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The Gross National Debt

Friday, March 31, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media.)

Ah yes - now that I've lured you shamelessly to my diary, let me say that I do not, in fact, have evidence that Tony Perkins, bloviating president of the Family Research Council, is now or ever has smoked pot.

But if you watched Hardball on Wednesday night, you'd certainly think he must be on something.

Jump with me on this sunny Friday to find out why.

Here's the setup. On March 29, a bunch of evangelical Christians hosted an event called (drumroll, please) "War on Christians". From Wednesday's Washington Post:

This week, radio commentator Rick Scarborough convened a two-day conference in Washington on the "War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006." The opening session was devoted to "reports from the frontlines" on "persecution" of Christians in the United States and Canada, including an artist whose paintings were barred from a municipal art show in Deltona, Fla., because they contained religious themes.

Just so we're clear, I've included the following picture to re-familiarize Mr. Scarborough on what religious persecution looks like:

Ask any holocaust survivor to define religious persecution and the piture above is the result of the visualization of their words.

But I digress. Back to the War on Christians. Among the speakers were none other than Tom DeLay, John Cornyn, Sam Brownback, Phyllis Schlafly, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes. Yuck. Here's an excerpt of DeLay's speech:

"We are after all a society that abides abortion on demand, that has killed millions of innocent children, that degrades the institution of marriage and often treats Christianity like some second-rate superstition. Seen from this perspective, of course there is a war on Christianity."

Which brings us back to Matthews. After playing that clip precisely, he turns to Tony Perkins and Al Sharpton for their comments. I've combed through the transcript to bring you the highlights. The whole exchange was rather nauseating, but this particular line of questioning (and reasoning) is the reason I wrote the diary:

(This exchange occurred a few minutes into the segment and specifically referred to removing the cross from the mission on the official seal of the state of California)

SHARPTON: But that is not because they're attacking the cross. They're saying that there are those citizens that don't believe in the cross. And I would have that position if there was a different religious symbol in a city that I lived in and paid taxes.

But I would like Tony to tell me how what Tom DeLay is facing has anything to do with his religion or any religion at all. I mean, I think it's an insult to Christians to act like because of his religion, he's been charged with what he's been charged with. It has nothing to do with his religion.

PERKINS: I don't think anybody ever said that, Al.

SHARPTON: I think everyone said that at this meeting this weekend that was cited when we came on. He was introduced as a man that was being persecuted because he stood up for Jesus. Tell me how Jesus and being accused of embezzling funds is the same thing. What chapter did you get that out of the New Testament?

(At this point I'm paying full attention. Sharpton's on a roll.)

PERKINS: What you find is that just in this case or whatever, there is a concern that those that identify with evangelical Christianity—and Tom DeLay was very closely affiliated with that as the House majority leader. And there are those that say that was part of the motivation for going after him because he was an effective leader, in particular on issues as related to pro-life.

(Huh?)

But on the issue of where Americans feel the country is moving, clearly there is a growing hostility toward Christianity. I mean, think back when FDR, Chris, was president, and he led the nation in prayer from the White House. If President Bush were to do that today, before I could get back to my office I would be run over by ACLU attorneys on their way to file suit in federal court.

My emphasis added.

Ah. So Tom DeLay is being persectued for his beliefs... Of course!! It's not the whole money laundering thing or the breaking the law thing. It's because he's a Christian. I know that not one Christian should go to church this Sunday - I'm sure it's under surveillance by our persecuting anti-Christian government and its authorities. It continues:

MATTHEWS: So you want to identify with Rick Scarborough's, Reverend Rick Scarborough's claim that the reason Tom DeLay is in trouble with the courts, with the Democrats, with the media, is because he's a Christian. Are you going to identify with that argument?

PERKINS: I would not say that in total.

MATTHEWS: But he [Scarborough? DeLay? Unclear on that] did.

PERKINS: I'm just saying that I think that that has made him a target.

MATTHEWS: It has?

PERKINS: I think it has.

MATTHEWS: His religion?

PERKINS: The fact that he has been so out front on many of these issues. Now in terms of his legal problems or what he's facing today, those stand on their own. But I think that clearly anyone who stands up and identifies with the evangelical community if a very pronounced way as he has and ...

MATTHEWS: ... Is Abramoff in trouble because of his religion?

PERKINS: No.

MATTHEWS: He just got five years and 10 months today.

PERKINS: No, and he's pleaded guilty to committing crimes. Tom DeLay has not been convicted of anything, nor has he said.

Let's sift through that a bit. So DeLay became a target because he's "out in front" of many evangelical Christian issues. Does Perkins think that the case was manufactured against him in order to persecute his Christianity? But the charges themselves "stand on their own". And Abramoff is not being persecuted becuase of his religion because he pleaded guilty to a crime. So becuase Tom DeLay has neither been convicted of nor pleaded guilty to a crime, he's a victim of religious persecution. Because Abramoff pleaded guilty, he's a crook. I don't get it.

And finally:

SHARPTON: I think that it clearly is a misuse of those of us that believe in something to act as though a man who has operated to the extreme right, who has tried to redistrict people of color out of office in Texas, is operating as some Christian missionary.

PERKINS: Red herring.

(Really, Tony? So you're not defending whether or not he redistricted people of color out of office - you're only claiming that it's not relevant.)

SHARPTON: I think that it is absolutely insulting to the intelligence of Christians. You're not going to meet anyone that believes in Christ more than me, but I believe in converting people, not forcing people to following my religion. We are living in what we want to be a democracy, not a theocracy, and it is dangerous to try and move in that direction.

PERKINS: And that's what we're saying. Let us live as we want to live.

SHARPTON: Well then you don't put your cross up on public emblems that don't have ...

PERKINS: ... That's parts of our history.

My emphasis added.

I don't even know how to respond to the idea that Christians are not beling allowed to live as they want to live. I'm a Christian - I don't feel persecuted. I feel as though I can wear a cross around my neck (if I choose) and go to church and sit in the Chick-Fil-A and say a prayer before I eat (I don't do any of those things, but you get my point). I don't worry that anyone will ever force me to have an abortion and I'm not worried that anyone is going to come and confiscate my Christmas tree and make me take down my lights.

I DO worry, however, that I'll be forced to pray in increasing situations and that my grandchildren will be forced to pray and believe in a way that favors only the smallest minority of Christians in the United States. That's a very real concern as religion encroaches inch by inch into our public squares and laws.

Mr. Perkins should spend less time hitting the bong and more studying history to gain a full understanding of "persecution" it all its forms before he waves it as the battle cry for aggrieved American Christians.

And most importantly - what will the Democrats do to counteract this ficitious "war" with the mid-terms approaching?



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