Monday, April 18, 2005

April 15-17, 2005

Weekend Edition

Onward Christian Soldiers

Did you see this story?

“As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees….. Asked about Dr. Frist's participation in an event describing the filibuster "as against people of faith," his spokesman, Bob Stevenson, did not answer the question… ” (New York Times)

The event is being sponsored by a half-dozen of America’s leading fundamentalist Christian Taliban; Chuck Colson (of Watergate fame,) Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and what gathering of religious wingnuts would be complete without Dr. James C. Dobson.

Why is Frist doing this? I mean the guy wants to be President some day. Here’s why, in Dobson’s own words:

"Does the Republican Party want our votes, no strings attached--to court us every two years, and then to say, 'Don't call me; I'll call you'--and to not care about the moral law of the universe?...Is that what they want? Is that the way the system works? Is this the way it's going to be? If it is, I'm gone, and if I go, I will do everything I can to take as many people with me as possible."

Yep. There it is … America’s own homegrown religious fundamentalism in all its bullying glory. Dobson, Colson, and Mohler are hardly unique. As you read this Dobson’s intolerant counterparts are whipping up hatred against Christians and Jews in mosques across the Middle East. Religious fundamentalists have been the same throughout history and throughout the world. All that differs is their choice of superstition.

Religious fundamentalists are usually not terribly bright. After all, these are people who actually believe that the universe is only 6000 years old, that Noah really got two of every creature on earth onto a boat he built in his backyard, that burning bushes talk and that Jesus’ mother was a virgin (because sex would have been just too icky to contemplate.)

But what America’s Christian fundamentalists lack in critical thinking skills they more than make for in sheer staying power. They never get tired of the sound of their own message. They will pound on it and pound on it until they get what they want. And they more often than not do get what they want, not because their demands are rational, or right, or based on anything real, but because we continue to hope they will leave the rest of us alone if we give in.

Of course just the opposite is what we get. Giving in to a religious fundamentalist is just like paying a blackmailer. It’s just proof of concept for them. And so they are soon back with a set of new and even more outrageous and intrusive demands. And the process begins all over again.

When it all began over two centuries ago all they wanted was a country in which they could practice their own religion unmolested by the authorities. Back then America really was a Christian nation, but by default, not by design.

As the American experiment began succeeding immigrants from non-Christian cultures joined the mix. Christians didn’t like it one little bit and discrimination against other religious persuasions, particularly Jews, was both common and socially acceptable. The Protestant majority didn’t care much for Catholics either but tolerated them in public – they were after all, Christians, sort of…. But they warned and plotted against them behind church doors.

Nevertheless the American experiment in inclusive democracy continued to succeed and grow. Then came along the development that really threw a monkey wrench into Christian control -- free public education. Suddenly everyone could get a liberal education undiluted and undistorted by religious dogma. Ordinary citizens started to get smarter and began engaging in the unthinkable… they started thinking. That led to some to question whether religious thought might be little more than institutionalized superstition.

And that’s when the real trouble started. And it’s why we are having this conversation today. The America of Puritan Christians had evolved into -- gasp -- “E Pluribus Unum.” From many, one -- many cultures, many religions, many beliefs – one nation. For fundamentalist Christians that outcome is simply unacceptable, the handiwork of Satan Himself.

Like their Muslim fundamentalist counterparts in the Middle East, America’s Christian fundamentalists hate where all this inclusiveness has led America. So, rather than embracing a vision of a country in which law-abiding, peaceful citizens are allowed to live as they please, they want lawmakers to roll the social calendar back a hundred years or so.

They want to return to the way things were when they felt superior to anyone who did not share their narrow set of religious beliefs and were allowed to treat such “sinners” accordingly.

They want to return to a time when they made the rules and punished those who broke them -- a time of scarlet letters, shunning, banishment, and worse.

Ah, those were the days! When America was a REAL Christian nation.

The fundamentalist demands of the James Dobson’s of America’s religious right mirror almost precisely the wishes of the Osama bin Laden’s of radical Islam. They too want, under the guise of religious modesty and protection, to subjugate women to rules that segregate and exclude them from normal social intercourse and commerce. Both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists want to return to the days when the rights of no less than half the world’s population were reduced to serving men, bearing and raising children – without complaint, without legal recourse, and without choice.

And those are the very people Republican Senate leader Bill Frist will be affirming when he gives that speech accusing Democrats for not being true “people of faith.” It’s a new demagogic low, even by Washington standards. It is the first time I can't recall another time when a national party leader literally demonized the political opposition.

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. And it is a war, don't doubt that for a moment. A war between those who want America to continue to be the nation of E Pluribus Unum and those who want it to return to a nation where women, gays, non-Christians and atheists are marginalized and demonized. Their soldiers are massed on the ramparts of public debate. And, they have been virtually unopposed by the very men and women we sent to Congress to protect and defend our liberties.

"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast on which Frist will speak. "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."

This war began years ago. It's been a one-sided battle so far as secular forces sit on their hands hoping that eventually their leaders in Washington will come to their senses. Well they are not going to unless we make them, because these fundamentalists scare the hell out of elected politicians. Frist’s decision to pander to the worst of the worst of America’s Christian Taliban shows just how much they fear alienanting America's Christian Taliban.

There is a bit of good news though for you ladies. Berkas are black. And we know how black is ever so slimming...

I used to be pretty religious when I was younger (then I went to college where I learned to think). My mother's side of the family were fundamentalists. ( )

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