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A Lutheran response to birthers

I received a comment at Birther Report from a “Guest” who said:

Guest: as a Lutheran, you are bearing false witness. You are complicit in Obama’s forgery as you are guilty of original sin. Since you claim you’re religion, then the same condemns you, as your ELCA also allows homosexuality. What does GOD say about homosexuality? What does GOD say about bearing false witness. Laugh now Dr Con, you’ll be with the goats soon, and whenever you look into the mirror you’ll know that your words have convicted you for eternity.

I replied at length, and not wanting to waste the effort just on a comment at Birther Report that will be lost among other old comments soon enough, I’ll repeat it here. The material is not very different from my Open Letter to Nathan Bickel, linked later on.


Dr. Conspiracy: On the contrary. It is partly because of my religion that I spend so much time telling the truth here and on my blog. My personal take on birtherism is informed in particular by my Lutheran background. This is from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism’s teaching on the Ten Commandments:

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 think any objective observer would say that [Birther Report] exists, both in content and comments, to say bad things about and to present in the worst possible light everything that Barack Obama does and by extension to me, the “Obots” and progressives in general. There is a difference between fair criticism and slander. I strive for the former and this site presents the latter.

As scripture says:

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

I do not hold myself up as without sin. I lose my temper and I say harsh things. But I also take considerable care not to stretch the truth when I criticize, and I try not to make sweeping generalizations in my articles. I try not to call people a liar when there is some other possible explanation. Obviously when you visit my site you cannot read all of the things I chose not to say, but there is a lot of it. I have refrained from calling all birthers racists. I have tried to couch birther actions in terms of the normal error of thinking common to everybody, except perhaps more exaggerated in their case. I don’t call birthers barking mad as often as I think it.

I care about moderation and fairness, and I work at it. I don’t always succeed, but I am trying. When I fail, I feel bad about it. I have a conscience.

God, according to Moses in the Bible, says the same thing about homosexuality as about eating shrimp. “Abomination” is the word. St. Paul says the same thing about homosexuality as about a man with long hair. “Degrading” is the word. That is a longer topic than I can cover here. The Lutheran Church, not without considerable controversy, no longer requires our clergy who are gay to be celibate. Our understanding of homosexuality has advanced, as has our understanding of shellfish. hair styles, slavery, the value of Pi and other things in the Bible. And despite the irresponsible remarks made [at Birther Report], I am neither a Communist, nor gay.

But don’t try to tag me with “false witness.” It doesn’t fit.

For more on this, see my Open Letter to Nathan Bickel, a Lutheran Pastor (not ELCA).

Somebody could go over my 3,600 articles and pick out the worst and most extreme examples out of everything I’ve said, pile it up ignoring every moderate thing I’ve ever said, and call me a hypocrite. This is exactly what the 8th Commandment prohibits, putting someone in the worst possible light.

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Birther promotes “SONY hack” conspiracy theory

Nathan Bickel, pastor, Sandy Hook truther, birther, and commenter at the homoerotic fetishism web site Gerbil Report™, runs a blog cum news site called “Moral Matters.” On the site, he touts a video about the recent intrusion into SONY computer systems, reportedly by North Korean government-sponsored hackers. Only the video comes to another conclusion:

“…..It’s so freaking obvious. This is all about the Internet. It’s all about censorship. And it’s all about new draconian legislation – courtesy of this scumbag, this…………that makes up the president of the United States.

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).

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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.