The true connection between liberal anxiety and conservative fear

It’s a constant debate: Liberals versus conservatives. And it all breaks down to simple beliefs.

This is how the sayings go when it comes to discussing politics in America.

Liberals are anxious about everything. They worry about global warming. Civil rights. And offending someone. God Forbid. 

Conservatives are fearful about everything. Terrorism striking close to home. Living without guns. Being politically correct. God Forbid. 

How fascinating it truly is that liberals worry about the world while conservatives fret that it is out to get them? How can two such similar traits drive people so far apart?

Worry warts

For starters, conservatives seem to believe that most liberal worries are made up. That’s the real nature of anxiety, right? It’s defined as imagining the worst when things are really not all that bad.

Fearmongers

Conservative policies are often not what they seem

In a similar way, liberals consider conservatives obsessive about their fears or prejudices. Conservatives are always bemoaning the decay of society or predicting the end of the world as we know it.

Thus, the two parties circle each other warily and angrily. Both claim they’re right about the other and seek to demean the corresponding anxieties and fears on the Left and the Right.

The End of the World

But there are connections. For example, liberals tend to think that if the world is coming to an end, it will be through environmental means. That’s why global warming is a concern, along with species extinction.

Meanwhile, religious conservatives (and by dint of Big Tent Politics, many other brands of Republican conservatives) tend to depict the end of the world through a theological lens. The coming Apocalypse. Armageddon. The End Times. Left Behind. The Rapture.

The Second Coming

That mindset colloquially embraces the idea of the Second Coming of Jesus and the idea that the Old World in which we now live will be replaced by an entirely better New World that will come about through some sort of heavenly means. Even Muslims believe that’s the fate of the world.

Armageddon

And of course, there is considerable speculation on where all that will start, and whether we should fear the day or bid it welcome news. The general thinking on the topic is that the Middle East will be the site of a great war between the forces of good and evil. For many years it was the Jews that were the potential focus of all this heavenly rage. Lately it appears to be the Muslims, whom many conservative religious thinkers blame for the woes of the world.

Muslim surprise

How ironic it is that the Muslim faith actually looks forward to the coming of Jesus Christ as well. They don’t buy the idea that Christ was ever crucified, but was instead zapped up to heaven by God outside the parameters of the Christian narrative. It’s a little vague of course, as most things in the Quran seem to be in terms of interpretive or predictive value, but this is what the Quran says:  “And there is none of the people of the Book but must believe in Him before his death, and on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them.”[Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 159] Allah also says about Jesus in the Qur’ân: “And he shall be a sign of the Hour. Therefore have no doubt about the Hour, but follow Me. That is the straight path.” [Sûrah al-Zukhruf: 61].

Judgement Day

If you stop and think about the fact that conservative Christians and conservative Muslims all look forward to the coming of Christ on the Judgement Day, it’s a pathetic fact that what people are fighting (or quibbling) about is what path this supposed course took in the path and how it will ostensibly transpire in the future.

Owning the narrative

All sides of this argument, including Sunni and Shi’a sects on the Muslim side, as well as Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and all other forms of conservative Christian faith oas well seem willing to fight to the death over which narrative is chosen to decide how the world will end, and who might survive.  Then we throw in the Jews, who get it from both sides of this great battle, and that pretty much explains fears over the Middle East “situation” in a nutshell. And it’s a fearful, angry, vicious batch of insanity.

And conservatives on every side just love it. Because it allows them to grab hold of all sorts of other controls in life. That includes social and political laws, and fiscal regulations. Everyone is afraid some other sect or religious worldview will get the upper hand.

Political zygotes

ZygoteOf course not all those who abide by conservative philosophy or identify as fiscal or political conservatives share these religious worldviews. But they can no longer escape the association because the conservative alliance initiated in the Falwell/Reagan era. That’s when the religious and economic “revolution” originally fused the language of triumph into a giant political zygote of social, political, religious and fiscal conservatives. Now the product of this marriage has emerged like a freak of nature, and his name is Donald Trump.

Liberals get their freak on

Like the tale of Benjamin Button, in which a man is born old and grows young over time, the Democratic side of freak births produced Bernie Sanders. His ardent gesticulations and socialist contentions have been discomfiting to those who just want a normal, somewhat liberal candidate to run for President. His supporters freak out at the idea of supporting Hillary Clinton if and when the Bern fizzles out. It’s a bit like a backcountry family feud, both ugly and beautiful in its unsophisticated way.

Emotional defense

it is interesting to note that both conservatives and Christians lay claim to the authority of scripture. Conservatives side with the traditions and triumphs of the church while liberals share the heart of scripture and the ministry of tolerance advocated by Jesus. These simple differences may be responsible for the entire liberal versus conservative divide. We only wish these differences could be determined through dialectic, a term described as “a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments.” Instead all we seem to achieve is emotional arguments for one side or the other.

Back to the Future

Some of these debates over conservative versus liberal interpretations of scripture go back to the very formative years of what we now call Christianity. That’s when a Jew named Yeshua (better known as Jesus) debated vigorously with the Pharisees and others over their efforts to turn scripture into law. Jesus chastised the priests and tried to liberate the Jewish faith from its own strictures. But it didn’t really work. So the followers of Jesus started their own gig. And it’s been a Back to the Future movie ever since.

Some Christians never learned the lesson Jesus was trying to convey. They still behave like the priests Jesus tried to change. These are the conservatives of today. They side with political power because it feels like the best way to exact the philosophies of Christianity on the world. This is the Back to the Future plot we are now viewing.

The fortress of belief

Conservatism views the faith as a literal temple, a fortress of belief or a city to be defended or taken over by force if necessary. They Bible is one such fortress, and must be read as if it were a pile of stones placed one upon the other. Take out one stone and the entire structure may fall.

Portable faith

Liberalism takes a more modular view of what faith is about. Its interpretation of the bible is more about its transportable qualities. In that sense, liberalism is more like a nomadic tent community. It can wander the desert and be happy in the company of God. This is more like what Jesus professed. The structure of his ministry and how the disciples came to view the temple of God was centered on the idea that God is with you wherever you go.

Crusades

Now we can understand why conservatives consider the Crusades so important. Their objective to evict Muslims from Jerusalem was based on the belief that God needed (or deserved) a place to live. Tradition demanded that Jerusalem be under Christian guard. The Holy City and the Temple had been there. What more was there to understand?

In this day and age there are supporters of Israel who abide by these same standards. It’s still about the Holy City and the Holy State of Israel. This is called Zionism, “political support for the creation and development of a Jewish homeland in Israel.”

Mess of beliefs

Jerusalem_Dome_of_the_rock_BW_14.JPGIt’s a bit of an archaic notion, and a contradictory one at that, when Christians and Jews align to create and protect an Israeli homeland. The two faith traditions don’t even believe in the same thing. One accepts Jesus. The other does not. Meanwhile Muslims look forward to the return of Jesus while the Jews think the Messiah is yet to appear. It’s all a very confused mess if you really consider it. Yet the Crusades in the Middle East continue to this day and even the most informed people have lost track of what it is all about. The fighting now is about rallying the troops and never losing. Not at any cost.

Feeding worries and fears

The shared tactic of conservatism and liberalism is to consistently expound upon worries or fears about what is surely about to happen.

For conservatives, the list is long. The economy is about to collapse. Society is in moral decay. Terrorism is going to end our Way of Life. The Rapture is right around the corner. These are the go-to themes whenever conservatism fails on some, or many, fronts.

Meanwhile, liberals are busy wringing their hands in anxiety over environmental cataclysm and the collapse of civil rights due to prejudice and authoritarian rule by a select minority.

Beyond being afraid

The fact that both anxieties and fears align with the general belief that things could get far worse before they get better is telling. Isn’t there some way these two belief systems can come to a common ground?

The secret hides in how people on both sides of the philosophical debate define the idea of a “new world.”

For liberals or humanists, that would be world in which people actually collaborate to solve problems. This philosophy was effectively captured in the song Imagine by John Lennon:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

There’s a lot of Jesus philosophy in that very humanist set of lyrics. But the opening lyrics to the song would be of great offense to those who view the temple of God as real place.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

But if we focus on the idea that Jesus wanted the Kingdom of God to be real here on earth, and that the Bible advocates the idea that a New World will someday be created on earth, there is a great source of convergence going on in those humanist lyrics by John Lennon and the soul of the ministry of Jesus.

That is, God wants us to create this New World for ourselves. In fact, the Second Coming of Christ may be our responsibility to initiate. Not through war and Armageddon, but through love and all the good works of respect and trust and ministry we extend to others.

That is the true convergence of conservative and liberal ideologies. It also assuages worries and removes fears. Because a world where people genuinely care about each other and dispel differences rather than turning them into definitions of “the other” truly is the Kingdom of God.

And that’s the point at which both conservatism and liberalism as social, political, fiscal and religious constructs will cease to be.

How biblical literalism affects politics, culture and the environment

Christopher Cudworth is author of The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age. It centers on how biblical literalism affects politics, culture and the environment. Originally published in 2007, it is being edited for re-release on Amazon.com. 

 

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Is the reason you vote Republican because your religion has failed society?

This election year millions of ostensibly Pro-Life Christians will vote Republican because they feel that Republican politicians represent the best opportunity to strike down legalized abortions.

Of course Republicans line up like sheep to claim the Pro-Life mantle. Some indeed do try to pass legislation to overturn existing laws resulting from court rulings such as Roe vs. Wade, which delivered protection for legalized abortions in the United States.

Religion in the public sector

For perspective on the use of religion as a foundation for political alliance and public policy, you may recall that many people of conservative faith originally threw their hopes behind a largely politicized attempt to bar teaching of evolution in public schools in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. A teacher named John Scopes defied the Butler act, a Tennessee law prohibiting public teachers from denying the literalist interpretation of the biblical account of man’s origin. Scopes was actually convicted of defying the law, but was let go on a technicality.

What that story illustrates is not a flaw in the judicial system or public policy, but the eventual and necessary failure of a segment of society to impose a religious view on the society as a whole. States across the country now advocate teaching of evolutionary theory because it is founded on real, discoverable science, not just a religious view dependent on a narrow interpretation of scripture. Evolutionary theory is also (not coincidentally) supported and complimented by myriad other scientific facts and theories. Evolutionary theory has led to important discoveries in sciences ranging from medicine to genetics to astrophysics. It is an important theory not just because of what it says, but because it works. Just as importantly, the theory itself continues to evolve, because that is the heart of science, not a fixed, one-time snapshot, as if life were a Polaroid picture.

Creationism, by contrast, is essentially the practice of denying science to support an anachronistic worldview. It is nothing but a Polaroid picture of the process of creation. And like many early Polaroids, its picture of the world is mostly black and white and not very clear. In sum, creationism is a negative theory whose only contribution to the world is the surety it provides to its adherents.

Sum-negative thinking

The same sort of sum-negative-thinking theory is at work in efforts to ban abortion in America. Years before abortion was legalized, millions of women engaged in the practice on their own or through black market providers delivering abortion services. Abortion was not invented after it was legalized. Instead it was legalized to make the practice safer for women in need of abortions for legitimate reasons, including protection of a woman’s health in at-risk pregnancies, termination of pregnancies caused by rape and yes, selective choice to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

That last phrase is what causes abortion opponents the most pain. The religious view that life begins at conception––itself an evolving contention––is used to contend that all forms of abortion are a type of murder.

Here is where the Pro-Life movement begins to resemble the creationist argument in its religious framework. The Bible makes no specific reference to abortion anywhere in its text. The 10 Commandments do say “Thou shalt not kill” but again, the interpretation of that commandment is short on actual, specific substance with regards to abortion, except when supported by scripture such as Psalm 139:13, which reads “for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (NIV)

That very elegant passage makes a great case for protection of life in the womb from conception. You can see how that image would move and motivate people to advocate for protection of life and the banning of abortion.

But here we are faced with a difficult question. If the religious case for protection of life is so compelling, why hasn’t religion been able to convince our nation and the world that abortion is not a good choice for women?

Religion’s failures do not make good public policy

The answer is that religion has failed miserably in its chartered role of reaching the world through its ministries. This fact relates to its failure to make relevant sense of its message in several key respects.

The first of these is that the most conservative forms of religion fail to reconcile scripture to any form of modern knowledge, especially the sciences that informs and improve our daily lives. In that context, the continuing effort by literalist sects to impose teaching of creationism undermines the credibility of religion as a whole in the public sector. How can we trust what religion says on any practical issue if a big chunk of the faith is living in a dream world where something always has to come from nothing, and never changes?

Secondly, large segments of the Christian faith also take a contrary view toward practical solutions such as birth control that would prevent the need for abortion. This sort of denial is cruel, aggressively naive and irresponsible, yet the largest bloc Christian faith in the world would deny its believers birth control under any circumstances. How interesting that more than 90% of Catholic women ignore this “law” imposed by the church.

Then think about what the Catholic church actually advocates for a method of birth control. The so-called Rhythm Method suggests that couples conspire to engage in “natural” birth control by timing their copulation to avoid impregnation. What a cynical “solution,” for it actually advises lying about the reasons for sex!

There are many examples in the bible in which Christ states that the intent of an oath or an act is as much a sin as the actual act. The idea of trying to avoid pregnancy and essentially “trick God” through use of the rhythm method sounds much like that moment when Adam and Eve were caught sneaking around the garden after they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and figured out they were naked. God didn’t like that little ruse, so the Creator surely must not like the Catholic Church encouraging its members to engage in procreative trickery.

The Catholic Church does not have a very good record in many such areas of theology, having actively persecuted scientists like Galileo for discovering that the earth was not the center of the universe, and others for teaching that the earth was round. These were practical realities that eventually revolutionized the Christian worldview, but not with much help from the Pope, who also threatened the life of Martin Luther for contending that it was not good works but grace alone that earned the believer salvation. Religion has a pretty sorry track record when it comes to figuring out the truth when it conflicts with some literal interpretation of scripture.

Old habits and infallibility

Yet we live in a time where many Christian believers persist in old religious habits and claims of infallibility (especially Leviticus and other texts of law) that have long been ignored, proven wrong or debunked through scriptural scholarship and newly inspired interpretation of holy texts. That process continues as faith evolves, as it always has since Jesus Christ himself came along to deliver the knockout blow to the love of law over the opportunity for fulfillment, salvation and life through redemption from sin.

Pay attention to what was just said. The love of law is not where Christians should reside, in whole. Jesus taught that the law of God is best understood through tools of parable, metaphor and experience, which when used together give us greater perspective on the will of God. He also chastised the religious leaders of his day for turning scripture into law, and turning the lives of believers into unholy efforts to justify themselves before the church or before God.

That also means that Christians should not try to turn their personal faith into the strict law of the land. Because as soon as you begin defining the core of your faith through the imposition of law, especially in the public sector, you have failed God in the commission of faith. Obviously your efforts have not been good enough on behalf of God to reach the people whom you seek to reach through law and politics.

If that sound harsh or accusatory, the truth really does hurt sometimes. But truly, nothing is so cleanly evident than the failure of religion when it claims to be the salvation of the world but fails in some grandiose and crucial way.

In politicians, not God, we trust?

Instead of taking direct responsibility for the failure of faith to convince people of those moral objectives some believers who high, they crawl instead to politicians in positions of public power, convincing them that the most important goal of the republic is to impose Christian law on a secular society. This is the exact same thing Christians find so abhorrent in the Muslim world when religious law is imposed in place of democracy.

The cynical sideline to all this has been the efforts of groups from the Christian Coalition to the Moral Majority working to install politicians who favor religious law over public law, thereby creating a virtual theocracy. This is done in spite of the fact that our own Constitution guarantees freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.

But when religion fails as it has on the abortion issue to convince people of its brand of morality, it is too hard for believers to admit or accept.

So you get pompously righteous politicians pumping their fists, proclaiming they are “on the side of God” while  saying “We want to ban abortion!”

And why? Because it will get them elected and bring in campaign contributions. And yes, if they build enough consensus in America for their various pet “religious causes”, they may indeed seek to impose their religious worldview on the nation by banning abortion, teaching of evolution and taking away equal rights for gays and women and people of color. Well, America by definition and Constitution is supposed to provide equal rights for all, not just the religious citizens of the republic. Yet the Republican platform has determined that’s not good enough. They’ve made up their own agenda for America, supposedly in the name of God.

Failure twice over

We’ll state it plainly to make the matter clear. It is never right to use politics to compensate for the failures of religion. For religion to refuse to acknowledge its own failures and then blame America for persecuting the Christian faith is the ultimate hypocrisy. But that is the Republican platform these days, and it should be seen for what it is: A failure wrapped in political lies in an attempt to grab power.

So you should ask yourself: Is the reason you vote Republican because your religion has failed society? If so, then you should go to your church, not the voting booth as the means to effect change in society. Because if you really trust God, why do you need to rely on politicians to accomplish your aims?

The real dangers of clearcut ideology

Clearcut ideas aren’t always the prettiest in reality

Back when our family had plentiful opportunities to camp in Wisconsin and other woodsy sites across North America, we often traveled on day trips to visit other parks and go on adventures in places like Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It is always a pleasure when vacationing to enjoy the view of the woods as you whiz past on some state highway cutting deep through the forests.

Throughout the country there are designations for different types of state and government-owned forests. There are national and state forests. National and State parks. Bureau of Land Management property. All these different entities affect how those properties are managed, how much wood or other resources can be extracted (especially, these days, oil and natural gas) and in what manner.

In areas where tourism counts, keeping up appearances when it comes to the north woods is vitally important. Yet in areas where the timber industry, for example, is a key component of economic health, it is considered equally important to grant harvesting access to private firms that harvest wood of various types. Pine and hardwood are still valuable commodities in America. Competition for rights to harvest wood from public and private landowners can be quite keen. Building relationships and managing the extraction process well are also key elements of successful forest management. It is a convoluted game involving billions of dollars.

Balancing the economic and timber harvest interests of a region with tourism and outdoor recreation can be tricky. People on vacation are not exactly fond of seeing clearcut land as they drive from place to place. There are few more ugly sites than a forest that has been chopped down. Stumps and torn up brambles present a scene of apocalyptic chaos. It can be downright disturbing when you’re driving through thick pine forests mile after mile to suddenly be confronted with thousands of acres of torn-up forest and soil.

So they sometimes don’t let you see it. Timber companies adopted a practice of protecting the public from such sights by leaving a thick line of trees standing alongside the road. That tree line provided a visual buffer against the carnage of the clearcut land behind the roadside trees.

The first time one realizes the pathetic purpose of this ruse, there is a feeling of real betrayal. When you imagine you’re passing through serene forests and then get a glimpse behind the scenes where the roadside woods thin out and you can see through to the hell and waste beyond, it’s like pulling back the veil on a very bad dream.

Wandering a clearcut on foot gives a better view of what the extraction process is all about. For all the glorification of timber haulers and woodsmen on reality TV these days, it really comes down to one thing: chopping down trees any way you can. The woods are left to recover any way they can.

Yes, there are methods and techniques in place, and standards to be met. But let’s not fool ourselves. Once you chop down a forest, it really is gone. The whole ecosystem disappears, sometimes overnight. Along with it goes the naive dream that the forest was meant to exist for any reason other than providing profit to the people who extract those resources and leave little behind.

Yes, the companies that take down trees also plant new trees. Yet many times these trees essentially comprise a monoculture that grows at the same general rate, dominating the landscape with a consistent look and feel. Much of America’s north woods and especially its “National Forests” have this look and feel. A diverse woodland of mixed hardwoods and pines is considered much more difficult to manage and harvest than a simple plantation of trees where you can literally drive along the rows and level the trees when they reach a desired height.

Contrast that with the deep ecology of an old-growth forest with its nobnobbed layers of downed and rotting trees, mosses and native plants, wildlife and micro-climates, and the two just don’t compare. That’s a good thing. We need to protect it. That old growth forest symbolizes the deep roots of America values.

The monoculture forests we tend to grow in their place symbolize the shallower approach to maintaining our heritage and values. The diversity of a forest is its life. Impatience with that diversity is a sign of a worldview that cares not whether the forest exists for any purpose other than extraction of its wood products. The fact that America’s national forests often stand only for that purpose is disturbing at its core, for it represents the commodification of life. It is an ironic fact that it seems the very people who proudly brand themselves “Pro-Life” seem determined to ignore that fact that the raw commodification of life is just as dangerous. It is apparent their worldview focused on the merits of human endeavor became disconnected from a respect for creation and life itself. The cause of this disconnect may be casual or willful selfishness, or an ignorant, shallow interpretation of the texts that inform their worldview. Hurdling over the issue by claiming a right to dominion over the earth ignores an important truth: that with dominion comes responsibility, and strictly commodifying the creation you were entrusted to protect is the most cynical abuse of that trust imaginable.

It is that strict commodification of nature that made timber interests leave buffers along the roads so that tourists would not get peeved or disillusioned by the sight of the radical clearcuts beyond. It is a desperate illusion, of course, and indicative of a cynical approach to social morality that says people won’t object to what they cannot see. The sad thing about not being able to see the clearcut former forest for the trees is that it symbolizes so much of what goes on in the American in other ways.

Our society puts up with all sorts of obscured commodification, including companies hiding dangerous truths about the chemicals and food substances we eat, as well as products that cause cancer and obesity and mental illness. We have politicians hiding facts about these practices while conducting government for their own cynical economic and political gain. This is far worse than the fox guarding the henhouse. This is a clearcut case of wholesale corruption in the political and civic business of America.

And it all starts with cynicism, the belief that “your ideas” are more important than the welfare of society as a whole. Others might call this fascism as well. For clearcut ideology, the “winner take all” brand of politics, bears all the signs of propagandist practices of the past. America fought fascism on a grand scale in World War II, yet it seems unable to recognize or control its own fascist tendencies back home.

As one illustration of American fascism at work, the term “greenwashing” was invented to describe the behaviors of companies that concoct environmentally friendly names to market products, services or ideas that are in actuality far from Green in nature. That line of trees along the roads designed to obscure the ugliness of forest clearcuts is a form of greenwashing. But so are “Astroturfed” organizations created to serve the interests of companies whose business practices actually harm the environment in many proven ways. The truth about the media age is that if you are astute enough to push your messaging out in palatable ways, and are aggressive about deliveyr of that message, you really can convince people you are acting in their own best interests even if it is literally killing them and their neighbors.

Ultimately all forms of ideological disguise is a form of greenwashing, and also fits in the fascism spectrum as well. It happens all the time in politics, religion, economics and entertainment. The sad truth is that it is often the most harmful forms of ideology that go to the greatest lengths to obscure their real purposes. We see it in politics when candidates make their stated goals sound appealing to the very people those policies would harm the most. By the time the truth comes out after the election, those candidates are elected officials with the power and authority to impose clearcut actions in their respective territories of jurisdiction.

It happens with Senators, Congressman, Presidents and Judiciary nominees. They can say whatever they want to get elected or be appointed, but once in office their clearcut nature comes out. Some even cut down the trees along their ideological roads and contend, “You knew what you were getting when you put me here. Now deal with it.” As a result we now have laws in place that grant personhood to corporations, the ultimate commodification of individual citizenship in America.

Still, America loves to foment its illusions of Yankee exceptionalism. We love to pretend that we live in the greatest nation on earth because from all appearances that we can see, that is true. So we drive along our country roads with green trees growing on either side and love to think those trees (there they are!) along the road symbolize God and Country and that all is right in America.

But too many people never take the time to consider the deadly illusion created by that thin band of trees, which were specifically left there to deceive the public, while behind that faux forest, grand schemes of extortion and extraction are being executed. The Great Recession of 2008 was an opportunity to witness the clearcutting taking place behind the barrier of social and economic trees, as Wall Street, mortgage schemes, derivatives and deregulation each got busy chopping down a sector of our economy. We almost got clearcut right down to a Depression.

Real Americans paid for the costs of that clearcutting. But here’s the sick part. We not only paid to have our woods chopped down, but let the people who chopped them down sell off the wood for profit, keep that money for themselves and award themselves bonuses for doing such a good job of clearcutting the economy. No one went to jail for this wave of criminality. Instead Americans were told we’d have to consider austerity as a means to regrow the forest of our economy. Go out there and plant a tree, we were told. And good luck. Hope it grows.

Maybe it’s fans of reality TV shows like American Loggers, that buy the myth that cutting down trees, both literal and metaphorical, is the path America needs to take to prosper and regain its moral high ground. So along comes a fellow with a square jaw and an outdoorsy look who says seemingly nice yet vacuous things about trees being the right height in Michigan. And people somehow buy his message. Yet he’s spouting the same clearcut ideology that wiped out the American economic forest the first time. He and his woodchopper friends are telling us again that chopping down the trees is necessary to save the forest.

Never mind that the vision of that promise remains obscured to this moment. The trees along the road are still very much standing. We can’t see or hear any details about what that clearcut ideology really means when it comes to cutting budgets, cutting debt, cutting programs, cutting off social programs, cutting and cutting and cutting until there’s nothing left to cut.

That’s a very clearcut way of doing things, to be sure. But what will we have left? Surely not the America we love, or will recognize. At least not behind the trees along the roadside of life.

A new perspective on the Greatest Generation

The Greatest Generation may be yet to come.

The popular American narrative relative to World War II is that the United States dedicated its troops and might to defeat fascism. We helped lead the Allies to victory over Germany, Italy and Japan.

There is little doubt and volumes written about the merits of that war, and the credit for winning it is given to what is now called The Greatest Generation, known for their sacrifice of life and dedication to a vital cause.

One could argue that necessity breeds heroes, just as it is the mother of invention. When the need arises, Americans are well known as first responders (or as in the case of World War II, best responders.) We shook our fists in murderous fury at the perpetrators of 9/11, yet the people we initially chose to celebrate were indeed, the first responders.

Historical bookends

Those two moments in American history, World War II (1941) and 9/11 (2001) are bridged by a period in American history some self-described patriots would vehemently prefer to forget. We are talking now about the evolution of dissent and protest that began in the 1960s. The social liberations that took place were the result of very public protests against America’s trenchant racism, sexism and discrimination of all kinds. We are about to explore whether the 1960s were also about America’s inability to wrestle with its own insecurities, its penchant for fear-mongering and a nation’s seemingly godly but ultimately misguided tradition of boasting Christian-only values.

Let’s talk about what really happened in the 1960s

We must commence with some basic facts that are demonstrably true as proven through time.

The first is that racism in America persisted even after the nation’s nobly grand effort to stop fascism abroad through the battles of World War II. So while we must thank the generation that fought that war, we must also acknowledge our nation’s failure to liberate our own citizens even as we stood proud in protecting the world. Sadly, America’s own values did little to bring the needed changes about. That meant leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., were forced to take great risks using the words of the bible against people wielding the same book in support of racism–to point out how badly America had failed in its responsibilities toward its own people, millions of whom did not enjoy even the basic rights of citizenship, much less equal opportunity.

It is interesting indeed that in classrooms across America during the 1950s and 60s, millions of schoolchildren were required to recite a Pledge of Allegiance that ends with the words “…with liberty and justice for all” Millions of those kids grew up to take the actual meaning of that pledge seriously, piling into the streets to demand liberty for people of all races and backgrounds. That same generation of people also turned its sights on an unjust war in Vietnam, a violent venture that was initially engaged in fear over communism, and that ultimately evolved into a consuming effort to prove that the military-industrial complex was right in its motives, tactics and increasing commitments of expense and reputation. Thus the Vietnam war was executed to the precise prediction of one Dwight D. Eisenhower– himself an heroic general in World War II–who had warned against the dangers of the military-industrial complex, and what it could do to America.

So we see that the arc of the 1960s was not all about liberal values, nor sexual liberation and freedom from responsibilities. The 1960s were about a generation taking its pledge to the flag and the America for which it stands quite seriously. But instead of being acknowledged for this effort, and its pursuant victories for civil rights and all that has come to represent in freedom for America, the 1960s are maligned by some as a period of social decay and destruction of American values.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The 1960s not actually represented America’s second major attempt to eradicate its brand of internal (racist) fascism, the first attempt being our own Civil War, by a new generation discovering that ideals really mattered.

America had President Kennedy inspiring the nation to fly to the moon, and to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.” Well, what better answer to that question than to stand up for liberty and justice for all. But it appears not everyone believed in those virtues as they were written, or spoken. The represented an inconvenience to a status quo that was seemingly desperate to maintain its self depicted superiority. Thus the tone was set for a struggle over what America represents. That struggle would produce not only violence, but economic and social upheaval.

Turncoats try to kill actual American ideals

Of course Kennedy was murdered in cold blood on that November day in 1963, sending the country into a spiral of introspection and self-recrimination. Some fingers pointed out dark quarters in our nation’s own infrastructure, and many still speculate that figures tied to the military-industrial complex carried out the hit on Kennedy, who actually had the nerve to negotiate a temporary backdoor peace with Kruschev and the Soviet Union, thereby averting a potentially catastrophic nuclear war.

But it may also have been simple lust for political power that killed Kennedy, for some posit that it was LBJ himself that masterminded the unthinkable violence and intrigue of the JFK assassination. That would mean it was an inside job. So many circumstances around the treatment of JFKs body after the assassination and the lone video record of the incident tend to raise more questions than they answer. But even these questions begin to help us arrive at our main point. Because after the JFK murder came the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Are we to assume this was all just coincidence? The odds are too far against it.

Fortunately the 1960s were a time of idealism as well as the enactment of the painfully evident cynicism that rained death on the decade. There certainly were an abundance of people who thought they knew better the direction the country should take. Conflicted men like J. Edgar Hoover, who could not confront his own identity with any degree of honesty, and so pursued anyone who breathed a sniff of truth while evidencing flaws of their own. Hoover had the goods on Kennedy, for sure, a devout philanderer if there ever was one. But Hoover had the goods on everyone, and that turned into a corruption of its own sort. But that is how America operated then and likely continues to operate in many respects today. As a nation we simply cannot bear to unearth the fascism that undermines our own government. There are people who make millions and billions of dollars off the murderous guarantees of military profiteering, violent deregulation of markets, insider trading, health care exploitation and limitless extraction of resources without tax or compensation to the nation. That is the inside game. But it all starts with flawed personalities and frankly, a form of psychopathy that at once disgusts and seems to fascinate Americans just the same.

The byproducts of exceptionalism

Our collective psychopathy is why America raced off to fight a war in Afghanistan Iraq rather than face up to its own tortured foreign policies that once funded the very people we now had to go kill. Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden. Manuel Noriega. All these people, like it or not, were once “friends” who became enemies once they recognized the hypocritical state of American virtue.

And just look what the nation has chosen to do: fight the so-called War on Terror. As one pundit expertly put it, how can you fight a war on terror when war itself is terror? We require double-speak to cover up our patent greed and imperialistic desires. But the purported protectors of American integrity like to point to a phantom ideal called American Exceptionalism as the reason why we should be able to do what we want, when we want, to whomever we want.

Our trickle-down brand of exceptionalism resulted in Iraqi citizens being hung up on metal bed frames and tortured with electrocution, because we needed to know more about who our enemies are. It is a vicious cycle, and a selfish game for selfish gain.

Time to look within

Well, it seems like we should start to look within, does it not? Is that not what the Judeo-Christian God tells us to do. Secular humanists seem to know more of such inner light as those who claim to be on the side of religion. So let us take a look inside America to see what we can find out about concepts like The Greatest Generation. How we once fought for good, and how we do that at home as well as abroad.

For starters, America can’t seem to get around to admitting our own flaws, and that causes us to lash out in anger at those who point them out for us. America goes out out of its way to invent enemies when we can’t find them organically. The CIA is good at that, for example. They’ve created four decades of boogeymen to fight on behalf of America because it feeds their system of beliefs, which are the same arcane, ascetic and conservatively-inspired beliefs that told us America was perfectly in the right while chasing all over Vietnam shooting and bombing human victims while defoliating millions of acres of land using a chemical we called Agent Orange. Or was it Clockwork Orange? It’s so easy to confuse the two.

It’s really only a question of scale, which is how people behaving like self-justified thugs see fit to castigate and kill those we fear for being ideologically different (and sometimes defiant) of American aims. As if our aims were the only aims that matter.

That’s what some people in America genuinely believe: that only their beliefs matter. But that is precisely why racism has been allowed to persist for so long in America. Those of us raised by the parents from the Greatest Generation do recall, however, the often “colorful” yet uncomfortable jokes about niggers and spics and chinks and fags. These are all dehumanizing terms, and their horrific power remains intact today, obscured perhaps by political correctness, the liberal attempt at correcting the problem without truly recognizing what the problem is. Which is the fact that some people refuse to change and will use any means possible to prevent you from making them change. It is all a self-protective device to feel superior to someone, somehow.

Deconstructing American exceptionalism

That is ultimately what so-called American Exceptionalism is all about, for it has become a political ideology expressed in conservative, and not progressive terms. Therefore it is has become less and less about America’s tradition of charity and leadership in the world and has become more about our will to imperial doctrine. And that’s a shame, because it is true that America often leads the way in freedom and democracy.

But we lost focus somewhere along the way, and waltzed into Iraq (for just one example) under the banner of American exceptionalism while completely failing to anticipate what it really takes to accomplish democracy, much less protect that country’s antiquities or its people. In fact we rather grossly set about plundering Iraq’s oil resources under a thinly guised contract that said they should pay us back for invading their country. We did them a favor, we assured them. But it’s always about the aims, folks. Which is another word for money.

Killing our own, and not just euphemistically

Even at home, we aim to kill our own. There’s even been a slogan invented to describe that phenomenon. And listen to it: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Have you ever heard such pathetic double-speak? As if guns were ever invented to do anything but kill. The fact that they are used for sport is but a valorous distraction. Remember that when protestors against the Vietnam War swarmed the campus at Kent State, they encountered fearful yet gun-bearing militia, who shot four students dead. And what did it prove. That guns don’t kill people? That is a dark-hearted farce.

We know that the NRA holds enormous sway in American politics whilst hiding behind an interpretation (a rather liberal one, ironically) of the Second Amendment that blatantly ignores the phrase “well-regulated” in relation to the term “militia.” This is known as selective intelligence. Or perhaps that’s too forgiving a term. You could substitute “stupidity” for intelligence and get the same result. That’s how euphemism works.

We should also point up the fact that the NRA was instituted in the same year as the Klu Klux Klan. That is likely no coincidence. It illustrates that any organization with a conflict of aims at its heart does require considerable force to uphold, and look at how those two organizations have managed to survive, and even thrive. The KKK has long used God to justify its racism while the NRA choose to ignore the term “well-regulated” whilst promoting its considerable lust for term “militia.” Both organizations have made claims to stand for what’s right in America.

Is idealism dead? And if so, who killed it?

The 1960s did expose the ugly sides of such organizations, but there’s one hard, fast rule in politics: Ugliness never quits. And so the NRA and KKK, and organizations like them, right on up to far right political parties in many instances, have plotted and planned in concert for four decades, carefully conducting back door meetings to establish allies with religious factions whose interpretations of scripture are conveniently hateful, discriminatory and conflicted. And so the claim to God, Country and Flag has been co-opted to the controlling interests of our most fearful factions in America.

A word about the power of words

America has become a nation where politics is being used increasingly to enforce the aims of those who bear the most fearful, controlling and self-righteous aims. It is not surprise then, that they have become most cunning and deceptive in their use of words.

We need only look at the term Citizens United, the euphemistic organization that took its case to the Supreme Court in a fight to establish the right of corporate personhood. Some portray the case as an heroic act to protect free speech in America, when in fact action essentially sold out the value of free speech to giant, moneyed and often faceless conglomerates with no responsibility to reveal their motives or identify. Citizens United was essentially the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover, writ large. But how is that the rights of individual citizenship, which were written into the Constitution and protected by the courts for more than 200 years, were suddenly erased in a period of a few months. It is because a group of activist judges beholden to such interests felt they were suddenly much wiser than the Founders were about what it means to be human.

A great generation, in deed. 

And that puts an exclamation point on the real purpose of the 1960s, and how that period was a step in the right direction for America. But that step has since been waylaid by jealous, angry souls who cannot admit they have flaws, and thus cast aspersions and project their own worst tendencies into all they distrust for questioning, and thus refining, the real legacy of America.

We should remember perhaps the ideal so familiar to Christians that the divine force we call God seems to see value in our personal and collective trials, and that Christ and Ghandi and every moral being who ever walked the earth do too.

But for America, it is up to us to recognize that the foundation of this nation is not based on one religion or one creed, but on tolerance, acceptance and equal rights for all those who believe in honest, forthright aims. The Greatest Generation is the one that upholds those virtues. It may be seen that a current generation succeeds in fulfilling that dream, or it may be that a future generation will earn the right to be called our greatest yet, by having learned to appreciate in full that citizenship, and individuality, and equality in the laws of the republic shall forever be the highest aims of human endeavor.

Now that will be a great generation. In deed.

Who’s to blame for the neo-Confederacy of corporate politics?

A symbol for rights or privilege?

The American flag is a symbol held dear by many Americans. But does it stand for greed or rights and social justice?

In 2007 when my book The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age was first published, the divide between so-called liberals and conservatives had achieved a strident tone. But the real reach of the divide had yet to be revealed until a combination of class warfare, racial prejudice and plain old nasty partisan politics emerged with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Obama’s election produced a political paradox for  Republicans who were forced to admit that President George W. Bush & Company had done an absolutely terrible job in leading the country the previous 8 years. The GOP wanted to distance itself from Bush as a President but certainly did not want to accept any blame for the pain of his Republican reign. So conservatives adopted a strategy of claiming that Bush was not in fact a real conservative, but something else entirely. Maybe a Republicrat?

But the disavowal of Bush amounted to an essential denial of responsibility for any of the nation’s problems. Despite their potentially genuine dislike of the Bush Doctrine (Whatever it really was…) conservatives still basically rubber-stamped everything their once-favored son did while in office––right down to torture, illegal detention of prisoners, trumpeting illegal wars and gutting the nation’s middle class while giving away costly corporate welfare subsidies for industry, agriculture and the financial sectors.

All those giveaways, financial failures and protracted wars meant that President Barack Obama had inherited a nation in economic crisis, teetering toward a possible Depression.

But as far as Republicans were concerned, those were now Obama’s problems. “Hell, he even created half the mess,” they claimed. So true to form, Republicans stuck together despite the very evident rot in their patented ideology. Instead a new strategy emerged with ramped up attacks on the new Democrat in office, led by the promise of Republican Mitch McConnell who vowed to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

Despite this resistance Obama did manage successful policy implementation including passage of a health care reform bill that now covers millions of young Americans under their parent’s policies, and will someday protect patients from exclusion based on pre-existing conditions.* Obama also closed down military intervention in Iraq (but left the mercenaries behind?) and presided over the killing of Osama bin Laden. Conservatives should have been joyous over such news, but some even attempted to give credit to George W. Bush. Somehow.

Over issues such as these, America has become a giant battlefield for hardball politics. The far right wing of the Republican Party as represented by Tea Party candidates even caused a downgrade in America’s debt rating by threatening to default on the nation’s debts. Still, that constituted a form of heroism in the minds of some Americans. The nation was clearly in the throes of a brand new form of Civil War in which some would rather kill the country than have it run by anyone they choose to hate, and for any reason. Race. Religion. Sexual orientation. Gender. Political persuasion. These became the pillars of partisanship. But to what end?

Here is what I wrote in 2007: “The current-day battle between liberals and conservatives carries the same stridency and stubbornness that marked the first American Civil War. The difficult question we must face is whether we can anticipate the rise of a new form of “confederacy” in the modern age.”

To illuminate the subject, I provided some historical context on the American Civil War and how it came about:

“The original, Southern Confederacy stemmed from dissatisfaction with the state of the Union and the future of government.  It might seem easy to assume that the Union was 100% on the right side of political issues in the Civil War. But no matter how correct the Union cause might appear in retrospect, the Confederacy was not by definition without virtue. As a political entity it may well have been justified in defending itself against economic and military aggression by the Union. And in spite of the notion that the ideology of the Confederacy was purged through the Civil War, the personal and political freedoms advocated by the South are alive and well today in modern society, woven into the politics of libertarians and other conservatives who contend that the best government is that which governs least. These principles the Confederacy sought to defend, and the sense of pride in defending moral principles has never been lost on the South. However unfortunate it may have been for the Confederate South to secede, one can admire the determination of the movement as symbolic of the American revolutionary spirit.”

The Tea Party attempted in some ways to reclaim these ideals as it emerged with its call for limited government, less taxation and claims that America was being taken over by political interests that were too intrusive in the lives of everyday Americans. The Tea Party was suspicious even of Republican leadership, making noise of secession from that party to lay claim to the core of American values, especially the Constitution. But still the movement was joined at the hip because it needed to share the mantle of power owned and dispensed by Republicans.

All that amounted to was an even bigger ball of trouble in which the politics of corporate largesse take over the entire process, as predicted in The Genesis Fix:

“It may still be possible that partisan politics will produce an America divided over ideology, geography, oligarchy, or all of the above.”
And here were the finer points of that prediction:

“Perhaps the most likely scenario is the formation of a “neo-Confederacy” around “doctrinal states” or politics focused on “Red” and “Blue” states. Proponents on either side of the political fence have begun to see the value of the “winner-take-all” approach. We are not far from a moment in history when battles over doctrinal authority could lead to a new secession in the hands of the “neo-Confederates” and the states they represent. 

But there are other issues afoot as well. The next Civil War may be fought not in the fields and forests of America, but in courtrooms where armies of lawyers battle over the rights of corporations to control America’s life and politics. Corporate lobbies and revenue now influence every facet of American life.  The largest corporations and the individuals who run them have more money and power than many countries in the world. It is not a stretch to say that one cannot become a governor, senator or representative without the backing of corporations. A neo-Confederacy of corporate largess already exists in America, and it is not limited to the Republican side of the political fence.  It may not be long before the power vested in corporations becomes a self-fulfilling mandate and America will be forced to choose between its original model of a democratic republic recorded in the Constitution and a new, corporate society that is ruled by companies who run the business of America. Whether we have the courage to resist this takeover of American life is a question for our age.”

All it took for that prediction to come true was the ruling of a court case known colloquially as Citizens United, which essentially granted corporations the same rights as people, and privacy to boot, in making unlimited political contributions and buying advertising to support partisan interests.

The impact of the case has already essentially determined the outcome of an election in Wisconsin where the recall of Governor Scott Walker was initiated through citizen protests over destruction of collective bargaining rights for public workers, among other issues. Outside money resulted in a 7-to-1 spending imbalance between Walker and his opponent. That same month the Republican candidate Mitt Romney coincidentally (or not so much) raised more funds than incumbent President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile the battle over social issues raged across America with conservative religious factions damning gay rights as President Obama stood up for equality for people of all gender and sexual orientation. The modern day form of slavery or at least discrimination continues for many citizens denied full rights of citizenship in America. Their rights are consistently denied by conservative, legalistic and literally interpreted religious interests standing on the wrong side of history, again.

It will no doubt be a long and ugly fight just as the first Civil War divided the country, and the fight has really just begun. It remains to be seen whether the battle will spill blood on the streets and hills of America. That depends, we must assume, on whether half of America can come to its senses and stop believing in the God of money and power over the God of mercy and tolerance. It appears some political interests believe strongly in the former and not at all in the latter, much less as a political strategy and brand of social justice.

Here is how The Genesis Fix outlined these issues:

“Corporate largesse has a close relationship with the power of doctrinal politics. Any government owned and run by business will obviously favor the interests of business over that of individuals. When religion adds to the clout of corporate government by giving its stamp of approval to something so profound, powerful and self-fulfilling as the military-industrial society, then a nation has lost its grip on democracy and turned itself over to commerce as rule of law.

Part of the reason doctrinal politics, economic aggression and triumphal religious language make such a potent combination is that all three appeal strongly to a sense of personal pride. Some people refuse to distinguish between the three.”

And that is where we stand. Americans have not changed much in the 100+ years since our nation immersed itself in Civil War. It is our inability to collectively define and rationally justify our various convictions that gets us into trouble. But it gets much, much worse when commerce and greed get to decide our fate and start our wars. Just as a reminder: the bible tells us that God does not like that one bit.

*Republicans claim to hate the health care reform bill on grounds that it is a form of medical socialism and would result in “death panels” where the government gets to decide who lives and dies. Yet the bill actually shows much more respect for life than the current corporately controlled, profit-oriented (and therefore often Darwinian) health care system that notably excludes millions of Americans from even basic coverage.

From a religious perspective: God tells us life itself is a pre-existing condition. No one gets out alive. Health care is designed to protect quality of life while we are here. That basic fact seems lost on the ideological opponents of health care reform, who turned on Obama with vicious fervor even though their candidate of choice in 2012, one Mitt Romney, essentially built the same system when he was governor of Massachusetts.

 

Is Newt Gingrich a latter-day King David in our midst? Maybe so. But not how you think.

Whether Christian believers like to admit it or not, the Judeo-Christian tradition is both a religious and political story. Jesus Christ was willing to challenge both the religious and political leaders of his day, calling them to guide their actions with truth, justice and morality. In the process he stood up to some politically powerful people, and we know the earthly results of those efforts. But if the moral of the story stopped there, Christianity would not be much of a religion. Instead the courage of Christ in standing up to the forces of earthly power and poor religious judgment is the ultimate model for Christians to hold leaders accountable for their words, deeds and actions.

Truly, as Christians we need to draw on the example of Jesus to guide us in not sacrificing the spiritual purpose of faith in pursuit of power. Jesus set a clear example for us all. It is not okay to rationalize our faith to try to win favor with the rich and powerful. We are supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard than that.

But many Christians find that a tough example to follow.

You would expect that Christian leaders would demand basic patterns of moral behavior from political candidates who come to them for support. These include of course reasonable respect for marital fidelity, embracing financial ethics and legislating on behalf of the the poor and needy, whose welfare Jesus most consciously favored.

Yet a certain breed of politically motivated evangelical Christian leaders seems willing and even eager to ignore basic moral principles whenever political power comes within their reach. Thus we find evangelical Christian leaders dispensing forgiveness like Pez candy to front-running political candidates who have nasty personal and professional records.

We all know forgiveness is a powerful and wonderful thing. Some would argue it is the heart of faith itself. But let us be honest: it is not true forgiveness if our primary motive is power-brokering. That is nothing more than an ugly rationalization. Christian evangelicals who claim to have their finger on the pulse of faith yet lend their support through rubber-stamped forgiveness for corrupt leaders should be called to account for giving away the authority of faith for cheap political promises.

By example we have the 2012 election cycle, in which we find Christian evangelicals bending over backwards to support none other than Newt Gingrich, the serial wife-dumper and man of apparently confused moral character who recently blamed his propensity for dalliances and faithlessness on an overabiding love of country. Talk about a cynical argument for patriotism and a poor damn excuse for a husband! Why would any Christian evangelical support such a lout?

The answer is that Christian evangelicals are still achingly desperate for political power. Frankly it may be that because their attempts to convert society to a theocracy through religious means have failed, they hope to leverage political influence to impose a virtual theocracy that would fulfill the motives of an often warped, anachronistic interpretation of scripture. In fact the consistent policy failures of conservatives in general, all who seem set on turning back the clock through an agenda of regressive, repressive doctrines is driving the movement to new extremes. They really have nowhere else to go. So they push back even harder. And that is why social and religious conservatives are willing to dismiss all sorts of sins in political candidates. It is rather like the Old Testament stories where people in the desert beseeched God to deliver them from exile. But this time round they are not justified. Quite far from.

For example, many of today’s Republican evangelical leaders are attempting to forgive the politically front-running Newt Gingrich his many sins. Gingrich recently converted to Catholicism and that would seem to give evangelicals grounds to forgive. As if he were a changed man. Despite his very long track record of questionable ethics and a calculatingly harsh demeanor toward his enemies. In fact he does not even seem to have all that much patience or compassion for his supposed friends. Or anyone. Given his strange act of endorsing child labor to teach them the value of work, one wonders if Gingrich’s next act will be protecting child-abusing priests because it will teach children the merits of obedience.

Gingrich is a living, breathing hypocrite as well as misanthrope. We can all recall how Gingrich and the entire GOP castigated Bill Clinton for his extramarital affairs. Yet we now know that Gingrich was engaged in behavior as bad or worse than Clinton’s while the whole political takedown took place. That makes Gingrich a hypocrite and a liar.

Jesus really did not like hypocrites most of all, especially in political and religious quarters. He saved a particularly harsh brand of invective for anyone leveraging religious influence to gain power, calling the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” for turning scripture into literal law. So why does anyone think Jesus would favor a hypocrite like Newt Gingrich for president? It’s frankly ludicrous. And yet so-called Christian evangelicals seem to be lining up to endorse him.

In a November 2011 Newsweek article, writer Michelle Goldberg documented just how far Christian evangelicals will go to partner up with politicians approaching the nation’s key seat of power. When asked why evangelicals were suddenly willing to embrace Gingrich as a candidate when his serial affairs indicate a man of poor moral character, prominent evangelical Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Center, brushed away concerns about Gingrich by saying, “Under normal circumstance, Gingrich would have some real problems with the social conservative community. But these aren’t normal circumstances.”

That is moral relativism, plain and simple.

Consider also the moral gyrations of influential conservative radio host Steve Deace, a conservative talk show host who outlined the evangelical moral quandary over Gingrich this way; “Maybe the guy in the race that would make the best president is on this third marriage. How do we reconcile that?”

Deace goes on to answer his own question by drawing on examples from the Bible: (Deace says) “I see a lot of parallels between King David and Newt Gingrich, two extraordinary men gifted by God, whose lives include very high highs and very low lows.”

But let’s follow that comparison of Newt Gingrich to King David to its true conclusion.

The supposed parallel is that both King David and Newt Gingrich lived less than exemplary lives. Both committed adultery, and in David’s case he conspired to have the husband of his desired mistress sent to a war front, so that he would essentially be killed so that David could then claim the man’s wife.

The Bible also tells us that David committed multiple counts of genocide, including crimes against his own people.  So bad was David’s behavior in life that when he asked God if he could be allowed to build a temple to his Name, God responded: “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.” You see, even God has his limits when it comes to accepting rationalizations of bad behavior.

The Christian evangelical community conveniently forgets to mention this sordid little episode toward the end of the life of King David. That is because it does not seem to fit the conservative narrative of the triumphant leader who wins the permanent favor of God, and who is rewarded for everything he has done.

Instead the honor of building a house for God must be passed to David’s son Solomon, who asked God not for wealth, nor riches or honor, nor the death of his enemies, not even for a long life. Solomon instead asked for wisdom and knowledge, a decidedly liberal engagement of the Almighty, you see. And God granted Solomon that request. And Solomon built a great temple to God.

Solomon went on to educate himself on matters of the natural world and became known for his great capacity for equity in judgment and justice for all. But even Solomon had his failures of character, proving that it’s altogether dangerous to use religion to justify placing our hopes on our political leaders, both flawed and virtuous, because they are virtually guaranteed to place their own priorities and motives over those of the people they are elected or appointed to serve.