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Brian Kilmeade Insults Pacifist Mennonites Regarding National Anthem?

Reported by Priscilla - April 9, 2010 -

For Fox & Friends and their Christian right audience, Christianity is an important part of being American. Fox News has, as I have noted, questioned President Obama’s choice to not engage in a public display of religiosity – which speaks, according to Fox, to his lack of patriotism. But in addition to public displays of religion, a true patriotic American, according to Fox & Friends, should also engage in public displays of patriotism which, in the world of the Christian right, take on an almost cultic significance. Hence, there was a great deal of attention paid to whether Obama wore a flag pin or put his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem. Goshen College, a private college with pacifist, Mennonite traditions, has eschewed the playing of the National Anthem before sporting events. Recently, the school ended the tradition and is now playing an instrumental version of the anthem – followed by the recitation of the St. Francis prayer for peace. Some of the students are unhappy about the change and would prefer the old tradition. It’s ironic, don’t ya think, that Brian Kilmeade just can’t seem to understand this lack of patriotism on the part of the dissenting students. Lack of understanding is one thing – something Kilmeade is adept at. But for a Fox “friend” to insult a Christian tradition – Jesus wept!

Kilmeade, this morning, introduced the segment by saying that Goshen is a private, Christian college that never played the anthem “because it went against their Mennonite pacifist tradition, WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT?” (Uh, yes Brian, there are Christian groups that don’t believe in perpetual war, can you believe that?) Kilmeade added that the school president changed the tradition "to be hospitable to those who don’t hold, let us say, different beliefs.” "Let us say?" What’s up with that? Kilmeade reported on the first time playing of the anthem. Kilmeade, his voice dripping with sarcasm, introduced David Jost, “who is against playing the anthem.” Kilmeade asked Jost, “what’s so bad about the anthem?" Jost explained that, while he respects the United States, his position and the position of his church is that “our highest allegiance goes to God.” He said that the ritual of the song implies an act of allegiance as does the Pledge of Allegiance. Kilmeade, who could barely contain his disgust, asked anthem supporter Mike Milligan, “Do you understand David’s point of, ah, finding that inappropriate to put your hand over your heart, pledging allegiance or singing along with a song like that?” Milligan expressed respect and understanding for Jost’s position but disagreed with the notion of the anthem as an allegiance and said that we are “one nation under God.”

Kilmeade continued the insults with a little lecture which exposed his distain for Jost’s position: “So David, if it’s good enough for this country, for baseball games, to start your day, for our Founders who fought for our freedom and fought for the country to be what it is today who, by all accounts, our Founding Fathers were very religious men, why is it not appropriate for you.” (Oh, love that revisionist history. Hey Brian, the Founder were secular Deists. Jefferson wrote a version of the New Testament with all the miracles excised. The Founders were very skeptical about organized religion and frequently criticized it.) Brian’s facial expression reminded me of that saying about “if looks could kill.” Kilmeade couldn’t hide his scowl when Jost said that, as a Christian, he can only follow what God commands and that “sometimes the United States calls me to things that are different from what God calls me to." Kilmeade snarked, “So your allegiance will be on a case by case basis. But you’re against the Iraq War.” Kilmeade then read a statement from Goshen’s president about “Jesus’ call to peacemaking…as central to this college and the wider church” and noted that the playing of the anthem was instrumental and seemingly frustrated, asked “is that OK?” Jost said that the ritual of allegiance was still present. Kilmeade wanted to know if Mike was “going to fight this.” Mike said that he and David were friends who disagreed; but that he felt that the anthem was a way to honor those without whom “we wouldn’t be having this debate.” Kilmeade was obviously pleased and responded “very well said and it just goes to show that you can have a civil debate.”

Comment: While both students were very articulate and civil, Brian Kilmeade’s “can you believe that” comment about a Mennonite traditions was not. And neither was his line of questioning which revealed Kilmeade’s lack of understanding of and contempt for pacifist beliefs. It’s interesting – for the first time, in all the time that I have been reviewing Fox & Friends, a Christian, whose traditions are being challenged, was not treated with reverence. I guess, on Fox & Friends, not all persecuted Christians are created equal! Would You Believe That?