A number of this week’s reports and analyses from the Greater Blogosphere have a theme. In various ways they describe the religious right’s assault on religious freedom and pluralism in America. These assaults come from a number of seemingly different directions.
The Huffington Post
When my nephew sent me this link about this new video game called Left Behind; Eternal Forces, I thought I was looking at satire….[but]…
This is really chilling stuff. What it tells us about the hearts and minds of these awful people is almost impossible to fathom. Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, “the banality of evil,” comes to mind–only this is not just banal, it’s also pious. The combination is transcendentally ugly.
But what I really want to know is where are the decency brigades? Where’s Joe Lieberman and Hillary? Where are the Hollywood bashers? Where are the defenders of standards in our public culture? Let’s hear from Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Let’s hear from the folks at The New Criterion. How deep does the cynicism that underlies the neocon alliance with Christian fundamentalists run?
This is a Holocaust game for God’s sake.
Bruce Prescott reminds us that the Baptist tradition in the U.S. going back to Roger Williams, has always supported the right of individual conscience — that became a foundational principle in the American constitution, over coercion, (let alone the murder of New Yorkers who refuse to convert as is taught in the video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, discussed above:
Williams, a champion of liberty of conscience and religious liberty, was offered the pulpit of the congregational church in Boston when he arrived in the New World in 1631. He declined that position because he was opposed to forcing everyone to one worship. Instead he became a missionary to the indigenous people of North America.
Williams studied the language and customs of indigenous North Americas and published the first text on a Native American language. Foremost among his concerns was a desire to share the gospel cross-culturally in a manner that respected the integrity of the consciences of all persons. In his book, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, Williams wrote:
Two mountains of crying guilt lie heavy upon the backs of all men that name the name of Christ, in the eyes of Jews, Turks, and pagans.
First, the blasphemies of their idolatrous inventions, superstitions, and most unchristian conversations.
Secondly, the bloody, irreligious, and inhuman oppressions and destructions under the mask or veil of the name of Christ, etc. (Bloudy Tenent, page 8)
… People with this concern for both the integrity of conscience and of the Christian witness will not be organizing political efforts to force the children of Jews, Muslims and pagans to say state sponsored mandatory prayers in public schools. Neither will they be erecting religious monuments in public spaces.
Blog from the Capital
Don Byrd finds the money quote in a profile about former Faith Based Initiative honcho Jim Towey. He also notes that the Louisiana Legislature which last week was flummoxed about which version of the Ten Commandments to use in a bill about posting the Ten Commandments and so decided to edit the holy writ, eventually punted. They sent a bill to the governor that says the commandments should be posted when someone finally figures out what they are.
Wall of Separation
Jeremy Leaming reports:
“Public Expression of Religion Act.” H.R. 2679, introduced by Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.)… would deny attorneys’ fees and out-of-pocket costs in cases won by advocates of church-state separation. The measure would essentially make it much more difficult for citizens to challenge government-backed religious activities….In a six-page to the committee, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn argued that the bill was a blatant attempt to cut off challenges to government-sponsored religion. Government entities, Lynn noted, have “virtually unlimited resources with which to litigate cases and can use those resources to drag out litigation.” Lynn also observed that increasingly government agencies do not have to spend money on litigation because Religious Right law firms, such as the Alliance Defense Fund and the Thomas More Law Center, are defending their actions for free in court.
Faith in Public Life
This brand new organization seeks to highlight, network and provide resources to mainstream religious groups as an alternative to the religious right:
Faith in Public Life envisions a country in which diverse religious voices for justice and the common good consistently impact public policy; and those who use religion as a tool of division and exclusion do not dominate public discourse.
As is now de rigeur, they have a blog. House blogger Dave Baron has a report on the Committee hearing on the Hoestettler bill. Comments welcome.
This is not exactly about the religious right and what to do about it — but it is so well done that it suggests a model for comparative quotes involving certain leaders of the religious right. The Hitler vs. Coulter Quiz (I scored 9 out of 14.)
Talk to Action
Tanya Erzen has the skinny on the religious right’s “ex-gay” meeting, held udring Gay Pride Week.
Exodus International, the umbrella organization for the ex-gay movement, is holding its annual conference called “Live Out Loud.” Exodus promotes the message that men and women can “come out” of homosexuality and change into heterosexuals through biblical approaches and reparative therapy. There are now over two-hundred ex-gay ministries worldwide, and the movement is expanding. I recently visited a prison that hosts an ex-gay ministry in its facility, and there are more to come.
Jonathan Hutson reports that there is spyware in the software of the controverial video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces.
It’s cutting-edge Israeli technology — a piece of software inserted directly into Left Behind: Eternal Forces, software that cannot be blocked or removed — and without your knowledge or permission, it tracks you. This in-game ad software records how often you play the video game, at what time of day and for how long, what game play areas you visit (like Times Square, Soho, Chinatown, or the United Nations Building), which video ads and product placements you view, where your computer is located geographically, and who you are demographically. It monitors your choices and behavior, collates data, and reports back in real-time to… whom? For what purposes? Do you know?
Chip Berlet wonders why so many Americans are missing just how vile and dangerous the novels in the Left Behind series really are. Christian values? Check it out:
When White supremacists post websites demonizing Jews and gay people, they are condemned for the hatemongers they are.
When leaders of the armed citizens militias and their allies in the Patriot Movement in the 1990s urged their followers to form anti-government underground cells and battle global cooperation and the United Nations, they were condemned as dangerous guerrillas spreading divisive conspiracy theories.
When Timothy LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins write the Left Behind series of novels containing the same type of bigotry, they sell 70 million books and are interviewed by clueless journalists who use a double standard by not confronting LaHaye and Jenkins for spreading hate and conspiracism as well as promoting religious violence as a heroic duty.
The National Abortion Federation’s new report — Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice — tells us more than folks like Kurt Ensminger want us to know about the tactics of “pregnancy help centers” from Maine to California.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) exist to keep women from having abortions. In many instances, they misinform and intimidate women to achieve their goal. Women describe being harassed, bullied, and given blatantly false information. Many assert that their confidentiality has been violated, and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health.
Robert Pearson established the first Crisis Pregnancy Center in 1967. Pearson made his intentions for creating these CPCs clear when he declared, “Obviously, we’re fighting Satan. A killer, who in this case is the girl who wants to kill her baby, has no right to information that will help her kill her baby.”
Frank Coccozelli analyzes the bizarre disortions of the priest pedophilia scandal being carried out by the rightist Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights:
If the Religious Right were to succeed in establishing an American theocracy, or anything even close, the devil would be in the details. A preview is now being played out between the Catholic League on the theocratic Right and the Voice of the Faithful representing a full spectrum of mainstream centrist, liberal and conservative Catholics.
I decided to name the elephant on the conference table and noted that although the religious right affects the politics and public policy agendas of many, the many organizational conferences this summer will talk around the subject rather than address it directly. Few if any of these events will seek to hold coherent conversations on the religious right and what to do about it.
And I appealed to the blogosphere for assistance in updating my book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. (There has definitely been progress, but we have a ways to go yet.)