been hurt by the loss of coal production, but no, this wasn’t caused by the coal-hating Barack HUSSEIN Obama; coal jobs have diminished steadily since the 1980s, under presidents of both parties.

But it seems the Bluegrass State has solved all of its problems, including the deep poverty of its eastern reaches, because Frankfort has moved on to dealing with problems it doesn’t have: Namely, not enough Bible-thumping. As the Christian Post reports, Kentucky’s governor bravely signed a bill that establishes a foundation for Bible classes in the commonwealth’s public schools (cached):

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin recently signed a bill into law that authorizes public school boards to allow schools to offer elective Bible literacy courses and provides state guidance to help establish such classes, local news outlets have reported [cached].

According to the Ohio County Monitor, Bevin, a Republican, has signed House Bill 128 into law, which provides guidance to schools as they begin offering students the ability to sign up to take Bible courses.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. DJ Johnson, passed overwhelmingly in the state’s senate 34 to 4 late last month.

The CP article includes obligatory references to the historic nature of the Bible and how important it is to civilization and yada yada yada. It even included this claim:

“Additionally, studies show that students that have a higher level of Bible literacy also tend to have higher GPAs,” [Republican representative DJ] Johnson continued.

No citations to these “studies” are provided, and I’m willing to bet either that no such thing exists, or they were commissioned by religious groups, in which case their results are suspect at best.

The article also points out the classes designed as a result of this law are to be “electives” only. The problem is that large swaths of Kentucky are packed with militant Christianists, so in many schools these “elective” classes won’t really be “electives”; nearly all kids will take them as a matter of course, and the few who dare not do so will be harassed and bullied. Yes, it will happen, no matter how vehemently the people promoting these classes insist they won’t permit it.

As someone who’s studied the Bible both from a religious and secular perspective, I don’t deny that secular Bible-literacy courses can have value for kids. The problem is, will the folks who teach these classes be willing to limit themselves to a secular approach? Will they have the restraint not to use them as an opportunity to proselytize? I’m not sure all of them will be able to resist the temptation to do so.

Really, what’s going on here is a kind of Bible-worship, or treating the Bible as though it were an idol. The people behind this law think that exposing kids to it will magically make them Christianists just like themselves. They really need to stick crowbars into the Bibles they long ago slammed shut, though, and actually read them for once … because it contains admonitions against idolatry and other forms of magical thinking.

At any rate, allow me to congratulate the Commonwealth on its achievement. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Kentucky any more, and all that’s left is the passage of laws to promote Bible-reading. Well done, Kentuckyites! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Unsplash, via Pixabay.

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And Jesus WeptThe list of Religious Rightists who feel compelled to yammer about rape continues to grow. They do it, even though they ought to have learned, by now, to just shut the fuck up about it already. Their absurd spew about it just makes them look ridiculous, and it’s sunk a few of their candidacies, too. So one would think they’d want to avoid the subject entirely. But too many of them refuse to do so. They’re too worked up about it, and too sanctimonious, to hold back. In other words, they just can’t help themselves.

The latest example of this kind of asinine behavior comes from the Oklahoma legislature. There, as KFOR-TV reports, Rep. George Faught agreed with the idea that rape is “the will of God” (WebCite cached article):

A controversial anti-abortion bill passed the House Tuesday, but not before a heated debate over the Bible, rape, and incest.

HB1549 punishes doctors who perform abortions if the mother is seeking one because of a genetic disorder.…

“Representative, is rape the will of God?” Rep. Cory Williams asked [the bill’s author, Rep. George] Faught.

“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there are a couple circumstances where that happened, and the Lord uses all circumstances,” Faught replied.

“Is incest the will of God?” Williams asked.

“Same answer,” Faught said.

Here’s video of Faught’s bone-chilling pronouncement, via Youtube:This sounds horrific to anyone who’s not deeply immersed in evangelical Christianity. What person with a brain would want to worship a deity who “uses” terrible incidents like rape like some kind of cosmic tool? And it sounds horrible to the ear of this cynical, godless agnostic heathen.

But with that said … there is a reason Faught trotted this out: This chilling theology does, in fact, have sound roots in Christian thought.

First, it’s not uncommon for Christians to view horrific events, such as violent crimes, or larger catastrophes such as plagues, earthquakes, etc. as warnings issued by the Almighty. This is, in fact, what I call “disaster theology,” and I’ve blogged about many examples of this sort of thinking. It’s a very old and tired trope within Christianity.

Second, it’s a natural consequence of believing that God is the omnipotent and omniscient creator of the universe. God’s limitless power and knowledge of all that has ever happened, is happening, and ever will happen, is an absolute quality, and that has a number of logical ramifications. One of them is that nothing can ever happen that God does not permit to happen … because if God didn’t wish something to occur, then it couldn’t occur. His/her/its wishes are, after all, absolute! What’s more, since God knew everything that would ever happen, even long before s/he/it ever created the universe, that means the very act of creating the universe caused it all to happen. Thus, God bears final and total accountability for everything … and I do mean absolutely everything!

This last point is one that most theists don’t accept, even if it’s completely logical. The bottom line is that God is, according to much of what Abrahmic-tradition followers say about him/her/it, a monster who uses events like rape as tools to achieve his goals. It’s an unavoidable conclusion. So any Abrahamic believer who says they don’t agree with vicious cretins like Faught, are going to have to think long and hard about what, exactly, they believe in and what kind of God they worship. Most of them, for better or worse, have never really thought out what it means to believe in a deity who has all the qualities they say their God has. It’s just never occurred to them to lay it all out — all of it — and figure out exactly what it means. They simply like thinking their deity is all-powerful. The emotional comfort this provides, is all they know and all they care about. They ignore the other ramifications of this belief.

Photo credit: Terry Alexander, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree / Mark K., via FlickrThe “peasants with pitchforks” moment in Killeen, TX I already blogged about, just ratcheted up a notch. The Christofascist attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, sued the Killeen school district over its order to remove a Christian poster from a public school. As the Houston Chronicle reports, a Texas judge ordered it be put back up (WebCite cached article):

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 about this whole business of celebrating Christmas in as public a manner as possible … were you aware, your own Jesus clearly and unambiguously ordered you never to express your piety in public? By all rights, were Ms Shannon truly following the teachings of her Jesus, she would never want to put up a Christmas display at all! It’s unChristian! Just saying.

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.

Photo credit: Mark K., via Flickr.

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Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Shopping / Kit Cowan, via FlickrOn the heels of my post about an unusual variation on the annual “war on Christmas” in Texas, comes another story on that trope from the Lone Star State. The local school system in Killeen, TX ordered the removal of a hand-drawn poster, based on A Charlie Brown Christmas, from a classroom door. The Killeen (TX) Daily Herald reports on the resulting “peasants with pitchforks” moment (WebCite cached article):

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!

Photo credit: Kit Cowan, via Flickr, based on A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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CT Comptroller Kevin Lembo / CT News Junkie file photoAt 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.

Photo credit: CT News Junkie.

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Letter sent to CA mosques: 'To the Children of Satan,|You muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs. You are evil. You worship the devil. But, your day of reckoning has arrived.|There is a new Sheriff in town -- President Donald Trump. He's going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And he's going to start with you muslims. He's going to do to you want Hitler did to the jews. You muslims would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.|This is a great time for Patriotic Americans. Love live President Trump and God bless the USA!|Americans for a Better Way' / via Washington PostIn addition to fueling the rise of the “alt-right” and white nationalism, the election of Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump has brought out the bigotry and hate that’s been simmering out there for decades. The incoming president ran on a platform of barring all Muslims entry to the US (WebCite cached article), so naturally that’s breathed new life into the movement I call “the Great Neocrusade” — i.e. a Religious Right effort to abolish Islam from the US and drive out all Muslims.

(Granted, many doubt the Groper-in-Chief will be able to carry out this promise … but that’s not relevant here. He made the promise, and many Americans expect he’ll carry it out. The reality of actually implementing it is something neither the Groper-in-Chief nor any of his fanbois are interested in.)

The result of this is that hateful Neocrusaders have been emboldened, and are becoming more overt and confrontational. For example, as the Washington Post reports, three California mosques got threatening letters (cached):

Letters threatening that President-elect Donald Trump will do to Muslims what Adolf Hitler “did to the Jews” were sent to three California mosques last week, according to the Council on Islamic-American Relations, or CAIR.

The handwritten letter, which referred to Muslims as “children of Satan,” were mailed to Islamic centers in San Jose in Northern California and Long Beach and Pomona in Southern California. It called Trump the “new sherriff [sic] in town” who will “cleanse America and make it shine again” by eradicating the country’s Muslim population.

“You Muslims are a vile and filthy people. Your mothers are whores and your fathers are dogs,” the letter states. “You are evil. You worship the devil. But, your day of reckoning has arrived.”

The letter went on to say that Muslims “would be wise to pack your bags and get out of Dodge.”

There have been widespread reports of many other incidents of hate, in the wake of the Groper-in_-Chief’s election. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear whether there has been an actual uptick in such incidents (cached).

Even so, it’s clear someone out there has chosen the arrival of “a new sheriff in town” as a signal that s/he should send letters to mosques threatening a Muslim Holocaust. And s/he did it not just once, but three times.

Yes, these are the sorts of things the Groper-in-Chief’s fanbois are willing to do, in the name of “making America great again.” Not that threatening a Muslim Holocaust will ever make America great — but clearly they think it will.

Photo credit: Washington Post.

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Praying Crusader / ModlicisekrizakNow 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).

One of his appointees, retired general Michael Flynn, is an outspoken Neocrusader (i.e. a Religious Rightist who wants Islam banned in the US at the very least, and — if possible — eradicated from the planet). Among other things, the soon-to-be National Security Advisor as Right Wing Watch explains, he’s said that Islam isn’t a religion (cached):

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.”

Note: The original Dallas Morning News article referred to is no longer on the paper’s Web site, but an Archive.Org cached version is available.

RWW provides video of this event, via Youtube:

Flynn’s complaint that Islam isn’t a religion, but rather a political ideology, is an old one among Religious 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).

What’s more, Flynn’s contention that Christians never kill based on their Christianity, is untrue: Christians can, and do, terrorize and kill in Jesus’ name. Almost a year ago, Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado (cached); he didn’t (as Flynn idiotically suggested) shout “Jesus Christ” while doing so, but he did mention “baby parts” after he was captured. As such, he was obviously motivated by the release of videos by a “pro-life” Religious Right group a few months prior. (Now, PP wasn’t actually selling baby parts, but sanctimonious pro-lifers don’t really care about facts. They only care about their outrage.)

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?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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