I have found myself in recent weeks increasingly drawn to watch the political debates in this country, not only between Dummycrooks and Republithugs, but amongst the Republithugs themselves, as a kind of mental exercise, a vignette on why our country is in trouble, serious trouble, from these "two" political parties. One need only consider the vastness of hypocrisy and corruption of a Nancy Pelosi clucking her poultry-esque matriarchal blessings on the Occupy Wall Street crowd, while her relatives are receiving the taxpayer largesse of millions of dollars from B.O.'s stimulus.
Things are not much better on the political right. Last week I watched - astounded, nauseated, and yet, not surprised at all - as a Baptist pastor, Jeffers, attacked Governor Mitt Romney for being a Mormon. According to Jeffers, Governor Romney was part of a "cult" which was not - his terms not mine - "historic Christianity." While I am certainly no friend of Governor Romney, nor his health "care" plan, nor his neo-con foreign policy views, nor, indeed, his religion, I found myself wanting to cheer the Governor when he responded, tactfully, courteously, and in a gentlemanly fashion, that in a free and tolerant society, such comments do not contribute to any debate. Indeed, the governor pointed out that such rhetoric does not change hearts.
But underneath "Pastor" Jeffers' comments lurks the hidden dangers so tainting American political life, and that is the silly notion that somehow, the American Civil Religion version of churchianity has its default setting to "baptist-revivalist," which as any student of church history will tell you, is not a theological position that is even discoverable in the first 1500 years or so of the religion's history. In short, Jeffers' "historic Christianity" isn't historic at all.
Indeed, when one scratches and sniffs beneath the surface of this "religion," one finds a curious assemblage of beliefs that tend to a basic "fascist" (note the lower case "c") mentality: a "respect for authority," in this case, the authority of ministers who derive their ministerial magisterium not from any connection to any genuinely historical Christianity, but rather directly, though implicitly, from God. One notes also the disturbing tendency often pointed out by other students of the phenomenon - Chris Hedges among them - that this version of "historic Christianity" seems at times to give blanket endorsements to the corporate capitalist world while never challenging its manifest and patent abuses, yet another sign of incipient fascism.
I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. For once, I find myself applauding Governor Romney for pointing out, in his tactful and gentlemanly way, that really behind Jeffers' response was nothing but bigotry, wrapping itself in the dubious mantle of an historic Christianity that in many ways is no older than America itself. It reminded me, in many ways, of the attempts to impugn President Kennedy when he was running for President, for being a Roman Catholic. Then, too, this ugliness raised its head, and then too, the ugliness came from the same mob, thumping their bibles, all the while oblivious that it was the same Catholic Church that gave them many of the books in their bibles. The galloping hypocrisy of the American Civil Religion version of churchianity is an ugly, festering sore. If you don't believe me, just remember that one of its leading luminaries, Pat Robertson, actually advocated that the USA assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his own "Christian" television network. As I watched this segment, I could think of only one thing: the capitulation of good "bible believing" evangelicals in Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, and its participation in the whole idea of a Reichskirche.
I cannot give Governor Romney three cheers, for as I said, I disagree, strongly, with many of his past policies and current stances, but I do give him perhaps two and a half cheers for pointing out - again, tactfully, gently, courteously, and with elegant grace - the ugliness beneath what can only be qualified as a brutal, ignorant, and bigoted set of comments. The sooner that political party distances itself from that ugliness, the better. But I'm not holding my breath....