Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time for the truth

It's finally time to say something unpopular but necessary: Many conservative media are, and the Fox News Channel in particular is, influenced by Satan.

Last week's imbroglio concerning right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, who posted a heavily-doctored video that made U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, speaking to the NAACP in Georgia, appear racist -- and picked up by Fox -- was the last straw. You may recall that she ended up losing her job over the manufactured controversy -- but for no other reason, really, than to harass the Obama administration for being in power. And that wasn't the first time Breitbart had done that; last year's ACORN flap, with conservative activists supposedly going to an affiliate in Baltimore and exposing "corruption" and the video being shown on Glenn Beck's show (it's come out recently that ACORN was completely exonerated). Why ACORN? Because during the 2008 general election it was registering people to vote -- mostly Democrats.

Now, saying that anything or anyone is consorting with the devil is a strong charge, some would say irresponsible, and a lot of people will come right out and say that's I'm making it due to my "liberal bias" (an overstatement). But if you understand just how the devil works, it's obvious that his fingerprints are all over this, especially since many evangelical Christians, the people he wants the most to seduce, vote Republican. We're dealing with, basically, the sin of gossip, which by definition is used for destruction, not for edification, and Satan would love nothing more than to sabotage the church's witness by dividing its members along racial, class, cultural and ideological lines.

Quoting Jesus in John 8:44, "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Indeed, his very name means "accuser," slinging distorted or often false charges toward any target that could be used of God.

Trouble is, conservative media over the years -- and we're talking at least since the 1980s -- have consistently twisted stories, often leaving out pertinent information, to support that agenda. I stopped watching the pro-business 700 Club in 1985 for that very reason; one misleading story that it broadcast in 1984 actually involved the church I attended at the time (specifically failing to note that someone that it had profiled had become a pro-labor activist).

The 1990s "Clinton scandals" represented the most obvious incidence of dark forces marshaling against someone in power, with one outlet, a magazine, insinuating without proof that Bill Clinton was using Arkansas state troopers to procure women; another, in this case a newspaper local to me, suggesting that he had had aide Vince Foster, who had committed suicide, rubbed out; and Fox driving a new "scandal" every few months. That did a couple of things: 1) Boosted their own readership or viewership; and 2) Forced the legitimate media to spend precious resources chasing down stories that turned out to be bogus and in the process making them appear that they were protecting the president by not "finding anything." Thankfully, all that was exposed during Bill Clinton's impeachment, with the man who gave Hillary the information on what she called the "vast right-wing conspiracy" going public with what he knew.

But that didn't stop right-wing media from their dirty dealings; in fact, things eventually got even uglier. Remember that when the devil is exposed he often fights even harder; after Jesus refused his entreaties in the desert, he turned up the heat: "All these I will give you if you bow down and worship me."

In early 2007 the Washington Times published on-line a lengthy story about Barack Obama's childhood, saying that he was educated in a radical Muslim school in Indonesia and that it got the information from someone in "the [Hillary] Clinton camp." Thanks to CNN, both charges were proven false -- and what was the Times' response? "Sue us." (With publisher Sun Myung Moon worth over $2 billion, that wasn't going to happen.)

Sadly, even Christian "media ministries" have gotten into the act. Before the last presidential election, a friend tipped me off to a broadcast of Focus on the Family during which two women were discussing Obama's vote against a partial-birth abortion bill when he was in the Illinois Senate.

However, around that time the New York Times published a fuller description of the entire situation. It turns out that the bill in question was tied to another one that was specifically designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, and Obama probably didn't want state money spent on a cause that, as a constitutional law professor, he knew to be futile. (If that sounds weak, consider that the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr., a fierce abortion opponent, vetoed a bill for similar reasons.) As a post-script, after Obama left for the U.S. Senate the Illinois Senate passed a weaker bill.

Now, many conservatives would say, "Aren't the 'left-wing' media doing the same to conservative candidates?" No, they're not, because if they were the conservatives would specifically tell you what they were doing instead of making general charges -- the latter yet another diabolical tactic. You see, other media are far more professional in the way they operate and know they would forfeit their authority if they stooped to that level; not for nothing did CBS drop anchor Dan Rather and three others for airing a 2004 story about President George W. Bush's tenure in the Texas Air National Guard that even the producer who was fired said shouldn't have aired because it needed more information. (But how many people have lost their jobs in conservative media for saying stuff that they knew or suspected wasn't true?)

The point is that conservative media exist not simply to inform people from another perspective because in many cases there is no other perspective. Rather, they attempt to inflame because scapegoating draws viewers and readers and causes people to react. Be advised that if you subscribe to any of them you're likely getting a skewed version of the truth. Or no truth at all.

And one specific entity is behind all that.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The NAACP vs. the "tea-party" movement

You may recall that the NAACP, of which I have never been a member, recently called the "tea-party" movement racist. An unfair comparison? Perhaps.

But given history, an understandable one.

According to a commentary in today's New York Times by Matt Bai, the real issue is generational, not racial or even so much political. He notes that "tea-partiers" are most likely to be baby-boomers, while activists for the NAACP tend to be that age or even older and thus remember the fight for civil rights in the 1950s and '60s and are not willing to put up with folks they suspect threaten such gains.

And in fact, the NAACP has long been on the bad side of right-wing groups. In 1998, after writing an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in which I was a tad critical of the NAACP for taking what I considered an inappropriate stand, a black right-wing newsletter, "Issues and Views," mysteriously appeared in my mailbox at work, and it advised its readers to "take back power from ... the NAACP." Two years later the NAACP ran a voter-registration drive to counter what they saw as below-the-belt tactics by the conservatives, particularly their impeachment of Bill Clinton for ostensibly political reasons -- and its chairman consequently drawing rebukes from then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Small wonder that then-President George W. Bush, arguably the most conservative chief executive in American history, skipped its annual convention until six years into his presidency.

But I was reminded of something in my own life: While I was always aware of the struggle for justice for African-Americans -- how could I not be? -- I never allowed myself to be defined by the struggle. And that caused problems with much of the rest of the African-American community of that day, specifically the 1970s through '90s, as I was always willing to cross such lines to mix with whites. You see, at some point in time you have to move forward and seek reconciliation with those who are, or used to be, opponents. Its failure to do so is one reason the NAACP has little pull among those younger than 40.

I see some of the same issues with conservatives in general and the "tea-party" movement in particular, which is why it has a reputation of racism, deserved or no -- I'm aware of no other groups they work with that don't agree with them on everything. Let's also keep in mind that in 2008 60 percent of the white "youth" vote went for Obama, with even some evangelicals giving the Democratic Party (often considered the "great Satan") a second look.

Bai noted that Gingrich suggests that NAACP members meet with "tea-party" representatives; Bai, on the other hand, suggested that older members of both camps meet with their younger counterparts. I get that -- because the up-and-coming generation isn't inclined to scapegoat their opponents. I think both need to happen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Going on tour

As many of you know, every summer -- I always wait until then because my musical obligations at my church are finished by that time -- I make it a point to visit other churches, generally in the Pittsburgh area. It actually plays to my spirit of "ecumenism"; as much as I enjoy my church and have no plans to leave, I find it a good thing to know what's going on in other assemblies. (However, I do not go to churches that practice closed communion, such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or some those on some Lutheran denominations.)

God's people are there as well, which means so is He. It's possible that you can get so hooked on your own customs, theology, way of doing things that you can miss what He's doing in those churches. After all, He established them for particular reasons, so who am I to argue?

That said, one thing that I haven't gotten used to, and likely never will do so, is the exclusive use of rock music and contemporary choruses in a service, which has happened a number of times. While I have no problem with rock, having played it myself, I personally have come to prefer a variety of styles, including the classic hymns I grew up grew up learning. And I notice that virtually every church I visit is mono-cultural and dominated by one racial group. I guess that's OK for them.

But that's why I keep coming back to mine. -- it reflects the vision God gave me in the 1970s. I know when I start playing again in September, I'll be home, where I belong. And that's the point.