Bearing False Witness: Reflections on Being Attacked by Lying Right-Wing Christians

I guess it would be too much to ask for honesty from a decidedly right-wing, reactionary and Christian supremacist bunch such as publishes LifeSiteNews, but ask I will in any event. Or rather, I won’t ask, and won’t expect it; instead, I will simply respond to the absurd, dishonest characterization of me that appeared in their recent hit piece on my February appearance at a Chicago Diocesan event concerning racial justice. Almost all the allegations are inaccurate portrayals of my views, and the ones that reflect things I have actually said were taken so ridiculously out of context as to call into question either the functional literacy of the LifeSiteNews folks, or their honesty. Perhaps both.

First, I find it interesting that the authors include my description of myself as “not a Christian,” at the outset of their attack, as if this were somehow pertinent to the larger matter of my views on race (or even religion) and whether or not they deserve a hearing, either in general, or within the Diocese of Chicago in particular. Are the authors suggesting that one who is not a Christian has no place speaking to a church-affiliated group? Or that such a person has no valid insights into Christian doctrine or history? Really? That’s funny, coming from non-Muslims who are quick to pontificate about the supposed evils of that faith, despite not being part of it. So too with Christians who were always very quick to tell me, growing up in the Bible Belt south that my being Jewish meant I was going to hell. Doctor, feel free to heal thyself, in other words.

I am then accused of saying that the Apostle Paul “was not a prophet of God,” which is a comment I don’t recall making in words even remotely like that (mostly because I am not much for judging who is and is not a prophet — I find it a boring conversation), so I tried to follow the link provided for this supposed tweet, only to find that it doesn’t exist, apparently. So I cannot really say what this comment, which I am alleged to have made, was actually about.

I can say this however: my position on Paul, which I have stated in the past and will again (and which really is not a matter of historical dispute) is that he never knew Jesus. So the statements attributed to Jesus in scripture — but many of which actually come from Paul, who never met him (other than in a fever dream, of course, which hardly makes him one’s bosom buddy) — are not things that can be truly trusted as the words of the Christian savior. And those statements from Paul, speaking for Jesus in effect, are often far more judgmental, harsh, and given to ridiculous theological beliefs like “replacement theology,” (vis-a-vis Jews, who are, in this rendering replaced by Christ-followers as the favored of God) than anything Jesus was ever known to have said. It is Paul who places those notions in the mouth of Jesus. They are not coming from anyone who was actually there when Jesus presumably uttered them. Sadly, much of modern Christianity seems to be Pauline in its orientation, rather than following the actual Gospels. After all, in the Gospels, notions like who is and is not going to burn in hell simply do not figure, because this was not particularly important to Jesus, though it was to Paul, the lapsed Jew who wanted desperately to figure out how to remain in God’s favor without having to observe the 613 mitzvot demanded by the Rabbis. “Saved by grace” works in a pinch, one supposes. It’s a lot easier, that’s for sure, and certainly beats being a good person, or following that part Jesus said, about loving your neighbor as yourself

My comment about Pope Francis, shortly after his installation as Pontiff, is accurate so far as it goes, and I actually deeply regret it, both in tone and content. The story to which it referred, which suggested a link between Francis and various death squad activities in Argentina was and is a deeply disturbing one; and if the allegations therein are accurate, it certainly calls into question the extent to which the current Pope may have been implicated in a truly evil period in that nation’s history: one which, it should be noted, the Catholic Church was inadequately committed to challenging. It is simply inarguable that the church turned a blind eye in large part to the murderous rule of the generals there. Catholics may not like hearing this, much as they may not like hearing how much of the church collaborated with the destruction of European Jewry, but the fact that some precious souls are bothered by historical truth matters not to me. That said, I should not have referred to Francis himself as “evil.” That was unfair and intemperate. I should also point out that I have said many laudatory things about the Pope since that time, and indeed quote him at length in my forthcoming book, for his truly inspired statements concerning inequality of wealth and income. I believe he is a largely progressive leader, committed to social justice, and while I’m sure we still disagree on many subjects, his leadership on matters of economic equality is worthy of praise; and it is praise which I have offered by the way, on the same twitter feed that the right wingers at LifeSiteNews apparently only sought to mine for a handful of “outrageous” comments, while ignoring those that might cut against their simplistic, “Wise hates Catholics and all Christians” narrative.

As for Ratzinger, yes, I think Benedict’s views on many things are indeed evil as with some of his actions. Expanding the inherently bigoted and anti-Jewish Tridentine mass, and lifting the well-deserved excommunications previously handed down to Bishops from the hateful Society of St Pius X, whose reactionary and anti-Semitic history is well established by now, are sufficient for me to see little about this former Pope to praise. This, combined with a doctrinaire condemnation of condom use, even as lack of access to such prophylactics has contributed to the deaths of millions from HIV/AIDS, qualifies as evil to me. And of course, most Catholics do not agree with the official church’s stand on contraception, and certainly most Christians don’t, so I figure I’m in good company here. Anyone who thinks it would be better to let millions die from AIDS, all in the name of sexual chastity, than to provide a means for the spread of the disease to be reduced and thus to save lives, is evil. More than that: you are an accessory to mass death, and all in the service of your own prudish and antiquated sexual hangups. Make note of it please.

Not sure where I said that the notion of resurrection needs to be combatted in the public schools, as no link was provided to this claim. I was not aware that this entirely religious doctrine was being taught in public schools, but it surely shouldn’t be. Religious beliefs are not supposed to be taught in such places. Nor do I think public schools should spend any time “combatting” religious beliefs like resurrection in school. I think religious beliefs should play no role in public school instruction one way or the other.

As for my criticism of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Paprocki, I was chastising him for suggesting that he would hold a literal “exorcism” in response to the state’s same-sex marriage law. Sorry but that sounds borderline unhinged, even insane to me. Exorcism? The church hardly even does that for supposed demonic possession anymore, but now it’s something a Bishop does in response to a democratically-determined law? So yes, I believe that such actions deserve condemnation, but when I said “the official Church should be shunned,” as a result of such foolishness, I am not speaking of laity, or even all clergy (many of whom would agree that exorcisms aimed at same-sex marriage are absurd), but the official, institutional leadership of the church, which apparently indulges such inanity. That is not a condemnation of Catholicism, or Catholics, per se; it is a swipe (well-deserved I think) at the official and institutional leadership, specifically in Chicago and to some extent worldwide (something I also feel to be true about official and institutional Judaism, Islam, and most all organized religion, even as I have great respect for the vast majority of all laypersons in those faith traditions).

As for abortion, I did not say that pro-lifers as a group are “terrorists, plain and simple.” I noted that there are plenty of people in the pro-life (so-called) community who have demonstrated their willingness to terrorize others, physically, spiritually and emotionally, by yelling at them on picket lines at clinics, telling women they’ll burn in hell for using birth control, let alone terminating a pregnancy, shoving pictures of miscarriages in women’s faces, claiming that they are abortion photographs, etc. And this comment, which came in the wake of the murder of an abortion provider, was quite accurate then and now, as there have been over 200 documented cases of anti-abortion terrorism throughout North America in the past two decades: far more such incidents than those perpetrated by Muslims in North America, for instance, and yet we are told to be eternally vigilant about the latter while hardly recognizing the seriousness of the former.

That said, I will also stipulate that I’ve known many in the anti-abortion movement who are lovely and wonderful people, deeply troubled by those terroristic tendencies, and these are folks with whom I’ve worked on numerous other issues, because they were part of the “seamless garment” school of Catholic social justice teaching, which is anti-abortion, yes, but not in a judgmental or condemnatory way, and which articulates a consistent life ethic on matters of war, poverty, capital punishment, etc.

My statement about those who murder abortion doctors was horribly misconstrued, so let me clarify what I said. Obviously such killers are to be condemned, as I assume most all agree. My point, however, was this: to the extent someone actually believes that fetal life is in every way equal to born life, then it is consistent to kill an abortion doctor, just as one would not hesitate to kill a man who was chasing a 7 year old down the street with a butcher knife or gun. I suspect that most all of us would agree, the person who sees the 7-year old being chased by someone who is about to kill that child, would be entirely justified in intervening against that adult, even to the point of mortally wounding them. This would be in keeping with the well-established doctrine of the “vicarious defense of others.” However, most would say that it is not acceptable for someone to kill an abortion doctor as he walks into his clinic in the morning, even though we can know to a high degree of certainty that he will, that very morning, likely be terminating a pregnancy and thus (to those who view fetal life as vested with full personhood), “killing a baby.”

So, to the extent most would allow for the violent intervention in the first case, but not the last, it seems to me that at some level they are admitting, however they might not wish to admit it, that fetal life and born life are actually not morally equal. For if they were, one would have to endorse the same course of action in the second case as the first. And you would certainly have to support imprisoning doctors who perform abortions (which some might), but also the women who have those abortions (which few endorse openly). After all, if a mother conspired with another person to kill her 2 year old, most all would support her being punished and locked up. To the extent those opposed to abortion don’t seek to jail women who “conspire with doctors” to “kill their unborn children,” they are tacitly admitting that the two forms of life are not truly equal. That isn’t to say that fetal life has no value or is worthy of no consideration — a point I actually make in the article from which this larger point comes — but it is to say that the pro-life movement is pulling a punch when they suggest that there is no difference between fetal life and the life of a born child. The entire text of this essay is here, by the way, in case folks are actually interested in what I said and what I believe, as opposed to the caricature of those views provided by professional liars.

As for my views on Christians being guilty of “spiritual terrorism,” this is where the dishonesty of the LifeSiteNews folks ramps up to an almost incomprehensible level. It’s truly astonishing.

Read the article to which this claim is being applied, by all means: every word of it, not just the ones favored by professional liars for the Lord. My argument was that to build in exemptions from anti-bullying legislation — which exemptions had been proposed in two states, and which would allow people acting on “sincerely held” religious beliefs to condemn their classmates for homosexuality (or for any other reason) — is to enable bigotry. Students should not have a right to bully others and then hide behind the Bible as their reason for doing so. That is indeed spiritual terrorism. Your religious views are yours, and you are entitled to them. That does not give you a right to evangelize me, or others. Your right to speak your views does not entitle you to my ears, and in a captive environment like a school, for you to go around proselytizing your faith is to force me to hear your speech. I can’t turn it off like a TV station, or radio program. As someone who was spiritually bullied by fanatical and hateful Christian bigots in public schools (and they were teachers by the way), I can attest to the reality of this problem, however much privileged Christians who have never been exposed to that kind of treatment (because the rest of us aren’t so religiously narcissistic as to go around telling people they’re going to hell), might deny it.

I did not accuse parents with traditional views of being guilty of child abuse. I said that parents who teach their children bigotry and keep their children from being exposed to alternative views are guilty of child abuse, and dangerous to society, and for reasons I explain full in the above mentioned essay. The woman I accused of heterosexist straight supremacy didn’t just say that her religious beliefs led her to believe that homosexuality was wrong; she said, a) that she had a right to tell her children that gays were evil and going to hell, and that b) the larger society has no right to tell her children otherwise, because c) her children are her property. That is psychopathy on parade, and socially unacceptable, and again, for reasons I fully explain in the piece. Please read it, seriously.

I did not say that beliefs in miracles or resurrection were “problems for the rest of us” that should be countered in schools, or that parents didn’t have a right to teach their kids such things. Here is what I said:

Along these same lines, if raising your children to believe that God can make the sun dance in the sky, or that people can be resurrected from the dead, or that prayer can heal serious illness without the faithless interference of medicine, gets in the way of their learning the biology, physiology, chemistry and physics they will need to be competent doctors, engineers, researchers or any number of other things, then those teachings become a problem for the rest of us; and thus, the rest of us have a right and indeed, obligation to teach them other things, even when those things conflict with the parochial instructions of their parental units. (By the same token, I should note, we have an obligation to teach people who are a bit too enamored of modern science — despite the way in which it has been used to justify the plunder of the Earth and the domination of nature — a little something about ethics, but that’s another essay for another day).

In other words, I was only speaking of those who allow their faith to interfere with their ability to use science and reason, which are both pretty important for jobs like medicine, engineering, biology, etc. Many millions of Christians, of course, maintain their faith and still accept science — and as such, know it is impossible for the sun to dance in the sky without the world being incinerated — and as such, I was obviously not referring to them. You can believe and teach whatever you want, but because children become adults who interact with the rest of us, your right to teach those things is not an exclusive one: the society has an interest in exposing your children to other views, and then your kids, being free moral agents, will make up their own minds.

Again, and by all means, read the piece from which these comments were taken (out of context of course) and decide for yourself whether the comments were inappropriate. I trust reasonable people will be able to do that, and I stand by every word in that essay.

As for my desire for white people to “go die please,” this too hardly reflects my position. I have responded to this often before, as it is an argument made quite prominently by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups seeking to discredit me; so ya know, nice job LifeSiteNews: you’re in great company and you crib your arguments from some truly stellar sources.

Now, it is true, that I did say some incredibly unkind things about Andrew Breitbart, who likewise said some incredibly hateful and unkind things about me. I also apologized for those statements, to him personally a few days before he passed, and publicly as well. They were inappropriate and I deeply regret them, however much I still believe Andrew was a horribly destructive individual whose entire M.O. was personal attack and cruelty. In fact my tirade against him was provoked by his own thinly veiled threats to expose my personal address to his followers, which of course would have endangered my family, as there are plenty of folks who have threatened me before and, given the address to come find me, might have done so. I still shouldn’t have said those things about him. It was wrong of me, and I did not and do not wish harm on anyone. But that was the background of what was going on in that case. His death was profoundly moving for me, despite our differences, because we are/were both fathers, and I can only imagine the pain his children and wife experienced at the loss of their father and husband.

As for my “looking forward” to the mass death of white people…seriously? Reading comprehension must not be a job requirement to write for LifeSiteNews.

In 2010, I wrote a piece in the wake of the mid-term elections, while, though admittedly indelicate and harsh, was entirely appropriate. In it, I noted that indeed the mostly older white folks screaming about “wanting their country back” are the problem in this country, and for reasons I have explored elsewhere in greater depth: first off, it isn’t “their” country, and the fact they think it is speaks to the sense of white entitlement so typical in this country among many white Americans, especially older ones. Secondly, I was noting that those who nostalgically remember the pre-civil rights era (and who think the 50s were some golden era, for instance, or who wax nostalgic about the good old days) are morally blinded. These days were not good for people of color, or most women, or LGBT folks, or non-Christians. Those days were an oppressive hell for most such persons, and people who don’t get that are an impediment not to some left-wing fantasy of mine, but an impediment to a decent and humane society.

If you believe America was better before the 1960s, you are either an idiot of the first order, or a racist, or both. And so I was saying that older white folks have generally been the ones in the way of progress, which is politically inarguable, and that the society will be a better place when they no longer have the power and prominence they currently enjoy. I think this is true and I stand by it. That doesn’t mean I want them to literally die. But everyone dies, and I do believe that this country will be a better place, and a more equitable one, when it is less white, more multicultural, more diverse, and no longer beholden to the nostalgic fantasies of people who look back on the pre-civil rights era longingly. So I hope the older white folks live a long life, but I am glad that their power is slipping away as the demography of the nation changes. If you are not happy about that, make no mistake, you are, by definition a philosophical white supremacist.

Again, read the actual essay. Aside from the harshness of the language (which tone I wouldn’t take were I to write a similar piece today), I stand by every word. And then, by all means, read my extended analysis of the criticism of the essay, as well. Sadly, four years later, I’m still having to repeat the same points, because some people either can’t read, can’t think, or don’t care about the truth. Dishonesty in the service of Baby Jesus, apparently, is no vice. And at least one of those Commandments handed to Moses doesn’t mean much to conservative Christians.

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