Opinion: Prolonged solitary confinement is torture. It’s time for all states to ban it.

Opinion by Tammie Gregg and Donna Lieberman

April 28, 2021 at 5:00 a.m. PDT

image above: Julie Lai for The Washington Post

WN: My wife Esther and I felt uniquely fortunate to have attended the Conference below:

CURE International Conference Costa Rica 2017

Over 40 prison reform advocates representing a dozen countries participated in CURE’s 7th International Conference on Human Rights and Prison Reform which was held in San José, Costa Rica, April 25-29, 2017.

The theme was the Mandela Rules, which were adopted unanimously in 2015 by the United Nations and named after former prisoner and South African President Nelson Mandela.   For more information on the Rules including a copy of these 122 Rules on 29 pages, click here.

They provide treatment of prisoners in the 21st Century and seek to transform imprisonment from wasted time to an opportunity for personal development. This results in substantially less crime.

You may also read a press release about it in my post here.

Please go to the highlighted article below, with excerpts. New York has done the right thing. May it reverberate across that nation and around the world!

As to Canada? This recent article by authors Linda Mussell, PhD Candidate, Political Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario and Marsha Rampersaud, PhD Candidate, Sociology, Queen’s University, Ontario in National Post tells the tragic, all-too-familiar story: Solitary confinement replaced by new system where one in 10 prisoners experience torture. We read:

In November 2019, structured intervention units (SIUs) officially replaced solitary confinement in Canada.

Prior to SIUs, solitary confinement operated through administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation. The new system claimed to add safeguards, mental health supports and provide prisoners with four hours outside their cells per day, including two hours of meaningful interaction. Despite being in place for over a year, recent data shows this system is a failure: one in 10 prisoners in SIUs experience torture.

It is crucial for corrections to respond to this human rights failure. As a socio-legal scholar and a critical policy analyst who studies carceral policy, we believe possible solutions include reducing the number of people confined in SIUs, hard caps on days permitted in SIUs, penalties and oversight. Our goal is to push for institutional accountability and transparency, which has long evaded corrections.

The current state of things

Criminologists Anthony Doob and Jane Sprott published a report in late February with data from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) that revealed solitary confinement is still happening and some practices amount to torture.

For those confined to SIUs, data revealed that 79 per cent of prisoners did not receive the required four hours outside of their cells per day for over half their stay. Additionally, 56 per cent of prisoners did not receive the required two hours of meaningful interaction outside of their cells per day for over half their stay. There is no evidence these measures have improved.

The data also revealed that 28 per cent of SIU stays constitute solitary confinement, which means prisoners spent 22 or more hours per day in their cell without meaningful interaction. Further, under the Mandela Rules, 9.9 per cent of SIU stays constitute torture, which means solitary confinement for more than 15 days. While Canada helped develop the United Nations Convention Against Torture, it has not meaningfully complied.

This treatment is dire for prisoners. One of us has done research with Indigenous former prisoners and their family members, both published and forthcoming. From this research, a former prisoner shares:

“I was exposed to solitary confinement for three days straight, and it affected me minimally, but it makes me imagine as someone who is cognitively sound and able, how does this affect everyone else, you know what I mean? How does it affect people who have intergenerational trauma and come from these places of disproportion? To get incarcerated and then to come back, damaged, and there’s no support?”

This image of a prisoner, Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh, being tortured has become internationally infamous, eventually making it onto the cover of The Economist (see “Media coverage” below)–Wikipedia

We Westerners wilfully fool ourselves in imagining we have “enlightened” behaviours in relation to prisoners. We have in Canada, the U.S., multiple variations of Abu Ghraib. Dostoyevsky was right: the measure of any so-called “civilization” is our treatment of prisoners.

Just read the headlines of related stories in The Washingtlon Post:

Nora V. Demleitner: Gov. Northam should release some state prisoners

We Western “civilizations” in treatment of prisoners continue to fail at being such–most spectacularly! . . .

Defund the police as we know it, to be sure. Abolish prisons as we know them, too is the only humanitarian cry! You may read my recently posted and published essay: Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking; Transformative Justice: Penal Abolitionism Not Prison Reform, and several other related posts here.

excerpt:

Earlier this month, New York enacted a law affirming what medical experts, human rights advocates and survivors have been saying for years: Prolonged solitary confinement is torture.

With legislators’ passage of the Halt Solitary Confinement Act, New York became the first state to codify the United Nations’ Nelson Mandela rules, which ban the use of solitary confinement after 15 consecutive days. This is incredible progress for New York, but work cannot stop there. Banning torture in any one state is simply not enough. It’s barely a beginning.

The United States has long been an extreme global outlier in the use of solitary confinement. Before the onset of covid-19, an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people were held in solitary each day in U.S. jails and prisons — a number approximately equal to or greater than the total prison populations of many large countries, including France, Turkey and Spain. The pandemic led to a sharp increase in the use of solitary confinement in the United States, with more than 300,000 people held in these cruel and inhumane conditions as of June 2020.

Solitary confinement is an indictment of the United States’ criminal legal system, and its use is not an anomaly. Solitary is a microcosm of the ways U.S. prisons and jails are set up to dehumanize and traumatize people, without the slightest concern for their rehabilitation, their ability to reenter society, their well-being or the well-being of their families. The harms are particularly severe for people who are pregnant, people of color, individuals with disabilities — including mental illness or intellectual disabilities — young people, and incarcerated seniors, immigrants, and transgender people.

The facts are appalling. Despite making up just 18 percent of New Yorkers, Black people represented 58 percent of those held in solitary confinement in the state before passage of the Halt Act. The situation is hardly better in other states. In neighboring Connecticut, for instance, where Black and Hispanic or Latinx people make up just 29 percent of the population, they represented 85 percent of those held in solitary confinement as of 2019.

In many prisons and jails, trans people can be placed in solitary confinement against their will solely because of their gender identity. In some states, it is legal to place people in solitary as punishment for testing positive for HIV. And despite a vast body of research demonstrating that solitary confinement is dangerous for people with mental illness, corrections officers around the United States continue to hold people with mental illness in solitary confinement for months and years at a time.

Please click on: Prolonged solitary confinement is torture

Almost Everything Biden Said About Ending the Afghanistan War Was a Lie

image above: Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

chart below: The Washington Post, Fatal Force

WN: Ethicist A. J. Coates writes in The Ethics of War:

The moral prohibition of lying, for example, makes good sense in the context of personal relations, but no sense at all in affairs of state.  Telling the truth is a moral luxury that politicians and diplomats can rarely afford.  More than that, the fulfillment of their public duty will require them not only to conceal the truth but to suppress it and twist it constantly (The Ethics of War, p. 36; first edition).

He draws on noted just war theorist Michael Walzer, who claims, that it is impossible to govern innocently.

. . . sooner or later the ruler will be required to override some basic moral principle in pursuit of a political good. (p. 34)

He also draws on the thought of Hans Morgenthau, citing his words,

. . . ‘there is no escape from the evil of power’ and that ‘to know with despair that the political act is inevitably evil, and to act nonetheless, is moral courage’ . . . (p. 33)

This of course is no less the case for (only) two other kinds of actors in our modern democracies: the police and the military, both authorized to employ “just,” including lethal, violence against others. The modern state in other words has sole license to harm and to kill, sole authorization to do violence.

When then actors such as Trump and white police wielding guns, “legitimize” incessant lying and (almost?) routine killing of nonwhites, this nonetheless strains far beyond any notion of decency in a modern state that authorizes violence. The Washington Post‘s database from 2015 to 2021 presents these facts:

Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than White Americans

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

The rate at which black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans. This from The Washington Post, Fatal Force database.

I have a close relative who (invariably) knows better than the above “fake news.” He just never seems able to point to (reputable) statistics and graphs to prove it.

What one is up against!:

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.

Then this: Honestly, Trump lied at a mind-boggling pace—almost like he’d been training his whole life for that epic four-year stint/[sprint].–Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos Staff; GOP lawmakers relinquish party control to wackadoodle conspiracy theorists overrunning the states. Sigh. . . Such ubiquitous bald-faced gullibility!

Another example of “whackadoodle” (see pullquote to the right) is of course multiple right wing (nut) news outlets claiming U.S. Elections fraud. This article, April 30, 2021, by is about the first of doubtless many: Newsmax settles a defamation lawsuit from a Dominion executive at the center of election conspiracy theories and issues an apology. We read:

On Friday, Newsmax issued a retraction and apology on its website saying it found “no evidence” that earlier claims about Coomer and the 2020 election were true.

“There are several facts that our viewers should be aware of. Newsmax has found no evidence that Dr. Coomer [of Dominion Voting Systems] interfered with Dominion voting machines or voting software in any way, nor that Dr. Coomer ever claimed to have done so,” the statement reads. “Nor has Newsmax found any evidence that Dr. Coomer ever participated in any conversation with members of ‘Antifa,’ nor that he was directly involved with any partisan political organization.”

Another article by , Rudy Giuliani Sued by Dominion Voting Systems Over False Election Claims, states:

The lawsuit notes just how quickly and widely the lies and false narratives had spread leading up to the riot at the Capitol. “Over a three-hour period on December 21, 2020, the terms ‘dominion’ and ‘fraud’ were tweeted out together by more than 2,200 users with over 8.75 million total followers,” the suit says.

The reach of the disinformation about the company brought countless threats of violence against employees, the suit claims. One employee received text messages stating: “We are already watching you. Come clean and you will live.” A voice mail message to customer support said, “We’re bringing back the firing squad.”

Because of these threats, Dominion has spent $565,000 on personal security, according to the lawsuit. The company claimed to have incurred $1.17 million in total expenses relating to the disinformation campaign after the election.

We also read:

The threats from Dominion have prompted some conciliatory responses from conservative news outlets hoping to avoid a legal battle. This month, the American Thinker, a conservative website, posted an apologetic note saying that its reports about Dominion “are completely false and have no basis in fact” and that “it was wrong for us to publish these false statements.”1

It has been suggested that defamation/libel lawsuits might prove to be the all-time best check on THE BIG LIE “fake news” right-wing promulgators. It stands to occasion at minimum a great cash cow for the individual plaintiffs. One can only say: May they become a herd (immunity) stampede!

The Washington Post also keeps a database of lies told by politicians. The last time the database for Trump’s lies/misleading statements was updated was his last day in office: January 20, 2021. See: In four years, President Trump made 30,573 false or misleading claims. Click on the graph in the article to find out how many daily and monthly as well. Astounding!–NOT! (Wayne’s World)

That same relative invariably offers the vapid response: Yeah, but who’s checking the fact checkers? That’s as far however as he goes. Not evenalternative facts” are offered.  Yet he regularly railed against Obama’s lies while a two-term President; and against Hilary’s lies in running for President. He fell however strangely silent when Trump ran for President, and ever since about the guy’s prevaricating tsunamis. Not a peep.  So much for even a modicum of rational consistency. Or . . . the relative is another run-of-the-mill Debra Ell as in above pullquote?

You may also wish to read this article, Trump and his 3,500 suits: Prosecutor and author reveals in interview his portrait of ‘Plaintiff in Chief’ by Robin Lindley, . In it we learn of the 2019 book pictured here: Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits, by James D. Zirin. In it we read as well:

Plaintiff in Chief is not a partisan screed but a carefully documented legal study.

In his book, Zirin scrupulously details Trump’s life in courts of law. Based on more than three years of extensive research, the book examines illustrative cases and how they reflect on the character and moral perspective of the current president. Zirin references page after page of court records and other evidence to illustrate Trump’s legal maneuvering.

As Zirin points out, Trump learned how to use the law from his mentor, notorious lawyer Roy Cohn. Trump took Cohn’s scorched-earth strategy to heart.

“Trump saw litigation as being only about winning,” Zirin writes. “He sued at the drop of a hat. He sued for sport; he sued to achieve control; and he sued to make a point. He sued as a means of destroying or silencing those who crossed him. He became a plaintiff in chief.”

Zirin argues that Trump has shown a chronic scorn for the law. “All this aberrant behavior would be problematic in a businessman,” he writes. “But the implications of such conduct in a man who is the president of the United States are nothing less than terrifying.”

James Zirin: I think he enjoys lying. I think it’s part of his DNA. I don’t think he has any grasp of the facts at all, so he says whatever he thinks will help him and whatever comes into his head. It is expedient, I suppose, to lie in litigation if you crossed an intersection through a red light. You can lie and say it was a green light, and that changes the legal outcome of your case. And that’s the way Trump operates. But he would go beyond that because he would say the heck with you and the horse you rode in on as he did in the House impeachment inquiry. Then he denounced Adam Schiff and denounced Jerry Nadler and denounced the witnesses. He tried to subvert the whole proceeding by denouncing the whistleblower and by showing that those people who lined up against him were of low character and were themselves liars.

James Zirin: He has continued, and I think he will continue. And I think the rule of law has been seriously undermined. Our democracy has been seriously compromised because the framers of the Constitution never thought the system would work this way. Republican senators deserve part of the blame because of their need to retain power or whatever, they did not respect the oath they took to be fair and impartial judges of the facts and the law but instead voted along party lines to acquit him [during the impeachment trial].

Moral of the above article and book: There is little hope that Trump’s base will ever get it. For when one has the likes of Ms. Ell making statements as above–despite the reality that Trump is The Ultimate Liar, Con Man, Grifter, Narcissist, All-Around Amoral/Immoral Ugly American–there is really nowhere to discern even a toehold of semblance of rationality from such overwhelming Gargantuan Gullibility and Character Misjudgment.

But I step back to ask a few simple questions: Does morality around police killings of nonwhites; around political leaders/Prime Ministers/Presidents constantly lying, matter?

Or: How many disproportionate police killings of nonwhites in Western democracies are too many–as we seem to know (when) it is so in totalitarian regimes? Or are Western “democracies” such  as well? How many politician’s lies does it take to destroy public credibility? Or do we in the West just expect and accept?

Some rejoiced when Billy Graham became a “nuclear pacifist.” But how many (potential) bomb victims does it take to make one even that? And what if the tally of such potential victims was reduced by 1; by 100; by 1000; etc., to make dropping nuclear bombs after all at some (mythical?) point (by Graham’s standards) kosher? What is that magic threshold? Or are he and other just war advocates just kidding themselves?

It feels like this has been happening in the Republican Party for a really long time,” said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University. “If you allow an entire contingent of your caucus to be steeped in conspiratorial thinking, what . . . do you think is going to happen? They’re going to turn on you.”

And before you know it, the pitch forks are headed your way.Kerry Eleveld

In light of the above, please read some excerpts of the article highlighted below.

excerpts:

President Joe Biden, in announcing an ostensible end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, is continuing his streak of paying eloquent lip service to progressive causes while maintaining the implied status quo. In a televised address from the White House on April 14, Biden said, “it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.” But just a day later, the New York Times reported without a hint of irony that “the Pentagon, American spy agencies and Western allies are refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force in the region.” This means we are ending the war, but not really.

Biden also failed to mention in his speech that there are tens of thousands of private military contractors employed in Afghanistan. According to the Times, “[m]ore than 16,000 civilian contractors, including over 6,000 Americans, now provide security, logistics and other support in Afghanistan.” The Times did not see fit to ask how the war can be declared over if mercenaries remain on the ground, nor how Biden can declare the war as ending if airstrikes will continue.

Dr. Hakeem Naim is an Afghan American lecturer in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley; he was raised in Afghanistan and has lived in multiple countries as a refugee and immigrant before moving to the U.S. In an interview, he explained what Biden refused to mention: that “the U.S. created chaos by supporting the most corrupt elite groups and created a mafia-system of economy run by the drug lords, warlords and contractors.” Worst of all, “the Taliban is back in power,” he said, implying that Afghanistan is essentially back where it started in 2001.

Please click on: Biden Lies About Afghanistan

Footnotes
  1. The full statement reads: January 15, 2021, Retraction, by Thomas Lifson:

    We received a lengthy letter from Dominion’s defamation lawyers explaining why they believe that their client has been the victim of defamatory statements.  Having considered the full import of the letter, we have agreed to their request that we publish the following statement:

    American Thinker and contributors Andrea Widburg, R.D. Wedge, Brian Tomlinson, and Peggy Ryan have published pieces on www.AmericanThinker.com that falsely accuse US Dominion Inc., Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., and Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (collectively “Dominion”) of conspiring to steal the November 2020 election from Donald Trump. These pieces rely on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories about Dominion’s supposed ties to Venezuela, fraud on Dominion’s machines that resulted in massive vote switching or weighted votes, and other claims falsely stating that there is credible evidence that Dominion acted fraudulently.

    These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. Industry experts and public officials alike have confirmed that Dominion conducted itself appropriately and that there is simply no evidence to support these claims.

    It was wrong for us to publish these false statements. We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning 9 journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion’s track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error.[]

Out of Sight / Out of Mind

The Magazine: Spring 2021

COVID-19 in prisons got our attention. Manitoba has quietly been home to the highest incarceration rates in the country, with a grossly disproportionate number of Indigenous people behind bars. And Canada has one of the highest prison rates in the world. Members of our UM community who’ve witnessed a broken system are pushing for change and greater empathy—but is society ready?

photo above: David Milgaard

WN: The entire issue of the above is given to the continuing tragedy of those behind the walls in Canada’s prisons. Much of this website is taken with the horror of (Canadian/worldwide) prisons. One of the recent posts is: Houses of hate: How Canada’s prison system is broken. I also recently put up: Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking; Transformative Justice: Penal Abolitionism Not Prison Reform, written for a British periodical described in the post: The Kenarchy Journal, Volume 2. My piece especially highlights penal abolitionism.

It’s appallingly apparent that the “hacks and educated screws” (guards and psychologists–back in the day I began working in the system, 1974) of a bygone era cannot exercise “power over” without profoundly doing violence to their keep. The exceptions in my experience prove the rule. Just as one cannot teach people how to fly an aeroplane from a submarine; similarly one cannot train a person how to live in “normal”  society from inside a prison, one can no less tinker with the human psyche in a domination system of absolute power over the kept–the very signature of the carceral state–and expect anything good for the kept or society to come of it. Exceptions again prove the rule . . .

I also began publishing in 2018 a series on Justice That Transforms. Several more are in the works. They are collected writings since 1974. Most point in the same direction as above.

This entire magazine issue highlighted in excerpts below is outstanding! Brief, pointed, incisive, hopeful.

The lead piece, also in the photo above, is about a good friend, David Milgaard, victim of a Canadian criminal justice system horribly gone wrong! Too frequently, sadly enough. If you click on his name, you will find more on this website, including an interview David and I did together for an International Restorative Justice Symposium, August, 2020.

Please read on and learn.

The other persons highlighted in the magazine and their work are also inspiring and challenging of our Canadian criminal justice system. Such is the case–and often more brutally so–worldwide, not least immediately to our south.

excerpts:

David Milgaard says the word “free” with intention, as though it might just float away. In a deliberate yet delicate cadence, the 68-year-old former prisoner is reading poetry over the phone from his townhouse in Cochrane, Alberta.

He recites: “It is in a lament of time, trusted like a given home, an open pleasant place, with a fire and a love of the people that live there, that I choose to remain free.

“I like that one,” he says.

The poem is about his family and trying to stay close to all that is good, when the world viewed him as a killer.

“I needed that just to keep my head up and move forward, and feel cared for by a sense of morality that I held on to.”

It felt like walking on the moon.

He wrote A Candled Home from inside Ontario’s maximum-security Millhaven Institution while serving a life sentence for a rape and murder he didn’t commit. Easily Canada’s most recognizable name among those wrongfully imprisoned, Milgaard says he was never actually able to achieve any kind of freedom within his own mind during the 23 years he spent behind bars—not when people believed he was capable of something so horrific. As fellow poet Gord Downie famously sang in “Wheat Kings,” the Tragically Hip’s homage to Milgaard, “No one’s interested in something you didn’t do.”

Winnipeg-born Milgaard was incarcerated at 17 and emerged at 39, bewildered by a simple trip to the grocery store. He remembers trying to buy flowers for his mother, Joyce, a recognizable face on the news and her son’s greatest ally, but leaving empty-handed. “It felt like walking on the moon,” he says.

Today Milgaard doesn’t dwell on the judicial missteps that linked him to the 1969 death of 20-year-old nursing assistant Gail Miller in Saskatoon. Once freed, with help from a team of lawyers that included University of Manitoba alumnus David Asper [BA/80], Milgaard made it his mission to help others unjustly incarcerated. Last year, both he and Asper—now the acting dean of UM’s Faculty of Law—were named recipients of UM honorary degrees, celebrating their work in this area.

Milgaard not only advocates for those wrongfully convicted, he brings his unique voice to push for a rethinking of prison systems in Canada—a conversation gaining momentum, given the brighter spotlight COVID-19 has cast on inequities.

Milgaard says we need to look to more progressive justice models used elsewhere in the world—yet cautions none are without flaws. He points to Japan’s merciful leniency approach, offering those convicted with the opportunity for reform by surrounding them with love and support of family. If they don’t respond, a prison term comes next—one that is especially cruel and torturous and not something Milgaard condones. But the intent behind their lenient approach makes sense, he says: Prisoners wanting to change should be given the tools to succeed.

We’re people—all of us—who dream, who want to love others and to care for others. You know, the people that we’re talking about, that are sitting inside cages right now as I say that, they dream and want to love others and to care for others. There is no real difference between them and us.

It’s amazing, if you think about it. There are people in Japan who have committed horrendous crimes and they have never spent a single day in jail. Hard to believe, but it’s true,” he says.1

Milgaard believes restorative justice measures in Canada—where the perpetrator and victim sit across from one another to reconcile—need greater attention since they, too, put the onus on the offender to take responsibility for change. He also likes that it’s an approach that’s peacemaking, rather than war-making.

Please click on: David Milgaard: Freedom

 

Footnotes
  1. David is referring to research and writings by Dr. John O’Haley (at the time professor of law and of East Asian studies at the University of Washington.) in the 1990s; for instance: Victim‐offender mediation: Lessons from the Japanese experience; and Apology and Pardon: Learning From Japan. But studies such as: The Benevolent Paternalism of Japanese Criminal Justice, also point to a dark side, as briefly does David, that tempers some of O’Haley’s claims.[]

The look in Derek Chauvin’s eyes was something worse than hate

By Jake Jackson

April 24, 2021

photo above: Daily Sound and Fury

WN: The Prophets and Jesus constantly call us to have eyes to see, ears to hear . . .  A documentary series based on events of the April 19, 1989, Central Park jogger case, has the riveting title: When They See Us.

To the extent we fail to “see;” to instead show indifference to the plight of another as highlighted in the article below;  to walk by on the other side as in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan; to that extent we dilute our own humanity, we guarantee living unfulfilled lives.

Then we must also see Mr. Chauvin in all his unfulfilled humanity; in his terror at what opens up before him; in his profound need for redemption; in his potential for redemption.

excerpts:

Images and sound bites from the Derek Chauvin trial will linger in people’s memories for years. But there is one heart-wrenching image that stands above the rest. It was the look of indifference in Chauvin’s eyes on May 25, 2020, as he casually drained the life out of George Floyd. That was as chilling as his knee on Floyd’s neck. And what it represents could pose the biggest challenge to broader police reforms ahead. That look was freeze-framed in what the prosecution dryly called “Exhibit 17.” It shows Chauvin, the White Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty on all three counts in Floyd’s death, glancing at a crowd of onlookers while bearing down on an unconscious Floyd, who is handcuffed and pinned face-first to the pavement. The look on Chauvin’s face is one of bored disinterest. His sunglasses are perched on his head and his hands rest in his pocket. He doesn’t seem to notice Floyd at all. The only flicker of emotion on his face is his annoyance at the crowd that has gathered to plead for Floyd’s life. That will go down as one of the defining images of our era because it tells a story about racism that many people don’t want to hear. When we talk about racism, we often focus on spectacular acts of cruelty. The ghoulish photo of Emmett Till’s face in an open coffin. The lynching postcards that some White Americans used to mail to one another. The snarling faces of White students who surrounded a young Black woman who tried to integrate an Arkansas high school. But the look of disinterest in Chauvin’s eyes is a reminder that indifference — not just hate — is a critical part of how racism works. The late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”Wiesel said that to the indifferent person, “his or her neighbor are of no consequence… Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction.”

Why indifference can be more harmful than hatred

There is a peculiar pain to being ignored, to not even being seen. Most Black people have experienced this. That’s why if you talk about racism to some in unguarded moments, you’ll hear something strange. Some find it easier to deal with the open hatred of overt racists when compared to those White people who don’t even see them. At least the racists recognize that they exist — they see them, even if their vision is clouded by hate. To not be seen is another, more insidious variant of racism that can be infuriating. Perhaps that’s why one of the best novels about racism by a Black author is titled “Invisible Man.” And that’s why it’s no accident that it was White indifference — not hatred — that seemed to anger the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the most. King didn’t write his epic “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963 in response to the hateful actions of White segregationists. He addressed it to a group of White moderates who he thought were indifferent to the suffering of Black people living under segregation, and who were “more devoted to order than to justice.”

They focused relentlessly on Chauvin’s casual body language during his arrest of Floyd and the lack of concern on his face as he pinned Floyd to the ground. They told jurors Chauvin showed “indifference” to Floyd’s pleas for help. They said Chauvin and other officers at the scene talked about the smell of Floyd’s feet and idly picked stones from a vehicle’s tire while Floyd died in front of them. The prosecutors built a case where they forced the jury to see Floyd as a human being and not as an abstraction.” There was no superhuman strength that day. There was no superhuman strength because there is no such thing as a superhuman,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in his closing arguments. “… Just a human, just a man lying on the pavement being pressed upon, desperately crying out. A grown man, crying out for his mother.”T here was one moment, however, when Chauvin’s look of indifference broke.

Derek Chauvin in court Tuesday as the guilty verdict was read.It came at the end of his trial, when the judge read the guilty verdict. Chauvin’s eyes darted about in panic. They widened in disbelief. And maybe in that moment, as he was handcuffed and led away, he got a glimpse of the terror that so many Black and brown men have felt.

Why this indifference poses a challenge for the future

As activists use momentum from the Floyd verdict to press for more police reforms, this wall of indifference may be their biggest challenge. There are plenty of complicated proposals to reform policing: a federal ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, challenging authorities’ immunity from civil suits and stopping the militarization of local police. Much of the progress on police reform, though, will boil down to this: Will enough lawmakers and judges see Black and brown people who are being brutalized by the justice system as fellow human beings? Or will some they continue to see them as thugs, predators, or superhuman? History suggests that this will be a huge challenge, because the resiliency of White indifference is often underestimated. Its strength is in its anonymity — it doesn’t typically call attention to itself, and its perpetrators are often unaware that they see certain people as the Other.

Please click on: The Gaze of Indifference

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

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

 Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2020, 356 pages

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. [There is by the way no such male name in all ancient Greek literature!] 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.

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 Schaeffer4 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”5, 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.6

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.7

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. 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. See my book review of: Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America.[]
  5. 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.[]
  6. 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.[]

  7. 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.[]

Tribes Want Medals Awarded for Wounded Knee Massacre Rescinded

Mark Walker

April 23, 2021

photo above: Kristina Barker for The New York Times

WN: This kind of story can be repeated ubiquitously in European worldwide Empire/colonization history over many centuries. One post of many is:  The Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and American Exceptionalism. Related posts may be pursued there.

“Moving on” as beneficiaries of past wrongs without at least attempts at making right diminishes any “civilization” worthy of the name; keeps its victims in perpetual spiritual lockdown. All victimization studies indicate this.

There is a way out. This was hauntingly and beautifully displayed in the 1986 film, The Mission, directed by Roland Joffé; with a role (as Sebastian) played in the film and as advisor by activist, pacifist, author, playwright, poet and priest, Father Daniel Berrigan.

It is doing profound penance.

Cinematically, the scene described in the following final two sentences (prosaically here–but positively beatifically in the film!) is the most riveting, beautiful conversion scene this writer has ever viewed! We read in the Wikipedia article:

Mercenary and slaver Rodrigo Mendoza makes his living kidnapping natives such as the Guaraní community and selling them to nearby plantations, including the plantation of the Spanish Governor Don Cabeza. After returning from another kidnapping trip, his assumed fiancée, Carlotta, confesses to Mendoza that she is actually in love with his younger half-brother Felipe. Mendoza later finds them in bed together and, in a fit of rage, kills Felipe in a duel. Although he is acquitted of the killing of Felipe, Mendoza spirals into depression. Father Gabriel visits and challenges Mendoza to undertake a suitable penance. Mendoza accompanies the Jesuits on their return journey, dragging a heavy bundle containing his armour and sword. After initially tense moments upon reaching the outskirts of the natives’ territory, since they recognize their former persecutor, the natives soon come to forgive a tearful Mendoza and cut away his heavy bundle.

A final title declares that many priests have continued to fight–many paid for with their lives1–for the rights of indigenous people into the present day. The film concludes with the text of John 1:5:

The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness hath not overcome it.

This presents the ultimate response required of us in the Christian faith–of all people with humanitarian hearts.  We settlers around the world must repent like Mendoza, do the heavy lifting of active penance (Mendoza chooses to drag his former self–his violent ways represented by the heavy armour and sword–up the side of spectacular Iguazu Falls, then is met by the knife-wielding Guaraní Chief with war paint who cuts him free–metaphorically of his violent past–and welcomes him as a brother), then walk together in new freedom and purposeful action.

We all, the film shows us, must likewise choose appropriate active means of penance, unique to our historical cultural moment.  When/if those contemporary victims of cultural and real-life genocide offer us the freedom of forgiveness, nothing in the past is changed, but all may move forward together in a new trajectory of hope and freedom. For us settlers, to move forward is to continue along that trajectory of peacemaking and forgiveness in concrete real-world actions . . . Amen!

excerpts:

On Dec. 29, 1890, along the Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota, the U.S. Army killed hundreds of unarmed members of the Lakota Sioux tribe, including many women and children.

In the aftermath of one of the bloodiest acts of violence against Native Americans by federal forces, the government looked into the conduct of the troops of the Seventh Cavalry — and decided to award 20 Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest military commendation, to soldiers involved in the massacre.

Now members of the tribe are stepping up a long-running pressure campaign to have those medals rescinded, saying that the government should recognize the atrocity for what it was and take a step that could help heal the historical wounds of that day.

Marcella Lebeau, center, a citizen of the Two Kettle Band, Cheyenne River Sioux, is among those pushing for the medals to be rescinded.Credit…Kali Robinson/Associated Press

“I believe on our reservation, we have a pervasive sadness that exists here because of what happened at Wounded Knee, the massacre, and it has never been resolved and there has never been closure,” said Marcella Lebeau, a citizen of the Two Kettle Band, Cheyenne River Sioux.

Ms. Lebeau, a 101-year-old veteran who served during World War II as a surgical nurse near the front at the 25th General Hospital in Liège, Belgium, and later worked for the Indian Health Service, is among those pushing for the medals to be rescinded. Ms. Lebeau said she was especially bothered by the fact the country’s most prestigious military decoration was awarded to men who slaughtered women and children.

Many of the award citations noted “gallant conduct in battle” and “distinguished” or “conspicuous” bravery, while documenting few details to justify those characterizations.

To date, the nation has awarded more than 3,500 Medals of Honor, including about 400 to soldiers who fought during campaigns against Native Americans. About 900 awards have been rescinded, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, most for awards made during the Civil War, but no medals awarded for service in the Indian campaigns have been revoked.

Bernardo Rodriguez, a tribal council representative for the Wounded Knee District of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said that the community was reminded every day about the tragedy by a memorial to it — and that action by the government to rescind the medals was more than 100 years overdue.

“We’ve been pushed, pulled, put aside and treated like second-class citizens since Day 1 and never given a chance,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I want them to know and to understand that this would be the same as giving a Medal of Honor to the Nazis of Auschwitz.”

Please click on: Medals Awarded Rescinded

Footnotes
  1. for example Óscar Romero[]

Saving the salmon and Beauty:

After years of trying to get the province to protect an important salmon watershed, one northwest B.C. First Nation is taking matters into its own hands

, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

April 17, 2021

photo above: Chief Wii Litsxw (Gregory Rush) hiking in Gitanyow territory. The area behind him is part of the so-called “Golden Triangle,” coveted by mining companies: Farhan Umedaly / VoVo Productions 

It’s a beauty that’s beyond Eden.Naxginkw Tara Marsden, from Wilp Gamlakyeltxw and Wilp sustainability director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office.

WN: One can only wish for full harmony amongst all interest-holders. One can say a prayer about this spectacularly beautiful land. Lord, we ask for your sustaining mercy. Amen.

See the article for the outstanding photos alone!

Finally, there is another kind of beauty. Dostoyevsky said: Beauty Will Save the World.

Please listen to the CBC radio documentary with Mary Hines and Frank Faulk to find out why. You Tube audio follows.

Then for a very deep dive, please see: The Ethics of Beauty by Timothy G. Patitsas, St. Nicholas Press, 2021; 748 pages. Of it we read:

Chaste and ardent eros for the Beautiful is the first task of human life, and falling in love with Beauty is the beginning of every adventure that matters … 

The original task of Ethics was to guide us to the most just and meaningful life possible. Today, ethicists define their discipline more narrowly, as “the rational investigation of morality.” This reduces Ethics to the examination of the Good by the True, tacitly suppressing the deep human need for the Beautiful.

In The Ethics of Beauty, Orthodox Christian theologian Timothy G. Patitsas first considers Beauty’s opposite, the dark events that traumatize victims of war and other ugly circumstances, and then invites us to rediscover the older Beauty-first response to moral questions and the integrity of the soul.

Covering topics ranging from creation to political theory to the Jesus Prayer, including war, psychology, trauma, chastity, healthy shame, gender, marriage, hospitality, art, architecture, theology, economics, urban planning, and complexity theory, The Ethics of Beauty lays out a worldview in which Beauty, Goodness, and Truth are each embraced as indispensable elements of the best possible human life.

excerpts:

When the sun sets in a bowl-shaped basin on Ana’miso mountain on Gitanyow lax’yip (territory) in northwest B.C., that means the sockeye salmon are running in Xsi’dax river. Historically, about 50,000 sockeye would come up this tributary of the Skeena. But this river, like so many, is suffering a devastating decline in abundance. These days, the spawning population is down to about 200 fish.

Farther north, Gitanyow territory around Meziadin Lake is bursting with life. The landscape supports the likes of wolves and grizzlies, mountain goats and martens, salmon and steelhead. About 75 per cent of the Nass River sockeye spawn in the watershed after an epic journey from the coast through Nisga’a territory.

“This area is super special,” Wing Chief Sk’a’nism Tsa ‘Win’Giit Joel Starlund told The Narwhal about an area Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs plan to declare as the Ha’Nii Tokxw Indigenous Protected Area — with or without support from the provincial government.

Eight years ago, most of the Nass River sockeye were protected by the freshly minted 24,000-hectare Hanna-Tintina Conservancy. But since then, the sockeye populations that spawn inside the conservancy’s boundaries have been in steady decline in part due to temperature changes in the creeks. Now, the healthiest remaining populations spawn primarily in glacial-fed creeks outside of the protected area. Those creeks — Strohn and Surprise — face the threat of increased mineral exploration.

After four years of trying to work with the province to protect an additional 30,000-hectare area around the conservancy through official channels, the chiefs have decided to move forward with an Indigenous Protected Area.

Indigenous Protected Areas, also called tribal parks or Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, are areas conserved under Indigenous law, through an assertion of a nation’s Rights and Title.

‘Set it and forget it’

In 2012, Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs and the provincial government signed the landmark Gitanyow Huwilp Recognition and Reconciliation Agreement. It led to the creation of a groundbreaking land use plan, a collaborative management system including an Indigenous guardian program and the establishment of the conservancy. The land use plan and guardian program allowed the nation to facilitate and manage resource extraction on the territory, particularly forestry.

But when the nation started observing the changes on the landscape, it asked the B.C. government to adjust the land use plan and expand the conservancy in accordance with the agreement, which acknowledged a need for adaptive management of species like salmon.

The Gitanyow showed the province what was happening on the landscape and told them what was at stake if the unprotected area were to become a hotbed of mining activity.

“When we first started to really push the province to expand the conservancy, the message we got back was, ‘Well, industry doesn’t want to hear it,’ ” says Naxginkw Tara Marsden, who is from Wilp Gamlakyeltxw and works as Wilp sustainability director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office.

“That model of really static reserves — locked in place, set it and forget it — just does not work in the face of climate change.”

Mining exploration charges ahead without Gitanyow consent 

B.C.’s free-entry mining system allows any individual or company to stake a claim — and subsequently explore for minerals on that claim — anywhere in the province that is not already set aside as a protected area. This includes private land and Indigenous territory. Under provincial laws, which date back to the mid-1800s, no consent or consultation is required.

“It’s so archaic. It’s so colonial,” Marsden says.

In the mid-2010s, mineral exploration and mining companies started staking claims on Gitanyow territory. A tenure allows a company to conduct exploratory work, and if it finds enough evidence of minerals, it can then propose a mine. But even exploratory work has impacts on the landscape, Marsden says.

“Mineral companies don’t have to apply for water permits — they can go out and they can draw straight from creeks for their drilling and then they can release the water back into the ecosystem,” she explains. “They can claim that it’s treated and it’s safe, but there’s no monitoring of that, so we don’t know.”

She says the Hereditary Chiefs petitioned the province to set up a no-staking reserve, taking government officials including Mark Messmer, B.C.’s chief gold commissioner, out on the lax’yip (territory). Marsden said subsequent conversations with the commissioner were unsuccessful in having the area declared off-limits for mining claims.

In 2019, the Gitanyow applied for funding through the federal government’s Nature Fund to buy out all the mineral tenures in the protected area. Marsden says the province provided them with the formula to figure out how much it would cost to get all the tenures out of the area, which revealed it would be between $5 and $16 million. The nation didn’t get the funding.

While working to find a solution through the provincial system, the Gitanyow Nation also developed its own guidelines for activity on the territory and reached out to the companies directly.

“We are very upfront when we talk to companies,” Marsden says. “We just say this is an area that is a go zone or a no-go zone, and this is why.”

This pragmatic approach has earned them some success. When the Hereditary Chiefs approached one of the companies that has claims in the watershed, P2 Gold, it agreed to leave the area alone.

“We’re trying to be good neighbours and work together up in the area,” Joe Ovsenek, president of P2 Gold, says on a call from his office in Vancouver, noting how the Gitanyow told his company the salmon runs in the creeks close to the company’s claims were the last healthy populations in the watershed. “The last thing we want to do is jeopardize any of that.”

But P2 Gold is just one of several companies with interests in the area, and the province continues to permit exploratory activity.

The Gitanyow’s Starlund emphasizes the nation is not anti-industry.

“We’re not against mineral staking, we’re not against mining,” he says, explaining that the Gitanyow have many positive relationships with mining companies. “It’s the matter of where these mineral staking tenures are located.”

Marsden says the next step is to create a management plan for the area that clearly states what activities are allowed and what activities are not allowed. Then it’s a matter of making sure those rules are being respected. Without provincial protection, Gitanyow guardians will have to continually monitor activity on the landscape to hold companies accountable.

“I’m pretty confident that we can,” she says. “It’s just not ideal. Ideally, you have those legal designations.”

Starlund is also confident the Gitanyow can protect the watershed and says they’ll gain strength from sharing what makes the lax’yip special.

“If we’re not going to be afforded the protection of British Columbia law, we want to create a brand and a name recognition for this Indigenous Protected Area,” he says, adding that they hope to have everything in place by August.

“It’s a beauty that’s beyond Eden.”

Please click on: Saving the salmon

America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 16 maps and charts

WN: I will embed below the video produced. Please view that first, then read the article and charts carefully.

My brother gave me a book years ago claiming studies showed that the more guns in a population, the less crime. While the research was flawed according to other assessments, it may be that potentially looking into the barrel of a gun while doing a robbery could be strong disincentive . . . Possessing one could also be strong incentive to use it in the course of the robbery . . . What is certain: a stalemate is not in the works as any Wild West movie demonstrates . . . One or both or more end up dead.

The amazing article highlighted does not sustain a view that a state of stalemate is achieved by Americans’ possessing 45% of firearms compared to all other countries’ citizenry, though America makes up less than 5% of the world’s population . . . When guns are drawn, there is not a Newtonian equal and opposite reaction that magically creates public safety . . .

Regardless, this article makes it absolutely clear: less firearms, less violent deaths.

excerpts:

After a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis on Thursday, Americans are once again confronting the country’s unique relationship with guns.

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America is certainly an exceptional country when it comes to firearms. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. But the relationship is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most homicidal — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms.

These maps and charts show what that violence looks like compared with the rest of the world, why it happens, and why it’s such a tough problem to fix.

Another way of looking at that: Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms, based on 2018 data from the Small Arms Survey.

In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been more than 2,500 mass shootings as of July 2020.

The number comes from the Gun Violence Archive, which hosts a database that has tracked mass shootings since 2013. But since some shootings go unreported, the database is likely missing some, as well as the details of some of the events.

The tracker uses a fairly broad definition of “mass shooting”: It includes not just shootings in which four or more people were murdered, but shootings in which four or more people were shot at all (excluding the shooter).

Even under this broad definition, it’s worth noting that mass shootings make up less than 2 percent of America’s firearm deaths, which totaled nearly 40,000 in 2017 alone.

It would be one thing if the US happened to have more crime than other nations, but the existing data shows that not to be the case. America is only an outlier when it comes to homicides and, specifically, gun violence, based on 2000 data from Jeffrey Swanson at Duke University.

As Zack Beauchamp explained for Vox, a breakthrough analysis in the 1990s by UC Berkeley’s Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins found that the US does not, contrary to the old conventional wisdom, have more crime in general than other Western industrial nations. Instead, the US appears to have more lethal violence — and that’s driven in large part by the prevalence of guns.

“A series of specific comparisons of the death rates from property crime and assault in New York City and London show how enormous differences in death risk can be explained even while general patterns are similar,” Zimring and Hawkins wrote. “A preference for crimes of personal force and the willingness and ability to use guns in robbery make similar levels of property crime 54 times as deadly in New York City as in London.”

This is in many ways intuitive: People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry during an argument and be able to pull out a gun and kill someone.

When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators in 2011, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. (Read more in Florida’s “The Geography of Gun Deaths.”)

This is backed by other research: A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that new legal restrictions on owning and purchasing guns tended to be followed by a drop in gun violence — a strong indicator that restricting access to guns can save lives.

When countries reduced access to guns, they saw a drop in the number of firearm suicides. The data above, taken from a 2010 study by Australian researchers, shows that suicides dropped dramatically after the Australian government set up a mandatory gun buyback program that reduced the number of firearms in the country by about one-fifth.

The Australian study found that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people correlated with up to a 50 percent drop in firearm homicides and a 74 percent drop in gun suicides. As Dylan Matthews explained for Vox, the drop in homicides wasn’t statistically significant (in large part because murders in Australia were already so low). But the drop in suicides definitely was — and the results are striking.

Australia is far from alone in these types of results. A study from Israeli researchers found that suicides among Israeli soldiers dropped by 40 percent when the military stopped letting soldiers take their guns home. The change was most pronounced during the weekends.

This data and research have a clear message: States and countries can significantly reduce the number of suicides by restricting access to guns.

Given that states with more guns tend to have more homicides, it isn’t too surprising that, as a 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health found, states with more guns also have more police die in the line of duty.

Researchers looked at federal data for firearm ownership and homicides of police officers across the US over 15 years. They found that states with more gun ownership had more police killed in homicides: Every 10 percent increase in firearm ownership correlated with 10 additional officers killed in homicides over the 15-year study period.

The findings could help explain why US police officers appear to kill more people than police in other developed countries. For US police officers, the higher rates of guns and gun violence — even against them — in America mean that they not only will encounter more guns and violence, but they can expect to encounter more guns and deadly violence, making them more likely to anticipate and perceive a threat and use deadly force as a result.

Please click on: America’s unique gun violence problem

What white Christian support for Trump reveals about systemic racism

By Robert P. Jones

| November 12, 2020

But among the sizable minority of Americans who disagree with each of these statements, more than 80 percent voted for Donald Trump. In other words, a denial of systemic racism has become a defining trait among Trump’s strongest supporters. According to the exit polls, this divide over systemic racism is now the tip of the spear in the new culture wars, producing greater polarization than the issue of abortion.

WN: Beyond tragic the pullquote to the right, this means four-fifths of American white evangelical Christians subscribe to “heresy” (an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truthMerriam-Webster). And this not limited to America! And many religious white non-evangelicals (Catholics, mainline Protestants, other faith members, etc.) also are heretics in this way!1

“Heresy” means in Greek (amongst variants) “a self-chosen opinion” (Strong’s). And if chosen, as with all opinions, it can be unchosen. This is what metanoia entails: “change of mind, repentance” (Strong’s).  In that light, please visit Christians Against Trumpism & Political Extremism.

Then there is this delightful piece full of why Trump is so harmful to be sure, but gently asking for dialogue, October 26, 2020, by and addressed to Trumpers: Hello, Neighbor: My Letter to a Trump Supporter–“The only way we will love our neighbor as ourselves is by getting to know our neighbors, even in the midst of our differences.” I love that.

Further is this eloquent appeal: White, Conservative, Christian Friend—I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life.

Also, a new book addresses Religious Right Wing Trumpism/extremism: Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels.

Please see the article’s author’s book highlighted below. Image is clickable.

Please see too my book review of Kristin Kobes du Mez’: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

The presumption seems to be that unless you’re (still) barbecuing Black people en masse in the town square racism cannot be a formative part of your society. Obviously that’s not true. The same ends can now be achieved through far more palatable means. So stating, as [GOP Senator] Tim Scott did, that ‘America is not a racist country’ is imbecilic. The more thoughtful question would be ‘How different would a racist nation look from this one?’ And the answer to that one is: ‘Not very different at all’. New Yorker staff writer and journalism professor Jelani Cobb on South Carolina Senator Tim Scott’s insistence that the US is not racist

Jennifer Rubin in an April 21, 2021 piece in The Washington Post–Opinion: Two stats show why Republicans are so fixated on suppressing the vote–writes hopefully:

The second statistic behind the Republicans’ collective panic attack has to do with their solid core of supporters: White evangelical Christians. As I pointed out last month, Gallup finds that the percentage of those attending any religious institution has dropped below 50 percent, the first time in 80 years of its surveys. Churches are losing younger Americans at a remarkable rate:

The decline in church membership, then, appears largely tied to population change, with those in older generations who were likely to be church members being replaced in the U.S. adult population with people in younger generations who are less likely to belong. . . .

The two major trends driving the drop in church membership — more adults with no religious preference and falling rates of church membership among people who do have a religion — are apparent in each of the generations over time.

If Republicans cannot find enough non-college-educated Whites and, worse for them, cannot count on White evangelicals (more than 80 percent of whom voted for the MAGA party) to keep pace with the growth of nonreligious voters, their nativist party — driven by fears of an existential threat to White Christianity — will no longer be viable at the national level.

She concludes:

Republicans, in essence, are trying to eke out as many election cycles as they can with its shrinking base. Deathly afraid of alienating the most rabid MAGA supporters, they continue to stoke racial resentment, fear of immigrants and bizarro conspiracy theories — all of which push away non-Whites, women, college-educated voters and younger voters. In sum, Republicans’ base is vanishing and they haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it — other than a possibly self-destructive effort to disenfranchise voters.

We read in an article by Michael Gryboski, Trump-supporting evangelical leaders Franklin Graham, Al Mohler recognize Biden as winner:

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and longtime Trump supporter, responded to the [Electoral College vote] news in a Facebook post Monday evening. He said that rather than focusing on the disappointment with the result, he was “grateful” for the Trump administration.2

An article published March 26, 2021, entitled: Good Lord! Who Are These People?, reads:

And there is so much more.  For example, a Marine who sent me an email telling me I was correct when on public television I described today’s infantry rifle squad as having Jews and Muslims in its ranks, as well as atheists, agnostics, and others, but I was also instructed to rest assured that when this Marine – the one writing to me – got to a combat zone and entered some heated action, one of his first kills would be these fellow non-Christian Marines.

Or the scores upon scores of other emails that arrive at MRFF computers daily with such invective in their contents that others unaware of such traffic, when shown it, are utterly appalled.  Or, on the other hand, the copious emails from solid Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women, asking MRFF to help them cope, fight, and defeat some of these fundamentalist Christians who, often with their commanders’ blessing and even help, are making the lives of these  other service members pure hell.   MRFF has over 73,000 such military clients presently.

If Republicans cannot find enough non-college-educated Whites and, worse for them, cannot count on White evangelicals (more than 80 percent of whom voted for the MAGA party) to keep pace with the growth of nonreligious voters, their nativist party — driven by fears of an existential threat to White Christianity — will no longer be viable at the national level.Jennifer Rubin

But this article by Leonardo Blair is hopeful: Beth Moore draws flak and praise after warning Christians against ‘dangerous’ Trumpism.

In July of 2020, Biden came under fire for saying Trump was America’s first racist President, which was pretty shocking to historians considering how both Democratic and Republican Presidents upheld the extermination of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, advocated for Jim Crow laws and supported voter disenfranchisement via the Southern Strategy. Also, we must never forget the war on drugs, which directly targets Black and brown people, and the tragedies of mass incarceration.– Jake Jackson, Daily Sound and Fury,

A further indictment is described by Bob Smietana, March 10, 2021: Bible Teacher Beth Moore, Splitting with Lifeway, Says, ‘I am No Longer a Southern Baptist’. In it one reads:

Then along came Donald Trump.

Moore’s criticism of the 45th president’s abusive behavior toward women and her advocacy for sexual abuse victims turned her from a beloved icon to a pariah in the denomination she loved all her life.

“Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power,” Moore once wrote about Trump, riffing on a passage from the New Testament Book of Ephesians.

Because of her opposition to Trump and her outspokenness in confronting sexism and nationalism in the evangelical world, Moore has been labeled as “liberal” and “woke” and even as being a heretic for daring to give a message during a Sunday morning church service.

There is also this outstanding article, brimming with related resources, by Dr. James F. McGrath: Reading the Bible while White. The article begins with:

Biblical scholar Ekaputra Tupamahu has written an insightful article about whiteness in our field. I will have to take some time to grapple with the implications of specific things he says about the Synoptic problem. Here I want to focus on the broader subject of his article, the “stubborn invisibility of whiteness in biblical scholarship.” Esau McCauley’s Reading While Black has been getting a lot of much-deserved attention. I’ve been seeking to reflect on and incorporate the implications of these considerations into my teaching. I read while white, and most of my students do too, and doing so is full of privilege and pitfalls that are prone to go unnoticed in a way that reading while black, or a woman, or any other identity besides white male Christian is not afforded the luxury to.

And further on:

One thing that jumps out at me as a thread running through the reception history of so much of the Bible is the distortion of meaning that occurs when texts by the oppressed become the scriptures of the powerful. Texts with a message of liberation from slavery are downplayed in favor of texts that safeguard that institution. The ironic labeling of the opponents of Jesus in the Gospel of John, a swipe at leaders of a local synagogue to which this group of Jesus-followers had belonged but from which they have been excluded, becomes in the hands of non-Jewish readers a basis for antisemitism. The critique of empire in Revelation, read by white conservative American Christians, becomes a bizarre end-times rapture theology that predicts their vindication. That last one is especially striking as we have witnessed how readily Evangelicals will declare allegiance and pay homage to a deceitful leader and trade core elements of the teaching of Jesus for access to the reigns of power. It also strikes me that the whole notion of the “rapture,” not found in the Bible, encapsulates the essence of privilege nicely: white middle class American Christians feel they can simply assume that when hardships confront the whole world, their treasure in heaven will ensure they are spared, just as their earthly treasure safeguards their comfort and distance from the hardships others face on earth.

 The above is precisely the burden of Gustavo Gutiérrez, as seen here: Gustavo Gutiérrez and the preferential option for the poor.

In the article by , “Christianity Today” Editorial Roils Evangelical Waters, December 23, 2019, there are these prescient words–much to the chagrin we read of majority white evangelical America:

Concluded [outgoing Christianity Today Editor Mark] Galli:

Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election — that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.

One thing that jumps out at me as a thread running through the reception history of so much of the Bible is the distortion of meaning that occurs when texts by the oppressed become the scriptures of the powerful.James F. McGrath

And this article January 30, 2020 by (Contributing writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPC) in The Atlantic: There Is No Christian Case for Trump: When faith is treated as an instrumentality, it’s bad for politics and worse for the Christian witness. We read:

In a lengthy rebuttal to the Christianity Today editorial, [noted Reformed theologian Wayne] Grudem offers an impassioned defense of Trump, something he also did in 2016, in a column titled “Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice.” Because Grudem carries considerable weight in certain evangelical quarters—to many, he’s an authoritative figure when it comes to biblical ethics—and because his position is representative of the views of many white evangelicals, it’s worth explaining why his case is ultimately unpersuasive.

What most stands out to me about Grudem’s case on behalf of Trump is that he is a near-perfect embodiment of an individual fully in the grip of confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. And in that sense, he is a near-perfect embodiment of some of the president’s most committed evangelical supporters.

In Grudem and those who think like him, you see astonishing intellectual, theological, and ethical contortions, all in the service of making Trump appear far better than he is. I have a hunch as to why: His supporters don’t want to struggle with the cognitive dissonance created by supporting a man who, if he were a liberal Democrat, they would savage on moral and ethical grounds.

I have observed firsthand that if you point out facts that run counter to their narrative, some significant number of the president’s supporters will eventually respond with indignation, feeling they have been wounded, disrespected, or unheard. The stronger the empirical case against what they believe, the more emotional energy they bring to their response. Underlying this is a deep sense of fear and the belief that they are facing an existential threat and, therefore, can’t concede any ground, lest they strengthen those they consider to be their enemies. This broader phenomenon I’m describing is not true of all Trump supporters, of course, and it is hardly confined to Trump supporters. But I would say that in our time, it is most pronounced among them.

I wish it were otherwise. When I started my Christian journey, at the end of high school, I never assumed that Christians would escape human foibles and human frailties. But I thought that faith would have more power, including more transformative power, than I have often witnessed, and that followers of Jesus would (imperfectly) allow a faith ethic to shape their understanding of things. That more than most, they would speak truth to power. Too often, they have denied truth in order to gain and keep power.

That isn’t to say I haven’t witnessed many lives that have been transformed by faith, including lives that have deeply touched and shaped my own. But neither can I deny what I have seen, which is that, especially in politics, the Christian faith is far too often subordinated to ideology, to tribalism, to dehumanizing those in the other tribe. Faith is an instrumentality, something to be weaponized. That’s bad for politics; it’s worse for the Christian witness.

In light of the above quote, this article dated February 11, 2021, is encouraging: Most black evangelicals say ‘people like them’ will gain influence under Biden, poll finds.

Please also take note of my commentary on an article (and the piece itself!) by , Truthout entitled: Jesus Was a Victim of Empire. Acknowledging This Should Transform Christianity.

excerpts:

With the White House in the background, Kelly Janowiak of Chicago prays with a conservative Christian evangelical group while holding a American flag, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, on a section of 16th Street renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, on the day before the U.S. election. “This is the most important election in history,” says Janowiak, who says she supports President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

But I thought that faith would have more power, including more transformative power, than I have often witnessed, and that followers of Jesus would (imperfectly) allow a faith ethic to shape their understanding of things. That more than most, they would speak truth to power. Too often, they have denied truth in order to gain and keep power.–

These voting patterns of white Christians stood in stark contrast to two other groups of voters: white voters who claim no religious affiliation and African-American voters. White voters who are religiously unaffiliated, for example, are half as likely as white Christians to vote for Trump (28 percent). And there is no group further away from white evangelical voting patterns than African Americans. While the exit polls don’t break out African Americans by religion, nine in 10 African Americans supported Biden; and eight in 10 African Americans identify as Christian. In a pre-election survey by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), of which I am the CEO, nine in 10 Black Protestants held an unfavourable view of Trump.

As I documented in my recent book White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, white Christianity plays a significant role in diminishing white Americans’ ability to acknowledge systemic racism. For example, in PRRI’s 2020 American Values Survey, 70 percent of white evangelicals, 58 percent of white Catholics, and 57 percent of white mainline Protestants believed that the killing of unarmed African Americans by police were isolated incidents rather than part of a pattern of how police treat African Americans. (Does this pattern seem familiar?) And those who hold those beliefs were overwhelmingly more likely to hold favourable views of Trump: 68 percent viewed him favourably, in contrast to just 12 percent among those who say there is a broader pattern of police violence against Black Americans. The denial of systemic racism — a cornerstone of white supremacy — and support for Trump walked hand in hand, and together they lead white Christians further away from their African-American brothers and sisters.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out, amid all the unsettling evidence of how white racial attitudes drove support for Trump, some complexities. My home state of Mississippi voted (71 percent to 29 percent) to adopt a new flag that, for the first time since 1894, did not include the Confederate battle flag. Notably, earlier this summer, none other than the Mississippi Baptist Convention (the state arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) called on the governor and legislature to take this action. On the same ballot, 59 percent of Mississippians, including 89 percent of Mississippi’s white evangelicals, declared their support for Trump.

Robert P. Jones is the CEO and Founder of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (Simon & Schuster, 2020)

Please click on: White Too Long

Footnotes
  1. As well, sexual assault is a widespread scourge. But one representative instance is this story of deceased apologist Ravi Zacharias: Ravi Zacharias committed ‘spiritual abuse,’ accused of ‘rape’: independent investigation.[]
  2. He continued:

    “I am grateful—grateful to God that for the last four years He gave us a president who protected our religious liberties; grateful for a president who defended the lives of the unborn, standing publicly against abortion and the bloody smear it has made on our nation,” stated Graham.

    “… grateful for a president who nominated conservative judges to the Supreme Court and to our federal courts; grateful for a president who built the strongest economy in 70 years with the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years before the pandemic; grateful for a president who strengthened and supported our military; grateful for a president who stood against “the swamp” and the corruption in Washington; grateful for a president who supported law and order and defended our police.”

    Graham went on to say that he believed

    “President Trump will go down in history as one of the great presidents of our nation, bringing peace and prosperity to millions here in the U.S. and around the world.”

    Such is the deranged universe “next door” in some far-off religious galaxy.[]

Dear White America – “History Has its Eye on You”

photo above: The quote is from The Talmud.

WN: The above from The Talmud echoes Micah 6:8, seen to the left. It in turn is picked up in Matthew 23:23, featuring Jesus’ indictment of the religious establishment of the day:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness1. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

The line below: “Failure to do so will stand as a moral indictment down through the ages.” draws attention to “Our Uncle Sam of Perpetual Indictment“–for the Original Sins of Slavery and Genocide . . .

While much of the rest of the Western world–so tied in economically to American Militarized Capitalism–watches and is beneficiary.

Ranky Tanky’s “Freedom” song is hopeful and powerful!

excerpts:

Another day — another Mother’s child dead, another mass shooting.  Just another day in America — no longer the  “land of the free and home of the brave.”

But then it never was.

Oh, there has been courage a plenty. We see just that in those who have fought for equality and justice down through the years.  And we ‘ve seen the cowardice, selfishness, willful ignorance and cruelty of those who fight back against what this Nation claims as its ideals — freedom and justice for all. 

Freedom is impossible without justice and far too many of us seem to be ok with that. We make constant excuses for the inexcusable, including blaming the victim.

“What was that child doing out at 3am with a gun?”

Oh, really?

Former police officer Derek Chauvin had use of force complaints before killing George Floyd, including shooting one suspect, involved in the fatal shooting of another, and receiving at least 17 complaints during his nearly two decades with the Minneapolis PD.

The police officer who murdered Tamir Rice had been found “unfit to serve” and dismissed from the Independence Police Department in Ohio, before he was hired by the Cleveland Police Department.

All of that was not enough to prevent another Ohio police department from hiring him. 

A piece by Issac Bailey in Greg’s APR  (Abbreviated Pundit Roundup) this morning should be mandatory reading.

Why should a cop’s blue fear matter more than my Black life?

…We’ve bathed our culture in so many guns that it is reasonable to wonder who is carrying one and what they plan to do with it. It’s not crazy for cops to assume a gun is present in every vehicle they stop, just as it’s not crazy for Black men to think they might become the next hashtag during a traffic stop because a cop was having a bad day or can’t tell the difference between a Taser and Glock.
We’ve sprung a trap on ourselves and can’t see our way out. Or maybe we don’t want to. But each side isn’t equally at fault. Any death is a tragedy, but police officers are rarely harmed or killed in traffic stops. Yet they have been told time and again to always be on guard, to always be afraid because they might — might — be a split second away from an event that will mean they won’t make it home that night. Never mind what Washington Post criminal justice reporter Radley Balko recently pointed out, that maybe 5 to 10 traffic stops end in an officer being killed — out of about 30 million annually.
While I understand a cop’s fear, it’s not the same as wondering if your kid might be killed after a cop decides to pull him over or because he was selling loose cigarettes on a street corner. Random violence is the scariest crime because there’s nothing you can do to avoid it, because you can’t anticipate it. We understand that when a young man shoots up a school or mall or movie theater. That’s what police violence has done to me. It’s why even though I’ve never been harmed by police, I can’t help but wonder if that’s gonna change by tomorrow….

Why indeed.

The piece, “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop” does a good job explaining just what happens in police departments. “Fear” is only part of it. Racism is another. Protecting the system at all costs, even human life — the fundamental guiding principle.

What has become blatantly apparent is that the police department motto of “To Protect and Serve” only serves itself, not the communities law enforcement claims to work for.

It’s not a few “bad apples” in law enforcement. It’s the system that enables and protects them.

No one should have to spend their days wondering if a loved one will die. No one should have to wonder if they are going to be next. There is no excuse for this. None. And yet this country has done just that to our Black fellow citizens for centuries.  It must stop.

The white citizenry of this country has a collective responsibility to do just that. Only we can end this country’s long history of injustice and cruelty.  Failure to do so will stand as a moral indictment down through the ages.

Please click on: Dear White America

Footnotes
  1. πίστιν (pistin)
    Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular
    Strong’s 4102: Faith, belief, trust, confidence; fidelity, faithfulness.[]
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