Archive for the ‘Christian Fascism’ Category


Why Is Christian America Supporting Donald Trump?

John Fea teaches American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He is the author of the new book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (Eerdmans Publishing, June 2018).

 

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A week ago Sunday, June 24, 2018, First Baptist Church of Dallas held its annual “Freedom Sunday.” The church website described the special service this way: “Celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ with patriotic worship and a special message from Dr. Robert Jeffress, “America is a Christian Nation.”

Not everyone in Dallas was happy about it. Robert Wilonsky, an opinion writer at the Dallas Morning News, wrote that Jeffress and the First Baptist Church were “divisive” for claiming that America was a Christian nation. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed. Atheists protested. Eventually, the billboard company contracting with the church removed signs advertising Freedom Sunday.

This, of course, did not stop the service from going forward. The people of First Baptist Church spent the morning of the 24th waving American flags, wearing red, white, and blue shirts, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and celebrating the United States military. Vice-president Mike Pence sent a letter of encouragement.

Was this a religious service or a celebration of nationalism? What was the object of the congregation’s worship?

Jeffress has been preaching his “America is a Christian Nation” sermon for a long time. On Sunday he stuck with his usual script. He indicted the “secularists, atheists, and infidels” for “perverting” the Constitution. He chided the federal government’s failure to acknowledge God in the public square. He told his congregation that academics, historians, and teachers have been lying to them about the religious roots of the United States.

Jeffress made one problematic historical reference after another. He made the wildly exaggerated claim that fifty-two of the original fifty-five signers of the Constitution were “orthodox conservative Christians.” He peddled the false notion that the disestablishment clause in the First Amendment was meant to apply solely to Protestant denominations.

Near the end of the sermon, Jeffress suggested that spikes in violence, illegitimate births, divorce, and low SAT scores in America are the direct product of the Supreme Court’s decision to remove prayer and Bible-reading from public schools.

Jeffress concluded the service with an altar call. He asked people to come to the front of the church and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. I am sure Jeffress was sincere in his desire to lead people to Jesus, but after his message it was unclear whether he was inviting them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior or embrace the idea that the United States was founded, and continues to be, a Christian nation. Maybe both.

***

Robert Jeffress is best known as a Fox News religion commentator and one of the first evangelical leaders to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. He has called Trump “the most faith-friendly president in history.”

Within two weeks following the announcement of his candidacy, several polls had Trump leading among white evangelical GOP voters. In November 2016, 81% of these evangelicals cast their vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States. The reasons for this are complex, and we probably need to wait a generation or two before historians can begin to make sense of them, but three young sociologists have published a scholarly essay that suggests the most plausible explanation.

Andrew Whitehead of Clemson University, Sam Perry of the University of Oklahoma, and Joseph O. Baker of East Tennessee State University argue that “the more someone believed the United States is—and should be—a Christian nation, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.” They conclude that “no other religious factor influenced support for or against Trump.”

These sociologists found that the average Trump voter believes the federal government should: declare the United States a Christian nation, advocate for Christian values, oppose the “strict separation of church and state,” allow the “display of religious symbols in public spaces,” and return prayer to public schools. Likewise, Trump voters believe that whatever success the United States has had over the years is “part of God’s plan.”

This essay is revealing, and it confirms much of what I have written about since the 2011 release of my Was American Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. But it does not address why and how Americans have come to believe these things. The answer to that question invites us to think historically.

Ever since the founding of the republic, a significant number of Americans have supposed that the United States is exceptional because it has a special place in God’s unfolding plan for the world. Since the early 17th century founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony by Puritans, evangelicals have relished in their perceived status as God’s new Israel—His chosen people. America, they argued, is in a covenant relationship with God. The defenders of this idea like to apply Chronicles 7:14 to the United States: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Though dissenters have always been present, the Christian culture of the United States remained intact well into the 20th century. But since World War II, the moorings of this culture have loosened, and evangelicals have responded with fear that their Christian nation is about to collapse. Robert Jeffress is correct about this.

During the 1960s, the Supreme Court removed prayer and Bible reading from public schools, the federal government cut federal funding to Christian academies and colleges that practiced segregation, the country grew more diverse through immigration, and the sexual revolution threatened evangelical patriarchy and gave women the right to choose to have an abortion.

The fear that America’s Christian civilization was falling apart translated into political action. In the late 1970s, conservative evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye (the author of the popular Left Behind novels), and a group of politicians who had been closely affiliated with the 1964 Barry Goldwater presidential campaign, developed a political playbook to win back the culture from the forces of secularization. Most of the 81% of American evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 understood, and continue to understand, the relationship between their faith and their politics through this playbook.

This playbook, which would eventual become the culture-war battle plan of the “Religious Right,” was tweaked occasionally over the years to address whatever moral issues seemed most important at the time, but it never lost its focus on “restoring,” “renewing,” and “reclaiming” America for Christ through the pursuit of political power.

When executed properly, the playbook teaches evangelicals to elect the right President and members of Congress who will pass laws privileging evangelical Christian views of the world. These elected officials will then appoint and confirm conservative Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, defend life in the womb, and uphold religious liberty for those who believe in traditional views of marriage.

The playbook rests firmly on the Religious Right’s understanding of American identity as rooted in its view of the American past. If America was not founded as a Christian nation, the Religious Right’s political agenda collapses or, at the very least, is weakened severely.

To indoctrinate its followers in the dubious claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, the Religious Right has turned to political activists, many of whom claim to be historians, to propagate the idea that the founding fathers of the United States were in the business of building a Christian nation.

The most prominent of these Christian nationalist purveyors of the past is David Barton, the founder of Wallbuilders, an organization in Aledo, Texas that claims to be “dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built—a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined.” Barton and Wallbuilders were the source of most of the historical information Jeffress presented in his Freedom Sunday sermon on June 24th.

For the past thirty years, Barton has provided pastors and conservative politicians with inaccurate or misinterpreted facts used to fuel the Religious Right’s nostalgic longings for an American Christian golden age. American historians, including those who teach at the most conservative Christian colleges, have debunked Barton’s use of the past, but he continues to maintain a large following in the evangelical community.

David Barton peddles fake news about the American past. Yet, if Andrew Whitehead, Sam Perry, and Joseph Baker are correct, his work is essential to the success of the Trump presidency in a way that I imagine even Donald Trump and his staff do not fully understand or appreciate.

Trump does not talk very much about America’s supposedly Christian origins. His grasp of history is not very strong. But his evangelical supporters see him as a gift of God—a divinely appointed figure who has emerged on the scene for such a time as this. He is in the White House to preserve God’s covenant with America, to make America Christian again.

The support for the President is a sign of intellectual laziness in the evangelical community. Rather than thinking creatively about how to move forward in hope, Trump evangelicals prefer to respond to cultural change by trying to reclaim a Christian world that is rapidly disappearing, has little chance of ever coming back, and may never have existed in the first place.

The American founding fathers lived in a world that was very different from our own. In the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, America was a nation of Christians—mostly Protestants—who put their stamp on the culture.

Yet, amid this Christian culture, the founders differed about the relationship between Christianity and their new nation. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison defended the separation of church and state. John Adams and George Washington also opposed mixing church and state, while at the same time suggesting that Christians, because Christianity taught an ethic of selflessness, could be useful in the creation of a virtuous republic in which citizens sacrificed self-interest for the common good.

The founding fathers believed in God, but most of them did not believe that God inspired the Old and New Testaments or sent His son to die and rise from the dead as the ultimate payment for human sin. The God of the Declaration of Independence is a providential deity who created the world and the people in it, but there is nothing in this important American document that defines this God in terms of the Incarnation or the Trinity.

The United States Constitution never mentions God or Christianity but does forbid religious tests for office. The First Amendment rejects a state-sponsored church and celebrates the free-exercise of religion. This is hardly the kind of stuff by which Christian nations are made. Yet Barton and Jeffress invoke these founders and these documents to defend the idea that the United States was founded as a distinctly Christian nation.

***

If the Christian Right, and by extension the 81% of evangelical voters who use its political playbook, are operating on such a weak historical foundation, why doesn’t someone correct their faulty views and dubious claims?

We do.

We have.

But countering bad history with good history is not as easy as it sounds. David Barton and his fellow Christian nationalist purveyors of the past are well-funded by Christian conservatives who know that the views of the past they are peddling serve their political agenda. Barton has demonized Christian intellectuals and historians as sheep in wolves’ clothing. They may call themselves Christians on Sunday morning, but, according to Barton, their “world view” has been shaped by the secular universities where they earned their Ph.Ds. Thanks to Barton, many conservative evangelicals do not trust academic and professional historians—even academic and professional historians with whom they share a pew on Sunday mornings.

I know this first-hand from some of the negative emails and course evaluation forms I received after teaching a Sunday School course on the history of religion and politics at the Evangelical Free Church congregation where my family worship every Sunday. Because I was a college history professor—even a college history professor at a Christian college with strong evangelical roots—I could not be trusted.

What David Barton does not understand is that there are hundreds of evangelical historians who see their work as part of their Christian identity and vocation. These historians are women and men who pursue truth about the past wherever it leads. This pursuit of truth is a deeply Christian pursuit, as is the case with all efforts to distinguish truth from error.

When people like David Barton cherry-pick from the past to promote political agendas, they do a disservice to the past, fail to treat it with integrity, and ultimately harm their Christian witness in the world. They make evangelicals look foolish. This is not what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 1:18 as the “foolishness of the cross,” it is just good old-fashioned foolishness. It is a product of what evangelical historian Mark Noll has described as the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”

Many of us engaged in trying to bring good history to the evangelical church need the support of Christians who are concerned about the direction Donald Trump, the Christian Right, and the pseudo-historians who prop-up their political agenda are trying to take the country and the church. Good history is complex. It is nuanced. And it is an essential part of truly worshipping God with our minds (Luke 10:27). Unfortunately, complexity, nuance, and intellectual discipleship are not the kinds of subjects that inspire Christians to dig into their pocketbooks.

What would it take to fund evangelical historians to travel to receptive churches around the country and spend some concentrated time teaching American religious history, and American history more broadly, to lay men and women? Perhaps such visits could also include times of worship and prayer?

It is unlikely that such an effort would reach the Robert Jeffress’ of the world. but there are many evangelicals who are open and willing to listen and learn. This was another lesson I took away from my Sunday School class. In fact, the criticism I received paled in comparison with the positive comments I got from those who had never heard a fellow evangelical offer a different, more accurate, view of American history.

American evangelical political engagement is built on a very weak historical foundation. It is time that Christian philanthropists, motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit informed by the pursuit of truth and a concern for the testimony of the Gospel in the world, take the long view and invest in responsible Christian thinking about the American past. The American republic, and more importantly, the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, depends on it.

 

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Wisconsin Lawmaker: Convert To Christianity Or Be ‘Destroyed’

 

Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Allen (Image via Screen Grab)

 Convert or be destroyed: A Wisconsin lawmaker tells constituents who are “not Christian” to join him and his fellow Christians and convert to Christianity or be “destroyed.”

Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Allen (R) speaks of Christian love while telling non-Christians they will be destroyed in an obnoxious and condescending YouTube video posted on the official “Wisconsin Assembly Republicans” YouTube channel earlier this month.

In the video a patronizing and smug Allen uses a Bible verse to suggest non-Christians will be “destroyed” –

Merry Christmas. To me and my fellow Christians, celebrating the birth of our Savior, our Emanuel, well, it is one of the most important celebrations of the year. For those who may watch this who are not Christians, I invite you to consider the hope offered by the Prince of Peace.

For all who watch this, I hope that you are filled with joy and high spirits and that your life is full of festivity and rejoicing. If, like me, you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I ask you this holiday season to consider the words found in Hebrews 10: 24-25: “Let us consider how we may spur one another one in word and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.”

My friends, we attain peace through love. This season, think of how you can love the people in your life: Family, friends, neighbors, just a little bit more. Encourage them. Fellowship with them. Our world needs more love and more peace. We do our part to make this world a more peaceful place by being more loving in our relationships. We gain strength through love. Hebrews 10 concludes: “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

Merry Christmas.

For a government official to use his official position to proselytize and threaten non-Christians with “destruction” is abhorrent, and signals a profound disrespect for the U.S. Constitution and the secular values upon which this nation was founded.

Commenting on the obnoxious video, Hemant Mehta, writing for Friendly Atheist, notes:

There’s a pleasant message from a politician: I invite you to join my religion before you’re destroyed. The subtext, of course, is that he believes there’s something wrong with non-Christians.

The Associated Press reports the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos complaining that Allen is overtly proselytizing. The letter includes a request for all documents related to the video to determine whether state resources were used in its production or distribution and notes the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages. The letter states, in part:

While Allen is free to promote his personal religious beliefs on his own time, it is inappropriate to do so when he is afforded a special platform due to his elected position. Using state resources to promote one particular religion, and suggesting that people should convert or even consider converting to that religion, is unconstitutional.

Allen’s message is inappropriate if not unconstitutional, and a direct insult to all non-Christians. More than this, by releasing such a message Allen is engaged in and promoting bigotry against atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers who reject his religious superstition.

Bottom line: Elected officials should not use their position to proselytize. Full stop.

(H/T Friendly Atheist) – Watch the unethical video below –

 

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ANZAC Day Not for Faggots and Towelheads

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by Geoff Lemon

[This piece is a few years old, but age has not wearied its sentiment.]

At least, not according to the Australian Christian Lobby. Sure, their main man Jim Wallace used slightly more careful language, but that was the sentiment of what he said. “Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!” was the thoughtful missive he left via Twitter on the 25th.

I generally couldn’t give two shits in a waffle cone what people have to say on Twitter, the place where relevance goes to pick out its funeral clothes in pale blue. But once in a while you get something juicy, someone reposts it, and suddenly giant kerfuffles are exploding over everyone. (They’re kind of like soufflés.)

Generally, also like soufflés, these are massive beat-ups: think Nir Rosen, Catherine Deveny, that poor bloody lady with the horse. But Wallace has more reason for contrition than most. Aside from the fact that most of the towelheads and faggots could demolish him in a grammar challenge, his opinions (which he may have extensively pondered) only reinforce the ill-thought-out prejudices of thousands of other people. At least, they do once they make it onto the evening news.

Wallace said he would stand by his comment “if people read it in the right context and realise I’m not slurring gays. I have a lot of friends and associates who are gays, in fact one even tweeted me last night…” That must’ve been an illicit thrill, Jim. So, not slurring gays, you just don’t think they should have the same rights as proper normal people. Ok, check.

He went on to explain that this revelation of his came about after sitting with his father, a veteran of Tobruk and Milne Bay, who said that he didn’t recognise this Australia as being the one he fought for. Thought Jim, it was a good time to make a statement about our Judeo-Christian heritage, despite the fact that most of Australia these days is about as Christian as a bag of wet socks.

The extra-bad taste in the mouth from all this, though, is his invocation of the ANZACs to back up his point. We shouldn’t have gay marriage because ‘the ANZACs’ didn’t fight for that. We should keep an eye on dodgy Muslims because ‘the ANZACs’ sure as hell didn’t fight for them either. It was in the same vein as a particularly lunk-headed individual named Mick (natch), commenting on my pokies article, that restrictions on people’s gambling meant “the anzacs would be turning in their graves.”

To quote another commenter’s rejoinder, “Everyone loves making the ANZACs say what they want them to. They’re kind of like Jesus like that.”

And spot on. As recent years have ticked by, I’ve increasingly come to loathe ANZAC Day. Not the soldiers it honours, but the modern way of supposedly honouring them. Before you get all down on me for my disrespect, check my credentials. Through high school, my uni major, and my honours year, I specialised in Australian First and Second World War history. I’ve read dozens of biographies and memoirs by servicemen, interviewed WWII vets, and spent countless hours in archives here, in Canberra, and in Singapore. I spent a year in Thailand and Borneo researching prisoner-of-war camps, walked across northern Borneo to retrace a forced march of Aussie soldiers, then drove back and forth several more times to follow up on leads. I wrote a book of poems based on the stories I found, and I’ve done readings from it in all kinds of places to try and make sure those stories are heard. My best mate since primary school is an infantry corporal. I probably have a more direct emotional connection to that history than just about anyone who now chooses to invoke its name when April rolls around.

The fact that I do care so much is why ANZAC Days have increasingly become a time to cringe. It’s the resurgent nationalism and mythologising championed by Keating and Howard. Sentimental crud like ‘the ANZAC spirit’, gets thrown around by every chump with a lectern. People get tagged with it for playing football. The modern understanding of the phrase makes it more and more synonymous with a kind of Aussie boganeering. Thousands of young Australians go to Gallipoli to pay their respects by getting shitfaced, watching rock concerts, unrolling their sleeping bags on the graves of the dead, and fucking off the next day leaving the place completely trashed for the Turks to clean up. Much like 1915, but with a bit more piss. It’s a short step from this ‘spirit’ to the Aussie pride that saw flags tied on as capes down at Cronulla a few years ago. It seems to appeal to the same demographic that have made “Fuck off, we’re full” such a big seller down at Bumper Sticker Bonanza.

The most recent dawn service I went to sounded more like a school assembly, with the officially-voted Most Boring Prick on Earth conducting the service, then the tokenism of some Year 12 from an all-girl private school reading us her revelations after a trip to Gallipoli. The same myth-heavy sacred-worship shite. The ANZACs were this, the ANZACs were that. No, Hannah Montana. The ANZACs were a bunch of different people. The ANZACs weren’t one thing. ‘They’ didn’t believe in this or that, ‘they’ didn’t have these characteristics. They were a group of individuals.

The sanctity shtick is also popular with politicians who want to push a particular view. But the use and misuse of that history is the topic of my next post, which is an actual essay (as opposed to rant) on that subject. Yes, an essay. The internet will fall over when someone posts more than 500 words in one hit. Mind you, the 5000-worder I wrote on Balibo is one of the most popular entries on this site, so, give this a shake. I promise it’s interesting.

All of which brings us, bereft of a segue, back to Mr Wallace. His Twitter post, he said, “was a comment on the nature of the Australia [his father] had fought for, and the need to honour that in the way we preserve it into the future.”

So let me just make sure I’ve got this, Jim. Because soldiers fought and died in 1943, we need to maintain the values they had in 1943. Or do we maintain the values of the ones who fought in 1945? But hang on, they fought and died in 1915 as well… and 1914. So do we wind our values back to then? Do we bring back the Australia Party and the Northern Territory Chief Protector of Aborigines?

Let’s settle on the 1940s in general – Milne Bay and all that. And look at the values of the 1940s. This was an era when it was ok to smack your wife around a bit if she gave you lip. If you went too hard on her too often, then people might tut disapprovingly, like they did with a bloke who kicked his dog. But the odd puffy cheek was nothing to be remarked upon.

This was an era when women were supposed to show respect to men as the heads of the households and their natural superiors.

This was an era when you could pretty casually rape a girl who ended up somewhere alone with you, because if she’d got herself into that situation she was probably asking for it. Girls who said no or changed their minds were just playing hard to get. You know women, right? So fickle, so flighty. It was an era when the Australian occupation troops sent to Japan post-war were involved in the consistent rapes of Japanese women. Not traumatised vengeful former combatants, mind you, but fresh recruits, straight out of training.

This was an era when capital punishment was legal, and conscription was encouraged. This was an era when dodgy foreigners were kept out of the country by being made to sit a test in a language of the examiner’s choosing. Oh, you don’t speak Aramaic? Sorry, you failed. This was an era when Aboriginals weren’t recognised as people. Despite having been here when everyone else rocked up, they weren’t even given citizenship till 1967. Twenty-two years after the war had ended.

Were these the values that our Aussie heroes fought and died for too? Or were these not-so-good values, ones that we can discard? Where’s the distinction, Jim? Where do your values end and your values begin?

Well, guess what. I don’t want to live in the 1940s. I don’t want to live in 1918. I don’t want to brush off Vietnam, Korea, Malaya, because they were morally ambiguous. I don’t want to be part of a culture that makes people saints. I want to respect them for being people. I don’t want to live in a society where people are encouraged to hate each other, either. That kind of hatred is one of the most corrosive things in existence.

When I was in Year 9, I went to a boarding school for a year with this kid named Chris Millet. Word on the street was that he was gay. It was never clear why – I don’t think he even was. The story was along the lines of him being dared to touch another kid’s dick in the change room, and doing it to impress the tougher kids daring him. Presumably it was a set-up, and from that moment on he was branded “faggot”. I don’t mean that kids called him a faggot. I mean that they flat out swore that he was a faggot. And to 14-year-old boys there was nothing more terrifying in the world, nor so potentially destructive to one’s social standing. Millet was a fag, the lowest of the low, and in all my years I have yet to witness anyone treated in such a consistently awful fashion.

Chris Millet was bastardised and ostracised for that entire year. He was mocked, reviled, heckled, and spat at as a matter of course, the mere sight of him passing by enough to prompt a volley of abuse. Some of it was the comic genius of teenage boys (“Bums to the wall, Millet’s on the crawl!”), but usually it was just plain old invective. A big country kid, quiet and thoughtful, he just bowed his broad shoulders and kept on walking. We lived in small dorms of sixteen kids apiece; he was socially frozen out of his. His size meant not many would risk straight-out assaults, but he was routinely pushed and whacked and scuffled with; his belongings stolen, broken, or sabotaged; clothes and bed dirtied or thrown around the dorm; fair game for anyone, anytime. He ate alone, sat in class alone, walked the paths of the school alone. Even the nerdiest of the nerds only associated with him by default. He had no recourse, beyond reach and beyond help.

Even then, I was sickened by it. Even then, I could see that the fear was irrational, like being scared of catching AIDS from a handshake. Even then, I wanted to reject it. But I rarely had contact with Chris. He was in a different dorm, different activities, different classes. It was impossible not to know who he was, but our paths seldom crossed. Whenever they did, walking around school, I would smile and say hello. It was nothing, but more than he got from most people. It still felt so useless, though, that all I could offer was “Hey, Chris.” An actual smile and the sound of his real name. I don’t know if he ever noticed, but I did.

And while I wanted to do more, it was dangerous. I was a new kid that year, only just managing to fit in. Awkward, strange, providing the kind of comic relief that was mostly jester or dancing chimp. Even though I was sickened, I couldn’t seek him out to talk to, or it would have been obvious. There was the risk his personal opprobrium could have deflected onto me. I felt like a coward, but couldn’t see a way out. Even talking was dicey. One day I said hello to Chris while a kid from my dorm was walking with me. “What’s going on there?” said Will as we continued up the road. “Are you and Millet special friends?” And while he was mostly taking the piss there was still an edge to it; I could still sense that moment balancing, the risk that if he decided to push the topic with others around, it could easily tip the wrong way.

That school was tough. We spent three days a week hiking – proper stuff, 30-kilo packs, heavy old gear, 30-kilometre days through the Vic Alps. More than one stretch of mountains I crossed crying, or trying not to, or bent double, crawling up slopes with hands as well as feet. Other times I was painfully homesick, weeks spent with just the indifference of other kids and the professional distance of teachers. No phones, no internet, no way home. Physical exhaustion and isolation.

It was one of the hardest years of my life. The small group of friends I made were the one blessing that meant it could be borne. And that was exactly the thing that Chris Millet didn’t have. I cannot imagine how he made it through that year alone. Not just alone, but in the face of constant and targeted aggression. I would have buckled and gone home broken.

The last night of that year, there was a big get-together in the dining hall. When it was over I left the building looking for one person. I wandered around till I spotted him, that round-shouldered trudge, a fair way off up the hill towards his dorm. I don’t know if he was a great guy underneath it all. We never even had a proper conversation. He was just a big, quiet kid, brutalised into shyness. But I did know he didn’t deserve what he’d got. I ran up the hill after him and called out, and when he stopped, looking back a little hesitantly, I jogged up and shook his hand. “Congratulations on surviving the year,” I said. And I hope he understood how much I meant it.

That wasn’t the 1940s. That was the 1990s. And I don’t doubt you could find similar instances today. It’s attitudes like Jim Wallace’s that give legitimacy to the kind of reflex hatred that was thrown at that kid all those years ago. It’s attitudes like Wallace’s that legitimise dudes throwing molotovs at mosques in Sydney because something blew up in Bali.

And that shit doesn’t just go away. Dealing with homophobia isn’t a matter of surviving your awkward adolescence to find the inner-urban Greens-voting world has become yours to enjoy. Not every gay man gets to flower into Benjamin Law’s dashing-young-homosexual-about-town persona. Some are awkward and nervous and clumsy and just plain uncharismatic. And the kind of damage done by that early hatred will stay with them for good.

Memo: Jim Wallace. Relax. Gay marriage does not entitle hordes of faggots to come round to your house and fuck you in the mouth. At least, not without your express consent. I kinda wish they would, because at least that might shut you up, but it’s not going to happen. So what exactly is your problem? None of this legislation has any effect on your life whatsoever. Your only connection is that it makes you uncomfortable from a distance. And guess what, champ? That doesn’t give you the right to have a say. Take a pew, Jim.

As for citing ‘Anzac values’, or however you want to phrase it, it’s a rolled-gold furphy. There was no charter of mutual ideology at the recruitment office, in any of our wars. Reasons for joining up were as varied and individual as the men themselves. You have no right to start designating what those men believed.

But if you want to boil things down to the basic principle on which the war was fought – the national political principle – it was that smaller and weaker powers should not be dominated by larger ones. It was that men (and yes, it was men) should have the right to determine their own form of government, and reap the rewards of their own lands. It was (putting aside the attendant hypocrisy of the Allies’ colonial pasts) that Germany had no right to push around Poland or Czechoslovakia, and Japan no right to stand over China or Korea. It was that those people should live free, and free from fear.

Australians deserve to live free from fear too. There were nearly a million Aussie servicemen and women in WWII. Stands to reason more than a few of them were gay, even if they didn’t admit it. How could they have, when most of the population would have regarded them as either criminal, deviant, disgusting, or mentally ill? How about the 70s or 80s, when gays starting to live more openly were bashed and killed in parks and streets? Or the Sudanese kid bashed to death in Melbourne a couple of years ago? How do you feel being a Lakemba Muslim when racial tensions start heating up? Living your life in fear doesn’t only apply to warzones.

Australian soldiers fought and died in 1943. Australian soldiers fought and died in 2011, too. And in 2010, and in 2009. So what about protecting the values they represented? Like the freedom to be yourself and love you who want. The freedom to practice your religion in peace. Values like a tolerance of difference. What about protecting a society where warmth and kindness and generosity of spirit are promoted ahead of distrust, segregation and disapproval? I’d like to live in a society like that. I might even be prepared to fight for it.

Because guess what, Jim? Faggots and towelheads are people too. And in a society that still calls them faggots and towelheads, they’re some of the most vulnerable people we’ve got.

If you want to talk to me about values worth dying for, protecting the vulnerable would be a good place to start.


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RELIGIO-FASCIST ALERT! The Truth about “Reclaim Australia Rallies”

Anonymous – Truth about “Reclaim Australia Rallies”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_NJv09Hj54

Anonymous would like to highlight the truth about the so called “Reclaim Australia Rallies” and their Neo Nazi ties.

FOR INFORMATION ON THE NAZI FASCIST ELEMENTS ORGANISING THIS RALLY AND DEBUNKING THE ISLAMOPHOBIC MYTHS PLEASE VISIT – http://www.reclaimwhat.net/

BRISBANE COUNTER RALLY – https://www.facebook.com/events/494287630709966/

MELBOURNE COUNTER RALLY – https://www.facebook.com/events/494287630709966/

SYDNEY COUNTER RALLY – https://www.facebook.com/events/1559805754258488/

GOLD COAST COUNTER RALLY – https://www.facebook.com/events/1533221720290510/

ADELAIDE – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=823458121023854&ref=ts&fref=ts

ACT COUNTER RALLY – https://www.facebook.com/events/823458121023854/

ANONYMOUS IS AGAINST RACISM, BIGOTRY & FASCISM. Video of The Great Aussie Patriot making up lies to incite hatred. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8spPxoE7ncA&feature=youtu.be


Poll: 57% Of GOPers Support Making Christianity The National Religion
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AP Photo / Frank Franklin II

The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans “support establishing Christianity as the national religion” while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.

It almost goes without saying that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits establishing of a national religion.

The poll was conducted among 316 Republicans from Feb. 20-22. The margin of error was plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper’s Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.


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Suicide rates go up under conservative governments

Too many know at the deepest level, the black hopelessness of suicide: its words and feelings. It is the most profound expression of despair that can be enacted by an individual. I have heard the testimonies from people contemplating suicide and from those left behind after suicide; the aptly named survivors. Around six people suicide every day in Australia. Males, outnumber females, [in this sad statistic], by approximately three times as many. The numbers of those effected by a single suicide can be modestly estimated as at least five more for each death. This does not even encompass the toll exacted from suicide attempts and linked depression.

After eleven years working in suicide prevention, and responding to the desperation of those who saw no way out including, those who have tried and been supported to continue to live,I needed out myself. It became too hard to defend the worth of living against the torrent and outpouring of despair

So often I had focused on interconnectedness, the reduction of social isolation and affirmation of the worth of each single life. But this may be only part of the greater picture.

It seems that what governments do, or fail to do, to protect their citizens, does matter.

Studies of suicide rates under conservative governments compared to what I shall term, socially responsible governments, have shown that suicide rates go up under conservative governments.

Not only has this been linked recently in the US to austerity measures but also to Australian and British statistics on suicide. According to an article in the New York Times it’s not just the relationship between unemployment and poverty that kills, it’s the removal of safety nets .

Suicide rates in Greece soared under austerity, rising by eighteen per cent in 2010 to twenty five per cent higher in 2011. Cost cutting sackings,and pension losses, are sited as causal.

Researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu report that:

Iceland avoided a public health disaster even though it experienced, in 2008, the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of its economy. After three main commercial banks failed, total debt soared, unemployment increased ninefold, and the value of its currency, the krona, collapsed.

Iceland opted to not implement austerity measures, instead to slowly pay off the debt. Its suicide rate did not increase.

At the time that I was working at Lifeline Melbourne, both conservative governments, in Victoria under Premier Jeff Kennett and Federally under Prime Minister John Howard bequeathed funding for suicide prevention programs. Incidentally, the Kennet program for youth suicide prevention, was axed by the next conservative government of Ted Baillieu. But the original funding, by wiser conservatives may have been in response to the increase in suicide rates in the late 1990’s. Or perhaps to an awareness of the rumoured ‘curse of conservatism’ that spikes the suicide rates?

So why might this be happening under a conservative government and less so under non conservative governments. As someone who worked for years in the not for profit sector and health industry, I recall the expectant angst of cuts in relation to welfare health and support services. These were dreaded, with the change to a conservative government Invariably the cuts came, with the cries of justification and of saving the economy. The tough measures were mostly directed at the poor and powerless, and at hapless public servants

This was all done in the name of fiscal responsibility. However oddly less often directed at the upper echelons. The battle for the domestic dollar is usually waged in lower socioeconomic fields. For example the rumoured raising of the tax free threshold from $6000 to $18000

Or Joe Hockey’s menacing denouncement of the ‘age of entitlement.’ In his sights were

“Government spending on a range of social programs including education, health, housing, subsidized transport, social safety nets and retirement benefits that have reached extraordinary levels as a percentage of GDP.” Now we may also add to this list, programs for sustainable living and reduction adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

I add this as a failing of the state to assume any responsibility for the most vulnerable of all: future generations who have no vote.

The current Australian government has signaled its priorities in the removal of mentions from new ministerial portfolios. No mention of mental health, aging, or disability.

The trimming of this nomenclature is not merely semantic or an economy of words. When you take words from Government Ministerial Portfolios, the lines of accountability and responsibility become blurred. To whom do interest groups appeal? How will the new National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] be administered without a dedicated ministry.

When issues arise as they must, who is the go to person?

Glaringly there is no Science Minister and no Climate Change Minister. Because the official stance of this government is that climate change is not worthy of its concern. There is however a Sports Minister. Nor is there a designated person to reduce homelessness. Tony Abbott has said that homelessness is a lifestyle choice and that if elected he would not support the current homelessness program.

The Climate Commission that empowered the public with information on the science of climate change, has been dismantled. Foreign Aid has been cut by over $4 billion. Thus reducing our help as a rich nation, to the poorer nations.

So why might suicide rates rise, under a conservative austerity geared government?

Edwin Shneidman, who analyzed hundreds of suicide notes found the following themes were expressed. There is unbearable pain and the desire to escape form the pain, not necessarily a wish to die. Thinking becomes constricted and problems appear insurmountable. The suicidal person feels despair about the future combined with feelings of helplessness, worthlessness hopelessness and of isolation.

If the community and the state do not offer a helping hand, to the vulnerable, we leave them to grapple alone with a sense of worthlessness. We in effect say that they are not worth much. Suicide is strongly linked to depression, mental illness, trauma, grief, loss, substance abuse and gambling. Ironically we are all vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life; but in the brave new world of neo conservative philosophy, individuals are seen as solely.

responsible for their own misfortune. Government is to be kept small with regard to the so called welfare state. But as Tony Abbott has declared,Australia is under new management and is now open for business.

This conjures up a metaphor of the state as big business, not as a guardian of its citizen’s well being.

What will happen to the twelve thousand public servants Abbott has threatened to sack, as though hitherto they have been a useless drain on the budget? As though their lives, families, careers and well being were of no account. Why have they been treated so appallingly as to have their intended axing trumpeted on the air waves, as though their employment was abusing Australia’s economy?

Ultimately governments that lack compassion, set the bar very low for the entire community and the wider world we all inhabit. They model that this is a world where the so called strongest and the bullies survive and flourish, while the poor and vulnerable of our community and the world are to be abandoned.

I for one would find this an exceedingly depressing place to inhabit, so perhaps for some it does become an impossible place, in which to go on living.

 Lyn Bender is a psychologist in private practice. She is a former manager of Lifeline Melbourne and is working on her first novel.



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American Pastor: Christian Children Should Be Taught To Be ‘Extremists’ Like Hitler Youth, ISIS

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Bert Farias is a Christian minister, a columnist, and perhaps the only person in the world who took one look at the Nazis and ISIS and thought “Now, that’s who we should be emulating!”

In an article he wrote for Charisma News, Farias argues that Christianity needs more “soldiers” for Christ and the only way to achieve that is radicalizing the youth. Hey, it worked for Hitler.

Years ago I was part of an apostolic team of fathers who mentored, equipped and empowered radical youth. We believed then and still do now that we are to help define and lead a countercultural movement. It is our passion to upset the sinful status quo of society and the church. Youth are key!

In 1933 Hitler said, “If I can separate the youth of Germany from their parents I will conquer this nation.” He started a movement called “The Brown Shirts” in which 100,000 youth stood in Berlin with their right hand raised and screaming. “Hitler, we are yours!” Imagine our youth pledging that kind of allegiance to King Jesus!

Extending the logic further, Farias looks at “revolutionary countries” where the “youth are trained in combat and weapons” and seethes with jealousy.

 

They are taught principles of Communism and the tenets of militant Islam. They give themselves wholeheartedly to the goal of world domination. Someone once said that Satan is preparing his army, but the church is entertaining her children. We need a radical departure from the standard method of training young men and women for ministry. We need a touch of wholesome extremism to launch a counterculture JESUS revolution!

Farias doesn’t seem to worry that along with all those guns in the hands of children comes some of the worst human rights atrocities being committed in the modern world. Nor did Hitler’s Youth represent a shinning example of humanity. In fact, one might argue that it was the very fanatical extremism being taught and assimilated into these groups that directly led to violence, intolerance and, in the case of both the Nazis and ISIS, genocide.

Equally disturbing is the fact that Farias seems singularly focused on the disturbing maxim “Get them while they’re young.” His entire goal appears to be to start training kids at a young age to be closed-minded. The more radical, the better. As Little Green Footballs points out, Farias’ ministry’s website is full of allusions to warfare, soldiers and fighters. One section reads:

The Training of a New Breed

For a new breed of troops to arise, there must be given a new breed of training. For many of my past trainees have only been trained for the easy and the soft and not for the rigorous and the hard. Many have been trained of the letter but not of the Spirit and so they stand unequipped for the battle and an easy target for the enemy. Sow to the spirit and so shall their swords be sharpened for the flesh has made them dull. For in the flesh is weariness and hands that hang down with the shield of faith. Prepare them to march to a different spirit. Root out the flesh, selfish ambition, and pride and train them to walk by the Lord’s side for the Lord resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

He insists that his little “extremists” will fight not with “earthly weapons” but with the “love of God,” but seems to forget that extremism – whether it be in the name of Allah, Jesus, or German ethnic supremacy – inevitably leads to dehumanization and intolerance of those whom disagree with the “true believers.” It marks the very first step towards oppression and violence.

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GOD WITH US

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