Michael “One religion under God” Flynn hates America

Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American

HCR
Heather Cox Richardson

November 15, 2021

Last night, Trump’s disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn spoke at the “Reawaken America” conference in San Antonio, Texas, designed to whip up supporters to believe the 2020 election was stolen and that coronavirus vaccines are an infringement on their liberty. Flynn told the audience: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.”

This statement flies in the face of our Constitution, whose First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” James Madison of Virginia, the key thinker behind the Constitution, had quite a lot to say about why it was fundamentally important to make sure the government kept away from religion.

In 1772, when he was 21, Madison watched as Virginia arrested itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by the next year, he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices; he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience. 

In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights on which our own Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—would be based. It reads, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” he explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants. 

Madison believed that a variety of religious sects would balance each other out, keeping the new nation free of the religious violence of Europe. He drew on that vision explicitly when he envisioned a new political system, expecting that a variety of political expressions would protect the new government. In Federalist #51, he said: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

Right on cue, Flynn’s call for one religion runs parallel to modern Republican lawmakers’ determination to make their party supreme. 

The 13 Republicans in the House who were willing to vote yes and give Democratic president Joe Biden a win with the popular bipartisan infrastructure bill are now facing increasing harassment, including death threats from Trump supporters. Although he talked about passing his own infrastructure bill, former president Trump opposed the measure on Biden’s watch, and Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called those voting for it “traitor Republicans.” 

Meanwhile, Republicans remain silent about the video released by Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), showing a cartoon version of himself killing a Democratic congresswoman. Sixty Democratic representatives are sponsoring a bill to censure Gosar; not even the Republican Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), has condemned the video.

It turns out the plot to overturn the election of a Democratic president was wider than we knew. New information from a forthcoming book by ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl reveals that Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows was deeply involved. On New Year’s Eve, Meadows emailed to then–vice president Mike Pence’s top aide a memo outlining how Pence could steal the election for Trump.

On Friday, Meadows refused to testify before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, ignoring a subpoena. His lawyer, George Terwilliger III, said that Trump had told him not to testify on the grounds of executive privilege, but as far as I can tell, Trump has not actually made that claim over Meadows’s testimony.

That did not stop Meadows’s lawyer from taking to the pages of the Washington Post to try to defend his client. His op-ed was quite misleading both about precedent and about the limits of executive privilege: as the committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said, “there’s nothing extraordinary about the Select Committee seeking the cooperation of a former senior administration official. Throughout U.S. history, the White House has provided Congress with testimony and information when it has been in the public interest. There couldn’t be a more compelling public interest than getting answers about an attack on our democracy.”

But Terwilliger insisted the committee was out of bounds in demanding that Meadows testify. He indicated that the only reasonable compromise between the committee and Meadows was for the former chief of staff to answer written questions. 

Terwilliger seems concerned that Meadows will get caught in lies if he testifies. The select committee says that “Meadows has failed to answer even the most basic questions, including whether he was using a private cell phone to communicate on January 6th, and where his text messages from that day are.” That sure makes it sound like they have information on his actions that day, leaving him open to getting caught if he tries to lie. Written answers are much safer. 

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and member of the select committee, said today the committee would move forward quickly to refer Meadows to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt of Congress. 

As Madison foresaw, the Republicans’ attempt to cement their power endangers the country. On Friday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released transcripts of interviews with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledging that Trump administration officials stopped them from talking to the public and altered their scientific guidance about the coronavirus, accusing them of trying “to harm our commander in chief, the President.” More than 750,000 Americans have now died from COVID.

Their power play hurts us abroad, as well. Tensions surrounding Russia remain high. Yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked to Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau to reaffirm U.S. support for Poland—a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—as Belarus’s leader Alexander Lukashenko tries to destabilize Europe by forcing migrants over the Polish border. The State Department noted that the turmoil on the Polish border “seeks to threaten security, sow division, and distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine,” where Russian president Vladimir Putin has recently pushed a large military buildup.

But, as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) pointed out this morning, “Senate Republicans are blocking the confirmation of our NATO and EU Ambassadors so as to deliberately hamper global security…because they believe global instability will hurt Biden, and hurting Biden is all that matters.”

This brilliant take really nails Jesus (so to speak)

There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:

1. He called everyone brother

2. He liked Gospel

3. He didn’t get a fair trial

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He went into His Father’s business

2. He lived at home until he was 33

3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his Mother was sure He was God

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

1. He talked with His hands

2. He had wine with His meals

3. He used olive oil

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

1. He never cut His hair

2. He walked around barefoot all the time

3. He started a new religion

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was an American Indian:

1. He was at peace with nature

2. He ate a lot of fish

3. He talked about the Great Spirit

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

1. He never got married.

2. He was always telling stories.

3. He loved green pastures.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Mexican:

1. He treated his mama like she was a saint.

2. He always wore llantas and a serape.

3. He was a carpenter who could fix anything.

But the most compelling evidence of all – 3 proofs that Jesus was a woman:

1. He fed a crowd at a moment’s notice when there was virtually no food

2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn’t get it

3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was still work to do

Chris Hedges: Trump’s Barrett Nomination Another Step Toward Christian Totalitarianism

All fascist and totalitarian movements paper over their squalid belief systems with the veneer of religious morality.

By Chris Hedges | ScheerPost.com

The Christian Right is content to have the focus on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett revolve around her opposition to abortion and membership in People of Praise, a far-right Catholic cult that practices “speaking in tongues.”

What it does not want examined is her abject subservience to corporate power, her hostility to workers, civil liberties, unions and environmental regulations. And since the Democratic Party is beholden to the same donor class as the Republican Party, and since the media long ago substituted the culture wars for politics, the most ominous threat Barrett’s appointment to the court represents is going unmentioned.

All fascist and totalitarian movements paper over their squalid belief systems with the veneer of morality. They mouth pieties about restoring law and order, right and wrong, the sanctity of life, civic and family virtues, patriotism and tradition to mask their dismantling of the open society and silencing and persecution of those who oppose them.

This is the real game being played by Christian fascists, who since the early 1970s have been building institutions with tens of millions in corporate donations to take power.

Donald Trump, who has no ideology, has allowed the Christian Right to fill his ideological void. He is the useful idiot. And the Christian Right, awash in money from corporations that know their real political intent, will mobilize in this election to use any tool, no matter how devious, from right-wing armed militias to the invalidation of ballots, to block Joe Biden and Democratic candidates from assuming office. The road to despotism is always paved with righteousness. This was as true for Soviet communism as it was for German fascism. And it is true in the United States.

Capitalism, driven by the twin obsessions of maximizing profit and reducing the cost of production by slashing worker’s rights and wages, is antithetical to the Christian Gospel, as well as the Enlightenment ethic defined by Immanuel Kant.

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Shakespeare, Faith, and the Narrow Gate

Over the past few months, my wife and I have been using our non-voluntary time staying at home to watch our way through performances of all Shakespeare’s dramatic works, using the BBC productions filmed between 1978 and 1985 (and available on Britbox). I posted about this project, and now we have completed the process, 37 out of 37. But who’s counting? (!). I am here offering some further thoughts, referring to the plays we have watched more recently. Most of these plays were certainly not new to me, but seeing them produced changes and sharpens perceptions.

I am absolutely not suggesting that these BBC plays were the best productions ever made, and a couple were frankly not that good, but some were cosmic. If there ever was a better Hamlet than Derek Jacobi’s, I don’t know it. Then there was the Richard II, starring, um, Derek Jacobi. I see a theme emerging here. Anyway, there were lots more fine non-Jacobite plays as well. Much of the appeal of the BBC series was that, for better or worse, they served as a time capsule of concepts of performing and visualizing Shakespeare as they existed in that long-dead geological era forty years back. And yes, 1981 probably was the last time you could do a major Othello production with a white actor in the lead, even if it was Anthony Hopkins.

Spiritual And/Or Religious?

Watching or reading Shakespeare, you get an unparalleled look into the values and assumptions of the Early Modern world, and that is so critical for teaching or researching on the era. That is doubly true in matters of religion and the spiritual, broadly defined.

Shakespeare’s own religious attitudes have been a matter of mystery and debate for centuries. Yes, you can certainly find biographical hints of Shakespeare’s Catholic ties, or make him an atheist, as you wish. But it’s the perpetual dilemma of deducing an author’s personal views from what s/he writes. Because they write something, does that mean that it reflects their personal beliefs or attitudes? Are we hearing the singer or just the song? Continue reading

QAnon Didn’t Just Spring Forth From the Void — It’s the Latest From a Familiar Movement

If you’ve been online at any point in the past year—if not, welcome!—your aimless clicks and doomscrolling may have brought you glimpses of the “world” of QAnon: the conspiracy theory that argues that US President Donald Trump is in the midst of a secret war against sex-trafficking, Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Its increasing prominence and power, especially as a worldview dissociated from fact, have compelled many an analyst, journalist, and pundit to festoon their analyses of QAnon in religious language. According to this speculative genre, QAnon is a new American religion, or even a cult. It’s an abusive cabal unlike any other form of belief and practice preceding it.

Enter religious studies scholar Megan Goodwin, co-host of Keeping it 101: A Killjoy’s Introduction to Religion, and author of Abusing Religion: Literary Persecution, Sex Scandals, and American Minority Religions. Fluent in the place of religion in the media, and with a recent book on the religio-political history and power of sex abuse allegations, Goodwin contends that QAnon is far from unprecedented. Goodwin traces the group’s prominence and lineage, as well as its zealous determination to “save the children,” to the rise of the New Christian Right and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s.

Calling QAnon a cult or religion marks the movement for its alterity and supposed irrationality, and hides how its practices are born of American social and political traditions. Its apocalypticism and accusations of pedophilia are but a contemporary symptom of a religiously-inflected political strategy older than Christianity itself. Historical precedents further suggest that the state lacks the tools and incentives to curb the group’s rise. Continue reading