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Corrupting Jesus to Trump the Constitution

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Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [Matthew 7:15]

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. [Matthew 7:18]

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. [Matthew 22:39]

Over this past Christmas holiday, I did what I enjoy most about that time of year, I got together with family and friends to share camaraderie, food and drink. It even included a well-attended memorial for a dear deceased friend, an atheist and a socialist, who, as one speaker testified, was a profoundly spiritual man who devoted his life to fighting for the dignity of his fellow human beings. During all the cheer, though, there always comes a moment when the absurdity of the season settles upon me and I have to force myself to laugh just a little harder. This year was a doozy.

It wasn't the usual deluge of cloying commercial nonsense that got me; long ago I'd accepted Stan Freiberg's definition of Christmas as the time we celebrate the birth of the gross national product. What was so farcical this year was the insidious political context in which we were celebrating the birth of Christ. Of course, the Prince of Peace wasn't actually born on December 25th. Some savvy person in ancient times decided not to rock the boat and chose to celebrate his birthday on the Winter Solstice, because that's when pagans and pre-Christians naturally celebrated. The harvest was in and the community's storage sheds were full of fresh food, so everyone was inclined to co-mingle with family and friends before they hunkered down to face the harsh winter ahead.

There's nothing wrong with this; it's smart change-oriented politics. For example, if George W. Bush had understood this realpolitik dynamic and had not swept away and totally replaced Saddam Hussein's power structure his invasion/occupation might not have been one of the worst foreign policy debacles in modern times. As that beloved absurdist Kurt Vonnegut might say: So it goes.

A central folly of this Christmas season was evangelical Christian Franklin Graham, following an editorial in Christianity Today supporting the impeachment of Donald Trump, telling us how much he revered President Trump because he was strongman protecting the Christian religion from liberal assault. Graham conceded the man came up morally short and couldn't pass muster under the scrutiny of Jesus Christ. But that didn't matter. He also conceded Christianity Today had been founded by his father, Rev. Billy Graham. Nor did it seem to matter to Graham, the son, that Christ was a spiritual leader famous for exhibiting fury toward the Trumpian plutocrats of his time by entering a temple and physically flipping over their tables devoted to emolumenta (Latin for profits), and exclaiming:

It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. [Matthew 21:13]

In a book titled Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America, Randall Balmer tells a story from early in father Billy Graham's career how he "turned aside a friend's challenge to attend Princeton Theological Seminary and become conversant with intellectual and theological issues." Graham was not interested, Balmer writes, because "Populist evangelical theology in America, like populist politics, operates on pragmatism more often than it does on principle."

" 'I don't have the time, the inclination, or the set of mind to pursue them,' Graham protested. 'I have found that if I say, "The Bible says," I get results. I have decided I am not going to wrestle with these questions any longer.' "

There it is. Don't confuse me with knowledge and the deep thinking of great minds. Keep it simple and popular in stories my plain-talkin' flock can understand; cite The Bible as a source of political power. (The story Balmer tells comes from William Martin's biography of Graham titled A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story.)

It's hard to fathom anyone on the religious, political right believing Donald Trump subscribes to any of the New Testament words attributed to Christ in the King James Version of The Holy Bible though they assure us that book is the foundational text handed down by God directly from Heaven. They seem to have made a devil's bargain and handed over protection of their church to the den of thieves. The hypocrisy and delusion is simply awe-inspiring.

I'm a spiritual atheist who subscribes as much as one can to Christ's teachings on compassion and forgiveness. What most gets my attention, in this case, is that by supporting an obviously un-Christian Donald Trump as a strongman protecting his religion, Rev. Graham is focusing his wrath and power at people like me. Torquemada was also a powerful strongman who protected Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition by murdering and torturing those who threatened his reign all in the name of the Prince of Peace.

In Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until the end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitional torture was not abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816. [Carl Sagan]

Franklin Graham and similar fundamentalist Christians are advancing what Chris Hedges wrote about in a 2006 book titled American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I agree, the term fascist is a loaded word one should use cautiously. And Hedges makes it very clear America is not becoming Hitler Germany or Mussolini Italy. What he had the courage to say was, yes, it can happen here in the same way that proverbial frog remains in the slowly heating water til' he finds himself boiled to death. Again, I'm concerned because it's people like me and people I respect who will be hurt.

The idea of slowly encroaching fascism was vividly revealed to my mind when on Christmas Eve I read in the New York Times a story about a state legislator in Washington associated with far-right fringe elements who disseminated among his band of armed zealots a document called "A Biblical Basis for War." According to the Times, it called for the "surrender" of those advocating abortion rights, same-sex marriage and socialism. "[I]f they do not yield," it urged armed patriots to "kill all males." Shea defended the document, saying it was referring to Old Testament war tactics. That didn't make anyone feel better.

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I'm a 72-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and political (more...)
 

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