Love has its place, as does hate. Peace has its place, as does war. Mercy has its place, as do cruelty and revenge.
Recently a lawsuit seeking to have the words “In God We Trust” removed from US currency was filed in a federal court in Ohio. The suit was brought on behalf of 49 plaintiffs, only some of whom are named, with the rest listed anonymously.
Referring to God using the designation “G-d,” the 112-page complaint–which can be accessed here–was filed by attorney Michael Newdow, who as you might guess is Jewish (or was born, at any rate, into a “nominally Jewish family,” as Wikipedia puts it).
The suit alleges that by being forced to use coins and currency containing the in-God-we-trust motto, the plaintiffs are “burdened” insofar as they are forced to pass along to others “messages” that contradict their own beliefs. One such plaintiff, one of the named ones at any rate, is Mitchell Kahle, a lifelong atheist who “is so deeply and personally offended by Monotheistic religious dogma that he declined to attend the religious funerals of both of his parents.”
Newdow thus wants the word “God” excised from American notes of tender, but apparently he’s fine with having “Federal Reserve” left upon them. It kind of tells you who holds divine status in the US political system these days.
A Post-Christian America
The lawsuit has been denounced by evangelical pastor Franklin Graham, but Graham is an ardent supporter of Israel who warns that “Muslims” are “heavily influencing” the Obama administration–that’s presumably as opposed to AIPAC–and who once preached a service at the Pentagon (on Good Friday, no less!).
“An atheist group is trying to sue the U.S. government to remove ‘In God We Trust’ from our money,” Graham announced to his followers in a Facebook post. “Not a smart move.”
He goes on to warn of the Zionist Supreme Being’s impending judgment on America and sums up finally with a quote from the Bible (the Old Testament, of course): “The Bible says, ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).’”
Reportedly 70 percent of Americans identify as “Christians” to one degree or another. It’s a number sufficient to give politicians incentive to continue pandering to the Christian vote, but of course political power, real political power, resides no more in the hands of Christians than it does with the bottom 99 percent of income earners.
We no longer are a Christian country. Rather, we have entered what I would describe as America’s “post-Christian era.” It’s hard to say precisely when this era began, but I would place it some time in the 1970s. That’s when film directors like Woody Allen and David Cronenberg rose to public prominence and career atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, with a successful Supreme Court ruling against against school prayer in her portfolio, vaulted to celebrity status with interviews in Playboy and appearances on the Donahue Show.
And finally today–Larry David, Sarah Silverman and other comedians can mock Jesus, demean Christianity, and rather than be repudiated, are applauded for it. Thus we clearly are in a post-Christian era, although…to be sure…even in the current presidential race, we have candidates, at least on the Republican side, proudly proclaiming their putative Christian faith.
“It’s exactly right,” Ted Cruz boasted recently, “that in terms of who I am, I’m a Christian first. I’m an American second. I’m a conservative third. And I’m a Republican fourth.”
“Let me be clear about one thing,” Marco Rubio declared following the Iowa caucuses, “there’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins.”
The trouble is that both Rubio and Cruz, like Graham, apparently are unable to discern even the tiniest contradiction between the teachings of Jesus and Israel’s genocidal treatment of the Palestinians. Both are ardent supporters of Israel and in essence cheer on the genocide.
Do the pastors of the churches they attend subscribe to the same outlook? Or do they simply remain silent and say nothing on the matter? It is a crucial question because when church leaders fail to take a stand on the most pressing issues of our day, when they refrain, for instance, from calling for justice, and offer no pulpit denunciations of US wars and sanguinary regime change operations–when the best they can do is say a prayer for the troops and leave it at that, to preside at funerals or visit someone’s sick grandmother in the hospital–then they risk making themselves, and their churches, increasingly irrelevant.
Did Jesus denounce the corrupt leaders of his day? He certainly did. Why do Christian pastors today fail, by and large, to do likewise? Is it out of cowardice? Or is it simply that they have no eyes to see or ears to hear?
If you do a search using the words “Is America a Christian nation?” you will turn up a plethora of articles, the overwhelming majority of which answer the question in the negative. Some take the position that America never was a Christian nation; others use the same “post-Christian” term I have coined; a few advance the thesis that the concept of a Christian nation was invented by “corporate America”; and one article I found goes so far as to offer the view that Christians in America are “pampered by the state.” In a way, the writer is correct. Christian leaders today never make waves for the powers-that-be, so why wouldn’t they be pampered?
And just who are these ‘powers-that-be’ they prefer not to make waves for? If we no longer are living in a Christian land, how exactly do we define today’s America? Is it simply a secular country? Or would it perhaps be more accurate to describe it as a Jewish state? I posed that very question in an article I wrote a little over three years ago.
“With Jewish power in America standing at unprecedented levels, it is only natural we should begin to see Jews reap gains and benefits disproportionately greater than those available to other segments of the population,” I wrote, and among the examples I cited were:
- More than $25 million in college Pell grants used to pay full tuition for Jewish students studying at yeshivas and universities in Israel–this at a time when student loan debt for a majority of young Americans was already making major headlines in the media;
- A staggering 97 percent of Homeland Security grants, under DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, being awarded to Jewish organizations–you can go here and listen to then-DHS Director Janet Napolitano justifying the lopsided awarding of the grants and explaining why she thinks Jews face special risks the rest of us don’t have to worry about;
- Numerous inroads into the US economy by Israeli companies, including Elbit Systems, a manufacturer of electronic surveillance technology, which has opened offices in Talladega, Alabama and Fort Mill, South Carolina;
- A strange mutation in local and regional Chamber of Commerce organizations, with a new emphasis on promoting business partnerships between US and Israeli companies (see here, here, here, and here for examples). I referred to it as a “multitude of tentacles.”
But perhaps most striking is a $1 million US Department of Commerce grant awarded to the Keshet Dance Company, a repertory in Albuquerque, New Mexico that stages a variety of shows including an annual holiday production called “Nutcracker on the Rocks,” a rock-and-roll version of the Tchaikovsky ballet. “Keshet” is a Hebrew word meaning “rainbow,” and the nonprofit performing arts group is directed by Shira Greenberg, a dance instructor who has ties to Israel, where she attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The grant was given in 2012 to establish a “Keshet Ideas and Innovation Center” that would be housed in a newly renovated “Keshet Center for the Arts.” One million dollars is of course a lot of money to award to a local community arts group, and as I commented:
Virtually every city in America, large and small, has struggling arts groups of one kind or another—musical, dance, theatrical, and so forth. So why, one might wonder, would this particular group be singled out for such a large grant? And why by the Department of Commerce, when normally one thinks of the National Endowment for the Arts as the main provider of federal grants to the arts?
The award was approved by acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and publicly announced on September 12 by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall. “The arts are a defining part of New Mexico’s history, community and identity,” said Udall. “This innovative public-private partnership will help provide entrepreneurs with the tools and support they need to grow art-focused businesses.”
Was this a new commitment to the arts on the part of the Obama administration? Or was it a commitment to a certain type of art?
Performances of The Nutcracker have for many years been a Christmas tradition by theater and dance groups all over America, but in its rock-and-roll version, Keshet has given the ballet an innovative twist–with a dance segment set to the song “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Here is a video from their 2014 production:
Keshet has professional, salaried dancers on its staff, something almost unheard of among local community arts groups. It has also staged productions about the holocaust; presently maintains an international exchange program; and last year it launched a tour of Europe.
Sympathy for the Devil or a Tectonic Shift?
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” said the poet Robert Frost…
Many, many changes have overtaken America in the past century. This is true in terms of inventions–from automobiles to airplanes to mobile phones to genetic engineering–as well as in the political arena, and specifically in that regard I’m referring to the level of hucksterism and fraud, as well as outright treachery and depravity, we have seen members of our political ruling class willing to stoop to. Though Americans were shocked at disclosures of the Teapot Dome scandal, and that a member of Warren G. Harding’s administration had accepted bribes from oil companies, it is probably a safe bet that neither Harding nor Interior Secretary Albert Fall ever, in their wildest dreams, contemplated a US alliance with terrorist head-chopping cannibals or collaborating or colluding in the carrying out of false flag attacks on American cities.
The concept of what is, or is not, “laudable” or “morally acceptable” quite obviously has become hugely warped over the past century. In the America of today, spirituality and belief in God have been derogated and de-emphasized, and–in a good many American homes–are missing altogether. Hardly surprising, then, we see the spreading phenomenon of teenage sociopaths in so many American communities.
Rather than a kind and loving God, we worship the false idols of money and Wall Street, and rather than the teachings of Jesus, we now seem to follow the teachings of Hollywood.
But is something about to change?
“Maybe just maybe we’re turning the page on a dark part of American politics, because tonight the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning and you made it happen,” said former Ohio Governor John Kasich after placing second in the New Hampshire Republican primary on Tuesday.
It’s a nice thought. But a political system in which money plays such a dominant factor in determining who gets elected has little hope of turning any dark pages. Donald Trump’s popularity would suggest that Americans are finally starting to catch on to that in large numbers. They don’t, for now, seem to be waking up to certain other crucial matters, but at least they are waking up to that.
Like Cruz and Rubio, Trump also touts his Christianity, but the strategem behind this touting seems characterized by a more subtle objective, and unlike those two senators, he doesn’t talk much about Israel. On January 18, Trump gave a speech at Liberty University–that school that was founded in the 1970s by Jerry Falwell, a pastor so zealous in his Christian Zionist beliefs that Israel once rewarded him with his own private jet. The educational institution is still run today by Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., who serves as president, though it has grown into one of the largest, if not the largest, Christian universities in the world.
Now one of the most striking things about Trump’s speech there last month–and which was scarcely remarked upon by the mainstream media–was his total omission of any comments about Israel. You can go here and watch a video of the event which includes not only Trump’s speech in its entirety, but also the rather lengthy introduction given him that evening by Falwell Jr. Astonishingly, not anywhere in the entire 109 minutes that the video runs is Israel even mentioned–either by Trump, Falwell or anyone else.
Now you would think that a leading presidential contender, in a stump speech at a major Christian university like Liberty, would have used the occasion to tout his Christian Zionist credentials. But no. Not once the entire evening was the subject of Israel even brought up. It would suggest that Trump’s political strategists have made a determination that the Jewish state is rapidly losing public support, not only among the the population as a whole, but even amongst that subset who identify as evangelical Christians.
And if this is the case, we could be on the verge of something like a tectonic shift in US politics.
Richard Edmondson is the author of The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles, a novel about an archaeological expedition to Syria, set amidst the current conflict in the country