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April 30, 2011

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... First up from the God Machine this week is a look at what happened to a D.C.-area church after the First Family attended Easter Sunday services there last weekend -- and after Sean Hannity decided to let his audience know about the church's pastor.

Shiloh Baptist Church in the District said it has received threatening phone calls and e-mails after an Easter visit from President Obama and a conservative television commentator's subsequent playing of a videotape in which the pastor said that those espousing racial prejudice do so "under the protective cover of talk radio."

The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith said the church has received more than 100 threats since Fox News channel's Sean Hannity aired a tape Monday of a speech Smith gave in January 2010 at Eastern University in Saint Davids, Pa.

"We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across is face," Smith said. "My secretary has received telephone calls that have been so vulgar until she has had to hang up."

The church was founded in the 1860s by former slaves, and has welcomed many sitting presidents for church services, including Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton.

But this year and this president are apparently different. Rev. Smith delivered a speech when he served as president of Palmer Theological Seminary and made provocative remarks about the changing nature of racism: "Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And he doesn't have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox."

Hannity aired a clip of this speech -- which, to clarify, had nothing to do with the Easter services, and wasn't even delivered in Shiloh Baptist -- and equated Smith with Jeremiah Wright.

Almost immediately, the church began receiving threats, many of them racist. There's an ugly strain of bigotry running through too much of the right, as reminders like these help show.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* It seems counter-intuitive, but groups representing atheists and secular humanists hope to expand the U.S. military corps of chaplains. Earning an appointment would require support from senior chaplains, who seem unlikely to grant such a request.

* Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum declared this week that Sharia law poses an "existential threat" to the United States. He then proceeded to prove that he doesn't know what Sharia law is.

* Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another likely GOP presidential candidate, argued this week that using "CE" (common era), instead of "AD" (anno domini), in academia is "an entirely artificial and intellectually incoherent dating system." He added that this is an example of "secular extremists" setting out to "impose their anti-religious bigotry" on society.

* Fox News wants viewers to think there was a "War on Easter" in the United States. I'd love for the network to consider, just for a moment, what an actual war on Easter looks like: "[Chinese] authorities stepped up a three-week campaign against an underground Christian church on Sunday, detaining hundreds of congregants in their homes and taking at least 36 others into custody after they tried to hold Easter services in a public square, church members and officials said."

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Re: war on Easter

Good for the Chinese. If Christian values are represented by what they see on FOX, by the actions of the Tea Party, and the words and thoughts of Palin Trump Limbaugh, et al I would round them up too. These people practice a version of Christianity unrecognizable to Jesus Christ.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 30, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding Rev. Smith. The right rejects the premise that such racism exists. Civil rights history has gone down a rabbit hole. They do not have any sense of society, just self, hence they cannot see societal racism, they self-righteously convince themselves that they aren't racist, so they become outraged.

Posted by: Mudge on April 30, 2011 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The war on freedom however is rolling along like a ringing bell .
There are problems with vendors losing their best days , people involved in rent or leases that complained when calendars are changed . They all had sound reasoning .
I guess it is progress . Now we complain for imaginary reasons that have only hubris as a colleague .

Posted by: FRP on April 30, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Worth noting, Fox hearts China. Because Murdoch has business there.

How often do you see China criticized on Fox? Never, that's how often.

Posted by: LL on April 30, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

I honestly don't know how guys like Hannity and Limbaugh can look themselves in the mirror every morning without throwing up.

Posted by: Patrick Star on April 30, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

...Hannity and Limbaugh can look themselves in the mirror every morning without throwing up ...

The big fat paycheck ?

Posted by: FRP on April 30, 2011 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

I'm an academic and I don't even bother with "CE" and "BCE". They're little known by students and "BCE" looks an awful lot like "BC" so it is confusing to me and to students.

Gingrich is a blowhard, but he does have a point. It IS an incoherent dating system. Years are numbered the same in both systems, only the suffix is different. And "CE" can also mean Christian Era. So the secular tilt of "CE" is lost. It's a distinction without a difference.

If we're so worried about religion in time-keeping, why not adopt entirely new names for the days of the week? They're based in the worship of the 7 celestial objects: Sun, Moon, 5 planets.

I'm all for rooting out religion where it shouldn't belong. But we are using a calendar developed by a pope, after all! Let's accept historical fact and move on. Or get down to the business of changing the calendar completely.

Frankly, how many people remember the meaning of "AD" or "BC" anyway. Or "AM" or "PM"? They're just timekeeping labels that are lost on most people.

Other thoughts?

Posted by: Astrogeek on April 30, 2011 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

"I honestly don't know how guys like Hannity and Limbaugh can look themselves in the mirror every morning without throwing up."

Sociopaths don't care.

Posted by: Walker on April 30, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

The honorable Reverend Wallace Charles Smith, working away from the sanctity of his own fellowship of worship, makes a very salient remark regarding our legacy of racist undertow here in our beloved nation!

Then, lo and behold, our honorable, duly elected POTUS attends Rev. Smith's Easter worship, and immediately, Sean Hannity - the doltish WPOW (White Punk On Wealth) - goes on air during his FOXNEWS program, and makes a very blunt point to REPRESENT the SALIENT REMARK the dear Reverend made awhile back!

I apologize the my fellow commentators here for the following vulgarity, but Sean Hannity is a racist Fucktard, and FOX is complicit in smearing America with racist undertow every-single-time-it-airs-anything-it-believes-is-a-threat-to-White-Privilege!

Those idiots over there seem to take the good ol'Red, White and Blue a little too much to heart - heavy emphasis on White! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 30, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Organized Religion is giving War a bad name.

Also, glass houses and stones, and guiltless folks throwing the first one, and something about 'do unto others', plus the Jewish/Chinese calendars, and then there is the AU as a measurement, but only used by inhabitants of this particular planet.

-blank verse or stream of consciouses or neither. Gooood day.

Posted by: DAY on April 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Newt Gingrich, another likely GOP presidential candidate, argued this week that using 'CE' (common era), instead of 'AD' (anno domini), in academia is 'an entirely artificial and intellectually incoherent dating system.'"

Actually, AD is entirely artificial and intellectually incoherent. It is supposed to denote the year of the birth of "our lord" Jesus Christ. Picking that year to mark one's yearly dating method is certainly artificial. Plus most historians believe that those who set the year got it wrong, and that Christ was born in 5 or BC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus#Year_of_birth So the system is intellectually incoherent as well.

I can't decide whether Newt is just posturing or whether he's really lost it.

Posted by: dsimon on April 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, the delicate sensitivities of rightwing white guys. Rev. Smith's words are pretty clear and, surprise, surprise, sound like they are directed at wingnuts. I'm a middle aged white guy who lives a few blocks from Shiloh. I buy groceries nearby. Some how I don't see the good rev as any threat to me.

Posted by: Rich on April 30, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

It seems counter-intuitive, but groups representing atheists and secular humanists hope to expand the U.S. military corps of chaplains. Earning an appointment would require support from senior chaplains, who seem unlikely to grant such a request.

I'm not sure this will be as much of a problem as you might think. Many clergy, particularly, I would think, those who have seen war up close, don't believe in a literal God anyway.

Posted by: chi res on April 30, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I thought it was the Julian calendar that was refined by the good Pope . The Julian correction was six hours , not the five hours , forty-nine minutes which was more useful in keeping winter cold and summer hot . Six hours added to the calendar was eleven minutes extra every year . The Julian corrections and its calculative errors were noted and noticeable , and then refined by Pope Gregory XIII .
So would it be unreasonable to say Pope Gregory refined and corrected a calculation in the Julian calendar ?

A suggestion , this week , to read "The Lives Of The Twelve Caesars" by Suetonius is the reason I am annoying about the calendar today .

Posted by: FRP on April 30, 2011 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, how the hypocrits of the Right just love to quote only the part of Dr King's speech which mentions a color blind society. The Right loves to wrap themselves in this being "color blind" whenever, they attack Affirmative Action by saying it is no longer needed as "we all aspire to be color blind".

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2011 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

He then proceeded to prove that he doesn't know what Sharia law is.

Pretty sure he doesn't know what "existential" means either;>

Posted by: martin on April 30, 2011 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

From Alternet, written by Chauncey DeVega:

May you live in interesting times. What a timeless and wonderful curse that so perfectly describes politics in the Age of Obama.

With the election of America's first black president we collectively witnessed the ascendancy of a person whose life story embodies the American dream. Obama was not alone in the grand play that is American life. There were other players who competed for the spotlight.

During this same moment America witnessed the rise of Sarah Palin to fame and glory, a woman who rides White populism and racial resentment in much the same way that a witch rides a broom. As a second addition to the Tea Party GOP's Rogues Gallery there is a carnival barker named Donald Trump, a man who once lurked stage left but is now the GOP front runner as he perfectly embodies PT Barnum's famous observation that "there is a sucker born every minute," while shilling for the worst and most ugly nativist and xenophobic impulses of the White Conservative Soul.

Ultimately, the election of Barack Obama has provided a series of object lessons in the durability of the colorline in American life. Most pointedly, Obama's tenure has provided an opportunity for the worst aspects of White privilege to rear their ugly head. In doing so, the continuing significance of Whiteness is made ever more clear in a moment when the old bugaboo of White racism was thought to have been slain on November 4, 2008.

To point: Imagine if Sarah Palin, a person who wallows in mediocrity and wears failure as a virtue, were any race other than White. Would a black (or Latino or Asian or Hispanic) woman with Palin's credentials have gotten a tenth as far? Let's entertain another counter-factual: If the Tea Party and their supporters were a group of black or brown folk, who showed up with guns at events attended by the President, threatening nullification and secession, and engaging in treasonous talk, how many seconds would pass before they were locked up and taken out by the F.B.I. as threats to the security of the State? If the Tea Party were black they would have been disappeared to Gitmo or some other secret site faster than you can say Fox News.

Earlier this week President Obama tried to be the adult in the room by surrendering his birth certificate in an effort to satisfy the Birthers and their cabal leaders Donald Trump and Pat Buchanan. Of course, his generous act does nothing to satisfy the Birther beast for it is insatiable in its madness. Nevertheless, a lesson can still be salvaged by exploring the rank bigotry which drives the Birther movement. In an era of racism without racists, the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands provide one more lesson in the permanence of the social evil known as White privilege.

Scholars and activists have described Whiteness as a type of property, unearned privilege, normality, and invisibility. Donald Trump and the Birthers exhibit a surplus of all of these traits...and more.

Ten Ways That the Birthers Are an Object Lesson in White Privilege

1. Just as Pat Buchanan did with Justice Sotomayor, the Birthers have sullied President Obama as being an unqualified, "affirmative action" candidate. His academic and professional accomplishments are irrelevant. The fact that he won an open and honest election are unimportant. We should know at this point that the life successes of people of color (and to a lesser degree some women) are always questionable and suspect when viewed through the gaze of Whiteness (and sexism). White men are never burdened with the question or doubt of being qualified for any job, at any time, or any place. Their greatness and ability is a fact not a question, never is it to be interrogated. This self-delusion exists despite the fact that white men have historically been the greatest beneficiaries of unearned privilege in the history of the United States. Their mediocrity has been rewarded at every turn.

2. Naturally, the President should be White. Of course, the leaders of trade and industry should be White. The natural order of things equates being White and male with having natural authority and ability--a set of traits which exist without question or doubt regardless of competence or ability. Whiteness deems the inverse for people of color. As President Obama has learned, by mere fact of his birth, and coincidence of the color of his skin, his legitimacy will always be in doubt.

3. Whiteness equals authority. Thus, any White person, at any time, can question the accomplishments of a person of color. The most mediocre of White people, the sum total of whose life has amounted to 1/100th of President Obama's successes (or that of other people of color) can feel legitimate in questioning how the latter came to find their "unnatural" position in the social hierarchy. Whiteness is an advantage in the marathon of life. Through this unearned head-start a psychic wage is paid, one that allows any White person, anywhere, to question how a black or brown person came to be ahead in life for such a thing can never happen in a "just" world. Whiteness allows white folks to not feel embarrassed or ashamed in asking such impolitic and rude questions.

4. Whiteness is a get-out-of-jail-free card. Whiteness is also the freedom to be utterly unreflective regarding the foolishness and madness of one's deeds and statements as long as the target of such madness is the Other. The Birthers, Buchanan, Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Limbaugh, Breibart and Beck engage in routine crazy talk. But Whiteness allows them to be taken seriously (at least at first) for White privilege allows the luxury of being utterly unreflective in most things.

5. White privilege is freedom from accountability. Donald Trump, Pat Buchanan, and the rank and file Birther brigands will not face any consequences for their ill deeds in slandering the President of the United States, or for openly fomenting sedition and rebellion against the government of the United States.

6. The Obama birth certificate debacle has exposed how to be truly American a person must be White. This is one of the central unspoken (and widely accepted) truths of race in America. For example, Sarah Palin channels The Blood Countess Erzebet Bathory and bathes in this bigotry with all of her "real America" talk. Although it is a lie in the face of history, because America is a mulatto culture where the majority of black folks (and of course our Native American brothers and sisters) were in the U.S. many decades (if not at least a century) before the great unwashed masses of white ethnics arrived here, Whiteness still imagines African Americans and other people of color as semi-permanent outsiders. In total, to be American is to be Black. The Birthers in their racial heliocentrism--where to be White is to be the center of the world--are repulsed by this fact.

7. White privilege is the ability to be "normal" and "invisible." Whiteness is never interrogated. Consequently, the White nationalism of the Tea Party GOP and its embrace of the Birthers has been long able to deflect the charge that they are racist or tinged by yearnings for a return to "the good old days" when "those people" knew their place. Because Whiteness is invisibility it works like chaff to obscure the obvious fact that much of the opposition to President Obama has always been about his race and not about policy. The signs at the Tea Parties are ignored or explained away, the racist emails laughed at and/or minimized as trite and silly, and bigoted White folks who display their bonafides whenever given the opportunity are labeled as outliers. There is slippage in naming the White racism of the Birthers as such because so many are invested in denying the semi-permanency of White supremacy in America, a sentiment that still lingers decades after the end of Jim and Jane Crow.

8. Whiteness is the default position for viewing the world. It is a cognitive map and means of processing reality. The election of Barack Obama upsets this world view. Many of those drunken on Whiteness and invested in the version of events that are offered by the White Racial Frame really do think they are operating as a "principled" opposition or that they are "colorblind," when in reality race, and fears of the racial Other, are driving their behavior. Here, Whiteness and white privilege work as pathologies that make a person immune to the real motivations driving their anti-Obama derangement syndrome.

9. Whiteness is the ability and power to reframe reality. Despite whatever documents or evidence that President Obama may offer to silence the growly, rabid hostility of the Birthers and the White Conservative Soul, the terrain for debate will be continually shifted. This is a function of ideology plus partisanship mixed together and combined in the Right-wing echo chamber. This reframing of reality is also born of the narcissism that is Whiteness, for the world is what they/he/she says it is.

10. White privilege is also surprising. Many black and brown folks (as well as others) have been saying from day one that the opposition to President Obama, and the silliness suggested by the conspiranoid Birthers in particular, have been motivated by racism. Those voices were often silenced and attacked as being too sensitive and wedded to some outmoded notion of political correctness. The pundit classes have finally seen the obvious: race is the driving force behind Trump and the Tea Party GOP's obsession with Obama's birth certificate. When those not White said as much they were dismissed. Lesson for us all: Despite our protests and the evidence that black and brown folks may bring to the table, racism does not exist until good White folks say that it does.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 30, 2011 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Again I am astonished that Newt is considered by many, many Villagers to be one of the intellectual leading lights of Conservatism.

I'm beginning to suspect that the word "Intellectual" has lost all meaning in some circles.

Posted by: bcinaz on April 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

in case you missed this....an interesting confluence of religious right ponzi scheming and some presidential hopefuls...
Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann sought pardons for a major campaign donor, Frank Vennes Jr., now accused of fleecing faith-based charities in a Ponzi scheme.


Posted by: dj spellchecka on April 30, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

He [Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich] added that this is an example of "secular extremists" setting out to "impose their anti-religious bigotry" on society.

Well,no. It is an example of opening an inclusivity for the billions of non-Christians who share the common calendar. These Gingrich types conflate 'religion' with Christianity. They shouldn't. There are many religions in the world besides Christianity. But, of course, they probably don't know that, or don't allow themselves to entertain that terrible though (God forbid).

Posted by: Goldilocks on April 30, 2011 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

So now I'm reading the (at this juncture ephemeral) comments:

@Astrogeek: But we are using a calendar developed by a pope, after all! Good - and now we're using a calendar developed by secularists. So what? Times change - even calendars.

@KurtRex1453 Good for the Chinese. I would love to agree, had they not also so maltreated the Tibetans and decimated their entire nation's culture and religion.

Posted by: Goldilocks on April 30, 2011 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

The logical thing to do would be to scrap the archaic day/month/year and adopt the Star Date system.

Posted by: T'Lar on April 30, 2011 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

the days of the week? They're based in the worship of the 7 celestial objects: Sun, Moon, 5 planets. -- Astrogeek, @9:51

Which planets? I guess Venus and Uranus would have to be nixed -- too many sexual connotations tied to one and too many (intentional) "misspellings" possible with the other. And we don't want our children asking too many questions about Saturnalia, either. The clueless are already asked if they're from Mars, so we'd better not give him any time of day. Earth is OK, I guess so, with the Sun and the Mon, that makes 3. Add the 3 remaining (since I hear Pluto has been demoted and, anyway, who wants a cartoon dog to patron a day?) -- Jupiter, Mercury and Neptune -- and we're still a day short. Not to mention that, after all this effort, we still end up with days named after gods -- just Greek and Roman instead of Viking.

Posted by: exlibra on April 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sunday = Sun's day; Monday = Moon's day; Tuesday = Teuton's day (Mardi in French - Mars' day); Wednesday = Woden's day (Mercredi in French - Mercury's day); Thursday = Thor's day (Norse Jupiter); Friday = goddess Frig's day (Vendredi in French - Venus's day); and Saturday = Saturn's day.

Posted by: Goldilocks on April 30, 2011 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Newt Gingrich,...argued this week that using "CE" (common era), instead of "AD" (anno domini), in academia is "an entirely artificial and intellectually incoherent dating system."

Well, kind of, yes. CE years are the same as AD. Common era does not refer to the allegedly historical event that began the AD period. "Common Era" means nothing. You could just as easily pick 1492 and call our portion of history "Common Era".

He added that this is an example of "secular extremists" setting out to "impose their anti-religious bigotry" on society

[facepalm] Nevermind.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 30, 2011 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

"We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across is face,"

Why are Sean Hannity's fans surveying monkeys?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 30, 2011 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

As long as scum like Hannity are given a soapbox on Fox, America - especially its "mainstream" media - should hang her head in shame.

That blue pinstripe suit that Reverend Smith refered to fits Hannity like a glove.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on April 30, 2011 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

Since Jesus clearly said that the only excuse for divorce is if your wife commits adultery (sexism in original), shouldn't that be "disgraced former speaker currently openly living in a state of mortal sin with his mistress"- just using Newt's own standards, of course.

Posted by: MikeN on April 30, 2011 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Goldilocks, @5:30 PM
In Polish:
poniedzialek (after Sunday), wtorek (the second day), sroda (the middle day), czwartek (the fourth day), piatek (the fifth day), sobota (the Sabbath), niedziela (no work day).
It's the main reason why I can never get used to the week starting on *Sunday*, instead of Monday :)

Posted by: exlibra on May 1, 2011 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Anno Domini dating was institute by Dionysus Exiguus (Dennis the Short), who in the early 500s began naming Easters in calendar charts not only by the year of the reigning Roman consul (which had been fine for Christians for some 500 years), but also with the number of years since birth (probably misdated by 4-5 years) of Jesus of Nazareth.

His innovation received little attention, and most people went right on naming years after Consuls, or their local kings' reigns, until the 700s.

Designating years by the local ruler didn't bother the entire early Christian church for centuries. The Church Fathers that Newt Gingrich now reveres did it. The early martyrs and saints he implores in his prayers did it. I think Newt should follow the model of the early church too: let's call it 3 Obama!

Posted by: PQuincy on May 2, 2011 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK
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