Sunday, September 13, 2009

Republican Gomorrah

You know, after hearing the NPR interview of Max Blumenthal discussing his new book “Republican Gomorrah”, I realize I’ve never been so excited to read a new book; and I’m sorry if I bring such a volatile subject into my nature-blog…but I feel it must be said.

Yes, at first glance, one might think the book is set on demoralizing Christians…but listening to the interview, I know that is not the case. It seems though, to bring to light the fanatical ravings and machinations of a growing and dangerous (yes dangerous), fringe group intent on making their will the will of our nation. In my mind, this is parallel to the fanaticism of the Taliban and Al Qaeda-like ‘Muslims’ and their growing hold in the Far East.

I appreciate Christians for their faith and belief in the teachings of Christ…every bit as much as I appreciate Buddhists, Jews, Quakers, Catholics and Islamists.

Yes, Islamists. I know the Koran does not preach the murder and mayhem that the fanatical sects would have us believe, any more than the Bible preaches the imperial right of Christian men, or slavery, or the subjugation of women...or the murder and mayhem these sects teach.

It seems a shame to me though, that so many of the followers of Christianity seem to blindly follow the ones who speak the loudest; when did stupidity become a virtue? Intelligent people can be religious people…but fundamentalism organizes people who are crazy for God (whatever his name).

I’m pleased that so many are finally ‘seeing the light’ and coming to the realization that what has ruined the Republican Party is the very type of fringe we are fighting on the other side of the world. A wolf in sheep’s clothing? Just because a group calls itself ‘Christian’…does not mean it follows the teachings of Christ. I wish, instead of traveling to other countries to put down treacherous extremism, we’d spend more time and energy teaching our own people the dangers of following blindly.

Taliban and Al Qaeda are as far removed from the Muslim religion as are fringe right-wingers like the LaRouche Youth Movement, the Westboro Baptist Church, the KKK, People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, Children of God, Temple of Love, Heaven’s Gate and the Manson Family are removed from Christianity. Why do we have such trouble seeing that?

Has anybody else read the book yet? Is anybody else worried about how far these ‘Christian’ extremists’ have infiltrated the conservative party? It seems a shame that these days being ‘conservative’ is analogous with being fundamentalist. In the ruins of secularism is the stronghold of a widespread "invisible" network; populated by elite, politically ambitious fundamentalists. In the name of Christ their work will be done…if we let them.

Inspired by the work of psychologists Erich Fromm, who asserted that the fear of freedom propels anxiety-ridden people into authoritarian settings, Blumenthal explains in this compelling narrative how a culture of personal crisis has defined the radical right, transforming the nature of the Republican Party for the next generation and setting the stage for the future of American politics.

The book is said to show that many of the religious right movement's leading figures have more in common than just the power they command within conservative ranks. Their personal lives have been stained by crisis and scandal: depression, mental illness, extra-marital affairs, struggles with homosexual urges, heavy medication, addiction to pornography, serial domestic abuse, and even murder. It is no wonder that Sarah Palin, who’s ‘friend’ Thomas Muthree (popular Pentecostal self-proclaimed witch hunter) called upon Jesus to propel her into the governor’s mansion and to protect her from “the spirit of witchcraft” was chosen, by these Republicans, as one of our next leaders? Our past president, Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate republican who warned against exactly what is happening, would roll over in his grave.

And we would have these people as our leaders…or even just the leaders of the Republican Party? Why are we blindly following these Christian-wannabes and handing them such power? How can an intelligent people actually insist Obama is not an American…or that the Holocaust never happened or that there will be death panels in health care reform; and why do we let them spread their lies and disrupt our democratic meetings?

I highly recommend you listen to the Blumenthal interview I heard on ‘Fresh Air’. You can listen to the complete, 37 minute piece, here.

You can hear Blumenthal on The Young Turks here:

or watch his other YouTube video clips here.

Or just Google Max Blumenthal


Anonymous said...

I think you have hit the nail on the head with your analysis. And even if most don't listen to the loudest, most abnoxious people, they certainly get the most press, so it seems as though many people follow blindly.

Anonymous said...

Beverly, you bring up an excellent point, and one that concerns me as well. However, to present a more well-rounded argument, I think one should consider that both political parties seem to be inordinately influenced by their fringe groups. I am good friends with both liberals and conservatives and we can almost always find a centric compromise to which we can all agree. I guess another way to put it is I think the majority of Americans are moderate liberals or moderate conservatives. Why then do we allow the outliers on both ends of the spectrum to dictate our respective agendas and speak for us? Maybe we don’t and the media just prefers to focus on that small fraction because it’s sensational (and sells books). Most elected officials in the United States confess to being of Christian faith as do the majority of the Americans they represent. I personally don’t know any Christians who “blindly follow” a faith. The most interesting and devout Christians (and teachers) I know are those who constantly challenge and examine their faith to better understand why they believe what they believe. Undoubtedly, both sides have their “crazies”. It’s only when we sit down with real people and discuss our beliefs that we find we’re really not that far apart.

Beverly said...

“Why then do we allow the outliers on both ends of the spectrum to dictate our respective agendas and speak for us?”, you ask. I don’t know, but I cannot understand how you can say maybe we don’t. Do you not see the disruptions the fringe groups start at meetings? Do you not hear their lying outbursts at those same meetings; regardless how important? Have you not heard how they spread untruths as if what they say is set in stone?

You do not know people who follow their faith blindly? Oh, I do…and it is neither pretty nor logical; their faith means ‘others’ are evil. I have actually heard a person say another, or another group, is…‘of the devil’.

Why would teachers examine their faith, unless it is their faith that they teach. Personally, I prefer science…and I like it when teachers who teach science constantly examine science. As in politics, I prefer faith be left out of it.

While I agree, it is always good to sit down with real people and discuss beliefs…I know too many who cannot leave their blind faith behind. There is no discussion, there is no argument; one does not disagree, one is only wrong; one could be ‘of the devil’.

Thankfully I, like yourself, enjoy friends who are both liberals and conservatives…and yes; we almost always find ways in which we can all agree. When we cannot, we still embrace the other and respect the other’s opinion. We are respectful and delight in debate.

Quite frankly, leaving an anonymous missile under the guise of a note to a friend (you call me Beverly as if we are friends…) is something I would expect from a member of the same groups which leave other anonymous deeds, disruption and deceit. Such people rarely enjoy the light.


Beverly said...

Funny, I have a very enthusiastic Christian friend in OK, another who enjoys fire & brimstone and a brother who is a reborn-Christian (he will forgive me if I have the vernacular wrong)… I am birding pals with a woman who is an Episcopal Priest, work with another who has ‘auroras’ and went to bible-study myself as an adult…of my own volition! I do not have a closed mind, nor do my friends and family. At the very least, we celebrate our differences…they allow me my pagan ways and love me anyway! They would no more do something to harm me than, disrupt a group’s conference, spread lies about another person to prove a point or shoot a doctor. THOSE are the people whom I enjoy knowing. THOSE are the friends I celebrate.

And yet, I suspect this note may be from one of those friends...and I'm sorry he didn't feel comfortable signing his name.

Anonymous said...

So then, what you mean to say is that you just don’t like Christians. Why didn’t you just come out and say that rather than blathering on about Muslims, the Taliban, etc. The point is the people shouting at town hall meetings and disrupting civilized discourse are both conservative and liberal. I recall a few (not so distant) instances where conservatives were rudely interrupted (and attacked even) by liberal protestors. It’s all the same. Let me remind you that making misleading statements and outright lying isn’t the sole providence of conservatives (e.g., “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”). It’s just that the current pack of liars happen to disagree with your personal point of view. My point is that I don’t know those people, don’t know where they come from, don’t support them, and suspect they represent a very small fraction of actual Americans. One wouldn’t form that opinion, however, from the media because they don’t want to report about intelligent, thoughtful people having a debate – it’s not interesting enough for a 15 second news story. So we get these film clips of nuts throwing chairs and shouting out at meetings. As a result, the whole political discussion has become so polarized that nothing gets done. Who’s to blame? I don’t know, but I don’t think you can lay it at the feet of all Christians because you’ve had the unfortunate occasion to run across some uneducated and ill informed people who treated you with contempt because of your beliefs. It seems to me that your behavior isn’t any different than theirs. I love science too, but all good scientists (like good Christians) constantly test their theories, beliefs and understandings to more fully understand their world and experience in it.

Beverly said...

Oddly…someone using an older version of Explorer, on a Vista machine in Yukon OK, invariably hits this site just minutes before your Anonymous notes show up. LOL

My friend, you know darned well I do not care who is Christian or who is Muslim…I enjoy bright, interesting people (like yourself), who are able to have serious, meaningful conversations without loosing their humanity. The point of my post, like the point of the book here, is that the Republican Right…so far Right I call them the Republican Reich (but then, you know how I love a good shock-effect), is ruining the Republican Party.

You know I’m a liberal Democrat and I know you are a conservative Republican…I hope you also can see I do not, nor does the book imply, that you are part of the fringe group about whom we are discussing. This group does not just shout passionately out at a meeting…they are coached by their pastors to do what they can to break up such meetings. Some are seen in one guise at one meeting and another at a different meeting; they are there merely to toss out lies, slander and innuendo (“Obama was not born in America”, “Healthcare reform will include death-lists”, etc.)

Because you and I are both on the same side, surely you can allow the fact that as a passionate person I do love ‘shock’ sometimes…just as I see that you do, as well. Suggesting I don’t like Christians is clearly not what I was implying, and using the word Muslim with the word Taliban so close together is surely for shock, wouldn’t you say? Or do you mean to say Muslims are the Taliban? See, again…that is the kind of thinking the author and myself abhor. And no…I do not think you mean that; but its passionate language that one uses in an attempt to bolster their point. Perhaps we should both know better.

I will say it again, I do not know Christians or any other group who are ‘of the fringe’ we are discussing. I know some who hold their beliefs so literally I wonder if they remember what the point of the Christian faith is; to follow the teachings of Christ; yeah? I would think Christians would strive to be Christ-like…and spewing hatred is not. I do not know people who spew hatred…but I see evidence of them.

The author of the book quotes Eisenhower’s concern; that the far right is ruining the Republican Party; I think they are dragging religion into politics…which is clearly what our Founding Fathers tried to avoid. I would say its anti-American; but is that too shocking?

So, my friend, perhaps you should both read the book and re-read what I’ve written on and about my post here. What you are suggesting I believe or have said…just isn’t so. And I resent that you suggest my behavior isn’t any different than those people about whom I wrote…just as I imagine you would resent my implying your twisting re-cap of my beliefs is, as well. For the record, I do not. But for the record, I do know you delight in pulling my pig-tails!

Beverly said...

This just in from my friend Judy on Facebook:

Very interesting points raised by "Anonymous." I don't think that 15,000 people marching in Washington claiming Joe Wilson as a hero is insignificant.

We went to a Health Care presentation by Dianne DeGette, and there were so many opposition people that got up to "ask questions," that nobody else could. There were no outright outbursts, but the civility envelope was pushed to the edge.

They also kept asking the same questions over and over again until you had to wonder if they had ears. DeGette was brilliant throughout, treating each tiresome one as if their question was the most important one of the day.

There's another good book about the danger of dismissing this "fringe." The title is "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism" by Michelle Goldberg, 2006.

There are a LOT of "blind faith" Christians out there. You'd have to be blind to believe what they do. There are also a lot of awake, searching Christians who are trying to live an authentic faith, and it's true, some of them are Republicans. There are also atheist Repubs that are sincere and reasonable debaters. I don't really think Republicanism per se is the problem. I see the problem as justifying politics through a manipulated religion.

In decidedly non-intellectual terms: I see it as slime-balls feeding a lot of bad bunk to ignorant people, getting them all riled up and turning them loose. Whatever the social psychology is, I don't think it's anything to fear particularly, as I believe the insanity will inevitably self-destruct, but neither do I think it should be dismissed as harmless. My question is, how is it that so many people are so easily duped? A "few" I can understand. They may no longer be the majority, but this isn't just a few. Some "rural chatter!"

Thanks, Judy!!! And I would agree, the behavior is not Republicanism per se that is the problem...I think it's more religion eking into politics. And I think the whole reason for the United States is NOT to let that happen

Anonymous said...

*Sigh* I’m bored with this conversation. Can’t we just throw some eggs or turn over an apple cart or something? I think the original idea of the founding fathers (not that I had occasion to meet any of them, mind you) was to separate theology from the policy, not the policy maker. Last time I checked a dollar bill, it still had written on it “In God We Trust”. Oh wait, isn’t there something in the Declaration of Independence about “Nature’s God” and didn’t OUR President take the oath of office by placing his right hand on…gasp…the Holy Bible. Yes, its eking back in. I do think it’s interesting that all these folks that sat back and smugly smiled while President Bush was being treated with contempt are now crying foul. It works both ways. At least admit that there are just as many fringe groups with dangerous thinking on the left as there are on the right. 15,000 people on the mall don’t get me too excited out of a population of over 300 million. Hell, we get that many people at a high school football game…and talk about the crazies!

Beverly said...

Perhaps we should just agree to disagree. I'd rather keep you as a friend than continue this and bore you to death.

I think I'll go change the subject...

Anonymous said...

C'mon, you couldn't get rid of me that easy :-) And for the record, you're not "of the devil". Maybe a little wicked but definitely not of the devil. ;-)

Beverly said...

Oh goodie, we're still pals! See, I knew you were more likeable than you pretend... :)

That you can yank my chain and I can rise-up on my high horse and we can STILL remain civil IS why I like you so much!

You're a good man (in spite of yourself!)

Heh, heh, heh

Ken said...

Anonymous reflects that "I personally don’t know any Christians who “blindly follow” a faith. The most interesting and devout Christians (and teachers) I know are those who constantly challenge and examine their faith to better understand why they believe what they believe."

What is it you don't understand about the word "faith". Faith is quite simply "blindly following" - or as the dictionary would say "not resting on logical proof or material evidence." The fact that our money has "in God We Trust" on it, that the Pledge of Allegiance has "One Nation Under God" on it, or that we use a bible to swear oaths on means nothing. They are expressions of dogma just like waving a little ball of burning incense around. Anonymous says "I love science too, but all good scientists (like good Christians) constantly test their theories, beliefs and understandings to more fully understand their world and experience in it." What? There is no way to test religious beliefs - by definition religion is faith - remember? Religion is nothing like science -- Thank God -- or rather Thank Scientists.

Jeff said...

Ken, I honestly can't be bothered to respond to your ignorance. Beverly, thanks for an excellent website. We'll continue this conversation privately (and hopefully over a good bottle of red wine one day soon) :-)