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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Christianist Manifesto: A Partial Fisking

by tristero

Led by an admitted felon,* a bunch of extreme, but influential, christianists have released a rambling statement which they've pompously called "Manhattan Declaration." Get it? That's "declaration" as in "Declaration of Independence" rather than "manifesto" as in "The Communist Manifesto." I prefer the latter, though. It bugs 'em, that's why.

A hat tip to Americans United for the heads up and for this response:
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “This declaration is certain to be deeply divisive. These religious leaders want to see their doctrines imposed by force of law, and that goes against everything America stands for.

“The United States is an incredibly diverse nation,” he continued, “and it would be a disaster if government started favoring one religious perspective over others.”
Well, in fact, the US has started favoring a religious perspective, via the faith-based initiative program, continued under Obama with the addition of a faith-based advisory council.** But let's not get distracted; I'll confront the F-BI on another day, as will, in more eloquent language than I can muster, Reverend Lynn. What Colson and his fellow creeps are up to is a more salient issue.

The "Manhattan Declaration" is an odiously grandiose screed. It preambles with a long, brain-glazing history lesson starting some 2000 years ago, the point of which is - well, it's not too clear, but it seems to be that 2000 years of Christians and Christianity fully support the tedious obsessions of modern American christianists. The inconvenient truths of Christian history - pogroms; tortures; burnings; religious persecution; the undermining of the sincere faith of believers in order to foment war, greed, and other political/cultural atrocities; and the perpetuation of stupefying ignorance - are swept under the rug in zippy little subordinate clauses:
While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages...
Yeah, we all make mistakes, it's true. Like the Spanish Inquisition, Or imprisoning Galileo. And christianists credit the religion they mock - yes, these people make a mockery of a great tradition - with any liberal idea they think they can get away with:
It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade;
Took 'em a while.
And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement.
Indeed. And were excoriated for it by other Christians.
The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures
And those very same "crusades" were opposed from the pulpits of countless churches throughout the land, And oh, yes, the leaders of the civil rights movement, which included humanists, Jews, Christians, atheists, and others, were denounced as irreligious liberals.
Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person...
That's why so many of the signers of this declaration spoke out so forcefully against the torturing regime of George W. Bush and his cohorts. They did, didn't they?
...and to stand for the common good.
And that is as close as this Manifesto gets to acknowledging that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, liberals, humanists, gays, and others have anything close to a right not to believe what christianists believe. Or that many rights, period.

Let's go on.
In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society
In other words, all humans are equal but heterosexuals are more equal.
and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.
Which means...well, it's not clear, but it seems like they're comparing themselves, and their nonsensical crusades against things like decent science education, as well as their well-funded greed machines ministries to the poverty of Christ.

Humble people, christianists. Some more humility:
We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.
Huh, what? You say something? Oh. Yeah, sure, you can say whatever nonsense you want, it's a free country (unless you want to get married to the person you love and a christianist finds some hare-brained reason, like matching genitals, to object to). But you can't force me to listen to it. Or take it seriously.
It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.
Humble people, christianists.
Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.
Catch that? "Pro-life: versus "pro-abortion" which, unlike "pro-life," is an "ideology."

Now, readers of this blog, being normal, realize that it is christianists who are the ones who've actively encouraged unwanted pregnancies as well as abortions that could have been avoided through proper prophylactic pedagogy, which they enthusiastically oppose. And you, intelligent readers, also understand that we are the ones who are genuinely pro-life, not criminals like Charles Colson.

But that's not what's meant in the Manifesto, of course. And it's no accident that this particular language is employed here. I'll give Colson and his BFFs this much: they never make the rhetorical mistake of comparing their opponents to a bunch of mushrooms after a spring rain. To Colson et al, liberals don't remotely resemble a verdant forest after a drizzle: we're baby-killers. There's no way to misunderstand them.

Am I suggesting we call the people who wrote and signed this nonsensical Manifesto something akin to "baby-killer?" Of course not! Two lies do not make a truth. No. Instead I think we should simply and accurately describe them. For example, "a felon and his like-minded accomplices" will do quite nicely in the current context.***

Ever more humility:
We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.
That's why the signers of this statement have been so vociferous in denouncing the Bush/Cheney regime for dramatically increasing hunger in America by 13 million citizens in the last year of their reign alone. They did denounce them, didn't they?
A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable.
That's why they, to a person, oppose the death penalty. Right? Well, no. These guys**** are talking about carrying fetuses without brains to term for no other reason than...I can't figure it out, like God wants women to suffer through childbirth to carry dead babies to term? And they're also talking about Schiavo: they're proud of what they did (and well they should be).

I could go on, but I have more important things to do than read more of Colson's repellent garbage, like pare my toenails. I'd like to leave you with one more excerpt, however. I thought about giving you the spectacle of Colson, et al, deploring births out of wedlock, which they didn't do, and didn't do it ever so convincingly, when Sarah Palin was parading her pregnant-out-of-wedlock daughter around. But that's too easy: you'll just instantly agree with me and that's no fun. Liberals, at least the liberals I like, enjoy a good argument. And I like you folks. Soooo...

Instead, consider the following:
The President and many in Congress favor the expansion of embryo-research to include the taxpayer funding of so-called "therapeutic cloning." This would result in the industrial mass production of human embryos to be killed for the purpose of producing genetically customized stem cell lines and tissues. At the other end of life, an increasingly powerful movement to promote assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons. Eugenic notions such as the doctrine of lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") were first advanced in the 1920s by intellectuals in the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave. The only difference is that now the doctrines of the eugenicists are dressed up in the language of "liberty," "autonomy," and "choice."
Of course this is bullshit, anyone sane will agree, and the distortions and poor associations between different pseud0-facts make for incoherence, if you try to make actual sense of it. So what is this about? Why is this weird passage in the Christianist Manifesto?

Focus carefully on the style. Get it? No? Ok, let's spell it out. Check out what this passage contains:
The President and many in Congress...Industrial mass production...human...to be killed...assisted suicide..."voluntary" euthanasia threatens the lives of vulnerable elderly and disabled persons...Eugenic...lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life")...the elite salons of America and Europe. Long buried in ignominy after the horrors of the mid-20th century, they have returned from the grave.
In other words, Colson and his cronies are saying Obama is Hitler and Democrats are Nazis. They're planning a Holocaust for Christians.

Disagree that that is the intent? Perhaps you think the gratuitous use of the German was just an accident, or mere intellectual posturing. Or that it's just a coincidence that the phrase "The President and many in Congress" occurs so close to "Industrial mass production" as well as the word "human" and the phrase "to be killed."

If you really think this is just some kind of random half-baked nonsense, just boiler-plate, then - and I mean this very sincerely - you don't know the first thing about how language works in modern American political discourse. And so, you will be satisfied with a liberal rhetoric that counters this disgusting demagoguery with something as unfocused and ineffective as spring rain and mushrooms. And nasty creeps like Colson, Donohue, and their ilk will continue to have regular access to sitting presidents .

And no, I will not get over it.***** This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no...


Charles Colson, chief counsel to Richard Nixon, served seven months in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice as well as other Watergate related charges.

** Some observers I spoke to at AU's annual meeting believe that the Advisory Council is not what it appears to be on its face. By appointing, they said, a broad spectrum of people who hate each others' guts, Obama seems to be encouraging gridlock on faith-based initiatives rather than a smooth flow of funding. Perhaps: after all, Obama is a very astute politician, and there is more than one way to prevent the government from funding Colson-approved boondoggles. But AU leaders were emphatic in denouncing the very notion of the advisory council, insisting it represented an ominous expansion. I tend to agree.

***I jest. Or maybe not. After all, Colson is a convicted felon. And the others who signed this document think like him. And they've served to help him accomplish the writing and marketing of "Manhattan Declaration".

****I counted eleven women out of 154 authors and/or signatories.

***** But, if cute mushrooms are inadequate, what would effective liberal rhetoric sound like? Well, here's Rick Hertzberg, for example. More like this, please.