Watergate�s Charles Colson and the �Goddess of Tolerance�
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 4, 2006, 00:06

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 article. �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.�

Basing government, 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.

Ironically 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.�

You see, 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.

Tony Campolo 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.�

There 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]

Expressing and 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.

�The �religious 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 equal.

�Religious 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 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�:

There�s 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?�

I stood.

�The Lord 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.

There were audible gasps. I took the walk of shame to the front pew as the multiple thousands in the congregation glared in pious silence. . .

I recently 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.

I 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.

As 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 hate.

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