Extremists. Oh, You Know… Like the Founding Fathers.

I would love to have a more specific definition of how the U.S. government defines extremism. I fear that, if that definition came out and were actually used, we would find that the majority of the country (that’s right, more than half, a democratic majority, would be counted as extremists). The Pentagon and Military have included the colonists that fought for independence from Britain as examples of extremists; they have included Evangelical Christians and Catholics on the list as well (click here and here to read more).

They further warn that extremists will “talk of individual liberties, states’ rights and how to make the world a better place.”

Since when did individual liberties, states’ rights and making the world a better place become a threat? I was raised to believe that these were firmly held, all-American values.

I hope I’m not the only one concerned at having the early Americans that fought for freedom, or Evangelical Christians and Catholics, that are currently fighting hard, alongside many other Christian groups, to protect and win back the freedoms of religion, conscience and speech, are on that list. Together with Al Qaeda and terrorist groups.

It makes it sound like there’s no difference between a faithful, God fearing, Church going, ordinary Christian, and a terrorist inciting violence and death. It also makes it sound like the founding fathers were fighting for the wrong thing. Extremists. Why did they want freedom from a dictatorial regime? Unthinkable.

If the Christians that are being denied more and more rights (incidentally, rights that were won for them by the founding fathers) and the early Americans that fought for a free country are extremists, it makes it seem like the real fight is over freedom itself. If you believe there’s such a thing as right and wrong, and you believe you are free to believe that, you’re an extremist.

Or is there a different way to understand the position adopted by our current government?

Apparently the Pentagon has been “unavailable” to comment on the issue since it’s concerning inclusion of both Christians and the founding fathers as extremist groups has been made public. Scurrying to find a scapegoat, or cover the tracks, perhaps?

Forgive me, as a Catholic Christian, for being cynical. Tomorrow’s post will be more cheerful!

7 thoughts on “Extremists. Oh, You Know… Like the Founding Fathers.

  1. The problem is though that most Catholic blogs moderate their comboxes and so the Catholic committment to free speech itself is not absolute even with us. I don’t know the answer but we historically are more for censured speech than free speech. If a Cardinal of Berlin went to the media and disagreed with the Pope on dialogue being even possible with al Nusra in Syria or with Assad, would that Cardinal have free speech or would he find that his application for a curia position never gets answered thence forward. How for example was it possible for Blessed John Paul to alter centuries of Catholic thought on the death penalty and have not one Catholic authority ask publically why he left Romans 13:4 out of Evangelium Vitae and out if the catechism? It’s hard for us to extol free speeh if in fact we literally live something different throughout our Church.

    • Hi, Bill! I’m happy to hear your perspective on this, but, respectfully have to disagree. I’ll try to be brief. Regarding moderating comboxes. I moderate my combox, but it’s not to delete or prevent certain opinions from showing up. It’s to avoid profanity. Yes, people have the “right” to speak as they want, but they don’t have the “right” to do so on my site, anymore than they have the “right” to do so in my house. As owner of the site or house, I have the right to set behavioral expectations and remove comments, or request people to leave when they aren’t respectful. Regarding Romans 13:4 – I assume you’re going by the English translation. A return to the original translation (Greek) used two words that do not translated into killing – the Greek language had a word for capital punishment (execution) and a word for the sword that was used for it. Paul, who was very well acquainted with Greek, did not use that terminology. He used 2 different Greek words that would actually be better translated as “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for government beareth not the power of judicial punishment in vain: for it is the minister of God, a revenger to carry out wrath upon him that doeth evil.” E.g. the authority has the right to inflict consequences for the action – it does not literally command that death be the consequence. Also, this makes sense, because it would be a little illogical for God to give a commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” and then proceed to tell us somewhere else in scripture to break it. Going back to the original language helps show how Rom 13:4 is not really telling us to kill. John Paul II did not change the death penalty because Catholic belief changed, but because our ability to handle criminals differently (e.g. we no longer NEED to kill them to keep society safe from them, because security systems are good enough, etc.). Just my 2 cents on the matter…

  2. Ellen Mady,
    I respect your limiting moderation to sinful talk. But I wish your approach was widespread.
    Paul uses machaira in Romans 13:4 for sword. Go to Acts 12:2 in a biblical search site and note that Herod executes James with the same machaira in e.g. the RSV. Jesus uses sword several times in a metaphor of battle but the gospel writer again uses machaira. Check the two largest Catholic populations, Mexico and Brazil; both have no death penalty, porous prisons and murder rates above 20 per 100,000. Japan is .4 per 100,000 with the death penalty …as are roughly other Asian cultures. Your family is 50 times safer from murder in Shinto Japan than in the two largest Catholic countries. Life sentences only protect from caught murderers which in Catholic Quatemala is only 5% of murderers.
    Neither EV nor the catechism seems aware of he incredible variances of arrest rates for murder…62% in the US…5% in Guatemala. Neither country’s prisons are protecting society at all from their uncaught murderers. Deterrence then becomes more crucial vis a vis the uncaughtnand 99% of murderers chose life sentence over the death penalty if they are given the choice. Deterrence is never addressed in EV nor in ccc 2267.

    But my point was not that area of scholarship but the incredible uniformity and episcopal silence in the face of the fact that neither EV nor the catechism mentions Romans 13:4 nor Gen.9:6, the only two biblical passages that speak of gentile governments as to execution.
    Whatever you think of the death penalty, my point is not that area but a feeling of non free speech amongst Catholic prelates all of whom could not have suddenly changed their minds on the death penalty in 1995. My point is that non Catholic America knows we are not famous for internal freedom of speech and that decreases credibility when we extol it in the public square.

    • I do agree that machaira *can* be translated as sword, but it doesn’t have to be – it can also mean *bringing wrath*. But the Greeks had a very specific term for a sword used for decapitation in capital punishment: rhomphaia. Paul would have known this; instead he chose a synonym that really means “small sword or dagger” or, “wrath.” The word “execute” or “death” was simply not in the original text at all. Many modern translations added it in trying to make sense of the sentence and it’s meaning. If you translated “machaira” as “wrath” instead of “sword”, which is equally valid, you end up with a sentence that makes perfect sense without adding additional words. I’m not saying you *can’t* translate it the way you are – I’m simply saying it doesn’t make as much sense as translating it the other way, especially considering that Paul was a master of Greek and could have said “rhomphia” and “execute” if he intended it to be translated that way. If the Church does not see that verse as mandating the death penalty the way you interpret it, then it would not include it in EV simply because it doesn’t think it pertains to the subject the way you associate it. I’m just saying there’s another way to interpret it.

      But, in the end, regardless of how you interpret it, the Church has not out and out abolished the death penalty. It has just advised that it only be used in extreme cases where there are really no other possible solutions that could be implemented while protecting the sacredness of life at the same time.

  3. Ellen,
    You might in the long run, not right away, like this lady who has testified before Congress on these matters. Bookmark her. If she is correct, the current Catholic position is increasing murders which certainly is no one’s intent in the Vatican. She talks of how the death penalty increases murders if done rarely and decreases them if done above a certain threshold. From the Michigan Law Review:


    God be with your blog.

    • I’ll definitely head over and read her testimony. If she’s right, I don’t think it means the Church’s position is wrong; I think it means the countries involved (and/or people) are not correctly interpreting the following CCC statement: “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

      If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.” In the end, it’s the government that has to determined what extreme is necessary to protect people’s safety. I actually think that the Church’s position, rightly understood, is quite balanced and consistent – avoid taking human life at all cost, but if absolutely necessary, do so for the safety of others…

      It’s been an interesting discussion! Thanks for passing by and starting it!

  4. Adieu…it was good discussion….we had heaven weather on the NY harbor today…no clouds…low humidity…70ish.
    I cycled for miles in a waterside park on the Jersey side from where Manhattan looks like a jewel.

Leave a Reply