November 29, 2007

Don't Call Religious Crazies "Fundamentalists!"

by Donald G. Mashburn

On October 31, a federal jury in Baltimore, Maryland, awarded $10.9 million to Al Snyder, the father of marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, because members of a Topeka, Kansas, group that calls itself the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) picketed the son’s funeral, displaying and chanting derogatory messages.

The WBC group picketed the funeral with signs carrying odious slogans such as “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The WBC has also used signs that read, “Hate Is a Bible Value.” Uncivil ugliness is not new for the group, and it has long been associated with hate slogans and irrational speech and behavior.

But as if the ugliness of the group wasn’t bad enough, Washington Post writer, Ruben Castaneda, in a story in referred to the WBC as a “fundamentalist church.” In its coverage, CNN called the pickets, “members of a fundamentalist church.” The CNN report did state that the Westboro Baptist Church “has no connections with any mainstream Baptist organizations.”

Whether such sloppy reporting is a product of an agenda or just plain ignorance, the media make a fundamental error when they refer to violent religious extremists as “fundamentalists.” In so doing, careless commentators do grave injustice to both the meaning of the word “fundamental” and to millions of good people who take a fundamental approach to their religious beliefs.

So I plead with the careless, the hateful, and the ignorant: Please stop calling religious crazies “fundamentalists.” Please!

Such careless reporting reveals either gross ignorance of fundamentalism in church circles, or a biased, intentional effort to demean churches in general, and Baptist churches in particular.

Fred Phelps, founder and pastor of the WBC, has a history of advocating hateful demonstrations to tout his twisted ideas of what God hates. His seemingly mindless minions have disrupted schools, funerals, and other places where they could spew their slogans of hatred, while claiming the protection of our Constitution’s First Amendment.

An irrational handful of extremists spewing such hate-filled and twisted messages should not be called a church – and certainly not a Baptist church. A Christian church, by definition, is a group of people who are followers of Christ, who taught that we should love one another.

And Baptist churches have a long history of preaching and teaching – accurately – the teachings of Jesus, and ministering in love to millions in need all over the world.

True fundamentalism can be, and by and large is, a good thing. In the Christian world, true fundamentalism holds to the teachings of the Bible. Those teachings include God’s commandments and the teachings of Jesus, the Savior of the world, on such things as loving your fellow man, on being a peacemaker, and using God-given love and wisdom to practice forgiveness and tolerance.

The meaning of “fundamentalism,” in its primary religious sense, stems from beliefs that God’s word and His commandments are to be followed, and that the error-prone, and sometimes twisted, teachings of man are to be avoided.

The Topeka-based hate group, the WBC, should not be dignified by calling it a church. It’s members scoff at the laws of the land, as indicated by their arrogance toward the federal jury that awarded Al Snyder $10.9 million. If there were appropriate justice, the WBC would be barred from calling itself a church, or using the name Baptist.

But in a nation that often has gone too far in allowing base behavior, immorality, pornography, and in its own way has twisted the meaning of civil rights, the hate mongers from Topeka have been allowed to parade and promote their personal brand of hatred.

We can’t expect to see all such detestable behavior banned from public or private view, but we can, as journalists who actually care about things like facts and descriptions, stop calling hate mongers, twisted minds, and other sickos “fundamentalists.”

So I repeat my plea to reporters who are careless, hateful, ignorant: Please stop calling religious crazies “fundamentalists.” Please!

Mr. Carter's Irrational Remarks

by Jack L. Key

Jimmy Carter is a former President of the United States of America. No matter how regretful that may be, it is a fact.

Once again it is CNN and the Associated Press that provide the soapbox for this Democrat and ex-president to make his idiotic statements and accusations against his own country. Now he claims “torture” by the U.S., and accuses Vice-President Cheney of being a “militant”. He also accuses President Bush of making up his own definition of torture. And interviewed on the socialist BBC, Carter calls the Vice-President a “militant who avoided military service”.

I’m embarrassed by these absurd statements from the one man who allowed terrorism to gain a foothold in the world, and who then blatantly encouraged it by allowing America to be held hostage for months on end by an old fool in a black robe and turban.

Can this be the same man that was provided a free education by the taxpayers at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD? The naval officer fawned over by Admiral Rickover? And the same officer I served with in the naval service in the 1950s? Is this laughing stock my fellow Southerner? The same peanut farmer with the toothy smile who walked down Pennsylvania Avenue without an armored car as a new president? And the same man I voted for in the 1970’s when I was a Democrat?

My father once told me if I didn’t have anything good to say about someone, then say nothing. That old fashioned good advice seems a bit trite today. If my father were alive he would not recognize the “foreign country” we live in now, anyway. But I feel compelled to vent my anger at the AP report on Mr. Carter I read today in my morning paper.

Rightfully so, these foolish statements should not be given the stature of a response by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. It is the country and it’s citizens who should make the response. When in military service it was a known axiom that when saluting an officer it was the uniform being saluted, not the individual. Whether you like Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney or you do not, the dignity of the office they hold and the elections they won to be there for two terms should be respected, even revered. Carter blundered through only four years there. Every man who has held that high office has made mistakes. Some mistakes cost them their lives.

I was disappointed in Carter’s presidency, yes, but I wrote no articles or made remarks that he was a coward, a socialist or should be impeached. I should be the last person on earth to remind Mr. Carter to think before he speaks or to be careful to whom he speaks. He should be the last person on this earth to castigate his country and its leaders.

But I tell you quite frankly I would NEVER make statements such as have been attributed to Carter regarding the freedoms of this country and it’s respect and adherence to international treaties and human rights. Show me another country with such a record and more freedoms? I can provide the ex-president with what real torture is. It is not “harsh interrogation techniques” as reported by the New York Times. And you can bet if something makes it to the New York Times, it’s either untrue, or just been made up, or taken out of context, or stolen from others.

Georgia is lovely this time of year Mr. Democrat, ex-President Carter. Why not go home. Grow peanuts. Rock in your front porch chair. Teach others about free elections. About the democracy you’ve enjoyed all your life. And how rich and fruitful that life has been. Don’t embarrass us further by calling our country names and deriding our elected leaders.

Carter is entitled to his own personal opinions. When you provide them to CNN, the AP and New York Times you never know how they’ll turn out.

Jack L. Key is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, author and freelance writer.