A Christmas Message for Political (and Spiritual) Purveyors of Fake News

It’s that seasonal story again: “And the angel said to the shepherds, Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will come to all the people.  For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.  . . . Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (from Luke 2, KJV & NIV)

“Good news?”  Or fake news?

Every Christmas “peace on earth, good will toward men” is read from The Bible, prayed for, sung about and sermonized in Christian churches, homes and public places across America.  And every Christmas our bipartisan government continues its endless so-called “global war on terrorism,” with invasions, occupations, bombings and drone strikes – violating other nations’ sovereignty, spreading fear and death and destruction, not “peace on earth,” and creating endless enemies, not “good will” and security.  A contradiction?  Apparently not for those literalistic Bible-believing, “good news”-heralding Christians, who also claim that Jesus was born to “save his people from their sins,” is the “Savior” of the world, the “Messiah . . . the true light, which enlightens everyone . . . God’s only Son.” (Matthew 1, Luke 2, John 1)

Many evangelical Christians live in a parallel universe.  They have no problem with our bipartisan government’s pursuit of world domination.   In fact, such domination fits their own imperialistic belief that a resurrected Jesus commissioned his followers to Christianize the world with, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 16-20)

It is not surprising, therefore, that a high majority of evangelical Christians enthusiastically welcomed self-professed born-again Christian President George W. Bush’s falsely based criminal invasion of Iraq.  Never mind that the Bush administration was lying about Saddam Hussein having mushroom cloud-threatening weapons of mass destruction and ties to the 9/11 attacks against America.  That was all fake news, peddled without question by most of the dominant press.  Fake news bought into by those who are more interested in saving souls for Christ than in national soul-searching.  Thus, as reported, “87% of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported” Bush’s unnecessary invasion of Iraq.  With two evangelical leaders, Rev. Franklin Graham and conservative World magazine editor Marvin Olasky, “claiming 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)  Thus predatory evangelical Christians followed in the American military’s boot steps to convert and baptize war devastated Iraqi Muslims in Jesus’s name.  And Christian military chaplains, from various mainline denominations, have provided spiritual support for the American Empire’s invading and occupying military forces.

Such criminal warmongering may not seem like a barbarous way of gaining Christian converts, if one believes that those who do not confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior are going to languish in eternal torment forever in hell anyhow.  Thus many Christians who hold this belief see no conflict between “the Prince of Peace” and “Onward, Christian soldiers! marching . . . to war.”  In fact, belief that Jesus is “the Prince of Peace” and savior of the whole world is, in itself, imperialistic, and provides the rationalization for supporting God’s chosen (American) “city set on a hill’s” (Matthew 5: 14) use of military power against those non-Christian Other our government designates as a threat to America’s security.  And any conflict of conscience regarding our government’s imperialistic warmongering is probably lessened by the tendency of so many Christians to acquiesce to political power, rather than confront that power with reality and moral truth.

Besides, there is also the passivity-inducing belief of certain Christians that it is all in God’s hands, and even the belief that God raised up George W. Bush to fulfil God’s purposes.  A belief that Bush himself reportedly mouthed, in “claim[ing] he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.” (“George Bush: ‘God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,’” By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, Oct. 7, 2005)

The birth of Jesus is welcomed as “good news” for evangelical and other Christians in the Western world.  But the part about “peace on earth” and “good will toward men” is fake news for countless other human beings – and also for Christians themselves, who become targets of blowback violence as a result of the state violence their governments commit against those other human beings in their name.

As with their support for President Bush’s “Providence”-led war in Iraq, the moral contradiction of many evangelical Christians in seen again in their support of Donald Trump as president.  According to the Pew Research Center, high majorities of “white born-again or evangelical Christians and white Catholic Christians” helped to elect Trump president. (“How the faithful voted: A preliminary 2016 analysis,” By Gregory A. Smith, Pew Research Center, Nov. 9, 2016)

Donald Trump’s delusionary fakery should have disqualified him among Christians, who presumably are guided by Jesus’ warning, “Beware of false prophets . . . you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7: 15-20)     Trump’s delusional utterances are many.  His refuted assertion that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheer the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11.  For years, his keeping the birther movement alive, falsely claiming that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore an illegitimate president.  And now repeatedly saying that he won the presidency in a “landslide,” contrary to the fact that Hilary Clinton has won the popular vote by some 2.8 million votes – and the total continues to rise.  A fact that he denies by claiming, with no foundation, that millions of persons voted illegally for Clinton.  This fakery, and so much more, is just the tip of the iceberg — the melting of which Trump also claims is a climate change hoax perpetrated by China.

President-elect Trump is not only a delusional purveyor of fake news.  He is also a self-professed war monger-in-waiting.  The embodiment of these two characteristics make him dangerous indeed.

It is assumed that Donald Trump’s militaristic mentality especially would lead believers in the “Prince of Peace” to reject his candidacy.  His warmongering tendencies were repeated loudly and clearly on the campaign trail.  He called himself “the most militaristic person there is.”  Promised to make the American military to most powerful in the world.  Said he would “Bomb the shit out of ISIS,” even “kill their family members.”  “Bring back waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse.” Blow up Iranian boats circling American destroyers patrolling in Iranian waters.  With his delusions of grandeur and paranoid conspiracy theories, he may see thousands or millions of threatening enemies where there are none and act destructively.  He may also seek to criminalize dissent in an attempt to suppress his critics at home.

President-elect Trump has made his authoritarian tendencies clear.  His administration will depend on force, not diplomacy, deport and ban, not engage and enable vulnerable populations, and rely on “law and order,” not equity and justice, to keep black persons and other marginalized people in their place — at the bottom of America’s white-controlled hierarchy of access to political, economic and legal power.  And he is selecting a militarized, reactionary and elitist Cabinet of enforcers to manage his authoritarian mission to make America white again.

Evidently many Christians who voted for Donald Trump believe that unborn American children are more worthy of protection than already born Mexican and Muslim children — and their families.  And that “pro-life” belief and other ancient and uninformed Biblical teachings, from which such Christians draw their authority and claim power over people, should allow them to oppress women and LGBTQ persons.  And undocumented immigrants and refugees?  Never mind Jesus’s words, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25: 35)  The “shining city set on a hill” now belongs once again to white European North “Americans.”

“Peace on earth, good will toward men?”

Political and spiritual leaders alike do well to hear a message about “peace on earth, good will toward men” from a different source.  Author, activist and Middle East analyst Phyllis Bennis provides that message in her December 2nd testimony at The People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War in Washington.  The Tribunal ‘s theme: “After 14 years of costly war based on lies, it’s time for truth and accountability.”  Bennis stated:

Iraq, as we know, had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11.  But the war in Iraq became the centerpiece known as the global war on terror.  And looking at it in that consequence, we have to understand that the events of 9/11, that horrible crime, did not change the world.  What changed the world was the day after 9/11 . . .when President Bush announced that the United States’ response to these criminal acts would be to take the world to war.  . . .

We have been at war with terrorism for 15 years. And terrorism is doing just fine. Terrorism is thriving.  . . . ISIS was born out of the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq, because it was the prison, run by the United States . . . holding Iraqis . . . [who] were so angry at what they were facing, the kind of torture that we saw at Abu Ghraib . . .

When we know we have been at war with terrorism for 15 years, and terrorism continues to thrive, we know we have to do something different, and that starts with acknowledging what we’re doing is wrong, and beginning a process of accountability for those who led us into this criminal enterprise known as the war  in Iraq.  (“The People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War,” Dec. 1 & 2, 2016, Washington, D.C., Produced by CodePink)

Phyllis Bennis’ message challenges the macho militaristic tendencies of a President-elect Trump.  An unstable Vietnam War draft-dodger, whose impulse is to “bomb the shit out of ISIS,” “kill their family members,” and “bring back torture and a hell of a lot more.”  America cannot invade, kill, destroy, imprison, torture, and plunder people’s oil, and then expect to bomb the hatred out of them.  That is like pouring gasoline on a fire to extinguish it.  Tragically, America now has a military arsonist-in-chief.

Our soon-to-be-president’s Christmas message?  “I’m a good Christian,” Donald Trump told Iowa evangelical voters.  And, “If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas in every store . . . You can leave happy holidays at the corner.” (“Donald Trump’s pledge: ‘We’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas,’” By MJ Lee, CNN Politics, Oct. 22, 2015) Next year Christians can say “Merry Christmas.” Forget about “peace on earth, good will toward men.”

There is a real Christmas message in the manger in Bethlehem.  Sadly, that message is distorted by fake news about an angel and three Wise Men and a Star in the East.  Fake news that surrounded that manger.  Supernatural imagery designed to make that baby different from every other child on earth.  Designed to make him special, the only true Son of God who came “to save his people from their sins.”  When, in fact, what the oppressed Jews at that time were looking for was not someone to save them from their assumed sins, but to liberate them from the sins of the Roman invaders and occupiers of their land.  That is how Jesus was recorded as having seen his mission. (Luke 4: 18)  And that political reality led to his crucifixion.

The manger represents the moral truth that all children everywhere, and their families, are documented human beings, and rightful heirs of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  There is no exceptional nation above all others.  No one true religion for everyone.  No “straight” and narrow pathway to love and marriage.   Love is love.

There is nothing in anyone else that is foreign and inferior to us, and nothing in us that is foreign and inferior to anyone else.  We share with every other person a common humanity, and the related need and right of everyone to be loved and to love, to be, and to belong, and to become.  It is not about Three Wise Men presenting gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to an assumed savior of the world.  But about wise politicians and spiritual leaders practicing the universal humanness of The Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7: 12)

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Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away) is now published and available on Amazon.com. The book’s Foreword, Drawing the Line, is written by Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair. Alberts is also author of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.

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