Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bob McElvaine on the Christianists and the national election

Bob did this post on 08/29/08. He reminds us that the Christianist movement is very much a partner of the Republican Party, however much they grumble in the occasional factional fight. He doesn't use the theological term here. But in addition to the politics, he's addressing one of the probably unsolvable problems of Christian theology, called "theodocy", the problem of suffering and the role if any that God plays in it. He also addresses a problem that was unknown at the time the Scriptures were written: how does the notion of God directing history fit with modern democracy? The Chrisitianists have their own answers. Democratic Christians generally have different ones, like the one he sketches out in this article.

"Bush & McCain & Pray for Rain"
by Robert S. McElvaine

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day

- Bono
It didn't rain in Denver yesterday afternoon and evening. It was a beautiful day.

Christianist leader James Dobson

What does the weather have to do with faith? Nothing--unless you're a right-wing pseudo-Christian.

Could it be that God has placed a block on the prayer line from James Dobson? A couple of weeks ago, just down the interstate in Colorado Springs, Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family organization put out an Internet video asking people to pray for rain.

Although one would think that a leading self-identified Christian might pray for peace, there's nothing inherently wrong with praying for rain . . . if the prayer is to bring rain to a region in the midst of a drought.

A genuine Christian would do that. It's not surprising, therefore, that Dr. Dobson's group chose not to pray for peace (which is of no particular interest to them; they are awaiting the Greater Gory of Christ in Armageddon).

Nor is it surprising that the weather they were asking people to pray for was "network-cameras-can't-see-the-podium rain" during Barack Obama's outdoor acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium last evening.

The weather turned out to be beautiful. We await a reaction from Dr. Dobson.

Dobson and the "Christian Right" are reduced to a variant of the slogan used by Boston Braves fans in the late 1940s, when the team had only two good pitchers, "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain":

"Bush and McCain and pray for rain."

It's nothing new for the pseudo-Christians of the "Religious Right"--the people I call Jesus Thieves in my new book, Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America--to be calling on God to use weather to further their political agenda. But they find it easier to see the hand of God in Weather of Mass Destruction after the fact than in praying for it in advance.

Dr. Dobson was calling for divine intervention in the weather for political purposes on the eve today's third anniversary of the devastation of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast by Hurricane Katrina. That terrible event on August 29, 2005, provided a gruesome opportunity for the amazingly disgraceful preachers of the Christian Right to vent their perversions of Christianity and promote their god of vengeance. Like 9/11, 8/29 became a number that distorters of the message of Jesus could use to transform that number they are always holding up at football games, "John 3:16" into: "For God so hated the world that he gave his death and destruction, that whoever does not hate gays should perish and have eternal damnation."

"We believe that God is in control of the weather," said Michael Marcavage, head of Repent America, an evangelical group calling for "a nation in rebellion toward God" after the Katrina catastrophe. His interpretation was that God decided to wipe out New Orleans because of homosexuality. "The day Bourbon Street and the French Quarter was flooded was the day that 125,000 homosexuals were going to be celebrating sin in the streets."

Following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Pastor Ted Haggard asserted to his mega-congregation that the waves hit the "number-one exporter of radical Islam," Indonesia. "That's not a judgment," he proclaimed, "it's an opportunity." One of Haggard's congregants said "he was 'psyched' about what God was 'doing with his ocean.'"

There's a word for such claims that God is a Terrorist: blasphemy.

But the advocates of divine weather of mass destruction run into trouble when they call for it in advance. In 1998, another of my nominees for Jesus' Ten Most Unwanted List, Rev. Pat Robertson, predicted that hurricanes would hit Orlando, Florida, after the city displayed support for gay rights. God apparently had something other than smiting those who declined to hate gays on his/her mind at the time. Orlando remained dry.

So did Denver last night.

God is neither a terrorist nor a political partisan.

[Historian Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College. His latest book is Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America.]

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