Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Frank Schaeffer to Speak "Theocracy or Democracy?"

HUP Talent and Booking Presents:

2012 Election Year Speaking Tour:

Are you tired of religion masquerading as politics & politics as religion?
Frank Schaeffer is!

Frank will be speaking on the impact of far right religion on politics and his journey from being an Evangelical leader to becoming a spokesperson for progressive politics and religion.

If you care about America you CAN'T miss the conversation that will change the national political debate for the better and expose the politics of hate-based religion infiltrating every aspect of American Life today.

It's time to bring dignity and respect back to the conversation and hear from a voice of reason this election season.

To Book Frank Shaeffer's
The Theocracy or Democracy
2012 Speaking Tour
Contact Lisa Darden
Or call             240-446-1554      .
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The Gurus of the Religious Right Who Wrecked the Republican Party

 Note this piece was first published by the Huffington Post 

Romney is a fake religious right "conservative." But the fact that he has to pretend to be to the right of the Pope on "social issues" tells us all we need to know about the intellectual climate inside today's Republican Party.

How did the Republicans get to be this way?

Reading and watching media coverage of the 2012 elections you'd never learn the answer. That is because the media seem to have never heard of the intellectuals who fed the movement on far right religious hysteria. So the media cover the Santorum outbursts and Gingrich paranoia and Romney genuflecting to the social agenda of the Roman Catholic bishops as if they are illogical and odd. They are both but they are also coming from someplace. And to not know what that place is is like discussing the old Soviet Union with never a mention of Karl Marx.

When Rick Santorum - who is the real thing when it comes to authentic hate-driven misogynistic religious delusion  -- talks about how the idea of the separation of church and state, as articulated by President Kennedy, made him want to "throw up," he was channeling the late Richard John Neuhaus. He even uses Neuhaus' pet catch phrase "the naked public square" to describe religion being "driven" from public life by "radical secularists" intent on using colleges to brainwash kids into pro-abortion, gay-hugging liberalism. 

When Gingrich, Romney and Santorum defined President Obama's reasonable attempt to make insurance companies pay for women's access to contraception as being "anti-religious" and "anti-religious freedom" they were channeling Professor Robert George of Princeton University, Charles Colson, and my late father Francis Schaeffer and his collaborator Dr. C Everett Koop on the movie series and book that started the Protestant pro-life movement called "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?".

When all the Republican candidates referred to "life beginning" at conception and backed many anti-abortion initiatives (like forcing women to have ultrasounds before gaining access to abortion) they were channeling Dr. C Everett Koop as well as Charles Colson, Nixon's hatchet man and born-again convert to far right religious homophobic and anti-woman politics. 

But reading media commentaries and watching the talking heads on TV you would never know that the radical right's takeover of the Republican Party has its roots in the work and writing of a few men and women who became the enablers of a radical religious ideology that they made respectable in far right circles.  You'd also never know that places like Princeton University are providing intellectual "respectability" to radical far right theocrats like Robert George or that "mainstream" evangelicals like the editors of Christianity Today magazine regard far right homophobe Colson as a hero. 

Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George and former McCain adviser, is an antiabortion, anti-Obama, anti-gay-rights, and anti-stem-cell-research "profamily" activist, and he has found ways to effectively carry on the loony Reconstructionist/Theonomist (put America "back" on Biblical law aka "natural law) crusade started by some far right fundamentalists in the 1970s. (I explain who these "Reconstructionists" were in my book Sex, Mom and God)

George's brainchild: the "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience" was published in 2009 as an anti-Obama manifesto, and many Evangelical leaders signed on. It was written as a direct reaction to the Obama Presidency. It was a trap that launched a fishing expedition to find any issue that might gain traction with which to beat the President in 2012. That could have been gay rights, or stem cell research. It turned out to be contraception.

The "Manhattan Declaration" reads:

"We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life actnor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."

In case you've never heard of George, he's been a one-man "brain trust" for the Religious Right and the Far Right of the Republican Party as well as for the ultraconservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Here's how the New York Times introduced him to its readers:

"Robert George] has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy [the natural law theory] into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as "one of the biggest brains in America," or, on one broadcast, "Superman of the Earth." Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research.Newt Gingrich called him "an important and growing influence" on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage. "If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy," the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, "its leaders probably meet in George's kitchen."

I met George when we were both on a panel discussion entitled "Campaign '08: Race, Gender, and Religion" at Princeton University. We butted heads over what he'd been mischaracterizing as presidential candidate Obama's "proabortion" position.

At the time we met on that (six-person) panel, George was one of McCain's key advisors and I (a former Republican) was blasting George's man for having sold out to the Religious Right, which McCain had once called "agents of intolerance."

In introducing myself to the Princeton audience, I mentioned that McCain had written a glowing endorsement for one of my several books on military-civilian relations.  I also admitted that I'd actively worked for McCain in the 2000 presidential primaries against W. Bush by appearing--at McCain advisor Mark Salter's oft-repeated urgent request--on several religious and other conservative talk shows (for instance, on Ollie North's top-rated talk show) on McCain's behalf. (In those days McCain was being attacked by the likes of Religious Right leader James Dobson for not being "pro-life" enough.)

George's trap for the President, the "Manhattan Declaration" was instantly signed by more than 150 American "mainstream" (mostly Evangelical) conservative religious leaders. They joined to "affirm support for traditional marriage" and to advocate civil disobedience against laws contradicting the signers' religious beliefs about marriage and/or the "life issues." The drafting committee included Evangelical Far Right leader Charles Colson. In fact in close contact with Operatives like Karl Rove this whole group began to pump their followers up for the battle to come for the 2012 elections.

It is not coincidence that Colson was assigned by these extremists to be the point man for the anti-Obama crusade. He put his name on a piece crafted by the Robert George group when it came to the bogus "Obama is anti-religious" charge.

To ramp the case up Colson teamed up with a Catholic bishop and wrote (or had Goeorge write for them) in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal after the "story" (a trumped up fabricated story at that) about Obama's "anti-religious" stance broke. Then throwing red meat to the faithful Chuck Colson wrote in an open letter to his fellow believers on Wednesday (Feb. 8). Where he compared the administration birth control mandates to policies enacted in Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.

In the WSJ op-ed Colson and the Catholic bishop blew their cover, they cited their own creation as proff that they had grass roots support when of course (like the Tea Party) they had had their "issue" created top down. they write:

"At this critical moment, Americans of every faith, as guardians of their own freedom, must, in the words of the First Amendment, "petition the government for the redress of grievances." That's why over the past two years more than 500,000 people have signed the "Manhattan Declaration" in defense of religious liberty. They believe, as do we, that under no circumstances should people of faith violate their consciences and discard their most cherished religious beliefs in order to comply with a gravely unjust law."

It was a neat trick: Write a deceleration, get 150 leaders to sign it then use Fox News etc to promote it "grass roots" then come back and use the fact that it's been signed off on by the pro-life movement as "proof" that the President is out of step with religious freedom!

There are a number of leading American extremist "conservative" Roman Catholics, like Professor George, who are part of a strange, informal, anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion alliance that Santorum has drawn his ideas from. One such Far-Right Roman Catholic ideologue wrote a book calling on Christians to join Muslims in a Jihad against the secular West.

In Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War my old friend Peter Kreeft called for "ecumenical Jihad." ( Ignatius Press, 1996) Kreeft's was not a plea for blowing people up. He was calling for winning elections and, failing that, for undermining the election results when they are judged "wrong" by religious people.

Kreeft called for an alliance of fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims, to prosecute a culture war against what he called the "demoniacal Western cultural elite." The book was (tellingly) dedicated to several key Far Right leaders: e.g., Chuck Colson, Michael Medved and (of course) the reactionary's reactionary, Richard John Neuhaus.

The late Roman Catholic convert priest, Richard John Neuhaus and I often talked when Neuhaus was starting his far right First Things journal. I contributed several articles to some of the early issues of First Things. (This was before I left the religious right, the Republican Party and my evangelical background).

According to what Neuhaus told me back then First Things was supposed to be the pro-life/Catholic version of the Norman Podhoretz's Commentary magazine.  Podhoretz who, at first, was friendly with  Neuhaus broke with him over Neuhaus's extremist anti-abortion -- and extremist anti-American - views. This was after Neuhaus started openly describing the U.S. Government as an illegitimate "regime." As the Washington Post noted:

"Father Neuhaus played a central role in forging an alliance between evangelical Protestants and Catholics and in bringing conservative Christians into the Republican conservative coalition in the 1980s and 1990s. During that same period, he began an institute and published a journal, First Things,  that reflected his interests in religion and public policy. Mary Ann Glendon, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said Father Neuhaus was a guiding force in the creation of faith-based initiatives -- private religious groups given government funding to carry out social policy -- that have become identified with President Bush's White House. Father Neuhaus set the groundwork for the idea in two books, To Empower People written with Peter Berger, and Christian Faith and Public Policy (both 1977)."

As I Alexander F. Remington, The Washington Post,  January 9, 2009 noted, in 2005, Time magazine named Father Neuhaus one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium," which advocates a strategic union  of Catholics and evangelicals on a social agenda that included opposition to abortion and support for government funding for religious schools.

"Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed," Father Neuhaus once wrote. It was a stance that was at times too rigid for many conservatives. After President Bill Clinton vetoed in 1996 a ban on a procedure critics call partial-birth abortion, Father Neuhaus said, "We are at a point at which millions of conscientious American citizens are reflecting upon whether this is a legitimate regime." That same year, he sponsored a symposium on "The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics."

Colson and Neuhaus were the moving force behind the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" initiative/manifesto  which  called for a (non-violent) holy war against secularism. And that "initiative" took the Far Right Reconstructionist ideas of Rushdoony, dropped the most inflammatory rhetoric, and made them "mainstream," thus moving the so-called mainstream Evangelical enterprise to the Far (anti-government) Right.

The groups Kreeft, Colson and Neuhaus had in mind to "bring together" were alienated Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews and conservative Roman Catholics, wallowing in their sense of victimhood, to which Kreeft added Muslims. Of course the ultra-conservative Kreeft and extremist Neuhaus were against contraception and equated it with abortion. Thus the logic of their argument was that of my fathers' too: the United States Government was enabling murder, was disparaged as a "regime" that needed to be overthrown.

These neo-conservative/Roman Catholic "intellectuals" helped set the stage for the anti-contraception Quiverfull Movement and for the Patriarchy Movement, giving a gloss of intellectual respectability and aid and comfort to what were nothing more than oppressive ideas rooted in an anti-Constitutional theocratic Far-Right wish list for changes that were supposed to roll back the parts of the democratic processes - say Roe v. Wade, women's rights and gay rights -- that Far Right Catholics and Protestants didn't approve of.

People like Professor George with his "Manhattan Declaration" are just carrying on where Kreeft, Colson and Neuhaus left off. And the climate these "thinkers" have contributed to has  provided what I'll call the ideological background noise accompanying the rise of the rube white hate fringe/militia movement and lone wolf government-haters and conspiracy theorists who, of course, have probably never heard of anyone like Neuhaus or Professor George nor read their work.

Nevertheless, there is a connection between people like Neuhaus and the loony violent Right's reaction to the election of President Obama which exacerbated the right's virulent mistrust of our government. It's a question of legitimacy and illegitimacy. What the Religious Right, including the Religious Right's intellectuals did, was contribute to a climate where the very legitimacy of our government is questioned.  The Evangelicals may have begun by only questioning Roe and Bolton, gay rights, and school prayer rulings.  

To the extent that Santorum and the rest of the Republican field this year have alienated most Americans we can thank the "intellectual" enablers of off-the-wall right wing radicalism. Just how crazy are these people? How radical are they?

To plumb the depths of the tortured "reasoning" behind the Roman Catholic Bishop's anti-contraception movement, consider the writing of Roman Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. She's a heroine to today's leading conservative Roman Catholics including to Cardinal Dolan (who is close to Robert George and Colson) and the Vatican. She wrote passionately in defense of the papal prohibition of contraception:

"In considering an action, we need always to judge several things about ourselves. First: is the sort of act we contemplate doing something that it's all right to do? Second: are our further or surrounding intentions all right? Third: is the spirit in which we do it all right? Contraceptive intercourse fails on the first count; and to intend such an act is not to intend a marriage act at all, whether or no we're married. An act of ordinary intercourse in marriage at an infertile time, though, is a perfectly ordinary act of married intercourse, and it will be bad, if it is bad, only on the second or third counts.If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here--not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can't be the mere pattern of bodily behavior in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example.If you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition.It's this that makes the division between straightforward fornication or adultery and the wickedness of the sins against nature and of contraceptive intercourse. Hence contraceptive intercourse within marriage is a graver offence against chastity than is straightforward fornication or adultery." (G. E. M. Anscombe, "Contraception and Chastity" (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1975).

Here is how Robert George lauded this insane "argument" in his gushing Anscombe obituary:

In 1968, when much of the rest of the Catholic intellectual world reacted with shock and anger to Pope Paul VI's reaffirmation of Catholic teaching regarding the immorality of contraception, the Geach-Anscombe family toasted the announcement with champagne. Her defense of the teaching in the essay "Contraception and Chastity" is an all-too-rare example of rigorous philosophical argumentation on matters of sexual ethics. Catholics who demand the liberalization of their Church's teachings have yet to come to terms with Anscombe's arguments. Robert George, "Elizabeth Anscombe, R.I.P.: One of the 20th Century's Most Remarkable Women," National Review, February 3-4, 2001.

It was the Evangelicals and Roman Catholics like my father, Neuhaus, George and Kreeft who  first released the poison of suspicion against our government into the air in its post-70s radical incarnation. And today the more educated leaders of the far right may scorn their rube gun-toting blue collar counterparts, but (post-Roe) at root they have the same view of the U.S. government.

And now with Romney (the fake) Santorum (the true believer) and Gingrich (the inscrutably weird) doing all but quoting these religious leaders openly and verbatim, and with the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic bishops parroting their mentor Robert George in anti-Obama rhetoric and with Romney having to pretend that he agrees... the Republican Party is now firmly in the hands of people like George who believe that a madwoman like Anscombe was brave and right to describe contraception as: "contraceptive intercourse within marriage is a graver offence against chastity than is straightforward fornication or adultery." And George and Colson and company are still at it trying to keep the myth alive that President Obama is anti-religion.

 The Republicans will lose in 2012 because the American people are not as crazy as the sublimely wacky religious fanatic "intellectuals" who's fingerprints are all over the imploding Republican Party. The Democratic Party should send Colson, the Roman Catholic bishops and George thank you notes because the candidates like Santorum and Gingrich that most closely follow their medieval "natural law" script are turning off the American people in droves. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

"How could they believe this stuff?" -- Trying To Understand the Republican Base

The base of the Republican Party is to be pitied more than feared. They have literally been conditioned to fear their own brains. Their religious indoctrination has actually destroyed their ability to reason. No wonder they eagerly believe in Fox News' alternative reality.

Outside observers here in the US and overseas shake their heads in wonderment over just how it is that so many Republicans seem to literally come from somewhere else, say another planet.

"How on earth could they believe" fill-in-the-blank: that global warming is not real, that evolution never happened, that an embryo is a "person," that the right to carry a gun equals "security," that President Obama is a socialist, communist, Muslim, the Antichrist, soft on terror, a dangerous man, not a Christian, the wrong sort of Christian or that history text books should reflect America's "Christian country" status...


that Santorum could ever become president!

To help readers understand the mindset that leads to the embrace of falsehood as truth maybe I can help. I am a former insider of the religious right and the evangelical movement as I describe in my book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back .

Insider Fact One, the backbone of the Republican Party is the American Evangelical community and the conservative Roman Catholic community.

Insider Fact Two, American Evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics are raised from birth to reject common sense, learning and progress in favor of a literal interpretation of the Bible.

How do these facts contribute to the state in which the ever more fringe Republican Party finds itself in?

Simple: if your base is a group that has been trained to reject truth in favor of faith in faith, they will believe anything because rejection of what "everyone else believes" is a bedrock article of faith and your very identity.

Let's be blunt: science has rendered a literal interpretation of any scripture, be it Bible, Koran, whatever, as impossible. For many religious people this means that they have sought out deeper meanings in a spirituality that depends on a more intuitive sense of meaning and purpose than a slavish attempt to follow texts that have been simply disproven.

But for another group - the fundamentalists of all religions - modernity has been "answered" by opting out or attacking facts as lies.

Enter Madrassas of all kinds, literal -- as in Pakistan -- or virtual -- as in the Evangelical home school movement and private school movement. Enter Evangelical TV and radio and publishing industry and mega churches as personality cults. Enter the "conservative" Roman Catholic bishops cut off from their own far more tolerant (and liberal) flocks.

The rise of the religious right within religion is designed intentionally to isolate, indoctrinate and "protect" from challenging ideas. Fundamentalist leaders, be they conservative bishops or evangelical leaders, do this because actual true information is no longer helpful to the fundamentalist religious cause. So that cause becomes about controlling the minds of the faithful by cutting them off from other opinions.

Having circled the wagons and gone inward the American evangelical community and conservative Roman Catholics, now speak their own language have their own culture and they despise and fear the country they dwell in as virtual strangers. This is a self-imposed exile.

But when general elections come along the evangelical community, Roman Catholic bishops' et al, like some hibernating creature, are forced (as it were) from their cave. For a brief moment they must interact with the larger world in the full light of day.

When the fundamentalist anti-modern community emerges the rest of the population gets a rare look at how the conservative reactionary "brain" of fundamentalism works. All of a sudden the larger world is reminded that there really are people like the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic bishops who actually think contraceptives are wicked things. All of a sudden the larger world is reminded that right here amongst us are people who believe that Satan is attacking us, that we should attack Iran to make Israel safe for Jesus' return, that a sperm and egg joined 5 seconds ago is a "person", that evolution is a secularist plot, that the Federal Reserve is of the devil, etc., etc.

And the cry goes up (once again) "How could they believe this stuff?"

How indeed?

It takes training for years to reject what is true.  That training starts in a million Sunday schools and carries on through home schooling or private religious "education" and is completed in a hundred alternative Christian "colleges." It is sustained by a network of magazines like Christianity Today, World and many more. It has its own celebrity culture with heroes that no one outside the religious ghetto has heard of but who are selling literally millions of books to their followers.

Is it any wonder that a bedrock article of faith in the Republican Party is now that public schools are evil? Is it any wonder Santorum says he objects to President Obama saying all kids should work to go to college? In fact anything public and open to accountability is to be feared. Education is feared most of all.

All public space is hated because in that space, from infrastructure projects to the Federal Reserve to the UN to all government agencies, there has to be an acceptable baseline of fact that everyone buys into.  Universities and the media - both places where ideas are discussed openly - are hated most of all.

So public space is demonized because by its very nature it falls outside of the control of the "mullahs," -- i.e. the pastors and bishops and celebrity religious leaders that are fighting off facts to maintain their control of their flocks. And the government is demonized because it imposes a rule of law over and above the Bible's mandates.

And that is why "They" -- the bedrock supporters of the Republican Party -- do what they do and allow a Santorum to emerge as a serious candidate. The base of the Republican Party don't live here in our world anymore, they have moved to the Bronze Age and like it there.

The problem is that the "conservatives" (who are actually revolutionaries) are not content to just live in their private space and indoctrinate their children. They want to make the rest of us reject facts and move into their time machine with them and travel back to a world safe from truth.

And the far right of the evangelical movement and far right Roman Catholic bishops are also at war with their more moderate people.

There are many moderate religious people (I'm one), as the emergence of the Wild Goose Festival proves. Wild Goose is set to be held for the second year running in June and attracts several thousand religious people including many moderate evangelicals and Roman Catholics committed to saving religion from fanatics. Moreover I'm in the middle of a speaking tour to colleges and churches, many with religious affiliations called "Theocracy or Democracy" and far from being chased out of town I'm welcomed by many religious people. To them I'm defending religion by trying to separate faith from politics and spirituality from fundamentalism.

So by no means am I saying that all religious people fit the description of the fanatics made here. But to the extent that the evangelical/Roman Catholic fanatical wing of American religion has taken over the Republican Party their motto seems to be-- lies are truth! From the Creationist Museum to the latest falsehood about how the Dutch are killing their elderly or that Obama is "anti-religion" because he wants all women to have access to contraception,  the reaction is to just dig the falsehood hole deeper and deeper.

Brains can be altered by how they are abused and misused from early childhood on. In that sense the evangelical and conservative Roman Catholic fundamentalists are damaged people. They are hurting and lost and lashing out at reality itself.  And they are presiding over the destruction of the Republican Party.  

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Republican Disaster

Ghastly Outdated Party

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
IT’S finally sinking in.
Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, savaging the brand in ways that will long resonate.
“Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”
He said his party is “coming to grips with a weaker field than we’d all want” and going through the five stages of grief. “We’re at No. 4,” he said. (Depression.) “We’ve still got one to go.” (Acceptance.)
The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates — be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes — and try to destroy them with it.
President Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals. The right’s image of Obama, though, is more a figment of its imagination than the left’s image of W. was.
Newt Gingrich, a war wimp in Vietnam who supported W.’s trumped-up invasion of Iraq, had the gall to tell a crowd at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., that defeating Obama — “the most dangerous president in modern American history” — was “a duty of national security” because “he is incapable of defending the United States” and because he “wants to unilaterally weaken the United States.” Who killed Osama again?
How can the warm, nurturing Catholic Church of my youth now be represented in the public arena by uncharitable nasties like Gingrich and Rick Santorum?
“It makes the party look like it isn’t a modern party,” Rudy Giuliani told CNN’s Erin Burnett, fretting about the candidates’ Cotton Mather attitude about women and gays. “It doesn’t understand the modern world that we live in.”
After a speech in Dallas on Thursday, Jeb Bush also recoiled: “I used to be a conservative, and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective.”
Alan Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming, recently called Santorum “rigid and homophobic.” Arlen Specter, who quit the Republicans to become a Democrat three years ago before Pennsylvania voters sent him home from the Senate, told MSNBC: “Where you have Senator Santorum’s views, so far to the right, with his attitude on women in the workplace and gays and the bestiality comments and birth control, I do not think it is realistic for Rick Santorum to represent America.” That from the man who accused Anita Hill of perjury.
Republicans have a growing panic at the thought of going down the drain with a loser, missing their chance at capturing the Senate and giving back all those House seats won in 2010. More and more, they openly yearn for a fresh candidate, including Jeb Bush, who does, after all, have experience at shoplifting presidential victories at the last minute.
Their jitters increased exponentially as they watched Mitt belly-flop in his hometown on Friday, giving a dreadful rehash of his economic ideas in a virtually empty Ford Field in Detroit, babbling again about the “right height” of Michigan trees and blurting out that Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs.”
Romney’s Richie Rich slips underscore what Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist, told the Ripon Forum: “If we are only the party of Wall Street and country clubbers, we will quickly become irrelevant.”
Santorum, whose name aptly comes from the same Latin root as sanctimonious, went on Glenn Beck’s Web-based show with his family and offered this lunacy: “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college,” because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that “harm” the country. He evidently wants home university schooling, which will cut down on keggers.
His wife, Karen, suggested that her husband’s success is “God’s will” and that he wants “to make the culture a better culture, more pleasing to God.”
The barking-mad Republicans of Virginia are helping to make the party look foolish and creepy. A video went viral on Friday in which Delegate Dave Albo comically regaled his fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Statehouse with his own Old Dominion version of “Lysistrata”: he suggested that he was denied sex with his wife because of a Republican-sponsored bill that would have made ultrasounds, often with a vaginal probe, mandatory for women seeking abortions.
With music, red wine and a big-screen TV, he made a move on his wife, Rita, while she was watching a news report about the bill. “And she looks at me and goes, ‘I’ve got to go to bed,’ ” Albo said as his colleagues guffawed.
The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side.
They’re trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Theocracy Or Democracy? (Now in the NY Times)

February 23, 2012, 9:00 PM

Theocracy and Its Discontents

Timothy Egan
Timothy Egan on American politics and life, as seen from the West.
Ah, the founders, those starch-collared English souls planting liberty in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century. For those who didn’t follow rules handed down by God through man, these New World authorities could cut out your tongue, slice off your ears or execute you. O.K., Puritans, wrong role-model founders.
Then let’s look west, beyond the Wasatch Mountains in the 19th century, where Brigham Young built a Mormon empire in which church rule and civil law were one and the same — the press, a military brigade and the courts all controlled by the Seer and Revelator of a homegrown religion. Oops, wrong founders again.
American political bedrock — God’s house and the people’s government guiding separate worlds — wasn’t always in place. Reason ultimately won out. But theocracy certainly had its colonies and its advocates; it might have prevailed but for a few outstanding voices.
One of those voices was Roger Williams’s. Banished by the Puritans, he established what became Rhode Island and created in 1636 “the first government in the world which broke church and state apart,” as John M. Barry writes in “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul,” a new book on this founding episode.
The idea that civil law and religious law are separate has coursed through American society ever since. It was a radical thought in 1636. It’s written in the Constitution now. And yet, with Rick Santorum riding high in the Republican primaries, it looks as if this issue will get another go-round.

Santorum, who makes Mitt Romney look blandly secular by comparison, has a well-known animus against accepted sexual practices that he believes defy “God’s law” — his words, not mine. He opposes sex for reasons other than producing babies, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, prenatal testing, and on and on. Contraception, he has said, gives people “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
Rick Santorum and his family prayed with a pastor at a campaign rally in a Cumming, Ga., church on Feb. 19.Erik S. Lesser/European Pressphoto AgencyRick Santorum and his family prayed with a pastor at a campaign rally in a Cumming, Ga. church on Feb. 19.
Most Americans won’t begrudge him his beliefs; he’s free to practice them, and imbue his children with them, as he did by home-schooling his family. But most Americans also will part ways with him when he advocates that civil code should adhere to his religious beliefs.
“God gave us laws that we must abide by,” he said early on the campaign. Notably, Santorum, a far-right Catholic, has taken issue with President John F. Kennedy, a moderate Catholic, for having said that his presidency would not be dictated by his faith. This view, Santorum said in 2010, has caused “great harm to America.”
So, bring on the argument, once again, with history as the guide. Williams was a Puritan convert who left Britain to escape religious persecution by a king who was head of state and head of the Church of England. After initially being welcomed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he was persecuted for his more enlightened views and put on trial. He faced the possibility of torture, or execution. Ultimately, he was banished.
In founding Providence as a place of religious tolerance, Williams drew Jews, Quakers and nonbelievers to his new colony, and gave up trying to convert the Indians. “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils,” he said.
In Barry’s book, Williams is charismatic and heroic, but also far ahead of his time. “The Bay leaders, both lay and clergy, firmly believed that the state must enforce all of God’s laws,” Barry writes. Williams “believed that humans, being imperfect, would inevitably err in applying God’s laws.” And certainly, those heretics who were hanged in New England paid the ultimate price for such errors.
The Mormons, for all the cheery optimism of their present state, were birthed in brutal theocracy, first in Nauvoo, Ill., and later in the State of Deseret, as their settlement in present-day Utah was called. The Constitution, separating church from state, press from government, had no place in either stronghold. And it took a threat to march the United States Army out to the rogue settlement around the Great Salt Lake to persuade Mormon leaders that their control did not extend beyond matters of the soul.
Santorum is itching to add another chapter to this book. Last weekend, he seemed to question President Obama’s faith, alluding to a “phony theology” that supposedly guides his presidency. Who knew there was a religious test through the gates of the White House?
He also used his Biblical beliefs to deny climate change, saying, “We are put on this earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth.” You may think he’s running for chief deacon, and should swap his sweater vest for a clerical collar.
But his followers know exactly what he’s talking about. In Wednesday night’s debate in Arizona, Santorum defended his religious-themed campaign: “Just because I talk about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it.” But in fact, he does. Santorum has long tried to get his Biblical principles taught to children in public schools — insisting that “creationism” should be in every American classroom, and trying to enforce that through riders to education bills when he was a senator. Better yet, the kids should read about Roger Williams, a man of faith, and of reason — the American model that will prevail long after Santorum has left the pulpit.