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What is Barack Obama’s religion?

The war on Islam

This title was carefully selected and I hope readers will get the point from what follows.

Barack Obama didn’t release his birth certificate in 2008 to prove he was not born in Kenya; he released it to counter the equally silly claim that his middle name was Mohammed amid stories that he was Muslim. Since that time and up to the present video from Wayne Allyn Root, the claim has been leveled against Barack Obama that he is Muslim and not Christian.

While Obama doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve, it’s no secret that he attended a Christian church. At an Easter prayer breakfast in 2011 [link to entire remarks]:

I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason — because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective

I know about the text because it was quoted by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America presiding bishop Mark Hanson. That, and what accompanied it, did not sound like it came from a Muslim. To Muslims, Jesus was a prophet, not divine. Continue Reading →

The moral dimension of birtherism

The reason that I have so much motivation to combat birtherism is that I consider it immoral, and not just immoral in and of itself, but a movement that promotes immorality and encourages others to act badly, and not only does birtherism encourage birthers to be immoral, it also entices its opponents to act badly as well.

The scripture text for today’s sermon comes from St. Paul’s letter to Rome:

And as they didn’t keep God steadily in mind, God left them to their unsteadiness of mind to do things that decency forbids, filled as they were with all kinds of unlawfulness, meanness, greed, and evil, rampant with envy, murder, discord, treachery, and disorderly conduct: rumormongers, character assassins, God-haters, criminals, haughty, boastful, fabricators of evil stories, disobedient to parents, with no comprehension, no cohesion, no affection, no compassion.

Gaus, Andy (1991-01-01). The Unvarnished New Testament (New Translation from the Original Greek) (Kindle Locations 5157-5161). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

While several items from the indecent list fit things I see in the birther movement, the one that I think most characterizes it is “character assassins.” (I could have picked the closely-allied “fabricators of evil stories.”) What is the birther movement, after all, but an attempt to find something bad about Barack Obama, initially to keep him from being elected president, and later to try to make him fail in office, or to get him out of office? Birtherism springs from and promotes a visceral dislike of Barack Obama, whether it is because he beat out Hillary Clinton, or that he is black, or urbane, or progressive, or has an Arabic-sounding middle name.

Birtherism has had its consequences, and I can think of no greater waste than former Army physician Terry Lakin, who ruined his career, lost his medical license, and lost his pension because of birtherism. On the other side consider Adam Cox who was convicted of threatening Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Would he ever have done this if not enraged by the character assassination of the birthers?

It is important to try to distinguish those who make up stories and market them from those who just spread the stories. At the top of the food chain we have folks like Joseph Farah, Jerome Corsi, Bob Unruh and Jack Cashill. They make money stirring up ill will. While folks like that deserve greater condemnation, still people who spread stories (like, for example, Donald Trump), the “rumormongers,” bear responsibility for not checking out stories before they pass them on.

Web sites such as Birther Report are noted for the “meanness” of the comments as much as their misleading stories. And when I see meanness and “haughty,” “boastful” fabricators of evil stories, it makes me angry and under that influence I can sometimes be mean too (that’s why I gave up BR for Lent).

Birtherism is not just wrong; it is indecent.

An open letter to Nathan Bickel

[Nathan Bickel describes himself as “pastor emeritus,” I think of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. He publishes the web site, Moral Matters, and is a birther.]

So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.
(RSV) 1 Peter 2:1

I keep a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism at hand, a paper copy in the drawer at my elbow and an electronic copy on my portable devices. I draw the reader’s attention to the entry on the Eighth Commandment:

The Eighth Commandment

You must not tell lies about your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16 )

What does this mean? We must fear and love God, so that we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does.

I see this teaching as a demand for affirmative responsibility when speaking about someone else. It requires not only that the truth be spoken, but that the truth be honestly and objectively sought, that negative claims be responsibly evaluated before speaking, and that a thing is not claimed to be worse than it is. This principle is the moral underpinning of what I try to do (and I am by no means perfect) on this web site. Debunking is largely an attack on slander1.

There is a difference between disagreement and slander; and there is a difference between resisting slander and support of the person being slandered. These distinctions seem lost on Nathan Bickel based on his online comments asking how I can support Obama. There is a difference between saying Obama’s policies are disastrous and saying Obama committed ID fraud.

My experience with the “birther” movement has been the very antithesis  of the Eighth Commandment. Birtherism is at its core an attempt to put the worst possible spin on everything President Obama does, even his facial expressions are labeled as malevolent. Birtherism takes dirty politics and makes it a personal passion with the fervor usually reserved for a religion.

It started with a rumor that Obama was born in Kenya, not evidence of that. The first stories were accompanied by no reason to believe them, but they were believed. For over five years birthers have sought to find evidence to justify their initial slander.

Slander is sin, and repeated attempts to justify slander is a sinful pursuit that leads those who participate over time in it deeper and deeper in to a web of deception, deceit and depravity. Instead of righteous anger, it breeds hatred, verbal brutality and the desire for vengeance. Birthers have clung to criminals like Larry Sinclair (27 year criminal record including crimes of deceit) and Lucas Smith (multiple convictions including forgery). They have made heroes of other criminals like Walter Fitzpatrick and Terry Lakin. They look the other way when other birthers committed identity theft to steal Obama’s records.

They have inflated the resumes of countless self-appointed experts that claim things they know nothing about. Birthers say that every expert who has reported on Obama’s birth certificate says it’s a forgery, when not one of these “experts” has ever examined a forgery before in their lives2—and birthers lie when omitting the fact that that several real experts have said it’s not a fake (including Mike Zatkovich, and Neal Krawetz). Like a dog to its vomit, birthers eat at the table of cranks, con men and swindlers, while turning away from the wholesome food of credible sources, unbiased investigation and scientific methodology.

Birthers engage in a virtual orgy of slander, not even respecting the dead (like devout Christian and humanitarian Loretta Fuddy). They slander judges, Obama family members, federal agency heads, and the Hawaii Department of Health. They even have to attack a nobody like me, calling me a “paid shill” or a “traitor”—they demonize everyone that disagrees with them. Bickel even argued on Twitter that I wasn’t qualified to have an opinion because I use a profile photo of myself on the blog and Twitter instead of a front view (and of course there are front-view photos of me on the site).

image

Even though a birther may believe nonsense conspiracy theories about Obama, they are still condemned by the Eighth Commandment against false witness because they are irresponsibly lazy in not doing diligence to check the falsehoods they spread. They don’t demand consistency in the stories they repeat, confirmation of speculation, nor credentials from sources. No story seems too far out and fantastical for at least some of the birthers.

The chief investigator for the birthers, Mike Zullo, has a total of 5 years experience as a policeman on a small-town police force, and that a couple of decades ago, yet he has been promoted to “Lieutenant” and his experience selling used cars tallied with his brief police career to give total years in law enforcement. Zullo has been caught lying and fabricating evidence, yet in their lust for slandering Obama, birthers brush these inconvenient facts aside in order to put Obama in the worst possible light.

Birtherism is evil and those who spread it are slanderers, and that includes Nathan Bickel.

Partial list of slanders published by Nathan Bickel in the last two months:


1I use the word “slander” in the informal sense including both spoken and written speech.

2This excludes Reed Hayes, who has not made his report public.

Obama calls Christian evangelicals #1 “extremists”?

This article refers primarily to events from 2012 and 2013. It is included here for reference.

If you listened to InfoWars, WorldNetDaily, Fox News Radio, The Blaze, The Washington Times, the Free Republic or a host of other conservative-oriented news sources, you might think so.

Wake up you fool. nobama hates our Military and Christians, but he loves morons like you that believe his every word.

– Terry Ford
– Comment at Google+ (November 2013)

If you don’t frequent those sources, you may not have heard about it.

What actually happened was the the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups in the US, provided a training presentation on extremism  for use in National Guard, presented in Pennsylvania in 2012. In that presentation, a list of religious groups (see page 24), including Catholics, Christian evangelicals, Muslim extremists and the Ku Klux Klan, indicating that some members of those groups are extreme. The text that goes with the list says:

Extremism is a complex phenomenon; it is defined as beliefs, attitudes, feelings, actions, or strategies of a character far removed from the “ordinary.” Because “ordinary” is subjective, no religious group would label itself extreme or its doctrine “extremism.” However, religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world; every religion has some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only “right way” and that all others are practicing their faith the “wrong way,” seeing and believing that their faith/religion superior to all others.

In December 2013, a coalition of religious leaders wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense complaining about religious discrimination in the military, including this SPLC presentation, and apparently the conservative media finally got the story.

Some conservative commentators have objected to listing the Klan as a “religious group” but at least historically the Klan was associated with Protestantism. Today the Klan is so fractured that I don’t what they believe.

The best web coverage of the issue I found came from the Christian News Service, which is a good source of information on topics with a religious link.

The SPLC seems to this writer to get a little extreme sometimes too; however, in the presentation in question, they are specific in listing 25 hate groups (page 32 in the presentation) in Pennsylvania, including 3 labeled Catholic.

The Defense Department is reviewing the materials.

Read more:

Birther eschatology

Many moons ago I taught high school students in Sunday School. It was an exceptional group. One of the most popular features of the class was the weekly $5 or $10 word, some fancy theological term that I would explain, and then they would feel good about knowing something their parents didn’t (except for our pastor’s kid). The $5 words were shorter or simpler than the $10 words. “Eschatology” was one those $10 words.

Eschatology is the branch of theology dealing with the end of the world. Modern evangelical Christians use the phrase “end times,” and Birthers have been using the phrase “universe shattering” of late. I introduced this month with an article titled, “Birther apocalypse,” and I will end it on a similar theme.

Of course today is the last day of March, the last possible day for the birther’s anticipated “Universe-shattering March Reveal.” Nothing happened on the Carl Gallups radio show last Friday, and I haven’t heard of any press conferences scheduled for today. I think it safe to say that March will end without the universe being shattered.

If interested, you can click back to my 2012 article, “The Long Form and the Great Disappointment,” for a quick look at an apocalyptic Christian sect called the Millerites and how their predictions of the end of the world didn’t pan out. That group fell apart after a couple of bad predictions. The modern Jehovah’s Witnesses were influenced by the Millerite tradition. They predicted the beginning of God’s kingdom on earth to occur in 1914. They postponed the date a few times, converted it into some sort of heavenly event, and then quietly gave up on dates.

The birthers, like Christians in general, have been undaunted by multiple failures of predicting future events. Christians have come up with literally hundreds of date predictions for the end of the world, as far back as 4th century. Birthers have been saying “any day now” for 5 years. Specific Christian sects do not seem to survive more than a couple of failed dates—new dates come from new sects. Birthers, however, don’t seem to have any limit for disappointment. It almost seems that Mike Zullo  can get away with an infinite number of failed promises. Perhaps the difference is that he’s never quite specific, whereas Christian apocalyptic prophets set dates, or maybe birthers aren’t really all that committed to Zullo in the first place and so the disappointment is less.

There are obvious parallels between Christian and Birther eschatology, and some differences. One parallel is in the righting of injustice and the vindication of the righteous. Christians look to the final judgment of the wicked and birthers look to Obama being removed from office and convicted of a crime. They look towards universal recognition that they were right all along.

Another parallel is the punishment of their enemies. The Christian Book of Revelation described the ultimate end of Satan:

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
(ESV) Rev 12:9

and

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(ESV) Rev 20:15

The birther parallel to Satan’s angels is what the Birthers would call “O-bots.” They look to the execution of Obama for treason, bringing to Mind LoneStar1776’s YouTube video, “Public beheading.” The O-bots are destined for a similar fate.

Where Birthers and Christians differ is that following the travail of the end of the world, a time of joy results:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(ESV) Rev 21:4

By contrast, the extreme right wing seems to be married to perpetual doom, no matter what happens. When Obama leaves office, they’ll just latch onto something else that’s destroying the world.

Dr. Conspiracy’s Guide to Eschatology

Christian Birther
Satan NWO Banksters
The Beast / Antichrist Barack Obama
The Whore of Babylon Ann Dunham
The Devil’s angels Obots
The Day of the Lord Universe Shattering
The Lake of Fire Federal prison
The Messiah Mike Zullo
The Church The Birthers
The Great Tribulation The Collapse of the US Economy and race riots
The faithful acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God The faithful acknowledge Obama is the son of Frank Marshall Davis
Heaven / The New Jerusalem (no corresponding concept)
The Scroll that only the Lamb of God was worthy to unroll The Reed Hayes Report
144,000 The number of birthers
The three plagues that killed 1/3 of mankind ObamaCare, ObamaCare and ObamaCare
The Rider on the White Horse Joe Arpaio
The Last Judgment Alabama Supreme Court decision in McInnish TBA

“Stoning homos” is not still the law

 

Our much discussed Pastor James David Manning put the sign above in front of his Harlem church. As one Christian to another, I reprove Pastor Manning for his error.

The history of the early church is told in the in the Bible’s Book of “The Acts of the Apostles,” believed to have been authored by St. Luke as a “part 2” of the “Gospel of Luke.” The book talks about the introduction of non-Jewish members into the Christian community and deals with the question of whether one had to be Jewish and follow the laws in the Hebrew scriptures in order to be a Christian. The debate is recounted in the 15th Chapter of Acts. Here is part of the conclusion:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
(ESV) Act 15:28-29

Now while sexual immorality (whatever that means) is prohibited, the rest of the burden of the Law of Moses, including any requirements for stoning anyone, were no longer binding on non-Jewish Christians.

It is rather ironic that Manning cites John’s Gospel, Chapter 81, on his sign because in that text Jesus intervenes to stop a stoning:

Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such [adulterous] women. So what do you say?" …  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."
(ESV) Jn 8:5-11

The self-righteous folks even tried to stone Jesus:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?"
(ESV) Jn 10:31-32

In this season of Lent, let us strive to forgive the wayward ones like Pastor Manning.


1The oldest manuscripts of John’s Gospel do not contain this particular text. It is believed that it was part of a separate tradition, later added.

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