Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Has Gingrich Slipped A Cog?

Has Gingrich slipped a cog or two?

He now has religion, something he’s been working on for some time now, trying to rehabilitate his relationship with the far right so that he can use it as a campaign base for the next presidential gig in 2012? I think so!

Converting in May, 2009, from his Southern Baptism heritage to his wife’s Roman Catholicism, Gingrich recently said: "I am not a citizen of the world. I am a citizen of the United States, because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator."

Echoing the nonsense of a group of so-called Christian “scholars” who claim our Founding Fathers to be “evangelical” Christians in the late 20th Century mold (they were, in fact, mostly Deists; several would hardly qualify as believers) seeking to create a “Christian” nation.

Not so. Our Founding Fathers and Mothers all knew the horrors of a “Christian” Europe, and here in this land, they sought to create a nation free of such politicized religion, so that religion might be freely chosen and politics be secular. The separation of church and state remains one of America’s greatest contributions to the world of ideas, but it’s being threatened now by the far right who would like to see an American theocracy.

Gingrich is savvy – he’s learned his lessons well. For the last 40 years, the road to the Republican presidential nomination began with far right Christians who, in the last two presidential runs, propelled Dubya into the White House.

The following quote from the Washington Post says it well:

Gingrich seems to have learned what George W. Bush showed John McCain in 2000, and what James Dobson helped McCain understand in 2008: The path to the Republican Party presidential nomination begins at the church -- in this case, Rock Church in Virginia Beach.

"Lord," Engle [the pastor] prayed as Gingrich bowed his head and opened his hands, "extend his influence for righteousness in this nation, lay your supernatural hand of God upon him and deliver him from the evil schemes of the enemy."

Not quite the "every form of witchcraft" from which Palin's pastor sought to protect her, but then positioning for 2012 has just begun.

Yet sun has set on this kind of “Christian” thinking. With the killing of Dr. George Tiller, we see where the road ends in a dark and dangerous place for this kind of self-righteous, fascist-like, theological gobbledygook. Though many such Christians “decry” the killing, I get an uneasy feeling that it’s mostly rhetoric rather than a responsible distancing from such violence. And I’ve yet to hear a anyone in that camp admit the possibility that fiery pulpit rhetoric might contribute to the further unsettling of an already unstable mind.

Indeed, violence has a special place in these congregations – their bloody end-of-the-world scenarios (see their Halloween haunted houses and their lurid images of hell), revival services with plenty of threats, ”Jesus Camps” for their children, the lionizing of athletic violence, the easy division of the world into good and evil, the love of guns and warfare images, and a violent god who kills his enemies with gusto (everyone cheer now).

Playing upon all sorts of half-truths, god and country are fused together into some sort of anguished creature (see “The Fly” – “Something went wrong in the lab today...something very wrong...”).

Something has gone very wrong in the far-right lab – as we see paralleled in the worst examples of Islamic extremism and in the terrors of the Middle Ages where religion and state are fused together into some hideous alliance, with the state punishing those who violate the established religion, and the church establishing and crowning the head of state.

Is this the kind of world we wish to have?

But this is exactly the kind of world proposed by the far right and regularly preached from the pulpits of its churches.

If you really want to know what’s cooking under the counter in such places, do a Google on “Christian Reconstructionism” – begin with the Wikipedia article. I can promise you this: Gingrich reads and knows well this bizarre world of twisted ideas.

As much as this form of Christianity has dominated the news in recent years, it’s a hybrid born in America.

Like hybrid grains and fruits, it’s highly productive, needs enormous amounts of water, fertilizer and endless tending, with a long shelf-life, but with none of the flavor you remember from childhood. If a strain of mold should evolve, or some new bug emerge, it will quickly succumb. This hybrid religion has none of the genetic heartiness of historic Christianity (see Diana Butler Bass’s fine books, “Christianity for the Rest of Us” and “A People’s History of Christianity”) or any real saving power.

The greatest impediment to the future is ignorance of the past, and to listen to far-right preaching and to read their books is to hear a vast restless army of ignorance ready for “the next war” – whatever that war might be as determined by James Dobson or Rush Limbaugh or a host of other extremist voices ready to “slay their enemies and conquer the world for Christ.”

How I yearn for the mainline church in America to recapture the power of faithful thinking, to love God with the mind as much as some folks claim to love God with the heart. To love God with the historical perspective – knowing well how folks in other times and places sought to love God – where and how they succeeded and where and how they failed, and working well (read intelligently) with Scripture. We have to know our faith thoroughly; we have to know our Bible better than they do. We have to be equipped with logic and conviction; clear thoughts and our own version of a passionate Christian rhetoric, but grounded in the command to love and the welcoming vision of Jesus.

It’s a tall order for thoughtful, progressive folks of faith, but it can be done. And more than that, it must be done.

1 comment:

  1. Tom, an excellent piece...touching on so many levels of our national dialogue...