Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What does fascism look like?

Here's a good example that is generally held as basic principles of Fascism in nearly all textbooks I've seen (& Chris Hedges cites Dr. Luther Adams as saying the same  http://www.theocracywatch.org/chris_hedges_nov24_04.htm   ):

==== Article Quote =====
In an essay coyly titled “Fascism Anyone?,” Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 “identifying characteristics of fascism.” (The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2. Read it at https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/2710 External site) See how familiar they sound.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This list will be familiar to students of political science. But it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide. It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I See Hypocrisy

I remember in 2008 and 2012 when Super Tuesday came around. Being in GA, it was a question of which Republican would get the most votes as there are few Democrats in state outside the metro Atlanta, Macon, or Savannah area. After all, GA wanted to be part of the GOP nomination process and it is a big, big deal.

So in 2008 and 2012, there was a lot of talk about Democrats crossing over to vote to vote Republican to help an "easier" candidate get the nominee in hopes of helping the Democratic nominee come the general election. I remember Shawn Hannity and (I believe) Rush Limbaugh talking about it. It was all the buzz locally as anyone who didn't support ordained GOP front runner was labeled as a suspected RINO or, even worse, a Democrat doing the damnable crossover voting.

As I was talking to a friend yesterday -- who happens to be strong Tea Party -- he suggested that if there is a GOP leader of significant numbers by the time Super Tuesday comes around, he was going to vote in the Democratic primary. Even more amazing, he was going to vote for Bernie Sanders.

After I picked myself off the floor, I asked him if he had been drinking or recently had a serious head injury.

"No," he said. Then he smiled. "I just figure I will vote for Sanders hoping to make one more tick for the Socialist will make Hillary move further left so the Republican can get elected in November."

"Wait," I told him, "Didn't you say this was wrong for the Democrats who did that in 2008 and 2012? Why are you now doing the very thing you said was wrong for them?"

"Because this is too important. We must stop the liberals from destroying what is left of our country and if this is what it takes to do that, then we have to do it. This is my patriotic duty and any real American would do the same." He was dead serious.

"But don't you think it is hypocritical to condemn the Democrats who did that but you do the same?" Now I knew this question would never phase him but I thought I'd try.

It didn't work. Patriotism. Communism. Liberals. Taking our country back. Muslims. Socialists. There were other words he threw into the next 2 minutes of his speech. I'm sure you've heard them all before so I won't bore you with the full text. The rant was predictable.

Hypocrisy only exists for the other side.

Pharisees never see it  in themselves.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Update on "In God We Trust" Stickers

This updates my previous post about the placement of "In God We Trust" stickers on the sheriff patrol cars in my county.

I read the NY Times article about these stickers in the adjoining county to mine. After reading it, I'm certain -- 100% certain -- the stickers are intentionally placed on these sheriff department cars as: 
  1. An explicit faith statement.
  2. A very narrow theological view.
  3. A vote pandering play.
  4. An example of manipulating people who really have very little training in history.
  5. A dangerous step that erodes the wall of separation between church and state.
  6. Something that will be quite a political and legal fight one day.
Although I am not a member of FFRF, nor really even support their shotgun-style blasting with lawsuits, I do believe this quote is completely accurate:

“This motto has nothing to do with the problem of police forces’ shooting people, but it’s a great way to divert attention away from that and wrap yourself in a mantle of piety so that you’re above criticism,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, a co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that has demanded that law enforcement officials stop exhibiting the motto. “The idea of aligning the police force with God is kind of scary. That’s the first thing you’d expect to see in a theocracy."

Yep. That's exactly right.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"In God We Trust" but the Sheriff Still Carries a Gun

First, let me state emphatically that I am a lifelong friend of Sheriff Gary Gulledge, of Paulding County, GA. We grew up together, played sports together, have had many meals together, and I consider him a good friend who would do anything to help me just as I would for him. What I am about to say in no reflects a break in that friendship.

But, Gary, what the heck were you thinking?

It seems the Paulding County Sheriff's Department is placing "In God We Trust" stickers on all department vehicles. While the movement seems to be one that many departments across the nation are now doing, it doesn't make it right.

Let's be clear on something: I firmly believe Sheriff Gulledge's heart is in the right place. He is doing what he thinks is a good gesture towards the community, his personnel, and a bit of patriotism, too. He is not in any way trying to break the law, marginalize anyone, or cause problems. He is simply standing up for what he believes and trying to do something good.

None of that excuses the seriousness of the mistake of these stickers.

First, the Sheriff was quick to point out (see his statement here) that the stickers were paid for by his personal money, or the money of the deputies that chose to place the sticker on their patrol car. No taxpayer money was used. No problem, right? Well, that is a big problem: it shows that this is recognized as a distinctly religious statement and using taxpayer money would never fly from a Constitutional stand point. Thus, if it is recognized as an entanglement of church and state if taxpayer money was used, then it must be viewed as still a religious statement if private money is used. And since these stickers are on county vehicles, paid for by the county taxpayer, why are religious statements allowed?

Second, it should be painfully obvious that reasonable people would see this as a definite religious advancement, and thus an establishment issue. This is evident in the statements of nearly everyone that is praising God these stickers are on the vehicles. The people of the county see this for what it is: a clear religious statement on county vehicles.

Third, the Sheriff was explicit that he did this because he was doing exactly what the nation was founded on, i.e., God. While I disagree with him that the nation was founded on God or any uniquely Christian principles (or any religious values at all, for that matter), his statement that this is what the United States of America was found upon and is one of the principles I live my life upon demonstrates clearly that this is his advancement of religion using the official arm of the sheriff's department.

Fourth, it is highly problematic that deputies are paying for the stickers out of their own pocket. What if a deputy is of a different religion than the Sheriff? Wouldn't there be at least subtle coercion for the deputy to spend the money on an obvious faith statement? What if the deputy is of no faith? Will there be retaliation? I'm certain my friend Gary Gulledge would never --- not ever --- retaliate against a deputy for being of a different or no faith. I'm certain that wouldn't happen. But what of others in the department? How will they treat a fellow deputy who is singled out for being different? Fact is, there is an immediate coercive environment towards minority faith deputies, whether overt, covert, or perceived. It is there and there is no denying that.

Fifth, how does the community see this? Judging by the comments, nearly everyone loves the idea as God is getting the glory. Amen, right? Well, how do minority religions feel? To people of different religions or no religion at all, the message is very clear: faith is given the nod because this is a God-fearing county and if you aren't in the majority religion, you are 2nd class and don't get the benefit of the doubt. Many citizens will be marginalized, either real or perceived, and they will always wonder if they are getting the same treatment as the majority faith gets. This looks like the law enforcement arm of Paulding County gives favor to one religion, and that is the religion of the Sheriff.

Sixth, the stickers on patrol cars have never been challenged in court with a ruling one way or the other, as far as I can tell. So that means this is probably legal until a judge says it is not. Still, that doesn't make it right and the problems noted should be enough to say this is not a good idea.

Just as a last point of reference, the statement In God We Trust is indeed the US national motto, as of 1956. That doesn't mean it is not a religious statement. While most today simply see it as a legal generic nod to a ceremonial and patriotic duty, that idea is rapidly changing in every day practice as evidenced by the positive comments for these stickers. And, yes, the statement is on our currency, but that, too, is very recent and, like the motto change, done for the expressed purpose of making a religious statement as an up yours to the Soviet Union and their godless system of government. Again, everyone knew it was a religious statement then, and we know it is a religious statement now: the legal challenge will come --- eventually.

In the meantime, the stickers stand. It's legal. It's viewed as the placing of the national motto and not a religious statement. Still doesn't make it right.

Remember: if we open the door to putting God on the patrol cars, that same door will allow Allah on that same vehicle in the future. The only way to prevent the latter, is to make sure the former is not allowed either. Giving the hint of a Most Favored Religion is clearly a violation of the 1st amendment. I just pray that in our zeal to stand for God we don't forget that the majority faith in Paulding County, GA, once fought against this very thing when the Congregationalists, Anglicans, and Papists wanted their version of God given the nod of being more favored.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot


Unfortunately, those to whom this is aimed will not recognize it in themselves, instead reciting that same phrase as the Pharisee of old, "Lord, I thank you I'm not like other sinners ..." (LK 18:11). They portray the carpenter from Nazareth as the All-American boy, draped in a flag, and agreeing with their politics, economics, and social constructs.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Prayers Before Football Games: Fact is, it's just rude

I am a Christian, though I readily admit I'm not a very good one despite my best attempts. Truth is, most of the time, I am envious of other believers who do a much better job at The Faith than I do. Still, I give it a good shot.

I'm also a Baptist. And not just any Baptist, but a Southern Baptist. From GA. From a small town that has more Baptist churches than people (that is an exaggeration, but not by much). And I am even a former pastor while still doing some pulpit supply even today.

So when I write this entry, I don't do so lightly. I fully understand I may be taking Sunday-Dinner-on-the-Grounds out of my life entirely.

I'm just going to put it out there: we're rude. Yes, rude. Christians have gotten accustomed to the privileged status that comes from being the majority faith and we have been throwing our weight around in ways that are rude.

Let's start with prayer at school functions, particularly at Southern football games. Yes, we all know the Supreme Court ruled that school sponsored prayer was illegal way back in 1962 (Engle v. Vitale), but news travels slowly to many school boards in the South. Even when the court expressly said pre-game prayer over the loud speakers was illegal in 2000 (Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe), many parts of the South just ignored it. The court said that official school prayers or school directed / sponsored prayers are an endorsement of religion and thus a violation of the 1st Amendment. This doesn't mean students may not pray, but it does mean the prayer may not be lead by, endorsed by, sanctioned, or promoted by the school.

Basically it says the pastor of the largest church around, and who happens to be good friends with the coach or principal, can't get a few minutes on the loud speaker with a few thousand people to promote his church and invoke his version of God.

But students and those few thousand people at the game may pray. And they may pray in unison. And they may pray without asking those who don't want to pray to step outside until the prayer service is over.

So envision all those Christians spontaneously reciting the Lord's Prayer as soon as the National Anthem is finished over the loud speaker (the time everyone knows is where the prayer over the loud speaker is always given but is now not allowed). Yes, it is beautiful to hear and see and experience --- unless you're one of the few who doesn't believe as the thousands of others do and are now forced to sit through a prayer time in order to watch your kid play football.

An unwanted prayer is forced on you and your kids, and you had to buy a ticket to be there, too.

It is rude for us to do that to people. Very, very rude.

How would we Christians feel if the majority were Muslim and before the kick off, nearly everyone bowed towards Mecca? There you are waiting to watch your child play football, but the coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members, teachers, administrators -- everyone -- are all praying to Allah, while you sit silently waiting for it to be over. Don't you think maybe your kids are getting the impression that being Muslim is the preferred identity in the community and that you as a parent have forced him or her to be a social outcast? Don't you think your son or daughter would feel the pressure to conform to the majority's faith in order to be part of the team? Wouldn't you be very uncomfortable?

It is just rude.

And it certainly doesn't treat others the way we would want to be treated.

So for Oneida High School in TN, or for West Laurens High School in Dublin, GA, may I say God bless your zeal, but honestly you're setting the stage for Muslims or some other religion to perhaps return the favor upon your grandchildren one day.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vote Pandering in GA

So the speaker of the GA House of Representatives wants to make sure no clergy is forced to perform any gay weddings. Ok. But let’s be clear: the law already protects clergy from being forced to perform any wedding, and no house of worship is ever required to allow its facilities to be used in a manner it doesn’t want.

This is vote pandering, plain and simple.

Let’s get some examples from history here.

Remember when women won the right to vote? No? Well, many churches – particularly those in the South – were opposed to women participating in the electoral process. In fact, many churches didn’t even allow their women to participate in the voting systems in church matters. Few women were in ministerial positions and I personally know of several churches where even today women are not permitted to speak in the church’s business meetings. And the cry of that time was that if women were allowed to vote in civil matters, then the government would force churches to have women preachers, deacons, elders, etc. Never happened.

Then there was Prohibition with the fundamentalist religious groups leading the charge to keep the Liquid SIn out of the hands of all people – people who would be captivated by its seduction and immediately place them in the fast lane of the highway to hell. These religious groups yelled loudly that if Prohibition were repealed, it would be only a matter of time before churches would no longer have the option to preach against the dangers of Beelzebub’s Brew; that Uncle Sam would be in league with Satan so that no member could be disciplined for drunkenness. Never happened.

And how could we forget the end of segregation! Many Southern Baptist churches (and I’m certain other denominations did this too) claimed that when school segregation and other Jim Crow laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the logical next step would be churches forced to integrate their membership. Never happened. Even today, 60 years after the Civil Rights Act passed, Sunday morning at 11AM is the most racially segregated hour of the week.

How about a very similar Supreme Court ruling: Loving v VA, where interracial marriage could no longer be outlawed by the individual states. This case was identical to the gay marriage ruling as far as the application of the 14th amendment. The screams of outrage and the predictions of doom, are the same as we hear today regarding gay marriage. Pastors were convinced they would now have to perform weddings they believed God didn’t bless (after all, Jesus may have died for all, but that doesn’t mean He saw All People as equal, right?) Churches claimed they would be forced to open their doors to interracial couples who wanted a church wedding. Many charged that their freedom of religion was being trampled on and there would be lawsuits against clergy and churches. Never happened.

Why did were no lawsuits against pastors or churches over these examples? Because churches and their religious leaders are protected by the 1st amendment and government may not decide matters of doctrine or practice, nor force actions onto a religious group. Can’t do it.

The very idea that a pastor would be forced to perform a religious ceremony, or that a church would be mandated to give use of its facilities is simply absurd and without any basis whatsoever. None.
Now there are some caveats here. If a pastor is running a business where performing religious ceremonies is part of the business, then that is a different story. A business – complete with a tax ID, business license, advertising, etc. – is subject to the law just like any other business, and in those states where sexual orientation is a protected class, then a clergy member cannot discriminate. However, that is a major distinction: a wedding business is far different from a clergy member performing a wedding as one part of her many religious duties. The same would be true of a religious organization / church that has a facility marketed for weddings. If the organization is running a business, then it is subject to the rules just like any other business. Granted, there may be instances where this is a really grey area since many religious organizations have wedding venues that are quasi-business, but that have to be decided by the courts later on with specific circumstances. Of course, there is an easy fix for these churches / organizations: don’t comingle faith and for-profit practice.

There have been no lawsuits over this, much less any court rulings against pastors. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage more than a decade ago and not a single lawsuit. Not any lawsuits in any state for that matter, has forced any pastor to perform any wedding she didn’t want to perform. None. Not just any gay wedding, but any wedding whatsoever. A pastor may simply say “no” and that is that.

This is just a maneuver by David Ralston to play to the masses who are ignorant on these matters. It is nothing more than playing on the fear and emotions of people in order get votes.

Shameful, David Ralston. Shameful. This would be a good time for you to show leadership and just speak some truth – that this Pastor Protection Bill is just not needed and a waste of time. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Southern Baptist Convention and Refusing to Move

Al Mohler is not exactly someone I would consider in line with my thinking. In fact, I think it is safe to say that Al Mohler and I are very different and rarely agree on much of anything except the fundamentals of the faith. Without question; we disagree.

So when Mohler says something that I agree with, it's big.

Mohler recently said that no church or minister will be compelled to marry a gay couple should gay marriage become the law of the land. He's right. Many states have legalized same-sex marriages and there have been no cases where a minister or church has been sued for refusing. A church and / or minister are free to set those parameters for themselves and it is a protected right in the First Amendment. So there is no reason to think nationally anything would change if same-sex marriage is allowed.

Then Mohler made a great statement that is worthy of consideration.

The real danger is we’re going to pay an enormous social, cultural price for not doing a same-sex ceremony….We’re going to be considered to be morally deficient. Let’s admit it: We’re much more accustomed to being accused of being morally superior. They’ve said we’ve been ‘stand-offish,’ meaning better than them. Now a large part of this culture thinks we are morally deficient. And we’re going to find that’s a very different way to do ministry.

Exactly. The SBC is already considered backward in theology, but when it is considered homophobic and in support of institutional discrimination, the view changes to being one of immorality.

That's right. The SBC is now viewed by the majority of people not as being steadfast in our convictions, but as being completely stuck in the discrimination of yesteryear, hiding behind the cloak of religion as an excuse. Rationalizing bigotry with faith statements won't convince anyone to listen to our massage --- not tomorrow, not ever.

Society has moved past such ignorance and unfairness.

Unless the SBC re-thinks it's interpretation of the related passages, the image being presented is not Christ-like but Un-Christ-like.
It is one thing to be consider irrelevant; it is another to be considered immoral.

And the SBC has shot itself in the foot once again.


Former Judge Amanda Williams Facing the Music

Couldn't happen to a nicer lady. Really. What a first class heffer she is!


Can't wait to see the outcome. Finally some justice for the people she treated like dirt.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

About RFRA

So Matthew throws this party. A big party. Lots of people with sordid pasts and even more scary presents were there. Matthew was not the best guy to bring home to Mom anyway, being the lowest of lows 'cause of his work with the Romans in the Extortion Called Taxation racket. Bet a lot of Drama Queens were there, too. But that carpenter from Nazareth fellow - who had begun an itinerant preaching tour recently - also attended. Mark (on his 2nd page of the story) briefly mentions that the Self-Righteous Pharisees questioned how that Jesus guy could violate his religious teachings by going to that party. Didn't that new comer to the Faith know that going to that party was like he was condoning their actions?

That carpenter pulled a quick wit out of word-toolbox to hammer home the point to the Pharisees: "I don't deal with the people that think they are religious, but the people that are capable of hearing what I have to say."

I bet that Jesus fellow brought a cake and flowers to celebrate, don'cha think?