Trading Jesus for Caesar

Andrew Sullivan has a provocative thought: That the politicization of Christianity in the US is turning people away from the faith (hat tip Pam).

I think there is a lot of truth to this.  The union of conservative politics and conservative Christianity has created a brand. A very strong brand that is associated with denying women access to health care, and reproductive choices. A brand associated with the Duggars and the Quiverfull movement – aimed at trading away agency and free thought for obedience and servitude. Conservative Christianity is tied tightly to the battle against gay rights. A battle that is losing the cultural war with each passing year. A battle with young casualties for gay youth growing up in caustic religious environments. In Rick Santorum the religious right has a champion who is bold enough to publicly attack pornography and pre-marital sex. This union of church and state – this theocratic movement – has a very strong brand with a very simple message: A return to a time where women were second class citizens, homosexuality was hidden or “treated”, and religion enjoyed unelected power.

That brand is costing believers. It is a trade, as the dominionist army gives up their goal of “saving souls” for Jesus in return for taking from Caesar what is Caesar’s.

So to the religious right I ask: Is it worth it?

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Fun With Rhetoric, Communism and the Far Right

Its been far too long since we’ve checked in with SPLC’s Hate Watch, and there’s a wealth of new stories (quite the uptick in insane sovereign citizen stories).  But today I want to talk about an extraordinary piece of ultra conservative insanity.

Anti-Muslim crazy from SPLC (emphasis mine):

Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim activist who in April told conservatives that “Shariah is communism with a God,” has called on Congress in a Washington Times column to bring back the McCarthy-era House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). This time around, the infamous panel’s job will be to root out the Islamist operatives who, he claims, are well on their way to replacing America’s democracy with a Shariah-based caliphate.

This is brilliant.  Why?  Because it combines two feared and hated subjects, makes no sense, and is short memorable and catchy.  One could surely stretch the imagination to find similarities, just as easily as one could claim Jesus was a Communist on account of his well known views on the wealthy.  But that doesn’t end any real credibility to it, which works in Gaffney’s favor.  The more insane and clearly untrue the slogan, the more the increasingly schizoid right seems to embrace their loony leaders.  They seem to get just as much pleasure from seeing the left bang their heads against the wall in frustration as they do in having yet another “reason” to hate on their favorite targets.

Why not hit back with more of the same?  Can you come up with any good ones?  Off the top of my head, here’s two:

  1. Conservatism is Corporate Communism.
  2. The Religious Right is Shariah with Jesus.

What do you think?  Most important of all, will it piss off the far right?

Invasion of Love and Privacy

The people who brought you prop hate have decided to go after existing gay marriages:

The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The religious right is literally tearing families apart.  How many of these married couples have kids together?  What will there status be?

That doesn’t matter at all to the theocratic  freaks who would rather force the government stop anything not approved by their interpretation of the Christian Bible.  (And these are the types of people Obama is trying to reach out to).  They aren’t pro-family, they are pro-theocracy.

They need to be stopped.  They do not have the right to ruin lives because they think their God disapproves of homosexuality.  While I approve the irony and creativity behind the initiative to ban divorce in California (petition and more details here), I think we need to come up with a sharper plan of attack.  We need to find a way to make areas of discourse that have been regarded as politically safe, dangerous.  We need to shift the overton window of religion’s role in public life to expose the ridiculousness of allowing irrational faith of some to dictate the rights of all.

Analyzing Governor Sarah Palin

If we were to sum up McCain’s politics since 2000 a single word would suffice: hypocrasy.  The same can be said of Governor Sarah Palin.  She was picked primarily to shore up support in the conservative Christian community.  Because of this, I don’t think either of her scandals around pregnancy will really hit home (or cause McCain to drop her).

On the one hand, she may have faked her 5th pregnancy for the sake of her daughter.  The same daughter who is now pregnant and plans to have the child and marry the father.  The key here is that both pregnancies led to a birth, and I see that playing very well with the anti-choice crowd.  Life isn’t about perfection, its about making the right choices with what you are given.  And while the rest of the US looks on in shock, I’m willing to be the conservative Christian community will look on in admiration.  In their view Bristol Palin shouldn’t have any moral choice other than caryring to term, and thus her mother’s efforts to hide the first pregnancy, and her determination to carry through with the second, are examples of her pro-life position in action when it hits close to home.  That can only engender trust that she is completely pro-life.  Add in her support of creationism, and she seems like a great choice to cater to the religious right.

So that takes care of the religious base.  But Governor Palin brings more to the table for McCain, and not all of it is beneficial for the Republican Presidential campaign.  She’s supposed to be a reformer, a paragon of principled politics.  Turns out she is in the middle of an investigation for sketchy firings of State Troopers for personal reasons.  Alaskan newspapers openly question whether she’s fit for the position.  (Not that the McCain camp would have known this, it seems like they never checked local papers to vet her in the first place!)

This is the kind of stuff that can upset anyone, but particularly independents (whom Obama appeals strongly too, and McCain needs to win the Presidency).  It is here that his choice of Palin cuts him deep.  Because Palin isn’t just pro-life.  She’s crazy pro-life:

In November 2006, then gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin declared that she would not support an abortion for her own daughter even if she had been raped.

Granting exceptions only if the mother’s life was in danger, Palin said that when it came to her daughter, “I would choose life.”

At the time, her daughter was 14 years old. Moreover, Alaska’s rape rate was an abysmal 2.2 times above the national average and 25 percent of all rapes resulted in unwanted pregnancies. But Palin’s position was palatable within the state’s largely Republican political circles.

You don’t need to be a feminist to see that this is a seriously fucked up position to take.  She is in fact, to sum things up, an extremist.  In addition to opposing abortion, she (edited the html to remove formatting and fix a link):

She supports teaching creationism in schools.
She denies global warming and opposed listing polar bears as an endangered species because it might prevent off-shore drilling.
Speaking of drilling, she supports drilling in ANWR.
I guess not surprising, Palin is in big oil’s pocket.

On top of it all her lack of experience makes McCain’s attacks on Obama look ridiculous by comparison.

She was essentially chosen to tackle three problems the McCain campaign faced.  How to get the religious right fired up, how to reinforce his appeal as a “maverick” and reformer, and how to somehow get former Clinton supporters to jump in.  I don’t see that happening:

I have a piece up at TAP:

Palin’s addition to the ticket takes Republican faux-feminism to a whole new level. As Adam Serwer pointed out on TAPPED, this is in fact a condescending move by the GOP. It plays to the assumption that disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters did not care about her politics — only her gender. In picking Palin, Republicans are lending credence to the sexist assumption that women voters are too stupid to investigate or care about the issues, and merely want to vote for someone who looks like them. As Serwer noted, it’s akin to choosing Alan Keyes in an attempt to compete with Obama for votes from black Americans.

Now would anyone really fall for that?  Yes of course they would:

As for Governor Palin, her supposed views on abortion and lack of national security credentials are supposed to make her unsuited for the office of the Vice Presidency, yet Barack Obama’s actual views on abortion and lack of national security credentials are supposed to make him perfectly suited for the Presidency.

Supposed views on abortion?  (Riverdaughter has really outed herself as a Republican on this one.)  An actual Clinton supporter would never vote for someone with the positions on reproductive choice, and the environment Palin has.  (Nor would they feel much affinity for a politician who called Hillary whiny.)

Governor Palin is sure to boost McCain’s rating with the religious right, and if he holds on, might just be enough to keep that piece of the Republican party from drifting off.  However that comes are the expense of independent voters and disaffected Clinton voters.  He couldn’t be doing more to turn them off.  It also might come at the expense of Republicans who have had enough of lobbyists and rampant corruption.  Governor Palin is not clean when it comes to lobbyists:

Palin’s relationship with Alaska’s senior senator may be one of the more complicated aspects of her new position as Sen. John McCain’s running mate; Stevens was indicted in July 2008 on seven counts of corruption.

Palin, an anti-corruption crusader in Alaska, had called on Stevens to be open about the issues behind the investigation. But she also held a joint news conference with him in July, before he was indicted, to make clear she had not abandoned him politically.

Stevens had been helpful to Palin during her run for governor, swooping in with a last moment endorsement. And the two filmed a campaign commercial together to highlight Stevens’s endorsement of Palin during the 2006 race.

Given all of this, there is understandable speculation that Palin will be dropped from the ticket (perhaps in favor of Mitt Romney).  I highly doubt this, as dropping his VP pick would be a disasterous admission of poor judgment and weakness by McCain.  That is a perception he cannot afford to reinforce.  Additionally given his stubborness, I doubt he’d be able to bring himself to admit he’s made a strategic error.

Choosing Sarah Palin as his VP may have cost McCain the election, and there’s no way for him to back out without damaging his chances further.

Why Anti-Choicers Pretend Theocracy Does Not Exist

Blog Against Theocracy

The vast majority of the anti-choice movement is a fundamentally religious movement.  Backed by a religious conviction that abortion is murder, they are attempting to force their religion into our legal system.  So like Creationists hiding behind “Intelligent Design” and men who like to dress in lab coats, they hide behind secular arguments and sonograms to make believe their stance comes from reason rather than its polar opposite: faith.

A more novel strategy is to boldly pretend away the very existence of one’s opposition.  By way of example, smithadam’s post about the non-existence of atheism (literally, no joke, because the Bible says so):

Notice how I titled this thing “Why Atheism Does Not Exist,” and not “Why I Believe Atheism Does Not Exist.” I did this because it is not only what I believe, it is also because it is a fact.

The Bible does not acknowledge atheism in any form. The Bible says that all men know that there is a God.

4Simpsons linked to a really interesting post, wherein the author attempts to pull a stunt of a similar vein, but with a twist more applicable to the Minuteman Project claiming they are not at all racist.  The Evangelical Outpost as quoted by 4Simpsons (emphasis mine):

If you find these ideas absurd and repugnant, you are most likely a secularist. If you find them to be embarrassing truths, then you may be on the religious left. If you find them so obvious that they hardly need stating, then you are probably a member of the so-called “religious right.”

I embrace them whole-heartedly, which makes me a certified member of the religious right. Although I’ve often been uncomfortable with that term, I find it fits me more and more, as if I’m growing into it. So be it.

Whenever you hear someone say that the religious right is attempting to install a theocracy, simply say “You’re an idiot” and move on. We’ve wasted too much time on this nonsense already. It’s a desperate attempt to create a term that has the affect of “racist” or “sexist” so that when its applied, it automatically paints an opponent as beyond the pale of political discourse. Really, anyone who says that-no matter how much they may try to nuance the word-is an idiot.

The word “theocracy” already carries a very negative connotation, and with well-supported reason.  Full blown theocracies are never praised as exemplars of liberty or human rights.  Quite the opposite.  Its ironic that TEO claims those of us who oppose the religious right’s attempts to install a theocracy want to paint our opponents as “beyond the pale of political discourse”, while simultaneously advising when encountering us true believers ought to “simply say “You’re an idiot” and move on”.  One of the biggest problems with arguments based in faith instead of reason, is that by their nature they shut down political discourse by bringing the discussion into the realm of the unspeakable: criticism of religion.  A pro-choice politician may criticize the anti-reproductive rights stance of a born again Legislator, but to criticize the religion behind that stance risks severe criticism, whereas criticizing the logic behind a stance born of the same is perfectly acceptable.

I don’t know who this fellow thinks is trying to nuance the word theocracy in the slightest:

1. A government ruled by or subject to religious authority.
2. A state so governed.
Attempts to oppose gay rights, a woman’s right to choose, the teaching of evolution in schools, teaching sex education, are all examples of the religious right attempting to foist their religious authority onto all of us.  When the spin is removed and we see these actions as a whole, in their original frame, their decidedly negative cast shows through with a startling clarity.  That is why the religious right does not want to even acknowledge the word theocracy in political discourse.  It forces them to play a poker game where everyone knows their tell.