Monday, October 13, 2008

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ballot Box

The New Yorker magazine carried a major article in its September 8th edition on the role of religion in American politics. The piece, written by Peter J. Boyer, a staff writer, is called "Party Faithful."

I encourage you to read it in its entirety here.

However, here are just a few highlights:

"Karl Rove wasn’t blind to the Catholic opportunity. When Bush assumed the Presidency, in 2001, Hudson became the volunteer chair of the new Catholic-outreach program of the Republican National Committee. In his book “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” Hudson describes himself as “the Catholic gatekeeper” for the White House. The Administration’s policies clearly reflected a Catholic influence. On Bush’s first workday, he acted to limit federal funding of non-governmental organizations that performed or actively supported abortion as a method of family planning overseas. By the end of his first term, Bush had delivered on every item on a wish list that Hudson says he presented to him at the time of their first formal meeting, in Austin, including its centerpiece, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which Bush signed in 2003. That year, Michael Novak explained Bush to an Italian readership in the journal Studi Cattolici. “Never have Catholics had so solicitous a friend in the White House,” Novak wrote. “So pro-Catholic are the president’s ideas and sentiments that there are persistent rumors that, like his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, G.W. might also become a Catholic.”

"By 2004, some JPII bishops were positing that John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, should be denied Communion, and had even suggested that casting a vote for him might be a sin."

Religious conservatives had been put off by tales of McCain’s temper, and by his ungallant termination of his first marriage. They remembered how he had lashed out against their own in 2000, condemning Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as “agents of intolerance,” and likening them to Louis Farrakhan and the Reverend Al Sharpton. “I am convinced Senator McCain is not a conservative, and, in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are,” the evangelical leader James Dobson said in a statement read to a national radio audience on Super Tuesday. “I cannot and I will not vote for Senator John McCain, as a matter of conscience.”

John Hagee is the pastor of a megachurch and he is very influential. He believes that "the antichrist will be the head of the European Union.

He and Falwell and Robertson share this enlightened view: After the defeat of the False Messiah, Jesus Christ will return to earth and reign in glory for a thousand years, before engaging Satan in one last battle, at Armageddon. " Falwell believed that the Antichrist, being a counterfeit of Christ, will of necessity be a male Jew."

That's encouraging.

But wait. It gets better.

In May, the Huffington Post put up an article citing a decade-old sermon in which Hagee suggested that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan, as it helped usher Jews back to Palestine.

Good to know.

Hagee is a man that McCain has repeatedly had to court and appease.

And what about this snapshot of the American voter:

"In casting Republicans as the dangerous God Party, Democrats had turned themselves into the Secular Party so resolutely as to seem almost hostile to religious faith—a perilous position in a country where ninety-two per cent of the population believe in God, more than two-thirds believe in the presence of angels and demons, and nearly a quarter have said that the attacks of September 11, 2001, are prophesied in the Bible."

Of course, McCain is not alone in having to answer to these self-appointed demi-gods. Franklin Graham is Billy Graham's son.

Franklin Graham asked Obama, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the way to God, or merely a way?” Obama responded, “Jesus is the only way for me,” and Graham left the meeting impressed.

There is a website called Catholics Against Joe Biden.

And where is the media?

George Stephanopoulos, of ABC, asked McCain about his position on gay adoption. He doesn’t support it, McCain said, but he added, “It’s not the reason why I’m running for President of the United States.”

I give full points to McCain for revealing in that answer what a dreadful, divisive, and irrelevant question that is from anyone pretending to journalism or honor of any kind. The question itself denies complexity. It is a burr under the saddle for simpletons.

And when McCain selected Governor Palin as his running mate, who applauded loudest?

McCain thrilled his conservative base further with the selection of the fervently Christian Governor Sarah Palin, of Alaska, as his Vice-Presidential nominee. (“A home run,” Reed declared to the Times, and Dobson called the choice “outstanding.”)

That is Ralph Reed and James Dobson, two hugely powerful Evangelicals and in my opinion tow of the most dangerous men in America.

Why have I quoted much of this article today and why do I encourage you to read it?

Unlike some of my Rabbi friends and unlike the celebrated religion writer in the Sun, I deplore the mix of religion and politics.

For me, the separation of Church and State is a fundamental principle of democracy.

For me, the enormous sway held in American political life by egomaniacal snake-oil salesmen with simplistic doctrinaire views is horrifying.

Beware falseprophets.

And at this juncture, we might add...and they are all false.