Saturday, May 26, 2012

Please Watch This and Thank Our Troops

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Memorial Day Article in the New York Times

More Americans Need ‘Skin in the Game’

Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is the co-author with his son John of “Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps” and the co-author with Kathy Roth-Douquet of “AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes From Military Service — and How It Hurts Our Country.”
UPDATED MAY 24, 2012, 5:03 PM
The sense that “we’re all in this together” is missing from our exhausted military. When my son John graduated from boot camp on Parris Island, 3,000 parents were on the parade deck stands cheering. We did not represent a diversity of economic classes. My son was an exception: He’d gone to a swanky Boston private high school, we’re well off and liberal, and we weren’t a military family.
For many service members, the truth is that while everyone is ready to 'thank them,' few are ready to join them.
We are now. Through the many e-mail responses to books I wrote about my experience of becoming a military parent and how unexpectedly proud I became of my son’s choice, I discovered that many of us in the military family feel alienated from society. I did. I didn’t know anyone in my Volvo-driving, higher-education-worshiping neighborhood with a kid serving. I couldn’t help noticing a “we” against “them” edge to a lot of the e-mails I got, like, “My son is getting shot at while everyone else goes shopping.”
With the end of conscription, service ceased to be something ordinary. It became a “choice” for needy members of the aggressively recruited lower middle class and a generational “duty” for the legacy recruits from upper-middle-class military families. In this environment, it is inevitable that military families will ask: Why should I, or my child, die for rich people who never served and won’t send their children to serve?
There is a symbiotic relationship between the “leave it to us professionals” attitude expressed by our military leaders — who now command what amounts to a mercenary force wrapped in the flag, when compared with the citizen army our founders envisioned — and the “not with my child” selfishness of our upper classes.
For many service members, the truth is that while everyone is ready to “thank them,” few are ready to join them. It’s hard to fight for your country year after year (or watch your child do so) then recover from physical and psychological wounds when, let’s be frank — our nation doesn’t share the sacrifice.
Lurking in many military people’s minds is the question: “Was I a sucker for joining?” Most are proud of their service and should be. But their multitude of physical, family, mental and economic sacrifices might be easier to bear if the pool of recruits were truly diverse and everyone had “skin in the game,” including our political and corporate leaders.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jesus at Wild Goose and Now on the West Coast Too!

Q: Who stole the word "Christian" and turned it into a word that means "Right Wing Republican" these days?

A: The religious right did and I was part of that effort.

Q: Who will restore the word Christian to its rightful meaning as "followers of Christ" and the word "religion" to mean inclusive love of the other?

A: The Wild Goose Festival is trying hard to do just that.

Wild Goose is an organization that launched its debut festival promoting justice, spirituality, music, and art in June 2011 in North Carolina. I was honored to be a speaker there talking about my journey from far right evangelical religion to progressive politics and tolerant inclusive faith. I'll go again this year (June 21-24) as an unpaid volunteer and speaker for another 4 days of pleasure and inspiration.

The festival's debut attracted 1,700 attendees and a wave of well deserved media attention. Now there is some good news: Wild Goose is coming to the West Coast too.

The WG board announced the addition of the second festival site, "Wild Goose West," to be hosted August 31 - September 2 at Benton County Fairgrounds outside of Portland, Oregon.

About Wild Goose

Wild Goose is an affordable, four-day outdoor festival (inspired by the U.K.'s Greenbelt festival), a Woodstock-style event now to be annually held on both coasts, rooted in and critiquing the fundamentalist religious tradition and offering a real alternative. Wild Goose has become a vibrant progressive and inclusive creative space, a welcoming community experience and an influential voice for justice.

Along these lines, during Wild Goose's debut last year, Jim Wallis, T-Bone Burnett, Phyllis Tickle, Vincent Harding, Over the Rhine, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Brian McLaren, Peggy & Tony Campolo, Inter-varsity Press, Restoring Eden, Michelle Shocked, William Barber, Jim Forbes, Gabriel Salguero, Paul Fromberg, Lynne Hybels and 1700 others of us met to sing, drink beer, learn, teach, argue, pray, eat, dance, and re-imagine a new world. We were Christians, atheists, agnostics, members of other faiths and people from the LGTB community, all races and of all backgrounds. We forgave and welcomed each other.

Forgive me for this blatant promotion but note I'm not officially connected to the festival and I don't have any financial ties to it. My work is non-paid. In the light of my question, who stole the name "Christian?" WG is a personal answer  for me. To explain this I have to tell you a bit of my own story.

Until Irish peace activist Gareth Higgins (the founder and director) asked me to speak at Wild Goose in 2011, I hadn't spoken at a major (or minor) religious event for 25 years plus (with one exception of the Greenbelt Festival in the UK 5 years ago). I'd given up on anything good ever coming out of a community that contains homophobic "family values" bigots, conservative Roman Catholic bishops seeking to strip women of their reproductive rights, and "leaders" like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson, Mitt Romney et al.

Almost 30 years ago I found myself abandoning the evangelical world as it became more and more right wing, exclusionary, homophobic and frankly more like some religion based on Ayn Rand than Jesus. Not to mention, the evangelical arena seemed fatally politicized.

But how could I complain? My late father Francis Schaeffer and I helped make it that way.

We helped found the religious right and the anti-abortion movement in the 1970′s and 80′s. I wrote, produced and directed the multi-million dollar documentary series featuring my father ("How Should We Then Live?" and "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?") that started the ball rolling to the eventual takeover of the Republican Party. It was taken over by people who once were mostly interested in Jesus but whose actions eventually made them look more interested in backing George W. Bush and his wars.

In the early 1990s I repented of my family's tilt-to-the-right, changed my mind on politics, life and faith and shook the dust from my shoes and ran. I've written several books like Crazy For God explaining why I left the religious right and the redemption I found in inclusive loving faith.

I'm still hungry for the community faith can provide when its not busy judging others. I want to share that good news. And Wild Gosse Festival is the place I've discovered that shares that vision.

I discovered that there really is a "third way" that transcends the either/or choices between a "Christianity" (and all religions) more interested in how you vote, and a "secularism" that seems to want to strip my life of transcendent meaning. That third way is what Wild Goose means to me and I think, to many others. I hope you join us June 21-24 on the East Coast or August 31 to September 2 on the West Coast. See you there. Drinks in the beer tent on me if you mention that you came to the festival because you read this article!

Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author of more thn a dozen books including Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Romney, Gays, Grenell and the Politics of "Religious" Hate

As noted in the Huffington Post, "The Romney campaign told Grenell to 'be quiet and not to speak up until it went away,' said a source familiar with the matter, referring to criticism of his sexual orientation." The "IT" that had to "go away" was the religious right's vicious reaction to Romney daring to work with a gay man. Then the Romney campaign bowed to the religious right they told  Richard Grenell -- working for them -- to shut up. Their token gay man had to keep his mouth shut to appease the bigots. As the New York Times noted:

"The day after Mr. Grenell was hired, Bryan Fischer, a Romney critic with the American Family Association, told  nearly 1,400 followers on Twitter: "If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead." The next day, the conservative Daily Caller published an online column that summed up the anger of the Christian right, linking Mr. Grenell's hiring to the appointment of gay judges to the New Jersey Supreme Court."

... which brings up the context of the Romney punch-the-token-gay fiasco...

If you came to earth from another planet right now as the proverbial "visitor from Mars" and tried to figure out what most religions all seem agree on and care about most you'd conclude that it was about keeping women down and bashing gays. Call this the "ecumenism of oppression."

From the pope slapping down American nuns for being too tolerant to the rise of the incidence of woman abuse by Islamist fundamentalists in Turkey, to Orthodox Jews in Israel spitting on young female children who are wearing dresses that are "too short" to the American Roman Catholic bishops working with far right evangelicals (like the late Chuck Colson) to redefine depriving women of access to contraception and depriving gays of rights to marry as "religious liberty" issues... one message is loud and clear: Fundamentalist religion of all kinds fears women and gays.

(By the way ever wonder how anything can be called a civil rights issue when it is about depriving someone else of their civil rights?)

The worldwide practice mostly in Islamic "conservative" countries of mutilating women by slicing off their clitoris' so they may be "protected" from sexual pleasure, the hubris of the Roman Catholic Church that has wrapped up a fifty year period of presiding over a network of pedophiles only to make the pope that protected the institution rather than the children - John Paul II - a "saint," the bashing of gays in the anti-gay marriage surge of activity.... none of this would be believed unless it actually happened.

It did happen. It is happening. It is politics raw and naked power politics at that masquerading as religion.

It just seems so ludicrous that religion of all things should be the leading voice to deprive people of human rights. And that the people leading the charge are the same people that have also been fighting of legal suits over decades of child abuse and other multitudes of hypocrisy only makes the situation all the more tragic.

Frederick Douglass writes in "An American Slave" (Chapter 9)  a good example of everything that is wrong with relying on religion instead of on your heart. When it comes to justifying bad behavior Captain Auld reminds me of today's Roman Catholic bishops, the evangelical anti-gay activists and the women haters in Islamic countries:

"In August, 1832, my master [Captain Auld] attended a Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there experienced religion. I indulged a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he did not do this, it would, at any rate, make him more kind and humane. I was disappointed in both these respects. It neither made him to be humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before."

If you asked the visitor from Mars who this Jesus was that these misogynists from Captain Auld to today's bishops were "following" based on the evidence of their actions he'd conclude that Jesus must have founded an anti-woman child abuse cult to replace (or augment) the cult of racism and slavery that similar white men propagated before them.  The Martian visitor might also note that these child-abusers and women haters and gay-bashers have an odd habit of telling everyone else what to do while they seem to have no ethical rules at all.

How odd it is that if you read about what the actual Jesus said and who his friends were (powerless women and outcasts) you'd conclude that he was a revolutionary in his patriarchal times and a pro-woman and pro-child leader in every instance.

Can you really picture Jesus defining religious liberty as the right to deprive women and gay men and women of their basic rights to employment, marriage equality and family planning?

Jesus healed on the Sabbath just to piss off the "bishops" of his time. He took the side of the woman adulteress against the "popes" of his day. He hung out with whores when "good men" didn't do that and in a time when treating women as equals was as unlikely then as it would be now for conservatives to accept the fact that to be born gay or female is as normal as to be heterosexual or male and as God-blessed too. I don't see Jesus telling Richard Grenell to shut up in order to keep the religious leaders and other bigots happy!

Between the Roman Catholic anti-contraception, anti gay marriage bishops, the Islamic fundamentalists mutilating their daughters and the American evangelicals trying to force women to have children they don't want (and trying to force Romney to join the religious right) our visitor from Mars will fly home with the news that religion of the bishops', pope, Islamists, and evangelicals is really a misogyny/homophobic cult. He might also report that this cult of hate and fear is also a practitioner of politics masquerading as religion.