"Disorder in the house. . . reptile wisdom . . . zombies on the lawn, staggering around; Disorder in the house, there's a flaw in the system, a fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down."
Warren Zevon

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Par For the Course 

Do we really need proof that "Christian Leader" George W. Bush is anything but? Is there any doubt that this man has absolutely no global awareness, no basic human compassion, and no real moral values? Not really, but if you need additional evidence look no further than his reaction to the Indonesian Tsumani crisis.

Holed up in his Crawford Ranch on vacation, Bush can't be bothered to make public statements, and initially only promised aid equivalent to the cost of two hours of the Iraq occupation. While other world leaders cut short vacations to take an active role in aid efforts, Mr. Bush spends his time clearing brush (for the cameras, of course), and bicycling. As the Washington Post reports, amid growing criticism of Bush's callous reaction, senior administration officials refer to his behavior as "freaky." Bush's reaction is even more appalling in light of the international outpouring of support after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

To make matters worse, if that's possible, Bush has squandered yet another opportunity to improve relations with Muslims, especially those who object to US actions in Iraq, by demonstrating compassion and support for the plight of the large number of Muslims in Indonesia. As several commenters have noted, active US involvement in aid efforts could demonstrate benevolence without a major alteration in Middle East policy.

Insensitivity and incompetence. Par for the course.

James Wolcott: "I was pleased to see the President of the United States put down the frigging rake long enough to put on his best Sunday-go-to-meetin' suit and issue a public statement regarding the catastrophic tsunami...."

Samuel Johnson: "72 hours and 70,000 lives later, the President responds. What a cold man, to remain silent for so long."

Pandagon: "As a follow-up to my last post, even if our president is a callous sonofabitch, the American people are not. Head over to Amazon, where the front page is anchored by an enormous plea to donate to the Red Cross. That's money that could have been spent in their stores, and it's money they're asking you to spend in disaster relief."

(via The Daou Report)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Common Thread 

Sidney Blumenthal, then a staff writer at The Washington Post, concluded in his 1986 book, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power, that "conservatism requires liberalism for its meaning." For "without the enemy [of liberalism] to serve as nemesis and model, conservative politics would lack its organizing principle."

-from What is Conservatism?, by John W. Dean, December 15, 2004.

Damn, that's it, isn't it? It explains it all, resolves all the conflicting positions and hypocrisies of the modern conservative. It explains how the Republicans can argue against the individual liberties provided by the Constitution while claiming to be "strict constructionists" and railing about judicial activism all at the same time. It explains how leaders of a gorilla-sized federal government with the largest deficit in history can campaign for re-election on a platform of fiscal conservatism. It explains how "family values" came to represent a collection of social positions based on superstition, bigotry and hate.

Yes, the false paradox is no more, and I should have seen it sooner: the common thread holding together all the disparate ideological threads of the modern conservatism is a hatred of liberalism. Again, John W. Dean:

The ensuing decades, it seems, have only proved Blumenthal more right. Talk radio could barely exist without its endless bloviating about, and bashing of, all things perceived "liberal." And distaste for all that is considered liberal has remained a constant theme of conservatives. Ironically, this aversion persists even though many conservative believe that its object is dead. For example, in 1998, Newt Gingrich flatly stated, "The age of liberalism is over."

Nevertheless, condemnation of the liberal bogyman continues to unite conservatives of all stripes. Consider recent, bestselling conservative titles by Ann Coulter's work: Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (2002), Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror (2003), and currently How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Again, damn. It's right there in front of us. And from here, I've got to turn it over to Avedon Carol, on whose site I found the link the Dean's article, and I'm going to cut and paste, because this is too good to summarize. Arguing that conservatives hate liberals because liberals work for the common good and general welfare of the country, Avedon writes:

This is why conservatives must lie about what they are doing. They are trying to destroy Social Security while claiming they mean to save it. They have to lie, because no one with any sense, or any concern for our nation, would want them to succeed at destroying it. They make up reasons why any proposed national health insurance plan would fail, because they do not want one to succeed. They claim they want to stop abortion "to save lives" while instituting programs that are known to increase the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. They empty our treasury and cut taxes to the rich while claiming to "improve" our economy. They construct a program of theocracy while claiming it's in aid of "freedom of religion". They claim to be "Constitutional constructionists" while stripping the Constitution of any meaning. They even restrict our travel and threaten to remove our citizenship for political reasons while claiming to "protect our freedoms".

Oh, they hate America, there's no question of that. The only question is why liberals hesitate to say so.

As Digby said in the link that led me to Avedon's post: Damn. "Wish I'd said that." Please take the time to read both Dean's and Avedon's essays; my short quotes do justice to neither.

More Eschatology 

Backwards City, (which is an excellent blog with a terrific name and concept), today gives us a link to a recent article from The Economist regarding not just Christian endtimes theology, but eschatology in general. Also linked is a post at MetaFilter and a handy Apocalypse Chart.

After noting that, "[f]rom time to time, sophisticated Americans indulge the thrillingly terrifying thought that nutty, apocalyptic, born-again Texans are guiding not just conservative social policies at home, but America's agenda in the Middle East as well, as they round up reluctant compatriots for the last battle at Armageddon," the article points out that apocalyptic thought doesn't necessarily belong on the fringe, apparently due to its prevalence in different contexts. Typically well written, its a good piece on a genre of beliefs that many would like to pretend are less prevalent.

But then, people are also taking note of the issue on this side of the pond. Grist last month gave us Glenn Scherer's comprehensive and exhaustively documented account of the influence of the religious right on environmental policy, and points us to specific examples of environmental policies supported by the 231 US legislators he identifies as harboring dispensational or reconstructionist views. The title of that piece says it all, "The Godly Must Be Crazy; Christian right wing views are swaying politicians and threatening the environment."

All the linked articles are worth a read if you're interested in the culture that influences much of the right wing opposition to environmental protection.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

And Speaking of the Rapture. . .  

Anybody that's read more than two or three of my posts has heard me railing about fundamentalists, and if you've been unfortunate enough to read a couple of those particular rants, you've probably also heard me opine that the imminent occurence of the Rapture gives these nutjobs the crutch they need to support or enact policies which destroy, not only the next generation, but the planet. Well, here is Jesus' General's post on how Rapture-planning relates to Bush administration policy. And here is his link to raptureready.com, your one-stop rapture reference, which I hope will help convince you that this mentality actually exists. Here's another post on the same topic.

I'm posting this particular rant on this blog, because I think my Stinging-Nettle blog-brethren are getting a little sick of hearing me say the same things I always say about fundamentalism. But hey, tough shit. I've got this blog, and this is personal. Like Apostropher, I grew up in the Baptist church, but unlike Russ, it took me a lot longer to see the (lack of)light. As a result, I had longer to see Rapture politics in play. I've heard Sunday School lessons that spoke of the folly of planning for a future that won't be here, and I've heard sermons that counted the days until believers were swept into the sky to be with Jesus. (Not that I would necessarily mind a little face time with Jesus; I happen to think he was a pretty righteous dude, far removed from the convenient caricature created by the religious right.) But it ain't gonna happen; Hell, the Rapture isn't even biblical, and wasn't even invented until 1827, when a guy named John Nelson Darby decided that nobody in the previous 2000 years really understood the Bible.

But the point here is that these people exist: Here they are. Here are more. And I'm convinced that the treacherous little freak in the White House is one of them.

(The Rapture Index is actually getting a little bit of attention this week, and I'll link to some more posts when I've had time to read them.)

The "F" Word 

Yes, I've previously written a post entitled "The "F" Word," and yes, it's subject was fundamentalism. And yes, the theme of that post will be repeated here. But that's actually the point. With all the attention that bloggers and pundits have paid to fundamentalism since the "moral values" election of 2004, you'd think the movement was something that has just appeared on the political and theological horizons. Wrong. Many of us, including a singularly incorrigable ex-Baptist known as Russ Barnes, have vented about fundamentalism at every conceiveable opportunity, noting its dangers, its increasing prevalence in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and its influence on policies of the Bush administration. Allen Brill, a Lutheran minister and attorney, has been doing righteous battle with the religious right for years on his blog, "The Right Christians," now a group effort known as "The Village Gate."

Still, some of my favorite bloggers, notably the usually knowlegeable Digby, link to this overview of fundamentalism as if they've just now discovered the religious rebellion against modernity that spawned bestsellers like "Stealing Jesus," and "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism." I hate to say I told you so, but I did. These people are here, they're for real, they're changing education, they're screwing up our foreign policy, screwing up kids and sex education, and like it or not, they represent the mainstream of American protestantism.

Which is why Ezra's right about Jim Kilgore being right, and why posts like this, and this, which argue that economic and other policy issues can still trump social issues with this sector of the electorate are completely wrong. What's the adage, "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results?" Look, these "moral values" voters truly believe that any day now, Jesus is going to cruise back to Earth on a cosmic surfboard dispensing the salvation that he's got exclusively reserved for a bunch of frumpy white people who have a monopoly on eternal life. They don't give a rat's ass about healthcare; their insurance policy is a reserved seat in Heaven after the Rapture.

Maybe there's a bright spot. Maybe now that pundits have woken up to what fundmentalism truly is, and the hold it has on this country, we'll see some real effort to expose its hypocrisy and underlying fascism. In the meantime, here's my favorite ammunition stash, a page with specific links devoted to rebutting the attacks of the religious right. Hey, they're everywhere, so read it. And don't leave home without it.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Jesus Has Left the Building 

The Rude Pundit (reader discretion advised) gets it right when he reminds us that the "Christ" of today's "moral values" voters has nothing to do with the Biblical Jesus. In a series of posts entitled "Christ Weary," the Rude One gives us his typically correct-but-rhetorically-over-the-top take on conservative Christians, but today includes this important qualification:

"Let's be clear here: "Christ" is shorthand for the fucked-up, backward ass, violent, hate-filled beliefs of Christian fundamentalism. It is not the Biblical "Christ" and his words of, you know, love, peace, and fellowship. The Biblical Christ never says, "Thou shalt exhort thine enemies to 'Bring it on.'" The Rude Pundit has said before that the Christ in the Bible is a liberal who invites us all to party on in a socialist heaven. That is a dude the Rude Pundit would like to break bread and fish with while suckin' down wine-from-water. That, however, is not the Christ who has been shoved in our faces by the evangelical right. They want Rambo Jesus, kickin' ass, a warring motherfucker who shows fags and secularists they better love the Lord or they're gettin' drop kicked into the fiery bowels of hell. Or voted out of office."

Rude, isn't he? Yeah, but he's right. As fundamentalism increasingly takes hold with mainstream Protestants, "Christianity" no longer refers to followers of Jesus Christ. It denotes a set of attitudes and values Jesus spent his life condemning.

And again, Rude One is right (reader discretion strongly advised) to point out that this phenomenon is not limited to Falwell and his ilk; it's local, infecting mainstream churches' theology like a virus. Those who hold the opinion that Falwell and Robertson don't represent mainstream Christianity are wrong; I've been there. Jesus has left the building.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Jesus Wept 

Or he would if he were here. This is truly incredible. Via The Gadflyer, (and others) we learn that liberal media giants CBS and NBC are censoring an ad by the United Church of Christ, not because of its Christian message, but because it conveys Jesus' message of tolerance, openness and inclusivity. What's wrong with that, you might ask? Why not air that message? Well, according to NBC, it's because the ad is too controversial, but according to CBS, it's because "the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

The ad, which can be viewed here, depicts bodyguard/bouncer-types barring the doorway of a church, selectively admitting or refusing people who try to enter. On the screen is the text, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." As the ad closes, a narrator says, "The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

Subversive, isn't it? How dare the United Church of Christ imply that the message of Jesus contradicts that of "Christian Leader" George W. Bush? Well, rest easy, my conservative friends, our "liberal" media can't allow that to happen, so the ad won't air on CBS or NBC.

I've always wondered how biblical literalists explain away the story of the thief on the cross in Luke's gospel. As Jesus was being crucified alongside two thieves, one mocked him, but the other asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. In Luke's account, Jesus, seeing that the man believed, said to him, "Today, you shall be with me in Paradise." Didn't ask him if he was gay, didn't ask his stance on abortion, didn't ask if he believed in the creation story, didn't ask him if he voted Republican. No, according to Luke, the man was saved because of his faith.

Today's Christian conservatives truly have no clue as to what Jesus message was; they prove it every day. The leaders of the Christian Right are the Pharisees of our time, and if Jesus lived during our lifetime, history would repeat itself; they'd kill him or be complicit in his death. Their fundamentalist beliefs bear no resemblance to true Christianity, but now, they're powerful enough, thanks in part to George W. Bush, that major media outlets are afraid to remind Americans that Jesus didn't spend his time marching around with a sign that says "God Hates Fags." God help us.
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