Saturday, September 6, 2008

Decoding This Election: It's All About God, Stupid!


When Palin pledged to govern with a “servant’s heart,” Christians, especially those with an Evangelical background, had no trouble recognizing one of their own, even without the convenience of a denominational label on Palin’s résumé. (It’s akin to a public figure making reference to a “near occasion of sin” or a “state of grace”; even without an official bio, Catholics would recognize a fellow member of the tribe.)

--John Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter, 8/302008

Code in the religious world comes in many forms. When I see the words plain reading, I expect an anti-evolution, plain reading, Bible thumping Christian that likely knows their Bible better than I do, but has difficulty in resolving its contradictions. Non-Christians wouldn't understand that word or its context. But it's not code.

When the word fundamentalist is used, I wonder just "which" kind? Would that be Islamic or Christian, and if Christian are we talking the likes of the Bakers, the Ahmansons, Pat Robertson, Falwell or Rick Warren? As if these are the only two religions that have fundamentalists. When I see the printed word screed, I auto-see creed, and my mind has to back up and start again. They are very different things.
But still, this is not code.

When a GOP speaker from Texas ended with the words, "Peace of the Lord be with you," I automatically added, "And with you." He is, advertently or not, signaling I am likely either an Episcopalian or Roman Catholic. That is code.

There was so much God Bless America-ing during both conventions, God's ears must be afire. That's no accident. Everyone is signaling their belief in God, as if we observers then just check off that box on some mental form and think, 'Okay, believes in God. Next.'

That religion is an issue in American Politics is unquestionable. Early propaganda e-mails (I received many) painted Obama as a Muslim when, in fact, a little due diligence on the receiver end could have settled that question quickly. Right wing radio still stupidly bounces that idea around on a daily basis. Obama is a Christian. But in an effort to separate Obama from Christianity, the inane e-mail.

But the basis of the Obama propaganda was political code: It addressed the wounds of 911 branding all Muslims as bad, evil, plane-crashing killers. Nevermind that all Muslims didn't do that. There were 19 on the planes a far cry from the "all" that makes up the world's second-most predominant religion in all of its forms.

Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic. Not all Roman Catholics bombed the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 killing 168 people.

Obama was sliced and diced over words from his preacher, eventually having to disaffiliate. McCain, likewise, ran into serious problems for proudly accepting the endorsement of a preacher later having to almost literally run away from that endorsement. The fiery preacher from ATLAH church in Harlem trashed Obama in the most bizarre of ways. Palin's church is now on the verge of holding the uber-whacky "Pray the gay away" program designed to "rehabilitate" gays into straight people. Don't fit in God's mold as we understand it? No problem. Change.

Now we find that Sara Palin is a member of a church that prays for the will of God as expressed through the Iraq conflict (importantly, remember that President Bush said God told him to invade Iraq) and in an oil pipeline. There is a strong difference here: These are not the words of her preacher, these are her words spoken at the Wasilla Assemblies of God Church where she was re-baptized when 12 years of age and which, in their Statement of Faith, acknowledges being a "plain reading" inerrant (read literalistic), dispensational church.

Perhaps both Obama and McCain deserved what they got. Maybe not. Surely the McCain case suggests that one should never be too desperate for religious entities to sign on just because you need the support of the evangelical community. And most certainly, never do that without proper vetting.

But Palin is different. These are her words spoken from her tongue in a language and tradition which is as much a part of her as her eye color. One really must watch the central portion of this video several times to get the real compliment. It flows as natural as a river. Remember, she is "making a deal": You go out and spread the word of God because I can't get things done unless the state of Alaska is right with God (and apparently of one religious mind). The press washed over this, but personally, I think it is the most disturbing part. It aligns God with political cause and result, the very reason our President says we are at war with Iraq. In a nutshell, Palin is saying that nothing gets done if it is not God's will. This is the same language and thinking that attributes blame to God when children are killed, hurricanes destroy, fires rage or hillsides fall onto homes. We are slicing and dicing God to serve our political purpose in the world and in all cases, exporting the blame to another. Palin is exporting the responsibility to another.

I can tell you this: If the CA governor dared insist that we cannot get a state budget done unless everyone in California was right with God, I don't know if the media would die laughing or typing.

The sculpting of God to fit political purpose has risen to a fever pitch. Evangelical blogs are ablaze, high on the new candidate that doesn't know one nation from another but can sure deliver lines well and comes off as the evangelical equivalent of an anti-abortion pro-rapture Rambo.

Liberal and progressive blogs, many of which began as religious blogs, are astounded that someone so obviously intellectually unfit was chosen and many of we women are embarassed that someone of such low caliber was chosen against some very fine intellectual and experienced GOP women who are, indeed, reformers and mavericks in the true sense--not the commercial "Coke" sense.

As well, many of we women on both sides of "the isle" are concerned about Palin being a breath away from the presidency. We don't ask each other what religion we are, nor do we care. This isn't about God, it is about the highest office in our nation; an office which can kill us, save us, bankrupt us, or help us. An office which chooses to spy on us, or respect our rights.

What began as a campaign of issues has become a farsical campaign of religious personality and has clearly reignited the culture wars. The outside world must be astounded. Would America really do somthing this stupid after eight years of lapsed judgement dragging our international reputation down a perverbial rat hole and plundering our economy?

The saddest part of all, really, is that the typically beaten will be beaten again unless we get this campaign out of the gutter of personality and back onto the issues. They cannot afford more abuse, and neither can we.

Here's my code: SOS.