Also sometimes referred to as secular, modern, or humanistic. This is an umbrella term for Protestant denominations, or churches within denominations, that view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God, to be interpreted in its historical context through critical analysis. Examples include some churches within Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ. There are more than 2,000 Protestant denominations offering a wide range of beliefs from extremely liberal to mainline to ultra-conservative and those that include characteristics on both ends.
|•||Belief in Deity |
Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty. Many believe God is incorporeal.
Beliefs vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus Christ as God's incarnation. Some believe we are all sons and daughters of God and that Christ was exemplary, but not God.
|•||Origin of Universe and Life |
The Bible's account is symbolic. God created and controls the processes that account for the universe and life (e.g. evolution), as continually revealed by modern science.
|•||After Death |
Goodness will somehow be rewarded and evil punished after death, but what is most important is how you show your faith and conduct your life on earth.
|•||Why Evil? |
Most do not believe that humanity inherited original sin from Adam and Eve or that Satan actually exists. Most believe that God is good and made people inherently good, but also with free will and imperfect nature, which leads some to immoral behavior.
Various beliefs: Some believe all will go to heaven, as God is loving and forgiving. Others believe salvation lies in doing good works and no harm to others, regardless of faith. Some believe baptism is important. Some believe the concept of salvation after death is symbolic or nonexistent.
|•||Undeserved Suffering |
Most Liberal Christians do not believe that Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design, even if we don't immediately understand it. Some don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering, and most take a humanistic approach to helping those in need.
|•||Contemporary Issues |
Most churches teach that abortion is morally wrong, but many ultimately support a woman's right to choose, usually accompanied by policies to provide counseling on alternatives. Many are accepting of homosexuality and gay rights.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
CARACAS (Reuters) - Socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez mocked George W. Bush as a "comrade" on Wednesday, saying the U.S. president was a hard-line leftist for his government's intervention of major private banks in the U.S. financial crisis.
Chavez, who calls capitalism an evil and ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro his mentor, ridiculed Bush for his plan for the federal government to take equity in American banks despite the U.S. right-wing's criticism of Venezuelan nationalizations.
"Bush is to the left of me now," Chavez told an audience of international intellectuals debating the benefits of socialism. "Comrade Bush announced he will buy shares in private banks."
Chavez, who has insulted Bush in the past as a drunkard or the devil, called him clueless on Wednesday. He accused him of simply parroting the words of his aides without understanding the new policies that rely on heavy state intervention.
"I am convinced he has got no idea what's going on," said Chavez, who has nationalized swaths of the OPEC nation's economy in recent years and is in negotiations to take over a Spanish bank in Venezuela.
Chavez lauds his nationalizations for allowing the state to refocus companies' activities on helping the poor rather than creating value for their shareholders.
The Bush administration, which has promoted free-market policies throughout Latin America, resisted taking equity in banks for weeks. But, faced with a spiraling financial crisis, it reversed course this week with a $250 billion plan.
Chavez, who the United States labels an autocrat, is popular among his supporters at home for criticizing Bush and sometimes wins praise abroad for voicing anti-U.S. opinions.
Despite the ideological differences between the two governments and the diplomatic sparring that led weeks ago to the countries expelling each other's ambassador, Venezuela remains a major oil supplier to the United States.
(Reporting by Patricia Rondon; Writing by Saul Hudson; Editing by Anthony Boadle)
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
“This book is an account of the ways in which sexual pleasure has been devalued and demonized in the West by the historical forces of Christendom. It tells the story of how sex came to be regarded by societies throughout the ages as perverse, sinful, and wrong, and how the centuries-old motivations of a few have persisted into modern times, coloring our view of sex and sexuality to this day.”–Caps Connect
“Director of hospital pastoral care at Columbia University's Medical Center, Lawrence describes the strange ways that sexual pleasure has been demonized in Europe and its sphere of influence, and the likely motivations driving this process. Among his topics are the sexual life and teachings of Jesus, sexual pleasure in Judaism, the victory of monasticism, the Cathars, the sexuality of Teresa of Avila, The Reformation as sexual revolution, and sexual disarray in the late 20th century.”–Reference & Research Book News
“Like the child in the fairy tale who noted that "the emperor has no clothes" the author sees what others miss...This well-documented but easy to read volume is well recommended to thoughtful Christians, Jews befuddled by their Christian colleagues, and anyone trying to comprehend Western sexual ways.”–Robert C. Powell, M.D., Ph.D.
“...a lucid and masterful account of Christianity's shifting attitude toward sex from the positive valuation of its Jewish roots to the contemporary Church's obsessive hysteria about sex. For anyone who is seeking a clue to today's Christian sex wars, this book will provide it.”–Rev. John M. Gessell, Ph.D. Professor of Christian Ethics, emeritus School of Theology, University of the South, Sewanne, TN
“Raymond Lawrence has the courage to undo most of what the church has done through the centuries in making Jesus anything but a poor Palestinian Jew. He does much for my own struggle to give Jesus his Jewishness and his humanity.”–Rev. Myron C. Madden, Ph.D. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (retired), Louisiana State University
Sex sells, they say, but even today it is considered forbidden or sinful by many in the Western world. This book is an account of the ways in which sexual pleasure has been devalued and demonized in the West by the historical forces of Christendom. It tells the story of how sex came to be regarded by societies throughout the ages as perverse, sinful, and wrong, and how the centuries-old motivations of a few have persisted into modern times, coloring our view of sex and sexuality to this day. For good or ill, Christianity has been, since before the ebbing of the Roman Empire, the principal bearer of public values in the western world. This book traces the changes that have shaped and reshaped what is considered moral sexual behavior (and immoral sexual behavior) by Christians and non-Christians alike. Lawrence's account of the perversion of sexual values begins with the intersection of the early Jesus movement and the morality of the Greco-Roman culture and empire. He goes on to point out the ways Christianity and its moral code were reshaped under the impact of Constantine's adoption of Christianity as the imperial religion, and how key figures of the Middle Ages generally succeeded in promoting a religion whose chief goal was the obliteration of sexual pleasure. The story continues on through the ages until now. This controversial look at sex and Christianity sheds new light on our views of pornography, homosexuality, adultery, and other issues of sex and sexuality.
Extremists Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll helped launch Palin's political career in Alaska, and in return had influence over policy. "Her door was open," says Chryson -- and still is.
By Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert
Editor's note: Research support provided by the Nation Institute Investigative Fund. For Salon's complete coverage of Sarah Palin, click here.
Oct. 10, 2008 |
On the afternoon of Sept. 24 in downtown Palmer, Alaska, as the sun began to sink behind the snowcapped mountains that flank the picturesque Mat-Su Valley, 51-year-old Mark Chryson sat for an hour on a park bench, reveling in tales of his days as chairman of the Alaska Independence Party. The stocky, gray-haired computer technician waxed nostalgic about quixotic battles to eliminate taxes, support the "traditional family" and secede from the United States.
So long as Alaska remained under the boot of the federal government, said Chryson, the AIP had to stand on guard to stymie a New World Order. He invited a Salon reporter to see a few items inside his pickup truck that were intended for his personal protection. "This here is my attack dog," he said with a chuckle, handing the reporter an exuberant 8-pound papillon from his passenger seat. "Her name is Suzy." Then he pulled a 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol -- once the standard-issue sidearm for Soviet cops -- out of his glove compartment. "I've got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement," he said, clutching the gun in his palm. "Then again, so do most Alaskans." But Chryson added a message of reassurance to residents of that faraway place some Alaskans call "the 48." "We want to go our separate ways," he said, "but we are not going to kill you."
Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.
Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution's language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as "Black Helicopter Steve," to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. "Every time I showed up her door was open," said Chryson. "And that policy continued when she became governor."
When Chryson first met Sarah Palin, however, he didn't really trust her politically. It was the early 1990s, when he was a member of a local libertarian pressure group called SAGE, or Standing Against Government Excess. (SAGE's founder, Tammy McGraw, was Palin's birth coach.) Palin was a leader in a pro-sales-tax citizens group called WOW, or Watch Over Wasilla, earning a political credential before her 1992 campaign for City Council. Though he was impressed by her interpersonal skills, Chryson greeted Palin's election warily, thinking she was too close to the Democrats on the council and too pro-tax.
But soon, Palin and Chryson discovered they could be useful to each other. Palin would be running for mayor, while Chryson was about to take over the chairmanship of the Alaska Independence Party, which at its peak in 1990 had managed to elect a governor.
The AIP was born of the vision of "Old Joe" Vogler, a hard-bitten former gold miner who hated the government of the United States almost as much as he hated wolves and environmentalists. His resentment peaked during the early 1970s when the federal government began installing Alaska's oil and gas pipeline. Fueled by raw rage -- "The United States has made a colony of Alaska," he told author John McPhee in 1977 -- Vogler declared a maverick candidacy for the governorship in 1982. Though he lost, Old Joe became a force to be reckoned with, as well as a constant source of amusement for Alaska's political class. During a gubernatorial debate in 1982, Vogler proposed using nuclear weapons to obliterate the glaciers blocking roadways to Juneau. "There's gold under there!" he exclaimed.
Vogler made another failed run for the governor's mansion in 1986. But the AIP's fortunes shifted suddenly four years later when Vogler convinced Richard Nixon's former interior secretary, Wally Hickel, to run for governor under his party's banner. Hickel coasted to victory, outflanking a moderate Republican and a centrist Democrat. An archconservative Republican running under the AIP candidate, Jack Coghill, was elected lieutenant governor.
Hickel's subsequent failure as governor to press for a vote on Alaskan independence rankled Old Joe. With sponsorship from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Vogler was scheduled to present his case for Alaskan secession before the United Nations General Assembly in the late spring of 1993. But before he could, Old Joe's long, strange political career ended tragically that May when he was murdered by a fellow secessionist.
Hickel rejoined the Republican Party the year after Vogler's death and didn't run for reelection. Lt. Gov. Coghill's campaign to succeed him as the AIP candidate for governor ended in disaster; he peeled away just enough votes from the Republican, Jim Campbell, to throw the gubernatorial election to Democrat Tony Knowles.
Despite the disaster, Coghill hung on as AIP chairman for three more years. When he was asked to resign in 1997, Mark Chryson replaced him. Chryson pursued a dual policy of cozying up to secessionist and right-wing groups in Alaska and elsewhere while also attempting to replicate the AIP's success with Hickel in infiltrating the mainstream.
Unlike some radical right-wingers, Chryson doesn't put forward his ideas freighted with anger or paranoia. And in a state where defense of gun and property rights often takes on a real religious fervor, Chryson was able to present himself as a typical Alaskan.
He rose through party ranks by reducing the AIP's platform to a single page that "90 percent of Alaskans could agree with." This meant scrubbing the old platform of what Chryson called "racist language" while accommodating the state's growing Christian right movement by emphasizing the AIP's commitment to the "traditional family."
"The AIP is very family-oriented," Chryson explained. "We're for the traditional family -- daddy, mommy, kids -- because we all know that it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And we don't care if Heather has two mommies. That's not a traditional family."
Chryson further streamlined the AIP's platform by softening its secessionist language. Instead of calling for immediate separation from the United States, the platform now demands a vote on independence.
Yet Chryson maintains that his party remains committed to full independence. "The Alaskan Independence Party has got links to almost every independence-minded movement in the world," Chryson exclaimed. "And Alaska is not the only place that's about separation. There's at least 30 different states that are talking about some type of separation from the United States."
This has meant rubbing shoulders and forging alliances with outright white supremacists and far-right theocrats, particularly those who dominate the proceedings at such gatherings as the North American Secessionist conventions, which AIP delegates have attended in recent years. The AIP's affiliation with neo-Confederate organizations is motivated as much by ideological affinity as by organizational convenience. Indeed, Chryson makes no secret of his sympathy for the Lost Cause. "Should the Confederate states have been allowed to separate and go their peaceful ways?" Chryson asked rhetorically. "Yes. The War of Northern Aggression, or the Civil War, or the War Between the States -- however you want to refer to it -- was not about slavery, it was about states' rights."
Another far-right organization with whom the AIP has long been aligned is Howard Phillips' militia-minded Constitution Party. The AIP has been listed as the Constitution Party's state affiliate since the late 1990s, and it has endorsed the Constitution Party's presidential candidates (Michael Peroutka and Chuck Baldwin) in the past two elections.
The Constitution Party boasts an openly theocratic platform that reads, "It is our goal to limit the federal government to its delegated, enumerated, Constitutional functions and to restore American jurisprudence to its original Biblical common-law foundations." In its 1990s incarnation as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, it was on the front lines in promoting the "militia" movement, and a significant portion of its membership comprises former and current militia members.
At its 1992 convention, the AIP hosted both Phillips -- the USTP's presidential candidate -- and militia-movement leader Col. James "Bo" Gritz, who was campaigning for president under the banner of the far-right Populist Party. According to Chryson, AIP regulars heavily supported Gritz, but the party deferred to Phillips' presence and issued no official endorsements.
In Wasilla, the AIP became powerful by proxy -- because of Chryson and Stoll's alliance with Sarah Palin. Chryson and Stoll had found themselves in constant opposition to policies of Wasilla's Democratic mayor, who started his three-term, nine-year tenure in 1987. By 1992, Chryson and Stoll had begun convening regular protests outside City Council. Their demonstrations invariably involved grievances against any and all forms of "socialist government," from city planning to public education. Stoll shared Chryson's conspiratorial views: "The rumor was that he had wrapped his guns in plastic and buried them in his yard so he could get them after the New World Order took over," Stein told a reporter.
Chryson did not trust Palin when she joined the City Council in 1992. He claimed that she was handpicked by Democratic City Council leaders and by Wasilla's Democratic mayor, John Stein, to rubber-stamp their tax hike proposals. "When I first met her," he said, "I thought she was extremely left. But I've watched her slowly as she's become more pronounced in her conservative ideology."
Palin was well aware of Chryson's views. "She knew my beliefs," Chryson said. "The entire state knew my beliefs. I wasn't afraid of being on the news, on camera speaking my views."
But Chryson believes she trusted his judgment because he accurately predicted what life on the City Council would be like. "We were telling her, 'This is probably what's going to happen,'" he said. "'The city is going to give this many people raises, they're going to pave everybody's roads, and they're going to pave the City Council members' roads.' We couldn't have scripted it better because everything we predicted came true."
After intense evangelizing by Chryson and his allies, they claimed Palin as a convert. "When she started taking her job seriously," Chryson said, "the people who put her in as the rubber stamp found out the hard way that she was not going to go their way." In 1994, Sarah Palin attended the AIP's statewide convention. In 1995, her husband, Todd, changed his voter registration to AIP. Except for an interruption of a few months, he would remain registered was an AIP member until 2002, when he changed his registration to undeclared.
In 1996, Palin decided to run against John Stein as the Republican candidate for mayor of Wasilla. While Palin pushed back against Stein's policies, particularly those related to funding public works, Chryson said he and Steve Stoll prepared the groundwork for her mayoral campaign.
Chryson and Stoll viewed Palin's ascendancy as a vehicle for their own political ambitions. "She got support from these guys," Stein remarked. "I think smart politicians never utter those kind of radical things, but they let other people do it for them. I never recall Sarah saying she supported the militia or taking a public stand like that. But these guys were definitely behind Sarah, thinking she was the more conservative choice."
"They worked behind the scenes," said Stein. "I think they had a lot of influence in terms of helping with the back-scatter negative campaigning."
Indeed, Chryson boasted that he and his allies urged Palin to focus her campaign on slashing character-based attacks. For instance, Chryson advised Palin to paint Stein as a sexist who had told her "to just sit there and look pretty" while she served on Wasilla's City Council. Though Palin never made this accusation, her 1996 campaign for mayor was the most negative Wasilla residents had ever witnessed.
While Palin played up her total opposition to the sales tax and gun control -- the two hobgoblins of the AIP -- mailers spread throughout the town portraying her as "the Christian candidate," a subtle suggestion that Stein, who is Lutheran, might be Jewish. "I watched that campaign unfold, bringing a level of slime our community hadn't seen until then," recalled Phil Munger, a local music teacher who counts himself as a close friend of Stein.
"This same group [Stoll and Chryson] also [publicly] challenged me on whether my wife and I were married because she had kept her maiden name," Stein bitterly recalled. "So we literally had to produce a marriage certificate. And as I recall, they said, 'Well, you could have forged that.'"
When Palin won the election, the men who had once shouted anti-government slogans outside City Hall now had a foothold inside the mayor's office. Palin attempted to pay back her newfound pals during her first City Council meeting as mayor. In that meeting, on Oct. 14, 1996, she appointed Stoll to one of the City Council's two newly vacant seats. But Palin was blocked by the single vote of then-Councilman Nick Carney, who had endured countless rancorous confrontations with Stoll and considered him a "violent" influence on local politics. Though Palin considered consulting attorneys about finding another means of placing Stoll on the council, she was ultimately forced to back down and accept a compromise candidate.
Emboldened by his nomination by Mayor Palin, Stoll later demanded she fire Wasilla's museum director, John Cooper, a personal enemy he longed to sabotage. Palin obliged, eliminating Cooper's position in short order. "Gotcha, Cooper!" Stoll told the deposed museum director after his termination, as Cooper told a reporter for the New York Times. "And it only cost me a campaign contribution." Stoll, who donated $1,000 to Palin's mayoral campaign, did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. Palin has blamed budget concerns for Cooper's departure.
The following year, when Carney proposed a local gun-control measure, Palin organized with Chryson to smother the nascent plan in its cradle. Carney's proposed ordinance would have prohibited residents from carrying guns into schools, bars, hospitals, government offices and playgrounds. Infuriated by the proposal that Carney viewed as a common-sense public-safety measure, Chryson and seven allies stormed a July 1997 council meeting.
With the bill still in its formative stages, Carney was not even ready to present it to the council, let alone conduct public hearings on it. He and other council members objected to the ad-hoc hearing as "a waste of time." But Palin -- in plain violation of council rules and norms -- insisted that Chryson testify, stating, according to the minutes, that "she invites the public to speak on any issue at any time."
When Carney tried later in the meeting to have the ordinance discussed officially at the following regular council meeting, he couldn't even get a second. His proposal died that night, thanks to Palin and her extremist allies.
"A lot of it was the ultra-conservative far right that is against everything in government, including taxes," recalled Carney. "A lot of it was a personal attack on me as being anti-gun, and a personal attack on anybody who deigned to threaten their authority to carry a loaded firearm wherever they pleased. That was the tenor of it. And it was being choreographed by Steve Stoll and the mayor."
Asked if he thought it was Palin who had instigated the turnout, he replied: "I know it was."
By Chryson's account, he and Palin also worked hand-in-glove to slash property taxes and block a state proposal that would have taken money for public programs from the Permanent Fund Dividend, or the oil and gas fund that doles out annual payments to citizens of Alaska. Palin endorsed Chryson's unsuccessful initiative to move the state Legislature from Juneau to Wasilla. She also lent her support to Chryson's crusade to alter the Alaska Constitution's language on gun rights so cities and counties could not impose their own restrictions. "It took over 10 years to get that language written in," Chryson said. "But Sarah [Palin] was there supporting it."
"With Sarah as a mayor," said Chryson, "there were a number of times when I just showed up at City Hall and said, 'Hey, Sarah, we need help.' I think there was only one time when I wasn't able to talk to her and that was because she was in a meeting."
Chryson says the door remains open now that Palin is governor. (Palin's office did not respond to Salon's request for an interview.) While Palin has been more circumspect in her dealings with groups like the AIP as she has risen through the political ranks, she has stayed in touch.
When Palin ran for governor in 2006, marketing herself as a fresh-faced reformer determined to crush the GOP's ossified power structure, she made certain to appear at the AIP's state convention. To burnish her maverick image, she also tapped one-time AIP member and born-again Republican Walter Hickel as her campaign co-chair. Hickel barnstormed the state for Palin, hailing her support for an "all-Alaska" liquefied gas pipeline, a project first promoted in 2002 by an AIP gubernatorial candidate named Nels Anderson. When Palin delivered her victory speech on election night, Hickel stood beaming by her side. "I made her governor," he boasted afterward. Two years later, Hickel has endorsed Palin's bid for vice president.
Just months before Palin burst onto the national stage as McCain's vice-presidential nominee, she delivered a videotaped address to the AIP's annual convention. Her message was scrupulously free of secessionist rhetoric, but complementary nonetheless. "I share your party's vision of upholding the Constitution of our great state," Palin told the assembly of AIP delegates. "My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty can expand. I know you agree with that ... Keep up the good work and God bless you."
When Palin became the Republican vice-presidential nominee, her attendance of the 1994 and 2006 AIP conventions and her husband's membership in the party (as well as Palin's videotaped welcome to the AIP's 2008 convention) generated a minor controversy. Chryson claimed, however, that Sarah and Todd Palin never even played a minor role in his party's internal affairs. "Sarah's never been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party," Chryson insisted. "Todd has, but most of rural Alaska has too. I never saw him at a meeting. They were at one meeting I was at. Sarah said hello, but I didn't pay attention because I was taking care of business."
But whether the Palins participated directly in shaping the AIP's program is less relevant than the extent to which they will implement that program. Chryson and his allies have demonstrated just as much interest in grooming major party candidates as they have in putting forward their own people. At a national convention of secessionist groups in 2007, AIP vice chairman Dexter Clark announced that his party would seek to "infiltrate" the Democratic and Republican parties with candidates sympathetic to its hard-right, secessionist agenda. "You should use that tactic. You should infiltrate," Clark told his audience of neo-Confederates, theocrats and libertarians. "Whichever party you think in that area you can get something done, get into that party. Even though that party has its problems, right now that is the only avenue."
Clark pointed to Palin's political career as the model of a successful infiltration. "There's a lot of talk of her moving up," Clark said of Palin. "She was a member [of the AIP] when she was mayor of a small town, that was a nonpartisan job. But to get along and to go along she switched to the Republican Party … She is pretty well sympathetic because of her membership."
Clark's assertion that Palin was once a card-carrying AIP member was swiftly discredited by the McCain campaign, which produced records showing she had been a registered Republican since 1988. But then why would Clark make such a statement? Why did he seem confident that Palin was a true-blue AIP activist burrowing within the Republican Party? The most salient answer is that Palin was once so thoroughly embedded with AIP figures like Chryson and Stoll and seemed so enthusiastic about their agenda, Clark may have simply assumed she belonged to his party.
Now, Palin is a household name and her every move is scrutinized by the Washington press corps. She can no longer afford to kibitz with secessionists, however instrumental they may have been to her meteoric ascendancy. This does not trouble her old AIP allies. Indeed, Chryson is hopeful that Palin's inauguration will also represent the start of a new infiltration.
"I've had my issues but she's still staying true to her core values," Chryson concluded. "Sarah's friends don't all agree with her, but do they respect her? Do they respect her ideology and her values? Definitely."
-- By Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert
Raymond J. Lawrence
Sun, 21 Sep 2008 08:02 UTC
Anyone who believes in the Rapture scenario will likely interpret a catastrophic nuclear exchange as the opening scene of the Rapture. Thus an American president who believes in the Rapture would arguably have at least some ambivalence toward a nuclear holocaust. A believer in the Rapture with his or her fingers on the nuclear trigger might even be tempted to bring on the Rapture. The Rapture, for those who believe in it, is hardly a negative event. Rather it is culmination of everything they hope for, deliverance into the heavenly arms of Jesus.
Presumably Sarah Palin believes in the Rapture. It is one of the doctrines of her religion, and she has nowhere disavowed it. Are Americans ready to sleep at night with a President who longs for the Rapture?
The doctrine of the Rapture is a very recent invention within some of the radical fringe churches of Christianity. The Rapture doctrine is first cousin to millennialism, the belief promoted by various groups who have predicted that "the end is near." Millennialist groups have popped up and burnt out from time to time throughout Christian history.
The Rapture doctrine has no support in the historic Christianity of any of the main traditions - Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant. The doctrine of the Rapture is cobbled together from several obscure, unrelated comments drawn from the epistles of Paul the Apostle. No credible biblical scholar in two thousand years of Christian history has taken seriously the Rapture doctrine, millennialism, or anything similar to it.
The American people ought to be concerned about the religious beliefs of its political leaders as those beliefs may determine the life of the nation as a whole. It would be foolish of the American people not to be deeply concerned about the religious beliefs of Sara Palin, who may be elected Vice President for the oldest President ever inaugurated into the office.
When John F. Kennedy campaigned for the presidency in 1960, many Americans were concerned about his commitment to the Roman Catholic Chruch. The fear was that he might be subject to directions from Catholic priests, or from the Pope, since he was a practicing Catholic, and Catholic leaders are typically quite directive and authoritarian. Kennedy answered that concern in speaking to the Houston Ministerial Association during the campaign. He declared boldly and correctly that no political leader should take directives from religious authorities whatsoever. He claimed a commitment to the strict separation of church and state. Kennedy's assurances were widely accepted by the public.
The Sarah Palin problem is somewhat different. The concern is not whether she would take orders from her pastor. That is unlikely. Her church does not typically exercise that sort of authority. The problem is both more simple and more worrisome. The public must presume that Palin believes in the Rapture, since it is one of the central doctrines of her church. Furthermore, the American people should assume that Palin's personal religious beliefs will have consequences in her decision-making as a President. Both Palin and McCain have already made clear that their religious views about abortion will determine presidential appointments to the courts.
The press and much of the public seem reluctant to engage Palin on her religious views, considering them to be a personal matter. In certain respects that is admirable restraint. We do not want candidates for office grilled on their private religious views as long as those views do not impinge upon the public welfare. Whether an individual believes in the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary, predestination, or other such religious views should not be subject to political scrutiny. Such beliefs have no inherent impact on public policy.
However, a belief in the Rapture as an historic event toward which history is rapidly moving, is a belief with potentially catastrophic political implications. Do the American people want a believer in such a fantasy to hold in her hands the nuclear power to destroy civilization?
Raymond J. Lawrence is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger). He can be reached at: email@example.com
Thu, 09 Oct 2008 18:39 UTC
We think so.
While the mainstream media has been preoccupied with regurgitating - for the third time this year - discredited assertions about a '60s radical turned esteemed educational professor and Barack Obama, it hasn't given any notice to the extreme branch of Dominionism that Sarah Palin adheres to.
Perhaps the "you betcha'" and "pit bull with lipstick" folksiness veneer makes it hard to accept that Palin is part of a rebel cult aimed at taking control of the U.S. government in the name of advancing Armageddon. It is kind of hard to think of the VP candidate that Republicans touted at the GOP convention with buttons as "The Hottest VP from the Coolest State" as a Manchurian candidate, but who are you going to believe, Palin or the evidence?
If you think BuzzFlash is going off the deep end of conspiracy theories, then watch this smoking gun video. It was put together by the diligent people at talk2action.org who expose the extremist, anti-democracy, anti-Constitutional tyrannical theocracy of the religious far right.
In the video, you will hear about how Palin was recruited at the age of 24 to be a political "warrior" to gain governmental power to assert an authoritarian end-times theocratic state that would rid the land of "non-believers." The credibility of the tape comes from its narrator, Mary Glazier, who is a key sponsor and mentor to Palin, as the Governor has been groomed to seize power as part of a plan of "spiritual warfare." Glazier details the recruitment of Palin in chilling terms and makes pronouncements, such as "There is a tipping point, at which time, because of the sin of the land, the people then have to be displaced."
Again, don't dismiss this as some sort of loony theory, listen and watch the tape. And you might also read some of the great research on Palin's religious background and beliefs at Talk2Action.org.
We've also posted several alarming articles on BuzzFlash, including: "The Irony of Sarah Palin: Her 'Third Wave' Radical Christian Theology"; "By Any Measure, Sarah Palin is a Radical Political and Religious Extremist"; and a must-read interview with Bruce Wilson of Talk2Action.com, "Sarah Palin's Extremist Religious Beliefs: The Republic is At Risk."
It is important to recognize that the "spiritual warriors" know that they have to use deceptive tactics, including concealing their extremist religious agenda to seize the control of government at every level - and that Sarah Palin is their most charismatic "populist" vehicle for literally taking over the U.S. government and establishing an extremist theocratic, pre-Armageddon state. We are not exaggerating.
In fact, some extreme right-wing religious fanatics have been openly talking of John McCain's death, should McCain and Palin win, which would then allow Palin to implement a "Third Wave" theocracy in the U.S. And, trust us, if you aren't a "believer," things are going to get very ugly.
If you notice, Palin is very careful not to renounce any of the religious extremism that she adheres to. Instead, she gives vague answers that distract from the issue, while not really rejecting the assertions - but she doesn't really have to worry because Sean Hannity is not going to pressure her on the subject.
Palin has mastered the art of appearing like an everyday person in order to appeal to the working class population. The "spiritual warriors" are well aware that they can't attain power by being honest about their goals, so deception is glorified in the name of their "divine" objective of making the U.S. a nation adhering to their fanatical beliefs. (Although Palin did wage her first campaign for mayor on abortion and religious "values" issues, going so far as to demand that her opponent produce a marriage license to prove that he and his wife weren't living in sin because she chose to keep her own name. We're not making this up.)
It's hard to look at Palin and believe that anyone who is so confidently scary stupid could be the chosen one for the practitioners of Biblical Apocalypse.
But the mounting evidence shows that is exactly what she is.
Looks like Tina Brown's The Daily Beast may have lucked into the chance to grab up some major full-time talent, as conservative author Christopher Buckley has left the National Review in the wake of his publishing an endorsement of Barack Obama on the Beast. Apparently, despite the pains Buckley took to disambiguate his private endorsement from the Review, his momentary wander off the reservation brought the same sort of hailstorm of oppobrium earned by Kathleen Parker when she criticized GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Buckley took it upon himself to offer his resignation. The way he describes it, it looks like this was expected!
Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted--rather briskly!--by Rich Lowry, NR's editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.
It's pretty clear that the spasm of reaction engendered by his support for Obama disappoints Buckley on some level, as he takes the time to note that his father, the late William Buckley, "endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman." He goes on to say:
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it's a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of "conservative" government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.
So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven't left the Republican Party. It left me.
(CBS) Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is entering the third and final presidential debate Wednesday with a wide lead over Republican rival John McCain nationally, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows.
The Obama-Biden ticket now leads the McCain-Palin ticket 53 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, a 14-point margin. One week ago, prior to the Town Hall debate that uncommitted voters saw as a win for Obama, that margin was just three points.
Among independents who are likely voters - a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign - the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week.
McCain's campaign strategy may be hurting hurt him: Twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks. The top two reasons cited for the change of heart are McCain's attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.
McCain's favorable rating has fallen four points from last week, to 36 percent, and is now lower than his 41 percent unfavorable rating. Obama, by contrast, is now viewed favorably by half of registered voters and unfavorably by just 32 percent.
Obama holds a considerable edge over his rival on having the right "personality and temperament" to be president, with 69 percent saying Obama does and 53 percent saying McCain does. The Democratic nominee is also widely seen as more likely to make the right decision on the economy, far and away the top issue for voters, in a survey taken in the immediate aftermath of last week's historic Wall Street losses.
Opinions of the candidates could still change, and potential trouble spots remain for Obama, among them the fact that small percentages of voters cite Obama's past associations with Bill Ayers (9 percent) and Reverend Jeremiah Wright (11 percent) as issues that bother them.
But with more than four out of five of each candidate’s supporters now saying their minds are made up, the poll suggests that McCain faces serious challenges as he looks to close the gap on his Democratic rival in the final three weeks of the campaign.
Views Of The Candidates
Obama's lead over McCain when it comes to the economy has grown since last week, and a majority of registered voters now say they are not confident in McCain to make the right decisions on economic issues. Thirty-nine percent are not confident in Obama.
There is, however, an opening for the candidates in this area: Fewer than one quarter are presently very confident in either Obama or McCain to make the right decisions on the economic crisis.
On raising taxes - an area where a Republican nominee might be expected to have an edge - Obama also leads. Despite the McCain campaign's efforts to cast Obama as a tax-raiser, more registered voters say McCain is likely to raise their taxes (51 percent) than say Obama will raise their taxes (46 percent).
Voters are almost three times more likely to be very confident in Obama when it comes to health care (28 percent) than McCain (10 percent). A majority of voters, 54 percent, are not confident in McCain to handle health care, while 33 percent are not confident in Obama.
McCain continues to be hurt by his perceived ties to the unpopular Republican president, George W. Bush, whose approval rating is 24 percent. More than half of registered voters surveyed say they expect McCain to continue Mr. Bush's economic policies if he is elected.
Obama holds a more than 20-point edge when it comes to understanding voters' needs and problems, with 64 percent saying Obama does and 43 percent saying McCain does.
The Republican nominee does hold a clear advantage on being seen as prepared to be president, as he has throughout the campaign. That measure does not appear to be boosting his support, however, perhaps because while 64 percent say McCain is prepared for the job, more than half say Obama is as well.
Just 7 percent of registered voters say their opinion of McCain has improved recently, while 21 percent say it has gotten worse. The numbers are nearly reversed for Obama: Seventeen percent say their opinion of Obama has improved in recent weeks, while 7 percent say it has declined.
Obama now enjoys leads over McCain with both men (53 percent to 41 percent) and women (52 percent to 37 percent). Eighty-two percent of voters who backed Hillary Clinton in the primaries now say they will back Obama - up from 67 percent last week and the highest number to date.
McCain still leads among Republicans, conservatives and white evangelicals, but the race is now roughly even among whites, a group McCain led 54 percent to 39 percent last week.
With voter registration up in many key states this year, 63 percent of those casting a ballot for first time in 2008 are backing Obama.
The Debates And The Candidates' Past Associations
Seven in 10 registered voters said they watched last week’s presidential debate, and, looking back, 57 percent of debate watchers said Obama won the contest. Just 18 percent saw the debate as a McCain victory.
Expectations are high for Obama in Wednesday's third and final debate, which 65 percent of registered voters say they are very likely to watch. Nearly half of all registered voters expect Obama will win the debate, while just 19 percent expect McCain to win.
Recently, the McCain campaign has gone after Obama about his relationship with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, and McCain has signaled that he will mention Ayers in the debate.
One in three voters say they have heard "a lot" about Ayers, and 31 percent say they have heard something about him, though far fewer - 9 percent - say the association bothers them.
Four percent of voters say that it bothers them that Obama is a Muslim, which he is not. Fifty-six percent say nothing about Obama’s past bothers them.
As for the Republican candidate, seven in ten voters say nothing about McCain’s past bothers them. Four percent mention the Keating Five scandal that McCain was involved in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
A majority of registered voters believe the tone of the 2008 campaign has been about the same as in past years. Thirty percent say it has been more negative, while 15 percent say it has been more positive.
Democrats, Republicans, And The 2008 House Vote
Americans have a much higher opinion of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. A majority - 52 percent - have a favorable opinion of the Democrats, while far less - 37 percent - have a favorable opinion of Republicans.
The Democratic Party is seen as more likely than the Republican Party to make the right decision on health care (55 percent to 18 percent), the economy (47 percent to 29 percent), and the war in Iraq (44 percent to 37 percent).
And when it comes to the House Of Representatives, 48 percent of likely voters say they will be choosing the Democratic candidate in November, compared to 34 percent who plan to vote for the Republican candidate.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1070 adults nationwide, including 972 registered voters, interviewed by telephone October 10-13, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
© MMVIII, CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
PREPARE for a new America: That's the message that the Rev. Jesse Jackson conveyed to participants in the first World Policy Forum, held at this French lakeside resort last week.
He promised "fundamental changes" in US foreign policy - saying America must "heal wounds" it has caused to other nations, revive its alliances and apologize for the "arrogance of the Bush administration."
The most important change would occur in the Middle East, where "decades of putting Israel's interests first" would end.
Jackson believes that, although "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" remain strong, they'll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House.
"Obama is about change," Jackson told me in a wide-ranging conversation. "And the change that Obama promises is not limited to what we do in America itself. It is a change of the way America looks at the world and its place in it."
Jackson warns that he isn't an Obama confidant or adviser, "just a supporter." But he adds that Obama has been "a neighbor or, better still, a member of the family." Jackson's son has been a close friend of Obama for years, and Jackson's daughter went to school with Obama's wife Michelle.
"We helped him start his career," says Jackson. "And then we were always there to help him move ahead. He is the continuation of our struggle for justice not only for the black people but also for all those who have been wronged."
Will Obama's election close the chapter of black grievances linked to memories of slavery? The reverend takes a deep breath and waits a long time before responding.
"No, that chapter won't be closed," he says. "However, Obama's victory will be a huge step in the direction we have wanted America to take for decades."
Jackson rejects any suggestion that Obama was influenced by Marxist ideas in his youth. "I see no evidence of that," he says. "Obama's thirst for justice and equality is rooted in his black culture."
But is Obama - who's not a descendant of slaves - truly a typical American black?
Jackson emphatically answers yes: "You don't need to be a descendant of slaves to experience the oppression, the suffocating injustice and the ugly racism that exists in our society," he says. "Obama experienced the same environment as all American blacks did. It was nonsense to suggest that he was somehow not black enough to feel the pain."
Is Jackson worried about the "Bradley effect" - that people may be telling pollsters they favor the black candidate, but won't end up voting for him?
"I don't think this is how things will turn out," he says. "We have a collapsing economy and a war that we have lost in Iraq. In Afghanistan, we face a resurgent Taliban. New threats are looming in Pakistan. Our liberties have been trampled under feet . . . Today, most Americans want change, and know that only Barack can deliver what they want. Young Americans are especially determined to make sure that Obama wins."
He sees a broad public loss of confidence in the nation's institutions: "We have lost confidence in our president, our Congress, our banking system, our Wall Street and our legal system to protect our individual freedoms. . . I don't see how we could regain confidence in all those institutions without a radical change of direction."
Jackson declines to be more concrete about possible policy changes. After all, he insists, he isn't part of Obama's policy team. Yet he clearly hopes that his views, reflecting the position of many Democrats, would be reflected in the policies of an Obama administration.
On the economic front, he hopes for "major changes in our trading policy."
"We cannot continue with the open-door policy," he says. "We need to protect our manufacturing industry against unfair competition that destroys American jobs and creates ill-paid jobs abroad."
Would that mean an abrogation of the NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico?
Jackson dismisses the question as "premature": "We could do a great deal without such dramatic action."
His most surprising position concerns Iraq. He passionately denounces the toppling of Saddam Hussein as "an illegal and unjust act." But he's now sure that the United States "will have to remain in Iraq for a very long time."
What of Obama's promise to withdraw by 2010? Jackson believes that position will have to evolve, reflecting "realities on the ground."
"We should work with our allies in Iraq to consolidate democratic institutions there," he says. "We must help the people of Iraq decide and shape their future in accordance with their own culture and faith."
On Iran, he strongly supports Obama's idea of opening a direct dialogue with the leadership in Tehran. "We've got to talk to tell them what we want and hear what they want," Jackson says. "Nothing is gained by not talking to others."
Would that mean ignoring the four UN Security Council resolutions that demand an end to Iran's uranium-enrichment program? Jackson says direct talks wouldn't start without preparations.
"Barack wants an aggressive and dynamic diplomacy," he says. "He also wants adequate preparatory work. We must enter the talks after the ground has been prepared," he says.
Jackson is especially critical of President Bush's approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"Bush was so afraid of a snafu and of upsetting Israel that he gave the whole thing a miss," Jackson says. "Barack will change that," because, as long as the Palestinians haven't seen justice, the Middle East will "remain a source of danger to us all."
"Barack is determined to repair our relations with the world of Islam and Muslims," Jackson says. "Thanks to his background and ecumenical approach, he knows how Muslims feel while remaining committed to his own faith."
Amir Taheri's next book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution," is due out next month.
Sarah Palin's reaction to the Legislature's Troopergate report is an embarrassment to Alaskans and the nation.
She claims the report "vindicates" her. She said that the investigation found "no unlawful or unethical activity on my part." Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian. Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says: "I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act." In plain English, she did something "unlawful." She broke the state ethics law. Perhaps Gov. Palin has been too busy to actually read the Troopergate report. Perhaps she is relying on briefings from McCain campaign spinmeisters. That's the charitable interpretation. Because if she had actually read it, she couldn't claim "vindication" with a straight face. Palin asserted that the report found "there was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired." In fact, the report concluded that "impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired." Palin's response is the kind of political "big lie" that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down. Gov. Palin and her camp trumpeted the report's second finding: that she was within her legal authority to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. But the report also said it's likely one of the reasons she fired him was his failure to get rid of her ex-brother-in-law trooper. That's not "vindication," and surely Gov. Palin knows it. Gov. Palin does have a defense. She could have said:
Her response is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian.
Page 8, Finding Number One of the report says: "I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."
In plain English, she did something "unlawful." She broke the state ethics law.
Perhaps Gov. Palin has been too busy to actually read the Troopergate report. Perhaps she is relying on briefings from McCain campaign spinmeisters.
That's the charitable interpretation.
Because if she had actually read it, she couldn't claim "vindication" with a straight face.
Palin asserted that the report found "there was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired."
In fact, the report concluded that "impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda, to wit: to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired."
Palin's response is the kind of political "big lie" that George Orwell warned against. War is peace. Black is white. Up is down.
Gov. Palin and her camp trumpeted the report's second finding: that she was within her legal authority to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. But the report also said it's likely one of the reasons she fired him was his failure to get rid of her ex-brother-in-law trooper.
That's not "vindication," and surely Gov. Palin knows it.
Gov. Palin does have a defense. She could have said:
"I'm gratified that the report confirmed what I said all along, that I had the authority to terminate Walt Monegan as public safety commissioner.
"I absolutely disagree that I violated state ethics law. In repeatedly complaining about trooper Mike Wooten, Todd and I were not pursuing a personal vendetta. We were trying to protect the integrity of the Alaska State Troopers from having an arrogant, almost-out-of-control law-breaker in their ranks. Because the action we were seeking was in the public interest, not purely our personal interest, there is no ethics law violation."
Gov. Palin and her husband felt so passionately about Wooten because the case was so personal to them. Their passion blinded them to any other considerations. They had no sense that the power of the governor's office carries a special responsibility not to use it to settle family scores. They had no sense that legal restrictions might prevent the troopers from firing Wooten. They had no sense that persistent queries from the governor's office might be perceived as pressure to bend state personnel laws. Gov. Palin and her husband were obsessed with Wooten the way Capt. Ahab was obsessed with the Great White Whale. No Wooten, no peace. Has Gov. Palin committed an impeachable offense? Hardly. Is what she did indictable? No. But it wasn't appropriate, especially for someone elected as an ethical reformer. And her Orwellian claims of "vindication" make this blemish on her record look even worse. You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?
They had no sense that the power of the governor's office carries a special responsibility not to use it to settle family scores. They had no sense that legal restrictions might prevent the troopers from firing Wooten. They had no sense that persistent queries from the governor's office might be perceived as pressure to bend state personnel laws.
Gov. Palin and her husband were obsessed with Wooten the way Capt. Ahab was obsessed with the Great White Whale. No Wooten, no peace.
Has Gov. Palin committed an impeachable offense? Hardly.
Is what she did indictable? No.
But it wasn't appropriate, especially for someone elected as an ethical reformer. And her Orwellian claims of "vindication" make this blemish on her record look even worse.
You asked us to hold you accountable, Gov. Palin. Did you mean it?
Lewis accused McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division." He was referring to the angry tone of recent McCain rallies, where cries of "kill him" and "off with his head" have made many people anxious about the potential for violence against the Democratic nominee.
It's no wonder that the tone at McCain rallies remind Lewis of the bad old days. In recent months, conservatives have sounded increasingly retro with their attempts to paint Obama as a socialist or communist. In some ways, this accusation is typical far-right boilerplate. Obama certainly isn't the first Democrat running for president to be accused of communist sympathies. And as usual, the accusations are rarely linked to policy specifics. But the difference with Obama is that, in the eyes of the right, it's not just his political affiliation that implicates him as a socialist. It's his ethnic background.
The hysterical accusations of socialism from conservatives echo similar accusations leveled at black leaders in the past, as though the quest for racial parity were simply a left-wing plot. Obama may not actually be a socialist or communist, but his election would strike another powerful blow to the informal racial hierarchy that has existed in America since the 1960s, when it ceased being enforced by law. This hierarchy, which holds that whiteness is synonymous with American-ness, is one conservatives are now instinctively trying to preserve. Like black civil-rights activists of the 1960s, Obama symbolizes the destruction of a social order they see as fundamentally American, which is why terms like "socialism" are used to describe the threat.
This phenomenon extends beyond Obama's candidacy. The conservative explanation for the mortgage crisis falls neatly into this narrative, too; the country is at risk because Democrats allowed minorities to disrupt the natural social order by becoming homeowners. Never mind that this defies all data, logic, and history, the narrative resonates because it allows Obama, a living symbol of black folks rising above "their station," to become a focus for conservative economic anxieties.
Conservatives, now and in the past, have turned to "socialism" and "communism" as shorthand to criticize black activists and political figures since the civil-rights era. In The Autobiography of Malcolm X as written by Alex Haley, Malcolm recalls being confronting by a government agent tailing him in Africa, not long after his pilgrimage to Mecca. The agent was convinced that Malcolm was a communist. Malcolm spent years under surveillance because of such bizarre suspicions. Likewise, J. Edgar Hoover spent years attempting to link Martin Luther King Jr. to the communist cause. King, for his part, welcomed everyone who embraced the cause of black civil rights, regardless of their ideological ties. This included communists and socialists, but the idea that a devout man of God like King saw black rights as a mere step in a worldwide communist revolution was absurd. Malcolm was a conservative. King was a liberal. To their enemies, they were simply communists.
The feeling that black-rights activists were part of a front for communism and socialism was widespread. Jerry Falwell famously criticized "the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations." Falwell charged, "It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed." For the agents of intolerance, things haven’t changed much. On October 9, a McCain supporter told the candidate that he was angry about "socialists taking over our country." McCain told him he was right to be angry.
The right wing continues to link the fight for black equality with socialism and communism. At the website of conservatism’s flagship publication, National Review, conservatives like Andy McCarthy argue whether Obama is "more Maoist than Stalinist," and National Review writer Lisa Schiffren explicitly argued this summer that Obama must have communist links based on his interracial background. Schiffren mused, "for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics."
This conclusion is one she shares with Robert Shelton, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s, who declared that "amalgamation is ultimately the goal of the Communist element." (To be fair, these conclusions make a bit of sense: could there be a more perfect vessel for a secret communist takeover of the United States than a biracial one-term senator from Chicago with an Arabic-sounding name? At a Starbucks somewhere, Chairman Mao is leeching WiFi for a quick instant message to William Ayers: "It’s happening exactly how we planned it.")
McCain, a child of privilege who spent the late 1960s in a Vietnamese prison camp, may simply be unaware of the feelings and historical context he has evoked through his campaign’s rhetoric. When Sarah Palin accuses Obama of "palling around with terrorists" and suggests that Obama hates his own country enough to wish it violence, the McCain campaign fuels age-old paranoia built around the conflation of black rights and the radical left. As for McCain himself, his attempts to tamp down the vitriol of his crowds suggest that he is somewhat confused by their response. He wants voters to dislike Obama, but he seems unaware of just what he has unleashed. However, by implicitly invoking the idea that Obama represents a socialist takeover of the United States, McCain is inviting what can only be a rational response from those who would die for their country: violence. What else is a patriot to do when freedom is threatened? Especially when their fears have been validated by no less authoritative a source than the Republican nominee for president of the United States?
John McCain is no George Wallace, and a direct comparison may not be what Lewis intended. Rather, Lewis was expressing concern that the McCain campaign’s rhetoric could lead some of their supporters to conclude that violence is the only rational response to an Obama victory. (This is essentially the position staked out by the Obama campaign, which both rejected the Wallace comparison and remained critical of the "hateful rhetoric" at McCain rallies.) A veteran of the 1968 civil-rights march with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettis Bridge, John Lewis has the kind of credibility on mob violence that John McCain has on torture.
We should listen to him very carefully.
Adam Serwer is a writing fellow at The American Prospect and recent graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He also blogs at Jack and Jill Politics under the pseudonym dnA and has written for The Village Voice and the Daily News.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Every time I think of William Ayers, I also think of John McCain, because they are of the same era, and they both believed in the efficacy of violence. According to an article in Friday's New York Times, McCain once said of Ayers, "How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?" He had to use that "could have or did" because no one knows if bombs Ayers built actually killed anyone -- let's say that the odds are against it. Likewise, no one knows whether the bombs John McCain dropped on North Vietnam ever killed anyone. According to McCain's biography, "With the outbreak of the Vietnam War, McCain volunteered for combat duty and began flying carrier-based attack planes on low-altitude bombing runs against the North Vietnamese. ...On October 26, 1967, during his 23rd air mission, McCain´s plane was shot down during a bombing run over the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi." Let's say, given those twenty-three bombing runs, the odds are for McCain having killed some innocents. How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people, John?
But, of course, John McCain's defense is that he was performing his patriotic duty, and that's what William Ayers would have said, too. I remember the Vietnam War. It was not a war of self-defense that the U.S. had to wage or had to win. It was a war of aggression, a waste of resources, lives, manpower, global good will, and national spirit. And, many would say, it was a war crime. Those who were against it viewed their protests as essential patriotism, a way of correcting terrible choices and profound injustices.
According to the New York Times article, William Ayers' case was thrown out of court because of "illegal wiretaps and prosecutorial misconduct", exactly the sort of activities that will get cases brought against the Guantanamo detainees by the Bush Administration thrown out of court. Deja vu all over again.
In the meantime, what about the case against John McCain? The next time he goes abroad, might some enterprising human rights activist step up to him and put him under a citizens' arrest for war crimes and get him hauled off to the The Hague?
I don't think Barack Obama would like that. As snarky and contemptuous as McCain acts toward Obama, I think President Obama would defend McCain. In fact, I think he would feel about him as he does about Ayers -- he's an old man, and the wars he once fought are over and done with. Time to get past fighting old battles. Sometimes I agree with him. But then McCain brings up Williams Ayers again, and I can't help thinking of those bombing runs, and those dead innocents.
By SCOTT SHANE
CHICAGO — At a tumultuous meeting of anti-Vietnam War militants at the Chicago Coliseum in 1969, Bill Ayers helped found the radical Weathermen, launching a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol.
Twenty-six years later, at a lunchtime meeting about school reform in a Chicago skyscraper, Barack Obama met Mr. Ayers, by then an education professor. Their paths have crossed sporadically since then, at a coffee Mr. Ayers hosted for Mr. Obama’s first run for office, on the schools project and a charitable board, and in casual encounters as Hyde Park neighbors.
Their relationship has become a touchstone for opponents of Mr. Obama, the Democratic senator, in his bid for the presidency. Video clips on YouTube, including a new advertisement that was broadcast on Friday, juxtapose Mr. Obama’s face with the young Mr. Ayers or grainy shots of the bombings.
In a televised interview last spring, Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, asked, “How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?”
More recently, conservative critics who accuse Mr. Obama of a stealth radical agenda have asserted that he has misleadingly minimized his relationship with Mr. Ayers, whom the candidate has dismissed as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood” and “somebody who worked on education issues in Chicago that I know.”
A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.”
Obama campaign aides said the Ayers relationship had been greatly exaggerated by opponents to smear the candidate.
“The suggestion that Ayers was a political adviser to Obama or someone who shaped his political views is patently false,” said Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman. Mr. LaBolt said the men first met in 1995 through the education project, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, and have encountered each other occasionally in public life or in the neighborhood. He said they have not spoken by phone or exchanged e-mail messages since Mr. Obama began serving in the United States Senate in January 2005 and last met more than a year ago when they bumped into each other on the street in Hyde Park.
In the stark presentation of a 30-second advertisement or a television clip, Mr. Obama’s connections with a man who once bombed buildings and who is unapologetic about it may seem puzzling. But in Chicago, Mr. Ayers has largely been rehabilitated.
Federal riot and bombing conspiracy charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of illegal wiretaps and other prosecutorial misconduct, and he was welcomed back after years in hiding by his large and prominent family. His father, Thomas G. Ayers, had served as chief executive of Commonwealth Edison, the local power company.
Since earning a doctorate in education at Columbia in 1987, Mr. Ayers has been a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author or editor of 15 books, and an advocate of school reform.
“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said in an interview this week, explaining that he has long consulted Mr. Ayers on school issues. Mr. Daley, whose father was Chicago’s mayor during the street violence accompanying the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the so-called Days of Rage the following year, said he saw the bombings of that time in the context of a polarized and turbulent era.
“This is 2008,” Mr. Daley said. “People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”
That attitude is widely shared in Chicago, but it is not universal. Steve Chapman, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, defended Mr. Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his longtime pastor, whose black liberation theology and “God damn America” sermon became notorious last spring. But he denounced Mr. Obama for associating with Mr. Ayers, whom he said the University of Illinois should never have hired.
“I don’t think there’s a statute of limitations on terrorist bombings,” Mr. Chapman said in an interview, speaking not of the law but of political and moral implications.
“If you’re in public life, you ought to say, ‘I don’t want to be associated with this guy,’ ” Mr. Chapman said. “If John McCain had a long association with a guy who’d bombed abortion clinics, I don’t think people would say, ‘That’s ancient history.’ ”
Mr. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, a clinical associate professor at Northwestern University Law School who was also a Weather Underground founder, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Schools Project
The Ayers-Obama connection first came to public attention last spring, when both Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s Democratic primary rival, and Mr. McCain brought it up. It became the subject of a television advertisement in August by the anti-Obama American Issues Project and drew new attention recently on The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page and elsewhere as the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge at the University of Illinois were opened to researchers.
That project was part of a national school reform effort financed with $500 million from Walter H. Annenberg, the billionaire publisher and philanthropist and President Richard M. Nixon’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. Many cities applied for the Annenberg money, and Mr. Ayers joined two other local education activists to lead a broad, citywide effort that won nearly $50 million for Chicago.
In March 1995, Mr. Obama became chairman of the six-member board that oversaw the distribution of grants in Chicago. Some bloggers have recently speculated that Mr. Ayers had engineered that post for him.
In fact, according to several people involved, Mr. Ayers played no role in Mr. Obama’s appointment. Instead, it was suggested by Deborah Leff, then president of the Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based group whose board Mr. Obama, a young lawyer, had joined the previous year. At a lunch with two other foundation heads, Patricia A. Graham of the Spencer Foundation and Adele Simmons of the MacArthur Foundation, Ms. Leff suggested that Mr. Obama would make a good board chairman, she said in an interview. Mr. Ayers was not present and had not suggested Mr. Obama, she said.
Ms. Graham said she invited Mr. Obama to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Chicago and was impressed.
“At the end of the dinner I said, ‘I really want you to be chairman.’ He said, ‘I’ll do it if you’ll be vice chairman,’ ” Ms. Graham recalled, and she agreed.
Archives of the Chicago Annenberg project, which funneled the money to networks of schools from 1995 to 2000, show both men attended six board meetings early in the project — Mr. Obama as chairman, Mr. Ayers to brief members on school issues.
It was later in 1995 that Mr. Ayers and Ms. Dohrn hosted the gathering, in their town house three blocks from Mr. Obama’s home, at which State Senator Alice J. Palmer, who planned to run for Congress, introduced Mr. Obama to a few Democratic friends as her chosen successor. That was one of several such neighborhood events as Mr. Obama prepared to run, said A. J. Wolf, the 84-year-old emeritus rabbi of KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue, across the street from Mr. Obama’s current house.
“If you ask my wife, we had the first coffee for Barack,” Rabbi Wolf said. He said he had known Mr. Ayers for decades but added, “Bill’s mad at me because I told a reporter he’s a toothless ex-radical.”
“It was kind of a nasty shot,” Mr. Wolf said. “But it’s true. For God’s sake, he’s a professor.”
In 1997, after Mr. Obama took office, the new state senator was asked what he was reading by The Chicago Tribune. He praised a book by Mr. Ayers, “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” which Mr. Obama called “a searing and timely account of the juvenile court system.” In 2001, Mr. Ayers donated $200 to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.
In addition, from 2000 to 2002, the two men also overlapped on the seven-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago charity that had supported Mr. Obama’s first work as a community organizer in the 1980s. Officials there said the board met about a dozen times during those three years but declined to make public the minutes, saying they wanted members to be candid in assessing people and organizations applying for grants.
A board member at the time, R. Eden Martin, a corporate lawyer and president of the Commercial Club of Chicago, described both men as conscientious in examining proposed community projects but could recall nothing remarkable about their dealings with each other. “You had people who were liberal and some who were pretty conservative, but we usually reached a consensus,” Mr. Martin said of the panel.
Since 2002, there is little public evidence of their relationship.
If by then the ambitious politician was trying to keep his distance, it would not be a surprise. In an article that by chance was published on Sept. 11, 2001, The New York Times wrote about Mr. Ayers and his just-published memoir, “Fugitive Days,” opening with a quotation from the author: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Three days after the Qaeda attacks, Mr. Ayers wrote a reply posted on his Web site to clarify his quoted remarks, saying the meaning had been distorted.
“My memoir is from start to finish a condemnation of terrorism, of the indiscriminate murder of human beings, whether driven by fanaticism or official policy,” he wrote. But he added that the Weathermen had “showed remarkable restraint” given the nature of the American bombing campaign in Vietnam that they were trying to stop.
Most of the bombs the Weathermen were blamed for had been placed to do only property damage, a fact Mr. Ayers emphasizes in his memoir. But a 1970 pipe bomb in San Francisco attributed to the group killed one police officer and severely hurt another. An accidental 1970 explosion in a Greenwich Village town house basement killed three radicals; survivors later said they had been making nail bombs to detonate at a military dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey. And in 1981, in an armed robbery of a Brinks armored truck in Nanuet, N.Y., that involved Weather Underground members including Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, two police officers and a Brinks guard were killed.
In his memoir, Mr. Ayers was evasive as to which bombings he had a hand in, writing that “some details cannot be told.” By the time of the Brinks robbery, he and Ms. Dohrn had emerged from underground to raise their two children, then Chesa Boudin, whose parents were imprisoned for their role in the heist.
Little Influence Seen
Mr. Obama’s friends said that history was utterly irrelevant to judging the candidate, because Mr. Ayers was never a significant influence on him. Even some conservatives who know Mr. Obama said that if he was drawn to Ayers-style radicalism, he hid it well.
“I saw no evidence of a radical streak, either overt or covert, when we were together at Harvard Law School,” said Bradford A. Berenson, who worked on the Harvard Law Review with Mr. Obama and who served as associate White House counsel under President Bush. Mr. Berenson, who is backing Mr. McCain, described his fellow student as “a pragmatic liberal” whose moderation frustrated others at the law review whose views were much farther to the left.
Some 15 years later, left-leaning backers of Mr. Obama have the same complaint. “We’re fully for Obama, but we disagree with some of his stands,” said Tom Hayden, the 1960s activist and former California legislator, who helped organize Progressives for Obama. His group opposes the candidate’s call for sending more troops to Afghanistan, for instance, “because we think it’s a quagmire just like Iraq,” he said. “A lot of our work is trying to win over progressives who think Obama is too conservative.”
Mr. Hayden, 68, said he has known Mr. Ayers for 45 years and was on the other side of the split in the radical antiwar movement that led Mr. Ayers and others to form the Weathermen. But Mr. Hayden said he saw attempts to link Mr. Obama with bombings and radicalism as “typical campaign shenanigans.”
“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”