War on Christmas: Lock and Load

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Obama Administration

Sorry I’ve been absent; I’m hysterically busy these days. I’m cross-posting something I just wrote on my religion blog, so here’s something.

The Christmas television commercials preceded Halloween this year, and I see some of my neighbors have their Christmas decorations up already.

Yes, folks, the annual War on Christmas season has begun.

At Patheos, Zen teacher and Unitarian Universalist minister James Ford writes “Why I’m Afraid of Christians: Or the Briefest Meditation on Wishing Happy Holidays to All.”

There is something hanging in the back of my mind when living in a country dominated by a group of people who have an ideology that puts me at the moment of my death firmly into the fires of hell for, well, forever. And it’s hard not to be vaguely aware of how easy a step it is from seeing someone as firewood in the future to seeing one as killable in the present tense.

Of course, it isn’t the only example of this latent threat of violence. Politicians decrying that atheists can vote comes to mind, too. Pandering to the religious majority, with just a hint of violence in the air. Just a hint. And personally I don’t see much different in the historical rhetoric of jihad and crusade.

But the constant declarations today of people in the religious majority lamenting how they’ve been put upon by having to share space with people of other religions or none is the really scary thing. Violence against religious minorities is a once, and I see no reason to think not, a future thing.

How likely is it that reactionary Christians in the U.S. might become violent? Violence linked to religion is on the rise around the world, according to the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project. Is it possible religious violence might increase in the U.S. as well?

This may seem unlikely, but do see “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence” by Frederick Clarkson. Clarkson documents that there is indeed a large and well-connected subculture of extreme Christians in the U.S. who are calling for armed insurrection against the government. Some of these extremists are forging ties with the neo-confederate movement and forming paramilitary units.

As I wrote in Rethinking Religion, “religious” violence often is about something else and is just packaged as religion. What we’re seeing around the world is a lot of right-wing reactionism pushing back against cultural change and modernity generally, and for some reason right-wing reactionism these days likes to dress itself up as religion. Hence, a rise in what appears to be “religious” violence.

But there are two qualities found in most violent mass movements that need to be understood —

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both. — Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951)

I propose in Rethinking Religion that fervent belief in a holy cause — which doesn’t necessarily have to be religious — by itself doesn’t usually drive people into violence. A holy cause combined with a fanatical grievance, however, will do nicely. If you look at violent groups around the world today, I believe you will see they all harbor fanatical grievances. In their minds, they have been wronged and abused and are entitled to payback.

The last couple of posts, “’Religious Violence’ Isn’t Just Religious” and “The Christian Right’s Pitiful Rearguard Action” both discuss the way the U.S. religious Right cherishes a belief in its own martyrdom, and that holding them to the same anti-discrimination laws as everyone else amounts to discrimination against them. And this is what makes them dangerous. The stronger their sense of fanatical grievance, the more dangerous they are likely to become.

I’m not saying the U.S. religious Right is going to become as extremely dangerous as ISIS. The provocations are not quite so strong — we haven’t experienced war here since 1865, and have not suffered occupying foreign powers. But I think the threat they pose is real, and it’s a big reason their increasingly hysterical screams of martyrdom have me concerned.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 15, 2014 @12:05 pm

    Our rich and powerful conservatives will gladly use the Christianity tool in their toolbox – even if they’re not true believers themselves – if they see that it’ll gain them more, or complete, power in America.

    We have a lot to fear in the next few years.

    If a Republican President is elected, with a Republican Congress – and they already have a majority Republican SCOTUS – corporate conservatives and their politicians will gladly use the Christian rubes and loon’s as their foot soldiers and enforcers in what will be transformed into The Christian Theocratic Fascist Plutocratic/Oligarchical States of America.
    AKA – Pottersville.
    Or, better yet – The United States of Jesusland-Reaganville.

    People will be told that all of the changes and enforcement will be in service to God and country.
    No, not God as in Jesus’s Father as the rubes will be told – but Mammon in a robe with an American flagpin, holding the Bible in one hand, and the US Constitution in the other.

    The ISIS Barbarians are terrifying – but far from our gates.
    They are terrify to the American people – but especially the Christian rubes – because their religious extremism comes from a foreign religion.

    Our Christian Taliban members aren’t at the gates, but well inside, and have been since the Puritan times.
    They are equally as religiously extreme, but seem less terrifying to the people here because they are our good, Christian, church-going, neighbors.
    Hard working folks. A bit conservative and obsessed with their church, and a tad awkward socially, but basically, good ol’ Heartland Murkins!

    And, while many of them seem harmless – now – many of them aren’t, and are already actively working to make state bow down to church.
    There may be unwitting dupes among even those. But they may not be unwilling dupes, in what they see as a religious crusade.
    And the end result will be a complete reversal of everything this country was founded on, and has stood for.

    As proven in Russian, Germany, China, and Cambodia, etc., even the most banal unwitting dupes, if they are given the opportunity at a powerful position like an enforcer of order in the new status quo – whether it be to Lenin/Stalin/Hitler/Mao/Pol Pot, or of God’s and Jesus’s Laws – will be ruthless in the application of force in order to keep their superiors happy, and keep their positions of power.

    It takes a very brave person to turn down being a guard at the camp, when the alternative is to be a prisoner herded and guarded in the camp – as many Germans and Slavs found out during WWII.
    Most of the courageous people never survived those camps. And the less brave, the surviving guards, enforced the ruthless policies which killed them.

    Maybe this rhetoric of mine is all a tad overblown.
    And I certainly hope so.
    But look at the raving Christian loons on TV, listen to them on radio, talk to the people who go to their churches, or watch or listen to them, and then look at ambitious conservative sociopaths and psychopaths who are their Republican politicians, and the rich and powerful people who support them, and the cowardly, compliant, and complacent MSM, and tell me that what I described ‘can’t happen here.’

    If you believe that, you’re a hell of a lot more optimistic than I am.

    End of long ranting word-turd.
    Have a nice weekend – while you still can! 😉

  2. JDM  •  Nov 15, 2014 @1:13 pm

    Look at the vast majority of the terrorism plotted and committed in the USA. What religion is involved?

    A year or so ago I watched Cabaret for the first time. The scenes of Brownshirts, starting as roaming groups of thugs and building from there, struck me as being so close to what we’re seeing with open carry nuts, screamers at townhall meetings, etc. it’s a sad and scary thing to see in my country.

  3. moonbat  •  Nov 15, 2014 @2:24 pm

    Maybe because I live in a large blue state that’s exceptionally tolerant, and certainly because I enjoy going to communion at the large Catholic church around the corner (I am not Catholic), that I don’t see this as a big threat. Certainly the potential is there.

    This would change for me only when the authorities look the other way. When some Christian fanatic commits an act of violence and gets away with it. Before that, it’s certainly a concern, but nothing to lose sleep over.

    I am far more interested in the political ramifications of right wing oligarchs mobilizing masses of rubes to gain power. But violence from said rubes – not yet.

  4. erinyes  •  Nov 15, 2014 @2:38 pm

    The local authoritah and the FBI have recently busted and convicted members of a white supremicist group in lazy old Osceola county. That’s where I live. They were planning a full on race war, training with military weapons. The objects of their disaffection were Jews, Muslims, Hispanics in particular, and just non Christian non European folks in general. The ring master got 5 years in the grey bar hotel plus a long probation. Hope the door hits him in the ass. There are many more in these parts that don’t cotton to non whites, but they keep it under the radar. We have more than our share of neoconfederates; they like to festoon their trucks with the stars and bars…. pretty easy to pick out in a crowd.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 15, 2014 @3:35 pm

    I quickly wrote a little racist and homophobic Christmas poem – with many, many, apologies to Clement C. Moore!
    I hope some of you get a few laughs out of this – even if this commenting system ruins the formatting.
    But maha, if you find this offensive, you won’t hurt my feelings by deleting this.

    ‘Twas the night before Christmas,
    When all through the house
    Not a creature was stirring –
    We were getting ready to ambush some
    Secular humanist queer louse

    The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
    Because any movement would explode the IED’s there.

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    Listening to Rush’s children’s book on CD in their heads.

    And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my John Deere cap,
    Had just settled behind the couch on the right
    By our guns and our ammo.
    And some meth so we don’t fall into nap.
    With a bottle of Jack and a case of Bud Light –
    But we didn’t want to get too hammered.

    When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
    I sprang from the behind the couch to see what the fuck was the matter.
    Away to the window I flew like a flash,
    Tore open the aluminum shutters
    And threw up the lead sash.

    The moon on the NOT-a-breast of the new-fallen snow
    Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
    When, what to my watchful eyes should appear,
    But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

    With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
    I knew in a moment it must be a secular humanist dressed as St. Nick.
    More rapid than fake Bald Eagles his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and called them
    By their male fag stripper names;

    “Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
    On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!
    To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
    Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

    And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
    The prancing and pawing of each little gay hoof.
    As I drew a gun to my hand, and was turning around,
    Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

    He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
    And his face and his clothes were all tarnished with fake ashes and soot;
    A bundle full of something he had flung on his back,
    And he looked like a dirty Negro pedophile
    Waving his wrinkled nut-sack.

    His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
    Mascara and make-up will do that for a fairy.
    His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
    His droll little fag mouth was drawn up like a bow,
    And the carefully manicured beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

    The stump of a crack-pipe he held tight in his teeth,
    And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
    He had a broad face and a little round belly,
    That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

    He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
    But that didn’t fool me;
    The wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
    Quickly let me know we had SOMETHING to dread!

    To my wife I yelled, “You fire first
    And keep shooting ’til you’re sure that that fag’s dead!
    In he meantime, I’ll climb to the top of the roof,
    An’ blow away them queer deer
    With a bang and a poof!
    And later for Christmas dinner,
    We’ll enjoy venison stewed in beer!
    And then we’ll bury that fat black foof!”

    I sprang on the roof where I emptied three clips.
    And away they all fell!

    And then, laughing, at the top of my lungs I gave a yell:
    “Me ‘n the Mrs just killed us a secular fag queer!
    And he and his fake reindeer’s on their way to Hell.
    So, “THANK YOU, JESUS!” I want to hear
    From you ring like a bell!

    Now, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!
    All y’all all still have a Christmas,
    Thanks to those of us on the
    Good Christian Right!”

    And from then on, this story became known as “‘Twas the night before the last Christmas…”
    Thanks, Christian Right!

  6. pluky  •  Nov 15, 2014 @4:39 pm
  7. Bonnie  •  Nov 15, 2014 @5:13 pm

    Thanksgiving comes late this year, November 27. Christmas will be upon us so fast after that, most of us won’t be ready. That’s why I am completing all my Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving. I want to enjoy the Christmas season in a somewhat relaxed manner.

  8. grannyeagle  •  Nov 15, 2014 @5:30 pm

    Moonbat: I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood and one of my best friends was a Catholic. She told me once that if a non-Catholic ever attempted to receive communion, (s)he would be struck dead. Glad to see you are still here although if God reads this blog, you may be in trouble.

  9. moonbat  •  Nov 15, 2014 @6:29 pm

    @grannyeagle – yeah, one of my Catholic friend warned me about this (not the being struck dead part, just that the eucharist is exclusive for Catholics), although the priest at this particular church seems to be pretty open about it.

  10. Dan  •  Nov 15, 2014 @6:53 pm

    BEWARE the oppressors claiming oppressed status. No good can come from this.

  11. Swami  •  Nov 15, 2014 @8:19 pm

    although if God reads this blog, you may be in trouble.

    I do read this blog!

  12. erinyes  •  Nov 16, 2014 @10:59 am

    I never doubted your true identity, swami. Now that you’re out of the closet, so to speak, howabout some winning lotto numbers ?

  13. uncledad  •  Nov 16, 2014 @11:05 am

    “But I think the threat they pose is real, and it’s a big reason their increasingly hysterical screams of martyrdom have me concerned”

    I agree, also I can’t remember a time when the fanatics had such open and prevelant representation in the halls of goverment i.e Ted (anchor baby) Cruz, Gohlmert, Lee, Bachman and many more I just don’t care to think about this Sunday morning!

  14. Stephen Stralka  •  Nov 16, 2014 @3:26 pm

    I think the threat of violence is very real. Or, strictly speaking, the threat of more violence, since of course our reactionary Christians have already become violent.

    But I think that the association with white supremacists and neoconfederates will ultimately limit the damage that they can do. The more violent and radical our theocrats become, they more they tend to converge with the other violent movements on the far right. It’s the kind of thing where, if they’re not actually Nazis themselves, they’re way too comfortable with Nazis.

    So I don’t really see how they could keep their religious insurrection from turning into a race war. And then they would lose very badly.

  15. Doug  •  Nov 16, 2014 @6:20 pm

    I’m going off topic – but I found a VERY interesting article that untangles the federal budget in a concise way. We are (for example) spending 6 times as much on the military as we are for SNAP. Mandatory vs discretionary and what’s in each – the kind of factual information I frequently wish I had when I’m sure that a statement about federal priorities as exhibited by budgetary allocations is totally bogus.

    https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/

    I’m surprised to discover Swami is God – I always figured the Creator must be female.

  16. Swami  •  Nov 16, 2014 @11:23 pm

    Persecution is the glue that binds them.. It reminds me of a relationship I had with a girl some 40 odd years ago. We were two emotionally crippled kids who clung to one another in what would be described as an emotional dependence. She bought me a little Precious Moments placard that had the saying, You and me against the world written underneath the artwork. It kinda summed up the state of our unhealthy relationship.

  17. Doug  •  Nov 19, 2014 @10:13 pm

    I have long believed that ‘most’ Muslims have a non-radical view. And I have long believed that they are the only force that can ‘defeat’ radical Islam. Military strikes against the ‘leaders’ of radical factions give radical Islam martyrs – and they use the blood to fuel recruiting. How this will happen – moderate Muslim Imams speaking out against the violence and facing the violent response – I am not sure about. If they do not, they will be consumed by radical Islam – but like any religion, they are loathe to speak ill against their own publicly.

    I bring that up because <b.exactly the same dynamic exists in the US with radical Christians. I believe most Christian clergy want to do the right thing and they detest the hatred which radicals have cloaked with ‘Christianity’ that resembles nothing Christ taught. But like moderate Imams, the Christan hierarchy is loathe to call out their brothers of the cloth for the hateful rhetoric. It has to happen – the Christian radicals can only be stripped of their power by Christians familiar with the teachings of Christ.



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