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Show Notes - Episode 49

January 23, 2021

Just War? Just Don't – A History of Christian Violence

 

Jn 14:27 - “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

 

Mt. 10:34-36 - “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.”

 

Mt. 26:52 - “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

 

Let's bypass any discussion of wars in the Old Testament and just say that there are scores of places anyone can find easily that prove this one simple point: God's way of solving every problem with humanity involves violence or threats of violence. A good concordance and the ability to look up words like “war” and “kill” is all the exegetical skill you need to figure out that that's true.

 

Violence in the name of Christianity has a long history

 

The “Just War” Theory

 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_war_theory

 

Just war theory is considered a doctrine (and don't we love that word around here – but it does have context outside of religion, so let's not – pardon the term – jump the gun here). It is more a tradition of military ethics that involves the opinions of people from every side of the war-waging equation including military leaders, theologians (and that's a very loose term here – it equates more with the “consigliere” model used by the MAFIA, “ethicists” - again with the air quotes – they are more opportunit that ethicist. They try to predict the most favorable outcome for their side with a surface nod to the impact on innocents.

 

The purpose of “Just War” doctrine is to “ensure” war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. Read “ensure” as “determine” here. If your entire theory is based on opinion, you can't ensure anything beyond your chances of winning and making your point.

 

Two Parts to Just War Theory

 

Right to go to war – assesses the morality of waging war or responding to a declaration of war

Right conduct in war – assesses the morality of HOW war is waged

 

Some think that the establishment of a morality-based system of reparations is also necessary, but in this case, like the other two, the concept of “moral” is very subjective and can be changed in a heartbeat to reflect the climate of the situation.

 

That's the problem with the whole thing. They want you to think they're acting based on a specific set of morals, but I think you can more rightly moniker this as “strategical” or “situational” morality. Situational ethics is a legit area of psychoanalytical research so it can and should apply in this instance and it usually does, without the moral foundation of honesty.

 

War always has selfish intent, on either one or both sides.

 

“Christian theory of the Just War begins with Augustine of Hippo[15] and Thomas Aquinas.[16] It's Just War theory, with “some amendments.” You can read that as “with provisions built in to make it OK to wage war whenever we want and for whatever purpose we want because we are going to independently decide what's moral and what isn't.” Thomas Aquinas is the credited originator of the theory, so it has theological provisos built right in. Here's a thumbnail sketch of what it looks like:

The Just War theory was first developed by St Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas was one of the most influential theologians of the last 1,000 years. The theory set out conditions against which to judge whether or not a war should be waged (jus ad bellum) and if it could be justified, and how it should be waged (jus in bello).

 

Everyone involved in developing this doctrine seems to have missed one salient point here, though:

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

(Mt 5:38-40).

 

That notwithstanding, let's look at some of the “moral” justifications for war according to Thomas Aquinas:

 

Aquinas's conditions for a Just War – jus ad bellum

  • The war must have a just cause - eg against invasion, or for self-defense - and not to acquire wealth or power.

  • The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, eg the state or ruler.

  • The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.

  • The war must be a last resort when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed, eg negotiation.

  • The war should be fought with 'proportionality', with just enough force to achieve victory and only against legitimate targets, ie civilians should be protected.

  • The good which is achieved by the war must be greater than the evil which led to the war.

 

(source - https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zbygjxs/revision/5#:~:text=The%20Just%20War%20theory%20was,waged%20(jus%20in%20bello%20).)

 

Now let's look at how each of these points relate to the storming of the capitol...

 

The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions, including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II.

 

More on Augustine's views can be found here: https://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/modules/Philosophers/Augustine/augustine_justwar.html

 

Let's also look at this from the standpoint of logic since we really shouldn't be looking to the Bible for advice on anything. Turning the other cheek works if you don't mind losing your country, your life, or your way of life. When attacked, it IS appropriate to defend. The problem is that initiatives like the crusades and the Inquisitions (yes, there were all kinds of splinter initiatives, it wasn't just one event) were not defensive, although the church tried to claim that they were. They were trying to stop the spread of things like Islam and witchcraft with the ultimate purpose being that the truth of Christianity would not be abated by apostate teachings and practices. So the defensive angle here comes from the notion of defending their religion from vanishing into obscurity. It's all an excuse.

 

Speaking of the crusades:

https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/14/if-islam-is-a-religion-of-violence-so-is-christianity/

“The Crusades are still a sore subject in the Muslim world, but it’s easy to forget the havoc they wreaked on the Jews of Europe. Time after time, as Crusaders slogged southeast on their umpteenth trip to the Holy Land, they slaughtered the Jews in their path. They herded them into synagogues and set the buildings alight. The Crusaders killed so many Jews in the name of their Christian faith that it was the most stunning demographic blow to European Jewry until the Holocaust. Which, just a friendly reminder, happened in Christian, civilized Europe only 70-some years ago.”

 

Anyone want to show me any Muslim initiative that did this much damage? I'm not going to downplay events like 9/11 and the never-ending conflict in the middle east. I'm not going to excuse strapping bombs to children and I'm not going to write off brutal executions for crimes that range from being homosexual to being female to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but when I think of bloodshed in the name of religion, MY mind goes to things like the crusades, the burning times, the Salem Witch Trials, the KKK, and the holocaust, all of which had their roots in perceived righteous christian objectives. And let's not forget the battle of armageddon and the bloodbath the bible predicts with that in Revelation.

 

Maybe Christians today aren't as outwardly demonstrative of their hate in some of these ways, but their legacy is one of bloodshed, pure and simple. “Well Spider, we're talking predominantly about the Catholics here.” OK... well Catholicism gave us Martin Luther who gave us the Protestant Reformation which opened the door for evangelical doctrine and practice to become a thing, so even if the Catholic Church is the Assemblies of God's great grandparent, it's still in the family. The DNA is there.

 

And the messaging in Christianity has only changed in its delivery, not in its substance and not in its implications. Christians had an affection for aggression and bloodshed then, and while we might see a very muted version of it today in comparison, it is still there. Back then it was about “defending” the faith by the sword.

 

Today it takes the form of gun rights, protests that teeter on the very precipice of “peaceful” (and often cross the line with brazen disregard for anything pure, decent, holy, or of good report and often with enigmatic impunity) and the aggressive insistence that an entire country bend its laws to better match their sense of morals... OR, as I like to put it, so the adult toddlers in our midst always get their way. Scream until daddy stops the car at Dairy Queen.

 

The predominantly white evangelical mob who stormed our nation's capital at the behest of their ousted failed demagogue and adopted messiah had no outlined agenda. They had no plan that even remotely coincided with the very Christian-born “Just War” doctrine. They wanted their way and that was it. They marched into their stunted battle touting the supremacy of their god, many under the delusion that they were carrying out the biblical end-times plan.

 

They listened to a “leader” who told them that their cause was righteous. And when that “leader” is known as the “leader of the free world” you get, in that instance, a deadly cocktail of mob rule and “might makes right” ideology. At that point, the thinking gets hopelessly skewed and the initiative becomes another crusade: lets keep this person in power so that our rights and religion don't disappear, even if that means cutting a path that shreds the very fiber of our democracy to ribbons. In their view of things, this was a defense move, not an act of aggression. It was done with righteous and god-mandated intent.

 

 

White evangelicals hold to the ideals they cling to because they have become addicted to the illusion of power it gives them. The crusades were a millennium ago and mosques are still a thing here. Oh yeah, Christian initiatives to “defend” their faith by eradicating all other faiths and opposing ideologies has proved VERY effective over the years. And just so we're clear, if your friendly neighborhood Church of Pentecostal Anointing of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost With Fire and Signs Following is afforded a place here, the local mosque should too. Because whatever you think about religion, and my opinion of it across the board is very low indeed, weaponizing one against another, silencing one and handing a megaphone to the other is the perfect way to ensure that society remains in a perpetual state of unrest.

 

Guns

 

https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/04/06/why-do-evangelicals-love-guns-so-much-when-jesus-preached-a-message-of-peace/

 

Hemant Mehta (aka The Friendly Atheist) sees a clear divide between “evangelical” and “Christian” and while I disagree with some of his opinions about Jesus and his agenda, I agree with the notion of these two things being mutually exclusive. Christians of various descriptions have decried violence over the centuries. He cites the Quakers and Mennonites as examples. I'll add the Amish and Shakers into the mix. These groups have historically REFUSED to take up arms, even to the point of defying draft orders at the risk of their personal freedom. That is how they interpret Christianity. Evangelicals CHOOSE to ally with their great grandparents in the faith – the Catholic church in particular – in the sentiment that taking up arms is always a defensive move, while displaying actions that communicate the exact opposite.

 

“...fervent evangelical Americans just haven’t gotten the message. No matter how often they study their Bibles, no matter how often they go to church, no matter how often Jesus appears to them in their dreams — they continue to cherish their steely killing machines and actively fight for their celebration and proliferation through America, which they constantly insist is a 'Christian nation.'”

 

Unfortunately, they’re not. Their love of both Jesus and guns is all too real. For example, according to a 2017 Pew survey (source - https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/july/praise-lord-pass-ammunition-who-loves-god-guns-pew.html - Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, Quantified, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra) -

 

  • White evangelicals are more likely than members of other faith groups, or the average citizen, to own a gun.

  • A majority of white evangelicals who own a handgun carry it with them.

  • White evangelicals are more likely than average Americans to believe most places should allow citizens to carry guns.

Is it an assertion of their perceived rights, or yet another sign of the kind of fear that their religion attempts to, and succeeds in instilling in them. “THEY want to take away your rights. THEY want to take away your religious freedom. THEY want to take away your guns. THEY want to remove your defenses. DON'T LET THEM.” That's the message they adhere to.

 

Let's make one thing clear: the Constitution DOES NOT guarantee every private citizen the right to keep and bear arms. Here is the language of the Second Amendment:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

 

The language of the amendment does not in any way, shape, or form afford private citizens the right to carry a gun just because they feel like it. It does not guarantee personal empowerment. It exists to ensure the safety of the populace under the protection of an organized militia. With a strong national military firmly in place, the language of this amendment has lost a large degree of its relevance. It is no longer up to states or colonies to organize independent defense structures to ensure their safety.

 

Today, the role of the state militia is more than adequately fulfilled with the presence of National Guard installments, staffed by trained military personnel with the skills and education necessary to do the job in a more organized and effective way. We don't need good ole boys with varying levels of trigger discipline going full Leeroy Jenkins on every conflict.

 

For remote areas that aren't easily and instantly served by military presence, I say do what you need to do to defend your space, but many of th e threats that existed when those words were written (most of which involved attacks from indigenous people who, for some reason, didn't like the white europeans who were trying to take over) aren't even a concern today. What's the excuse now? Are the threats that concern them real or imagined? What evidence can you show me that proves that a militia is still necessary?

 

Without that, I don't see how anyone can justify carrying a gun for the express purpose of carrying a gun and I cannot see why private citizens need to carry guns to “stay safe.” I've made it 49 years so far living in the same world and same country as they do. I have had plenty of interpersonal conflicts. I've felt vulnerable and I've felt threatened. I've been in situations where I didn't feel safe. And yet, I've survived them all without ever packing heat. Go figure.

 

I have no issues with having a gun for HOME PROTECTION if you live in an area where crime stats say it's a good idea. If my next door neighbor's home got invaded on Monday, I'd have a gun in my night table drawer on Tuesday. I still wouldn't feel compelled to carry it everywhere I go. That's what the right to keep and bear arms is about: defending your HOME (land, property, etc.) from acts of aggression, not to fuel this “there's no defense like a good offense” mentality that motivates people to carry guns everywhere. When you walk out your door looking at the thing you do as part of everyday life being somehow “threatening” it affects your perception of what threatening actually is. It's textbook paranoia and I don't think that paranoia and live ammo go well together. Not at all.

 

Hate Groups

 

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (the organization that identifies and monitors hate groups in America reported two alarming statistics in the last 5 years. First, there has been a 55% increase in white nationalist hate groups since 2017. Second, there was a a 43% increase in anti-LGBT hate groups just in 2019. (Source: https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map)

 

SPLC counted 784 hate groups in 2014, a figure that rose to 954 in 2017 and then 1,020 in 2018. The Alabama-based law center said last year's total surpassed the previous high reported in 2011. (source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/southern-poverty-law-center-new-hate-map-data-group-increase-splc-intelligence-report-today-2019-02-20/)

 

White Supremacy has been the primary focus of evangelical hate groups for years with the most glaring historical example being the Ku Klux Klan which still has a vibrant and far more visible presence in America. The rise in white supremacy groups and their increased visibility coincide neatly with the election of Donald Trump in 2016. This accounts for a massive base of supporters within the Trump camp who identify as “White Evangelical.”

 

Depending on the source, Evangelicals self-identify as 25–41% of the population, inside the 70% of Americans who claim Christianity as their religion. White Evangelicals comprise about 15.6% of the population, roughly 50 million people. And a whopping 82% of White Evangelicals have pledged to support Trump’s reelection in November. (source: https://medium.com/@brown.shannonelizabeth/the-kkk-is-a-christian-organization-b4e994b0bba1 – The KKK Is A Christian Organization, Shannon Brown)

 

Whether they want to admit it or not, many evangelicals are white supremacists. Some are more tolerant of the presence of people of color in their churches and church communities, but dissuade and sometimes rally against them holding significant positions within their churches including pastoral or vestral (read that as “board member”) positions.

 

This is not an across the board generalization since many evangelical white supremacists attend churches led by pastors who don't share their ideals. The attitudes are more prevalent in the pews than the pulpit, but there are plenty of pastors out there who either champion white supremacist ideologies or turn a blind eye to it in their congregations. Evangelical Christianity remains the single most racially segregated religious group in America.

 

White Evangelicalism Explained

 

What's the difference between an evangelical and a white evangelical? Simply put, an evangelical is an adopter of a globally-shared religious delusion. A white evangelical weaponizes that delusion and takes it to wild and often dangerous extremes. The former group is largely sedentary but also very vocal. The latter group is mobile and aggressive as well as vocal.

 

“White evangelicals believe they see truths that you and I cannot.”

 

While Americans around the country watched an inflamed mob overrun the Capitol on January 6, the evangelical participants in that mob saw something else: a holy war. Insurgents carried signs that read “Jesus Saves,” “In God We Trust,” “Jesus 2020,” and “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” One man marched through the halls of Congress carrying a Christian flag, another a Bible. They chanted, “The blood of Jesus covering this place.”

 

For months, various evangelicals have claimed in sermons, on social media, and during protests that malicious forces stole the election, conspired to quash Christian liberties, and aimed to clamp down on their freedom to worship and spread the Christian gospel. They felt sure that the final days of history were at hand and that the Capitol was the site of an epochal battle. As one evangelical from Texas told The New York Times, “We are fighting good versus evil, dark versus light.”

 

This entire article is so good I'm going to recommend reading it when you're done listening. It's one of the most succinct explanations of this problem I've seen in print.

 

(source: https://newrepublic.com/article/160922/capitol-riot-revealed-darkest-nightmares-white-evangelical-america - The Capitol Riot Revealed the Darkest Nightmares of White Evangelical America, Matthew Avery Sutton)

 

White Evangelicals are predominantly white supremacists and end-times fanatics, which makes them even more dangerous. When you fuse the deluded position of theirs being the only true religion on the planet, their largely transparent (intended or accidental) racism, and their insufferable adherence to end-times hysteria, you get a group of people so addled by the things they believe, they honestly think that they have near superhero powers that shield them from both harm and consequence when they commit acts of violence and hate. After all, “if God is for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?” Let God arise and his enemies be scattered (Ps. 68)? Heh... looks to me like his hapless thugs are the ones scattering now – and the FBI is dragging them out of their hidey-holes one thug at a time.

 

These total and complete idiots are so deluded that when they stormed the capitol, they mugged for the cameras, took lots of selfies, and then unabashedly posted their confessions on social media, which the FBI is turning around and using to find them, arrest them, and hold them accountable. According to Insider.com, 169 pro-Trump rioters have been charged so far at the time of this recording. They have a searchable table on their site that lists every last one and the list gets updated daily.

Source: https://www.insider.com/all-the-us-capitol-pro-trump-riot-arrests-charges-names-2021-1

 

“Pro Life” Hysteria

 

Conversely, many, if not most, pro-life evangelicals are also in favor of capital punishment which goes totally against the grain of anything that remotely resembles pro-life. They are fine with state-sanctioned murder but don't seem to care if a mother with an ectopic pregnancy dies because if both mother and baby die, then it must be “God's will.”

 

And violence against abortion providers is, to this day, so prevalent among evangelicals, both groups and individuals, that we could probably do a month's worth of episodes on this macabre topic, but instead, I've highlighted just a few.

 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-abortion_violence

 

August 1982: Three men identifying as the Army of God kidnapped Hector Zevallos (a doctor and clinic owner) and his wife, Rosalee Jean, holding them for eight days.

 

July 27, 1987: Eight members of the Bible Missionary Fellowship, a fundamentalist church in Santee, California, attempted to bomb the Alvarado Medical Center abortion clinic. Church member Cheryl Sullenger procured gunpowder, bomb materials, and a disguise for co-conspirator Eric Everett Svelmoe, who planted a gasoline bomb. It was placed at the premises but failed to detonate as the fuse was blown out by wind.

 

March 10, 1993: Gynaecologist David Gunn of Pensacola, Florida was fatally shot during a protest. He had been the subject of wanted-style posters distributed by Operation Rescue in the summer of 1992. Michael F. Griffin was found guilty of Gunn's murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

 

July 29, 1994: John Britton, a physician, and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot to death outside another facility, the Ladies Center, in Pensacola. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings. June Barrett was shot in the same attack which claimed the lives of James Barrett, her husband, and John Britton. Hill received a death sentence and was executed on September 3, 2003. Hill was an American minister and anti-abortion extremist.

 

There are many, many, many examples with southern states (particularly Florida) being the hardest hit, some facilities multiple times over the course of their operation. While the case descriptions don't always cite faith-based attacks, the details and reasons given are so similar that it leads one to believe that a very large number of these attacks were fueled by white evangelical pro-life hysteria and propaganda. I'll refrain from speculating on specific cases without doing all the research, but there is strong evidence that links an insane number of these attacks with white evangelical pro-life ideologies, particularly those of Operation Rescue.

 

It is also interesting to note that some commentators make some very close comparisons between the carrying out of violent abortion protests and the way the siege on our nation's capitol was carried out.

 

Source: “How Anti-Abortion Terrorism Fueled The MAGA Attack On The Capitol,” Lauren Rankin

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2021/01/10265551/anti-abortion-terrorism-capitol-riot-attack

 

Operation Rescue was able to shut down clinics across the country and terrorize abortion patients, unchecked by the federal government, for nearly a decade. That sense of complacency among lawmakers and apathy on the part of some law enforcement officials helped fuel the dramatic rise in anti-abortion extremism. By 1993, just two decades after Roe v. Wade was decided, anti-abortion extremists had escalated from picketing to stalking to blockading to bombing to assassination.”

 

When law enforcement refuses to take anti-abortion harassment and violence seriously, it signals their tolerance of that behavior. But it’s not just law enforcement — our cultural complacency around anti-abortion terrorism has helped normalize what should be unthinkable.”

 

Some of the key players in anti-abortion terrorism are also listed by SPLC, many with ties to and alliances with Operation Rescue. Source: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/1998/anti-abortion-bombings-related

 

The Rev. Matthew Trewhella, who founded the militant Missionaries to the Preborn, was one of the first anti-abortion leaders to publicly call for militias.

 

At a 1994 Wisconsin convention of the U.S. Taxpayers Party (USTP) — which mixes anti-abortion and antigovernment Patriot militants — he called on churches to form armed militias. After telling congregants to do "the most loving thing" by buying their children "an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition," he said he was teaching his own 16-month-old the location of his "trigger finger."

 

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, helped Operation Rescue at a time when it was facing a $50,000 fine. Pratt's Committee to Protect the Family Foundation raised nearly $150,000 to pay Operation Rescue's bills, without that organization ever holding the money. Pratt only halted his fundraising when a judge ruled that the foundation could be held liable for Operation Rescue's fines.

 

Again, there are so many examples where the word “evangelical” isn't used, but with so many of the perpetrators also holding anti-LGBT and racist views (and being involved in hate crimes against these groups), their stories all but call them out as White Evangelical extremists.

 

Also from the same page...

 

The militant anti-abortion movement is driven by three different but overlapping theologies that motivate violence: Christian Reconstructionism, Christian Identity and apocalyptic Catholicism. To understand this movement's increased militancy and its goal of instituting a theocracy — a goal that by definition means ending democracy — it is necessary to examine these three ideological strands.

 

Reconstructionism proposes contemporary use of the laws of Old Testament Israel, or "biblical Law," as the basis for "reconstructing" society under an explicitly theocratic government.

 

The Christian Identity movement is best known for tenets holding that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan and blacks are soulless subhumans. But it also attacks abortion, which in most cases is seen as a capital crime.

 

Catholic Apocalypticism is an apocalyptic version of Catholicism blending Catholic and Protestant versions of justification for anti-abortion violence

 

Now, like I said earlier, there is a difference between these people and your average pew sitter, but only in what they actually do with the beliefs they hold. Most evangelicals have major points of agreement with White Evangelical terrorists even if they aren't the ones building the bombs. Many decry the methods but agree with the philosophies behind them.

 

And with the level of impressionability among evangelicals (thanks that awesome childlike faith), it is far too easy to convince them that causes like Operation Rescue are actually righteous. I've never identified as White Evangelical. I've never had the notion to bomb a clinic. I did, however spend A LOT of Sunday afternoons picketing Phoenixville Hospital in PA as part of Operation Rescue. See what I mean? I didn't build the bombs, but I showed my support knowing full well that there were “crazy people” out there doing this stuff in the name of the same organization. Yes, for a brief period in his late teens, early 20s, the Spider was a member of a hate group. Just one more of those “you have to let it go...” examples.

 

Other Acts of Domestic Terror

 

We could talk about groups like the Westboro Baptist church and other hate groups that wear the moniker of “evangelical” but some of these groups are so extreme even other White Evangelical groups decry their actions. I think it's noteworthy, however, that these people CHOOSE to brand themselves under the cover of Christianity. What that tells me is that even if a hate group isn't overtly or legitimately Christian, they see enough points of identity with evangelical ideology to adopt that identity.

 

And when one considers how many racist, anti-LGBT, and anti-abortion hate groups do have their ties to evangelicalism, what's the point? You could say that the point is that you have a legitimate bone to pick with one and not the other on religious grounds, which I agree with to an extent. Look at their actions and judge those actions based on the true motivations. You don't have to be religious, to be a racist or homophobe. You don't have to be religious to like the idea of violence. You also don't have to wear the mark of Christian or evangelical but many do. Why? Because it's “safe” cover. The expectation of congruity with philosophies and beliefs is high enough that, at that point, does it really matter what they believe? They've identified their influencers. That's good enough for me.

 

Christian violence has nothing to do with Jesus, at least not as a spiritual mandate. Jesus never told anyone to wage war but he did a stellar job of setting the pieces up on the chessboard and setting the machine in motion. Even with his messages of pacifism (turn the other cheek, etc...) there was the underlying notion of hating your brother, your parents, and others around you as a prerequisite for following him. And while many theologians say that these words aren't meant to be taken literally, I say, you're God. This is you inerrant, authoritative Word. Say it another way. Speak in terms your followers can understand. What DID Jesus mean by all of that? Without getting inside the writer's head I can't say for certain, even after a course of responsible exegesis. With so many conflicting views, I can only take the words on their face, which is what most evangelicals will do as well.

 

Christian violence is as old as the religion itself. Peter cut off a soldier's ear in an effort to keep Jesus from getting arrested. It started there. It continued with religious wars that took literally millions of lives between the crusades and every splinter inquisition that cropped up around Christian doctrine, and it continues today in a nearly 50-year stretch of abortion clinic attacks, violent protests by White Evangelical hate groups, and the advent of a presidential administration that spent four years fanning the flames of insurrection, speaking the language of the rabble and motivating them to commit acts of insurrection not just for their maniacal “leader” but in equal measure for the god whom they decided he represented.

 

I'm sad to say that I don't see this pattern breaking anytime soon and that means that we, as rational, free-thinking people who understand the damage that this religion has done and continues to do to society need to stay alert, stay active, and, most importantly stay vocal. Don't be afraid to speak up. Don't be afraid to explain to the average pew-sitter what's wrong with this picture. It can come in the form of an even-tempered dialogue, bringing sound evidence and examples to the table in a social media discussion, or just sharing a link to a podcast that drives the point home.

 

We may not be able to single-handedly eliminate this insanity from our culture, but we can, and should expose it. Understanding where it comes from and how far back the problem stretches is vital. Have enough empathy for the people involved to understand that this thinking didn't just drop into their heads on its own, but do hold them accountable for what they choose to do as individuals, especially when what they do threatens other people's liberty or attempts to unravel the political structure of an entire nation as the result of propagandist hysteria.

 

Hold them accountable when they kill employees at an abortion clinic and point out the insanely hypocritical notion of killing someone because you're pro-life. Hold them accountable when they spew hate-filled rhetoric and try to hide behind their religion as justification for it. Hold them accountable for their racist views and actions. Hold them accountable when they shoot up gay nightclubs or spew hate-fueled rhetoric about the LGBT community and hide behind ignorant bronze-age thought as their justification for it. We've learned a few things since those words were written.

 

Let's keep our eyes open, let's keep our voices loud, and let's not let these people get comfortable with the way they think and act. Show them that their way of doing things is wrong and that there is no vile deity leading them into battle. I don't expect to see much change in my lifetime, but change can, and must, start now. The more we stay alert, the more we speak up, the more we hold these people accountable, the closer society on a whole will come to silencing this gospel of hate. And when that happens, maybe society itself can start healing. Maybe it will start taking its own collective steps away from toxic religious thought and a few giant leaps toward getting and staying unbound.