The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga.
Photo by David Goldman/AP

This Week in God, 11.3.18

Updated

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at a Republican state lawmaker in Washington, who shared some rather extraordinary thoughts on what he described as the “Biblical Basis for War.” The Spokesman-Review in Spokane reported this week:

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea acknowledged Wednesday he had distributed a four-page manifesto titled “Biblical Basis for War,” which describes the Christian God as a “warrior,” details the composition and strategies of a “Holy Army” and condemns abortion and same-sex marriage.

The document is organized in 14 sections with multiple tiers of bullet points and a smattering of biblical citations. Under one heading, “Rules of War,” it makes a chilling prescription for enemies who flout “biblical law.” It states, “If they do not yield – kill all males.”

I happened to write a post on Shea back in 2013 when he urged like-minded folks to stock up on thousands of rounds of ammunition. (He also warned at the time of government-imposed FEMA concentration camps.)

When the GOP lawmaker’s “manifesto” generated attention this week, Shea appeared in a Facebook Live video in which he defended his work as “a series of sermons on biblical war in the Old Testament as part of a larger discussion on the history of warfare.”

In the same video, however, the Washington official described the United States as “a Christian nation,” while dismissing his critics as “Marxists” and “Islamists.”

My friend Rob Boston explained yesterday, “Many people active in the Religious Right long to use their religion to tell the rest of us what to do, although they deny that when pressed. The Reconstructionists are at least honest enough to say it upfront. Shea’s manifesto is more of the same. It’s an insistence that the Bible (as interpreted by a small band of far-right fundamentalists) provides justification for whatever these folks want to do – and that usually involves them running everyone else’s lives.”

As for what’s next for Shea, the local NBC affiliates reported that his “manifesto” came to the attention of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, “who says he immediately alerted the FBI saying he felt the author, Shea, was dangerous.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* The kind of story that gives me hope: “A Muslim American group has raised more than $200,000 through an online crowdfunding campaign to help families affected by the Oct. 27 mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which killed at least 11. CelebrateMercy, one of the organizers of the campaign, told NBC News that the money will assist families with medical bills, funeral expenses and other immediate and short-term needs.”

* A striking editorial move: “As funeral services for those killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting continued into a third day Friday, the city’s newspaper paid tribute to the victims with a Jewish prayer on its front page, spoken in ancient Aramaic and written in Hebrew script. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s headline, a portion of a Jewish mourner’s prayer, read: ‘Magnified and sanctified be Your name,’ according to the paper.”

* This may seem a little obscure, but the dispute over the “Peace Cross” is going to be a big church-state case: “The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether a 40-foot cross in the median of a busy suburban Maryland highway is a secular memorial to those who died during World War I or an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.”

* And speaking of interesting legal fights: “A lawyer for religious groups on Wednesday defended in federal court a 64-year-old tax break that grants priests, rabbis and imams tax-free housing allowances – costing the Treasury of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

* The New York Times asked young evangelical readers “about the relationship between their faith and their politics.” The request generated some interesting responses.

* The latest in a series of setbacks: “The Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC says five of its most valuable artifacts – once thought to be part of the historic Dead Sea Scrolls – are fake and will not be displayed anymore. German-based scholars tested the fragments and found that five ‘show characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin and therefore will no longer be displayed at the museum.’”