Sunday, June 13, 2004

Courage to Say the Unsayable
Strange though it may seem to you, I occasionally watch the Inspiration Network, the fundie religious channel. I was watching on the night of September 11, 2001, when the network's--ahem--godfather, Morris Cerullo, proclaimed "We didn’t know this was going to happen, but God knew it was going to happen, and God is in control." (If I'd had a brick, it would have gone through the picture tube.) INSP is the TV home of Rod Parsley, the sweatiest man in evangelism, and is one of the many outlets broadcasting the weekly "prophecy news update" anchored by Jack and Rexella Van Impe, who have been predicting that Jesus is coming back within a few weeks, really, we mean it, you better get ready, since the late 1960s at least.

But my favorite INSP personality is John Hagee, the corpulent senior pastor of San Antonio's Cornerstone Church. In addition to being a thunderous preacher of hell and damnation, he's been a movie producer (low-rent ripoffs of the Left Behind series) and is also--I kid you not--an Internet service provider. Like any good fundie these days, Hagee is foursquare behind George W. Bush, and like many good fundies, he's utterly incapable of seeing irony. This morning, for example, he was demanding that "politicians who use the blood of American soldiers to get themselves elected" shut up. Beats me who he could have been talking about. Whenever he preaches a political sermon (which is fairly often), he reiterates that America is a nation chosen by God to do God's will in the world, and, by extension, that George W. Bush is God's representative on Earth.

After I turned Hagee off (a few minutes of him is usually enough), I came up here to my office to catch up with the world, and I found a couple of posts on ICH News with which the Reverend Mr. Hagee would violently disagree. First, from Ghali Hassan, in "The Fallacy of Righteous America." Yes, Hassan says, Americans are fond of saying we're always on the side of justice--but we also are the ones who define what we mean by justice. Needless to say, our definition is different from, say, the Vietnamese, or the Iraqis. And even liberals who wouldn't subscribe to Bush's moral code--that because all of his actions are directed by God, none of them are immoral--get sucked into our skewed vision of "justice" thanks to cheerleading media coverage and a disinclination to think about how others in the world perceive us. Yes, there's a moral absolute where justice is concerned--but it ain't what we're practicing.

Sheila Samples ponders Bush's warmongering God and wonders what's happened to the God she knows--and, more specifically, to the people who believe in the God she knows. A lengthy excerpt is warranted:

It's faith-shattering to realize that the wondrous salvation offered by that ancient and most wonderful man of Galilee--teachings that have endured over a span of more than 2,000 turbulent years--are suddenly meaningless. Surely, those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ are under a spell; they are bewitched by a shallow destructive fool who petutantly demands special treatment and obedience because he is--Praise God--"born-again." Is there not one Christian who will dare to point out that, in his foolish crusade to rid the world of evil--a task that only God can perform--Bush has murdered more innocent people in the last two years than all terrorists combined?

Just one Christian. Just one with the courage to say the unsayable--that George Bush has no knowledge of objectivity nor values . . . that he likely is unable to even pronounce "metaphysics," let alone understand its spiritual implications, and is unable to form a philosophical concept of a true God. Is there not even one Christian who misses God and His blessed influence in everything around us--the poetry of life, the music, the sun-lit laughter inspired by goodness and mercy--the sheer joy of reaching out to help those in need--the most vulnerable among us?
There didn't seem to be any at John Hagee's service this morning, as they applauded his pro-war, pro-Bush rant. And his church reportedly has 17,000 members.

It's one of my standard shticks here that more liberal Christians need to stand up against the fundamentalist nonsense that distorts nearly everything Bush's government touches. It's one thing for me to do it, but I'm a hellbound atheist puke. Non-fundie Christians have far greater moral authority, but they'd best get busy before it's too late. Samples cites several examples of the extreme theocratic ideas lurking out there in the Bush-believing Right. In that light, it makes the choice between Bush and John Kerry seem pretty stark. On another level, however, the choice between Bush and Kerry isn't much of a choice at all. Columnist Charley Reese wrote this past week that Kerry and the Democrats are "tweedledee to the Republicans' tweedledum," and he's right. We are not going to get the throwdown between competing visions that the country really needs to have in 2004--the kind of thing we'd have gotten with Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, or even John Edwards as the nominee. Instead, we're getting a debate over nuance, and in Reese's view, Kerry is doomed to fail if he fights the campaign on that basis: "Somebody in his campaign had better tell him quick that the American voting population is not into nuances. They want a choice between bourbon and scotch, not a choice between brands of scotch." And the religious dimension of the campaign--the hijacking of the government by a fringe religious group that represents 20 percent of the population at the most--is a rail Kerry dares not touch. Too bad--because I'd argue that it subsumes all the other issues: war and peace, the economy, the environment, civil rights and social justice.

Past and Future: Andrew Greeley looks back to 1933 Germany and wonders how much 2004 America is like it. And Riverfront Times, the alternative weekly in St. Louis, tells the story of a St. Louis-area man who got a late-night visit from the Secret Service because he wrote an e-mail saying he'd be happy if Osama bin Laden eliminated Bush. Was his e-mail being scanned? Probably. By whom? Nobody's quite sure. Will the same thing happen in the future, in other places and to other people? Book it.

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