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“Ineffable Arrogance”: The Christian Right Climbs Up On The Cross

What with all the adverse trends (even to a small extent among its own bought-and-paid-for Republican Party) on public opinion about same-sex marriage, it’s not surprising that the recent habit of Christian Right stalwarts to proclaim themselves persecuted has intensified. As is often the case, CBN’s David Brody speaks for his tribe:

In the media’s narrative, you would think that homosexuals are the poor souls who have been banished by society like ugly stepchildren and are now rising to overcome incredible odds.

But what about today? Let’s be honest: If you are a conservative evangelical who believes in the biblical definition of traditional marriage then guess what? You are one of the following: An outcast, a bigot, narrow-minded, a “hater” or all of the above. It’s a different type of ridicule but it’s still ridicule.

Before I say “cry me a river,” I’ll acknowledge that Brody does make the rather important point that such alleged victims of persecution as Tim Tebow and Dan Cathy don’t exactly stand out in the history of Christian martyrdom, a tradition that calls for a bit less whining and a bit more fortitude than we usually hear from such quarters. And he does condemn Christian Conservative gay-baiting and hatred, though it has often emanated from leaders, secular and political, he seems to consider part of The Team. If he’d go on to note that “ridicule” is the least of the disabilities GLBT folk have had to put up with, I’d be inclined to cut Brody some slack in begging for “tolerance.”

What I’d really prefer to a stiff upper lip, however, is even a vague glimmer of humility from conservative evangelicals like Brody on this subject. He thinks it’s obvious any “Bible-believing evangelical” has to take a stand against marriage equality. I think there’s significant evidence that a lot of conservative evangelical folk consistently confuse the Bible with the patriarchal culture they grew up with, and/or use the Bible to justify utterly secular political positions that have little or nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe Brody’s right, but then I’m not the one pretending to have a monopoly on truth. Christians who do should not only expect some pushback from those they would cast into the outer darkness, but yes, some ridicule and scorn for their ineffable arrogance and the use of the Lord’s name in vain. I would recommend reflection on this possibility two days before the commemoration of the true Cross, just as I intend to reflect on my responsibility to feel a stronger sense of Christian fellowship with David Brody.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christian Apocalyptic Conservatism”: It’s Barack vs The Bible, Or Is It?

While the flap over Rush Limbaugh’s latest in a long line of offensive and hateful commentary continues on, other figures with (arguably) more longevity and influence continue their assault on Barack Obama and what they see as the decline of Christian America. To wit: the Texas intellectual entrepreneur David Barton, who provides the footnotes for the “war on religion” thesis that currently has captivated the right.

Most recently, Barton’s post, “America’s Most Biblically-Hostile President,” details a theme that has become known to the public largely through the Gingrich/Santorum bloc: that Barack Obama has led the most actively anti-Christian administration in American history. This is a talking point with a lot of traction across the airwaves and blogosphere of the right.

Given Obama’s frequent Christian testimony—explicit enough to make most founding fathers uncomfortable with its public expression of private matters—how can this view be so widely held?

Is it because, like Thomas Jefferson, Obama has been sitting in his office, snipping away with his scissors and cutting out the relatively few passages of the Bible that he has deemed worthy of inclusion in his own expurgated text of trustworthy Gospel sayings? Is it because, like Andrew Jackson, he has opened the White House doors to the huddled masses, yearning to sip some “cider” with the POTUS and his crew? Is it because, like Abraham Lincoln, he avoids any explicit mention of Jesus, and confesses that the ways of the Almighty are unknowable to humans?

No, of course not. Rather, it boils down to this: because Chuck Norris, Franklin Graham, and the American Family Association (whose biblically-based policy toward employees has been detailed by Sarah Posner) say so. And because David Barton has 47 footnotes that say so. Yes, it’s true: Bibles being burned by the military; the president allowing for the funding of stem-cell research; the denigration of Christianity and the “preferentialism” towards Islam; the Air Force Academy (in my home city of Colorado Springs) forced to pay to “add a Stonehenge-like worship center for pagans, druids, witches, and Wiccans”; the celebration of Iftar and conscious shunning of National Prayer Day at the White House; and on and on.

If you think this issue hasn’t caught fire with the base, just check out the screens of hatefully acidic commentary when Messiah College History Professor John Fea’s piece on Obama as the “most explicitly Christian President in U.S. History” found its way onto The Blaze. John Fea’s auto-da-fé came not only in the comments section, but in nasty emails, phone calls, and demands for his firing from Messiah College. As he discovered, the culture wars are real, and practiced even on those (like Fea) who largely have been critical of Obama’s actual implementation of his promises about faith-based policies.

More important than these blogosphere wars, however, is understanding something deeper about these screeds about Obama as the anti-Christian force behind the homosexual/Islamic/secularist/socialist/radical agenda.

The “deep history” behind the latest round of Christian right polemics can be followed back through a long tradition of worries about the decline of a Christian America. Ultimately, these can be traced back to the founding of the Republic. More directly, they emerge from the rise of Christian apocalyptic conservatism from the early twentieth century forward. Matthew Sutton details a similar assault on the FDR administration, one with numerous parallels to the contemporary campaign against Obama, in “Was FDR the AntiChrist,” a Journal of American History article whose findings are distilled in this New York Times piece. These themes carried forward into the “suburban warriors” who empowered the rise of the Goldwater right in Cold-War California, and then to what came to be called the “New Christian Right” of the 1970s and 1980s. Communism disappeared from the enemies list after 1989 (except for older Christian right stalwart David Noebel, who keeps even that faith while leading the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade even into his retirement), but Islam, an economic “New World Order,” the “gay agenda,” the always-present secular humanists and feminists, and numerous other threats arose to take its place.

A Religion of Fear

Perhaps this is because we always need a “Party of Fear,” whether it comes in the form of Federalists dubious of democracy in the New Republic, or nativists fearing the influence of “new immigrants” in the 1850s (or the 2000s), or contemporary commentators suspicious of Obama’s foreign, Islamic, or radical roots. Even from his grave, hack journalist Andrew Breitbart continues to taste that fear, and spread the hate. And a “religion of fear” serves a multitude of purposes for its followers, both titillating and politically energizing. Fear is fun—and fear is mobilizing.

Unlike Barton, Breitbart claimed no particular Christian credential, instead reveling in the joys of political mudslinging. Barton, by contrast, has recently appeared in works with respected Christian historians, and exercises a quiet and long-lasting influence through his congressional connections, his intellectual one-stop-shop for all things Christian Nation, and his role as unofficial (and official) vetter of history textbooks. Like a one-man think tank, he steamrollers opponents with position papers, textbooks, blog posts, talking head appearances, and footnotes. In his work on the Christian origins of the United States, at least he has a modicum of evidence to produce, given the Christian proclivities of certain of the founders. In the war against Obama, however, Chuck Norris and Franklin Graham have to stand in the stead of Patrick Henry or Parson Weems.

Thus, for the anti-Obama agonists, the president’s overtly Christian testifying, praying with Billy Graham, championing of C. S. Lewis, and quoting of the Old Testament in major public speeches simply shield the fact that the enemy always comes clothed in righteousness—and that the Great Deceiver is among us.

David Barton summarizes it most succinctly: “Many of these actions are literally unprecedented—this is the first time they have happened in four centuries of American history. The hostility of President Obama toward Biblical faith and values is without equal from any previous American president.” Roll over, Thomas Jefferson.


By: Paul Harvey, Opinion, Religious Dispatches, March 9, 2012

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Religion, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christian Hypocrisy From The Religious Right

W.W.J.D.?  How about  what would Jesus say? What would he say about the way we treat the poor, the  homeless, the hungry, the sick, the elderly?

I haven’t gone and gotten all religious on you, I promise. I  was  listening recently to an interview on the radio with a man from the Council of   Churches on poverty. He  reminded me how those on the religious right  use the Bible and specifically the  words of Jesus to defend their  desire to overturn Roe v. Wade and fight against abortion, or to define marriage  between and man and a woman to prevent gay people from marrying.

But what about the issue of those who are suffering? Those  who are in  need? Where are the religious  right on that? Why isn’t it a value or  moral to help a sick child, an elderly  person or someone who is hungry?

The Bible contains over 300 verses dedicated to the poor and  social  injustice. In all of those verses it is clear God is concerned for both;   so why aren’t those who claim to follow him?

Those on the religious right want to defund programs such as  Social  Security, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, healthcare, etc. What I want  to know is: why aren’t these so  called people of God offering their  homes to the homeless, food to the hungry,  a coat to someone who is  poor and cold?

The concept of “it takes a village” was not Secretary  Clinton’s idea;  it originated with the teachings of Jesus. Don’t take my word for it,  read his words.  (In some books they’re in red; that should make it  easier for you.)

With the current cuts in federal programs, more and more  people are  being turned away from shelters, yet at a time when the economy is  bad,  the unemployment rate is high, people keep losing their homes and there   are more people living below the poverty line than in 50 years;  what do we  expect these people, some of whom are children, to do?!

Those in the churches aren’t helping, many church doors are  locked to  these people. When you phone a religious organization asking for  help,  they’ll send you to a shelter; which is government funded, which their   congregation wants to cut the funding for.  See the problem?

And it goes beyond our borders. In the horn of Africa where  there is  severe famine and where children are dying daily, the United States   gives less than we have in the past, thanks to the cuts in funding.

I find it hard not to gag when I read “In God We Trust” on  our  currency when we don’t follow God’s laws.  The religious right will  fight hard to give a tax credit to a rich man,  but doesn’t want to pay  for a blanket for a homeless one. Didn’t the Bible say something about  it being  easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a  rich man to get  into heaven? In America, it’s the other way around. If  you’re rich, it’s like  heaven; if you’re poor, it’s hell.

I was scared and shocked when I agreed with something Pat  Robertson  said recently. He said the right are being too extreme and to tone it   down. He should’ve told the religious right to do something I think  they’ve  stopped doing long ago; read the book they so readily use to  further their  agenda.

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, October 26, 2011

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Religion, Social Security | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pat Robertson’s Alzheimer’s Divorce Comments Demean Marriage

Pat Robertson has made some pretty crazy remarks. Remember  the “hit” he wanted us to take out on Hugo Chavez?!  Yes, the self-proclaimed leader of the moral  majority, former presidential candidate, and television talk host on the 700 Club. But Robertson is also a  pastor, a man who claims to believe that the Bible is the word of God. So imagine my and so many others’ surprise  when he spoke of divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s because they’re pretty much  dead anyway?! (Remember “’til death do us  part?” It certainly gives a new slant to that notion.)

Now of course I’m paraphrasing. And you might find this odd coming  from me, a  liberal, progressive, Democrat; but I’m as angry at the  message as I am the  messenger.

Robertson is a leader in the conservative Christian circles.  These  are the same people that fight for the definition of marriage to only be   between a man and a woman; certainly not a man and a man or a woman  and a  woman. Why? Because marriage is holy, ordained by God. It’s one of  the first things God does in book of Genesis.

I am angry at this remark Mr. Robertson made, although not  surprised,  because it shows the true hypocrisy of not only these leaders, but  of  so many Christians who use the Bible only when it suits them. Remember  what Gandhi  said about not being able to find Christ among them?

I have been married for 15 years. Happily? Yes, for the most part. I did take  the vows when I married to love  and honor in sickness and in health,  for better or worse, ’til death do us  part. And I meant it when I took  those  vows.

If we simply divorce, or do away with a “problem,” as a  person with  Alzheimer’s may often be perceived, then what’s next? Divorce when  someone is burned in a fire?  Partially dismembered in an auto  accident?  Loses a breast (or two) to breast cancer? When a man can no  longer maintain an  erection? How about when one’s beauty  fades? Oh  right, they already do that. (At least in Los Angeles where I live.)

The point is, Alzheimer’s is an illness; it’s one of those   “sicknesses” the Bible and those vows refer to.  And, it is certainly  one of the worst times for a spouse, for a family.

Marriage is not a walk in the park. But if you’re going to  fight to  defend it, define it, and protect it based on the Bible, at least read the Bible Mr. Robertson and see what God says about the very institution He  designed.

Maybe if more of us took those vows more seriously, we  wouldn’t have a  divorce rate that hovers above 50 percent in America today.

Shame on Mr. Robertson for twisting the “word of God” as he  calls the  Bible, when he chooses. I  believe it’s men like Robertson who keep  many of us more than an arm’s length  from our creator.


By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, September 21, 2011

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yes, Perry And Bachmann Are Religious Radicals

While few in either the mainstream media or the conservative commentariat have been so bold as to deny that the Republican Party is a lot more ideologically rigid than it was four or twelve or thirty years ago, there has been some regular pushback against attaching such terms as “radical” and “extremist” to the party’s views. Some conservatives like to claim that they just look extreme when compared to a Democratic Party dominated by a radical socialist president. Others admit their party is in an ideological grip unlike anything seen since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, but argue the whole country’s moved with them. (Just observe Michele Bachmann’s recent statement that the Tea Party represents the views of 90 percent of the U.S. population). But more common is the effort, which extends deep into the media, to push back against charges of Republican extremism on grounds that, well, a party that won over half the ballots of 2010 voters cannot, by definition, be anything other than solidly in the mainstream. And so it becomes habitual to denigrate even the most specific text-proofs that something odd is going on in the GOP as “liberal hysteria” or mere agitprop.

This 45-million-Americans-can’t-be-wrong meme has been deployed most recently to scoff at those progressive writers who have drawn attention to the rather peculiar associations of presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. The most typical retort came from Washington Post religion columnist Lisa Miller, who deplored those scrutinizing Bachmann’s legal training at Oral Roberts University or the “dominionist” beliefs common among many key organizers of Perry’s recent “day of prayer and fasting” as “raising fears on the left about ‘crazy Christians.’” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered a more sophisticated but functionally equivalent rebuke, suggesting that Bachmann and Perry were representing a long Republican tradition of co-opting religious extremists with absolutely no intention of giving them genuine influence.

But the recent resurgence of militant Christian Right activism, alongside its close cousin, “constitutional conservatism,” is genuinely troubling to people who don’t share the belief that the Bible or the Constitution tell you exactly what to do on a vast array of political issues. From both perspectives, conservative policy views are advanced not because they make sense empirically, or are highly relevant to the contemporary challenges facing the country, or because they may from time to time reflect public opinion. They are, instead, rooted in a concept of the eternal order of the universe, or in the unique (and, for many, divinely ordained) character of the United States. As such, they suggest a fundamentally undemocratic strain in American politics and one that can quite justifiably be labeled extreme.

Consider the language of the Mount Vernon Statement, the 2010 manifesto signed by a glittering array of conservative opinion-leaders, from Grover Norquist to Ed Fulner to Tony Perkins:

We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government. …

The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God.

An agenda speaking with the authority of “self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God” and advancing the “enduring framework” of the Founders is, by definition, immutable. And in turn, that means that liberals (or, for that matter, their RINO enablers) are not simply misguided, but are objectively seeking to thwart God and/or betray America. Think that might have an impact on the tone of politics, or the willingness of conservatives to negotiate over the key tenets of their agenda?

From this point of view, all the recent carping about liberal alarm over the religious underpinnings of contemporary conservatism seems to miss the big picture rather dramatically. Both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have conspicuously offered themselves as leaders to religio-political activists who, whatever their theological differences, largely share a belief that God’s Will on Earth requires the repeal of abortion rights and same-sex relationship rights, radical curtailment of government involvement in education or welfare, assertion of Christian nationhood in both domestic and international relations, and a host of other controversial initiatives. Does it ultimately matter, then, whether these activists consider themselves “dominionists” or “reconstructionists,” or subscribe to Bill Bright’s Seven Mountains theory of Christian influence over civic and cultural life? I don’t think so.

Similarly, the frequent mainstream media and conservative recasting of the Tea Party as just a spontaneous salt-of-the-earth expression of common-sense attitudes towards fiscal profligacy is hard to sustain in light of the almost-constant espousal of “constitutional conservative” ideology by Tea Party leaders and the politicians most closely associated with them. Perhaps Rick Perry, just like his Tea Party fans, really is personally angry about the stimulus legislation of 2009 or the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and that’s fine. But no mainstream conservative leader since Goldwater has published a book challenging the constitutionality and morality of the entire policy legacy of the New Deal and (with the marginal exception of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) the Great Society. Ronald Reagan, to cite just one prominent example, justified his own conservative ideology as the reaction of a pure-bred New Deal Democrat to the later excesses of liberalism. Reagan also largely refrained from promoting his policy ideas as reflecting a mandate from God or the Founders, and he treated Democrats with at least minimal respect.

In that sense, major presidential candidates like Perry and Bachmann really are something new under the sun. They embody a newly ascendant strain of conservatism that is indeed radical or extremist in its claims to represent not just good economics or good governance, but eternal verities that popular majorities can help implement but can never overturn. They deserve all the scrutiny they have attracted, and more.

By: Ed Kilgore, Special Correspondent, The New Republic, August 31, 2011

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, Press, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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