As Americans, we extol the virtues of freedom and rail against oppression. I feel it is important that we address the main reasons why we need to support the proposed expansion of the existing “hate crimes” law and why the current bill should be approved the Senate and signed by President Bush. I do feel it is our moral duty to support it not because powerful Christian fundamentalist leaders have infiltrated and influenced the pillars of power that governs America, but because it is the messages by these charismatic leaders that tend to inspire their followers to take it upon themselves to carry out their messages in the name of God. It is not a secret that James Dodson is strongly opposed to the “hate crimes” bill. It is extremely important to point out the typical message James Dobson is telling his listeners about the bill. In a radio message on his Focus on the Family radio program, he told his listeners that real purpose was “to muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality.”
Although many see this as an innocent expression of his views, however, this should be taken into consideration when Dr. James Dodson has the ear of the president; especially when he is providing more than spiritual guidance. He has also provided advice on policy matter to President Bush. Back in May, according to Max Blumenthal, Dodson is also influential when it comes to foreign policy advice Iran.
People have heard of the term “moral relativism” because Dr. James Dobson has mentioned pretty often. In fact, back in November of last year on CNN’s Larry King Live, Dobson said, “But it’s interesting to me that those, again, on the more liberal end of the spectrum are often those who have no value system or at least they say there is no moral and immoral, there is no right or wrong. It’s moral relativism.”
So what does “moral relativism” mean? In short, it is the view that moral principles are based on your culture and therefore subject to individual choice. Why does this matter; because if taken to an extreme, it can lead to “immoral acts” since there is belief that there are no rules determining right and wrong. Therefore, it can lead people to justify any number of acts that might generally be considered to be “atrocities.”
When it comes to equality, I certainly like to believe that we intrinsically believe all human beings are created equal, and are deserving of equal rights and protections under the law. Many assert that the United States is a Christian nation. However, as it was the “Christianizing” that provided the rationalization for annihilating millions of “heathen” Native Americans and the Filipino “savages,” it was the same type of evangelical thinking that rationalized the brutal and fatal beating Satendar Singh because his physical affections towards other men did not align with the Church’s views on homosexuality.
With no apology, nor even a hint of remorse, Christian fundamentalist continue to preach to the world, with little or no concern for how their victims might feel. As a result of their contention that the Bible indicates that all authority is given by God, fundamentalists have been led to believe that it is unpatriotic, and therefore unchristian, to question the divine right of what our country has found it necessary to do.
This probably would explain why a fundamentalist like James Dodson would strongly oppose the â€œhate crimesâ€ bill. The passage of hate crimes bill would suddenly put a spotlight on those who inspire their followers to engage in a violent act towards another human being. In the same message on his Focus on the Family radio program, Dodson added:
“There’s a vote coming up on some insidious legislation in the United States Congress that could silence and punish Christians for their moral beliefs,” he said. “That means that as a Christian â€“ if you read the Bible a certain way with regard to morality â€“ you may be guilty of committing a ‘thought crime.’”
“What is at stake here is freedom of speech and the expression of conscience, and without a huge outcry from the public expressed to the House, Senate and the White House, it will become law.”
Although we many scoff at statements like these, but we must keep in mind, these folks are playing for keeps. In June 2007, another conservative Christian organization, American Family Association (AFA), issued an Action Alert warning its followers that the bill would “criminalize negative comments concerning homosexuality, such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a ‘hate crime’ punishable by a hefty fine and time in prison.” The claims used on the Action Alert are not only misleading but a gross distortion of information that has been expose by Snopes.com.
The bill would not create new law; it would merely expand existing laws to protect anyone attacked on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. (Current laws already protect victims of violence based on the race, religion, color, or national origin of the victim.) It would also extend federal jurisdiction in such cases, which is currently limited to instances where the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting or attending school. … The bill has nothing to do with the issue of speech; it only prescribes criminal penalties for the willful infliction of bodily injury on others.
As for claims that if the bill passes, it will allow pastors to be prosecuted if “someone hears a pastor condemning homosexuality and then assaults a gay person,” the Chicago Tribune noted:
It’s a groundless fear. The Supreme Court has ruled that even speech advocating criminal conduct is protected under the 1st Amendment, unless it amounts to direct incitement of imminent violence. A preacher who says gays deserve condemnation may not be punished for merely expressing his views, however harsh they may be.
Even though pastors will not be prosecuted for condemning homosexuality, one must exam why the extreme concern about the passage of hate crimes bill even though they are aware that the bill does not target them. There is only one simple explanation, they are fully aware of their tremendous power and influence they have as a religious leaders.
Leadership is a many-headed hydra with many faces, this can range from one end of the spectrum, such like Adolf Hitler to the other end, such as Nelson Mandela. Discussions of leadership are often hopelessly intertwined with issues of authority, which contradicts the central tenant that runs deep in the US – individual liberty, self-determination and due process. However, as social psychologist Stanley Milgram explains why their is a willingness to comply with the commands of those in authority. The social orientation in which the authority dominates one’s psyche is attributed by Milgram to a state of mind that he calls the “agentic state.” A person makes a critical shift from a relatively autonomous state into this agentic state when he enters a situation in which they become “a rather helpless agent” of the group to which they have vowed allegiance.
While there are a lot of explanations as to why people do what they are told, but little is disscussed on how one gets to that point. There is a need to discuss the many styles of leadership that relate to the legitimacy of authority and informed consent by a followers. There are two distinct but interrelated ideal types leadership styles that is often discussed, they are transformational and transactional leadership.
Transactional leaders uses contingent reinforcement to gain compliance from their followers. Their followers are motivated by promises, praise, and reward; and they disobeyed they are corrected by negative feedback, reproof, threats, or disciplinary actions. While transformational leaders tend to use inspirational motivation to challenge and engage people in shared goals and undertakings. James MacGregor Burns coined the term’s transformational and transactional leadership, which he “[defines] leadership as leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations-the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations-of both leaders and followers.”
A leader is not merely wielding power, but appealing to the values of the follower. Burns states that for a leader to have an impact, they must be able to motivate their followers to action by appealing to shared values and by satisfying the higher order needs, such as their aspirations and expectations. He wrote:
“Transforming leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality … transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral in that it raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspirations of both the leader and led and, thus, has a transforming effect on both.”
Although this is the type of leadership style many want to achieve, however, one should be concerned when one tends to use it to push an “ideology” that is not beneficial for society. It is very telling when one believes they are able the transform the relations between people in society to reflect the “mandate of heaven.” A big concern about this type of leadership style is how easily it is manipulate their followers. Or as Milgram would put it, have their followers enter into a agentic state of mind.
The problem occurs when charismatic leaders do not explicitly order their followers to engage in these acts; therefore it is easy to deny any type of accountability for any action done by their followers who happen to be inspired. The attack on Satendar Singh was a form of extremist expression by attempting to apply a religious solutions to the perceived social problem. One for one to think we should block any type of messages that go against our moral beliefs, such as violence. But that is the paradox one undertakes in the name of anyone’s idea of a good and just God. This paradox can be best explained by the 19th century Danish philosopher SÃ¸ren Kierkegaard. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard wrote that normal moral considerations are justifiably over-ridden when appealing to a higher ideal – “teleological suspension of the ethical,” Using the case where Abraham was commanded by God to kill his son Isaac as his example, Kierkegaard wrote:
In order to perceive the prodigious paradox of faith, a paradox that makes a murder into a holy and God-pleasing act, a paradox that gives Isaac back to Abraham again, which no thought can grasp, because faith begins precisely where thought stops … (p. 53).
In other words, in order to stand in an unmediated relation with God, Abraham had to situate himself above the universal. Kierkegaard also speaks of anxiety before the good and anxiety before the evil. Anxiety before the good is the category which one uses to interpret the demoniacs in the gospels. Kierkegaard writes how a charismatic leader can exploit this very easily in his book, The Concept of Anxiety:
The crowd is untruth. Hence none has more contempt for what it is to be a man than they who make it their profession to lead the crowd…. For it is not so great a trick to win the crowd. All that is needed is some talent, a certain dose of falsehood, and a little acquaintance with human passions.
According to Kierkegaard, once people have this fear of God, the anxiety before the good switches over to anxiety before the evil as the individual seeks to create his own world of “righteousness,” separate from the “lost” world of the “sinners.” Maybe Kierkegaard can help us to understand the basic motivations which impel human beings to violence, but fact remains, history does show how an effective leader can not only motivate but inspire people in committing acts of violence.
It is vital that as Nation we prevent ourselves from falling destructively under the influence of false prophets, charismatic leaders and demagogic politicians. While some feel we are far better off developing thicker skins than creating laws that stifle free expression, there comes a time when we must develop tools that can provide assistance in helping us from falling under an agentic state that pressures us to say and think what our leaders and peers demand.
Leaders, both political and spiritual, should be subjected to intense scrutiny and we must insist that their thought processes and proclamations measure up to acceptable levels of rational thought. It is our moral duty that we support the “Hate Crimes” Bill before more harm can be done.