If you live in Los Angeles, keep an eye out for this mobile billboard around town beginning today:
That provocative billboard is part of an advertising campaign for a forthcoming book by Bonnie Weinstein, co-founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, called To the Far Right Christian Hater… You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both (Rare Bird Books, 2014). (The generous subtitle is: Official Hate Mail, Threats, and Criticism from the Archives of the Six-Time Nobel Peace Prize-Nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation.)
It’s a compilation of hate mail that has been directed at the group and the author’s husband Mikey Weinstein over the years.
In the excerpt below, Bonnie documents the kinds of letters MRFF receives and how they affect her personally:
My name is Bonnie Weinstein, and I am married to a force of nature.
About forty years ago now, when I was sixteen, my decision to go up to the United States Air Force Academy to meet “real men” set me on a collision course with my future — one that I would never trade away, even though it so often leaves me shaking my head with disbelief and astonishment at the absolute shock of it all.
Kierkegaard has a saying: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” While I admit that I tend to understand myself better the more I move forward in life, I have found that I understand nobody better — both forward and backward — than my darling husband. It saddens me, however, to know that, without a doubt, there is no amount of living through this maelstrom of hate and viciousness — all in the name of a benevolent God — that will ever let me come to understand the men and women who write the hideous letters presented here. This book is but a TINY sampling of the thousands we have received, with more coming in on a daily basis. I have chosen to publish this body of gutter-level trash to try and shed some light on the people they affect — myself and those closest to me.
In 2005, my husband and I started the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and in the ensuing decade it has taken an extreme amount of intestinal fortitude to stay the course. We fight against those who, at worst, seem hell-bent on dismantling our Constitution, and at best, seem to have little idea of what they are talking about. These authors, and I use that term very loosely, seem to have never made it past a third grade intelligence level both in erudition and education. Simple people skills, which kids learn in kindergarten — such as learning to play well, getting along with people, and understanding that not everyone thinks the same way you do — have sadly eluded them altogether.
Tens of thousands of clients have come to MRFF after being horribly tormented because of their faith or lack of faith. Their angst becomes very understandable when you see the hate in these letters. Our clients have nowhere else to turn. There is no one to stand up for them, to be their voice, to combat the remorseless abuse they face. The Foundation stands for Constitutional issues within a military environment, which is markedly different from the environment of the ordinary citizen of the United States. That enormous distinction is one our detractors do not even remotely comprehend. I now realize all too well that very few people understand the fine and beautiful balance our American forefathers put together in the first sixteen words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The writers of angry letters to MRFF seem to have never read the Constitution or its well-established case law, which they profess to grasp so well.
Article VI, Clause 3, in the body of the Constitution, states: “The Senators and Representatives and the Members of several of the State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States, and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” NO RELIGIOUS TEST SHALL EVER BE REQUIRED AS A QUALIFICATION TO ANY OFFICE OR PUBLIC TRUST! No, they have never read the Constitution.
I never understood, before the beginning of MRFF, how thoroughly infested our military has become with the pushing of the “one and only correct, true religion.” They, of course, are the extremists known as fundamentalist or Dominionist Christians. As I have “lived forward,” I “understand backward” the extremely serious danger presented by this virulent version of Christianity, pushed by its fanatic adherents. It has become crystal clear to me that when you mess with people’s religious beliefs — however misguided and warped they may be — the situation can turn ugly and personal with lightning speed.
It has been well established that when you present a diehard believer with hardened, indisputable facts, facts which clearly dispel their position, it only further reinforces their erroneous belief. Oh, how true that is! The tidal wave of letters that now come into our inboxes everyday at MRFF is literally mind-boggling. Almost all of these letters fall into very specific groups: the “love” letters, the “hate” letters, and the “please explain this” letters. It is the “please explain this” letters that I like to read the most. Don’t get me wrong, the letters of support and thanks — the love letters — are without a doubt the sweetest kind of affirmation we are fortunate enough to ever get. It is very heartwarming to understand that people do acknowledge and internalize the positions we take to support and defend the Constitution and do understand the urgency and importance of the work we do. What may be unknown to many is that every single letter that we receive via email receives a personal, individual response. I am especially moved that the people who ask reasonably for clarification and understanding in good faith, or come with a stance that is filled with misinformation yet have open minds, are willing to assess logical reasoning and undisputed facts because logical reasoning is a process and the facts are disputed, at times, but only failingly so by ignoramuses who can’t tell truth from fiction. Believe it or not, we get many of these letters, and we have helped many who write in, transforming them into true believers and supporters of the Constitution.
The last category of letters, the hate letters, is what I will never come to understand, no matter how long I live. I just cannot comprehend the hypocrisy and stupidity of these letters and the illogical reasoning they attempt to present. My brain fogs with shock and confusion when I read the blistering hate and pure viciousness they spew as they misunderstand our position and feel that we are personally attacking their beloved version of fundamentalist Christianity. The “kind, gentle, peace-loving” teachings of Jesus are tossed at us while they are simultaneously threatening highly specific and descriptive death and mayhem upon us. The incongruency of the two leaves me shaking. There is a disgusting underbelly to our civilization and the people responsible seem to think that it is perfectly okay to write this vitriol to me, my husband, my children and grandchildren, and our foundation staffers. Some are so “creative” in their stupidity that it would be laughable were it not so deeply dangerous and scary. It is of utmost importance to me that people like you understand the depth of the human side from which these letters attack. Be forewarned, many of the letters presented here are not for the faint of heart. They are personal, they are brutal, and they have forever affected and altered the course of existence for my entire family. So, when you read through these letters, you might be tempted to read them from a sarcastic point of view or as a joke of some sort. Perhaps the toughest point of view to read them from would be mine. Digest them as if you were me, as if it were YOUR family being subjected to these very same merciless attacks. Then you might begin to understand why I am presenting this book to you. I represent the human side, the softer side of the Foundation, and it’s for myself and my family that they save the very “best” and most hate-drenched letters. Read this book as if you were a part of MY family, and you might begin to understand that, no matter how ridiculous and stupid they are, they are written by individuals whose faulty beliefs are only hardened by facts that stand in clear opposition to their treasured views of religious dominance and superiority. Now, how scary is that?
My husband tells me that life with him is like a day at the beach and my response is:
“Yes, dear, it is — in a tsunami.”
To the Far Right Christian Hater… You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both comes out early next month and is available for pre-order now.