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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.

Suffering fools gladly

For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
— 2 Corinthians 11:19 (KJV)

That phrase from The Bible came to my mind after reading comments here the past few days from people who claim great expertise, but can’t reason themselves out of a paper bag. St. Paul was writing about some “professional evangelizers” that had set up shop in the church at Corinth and were bilking the congregation. I love Andy Gaus’ The Unvarnished New Testament translation. Here’s how he puts it:

After all, you in your wisdom are very good at putting up with fools: you put up with people who enslave you, who eat you out of house and home, who take money from you, who condescend to you, who slap you in the face. I’m ashamed to speak of it; it makes us look anemic.

St. Paul is being sarcastic in calling the Corinthian Christians “wise.”

In modern times Orly Taitz asked supporters to pay her $20,000 court sanction that resulted from her own misconduct. She asks her supporters to pay travel expenses to Hawaii to support frivolous lawsuits with no chance whatever of success. Jerome Corsi inserted him into the Maricopa County Tea Party and incited it to make a nutty presentation to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Terry Lakin begs for money to make up for his transgressions. Birther web sites are replete with PayPal donate buttons, but offer no accounting for what is done with the money.

The birthers suffer fools gladly and think themselves wise. I think it’s pathetic. I suffer fools here, but not gladly;  and I do not think myself wise but rather just barely hanging on, and thankful for that.