51 thoughts on “Should We Rethink Our Response to the Covington Catholic Boys?

  1. There was a lot in your recent reply that confuses me. For example, judging the quality of the Christianity of other people when we’re talking about their political commitments? I don’t think you don’t get to discount Christians who aren’t Christian enough by your standards when we’re talking about voting…. and then giving Donald Trump a pass because there is a remote chance that the evil he does will result in some kind of overall improvement… also, I don’t know why you suggested I had changed my position on the historical treatment of women as subhuman, and injected a WWII-era connotation to narrowly redefine a broader issue that dates back centuries…

    It feels like you see our conversation as an opportunity to be contrarian even when the contrary position is not sound or genuine. Which might also help explain your commitment to MAGA? I mean, several people are telling you that they perceive deeply racist commitments in the slogan and in the candidate and in the platform, and your persistent response seems to be, “Well I don’t think so and my positive interpretation is the only one that matters.” Thanks for candidly sharing your thoughts. It helps me to keep things in perspective and reminds me that it’s not all in my imagination; these things really are happening.


  2. Hello on Sunday Morning, Justin:

    I am not certain that America has been peopled by a majority Christian population since the Mayflower passengers became a minority; and that did not take long. Being gentiles who belong to churches does not necessarily make people Christian. Dr. Fea would be able to comment more specifically on the following fact, but it seems that I have read at least one source stating that actual church membership/participation in the 18th and 19th Century did not include a majority of U.S. citizens. Regardless of the official numbers, however, nominal church affiliation does not bring spirituality.

    I will allow that unofficial public morality and standards of behavior were once more ostensibly Judeo-Christian than they are today. Some of these standards were buttressed by statute while others were simply enforced by voluntary agreements of various trade associations, civic groups, and other nongovernmental entities. This recognition of the need for some sort of a guiding national morality is not necessarily Christian nor is it unique to the United States. Even the early Soviet Union soon realized that a certain sort of atheistic Puritanism had advantages over an unregulated revolutionary ethical free-for-all.

    Which brings us around to Donald Trump again. I can’t know his innermost thoughts on religion and Christian morality. He might have a minimal personal conviction about both of them. I do see, however, that certain of his public policies are favorable toward the broad moral consensus which used to hold sway in the country. Since we are currently as a nation swimming lower and lower in a moral cesspool, I see Trump’s moves as positive. Perhaps he is cynically charting this course only for political advantage. We can still take the good we can receive from him.

    As far as the gender issue, I am pleased to read that you are no longer alleging that women were treated as subhuman beings. I am not one to post frequent links to outside sources on these discussion pages, but I recommend you do a few minutes of internet searching on the women’s suffrage issue. Things were no diffferent here than they were in Europe, the continent with whom we have a strong Western cultural connection. For the most part women could not vote or hold office on either side of the Atlantic until the 20th Century. This legal fact did not render females “subhuman” in the eyes of men. In fact, that very word has strongly negative linguistic baggage since it is the English equivalent of the German ”untermensch” which was regularly used to inflict great distress upon victims of the NAZI state.

    In summary, with all respect to you and Dr. Fea I don’t think the expression MAGA has a racial or a gender component.. Some people obviously perceive it that way but I don’t think Trump does. He sees it in mostly economic terms. Trump is just a few years older than I am, and I can still recall the days when our economic trajectory was more optimistic. Under Obama we were told in veiled words that we were going to have to learn to live with less. As President Obama so famously said to an anxious factory worker in Indiana, “What’s he [Trump] going to do to bring those jobs back? Wave a manic wand. Those jobs are gone.” In other words, “Suck it up, buddy, while the highly paid and underworked bureaucrats in Washington figure out a way to find you a new career field.” Maybe Trump will fail in returning the country to economic greatness, but his message of hope resonated with voters in 2016.



  3. Hi James,

    I’m not sure a back-and-forth will be productive, but I will try to answer the biggest red flags in your reply.

    1) When I said that in the past, Christian ideology was largely unchallenged in the public sphere, I did not suggest or imply that this was because the founders of America were orthodox Christians. Christian ideology was unchallenged for decades upon decades in America because most of its citizens were practicing Christians. Although there was a sort of separation between church and state built into our system of government, culturally (“in the public sphere”) Christianity was and remains a predominant social force for most people in most places. This has started to change, especially in urban areas, and this change is one of the things I think evangelicals would like Donald Trump to reverse for them (MAGA), but that is sad and wishful thinking. The more evangelicals trust in Donald Trump to force Christian values back onto a secularized populace, the more they are driven away from the faith of self-identified Christians who gleefully align themselves with a deceitful, vicious, narcissistic philanderer in order to feel like they have a shot at meaningful power.

    2) When I said minorities and females have been historically treated as subhuman property in the United States, I was thinking about slavery, but also the fact that women weren’t allowed to vote until well after slavery was abolished, and the many ways they were seen and treated as inferior to men, and in particular the way domestic abuse against women was often sanctioned by the culture and even the law. I certainly didn’t say “all men” believed anything, just that women were _treated_ very poorly on a wide scale. When you misquote me and misrepresent my words and thoughts in order to refute something I never said, it makes it hard for me to take your other objections seriously, and sometimes it makes it seem like you are only trying to say a lot of words to hide a weak position. If you are unfamiliar with the history of gender inequality in the United States, you could start with the political advocacy of Abigail Adams.

    3) Finally, you said something about a “handful” of racists supporting Donald Trump, and that made me sad, because it makes me think that you haven’t really looked at a significant part of Donald Trump’s supporters, and that maybe that you are really unable to stand apart from your own culture and see what it looks like to people who aren’t part of your coalition. If you could I think you would also understand what Dr. Fea means when he says MAGA is morally problematic, because as a slogan MAGA intentionally evokes an era and culture of all white, mostly male supremacy as a historical ideal to which we ought to return. A lot of white people don’t have a problem with that, but a lot of minority people do, because they remember a different side of American history that should never, ever come back. And a lot of explicitly racist voices (David Duke, Steve King, Donald Trump) have latched on to MAGA with glee. Maybe ignoring that side of your political coalition makes Trumpism more palatable for evangelicals who think their hands are still clean because they don’t explicitly endorse the racism of yesteryear?

    I believe that there are good and even great things in America’s past, but pining for them and pretending that it is possible for a person like Donald Trump or Mike Pence to bring back old-fashioned Christianity or Christian values is delusional. What MAGA has really done for religion so far is compromise the integrity of the evangelical right in the eyes of the rest of the nation, by bringing religious conservatives into open cooperation with values and attitudes that used to be antithetical to the popular Christian imagination.



  4. Thanks John. As with just about anyone, I have several disagreements with him—all of which will remain unnamed😎. Seriously, LU is full of faculty who are not Trump supporters and who freely make it known. I would argue that my university is a much more diverse place than most schools I know. In my faculty suite alone I would gauge that the political divide is close to half. Some of my friends on the faculty are either Democrats or voted Democrat—largely because of their dislike of Trump. We disagree but get along great. I don’t recall hearing a single unkind word uttered between the sides.


  5. Jim inSTL,

    I don’t blame the kid’s parents for hiring a public relations firm. He was being attacked unfairly by the entire liberal media establishment. What do you expect his folks to do? Allow him to be skewered by professional interviewers who desire your create a false narrative about the story.
    I will be interested in watching now many of these media and celebrity luminaries alter their description of the event as the legal challenges rise. Many have already made retractions. There is a legal concept called “due diligence” which requires a professional such as a journalist to investigate the full facts of a matter before jumping to libelous conclusions.


  6. Your constant disdain for perceived liberals, as seen in numerous of your comments at this blog, betrays your partisan objectives and predisposed bias and there’s just no way to penetrate a mind that is made up. I posted the link to the extended video for anyone interested in drawing their own conclusions. As my first statement indicated, aside from the politics, let’s see what transpired. I’ve given my analysis. I’ve said my piece. And I’ve done it without having to hire a public relations firm to mold the narrative.


  7. Hello Justin,
    I have to take exception with some of your historic facts. First of all, you state that there was a time when “Christian ideology was unchallenged in the public sphere.” It seems to me that Dr. Fea has spent a good portion of his academic career arguing that our national founding was not wholly by orthodox Christians. I agree with him. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was far from it. He essentially wrote his own naturalistic Bible. John Adams had Unitarian leanings and Ben Franklin was involved in some sort of a lodge with ideas which could not be termed Christian. Freethinkers have always played a part in American life. Abe Lincoln was accused of atheism long before he became president and while he probably moderated his views as he aged, he was never a regular churchgoer.
    Second, while blacks were not treated fairly in large sections of the country, I see no evidence that there was a national practice of treating women as “subhuman property.” Those are very strong words which don’t match the facts. Everyone had a mother and oftentimes a sister and a daughter or two. Do you think all of these men viewed their nearest kinfolk as “subhuman” Justin? If so, please cite me the sources. You seem to be confusing certain legal rights with nonexistent societal and personal attitudes.
    Finally, you are stating that if you can find a handful of racists supporting Trump that MAGA is racist. If that is indeed your logic, let me ask you a correlative question. The DEMs have just elected one or two Moslem females to the House of Representatives. At least one of them has made veiled anti-Semitic/anti-Israel remarks or has associated with vocal anti-Semites. Does this imply that the official position of the DEM party is anti-Semitic? After all, these ladies probably received support from the official party apparatus. I would argue that a few bad apples don’t mark an entire political party. Do you also believe that there is no racism within the DEM party?
    In summary, I stand by my statement that there were once great things about America which have disappeared. You, on the other hand, prefer to cite our past failings. There is no crime in calling the country back to those good values, practices, ideals, and ways.


  8. “Making America Great Again also has to do with returning our society to a time when the most innocent were protected and abortion was not treated by certain elements as a sacrament of sorts. In fact, when I was young the subject of abortion was scarcely discussed in polite company. I think it would be “great” if we could return to those days when life had greater value.”

    Making America Great Again also has to do with returning our society to a time when women and people of color were treated as subhuman property, Christian ideology was unchallenged in the public sphere, and only white male landowners were allowed to vote. You can’t cherrypick what your slogan is supposed to represent by emphasizing the rosy-cheeked memories of a distorted nostalgia and discounting inconvenient historical facts that directly affected other people.

    If you don’t think MAGA has racist undertones, you need to go listen to what actual racists and white supremacists are openly declaring about MAGA and Trump. The problem with platform politics is that you don’t get to disown half the planks you stood on when you rose to power. By your own choice you’ve associated with deplorable people and adopted a slogan they can really get behind. Pretending they’re not an important part of your political coalition only undermines your credibility.


  9. Dear Jim in STL,

    You seem to be in continual defense of Mr. Phillips (a.k.a Stanard earlier in his life.). As I have said, this man is a professional activist and he knows how to draw attention. Your supposition that he was there as a mediator does not fit with his past attention-seeking behavior although I will allow that people can change and perhaps he has. (But if you bet on it, take points.)

    I am pleased that you linked the odious deportment of the Black Hebrews with Westboro Baptist but disappointed that you continue to impugn the Covington boys for their good-natured bantering with the Black Hebrews. There was a playful and happy tone to their school chants. After all, Jim, these are high schoolers, and I am proud to note that there was no rancor in them. The same could not be said for Mr. Phillips or the Hebrews. I will repeat my earlier statement that Mr. Phillips’ stoic expression was less than inviting, yea even menacing. Most people would not feel welcome to knock on his door only to be greeted by such a frozen countenance.

    Finally, I don’t know if the chaperones were present or not. If they were present, they were in a position to know if the boys were crossing a line. After all, they know these kids and should be able to gauge their actions. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.

    Regarding your statement about conservatives believing in accountability, I am in firm agreement, Jim. We will not abandon that principle. In this case, there was no lack of accountability on the part of the boys. I wish I had been as mature and responsible when I was their age.



  10. The Actions of the Black Hebrew Israelites are foul and reprehensible. I state this below. As foul and reprehensible as groups like the Westboro Baptist Church. But they did not advance on the students the students advanced on them. And surrounded them at relatively close quarters – starting with small groups, maybe 40-50 feet away, to a group of maybe 100 or more withing 10-15 feet. The students were heckling and shouting and mocking and even did a version of their school fight chant – one of the students talked about going postal. Why do you continue to prevaricate and ignore the student’s escalating aggression. It is plainly evident on the extended video.

    And this is before Mr. Phillips is involved. The main altercation was between the students and the Black Hebrew Israelites. And, for the same reasons that the Westboro Baptist Church can insult and provoke loudly and in public : they were exercising a right conscience and a right of expression. The boys and the alleged chaperons, chose to confront and escalate. That is when things went off the rails not when Mr. Phillips arrived. Mr. Phillips would not have tried to put himself and his small group of indigenous drummers and chanters in a position of possible harm if the students had not escalated the situation to a direct confrontation.

    This is plainly evident. The students and their alleged chaperons escalated the situation when they did not have to do so.

    “He failed to alter his stoic expression.” Duh. But, as I also point out below, the other 3 or 4 native Americans with Phillips were smiling as were the students surrounding them. What was the student fear? That they would be chanted and drummed at? That 3-4 or so indigenous Americans, at least two of them were elders, were going to break into a fight against a hundred of more students? Other students had stepped out of the way and allowed Phillips and his group to pass. Nick Sandman, the Covington Catholic student at the center of the Phillips episode, could have simply stepped aside and the drumming, chanting procession would have just proceeded on. By standing defiantly in the face of Phillips he further escalated the situation into a one on one confrontation that started the furor. Absolutely unnecessary.

    As Sandman has said, he had a right to stand there. But Phillips also had a right to march and chant.

    James, where is that conservative spirit of accountability and responsibility? No wonder the kids grow up to think that they can do anything.

    Again, where were the adult chaperones?


  11. Jim in STL,
    Your perception of the film footage is that Mr. Phillips was non-threatening. Here is my perception. He approached the boys’ position. He failed to alter his stoic expression. He continued to monotonously beat his drum virtually in the face of the boys. Drums can be historically linked to war. (I realize that these instruments have other purposes, also.). Mr. Phillips should have engaged one of the adult Black Hebrews rather than attempting to bully a teenage boy. The Hebrew Israelites were the problem——not the boys.
    Jim, why do you continue to excuse the improper behavior of an adult in this situation? This man is a professional activist and he knows how to get attention.


  12. John,
    I don’t want to be unkind, but for you to throw out an innuendo that I blindly follow my boss’s lead simply because I used the term liberal is a head-scratcher.


  13. Not sure what you are implying by bringing in Falwell. I don’t follow my bosses lead. I know what liberalism is and am using it in its historical context. I am in fact using the term as a positive trait. Historic liberalism is a lot more tolerant than the current progressive Left. I am well aware of your view toward those who wear MAGA hats, etc., and I stand by my original statement that your view is intolerant and silly. You can try to say your criticism is not toward those kids, but more toward how their school and parents failed them, etc. As far as I see it, you jumped in with bullies who mercilessly vilified these kids, mainly because they like Trump. This is not to say all of them responded in the best way, but to see you ride in on your “Christian” high horse and moralize about the whole thing is sad to say the least. Evidence shows that the initial judgments against these teens were exceedingly overblown. These were young teenagers John who were in an awkward situation and did not know what to do, so, they did what teens often do (especially in a crowd), they acted awkwardly. And for that, they are marked for life by the entire world—at least in their eyes. I hope they have caring and understanding parents because they will surely need them.


  14. “…continue his somewhat hostile deportment…”

    You keep making this claim but it is not a fact. You claim to have watched the extended video but there is no evidence of that in your statements that continue to paint a false picture. Nathan Phillips approaches the students slowly and even stops along the way and he makes no physically threatening motions and he yells nothing threatening – all the while chanting and keeping a steady drumbeat. The kids surrounding him are smiling and laughing and imitating the drumming and dance. The students show absolutely no sense of alarm. Phillips and three others, another man and two women, slowly advance and are also displaying smiles and chanting and drumming. Most students made way when approached. You are being irresponsible by advancing a false narrative when you have available all the evidence to the contrary. If anything, Phillips had the reasonable expectation of harm if things got out of hand – he/they were significantly outnumbered and surrounded. Phillips was acting as a peace maker and in watching the rest of the extended video he may have been, at least in part, successful.


  15. Tony,
    I still do know if thinking people on the left are intentionally ignoring the media’s dishonesty or if they are so blinded by hatred for Donald Trump that they genuinely cannot see the lies and distortions of the media.
    I belong to a gym where I occasionally end up on a treadmill in front of a CNN or MSNBC monitor. Even if I were in ideological agreement with these folks, I would find it difficult to watch for more than an hour. They just beat the subject to death; there are only a finite number of angles from which you can attack a man. When I am stuck in front of the CNN monitor, I find myself wishing that the producers might consider returning briefly to the missing Asian airplane story or possibly Michelle Obama’s latest wardrobe acquisition.


  16. Jeff,
    I will agree with one thing you said. Specifically, Trump might want to have Mr. Phillips visit the White House as a reconciliation moment. The main problem with that is that Mr. Phillips want to continue his somewhat hostile deportment thus possibly marring the event. I don’t worry that the Covington boys would behave admirably.

    A further problem with having the boys is that the cowardly authorities at the diocese level might try to prevent it. Instead of supporting these fine high-schoolers the diocese has seemingly caved in to the pressure of the establishment media.

    Jeff, I don’t know how far we can split hairs on Obama’s wall/fence/barrier or whatever it might be called. He needs security which is in principle not a lot different than countries needing security. Some walls are largely aesthetic, but most of them have a practical purpose.

    Shall we revisit the red hats one more time? You might view it as a micro-aggression against ethnic minorities, yet I doubt that the Covington boys viewed it as such. In fact, I have seen blacks wearing these same hats at Trump rallies. In my opinion, the media and their allies in the DEM party turned these hats into something far more nefariously symbolic than they were originally intended.


  17. I don’t know that Obama has a wall around his house. I have read quotes from some of his neighbors saying he doesn’t. I would imagine there is some kind of fence in places.

    As for the Covington kids….
    I can’t imagine thinking yelling any kind of chants, and the one kid throwing his shirt off were good ideas for diffusing any situation.

    I can’t comprehend any responsible adult thinking those things would be helpful. Responsible adults would lead the kids to turn and walk quietly away.

    The kid who stood in front of Mr. Phillips had no reason to stand there that long with that grin on his face. He could at any point turned and walked away. Or a responsible chaperone or teacher could have led him away.

    Tomahawk chops were not a motion those kids invented on the spot. They are offensive. Someone learned that motion previously, but a lot of the young men were doing it. Tomahawk motions could not have been meant to diffuse the situation.

    I don’t know how many people don’t realize MAGA hats are offensive to people of African American heritage. It’s often a message about taking back or returning to the way things were in the past. There is no time in America’s past that did not have powerful prejudice at work.

    I read Trump may have the Covington boys to the WH. Why not go for reconciliation and have Mr. Phillips too? I don’t think reconciliation is Trump’s strong suit, but he could actually help something good happen.


  18. John: I am genuinely puzzled by your reaction to this incident. I have now watched pretty much every available video of what occurred. The following facts are incontestable:

    1. Phillips approached the students, not vice versa.
    2. Phillips intentionally stood in front of a boy and banged his drum inches from his face.
    3. The boy said nothing to him.
    4. A Native American with Phillips heckled the students.
    5. Radical black activists cursed the students, used homosexual slurs and called a black student the n-word.
    6. I heard no student use profanity in return.
    7. I saw no student engage in violence, or threats of same, or harassment
    8. No student “blocked” Phillips’ path.
    9. No students surrounded Phillips.
    10. What the students did do was engage in chanting while Phillips was banging his drum in the mug of a 16 year old.

    I think the chanting was disrespectful. It was mocking in tone. They shouldn’t have done it. By all means, have a conversation that this was not appropriate. But, in light of the overall circumstances, you believe this was a “woodshed” moment? I’d say, given the intentional provocation by Phillips and his allies, the kids’ behavior — while immature — was fairly restrained. Your reaction to it is wildly disproportionate to the offense.

    There is quite literally nothing about this that warranted a national media feeding frenzy. Except: MAGA. Yes, the hats. White, Christian, “privileged” boys who support Trump. They must be cast as villains and demonized. Have you seen the barrage of death threats? The doxing of students and families? The concerted intimidation efforts to keep these kids from getting into college? A twitter outrage mob
    seeking the destruction of their lives? (This is not an exaggeration.) For what heinous misdeed, again? A “smirk”? Immature chanting?

    Something is very wrong here, and should be denounced, but the vast majority of it has nothing to do with the conduct of those students. That you seem unaware of this, even in the wake of Mr. Phillips’ documented lies and the media’s brazen misrepresentation of what occurred, is disappointing.


  19. My own best assessment of the situation is that the reality of what happened is likely much more complex than either “side” is willing to concede, because, you know, politics. But, no matter, the only thing that is important is the culture war, and so they are either the spawn of Satan or they are the gallant heroes of the Republic. I am not buying it. Like far too many things in this God d–ned political climate (I use that term with full theological intent and not as profanity), it has become nothing more than a litmus test that says far more about the beholder whose eye is doing the beholding.


  20. James: your observation about the questions re: Phillips’ Vietnam service, and the need for further investigation given the dates which don’t seem to match up, brings to mind a classic quip by David Burge (“Iowahawk”): “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow. Until they stop moving.”

    No intrepid reporter from the NYT or the WaPo will be looking into this. They are, however, now digging into the past of other Covington students, to see if maybe some were cruel to puppies, or enjoyed watching “the Apprentice” while chanting “build the wall”, or once wrote a 4th grade essay in favor of baby seal clubbing.

    The media’s brazenly dishonest and slanted handling of this — can anyone explain, with a straight face, why this deserved to be a national news story? — has been disgraceful. Meaning: pretty much standard operating procedure in the era of the Resistance.


  21. Jim in STL,
    Thanks for the link. It finally worked.
    Let’s agree that there is a great deal of elasticity in the verb “harass.” It can mean anything from “to trouble” to “to raid physically and violently.” You perceived the boys as harassers while I did not. Furthermore, I have seen and heard few liberals who have used the verb in the strong sense you are apparently using it. I will stand by the honor and integrity of the Covington boys.
    By the way, did you know that there is very questionable evidence that Nathan Phillips was in Vietnam despite being bill as a “Vietnam Vet?” Has the so-called investigative journalist community tried to obtain a copy of his DD214? Could it be that referring to him as a Vietnam veteran suits the narrative? Mr. Phillips was born in 1955 and served in the USMC. The Marines pulled their big units out of major combat operations in 1971 or 1972. You can do the arithmetic. I am not saying he wasn’t there but I am saying that someone needs to investigate this matter. There appears to be a genuine dating discrepancy. Where are our friends within the major media on this possible scoop?


  22. Dave,
    The fact that Trump is using it to advance his political goals does not detract from the basic truth of the statement. We cannot make the same truth claims about the media’s initial narrative. Very sad!


  23. Well, it looks like the unmodified link that I posted did work.

    “…what you term harassment might be seen by others as a friendly, animated, and spirited debate.”

    Yelling back and forth is not a debate. There was no friendly, animated, and spirited debate happening – not if the word debate is used in its regular sense. The kids escalated when they should have just walked away or been shepherded away by the adult chaperones. If that had happened then it would have remained just six or so Black Hebrew Israelites cursing and shouting about their Bible at indigenous Americans trying to peacefully perform a ceremony at the The Indigenous People’s March.


  24. Well, with Trump’s tweets this morning, I see the move is on to further shift the narrative from “the boys were unfairly targeted by biased media wishing to push a story” to “these boys are heroes and positive agents for hope and change, symbols of all that is good and right with America.” NOW who is using the kids to advance their political goals?


  25. I try not to put direct links in the comments here. The way I posted the link was to replace the period between www and youtube (www DOT youtube). When pasting into the address bar just delete “DOT” and spaces and replace with a period. I tested this and it works.

    I looked and didn’t see a prohibition against direct links so I’ll add an unmodified link and if under review it gets axed then I’ll know for next time. It’s best to copy into the address bar unless it magically turns into a hyperlink.


  26. Jim in STL,
    I am still unable to connect to the link you suggested. This may well be the fault of my digital ham-handedness; but with that being said, I respectfully question your assertion that the Catholic boys were “harassing” the Black Hebrew Israelites. I do not think this sort of behavior is consistent with the general behavior shown by the boys in the other clips I have seen. I will allow that what you term harassment might be seen by others as a friendly, animated, and spirited debate. In any case the boys’ oral defense of Christian principles cannot be compared to the hateful verbiage which spewed forth from the mouths of their adversaries.


  27. Jim in STL,
    Sorry to bother you again, but I tried to call up the video you gave me a couple of minutes ago and it brought me back to this discussion ofn Dr. Fea’s website. I also tried doing searches on YouTube with no success. Can you please post a link which will give me access to the link you are recommending?
    Would like to analyze it. Thank you,


  28. Longrun Kevin,
    Well, you are giving the drummer the benefit of the doubt, and there is a possibility that he was doing what you suggest. On the other hand, he did not smile but instead maintained a stoic and somewhat menacing countenance toward the boys. (And yes, American Indians can smile without violating cultural norms.)

    I would think his actions more profitable had he asked the Black Hebrew Israelites to leave the boys alone. Instead his odd behavior seemed to be directed against the boys.


  29. John,
    Obviously we all look at things differently. Had any of these boys been my son, I would be exceptionally proud of his restraint in the face of attempted intimidation and bullying by adult men. I was especially impressed by the young man who tried to diffuse the venom which the drummer appeared to be signaling with his instrument. These boys are a credit to their school and to themselves.
    I find it puzzling that you fault Trump for corrupting our youth yet remain silent about the national moral degradation and anti-Christian sentiment fostered by President Obama. Maybe you spoke of it at the time in which case I will have to ask your forgiveness for bringing it up.


  30. 1. The Native American Drummer said he was trying to defuse the situation in a peaceful manner by marching between the two groups drumming and chanting.
    2. The kids felt threatened by the drumming and chanting and acted out to hide their fear.

    Would the kids have behaved differently if it had been a white guy with a megaphone saying “let’s break it up and go on our way before this gets out of hand”?
    Isn’t this a case of cultural misunderstanding? The same misunderstanding we’ve seen on this continent for 500 years?

    Maybe that’s the lesson we can learn from this.


  31. Sam: Have you read my chapter on MAGA in *Believe Me?*. The phrase is deeply offensive, especially for people of color. You are a historian, Sam? Think historically about what MAGA might mean to people of color.

    This does not excuse the behavior of the Black Hebrew Israelites. They acted like bullies. But my take has little to do with who did the provoking and who did not. My beef is with the Christians–who I am trying to call to a higher level of public witness The witness of Christ was soiled by these kids (and their chaperones and teachers) not only because of what they were wearing, but because how they behaved. Their pro-life commitments look cheap in the light of their behavior. I don’t blame the kids as much as the parents and the school. If this was my son I would be deeply embarrassed by his behavior. Instead, the parents of these kids are coming out and defending them! I am approaching this not as a liberal (a term which you are clearly wielding here as some kind of derogatory term–ala Jerry Falwell Jr., your boss) or a conservative, but as a Christian.


  32. As I said, I reviewed ALL of the available footage which you apparently have not. There is a lengthy 1-hour and 46-minute video available that clearly shows, for the first 30-minutes or so, the Black Hebrew Israelites harassing the native American assembly by repeatedly citing the Bible and there are no students in sight. The students start showing up at about the 33-minute mark and start harassing the Black Hebrew Israelites, apparently over Biblical disagreements.

    By about the 1-hour mark the Catholic students are starting to increase in numbers, are getting more vocal, and the rest is as I describe above. So, respectfully, I will add a link to the extended video and you can get back and report on what you observe.

    Start it at zero and hang in there.

    https://www DOT youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3961&v=86RP3_710GM

    Of course, replace DOT with a .


  33. John,
    I hope you are willing to admit your over reaction now that the facts are more and more showing this to be woefully overblown. And your notion that MAGA hats and shirts are somehow inherently immoral and racist is intolerant and silly. If you are going to be a liberal, be a real one.


  34. Dear Jimmy Dick,
    Please tell me where I am cherry picking facts. The film footage of this sad incident in D.C. is pretty clear.
    I would disputed your assertion that walls don’t work. Former President Obama has a wall around his current house and he did not dismantle the White House fencing/wall when he was in office. While I have not seen it, I have heard reliable reports that Nancy Pelosi has a nice wall around her exclusive, multi-million dollar estate in CA. The wall in Israel also seems to work to the satisfaction of the Israelis, Finally the U.S. Border Patrol officers are asking for more walls and/or fences on our southern border Do they know something we don’t?

    I can’t understand why you are trying to inject race into this matter. If we had thousands of lily white Canadians trying to stream across our northern border, I would expect our government to act to stop it. We don’t need lawbreakers of any ethnicity.


  35. Jim,
    If you viewed it, you will have to then admit that the boys were approached and initially challenged by the two separate adult groups. Even the liberals at CNN have backed off their initial trashing of the boys.


  36. Sheridan,
    I would guess that the teacher removed their names because certain elements on the left had threatened to dox those involved in the event. The ethnicity of the staff had nothing to do with it. Besides, how do you know that some of the teachers are not of American Indian heritage? DNA tests seem to be in vogue for that sort of thing these days since pictures are not always definitive.
    Second, I think it is a crying shame that Mitch McConnell has not had the courage to stand up and defend those kids, his very constituents. They were slandered by the liberal media and Mitch has been mum.
    Third, you seem to take Mr. Parsa’s depiction of the school at face value. I don’t know a thing about him, but have you considered that he might have an agenda in creating a further narrative? The media certainly had an agenda.
    Finally, the only point upon which you and I agree is that the chaperones could have done more. After all, we witnessed two separate adult groups attempting to intimidate young high schoolers. I would call that bullying.


  37. Walls failed in the medieval era. They fail today. The wall in question is one that is desired by those who do not want non-whites entering the US. It is desired because they want a white America. They lie about the reasons a wall is needed and the facts show they’re lying about it.

    You can defend racism all you want. You can defend Trump all you want. You can cherry pick facts to support your beliefs all you want. In the end, that wall will not be built. So you might want to start asking yourself why you choose to defend a racist who lies about the reasons for a wall.


  38. First, I strongly echo Martin’s observation “where were the chaperones?”

    We all know that teens do dumb things so why didn’t the adult chaperones corral the boys away from any potential confrontation?

    Second, in light of all the national publicity Covington Catholic High School received, I am sure there will be a lot of internal discussion among the school board members about how their school is perceived by outsiders.

    One of those outsiders, Arlen Parsa, a documentary filmmaker (Twitter @arlenparsa), spent considerable time investigating the school. Below are some of his tweets (condensed.) However, it is worthwhile to view his entire thread to get more of his views.


    “The first thing you need to know about Covington Catholic High School is that it is an elite private boys school with an expensive tuition. But the second thing you need to know is that it is as close to a “whites only” school as you can find in the 21st Century.

    “Covington Catholic’s race problem is not limited to the almost all-white student body however. Before the school hastily removed its teachers directory yesterday, I reviewed it. Every. Single. Teacher. Is. White. (at least of those 80 listed yesterday before they took it down)”

    It appears to me that Covington Catholic High School has an institutional problem. And it is interesting to me that Covington is in Kentucky where its senator, Mitch McConnell, upon the election of the America’s first Black president, tried (but failed) to make Obama a one-term president.

    How this nation’s racial problems will be solved is beyond me, but it remains a festering wound which is exacerbated by Trump and his MAGA supporters.


  39. John: I have been meaning to read your book — and I will — but finding the time at present has been a challenge. And, having enjoyed (and largely agreed with) your arena re: whether America was founded as a Christian nation, I do not take issue with your claim that MAGA is an ahistorical slogan. Personally, I would not wear a MAGA hat, not only because I am not a Trump voter, but because, as a Christian, I do recognize that it has become a political flashpoint and something that is far more likely to divide people than to bring them together.

    But that is my choice. I am not willing to go so far as you, and claim that others — especially non-Christians — should not display it, or that if they do, it calls into question their morality and integrity. Again: it is not “whataboutism” to ask why you would not have the same qualms about a Christian attired in overtly political garb in support of other candidates, which might cause dismay among other groups of people.

    If the standard is “it may give offense, therefore don’t do it” — that should lead to a blanket prohibition. Otherwise, I think you open yourself up to the claim that your empathy extends merely to those who you believe are aligned with your political and ideological perspective.


  40. Jim,
    I respectfully recommend you spend time viewing all of the available footage. The boys acted in a reasonable manner and were indeed the victims of provocation.
    Your comments about God hating fags and people going to Hell have no connection to the behavior of the Covington boys. Perhaps Dr. Fea has provided earlier opportunities for people to comment on Westboro Baptist. I don’t know, but the final comments in your posting would be better suited for that discussion if it exists.


  41. Jimmy,
    Is the pope unchristian for having a wall around the Vatican? It deems itself a sovreign state and, in fact, the ATMs have a Latin language option. How do you relate walls to Christianity?
    By the way, are you certain the boys were yelling this particular slogan? I know for certain that there are observers who would strongly dispute your assertion that the Black Hebrew Israelites and Mr. Phillips were not the instigators of this incident. Are you aware of other incidents in which Mr. Phillips has been involved? This is not the first.


  42. Tony, your obvious inability to empathize with what a MAGA hat might communicate to people of color is really discouraging to me on several fronts. I would encourage you to read my book *Believe Me* in which I explain how the phrase “MAGA” is a seriously problematic idea for Christians to embrace, both morally and historically. You may not agree with my argument, but your inability to try to see the world from the perspective of African Americans and Native Americans is troublesome to me. And “whataboutism” is not a response to this lack of empathy.


  43. “MAGA hats and shirts are offensive.” To whom? Every person who agrees entirely with your view of Donald Trump?

    Are you really ruling out of bounds the wearing of a (dopey, as are most) campaign slogan? As with your claim that ALL Trump supporters are vicariously to blame for the actions of some students (which many are now seeing in a very different light as more video evidence has come out), that broad brush just keeps on expanding.

    Are Che t-shirts categorically offensive? What about Hope and Change gear? (Lots of people who opposed Obama might be offended by that slogan. I think such a stance would be absurd, but we’re now engaged in measuring and validating subjective reactions.) Heck, there are many aspiring mini-totalitarians on our college campuses and among the woke punditocracy who find the wearing of, say, American flags, or certain “appropriating” Halloween costumes, or Christian iconography, or maybe a quote by Jordan Peterson — gasp! — highly offensive. Triggering, if you will.

    Are all of those claims meritorious, and to be taken seriously by reasonable people? How are we to discern which offenses are to be accorded weight, and which are not? I didn’t vote for Trump, I don’t like many, many things about his character, but the assertion that wearing a MAGA hat, standing alone, should elicit moral outrage, is a very curious and decidedly illiberal notion. (I will now await the Godwin’s law equivalencies for Nazi regalia.)


  44. Disregarding the politics, the Black Hebrew Israelites were a small group exercising their rights of peaceable if noisy and irksome assembly, free expression and freedom of religion (and may well have had a permit). The Black Hebrew Israelites may have been offensive and aggressive in their message but they were planted in one location and not being physically aggressive. The students on the other hand, instead of just moving on, kept massing until they had the nerve to start taunting and mocking the Black Hebrew Israelites and then the enlarged group of unchecked students started encroaching on and surrounding the Black Hebrew Israelites’ space, a sign of both verbal and physical aggression. The white high-schoolers thought it to be their place to to not just instigate aggression but to escalate. THere was no constructive counter dialog being presented. The insults directed at the white high-schoolers were largely in response to the escalation that they were initiating.

    Where were the white high-schoolers’ chaperones? Why weren’t they de-escalating the situation? Why weren’t any of the students trying to move their compatriots back and away from the escalating situation as they disrespected, mocked and insulted a Native American elder and his people who were praying and chanting in an attempt to distract and de-escalate? And the defiant stance that the one student took in blocking Nathan Phillips is clear power signaling. And now the white high-schoolers are claiming or being given victim status? Please.

    As to the horrible things that the Black Hebrew Israelites were saying to the students (and, frankly, anyone else within ear shot) or that any of the native Americans said in the heat of confrontation; they were no worse than when I’ve encountered with Christian street-preachers yelling at me that I have no morals, am an abomination, and am going to be sent by their god to eternal damnation and fiery torment, or the ones that yell “God hates Fags,” or the ones that stand in lines to yell taunts like “You are a baby-killing whore that will burn in the pits of hell forever” at women in crisis, or the ones that proclaim ”This is a Christian nation and if you don’t like it you should leave,” etc., etc. etc.


  45. I think I will let my original response to the earlier reports stand. It still comes down to students displaying racism and adults giving racism and bigotry a pass in order to support their political beliefs.

    Anyone who participates in chanting, “Build the Wall!” is morally bankrupt and displaying behavior that is not Christian.


  46. John,
    It is good to read that you are now taking a more nuanced view of this incident. My initial postings on The Way of Improvement suggested that all of us wait for the full set of facts to appear. Now that additional footage has been released, we can see that the Catholic boys were not the instigators. Furthermore, we can see that activist, Nathan Phillips, was not “set upon” by a rabid band of hooligan teenagers. Personally, I was impressed by the restraint these boys showed as they waited for their bus. Phillips is a professional protester and he was successful in creating a narrative which was indorsed by the major media. I congratulate him for being good at his “job.”
    I still cannot understand your religious concern with the hats the boys were wearing. Making America Great Again also has to do with returning our society to a time when the most innocent were protected and abortion was not treated by certain elements as a sacrament of sorts. In fact, when I was young the subject of abortion was scarcely discussed in polite company. I think it would be “great” if we could return to those days when life had greater value.
    The multiple remarks by James Martin were typical of the double-speak used by people who know a journalistic injustice was done but who still do not want to alienate the wrong liberal groups. Talk about having it both ways! Interestingly, Fr. Martin cited a critical statement from the diocese rather than a statement from the actual school supporting the boys. I would think that the school has a closer view of the facts than the more remote diocese.


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