Tuesday, August 23, 2005


It's the new black, the new fashion choice for politicians everywhere. Never mind that we got rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, they are growing back there, too. And something rather similar is planned for Iraq. Even for the United States, at least by some of our future politicians.

The Los Angeles Times has the story, via Kos, and it is a frightening one for all us pagan liberals:

Nearly every Monday for six months, as many as a dozen congressional aides — many of them aspiring politicians — have gathered over takeout dinners to mine the Bible for ancient wisdom on modern policy debates about tax rates, foreign aid, education, cloning and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Through seminars taught by conservative college professors and devout members of Congress, the students learn that serving country means first and always serving Christ.

They learn to view every vote as a religious duty, and to consider compromise a sin.

That puts them at the vanguard of a bold effort by evangelical conservatives to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God.

"We help them understand God's purpose for society," said Bouma, who coordinates the program, known as the Statesmanship Institute, for the Rev. D. James Kennedy.

Neat. And very much like the urgings in Iraq to base the constitution there on the Islamic Sharia law. But somehow we give the American Talibanites a free pass, somehow we judge their religiousness as harmless, whereas the religiousness of other fanatics is seen as potentially problematic. Yet in this very country there are young politicians like this:

Greene, the deputy press secretary for a Republican congressman from Florida, signed up for the Statesmanship Institute in part because he felt his Christian ethics were under constant assault — from lobbyists offering him free steak dinners, from friends urging him to network over beers.

The seminars proved a revelation. In one, Greene learned that ministers ran many of America's earliest schools. He hadn't thought much about education policy before that class. Now he plans to fight for history lessons on the Founding Fathers' faith, science lessons drawn from the Book of Genesis and public school prayer.
Growing up in rural West Virginia, Echard believed passionately in her church's teachings against abortion, but thought little about such issues as economic policy or foreign trade.

The institute gave her a framework for evaluating those topics.

Now the director of the Eagle Forum, a conservative lobbying group founded by Phyllis Schlafly, Echard says Jesus would approve of a call for lower taxes: "God calls on us to be stewards of our [own] money."

She dips into the Bible to explain her opposition to most global treaties, reasoning that Americans have a holy obligation to protect their God-given freedom by avoiding foreign entanglements.

"The Scripture talks of taking every thought and making it captive to Christ, and that's what the Statesmanship Institute helps us do," Echard said.

Echard's beliefs about what the Bible says about taxes are interesting, as there is much in the Bible that could be interpreted as meaning the exact opposite of what she has come up with. Yet only one type of biblical writings gets credit here, and this is the type that supports the Republican agenda.

Fundamentalism is a difficult approach to follow, especially as all the holy books are full of contradictory messages. It wraps a person into a pretzel to try to accommodate them all simultaneously, so why bother trying? It's so much easier to pick just those bits that support one specific view, and that is exactly what all fundamentalists do. Which is insincere and dishonest and slimy, if you are to be a real fundamentalist. Real fundamentalists obey ALL the rules, not just the ones that seem nice.

It is important to reveal the shallowness of America's fundamentalists. It is also important to say aloud that they are really, truly, honestly trying to take over this country, and if we remain politely distant of their campaigns they will succeed. And I, for one, have no desire to live in Gilead.