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War of the Word

Posted on Mar 25, 2008
AP photo / Jamie-Andrea Yanak

God and country: Pat Robertson, above, has once again sided with the Republicans in warming to Sen. John McCain.

By Robert Scheer

Would God ever damn America? Is there anything we have done or could do as a nation that might court such severe judgment from an almighty, or is there a peculiar American exemption from God’s wrath? The prediction of God’s damnation for bad behavior is made in both black and white churches.

One authority on such matters, the Rev. Pat Robertson, didn’t think the latter when he blamed the ravaging effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Lord’s retribution against those who “shed innocent blood.” Robertson’s reference to legalized abortion cited a passage from Leviticus that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright also might have been thinking of when he sermonized: “The government ... wants us to sing ‘God Bless America?’ No, no, no ... . God damn America! That’s in the Bible for killing innocent people,” a reference to African-Americans sacrificed on ghetto streets.

While the “innocents” about whom they spoke are different, the scriptural reference seems to be the same. As Robertson put it, in a statement preserved in a video clip posted on the Internet by Media Matters: “I was reading yesterday ... about what God has to say in the Old Testament about those who shed innocent blood ... ‘The land will vomit you out,’ ” which he related to attacks “either by terrorists or now by natural disaster.”

Robertson, a firm ally of Republican administrations, has not always been warm to the presumed GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, although the two recently mended their strained relationship. However, in this season of pastor-baiting, McCain has his own problem, having expressed his thrill in receiving “the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee.”

Hagee, citing a planned “homosexual parade,” had previously told National Public Radio that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment of the people of New Orleans for “a level of sin that was offensive to God.” Obviously, the almighty with whom Hagee is on intimate terms is in need of MapQuest, given that New Orleans’ gay neighborhoods were among the ones least impacted by the hurricane.

Hagee long has been denounced by Catholics for labeling the Vatican “The Great Whore” and blaming Hitler’s genocidal policies on his having “attended a Catholic school as a child.” A Hagee issue that has some current relevance to the Iraq disaster is his blasting of the Roman Catholic Church for sponsoring the Crusades, which “plunged the world into the Dark Ages.”

In a warning that imperial adventures lose some of their luster with the passage of time, Hagee wrote in his book “Jerusalem Countdown”: “The brutal truth is that the Crusades were military campaigns of the Roman Catholic Church to gain control of Jerusalem from the Muslims and to punish the Jews as the alleged Christ killers on the road to and from Jerusalem.” What will future theologians say about George W. Bush’s crusade to liberate Iraq, shedding the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents?

I know what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would say were he alive today, for it would be consistent with his denunciation of the Vietnam War in a sermon at New York’s Riverside Church a year before his assassination. Recounting his difficulty in spreading the message of nonviolence and personal responsibility to the very ghetto youths that the Rev. Wright has worked with for four decades, King stated, “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

King delivered that speech the year Wright ended his six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy, for which he received three commendations from President Lyndon Johnson, whom King was confronting. No doubt Wright was influenced by King’s oratory decrying “the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens ... in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” And neither could Wright

I respect Barack Obama’s right to repudiate his pastor’s comments, as he did, but I respect even more his refusal to throw the man overboard in a practice we witnessed all too often with the Clintons when they came under right-wing attack. Hillary did it again Tuesday, telling the right-wing Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial board that Wright “would not have been my pastor.” So she says, but the record shows she was there in the White House on Sept. 11, 1998, when her husband posed for a photo with the Rev. Wright and was grateful for his support in the midst of that wrath-of-Leviticus blue dress flap. Ingrate.


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By Aegrus, March 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

felicity, you speak to the heart of the matter. Religion should have no bearing on what a candidate can provide politically for America. I still see nothing anti-American about anything Wright said. We really need to get past this religious test nonsense because it is a non-issue only serving to distract from the fact Obama is the best candidate running for president, and has run a flawless campaign appealing to both his and our authenticity and hope for a better way.

These silly nay-sayers will be eating their words come January when Obama is sworn in, and all the Hillary supporters will fall in line with Obama when the Fall elections happen because there is really no way to see McCain as a relevant player this year after you take the Clintonian speak out of the picture.

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By Aegrus, March 26, 2008 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

^The definitive comment on this article.

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By felicity, March 26, 2008 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment

nothing.  ‘We’ demand that Obama leave his church/should have walked out long ago.  Is it too far-fetched to interpret our demand as putting a potential candidate through some sort of ‘religious’ test before he can run for office?

Are we going to begin ‘censoring’ preachers in the pulpits of American churches?  Are we going to ‘forbid’ people from attending the churches of their choice, or, even forbid certain churches from opening their doors for business? 

If we’re going to put ‘teeth’ in our demand, we’d better close Wright’s former church, send him to the Gulag, and send Obama back to the streets of Chicago.  That’ll fix ‘em.

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By ender, March 26, 2008 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

God Damn Pat Robertson!

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By SamSnedegar, March 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

If you introduce religion into any discussion, you eliminate any chance that anything intelligent will be said or heard. What is worse than the priests lying to you purposely and purposefully is when they believe their own shit and think they are telling the truth.

No one will argue that a lot of good cannot come from religious beliefs and habits, but religion can’t by its very nature keep from introducing conflict and strife. Talk of crusades and you talk of war and killing and torturing and lying and all the things which religion OUGHT to eschew and exclude.

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By God Almighty, March 26, 2008 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To the high-maintenance television evangelists, you need to know something. In announcing God’s hunger for worship, the thing you sell as healing, you are portraying me as vain. Please get a regular job and leave the rest to nature. I don’t run events on your nice little planet. The planet itself clears out all the litter by herself over time.
Katrina is not a disaster because I don’t like homosexuals. I like almost everything.

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By bozhidar bob balkas, March 26, 2008 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

in the recent balkan wars relig’n h. played a role. however, there were other causes for break up of Yugo.
as in all wars miseducation and disinformation in balkans, americas, europe (asians were neutral) was also a very strong cause for the 4 serb aggressions. until early ‘94, US was supportive of serbs, Both left and the right in canada/us h. also supported serb aggressions. clinton turned against serbs in ‘94 because, i educe, he was by this time reeducated. state dept’nt (SD) took a long look and found, lo and behold, that they only knew ab. 1% of what there’s to be known; of the 1%, 90% was in error.
there r so many misconceptions ab. balkans that it would take hours if not days to debunk all the fallacies ab us.
lets just enumerate several salient ones, please?
1)balkanization. a pejorative label. imperia looked down on these peoples seeking selfgovernance. they desired that serbs rule the untermenschen.
2)serbs were interested only in a greater serbia or its dictatorship.
3) a serb in belgrad parliament shoots dead to PMs and fatally wounds Croat leader, Stjepan Radic, while wounding 3 mor croat MPs
4)king proclaims a Diktatura; changes the name of the country from SHS to Yugoslavia.
5) serbs were partisans. tacitly implying following falsehoods: only serbs were partisans and all serbs were partisans. Left/Right evaluated this as truth.   
this may suffice. we croats do acqnowledge that ustashe, plural of ustasha (lit’ly, upstander) h. slain ab. 90000 serbs, 30000 croats and delivered jews to germany. the 2 demographers, bogoljub popovic, a serb, and zrnjavic, a croat set the number of deaths from all causes in yugoslavia at ab. a million and number of slain serbs in croatia at ab. 90000. serbs h. asserted that ustase h. slain 1500000. UK set the numbers of dead serbs at 3-700000. communist gov’t gave the figure of ab. 1500000 for all yuga. thanx. more can be said, of course.

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By skmacksk, March 26, 2008 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

Dear Mr Scheer,
Thank you for putting all this in its proper political context!!!!

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By Joe, March 26, 2008 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fantastic point and great comments here.  Wish this stuff got more play in the mainstream media…

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By MAR, March 26, 2008 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

America damns itself by its actions; it doesn’t need a god. This old superstition and religious nonsense that holds so much of the US (and the world) at sway is the cause of most of our grief - Ireland, the Balkans, the Middle East and so on, not to mention domestic problems. If there were a god, one of the first things we would have to recognize is that he gave humankind a brain and a mind that any half-intelligent person can use to see what old superstition religion is.

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By Shandooga, March 26, 2008 at 9:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We are prone to assumption. We assume that if there were a God there would be no suffering. We assume that if we suffer, it’s God’s will, choice or responsibility. We assume that we have no power to end or avoid suffering. We rarely, however, assume responsibility for our choices. We know smoking kills but we do it anyway.  Are smokers telling God that they *want* cancer?  If he took away all the world’s tobacco, would smokers thank him for relieving them of the temptation or would they curse him, shaking their fists at the sky?  Have you ever tried to come between a smoker and their cigarettes? What about those who have found constructive uses for the tobacco leaf? 

What’s the point?  If happiness is going to be real, so must the potential for unhappiness (every action has an equal and opposite reaction). For anyone to be happy, they must have access to the things they choose.  For choice to be real, there must be at least 2 options.

It turns out that every thing we can do will fit into one of 2 categories; good or bad. So which do we choose and who do we blame for the result?  Many of us want peace—or so we say—but let a few Knews broadcasts mention the word “terrorist” and far too many of us fall into line; ready to bomb unknown men, women, and children in any country in the world…without any consideration of *their* choice.

So considering that the choice to do bad is evidenced by the suffering that results, who is to blame when suffering occurs?

America has had a hidden hand in much of the world’s suffering. It’s corporations have raped and polluted much of the air, land and water—and they show no interest in stopping. It’s armies march on innocent people at the drop a hat. It’s citizens consume to the point of self destruction, borrow themselves into debt that they cannot repay and shoot their classmates at random.  There’s no shortage of Bibles or churches so not enough religion would not seem to be the problem. 

It would seem that for God to damn America would be a redundant effort; America is destroying itself just fine.

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By J.R., March 26, 2008 at 9:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Douglas said ...
Wow, that picture at the top must be straight from the piggery. No wonder that Asians think that white people are ugly, uhh…...

Douglas -
Where did you get that?  I am an Asian and I think the white people are beautiful.

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By bozhidar bob balkas, March 26, 2008 at 8:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

god, what is that? let’s start this analyses, please, w. following assertion/fact: we can only gather knwoledge w. our 5 senses. to sense baal/allah/god/yahweh one needs at least one more sense. so, if a judaist persist in telling us that hahweh will save jews, make’em light onto us, the unwashed, etc. (this analyses valid also for christians, hindus, muslims) that person could ‘know’ that only if he/she h. special sense(s).
we know, we can’t sense god w. 5 senses. god(s) nor isms can be smelled, tasted, heard, felt, or seen. there’s a purpose for me stating the obvious. my sugg’n to liberating media such as truthdig is to not give these uebermenschen any space nor mention them. the less said ab. them, the better. did u notice that these rabidos run to a doctor or hospital when sick just like we do.

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By purplewolf, March 26, 2008 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

When 9-11 happened the white televangelists claimed it was God’s damnation on America for allowing the practice homosexuality, abortion and paganism. So if you want to be P.C., God has already damned America on numerous occasions in the past few years regardless the color of the religious person who has said it.

Also when is G.W. and company going to be vomited out of the land for shedding innocent blood?

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By Frank Mankiewicz, March 26, 2008 at 7:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey Bob, you should have concluded with Mencken: “The Lord in his wisdom looks out for and protects small children, drunks and the United States of America.”

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By Conservative Yankee, March 26, 2008 at 6:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A point of information here. “America” is the land between Cape Horn (60-S 30 W)and the Beaufort Sea.  80 N 175.

The USA, a political entity, is 48 contiguous States, Two non-manifest destiny States, and several territories including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the American Virgins.

NEVER have I felt anything akin to “God Damn America” I’ve often felt “God Damn these United States.  In other words, I love my country, but occasionally HATE its government! I might add this is a position consistent with “conservative” ideology!

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By Michael Tichy, March 26, 2008 at 6:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your faith and trust should be in the Lord not to a country. That’s what he was saying. Countries altimately fail but the Lord is constant. And why should we be upset when these words come from a man of God. Its not him who wants to be presedent. He’s a patriot to God first.

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By Eric Barth, March 26, 2008 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Military service (no matter how unjust and misguided the war) has been the gold standard for qualification for high office in the U.S. from the beginning, but especially since World War II. Didn’t do much for John Kerry. I voted for the John Kerry who testified before Congress in 1971 about the horrors of Vietnam, and he doesn’t exist anymore. So Rev. Wright’s military record impresses me only insofar as it contrasts with the chicken hawks of the Bush Regime. The Europeans have it right: get religious litmus tests out of politics!! While I’m voting for anyone against McCain, Barbara Ehrenreich’s article about Hillary Clinton’s religious affiliations and ties to Republicans really scared me.

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By Maani, March 26, 2008 at 6:15 am Link to this comment

From a strictly theological point of view, the quick, simple and correct answer to Scheer’s initial question is: yes.  After all, if there is a God (and I believe there is) and God created the universe and everything in it (particularly including the earth and human beings), then He can damn (or bless) anyone or anything that He pleases, for any reason that He unilaterally chooses.

End of story.


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By Aegrus, March 26, 2008 at 5:46 am Link to this comment

Well, the reason Reverend Wright wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton’s pastor is because she’s too busy with the Fellowship seeking political control through false-faith foundations. Sitting with her racist and anti-gay Republican prayer buddies. Signing onto a greater conflict with Iran.

She simply has no time to associate with Wright when she could be furthering her career with a shady, racist, hard-Right neo-conservative organization.

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By jatihoon, March 26, 2008 at 5:44 am Link to this comment

Before we all go hysterical on Rev Wright sermon or sermons, do not forget Rev. Wright most of his youth sang “God bless America,” not only he was singing the song, he was also defending America as a true patriot by serving in U.S. military services with distinction.  Let’s see how many pastors served in the u.s. military services not Falwel or Robertson’s etc.Listen to Rev Wright sermon in its context, he is condeming the America which stands for injustice and not obeing god law,” That all human beings are created equal, and any law or country which break’s that fundamental truth and rights, should be condemed.

“Truth in anger is called Hate,” you can charge him for slaughtering the words or let his, words, come out freely,  but one thing is certain he is no hate America, zealot, he is expressing his frustation for the country which he loves and expect to do right things.

What better forum he can have, then the Pulpit”. Jesus,Buddha and other apostle of peace spread the message of love and peace through their followers or pulpits , condemed those individual or countries who were taking wrong path.Yes! Jesus was crucified for speaking out the truth, but nobody calls him traitor, may be Roman’s.

Millions and millions and millions belived in them, listenend to there message of love and equality ,along with non-belivers . So if Obama, a person who is a true beliver of “Truth and non-violance, was one of the attendee at Rev sermons, how does it make him traitor, it is not his profession or pulpit.” If listening is crime, then stop printing papers, T.V and radios who are all spreading their point of veiw, nobody is calling them traitors.

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By Douglas Chalmers, March 26, 2008 at 4:57 am Link to this comment

Wow, that picture at the top must be straight from the piggery. No wonder that Asians think that white people are ugly, uhh…...

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By Louis Candell, March 26, 2008 at 4:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All this banter about God blessing or damning the United States is ludicrous!  It’s anthropomorphism run amuck.  So many simpletons have the ridiculous belief that God is a being possessing human attributes such as feeling joy, sadness, anger, etc.  Such a God can only be the god of idiots.  Any God worth its salt is far and above such petty emotions.  In fact, it would be beyond any emotions as we know them.  Emotional behavior is within the realm of human behavior. God does not inhabit the same realm.  God is beyond being.  God does not favor any country or people over any other.  I resent having my intelligence insulted by religious morons.

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By Marta Kaye, March 26, 2008 at 3:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Perhaps God is angry, that suppose to be Christians deliberately Lied, to invade a country, that started a war, that killed thousands, especially children, destroyed the land “Jesus” most likely walked at one time. Yes I think “God” May very well Damm us. It does seem our country is going to pot, and check out all that Mother Nature is throwing at us.

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By Douglas Chalmers, March 26, 2008 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

Is there anything we have done or could do as a nation that might court such severe judgment from an almighty…...

Well Americans CAN and SHOULD answer that. The rancid jingoistic nationalism that passes for love of country is a distraction from TRUTH and will inevitably lead you all back to the Stone Age through an endless cycle of wars over shrinking resources.

Hurricane Katrina was the great wake-up call and it is still effectively impacting the US some two and a half years later. A lot has been learned from its effects but there is a lot more which can be done to change peoples’ lifestyles to successfully meet the imperatives of climate change.

Sadly, the great Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 has been effectively forgotten. That is another chance to learn which has been lost as the herd of humanity ever seeks to inanely “move on” to greener pastures. In the end, facing the consequences of one’s actions, both individually AND nationally, can no longer be avoided.

But for the USA, dropping one more nuclear WMD will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. And far more than its reputation will suffer as a result as the rest of the world will have to live with the consequences for millenia. Machiavelllian politics, the military-industrial complex and The Great Game of maniacally egotistical statesmen must all be replaced soon by something much more sustainable.

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By cyrena, March 26, 2008 at 2:06 am Link to this comment

BRAVO! BRAVO! Mr. Scheer!!

Great piece of editorial journalism here. (as usual).

Meantime, as a converted agnostic..(which means that I converted TO agnosticism) I now understand the choices of those who follow the “Word”, and insist on perpetrating evils…

One can either be ‘damned’ by God, or ‘vomited from the land’.

I think I’d rather just be damned, but then…I don’t go along with these evils perpetrated by our government any more than Dr. King did. And, as you’ve pointed out, neither has Rev. Wright.

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