Fox News columnist and pundit Todd Starnes is the latest religious right figure to claim Bonhoeffer said
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
In his speech to the Values Voter Summit yesterday, Starnes misattributed this quote to German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Here are the relevant references in Starnes’ speech:
To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer – not to vote — is to vote.
and then down the page a bit:
Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I believe this is a Bonhoeffer moment for ever Bible-believing Christian in America.
We can no longer be silent. We are to be civil but not silent. We must roar like lions.
The problem is these words cannot be found in Bonhoeffer’s works. The experts at the Bonhoeffer Society can’t find it in his writings, and no one who uses the quote (not even Bonhoeffer biographer Eric Metaxas) has been able to supply a source for it. I traced it back to a 1998 exhibit in Philadelphia’s Liberty Museum, but now the Museum staff cannot locate a source for the quote. There is no source for the quote in Bonhoeffer’s works and no evidence that he ever said it.
As I have pointed out before, “not to vote is to vote” is nonsense. When someone doesn’t vote, nothing can be counted for either side. The only way not voting could be considered a vote is if the act of not voting is considered a statement of non-confidence in all candidates.
Whatever not voting is, the phrase “not to vote is to vote” is not a paraphrase of Bonhoeffer. Use the quote if you must, but pundits should stop attributing it to Bonhoeffer.
Todd Starnes is all peeved at people who are bothered by symbols of the Confederacy. I just posted his ridicule of the Fort Smith school board. A review of his twitter account and recent columns leaves no doubt that Starnes believes that all the fuss is coming from the evil left (like John Kasich, Mitt Romney, and Russell Moore).
Really, Mr. Starnes, you compare Nikki Haley and others who want to remove a symbol of racism and treason to Stalin, Lenin, and ISIS? He says:
Stalin and Lenin would be bursting with pride.
You know who else has been doing some cultural cleansing?
The Islamic State — bulldozing their way through history — turning Iraq’s heritage into rubble.
And mark my words – the left’s cultural crusade will not stop with the Confederate Flag. They will use the perception of racism and hatred to whitewash history and silence dissent.
And one day – very soon – I predict they will come after another flag — the one with broad stripes and bright stars. So don’t be terribly surprised when even Republicans stand idly by as they burn the Star-Spangled Banner.
Because getting rid of the American flag would be just like getting rid of the Confederate flag.
Seriously, it is disturbing that Starnes is using his platform in this manner. He considers removing the flag of the Confederacy from a public building “cultural cleansing,” because as any good defender of Southern culture knows, what is important about Southern culture is that Southern states once fought for the right to own slaves. Indeed, white supremacists and Starnes agree about the analogy to ISIS, as this Occidental Dissent post demonstrates.
The Confederate flag belongs in a museum, not flying over public property as a symbol of what the League of the South wants to enact in the present — Southern secession.
Add Fox News Todd Starnes to the short list (including David French and Bryan Fischer) to the list of prominent conservatives who are defending symbols of the Confederacy.
In a column today, Starnes made fun of the Fort Smith, Arkansas school board for phasing out their Rebel mascot and removing Dixie as the school fight song. More precisely, the school board met as a committee of the whole and voted to make it official during an upcoming meeting. According to a notice on the district’s Facebook page (which Starnes partially cited), the changes are being made because the racist symbolism.
The board wrote:
Giving great consideration to the continuing impact of perceived symbols of racism on the community, state and nation, the Fort Smith Public School Board convened as a Committee of the Whole tonight and passed a motion to discontinue the use of “Dixie” as the Southside High School fight song in the 2015-2016 school year, and to phase out the use of the Rebel as the Southside mascot in the 2016-2017 school year.
This motion passed with a 6-0 vote and will be presented to the Board during the regularly scheduled meeting on July 27, 2015. The Rebel and “Dixie” have been used as the Southside High School mascot and fight song since the school opened more than 50 years ago. The Board understands the challenges of changing what has come to be the tradition of the Southside High School community, and will work with the student body and staff over the next year to name a new mascot and fight song for the school.
While this is sure to be controversial, it shouldn’t be. The Civil War was over a long time ago. It is time to move past Rebels and Dixie. Nothing seems clearer now; except to Todd Starnes. He closes his “news” break with this:
Folks around Fort Smith aren’t too keen on the idea of removing either the mascot or the song. Many posted their extreme displeasure on the district’s social networking sites.
“It appears to be a knee jerk reaction influenced by current events,” one reader wrote. “Removing flags or historical symbols because they may offend a number of people is a slippery slope.”
I’m curious, though, about this idea of perceived symbols of racism. It really is subjective, isn’t it?
I mean – I could perceive the Fort Smith School Board to be a bunch of dim-witted, dingleberry lefties who don’t have the sense God gave a goose.
But I could be mistaken.
However — in this case, I’m more than likely right.
And I’m not just whistling Dixie.
Starnes might like to hang with Michael Peroutka who thinks Dixie is the national anthem.
Three items that caught my eye:
Left and right unite to mock Todd Starnes for Baltimore comments – Mediaite has a smattering of tweets from conservative and liberal commenters about Todd Starnes attacks on Maryland’s state attorney Marilyn Mosby. After an investigation of the death of Freddie Gray, Mosby found that his death was a homicide. Starnes was apoplectic at the news which drew comments from the right and the left. Starnes really would be a better fit for World Net Daily or One News Now.
Female scientists told to get a man – A male reviewer for the journal PLoS told a pair of female researchers that a submitted article on — of all things — gender bias needed a male co-author. After the authors made the comments known, PLoS removed the reviewer and re-submitted the paper for review.
Prepare to make the jump to hyperspace – NASA is testing an electromagnetic propulsion drive that would speed up space travel. It will be awhile before the moon becomes a vacation option but the testing seems to make it all seem more possible.
Recently, fellow Patheos blogger Alan Noble wrote a post at Christ and Pop Culture titled, Todd Starnes Sold Us A War On Christianity. We Bought It. It has created a bit of a fuss among fans of Starnes, leading to, among other things, this love tweet from radio talk show host, Kevin McCullough:
This tweet was directed to Mediaite editor Andrew Kirell who posted this article today supporting Noble.
Here is the opening to Noble’s article:
The media is filled with lies and liars. We all know this, so there’s no need for us to point out every lie told online. But some lies and some liars need to be called out. And when a liar identifies with my community–conservative evangelicals–and tells lies to my community repeatedly and without apology, influencing hundreds of thousands of people, that needs to be addressed.
Last week, Todd Starnes at FOX News published two articles on anti-Christian discrimination at Veterans Administrations hospitals this Christmas season. In both reports, Starnes lies and tactfully omits facts in order to deceive his audience, creating the impression that the government is at war with Christmas.
From there, Noble delivers a take-down of Starnes’ claims relating to Christmas and the Veteran’s Administration. In this case, Starnes did what he has done before, cite only part of an official statement when he had access to the entire statement. The part he cited fit his war on Christians narrative. The part he left out would have weakened his case significantly.
McCullough must like Starnes’ narrative but that does not give him grounds to attack Noble’s faith commitment. Noble used strong words to disagree with Starnes but he did not say Starnes was not a Christian. I know this attack; it is similar to the one David Barton used against me when his book, The Jefferson Lies, was pulled from publication in August, 2012. McCullough should advance some evidence if he thinks Noble is wrong. My guess is he won’t do it because he doesn’t have it.
Starnes unnecessarily and unhelpfully fuels the fears of Christians who are worried about their religious liberty. There are sufficient concerns to address without making things seem worse than they are. Given Starnes’ track record, one should not take his columns at face value. Starnes’ fans (and his network) should turn their frustration on the source and not on the people who provide the whole story.
Previous columns on this topic:
Todd Starnes and the Pentagon Still Not Together on the Facts
Air Force Statement on Religious Proselytizing and Religious Materials on Desks
On the Military and Religious Proselytizing: Military Spokesman’s Original Comments Used Out of Context
Is the Military Preparing to Court Martial Christians?
Yesterday, Todd Starnes continued to make his case that the military is hostile to Christianity. He cited a couple of lawmakers who believe as he does and again cited the case of the Air Force officer who allegedly was asked to remove a Bible from his desk. Despite the fact that the Air Force issued a statement which indicates that religious materials may be visible on a desk, Starnes continues to focus only on information that supports his claims.
In his column, he repeated another inaccurate claim as indication that Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is behind what Starnes believes is military hostility to Christians.
The latest concerns came after Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation met with military officials at the Pentagon about an instructional guide on religious tolerance.
I asked Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen about this claim and informed me that Weinstein has had no involvement in constructing an instructional guide. Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley confirmed it. If the Air Force issues such a guide, it will be based on a Air Force instruction 1-1 (read the instruction here). A brief summary of that instruction is restated in a memo written by Air Force General Norton Schwartz. The substance of that memo is below:
The essential point is that military leaders want religious programming to come from the chaplains and not from superior officers. The purposes of this policy are to avoid the appearance of religious favoritism and to prevent a hostile work environment.
The facts are there but Mr. Starnes’ readers are not getting all of them.
On a related matter, Starnes also referred to Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee’s comments on religious freedom. You can watch his speech here. While Lee’s remarks are delivered with real conviction, I wonder how the audience would have reacted if Lee was a member of the Unification Church. In his speech, Lee referred to a meeting with a young veteran who survived a suicide attempt. About this meeting, Lee said
…the rules say send him to the chaplain, my heart said, give this man a Bible.
While most evangelicals would resonate with Lee’s heart, would they applaud if Lee’s heart had said, give this man a copy of Sun Myung Moon’s Divine Principle? Or, in contrast, would they wish that a Unificationist superior officer direct the chaplains to provide advice in keeping with the young man’s own religious beliefs?
Personally, my values favor more freedom than less so I am not as bothered by allowing people to speak their minds. However, I understand the reasons for these regulations and see how they can be beneficial as a means of respecting the religious views of all service members. Agree with the regulations or not, Starnes should report the situation fairly and let his audience decide.
On April 30, Todd Starnes cited Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen on military policy regarding religious proselytizing:
The Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that Christian evangelism is against regulations.
“Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense, LCDR Nate Christensen said in a written statement. He declined to say if any chaplains or service members had been prosecuted for such an offense.
“Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases,” he said.
Using these comments, Starnes made a case that the military was preparing to court martial Christians who openly speak about their beliefs. However, there was more to the quote than Starnes printed. Late yesterday, Lt. Cmdr. Christensen provided the entire response he gave to Starnes when first asked about the military policy on sharing one’s faith. While I don’t have the questions Christensen was asked, here is the statement Christensen gave to Fox News:
“The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs. The Department does not endorse any one religion or religious organization, and provides free access of religion for all members of the military services.
Court martials and non-judicial punishment are decided on case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases.
However, religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense.”
Do you see what Starnes did there? He left out the longer section of Christensen’s answer that affirmed “free access of religion for all members of the military services.” Then he reversed the order of the quotes to make it seem as though the outcome of religious proselytizing cases would be court martial. In fact, Christensen stated the obvious fact that the goal of the DoD is for the punishment to fit the crime, whatever it is. Religious proselytizing, though not permitted, will not necessarily result in the harshest punishments, unless circumstances warrant that penalty. Starnes is not completely wrong but he left out information that would have provided a more accurate picture of the situation.
Todd Starnes was on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show last night and they linked the two statements together out of the original sequence as presented by the DoD spokesman.
Another false aspect being reported (last night on Hannity) is that the Pentagon is walking back from an earlier position. According to Christensen, this is not true. He confirmed that there is nothing new in these regulations and that a ban on proselytizing (coercion) was in place before the recent controversy.
Even if the first statement had been reported in total, I can imagine that many people would have wanted clarification of terms. What is proselytizing exactly and what is acceptable sharing of faith? These are reasonable questions that the DoD addressed in yesterday’s statement. However, the worries over Christians being vulnerable to court martial just for speaking about their beliefs were over the top.
For the most recent DoD statement on religious proselytizing, go here. At that link, you can also see the DoD statement on Mikey Weinstein’s alleged influence on the recent regulations. Starnes said in his April 30 post, that the DoD was “vetting” regulations with Weinstein. According to the DoD, this dramatically overstates the importance of Weinstein’s meeting at the Pentagon. In short, the regulations on religious proselytizing were in place long before the recent meeting with Weinstein.
Is the Military Preparing to Court Martial Christians?