By Frank Schaeffer
The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.
In my new book “Sex, Mom and God” I predicted just such an action. I predicted that right wing Christians will unleash terror here in America too. I predict that they will copy Islamic extremists, and may eventually even make common cause with them.
There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with hatred of our government in fact hatred of our country as fallen and evil because we allow women choice, gays to marry, have a social safety net, and allow immigration from other cultures and non-white races.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the killer wrote:
“Today’s Protestant church is a joke,” he wrote in an online post in 2009. “Priests in jeans who march for Palestine and churches that look like minimalist shopping centres. I am a supporter of an indirect collective conversion of the Protestant church back to the Catholic.”
It seems Anders Behring Breivik longed for a “pure” and ultra conservative religion. He was a man of religious conviction, no liberals with their jeans need apply! Liberals beware.
Norway is just a first taste of what will happen here on a larger scale.
A HISTORY of VIOLENT ACTION
There is a history to the far right, religious right extremism on the rise today, extremism so extreme that in its congressional manifestation it is risking the good faith and credit of the US in the debt calling fiasco. The Tea Party activists also want purity of doctrine.
My family was part of the far right/violent right’s rise in the 1970s and 80s when we helped create the “pro-life” movement come into existence that in the end spawned the killers of abortion providers. These killers were literally doing what we’d called for.
The terror unleashed on Norway – and the terror now unleashed by the Tea Party through Congress as it holds our economy hostage to extremist “economic” theories that want to destroy our ability to function — is the sort of white, Christian; far right terror America can expect more of.
THE “CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD”
Call this the ultimate “Tea Party” type “answer” to secularism, modernity, and above all our hated government. Call this the Christian Brotherhood. From far right congress people, to far right gun-toting terror in Norway and here at home, our own Western version of the Taliban is on the rise.
Foreigners, visitors from another planet and Americans living in a bubble of reasonable or educated people might not know this but the reality is that the debt ceiling confrontation is by, for and the result of America’s evangelical Christian control of the Republican Party.
It is the ultimate expression of an alternate reality, one that has the mistrust of the US government as its bedrock “faith,” second only to faith in Jesus.
To understand why an irrational self-defeating action like destroying the credit of the USA might seem like the right thing to do you have to understand two things: that the Republican Party is now the party of religious fanatics and that these fanatics — people like Michele Bachmann — don’t want to work within our system, they want to bring it down along the lines of so-called Christian “Reconstruction.” (See my book for a full account of what this is.)
In the scorched-earth era of the “health care reform debates” of 2009 and beyond, Evangelicals seemed to believe that Jesus commanded that all hospitals (and everything else) should be run by corporations for profit, just because corporations weren’t the evil government. The right even decided that it was “normal” for the state to hand over its age-old public and patriotic duties to private companies — even for military operations (“contractors”), prisons, health care, public transport, and all the rest.
The Religious Right/Far Right et al. favored private “facts,” too.
They claimed that global warming wasn’t real. They asserted this because scientists (those same agents of Satan who insisted that evolution was real) were the ones who said human actions were changing the climate. Worse, the government said so, too!
“Global warming is a left-wing plot to take away our freedom!”
“Amtrak must make a profit!”
There is an indirect but deadly connection between the “intellectual” fig-leaf providers/leaders like my late father and periodic upheavals like the loony American Right’s sometimes-violent reaction to the election of Barack Obama, killings in Norway and what the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is about to do to us in forcing a default on our loans, and thus destroying the US economy in a way bin Laden could only have dreamed of doing.
No, your average member of some moronic gun toting Michigan militia is not reading books by my late father Francis Schaeffer where he called for the overthrow of the government because of Roe v Wade and the legalization of abortion. Nor have they heard of people like Robert George. And the killer in Norway may or may not have read my father’s books.
But Michele Bachmann is reading my father’s books. And she was trained in far right Reconstructionist theory at the Oral Roberts law school by one of Dad’s followers.
Bachmann says she got into politics because of reading my father’s work. And she is one of his extremist followers.
Non-Evangelicals with far right agendas like Robert George (I’ll introduce him to you in a moment) have cashed in on the Evangelicals’ like Bachmann’s willingness to lend their numbers and influence to one “moral” anti-American crusade after another, or rather I should say, to one political crusade after another masquerading as moral crusades.
“RESPECTABLE” FAR RIGHT “INTELLECTUALS”
For instance, conservative Roman Catholic Princeton University Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George is an antiabortion, anti-Obama, anti-gay-rights, and anti-stem-cell-research “profamily” activist, and he has found ways to effectively carry on the far right Reconstructionist agenda while denying any formal connection to it and taking the intellectual high road.
Take George’s brainchild: the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.”
This was published in 2009 as an anti-Obama manifesto, and many far right Evangelical leaders signed on.
The “Manhattan Declaration” reads:
“We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act . . . nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”
In case you’ve never heard of George, he’s been a one-man “brain trust” for the Religious Right, Glenn Beck, and the Far Right of the Republican Party as well as for the ultraconservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Here’s how the New York Times introduced him to its readers:
“[Robert George] has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy [the natural law theory] into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as “one of the biggest brains in America,” or, on one broadcast, “Superman of the Earth.” Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research. . . . Newt Gingrich called him “an important and growing influence” on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage. “If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy,” the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, “its leaders probably meet in George’s kitchen.””
GOVERNMENT IS THE ENEMY
It’s a question of legitimacy and illegitimacy.
What the Religious Right, including the Religious Right’s Roman Catholic and Protestant enablers, did was contribute to a climate in which the very legitimacy of our government–is questioned as part of religious faith itself.
The “Manhattan Declaration” called laws with which its signers disagreed “edicts,” thereby conjuring up images of dictators handing down oppressive rules, rather than legitimately elected democratic bodies passing legislation. In other words, when the Right lost in the democratic process, “other means” to undermine the law were encouraged. This is the language of revolution, not democracy.
The Far Right intellectual enablers began by questioning abortion rights, gay rights, school prayer rulings, and so forth. What they ended up doing was to help foster a climate in which–in the eyes of a dangerous and growing (mostly white lower class undereducated gun-toting) minority–the very legitimacy of the U.S. government was called into question, sometimes in paranoid generalities, but often with ridiculous specificity: for instance, in the persistent lie that President Obama was not a citizen or was a Muslim or that the Federal Reserve and/or United Nations were somehow involved in a plot to “take away our freedoms” or that sensible gun control equaled “tyranny.”
TERROR FOR CHRIST
It was in the context of delegitimizing our government that actions by domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh became thinkable. In 1993 McVeigh told a reporter, “The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.”
Change a word or two and his words could have been lifted from my father’s 1981 book A Christian Manifesto, or for that matter a few decades later, from statements by the so-called Tea Party or those by Michele Bachmann, or Robert George or his follower Glenn Beck.
In my father’s book he called for the overthrow of the US government unless non-violent ways were found to overturn Roe v Wade. He compared America to Nazi Germany.
Note the ominous rhetorical shadow Dad’s book cast over a benighted and divided American future, a future that produced the climate of hate that eventually spawned the murder of abortion providers such as Dr. George Tiller in Wichita in 2009 and the threat of destroying America’s credit in an effort to literally defund the USA.
Here’s a bit from Manifesto on how the government was “taking away” our country and turning it over to Liberals, codenamed by Dad as “this total humanistic way of thinking”:
“The law, and especially the courts, is the vehicle to force this total humanistic way of thinking upon the entire population…”
“Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try and change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it.”
“There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. . . . A true Christian in Hitler’s Germany and in the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state. This brings us to a current issue that is crucial for the future of the church in the United States, the issue of abortion. . . . It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation.”
In other words, Dad’s followers were told that (1) force is a legitimate weapon to use against an evil government; (2) America was like Hitler’s Germany–because of legal abortion and of the forcing of “Humanism” on the population–and thus intrinsically evil; and (3) whatever would have been the “appropriate response” to stop Hitler was now appropriate to do here in America to stop our government, which Dad had just branded a “counterfeit state.”
EXTREMISM IS NEXT TO GODLINESS
To understand the extremism coming from the right, the fact that there are members of Congress who seem to be genuinely mentally unhinged leading the charge on the debt ceiling, you need to understand that this hatred of all things government has theological roots that have nothing to do with facts.
Theology is — by nature — not about reason but about faith. If God’s will is to be served then so be it if America is plunged into chaos! This debt ceiling fiasco is just another chapter in the “culture” wars.
The extreme language of Evangelical/”pro-life” rebellion has now been repackaged in the debt ceiling showdown. It is the language of religion pitted against facts.
And the anti-government charge is being led by people who are either true believers, thus unable to reason, or people catering to the true believers so that they can remain in the good books of the Tea Party, which is nothing more than the Evangelical far right repackaged and renamed.
Some people took the next step. The night of December 14, 2008, Bruce Turnidge was in handcuffs and sitting next to an FBI agent in Turnidge’s farmhouse in Oregon. He was ranting about the “need” for militias and cursing the election of an African American president. Hours earlier, his son, Joshua, had been arrested for allegedly causing a fatal bomb explosion.
“Bruce started talking about the Second Amendment and citizens’ rights to carry firearms,” said George Chamberlin, the FBI agent. “Bruce talked at length that the government should fear the people and that the people should not fear the government.”
In February 2010, a little more than a year after Obama’s inauguration, Joseph Stack, a fifty-three-year-old software engineer, piloted a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, and killed one man and injured several others.
Before killing himself, Stack posted an online suicide note railing against the federal government and expressing grievances similar to those Dad had enumerated.
A Facebook group celebrating Stack had thousands of members sign on almost instantly after he was “martyred for our freedoms,” as one contributor called it. The site featured the Gadsden flag (the flag with the logo “Don’t Tread On Me”) and these words: “Finally an American man took a stand against our tyrannical government that no longer follows the constitution and turned its back on its founding fathers and the beliefs this country was founded on.”
In March 2010 the so-called Hutaree Militia, a right-wing, biblically inspired fundamentalist group, was alleged to have hatched a plot to kill police officers. Members of this outfit had planned attacks on police officers as a way of acting out their hatred for the government as well as a way to launch the civil chaos “predicted” in so-called End Times biblical prophecies. The day the plotters were arrested, I checked their online homepage. Here’s what I found as their mission statement (misspellings in the original post, which has since been taken down, as has the site):
“As Christians we all are a part of the Souls of the Body of Christ, the one true church of Christ. . . . This is the belief of the Hutaree soldier, as should the belief of all followers in Christ be.”
THE BLACK MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE DRIVES THE RIGHT TO INSANITY
Following the election of our first black president, the “politics” of the Evangelical, Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Mormon Far Right was not the politics of a loyal opposition, but rather the instigation of revolution, which was first and best expressed by Rush Limbaugh when even before President Obama took office he said, “I hope Obama fails.”
To the old-fashioned conservative mantra “Big government doesn’t work,” the newly radicalized Evangelicals (and their Roman Catholic and Mormon cobelligerents) added “The U.S. government is evil!”
And the very same community–Protestant American Evangelicals–who had once been the bedrock supporters of public education, and voted for such moderate and reasonable men as President Dwight Eisenhower, became the enemies of not only the public schools but also of anything in the (nonmilitary) public sphere “run by the government.”
As they opened new institutions (proudly outside the mainstream), the Jesus Victims doing this “reclaiming” cast themselves in the role of persecuted exiles.
What they never admitted was that they were self-banished from mainstream institutions, not only because the Evangelicals’ political views on social issues conflicted with most people’s views, but also because Evangelicals (and other conservative religionists) found themselves holding the short end of the intellectual stick.
And yet having “dropped out” (to use a 1960s phrase), the Evangelicals nevertheless kept on demanding that regarding “moral” and “family” matters the society they’d renounced nonetheless had to conform to their beliefs.
Another Far Right Roman Catholic ideologue (and also an academic) even wrote a book calling on Christians, Jews, and Muslims to join together in a jihad against the secular West. In Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War a former friend of mine, Peter Kreeft (a professor of philosophy at Boston College), called for “ecumenical jihad.”
I met with Kreeft several times in my home in the 1980s and early 1990s while he was developing his “jihadist” ideas.
Kreeft’s was not a plea for blowing people up, and his book was published pre-9/11.
His book was based on the fact that many believers in Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Islam (at least in their fundamentalist forms) rejected the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Homosexuality is out, sex education is evil, and so on. Kreeft called on all believers to unite to overthrow “secularism” in the same anti-secular spirit that Robert George channeled a few years later when trying to undermine the Obama administration through his brainchild, the “Manhattan Declaration.”
Kreeft called for an “alliance” of fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to prosecute a culture war against what he viewed as the Western cultural elite. Ecumenical Jihad was dedicated to Richard John Neuhaus, the late Roman Catholic convert priest, and to Charles Colson (who later teamed up with George to author the “Manhattan Declaration”).
The groups Kreeft, Colson, and Neuhaus had in mind to “bring together” in an ecumenical jihad were alienated Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, and conservative Roman Catholics, to which Kreeft added Muslims (not that any actually signed on to his program as far as I know). These groups did not share each other’s theology, but they had a deeper link: anger at the “victimhood” imposed on them by modernity.
Kreeft and Neuhaus were calling abortion murder. Thus, the logic of their argument was that of my father’s, too: The U.S. government was enabling murder and was thus disparaged as a “regime,” even a “counterfeit state,” that needed to be overthrown.
A WILLINGNESS TO DESTROY AMERICA IN ORDER TO “SAVE” IT
George and Colson and the others who wrote and then signed the “Manhattan Declaration” (like Kreeft before them) also called for fundamentalists to unite if need be for civil disobedience to stop the U.S. government from passing laws that did not comply with their religious “values” and/or to undermine those laws if they were enacted.
So if the U.S. government legalized gay marriage and thus “compelled” all Americans (including church groups) to recognize gay men and women’s civil rights, the government need no longer be obeyed when those laws affected religious people who disagreed with them. The “Manhattan Declaration” called believers to “not comply.” And just as Neuhaus dismissed the U.S. government as a “regime”–and my father did the same when saying the government was a “counterfeit state”–George and his co – signers also used dismissive and demeaning language about the U.S. government.
In a country awash in weapons and wallowing in the rhetoric of rebellion against an “evil” government, sporadic outbursts of murder tinged with political overtones seem as inevitable as they seem horribly “normal.”
It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to foresee a day when a “secessionist” group and/or members of some “militia”–let alone one lone individual–will use their U.S. passports, white skins, and solid- citizen standing as a cover for importing a weapon of mass destruction to “liberate” the rest of us from our federal government’s “tyranny” and/or to “punish” some city like New York, known as the U.S. “abortion capital” or San Francisco as the place that “those gays have taken over.” And the possibility of an assassination in the same vein is a never-ending threat.
What we fear most from Islamist terrorists will be unleashed here as it was in Norway.
Terror is on the way on the way from our very own Christian and/or Libertarian “Tea Party” type activists inspired by right wing “Christian” intellectuals and political leaders like Bachmann who – after the killing starts — will then disown them and express horror at their actions, actions that are in fact the logical extension of the anti-government rhetoric spewing from Congress and the religious right.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway.