Here's a rather chilling report on Vision America's big hate-fest, titled "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006," by Elizabeth A. Castelli, an associate professor of religious studies at Barnard College, author of Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture-Making, and co-editor of Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence. (She was also a 2003-4 visiting fellow at NYU's Center for Religion and Media, where she researched "The Persecuted Church: Towards a Genealogy of a Political Program." Her last article for The Revealer was "Shockwave!")
The whole article is well worth reading, just to show how bigoted, intolerant, unhinged, and dangerous the faux-Christian far-right in America can be. Following are some of the choicest excerpts:
But what of the biblical Jesus and his message of nonviolence and nonresistance? As Rick Scarborough [president of Vision America] explained it at the end of the panel on persecution, all of those demanding gospel values -- submission, tolerance, turning the other cheek -- are fine in one’s private life, but they have nothing to do with the public mission of the church. As for those who draw attention to the gospel’s message of nonviolence, this is simply a matter of "the Left using our own tradition against us." ...
So the "public mission" of the church of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with preaching or practicing the teachings of Jesus Christ? And people who quote the actual words of Jesus are working for Christ's enemies? Are these real Christians, or was this whole affair organized by Satan himself to confuse and mislead Christians?
One speaker offered condescension instead of simple demonization: Janet Parshall, a Christian broadcaster who called herself a "war correspondent in Babylon" and who declared that there has been a war against Christians "since the garden," modulated the rhetoric slightly in two different ways. First, she upped the ante, arguing that the war is not against Christians per se but "against absolute truth and God." Then, she sought to complicate the identification of the enemy by suggesting that people who possess "opposing worldviews" are not themselves "the enemy" but rather "they have been captured by the enemy." What was implied here was that all holders of "opposing worldviews" -- secularists, non-Christians of all stripes, gay men and lesbians, feminists, among others -- are best understood as prisoners of war, captives in thrall to their captor, victims of an epistemological Stockholm syndrome and in need of liberation and deprogramming...
Okay, I guess being hauled off to a Khmer-Rouge-style "re-education camp" may be better than being shot on sight. Then again it may not. And either way, "the enemy" have no rights worth mentioning, and will certainly not be treated as children of God.
Early Christian historian Michael Gaddis, for example, offers a brilliant and textured analysis of these dynamics in late ancient Christianity in his recent book, There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire. As Gaddis illustrates, righteous Christian violence in the fourth and fifth centuries -- violence against non-Christians and "heretics" -- was justified in the first instance by reference to the persecution of Christians. With God on their side, everything is permitted.
...The judicial branch of government, meanwhile, maintains some level of independence from this movement, and it is this independence that generates the vitriol, the threats, and the calls for a Christian revolution. Such a state of affairs should give all of us pause: When the powerful claim to be powerless and use this claim and a purportedly divine mandate to authorize a no-holds-barred attack on political institutions, we are on dangerous ground, indeed.
Lest anyone doubt the centrality of such lunacy within our current ruling party, let the record show that this event was attended by Tom DeLay, John Cornyn, Rod Parsley, Phyllis Schafly, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes, among others.