Those of you who have read my rants here or on Twitter and Facebook know I have some hot button issues that send me careening off on a rant.The teaching of creationism in PUBLIC schools is one. The attempts to ignore the prohibition of enacting Christian dogma as law is another. Some have asked if I am a person who hates the church. No. I am not. More on that later.
The attempted reshaping of America as a Conservative Christian theocracy sends me right off the rails. It simply denies the founders vision of a republic free of the co-mingling of church and state. They had lived under a British Crown that had a State religion. The Church of England. These men had seen first hand how the church in Europe had abused its power and position by inserting itself into national affairs and policy decisions.
Madison and the other framers of the Constitution were clear about making laws establishing a state religion. It was clearly and strictly forbidden. They also forbade any religious test or requirement to hold office in this Nation. The language is not oblique or unclear on this issue.
These were the well educated elite of this fledgling Country.Products of the Enlightenment and the age of reason. There was a belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. The use of reason, rather than blind, dogmatic faith to preserve the basic freedoms gained with blood and treasure.
When the young United States was a fairly homologous population of European Christians there was a shared reality. The oppression of Christianity was a battle of assorted denominations. The mainstream Protestant faiths marginalized Catholics and the newer evangelical sects. The Baptists. The Pentecostals and others. The dominate Protestant faiths and the Mormons waged actual running armed skirmishes for decades as the Latter Day Saints were pushed west. The Church of England became the Episcopalian Church to distance themselves from the Mother Church of England.
On the whole we escaped the bloody, widespread religious conflicts that plagued Europe for the Centuries following the Reformation. We avoided that trap by not having an official religion.
In the last century we saw fundamentalist, very conservative Christian Churches spring up across America. They were usually rural as was most of America. When the migrations from farm to city happened, these evangelical faiths came along, following the flock.
In the last half of the 20th Century and first decade of the 21st these fundamentalist faiths learned how to take control of cultural discourse in the public arena. They quickly became adept at using the new communication technologies. First travelling preachers used newspaper advertising to bring in the flock to the tent revivals. Then they used radio, effectively raising their profile and raising money to support new national ministries. Then TV expanded the reach of their message.
These preachers were no longer locked into a small rural church and flock. The reach of their message was national and then global.
This growth was not lost on the Republican Party. Richard Nixon forged the first alliance of political party and conservative faith. It gave the GOP a solid base that could be counted on to staff campaigns with volunteers and the give the life blood of politics, money.
Following the fall of Nixon the party paid lip service to the important cultural issues that drove the Christian right's anger.
It took Lee Atwater and Ronald Reagan to forge the unholy alliance with the Falwell's, the Robertson's and their ilk to reshape the Republican party into a de facto political arm of fundamentalist Christianity.The pairing took aim at the progressive advances made since FDR and the New Deal. It was a merger of a political party, corporations and those who saw their idea of American values being rejected and attacked.
Reagan and his disciples adroitly fashioned the fears of these conservative Christians into wedge issues to drive turnout in elections. The politics of fear and division had gone mainstream.
This alliance spent the two Reagan terms waging a slash and burn agenda against the average American. They demonized the word liberal and secular. They invented a war on religion as a plot by secularists to destroy American ideals. The religious right supported the gutting of the social contract. The welfare queen was invented. The mentally ill were marginalized and thrown out onto the streets without treatment. Those who needed help were derided as lazy and shiftless.
The Unions were portrayed as thugs getting money for nothing and crippling commerce. Distrust of the educational system was promoted by claiming it was rife with liberal indoctrination. The seeds of today's rejection of science and history were sown with reckless abandon.
Since 1980 we have seen America morph into a nation where the rich and corporations are richer than ever. The working American is working harder and longer for wages that have stagnated. Pensions have been decimated in the name of the bottom line. The shift has been to IRA's and windfall profits for Wall Street.
The regulations that kept our environment, medicine, the work place and the food supply safe have been decimated in the name of profit. During this demise of the American dream the alliance held.
With the election of George W. Bush this began to change.
The Christian Right realized they had been taken for granted. Their issues were paid lip service during campaigns to ensure boots on the ground and money for the GOP. After the election they were pretty much ignored. Their social agenda was on the back burner.
So, having learned how to run a campaign the religious right mutinied.
They staged a coup by winning primaries with their candidates, pushing aside the established GOP office holders. They knew the path to victory ran from local elections up. The took school boards. County governments.State legislatures and then national offices.
They were zealots. Compromise was an obscenity.Unleashed from the moderating influence of old guard Republicans they pursued their agenda with a passion.
They went after abortion. They tried to establish creationism as a viable subject to be taught in schools. They pushed for Charter schools to fund religious schools.The political push is to attempt to force religious views as basis for law.
The religious views the right want codified are always the most conservative, fundamentalist ideals. You never see mainstream Christian dogma pushed as a model for legislation.
We see people in power that claim to be Christian. They wear the term as a badge of honor. They see themselves as soldiers in a war against modernity. This clique is Christian in name only.They always champion scripture from the Old Testament. They warn of a vengeful God sitting in judgement of America.
They decry independent women as a cause of America's decline. Office holders actually say women should be obedient to their husband. The result is tornados as punishment. The very fact LBGT rights are existent is punished by drought or other natural disasters. The intolerance these people spew as Gospel is not Christianity. They turn their back on the poor and downtrodden as they exult the wealthy. Faux Christianity is used as cover to say the most hateful rhetoric and implement policies that crush the neediest among us.
They have hijacked Christianity and shaped it into something the martyrs and saints would never recognize.
This is why I go off the rails. The New Testament describes a God of love and mercy. Jesus overturned the money changer's tables in the temple. He didn't hold them up as paragons of virtue. Christ fed the hungry and healed the sick and infirm. HE did not demonize them as lazy moochers. HE preached peace not endless war. According to these Christians in name only Jesus would be a socialist.
I understand true faith.A person's religion gives peace and a structure to live by. It gives comfort in times of loss or strife. Belief is a powerful thing. There is beauty in those parables. There is hope. All wonderful things. Worship as you will. All religions should be granted the same freedom to believe. Not just the chosen.
Where I draw the line is wanting the state to force a certain religious view on me against my will .Do not push me to the Cross using the power of the State. I tend to react badly. That is not how you correct the ills you perceive. Often pushing an unforgiving point of view is very counter productive.
I have dear friends who live their faith. We may debate but we treat each other with respect. That's all we should ask. Mutual respect and tolerance.
The bumper sticker sermons ask what would Jesus do? He would look at what many do in his name and weep.