Dear Christians

I think it may be time to have a chat, so would you all meet me in the back after the sermon this morning, uh…. except for the guy over there “guarding” the altar… yeah, you with the bandolier and carrying the AK-47 because you can… you can leave. The rest of you, please meet me back by the communion wine. There will be no collection, and I think the pastor’s wife baked cookies.

Are we all here? Great. Let’s get started.

We are having some big problems in this country because of the shifting way in which some Christians see their place in society. And that shift is bringing those Christians into conflict with other members of society – sometimes other Christians. Part of the problem is that shift is being brought about by extremists and their motives just aren’t recognized by the laity.

No, madam, I’m not calling you stupid. I’m saying that there are some things you may not know about because 1) you are busy people working hard to support your families, 2) these aren’t the sorts of things you’ll learn watching “Good Morning America,” and 3) you really don’t want to believe them anyway.

Yes, madam, that was sarcasm.

Let’s start with the “war” on Christianity. There isn’t one… or there wasn’t one. That may be changing.

Erick Erickson, editor of the blog site, Fox News contributor, sometimes guest host on The Rush Limbaugh Show, and author of Red State Uprising: How to Take Back America, recently asked in an op-ed piece in the IJReview, “…how much longer until we have another civil war?” He claims that no one should want this, that he doesn’t want it, but still asks, “How much longer before the cold war of citizenry fed and flamed by Washington turns hot?” [1]

As usual with the extreme religious right, he has things ass-backwards, on purpose, of course. It isn’t Washington that’s fanning the flames, he is. And I have to wonder how sincere he actually is when he says he doesn’t want another civil war.

The title of his first book is instructive here: Red State Uprising: How to Take Back America. It suggests two things. It suggests that America has been lost somehow and it suggests that there needs to be an “uprising” to “take it back.”

What has been lost, according to the evangelical right, is the “Christian Nation” which they claim the United States once was and now is not. What is difficult about this concept is that there are half-truths attached to it.

The North American continent was settled by people who were fleeing what they thought was religious persecution in their own countries. Many on the right identify with these early settlers because they feel that they too are persecuted, and they have worked diligently to spread the word among Christians that all Christians in this country are under attack. They are not.

While early settlers may have come here in order to worship as they saw fit, by the time the population grew to the point where it decided to become a nation, those who created this United States of America made the conscious decision to separate religion and government. This is not an opinion up for debate or argument. There is enough documentation on this fact to fill a library. “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” –John Adams

But there are those on the evangelical right who would argue that it was anyway because it suits their purposes and goals. They continually talk about “this Christian nation,” as opposed to this nation which is comprised of a predominantly Christian population. They insist that all Christians are being persecuted by the US government when in fact the government – by virtue of the way it was created – couldn’t care less about religious matters unless you use religion as an excuse to break the law. Even then, the government doesn’t really care why you broke the law in most cases, only that you did.

But the extreme evangelical right isn’t really interested in religion either. What they are interested in is inserting religion into government to further their own goals, and that is a different thing altogether.

The whole Kim Davis circus is an excellent example of this.

Kim Davis is an unfortunate woman who had a difficult time in her life and then “found God” four years ago. And whoever it was that helped her “find God” apparently instilled in her the idea that “God’s law” superseded man’s law and that the bible was “God’s law.” And Kim, wanting to be a good Christian, took that to heart and also the teaching of that particular brand of Christianity that homosexuality is a sin. All of which is fine. This woman has the right to believe whatever she wants.

Unfortunately, Kim Davis was also a clerk in the county court system in Kentucky and had sworn an oath to uphold the laws of both her state and the country. She made the decision (and it is unclear at this point how much outside help she had in making it) to place her religious beliefs over performing her duty under the law.  She refused to issue a marriage license to two gay couples. They sued her. The court ordered her to issue the licenses. (Note that the court did not issue a punishment, just an order to issue licenses.) Kim Davis refused.

She appealed her case, finally asking the Supreme Court of the United States to make an exception for her based on her “firmly held religious belief.” (I’ve written about this before.) The SCOTUS refused her exception. She was ordered again by the lower court to issue the licenses. She again refused. By going to the Supreme Court (and why they entertained this request, I have no idea) and getting turned down, she had exhausted her legal options. By refusing to follow an order of a federal court, she put herself in contempt.

Kim Davis was arrested and jailed for refusing to obey a direct order from a federal court, not for anything having to do with her religious beliefs. Previously, her religious beliefs were involved in her appeal to the Supreme Court, but by the time it got down to arresting her, it was a simple matter of disobeying a court order.

This is a very important distinction to understand, because the evangelical right would have you believe just the opposite. On the court’s side – the “government’s” side – they don’t give a flying pig’s ass why she refused to follow an order from the court, but once your legal recourse has hit a dead end, you either do what you are told or get thrown in jail.

Kim Davis’s lawyer (pro bono) is a man named Matthew Staver who also happens to be the founding member and chairman of a group called the Liberty Counsel, a self-described “independent Christian Ministry.” Staver says the ministry’s purpose “is to preserve religious liberty and help create and maintain a society in which everyone will have the opportunity to discover the truth that will give true freedom.”  When you see the words “religious liberty” and “true freedom” in the same sentence, your bullshit detector should light up. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Liberty Counsel a hate organization. Staver had appeared repeatedly on Fox News, and on the Glen Beck show before the Kim Davis circus.

Staver was joined at a well-planned event when Kim Davis was released by Mike Huckabee, presidential candidate, who, as she was being released, offered to do jail time for her. Huckabee later defended Davis’s right to ignore the Supreme Court ruling by stating that no one followed the Dredd-Scott decision (which stated that blacks weren’t fully human) any more either. Dredd-Scott was, of course, reversed by a later Supreme Court ruling, not to mention the 14th amendment. But that didn’t bother Huckabee who further insisted that the ruling on same-sex marriage is illegal “because this has left the whole country in a state of ambiguity and confusion.” There is some question as to whether he consulted with Staver before rendering this legal opinion.

What all of this misses is that Kim Davis was put in jail for failing to obey a court order, not for being a homophobe.

Unfortunately, Kim Davis is being used by the evangelical right to pursue their agenda and she suffers when they bring their bogus logic and false history to bear on her case. As does the entire American Christian community.

Tom Delay, former House Majority Leader said last year, “I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government.” We got off track, “when we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that He wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.” [2]

And there it is again. What we have lost, according to these religious extremists, is the thing you never had but which they want you to believe you did: a Christian government, Christianity as a national religion. And there will need to be an uprising to get it back. And they want you to rise up. They will lie to you, cajole you and goad you to do just that. They will tell you that there is a war on Christianity when the only war that has been fought for years now is the one being waged by the extreme Evangelical right on the separation of church and state.

In Kansas recently the Secretary of State fired an employee because she wouldn’t attend prayer meetings in his office. [3] Does that sound more like a war on Christianity or Christianity waging a war on citizen’s rights? Christians are so persecuted in this country that they can fire people for not praying with them?

And Erick Erickson may be right. It just may be that the “cold war” between the evangelical right and the rights of American citizens is about to heat up, because lots of otherwise passive citizens are getting very tired of it, and because the Republican presidential candidate field is shot through with the “take back America” mentality and it has no place in government.

We keep seeing the question asked over and over, “Why aren’t moderate Muslims standing up against ISIS and the radical Islamists?” “If not all Muslims are bent on the destruction of the west, why don’t they stand up to the extremists?”

If you don’t want the American citizenry to hold all of Christianity responsible for your own extreme right, why aren’t more of you standing up to them?

There are a few voices of reason. Here’s an excerpt from an open letter Baptist Pastor Russell Williams posted on Facebook regarding Kim Davis:

“This seems to be a case of someone looking to cash in on the religious right. Churches all across the south will throw money at her to come and tell congregations how the evil American government put her in jail because of her faith in Jesus.

“This is why we are losing.

“This is why people have such disdain for evangelicals.

“Not because we disagree but because we don’t take the bible seriously. If ever there was a case of “he who is without sin cast the first stone”, this is it. If ever there was a “take the log out of your eye” moment, this is it.

“We must stop looking to the government to make America a Christian utopia.” [4]

It is becoming increasingly clear that what defines you as a conservative in the Republican Party today is no longer whether you believe in trickle-down economics or large government or small government, but whether you believe in Christian government. And in this country we have never had; we do not now have; and we can never have a Christian government, so long as we value our constitution.

Take the logs out of your eyes, people!

The pastor’s wife asks that you not take more than one cookie so there are enough to go around.

Your Humble Servant,
Roger A. Shipley, The Willowbrook Curmudgeon

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