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    9/11 And The Sport of God Bill Moyers September 09, 2005 This article is adapted from Bill Moyer s address this week at Union Theological Seminary in New York,
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 11, 2005
      9/11 And The Sport of God
      Bill Moyers
      September 09, 2005

      This article is adapted from Bill Moyer's address this week at Union
      Theological Seminary in New York, where Judith and Bill Moyers
      received the seminary's highest award, the Union Medal, for their
      contributions to faith and reason in America. Bill Moyers is a
      broadcast journalist and former host the PBS program NOW With Bill
      Moyers. Moyers also serves as president of the Schumann Center for
      Media and Democracy, which gives financial support to TomPaine.com.

      At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was
      baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state.
      I still do.

      My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats
      who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to
      others. "Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils," thundered the
      dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for
      denying Puritan authority over his conscience. Baptists there were
      a "pitiful negligible minority" but they were agitators for freedom
      and therefore denounced as "incendiaries of the commonwealth" for
      holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith—the
      priesthood of all believers. For refusing to pay tribute to the
      state religion they were fined, flogged, and exiled. In l651 the
      Baptist Obadiah Holmes was given 30 stripes with a three-corded whip
      after he violated the law and took forbidden communion with another
      Baptist in Lynn, Massachusetts. His friends offered to pay his fine
      for his release but he refused. They offered him strong drink to
      anesthetize the pain of the flogging. Again he refused. It is the
      love of liberty, he said, "that must free the soul."

      Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution
      and Bill of Rights "a haven for the cause of conscience." No longer
      could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not
      attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer
      would "the loathsome combination of church and state"—as Thomas
      Jefferson described it—be the settled order. Unlike the Old World
      that had been wracked with religious wars and persecution, the
      government of America would take no sides in the religious free-for-
      all that liberty would make possible and politics would make
      inevitable. The First Amendment neither inculcates religion nor
      inoculates against it. Americans could be loyal to the Constitution
      without being hostile to God, or they could pay no heed to God
      without fear of being mugged by an official God Squad. It has been a
      remarkable arrangement that guaranteed "soul freedom."

      It is at risk now, and the fourth observance of the terrorist
      attacks of 9/ll is an appropriate time to think about it.

      Four years ago this week, the poet's prophetic metaphor became real
      again and "the great dark birds of history" plunged into our lives.

      They came in the name of God. They came bent on murder and
      martyrdom. It was as if they rode to earth on the fierce breath of
      Allah himself, for the sacred scriptures that had nurtured these
      murderous young men are steeped in images of a violent and vengeful
      God who wills life for the faithful and horrific torment for

      Yes, the Koran speaks of mercy and compassion and calls for ethical
      living. But such passages are no match for the ferocity of
      instruction found there for waging war for God's sake. The scholar
      Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer carefully traces this trail of holy violence
      in his important book, Is Religion Killing Us? [Trinity Press
      International, 2003]. He highlights many of the verses in the Koran
      that the Islamic terrorists could have had in their hearts and on
      their lips four years ago as they moved toward their gruesome
      rendezvous. As I read some of them, close your eyes and recall the
      scenes of that bright September morning which began in the bright
      sun under a blue sky:

      "Those who believe Fight in the cause of Allah, and Those who reject
      Faith Fight in the cause of Evil."(4:76)

      "So We sent against them A furious Wind through days of disaster,
      We might Give them a taste of a Penalty of humiliation In this Life;
      The Penalty of the Hereafter will be More Humiliating still: And they
      Will find No help." (41:16)

      "Then watch thou For the Day That the sky will Bring forth a kind Of
      smoke (or mist) Plainly visible, Enveloping the people: This will be
      a Penalty
      Grievous." (44:10-11)

      "Did the people of the towns Feel Secure against the coming Of Our
      Wrath by night While they were asleep? Or else did they feel
      Secure against its coming in Broad daylight while they Played
      About (carefree)? Did they then feel secure Against the Plan of
      Allah?—But no one can feel Secure from the Plan of Allah,
      except those (Doomed) to ruin." (7:97-99)

      So the holy warriors came—an airborne death cult, their sights on
      God's enemies: regular folks, starting the day's routine. One
      minute they're pulling off their jackets, shaking Sweet n' Low into
      their coffee, adjusting the height of their chair or a picture of a
      child or sweetheart or spouse in a frame on their desk, booting up
      their computer—and in the next, they are engulfed by a horrendous
      cataclysm. God's will. Poof!

      But it is never only the number of dead by which terrorists measure
      their work. It is also the number of the living— the survivors—
      taken hostage to fear. Their mission was to invade our psyche; get
      inside our heads—deprive us of trust, faith, and peace of mind: keep
      us from ever again believing in a safe, just, and peaceful world,
      and from working to bring that world to pass. The writer Terry
      Tempest Williams has said "the human heart is the first home of
      democracy." Fill that heart with fear and people will give up the
      risks of democracy for the assurances of security; fill that heart
      with fear and you can shake the house to its foundations.

      In the days leading up to 9/ll our daughter and husband adopted
      their first baby. On the morning of September 11th our son-in-law
      passed through the shadow of the World Trade Center toward his
      office a few blocks up the street. He arrived as the horrors
      erupted. He saw the flames, the falling bodies, the devastation.
      His building was evacuated and for long awful moments he couldn't
      reach his wife, our daughter, to say he was okay. Even after they
      connected it wasn't until the next morning that he was able to make
      it home. Throughout that fearful night our daughter was alone with
      their new baby. Later she told us that for weeks thereafter she
      would lie awake at night, wondering where and when it might happen
      again, going to the computer at three in the morning to check out
      what she could about bioterrorism, germ warfare, anthrax and the
      vulnerability of children. The terrorists had violated a mother's
      deepest space.

      Who was not vulnerable? That morning Judith and I made it to our
      office at Channel Thirteen on West 33rd Street just after the second
      plane struck. Our building was evacuated although the two of us
      remained with other colleagues to do what we could to keep the
      station on the air. The next day it was evacuated again because of a
      bomb scare at the Empire State Building nearby. We had just ended a
      live broadcast for PBS when security officers swept through and
      ordered everyone out. This time we left. As we were making our way
      down the stairs I took Judith's arm and was struck by the thought:
      Is this the last time I'll touch her? Could what we had begun
      together a half century ago end here on this dim, bare staircase? I
      forced the thought from my mind, willed it away, but in the early
      hours of morning, as I sat at the window of our apartment looking
      out at the sky, the sinister intruder crept back.

      Terrorists plant time bombs in our heads, hoping to turn each and
      every imagination into a private hell governed by our fear of them.

      They win only if we let them, only if we become like them: vengeful,
      imperious, intolerant, paranoid. Having lost faith in all else,
      zealots have nothing left but a holy cause to please a warrior God.
      They win if we become holy warriors, too; if we kill the innocent
      as they do; strike first at those who had not struck us; allow our
      leaders to use the fear of terrorism to make us afraid of the truth;
      cease to think and reason together, allowing others to tell what's
      in God's mind. Yes, we are vulnerable to terrorists, but only a
      shaken faith in ourselves can do us in.

      So over the past four years I have kept reminding myself of not only
      the horror but the humanity that was revealed that day four years
      ago, when through the smoke and fire we glimpsed the heroism,
      compassion, and sacrifice of people who did the best of things in
      the worst of times. I keep telling myself that this beauty in us is
      real, that it makes life worthwhile and democracy work and that no
      terrorist can take it from us.

      But I am not so sure. As a Christian realist I honor my inner
      skeptic. And as a journalist I always know the other side of the
      story. The historian Edward Gibbon once wrote of historians what
      could be said of journalists. He wrote: "The theologians may indulge
      the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from
      Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is
      imposed on the historian [read: journalist] He must discover the
      inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a
      long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of

      The other side of the story:

      Muslims have no monopoly on holy violence. As Jack Nelson-Pallmayer
      points out, God's violence in the sacred texts of both faiths
      reflect a deep and troubling pathology "so pervasive, vindictive,
      and destructive" that it contradicts and subverts the collective
      weight of other passages that exhort ethical behavior or testify to
      a loving God.

      For days now we have watched those heart-breaking scenes on the Gulf
      Coast: the steaming, stinking, sweltering wreckage of cities and
      suburbs; the fleeing refugees; the floating corpses, hungry babies,
      and old people huddled together in death, the dogs gnawing at their
      feet; stranded children standing in water reeking of feces and
      garbage; families scattered; a mother holding her small child and an
      empty water jug, pleading for someone to fill it; a wife, pushing
      the body of her dead husband on a wooden plank down a flooded
      street; desperate people struggling desperately to survive.

      Now transport those current scenes from our newspapers and
      television back to the first Book of the Bible—the Book of Genesis.
      They bring to life what we rarely imagine so graphically when we
      read of the great flood that devastated the known world. If you read
      the Bible as literally true, as fundamentalists do, this flood was
      ordered by God. "And God said to Noah, `I have determined to make
      an end of all flesh… behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
      (6:5-l3). "I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to
      destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven;
      everything that is on the earth shall die." (6:l7-l9) Noah and his
      family are the only humans spared—they were, after all, God's
      chosen. But for everyone else: "… the waters prevailed so
      mightily… that all the high mountains….were covered….And all flesh
      died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts…and every man;
      everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life,
      died…." (7:17-23).

      The flood is merely Act One. Read on: This God first "hardens the
      heart of Pharaoh" to make sure the Egyptian ruler will not be moved
      by the plea of Moses to let his people go. Then because Pharaoh's
      heart is hardened, God turns the Nile into blood so people cannot
      drink its water and will suffer from thirst. Not satisfied with the
      results, God sends swarms of locusts and flies to torture them;
      rains hail and fire and thunder on them destroys the trees and
      plants of the field until nothing green remains; orders every first-
      born child to be slaughtered, from the first-born of Pharaoh right
      on down to "the first-born of the maidservant behind the mill." An
      equal-murderous God, you might say. The massacre continues
      until "there is not a house where one was not dead." While the
      Egyptian families mourn their dead, God orders Moses to loot from
      their houses all their gold and silver and clothing. Finally, God's
      thirst for blood is satisfied, God pauses to rest—and boasts: "I
      have made sport of the Egyptians."

      Violence: the sport of God. God, the progenitor of shock and awe.

      And that's just Act II. As the story unfolds women and children are
      hacked to death on God's order; unborn infants are ripped from their
      mother's wombs; cities are leveled—their women killed if they have
      had sex, the virgins taken at God's command for the pleasure of his
      holy warriors. When his holy warriors spare the lives of 50,000
      captives God is furious and sends Moses back to rebuke them and tell
      them to finish the job. One tribe after another falls to God-ordered
      genocide: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the
      Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites—names so ancient they have
      disappeared into the mists as fathers and mothers and brothers and
      sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, infants in arms, shepherds,
      threshers, carpenters, merchants, housewives—living human beings,
      flesh and blood: "And when the Lord your God gives them over to you,
      and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall
      make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them…(and) your
      eyes shall not pity them."

      So it is written—in the Holy Bible.

      Yes, I know: the early church fathers, trying to cover up the blood-
      soaked trail of God's sport, decreed that anything that disagrees
      with Christian dogma about the perfection of God is to be
      interpreted spiritually. Yes, I know: Edward Gibbon himself
      acknowledged that the literal Biblical sense of God "is repugnant to
      every principle of faith as well as reason" and that we must
      therefore read the scriptures through a veil of allegory. Yes, I
      know: we can go through the Bible and construct a God more pleasing
      to the better angels of our nature (as I have done.) Yes, I know:
      Christians claim the Old Testament God of wrath was supplanted by
      the Gospel's God of love [See The God of Evil , Allan Hawkins,

      I know these things; all of us know these things. But we also know
      that the "violence-of-God" tradition remains embedded deep in the
      DNA of monotheistic faith. We also know that fundamentalists the
      world over and at home consider the "sacred texts" to be literally
      God's word on all matters. Inside that logic you cannot read part of
      the Bible allegorically and the rest of it literally; if you believe
      in the virgin birth of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection, and
      the depiction of the Great Judgment at the end times you must also
      believe that God is sadistic, brutal, vengeful, callow, cruel and
      savage—that God slaughters.

      Millions believe it.

      Let's go back to 9/11 four years ago. The ruins were still
      smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went
      on television to proclaim that the terrorist attacks were God's
      punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had
      adopted the agenda "of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the
      feminists, and the gays and the lesbians" not to mention the ACLU
      and People for the American Way (The God of the Bible apparently
      holds liberals in the same low esteem as Hittites and Gergushites
      and Jebusites and all the other pagans of holy writ.) Just as God
      had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now—
      disgusted with a decadent America—"God almighty is lifting his
      protection from us." Critics said such comments were deranged. But
      millions of Christian fundamentalists and conservatives didn't think
      so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly
      consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it: God
      withdraws favor from sinful nations—the terrorists were meant to be
      God's wake-up call: better get right with God. Not many people at
      the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading
      his sacred book closely and literally, and had called on Muslims to
      resist what he described as a "fierce Judeo-Christian campaign"
      against Islam, praying to Allah for guidance "to exalt the people
      who obey Him and humiliate those who disobey Him."

      Suddenly we were immersed in the pathology of a "holy war" as
      defined by fundamentalists on both sides. You could see this
      pathology play out in General William Boykin. A professional
      soldier, General Boykin had taken up with a small group called the
      Faith Force Multiplier whose members apply military principles to
      evangelism with a manifesto summoning warriors "to the spiritual
      warfare for souls." After Boykin had led Americans in a battle
      against a Somalian warlord he announced: "I know my God was bigger
      than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his God was an
      idol." Now Boykin was going about evangelical revivals preaching
      that America was in a holy war as "a Christian nation" battling
      Satan and that America's Muslim adversaries will be defeated "only
      if we come against them in the name of Jesus." For such an hour,
      America surely needed a godly leader. So General Boykin explained
      how it was that the candidate who had lost the election in 2000
      nonetheless wound up in the White House. President Bush, he
      said, "was not elected by a majority of the voters—he was appointed
      by God." Not surprising, instead of being reprimanded for
      evangelizing while in uniform, General Boykin is now the Deputy
      Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. (Just as it isn't
      surprising that despite his public call for the assassination of a
      foreign head of state, Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing was one of
      the first groups to receive taxpayer funds from the President's
      Faith-Based Initiative for "relief work" on the Gulf Coast.)

      We can't wiggle out of this, people. Alvin Hawkins states it
      frankly: "This is a problem we can't walk away from." We're
      talking about a powerful religious constituency that claims the
      right to tell us what's on God's mind and to decide the laws of the
      land according to their interpretation of biblical revelation and to
      enforce those laws on the nation as a whole. For the Bible is not
      just the foundational text of their faith; it has become the
      foundational text for a political movement.

      True, people of faith have always tried to bring their
      interpretation of the Bible to bear on American laws and morals—this
      very seminary is part of that tradition; it's the American way,
      encouraged and protected by the First Amendment. But what is unique
      today is that the radical religious right has succeeded in taking
      over one of America's great political parties—the country is not yet
      a theocracy but the Republican Party is—and they are driving
      American politics, using God as a a battering ram on almost every
      issue: crime and punishment, foreign policy, health care, taxation,
      energy, regulation, social services and so on.

      What's also unique is the intensity, organization, and anger they
      have brought to the public square. Listen to their preachers,
      evangelists, and homegrown ayatollahs: Their viral intolerance—their
      loathing of other people's beliefs, of America's secular and liberal
      values, of an independent press, of the courts, of reason, science
      and the search for objective knowledge—has become an unprecedented
      sectarian crusade for state power. They use the language of faith
      to demonize political opponents, mislead and misinform voters,
      censor writers and artists, ostracize dissenters, and marginalize
      the poor. These are the foot soldiers in a political holy war
      financed by wealthy economic interests and guided by savvy partisan
      operatives who know that couching political ambition in religious
      rhetoric can ignite the passion of followers as ferociously as when
      Constantine painted the Sign of Christ (the "Christograph") on the
      shields of his soldiers and on the banners of his legions and routed
      his rivals in Rome. Never mind that the Emperor himself was never
      baptized into the faith; it served him well enough to make the God
      worshipped by Christians his most important ally and turn the Sign
      of Christ into the one imperial symbol most widely recognized and
      feared from east to west.

      Let's take a brief detour to Ohio and I'll show you what I am
      talking about. In recent weeks a movement called the Ohio
      Restoration Project has been launched to identify and train
      thousands of "Patriot Pastors" to get out the conservative religious
      vote next year. According to press reports, the leader of the
      movement— the senior pastor of a large church in suburban Columbus—
      casts the 2006 elections as an apocalyptic clash between "the forces
      of righteousness and the hordes of hell." The fear and loathing in
      his message is palpable: He denounces public schools that won't
      teach creationism, require teachers to read the Bible in class, or
      allow children to pray. He rails against the "secular jihadists"
      who have "hijacked" America and prevent school kids from learning
      that Hitler was "an avid evolutionist." He links abortion to
      children who murder their parents. He blasts the "pagan left" for
      trying to redefine marriage. He declares that "homosexual rights"
      will bring "a flood of demonic oppression." On his church website
      you read that "Reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage
      among America's youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny
      that God has invested into this nation."

      One of the prominent allies of the Ohio Restoration Project is a
      popular televangelist in Columbus who heads a $40 million-a-year
      ministry that is accessible worldwide via l, 400 TV stations and
      cable affiliates. Although he describes himself as neither
      Republican nor Democrat but a "Christocrat"—a gladiator for God
      marching against "the very hordes of hell in our society"—he
      nonetheless has been spotted with so many Republican politicians in
      Washington and elsewhere that he has been publicly described as
      a"spiritual advisor" to the party. The journalist Marley Greiner has
      been following his ministry for the organization, FreePress. She
      writes that because he considers the separation of church and state
      to be "a lie perpetrated on Americans—especially believers in Jesus
      Christ"—he identifies himself as a "wall builder" and "wall buster."
      As a wall builder he will "restore Godly presence in government and
      culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall."
      He sees the Christian church as a sleeping giant that has the
      ability and the anointing from God to transform America. The giant
      is stirring. At a rally in July he proclaimed to a packed
      house: "Let the Revolution begin!" And the congregation roared
      back: "Let the Revolution begin!"

      (The Revolution's first goal, by the way, is to elect as governor
      next year the current Republican secretary of state who oversaw the
      election process in 2004 year when a surge in Christian voters
      narrowly carried George Bush to victory. As General Boykin suggested
      of President Bush's anointment, this fellow has acknowledged
      that "God wanted him as secretary of state during 2004" because it
      was such a critical election. Now he is criss-crossing Ohio meeting
      with Patriot Pastors and their congregations proclaiming
      that "America is at its best when God is at its center.") [For the
      complete stories from which this information has been extracted,
      see: "An evening with Rod Parsley, by Marley Greiner, FreePress,
      July 20, 2005; Patriot Pastors," Marilyn Warfield, Cleveland Jewish
      News, July 29, 2005; "Ohio televangelist has plenty of influence,
      but he wants more", Ted Wendling, Religion News Service, Chicago
      Tribune, July 1, 2005; "Shaping Politics from the pulpits," Susan
      Page, USA Today , Aug. 3, 2005; "Religion and Politics Should Be
      Mixed Says Ohio Secretary of State," WTOL-TV Toledo, October 29,

      The Ohio Restoration Project is spreading. In one month alone last
      year in the president's home state of Texas, a single Baptist
      preacher added 2000 "Patriot Pastors" to the rolls. On his website
      he now encourages pastors to "speak out on the great moral issues of
      our day…to restore and reclaim America for Christ."

      Alas, these "great moral issues" do not include building a moral
      economy. The Christian Right trumpets charity (as in Faith Based
      Initiatives) but is silent on social and economic justice.
      Inequality in America has reached scandalous proportions: a few
      weeks ago the government acknowledged that while incomes are growing
      smartly for the first time in years, the primary winners are the top
      earners—people who receive stocks, bonuses, and other income in
      addition to wages. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who rely
      mostly on hourly wages barely maintained their purchasing power.
      Even as Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Gulf Coast, giving us a
      stark reminder of how poverty can shove poor people into the abyss,
      the U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year one million people
      were added to 36 million already living in poverty. And since l999
      the income of the poorest one fifth of Americans has dropped almost
      nine percent.

      None of these harsh realities of ordinary life seem to bother the
      radical religious right. To the contrary, in the pursuit of
      political power they have cut a deal with America's richest class
      and their partisan allies in a law-of-the-jungle strategy
      to "starve" the government of resources needed for vital social
      services that benefit everyone while championing more and more
      spending rich corporations and larger tax cuts for the rich.

      How else to explain the vacuum in their "great moral issues" of the
      plight of millions of Americans without adequate health care? Of the
      gross corruption of politics by campaign contributions that skew
      government policies toward the wealthy at the expense of ordinary
      taxpayers? (On the very day that oil and gas prices reached a record
      high the president signed off on huge taxpayer subsidies for energy
      conglomerates already bloated with windfall profits plucked from the
      pockets of average Americans filling up at gas tanks across the
      country; yet the next Sunday you could pass a hundred church
      signboards with no mention of a sermon on crony capitalism.)

      This silence on economic and political morality is deafening but
      revealing. The radicals on the Christian right are now the dominant
      force in America's governing party. Without them the government
      would not be in the hands of people who don't believe in government.
      They are culpable in upholding a system of class and race in which,
      as we saw last week, the rich escape and the poor are left behind.
      And they are on they are crusading for a government "of, by, and
      for the people" in favor of one based on Biblical authority.

      This is the crux of the matter: To these fundamentalist radicals
      there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand
      of that religion that is right; all others who call on God are
      immoral or wrong. They believe the Bible to be literally true and
      that they alone know what it means. Behind their malicious attacks
      on the courts ("vermin in black robes," as one of their talk show
      allies recently put it,) is a fierce longing to hold judges
      accountable for interpreting the Constitution according to standards
      of biblical revelation as fundamentalists define it. To get those
      judges they needed a party beholden to them. So the Grand Old Party—
      the GOP—has become God's Own Party, its ranks made up of God's Own
      People "marching as to war."

      Go now to the website of an organization called America 2l
      (http://www.america21.us/Home.cfm ). There, on a red, white, and
      blue home page, you find praise for President Bush's agenda—
      including his effort to phase out Social Security and protect
      corporations from law suits by aggrieved citizens. On the same home
      page is a reminder that "There are 7,177 hours until our next
      National Election….ENLIST NOW." Now click again and you will read a
      summons calling Christian pastors "to lead God's people in the
      turning that can save America from our enemies." Under the
      headline "Remember—Repent—Return" language reminiscent of Pat
      Robertson and Jerry Falwell reminds you that "one of the
      unmistakable lessons [of 9/11] is that America has lost the full
      measure of God's hedge of protection. When we ask ourselves why, the
      scriptures remind us that ancient Israel was invaded by its foreign
      enemy, Babylon, in 586 B.C. ….(and) Jerusalem was destroyed by
      another invading foreign power in 70 A.D. …. Psalm l06:37 says that
      these judgments of God …were because of Israel's idolatry. Israel,
      the apple of God's eye, was destroyed … because the people failed…
      to repent." If America is to avoid a similar fate, the warning
      continues, we must "remember the legacy of our heritage under God
      and our covenant with Him and, in the words of II Chronicles
      7:14: `Turn from our wicked ways.'"

      Just what does this have to do with the president's political agenda
      praised on the home page? Well, squint and look at the fine print
      at the bottom of the site. It reads: America2l is a not-for-profit
      organization whose mission is to educate, engage and mobilize
      Christians to influence national policy at every level. Founded in
      l989 by a multi-denominational group of pastors and businessmen, it
      is dedicated to being a catalyst for revival and reform of the
      culture and the government ." (emphasis added).

      The corporate, political and religious right converge here, led by
      a president who, in his own disdain for science, reason and
      knowledge, is the most powerful fundamentalist in American history.

      What are the stakes? In his last book, the late Marvin Harris, a
      prominent anthropologist of the time, wrote that "the attack against
      reason and objectivity is fast reaching the proportions of a
      crusade." To save the American Dream, "we desperately need to
      reaffirm the principle that it is possible to carry out an analysis
      of social life which rational human beings will recognize as being
      true, regardless of whether they happen to be women or men, whites
      or black, straights or gays, employers or employees, Jews or born-
      again Christians. The alternative is to stand by helplessly as
      special interest groups tear the United States apart in the name of
      their "separate realities' or to wait until one of them grows strong
      enough to force its irrational and subjective brand of reality on
      all the rest."

      That was written 25 years ago, just as the radical Christian right
      was setting out on their long march to political supremacy. The
      forces he warned against have gained strength ever since and now
      control much of the United States government and are on the verge of
      having it all.

      It has to be said that their success has come in no small part
      because of our acquiescence and timidity. Our democratic values are
      imperiled because too many people of reason are willing to appease
      irrational people just because they are pious. Republican moderates
      tried appeasement and survive today only in gulags set aside for
      them by the Karl Roves, Bill Frists and Tom DeLays. Democrats are
      divided and paralyzed, afraid that if they take on the organized
      radical right they will lose what little power they have. Trying to
      learn to talk about God as Republicans do, they're talking
      gobbledygook, compromising the strongest thing going for them—the
      case for a moral economy and the moral argument for the secular
      checks and balances that have made America "a safe haven for the
      cause of conscience."

      As I look back on the conflicts and clamor of our boisterous past,
      one lesson about democracy stands above all others: Bullies—
      political bullies, economic bullies and religious bullies—cannot be
      appeased; they have to be opposed with a stubbornness to match their
      own. This is never easy; these guys don't fight fair; "Robert's
      Rules of Order" is not one of their holy texts. But freedom on any
      front—and especially freedom of conscience—never comes to those who
      rock and wait, hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting.
      Christian realism requires us to see the world as it is, without
      illusions, and then take it on. Christian realism also requires
      love. But not a sentimental, dreamy love. Reinhold Niebuhr, who
      taught at Union Theological Seminary and wrestled constantly with
      applying Christian ethics to political life, put it this way: "When
      we talk about love we have to become mature or we will become
      sentimental. Basically love means…being responsible, responsibility
      to our family, toward our civilization, and now by the pressures of
      history, toward the universe of humankind."

      Christian realists aren't afraid to love. But just as the Irishman
      who came upon a brawl in the street and asked, "Is this a private
      fight or can anyone get in it?" we have to take that love where the
      action is. Or the world will remain a theatre of war between
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