Category Archives: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Those Oppressed Christians

Trump used the National Day of Prayer yesterday to suck up to the Fundiegelicals, issuing a meaningless proclamation and saying,

“We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” Trump proclaimed, which were marking the National Day of Prayer. “And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever.”

And by “people of fath” he of course means Christians. Certainly not the Muslims he’s trying to ban from entering the country, or the Jews he can’t remember to mention on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The idea that Christians have been “targeted, bullied or silenced” is bullshit: have they been denied marriage licenses or the right to adopt? Have their spouses of 40+ years been refused funeral cremation services, as recently happened in Mississippi?

Of course not. But they have been witness to the secularization of American society, something they have been powerless to stop. This is the real “oppression” they decry, and yet there’s a very good reason they can’t stop it: they are part of it. They want the benefits of secularism but not the costs. They want to attend football games on Sunday but don’t want their influence on American society to wane. They want to participate in secular culture while holding themselves above it.

American Christians long ago adopted the secular value set of popular culture. As someone whose brief tenure in Christian music coincided with the genre’s 1990’s “crossover” era, I saw first-hand how the faithful coveted acceptance by mainstream culture. It was kind of gross, to be honest. Every artist’s position on the Billboard charts — not the Christian charts, mind you, but the real ones, the Billboard Top 200 and Hot 100 — was shouted from the rooftops as if it were all the proof one needed that God isn’t dead. Every one of them had to beat their chests over how Bono was a Christian, as if  U2’s success validated their faith. It was a weird time. Did listening to a Jars of Clay album make anyone a Christian? Doubtful. But plenty of people confused platinum album sales with successful evangelism.

This is part of a larger flaw in white Southern evangelical Christianity. There’s this belief that material success is the outward manifestation of spiritual worthiness. It’s proof that one has been “chosen” by God. It has to be that, right? To concede that it might more accurately be the result of privilege and decades of the cards being stacked in your favor at the expense of others would be to concede complicity in an unjust system. Few have the moral courage to admit that. Better to believe that the system is fair and success a sign of righteousness.

But consumerism and secularism go hand in hand. You can’t value material success and be part of consumer culture while professing to be apart from it. The Christian entertainment business is just the most obvious example of this; there are plenty of others.

Last week I talked to a refugee from Congo who’s working as a dishwasher at The Cheesecake Factory. He’s a Christian and he told me it upset him that he was forced to work on Sundays. “People should be at church on Sunday,” he said. That’s actually how it used to be in the U.S., back when we had Blue Laws and Sunday beer sales were banned and people were supposed to spend the Sabbath in Sunday school and Christianity really was the dominant force in American society.

Those days are long gone — good riddance, I certainly don’t miss them — but it shows how far we’ve come from the time when we really were a “Christian nation.” So enough with the hissy fits over a store clerk wishing you “Happy  Holidays.” You can go to a Walmart or Cracker Barrel on any Sunday morning and see the place packed with the faithful, who are worshipping at the altar of the cash register instead of sitting in a church pew where my Congolese friend wishes he could be.

Here’s another example, the latest entry in the Nashville retail market. Altar’d States sells stylish women’s fashions in one of Nashville’s hippest, most upscale neighborhoods. What makes it a Christian business? Well, there are Bible verses on the wall and the company donates money to charity. Weak tea, if you ask me, but I’m sure that will be good enough to bring the faithful through their doors to load up on the latest high-end fashions. Apparently that’s all it takes to be a “Christian” business these days, and nobody seems disturbed that a company is using faith as a branding mechanism.

People want to know how evangelicals could support a man like Donald Trump, who is the antithesis of all they claim to value. Easy. Consumerism and secularism go hand in hand, and once American Christianity embraced consumer culture, it devalued and cheapened its spiritual faith. American Christianity is by and large a secular religion today, in that it has embraced consumerism. This makes it easy to overlook Trump’s ickier aspects — the vulgarity, the allegations of sexual assault, the lack of humility– and lift Trump up as a member of the Christian club. As long as Trump hates all the right people — liberals, Obama, etc. — they are cool with whatever he does.

Christians aren’t oppressed, they’re corrupted. They forgot they’re supposed to be in the world, not of it. They want cultural influence but have only themselves to blame for their lack of it.

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>How Low Can They Go

>I watched a bit of the Blackwater hearings on C-SPAN 3 this morning. There was a considerable amount of what Atrios refers to as “comedy gold.”

I’ve put together a few award-winning moments (I transcribed this myself so I can’t verify that it’s error-free):

• The Recycling Award goes to Darrell Issa (R-CA), who gave his opening statement brandishing the MoveOn.org ad and claiming, “What we’re hearing today is a repeat of the MoveOn.org ad .. they’ve simply switched targets. […] I’m not here to investigate Blackwater, I’m here to defend General Petraeus.”

Dude, that was last week.

• The Atta Boy Award goes to Chris Shays (R-CT), who felt Blackwater CEO Erik Prince deserved a pat on the back for not losing any of the State Dept. personnel under their protection:

“That’s a perfect record and you don’t get any credit for it for some reason! [..] I just want to be on record for THANKING you for the AMAZING job you do.”

Uh, yeah. I don’t think the issue is that they aren’t doing their jobs but rather the excessive force used to get those results.

• Shiny Sparkly Object Award goes to Darrell Issa for interrupting the hearing to ask if Committee Chairman Henry Waxman investigated the crash of an Air Force CT-43 that killed Ron Brown in Croatia back in 1996.

This has been the subject of several tin-foil hat conspiracy theories by the fringe right, since Brown was being investigated for corruption at the time and also, of course, everyone knows Bill Clinton was a serial killer in his spare time from being POTUS and molesting women. So don’t be surprised if the fringe-nuts to pick up on this bit of obfuscation.

I’m not sure but I do believe Issa served on the Oversight & Government Reform Committee when the Republicans were in the majority, so I suppose he could have called that investigation himself. If not Issa, then whatever Republican Congressman was in charge would have, had they felt it was warranted. That it didn’t happen should pretty much explain it all.

• The Can’t We Just Go Home Award goes to John Mica (R-FL) for using his opening statement to call for the committee to adjourn. Guess he wishes the “do nothing” Congress was back in power.

• The Misplaced Career Award goes to Blackwater USA CEO Erik Prince, who said he was honored to “speak on behalf of the brave men and women who volunteered to serve their country […] they answered the call to support our country ….”

Er, no, that would be those brave men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. You’re speaking on behalf of employees who are paid a generous salary to be in your service. They may be brave and they may feel they are answering some call to service, but you can’t gloss over the fact that a large number of them are there because of financial reasons.

The Truth To Power Award goes to William Clay Jr. (D-MO) for this smackdown:

“To the viewers of C-SPAN today, some in this Congress and this Administration seem to be steeped in hypocrisy as far as taking these frequent flies to the Green Zone and Baghdad. When you look they are some of the same ones who would never lift a rifle to defend this country in Vietnam but yet ridicule and criticize those who have not traveled to Baghdad. I just wanted the American public to be aware that some in here are steeped in hypocrisy.”

The saddest thing of all is seeing how the Republican Party has been reduced to defending soldiers of fortune. Abraham Lincoln is rolling in his grave.

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Filed under Blackwater USA, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee