Friday, July 27, 2012

Actually No, Bishop Giminez, America Is Not Morally Depraved

Evangelicals to America: You are a sick, morally depraved country and only we God can save you!

Recently, an astonishing number of prominent Christian hardliners (and their political arm, the Republican party) have been openly bashing America. If you close your eyes and just listen, you could be forgiven for thinking you were hearing Islamist hardliners spewing their hatred, so similar is the anti-American rhetoric. Claiming that the USA is mired in "moral depravity, Christian Evangelicals are planning a rally in September called "America for Jesus" which makes explicit the intention of the religious right to continue to interfere in domestic politics.  By staging the event against a backdrop of revered symbols of American liberty, they plan to link religious fervor with foundational ideals in a very concrete way, even as they work to dismantle the Constitutional protections of the very freedoms for which the founding fathers so bravely fought.

Christian fundamentalists - led by the usual wealthy, powerful religious elites - intendto reap the ultimate harvest from the seeds of religious tension that they have been sowing for the past three decades. The organizers include some members of the core group behind the original 1980 "faith" rally which not only helped propel Ronald Reagan into office, but launched unelected conservative Christian elites as a shadowy, behind-the-scenes political powerhouse. Their goal, as always: Christian theocracy in the most powerful country on the planet, with themselves - naturally - holding the keys to what they would privately call the restored "kingdom of God".

Vote for me... or else!
"We don't feel a man can save America," Giminez said, referring to the presidential contenders. "God is our only hope." But wait! Since they claim that no "man" can save America and God is the "only hope", are the rally organizers actually suggesting that Christians ought to step away from the political arena, forget about the apparently useless goal of electing a "man" and simply start praying to God to deliver America from this so-called "moral depravity"? Perish the thought:

"The history of "America for Jesus" suggests a Republican leaning, however."

Ah, there it is. Substitute "Mitt Romney" for "God" and the real motive behind all the devout posturing and nation-bashing is uncovered. The implication that "God" is represented through Republican candidates is just another example of the blatant and openly theocratic rhetoric that has been the hallmark of this most recent and deeply disturbing Republican campaign.

Abandoning once and for all any pretense that they love America or respect the founding principles upon which this country is built, conservative Christians are going for broke. They hate America - they hate the constitutional, democratic Republic that she really is - they always have hated America and they intend to break the country down, once and for all, and rebuild it to their own, narrow, Biblical specifications. In an all-out drive to whip believers up into a frenzy of fear of God and confusion about the causes of their very human problems, these Christianist leaders intend to prey upon the vulnerabilities and superstitions of a population whose ignorance and radicalization is a direct result of their own deliberate campaign to destroy public education and inject religiosity into every aspect of public life - and it is possible that they could succeed.

Got that, America? Be very afraid...
The power of religion is the psychological fear it holds over people - and the power of religious elites is their ability to use that fear to control people, thus securing political power for themselves. During times of social or economic upheaval, religious elites can tap into the terror of the belief in a punishing god that is planted in most Christian children before they are old enough to defend themselves against the permanent psychic harm.  Religious leaders point to the inevitable manmade and natural disasters which have always plagued humanity and declare them "God's judgement" on America. They appoint themselves God's intermediaries and - because "God" is always silent and invisible - the people accept the authority of these "men of God" in the absence of an actual God. These elite conservative Christian men intend to seize power as cowed and frightened people bow to what they believe is the authority of God coming through His intermediaries - none other than these elite religious men.

The American political system was developed, after a hard, bloody struggle, for the people, by the people and of the people - with the will of the people intended to be the final authority on national matters. It was this strong national effort toward the first real attempt in history at self-governance by ordinary people striving toward Enlightenment ideals which was the worst nightmare of religious authoritarians. It was the American dream itself, long before its realization, which posed the greatest threat to the methods and machinations of religious elites who had long exercised hidden power behind the thrones of kings and openly via popes throughout history. Religious groups who had fallen out of favor and had fled Europe for the New World intended to set up new kingdoms for themselves in America, which the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States forbade. For the first time in human history, an entire people had adopted for their system of government one which not only empowered the people but which explicitly denied religion the power to influence national affairs. Religious elites began to fight back almost immediately and their weapon of choice has always been to use the fear of God as a cover for the almost treasonous declaration that they are answerable not to the American people but only to their silent, invisible God, for whom they are (conveniently) the only righteous intermediaries.

Fear of God and social pressure prevents most people from wondering out loud why God would need intermediaries at all. Because of childhood indoctrination and the pernicious saturation of every corner of society with religious influence and intimidation, fear of social ostracism prevents most from questioning the authority of these powerful religious men. Like many overwhelmed peoples before them,  religiously indoctrinated Americans may vote against their own interests, against their neighbors and even against their country if they allow themselves to be manipulated by religious leaders with a political agenda. If there are enough believers, they may democratically hand over to the theocrats the absolute power they have been plotting to capture for decades.

We have too many examples of countries whose religious leadership managed to convince a majority of its population that they (or more specifically, others among them) were a morally depraved people, that only "God" could save them from destruction and that a small cabal of elite religious men were somehow God's representatives on earth - the only bastion of righteous holiness between a morally debased people and the terrifying fury of an angry god. Iran comes to mind. Islamists may come from a different branch of monotheistic Abrahamic religion, but they have the same modus operandi. One might say they learned it from their Christian and Jewish forebears. The belief among those Americans not yet directly affected by religious oppression - that somehow a descent into oppressive theocracy can't happen here - is self-delusion. It can happen here. It is already happening here.

This guy claimed to
speak for God, too.
Religion is fueled by the relentless human thirst for power and it has been an extraordinarily effective weapon in the constant war by elites on the rights and freedoms of the common people. It is the tragedy of humanity that the faith of so many is misplaced - that the human desire for a sense of control and belonging and the human willingness to follow those who exude power and dominance has repeatedly led to actual mass self-destruction as entire societies have thrown away their human rights and freedoms and handed political power to their religious elites.

One senses that Christian hardliners feel they can almost taste victory. They are confident that they can mobilize believers at least as well as they have done before, because in this election cycle they have been able to get away with a more open and shocking agenda of social regression and bigotry than they have ever before dared to reveal.  They are excited, inflamed with power and fiercely, unapologetically dogmatic.Their decades-long campaign of chipping away at the underpinnings of a society struggling to form a more perfect union of diverse, hard-working peoples under the banner of a great, free nation is at last bringing down secular protections at an accelerated pace.  The ultimate reward of a conservative Christian nation where homosexuality is persecuted, women are returned to the reproductive slavery mandated by the Bible and racial and religious bigotry will once again reign supreme is within their sights and they are giddy with exhilaration.

But, settle down there theocrats!  I have a message for Bishop Giminez and her eager co-conspirators:

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is a land of diverse people - hardworking, industrious, innovative, tolerant, forward-thinking people. We are red, brown, white, black, and every beautiful shade of human skin. We are all American. We are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and every religious and political stripe. We are all American. We are female and male, gay and lesbian, bisexual and transsexual and every gender identity on the wide, wonderful spectrum of human sexuality. And we are all American.

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. We coexist in relative peace, as imperfectly as current human limitations might predict and as transcendently as human aspiration can occasionally soar. We have succeeded as a country because America is founded on principles which limit the power of religions to divide, conquer and destroy us. As messy and imperfect and unjust as much of our history has been, it has still stood out as a beacon of hope in a world of messy, imperfect and unjust systems of government which - nearly always using religion - continued to oppress and abuse their people long after the American journey toward 'liberty and justice for all' was haltingly begun. For more than 200 years, we have struggled and fought and inched our way toward realizing the dream - toward living the ideals - that those founding documents point us toward. We are a people evolving, with a roadmap to liberty in the Declaration of Independence and a blueprint for achieving it in the Bill of Rights. We will continue to negotiate and argue and push and pull toward a more perfect union of equal citizens because this country is a work in progress. And we are all American.
America is not mired
in moral depravity.
WTF is the matter
with you, theocrats?

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. It is you, Bishop Giminez, and power-hungry religious elites like you who are mired in moral depravity. It is you and the power-hungry religious elites who call injustice "justice", who fight relentlessly against equality and human rights and who seek to enshrine bigotry and misogyny into our laws without a shred of remorse or compassion for the human suffering you have caused. It is the conservative religious right which seeks to overturn the natural order of things - calling myth "science", calling oppression "justice", calling evil "good", calling what is immoral "moral". Those who call themselves "righteous", who pretend to speak for God are the ones who are mired in moral depravity. They have lost their moral compass, but their fellow citizens can help them find their way again. Because, we are all Americans.

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America does not need theocratic "saving". It needs protection from dangerous, ambitious, vicious religious power-mongers like you, Bishop Giminez, and the wealthy Christian elites that you represent. America needs saving from the approaching train wreck of Christian totalitarianism which you and your cohort wish to force upon us. America does not need "saving" by ambitious men claiming to represent their silent, invisible God. America needs saving from them. This nation has the tools to fend off this attack from the religious right. We have the diversity and the strength in numbers to resist a takeover attempt by one hardline fundamentalist faction among us. We can weather this storm. We are Americans!

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is mired in political and social turmoil which was deliberately created by the conservative Christian right-wing for their own political gain. It is you, Bishop Giminez, and the powerful, wealthy elites who seek to drag this entire country to the brink of disaster, just as religious extremists elsewhere in the world have done to their countries. It is you and the power-hungry religious elites you speak for who hope to precipitate a cultural crisis in this country out of which you hope to wrest ultimate control over everyone and everything that is American. You hope to destroy the America that is and build an America that you can control. But you underestimate the passion for liberty and justice in this country. You underestimate the American spirit. We are not all Christians. But we are all Americans.

Whether or not one believes there is a god - or any higher power that cares about the welfare of humanity - constant historical evidence has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that it does not reside within the ruthlessly implacable ambition of religious elites. The success of the great American experiment in nationhood has only been possible - painfully, lurchingly, imperfectly and minimally -  not thanks to religious belief, but in spite of it. Before the ink had even dried on the founding documents, religious groups launched their efforts to subvert the American dream of a more just and democratic Republic to their own theocratic agenda. And they have never ceased in their efforts since.

We are red, brown, white, black...
every beautiful shade of human skin.
We are all American. 
There is a seat at the national table for conservative Christians just as there are seats for every other kind of American. The difference is that conservative Christians want to banish everyone else except conservative Christians from the American table and in that sense, they are profoundly unAmerican. I only hope the basic goodness and common sense of the American people is awakened by this looming crisis at last and that we can come together for the good of the country before it is too late.

America can only be saved by Americans. By performing our civic duty: educating ourselves on the crisis before us, registering and voting in every election and holding our elected representatives to their Constitutional responsibilities, the American people can save America.  Let's not allow one religious sect to hijack the ship of state and sink the hopes and dreams of freedom-loving people everywhere. It is not the silent, invisible God, nor the men who claim to represent ultimate godly authority who speak for America. Only Americans speak for America.

Educate yourself. Register. Vote. Let no one speak for you. Speak up for yourself. We are all in this together and the future of this country depends on all of us. We are all Americans.

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