Religious persecution is widespread, warns the report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that I mentioned yesterday. In addition to violence, the Commission also found that in countries with little freedom of religion some people are fired from their jobs for religious reasons. Yesterday, I also brought up a study of some 20,000 Christian participants that showed a very strong correlation between religiosity and racism in the United States. I wrote about how I had concerns about the direction the conservative right was headed in, and that I was worried about the rise of religious persecution in the US.
What I did not know about yesterday was Shirley Sherrod.
Is this a case of religious persecution? You betcha. As I understand it, the whole thing started with a guy name Andrew Breitbart, a conservative hit-blogger, who also speaks frequently at Tea Party Movement protests around the country. To my mind, there is no duality between the conservative right’s political ideology and their religious ideology. They are one in the same.
It’s not my intention to condemn all Christians, but I have no problem with condemning anyone who, in my opinion, uses religion as a tool to promote and impose a particular world view, morality, or political agenda – and conservatives, especially neoconservatives are doing all three.
Michael Lind, who calls himself a “former neoconservative” says that for the conservative movement “Religion becomes what Plato called a noble lie.” This is a concept that Plato talked about in The Republic. A lie, a myth, a falsehood, and what makes it “noble” is that it’s promoted supposedly for the greater good. A variation on the ends justify the means.
What we have here is some religious idealogs distorting facts to smear those who they disagree with, in this case the NAACP and Shirely Sherrod. Now Sherrod may have some skeletons in her closet for all I know, but it appears that her major crime is being black, and I assume, a liberal. What’s even more shameful than the complete distortion of the woman’s heartfelt story of personal transformation, is the rush to judgment.
I wonder how long we are going to continue to give into fear, because that’s the other tactic.
Yesterday I mentioned Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi theologian. Niemoller underwent a transformation not unlike Sherrod’s. Not only did he at one time support Hitler and National Socialism, he had also been anti-Semitic. In 1956, he wrote:
I have never concealed the fact and said it before the court in 1938 that I came from an anti-Semitic past and tradition… I ask only that you look at my life historically and take it as history. I believe that from 1933 I truly represented the Lutheran-Christian outlook on the Jewish question — as I revealed before the court — but that I returned home after eight years’ imprisonment as a completely different person.
Niemoller was put on trial for activities against the State and received a seven month sentence. He ended up doing eight years, as he wrote. He later became active in the German peace movement and campaigned for nuclear disarmament.
His story is being played out again, “They came for the Jews and I was not a Jew so I did not object.”
They came for Shirley Sherrod, in a different way, but they came all the same and they got her. Andrew Brietbart said this woman was a USDA official and she discriminated against this poor farmer, and she must go. He said its not about this woman, it’s about this organization that tolerates racist behavior within its ranks. The problem is that it was a lie, and there was nothing noble about it.
Andrew Brietbart, owner of many websites, says, “My sites offer truth.” He says “Racism is used by the left and the Democratic Party to shut up opposition.” He says “I consider myself to be a Judeo-Christian. I fight on that side.”
Yes, Andrew Brietbart, ace journalist, is a just godly guy doin’ God’s work.
Bob Dylan, guitar player, says “Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.”