Frederick Clarkson notes in an Institute for Public Accuracy (where I work) news release today that the Trump administration, following a long standing agenda, is using "religious liberty
" to pursuing anti-women and anti LGTB policies, on this, National Prayer Day.
A microcosm of how the U.S. government is aggressor and paints itself as victim, the religious right at times attempts to play the role of the oppressed while oppressing others.
But what gets me is that we don't talk about other people being prosecuted by the state for religiously inspired actions. When religious folks fought against slavery, their religious motivation was properly cited by them and others (I think).
But now, we have for example, people protesting against U.S. government drone assassinations in upstate New York outside Hancock Air Force base where drones are being operated to kill people in the other countries. My colleague Norman Solomon just wrote an important piece about what's happening there: "Finding New Homes for Lethal Drones
Some -- though certainly not all -- of the protesters against drone killing emanating from upstate New York are people associated with the Catholic Worker or other religious movements. And they are frequently using religious imagery. Norman notes that one protest outside the military base had a nativity tableau. The signs featured around Christmas time were "Peace on Earth" and "If Herod Had Drones, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Would Have Been Incinerated" outside the military base.
Around Easter time, just last month, protesters depicted three people being crucified upon drones. Read their "Good Friday
" statement: "As Jesus and others were crucified by the Roman Empire, drones are used by the U. S. Empire in a similar fashion. In Roman times, crosses loomed over a community to warn people that they could be killed whenever the Empire decided. So too, our drones fly over many countries threatening extrajudicial killings of whoever happens to be in the vicinity."
Years ago, I wrote a piece for the media watch group FAIR about how the major media ignore the religious left
. But part of the reason for that is that frequently the left -- including at times even the religious left -- ignores the religious left.
And part of the reason for that might be that because the religious right has so dominated discourse around religion that people don't want to be associated with being a "bible thumper" who forces their beliefs on others. Jesus did instruct his followers to pray in private -- but then, seemingly contradictorily, admonished them not to hide their light.
Of course, lots of people are "against" drone killing in that they might say something about it, blog about it, tweet about it. What's interesting about what's going on in upstate New York is that they are confronting it, frequently facing jail time. (They are hardly alone in this -- as I write, activist Desiree Fairooz
of CodePink is facing jail time for laughing at Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearings.)
We're all weak in many ways, but I've found that frequently, people who are religiously motivated are -- sometimes for good and sometimes for ill -- more prone to putting themselves on the line. It's possible that religious conviction and community embolden people to act out their convictions.
And the folks in upstate New York don't seem to be doing what they're doing because they hate Trump; they didn't start doing it a few years ago because they hated Obama. They don't hate the people at the military base. They are doing it because they love the people -- who they don't know -- who are being killed by their government using drone technology. And perhaps they love the people at the military base enough that they don't want them destroying their souls by killing their fellow human beings on the other side of our planet.
The challenge before us is to develop ways of relating with each other, working with each other, to achieve a more peaceful and more just world. To do that, we need to develop the structures that are both steeped in meaning, drawing from the best of traditions, while they are universal, free from chauvinism.
Such structures need to be resilient enough to withstand the onslaught of oppressive corporate and state forces -- and gentle enough so that people want to be part of them. Such structures, should they succeed in bringing about a better world, may well be the same structures that provide what we actually need as humans in that future world. It's possible that attempts like those happening in upstate New York are some of those structures in embryonic form.