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“The Continued Tragedy Of Gun-Free Zones”: Clearly, This “Christianity” Stuff Is A Threat To The Second Amendment

You knew this argument would emerge the moment the news broke of a terrorist gun massacre in Charleston. Wonkette is all over it:

That was fast! It only took a few hours for Fox to toss up an editorial explaining that the best explanation of why six women and three men were shot to death in their church Wednesday night is that nobody in the church was packing heat like they should have been.

Professional gunhumper and FoxNews.com columnist John R. Lott explains:

The horrible tragedy last night that left nine people dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., probably could have been avoided. Like so many other attacks, the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns. The gun-free zone obviously didn’t stop the killer from bringing a gun into the church.

It has the look of a ready-made editorial that, like a prewritten obituary for an aging celebrity, was just waiting for the next mass shooting — because in U.S. America, there’s always a “next mass shooting” on the way. The Charleston massacre is mentioned only in the first and last paragraphs, and the rest is boilerplate about how Bad Guys always choose “soft targets” where they know no one will be shooting back at them. There’s not a single word about the fact that it was allegedly a white racist murdering people in a black church. If the shooting had taken place at a school or a mall, everything else in the editorial would be identical, explaining that until it’s legal for everyone to carry a gun everywhere, we can look forward to more mass killings, and also the liberal media never covers the brave heroes with concealed weapons who do stop mass shootings all the time. (Since he could only find a few examples, he had to link to the same incident in at least two different spots in the editorial.)

Now the idea that we need to encourage people to bring instruments of deadly force into churches consecrated to the worship of the Prince of Peace, who taught loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek to the hateful, is one that used to be considered a mite strange. Not any more. Next door to South Carolina, in Georgia, a law was recently passed that our friends in the gun lobby considered a bit of an impure compromise, stipulating that churches and bars could choose to permit concealed weapons on their properties. The gun lobby has been thwarted, even in Georgia, in extending this “right” to schools. But I’m reasonably sure if Republican rule in the South continues, eventually a ban on “gun-free zones” will be made universal. Because guns don’t kill, it’s their absence that is lethal. And clearly, any lilly-livered Christian minister who doesn’t keep a roscoe close at hand during services needs to be discharged. After all, you never know when some Christian-hater like Dylann Roof will show up seeking to deny worshipers their religious liberty.

Clearly, this “Christianity” stuff is a threat to the Second Amendment.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Charleston SC Shootings, Christianity, Emanuel AME Church | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If You’re Scratching Your Head, You’re Not Alone”: Rubio Is Confused About Christianity, Marriage Equality, And The Constitution

Marco Rubio went on television with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody and suggested that Christianity is on the verge of being labeled “hate speech.”

If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone.

Rubio’s rambling statement botched a simple understanding of constitutional law and free speech rights. Not to mention reality.

According to CBN’s transcript:

“If you think about it, we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” Rubio told CBN News. “Because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.”

“So what’s the next step after that?” he asked.

“After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger,” he warned.

Rubio appeared to be referring to the legal concept of “clear and present danger,” which the Supreme Court developed in the early 20th century, attempting to articulate the circumstances under which the government can proscribe political speech. Through the early 20th century the Court applied it in situations in which a person’s speech was deemed to be a threat to national security, sustaining a war effort, or to the stability of the government. But in the later part of the century, the Court abandoned it.

The Court last appeared to address this idea in 1969, in Brandenburg v. Ohio. In that case, it reversed the conviction of Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, under an Ohio statute that criminalized “crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform” for a speech in which he said, “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken.” The Ohio law, the Court held, violated Brandenburg’s free speech rights.

Although the Court’s opinion does not use the term “clear and present danger” and explicitly reject it, in his concurrence, Justice William O. Douglas noted his skepticism that it could be squared with the First Amendment at all. “Though I doubt if the ‘clear and present danger’ test is congenial to the First Amendment in time of a declared war,” he wrote, “I am certain it is not reconcilable with the First Amendment in days of peace.”

Returning to Rubio’s statement, he is vague about who is labeling Catholic teaching “hate speech.” Does he mean the government? Does he mean people on the internet? Under the First Amendment, the government cannot stop citizens from engaging in speech, even if a listener finds it hateful. If by “they” he means American citizens, the simple answer is “they” have a constitutionally protected right to criticize the Catholic church; the church also has a constitutionally protected right to its doctrine.

But if Rubio is suggesting that “they” are the government, I can’t begin to wrap my mind around the scenario he is suggesting. Is he suggesting the government will deem a church’s teaching “hate speech?” There’s no basis or precedent that would remotely suggest that the government could regulate religious speech (whether “mainstream Christian teaching” or other religious teaching) at all, much less deeming it “hate speech.” The Free Exercise Clause protects religious practice and religious speech. Under the Free Speech Clause, the government cannot proscribe “hate speech” or even define it. Under the Establishment Clause, the government cannot endorse (or renounce) a particular religion.

You can say gay people are intrinsically disordered. Or you can say they don’t have a constitutional right to get married. They can say you’re a homophobe. The government can’t stop any of you.

But Rubio blurs the issue by suggesting that a nebulous “they” will first “go[] after individuals,” after which there is a slippery slope to arguing that “the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech.” Although CBN transcribed his next words as “and there’s a real and present danger,” if you watch the video, he says, “and that’s a real and present danger.” Suggesting, therefore, not that he believes “they” will argue that Catholic teaching is a “real and present danger” (whatever that is) but that the nebulous “they” present a “real and present danger” to Christianity.

Rubio’s statement is simply a confused muddle of fear-mongering and constitutional misconception. Neither of which is very presidential.

 

By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, May 28, 2015

June 1, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Marco Rubio, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Christian Exceptionalism”: Conservatives Want To Rewrite The History Of The Crusades For Modern Political Ends

At the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made a statement that you wouldn’t expect to be controversial: violence in the name of religion is a global problem and it’s bad.

He referenced the war in Syria, the killings in Nigeria, anti-Semitism’s resurgence in Europe and religious violence in India. He admitted that it can be hard to “counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try.” Then he offered a longer thought about humility:

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

The subsequent controversy fuelled by right-wing American commentators and politicians has shown that humility is in short supply.

The response was furious. Right-wing radio and TV talking heads aired long rants about Obama’s “attacks on Christianity”. Jonah Goldberg claimed the Crusades were a justified action against Muslim aggression and the Inquisition was a well-intentioned anti-lynching measure. Ross Douhat spent his morning on Twitter defending conservative Catholicism more generally. Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson declared that Barack Obama was not a Christian in “any meaningful way”. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal argued that since the medieval Christian threat was over a long time ago, we should just focus on combating radical Islam.

Jindal is wrong. While relatively few contemporary Christians are calling for the crusades these days (although crusader iconography is not uncommon in the US military), it’s a mistake to believe in Christian exceptionalism – the idea that Christianity alone has solved its problems – while other religions are still “medieval”. One of history’s lessons is that any ideology, sacred or secular, that divides the world into ‘us versus them’ can and will be used to justify violence.

But when we talk about the past, we’re often really talking about ourselves. In my scholarship, for instance, I look at the ways in which medieval people developed stories about holy war as a response to contemporary problems – which often had little to do with the Crusades.

This kind of tale-telling happens today as well. Matthew Gabriele, a history professor at Virginia Tech, has written about the dangerous nostalgia for the Crusades by right-wing commentators and politicians. In an email, Gabriele told me, “It stems from an understanding of the past as unchanging, one where Christians have always been at war with Muslims and always will be at war with Muslims. It’s an argument that doesn’t care for historical context and one that relies on a false equivalence — either “they” (Muslims) were worse than “us” (Christians) or “they” (Christians of the past) are not “us” (Christians of the present).”

In other words, either the bad stuff done by long-dead Christians has nothing to do with modern Christianity; or maybe the Crusades weren’t so bad for Muslims and Jews after all.

But the Crusades were pretty bad. Historians debate the precise extent and savagery of the violence, but we generally agree that the intensity of the religiously-motivated brutality was staggering. We argue, for example, whether there really was cannibalism during the First Crusade (probably), and whether blood really flowed up to the combatants’ ankles in the Temple of David in 1099 (probably not). But there’s no question that crusaders were sometimes driven to slaughter non-Christian civilian populations both in Europe and in southwest Asia, all in the name of religion.

Obama’s statements therefor reflect well-accepted historical knowledge. The Inquisition led to the execution of many people guilty – at most – of thought crime. Christianity has been regularly and explicitly used to justify colonization, slavery, cultural destruction and racial discrimination. These are simply undisputed facts, and if they make us uncomfortable, it’s worth thinking about why. Moreover, it’s vital to recognize that abolitionists and pacifists, just like those calling for inter-faith harmony today, have drawn strength from their religious convictions.

Reminding the public about ugly moments in the history of Christianity does not make one anti-Christian. To compare the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by Isis militants to the public burning of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas does not make one un-American. To acknowledge such comparisons instead gives one the moral authority to call out other acts of violence and atrocity, including those that are justified via religion.

That’s the real message of President Obama’s address at the National Prayer Breakfast. We need humility. We must recognize our fallibility, we must study the past to understand why things happen, and then we must try to do better. History – and not just the one written by the “victors” – is critical for illuminating both our present and our future; how ideologues try to rewrite it reveals the power of the stories we tell about the past to shape the future they hope to construct.

 

By: David M. Perry, The Guardian, February 7, 2015

February 14, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Religion, The Crusades | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Muslims, Marriage And Bigotry”: Our Capacity To “Otherize” People Of A Different Faith, Race, Nationality Or Sexuality

In North Carolina, three young Muslims who were active in charity work were murdered, allegedly by a man who identified as atheist and expressed hostility to Islam and other faiths. Police are exploring whether it was a hate crime, and it spurred a #MuslimLivesMatter campaign on Twitter.

And, in Alabama, we see judges refusing to approve marriages of any kind because then they would also have to approve same-sex marriages. In one poll conducted last year, some 59 percent of people in Alabama opposed gay marriage. Somehow a loving God is cited to bar loving couples from committing to each other.

These are very different news stories. But I wonder if a common lesson from both may be the importance of resisting bigotry, of combating the intolerance that can infect people of any faith — or of no faith.

I don’t think Muslims should feel obliged to apologize for the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks. Nor do I think atheists need apologize for the killing of the three Muslims.

But it does seem useful for everyone to reflect on our capacity to “otherize” people of a different faith, race, nationality or sexuality — and to turn that other-ness into a threat. That’s what the Islamic State does to us. And sometimes that’s what we do, too.

O.K. I’m sure some of you are protesting: That’s a false equivalency. True, there is a huge difference between burning someone alive and not granting a couple a marriage license. But, then again, it’s not much of a slogan to say, “We’re better than ISIS!”

There has been a pugnacious defensiveness among conservative Christians to any parallels between Christian overreach and Islamic overreach, as seen in the outraged reaction to President Obama’s acknowledgment at the National Prayer Breakfast this month that the West has plenty to regret as well. But Obama was exactly right: How can we ask Islamic leaders to confront extremism in their faith if we don’t acknowledge Christian extremism, from the Crusades to Srebrenica?

More broadly, one message of the New Testament is the value of focusing on one’s own mistakes rather than those of others. “You hypocrite,” Jesus says in Matthew 7:5. “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We could do with a little more of that spirit these days, at a time when everybody wants to practice ophthalmology on everyone else.

When I posted on my Facebook page about the North Carolina murders, one follower, Frank, wrote dismissively: “Muslims are slaughtering people around the globe (including their own) but let’s highlight this story — seems legit.”

I’ve previously urged Muslims to reflect on intolerance in their camp, and this is an occasion when Christians, atheists and others can do the same. Did the furor in North Carolina that led to the cancellation of the Muslim call to prayer from Duke University’s chapel tower inflame sentiments?

The Alabama legal drama, with Chief Justice Roy S. Moore of the State Supreme Court defying federal authorities, is, of course, different. But it also is redolent of faith as I-am-holier-than-thou chest-thumping, a reminder of the need for humility.

Do Judge Moore and other conservative Christians think that when God made gays and lesbians fall achingly in love with each other, He screwed up?

It seems odd to me that so many conservative Christians are obsessed with homosexuality, which Jesus never mentions, yet seem unworried about issues Jesus did emphasize like poverty and suffering. Jesus explicitly advised a wealthy man, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), so maybe that’s the Scripture that Judge Moore should follow to demonstrate his piety.

Then there’s Jesus’s praise for those who make themselves eunuchs (Matthew 19:12); but I’d settle for a little “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

I’ve written often about committed and self-effacing Christians doing outstanding work combating injustice around the world, and it’s frustrating that they don’t get attention. The problem is that their heroism is often overshadowed by sanctimonious blowhards.

Among Americans aged 18 to 24, a 2012 survey found that half or more describe present-day Christianity as “hypocritical,” “judgmental” and “anti-gay.” And more regarded it as immoral to view pornography than to have sex with a person of the same gender. Alabama is, once again, on the wrong side of history.

Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air to Catholics and non-Catholics alike because he seems less moralizing and more moral, less about pointing a finger and more about offering a helping hand. After the tragedy in North Carolina and the legal chaos in Alabama, maybe that’s a good instinct for all of us.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, February 13, 2015

February 14, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Christianity, Homophobia, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Owning The Monstrosities Of Our Past”: Obama Was Right To Compare Christianity’s Violent Past To The Islamic State

Conservative critics are in hysterics thanks to a few short remarks made by President Barack Obama on the subject of Christian history during Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast. Addressing religiously motivated conflict abroad, Obama said, “Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Naturally, conservatives were displeased with the suggestion that Christianity might be in some sense comparable to contemporary religious terrorism. At RedState, a contributor adduced Obama’s comments as further evidence of the president’s alleged fondness for Islam, while Rush Limbaugh interpreted the remarks as an insult to Christianity and a defense of radical Islam. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore said, “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” adding that Obama “has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”

Critics who viewed Obama’s speech as a bold defense of Islam seem to have missed the segment wherein he labeled the Islamic State a “vicious death cult,” and offered its horrific acts of terrorism as evidence of the evil that can be done in the name of (admittedly distorted) faith. The example of past Christian atrocities was given only to counterbalance the reproach aimed at religiously motivated violence committed outside the Christian world; it was not a stand-alone condemnation, and further, it did not go nearly as far as it could have.

By limiting his criticism of Christian violence to the Crusades and Inquisition, Obama kept his critique of Christian horrors to centuries past. But one need not look back so far to find more recent Christians behaving terribly in the name of Christ. The atrocities of the Bosnian War, including the systematic rape of women and girls, was perpetrated largely by Christians against Muslims; meanwhile, many of the Christian churches of Rwanda were intimately involved in the politicking that produced the genocide of 1994, with some clergy even reported to have participated in the violence.

The degree to which, in retrospect, we are willing to condemn violent perversions of faith often has to do with their proximity to us. Most will now admit, however grudgingly, that the Crusades and Inquisition were efforts to carry out some construal of God’s will, however mistaken and otherwise motivated. With more recent conflicts, such as Bosnia and Rwanda, we are more apt to see Christianity as a single thread in a web of ethnic and political tensions that was ultimately only one cause among the many that ultimately culminated in brutality. And this analysis is probably right.

But it is also probably true of the terrorism perpetrated by ISIS, which has been roundly denounced as contrary to the principles of Islam by a host of Muslim leaders and clerics, most recently after the murder of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Like war crimes and individual acts of brutality committed within the Christian world, the pattern of tensions that has produced ISIS, in all its unthinkable cruelty, seems to be broader and deeper than its self-proclaimed religious convictions. For those not searching for a source of personal offense, this is the only point Obama’s remarks on the religious violence enacted by Christians really conveys.

And it is, at last, a hopeful point: If we in the Christian world are capable of owning the monstrosities of our past, identifying their sources as multivalent and contrary to our faith, and holding one another accountable for the behavior we exhibit moving forward, then so are the members of the faiths we live alongside in the world. But accountability requires honesty, and pretending that Christians have never attributed violence to the cause of Christ is a disservice to modern peacemaking and to the victims of the past. Obama was right to take a clear-eyed view of the years that have come before, and to look hopefully to what we can do together as a multi-faith nation in the years to come.

 

By: Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The New Republic, February 6, 2015

February 8, 2015 Posted by | Christianity, Conservatives, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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