The Gathering Storm
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
– Howard Beale in “Network”
There is a very dark cloud on our nation’s horizon. A powerful storm is upon us. Once again, fundamentalist Christians and Tea Party loyalists are mobilizing their forces. Although Democrats have re-taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives, at this moment ultra conservative Republicans still control the Senate and 27 state governorships. Rush Limbaugh,Ann Coulter,Sean Hannity,and the rest of their Fox News allies have convinced a rather sizable segment of our society that the only way to save our democracy is to destroy it. Lies drown out truth. Fear mongering undermines the foundations on which our free society is built. The progress we’ve made can be reversed. The rights we’ve won can be lost again.
Our adversaries are already making progress at:
… disenfranchising millions of minority voters;
… gerrymandering precincts to eliminate progressive incumbents and candidates;
… denying 11,000,000 immigrants a reasonable path to citizenship;
… eliminating a woman’s right to choose and closing the health clinics they depend on;
… building higher walls, hiring more border guards, deporting and dividing families;
… disregarding (reversing) the rights and protections recently won by Queer Americans;
… cutting programs that feed, house and educate underprivileged children;
… closing down agencies that protect the environment;
… abolishing administrations that regulate the production of food and pharmaceuticals;
… deregulating banks and rewarding incompetent bankers;
… empowering corporations with absolute political influence;
… increasing the power and privilege of the one percent;
… decreasing the rights and protections of the ninety-nine.
Above, I’ve listed thirteen of the ‘wars’ extremists are waging to undermine the rights and protections the U.S. Constitution guarantees every American. However, those ‘wars’ are really just ‘battles’ in the extremist’s attempts to win a much larger ‘war.’That war began (again) in the late 1970s when Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist Christian, launched the Moral Majority to “Bring America back to God.” In an almost predictable cycle, fundamentalist Christianity rises up to haunt us and now once again fundamentalist Christianity threatens our future. The ultimate goal of fundamentalist Christians is to replace our democracy (a government of, by and for the people) with a theocracy (a government “under God,” where biblical law prevails and fundamentalist Christians rule).
Fundamentalism was described by Sir Jonathan Sacks, the chief Rabbi of the English Commonwealth as “An attempt to impose a single truth on a plural world.” That single truth is Christian supremacy. Christian Supremacists believe that (1) Christianity is superior to all other religions and that (2) all American cultural and political institutions should be governed by “real Christians.” “Real Christians” are in fact fundamentalist Christians who believe that Biblical law, especially Old Testament law, should be read literally by the people and enforced rigorously by the state. Isis is the shape fundamentalist Islam has taken in Muslim nations. We’ve yet to see what fundamentalist Christianity will look like in our country if it wins this war. One thing we know for certain: Fundamentalist Christianity will not tolerate a democracy where the law requires equal rights and protections for all.
Christian Supremacists misuse the bible to support various ‘isms’ including American supremacy (nationalism), male supremacy (sexism), white supremacy (racism), and straight supremacy (heterosexism). Look again at the list of battles that extremists are waging. Each battle is based on the false assumptions of Christian Supremacy, especially on a literal reading of the Old Testament texts.
Why ask for equal pay for women when “God wants women at home caring for their families?” Why regulate banking or tax billionaires when “wealth is a sign of God’s blessing?” Why protect voting rights when those certain politicians are in power “because God wants them there?” Why believe in global warming when “God will not permit the destruction of His creation?” Why advocate gun control when God has ordained that “we protect our families and our nation from the non-whites, the poor, the immigrants, the Muslims and the atheists who want what is rightfully ours?” Why fight for equal educational opportunity when “one day our children, not theirs, will literally rule the world?” Why demand rights for LGBTQ Americans “when they are sick and sinful?” Why investigate and prosecute racist police behavior when “black men are inferior and need to be controlled?”
Resisting Christian Supremacy
For almost 25 years Gary and I and our Soulforce colleagues across the U.S. have been working to end the religion-based oppression of LGBTQ Americans. We can no longer focus exclusively on winning the rights and protections that LGBTQ people are denied. Now we know that all oppressed Americans are facing the same oppressors. Now we know that all oppressions intersect at the corner of biblical literalism and Christian supremacy. Now we know that all of us must unite to resist this fundamentalist Christian threat to our democracy. At Gettysburg, Lincoln described our new nation as “conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Now, more than 150 years later, we too are “testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”
“Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
– Attorney Jamie Raskin testifying to the Maryland State Senate in 2006
“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds…
– Samuel Adams
To protest in a free society is not simply a right, it is an obligation. Our country was born and raised on protest. The protests of Samuel Adams against British tyranny led to the American Revolution and the birth of this nation. The protests of Abraham Lincoln against the Southern States seceding from the Union saved our “one nation, indivisible” and led to the end of slavery. The Protests of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. against segregation led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the historic Supreme Court decision that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. If ever our generation was called to protest it is now.
Here’s The Good News!
Progressive people are also mobilizing. Nonviolent protests are making headlines: marches, sit-ins, sleep overs, equality rides, nuns in buses, Internet campaigns, flash mobs with a purpose and creative nonviolent protests of every kind on Wall Street, at the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court, at Governor’s offices and state legislatures, at national parks and wetlands, at Cathedrals, mega-churches and denominational conventions, even at borders that separate children from their parents. There is a new kind of civil rights movement being born and you have to decide if you are going to be a part of it.
With so many Americans eager to take their stand against extremist Republicans and their allies, it is a perfect time to remind ourselves that there are rules or guidelines for effective NONVIOLENT protest. Those rules were developed and demonstrated in the early 20th century by M.K. Gandhi whose nonviolent protests freed his people from slavery in South Africa and India. Later in the 20th century Martin Luther King Jr. adapted and advanced Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence to build a powerful protest movement that ended segregation in the U.S. What can we learn about the power of nonviolence from these two men about building a powerful nonviolent protest movement to help us end the hijacking of our democracy?
“We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.