Religious Freedom: yur doin it wrong

Today’s lesson, class, is on propaganda.

First, let’s establish a couple of premises:

  1. Our Constitution, via the First Amendment, prohibits our government from “establishing” a religion.  This means that no part of the government can privilege or express a preference for any religious tradition.  None.  Not any. [P1]
  2. It also means that, despite what the Rightwing Christianists believe, that the United States is, in fact, a secular nation, at least as far as the government and its agencies are concerned. [P2]
  3. Rightwing Christianists, on the other hand, have it in their heads that they are the default position.  This is known as “Christian privilege,” and it is impossible for the R/Cs to see their way out of it.  (See here and here.) [P3]
  4. Finally, because R/Cs cannot see any reason to acknowledge the validity of any other position of faith, they regard any attempt to act as if Christianism might not be the default as an attack on their faith and hence, America. [P4]

Now let’s look at this webpage that came across my Facebook feed.  No, I’m not linking to it—if the website tracks back to my blog, we’ll be inundated with the crazies who believe this stuff.  (And no, they wouldn’t read this and realize that they’ve been duped by their leaders.)  If you want to see it live, google the headline.

(Annotations mine.)

(Snark alert: there will be no snark.  I will not even mention the comma splice in the headline.)

Right off the bat (1), our anonymous writer begs the question.  For those who need a refresher course, “begging the question” does not mean “surely a question that occurs to everyone,” but “you forgot to ask the most important question first,” e.g., “Did you ever beat your wife?,” not “When did you stop beating your wife?”  The important question here is, “Does Obama have an agenda to keep the Bible out of the hands of our Military [sic]?”

The answer would seem to be no.  You will notice that there is no link to any source that would show us what Obama’s evil agenda is, a link maybe like this one, which is probably the cause of the R/Cs’ distress.  You will notice the date: December 18, 2008, and the ACLU actually questioned the military’s policy in August 2007.   This is, of course, more than a year before Obama was even elected, much less inaugurated.

(Naturally, this can be explained with the Time Traveling Obama Theorem; political ramifications here.  Okay, a little snark.)

Moving on to (2): here we see the innate belligerence of the R/Cs as well as their confirmed persecution bias [P4].  “Take him down”?  What is he, Emperor Palpatine?  And after you read the transcript below of this “one speech you have to see,” you’ll wonder exactly what they imagine is going to happen once the nation sees this brave—yet anonymous—rear admiral give his defiant speech.

The problem is [P3], wherein the R/Cs are convinced that they are the correct and only framework for this nation (or any nation—that’s why the rest of the planet worships us and can only aspire to our political system).  Once “everyone” sees this speech, they’re pretty sure that the revulsion will be so general and so profound that… oh, who knows?  Obama will be “taken down.”  Riots in the streets?  Impeachment proceedings?  Sternly worded letters?  But it will definitely “bring him down.”

I am always amazed at how like elementary schoolboys this crowd is.  Their discourse rarely rises above “You just wait—you’ll see,” or vague expressions of some Gordian solution that will vindicate their outrage.  I’m reminded of King Lear’s impotent splutter,

I’ll have such revenges on you both
That all the world shall — I will do such things —
What they are yet, I know not; but they shall be
The terrors of the earth!

Yes, this one speech will take Obama down.

(You may noticed a huge cognitive split in the R/C brain: they are the default, the majority, the Real America BUT they are the horrifically persecuted minority.  No, I don’t know how that works.)

(3) OK, /snark on: “Governmnt”?  [sic] That’s like “Gubmint,” right? /snark off.

Here’s a rubric that I used with coworkers who tended to think like this author and who forwarded emails with similar stuff: “Is it too outrageous to believe?  Then it probably is: do your research before believing it.”  Hence, (4): is it really plausible that our armed services, which are struggling with suicide as a serious issue, have directed their leaders to send distressed troops to a chaplain and do nothing else??

No, it is not plausible.  Sixty seconds on the Google will give you:

And that’s just the Navy.

Again, propaganda-speaking-wise, you will notice that our anonymous author gives you no link to back up this assertion.  You will also notice that I’ve given you several that refute it.  In general, a lack of links to reputable sources is one sign that someone is pulling this stuff out of his ass.

Another sign of “too outrageous to be true” is that if you do google the topic, the only hits you get are either the original article or links back to the original article.  In other words, the original is someone’s fantasy of a Bible-hating Obama (in this case), and then all the other like-minded anonymous writers pick up the outrage and run with it.  If you don’t find links to actual news sources, then it’s not true, and no, it’s not because there’s a conspiracy to suppress it.

I especially like (5): “Rear Admiral.”  Nice impressive title—R/Cs are nothing if not worshippers of authority—and of course if the brass are standing up to Bible-Hating Obama [hey, I just noticed I can abbreviate that to BHO—get it??], then surely this is an important thing.  The fact that he is not named in the article nor in the video should be a red flag.  I’m sure this guy is an actual officer in the Navy, but why don’t we know who he is?  That’s sloppiness on the videographers/directors’ parts.

With (6), we’re back to the tingly feelings we all get from [P4], wherein we get to be brave martyrs shaking our brave fists at the evil BHO.

Of course, BHO has been a convenient focal point for the R/Cs, but more disturbing to me is how successfully the R/C and their political allies have framed “Government” as a faceless bastion of intentional evil.  I just don’t understand the impulse, but it fits into their persecution narrative, and it gives them pleasure in the very center of their brains.

Ah, (7): the Family Research Council.  A more wretched hive of scum and villainy… This organization, home of professional liar Tony Perkins, is categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, who makes it their business to track groups like this.  They are the epitome of Jesus’ definition of a Pharisee.  They host these get-togethers that they imagine are both bastions of supreme faith [P3] and last stands against the BHO [P4], and this speaker is one of a very full slate at one of these events—again, unidentified by our (unidentified) author.

And then we wrap it all up at (8) with a straw man argument.  Exactly who are these people that “wish that the Bible didn’t exist”?  Do they have a Facebook page?  Obviously they all got into government work as part of their nefarious mission to take over this Great Land of Ours™ (for differing values of “Ours,” of course), but who are they?  To paraphrase Voltaire, “If militant atheists didn’t exist, it would be necessary for the Family Research Council to invent them.”

So what is this (unidentified) rear admiral saying?  Again, if you want to hear this man yourself, google the headline.  Here’s a transcript so you don’t have to:

Right now as we speak leaders like myself are feeling the constraints of rule and regulations and guidance issued down by lawyers1… that puts us in a tighter and tighter box regarding our CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT2 to express our religious faith.  As one general3 so aptly put it, “They expect us to check our religion in at the door.”4  Don’t bring that here. Leave that business to the chaplains. I’m here to tell you there’s not enough chaplains to go around. And who can tell that young man who is downtrodden and on his last legs, who has no hope, to go make an appointment to see the chaplain? Go get in line and wait—when the opportunity right now exists.5 Yet if I do something such as I did several weeks ago when I was looking in the face of a young man, twenty-something years old, who eighteen months before had put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger and survived… When I looked at that young man and heard his story, the rules say ‘send him to the chaplain’— my heart said, “Give this man a Bible.”6

First of all, why is he wearing a uniform to a private function?  Still, I think it’s important to recognize that clearly the man still has his job—BHO has not had him court-martialed for his audacity in giving out Bibles to the needy, i.e., proselytizing to those in his command.  (That’s another great schism in R/C thinking: on the one hand, BHO is the AntiChrist himself, all-powerful and completely evil; on the other hand, he’s not very good at it.)

He’s not a very dynamic speaker, but boy is he sincere.  You can tell because he speaks in a strained, guttural basso.  It pains him as a manly man (notice the shaved head) to have to speak about these atrocities, but he’s containing his fury.  For now.

What are our propaganda issues in this speech?

1 “by lawyers”: the disdain for civil procedure is evident.  This is part and parcel of the conservative worship of the military.  They will tell you that it’s not worship, it’s just respect.  But any respect that is demanded—as ours is for our military—is worship.  (The parallel to the R/Cs’ belief that God commands our praise is telling.)  Remember [P1] and [P2]: our founders distrusted the military and intended very seriously that it should be subservient to the civilian government.  The Commander in Chief is the civilian President; the military itself has no role and no voice in the government.  But our rear admiral sneers at our civilian “rules and regulations and guidance.”

2 “CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to express our religious faith”: Helpful hint, guys.  Refer to [P1].  The First Amendment is there to protect your religion from the government; it is not, as [P3] would have it, there to promote your religion, or to privilege it over those “other” religions.  Or more pertinently, to privilege it over no religion at all.  Your “right” to pester others with your faith is not protected by the Constitution.  Quite the reverse: we are protected by the First Amendment from having to listen to you.

3 “As one general said”: Names, Travis, I need names.  Propaganda alert: any time you hear phrases like “one general,” e.g., “some say,” or even “many say,” circle the wagons.  This is a straw man, just one the speaker/writer made up to be on their team.

4 “They expect us to check our religion at the door.”: Yes, that is a true statement.  We do expect agents of our government to keep their religions to themselves, especially if they are in positions of authority, and it would seem to me that a rear admiral is a position of some authority.  Given what I know of the military ethos, we spend an awful lot of tax money to make sure that those who choose to be in that system obey their superiors in almost every regard.  To use your position to proselytize to those in your command is, in fact, against military code: see here, here, and here.  But rear admiral whatever-his-name-is sees that as “persecution.”  Of course he does; it’s the essence of [P4].

5 “Get in line and wait”: I’m not sure to what he’s alluding here—possibly the VA’s notorious wait times for many forms of health care, especially mental health care.  That is a critical issue, of course, although I expect our rear admiral votes for the assholes that send our troops off to fight very expensive wars but who won’t fund the aftermath.  “As ye sow…” as I’m sure someone once said.

6 “Give this man a Bible”: I have to believe that even in that audience that day, more than one person sat there in disbelief when he said this.  R/Cs are almost cripplingly blinkered in their worldview, but surely there were those who thought, “Are you insane??  Giving a suicidal sailor a Bible instead of calling in the mental health professionals?” What next, a couple of verses of “such a worm as I” hymns? That ought to do the trick.

So if the picture he paints of being persecuted as part of a general anti-Christian bias of the BHO is not the case, then what the frack actually happened?  Since there is no real data on the webpage—and I’ve thoroughly searched the interwebs for this bozo—we will have to guess.

My guess is that probably he has been told to follow procedure, i.e., refer the sailor to mental health professionals and not to take it upon himself to bring the young man to Christ.  I’m guessing he may have been reprimanded for doing so repeatedly.   This can only mean that the Governmnt [sic] is out to destroy brave people of Faith [sic] like himself, because [P4].  Of course.

This man is not an unfairly persecuted hero.  He’s a dick.  He’s a whinging, self-important dick, one who bullies desperate troops under his command and then petulantly (and publicly) complains when he is told to lay off, because of [P1] and [P2], not to mention the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  But such is the power of [P3] and [P4] in the minds of R/Cs that they cannot conceive that most of us recoil from him with disgust.

At first, I started this post with the phrase “rightwing religious propaganda,” but I changed it to just plain “propaganada” in order to be a little fair.  However, here’s a little thought experiment.  It is well-known that from 2001-2009, many of us suffered from Bush Derangement Syndrome.  It got to the point, so much did I despise that man, that I couldn’t bear even to hear his voice.  It made me want to hurl things.

During all that time, though, I never encountered a liberal version of this webpage: ill-conceived, based in irrational fear and hatred, and completely undocumented.  And I read a lot of anti-Bush commentary.  You may make of that what you will.

Here endeth the lesson.

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