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The Cutting Edge: Blog of Ed Knudson
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Members of Trump's Religious Advisory Council Have Not Resigned  8/25/2017  (715)

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Historic Protestant Speech is Not Free in America Today

The killings of the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris is causing me to think even more seriously about the relation of church and state in western societies. The "ultimate" authority in these societies appears to be the place of "free speech" but the press in this country (USA) is anything but free. It is owned and operated by corporations, for the most part. And now we have a case when the entire western world, including the right wing Fox News, is demanding that a cynical, pornographic magazine is the ultimate site of worthy speech even though it published extremely offensive material against a major religion in the world. Here we have militarily all-powerful, mostly now atheistic European/Western societies berating Islam in the name of free speech?

Even the head of the state of Israel comes to a public march of thousands in Paris this past Sunday to denounce those terrible Muslims for using violence against what they consider blasphemy. But just let your mind think about the last several decades and how much violence has been used systematically against Muslim peoples! Just think of what the U.S. has done in Iraq! Think about the fact that it is the extreme violence used in Iraq that has caused the emergence of ISIS. It is the reliance of this country on military might, to protect business interests around the globe especially oil in the Middle East, which is the actual cause of what is happening now in Syria and elsewhere. It is the U.S. that has sent its armies into Arab countries destabilizing their societies and causing immigrant Muslims to flee to Europe. It is the massive injustice done to Palestinians by Israel that has been inflaming Arab hostility for many years now.

Now a few Muslims kill a few pornographic(*) journalists in Paris and the leaders of western societies finally express some emotion about the fact that lives are being lost. We seem to want free speech for these journalists, but we refuse to hear (or even begin to publish) the cries of injustice and outrage of those suffering in former colonized areas of the Middle East over many decades now. Just think if we had used half the money we have spent on the military in that part of the world and instead spent it on schools and hospitals and universities and assistance on democratic governance. It is the United States which is the violent country. Everyone else using violence is just following our lead. We have to stop it.

But, of course, we will not stop it. Our whole economy now depends on vast military government spending in every congressional district. The U.S. since WWII has come to believe that military violence is the only way. And this belief is now destroying the country, not only overseas but also within our cities and local communities, where we hire more and more police to protect the few wealthy from the many poor and minorities. This is a recipe for decline, but current political structures are filled with politicians who believe in violence and are willing to lie to the people. They say we need more and bigger armies. They say we need more and more police. They say we need more and more lethal technology by which we can kill thousands without taking responsibility. These lies will destroy the country as can be seen clearly now by those with the eyes to see.

I think it may be that only people with some religious faith, people whose commitment is not ultimately to a particular ideology or nation, who are able to "see" the truth of what is happening now. The views I am expressing here are not unusual. They are for the most part the tendency of thought for most of the leaders of what is called "mainline Protestantism" in this country. It is a form of thought embedded in the ecumenical Protestant history of this country which promotes international institutions rather than military dominance, inclusive understandings of religion, economic justice for all especially the most vulnerable, the use of science to address human problems, and increasingly important commitment to care of creation or environmental sustainability.

It is that Protestant faith which is significant today and has become more and more important. It is that substantive faith which can be cynically derided too. But it is worthy of serious attention as what society should consider as its ultimate concern. But the media systematically refuses to report the thinking and events of the historic Protestant churches. Historic Protestants are excluded from the public media today. The corporate powers do not want to be criticized.

Instead, the major media, when they do report on religion, tend to snicker at the strange beliefs of the religious right, white Southern forms of Baptist and Pentecostal religion which emerged as a backlash to the liberal victories of the 1960s, especially the gains of black people and the promotion of equality for women and gay people.But in the process the media don't realize they are actually helping to build up the significance of the religious right as seemingly credible religion. It is important to realize the religious right has become an Americanized, commercialized, politicized form of religion. It can no longer even be considered "Protestant" because it has severed any connection it once had to historic Reformation Protestantism. And this thought may seem unusual to many only because the major media so completely ignores the theological substance and activity of historic Protestants.

The historic Protestants built this country. It has never been a "Catholic" country. But the unexpected recent election of a new pope has resulted in a person who himself is speaking in a way that reminds us of historic public Protestant values in this country. The previous pope wanted strange alliances with the religious right. Pope Francis in many ways sounds like a historic Protestant. If this country is to have a future it now needs the guidance again of the historic Protestants who actually believe something rather than sick secularists who make a living attacking the beliefs of others.

So, as for the Charlie Hebdo case, I am happy President Obama didn't go to Paris to march in support of a pornographic political journal.

* If you dislike the reference to Charlie Hebdo as pornography please take a look at this article in The Atlantic where this paragraph is found:
In September 2012, amid violent protests across the Muslim world at the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in the film Innocence of Muslims, Charlie Hebdo printed several of its own depictions. One particularly vulgar cartoon showed Muhammad as a sort of porn star, naked, prostrate on his knees, his buttocks spread, his testicles and drippy penis dangling between his legs, with a star over his anus. The caption read, “Mahomet: a star is born!”
Looking at many of the covers of this magazine it becomes quite apparent that these cartoonists exhibit a childish obsession with the penis and vagina. They want to make money by shocking people and ridiculing serious beliefs. At the same time it appears to me that this magazine exhibits very serious anti-Muslin hysteria and that's why so many western leaders decided to march; they are leading their peoples on another anti-Muslim crusade in Europe. The magazine represents both political and sexual pornography, not responsible free speech.

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