Filosofa Rants Yet Again!

I was seriously trying to work on a post about banned books for Banned Books Week when I took a brief break and while perusing a bit of news and some other blogs briefly, I came across something that made my blood boil.  All hope of me finishing my banned books post tonight is gone … perhaps tomorrow, but for tonight I have a brief rant, and then I’m going to bed to read for a while and try to calm my shattered psyche.

Who or what has sent me into a tailspin?  A man by the name of John Gibbs from Michigan who is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November’s election.  According to Wikipedia …

John Gibbs is an American far-right political commentator and politician. A member of the Republican Party, Gibbs was a software engineer and missionary before entering politics. During the Donald Trump administration, he held roles in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was acting Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Community Planning and Development.

In July 2020, Trump nominated Gibbs to be director of the United States Office of Personnel Management, but he was never confirmed by the Senate. Gibbs promoted Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. He is a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 elections, having defeated incumbent Peter Meijer in the Republican Party primary election for Michigan’s 3rd congressional district.

Okay, pretty much your typical maga-Republican, nothing new or out of the ordinary there, right?  Well, just wait.  As a student at Stanford University in the early 2000s, Gibbs founded a self-described “think tank” called the Society for the Critique of Feminism.  Here is some of what he had to say there …

“The Bible clearly articulates the idea that women should not teach or maintain positions of power. Although the reason is not expressly mentioned, it must be due to the nature of women (i.e. their differing mental characteristics), since every other command for living in the Bible is based on the condition of man. In other words, because women do not possess the characteristics necessary to govern, and since women have a more important task to do, which is to prepare the next generation, they are commanded not to rule.

And since Christianity is the historical foundation of American society, with all of the rights and freedoms expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, which we enjoy to this very day, being expressly and unmistakenly God-given, it is incumbent upon us to consider the relationship that our Christian/cultural heritage, which is so important to so many Americans, shares with feminism, which threatens to unravel the social fabric which has produced one of the marvels of mankind.

Some argue that in a democratic society, it is hypocritical or unjust for women, who are 50% of the population, not to have the vote. This is obviously not true, since the founding fathers, who understood liberty and democracy better than anyone, did not believe so. In addition, all people under age 18 cannot vote, although they too comprise a significant portion of the population. So we cannot say that women should be able to vote simply because they are a large part of the population.

We conclude that increasing the size and scope of government is unequivocally bad. And since women’s suffrage has caused this to occur on a larger scale than any other cause in history, we conclude that the United States has suffered as a result of women’s suffrage.”

And now you understand why I have steam coming out of my ears.

Somebody might want to remind him that those same ‘founding fathers’ also didn’t believe that people with his skin colour ought to be allowed to vote!!!  Oh what a hypocrite this man is!

Anne Marie Schieber, a spokesperson for Gibbs’ campaign, attempted to mitigate and control the damage when his views on women were made public, saying that he was only trying “to provoke the left on campus and to draw attention to the hypocrisy of some modern-day feminists. It was nothing more than a college kid being over the top.”  Oh no, sweet cheeks … this was downright blatant misogyny, putting down women in the worst possible way!  This was no little college prank.  And given Gibbs’ current conspiracy theorist tendencies, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that he still feels that women are so far inferior to men that we should not be allowed to put on shoes and leave the kitchen, let alone vote or god forbid run for office!  Bastard!

Back in 2020, Trump nominated Gibbs to head the Office of Personnel Management.  During the Senate confirmation hearings, it came out that Gibbs had he had spread the false conspiracy theory that claimed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman took part in a satanic ritual … that conspiracy theory, known as Pizzagate, led to Edgar Maddison Welch entering a pizza restaurant on 4 December 2016 armed with an AR-15, and randomly fired shots.

The only reason Mr. Gibbs’ name will be on the ballot this November is because the incumbent for that seat, Representative Peter Meijer, was ostracized by the GOP for voting to impeach Trump in 2020.  Therefore, Gibbs received that all-important ‘seal of approval’ from the former guy and won his primary.  He faces … oh the irony … Hillary Scholten, the Democrat running for the seat, and as of today, Gibbs is polling 9 points behind Ms. Scholten!  I would love to be a fly on the wall when he loses to … of all people … one of those women for whom he has zero respect!

The Right To Be You

I think that the ‘wall of separation’ between Church and State is critical to maintaining the democratic foundations of this nation.  If 100% of all people who vote and pay taxes in the nation were of the same religious beliefs, then it might not be critical, then a theocracy might be workable.  But in this nation where there are so many different religions, to form a theocracy would be to enslave a large portion of the populace.  Yes, I said ‘enslave’ and that is precisely what I mean.

Let me start out with an example:  What if I told you that there is a bill before Congress to ban the production and consumption of pork and pork products?  (No, there isn’t really such a bill … this is a hypothetical … bear with me here).  The reason?  Well, two of this nation’s major religions, Islam and Judaism, prohibit the consumption of pork and pork products, so in a nod to those two religions, the government must ban pork products.

“BUT … I’m neither Muslim nor Jewish!!!! I want my bacon!!!”

… you decry.  Well, you may have a point there.  But then … I’m not Christian, so why should I have to live under the laws of that religion?  Why should I be forbidden from having an abortion, or marrying a person of my own gender?  Do you get what I’m saying here?  Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

There is no single religion that is sanctioned by the government or by the United States Constitution, contrary to what some would have us believe.  ‘They’ claim that the U.S. is a Christian nation, but NO, it is NOT.  There are Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and in addition, some 23%, nearly a quarter of the population, are ‘unaffiliated’ atheists and agnostics.  We may not be Christians, but we work hard, we send our children to public schools, and we pay taxes just like the Christians do!  Why should we be treated as second-class citizens, as strangers in our own land?

There are many issues swirling around in the political maelstrom these days … divisive and controversial issues made more so by the white nationalist and white supremacist movements of the day.  But none, I think, is more important than this one, for the Supreme Court appears to be willing to sacrifice that ‘wall of separation’ in order to appease the right-wing evangelicals, even though said evangelicals comprise only about 25% of the populace.

One of the reason Europeans came to this country some 400+ years ago was to escape religious persecution.  And here we are, in the year 2022, trying to persecute women, Blacks, Muslims, atheists, and LGBTQ people in an effort to turn a democratic republic into a plutocratic theocracy!  Obviously, the lessons of history went straight over our heads.

I find it beyond worrisome when our elected officials make divisive comments like when Lauren Boebert refers to non-Christians as “the enemy”.  So … tell me, Ms. Boebert … if I am ‘the enemy’, why am I still paying taxes?  But she is not alone … numerous politicians and religious leaders are objecting to LGBTQ rights …

  • In response to the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) currently making its way through Congress, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota says that “In many respects, passing a bill like this really sends a pretty strong message that religious beliefs don’t matter.”
  • Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, a well-known evangelical group, said that the RFMA “has many far-reaching implications, including pedophile marriage, same-sex, child-bride, incest, polygamy and any other perversion of marriage.”

Lies, lies, and more lies.  But the lies are believed by the vulnerable.  The lies are the seeds that sow hatred and violence, that seek to exclude rather than include, that will lead to a nation forever divided if we allow it.

The biggest thing this country has had going for it is its diversity.  Theoretically, at least, we welcome people from all countries, people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions, but it seems that today, far too many shun that very diversity upon which the nation was founded.  Remember those words at the base of the Statue of Liberty?

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Do those words mean nothing today?  Should they instead read, “Send me only your white-skinned wealthy Christians”?

Separation of church and state is critical to a democracy.  Those who would claim otherwise have a different vision of what this country is, or should be, than the majority of us do.  It’s a shame that we have to pass laws to protect people’s right to be who they are, don’t you think?  I dream of a world where everyone simply accepts others as they are, no condemnation, no forcing people into boxes that all look alike.  But, until we have that world, we need laws … and in this case, we need to maintain that wall of separation between church and state.

The Road Ahead?

I cringe when I hear people say that there should be no separation of church and state, when they say that wasn’t what the Founders had in mind, or when they push for their own religious beliefs to dominate our schools and government.  I nearly lost it when I heard the uneducated congresswoman from Colorado, Lauren Boebert, say …

“I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution.  The church is supposed to direct the government.”

This nation was established as a democratic republic, NOT a theocracy.  Religion has a place in the lives of many people, but it is a choice, and has NO business on the political landscape, no business dictating government policy.  A number of things lately have led me to believe that we are shifting toward a government dominated by a single religion, thereby excluding the majority of the people in this nation.  Let’s hear what Robert Reich has to say about it …


The Republican Party: God, guns, forced birth, and strongmen

The ideology of Christian nationalism

Robert Reich, Jul 7

The link is tightening between America’s move toward theocracy and its slide toward autocracy.

It is important to understand these connections. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, its expanded reading of the Second Amendment, and its eagerness to elevate religious freedom over the Constitution’s guarantee against established religion come from the same cloth as Republican state legislative attacks on democracy, the GOP’s fealty to Trump’s Big Lie, and white supremacy.

At the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Nashville last month, speakers explicitly embraced the theology of “Dominionism” — the idea that “right-thinking” Christians have a biblically derived mandate to take control of all aspects of government and society.

Trump’s keynote at the conference made the connections explicit. He warned that the “radical Left” is “trying to destroy organized religion” and “trying to shred our Constitution,” and continued: “The greatest danger to America is not our enemies from the outside, as powerful as they may be. The greatest danger to America is the destruction of our nation from the people from within. And you know the people I’m talking about.”

Other speakers labeled Democrats “evil,” “tyrannical” and “the enemy within,” and charged that Democrats were engaged in “a war against the truth.” Senator Rick Scott of Florida predicted “the backlash is coming. Just mount up and ride to the sounds of the guns, and they are all over this country. It is time to take this country back.” Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina (the state’s first Black lieutenant governor and a virulent critic of so-called “critical race theory”) said he expected “a pitched battle to literally save this nation.” Referencing a passage from Ephesians that Christian nationalists often use to signal their militancy, Robinson added, “I don’t know about you, but I got my pack on, I got my boots on, I got my helmet on, I’ve got on the whole armor.”

The connections between these strands of rightwing ideology are growing clearer and louder — theocratic Christianity, gun violence, the subjugation of women through forced birth, and strongman authoritarianism. Christian nationalism now taking over the Republican Party envisions vigilante justice — “good guys with guns,” neighbors eavesdropping on neighbors, and action to stop what they call “abortion trafficking” — women crossing state lines to access legal abortions. Widespread access to guns is essential to keep everyone under control, suppress protests, and fuel fear.

To call this a “culture” war is to understate its true meaning and potential danger. Those of us who still believe in separating church and state, guarding reproductive rights, ensuring racial equality, ending gun violence, and protecting democracy must understand that much of the Republican Party now stands for the exact opposite of these values.

The funders and kingmakers of the Republican Party see all this for what it is: an effort to hold on to power in the face of massive demographic shifts: toward women (who now constitute 60 percent of all university enrollees, and therefore the future power structure) and people of color, and away from formal religion. Over the longer term, the Republican Party is doomed. In the meantime, with a rightwing majority on the Supreme Court, legislative majorities in states determined to suppress votes and dominate election machinery, an authoritarian strongman president waiting in the wings, and an ideology of Christian nationalism, the GOP will do what it can to hold on.

Two More Crawling From Under The Rocks

Unfortunately, Tuesday’s primaries across the nation yielded some deeply disturbing results.  I want to take a look at two, in particular – Lauren Boebert and Mary Miller.

Lauren Boebert has been a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives for a year-and-a-half now and has been nothing but trouble since day #1.  I had sincerely hoped that the Republicans in Colorado’s District 3 would see the horror they had voted for in 2020 and oust her this time ‘round, but apparently they’ve been drinking their fair share of Kool-Aid at Boebert’s Shooters Restaurant and weren’t able to see clearly when they went to the polls on Tuesday.  We all know of Boebert’s gun fetish.  During the pandemic, she sat in on a congressional Zoom meeting with a wall of many guns as her background, and she has caused trouble more than a few times demanding that she be allowed to carry a loaded pistol into places in the Capitol where guns are forbidden.

But it is her latest little tirade that has left me growling …

“The reason we had so many overreaching regulations in our nation is because the church complied. The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it. And I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution. It was in a stinking letter and it means nothing like what they say it does.”

GOOD GRIEF!!!  She took an oath swearing to uphold the Constitution, and she hasn’t even read the damned thing!  The concept of separation of church and state comes from the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment … which quite obviously Ms. Boebert either never read, or didn’t understand.  And just WHICH religion does she think should be ‘directing’ the government?  There are roughly 4,200 religions, churches, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, etc. worldwide today!  Would she advocate for … say … Islam to be the official religion of the nation?  Or Judaism?  And if she answered ‘Christianity’, then which sect or cult, for there are three main branches of Christianity:  Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox.  Among those three branches are more than 200 separate denominations in the United States alone, more than 45,000 worldwide!  So, pick a religion, and no matter which one you pick, you’re going to be excluding the vast majority of the people in the nation!  And this doesn’t even bring into account folk like me who are non-religious!  We pay taxes and have rights, too, y’know Lauren!

Representative Adam Kinzinger refers to Boebert’s ideology as the “Christian Taliban” and I cannot help but agree with him!  A woman this stupid has absolutely ZERO business sitting in the United States Congress … or any lawmaking body, for that matter … and can only be considered a laughingstock, albeit a very dangerous laughingstock.  I would like to be able to say I’m hopeful that the Democratic candidate for the 3rd District in Colorado can wipe the pavement with her on election day in November, but sadly … it’s doubtful because of the 184,794 votes cast for both parties in yesterday’s primary, Boebert scored 83,217 of the votes and her Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch, only received 24,961 votes.  Republicans scored 68% of the total votes, so it looks like the 3rd District in Colorado is populated by people who care more about their guns than their future.

And then there’s Mary Miller, another newbie in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Illinois’ 15th District who also won her primary yesterday.  I had not heard of Ms. Miller until she flew onto my radar last week with this comment after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision …

“President Trump, on behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.”

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR … 🤬

First of all, there is NO “president trump” and second of all … a victory for ‘white’ life???  What a (cover your ears, Keith!) ignorant, ugly, racist pig she is!!!  She later claimed that she meant to say “the right to life”, but I don’t believe that for a minute, for she would have caught and corrected herself immediately had that been the case, not waited until she was confronted about her comment.

Miller has done a number of troublesome things in her 18-month tenure in Congress, from quoting Hitler to introducing anti-trans legislation to passing along anti-Semitic and white supremacist propaganda, but the “white life” comment is the first time she floated onto my radar and frankly I wish she had stayed off!


So, my friends, it looks like certain parts of this nation are seeking some serious change … change that, if they are successful, is likely to drive us directly from a democratic republic into a fascist dictatorship, a nation where only white males have any value and the rest of us will be dominated by them.  Surely we’re not going to sit still for this?  Margie Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and now Mary Miller … where does it end?  Is this to be our future, or are these just momentary blips on the radar?

A Few Thoughts From My Rambling Mind

I never thought I would see the day that I considered this nation to be anti-humanitarian, a nation that cares more for wealth than for people, but today I believe we have reached that stage in the development … or rather un-development … of the country.  We can no longer hold our heads up proudly and say, “I am a U.S. citizen”, or as some would say, “I am an American.”  Nothing to take pride in there, thanks largely to fanaticism – gun fanatics, religious fanatics, and wealth fanatics for whom billions of dollars is still not enough.

Literally the only thing that matters to Republican members of Congress today is re-election.  When I read that Republicans running for re-election in states or districts where the majority voted for Democrats in 2020 refuse to comment on the outcome of the Dobbs v Jackson decision, then I think it’s obvious they have little interest in anything but their own political future.  How can we vote intelligently if the candidates will not tell us their beliefs, hide what they stand for except when they are amongst those who they know for certain share their beliefs?

Today’s Republican Party is in shambles with its members desperately trying to cling to power.  They vilify their own, but not for genuine reasons – simply because some of their own are straying from the party line, straying from the blind loyalty to the former guy.  They do not care one whit what you or I want our government to do … they care only that they are on the ‘right’ side of Donald Trump.  I would except a few from this, but the number is very few.  Obviously, Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney deserve the highest kudos for proving their willingness to put law & order, to put the people of this nation above their own political careers.  Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and a few others occasionally step up to the plate and consider their oaths of office, but they do so far too infrequently.

Now, some reading this will go for the moral equivalency view that the Democrats do the same.  Sometimes that is true, but today … in 2022 … the Republicans are the face of autocracy, the face of – in my book – evil.  Their ‘ideology’ is based on hate, violence, and bigotry in all its forms.  The Democrats I see in Congress are also working toward their re-election, but I don’t see them shirking their duty to We the People in the same way … they are showing up for work, trying to pass legislation that would protect our rights and our very lives … while the Republicans are mostly out on the campaign trail ranting about how the Democrats just want to take away your guns and kill babies.

It’s too damn bad that Republicans don’t work as hard at doing their job as they do at campaigning for re-election … if they did, we might actually have a functional legislative branch.

Certain elements of the U.S. Supreme Court have made it perfectly clear over the past month or so that they would gladly force religion upon us all (their own bigoted religion, that is), that they have zero respect for women, and that they only care about a child up to the point it leaves the mother’s body.  Until very recently, I had tremendous respect for the U.S. Supreme Court … it seemed to truly operate as a non-partisan branch of the government.  Nobody would ever agree with all their decisions, but overall they ruled fairly, in keeping with the U.S. Constitution and to the benefit of the nation and its people.

Today, they said that it’s okay for teachers, coaches, etc., to force religion on school children.  Last week they told women to sit down, shut up, and go make more babies to help further destroy the environment and the economy.  Also last week they indicted that the 19 school children brutally murdered in Uvalde, Texas, were merely collateral damage and no, they will not allow any state to pass gun legislation.  Gun freaks are, after all, more important to our Court than the lives of children.

And to add insult to injury, and I’m sure we will find out more about this soon, Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia, has been found to have played an even larger role than was first thought in attempting to overthrow the government of this nation.  Where I come from, we call that treason and Justice Thomas should have immediately been removed from the bench if he refused to leave voluntarily.  But no … he is already plotting to remove rights from LGBTQ people, more rights from women, and who knows what else?  Justice Thomas, like four of his cohorts in the Court, is a clear and present danger to the democratic foundations of this republic.

I no longer have an ounce of respect for the U.S. Supreme Court.  Justices Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Alito, and what’s-her-name have destroyed an institution that has withstood the test of time for more than two centuries.

Respecting and believing in your country is important.  We work hard to support our government and when our elected officials fail to even try to do the job for which we elected them, the job for which we pay them, we lose faith in our nation.  When those elected officials mock and denigrate the very people they are supposed to represent, then I don’t know about you guys, but I have completely lost faith in this nation, not only the government, but the people as well.  It is a bleak feeling, one that makes one wonder … why bother anymore?  The Independence Day/July 4th holiday is just around the corner … I, for one, will NOT be celebrating, for there is little left to celebrate.

U.S. Supreme Court v Common Sense

Ever since the former guy got the chance to nominate a second (Brett Kavanaugh) and then a third (Amy Barrett) Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, I have been skeptical that the Court could manage to remain fair and non-partisan.  When the preliminary decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization that could overturn the 1973 ruling on Roe v Wade was leaked back in May, my worst fears were confirmed, and this week they have been confirmed yet again – twice.


Congress Shall Make No Law …

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”  This is the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is known as the Establishment Clause under which the federal government and all governments under it, cities, states, territories, etc., are prohibited from establishing or sponsoring religion.  In the words of Justice Stephen Breyer …

“The very point of the Establishment Clause is to prevent the government from sponsoring religious activity itself, thereby favoring one religion over another or favoring religion over nonreligion.”

In layman’s terms, since freedom of religion is important … freedom to observe any chosen religion or no religion at all … it is unfair for government funds that come from We the People in the form of taxes be used to support any one religion.  That is the basis for the 16th Amendment.  But on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case of Carson v Makin involving a Maine law that forbade public money to go to religious schools.  Under that law, if a town does not have a secondary school aka high school, parents may get vouchers from the state to pay for their children to attend a private school, but not a religious school.  Certain parents took umbrage, for the school that was available to them allowed LGBTQ students and these parents did not wish their children to attend school with LGBTQ kids and thus they petitioned the state for vouchers to send their children to a religious school whose entrance requirements largely eliminated the possibility of an LGBTQ child enrolling.

On Tuesday, the Court ruled in favour of the parents and in so doing, the Court in essence demolished the 16th Amendment and said that there is no longer a separation between government and religion.  This will no doubt be seen as a red-letter day for the bigots and no doubt many more will follow suit in the near future.  I wonder, though, how loud the furor will be when some parent chooses to obtain the vouchers and use them to send their kids to a Muslim or Hindu school?  Wait for it, for I’m betting money that those religious bigots will have their knickers in a knot when that happens.


That 2nd Amendment … yet again

And then yesterday, the Court made what I consider to be yet another grievous error in judgment in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen.  Quite simply, since the United States Congress has steadfastly been unable or unwilling to pass any meaningful gun legislation, the State of New York passed its own law that prohibited most people, unless they could show need, from carrying a gun in public.  Makes sense, right?  If you claim you need a gun to protect yourself and your family from a home invasion, as most gun nuts claim, then you don’t need to take it to the library, grocery store, or a restaurant.  But, the gun nuts said it violated their 2nd Amendment ‘rights’.  For the record, the Amendment in question here reads …

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Period.  There is no more.  Nothing that says all people have the right to own killing machines that are capable of killing 20-30 people within a minute or two.  Nothing says the average Joe even has a right to own a gun, let alone carry one in public. I guess that Justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas, Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts care more about pandering to the gun nuts than protecting our children.


So, to recap the results of these two Supreme Court decisions, we will now be forced to financially support religious education, even those of us who do not believe in or follow any religion, and … we and our families will continue to be in danger any time we leave our home, for we can’t be sure that dude sitting next to us in a restaurant or on the bus isn’t ‘packing heat’.  Way to go, SCOTUS.  Within the next week or so, given that the Court will be in summer recess around the first week in July, there are two more contentious cases that will be ruled on:

  • The aforementioned Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization whereby unless the Court has done a 180° reversal from May’s leaked ruling, women’s rights will be placed in the meat grinder and shredded forevermore (or until 100 years from now when the current Justices have left and some with a conscience have replaced them.)
  • West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency where the State of West Virginia is claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not be allowed to set rules and regulations around greenhouse gas emissions. Given their recent rulings, I look for them to rule in favour of West Virginia, and if they do, you will hear me ranting some more, for this is our lives and the lives of future generations that’s at stake here!

When Religion Promotes Hatred & Violence

There are those who would say that since I am not a Christian, I have no right to comment on the religion or its adherents.  In most cases, I would agree with them, but … it seems I just cannot keep my nose out of this one.  In no way am I criticizing Christianity or its followers as a whole, but rather certain elements that are doing more harm than good to this entire nation, and that are giving Christianity overall a bad image, a reputation that Christians won’t find easy to live down.

While I find ‘evangelicals’ to be particularly narrow-minded and offputting, my current target is two specific evangelical pastors, men of the cloth who are supposed to be preaching peace, love, and all that sort of stuff, but instead are promoting hatred and violence.  I might not care if they were one-offs, if nobody much was listening and most people took their rantings with a grain of salt, but as it is, both seem to have a fairly large following and thus they have the potential to inflict great harm in this nation.  And in that, I find justification for offering my two cents worth.

The first is Pastor Mark Burns who is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina’s District 4.  Now, I have a problem with Burns’ platform, with some of his recent statements such as …

  • “We need to replace God at the center of American politics. The separation between church and state was not designed to keep the church out of the government, it was designed to keep the government out of the church.”
  • “I will fight to restore law & order, election integrity, secure our borders, protect our God-given & America 1st agenda!”
  • “Life begins at conception, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman, our right to keep and bear arms is INHERENT, given to us by God almighty — NOT by any man.”

Feeling sick yet?  This is the type of rhetoric that is often used by the Republican Party these days to rile the uninformed masses, to play to their religious beliefs, and as I said, if he only attracted a handful of people, I wouldn’t waste my time writing about him.  But he has a fairly large following and he has the support of the former guy which, sadly, counts for a lot among some fools.

Mark Burns lied through his teeth about both his military service and education, lies that were easily disproven and he later admitted to them, but used the pathetic excuse that he was attacked because he is “a black man supporting Donald Trump for president.”  Oh yeah … minor detail, he still claims to believe that the election was stolen and that Trump is the rightful president.

But what raises my hackles is that he is urging his supporters to commit violence.  Our friend Scottie did a post on this with a couple of relevant videos a week or so ago, but in summary, Mr. Burns, while speaking at a rally in Oregon, told the audience to smash the car windows of anyone they believed was ‘antifa’.  Now, I am 100% against fascism, so that makes me an antifascist, but I am not a member of any group called antifa, and from everything I’ve read, it is a very small, unorganized group that gets far more credit than it deserves.  But to the point, when a candidate running for office advises violence, he should be removed from the ballot.  When a religious ‘leader’ calls for violence, he should be thrown out on his ear.  Instead, the crowds love him.  There is something pathetic about that.

The second is Pastor Greg Locke whose message is one of hate rather than peace and love.  Locke is a white supremacist and pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in the small town of Mount Juliet, Tennessee.  He participated in the events of January 6th at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the Proud Boys white supremacist organization often provide security at Locke’s events, if that tells you something.  To me, it speaks volumes, but even more so are Locke’s words.  He is against the COVID vaccine, saying …

“If you’ve had the covid-19 shot, I’m telling you you’ve got poison in your veins. We call out the covid-19 vaccine out right now. Keep that demonic spirit out of you right now in the name of Jesus!”

Just words, you might say, but when words are believed, as Locke’s often are, they can cause great harm.  How many people, listening to Locke’s words, have died of COVID because they believed his spiel?  He has a large online presence … he claims millions of followers, but even if it’s only thousands, he is a dangerous firebrand.  Two months ago he held a massive book burning, throwing in copies of such beloved books as the Harry Potter series among others.  He promotes hatred against the LGBTQ community and against people with mental disabilities.

I find it disturbing that according to an article in The Washington Post

“Locke has a social media following of 4 million across multiple platforms, and attendance at Sunday services has grown from 200 before the pandemic to more than 1,000, spilling out of the church building and into an enormous climate-controlled tent, which Locke calls a ‘canvas cathedral.’”

Again, the real danger is that so many people, for whatever reason, listen to and hang on Locke’s words – words of hate, words of dissent, words that incite violence against any and all who view the world through a different lens than Pastor Locke.

I don’t know the solution to counter the hate of both of these men, Mark Burns and Greg Locke.  I only know that they are a threat to us all in one way or another.  The 1st Amendment that guarantees free speech enables them to spread their message of hatred and violence unchecked, and those without the ability to think and reason may well become their private army against the rest of us.

The Race Is On — And It’s Gonna Be Ugly

In January 2021, Ohio’s Republican Senator Rob Portman announced that he is retiring at the end of his term and will not seek re-election in 2022.  Now, you might think I’d be jumping up and down with joy, but the announcement did not please me in the least, for Portman is one of the few remaining Republicans in the Senate with both intellect and a conscience.  While I have frequently disagreed with Portman’s ideology – and have often let him know of my disagreements – he has never been one of the obstructionist, destructive ones like McConnell, Ernst, Cruz, Hyde-Smith, Hawley, Kennedy, Johnson, Paul, Rubio, Tuberville and many others.

One of the reasons Portman gave for his decision to retire is that “it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy.”  Of course, he has added to that gridlock by blindly refusing to vote to convict the former guy in either of his impeachment trials and by basically “following the party line,” aka “whatever Trump says.”  However, Portman’s retirement does not bode well for the future.

The thing that most concerns me at the moment are the candidates who are running to replace Portman.  On the Republican side, there are two extreme right-wingers:  Josh Mandel and James David Bowman, better known as J.D. Vance, author of the book Hillbilly Elegy (which I have not read and have no desire to read).  There are Democrats running for the seat, namely Morgan Harper and Tim Ryan, but unfortunately the majority of Ohio voters have drunk the Fox “News” Kool Aid and seem determined to turn the state blood-red and it will be an uphill battle for any Democrat to win over enough voters in this bigoted state to take the senate seat.

Josh Mandel was once the State Treasurer for eight years and prior to that was a state legislator for four years.  In 2012 he ran for the U.S. Senate and lost to incumbent Sherrod Brown.  In 2018 he tried again, but dropped out due to low polling numbers.  Sherrod Brown is still the Democratic senator, by the way, and a fine one at that.  So now it’s 2022 and Mandel is throwing his hat in the ring once again.  A few of his talking points:

  • A Trump bootlicker, he claims to believe Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election and promises to carry forward Trump’s agenda
  • He is against women’s rights
  • He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and leave millions of families without access to healthcare
  • He claims that climate change is a fraud
  • He is completely against LGBTQ rights and would remove anti-discrimination protections in housing and employment
  • He is anti-immigration
  • He calls for “one religion” for the United States (his, of course)
  • He has suggested closing public schools and leaving public education to churches and synagogues
  • He claims ‘separation of church and state’ is a myth

Obviously, or at least to me it’s obvious, this is NOT the sort of person we need sitting in the United States Senate, making decisions that will affect our lives for years to come.  But then, neither is Mr. J.D. Vance …

I thought it telling that in a story about Vance, written last summer by Molly Ball of Time magazine, Vance indicated to Ball that his decision to evolve from his earlier anti-Trump conservatism was born of a desire to win support from Republican voters. Trump is “the leader of this movement, and if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I need to just suck it up and support him,” he said.

Vance has a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy, and a J.D. from Yale Law School, which only proves the point that education does not necessarily walk hand-in-hand with intelligence.  Vance shares many of Josh Mandel’s view, such as that women’s rights should not exist.  On the topic of Russian aggression against Ukraine, he responded that “We should care far more about our own border than that of Ukraine!”  Obviously, he is against immigration … all immigration.

Vance has received millions in funding from the ignoble multibillionaire Peter Thiel and is also funded by the equally ignoble Mercer family, backers of Trump, Breitbart, and other less-than-honest organizations, which should tell us something about his values, or lack thereof.  Vance recently blamed “the childless left” for all the troubles in the U.S., calling specifically out Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and praising the far-right dictatorial president of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, for encouraging married couples to have children.  The planet is already over-populated and Vance thinks the nation’s woes will be solved by injecting even more people to feed is the solution?

But the thing that bothers me most about Vance is the way in which he completely switched tracks for his own political gain.  He started as a Trump-hater, saying “I’m a Never Trump guy”, “I never liked him”, and “My god what an idiot.”  Fair enough … I feel the same … but then, as noted above, when he realized that any hopes of a political future in the Republican Party would require him to pander to Trump, to lie, to lick Trump’s boots, he reversed course and now seems to think that Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Hypocrisy.  One can never know quite what this man thinks, since he has proven that he will turn in whatever direction he thinks he can gain the most.

It is to be hoped that one of the Democratic candidates running to fill Portman’s seat can garner enough enthusiasm to win in November, but the hope is a slim one, I fear.

Guess Who Else Was There On January 6th?

Bill Press is one of my favourite author/commentator/journalists around today, and his most recent column is about one group of people who willfully attempted to overthrow our government just over a year ago.  Please note that Press is not talking about the majority of Christians in this nation who are decent people and use their religion for good, rather than evil, but rather about the minority who are using the term “Christianity” to justify their bigotry, their hatred of ‘other’, and their intention of turning this nation into something it was never meant to be.


January 6: Blame the Christians! 

It’s understandable, but regrettable: the media was so busy reporting on the possible invasion of Ukraine, it buried an astounding bit of news about the actual invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  

Watching the violence at the Capitol that day, you were probably as puzzled as I was to see members of the mob carrying signs that said: “Jesus Saves.” Well, now we know why. A 60-page report, just released by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, reveals the prominent role played leading up to and on January 6 by conservative Christians.  

It’s not just the Proud Boys, Three-Percenters, Oath Keepers, and Q-Anon responsible for planning and carrying out the insurrection, it’s also evangelicals marching under the banner of “Christian nationalism.” According to the report, belief in Christian nationalism was used to “bolster, justify, and intensify” the January 6 attack on the Capitol – and is still being used today to downplay what happened on January 6. 

Yes, you heard that right. A certain brand of “Christians” came to Washington, openly and proudly, to overthrow the government – all in the name of Jesus. Or at least in the name of the demented, upside-down brand of Jesus they’ve invented to justify their extreme right-wing politics.  

If you’re not familiar with “Christian nationalism,” you should be. I believe it’s one of the most serious threats to our democracy today. It’s especially serious because it cloaks itself in the guise of religion when, in fact, it’s nothing but an extreme-right political movement whose leaders, like evangelist Franklin Graham, pretend to worship Jesus while actually worshipping Donald Trump.  

Christian nationalism can be summed up in four major beliefs. One, America was founded as a Christian nation. Two, Christianity, therefore, is our official state religion and deserves special protection. Three, our founding documents were divinely inspired. Four, the only true Americans are Christian, culturally conservative, natural-born – and white. Christian nationalism is nothing but white nationalism with a smiley face. There’s no room in their narrow world (or small minds) for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or people of color.  

Christian nationalists used to operate below the radar, but they sure didn’t on January 6. It’s like they wanted the whole world to know they were there, even if they were operating in the most un-Christ-like fashion. People carried crosses and other Christian symbols. Outside and inside the building, T-shirts and caps proclaimed: “God, Guns, Trump.” One of the men who erected the gallows on the Capitol lawn wore a sweatshirt reading: “Faith, Family, Freedom.” Washington police officer Daniel Hodges told Congress how shocked he was, while being assaulted by the mob, to see one of his attackers holding a flag with the slogan: “Jesus is my Savior. Trump is my President.”  

On one level, it was like a religious revival. On another level, it was what it was: a lawless, seditious, blood-thirsty, armed mob, which did $30 million in damage to the Capitol, mauled approximately 1,000 police officers, threatened to murder the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, and the vice president of the United States, left four people in the crowd dead, and five police officers who died in the days and weeks following. And all this in the name of Jesus? God forbid!  

At the risk of stating the obvious: There is no action more un-Christ-like than the violent attack on police officers and members of Congress we experienced on January 6. And there is no one person on the planet more un-Christ-like than Donald J. Trump. In every way, as anybody who has read the Gospels knows, he’s the very antithesis of Jesus Christ. Donald Trump is the anti-Christ.  

Writing in Christianity Today the next morning, January 7, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren lamented: “The responsibility of yesterday’s violence must be in part laid at the feet of those evangelical leaders who ushered in and applauded Trump’s presidency.” Fortunately, there are other Christian leaders today who renounce Christian nationalism. In addition to Warren, they include Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign; Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; and Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United. Their message is simple: God is love. True Christians do not assault police officers, attempt to murder political leaders, or worship a congenital liar and serial adulterer.  

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what Jesus was doing on January 6, but I know one thing for sure: He wasn’t in front of the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”  

(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Women’s Rights Is Only The Beginning

Today the Supreme Court, once a fair and non-partisan branch of our federal government, is hearing a case to decide whether to uphold the recent Mississippi law banning abortions.  The general consensus is that the Court will, either in this case or the next one, do significant damage to Roe v Wade, if not completely overturn the 1973 decision that gave women the right to control their own bodies.

Make no mistake … this is NOT simply about abortion, about the fate of a fetus that might or might not otherwise become a human.  No, people, this is about women’s rights, about where women stand in the grand scheme of this country.  Make no mistake – the United States is still very much a man’s world where men, regardless of how corrupt, how cruel, how ignorant they are, are revered over women, considered somehow ‘superior’ to women by the majority of people.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the U.S. Congress and tell me how many women you see there?  144 women hold seats in the U.S. Congress, just under 27%, while women comprise more than 50% of the total population of the country.  Also notable is the disparity between parties … 105 of those 144 women are Democrats, while the other 39 are Republicans.  And frankly, among the Republican women in Congress are the likes of Margie Greene and Lauren Boebert … radical conspiracy theorists who are not in any way representative of women in this nation.

What’s next in the fight for women’s rights?  Will they take our right to vote?  To own property?  To divorce our husbands?  Women in this nation have had to fight tooth-and-nail for every single right we have, and now, thanks to the bigotry of the former guy and his court appointees, we stand to lose, stand to be shoved back into the dark ages of the nation’s history.  If the bigots have their way, a young girl raped by her father or an uncle will be forced to give birth to a baby, her life forever changed, forever damaged.  Thousands of unwanted children will be born into households where they stand no chance of a normal life, where food is scarce, where parents are ill-prepared to cope with another mouth to feed.

Given the current structure of the Supreme Court, I no longer hold out any hope for justice, for equality, for human rights to win the day.  The Court today is merely an extension of the Republican Party, the minority party and the radical religious right.  Separation of church and state is destined to become a tenet of the past as the Court supports the bigotry that is ingrained in the evangelical doctrine.  Sadly, women’s rights are not the only ones on the chopping block, but also LGBT rights and voting rights stand to take a knife in the back under today’s Court.

There is only one possible means of overcoming the radical right majority currently in the Supreme Court and possibly salvaging the third branch of the federal government, and that is for President Biden to add seats to the Court.  This is not as simple nor as straightforward as some would have us believe, but it may well be the last best hope this nation has of salvaging its democratic principles.  Without the checks and balances on the power of any one branch of the federal government, we are destined to become a nation ruled by religious bigotry, by men more interested in their own power and wealth than the well-being of the citizens of the nation.  I don’t know about you, but that is not a nation I would be proud to call home.  Think about it.