Monday, January 7, 2008

Religiopolitics Coming Into Its Own: The Rove Revolution Revolts

"America has begun a spiritual reawakening. Faith and hope are being restored. Americans are turning back to God. Church attendance is up. Audiences for religious books and broadcasts are growing.” — Ronald Reagan

We’re heading into the New Hampshire primary vote tomorrow. However in the Iowa Caucus, an unusual thing occurred. The Republican Party candidate with all of the money, the corporate approach and the slick look and glib tongue to complete the package lost the primary. In addition, he lost it to someone who had little funding, no big money bankrolling the campaign, and a message that had socially conservative positions, but also a lot of populist messages: taking care of the poor, concerns for working families health care, funding for the arts, even humanitarian concerns for children of illegal immigrants.

How did this happen? Some chalk it up simply as grassroots, but it was more precisely evangelical grassroots that pulled it off. Yes, the mechanism that the Neo-con mastermind Karl Rove begat has now developed a life of its own and is indeed on the loose. This of course is to the chagrin of the corporate and military-complex set who don’t particularly ken to some of the ideas – especially the social ones – that the evangelical side supports. It seems Rove has created a monster that may well be soon out of the control of the very same creators of this religiopolitical phenomenon.

Reaganite Special Asst. Peggy Noonan lamented the rise of this fundamentalism in the GOP, musing how old “Dutch” himself wouldn’t have been elected today as he wasn’t religious enough for the evangelical wing. Pity, because it was conservative hero Ronald Reagan, the divorced Hollywood actor and union president, who gave this segment their first taste of political power. And those evangelicals Reagan brought in tasted it and said “it was good” — and never looked back.

In this Bush administration, evangelicals hold more power than ever, and are even beneficiaries of government money and programs as never before in our history. More people go to church than ever before, more people identify as evangelical than ever before, and more people home school their children than at any time since perhaps the beginning of the previous century. Yet with church now being in vogue and a popularity that is so vibrant that mega-churches begin resembling mall / nightclubs and even populate sports arenas, you still hear the fundamentalist set decry the “moral decay” and sounding the “alarm bells” of “losing our moral compass.” The message almost appears to be “the more that are religious, the worse things are getting.” Why?

And when it comes down to it, even though there are other religions and others who are similarly devout with their spiritual beliefs, and church attendance with many of their congregations are rising, it seems – especially with those fundamentalist types surrounding American power these days – that no one is comfortable with anyone else’s beliefs unless they’re just like their own.

“If Jesus came back today, I think he’d throw up.” Fmr. Gov. Jesse Ventura (I-MN)

Basically what elections are boiling down to, at least on the Republican side for now, is that whatever religion is predominant will be those who choose the President, and a majority of Congress presumably as well. So what’s a Romney to think? Sure he’s conservative, and very devoutly religious. But he’s Mormon.

Look at the evangelicals who voted in Iowa and see how they voted. Romney got 14% of their vote per entrance polls. Devout religion or not, to fundamentalists it’s a “different religion.”

America was founded on freedom of religion. We hear this often to help make the argument for including religious influence in every aspect of government. However, this freedom was set up to promote a pluralism of various beliefs, not a state-sanctioned uniform religion.

What’s then followed up with is the next claim that America was founded as a Christian nation. It’s funny, the indigenous forebears never had a say in any of this “founding” of us, nor any input of our spirituality – even though our folk have been here for millennia, not just centuries. Even if you wish to define that as being the government, again this is fine – for the original thirteen colonies. What about the other parts of the country that were simply taken over by “manifest destiny”? Again, no real input from Native Americans when it came to this “founding” based on religion.

Another thing that America likes to advertise from it’s constitution is “all men are created equal.” (Yes there are gender problems with that statement, but for sake of argument, let’s take this on the spirit of it – all are created equal.) We trumpet the opportunity that America provides and proudly claim that anyone can be whatever they dream of being.

And we also now find how much of all of this is nothing more than … lip service! African American scholar, Alvin Poussaint, PhD. mentioned this in a recent column about Romney running into this ugly reality. Yes, one may achieve and do all the right things to make it to that next level when suddenly the “glass ceiling” comes into play. We then realize that it’s not all about being equal. It’s about retaining the status quo, and feeling better about it by proclaiming “we’re all equal” … with fingers figuratively crossed behind the back.

It’s the same thing with racism, and the same thing with inequality for women, and on and on through every category outside of the “Good Ol’ Boys,” ad nauseum. The upshot is you’re expected to do all of what the “deciders” (to use a Bushism) believe is equal to their efforts, and then, well, that’s it. You did the right things to the appropriate level – but they still can’t offer you trust. They still don’t have it in their heart to consider you equally.

"On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind." — Thomas Jefferson

Gays and lesbians get this same treatment from society the minute they’re out of the closet. Transgenders do as well – and from both straight society and gay and lesbian society. Even though the various classes of religious minorities, ethnic minorities, women and gender minorities, sexual minorities and disable minorities far outnumber the whole of “The Good Ol’ Boy Club”, the bottom line is none of us get that shot to prove ourselves.

If ever we were to have had a Mormon president, it would’ve been Mitt’s Dad George. In this day and age, fundamentalism is too rigid. And as time goes on, the harsh lines will continue being emphasized, and the rigidity will become like a rock, and feelings will continue being bruised and understanding and tolerance will fade away like a newspaper left out in the sunlight.

If religiopolitics rules, you won’t see Romney as president. Or Bloomberg, or probably not Giuliani either. It’d be nice to think this doesn’t happen, but I’ve personally lobbied a couple of folks in the Texas State Legislature who are openly brazen about their disdain for other people’s religious beliefs that differ from their own. One of these ‘phobes is downright frightening in his pridefully, hateful zeal.

Now, I’m not voting for Romney. No sirree! For me, I can’t trust him due to his ever-mutating viewpoints on anything from gay and lesbian rights to women’s choice, his support of pro-elite, tax-burden-shifting to the lower segments, his hawkishness without ever knowing personal sacrifice (not to mention his comments of his sons “service” to country by working his presidential campaign!), and his support of enlarging the Guantanamo facility (for what, one may ask?) In fact, I couldn’t really vote for anyone with a dogmatic “R” after their name. But their religion really never factors into it for me.

If you want to vote against Romney for being a weasel, be my guest. But don’t vote against “the Mormon.”

It’ll be a sad day in this nation if it boils down to predominant religions choosing their own government. Basically it means the other religions ever want to see a president of their beliefs, they just need to get a numerical advantage and just take over by sheer numbers in order to elect one of their own.

Until then, we live in a country where folks may well continue saying “we value all religions,” and then blanch at the concept of accepting as an equal someone who’s Jewish, a Mormon, Catholic, or Buddhist, or Hindi or especially in the post 9-11 era, anyone Shia or Muslim.

It’s nice thoughts, that “equality” stuff … but don’t get your hopes up, y’know? It’s just lip service.

"I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue.” — Benjamin Franklin

No comments: