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Quote of the Day: What’s Behind the War in Ukraine

noam chomsky

From 2014, the U.S. and NATO began to pour arms into Ukraine — advanced weapons, military training, joint military exercises, moves to integrate Ukraine into the NATO military command. There’s no secret about this. It was quite open. Recently, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, bragged about it. He said: This is what we were doing since 2014. Well, of course, this is very consciously, highly provocative. They knew that they were encroaching on what every Russian leader regarded as an intolerable move. France and Germany vetoed it in 2008, but under U.S. pressure, it was kept on the agenda. And NATO, meaning the United States, moved to accelerate the de facto integration of Ukraine into the NATO military command.

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected with an overwhelming majority — I think about 70% of the vote — on a peace platform, a plan to implement peace with Eastern Ukraine and Russia, to settle the problem. He began to move forward on it and, in fact, tried to go to the Donbas, the Russian-oriented eastern region, to implement what’s called the Minsk II agreement. It would have meant a kind of federalization of Ukraine with a degree of autonomy for the Donbas, which is what they wanted. Something like Switzerland or Belgium. He was blocked by right-wing militias which threatened to murder him if he persisted with his effort.

Well, he’s a courageous man. He could have gone forward if he had had any backing from the United States. The U.S. refused. No backing, nothing, which meant he was left to hang out to dry and had to back off. The U.S. was intent on this policy of integrating Ukraine step by step into the NATO military command. That accelerated further when President Biden was elected. In September 2021, you could read it on the White House website. It wasn’t reported but, of course, the Russians knew it. Biden announced a program, a joint statement to accelerate the process of military training, military exercises, more weapons as part of what his administration called an “enhanced program” of preparation for NATO membership.

It accelerated further in November. This was all before the invasion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed what was called a charter, which essentially formalized and extended this arrangement. A spokesman for the State Department conceded that before the invasion, the U.S. refused to discuss any Russian security concerns. All of this is part of the background.

On February 24th, Putin invaded, a criminal invasion. These serious provocations provide no justification for it. If Putin had been a statesman, what he would have done is something quite different. He would have gone back to French President Emmanuel Macron, grasped his tentative proposals, and moved to try to reach an accommodation with Europe, to take steps toward a European common home.

The U.S., of course, has always been opposed to that. This goes way back in Cold War history to French President De Gaulle’s initiatives to establish an independent Europe. In his phrase “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” integrating Russia with the West, which was a very natural accommodation for trade reasons and, obviously, security reasons as well. So, had there been any statesmen within Putin’s narrow circle, they would have grasped Macron’s initiatives and experimented to see whether, in fact, they could integrate with Europe and avert the crisis. Instead, what he chose was a policy which, from the Russian point of view, was total imbecility. Apart from the criminality of the invasion, he chose a policy that drove Europe deep into the pocket of the United States. In fact, it is even inducing Sweden and Finland to join NATO — the worst possible outcome from the Russian point of view, quite apart from the criminality of the invasion, and the very serious losses that Russia is suffering because of that.

So, criminality and stupidity on the Kremlin side, severe provocation on the U.S. side. That’s the background that has led to this. Can we try to bring this horror to an end? Or should we try to perpetuate it? Those are the choices.

There’s only one way to bring it to an end. That’s diplomacy. Now, diplomacy, by definition, means both sides accept it. They don’t like it, but they accept it as the least bad option. It would offer Putin some kind of escape hatch. That’s one possibility. The other is just to drag it out and see how much everybody will suffer, how many Ukrainians will die, how much Russia will suffer, how many millions of people will starve to death in Asia and Africa, how much we’ll proceed toward heating the environment to the point where there will be no possibility for a livable human existence. Those are the options. Well, with near 100% unanimity, the United States and most of Europe want to pick the no-diplomacy option. It’s explicit. We have to keep going to hurt Russia.

You can read columns in the New York Times, the London Financial Times, all over Europe. A common refrain is: we’ve got to make sure that Russia suffers. It doesn’t matter what happens to Ukraine or anyone else. Of course, this gamble assumes that if Putin is pushed to the limit, with no escape, forced to admit defeat, he’ll accept that and not use the weapons he has to devastate Ukraine.

There are a lot of things that Russia hasn’t done. Western analysts are rather surprised by it. Namely, they’ve not attacked the supply lines from Poland that are pouring weapons into Ukraine. They certainly could do it. That would very soon bring them into direct confrontation with NATO, meaning the U.S. Where it goes from there, you can guess. Anyone who’s ever looked at war games knows where it’ll go — up the escalatory ladder toward terminal nuclear war.

So, those are the games we’re playing with the lives of Ukrainians, Asians, and Africans, the future of civilization, in order to weaken Russia, to make sure that they suffer enough. Well, if you want to play that game, be honest about it. There’s no moral basis for it. In fact, it’s morally horrendous. And the people who are standing on a high horse about how we’re upholding principle are moral imbeciles when you think about what’s involved.

— Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch, Chomsky and Barsamian, In Ukraine, Diplomacy Has Been Ruled Out, June 16, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Quote of the Day: How Evangelical Theology Harms People

jim palmer

One of the ways toxic religion is a disservice to people is how it theologizes life in a way that prevents people from responding to situations as they truly require.

“Honor your father and mother” should never mean accepting their manipulation, abuse, or toxic interactions or behavior.

“Turning the other cheek” should never mean that you allow someone to violate your boundaries.

Being a “person of faith” should never mean that seeking professional therapy is a sign of spiritual immaturity.

“Taking up your cross” should never mean denying your needs, desires, and individuality.

Being a “Proverbs 31 woman” should never mean assuming a posture of inferiority, submission and appeasement to men, or tolerate domination or abuse.

The “fear of the Lord” should never mean living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty about being unconditionally worthy of acceptance and love.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them” should never mean giving another human being authority over your life and choices.

People are not told that the right choice in life includes:

  • standing up for yourself
  • saying “no”
  • enforcing boundaries
  • terminating toxic relationships
  • seeking professional therapy
  • caring for yourself
  • honoring your needs and desires
  • zero-tolerance for disrespect or abuse

— Jim Palmer, Chaplain with the American Humanist Association, Facebook

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church

tim alberta

For generations, white evangelicals have cultivated a narrative pitting courageous, God-fearing Christians against a wicked society that wants to expunge the Almighty from public life. Having convinced so many evangelicals that the next election could trigger the nation’s demise, Christian leaders effectively turned thousands of churches into unwitting cells in a loosely organized, hazily defined, existentially urgent movement—the types of places where paranoia and falsehoods flourish and people turn on one another.

….

Beginning in the 1980s, white evangelicals imposed themselves to an unprecedented degree on the government and the country’s core institutions. Once left to cry jeremiads about civilizational decline—having lost fights over sex and sexuality, drugs, abortion, pornography, standards in media and education, prayer in public schools—conservative Christians organized their churches, marshaled their resources, and leveraged their numbers, regaining the high ground, for a time, in some of these culture wars.

….

Short-lived victories, however, came at a long-term cost. Evangelical leaders set something in motion decades ago that pastors today can no longer control. Not only were Christians conditioned to understand their struggle as one against flesh and blood, fixated on earthly concerns, a fight for a kingdom of this world—all of which runs directly counter to the commands of scripture—they were indoctrinated with a belief that because the stakes were getting so high, any means was justified.

Which brings us to Donald Trump.

When Trump was elected thanks to a historic showing among white evangelicals—81 percent voted for him over Hillary Clinton—the victory was rightly viewed as the apex of the movement’s power. But this was, in many ways, also the beginning of its unraveling. The “battle lines” Bolin described as having emerged over the past five years—cultural reckonings over racism and sexual misconduct; a lethal pandemic and fierce disputes over vaccines and government mandates; allegations of election theft that led to a siege of the U.S. Capitol; and, underlying all of this, the presidency, prosecution, and martyring of Trump himself—have carved up every institution of American society. The evangelical Church is no exception.

….

The nation’s largest denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is bleeding members because of ferocious infighting over race relations, women serving in leadership, accountability for sexual misconduct, and other issues. The United Methodist Church, America’s second-largest denomination, is headed toward imminent divorce over irreconcilable social and ideological divisions. Smaller denominations are losing affiliate churches as pastors and congregations break from their leadership over many of the same cultural flash points, choosing independence over associating with those who do not hold their views.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Christians, like Americans from every walk of life, are self-selecting into cliques of shared habits and thinking. But what’s notable about the realignment inside the white evangelical Church is its asymmetry. Pastors report losing an occasional liberal member because of their refusal to speak on Sunday mornings about bigotry or poverty or social injustice. But these same pastors report having lost—in the past few years alone—a significant portion of their congregation because of complaints that they and their staff did not advance right-wing political doctrines. Hard data are difficult to come by; churches are not required to disclose attendance figures. But a year’s worth of conversations with pastors, denominational leaders, evangelical scholars, and everyday Christians tells a clear story: Substantial numbers of evangelicals are fleeing their churches, and most of them are moving to ones further to the right.

….

Many right-wing pastors have formed alliances—with campaign consultants, education activists, grassroots groups, even MAGA-in-miniature road shows promoting claims of an assault on American sovereignty—that bring a steady flow of fresh faces into their buildings. From there, the fusion of new Republican orthodoxy with old conservative theology is seamless. This explains why, even during a period of slumping church attendance, the number of white evangelicals has grown: The Pew Research Center reports that more and more white Trump supporters began self-identifying as evangelicals during his presidency, whether or not they attended church.

— Tim Alberta, The Atlantic, How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church, May 10, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Quote of the Day: Listening to Those Who Have Left the Faith by Rick Pidcock

rick pidcock

One of the ways evangelicals have processed a growing awareness of religious abuse has been through starting conferences. The Exiles in Babylon Conference offered many helpful insights to racial trauma but continued to advance narratives that have caused sexual trauma in the church. The Restore 2022 Conference brought complementarians like Karen Swallow Prior and egalitarians like Scot McKnight together to discuss topics such as where God is during abuse, healing from religious trauma, and how churches enable abuse. Their goal was to address these issues within the framework of “restoring faith in God and the church.”

….

But too often with these conferences, there are underlying theological assumptions that fuel power dynamics that do not get questioned to the degree that they should. And when your stated goal is to restore faith in the church, you have theological territory to protect and are invested in a certain outcome that people who have been traumatized by the church may not be ready for or interested in.

Many people are having enough and deciding to leave evangelical churches while mourning the loss of their communities and hoping to discover a healthier experience of Christianity.

But many are leaving Christianity altogether.

Because conservative evangelical media outlets such as The Gospel Coalition continue to bloviate about those who are either deconstructing or deconverting, one has to wonder: Are conservative evangelicals at all willing to sit quietly and listen to those who have left?

And are progressive evangelicals any healthier at silent listening?

Imagine a space for processing such religion-fueled trauma that is led by formerly religious people for formerly religious people. Would it be possible for religious people to sit in silence and learn from atheists and agnostics about how their religion has caused deep trauma, consider how the formerly religious are healing, and learn from their insights in order to heal themselves?

Or must Christians always be leading and talking?

….

Theology by definition is concerned about the ultimate questions in life: questions about whether there is a God, why there is something rather than nothing, the purpose of life, our relationship with ourselves and everyone around us, and what happens after death.

As children, we long for the love and affirmation of our parents. And yet, we’re afraid of how big the world is and how insufficient our understanding of it feels.

In some ways, we’re asking, “Are we OK? And are we safe?”

….

[Janice] Selbie told BNG: “People embrace religions because they were born into them or turned to them during times of transition and vulnerability. Religion promises certainty, security, order and community. People remain religious for those very reasons, as well as fear of hell.”

For the formerly religious to walk away from their certainty, security, order and community can be one of the most vulnerable decisions anyone ever makes. “Divorcing religion means loss of family, community, support and identity. It is too hard for many even to consider,” Selbie said.

To walk away from the certainty of heaven is to embrace the possibility of hell. To walk away from the theology of your family is to embrace the disapproval that you spent years trying to avoid. To walk away from the support of your church community is to embrace the possibility of nobody being there for you when you face a life-threatening illness or when you simply want to hang out with familiar friends.

Deconstruction and deconversion can be like Pinocchio leaving the identity-forming, punishment threatening world of Pleasure Island and moving toward Monstro the whale — the ultimate danger everyone around you fears — for the sake of being present with who you’re learning to love, namely yourself and your neighbors.

But abusive theology preys on our mental, social, spiritual and sexual longings and infuses within us an identity that we’re fundamentally a problem and that we’re forever going to be punished.

Darrel Ray, founder and president of Recovering From Religion, explained during his session, “It’s like you can’t utter the word ‘sex’ without the word ‘sin’ coming out within the same sentence in almost any religious environment, especially if it’s conservative or fundamentalist. … The ideology itself plays a role in the trauma you experience.”

Of course, many kinder, gentler evangelicals might object, thinking that somehow you can hold to theologies that form negative self-identities and that celebrate justice through violence without being abusive, or suggesting that Christians are much kinder than in centuries past. To that defense, Ray asserts: “We may not be lopping people’s heads off. But I’m telling you, I’ve met plenty of Baptists who have been traumatized by the ideology of their Baptist faith and their church because there’s nowhere for a child to escape if they’re in that church and they’re constantly being told the outside is dangerous.”

In a recent podcast episode, author and former megachurch pastor Rob Bell said: “The water, if you’re a fish, is so difficult to see. The reason it’s so difficult to see is because everyone around you is swimming in it. There’s no observance of it because it’s the thing everybody’s immersed in. It’s too close to see.”

Formerly religious people have had the experience of swimming in the water that religious people exist in, yet currently have the perspective from standing on the beach.

According to [Janice] Selbie, it is not merely enough for Christians to redefine the water they’re swimming in to a more progressive understanding. She believes true perspective and the fullest healing comes when people leave the water altogether.

“I think even progressive Christians are still ‘drinking the Kool-Aid.’ I don’t typically invite still-religious people to speak at CORT because I think continued affiliation with the Bible is unhealthy when it comes to the LGBTQ community, safety of children and women’s rights.”

Progressive Christians tend to object. “In public and private, I receive angry input from ‘progressive’ Christians for not inviting them to speak at CORT. I won’t risk further traumatizing attendees by doing so, although I do still have Christian family. I do not think it’s possible for evangelicals or other religiously entrenched people to be trauma sensitive with regard to religious trauma, although they vehemently disagree.”

While Selbie would admit that not even all her conference speakers would agree with her belief in the necessity of leaving the water altogether, her assertion that religion encourages “fantasy over reality and often creates massive division (in family and nation) and trauma (individual and collective)” has been demonstrably true.

Atheists and agnostics who spend significant time invested in the church are especially positioned to bring clarity to how theology fosters abuse because they know the theology, they’ve experienced the power dynamics involved, and because they are free to question every facet of Christian theology and power.

— Rick Pidcock, Baptist News Global, What I Learned Listening to Others Who Have Left the Faith, May 25, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: Exposing Evangelical Christianity’s White Supremacist, Christian Nationalist Roots

christian nationalism
Cartoon by Trygve Olson

In the wake of the massacre in Buffalo, we have all, naturally, tried to understand what could have caused someone to commit such a horrific act of violence. This young white man linked his motivations to fears about demographic and cultural changes in the U.S., dynamics that he believed were resulting in the replacement of “the white race.”

The shooting has spurred a national discussion about the mainstreaming of these concerns, often summarized under the term “replacement theory.” Most of the attention has been given to the demographic component of this theory, while the cultural aspects have been overlooked.

But the fear of cultural replacement has an unambiguous lineage that gives it specific content. At the center of the “great replacement” logic, there is—and has always been—a desperate desire to preserve some version of western European Christendom. Far too many contemporary analysts, and even the Department of Justice, have not seen clearly that the prize being protected is not just the racial composition of the country but the dominance of a racial and religious identity. If we fail to grasp the power of this ethno-religious appeal, we will misconstrue the nature of, and underestimate the power of, the threat before us.

….

In the U.S., this drive to preserve white Christian dominance undergirded the worldview of the Ku Klux Klan when it reemerged in the early part of the 20th century. We rightly remember the terrorism aimed at Black Americans, but the KKK was also explicitly anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic; it existed to protect the dominance of a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant America.

In 1960, in my home state of Mississippi, Governor Ross Barnett regularly blended his Christian identity with talk about the threat of “white genocide.” Off the campaign trail, Barnett also served as head of the large men’s Sunday school program at the most influential church in the state, First Baptist Church. After his successful segregationist campaign, FBC blessed him with a consecration service and a gift of a pulpit Bible in recognition of his protection of their white and Christian supremacist worldview.

Why are we seeing the rise in white supremacist violence over the last decade? In short, in the U.S. context, the election, and re-election, of our first Black President coincided with the sea change of no longer being a majority white Christian nation (as I noted in my book The End of White Christian America, white Christians went from 54% to 47% in that period, down to 44% today). These twin shocks to centuries of white Christian dominance set the stage for Donald Trump.

Trump’s “Make American Great Again” formula—the stoking of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black sentiment while making nativist appeals to the Christian right—contains all the tropes of the old replacement theory. The nostalgic appeal of “again” harkens back to a 1950s America, when white Christian churches were full and white Christians comprised a supermajority of the U.S. population; a period when we added “under God” to the pledge of allegiance and “In God We Trust” to our currency.

These fears about the “great replacement” are not fringe among conservative subgroups today, according to recent data from PRRI. While only 29% of Americans agree, for example, that “Immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background,” that number rises to dangerous levels among a range of groups comprising the conservative base in U.S. politics: 67% among those who say they most trust Fox News; 65% among QAnon believers; 60% among Republicans; 50% among white evangelical Protestants, and 43% among white American without a college degree.

Moreover, among white Americans, there is high (two-thirds) overlap between beliefs in Christian nationalism and replacement theory. And both views are associated with higher support for political violence among whites

….

The Department of Homeland Security has declared that white supremacists “remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.” President Joe Biden, importantly, became the first U.S. President to use the words “white supremacy” in his inaugural address; and in the wake of the massacre in Buffalo last weekend, he called white supremacy a “poison…running through our body politic.” But while each identified white supremacy and dangerous “ideologies,” there is no acknowledgment of the documented ways right-wing Christianity has nourished these views.

There is a troubling religious double standard in the U.S.—one which threatens our safety and our democracy. If these same kinds of appeals and violent actions were being made and committed by Muslims, for example, most white Americans would be demanding actions to eradicate a domestic threat from “radical Islamic terrorism,” a term we heard relentlessly during the Trump era. But because Christianity is the dominant religion in this country, its role in supporting domestic terrorism has been literally unspeakable.

The clear historical record, and contemporary attitudinal data, merit an urgent discussion of white Christian nationalism as a serious and growing threat to our democracy. if we are to understand the danger in which we find ourselves today, we will have to be able to use the words white Christian nationalism and domestic terrorism in the same sentence.

— Robert P. Jones, Time, It’s Time to Stop Giving Christianity a Pass on White Supremacy and Violence, May 23, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Quote of the Day: A White Young Earth Creationist Evangelical Goes to Heaven

evangelicals-heaven

And I had this dream about a white creationist evangelical (WCE) who died and showed up at the gates of heaven.

Peter: “Why should God let you into heaven?”

WCE: “Who are you? Where’s Jesus?”

Peter: “I’m his representative. You know, the rock on which he built the church. You have to talk to me first and I need you to answer the question: Why should God let you into heaven? Keep in mind this is ‘Final Jeopardy.’” 

WCE: “I trusted Jesus as my savior, and I know Adam and Eve were real people. No Adam, no Jesus, you know.” 

Peter: “Did you feed the hungry?” 

WCE: “Well, I opposed abortion. I happily intimidated young women who were at the abortion clinic for an abortion. I showed up for anti-abortion protests, and I attended rallies in Washington D. C. to put pressure on the Supreme Court. A leaked draft on the day of my departure from Earth indicated that the Supreme Court was going to vote to abolish abortion. Oh, how I would have loved to have been there for that glorious moment of sticking it to the liberals!” 

Peter: “Calm down. This is not really a place that’s big on a lot of excitement and loud talking. Did you give water to the thirsty?” 

WCE: What do these questions have to do with getting into heaven? Look, I upheld the honor of God by opposing gay marriage. Gays are an abomination to the Lord. And I really hammered all those radicals who didn’t understand that boys should be boys and not transgender persons. I defended the bathrooms of America with all my heart.” 

Peter: “Did you know that I once thought Gentiles were an abomination to the Lord. Then, in a dream, God said to me, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ What a jarring idea. When I went to the church council in Jerusalem, my fellow apostles and I had a real argument about this idea. And then, we decided to accept Gentiles. Do you think that applying the Jerusalem Church’s solution to inclusion could have been a good model for dealing with gays? Ok. Sorry for the rant. I have another question. Did you show hospitality to strangers?” 

WCE: “I did if they were godly people: you know, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-history, American patriots. But immigrants? No! I was part of the Minutemen who patrolled our southern border to keep all those criminals out of our country. I don’t understand this ‘snowflake’ need to pamper illegal immigrants. You have to stand up for your rights, and our rights as true Americans are threatened by these criminals – our values were endangered. So of course I didn’t show hospitality to them. As a good Christian I defended nationalist, heteronormative, sexist, ablest, racist, and classist power because that’s what God demanded.” 

Peter: “Did you clothe the naked?” 

WCE: “Is this some kind of sex question. Why do you want to talk about ‘nekkid people?’ Have you no shame? This place is not a nudist colony, is it? Are there a bunch of free-love hippies wandering the grounds? Look, I protested the way women dressed so sensuously. Disgraceful, I tell you, disgraceful.”   

Peter: “Did you care for the sick?”

WCE: “I wrote letters and signed petitions against Obamacare.” 

Peter: “Did you know that the legislation was actually called the Affordable Health Care Act. Almost everyone favors ‘affordable.’ Everyone is in favor of ‘health,’ and who would ever oppose ‘care’? Did you forget that Jesus was a healer, the ‘great physician’? Do you remember the story of the man left for dead on the Jericho Road and the stranger who paid for his emergency room, hospitalization, and rehab? Again, did you care for the sick?” 

WCE: “Why are you telling me all this Bible stuff? What’s that got to do with heaven? I was trying to stop socialism, man.” 

Peter: “Hmmm. Well, did you visit the prisoners?” 

WCE: “I stood up for law and order, capital punishment, and long sentences for drug offenders. Lock’em up, I say. I opposed BLM, CRT, ‘wokeness,’ and all those liberal socialists in Congress. The Dems are demons, I tell you, and they are in the sex slave business with children. Ungodly.” 

Peter: “You have quite the resume. What else did you do?” 

WCE: “I was a true patriot who defended the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in schools, ‘In God We Trust,’ and ‘one nation under God.’ I would have sent those professional ballplayers to prison for kneeling during the national anthem. I gave money to David Barton, a godly man trying to destroy the First Amendment to the Constitution. He really looks great in that red, white, and blue suit! Speaking of the glorious red, white, and blue, where’s the American flag?  Why isn’t it flying over this place?

Peter: “I should warn you that you seem to be conflating Americanism, nativism, sexism, and racism with Christianity. Is there anything else you would like to add?” 

WCE: “Well, I did my part to keep the world addicted to fossil fuels. I tried to help people to see that women must be submissive to men. And I supported all the efforts to rewrite American history to get rid of those liberal notions of systemic racism.”

Peter: “You really have quite the resume.”

WCE: “Thanks! And there’s more. I tried to help people see that God created the world in six literal days, and that evolution is a lie of the devil. And since the public schools – the devil’s playground – are infected with evolutionism, I have worked to convince parents to send their children to fundamentalist schools, where they will be taught a biblically consistent curriculum, and where they will learn the truth about six-day creation and the 6000-year-old universe.”  

Peter: What are you talking about? God gave you a brain, and this is the drivel you come up with?

WCE: “Oh, my, I forgot one of the most important of causes. I supported the Second Amendment to the Constitution. I believe in God and guns, lots and lots of guns. By the way, where are the armed guards, and why don’t you have a wall? My pastor told me that God loves walls, and that there was a huge wall in heaven, but I only see open spaces. Look, I know the line is getting long behind me, so let me sum up. God should let me into heaven because I believe in God, guns, the Bible, male superiority, and heteronormative white society. I believe in keeping America for real Americans, real patriots. I believe in the 4th of July as a Christian holiday, and the Pledge of Allegiance as the church’s creed. And I can’t wait to join the QAnon chapter here in heaven!”

Peter: “Oh my. Well, you can go through the door on the left. It’s a sort of holding pen for applicants with muddled answers. I will get back to you in a few million years with a final decision. In the interim I will register you for some remedial classes in science, history, and the Bible. Have a nice eternity. I need a break.”  

— Dr. Rodney Kennedy, Righting America: A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US, A White Creationist Evangelical Arrives at the Gates of Heaven, May 16, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: I’m Woke, Liberal, and Progressive

leonard pitts jr

Understanding how That Word [liberal] was taken out of service is invaluable in understanding what is transpiring now with That Other Word. And here, yes, we are talking about “woke.”

Because we’ve seen this movie before. Once again, the right mocks a word with undisguised glee — it is slapped on a Florida education censorship bill; it is blamed by the L.A. County Sheriff for making the city unlivable; U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz claims it will “destroy” the military. And once again, the left responds with a crouch. Or has no one else noticed how the word has magically disappeared from the mouths of all but its detractors? A list that, not incidentally, includes Democratic strategist James Carville, who made news last year by declaring, in a Vox interview, that “Wokeness is a problem.”

6But is it, really? Or is the problem not that the left keeps allowing the right to frame the debate? Is the problem not the failure to finally realize that there is no word the left can use to define itself that will stop those mean conservatives from picking on them? Because it’s not the words the right opposes. Rather, it’s the beliefs those words express.

Like the belief that people should not have to breathe carcinogens in their air, drink poisons in their water or eat maggots in their meat. And that the workweek should not be 80 hours long. And that children should not be in factories, nor hardworking families in slums. And that women should control their reproductive destinies, LGBTQ people should be treated like human beings, Black people should be free to vote. And that government has a responsibility to enforce it all.

Those are noble causes to fight for. That those who have historically done so find it necessary to crouch in defense speaks to how upside down and inside out is this era — and to the success of the right in defining those who are too often timid and inept in defining themselves.

“Woke” means awake and aware. “Liberal” means “generous and broad-minded.” “Progressive” — just to complete the triumvirate — means “characterized by progress.” Each is preferable to its alternative.

That’s not to advocate for any particular word. Rather, it’s to say that every moment spent debating words is a moment spent not advocating for the beliefs those words express.

— Leonard Pitts, Jr., Seattle Times, Liberal, woke, whatever — just fight for your beliefs, May 10, 2022

Quote of the Day: Christian Fascists

chris hedges

The Christian fascists have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump. They are bankrolled by the most retrograde forces of capitalism. The capitalists permit the stupidities of the Christian fascists and their self-destructive social and cultural wars. In exchange, the billionaire class gets corporate monopolies, union-busting, privatized state and municipal services, including public education, revoked government regulations, especially environmental regulation, and are free to engage in a virtual tax boycott.

The war industry loves the Christian fascists who turn every conflict from Iraq to Ukraine into a holy crusade to crush the latest iteration of Satan. The Christian fascists believe military power, and the “manly” virtues that come with it, are blessed by God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. No military budget is too big. No war waged by America is evil.

….

The glue holding this Christianized fascism together is not prayer, although we will get a lot of that, but war. War is the raison d’être of all systems of totalitarianism. War justifies a constant search for internal enemies. It is used to revoke basic civil liberties and impose censorship. War demonizes those in the Middle East, Russia or China who are blamed for the economic and social debacles that inevitably get worse. War diverts the rage engendered by a dysfunctional state towards immigrants, people of color, feminists, liberals, artists, anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual, the press, antifa, Jews, Muslims, Russians or Asians. Take your pick. It is a bigot’s smorgasbord. Every item on the menu is fair game.

I spent two years with the Christian right reporting and researching my book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” These Christian fascists have never hidden their agenda or their desire to create a “Christian” nation, any more than Adolf Hitler hid his demented vision for Germany in “Mein Kampf.” They prey, like all fascists, on the despair of their followers. They paint gruesome portraits of the end times. when the longed-for obliteration of nonbelievers presages the glorious return of Jesus Christ. The battle at Armageddon, they believe, will be launched from the Antichrist’s worldwide headquarters in Babylon once the Jews again have control of Israel. The closer we get to Armageddon, the giddier they become.

These people believe this stuff, as they believe in QAnon or the election fraud that supposedly put Biden in office. They are convinced that a demonic, secular-humanist ideology propagated by the media, the United Nations, elite universities, the ACLU, the NAACP, NOW, Planned Parenthood and the Trilateral Commission, along with the U.S. State Department and major foundations, is seeking to destroy them.

Violence is embraced as a cleansing agent, a key component of any fascist movement. The Christian fascists do not fear nuclear war. They welcome it. The insane provocations of Russia by the Biden administration, including the decision to provide $33 billion in assistance to Ukraine, target 10 Russian generals for assassination and pass on to Ukraine the intelligence to sink the Moskva, the guided missile cruiser that was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, supercharges the ideology of the Christian right. The marriage of the war industry, determined to make war forever, with the Christian fascists yearning for the apocalypse is terrifying. Biden is sleepwalking us into a war with Russia and perhaps with China. The Christian fascists will accelerate the bloodlust.

— Chris Hedges, Salon, Jesus, endless war and the irresistible rise of American fascism, May 10, 2022

Quote of the Day: Elon Musk Purchases Twitter, A Threat to Democracy

elon musk
Cartoon by Clay Jones

Article by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, ‘A Real Threat to Democracy’: Musk Buys Twitter for $44 Billion, April 25, 2022

Rights advocates, public health experts, and media critics were among those on Monday who warned that the purchase of  Twitter by mega-billionaire Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, creates a direct threat to democracy and the common good by putting the outsized power of the social media platform used by hundreds of millions worldwide into the hands of one man.

The social media company accepted Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter for $44 billion, or $54.20 per share—leading some critics to note other ways the enormous sum of money could have been spent rather than on what Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) called “a vanity project boondoggle to silence” Musk’s critics.

“Tax the rich,” Garcia said on Twitter.

Musk’s purchase has led to concern that former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account will be reinstated. Trump was banned from the platform in January 2021 after violating its rules by inciting his followers to violently attack the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

“Musk hasn’t just purchased another expensive play toy, but a global online community that includes about 330 million regular users,” said Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of Free Press.

“With control of such a massive platform comes great responsibility—and Musk hasn’t shown he has the capacity to be accountable to this diverse online community,” she added, noting Musk’s own history of using Twitter to “intimidate and disparage others, including journalists, elected officials, owners of competing businesses and anyone else who might challenge his views.”

With Musk at the helm, said Gonzalez, Twitter must improve its content moderation practices and “stop amplifying bigotry and conspiracy theories that pollute public discourse, threaten the health and safety of users, and undermine democracy.”

Musk has criticized Twitter’s efforts to moderate the platform, saying early this month that he believes “it’s just really important that people have the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law” and that “the civilizational risk is decreased the more we can increase the trust of Twitter as a public platform.” 

Journalist Anand Giridharadas said that by taking over Twitter and claiming he’ll protect the platform as “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk is “doing is what plutocrats have been doing… branding themselves the solution to the very problem they are.”

“This isn’t just some corporate takeover,” said Giridharadas. “This is about a set of very specific moves that our oligarchs have been taking that have gradually concentrated economic, political, and discursive power in fewer and fewer hands.”

As Media Matters reported Monday, right-wing politicians in the U.S. have been in favor of Musk’s purchase since he first offered to buy the platform earlier this month. On Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) led 18 House Republicans in writing to Twitter’s board of directors, demanding that the board preserve all records related to Musk’s bid.

“The right’s propagandists had celebrated Musk’s bid as a way to garner political gain by ending the company’s purported political censorship,” reported senior fellow Matt Gertz. “Then its elected GOP champions, responding to hesitation from and when Twitter’s board, raised the prospect of a costly congressional investigation if his offer wasn’t accepted.”

While Twitter was a large and powerful company before Musk’s takeover was announced, said Sana Saeed of Al Jazeera, the purchase “does underscore an unnerving trend—the ability of a single man to purchase something that impacts hundreds of millions (beyond users) in order to influence it in his own image.”

“It’s less than great when billionaires own sports teams—which bind communities together—as their playthings,” said Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. “Having a billionaire own Twitter—a vital platform for communication and community—as his plaything is far more serious. It’s a real threat to democracy.”

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser