Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Calling out Trump's Rev. Burns and GOP absolutism

       Occasionally I write a column for the Four Corners Free Press out of Cortez, Colorado.  For their August issue I decided to write about the Republican platform, but while doing research I wound up getting side-tracked by their absolutism.  The new GOP demonstrates a contrived sense of superiority, which seems based on a fanciful notion that they alone understand "God" - even worse a conviction that they are somehow God's Chosen People.  Cementing that impression was reverend Burns' off-the-wall GOP convention invocation.

Here I repost my August FCFP column though I've added a couple lines specifically calling out Rev. Burns and pointing out that the God he's praying to is merely a reflection of his own petty partisan bigotry.  It is something that has nothing to do with any ultimate God of Creation and Time, Life and Love! 

It's ludicrous to think the creator of this universe would be picking sides like some trumpeting politician, oh but how the self-certain certainly do. 

I include a copy of Burns' prayer at the end, along with a collection of quotes and links to interesting articles that look at reverend Burns.)

Considering the GOP platform and Trump's Rev. Burns

The GOP Convention gave me a reason to read the 2016 Republican Platform which is the distillation of their rank and file’s world outlook along with their wish list, so it’s worth paying attention to. I had intended to report on it’s sketchy content.  Instead, I found myself overwhelmed by their attitude, which needs to be considered before the content can make sense.

For someone like me, a liberty loving rationalist who’s into the scientific enlightenment, the one that rescued humanity from religious superstition, someone who believes in evidence-based constructive learning about each other and this Earth from which we were born and which we shall all die back into, it’s a horrific document.

What made it especially frightening is its absolute self-certainty, along with a disregard, if not hatred, for all who are outside of their religious/philosophical tribe. It reads like there’s no more room for reason with this new Republican crowd, it’s their way or else, consequences be damned.

Here’s how they start: “We believe in American exceptionalism. We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.”
This sounds more like over-compensating barroom braggadocio than any sort of serious adult contemplation about our complicated world and USA’s place in it.

“Exceptionalism”? America certainly is unlike any other country in the world, but does that make us, its citizens, superior to all other peoples on our planet? Isn’t that totally counter to what our Declaration of Independence declares - “All men are created equal” and all of that.

It’s worth pointing out what most overlook - it’s not we who made our country exceptional. It was the land and resource cornucopia our pioneering forebears found from sea to shining sea. The land and its opportunities made us an exceptional people! It was not the other way around! Yet, the GOP willfully ignores such physical and historical realities.

Finishing their mind-numbing preamble I had the distinct feeling of a people lost in some imaginary past and incapable of absorbing the profound changes in the greater world. Sure, we remain the world’s super power, but given all that has happened these past decades, running around proclaiming our “exceptionalism” seems childish, if not foolish.

The GOP’s Platform frames all our problems as someone else’s fault. Ironically, these are the same people who’ll scream “freedom” and right to "self-defense” and “sanctity of life” yet holier-than-thou feel free barging into a defenseless woman’s life and forcing her to obey their demands regardless of her needs.

Then with flags waving, gleefully go off to distant lands to bomb out entire innocent neighborhoods, never once considering those lives and dreams destroyed by our bombs, or the consequence of inflicting such horrors on people. Now the GOP puzzles over why we have ISIS, as they behave like rabid dogs falling all over themselves to blame Clinton and Obama for all of it.

It seems like they have a pathological aversion to recognizing their own mistakes and constructively learning from them - and god forbid communicating with or learning from an adversary. Thus we are doomed to repeating cycles of escalating disasters.

To me it seems neo-Republican’s are so frozen within their fear driven hateful echo-chamber that new information has no way of gaining access. Instead they double down on giving lip service to ancient tribal holy books and pretend cherry picked passages can guide us in these radically changing times.

Trump’s preacher Mark Burns put it this way during his convention benediction: 
“Lord, we're so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We're thankful that you are guiding him - that we, together, can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus' name - if you believe it, shout Amen!”
Later in an interview he confirms: 
“I was just doing what I've always done for Mr. Trump at his rallies. And that's just to rally the people and to declare to them that - not so much God is on our side, because God represents everybody for those who believe in him, but that - to remind the people, you know, we are a country under God, indivisible.” 
So, God represents everybody “for those who believe in him,” and the rest of us can go to hell.  I'd like to look the good reverend in the eyes and ask him, you actually believe the Creator of this endless universe is that petty?  Really?

I’m still trying to figure out what: “to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus' name,” is all about. What I do know is that Jesus was a great man and a wonderful guide and support to help many of us through our own trials and tribulations - but to think that he’s “God Almighty” and in charge of the solar system and our planet, that’s simply disconnected.

Preacher Burns own words convinced me, he and his flock are too full of themselves to have the slightest appreciation for the unknowable “God Almighty of Time and Creation, Life and Love” or he wouldn’t talk with such simplistic egomaniacal certitude. Their own Bible warns them in the book of Job, God is beyond human understanding! But do any take heed?

No doubt Burns and his fellow new age Republicans have a god they believe in passionately, but that’s their beloved personal affair, a figment of their communal imagination, rooted in primal human dreams and needs. As opposed to being rooted in the physical reality of our evolving living planet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a personal truth, not a universal truth. Nor is it a guide to dealing with our challenging future.

Sadly, I and anyone else who holds these thoughtful views and who openly objects to their childish and oh so hubristic conceit of speaking on behalf of the God Almighty are perceived mortal enemies. It’s tragically counter-productive in an evolving world where more than ever we need each other to keep ourselves honest.

Hello Republicans! I’m Pastor Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina! I’m going to pray and I’m going to give the benediction. And you know why? Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ. And Republicans, we got to be united because our enemy is not other Republicans — but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Let’s pray together. Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, the you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.
To defeat every attack that comes against us, to protect the life of Donald Trump, give him the words, give him the space, give him the power and the authority to be the next President of the United States of America, in Jesus’ name — if you believe it, shout Amen!
                                                                                                                               Pastor Mark Burns

But don't take my word for it.

You Won’t Believe Pastor Mark Burns’ Stunning Benediction At The Rnc Convention (Video)
Posted at 9:23 am on July 19, 2016 by strife

So call me more than a little flabbergasted at the invocation offered by Pastor Mark Burns (someone, I must admit I'd never heard of before yesterday). In fact, I'm a little more than flabbergasted, I found his attempt to weaponize Christ and send him on the hustings in the service of Donald Trump to be gravely offensive.

I don't even know where to start with this. I'm as partisan as the next guy, maybe moreso, … Elections are about moving the nation in a direction that values life and liberty. Ideally, our message will convert some number of Democrats to our point of view, and we don't need to splash blood on our lintels to accomplish that.

More to the point, why would we be "thankful for the life of Donald Trump?" 

What evidence do we have that it was God Almighty guiding Trump through three marriages, untold adulteries, the fleecing and punishing of the most vulnerable in society, garden variety diversion of charitable contributions to personal use? 

Did God the Father actually inspire Trump to a life of greed, miserliness, and malice? Was God his inspiration when he attacked Ted Cruz's wife and accused Cruz's father of being part of the JFK assassination? Out of curiosity, which member of the Holy Trinity told Donald Trump he was leading such a righteous life that he had nothing to ask forgiveness for? 

Which words, precisely, is God putting in Trump's mouth that are uniting the nation? The one's that accused an American judge of being incapable of rendering a judgment because his parents were Mexican? Or the ones that encouraged his followers to beat hecklers? Or his playing to worst sorts of racists?

This is a travesty. This is not a prayer. This is a pep rally cheer. This is asking God to root for the laundry. This may very well cross the line into blasphemy. This also shows the all-corrupting power of Donald Trump who is a man singularly able to bring disgrace and discredit on anyone associating with him.

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Praying For Trump: A Benediction, Or A Symbol Of Our Time?

PETER UBERTACCIO | July 18, 2016

… But when I listened to Pastor Mark Burns deliver the benediction to the Republican Convention on Monday, I realized that Trump has stained just about all elements of our civic discourse.

The Pastor …
To roaring applause, the Pastor claimed, “we got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans -but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.”

Later, in “the name of Jesus” the Pastor asked God to keep Trump strong “that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.”

The Pastor closed “In Jesus’ name. If you believe it, shout Amen.”

They did.

Burns, a popular Evangelist and CEO of a Christian TV network who adheres to the Prosperity Gospel, declares in his twitter profile that he’s a “unifier.”

He may well believe that but when given a moment to follow that example, he opted for crass division and partisanship unworthy of a follower of Christ. …

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Mark Burns’ RNC “Benediction”
James F. McGrath  |  July 19, 2016 

And so this is nothing new. It is at odds with the teaching of Jesus that we are to bless our enemies and not curse them, to be sure. And so it is ironic for Rev. Burns to be emphasizing belief in the name of Jesus in a prayer like this one. But praying against enemies has a long history of being called a “benediction” nonetheless, even if it may be awkward (to say the least) to consider it a Christian one.

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5 diverse appeals to God that were just made during the Republican National Convention
Billy Hallowell | July 20, 2016

The roster started off with Orthodox Rabbi Ari Wolf — a chaplain with the Cleveland Police Department — who opened the convention on Monday …

Christian Pastor Mark Burns of Harvest Praise and Worship Center in South Carolina later offered up the benediction on Monday — a speech that ended up raising eyebrows, …
Later that night, Monsignor Keiran Harrington of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn delivered another invocation, with Christian Pastor Paula White of the New Destiny Christian Center capping the night off with yet another benediction …

Tuesday Dhillon, who was born in India, sang the invocation in the Punjabi language…
The night (Tuesday) was capped off with a benediction from Sajid Tarar, founder of the group American Muslims for Trump …

Wednesday, will include an invocation from Nathan Johnson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a benediction from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans,

Thursday's events will also include the Rev. Steve Bailey, pastor of New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church in Ohio, and Roger W. Gries, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus with the Diocese of Cleveland.

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Trump’s Top Pastor Delivers What May Be The Most Partisan Prayer In Convention History

Jack Jenkins | July 19, 2016 | Senior Religion Reporter at ThinkProgress 

On Monday night, South Carolina pastor Rev. Mark Burns took the stage to deliver the benediction for the convention’s first afternoon session. Although a relatively unknown Trump campaign surrogate, his scheduled prayer had created some buzz: Burns is a preacher of the so-called “prosperity gospel,” a deeply capitalist — and highly controversial — form of Christianity that has traditionally championed money and wealth but shied away from politics.
Last night, however, Burns shattered any misconception that prosperity preachers cannot be political. Instead, he delivered a prayer that unapologetically asked God to side with Republicans over Democrats, a move that sharply broke from the long legacy of relatively non-partisan prayers at conventions. ...

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Republican Convention: Most Evangelicals Fall In Line Behind Trump
July 20, 2016  |  Heard on Morning Edition

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