A Story Relevant To The Battle For Religious Freedom In America: 1954 to 2015
The latest and current battle for religious freedom in America really began in or around 1954, when a few influential Christian fundamentalist evangelists began pressuring President Eisenhower to official declare that America is a “Christian nation.” And even though Eisenhower refused because that would violated the First Amendment of the Constitution and the clear intent of America’s Founders, he finally relented enough to not object to adding the “one nation under God” phrase to the pledge of allegiance.
However, that really wasn’t a victory for Theocrats. After all, even the Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by out “Creator” with unalienable rights, and it mentions “Nature’s God.” But that was because many of America’s Founders were Deists and some were Freemasons who revered Divinity but respected all religions. (See Quotes of America’s Founders Regarding Religion.)
Much has been said in this article and others about this issue, but this little section is added because there is a wonderfully enlightening and relevant movie that helps to sum it up.
“Chocolat” is a 2000 romantic drama film starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Lina Olin and other great actors. The main character is Vianne, played by Binoche, who opens a chocolate shop in a fictional, repressed French village, and her kindly character, attitude and chocolate quickly begins to change the lives of some of the townspeople. The antagonist is the village mayor, a noble Count who writes the sermons and homilies for the young Catholic village priest, and the mayor’s theocratic rule completely controlled and repressed the village people. He condemned the chocolate shop as an “evil temptation,” and labeled Vianne as an evil temptress, implying that she was a witch.
Johnny Depp plays Roux, an itinerant houseboat captain, craftsman and musician who wanders up and down the river, doing odd jobs, playing his music and selling his wares. And the mayor of the village condemned Roux as he condemned and labeled Vianne, claiming that they were both tempted and corrupted by the pleasures of the “flesh” rather than in the rewards of “faith” and rigid abeyance to church doctrines and dogma.
Roux is finally driven out of the area by a stupid wife-beater the mayor had been trying to “save,” who burned down Roux’s houseboats because the mayor had said “something must be done” about them. After that happened, Vianne also decided to leave the village, but her growing number of friends convinced her to stay.
Then the enraged mayor broke into the chocolate shop the next night, and, after destroying what he could, he accidentally tasted some chocolate and then went on a chocolate binge. The village priest discovered him early the next morning asleep in the shop display window, which caused the mayor to lose face in the sight of the priest. The next day, Easter, the priest went off script in church and delivered an excellent homily and commentary. He said he wanted to focus on the humanity of Jesus and his call for us to love one another, forgive one another, treat each other as we want to be treated, and be inclusive since we are all children of God.
That shamed the mayor and the remaining few who still respected his authority, and the village was changed by the enlightening and liberating event. Then, the next summer Roux returned and he and Vianne and the village lived happily ever after, as the such stories go. But the moral to the story is valuable, crucial, and very relevant today, just as it was relevant in 2000 when the theocratic “Christian” Dominionists on the “religious right” were given even more political power when George W. Bush was allowed and enabled to steal the presidency (see Bush’s Real Record).
Real, true Christians, like any other servants of God or faithful believers in the Great Spirit-Parent or Divine Light Energy-Source of our existence, know in their heart and soul that we should love one another and treat all others as we would want to be treated if we were them. For true religion is not about Theocracy and patriarchy and authoritarianism. It is about fostering the Spirit of love, peace, forgiveness, understanding, compassion, sharing, fairness and widespread prosperity and happiness in the community and society.
The problem is hypocrisy, pretentiousness, self-importance, and self-righteousness.
Now The Modern Son of Man Rebukes The Hypocrites
Fortunately, the modern son of man is not limited by having to be politically correct, and it was his duty to expose the “religious right” as thoroughly as possible.
That is why the leaders of the “religious right” in America have steadfastly claimed that there is an “anti-Christian” bias at work, and that “religion” (as they define it) is under attack by “secular humanists, academic elitists, godless liberals,” and others who “want to destroy anything religious and sacred.” In their mind, anyone who opposes them, opposes God.
Pat Robertson has even made the claim that: “Liberals have worked diligently for decades through every avenue at their disposal to indoctrinate the nation with their tortured view of the Constitution and the role of religion and the Bible in our society.”
Robertson claims that: “Liberals want to create a completely secular society because they hate Christianity and want to destroy it.” He even goes so far as to claim that: “Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It’s no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democrats, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.”
That is very ironic, and very revealing, because the argument Robertson makes is similar to the argument that Hitler made against the Jews before the holocaust—that the Jews were “oppressing” his Aryan people and he wasn’t going to take it any more.
But other leaders of the Christian Right are just as deluded as Robertson is. Donald Wildmon, head of the so-called “American Family Association” has said: “It’s not only a cultural civil war, it’s a fight over the very existence of society as we’ve known it.”... “What we are up against is a philosophy of life which seeks to remove the influence of Christians and Christianity from our society.”
Those are obvious and sure indications of these men’s self-delusion and paranoia. After all, the truth is that most real Christians are simply against the bigotry and hypocrisy of the “religious right.”
Real Christians understand that hypocrites have God on their lips but have hate in their heart, while real Christians and real servants of God tend to be liberals, progressives and humanists.
Moreover, to have real freedom of religion, government must be secular and not favor any particular religion or religious denomination or sect. Church and state must be separate in order to have a real democracy with real religious freedom. It can be no other way.
The History of the “Religious Right” In America
The leadership of the modern Christian Right has gotten much more cunning and deceptive during the last 30 years in order to appear purely religious and patriotic. However, at the foundation of their beliefs is the imperial theology of "Christian Dominionism." And their agenda is to rule the world in the name of Christianity.
It is important to understand the full spectrum of the “religious right,” and its history, because some of their denominations, sects, and factions are worse than others. In fact, those on the extreme Far Right, while smaller, are far worse. They are more secret, more militant, and more violent, and they have taken their hatemongering and warmongering to far greater extremes than their more well-known compatriots.
The Christian Far Right (or Christian Ultra-Right) consists of various proud, militant, violent right-wing extremist groups that claim to be religious Christians. They include the “Christian Patriot Militia” movement and all its spinoffs, as well as many “white supremacy” groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Neo-Nazis, the Aryan Nation, and others of their ilk.
The FBI calls the Christian Ultra-Right the “Christian Identity movement,” and they report that many extremely conservative Fundamentalist Christian churches, extreme right-wing political groups and survival groups are involved. Some are independent, some are loosely interconnected, some are organized, and they have a long history. An FBI report says one of the largest organization in the Christian Identity movement, the Ku Klux Klan, became what it is today when it was reorganized in 1915 by William Simmons, a so-called Christian pastor.
In the mid 1940s another religious bigot, Wesley Swift, popularized the movement among right-wing zealots by combining racism, Hitler-like anti-Semitism, and right-wing political extremism. He spread his ideology in his own church and on a daily radio broadcast during the 1950s and 1960s, and was able to reach a large audience. With Swift’s efforts, the message of his church spread, leading to the creation of many similar churches throughout the country. In 1957, the name of his church was changed to The Church of Jesus Christ Christian, which is used today by Aryan Nations (AN) churches.
In the 1970s and 1980s numerous Christian Identity churches and organizations became involved in anti-tax and paramilitary movements. Most preach similar messages, and all hold fast to the belief that Aryans (any white people, as they define it) are God’s chosen race. According to the FBI, other current organizations that follow Christian Identity beliefs are: the American Nazi Party; Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Aryan Nations; Confederate Hammerskins; Jubilee; National Association for the Advancement of White People; The Order; radical modern offshoots of the original Posse Comitatus; Scriptures for America; White Aryan Resistance (WAR); White Separatist Banner; God’s Order Affirmed in Love (GOAL); the Gospel Broadcasting Association; Kingdom Identity Ministries; and America’s Promise Ministries.
Their number is difficult to determine. But what is important is that in the Christian Ultra-Right’s “righteous holy war on evil,” the enemy is not just Jews and people of color. To them, practically the whole world is “evil” and their list of enemies is even longer than the larger Christian Right’s basic list — which includes everyone they labels as “bleeding heart liberals;” “secular humanists;” “academic elitists;” the “New Age movement;” Planned Parenthood; the Pro-Choice movement; the Women’s Liberation movement; the Civil Rights movement; the American Civil Liberties Union; People for the American Way; homosexuals; all other religions, and lots of other groups and individuals who don’t fit their idea of “good Christians.”
In fact, the larger “religious right” hates practically the whole professional, educated establishment, because it tends to be liberal and is secular for very valid reasons having to do with fairness, professionalism and constitutionality, respecting all religions, all races, and all cultures as equal.
Of course, the current most popular leaders of the “religious right” are more educated than they used to be, even though they misinterpret prophecies just as much as the uneducated zealots have in the past. Thus they believe that it is up to them to start a “final world war between good and evil” in order to fulfill prophecy and bring about the so-called “second coming” of Jesus.
They believe they are among those “holy warriors” chosen by God to wage the final battle. That’s why the most radical extremists among them prepare for these events by engaging in survivalist and paramilitary training, storing foodstuffs and supplies, and caching weapons and ammunition. Whether they reside in compounds located in remote areas or live right next door, they are getting ready for the final war. That’s even more absurd, of course, but that is what they’ve been led to believe, and they do believe it. That’s even more reason why they are so dangerous.
However, while the smaller number on the Christian Ultra-Right is certainly the most dangerous, the mind-set and attitude of the whole “religious right should also be considered dangerous because they like feeling superior and they don’t mind judging and condemning everyone else as inferior — and that is exactly how the Nazi mentality starts. They are first led astray by someone who claims that “God is on our side” and that “the enemy is evil” just because his race or religion or culture is different. They don’t realize that they have been tempted, deceived, and led astray by wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they don’t realize that their “religious zeal” can very quickly turn into fascism. Indeed, we have already witnessed many incidences and examples of that.
Of course, as Jesus of Nazareth predicted, they proudly claim that they do “many wonderful works in the name of the Lord.” And according to Jesus that is precisely what hypocrites do!
As Thomas Jefferson wrote back in 1776: “If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market.”
That is important to keep in mind, because the leaders of the “religious right” have been holding religious meetings for partisan political purposes for many years, ignoring or denying the intent of the Founding Father regarding religion, and ignoring or denying the meaning of Article 6 and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
For example, in a speech to the Christian Coalition at a “Road to Victory” conference, Robertson said: “There are 175,000 [voting] precincts in the country, and we want ten trained workers in each one of them. That’s about enough to pretty much take the nation.”
Robert Simonds, who heads the so-called “Citizens for Excellence in Education,” has said: “We need strong school board members who know right from wrong. The Bible, being the only true source of right and wrong, should be the guide of board members. Only godly Christians can truly qualify for this critically important position.” Even further, Simonds has said: “When we get an active Christian parent’s committee in operation in all 15,700 school districts in America, we can take complete control of all local school boards. This would allow us to determine all local policy: select good textbooks, good curriculum programs, superintendents, and principals. Our time has come!”
That’s not all. In many of the books Robertson has written he is not at all ashamed to admit that he believes “America is ripe for the picking because of the apathy and non-participation of American voters.” He even said: “Our (the Christian Coalition’s) strength is more than sufficient to decide any election for any office in the land.” (And as it turned out, he was not just talking. The efforts of the “religious right” helped George W. Bush get as many votes as he did in 2004.)
What is amazing about it is that it’s happened before, many times.
That is why Thomas Jefferson was not only adamant about separation of church and state, he was adamant about preventing clergy from political grandstanding. He wrote: “Whenever preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract.”
James Madison agreed, and he wrote: “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?” Madison also wrote: “The number, the industry, and the morality of the [clergy], and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of church and state.” (For further proof, see Quotes of the Founding Fathers Regarding Religion).
If you learn what the Founding Fathers actually wrote in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and their personal books, pamphlets and letters, you will see that real Christian values and principles played a big part in their thinking and intent. However, their views were opposite to the views of the conservative fundamentalists on the “religious right.”
Certainly the Founding Fathers drew much of their inspiration from the Christian Bible, but they drew it also from the knowledge of Pythagoras, Plato, the Alexandrian School, and the Qabalists, Rosicrucians and Freemasons. And the “religious right” hated that then, and they hate it today.
Jefferson would frown upon everything that the religious right is doing, and that is evident from what he wrote about fundamentalist clergy in his day:
“The returning good sense of our country threatens [the clergy] and they believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me, and enough too in their opinion, and this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . .” -- Thomas Jefferson
Of course, many naive or biased television pundits have denied or played down the danger the “religious right” poses, so it’s very important to know just how much power the Christian Right has already managed to seize at the local, community, town, city, state and national levels. From taking over local school boards to taking over Congress and the White House, they have been very successful.
The leaders of the Christian Right were in large part responsible for George W. Bush receiving as many popular votes as he did in the 2000 presidential election, and they were certainly responsible for his actually winning the 2004 election because they did not want a repeat of the 2000 election in which Bush actually lost the popular vote. That’s why many more religious conservatives turned out to vote for Bush in 2004, and it was largely because of a very deceptive but massively effective partisan political effort made by the leaders of the Christian Right.
Of course, Bush catered to them, but he was also one of them, and he no doubt actually believed it when he said the was just “doing God’s will.”
That is why American journalist Bob Woodward sarcastically wrote: “The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God’s Master Plan.” In Woodward’s book The Plan of Attack, he even revealed Bush’s immense pride in his belief that he’s “doing God’s will” by waging war.
More recently, in a television interview in late June 2005, Bush even admitted that he believes it is “our duty to lead the world.” But what Bush’s hegemony really meant is that he believes it was his duty to lead the world, and he simply has no idea of how absurdly arrogant that is to most Americans and to most of the rest of the people of the world.
Bush may really believe he served God as president, but he doesn’t realize he actually served Mammon, not God. Like Ronald Reagan, he appealed to hegemonic nationalism and religious bigotry. Like Reagan, he encouraged people to wave the flag, thump the Bible and say, “God Bless America,” when we should be saying “God Bless the World,” and “God Bless Humanity.”
America is but one nation in a family of nations, and some Americans need to start being better world citizens. Nationalism, which can be distorted into nationalistic hegemony and bigotry, must be recognized as detrimental to world peace and harmony, just as surely as religious bigotry and racial bigotry are.
Americans must recognize that, because the Republican Reaganites and Bushites on the New Right push nationalism and religious dominionism to the extreme, and they use it as a political vehicle to take them to greater heights of worldly wealth and power.
It’s rather amazing, but they have made the old term WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) appropriate and relevant again. They are rich, white Protestant “Christians” who seek, fight for and gain power and wealth in the name of Jesus, and in the name of God and Country.
Unfortunately, they forget or ignore most of the core values of Christianity, and the core values of the Founding Fathers. They ignore that the Founding Fathers wanted government to promote the general welfare and ensure domestic tranquility and justice for all. And they ignore that Jesus of Nazareth criticized the rich and advocated for the poor and the least of our brethren.
Now it is time to rebuke them and repudiate their culture of greed and self-interest.