Monday, August 17, 2015

Betrayed by Republican Religion

The merger of supposedly conservative Christianity and the Republican Party is truly resulted in a toxic brew.  Hate and division are the main aspects of the merger and the hypocrisy that goes hand in hand with it is off the charts.  Sadly, things are not likely to get better any time soon as the aging GOP base becomes more susceptible to the snake oil and fake religiosity of Republican candidates.  Here are highlights from a piece in Salon that looks at the toxic brew: 
It is one of the great ironies of of contemporary American politics that, while The New Testament is further to the left than “The Communist Manifesto,” somehow the book and much of the religion it created have been subsumed by the cruelest, most selfish conservative politics I’ve seen in my lifetime, replete with outright hatred toward poor people, immigrants and every other unwashed commoner for which Jesus professed his most intimate love.

[T]he religious right has nothing whatsoever to do with faith, dogma, Jesus, or the afterlife. Instead, large sections of American Christendom exist solely to support reductive conservative politics as a hedge against progress. They are tools used by cynical politicians and bloviating television pundits to transform rage and tribalism into viewers and a compliant voting public. There’s no reason to think those who benefit will abandon such a calculated and successful effort just because gay people can now (thankfully) get married. If anything, the rhetoric on “religious freedom” and attacks on issues like women’s health has only gotten more outlandish over time.

Like many self-identified American Christians, I grew up calling myself such while adhering to few of the precepts and never going to church. I consider my secular upbringing the greatest gift my parents ever gave me, and it also made me understand how it feels to call oneself a Christian out of laziness. I was always far more defensive of the faith when I didn’t practice or understand it. I was insecure and perhaps a little embarrassed. These kinds of nominal “Easter Christians” are the easiest pickings for a GOP playing the worst kind of identity politics.

 After my failed attempt at “real” Christianity, the religious right bothered me much more than when I was ignorant of the Bible.

The political version of Christianity is first and foremost a media construct, like so much of our lives these days. It’s championed by Fox News, the 700 Club and a parade of has-beens and never weres, selling the “prosperity gospel” like so much snake oil. It’s a powerful and toxic stew that is as relevant to Jesus as professional wrestling or a discarded Playboy. Conservative Christianity in America is less a religion and more of a secret handshake, a group signifier of exclusion and moral superiority.

The people most injured by the Fox News version of Christianity are those authentic, compassionate people of faith. There are many churches with a sense of sacrifice and love. I’ve seen them. They are Lutheran or Catholic, Buddhist and even Mormon. They are filled with nice people doing wonderful things from a sense community, but these groups are in grave danger. They are now being sold a bag of lies about threats to “religious liberty.” They’re being made into political puppets, manipulated into violating the precepts of their own faith in the voting booth and in their own, incendiary, hate-filled rhetoric.

There is no better example of disconnect between faith and deeds (James 2:14) than one of the hottest topics driving GOP politics at the moment: immigration. There’s a cottage industry of people building careers off hating immigrants and the Latino community in general, starting with Trump but also Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingram and Todd Starnes . . .

No matter what the politicians and pundits claim to believe, they are only using faith to exploit an angry and ignorant populace with a collective Bible literacy that wouldn’t fill a shot glass.

As the Republican base becomes both grayer and whiter, more homogenous and religious, fake Christianity will become an even more important wedge for conservatives to drive between people and their self-interest. We don’t care if a Republican politician throws grandma out of the nursing home or takes food stamps from poor people, so long as he weeps during Sunday service.

The Fox News/GOP version of Christianity has already betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and would do so again, just to get the matching set of spinning rims. Even though it’s a 21st century fabrication, it still has power and danger. Liberal Christians and anyone who values a secular republic need to stop pretending it’s been defeated.

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