Tag Archives: Tea Party

After the Baptism of Prince George

After the Baptism of Prince George

Prince of Wales to Dr Chartres: “I say, old bean, there was no need to bring your own plate with you; we’ve got more than enough for the Christening tea-party”

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October 24, 2013 · 08:37

Evangelicals – cheerio, cheerio, cheerio!

Post-Shutdown the Evangelical Movement Is Going to Die Faster Than Ever — GOOD!– Now Actual Christianity Might Have a Chance to Flourish

October 12, 2013 By r

The 2 weeks of shutdown madness has accelerated evangelical movement’s devolution by 10 years or more. The shutdown is to the evangelical establishment what that fabled 4-hour erection is to Viagra users.

I predict that the unwinding of the loony literalistic evangelical “Bible-believing” movement, made respectable by people like Billy Graham and Christianity Today magazine, just took a quantum leap. American evangelicals are looking into a grim future where they’re both loathed and feared. They are already losing their young people in droves. I mean, who wants to be led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Franklin Graham?

Sometimes everything changes instantly: 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, rock-n’-roll, the discovery that women like sex too provided a new shared awareness when there was a definite before and after change in perception. Pre-WW II Germany was where you went to study medicine, music and culture. Post-1945, there were no good Germans. Even Bach couldn’t save their reputation. Pre 9/11 we were invulnerable. Post-9/11 America was a paranoid surveillance state scared of its own shadow filled with people busy taking off our shoes for TSA agents.

Post the evangelical-Tea-Party led shutdown, (Yes, the Tea Party and evangelical movements are more or less one and the same) there will be few serious people who want to associate with the people who share the theology of the raving morons who brought us to the shutdown anarchic brink.

The heart of the matter – the religious delusions that led to political delusions that have been near fatal — is what I explore, expose, mock and I pray, will help destroy — in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” My book is a work of dark humor (by a writer who used to be an inmate in the evangelical asylum). But the funny has just gone out of the movement I take aim at. My book is funny, but the make-believe world I expose in all its insane glory just crashed into our reality and no one is laughing.

It’s one thing for a Bible-thumper to hand you a tract. It’s another thing for that same delusional person to hijack the value of your home and IRA. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the Republicans have done to the respectability of the evangelical establishment that has backed the “family values” folks what the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did to the “respectability” of social racism. Post-killing you might still have been a southern fried bigot but at least on business trips up north, you cooled it with your stock-in-trade racist jokes, at least in polite company.

So it is that the sort of people who used to think that working for some respectable evangelical outfit like Christianity Today magazine or Wheaton College or even a do-good feed the hungry-type NGO gave their literalistic theology cover will have to recalculate.

What’s looming now for the evangelicals is the realization that their cover is blown. They theologically affirm what is just one more version of fundamentalist Christianity– minus actual snake-handling. They may say “we’re not like Ted Cruz” and sniff at the Tea Party, but they’ll tell you, if pushed, that they believe in the “Rapture” and that gay people choose that “lifestyle.” They’ll tell you that the Bible is inerrant. In other words they can put on a tweed jacket and get a theology degree, but they’re still living in the thrall of very stupid ideas. And now we all know that living in make-believe land in one area of life leads to delusional behavior in other areas. In other words we all know that it’s not a coincidence that deluded religionists just led us to the brink. Their crazy faith made for crazy politics.

Like the Koch brothers, who’s doom is now irreversible in the history books, post-shutdown, so too will the respectable evangelicals have a hard time passing themselves off as normal or even morally decent responsible people. Tough to do with all those pictures of Ted Cruz being cheered by your cousin, your pastor and your denomination burned into the public mind. Tough to do when your friends discover that you believe in a myth-based reality where Jesus walked on water and so did Sarah Palin.

What Joe McCarthy did for anti-communism’s good name, Ted Cruz (not to mention his raving preacher daddy) and company just did for everyone that calls themselves conservative let alone evangelical. The accelerated evangelical discrediting means that evangelicals will:

  • Lose their young people at a faster pace
  • Have lost face for good
  • Have become a feared and pitied weird minority on a par with survivalist and bigamist communities as far as national respect goes
  • Will be the kiss of death for any serious political leader (Chris Christie stayed away from the “Values” gabfest this weak).

I guess the lesson is this: live in your own walled-off echo chamber long enough and you’ll start to believe your own nonsense. It started with belief in the Bible as “true in all it affirms,” despite science, “inerrant,” despite just about everything, and “prophetic” in spite of the fact Jesus never came back… and won’t.

Crazy was okay, for a while, but then morphed into stuff sane people could test like, “Global warming isn’t real!” “Obama isn’t American!” “Being born gay is unnatural!” “There’s no need to raise the debt limit!” “Who needs an economy when Jesus is coming back?!”

One other thing: With evangelicalism out of the way — thank you Jesus! –  Christianity actually may flourish for the first time in American history. And to know what I think that inner spiritual flourishing might look like, you’ll have to read  And God Said, “Billy!” Hint: There’s more truth found in the least experience of ancient liturgical mysticism, love and mercy than in the entire commercialized politicized fake spiritual world of big time religion…. but that another story. Or as I put it in the book: “My final word to you is this Billy: If there is a Creator — and that is a big if — perhaps He, She or It embodies love. I believe that the source of love must be outside of our cold mechanical universe.”

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October 13, 2013 · 14:52

Fundamentalist Christianity and American Politics

This article originally appeared on Alternet.

 Why aren’t Republicans more afraid? The entire premise of both the government shutdown and the threats to force the government into debt default is that Democrats care more about the consequences of these actions than the Republicans do. Republicans may go on TV and shed crocodile tears about national monuments being shut down, but the act isn’t really fooling the voters: The only way to understand these fights is to understand that the GOP is threatening to destroy the government and the world economy in order to get rid of Obamacare (as well as a panoply of other right wing demands). Just as terrorists use the fact that you care more about the lives of the hostages than they do to get leverage, Republican threats rely on believing they don’t care about the consequences, while Democrats do.

So why aren’t they more afraid? Businessweek, hardly a liberal news organization, said the price of default would be “a financial apocalypse” that would cause a worldwide economic depression.  This is the sort of thing that affects everyone. Having a right wing ideology doesn’t magically protect your investments from crashing alongside the rest of the stock market.

The willingness of Republicans to take the debt ceiling and the federal budget hostage in order to try to extract concessions from Democrats is probably the most lasting gift that the Tea Party has granted the country. More reasonable Republican politicians fear being primaried by Tea Party candidates. A handful of wide-eyed fanatics in Congress have hijacked the party The Tea Party base and the hard right politicians driving this entire thing seem oblivious to the consequences. It’s no wonder, since so many of them—particularly those in leadership—are fundamentalist Christians whose religions have distorted their worldview until they cannot actually see what they’re doing and what kind of damage is being caused

The press often talks about the Tea Party like they’re secularist movement that is interested mainly in promoting “fiscal conservatism”, a vague notion that never actually seems to make good on the promise to save taxpayer money. The reality is much different: The Tea Party is actually driven primarily by fundamentalist Christians whose penchant for magical thinking and belief that they’re being guided by divine forces makes it tough for them to see the real world as it is.

It’s not just that the rogue’s gallery of congress people who are pushing the hardest for hostage-taking as a negotiation tactic also happens to be a bench full of Bible thumpers. Pew Research shows that people who align with the Tea Party are more likely to not only agree with the views of religious conservatives, but are likely to cite religious belief as their prime motivation for their political views.  White evangelicals are the religious group most likely to approve of the Tea Party. Looking over the data, it becomes evident that the “Tea Party” is just a new name for the same old white fundamentalists who would rather burn this country to the ground than share it with everyone else, and this latest power play from the Republicans is, in essence, a move from that demographic to assert their “right” to control the country, even if their politicians aren’t in power.

It’s no surprise, under the circumstances, that a movement controlled by fundamentalist Christians would be oblivious to the very real dangers that their actions present. Fundamentalist religion is extremely good at convincing its followers to be more afraid of imaginary threats than real ones, and to engage in downright magical thinking about the possibility that their own choices could work out very badly. When you believe that forcing the government into default in an attempt to derail Obamacare is the Lord’s work, it’s very difficult for you to see that it could have very real, negative effects.

It’s hard for the Christian fundamentalists who run the Republican Party now to worry about the serious economic danger they’re putting the world in, because they are swept up in worrying that President Obama is an agent of the devil and that the world is on the verge of mayhem and apocalypse if they don’t “stop” him somehow, presumably be derailing the Affordable Care Act. Christian conservatives such as Ellis Washington are running around telling each other that the ACA  will lead to “the systematic genocide of the weak, minorities, enfeebled, the elderly and political enemies of the God-state.” Twenty percent of Republicans believe Obama is the Antichrist. Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner argued that Obama is using his signature health care legislation to promote “the destruction of the family, Christian culture”, and demanded that Christians “need to engage in peaceful civil disobedience against President Obama’s signature health care law”.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined in, demanding that the Republicans shut down the government rather than let Obamacare go into effect. The excuse was their objection to the requirement that insurance make contraception available without a copayment, saying ending this requirement matters more than “serving their own employees or the neediest Americans.”

The Christian right media has been hammering home the message that Christians should oppose the Affordable Care Act. Pat Necerato of the Christian News Network accused the supporters of the law of committing idolatry and accused people who want health care of being covetous. The Christian Post approvingly reported various Christian leaders, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, saying things like the health care law is “a profound attack on our liberties” and lamented “Today is the day I will tell my grandchildren about when they ask me what happened to freedom in America.”

Some in the Christian right straight up believe Obamacare portends the end times. Rick Phillips, writing for Christianity.com, hinted that Obamacare might be predicted in Revelations, though he held back from saying that was certain. Others are less cautious. On the right wing fundamentalist email underground, a conspiracy theory has arisen claiming that Obamacare will require all citizens to have a microchip implanted. While it’s completely untrue, many Christians believe that this means the “mark of the beast” predicted in Revelations that portends the return of Christ and the end of the world.

In other words, the Christian right has worked itself into a frenzy of believing that if this health care law is implemented fully, then we are, in fact, facing down either the end of American Christianity itself or quite possibly the end times themselves. In comparison, it’s hard to be too scared by the worldwide financial collapse that they’re promising to unleash if the Democrats don’t just give up their power and let Republicans do what they want. Sure, crashing stock markets, soaring unemployment, and worldwide economic depression sounds bad, but for the Christian right, the alternative is fire and brimstone and God unleashing all sorts of hell on the world.

This is a problem that extends beyond just the immediate manufactured crisis. The Christian right has become the primary vehicle in American politics for minimizing the problems of the real world while inventing imaginary problems as distractions. Witness, for instance, the way that fundamentalist Christianity has been harnessed to promote the notion that climate change isn’t a real problem. Average global temperatures are creeping up, but the majority of Christian conservatives are too worried about the supposed existential threats of abortion and gay rights to care.

Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise that it’s easy for Christian conservatives to worry more about imaginary threats from Obamacare than it is for them to worry about the very real threat to worldwide economic stability if the go along with their harebrained scheme of forcing the government into default. To make it worse, many have convinced themselves that it’s their opponents who are deluded. Take right wing Christian Senator Tom Coburn, who celebrated the possibility of default back in January by saying it would be a “wonderful experiment”. Being able to blow past all the advice of experts just to make stuff up you want to believe isn’t a quality that is unique to fundamentalists, but as these budget negotiations are making clear, they do have a uniquely strong ability to lie to themselves about what is and isn’t a real danger to themselves and to the world

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CHRISTIAN DOMINIONISM (from Red Letter Christians)

The theology of government shutdown: Christian dominionism

Posted Oct 1 2013 by  Morgan Guyton

Rafael Cruz
 

On the eve of our government shutdown, I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown. I’m interested in understanding what account of Christianity creates the “no compromise” crusade that the Tea Party has become known for. It turns out that Ted’s father Rafael Cruz [pictured above] is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism.

In the months building up to the present showdown, Cruz has been giving speeches at Tea Party rallies and other religious right gatherings as part of a campaign to defund Obamacare. In watching the speeches, I can see how his status as a Cuban American refugee fits the ethos of the far right culture warrior movement perfectly. He is able to shift seamlessly from stories about the oppression of the Castro regime to talking about the Obama administration.

A good example comes from a speech at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit on August 12th where Cruz said that the government’s “attack on religion” is part of a longer-term plan to establish socialism:

When you hear this attack on religion, it’s not really an attack on religion. The fundamental basis is this. Socialism requires that government becomes your God. That’s why they have to destroy your concept of God. They have to destroy all your loyalties except loyalty to the government. That’s what’s behind homosexual marriage. It’s really more about the destruction of the traditional family than about homosexuality, because you need also to destroy loyalty to the family.

This paragraph is a textbook example of postmodern “truthiness,” in which any narrative of reality “works” as long as it’s structurally logical. Cruz start with asserting the socialist conspiracy as a fundamental given and then shows how it works as an explanation for everything else that’s going on. It’s so fascinating when the same people who declare themselves to be defenders of “absolute truth” are absolutely relativistic about truth in practice.

 

A more disturbing element of Cruz’s speeches were his repeated calls for a “black robe regiment,” a concept promoted by Christian revisionist historian David Barton who claims that clergy were the main backbone of the American Revolutionary War. Here’s what Cruz had to say to the August 29th gathering of Heritage Action, the main lobbyist group behind shutting down the federal government:

It was pastors who were the backbone of the Revolution. Did you know where Paul Revere was going when he was saying the British are coming? He was going to the home of a pastor by the name of Jonas Clark… [who] was one of many that were called the black robe regiment. These were pastors that wore long black robes. Many of them had the continental army uniform under the black robe. They would preach in church on Sunday and then go out and fight with half their congregation for our independence. I want to encourage our pastors today not to hide behind their pulpits but take the spirit of the black robe regiment.

The theological ethos of Rafael Cruz’s vision is in Christian dominionism; he talks about preaching a “message of dominion” that all Christians have received an “anointing as kings.” I watched a sermon he preached on August 26, 2012 at the New Beginnings megachurch in Irving, Texas, led by Christian Zionist charismatic pastor Larry Huch. Huch incidentally had a very interesting prophecy to share when he introduced Cruz to preach:

We’ve been doing this series here that God laid on my heart: Getting to the top and staying there. A message for us as individuals, the kingdom of God, but also for America. It’s not enough to get there. We need to stay there. It’s not a coincidence that in a few weeks, we go into what’s called in the Bible Rosh Hashanad [sic]… It will be the beginning of the spiritual year 2012. The number 12 means divine government. That God will begin to rule and reign. Not Wall Street, not Washington, God’s people and His kingdom will begin to rule and reign. I know that’s why God got Rafael’s son elected, Ted Cruz the next senator.

But here’s the exciting thing… The rabbinical teaching is… that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth. And that when these Gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grow and grow and grow. It’s said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers. And the ones that say here I am Lord, you can trust me, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the messiah.

So it sounds like we’re entering into the age where the Christians (who give faithfully) are going to get all the money through the “end-time transfer of wealth.” Isn’t the title of that sermon series just awesome? Getting to the Top and Staying There! It was a packed house. I wonder how many other apocalyptic prosperity gospel megachurches are packing their houses by preaching sermon series about getting to the top and staying there.

Cruz’s primary text for his sermon was Revelation 1:5-6, which says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever!” In Rafael’s translation of the Bible, it says “kings and priests” instead of “a kingdom and priests.” In the Greek, the word is basileian (accusative singular) and no manuscript variants are indicated, but never mind that.

Cruz shares that two types of people were anointed in the Old Testament, kings and priests:

Priests were anointed primarily to minister the glory of God. They were anointed to pray for the people, to offer sacrifices, to care for the temple, to be God’s representatives before the people… Kings were anointed to take dominion. Kings were anointed to go to war, win the war, and bring the spoils of war to priests so the work of the kingdom of God could be accomplished. The king needed the blessing of the priest in order to be successful in battle… The priest also needed for the king to be successful in battle because the priest needed the spoils of war in order to repair the temple, in order to carry out the ministry that God had entrusted him.

What is so remarkable about this rendering of the relationship between kings and priests in the Old Testament is that God expressly forbade the Israelites from going to war for spoils. It is “truthiness” applied to Biblical interpretation. Well, the priests had expenses to pay in the temple, and the kings went to war. God anointed both of them. That must mean that the kings went to war to pay for the expenses in the temple.

The seamless move that Cruz makes without any justification is to say that because kings and priests were anointed in the Old Testament, that means there are two kinds of Christians today: kings and priests. Forget about the body of Christ and all the spiritual gifts identified in 1 Corinthians 12. Forget Jesus’ exhortation in Mark 10 not to be like the Gentile princes but to be servants instead of kings. Cruz decries the way that churches have neglected their members’ kingly anointing:

Our churches unfortunately are very focused on only one of these anointings and that is on the priestly anointing… Those of you who think you don’t have the anointing to teach the word of God, to be teaching Sunday school, you’re second class citizens. And so you begin to lead frustrated lives… The majority of you… your anointing… is an anointing as king. God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what’s the battlefield? The marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion.

So to pull all this logic together, God anoints priests to work in the church directly and kings to go out into the marketplace to conquer, plunder, and bring back the spoils to the church. The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian “kings” who will accomplish the “end time transfer of wealth.” Then “God’s bankers” will usher in the “coming of the messiah.” The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back.

And here’s the thing. When you get a lot of people together in a megachurch, you can do some pretty impressive things with your mission projects. You can feed thousands of people and host ESL classes and job training programs and medical clinics. And I imagine that seeing your accomplishments could give you the hubris of thinking we don’t need a government at all to make our society run; our church can be the new government.

 

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