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August 26, 2007

Pastor Calls for Death of Church-State Separationists

From the Baltimore Sun, August 26, 2007:

Until last week, "imprecatory prayer" was not in many people's vocabularies.

But then the Rev. Wiley S. Drake, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., urged his supporters to use Psalm 109 to focus prayers directed at the "enemies of God" - including the leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

...

The controversy flared Aug. 14, the day the Washington-based group asked the Internal Revenue Service to probe the tax-exempt status of Drake's congregation.

...
Under the heading, "HOW TO PRAY," he listed all 31 verses of Psalm 109, in which King David appeals to divine justice. Drake provided his congregation the King James Version of the psalm, including Verse 9, which says: "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

This is Bruce Godfrey, aka "The Crab", spewing anti-theocratic bile from the sleepy "Serial Mom" suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland.

When some Muslims in the Middle East call down "death to America" because of our foreign policy, we are understandably concerned.  Our error comes when we fail to sound the alarm at domestic radical clerics who call down death and grievous misery upon their critics and their families. I don't expect that God will smite down the leadership of Americans United for the same reason that God did not smite down Dover, PA, after Pat Robertson filed a celestial application for a terrestrial smiting of that town.   The reason that God did not smite down Dover when its school board decided to comply with common sense, the law and a court order in ceasing to engage in religious instruction in its schools under the rubric of intelligent design is simple: God does not exist, a fatal flaw in God's professional qualifications for the position of  celestial smiter of wingnuttery's critics. 

The "not existing" part is hard to overcome in the job interview. What does concern me, however, is terrestrial smiters, such as those who vandalized the Unitarian Universalist church near my home for its brazen failure to be homophobic and doctrinally orthodox as defined by several presumably (for that county) Protestant critics who spray-painted their theological and moral criticisms in the dark of night.  Their more violent brethren might not use spray paint but powder and lead to render someone's wife a widow and his children fatherless.  Abortion clinic bombers and arguably even Timothy McVeigh follow logically from the same sort of mentality.

It should be noted that Americans United asked only that the IRS investigate a probable violation of the tax code.  Churches may indeed endorse political candidates but ONLY if the churches don't ask the federal government for a special exemption from income taxes for the church itself AND for their donor flock to the extent of their donations/fees/dues, etc.  This church has been living tax free in exchange for being a so-called charity, though "member-supported private social organization" seems a fairer description factually unless the church is actually feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless, rather than reading ancient manuscripts about doing the same.  This church pretty blatantly violated this law according to reports.  So AU asked the government to take a look; the response from the church was a call for the killing of AU's executives, allegedly by "God" but presumably in practice by someone else.  Since God does not exist, it's his followers who have to clear the "celestial in-box" of required smitings filed by our nation's radical clerics. 

This story passed almost without notice in the American "press."  I recall another nation, one less flirtatious with or accommodating of right-wing religious violence.  Did I actually hallucinate the USA of my elementary school years?

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Comments

This was the greatest entry on this blog EVARZ!

I disagree; the author oversimplified a number of issues and exhibited undue bias. Plus his handling of HTML needs a little work. Had regular management been here, it would have exhibited more class, but fewer pop-cultural references to Maryland, most likely.

Recently, intercessory prayer was found to be be ineffective for sick people (why do scientists have to waste their time on crap like this?); in fact, the ones receiving no prayer did slightly better, so pray away, Rev., Drake.

By the way, Pharyngula tells us that Coral Ridge Church has a "groundbreaking" documentary demonstrating the path from Darwin to Hitler. One of the featured "experts"? Ann Coulter! I love my enemies, all right. They make me feel smart.

Yeah, weird how so many religionists (perhaps all) refuse to believe that their sacred whatjamajig can take care of her/his/its/their own smiting. At the same time, they're all over the idea that she/he/it/they can heal sickness and guide your check-writing hand and (with only minor earthly interference) get your black-sheep cousin to stop looking at other girls that way.

On the "heal sickness" note -- and especially the check-writing hand note -- I see one of our own radical clerics is back in business after being exposed as a BS artist by James Randi in the 80s (on the Tonight Show, no less). Welcome back, faith-healin', head-smackin', check-cashin', no-shame-havin', possible-Dickens-character-bein' Peter Popoff!

Fanaticism kills, no matter what form it takes . . .

Fanaticism kills, no matter what form it takes . . .

Fanaticism kills, no matter what form it takes . . .

Oops . . . sorry . . . didn't mean to blast the multiple postings . . . it appears to have been a consequence of backing out . . .

Namaste . . .

Nothing wrong with a few pop-culture references to Maryland, particularly Serial Mom, which has one of the funniest scenes in moviedom ever: the cameo appearance of the band L-7, best described in John Waters’ own words, helpfully provided by Mr. “Crab” Godfrey:


153. INTERIOR HAMMERJACKS.

On stage, "CAMEL LIPS", an all-female grunge-punk-metal band, dressed in their trademark skin tight slacks that gave the group their name, perform their hit song "Gas Chamber". The monstrous but beautiful LEAD SINGER bellows and snarls the lyrics as the DRUMMER, a brain dead drug idiot, hits herself on head with drumstick in between beats as criminal looking biker-chick GUITARIST plays her instrument and mock-humps it with sexual abandon.

The audience of on-the-edge kids goes bezerk, guzzling beer and slam dancing with frightening intensity

A musical movie scene right up there with Peewee Herman’s platform shoe, bar top dance number to “tequila” in his eponymous film. Two tunes I consider to be religious music, though the good Reverend Drake might not agree.

The lyrics to “Gas Chamber”, the song L 7 plays at Hammerjacks (a real venue in Baltimore) were written by Baltimore native Waters (I’d refer to him as Baltimore’s greatest citizen, but that honor goes to Spiro Agnew.) Unfortunately, no video clip of the L 7 scene seems to exist on the web. Now that it’s Sunday and you’re all churched-up, you might try looking though. Googling the phrase “Camel Lips” will get you all sorts of, um, interesting sites. You can get the lyrics –indecipherable in the movie- here.

True story about Hammerjacks. The following does NOT reveal client confidences and can all be confirmed from a court file in Baltimore.

The infamous institution Hammerjacks was adjacent to I-395, i.e. the on-ramp to I-95 immediately south-southwest of downtown. A very well-known landmark, a Mecca for blue collar white folks from north Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City looking to do some severe head-banging. When the Baltimore Ravens came into town, Hammerjacks reluctantly surrendered its famous location to the Maryland Stadium Authority and moved to much less interesting, way-scaled down digs in downtown proper. Most people in Baltimore knew where Hammerjacks had been; an infamous landmark now sadly gone, replete with mourning. Maybe the equivalent of learning that Studio 54 had given its land up to Madison Square Garden's annex and moved next to the New York Stock Exchange or into the basement of Gracie Mansion.

Anyway, we sued Hammerjacks' parent company over a minor disputed carpentry repair, not relevant in itself. Hammerjacks had never bothered to change its "primary place of business" on Maryland's corporate record keeping office, minor oversight, so the secretary in our office prepared service of process based on what Maryland had officially in its records - the old address, not unreasonable and it was compliant with the law. Our contracted process server stated under penalty of perjury on his affidavit weeks later that he served Hammerjacks' president at the old location, which was by that time premium parking for Ravens season ticket holders or the like.

Where was the president of Hammerjacks at the date and hour when the process server swore he served him in parking space number XX where his bar had once been? Vacationing in Mobile, Alabama, replete with Alabama rental car and hotel receipts to prove it. Unfortunately, process servers cannot be disbarred for perjury, unlike the lawyers who hire them.

That, my friends, is Baltimore in a nutshell.

If prayers have real power, is praying for someone's death actually encouraging it?

"I disagree; the author oversimplified a number of issues and exhibited undue bias."

I disagree and will only admit to a small amount of bias. And by small I mean virtually zero. So there.

It is wrong to characterize all religions as somehow medieval and backwards.

While I am a deeply religious person I have never felt motivated to give my money to hacks, defame the discipline of scientific inquiry, pray for divine intercession for any reason or harm another person.

Faith doesn't indicate insanity or stupidity. The insane and the stupid have a habit of corrupting faith.

People like Rev. Drake never seem to pause and ask themselves why the rest of us might want separation of Church and State.

"Dear God.
Lightning bolt.
You KNOW who I mean.
Amen."

It sure does seem like we all entered an inverse bizarro world, no doubt.

I think it is planned to keep everyone off balance.

Best to just ignore them, and get a rope.

You'll soon see I am being moderate.

Thomas - just as threats from self-appointed "imprecators" among Middle Eastern Muslims usually pass without comment from other Muslims, suggesting silent acquiescence, so did this man's call for the killing of his church's critics pass without comment from leading Christian leaders of every denomination throughout the country. Indeed, it would be hypocritical for Pat Robertson to do so; he has done the exact same thing, repeatedly.

I will be more impressed with the morality of Christians when they punish and condemn, rather than tolerate and regard as their brother, "imprecators" like the good Reverend Drake.

It's not enough - morally - to decline to fund those who call for the murder of their critics, or to refrain from joining the call for murder oneself.

Where do you think the Koran gets all the stoning, and multiple wives, and subjugation of women stuff from? The Bible.

and subjugation of women stuff from?

You say that like it is a bad thing Mud.

Don't get your panties in a bunch, I was just kidding.

Every group has to have a radical or two.

Funny funny. Maybe you don't understand that the reason calling for the death of someone is wrong has nothing to do with whether or not God exists. Same with vandalism.

If you want to go there what about priests tortured to death in Albania under Enver Hoxha or Stalin's campaigns against the Orthodox Church, as well as against Islam in the USSR and other Christian faiths? Fanaticism? Sure.

Like a poster said, fanaticism in general is bad. You can't associate it purely with people who believe in God. What about the French Revolution and Robespierre?

Just because people take offense to the notion that religious extremism is wrong because God doesn't exist doesn't mean that they endorse fanaticism.

You studied analytic philosophy, you should know this.

Summerisle, any shortcomings that exist in the piece should be blamed on its author, i.e. myself, the guest blogger who wrote it. I did not study analytic (or other) philosophy formally.

I am not sure your first sentence is grammatical and syntactical English but I think I understand what you tried to say. I did not claim that the REASON that calling for death is WRONG is the non-existence of God. To paraphrase, you state that the question of God's existence is unrelated to the immorality of murder or, by extension, the solicitation or advocacy thereof. I agree; it's completely irrelevant to the immorality of murder which I regard as self-evident or trivial.

My point about the pastor's call for the deaths of his enemies is not that it's immoral (of course) but that it is ineffective because the pastor's celestial hit man does not exist.

The fact that dogmatic totalitarians espousing atheism as an official enforced ideology (Hoxha) or a de facto enforced ideology (Stalin) killed priests and millions of others in Albania and the USSR has nothing to do with the issue at hand. It is a "tu quoque" pseudo-argument or perhaps a "tu quoque" by invalid proxy. Ditto with Robespierre and the French Revolution. You further advocate a straw man pseudo-argument that mischaracterizes the point of the essay: not all murders or public solicitations of murder are done for religious reasons, but this essay deals with the ones that are. You are free to write your own essay of course, but those references do not constitute a rejoinder to this post in any way. "So's your mama" is not an argument, and Stalin and Hoxha are not my/our "mama."

"Just because people take offense to the notion that religious extremism is wrong because God doesn't exist doesn't mean that they endorse fanaticism." Again, to reiterate, religious extremism isn't wrong BECAUSE God doesn't exist; religious extremism that advocates murder or solicitation of murder is wrong, period. NOT, as you seem to have misread, because God doesn't exist, but irrespective of that issue. If some religious people "take offense" (as opposed to disagreeing) that an atheist will state the non-existence of God as a reason for the non-existence of the wrath of God inflicted on Barry Lynn, that's their problem.

Perhaps a more precise statement of your points would facilitate a less trivial discussion. I suspect that you are arguing against some other essay you may once have read, not this one (though perhaps I am wrong.) I do maintain that those who knowingly fail through laziness to condemn severe injustices in their communities give the appearance of acquiescence or tolerance of those injustices. It is not enough for Christians not to endorse a Christian call to murder; nationwide Christian silence in the face of such a call shocks the conscience of decent people and should shock yours.

People like Rev. Drake never seem to pause and ask themselves why the rest of us might want separation of Church and State.

I LIKE separation of church and state (and I'm probably more like Rev Drake than I am like you.) What I DON'T like is your version of separation of church and state, which is basically "let's get our men with guns to take their money and not give them ANY say over how it's used; they're religious, so they should just acquiesce."

My dear Crab,

Ah, Hammerjack's. When I take the kids to Camden Yards, they have no clue as to the ghosts that haunt that space beneath the overpass. Oh, how I miss the days of those All Mighty Senators/Monkeyspank shows.

Cheesy Sam, it's a bit disingenuous to refer to taxation, the system by which our society covers its governmental expenses, as "let's get our men with guns to take their money".

Basically, if they want to be a 501(c)(3) organization, they can't endorse a candidate. If they want to be a church that endorses a candidate, that's perfectly okay too, but then they can't be a 501(c)(3) organization and have to pay their taxes just like the rest of us do.

If they don't want to pay taxes *and* want to engage in political campaign intervention, then there's a problem.

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