A Pair of Dangerous Speeches from the Attorney General and Secretary of State.
When republicans talk about religious freedom, I reach for the whiskey. – Stonekettle
If you are like me, the happenings of the past month or so have my head spinning. Even when I have time to keep I can’t keep the players straight and some of the situations are sometimes kind of cryptic. And that is what we hear about. What can be really disconcerting is the stuff we hear little about. A couple of years back then Attorney General Jeff Sessions made some remarks about families coming across the border and the next thing you know the policy that separates families at the border was implemented.
A couple of weeks ago Attorney General Barr and Secretary of State Pompeo made separate speeches in essence affirming that the current government is fairly well tied to Christianity. Such pronouncements are clearly unconstitutional. Yet over the years we have seen such embracing of religion and Christianity in particular to ebb and flow in government. However with this administration, as with so many other things this administration does, this feels different.
We turn to one of this countries premier pundits and a person who pulls no punches, The Rude Pundit, for some observations on that transpired and what it means: (Excerpts with author’s permission)
Last Friday, both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr were giving speeches before different groups in the middle of the country. Pompeo was speaking in Nashville to the American Association of Christian Counselors. Barr was speaking in South Bend, Indiana, at the Law School and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. Yet both approached their subjects from a similar perspective: that of the fundamentalist Christian. Separately, Barr’s talk is far, far more chilling than Pompeo’s. Taken togther, though, they present a vision of government as by design and, to their minds, necessity filtered through a strict, Christian interpretation of the Bible interpolated onto the secular world. The separation of church and state is non-existent in this world; in fact, a merging of Christian doctrine is seen as imperative to the continued existence of the nation and the world.
In one day, Pompeo and Barr played good cop/bad cop on transforming the United States into a theocracy.
Let’s put aside for a moment the obvious flaw in this line of thinking: Yes, Donald Trump is the absolute antithesis of pretty much everything that hardcore Christians are supposed to support. He’s pretty much a walking advertisement for all Seven Deadly Sins, with Envy, Pride, Wrath, Greed, and Sloth on ready display, and he brags about his Lust and Gluttony. Let’s put this aside because, obviously, ultra-Christians have decided that Trump is their imperfect vessel in order to achieve their social and political goals.
(Brief definition here: Don’t ever mistake the word “Christian” to mean “one who follows the teachings of the biblical Christ.” Some who call themselves “Christian” do, but mostly it’s just a designation that means “people who hate gays and abortion and liberals and modernity and want to justify it by contorting the Bible. Also, they have a weird obsession with Jesus coming back. And guns. Also, racist.”)
Rude Pundit then goes on to describe Pompeo’s speech as more broad and less abrasive to non- Christians. However Barr’s speech wasn’t as nice:
However, William Barr was having none of the slightly conciliatory language that Pompeo used. In a speech that was honestly stunning, Barr embraced an ultra-conservative, evangelical Christian belief in the law while condemning those who would dare to believe that government should be part of the secular world. Here’s how he introduced his argument: “If you rely on the coercive power of government to impose restraints, this will inevitably lead to a government that is too controlling, and you will end up with no liberty, just tyranny. On the other hand, unless you have some effective restraint, you end up with something equally dangerous – licentiousness – the unbridled pursuit of personal appetites at the expense of the common good. This is just another form of tyranny – where the individual is enslaved by his appetites, and the possibility of any healthy community life crumbles.”
Then he explained that “Judeo-Christian moral standards…are like God’s instruction manual for the best running of man and human society.” And we get to the crux of the argument: Over the last 50 years (everything dates back to 1969, man, groovy) “we have seen the steady erosion of our traditional Judeo-Christian moral system and a comprehensive effort to drive it from the public square.” Then he gave the usual litany of moral failings, like the “illegitimacy rate,” drug use, depression, suicide, and mental illness. That’s right. The Attorney General of the United States is blaming failure to get churchy for your depression.
For those who have studied the role of religion(s) in world history such words are frightening. There are millions of graves around the world that give testimony to the problems caused when region and politics mix. This is why the founders were so insistent on keeping government and religion separated. To see high government official trying to bring them together is scary to the bones.
This is the stuff that Halloween tales are made, but in real life.
Just a last couple of thoughts from Rude Pundit:
Actually, the problem for Barr is “militant secularists” who “have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.” (Seriously, I heard this kind of stuff from Seventh-Day Adventist preachers and snake handlers back in the 1980s and 1990s.)
Then Barr went after the laws themselves, and that’s where this becomes even more dangerous of a speech. The legalizations of abortion and euthanasia are examples of one kind of secularization of the country. But, even more insidious, “we have seen the law used aggressively to force religious people and entities to subscribe to practices and policies that are antithetical to their faith. The problem is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith.”
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Whether mildly or brutally, these Trump administration officials are casting government in terms that could only be described as “an establishment of religion,” which is specifically prohibited by that Constitution they declare is so awesome.
Separation of church and state – a good idea for all times.
Special thanks to the Rude Pundit for allowing some extra use of his material.