Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Wouldn't Jesus Do: Dangerous Lunatics, Rap No. 665

While reading the new issue of Harper's magazine, I came upon one of those display ads for vanity published books that often appear both in that periodical and others (everything from Texas Monthly to The New Yorker). It touts a tome titled Why Jesus Christ Would Never, Ever Vote Republican, written by one Richard John Siviur. Mr. Siviur is of the opinion that the Republican Party is really "the Party of Big Business," or "POBB." Siviur says it is also the "Party of White Males" (though he doesn't acrosticize this latter slogan).

George W. he dubs the "Thief in Chief." And he says that Bush "personally purloined the 2000 election" and, with Cheney, "manufactured a [casus belli] for war with Iraq where absolutely none existed." After pointing out the statistical absence of African-Americans in GOP-held congressional seats, Mr. Siviur devotes a full paragraph of his ad to welcome "our first black President," and inserts a biographical note that he is an 85-year-old, life-long "Liberal Democrat." (I don't know what his thing is with capital letters, unless perhaps a nod to old attention-grabbing ad ploys.)

I shan't buy the book. After all, Mr. Siviur is preaching to my choir. I do wish to take the ad apart and play devil's advocate in part, exegesist for the other. For Mr. Siviur has touched upon themes I have long thought of critical importance, especially the increasingly obvious fact that where once the Republican Party was "the party of big business," it is now the party of bailed-out big businesses and un-Christian evangelical bigots who got sucked into politics by people who thought they were useful idiots (most of the Bush II administration) and who got caught short supporting McCain because they allowed their gullible acceptance of the Arizona senator. As they've sewn, so shall they reap: they got McCain because they wouldn't support a heretic in a suit.

In these pages, I keep writing about someone named Tom, a Republican "friend" with whom I have an on-off relationship based upon a college friendship. We reconciled recently at the death of a mutual friend, and I began to once again exchange emails with him. But the exchange soon degenerated into one of our usual partisan spats, this one revealing more about Tom than I cared to know. The last straw was when he began a sentence: "If Obama survives to be inaugurated...."

Uh-oh! Anyone who is even thinking about the assassination of our president-elect is by definition a racist. Yes, I know, Tom didn't write, "Your guy will never take the oath of office," much less, "We're going to get Obama. He'll never take the oath." But, you see, this was coming from someone who thinks that there was nothing wrong with torturing prisoners even if they're not terrorists. Who thinks Karl Rove is a smart forthright fellow. Who thinks most of our problems in the Mideast are caused by the Israeli Lobby.

For years, I've been telling fellow movie buffs that my favorite Bergman film is Through a Glass Darkly. It is a movie about "God" (who eventually crawls out of a crack in the plaster in his guise as a spider). But it's also a movie about so many other things, including a writer's inability to prevent his analytical study of his daughter's descent into madness. He cannot help her becasue he is so bent on watching her destroy herself. Because of this documentarianist's inclinations. I maintain friendships with people like Tom. I like to find out what makes them tick.

Until he became a lame duck, George W. could not do any harm in Tom's eyes. Only now will he admit that Bush was a lousy president -- and only because "he wasn't a conservative." This is a standard GOP talking point in Republican circles. (One of Tom's heroes is Bill Kristol.) Tom started out a "Goldwater conservative," but thee kind of conservatism he espouses today would make Goldwater cringe. Tom thinks Ronald Reagan was the best president we've had. No matter that a criminal enterprise was being run in the basement of the White House and when he gave a deposition, Reagan couldn't remember...about 25 times. (Yes, I know, given that he "came down" with Alzheimer's once he left office, it's entirely possible he really couldn't remember!) Tom bought every last U.S.P.S. commemorative postage stamp of his friend Ronnie and makes sure he puts them on mail to "liberals." He won't admit it, but I'll bet he's read Ann Coulter and agreed with about 90% of what she says.

Tom is a long-standing Unitarian. He would never see the logic of Sam Harris's claim that membership in any religion, no matter how socially liberal, is enabling (in the A.A. sense of the term: co-dependent and mutually addicted). Membership in any religion enables evangelicals; there is a commonality of purpose in accepting faith as a justification for belief in a god. As Christopher Hitchens demonstrates in God is Not Great (and you can say anything about the author you'd like, even ad hominem attacks on his alcoholism, but he's awfully brave to risk fatwas from the Wahhabists titling a book with so obvious an affront to Allah), religion poisons everything, including (if not especially) politics.

The evangelicals became the definition of GOP-ism this last election. There were no other factions to woo, as renegade Republicans deserted the party like rats from a sinking ship of state. The party came to be defined as right wing nut job, especially religious nut job, to put it country simple: dangerous lunatics. Anyone who believes in creationism is a lunatic by definition. The evangelicals firmly believe the earth was created in six days no longer than 6,000 years ago. They also insist that man walked with dinosaurs, turning a cold shoulder to exhaustive scientific evidence that the earth was born about 4.5 billion years ago and that man showed up no earlier than 400,000 years back. At one time, the D.L.'s of the world insisted that the earth was flat (literally; pace Mr. Friedman) and that the sun moved around us in an orbit.

These were some of the same folks who fought interracial marriage throughout the South (and in other parts, too; as Randy Newman observed, we should all insist on our freedom to discriminate racially). They're the PAC'S fighting gay and lesbian marriage in California. They screw in the missionary position, feel guilty about it later, and firmly believe that woman is a handmaid to her husband, separate and unequal. If you believe Tony Perkins is a Ken doll with red hair, you are onto something vitally important in the ongoing "culture war," which is nothing less than 21st century civilization coming to terms with Medieval notions of ethics, including their favorite of late, Machiavelli, for what is Karl Rove if not Niccolo reincarnated?

Actually -- and here's the point -- asking what Jesus would or would not do amounts to a capitulation to madness. No such person as Jesus Christ ever existed. The only "historical" record is found in the writings of one Yosef Ben Matityahu ("Josephus"), and even his short dictum is now disputed. The Gospels? They were written decades after the Nazz was allegedly crucified. (I say "allegedly" because some Gnostic sects, pointing out that a spirit cannot be nailed to the cross, claimed that he only appeared to die on it.)

At the time of Jesus's alleged existence, the Holy Land was overrun with prophets. We see one in action in the Book of Acts, where Simon of Gitta (a.k.a. Simon Magus) defies gravity and comes up losing. A good many of these louts were mountebanks and masters of legerdemain. Some were Jewish. I do not mind supposing that there was a prophet at this time who was regarded as a rabbi and thus was known as a "reb." Nor do I cavil with insistence that his name was Joshua (not Jesus). Reb Yeshua is OK by me.

But the Christ part is nothing but pure speculation. For one thing, "Christ" comes from Greek, Khristos, or anointed. This has a hand- or man made stamp on it. It is the nomenclature of myth, not of legend. Reb Yeshua was a legendary figure, as were the various probable models. The mythological models were profuse, from Osiris to Mithras, Asclepius, and many more. The dying and resurrected god is perhaps the single most common mythological deity and, again points to man's hand, not divinity. These super beings help explain Death and make us more comfortable with it.

The divinity of "Jesus Christ" was invented not so much by disciples but by Saul of Tarsus and the emperor Constantine, both for similar purposes. There is a superb scene in the Martin Scorsese film of Paul Schrader's script of the Kazantzakis novel, The Last Temptation of Christ, in which Saul (Paul) meets Jesus in a village (following the latter's apparent death on the cross). Jesus tells him he's spreading false reports, that his death is, as Twain put it, highly exaggerated. Saul-Paul rejects his criticism and, in effect, tells him to get lost. "Don't you see?" he asks. "You're no good to us alive!"

If we take the two hot button issues that seem to obsess evangelicals the most, abortion and gay rights, the bigotry of using scripture to defend the indefensible is most obvious. Abortion is older than Soranus, who might be called the world's first OBGY. The only thing new about abortions is that when they are done clinically today, the results are about 99% safe and effective. (When done in dark alleys using coat-hangers, as in pre-Roe v. Wade days, the statistic is somewhat lower.) The problem seems to be entirely theological. So-called "pro-lifers" believe that "human life begins at conception," and that moronic belief has infected evangelicals as well. The absurdity of this position should be obvious: at conception, the only "thing" that results is a fertilized egg. One must presuppose God in order to elevate this "thing" into a human life. Human life can only be said to begin at conception if there is a god who dictates as much.

The behavior of the True Believers, including the lunatic in Florida who shot and killed an abortionist, the loony Eric Rudolf, as well as the ongoing Vatican (and now GOP platform!) insistence that a fetus must be saved even if its birth kills its mother, is not only insane; it is most un-Christian. Jesus is said to have blessed whores. Now, you'd think that no one on earth is more likely to have ingested abortifacients or submitted to anular blades than the Magdelene. Not one red-letter word escapes the Christ's lips concerning abortion. Nor did Reb Yeshua condemn homosexuality, which might have appeared a bit unseemly, given that he partied most often with a dozen men.

George Washington is said to have believed that political parties would be the undoing of American democracy. Had he lived, St. Germain-like, to see today, he would perhaps have revised that to say, instead, "Allowing religion to become a part of political dialogue and the political process will be the undoing of American democracy." Religion poisons everything.

Tom and I poke fun at each other's White House -- and in a parallel universe, McCain won the election -- but the poking sometimes gets rough, in which cases Tom has taken to using cutesy PC lingo like "lol," only he puts it all in caps and says it thrice: LOL LOL LOL. He reminds me of a buddy I knew in film school in the 60's who was fond of saying, "I judge people as individuals, and when it comes to [epithet for African-American beggining with "N") and [epithet for Hispanic person beginning in "S"] and [epithet for Jewish person beginning in "K"], I hate every individual one." He always said it with a grin that would make a crocodile blush. We knew he meant it no matter how many teeth he exposed in contradiction.

I am too old now to tolerate such shenanigans. And much too proud. The defeat of the Republican Party on 11-04-08 was another nail in its coffin. There aren't many nails left. The job is almost done. Alas, poor Yokel, I knew you well. I can rest assured that the Good Old Posterior is irrelevant and on its way into oblivion because I read a piece in www.politico.com by the African-American pol, Michael Steele, who begs to differ with me. In the section titled, "Return to timeless Republican principles," he claims "Our freedom is from God, not government...

"Our prosperity comes from a free people in a free market, not overtaxing, free-spending bureaucrats. We celebrate and protect life, born and unborn...."

Whoa! Since when is murder of physicians, bombings at abortion clinics, &c. a "timeless Republican principle"? And how did "God" give us our freedom and put the bureaucrats in place to overtax and over-spend? You can't have it both ways, Michael. The Australian philosopher John Leslie Mackie took God to task when he used common logic to show that belief in God isn't much better than belief in the Tooth Fairy. If God is all knowing, all powerful and all good, why can't he prevent the murders and bombings at abortion clinics?

If God is punishing the persons involved in abortions because abortion is "wrong," why does Jesus say to turn the other cheek? Don't you say that because they are "from God" and therefore infallible, the Decalogue commands, e.g., "Thou Shalt Not Kill"? Where were you when Republican Texas Governor George W. Bush became the King of Capital Murder, executing more men (and one notable woman) than any other president in the 20th century. Did God prevent the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean? (The evangelical would quickly claim that the hundreds of thousands who were killed were not "saved," as they weren't, in the main, Christians. What a cruel, capricious, arbitrary -- evil -- God!)

It is logically impossible for evil to exist in the world overseen by an omniscient, omnipotent, all good God.

Tony Perkins has much more in common with Osama bin Laden than even some liberals would like to admit. When you stand up and oppose gay and lesbian rights and funnel so much money into a media campaign designed to pass an initiative defining marriage according to some moldy Hebraic code that your PAC almost closes due to drained funds, you are just as fanatical in your way as bin Laden in his. Worse, like bin Laden, your ideas threaten democracy, whose basic premises was written into our Declaration of Independence. It does not say, "We hold [this] truth to be self-evident: that all men -- except homosexuals -- are created equal." (Clever fellows will hasten to add, "Of course not; "homosexual," used to describe same-sex orientation, did not come into existence until the Civil War or later, but that is besides the point.)

George W. Bush and the Republican Party suffered their greatest humiliation when gasoline was up to over $4 a gallon and, hat in hand, W went to ar-Ryadh to bow and scrape and faux cheek kiss the Crown guy and see if, uh, er, please up production or lower price, crudely put, &c. &c. &c. There was poor George, caught on cam, leaving the meeting empty handed. The symbiotic relationship between buyer and seller was tempered by family ties (the long-standing, legendary Bush-Saud thing), but the lame duck left wanting. This was the Ultimate Humiliation, and it may have gone further to explain the 11/4 result than we can imagine.

For years, the Shrub Administration tried to convince us that the Saudis were among our best friends. One can imagine the Crown guy watching the press conference on TV and winking at his yes men. Only in the final days did Bush talk of buying oil from "people who dislike us." I do admire the president's understatement. The Saudis cannot like us, never will like us, especially because the House of Saud must play ball with the mullahs in order to stay in power, a delicate balance struck both for convenience and pocket-lining. At the bread and circuses shopping malls, ordinary Arabians were all eating well and had roofs over their heads, so who is to complain? Doesn't Allah the Merciful look out for his own?

Their children are schooled by clerics of the dominant sect, Wahhabism, the desert warlord equivalent of our evangelicals and the Afghani Taliban as well. These people are so insane they think killing westerners and being killed themselves will immediately send them to Paradise where they will acquire 72 virgin (grapes or ladies, take your translation). This is totally bonkers. It is so insane that a relatively sane person -- he doesn't even have to be an atheist -- wants to stand up and scream: "STOP, FOOLS!" Or, as the late Paddy Chayevsky would have it, throw open their windows and scream to the people in the streets: "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

The Wahhabist "home schooling" consists of indoctrination into jihadism. Why did Arabic parents and friends of the 9/11 terrorists, predominantly Saudi citizens, claim that they had no idea their sons or brothers were involved in such a thing! Why were bin Laden family and friends allowed to fly out of the U.S. when all other aircraft had been grounded? Wahhabism teachest hate. Wahhabists are extreme bigots whose intolerance is an affront to democratic principles.

As spokesman for the loony religious right and the Republican Party, Tony Perkins is emblematic. His fascistic frame of mind is best illustrated by his neo-Nazi past. He supported K.K.K. candidate David Duke but, when found out, quickly did a Claude Rains Casablanca cop routine: he was shocked -- I say, shocked! to learn where his money was going. He has been known to make outrageous, totally illogical statements, such as: "The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is rooted in the order of nature itself....."

Nature? Whose nature? A nature that presents the creation of the planet in six days by Yahweh-Johovah? A nature that has mankind walking amongst tyrannasaurus rex? A nature that combated such notions as a round earth and heliocentric universe? A nature that ignores the overwhelming evidence about our species as revealed by the true prophets of our times, Darwin and Freud? (I would put the Hon. T. H. Huxley among this group, but he only agnosticized, which is "playing chicken.") I am sure that Perkins' understanding of "natural order" makes man superior to woman because "He" created him first. Not only that, but "God" took a rib from Adam to make Eve, so she's an after-thought. How delightfully the ancients disguised their innate misogyny and mistrust of women in justifiable holy writ!

But wait, Perkins gets much more absurd: "['union of one man and one woman] promotes the continuation of the human race and the cooperation of the mother and father in raising the children they produce." Mr. Perkins, let me introduce you to a divorce attorney; you may not need her now, but you can tuck her statistics in your wallet in case you might need it. Half the heterosexual marriages in America end up in divorce courts. Some of your staunchest religionists, e.g. Ted Haggard, have been exposed as homosexual and excommunicated from the High Church of Evangelical Theocracy as a result, or come back feigning overnight orientational conversion, thanking God for delivering them from the English [Italian, &c., take your pick] vice only to keep fan magazines around "for my daughters" so they can peek at them when they're on the toilet.

Or the ones who get caught cheating on their wives, having sex outside their marriages with whores (boys or girls). Or the ones who tell their ignorant, gullible flocks that a gay parade caused God to send Katrina to destroy New Orleans. Or the ones who claim that God caused Hitler's rise to power and the resulting holocaust: it was His way of driving Jews into the Holy Land so that John of Patmos' coded letter to persecuted contemporaries, with its prophecy of a second coming, could come true. I mean, a Final Conflagration between Judeo-Christianith and Islam can just go ahead and kill us all: it's God's Will!

These people are flirting with criminal insanity. Bush used the word "crusade" early in the response to 9/11, and if his war on terrorism continues unabated with a new regime, the Final Conflagration is a foregone conclusion. This will be welcomed by the bin Ladens and the Perkinses of this world. They win themselves by seeing all of us lose.

Max Blumenthal's portrait of Perkins at theNation.com is devastating. Among other curious titbits, Blumenthal shows Perkins:
  • Addressing the Council of Conservative Citizens, a newly named organization born of the remnants of the old KKK bunch, the White Citizens Council, which Blumenthal characterizes as "America's premier white supremacist organization";
  • Using useful idiots from African-American and Catholic interest groups to browbeat the Bush administration to nominate only anti-Roe v. Wade candidates for Supreme Court judicial appointments in an effort to halt Democratic senators from "filibustering people of faith";
  • Being mentored by a Richard Viguerie-direct mail fund-raising strategist, Woody Jenkins, who helped found the theocratic bund known as the Council for National Policy (CNP), whose members included R. J. Rushdoony, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell; Amway founder (and convicted tax evader) Richard DeVos, conservative beer brewer Joseph Coors, &c.
  • Getting caught red-handed when he made a donation to David Duke, well known white supremacist, to obtain his mailing list, denying Federal Election Committee charges Jenkins tried to hide the Duke payment when, in fact, Perkins' name was on the $82,000 check.
  • Sponsoring a closed meeting of his Family Research Council at the Plaza Hotel in New York City where insider trading Sen. Bill Frist was given a "Thomas Jefferson Award," an irony of ironies considering Jefferson's well-known adversian to Christianity, his libertarianism, and his rejection of church-state entanglements.
Now, how can I claim can that Perkins is a "terrorist" or no better than one? For one, his campaign to make same-sex marriage illegal, one of many evangelical assaults on human rights. Such campaigns, along with such misguided, Bible-based programs for "curing gays" as Exodus (itself a form of aversion therapy) send a message to young gays and lesbians: "You are not normal. You are abnormal. You need to be treated for your condition," &c. This only makes vulnerable minds assume that what they think or do is a "sin," is "bad," is "sick." This leads to depression and often suicide.

It is a proven fact that gay and lesbian teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual schoolmates. These persecuted teens also become victims of homophobic violence, which activity is reinforced by the religio-hate messages of the "Family" this or "Family" that. Isn't it interesting that the same politicians pushing for laws that deprive the sexual minorities of basic human rights also vote against inclusion of "sexual orientation" in criminal code definitions of what constitutes a "hate crime." Duh! If you are dressed a bit campy and someone calling you a "f----t" blows your head off with a Saturday night special, it's kind of obvious it's a hate crime, right?

Tony Perkins, Matthew Shepard died for your sins.

Tony Perkins, you ignorant moron! You have blood on your hands. It is not the Blood of the Lamb but the Blood of your brother's gay son and your lesbian aunt. If Jebus really is coming again, He will be pissed. And Tony Perkins is the first person any truly righteous deity would condemn to the bottomless bowels of a hell not even a pervert like Perkins can imagine.

No, make no mistake, God will be revealed to be Perkins' own conscience once it shakes off the cloud of unknowing and awakens him from his deluded, anti-democratic dream. I don't mind you having your Rapture, but do it in another universe.

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