The question won’t often raise itself, but it’s an important one when it does: in a time of political night rallies, and shootings behind the barn, and book burning, who among the formerly-upstanding patriot class will go turncoat?
Immediately following Joe Biden’s Inauguration – or to pull a phrase from a lesser Elvis Costello song – immediately following “the coronation of the king of thieves”, you could have made an educated guess as to who some of the patriot-careerists might be: men who, when things get contentious, will dilute their expressed views to not move too far out of line with prevailing mainstream sentiment.
I listened to the local conservative-talk station (WHAM 1180) while doing some home repair work one evening around the time of the Biden inauguration, and was made ill to hear, intercut with the advertised shows, news updates from the station’s associated national news outlet assuring us all was well with the world, and that preparations for the Biden inauguration were moving along nicely. I also heard host Mark Levin, around that time, dispute a report that Cumulus broadcasting had ever instructed their hosts not to talk about the election having been stolen. Levin thought the report of network censorship was ridiculous, had no legs, no one had ever told him what to say or what not to say. That may be true for hosts of Levin’s stature, but it was a compromised media offering at best that I experienced locally. At the local level, the news updates from the national network undercut any patriot sentiment expressed by local hosts. Our most notable regional conservative host, Bob Lonsberry, had, with or without memo, jumped on the bandwagon professing any report of the election being stolen as baseless.
During this period of radio propaganda littering even conservative-talk wavelengths, I started listening to the local Catholic radio station. That might sound like a leap – standard boilerplate conservative opinion to Catholic apologetics– so let me explain what I found there.
I can’t really say now why I felt driven to scan the dial for stations beyond the couple I regularly use as background noise while doing home repair, but it was likely my objection to some inauguration spectacular that superseded the regular programming. Why I stopped scanning the radio dial on what is more-or-less “Mother Angelica radio” had to do with some vague hope I had for a discussion of faith and resignation, something nonpolitical. Instead, I found a political broadcast with the chutzpah, which local conservative radio seemed to be in the process of giving up.
Various mystery Catholic hosts took direct aim at Biden and Pelosi for their claims of endorsement by the Catholic Church but while being themselves personally abortion-friendly, but the criticism went far beyond that; There were explicit endorsements of Trump, and talk of the evils of tech censorship, and of the evils of communism. I didn’t know the names of shows these views were voiced on -- I was largely unfamiliar with the station and their programming line-up -- but I eventually narrowed my focus to a single show while trying to track down a comment I’d liked.
The comment I’d heard and searched for – which I never did rediscover in its podcast form – had to do with the method by which Biden and Pelosi and their like can claim Catholic endorsement while at the same time being spawns of Satan. The hosts used a term I’d never heard before, and which remains a mystery to me now, but they described the sort of logic used by wayward Catholic politicians to maintain good standing among the voting faithful. The logic plays out in the politician’s statement of, “I have no problem with Catholicism and Catholicism has no problem with me.” It’s a statement that makes the politician sound amenable to Catholic doctrine, but it means nothing at all. It’s a snapshot of reasonableness that requires no effort on the politician’s part to come into compliance with church dictates.
I contacted the radio network to research the comment and began reviewing the talent line-up to pinpoint the show the comment might have appeared on. Our local Catholic station -- 1460 AM -- is part of the radio apostolate named The Station of the Cross, a web of stations clustered heavily throughout Central and Western New York, but having stations on its edge in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I discovered while reading the descriptions for the network’s various shows that I’d likely been a listener to something titled The Terry and Jesse Show. Terry and Jesse, broadcast out of Arizona, are carried on various affiliates nationwide. I tore through episodes of their show in podcast form in search of the Biden/Pelosi quote but eventually put the quote aside altogether as I became interested in who these two hosts were, this pair of very outspoken Catholic conservatives. I was able to arrange an interview with one of them, Jesse Romero.
Romero is an interesting fellow: an ex-LAPD officer, author, evangelist and former kickboxing champion. He’s a man’s man, can be a serious dude, and you should take him seriously when I tell you this next bit: Romero has had, as described in his new nonfiction book The Devil in the City of Angels, experience with possessed persons (The subject of the supernatural interests me, so forgive me this brief tangent. The only influence I’ve ever had for my newsy writing is reporter Carl Kolchak, “The Night Stalker,” so you can’t expect me to ignore the supernatural, the one time it’s come up since I’ve been writing nonfiction for UncoverDC.)
Romero has had run-ins with possessed persons during his days as an LAPD officer responding to calls in neighborhoods that were no stranger to the occult religion of Santeria, and of the encounters described in his new book this is the one that stuck with me most:
Romero, responding to a domestic disturbance call, entered a home to find a weird variation on the painting “American Gothic”: a husband and wife sat in chairs next to each other, the wife with her hands on a shotgun; I imagine rested comfortably where a shawl might fall across her lap and the husband? His head was missing.
The murderous wife entertained a gentle conversation throughout the process of her arrest, a conversation with an unseen entity lodging about the edges of her living room. She inquired of the invisible acquaintance if he was pleased with the tableau she’d arranged. Once sequestered in the back of the police cruiser, the wife’s conversation with her compatriot eventually came to a pause, followed by growls and barks from the woman.
Once the officers began their drive back to the station, the entity seemed to have moved to thoroughly inhabit the woman’s body. The woman’s eyes rolled back in her head to reveal only the color white as she entered a trance state. She then moved forward, pressed her mouth against the cage separating front and back seats, and enunciated into the front seat, “Chop-chop-chop/cut-cut-cut/chop-chop-chop/cut-cut-cut,” looking back and forth at the officers, still with only the whites of her eyes exposed.
Toward the tail end of my conversation with Romero, post-interview more-or-less, he encouraged me to attend church more regularly (I’m a Christmas and Easter churchgoer), and he gave the reason for his having written his new book. Romero said,
“I wrote that book to scare men into getting their asses back to church. I'm going to tell you right now, that's exactly what the devil wants. He wants you to stay away from the church because the only power for us to fight against the diabolical is by receiving the grace of God through prayer and through the sacraments. Without the grace of God, we're dead meat.”
I’m not a church joiner or joiner of any kind, but I told Romero that I’d keep more regular church attendance in mind, and I meant it.
To get back to politics:
I asked Romero about the perception I have that the Catholic Church leans left, and I wondered how large a contingent of Catholics his conservative views represent? He answered that question and also differentiated himself from conservatives who aren’t believers. Romero replied to my question,
“I'm a Catholic who believes in the perennial teachings like many, trust me, there are millions of us. In other words, we believe in what the church has taught always, everywhere, and in every century, and we don't buy into modernism. And so we would call ourselves orthodox Catholics. We’re probably, maybe in political circles, they would call us patriots or conservatives or right-wing. All of those terms don't really apply to me as a Catholic. I accept them, I know what people are to trying to say. I would identify myself more as an orthodox Catholic, which means a Catholic who believes everything that the church teaches, going all the way back to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Romero continued speaking of the line between conservatives with faith, and those without:
“Here's where I'm different from most conservatives, people that are maybe not church-going conservatives. I consider non-faith-based conservatives, I call them 'two M conservatives'. Their concern is for the economy -- money -- and a strong military. I'm a 'three M conservative'. We can't have a strong, vibrant free-market economy, and we can't have protection by our military and law enforcement unless we add the third 'M', which is morality. I believe in morality, money, and military. Morality comes from God. God is the absolute foundation. In fact, that's what minted on our coins, 'In God We Trust', 'One Nation Under God' in our Pledge of Allegiance. Without that, the other two fail. We're never going to come back to a free-market economy, and we're never going to have strong law enforcement, and strong military, and a government that rejects socialism, without God. America -- ‘The Great Experiment’ -- is destined to fail. That's why, for me, when I meet people who call themselves conservatives, patriots, but they're not rooted in any faith, basically it's like trying to plant your feet on something solid but your feet are in mid-air upside down. It's impossible. The conservative movement will never go anywhere, and will fail, and will never gain the three offices of government again, if God isn't first in the movement.”
Being only a Christmas and Easter church-goer myself, it’s not easy for me to have such lines in the sand drawn, which demand more involvement in the church from me, but here’s the thing: I saw in a nervous time, when troops were being massed in DC for some unknown reason, I saw some “patriots” clam up, and the inauguration of a pretender treated with the fair hand with which a parade at Disney World might be narrated, and it wasn’t pretty. I could be wrong, but I don’t have the sense that men who tie their continued truthful testimony to the health of their immortal souls would be dissuaded as easily as some patriots.
When I opened the Terry and Jesse website, I'd seen a notice about a temporary YouTube suspension the podcast version of their show had received. I asked Romero why he’d been put on notice by YouTube and what it was about his content YouTube objected to. He answered,
“We talk about things that most people want to continue overlooking, which are the vaccines, we talk about the elections, we talk about the fact that the Dominion software is a huge problem, and it will continue being a problem in four years if we don't fix it. We're talking about the problems with the open borders, and some of these things, especially the vaccines and everything revolving around Covid 19 and Fauci and Gates and the Wuhan laboratory, we bring up pretty consistently. We're always getting little warnings (from YouTube) about basically, or little caveats on our shows, that say at the bottom that ‘This is contested information’ or ‘This is not true’. We can live with it, it's their toy, so we know that the liberals run these tech companies and if you don't agree with them they're going to flag you.”
Romero broached another differentiation for our final point of discussion than that between conservatives of faith and those without. He talked about the line between people of faith active in politics and those people of faith who eschew politics.
I mentioned to Romero that I’d met people of faith who stay away from politics on the thinking, if I’ve got their reasoning right, that a miserable end time is prophesied, and so is unavoidable. Romero took fairly passionate objection to this interpretation of scripture when he said to me,
“Jesus Christ expects us as followers of his to go out there, roll up our sleeves, and make things better. He expects us to be his hands and feet here on Planet Earth, in fact in Matthew chapter five he calls all of us as followers, and he says, ‘You are the salt of the earth.’ What does salt do? Salt gives food flavor. We, as Christians, are supposed to go out there and we're supposed to bring flavor to society, bring the best out of society. Jesus Christ said, ‘You are a city set on a hill.’ Think about a lighthouse that's guiding ships, ships coming into port. That's what we're called to do. We're called to take positions of leadership in society so we can guide people into safe harbors.”
Romero’s contentions are a challenge, at least for me, but a challenge like a marriage that demands you be a better person than you might be otherwise. Think of what we see on the other side, the leftist side: They challenge each other to go low and improve the neighborhood primarily by lodging insults, they passionately demand on a national level that the fight for truth stop, and everywhere they censor and de-platform.
Perhaps we’ll all soon meet together as victims of the mob, our backs up against the same wall, Romero and standard-issue conservatives alike, so maybe it’d be a good idea to acquaint ourselves with each other now while we have the chance.