The Great American Melting Pot

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All you readers of a certain age remember Schoolhouse Rock, right? Everyone loved Schoolhouse Rock as a kid. Remember this one? The Great American Melting Pot As was the case with most of the Schoolhouse Rock videos, I just kind of dug the tune as a kid and didn’t pay much attention to the message. But what an accurate message it delivers – we are a melting pot. We are a nation that has brought together so many disparate people and cultures into one beautiful mixture that makes us not only more unique, but also stronger than any nation on the planet.

I’ve written here before about my feelings on diversity, so I won’t rehash them in their entirety. But I will just reiterate what the Navy taught me about diversity – it is undeniably a strength. Having people from every walk of life made the Navy so much stronger than it would have been had we been a more homogeneous organization. Diversity does the exact same thing for us as a nation – it makes us stronger. Valuing the diversity we have and recognizing it as a strength only helps us all. It is such an advantage for us to be able to count on contributions from men, women, and transgender Americans; from whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans; from Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and atheists; from rich, middle class, and poor Americans; from those who speak English as their primary language, those who speak English as a secondary language, and those who do not speak English at all; and from straight, gay, and bisexual Americans.

And that’s what has me thinking about diversity today – the desire to discriminate against non-heterosexual Americans that has become so prevalent today exemplified in the ridiculous, bigoted, and unnecessary “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” recently passed in Indiana. What was the motivation to pass this bill? Had religious freedom in Indiana been eliminated? Did it need to be “restored?” Of course not. This was clearly a move by the GOP and the religious right in Indiana to infringe upon the civil rights of the LGBT community. They wanted religious people in business to be able to deny service to members of the LGBT community.

Why alienate and ostracize these Americans? Didn’t we decide in 1964 that segregation, discrimination, and inequality are not what we’re about as a nation? Didn’t we make a commitment then to allow for the fair and equal treatment of all? So why does this Republican and religious segment of the population want us to go backwards?

Look, we don’t all have to like each other to be a great nation. We don’t all have to approve of how each citizen lives their life, the decisions they make, how they dress, what music they listen to, what kind of food they eat, what deity they do or do not worship, what language they speak, where they live, or who they love to be a great nation. But we MUST value and appreciate the diversity of our citizenry, we MUST support equal access to and protection of the law for each citizen, and we MUST recognize the humanity in each of our citizens in order to be a great nation.

And that’s my biggest issue with the religious right – they want special privilege. They want our laws to be based on their beliefs. They want our schools to teach their beliefs. They want our elected officials to adhere to their beliefs. They want to perpetuate the myth that our country was founded on their beliefs. Well religious right – no. We are not now, nor have we ever been a Christian nation. We are a secular nation. There was a time when Christian theocracies dominated the planet. It was called the Dark Ages for good reason. I fully support everyone’s right to worship whomever they want however they see fit. But that worship doesn’t get to extend into the public square. It doesn’t get to infringe on anyone else’s rights of citizenship.

The good news I think is that the vast majority of Americans, including a majority of “people of faith,” do not agree with this push to legalize discrimination. The vast majority of Americans know that we made the right decision in 1964 and want to see us continue to move in the direction of progress and equality. Look at how quickly that pizza parlor had to shut its doors after voicing their intent to use the law to discriminate against the LGBT community.

That said, if most Americans don’t want to see these types of laws passed, why are they being passed? Enter your GOP. The GOP is controlled by two interests: the super-rich and the religious right. Isn’t it interesting that every major potential Republican Presidential candidate supports the RFRA and Governor Pence’s actions related to the RFRA? Why do the ALL the Republican candidates support such an unpopular viewpoint? Because the Republican electorate has been overrun by these tea partying types who want to see us regress on the issue. The candidates know they have to appeal to their base. And their base is a scary lot.

But they’ll die soon. The youth will take their place and I have a lot of confidence in the youth. Our young people look at being gay the way that my generation looked at being left-handed. No big deal. Something you’re born with.

The question for the GOP is what is the long range plan? What do you intend to do as your base dies and isn’t able to teach their bigotry to the next generation in large enough numbers to get you elected? You’ll either return to a more centrist party of reasonable people that is inclusive of all Americans or you’ll have to die too.

I’m fine with either decision.

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Je Suis Charlie

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Some random quick thoughts on what happened in Paris…

12 people died. 12 people will never go home to their families. 12 people will never enjoy another day. 12 people’s lives were violently, suddenly, and tragically ended. And for what? Freaking cartoons. Because Muslims have some stupid idea that their prophet can’t be insulted and can’t be depicted in any fashion.

Well, first of all let me just tell all the Muslims out there that your prophet was a charlatan. He was no prophet of any god, he was a con man. And you’re all a bunch of sheep, no different than the followers of Jesus, Yahweh, or any of the other imaginary friends invented by men. Additionally, Muhammad was a particularly despicable human being. He was a hypocrite who limited his followers to 4 wives, but imposed no such limit on his own marriages. He was a pedophile who married a 9 year old child. He was a barbarous murderer who regularly and violently killed his enemies and those who criticized him. He was a practitioner of genocide who ordered and participated in mass executions of Jews. He failed on the most basic moral question ever – human beings owning other human beings. He bought, captured, sold, and impregnated slaves. So, as far as the major religions of the world are concerned, I take particular issue with Islam because the guy at the top was such a horrible human being. Screw Muhammad and screw Islam.

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And that’s the point I really want to make here I guess – that while I KNOW all religions are superstitious, nonsensical creations of man, I take particular issue with Islam. This one is particularly dangerous. We don’t have Hindus flying planes into skyscrapers. We don’t have Jews blowing themselves up in the market. We don’t have Christians beheading people in the public square. Other religions aren’t kidnapping hundreds of girls for going to school. But we do have all those things and more with Muslims. The common denominator is always Islam. Let’s take a look at just the last 30 days and see what Islam’s contribution to the world has been:

15 Dec – 2 dead in Sydney hostage situation

16 Dec – 142 dead (including 132 children) in Peshawar school attack

16 Dec – 26 dead (including 16 students) in Yemeni suicide car bombing attack

17 Dec – 150 women (some pregnant) killed by ISIS for refusing to marry ISIS fighters

18 Dec – 32 dead and 185 women and children kidnapped in Nigeria

18 Dec – 230 victims of ISIS found dead in mass grave in Syria

22 Dec – 20 dead in bus bombing in Nigeria

24 Dec – 33 dead in suicide bombing in Iraq

25 Dec – 9 dead in attack in Somalia

28 Dec – 30 dead in attack in Cameroon

7 Jan – 12 dead in Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo office

8 Jan – 100 dead in attack in Nigeria

Anyone keeping score? That’s 786 deaths, scores of injuries, and 185 kidnappings just this month. All in the name of Islam.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have an Islam problem.

Want to know how big a problem? I wasn’t even able to type 500 words out before news comes in that there are at least 2 more dead in a hostage situation in Vincennes related to the Charlie Hebdo attack. The hits just keep coming, huh?

And what do so many of my friends on the left have to say about this? They say we shouldn’t criticize Islam, that the perpetrators of all this violence aren’t “real” Muslims, that to associate Islam with these attacks is racist, and even that religion should somehow be off limits from ridicule in order to avoid these situations – that religion deserves respect.

Seriously. They say that. With a straight face. And apparently believe it.

Well, screw that too. Religion is an idea. A monumentally stupid, horrible, and damaging idea. It isn’t off limits. It deserves no respect. People deserve respect, not ideas.

The left has even gone as far as to invent a new word that is supposed to equate criticism of this religion with racism – Islamaphobe. They contend that to call Islam out for exactly what the hell it is is to be a racist. Islam is not a race. There are Muslims of every race. Ridiculing Islam and pointing out the role it plays in the death and destruction we see every day on the news is not racism. That makes a little less than no sense.

But I’m not here just to condemn Islam, I will be critical of Muslims too. I keep hearing about all these “good” Muslims that are not represented by these terrorists. Funny thing for me is, I never see them. It’s very easy to see Muslims protesting a Danish cartoonist’s depiction of their prophet. They even come with signs showing us all how peaceful their religion is. But when Muslims murder people over a freaking cartoon, where are these so-called good Muslims? Why are the streets empty? Where are the signs condemning the violence? These “good” Muslims seem to have the same publicity problem all the “good” cops have – there just is no awareness of their efforts to rein in the bad apples in their ranks and hold them accountable. It’s almost like they agree with the actions of the bad apples. Weird.

Want to know why it seems that way? Because it’s true. They do agree with the terrorists in troubling numbers. I really don’t have the time to break down all the numbers here, but I will refer you to an excellent source of data compiled by the Pew Center available here. Just click the “vast new study” link there to get a pdf copy of the full report. Take some time and look at how many Muslims support sharia law, death for those who leave Islam, subjugation of women, terror attacks in certain circumstances, etc. It baffles me that this many people can think this way.

And we all know exactly what it takes to make people think that way – religion.

We, as civilized human beings, have to be united on this issue. We can’t make apologies for Islam. We can’t attempt to make ourselves feel better by “taking up for the good Muslims.” I leave you with the words of a brilliant author who was driven into hiding by a worldwide fatwa calling for his death for writing a book that was never read by those who wanted him dead for writing it.

‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion’. Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

-Salman Rushdie

Jesus Take The Wheel

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So, I ran across this interesting article from Fort Wayne, Indiana. A woman named Prionda Hill tells us that while driving down the road, God told her that he would take the wheel from here, so of course she obeyed (would hate to be burned and tortured for eternity for disobeying the big guy after all) and let go of the wheel. She almost immediately runs over a motorcyclist named Anthony Oliveri, almost killing him. What is the motorcyclist’s reaction? He thanks God for sparing him from death (which is puzzling since death is supposed to lead to an eternity of life in paradise for believers).

Seriously. It happened.

Let’s examine the possibilities here.

They’re both right. God really did tell her to let go and then he promptly steered the car right over Anthony breaking every rib on his left side, damaging his spleen, bruising his kidney, and giving him about as bad a case of road rash as once can have; but out of mercy for his loyal follower, decided not to kill Anthony. What can we surmise about God if they’re both right? I contend that this would mean God is a real asshole who goes out of his way to hurt people for his own sick enjoyment. What a sadist.

Prionda is right. If God really did tell her to let go, and really did mow over Anthony, is there any other conclusion to be reached other than God’s an asshole? He’d actually be an even bigger asshole because if only Prionda is right, the sole focus of God was in inflicting pain on Anthony with no regard for his life at all.

Anthony is right. If Prionda is as crazy as I hope we all know she is, and only Anthony is right, what does that say about God? I suppose the religious folks would make the case that it speaks well of God that he intervened and prevented his loyal follower from dying. I would contend that if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then he surely could have responded a second earlier and prevented his loyal follower from enduring such pain and injury. Why would God allow Anthony to be hurt so badly and then come in late and save his life? He’s still a real asshole for not helping Anthony when it would have done Anthony some good.

They’re both bat shit crazy. For this to be the case, one must assume that either there is no invisible space guy at all (welcome to the world of reason!) or that God doesn’t involve himself in the mundane daily activities of people. If one holds either of these positions, then one would believe that Prionda heard nothing. I find that a very reasonable position and I hope you do too. One would also believe that either there is no God to intervene on Anthony’s behalf, or that the God who is there doesn’t work that way. I find one of these views significantly more reasonable than the other, but I at least appreciate the intellectual honesty of the other. If they’re both wrong, what does that say about God (assuming he exists)? A couple things I think. First, it says that he isn’t involved in the activities on Earth. He doesn’t intervene in man’s actions. He is a hands off God. I would think that would be what believers in God would want to argue considering how many awful things happen on Earth that God does not prevent. Secondly, it says quite a bit to me about his followers. If they’re both wrong, they have both dramatically inflated their importance to and relationship with this God. It says that they are egomaniacs who actually believe that the universe was created exclusively for them and that its creator is intimately concerned with every trivial detail of their personal lives.

So basically it comes down to if God exists, he’s either a real asshole or his followers are. Which is it religious people? Of course, there is an out. Enjoy free inquiry, reason, science, and logic. Return to the atheism you were born with, reject the indoctrination of your parents, and just go one God further.

Hypocrisy Lobby

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This recent Hobby Lobby decision by the SCOTUS has me infuriated. It pushes us a little further down the road to theocracy. I won’t get into all of my disagreements with this horrendous decision, but just wanted to point out the ridiculous hypocrisy involved in Hobby Lobby’s position/case.

Corporations don’t have “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Why did the founders/owners of Hobby Lobby incorporate? To separate their personal wealth, assets, and liability from that of their business. A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from the owners of the corporation. Hobby Lobby can’t have this both ways. They can’t form a corporation in order to avoid personal liability for anything that happens within the corporation AND then expect to extend their personal religious beliefs to the corporation. It’s either separate or it isn’t. If you want to make the case that your personal religious beliefs are being trampled upon, you should do so in a sole proprietorship.

Contraception was fine when it was an investment. For years, Hobby Lobby has had their 401k plans investing in companies that manufacture the very things they now claim to have such a “sincerely held religious objection” to. Here a few companies Hobby Lobby was invested in for years that were ok as long as the investments were paying off:

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries – makers of Plan B and ParaGard (a copper IUD).

Actavis – makers of a generic Plan B and distributors of Ella (another emergency contraception).

Pfizer – makers of Cytotec and Prostin E2, drugs used to induce abortions.

Bayer – manufacturers of Skyla and Mirena (hormonal IUDs).

AstraZeneca – owners of a subsidiary that manufactures Prostodin, Cerviprime, and Partocin (all drugs commonly used in abortions).

Forest Laboratories – makers of Cervidil (drug used to induce abortions).

Aetna – insurance company that covers surgical abortions, abortion drugs, and emergency contraception in many of their policies.

Humana – insurance company that covers surgical abortions, abortion drugs, and emergency contraception in many of their policies.

It isn’t a difficult thing to see what your 401k invests in. As a matter of fact, it’s a required report that is made to these people who supposedly held these devout objections to what all these companies did. Why was there never an effort to remove Hobby Lobby investments from these companies if the religious belief was so sincere?

China not only allows abortion, they mandate it. If Hobby Lobby ownership can’t bear the thought of their money being spent on something they view as abortion, why is the vast majority of the crap on their shelves manufactured in China? China has a population problem and actively uses abortion to help solve it. If this religious belief is so sincerely held, why aren’t the Hobby Lobby owners buying American-made products?

Hobby Lobby doesn’t get to say what every dollar they’ve ever touched gets spent on. I so tire of this idea that the employer gets a say in the insurance plan because the employer pays for it. No. The plan is part of the overall compensation package given to the employee. It is the employee’s plan in exactly the same way that it is the employee’s paycheck. Hobby Lobby has no right to interfere in the employee’s usage of their healthcare plan anymore than they have the right to dictate how an employee spends their paycheck.

Their “science” is wrong. The Hobby Lobby owners claim they object to any form of contraception that involves preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. You know, because that would be interfering with God’s will. The problem is that many of the menstrual cycles of women involve fertilized eggs leaving the body after not being implanted in the uterus. God seems ok with that. They don’t understand contraception, the many things it is used for, how it works, etc. Leave these things to doctors, not glitter salesmen.

They only object to women’s reproductive health issues. When it comes to Viagra and vasectomies – game on! If God wanted Larry Limpdick to procreate, wouldn’t he have allowed Larry the ability to obtain an erection? Why should Hobby Lobby interfere with God’s will when it comes to men? And why is Gerry Gigolo allowed to have insurance coverage for his vasectomy (so he has no parenting worries), but his female co-workers can’t get an IUD?

Look folks, this clearly isn’t about any “sincerely held religious objection.” If it were, they wouldn’t be buying from China, investing their money in contraception manufacturers via their 401k plans, or allowing men to do whatever they want. This is about the need to control women. It’s what religions do.

All the credit. Zero blame.

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I recently was on a business trip to Denver when my phone started blowing up. My aunt was calling and leaving messages continuously. I was in a conference, so I couldn’t answer or check the messages. But about the time the fourth time my phone vibrated, I knew I needed to excuse myself and figure out what was going on.

Before I let you in on what happened, let me give you a bit of background on my aunt. She is in fact my aunt, as she is my mother’s sister. But she is only 13 years older than me and it really seemed a small 13 year spread growing up. We always had more of an older sister/younger brother relationship (which is my favorite sibling relationship thanks to some spectacular older sisters in my life). I’ve always been very close to my aunt which is saying a lot. I really am not close to many relatives (sure that is my fault), but for those that I am close to, I am very close and fiercely loyal. And she is one of my favorites which means we are very close and I would do absolutely anything for her.

She always treated me as a peer when I was growing up which meant the world to me. Here she was, this young, cool, great-looking girl who went out of her way to include me as a friend, not as a kid she was related to. That always made me feel good about myself. She took me to my first concert, she took me along on some of her dates (and I willingly gave feedback on how suitable I thought these guys were), I was with her when I drank my first beer in a bar, she bought me my first Rush album, she made me dance the first time (this was the song) in public, and we had countless great times on my grandparents’ boat.

As we grew older, that 13 year age difference continued to shrink. I married and had kids first. She married and had kids later. I’m not sure when it happened, but eventually that age difference was completely gone. We counted each other as friends. She sought my advice on difficult issues she faced. She asked Susanne and I to take care of the kids should something happen to her. She trusted me and I her.

So my aunt has always been one of a handful of people who are very important to me. I’ve always appreciated our relationship and I’ve always loved her a lot.

Back in Denver, I stepped outside and called her back. I immediately knew something was very wrong. She was struggling to speak and fighting the tears. Eventually the word came out. CANCER. It struck me so hard. The weight of it crushed me. But as I am prone to do, I hid my reaction. I wanted to be strong for her, to reassure her, to encourage her, and to let her know that I loved her. I didn’t want her to sense any negativity, worry, despair, or dread from me.

I tried to take an analytical approach to the conversation. I wanted to know the facts, what WE were up against, and how WE were going to beat it. What type of cancer? Is it contained? What is the prognosis? She didn’t have a lot of answers then, but of course, she had a plan. That’s the kind of person she is. Her plan involved the assemblage of a team. Each team member would have certain responsibilities for oversight within a specific area of her treatment or life. She wanted me to be a team member and tasked me with assisting with her finances. I of course agreed. I was encouraged that she had a similar analytical approach and that she was already planning for her success. I think she may have done more to pick me up during that conversation than the other way around.

Another team member was charged with team organization and communication. The communication has been primarily through e-mail amongst all the team members and some additional family and close friends. And apparently everyone on the e-mail distribution list is very Christian. Well, save one.

So she began her fight, the team members began their assignments, and the e-mails started flowing.

Of course there was a bunch of the “we’re praying for you” stuff early. It irritated me. I mean seriously – what the hell does prayer do? Do you really have to ask your god nicely to save my aunt? Why can’t he just do it because it’s the right thing to do? Is he such a horrible being that he won’t intercede unless you bow down, kiss his ass, and beg? My aunt has been a believer and fan of the guy her entire life – shouldn’t that be enough for him? Why does he require prayer? But I let it all go and made no comment. There were actual, real issues to be dealt with and I didn’t want to distract anyone from their task.

Her doctor said she needed to immediately remove all stressors from her life. The kids would have to move in with their dad. The dog was going to need to go with them. Everything she was working on from that proverbial front burner would not only have to be removed from the front burner, it would have to be taken completely off the stove and forgotten about for now. And someone was going to have to take in my grandma who was living with her.

Initially, my uncle was going to take in Grandma, but then he had his own family situation that prevented that. So, out went the e-mail requests. And so began the prayers to their deity to find someone to take Grandma. Lo and behold, their prayers were answered. My grandmother’s sister would take her in until my uncle could do it. Apparently this was viewed as a miracle by these people. Seriously. A miracle. A woman’s sister agrees to let her stay for a few weeks and that was proof to them that their imaginary friend was on the case. How ridiculous is that?

Here are a few comments that appeared in the team e-mails regarding Grandma’s sister agreeing to put her up a few weeks:

“Praise God – that is one less thing to worry about!”

“This is a beautiful invitation. What a blessing!”

“Keep those prayers going that Grandma views this as an opportunity to visit with her sister.”

“Per Romans 8:28, God could bring several good things from this!”

“God is so good.”

God is so good. Really? Can anyone explain that to me? Go ahead and explain to me as if I’m a complete moron with zero understanding of this God character.

This is one thing about religious people that irks the hell out of me. All this praise was heaped on their god for apparently interceding and working his magic. Sans supernatural-being magical intervention, I guess her sister wouldn’t have taken Grandma in for a few weeks. So everyone thanks the Lord and credits him with this miraculous event.

Well, I hate to urinate in everyone’s Wheaties, but fuck your non-existent god and the bullshit, Bronze-age text he rode in on. How can you as a decent human being thank him for something that clearly would have happened regardless and completely ignore the fact that he has allowed my aunt to be stricken with this horrible disease? She has to undergo multiple surgeries, months of painful chemo and radiation treatment, deal with her entire life being turned upside down – all with no guarantee of any return to normalcy. Isn’t anyone going to address the fact that their god is a real asshole for doing that to my aunt?

You can’t have it both ways Christians. If your god deserves praise for finding Grandma a place to crash for a few weeks, he deserves all the blame for putting my aunt, his loyal follower, through this horrible ordeal.

Underway. Shift Colors.

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Ok, I know. We didn’t exactly get out of port on schedule. My apologies for leaving you guys at your sea and anchor stations so long. I just haven’t found any spare time to dedicate to writing over the last several months. But let’s do this – take in all lines, sound one prolonged blast, shift colors. We’re underway.

So, what I promised all those months ago was to start off with a discussion of race and religion. And here’s the unanswered question that has long baffled me – how in the hell can any black American be a Christian?

Let’s start by considering one of the key reasons that leads me to conclude that all religion is crap – the importance of geography to religion. Isn’t it remarkable that the vast majority of adherents to each religion happen to follow the religion most prevalent in the place they grow up? If a person is born and raised in Saudi Arabia, what religion are they going to be? We all know they will be a Muslim. Why? Because that’s how religion works – it indoctrinates kids into the religion of those who surround them, particularly their parents. Virtually all of these religions claim to be the one true path to a one true god. They can’t all be right, only one could be right. So if one of them actually is the one true path to the one true god, why are only certain segments of the world’s population going to be exposed to that one universal truth? If the one true religion is Christianity, why does everyone born and raised in Saudi Arabia basically get an eternal death sentence thanks to the geography of their parents? If the one true religion is Islam, why won’t anyone in South America get a chance to go to paradise for eternity? In short, if there is an all-knowing, all-powerful god, why does he suck so badly at getting his all-important message out to everyone?

In the beginning, what religion were the ancestors of today’s black Americans? Although there had been some missionary work in western Africa, they most likely weren’t Christian. Islam was the only one of today’s major religions which had spread to Africa in any significant level at the time, but it was mostly in eastern Africa. Based on their geography in western Africa, they held a multitude of varied religious views. Most believed in a single, supreme deity who was responsible for all of creation, but some practiced polytheism. Perhaps the most common religious view amongst those western Africans who would be enslaved and brought to America was the pursuit of a harmonious balance between nature and a chosen deity not unlike what we typically associate with Native Americans. So the first question that I can’t get beyond is if these western Africans held a sincere religious belief that had been passed on to them through generations of their ancestors, why would they discard it in order to adopt that of their captors? Why toss aside what your parents and grandparents had taught you was that one universal truth in order to side with the one universal truth of the people who had enslaved you, brutalized you, and destroyed your family? A large part of that answer is that it was a long process that didn’t happen overnight. Early generations held firmly to their customs, language, religion, etc. But it still happened. Perhaps another part of the answer is that the god of the master must surely be perceived as more powerful than the god of the slave. I don’t know.

One might think that part of the answer could be that the captors forced or encouraged the slaves to convert, and that did happen eventually. But initially, the Christian slave owners were not big on the idea of sharing the story of Jesus with their slaves. It seems they didn’t think sharing any ideas of spiritual equality with the slaves was a good idea. I’m not sure why they were so hesitant because I do know there were plenty of lessons in the bible that could have been taught to slaves that had nothing to do with equality. A small sampling of passages:

  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.  (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)
  • If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years.  Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom.  If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year.  But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him.  If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.  But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children.  I would rather not go free.’  If he does this, his master must present him before God.  Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl.  After that, the slave will belong to his master forever.  (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)
  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.  (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
  • When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished.  If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.  (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)
  • Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)
  • Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed.  If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful.  You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts.  Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.  (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)
  • The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it.  “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly.  Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.”  (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

And yes, if your religion’s official guidebook details the rules for people freaking owning other people, please don’t hold it up as any source of moral authority. Thanks.

Now to be fair and honest, I understand that this was not an overnight conversion by the masses. I get that there were a lot of factors that contributed to the eventual conversion to Christianity by black Americans and that the conversion happened over the course of many years. So I understand that it can be explained away through a multitude of rationalities. My point on abandoning the African religions in favor of Christianity is just that I personally don’t think I could have ever taken on the religion of my captors and I don’t understand anyone else genuinely doing it either.

And beyond the fact that regardless of how long it took to occur, black Christians have denied the religious views of their ancestors in favor of those who initially enslaved their ancestors, let’s look at how Christianity has been used against black Americans throughout their struggle for equality in this country.

As I mentioned earlier, Christian slave owners were initially reluctant to share their religion with their slaves. But, eventually they used their religion as a tool to further control their slaves. They figured out a way to avoid the message of spiritual equality and instead convince the slaves that they were slaves because God had cursed them to be slaves. African-American theologian James Cone notes that “In the old slavery days, the Church preached that slavery was a divine decree, and it used the Bible as the basis of its authority.” In E. Franklin Frazier’s Black Bourgeoisie, he makes the point that, “Not only did Christianity fail to offer the … [Black] hope of freedom in the world, but the manner in which Christianity was communicated to him tended to degrade him. The … [Black] was taught that his enslavement was due to the fact that he had been cursed by God. … Parts of the Bible were carefully selected to prove that God had intended that the…[Black] should be the servant of the white man.”

The greatest crime against black Americans was carried out by using the Bible and Christianity as a justification. Let that sink in for a second. Slavery was said to have a Christian Biblical justification and yet black Americans today are Christian. WTF?

Following the end of slavery, things weren’t exactly sunshine and rainbows for black Americans. Jim Crow and segregation made things extremely difficult and really kept blacks in a position closer to the slavery they had just escaped than to true equal membership in our society. And where did Christianity stand on these issues? Of course, it was once again used as a justification for the supposed racial superiority of whites and the need to maintain “separate but equal.”

Following the Civil War, a new organization named the Ku Klux Klan was formed. It waged war against against black Americans. The Klan was formed as a Christian organization. Go to their website today and the first message you read is from Pastor Thomas Robb which urges potential members to follow the “Christian way.” That “Christian Way” has always been the Klan way as they brutalized black families across this country, carrying out a campaign of terror and murder all in the name of Christianity.

Now you might view the Klan as a fringe element, a minority group with warped views of the religion that operates outside mainstream society. Fair enough, one doesn’t need search long to find mainstream elements of society who use Christianity to justify segregation and white superiority. Take the case of Theodore Bilbo, a two-time Governor of Mississippi and former US Senator.  During his successful reelection campaign of 1946 Bilbo made a call to action, “I call on every red-blooded white man to use any means to keep the n—–s away from the polls.” Bilbo was a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan, telling Meet the Press that same year that “no man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux.” During a filibister of an anti-lynching bill (yes – Christian conservatives supported lynching), Bilbo claimed that the bill “will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate.”

I obviously could provide innumerable examples of Christians using their religion not only to prove their racial superiority, but also to oppress races they found inferior, but I hope you agree that’s not necessary. The fact of the matter is that Christianity was once again used as a justification to segregate, discriminate against, disenfranchise, lynch, terrorize, and oppress black Americans.

Recently it seems some people (especially white, religious people in my experience) have started to believe that there are no more racial issues in this country. They make the case that racism was a dark chapter in our collective history that we have overcome. One need look no further than the Supreme Court of the United States to see just how prevalent and mainstream this opinion has become. I disagree. It is a current problem.

Please understand that I am not black and to make any statement that I understand the black experience in this country would be pretentious and disingenuous. But, that said, I do have some personal experience with racism visiting my front door. My oldest daughter is a brilliant, beautiful, and accomplished young woman of whom I could not be more proud. She lives in Orlando with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is everything a parent could hope for in a partner for their child – he is an intelligent, accomplished, caring, good person who aspires to greatness. He happens to be black. My neighbors apparently don’t approve of that fact and have taken to voicing their disapproval amongst each other. Of course none of them addresses it to me. But it struck me that all of these Christian neighbors of mine still find nothing incompatible between their racist views of my future son-in-law and their religious beliefs. To me, that really goes to the point that while we may have made progress, we aren’t there by any stretch. And religion continues to hold us back in getting there.

Take slavery for example. People like to pretend that it happened hundreds of years ago. No. It didn’t. It was 150 years ago. I have known people who knew people who were slaves. That’s insane. My great-grandparents lived in a world with people who were once owned by other people. That isn’t some hundreds of years ago experience, it is real. And think about just how recently it was illegal for an interracial couple like my daughter and her boyfriend to marry. It wasn’t until 1967 (my dad was 24 years old) that the Supreme Court struck down all anti-miscegenation (no interracial marriage) laws. That decision in Loving v. Virginia, impacted 17 states. 17 states in 1967 had made it illegal for blacks and whites to marry. Those 17 states also happened to be the most religious/Christian states in the union. Hmmm. And it wasn’t until 1998 in South Carolina and 2000 in Alabama that official bans against interracial marriages were removed from all state constitutions.

And don’t kid yourself in thinking those bans had nothing to do with Christianity. Christians supported those bans and did so with more Biblical justification. Consider this quote from Judge Leon M. Bazile, the trial judge in the Loving case. “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

As I look at the word counter below and see that I have exceeded 2500 words, I recognize it’s probably beyond time to wrap this up. So, to wrap up, I again ask, how in the hell can any black American consider himself to be a Christian? It was not the religion of your ancestors, it was the religion of the people who enslaved and brutalized your ancestors, it is the religion that was used to justify the enslavement of your ancestors, it is the religion that was used to justify segregation, it is the religion that was used as justification for discrimination, and it is the religion that is at the heart of the root cause of every struggle Black America has faced. Again, I recognize that I can’t say I get the black experience, but I can take a guess as to how I would have reacted to these issues had I been a black man. And my guess if that I would have been much more Malcolm X than MLK, much more Black Panther than NAACP, and any god-damned thing ever but a Christian.

Thoughts?