Our Christian
Son-of-a-Bitch

Far from Falluja there’s another battle raging that’s just as vicious and even more dangerous in its implications. But the American press is for the most part ignoring the civil war in West Africa’s Ivory Coast, since it involves nobody, really, just Africans and the French. Which is whyDouglas Farah‘s overview of the conflict in The Washington Post is especially welcome. Farah notes the anti-Muslim fervor of much of the violence — the homes of Post employees who were Muslim were attacked while police looked on — and the cynical exploitation of anti-colonialist sentiment by Ivory Coast’s president, Lauren Gbago, a thug cut from the same cloth as that of Rwanda’s genocidaires. But Farah neglects another aspect of Gbago’s strategy: mobilization of evangelical Christian support, in Ivory Coast and abroad.

Gbago has framed the conflict as a holy war, with Ivory Coast “native” Protestants on one side, and foreign Muslims and godless French Catholics on the other. One evangelical preacher took to Ivory Coast state radio to declare that French President Chirac is “inhabited by the spirit of Satan”, after French peacekeepers destroyed the Ukrainian gunships Gbago’s forces had used to terrorize Muslim civilians and attack the peacekeepers, as well as American aid workers.

Even more disturbing is the support Gbago is finding among American evangelicals. World Evangelical Alliance frames the fight as a “decisive hour” in a battle between Christians and “demonic” Islamists. Mega-site Crosswalk focussed only on Christian victims of violence. And even Christianity Today, home to fine and respectable journalism, spun the story, at its beginning at least, as one primarily of anti-Christian persecution, with no mention that the government in power is ”Christian,” at least to the extent that such a claim helps it mobilize mobs to attack Muslims.

At least the Christian press is paying attention, unlike much of the mainstream press. But it’s doing so in such a fashion that the term “journalism” may not apply. The bottom line of such stories is the old canard of the cold war, used in reference to foreign dictators: He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.

“Christianity, Inc.”
A writer called “Shock,” self-described as Christian and a formerly conservative evangelical, offers an intriguing analysis of Christian conservative groupthink at The Daily Kos, a liberal political site: “In my opinion, the problem with the church today is what I’ll call ‘Christianity, Inc.’ (I think others have used this term before, but I don’t know who.) Corporate America has seen Christians as a lucrative demographic that is consistent enough in certain beliefs that ‘formulaic’ marketing can be effective (and here I’m not just talking about advertising, but marketing). I believe this trend first started in the mid- to late-80s and is responsible for a lot of the ‘political’ shifts we’ve seen in church attitudes today. In short (and to simplify it a bunch), I believe that marketers are responsible for creating ‘Repuvelicals.’… Read more.
What Jesus Would Do?
Steve Unfreid, until recently the principal of an Alaskan Christian school, was fired after taking the unusual, “Christ-inspired,” disciplinary measure of having himself whipped in front of two male students caught kissing girls in the school locker room. Unfreid says he doesn’t regret his actions, but realizes that his decision to take the boys’ punishment on himself represented “too radical” a form of Christianity for some members of the school community to accept. (HT:Raving Atheist)
Evangelizing Beslan Victims in Israel
From Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion: “Israeli Charities Help Neo-Pentecostals Evangelise Beslan Victims.”
Render Unto Caesar No More
Freedom of speech and freedom of worship are inextricably bound. Less obvious is the case forproperty rights as freedom of worship, but that doesn’t stop the brave souls gathered by the Claremont Institute from arguing thus in Faith-Based, Not Bureaucracy Bound: How Religious Institutions Can Fight Government Regulations, a pdf document touted by several conservative websites right now. There are some great story ideas here that cut across the political spectrum. On the one hand, this may represent a new front in the culture war, as property rights get redefined as moral values. On the other, the authors argue that what’s really under attack are the poor, as low-income housing and politically-weak churches fall prey to development schemes signed off on by local officials eager for tax revenues (and, sometimes, kickbacks).
Poor Li’l Pitbulls
Paranoia & rage: Scripps Howard News Service editorial policy director Jay Ambrose sees the victory of “moral values” and the defeat of gay marriage and senses a “new bigotry” in the air. Against gays and lesbians? Nah. Against poor li’l Christian conservatives. “There’s a new bigotry in town. It comes equipped with an epithet or two — ‘religious right’ is the favorite term now — and will no doubt soon produce something equivalent to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Of course, those protocols were used by czar — and, later, Henry Ford — to persecute a tiny, politically minority. Ambrose’s supposed victims are the plurality and the most powerful force in politics. Will these unfortunate souls ever feel safe? Maybe so, if they adopt the Bob Jones “let it boil” ‘tude, given a new name by Christian conservative talkshow host Doug Giles, who asks Christians “Do You Have a Pit Bull Attitude?” You’d better — or else Giles will call you a poodle.
Ratzinger’s Full Circle
22 November 2004
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who heads the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Inquisition) and who is considered the likely successor to the Pope, has indicted “secular Europe” as an anti-God continent that leaves no room for the Catholic and Christian vision. “‘Secularism is no longer neutral,’” Ratzinger told an Italian paper, but rather “‘hostile to public manifestations of Christianity.’” Which manifestation in particular? The placement of Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian politician with ultra-conservative views on the role of women and the condemnation of homosexuality, in the office of EU Human Rights Commissioner. Citing the European Parliament’s rejection of Buttiglione and the case of a Swedish pastor imprisoned for preaching against homosexuality, Ratzinger said that Christianity has come full circle back to “a band of the faithful” persecuted by the Roman Empire. Ratzinger also diagnosed a demographic problem for Europe in the changing ethnic composition of “‘the ancient heartlands of Christendom’” threatened by a falling birthrate and Muslim immigration.
Ned’s New Job
22 November 2004
Ned Flanders has a new job, editing Lark News, the “Christian Onion.”
Ain’t Science Cool?
Scientists dispute the liklihood of the so-called “God gene,” a reaction in the brain that would account for spirituality, and many religious people dismiss the idea that their faith is just a chemical quirk. But show the press a nifty, gee-whiz “scientific” explanation for anything, and they’ll bite. Bill Broadway writes in The Washington Post (here in The Chicago Trib; free reg. req.) that Dean Hamer, author of a book called The God Gene (recently puffed in Time), “stands by” his research. With critics duly noted, Broadway goes on to spin that research into yet another neat-o story about “brain science.” One sentence reduces the objections of religious folk to buffoonery: “Evangelicals reject the idea that faith might be reduced to chemical reactions in the brain.” That’s code: “Evangelicals” = kooky, unscientific Bible belters. Apparently, the rest of the worlds faiths are ready to accept the notion that everything they hold sacred is just a chemical reaction.
NYT Hat Trick of Ignorance
Adam Liptak’s NYT report on Jerry Falwell’s Liberty U. law school is a hat trick: Liptak mocks religious conservatives, dismisses religious liberals, and imposes a secular political spectrum on religious belief. Liptak notes that Falwell’s male students try to make up for their school’s lack of prestige by dressing formally — as if well-suited tools don’t abound in secular law schools as well. When Liberty U.’s dean argues that secular law schools overly prize rationalism, Liptak concedes rationalism as a left tilt. And throughout this misinformed and poorly edited article, Liptak uses “religious” and “conservative” as interchangeable terms.
Dead Cats of the Defiant South
The AP’s Kristen Gelineau reviews the state of Town Council prayers in Culpeper, Viriginia, in the aftermath of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ July decision, which ruled against invoking specific religions in public prayers after a Wiccan woman in South Carolina complained that the prayers were exlusionary. The case may be appealed before the Supreme Court, but while waiting for the hearing, the ACLU is monitoring councils that residents complain have crossed the line, and a number of regional councils continue to preface their meetings with Christian prayers. Gelineau gives the last word to Culpeper resident, Joe Coppedge, who thinks prayer should be brought back “‘whether you believe in God or not,’” as an aid to good decision-making and something that makes people “‘more comfortable.’” The Wildhunt Blog gives a more elaborate description of what that comfort entails: dead cats, intimidation, being called a Satanist…
Spending Bill Bears Cross

Another unrelated item tagged onto the House’s $388 billion spending bill (besides thebackdoor anti-abortion measures) concerns a 43-foot cross on city land in La Jolla, California. The cross, which has been at the center of controversy for 15 years, has now been declared a national veterans’ memorial by the spending bill.