Campaign catchphrase of the great
Ed Koch, mayor of New York
Der amerikanische Autor und Edgar-Gewinner Thomas Adcock berichtet exklusiv für CULTurMAG in seiner wöchentlichen Kolumne von dem täglichen Wahnsinn des US-Wahlkampfs. Heute: Religion und Wahlkampf.
Jesus Christ for President
Dear Reader: Should you take umbrage by so much as a whiff of blasphemy, partake here of no further scurrility that would injure your spiritual sensibilities. I shall be offended not in the least if you opt to turn your attention, post haste, to some more pleasing publication.
But, if you’re still with me—
Consider my devout belief in the God of Irony as America’s one true political deity. Yea, verily, His spirit is evident in the words and deeds of those many pious souls engaged in the nation’s long and grotesquely sanctimonious presidential election process, which comes to blessed conclusion on November 6th.
How else but the God of Irony to explain discrepancy between a) the revolutionary American proposition that church and state should stand as separate entities, codified by constitutional prescript, and b) candidates for the presidency, along with big and lesser shots within our two major political parties, kowtowing to gibberish-speaking bible thumpers?
Inevitably, perhaps, this season’s election contest—an historically significant one, between the first African American president of the United States, wrongly believed to be Muslim by nearly twenty percent of the electorate, or at least Lucifer; and Mr. Romney, first contender of Mormon creed, and former evangelist within his church—has prompted the candidacy of Jesus Christ himself. (Partisans of such candidacy are oblivious to the heresy in which they are engaged. O, Irony!)
According to the Christian Post newspaper, the evangelist and Internet journalist Bill Keller—no relation to poor Bill Keller of the New York Times—has cut to the chase, as is said by Hollywood producers of action flicks. Mr. Keller has urged the nearly three million readers of LivePrayer.com to cast their ballots next month in favor of the “Vote for Jesus” write-in campaign.
Mr. Keller—the one from LivePrayer—maintains ecumenical contempt for Barack Obama, the Democratic Party incumbent, and his Republican Party opponent, Mitt Romney. As he explained in July’s update on the Vote for Jesus effort:
“How can a Christian in good conscience vote for President Obama, who has proven to be the most pro-baby killing, pro-radical homosexual…in our nation’s history? On the other hand, how can a Christian in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney, a fifth-generation member and past priest of the Satanic Mormon cult…founded two-hundred years ago by a documented con-artist, racist, pedophile, polygamist and murderer named Joseph Smith?”
The candidate Jesus was apparently not asked to comment for Mr. Keller’s update. Presumably, the Christly campaign manifesto incorporates much in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. And Mr. Keller’s brand of gibberish is testament to the American political experience, especially of late. Woe unto office-seekers who would dismiss the ravings of Mr. Keller and his comrades.
In fact, Democrats and Republicans accept religious ravings as natural, if somewhat outré, in the course of their campaigns. Whoever lives in the White House makes near daily pleadings to God for national blessing and military protection. In the heat of campaigning, no politician with hope of victory gives a major speech without invoking religion, which in my country is understood to be of steadfastly Christian weltanschauung.
In America, religion is serious business—literal, metaphorical, and deadly.
President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, is the Republican scion of a wealthy Texas oil family. As president, he made war on oil-rich Iraq because, as he told journalist Kevin Philips, “God told me to invade Iraq, and I invaded.” (The quote is from Mr. Philips’ 2005 book, “American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.”)
Mr. Obama—a Democrat, as noted earlier—is no stranger to ministerial counsel. He invited a prayerful liaison with the evangelist Billy Graham soon after his inauguration in January 2009. Such sessions are now a rite of passage from one administration to the next. Soon afterwards, the newly anointed President Obama recounted the Graham blessing by assuring readers of the religious press, “I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment.”
Likewise, Mr. Obama dutifully attends the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., a gathering of ecclesiastical dignitaries and god-fearing politicians for the purpose of sharing ideas and strategies on how “faith” and government might coalesce for the good of the land. Last February, Mr. Obama told this year’s flock, “I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion.”
And yet, virtually all authors of the U.S. Constitution were highly suspicious of religiosity. Hear James Madison, America’s fourth president, from 1809-1897: “Religious establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects. Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.”
Tonight, during the second of three “debates” between Messrs. Romney and Obama, religion shall certainly be part of the discourse, broadcast to tens of millions. During last week’s “debate” between contenders for the vice-presidency—incumbent Joe Biden versus Congressman Paul Ryan—both men were quizzed on their well-advertised fealty to Roman Catholicism.
“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life, or from their faith,” said Mr. Ryan, clearly a man of high office unfamiliar with the doctrine of church-state separation.
And counter to the harshness of his federal budget proposal, with severe funding cuts to charitable programs that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned as violative of Catholic teaching and downright immoral, Mr. Ryan added, “My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable.”
Mr. Biden’s response was refreshingly observant of the Constitution. On one of the hottest of political buttons, no less, he said, “I accept my church’s position on abortion as a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. I accept that position in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims, and Jews. I just refuse to do that, unlike my friend here, the Congressman.”
The genesis of America’s doctrine of church-state partition trace back to the dwindling years of the eighteenth-century, when colonial leaders took exception to certain abuses of British rule, including the imposition of a tax earmarked for the support of the Anglican Church. The founding fathers were probably the first statesmen of the world to actually take the command of Jesus seriously as a primer for revolution: as recorded in the synoptic gospels, Jesus declared, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Two centuries following the Jesus-inspired mutiny, firebrands of American Christianity are as determined as sharp-toothed squirrels burrowing into attics in their pursuit of a civic fundament contrary to the directive of God’s Only Begotten Son. They would have secular government subsumed by a strangely merciless theology; they see this as urgently required in a nation supposedly sinking into a swamp of socialistic godlessness under the leadership of a supposedly Kenyan-born, America-hating communist heathen. Religious dominion over all political creatures that creepeth upon the Earth is indeed the prayer of zealots who do what they do, and spew what they spew, in the name of a famously merciful Nazarene carpenter of the Jewish persuasion. Oy vey, the irony!
Rather than being laughed off the stage as bad actors in some lowbrow comedic theatrical, television evangelists and holy-roller radio ranters, and theological grifters the likes of Mr. Keller hold profound, bipartisan sway within the political establishment of the United States—never mind many fateful hypocrisies, due to notoriously weak flesh that so stoutly embodies the aforementioned men and women of the cloth.
For their part in the great political passion play that is the American presidential election, Messrs. Obama and Romney perform diffident roles, for better and for worse. They dare not scoff at the cast’s more ludicrous players. Genteel neutrality, as best mustered by those who would be president, is the best line of defense against the wrath of uber-Christian top bananas—Mr. Keller and the lot. Audiences of burlesque are multitudinous, after all; more importantly, they are voters obedient to dubious dicta from impresarios of proselytism.
Excepting Mr. Biden’s charmingly retro view on religion’s place in American society, scarcely a day goes by that Washington’s political vicars and acolytes fail to issue paeans to churchly authority and fevered congregants. Religiosity of such amplitude is unheard of most countries, save for those of the Middle East.
But now, another paradox.
As reported in the New York Times of October 5th, the high court of Germany has affirmed the right of Catholics to leave their church—and therefore avoid paying a tax that used to support religious institutions, a highly contentious decision fought tooth and nail by German bishops.
“The tussle highlighted the long-established but increasingly troubled symbiosis between church and state in Europe that, repeated polls have shown, grows more secular-minded as each generation moves further away from the church,” according to The Times account. “Like many European countries, Germany’s churches are independent but function in partnership with the state, which collects taxes from members of established religions and then funnels the revenues back to the religious institutions, for a fee, in keeping with a nineteenth-century agreement following abolishment of an official state church.”
As for Candidate Christ here in America, the upstate New York journalist Michael John Sullivan predicts that Jesus will decline to vote for himself on November 6th.
“He would leave the election booth in disgust,” Sullivan wrote in Patch, the online journal. “Instead, He would stand on the highest mountain, look down on us as we silence our cell phones and pagers to listen, and say, ‘My children, you have created quite a mess here. Take your time to fix it. It’s going to be a while before my Father welcomes you anyway.”
Currently circulating in the right-wing blogosphere is an unintentionally funny, low-budget film clip sure to delight birth control opponents who conflate contraception with all manner of what they deem to be sexual deviancy. Produced by the Children of Mary, a Roman Catholic order of nuns based in Ohio, the film title is “You Deserve to Know the Truth: Contraception.” Truth is primarily drawn from a 1970s academic study of questionable worth in which a male monkey becomes “confused” when she-monkeys are injected with birth control drugs.
The film’s female narrator intones, “With the prevalence of contraception, it’s no wonder adultery is on the rise, as is promiscuity, homosexual behavior, and even abortion…Contraception is the path that has led us to the culture of death that is prevalent in the world today…If someone you know is contracepting [sic], tell them to stop. It will destroy them.”
Scott DesJarlais is an anti-abortion, “family-values” Republican Party freshman congressman from Tennessee and a man of loud Christian conviction. Despite the recent revelation that he pressured one of his mistresses to seek an abortion—this according to the transcript of an audiotape acquired by the online Huffington Post—Mr. DesJarlais is likely to be returned to office next month.
The mistress in question was a patient of Mr. DesJarlais during a medical practice prior to his electoral triumph over a Democratic Party incumbent in 2010. On tape, the lovers bicker about out-of-town abortion arrangements: Mr. DesJarlais insists time is wasting; his visibly pregnant lover stalls, upset that the lusty father of her incipient child is cheating on her.
Meanwhile, earlier revelations of sordid details connected with divorce proceedings a decade ago between Mr. DesJarlais and the ex-Mrs. Susan DesJarlais have been revived by local media. Among the details were two instances of Congressman DesJarlais decidedly non-family values behavior.
According to divorce court records, Mr. DesJarlais is alleged to have terrified his wife by holding a gun barrel in his mouth for several hours. In another instance of alleged terror, his wife said he “dry fired” the gun. Mr. DesJarlais told the judge that such claims were false.
Opinion polls in Tennessee predict a handy victory Mr. DesJarlais over Democratic challenger Eric Stewart, a member of the state legislature.
Also making news this week are three other sturdy Christian politicians, Republicans one and all from the Deep South state of Arkansas:
• In a series of letters published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper, State Representative Loy Mauch hailed slavery in America as a glorious institution; compared President Abraham Lincoln (born 1809, assassinated in 1865) to Karl Marx and Northern generals during the U.S. Civil War to the Wehrmacht high command; and proclaimed the Confederate flag, the Southern rebel banner seen by most Americans as an emblem of virulent racism, as “a symbol of Christian liberty.”
• In his recently published book, “God’s Law,” Charles Fuqua advocates the death penalty for “rebellious children,” in accordance with Old Testament procedures in the Book of Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
Mr. Fuqua, a former staff lawyer for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, writes: “[A] child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents.” His book also calls for expelling Muslims from the U.S. as a means of preventing a “bloody revolution” called for by a conspiracy of Islamists and “anti-Christ” liberals.
Mr. Fuqua is a former member of the legislature, where in 1997 he served on the Arkansas House Committee on Children and Families.
• Jon M. Hubbard, an insurance company executive, seeks re-election to the Arkansas House of Representatives. In his 2010 self-published campaign proclamation, “Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative,” Mr. Hubbard defends nineteenth-century enslavement of Africans.
He writes, “[T]he institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.”
In his successful run for office two years ago, one Mr. Hubbard’s press releases declared his political crusade: “We cannot allow those whose goal it is to destroy America to direct the course of this nation.”
Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Adcock
THOMAS ADCOCK is a novelist and journalist based in New York City. Winner of the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, given by Mystery Writers of America, his books and articles have been published worldwide. Writing as Tom Dey, he is currently completing a new novel titled “Lovers & Corpses.” Mehr zu Thomas Adcock hier und hier.