The godless BBC

The godless BBC
: A few weeks ago, I got pissed at a BCC story condescending to Americans’ view of religion.

Well, they’re at it again, this time condescending to George Bush’s view of religion.

Mind you, I’m far away from Bush on any Religionometer; I disagree with and even fear his efforts to bring “faith-based” inititiatives into that government that I believe must stay completely clear of religion; I fear, too, the religious foundation to his agenda. That said, I have to say that Bush has not been thumping his Bible with alarming frequency.

But the BBC paints him like the Zealot in Chief:

:Before September 11, President George W Bush kept his evangelical Christian beliefs largely to himself….

But all that changed on the day of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Those close to Mr Bush say that day he discovered his life’s mission.

He became convinced that God was calling him to engage the forces of evil in battle, and this one time baseball-team owner from Texas did not shrink from the task.

And what else would you have him do, you over-accented creep? Listen: We all faced the forces of evil in battle that day and we all had to chose to fight and to win.

And, by the way, that has jack-nothing to do with the fact that Bush was a baseball-club owner (and a bad one). Brits are usually more subtle about their snobbishness, aren’t they?

In this battle, he placed his country firmly on the side of the angels.

And what side would you suggest we’re on? What side would you suggest bin Laden and Hussein are on? Angels piss on them.

This concept of placing America in God’s camp sticks in the throat of a lot of American clergy.

“It is by no means certain that we are as pure as the driven snow or that our international policy is so pure,” says Fritz Ritsch, Presbyterian minister in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Reverend Ritsch says it also makes their job as clerics harder by giving Christians in America an easy way out.

They do not need to examine their souls because their president has told them they are on the side of good.

Horseshit, Rev. I had to examine my soul aplenty about my response to the evil of bin Laden and Hussein and I did much of that in my church. I decided that we bear a moral responsibility to fight this evil. And you?

In fact, nearly all the mainland churches in America oppose this war, including Mr Bush’s own church, the United Methodists.

That’s mainstream, you dolt.

Does the president believe he is playing a part in the final events of Armageddon?

If true, it is an alarming thought.

But he would not be alone, as 59% of all Americans believe that what is written in the Bible’s Book of Revelations will come to pass.

Now you’re insulting all America once again. This is not at all the position by the majority of Americans in our “mainland” churches and synagogues.

By the way, this is precisely why we left England in the first place, because of narrow-minded creeps like you who hate freedom of religion. This is why we started America. The country that has a problem with religion is yours, mate.

The millions of Americans who believe in the biblical prophecies see this war in a very particular way and among them, George Bush’s stark talk of good versus evil plays very well.

If America prevails, millions will say it was divinely ordained.

But many others will suspect that it had more to do with the power of American weaponry than the active intervention of the Almighty.

Well, you finally said something right: If we win this war, it will be because we fought this war. God’s not fighting it. The Marines are — ours and yours.

: And by the way, Mr. BBC, how would you like to look at the religious views of this man?

The spiritual leader of the world’s largest branch of Islam has given his blessing to suicide attacks against coalition forces in Iraq.

  • http://www.donaldsensing.com Rev. Donald Sensing

    The United Methodist Church has no position at all on the Iraq War. Under the polity laws of the denomination, only the General COnference can set denominational positions. The GC meets every four years. It met last in 2000 and will not meet again until mid-2004.
    No one, and I mean absolutely no one, nor any church entity except the General Conference has the authority to declare any sort of denominational position on any issue of any kind, for any reason.
    The UMC is my denomnation.

  • http://dubitoks.tripod.com CJ

    I find it very interesting that a news outlet that is supposedly tolerant of religious views (I imagine if one Googled, one could find many BBC items positive toward the Muslim religion) deems it necessary to denigrate the religiosity of Bush.
    Funny, how we Americans can afford even our Comm. In Chief the right to his own religious beliefs, and respect his right to express them, without devolving into a fatwah/jihad.
    Nuance, apparently, is lost on the BBC.

  • http://oliverwillis.com Oliver

    Considering the war we’re fighting, and who we’re fighting against – it has been a royal struggle on the part of the non-idiots in this administration to convince the prez that this isn’t a war of Christianity vs. Islam. Yet, we get Infinite Justice and frigging “Crusade”. It’s just asinine. A president has every right to his religious beliefs, but there’s too much damned church in the Bush white house.

  • JFM

    A few remarks:
    1) The BBC does not seem to find something wrong about Muslims reliogiosity and intolerance, only Christian religiosity is to blame
    2) Let’s recall British attitude toward Cathlics: for centuries there were banned (read discriminated) of public charges and working for the governement. While this has been abolished let’s recall how the Prince of Wales was not allowed to marry the woman he loved and had to marry Diana. That led to scandals and a serious shaking of British monarchist sentiment. And why wasn’t he allowed to marry that woman? Because she was a Catholic. Sounds like intolerancy to me.

  • http://tschwarz.blogspot.com Tobias

    Entirely mistaken, I’m afraid.
    The problem at hand is neither a possible disrespect for religious freedom on the part of the BBC, nor the fact that a lot of American religious discourse sounds strange to European ears.
    The problem at hand is that the Western coalition is claiming to fight an enlightened war, not a religious one. The problem at hand is that the US policy is evidently informed by educated and enlightened people who are catering to a fundamentalist party base. I don’t know to which extent Michael Lind’s argument that 5% of fundamentalists have hijacked the GOP because of their high turnout in primaries is true but the argument certainly does seem to have some superficial plausibility.
    So here’s the REAL problem. If you are fighting FOR tolerance and modernisation (everything a lot people put into the word “democracy” without having a clear idea of what they are talking about) you will inevitably run into problems if your political basis is firmly believing to have to fight AGAINST it.
    Apart from suicide terrorism and the sharia, the social concepts of fundamentalist Christians and fundamental Muslims are not too far apart. They are both fundamentally anti-modernist. If this war is perceived as one fundamentalist sect fighting another then this war might indeed start some kind of the “battle of armageddon”.
    Bush might have no choice but to rethorically cater to the Bible Belt. But an inevitable consequence of this is that a large part of the world is starting to believe that America is no longer the “land of the free” but increasingly the home of some sort of Christian Wahhabism.

  • Jack

    FYI – I think the more technically appropriate term for churches like the Presbyterian church (and the Episcopalins and the like) is “mainline” not “mainsteam” or “mainland” – the most distinguishing features of which, in recent years, have been (i) a dramatic decline of membership (in contrast to the growing membership of the evangelical Protestant churches, the Catholic Church and the Mormons) and (ii) a general moral wishy-washiness, as so eloquently exhibited by the Presbyterian minister in Bethesda quoted by the BBC. In the view of many, these two features are not unrelated.

  • Shannon Love

    The problem here is European ethnocentric parochialism. They have told themselves for so long that they are the world’s cosmopolitan elite that they have stopped listening to or trying to understand anybody else, especially America. Europeans believe that their experience with nationalism, religion and the third world unquestionable form the template for all of humanity.
    For example, by American standards, there is no separation of church and state in Europe. Most countries have official churches to some degree and virtually all support these churches through taxation. As recently as the mid-20th century, religion caused violent divisions. Consequently, Europeans eradicated religion from their political discourse. Now, they project the European experience with religion in politics onto America failing to understand that our history, traditions and laws differ radically from theirs.
    Europeans have evolved into highly articulate, mis-educated, bigoted hicks.

  • http://bittersanity.blogspot.com jeanne a e devoto

    You know, I read comments like the above and I genuinely wonder whether the writer and I are living on the same planet. Tobias, where are you getting these ideas? US foreign policy is “catering to a fundamentalist party base”? (Simply asserted, I notice, not proven nor even supported with example.) Fundamentalists are firmly against modernization? Christian Wahhabism? What?
    I mean, to start with, Bush isn’t even fundamentalist. The man’s a friggin’ Methodist.

  • http://spleenville.com/ Andrea Harris

    Ah, but he quit drinking and started going back to church regularly at the same time; that’s the mark of a rabid, fire-breathing fundamentalist to some people, it appears.

  • grybstein

    I think what the Beeb is really trying to explain is why the US so staunchly supports Israel: According to BBC it’s simple – the American religious simpletons think that Israel represents the fulfillment of biblical prophecies!

  • Catherine

    Tobias, your analysis of what this current government or the “perception” of the place of religion is this country is irrational. Although I am sure to get an answer saying otherwise, I bet dollars to donuts you have not spent much time in this country, never mind in “the bible belt.”
    You completely side step the fact that the BBC is not telling the truth. Instead, you imply that America, and from what I have seen told by some European friends this is what is often reported in the left wing papers, is becoming over run with evangelical christians. Why wasn’t this implied or reported when Bill Baptist Clinton was heading to church, bible in hand every Sunday morning? Suddenly we are a country gripped by fundamentalism. Where were you when Jesse Jackson went to the White House to pray with Bill to help him get through his various scandals?
    I don’t think most Christian Americans, fundamentalist or not, would NOT approve of outright religious invocations. What separates us from the anti-religious Europeans who look down their nose at people of faith is that Americans can separate “God” from religious assignment. This is something that the founding fathers made clear. The fact that religion is alive and thriving in America is because we have a separation of church and state. We allow Bush or Clinton to have their personal views and they are not afraid of being attacked for it. That is freedom.
    This is, I hate to inform you, what makes us more free than most European countries who tax their citizens to pay for their churches. They may be empty, but they are paying for them whether they go into them or not.
    I also might remind you that our armed forces are voluntary, unlike most of Europe that has compulsary service.
    I will be damned if I am going to change the way I live my life because of the “perception” by the Europeans who so willingly lap up this garbadge from the BBC and other tools of the left. To equate us with Wahhabism which issues “fatwas,” blinds it’s women in cloaks, treats women like property, etc. is as irrational as saying (another popular word) we are becoming “fascist.” Frankly, even if the GOP were “5%” fundamentalist, how does 5% form a base? While we are speaking about diversity or influence of certain groups, shall we discuss the leaders of France and their elitist “base?”
    Last, if you asked most Americans, bible belt, fundamentalist, left, right, center, I think you would find that most people don’t would prefer we weren’t involved in foreign affairs. Most Americans would be just as happy to shore up all of the foreign aid, and policing we do to keep Europe (it wasn’t Europe that made the first step to stop the slaughter in Kosovo…kept West Germany free of Soviet oppression…) and the world more peaceful and tell the world to go to hell. Most are sick of our men and women dying for the ungrateful world (do the protesters in South Korea realize their wealth and freedom was paid for with American blood? My uncle is completely disfigured from surviving a North Korean bomb, for them!) We hear about American imperialism out of one side of the European mouth, and complaining about how we aren’t doing “enough” out of the other side of the mouth. Which is it? And don’t TELL there has to be consensus or we have to ask permission from YOU to do what YOU want when you NEVER want to pay for it with soldiers or Euros.
    I think I speak for many when I say that they day Europeans and the BBC can come up with a coherant answer to the world’s problems and actually TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for them, is the day I will begin to listen a little more to the “European street” and European leaders.
    I am fed up.

  • http://www.shamusyoung.com Shamus

    Imagine if this sort of paranoid, fear-mongering, anti-Christian drivel were written about Muslims, instead of Christians, and that is was published in the US. Now imagine it is printed as “news” (as the BBC has done here) instead of on the editorial page where it belongs. Now imagine the response. From everyone.
    Amazing.

  • Proton

    Did you send this rebuttal to the Beeb? Better yet, you ought to send it to the British Embassy with a suggestion about the Separation of Media and State. ;-)

  • A D Richards

    JFM 6th April 3:41am, the reason that Catholics were banned from office and from marrying into the Royal Family is that the British wanted to remain independent of the Pope’s authority. It wasn’t just out of spite. It was a sensible political decision.
    As far as Prince Charles goes, he wasn’t prevented from marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles because she was a Catholic but because she was married to somoene else.

  • Catherine

    AD Richards is right. Parker-Bowles isn’t a Catholic, he just dithered and she married someone else. However, even if your 15th in line to the thrown, your claim goes down the drain if you marry a Catholic (Prince Michael of Kent, The Earl of St. Andrews). The children of the marriage remain in line as long as they are baptised and raised Anglican. It’s still the law.
    As far as the rule against Catholics being sensible, that is debatable. The reason Henry the 8th split with the church was because he wanted to do as he wished and divorce and be-head as much as he pleased. The British government wanted so badly to keep Catholics from the throne, it went to Hanover and adopted a German prince as their own (who couldn’t speak English) to prevent Catholic James and Bonnie Prince Charlie from getting the throne after the death of Queen Anne (who left no heirs).
    The British government went on to persecute anyone who wasn’t Anglican and didn’t attend services, so don’t praise the government of that day for being sensible.

  • Amy from Texas

    I’m very interested in where the 59% figure came from.

  • Hank

    I think that the BBC was dead-on. Bush doesn’t mind propping of some of the dictators in his coalition, and doesn’t support even trade sanctions against some of the worst human rights abusers. Further, to believe that Jesus would support our butchery going in Iraq is asinine.
    What we’re doing is evil, and the vast majority of the world agrees. The only people who don’t are either supporting Bush for purely political reasons, or crazy Earth-is-only-5000-years-old snake-handlers. Or both.

  • http://aucurrant.pitas.com Jackie D

    I actually watched the programme that Jeff has fisked, and I can tell you how incandescent with rage I was. Shamus is exactly right: no such segment on Muslims would ever have been sanctioned by the BBC.
    On the discussion panel after the religion segment, Deal Hudson (editor and publisher of Crisis magazine, and a friend and adviser to GWB) raised the point that Jimmy Carter was as religious as Bush. Some lame professor, Randall Somebody, said, “Yes, but obviously Jimmy Carter’s God was Jesus, the kindly revolutionary, whereas George W Bush’s God is the dark creature of Revelations,” or some such bull. Christopher Hitchens rightly pointed out that it was Carter who’d cuddled up to Hussein in the first place.
    You can watch the entire show here — the religion bit is in the second half of the programme.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    I don’t agree this war is evil and I’m indifferent to world opinion when a cause is just. I don’t support Bush for political reasons, nor do I believe the earth is 5,000-years-old, nor do I handle snakes.
    What I do believe is that there are fools about who will do anything to avoid responsibility while attempting to feel good about themselves and their blighted lives. Others just plow ahead doing what they think is right. I refer, of course, to Hank and George.

  • Rick

    History has a way of revealing the truth. No one today thinks fighting against the Nazis was immoral, or that “the butchery” as Hank put it was wrong. But back in the 30’s and 40’s, there were plenty of people who didn’t want to fight that evil, or rather, who didn’t see that it was evil.
    We are just starting to get a glimpse into the vile regime that was Hussain’s with discoveries of torture chambers and dead bodies in boxes.
    Fighting against monsters like Saddam, is, after all, a liberal cause. It shames me to call myself liberal these days when so many liberal have abdicated what it means to be liberal.
    History won’t be kind to the Hanks of the world.

  • O’McSomething

    Here are a few paragraphs from an article from BeliefNet. The folks who publish this excellent site are hardly ‘godless.’ Many people regardless of their faith (or lack of) seem concerned with what they see as some Christian charities’ evangelistic zeal to get into post-war Iraq, and those same groups’ conection with and endorsement by the Bush administration. Read the whole thing, it gives lots of info about various groups (w/links to their websites), what they are up to and ‘techniques’ used:
    The survey of evangelical leaders found that 77% of the nation’s 350 top evangelical leaders hold a negative view of Islam, and 70% believe it is a “religion of violence.” In addition, only 17% said they believe Muslims and Christians pray to the same God. And despite President Bush’s repeated statements since September 11, only 10% believe Islam is a “religion of peace.”…..
    The most popular evangelizing tool is “The Jesus Film.” Translated into 811 languages, the 1979 film was made for $6 million by Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright with the financial backing of conservative oilman Nelson “Bunker” Hunt. In November 2001, after Christian relief workers Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were rescued from Afghanistan, it was revealed that the Taliban arrested them for showing the Jesus Film.
    In fact, the call to evangelize is so powerful that some justify the use of deceptive means.
    One group, Global Opportunities, is organized specifically to help Christians evangelize through a practice called “tentmaking”–placing Christian professionals in secular jobs in foreign countries in order to proselytize. On its website, the group writes with advice about how to penetrate various parts of the world. The Arab Gulf region, the group says, is a “bonanza” for engineers because of the oil industry. ….
    Hearing of the evangelicals’ plans, Muslim scholar and activist Abdulaziz Sachedina said: “We need to educate them, don’t we? Muslims need to tell the evangelicals we share some of the same values they are preaching, and we have in us the love of Jesus.”
    He worries that, with the Muslim world convinced Americans are waging a war on Islam, allowing Christian missionaries in Iraq will be explosive. At the least, he suggests, these groups should “wait until things cool off.”
    Evangelicals are puzzled by their detractors. “I’m not sure why offering compassion and love can be criticized,” says Norvelle, the Southern Baptist. Indeed, many Americans don’t understand the resentment in Muslim countries of Christian missionaries. And they don’t understand that in the eyes of the rest of the world, America’s government and its dominant religion appear inseparable.
    It’s not hard to imagine the rest of the world making that connection. Franklin Graham is closely associated with President Bush; Graham delivered the invocation at Bush’s inauguration, and Bush credits Billy Graham with helping to bring him back to Christianity. But Graham has been one of the most strident critics of Islam, calling it on numerous occasions

  • A D Richards

    Catherine
    Henry VIII did not split with the Church, he split with Rome. He remained the head of the new Church. The split with Rome suited him but it probably would have happened anyway, as it did in other north European countries. When I wrote that the government of the day was ‘sensible’ in keeping Catholics away from the throne I was not inferring that this meant that it was either good or bad, merely that that was the best course of action to maintain the religion and independence of the country from the Catholic competitor nations.

  • http://www.wjduquette.com/foothills Will Duquette

    Regarding Henry VIII, the pope, England, catholics, et al, the thing that we Americans have trouble remembering is that in that time and place there was no division between church and state. Religion *was* politics. Reducing Henry’s decision to a desire to web and behead whom he please is an over-simplification. What he was really doing was proclaiming England’s independence from Rome and proclaiming his right to rule England as he pleased.
    The whole Anne Boleyn/Catherine of Aragon thing was just the last straw in a large bale.
    The same issue arise when we read about the suppression of heresy in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. The various heretical groups (Cathars, Bogomils, etc., etc.) were heterodox not only religiously but also politically–and to my eye, most were politically driven. Religious heterodoxy followed because (given the church’s support of the establishment) it had to.
    What makes this of interest now, is that we are once again dealing with folks who cannot distinguish between politics and religion–and I’m not speaking of Bush, American fundamentalists, or the residents of the Bible belt.

  • Catherine

    AD – got it. Thanks
    And Will, I did oversimplify. Of course there was more to it. I’ve got two nice thick books on that period from my British history class to prove your point.
    As for your last point, bravo. If I wasn’t so incensed with the BBC or the usual finger
    pointing at Americans and preoccupied with my senior thesis, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time being defensive. Excellent point.
    Catherine

  • Reginleif the Valkyrie

    Catherine, while I agree with nearly all the points you make in your initial post, there are kernels of truth in Tobias’s argument that you totally miss.
    You write, I don’t think most Christian Americans, fundamentalist or not, would NOT approve of outright religious invocations. Well, I hate to break it to you, but not all Americans are Christians. And some of those non-Christians are atheists or, like me, agnostics.
    I wholeheartedly support the Bush Administration’s positions in the War on Terror, as I definitely believe evil exists, and that some aspects of morality are indeed absolute. (If you don’t understand how a non-religious person can take such views, go read some recent Christopher Hitchens columns.)
    I also think the BBC article was way off base and quite elitist. Sorry if this sounds like the old “Some of my best friends are Jewish!” type of disclaimer, but among my friends are Catholics of various degrees of orthodoxy, born-again Christians, liberal Protestants, liberal Jews, orthodox Jews, Wiccans and other pagans, and even liberal Muslims, as well as fellow nonbelievers. Those friends with belief systems are quite intelligent (I don’t hang out with dolts), and have thought through their beliefs, rather than having been brainwashed into them. I find them, in general, deeper and better-informed people than many of the secular snobs who clutter the power structure here in Massachusetts.
    On the other hand, like Jeff, I dislike Bush’s vigorous injection of religion, specifically Christianity, into the public sphere. It does not belong there, despite the screeching of various religious conservatives who think that without ghod, we are nothing, and those who do not worship a deity are morally suspect. Tony Blair had no problem proffering his goodwill to “people of all faiths, and people of none,” but I see no such concession to nonbelievers in American politics at the national level. Witness the reaction to the Ninth Court decision to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, which isn’t even an original part of it. Our Congresscritters of both parties couldn’t scramble fast enough to line up with their hands over their hearts for the cameras. You’d think they were getting six-figure bonuses to do so.
    So far from the Bush administration, we’ve not only seen the “faith-based intiatives” project, but we’ve seen the overweeningly self-righteous John Ashcroft making a huge fuss over a bare-breasted female statue (fer $DEITY’s sake, has the man never been to an art museum?!), and spending huge sums of taxpayer money, not to mention federal agencies’ precious time and effort, on apprehending those murderous threats to the American way of life… head shop owners.
    Then there’s this memo. Yeah, voluntary prayer in the schools is constitutionally protected, but the Constitution also protects minority-belief and nonbelieving children from teachers and peers who pressure or even force them to join in majority-belief prayer sessions. Supposedly, that is. In one”>http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0679758860/qid=1049660899/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/102-1454368-5952946?v=glance&s=books&n=507846″>one of her books, Wendy Kaminer has written about siblings from a Jewish family who were coerced into Christian prayers at their public school in Texas (one teacher put his hand on the back on the son’s head and forced it downward into a prayer-like pose). When their parents called the principal to complain, the response was, “Well, if you’re not going to save their souls, someone has to.” The family sued, and as a result were so harassed by their, uh, loving Christian neighbors that they were forced to move out of the area. Funny how I never see this case mentioned in the mainstream media.
    And what about the prayers of minority-belief children? Will Our Fearless Leaders protect a Muslim child who wishes to observe all of his or her five daily prayer sessions? How about pagan children who wish to invoke the Great Horned One before they take a test? Or how about Satanists, who do indeed constitute a religion (usually quite a different one from that of many Christians’ perceptions) and are often harassed and persecuted for their beliefs to a degree grossly disproportionate to any actual threat they represent?
    I can now hear the usual voices crying, “But those aren’t real religions!” Um, who gets to decide what’s a “real” religion? Even Christians are forever casting Christians from different sects out of the fold. Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic, recently discussing the Elizabeth Smart case, snidely commented, “Well, I guess if you’ll believe in a made-up religion, you’ll believe anything.” Conversely, there are the various Protestants who think all Catholics are bound for hell (look at the relevant Jack Chick tract for a truly acrid example).
    I could go on, but this comment is long enough, and I doubt I could add anything to it that would convince those who disagree.

  • Roberta Dargnio

    I notice that the BBC doesn’t mention Britain’s own long-running religious war–Northern Ireland. Now, that’s a quagmire!
    They make GW sound like a snake handler. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. He’s a Methodist–just like Hilary Clinton.

  • Rachel Cohen

    “Will Our Fearless Leaders protect a Muslim child who wishes to observe all of his or her five daily prayer sessions?”
    So send the Muslim kid to a religious school–just like the ones in NYC that use books that suggest Jews are pigs and dogs. If practice of a religion is so important to the kid’s parents–they have alternatives. It’s not the job of public schools to provide worship facilities.

  • Reginleif the Valkyrie

    Rachel, I think you miss my point. We’re not talking about “providing worship facilities;” we’re talking about not reprimanding or otherwise punishing a child who, for example, prays quietly at his or her desk before a test. If the schools are going to let kids say Christian prayers, they should let children of any religion, no matter how unpopular it is, pray as well. This is basic to freedom of religion.
    By the way, there are Muslims who aren’t antisemitic, are appalled and disgusted by what the mainstream of Islam has become, and who do speak their minds about it, garnering a fair number of death threats in the process. I know, because I’m friends with some of them. And although I don’t profess a belief in a deity, I still consider myself Jewish by heritage.

  • 49erDweet

    The last I heard, in the states so-called ‘mainstream’ protestant churches, [of course not counting Catholicism], are now in the minority. Also, from what I’ve heard, a large majority of evangelical protestant churches have taken ‘no position’ or else actually support the coalition’s efforts.
    I guess the ‘Beebies’ have an easier time writing news if they just ignore what they don’t understand.

  • http://www.dimn.blogspot.com Andrew | BYTE BACK

    Would you feel the same if Newsweek posed the same questions? Because they did in a cover story.
    The BBC is a news network, that also incorporates a newsmagazine.
    In fact the most annoying thing about the piece is that it asks questions it then doesn’t answer. But the asking question part – in the sense of sentences with ? at the end – is a clear sign of analysis, not a news story.
    A mild case.

  • http://bittersanity.blogspot.com jeanne a e devoto

    Why does the US base in Kuwait (a country that is something like 85% Muslim) want its ‘lift operators, store keepers, clerks, typists, security guards and drivers’ to be non-Muslim?
    Considering the context of the current situation, are you really having trouble finding an explanation for this condition that is more probable than that the federal government wants to evangelize in Kuwait?

  • http://tschwarz.blogspot.com Tobias

    Catherine,

      Tobias, your analysis of what this current government or the “perception” of the place of religion is this country is irrational. >Although I am sure to get an answer saying >otherwise, I bet dollars to donuts you have not >spent much time in this country, never mind >in “the bible belt.”

    Well, you can’t rally expect me to argue my points are irrational… ;-) And I did spend spend some time in the US, although only in Washington-NYC-Boston corridor and the San Diego-LA-San Francisco corridor. I lived in a flat with several American friends, but – you are right about this – none from a bible belt state. Anyway – generalisations will never cover all cases – that’s the problem of modelling. But if we don’t model, we don’t understand reality at all…

      Instead, you imply that America, and from what I have seen told by some European friends this is what is often reported in the left wing papers, is becoming over run with evangelical christians. Why wasn’t this implied or reported when Bill Baptist Clinton was heading to church, bible in hand every Sunday morning? Suddenly we are a country gripped by fundamentalism. Where were you when Jesse Jackson went to the White House to pray with Bill to help him get through his various scandals?

    It’s not just the left wing European papers. The conservative papers are just a little more confused about what to write. You are clearly right when you say that there are a lot of mutual misconceptions about the nature of the US as well as about Europe. I agree that ther nature of American religiosity has only now become a major element of the discourse regarding “the rift” between Europe and the US. But that, I have to say does have a reason – and this reason is the rethoric used by the current US admin.
    If we all agree that the thing we use to call “the west” means essentially a specific model of liberal (non-US-political-use of the term) governance, then it is important that the people on either side of the Atlantic do not stop discussing these issues.
    And Clinton *was* different, for all his bible quotes – here’s an extract from an article in the nation by Eric Alterman that summarizes the Bush-Clinton gap quite good.
    Personally, I always thought of those two as Danton and Robbespierre…- oh, I am clearly a Girondist in this picture.
    “It’s not as if Europeans can’t stand the idea of a conservative Republican President. To a surprising degree, they warmed to Ronald Reagan, as Alain Frachon, who writes about foreign affairs on the editorial page of Le Monde, explains. “When Reagan was President, we never had the impression he was motivated by fundamentalism. He was divorced. He had worked in Hollywood. But this George Bush is totally foreign to us. He quotes the Bible every two or three sentences. He is surrounded by Christian fundamentalists. He says he has no problem sleeping after sending someone to death. There was a dose of charm, humor, of Hollywood to Reagan. But not to Bush. It’s another world and one we find extraordinarily hypocritical. No one told us that the Republicans had moved this far to the right.” Things were quite different under Bill Clinton. As Serge Halimi, the leftist editor of Le Monde diplomatique, the publication that is frequently accused of being the intellectual home of the anti-American worldview, argues, “The hostility to US policy would be lessened with Clinton in the White House, even assuming that these policies were exactly the same as Bush’s.”

      I don’t think most Christian Americans, fundamentalist or not, would NOT approve of outright religious invocations.

    Well, I do know several who would. But again, these are personal experiences and no representative polls.

      What separates us from the anti-religious Europeans who look down their nose at people of faith is that Americans can separate “God” from religious assignment.

    Well, people of faith – I know that my mother, for example, would probably be insulted by such a statement. She has been teaching protestantism in schools for several years. Nonetheless, she is appalled by the kind of religious justifications used in the public discourse of the Bush administration.

      This is something that the founding fathers made clear. The fact that religion is alive and thriving in America is because we have a separation of church and state. We allow Bush or Clinton to have their personal views and they are not afraid of being attacked for it. That is freedom. This is, I hate to inform you, what makes us more free than most European countries who tax their citizens to pay for their churches. They may be empty, but they are paying for them whether they go into them or not.

    I never doubted the religious freedom in the US. And as I said above, the Clinton invocations of religion *seemed* different [and so they *were* different - this is very much a problem of discourse]. However, as far as religious freedom in Europe is concerned, your argument is not quite right in most countries. But I agree that, in certain countries, as a function of tradition, separation of church and state is far from perfect. However, the term church-tax is misrepresenting what actually goes on – it is a contribution collected by the state for the churchs only paid by those who are a member of a specific church. I agree that this system is problematic but given the current nature of European churches it is currently not too problematic to see these institutions involved in social services. From an economic point of view, it’s mostly a redistribution from those who pay for their church to those who receive church financed social services.

      I also might remind you that our armed forces are voluntary, unlike most of Europe that has compulsary service.

    I don’t quite understand what this is in reference to, but conscript armies are becoming increasingly unpopular in Europe as people over here realise the changed nature of defence in the 21st century. In Western Europe, Germany is probably the only case with a big consript army – for specific historical reasons.

      I will be damned if I am going to change the way I live my life because of the “perception” by the Europeans who so willingly lap up this garbadge from the BBC and other tools of the left. To equate us with Wahhabism which issues “fatwas,” blinds it’s women in cloaks, treats women like property, etc. is as irrational as saying (another popular word) we are becoming “fascist.” Frankly, even if the GOP were “5%” fundamentalist, how does 5% form a base? While we are speaking about diversity or influence of certain groups, shall we discuss the leaders of France and their elitist “base?”

    I guess I did not make myself sufficiently clear if that is what you think I said. No one should be forced to change one’s way of life. And Europe is not the problem – people here might shake their heads in disbelief but they do not send suicide bombers. It will be very difficult to convince people in the Middle East that they are being liberated.
    As for the GOP – the argument made by the American auther Michael Lind in his recent book “made in texas” is not that the GOP is 5% fundamentalist but that the fundamentalist 5% of the US population have hijacked the party because of their high turnout in the Republican primaries. As I said, I don’t know to which extent this *IS* true, as Lind fails to back up his claim by more than anecdotal evidence. However, this anecdotal does have a superficial credibilty.
    The fascism point is evidently bullshit. But I argue that the “security measures” like the Patriot Act, TIA, and its European equivalents do pose a serious threat to liberty. Maybe these measures are necessary – but it is beyond doubt that they are highly problematic for any liberal society.
    As for France, I don’t understand what you are talking about? But I agree that France is still very much an elitist country. But not more than the US, in my experience.

      Most are sick of our men and women dying for the ungrateful world (do the protesters in South Korea realize their wealth and freedom was paid for with American blood?

    I understand this feeling – and let me reassure you that the fundamental feeling towards the US is one of gratefulness. But it took from 1945 to 1968 for the whole society to understand that (there are, of course, pocket’s of anti-Americanism). Criticism of the current US policy is owed to the fact that friends must tell each other when they believe the other one is getting it wrong. Not due to fundamental anti-Americanism. This is slightly different in France. There is some truth in the argument that the French never forgave the US for saving them – twice.

      >We hear about American imperialism out of one >side of the European mouth, and complaining >about how we aren’t doing “enough” out of the >other side of the mouth. Which is it?

    Well, it’s not that simple, after all. This is predominantly about a difference in the measures applied.

      >And don’t TELL there has to be consensus or we >have to ask permission from YOU to do what YOU >want when you NEVER want to pay for it with >soldiers or Euros. I think I speak for many when I say that they day Europeans and the BBC can come up with a >coherant answer to the world’s problems and actually TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for them, is the >day I will begin to listen a little more to the “European street” and European leaders.

    I agree whole-heartedly that there must be a sentiment in the US that Europe is free riding on US security – but this is a complicated question. US Neoliberals want to stop the US from paying US bases in Europe, US neocons want to keep them as launchpads for global operations (just as they (also) want Iraq as launchpad for future games in the Kaukasus, with Russia, and with China)
    The free rider argument could be true to a certain extent. But politicians, even the German greens, have now signalled a certain willingnes to increase defense spending. There will be a common European defense policy and Europe. This is something the conservatives in the Pentagon do NOT want. They do actually prefer a US military hegemony with the rest of the Western allies financially and politically supporting the US. That COULD have worked – if they had actually sought consensus – but they did not. They did not to an extent that the only useful question was whether it was inability or willful wreckage of the alliance system – that’s what Joshua Micah Marshall of Talkingpointsmemo.com suggested lately.
    best,
    Tobias

  • Beryl Gray

    I caught the broadcast in question on C-SPAN and was torn between laughter and amazement. The outdoor shots of the White House, Capitol, and Lincoln Memorial were matted onto sky shots of racing, reversed-value clouds, looking like an establishing shot for a remake of “Damnation Alley.”
    I leave the substance of the report to others, but the commentary buy the panel was a boffo laff riot. First speaker was Chris Hitchens, who stated that in his opinion, anybody who believed in a supernatural was mad, but that that included every presiden the U.S. has every had, and they seem to be doing well. He then pointed out that Jimmy Carter thumped the Bible much more loudly that Bush II, and he is held up as a model of liberal rectitude. He then pointed out that Ronald Reagan appeared to embrace a much more apocalyptic world view. He ended his remarks with wondering what the BBC was so excercised about Bush’s religious beliefs when it was the extremist Muslim beliefs that got us where we are today.
    The one person who had the good oil, who was qualified to speak to Bush II’s beliefs, one of his former advisors, pretty much pointed out the the whole report had no real basis in fact.
    Reginleif: The breast-covering at the Justice Department was instigated by an over-reaching minor functionary in response to some waggish news videographers who positioned their cameras to insure that Mr. Ashcroft appeared on the evening news with a large pair of breasts over his shoulder. The AG had nothing to do with it. (Q: Did they ever take that that drape down?)

  • http://tschwarz.blogspot.com Tobias
  • O’McSomething

    Jeanne–The country in question is 85% Muslim. Where are they going to find all these folks for these jobs the US base “urgently requires”? Are you in the habit of asking lift operators, store keepers, clerks, typists, security guards and drivers their religion before excepting any service from them? This kind of job discrimination is illegal in the USA. It is illegal in all branches of the US Armed Forces. So what gives?

  • Sarah eg.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Europeans know bugger-all about Christianity in America. I was raised in a family that identified themselves as fundamentalist, and let me tell you, there was none of this young-earth gibberish or snake-handling or abortion clinic-bombing that academics and the media enjoy braying about. In fact, my wild-eyed fundie parents believe firmly in seperation of church and state, and would be the last to support religiously motivated political machinations such as those ascribed to Bush. My father actually opposes the war because he believes too many innocent Iraqis will be hurt.
    Evidently there are two kinds of fundamentalists: People like my family, and those Iraqi-baby eating crusaders that the BBC knows so much about but that I never happen to run across in real life.

  • bern de galvez

    How did this report fail to mention that Wolfowitz also is a notorious Christian millenialist? Oh, what, I’m mixing up my conspiracy theories…

  • Pithpott

    No, Wolfy’s a jew, ain’t he?

  • bern de galvez

    How did this report fail to mention that Wolfowitz also is a notorious Christian millenialist? Oh, wait, I’m mixing up my conspiracy theories…
    Among the false and misleading aspects of this piece is what can only be a deliberate distortion of this sound bite from the state of the union:
    “There is wonder-working power in the goodness and idealism of the American people.”
    In fact, the quote has nothing to do with foreign policy. Bush was praising private voluntary “good works”:
    “Our fourth goal is to apply the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America. For so many in our country — the homeless and the fatherless, the addicted — the need is great. Yet there’s power, wonder-working power, in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people.
    Americans are doing the work of compassion every day — visiting prisoners, providing shelter for battered women, bringing companionship to lonely seniors. These good works deserve our praise; they deserve our personal support; and when appropriate, they deserve the assistance of the federal government.”
    Yet in a breathtaking leap the reporter tells us this means Bush is claiming a divine mandate for wagin war. Unbelievable.

  • bern de galvez

    Yes, irony intended. It’s just so hard to keep the scapegoats straight.

  • Jermaine

    The distressing thing about this article is how it draws unrelated things together to weave them into a picture that’s designed to alarm and horrify.
    In an analysis (and a shoddy one at that) about Bush, we’re told about best-selling novels based on Revelations. What precisely does this have to do with Bush’s religion?
    We’re told that “those close to Mr. Bush say that day he discovered his life’s mission.” Yet no quote follows.
    The author takes the quote from Lincoln’s Inaugural out of context. In context it reads:
    Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
    To me, it reads that the war is God’s punishment on the nation for tolerating slavery. But that makes Lincoln seem too fundamentalist, which detracts from the point that the author is trying to make. The constant references to God and biblical quotations probably don’t help either.
    My favorite part has to be when we’re asked if Bush believes that “he is playing a part in the final events of Armageddon.” The author posits that he does, and then proceeds to whip up the fear. Bush’s actions are all based on insane religious beliefs, not rational thought! He’s insane and so are 59% of all Americans!
    The sad thing about this “analysis” is that by resorting to demagoguery, it misses the opportunity to legitimately question whether or not the Administration has a conservative agenda.

  • Danjo

    Dearest O’McSomething + jeanne e devote:
    Whats up with not wanting a muslim on a US base.
    UMMM, UMMM, You think it might have to do something with base security and TERRORISM?
    You think a terrorist might actually try to get a job on the base and blow some infidels up?
    I apologize if your question was rhetorical and you already knew the answer. You got me on this one.
    Danjo

  • doyen

    Reginleif the valkyrie:
    You said (typos in the original):
    …. On the other hand, like Jeff, I dislike Bush’s vigorous injection of religion, specifically Christianity, into the public sphere. It does not belong there, despite the screeching of various religious conservatives who think that without ghod, we are nothing, and those who do not worship a deity are morally suspect.
    Reaction:
    The fearful agnostics who are so vituperative over Bush’s alleged invocation of God into their lives appear to me to be as selective about this issue as are the anti-war enthusiasts who supported the 1998 Resolution as set forth by Clinton- if “our guy says it, it’s OK, because we can trust him”. I have never seen Bush wave a Bible, invite photographers to shoot him leaving church, or promoting prayer as part of general classroom activities. On the other hand, I remember Clinton waving his large and conspicuous Bible at reporters many Sundays (when he wasn’t busy with, er, Monic…. never mind), speaking at black Baptist church services with film crews present, singing in the choir at the old Arkansas Baptist church whenever the polling data showed too many bible-belt swing voters slipping away.
    What the no-god-zealots fear, it seems to me based on the objective data, is not the degree to which religion or a creator are invoked in public discourse, but the fact that everyone with any rational sense knew that Clinton didn’t mean a thing and was just posing to fool those idiot religious nuts, while Bush speaks and poses far less, but clearly believes what he says. In this case, what we normally would laud as virtue is the reason to loathe. Orwell, call your office.
    You said:
    Tony Blair had no problem proffering his goodwill to “people of all faiths, and people of none,” but I see no such concession to nonbelievers in American politics at the national level. Witness the reaction to the Ninth Court decision to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, which isn’t even an original part of it.
    Reaction:
    Since when is the tyranny of the minority more valid than is the justly-decried tyranny of the majority? Why does one need to make a point of saying what is obvious- skeptics in this country are free to live as they wish, provided that that does not include depriving believers of their rights to believe and practice. The problem with the 9th Circuit decision, besides the fact that the bogus suit was brought by one who had no standing on behalf of a defendant who had no interest in the matter, was that it did attempt to impose the will of an infinitesimally tiny minority on the vast majority in that manner, and specifically affect the way they lead their lives. Whether “under God” was or was not originally in the Pledge is irrelevant- the fact that the Declaration is unequivocal about the topic indicates that public acknowledgement of a creator is not inimical to US history and practice, so this reference to the 9th Circuit case is a nice diversion that has less to do with Bush’s practices regarding religion than it does about the agnostic’s frustrations with being unable to completely control his or her environment to sanitize it away from any spiritual contamination.
    The popular argument against any public references to religion is that those who disagree may be made to “feel uncomfortable”. Well I grew up with fundamentalist parents who never imposed their will on others, but asked that others’ beliefs not be imposed on them. Therefore, they believed that dancing was bad- I disagreed, but- and requested that their children not be required to dance in gym classes. I guarantee that no child of an agnostic or atheist has ever been put in a less comfortable position by school authorities than I was. At the age of nine I was trying to explain to teachers why I wasn’t a nut. Compared to this totally visible situation, just deciding to stay silent during the pledge is wildly insignificant. And you know what? I learned early that there are benefits to having the strength of considered and thought-out opinion about iconoclastic ideas.
    You said:
    So far from the Bush administration, we’ve not only seen the “faith-based intiatives” project, but we’ve seen the overweeningly self-righteous John Ashcroft making a huge fuss over a bare-breasted female statue (fer $DEITY’s sake, has the man never been to an art museum?!), and spending huge sums of taxpayer money, not to mention federal agencies’ precious time and effort, on apprehending those murderous threats to the American way of life… head shop owners.
    Reaction:
    We will ignore the standard dose of Ashcroft nonsense, as it has already been debunked. Contrary to urban leftist legend, Ashcroft is not stupid or ridiculous.
    The “faith-based initiatives” project is the most over-propagandized bit of hysteria in recent memory. The social service groups such as Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the SCLC have been around forever, collecting government funds to supplement their own in providing relief to the down-trodden amongst us. President Clinton participated in a much heralded rally promoting volunteerism (tied to the Points of Light) that followed the same line. Ninety per cent of the much ballyhooed faith-based initiative is nothing more than promoting volunteerism for the general good of society and those among us who are less fortunate.
    Now- what is suddenly different? Simple: the same organizations that have been doing good for years have been cut off from participation in government programs in recent years precisely on the basis of religion. With imposition of rules, usually associated with either gay rights laws or abortion issues, those organizations must either abandon their beliefs or stop participating in providing relief in the manner that they had effectively done before. Go read your history- this isn’t new. What is new is the government telling the Salvation Army that if they reject practicing lesbians as church employees they are ineligible to participate in unrelated programs. Former Democratic Congressman Floyd Flake is a great man, and doing incomparable good for his New York neighborhood. I defy anyone to find any other group of any affiliation that offers more benefit. So, why is he and his work so threatening to agnostics?
    You said:
    Then there’s this memo.
    Reaction:
    What the memo says, no more and no less, is that an organization that has a faith component cannot be discriminated against for non-school access to public facilities than an organization that has any other charter. And that is all it says. Young Life or Muslims Students League gets the same first-come, first-served right to use the community room of Joe Blow Elementary as the Hot Rod Club. If Pat Robertson said that this memo was offering comfort and support to the Pedophiles League, the “tolerance” crowd would be all over it defending the memo with its same wording.
    You said:
    Yeah, voluntary prayer in the schools is constitutionally protected, but the Constitution also protects minority-belief and nonbelieving children from teachers and peers who pressure or even force them to join in majority-belief prayer sessions. Supposedly, that is. In one of her books, Wendy Kaminer has written about siblings from a Jewish family who were coerced into Christian prayers at their public school in Texas (one teacher put his hand on the back on the son’s head and forced it downward into a prayer-like pose). When their parents called the principal to complain, the response was, “Well, if you’re not going to save their souls, someone has to.” The family sued, and as a result were so harassed by their, uh, loving Christian neighbors that they were forced to move out of the area. Funny how I never see this case mentioned in the mainstream media.
    Reaction:
    I see such cases cited all the time, and they are all, when there is real proof presented, properly decided. The reason you see it less is because it doesn’t happen often. There are idiots on every side. This sort of thing is hardly pandemic, and it is justly dealt with if true.
    You said:
    And what about the prayers of minority-belief children? Will Our Fearless Leaders protect a Muslim child who wishes to observe all of his or her five daily prayer sessions? How about pagan children who wish to invoke the Great Horned One before they take a test? Or how about Satanists, who do indeed constitute a religion (usually quite a different one from that of many Christians’ perceptions) and are often harassed and persecuted for their beliefs to a degree grossly disproportionate to any actual threat they represent?
    Reaction:
    Any person of any faith can silently pray at any time; there is a legitimate debate over to what extent public institutions must interfere with their primary functions to accommodate everyone. Allowing a devout young Muslim to slip out to an empty room three times a day in an unobtrusive manner for prayer is probably reasonable because it can be done without disturbing others. Setting up a Wiccan altar in the gym is probably a bit much. These things are settled reasonably by reasonable people, if they are truly wishing to resolve them, rather than make political statements.
    You cannot prevent morons from picking on people who are “different”, though I would suspect that I was picked on in my youth as an overly legalistic Christian far more than any of the current crop of downtrodden has ever experienced. Note my recitation above of the terror experienced by Baptist-non-square-dancers a few years ago.
    You said:
    I can now hear the usual voices crying, “But those aren’t real religions!” Um, who gets to decide what’s a “real” religion? Even Christians are forever casting Christians from different sects out of the fold.
    Reaction:
    Anyone can say anything in this country, it doesn’t make it true or false. See above about accommodations. No one in the mainstream evangelical movement is deciding any such thing. And bringing up the topic here is a rhetorical flourish that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.
    You said:
    Rachel, I think you miss my point. We’re not talking about “providing worship facilities;” we’re talking about not reprimanding or otherwise punishing a child who, for example, prays quietly at his or her desk before a test. If the schools are going to let kids say Christian prayers, they should let children of any religion, no matter how unpopular it is, pray as well. This is basic to freedom of religion.
    Reaction:
    See above- these things can be settled easily. Please identify which non-Christian children have been punished or reprimanded for “praying quietly at his or her desk before a test”. The other accommodations are a matter for compromise.
    You said:
    By the way, there are Muslims who aren’t antisemitic, are appalled and disgusted by what the mainstream of Islam has become, and who do speak their minds about it, garnering a fair number of death threats in the process.
    Reaction:
    Of course- and Bush has gone out of his way to make that point and sought out opportunities to embrace the law-abiding Muslim community.