There's no place like CounterPunch, it's just that simple. And as the radical space within the "alternative media"(whatever that means) landscape continues to shrink, sanctuaries such as CounterPunch become all the more crucial for our political, intellectual, and moral survival. Add to that the fact that CounterPunch won't inundate you with ads and corporate propaganda. So it should be clear why CounterPunch needs your support: so it can keep doing what it's been doing for nearly 25 years. As CP Editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, succinctly explained, "We lure you in, and then punch you in the kidneys." Pleasant and true though that may be, the hard-working CP staff is more than just a few grunts greasing the gears of the status quo.
So come on, be a pal, make a tax deductible donation to CounterPunch today to support our annual fund drive, if you have already donated we thank you! If you haven't, do it because you want to. Do it because you know what CounterPunch is worth. Do it because CounterPunch needs you. Every dollar is tax-deductible. (PayPal accepted)
The phrase “Good Germans” is a derogatory reference to citizens of Nazi Germany, almost all of whom were Christians — some 20 million Roman Catholics and 40 million Protestants. The silence of most Christian leaders allowed Hitler, with his Aryan, “Master Race” ideology, to turn six million Jews — and Gypsies, homosexuals, black persons, Communists, political dissidents, and even disabled German citizens — into The Other and persecute, deport and murder them. Americans especially take pride in not being “Good Germans.” Here everyone is seen as having freedom of speech and belief, “the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” with America’s president even called “the leader of the free world.” Thus, “the land of the free” is believed to be the very opposite of an evil incarnate Hitler and obedient German citizens—a continuing comparison that accentuates America’s goodness. Such national pride serves to divert attention from the accommodation of many American Christian Churches to our own bipartisan government’s murderous imperialistic foreign and domestic policies. In reality, Christians in Germany’s “Master Race” and Christians in the present age of “American exceptionalism” have much in common. The authoritarianism that led to the Holocaust in Germany is on the rise in America, with the acquiescence — and blessing — of many Christian churches. The “Good Germans” provide a much needed mirror for Christians here, many of whom are becoming “Good Americans,” rather than fulfilling their prophetic/empathetic role, which is “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6: 8)
Adolf Hitler rose to power during a time of economic hardship and fear in Germany. The great depression, beginning in 1929, was felt even more in Germany with its defeat in World War I. The resulting Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to accept blame for the war, pay costly war reparations to the victors, give back territory it had conquered, and reduce the size of its military.
A compelling speaker and convincingly strong leader, Adolf Hitler promised to restore Germany’s former greatness as an economic and military power. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum portrays him this way:
Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding speaker who attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people. and members of the lower middle class. (“Hitler Comes to Power, www.ushmm.org; see also “The Nazi Regime,” http://www.projectaladin.org)
Hitler proceeded to blame the Jews for Germany’s problems. He accused them of being responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I, its economic ills and the threat of Communists gaining power. This scapegoating was rationalized by his Nazi belief in the racial purity and thus superiority of Germany’s Aryan race—with the Jews portrayed like a terrible disease, threatening to infect and destroy the country. Hitler believed Germany was the “Master Race” and destined to rule the world, which led him to create massive military power. As reported, “Adolf Hitler bewitched his audiences and promised them that his empire would reign for a thousand years.” (“Why Hitler was such a successful orator,” By Amanda Macias, Business Insider, May 13, 2015) Shades of U.S. political leaders today who assert that America is “the indispensable nation” and “the greatest nation on earth. “
The authoritarian and anti-Semitic seeds of the “Master Race” were planted long before Hitler’s time. Those seeds are found in The New Testament, where Jesus condemned Jewish Scribes and Pharisees as a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12: 34), and castigated them at length as “hypocrites” and “blind guides . . . [who] clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23)
In the same Gospel, the Jews were recorded as being responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus was taken prisoner and brought before Pilate, “All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified.’” (Matthew 26: 22) Words were even put in the mouths of Jews, setting them up for their own persecution down through the ages as “Christ killers.” Matthew’s gospel continues, “Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’” (26: 25) Never mind that the Jews were an occupied people, and Pilate, the Roman ruler of their captive land, had the authority over whether Jesus lived or died.
Also contributing to the Biblically-legitimized anti-Semitism is the Christian belief that Jesus’ assumed resurrection is proof that he is the Messiah, the only Son of God and savior of the world. As Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6) Salvation, therefore, involves confessing Jesus as one’s Savior, upon which depends the forgiveness of one’s sins, reconciliation with God and one’s resurrection. With such authoritarian belief in Christianity as the one true religion, the imperialistic commandment of an assumed resurrected Jesus to his disciples naturally follows: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 16-20) Such an imperialistic Christian belief blends well with U. S. imperialism’s “American exceptionalism.”
The New Testament was not the only source of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitism that hardened the hearts of Christians, allowing the “Master Race” mentality to take root and lead to the extermination of six millions Jews. The Protestant Church in Germany had a more recent and familiar source to inspire hatred of the Jews: their own revered Reformation theologian, Martin Luther. Luther’s doctrine of “justification by faith,” that is, his belief in “the priesthood of all believers” — though personal faith in Jesus Christ and not the Church — excluded the Jews, whom he judged to be beyond redemption. Thus, in his book, On the Jews and Their Lies, Luther called for practicing “sharp mercy, to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames.” (www.awitness.org)
The “sharp mercy” toward the Jews Martin Luther proposed to Germany’s rulers was anything but merciful. “First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools.” He “advise[d]that their houses also be razed and destroyed,” that “all their prayer books and Talmudic writings,” which contain “idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy . . . be taken from them,” and “that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.” He also “advise[d] that safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews,” and “that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them.” Luther ended his suggested treatment of the Jews with this advice: “In brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule: if my counsel does not please you, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews.” (“Martin Luther ‘On the Jews and their Lies’ Chapter 15,” www.awitness.org)
“Such a desperate, thoroughly evil, poisonous and devilish lot are these Jews, who for these fourteen hundred years have been and still are our plague, our pestilence, and our misfortune.” (“Extracts from Martin Luther booklet: ‘THE JEWS AND THEIR LIES,’” www.bibleblievers.org) That sounds like Adolf Hitler, but it was Martin Luther.
The Nazis’ Jewish extermination camp furnaces took a page from Martin Luther’s “sharp mercy,” with its “glowing flames.” Luther, in turn, took his anti-Semitic doctrine of “justification by faith” from the pages of The New Testament and texts that separate “believers” from the “unsaved,” and create a mythical heaven and hell, with many “believers” Biblically-conditioned to support or accommodate the creation of a hell on earth for the inferior unsaved Other.
Like Protestants, most Roman Catholic Christians in Germany were also compliant, and thus complicit in Hitler’s genocide of six million Jews. In 1933, the Vatican and the Nazi government signed a Concordat, an agreement that the Catholic Church hoped would protect itself from State intrusion. Article 1 of the Concordat stated, “The German Reich guarantees freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion.” But the protection was bought with the price of a loyalty oath. Article 16 required newly-selected Catholic bishops to pledge allegiance to the State: “Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise, as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the State.” The bishops’ pledge also included, “I swear and promise to honour the legally constituted government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honour it. With dutiful concern for the welfare and the interests of the German state . . . I will endeavor to prevent everything injurious which might threaten it.” To further neutralize Catholic leaders, Article 32 of the Concordat stated, “In view of the safeguards created by the clauses of this concordat of legislation preserving the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church in the Reich and its states (Lander), the Holy See will enact regulations to exclude the clergy and members of religious orders from membership in political parties and from working on their behalf.” (“Reichskonkordat (1933): Full text,” Ratified Sept. 10, 1933, www.concordatwatch.eu)
Individual Catholic and Protestant Christian leaders and laity fought heroically against Hitler’s genocidal policies toward the Jews and other dehumanized persons. Many priests and ministers were imprisoned, and some executed. But the dominant public response of Germany’s Christian Churches to the “Master Race’s” genocidal savagery was silence. Martin Rhonheimer, a Catholic priest, referred to that silence in an article on “The Holocaust: What Was Not Said.” He wrote, “Even when we have taken full account of the enmity between the Catholic Church and National Socialism, the Church’s ‘silence’—the astonishing fact that no Church statement about Nazism ever mentioned Jews explicitly or defended them—cries out for explanation. (www.bc.edu, Copyright © 2003 First Things 137, Nov. 2003, 18-28)
In 1998, the Roman Catholic Church issued a document “formally apologiz[ing] . . . for failing to take more decisive action in challenging the Nazi regime during World War II to stop its extermination of more than 6 million Jews.” The document, however, continued to defend Pope Pius XII “from accusations that he turned a blind eye to the systematic killing of Jews.” In response, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Meir Lau, was quoted as being “thankful that ‘after two thousand years of hostility between the church and Jewish people . . . a new atmosphere [was] happening before our eyes.’” But then “he bluntly rejected the document’s conclusions about Pope Pius XII.” And his words are applicable to Christian Churches today: ”His silence cost us millions of lives. . . . One who does nothing to avoid the bloodshed is like a partner to the mass murder of human beings. He didn’t do it, but he didn’t stop it.” (“Vatican Gives Formal Apology for Inaction During Holocaust,” By William Drozdiak, The Washington Post, tect.mit.edu, Mar. 17. 1998)
What happened in Nazi Germany is beginning to happen in America today. The aftermath of the horrible 9/11 attacks against America, like Germany’s defeat in World War I, did not lead to national self-examination, but to projection of blame. President George W. Bush proceeded to use Hitler’s playbook. Like Hitler’s targeting of the Jews as the arch enemy, Bush targeted “terrorists,” coming up with his “axis of evil,” which was composed of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Calling for a “global war on terror,” he settled on Iraq and its ruler, falsely accusing Saddam Hussein of having mushroom cloud-like-threatening weapons of mass destruction and ties to the 9/11 attacks. Bush wrapped his fear- and war-mongering in a Nazi-like assertion of superiority: that “America is the greatest nation on the face of the earth.” Which he used to explain the 9/11 attacks: “They hate us for our freedoms.” To further appeal to people of faith, he wrapped his administration’s illegal and falsely-based invasion and occupation of Iraq in religion, saying, “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is almighty God’s gift to every man and woman in this world.” (“Text: President Bush’s Acceptance Speech to the Republican National Convention,” FDCH E-Media, Inc., The Washington Post, Sept. 2, 2004)
Whether the “Master Race” or “American exceptionalism,” religion has served to cloak and justify the oppression of other human beings. Hitler said, “I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker.” (“Adolf Hitler Quotes,” (www.brainyquotes.com)) As President Bush prepared to invade a defenseless Iraq, he said, “We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust them, placing our confidence in the loving god behind all of life, and all of history.” (“Text of President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address,” Courtesy MediaMillWorks, The Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2003)
And the vast majority of white Christian evangelicals joined in saying, “Amen!” Martin Luther’s imperialistic belief in the doctrine of “justification by faith” in Jesus alone led him to dehumanize the Jews, and help to create the anti-Semitic climate for Hitler’s murderous policies. In a like manner, the same imperialistic belief in Jesus as the only Son of God and savior of the world led most white evangelical Christians to dehumanize Muslims as objects for conversion, and to welcome President Bush’s deadly pre-emptive invasion and occupation of Iraq. The only difference between Luther and these present-day white evangelicals is that Luther believed most of the Jews were beyond saving; whereas, it was reported that evangelicals like Franklin Graham and Marvin Olasky “claim[ed] that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.” (“Wayward Christian Soldiers,” By Charles Marsh, The New York Times, Jan. 20, 2006) That is, the Muslims not killed and imprisoned by the invasion and occupation—and never mind also the crippling of their life-sustaining infrastructure.
It is assumed that President Bush’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative program sought to bribe people of faith to accommodate his policies, including his war-mongering. Faith leaders who receive government money for their social programs and related institutional upkeep may think twice before opposing government policies or candidates of the party in power. Like the Concordat between the Vatican and the German Reich, which guaranteed the freedom of Germany’s Catholic Church in exchange for not interfering in the affairs of the Reich. American United for the Separation of Church and State made this point in its criticism of the Bush administration’s “faith-based initiative,” stating, “It soon came to light that under Bush, promises of faith-based money were being dangled in front of religious communities in return for political support.” (”The ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative: Churches, Social Services And Your Tax Dollars,” www.au.org)
Actually, numerous American faith leaders and their institutions opposed President Bush’s stated intent to invade Iraq. Many protested, some strongly. But once the invasion was launched, and “support the troops” became the rallying cry in political circles, media outlets, and in uplifted prayers in many pulpits, the protests lessened, and in time silence settled in.
Silence, for the most part, has continued. In the face of hundreds of thousands to over a million Iraqi men, women and children civilians killed—in a war based on lies and justified by “American Exceptionalism.” All those Iraqi wives made widows and children turned into orphans. The country’s infrastructure decimated. The uprooting of 2.5 million Iraqis internally and some 2 million externally as refugees. The deliberate fomenting of sectarian violence between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis to divide and conquer. America’s imperialistic wars of choice creating the breeding ground for the rise of a vengeful ISIS, and contributing to the endless flow and struggle of refugees. The unnecessary deaths of almost 4500 U.S. soldiers and the wounding of hundreds of thousands more. The militarism, with its waste of the country’s resources, benefiting the politically influential wealthiest, and contributing to America’s ever-widening economic inequality.
Along with silence, there is denial. The United Methodist Church is especially culpable since President Bush and his Vice President, Dick Cheney, are United Methodists. Methodist leaders protested the war against Iraq, at times carefully, and at times strongly. But United Methodism’s bottom line is seen in its leaders creating a monument at Southern Methodist University for the worst war criminal of the 21st Century: “The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.” Ironically, The United Methodist Church purges from its midst ministers who perform same-sex marriages for people who love each other, and builds a monument to a member who is responsible for the military rape of a country.
The United Methodist Church is not alone in the denial of former President Bush’s war crimes. A recent front-page New York Times story noted that it took years for President Obama to finally visit a mosque, when he recently spoke at one in Baltimore. The story compared Obama’s slowness to make such a visit by reminding readers that “President George W. Bush visited a mosque in Washington within six days of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to assure American Muslims.” (“Obama, at Mosque, Speaks Out for Muslims,” By Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Feb. 4, 2016) Never mind that Bush then proceeded to unnecessarily invade two Muslim countries. And in the case of Iraq, The New York Times continues to call that falsely-based, pre-emptive invasion a “mistake,” not a war crime.
“American exceptionalism” is seen in mainstream media’s rehabilitation of U.S. war criminals. Like President Bush, former Sectary of State Madeleine Albright provides another example. By 1996, an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died as a result of U.S.-controlled UN economic sanctions — imposed between 1990 and 2003 — against Iraq. In a May 5, 1996 CBS “60 Minutes” interview, correspondent Lesley Stahl said to Albright, “We have heard that a half of million children have died.” Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” (“We Think the Price is Worth It” By Rahul Mahajan, fair.org, Nov. 1, 2001)
Recently The Boston Globe published an op ed article by Madeleine Albright, which was actually called “Reducing inequality is a moral imperative.” (Jan. 31, 2016) She wrote, “There is no question that widening inequality is a defining challenge of our time. That is why Sunday’s Albright Institute Symposium at Wellesley College will be devoted to the subject of global inequality.” (Jan. 31, 2016). Albright certainly is an authority on the sanctioned inequality suffered by the Iraqi people.
In New Hampshire, stumping for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Madeleine Albright played the gender card, urging women to vote for Clinton with, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” (“Female Icons Tell the Young to Get With It,” By Alan Rappeport, The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2016)
Madeleine Albright’s statement offended many women voters. In response, The New York Times came to Albright’s rescue, by publishing her op-ed page article on “My Undiplomatic Moment,” in which she wrote, “I should know better than to tell a group of women to go to hell,” and explained her good intent behind that offending statement. (Feb. 13, 2016)
Madeleine Albright may be pronouncing her own fate, in defending sanctions that created a hell on earth for all those grieving Iraqi women and mothers. Her condemnation of “women who don’t help each other” would apply to Hillary Clinton herself. She voted for the falsely-based invasion of non-threatening Iraq, which turned a million Iraqi women – and many American women — into widows. And, as Secretary of State, she played a pivotal role in the U.S. overthrowing leader Muammar Gaddafi and turning Libya into a failed state and another breeding ground for ISIS.
This positive media coverage of America’s war criminals makes it that much more difficult—and dangerous—for Christian leaders to confront political power with reality and moral truth. The role of mainstream media as guardian of the status quo leads one to ask, “Who will liberate our ‘free press?’”
The “Master Race” and “American exceptionalism” are two sides of the same imperialistic coin. The assumed political superiority of American democracy is similar to the claimed biological superiority of the Aryan race. And “American exceptionalism” is rooted in the religious belief that America is divinely blessed: the fulfillment of the Biblical “city set on a hill” and shining “light of the world.” (Matthew 5: 14)
The 2016 presidential campaign is filled with echoes of Hitler’s Nazi ideology. Militarism is taking over America, with presidential candidates seeing themselves primarily as “commander-in-chief.” Running on fear and war-mongering, their repeated promise is to keep America safe by building up the military, exterminating ISIS and “making American great again.”
Donald Trump is the leader of this imperialistic presidential pack. His Hitler-like qualities include promising to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, mainly from Central America and Mexico, and building a wall to keep them out. He would also ban Muslims from entering the country, and possibly create a database for those here and require them to carry a Muslim ID card for tracking purposes. Trump also is reported to being “open to the wholesale surveillance of Muslim Americans and warrantless searches of mosques,” and even “open to shutting down American mosques, noting he’d have ‘absolutely no choice’ if ‘some bad things happen’ in a mosque.” (“Donald Trump’s horrifying words about Muslims,“ By Dean Obeidallah, CNN.com, Nov. 21, 2015)
Donald Trump is quoted as saying “he would ‘knock the hell out of ISIS,’” including, “You have to take out their families,“ as “these terrorists . . . care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.” (“Donald Trump on terrorists: ‘Take out their families,’” by Tom LoBianco, CNNPolitics.com, Dec. 3, 2015) Trump also said, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding. (“Trump Leads GOP Charge Embracing Torture: ‘I’d Bring Back a Hell of a Lot Worse Than Waterboarding.’” Democracy Now, Feb. 8, 2016)
The leading Republican presidential candidate’s fascist scent was picked up by Council on American-Islamic Relations national communications director Ibrahim Hooper, who is quoted as saying, “One has to wonder what Donald Trump will say next as he ramps up his anti-Muslim bigotry.” Hooper continued, “Where is there left for him to go? Are we talking about internment camps? Are we talking the final solution to the Muslim question? I feel like I’m back in the 1930s.” (“Donald Trump calls for ‘total’ ban on Muslims entering United States,” By Jenna Johnson and David Weigel, The Washington Post, Dec. 8, 2015)
Donald Trump won the Republican Party’s New Hampshire primary by a wide margin. His acceptance speech, which captivated his Republican audience, promised endless “winning” — maybe for a thousand years:
We’re going to build a wall . . .We have the greatest people in the world. We’re going to rebuild our military. Nobody—nobody is going to mess with us. Believe me, nobody.
. . . We’re going to knock the hell out of ISIS. . . . We we’re going to take care of the economy . . . jobs . we’re going to take care of all of . . . Things that I said, border, health care. It’s going to be so great. . . . We’re going to make our country so strong. . . . We’re going to start winning again, and we’re going to win so much, you are going to be so happy, we are going to make America great again, maybe greater than ever before.
(“Read: Donald Trump’s victory speech in New Hampshire,” Updated by Jeff Stein, www.vox.com, Feb. 9, 2016)
It is not just Donald Trump. It is also Christians who embrace his authoritarian views. The Washington Post reported that “Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent David Brody “wrote that Trump was the only candidate with the ‘bravery’ to call for a ban on Muslim immigration, and he predicted it would ‘give him a boost with evangelicals.’” (“Donald Trump calls for ‘total’ ban on Muslims entering United States, Ibid)
David Brody’s prediction that Donald Trump proposed ban on Muslims would lead evangelicals to support him appears to be substantiated by a New York Times finding on the New Hampshire Primary. The Times reported, “Mr. Trump struck a chord with Republican primary voters on many issues, but particularly where Muslims and illegal immigrants were concerned. Sixty-four percent of voters said they supported temporarily barring Muslims from entering the country if they are not citizens, and 44 percent of those voters backed Mr. Trump.” Also, “Forty-one percent of voters said that illegal immigrants should be deported to the countries where they came from—and 50 percent of them supported Mr. Trump.” And, “No other Republican candidate came close with New Hampshire residents who held these views.” (“Reading Into the Results of the First Primary,” By Patrick Healy, New York Times, Feb. 11, 2016)
Over sixty years ago, social scientists studied the authoritarian tendencies that accommodated the rise of the Nazi ideology: “the willingness of great masses of people to tolerate the mass extermination of their fellow citizens.” They examined the personality tendencies that predispose a person to dehumanize others. These tendencies include: “desire for a strong leader”; readiness “to reject and punish people who violate conventional values”; “anti-introspection . . . out of touch with large areas of [one’s] own inner life”; resorting to “oversimplified explanations of human events” and “disposition to think in rigid categories [stereotypes] about people”; overemphasis on “power and toughness,” with a disposition to think of people in terms of “dominant-submissive”; tendency to project on to others one’s own wishes and hostile impulses”; and “strong inclination to punish violators of sex mores (homosexuals, sex offenders).” (The Authoritarian Personality, by T.W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford, Harper & Brothers, New York, Copyright, 1950, by the American Jewish Committee) This study of authoritarian tendencies in Germany, decades ago, offers insight into the alarming rise of authoritarianism in America— now being brought into sharp focus by the 2016 presidential campaign.
People of faith who claim an exclusive relationship with “God” are likely to be receptive to imperialistic political policies that pursue world domination. Whether it is Catholicism’s still existing Doctrine of Discovery, which declares that it is the Christian duty of Catholic explorers, who “come upon undiscovered lands,” to take the “lands and possessions” from the “indigenous . . . ‘barbaric’ peoples” and “civilize” them. (“Doctrine of Discovery,” romeroinstitute.org) The belief in Manifest Destiny, that led European Protestants to join in conquering and settling America on the bones of the indigenous peoples and the backs of enslaved black persons — to establish that Biblical “city set on a hill.” Or, the exclusionary belief that the Jews are “God’s chosen people,” which has provided the justification for turning the Palestinian people into The Other, stealing their land, and endlessly oppressing them.
Authoritarianism is on the march in America! At this point, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is out in front of the other like-minded would be “Commanders-in-Chief,” who warn that the greatest threat to America today is “radical Islamic terrorism.” These fear-and war-mongering presidential candidates are trying to hijack religion to justify their authoritarian-disposed, imperialistic solutions of bans and bombs, which merely serve to inflict more terror on people and elicit continued blow-back violence. To avoid being “good Americans,” the challenge for Christians is to transcend their exclusionary beliefs about Jesus. Beliefs that allow them to feel superior, which involves perceiving others as lesser — and thus enables political leaders to seduce them into seeing designated enemies as fair game for conquering and converting.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” — not make your neighbor like yourself. A crucial challenge of American Christians is to move beyond their mission of seeking to transform the world in the likeness of Jesus Christ, and, instead, embrace the likeness they share with every other human being. The challenge is to allow their commonly shared humanness to liberate them from exclusionary doctrines so that they can truly practice the inclusionary meaning of “the law and the prophets,” which is, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7: 12)