July 2011

James Wall, Christian Century contributing editor and friend of anti-Semites, again demonstrates the double standard that anti-Israel fanatics employ. It revolves around, of all things, swimming:

The New York Times‘ Ethan Bronner reports that West Bank Palestinian women and girls have again broken Israeli laws to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. This is Rosa Parks country, folks.

Did the women in question go from the West Bank to Gaza (in other words, from one Palestinian territory to another)? No. With the help of some seriously misguided Israelis, they went from the West Bank to Tel Aviv. That means it wasn’t “Rosa Parks country” at all. A better way to look at it is as “Sonora Desert country,” which is to say it more closely resembles the illegal traffic in Mexican nationals across the border with Arizona.

Bronner actually evoked Parks’ name in his report. Did his editors think we would not notice?

So an idiot New York Times reporter made a false comparison between Rosa Parks and those who have no consideration for the sovereign border of a neighboring country. Where’s the news in that?

Here is that connection: Rosa Parks deliberately violated an unjust Alabama segregation law. The Palestinian and Israeli women and girls who crossed the Israeli segregation border, broke Israeli laws.

So get this: Israeli control of its own borders, its exercise of its sovereign responsibility to regulate who does and does not enter its country, now constitutes “segregation.”

Palestinians living a few miles from the coast reach adulthood without ever seeing or entering the Mediterranean Sea because they live behind a barrier of an occupation of their land that is illegal under international law.

If there was no Israeli presence on the West Bank whatsoever, Palestinians would still have no right to cross Israel in order to get to the sea. That’s what happens when you don’t have a seacoast, which presumably Wall wants Israel to give to the Palestinians in the West Bank. The separation fence between Israel and the West Bank that has been so successful in stopping terrorist attacks plays no role at all in preventing West Bankers from getting to the Med.

Next up: The September United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City, where the Palestinian Authority will formally request UN membership, and quite possibly, full statehood status.  The first step will be a request to the Security Council, which has a membership of 15. It is in this body that, even if the PA obtains the necessary majority of 8 votes, the US has announced that it will cast yet another pro-Israel veto.

Wall, of course, supports this. He also supports the removal of all Jewish residents of the West Bank, which would make the latter as Judenrein as Gaza. So to summarize: Palestinians should be able to move freely in and out of the sovereign state of Israel whenever they wish. For Israel to deny Palestinians the freedom to do so constitutes “apartheid.” Palestinians should be given their own sovereign state, in which no Jews should be allowed to live. To do so is right and just.

In the mind of an anti-Semite, perhaps.

UPDATE: Ricki Hollander and Gilead Ini, writing for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), take apart the article on which Wall hangs his hat:

The article alternates between the group’s shrill criticism of Israel’s security policy and its members’ ludicrous moral preening, interspersed with mawkish descriptions of the Palestinian women’s innocent joy after a life of alleged privations….

It is not only the extreme words of the group that is disturbing; it is that they put out false information, and that the reporter does not bother to challenge it. An Israeli newspaper advertisement by the group is quoted extensively. (In Israel, the group has to pay for such advertising. The New York Times gives it to them here for free.) The ad alleges that Israel’s Law of Entry “allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right.”

In fact, the law says no such thing. Current restrictions on freedom of movement apply both to Palestinians and Israeli Jews and are a direct result of the security threat presented to Israel and Israeli citizens. Both Palestinians and Israelis had complete freedom of movement “between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River” until after the first intifada, when Palestinian violence against Israelis began to rise. Today, Israeli Jews are barred from entering Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank, while Palestinians are issued permits to cross Israel’s pre-67 boundaries. So the advertisement is simply false.

Read it all.


Apple, Wells Fargo, Macy’s, Delta and some other companies have decided that it is god business to bash evangelical Christians for their convictions regarding sexual morality. According to the Syracuse Post-Standard:

Change.org press release says Apple has removed their iTunes store from the “Christan Values Network” after more than 22,000 people signed a petition on Change.org started by Ben Crowther, a student and Apple customer concerned about CVN’s funding of anti-gay, anti-women organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

CVN is an online service that raises money for various religious groups from the purchase of goods and services.

A few clarifications: Change.org is an online petition site that caters primarily to far-left groups and individuals. Ben Crowther is a Western Washington State University student and activist who seems to be prominent among those using Change.org. CVN is an online shopping service (online stores essentially use it as a portal) that allows customers to designate a portion of the purchase price of goods and services to go to the “charity, school, or faith-based organization,” most of which appear to be local. Each online store that is part of the portal can designate which of the 170,000 possible recipients are eligible to receive the gifts, meaning that the companies that pulled out have used a meat cleaver rather than a scalpel to make a political statement, and hurt to some degree or another tens of thousands of otherwise unobjectionable recipients.

“From the beginning, I knew that once this issue was brought to Apple’s attention, they would not want to be a part of CVN because it funds anti-gay hate groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council,” said Change.org petition starter Ben Crowther. “Apple is a fair-minded business. I’m glad this petition helped make Apple aware of this issue, and I am thrilled that they removed iTunes from CVN.”

In fact, this is nothing more than Apple caving in–again–to pressure from the gay rights lobby without bothering to see if there might be alternatives. So, giving a foolish person like Crowther what makes him feel good means that Habitat for Humanity, for instance, will not receive any proceeds from CVN. Of course, with your average college student activist, it’s all about what makes him feel good, rather than who actually suffers or benefits.

By the way, propagandists the world over would be proud to know that Crowther has joined their ranks. Calling Focus and the FRC “anti-gay hate groups” bears no more relationship to reality than calling More Light Presbyterians an “anti-Christian hate group” because they disagree with traditional orthodox Christian morality. But then, neither logic nor fairness is a strong suit of people such as Crowther.

A Macy’s spokesperson told Change.org, “Macy’s serves a diverse society. As such, we are deeply committed to a philosophy of inclusion in the way we operate our business and support our communities…We welcome all customers into our stores.”

And how does allowing people to give to Habitat for Humanity through Macy’s purchases made via CVN prevent that? How does it contradict their “philosophy of inclusion” except to the extent that they’ve decided that the way certain people think should exclude them from even the possibility that some money that would otherwise have gone to Macy’s might go to them?

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo told Change.org that “occasionally team members may act on their own to place ads on various sites that do not meet Wells Fargo’s brand and marketing standards. We requested the removal of this ad because it was not compliant with Wells Fargo’s brand and marketing standers.”

Please. What “marketing standards” are we talking about here? Wells Fargo is obviously petrified that Ben Crowther and some of his buddies will show up outside their San Francisco offices shouting, “Wells Fargo hates gays!” The plain fact that it doesn’t apparently doesn’t matter. Just the act of being called names is making one of the biggest banks in America stick its tail between its legs.

Celebrities Stephen Baldwin and Michael Lohan helped launch the Christian Values Network.

Both Baldwin and Lohan are outspoken about their anti-gay views. Baldwin told the Guardian in 2010 that he supports so called “ex-gay” therapy, a harmful practice that falsely claims to “cure” people of their sexual orientation.

If you’re thinking that the Syracuse Post-Standard has decided to end the debate over reparative therapy by labeling it “a harmful practice that falsely claims to ‘cure’ people of the sexual orientation,” have no fear. That phrase is in fact lifted verbatim from the Change.org press release. In fact, virtually the entire release is simply reprinted by the newspaper on its web site, with only minor editing that leaves it intact. I hope the people of central New York state appreciate being spoon-fed leftist drivel by their local “journalists.”

(Via Religion News Service Blog.)

This could have gotten under the heading of “Theocrat Watch,” but I’ll do it as a standalone. Seems the Sojourners/Circle of Protection crowd has taken to issuing veiled threats to get what they want out of Washington. An ad in the Politico this morning trumpeted this:

God Is


And as we all know, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature the Religious Left God. As usual, it’s All About the Poor:

When it comes to the bitter and ultra-partisan battles over the budget, the deficit, and the fast-approaching deadline for America to avoid defaulting on its financial commitments, the whole nation—and even the world—is watching.

But God is watching too.

The Bible teaches that God is watching to see how the poor fare under the decisions of the politically powerful (Isaiah 10). What happens to low-income people, families, and kids—at home and around the world—will be of keen interest to God, according to scripture. In the past, our country has successfully reduced deficits and poverty at the same time. There was a bipartisan agreement to defend the means-tested programs for low-income people against cuts.

That reference to how we’ve “reduced defiicits and poverty at the same time” has got to be a reference to the mid-to-late 1990s. Between 1992 and 1999, real GDP rose almost 30%. Real purchasing power rose almost 20%. The annualized unemployment rate went from 7.5% in 1992 to 4.0% in 2000. In other words, a roaring economy resulted in greater employment, which in turn resulted in greater personal income. People were lifted out of poverty–the poverty rate went from 15.1% in 1993 to 11.3% in 2000—but it wasn’t by the government, it was by the private economy. The point: last time I checked the economy of 2011 isn’t the economy of 1997. So talking about reducing deficits and cutting poverty at the same time is essentially a non sequitur, especially since what these people actually mean is the federal government reducing poverty.

For the past 25 years, every automatic budget cut mechanism has exempted core low-income assistance programs. But not this time. Neither the Republican House, nor the Democratic Senate, nor the Obama White House has clearly and publicly committed to protect the poor and vulnerable, even though religious leaders have persistently pressed them all to do so. It’s a moral imperative that we do so again today.

I don’t know whether their history is accurate (I suspect not, especially since I have no idea what they mean by “automatic budget cut mechanism”). But here’s the real point: today (or at least 22 of the last 25) is not like the last 25 years. We had not added over five trillion dollars to the national debt in the space of 3 years. We were not looking at the possibility (proposed by the president in a plan that was rejected 97-0 in the Senate) of almost doubling our current levels of debt in the next ten years. We were not looking at  a situation where the federal government had added over 100,000 employees at a time when the private economy had shed millions of workers. And we were not looking at a time when the definition of “poor” had become so loose.

For Jim Wallis % Co., cutting federal programs equals savaging the “poor and vulnerable.” Let’s take a look at what that actually means:

•WIC: I’m a big supporter of the Women, Infants, and Children program, which is supposed to help pregnant women and young children avoid the debilitating effects of malnutrition. My wife and I got help from WIC for several months while I was in seminary in 1980-81, while we had a family income of $5000 a year, half of which went to pay rent. But in 2011, a family of four may receive WIC benefits with an income of $41,348, if the state they live in uses the federal standard (most d0). Should a family of four making $41k a year in low cost-of-living states really be getting federal assistance?

•For the Low Income Home Energy Program (LIHEAP), there’s a range between states. For a family of four, eligibility is capped at 60% of a state’s median income level. In 2011, these range for a family of four from $33,167 in New Mexico to $61,483 in New Jersey. Should a family of four in New Jersey, even with its high cost of living, really be getting federal “poverty” assistance with an income of over $60K?

•Housing assistance: We’ve all heard of Section 8 housing. Generally, it’s not something you’d want to live in. But a lot more people are eligible to do so than you might think. For instance, here in the DC metro area, a family of four with an income of $67,600 can live Section 8. In San Francisco, that same family can make $85,450. In the very pleasant hills of Hunterdon County, NJ, on the Pennsylvania line, you can make $67,600.

Now, these are just three, and I’m sure that there are federal programs that don’t have outlandish eligibility requirements. But here’s the problem: for Wallis & Co., such subtleties are of no consequence. In true Manichean style, you are either For the Poor or you are Against the Poor. You are either a Good Guy or a Bad Guy. You are either a Soldier of God or a demonic conservative. The idea that there might be federal programs, set up with good anti-poverty intentions, that are poorly run, bureaucratically bloated, creeping into the middle class, or just plain ineffective never occurs to them. Nor do they show any understanding that Social Security and Medicare, both of which they’ve included in the “circle of protection” for the “poor and vulnerable” (since seniors are defined as “vulnerable” per se, I guess) are not means-tested, which means that every years tens of billions of dollars are transferred from lower-income working folks to rich and middle class people who happen to be over 62-65 years of age.

So there you have it. A bunch of people’s whose knowledge of basic economics and government roughly equals their personal acquaintance with Madagascar lemurs is issuing veiled threats to Washington politicians about how “God is watching” them to make sure they do as Wallis & Co. dictate. I suspect the look on God’s face, if He had one, will be about like this fellow’s when He sees His name used this way:

One of the most important pastor-theologians of the 20th century has died. According to the Associated Press:

The Rev. John Stott, one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of the 20th Century, died in London Wednesday. He was 90.

Stott led an evangelical resurgence in England and influenced Christians worldwide through his extensive writing and preaching. His many books were widely read in Britain and many parts of the world for over five decades.

Stott was considered the leading evangelical intellectual of his time. He was a primary framer of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, a declaration of beliefs and an assertion of evangelicalism as a global movement. The document is considered a milestone in the rise of evangelical Christianity worldwide.

Known as “Uncle John” to the many people he worked with, Stott was a lifelong bachelor who funneled his book royalties into scholarships, especially for students from developing countries who went on to lead evangelical movements where they lived. Through his work and teaching, he is credited with renewing an evangelical emphasis on social justice issues.

His death was announced on the website of All Souls Langham Place, the church he attended as a child, then led as curate and rector after he was ordained by the Church of England in 1945.

In my most recently completed D.Min class, I read his classic The Cross of Christ for the first time, and found myself wishing I had read it thirty years ago. It’s a wonderful work, one of many that Stott shared with the Christian world over the course of his career. My understanding, appreciation, and love for Christ is deeper and wider for having encountered this marvelous disciple, something countless of his brothers and sisters can say as well. He will be sorely missed.

I thought that I would only have to write one post on the exploitation of the tragedy in Norway for ideological purposes. Silly me.

Th execrable Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite has been a frequent target of mine, but she hits a new low in the Washington Post this morning. Seems the mass murder in Norway was all about “right-wing” Christianity:

Anders Behring Breivik has now “acknowledged” that he carried out the horrific series of attacks in Norway that have left at least 76 dead. He has been described by police there as a “Christian fundamentalist.” His rambling “manifesto” calls for a “Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination.” Christians should not turn away from this information, but try to come to terms with the temptations to violence in the theologies of right-wing Christianity.

Let’s clear the field right away: Breivik is not, and does not claim to be, a Christian in anything but a cultural sense. He writes in his incoherent “manifesto” (3.139):

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.

Even someone as far removed from orthodox Christianity as Thistlethwaite would reject the claim of someone who wrote something like this to be a Christian. This, in fact, is much more akin to what the so-called “German Christians” of the Nazi era claimed, that they were Christians by virtue of blood and soil, of ethnic heritage, of cultural patrimony. To the extent that they understood what Christianity is about, they rejected it, as does Breivik, for all his pseudo-Christian ramblings.

Breivik’s chosen targets were political in nature, emblematic of his hatred of “multiculturalism” and “left-wing political ideology.” This does not mean that the Christian element in his ultra-nationalist views is irrelevant. The religious and political views in right-wing ideologies are mutually reinforcing, and ignoring or dismissing the role played by certain kinds of Christian theology in such extremism is distorting.

In fact, trying to discern a coherent political ideology in Breivik’s rant is next to impossible. He certainly doesn’t fit into anything like the convenient category that Thistlethwaite wants to put him. Oh, and I’ve got to say that for someone as thoroughly down-the-line left-wing in both her politics and her theology as Thistlethwaite to talk about how “the religious and political views in right-wing ideologies are mutually reinforcing” is the height of pot-kettle irony.

Christians are often reluctant to see these connections between their religion and extreme violence. They will dismiss it as “madness” rather than confront the Christian element directly. As a woman interviewed in Oslo observed, “If Islamic people do something bad, you think, ‘Oh, it’s Muslims,’ ” she said. “But if a white Protestant does something bad, you just think he’s mad. That’s something we need to think about.”

Ah, moral equivalence. Hey, it worked with the Soviets, right? Rather than drawing facile comparisons between apples and oranges, Thistlethwaite ought to learn something about the subjects she writes about. The connection between political and religious realms was built into Islam from the beginning. The early centuries of Islam are all about military conquest and the establishment of empire. Recognized, popular schools of Islamic thought, such as that of Ayatollah Khomeini, advocate a tight bond between state and mosque, and not only acquiesce to violence against non-believers, but positively encourage it. Followers of those schools applaud when they see infidels struck down (think of the reaction in parts of the Muslim world to 9/11, 7/11, 3/11 the Bali bombings, and others). When stuff like Norway happens, the reaction in even the most conservative Christian circles is universal condemnation.

Yeah, I know–details, details.

Exactly right. Christians do need to think about that, both in Europe and in the United States. Examining your own religion in its historic as well as contemporary connection to lethal violence is something Christians tend to shun. Stephen Prothero describes this dynamic in his students: “When I was a professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, I required my students to read Nazi theology. I wanted them to understand how some Christian bent the words of the Bible into weapons aimed at Jews and how these weapons found their mark at Auschwitz and Dachau. My Christian students responded to these disturbing readings with one disturbing voice: the Nazis were not real Christians, they informed me, since real Christians would never kill Jews in crematories.” Prothero confesses he found their response “terrifying.”

I’m not sure why their response is “terrifying,” though it may be wrong. These students evidently understood something that Prothero and Thistlethwaite don’t: that no authentically Christian theology or worldview could possibly countenance actions like the Nazi campaign against the Jews. The only way to get from Christianity to Nazism’s racial beliefs is to so distort the faith that it was no longer Christianity. The German Christians were, among other heresies, Marcionites (they rejected the Old Testament in whole or in part) and Pelagians (they reject the inherited sinfulness of humanity), and rejected most if not all of Paul’s theology regarding the breaking down of walls between Jews and Gentiles. Many of them essentially rejected the historicity of the Gospels by declaring that Jesus was an Aryan. Is it any wonder that people like this would approve of the Nazis’ anti-Semitism? Is it really any wonder that Prothero’s students had a hard time identifying this as “Christianity”? The truth is that the only way that the ideology of the German Christians could be supposed to be Christian is if the words “Christianity” and “Christian” have no intellectual content, so that they may be twisted and shaped into whatever form one wishes. The fact that the German “Christians” wanted to hold on to that word is no more morally significant than Theodore Kaczynski identifying himself as an “environmentalist.”

When I consider the theological perspectives that “tempt” some Christians to justify hatred and even violence against others, such as, in this case in Norway, the following perspectives seem especially prevalent: 1) making supremacist claims that Christianity is the “only” truth;

So holding to biblical faith, as well as the orthodox faith of the church through the centuries, “tempts some Christians” to hate and murder others. You might as well say that believing in the crucified Christ encourages violence. Oh, wait–some “theologians” on the loony left do say that. (I should mention that she seems to be doing a weasel by using the expression “only truth.” What she means is the view that Christ is the only way of salvation.) In any case, Thistlethwaite has obviously not bothered to look at Breivik’s rant, which makes clear that his beef is with Islam–he says nothing negative about any other religion, and supports Christianity because of its place in European culture, not because it is the “only” truth. She simply assumes that Breivik must believe this, because a police official (!) called him a “Christian fundamentalist.”

2) holding the related view that other religions are not merely wrong, but “evil” and “of the devil”;

This view of other religions may or may not be true, but the fact is that there are countless people who believe this, including an awful lot of atheists who believe that all religions are evil, but who don’t go around indiscriminately killing people. In any case, Breivik never says this.

3) being highly selective in the use of biblical literalism, for example ignoring the justice claims of the prophets and using biblical texts that seem to justify violence;

Not surprisingly, selectivity in the use of “biblical literalism” is universal, which makes sense given that there is a variety of types of literature in Scripture, some of which is meant to be taken literally, some of which isn’t. Even Thistlethwaite takes some of it literally. Generally, those who use it to justify violence are those who would be violent anyway, but grab hold of some text or another justify what they want to do, rather than discovering a call to do what they wouldn’t otherwise.

4) identifying Christianity with a dominant race and/or nation;

See “German Christians” above.

5) believing that violence is divinely justified to “cleanse” or “purify” as in a “holy war”;

This idea used to be common within Christendom (as it has been and still is common in certain segments of Islam). But the only people who hold to this now are either the “German Christian” types or people who are so unhinged that they hear voices or see divine messages in the butter patterns on their English muffins.

and 6) believing the end of the world is at hand.

That must refer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his threats to wipe Israel off the map to facilitate the coming of the 12th Mahdi, because it has nothing to do with Breivik at all.

Such theological views, I have found, are more accurate predictors of where political extremism and certain interpretations of Christian theology will mutually contribute to justifying lethal violence. This kind of specificity is more helpful, in my view, than the term “Christian fundamentalism.” Fundamentalism is a more historical term, dating from the “fundamentalist-modernist” controversy in the early part of the 20th century in the United States, and I find it is less helpful today in understanding right-wing Christianity.

This kind of specificity would be more helpful if it had any kind of link with actual examples, since Breivik doesn’t fit this mold. He doesn’t claim to be Christian in any sense other than the cultural; he has no interest in whether the theological claims of Christianity are true, much less exclusively so; he has no apparent problem with any religion other than Islam; his apocalypticism is cultural rather than theological; etc. But other than that he’s a textbook case of what Thistlethwaite is talking about.

I also think it’s funny that she gets all scholarly on the use of the word “fundamentalist,” considering she uses it all the time as a synonym for “right-wing Christianity,” but hey, maybe she was looking at her doctoral sheepskin when she wrote this.

The real point is this: she doesn’t show that there is any connection between violence and “right-wing Christianity” because there isn’t one. A handful of deranged people, many of whom don’t even fit the stereotype, do not make a “connection”–they make an excuse for religious leftists to throw slime at Christians with whom they disagree.

UPDATE: Here’s the aforementioned Stephen Prothero at CNN’s “Belief Blog” today:

He affirms Christianity. He describes himself as “100% Christian” in his apparent manifesto….

If he did what he has alleged to have done, Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist.

Yes, he twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in Christian thought and Christian history, particularly the history of the medieval Crusades against Muslims, and current efforts to renew that clash.

Here’s Breivik in his manifesto:

At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church. I consider myself to be 100% Christian. However, I strongly object to the current suicidal path of the Catholic Church but especially the Protestant Church….

As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science and it must always continue to be that way.

Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.

Yeah, that sounds like a Christian to me. In some ways, he’d fit right into Thistlethwaite’s United Church of Christ.

UPDATE: Yet another academic, Marc Jeurgensmeyer of Southern Cal, weighs in at Religion Dispatches:

The similarities between suspected mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh are striking.

Both were good-looking young Caucasians, self-enlisted soldiers in an imagined cosmic war to save Christendom. Both thought their acts of mass destruction would trigger a great battle to rescue society from the liberal forces of multiculturalism that allowed non-Christians and non-whites positions of acceptability. Both regretted the loss of life but thought their actions were “necessary.” For that they were staunchly unapologetic. And both were Christian terrorists.

Thereby demonstrating (as if further evidence were necessary) that some academics would rather be politically correct than factually accurate. McVeigh explicitly said he was an agnostic. I know–details, details.

Jeurgensmeyer’s point seems to be that if you are going to call Osama bin Laden a Muslim, then you have to call Breivik a Christian:

Is this a religious vision, and am I right in calling Breivik a Christian terrorist? It is true that Breivik—and McVeigh, for that matter—were much more concerned about politics, race, and history than about scripture and religious belief; with Breivik even going so far as to write that “It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)).”

But much the same can be said about Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and many other Islamist activists. Bin Laden was a businessman and engineer, and Zawahiri was a medical doctor; neither were theologians or clergy. Their writings show that they were much more interested in Islamic history than theology or scripture, and imagined themselves as re-creating glorious moments in Islamic history in their own imagined wars. Tellingly, Breivik writes of al Qaeda with admiration, as if he would love to create a Christian version of their religious cadre.

If bin Laden is a Muslim terrorist, Breivik and McVeigh are surely Christian ones.

So here’s what religion is in the hands of one sociologist:

In case you can’t make out that warning in the corner, it says: “May be dangerous when used for political purposes.”

The horrific events in Norway on Friday are the kind that leave one speechless. In the face of such unbridled evil, the responses of prayer, comfort, and help for the survivors and their families are probably the best, along with ensuring swift justice for the perpetrator.

Then there are the exploiters, the vultures who come flying in to flay whatever their pet peeve or ideology or cause is. Count the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA among these, as they link their Facebook page today to an article that immediately seeks to do just that.

It comes from something called MCW (“Media With Conscience,” which is now listed in dictionaries under the definition of irony, and which seems to be yet another outlet for many of the same kind of lunatics that populate the pages of Veterans Today). The article is entitled, “Was the Massacre in Norway a Reaction to BDS?” (BDS stands for “boycott, divestment, sanctions” directed at Israel.) The writer is one of the staff creeps from VT, Gilad Atzmon, who writes:

Gordon Duff wrote yesterday in “Veterans Today” that the “car bombing carries the signature of an intelligence agency.  Nobody else bothers with such things.”

In the article of Duff’s that Atzmon links, Duff essentially says without any proof whatsoever that there are “two primary suspects” in the massacre, Israel and Libya, and thinks that they would have worked together.

And indeed it is after all, pretty clear that a car bomb of such magnitude, and an operation of such sophistication is not exactly something a layman can put together with such apparent ease: it would surely take some specialist knowledge, and the question here is, who could provide such knowledge, and such a vast amount of lethal explosives?

I am not in a position at present to firmly point a finger at Israel, its agents, or its sayanim — but assembling the information together, and considering all possibilities may suggest that Anders Behring Breivik might indeed, have been a Sabbath Goy.

Within its Judaic mundane-societal context, the Sabbath Goy is simply there to accomplish some minor tasks the Jews cannot undertake during the Sabbath. But within the Zion-ised reality we tragically enough live in, the Sabbath Goy kills for the Jewish state. He may even do it voluntarily.

Being an admirer of Israel, Behring Breivik does appear to have treated his fellow countrymen in the same way that the IDF treats Palestinians.

Atzmon is a classic anti-Semitic Jew, one whose far left ideology forms the basis for his anti-Semitism. He doesn’t need evidence for his calumnies, just suppositions, conjectures, and assumptions that “may suggest” something thoroughly vile, because his default position is that if something terrible happens in the world, it must be the fault of Israel, or Israel’s stooge, the United States. But this is a new low, even for one of Veterans Today’s most brain-damaged ranters.

By the way, this article also appeared at Veterans Today this morning. Because of the attention that I and others have given to the VT-IPMN connection, the latter has been careful to generally avoid linking to the former’s swill in recent months. The fact that they get this from a different source, however, makes not one whit of difference. Atzmon is a vulture, and IPMN is, too.

UPDATE: My friend Viola Larson has also written on this, and provided further quotes from the cesspool. I left this comment on her post, and think I need to add it here:

Do it once, you can be excused for ignorance. Do it twice, and maybe you’re just letting things slide. The IPMN has linked over and over again to people whose agenda is not reconciliation in the Holy Land, but the destruction of Israel, and who believe that Israel is the fount of all evil in the world today. IPMN can no longer be excused on the basis of ignorance, or even the blindness that results from upholding a righteous cause. They have made clear that they agree with the anti-Semites and the conspiracy theorists. They should have no more of a place in a mainline denomination than white supremacists or wife-beating misogynists, and it says something about how far the rot has gone in the PCUSA that the IPMN is still a recognized caucus with access to denominational resources.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor Neil Christopher, writing in the Huffington Post, has an interesting take on the meaning and use of the word “inclusive,” the current buzzword of choice among religious liberals to label the New Orthodoxy on sexual morality. He writes that being “inclusive” does not mean that a church does not have boundaries, but that it redefines them:

This brings us to the conundrum of inclusivity. In order to actually be inclusive someone or something is going to have to be excluded.

I wonder how he wrote that with a straight face.

We see examples of this a lot as well in groups or organizations that decide to become inclusive but then have people who wish to attack or have nothing to do with that which was then included.

One could say that this is a fair description of what religious liberals have done to the mainline churches over the last fifty years, as they joined institutions that had standards that they despised and set about changing. But of course they are in charge now, so they are no longer the attackers, but the attacked.

There was a time in our recent history here in America when certain races were excluded from dining establishments, dance or concert halls. When someone made the bold and just decision to make their dance hall inclusive to any and every race something happened: There were some people who still didn’t agree with this decision and felt excluded by it — excluded because they were not onboard with this new inclusivity.

By defining themselves as being inclusive, they had to make a conscious decision to separate themselves from and make a stand against those whom would disagree with this choice. Furthermore, they had to take steps to protect those people they have decided to now embrace. What good would come from saying that someone from a different race was allowed to dance in your establishment if once there they were abused and mistreated by the other patrons? No, in order to be truly inclusive, they were obligated to make sure that anyone there was truly safe and secure. To not do so would be actually excluding those people you say you are including by your non-action. By allowing them to be attacked, even if through silence, you are actually excluding those you just opened your doors up to.

The use of the racial analogy here is as flawed as ever. No where in Scripture is there any hint that having black skin is a sin, and in fact the New Testament specifically teaches the opposite, that in Christ ethnicity (or race) no longer matter. It ought not to be necessary to point out that certain kinds of sexual behavior are not the same thing as the amount of melanin in one’s skin, or the ethnic group into which one was born into, but some folks simply don’t get that. And Christopher would be more honest if he didn’t use expressions such as “safe and secure.” The issue isn’t safety, it’s approval. If a person cannot feel “safe and secure” unless everyone in a church approves of everything they do, including the stuff that Scripture calls sin, I’d say he or she is in the wrong organization.

Today there is a debate going on in religious circles over a similar matter concerning the LGBT community. There are certain churches or groups that say they have become inclusive to them, but at the same time the refuse protect them or exclude those who oppose the inclusivity or even attack them. They say that this is done in love — that to not include both the oppressed and the oppressor would be to cease to be truly inclusive, but this simply isn’t true.

For in order to be inclusive to both gay people and straight people one must by definition be willing to let those who hate the idea feel excluded, and to not offer aid, protection or have consequences set up for those who attack one part of your group is actually taking the side against them, driving them out.

So can we just get to the bottom line here? What Christopher is saying is that the church is faced with a choice: it can affirm homosexual behavior and tell gay folks that what they are doing is fine with God, and seek to bring them into the church without asking them to modify their behavior; or it can affirm biblical teaching and tell traditional orthodox believers that they are free to continue to proclaim biblical teaching. It cannot do both. It must choose between sexually active gays and orthodox believers, and that one or the other must go.

In other words, he is advocating an exclusivist church that simply excludes a different group of people than it previously excluded. In particular, it excludes the people who are the theological descendants of the people who founded the church. That is the new meaning of “inclusive.”

You know what’s really funny? Here’s how he begins his column:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Not only is that one of my favorite quotes from “The Princess Bride,” but that also happens to be one of my favorite quotes of all time. It is also one that manages to be quite fitting when we talk about one of the many new buzzwords floating around in popular Christian culture today. That word: “inclusive.”

Somewhere, George Orwell is banging his head on his typewriter.

(Via MCJ, where Chris Johnson comes up with a new word to describe this view: “inclusivitiousness,” which commenter Whitestone says is misspelled, and should read “inclusiviciousness.” Take your pick.)



Another Christian church has made like a Mexican cliff diver and taken the big plunge into politically correct, biblically unfaithful sexual ethics. This time, it’s the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), a sister denomination of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which made the leap last year. According to the ELCIC web site:

Delegates of the 13th Biennial ELCIC National Convention approved three highly anticipated and vigorously debated motions related to the ELCIC Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Delegates approved an Affirmation Concerning the Unity of the Church; a policy statement allowing rostered ministers to preside at or bless legal marriages, including those between same-sex couples, according to the laws of the province; and a policy paving the way for the ordination and installation of gay and lesbian pastors.

These motions, put forth by National Church Council (NCC), were drafted by the ELCIC Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee “to allow us to move forward if the Social Statement on Human Sexuality was approved,” said committee member and Saskatchewan Synod Bishop Cindy Halmarson. The social statement itself was approved during Saturday’s business sessions, following more than two hours of debate.

Affirmation Concerning the Unity of the Church (Motion #26)

Passed by a vote of 204 to 133, the affirmation states that the church should: not be divided because of disagreement over moral issues and that ELCIC members, congregations, synods, and churches who disagree with one another remain in dialogue and unity; maintain unity in the gospel and the sacraments; refrain from actions that will divide the body of Christ.

One church member expressed her appreciation for the work of the committee and NCC for putting forth the motion and offered this comment: “I have consulted with theologians and biblical scholars, and they have verified that in the original language ‘to love one another as I have loved you’ there is no ‘except’ or ‘but.’”

Well, that settles it then, doesn’t it? There’s no “but” in the original, so that’s the end of the debate on whether or not to bless sin. You’ve got to wonder whether this member asked the “theologians and biblical scholars” she talked to about the meaning of agape, or whether she just assumed it must mean the same thing in the New Testament that it means in Britney Spears songs. Given that this was the statement the ELCIC’s unnamed writer chose to emphasize, I can only presume that the rest of the debate was as inane as this.

Passed by a vote of 192 to 132, Motion #27 allows ELCIC rostered ministers to preside at or bless marriages according to the dictates of their consciences and according to the laws of the province in which they serve, including those of same-sex couples.

“I’ve heard several people say that this issue has been dealt with, but the status quo is unacceptable—to love the sinner and hate the sin,” said one delegate. “That is hate, discrimination, exclusion and alienation. That is saying I can ride the bus but sit at the back. That is not love. That is not what Jesus would do.”

Because, you know, Jesus never confronted people about their sin, never condemned sin, never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was so…Canadian!

You really have to wonder about someone who says that you can’t love someone and at the same time hate something they do. This person apparently has never had children…or in-laws…or friends…or any contact with any other human being.

Passed by a vote of 205 to 114, Motion #28 states that sexual orientation is not in itself a factor that disqualifies a candidate for rostered ministry. The motion rescinds two past convention actions that disallowed self-declared, practicing homosexuals to be approved for ordination and call.

“When I look at my experience of 20 years, I can’t see that anything good has come from church’s current policy on this issue,” said Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse. “I’ve seen the terrible results of this policy: broken people, broken families, broken congregations, substance abuse, broken lives. That’s what happens when you demand celibacy of those who don’t have the gifts to live celibate lives. This motion provides the opportunity for willing congregations to consider these candidates.”

As Scrooge said to his nephew Fred, “You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir. I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.” Scrooge was being sarcastic, of course.

Any of the “results of this policy” asserted by Bishop Pryse can be found, in spades, in the gay community. Putting the stamp of approval on homosexual behavior is a panacea for exactly nothing. Suggesting that the policy is to blame for the “results” he mentions is simply sloppy thinking at best, emotional grandstanding at worst.

As for the “gift of celibacy,” isn’t chastity what God in His Word requires of all who are not married? True, that notion (which for all I know has been rejected by the ELCIC with regard to straights as well as gays) is considered ridiculous by the culture, which believes that any adult who doesn’t engage in some form of sex on a regular basis will go blind (that goes double for teenagers). What the bishop and his colleagues are claiming, evidently, is that the culture is correct, and God’s Word wrong, and that requiring chastity of anyone who doesn’t have the “gift of celibacy” is hazardous to their health.

The ELCIC is a dying church (membership has dropped from 188,654 in 2000 to 152,500 currently, a drop of about 20% in just ten years). No church can repudiate its own foundations without bringing down its house.

(Hat tip: Tom Brock.)

UPDATE: Ian Adnams from the communications office of the Lutheran Church-Canada has left a comment in which he makes a point I should have made: the ELCIC no more represents all Lutherans in Canada than the ELCA does in the U.S. In fact, the leaders of the LCC have a statement out that makes clear that their denomination still stands for biblical truth and morality. An excerpt:

Because these decisions will be covered in the media, members of the larger Christian community and the Canadian public in general may mistakenly conclude that these decisions represent the position of all Lutherans in this land. In fact, the ELCIC is the only Lutheran church body in Canada which has approved such a departure from accepted Christian teaching. Further, although the ELCIC formally reports large membership statistics, nearly 40 percent of Canadian Lutherans who worship every week belong to congregations outside the ELCIC.* In addition, it is known that there are churches and pastors
within the ELCIC who are deeply troubled by these changes in their church body and cannot support them.

Jesus Christ declared, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will come one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5). Both in its Canadian congregations and overseas mission stations, Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) will continue to give witness to Christ’s clear teaching that God designed marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman. LCC will not ordain pastors who do not affirm this.

In holding this position, LCC is not speaking from the margins, but from the overwhelming consensus of Christian churches for the last two millennia, and also from the mainstream of ecumenical conviction today. LCC’s solid commitment to historic Christian marriage is shared by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as by the rapidly growing Lutheran churches in Africa and elsewhere. Lutheran unity is not undermined by the faithful who cling to the Biblical teaching they received and have consistently confessed. It is not being ruptured by people resisting the changes now
adopted in a few Lutheran church bodies. It is ruptured rather by decisions which claim to place a blessing on what God has not promised to bless, and by anyone who permits secular notions of justice to override the apostolic teaching of God’s Word.

Thanks much to Ian for this information.

A group of religious leftists met at the White House with President Obama yesterday, seeking to add their two cents to the debate over how to deal with the federal government’s budget deficit and the deadline to raise the debt limit. Jim Wallis has this to say about it at Sojourners:

Today is another intense day of politics at the White House. The debt default deadline is fast approaching. The stakes for the nation are high as politicians can’t agree on how to resolve the ideological impasse on how to reduce the deficit before the nation defaults on its financial obligations.

If this paragraph is any indication, the group was in trouble before they got there, since Wallis, at least, doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the deficit and the debt, or how default works. August 2 is not a deadline after which the nation defaults; it is simply the date after which further borrowing instruments cannot be issued. Tax revenues provide more than enough money to avoid default. That doesn’t mean hard choices won’t have to be made.

We urged the president to protect programs for low-income people in the ongoing budget and deficit debate, and in any deal concerning the debt ceiling and default crisis. In an engaging back and forth conversation, the president and faith leaders discussed how we can get our fiscal house in order without doing so on the backs of those who are most vulnerable. We shared the concern that the deficit must be cut in a way that protects the safety net, struggling families and children, and maintains our national investments in the future of all of us.

We made our simple principle clear: The most vulnerable should be protected in any budget or deficit agreements — as a non-partisan commitment. The most vulnerable need a special exemption from all spending cuts as they usually have had in previous times of deficit reduction. We told President Obama that this is what God requires of all of us.

The notion that Wallis & Co. have received some kind of special revelation regarding God’s opinions about the federal budget is touching, but irrelevant (unless, of course, they are trying to IMPOSE A THEOCRACY!!!). Here’s the real point: I agree that the poor should be protected in the budgeting process. The problem is how that is accomplished.

With the kind of naive faith in government that comes so naturally to religious liberals, Wallis and his friends assume that “protecting the poor” is synonymous with “keeping federal programs funding at the same level.” The idea that programs might be managed more efficiently, or that less overhead might make them work better, or that eligibility standards might need some tightening to include only the genuinely poor, or that the states might do a better job of doing what the feds have been doing–none of that so much as crosses the mind of Wallis & Co. To them, reducing the amount of spending on “SNAP, WIC, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Head Start, Pell Grants, and Community Development Block Grants,” among others, is simply inconceivable.

Let’s take three of these programs to see what’s wrong with this thinking:

1) Social Security: this is not an anti-poverty program. A significant portion of its benefits go to middle class and upper class retirees.

2) Pell Grants: leaving aside the question of whether the federal government should be subsidizing college expenses (Michael Barone makes a good case today that such subsidization has dramatically distorted the market for higher education in a way that educators will soon rue), it is also the case that a good deal of the money spent on Pell Grants goes to the middle class rather than the poor.

3) Head Start: according to the most comprehensive report on Head Start effectiveness (the Head Start Impact Study for the Department of Health and Human Services), the program has little discernable impact on children’s ability to learn, with few statistically significant results found as early as first grade, and pretty much none thereafter. In other words, Head Start either doesn’t do what it was designed to do, or does it poorly enough to warrant raising questions about whether the program should continue. Yet for Wallis & Co., as for the political left, Head Start is a sacred cow, the effectiveness and funding of which must never, ever be questioned.

Points like these can be raised about many if not all federal “safety net” programs, which when entitlements are included, cost trillions of dollars every year. Yet to hear the religious left tell it, pretty much the only thing that the feds can cut without “hurting the poor” is defense. Cuts are almost certainly possible there as well, but putting out a list of untouchable programs such as Wallis & Co. have is to demonstrate that they are completely unserious about dealing with the crisis that out-of-control federal spending has brought about (a crisis which is certain to hurt poor people the most if it is not dealt with before it brings down the American economy).

We agreed that we need both fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. Those already hurting should not be made to hurt more, and those doing well should do their part in sacrificing.

This is not very subtle code for “repeal the Bush tax cuts for the rich.” Doing that would, according to the White House, raise $700 billion over ten years. That’s less than half the current deficit for one year. Another way to look at it is that it would raise about $70 billion a year, which is less than 5% of the total deficit projected by the White House in almost any of the next ten years. So fine, go ahead and raise tax rates for the rich back to those of the Clinton era. Once that’s been done, and once defense cut have been made, what do Wallis & Co. propose doing about the other $1.4 trillion of debt that we are projected to add to the national debt this year and for years to come?

Bupkis. (That means “nothing of value” for you non-Yiddish speakers.)

The concern that Wallis and his colleagues have for the poor is commendable. Unfortunately, they know as much about economics and federal budgeting as they do about the Scheveningen Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Given the unlikelihood that they have actually been given divine guidance, their advice to the federal government should be ignored.

Religion Dispatches is an online magazine for religious leftists to tell one another how smart they are and how stupid religious conservatives are. Gary Laderman is the director of RD and the chair of the religion department at Emory University. He has made a discovery which should certainly reflect on both him and the rest of his department. The Republican Party, it seems, is now a “religion.” I’ll allow Dr. Laderman to explain this remarkable piece of spiritual transformation:

Let’s just face the facts and not kid ourselves anymore. Yes, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee… er, tea: The Republican Party is no longer a political party—it’s a full-fledged religious movement. The political ideology fueling this movement is religious to the core; and while it might be easiest to label the religious element “Christian,” that designation is too broad and generous for the true complexities at work here.

Well, that’s certainly fact-free, but it is just the first paragraph. I’m sure there will some evidence offered to support this conclusion.

But what does it really mean to argue that the Republican Party, a movement with a distinctive religious culture, is a new kind of religion we might as well call “Republicanity”? Let me count the ways. (And please, don’t try this at home—I’m a professional religion-ist, it’s what I do for a living. Really.)

He said it, not me.

1) Mythology:

Republicanity’s myths are being manufactured by the mythbuilders over at Wallbuilders. In case anyone is confused, we in religious studies are not mythbusters. Let’s remember that myths are not about verifiable historical facts; they’re sacred stories that provide orientation, identity, community boundaries, etc. for a religious group. It’s not our job to tear down and deconstruct these cherished myths, though anyone with an education beyond high school or any training in the academic study of history should question the assertions being produced by David Barton and his Wallbuilders comrades, since they do claim to be “historians.”

The myths of Republicanity are fairly obvious and easy to identify when uttered by the faithful: glorifying the Founding Fathers as saints, inserting God into the nation’s origins, and demonizing the US government when policy disagreements occur.

Have you ever heard of David Barton or Wallbuilders? I have, but then I follow this stuff as a hobby. My suspicion is that the vast majority of Republicans have never heard of either, and will be surprised to learn that their party has been building a “mythology” on the basis of their writings. But the supposed influence of Barton and Wallbuilders is simply asserted here, rather than proved in any way, so we can safely ignore that.

What about the claims regarding the GOP’s “myths”? There’s no question that Republicans on the whole see the founding of the United States as a good thing, the writing of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as good things, and the men who led those efforts as good men. Those who actually know something about American origins recognize, I’m sure, that they were not, in fact, “saints,” and that some, even many, were not Christians. That there was a religious element involved in American origins is something that only someone who is determined not to be confused with facts would deny, even if there are also those who overstate it. And as for “demonizing the US government when policy disagreements occur,” I have just two words for Dr. Laderman: George Bush. If the “professional religionist” wants to claim that Bush (or Dick Cheney, or Condoleeza Rice, or any of the other “neocons” that the left is always twittering on about) was never demonized by those who disagreed with, say, his Iraq policy, he’s welcome to do that, but he thereby forfeits his right to claim to be connected to the reality in which the rest of us live.

2) Rituals:

Likewise, Republicanity is rife with ritual acts of the sacred variety. One of the most recent examples is the signing of yet another pledge, “The Marriage Vow—A Declaration of Dependence on Marriage and Family,” drafted by The Family Leader, an Iowa-based organization.

Which most Republican presidential candidates have refused to sign. I guess that means they’ll be excommunicated or something.

Signing pledges (against raising taxes, for lowering the debt, agreeing that this is a “Christian nation”) is all the rage these days, with adherents of Republicanity understanding the public ritual act of participating as a demonstration of their own fidelity to certain core principles.

Imagine people actually trying to get politicians to say what they believe, and to hold them to sticking by their principles. Conservatives are just so gauche. Liberals would never do that. They expect their politicians to have no principles, to not keep promises, and would never, ever think of holding them accountable for anything.

Town hall meetings to vent anger and frustration, public events more akin to religious revivals than political rallies, and following Fox news, religiously, at certain intervals throughout the day, are a few other examples of rituals performing their role in a religious movement: to energize the faithful, differentiate insiders from outsiders, and establish what is sacred and what is profane.

He’s right about this–I have never seen the people at a union rally (say, the ones in Wisconsin last winter), a pro-choice demonstration, an anti-Israel event, or a Democratic Party gathering ever watch Fox News.

3) Ethics:

Republicanity is no different, possessing its own set of ethical commitments that define its moral universe. It is like the most narrow and conservative religious cultures in its absolutist ethical positions and refusal to tolerate any difference of opinion.

Yeah, it’s a pity. It’s impossible to tell John McCain and Jim DeMint and Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin and Haley Barbour and Paul Ryan and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul and Olympia Snowe and Scott Walker and Tom Coburn and Rudy Guiliani and Nicky Haley and Bobby Jindal and Clarence Thomas and Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks and Bill Kristol and Laura Ingraham and Herman Cain and, and, and all the rest of those robots who all think exactly alike apart. Shoot, on some days I’d even swear that Haley Barbour looks like Olympia Snowe, much less agrees with every word she says. These people are like robots, you know?

Obedience to authority—at the moment embodied in prominent charismatic leaders like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum (okay, this last one is short on charisma but people still seem to listen anyway)—is critical to the success of this religious movement, with the primary sacred textual sources legitimating the moral universe drawn from the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Imagine people making public policy in conformity to the Constitution. Now that’s an original idea.

What is the operative creed for Republicanity? This is, by no means, an exhaustive list: Money rules and wealth is the greatest good; the natural world is at the disposal of humans who can exploit it with no fear or consequences; every American should own a gun; screw the “golden rule,” the world is populated with evil threats to the American way, including Muslims, gays, immigrants, liberals, and of course that group of individuals who represent the gravest danger to Republicanity: smart people (read: “intellectuals”)[read: Gary Laderman and people who think just like him, because anyone who doesn’t agree with him must, ipso facto, be stupid.–DF].

Are there some Republicans who think like this? Sure. Are there some who don’t? Sure. Are there some who believe some of these things and not others? Sure. And I suspect there are many, many Republicans (and conservatives of various other stripes, including–horrors!–Democrats) who would look at this list and say, “you don’t actually know any Republicans, do you? So you’ve just created them out of thin air, old Keith Olbermann shticks, and a fertile imagination?” If this is the way Laderman does his religion scholarship–simply make stuff up, caricature those you don’t like or agree with, misrepresent to make a propagandistic point–I’d hate to be a parent wasting my money on sending a child who planned on majoring in religion to Emory.

4) Theology:

Republicanity is built on a theology of divine presence in national affairs that looks in some instances like a form of theo-fascism—particularly when leaders claim an intimate knowledge of God’s will and being chosen by Him (no goddesses in this religion) to purify America. If we asked all the presidential candidates to state whether they are doing God’s will in the world certainly most, if not all, would answer in the affirmative.

Name-calling and straw men: the stuff that dreams (or hallucinations) are made of. Laderman is no doubt one of those left-wing academics whose head threatens to explode every time he hears the term “Islamofascism,” since as we all know only Christians can be fascists.

Some even assert a direct link and special relationship with God (like Michele Bachmann, who understands herself and her career in divine terms).

I don’t know about Bachmann, who isn’t my cup of tea, but I seem to remember a certain candidate for president who said that his nomination would be remembered by history as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Does it really get any more messianic than that?

As RD’s own Julie Ingersoll and Sarah Posner have demonstrated, a deeply-held and ubiquitous strand of Christian Reconstructionism undergirds many of the positions taken by leaders in the Republican religious movement, and the core of that theology might be boiled down to this simple formula: God is on my side, so I’m right and you’re wrong about what it means to be an American.

I would have been disappointed if he had not gotten the ultimate religious left boogeyman, Christian Reconstruction, in here at some point or another. I’ve read some of what Ingersoll and Posner have written on this subject, and what I’ve read comes across as fact-free paranoia. To say they’ve “demonstrated” anything is like saying the extreme right and extreme left have “demonstrated” that Jews are in fact trying to take over the world because they agree that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are fake but accurate.

Taken all together, Republicanity is a culture that merges politics and religion (maybe better identified as a form of “poligion,” as one of my teachers used to say) and unashamedly and unreservedly blows apart the longed-for “wall of separation” keeping the two spheres separate. Now more than ever the case can be made that our politics are a form of religion and that religion is the new politics.

I was sure he was going to miss getting in church-state separation, but he pulled it out in the final seconds. Gosh, that was close.

So, you put it all together and what do we have? I think it’s fair to say that Gary Laderman, the chair of the religion department at Emory University, is a partisan political hack who dresses up his hackery in pseudo-scholarly language, thereby hoping to continue to fool the rubes who pay his salary.

But what do I know? I, after all, am not a “professional religionist.”

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