Religion has its place. But like anything, it can be abused
and used for sinister purposes. In the Middle Ages, religion was used to
justify heinous acts of torture and murder. The Inquisition was anything but
�holy,� but it was political (and profitable for its perpetrators). Extremism
is the progeny of self-serving religion married to militant politics. Charles
�Chuck� Colson recently illustrated that.
First, a brief
history of Colson�s political-criminal background before being �reborn� as
a card-carrying member of the political-criminal
Christian Right. In 1969, Colson joined the White House staff as counsel to President Richard M. Nixon. He
also became involved in the activities of the Committee to Re-Elect the
President, appropriately dubbed �CREEP.� The Watergate scandal was the result.
In 1974, Colson pleaded guilty to Watergate-related charges, as well as
obstruction of justice in the Daniel
Ellsberg case. He served seven months of a 1-3 year sentence, during which
time he was �born again.�
In 1976, Colson
founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, the �Inner-Change Freedom Initiative�
program that was recently ordered to cease operations for reasons Bill
Berkowitz discussed in his Online Journal
�Charles Colson�s faith-based prison program shut down.� Of course Colson says
he intends to fight the
federal court�s ruling �all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.�
its actions and jurisprudence on their skewed version of �religion� is the goal
of the Christian Right. Waging war
on anyone who disagrees with them politically or theologically is their modus operandi. In a letter dated
October 3, 2002, born-again Christian crusader Colson outlined his theological
support for a �just war�: preemptive invasion of Iraq.
On July 18, Colson initiated a preemptive �just war� strike
on the �Religious Left,� specifically the Spiritual
Activism Conference that was held in Washington, D.C., May 17-20. One of
the goals of the conference was to begin resurrecting true spirituality and
interring the ghoulish corpse the Christian Right has made of �religion.� As Rev. Robin Meyers of the United Church of
Christ in Oklahoma and author of the new book Why the Christian Right is Wrong put
it, �I join the ranks of those who are angry because I have watched as the
faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for
Jesus but whose actions are anything but Christian.�
Obviously, the conference was only a first step in what will
be a long and difficult, but inevitably successful process. Colson�s assessment
of the conference and its goals provided the reasons success is inevitable.
for a group that prides itself on tolerance, it seems the only thing the
conference could agree on was its opposition
to the �religious right.� But frustrating as it was for them, the group had
to concede that the �religious right� is a lot better at getting things done. Beliefnet suggests this was because �religious conservatives are willing
to argue there is one correct view on policy issues.�
that�s the crux of the liberals� problem. This conflict is not about political
or social divisions. It�s about authority � specifically, whether or not
Christians are willing to acknowledge that the
Bible is our authority.
certainly recognized this. Though Tony and I disagree on lots of things, I
really like Tony. He�s honest, and he loves the Bible. He tried to explain at
this conference the necessity of following Scripture. But one participant
retorted, �I thought this was a spiritual progressives� conference. I don�t
want to play the game of �the Bible says this or that,� or that we get
validation from something other than ourselves.�
you have it. Validation from ourselves
simply means you make up your own god. . . . the Bible has to be the
ultimate authority. Otherwise we end up
worshiping the goddess of tolerance and believing that tolerance takes
precedence over truth. [italics added]
agreeing upon �opposition to the �religious right�� and its betrayal of
spirituality and use of perverted �religion� for political purposes was the
point of the conference. That alone constitutes a considerable success.
right� is a lot better at getting things done.� Could that be because they�ve
existed much longer as an organized �force� for repression,
with roots extending deep into history? In the Middle Ages, the �Christian
Right� was the Roman Catholic Church that initiated a 300-year Inquisition
against its enemies, beginning with the fiery extermination of the �Christian
Left� of the time, the Cathars, whose heresy was believing women and men were
conservatives are willing to argue there is one correct view on policy issues.�
Every dictator thought and said the
same thing, and they all acted accordingly, as did CREEP's Charles Colson.
Those pretentious enough to believe there is only �one correct view on policy
issues� � namely, theirs � would do well to recall the words of H. L. Mencken, who cautioned that �for every
complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.�
�The Bible is our
authority,� sounds an awful lot like Falwell�s infamous statement: �The
Bible is the inerrant . . . word of the living God. It is absolutely
infallible, without error in all matters
pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography,
science, history, etc.� [italics added] If the Bible is their absolute
authority, why doesn�t the Christian Right advocate following all the Levitical
laws, as well as those in Deuteronomy and St. Paul�s words in First Timothy
when he told Christians �suffer not a
woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence�?
It would seem they are more than a bit �selective� about which parts of their
�authority� are inerrant.
Who�s Tony Campolo
and what does he believe? From Beliefnet: ��Evangelical
Christianity Has Been Hijacked�: An Interview with Tony Campolo: Speaking out
on gays, women and more, a progressive evangelical says �We ought to get out of
the judging business.��
Mr. Campolo is, of course, correct on all counts. But
sanctimoniously �judging� others in blatantly hypocritical defiance of what
they claim is their �authority� and inerrant guide � �Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you
make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get�
(Matthew 7:1-2) � is what keeps funds flowing into the Christian Right�s
coffers. Judging others as morally � and, therefore, politically and socially �
�inferior� is good for their Schadenfreude business.
Colson�s last quoted
statement � �Validation from ourselves simply means you make up your own god. .
. . the Bible has to be the ultimate authority. Otherwise we end up worshiping
the goddess of tolerance and believing that tolerance takes precedence over
truth� � is sophistry wrapped in the self-righteousness that defines the
believe-as-we-tell-you leaders of the Christian Right.
Self-validation � also known as �self-respect� and
�self-esteem� � always comes from within oneself. That�s axiomatic.
To be sure, external forces can influence that �validation.�
They can also attempt to negate it and, in so doing, purposely cause harm. Some
�Christians� used their religion to invalidate African-Americans by justifying
slavery and, later, segregation. Today�s Christian Right is doing its best to
validate homophobia and invalidate gay and lesbian Americans.
In an Advocate.com article.
�Bully Pulpit,� singer, dancer, actor, director, songwriter, and playwright
Billy Porter told his story of how �Christians� tried to use perverted religion
to invalidate him and �God�:
an old hymn that says, �This little light of mine / I�m going to let it
shine / Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!� I used to sing this song in
church when I was a little boy armed with the belief that the light inside of
me was one that was worth shining. My voice was my direct connection to God,
and I sang proudly in my Pentecostal church choir every week with the unwavering
impression that God was a loving God and that I was one of his children. I was
taught that God�s love was unconditional and that anyone could be the recipient
of it � as long as they �believed in their hearts and spoke with their mouths.�
. . .
The straw that
broke the camel's back came at the Believers Convention, where the now-famous
televangelist Joyce Meyer was the preeminent minister of the evening. The
conference was happening in my hometown of Pittsburgh, and I was invited to be
the soloist. Something in my spirit told me not to go, but my mother really
wanted me to, so I accepted the invitation. My solo was situated in the service
directly before Meyer was to bring forth �the word.� After finishing my song, I
returned to my seat in the congregation, which was about three fourths of the
way towards the back of the sanctuary. Meyer rose from her seat in the pulpit
to preach, and the first words out of her mouth were, �Brother Porter, I want
to talk to you. Won�t you stand up for me?�
spoke to me, and I have a word from Him. He told me to tell you that every time
you come into the house of the Lord, you need to sit in the front pew. Because
if you sit in the front pew every time you come into the house of the Lord,
it�ll keep you straight.�
were audible gasps. I took the walk of shame to the front pew as the multiple
thousands in the congregation glared in pious silence. . .
sat in the New York City hospital room of my dear friend Kevin Aviance after he
was savagely beaten on an East Village street for being gay, and I thought to
myself, Where are our leaders? Where are
the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? I
am disappointed with our government. I am disappointed with our nation. But I am
the most disappointed with my African-American �Christian� brothers and sisters
who stand proudly on their pulpits and use the Bible to regurgitate the very
same hate rhetoric that was inflicted on the black community not so long ago.
never considered myself an activist in the past. I respect that title too much
to take it lightly. But with the recent increase in hate-bias attacks directed
toward our community, and the struggle for us to gain the simplest of civil
rights, I am filled with a raging sense of activism. Our bodies, our health,
and our basic civil liberties are at stake. It is time to let the world know:
We will not let you take our God away. We will not be ignored! We will not be
denied! And if God is going to send us to a burning hell for being the people
that He created us to be � we�ll see each and every one of you there.
What the leaders of the Christian Right � Lou Sheldon, James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Gary
Bauer, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell � have done is exactly what Colson damned: they�ve made
up their own �god,� one cobbled together from selected biblical passages
that can be used to advance their political agenda of discrimination and their
social agenda of disenfranchisement. In
short, they made a �god� in their own image.
Colson wrote that unless we believe as he does, �we end up worshiping the goddess of tolerance
and believing that tolerance takes precedence over truth.� Tolerance is Truth. One would have thought that
was made clear by Jesus� close association � some would say �intimate�
� with Mary Magdalene.
for Colson�s other statement about �worshiping the goddess of tolerance,�
that�s preferable to and far more beneficial than worshiping a concocted god of