Is Christianity Under Attack? Well, yes and no!

The better question, perhaps, is “should” Christianity be under attack?

My granddaughter’s class Christmas concert 2017

I was fortunate to attend my five-year old granddaughter’s Christmas program at school this week. The place was packed with proud parents and grandparents watching cute little kids sing Christmas carols from a stage. It’s a big deal for them and a shot of seasonal love for us. Of course, it was very much Christmas, for Alina attends a pre-school program at a Baptist Church, and we’ve been very happy to have had her there. Soon it will be Kindergarten, and things will change.

One of the songs they sang was the old standard, Joy To The World (The Lord Is Come). My mind went immediately to something I’d seen on TV the other night, a holiday ad for Big Lots that used the old Three Dog Night hit, Joy To The World. The ad was all smiles and happiness with gifts, decorations, and a Christmas Tree. The theme was “share the joy with Big Lots.” I mean, it was a nice ad, but the use of an old rock & roll classic to reference the joy of the holiday – and make no mistake, this was a house celebrating Christmas – says a lot about our culture, where we’ve been, and likely where we’re headed. It also speaks to the disconnect between Madison Avenue and the people who caused such an upset in last year’s presidential election.

That’s because one of the most powerful motivators of the Evangelicals who support Donald Trump without question is the heartfelt belief that the Christian faith is under attack in our current culture. So persecuted are Evangelical Christians by a rotting culture, the thinking goes, that we need to fight back with everything we’ve got politically, rather than just give the nation over to the devil by saying nothing. During his campaign, the President assured a drooling Christian right that “We’re gonna bring it back,” “We’re gonna protect Christianity,” and that “Christianity will have power if I’m president.”

This issue of whether Christianity is under attack is complex and difficult to understand on every level. The parties involved have obviously differing views, but the arguments never really take place in the same contextual frame. It’s like competitors playing the same game in different arenas, never really meeting each other face-to-face. One side argues that America was created as a Christian nation by Christians who came here to colonize in Jesus name, while the other side argues that such a belief is irrelevant in modern times, because humankind has come such a long way in the last few centuries. One is a spiritual argument; the other is an argument of the mind. One touts Holy Scripture, while the other relies on education and knowledge. One is upstream with the saints of old; the other is downstream in a hundred tributaries. One believes the Bible is a “living document” while the other sees a certain anti-progressive rigidity in a set of archaic rules. One claims to argue faith; the other claims to argue logic.

Any reasonable, objective study of early American history makes a convincing case that Christianity was so enmeshed in daily life at the time that one must conclude its governance and institutions bore the mark of the cross. Arguing against this requires changing history, although there’s no real reason to do so. When English speaking people landed at Cape Henry Virginia in 1607, their very first act was to plant a cross and claim the land on behalf of their Savior. Any fair reading of early documents – including those of the Founding Fathers – can only be done using the language of the time, because the meanings of key words have changed over time. That means one must use the dictionaries of the era, Samuel Johnson’s classic of 1755 and Webster’s of 1828. When that is done, it takes considerable manipulation to conclude anything other than the truth of the claim that Christianity played a significant role in the formation of the U.S. It didn’t need to be specifically spelled out, because it was assumed at the time. This in no way means America was birthed as a theocracy, but rather a country based on the belief that government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” meant that those same people were already self-governed through their faith. After all, it was John Wycliffe who first uttered the phrase when, upon completion of the first common English language translation of the Bible, he said, “This book shall make possible government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” This is why those same founding fathers saw the need to include the establishment clause in the First Amendment. No single representation of God could never rule a people educated in the truths of the Bible.

As the country has become more secularized, therefore, it’s pretty simple to understand the angst being expressed by certain Christians when, for example, academia and the government unilaterally decided that our most basic calendar headings had to be changed from BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini – year of our Lord) to BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). There was no debate. No hearings. No input from others whatsoever. Suddenly, textbooks that our children used to study everything were printed using only BCE and CE, and all devout Christians could do was to loudly cry, “foul.” There are also the matters of School Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the personal politics of gender. Is there a battle underway for the soul of the West? Isn’t it pretty obvious?

Google N’gram chart showing use of CBE in books over the years.

So one must conclude that the Christians are right on both counts: That the U.S. was planted and grew with Christianity at its core, and that there has been an attempt – conscious or otherwise – to remove that core from modern culture. However, none of this ends the argument, for there are a great many other cultural considerations to be weighed. Like most things in life, this is not black and white, and the strict Christian Nation crowd deserves its own blame for gutting the fatted calf it now wishes to protect. Besides, the more important matter is that even if we agree that this was birthed as a Christian Nation, what are we to do about it today? The wise answer is nothing.

Christianity is so divided into subsets that no one speaks on behalf of the whole. It’s just not possible. Each denomination makes a case why theirs is the path to righteousness and an afterlife in heaven. Therefore, there really is no such thing as the “Christian perspective” we used to espouse back in my days at The 700 Club. Is that the Catholic perspective or the Protestant perspective? Is it premillennial or postmillennial? Is it pentecostal or reformed? Is it liberal or conservative? Black or white? Judeo-Christian or just Christian. You can see the conflict, which is why the establishment clause is there.

Therefore, by self-division alone, Christianity has lost its influence on the culture, and the voice that’s complaining the loudest is the one that has the money and the resources to be heard, the Evangelicals, eighty-one percent of whom voted for Donald Trump in the last election. And so Evangelical Christianity is the branch that is trying to drag us all in the direction of the theocracy the founders hoped to avoid. This is the group who has joined forces with the Republican Party to “make” things happen that benefit their congregations and their point-of-view. God apparently doesn’t need our faith alone; He wants us to be a powerful political voice as well. This is the group that wants a war with Islam, because it leads to their one thousand years of glory in the name of Jesus. This is the group that needs Republican leadership in Washington to keep them tax free and thriving, so they can recruit support from the mountain top of the one percent. This is the group that wants their prayer to be in public schools, their self-centered gospel to govern programs for the poor, their self-righteousness to dominate human hearts when it comes to personal medical or relationship decisions, their way of life to be the norm and to frame the melting pot, their comfort to be the guiding light regarding who we allow into the pot in the first place, and their music, film, books, and art to be the only choice for all.

As my friend Jeff Jarvis said, “Sharia Law? That’s nothing compared to Armageddon.”

If there is but one truth about this particular group of Christians that should make us all wary, it is this: they will never be satisfied with just one victory in the culture wars. You can take that to the bank, and it represents the only tape that must be played out to the end for us to realize that – as a self-governing people – we cannot and must not let our guard down. The history of humankind is littered with the tragedies of those who fell for idolatry, the promise of magic, and the fallibility of human nature. You want civil rights rolled back? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want women to return to the status of chattel? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want slavery brought back? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want corporal punishment in the public square? Say nothing. Do nothing today. You want a culture dominated by fascist fear and bayonets? Say nothing. Do nothing today.

Finally, from an historical perspective, there’s a great difference between a culture being overthrown and one that self-destructs, which is what’s really happening here. If, as the Evangelicals insist, they were the ones who built this country – and there’s considerable evidence to support that view – then its collapse must be birthed in the same womb. You cannot claim leadership for the one without responsibility for the other. This is the major blindspot of those who argue that the devil or the liberals or the communists or members of any other group are at fault. Therefore, positing that Christianity itself is the victim here is utterly self-serving, and it’s also useless in trying to do anything about the evils around us. A slipping culture needs no outside help, if the ruling class within that culture cannot or will not accept responsibility for the slippage.

The ruling class in America today, we must now conclude, includes certain powerful and vocal elements from within the entire Judeo-Christian Western hegemony. The nobility of yesterday has been replaced by panting thieves for whom license is the desire demanding to be fed. Thinking has been replaced by a mindlessness not found among past generations, who survived and even thrived despite having to solve real problems like slavery, sickness, world wars, and the rights of individuals.

Those past generations wouldn’t recognize the Christianity that’s “under attack” today.

Muslims once again deal with terror’s fall-out

Twenty to thirty uniformed men arriving in SUVs attacked a Sufi Muslim mosque on the north coast of Egypt’s Sinai Desert during Friday prayers last week, killing over 300 worshippers, many of whom were children. In terms of scope, think of it as Las Vegas times six! It was a professional hit on a scale beyond anything we’ve witnessed in the past. Think of the outcry if, God forbid, something like this were to happen in a church here. And yet, we’ve already dismissed it – the press has already dismissed it – as irrelevant to living our holiday lives.

This was an especially heinous act of savagery by a group of men wearing the markings of Daesh (ISIS) and armed with bombs and automatic weapons. No group has formally claimed responsibility, but that hasn’t stopped Western journalists from describing the massacre as one sect of Islam versus another. This is the approved script that the press follows in trying to help Western minds understand the seeming chaos of the Middle East, to place it within an acceptable box labeled “Islamic Terrorism.” This narrative helps promote Islamophobia in the U.S., an acceptable fear depending on your political persuasion.

For example, Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake describes it this way in an opinion piece “Muslims Are Often the First Victims of Muslim Terrorists.”

“The terror in Egypt on Friday is only the latest grim reminder that Muslims are often the first victims of Muslim fanatics…The West’s quarrel is with the extremists of political Islam, or the sect of the faith that seeks to impose Islamic law on others — not the entire religion.”

Well, no. The problem here – and with all who attempt to frame violence in the Middle East as a product of Islam – is that it’s not only deliberately – and conveniently – misleading; it’s totally false, and the West is not well-served by forcing the narrative into its version of history. There is no “political Islam” or “sect of the faith that wishes to impose Islamic law on others.” That is a myth, exacerbated by Zionists, Jews, and Christians who use the story of Isaac and Ishmael to paint a picture of nomadic wanderers constantly at war with each other. Islam, of course, didn’t come into existence until thousands of years later (to which comes the response, “Well, God knew that it was coming), and yet this “seems” true enough to the “extremists of political Christianity.” See how silly that sounds?

This false narrative is helped along by an Israeli agenda that garners propaganda points from the promotion of it. Much of the Israeli press is a conduit from Israel to the West, one that rarely speaks of Arabs in any voice other than condescension or a threat. Consider this article from The Jerusalem Post, a paper published only in English and French and that describes itself as “the leading news source for English speaking Jewry since 1932.” The story is headlined, ‘WESTERN CHRISTIANITY IN DENIAL ABOUT RADICAL ISLAM,’ specifically “radical Islam’s goal to eradicate Christianity.” The article refers to the thinking of Italian journalist and author Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio.

The Media Research Center found that US television devoted more than six times the amount of air time to the death of a gorilla in comparison to the air time given to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya in 2015.

“How is it possible that the killing of a gorilla moves the Western public more than 19 Yazidi girls burned alive in a cage?” he (Meotti) said. “Few people saw the photograph of Khaled al-Asaad, the brave archaeologist who refused to lead ISIS to the antiquities of Palmyra. The henchmen of ISIS beheaded him and hung him upside down. We turned away in horror.”

…The Unity Coalition for Israel, which monitors attacks against Western democracy and the State of Israel, echoed Meotti’s statements following the New York terrorist attack this month.

“Let’s be clear: radical Islamic terrorists have been launching attacks here in the United States for years, with the deadliest occurring on September 11, 2001,” the group’s Democracy Under Attack editorial said. “These attacks are not going to stop unless we first admit that we have been and are under attack and – finally – take strong steps to prevent further attacks.”

Again, the emphasis is that all these global acts of terrorism flow from Islam, which is painted as an archaic religion of intolerance and, especially violence, people who “want to take us back to the Seventh Century.” Nothing could be further from the truth, so then why are we so convinced of the opposite? Because the people writing today’s draft of history are telling us so. If you can bring yourself to step far enough away from current events, you’ll see that terrorism – whether committed by Arabs or Caucasians – is either an ongoing political statement or a desperate attempt at personal attention, neither of which are birthed in the religion of the people either claims to represent.

When it comes to the Middle East, Arabs who have roots in Palestine have another explanation. Zionism requires a constant threat in order justify its continuing existence, and such a narrative works better if that threat is against the religion that undergirds Israeli politics. After all, Hitler’s final solution to the “Jewish Question” in Europe – that people of Jewish descent refused to assimilate into the cultures around them – was the gas chambers, and there can be no more heinous threat. Modern Israel is portrayed as a response to the Holocaust, but Zionism as a political movement had been growing for fifty years prior to Hitler.

To be sure, Zionism must sustain the idea of a threat to Israel’s religion in order to continue to plead its case to global opinion, which it needs at core in order to survive. The U.S. gives $10.1 million in military and other aid to Israel every day of every year, and Americans wouldn’t be so eager to bless this, if they believed anything other than Israel using it defend the Holy Land. Beyond being a home for Jews, Israel also – and perhaps more importantly – serves as a bulwark in the protection of American business interests in the whole region. This means obvious and not-so-obvious stakes in our relationship with Zionist Israel.

I hate coincidences, especially in world events, because the truth is they rarely are coincidental. Disney built his whole empire on the concept of the “plausible impossible,” and that’s often the way I feel about coincidences. Was it a coincidence, for example, when ISIS burst on the scene in Hollywood style with Jihadi John on July 14, 2014? I don’t know. However, this was at the very height of global disdain being thrust upon Israel for its killing of over 2,000 Palestinians, including 500 children in Gaza during the weeks prior. The worldwide discussion pressured the UN, foreign governments, charitable organizations, and others into a position of citing Israel for war crimes, when all of the sudden, we had a whole new, highly-produced-for-television enemy that burst upon the scene with the heinous beheadings of Westerners. Certainly, we can’t blame world opinion for shifting from Gaza to ISIS, can we? Each subsequent ISIS event was more horrible than the previous. A Jordanian pilot was burned alive. Irreplaceable antiquities were destroyed. ISIS became public enemy number one, and the cries of atrocities in Gaza simply faded into the noise of history.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, because I have no evidence of the whos or hows of any of this. Were secret Western agencies involved in the Sinai massacre of over 300 innocents? How would anybody begin to investigate such wild theories anyway? Like I said, I just hate coincidences and especially those that seem to come out of nowhere to automatically strengthen the Zionist narrative of “everybody hates the Jews.” Zionism is not the helpless and blameless lamb that it wishes to portray to the world, historically persecuted people who’ve paid a horrible price for their submission to Almighty God. Zionist acts against people of Arab descent are generally bloodthirsty, brutal, and merciless, and they’re delivered with a shoot first, ask questions later mandate. What are the modern crimes of Zionism? How about ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and colonization. Knife attacks, for example, a Palestinian reaction against well-armed soldiers at border crossings, hardly require the extrajudicial execution of the attacker, but that is the self-justified response by the Israeli Defense Forces. Occasionally there are attacks against settlers who the original residents view as occupiers, but most of these knife attacks are done against soldiers as a reaction to their brutality. Palestinians are humiliated, forced into ghettos with no rights, cut off from their own land, and simply murdered for protesting the squalid and inhuman conditions forced upon them due to their birthright.

The truth of what happens between Israelis and Palestinians is kept from Western eyes and ears by highly skilled proclaimers of approved Hasbara.

Hasbara is a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past.

Israeli government eyes watch social media closely through special offices set up to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms for anything that – in their opinion – might “incite” others to violence against the state. The same is true with the BDS movement, which attempts to pressure the world into boycotting Israeli products in the name of drawing attention to its treatment of Arabs. If these sleuths find anything, they demand that it be taken down, and who’s to argue with the Zionist government? Narrative control that requires this degree of diligence isn’t natural; it’s artificial, and that, too, adds another layer of distrust to the hasbara mix.

My fellow journalists tell me that the Middle East is just too complicated to spend the time and effort necessary to get to the truth, but that’s just an excuse based in the deliberately confusing Zionist hasbara. It’s not complicated at all, if you can bring yourself to cut away all the crap. What may be upsetting about it is that it demands a willingness to deconstruct what you believe to be truth, and that takes more courage than most people have.

And that’s too bad, because the Middle East is a gold mine of material for real investigative journalism.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Today, I’m going back to my writing roots here to publish a piece about an old and favorite topic, the refusal of institutions – in this case television (broadcasting) – to innovate new businesses that will keep them relevant throughout the digital disruption. This is an old topic for me, and my position hasn’t won me any friends in the industry, because nobody likes to hear that their baby is ugly. Believe me, this one is really repulsive, but sales people are still trained to show the toothy nerds as cute as the dickens. Koochie-koo!

This is especially true with video advertising, once considered the great hope of broadcasting. But online video advertising just hasn’t lived up to its industry-rescuing hyperbole, and it’s caused a lot of players to, um, stretch the truth when it comes to their sales’ claims. Enjoy.

Online Video Advertising is a Fool’s Errand

A Huffington Post reject on sexual harassment

Today, I’m publishing a somewhat tweaked version of the piece I wrote for The Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago that they chose not to publish. The reasons I was given were “the assumption of pathology and the discussion of victims’ responses and clothing choices, among other things.” I promised I would publish the piece here, so that you could judge for yourselves.

It’s already public knowledge that I’m an addict in recovery, and it’s my experience in working on my own bad habits that brings me to publish this. My single purpose in so doing is to raise awareness about a part of human life that people would – for whatever reason – choose to rather not know about. I don’t see how that does anybody any good, especially in the area of human relations known as sexuality. Besides, I’m an old man now and care much less about what people think of me than I once used to. Here’s the link:

Advice from a former serial sexual predator: In the Era of Harvey Weinstein, Break the Predator’s Fantasy!

Passages (Temporary)

I’m temporarily suspending activity here, because I’m now writing regularly for The Huffington Post. In this season of book promotion, this seems a smart move, because my intent all along in writing The Gospel of Self was to become a part of the bigger discussion regarding the shift of our culture to the right. This move helps that goal. Here’s the link to find my work there:

The Huffington Post – Terry Heaton

Meanwhile, I’m doing radio interviews all over the place. I had the opportunity to speak with the great Ed Tyll yesterday, and wanted to share that with you. He’s a hoot, and I’m hoping they’ll have me back real soon.

The news after Roger Ailes

What will history say about Roger Ailes? It won’t be kind, if the initial reaction to his death is any indication. I’ve seen him described as despicable, a career sexual harasser, a purveyor of conservative garbage information, slimy, dirty, unethical, one of the worst Americans ever, bloodthirsty, and responsible for turning Americans into “a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online.”

Holy crap, and this was even before he was buried!

Rolling Stone was among the harshest:

Like many con artists, he reflexively targeted the elderly – “I created a TV network for people from 55 to dead,” he told Joan Walsh – where he saw billions could be made mining terrifying storylines about the collapse of the simpler America such viewers remembered, correctly or (more often) incorrectly, from their childhoods.

In this sense, his Fox News broadcasts were just extended versions of the old “ring around the collar” ad – scare stories about contagion. Wisk was pitched as the cure for sweat stains creeping onto your crisp white collar; Fox was sold as the cure for atheists, feminists, terrorists and minorities crawling over your white picket fence.

Roger Ailes was eulogized Saturday as the architect of conservative TV, but while he was the founder of Fox News, he didn’t write its playbook. That was done fifteen years earlier in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the home of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson, and The 700 Club. I know, because I was there and participated in the creation, development, and execution of “TV News With A Different Spirit,” a genius level rewriting of the rules of journalism and marketing to suit a politically conservative audience. There isn’t one strategy or tactic used by Ailes and Fox News that we didn’t pioneer earlier, and it’s vital to our current cultural conundrum that we understand this. That’s because the term right wing media is not only supportive of Republican Party politics but it’s undergirded by a worldview that is entirely Christian of the fundamentalist, evangelical ilk. Zeal always trumps reason with those who practice extreme forms of religion, so it’s not the political conservatism that matters; it’s the Christianity that places itself above reason in its ability to easily govern the lives of participants.

What this means is that arguments by reasonable people are automatically dismissed without consideration, because they are determined to be contrary to the faith. Rationalized responses become fact, regardless of their absurdity, because “God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound (shame) the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Hence, the many references among Evangelicals to Donald Trump as being like Cyrus the Great, the pagan Persian king that God “put in power” in order to free the Jews from Babylon and return them to Jerusalem where they rebuilt the temple. If Trump is a “Cyrus,” then, the thinking goes, it’s unnecessary to excuse his behavior, for God is using him anyway. The end justifies the means, although nobody is saying what that end will be.

…Trump had been elected by God…He was a warrior against the global “demonic agenda”, “raising the warning cry about the unraveling of America.” Trump’s obvious faults and flaws only confirmed the prophecy: Cyrus, like Trump, was powerful, rich, and pagan, not at all godly…

…Many Evangelicals who voted for Trump continue to have an abiding faith in his presidency. Just as Cyrus returned the Jews to Jerusalem, and restored their wealth, so Trump, they fervently believe, will restore a lost world of personal safety, psychological security and material prosperity.

The point is that unless you’re prepared to discuss the Cyrus argument, nothing else matters for those who put Mr. Trump in the White House in the first place. Just because the culture is uncomfortable with arguing religion does not mean that the basis for our differences aren’t essentially religious. The fact that we’ve generally dismissed such debates is what energizes the engine of American conservatism today. It’s what allows poor Republicans to vote against their own best interests and blindly sit by while the GOP deepens the pockets of the haves. The response of Christians is “I don’t care about his character as long as he gives us conservative Supreme Court justices.” To these well-intentioned people, abortion and same-sex marriage are the essence of all that’s wrong with our culture, and, by God, they’re going to fix it.

You can say what you wish about Fox News, but don’t be fooled into thinking there isn’t the constant hum of religious superiority that seeps through all of its programming, for contemporary political conservatism is sustained by evangelical Christianity.

Whatever you think of Roger Ailes, you must also concede that his efforts brought to the surface what had previously been hidden and assumed irrelevant by the progressive culture. Contrary to blaming Ailes for dividing the country, we should thank him for bringing that division into the light, where we might be able to actually do something about it. Actually, I don’t think we have a choice; we simply MUST do something about it in order to bring a sense of unity among us as a people. The problem, of course, is what to do and perhaps moreso, how to do it.

To me, it’s a personal journey that each of us has to make. It just won’t happen overnight in a one-to-many environment, because the “one” always – ALWAYS – begins and ends with self-interest. Neither side in this zero-sum game can “put forth” an unbiased representative to participate in an open debate. This can only lead to same-o, same-o. And this has always been the problem – even perhaps the cause – of our division. Each side instead must challenge, with open minds, its own assumptions, those that undergird what is presented as absolute truth. It is the unfortunate thinking of humans to posit that one cannot be simultaneously just and merciful anymore than one can be simultaneously liberal and conservative.

Meanwhile, we need to hear Christian arguments that challenge the assumptions of the right wing crowd, because that’s where the real battle lies. It’s THE challenge to journalism in the wake of Roger Ailes’ passing.

How ironic that our current president – the beneficiary of all that fundamentalist faith – would be lecturing Muslims in Saudi Arabia this weekend about Islamic fundamentalist extremism.