Since President Obama took office I've felt like the lonely -- maybe crazy -- proverbial canary in the coal mine. As a former right wing leader, who many years ago came to my senses and began to try to undo the harm the movement of religious extremism I helped build has done, I've been telling the media that we're facing a dangerous time in our history. A fringe element of the far right Republican Party seems it believes it has a license to incite threatening behavior in the name of God.
They have singled out President Obama as their target. Since the real President Obama is not who they describe -- no, he's not the Antichrist, was born in America and doesn't want to kill your grandmother -- they have resorted to lies and intimidation to try and stop his agenda of much needed change. The problem is that I believe that Religious Right leaders and their Republican base are also potentially inciting violence. Within their numbers are unhinged people who also happen to be well armed.
Rachael Maddow and the readers of Huffington Post and Alternet have heard my warnings and so have a lot of bloggers. However, most of the media have ignored the looming threat of far right violence while conservatives deride those of us who link crazy talk to the potential of crazy actions. (I explain and expose the link between evangelical/fundamentalist "End Times" theology, politics and violence in my new book Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism).
Has The Craziness Hit A New High?
What a difference the post-election months of overt thuggery, threatening behavior and outright lying by the right wing horde has made. The village idiot quality of the "Tea Baggers," "Birthers," gun totters, "You Lie(ers)," and the "Let's Secede From The Union(ers)" has made it tougher to discount we who see a looming threat here and a direct line from hate talk to hate actions. It's harder these days to feel sanguine about our prospects for avoiding the calamity spewing from the right's vortex of lies and hate.
The extremism and paranoid delusions of the far, far loony right -- in other words The Republican Party today as led and deformed by Beck/Limbaugh/Fox and the fundamentalist "Christians" --- is now on full display. Even some members of the Republican leadership are beginning to cringe.
Last week Senator Lindsey Graham called Glenn Beck a "cynic" and the Birthers "crazy." Centrists like David Gergen are saying that enough is enough. Gergen said that the racial attacks on Obama are reminiscent of the atmosphere leading to the killing of President Lincoln. Speaking for moderate progressives Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times that he saw this same disturbing play of religious hate shortly before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in Israel. And Roger Ebert warned of the rise of the fringe in the GOP and how they are undermining democracy.
And in case you didn't know that the far right, big time hate machine and big time religion link up these days consider this: the giant Evangelical publisher Zondervan is crashing out Sarah Palin's memoir. Zondervan is owned by Rupert Murdoch. No, it's not a conspiracy, it's just that all the bottom dwellers eventually find each other in Crazyland.
Other people, besides former evangelicals like me (who have their ear to the ground and hear what's coming before the uninitiated do), are finally starting to realize that there is a serious problem facing America. I'm no longer one of just a few voices (for instance like Max Blumenthal and Jeff Sharlet) saying that the willfully ignorant far Right (usually religion-inspired) is risking our future.
The question is: What are we going to do about the haters?
Now some of us -- from moderate Independent voters like me to many people on the progressive side of the Democratic Party -- are organizing to do something about this evil (yes I use that word deliberately) trend. We're doing this because more and more of us see that if unchecked the inflammatory garbage spewing from the Right's hate machines will result in tragedy -- in other words violence.
I started pondering the question of what we could do right after the assassination of Dr. Tiller by a religious extremist. I felt that it wasn't enough to call for boycotts of right wing commentators who spew their hate, because that did not really address the core problems. In fact as a former right wing religious "pro-life" leader I felt compelled to publicly apologize (in the Huffington Post) for the "America-is-like-Nazi-Germany" rhetoric that my late Evangelical leader father and I helped create in the 1970s and 80s that inexorably led to justifying violence in the Tiller case.
Now I want to endorse a campaign to address these issues.
It was launched last week at
The campaign includes letters from attorney Kevin Zeese and myself to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that he take the issue of domestic terror seriously by investigating and prosecuting threats and acts of violence. I'm working with others on a campaign to reach religious leaders who enable and encourage this violence, and asking for the launching of investigations into the use of the media and web organizations by the right wing to foment violence. It is time to combat hate speech.
We have a long horrible legacy of violence against public figures. The worst chapters in our history have been written in blood by extremists when they felled our moral and political leaders. We must act now to avert another tragedy.
Sign on to our campaign at www.StopDomesticTerror.com.
Thousands have already signed on but we can only make a change through massive collective action. Join us and help build a wall of tolerance to contain the hate.
Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism)