Sutherland: Hate Is Not a Family Value

Journey-Inward,-Journey-OutIt’s been sixty-five years since George Orwell wrote “1984,” his classic description of the totalitarian mindset. 

Thanks to local ideologues like Dr. Robert Meneilly and his church militant, the hate group formerly known as The Mainstream Coalition (like the artist formerly known as Prince), that vicious and dishonest way of thinking survives “Right here in River City!”

Consider the slogans of “the Party” seen everywhere in the dystopian London of the future as imagined by Orwell:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

George-Orwell-and-1984-QuotationThis is a perfect distillation of Orwell’s idea of “double-think,” the simultaneous expression of:

“two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them…To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any part that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary.”

Twenty years ago this month (July of 1993), the Right Reverend Robert H. Meneilly launched a very strong and very public attack on the Religious Right.  His remarks were the subject of an op-ed piece in The New York Times that gained national attention for his arguments, which can be summarized as follows:

1)    The mixing of politics and religion is dangerous, i.e. clergymen violate the separation of church and state if they use their authority and following as ministers to advocate for political positions and candidates.

2)    No one should try to impose his religious beliefs on others in the form of public policy or law.  Otherwise we run the risk of becoming a theocracy.

3)    Candidates for public office should disclose who their backers are, specifically the organizations that they are supporting, so that voters can make an informed decision on who to support based on full disclosure.  In other words, no stealth candidates!

4)    The best political tradition is that of sensible moderation, in other words a centrist philosophy that is not tied inflexibly to either the Republican or Democratic parties or the liberal or conservative political traditions.  The hallmark of true moderation is a rejection of any form of extremism, of the left or the right;

5)    Prejudice or hostilities based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation have no place in public discourse.

MeneillysThat’s the rhetoric from Meneilly.  So what is the reality?

1)    Mixing politics and religion-Dr. Bob’s ’93 op-ed piece was only the last in a long line of political pronouncements he’d made over a forty year span.  Using his authority and following as pastor of one of the biggest church’s in the metropolitan area, Meneilly had spoken out repeatedly in the 60’s in favor of civil rights and against the war on Vietnam. The N.Y. Times op ed piece was, in fact, based on a sermon he’d given at his Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village.  The formation of the Mainstream Coalition was announced by Meneilly at a press conference held in the parish hall of that church.

(Politics in the pulpit are apparently acceptable, as long as they are liberal politics.)

2)    No religiously-based political belief—I’m sure Meneilly and his followers feel that their Christian faith compels them to speak out against war, poverty, and racism, and in favor of social justice, the environment, and world peace.  Why are those faith based positions acceptable and opposition to abortion and gay marriage not?

3)    No stealth candidates or organizations—The Mainstream Coalition was founded in 1993 along lines suggested by the Democratic Congressional Committee, which provided the seed money to start an umbrella organization, The Interfaith Alliance, to counter the Religious Right.  (Meneilly has said the Interfaith Alliance includes the former Mainstream Coalition as a “member.”) The National Jewish Democratic Council published a handbook titled; “How to Start A Mainstream Coalition in Your Community.” (Written by the aptly named Donna Marx.)

Why are none of those partisan ties disclosed?  (I can anticipate the argument that since the Mainstream includes prominent Republicans it can’t be considered a partisan group.  Ms. Marx’s handbook sagely advises to be sure to include registered Republicans in your mast head so this argument can be made!)

4)    Rejection of Extremism and Embracement of Moderation—As an argument, who could disagree?  The problem is that the Mainstream Coalition has yet to cite any example of left wing extremism.  All their attacks are made against those on the Right.  (They are like the French Popular Front of the 30’s, a coalition of Socialists and Communists, whose motto was “No enemies to the Left!)

Swomley

Swomley

In fact Meneilly harbored extreme leftists within his organization.  One such extremist was the late Dr. John Swomley, a professor at the local St. Paul’s School of (Liberation) Theology.  Swomley belonged to a group that had to register as foreign agents of the North Korean government during the brutal Kim Il Sung dictatorship and which advocated improved relations between the U.S. and the world’s (then and now) most brutal police state.  Previously, Swomley had advocated draft resistance during World War II and had over the years described the United States as a force for evil in the world.

Swomley was the author of the Mainstream Coalition Position Paper on the Separation of Church and State (“The one thing, above all others, that drives the MAINstream Coalition…”).

Why would they let him speak for their organization given his extreme views?

Meneilly himself let the “moderate” or “centrist” mask slip a little in a front page editorial he wrote in The Mainstream Messenger in which he said he was “honored to be considered a liberal!”  Why shouldn’t he when no one has noticed the inconsistency until now?

5)    Prejudice, hostility based on race, religion, and ethnicity is unacceptable—This is perhaps the most Orwellian of Meneilly’s tactics.  The whole reason for the Coalition’s existence is to scare rich Wasps and Jews into voting against their self-interest.

One way this is done is to convince the Jewish community that not only are evangelical Christians anti-semitic, but any conservative candidates they support are anti-semitic by definition.  Even though abortion is contrary to Jewish scripture, many Jews feel they have to support abortion because the Religious Right is against it! (All this is possible only because of a stupid 1980 comment by a Baptist theologian that, “God does not hear the prayers of a Jew.”  This is the latter day equivalent of a 19th Protestant clergyman who said that the Democratic Party was “the party of rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.”

In one fell swoop, that minister alienated the GOP from all Southerners, all Roman Catholics, and everyone who ever had a drink.  These are the gifts that keep on giving for Republicans and conservatives!)

220px-Inherit-the-Wind-posterMeneilly also knows how to work the Mission Hills crowd.

(Several of the early fund raisers for the Coalition were held at the homes of Hallmark executives.)

As I’ve said in prior posts, the Old Guard Republican machine linked up with Meneilly and company early on.  They figured correctly that the best way to appeal to the country club crowd was to label the Religious Right as their social and intellectual inferiors.  (It’s one of the few ways affluent executives and professionals can show their contempt for working people and still be politically correct.)

This is why the Kansas evolution controversy was such a God send (as it were!) to the Mainstream Coalition and the Moderate Machine.  Why these rednecks don’t even believe in evolution!  Haven’t they seen “Inherit The Wind”?

Nowadays the attacks are less on the “radical Religious Right” than on “Tea Partiers.”

The message is the same though.  The enemy is redneck white people, not Al Qaeda.  (Recall New York Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks about the Times Square bombing.  The Jewish followers of the Mainstream Coalition are more afraid of Baptists than terrorists.)

falwell-395bMeneilly and company pitch their remarks, in other words, to appeal to the fears and resentments of the particular audience.  I even heard Professor Swomley describe the Religious Right as a Papist conspiracy that originated “in a secret conclave in the Vatican in 1979.”  He was speaking, of course, to the Lutheran congregation to whom he also made a number of bigoted anti-Catholic remarks designed to appeal to their presumed prejudice.  (I’ll admit that I did like the image of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson bowing down to kiss the pope’s ring!)

elmer-gantry2The truth is that Meneilly and his followers will appeal to ethnic and religious tensions if they think that will get them support, even if that means saying different things to different audiences.   The idea that as a result this blow-dried Elmer Gantry and his group are the recipient of every conceivable “brotherhood,” “community,” and “public service” award is the ultimate Orwellian inversion:

     “…everything was all right, the struggle was finished.  He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.”

 

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29 Responses to Sutherland: Hate Is Not a Family Value

  1. Bob in Eudora says:

    Holden Caulfield thinks it’s all b#llsh#t. I tend to agree.

  2. Nick says:

    “Hate Is Not a Family Value”

    Well…unless you’re a member of the Phelps family. Then it’s the defining charachertistic.

  3. chuck says:

    Good article, I think you might like –

    http://www.debbieschlussel.com/

    she cuts through the BS every day.

  4. smartman says:

    Politics is Religion
    Religion is Politics

  5. Orphan of the Road says:

    Of course hate is a family value. Pedophiles have values, sexual predators have values, politicians have values.

    The values reported through the NY Times are virtues. Just as the Europeans told the Natives there was One True God, they then told him there were hundreds of ways to value the virtues of Christianity.

    As a heathen and a pagan, I find it very amusing how the good Christians are more than happy to impose their values on everyone. Pretty sure they would get bitchslapped if Jesus walked amongst them.

    Family values, what a joke.

    • Paul says:

      As a Christian I find it very amusing how the good heathens and pagans lump all of us together. Get to know me before you speak for me.

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        I can only rely on the body of works left behind by the world’s major religions. The bad apples, just like the squeaky wheel, get the attention.

        The twists and turns of organized religion have left me using Thomas Jefferson’s Bible as a reference point.

        My judgements on religion do not carry over to individuals. I might turn someone’s sacred cows into ground beef but my beliefs could be as easily ridiculed.

        Basically a pagan and a heathen on the side of the rebel Jesus.

        • the dude says:

          I can kinda get behind Jefferson’s Bible.

        • mike says:

          The communist block countries killed people FOR being religious. Stalin, Mao, etc. were responsible for millions of deaths. Hitler was into Norse paganism and the occult s documented on the History Channel’s “Hitler and the Occult” among others. I can paint as broad a brush over your beliefs as you can paint over mine.

          • Orphan of the Road says:

            “I care nothing for principles — they are lumber and rubbish. What concerns our happiness and welfare, as affectable by our fellow men, is conduct. ‘Principles, not men,’ is a rogue’s cry; rascality’s counsel to stupidity, the noise of the duper duping on his dupe. He shouts it most loudly and with the keenest sense of its advantage who most desires inattention to his own conduct, or to that forecast of it, his character. As to sin, that has an abundance of expounders and is already universally known to be wicked. What more can be said about it, and why go on repeating that? The thing is a trifle word worn, whereas the sinner cometh up as a flower every day, fresh, ingenuous and inviting. Sin is not at all dangerous to society; what does all the mischief is the sinner. Crime has no arms to thrust into the public treasury and the private; no hands with which to cut a throat; no tongue to wreck a reputation withal. I would no more attack it than I would attack an isosceles triangle, or Hume’s ‘phantasm floating in a void.’ My chosen enemy must have something that has a skin for my switch, a head for my cudgel – something that can smart and ache. I have no quarrel with abstractions; so far as I know they are all good citizens.” Ambrose Bierce

  6. The Stomper says:

    Dwight; Good to see that you are back to political topics. Having Dwight Sutherland only write book reviews is a bit like using a ferrari to only deliver pizzas. While I’m more on the liberal side of the fence and think highly of Reverend Meneilly, for the most part I think your points are well taken. This missive should certainly stir the pot. Calling Meneilly an ideologue is over the top in my view but I appreciate your perspective, scary as it is. Thanks and keep it up. I look forward to reading the back and forth in the comments section.

  7. Mr Brown says:

    BRING BACK THE TITS AND GET RID OF THIS CRAPFEST

  8. mike says:

    I have always found it hypocritical when people on the left say that ministers should lose their tax exempt status for stating their political views publicly, then support REV. Cleaver, REV. Sharpton, REV. Jackson etc. We would not have even had a civil rights movement without ministers like REV. Martin Luther King! Our founders wanted to protect our places of worship from the government, not the other way around.

  9. Cheech lifting weights says:

    Speaking as a leftist, the Left is very good at moving the goalposts to win arguments on the national level and using buzzwords that appeal to emotion.

    They have also managed successfully to maintain the impression that their ideas are the ideas of the moral, just, righteous man. In the 80s and 90s, in a time where the Left was weakest, was the time where the Right in the US was most successful at portraying their parties’ values as the moral high ground.

    To some extent people want to feel smart, they want to feel moral, they want to feel validated. Liberal identity politics and inclusivity allow the voter to feel that ‘warm-fuzzy’ (Gay marriage, voting for a half-black president, pillorying people who cross rhetorical lines) without actually removing any bread from their own mouths (social safety nets, Kenysian spending to kickstart the economy, wealth redistribution or subsidization to preserve the middle class, etc).

    The causes celebrated now by the Left are essentially wedge issues. They have little to no bearing on the country’s future but they help to galvanize the base and increase the numbers of followers using people’s psychological desire not to be shamed.

    The GOP does this too, but less successfully in the last 20 years as they have become the party of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent, with most party members voting against their own economic interests.

    • Dwight Sutherland says:

      An excellent,perceptive analysis! I went to a MAINstream Coalition event in the aftermath of the Democratic disaster in the 2002 mid-terms. The crowd was in an incredibly surly mood and wanted to tear me limb to limb because I laughed out loud at some of the more ridiculous comments-“What can we do to stop the overwhelming conservative bias in the news media?” “How can anyone disagree with us and still win elections?” “Just wait until the body bags start coming home from Iraq! We’ll see how popular Bush is then!” It was clear that the audience,which was overwhelmingly Jewish,was far angrier with and frightened of Republicans than with militant Islam. It didn’t matter that the jihadists would have killed everyone in the room both as Jews AND Americans,the real threat was John Ashcroft. (At that years Purim celebrations at synagogues in Washington the Jewish equivalent of the anti-Christ was mentioned;the Hamen,the embodiment of all earthly evil.After 9-11 he was said to be Attorney General Ashcroft. Jon Stewart said (pre 9-11) that as a Jew-not as a liberal,not as a Democrat,not as a civil libertarian- he could not be in the same room with John Ashcroft. This is taking tribal loyalties to ridiculous lengths. Meneilly and his confrere’s play on this. (Two local Jewish groups cosponsored the forum I attended along with The Mainstream.) Several local professors spoke and made highly biased remarks;”You should be ashamed of letting the Republicans win some of these races!”and”I’d pay good money to see Dennis Moore run for the Senate!” Presiding over this scrupulously non-partisan event was your genial host, the Star’s political correspondent Steve Kraske. It really was like something out of The Ministry of Truth(i.e. the Propaganda Ministry) in Orwell’s ‘1984’. Don’t worry,though I’ll get to the Republicans in my next post. (Think of the alternative reality to Jimmy Stewart’s hometown in “It’s A Wonderful Life”-‘Pottersville’, i.e.a laissez faire autocracy.)

      • The Stomper says:

        Dwight; As a tribesman myself, I have to disagree with your statement, or at least your implication, that most Jews are more afraid of republicans than radical Islamists. Just my opinion but decades ago I do think most Jews were probably democrats based on the issue of separation of Church and State. Truman’s recognition of the State of Israel certainly stoked that fire. Today a large number of my religious brethern have migrated to the conservative side of the political spectrum solely based on a fear of jihadists and the threat they pose to Israel as well as America. Not sure what percent but it is growing rapidly. Mike made a good point above when warning against painting over beliefs with a broad brush. Neither Jon Stewart nor the speakers at the Mainstream Coalition meeting you attended speak for me. Just being a Jew does not confirm membership in the democratic party. I will admit however, that on a personal level, I do maintain a bit of fear of those on the religious right. Growing up I was told by more than a few “Christians” that I was going to Hell based on my religious beliefs. I’d like to believe that I have an equal shot at the “Promised Land” based on how I live my life, not on who I worship. I think one’s political leanings should be determined by what one believes the role of government is and should be based on issues and problems that exist in our country, not by individual personalities in either party or what religious leaders espouse.

        • Dwight Sutherland says:

          When anti-semitic mobs raged through Crown Heights,Brooklyn in the early 90’s,smashing shop windows and beating up Hasidim like something out of Hitler’s Germany in the ’30s they were not made up of members of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was not Gary Bauer who said that “Judaism is a gutter religion.” It wasn’t Pat Robertson who used the Tawana Brawley case to jew bait the N.Y. Attorney General Robert Abrams,it was Al Sharpton,the same man who twice ran for president as a Democrat and who has been assiduously courted by every other Democratic candidate for president for twenty plus years. It wasn’t some mega-church for evangelicals “out south” that recently held an anti-Israel,pro-Palestinian event,it was Meneilly’s Village Presbyterian,just as all the efforts to boycott Israel have been confined to the now liberal old ‘Mainline’ Protestant denominations. The late Hugh( “Pat”)Uhlman of Kansas City could go at length in the letter’s column in Commentary about this kind of stuff in a far more eloquent way than I can. It’s not just that most American Jews are bound and determined to vote Democratic in the face of the most incredible provocations by the Left, but they look seem to look for things to be angry at conservatives for. I like and respect Marvin Snelzer of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau but when he tells me he is alarmed when some hillbillies want to put up The Ten Commandments outside some Southern courthouse(which have a Jewish co-author,i.e “By Yaweh,as told to Moses”)but is not alarmed by Louis Farrahkan I feel I’m dealing with tribalism at it’s most emotional and irrational level. Tell me how I’m wrong.

          • The Stomper says:

            You’re wrong because you are painting with a broad brush. What gives you the insight to say ” It’s not just that most American Jews are bound and determined to vote democratic in the face of the most incredible provocations by the left, but they seem to look for things to be angry at conservatives for ” That strikes me as a pretty outrageous generalization about Jews. Just because Al Sharpton says something stupid, does that mean all blacks are anti-semitic ? Don’t try to wrap yourself in credibility with Jews because of what Paul Uhlman might have said. Give the individual voter some credit to make decisions based on the what they see as important. Step back and take a deep breath here Dwight. We Jews are not all emotional and irrational tribalists.

        • mike says:

          I am probably for the most part what you would consider a member of the religious right. While I don’t agree with most Jews about Jesus, I always remember that Jesus himself was/is Jewish, the Apostles were all Jewish, the prophets were all Jewish, all 66 books of the Bible were written by Jews, and the Jews are God’s chosen people. Any Christian that hates the Jewish people is a hypocrite.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      +10 Cheech

      And Dwight, I notice the level of sophistication in your writing is serving to keep the haters away; well played.

  10. Dwight Sutherland says:

    Stomper-you misunderstand me. There is obviously a deep divide within the Jewish community over not only American politics(The New Republic v. The Nation) but what is best for Israel(AIPAC V. J Street). In fact,the whole neo-conservative movement started because Upper West side intellectuals got fed up with what happened to American liberalism in the 60’s.It was one such neo-con, Milton Himmelfarb,who said with chagrin that American Jews lived like Episcopalians but voted like Puerto Ricans. As a political conservative I want more allies,especially among a people who live for tradition,family,and preservation of the best that the Western civilization has to offer,i.e.natural cultural conservatives.For what it’s worth,I had the same frustration trying to convince conservative Southern Democrats in the ’70s that they would not be condemned to perdition because they voted Republican.That to me is the fun of politics,i.e. to reach out to others outside your own particular community and make allies in a common cause. What I find annoying in politics is when people vote based on who can best skillfully manipulate them based on fear and resentment. The perfect example is the bifurcated pitch on the Iraq war made by the Democratic party,i.e. the GOP was run by anti-semitic televangelists(for Jewish audiences) or by neo-conservative Zionists who drug us needlessly into war to help Israel(for WASP’s).Either Pat Robertson runs the party or Paul Wolfowitz does,but it can’t be both. I don’t think it’s insulting to Jewish Democrats to point out they’ve been scammed in this regard. Look at the fact that Jimmy Carter did everything possible to alienate Jewish voters,likening Israel to apartheid era South Africa,and he still got a majority of their vote running against Reagan in 1980! Obama appoints a woman(Samantha Power)as his National Security Adviser who said the U.S. should consider occupying Israel militarily to impose a settlement on it with the Palestinians and he gets 70% of the Jewish vote in his releection! At the Mainstream Coalition meeting right after 9-11 at the Johnson County Community College there was no mention of Radical Islam,Al Qaeda,or Osama Ben Laden . The only reference to terrorism by Meneilly & friends was to accuse leaders of The Religious Right of being terrorists! There was a reason for that,i.e.it was what their audience wanted to hear.If you’d been fighting this whole thing as long as I have,you’d know that I’m not exaggerating.

  11. The Stomper says:

    First off, my apologies to Paul Uhlman for using his name above when I wrote Paul instead of Hugh.

    Thanks Dwight, Just a few thoughts here in response as I’m watching the All-Star game and want to be brief.

    I don’t agree that if one values tradition, family values, and thinks that Western civilization has advanced the ball further than anyone previously then they are by definition, a conservative. I think there are a lot of democrats that claim those values. Pretty sure I heard a vein popping on that one.

    Southern democrats became extinct when LBJ left the scene. Nixon claimed the South for the GOP and they have pretty much stayed there. I’m guessing that the time spent convincing conservative, southern democrats to vote republican in the 70’s was fun for you. They must have been listening to you closely.

    I too find it annoying in politics when people vote based on who can best skillfully manipulate them based on fear and resentment. However I think the better , bifurcated example is how the GOP was successful in convincing older citizens to vote against their own economic interests by advocating against the democrats “entitlement” mentality and that the threat of government involvement in healthcare is a bad thing for them. Most of them already had government health insurance. That’s certainly the way politics is played and both sides are waist deep in the excrement.

    I can’t argue with you about Carter, however I’d remind us all about the Republican National Convention held here in KC in 1976. The GOP came very, very close to kicking out the “incumbent” president, Ford , and putting in Reagan 4 years early. If that had happened, Carter would probably be the answer to a trivia question.

    I guess the last point I’d make is that I sent in my first post to respond to your comments on Reverend Meneilly. I met the man but I can’t say I know him personally. I do however have many close friends, on both sides of the political spectrum, that were members of his church. Every single one speaks highly of him. The man they describe and the man I heard and read when he was more active seems to be a very different person than the one you describe.

    As you state, there is a big divide in the Jewish community with regards to politics. I’m clearly biased but I’d like to think our tent includes passionate advocates on both sides of the spectrum. I don’t think either party can claim a large majority of us.

    I still luv ya man !!!

  12. John Altevogt says:

    I too have heard many stories of Meneilly’s compassion for the members of his flock, but that compassion seemed to end when the topic switched to evangelical Christians. then he seemed to become a left-wing Fred Phelps spewing hatred and intolerance.

    This is not uncommon behavior among bigots. The same KKK members who could be brutal monsters to members of the black community could be loyal and loving family men among their own in-groups.

    One point that I find fascinating that Dwight mentioned as dicta above is the fact that The Jewish Chronicle denounced Village Presbyterian for hosting groups it labeled as anti-Semitic. Fortunately for Meneilly, and also as Dwight accurately points out, many local Jewish leaders also shared Meneilly’s hatred for local evangelicals far more than some distant Palestinian threat (perhaps in the same way many conservatives now fear DHS, IRS, NSA and the DOJ more than they do the Taliban) and so the long-term relationship with Meneilly and Village was maintained.

    What Dwight fails to mention, at least thus far, is Meneilly’s value as a stalking horse for the sleaze wing of the Republican Party in its intra-party battles. To the extent that it was useful in that struggle the MAINstream was able to maintain the illusion of being a centrist/left organization. However, as it became a more doctrinaire leftist organization (and conservatives concomitantly expanded their base) and opposed some of the sleaze wing’s money candidates (like Adam Taff), the coalition fell apart and it was relegated to the fringes of the JOCO political scene where it remains today.

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