Monday, February 27, 2012

Faith, Fundamentalism and The First Amendment

I have been away from this blog for more than a week. I’ve been sitting and waiting for the results of MI and AZ to wonder in like drunken sailors from a liberty port. The last few days have seen the polls stagger, careen, and career about like a very abstruse chaos theory calculation. The results may be close in Arizona and Michigan, or maybe not. Who knows? The primary season has lost all sense of narrative arc, degenerating into a tale that is all sound and fury. But, Sweet Baby Jesus On A Pogo Stick ,the shear idiocy and stark raving insanity of the Elephant tribe has been unnerving to watch.

Just when I think the Republicans could not dig a hole any deeper, they break out the heavy equipment to bore through the political bedrock. In pandering to the crazy, the Mighty Mormon and Mr. Unfortunate Google Result have attempted to take a wrecking ball to the separation of church and state.

It was no great surprise that Rick Santorum went all Theo-Con radical on the subject. That Santorum would make a totally inappropriate comment about JFK’s fifty year old statement on the subject of church-state separation seems by now par for course.

It would take another post to tease out how wrong Santorum's musings were. Let’s just say that his religious beliefs are in no way “oppressed” when others block his attempt to force his special brand of theocracy down their throats.  Let’s us also say he has is Constitutional understandings of the First Amendments at a ninety degree opposition to reality. I could continue on this vane, but I want to move on to more pressing matters. There is a lot to cover, and only so much time. Let’s move on, shall we?

One of those matters was the rotting corpse of the US Catholic Bishops doubling down on contraception, along with Daryl Issa. I’m way late to this particular party, please forgive me, I was just unable to recover from the jaw-dropping idiocy of the whole tempest in a tea pot.

Of all the “cultural” conflicts that the Elephants could attempt to gin up outrage on, they choose contraception? And they did it in such ham-fisted way that the proceedings outraged anyone with a vagina or a functioning male brain? (I know, I know, a “functioning male brain” is an oxymoron)  

Riddle me this, how do the Elephants intend to win any national election with only 30% of the female vote? Yes, vote for us, the party that wants to take your BC pills, IUDs, diaphragms, etc, away from you! Vote for the barefoot and pregnant party! Wow, that’s a sure-fire winner; why has no one come up with that before?

But it gets better, or worse depending on your point of view. In the latests bit of Republicans pointing out, “if you haven’t noticed, the President is a black man,” Mitt channeled his inner, soulless, pander-bear and made noise about Obama’s lack of a proper Christian faith. Run that by me again oh magic underwear man, you have questions about Obama’s Orthodoxy? You who tote around a extra-special “Additional Gospel of Jesus Christ” want to get into a discussion of The One True Faith?

Exactly when did a candidates Christology become a matter of political speculation? When did a grubby, face-shifting, flip-flopping, political hack gain the right to smear any other candidates’ faith? What part of “no” in the constitution’s no religious tests for office did the seagull worshiping Romney fail to understand?

Honestly, that bit of pander by Willard floored me. It was so skeevy, so typical, so calculated, this slandering of Obama’s faith. It was a transparent bit of flummery tossed to the evangelical, fundamentalist, born-agains. It was Mitt saying “hey I can be an utterly intolerant jackass. I can do this racist, dog-whistle, political gamesmanship just like Mr. Sweater-vest and the Icky Amphibian can. See, I’m a narrow-minded, exclusionary, bigoted, Christian-In-Name-Only, mouth-breather--just like you!” How low has the Mitt man fallen. In the six years Willard Romney has pursued the goal of the Republican nomination for president, he has lost the thread, he has definitely forgotten Matthew 16:26.

I’m not even going to bother attempting to offer a rejoinder to the talking point that Obama is a bad or fake Christian. I have no idea what the term “Christian” might mean.* Give me the common thread that joins Orthodox Christians worshiping in one of the great basilicas built in post Soviet Russia ,and the Appalachians handling snakes in some shot gun shack in the middle of nowhere; then we can talk. Tell me what the link is between the mass of Syriac Orthodox Church and glossolaic utterances (Speaking in Tongues) of  Pentecostals --in twenty five words or less-- and you will rate as a super-genius in my book. No points for saying “Jesus” or “the Holy Spirit”

(* I know there are plenty of helmet-haired freaks of nature more than willing to blabber on ad infinitum, and ad nauseum, about their pet theory of what Christian and Christianity entails: “give your heart to Jesus, and blather, blather, yammer, yammer, jaw, jaw, etc.” That is not Christian nor Christianity. That is a very narrow interpretation of what Christianity might be. It is the not the first interpretation, nor will it be the last. It is most certainly not the only interpretation.)

As one who has read far too much history for normal functioning, I can tell you nothing good comes out of a debate about who the, “proper Christian” might be. The same question recast as , “who is the proper Muslim” is also incredibly problematic; just ask the Shia and Sunnis about that little conundrum. This is why we in West decided to give the entire thing a miss, and went for secularism.

I can see why the entire notion of secularism frosts Santorum’s corn flakes. For a Theo-Con like Santorum, secularism is the barred and bolted door that prevents him from achieving his theocratic state. Secularism is the big fat fortified mountain that Rick must overcome before he can shove his heretical notions down the rest of the nation’s throat. Secularism is real freedom contrasted with Santorum’s freedom to run the land as autocrat and Pope.

Our system of secularism did  not spring up as some evil plot hatched by Christ-hating, evil Liberals in the 1960’s. It was set up by the bitter lessons of two centuries of civil-religious warfare. It is the results of the hard lessons learned in Continental Europe, then In Cromwellian England and then finally in the wretched excess of the Puritans in New England. The founders wanted no part of any established faith, they had a belly full of the Church Of England and wanted no repeats.

In one respect the yammering of the Republican hopefuls is spot on, this election is a defining choice. Not because the shape-shifting, transactional Obama may win or loose a second term; it is not about Obama. What it is about is the over-reach of radical TEA Party ultras. It is about the over-reach of Theo-cons and other radicals who want to remake the nation into a regressive fantasy of a US that never existed. It is an attempt to negate not only the liberations of the 1960’s but also every bit of racial, social, and gender justice carved out since the New Deal. And once that work is complete the reactionaries will shred both the New Deal and that Commie pinko TR’s Fair Deal so they can properly relive the glory days of the Gilded Age.

The right is freaking out about the twin liberations of women and blacks. They want their white patriarchy back and don’t who gets hurt in its restoration. They mau-mau the Constitution on the way to shredding it into a fine confetti. This concern tolling about “religious liberty” is nothing more than Orwellian doublespeak. It is not about liberty, its about oppression. It is the attempt of a small cadre of reactionary evangelicals imposing their notions, their will to power on the rest of us.
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