Category Archives: Religion

LAT Admits Bush ‘Evangelical’

After three solid years of accepting and broadcasting the myth that Junior’s religion–about which he makes such a to-do–is centrist-Methodist, the LAT’s Peter Wallsten finally, if casually, dumped it. In a report on how hard it is to satisfy the far-right while trying to appeal to moderates for election purposes, Wallsten writes in an off-hand way, as if everybody always knew this:

Polls show that the president remains enormously popular among social conservatives and other elements of the Republican Party base, and can expect overwhelming backing from them. And many leading conservatives stressed this week that despite the failure of the same-sex marriage ban, they continue to see Bush, an evangelical Christian, as one of their own. (emphasis added)

For three years, Omnium has been insisting that Bush is not and has not been for years the moderate Methodist he pretends to be when he campaigns. He is an evangelical, born-again, radically conservative, fundamentalist Christian whose favorite spiritual advisors are Pat ‘Homosexuals cause earthquakes’ Robertson and the faculty of segregationist, far-right Bob Jones University. The story that he called Billy Graham when he had a question about his faith (Graham is a centrist evangelical as these things go) was a nice story but it happened a long time ago, before Bush’s ‘conversion’.

We have been castigated for saying this. People insisted that we were being ‘unfair’ to Junior, that we were flying on rumors and innuendo, and that he counldn’t possibly be an evangelical because when he goes to church, it’s a Methodist church, the same one his father attends and has attended for years. Yes, but–it’s for show.

Like everything else he does in public, Junior’s ‘Methodism’ is an act, a carefully-contrived bit of stage-business calculated to fool people into thinking he’s a centrist when he’s not. In American Rhapsody, Joe Esterhasz said that where Poppy is a centrist who played toward the right, Junior is a hard-rightist playing toward the center, and that pretty well sums it up. His trips for ‘guidance’ (and a political boost amongst Christian conservatives) to Bob Jones are a matter of record; his phone calls to Robertson seeking ‘advice’ have been widely reported from time-to-time and never denied. But the most telling proof, as always with this Admin, is in the decisions he has consistently made since coming to office.

Bush has signed into law a ban on one type of late-term abortion procedure. On Friday, the administration announced that for the third year in a row, it would not pay dues to the United Nations Population Fund because U.S. officials said the fund indirectly supported Chinese government programs that force abortions.Bush has changed federal rules to allow faith-based groups to compete for federal contracts. He has also used special powers, available only when Congress is in recess, to place some conservatives on the federal bench after they were blocked by lawmakers.

Every one of them through the back door in the middle of the night, and by Executive Fiats that don’t require assent from any other branch of govt–his preferred way of doing business.

Given all this, can we now finally abandon the pretense that King George II is a centrist? He isn’t. He hasn’t been for almost a quarter-century. His claim that he is is another out-and-out lie–which is the problem. I’m not against fundamentalist Christians holding office, not even the presidency, provided that they a) don’t lie about it, and b) aren’t theocrats who want to turn the US govt into their peculiar god’s private preserve with them playing High Priests ‘transmitting his will’ to a reluctant congregation. But I have enormous problems with Junior’s ‘stealth’ faith, a faith that denies itself in public and calls the shots in private.

Falling Falwell

Jerry Falwell has crossed the line with his open endorsement of Bush and the AUSCS wants his tax-exempt status revoked.

Hoping to send a warning to churches helping the Bush campaign turn out conservative voters, a liberal group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that an organization run by the Rev. Jerry Falwell has violated the requirements of its tax-exempt status by endorsing Mr. Bush’s re-election.”For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush,” Mr. Falwell wrote in the July 1 issue of his e-mail newsletter “Falwell Confidential” and on his Web site, “The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable. To the pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, pro-America voters in this nation, we must determine that President Bush is the man with our interests at heart. It is that simple.”

He added: “I believe it is the responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush.”

Mr. Falwell, who helped lead conservative evangelical Protestants into politics 20 years ago as the founder of the Moral Majority, also asked for contributions to a political action committee run by the social conservative Gary Bauer. “It is the organization that I believe can have the greatest impact in re-electing Mr. Bush to the Oval Office,” he wrote.

Can’t get much more blatant than that. Falwell has spent his career skating along that very thin line between endorsement and support, between private and professional acts. This should have been done 30 years ago when he was using his church and his tv show to support Nixon; those were over the line, too. When he got away with it, it just got worse. The fact is that Falwell is a closet CR (Christian Reconstructionist) like Pat Robertson. Neither recognizes any validity in the church-state separation issue; on the contrary, both will do everything they can to erase it.

Yesterday, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued in a letter to the I.R.S. that one of Mr. Falwell’s religious organizations, Jerry Falwell Ministries, had disseminated the message in violation of tax rules, which restrict tax-exempt religious groups and charitable organizations from engaging in politics.In an interview, Mr. Lynn said the complaint was also a response to the Bush campaign’s effort to enlist thousands of pastors and churchgoers to help get members of conservative congregations to the polls.

“I certainly hope that this sends a clear message that religious organizations have got to operate within federal tax laws restricting partisan politicking,” he said. “And I think the message is that the campaign has been reckless in its approach to churches, recklessly trying to lure them into political activities.”

The word ‘reckless’ is wrong. there’s nothing reckless about it. It’s a calculated ploy to pander to the Christian right and to identify Bush with Christianity, leaving Kerry with..what? The other day a local right-wing talk show host, Jay Severin, told a caller that the choice for voters was a Christian Bush or a ‘Marxist’ Kerry.

The Republican-controlled IRS is unlikely to move on this and court challenges will take years to be decided, but the publicity spawned by a centrist church organization finally, after all these years, protesting Falwell’s contemptuous disregard for the rules could be worth its weight in gold–or votes.

If TV Got Religion….

by Rob Kutner of The Daily Show, based on a Reuters article that said the success of Gibson’s Passion had broadcasters working on a religious line-up.

CSI: HOLY LAND (CBS) Liked “The Passion” but didn’t think it dwelled on the forensics enough? The trail to Damascus is still warm for these detectives, investigating unsolved martyrdoms as to whether they qualify the victim for sainthood. Not so much a whodunit as a who-gets-beatified-for-it.CHASTITY & SLOTH (ABC) One regards the body as a sacred temple of the divine. The other lies idle, reaping not the fruits of human industry. And now they’re . . . roommates?

GODVILLE (WB) Moses begging Pharaoh to let him use the chariot. Samson being ordered to cut his hair and get a job. Jesus sulking over having to do “another stupid healing.” It’s all your favorite Biblical figures — back when they were still teens.

SHARE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO) Larry David becomes a born-again Christian, then goes around annoying people in an entirely new way.

If you think this is far-fetched, you don’t know the industry…

Really Bad News for Bush

The Bush/Rove campaign machine has targeted–and is relying heavily–on the fundamentalist evangelical vote coming out heavy in November and voting for them as a block, but this week the National Association of Evangelicals punched a hole in that assumption by endorsing govt’s responsibility in caring for the poor and in being an environmental steward, and suggested strongly that evangelicals shouldn’t be so knee-jerk about their political commitments.

Steeped in biblical morality and evangelical scholarship, the framework for public engagement could change how the estimated 30 million evangelicals in this country are viewed by liberals and conservatives alike.It affirms a religiously based commitment to government protections for the poor, the sick and disabled, including fair wages, healthcare, nutrition and education. It declares that Christians have a “sacred responsibility” to protect the environment.

But it also hews closely to a traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of families, opposition to homosexual marriage and “social evils” such as alcohol, drugs, abortion and the use of human embryos for stem-cell research. It reaffirms a commitment to religious freedom at home and abroad.

In the midst of a presidential election year, war and terrorism, the framework says Christians in their devotion to country “must be careful to avoid the excesses of nationalism.” In domestic politics, evangelicals “must guard against over-identifying Christian social goals with a single political party, lest nonbelievers think that Christian faith is essentially political in nature.”

“This is a maturing of the evangelical public mind,” said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, one of the nation’s principal evangelical schools. “Instead of just assuming an automatic alliance with a specific party — and that’s been traditionally the Republicans — it says evangelicals ought to be more thoughtful.”

This could have enormous consequences between now and November, no doubt, but even more important in my mind is its recognition and rejection of the Christian theocratic movement that has been using many of these evangelical churches as launching pads–a workable power-base–in their efforts to force America to become a Christian nation with a Christian govt run by Christian ministers using Biblical law rather than the Constitution.

Christian Reconstructionists long ago wrote off the mainstream Protestant sects, but they assumed–and acted as if–evangelicals would support them without much thinking about it. Two of the strongest Christian theocrats with the largest followings–Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell–have been insisting for years that evangelicals were in agreement with them and that they represented the entire movement. It must have been a shock to discover that their encroachment on mainstream evangelical territory had been denounced by the very people they claim to represent.

One of the NAE’s most heartening statements is aimed directly at the Robertson/Falwell/Randall Terry end of the spectrum.

[U]nder the new public engagement framework, evangelicals may find themselves sometimes at odds with political allies in the culture wars that have buffeted the country for two decades. Genuflecting to political realism, the new framework calls on evangelicals to seek to work with whom they disagree in common cause. The framework also recognizes that in the give and take of political compromise, they may frequently have to settle for “half a loaf.”

This is an explicit rejection of the growing radical right-wing Christian policy of refusing even to talk to its opposition on the grounds that anyone who disagrees with them is the spawn of Satan promoting his agenda and can therefore have nothing to say that a god-fearing Christian should listen to. While Falwell has at least ‘genuflected’ toward the need to ‘open a dialogue’ with the Enemy, though he avoids doing it himself, Robertson and his ilk have consistently denounced those who would compromise their definition of ‘Christian values’, and their views have been gaining political ground. Tom DeLay, who never loses an opportunity to expound on his born-again evangelical roots, has used the House rules to bar Democrats from House conferences and done everything else he can think of to make them so marginal as to be irrelevant to the governing process. As a practicing evangelical, he would now have to revise that strategy and start consulting them on upcoming bills and otherwise treating them as actual members of the House of Representatives. (Don’t hold your breath ’til he does it, though.)

This is the most encouraging sign I’ve seen in years that, as a core group, the evangelicals are not going to allow themselves to continue to be used as CR cannon-fodder without at least discussing if that’s how they want to end up. It’s even more encouraging that they have reaffirmed the Sermon on the Mount–the basis for traditional Christian attitudes toward society’s weak links–as a ‘core Christian value’ and explicitly identified the environment as a Chrsitian concern, something that’s been missing the last twenty years or so.

It’s equally encouraging that nowhere in this document will you find the power of corporations as surrogates of god affirmed–or even mentioned.

Reagan Redux

Ronald Reagan was the greatest leader of the free world in the 20th Century. Franklin Delano Roosevelt left Europe half enslaved. Churchill left Britain in economic decline. Ronald Reagan both defeated the Soviet Union and began a period of economic growth that has lasted a generation and continues to this very day.Grover Norquist

News Item:

New Hampshire’s Senate has passed a measure to make the Presidential Range truly “presidential.” With a vote of 18-5, the Senate voted to change the name of Mount Clay, commemorating Henry Clay who never served as president, to honor former President Ronald Reagan. Reagan will now stand in the clouds beside former presidents such as Washington, Jefferson and Eisenhower, all of which have their own mountain peaks.

After the first round of talks, I told my aides he was a true dinosaur, and Reagan told his aides I was a stubborn Bolshevik.Mikhail Gorbachev

The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump.Christopher Hitchens

Mayday Madness, Hooray!

Silly me, I thought today was the 1st, not yesterday, so I didn’t post the traditional Mayday chant. This mistake MUST BE CORRECTED IMMEDIATELY! So I will.

Hooray, hooray,

It’s the First of May!

Outdoor screwing1

Starts today!

This is an ancient Discordian mantra. Discordians worshipped Eris, the Goddess of, um, Lust, and it was said that if the mantra was not recited promptly on the First, Chaos would rule the following year. Which put them into a terrible quandary as they also worshipped Chaos.

It may not be too late. I recommend repeated recitation today, just in case. While not strictly-speaking required, it might also be a good idea to follow up the chants with a, uh, bout of the, um, suggested activity-like program. If you know what I mean….

It’s up to you of course, but it was a beautiful day here in New England and today is supposed to be another one until the inevitable clouds move in later this evening. There are lots worse ways you could be spending your time. Trust me on that one.

Just a thought….

1. Edited for a family audience. And John Ashcroft. When uttered in the privacy of your own home, the proper term may be applied. Use topically.

Passion Unleashes Passions

I haven’t written anything here about Mel Gibson’s film, more or less hoping that, like locusts, it would eventually just go away. I had a dialogue with David Neiwert at Orcinus and some other folks habiting his Comments board (my contribution starts here and continues in subsequent Passion posts) but that has been the extent of it. I said it was just a movie, after all, David replied, in part:

It’s becoming harder to pretend that it’s “just a movie” anymore…. Hate crimes have already popped up their ugly visage, as well as various iterations of anti-Semitism in differing degrees.

–and then went on to give examples. David’s argument that Passion is a medieval throwback is compelling; his thesis that it could act as a center and rallying-point for nascent anti-Semitism and fundie-Xian intolerance is thinner but certainly worth serious thought. But his–and my–assumption that it could bring a lot of whacks out of the closet has already proved accurate. Witness:

HARTLAND, ME — A Hartland man was treated at a Pittsfield hospital after he nailed himself to a cross. The 23-year-old man apparently was trying to commit suicide Thursday evening in his living room, the Bangor Daily News reported.Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong said Monday that no charges will be filed. “There is no crime here,” he said.

Police said the man appeared delusional and told them he had been “seeing pictures of God on the computer.” He told them he had not seen the hit movie “The Passion of the Christ,” which depicts the Crucifixion of Jesus.

Lt. Pierre Boucher said the man took two pieces of wood, nailed them together in the form of a cross and placed them on the floor. He attached a suicide sign to the wood and then proceeded to nail one of his hands to the makeshift cross using a 14-penny nail and a hammer.

“When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911,” Boucher said.

It was unclear whether the man was seeking assistance for his injury or help in nailing down his other hand.

And this not in the back-hill South but the back hills of staid, still-Puritanish New England–Maine, to be exact, where one thought most folks had more sense. Still, you gotta admire the kind of mind that couldn’t figure out ahead of time that if he nailed one hand down, he wouldn’t have any way of nailing down the other.

This is not a joke, btw, but a real event, more’s the damn pity.