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The Daily Planet's Opinion: No matter where you stand, speak up now; otherwise, ‘they’ will be coming for you next
Friday, 24 November 2023 17:41

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemöller (circa 1946)

Perhaps never since the Holocaust did the prophetic words expressed by Martin Niemöller — in “First They Came” — ring truer than this period in human history.

Indeed, it has been soul-shattering for many of us to witness the turmoil, violence and expressions of antisemitism (here in Asheville, across the nation and around the world) following the Oct. 7 surprise attack by the terrorist group Hamas on Israel that featured barbarism in the grisly tortures, rapes, beheadings, burning and slaughter of about 1,200 Israeli men, women and children.   

In “First They Came,” Niemöller, a German theologian and Lutheran pastor who experienced the Holocaust first-hand, expresses his belief that those who remain silent when an innocent group is subject to genocide are as guilty of complicity as were the Germans (through their silence) in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people, especially Jews. Niemöller felt this was especially true of the leaders of Germany’s Protestant churches, which were made up of Lutheran, Reformed, and United traditions.

Speaking personally, Niemöller admitted that, at first, he supported Nazi ideas and its political movement during the 1920s, but after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, became an outspoken critic of Hitler’s interference in the Protestant Church. He spent the last eight years of Nazi rule, from 1937 to 1945, in Nazi prisons and concentration camps.

Niemöller’s emphasis on personal responsibility surely resonates with — and inspires — all human beings aspiring to be moral... as well as ethical.  



Danger! MAGA Mike’s got his Bible out!
Friday, 24 November 2023 17:39
Syndicated Columnist

Little did I realize how prophetic he was. 

On my podcast last November, Rev. Jim Wallis, head of the Center on Faith and Justice at Georgetown University, told me that “White Christian Nationalism” represented the single greatest threat to democracy today – and would get even more dangerous as their “false gospel” spread.

As Wallis explained, White Christian Nationalism preaches that our Founding Fathers were all white Christians, that they founded a white Christian nation, that white Christians are the only true Americans, and that the Bible, not the Constitution, is our founding document. And they are wrong on all counts.

But if Christian nationalism was a danger a year ago, it’s even more of a danger today – now that a Christian Nationalist, Louisiana’s “ MAGA Mike” Johnson, holds the powerful position of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

And there’s no doubt where Johnson stands. He made that clear on the first day of his speakership. Making an obligatory appearance with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Johnson told the world: “Someone asked me today in the media, they said…‘ People are curious. What does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?’ I said,‘ Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it – that’s my worldview.’”

Whoa! Stop! Read that again. Let that sink in. It’s shocking that the man entrusted with the powerful position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, second in line for the presidency of the United States, says he’s guided by the Bible, not by the Constitution. 

That statement itself is so un-American it should scare everyone, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or non-believer.

Does Johnson know anything about American history? 

Most of our Founders were Deists, not Christians. They went out of their way to establish a new country based on the principles of natural law, and not on the tenets of any religious creed. 

We are not a Christian nation. The word “God” doesn’t even appear in the Constitution. To protect religion from government, and government from religion, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson built a “wall of separation” between church and state – which Johnson and fellow Evangelicals are now determined to tear down, with disastrous consequences.

Johnson’s embrace of the Bible is the most brazen abuse of Scripture since Donald Trump held up his Bible (upside down!) outside St. John’s Church during the Black Lives Matter protests. But Johnson’s flaunting of the Bible is much more dangerous because, unlike Trump, Johnson has actually read the Bible and takes every word of it literally.

The danger, of course, is that Johnson will follow the Bible, and not the Constitution, in making public policy decisions. Which is not without precedent.

For over a hundred years, “Christian” preachers used the story of Noah as told in Genesis 9 to justify the institution of slavery. It was all spelled out in the Bible, they said, under the “Curse of Ham,” whereby certain races were destined for perpetual slavery. Slaveholders weren’t doing anything wrong, pastors argued, they were merely doing God’s will.

Ever since St. Paul declared, “I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man” (Timothy 2), the Bible’s also been used to justify keeping women in the kitchen. 

This year (2023!), the Catholic Church reaffirmed its opposition to women priests and the Southern Baptist Convention expelled two women pastors and decreed that all pastoral roles are limited to men only.

Citing Scripture, Johnson himself, as former attorney for The Alliance Defending Freedom, not only condemned homosexuality as “sinful and destructive” and opposed same-sex marriage, but actually authored a brief arguing that homosexual acts should be criminalized. 

Johnson doesn’t want to get government off our backs, he wants to invite government into our bedrooms!

As a proud Louisianan, Johnson has not yet said whether he’ll abide by the Bible’s prohibitions on eating shrimp, crab, oysters, or barbecued pork. 

Or whether he really believes the universe is only 6,000 years old. Or whether his wife sacrifices two birds on the altar after every menstrual period.

But enough already! You get the point. The Bible has its place, but not in making public policy. For that, lawmakers should stick to the Constitution.

One thing for sure. There’s one verse of the Bible MAGA Mike will never take literally. 

The admonition of Jesus in Matthew 19:21: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.”
© 2023, Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Bill Press, a liberal, is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, “Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him).” 

His email address is: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.



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