Sharon's Muse.... Let's chat over coffee while I ponder some things
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Religion and Politics - an unholy alliance
I grew up in a Christian pentacostal church and for too many Sundays was forced to "get saved" time and time again, which wore out my ten-year-old psyche. I believe that to this day my unhealthy fear of death arose from those gut-shaking fire and brimstone services that told me that I could die in my sleep and wake up in a blazing lake.
As an adult, I am very ambivalent about religion, including the one I was indoctrinated into. I've seen too many occasions of hatred and downright evil being excused in the name of some religious tenet. I've come to realize that many biblical doctrines actually contradict goodness as we've been taught goodness should be - mercy, compassion and love. So I can no longer eat from the plate from which I fed most of my youth. I quit going to church when I was fifteen and except for a brief period during my twenties, I've not been back. And for some reason, I feel freer.
Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and the PTL Bakers were broadcast mainstays in my grandmother's home where I grew up. To my elderly gram, these men were godly icons and could do no wrong. I'm glad she didn't live to see the holy robes pulled away to reveal the dirt and filth beneath. Now you may say I'm being hard on Robertson, but a man who can smirk at someone's stroke and say it's an act of God, a man who is in a friendly relationship with and the main apologist for Charles Taylor, an African dictator who has tortured and murdered his own people, all in the name of Robertson's furthering his ill-fated diamond enterprise - a man such as this is not representative of the Christianity proposed in the bible.
Yet somehow Robertson has been and continues to be the representative of the Christian bloc in the present administration. It always bothered me how political the new Christianity has become, because I believe what my former minister preached a long time ago: religion and politics should never mix simply because the tenets of both contradict and being a political animal calls for some immoral compromise at times. And what is more sickening is the mindless, unquestioned loyalty those who call themselves Christians give over to men like Robertson and how blindly they believe Bush when it is so obvious that the man himself doesn't hold to his professed Christian beliefs. In other words, the lambs don't know that they're being played.
Now, another former White House insider has come forth with the truth - that the Bush Administration is playing the Christian bloc for nothing more than their votes. The administration doesn't give a rat's shit about Christians (not that I ever believed that he did) and think of them as nothing but a manipulable, gullible bloc. David Kuo was in a position to know what he's talking about - he was the #2 man in the President's ill-fated Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and was there from 2001 to 2003. He left, disillusioned and disheartened with himself and the administration. He'd had visions of reaching out to the poor and needy, but found that the "Christians" in and around the administration were more about the power of politics than the charity they verbally proclaimed.
Kuo has written a book entitled "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction" and in his revealing pages talks about the disdain the administration had for their main supporters. He reveals that the White House affairs office often referred to Pat Robertson as "insane" and Jerry Falwell as "ridiculous." Yet business as usual meant pandering to these men and others as a means to establishing themselves as a Christian administration and George Bush as a "pastor in chief."
As Kuo points out, with Christianity becoming so politicized, politics has become an idol god in itself. The fallout is that the country has become more polarized, with many political Christians now so reactionary that they will not listen to any viewpoint that contradicts their own. In an interview with Salon, Kuo likens the White House seduction of these Christian leaders as a Tolkien ring of power - "When you put it on, it feels good and dazzles. After a while it becomes imminently and remarkably distorting."
I don't feel a lick of sympathy for these schmucks who are being hooked by the nose, nor their flock, who so eagerly follow the briny-thorned path down which they're being led. As most Christians I meet seem to be anti-intellectuals, it doesn't surprise me the lack of insight and thought they invest in their political leanings and the power they concede to men who are not godlike but just idols of clay.
Kuo quotes a bible passage that I always thought should be among the ten commandments - "be as wise as a serpent." I think for too long churches have preached meekness and concession until Christians feel they should be lamblike and bleat instead of yell and scream. A political agenda can never be a Christian agenda and here is why - as Christ admonished, "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's." My interpretation, the things of this earth have nothing to do with an individual's connection to God.
And a true Christian is not going to become entangled in the workings of this world, as seductive as they may be. Politics is an earthly enterprise - not a heavenly gauntlet to beat over the heads of those who do not share your political, spiritual or moral views. And too often, many of these Christians have tried to use politics to push an intrusive non-charitable agenda of their own. Lambs though they may be when it comes to capitulating to their leaders, they can be outright bullies when trying to impose their beliefs on "heathens," - you know, everyone who is not them.
And don't even get me started on those pastors who allow politicians to come into their church to "preach" to their members. It is truly a mockery and a subject for another, longer post.
So my advice to these poor deluded souls - stop trying to make another Eden or heaven on Earth. It ain't gonna happen. Leave what is Caesar's to Caesar. Give up the idolatry of the political god and bone up on those tenets that have been so conveniently sacrificed in the name of establishing a "Christian" administration - charity, mercy, compassion and love.
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