Saturday, September 10, 2005



Today published an article adapted from a speech Bill Moyers gave at NY's Union Theological Seminary on the fundamentalist-fascist approach to American poltics. The whole article is worth reading and you can find it at Meanwhle, here's an excerpt that captures the point:

True, people of faith have always tried to bring their interpretation of the Bible to bear on American laws and morals—this very seminary is part of that tradition; it’s the American way, encouraged and protected by the First Amendment. But what is unique today is that the radical religious right has succeeded in taking over one of America’s great political parties—the country is not yet a theocracy but the Republican Party is—and they are driving American politics, using God as a a battering ram on almost every issue: crime and punishment, foreign policy, health care, taxation, energy, regulation, social services and so on.
What’s also unique is the intensity, organization, and anger they have brought to the public square. Listen to their preachers, evangelists, and homegrown ayatollahs: Their viral intolerance—their loathing of other people’s beliefs, of America’s secular and liberal values, of an independent press, of the courts, of reason, science and the search for objective knowledge—has become an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power. They use the language of faith to demonize political opponents, mislead and misinform voters, censor writers and artists, ostracize dissenters, and marginalize the poor. These are the foot soldiers in a political holy war financed by wealthy economic interests and guided by savvy partisan operatives who know that couching political ambition in religious rhetoric can ignite the passion of followers as ferociously as when Constantine painted the Sign of Christ (the “Christograph”) on the shields of his soldiers and on the banners of his legions and routed his rivals in Rome. Never mind that the Emperor himself was never baptized into the faith; it served him well enough to make the God worshipped by Christians his most important ally and turn the Sign of Christ into the one imperial symbol most widely recognized and feared from east to west.
Let’s take a brief detour to Ohio and I’ll show you what I am talking about. In recent weeks a movement called the Ohio Restoration Project has been launched to identify and train thousands of “Patriot Pastors” to get out the conservative religious vote next year. According to press reports, the leader of the movement— the senior pastor of a large church in suburban Columbus—casts the 2006 elections as an apocalyptic clash between “the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell.” The fear and loathing in his message is palpable: He denounces public schools that won’t teach creationism, require teachers to read the Bible in class, or allow children to pray. He rails against the “secular jihadists” who have “hijacked” America and prevent school kids from learning that Hitler was “an avid evolutionist.” He links abortion to children who murder their parents. He blasts the “pagan left” for trying to redefine marriage. He declares that “homosexual rights” will bring “a flood of demonic oppression.” On his church website you read that “Reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage among America’s youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny that God has invested into this nation.”
One of the prominent allies of the Ohio Restoration Project is a popular televangelist in Columbus who heads a $40 million-a-year ministry that is accessible worldwide via l, 400 TV stations and cable affiliates. Although he describes himself as neither Republican nor Democrat but a “Christocrat”—a gladiator for God marching against “the very hordes of hell in our society”—he nonetheless has been spotted with so many Republican politicians in Washington and elsewhere that he has been publicly described as a“spiritual advisor” to the party. The journalist Marley Greiner has been following his ministry for the organization, FreePress. She writes that because he considers the separation of church and state to be “a lie perpetrated on Americans—especially believers in Jesus Christ”—he identifies himself as a “wall builder” and “wall buster.” As a wall builder he will “restore Godly presence in government and culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall.” He sees the Christian church as a sleeping giant that has the ability and the anointing from God to transform America. The giant is stirring. At a rally in July he proclaimed to a packed house: “Let the Revolution begin!” And the congregation roared back: “Let the Revolution begin!”
(The Revolution’s first goal, by the way, is to elect as governor next year the current Republican secretary of state who oversaw the election process in 2004 year when a surge in Christian voters narrowly carried George Bush to victory. As General Boykin suggested of President Bush’s anointment, this fellow has acknowledged that “God wanted him as secretary of state during 2004” because it was such a critical election. Now he is criss-crossing Ohio meeting with Patriot Pastors and their congregations proclaiming that “America is at its best when God is at its center.”) [For the complete stories from which this information has been extracted, see: “An evening with Rod Parsley, by Marley Greiner, FreePress, July 20, 2005; Patriot Pastors,” Marilyn Warfield, Cleveland Jewish News, July 29, 2005; “Ohio televangelist has plenty of influence, but he wants more”, Ted Wendling, Religion News Service, Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2005; “Shaping Politics from the pulpits,” Susan Page, USA Today , Aug. 3, 2005; “Religion and Politics Should Be Mixed Says Ohio Secretary of State,” WTOL-TV Toledo, October 29, 2004].
The Ohio Restoration Project is spreading. In one month alone last year in the president’s home state of Texas, a single Baptist preacher added 2000 “Patriot Pastors” to the rolls. On his website he now encourages pastors to “speak out on the great moral issues of our day…to restore and reclaim America for Christ.”
Alas, these “great moral issues” do not include building a moral economy. The Christian Right trumpets charity (as in Faith Based Initiatives) but is silent on social and economic justice. Inequality in America has reached scandalous proportions: a few weeks ago the government acknowledged that while incomes are growing smartly for the first time in years, the primary winners are the top earners—people who receive stocks, bonuses, and other income in addition to wages. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who rely mostly on hourly wages barely maintained their purchasing power. Even as Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Gulf Coast, giving us a stark reminder of how poverty can shove poor people into the abyss, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year one million people were added to 36 million already living in poverty. And since l999 the income of the poorest one fifth of Americans has dropped almost nine percent.
None of these harsh realities of ordinary life seem to bother the radical religious right. To the contrary, in the pursuit of political power they have cut a deal with America’s richest class and their partisan allies in a law-of-the-jungle strategy to “starve” the government of resources needed for vital social services that benefit everyone while championing more and more spending rich corporations and larger tax cuts for the rich.
How else to explain the vacuum in their “great moral issues” of the plight of millions of Americans without adequate health care? Of the gross corruption of politics by campaign contributions that skew government policies toward the wealthy at the expense of ordinary taxpayers? (On the very day that oil and gas prices reached a record high the president signed off on huge taxpayer subsidies for energy conglomerates already bloated with windfall profits plucked from the pockets of average Americans filling up at gas tanks across the country; yet the next Sunday you could pass a hundred church signboards with no mention of a sermon on crony capitalism.)
This silence on economic and political morality is deafening but revealing. The radicals on the Christian right are now the dominant force in America’s governing party. Without them the government would not be in the hands of people who don’t believe in government. They are culpable in upholding a system of class and race in which, as we saw last week, the rich escape and the poor are left behind. And they are on they are crusading for a government “of, by, and for the people” in favor of one based on Biblical authority.
This is the crux of the matter: To these fundamentalist radicals there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand of that religion that is right; all others who call on God are immoral or wrong. They believe the Bible to be literally true and that they alone know what it means. Behind their malicious attacks on the courts (“vermin in black robes,” as one of their talk show allies recently put it,) is a fierce longing to hold judges accountable for interpreting the Constitution according to standards of biblical revelation as fundamentalists define it. To get those judges they needed a party beholden to them. So the Grand Old Party—the GOP—has become God’s Own Party, its ranks made up of God’s Own People “marching as to war.”
Go now to the website of an organization called America 2l ( ). There, on a red, white, and blue home page, you find praise for President Bush’s agenda—including his effort to phase out Social Security and protect corporations from law suits by aggrieved citizens. On the same home page is a reminder that “There are 7,177 hours until our next National Election….ENLIST NOW.” Now click again and you will read a summons calling Christian pastors “to lead God’s people in the turning that can save America from our enemies.” Under the headline “Remember—Repent—Return” language reminiscent of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell reminds you that “one of the unmistakable lessons [of 9/11] is that America has lost the full measure of God’s hedge of protection. When we ask ourselves why, the scriptures remind us that ancient Israel was invaded by its foreign enemy, Babylon, in 586 B.C. ….(and) Jerusalem was destroyed by another invading foreign power in 70 A.D. …. Psalm l06:37 says that these judgments of God …were because of Israel’s idolatry. Israel, the apple of God’s eye, was destroyed … because the people failed… to repent.” If America is to avoid a similar fate, the warning continues, we must “remember the legacy of our heritage under God and our covenant with Him and, in the words of II Chronicles 7:14: ‘Turn from our wicked ways.’”
Just what does this have to do with the president’s political agenda praised on the home page? Well, squint and look at the fine print at the bottom of the site. It reads: America2l is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate, engage and mobilize Christians to influence national policy at every level. Founded in l989 by a multi-denominational group of pastors and businessmen, it is dedicated to being a catalyst for revival and reform of the culture and the government .” (emphasis added).
The corporate, political and religious right converge here, led by a president who, in his own disdain for science, reason and knowledge, is the most powerful fundamentalist in American history.
What are the stakes? In his last book, the late Marvin Harris, a prominent anthropologist of the time, wrote that “the attack against reason and objectivity is fast reaching the proportions of a crusade.” To save the American Dream, “we desperately need to reaffirm the principle that it is possible to carry out an analysis of social life which rational human beings will recognize as being true, regardless of whether they happen to be women or men, whites or black, straights or gays, employers or employees, Jews or born-again Christians. The alternative is to stand by helplessly as special interest groups tear the United States apart in the name of their “separate realities’ or to wait until one of them grows strong enough to force its irrational and subjective brand of reality on all the rest.”
That was written 25 years ago, just as the radical Christian right was setting out on their long march to political supremacy. The forces he warned against have gained strength ever since and now control much of the United States government and are on the verge of having it all.
It has to be said that their success has come in no small part because of our acquiescence and timidity. Our democratic values are imperiled because too many people of reason are willing to appease irrational people just because they are pious. Republican moderates tried appeasement and survive today only in gulags set aside for them by the Karl Roves, Bill Frists and Tom DeLays. Democrats are divided and paralyzed, afraid that if they take on the organized radical right they will lose what little power they have. Trying to learn to talk about God as Republicans do, they’re talking gobbledygook, compromising the strongest thing going for them—the case for a moral economy and the moral argument for the secular checks and balances that have made America “a safe haven for the cause of conscience.”
As I look back on the conflicts and clamor of our boisterous past, one lesson about democracy stands above all others: Bullies—political bullies, economic bullies and religious bullies—cannot be appeased; they have to be opposed with a stubbornness to match their own. This is never easy; these guys don’t fight fair; “Robert’s Rules of Order” is not one of their holy texts. But freedom on any front—and especially freedom of conscience—never comes to those who rock and wait, hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting. Christian realism requires us to see the world as it is, without illusions, and then take it on. Christian realism also requires love. But not a sentimental, dreamy love. Reinhold Niebuhr, who taught at Union Theological Seminary and wrestled constantly with applying Christian ethics to political life, put it this way: “When we talk about love we have to become mature or we will become sentimental. Basically love means…being responsible, responsibility to our family, toward our civilization, and now by the pressures of history, toward the universe of humankind.”
Christian realists aren’t afraid to love. But just as the Irishman who came upon a brawl in the street and asked, “Is this a private fight or can anyone get in it?” we have to take that love where the action is. Or the world will remain a theatre of war between fundamentalists.


At 1:53 PM, Blogger Timcanhear said...

To fight this right wing mantra to join church and state, we need to embarrass them along the way; to point fingers and expose their ignorance and defiance of our constitution.
Religious zealots have {lauded} their beliefs forever. (See William Laud, 1573-1645, who believed that all people of England should conform to The Church of England, which led to the English civil war of 1642!) Now though, our religious right is attempting to hijack the supreme court. With government in their control, it's their final battle, the culmination of what started many years ago.
It may take a civil war to end this madness. American's have been dumbed down too far by now to end this thing with a rational discussion of the constitution of the United States.
And of course, the corporate media won't help. They're part of the government now. They're part of the plan. It's gonna take a spiritual reawakening followed by a civil war. The (civility) is already gone.


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