Book Review of: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

Book Review of: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation

Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2020, 356 pages

WN: This is one of the few times I also posted a book review to this Blog.

This is a highly disturbing–and informative–book.

In an interview with Religion & Politics, the author discusses how she came to its writing:

Yes! Since about 2010, I had been giving talks on evangelicalism and masculinity and had been approached by publishers, but there were two things at that point that made me a little hesitant to dive into a book project. For one, the things that I was uncovering were very depressing. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to live with that for the years that I knew it would take to write a book. For another, I wasn’t sure at first how mainstream it all was. As a Christian myself, I wanted to be careful about shining a bright light on this dark underbelly of American Christianity if it was merely a fringe phenomenon . . . However, just before the [2016] election, things clicked for me. The Access Hollywood tape came out, white evangelical elites continued to defend Trump, his support among white evangelical voters remained strong, and I thought, “Ugh, I think I know what’s going to happen and I think I know why.” That’s when I pulled some of that old research and wrote [a paper] “Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical Masculinity.”

And then the book was published in 2020.

Following is a webinar on this book with Kristin Du Mez done by Calvin University where she has taught since 2004:

A link to a wide array of her talks on this overall topic/her book may be found here.

Another historical book was published (April 2021) by Du Mez’ good friend Beth Allison Barr: The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth. My only quibble with the title: “Biblical” should be in quotation marks.

A discussion, led by Doug Pagitt, with the author is below.

You may also read this excellent review by John TurnerUnmaking Biblical Womanhood. His final words:

That’s the power of this book. Complementarianism, even in its softer forms, isn’t just wrong theologically and biblically. It is a heresy that hurts people, practically, emotionally, and spiritually. So, as Beth says, “Stop it!”

In the video discussion below, Barr references Junia–one of several women commended by Paul for their service in Romans 16. She writes:

Junia, I showed them, was accepted as an apostle until nearly modern times, when her name began to be translated as a man’s name: Junias (p. 66).

Another highly significant point not mentioned by Barr is:

Andronicus, Athanasius of Christianoupolis and Saint Junia; Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches; Feast May 17, 23 Pashons (Coptic Orthodox); Attributes Christian Martyrdom

Only one record of the male name “Junias” has been discovered in extra-biblical Greek literature, which names him as the bishop of Apameia of Syria. Three clear occurrences of “Junia” have been found. While earlier searches for “Junias” in Latin also yielded no evidence, it is reported that “Junias” has been found as a Latin nickname or diminutive for the name “Junianas”, which was not uncommon both in Greek and Latin. While this is a possibility, historical studies on the name “Junia” as a contracted form of “Junianas” has shown there are over 250 citations of the name Junia in antiquity all of which have been found to refer to women, with not one single case proven to be the abbreviated form of Junianus to Junia.[18] Meanwhile, the name Junia is attested multiple times on inscriptions, tombstones and records; most notably, the half sister, Junia Secunda, of Marcus Junius Brutus.[19] —Wikipedia: Junia

In other words, “Junias” was likely a made-up name because translators could not accept that Paul was designating a woman to be an apostle–especially a “prominent” one.

From her book is this:

I remember feeling like such a hypocrite, standing before my college classroom.

Here I was, walking my students through compelling historical evidence that the problem with women in leadership wasn’t Paul; the problem was with how we misunderstood and obscured Paul. Here I was, showing my students how women really did lead and teach in the early church, even as deacons and apostles. Junia, I showed them, was accepted as an apostle until nearly modern times, when her name began to be translated as a man’s name: Junias. New Testament scholar Eldon Jay Epp compiled two tables surveying Greek New Testaments from Erasmus through the twentieth century.1 Together, the charts show that the Greek name Junia was almost universally translated in its female form until the twentieth century, when the name suddenly began to be translated as the masculine Junias. Why? Gaventa explains:

Epp makes it painfully, maddeningly clear that a major factor in twentieth-century treatments of Romans 16:7 was the assumption that a woman could not have been an apostle.2

Junia became Junias because modern Christians assumed that only a man could be an apostle. As a historian, I knew why the women in Paul’s letters did not match the so-called limitations that contemporary church leaders place on women. I knew it was because we have read Paul wrong. Paul isn’t inconsistent in his approach to women; we have made him inconsistent through how we have interpreted him. As Romans 16 makes clear, the reality is that biblical women contradict modern ideas of biblical womanhood.

I knew all this. Yet I still allowed the leaders of my church to go uncontested in their claim that women could not teach boys older than thirteen at our church. I still remained silent.[The irony of course is not lost: This is precisely what “power over” compels victims to be; in this case with a quote from Paul (seemingly) commanding it!3 Thankfully, Barr now is declaring to the world how wrong it is to keep women silent–and why! She has gloriously broken her silence!] (emphasis added; Barr, Beth Allison. The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth. (pp. 66-67). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Baker Book House brought these two writers together in an April 22, 2021 discussion moderated by New Testament scholar Scot McKnight:

The video is found here: Baker Book House’s You Tube channel. There is also a Facebook upload.

A further article, describing some of the ugliness of Southern Baptist machinations around race–especially nonembrace of Critical Race Theory, the role of women–especially complementarianism, and that one must vote Republican–especially for Trump and his “stolen election” nonsense, is: Secret recordings, leaked letters: Explosive secrets rocking the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Southern Baptist Convention is by far the largest evangelical body in the United States, with about 15 million members. It is the world’s largest Baptist denomination, the largest Protestant[2][3] and the second-largest Christian denomination in the United States, smaller only than the Roman Catholic Church.

It is arguably as well and ironically significantly anti-Christ/anti-Scripture in its ethics. I discovered this personally in 1997 when I was invited to dialogue (Why I Oppose the Death Penalty: “The Talking Place: Discussing the Death Penalty” Forum on the Death Penalty, Fairbanks Alaska, March 22, 1997) with Dr. Richard Land of (later) “The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission” of the Southern Baptist Convention. The dialogue was organized by the Presbyterian Church in Alaska because debate was heating up in a state with no death penalty on the books. It was initially billed as a debate. I said I would not attend unless a dialogue. Debates I said for listeners generally only establish a “winner” and a “loser,” little more. So as you may read in the above highlighted post, they used a local Native American way of settling disputes: inviting all to “The Talking Place.” Years later my wife and I discovered an identical process in the Gacaca Courts of Rwanda.

Dr. Land, sadly, went on to become one of the most outspoken American evangelical voices in support of the War on Terror. See his tragic “Land Letter.”

He told me in 1997 he respected that I was at least consistent in my peacemaking perspective upon learning I was anti-war. As I say in the above post:

That Land in this light could ever have written such an incredibly anti-Christ missive as the “Land Letter,”  shows the continued truth of Jeremiah 17:9, and of our own desperate need for “truth-telling” challenges throughout our lives. John Alexander observed in Your Money or Your Life that it is the rarest fundamentalist who believes that the inspiration of Scripture actually extends to the words of Jesus . . .  So it seemed borne out once again in the life of Dr. Land.4

Sadly, Dr. Land’s “teachable moment” was seemingly entirely lost (except in his private thoughts?), and he only subsequently entrenched further in the great triple Christian West heresies of Just War, Just Deserts, and Just Hell of eternal conscious torment. A personal letter to him in response to the “Land Letter” went unacknowledged, unanswered. There is none so blind as they who will not see. (For us all a sobering spiritual truth repeatedly on the lips of the prophets, of Jesus!)

Now the Review

The words “dark underbelly” and “Ugh” hardly begin to express the blatant evil majority American White evangelicalism has embraced during the past 50 years that the author uncovers.

This reviewer was 22 years of age 50 years ago, and had been raised in a (“quintessential fundamentalist”—historian Ernest Sandeen in The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism) sect known as Plymouth or Christian Brethren. Two years later, under the auspices of a mission arm of said group—Literature Crusades (now International Teams)—I embarked with 12 late-teens-and-20-somethings on a two-year evangelistic gig to West Berlin, Germany. That experience was to change the direction of my life ever after.

Most, if not all, of us felt traumatized during our time there. Several left during the first of our two-year commitment. Five stayed on until the bitter end. Only two of us debriefed enroute home at their Headquarters in Prospect Heights, Illinois, so disgusted by the (lack of) leadership. There I felt unheard and rebuffed. One of us in West Berlin developed promiscuous sexual behaviour and later died of AIDS. One of two couples fled home the moment they had pregnancy complications: their free ticket out. The other newly-wed couple told me later that their marriage nearly broke up during those years. The other two teams sent out at the same time were (mostly) recalled home within a year.

I worked through my ordeal in part by writing a novel about it. You may read more here: Chrysalis Crucible. Though all but its situational scaffolding is fictitious, the ethos of the struggle and sense of betrayal is accurately captured. After I left I spent two months decompressing at two L’Abris (founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer) locations in Europe. I could not return home until I’d better regained a sense of what had happened. Truth told: my dogmatic fundamentalist self was part of the problem!—still at times is . . . Then I spent two years at Regent College, Vancouver Canada, still trying to come to terms with the ordeal. For me, something was rotten in the state of white evangelicalism (whose books I had devoured, my favourite author overall, disgraced Francis Schaeffer5 back then—just as the present author’s tale begins.

The much younger author begins with her own experience of being raised in a Christian Reformed, fundamentalist environment: a Trump rally in 2016 at Dordt College, Sioux Center Iowa. As she mused on the white evangelical enthusiastic embrace of the man she mused:

How could evangelicals who’d turned WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”) into a national phenomenon justify their support for a man who seemed the very antithesis of the savior they claimed to emulate? (p. 3)

But it’s worth remembering what’s at stake in these battles [to foist conservative religious beliefs on America], which roughly 40 percent of Americans (30 percent conservative evangelicals, 10 percent conservative Catholics) believe themselves to be fighting. Crazy or not, roughly three-quarters of evangelicals say the Rapture will take place during their lifetimes. Conservative Catholics and Protestants alike believe that the last 60 years of movement toward gender equality, racial equality, and LGBTQ equality have threatened the very foundations of American society, that America, once a Christian nation, now stands either literally possessed by demons or fallen into the arms of Satan.Jay Michaelson, Why Bill Barr Did It All for Donald Trump

Pundits trying to explain the sick phenomenon largely had failed to catch that this was culmination of embrace of “militant masculinity”6, such that by the advent of Trump as a conservative white evangelical saviour, every Christian privileging of humility had been banished, in favour of emulating

. . . the Jesus of the Gospel [as] a vengeful warrior Christ.” (p. 3)

Du Mez  further avers that

Donald Trump did not trigger this militant turn; his rise was symptomatic of a long-standing condition. (p. 3)

Therefore,

For evangelicals, domestic and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin, Christian nationalism—the belief that America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such—serves as a powerful predictor of intolerance towards immigrants, racial minorities, and non-Christians. (p. 4)

The author draws on the American National Association of Evangelicals to name the (theoretical) four distinctives of Evangelical theological belief:

  • the Bible as one’s ultimate authority
  • the centrality of Christ’s atonement
  • belief in a born-again conversion experience
  • active work to spread this good news and reform society accordingly. (p. 5)

She however questions that these theological assertions are primary in American evangelicalism. Rather, one is counted as (American) evangelical if one:

  • watches Fox News
  • considers oneself religious
  • votes Republican (p. 6).

Interestingly, only 25% of African Americans who subscribe to the theological points above consider themselves evangelicals. Rather, they see white evangelicalism of that sort as strictly a white man’s religion.

For conservative white evangelicals, the “good news” of the Christian gospel has become inextricably linked to a staunch commitment to patriarchal authority, gender difference, and Christian nationalism, and all of these are intertwined with white racial identity.” (pp. 6 & 7)

Du Mez says therefore that these distinctives cut across a range of sociological divides, whereby white evangelicalism

has become a polarizing force in American politics and society. (p. 7)

How could evangelicals who’d turned WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”) into a national phenomenon justify their support for a man who seemed the very antithesis of the savior they claimed to emulate? (p. 3)

In white evangelicalism’s offering certainty in times of social change—overwhelmingly so during this pandemic as I write—promising security against external global enemies, affirmation of the moral superiority of a white “Christian” America, conservative evangelicalism has captured/dominated the imagination of a broad swath of American Christians.

We read:

Yet the power of conservative white evangelicalism is apparent both in the size of its market share and its influence over religious distribution channels. As a diffuse movement, evangelicalism lacks clear institutional authority structures, but the evangelical marketplace itself helps define who is inside and who is outside the fold. (p. 9)

In essence therefore, being “conservative evangelical” “is as much about culture as it is about theology.” (p. 9) And therein lies its execrable shadow cast over American culture. Ironically, while spending two years in the early 1970s in Germany doing “evangelism”, a theological student once rightly challenged me: “Can any good thing come out of [American white evangelicalism]?” I had been citing Francis Schaeffer. I was deeply offended at the time. I long since have been disabused of taking offence. On the contrary! This book meticulously explains why; also developed in the coming-of-age fictional novel mentioned above. (I have no way of thanking that theologue nearly 50 years later! Too bad. Just in case though: huge thanks! You got me thinking . . .)

Du Mez states that many militant American heroes (William Wallace, Teddy Roosevelt, Generals Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton—and (only an) actor, John Wayne)

came to define not only Christian manhood but Christianity itself. But these ideal men’s Real Men stretch back much further in American history [more on this from me below]; but coalesced around the rise of evangelist Billy Graham in the 1940s and 1950s.7

It also coalesced around “family values” politics, but family values were always intertwined with ideas about sex, power, race, and nation. (p. 12)

Patriarchy therefore was not only a rallying cry for the family but as much for the nation. When in the 1980s evangelicals began to be a political force, mobilization was enormously effective due to decades of cultural formation through vast distribution networks of books, audiovisuals, and star performers from Billy Graham to Pat Boone to Roy and Dale Rogers to . . . You meet many many more along the way in Du Mez’ book. For one who grew up within it (though also somewhat removed as a (nonetheless white male) Canadian), the back story of so many evangelical leaders was fascinating—and profoundly disturbing!

The author captures the quintessential patriarchy of all this thus:

For decades to come, militant masculinity (and a sweet, submissive femininity) would remain entrenched in the evangelical imagination, shaping conceptions of what was good and true. (p. 12)

It was also, ironically enough, “hand in hand with a culture of fear: . . . (p. 12), in particular vis à vis communism.  The author further develops this as the earlier threat morphed to one of a shifting American culture away from “traditional Christian values”. The likes of James Dobson, Bill Gothard, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Mark Driscoll, Franklin Graham, and countless lesser knowns stoked fears of feminists, liberals, secular humanists, homosexuals, the United Nations, big government, Muslims, immigrants—with Trump a kind of apotheosis of all that ugliness and so much more. But du Mez forebodes that it did not begin with Trump, nor will it end with him off the world stage. (To which I say for the umpteenth time: How long O Lord?, and Lord, have mercy!)

The above was from the Introduction. The remainder of this well-researched book gives the details. But I pause. Many of the youth I grew up with followed Charles Templeton at least in their rejection of, or simply drifting away from, Christian faith. I consider that as tragic as my (only) surmising that more people have been turned away by preaching a hell of eternal conscious torment than have ever been won to an authentic faith by any kind of preaching. A perusal of some of my website posts about hell expatiates on that.

In my novel for instance, at a moment of searing enlightenment, after longstanding wrestling with telling others of the dangers of hell if they do not accept Jesus as personal Lord and Saviour, we read about protagonist Andy:

The parallels overwhelmed. God is Hitler. The ovens are God’s specially built chambers of eternal conscious torment, to which human victims by the multiplied billions are fed  . . .  Jesus the Jilted Lover, whose cry of wrath echoes throughout the Corrupted Cosmos. Only unlike Daniel and his companions in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, these victims would experience the full suffering of the oven for ever and ever, God be praised, amen! For there even the worm “dieth not.” This was Christendom’s “god.” This was Evangelicals’ hell. This was what Billy Graham warned his listeners about . . . This was the deep dark open secret about . . . Evangelicals’ “God who loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

. . .

“Open House at Adolf Hitler’s today. Come, get to know him, whom to know is to love,” the personal invitations all read . . . The small print reads, “But we’re constrained to say: If you turn down the invitation today, tomorrow it’s into the ovens. Sorry. ‘His mercy lasts for a moment . . . but his wrath is everlasting.’ Have a nice day and a bright forever—though it may not be quite the kind of ‘brightness’ you imagined…”

For decades to come, militant masculinity (and a sweet, submissive femininity) would remain entrenched in the evangelical imagination, shaping conceptions of what was good and true. (p. 12)

The rest of Du Mez’ book fills in the details of this tragic story. There is so much insightful detail that I’ll try not to summarize so much as highlight.

The author claims that early in the 20th century, a rugged American masculinity united northern and southern white men and transformed American Christianity.

First, as mentioned, the post-War emergence of Billy Graham unified a rather disparate and, since the Scopes Monkey Trial in the late 1920s, marginalized/despised Fundamentalism, that morphed into a rebranded “Evangelicalism”. Already by then, it was turning towards a “more militant—and militaristic—model of masculinity” . . . (p. 23); and “Graham preached a gospel of heroic [idolatrous] Christian nationalism” . . . (p. 25). Through the electrifying conversion of cowboy singer Stuart Hamblen, the American white man’s nostalgia for frontier America where the white man rode tall in the saddle was

channelled into a powerful new religious and cultural identity, an identity [a few decades later] harnessed for political ends. (p. 28).

With others such as Pat Boone, second in popularity in America only to Elvis Presley, Graham spearheaded a vibrant entrepreneurial media empire that spawned a vast religious consumer culture; one in which singers, actors, authors, popular pastors and revivalists both reflected and shaped a larger-than-life generic evangelical culture that transcended denominational lines.

Enter then actor John Wayne, in 1949 America’s most celebrated thespian. Thrice married, twice divorced, highly sensationalized affairs, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, no “born-again” experience,

Wayne would capture the hearts and imaginations of American evangelicals. The affinity was based not on theology [or Christian morality!], but rather on a shared masculine ideal.

. . .

Wayne’s embodiment of heroic masculinity would come to serve as the touchstone for authentic Christian manhood. (pp. 31, 32)

By the beginning of the 1960s, rising evangelical Christian nationalism had taken a decisive militaristic turn: never to look back! And evangelicals had become thoroughly ensconced within the political and cultural mainstream of the nation—their highest aspiration.

But as civil rights activism arose under the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964,

Many evangelicals, too, found it hard to accept that the sin of racism ran deep through the nation’s history. To concede this seemed unpatriotic. Having embraced the idea of America as a “Christian nation,” it was hard to accept a critique of the nation as fundamental as that advanced by the civil rights movement. (p. 38)

It still is.

Du Mez writes tellingly:

Invariably, however, the heroic Christian man was a white man, and not infrequently a white man who defended against the threat of nonwhite men and foreigners. (p. 39)

Very quickly in the 1960s, no small help from Graham, white evangelicals transferred allegiance to the Republican Party, where it has remained ever since. And while the Viet Nam War fully supported by the GOP

demolished myths of American greatness and goodness[,] American power [more widely] came to be viewed with suspicion, if not revulsion, and a pervasive antimilitarism took hold . . ., Evangelicals, however, drew the opposite lesson: it was the absence of American power that led to catastrophe . . . With the fate of the nation hanging in the balance, conservative evangelicals “assumed the role of the church militant.” (p. 50)

[John] Wayne’s embodiment of heroic masculinity would come to serve as the touchstone for authentic Christian manhood. (pp. 31, 32)

Graham himself in 1969 sent a thirteen-page letter to President Nixon advocating possibly bombing the extensive dikes of North Vietnam to bring that economy to a halt, potentially as well thereby killing as many as a million civilians (Nixon’s estimate). See on this: When Billy Graham Planned To Kill One Million People.

In American white evangelical Christianity throughout the last half of last century iconically represented by Billy Graham, the Cross is invariably unsheathed (as opposed to: “When Jesus told Peter to ‘put up your sword’ he thereby disarmed the Church forever”—Tertullian), brandished then worldwide, throughout the so-called post-War “American Century” ( but . . .), and exchanged for an idolatrous “Christian” Nationalism.8

In 1972, Billy Graham was awarded by West Point Academy its Sylvanus Thayer Award for a citizen “who exhibits the ideals of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’. Cross and Flag thereby representatively in Graham met and kissed (to purposely mis-paraphrase/”travestize” Psalm 85:10), and amongst white American evangelicals that union has remained solidly in place.

Many evangelicals, too, found it hard to accept that the sin of racism ran deep through the nation’s history. To concede this seemed unpatriotic. Having embraced the idea of America as a “Christian nation,” it was hard to accept a critique of the nation as fundamental as that advanced by the civil rights movement. (p. 38)

A much smaller evangelical Left remonstrated to be sure, sharing as it did the same evangelical heritage and theology, but was hugely marginalized in white evangelical America that increasingly embraced, ironically, non-evangelical, even secular, conservatism. And John Wayne became ultimate manifestation of rugged Christian masculinity. Wayne was:

  • virulently imperialist
  • in favour of a realized masculinity through violence
  • embodiment of a white male ideal: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”—John Wayne, Playboy, 1971 (quoted on p. 57) Similar attitudes were exhibited towards Native Americans.
  • a model of “masculine strength, aggression, and redemptive violence”
  • one who “will save your ass”, or “In the words of Baptist scholar Alan Bean, the unspoken mantra of post-war evangelicalism was simple: Jesus can save your soul; but John Wayne will save your ass.” (p. 59)

There you have it: Jesus and John Wayne—evangelical saviours in tandem . . .

As one progresses from chapter to chapter, one encounters multiple players such as anit-feminists (evangelicals) Marabel Morgan and Elizabeth Elliot, and (Catholic) Phyllis Schlafly; evangelicals Bill Gothard and James Dobson; Timothy and Beverly LaHaye (Timothy author of over 85 books, some co-authored including the Left Behind Series that has sold over 75 million copies). In LaHaye’s writings, there was denounced

abortion-on-demand, legalization of homosexual rights . . . the size and power of big government, elimination of capital punishment, national disarmament, increased taxes, women in combat, passage of ERA [Equal Rights Amendment], unnecessary busing [to white schools].” For LaHaye, these were all facets of the same [liberal, humanist] project. (p. 93)

LaHaye was inspired by Christian Reconstructionism (R. J. Rushdoony), and worked tirelessly to build the Christian Right as an organized political powerhouse. LaHaye shared and echoed many similar themes as Jerry Falwell, who in 1979 launched the “Moral Majority”, and embraced overt political activism—and militarism. He went on also to found the very conservative Liberty University.

Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan in 1980 thrilled the Religious Right with his classically sycophantic:

I know that you can’t endorse me. But I want you to know that I endorse you and your program. (quoted on p. 103)

Many said that was “the moment the Christian Right came into its own”. (p. 106) From Reagan on, no Democrat has ever won majority white evangelical approval. The Republican Party had become the party of conservatives, traditionalists—and segregationists.

The author delves in some detail into this Reagan-era white evangelical ascendancy, discussing for instance (white evangelical) Oliver North’s illegal diversion of money towards support of the Nicaraguan Contras, and eventually lying to Congress. The lesson learned from this was the end justifies the means: Oliver North in his illegal activities and lies; ruthless take-over by conservatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, etc. Du Mez writes:

Like North, conservative evangelicals defined the greater good in terms of Christian nationalism. It was this conflation of God and country that heroic Christian men would advance zealously, and by any means necessary, with their resurgent religious and political power. (p. 117)

And North, enjoyed a season of “Olliemania”: notwithstanding his crimes and lies. Is it any surprise that the Religious Right similarly gives Trump multitudes of “Get Out of Jail Free/We’ll Look the Other Way” cards?

For majority white evangelicalism, “to be Christlike, to be a man, required ‘a certain ruthlessness’. (p. 125) As well, charted by Du Mez, it seemed also to indulge sex scandals amongst its white male leadership. She summarizes:

Sex, church secretaries, fraud, intrigue, prostitution, conspicuous consumption of the most tawdry sort—the revelations tarnished the image of evangelicalism generally, revealing the dark side of a religious movement driven by celebrity. (p. 127)

And evangelical ruthlessness became widely transferred to the military through James Dobson. Military personnel were fully embraced, rendering it beyond critique, supplying war a moral bearing as well. Jesus may have taught followers to “love their enemies”—but not His enemies! Pre-emptive, crusading war was in fact called for; the ends again justifying the means.

Like [Oliver] North, conservative evangelicals defined the greater good in terms of Christian nationalism. It was this conflation of God and country that heroic Christian men would advance zealously, and by any means necessary, with their resurgent religious and political power. (p. 117)

Enter a towering crusader, Pat Robertson, who, despite lies to cover up that his wife had been seven months pregnant when they married, and that his Senator dad had pulled strings to keep him out of Vietnam, Robertson espoused militarism to rout godless communists, support the Contras, and generally prosecute a Christian crusade through his Christian Broadcasting Network.

Under Pat Buchanan, the Religious Right launched a war for the soul of America: an internal cultural war as critical as the Cold War. Later, Fox News quickly became the new conservative kid on the media block, eventually rendering white evangelicalism and that “news” channel inseparable. White evangelicals embraced the culture wars with full-scale hateful gusto.

In 1997, Promise Keepers burst onto the white evangelical scene. White evangelical leadership piled on in support of this seeming apolitical movement. However,

To critics, Promise Keepers simply marketed ‘male supremacy with a beatific smile.’ (p. 154);

something even more insidious than a straight-up domination play. Eventually the “soft patriarchy” of the movement led to its decline just a few years after surfacing. Its lasting legacy however was a huge market spawned for endless publications on Christian masculinity. The author discusses several such instances.

An evangelical purity movement also arose, led by pseudo-intellectual Josh McDowell. A bestseller was written by twenty-one-year-old Josh Harris. It too enabled reassertion of patriarchal authority. (Twenty years later, older and wiser, he asked his publisher to withdraw it.)

In 2001 John Eldridge published a runaway bestseller: Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. Masculinity in his Christian worldview was thoroughly militaristic. It germinated multiple copycats, and helped frame for years white evangelical perceptions of masculinity.

In her chapter titled “Holy Balls,” we meet a continuing array of kick-ass white evangelical types embracing an array of “militant masculine” pursuits, including Christian mixed martial arts with hundreds of engaged churches/ministries; a continuing militantly patriarchal Christian Homeschool movement; elevation of Robert Lewis Dabney, a Christian Reconstructionist original who amongst other despicables was pro-slavery; Patrick Henry College for the homeschooled training students for high government positions; Vision Forum that fed hypermasculinity and authoritarianism; pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill notoriety, whose “gospel” was infused with militant masculinity and products like his 2008 Porn-again Christian, and saying God created women to be “penis-homes” for lonely penises, etc. ad nauseum. The likes of John Piper, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, Albert Mohler, Josh Harris, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Denny Burk, Justin Taylor all embraced a “New Calvinism” that Time magazine in 2009 dubbed one of the 10 ideas changing the world right then.

“Biblical hatred” towards slavery abolitionists reflected militant masculinity that painted past slave-owners as genteel brothers in Christ. Almost incestuous cross-pollination of white evangelical leaders smoothed over doctrinal differences

in the interest of promoting ‘watershed issues’ like complementarianism, the prohibition of homosexuality, the existence of hell, substitutionary atonement. Most foundationally, they were united in a mutual commitment to patriarchal power. (p. 204)

White militant evangelicalism became entrenched in Colorado Springs, expanding simultaneously with the growth of the military in the region: eventually housing three air force bases, an army fort, and the North American Defence Command. A huge array of evangelical colleges, churches, ministries (nearly 100), nonprofits and businesses arose. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family relocated there, and soon Dobson had resigned from it to engage in right wing political exploits directly. He did so with gusto, wielding enormous political influence, though largely unknown outside those circles.

New Life Church under Tim Haggard also flourished, becoming a hotbed of militant evangelicalism. Together with Dobson, they worked hard—and successfully—to spread their militant faith throughout the U.S. military.

In the aftermath of 9/11, “Muslims” became equivalent to “Evil Empire.” Christian Zionism similarly was on the rise. Jerry Falwell caused international furor when he claimed, “I think Mohammed was a terrorist”. The Caner brothers, Ergun and Emir, became the toast of the white evangelical circuit with their books, speaking engagements and academic postings denouncing Islam. They were the vanguard of Islamophobia —from within. The only problem, much of their claims constituted a pack of lies. Others such as Walid Shoebat, Zachariah Anani, and Kamal Saleem became travelling anti-Muslim evangelists—as well master tall-tale spinners. They also were the toast of white evangelicalism. Their ex-terrorist stories were however full of holes others exposed.

Du Mez observes that why these liars were so successful in such circles was the politics of fear they stoked. She writes:

It’s not hard to see what this titillating narrative of imagined violence got the “ex-terrorists.” They sold books, collected speaking fees, and padded their own pockets. But what did it do for evangelicals who promoted their books, engaged them as speakers, and gave them a platform? (p. 225)

Stoking such fears played into the hands of their handlers/promoters: white evangelical leaders. They “ratcheted up a sense of threat” as both reflective of, and contributor to, militarized masculinity; one largely informed by fear.

By inciting fears of an Islamic threat, men like Falwell, Patterson, Vines, and Dobson heightened the value of the “protection” they promised—and with it, their own power. (p. 226)

[White Evangelicals became united] in the interest of promoting ‘watershed issues’ like complementarianism, the prohibition of homosexuality, the existence of hell, substitutionary atonement. Most foundationally, they were united in a mutual commitment to patriarchal power. (p. 204)]

Thankfully other white evangelical leaders such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, David Neff, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis and Richard Mouw —about 300 leaders in all—signed the so-called “Yale Letter” and published it in the New York Times, calling on Christians and Muslims to work together for peace.

Du Mez observes:

The widespread embrace of a militant Christian nationalism would have far-reaching consequences in the age of terror. (p. 227)

“I think I speak for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong, and so we’ve learned to trust when he says something, that he’s not just going to spew something out there that’s wrong and not verified,” she said, referring to Trump’s baseless claims that widespread electoral fraud caused his loss to President Biden in November.–Debra Ell, a Republican organizer in Michigan. Juxtapose that with: In four years, President Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims.

Such webs of lies once embraced, predisposed majority white evangelicalism to being anti-Islam due to its (believed) promotion of violence. They were also pro-torture of suspected terrorists—more than any other demographic in America.

Deranged actors like Lt. Gen. William G. (Jerry) Boykin worked the evangelical circuit in support of Bush’s War on Terror, and zealously pursued the no-holds-barred carte blanche Bush had given Donald Rumsfield in response to 9/11. Boykin cast the matter as an epic struggle between Satan and “Christian” America. He also pursued evading the Geneva Conventions in favour of his own notions of (violent) biblical law. He saw himself as placed in God’s direct chain of command, President Bush likewise, and therefore with the highest authorization to root out evildoers. He also oversaw the torture horrors at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. Etc., etc.

Other neocons, not necessarily evangelical, also promoted the military as exemplars of the highest ideals of the nation. War provided Americans “moral clarity”. Du Mez:

With evangelicals in the vanguard, Americans had come to see the military as a bastion of “traditional values and old-fashioned virtue,” a view only possible by turning a blind eye to reports of military misconduct and sexual abuse within its ranks. (p. 231)

Books such as (2002) the searingly beautiful War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by journalist Chris Hedges, though on the national best-seller list, were definitively not on white evangelicals’ favourite such list. War, Hedges finds, “exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us.” War and its military for Hedges are the very inverse of a bastion of “traditional values and old-fashioned virtue.”

In 2010 theologian Wayne Grudem published Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture<. It was a conservative diatribe against not only the likes of President Obama who had been elected in 2008, it was against all the evangelical right’s favourite targets as well.

Eric Metaxas emerged as a new voice in support of militant Christian masculinity, launching in 2015 The Eric Metaxas Show. A 2013 book defined what a man was and what made him great by pointing to none other than John Wayne as the “icon of manhood and manliness.”

The Duck Dynasty TV show debuted in 2013 as well, that upheld all the white evangelical values. It blossomed into a gigantic financial success.

Then John McDougall published Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger: Find your Purpose Following the Warrior Christ. Jesus was also a (Made-in-America) bad-ass. He declared you can’t spell “Ranger” without the word “anger.” Du Mez comments it was claimed that:

Both Christian theology and “this constitutional republic” reserved “a high and honored place for the warrior.” (p. 248)

Then in 2015 along came Trump, seemingly out of nowhere. This is described in a chapter titled “A New High Priest,” But not in fact out of nowhere—far from it! In Du Mez’ understanding, Religious Right Leadership for fifty years had been stoking fears and pitching white-supremacy American exceptionalism that had its climax (orgasim even more appropriately dubbed) in Trump. His religious biographers claim he was “the ultimate fighting champion for evangelicals.” (p. 253) The Ultimate Ugly American too. The Ultimate American Evil-Doer also.

Du Mez writes forcefully:

Journalists struggled to explain the baffling phenomenon of evangelical support for “the brash Manhattan billionaire” who seemed to stand for everything they despised. What could compel “family values” evangelicals to flock to this “immodest, arrogant, foul-mouthed, money-obsessed, thrice married [like John Wayne], and until recently, pro-choice” candidate? (p. 254)

Bottom line: not unlike Reagan before him “believing in them”, bottom line: Trump would “protect them”. Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress were the first big-name evangelical endorsers. Trump like Wayne was also an unapologetic racist. Evangelicals like Russell Moore spoke out against Trump, but others like Wayne Grudem claimed Trump—and a gaggle of sycophants with him— to be a “morally good choice”. Eric Metaxas hailed Trump as a great leader, seeing no connection at all with Hitler. Though Metaxas had been a (seriously distorted—yes, I read it) Dietrich Bonhoeffer biographer.

Catholic anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly penned her final book: The Conservative Case for Trump.

Du Mez understates:

Remarkably, Trump had become the standard-bearer of the Christian Right. (p. 263)

Even the infamous Access Hollywood video where Trump acknowledged sexual abuse of women did not cause most white evangelical Christians to miss a beat. However Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center declared:

If you find that you have overlooked or dismissed many of the morals and values that you have held dear in the past, then it just may be that your character has been Trumped. (p. 265)

As it turned out, 81% of white evangelicals had indeed been Trumped, as gleaned in the 2016 Elections exit polls. Sadly too, some like Russell Moore recanted, to stay in the fold. The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography was subsequently released to try to bolster Trump’s evangelical credentials, one du Mez considered done by authors who went to no small creative lengths to pretty up the Trump (non)evangelical stench.

Du Mez tellingly observes:

Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century-long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity. He was the reincarnation of John Wayne, sitting tall in the saddle, a man who wasn’t afraid to resort to violence to bring order, who protected those deemed worthy of protection, who wouldn’t let political correctness get in the way of saying what had to be said or the norms of democratic society keep him from doing what had to be done. Unencumbered by traditional Christian virtue, he was a warrior in the tradition (if not the actual physical form) of Mel Gibson’s William Wallace. He was a hero for God-and-country Christians in the line of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Oliver North, one suited for Duck Dynasty Americans and American Christians. He was the latest and greatest high priest of the evangelical cult of masculinity. (p. 271)

Trump in his own right spawned a massive cult following, majority amongst them, white evangelical Americans.

Then . . . several white evangelical leaders began experiencing falls from grace, including Mark Driscoll, C. J. Mahaney, Darrin Patrick, John MacArthur, James MacDonald. White men who preached militant masculinity, patriarchal authority, female purity and submission were repeatedly caught abusing women, or supporting those who had. Du Mez explains however that . . .

evangelical family values have always entailed assumptions about sex and power. (p. 277)

She adds a little later:

Immersed in these teachings about sex and power, evangelicals are often unable or unwilling to name abuse, to believe women, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to protect and empower survivors. (p. 278)

Then there were the multiple sex scandals discussed in the penultimate chapter titled: “Evangelical Mulligans: A history.” One of the first (in 2006) was Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church, a megachurch in Colorado Springs. A host of white evangelicals immediately jumped to his defence. Pete Newman of Kanakuk Kamps is serving two life sentences for his serial molestation of boys. C. J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries, who had already fallen once from grace and later had been reinstated, had a pall of suspicion cast over him for his enabling of multiple sexual abuses at the church. Only a statute of limitation prevented him from being prosecuted.

In 2014, Bill Gothard stepped down from his Institute of Basic Life Principles after more than 30 accusers, some minors, reported molestation and sexual harassment. Doug Phillips stepped down from his Vision Forum Ministries after a lengthy extramarital affair. It was all indeed a series of very sordid affairs . . . Others such as Josh Duggar of the TV reality show 19 Kids and Counting molested four of his sisters.9 Father and son Jack and Dave Hyles, the father a pastor in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, were involved in molestation of women. The replacement pastor after the father’s death was Jack Schaap. A cult-like culture of sexual abuse was eventually discovered, including pedophilia, sexual molestation, rape, and the abuse of children.

Then when the #MeToo movement came to American evangelicalism, Andy Savage of a Memphis megachurch admitted to sexual assault of a former teen while he was youth minister. He eventually resigned. Then Bill Hybels of Willow Creek megachurch fame (and multiple copycats) had seven women come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

At least 187 Independent Baptist Churches were caught up in allegations of sexual misconduct.

Immersed in these teachings about sex and power, evangelicals are often unable or unwilling to name abuse, to believe women, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to protect and empower survivors. (p. 278)

Then the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was hit by allegations of covering up sexual abuse and of sexual abuse, implicating highly-placed ministers Paige Patterson and Darrell Gilyard. Further extensive patterns of sexual abuse by as many as 380 perpetrators with at least 700 victims came to light within the SBC.

A veritable volcanic eruption of sexual abuse cases was engulfing white evangelical churches.

A “mulligan” in golf is another chance at a flubbed shot. White evangelicalism was positively rife with the phenomenon—redemption however absent confession, repentance, making amends, and commitment to “go and sin no more.” The penultimate chapter is powerful understatement of the travesty of white evangelical mulligans offered as cover and cover-up ubiquitously within a culture of sick militant Christian masculinity.

Du Mez makes clear again in the final chapter that

. . . evangelicalism must be seen as a cultural and political movement rather than as a community defined chiefly by its theology. (p. 298)

For all Billy Graham’s iconic thundering “The Bible Says! . . .” fifty years ago, indeed fully 70 plus years earlier, “frankly Scarlet (and Franklin—and a vast array of others of your ilk), white American evangelicals don’t give a damn . . .” Theirs is a studied footnote, exception clause (“except our enemies”) theology in response to John 3:16 that à la W.C. Fields has ever sought and come up with “the loopholes.” Seek and ye shall find, indeed.

 Du Mez comments near the book’s end:

For many evangelicals, the masculine values of men like John Wayne, William Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump embody have come to define evangelicalism itself. (p. 301)

The author ends on a hopeful though tenuous note:

What was once done might also be undone. (p. 304)

. . . evangelicalism must be seen as a cultural and political movement rather than as a community defined chiefly by its theology. (p. 298)

Personal Commentary

The above story is one of great malaise and evil-doing within white American evangelicalism. “Evangelical” in name, the author repeatedly points out that such white evangelicals largely showed little allegiance to the Jesus of the Gospels, rather to a Jesus of hyped-up toxic masculinity. Which came first in importance: Jesus of the Gospels or a culture of fear à la “Jesus” of toxic masculinity—without reference to the Gospels? If you have read this far, you know the author’s answer.

Still, the book would not have been written had the author not become convinced that this “Jesus” had gone mainstream. Crawling through the venomous swamps of such evangelical landscapes, du Mez indicated as we saw that she had not wished to do such research if it represented only a kind of lunatic fringe. In fact, the fringe repeatedly became the mainstream, as so often is the case in any kind of extremism.

Reading the book, then writing a detailed book report produced in me repeated profound revulsion. In part, this must be due to my own growing up white evangelical—albeit Canadian—but well within the gravitational pull of the (GOP) elephant on Turtle Island to the south. It also occasioned the general observation that kick-ass Christianity ineluctably only served to produce an endless crop of buffoonish jackasses à la Trump. But not just buffoons to be laughed off the stage. Rather, horrifically sick puppies capable of doing/guilty of perpetrating profound evil not just within their own tribe, but to America, by extension the world.

Though details and interpretation can no doubt be disputed, Du Mez has produced a superbly researched study, and more so, one with great wisdom to heed.

I write this November 3, 2020. At the end of this day, will there (again) be horrified gasp, or (supercharged) relieved exhalation? For Trump not only did not “drain the swamp”, he engulfed rather America and the world in a vile tsunami of toxic quagmire filth that I in my nearly seventy-two years never before even came close to experiencing. As many have indicated: Trump not once properly responded to the pandemic; he was rather a whole pandemic of the first order unto himself, one for five years foisted upon America and the world.

In Less Than Conquerors: The Evangelical Quest for Power in the Early Twentieth Century (former subtitle: How Evangelicals Entered the Twentieth Century), theologian Douglas W. Frank tells the back story to Du Mez’ back story. Though details and players differ, it’s really the same sad tale. In the second last paragraph of the book, Frank writes:

Whether in auspicious or declining times, as we have seen, we [evangelicals] display a tenacious commitment to self-deceit. It is true that we are those who like to think we heed Jeremiah’s words: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.” Our history, however, gives evidence rather of Jeremiah’s wisdom in adding these words: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:7, 9). In our very protests of trust in the Lord, we find occasion for our deepest self-deceits. (p. 278)

These identical words could also sum up the book under review.

In Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism, authors Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence also present a masterful study along similar lines to the above. They however take us to the back story behind the above-noted two back stories, all the way to the War of Independence and the Founding Fathers.

The authors state that there is deep biblical rootedness in two contradictory strands of American culture, evident from the beginning.

“The first tradition is what we call zealous nationalism.  It seeks to redeem the world by destroying enemies (p. 8).

They point out:

The phenomenon of zeal itself provides a fascinating access to the inner workings of our national psyche: the term itself, as we shall see, is the iblical and cultural counterpart of the Islamic term jihad (p. 8).

Then,

Alongside zealous nationalism runs the tradition of prophetic realism. It avoids taking the stances of complete innocence and selflessness. It seeks to redeem the world for coexistence by impartial justice that claims no favoured status for individual nations (p. 8).

No “American exceptionalism” in other words, a term first coined by French American cultural observer Alexis de Tocqueville.

The authors acknowledge that these two strands have coexisted in “uneasy wedlock” in earlier times, but in a time of worldwide militant jihad, zealous nationalism everywhere must be let die.

Our conclusions are that prophetic realism alone should guide an effective response to terrorism and lead us to resolve zealous nationalist conflicts through submission to international law; and that the crusades inspired by zealous nationalism are inherently destructive, not only of the American prospect but of the world itself (p. 9).

All these authors write from within American evangelicalism. All make meticulously researched, compelling, cases. All in their conclusions are ignored by the vast swath of white American evangelicals . . .

I once gave a lecture to first-year students at Regent College, a seminary affiliated with the University of British Columbia, Canada; one of evangelicalism’s academic finest. The topic was a nonviolent reading of the atonement. An expanded version may be found here, titled: “The Cross: God’s Peace Work – Towards a Restorative Peacemaking Understanding of the Atonement”; a chapter also in Volume One of Justice That Transforms; and in Stricken by God?: Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ. Two Regent profs gave responses. The moment they each pegged the lecture to be merely a subset of pacifism, it was written off . . .

If Jewett and Lawrence are right that (white evangelical) American zealous nationalism is “the biblical and cultural counterpart of the Islamic term jihad; if Frank is right that (slightly changed) “In white American evangelicals’ very protests of trust in the Lord, they find occasion for their deepest self-deceits.,” then perhaps those Regent profs, and a vast array of (white) North American evangelicals, in light of the book reviewed and the other two cited, should be enjoined to think again—just a little bit harder. Indeed, perhaps think again—for the very first time . . .

For the PDF of the above review, click on: Jesus and John Wayne.

 

Footnotes
  1. Eldon Jay Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 60–65.[]
  2. Beverly Roberts Gaventa, foreword to Epp, Junia, xi–xii.[]
  3. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. I Corinthians 14:34[]
  4. Incidentally, my two teen-aged boys at the time, upon viewing the video of the dialogue, said I won the “(non)debate” at the point Land informed me that no self-respecting Reformed scholar would ever argue as I do in Part III of the presentation. Upon that claim, I walked to my backpack in front of me, pulled out a copy of the Reformed Church of America Acts of Synod 1981, “Report 31: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT STUDY COMMITTEE”, Grand Rapids: Christian Reformed Church in North America, pp. 72-73, 448-91, ), and told him that six Reformed theologians had been commissioned to present their findings published in that book, and that most of my exegetical points of Part III were taken from that publication. Dr. Land fell silent then.[]
  5. See my book review of: Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America.[]
  6. With an attendant “militarized capitalism”—see Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society­—though this phenomenon is most pronounced in America, it is ever present in the West and beyond.[]
  7. Billy Graham in my novel is the iconic “white male evangelical” who profoundly distorted Christianity and Jesus—to a point beyond recognition by the novel’s protagonist, Andy. This dawning realization was part of his coming of age.

    Personally for this reviewer, Billy Graham in my formative years was the ultimate evangelical ideal for my parents and church—and me. Canadian Charles Templeton however, an early crusader with Graham was a disturbing defector from this near idolization. For Templeton’s part, he became part of the anti-Christian liberal Canadian Establishment. Though unlike Andy in my novel, Templeton fully exited the tradition, and describes this in Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.[]

  8. For a sophisticated (no less sycophantic) Christian apologia for such, please see Jean Bethke Ehlstain’s book, Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, reviewed by me here.[]
  9. See also: Discovery owes the nation an apology for helping the Duggars defraud this nation. We read:

    It simply boggles the mind that Discovery continued working with the Duggars after Josh’s molestation came to light. Surely someone at that company would have realized that it had been an accomplice to what can only be described as an attempt by manifestly unfit parents to pull the wool over America’s eyes. But they didn’t. Instead, they got another show, Counting On.

    Now that it’s apparent that Discovery may have inadvertently helped cover up an outrageous case of child neglect and child abuse, there is only one way that it can even begin to make this right. That is, cancel Counting On, tear up its contract with the Duggars, and nuke every Duggar-related episode from its archives. For good measure, it ought to donate an amount equivalent to the money it paid the Duggars to a child abuse charity.[]

John A. Macdonald can wait

By

photo above: Shoes sit in front of the Parliament buildings during a ceremony on June 3, 2021 in Ottawa (Adrian Wyld/CP) 

WN: It is the human condition that historians from within a culture generally silence any contrary narrative that might put into a negative light the moral rectitude of that culture/nation: a variation of the observation that history is always written by the victors, not the vanquished.

Sir Winston Churchill was no doubt right too that if we do not learn from history, we are destined to repeat it. He and Allies however used the language of inducing citizen terror in support of Britain’s Bomber Command headed by Sir Arthur Harris. We read:

An Associated Press war correspondent named Howard Cowan soon filed a dispatch (which inexplicably cleared the censors) stating that “the Allied air commanders have made the long-awaited decision to adopt deliberate terror bombing of German population centers as a ruthless expedient to hastening Hitler’s doom.” The report was widely circulated in the United States, to awkward effect. Among other things, Cowan’s phrase “the Allied air chiefs” linked the British and the Americans in ways that the Americans found uncongenial. (Sifting Dresden’s Ashes: Sixty years after the Allies’ bombing of Dresden enveloped the city in flames, controversy persists over whether the attack was militarily justified or morally indefensible. But another question, no less crucial, is seldom asked: Did wartime conditions allow military leaders to look away as they violated their own principles?, Tami Davis Biddle, Essays | Spring 2005, Wilson Quarterly Archives. (emphasis added)

Yet we Canadians (and Westerners!) do not like associating our militaries past or present with “terror,” “genocide,” etc. See for instance: Canadian War Museum changes controversial wording on WWII bombing. We too prefer a sanitized history. See more generally my post: Why Canada’s special forces ‘shadow army’ is still fighting ISIS.

One wonders, Churchill notwithstanding, what or whether we Westerners have learned a thing about the inevitable “ethics” of war! For to start with, “ethics” and “war” in the same breath constitutes an oxymoron. When it comes to war, we still keep on repeating . . . The most age-old historical repetition of all time!

Yet again, as the highlighted article indicates, the truth hurts. And the truth will out.

And so indeed: Sir John A. Macdonald can wait.

And yes indeed: Mr. Kenney, good Catholic that you are, our illustrious first Prime Minister was a certified racist1, and, good Anglican that he was, it was under his auspices that the perduring horror of residential schools was initiated. The Truth hurts, and indeed, The Truth will outwhich, however painstakingly, is now happening.

In your denying the truth about Macdonald, it is hard to not think of you as in spirit one with “The Proud Boys,” or with the veterans at Canada’s War Memorial, who are more interested in protecting a mythical white settler narrative that does not square with the Truth. And one wonders: how do you align then with Jesus, who in your (and my!) belief is (the very incarnation of) “The Truth?

excerpts:

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spoke out against “cancel culture” last week and in defence of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada. “I think Canada is worth celebrating,” Kenney said. “I think Canada is a great historical achievement. It is a country that people all around the world seek to join as new Canadians. It is an imperfect country but it is still a great country, just as John Macdonald was an imperfect man, but was still a great leader.”

Kenney was speaking against calls to take Macdonald’s name off schools and remove his statues, which grew louder after the shocking discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Macdonald was the architect of the system that led those children to those unmarked graves.

These changes are difficult for Macdonald’s admirers, but leaving the names on schools and the statues standing is much more painful for the victims of the system Macdonald built. It would be heartless, for instance, to ask Indigenous parents to send their children to schools named after the man who caused so much suffering.

And in light of the tragic discovery of the graves, it is appropriate to reconsider whether Macdonald was really a great leader. The bereaved parents would surely not see him that way.

At the time, most settlers—particularly powerful church leaders who stood to harvest souls in the wilderness—believed that the schools would help civilize savage peoples. The fact that the schools were death traps, where children were starved, neglected and subject to terrible abuse, was not part of the story Canadians wanted to tell themselves. Just as slave-holding societies convinced themselves that slavery was part of the natural order—the best thing for the Africans as well as the slave holder—so Canadians believed the schools were good and necessary.

“Built into any system of domination is the tendency to proclaim its own normalcy,” wrote historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot in Silencing the Past: (20th anniversary edition): Power and the Production of History. “To acknowledge resistance as a mass phenomenon is to acknowledge the possibility that something is wrong with the system.”

Trouillot, who spent much of his career studying the tragic history of the Haitian revolution, observed that the omission of facts is always part of producing history.

Indigenous people, who were mostly left out of our history books, are now demanding to be written in, the result of a long struggle to be seen and heard.

We would not know much about what happened at the schools if it had not been for Nora Bernard, a Mi’kmaq woman from Millbrook, N.S., who brought a lawsuit in 1995 that ultimately led to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Please click on: Silencing The Past

Footnotes
  1. Please see for instance: Sure, John A. Macdonald was a racist, colonizer and misogynist — but so were most Canadians back then. The subtitle reads: Macdonald’s critics are right on all counts, but the man who founded Canada was the product of an age that made Archie Bunker look like Mohandas Gandhi.

    This is not unlike saying that the Allies were bloodthirsty bombers, but so were the Nazi bombers at the time: “inhuman barbarism”–Franklin Roosevelt‘s designation in 1939); etc. . . Except no “Good Guys” historian has used “bloodthirsty” and “inhuman barbarism” of the Allies since! Another word comes to mind: “whitewashing.” And of course to explain is never to excuse . . . []

How to ensure Indigenous tourism experiences support the right communities

By Mike Alexander | 

photo above: Jusquan Bedard paints finishing touches on the Gwaii Haanas legacy totem pole before it is raised in Haida Gwaii, B.C., in 2013. (Photo: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

WN: We’re gently called as settlers to embrace reconciliation by learning about our Aboriginal Neighbours . . .

excerpts:

Growing up in Winnipeg, I visited the Manitoba Museum several times a year. The museum memorialized the past by displaying the glassed-off artifacts of a long-lost people, obtained through the theft of cultural objects. The adjacent plaques offered a narrative created by curators with questionable intentions. When I think about it now, these exhibits were designed to hide the catastrophic experience of the colonialism that shaped Manitoba. I never felt a connection to my identity or sense of pride walking through that museum, despite the whole thing being built on my land, telling the unique story of my territory.

But exploring Indigenous cultures can transcend mannequins garbed in stolen property. Indigenous people are alive, and our cultures are thriving. As Canadians emerge from the pandemic and safe travel becomes possible again, they may wish to look closer to home. Across Canada, there are hundreds of Indigenous-led tourism experiences that are interactive and immersive, that place Indigenous culture in the present tense to promote a better understanding of Indigenous people.

The Wood Duck by the late Cree artist Isaac Bignell. (Courtesy photo)

With about 700 communities and more than 1.6 million people speaking over 50 languages, the Indigenous presence in Canada is impossible to sum up in one monolithic definition. Not all communities are powwow people. Stories about Raven differ between the Haida and the Cree. Some canoes are made of bark, and some are dug out. Some communities carve totem poles, and some carve soapstone. Depending on where you want to go, the richness and diversity of our traditions will be evident. I have vivid memories of becoming aware of my identity as a kid. Moments of awkward joy at my first powwow at the Winnipeg Friendship Centre, of seeing my first Isaac Bignell paintings, of sampling Indigenous cuisine at Neechi Commons in the city’s North End and picking medicines in Birds Hill park and other locations near Winnipeg.

Communities with an enterprising spirit are offering our history, culture and language to tourists, hoping to fill some large gaps in their understanding of Turtle Island. In 2019, the industry employed 40,000 workers and generated almost $2 billion in revenue, according to the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC). Those numbers fell steeply due to COVID-19, and there’s still uncertainty about what this summer might hold. Some tour operators are waiting for more clarity from officials before deciding to open. Some communities, especially remote ones with limited medical resources, may continue to restrict visitors. But others in the industry are hopeful that a better season lies ahead and have adapted their offerings to meet health guidelines.

ITAC is a good place to start your research of the living cultures of dynamic peoples. To be a voting member of the association, a business must be at least 51 percent Indigenous-owned and have all licences, permits and insurance in place. ITAC’s travel website, destinationindigenous.ca, lists a variety of experiences and tour packages across the country, including details about what’s currently open and closed.

Please click on: Indigenous Tourism Settler/International Learning

Canada’s Solitary Confinement Deemed “Torture”:

WN: Please consider signing the petition begun today.

After nearly fifty years of work in Canada’s Criminal Justice System, and seeing personally and professionally how prisons in general, solitary confinement in particular, often do irrevocable harm to their keep, it seemed appropriate to use this platform for the petition.

All statements are supported in the “Sources” below. Most were cited from the first source.

Whereas the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that more than 15 days of administrative segregation—the most prevalent form of solitary confinement—is a Charter of Rights and Freedoms violation.;

Whereas Rule 44 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the ‘Mandela Rules’) defined solitary confinement as more than 22 hours of isolation without meaningful human contact and prohibited it after 15 days.  UN Special Rapporteur Mendez advised that such confinement beyond 15 days was a form of torture. Canada is a signatory.;

Whereas to align Canada’s practices with court requirements and treaty obligations, Bill C83 came into force in 2019. The Bill replaced the rights-violating administrative segregation provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act with “Structured Intervention Units” (SIUs). Section 36 of this legislation mandates that prisoners be out of their cells for four hours daily, with a minimum of two hours of daily, meaningful human contact. But Section 34 of the CCRA also sets out a range of allowable exceptions.;

Whereas many correctional law advocates feared that Bill C83 would cause little change, the federal government appointed an oversight body, the ‘Structured Intervention Unit Implementation Advisory Panel,’ chaired by renowned emeritus criminologist Dr. Anthony Doob. After a very public battle over data access, the Panel’s just-released first report shows that, for most prisoners held in SIUs, it’s been torture as usual:they remain locked in for more than 20 hours per day, therefore Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) remains in ‘flagrant noncompliance’ of solitary confinement rules.;

 Whereas the SIUs are just the beginning. Federal prisoners are held in solitary in many different ways. Based on no clear legislative authority, prisoners are held in Special Handling Units, with too few programs and too little meaningful human contact. Lockdowns, where prisoners are confined to cells for 23 hours daily, are common. Millhaven Institution experienced eight such lockdowns in September 2019 alone.;

Whereas medical observation cells and dry cells also isolate prisoners in demeaning and degrading environments. And alongside this dismal post-C-83 normal stand the COVID19 prison lockdowns. For months, Correctional Services has kept hundreds of prisoners in extreme isolation. It looks like Canada continues to torture its citizens with impunity.;

Whereas even if federal prisons are subject to provincial states of emergency, which is contentious, Article 4(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Canada is a party, lists the right not to be tortured as absolute, in an emergency. Even if we call solitary confinement “by any other name,” ICCPR Article 4(1) makes clear, and Canadian emergency legislation echoes, that rights may be derogated in an emergency only “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.;”

Whereas at the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organization came out strongly against this mode of infection control. There are other, better ways to keep prisoners and prison workers safe;

Whereas Section 4 (c) of the CCRA, requires CSC to use the “least restrictive measures” for enforcing sentences. In contrast, under section 4 (d),offenders retain the rights of all members of society except those that are, as a consequence of the sentence, lawfully and necessarily removed or restricted.;”

Whereas if Canada wants to take a stand against human rights abuses abroad, it’s time Canadians took a stand against the torture of our own prisoners. C-83 has to be more than legislative sleight of hand.;

Whereas literary and statesmen giants as diverse as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and George Bernard Shaw, Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela have all stated variously that the measure of the degree of “civilization” of any nation is the treatment of its prisoners.;

Whereas under the heading, “Prisons’ Function in the Annihilation of Humanity,” Canadian philosopher John McMurtry writes: “The primeval function of prisons from the inception has never [in Establishment society] been recognised. It is the brute right of established ascendant force to publicly defeat any perceived adversary by a victory of force so total that not a single dimension of autonomous human being remains. And the one overarching goal of prison is “to break human beings into subjugated animals.;”

Whereas in the 2011 leadership debate with Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff stated: “I worked in a prison when I was a younger graduate student. I worked with lifers. I’m utterly unsentimental about criminals, but one thing I know about prison: it’s that prison makes almost everybody worse who’s in there.”;

It is time for Canadians to take a good, hard look at the use of solitary confinement in our federal and provincial prisons. 

It is time for Canada to establish a Commission of Inquiry into solitary confinement in the nation’s prisons, with the aim of securing real accountability at both federal and provincial levels.

It is time for Canada to make the penal system truly restorative/rehabilitative; to stop making “almost everybody worse who’s in there.” 

It is time for Canada to fully implement the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the ‘Mandela Rules’).

Sources:

Nomi Claire Lazar, Catherine Latimer and Murray Fallis , Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), University of Ottawa, Solitary Confinement in Canada’s Prisons: Time for Real Accountability, November 26, 2020.

Professor John McMurtry cited in Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking: Transformative Justice: Penal Abolitionism Not Prison Reform,The Kenarchy Journal (2021), Volume 2, 73-102.

Journalist SAMANTHA WRIGHT ALLEN in The Hill Times, November 4, 2020.

Journalist Justin Ling in Macleans Houses of hate: How Canada’s prison system is broken,” February 28, 2021.

To sign, please click on: Change.org Petition

Thoughts and Prayers for my right wing aunt and uncle

By Community

May 29, 2021

WN: I found this wise, caring and touching.

excerpts:

So I just found out today that both my elderly aunt and uncle have tested positive for COVID 19.  Both of them belong to a very conservative church, and have like so many Americans been fed a heavy stream of lies and misinformation.  Though several members of the family had pleaded with them to get vaccinated, they both resisted, despite their age and several additional health issues.  Of course, they did not.  Why?  They refused to get vaccinated because their church has been vehemently opposed to every single measure to address the virus since the beginning; starting with the “hoax”, pivoting smoothly to “little flue”, then digging in hard to “personal freedoms”.  There were some added sprinklings of “government plot”, “it’s in gods hands”, “liberal political agenda”, “trying to make trump look bad” and a brief return to “hoax” from time to time.

Yep, they ran in that kind of crowd.  It pains me to say it, but they were also trump voters; as you’ve probably already guessed.  I can’t say they were trump supporters exactly; they often said how they didn’t particularly like him, but they liked his policies.  What specific policies they liked, or more importantly why they liked them, is a topic I chose not to delve into.  Besides that, I haven’t exactly been close in many years.  Still, I’m writing this with a heavy heart, and deep concern for their health.  My uncle, in particular, is not doing particularly well. He is currently hospitalized and extremely weak, and struggling with very basic tasks.

Despite the less than flattering introduction, I actually have mostly fond memories of both. My uncle was always quick with a joke, liked to laugh big, and has always had a presence that would fill the room. As a little kid, he was one of my favorites! He loved to play and be goofy, was a ferocious tickler, and was the sort of uncle who just might tell you things that other adults wouldn’t just yet. He just might say them in terms that were a wee bit more colorful too. My aunt was in many ways his opposite. She was the sort that just had this very calm, quiet strength. Where my uncle was comfortable being the center of attention, telling stories, telling jokes, playing games or playing pranks; my aunt was the sort who could say a lot without needing to say much. She wasn’t shy; but she was the sort of person who liked to be efficient with her use of words, and generally communicated a lot with things like body language and her own mood and energy. Her energy was almost always like a warm blanket of love and joy, and the things she did say were usually acutely perceptive, positive, and supportive. Reconciling these qualities with some of their religious and political views has always been a perplexing thing for me, but I can say for certain that they are both very genuinely good people to the core.

Among the things I see that I can take from this is a reminder that there is more humanity than we sometimes see in the news these days.  That things are often not quite so black and white, cut and dried, right and wrong, good and evil, etc.  Especially when it comes to people.  We all hold a bit of Yin and a bit of Yang within us, and we can find some of either one if we go digging for it.  I make no excuses for my aunt and uncle; after all they did freely choose to involve themselves with their particular church, and there are quite possibly other people who may become infected by one of them.  At the same time, I can see them as good people who took a wrong turn or two, who were mislead and manipulated; things that could happen to each of us a lot easier than we might like to admit.  I can hold both feelings as valid simultaneously, while neither of them is entirely correct independently.  This hasn’t been easy.  As a child, I grew up seeing people as either good or bad; and good people were nice, and bad people were mean.  It’s been an ongoing process to try and reconcile those times where a good person does something really bad, or where a bad person suddenly does something really good.

Please click on: Thoughts and Prayers

P.S. I sent some thoughts and said some prayers for the aunt and uncle! They must be proud of such a wise nephew . . .

Opinion: It’s ‘The Code’ of the NHL, and it has no cure for stupid

Opinion by Ken Dryden

May 27, 2021

photo above: Toronto center John Tavares is taken from the ice on a stretcher on May 20 after being injured during Game 1 of the Maple Leafs’ first-round playoff series against Montreal. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) 

Ken Dryden, a former goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was a member of Canada’s Parliament from 2004 to 2011. His books include “Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador, and the Future of Hockey.”

WN: This of course is the story of humanity. We endlessly imitate the violence of the opponent, escalating it into something often far more monstrous, brutal, deadly . . .

Ken Dryden–a former superb goal tender, gentlemanly player, NHL Hall of Famer, trained lawyer, Member of Parliament, author, motivational speaker–is dead-on in his analysis that boils down to: It’s ‘The Code’ With No Cure for Stupid!

The outstanding anthropological work on this was by French literary scholar and philosopher, René Girard. It is impossible to comment on Girard adequately and briefly at the same time. The following though is a teaser.

Girard understands the birth of all cultures, including Christendom and Christian culture, to arise from the unanimity achieved by scapegoating a victim or victims. Ritual, prohibition, and myth dominant in all cultures religious and secular arise in the repeated exercise of a sacrificial mechanism designed to re-establish the peace. Cultic rites the world over in archaic religions and scapegoating interpretations of Christianity demonstrate the phenomenon; the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in a secular society serves a similar “scapegoating mechanism” function.

A classic treatment of the CJS in this respect is by Canadian Girardian scholar, and friend, Vern Redekop: Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard.

So Mr. Dryden is right–indeed more right than he knows. But when in the article he states,

And mostly it works. But when it doesn’t, cops and judges intervene.–

he, a lawyer, doesn’t get it. For, just as in William Golding’s classic 1973 novel Lord of the Flies, what comes to the rescue of school boys during World War II stranded on a spectacular coral island after a plane crash–when some of the boys descend into unmitigated scapegoating savagery–is a British naval gunboat–that is representation of an epitome of savagery   . . . We read:

He saw white drill, epaulettes, a revolver, a row of gilt buttons down the front of a uniform. A naval officer stood on the sand, looking down at Ralph in wary astonishment. On the beach behind him was a cutter, her bows hauled up and held by two ratings. In the stern-sheets another rating held a sub-machine gun. The ululation faltered and died away. The officer looked at Ralph doubtfully for a moment, then took his hand away from the butt of the revolver. (pp. 181-182)

The surreal irony of the rescue of the remaining terrorized school children is caught here:

The officer grinned cheerfully at Ralph. ‘We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?’ (p. 182)

The schooboys indeed are rescued from the otherwise murderous savagery of the other boys. (You must read the novel to understand.) Or are they really rescued after all? Is it not rather “Out of the frying pan into the fire?”

For their saving comes from a naval officer of the British Empire, who in that Empire’s centuries long “Empire-on-which-the-sun-never-set” reign (the United States taking up in similar barbarity the Empire torch post World War II), represented unmitigated mass savagery (“the savage wars of peace,” so dubbed by Rudyard Kipling–see: Kipling, the ‘White Man’s Burden,’ and U.S. Imperialism) towards black and brown bodies the world over.

A naval officer, part of the War effort occasioning massive civilian casualties (at least 600,000) in Germany under the relentless carpet bombing of innocent civilians–men, women and children–by England’s Central Bomber Command, deliberately to cause mass wounding and death of noncombatants–comes to the rescue.

And its American ally and Empire successor did even more devastatingly over the skies of Japan, topping off its unprecedented “inhuman barbarism” with two atomic bombs dropped on civilian populations. One was released over Hiroshima just as school boys and girls were going to their classes. The ultimate mass savagery committed against school children like those in Golding’s novel, on a gargantuan scale redefined such evil stratospherically of President Roosevelt’s “inhuman barbarism!,” as seen below.

The schoolboys are rescued from one form of barbarism only to be returned home “safe” to another form of worldwide barbarism by all sides that was World War II.

On September 1, 1939, on the eve of World War II, after Germany had bombed targets eventuating in its Blitzkrieg, President Roosevelt sent this appeal to Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Poland:

“THE ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centres of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth in the past few years, which have resulted in the maiming and death of thousands of defenseless women and children, has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.

“If resort is had to this sort of inhuman barbarism during the period of tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings, who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities which have broken out, now will lose their lives.

“I am therefore addressing this urgent appeal to every Government, which may be engaged in hostilities, publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event and under no circumstances undertake bombardment from the air of civilian populations or unfortified cities, upon the understanding that the same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all their opponents.

“I request an immediate reply.” (emphasis added; see also here.)

Please see as well the enormous irony in a long reflection on the inhuman barbarisms (what this looked like on the ground and in the air) authorized by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman by War’s end: Why Canada’s special forces ‘shadow army’ is still fighting ISIS.

If God did not exist, I would make One up to hold all accountable for all such inhuman barbarisms down through the ages. Then Pogo’s wisdom kicks in (in a different but related context): We have met the enemy, and he is us.

We read of a protagonist at the end of Golding’s novel:

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart . . . (p. 183)

So yes, Mr. Dryden, It’s The Code, Stupid! It’s the Stupid Code! But its application goes far beyond the reciprocal scapegoating violence of stupid professional hockey players who constantly bow to that deeply entrenched Cultural Code on Ice. Far beyond.

For we have seen the enemy, and he is us.

But one may discover that there is a way out that does not repeat endless cycles of scapegoating violence: the sheer enormity of this realization perhaps has best been articulated in René Girard’s work. He explains in an interview:

The third great moment of discovery for me was when I began to see the uniqueness of the Bible, especially the Christian text, from the standpoint of the scapegoat theory.  The mimetic representation of scapegoating in the Passion was the solution to the relationship of the Gospels and archaic cultures.  In the Gospels we have the revelation of the mechanism that dominates culture unconsciously (James G. Williams, (1996).  The Girard Reader, New York: Crossroad Herder, p. 263).

Girard suggests that this order of discovery should in fact be reversed, that Christians should work from the Bible to myth and culture. Walter Wink in his trilogy on the Powers, in particular Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (in which he incidentally devotes a whole chapter to Girard) is an illustration of this.  Wink begins his study:

Violence is the ethos of our times.  It is the spirituality of the modern world….  Violence is so successful as a myth precisely because it does not seem to be mythic in the least.  Violence simply appears to be the nature of things.  It is what works (1992, p. 13).

His entire life’s work, and this book the final of a trilogy on biblical “powers,” was a challenge to what Wink calls “the myth of redemptive violence” which dominates the world–and The Lord of the Flies, and professional hockey!– like no other.

The biblical text, in a travail of discovery and rejection of the scapegoating mechanism in the Hebrew Bible, climaxed in the story of Jesus who eschewed all violence and all “domination systems,” to use Wink’s term.

This is the way out; the ultimate rescue; Kingdom Come . . . So we pray: Thy Kingdom Come.

excerpts:

It was an awful sight. The play during a first-round game of the Stanley Cup playoffs last week seemed routine — Toronto Maple Leafs center and captain John Tavares was checked by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot. But as Tavares fell, Montreal’s Corey Perry, speeding toward the play, jumped to avoid Tavares but instead struck him hard with a knee to the head.

Everyone instantly knew it was bad. Every player, every coach, everyone watching at home. The Toronto arena, empty of fans, somehow got even quieter. No one could do anything but wait, in fear and hope, as medical personnel attended to Tavares.

The players’ somber reaction to the injury seemed so respectful, so right. How would these teams — historic rivals facing each other in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years — now get back to playing? Then came the answer. The Leafs’ Nick Foligno, by word or gesture, said to Perry, the player who had accidentally injured his teammate: Let’s go. They dropped their gloves and the fight began.

The Code.

There has always been a basic understanding in hockey: You do wrong to me, and I do wrong to you. You “take the number” of the other guy, and eventually get him back. Like the Golden Rule, except instead of a virtuous cycle, a vicious one.

The Code has no cure for stupid. An eye for an eye easily escalates to two eyes for an eye. It pushes players to do what the Code expects, whether that’s good for the players, their opponents, or the game itself. In our own lives, we have cops and judges, but in almost everything we do, we police our own behavior because there can’t be cops and judges everywhere. And mostly it works. But when it doesn’t, cops and judges intervene. Where is the league? Where is the Players’ Association?

Please click on: It’s ‘The Code’ With No Cure for Stupid!

René Girard, Conversion, and the Present Media Moment

WN: This is immensely helpful in this historical moment.

Lumen Christi Institute

Grant Kaplan Saint Louis University

Carly Osborn University of Divinity

Fr. Steve Grunow Word on Fire Catholic Ministries

Cynthia Haven National Endowment for the Humanities

This event is co-sponsored by Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and America Media.

While social media has become a source of meaning and identity formation for many, its dangers have become clear in recent years, from promoting disinformation to algorithm-aided polarization. Despite these dangers, can social media be a medium for the Gospel? Does a model for discipleship within social media exist? René Girard’s theory of mimesis or imitation provides a powerful diagnostic for analyzing aspects of human behavior and culture that contribute to the current media climate, including rivalry, escalation, and scapegoating. It also points towards the fragile possibility of positive mimesis: imitation of Christ.

Join us for a panel drawing together Girard scholars and Catholic media experts to explore how Girard’s analysis can inform our understanding of the current media climate and how we might approach social media as a space for evangelization and conversion. —

For full bios of our speakers, see our website: https://www.lumenchristi.org/event/20…

Please also see: Lumen Christi Institute

The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America

The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America, Douglas Valentine, Clarity Books, 2016.

WN: This is a powerful book. I have included several reviews from the Amazon.ca site. These voices continue to call out America for the Towering Evil Empire it is. In the words of one reviewer:

As Harry S. Truman stated “I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in forty-seven, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo.” And he did not know the half of it.

Then again: Truman authorized the instant vapourizing of over 220,000 Japanese civilians through dropping not one but two atomic bombs. . . .

Alan Dale

5.0 out of 5 stars

An Essential Addition to an Essential Body of Work

Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2016

Of the extraordinarily valuable and informative works for which Mr. Valentine is responsible, his latest, CIA As Organized Crime, may prove to be the best choice as an introduction to the dark realm of America’s hidden corruptions and their consequences at home and around the world. This new volume begins with the unlikely but irrevocable framework by which Mr. Valentine’s path led to unprecedented access to key Agency personnel whose witting participation is summarized by the chapter title: “How William Colby Gave Me the Keys to the CIA Kingdom.”

By illuminating CIA programs and systems of surveillance, control, and assassination utilized against the civilian population of South Vietnam, we are presented with parallels with operations and practices at work today in America’s seemingly perpetual war against terror.

Through the policies of covert infiltration and manipulations, illegal alliances, and “brute force” interventions that wreak havoc on designated enemy states, destroy progress and infrastructure under the claim of liberation, degrade the standards of living for people in the perceived hostile nations, “…America’s ruling elite empowers itself while claiming it has ensured the safety and prestige of the American people. Sometimes it is even able to convince the public that its criminal actions are ‘humanitarian’ and designed to liberate the people in nations it destroys.”

Mr. Valentine has presented us with a major body of work which includes: The Strength of the Wolf; The Strength of the Pack; The Pheonix Program, to which we may now add The CIA as Organized Crime, and for which we are profoundly indebted.

Winter

4.0 out of 5 stars

Sheds light on the CIA’s torture and drug programs and why the media is afraid to say anything

Reviewed in the United States on April 5, 2017

It is written largely from notes taken during interviews so Valenitne’s earlier book on the CIA is worth reading first. A point made by Valentine and supported by the facts is the degree to which journalists are fearful of the CIA and avoid reporting on this agencies criminal activities. The CIA and its agents in the media went after Gary Webb after his expose of the drug trafficking in the Los Angeles area.

This is not truly news if one connects the dots. Heroin availability greatly increased in Vietnam with the arrival of our soldiers to “pacify” the people and since 9-11 and the US led invasion of Afghanistan and the ouster of the Taliban, our former allies when Reagan was in office, the production of opium increased 20 fold the first year alone and this country now supplies 95% of the world’s supply. Or the Iran-Contra affair where arms were traded for money that then went to buy drugs in South America under GH Bush. Even earlier under Nixon the banking regulations were changed to accommodate South American drug lords stashing cash in US dollars in Cayman.

As Harry S. Truman stated “I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in forty-seven, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo.” And he did not know the half of it.

Jay Trout

5.0 out of 5 stars

A crucial tool to understanding present reality. An absolute must-read.

Reviewed in the United States on January 2, 2017

Run, don’t walk, and get yourself a copy of this book. The author has been warning us for decades about the clear and present danger that is the CIA. I was unaware of Valentine’s work for most of those years, perhaps because our media outlets (even the “anti-establishment” ones like Democracy Now! and The Intercept) have been compromised. Valentine’s work has been suppressed since his ground-breaking book on the Phoenix Program.

Not that I didn’t know anything about the sordid history. I knew about MK-Ultra, some of the agency’s drug running and empire-building exploits. This work goes much deeper and paints a much bigger picture. The extent of the agency’s influence is much greater than I had imagined.

This is not another history book about dirty tricks. It is not just about our insane foreign policy and empire building. The cancer of corruption, of outright crime, has metastasized into every agency of the government right here in the US itself. Those dirty tricks and crimes have become domestic policy- in fusion centers and Homeland Security, in the militarization of local police and in Congress, from Wall Street to Main Street. Border Patrol, the DEA, Justice and State have all been compromised. Want to know why the DEA is losing the war on drugs, how torture has become policy? Want to know why the government no longer represents your interests? Look no further.

The problem is now. We are the new targets.

Read it and weep, but for God’s sake, please read it.

A highly informative and comprehensive book, and a scathing, fearless indictment of government corruption.

I cannot overstate it’s importance.

S. Hirsch

5.0 out of 5 stars

Essential to the understanding of US world and domestic politics

Reviewed in Germany on January 9, 2018

Following the highest ideal of the American Project – political enlightenement + emancipation – the author gives the reader a deep insight into one of its darkest present day manifestations.

The singular value of this book is that it contains comprehensive information about mindset, methods, organisation + ethics (warped as they may be) of this organisation and provides a framework to connect the various incidents that have come to light on occasion. It shows that allegations against the CIA like assassination, drug smuggling, cooperation with organized crime are not only true and possibly the result of a mislead agent, but intrinsic and standard operating procedure to the organisation since its first beginnings up to the present day. Thus it provides a most insightful – if chilling picture – of this (sometimes not so) hidden stick the US uses in foreign and domestic politics according to the old motto of Teddy Roosevelt – “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

For the politically interested non US-citizen this book is essential to understand how the hidden side of US foreign politics work.

For the US citizen who loves his country this is strong but very healthy medicine – for one as the methods that have been previously used on unruly foreigners are incereasingly applied to domestic dissenters (homeland security + patriot act) and also it will explain to the open minded the feelings of resentment and hate that are felt in many countries of the world towards the US, as of course the CIAs actions are alway carried out “in the name of the American People” – and so determine to a considerable extent the view the victims of those actions have of the US and its citizens.

The good news is, that there are still true heroes like Douglas Valentine, who keep the flag of democracy and freedom flying. My heartfelt thanks to him for his courage to publish this book.

Chris Hedges: God’s Covenant in the Promised Land

WN: The following video, God’s Covenant in the Promised Land, was powerful in 2014. It is tragically as true now as then!

Below is the text with some commentary from Canadian Catholic writer/activist/professor Ted Schmidt (please see his recent book: I Was a Catholic Zionist: A Biblical Challenge to Tribalism and Idolatry); jtschmidt@bell.net.

Then Jesus said to his disciples:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matt 16:24

 

What has befallen Gaza is a human-made disaster.  In its protractedness and in its starkness, in  its unfolding not in the fog of war or in the obscurity of remoteness but in broad daylight and in full sight, in the complicity of so many, not just via acts of commission but also, and especially, of omission, it is moreover a distinctly evil crime.–Norman G. Finkelstein

Christianity is a tough proposition, a road less travelled. In the West it has been sapped by advanced capitalism. The dynamite which caused a world revolution has been replaced by the equivalence of a “happy meal,” attendance at your local church, and it must be said, often by very kind personal acts of charity at the interpersonal level.

Biblical discipleship of course is not about charity [only], it is about justice, right relationships. As the great German theologian Johann Baptist Metz said:

Danger lights up every page of the New Testament, and it is dangerous to get close to the itinerant rabbi of Galilee. If you do, you might share the same fate. Inevitably there will be a cross for you because of the options you have chosen.

The Anglo-Irish priest therapist Diarmuid Omurchu puts it this way:

We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure Jesus of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life.

We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign. The following of Jesus is not a respectable religion.

That wonderful British Dominican Herbert McCabe has an ironic twist on this:

The Christian message—If you don’t love, you won’t really be alive. If you do love and do it effectively, you’ll be killed.

One looks in vain for any North American bishop who would dare utter the prophetic denunciation you are about to read. It comes from a man whose Presbyterian minister father was a beacon in his life. I refer to the amazing Pulitzer Prize journalist Chris Hedges, himself an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Sadly as Catholics we no longer look for the prophetic among the so-called leaders, though the present pope moves gingerly in that direction. The John Paul II bishops are managers and administrators. We look in vain for the Jesus wild card, the disturbers of the status quo in the Hebrew Bible, men like Jeremiah and Isaiah. The rabbinate in North America is no better, too many were suborned by the false creed of Zionism.

Allan C Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism in a letter (Aug.9, 2014) to the Wall Street Journal made this point:

Judaism has been corrupted by its politicization.  For some, a form of idolatry seems to have been embraced, making Israel an object of worship, much like the golden calf in the Bible.  It is not only Palestinians who have been the victims of this enterprise, but Jewish moral and ethical values as well.

Sadly, there are few Abraham Heschels among today’s rabbis.

Yet the prophetic never dies–because God is still alive, mainly on the margins and outside the walls of official religion especially when it comes to Israel. Cultural Jews like world renowned Noam Chomsky are fearless.

The latest atrocities in Gaza:

  • 213 dead, including 61 children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
  • More than 1,400 Palestinians have been injured and tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes, according to the ministry and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

These figures sadly compare to the last time Israel “mowed the grass” in 2014.

And this brings us to the authentic prophet Chris Hedges, who gave a speech in New York City August 9, 2014 during the last Gaza massacre in 2014. It still stands out as a religious text:

God’s Covenant in the Promised Land

God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made with those who pilot F-16 fighter jets that drop 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs over the concrete hovels of Gaza. It was not made with those operating Apache or Cobra attack helicopters that unleash lethal fire overcrowded refugee camps. It was not made with drone operators that clinically kill children … outside mosques. It was not made with M-60 tank units and artillery crews that murder families huddled in terror in their homes.

It was not made with those on gunboats that slaughter boys playing on a beach. It was not made with those that fire Sidewinder missiles and drop 250-pound “smart bombs” on apartment blocks. It was not made with snipers from the Golani Brigade that gun down unarmed men and women for sport. It was not made with occupiers that reduce an entire people to a starvation diet—indeed count the calories to keep them barely alive—or to those who use words like “mowing the lawn” to justify the iniscriminant slaughter of innocents.

God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made with politicians—including every member of the U.S. Senate—that mouth words for peace and perpetuate war, that call for justice and perpetuate injustice, that refuse to stand up for the rule of law and the right of a captive people to be free.

God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made, finally, with any race or religion. It was not made with the Jews. It was not made with the Muslims. It was not made with the Christians. God’s covenant—in the Bible and the Koran—was made with the righteous. When Ibrahim asked in the holy Koran if the covenant could be inherited, he was told bluntly: “My covenant is not given to oppressors.” And God’s iron requirement to stand with the oppressed occurs as well in the Hebrew and Greek bibles. Those who turn away from righteousness—be they Jew, Christian or Muslim—violate that covenant. They are not God’s people.

God’s covenant is made with those who love mercy and do justice, with those who care for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, with those who frustrate the ways of the wicked, with those who bring good news to the oppressed, who bind up the brokenhearted, who proclaim liberty to the captives and release to all those in prison, including those imprisoned in Gaza. God’s covenant is with those men and women—Jews, Christians and Muslims, believers and nonbelievers—who say, “Let my people go, oppressed so hard they could not stand. Let my people go.” And God calls these people oaks of righteousness. And they are God’s people.

Why does God weep in the Promised Land?

God weeps because families, huddled in terror in their homes, are dismembered and killed by Israeli bombs. God weeps because mothers howl in grief over the bodies of their children in U.N. schools hit by Israeli shells. God weeps because the old and disabled, who could not flee the deadly Israeli advance, died helpless and afraid. God weeps because the powerful, here and in Israel, lie and dissemble to justify murder. And God weeps for all those who stand by and do nothing.

God weeps because the assault on Gaza is not about Israel’s right to self-defense or about removing Hamas from power. It is not about achieving peace. God weeps because the assault on Gaza is about the decades-long campaign to destroy and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from their land. God weeps because Israel is constructing squalid, lawless and impoverished ghettos where life for Palestinians is barely sustainable. God weeps because Israel restricts or shuts off movement, food, medicine and goods to accentuate the human misery. God weeps because Israel has turned Gaza, now largely without power, running water and sewage [systems], into a vast gulag.

God weeps because the failure to condemn Israeli war crimes by our political establishment and our compliant media betrays the memory of those killed in other genocides, from the Holocaust to Cambodia to Rwanda to Bosnia. God weeps because we have failed to learn the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust, which is not that Jews are unique or eternal victims, but that when you have the capacity to stop genocide, and you do not, you are culpable. And we [Americans], who provide 95 percent of Israel’s weapons, are very culpable.

Eyes Open: An Anti-Asian Racism PSA

May 13, 2021

by Cindy Lu

WN: This video speaks for itself . . .

Description:

Melissa Grelo and Elaine Lui, the co-hosts of (Canadian Television Network) CTV’s The Social, created a video about Anti-Asian racism during COVID, in support of the work by the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice.

This video, which features many different Asian Canadians from all walks of life (including Yuta Watanabe from the Raptors and Canadian figure skating champion Patrick Chan), is based on a powerful poem written by Chinese Canadian poet, Christopher Tse, who is now based in the Yukon and among other things, working with Indigenous youths.

Please click on: Anti-Asian Racism PSA

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