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Know Thy Enemy

Where do progressive Christians draw the line on their left-hand side?

Not everybody who disagrees with you is an enemy. Mostly they’re simply opponents. But there are some people who have given themselves over to evil, and with whom there can never be compromise or cooperation.

Within Christian church circles, the lines must be drawn sharply and clearly between orthodox Christians and people like these “faith leaders” who recently showed up at Planned Parenthood’s new clinic to bless it. Excerpts:

“In almost every message to our staff, I talk about our doing sacred work,” says Dr. Laura Meyers, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington. “This confirms the sacredness of the work we do.”

The NoMa health facility, which opened in September, rang with the sound of drums as visitors entered, courtesy of all-female percussion troupe Batala Washington. Erin Schmieder, a Batala member, says the group chose to participate in the event organized by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice because “there are a lot of us throughout our lives who have benefited from Planned Parenthood.”

Before the ceremony kicked off, religious leaders gathered upstairs for their own prayer circle, led by Rabbi Michael Namath. The program director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism called upon their obligation to the world to “make it whole and holy.”

Then the formal event began, featuring leaders from different Christian denominations, a rabbi, abortion providers, a Planned Parenthood patient, Hindu priests, an Imam over Skype, visual art, and a liturgical dance.

Understand, part of what they’re blessing is an abortion clinic. More:

Reverend Doctors Christine and Dennis Wiley of Baptist United Church of Christ organized the event with RCRC and PPMW, and acknowledge that anti-abortion perspectives dominate many religious institutions. “The conservative voices are big,” says Christine. “It drowns out the progressive voices, but it’s not that progressive voices aren’t there.”

Meyers agrees. Anti-choice activists have “tried to separate those of us working on or supporting the right of women to choose a from a sense of deep spirituality,” she says. “So today is a shift in that narrative.”

For many of the speakers at the ceremony, their religious faith was precisely why they stood in solidarity with Planned Parenthood.

Rabbi Namath spoke of the belief in Jewish tradition that making healthful decisions about one’s body is a way to honor God.

Here’s a short video clip of the thing:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYlZZPLZ7rw]

I’ve not been able to find a full listing of the churches with pastors and others involved in this thing, but the bio page of the leaders show Baptists, a Methodist, and a member of the United Church of Christ.

Blessing a place where the lives of unborn children are exterminated.

In other news, the Rev. Jeff Hood is a super-progressive Baptist pastor in the Dallas area. How progressive? From the biography on his website:

The author of 16 books, Dr. Hood is particularly excited about the release of his latest 2 books, Dallas and The Execution of God. In 2016, Dr. Hood’s book The Courage to Be Queer was named the third best religion book of the year at the Independent Publishers Book Awards. In addition to writing books, Dr. Hood’s work has appeared extensively in the media, including in the Dallas Morning News, Huffington Post, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Los Angeles Times, WIRED magazine and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR amongst a whole host of other outlets.

Dr. Hood has served in the governing leadership of multiple organizations, and presently serves on the board of Fellowship of Reconciliation USA. In 2013, Dr. Hood was awarded PFLAG Fort Worth’s Equality Award for activism and service. In 2015, Hood was named Hope for Peace and Justice’s Ambassador of Justice for his theological activism and also the Next Generation Action Network’s Person of the Year for his work against police brutality. In addition to being the husband of Emily and father of Jeff III, Phillip, Quinley Mandela, Lucas & Madeleine, Dr. Hood also maintains a close friendship with multiple death row prisoners.

With deep soul and a belief that God is “calling us to something queerer,” Dr. Hood is a radical mystic and prophetic voice to a closed society.

Yeah, well, today on his blog, Rev. Jeff hears God calling us to something even queerer than you can imagine. He recalls a hospital conversation a few years ago with a man who had been injured by his Labrador retriever, with who he had been having sexual relations. Excerpt from the dialogue he recounts on his blog. “F” is “Frank,” the patient; “C” is himself, the Chaplain:

F8: Yes. When we were intimate the other night, Lucy sank her long teeth into my neck. She had never done that before. Lucy became very vicious very quickly.

C9: (Still holding his hand…) Sir, if you don’t mind me asking…what exactly is Lucy?

F9: Lucy is 88 beautiful pounds of Labrador.

C10: (Still holding his hand…) I appreciate the clarification. I’m sorry that things are not proceeding as well as you would prefer in your relationship with Lucy. Do you think the disconnect you’re feeling from Lucy could possibly be attributed to the vast differences between your species?

F10: I have thought about that…but things have been going fine for the last four years.

C11: What attracted you to Lucy in the first place?

F11: I have had numerous failed relationships. This relationship with Lucy just seemed to work.

You really have to read the entire exchange, realizing that the progressive pastor is presenting himself as the voice of compassion here. And maybe he was, in his way. He did end up talking Frank out of continuing to have sex with a dog. That’s not a bad thing.

But later, he came to wonder if he had done the right thing. Says Pastor Jeff:

I was very shaken by the encounter with Frank. Not long after I left, I went and talked with a psychologist. When I told him what happened, he challenged my assumptions. “What makes you think that someone can’t be in a consensual sexual relationship with an animal? It doesn’t just have to be all about sex either. Real intimate partnered love is a possibility too. Many animals are intellectually and emotionally more capable of healthier relationships than we are.” While it has been many years since these events transpired, I think about them often. I still don’t have clarity on what I should have said to Frank. I simply did the best I could with the understanding that I had.

The truth is that Frank is not alone. If you survey the online and print data out there, there are at least thousands of people currently carrying on intimate relationships with animals. Regularly, news stories come out after a relationship is revealed. These frequent occurrences bring about an important question. Can an animal consent to such a relationship? Through expanding science, we are gaining knowledge that animals are as intelligent if not more intelligent than humans. I’m still uncertain if consent is possible. I do know that there are an increasing number of people who claim that it is. The more I think and read about it the blurrier the lines seem to get.

I also think about what Jesus would say. There is nothing in the gospel narrative that speaks to intimate relationships with animals. In the midst of such absence, one is even left to wonder if Jesus might have even had intimate relationships with animals.

“One” is? What a pervert and a blasphemer. But he’s not a random nut. A straight man who is married and the father of children, Hood is a big presence on the SJW scene in north Texas, it appears (see here and here). When you abandon Christian orthodoxy, there’s no brake stopping the slide into the abyss. I do wonder, though, where progressive religionists draw the line on their left side. Are there any religious enemies to the left? Will The Christian Century blog network continue to host the blog of a Texas pastor who says God incarnate might have been into bestiality? What, exactly, does a guy have to do or say to be disfellowshipped from progressive Christian circles (besides vote Republican)?



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Know Thy Enemy

The cakewalk brigade underestimates the peril of urban warfare.

Hawks in the Bush administration are confident that the Iraqi military will not fight, and some like Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle even believe that elements of the Iraqi military will stage a coup d’état and oust Saddam for us. Such optimism leads the administration to believe that a U.S. ground force of only 80,000 to 150,000 troops—as part of a total U.S. deployment to the region of between 200,000 to 250,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen—will suffice.

While there can be little doubt that the United States will eventually win a war with Iraq, we need to understand that some Iraqi units are likely to fight, they have a strategy that can impose significant costs on us, and none is likely to do the job of ousting Saddam for us. Military operations in Iraq may require more forces than Pentagon planners think.

Despite the drubbing the Iraqi military took in the 1991 Gulf War and after a decade of sanctions, Iraq still fields a large military force comprising about 450,000 men deployed in 23 divisions. The 17 divisions of the regular Iraqi army, however, are under-manned, ill-equipped, and populated by conscript soldiers of questionable loyalty to Saddam’s regime. They did not fight well in the Iran-Iraq War and hardly fought at all in the Gulf War.

The real core of Saddam’s fighting power resides in the six divisions of his Republican Guard and the four brigades of his Special Republican Guard, which total about 75,000 men combined . The Republican Guard is made up of highly-motivated and well-paid volunteers, who are reasonably well-armed and adequately trained. The Special Republican Guard is Saddam’s praetorian guard composed of the most loyal Iraqis from the area around Saddam’s home village of Takrit, commanded by very well-remunerated officers, some of whom are even related to him by marriage.

During the Iran-Iraq War, the regular Iraqi army did not distinguish itself on the battlefield. It was Republican Guard units that turned the tide against Iran in 1987-88 in battles at al-Basra, al-Faw, Fish Lake, and the Majnun Islands. In the Gulf War, Republican Guard units withstood nearly 40 days of pounding from the air by coalition forces and then stood and fought against overwhelming odds while regular army units broke and ran or surrendered in the face of the U.S.-led ground operations.

Hawks might take comfort in the fact that even the Republican Guard proved no match for U.S. ground forces, as the lopsided outcome of the Gulf War Battle of 73 Easting showed. That optimism assumes, however, that this time Iraqi forces will again try to fight us toe-to-toe in the open desert.

While the bulk of the regular Iraqi army units will likely sit out the war or surrender in the event of a U.S. attack, there is a good chance that many of the remaining Republican Guard or Special Republican Guard units will retreat into cities and seek to engage U.S. forces from there. Even a small number of Iraqi soldiers operating in cites could slow U.S. military operations and make them costly.

It is a well-established military rule that attacking forces need at least a 3-to-1 advantage to prevail in conventional combat. In urban combat, however, attacking forces need an even greater advantage because fighting in built-up areas is far more complicated and demanding than regular combat. The urban battlefield has more dimensions: in addition to fighting on ground level there may be combat underground or in upper floors of buildings. Urban operations also produce much higher rates of casualties (often in the realm of 30%) and require large numbers of soldiers to occupy territory and secure lines of communication. Finally, urban operations could nullify the United States’s advantages in air power and artillery due to the danger of collateral damage to civilians.

To illustrate the challenge facing U.S. forces, in the Baghdad area alone there are between three divisions of the Republican Guard and the four brigades of the Special Republican Guards, approximately 45,000 troops who are likely to fight to defend Saddam’s regime. Both the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard are trained in urban combat, and senior Iraqi officials have suggested that retreating to cities will be Iraq’s strategy in the event of a U.S. attack.

In order to achieve the necessary superiority over defending forces, establish a cordon around the city, and protect their lines of communication, U.S. forces could require around 250,000 soldiers on the ground (an overall 6-to-1 ratio) for operations just in and around Baghdad, a city with a population of over five million. Iraq has two other cities with populations of over one million—Mosul in the north and Basra in the south—which have additional concentrations of Republican Guard units close enough to retreat into them. Given our unfortunate experience in Mogudishu in 1993 and the Russians’ debacle in Grozny in 1996, there is no reason to think that fighting in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities will be a cakewalk. All this suggests that a total U.S. force in the Gulf region of between 200,000 to 250,000—which includes not only ground combat forces but also a large number of support personnel—may be too few if we have to battle Saddam’s elite forces in Iraq’s major cities.

U.S. military planners have undoubtedly made similar calculations and that is why voices in the Bush administration now suggest that we may not have to fight at all because the Iraqi military may launch a coup to oust Saddam in the face of a U.S. attack. But there is little reason for confidence that this will happen.

To begin with, it is not clear which units are going to execute such a coup. The undermanned and ill-equipped regular army units may harbor critics of Saddam’s regime and be unwilling to fight U.S. forces to defend it, but even if they wanted to oust Saddam, they are unlikely to prevail against the better-armed loyalists in the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard. Nor can we count on these elite units to turn on Saddam because they enjoy a privileged place in his regime, and they will likely be the first targets in any U.S. attack.

Moreover, while Iraq has experienced many coup-attempts in the last fifty years, there has not been a successful one since Saddam’s Ba’ath Party took power in 1968. Since then, there have only been four coup attempts (1973, 1992, 1993, and most recently in 1995), none of which succeeded. Even in defeat, whether during the bleakest phases of the Iran-Iraq War or during the widespread uprisings after the Gulf War, the Iraqi military has not proved willing to challenge Saddam’s rule.

To be sure, if the United States invades Iraq, as is increasingly likely, we can expect U.S. forces to prevail, but not without cost. Rather than staging the coup of Richard Perle’s imagination, the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard will likely fight, and by drawing us into cities could impose more casualties than they did during the Gulf War. Thus, “if we desire to defeat the enemy,” as military theorist Karl von Clausewitz advises, “we must proportion our efforts to his powers of resistance” or, better yet, avoid this war all together.


Michael C. Desch is the author of Civilian Control of the Military and editor of Soldiers in Cities.



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