Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Prophet of Pretend: James Dobson's "2012 Obama Letter" spells the end not for America, but for Focus on the Family

[What follows is an incomplete, badly edited set of observations and even rants. I have been pondering what to say, and how to say it, since reading Focus Action's "2012 Obama America" letter last week. I was so angry initially that everything I wrote sounded the same way. Some of that anger, and a bit of the shrillness (sorry) are in the below. But I had to address this. So, consider the below an incomplete set of thoughts more conversational than scholarly. As far as Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family go, I may have to revisit them after the election is over.]

I've cut Focus on the Family's James Dobson slack in the past, even in my harshest critiques. Not any more. Dr. Dobson has long been involved in a project to return America to a "Christian era" which in truth it never enjoyed. His enemies are the usual suspects: "far left" Democrats, gays, liberals, commies, and apparently naive young evangelicals willing to vote for Barack Obama. But especially gays (and we'll get back to that issue later).

This all comes to light on Dobson's political website, Focus Action, where he has published his most nightmarish fantasy, "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America." This pseudo-prophetic work of fiction takes place in 2012, and the narrator is telling us all about how terrible the new Obamafied America is. In short, America has gone to hell under Obama's alleged wimpy / socialist / Muslim-friendly / terrorist friendly / gay-marriage friendly / just plain unAmerican leadership.

This may be the most harsh thing I've ever said on this blog. But with this letter Dr. Dobson has created one of the more overtly fascist things I've seen from the Christian Right (and that's saying something!). By "fascist" I don't mean swastika-wearing, Jew-gassing Nazis. I mean people who are interested in forcing their fellow citizens into their imagined perfect world, who use the very word "freedom" itself to attempt taking freedom away. Here's Webster's definition of the fascism I speak of: "a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control."

Fascism works using fear and hate. Usually, it works best by creating fear of someone (the "Other") which quickly is focused into a hatred of that "Other." This technique requires dehumanizing the other, treating her or him as a 3/5 person, so to speak. From there, it is an easy thing to legally marginalize that person and even commit legalized violence against that person. (The above is one reason, by the way, for me personally supporting gay Civil Unions -- and more on that later.)

Now that I'm in that far I might as well take it all the way. The Evangelical / Christian Right's treatment of women, also echoed by Focus on the Family, is fascist. This is where my personal pot of water comes to a boil. And it is easily documented. Read the elaborate (though faulty) theological edifices of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC's Southeastern Seminary has systematically stripped women from all real roles of leadership, even from the pulpit and from the mission field, and offers what amount to Home Economic degrees to women. To drive that point home, no men are allowed to take the course.

But I digress. The letter's admixture of fear and hate seems intended to bring a populace toward an autocratic leader by causing them to hate a wholly imaginary other:

[H]ere is a picture of the changes that are likely or at least very possible if Senator Obama is elected and the far-left segments of the Democratic Party gain control of the White House, the Congress, and perhaps then the Supreme Court. The entire letter is written as a “What if?” exercise, but that does not make it empty speculation because every future “event” described here is based on established legal and political trends that can already be abundantly documented and that only need a “tipping point” such as the election of Senator Obama and a Democratic House and Senate to begin to put them into place.

This isn't prophecy, it is only a "pretend" letter from 2012... except it isn't pretend. Its Halloween-like scenario is, according to the letter's preamble, "likely or at least very possible." So what we're dealing with is a "prophetic" letter here, and since it is allegedly prophetic, it therefore presumably carries with it the authority of God. James Dobson is thus made a virtual pope of Protestants, a voice we fail to heed at our own peril. (Remember those "young evangelicals" who voted for Obama? He's talking to YOU!) So, as our Christian authority on all things from family to White House, to whom we should listen without criticism, we shut off our brains and open our gosling mouths wide as he stuffs the worms of fear and rage down our throats: why we MUST NOT vote for Barack Obama!! Feel the wiggle?

Documented? Sure. Like there's a few footnotes. I and others have exposed numerous books on alleged "satanic ritual abuse," some of which were chock full of footnotes. I recall one book in particular which had multiple footnotes per sentence, yet with a bottom line that was patently bogus (it claimed that a massive intergenerational satanic "cult" of high-up politicians, money men, and religious figures was controlling world events). What I learned is to pay attention to the text and what it claims, not some sort of massive footnoting enterprise there to offer the appearance of actual scholarship. The text itself is what I find so incredibly, shockingly offensive. The footnotes rarely actually apply to the central fear and hate mongering "future" the letter claims to know about.

After the above mentioned introduction, the letter opens and immediately sets a tone for what will follow:

Dear friends,
I can hardly sing “The Star Spangled Banner” any more. When I hear the words,

O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, “Yes,” to that question. We are not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a majority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.

Get it? Being a Democrat equals being unAmerican. Despite the fact that more Americans this year are Democrats. Voting Democrat to James Dobson means loss of freedom. And what is his "freedom"? A return to 1950s America is no freedom at all, and no one wants that. Yet all Dobson's dark prognostications are "proven" by a fictional letter written by a fictional character in the fictional and very apocalyptic 2012 of the actual writer's fevered imagination.

So when I look up the hammer and sickle are flying over my head, right? Oh, wait. That's the movie "Red Dawn." Maybe "2012 Obama's America" could be a sequel. As far as "tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat," that's my reaction to dinner trying to make a comeback.

Who, according to Dr. Dobson, is guilty for electing this cartoonishly evil slimeball dude with the overly dark skin to the Presidency?!

The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far left policies that had marked his entire previous career. They were wrong.

Dang, all those kids don't know how to vote. Maybe Focus on the Family should send someone with them to the polls to help them out. They should have done what the Benevolent Patriarch(alist) told you to do, and vote for John McCain. Sure, I know a few months back James Dobson said he'd never vote for or support John McCain, but I guess... he lied? This Obama dude has to be stopped at any cost!! Or is it more that Mr. Dobson and Focus on the Family are losing their grip over the present generation, that young evangelicals no longer even understand the scarey lingo and reactionary images Dobson presents as "Christian"? Could this be a power thing, the real nightmare for James Dobson in that his power base is aging itself out of existence? What about the fact that an estimated sixty-six percent of Hispanic Evangelicals are likely Obama voters? That doesn't bode well for Jim Dobson, either. We have seen the future, and it is brown and Democrat.

Here's a shocker! it turns out that Barack Obama is going to destroy the Boy Scouts of America, and/or make every scout the potential victim of a pedophile.

Boy Scouts: “The land of the free”? The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys.

Sleep in tents with young boys?! Yikes, sounds like an Anne Rice vampire novel. (I will come back to this lie later.)

Elementary schools: “The land of the free”? Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled that they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.

Wow, that is scary... as in ridiculous. If you really think the above is what voting for Barack Obama will lead to, I'll sell you Lake Michigan. Send me $20 and I'll email the whole thing to you. The above is fear-mongering. It is also, as if I need to note it, more "focus" on homosexuality, which seems to really be an interest of Dr. Dobson's. I mean, REALLY an interest. :

Businesses with government contracts: “The land of the free”? All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state, or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same sex couples. This was needed to overcome “systemic discrimination” against them and followed on a national level the pattern of policies already in place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

Two issues here, though arguing with a fantasy written by a right-wing hack is an exercise in stupidity of my own:

Issue One: If the government is funding (or helping fund) a business via using that business, shouldn't the government also get to call the tune as to fairness re hiring and firing in that business? That is, the government isn't forcing the business to do anything... unless that business wants contracts with the government.

Issue Two: as someone who thinks Civil Unions are a good alternative to Gay Marriage (in that they take care of both the gay couple's civil rights and the religious community's proper sense of ownership re what "marriage" means), I think Christians who fight the above sort of thing are being neither wise nor neighborly. By all means, let's attempt to stuff our own definition of moral reality down everyone else's throat, until and if they gain power instead. Then, with our having tutored them on how it is done (with cruelty, unreason, and depersonalizing uniformity) we can have our turn as victims. Not very smart, Mr. Dobson. But since you're the oracle of God and I'm just a poor mutt Christian trying to follow Jesus, I guess you win the authority war. I am the authority of nothing, and you may quote me.

Public broadcasting: “The land of the free”? The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such “offensive” doctrines as homosexual conduct or the claim that people will go to hell if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. The Supreme Court agreed that these could be kept off the air as prohibited “hate speech” that is likely to incite violence and discrimination. These policies followed earlier broadcasting and print restrictions that were already in place prior to 2008 in Canada and Sweden.

Oh, please. This reminds me of the crazy -- and false -- charge that atheists had sued the FCC to force removal of all religious programming from radio. Despite the fact that this was not true, the rumor refused to die and continued to resurface in various forms over the years. I guarantee you that we'll be hearing all the right-wing folks on the radio and TV for years and years to come, no matter who's in the White House.

I could go on. But as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and others have already done a fine job overall, I'd like to get a little more focused on one aspect of the letter that really bothered me.

This started off as me reading about Dobson's take on Barack Obama. But it ended with me angry over his treatment of gays. I am trying hard to live in a biblical space regarding homosexuality. I believe Scripture does place homosexual acts (as opposed to temptation / orientation) outside the pale of right Christian behavior. Yet at the same time, I am commanded to love my neighbor.

What I think Dobson has done, is doing with this letter, and apparently will continue to do is to abuse self-identified gay people. And he has done so using the exact approach once used against women militating for the vote and blacks working for their civil rights. He has identified the "other" as the enemy. This is curious, since I myself have suggested for years that homosexuality should not be confused with feminism or race-related issues but is rather an issue with unique characteristics, biblically speaking. Yet James Dobson's twisted fantasy story makes of homosexuality a sin of special nature, a sin that is sensationalized into something... how do I say it... pornographic. In short, I am left wondering if a parent would want the writer of this letter to sleep in a tent with the boys!

Perhaps worst in this shrill bit of rightist propaganda is the conflation of two totally different sexual issues: homosexuality vs. pederasty. Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than are their heterosexual counterparts. The entirety of the "Boy Scout" bit in this "pretend prophecy" is vile, cruel, and unloving in the most strictly Scriptural sense. There is so much else to loath about that letter, but for this one point alone I personally have moved from upset with Dobson to an anti-Focus on the Family activist. We cannot allow these cruel individuals and ministries to continue representing us to a watching world, much less our non-believing neighbors... some of who are gay!

We are required to bear witness to biblical ideals regarding sexuality, whether addressing homosexuality or America's norms re heterosexuality. But doing so, with great care and meekness and humility while admitting we too struggle with sexuality, is far different than Dr. Dobson's shrill, illogical, and immoral (yes indeed!) attack on our neighbors. I personally repudiate Dr. Dobson or Focus on the Family as representing the Christian Faith I believe in.

And it makes me extremely sad, not glad, to say so.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as a "Pro-Life Feminism"?

Is there such a thing as a "Pro-Life Feminism"? Dang, I sure hope so. It is a position I've tried to articulate for years. I don't pretend it it is easy -- either mentally or emotionally -- to support womens' rights while also supporting the unborns' right to life. But for this poor male nimblewit, womens' rights have haunted me over the past fifteen years at least. And as I read and think and pray, I've had to discard all sorts of muck both theological and political, the "conventional wisdom" of an astonishingly reactionary Evangelical subculture. At the same time, I continue to encounter my own blindness re feminism's depth of critique. That is, I am handicapped by my maleness from existential knowledge of what being a woman means now, or has meant in the past. As those who've read my blogs, both and the moribund, may remember my lengthy and sometimes uneven journey.

Sarah Palin, whom I think would be a terrible president, nonetheless is a member of "Feminists for Life," one group whose name neatly encapsulates an anti-abortion position with a pro-feminist one. I hope they are more than a Republican front, however, as my cynicism forces me to ask the question. Are any of them voting for Obama, despite the pro-life portion of their name?

Meanwhile, it now appears Sarah Palin isn't willing to call herself a feminist any longer, as she did earlier in the campaign. Interviewed by Katie Couric of CBS a while back, and asked by Couric "Do you consider yourself a feminist?", Gov. Palin answered:

"I do. I'm a feminist who believes in equal rights and I believe that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed, and to try to do it all, anyway."

But when asked days ago by NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams the same question, Gov. Palin's answer seemed aimed at her very conservative Evangelical base:

"I'm not gonna label myself anything, Brian. And I think that's what annoys a lot of Americans, especially in a political campaign, is to start trying to label different parts of America different, different backgrounds, different . . . I'm not going to put a label on myself."

Well, I have to put the feminist label on myself, because it has a whole lot to do with how I look at things. When I see on television a spokesperson (male and white) from the Southern Baptist Convention talking about pro-life issues, I experience the urge to either assault my television or regurgitate. The Southern Baptist Convention has removed women from nearly all positions of leadership within that denomination, even from the mission field where those women are winning hearts to Christ and serving with their hands the poorest of the poor. The level of offense this causes me cannot be measured on the Richter Scale.

It is of some comfort to find that so-called "secular" feminists also struggle with the pro-life issue, though usually those who do so in public get significant push-back against their efforts. Camille Paglia, writing on, does some real soul-searching. (Thanks, Annie, for pointing this article out to me.) I don't agree with Paglia's conclusions in more than one respect, but they are worth hearing:

Let's take the issue of abortion rights, of which I am a firm supporter. As an atheist and libertarian, I believe that government must stay completely out of the sphere of personal choice. Every individual has an absolute right to control his or her body. (Hence I favor the legalization of drugs, though I do not take them.) Nevertheless, I have criticized the way that abortion became the obsessive idée fixe of the post-1960s women's movement -- leading to feminists' McCarthyite tactics in pitting Anita Hill with her flimsy charges against conservative Clarence Thomas (admittedly not the most qualified candidate possible) during his nomination hearings for the Supreme Court. Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women -- an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism. Nature herself is a mass murderer, making casual, cruel experiments and condemning 10,000 to die so that one more fit will live and thrive.

Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

On the other hand, I support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?

What I am getting at here is that not until the Democratic Party stringently reexamines its own implicit assumptions and rhetorical formulas will it be able to deal effectively with the enduring and now escalating challenge from the pro-life right wing. Because pro-choice Democrats have been arguing from cold expedience, they have thus far been unable to make an effective ethical case for the right to abortion.

The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism. Naomi Wolf later bravely tried to address this same subject but seems to have given up in the face of the resistance she encountered.

If Sarah Palin tries to intrude her conservative Christian values into secular government, then she must be opposed and stopped. But she has every right to express her views and to argue for society's acceptance of the high principle of the sanctity of human life. If McCain wins the White House and then drops dead, a President Palin would have the power to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, but she could not control their rulings.

It is nonsensical and counterproductive for Democrats to imagine that pro-life values can be defeated by maliciously destroying their proponents. And it is equally foolish to expect that feminism must for all time be inextricably wed to the pro-choice agenda. There is plenty of room in modern thought for a pro-life feminism -- one in fact that would have far more appeal to third-world cultures where motherhood is still honored and where the Western model of the hard-driving, self-absorbed career woman is less admired.

But the one fundamental precept that Democrats must stand for is independent thought and speech. When they become baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma, Democrats have committed political suicide.

I find in Barack Obama someone who seems willing to forego his party's "rigid dogma" on abortion, to the extent he has echoed some of Paglia's language regarding the pro-life movement's legitimate ethical issues regarding abortion. While he is pro-choice, he seems unusually attuned to the suasive power of the unborn being actual human beings. His central argument, with which I disagree but carefully and tentatively, is that the woman carrying a child should have a right of privacy regarding her own choices re having an abortion and that government doesn't belong in the mix. That reasoning is the heart of Roe v Wade, of course.

For me, who's already blogged at length on why the Republicans will never overturn Roe and why I as a pro-lifer am nonetheless compelled to vote for Barack Obama, the issue of abortion remains large on my radar screen. I continue to hope that both camps -- pro-life and pro-choice -- can open their insular worlds up to the other in order to find at least some commonalities. Being pro-life for me means being pro-woman as well. And being pro-woman means that I acknowledge women's singular responsibility, biologically and therefore psychologically / intellectually / emotionally, regarding the unborn. What I hope to find is that the pro-choice movement under an Obama presidency can perhaps find room to re-examine stale doctrines birthed in the 1970s regarding the unborn as mere tissue, and replace those ideas with a far more humanizing, and therefore morally complex and challenging, set of realities regarding the unborn AND women... and men.

For those of us who are pro-life in a wider sense than that meant by the Christian Right and the Republican Party, we need to grapple with the painful realities of voting our consciences. I personally believe that voting for Barack Obama may decrease the actual numbers of abortions, as well as provide wholistic pro-life positions which may be far more attractive to feminists such as myself than are the anti-womanist positions often held (illogically, but historically) by many Catholic and Evangelical pro-lifers.

I realize this will irritate many readers. That is understandable. Each of us feels terrible pain over certain issues, things that become so central to our empathy re suffering and injustice that we tend to base everything else on those issues. In the past, I voted at times as a "single issue" pro-lifer. But history and my own experiences encountering feminism have led me to a place where I often feel sad and torn. It is a place where, with a very small "s" (let's not posture here, Mr. Trott), I do suffer. I think maybe that's where Christians should find themselves more often than they do.

We Americans want resolution, complete and total. But the reality is this: in some of life's deepest things, there is no simple resolution but rather a continuing struggle to find a place where love is expressed in an embracing way toward all parties involved. On this fallen planet, all our hearts ache. Injustice is everywhere, even in the attempts to do justice we humans attempt. Yet hopelessness is not an option. The struggle to love one another as Christ loved us continues. How that looks, whether in an election or at an abortion clinic, is something each human being must take up with that person's Maker.

Pray for me in my struggle to do so. Please.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So that's where Republicans get it! Noam Chomsky, Muslims, and Fear Mongering in America's Historical Pedigree

"The [mythical] theme is 'We are about to be destroyed by a horrifying enemy.' And at the last minute, a super-weapon is discovered, or a hero arises such as Rambo... this goes right back to the Eighteenth Century..." - Noam Chomsky

Thanks to CNN's iReport pages, I ran across this thought-provoking video featuring professor Noam Chomsky being interviewed by American University Professor Akbar Ahmed. I think it offers some historical context regarding not only anti-Islamic expressions within America, but also (in a larger context) some of the fear/hate mythologies currently being attempted against the Democratic Presidential ticket by Republicans (see my previous two posts).

For more on and from Akbar Ahmed, I'd advise a visit to Journey Into America. And again... please don't forget to vote, preferably early if your state still has early voting open (Illinois, for instance has early voting until October 30).

New "Terrorists" mailer: Republicans ask us to insert head in toilet, swallow

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. Isaiah 8:12 NRSV

Last night, I attempted a bit of humor here in posting my list of negative labels the Republicans have attempted to affix on Barack Obama. This morning, out comes a massively distributed Republican Party mailer:

And this morning I'm not laughing.

The flier is a load. And we're being asked to swallow it. Once again, the McCain/Palin folks are going back to the Karl Rove playbook of nasty, baseless, negative campaigning. And let's be honest here. What is being implied? "Terrorists don't care who they hurt" the flier's cover says. And below it, fake newsprint headlines reading "Terrorist. Radical. Friend of Obama" and "Obama Close Ties...Terrorist." Get it?! Obama... TERRORIST! The large airplane reminds us of 9/11... Ah. Obama, Al Queida. No logical connection exists, but this is about effective illogic, vile lies being used to stir up hatred and fear.

Inside, just to drill the message home...

Forgive all the exclamation points which follow, as I'm a bit peeved this morning...

First starts the whining over Obama actually wanting to talk to terrorists instead of blowing their countries to hell! "Barack Obama Thinks Terrorists Need a Good Talking to." OH MY GAWD! He might actually favor diplomacy over attacking nations without provocation! So if diplomats are terrorists, as opposed to bomb-wielding nations, I'm left wondering what, in light of that definition, Al Queida would be called. Using this Republican pretzel logic, Perhaps Osama bin Laden deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!

"Barack Obama. Not Who You Think He Is."
screams the banner along the bottom edge of this masterpiece of McCarthyite defecation. Well, I know who Barack Obama is. He's an American, he's a Christian, and he's a man who has spent his entire life in a disciplined effort to become a positive, unifying leader. His story (as evidenced in his two books) should (and I pray will be) an enduring part of our national legacy. Liars are fryers, baby.

I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Republicans are. They are desperate people who are going to use the politics of fear and hate to attempt to win. This is frustrating, and scarey. Why? Because it worked in the past two elections. And despite Obama's current lead in the polls, I for one am not at all convinced that lead will hold up.

I have two messages for readers of this puny little BlueChristian blog.

One: This is short and sweet. Anyone who supports Barack Obama's candidacy for President needs to respond to this attack immediately by donating money to Obama's campaign. If you are really ticked at this, the Obama folks have a page just for us so we can make a specific, powerful statement. I'm going to do so today. I hope you will as well.

Two: Evangelical readers currently supporting John McCain and (perhaps even more enthusiastically) Sarah Palin. Can you step back for a moment and ask yourself why you would support a campaign capable of flinging this kind of hate-mongering poop? Can you ask yourself about your own theology -- and here I'm thinking about loving one's neighbor and loving one's God vs. embracing end times narratives from Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye, and such? The Republicans are counting on you as their base! That's the narrative here. They want you to be frightened of an American leader, a fellow Christian.

Let's get right down to it: they want you to believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim terrorist. Well, do you? Honestly? You've seen him in the debates. Do you think he is anti-American? Do you think he is part of some massive conspiracy? Well, if you do, go ahead and vote for the Republicans. But if you sense they are lying about Barack, why would you trust them? We've been lied to for eight years. Here is a man with whom we may not agree on everything, but who has made repeated and thoughtful overtures to Evangelicals despite being slapped down in most of those efforts.

Who are we Evangelicals? That's what I'd like to know. I know who Barack is, and I know who the Republicans are... I've had years and years to watch them scream about abortion, then get into office and appoint pro-abortion justices. Go figure. I've seen them create a narrow litmus test set of issues (abortion and same-sex marriage) from which we are told to make every political decision. That day is over, people. Jesus cared about a LOT more than that. Read Matthew 25. Read the prophets, who along with immorality condemn Sodom and Gommorah for their mistreatment of the poor.

Evangelicals can no longer afford to believe the Republican version of reality. It ignores massive injustices outside that neat and small list of "family values." Affordable housing in my neighborhood is a "family value"... one ignored by the Republicans. And what about all the single parents -- most of them women -- who are more vulnerable than ever in this terrible economic recession we're experiencing? The Republicans say "pro-life," yet assault the poor repeatedly by stripping away programs offering rural and inner-city families hope.

No. No more. Evangelicals, are you willing to remain tools in the hands of hate mongers? We always seem to be on the wrong side of these things. From the days of slavery and lynchings, where entire huge denominations supported slavery (on what they called "biblical" grounds) to today, when those same huge denominations support the oppression and marginalization of women by men -- using the very same bible verses they used in the slave days -- we remain reactionary instead of biblically revolutionary. Where is that third way?

Barack Obama will not be the solution to all of this. Far from it. He's one man. And at times we may even find ourselves having to play the role of prophet against a man we voted for. That is the strange and salty role Christians are supposed to play. But hating is as unchristian as it gets. And the Republican Party's willingness to be hateful, to lie openly over and over again in hopes that their vicious assault on Barack Obama will give them the White House, should be a prime reason we stop being the "Republican base."

Base has another definition: "stresses the ignoble and may suggest cruelty, treachery, greed, or grossness." That, to me, sounds applicable to the Republican Party's treatment of Barack Obama. Can we, as the people of God, the Bride of Christ, continue to be part of that "base" (in both senses of the word) political crowd?

I of course have my own answer, but what matters is your answer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All the Nasty Things They've Called Obama: A List

I just couldn't help making a list of all the negative labeling Republicans have attempted to paste on Barack Obama. Why? Because they sometimes make me laugh, other times want to scream in frustration. If readers have more of this nonsense, please add it and I'll update this list. Try to add sources if it's something we all haven't already heard.

First, the oldie goldies:


Do any of the nimblewits posting this term in reference to Obama/Biden even know what a socialist actually IS? McCain/Palin have defined it this way: "spreading the wealth around." Whoa! Mommy, there's a socialist under my bed spreading wealth around! Okay, just to help, here's the dictionary definition:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a
: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done. (Webster's)

In other words, people, it's exactly what George Bush just did when he partially nationalized our banks! And McCain's a socialist, too, since he voted yes on this bail-out. By the way, as far as McCain/Palin's own definition, "spreading the wealth around"... uh, that's what taxes do. Like you know, fund building highways or AIDS medicine for Africa or... bombs to drop on Iraq.


See above. Except worse.


Dang. Liberal. Liberal means bad, right? Like they eat people and sacrifice cats in their basements. I think. Well, read the actual Webster's definition:

[O]ften capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b: a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties dcapitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party.

Hmm. Other than (a) the gold standard, and (b) the essential goodness of humanity, which all politicians believe in as long as we vote for them but none of us fully believe when pondering our ballots, I'd say that's a pretty Hallmark Card definition. Of course, if McCain doesn't like civil liberties, perhaps he could speak up now and save everyone the headache of voting for him come election day. After all, when it turned out Dubya didn't like political and civil liberties so much, it was too late for us to do much about it.

Extreme Liberal

This is a liberal with tattoos and piercings. Sometimes riding a Harley. Wait. Isn't John McCain the one that took his wife to Sturgis, SD, and suggested she run for a motorcycle momma award? Hm, begging for an expose...


Everyone knows what this means. Anyone living in America who does not appear to agree with my interpretation of what being an American is.


"I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button... He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country." - 49 yr old Geoff Davis, Kentucky congressman, about 46 yr old Barack Obama
Yep. In 2008. Nice how, no matter what, some things stay the same.

"not one of us"

See above. Almost any of the above, actually.


Coolest evil label ever. We "liberal communist socialist" people also use the word at times, though usually with a touch more irony than our conservative counterparts. The trouble with the label is, of course, that it is usually applied to fairly decent folks. Like Rush Limbaugh.


Second, some 2008 firsts, for a Presidential election at least:


The obvious problem with both of these terms is that they contain a double insult; first, that Obama is being called something he is not (either Muslim or Arab), second that Muslims and / or Arabs are Un-Americans by default. Oh, and did anyone clue the Muslim/Arab haters that massive numbers of Muslims are not Arab (Indonesia, anyone?) while large numbers of Arabs are not Muslim. I apologize, however, for being factual.

One more thing, haters: a Muslim American could be President one day, and none of us would have to worry about head scarves or jihads... yep. This Evangelical Christian is telling you, not asking. The vast majority of Muslim Americans actually love their country! What malevolent idiocy to spread these lies or -- just as shocking -- to *believe* the lies! Or, as a 1970s era me would have said, "DUH!" The Bible would say "Love your neighbor as yourself..." but we're not gonna get biblical here because it might require cutting the locks from abandoned minds.

"friend of terrorists"

Bill Ayers Bill Ayers BillAyersBillAyersBill billayersbillayersbillayersbillayers bill -- aw, shuddUP!!

Hokay, well, that's about all I got. But just for fun, let's put them all together:

Barack Obama is a socialist/Arab/communist/Muslim/liberal/extremeliberal/unAmerican/"Boy"/not one of us/Antichrist!!

(And a friend of Bill Ayers BillAyersbillayersbillayersbillayers.)

And there, ladies and gentleman, we have the entirety of the Republican platform for 2008!

Cool Tool: Obama's "Check your tax savings!" machine

So you want to find out how much tax money you'd get back under Barack Obama's tax plan vs. John McCain's? Wonder no more. The Obama campaign provides a handy, 30 seconds of time tax plan tool to find out. Or, you can just check it out right here!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Campaigning via Conspiracy Theory: Ayers, Acorn, and Obama the Alien

I have written quite a bit about conspiracy theories, most of them having to do with urban myths regarding "Satanic Ritual Abuse," alleged inter-generational Satanists who brainwash their followers and sacrifice adults and children to the devil. A major feature of almost all these myths requires the existence of a secret super-cell of Satanists, often said to be world leaders. [Photo at left from ""]

During the 1980s and on into the 1990s, I wrote various articles exploring the Satanist myths. Most of them promulgated by (sigh) my fellow Evangelicals and/or (in the case of the infamous Michelle Remembers) Catholics. I also took part in co-researched and written articles (plus one book, Selling Satan: Mike Warnke and the Evangelical Media), which exposed various "former satanists" and/or "former victims of satanists" as fakes.

And as a result, I realized that questioning everything anyone told me was a pretty good idea. That went double when it came to conspiracy theories, which as incredible stories demanded incredible evidence to verify. Or so my suspicious mind works. Heck, I'm so hard to convince I actually believe John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Alone.

Go with me just a little way on this.

Why, for instance, do we believe conspiracy theories. Or rather, believe some while disbelieving others? After all, by definition, a successful conspiracy has no evidential trail left to follow.

I think we believe conspiracy theories that agree with our own way of seeing, of understanding, and of locating evil. Locating? Yes, this is the single most important feature of a conspiracy theory. Evil must have a location. And, that location must be with other entities, almost always human, who are "other" than I and those closest to me. Commies (Joe McCarthy's insanity, remember?). Blacks (every black man wants to rape a white woman). Even whites... AIDS was designed to eliminate blacks, you know. And so on. There has to be an evil other.

One of the best examples of this is found in the painful, even terrifying novel by Bernard Malamud, The Fixer. A Russian-Jewish peasant finds his life in peril due to the false anti-Semitic myth that Jews often sacrificed babies in secret ceremonies. The novel is, of course, rooted in the reality of what Christians often believed about their Jewish neighbors (and in the reality of violence committed against Jews by such Christians).

Another example of this lies in the current distribution of a rabidly anti-Islamic video 18 million households nationwide (though particularly in "swing states" currently drifting toward Democrat Barack Obama). Radical Islam, the videos claim, has been discovered to have an inside plan to take over America, a plan led by seemingly innocent American leaders. By video's end, one suspects that all Islam is radical, and (by necessity) nearly all American Muslims (as well as Arab Christians) may be "one of them."

And of course playing into this conspiratorial theme above are threads from the Republican Party (via both the McCain/Palin campaign directly and others backing them but not officially connected). "Who is Barack Obama?" one McCain ad asks. "A friend of terrorist Ayers," is the answer, the "Ayers" of course not really being necesssary other than as a cover for running such an unhinged conspiratorial message. That beat goes on as of today via "Robo-calls" (automated calls) by the Republican National Committee:

Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at [of course I deleted the number!].

The above illustrates the thing with conspiracy theories: Most conspiracy theories make no sense!

Break the above quote down, and it becomes a series of unconnected factoids which require the listener's own bias to make cohere into a single unified story.
Obama knows a guy. The guy, when Obama was 8, was involved with the '60s radical group, Weather Underground. The group blew some stuff up and killed two people. Democrats will enact an "an extreme leftist agenda" if they "take control" of Washington. Obama and his terrorist/commie buddies lack the judgement to lead the USA.

Each sentence in itself is independent of the previous one or the next one. The parts do not make one whole, but instead are illogically thrown together. The reader processes them and by so doing experiences either an instinctive "a ha!" moment or (I hope) just as instinctive recoils from the attempt to create fear, and an explanation for that fear, at Obama's expense.

My most riveting moment re the absolute non-rationality of conspiracy theory came while interviewing a parent of one of the children allegedly abused by supposed satanist Ray Buckey (the now-infamous McMartin Preschool case, where both Ray and his mother were found not guilty). Looking very somber, this upper-middle class mother told me about how one child at McMartin was abused by Raymond... who at the time was over 100 miles away from where the abuse occurred.

Startled, I attempted to correct her. "But Ray was 100 miles away... he'd have had to be two places at the same time!"

She nodded understandingly. "Oh, yes. Those Satanists can do anything."

So, apparently, can the Republicans, at least where inventing conspiracy theories are concerned. Consider the latest one involving ACORN, a social activist group with whom I have worked a few times (though years back). The group among other things is known for regularly doing voter registration drives, paying folks to get others signed up to vote. The obvious happens. A small number of hired registrars end up falsifying voter cards, creating voters who do not exist.

So what does the Republican Party say about ACORN... with who their own candidate John McCain has worked in the past?

Allegedly, ACORN is involved in subverting the nation's voting process, despite the fact that non-existent voters can't very well vote. And, should someone show up to attempt voting for them, there is the small matter of signature comparison required by most polling places (all of them in Illinois, for instance).

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is attempting to strip new voters from Ohio's (and other swing states') registration logs. That's no conspiracy. That, for the Republican Party, seems business as usual.

And speaking of business as usual, how about yet another Republican Conspiracy Theory (RCT's we can call 'em) regarding the Democrats having started this financial mess by allowing Freddie Mac to lend to poor borrowers? John McCain's attempt to paint Barack Obama as fomenter of class warfare seems to be the classic case of man pointing one finger at other man while pointing three more back at himself.

Conspiracies in real life inevitably fall apart for the most pedestrian of reasons. A secret may be safe with one human, but once a second, third, or fourth human is included, the conspirators have the devil of a time not leaking it to someone.

Anyway, my favorite conspiracy theory about Barack Obama is that we know so little about him that it won't be until he is elected we find out his real name is Bxqz Oxynana from the planet Xerx, and that he's here to enslave humanity. Turns out Xerxians like nothing better than human beings... lightly toasted with a dab of Zyx spread.

Don't believe it? Disprove it, then!! Remember, beware the Alien Obama! Vote for Obama and we're ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!

Uh, pass me the Zyx.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vice President Cheney Hospitalized Again for "Abnormal Heart Rhythm"

Christian lefties such as myself are reminded this morning of the need to pray for those with whom we disagree. Vice President Dick Cheney is experiencing abnormal heart rhythm, and is headed to George Washington University Hospital. Mr. Cheney has had four heart attacks in the past. This episode is not a heart attack, but was detected during a checkup. I urge all Christians to pray for Vice President Cheney today. [CNN] Update: Mr. Cheney is back at work and plans on a visit to his doctors tonight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"123456..." Worst Pro-Obama Video EVER!

A Project12 student, Danielle, brought the following very serious message (NOT) to my attention. In order to bring about world peace and solve the current economic crisis, here it is... 1 2 3 4 5 6.... HERE WE GO!

(Gotta lighten up bluechristian once in a while!)

Newsweek on Joel and Victoria Osteen: "What's God Got to Do with It?"

Admission here. I have never liked Joel and Victoria Osteen's version of Christianity. For one thing, he smiles way too much. (And no, I'm not kidding.) For another thing, his low-key but ever-present focus on "prosperity gospel" messages leaves me wondering how he would play in Darfur or various other ravaged portions of this world. No, he seems to me a uniquely American phenomenon, part of our long history of "Prosperity" / Faith preachers including Reverends Copland, Hagin, Creflo Dollar (best preacher name EVER!), and all the way back to Father Divine.

But that could all be me. I'm a bit of a brooder, a doubter, a cup half-empty kind of guy.

Maybe that's why I resonated with Newsweek's Lisa Miller, who subjected the Osteens to what appeared to me a theological critique. For instance,

Prosperity preachers are neither new nor unique in America, but the Osteens' version seems especially self-serving. Victoria's book betrays her interest in the kind of small gratifications that rarely extend to other people, let alone to the larger world. She recommends that women take "me time" every day, and indulge occasionally in a (fat-free!) ice cream. She writes repeatedly about her love for the gym. Her relationship advice is retrograde dross: submit to your man, or at least pretend you're submitting, and then do what you want anyway. "I know if I just wait long enough," she writes, "eventually my idea will become Joel's idea, and it will come to pass." When I asked her how she kept her two children interested in church, she answered that even though they were a broccoli and lean-meats household, she gave them doughnuts as a special treat on Sundays. All this is fine, in the pages of a women's magazine or a self-help book. But what has God got to do with it?

"What's God got to do with it?" Shades of Tina Turner, that is my question exactly. And when one throws Jesus into the mix -- Jesus in turn introducing suffering, taking up one's cross to "follow me" -- things get even stranger for the Osteens.

The biggest lie -- and that's a very strong word for folks I think are probably quite sincere -- hidden in the Osteen's theology is that God is there to please us. That's exactly 180 degrees wrong. We are here to please God, to adore God, to pursue God, though in all of those things He precedes us and draws us. (Not, however, "irresistibly" -- I'm not a Calvinist.) But God is God of all peoples in all places, many of those places completely antithetical to and unable to comprehend the sort of Americanized Christianity offered by the Osteens.

There is tremendous blessing and fulfillment in loving God, a God C. S. Lewis once called "a hedonist at heart." God does want to bless us. But he also, and on a deeper level I believe, wants us to enter into the suffering this world knows every day, every hour, every second. Such a calling, central to the biblical message, is completely absent from Prosperity preaching.

Joel Osteen smiles too much.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize for Economics: More Good News for Obama Campaign

Today Paul Krugman won the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics. Today the markets are up. Why? Well, part of that answer has to do with that same Paul Krugman, Princeton University scholar and New York Times columnist, and what Krugman has been advocating. Oh, did I mention Mr. Krugman appeared yesterday on "Meet the Press" as an avid supporter of Barack Obama, and has been doing so in various other media outlets? Did I mention he supports Obama primarily because of the latter's economic policies, which he contrasts with the Bush/McCain policies (summed up by CNN)?:

Whereas U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson rejected a "sort of temporary part-nationalization" involving governments giving financial institutions more money in return for a share of ownership, the British government "went straight to the heart of the problem ... with stunning speed."

Krugman said the major European economies have "in effect declared themselves ready to follow Britain's lead, injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into banks while guaranteeing their debts."

"And whaddya know," Krugman continued, "Mr. Paulson -- after arguably wasting several precious weeks -- has also reversed course, and now plans to buy equity stakes rather than bad mortgage securities."

Today's rise in stock values is being attributed primarily to the European approach in this economic crisis. Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize is one more sign that Barack Obama, not John McCain, is listening to the right experts. The market's rise is another sign of the same.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why it is wrong -- twice! -- to say Barack Obama is "Arab"

This shouldn't need to be noted, but calling Barack Obama an "Arab" is a charge which says a whole lot about the person mouthing it. The short summation would be this:

First, Barack Obama is Kenyan (African) and Anglo-American. Thus, the business of him being Arab is incorrect.

Second, though he is not Arab there would be nothing wrong with him being Arab. Could the USA have a President of Arab descent? Apparently not, if we listen to the Right. That's clearly racism, but no one is calling them on it yet.

Dear God, what a stupid election this has turned into. Right Wing blogs continue this crapulous sort of racism (google "Obama Arab" if you don't believe me). The hate mongering is getting more and more shrill as the election progresses.

The news is not, however, all bad. There are some signs that John McCain is beginning to tire of the rabid negativity his campaign has embraced over the past few weeks, even months. He ended up having to defend his opponent after a woman said she couldn't trust Obama. "Obama is Arab," she said. Senator McCain shook his head no, then took the mic from the woman. "I want to be President of the United States, and obviously I don't want Senator Obama to be. But I have to tell you he is a decent person and you don't have to be scared [of him] as President of the United States." At this point, the crowd began to boo their own candidate! [CNN Video of Sen. McCain's comments, below, or use link at left]

Yet it must be remembered that McCain's campaign has systematically sought out this anger in an attempt to solidify their base and -- as done successfully in the 2000 and 2004 elections -- use negativity against another candidate in order to push down that candidate's poll numbers. Obama's race, his name, and his having lived overseas as a small child all seem to suggest a special vulnerabilty.

It remains to be seen if the McCain campaign has stopped the hate mongering. If so, good on them, though it may be too late to undo much of the damage. If they waffle -- even a little -- expect every news source, blog, and armchair pundit to notice.

Again, as an Evangelical Christian, I expect to hear from my fellow Evangelicals about this issue. Racism against Arab-Americans, many of whom may be Muslim but who are also Christian or even Atheist, is absolutely sin, wrong, a violation of the heart of the Gospel. "Love your neighbor as yourself and the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind."

That includes Arabs and / or Muslims. As Evangelicals, we know that Christ also died for them, and that they are created in the image of God, and (again) are our neighbors. Racism is Satan's domain.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fellow Evangelicals, Will You Please Speak Out Against McCain/Palin Hate-Mongering?

I am excited to see my candidate doing so well in pre-election polls. But I am afraid as well, seeing a swelling of anger and verbalized violence among many of John McCain's core supporters. His base, I am told, contains nearly 3 out of 4 Evangelical Christians. And that deeply troubles me. Are Evangelicals in the Republican party calling on their candidates to stop encouraging their audiences toward hateful words... and potentially actions?

"Kill him!" shouted one audience member after Gov. Sarah Palin again accused Barack Obama of "ties" to former terrorist Bill Ayers. Did the man want Ayers or Obama dead? And was Gov. Palin aware of what her jingoist repetition of this non-news was creating in the audience? "TERRORIST!" yelled another man during a McCain speech which also focused on the alleged Obama/Ayers connections.

Ayers, a member of the violent Weather Underground in the 1960s, went to prison back then for his part in a bombing incident. At the time, Barack Obama was eight years old. Obama met Ayers through a Republican (one who contributed to John McCain, it turns out) as part of a committee aimed at school children in Chicago. Ayers is now a professor at the University of Chicago.

But let's really look at why, and what, John McCain is doing here. I'm not asking you to vote for my candidate, mind you. I'm just asking you to stop McCain/Palin from creating a dangerous environment and encouraging dangerous minds.

Even someone as calm as commentator David Gergen worries that the Republican Party is creating a potential for violence with their current anti-Obama crusade.

"There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we're not far from that," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday. "I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now. I think it's really imperative that the candidates try to calm people down." [CNN]

Consider this new McCain/Palin slogan: "Who Is Barack Obama?"

Could this question be seriously asked of anyone who was named "John" and didn't have the middle name Barack has, or the funny-sounding (to many American ears) last name?

Could this question be seriously asked of a white candidate?

And SHOULD this question be asked by Evangelical Christians, even those who may be disheartened by their own candidate's slip in the polls?

No, it should not be. We know who Barack Obama is, and whether or not one chooses to vote for him, the hate mongering campaign currently being mounted by McCain/Palin's ticket is outside the bounds of propriety, decency, and -- can I clearly say this and be heard? -- Christian discipleship. We are called to be Jesus followers. Even in the midst of disagreeing over which candidate is better for our nation, we must not dishonor the name of Jesus Christ by allowing a hateful, xenophobic rage to enter our discourse.

Rage is a self-righteous anger which excuses its own excess. Unbelievable acts of horror -- including 9/11, I might add -- occurred as the result of arrogant rage. This type of anger dehumanizes its targets. Once dehumanized, they become puppets in the hands of hate, to have done to them whatever the hater in his/her own distorted sense of duty finds to do.

This election is historic. We've seen the first black man ever nominated by a national party as its candidate for President. Unfortunately, we're also learning this election season that the old American demons can be recalled. Rage is a tool, but so is Christian charity. Disciples of Jesus, whomever you support, make sure your calling is manifest in how you support them. And here's an Obama campaign response to "Who Is Barack Obama?" -- a video that shows us the same guy we've been watching all election long. We know who Barack is. Whoever you support, stop the hate.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Doug Kmiec, Prolife Legal Counsel under Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Campaigns for Barack Obama

This radio ad, now running in Ohio and possibly elsewhere, offers the views of Douglas Kmiec, professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and author of Can A Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama.

The Matthew 25 Network is funding this ad, and as someone involved with that network I'd like to suggest Evangelicals for Obama consider supporting their effort. See below the video for a link to do so.

Contribute to the Matthew 25 Network's ongoing efforts.

Uh-Oh! Reviewing Sarah Palin's "Pro-life" Position in Light of Couric Interview

I'm a bit ashamed of myself that I didn't catch this in the now-infamous Katie Couric interviews with Sarah Palin. We all heard the gaffs and soundbites... but what about some of the more substantial answers Gov. Palin did come up with?

Beliefnet's Steve Waldman suggests something startling: "Amidst Her Dodging, Sarah Palin Contradicts the Republican Platform on Abortion."

Waldman notes, in a number of cases during the fairly lengthy exchange on abortion between Couric and Palin, that the Governor seemed to actually hold a pro-choice position!

For instance, Couric asks: "If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion. Why?" Gov. Palin does not answer the "why" but she does offer this as her punchline: "I would counsel to choose life." The unavoidable conclusion one would reach there is that Palin supports choice, but counsels that choice be for life.

But there's more. Gov. Palin continues:

"I would like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to see taking it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life, and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country. But I want, then, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported for adoptions to be made easier. For more support given to foster parents and adoptive families. That is my personal opinion on this."

I would note this sounds stunningly similar to Barack Obama! There is not one mention of legislating abortion out of existence, of overturning Roe v Wade, and in fact her language -- "I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country" -- sounds almost word for word like Barack Obama (except with less finesse). Consider these comments by Obama, made April 13, 2008 at Messiah College. He is responding to a question on finding any common ground between pro-choice and pro-life polarities:

"I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. It requires us to acknowledge that..

1. There is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.

2. People of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.

And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion." [italics added]

Back to Couric's interview with Sarah Palin:

Couric: So you want more support so women have more options, or girls have more options. But you also think it should be illegal, that there should be no punishment if a woman does break the law...

Palin: I would like to see more women given more support so that those of us who say, "You know, a culture of life is what we believe." Is best ... for human kind, you know, to respect the sanctity of every human life. And to understand ... that we live in a pretty messed up world sometimes.

When you consider what's going on in this world. The most promising and good ingredients in this world ... is a child. The hope that a child brings. And just understanding that. Being near and dear to my heart. I want to do all that I can to reduce the number abortions.

And to usher in that culture of life. And in my respect for the other side of this issue, I have not spoken with one woman who do, may disagree with me on, when abortions could or should be allowed, not one woman has disagreed, as we sit down and rationally talk about ... the common goal we have, and that is to see fewer and fewer abortions. And to provide more and more women support in this world.

Palin again seems to echo a Democratic understanding of the abortion issue rather than supporting the Republican Platform here. Gov. Palin keeps referencing a "culture of life," but remains within a paradigm of choice. That is, a culture where all involved seek to have more support for women and fewer and fewer abortions. Again, this sounds quite similar to Barack Obama.

Couric isn't done yet:

Couric: But, ideally, you think it should be illegal ...

Palin: If you ...

Couric: ...for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in."

Waldman once again notes that again Palin is reiterating a pro-choice position here. I would suggest, for further clarification, that very few pro-choicers think abortion is a "good" choice -- rather, most would readily call it a "bad" choice, a last resort which (to them) might be necessary but is not frivolous nor painless (physically or psychologically) to the mother making such a choice. There is nothing in Palin's responses to Couric to contradict that sort of pro-choice reasoning.

The interview continues:

And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an ... abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Did Palin mean just the mothers who abort, or also the doctors? In light of her apparent inability to communicate clearly on many topics, she may have meant the former. But one is left with what at best is an ambiguous response. I'm left wondering if these responses are yet further evidence of a disingenuousness on the part of the Republican candidates. In short, I think the blurring of pro-life vs. pro-choice positions is being done intentionally by Gov. Palin here, for reasons entirely having to do with polling numbers and the McCain campaign's desire to draw in more women voters... many of whom are pro-choice.

But here, in an exchange over the "morning after" pill, is where Gov. Palin does in fact overtly contradict the Republican Party platform on abortion. It takes Couric three tries to get an answer to her very simple question, but she does finally get it:

Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill as for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning after pill?

Palin: Well ...I'm all for contraception. And I'm all for any preventative measures that are legal and safe and should be taken. But, Katie, again and we can go round and round about the abortion issue, but I am one to seek a culture of life. I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see ...

Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill.

Palin: I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And, again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.

Couric: I'm sorry. I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning after pill?

Palin: Personally, and this is isn't McCain-Palin policy ...

Couric: That's OK. I'm just asking you.

Palin: But, personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception. It ...

Couric: Do you think it should be illegal?

Palin: I don't think that it should necessarily be illegal.

So, for all my fellow pro-lifers out there that feel so compelled to vote McCain/Palin due to the pro-life issue, I hope this is one more reason to reconsider that concept. And again, I thank Mr. Waldman for drawing my attention to this interview.

Liars and Idiots: Kenya's Straightforward Solution for "Obama Nation" Author

Barack Obama is crazy popular in Kenya. His face is on t-shirts, posters, busses, and more. He's a national celebrity and hero there. So, it turns out some Christian missionaries asked Jerome Corsi, author of the discredited poop in book form, "The Obama Nation," to come to Kenya in order to battle Islam.


Obama is not now, nor has ever been, Muslim, a fact that all but the most terminally self-hypnotized Obama haters admit. So just what these missionaries were thinking remains a mystery. But it is true that Corsi, as other right-wing haters and cons before him, repeats the lie that Obama is Muslim in his book.

At any rate, Jerome Corsi found himself ejected from the country by Kenyan officials. Reason? Lack of a work permit.

For some reason, I find that wildly funny.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Getting Personal: Why this Pro-lifer is voting for Barack Obama, Part 2

I have given (in part 1) some of my history regarding both the pro-life movement and my journey toward what I would call a pro-life feminism. The journey is ongoing, but here are some reasons I feel no guilt at all as a pro-lifer for supporting Barack Obama in this election.

* First point, regardless of your supported candidate for President: I can give Evangelical Christians the formula for stopping abortion on demand right here, right now. But virtually none of you really care enough about this issue to stand up and be counted. You'd rather be part of a Republican / Evangelical nexus that has killed thousands of adults and children -- they don't count because they aren't Americans -- in a manifestly unprovoked war in Iraq. A war manufactured by Dick Cheney and George Bush... You'd rather be part of a political nexus that ignores Matthew 25 and the warnings of judgment against those who do not remember the poor, imprisoned, and oppressed. You'd rather be part of a nexus which rewards the wealthy and punishes the working poor, directly contradicting James' warnings about the rich man...

Oh, sorry. You want the formula I offered? Why? You won't do it. You really don't care about the unborn all that much, except when the Republicans yank your chain, say "Country First," and remind you it is time to vote for the usual suspect one more election cycle. The usual suspects being murderers and liars...

Here it is, though... the formula: This Saturday, nation wide, virtually every Evangelical Church in America gathers in front of their local abortion clinic. Prayerfully, silently, without any screaming at people or hostile actions or signs with dead babies on them or any other outward signifier, entire congregations simply sit down in front and in back of abortion clinic doors. Then, in a spirit of broken repentance, the Christians pray to their God for forgiveness for not really caring about either the unborn or the mothers of the unborn or even the doctors inside those abortion clinics. This takes place nation wide. This doesn't stop. Each congregation cycles church members in and out of the protests. Police may arrest people at first, but quickly jails will be overfilled, the earnest integrity and peaceful demeanor of the protest / repentance movement will capture the imagination of many Americans previously unsympathetic to the pro-life movement or unaware of just what abortion is.

But you see, we already did do this. Or tried. Sure, we had no Martin Luther King figure to lead our movement. But on one level, do we need a great leader to do a great thing? If every church did this, nation-wide, wouldn't we all be leaders? Operation Rescue died for a number of reasons. Randall Terry sold it down the river when here in Chicago in 1988 he aligned O.R. with the Republicans (an event I was personally present at, and where I, in a moment either surreal or prophetic, warned Randall to his face not to do it -- then watched him ignore me to do it anway). OR also died because it betrayed its non-violent roots and became a movement too close with those who murdered abortion doctors in the name of Jesus Christ. That horror and shame is unerased.

But mostly, OR in its initial form failed because Evangelicals are all about lip service. We don't really believe our own words about the unborn. We really think that voting for a President, solely with the hope that he might possibly get to nominate a Supreme Court Justice who is pro-life and would vote down Roe v. Wade, makes more sense than to use the one tool that will almost certainly work. Civil rights didn't happen for blacks primarily because of the Supreme Court rulings such as Brown v. Board of Education. Civil Rights came as the result of a mass movement -- a populist movement -- in America which was fueled by moral certainty aligned with non-violence.

So... there you are. And yes, I was arrested and jailed for participating in Operation Rescue. I've also been arrested for participating in an illegal occupation, along with our Alderwoman Helen Shiller and around 100 or more homeless people, of a vacant lot slated for public housing. Today, that housing is there. But -- unlike the homeless and my alderperson in that situation -- Evangelicals are overall not willing to ante up.

And yes, that does tic me off... so onward to points that non-involved Evangelicals deem "pro-life" whilst refusing to be pro-life themselves...

* What do we mean when we say "pro-life"? I'm not talking philosophy or theology. I'm talking pragmatic goals. Almost all pro-lifers would define "victory" in their cause as the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Thus, we keep voting in pro-life presidential candidates in hopes that we can get from it a pro-life majority on the Supreme Court. Very few pro-lifers seem to really know what is likely to happen afterward if such a thing occurred. Most, I suspect, think that abortion on demand would simply go away once Roe was overturned.

What is far more likely to happen is that defining abortion laws would go to the states. Some of them, I suspect few, would outlaw abortion. Others would allow it, but with more strings attached than Roe contains. And still others would pass state laws not differing much from Roe. In short, abortions would be lessened but certainly not stopped. Further, and we do have to admit the reality here, there would also come into being a covert illegal abortion industry.

I'm not saying overturning Roe is a bad idea from a protect-the-unborn point of view. But if anyone thinks abortion is going to go away if Roe does, think again. Hard.

* And... Is it likely that Roe v. Wade will in fact be overturned, even if we keep on electing allegedly pro-life Presidents? As Joe Biden says, "History is prologue." So let's review:

Since 1973, when Roe became law, how many years were spent under Republican Administrations?

Richard Nixon (left office in 1974); Gerald Ford (1974-76); Jimmy Carter (1976-80); Ronald Reagan (1980-1988); George Herbert Walker Bush (1988-1992); Bill Clinton (1992-2000); George W. Bush (2000-2008).

That comes out to:
Republicans: 23 years
Democrats: 12 years
Total: 35 years

Now, from 1980 to the present, when being pro-life turned into a major presidential election issue, the totals are even more striking:

Republicans: 20 years (Reagan 8, GHW Bush 4, W Bush 8)
Democrats: 8 years (Clinton 8)

Let's take this even further. What Supreme Court Justices did the pro-life folk put on the court? Seven of the nine Justices were appointed by Republicans. Does that startle anyone? Further, Justices appointed by Ronald Reagan (Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy) participated in voting down challenges to Roe v. Wade -- two such cases being Planned Parenthood vs. Casey and Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services.

George Herbert Walker Bush appointee David Souter also participated in defending Roe v. Wade in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, writing that to overturn Roe would have been "a surrender to political pressure... So to overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to re-examine a watershed decision would subvert the Court's legitimacy beyond any serious question."

What's my point here? Simple. If we think for a second that electing a self-proclaimed "pro-life" president will result in the overturn of Roe v. Wade, we are ignoring history. Much of the time, the Justices appointed are in fact not pro-life enough to vote against Roe v. Wade.

Further, we are using the wrong tool for the wrong job. Again, we have the tool to end Roe if we want to end it badly enough. But.... we don't want it badly enough.

* Roe v. Wade has become nearly overwhelming "legal precedent." That is, laws are a little bit like plants in a yard. My Dearling and I, for instance, planted a very small pine tree in our front yard. Puny, really. That tree at present is over ten feet tall and has a trunk at least a foot in diameter near the base. Its roots are, plant folks say, as deep underground as the top of the tree is above ground. In short, though I could have plucked that tree up within the first few months of planting it, causing minimal damage to surrounding growth or the yard itself, to yank it out now (requiring a tractor!) would leave a gaping hole in the lawn and almost certainly kill other plants in the yard.

A law is like that. Its roots sink deeply into the legal soil, and as it comes into relationship with older and newer laws -- even begetting laws requiring it as their basis -- to tear it out means reshaping the landscape.

All sorts of newer laws -- some likely far afield from the issue of abortion directly -- have shared root systems with Roe v. Wade. Pull up Roe v. Wade and one will also yank on various other laws -- many, many of them -- which rely on for their own existence. At present, I'm not defending those laws (as a non-lawyer/non-legislator, I don't even know which laws they are). What I am doing is pointing out that the bigger a legal "tree" gets, the more unlikely it is that any Supreme Court will actually tear the tree out by its roots. Trim it, yes... and in fairness, some of the Republican appointees did trim Roe v. Wade. But that is all. And truthfully, from a legal or legislative standpoint, it is unlikely to see that "precedent" of 35 years successfully undermined.

As pointed out in the preceding point, history itself lends some credence to these assertions.

* There is an increasing sense of disbelief among my Evangelical friends regarding the sincerity of the Republican Party regarding abortion. That's a nice way of saying we're very cynical toward the McBush folk on abortion, and frankly most other things. Some of this was fostered by the transparently manipulative and fear-mongering use of gay marriage during the 2004 election. In Ohio, the Republicans used the concept of a "marriage amendment" to rally Evangelicals to vote for George Bush. It worked. This same strategy, we realized, was being used on us regarding abortion. Even Ronald Reagan, for all his pro-life rhetoric, appointed non-pro-life Justices (as noted earlier) to the Supreme Court. Perhaps he couldn't have done differently, but the end result was the same. And today, with an avowed Evangelical in office who's lied to us and committed our troops in a horribly mistaken war (while all but ignoring the actual 9/11 offenders in Afghanistan), we Christians aren't quite a naive as we used to be. At least, I sure hope we aren't.

If we still insist on being naive, perhaps a good long hard look at Dick Cheney and the effect of Atheist Leo Strauss on the Neocons' worldview is in order. Google it.

* Are we really for the Republicans because of Roe v Wade (a decision made under a Republican administration and written by Nixon appointee and life-long Republican Harry Blackmun), or are we for the Republicans because our own values are screwed up and unbiblical? Consider the present economic crisis, which though complex and rooted in many mistakes as well as downright greed, has as its central issue the "deregulation" of real estate investment done by banks. In spite of warnings from many (including Democratic nominee Barack Obama), this Republican-led deregulation allowed banks to gamble with home mortages, selling and buying them in multi-million-dollar bundles with little or no regard to what would happen if real estate markets got depressed. Well, the market did get depressed, and the loans began failing, and the banks began foreclosures and everyone -- but most poignantly the homeowners who'd naively believed their bankers -- lost big. We Evangelicals, who are supposed to be defenders of the poor, the widows, and the prisoners, are instead found supporting a party which is big on defending wealthy corporations and corporate executives while tone-deaf to the cries of the poor most damaged by deregulatory policies.

Another example. In the early 1980s I was shocked to hear Cal Thomas of the Moral Majority outline in detail why good Christians had to in biblical principle support the idea of an ever-strengthening American military. This theme continues through today, with John McCain using his own military background to claim a greater ability to protect America. Even my own candidate, Barack Obama, makes me nervous on this point, as his platform is also far more militarily-based than I find either biblical or ethical. But it falls to the Christian Right to sacralize -- make sacred -- the concept of an ever-stronger military. It makes my cynical soul wish there was a Mark Twain around to scream his "War Prayer" into the ears of these violence-in-the-name-of-gawd people.

And just how the above is pro-life escapes me... unless we're talking about American life being more precious than anyone else's, even countries who've had nothing to do with attacks made upon us. Adding the word "Christian" in front of military policies favoring more guns, more bombs, more soldiers dying and being killed seems highly dubious theologically to me. Admit, without super-spiritualizing it, that a nation needs a military. But don't sacralize it with a Jesus sticker unless you want some serious theological push-back. N. T. Wright's comments on Empire come to mind... (see end of article for a few links).

* Barack Obama will continue supporting Roe v. Wade. Yet Obama's overall policies may even lead (as one pro-life, pro-Obama site suggests) to fewer abortions than under a McCain/Palin administration which has already pledged to massively cut spending (but not from the military). Where, then, will those cuts come from? We know from experience. I watched what happened when Ronald Reagan's economic programs kicked in during the early 1980s. Our homeless neighbor programs saw an exponential rise in both individuals and -- especially -- entire families. That's how Republicans cut spending.

Further, unlike some of his Democratic predicessors (both unsucessful and successful), Senator Obama sees significant value in making abortion an issue for bridge-building. Or, to quote him directly and at length from an interview done with Relevant magazine:

Strang: Based on emails we received, another issue of deep importance to our readers is a candidate’s stance on abortion. We largely know your platform, but there seems to be some real confusion about your position on third-trimester and partial-birth abortions. Can you clarify your stance for us?

I absolutely can, so please don’t believe the emails. I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

The other email rumor that’s been floating around is that somehow I’m unwilling to see doctors offer life-saving care to children who were born as a result of an induced abortion. That’s just false. There was a bill that came up in Illinois that was called the “Born Alive” bill that purported to require life-saving treatment to such infants. And I did vote against that bill. The reason was that there was already a law in place in Illinois that said that you always have to supply life-saving treatment to any infant under any circumstances, and this bill actually was designed to overturn Roe v. Wade, so I didn’t think it was going to pass constitutional muster.

Ever since that time, emails have been sent out suggesting that, somehow, I would be in favor of letting an infant die in a hospital because of this particular vote. That’s not a fair characterization, and that’s not an honest characterization. It defies common sense to think that a hospital wouldn't provide life-saving treatment to an infant that was alive and had a chance of survival.

You’ve said you’re personally against abortion and would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions under your administration. So, as president, how would do you propose accomplishing that?

I think we know that abortions rise when unwanted pregnancies rise. So, if we are continuing what has been a promising trend in the reduction of teen pregnancies, through education and abstinence education giving good information to teenagers. That is important—emphasizing the sacredness of sexual behavior to our children. I think that’s something that we can encourage. I think encouraging adoptions in a significant way. I think the proper role of government. So there are ways that we can make a difference, and those are going to be things I focus on when I am president.

* Finally, one more personal note here... I do think that as Christians we have to remember that a vote for a candidate is not an unqualified endorsement of that candidate. We are salt, not sugar. If we do not bring God's Word and Heart to humankind (the prophetic) and also human words and hearts to God (the priestly) we fail our role as salty preservative.

I fully expect to be a critic of President Obama and Vice President Biden, as well as obeying the Word and praying for them. But I will not view them as leaders of a Christian nation. I view any leader of America as a leader in a multi-cultural nation of thousands (millions?) of differing beliefs. My function is not to bring about a Christian America, either of the mythical past (there never was such a past) or of the mythical future (such a future will not arrive). America is a great nation, and I'm glad to be a part of the whole. But I refuse to confuse a worldly nation which will pass away when that which Eternal arrives with the Kingdom of God, which is now being established and one day will be made Eternally Manifest. Neither will I participate in a world where the "good" people are us and the "bad" people are "them" -- however "them" is defined. In God's eyes, we are all lost, yet he seeks each of us to find us. That is the truth of love.

And going beyond even my own cynicism for a moment, imagine voting for Barack Obama as an act of faith. He will not bring God's Kingdom. But he might bring a better America, and I for one certainly think he'll bring a far better America than that we've experienced these past eight years.

A brief apology at article's end... I admit fully that I am still in flux on many of these issues. I continue to try and construct (we all construct, so get over it) a biblical feminism and biblical prolife vision. The tensions involved are real even for this white male, and felt more deeply the longer I continue in the task. I claim nothing for myself but a continued and total need for the power of Christ to be made manifest in this human sarx of mine.

Links on N. T. Wright and Empire: