George Bush is an evangelical Christian, there is no doubt about that. The president's evangelicalism means he believes in the truth of the Bible, with a capital T: the virgin birth, the death of Christ on the Cross for our sins, the physical resurrection, and most important, a personal relationship with Jesus.
-- Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention
One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.
The casting out of Ralph Reed from the electoral temple is a timely reminder as we head into mid-term elections that religion has no more place in politics than politics in religion.
-- Bill Moyers
Reed is the founder of the Christian Coalition, the organization that oh so cleverly used precinct organizing-style politics to lead the fundamentalist right-wing Christian hijacking of the Republican Party. Reed was once considered to be presidential timber, but was cut down to size because he debased his faith by conspiring with powerful Washington money changers to funnel their ill-gotten gains into religious organizations.
Reed smirked from the cover of Time magazine in 1995 over the headline "The Right Hand of God: Meet Ralph Reed, 33. His Christian Coalition is on a crusade to take over U.S. politics -- and it's working." So far has he fallen from grace that he could not even muster enough votes to win the Republican nomination for Georgia lieutenant general, a job slightly more important than an Atlanta animal control officer. Better still, Reed was defeated not by the lefties he was so enamored of attacking, but by a conservative opponent in a conservative state.
My own religious bona fides include Roman Catholicism, Judaism and the Society of Friends (Quakers). When declaring oneself an atheist or agnostic was popular in the late 1960s, I ping ponged between the two while never feeling comfortable with either. As I have grown much older and somewhat wiser, I have come to value the place that religion can play in our lives, as well as the power of prayer.The Founding Fathers included Presbyterians, Baptists and Quakers. (Jews and Catholics, women and people of color were not welcome in this club.) The Fathers saw America as a special place and were not uncomfortable with the view that it had been chosen by God to play a unique role in the world, but they believed absolutely in the separation of church and state.
Nothing in the ensuing 225 years has been cause for changing that paradigm.
BAD KARMA . . .The are plenty of examples throughout history of religious zealots destroying great nations, most famously the Christians whose excesses brought down the Roman Empire.
Charles Kimball, a Baptist and religion professor, identifies religious zealots as people who:
* Claim absolute truth.Sounds an awful lot like the gang that has hijacked the Republican Party, doesn't it?
* Seize upon an "ideal time" in claiming a fast-approaching cataclysm or end time.
* Demand blind obedience.
* Use the ends to justify the means.
* Pursue holy wars.
Like the Romans and others before them, the modus operandus of this lynch mob is fatally flawed.
This is because they are not merely injecting their faith into the business of government and public policy. They insist that only the Republican Party is worthy.
They support a president who says that Jesus speaks through him and has been more than willing to embrace their radical agenda to further his own.
They believe that leadership in government is not for all the people, just people who worship their god, as well as homophobes, anti-abortionists, anti-evolutionists and global warming deniers, as well as supporters of what they see as holy wars in Iraq and Middle East.
In the end, the problem with mixing church and state is that believers are called to try to change the world from the inside out and politics tries to change the world from the outside in. The Christians who usurp politics ultimately debase both their faith and democracy.
. . . AND GOOD KEVINKevin Phillips' conservative credentials are impeccable. As Richard Nixon's chief political strategist, he was the first to identify the shift of Republican power to the right politically and what he termed the "Sun Belt" geographically. While I don't always agree with Phillips, I have long valued his books and radio commentaries because they are suffused with a deep understanding of American history.
Phillips' latest book is "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century." In it Phillips argues that throughout history world-dominating powers are brought down by global overreach, militant religion, diminishing resources and ballooning debt, the very combination now at work in the U.S.
Whereas I have viewed the right-wing fundamentalists who now control the Republican Party as a transitory problem like 17-year locusts or a really bad case of jock itch, Phillips takes a considerably harder line:
[Their] increasing presence is breeding a politics of cultural narrowness, moral and biblical bickering, revivalism in the White House, and international warfare to spread the gospel, fulfill the Book of Revelation, or both.
. . . Never before has a U.S. political coalition been so dominated by an array of outsider religious denominations caught up in biblical mortality, distrust of science and a global imperative of political and religious evangelicalism.
WILL GOD SPURN THE REPUBLICAN FAITHFUL?Pardon the term, but it is an article of faith that the Democratic Party will not make an issue of the holy war being waged on America and its political institutions. It perceives itself as being weak on matters of faith because it has bought into that Republican message.
If there is good news, it is that Phillips believes that the right-wing fundamentalist driven Bush coalition is too narrow to govern successfully in the longer term and won in 2000 and 2004 only because of the unusual circumstances surrounding those elections.
Indeed, by 2006, George W. Bush had followed in his father's unique presidential footsteps -- in 191-1992, the forty-first president had become the first White House incumbent to see his job approval plummet by more than fifty points, and between 2002 and 2005, his son followed suit. Both times, failed policies in Iraq were factors. Overambition combined with ineptness and more than a little deceit.Phillips asks whether the coalition is fatally flawed:
I think so, but not because of the basic cultural conservatism that did so well in the Nixon and Reagan landslides of 1972 and 1984. Both those coalitions had a flavoring of populist conservatism, but nothing resembling the current mix.Amen.
[The religious conservatives] say we cannot be running out of oil; God makes the climate; and White House explanations about what the United States is doing in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East have to square with the fight between good and evil as the end times draw nigh. . . .
To be sure -- as many believers are sure -- this time the prophecies could truly be on the verge of fulfillment. History, however, suggests that if the hour was not at hand for Rome, Spain, the Dutch Republic, or Britain circa 1914, despite their convictions of God's favor and heaven's special attention, then God may also spurn his Republican faithful in and out of Washington. And should religious excess and overambition become part of an epitaph for the twenty-first century United States, as it did for some of the others, the current GOP national coalition will share in the ignominy.