The (insert group here) "Problem" ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Forgive the shift in tone from yesterdays warm romanticism (which I will return to) and previous posts about integrity, childlike enthusiasm and such. I had been out and about all day, and came home and opened my emails to see what people had sent, and to enjoy the communication I’ve had/I have with some of them.

There was one email from a name I didn’t recognize. Normally if it’s someone I don’t know – or the header is wrong, I hit the delete quite quickly. This header referenced Amore and Poison to Medicine. Ah, a reader…no problem then. But, there was a problem. I guess I have somewhat “made it” in the blog world,
as I received my first “hate” mail letter today. Right at the start I was hit with that old chestnut “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” (My reaction to that statement EACH time I hear it: Of course, He did. If He hadn’t, neither I nor those that espouse that kind of nonsensical rhetoric would be here, would we?)

And it went on from there … most of it I had read/heard other places (including a variation of Fred Phelps battle cry “God Hates F*”), so I figured this was probably a person without an original thought in his head. A perfect follower of whoever had the loudest voice, and the most compelling sound bites …until:

The end of the letter gave me pause. A great pause…

“Eventually, there will be no more problems with your kind. The change is coming and it will be for good.”

Take a good look at that again, doesn’t the phrase “no more problems with your kind” stand out? It almost hit me across the head when I read it. That phrase has fueled great controversy in the past — the Nazi’s and the “Jewish problem,” the bigots of the American South and the “N* problem.” and most recently for me – the church I WAS attending and the “(denomination) church problem.”

The Chicago Sun-Times had an op-ed in January titled “beware the american fascists…” by Chris Hedges in their Sunday Controversy section, however, you can’t find it there. You have to go to truthdig.com to read the original: “Christianists on the March.

Disclaimer: I do not necessarily like some of the tone and language used in the original article, but the points raised far outweigh the sometimes “rant” style of writing.

Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, told his students that when we were his age—he was then close to 80—we would all be fighting the “Christian fascists.”

The warning, given 25 years ago, came [when public religious leaders] began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts toward taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government.

Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global Christian empire.

This call for fundamentalists and evangelicals to take political power was a radical and ominous mutation of traditional Christianity. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.

Dr. Adams was in Germany 1935-36 when the Nazi’s were coming to full power. The corollaries between that time in Germany and today in the US are remarkable.

Adams saw in the Christian right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social instability or a national crisis, see American fascists rise under the guise of religion to dismantle the open society.

He despaired of U.S. liberals, who, he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure of evil or the cold reality of how the world worked. The current hand-wringing by Democrats, with many asking how they can reach out to a movement whose leaders brand them “demonic” and “satanic,” would not have surprised Adams.

Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that for him was an integral part of the biblical message, would come from the church or the liberal, secular elite.

The…right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic… This mythological worldview…creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true—the very essence of the totalitarian state.

It includes a dark license to kill, to obliterate all those who do not conform to this vision, from Muslims in the Middle East to those at home who refuse to submit to the movement. And it conveniently empowers a rapacious oligarchy whose god is maximum profit at the expense of citizens. We now live in a nation where the top 1 percent control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, where we have legalized torture and can lock up citizens without trial.

Arthur Schlesinger, in “The Cycles of American History,” wrote that “the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense—not only for their acquiescence in poverty, inequality and oppression, but for their enthusiastic justification of slavery, persecution, torture and genocide.

George Santayana from Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense (1905!!):
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

All that said, I have a strong belief system – some of which aligns with what is being called the “religious right”. Some aligns with what is being called the “godless left.” So I have grounds and knowledge to be able to speak to most issues. As to the letter I received that caused tonights post, I did send an email back. I gently took issue with some of the statements he made, suggested that he really needed to search his heart and the Word to form his own opinions and seek/see the truth for himself. I even offered some places in scripture to look.

As far as the end of the letter to me, my tone changed – and I offered him my thoughts and some of the article I have quoted here – and the link to the entire article. However, based on the tone and some of the rhetoric of the original – he might be more turned off than helped. Which is going to another post…

Chris Hedges a graduate of Harvard Divinity School,
worked for The New York Times,
is the author of
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

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