Sunday, October 30, 2011

Barton, Copeland, and the Womenfolk

Let's talk manners! On the October 28th edition of Believers' Voice of Victory, David Barton and Kenneth Copeland had much to say about manners and the fair sex. (To watch the full video, visit www[dot]kcm[dot]org/media/webcast/kenneth-copeland-and-david-barto/111028-the-word-of-god-is-your-final-authority)

Barton and Copeland lamented that manners have supposedly disappeared from American culture, and with them respect for women. Barton began by quoting 1 Timothy 5:1-3, which he called the basis of a system of manners. At the 11:56 mark, Barton complained that men no longer open doors or pull out chairs for women, and Copeland fumed that women have changed too much.

BARTON: As we've become more secular, we have less manners. We no longer respect women, open doors for them, or pull out chairs. We no longer say 'yes sir' or 'no ma'am.'

COPELAND: And the women changed!

BARTON: The women have changed too.

COPELAND: And when that happened, the fundamental morality of this country went in the ditch, man.

BARTON: And it goes to something as simple as manners ... If you've got kids, if you've got grandkids, you teach them to say 'thank you,' and 'please', and 'no thank you.' And you teach them to respect older folks, and you teach them to respect women. That's a  big deal in the Bible, and we don't do that in our culture anymore. We'll now have lawsuits if you do that. We have actually women saying, hey, I don't want to be treated differently from anybody else. No. We want to respect you, we want to honor you, we want to elevate you.
First, Barton conflates good manners and respect, even though they are not synonymous. He associates respecting women with opening doors and pulling out chairs, but this is not how all people define respect for women. What about treating women as adults and equals? Letting their voices be heard? Respecting their right to make decisions? Involving them in important decision-making? Encouraging them to use their talents? Standing up against discriminatory treatment of women, not to mention violence against women? Those things are what come to mind when I envision respect for women, but Barton and Copeland did not discuss them.

Revealingly, Barton seems to looks askance at women who demand equality, frowning upon women who "don't want to be treated differently from anybody else." Barton seems to see this demand for equality as incompatible with his idea of respect for women, because immediately afterwards, he insists, "No. We want to respect you, we want to honor you, we want to elevate you." Furthermore, Copeland's lament that women have changed suggests that he pines for a previous time, when the roles of men and women were different.

At the 13:38 mark, Barton claims that how a culture treats women reflects how Biblical its worldview is. (See here.)

BARTON: The way you treat women is the best indication of how Biblical a view you have. Now you look at other nations. You look at Islam. See how they treat women? I don't think that's a Biblical view. I mean, you look at secularists, look at France, how they treat women. Look at the Norwegian countries, how they treat women. The way you treat women is a reflection of how Biblical your culture is, and now we're saying in America, we don't want any manners shown like that, we don't want to treat women differently ... If our culture says, hey, we're not going to treat women different, you better conform to the scriptures, 'cause it does say to treat women different.

COPELAND: The Word says for a man to treat his wife as if -- I didn't say she was --  as if she was a weaker vessel. Treat her like she's fragile. Man, I mean you're sweet to her, good to her, you see to it she has everything she needs, everything she wants, and it'll produce heaven on earth in your marriage, man, because it puts thing in its order in the sight of God.

Uh, guys? Women have high status in France and Noway. For example, Norway boasts very high participation of women in the workforce, and passed a law in 2003 stipulating balanced gender representation on company boards. In a 2010 United Nations report, Norway also boasts a highly educated female population, and a respectable percentage (>40%) of female representation on scientific boards. In the same report, France was among countries with low lifetime prevalence rates of physical violence and sexual assault among women. The report also listed France as the country with the third highest life expectancy for women. UNICEF statistics show that France has an extremely high rate of antenatal care coverage and skilled attendant presence at delivery, suggesting that policymakers there place importance on women's health. While no country is perfectly egalitarian, indicators suggest that women are doing very well in Norway and France. The assumption that secular cultures do not treat women well is incorrect.

To boot, Barton correlates a Biblical worldview with respect for women, thereby ignoring misogynist passages in scripture. The New Testament contains verse after verse forbidding women from speaking or teaching in church, admonishing wives to submit to their husbands, demanding that women cover their heads, and mocking women as gullible. The rape imagery in Revelations isn't very respectful of women either. And that doesn't even include the deeply misogynist content of the Old Testament! Barton conveniently ignores these cruel and disdainful passages. I fail to see how an inerrant interpretation of the Bible is compatible with respect for women, either as Barton defines it or otherwise.

The key to understanding this video is realizing that "respect for women" means something different here than it might in common parlance. Barton and Copeland seems to define the term as polite and gentle treatment of women, but not as equal empowerment or equal agency. Furthermore, they see "respect" for women as synonymous with good manners, rather than framing it as an ethical issue of equality. When voices from the Religious Right speak of respecting women, it is vital to remember that they might not mean what we think they mean by "respect."

As for good manners, I can't resist ending with this breathtaking video. We've got your good manners all right!

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. For additional commentary, visit the following link.

Def Shepherd: David Barton & The Religious Right Want Women To Be Respected Like They Are In The Bible

David Barton Claims that "Fear of the Lord" Undergirds Education

On the October 27th edition of Believers' Voice of Victory, Kenneth Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries interviewed right-wing author David Barton. To watch the full episode, visit www[dot]kcm[dot]org/media/webcast/kenneth-copeland-and-david-barto/111027-the-word-of-god-is-your-final-authority)

Barton, who has long promoted a "Christian nation" version of American history, argued that the free market system originally came out of the Bible. Barton also insisted that the American legal system, including the right of habeus corpus, the right to an attorney, and the right to confront one's accusers, originated in the Bible.

Barton had much to say about Christianity and the U.S. educational system. At the 15:21 mark, Barton asserted that U.S. public education was originally based on Biblical teachings, with harsh words for today's "government schools." The term "government schools" has been used as a pejorative term for public schools by some Christian homeschool advocates, such as Doug Phillips.
"This shows you what public education's supposed to look like. The educational system is supposed to come--and it did. These guys started the  first public school in 1642 and cited Bible verses on why they were doing it. They also cited Bible verses on the courses they taught and the way they taught the courses. Now, most Christians today, "well, we've got government schools. That's the way it's supposed [to be]." Really? Show me in the Bible where government's supposed to do the education. Show me how that works. Show me what courses government's supposed to be teaching. See, we can't do that anymore. We don't use--we've been conformed to the culture. We've had public schools for so long that we think that's the way it is."
At the 17:05 mark, Barton argued that U.S. literacy has declined because "fear of the Lord" no longer undergirds the American educational system.
BARTON: 1962 to 63. The U.S. Supreme Court, three decisions, said no more fear of God in education. We want education to be secular. All right. That's a theological issue.

COPELAND: And how's that working out?

BARTON: How's that working out? In 1962-63, America was number one in the world in literacy. We are now number 65 in the world in literacy. We have the highest per capita spending on education. $460 billion a year on education. We spend $13,800 a year on students, and we're 65 in the word in literacy? We don't have the fear of the Lord, so guess what? We don't have knowledge. It goes down ... At a White House briefing, they said we just graduated 700,000 students from high school who can't read their own diploma. Time out! We're spending $13,800 a year? We've gone through thirteen years of school, and they can't read their diploma? The fear of the Lord's the beginning of knowledge. But we're saying, oh, the government should educate these kids. Well, guess what? If you don't have the right philosophy, they'll never get educated. The fear of the Lord's the beginning of knowledge. And if we think secular education's going to make our kids smart we're nuts. It will not happen. See, we've let the culture conform us. It's time to re-conform the culture.
How non-fundamentalist or non-Christian parents would respond to public schools teaching their children "fear of the Lord" was not considered, nor were the church-state separation problems this approach would create. To boot, Barton's assessment of the U.S. educational system is too simplistic. To assume that literacy problems erupt from refusal to teach "fear of the Lord" ignores the complex roots of illiteracy, including the roles of poverty, pedagogy, and learning disabilities.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)

Michele Bachmann Speaks at Calvary Bible Church

On Sunday, October 23rd, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) spoke at Calvary Bible Church, an independent Bible Church in Osceola, Iowa. C-SPAN posted a video of Bachmann's appearance here, and I'd like to share some quotes from her talk.

Bachmann's talk began with an account of her Norwegian ancestors' journey to America, and their eventual arrival in Jericho, Iowa. She also discussed her the financial struggles of her mother and siblings after her parents divorced, adding that her mother vowed not to go on public assistance. Despite her religious upbringing, Bachmann did not have a strong Christian epiphany until high school. One Halloween, when she and her friends went to a church late at night, Bachmann said that the Holy Spirit spoke to them in their hearts. Afterwards, she relished reading the Bible, for its words had become alive for her.

Bachmann described her husband Marcus as a "godly" man whom she met during their time at Winona State University. The two attended a film series by Francis Schaeffer called How Should We Then Live?, which argued that abortion was the "watershed" issue of the times, given that how people see the abortion issue shapes their view of other issues. This message struck a cord with both Michele and Marcus, who later counseled pregnant women and drove them to "pro-life alternative" centers.

In my opinion, the meatiest parts of Bachmann's talk came afterwards, when she answered several questions posed by senior pastor Matthew Floyd. At the 32:55 mark, Bachmann discussed prayer and the presidency.

FLOYD: Obviously, prayer has been taken out of the schools, and I think that's when test scores, and I believe that's when everything started going downhill. But when President Roosevelt, when he was president, while our troops were storming the beaches of Normandy, he led the nation in prayer. You know, people think, how could you do that? But FDR did that at that time. If you had the opportunity, as president, would that be something that you would do? Follow in the footsteps of him in that way?

BACHMANN: Yes. I think that a president doesn't loose their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression and religious worship and liberty. And I would be most pleased to do that, to lead the nation in prayer ... Certainly, our nation wisely does not have an established national church. That's what our founders didn't want. They were right to stand for religious liberty. We don't demand that any president have a certain faith, and we don't demand that people in this country go and worship at a certain church. But also, if you look at the first amendment, government also shouldn't prohibit religious speech and religious expression, particularly in the public square. That's why you have a First Amendment, because Congress is not to establish a law against the free expression of religious worship. And I think it's time that people of faith stand up and not be fearful and stand for our faith because that's one of the freedoms that our founders bled and died for, to give to each one of us.
I see no problems with a president worshipping privately, but the president also serves as the leader and public face of a diverse country. Whether a president leading the country in prayer would be appropriate in a religiously diverse nation was not discussed.

At the 38:00 mark, Bachmann discussed parents' responsibility for the education of their children. Interestingly, her answer to Pastor Floyd's question focused on homeschooling and literacy, rather than topics such as the state of public schools or funding for education.

PASTOR FLOYD: Whose responsibility do you think it is to educate children, and who gave them that responsibility? Two part question.

BACHMANN: The responsibility to educate children belongs to the parents. God has given children children to parents, and God has given that responsibility to parents. My husband and I both took that responsibility very seriously. We believed again that it is our responsibility as parents to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to our children, but we also believe that it was our responsibility to make sure that they were educated ... I would say in our own life, for my husband and I, we made sure that we homeschooled our biological children first at home, because we wanted to make sure they could read. If children can read, they can practically educate themselves if they're motivated to read. And so we tried to put in our children a love for learning ... Ultimately, the responsibility as parents--and parents may delegate that responsibility out to someone else--but ultimately it's parents that have that responsibility.
Bachmann's talk serves as a reminder of her conservative Christian worldview and the role it would play in her policies if she were elected president. By speaking warmly of Israel, praising homeschooling, and reassuring listeners that she would lead the country in prayer, she provided a talk that would resonate with her conservative Christian audience.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

Des Moines Register: Michele Bachmann Shares Her Faith at Osceola Church

Time: Bachmann's Sunday Morning in Iowa

Washington Independent: Bachmann Gives Faith Testimony at Iowa Church

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

SPLC Hatewatch: Lively’s Letter to LGBT Community: I Love You, But You Are Sinners

Salon: The Next Front in the Abortion Wars: Birth Control

Politicus USA: Evangelicals Link Teaching Evolution to School Violence

Talking Points Memo: No Apology From Rush Limbaugh For Defending ‘Christian’ Terrorists

Box Turtle Bulletin: Paul Cameron in Moldova

Media Matters: Pat Buchanan's History Of Anti-LGBT Bigotry

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: Fix This, Not Me!

News Tidbits

Huffington Post: Religion And Discipline: Report Explores Punishing Children In The Name Of Religion

New York Times: Push for ‘Personhood’ Amendment Represents New Tack in Abortion Fight

Bloomberg: Uganda Parliament Votes to Continue Anti-Homosexual Bill

The Advocate: Gay Marriage Opponents Want Apology from Cuomo

Minnesota Independent: Rick Santorum talks sodomy laws on Bradlee Dean’s radio show

Wausau Daily Herald: Abortion clinic plot suspect granted extension for competency exam

American Independent: Rallyers at Detroit prayer event want to convert Muslims

Colorado Independent: Anti-gay rights Christian groups fear harassment after California disclosure ruling

Texas Independent: Founder of group financing Pastor Policy Briefings, ‘The Response’ endorses Perry

Texas Independent: Texas DMV considering ‘One State Under God’ license plates

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Anarchy! Anarchy!

(10/28/11 UPDATE: Since I can no longer embed Jacob's RPN video, you can watch it in its entirety at www[dot]generals[dot]org/index.php?id=3498)

She's at it again! Cindy Jacobs, who habitually attributes supernatural causes to events, now claims that the powers of darkness are behind tensions in our country.

In an October 12th prayer alert for the Reformation Prayer Network, Jacobs acknowledged that people are struggling through tough economic times and that systemic corruption exists. However, she also warned that an evil force was trying to cultivate anarchy and unrest around the globe, a possible reference to Occupy Wall Street. At the 0:40 mark, she had this to say.

"We've been having demonstrations at Wall Street, you know, and we can say there's validity to what people are saying. People have lost their jobs, and people are hurting. But the Lord showed me that there was a clear principality, a power of darkness as it were that is coming against the nation ... And the Lord would say there's a spirit of anarchy trying to arise in the land. In fact, it's not something just happening, says the Lord, in America, but other nations as well. And it is trying to shift nations to begin to literally see powers of darkness come in that will begin to foment revolutions, begin to cause massive unrest that will spark civil unrest. And the Lord would say that it is a time to stand on the watch and pray, for surely nations are at tipping points."
Jacobs, like some right-wing commentators, cast the protests as "class warfare," At the 1:59 mark, she railed against forces that would cultivate hatred and class warfare.

"And this spirit of anarchy, says the Lord, would like to come in and tip the scale, where not only there was massive civil unrest, but in some places it could lead to actually like civil wars between peoples, between classes ... And the Lord would say there are those who would love to breed hatred in the darkness, even class warfare."
Jacobs insisted that the solution did not lie in a "counterfeit plan of wealth distribution," but in people hating poverty as well as "systemic corruption and greed." She claimed that God will use this time to expose and break apart corrupt systems, such as the banking system.

Um . . . isn't that what the Occupy movement is about? I thought.

I find it odd that Jacobs frowns upon poverty and corrupt systems, but then suggests that protests against these things are the machinations of demons.

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. For additional commentary, visit the following link.

The New Civil Rights Movement: Occupy Wall Street is the Work of Satan, Suggests "Prophet" Cindy Jacobs

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Throwing Bricks: A Christian School Hosting AFTAH and Scott Lively Vandalized

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that on October 15th, a Christian school scheduled to host an appearance by anti-gay activist Scott Lively was vandalized. Early that Saturday, someone threw bags of bricks through the windows and glass door panels of Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, IL. The bags reportedly contained messages such as "Shut Down Lively" and "Quit the Homophobic S___."

AFTAH founder Peter LaBarbera reportedly called the vandalism a hate crime. Someone using the pseudonym "Pissed" posted a statement at Chicago Indymedia claiming responsibility for the vandalism, writing that the incident was meant to demonstrate the consequences of homophobia.

Lively, author of the anti-gay book The Pink Swastika and a nominee for Human Rights Watch's Homophobia Hall of Shame, was scheduled to speak that weekend at a banquet for Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). The Gay Liberation Network, which organized a protest of the banquet, said in an online statement that it did not know who perpetrated the vandalism.

Several LGBT rights advocates have voiced opinions about the incident.

Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson One of Olbermann's "Worst Persons in the World"

Remember Linda Thompson, the Harrisburg mayor who was the subject of this February protest? On the October 20th edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann listed Thompson as one of "worst persons in the world," citing the fact that her participation in a June prayer event did not affect Harrisburg's current financial woes. More details here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rush Limbaugh and the Lord's Resistance Army

ABC News reports that President Obama has authorized the deployment of approximately 100 U.S. forces to Uganda, with the purpose of helping regional forces to capture or kill Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony and other LRA senior leaders. According to PBS News, Kony has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. An October 14th press statement by the U.S. State Department said that U.S. military advisers will assist with information-sharing and planning, and will not engage LRA troops unless it is necessary for self-defense.

The Lord's Resistance Army is a militant group which has sought to overthrow the Museveni government in Uganda. The LRA has been described as a quasi-Christian group and is one of several militant groups operating in central Africa.* Human rights observers have documented the countless human rights violations perpetrated by the LRA, including massacres of civiliansabductionsrape and forced marriage of women and girls to LRA combatants, and forced conscription of child soldiers. Many internally displaced persons in Uganda were forced to become "night commuters," fleeing their homes or camps at night to escape the depredations of the LRA.

The LRA has inflicted unspeakable atrocities throughout central Africa, so who could possibly defend such thugs? Who indeed.

On the October 14th edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh framed Obama's measure as an attack on a Christian group that is fighting Muslims. According to a transcript of the show, Limbaugh had this to say. (See

"Lord's Resistance Army are Christians.  They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.  And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them.  That's what the lingo means, "to help regional forces remove from the battlefield," meaning capture or kill. So that's a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda ... Lord's Resistance Army objectives.  I have them here.  "To remove dictatorship and stop the oppression of our people." Now, again Lord's Resistance Army is who Obama sent troops to help nations wipe out."
Limbaugh later asked a caller "how do you react to the news that Obama has dispatched a hundred soldiers to fight radical Christians in Africa?"

According to Media Matters, some of Limbaugh's fans, perhaps unaware of the LRA's history, expressed outrage that the Obama administration had supposedly sent troops to kill African Christians.

Fortunately, people are challenging Limbaugh's insensitive statements. On October 18th, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) read a statement on the Senate floor in which he clarified that the U.S. was not going to war with the LRA. Sen. Inhofe also provided a brief history of the LRA and its many atrocities, including torture, maiming, and use of child soldiers.

Evelyn Apoko, a survivor of LRA violence, was so disturbed by Limbaugh's words that she recorded a video entitled "Dear Mr. Limbaugh."

"I am a former abducted child. My heart breaks when I hear your message about the LRA. I experienced first-hand the pain and hatred of humanity in the LRA. I know that there is nowhere in the Bible that says Christians should treat humans like animals. I have witnessed the spirit of Joseph Kony and it is not from God. Abducting young people from their homes and forcing them to become something that is not meant to be, working day and night without food or drink, children dying of hunger, with no one to tell them it's going to be okay, brainwashing children and murdering innocent people."

Dear Mr. Limbaugh: Evelyn's Appeal from Strongheart on Vimeo.

The LRA's atrocities are not a secret. The news media has been reporting on them for years, and a quick internet search on the LRA will pull up ample information. Rush Limbaugh had no excuse for failing to do research the LRA before speaking on his show. I sincerely hope this incident was rooted in ignorance, rather than an effort to stir controversy.

Limbaugh's comments were out of line. He owes the LRA's victims an apology.

(UPDATE: Truth Wins Out's commentary on military intervention in Uganda is well-worth the read.)

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Human Rights Watch: Dear Obama: A Message from Victims of the LRA

Media Matters: Limbaugh's Latest Smear: Obama Is "Target[ing] Christians" In Uganda

The Atlantic: Why Speak Up When Rush Limbaugh Lies?

* The civil strife in central Africa has a long and complicated history, which I will not delve into here. For more information on armed conflict and militant groups in the region, I recommend the book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason Stearns.

Commentary Tidbits

Truth Wins Out: We Have To Teach Critical Thinking

Good As You: Concerned Women for Divorce-and-Remarriage as 'Traditional Family' Ideal

Frank Schaeffer: Wall Street Protests and the Religious Right

Ms. Magazine: Occupy the Vatican?

RH Reality Check: Anti-Choicers Longing for the Scarlet Letter "A"

Free Methodist Feminist: Vision Forum: The Giant of the Christian Patriarchy Movement

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Why Dominionism is a threat to LGBT people everywhere

. . . and just for laughs, here's Tom the Dancing Bug with "The Adventures of Definitely-Not-Gay-Man"

News Tidbits

The Daily Tarheel: UNC clears Psalm 100 after investigation

BBC News: Church HIV prayer cure claims 'cause three deaths'

American Independent: SBA List to use House approval of anti-abortion bill as evidence in defamation suit

Iowa Independent: Faith in Politics: Iowans agree religion exploited

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Janet Mefferd Lists Occupy Wall Street, Homosexuality, Abortion Under Rejection of God

Clearly, several members of the Religious Right disapprove of Occupy Wall Street, promoting a litany of stereotypes about its participants (see here and here). However, a right-wing Christian radio host has spoken of Occupy Wall Street in the same breath as abortion and homosexuality, two things that the Religious Right views with moral disgust.

On the October 17th edition of The Janet Mefferd Show, Mefferd interviewed Mike Wilson, founder of iamthe53percent[dot]com. Before she spoke with Wilson, she spoke for several minutes about how our society supposedly devalues marriage, claiming that several major networks have jumped on the "anti-marriage bandwagon." After sharing audio clips about women who have chosen to remain single, Mefferd argued that marriage is optional for people now because "we've taken morals off the table." Thanks to contraception and abortion, she insisted, women can be "promiscuous" without consequences.

This mentality, she argued, is rooted in a "pagan mindset" that rejects the authority of God. At the 13:05 mark of this audio (www[dot]janetmefferdpremium[dot]com/2011/10/17/janet-mefferd-radio-show-20111017-hr-2/), Mefferd listed abortion, homosexuality, and Occupy Wall Street as consequences of this mindset.

"This is the mindset, it’s more of a pagan mindset. I go back all the time to the movement of ancient paganism because it is on the rise. Whether people call themselves pagan or not, that’s what is at root here. People challenge the traditional authority of God. And when you challenge the authority of God, what happens next? It’s like a sea of dominoes, one goes over it hits the next one, it hits the next one, it hits the next one. If there is no God, if I don’t go to church, if I reject Christianity, if I reject the Bible, all bets are off. I can do whatever I want. I can go down to the Occupy Wall Street protests and scream about the bankers. I can go out in the woods and beat a drum and worship an owl if I want to. I can have sex with whomever I want as often as I want with no consequences, and if I do become pregnant I can just go get an abortion, and then I can march in the streets and talk about women’s rights and reproductive health. And eventually, I can talk about how wonderful homosexuality is and how it’s just another alternative lifestyle and it’s all about love."
Mefferd makes the tired assumption that rejecting fundamentalist Christianity automatically leads to a rejection of morality, which it does not. Non-fundamentalists do embrace many forms of morality, but because they look different from fundamentalist morality, Mefferd refuses to acknowledge them. Later, at the 14:27 mark, Mefferd claimed that such "rebellion" is really bondage.

"True freedom is in Jesus Christ. It's not in the world. It's not in sexual immorality. It's not in rebellion. It's not in any of these movements that we're seeing on the ascendancy in our culture. Those things are bondage."
I think many people would disagree with her: the gay man who can live openly without shame, the woman who can postpone (or forgo) marriage and childbearing until she is ready, the spiritual seeker who can tread a path other than fundamentalism, and the demonstrators who can raise their voices against economic injustice. I don't see bondage in these things; I see moral progress.

Religious Right disgust for homosexuality and reproductive rights is nothing new, but Mefferd's disgust for Occupy Wall Street surprised me. By lumping it together with homosexuality and abortion, she framed it in a sinful light as rebellion against God, but why? Her contempt for the Occupy Wall Street protesters was apparent at the 23:11 mark ...
"I think a lot of us who are watching the Occupy Wall Street people just, you know, hang around for weeks on end and not bathe. There are a lot of us who are working so hard and thinking to ourselves, get a job and stop protesting and quit complaining. You live in the greatest country in the world. Get to work."
... but her moral indignation at the movement baffled me. To brand the Occupy Wall Street protesters as somehow misguided, lazy, or dirty is one thing, but to view them as in rebellion against God makes little sense to me.

It's a shame, because Mefferd does sense that political and corporate forces wield considerable power over society. At the 4:27 mark, she had this to say.

"I think we're often intimidated by the elites. We're intimidated by the big guns. We're intimidated by the powerful. The mainstream media is so powerful. The politicians are so powerful. These big rich guys and kingmakers in our culture, they're winning. And here we are, Christians. All we have is the cross."
Unfortunately, the power of these elites can be grossly misused, and thus the forces wielding this power must be held accountable so that they wield it responsibly and ethically. This, I think, is what Occupy Wall Street is about, but Mefferd does not see it this way.

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Lez Get Real: Mefferd: Pagans Seek to Destroy Christianity Through Homosexuality

Commentary Tidbits

Jezebel: Operation Rescue Reveals Identity of Anonymous Abortion Doctor, Because Abortion Is Like Bank Robbery

Talking Points Memo: Rick Perry And Wife Agree: They’ve Been ‘Brutalized’ Because Of Their Faith 

Alternet: As Attacks on Planned Parenthood Aim for Sex-Ed Funding, Let's Remember How Bad Religious-Back Abstinence Programs Are

Talk to Action: IHOP Head Mike Bickle Predicts Coming “Prison Camps” for Jews

Media Matters: O'Reilly: "There Is An Anti-Christian Bias In The Mainstream Media. ... And I'm Not Wrong On This"

News Tidbits

New York Times: For Bachmann, God and Justice Were Intertwined

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Fight for global decriminalization of homosexuality finds powerful allies

Chicago Sun-Times: Christian school vandalized before anti-gay speaker’s appearance

Telegraph: Bishop of London attacks top public school after it demolishes its chapel

American Independent: Live Action plans exposé on Planned Parenthood sex-ed programs

Minnesota Independent: Archdiocese plans anti-gay marriage committees in every Minnesota Catholic church

Monday, October 17, 2011

Even More Right-Wingers Sneer at Occupy Wall Street

On Friday, Republic of Gilead shared a few examples of right-wing figures scoffing at Occupy Wall Street. Even more right-wing voices have condemned the movement since then, and I can barely keep up!

Along with the usual accusations that the protesters are silly kids who want to take "handouts" instead of work, right-wing voices now accuse the demonstrators of anti-Semitism and submission to a hidden Democrat agenda. Once again, rather than analyze the roots of the Occupy Wall Street protests -- economic injustice -- some figures prefer to lampoon and demonize the demonstrators.

First, on the October 14th edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Rush Limbaugh called the protesters "spoiled rotten kids" who are allegedly being manipulated by President Obama and the Democratic party. (Hat tip to Media Matters.)
"I think these protesters do not have a point. They are demanding more government, more regulations, and higher taxes, and they wonder why they're unemployed. It's a waste of time to try to treat these demonstrations as if they're based on anything legitimate. There's not a rational, legitimate aspect of these people's agenda. This is not an intellectual movement, it's a temper tantrum by a bunch of spoiled rotten kids who don't know anything ... Their list of demands has been dictated by the Washington establishment. Every thought in these protesters' heads has been put there by the Democrat party and the news media. They're being used as campaign fodder by Obama and the Democrats. These are the genuine, real, mind-numbed robots."

In an October 14th commentary in the Washington Times, ex-rocker Ted Nugent called the protesters a barrage of nasty names, including "softheaded numbskulls," "useful idiots," "stinky hippies," and "generational slaves to Fedzilla." After a few jabs at Michael Moore, he mocked Occupy Wall Street as "anti-American socialism on parade."

During the October 17th edition of Focal Point, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association spoke of Occupy Wall Street, President Obama, and other political figures in the same breath as Nazism. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"Not only does Barack Obama, not only does Nancy Pelosi, not only does Debbie Wasserman Schultz all endorse the Occupy movement, it turns out that the Community Party in the United States and the Nazi parties in the United States all endorse the Occupy Wall Street movement ... The American Nazi Party now has joined Barack Obama, the American Nazi Party now has joined Nancy Pelosi, the American Nazi Party now has joined Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic Party, to officially endorse the Occupy Wall Street movement, along with the Socialist Party of the USA. Here is what the Nazi party said about the Occupy Wall Street thing: "I urgently urge all of you to take part and join in when these protests hit your neck of the woods. Produce some flyers explaining the Jew-banker influence. Don’t wear anything marking you as an evil racist, and get out there and spread the word." A lot of anti-Semitism at this Occupy Wall Street movement."

The American Independent reports that former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert unveiled a petition drive called "End the Occupation." The End the Occupation website claims that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators embrace "flawed values" and have a "false sense of entitlement" to "government handouts." The petition drive seeks signatures which will be submitted to President Obama, urging him to denounce the "angry Occupy mob." To visit the website, click here

In an October 14th post at the Heritage Foundation's Foundry blog, Lachlan Markay discussed the postponement of a clean-up of Zucotti Park in New York City. The post claimed that Occupy Wall Street has been "characterized by shows of violence, lawlessness, and occasional anti-Semitism."  

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Think Progress: Limbaugh Says Global Warming, Occupy Wall Street Part of "Sybil" Conspiracy

Raw Story: Failed Banker Turned Senate Candidate Funds "End the Occupation" Website

The Progressive Puppy: Right-Wing Pol Tom Leppert Scorns 99% Protesters

Addicting Info: Ted Nugent Calls Occupy Wall Street ‘Anti-American,’ ‘Useful Idiots’ And ‘Stooges’

Friday, October 14, 2011

Right-Wing Voices Scoff at Occupy Wall Street

Republic of Gilead has a post on the Stop the Machine and Occupy D.C. demonstrations in Washington D.C., as well as commentary links on the Occupy Wall Street movement. For this post, I'd like to direct attention to the hostile comments some right-wing voices have made about the movement.

Whatever one might think of Occupy Wall Street's strategy, the motivations behind it are genuine. Too many Americans have fallen victim to hard economic times, with no help in sight. Meanwhile, the close relationship between corporations and lawmakers angers those who believe in democracy. There is a hunger for economic justice in this country, and Occupy Wall Street is channeling that hunger into something positive.

However, many voices on the far right do not agree. As the Occupiers grow in strength and numbers, several right-wing figures continue to mock the movement, accusing it of a litany of wrongs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Too Awesome Not to Share

I saw this truck near Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C., where October 2011 Stop the Machine set up an encampment. Pure, unadulterated, 100% natural awesome.

Walking Through Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square

Demonstrators marching at Freedom Plaza
The news media and blogosphere have turned their attention to Occupy Wall Street and its many offshoots in cities across America (and now Europe). Average citizens, sick of economic injustice and the intimacy between corporations and government, have come together to demand justice. Reports are emerging about police beatings and use of pepper spray on protesters, but the Occupiers remain undeterred. Naturally, I wanted to see the movement for myself.

On Saturday, October 8th, I traveled to Washington D.C. to infiltrate observe the 2011 Values Voters Summit. While in Washington, I visited Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square to take in the Occupy D.C. and October 2011 Stop the Machine camps, respectively. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, demonstrators were protesting at the National Air and Space Museum, where a guard use pepper spray on at least one person.)

As I walked toward Freedom Plaza, my stomach tightened when I saw smoke rising in the distance.

Oh God. What's happening down there? I thought.

My alarm was unwarranted, thankfully. When I arrived, I saw that the smoke was rising from grills and ovens at the Taste of D.C. festival along Pennsylvania Avenue, right next to Freedom Plaza. Whew!

Memorial to those killed in Iraq
and Afghanistan at Freedom Plaza

I arrived just in time to see a procession of several hundred marching demonstrators, toting signs and shouting "We are the 99 percent!" Many of the demonstrators looked to be in their twenties and thirties, but people of all ages were present in the procession.

Along the rim of Freedom Plaza, demonstrators left cardboard signs emblazoned with economic justice and anti-war slogans. Nearby, a makeshift memorial reminded visitors of the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rows of combat boots and a circle of shoes surrounded a sign mourning servicemember and civilian deaths.

In the heart of the plaza, occupiers set up hundreds of sleeping bags and tents for their stay. Behind them, colorful banners with progressive slogans waved in the breeze like Tibetan prayer flags. Art displays were scattered throughout the plaza, including an art instillation of an undertaker's cart, in which Mother Earth stood over the dead body of an oligarch. I passed a giant blue and green Earth, where a woman was taking a photograph of her friend. A stage with a giant Constitution in the background stood in the center of the plaza, but I'd arrived too late in the day to hear any performers or talks.

Encampment at Freedom Plaza

Progressive organizations such as The World Can't Wait manned tables and distributed literature. Food Not Bombs manned a free food table decked with fresh strawberries, crackers, and heaping plates of black beans and rice. I was struggling with guilt pangs over giving registration money to FRC Action to observe the Values Voters Summit, so I left a few dollars in the Food Not Bombs donation jar.

Several blocks away at McPherson Square, a smaller cluster of a few dozen demonstrators set up camp. Amidst sleeping bags and a food table serving sandwiches, a chalkboard listed the camp's committees and daily agenda. Cardboard signs sat in a circle around the park's statue.

The atmosphere at was energized at Freedom Plaza and peaceful at McPherson Square, and I felt far more at home there than I did at the Values Voters Summit. Still, I couldn't help but feel doubts. Large-scale demonstrations are good ways to encourage networking and revive activists' energies, but I genuinely wondered what camping out and marching would achieve. I left Washington with nagging doubts about what would ultimately result from the Occupiers' efforts.

Maybe I was too hasty.

Days later, I read about the concrete policy demands proposed by Occupy Wall Street, as well as their declaration of occupation. I read about about New York protesters marching through the Upper East Side, through neighborhoods occupied by billionaires, to pressure the state to extend a surcharge tax on the wealthy. I read about Occupy Chicago protesting at a party for the Mortgage Bankers Association. I read about protesters marching onto Capitol Hill in an attempt to shut down the U.S. Senate. I read about members of the Washington D.C. council acknowledging the right of Stop the Machine and Occupy D.C. to set up encampments and protest.

Chalkboard at McPherson Square

I want to be wrong about my doubts. I want to see the Occupy movement bring about positive changes in the country's political and corporate establishments. I want to see concrete government and corporate policy change result from these passionate efforts. The movement is widespread, and the economic frustration of its participants is genuine. If the Occupy movement can bring out lobbying efforts, voter mobilization, and policy change, its protests will not have been in vain. Only time will tell, but the movement shows no signs of slowing down.

Freak Out Nation has been meticulously documenting Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, so please check them out. For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

BBC News: Ben & Jerry's declares a taste for Wall Street protest

Huffington Post: Occupy DC: McPherson Square Gets Tents, A Visit From The Police

Politicus USA: The Truth About The Occupy DC Pepper Spray Incident At The Air and Space Museum

Almost Diamonds: Understanding Occupy Wall Street

Infidel753: Occupation Distraction

Mature Landscaping: The Right Question for the Occupation

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Americans United for Separation of Church and State: Congressional Leaders, Presidential Candidates Court Religious Right, As Theocratic Movement Gears Up For 2012

Religion News Service: Seven things we learned from the Values Voter Summit 

A Feather Adrift: Annual Grifters Conference Held in Shangri-La

Stephanie's Written Word: When She Woke

Salon: Introducing: A Tea People's History

Military Religious Freedom Foundation: A Triumph for the Constitution at the US Air Force Academy

Katha Pollitt at the Nation: Ban Birth Control? They Wouldn't Dare ...

The Atheist Experience: Matt Slick defends "honor killing": a woman's hymen is worth more than her life

Friendly Atheist: An Atheist Goes to a Christian Men's Conference,
Part 1 and Part 2

(Hat tip to Infidel753 for several of these links)

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Judge rejects appeal of Ohio teacher fired for allegedly preaching religious beliefs in class

Washington Post: Poll: Three in four pastors say Mormons aren’t Christian

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Eddie Long, New Birth seek to recoup settlement money

CNN: Straddling the line between church and politics in 2012 GOP race

Christian Science Monitor: Sex, race, and religion: Speed bumps along the campaign trail

Toronto Sun: School prayer 'slippery slope,' rally told

Edge Boston: Santorum: Race is Identity, Gay is Sexual Conduct

My Northwest: Gay Be Gone! Michele Bachmann's Ex-Lesbian Friend Can Pray your Gay Away

"Don't Be The Weird One"

Gil Mertz, the Family Research Council's regional director of development, served as master of ceremonies at the 2011 Values Voters Summit. At the beginning of the summit on Friday, October 7th, he urged attendees not to be "the weird one."
"Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous members of the media who will go out of their way to find the weirdest person they can. They will provoke you, they will try to get you to say or do something that they can film and show on their air and say, 'See? This is what all Values Voters are like.' So repeat it with me. Don't be the weird one. That's my job."
:: facepalm ::

Right-Wingers Weren't the Only Voices at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

American Atheists table outside the
2011 Values Voters Summit
Many of the right-wing messages at the 2011 Values Voters Summit caused observers some consternation. I'd like to highlight the other groups in Washington last weekend who presented an alternative message to that of the Values Voters Summit.

First, American Atheists set up an information table outside the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The people manning the table were having polite conversations with summit attendees when I swung by, and their table was stocked with atheist magazines and pamphlets. At a conference brimming with right-wing Christian rhetoric, the presence of atheists, however low-key, was refreshing.

Second, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Truth Wins Out scheduled a press conference on October 7th to draw attention to two of the summit's sponsors, the American Family Association (AFA) and the Family Research Council (FRC). The SPLC has categorized both organizations as hate groups due to their discredited anti-gay propaganda. The press conference also heralded the release of a new SPLC report, The Anti-Gay Lobby: The Family Research Council, the American Family Association, & the Demonization of LGBT People.

It comforts me to know that the troubling messages of Values Voters Summit participants have not gone unnoticed. Kudos to the SPLC, Truth Wins Out, and American Atheists for their efforts.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Think Progress: Southern Poverty Law Center Reminds GOP of the Hate Groups Behind Values Voters Summit

Joe.My.God: Fischer vs. SPLC

Reproductive Issues at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

Plastic fetuses at the Pro-Life
Across America table at the
2011 Values Voters Summit
(To read about tensions between evangelicals and Mormons at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, click here. To read about homophobia at the summit, click here. To read about science and nature at the summit, click here. To read about Glenn Beck's talk, click here.)

What would a Religious Right event be without anti-abortion rhetoric? Abortion and LGBT rights are perhaps the most central issues to the Religious Right, and the Values Voters Summit provided right-wing leaders with an opportunity to denounce both.

First, I was struck by the strong presence of anti-abortion organizations in the exhibit room, with information tables from Pro-Life Across America, Crossroads Pro-Life, Americans United for Life, and several other groups present. Even organizations that did not focus exclusively on abortion spoke of it in their literature. For example, the Samaritan Ministries table had pamphlets that read, "Do You Support Abortion, Sexual Immorality, Drug & Alcohol Abuse with Your Health Insurance?"

In the main ballroom, Values Voter Summit speakers wasted no time in denouncing abortion and its defenders. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins criticized the Obama administration's stance on abortion and contraception. At the 15:10 mark of C-SPAN's Friday morning coverage video, he had this to say.
"And let's look at the social values of this president. Overturn the Mexico City policy which prohibits your tax dollars from being used to promote abortion in foreign countries. Directing more and more tax dollars to ineffective and unethical embryonic stem cell research. Directing more money to the United Nations family planning which is a major funder of anti-child policies like China's one-child policy. Directing more funding to abortion through Obamacare. Mandating coverage of contraception including abortifacients by faith-based organizations."
Speaker of the House John Boehner, whose anti-abortion stance is well-known, defended the Hyde Amendment at the 30:22 mark of the C-SPAN Friday morning video.

"Making sure that the Hyde Amendment becomes the law of the land once again to prohibit federal taxpayer dollars from being used to fund elective abortion was passed by the House and we're going to continue to press to make this the law of the land."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also denounced abortion, expressing his approval of the Hyde Amendment as well. If elected president, Romney promised to end funding for Planned Parenthood and encourage the overturning of Roe v. Wade in favor of delegating abortion policies to the states.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Glenn Beck at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

Glenn Beck at the
2011 Values Voters Summit
(To read about tensions between evangelicals and Mormons at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, click here. To read about homophobia, click here. To read about science, click here. To read about reproductive issues, click here.)

Saturday afternoon of the 2011 Values Voters Summit included a highly anticipated talk by Glenn Beck. When I returned to the Omni Shoreham Hotel after lunch, there was already a long line forming outside the main ballroom. Hundreds of people formed a line that spilled into the hallway, all eager to have a seat in the ballroom when Beck spoke.

After a talk by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the moment had arrived. Glenn Beck walked on stage to the sound of thunderous applause from the audience. As I listened to his talk, I was struck not only by his preacher-like delivery (also apparent at the Restoring Courage rally), but how his message alternated between praise for American glory and contempt for leftists.

Beck began his speech by describing America at the time of the Civil War, when both North and South seethed with anger and longed for revenge. During an incident in which his vice president was drunk and belligerent, President Lincoln calmed him by saying, "and with malice toward none." Malice is not the correct path, Beck said, an ironic quote from a man with a history of mean-spirited statements.

News & Commentary Tidbits: 2011 Values Voters Summit Edition

Christian Science Monitor: Why Ron Paul did well among social conservatives at the Values Voter Summit

News One: America Needs A True Revolution Of Values

SPLC Hatewatch: Extremists of Many Stripes Gather at Values Voter Summit 2011

Huffington Post: GOP Campaigns Court 'Values Voters' at D.C. Summit

Talking Points Memo: Rick Santorum: When Selecting Candidate, ‘Look At Who They Lay Down With At Night’

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Science and Nature at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

(To read about homophobia at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, click here. To read about tensions between evangelicals and Mormons, click here. To read about reproductive issues, click here. To read about Glenn Beck's speech, click here.)

So far, this blog has covered anti-Mormon and anti-gay rhetoric at the 2011 Values Voters Summit. I'd also like to discuss what some speakers were saying about science and nature. Although science and nature did not figure as prominently as other issues at the summit, what two speakers said nevertheless deserve attention.

First, in his opening speech, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins listed several Obama administration economic policies he disagreed with. At the 15:00 mark of this C-SPAN Friday morning coverage video, Perkins insisted that environmental regulations were supposedly detrimental to job creation, saying "there's the EPA's global warming crusade that is choking out the businesses that create the very jobs that Washington promises."

Perkins thus tried to delegitimize climate change as a "crusade", framing the EPA's efforts as somehow inimical to America's economic health. Memories of Herman Cain's contempt for the EPA at the Fox News/Google debate immediately came to mind. The idea that unabated climate change could have a detrimental impact on the economy, not to mention public health, was never considered.

Second, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer made the outrageous claim that a president who believes in evolution would not safeguard the people's rights.

"I submit to you that not a single one of our inalienable rights will be safe in the hands of a president who believes that we evolved from slime and we are the descendants of apes and baboons. Now if you doubt me, look at the nation-states in the 20th century which rejected the creator god of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Nazi Germany. Stalinist Russia. Communist China. The one thing all these secular states share in common is dead bodies."

First, Bryan, supporters of evolution do not posit that humans evolved from apes; they argue that humans and modern apes had a common ancestor. Second, there have been many non-Christian countries that did not devolve into fascism and mass murder. The leaps in logic were breathtaking.

In effect, Fischer was framing evolution as a moral issue. In Fischer's worldview, belief in evolution is incompatible with belief in the Christian God, and therefore incompatible with morality as he understands it. Unfortunately, such a worldview could make it very easy to demonize those who accept evolution.

Perkins is not alone in his antipathy toward climate change policies, and that Fischer is not alone in his views on evolution and morality. Indeed their rhetoric may shed light on why some right-wing people continue to look askance at evolution and climate change. Importantly, both evolution and climate change suggest that humans are not independent of or superior to nature, but part of it, and that our existence is intertwined with that of other life forms and our environment. This concept, I think, is what right-wing Christians such as Perkins and Fischer may find so unpalatable.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Fischer: Rights Endangered if President Believes in Evolution

Little Green Footballs: Unreal: At Values Voter Summit, Bryan Fischer Says Rights Are Endangered if President Believes in Evolution

Thoughts from Kansas: Dispatch from the Values Voters Summit