« Who's "You?" | Main | Imus=Jesus. Or is it Socrates? Nah, Joan of Arc. »

April 16, 2007

Holy Hell

Via Digs, Addie Stan reports from the annual Reclaiming America for Christ Conference, where Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said:

Noting that the call to prayer is “broadcast” five times a day while “Christians have a hard time getting a manger scene put up one time a year,” Perkins asked, “How is it that in our nation where Muslims account for about 6 million of the 300 million living in this country, and Christians comprise 100 million, that Muslims can control the public policy and we cannot? I suggest to you that it is because Christians have become apathetic to our role in shaping the policy in our nation, and it could have deadly consequences, not only for the unborn, but for the living as well.”

That's genuinely scary rhetoric, not least because it illuminates a persecution complex so profound, so distorting, that the speaker can only have the most tenuous connection to the reality any of us inhabit. And Perkins isn't some lone nut who somehow wrested a microphone. The Family Research Council is a multimillion lobbying organization stated by James Dobson, and Perkins has turned it, and himself, into serious players. They were the primary sponsors behind Justice Sunday, which reached 61 million homes, and Perkins was the behind-the-scenes advisor to Tom DeLay and Bill Frist during the Schiavo saga. And even with that, even as he's whispered in the ear of Speakers and Senate majority leaders, he thinks, or is willing to say, that Muslims control the nation's policy agenda, and Christians are locked outside, pleadingly looking in. All the better for fundraising, I guess.

April 16, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

All the better for fundraising, I guess.

Exactly. Offerings are always better if taken at the end of a real "fire and brimstone" sermon.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 16, 2007 10:10:56 AM

only 100 million christians?

that seems low

I guess hes just being a fundie douchebag, but what else should I expect...

Posted by: Sandals | Apr 16, 2007 10:22:28 AM

Many organizations resort to scare tactics to keep the troops energized, committed, and keep the money rolling in. The "christians are being persecuted" line is a great fundraiser. Someone said that to me a few years ago and I had to remind them that the entire federal government was being run by the people connected the the Christian right. Also the NRA is always talking about how the government is planning to confiscate all private firearms. Of course, a donation to the NRA will help prevent that. Some leftist groups also do this for fundraising, but they tend to exaggerate rather than outright lie.

Posted by: MarvyT | Apr 16, 2007 10:30:39 AM

The philosophy here is that Islam = Atheism = secularism = separation of church and state = Satan. You're either with the Christian God, or you're with Satan. If you don't proclaim the Christian God to be the guiding spirit of the US government, then you've decreased God's influence and increased Satan's influence.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Apr 16, 2007 10:40:59 AM

I guess Muslims are the New Jews.

Posted by: nolo | Apr 16, 2007 10:49:55 AM

No, Jewish = Christian. The Jews are on God's side as far as turning Israel into a Jewish state where the Jews can then be destroyed by God so that Armageddon can occur.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Apr 16, 2007 10:52:38 AM

Cryptic Ned, I meant "New Jews" in the sense of bogus accusations of being behind worldwide conspiracies to run everything.

Posted by: nolo | Apr 16, 2007 11:02:35 AM

If Wikipedia is to be replied on, they cite the US as having just short of 80% of the population self-identifying as Christian of one flavor or another, and yet somehow in these peoples' minds, they are a persecuted minority.

It's amazing, the chutzpah those people have.

Posted by: fiat lux | Apr 16, 2007 11:03:34 AM

If Wikipedia is to be replied on, they cite the US as having just short of 80% of the population self-identifying as Christian of one flavor or another, and yet somehow in these peoples' minds, they are a persecuted minority.

It's amazing, the chutzpah those people have.

Posted by: fiat lux | Apr 16, 2007 11:05:48 AM

"Christians have a hard time getting a manger scene put up one time a year,” Perkins asked, “How is it that in our nation where Muslims account for about 6 million of the 300 million living in this country, and Christians comprise 100 million, that Muslims can control the public policy and we cannot?"

These people have a really big problem distinguishing between government endorsement and free expression. You'd think that they might notice that nobody has banned their hideously tacky giant statues of Jesus or Bible-holding statues of liberty. Or that Christian TV radio stations broadcast calls to prayer (and to donate money) a lot more than five times a day.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Apr 16, 2007 11:05:55 AM

Whoops, sorry for the double post.

Posted by: fiat lux | Apr 16, 2007 11:06:47 AM

I think Tony Perkins is definitely being intellectually dishonest when he say Muslims are controling this country's public policies.

In a sense, they are. We are engaged overseas in drawn out wars in two countries, and have tenuous at best relationship with the majority of other predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. So of course a lot of the talk of the day, foreign policy considerations, etc. will be focused on how Muslims are going to react, etc.

The way Perkins frames the issue, it's as it he thinks a majority of Congress are practicing Muslims and are passing laws left and right to ban Christian prayer altogether and mandate 5 breaks a day for prayer to Allah in public schools.

It's very frustrating to know that his flock will largely believe him and continue to feel persecuted even as they continue to work for legislation to oppress those who do not toe their church's moral code (ie. homosexuality, abortion, abstinence-only sex ed.)

Posted by: Adam | Apr 16, 2007 11:28:05 AM

These people have a really big problem distinguishing between government endorsement and free expression.

Again, what they see is a government that is either on the side of God, or on the side of Satan. If it's on the side of God, then Christianity is the official religion and others may not be outlawed but they will certainly be disrespected and discriminated against. Currently the government is on the side of Satan, as can be seen by the official government religion of secularism, which because it isn't the worship of God, must be the worship of whatever alternatives to God exist, presumably Satan - with Islam and atheism being subsets of this.

The idea of having a government that is religiously neutral is impossible for these people to imagine. Sort of like how lots of Muslims in Muslim countries see it as impossible to live a true Muslim existence in a nation that is not built around Islam.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Apr 16, 2007 11:38:53 AM

A big, big part of Christian identity is persecution. And not just for The Crazies. The first few centuries of the religion was one bloody persecution after the other, and martydom is still a powerful image in a number of denominations (even the mainstream Protestants and Catholics). But most of us have the intellectual capacity to see the stories of persecution and martydom as allegorical to our everyday struggles to live up to the precepts of our faith. The Crazies just see them as violent, porny stories that hit the same nerve as Red Dawn and so they feel left out because they aren't really persecuted. So they make shit up. Like Mr. Perkins here. Because that's what small people do. Like that guy at work that brags about the girls he picks up, and you know he's full of it, but that dude thinks that's what real men do and if he doesn't he feels left out. Same thing.

Posted by: justin | Apr 16, 2007 12:02:16 PM

You know, if it weren't for the oppression, Christian churches would have a call to worship too. They could build towers, hang bells, and ring them on Sunday to call the faithful.

But the atheist Federal gov't won't allow that, curse them.

Posted by: M. Peachbush | Apr 16, 2007 12:18:18 PM

That's genuinely scary rhetoric, not least because it illuminates a persecution complex so profound, so distorting, that the speaker can only have the most tenuous connection to the reality any of us inhabit.

Not so scary to me. He is no doubt exaggerating and scaremongering, and he probably buys his own line, but I suspect he can still drive a car safely and knows what year it is. Some who throw up their arms in horror about this kind are doing much the same thing, exaggerating and scaremongering. Some Christians feel like some white males, set upon by all the minorities. There's often a germ of truth in their worries, and they get paranoid about it. But not quite so profoundly or dangerously as some make out.

Posted by: Sanpete | Apr 16, 2007 12:28:45 PM

Sort of like how lots of Muslims in Muslim countries see it as impossible to live a true Muslim existence in a nation that is not built around Islam. - Cryptic Ned

And that's exactly what the Christian Fundies want here, as they are stating -- they want Christianity to have the same position in our society that Islam has in many Islamic countries. In a sense, Perkins' is admitting to being envious of the Muslims: in countries where Muslims are a majority, they get to rub their religion in everybody's face while religious minorities are expected to keep to themselves. And that's exactly what Perkins, et al., want here -- they want the rest of us to be treated as "Dhimmis" (hence their obsession with that idea).

To them, that this country is majority Christian and Christians don't have the same state support that Muslims in majority Muslim countries get is a sure sign that our state must be keeping Christians down, because otherwise, in "the natural course of things", they'd get to rule the roost. These people truly don't understand our Constitutional system of government. Don't they teach civics in fundie schools?

Posted by: DAS | Apr 16, 2007 12:50:07 PM

A big, big part of Christian identity is persecution. And not just for The Crazies.

And not just because of historical persecution in the first few centuries, as you put it. It's in the Sermon on the Mount itself: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets before you."

Reading the New Testament gives you a real feeling that if you're not being persecuted, you're not doing Christianity right. If Christianity is important to you, then, there's a powerful need to invent persecutors, even when it's patently ridiculous, like in today's America.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Apr 16, 2007 1:01:19 PM

Actually, the real germ in Perkins' thinking came a bit later in his presentation when he began celebrating the biblical example of Phineas. Anyone interested in the ramifications of this ought to visit Klanwatch and do a search for "Phineas priesthood." What you'll find will be quite eye opening.

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Apr 16, 2007 1:03:13 PM

Sanpete,

The importance of this thing isn't if Perkins is a responsible citizen in his private life, it's if his rhetoric establishes a groundwork for rationalizing collective violence against a minority community. Which it most definately does.

The myth of Christian persecution, IMHO, stems largely from the feeling of being alone and out of control as a group, when in fact it is more accurate to protray modern evangelicals as one subculture within a pluralist society. The problem is that they are a subculture at war with the very idea of pluralism.

The question becomes how long before that sense of aggrievedness is stoked so hot that people take violent actions. And at that point it is very much the demagouges like Perkins who will have blood on their hands.

Posted by: chimneyswift | Apr 16, 2007 1:03:42 PM

And that's exactly what the Christian Fundies want here, as they are stating -- they want Christianity to have the same position in our society that Islam has in many Islamic countries.

Very few Christian fundamentalists in this country want this.

The importance of this thing isn't if Perkins is a responsible citizen in his private life, it's if his rhetoric establishes a groundwork for rationalizing collective violence against a minority community. Which it most definately does.

It's stupid to appeal to Phineas for that and other reasons, but Perkins explicitly rules out violence, and I don't see any great danger of it.

Let's try not to exaggerate the facts or the importance of this.

Posted by: Sanpete | Apr 16, 2007 1:26:19 PM

The claim that the U.S., population-wise, is only about a third Christian is quite interesting (and meshes oddly with the claim that this is a "Christian Nation"). Of course, the % of Americans who identify as Christian is well over twice that, iirc - but it all becomes clear once one thinks of recent polls on political and social issues. For Perkins, Christian = wingnut.

Ok, a bit of snark, but presumably he is defining "real" Christians extremely restrictively - born again, biblical inerrency, etc. No doubt Billy Donahue will start yellin' about this latest outbreak of anti-Catholicism (not real Christians) any minute now . . ..

Sanpete - even if not outright violence, legislation, de facto discrimination, etc.

Posted by: Dan S. | Apr 16, 2007 1:37:27 PM

even if not outright violence, legislation, de facto discrimination, etc.

Legislation is a very minor risk. Discrimination is a real problem.

Posted by: Sanpete | Apr 16, 2007 1:55:39 PM

I should have suggested googling Phineas Priesthood since that would have provided a plethora of links.

From the Christian Century:

The Phineas Priesthood is seen as a highly dangerous credo of violence--a powerful combination of religious zealotry, racist ideology and almost-foolproof tactics. Less an organization than a call to action and a badge of honor, this blood-stained faith urges it followers to live up to the example of Phineas, who killed an Israelite and his heathen wife with a javelin for violating God's prohibition against consorting with women not of the Chosen People.

From Wikipedia:

The Phineas Priesthood is a Christian Identity movement that opposes interracial intercourse, mixing of races, homosexuality and abortion. It is also marked by its anti-Semitism, anti-multiculturalism, and opposition to taxation. It is not considered an organization, because it is not led by a governing body, there are no gatherings, and there is no membership process. One becomes a Phineas Priest by simply adopting the beliefs of the Priesthood, and acting upon those beliefs. Women are not generally permitted to become members. Members of the Priesthood are often considered terrorists for, inter alia, planning to blow up FBI buildings, abortion clinic bombings, and bank robberies.

The Phineas Priesthood took the name after the Israelite priest Phinehas, grand-son of Aaron. Phineas killed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman during intercourse, sticking a spear through the two. In the Bible, Phineas is commended for having stopped Israel's fall to idolatric practices brought in by Midianite women. Today, members of the Phineas Priesthood use this deed as a justification for using violent means against interracial relationships and other forms of alleged immorality.

The origin of the term appears to sit with author, Richard Kelly Hoskins who intruduced the name and concept in his 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom.

From the Anti-Defamation League:

* Letters left at the scene of an April 1996 bank robbery in Spokane, Washington, contained Identity propaganda, diatribes against the banking system and were signed with the symbol of the "Phineas Priesthood." The three men arrested, Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell, were linked to white supremacist and "Identity" groups and were also charged with setting off bombs at a newspaper office and a Planned Parenthood clinic. All three were convicted.

* In 1994 and 1995, the Aryan Republican Army (ARA) robbed 22 banks in seven Midwestern states in order to finance white supremacist causes and overthrow the U.S. government. Following their arrest, the FBI found a video in which ARA’s leader, Peter Langan, rants at length about the gang’s plans to "take over the U.S.A." and encourages like-minded extremists to kill law-enforcement agents. The video also promotes Hoskins’ Vigilantes of Christendom.

* Paul Hill, the anti-abortion activist, was convicted of murdering Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort outside a Pensacola, Florida, abortion clinic in 1994. Hill had written an essay advocating the commission of "Phineas actions" a year before.

* Hoskins’ writings drew public attention in October 1991, when prosecutors in Mississippi linked white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith, then imprisoned while awaiting trial (and later convicted) for the 1963 slaying of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, to the Phineas Priesthood. Earlier in the year, Hoskins had printed a letter from Beckwith in his newsletter that concluded, "Phineas for president!"

Now if all that were involved here was Perkins' referencing Numbers 25, it wouldn't necessarily indicate a knowlege of the wider implications of citing Phineas. However, Perkins has some previous history of association with White Supremacists such as David Duke and the Council of Conservative Citizens (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050509/blumenthal).

With such past connections, it strains credibility to think Perkins had no inkling of what buttons he was pushing.

As for Perkins supposedly explicit ruling out of violence, Here it is in context:

"We read that Phineas arose and he took action…,” Perkins said.

“Not only is prayer required…I warn you that if you begin to pray for our nation that, at some point in time, you’re gonna be prayin’ and you’re gonna feel a tap on your shoulder and hear, ‘Son, daughter, I’ve heard your prayer; now I want you to do something about it.’”

Just in case his message should be misconstrued, however, Perkins offered this caveat: “Now, let me be clear, in case the media’s here,” he said, “I’m not advocating you go home and get a pitchfork out of your storage shed and run into your neighbor’s house.” Phineas, the Bible tells us, used a javelin

"...in case the media is here", indeed.

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Apr 16, 2007 2:10:16 PM

The Phineas Priesthood is a Christian Identity movement that opposes interracial intercourse

Which is highly ironic -- IIRC, the very name Phineas is of African origin and there is a tradition that Phineas was of some Black African ancestry. There is also a tradition in Judaism that Phineas was given a primary form of priesthood in the hopes that it would serve to direct his zeal to something more constructive than killing people.

Posted by: DAS | Apr 16, 2007 2:32:43 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.