Monday, October 30, 2006

Onwards, Christian Soldiers

Garry Wills has written an article on the partly hidden Christianistization of the federal government. Sorry about the monster word, but it's necessary to distinguish these folk from the more common type of Christians. The Christianists are a fairly odd type of Christians as they seem to ignore most everything Jesus ever said. But they are the ones who find George Bush an almost-winged messenger from God, and they are the ones who have been given all the jobs where the federal government might affect the lives of women, for example. Yes, my dear sisters. We are the meat that is served to the wingnuts, because our rights are dispensable.

Here is an example from Wills's article:

One of George W. Bush's first acts as president—in fact, on his first day in office, signaling its importance to his evangelical supporters—was to restore a gag rule on aid to international organizations that counsel women on the subject of abortion.[29] Though abortion is legal in the US, the President was able by executive decree to proscribe its mere discussion in other countries if they are to receive money for their population problems. This was just the beginning of the imposition of moral limits on health measures abroad. Though the President was praised for devoting millions of dollars to preventing and treating AIDS in Africa, 30 percent of that money was earmarked for promoting sexual abstinence, and none of it was for condoms.[30] Religion trumped medical findings on what is effective.

Domestically, too, $170 million were lavished on promoting a policy of "abstinence-only" in the schools during the year 2005 alone. The Centers for Disease Control removed from its Web site the findings of a panel that abstinence-only programs do not work. A study of the abstinence programs being financed by the federal government showed how little medical knowledge mattered, as opposed to moral dictation. As Chris Mooney writes in The Republican War on Science:

In evaluating the curricula of these programs, the report found that the vast majority exaggerated the failure rates of condoms, spread false claims about abortion's health risks (including mental health problems) and perpetuated sexual stereotypes.... Perhaps most outrageously, one curriculum even claimed that sweat and tears could transfer the HIV virus. You might think that this would be a fringe claim even on the Right, but Senate majority leader Bill Frist, himself a physician, repeatedly refused to repudiate the notion of such transmission in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.[31]

The religious right had for years been spreading the unfounded claim that abortion causes breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute had correctly reported that no study has proved such a thing, but twenty-seven pro-life members of Congress pressured the NCI to remove that from its on-line fact sheet.

Another concern of the religious right was the morning-after abortion pill. Bush put one of the pill's known opponents, David Hager, on the board of the Food and Drug Administration that was to decide whether that pill could be sold without a prescription. Though Hager voted with the minority of three on the board against over-the-counter sales of the pill, as opposed to a majority of twenty-four, he raised such a clamor about the danger of teenaged girls using it, increasing the pressure from the religious right, that the FDA refused to implement the board's decision. Hager gave himself and God the credit for this, telling an audience at an evangelical college in Kentucky:

I argued it from a scientific perspective, and God took that information, and he used it through this minority report [sic] to influence the decision. You don't have to wave your Bible to have an effect as a Christian in the public arena. We serve the greatest Scientist. We serve the Creator of all life.[32]

Remember what happened to David Hager later on? That's the sort of man who was deemed suitable to decide over women's health and well-being by the Christianists. But then a veterinarian was deemed suitable for the job, too.

All this makes me breathe fire. But in certain ways an anti-woman program was to be expected once wingnuts were in power. What I didn't really expect was the religious takeover of the Iraq occupation and its horrible consequences:

God's war needs God's warriors, and the White House was ready to supply them. Kay Coles James had been the White House personnel scout for domestic offices. The equivalent director of personnel for the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority (headed by Catholic convert Paul Bremer) was the White House liaison to the Pentagon, James O'Beirne, a conservative Catholic married to National Revieweditor Kate O'Beirne. Those recruited to serve in the CPA were asked if they had voted for Bush, and what their views were on Roe v. Wade and capital punishment.[39] O'Beirne trolled the conservative foundations, Republican congressional staffs, and evangelical schools for his loyalist appointees. Relatives of prominent Republicans were appointed, and staffers from offices like that of Senator Rick Santorum. Right moral attitude was more important than competence.[40]

That was proved when the first director of Iraqi health services, Dr. Frederick Burkle, was dismissed. Burkle, a distinguished physician, was a specialist in disaster relief, with experience in Kosovo, Somalia, and Kurdish Iraq. His replacement, James Haverman, had run a Christian adoption agency meant to discourage women from having abortions. Haverman placed an early emphasis on preventing Iraqis from smoking, while ruined hospitals went untended. This may suggest the policy on appointments that put Michael Brown in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the parallel is insufficiently harsh. Chris Matthews brought it up on his television show while interviewing the Washington Post reporter who had covered the CPA in Iraq, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who said, "There were a hundred Browns in Iraq."[41] But there were Bible study groups in the Green Zone.

Bible study groups in the Green Zone... Notice the odd echo here. Fundamentalist religion clashing against fundamentalist religion. God clashing against God.

What would Jesus say about that, I wonder?