Monday, June 19, 2006

Dominionists on the Rise

As I noted in a previous post, I have been reading a couple of books dealing with the rise of christian nationalism. In my own slow, plodding manner, I finally finished them. The books are instructive.

The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us by Rabbi James Rudin and Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg cover much the same ground and are generally mutually supportive.

Both books take a detailed look at the evolution and level of success of the efforts of the christian right to usurp the United States government, trash the constitution and establish a christian theocracy in its stead.

While such a turn of events may seem outlandish to many, it is made clear in these books that there are a number of people and organizations dedicated to just such a goal.

This particular effort has its roots in a response against the hippie, anti-war, movement of the 1960s and 1970s with the establishment of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. Out of that rose Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition and his television show which endures today, The 700 Club, telecast via his Christian Broadcasting Network. The movement is now largely decentralized and multi-faceted.

Today, there are dozens of groups and organizations which are in whole or in part dedicated to christian dominionism - that is to say the establishment of a christian theocracy in the US. A partial list includes the Alliance Defense Fund, The Centers for: . . . Christian Statesmanship, . . . Reclaiming America, . . . Science and Culture, Citizens for Community Values, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, The Heritage Foundation, Institution for Creation Research, The John Birch Society, Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Reconstruction, The Liberty Council, Medical Institute for Sexual Health, National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, People for the American Way, Traditional Values Coalition.

Names of those involved to various extents include pretty much the entire Bush Administration, Howard Ahmanson, Dick Armey, David Barton, Pat Buchanan, Kirk Cameron, Charles Colson, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, Michael Farris, Bill Frist, David Gibbs, Newt Gingrich, Ken Ham, Carl Jarboe, Phillip Johnson, D. James Kennedy, Tim & Beverly LaHaye, David Limbaugh, Zell Miller, Marvin Olasky, Rod Parsley, Tony Perkins, Howard Phillips, Rousas Rushdoony, Rick Santorum, Antonin Scalia, Phyllis Schlafly, Kenneth Starr, Pam Stenzel, Leslee Unruh, Jim Wallis, Donald Wildmon, and about 87% of the state of Texas.

Some of these organizations and individuals are familiar, some not. Most are revered by their respective adherents. Many of the individuals hold positions of power at the federal level. Virtually all of the above are working toward the establishment of a christian theocracy in this country governed not by the American Constitution, but rather by biblical law. They have focussed their efforts primarily at a grass roots level beginning at the pulpit and extending outwards making significant inroads in government at all levels, schools, the workplace and the media among others.

They target as "the enemy" liberals, democrats, feminists, free choicers, socialists, lesbians and homosexuals. Such folk are demonized as minions of the devil. They use the "you are either for us or your against us" means to con their target audience. You either agree with them fully, or you are against them. If you are against them, you are against christ, and christ doesn't like that. It makes him surly.

To date, the net result of these efforts is the greatest polarizaion this country has ever seen. Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, noted in a recent interview that Congress is truly divided. There is no camaraderie on or off the Senate and House floors. The lefties run with the lefties, the righties with the righties. Never the twain shall meet. That is symptomatic of what's happening throughout the country.

Literally thousands of people have migrated away from traditional churches to "mega-churches" which have popped up like weeds throughout the country over the last several years. These churches don't put on traditional services or masses, but mount full blown theatrical productions designed to first dazzle, then mesmerize their respective congregations until they willingly and wholeheatedly accept whatever the bible wielding evangelists tell them like exhausted and grateful sheep. And the flocks are being told who the enemy is, what their transgressions are, and for whom to vote.

John Kerry's people scoured the state of Ohio in the days leading up to the last presidential election drumming up votes believing they had out-hustled the oppostion. They believed that the Bush people had dropped the ball in Ohio because they saw few of them out knocking on doors or hitting the phones. What the Dems didn't realize was that Carl Rove targeted the churches. Their message was delivered through the pulpit.

But where is this leading us? Do we really want the Constitution usurped by the bible? I grew up believing that the US was the most forward thinking and enlightened country in the world. And it was in the years after WWII and even, I believe, until the late 1970s or early 80s. The growth of right wing fundamentalism and its concomitant war against science, technology and the media among others, has gained a great deal of traction over the last several years. We are no longer a forward thinking country. Rather, many people harken back to some notion of "the good old days," generally a time which never existed. There was never a time which was particularly "good" when compared to any other. Usually, most of us look back on our own youth as "the good old days."

Western Europe and Asia are much more dedicated to science and technology while millions in the US are sitting back and waiting to be whisked away to paradise in "The Rapture," believing that the future of earth is of no particular concern as it will be left to the dammed. This is all such dreck.

Anyone who is currently caught between their faith in god and their belief in this country may well have to make a critical choice. Do you buy into the hype being spewed about by evangelists and right wing politicians that the the separation of church and state is a myth, that we should all be first and foremost subject to god's law, that the christian bible is the only legitimate source of morality and wisdom, or do you come down on the side of those who believe that such separation is crucial to the very life of our democracy, that the Constitution is and should be the law of the land? It may well come to a pass wherein you will not be able to have both. You're either for us, or your against us! Which "us" are you a part of?

I can only urge you to read these books. I won't tell you that all their claims are accurate. They ain't gospel. But both books were well researched and intelligently written. They certainly serve to alert us to the rising smoke. And, where there's smoke . . .


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Still Here

Yeah, I'm still here. I'm not dead. I didn't leave town. I didn't give up.

I have been reading and working and gardening and thinking and hobbling around on my now gimpy knees.

I'm learning that pain has a way of humbling a person. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suffering unbearable pain. Me knees hurt. They are stiff, balky. It makes moving around difficult. I can't sit for long. But I can function. I do my job. I take some pills. They help.

Much of my reading has been disturbing. I will attempt to report on some of it soon. I'm only posting here now because I am having a problem with software I use for work.

I have just picked up something kind of pleasant: Life, Sex and Ideas: The Good Life Without God by A.C. Grayling. I've only read a few pages, but I like it. Regarding religion Grayling states that "there is no greater social evil."

A couple of good random quotes from what I've read:

Grayling quotes Antonio Porchia: "In a full heart there is room for everything, while in an empty heart there is room for nothing."

He quotes Epictetus: "Only the educated are free."

Grayling on a liberal education: Education in literature, history, and appreciation of the arts opens the possibility for us to live more reflectively and knowledgeably, especially about the nature and variety of human experience. That, in turn, increases our capacity for understanding others better, so that we can treat them with respect and sympathy, however different their outlook on life. When sympathy and respect are returned, the result is that the differences which cause friction, even conflict, come to be resolved or at least tolerated."

I like this guy.

Oh, and the photo? Yours truly. Probably the summer of 1967 on the beach at Galveston, Texas. Probably hung over. My wife says I have sandy hair. That's likely because I've got sand IN my hair. I may be using the rag in my hand to wipe some barf out of my back seat.

See anything askew about this photo?