Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Celebrating Assassination from a Church Pulpit

There has been plenty of criticism from the usual right-wing suspects about Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett's campaign speech in Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church this past Sunday.  (Martin Luther King Jr's real birthday). The complaints centered around her using a place of worship to blast Republican recalcitrance, and whether the sacred separation of church and state rule had been violated.  Conservative pundits are calling for the Atlanta congregation to be taxed because of its long history of mixing politics and religion. Ebenezer even has the nerve to conduct regular voter registration drives within its holy walls! Big horrific deal.

But here is what the reactionaries aren't reacting to, and what lifestyle liberals are ignoring: Jarrett used a church pulpit to celebrate the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and the killings of other unnamed "terrorists."  She co-opted King's message of peace and turned it into a pep rally for Obama's War on Terror and the cancer that is the Homeland Security State. As Secret Service agents hovered all around, Jarrett enthused about how her president has made everyone feel so safe.  She made it fairly obvious that presidential chest-thumping will be a major part of the re-election strategy.

Am I the only one nauseated by this use of a Christian church to brag about killing people?  Would Democrats be howling had Karl Rove given a church sermon on King's birthday to spin about the Iraq invasion and torture during W's re-election campaign?  You betcha! MoveOn and the pragmatic progressive veal pen would have been crashing computers nationwide with pleas for money bombs and petition signatures.

Jonathan Turley, who has been among those legal eagles leading the charge against Obama's continuing evisceration of the Bill of Rights, found Jarrett's choice of words a tad strange as well:
At some point, this becomes a bit distasteful like a modern version of the old system of quartering enemies and sending his body parts around the country to thrill the populace. William Wallace was displayed in separate parts in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Aberdeen. I have no grief for Osama bin laden who is no William Wallace and frankly I am glad he is no longer with us. However, the use of his killing as a campaign theme is a bit off-putting.
Turley says the conservatives do have a valid point about it being illegal for tax-exempt churches to be involved in polital campaigns.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
But again, the Atlanta congregation's long tradition of political campaign involvement is nothing new. Whether Jarrett and the church ran afoul of a tax code should not be the main story.  The main story is the co-optation of the original pulpit of a civil rights leader who abhorred war into a platform for the celebration of a president who has abused civil rights on a terrifying scale, and who is being given a pass because he belongs to the preferred political party.

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic has written a trenchant piece asking why "Obamabots" are so insistent on focusing on the president's minor accomplishments and ignoring the big reality of his "scandalous transgressions against the rule of law." It echoes what Turley and Chris Hedges and precious few others have been saying.

Clip of the Jarrett "sermon" is here.

The Church Lady


Anne Lavoie said...

Speaking of assassinations, I believe the NDAA authorizing use of military force within the USA is intended to carry out targeted assassinations. If it was merely for detention purposes, law enforcement such handle that. No wonder the FBI, CIA, and Secretary of Defense were opposed.

The fact that Obama issued a signing statement that his administration will not detain American citizens is cold comfort. He said nothing about assassinating citizens. That would be the easiest solution to the whole pesky legal entanglement of detention of American citizens. He could just order them killed, but law enforcement won't carry out a kill order. The military will.

The urgency of passing the NDAA at this time seems to me to be more related to the Occupy movement than Al Qaeda, which they claim to have decimated after 10 years and trillions of dollars. It certainly has a lot to do with more taxpayer funded corporate welfare projects for the defense-surveillance-security-prison complex.

Our corrupt corporate-government has been waging wars and assassinating people abroad for years to protect and promote corporate investments and to eliminate threats to those investments. Why not here, especially now that they have given themselves the legal authority?

So who IS threatening to expose and oppose the cozy corruption of a racketeering corporate government masquerading as a Democracy?


d said...

Am I the only one nauseated by this use of a Christian church to brag about killing people?


“Who are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War?” asks Glenn Greenwald. “Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals).”

“The fundamental interconnectedness between war and civil liberties abuses on the one hand, and the targeting of minorities as part of those policies on the other, is, of course, nothing new. It was most eloquently emphasized in the largely forgotten, deliberately whitewashed 1967 speech about the Vietnam War by Martin Luther King…Dr. King devoted that extraordinary speech generally to the way in which the war in Vietnam was savaging not only the people of that country but also America’s national character. He specifically sought to answer his critics who were objecting that his increasingly strident opposition to the Vietnam War was a distraction from his civil rights work; instead, he insisted, his war opposition and advocacy of civil rights are, in fact, causes that are inextricably linked:

‘Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask?...I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube…They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government… If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over…We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy…’ – Martin Luther King

“King notably added another reason why he felt compelled to prioritize issues of war: “another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission.” As he put it: “This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.” If only that award were similarly understood today. His essential point was that nothing good could possibly happen in America so long as it continued on its path of warfare and bombing and invading foreign countries, and it was therefore necessary to prioritize protests against the war on at least equal footing with every other issue.”

Celebrating assassination from the Ebenezer Baptist Church pulpit, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King preached his ministry of nonviolence, how morally disgusting!

Denis Neville (aka d) said...

“The voice of the dissenter is often the conscience of the nation.”

Excerpts from Michael Eric Dyson’s Pride:

“God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now," King thundered from his Atlanta pulpit exactly two months before his death at the hands of a cowardly racial terrorist. "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war." Here, of course, King referred to the Vietnam War, and he took a lashing in public for his dissenting views. He was accused of being unpatriotic. He was charged with moral treason…And yet, King was one of the greatest patriots this nation has produced.”

“Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s role as a dissenter and prophet never diminished his patriotism. True patriots love their country enough to tell it the truth. King never confused a healthy patriotism with a myopic nationalism that often wrapped ethnic bigotry and racial terror in a flag-and around a cross.”

One cannot help but believe that Dr. King would have dissented from Ms. Jarrett’s celebration and would have instead delivered his message of peace.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” – Martin Luther King

John in Lafayette said...

The good Doctor must be rolling over in his grave. How ironic that the first black President would forget the lessons of King's 1967 Viet Nam speech (if ever he learned them).

Much as with Lincoln - whose Gettysburg Address received the attention the Cooper Union and Second Inaugural speeches should have - King's true message - to be found in the Viet Nam speech and the Letter from the Birmingham Jail - get lost in the emotional power and beauty of the far more famous, and less controversial "I Have a Dream" speech.

King's birthday was the time to focus on his true message, it was most certainly not the time to co-opt his name for the purpose of killing his dream. How does Obama sleep at night?

The Black Swan said...

I know this is off-topic, but the previous article on the topic is buried pretty deep and I figure no one will see this comment. Do you guys think so many congresspeople are backing away from SOPA/PIPA because they are an infringement on our civil rights or because the tech sector of corporate America is leaning on them to back down? I would assume the latter. It seems our govt never does what is right for the people only what is right for the corporations.

And as for Celebrating Assassination from the Pulpit, it doesn't surprise me one bit. Dr. King has been Disneyfied and his message all but corrupted and forgotten. Churches have been preaching and glorifying murder and torture since religion sprang into existence. While it is disgusting, it is nothing new. What is truly sickening is how blase the human race is about these things.

Karen Garcia said...

@Black Swan,
They are temporarily backing down because it pays for them to drag out the fight as long as possible. Both the tech lobby and the Hollywood lobby are pouring money into their campaign coffers as they "help" write new legislation. See my previous post for the ProPublica link which leads you to the money trail.

PS... I have started closing down individual threads after a max of about two days because some readers have complained about the confusion of several threads running at once. So if anyone still has comments or questions relating to a previous thread -- continue on to the next. I am not particular about staying strictly on topic. This is not the NY Times!

Valerie said...

So many things are going through my mind as I read this post and the quote from MLK shared with us by d.

I remember as a teenager attending a Southern Baptist Church when Reagan was challenging Carter for the presidency in '80. The preacher said, "I won't tell you how to vote but if you are not voting Republican, you don't belong in this church!" So for the Republicans to criticise the Democrats on this issue is sheer hypocrisy. There is a reason almost all fundamentalist Christians are Republicans and it very much has to do with their church openly supporting Republican candidates. - But that is really neither here nor there. We already know the Republican media commentators and spin masters are hypocrites.

The thing I love most about the community that has risen up around Sardonicky is our ability to be fair-handed in our judgement of both the opposition and our own side. We look at ourselves and the candidates we support - and have supported in the past - honestly and without prejudice OR FAVOUR. Judging all with the same yardstick.

Obama is a nightmare. The quote from MLK shows how far Obama has strayed from the person he sold himself to be from the real person he is. Martin saw accepting the Nobel Peace Prize as a solemn promise and obligation to work for peace. Obama saw it as a trophy to put in his trophy case.

And while I touch on the issue of race with great respect for the destructive power of racism, the truth is, just because someone is black and has achieved political heights doesn’t make that person’s message and position on issues any less toxic or dangerous.

Condaleeza Rice and Obama are war mongers every bit as much as Bush and Cheney are war mongers. Obama sent a black woman into a black church assuming just because she is black her message of hate and war would be more acceptable. It is not.

True freedom from racism is when the colour of someone’s skin is as irrelevant as the colour of a person’s hair. Should a red-head be given a free pass to spew hatred in a congregation of Irish Americans on St. Patrick’s Day? No. Hatred and war mongering are just that, hatred and war mongering - no matter who says it.

Martin would be disgusted with Obama and Valerie Jarrett every bit as much as he would have be disgusted with Condeleeza Rice and Colin Powell. Too bad he isn't here to call them out!

Denis Neville said...

Nobel Peace Prize 1964/Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Lecture: “The Quest for Peace and Justice”

Dr. King’s message that has been lost in America…

“Gingrich Pledges To Kill Enemies Of The United States”

“With presidential candidates pledging to kill enemies, torture detainees, and bomb countries, our political system appears to be de-evolving into a type of paleolithic politics.”

Corey Robin: “Why Conservatives Love War” - War is life, peace is death.

Theodor Adorno, The Authoritarian Personality, the "pseudo-conservative" - that vengeful and violent citizen who avows his faith in calm and restraint while agitating for policies that “would abolish the very institutions with which he appears to identify himself."

Prone to “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness,” he loves war and longs for bedlam in the streets. He has “little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism.” - Richard Hofstadter, "The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt"

“It all sounds weirdly familiar, doesn't it? Merely the latest in a long line of pseudo-conservatives, the Tea Party backer is the opposite of a natural conservative at peace with the world as it is.” – Andrew Sullivan

“How Newt Gingrich won over the tea party”

Corey Robin, “It's hard to disagree with Sullivan's characterization of the American right. But he—like Hofstadter and Adorno before him—is wrong about its lack of conservative credentials. Today's winger, like yesterday's, is not a pseudo-conservative; he's the real deal.”

Neil said...

@Karen - Am I the only one nauseated by this use of a Christian church to brag about killing people?

No, add me to the list of those nauseated by Jarrett’s partisan speech. That said, seems to me that a church is a proper setting for substantive, thoughtful political discussion that goes beyond rank partisanship. The life of Christ was political. In recent times the political message of Mohandas Gandhi would be appropriate in a church. And Dr. Martin Luther King’s political message was worthy of any pulpit.

In my view this is one more reason to end the government subsidy to churches through grant of tax-exempt status. Seems to me that a properly run church would be naturally tax-exempt since all its revenue would be used in its mission, with nothing left to tax. That would hurt the corporate church model, from the Catholic Church to the megachurch with its luxury lifestyle. Can anyone imagine Joseph Ratzinger forgoing Prada to feed or clothe the poor? Or Barack Obama risking his life for sanitation workers in Memphis like Dr. King? Maybe when hell freezes over.

The Doktor said...

This is a very well written article and it points out some disturbing facts, so I watched and listened to the four or five offending seconds of Valerie Jarrett's 20 minute speech. While I can certainly see those few seconds as distasteful, I do think the title for Wednesday's column is a bit hyperbolic.
For any conservative or Liberal to even insinuate that 4 or 5 seconds would make that Church liable for taxation puts them on a slippery slope indeed! Right wing evangelicals have been telling their congregations specifically who to vote for with the threat of damnation and destruction to back it up!
I mentioned the phrase "Immanentize The Eschaton" the other day, many people on the right actually believe this stuff, and they get fed lots of it every Sunday, here's a sobering video featuring a reformed religious right winger, Frank Schaeffer.
To equate Valerie Jarrett with these wackos is way over the top in my estimation.
That being said, I can certainly see why those few seconds were inappropriate. Furthermore I agree that President Obama's record on human rights is shameful and needs pointing out.

On a totally different subject I saw a really interesting finding on Politifact the other day that relates to the Health Care debate and congress forcing people to purchase health insurance and George Washington signing it into law!

Anne Lavoie said...

For those who missed it, yesterday's NYT had a brief but revealing opinion piece titled 'For God So Loved The 1%' which describes how businessmen preceded politicians in paying religious leaders to conflate and supplant Christianity with Capitalism as the true national religion. It worked!

"Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other."

"With ample support from corporate patrons and business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce, his gospel of godly capitalism soon spread across the country through personal lectures, weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly magazine."

"In an extensive public relations campaign, they encouraged communities to commemorate Independence Day with “freedom under God” ceremonies, using full-page newspaper ads trumpeting the connection between faith and free enterprise. They also held a nationwide sermon contest on the theme, with clergymen competing for cash."

James F Traynor said...

Thanks, Doktor, for the Politico link. It was fascinating. And not at all surprising. The whole 'American Experience' has become a myth. As has the history of the species itself, especially on the popular level. I continually find my own ignorance in this regard truly astounding. And to think, for me, it started out with my observing bobolinks on the Saratoga battlefield. And finding the memorial consisting of a single stone boot at, as I recall, the Breymann redoubt, a sad remembrance of Benedict Arnold the winner of that or those battles that were the turning point of the Revolutionary War.

The Doktor said...

@Anne Lavoie;
Exactly! You hit the proverbial nail on the head. While I don't believe in the Bible per se, I truly believe that religion can give people hope and solace when they need it most, it is the hijacking of those high minded principles used for population control and personal aggrandizement that gives organized religion such an onerous history of death, destruction and pedophilia.
It is in the face of such horrendous behavior those on left are attempting to educate and extricate the American people from the onslaught of oligarchy.
... all while those on the far right project their hatred of religion onto those on the left!

Anne Lavoie said...

This is a cautionary warning, obviously off topic, but I believe worth mentioning .

Be careful of clicking on links in comments anywhere online, especially from people who you do not know or who do not use their real names (even then you can't be sure).

I have recently finished reading a book titled 'The
Unexpected Patriot' whose author was recently on BookTV on C-Span2. The book is not very well written, but it truly disturbing on many levels, which you would discover if you read it.

The author is a Montana woman who took it upon herself to become a civilian 'terrorist hunter' after 9/11 by assuming detailed and elaborate personas and became a pioneer in the field of cyber counter-intelligence. She was also involved in a couple of high profile cases a few years ago and made the national news.

Anyway, in the book we learn that she used links to embed programs in reader's computers that enabled her to gain access to their entire computers, emails, keystrokes, etc. I know we have heard warnings about clicking on links before, but it is worth repeating: Be careful especially if it links to a video, has attachments to open, or is a hot link that where you can't read the URL. There could also be other vulnerabilities that I just haven't heard about. Not that we're up to anything, but who needs others living in your computer! It might also slow it down.

The author, Shannen Rossmiller, is now 'collaborating with others to develop an elite Cyber Corps – a force of IT professionals that will help patrol the online underworld.' Civilians can do things that feds can only dream about, and that's what makes the partnership so valuable.

Also, just this week there was news that it was discovered through a FOIA request that Homeland Security awarded the General Dynamics Corp an $11 million contract recently to monitor online comments on blogs and other sites. These include NYT, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Facebook, Twitter, to name just a few. Probably around the time we all got that bogus email from NYT!

It was claimed by the government to be routine to assess 'Situational Awareness'. It could also be net thrown out to see which commenters should be followed more closely, and maybe even more importantly, where. One fish is good, but catching a school of fish is even better - for situational awareness.

So be aware of your situation too.

Anne Lavoie said...

One more caution related to what I learned in cybersleuth Rossmiller's book:

She (or he, since she used only male personas online) would befriend people she met in certain chatrooms and blogs and establish an off-site email relationship with them. That is when she/he would send the infected attachment and get into their computers. Quite a resourceful gal!

Advice: Watch out for new online friends who want to get you into private emailing, especially if you happen to be politically outspoken!