Christian faith or political ideology?

Amanda Tyler names Christian nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that merges our identity as Americans and Christians … and relies on a false narrative of our founding as a Christian nation.” Whether that challenges you or sounds right to you, I hope you will watch this interview today and hear more of her thoughts.

Amanda Tyler is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, widely known as BJC.  For 87 years, this organization has been upholding the historic Baptist principle of religious liberty: defending the free exercise of religion and protecting against its establishment by government. She is also the lead organizer of BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign and recently spoke at a congressional hearing about the threat of Christian Nationalism.

“We’ve known about the dangers of Christian nationalism for many years even if we didn’t call it by that name,” Amanda said. A common theme of the story they tell is that “one must be a Christian to be an American.” – Starting three years ago, many leaders saw the growing influence and threat to democracy of the movement and started the Christians Against Christian Nationalism (CACN) project. Please listen to the interview, and then read on to the end.

Amanda Tyler grew up in Texas Baptist churches, back when Baptists still agreed on her statement that they have “for centuries found a theological calling to stand up for religious freedom for all.” As a Baptist minister for 50 years, I learned it early and stood firm on our commitment to the separation of church and state, guaranteeing religious freedom for all. The Baptist Joint Committee, which Amanda leads, has worked for almost 90 years to keep this commitment strong in this country. And now Christian nationalism denies that history and claims the founders never said that.

What can you do? Amanda recommends starting with the CACN statement of principles, which says in part:

“Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology.”

The eight principles in their statement can give you the language and ideas essential for engaging in conversation and challenging this movement. For example:

“People of all faiths and none have the right and responsibility to engage constructively in the public square.”

“Conflating religious authority with political authority is idolatrous and often leads to oppression of minority and other marginalized groups as well as the spiritual impoverishment of religion.”

This project speaks directly to Christians, often in the specific language of our faith, because it is a call and challenge to other Christians to stand up to this movement. “Our religion,” she says, “has been co-opted by political actors to further their aims.” The movement uses symbols and language of Christianity, and often looks like the same thing, but it is not. It is “political ideology and cultural framework” and not true Christianity. What can we do? Amanda names three things:

  • Name and recognize Christian nationalism for what it is.
  • Take a stand against it.
  • Share what we’ve learned with others.

I found her words at the end of the interview to be encouraging and hope you will too:

There is “no religious test to be an American … The idea of multi-ethnic and multi-racial democracy that we aspire to is made better by our diversity. … Christian nationalism is deeply entrenched in American society, and it may take a generational project to dismantle it….The fight may be hard and long, but we can do it.”

Anyone can view this interview for free at the Imagine Learning Community, where you will find many other resources and interviews as well.

You may have read some of my posts in the fall about the Reawaken America Tour in Batavia, NY last August. You can read all of them now in a free eBook, “Inside the Reawaken America Tour.” Click here and download your copy today.

Why Antisemitism Should be Everyone’s Concern

Joyce Herman and I met in Washington, D.C. in 2005 at a national conference for religious progressives, but we live in the same town. Over the years, we would connect at some public gathering. In recent months, however, we began active conversation about the rise of antisemitism in the U.S. Joyce wrote a recent blog post that deserves a wider audience than I could give it, but please take time to read her entire post. It’s worth the time.

As a young Jewish child in the 1940’s learning about the horrors happening in Germany, I would lie awake at night and ask myself over and over, “How can they (those who are in charge of the world) be letting these horrendous things happen??”

Now, when autocratic, anti-democratic forces are burgeoning all over the world, including the U.S, that little child’s question is unfortunately still in play. My hope is that a brief exploration of antisemitism and why it should matter to everyone will shed some light on the bigger question of what role individuals can take in not letting bad things happen.

Antisemitism is complicated. I’ve used the acronym H.A.T.E. (It’s HERE, it’s ANCIENT, it’s a TOOL FOR TYRANTS, it affects EVERYONE) to help explain what it is and how it works.

H. It’s HERE and it’s real.

Simply stated, antisemitism is prejudice or hatred of Jews. A detailed history can be found in Holocaust Encyclopedia. Antisemitism occurs in cycles, surfacing when the society is stressed. Until recently antisemitism was in a less visible phase. However, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported over 2700 incidents of antisemitism in 2021, the largest increase since they began reporting them 70 years ago. Antisemitism on the Right, led by a strong and organized White Nationalist Supremacy movement has instigated and inspired murderous attacks on synagogues, grocery stores, schools, and malls.

The last few years have seen:

A. IT’S ANCIENT:

It didn’t start in Nazi Germany. Antisemitism has been called “the oldest hate.” A Jewish Black woman recently lamented that the Jews’ 6000 year history is characterized by a global search for safety.

Antisemitism began well before Christianity when the Israelites refused to bow down to Greek and Roman emperors. Over the millenia, Jews’ commitment to their interpretation of God and God’s commandments kept them separate and made them subject to torture, forced conversions (“you can’t live among us as Jews”) expulsions, (“you can’t live among us”) and periodic pogroms and genocide (“you can’t live”).

For centuries, state and church laws disallowed Jews from owning land, holding public office, or pursuing most occupations. Jews were living as a minority without a homeland and had to rely on the good will of rulers in the country where they were allowed to settle. In exchange for a promise of protection for the Jewish community, a few Jews would serve as money lenders (usury was deemed a sin for Christians), tax collectors, or other public officials. The majority of Jews there remained as impoverished as the general population.

T. IT’S A TOOL FOR TYRANTS

When those being taxed would resist the oppressive conditions of their lives, ruling royalty directed the people’s hatred and resentment to the Jewish community. Jews were used by those with the real power as “middle agents” to absorb the hatred and resentment and keep the real oppressors from coming to account. Blame and scapegoating became a regular device to divert oppressed people’s animosity and gather people to the rulers’ agenda. Dog whistles and veiled or open use of antisemitic tropes often preceded outright attacks and ultimately pogroms. In the digital age, antisemitism takes different forms but with the same destructive effect.

In a related pattern autocratic rulers developed a “divide and conquer” strategy—keeping the oppressed groups in conflict with each other. We see that operating again today in the U.S.

E. IT’S EVERYONE’S CONCERN

The recent dramatic and visible rise of antisemitism — a poison that runs in cycles and has resurfaced at many points in history — is but one example of how our world gets divided. Moreover, antisemitism plays a pivotal role in disrupting the entire society and in particular any progressive trends that have the potential to bring about longed for justice and wholeness.

Eric Ward, Executive Vice-President of Race Forward, and Senior Advisor to the Western States Center and former senior consultant to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has made a powerful case that antisemitism fuels White nationalism. Amazingly, he briefly infiltrated the Oath Keepers (of January 6 infamy), and learned that antisemitism formed the core credo of these White Christian Nationalists. They teach that Jews form “a monstrous, all-powerful cabal,” a concept that comes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document that a group of Russian police fabricated in the 19th century. They further spuriously claim that Jews use what the Oath Keepers call “subhuman others,” including Blacks and immigrants, as pawns in the Jews’ plan to destroy White nationhood. This is known as The Great Replacement Theory. See also, The “Great Replacement Theory”, Explained by the National Immigration Forum. Be sure to check the end of the document for a list of effective forms of allyship.

Ward believes fighting antisemitism cuts off that fuel for the sake of all marginalized communities under siege and that racism will not be eliminated until antisemitism is addressed. For more information see Ward’s Congressional testimony 12/13/22.

It’s often said that “Jews are the canaries in the coal mine.” It may start relatively innocuously, and people feel “it’s not a big deal, and it doesn’t affect me.”

Pastor Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran Pastor,  was a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-semite but dramatically changed when he was targeted and imprisoned by the Nazis. When he was liberated from prison after the war, he famously said:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

ISRAEL

Although many American Jews want a homeland for Jews — and a homeland for Palestinians — the majority oppose the Israeli government’s repressive policies, a fact which is not widely known. A survey “found that Jewish Americans – much like the U.S. public overallhold widely differing views on Israel and its political leadership. It’s worth noting that Christian Zionists have been a major factor in supporting U.S. policies vis a vis Palestinians. They have also backed the settlement movement. Progressive Movements Cannot Afford to Ignore the Role of Christian Zionism in the Dispossession of Palestinians

Progressive causes have suffered when groups have singled out Israel, and by extension Jews, for attack or exclusion. This is part of the old pattern of scapegoating. The World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001 got sidetracked from considering reparations for slavery in the U.S. because of polarization around the slogan “Zionism is racism” which caused the U.S and Israel to pull out of the conference. Likewise the Women’s March in 2017 began with great energy and high hopes for inclusivity and supporting women of color in leadership, but Jewish women’s groups who had been very active in Civil Rights and feminist causes for decades were excluded because they supported the existence of the State of Israel.

Moreover, just as it is not un-American to criticize U.S. policies and behaviors, it is not antisemitism to call out egregious policies by the State of Israel. In other words, one can support the right of the State of Israel to exist while condemning governmental policies. However, when supporters of Palestine fail to distinguish between the policies of Israel, the State of Israel, and Jews, criticism of Israel can turn to hatred for Israel, and from there to attacks on Jews and Jewish groups. It is counterproductive to attack or exclude Jews in order to lift up Palestinians.

FROM ALLYSHIP TO SOLIDARITY

The Pachamama Alliance is committed to bringing about a very different world than the separation our current economic/political/social systems have brought us. In community, we can grieve the disconnections, the insidious splits of humans from one another, from other living beings, from the earth, and even from oneself. Together we can find the way back to wholeness.

Becoming allies to any targeted group is an empowering way to make rewarding connections. Jews’ history of not being supported when conditions become threatening means they don’t always trust that people care. (My Jewish friends’ faces light up when I tell them about the many ways allies from the Pachamama Alliance and elsewhere have supported me.)

The 2022 Chanukah celebration in the White House was a powerful and thoughtful response to the upsurge in antisemitism . While mixing church and state can be problematic, President Biden’s speech and the whole tenor of the event provided much needed healing.

Another compelling statement came from Imam Abdullah Antepli, formerly from Turkey, who gave the Shabbat sermon at Central Synagogue in Manhattan on December 16. Having been taught that Jews and Judaism were irredeemably evil, he grew up a rabid antisemite, burning Israeli flags. Now, despite death threats, he spends his life not only in prayer, but in calling on people of all faiths to take action.

Imam Abdullah Antepli believes the reason hate and antisemitism are on the rise is lack of action, quoting, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Amplifying what kind of action he believed was necessary, he cautioned against being “anti” something, rather than “pro,” and asked, “What ethical light do we want to show? A rightful response to the darkness will take grace, educational opportunities, and sometimes giving people a second, third, and fourth chance.”

Imam Antepli’s other plea, one that resonates deeply with the Pachamama vision, is if we respond from our silos, each group addressing only their own pain, the problems will not be solved.

Paying attention to acts of antisemitism and speaking out about them are antidotes to the isolation that is part of anti-semitism and all oppressions.When people find the courage to stand up and speak out in ways that others can hear, an important piece of healing happens in our world.

Beyond that, learning about the meaning and rich practices of Judaism, including Shabbat and the holidays, especially the High Holidays in the fall, can lead to deep connections between Jews and non-Jews.

A team of Jews of Color who lead the progressive Jewish organization Bend the Arc, recently offered this wisdom: We must take steps beyond allyship to build a movement based on solidarity.

I think that is the answer I’ve been waiting for.

January 6 and Christian Nationalism

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Many faith leaders have questioned why the report from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has only one direct reference to Christian nationalism. Reports indicate Rep. Liz Cheney influenced the decision. Her official statement was that she “won’t sign onto any ‘narrative’” regarding Jan. 6 that “suggests every American who believes God has blessed America is a white supremacist.”

Even though many journalists and writers documenting this movement do connect it to white supremacy, no one I know of suggests what Liz Cheney says.  Yet far too many researchers and experts have thoroughly documented the connection to January 6 to dismiss it or ignore it.

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, organized Christians Against Christian Nationalism to provide resources for anyone who wants to learn more and take action to resist this movement that threatens our democracy and harms Christianity. The full report documenting clear and direct connections between this movement and what happened on January 6, 2021 is available here.

One of the best definitions of what Christian Nationalism is comes from Amanda Tyler’s introduction to that report:

Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.

It is important, she adds, to address not just the actions around January 6 or more “obvious examples” of the movement, but its “more mundane and insidious forms…that often go unnoticed:

This report’s focus on the events leading up to and on January 6 does not suggest that this is the sole example or manifestation of Christian nationalism in the United States today. Concentrating solely on the most violent or obvious examples of Christian nationalism could distract us from addressing the more mundane and yet insidious forms of the ideology that often go unnoticed. The contributors and sponsors of this report are committed to studying and combatting Christian nationalism in its many forms. The scale and severity of the January 6 attack warrant a dedicated report of this kind. Dismantling Christian nationalism will take a broad and diverse response from individuals and organizations committed to effecting change.

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My interview with Amanda Tyler will be available
a week from now on January 13. _____________________________________________________________________________________

Andrew L. Seidel -a constitutional attorney, Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and author of The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American – documents in this report several rallies prior to January 6 which were explicitly Christian nationalist (see sections 5 and 6 of the report):

One of the first post-election rallies in Washington, D.C., took place on November 14 in Freedom Plaza. It was typical of the pre-January 6 rallies, with many of the same players and speakers. It opened with a prayer infused with Christian nationalism that set the tone for everything that happened later…. They marched with crosses, Images of the Virgin Mary,“Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” flags,” “An Appeal to Heaven” flags, and a red flag that proclaimed “JESUS IS LORD.” An RV bedecked in Trump paraphernalia declared, “PRAY FOR 45.” At the Supreme Court, they erected a massive white Christian cross.

On December 12, the Jericho March was held in D.C. with Christian images and themes. And on January 6, “Crosses were everywhere that day in D.C., on flags and flagpoles, on signs and clothes, around necks, and erected above the crowd,” Andrew Seidel reports.

Please read the full report or watch the webinar releasing the report:

Amanda Tyler’s reaction to the events of January 6 deserve to be heard:

January 6 revealed on a national stage just how dire the threat of Christian nationalism is to our constitutional republic. As I wrote in the aftermath of that day, my horror about the violent attack only increased when I saw photos of the rioters holding up signs like “Jesus Saves” and heard reports that the first invaders to enter the Senate chamber carried a Christian flag. As a Christian, seeing signs of my faith on display during such a violent event filled me with anger and frustration. It was a display of textbook Christian nationalism, an ideology that merges American and Christian symbols, narratives and identities.

Whether it was the Reawaken America Tour I reported on here last fall or this detailed report on its influence the events of January 6, Christian nationalism must be resisted and its power stopped. Join us in this continuing work.

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Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it. … Once you’ve downloaded it, please visit Imagine and learn how you can be part of a growing community committed to opposing religious nationalism and building a better world. … Join us today and get a 30-day free trial subscription.

Making sense of it all

On Christmas morning, the Washington Examiner (a radical right newspaper) ran an unsigned editorial calling for “a return to shared ideals and the possibility of civility in disagreement” in 2023. We all want that, so I read on to hear their ideas for achieving it. What I heard blamed all our national troubles on a decline in church affiliation and attendance – what they termed faith, but which meant traditional Christian religion.

The writer claims that “unbelief…dimming of conscience…toxic ideologies” all come out of “woke ideology, a form of religion itself” which has replaced “traditional religion with a much darker religion — that excludes redemption.” And what are some of the consequences for our nation?

  • Lack of “love, respect, and common ground”
  • A “divisiveness” in our nation
  • Destruction of “a sense of community”
  • “Polarized and caustic national political conversation”

By faith and religion, this writer clearly means Christian faith and religion – and a specific version that comes from a worldview not all Christians share. If that’s not plain early in the editorial, it is clear by the end:

“Christmas is supposed to generate feelings of respect and kindness for others — the impulse to treat others as they would wish to be treated. Indeed, this impulse is one originating in the Golden Rule that Jesus later propounded as an adult. Where the world says to treat friends well and enemies poorly, and to take revenge on those who have wronged you, the child born on this day taught that vengeance belongs only to God. You, on the other hand, are born for something better: to love your enemies, to forgive offenses from the bottom of your heart, to bless those who curse you, and to love others not just as you love yourself but as he loves you.”

The language the writer uses to talk about “the woke” – substituting that for “liberals” which they use in the same way – seems just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, which is quoted in this paragraph. The writer even claims that “the woke”:

“Debate whether it is OK to mutilate or sexualize children”
“Exacerbate racial tensions”
“Drive people out of restaurants and give them no peace”

How do we make sense of it all? I grew up learning the teachings of Jesus and have spent more than 50 years as a Christian minister, seeking to follow the teachings and life of Jesus in all I do. My worldview – the way I imagine the world I want to live in – focuses on compassion and justice, empathy and equality, and shared responsibility. Yet this writer, I’m confident, would say that I am “woke” in many ways the editorial condemns.

There is no single definition of the term, but on Facebook today, I found this description of what it means to be “woke”:

“Woke means awakened to the needs of others. To be well informed, thoughtful, compassionate, humble, and kind. Eager to make the world a better place for all people.”

The “shared ideals” this writer refers to seem to come from a different worldview – the one shared by Christian nationalists. They imagine the world as a place where it is good to possess authoritarian power and dominance in family, church, society, and government – where “rugged individualism” (every man for himself) is a core value for the laws and rules in this world. Their “shared ideals” come out of their nostalgic longing for the tradition they inherited – of a white Christian America operating from this worldview.

To make sense of it all, we must acknowledge that the majority of citizens in this nation never enjoyed the privileges and freedoms of that world, nor did the people in power in that world govern it on the basis of the teachings of Jesus. We must understand that authoritarian worldview desires a different world than a compassionate worldview. Therein lies the fundamental differences among us. Can we build bridges between both worlds and be willing to cross over or at least meet in the middle? I don’t know, but I’m willing to try.

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Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it. … Once you’ve downloaded it, please visit Imagine and learn how you can be part of a growing community committed to opposing religious nationalism and building a better world. … Join us today and get a 30-day free trial subscription.

Done turning the other cheek

“I’m a Christian, and I’m done turning the other cheek.” So said Jack Posobiec at the Turning Point USA’s Amfest 2022 conference yesterday. With those words, he dismissed one of Jesus’ most well-known teachings about nonviolence and love as something not for him. Yet he claims to be a Christian, speaking to thousands of people who claim freedom, family, and [Christian] faith as fundamental values for this nation.

Like me, his name may be new to you, but he is well-known in radical right circles. He says his  podcast, Human Events Daily with Jack Posobiec, “brings you unfiltered and factual updates on how current events will impact our country today and in the future.” Yet the Politifact Scorecard rates his “factual updates” as 100% false or mostly false. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that “his disinformation typically focuses on making his political opponents seem dangerous or criminal, while ignoring or downplaying the corruption of authoritarians.” He also “collaborates with white supremacists and neo-nazis.”

Why would this man be invited to speak at a national conference of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) whose mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom”? If you watch some of the highlights from America Fest 2022, it makes sense. The founder and president of TPUSA, Charlie Kirk, has his own show where he says ….

“We are lectured all the time about ‘domestic violent extremism’ as if the right has lots of domestic violent extremists, except that’s just not true. The left is full of people that are willing to use force to intimidate and harm conservatives.”

As Doug Pagitt said in last week’s interview, the Christian right often casts itself in the role of victim in the story they tell of America today. Kirk’s statement alludes to that in saying “the left” wants to “intimidate and harm conservatives.” This is why Posobiec claims it’s time to stop turning the other cheek and fight back. They refuse to be victims of “the left” any longer, as they see it, and they are ready to fight.

Charlie Kirk’s opening speech at Amfest presents a dark narrative of the future for this country. As does this whole movement, he uses fear – the fear of what will happen if they don’t fight back. The speech is 30 minutes, but watch just the first three minutes to experience the dark spectacle of what thousands of people saw and heard at the conference opening.

Watch another 10 minutes or so, and you will hear him describe their opponents as….

“the Marxist, totalitarian left filled with venom, hatred, darkness, resentment, arrogance, and despair … and teaching our children this vile garbage of critical race theory and woke nonsense.” He says “they want power, authority, control, and submission.” And that “their vision is one of despair and confusion, destroying the distinction between good and evil.”

TPUSA describes itself as traditionally conservative, committed to “the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.” The rhetoric of their conferences, speeches, and podcasts expose them as a radical right group similar to the Reawaken America Tours. In my two days there, I heard the same demonizing of “the left,” with hate-filled language and the call to fight back – with the suggestion that militarized violence is coming.

As I listened to both of these men, I heard them projecting onto their opponents some of what many of us see in this movement – a desire for “power, authority, control, and submission” – and a “vision of hatred and darkness … of despair and confusion.” How is it possible to even talk with each other? I’m not sure it is – not with people who demonize their opponents. What we must do, however, is challenge them. Call out their story of being victims of a power-hungry, hateful, “left” and learn to tell our own alternative story of a better future as we live with empathy, compassion, and justice for all.

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Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it. … Once you’ve downloaded it, please visit Imagine and learn how you can be part of a growing community committed to opposing religious nationalism and building a better world.

Interview with Mikey Weinstein

U.S. military regulations prohibit discrimination based on religion. Diversity of religious expression and faith or non-faith is legally protected, and any action designed to harass or manipulate service members based on religion is illegal and unethical. Thousands of men and women in uniform fight a constant battle against such harassment.

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, works every day to help them win the battle. His group seeks to restore the obliterated wall separating church and state in the United States armed forces. His family has a proud military history, with six family members graduating from the United States Air Force Academy. He served 10 years in the JAG Corps and 3 years as White House legal counsel under President Ronald Reagan – once a mainstream conservative Republican.

Facing personal experience with antisemitism as a Jewish family and the growing influence of a specific version of Christianity in the military, Mikey took up the battle against far-right radical religious fundamentalists. On the Military Religious Freedom Foundation website, you can find examples of vicious hate mail he has received over the years as a result of defending the constitutional rights of religion and free speech of men and women in the U.S. military.

Meet Mike Weinstein in this interview today:

Mikey Weinstein Interview

There are more than 80,000 reasons for this work of the MRFF:

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Just over 81,000 active duty, veteran, and civilian personnel of the United States Armed Forces, including individuals involved in High School JROTC around the nation, have come to our foundation for redress and assistance in resolving or alerting the public to their civil rights grievances, with hundreds more contacting MRFF each day. 95% of them are Christians themselves.

Mikey and Bonnie Weinstein have several books you may be interested in reading. One is “No Snowflake in an Avalanche,” which goes deep inside the world of religious extremism in America s military and political infrastructure. Weinstein’s war pits him and his small band of fellow graduates, cadets, and concerned citizens of varying religious backgrounds against a program of Christian fundamentalist indoctrination that could transform our fighting men and women into right-thinking warriors more befitting a theocracy than a democracy.

Please go to the MRFF website today. You will find an array of interviews, videos, books, including his multiple honors and awards. Contact them and find out how you can help our proud men and women in the United States armed forces.


ALSO….please “like” our new Imagine Facebook page and go to our Imagine learning community site where you can find out more about Mikey and many other leaders organized to offer alternatives to Christian Nationalism for a better world.

Call it hate

The first headline I saw yesterday morning was “Gunman kills 5 at LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.” An unknown motive so far. Being investigated as a hate crime. Was it? People wonder – and argue.

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted: “The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful. This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.” Many were quick to point out how public condemnation of LGBTQ folks from “the right” is one reason for such violence. She is not alone in this, but her words are an example. She has repeatedly used language like …. perversion, monstrosity, mutilation, butchering, grope young children – and how such people are “spitting in God’s face.”

Does that not sound like hate? Yet she – and millions of other people who share her views – deny that they hate anyone. At Reawaken America Tour events, the same language dominates the rhetoric with words like enemies, demonic, perverted, evil. If you heard all of this in reference to people like you, would you not experience it as hate? I would. I do.

People who claim the name of “Christian” direct such violent, hate-filled words toward the LGBTQ community, but not to them alone. Liberals and Democrats and “woke” people are public targets of the same language of hate and the violence it provokes. BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are openly attacked, not just with hate-filled language, but with violent acts, such as the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde and the ongoing abductions of Indigenous girls and women.

As they have been for centuries, Jews also bear the brunt of this hatred. Antisemitism has been on the rise for several years, with attacks on synagogues, schools, cemeteries, and Jewish centers. About 10 days ago, FBI Director Wray said that “…antisemitism remains ‘a pervasive and present fact,’ and vowed to protect American Jewish communities against unyielding threats of violence. ‘Jewish people continue to face repeated violence and very real threats, from all kinds of actors … simply for being who they are.’”

Confronted with the hate-induced violence so pervasive in our country, how do people respond when challenged about their hate? They deny that they hate anyone or that their language is hateful. The ideas and language of anything systemic are anathema to this movement. Only individual responsibility matters to them, and hate only exists (in their minds) if an individual consciously hates another person. In their minds, they don’t “hate” their enemies – liberals, Democrats, LGBTQ folks, Jews, or Blacks – for instance – they just oppose them because “they are evil.”

None of this is new, especially in the context of Christian Nationalism, a movement led by people completely convinced they are the defenders of morality, of what God wants, and of what they call “a Christian nation.” Historically, religious certitude of what is true and moral has divided tribes and nations for centuries. More recently, founders of this modern movement in the U.S., like Jerry Falwell, claimed absolute knowledge of God’s will according to their interpretation of “God’s Word.” And their “interpretation” includes what they see as the “evils” of abortion and homosexuality, the “destruction” of marriage and family, and the undermining of white male supremacy (although they deny that term).

Someone asked me recently (as a Baptist minister) what this movement does with the teachings of Jesus. For the same reason, I’ve often asked aloud: “how can Christians act like this?” At the core of this movement is a worldview that allows little space for difference of opinions or empathy for people. It is a rules-based, authoritarian movement, firmly entrenched in one version of traditional Christian religion where the power rests with those who defend “the truth” and oppose “evil”. And in that tradition, there is no room for people outside the boundaries they have set. Far too often, people on the outside become the target of hate-filled language and sometimes the literal target of deadly violence. Let’s call it what it is. Call it hate.

Moving from fear to hope

Scary and terrifying! Common words people use to express their reactions when they learn about Christian Nationalism, but is that what we want? Do we want people to be afraid? I don’t. Fear is what this movement uses to drive people, to get them to do what is necessary to gain power. A global authoritarian movement, of which Christian Nationalism is one part, heightens fear and anger already present in people to gain their loyalty and increase their power.

I oppose Christian Nationalism because I don’t want to live in a world it wants to build. Where they see the world through the lens of authority and rules, I see the world as a place of compassion and empathy. In that world, people with the power make the rules and enforce them with little mercy. In the world I imagine, power is shared, people take priority over rules, and compassion leads toward a healing, restorative justice. [Image below suggested by George Lakoff’s model of Strict Father/Nurturant Parent]

People often say, “It seems like we live in different worlds.” We do. One values authority, rules, and power over the well-being of people. The other values compassion, empathy, and mutual care and working together for “the common good.” They are very different worlds, and I want to live in a compassionate world. That’s why I work against this movement.

Movement leaders deny it, but their anger comes from fear of losing property, privilege, and power from 400 years of white men (mostly nominally protestant Christian in the U.S.) having the authority to make and enforce the laws. This nation will soon be majority non-white and non-Christian, and people are afraid and angry of losing what they had. Women and people of color who benefitted from that historical reality share the fear and anger as movement supporters.

How do we challenge the movement and change the narrative? How do we move from fear to hope? Is it possible to persuade people in this movement to see a different world and to value a world of compassion and empathy over authority and power?

I’m reading a book by Anand Giridharadas, The Persuaders, that stirs a hopeful “yes” in me. An interview with Loretta Ross, a pioneering activist and theorist in the Black radical feminist tradition suggests a path in that direction. One conclusion from the interview says what I’m experiencing:

“In the realm of electoral politics, these are people on the diametrically opposite side from you. They don’t share a vision with you, nor even a basic worldview, nor even necessarily fundamental values or language. They may use the exact same words and mean completely different things by them.”  

(Giridharadas, Anand. The Persuaders (pp. 49-50). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

All of life is a continuum, and some people do share elements of both worldviews of authority or compassion. Too many seem to be on “diametrically opposite sides,” and most do seem to mean different things even when we use the same words. What can we do? How can we challenge and persuade at the same time? Loretta Ross reminds us that most people see themselves as good people, so we can use that:

“…Help them lean into an internal exploration of themselves and show them how to bolster that self-perception of them being good people by walking them through examples: ‘Well, if you saw a Black person that needed a kidney donation and you were a match, would you do it?’ That kind of thing. Make them really question that interior set of values that they think they have and see if they’re willing to actually go down that path of exploring those values.”

Giridharadas, Anand. The Persuaders (p. 50). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Then Ms. Ross challenges us to do our own personal work if we hope to persuade others to see the world differently. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

She told them that before they worry about those they were trying to win over, they should look at themselves. “You have to be in a loving, healing space to call anybody in,” Ross told me. “You can’t do it from anger, because it’s just going to end up badly. So you have to assess why you’re doing it. What’s your motivation? Are you trying to help this person learn, or are you actually trying to change them?” It was a striking distinction—helping a person learn versus trying to change them. When we speak of changing someone’s mind, winning someone over, aren’t we attempting both at once? Not for Ross. “You can’t change other people,” she told me. “You can’t even change the person you’re married to. You can help people. You can expose people to different information and help them learn—if you do so with love.”

Giridharadas, Anand. The Persuaders (p. 55). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

With over 50 years as an activist, working especially with Black women (one of the most oppressed groups in our nation), Ms. Ross has every reason to be angry and combative in her work, but she speaks of love. She reminds us that we must do our personal work first, assessing our motivations, and then “help the person learn” – not try to change them, but help them to learn.

Back to the two worldviews – ways of seeing the world and imagining that this is how it “works” … This is not either/or, just one or the other. People are at different places in life. Some may be so enmeshed with the movement that they remain “diametrical opposites” to us, but not everyone. Some are tired of living with fear and anger driving them, and there may be an openness to learning – to a new way of seeing the world. This is where we begin.

What about antisemitism?

Joyce Herman, in Rochester NY, responded to what I have been posting about Christian Nationalism. She focuses, especially, on White Nationalism and the antisemitism that accompanies it. Her comments deserve a wider audience than a “reply” at the bottom of a post. With her permission, I am posting what she wrote:

Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation about the radical White Nationalist Christian Right. As we know, they have morphed from what seemed like a fringe group into a large force that is tolerated, if not embraced, by the Republican Party.

Comparisons to the tactics and rhetoric of Germany in the 1930’s are hard to ignore. (See Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny, written originally in 2017, Graphic Edition 2021).  As we look at the underlying and sometimes slyly hidden bedrock of their beliefs, antisemitism is more than the elephant in the room. In their intergroup communications they explicitly blame Jews as the all powerful force promoting the “Great Replacement” plan.  This Great Replacement narrative, actually a version of the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now serves as code for directing blame onto Jews for white people’s feared loss of power.

Eric Ward, senior consultant for Southern Poverty Law Center and the founder of the Western States Movement opened a lot of eyes, including mine, as to just how central antisemitism is to the White Nationalist movement in Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism I highly recommend his article for anyone seeking to understand the underlying dynamics.  Also, you can read about Eric Ward here.

As antisemitism has exploded in the last couple of years, and until this week, I had noted the curious dynamic of invisibility that had muffled antisemitism reports. In retrospect, even after Charlottesville, where marchers carrying tiki torches yelled “Jews will not replace us” as they went back and forth in front of a synagogue on shabbat, most media reported that they were “racists,” as if that covered it … without mentioning antisemitism. I find even folks who want to be allies to Jews tend to talk about “hate” without specifically mentioning anti-semitism, or Jews.

I was pleased to see that you did mention antisemitism early in your talk, although Jews were only assumed included when you report that speaking of “the enemy” was central to their talks.  White Nationalists vitriol for the hated “enemy” is likely to conjure an image of Jews in their followers’ minds.  Barbara Love, another Black liberation leader (Ward is Black) has pointed out that failure to talk about antisemitism is part of the problem and increases the chance of it escalating. 

Invisibility and erasure are indeed part of many oppressions. Our Black siblings speak of “erasure,” when their obvious and horrendous history is not taught. LGBTQ+ folks history and treatment has been hidden.  It seems to me that allies not naming and condemning acts of antisemitism is a similar hurt.  Further, as Ward understands, not exposing the various ways antisemitism is perpetrated is ultimately a threat to everyone. He says that racism will never be solved so long as antisemitism is unaddressed.  The “oldest hate” has long been used by tyrants to derail progressive movements.

I am aware that even as I write this, the picture is changing, with more coverage of the most egregious antisemitic rants, which then cite the huge rise in antisemitic incidents. New York Times columnist Bret Stevens “thanks” Ye (Kanye West) for bringing antisemitism out in the open.

I appreciated your thoughtful suggestions about how to proceed If we are to meet the challenges that our country and the world face now and in the near future. God knows we need to be vigilant and active on many fronts as our society is collapsing. I’d like to suggest adding the following strategies against the rising threats.

  1. Stay awake and aware.  Notice both what is in plain sight and what is lurking beneath the surface.  Do not allow yourself to be hoodwinked by insinuations and dog whistles and other tricks that are designed to point blame and scapegoat Jews or others.
  2. Do not go silent:  Be vocal about what you see 
  3. Seek ways to build alliances across identities. Reach out to those who are different. Form common cause with them. 
  4. Stay in the room with allies even if if gets uncomfortable.  This is not a time to be defensive, compare oppressions, or leave if things get tricky.
  5. Affirm goodness, kindness, connection, beauty… and love …  and bring them into relationships as widely as possible.

Stop the violence

We hear shouts of “stop the steal” everywhere, based on the proven lie that the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump. At public marches, on the Reawaken America Tour, in videos circulated widely, in the daily news, people push the lie.

Violence accompanies the lies. From the January 6 attack on the Capitol to this week’s violent attack on Mark Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He was attacked at home with a hammer by a man shouting, “Where’s Nancy?” – echoing the sing-sing horror chants in the Capitol.

Too many politicians and news sources on the Right ignore what happened, as Donald Trump did in the first day, at least. Or they downplay it because the attacker had a personal history of delusion and violence. There are many more like him, though, and many sane, rational men (mostly men) ready to take up arms against other Americans for the cause, just as they did on January 6.

Federal agencies have issued a renewed warning that domestic violent extremists pose a heightened threat to midterm elections.

We must challenge this movement that leads not only to extremism, but to violence. Midterm elections are already facing threats of violence, with armed men dressed military-style watching voters drop their ballots at designated sites in Arizona:

Two people armed with handguns and wearing tactical military gear, balaclavas masking their face and the license plates on their cars covered, stood watch over a ballot drop box during early voting last week in Mesa, Arizona.

Our national story says that we have free and fair elections in the United States. That has not always been true, of course. Our history includes threatening, even violent, poll watchers in the South who kept Black people from voting. It also includes intimidating poll watchers, threatening violence, in many cities where political “bosses” made sure people voted the way they were expected to. Do we really want our country to return to that?

More often than not, though, the U.S. has been a model for free and fair elections, without violence. That has certainly been my experience, and it continues to be where I live in Brighton, NY. Increasingly, that is not the case everywhere.

One in six election workers say that they have personally received threats …. [and] about 20% of election workers say they may not work in the next presidential election. Among those, about a third cited too many political leaders attacking the voting system, even though they know it is fair.

When will the intimidation and violence stop? Only when enough of us stand up, speak up, and challenge the lies and public threats against people who are just doing their job. When violent attacks on innocent people happen, and armed men are“watching” the polls, and public officials and “personalities” refuse to condemn it – in today’s America, we must stand up, speak out, and challenge it. STOP THE VIOLENCE!