Tag: conservatism
Horrified Evangelical Pastor Fights Back Against Trump's 'Christian' Nationalism

Horrified Evangelical Pastor Fights Back Against Trump's 'Christian' Nationalism

Although former President Donald Trump is by no means universally loved within Christianity and has his share of critics among Catholics and Mainline Protestants, he has been incredibly popular within a certain area of Christianity: far-right White fundamentalist evangelicals. That movement, which has been called the Christian Right or the Religious Right, has had a firm grip on the Republican Party since the early 1980s. And although Trump himself was raised Presbyterian, not evangelical, and is not known for being very religious, he was made a point of courting evangelicals.

One pastor who is critical of the relationship between Trump and the Christian Right is Caleb Campbell of the Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a report from the Globe & Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe, Campbell is trying to counter the Trump/MAGA influence on evangelicals.

“You can think of Donald Trump’s most faithful adherents as bigots or patriots, constitutional standard-bearers or deluded masses,” VanderKlippe writes in an article published on November 25. “Caleb Campbell likes to think of them as sheep that have gone astray. He has made it his work to lead them back…. Mr. Campbell’s introduction to the congregation of Trump came in a church, after fellow Christians suggested he attend what was described as a revival event organized by Turning Point.”

Turning Point is the pro-Trump group led by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk. Campbell told the Globe & Mail that when he first heard Kirk speaking at a MAGA/evangelical event, he was “absolutely terrified and horrified.”

“Mr. Kirk established Turning Point USA and, in 2021, TPUSA Faith, which organized some of the events Mr. Campbell attended,” VanderKlippe explains. “Mr. Kirk calls the separation of church and state a lie, saying ‘the church founded this country’ and, today, ‘has to rise up in every capacity.’ TPUSA Faith’s ambition is to gather and organize religious leaders, providing them with resources ‘to activate their congregations to fight for free people, free markets, free speech and limited government.’ Listening to that message left Mr. Campbell unsettled.”

Campbell describes Christian nationalism as “a mean-spirited, vulgar grab for power with violent rhetoric.”

“Mr. Campbell’s initial efforts to push back were not popular with his White, evangelical and suburban parishioners,” VanderKlippe notes. “His congregation shrank from 800 people to 300. He began to write a book about engaging the ‘mission field’ of new religious conservatism — and started to attract new congregants, whom he describes as ‘disheartened, if not disgusted, by the amalgamation of nationalism and Christianity.’”

VanderKlippe adds, “(Campbell) has fashioned a tool kit for winning back the souls from the Trump church. He begins by establishing personal trust, without which people tend to resist questioning their own beliefs. He encourages people to fast from media for two weeks. And he invites them to sit at a table with others who hold different views to discuss hot-button issues such as immigration.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Destroying Conservatism Will Be Marjorie Taylor Greene's Only Achievement

Destroying Conservatism Will Be Marjorie Taylor Greene's Only Achievement

With their cowardly refusal to discipline Marjorie Taylor Greene, the retreat from integrity of the House Republicans is now complete. Only under the threat of sanctions against Greene by House Democrats did Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) even pretend to address the Georgia representative's many offenses against decency, comity, and sanity. And when the Republican caucus met behind closed doors, McCarthy's weak leadership allowed Greene to take over the meeting, which reportedly concluded in applause for her.

What were the Republicans applauding? The gun-toting Greene has not apologized for any of her endorsements of violence, including those spittle-flecked threats to assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She hasn't withdrawn any of her racist slurs against Blacks and Muslims, or her gutter excursions into anti-Semitic fantasy. Only under duress has Greene admitted the reality of the 9/11 attack and the school shootings upon which she had cast paranoid doubt, after inflicting renewed grief on the families of the dead. She didn't apologize to them, either.

Behind closed doors, Greene reportedly told her Republican colleagues that she is sorry for embarrassing them. Her alibi was that she was drawn to QAnon only because she was suffering a "dark period" in her life. Yet that too was a lie. She praised the conspiracy cult on Twitter as recently as December 4.

So this wretched character deserves to be booted off the prestigious budget and education committee assignments that McCarthy had unaccountably awarded her. But with little intellectual aptitude and no interest in policy, she will hardly suffer from that sanction. Instead she now gloats that all the attention to her baneful idiocies is elevating her profile, a boast that is surely accurate. She will bask in attention – and rake in money – from the aggrieved bigots for whom she stands.

There can be no doubt that Greene and others like her pose a continuing threat to democracy, as they proved with bloody ferocity on January 6. In their psychotic fantasies -- as she hinted in her own social media posts -- they would exterminate every Democrat and liberal in America, because "freedom" is only for them and nobody else.

But what these violent extremists are much more likely to destroy is conservatism.

In one of her many defiant public rebukes to her critics, Greene wrote that Pelosi persecutes her because she is "a Christian" and "a conservative." Obviously her brutal style does no credit to Christianity, but it is conservatives who should worry more about her claim to being one of them.

At their best, conservatives are supposed to defend American institutions and values. They are supposed to believe in civility, protocol, manners, and traditional standards. The conservative instinct is to reject excess and uphold personal responsibility. They valued reason and logic over maddening emotion. Or at least those were the things they believed about themselves.

In recent decades, however, that venerable sort of conservatism has increasingly given way to a coarser and uglier version, which is now epitomized by Trump and his followers such as Greene. If she is a conservative, with her crazy theories about a Jewish space laser and her stupid prejudices, then conservatism is intellectually bankrupt and merely a political scrim for fascism.

This was the same danger perceived by William F. Buckley, the framer of modern conservatism, when he sought to isolate the authoritarian and conspiratorial John Birch Society from his movement. With its wild accusations against Dwight Eisenhower and its hatred of democracy, he knew that the society would poison conservatism in its cradle.

Some Republicans, notably including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of Senators and Representatives, seem to recognize this peril. The question is whether they have the courage and energy for a sustained fight against it.

States That Voted Against Obama Receive The Most Funding From His Administration

States That Voted Against Obama Receive The Most Funding From His Administration

Published with permission from AlterNet.

The cognitive dissonance and brazen hypocrisy that permeates the Republican Party appears to be the only thing that trickles down to the people.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently found that states which voted against President Obama twice are actually big-gumint takers. While the elected governments of red states perpetually tout austerity measures and use bumper-sticker platitudes like “pull yourselves up by the bootstraps” (or eat them for sustenance), the attitudes of voters at the voting booth and their state legislatures don’t actually reflect this sentiment.

Synthesizing the report, the Hill pointed out that, “the average state that voted against Obama twice relied on federal funding for an average of 33.8 percent of its budget.” Conversely, it seems states that voted twice for President Obama made up “29.9 percent of the average state budget,” according to the report.

The states that sucked off Uncle Sugar the most just so happen to be the most virulently anti-Obama. Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Georgia all received more than 30 percent of their budgets from federal grants in 2014. Not surprisingly, all of these states voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Said the Hill: “Republican states rely more heavily on federal dollars as a share of their budgets than do more Democratic states, largely because Southern states, especially, are more likely to have a higher percentage of residents living in poverty.”

In an effort to make hypocrisy an Olympic sport, it seems that one-third of federal dollars went to Social Security. Republicans have been trying to gut the program for years. Yet the states that voted for Obama, including Virginia, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Nevada, all rely on government money the least, with less than a quarter of their state revenue coming from the federal government.

Michael Hayne is a progressive comedian, writer and voice artist. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook or visit ImpressionsGuy.com.

The cognitive dissonance and brazen hypocrisy that permeates the Republican Party appears to be the only thing that trickles down to the people.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently found that states which voted against President Obama twice are actually big-gumint takers. While the elected governments of red states perpetually tout austerity measures and use bumper-sticker platitudes like “pull yourselves up by the bootstraps” (or eat them for sustenance), the attitudes of voters at the voting booth and their state legislatures don’t actually reflect this sentiment.

Synthesizing the report, the Hill pointed out that, “the average state that voted against Obama twice relied on federal funding for an average of 33.8 percent of its budget.” Conversely, it seems states that voted twice for President Obama made up “29.9 percent of the average state budget,” according to the report.

The states that sucked off Uncle Sugar the most just so happen to be the most virulently anti-Obama. Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Georgia all received more than 30 percent of their budgets from federal grants in 2014. Not surprisingly, all of these states voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Said the Hill: “Republican states rely more heavily on federal dollars as a share of their budgets than do more Democratic states, largely because Southern states, especially, are more likely to have a higher percentage of residents living in poverty.”

In an effort to make hypocrisy an Olympic sport, it seems that one-third of federal dollars went to Social Security. Republicans have been trying to gut the program for years. Yet the states that voted for Obama, including Virginia, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Nevada, all rely on government money the least, with less than a quarter of their state revenue coming from the federal government.

Photo: U.S. currency notes are seen in a counting machine at a moneychanger in Jakarta, March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Beawiharta 
Progressive Patriotism — Not An Oxymoron

Progressive Patriotism — Not An Oxymoron

Published with permission from Alternet

July 4 is an occasion for Americans to express their patriotism. But the ways we do so are as diverse as our nation.

To some, patriotism means “my country—right or wrong.” To others, it means loyalty to a set of principles, and thus requires dissent and criticism when those in power violate those standards. One version of patriotism suggests “Love it or leave it.” The other version means “Love it and fix it.”

Former President George W. Bush questioned the patriotism of anyone who challenged his war on terrorism. In his 2001 State of the Union address, for example, Bush claimed, “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.” He introduced the Patriot Act to codify this view, giving the government new powers to suppress dissent. (The anti-war movement countered with bumper stickers illustrated with an American flag that proclaimed “Peace is Patriotic.”)

In contrast, President Barack Obama has said: “I have no doubt that, in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.” He observed that, “Loving your country shouldn’t just mean watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. Loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it. If you do, your life will be richer, our country will be stronger.” He was echoing the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, who declared, in a speech during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, “the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.”

After his followers began chanting “Build that Wall” at a rally last month in Tampa, Donald Trump interrupted his speech and gave a bear hug to an American flag on the stage behind him—apparently as a way to demonstrate his patriotism. (Note: You can see a priceless image of the cringeworthy embrace here.)

Displaying the flag—on one’s house, business, or car, even on coffee mugs, clothing, and tattoos— is a traditional way for people to voice their love of country. Jodi Goglio, chief operating officer at Eder Flag Manufacturing Co. in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, reports that the firm is having a banner year. Sales are up 15% from a year ago, in part because this is a national election year and political events need flags.

Ironically, about 6% of all American flags sold in the U.S. are made in China. Surely Trump, who wants to “make America great again” and “bring jobs home” would support legislation requiring that all American flags be manufactured in this country. But that would conflict with Trump’s own business practices. The entire Donald J. Trump Collection of clothing—including men’s dress shirts, suits, ties and accessories—is made in factories overseas, mostly in China, Bangladesh, and Central America, to take advantage of cheap labor.  What kind of patriotism is that?

Trump follows in the tradition of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, America’s largest corporation, who promoted the motto “Buy American.” But today the retail giant, now owned by his heirs, imports most of its merchandise from Asia, much of it made under inhumane sweatshop conditions

Progressives understand that people can disagree with their government and still love their country and its ideals. The flag, as a symbol of the nation, is not owned by the administration in power, but by the people. We battle over what it means, but all Americans—across the political spectrum—have an equal right to claim the flag as their own.

Indeed, throughout U.S. history, many American radicals and progressive reformers have proudly asserted their patriotism. To them, America stood for basic democratic values—economic and social equality, mass participation in politics, free speech and civil liberties, elimination of the second-class citizenship of women and racial minorities, a welcome mat for the world’s oppressed people. The reality of corporate power, right-wing xenophobia, and social injustice only fueled progressives’ allegiance to these principles and the struggle to achieve them.

Most Americans are unaware that much of our patriotic culture—including many of the leading symbols and songs—was created by people with decidedly progressive sympathies.

For example, the Pledge of Allegiance was authored and promoted by Rev. Francis Bellamy, a leading Christian socialist. Bellamy penned the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America by promoting use of the flag in public schools.

It was the Gilded Age, an era of major political and social conflict. Reformers were outraged by the widening gap between rich and poor, and the behavior of corporate robber barons who were exploiting workers, gouging consumers, and corrupting politics with their money. Workers were organizing unions. Farmers joined forces in the Populist movement to leash the power of banks, railroads, and utility companies. Progressive reformers fought for child labor laws, against slum housing, and in favor of women’s suffrage. Radicals were gaining new converts.

In foreign affairs, Americans were battling over the nation’s role in the world. America was beginning to act like an imperial power, justifying its expansion with a combination of white supremacy, manifest destiny, and spreading democracy. At the time, nativist groups in the North and Midwest as well as the South were pushing for restrictions on immigrants—Catholics, Jews, and Asians—deemed to be polluting Protestant America. In the South, the outcome of the Civil War still inflamed regional passions. Many Southerners, including Civil War veterans, swore allegiance to the Confederate flag.

Bellamy (cousin of best-selling radical writer Edward Bellamy) believed that unbridled capitalism, materialism, and individualism betrayed America’s promise. He hoped the Pledge of Allegiance would promote a different moral vision to counter the rampant greed he thought was undermining the nation. Bellamy initially intended to use the phrase “liberty, fraternity and equality,” but concluded that the radical rhetoric of the French Revolution wouldn’t sit well with many Americans. So he coined the phrase, “one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” intending it to express a more egalitarian vision of America, a secular patriotism to help unite a divided nation.

Or consider the lines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Emma Lazarus was a poet of considerable reputation in her day, who was a strong supporter of Henry George and his “socialistic” single-tax program, and a friend of William Morris, a leading British socialist. Her welcome to the “wretched refuse” of the earth, written in 1883, was an effort to project an inclusive and egalitarian definition of the American Dream.

And there was Katharine Lee Bates, a professor of English at Wellesley College. Bates was an accomplished and published poet, whose book America the Beautiful and Other Poems includes a sequence of poems expressing outrage at U.S. imperialism in the Philippines. A member of progressive-reform circles in the Boston area, concerned about labor rights, urban slums and women’s suffrage, an ardent feminist, for decades she lived with and loved her Wellesley colleague Katharine Coman, an economist and social activist.

“America the Beautiful,” written in 1893, not only speaks to the beauty of the American continent but also reflects her view that U.S. imperialism undermines the nation’s core values of freedom and liberty. The poem’s final words—”and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea”—are an appeal for social justice rather than the pursuit of wealth.

In the Depression years and during World War II, the fusion of populist, egalitarian and anti-racist values with patriotic expression reached full flower.

Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America Be America Again,” written in 1936, contrasted the nation’s promise with its mistreatment of his fellow African-Americans, the poor, Native Americans, workers, farmers and immigrants:

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath

But opportunity is real, and life is free

Equality is in the air we breathe.

In 1939, composer Earl Robinson teamed with lyricist John La Touche to write “Ballad for Americans,” which was performed on the CBS radio network by Paul Robeson, accompanied by chorus and orchestra. This 11-minute cantata provided a musical review of American history, depicted as a struggle between the “nobody who’s everybody” and an elite that fails to understand the real, democratic essence of America.

Robeson, at the time one of the best-known performers on the world stage, became, through this work, a voice of America. Broadcasts and recordings of “Ballad for Americans” (by Bing Crosby as well as Robeson) were immensely popular. In the summer of 1940, it was performed at the national conventions of both the Republican and Communist parties. The work soon became a staple in school choral performances, but it was literally ripped out of many public school songbooks after Robinson and Robeson were identified with the radical left and blacklisted during the McCarthy period. Since then, however, “Ballad for Americans” has been periodically revived, notably during the bicentennial celebration in 1976, when a number of pop and country singers performed it in concerts and on TV.

Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “A Lincoln Portrait,” both written in 1942, are now patriotic musical standards, regularly performed at major civic events. Few Americans know that Copland was a member of a radical composers’ group.

Many Americans consider Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land Is Your Land,” penned in 1940, to be our unofficial national anthem. Guthrie, a radical, was inspired to write the song as an answer to Irving Berlin’s popular “God Bless America,” which he thought failed to recognize that it was the “people” to whom America belonged.

The words to “This Land Is Your Land” reflect Guthrie’s assumption that patriotism and support for the underdog were interconnected. In this song, Guthrie celebrated America’s natural beauty and bounty, but criticized the country for its failure to share its riches. This is reflected in the song’s last and least-known verse, which Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen included when they performed the song in January 2009 at a pre-inaugural concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial, with President-elect Obama in the audience:

One bright sunny morning;

In the shadow of the steeple;

By the relief office;

I saw my people.

 As they stood hungry;

I stood there wondering;

If this land was made for you and me.

During the 1960s, American progressives continued to seek ways to fuse their love of country with their opposition to the government’s policies. The March on Washington in 1963 gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. famously quoted the words to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” repeating the phrase “Let freedom ring” 11 times.

Phil Ochs, then part of a new generation of politically conscious singer-songwriters who emerged during the 1960s, wrote an anthem in the Guthrie vein, “The Power and the Glory,” that coupled love of country with a strong plea for justice and equality. The words to the chorus echo the sentiments of the anti-Vietnam War movement:

Here is a land full of power and glory;

 Beauty that words cannot recall;

 Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom;

Her glory shall rest on us all.

One of its stanzas updated Guthrie’s combination of outrage and patriotism:

Yet she’s only as rich as the poorest of her poor;

 Only as free as the padlocked prison door;

 Only as strong as our love for this land;

 Only as tall as we stand.

This song later became part of the repertoire of the U.S. Army band.

And in 1968, in a famous anti-war speech, Norman Thomas, the aging leader of the Socialist Party, proclaimed, “I come to cleanse the American flag, not burn it.”

In recent decades, Bruce Springsteen has most closely followed in the Guthrie tradition. From “Born in the USA,” to his songs about Tom Joad (the militant protagonist in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath), to his anthem about the 9/11 tragedy (“Empty Sky”), to his album Wrecking Ball (including its opening song, “We Take Care of Our Own”), Springsteen has championed the downtrodden while challenging America to live up to its ideals.

Steve (“Little Stevie”) Van Zandt is best known as the guitarist with Springsteen’s E Street Band and for his role as Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano’s sidekick on the TV show, “The Sopranos.” But his most enduring legacy should be his love song about America, “I Am a Patriot,” including these lyrics:

I am a patriot, and I love my country;

Because my country is all I know.

 Wanna be with my family;

People who understand me;

 I got no place else to go.

And I ain’t no communist,

And I ain’t no socialist,

And I ain’t no capitalist,

And I ain’t no imperialist,

 And I ain’t no Democrat,

Sure ain’t no Republican either,

I only know one party,

And that is freedom.

Since the American Revolution, each generation of progressives has expressed an American patriotism rooted in democratic values that challenged jingoism and “my country—right or wrong” thinking. They rejected blind nationalism, militaristic drum beating, and sheep-like conformism.

Throughout the United States’ history, they have viewed their movements—abolition of slavery, farmers’ populism, women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, civil rights, environmentalism, gay rights, and others—as profoundly patriotic. They believed that America’s core claims—fairness, equality, freedom, justice—were their own.

America now confronts a new version of the Gilded Age, brought upon by Wall Street greed and corporate malfeasance. In the midst of a recession, the gap between rich and poor is still widening. Although the economy has improved in recent years, Americans are feeling more economically insecure than at any time since the Depression. They are upset by the unbridled selfishness and political influence-peddling demonstrated by banks, oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies, and other large corporations. They are angry at the growing power of American-based global firms who show no loyalty to their country, outsource jobs to low-wage countries, avoid paying taxes, and pollute the environment.

We are, once again, battling over immigration and who belongs in America. Some right-wing groups and talk-show pundits, calling themselves patriots, have even challenged the citizenship of our president.

These trends have triggered a growing grassroots movement—reflected by Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for 15, the Dreamers, Black Lives Matter, and others—involving a diverse coalition of community groups, immigrant rights organizations, unions, consumer advocates, and human rights activists—demanding stronger regulations to protect consumers, workers, and the environment from abusive corporations, living wages, fairer trade, an end to police abuse and mass incarceration, and higher taxes on the very rich to pay for better schools, safer roads, and student loans.

This movement, which embodies the idea of “liberty and justice for all,” reflects America’s tradition of progressive patriotism. It recognizes that conservatives have never had a monopoly on Old Glory.

Happy July 4th.

 

Peter Dreier teaches politics at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books). Dick Flacks, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, is the author of Making History: The American Left and the American Mind. His weekly radio show, Culture of Protest, streams at6 pm (PT) at www.kcsb.org.

Photo: A giant American flag hangs from the West tower of the George Washington Bridge in between New York and New Jersey ahead of the U.S.-Germany 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match June 26, 2014.  REUTER/Mike Segar