Christians against Christian Nationalism

You’ve probably already seen this, but I just discovered the Christians against Christian Nationalism website. The tagline of the website is “We believe that Christian nationalism threatens our faith and country.” Amen to that.

For my co-religionists, and any other readers, who are Christians: you can read and sign their statement against Christian Nationalism. It’s just so refreshing to see Christians standing up against this pervsion of the Christian faith.

For everyone: that website has great printable resources you can share with your Christian friends. Plus there’s a related TikTok account, @EndChristianNationalism, which might also be worth sharing.

Police departments vs. labor

Starting with the George Floyd protests in 2020, we began hearing calls to defund police. Police departments, so the thinking went, mostly served White interests, and thus tended to support White supremacy. This argument may have been valid, but it ignored other interests that have controlled police departments in the U.S.

“On May 28, 1937, a strike of seventy-eight thousand steelworkers spanned seven states in the Steel Belt from Homestead to Chicago. The Little Steel Strike of 1937 showed that business would not accommodate unionization even in the face of federal directives. Little Steel companies came prepared. They each bought tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of tear gas, gas grenades, pistols, and rifles to supply to local police and corporate guards to stop a strike. A congressional investigation found that the companies together had purchased $178,000 worth of such armaments. Bethlehem Steel had directly paid the policemen’s salaries. In Chicago, on Memorial Day, came the climax of the strike, when a thousand strikers took American flags and began to walk toward the steel mill. When told to disperse by police, they refused. The police fired on the crowd in what was reported as the Memorial Day massacre, killing seven and wounding ninety. Most of the injured were shot in the back. The strike fell apart soon after….” (Louis Hyman, Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary [Viking, 2018], p. 35)

That’s just one small example of how police have always served the interests of corporate employers over the interests of working people. Police departments are still serving corporate interests over worker interests. I’ve never heard of a police department protecting striking union members from corporate security. I’ve never heard of a police department raiding a company’s premises to stop unsafe and exploitative work practices. You will never, ever hear of a police department shooting and killing CEOs. Police departments get paid to support bosses, not workers. (And please notice that I’m referring to “police departments” and not “police” — many police officers are ethical people working a tough job; but, like other workers, they have to do what their bosses tell them.)

The key point is that police departments serve the existing power structure. If the existing power structure includes systemic racism, then the police departments will support that systemic racism. If the existing power structure wants cheap labor to maximize corporate profits, then the police departments will suppress workers who go on strike.

Which raises an interesting point: It might be that the interests of Black and other non-White people, and the interests of working class people of whatever race, have some significant overlap.

What to do

The war in Israel and Gaza is horrific. Here in this country, there is disagreement about what to do. People are staking out positions; to even name the positions is to take a position, because of the way you describe the different positions. I’m not particularly adept at politics, and I feel the proverbial deer in the proverbial headlights: no matter which way I go, it looks bad. Thus I was relieved to read this on The Velveteen Rabbi’s blog:

“One recent day on social media, comments from two people I respect crossed my transom within about an hour. One said (I’m paraphrasing both) that any rabbi who doesn’t call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza is morally bankrupt. The other said that any rabbi who would call for a ceasefire, given Hamas’ stated goals of destroying Israel, is betraying the Jewish people. I’ve been sitting with that tension, and it feels like a black hole inside my heart. How am I supposed to know which path is most likely to lead to a future of peace and justice and coexistence in that beloved land? How would I know whether more military response or a ceasefire is likelier to bring about the just peace both peoples need? I can’t possibly know….”

Like the Velveteen Rabbi, I never studied political science, international relations, or military strategy. Yet she knows more than I — at least she’s been to Israel, and clearly has a better sense of the issues than I do. I’m glad that someone else is willing to say, “I can’t possibly know.”

All I know for sure is that the war in Israel and Gaza is really deadly (on the order of 10,000 fatalities so far, depending on which source you’re willing to trust). And this war is happening at the same time as the really deadly war in Ukraine (around 32,000 fatalities in the last 12 months). Then there are the really deadly wars that don’t get talked about much in the U.S. — Sudan, Myanmar, the Mahgreb insurgency — each of which has seen about 12,000 fatalities so far this year.

I don’t know what the path to peace is for any of these major ongoing wars. I’m not one of those religious leaders who will tell you with great self-assurance what we should do. I can’t possibly know….

Still going on

In 1977, Ursula K. LeGuin wrote an introduction for her anti-war novel The Word for World Is Forest — a novel which she had begun writing in 1968. In the 1977 introduction, she said:

“1968 was a bitter year for those who opposed the [Vietnam] war. The lies and hypocrises doubled; so did the killing. Moreover, it was becoming clear that the ethic which approved the defoliation of forests and grainlands and the murder of noncombatants in the name of ‘peace’ was only a corollary of the ethic which permits the despoilation of natural resources for private profit or the GNP, and the murder of creatures of the Earth in the name of ‘man.’ The victory of the ethic of exploitation, in all societies, seemed as inevitable as it was disastrous.”

Today, in 2023, the connection between war and environmental exploitation is still in place. Sad to say, humanity is still dominated by the ethic of exploitation.

Elder God Party in 2024

Back in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles, this blog encouraged people to vote for Cthulhu for president. According to an old MIT webpage :

“Cthulhu is a large green being which resembles a human with the head of a squid, huge bat-wings, and long talons (true, that doesn’t really resemble a human, but bear with me here). [In] H. P. Lovecraft’s story ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ Cthulhu rests in a tomb in the city of R’lyeh, which sank beneath the Pacific Ocean aeons ago. Cthulhu is dead but not truly dead, as he and his fellow inhabitants of R’lyeh sleep the aeons away…. From time to time R’lyeh comes to the surface, and Cthulhu’s dreams influence sensitive individuals across the globe to depict his image, slay, and found cults dedicated to him.”

Back then, I thought it was funny to promote Cthulhu as perhaps the worst presidential candidate anyone could conceive of. Then came the 2016 presidential election, and it didn’t seem funny any more.

As we approach 2024, the Republican Party seems to have turned into awakened Cthulhu — they’re ready to get violent with anyone they don’t agree with (“if I have to kick down doors, that’s just what patriots do”). The Democratic Party, by contrast, seems to drift ever further from their roots as the party of economic opportunity for ordinary working people — they look like Cthulhu sleeping away the aeons.

With both the Republicans and the Democrats trying to become bad imitations of an Elder God, I’ve decided it’s time to bring back the Elder God Party. Let’s get a real Elder God involved in politics. Imagine a debate between Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Cthulhu. Cthulhu speaks first. Donald Trump starts to shout over him, and Cthulhu eats him. Joe Biden tries to inject a comment, and Cthulhu mocks him for not being vicious enough. That’s the end of the debate. After Cthulhu is declared the winner, he eats the audience.

Look at it this way. We can die a slow death from ecological disaster while ruled by an authoritarian regime. Or we can die the same slow death while under the leadership of a party that is unable to organize its followers around the obvious unifying cause. Or — we can die a really fast death by electing Cthulhu, who will simply kill everyone and eat them.

Do the right thing. Vote for a really fast death. Vote the Elder God Party in 2024.

“Social Movements and Congregational Responses”

The Congregational Consulting Group blog has a new post by David Brubaker titled “Social Movements and Congregational Responses”:

“Congregations [in the U.S.] often experience conflict in response to social movements in the world around them. Since World War II, movements regarding civil rights, the war in Vietnam, the ordination of women, and human sexuality—each vitally important in its own right—also have raised challenges inside congregations, forcing leaders to address internal questions of power and culture.”

Brubaker gives a brief overview of four external social movements that had a big effect on U.S. congregations: the Civil Rights Movement; the movement against the Vietnam War; the movement to ordain women; and the LGBTQ+ rights movement. I’d like to take a look at Unitarian Universalist (UU) response to each of these movements.

We Unitarian Universalists like to think that we were on the “right side” (i.e., the progressive side) of each of these movements, but that’s not true. We don’t often tell this part of our history, but if you talk with older Unitarian Universalist (UUs) — or if you’re old enough to remember these movements yourself — you know that we had a very mixed record for all these movements.

Civil Rights Movement

We like to tell ourselves the story that we were early and unified and vigorous supporters of the Civil Rights Movement. There is little evidence that was true.

Continue reading ““Social Movements and Congregational Responses””


The great showman P. T. Barnum knew the value of free publicity. He told many stories about himself to demonstrate that, and indeed his entire autobiography is an exercise in self-promotion and advertisement. In his book The Art of Getting Money, Barnum addressed this point with a statement that seems eeriely relevant in today’s political climate:

“I say if a man has got goods for sale, and he don’t advertise them in some way, the chances are that some day the sheriff will do it for him.”

And in fact the great showman of 2023, Donald Trump, got the Fulton County, Georgia, sheriff’s office to give him some of the best publicity he’s ever had — that now-famous mugshot, taken when Trump turned himself in at the Fulton County jail.

Old white guys in power find it easy to get publicity for just about anything they do. For example, compare Trump to me. Sure, I’m an old white guy, but I’m not in a position of power. So if I got arrested in Fulton County for racketeering, and my mugshot made it onto social media, I’d probably just lose my job. By contrast, when Trump’s mugshot gets spread around the interwebs, it just puts him that much closer to winning the presidential election.

Caricature of Donal Trump's mugshot, in which he is smiling. The text behind him reads: "That stupid Fani thinks she's so smart. This is the best [crossed out word] publicity I could get. My [crossed out word] stupid followers will eat this up. I [crossed out word] love free publicity."

Religion isn’t separate from human society

Yet another news article about a religious group taking a public stand that homosexuality is sinful: the Christian Reformed Church in North America did so in its national meeting last month. Because of this stance, several open and affirming Christian Reformed Churches have to decide what to do. Do they disaffiliate, or kick out their openly LGTQ+ members and staff? The news article offers this insight:

“‘I think it’s because of the culture wars in the United States that the [Christian Reformed Church] synod has decided that they’re going to push this issue,’ said Henry DeMoor, a professor emeritus of church polity at Calvin Seminary who has watched the unfolding clash and belongs to another Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. ‘It seems like we have divided the church, the way the Republicans and the Democrats divide politically.'”

Politics has long influenced US religious history. Back in the mid-nineteenth century, Protestant denominations split over the issue of slavery. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and other Protestant groups split because of differing views on slavery and anti-Black racism.

Today, we’re still seeing denominations splinter over approaches to anti-racism. The Southern Baptists have lost congregations over critical race theory (CRT). A US Catholic writer has written a book about how CRT cannot be reconciled with Catholic teaching (although other authors disagree). The Presbyterian Church of America has been accused by some of its adherents of “kneeling before the golden statue” of CRT. And the newly-formed North American Unitarian Association (NAUA) seems to have formed at least in part due to disagreements with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) on the best approach to dealing with racism.

But — these days, denominations are also splintering over human sexuality. The United Methodist Church is losing something like one fifth of all its congregations over LGBTQ+ issues. The Southern Baptists just kicked out one of their largest congregations, Saddleback Church, because that congregation ordained women as pastors.

This leads us to an obvious conclusion:

Religion does not belong to some Platonic Realm of Truth which is somehow separate from daily life. Religion is thoroughly enmeshed in the ordinary concerns of day-to-day living. And right now, US society is deeply divided over how to address ongoing racism, and how to understand human sexuality. These deep divisions are going permeate every aspect of human society, including religious organizations.

Religion is of this world. For someone like me, this is a good thing because it means that religion is actually of use in dealing with day-to-day problems. But that also means religion is not going to be some idyllic oasis where you can escape from reality — religion may help you deal with reality, but it is not going to separate you from reality.

A history of “history nerds”

JB, a friend from high school, just had a piece published in The Concord Bridge titled “The Watergate Nerds: Fondly recalling a high school reenactment.” Here’s his lede:

“On June 17, 1976, on the fourth anniversary of the Watergate break-in, seven students at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School re-enacted the operation by bungling a break-in at the principal’s office. I was one of them….”

You can read JB’s piece to find out what happened to us when the vice-principal caught us.

Now, JB contends that in many ways, times were more innocent in the 1970s. There’s some truth in that contention. For example, while many of today’s high schools have armed cops patrolling the hallways, all we had was a couple of unarmed undercover narcotics agents. On the other hand, there was that race riot at our high school in our senior year (an event I want to write about some day, when I can find the time to research it more fully). Or if you were gay, as one of my close friends was, that high school could get ugly.

But more to the point, it may be that time has blurred our memories of the utter venality of Richard Nixon and his henchmen. Yes, the Watergate break-in was less violent than the armed insurrection at the Capitol building on Jan. 6. But if you really think about it, the extent of Nixon’s criminality, and his naked desire for raw power, still have the capacity to astonish us.

What the Southern Baptist vote means

A few days ago, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to expel some local churches that had women as pastors. They kicked Rick Warren’s huge Saddleback Church, and they also kicked out a small church where as woman has been serving as pastor for three decades. If they’re suddenly kicking out a church where there’s been a woman as pastor for three decades, that makes it clear that this is not a situation where suddenly women are becoming Southern Baptist pastors. It’s the denomination that has changed its opinion.

Rabbi Jeffery Salkin, who writes an opinion column for Religion News Service, makes this observation:

“This is a war the right wing is waging: roll back women’s rights…. If you are looking for the symptoms of incipient fascism in this country, pay attention to the signs: the growth of antisemitism, a parallel growth of misogyny and a powerful growth of anti-LGBTQ hatred.” Salkin adds that this new rise of fascism doesn’t look like 1920s Germany so much as it looks like 1950s United States of America.. That was the decade, according to Salkin, of “women who did not work outside the home … queer folks in the closet … an America where Blacks were still in the back of the bus and where Jews and other ethnic and religious outsiders faced serious restrictions.”

I’m inclined to agree with him. The fascism of Trump, DeSantis, and others should not be compared to Nazi Germany. They are not trying to impose a new type of fascism on the U.S. Instead, they want to go back to a time when conservative White men were firmly in control of U.S. society. We don’t like to think of the 1950s as a time of fascism, but it was — not Nazi Germany fascism, but a distinctly American kind of fascism. Nor was it only Blacks, LGBTQ+ people, and women who were targets of this uniquely American fascism — Joe McCarthy’s House UnAmerican Affairs Committee also targeted White men whose politics happened to be anywhere to the left of the John Birch Society, destroying their careers and sometimes sending them to jail.

And this week’s Southern Baptist vote shows just one of the ways conservative White men (and the women who submit to love them) are trying to make 1950s U.S. fascism return. Get those doggone women out of the pulpit before they mention that Phoebe, a woman, was one of the leaders of the early Christian church — i.e., get rid of the women before they reveal that 1950s U.S. fascism was not rooted in Christianity at all, but instead springs entirely from the fevered imaginations of conservative White men who want to retain their ill-gotten power.