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Handling serpents at the Pentecostal Church of God. Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky Sept. 15, 1946. Pastor Eli Sanders, right, died from a snake bite suffered during the ritual use of snakes in September 1958.
This article has two topics. It expands on my recent writings on Gaza and Christian nationalism.
A path to Peace in Gaza
Peace in Palestine is possible and there is a group of people demonstrating that Palestinians and Israelis can work and live together in peace. Their organization is called “Combatants for Peace” (https://cfpeace.org). They show us that peace is possible and demonstrate what may be the only feasible path to peace.
Combatants for Peace began in 2006 and was founded by former fighters on both sides of the conflict. They believe all people can live in peace with dignity, justice, and liberty. Their mission is to “build the social infrastructure necessary for ending the conflict and the occupation”
They believe, “...such communities can serve as a role model for both people, demonstrating through action that there is a real alternative to the cycle of violence” (from their website). They use non-violent civil resistance, education, protest and “other creative means of activism” to “end discrimination and oppression of all people living on this land.”
The goal of Combatants for Peace is to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, return to the pre-1967 borders and implement the “two state” solution” or “any other just solution agreed upon in negotiations.”
This involves building a culture of peace. This is the socialization process that is a basic building block of all societies. But in too many countries – including our own – too many people are socialized into a culture of violence, division, hatred and dehumanizing of other people.
Christian fake morality
Rather than building a culture of peace, some people in our country are expanding a culture of religious bigotry. I discussed Christian nationalism last week in “Spiritual fruit not religious nuts.” Here are more comments on this topic.
An article in Christianity Today says, “Christian nationalism tends to treat other Americans as second-class citizens. If it were fully implemented, it would not respect the full religious liberty of all Americans. Empowering the state through “morals legislation” to regulate conduct always carries the risk of overreaching, setting a bad precedent, and creating governing powers that could be used later against Christians” (“What Is Christian Nationalism?” Paul D. Miller, February 3, 2021).
Amanda Tyler, an advocate for religious freedom with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty says, “I believe that the single biggest threat to religious freedom in the United States today is Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism is antithetical to the constitutional ideal that belonging in American society is not predicated on what faith one practices or whether someone is religious at all.”
Don't be turned off by their organization's name. They are Christians who actually practice what Christ preached (see https://bjconline.org).
Andrew Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry are scholars who have studied and written about Christian nationalists. The professors identify three characteristics of their thinking. First, they strongly favor traditional social relationships and hierarchies. Second, they prefer strong authoritarian leaders to defend the preferred social arrangements (using law, police powers and violence if necessary). Third, Christian nationalists exhibit strong prejudices toward ethnic, racial, religious and immigrant minorities.
These attitudes align Christian nationalists with far right politics and fascism. One of the identifying characteristics of fascism is the intermingling of the dominant religion with government. Fascist regimes claim to be defenders of faith against the “godless.” They use religion to maintain the power of corporate business interests and authoritarian political leadership.
This explains why Trump (who's behavior is obviously not Christian) and fundamentalist Christians have found common cause.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson models Christian nationalism. He has accused “liberals” of creating “a completely amoral society” in which young people are “taught there is no right and wrong.” He has urged a return to the “18th century values” of the “divinely inspired” founding fathers.
When asked what he believes – his political philosophy – he replied, “Well, go pick up a Bible ...and read it. That's my worldview."
All sacred texts are used by zealots to cherry pick content, make up what they want and give it all the blessing of the deity. When one examines the actual policy positions of Mike Johnson, especially his support for Donald Trump, it is pretty clear his “worldview” has little to do with Christian morality. He only “values” are maintaining the political power of far right conservatives in the Republican party. His simplistic beliefs are about the co-mingling of religion, authoritative political control and corporate business interests. It is about turning our country into a fascist dictatorship.
I think I'll pass on Mr. Johnson's fake Christian nationalism morality. I prefer the practical learning-to-live-together-in peace morality of the Jews and Muslims from Combatants for Peace. It is more Christian and better for all of us.
Two Corrections to the print edition of “We share the blame” from January 25th.
The Cost of War Project referred to is located at Brown University not Boston University as printed. Also the last two paragraphs of the article were accidentally cut off in the print edition. The ending is needed for the title to make sense. Here are the last three paragraphs with both corrections.
“Rather than military actions, the proper and more effective response to terrorist attacks should be criminal law enforcement. You arrest and prosecute the perpetrators in open court. By choosing war, the U.S. took the wrong approach following 9/11 and we are still fighting an unsuccessful “war on terror.” The Cost of War Project at Brown University estimates 4.6 million people have died directly or indirectly (disease, starvation, etc.) from the post 9/11 wars.
Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization and has committed crimes. But this does not justify Israel's actions in Gaza nor will this prevent future killing of Israeli citizens. Nor are we justified in supporting Israel to drive the Palestinians out of Palestine. We are clearly complicit in the crimes Israel is committing.
As Sara Thomsen says in her song: 'As the innocent die, you rulers carry the shame, And if we stand idly be, we share in the blame.'”