Titled "Dispatches from Bitter America," the book's subtitle -- "A Gun Toting, Chicken Eating, Son of a Baptist's Culture War Stories" -- reflects its satirical, humorous and at times irreverent tone. The title is based on remarks made by President Obama on the 2008 presidential campaign trail when he referenced some white working-class voters as "bitter" and clinging "to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."
Much of the political left wing, Starnes writes, fails to understand the overwhelming Christian sentiment among Americans and the foundational importance of Judeo-Christian values for the nation.
"Friends, I hope you know that Christ alone is the author of our freedom," Starnes writes. "Without Him, without His guiding hand, our nation will cease being free."
One example of a battle against Christianity occurred in Taunton, Mass., according to Starnes, when an 8-year-old public school student was told by his teacher to draw something that reminded him of Christmas. Because the boy drew a stick figure of Christ on the cross, he was sent home from school and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for creating a violent picture.
Though Taunton's mayor eventually ordered the school superintendant to apologize to the boy's family, Starnes sees the episode as exemplifying the anti-Christian mentality of some liberal politicians and activist judges.
A former Baptist Press assistant editor, Starnes is host of "FOX News & Commentary," a daily segment aired on FOX News Radio. As a FOX reporter, his stories from Wall Street to the White House have aired on hundreds of stations around the country. He is a frequent contributor to "FOX & Friends" and "Hannity" and authored the 2009 book "They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick," a chronicle of his battle with weight control and open-heart surgery.
Coinciding with the release of Dispatches from Bitter America by LifeWay Christian Resources' B&H Publishing Group, Starnes launched into a book tour in February that included speaking engagements at notable Southern Baptist venues such as First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., First Baptist Church in Dallas and Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Among the recent culture war episodes noted in the book:
-- In 2008 the Defense Department burned Bibles on an American military base in Afghanistan out of concern that they might be used to convert Afghans to Christianity.
-- Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, was disinvited to speak at the Pentagon's 2010 National Day of Prayer event because he called Islam an evil and wicked religion. Similarly, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was disinvited to speak at a national prayer event at Andrews Air Force Base over his opposition to the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding homosexuality.
-- The Obama administration opted in 2009 to have a "nonreligious Christmas" at the White House, featuring an official tree that included ornaments depicting the Chinese dictator Mao and a drag queen. The administration even considered not displaying the traditional White House nativity scene.
-- When a Massachusetts public middle school class toured the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, male students were invited to participate in traditional Muslim prayers. In the same vein, the Tulsa, Okla., police department investigated a captain who refused to attend an Islamic event because he said it would violate his religious beliefs. As Starnes puts it, "Islamic radicals are coming to town, and I don't believe they're interested in hosting a potluck dinner with the Presbyterians."
-- The city of San Francisco banned Coke, Pepsi and Fanta Orange from vending machines on city property but permitted public fornication at the traditionally sordid Folsom Street Fair. When some citizens alerted the police of their shock and concern over public sex acts, they were told that "the unwritten rule for the fair was, live and let live." At times, Starnes brings a graphic and comedic tone to the topic of sexuality, including one chapter that begins with a warning regarding its language, counseling, "You might want to set down your iced tea."
-- City officials in Indianapolis called a private bakery's actions "unacceptable" when it refused to bake rainbow-themed cupcakes for a gay rights group on National Coming Out Day. Likewise, some individuals who gave money to oppose gay marriage in California found their businesses protested. Many activists, Starnes writes, "want to attack religious beliefs that conflict with their own."
In fictional satirical chapters, Starnes envisions a billion-dollar government bailout of the barbecue industry, a day when animals have the right to sue human beings, the potential results of government-rationed health care and an incident where government officials taser a middle school student for eating chocolate at school.
On several occasions Starnes turns a humorous critique against those who want the state to outlaw junk food, warning, "The government is coming after your Nutter Butters." He also comments on trends in modern church life, including the overuse of technology and preachers talking excessively about sex.
Kelly Boggs, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, said Starnes "exposes the liberal influence present in America" with "a chicken leg in one hand and a sharp pen in the other." He noted that the use of sarcasm to critique sin falls within the biblical tradition.
"It is in the mode of a prophet to use some sarcasm and humor to call attention , but to do it in a roundabout way that's not too terribly blunt," Boggs said.
Joni Hannigan, managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, said the book "has put in one place a collection of some of the most egregious examples of where religious liberties are being violated."
Starnes' sense of humor "helps us to laugh at what can be so ridiculous ... so we can gain an understanding of the issue without being driven to desperation," Hannigan said.
David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.
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