By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Well, me and Jesus,” she clarified. “I compare myself to Moses and Noah. Moses brought the people out of slavery. I am the Lord, our Righteousness. Jesus is using my body. I had a dead man for four years. And then a spirit for one. The next one’s coming . . .”
This woman voted.
As did the quarter of the electorate with similar fervor. And now they will demand some political quid pro quo from the administration they empowered. Exhibit A was the immediate hue and cry that has already cowed poor Arlen Specter into submission for suggesting that Bush would have a hard time getting any adamantly pro-life Supreme Court nominees past the Judiciary Committee while he sat in the chairmanship. Fine, the religious right rose up to announce, keep that up and maybe you won’t be chairman.
I wonder what all those Republican Majority for Choice people I spent time with at the RNC will think when Roe v. Wadecomes under immediate assault this term. I knew then that they were fooling themselves about the nature of their party, and that was only confirmed after listening to a lot of Christian radio in Florida. “My only measure,” one guest said when asked to comment on a show exploring biblical perspectives on politics, “is whether the candidate values the sanctity of life.” He went on to say — with other guests concurring — that the fundamental test of morality is pro-life, the principle from which all other moral decisions flow.
Consider this. Evangelical Christianity has elevated what Bush calls “promoting a culture of life” to the highest moral authority. Not only does this offer an inconsistent ethics, since that culture of life apparently prefers embryonic life above all others and certainly does not extend to Iraqi civilians or Karla Faye Tucker, the woman Bush mocked after putting her to death in an episode that even Gary Bauer thought repugnant; but it also hints at the basic exclusionary nature of Christian fundamentalism, which says that those who are not pro-life cannot exercise morality. No matter how much they loved The Passion, for example, evangelicals like Phil will tell you (as he told me) that deep in their heart of hearts, they know that Mel Gibson’s Catholicism prevents him from being saved.
And that goes double for Jews and gays, making the quarter or so of each of those groups that cast ballots for Bush last week the most deluded electoral cohort in history. Gays, as we saw last week, are simply not wanted by Republicans, except in effigy. And as much as evangelicals have become staunch supporters of Israel, the Jews for them are just a means to an apocalyptic end. Once the last of us makes aliyah, they hope, the Armageddon clock strikes midnight. What the Jews for Bush forget is that those of us who don’t accept Christ will be left behind to fight off many-headed demons and be covered in boils and all that. And since when is triggering the days of tribulation part of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s mission statement?
Speaking of which, I sometimes wish He would hurry up and get on with the Rapture: Then we’d be rid of the evangelicals and could return to a permanent Democratic majority in an instant. (The only question for the pollsters to figure out then would be how the many-headed demon vote would break.) Since that’s unlikely, though, the Democrats need to learn how to engage Christianity rather than pretend it’s irrelevant. Today’s reactionary fundamentalism was not always the norm. Nor must it remain so. Between the standard parochial fare from evangelicals, I heard a lot about the progressive message of the Gospels on Christian radio as well. One of the speakers on the show about the intersection of religion and politics pointed out that Christ himself was a true pacifist. And that the Bible is primarily concerned not with sexual morality but tending to the poor and other social-justice concerns. And that all the bible-thumping in the world doesn’t make one a good Christian, which is what Kerry thoughtfully pointed out by recalling Kennedy’s invocation of the Book of James, “Faith without works is dead.”
It took (fittingly) 40 years for the right wing’s co-option of Christianity, and we saw the culmination of that on November 2. It may take 40 years to recapture religion and put it in its rightful place on the left, but it’s time to start now and begin reviving that missing agape. “Evangelicals can quote Scripture and exegesis all day,” one black minister commented during the same show. “But they don’t live the Word outside the four walls of the church. If they did, and fully understood Christ’s walk on Earth, they’d probably vote Democrat.” Amen.
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