Tag Archives: fundamentalism

The Piety Police

Those of us who live in Indiana are well aware of Mike Pence’s hostility to the rights of LGBTQ citizens, but the national press is still learning about “Pastor” Pence’s fundamentalist religious views on women and gays. Just a few days ago, a Newslo reporter dug up old Pence speeches and satirized his homophobia. [Sorry the original version of this post didn’t clarify what was real and what was satirical. Mea Culpa]

Digging up Mike Pence’s past political work has become a sport in the brief time since he was named Donald Trump’s running mate. The most recent finding is that Pence penned strong anti-LGBT letters in the 1990s during his time as head of the Indiana Policy Review. In 1993, he attacked gay leadership in the military, claiming: “Homosexuals are not as a group able bodied. They are known to carry extremely high rates of disease brought on because of the nature of their sexual practices and the promiscuity, which is a hallmark of their lifestyle.”

Given his long history of calling to violence against members of the LGBT population, it’s no surprise that Pence can’t go long without going back to his hateful ways. In a recent interview with Fox News, following the results of the presidential election in which his running mate Donald Trump triumphed over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Pence issued a call to homosexuals throughout the United States to “voluntarily quit any jobs they might have with God-fearing employers” for the purposes of “avoiding laws that reject gay people from working in such jobs.”

The “God fearing” Republican party of Mike Pence is a far cry from the party of Barry Goldwater, who famously said of gays in the military “You don’t have to be straight; you just have to shoot straight.” In fact, today’s GOP is a far cry from the party of Ronald Reagan, whose “legacy” is piously invoked and routinely misrepresented.

Today’s GOP is a radical cult–much more like a religion than a conventional political party. And that religion’s basic doctrine is becoming clearer every day: it’s the prosperity gospel on steroids. Prosperity gospel, as you probably know, is the belief that financial and physical well-being are evidence of the will of God. If you are poor and sick, well, that’s God’s will, and government has no business interfering.

You only have to look at the GOP’s so-called “health care” bill to see this doctrinal belief in action.   Why eviscerate Medicaid? Well,if God wanted us to keep grandma alive in a nursing home, He would have seen to it that she could afford it.

In fact, there’s a lot that the Republican God doesn’t want. He (their God is definitely a He) also doesn’t want us bothering to combat climate change. Just ask Senator Inhofe, who insists that only God can change the climate, and says the idea that manmade pollution could affect the seasons is “arrogance.”

The theology of today’s GOP may forbid interfering with God’s will by providing government-subsidized health care or a hand up to the poor, but when it comes to issues of gender, the Prosperity Gospel defaults to garden-variety Christian fundamentalism, a la Pence, which teaches that God wants government to ensure that women aren’t allowed to control their own reproduction. God also wants government to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing poor women with breast exams and/or pap smears. (Why an omnipotent God can’t manage this on His own is one of the mysteries of Christian doctrine…)

Bottom line: Today’s GOP is a thoroughly unholy amalgam of prosperity gospel (whose adherents overlooked Donald Trump’s unfitness for office because, hey–he’s rich! God must love him)–and anti-woman, anti-gay Christian fundamentalism. Its members are antagonistic to science, dismissive of evidence, uninterested in policy and the nitty-gritty of governing, and unmoved by the real-world, human consequences of their actions.

They’re only interested in doing the will of the God they’ve created in their own image.

 

If We Just Kill Off My Age Cohort, Things Will Improve….

For the past several weeks, this blog has mostly been sharing depressing observations. Since it’s Sunday (a day for uplift, or at the very least some time off), I thought I’d post a more hopeful story before returning to what threatens to become the “regular programming”at least until November 8th.

In a post memorably titled “Our Lady of Perpetual Misogyny,” Juanita Jean related a story of fundamentalist sexism and its unexpectedly heartwarming conclusion.

Two girls at Foothills Academy, a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, made the boys’ soccer team. When the school was scheduled to play Our Lady of Sorrows (how appropriate!), a Phoenix parochial school, they were informed that Our Lady’s all-boy soccer team would not even come on the field if the girls were to play. They would rather forfeit. (God says girls have cooties…)

Presumably, they’d get those cooties–or be barred from heaven–if they so much as kicked a soccer ball in a game where females participated. The Foothills coach left it up to the team to decide whether to play without the girls, or to forfeit.

Each player on his team voted. Every player voted to accept the forfeit. Especially noted are the players who are being looked at for college soccer scholarships and whose stats will be affected by each game not played. “I don’t give a damn about my stats, the girls are my team mates.”

The league will be updating their rosters with schools willing to play girls.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: once my age cohort is gone, things will improve. As stories like this confirm, the younger generation gives reason for optimism.

The undergraduate and graduate students I teach are by orders of magnitude more inclusive, less bigoted and more focused upon building community than the cranky old men and women of my generation.

If we can manage not to destroy the world–or elect Donald Trump (pretty much the same thing)– before we hand it over to them, things will definitely improve.

Political Fundamentalism

I had lunch today with a delightful young woman who, among other things, is active with the League of Women Voters. During our discussion, she remarked (rather plaintively) that she found it difficult to understand why the League was so often viewed as a “liberal” organization. “We don’t take positions until we have studied them carefully,” she said. “We gather evidence for two years, and assess it carefully, and base our position on that evidence.”

There you go! Basing positions on evidence is what is now considered liberal.

The conversation reminded me of an explanation from my book God and Country: America in Red and Blue. I was looking at the paradigm shift caused by the Enlightenment, and the profound effect that shift had on our Constitution.

When Francis Bacon insisted that laws governing the material world could be inferred through careful observation (a notion that, for contemporary Americans, is an unremarkable commonplace), it had enormous implications for the existing, traditional, deductive methods of understanding reality. The “old learning,” had begun with an a priori “given,” the bible, the absolute truth of which was unquestioned. The primary goal of Puritan education was thus directed at biblical understanding; one began with the text and learned—deduced—how to interpret it. Proper interpretation required the application of time-tested methods of exegesis and analysis, and instruction in historical context and meaning (mostly, what important theologians of the past had decreed to be correct understandings and approaches). One started with Truth, and education was the process of learning to apprehend and defend that Truth. Bacon changed the fundamental order of things by teaching that education must begin with observation of natural phenomena.

We are a country that was founded on a radical notion: evidence matters. Today, however, those of us for whom evidence still matters are dismissed as “liberals” by the political equivalents of the Puritans. Like those Puritans, our ideologues (of every stripe) begin with their “truth,” and look for evidence to support it and ways to impose it.

No wonder we find it so hard to communicate.