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Fahrenheit 415

By Jordanna Thigpen

March 31, 2006

The recent condemnation of Battle Cry portends a new era of intolerance for our country. Unfortunately, our progressive ideology of acceptance and understanding has become just as intolerant as the anti-choice, anti-gay philosophy of Battle Cry.

Battle Cry is a Christian youth group. Jerry Falwell is listed on the site as a "partner." Who can forget Jerry's "description" of his first time, battle-tested in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988) 485 U.S. 46?

Battle Cry's members claim that it is apolitical. On the surface it appears to be bucolic, if cultish, just a bunch of kids celebrating God and talkin' 'bout their generation, trying to help save the world through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, they are evangelical Christians, and most are right-wing; they don't believe in marriage equality (it's sinfully, decidedly undelicious) or reproductive freedom (embryos are alive, and not with the sound of music). As a female with breeding capability and family members who still don't have the civil rights of heteros, I have to say the evangelical Christian message is distasteful to say the least. When members condemn LGBTQ individuals and families, they are no longer apolitical.

The power and financial resources of evangelical Christians has been steadily increasing in America for the last twenty years, and shows no signs of abating. Why have they been so successful? In part, because of groups like Battle Cry. The evangelical Christian movement - and by extension what has become their lapdog, the Republican Party - has been enormously successful at recruiting, cultivating and training young talent. Battle Cry's website even features podcasts to "spread its urgent message."

Adolf Hitler's Boy's Storm Troop was founded in 1922, based on Hitler's expansion of a youth labor group. Youth groups were a particularly effective part of Hitler's consolidation of power. There were pre-teen and teen groups, and divisions for boys and girls. By 1939, 90% of the youth in Germany were members of Hitler-Jugend. The youth groups focused on military training for males and docility training (i.e., preparation for marriage) for females.

Today, Battle Cry has adopted the same red and black colors which the Nazi Party used. On visiting San Francisco, Battle Cry's members were labeled fascists. (This isn't quite accurate. Fascists wanted to consolidate power in the State; the evangelical Christian/neo-conservative ideology wants to consolidate power in the hands of a few corporations and keep the State poor.) There's more than a few comparisons to be made between this fresh-faced, allegedly innocent group of America's normalest, and that group, which hindsight has shrouded in a deep black cloak of mass unconsciousness and evil. Remember - Hitler-Jugend was once just kids trying to improve themselves and society. They too were indoctrinated in and disseminated a particular message, and only, unconsciously, for the impure purposes of consolidating power for their leader.

Is Battle Cry as the next Hitler-Jugend? That is the logical extension of the Supervisors' resolution.

But we absolutely cannot be in the business of silencing Battle Cry. As Americans, we have a special duty to accept all forms of speech. Indeed, it is our fundamental right and freedom, the very First Amendment. Since Bush II has come to power, we have become increasingly censored. With media consolidation, our democracy slides slowly into the sands of time. Corporate sponsors control our access to certain news. War on Terror is a long, expensive epic that is dangerously becoming permanent background noise, with different versions dubbed for different countries. Essentially, as Americans, our right to freedom of speech is disappearing.

Do we, as San Franciscans, want to live in history as the carnies who set up the slippery yellow slope at the county fair? Burn your gunny-sacks now so you do not have to take a ride.

No one knows if Battle Cry is the next Hitler-Jugend. Hopefully we can come up with a strong and effective message and a plan to help America's working families succeed in the next twenty years, to prevent further ascendance of neo-cons. Even better, perhaps we can show youth that our powerful secular message of peace, tolerance, and truth enhances the human condition more than the alleged "word of God," cultural warfare, and inequality.

When a government speaks out to condemn the message of a particular group, it is sending a message of hate and hypocrisy to its citizens, and to the rest of the world. The unbearable irony of the resolution was that it lauded our city as "progressive and tolerant." Silencing voices is, of course, neither of these things.

District 6 resident Jordanna Thigpen is an attorney, small business owner and a Commissioner with the City's Small Business Commission. You can usually find her at work and she doesn't get to Ocean Beach often enough. Email Jordanna at jgthigpen@gmail.com.




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