05 March 2007

Satan In The Pulpit (Part Three)

Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost! As the vice-regents of God, we are to exercise Godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors . . . in short, over every aspect and institution of human society!

Televangelist, government lobbyist and "ex-Gay" ministry founder 
D. James Kennedy, quoted in 2005

"Vice-regents of God"??? Yipe! Sure sounds like a madman's plan to take over the world, doesn't it? Ever wonder why people don't seem to understand the serious threat religious Right Wingers represent? Why isn’t there a huge outcry when Creationist candidates take over local school boards? Why isn’t anyone concerned that religious Conservatives now dictate what goes into most American school textbboks? Why isn’t the public alarmed that comprehensive sex education is being cast aside in favor of a discredited "abstinence-only" curriculum?

And why doesn’t the citizenry bristle with rage when the Civil Rights of LesBiGay Americans are repeatedly put to popular vote? What will it take to make them stop seeing the legal separation of Church and State as a matter of little or no consequence?

There's a new book on the market that may do the trick, if only enough people will read it. It's called American Fascists. The author, Chris Hedges, brings a unique perspective to the discussion of Right Wing religion. He's a former Presbyterian seminary student who changed his career path and went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times. However, Hedges never renounced his faith, so he isn't vulnerable to charges of "secularism" that will surely be leveled against him by ultra-Conservative critics.

He combines a keen sense of history and deep knowledge of Bible Scripture with a journalist's observance of how religion and politics interact with each other around the world; this is what sharpens his analysis of Bible Fundamentalist activism. He concludes that we should be afraid . . . very much afraid . . . of what's in store for us if we allow radical evangelism to go unchecked!

Hedges calls religious Right Wingers by an ominous new name, one we should all remember: Dominionists. They're part of a movement that’s Christian only on its face; at its heart lie craven political ambitions and frightening totalitarian goals! "This movement, small in number but influential, departs from traditional evangelicalism," he writes. Based in 14th century Calvinist theology, which teaches that Christians should control the affairs of state, Dominionist doctrine derives its name from the book of Genesis, where it reads:

GENESIS 1: 28, 29
God blessed them, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the Earth.

It's easy to see how these verses, taken out of context, might lend themselves to totalitarian designs. Chris Hedges says this is exactly what has happened. Wealthy Right Wing interests have been busy taking control of the American political process ever since the advent of the Nixon administration in 1968. Dominionist leaders such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Timothy LaHaye have been aiding them in this effort only for about 25 years. So ultra-Conservatives have been grasping at power for a very long time, but Hedges argues that mobilization of the Fundamentalist Christian demographic, a constituency made malleable by years of proselytizing from the pulpit, radio and TV, is really what has tipped the balance in their favor:

Dominionists now control at least six national television networks, each reaching tens of millions of homes, and virtually all of the nation's more than 2,000 religious radio stations, as well as denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention . . . the power brokers in the radical Christian Right have already moved from the fringes of society to the Executive Branch, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the courts. The movement has seized control of the Republican Party . . . the 2004 Election Day exit polls found that 23% of voters identified themselves as evangelical Christians; Bush won 78% of their vote . . .

. . . and with that vote, evangelical leaders won the allegiance of George W. Bush and the GOP leadership! Hedges writes about how Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld kowtow to Dominionist groups like RJ Rushdoony's secretive Council for National Policy. The degree to which the Bush administration and the Republican Party are beholden to Fundamentalists was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt in the Spring of 2005 when, at the behest of the religious Right Wing, Congress passed an intrusive law forbidding doctors to disconnect a brain-dead woman, Terri Schaivo, from life support. It was proven again in the fall of that year when a vacancy opened on the Supreme Court, and the far-Right lobby forced Bush to scrap his original nominee for arch-Conservative Judge Samuel Alito.

The President’s hostile policies regarding stem cell research, legal abortion, comprehensive sex education, condom distribution and global warming, as well as his antipathy for the press, all reflect Dominionist influence. Arguably, there has never in US history been a Chief Executive less accountable to the rank-and-file voter and more controlled by a special interest group than Mr. Bush. Dominionists are the ones to thank for that shameful state of affairs! You'd best believe that they mean to consolidate their hold on the branches of government, too! Chris Hedges reports on how Right Wing religion is embedding itself deeply into the consciousness of a new generation of American voters:

The National Center for Education Statistics shows a 41% growth in the total enrollment at Conservative Christian schools between 1992 and 2002 . . . students in Christian schools are being inculcated with . . . intolerant, heavy-handed political doctrine . . . children are not challenged with ideas or research that conflict with their Biblical worldview. Evolution is not taught. God created the world in six days. America, they are told, was founded as a Christian nation, and secular humanists are working to destroy (it) . . . they are taught, in short order, to obey.

He goes on to reveal how shamelessly partisan this so-called religious instruction really is:

The Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, one of the country's three major publishers of Christian textbooks, defines "Liberal" in its schoolbooks as "referring to philosophy not supported by Scripture" and "Conservative" as "dedicated to the preserving of Scriptural principles". And Conservative Christian schools, identified by their affiliation with one of four national school organizations that define themselves as evangelical and Christian, are the fastest-growing segment within the private school system . . .

Anybody who knows anything about American political discourse understands that "Liberal" implies "Democrat" and "Conservative" implies "Republican". So, millions of young, impressionable Christians are being indoctrinated to view the Republican Party as a legitimate arm of the Christian church! Worse, they're being taught to regard its current anti-Labor, anti-feminist, anti-environment, anti-social welfare and anti-Gay platform as an accurate reflection of the Messiah's teachings. After graduating from Dominionist-controlled primary and secondary schools, students often enroll in equally reactionary colleges like Patrick Henry University, Bob Jones University, Liberty University and Regent University. Much like pupils sent to radical Islamic madrassahs in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, they're being prepared to wage Holy War against non-believers!

Chris Hedges traces the modern version of Dominionism to a radical theocrat named RJ Rushdoony. In 1973, Rushdoony published a volume titled Institutes of Biblical Law, which Hedges calls "the most important book for the Dominionist movement." The book's text strongly suggests that its late author was a follower of Christian Identity theology, that racist belief system preached by such groups as the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan; among other things, he argued that Christians, not Jews, are God's chosen people, and that American courts should impose death sentences for violations of Levitican (Old Testament) law! Hedges reveals how closely Rushdoony's Christian Identity-inspired creed mirrors what has become, more or less, official government policy under the Bush administration:

Rushdoony was deeply antagonistic toward the Federal government. He believed the Federal government should concern itself with little more than national defense. Education and social welfare should be handed over to the churches. Biblical law must replace the secular legal code. This ideology, made more palatable for the mainstream by later disciples such as Francis Schaeffer and Pat Robertson, remains at the heart of the movement. Many of its tenets are being enacted through the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, currently channeling billions in Federal funds to groups such as National Right to Life and Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing . . . these groups can and usually do discriminate by refusing to hire Gays and Lesbians, people of other faiths, and those who do not embrace their strict version of Christianity.

"Satan in the Pulpit" continues with Part Four.