Tuesday, April 4, 2006

A Wake-Up Call Over Arrogance and Power

If you want yet another reason among the gazillion that make America a great country, witness how it treats the arrogant and powerful when they become too sure of that power.


Tomdelay_2Tom DeLay decided today that ‘for reasons of party unity’ he will resign from the House of Representatives and not run for his old seat this coming fall. Horsefeathers!. Tony C. Rudy, DeLay’s former deputy chief of staff just copped a plea and Tom suddenly became hotter than a $2 pistol as the pols waited for whatever shoe might drop from Rudy’s informed lips.


All bets are off for whether Tom will find his polished shoe stuck in Jack Abramoff's mud. But the old bluster and bluff of ‘I’ll be back’ has tanked. A DeLay who’s naked as a jay-bird (a minor pronunciation away from jail-bird) won’t garner a whole lot of Republican trial-costs support. Unless it’s hush-money. Hushing is hard to do under oath, Tom.


The braggarts fall hard. Newt Gingrich can give chapter and verse about that.


The next to fall, although it may be a few years down the line, are likely to be among the Christian conservative broadcasters. Last year, Harper’s Magazine ran a piece by Chris Hedges subtitled Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters.


Hate and religion? Tell me it isn't so. An interesting topic for the small-denomination preachers from their more humble pulpits. Hedges writes,

Since the reelection of George W. Bush in November, the rhetoric on the Christian right has grown triumphal and proud; rumors of spiritual war are abroad in the heartland, and fervent whispers of revolution echo among the pews and folding chairs of the nation’s megachurches.

Triumphal and proud caught my eye, because Newt and Tom were both triumphal and proud before they became disgraced and discarded. Dis-graced; to fall from grace.


Frankwrightnrb_1We are overwhelmingly a Christian nation, although at least up until recently, we have been a religiously inclusive nation as well. Hedges’ piece gave me pause about the Christianity that I have always known,  based in modesty, charity and good will.

Frank Wright, the new president of National Religious Broadcasters, takes the stage.  He promises the audience that as the NRB president, he will fight to block the passage of hate-crime legislation. “For the first time in history, representatives and senators may pass hate-crime legislation,” he says, “which is one step to oppose what you do as against the law.

JamesmacdonaldpreacherDoes that square with what you know to be Christian charity? Chris Hedges continues,

Illinois evangelist and radio host James MacDonald, pounds home the theme of persecution by “secular humanists” who want to destroy the values and faith of “Bible-believing Christians.” MacDonald runs a church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and is heard regularly on more than 650 Christian radio outlets.

Power enough in 650 stations I guess, but just who is it that persecutes MacDonald and his particular brand of faith? The very separation of government from his church (and all others) that he decries as persecution, is what prevents his branded version of Christianity from being oppressed or suppressed.

He continues, “Ages of faith are not marked by dialogue but by proclamation” and  “there is power in the unapologetic proclamation of truth. There is power in it. This is a kingdom of power.” When he says the word “power,” he draws it out for emphasis. He tells the crowd to shun the “persuasive words of human wisdom.” Truth, he says, does “not rest in the wisdom of men but the power of God.” 

One wonders just where the persuasive words of human wisdom come from in his mind, if not from God, why they are so worthless compared to proclamation? But the subtext is power. Not yours, certainly not mine, not even God’s, although he claims it. Perhaps he means power as transmitted over his 650 stations.


Jesus delivered God's word in humility and poverty and sacrifice. These evangelists sacrifice nothing, an absolute zero in the sackcloth-and-ashes department.  The word as Jesus spoke it, came through 2,000 years without the need of a TV Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Or Christian radio's MacDonald.


The threat to religion doesn’t come from government or the ACLU, it comes from the arrogance of preachers with too large a voice. Stentorian tones may stir the blood, but theirs is a religion of division, a diatribe against all that is not them. Syndicated TV evangelists and their counterparts on religious radio fall in love with their own voices, the stretch of their power as well as that of their limousines. Drunk with temporary political power, they seek to be kingmakers on the national political stage.


The price for the vote they claim to deliver is Christian fundamentalism.


Political fundamentalism brought down Newt and Tom. Moslem fundamentalism has paralyzed a third of the world. We’re not yet ready in this country to march behind religious demagogues. Our national lack of faith in either political party is prescient.


In keeping with the precedent of Joe McCarthy, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, America is poised once again to renounce the fundamental in favor of the inclusive. It's our nature. We are an inclusive nation.
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.