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Monday, November 7, 2011

Cain, Bork, Thomas, Hill--a Plea for Civility!!

Max Lindeman has a good post over at Patheos' Catholic portal about Herman Cain and the concerted effort by some in the conservative media to present media attention to charges of Cain's sexual harassment as "high-tech lynching", ala Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill. This brought to mind a post I did a while back at my old blog site on "the borking of Barack Obama". In that post, which I have reposted below, I try to point out that in order for there to be a common good, people of good will need to be able to recognize errors and distortions by people on "their side", no matter how politically inconvenient it might seem. I repost that blog here in the (vain?) attempt to promote responsible speech on both sides of the aisle. Yes, Cain deserves fairness, but so do the woman who are involved in this sad story. Maybe a bit of historical perspective will help.

The Borking of Barack Obama

In 1987 President Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. The reaction to that pick was so unique and so extreme that a new verb entered the English language—Borking. To this day a true political junky will use that word as shorthand for over the top rhetoric, character assassination and no holds barred political discourse. While the resistance to the pick succeeded in stopping Bork’s nomination it also stained the body politic. Any fair telling of the story acknowledges that the way Judge Bork was treated set a precedent for future Supreme Court nominations that has damaged the common good. I say this as someone who generally leans Left on national politics. To this day I am uncomfortable thinking about Ted Kennedy because I so associate him with his vicious attacks on Bork. I believe that my party, the Democratic Party, hurt not only itself but the good of our country by unleashing a new type of political attack on judicial nominees.

I raise this story now because I feel that the shoe is on the other foot. Now it is the Republican Party that has so demonized and diminished President Obama that they have made genuine compromise with him something to be feared within their party. And yet I still hear Republicans try to claim that the way Obama has been treated is just politics as usual, just the kind of cute rhetoric that all politicians use. They would like to go on as if the last 30 months of verbal assaults against the president has no bearing on their party’s ability to reach a meaningful compromise on the debt crisis. They sound like Democrats in the 1980s trying to live with themselves after the crushing of Robert Bork. They so want to believe that their consciences are clear that they ignore the obvious. After creating a picture of Obama as a socialist, Muslim, terrorist pal, unnatural citizen they would have us believe that this rhetoric has no connection to their unwillingness to compromise in the debt ceiling negotiations. Why can’t they just face the reality that they upped the anty, they pushed the envelope, they went beyond the norm, and now they are living with the consequences.

Here is what I would like to hear, just once, from a Christian conservative Republican—“We went too far. In our zeal to defeat Obama we delegitimized him to a large chunk of our base. We should not have done this. We did to him what Democrats did to Bork. We were wrong and if we are going to work for the common good we have to acknowledge that.”

If I could just hear something like that, instead of what always sounds like minimizing or justifying or excusing away or trying to make moral equivalence, it would be nice, it would be Christian. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

TheCall Detroit and the Muslim Community’s Samuel Rodriguez Problem

Over a month ago I wrote a letter to Samuel Rodriguez that I can only assume will never be answered. In that letter I proposed to him the perfect way to clear up any confusion about the “resignation” from Oak Initiative that I had reported him having made: he could clearly and unequivocally condemn the Oak Initiative’s ongoing demonization of Muslims in connection with their cosponsorship of CallDetroit. I posed this to Rodriguez because Ricky Joyner, the president of the Oak Initiative, was on the record saying that Samuel resigned from Oak not because of disagreement with the Oak Initiative but in order to spend more time editing the Spanish language edition of Charisma magazine. Besides Ricky’s statement, further evidence of Samuel’s ongoing support of the Oak Initiative’s goals was demonstrated by these four facts:
1. The other sponsor with Oak Initiative of CallDetroit, Lou Engle’s organization TheCall, remained a sponsor of Rodriguez’s NHCLC organization.
2. All of Samuel’s videos in support of Oak Initiative remained up at a variety of Ricky Joyner’s sites.
3.  The Oak Initiative’s most well-known board member, Cindy Jacobs, remained a part of Rodriguez’s NHCLC leadership team.
4. Video and audio evidence of Samuel’s own participation in Muslim bigotry had emerged.

Since I sent that letter giving those reasons for why I doubted the sincerity of Samuel’s resignation, as well as the sincerity of his pledge to me that he had nothing to do with the New Apostolic Reformation, more reasons have emerged:
1. Samuel’s brazen participation in Cindy Jacobs’ New Apostolic Reformation internet event “Reformation Day”.  At this event, which featured in addition to Rodriguez and lead NAR apostle Jacobs, C. Peter Wagner himself and Wagner’s right hand man Chuck Pierce, Rodriguez went so far as to call Cindy Jacobs affectionately “Mama Cindy” and embrace the unique theology of the event embodied at its announcement page: "We really believe that recent weather reports of hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are signs that the earth is groaning for the revelation of the sons of God."
2. Samuel’s failure to heed the call of Faith and Public Life to publicly denounce the anti-Muslim agenda of the Oak Initiative.
3. Samuel’s refusal to speak out about the CallDetroit’s commitment to Oak Initiative and its agenda of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The third point in particular is urgent. With CallDetroit’s 11-11-11 event less than a week away the sizable Muslim community of Detroit is reacting with understandable alarm to those aspects of the rally that have specifically demonized and provoked their community. As was all too predictable, CallDetroit and the Oak Initiative are now trying to deny the all-too-public record of their anti-Muslim bigotry and agenda and portray the Muslim community as paranoid. Into this swamp of lies and extremism, one would expect that if Samuel Rodriguez really meant what he said to me about his opposition to anti-Muslim extremism being the reason for his resignation from the Oak Initiative, then he would seize this moment to explain to the Detroit area media and religious communities that Muslims have every reason to be offended by the Oak Initiative’s agenda in general and its participation in the CallDetroit specifically. But instead of hearing Rodriguez’s clear voice of solidarity with the Muslim community in the face of CallDetroit’s lies and misinformation, we see Rodriguez’s website highlighting its partnership with TheCall and linking NHCLC members to CallDetroit registration.  

What we see, in other words, is that Samuel Rodriguez has not followed through on his commitment to oppose anti-Muslim extremism and remains what he was the day I first confronted him: a man who wraps himself in the language of religious tolerance at one moment and the language of religious intolerance at another. Those who continue to elevate this man are complicit in his hypocrisy and are likely to join the inevitable conservative Christian backlash against Detroit’s Muslims for viewing the Oak Initiative exactly the way the religiously tolerant version of Samuel Rodriguez once did himself.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Harry Jackson I have Come to Know

It is interesting to see Bishop Harry Jackson slamming President Obama's religious heritage in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The Harry Jackson I know ought to spend a bit more time getting his own house in order. Here are three of the more telling stories running on Bishop Jackson's views about the environment, money and Christian civility.

Harry's attacks on the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) and other groups supporting environmental regulation:


Harry's characterization of progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis' views of money as "doctrine of devils":


CNN report featuring Jackson and his views on preaching about money:


EEN's response to attacks like Jackson's: