Monday, August 31, 2009

Pardon Me While I Stand On My Soapbox

Politics and religion make lousy bedfellows. Has someone said that before? Ah, yes. But, the phrase was "strange bedfellows." I'm going to go with "lousy." Either way, it deserves to be said again...and again...until enough people open their eyes to the reality that politics and religion should not be in bed together at all.

If you're not already brain dead from listening to or reading about the insanity that seems to have stricken a multitude of citizens in this country, spare a few cells won't you?

A couple of weeks ago here in Phoenix, President Obama took a break from his family vacation to hold a town hall meeting on the subject of national health care. Within minutes, live coverage of the event was being broadcast to media outlets all over the country. The images were shocking. Camera crews were capturing video of several people outside of the event who were carrying firearms. Some of these firearms were large semi-automatic weapons.

Sure, I'd seen the coverage of the lone gunman at another town hall meeting in another state who calmly held his sign carrying the quote about watering the tree of Liberty and toting a firearm strapped to his side. Although frightening, he had a license to carry the gun and was behaving in a non-threatening manner and making no threats other than the one implied by his sign. It was directed at no one in particular (although we know to whom it was directed) and he didn't behave in an aggressive fashion. I completely disagreed that he should be wearing a firearm at or near an event where our nation's leader was speaking, but apparently the CIA knows their stuff and seemed to have it all under control.

But, to see images of multiple people wearing firearms standing outside a venue where our President was speaking, was astounding to me. (I wonder how these fine, upstanding Americans would have reacted had people dressed in Muslim garb toting licensed weapons shown up to protest?) And, these images were being recorded just miles from my home. These are the people among whom I live. And worse.

After some investigating by people who had an interest in knowing who these gun slinging folks were, it was determined that at least one of those fellows was the parishoner of a church in Tempe, AZ, called Faithful Word Baptist Church. The pastor of FWBC is Steven Anderson, who it turns out, is a self-proclaimed pastor who actually has no credentials whatsoever, except what his church's website states as an ability to "recite from memory, over 100 passages from the Bible. " Steven Anderson is crazy.

Steven Anderson is crazy because he has allowed religious fervor to poison his mind. Steven Anderson is crazy because the day before our President spoke at that town hall meeting in Phoenix, he stood before a congregation and gave a sermon he titled, "Why I HATE Barack Obama." He stood before his congregation and quoted passages from the Bible (from memory, no doubt) to support him in his belief that the President is evil and should be killed. He passionately and with conviction, laid out the reasoning behind wishing death to the President. He rationalized why Mrs. Obama should be husband less and why Sascha and Melia should be fatherless, and he used the Bible to back him up.

So, the next day...filled with the impassioned words of his pastor's sermon still ringing in his ears, Mr. Gunslinger shows up at the President's town hall meeting in Phoenix with a semi-automatic weapon slung over his shoulder.

Many a debate between myself and others has been engaged in on the topic of gun control. I'm a lover, not a fighter and I'm all about peaceful protest and making love, not war. I know there are many people in our country who think they need/deserve/have the pack heat. I disagree. Our forefathers believed in arming citizens for the purpose of forming militias in order to guard against foreign insurgents. The "right to bear arms," or to possess them, has become inseparable in our nation's mind, with the right to form a militia.

Add into this mix, a big heapin' handful of religious zeal and fervor, and you've got yourself...well...Iraq. That's right people. We're not any better. We're not "the greatest country on Earth." WE are the same as THEY. Yes, THEY. Those "crazy" people who believe in jihad. You know the ones. The ones who can't separate their religious zeal from their political agenda? WE who try to export "democracy" to other nations whether they ask for it or not. WE who could care less about the horrific genocide occurring in other lands, but who will rip your heads off and blow you to bits if you dare mess with our fucking oil supply?

Don't nay say me. When your religion becomes your foreign policy, you're in for some real trouble, my friends. And now, it appears that religion has become our internal national policy. The "far right" who constantly yammers on about hoping that our president fails and who call him a racist and a socialist and compare him to Hitler...ask them how many of them are also devoutly religious. I don't have to poll them, because it's already been done. The overwhelming majority of those who hope to see our president fail...or worse...also proclaim to be religious.

By no means am I saying that only religious people are fanatical and it's only religious people who wish our president ill will. What I AM saying, is that religion brings with it, by its very nature, the possibility...and raises the probability of fanaticism.

I realize I run the risk of alienating some people. So be it. I cannot and will not continue to sit idly by and watch the crazies take over my country. Mr. Right will not hear of me joining the group that will be picketing Mr. Anderson's church next Sunday, so I am peacefully protesting via my blog.

And, just to offer a bit of contrast to the hateful and venomous words of the "Christian" in the video, here are some words written by a fellow political liberal and atheist. (You know...the people the religious right think are the crazies.)

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try

No hell below us, above us only sky

Imagine all the people, living for today...

Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too

Imagine all the people, living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people, sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.


Linda Rae said...

The British were not the foreign insurgents, they were our government. The purpose of the militias was to protect oneself and family/property against one's over-reaching government.

By the way, and unrelated to anything much at all, did you read that Mrs. Widow sold the rights to that song for a commercial?

steven said...

a powerful posting amy, i'm still reeling from the fact that carrying weapons like that is alright in your country. i'm also astonished to see a religious figure using the word "hate" in the context of another human being. i know i'm not naive but i guess i have to describe myself as ignorant of the reality of the united states. when barack was made president i knew this was going to happen - in fact i expect everyone knew. what's astonishing is that it is being allowed to unfold to the degree it is. so sad. so crazy sad.

ellen abbott said...

Amy, I'm right behind you girl. Personally I think religion (not to be confused with spirituality) is the worst thing to happen to people. Historically, more hatred and murder has been done in the name of religion than anything else. There is a good reason the founding fathers were insistent on separation of church and state. And I betcha, had that been Bush, there would have no one within a country mile with a weapon.

The Bug said...

Hear hear! Or is it Here here! Hmmm - whatever. I totally agree with you!

NanU said...

Inciting to murder is not covered by the First Amendment. Not even under the fig leaf of religious freedom. And inciting to murder the president is a specific crime. Why isn't anybody charging this jerk? Why are upstanding citizens standing around and letting it happen?

Amy said...

Linda:The "government" that existed then was not the government which exists now. It's not accurate historically to state that the right to bear arms was for the purpose of protecting oneself from over-reaching government. "Government" wasn't even established yet when the right to bear arms was written. The idea was established pre-Revolutionary war and was later added to our current Constitution when it was penned, during a time when our country was still very much struggling to establish its independence. Alexander Hamilton thought it best to keep the language about bearing arms so the the whole of the people could raise up against the army if it usurped the governments power or supported a tyrannical government. I doubt any of them imagined an army like we have today or that individual citizens would be walking the streets semi-automatic weapons.

Steven: I am not cut from the same cloth as those who think like Sarah Palin and say that we should never apologize for our country. I find myself frequently wanting to reach out to the world and say to them, "I'm sorry! It wasn't supposed to be this way!" Things have really gone awry here. From the moment Barack Obama was elected until about a month after he took office, it was as though I was holding my breath. I feared daily for his saftey and for the saftey of his family. I know, sadly, that there are people who are just crazy enough to try to do him harm and that more likely than not, that those people have guns. I know that weapon ownership is supposed to be a freedom here, but it doesn't make me feel free...or safe.

ellen: Well, I can pretty much bet that you're correct. The CIA says they've never dealt with, ever...the number of death threats against a president as they're dealing with now. Hate is a mighty frightening thing. I wish that peace and love could overpower it, but this country just may be too divided. There just may be more hate than love.

Bug: I believe it's, "hear, hear!" As in "hear ye, hear ye!" (Thanks!)

NanU: You're right. It's not covered under the First Amendment and it is a crime to threaten a president. I'm sure this guy is on their radar, but I too feel an urgency to make sure that people like this aren't allowed to continue spreading their dangerous poison.

@eloh said...

It is getting very hard in this country to separate the "real" from the "staged".

While I will gladly die protecting ALL Americans their right to bear arms........something smelly is going doesn't take more than a couple brain cells to know that you should NOT be "packin" around the President.....

Maybe that's what smells...offending people into hating those that do bear arms.

Amy said...

@eloh: Therein lies the problem. If we protect the right of ALL citizens to keep and bear arms, how do we protect our citizens against those weapon wielding ones who possess only "a couple of brain cells?" It's not necessarily the guns that scare me. It's the people carrying the guns. My greater concern here is how religious fervor seems to corrupt the mind into believing that violent acts can and should be committed in the name of a god or religious dogma.

I greatly respect your service to this country and appreciate your point of view.

lakeviewer said...

Excellent post, Amy, full of insightful sentiments. Thank you.

@eloh said...

You understand where I am on this whole issue...and those people scare me too.

It needs to be an open and calm debate, with people willing to offer and accept certain premises at differing points of the debate.

If you will allow me to include Atheists as a religion of sorts then I offer that all religions have their crazies. Or, if you will, those who bring shame and disgrace on the good people who brand themselves with the same title.

I don't have the answers or even any decent suggestions. I do know that I have never heard an argument "for" or "against" that didn't have a gaping hole in it.

ALL religion aside, you would really think that just plain common sense would prevail around any president.

Linda Rae said...

Pre-Revolutionary War, the government was the Crown of England. It is America's argument that the crown was way over-reaching (the British disagree-- they argue that colonies were established for the purpose of bringing revenues to the Crown). In addition, the "Army" was the British Army--and yes, the American revolutionary folks (traitors to the crown) were fighting against the legally established Army.

Amy said...

Rosaria: Thank you as always.

@eloh: I think I do know where you are on this issue and I'm glad that we're able to have open dialogue. I most certainly agree that every group has their crazies. Organized crazies scare the crap out of me. And, would think that common sense would prevail, but it just doesn't seem to these days. It's a bitch.

Linda: The point of the blog has been lost. My point goes even further back in the history of our country. It goes back to Manifest Destiny...the belief of the church that it was God's will that the Americas be colonized and the Natives converted to Christianity. In the name of the church and God, native men, women and children were brutally slaughtered. That's what I'm talking about here. Over and over and over again in the history of the world, religious fervor and fanaticism has been the cause of horrific acts of violence and continues to be up to the present moment. Fanatics with guns aren't nearly as frightening to me as religious fanatics with guns.

Angie said...

Speaking as a Christian (except for that part where I continously say sarcastic things about people - so maybe I'm not the best example of a Christian) - I'm stunned on two different levels by the people who want to mix politics and religion: 1. that people who call themselves Christian could have so little regard for their fellow man if he/she disagrees with them and 2. that they cannot see the negative ways that mixing politics and religion will affect Christianity. Seperation of Church and State doesn't just protect the state, it also protects the church. Which is one of the many reasons why I will never vote Republican (there are too many to name in one post.) I value my faith, and my right to practice it as I see fit, too much to gamble with it the way they are currently gambling.

Amy said...

Angie: Great comment! Very rational and well stated. Thank you. (Not being able to say sarcastic things without guilt is one of the main reasons I abandoned Christianity. *wink*)

Linda Rae said...

Sorry, Amy.

Of course, historically, more evil has been done in the name of religion than maybe any other concept.

There has always been one current "bad" religion. The pendulum will swing--it will be someone else's turn.

I just don't feel the need to attempt to strike anyone's beliefs down--believers or non-believers.

I think it's more important to focus internally than on where the current loudest noise is coming from.

As far as the history of the world, it is mostly the history of war--plain and simple.

Believe it or not, I know some dedicated Democrats who are intolerant bigots as well as some intransigent Republicans who are kind and loving. Who'd a thunk it?

The other important historical imperative besides our love of fighting/war is our apparent need to label every person and idea according to our own internal lights.

BTW did your big boy receive anything yesterday?

Reya Mellicker said...

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

To my eye, America is so traumatized from the evils of the Bush administration, we can't think or see clearly.

As for Christians who espouse hate ... hmmm .... I beliee the message of Jesus had to do with the exact opposite.

Get up on your soapbox as often as possible, Amy. And imagine, yes!!!

Amy said...


This is about fanatacism, plain and simple. When a "belief," religious or non, reaches a point where it moves a person to incite violence or do harm, it is a dangerous belief. It is not a Republican issue and it is not Democrat issue.

If an individual is able to promote his fanatical beliefs to others and incite them to action on his behalf, there is mob mentality in effect and this has proven historically to be incredibly dangerous.

Over the past few decades in this country, there have been multiple relgious groups who have been uncovered as practicing dangerous beliefs. By dangerous, I mean harmful to the people practicing and potentially harmful to others not in those groups. Most religions, and I've studied plenty and been deeply involved in one, heavily promote the idea of "faith" as the way to deal with questions and doubt. When free thought is stifled and followers are taught to rely upon their leaders' teachings and in their faith instead of relying upon their own common sense and their own research and study, I believe it is a very dangerous thing.

The "belief" about which this blog was written is Pastor Steven Anderson's belief that our President should be killed. This is not a belief that we can allow to be protected by the cloak of religion. It is dangerous. I think about the children who were in attendance in that service. Is it not dangerous to propagate and perpetuate "beliefs" such as that on young, easily influenced minds?
Obviously, even adults in attendance at his sermon were so influenced by his words that they took up arms to stand outside the building where the President was speaking. Dangerous.

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Why do people always say that more evil has been done in the name of religion when in the 20th century alone, communism is the one ideology that has killed far more people?

Christians preaching hatred like this are despicable...on the right and left. Rev. Wright was a Christian, too, correct? Religious stupidity is hard to watch because it seems so excruciatingly stupid and hypocritical.

Common sense should tell the nimrods that carrying guns near the president is stupid. What is the matter with them? But I have heard just as much vitriol from the left directed at the right to know that it swings both ways.

I do agree that politics and religion make lousy bedfellows. Religion running foreign policy is scary...take a look at Iran.

Great debate and I like how you have an opinion on the other side of me so to speak but you welcome comment from all graciously. (No, I'm not a Republican, just an ornery independent.)

Aunt Juicebox said...

This isn't the first time I've wondered why the church I went to taught that Jesus was about love and peace, but all these others taught that being Christian means being prejudiced against anyone who isn't. Or at least, it seems that way. I think human nature is what it is though, and people will find something else to fight over, if religion didn't exist. I don't know, I try not to debate politics because I don't understand why everybody can't just play nice.

Amy said...

Reya: I believe we are, as you say, traumatized as a nation. It's difficult to absorb and process all that has happened in the past few years and we just keep finding out more. Nonetheless, I will keep imagining and hoping and doing my part to stay informed and exercising my democratic right to vote in every election.

HHS: I don't know the numbers on how many deaths communism has caused vs. how many deaths religious movements like the Crusades, witch hunting, Manifest Destiny, etc. have caused. Just thinking about all of them makes me heartsick.

I like ornery Independents. I'd probably be one myself if there was a strong party to attach to that could win an election. I used to be registered as "unafiliated" but you can't vote in the primaries if you register that way, so I had to choose.

I like open exchange when it is intelligent, thoughtful, respectful and on topic.

I completely agree with you that the venom comes from all sides. It's the ones spewing venom and also carrying weapons who I worry about.

Thanks very much for your comment. I appreciate the thought that went into it.

Aunt Juicebox: You're an Imaginer of sorts then too, aren't you? I'm currently re-reading Thomas Paine's, Common Sense, and keep wondering how we as a nation seem to have lost all of ours?!

My real intention wasn't to provoke debate,(although these types of post always do!) but to express my point of view as a way of speaking out against this man and those who believe as he does. I didn't vote for George W. Bush, but I also never wished him ill. I diagreed completely with a lot of his policies, but I also understood that he was a fallible human and one who was a father and husband and that those qualities alone, made his life valuable.

"Play nice." It should be our new national motto.

Aunt T said...

Great Post.....of course I can't say I'm religious, but I am spiritual. I don't believe any church can just make up rules and expect me to follow them without a good explanation. Still haven't gotten an explanation on a few!

The right to bear arms.....well I'm from a family who has had guns for centuries and we have not carried them in public places, nor threatened the president with them. I do not think the government has the right to take them. They would only be taking guns from the innocent people who have them for collections, hunting, or the sport. Whatever it may be guns have a time and a place. Arizona is a little crazy. The crazies who want the guns will get them...look around our world.

People need to see beyond President Obama's color and give him a chance. They forget he is just as much white and he is how is that! This healthcare issue is crazy....if people think what we have now is working, that is the farthest thing from the truth....I live it everyday!

Keep up the great work Amy!!!

Rick Daley said...

The core of the problem is that people want to hate Obama no matter what he does.

And the comparisons to Hitler are just f-ing stupid. No other way about that. Anyone with a modest grasp of history and half a clue can compare / contrast Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and immediately see that even Dick Cheney on his darkest day was no Adolf Hitler. I'm sure that disappoints him, though.

Inga K said...

Very well said. You sure stirred up a lot of comments with this one.

I have to agree, religion and politics should not be mixed. History has proven it is an explosive combination.