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The dangerous perversion of religion and politics I warned about

Then President-elect Donald Trump stands with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mike Segar

(RNS) A decade ago, a critic accused me of writing a book about a “nonexistent” threat from the religious right. One reviewer called my work a “paranoid rant” while another detractor wrote my “alarmist” views were “exaggerated and implausible.”

In “The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans For The Rest Of Us,” published in 2006, I had warned that a well-financed and highly organized group of religious and political leaders was seeking to impose their narrow extremist beliefs and harsh public policies on the United States, even as our nation’s population was increasingly multireligious, multiethnic, and multiracial.

The intention of that group, whom I labeled “Christocrats,” was to establish a white-dominated nationalistic “Christian America” officially buttressed and ruled by judicial, presidential and congressional law.

Some readers scoffed at my assertion that religious right leaders wanted to enforce a punitive religious domination over the totality of American life by first infiltrating a major political party and then ultimately gaining mastery of that party to achieve their goals that include legal control over our bedrooms, public schools, media, hospital rooms, medical laboratories, courtrooms, libraries, workrooms, and public spaces.

I remember my participation back then in a public forum where my book was discussed. A panelist laughed at my “wild” assertions, and many in the audience joined in the laughter.

The once-popular song “They Didn’t Believe Me” could have been the theme that night. But in light of current events and numerous examples that validate my assertions, the appropriate song today should be “Who’s Sorry Now?”

One current example of the religious right’s systematic efforts is Betsy DeVos’ campaign to weaken what her husband has described as “government schools,” a pejorative for public education in America. DeVos, President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, never attended a public school, nor have her children.

The religious right’s opposition to abortion, contraception, and birth control is well documented. Little by little, it has chipped away at the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that provided for legal abortions. But since that ruling, a sitting president or vice president had never personally addressed the annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C.

However, last month, Vice President Mike Pence, a fierce foe of Roe v. Wade, spoke at the rally.

The president’s recent executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., along with his aim to grant preferential entry to Christian refugees, is a clear case of official governmental favoritism towards one particular religious community: a longtime goal of the Christocrats.

By coincidence, Trump’s executive refugee action took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day established by the United Nations in 2005 to remind the world of “the murder of one-third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities.” And this year Antonio Guterres, the newly elected U.N. secretary general, declared the Holocaust was “a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people and so many others.”

Breaking the long-held tradition of previous Republican and Democratic presidents, Donald Trump’s Holocaust statement omitted any specific mention of the Nazis’ mass murder of six million Jews. The White House defiantly announced it was no oversight or error.

That egregious omission is akin to an official condemnation of the “peculiar institution” of human slavery in the U.S. without acknowledging the slaves were African-Americans. Similarly, the president’s omission in his statement is similar to any public apology about the World War II internment camps that fails to note that Japanese-Americans were interned.

Trump has expressed admiration for President Andrew Jackson. Perhaps our current chief executive is unaware of Jackson’s policy in the 1830s of uprooting Native Americans from their ancestral homelands and forcibly sending them into bitter exile. One cannot describe Jackson’s presidential action — termed the “Trail of Tears” — without explicitly identifying which groups were expelled.

Is President Trump’s deliberate omission of specific references to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust part of the religious right’s campaign to blanch out any distinctiveness within the pluralistic American population? Are Jews, Muslims, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans “real” Americans who have uniquely suffered or does the religious right exclude them in its narrow version of America?

I draw no joy in pointing out the dangers of the religious right nor do I expect critics to admit they were wrong about my predictions.

Instead, I urge them to join millions of other Americans in vigorously opposing the ominous specter of bullied Americans kneeling in submission to a dangerous perversion of religion and politics that can destroy our precious American democracy.

(Rabbi A. James Rudin is the American Jewish Committee’s senior interreligious adviser and the author of “Pillar of Fire: A Biography of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise,” published by Texas Tech University Press. He can be reached at jamesrudin.com)

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A. James Rudin

48 Comments

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  • Too much freaking out in Rabbi Rudin’s essay, honestly. It’s time to respectfully ask to dial it down.

    Trump won the election fair-‘n’-square, folks. I know we’re all divided and we all want to stay divided for the next 4 years, but we need to keep it real. There is no “Christian America” here, nor any “religious domination.” Gay marriage, which corrosively violates three major world religions (or more), is still the “settled” law of the land, according to Trump.

    Yet, just last week, it was “Witches Night Out” or something, a national spell-casting event aimed directly at Trump. Consider: You got some libbies hating on Trump so hard, that they essentially started going to bed with DEMONS last week, just to overturn a democratically-elected President.

    That’s too much liberal anger, that’s too much freak-show. Of course, Rudin and his supporters have never gone that far, give them credit. But it’s still time to cut out all this “Religious-Right-Ophobia”.
    (And if you want to preserve some of those political alliances with African-Americans, you might cut Secretary DeVos some slack on the issue of charter school funding. WE happen to do charter schools too, ya know!!!)

    Finally, a simple request to promote inter-religious peace & joy. The people of Judaism clearly don’t like — and absolutely don’t deserve — any snarky or bigoted labels aimed at them. So maybe we can likewise re-edit certain other bigoted terms, like “Christocrat”?

  • Well the problem I have is that the left/anti-Tump/ anti-conservative/anti-christian people are so exhausting to deal with. How do you people even get up in the morning?

    Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is another “the world is going to crash”, “people are going to die”, they are the neo-doomsday preppers. But just like everything the left does it is always behind the right in a lot of ways.

    The right already went through their the country is dying routine for the past eight years. Now notice that none of it was true so please take this as an example and enjoy life.

  • I got about half way and came to your conclusion – good one, by the way. Did he start to tell that Trump eats babies in there too?

  • Fair and square? when Paul Ryan today announced that everyone knows that Russia interfered? With that human mock turtle standing right next to him?

    Gay marriage corrosively violates three religions? I guess all of those Jewish congregations and Christians thought the civilized part of the world simply don’t count. Oh, yes. By your estimation, they really aren’t Christians. OR Jews. or Muslims.

    Demons and witches casting spells– taken seriously by a man using a computer.

    As for your last paragraph– a clear and corrosive violation of the rest of the trash you wrote.

  • A. James Rudin, sir, just one question for you. I assume you know how the U.S. military industrial complex works, so why don’t you just go all the way and declare it for us once for all, that the Deep State comprises “Christocrats … religious right leaders … the religious right” (Religion News Service, February 27, 2017). And, oh yeah, back that up with verifiable evidences, pretty please.

  • Sky is falling? Crying wolf? OK, sit back and relax if you like/can–good on you. I happen to think the good rabbi has a point. But hey, why worry? Obama also won the Electoral college (twice) and that didn’t stop folks from having kiniptions about whatever and that’s our right as Americans. At least for now. Enjoy!

  • Put religion in any mix and you’ll have a bitter result. Keep religion personal and private as you would your family life. This the only way I know of to build respect among the peoples.

  • While the Left has gone the way of Chicken Little regarding the Trump presidency, the author is correct about the partnership between conservatives and the religious right. This started decades ago with the Moral Majority, stalled out but has come roaring back. In Trump they have found a willing vehicle. Additionally we have a number of Red states passing or trying to pass legislation to hinder abortion, LGBT rights and give Christians a license to discriminate, teach creationism, keep Muslims out of the US, and further their agenda. It remains to be seen how much success they will achieve. Perhaps the Republican-controlled Congress will push back if Trump goes too far. I think we can rely on the Judicial branch to check some of the White House’s excesses as they seem to be doing. Lastly the public will likely continue to protest at Town Hall meetings and write, call and email their elected representatives.

  • Meanwhile, their ‘christian’ supported planetary destruction and slow middle east/African genocide slogs on… They’re about to crank Sudan and Syria back up and Iran is next, using your children and money, b/c their precious Wahhabi head-choppin friends can’t do it alone …and the spiritually dead ‘church’ is clueless. This complicit, godless trash wouldn’t know Evil if it ground their mother up and fed her to them.

  • Ever heard of Frank Schaeffer and his book the Christian Manifesto or the 2009 Manhattan Declaration? (Actually no phobia with respect to the Religious Right except when it comes to Dominionist or 7 M theology.) Thought I would draw your attention to the Declaration given your objections to the Matthew 25 Pledge.

    Also read about the Witches Night out and their spell – which was to keep Trump from harming any form of living being. Not my definition of over-turning the President.

  • I actually haven’t lodged any objections to the Matt 25 Pledge, Linda. (Not yet, anyway. From what I’ve read at RNS so far, it appears that maybe this movement is “starting small” but has plans to escalate things when they think it’s safe. But let’s cross that bridge — or do something else with it — when we actually get there.)

    For now, I have merely insisted that those who ARE supporting the Matt 25 Pledge, must add *law enforcement officers* to their current list of at-risk protectees.

    This is clearly appropriate in light of the now-normalized climate of anti-police hatred, bigotry and violence, (starting with Ferguson Missouri), that has been engendered in documentable words and deeds specifically by “Black Lives Matter.” This situation has resulted in documentable instances of hateful, violent, and even lethal behavior against said police officers, deputies, and troopers across the nation, for which BLM has never been held legally accountable, nor its self-stated leaders.

    If the Matt 25 Pledge supporters refuse to make ANY moves in that direction, let’s call ’em out on their refusal, and ask why.

  • Also let’s check that liberal slide into “Demonism 101” as a result of their festering, way-too-intense hatred of Trump. You should find it disturbing.

    According to a Miami Herald article (Feb. 23, reporter Greg Hadley), one of the spell-instructions regarding last week’s national witchy-gig, calls for participants “to light an ‘unflattering photo’ of Trump on fire, and visualize him ‘blowing apart into dust or ashes.'”

    Sure, I’m aware of the witches’ attempt to sanitize their mess with the fake line of “keeping Trump from harming any form of living being.” But as the Miami news media made clear, their mess carried a real edge. Like an occult curse or assassination attempt, yes? Definitely think it over Linda.

    Plus the issue of exactly what entities were being petitioned — and where those spirits ultimately originate from. This was some bad liberal mess, for real.

  • Without reference to the commentary, the endless ping pong match between Left and Right readers on this website continues ad infinitum. Although I would note that those authors who compose the official commentary tend to hail from the left rather than the right on a 3 to 1 basis; at least that is my impression.

  • A lot of people don’t know how carefully the religious right has been taking over institutions in ways you don’t see. All part of the 7 Mountains/Dominionism movement. There’s a reason they all want the Johnson Amendment revoked. They will be the ones who benefit.

  • I agree with you about the Christocrat reference but just about everything else Rabbi Rudin wrote is spot on. This is a national emergency. You may not see it if you get your news from Trump-approved sources, if your kids don’t attend JCCs or Jewish schools, if your friends and neighbors aren’t Muslims or immigrants, if your wife’s life wouldn’t be put at serious risk with another pregnancy. I don’t think the sky is falling but the danger is nonetheless real.

  • First, I have a professional background in policing. So I would really commend the policing toolkit provided on the Matthew 25 pledge website.

    Secondly, when states are introducing Blue Lives Matter bills making attacking officers a hate crime, not sure that there really is a need for including police officers under the Matthew 25 pledge.

    Third, BLM condemned the shootings of the Dallas police officers vociferously. Of note, it has been 15 years when the courts first addressed racial profiling as an issue.

    Fourth, the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) has spoken to police and minority relationships https://www.policeone.com/iacp-2016/articles/232664006-IACP-President-apologizes-for-historical-mistreatment-of-minorities/ Fifth, policing as an occupation gives police officers a skewed view of the world.Their narrative is informed by having to deal with the worst of humanity but also a tendency to live in a blue echo chamber. It is by its nature, politically conservative as that most closely aligns with their sense of law and order and policing culture narrative. Ever wonder why police officers from across the US and other countries attend the funeral of police officer who has been killed? Or that there is annual day of memorial of officer lives lost?

    Sixth, the BLM movement has unfortunately generated a backlash within the law enforcement community – the Blue Lives Matter movement – which if I were a black or other minority person, I would be very concerned about. I occasionally have Facebook posts from this group pop up and when I read some of the comments, I have chills go up my spine. And feel extremely disappointed at the same time.
    Finally, have you ever wondered why police shootings are so high compared to other countries? Is the US that much more violent or dangerous? Or is there an issue with respect to policing practices and the use of lethal force? Compared to other countries, US policing, as a rule, is less transparent and accountable in terms of structural independent oversight mechanisms. If there is a problem, then this might be part of the solution.

  • indoctrination

    [in-dok-truh-ney-shuh n]
    noun
    1.the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view:
    religious indoctrination.
    Blessings Brian

  • Proverbs 26:2 – English Standard Version
    Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.

    Isaiah 54:17 ESV
    No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

  • I am a theologian by training meaning a kind of cultural anthropologist studying the interaction between religion and culture, I am appalled by what I see and its negative effect on both religion and society. I think of it as the cream cheesing of America. Christian becomes something shudderingly stupid, anti intelligent and oppressive.

  • Well, I respect your professional background in policing. Mine is simply in “church stuff”, and “community stuff”, which includes hearing a few words from local police & sheriff officers, clergy, youth, & a few Black Lives Matter supporters.

    Upfront: I’m definitely NOT as thrilled as you are with that policing packet.
    Why? Because it’s too one-sided. In fact, it’s nearly a BLM policing packet. Its one-sided emphasis, like a jagged edge running throughout, is just “holding police accountable.”

    Only the police. Nobody else. Your kit lets BLM completely off the hook.

    Yes there are some positives in the kit (and guess what? Churches, clergy and police depts in the urban areas of my state have already been open to dealing with general aspects.) But it’s time for BLM to be held accountable too, and maybe if we black clergy PUBLICLY insist on it, then the police will feel less “vulnerable” (a Matt 25 emphasis) as they openly risk their lives daily.

    Here’s a recent example (and curiously, Al Sharpton deserves a little credit). Consider well. You cannot let BLM off the hook, Linda:

    https://bluelivesmatter.blue/north-charleston-school-bus-fight-police-video/

    The Matt 25 “Policing Kit” doesn’t speak to all sides of justice on that one, does it? Nope. And it VERY visibly fails to consider the plight of the Black police officers:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/08/15/milwaukee-shooting-consider-black-officer-christian-schneider/88800864/

    So yeah, THIS policing kit has real problems. Meanwhile, I’m seeing that many cities (including my own) have initiated their OWN “community policing” conversations with clergy, police, activists, etc. Ones in which public accountability is not just all dumped on the cops. BLM gotta come clean on THEIR stuff too. With NO more free passes from Christian groups & their kits.

  • So are we making any difference Sandi? Surely there must be more fertile fields of endeavor wherein Christians who honor the Word of God can make an effective witness. I don’t wish to fight with those who disagree with me, but occasionally my pride gets the better of me and I answer sharply those who attack my mental health and rational acuity, but this is counterproductive. You are often accused of being hateful, but I find nothing hateful in your postings. You simply are making an uncompromised stand for the Christian faith. I strenuously try to avoid making personal attacks, but when I do it’s usually in response rather than in initiation. I find, and maybe I’m wrong, but those who disbelieve in or hate the idea of God, or angrily reject the bible as you and I understand it, generally are those most prone to engage in personal attacks when logic, facts, and illumination elude them. God Bless You.

  • You’d probably be surprised at how many Trump supporters ALSO see “a national emergency” going on right now — but for different reasons of course.

    But let me ask you about something else. Namely, last night’s State-of-the-Union address. Honestly, Trump said some things that people — even Liberal Democrats like Van Jones — wanted to hear. (That’s not sarcasm, likely most of America wanted to hear it.)

    So how about you? Trump’s speech change the general situation in any measure for you?

  • Edward, always nice to hear from you…
    I will admit that there are times I attack in return and I admit there are time that I wonder what it did to what I was trying to say. I ask forgiveness and move on. It isn’t you, or me who they hate, it’s Christ in you.
    I think God’s word will have an effect on someone – perhaps not the person it was written to, but someone will come along and be helped by it. Maybe, seeing that we’re human also will help them to understand that while sin is bad, one can still be forgiven and move on…
    Are we making a difference? I believe so. Even the most hardened who read our comments have a seed of goodness planted. That’s what it is all about, eh?
    Blessings to you Edward. (edit)
    Hebrews 12:33 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

  • I did not actually watch the speech, but from what I’ve read this morning there were some encouraging signs. It’s hard to take him seriously when he speaks well but then tells a group of Jewish community officials that maybe the JCC threats and cemetery desecrations are a false flag. When Trump gets a good script and sticks to it he does best. I hope that can continue.

  • Geez…You two, get a room already. And make sure it has good air conditioning to take care of all the self-righteous (dare I say “turgid”?) hot air you are producing.

  • Interesting video – partly because I expected to see signs of a fight and victims, not simply unruly kids behaving inappropriately. I actually was shocked then to see students presumably being arrested for unruly but not criminal behaviour. However, the policing itself seemed professional. There was a similar incident here but the bus driver’s response was quite different. The bus was turned around and went back to the school leaving the students in a situation of having to come up alternative transportation – standard procedure. Not sure what you think BLM needs to be accountable for. But they should be at any community policing table. Police definitely need to be held accountable though, given the type of power and authority they hold including that of discretion, the fact that the taxpayer is ultimately their employer and the existence of the thin blue line that is a barrier to an officer ‘ratting out’ another officer. An external independent agency investigating police shootings helps restore trust in police but can also act to highlight weaknesses in training/tactics/equipment without making a police officer criminally responsible as the shooting will still in all probability be deemed justifiable. Unfortunately, the town of Mayberry does not seem to exist anymore, if it ever did at all.

  • “religious right leaders wanted to enforce a punitive religious domination over the totality of American life”

    I don’t know why this is in dispute. Many of those leaders call for this on a regular basis.

    Once upon a time Islamic countries led the world with great universities and libraries. Their scientific and mathematical expertise was above all. But the Islamic Right slowly gained political power and worked to return their religion and nations to the good old days of orthodox faith and Islamic governments that were equally conservative. That’s how the great universities and libraries, science and math leaders, all crumbled. That’s how Islam got to today’s place. Karen Armstrong, _A History of God_, https://goo.gl/xcfkFk

    Balance is essential for any government and religion. Extremism, liberal or conservative, is not. What the religious right is trying to do is not good for America. If they succeed it will greatly diminish this country.

  • Thank you for the scripture citation, I’ve had so many brickbats tossed my way by the usual suspects lately that I sometimes give way to despair; I wish that I was as internally tough as floydlee seems to be.

  • Some of the impact of your comments are your gentleness, Edward. Most of the time, the comments are not really directed at you anyway. It is Christ, who is in you, that they are angry with, and you may be the closest they ever get to Christ. Most are just angry with Him because He won’t do their will. Stick with us, Edward.

  • This is a left leaning website – from some of the comments and articles I have read. I don’t remember the article so that’s the best I can comment to you Brian

  • Left perhaps, as that is a matter of perspective. I merely requested you back up your “out of left field” comment.

  • Where did I say, “out of left field”? I would have said, “Out in left field” but said neither.

  • My original comment was deleted. Perhaps this comment will survive the censors: If Rabbi Rudin compared the 2016 Democrat Party Platform with the 2016 Republican Party Platform, he would find the Republican Party Platform is more in agreement with the Torah. Rabbi Rudin — and all American Jews — should be Republican to honor the words of the Torah and to protect Israel.

  • Your comment attempted to diminish the website. If you ar not happy with the website, perhaps you should provide actual, substantial comments.

    Or just go read Breitbart.

  • Hurt feelings? Funny. And also a sad attempt to avoid all demands of you to provide substantive comments. But then conservatives seldom are capable.

  • It won’t matter. Just read Zechariah 8:23: “Thus saith the LORD of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying: We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” God be with you, Rabbi Rudin. You’re speaking the truth.

  • I’ve known Rabbi Rudin almost all my life…and it’s a long life. He’s telling you the truth. However, I see that most commenters here like to forget history. This is a movement that has been building, in modern times, since the 1980s. It did peek its head out a bit in the 1950s…in Champaign, IL, in a case that took prayer out of the schools. I know, I know. Many of you think this is where we began to devolve as a society. Actually, go back to the Constitution. Or, read some of the writings of our Founders. This is not a Christian nation and was not founded as a Christian nation. There is nothing that makes Christianity better or more American than any other religion. Do all you want in your homes or in your cars or anywhere else that does not involve the government. I do not care to live by your standards everywhere I go. How would you like to live by Muslim standards? Or Buddhist standards? Or some other standards? That is why we keep religion out of public policy and government issues. Read some of Gorsuch’s decisions. They don’t even sound like a human being made them…much less one who purports to be a Christian. It’s beginning to get oppressive.

  • So nice of you to bring it up, but truth to tell, Susan Sarapin, the Messianic prophecy in Zechariah 8:22-23 had already long ago been fulfilled by Israel’s Messiah Jesus in Matthew 9:20 and Mark 6:56. Check it out:

    Zechariah 8:22 ‘So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.’ 23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the GARMENT of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’

    Matthew 9:20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of His CLOAK; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His GARMENT, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.

    Mark 6:56 Wherever [Jesus] entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His CLOAK; and as many as touched it were being cured.

  • Can’t you read? It’s all right there. What I’m saying is, and I repeat: So nice of you to bring it up, but truth to tell, Susan Sarapin, the Messianic prophecy in Zechariah 8:22-23 had already long ago been fulfilled by Israel’s Messiah Jesus in Matthew 9:20 and Mark 6:56. Check it out:

    Zechariah 8:22 ‘So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.’ 23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the GARMENT of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’

    Matthew 9:20 And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of His CLOAK; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His GARMENT, I will get well.” 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.

    Mark 6:56 Wherever [Jesus] entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His CLOAK; and as many as touched it were being cured.

  • We Jews do not expect a divine messiah…just a real human being. Also, it did not state that 10 men will grasp the cloak of one particular Jew. There might be many Jews. We have a very different sense of the meaning of that verse. Your error is in going back to the Jewish scriptures (the Torah) and trying to squeeze Jesus into all prophetic verses…a post-hoc justification.

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