Saturday, July 23, 2011

Christian Terror in Norway: I Predicted Terror from the Religious Right in My New Book "Sex, Mom and God"

The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.


In my new book "Sex, Mom and God" I predicted just such an action. I predicted that right wing Christians will unleash terror here in America too. I predict that they will copy Islamic extremists, and may eventually even make common cause with them.


There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with hatred of our government in fact hatred of our country as fallen and evil because we allow women choice, gays to marry, have a social safety net, and allow immigration from other cultures and non-white races.


According to the Guardian newspaper, the killer wrote:


"Today's Protestant church is a joke," he wrote in an online post in 2009. "Priests in jeans who march for Palestine and churches that look like minimalist shopping centres. I am a supporter of an indirect collective conversion of the Protestant church back to the Catholic."


It seems Anders Behring Breivik longed for a "pure" and ultra conservative religion. He was a man of religious conviction, no liberals with their jeans need apply! Liberals beware.


Norway is just a first taste of what will happen here on a larger scale.


A HISTORY of VIOLENT ACTION


There is a history to the far right, religious right extremism on the rise today, extremism so extreme that in its congressional manifestation it is risking the good faith and credit of the US in the debt calling fiasco. The Tea Party activists also want purity of doctrine.


My family was part of the far right/violent right's rise in the 1970s and 80s when we helped create the "pro-life" movement come into existence that in the end spawned the killers of abortion providers. These killers were literally doing what we'd called for.


The terror unleashed on Norway - and the terror now unleashed by the Tea Party through Congress as it holds our economy hostage to extremist "economic" theories that want to destroy our ability to function -- is the sort of white, Christian; far right terror America can expect more of.


THE "CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD"


Call this the ultimate "Tea Party" type "answer" to secularism, modernity, and above all our hated government. Call this the Christian Brotherhood. From far right congress people, to far right gun-toting terror in Norway and here at home, our own Western version of the Taliban is on the rise.


Foreigners, visitors from another planet and Americans living in a bubble of reasonable or educated people might not know this but the reality is that the debt ceiling confrontation is by, for and the result of America's evangelical Christian control of the Republican Party.


It is the ultimate expression of an alternate reality, one that has the mistrust of the US government as its bedrock "faith," second only to faith in Jesus.


To understand why an irrational self-defeating action like destroying the credit of the USA might seem like the right thing to do you have to understand two things: that the Republican Party is now the party of religious fanatics and that these fanatics -- people like Michele Bachmann -- don't want to work within our system, they want to bring it down along the lines of so-called Christian "Reconstruction." (See my book for a full account of what this is.)


In the scorched-earth era of the "health care reform debates" of 2009 and beyond, Evangelicals seemed to believe that Jesus commanded that all hospitals (and everything else) should be run by corporations for profit, just because corporations weren't the evil government. The right even decided that it was "normal" for the state to hand over its age-old public and patriotic duties to private companies -- even for military operations ("contractors"), prisons, health care, public transport, and all the rest.


PRIVATE "FACTS"


The Religious Right/Far Right et al. favored private "facts," too.


They claimed that global warming wasn't real. They asserted this because scientists (those same agents of Satan who insisted that evolution was real) were the ones who said human actions were changing the climate.


Worse, the government said so, too!


"Global warming is a left-wing plot to take away our freedom!"


"Amtrak must make a profit!"


There is an indirect but deadly connection between the "intellectual" fig-leaf providers/leaders like my late father and periodic upheavals like the loony American Right's sometimes-violent reaction to the election of Barack Obama, killings in Norway and what the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is about to do to us in forcing a default on our loans, and thus destroying the US economy in a way bin Laden could only have dreamed of doing.


No, your average member of some moronic gun toting Michigan militia is not reading books by my late father Francis Schaeffer where he called for the overthrow of the government because of Roe v Wade and the legalization of abortion. Nor have they heard of people like Robert George. And the killer in Norway may or may not have read my father's books.


But Michele Bachmann is reading my father's books. And she was trained in far right Reconstructionist theory at the Oral Roberts law school by one of Dad's followers.


Bachmann says she got into politics because of reading my father's work. And she is one of his extremist followers.


Non-Evangelicals with far right agendas like Robert George (I'll introduce him to you in a moment) have cashed in on the Evangelicals' like Bachmann's willingness to lend their numbers and influence to one "moral" anti-American crusade after another, or rather I should say, to one political crusade after another masquerading as moral crusades.


"RESPECTABLE" FAR RIGHT "INTELLECTUALS"


For instance, conservative Roman Catholic Princeton University Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George is an antiabortion, anti-Obama, anti-gay-rights, and anti-stem-cell-research "profamily" activist, and he has found ways to effectively carry on the far right Reconstructionist agenda while denying any formal connection to it and taking the intellectual high road.


Take George's brainchild: the "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience."


This was published in 2009 as an anti-Obama manifesto, and many far right Evangelical leaders signed on.


The "Manhattan Declaration" reads:


"We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life

act . . . nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."



In case you've never heard of George, he's been a one-man "brain trust" for the Religious Right, Glenn Beck, and the Far Right of the Republican Party as well as for the ultraconservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Here's how the New York Times introduced him to its readers:


"[Robert George] has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy [the natural law theory] into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as "one of the biggest brains in America," or, on one broadcast, "Superman of the Earth." Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. . . . Newt Gingrich called him "an important and growing influence" on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage. "If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy," the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, "its leaders probably meet in George's kitchen.""


GOVERNMENT IS THE ENEMY


It's a question of legitimacy and illegitimacy.


What the Religious Right, including the Religious Right's Roman Catholic and Protestant enablers, did was contribute to a climate in which the very legitimacy of our government--is questioned as part of religious faith itself.


The "Manhattan Declaration" called laws with which its signers disagreed "edicts," thereby conjuring up images of dictators handing down oppressive rules, rather than legitimately elected democratic bodies passing legislation. In other words, when the Right lost in the democratic process, "other means" to undermine the law were encouraged. This is the language of revolution, not democracy.


The Far Right intellectual enablers began by questioning abortion rights, gay rights, school prayer rulings, and so forth. What they ended up doing was to help foster a climate in which--in the eyes of a dangerous and growing (mostly white lower class undereducated gun-toting) minority--the very legitimacy of the U.S. government was called into question, sometimes in paranoid generalities, but often with ridiculous specificity: for instance, in the persistent lie that President Obama was not a citizen or was a Muslim or that the Federal Reserve and/or United Nations were somehow involved in a plot to "take away our freedoms" or that sensible gun control equaled "tyranny."


TERROR FOR CHRIST


It was in the context of delegitimizing our government that actions by domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh became thinkable. In 1993 McVeigh told a reporter, "The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control."


Change a word or two and his words could have been lifted from my father's 1981 book A

Christian Manifesto, or for that matter a few decades later, from statements by the so-called Tea Party or those by Michele Bachmann, or Robert George or his follower Glenn Beck.


In my father's book he called for the overthrow of the US government unless non-violent ways were found to overturn Roe v Wade. He compared America to Nazi Germany.


Note the ominous rhetorical shadow Dad's book cast over a benighted and divided American future, a future that produced the climate of hate that eventually spawned the murder of abortion providers such as Dr. George Tiller in Wichita in 2009 and the threat of destroying America's credit in an effort to literally defund the USA.


Here's a bit from Manifesto on how the government was "taking away" our country and turning it over to Liberals, codenamed by Dad as "this total humanistic way of thinking":


"The law, and especially the courts, is the vehicle to force this total humanistic way of thinking upon the entire population..."


And this:


"Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try and change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it."


Then this:


"There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. . . . A true Christian in Hitler's Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion. . . . It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God's law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation."


In other words, Dad's followers were told that (1) force is a legitimate weapon to use against an evil government; (2) America was like Hitler's Germany--because of legal abortion and of the forcing of "Humanism" on the population--and thus intrinsically evil; and (3) whatever would have been the "appropriate response" to stop Hitler was now appropriate to do here in America to stop our government, which Dad had just branded a "counterfeit state."


EXTREMISM IS NEXT TO GODLINESS



To understand the extremism coming from the right, the fact that there are members of Congress who seem to be genuinely mentally unhinged leading the charge on the debt ceiling, you need to understand that this hatred of all things government has theological roots that have nothing to do with facts.


Theology is -- by nature -- not about reason but about faith. If God's will is to be served then so be it if America is plunged into chaos! This debt ceiling fiasco is just another chapter in the "culture" wars.


The extreme language of Evangelical/"pro-life" rebellion has now been repackaged in the debt ceiling showdown. It is the language of religion pitted against facts.


And the anti-government charge is being led by people who are either true believers, thus unable to reason, or people catering to the true believers so that they can remain in the good books of the Tea Party, which is nothing more than the Evangelical far right repackaged and renamed.


Some people took the next step. The night of December 14, 2008, Bruce Turnidge was in handcuffs and sitting next to an FBI agent in Turnidge's farmhouse in Oregon. He was ranting about the "need" for militias and cursing the election of an African American president. Hours earlier, his son, Joshua, had been arrested for allegedly causing a fatal bomb explosion.


"Bruce started talking about the Second Amendment and citizens' rights to carry firearms," said George Chamberlin, the FBI agent. "Bruce talked at length that the government should fear the people and that the people should not fear the government."


In February 2010, a little more than a year after Obama's inauguration, Joseph Stack, a fifty-three-year-old software engineer, piloted a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, and killed one man and injured several others.


Before killing himself, Stack posted an online suicide note railing against the federal government and expressing grievances similar to those Dad had enumerated.


A Facebook group celebrating Stack had thousands of members sign on almost instantly after he was "martyred for our freedoms," as one contributor called it. The site featured the Gadsden flag (the flag with the logo "Don't Tread On Me") and these words: "Finally an American man took a stand against our tyrannical government that no longer follows the constitution and turned its back on its founding fathers and the beliefs this country was founded on."


In March 2010 the so-called Hutaree Militia, a right-wing, biblically inspired fundamentalist group, was alleged to have hatched a plot to kill police officers. Members of this outfit had planned attacks on police officers as a way of acting out their hatred for the government as well as a way to launch the civil chaos "predicted" in so-called End Times biblical prophecies. The day the plotters were arrested, I checked their online homepage. Here's what I found as their mission statement (misspellings in the original post, which has since been taken down, as has the site):


"As Christians we all are a part of the Souls of the Body of Christ, the one true church of Christ. . . . This is the belief of the Hutaree soldier, as should the belief of all followers in Christ be."


THE BLACK MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE DRIVES THE RIGHT TO INSANITY



Following the election of our first black president, the "politics" of the Evangelical, Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Mormon Far Right was not the politics of a loyal opposition, but rather the instigation of revolution, which was first and best expressed by Rush Limbaugh when even before President Obama took office he said, "I hope Obama fails."


To the old-fashioned conservative mantra "Big government doesn't work," the newly radicalized Evangelicals (and their Roman Catholic and Mormon cobelligerents) added "The U.S. government is evil!"


And the very same community--Protestant American Evangelicals--who had once been the bedrock supporters of public education, and voted for such moderate and reasonable men as President Dwight Eisenhower, became the enemies of not only the public schools but also of anything in the (nonmilitary) public sphere "run by the government."


As they opened new institutions (proudly outside the mainstream), the Jesus Victims doing this "reclaiming" cast themselves in the role of persecuted exiles.


What they never admitted was that they were self-banished from mainstream institutions, not only because the Evangelicals' political views on social issues conflicted with most people's views, but also because Evangelicals (and other conservative religionists) found themselves holding the short end of the intellectual stick.


And yet having "dropped out" (to use a 1960s phrase), the Evangelicals nevertheless kept on demanding that regarding "moral" and "family" matters the society they'd renounced nonetheless had to conform to their beliefs.


CHRISTIAN JIHAD



Another Far Right Roman Catholic ideologue (and also an academic) even wrote a book calling on Christians, Jews, and Muslims to join together in a jihad against the secular West. In Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War a former friend of mine, Peter Kreeft (a professor of philosophy at Boston College), called for "ecumenical jihad."


I met with Kreeft several times in my home in the 1980s and early 1990s while he was developing his "jihadist" ideas.


Kreeft's was not a plea for blowing people up, and his book was published pre-9/11.


His book was based on the fact that many believers in Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Islam (at least in their fundamentalist forms) rejected the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Homosexuality is out, sex education is evil, and so on. Kreeft called on all believers to unite to overthrow "secularism" in the same anti-secular spirit that Robert George channeled a few years later when trying to undermine the Obama administration through his brainchild, the "Manhattan Declaration."


Kreeft called for an "alliance" of fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to prosecute a culture war against what he viewed as the Western cultural elite. Ecumenical Jihad was dedicated to Richard John Neuhaus, the late Roman Catholic convert priest, and to Charles Colson (who later teamed up with George to author the "Manhattan Declaration").


The groups Kreeft, Colson, and Neuhaus had in mind to "bring together" in an ecumenical jihad were alienated Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, and conservative Roman Catholics, to which Kreeft added Muslims (not that any actually signed on to his program as far as I know). These groups did not share each other's theology, but they had a deeper link: anger at the "victimhood" imposed on them by modernity.


Kreeft and Neuhaus were calling abortion murder. Thus, the logic of their argument was that of my father's, too: The U.S. government was enabling murder and was thus disparaged as a "regime," even a "counterfeit state," that needed to be overthrown.


A WILLINGNESS TO DESTROY AMERICA IN ORDER TO "SAVE" IT


George and Colson and the others who wrote and then signed the "Manhattan Declaration" (like Kreeft before them) also called for fundamentalists to unite if need be for civil disobedience to stop the U.S. government from passing laws that did not comply with their religious "values" and/or to undermine those laws if they were enacted.


So if the U.S. government legalized gay marriage and thus "compelled" all Americans (including church groups) to recognize gay men and women's civil rights, the government need no longer be obeyed when those laws affected religious people who disagreed with them. The "Manhattan Declaration" called believers to "not comply." And just as Neuhaus dismissed the U.S. government as a "regime"--and my father did the same when saying the government was a "counterfeit state"--George and his co - signers also used dismissive and demeaning language about the U.S. government.


In a country awash in weapons and wallowing in the rhetoric of rebellion against an "evil" government, sporadic outbursts of murder tinged with political overtones seem as inevitable as they seem horribly "normal."


It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to foresee a day when a "secessionist" group and/or members of some "militia"--let alone one lone individual--will use their U.S. passports, white skins, and solid- citizen standing as a cover for importing a weapon of mass destruction to "liberate" the rest of us from our federal government's "tyranny" and/or to "punish" some city like New York, known as the U.S. "abortion capital" or San Francisco as the place that "those gays have taken over." And the possibility of an assassination in the same vein is a never-ending threat.


What we fear most from Islamist terrorists will be unleashed here as it was in Norway.


Terror is on the way on the way from our very own Christian and/or Libertarian "Tea Party" type activists inspired by right wing "Christian" intellectuals and political leaders like Bachmann who - after the killing starts -- will then disown them and express horror at their actions, actions that are in fact the logical extension of the anti-government rhetoric spewing from Congress and the religious right.


Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Only Bad People Will Work With Murdoch Now (That We Know What We Know)

Here's what you may not know about Rupert Murdoch: he's one of the leading religion publishers in the world.

Here's what you do know: The top executive in Murdoch's UK power base, Rebekah Brooks is under arrest. The top UK police officer -- Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson -- has just announced his resignation given the corruption of the police by Murdoch company officials. Rupert Murdoch could be arrested too, as could his son.

Murdoch-owned companies have intercepted the voicemail messages of murder victim Milly Dowler, hacked into the phones of the parents of one of murder victims, listened in to the mobile phones of the families of the 7/7 London bombings, hacked phones of servicemen killed in Afghanistan. They have conspired to corrupt the top ranks of the UK police. They have allegedly hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.

Here's what we also know: Without the "Tea Party" there wouldn't be far right ideologues in Congress like Michele Bachmann empowered to play Russian roulette with America's future over the debt ceiling. And without Fox News and the Wall Street Journal there would have been no Tea Party, let alone Republicans "successfully" obstructing the President at every turn.

Who is the sole source of this combination of paparazzi hell tabloid amorality gone wild, sleaze and decadence along with breeding the most extreme right wing politics America's ever known since the days of radio host and fascist sympathizer Fr. Coughlin?

Where do all these downward paths meet: In the person and career of Rupert Murdoch. And his company has spent tens of millions to settle scores of scandals as is so well documented by the New York Times.

And now the Murdoch scandal has spread from the just closed News of the World to the Sun and the Sunday Times of London. So it is not about "one bad apple" but about Murdoch's company's methods across the board, as extensive coverage in the Guardian has proved.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown suffered from years of criminal intrusion by the Murdoch team, including pilfering medical records of his child. His infant son's medical records were obtained by the Sun. And Brown's tax returns were hacked. Murdoch companies corrupted the police, bribed them into handing over information on their targets, including the prime minister and the queen.

So why are religious moralizers writing about high-minded ethical themes still prepared to enrich Murdoch as they are doing?

Murdoch is one of America's biggest publishers of religious books, including the 33-million seller Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Murdoch is also publisher of Rob Bell's Love Wins. And he also publishes Deepak Chopra and even Desmond Tutu!

Do these religious authors -- and many more besides -- writing about ethics, love and moral rectitude wear gloves when they cash their royalty checks?

Murdoch bought into the billion-dollar American religion market. He bought the venerable evangelical Zondervan publishing house. He bought the religion web site Beliefnet. And he owns HarperOne that publishes Chopra and Tutu.

Back in the day when I was an evangelical author/activist - I've long since fled that world -- and working with my father Francis Schaeffer who was a founder of the religious right, I knew the founding Zondervan family. They were a clan of strict Bible-believing Calvinists who'd have bathed for a week in the Jordan River to purify themselves if they'd ever even brushed up against Murdoch and his minions, let alone stumbled on the ubiquitous nude centerfolds Murdoch puts in his "newspapers." Later generations sold out in the religion version of the family that sold the once respected Wall Street Journal into Murdoch bondage.

My question is this: What religious author - conservative or liberal -- would knowingly work to enrich Murdoch now? He is the epitome of everything that religion says its against: lies, greed, criminality, and sheer exploitation of the defenseless. He is the Fox News hate facilitator who gave us Glenn Beck.

Okay, they deserve a second chance.

Mea Culpa!

I published two books with HarperCollins some years ago soon after Murdoch had taken over. I had a deal with the Smithsonian that was tied into HarperCollins for distribution, then the Smithsonian backed out but my books stayed at Harpers. After they were published I thought about - and regretted -- helping Murdoch in however small a way. I've never published with them again.

I only have one excuse, I didn't know much about Murdoch then. But who would willingly publish anything with any Murdoch paper, magazine or book publisher now, knowing what we all know?

Non-religion authors like Jeff Jarvis have pulled books from HarperCollins because it's owned by Murdoch as he writes in the Huffington Post : "[my] next book, Public Parts, was to be published, like my last one, by News Corp.'s HarperCollins. But I pulled the book because in it, I am very critical of the parent company for being so closed. It's now being published by Simon and Schuster."

Post UK meltdown, post Fox News leading the charge on facilitating the potential destroyers of the US economy, all because they want to take down the first black American president, will Tutu, Bell, Chopra et al - big time authors with a choice of publishers -- still publish yet more books with HarperOne, and/or with Zondervan?

Will liberals in Hollywood still underwrite Murdoch with their lives and continue to work for Fox TV and Fox Films? They used to boycott working in the old apartheid South Africa with the cry, "We won't play Sun City!" (an entertainment complex that tried to book big American entertainers).

Now the Hollywood "liberals" like James Cameron's movies underwrite this right wing zealot, pouring Fox News lies into every home in the world. The message of Cameron's film Avatar was all about the environment, and anti-war, a sensitivity that Fox News has done its best to destroy with their anti-belief-in-global-warming lies, not to mention making the Bush war in Iraq possible by backing the Bush lies. Making Avatar with and for Murdoch was as appropriate as publishing the Diaries of Anne Frank with a company controlled by the Arian Nation.

Next time you read Chopra, Bell and Tutu or re watch Avatar, remember this: there is a direct line from these spiritual enlightened works to Rupert Murdoch's bank accounts and to the pay checks Fox News and Wall Street Journal "reporters" will draw next week.

It's time to hold Murdoch's collaborator's feet to the fire no matter what their progressive or religious credentials are, especially the famous authors who can publish anywhere. Without writers willing to contribute to Murdoch's publishing/entertainment empire, there'd be no empire and no Fox News and Wall Street Journal, perverting American politics and rooting for the destruction of the US economy all to please the lunatic far right/religious right fringe that's taken over the Republican Party.

We can't boycott every dubious corporation on earth. But with Murdoch a line's been crossed.

I know it's not considered polite to be judgmental but I'll say it: to work for any part of Murdoch's empire, let alone to publish religious books with him, or to make spiritually sensitive films for him strips the author (or film maker) of moral authority and it should strip that person of his or her readers and viewers too.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His most recent book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Roots of the Republican Anti-Government Reflex and the Debt Ceiling Crisis

Foreigners, visitors from another planet and Americans living in a bubble of reasonable or educated people might not know this but the reality is that the debt ceiling confrontation is by, for and the result of America's evangelical Christian control of the Republican Party. It is the ultimate expression of an alternate reality, one that has the mistrust of the US government as its bedrock "faith," second only to faith in Jesus.

To understand why an irrational self-defeating action like destroying the credit of the USA might seem like the right thing to do you have to understand two things: that the Republican Party is now the party of religious fanatics and that these fanatics -- people like Michele Bachmann -- don't want to work within our system, they want to bring it down.

In the scorched-earth era of the "health care reform debates" of 2009 and beyond, Evangelicals seemed to believe that Jesus commanded that all hospitals (and everything else) should be run by corporations for profit, just because corporations weren't the evil government. The right even decided that it was "normal" for the state to hand over its age-old public and patriotic duties to private companies -- even for military operations ("contractors"), prisons, health care, public transport, and all the rest.

The Religious Right/Far Right et al. favored private "facts," too.

They claimed that global warming wasn't real. They asserted this because scientists (those same agents of Satan who insisted that evolution was real) were the ones who said human actions were changing the climate. Worse, the government said so, too

"Global warming is a left-wing plot to take away our freedom!"

"Amtrak must make a profit!"

Even the word "infrastructure" lost its respectability when government had a hand in maintaining roads, bridges, and trains. In denial of the West's civic-minded, government-supporting heritage, Evangelicals (and the rest of the Right) wound up defending private oil companies but not God's creation, private cars instead of public transport, private insurance conglomerates rather than government care of individuals.

It only remained for a far right Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to rule in 2010 that unlimited corporate money could pour into political campaigns -- anonymously -- in a way that clearly favored corporate America and the super wealthy, who were now the only entities served by the Republican Party.


Where does this all come from?

The 1970s Evangelical antiabortion movement that my father Francis Schaeffer, C. Everett Koop, and I helped create seduced the Republican Party. By the early 1980s the Republicans were laboring under the weight of a single-issue religious test for heresy: abortion. Abortion was "murder" and since the US government "allowed abortion" it was no longer seen as legitimate by the anti-abortion activists.

I was there -- and/or Dad was -- participating in various meetings with Congressman Jack Kemp, Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush, Sr., when the unholy marriage between the Republican Party and the Evangelical "pro-life" community was gradually consummated. Dad and I -- as did many other Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell -- met one on one or in groups with key members of the Republican leadership quite regularly to develop a "pro-life strategy" for rolling back Roe v. Wade.

And that strategy was simple: Republican leaders would affirm their antiabortion commitment to Evangelicals, and in turn we'd vote for them -- by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, "we" would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of antiabortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at -- at first.

When Evangelical and Republican leaders sat together, we discussed "the issue," but we would soon move on to the practical particulars, such as "Will blue-collar Catholic voters join us now?" (They did.) Soon Evangelical leaders were helping political leaders to send their message to the "pro-life community" that they -- the Republican leaders -- were on board.

For instance, I organized the 1984 publication of President Ronald Reagan's antiabortion book with Evangelical Bible publisher Thomas Nelson. Reagan's book had first appeared as an essay in the Human Life Review (Spring 1983). I was friends with Human Life Review founder and editor: the brilliant Roman Catholic antiabortion crusader Jim McFadden. He and I cooked up the presidential project over the phone.

The president's book expressed his antiabortion "views" as ghostwritten by McFadden in order to cement the Reagan "deal" with the antiabortion movement. We called the book Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. I suggested to Reagan's people that two Schaeffer family friends -- C. Everett Koop and Malcolm Muggeridge (a famous British writer/social critic and convert from Far Left politics to rabid Far Right Roman Catholicism with whom my father once led a huge "pro-life" demonstration in Hyde Park, London) -- provide us with afterwords to "bulk out" an otherwise too brief book, which they did within a week or two after I called them.

Once they were "on board," Republican leaders like Senator Jesse Helms and Congressmen Jack Kemp and Henry Hyde (to name but three whom I met with often, in Jack's case in his home, where I stayed as a guest) worked closely with my father and me, and we (along with a lot of other religious leaders) began to deliver large blocs of voters. We even managed "our" voters for the Republican Party by incessantly reminding our followers of "the issue" through newsletters, TV, and radio broadcasts.


Fast-forward thirty years to the early twenty-first century:

The messengers, leaders, and day-to-day "issues" changed, but the volume and tone of the anti-government "debate" and the anger in reaction to the Obama presidency originated with the antiabortion movement. To understand where that anger came from and who first gave voice to it, consider a few prescient passages from my father's immensely influential book (influential within the Evangelical ghetto, that is) A Christian Manifesto, which was published in 1981.

As you read these excerpts, bear in mind what would take place in the health care "debates" over what came to be disparaged as "Obamacare" thirty years or so after my father's book was read by hundreds of thousands of Evangelicals. Anti-health-care-reform rhetoric -- "Death Panels!" "Government Takeover!" "Obama is Hitler!" -- that the Far Right spewed in the policy debates of 2009 and beyond seemed to be ripped from the pages of Dad's and my writings.

Note the ominous rhetorical shadow Dad's book cast over a benighted and divided American future, a future that produced the climate of hate that eventually spawned the murder of abortion providers such as Dr. George Tiller in Wichita in 2009 and the threat of destroying America's credit in an effort to literally defund the USA.

Here's a bit from Manifesto on how the government was "taking away" our country and turning it over to Liberals, codenamed by Dad as "this total humanistic way of thinking":

"The law, and especially the courts, is the vehicle to force this total humanistic way of thinking upon the entire population.*

And this:

"Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try and change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it."

Then this:

"There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. . . . A true Christian in Hitler's Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion. . . . It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God's law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation."

In other words, Dad's followers were told that (1) force is a legitimate weapon to use against an evil government; (2) America was like Hitler's Germany--because of legal abortion and of the forcing of "Humanism" on the population--and thus intrinsically evil; and (3) whatever would have been the "appropriate response" to stop Hitler was now appropriate to do here in America to stop our government, which Dad had just branded a "counterfeit state."

Dad's books sailed under the radar of the major media. But his work, and the work of other anti-American religious right leaders shaped a generation.

For instance Michele Bachmann credits reading my father's books as to what inspired her to enter politics as a means to "serve the Lord."


Republican Apocalypse Now

To understand the extremism coming from the right, the fact that there are members of Congress who seem to be genuinely mentally unhinged leading the charge on the debt ceiling, you need to understand that this hatred of all things government has theological roots that have nothing to do with facts.

Theology is -- by nature -- not about reason but about faith. If God's will is to be served then so be it if America is plunged into chaos! This debt ceiling fiasco is just another chapter in the "culture" wars.

The extreme language of Evangelical/"pro-life" rebellion has now been repackaged in the debt ceiling showdown. It is the language of religion pitted against facts.

And the anti-government charge is being led by people who are either true believers, thus unable to reason, or people catering to the true believers so that they can remain in the good books of the Tea Party, which is nothing more than the Evangelical far right repackaged and renamed.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Orwell and Me






The Back Cover book blog

Review: “Sex, Mom & God”

SEX, MOM, & GOD: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics — and How I learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
By Frank Schaeffer. Da Capo Press. 298 pages. $26

Reviewed by Lawrence Wayne Markert
LAWRENCE WAYNE MARKERT is an English professor at Hollins University.

“Sex, Mom, & God,” the new memoir from Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God,” reads similarly to George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia.”
Orwell’s book describes his growing disillusionment as he fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Schaeffer was raised as a “soldier” for the religious right, fighting various culture wars in the United States through the 1980s.

He, like Orwell, became disillusioned with the extremism he encountered. Schaeffer fled the evangelical scene in the early 1990s. He, too, learned that extremism exists on both sides of the battle lines. He now has created a thought-provoking analysis of the social and religious struggles that continue to define American consciousness.

Schaeffer’s book, as the title and subtitle suggest, provides an informed ramble through a mix of personal experiences, social history and cultural critiques.
The personal experiences center on the formative relationship with his mother, Edith Schaeffer, who proved to him through her behavior rather than ideology that life is defined by paradox rather than certainty.

The opening sentences may startle some, but they are the beginning of Schaeffer’s remarkably honest account of the importance of his mother’s life to his own: “My biblically inspired sex education took a quantum leap in 1960. When I was 8 years old, my mother handed me her diaphragm.”

Like Orwell’s, Schaeffer’s book proves to be less a memoir and more of a polemic. The personal experiences serve as a catalyst for analyzing broader social issues. Anyone who has seen Schaeffer interviewed on television or read some of his more recent writings knows that he is resolute, even evangelical, about his new perspectives and his exodus from his fundamentalist past: “I regret every moment I spent selling myths to the deluded, or should I say that I regret selling myths to myself and then passing them on to people as deluded as I was.”

His goal is not to discredit Christianity — he and his wife are members of the Greek Orthodox Church now — but rather to gain balance, perspective.

Schaeffer covers a lot of important territory in his book, beginning with his early Bible instruction and what he calls “The God-of-the Bible,” a handle he uses “to differentiate between whatever actual deity might be out there and the biblical version and caricature of that Person, Force, or Persons,” to America’s Puritan tradition and the concept of American exceptionalism, and to the “unholy” alliance between the Christian right and the Republican Party.

There is a long and insightful chapter on the pro-life/pro-choice debate, and at various points he deals insightfully with the fear of the “other,” those who are not like us, as central to objections to the Obama presidency.

Although his tone at times seems polemical — he loves exclamation and the exclamation point — Schaeffer’s purpose is to encourage us all to establish common ground. He provides an insider’s view on the ways America has become fragmented, polarized by various forms of extremism. He states, in fact, that “what we fear most from Islamist terrorist could also be unleashed on us by our very own Christian and/or Libertarian activists.”

He now realizes, as his mother taught him, that the acceptance of paradox rather than the insistence on certainty is the starting and ending point of human existence. Again like Orwell, he has embraced the meaning he finds in the everyday aspects of life.

The Swine Company that Runs Fox News Exposed

Here's an op-ed from the Guardian newspaper about the folks that run Fox News, made Palin, destroyed Obama's chance to govern and on and on....




After the Gordon Brown revelation, can this scandal get any worse?

With revelations that Gordon Brown's children were targeted, the News International scandal is spiralling out of Murdoch's control

Gordon Brown with his wife, Sarah and new baby boy, James Fraser Brown, 21 July, 2006.
Gordon Brown with his wife Sarah and new baby boy James Fraser Brown in July 2006. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

Another day, another shock. The Gordon Brown revelations are truly shocking. But I've written that before. There is so much that generates this response. Our language of shock fails us at every turn.

The muck has spread from the News of the World (deceased) to The Sun and the Sunday Times. And it includes a centre-stage role for News International's chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

But the discovery that Brown suffered from the dark arts over his children puts the spotlight back on a publisher that staggers from crisis to crisis without any apparent strategy to cope.

In fact, its public relations seems disastrous, and 80-year-old Murdoch – who has conducted himself in public so carefully in the past – now seems to have lost the plot.

Did he think it wise to have his arm about Brooks as they both smiled for the cameras within a day of 200 employees being dismissed?

Did he believe that trying to manage the news with injudicious leaks was a clever manoeuvre in the face of such a welter of negative information emerging about the company on an hourly basis?

Did he care at all about the years of deceit that have been the hallmark of News International's handling of a terrible catalogue of unethical (and illegal) behaviour?

The man is losing touch and if he isn't careful, he will lose his company.

Shareholders in the States were already aghast at the previous exposures of wrongdoing by NoW journalists. That started the share price slippage.

Now there is even more reason for News Corp's investors to take flight. Can they get out before the price collapses still further?

Consider once more the heinous nature of News International's eavesdroppers: intercepting the voicemail messages of murder victim Milly Dowler; hacking into the phones of the parents of one of the Soham murder victims; listening in to the mobile phones of the families of 7/7 victims and of servicemen killed in Afghanistan.

No one was safe from the journalists and investigators of Wapping. Not even the country's prime minister.

Brown has now revealed that his infant son's medical records were obtained by the Sun. And the paper went on to publish a story about the child's serious illness.

Brown's tax affairs were the subject of computer hacking. Lawyers were fooled into handing over details from the files.

The sheer scale of the assault on Brown's privacy is mind-boggling.

There are all sorts of related questions too, about failures of security – and, once more, about Scotland Yard's failings.

Scandal follows scandal. There are no words to describe just how big it is, with political, policing and media involvement.

Is our current prime minister, David Cameron, able to cope? I don't think so, because he is compromised too. But he had better act correctly from now on or the country will make him pay.

As for Murdoch, he is in a firestorm, caught in the kind of media feeding frenzy that his own papers have so often orchestrated. It is difficult not to delight in his embarrassment.