The most intellectually challenged man in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), strikes again with an extraordinarily dumb and incendiary statement. After an anti-gay TV show was cancelled due to protests, Gohmert called this a “fascist intolerance.”
The fact that increasing numbers of people are speaking out against anti-LGBT discrimination is interpreted by Gohmert as “exactly what we’ve seen [. . .] [in] the days of the Nazi takeover in Europe.”
Twisting the reality of long-standing discrimination against sexual minorities by religious zealots like himself, Gohmert claims that conservative Christians are victimized by being called “‘haters’ and ‘evil’.” Furthermore, in all seriousness, he claims that this increasing resistance religious bullies are facing is just a prelude to book burnings—you know, just like in Nazi Germany.
That is of course nonsense, pure hyperbole.
Being called out on your bigotry does not equal discrimination against you
It is quite telling how the American Christian Right perceives their declining ability to discriminate against LGBT people, or the fact that they get called out on their bigotry these days, makes them feel as if they are being victimized, that their freedom of speech is being taken away.
I obviously interpret freedom of speech very differently. You may be legally free to say whatever you wish (such as nonsensical Nazi comparisons), but you are not guaranteed isolation from any opposing views.
That, my friends, is because freedom of speech also applies to everybody else.
Last time I checked, there were no government-sponsored book burnings in the U.S. Neither should there be. Ideas should debated in the public space.
And in my opinion, the anti-LGBT hatred promoted by religious fundamentalists and other bigots is a bad idea that should go the way of the dodo for the sake of humanity.
By the way, self-proclaimed defenders of ‘Judeo-Christian Biblical marriage’ might want to consider the interesting variety of marriage arrangements in their holy scriptures. They will find that the often-promoted version of ‘one man, one woman’ is one among many.
“[R]adicals on the right” who will nominate candidates who “aren’t capable of beating the Democrats [have taken over the GOP].” – Pat Robertson, televangelist
The irony of this statement is not to be underestimated, coming from one of the key figures of the American Christian Right that has been the driving force behind the GOP’s cultural drift towards ultraconservative social politics in the past decades.
As one can easily discern from a random sample of Robertson’s statements, past and present, he is the very embodiment of the sort of religious extremist that turns off voters who might otherwise be interested in the GOP’s platform.
And then there was this ‘brilliant’ (moronic) piece of political analysis: An anti-gay pastor blames the Ukraine crisis of the past months on—wait for it—the gays.
And because of Russia’s state-sponsored discrimination of LGBTI people, this ‘Christian’ leader lauds Russian President Vladimir Putin as “defender of true human rights”—”true human rights” meaning the right to discriminate against the LGBTI community.
“Scott Lively Blames Gays For Ukraine Crisis, Lauds Russia As Human Rights Leader Of The World.” (Brian Tashman, Right-Wing Watch, 2014/03/11)
“‘[T]he hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities,’ especially the women’s studies departments, ‘should all be taken out and shot.'” – Austin Ruse of the ultraconservative Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) expressing his violent fantasies on American Family Association talk radio
Where to start with this? I do not share the assessment that most American universities are in the business of promoting “human-hating” or that ‘the hard left’ runs them. There are certainly many who are not Christian fundamentalists and socially liberal in higher education. But the idea of a communist takeover of American universities is insane.
And then there is the obvious: Fantasizing about murdering people you disagree with is clearly not the best way to show your own love of humanity. Take note, Catholic fundamentalists!
How Christian Fundamentalism Distracts From Real Political Problems in America
To fundamentalist Christians in America, the government shutdown, a potential debt default, and the destruction of the environment do not matter in the grand scheme of things.
A recent article on AlterNet by Amanda Marcotte highlights how Christian fundamentalists among the Republican party leadership and their base do not care about the actual detrimental real-world effects of their obstructionist policies such as the current (October 2013) government shutdown and the battle over raising the debt ceiling.
Tea Party libertarianism meets Christian fundamentalism
Her conclusion, based on various polls, is that the Tea Party Movement, whose economic libertarian ideology plays out right now in these grand showdowns, is also influenced by Christian fundamentalism more than usually assumed. A Pew poll showed that supporters of the TPM “are likely to cite religious belief as their prime motivation for their political views.”
Obamacare as sign of the end times
One strain of American Christian fundamentalists think that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially called Obamacare, will reign in the biblical end times and believe they must do anything in their power to stop it from happening.
Marcotte sums up that perception of reality in these terms:
Sure, crashing stock markets, soaring unemployment, and worldwide economic depression sounds bad, but for the Christian right, the alternative is fire and brimstone and God unleashing all sorts of hell on the world.
Anticipating the end of the world
On the other hand, some Christian fundamentalists with notable Tea Party credentials, including Rep. Michele Bachman, founder of the Tea Party Caucus and one-time presidential contender cheer what they interpret as signs of biblical end times (such as violent conflict in Syria). Bachman wrongly claims that Obama intentionally supports Al Quaeda by providing aid to Syrian rebel groups and opines that the conflict in Syria is indeed a sign of the biblical end times.
This fits neatly with a recent right-wing conspiracy on the Internet claiming that during the government shutdown, President Obama had paid out of his own pocket for a museum of Muslim culture. As it turned out, FOX News had unknowingly, or intentionally ignoring the dubious source, reported a story from satirical news site The National Report. In the past years, numerous baseless allegations have been made from the same general direction (Tea Party Movement) about Obama being a Crypto-Muslim (read terrorist).
Add to that the fact that in 2013, according to a poll by the liberal-leaning PPP, 20 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats believed that Obama is the biblical Antichrist (!).
A similar line of (un-)reasoning holds true for the issue of climate change. To Christian fundamentalists who intentionally ignore scientific facts, such as the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the human influence on climate change, climate change is not real or no problem. In their view, the world will either not end until Jahweh wills it so, or they do not worry because they believe in the return of Jesus in their lifetime.
Other-worldliness is the problem and offers no solutions to this world
As you might have guessed, I personally consider Rep. Bachmann’s end times beliefs to be dangerous, irrational, and irresponsible delusions, especially regarding US foreign policy in the Middle East.
From a reality-based outlook, the thinking of American fundamentalist Christians is no less scary than that of Iranian mullahs, Afghan taliban, or the Saudi religious police.
True, in America there is still the tiny obstacle of democracy, but it does not take much to observe how fundamentalist Christianity works to subvert it and attempts to transform the US into a theocracy. The school textbook wars, the battle over reproductive choice, or high-level self-styled holy warriors within the US military imagining themselves as Christian bulwark against the ‘Muslim hordes’ are just some of the fronts this confrontation takes place.
More generally, the problem of other-worldliness extends to fundamentalists of all religions, everwhere. In my view, any religious zealot eager to see the end of the world, especially those with (potential) access to nuclear weapons and other WMDs, deserves extremely close scrutiny and must be kept away from the ‘red button’ at all costs (preferably, by not electing them to any meaningful office in the first place).
Even if one discards the horrifying apocalyptic scenario of religious zealots using WMDs to bring about the end times and returns to the mundane issues of government and the economy, the prospects for those of us living in this world do not become brighter in the face of willful indifference.
A prolonged government shutdown will cause continued suffering among the weakest in American society. Representatives and Senators in Congress, most of whom are millionaires, will on the other hand never personally feel the effects of the power play they are engaged in. Even worse, a government default in the US would have detrimental effects on the interconnected economies of the world.
Those who merely look for another world for salvation and are willing to let this one go to pieces are the problem.
Yoga: Christian Conservatives Fearful Of ‘Satanic Possession’
Are you one of those stressed city-dwelling young professionals who need to relax once in a while? If you attempt to relieve your tension by doing yoga, you might be OF THE DEVIL, according to Christian conservatives.
For many, yoga is a trendy recreational activity. But because of its origins in Hinduism, Christian conservatives in the US are afraid that yoga may lead its practitioners away from the one true faithtm (theirs).
As the Atlantic reports, E.W. Jackson, a Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial contender in 2008, argued that as the aim of yoga “is to empty oneself [spiritually] . . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it.”
A number of conservative Christian clerics share this point of view. For example, Mark Driscoll, pastor of a megachurch called Mars Hill, which is based in Washington State and could be described as a neo-fundamentalist church for hipsters, called yoga “demonic” and warned his flock of attending such “demon classes.”
But it is not exclusively American evangelicals who seek to expose the evils of yoga. In 2011, the Vatican’s former chief exorcist (!) called yoga (and Harry Potter books, too) “satanic.” And in 1989, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later to become Pope Benedict XVI, said in 1989 that meditation, if used as a ‘spiritual’ practice, might lead to “moral deviations” among Catholics.1
Within the framework of belief in a demon-haunted world, all of this makes perfect sense.
A fun statistic: According to a 2012 survey by Public Policy Polling, 57% of all registered voters in the US, both Democrats and Republicans, believe in demonic possession. Among Republicans, the number is even higher at 68%.
[Update, 2013/06/13] E.W. Jackson, the former contender for Virginia lieutenant governor now claims about the opposite of what he implied in his 2008 book:
“I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. One of my ministers is a yoga instructor. Christian meditation [as opposed to Hindu yoga?] does not involve emptying oneself but filling oneself…with the spirit of God. That is classic biblical Christianity [emphasis mine].”
- In my opinion, the primary moral deviation among Catholics that the Vatican should invest more energy into correcting is its very own systematic and decades-long cover-up of child abuse. Once these child-molesting priests are convicted in courts rather than being shuffled to another parish, where they are free to continue the abuse, we may talk again about morality. ↩