Saturday, November 5, 2016

Carmen Celistini on Wikileaks' October Surprise: Attempt to Smear Hillary Clinton with Charges of Witchcraft

Carmen Celestini situates Wikileaks' October surprise — the attempt to smear Hillary Clinton with charges of witchcraft by misrepresenting an email about Podesta and a Spirit Dinner — within a broader current of "improvisational conspiracies" that have energized right-wing Christian voters for years now:

The spirit dinner email is the epitome of improvisational conspiracism. Hillary Clinton and her team are practicing occultism linked to Alistair Crowley but, for those who "believe," there's also the ability to stop Satan and the New World Order. Christian leaders and politicians have publicly referred to Donald Trump as God's chosen nominee. Conspiracy sites have created a Donald Trump Prophecy, placing Trump as the champion of the Good in this ultimate battle. Of course, for this battle to exist there has to be a leader of Evil as well. 
Wikileaks referencing the Spirit Dinners are a culmination of the conspiratorial platform of GOP nominee Donald Trump. Trump has used conspiracy as a motivational tool for his supporters, but most importantly to these individuals he has brought their beliefs to the mainstream. In many ways he has provided validation for them by giving their beliefs a public, mainstream voice. As Franklin Graham stated in July, the nation needs to repent, and Christians need to vote for the nominee who would give their beliefs a voice.

And I wouldn't want you to imagine that only right-wing white evangelicals peddle this toxic nonsense. It's peddled by many Catholics, too. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in league with Satan and Catholics who vote Democratic are heading for hell, a Catholic parish in San Diego has just informed its members. Though its pastor Father Richard Perozich disclaims knowledge of how the flier making these lurid announcements really got into his parish bulletin, he's said as much about Democrats from the pulpit, and has been celebrated by the hard right for some years now after speaking of Barack Obama as Satanic and as the promoter of "abominations" distasteful to real Christians, abominations like the obligation of Christians to respect LGBTQ human beings.

It's not just right-wing white evangelicals. Go to the Twitter feed of Catholic Democrats and see what that group has to contend with on a daily basis, from right-wing Catholics and others who are not Catholic but who are intent on assuring that the Catholic voice in the public square remain to the hard right in its official representations. Look at what trolls are saying to the Catholic Democrats group on Twitter in just the last day or so, and you'll get a racist, misogynistic, homophobic earful brought to you by people who believe that Catholic values not only permit but promote such stances.

All this, as the U.S. Catholic bishops stand by in more or less total silence. When they're not overtly endorsing Donald Trump, that is.

P.S. Father Richard Perozich has stood in his pulpit and stated that Barack Obama is linked to the devil. He has stood in his pulpit and made hateful, incendiary statements about LGBTQ human beings. He has allowed a flier to be inserted in his parish bulletin informing his parishioners that Hillary Clinton is Satanic and Catholics who vote for her will go to hell.

He is allowed to continue using his pulpit in this way. Imagine what would happen if any Catholic priest in the U.S. stood up this Sunday and used his pulpit to support women's ordination or same-sex marriage.

He'd be out of work in a heartbeat. Some items represent core Catholic moral values. Others apparently do not. And by their fruits/actions, it's very clear where the bishops stand, even when their lips are sealed.

P.S. Karen Maitland's novel The Owl Killers is about a group of Catholic laywomen in medieval England who were part of the movement called the Beguines. This was a movement in which Catholic laywomen lived communal lives of prayer and service to others without taking the vows required of vowed religious women in convents and monasteries. Because they were not under the thumb of bishops and abbots in the direct way that vowed religious women were, but were women with a streak of independence, the Beguines were sometimes accused of being witches. The fact that they excelled in the healing arts also encouraged such accusations.

The quotation at the top of the posting is one of the women in Maitland's imagined English Beguinage musing about the theology of God transmitted to her and other Catholic women by the all-male ordained hierarchy of the church.

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