Friday, February 16, 2007

When God is Right

With God on your Case

The agenda of the Christian right is more about politics than religion.

Ian Williams
Latest Guardian Comment is Free

February 15, 2007 11:38 AM

Increasingly it becomes obvious that the "Christian right" is a profound mis-description. They are conservative far more than they are Christian and are prepared to overlook all sorts of theological mayhem to advance their political agenda.

That was thrown into stark relief by the friendly reception that some of the Christian right have given to US presidential contender Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon.

The Mormons, the Church of the Latter Day Saints, suffer from a lack of seniority. They were still having visitations of angels within the last two centuries. To be fair, if you are going to accept a deity appearing on Mount Sinai with tablets of stone for Moses three millennia ago, then it is pure snobbishness be especially skeptical about the Angel Moroni appearing in upstate New York with the Book of Mormon on gold plates for Joseph Smith in 1823.

Indeed, while there is a lack of serious documentation for Moses, Smith's existence is well attested, even if we take the contents and unorthodox publication methods of the Book of Mormon under advisement. So from that point of view there is more credibility for the Mormons than Moses.

Most religions in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition tend to claim exclusivity on the truth, and that used to make them mutually repulsive. One thing that usually divides them is the cut-off date for the age of miracles. Does age wither the normal skepticism?

If you discount the strange Christian rituals for canonisation and the therapeutic benefits of assorted saintly body parts, once the resurrection was over, that was it for canonical Christian miracles. The Jews perhaps draw the line earlier, after the long-life environmentally-sound everlasting lamp in the temple celebrated in Hanukkah. Muslims tend to discount miracles after the Prophet went to paradise.

That raises another question: who was your last canonical prophet? Jews do not accept Jesus as a prophet, Muslims do, and so do Mormons. Muslims accept almost all Christian teachings, even the virgin birth, which is probably a bit of a stretch for some modern Christians. But if Christians say that Muslims are beyond the pale for accepting a subsequent prophet, where does that leave the Mormons with Joseph Smith?

So why should acceptance of the Quran be any more un-Christian than belief in the Book of Mormon? Compare the fuss at Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison's swearing his oath on a Quran compared with the relative acceptance of Mitt Romney's candidacy.

Similarly, conservatives have been accusing Barack Obama of attending a Muslim "madrasa" when he was child in Indonesia, and being a crypto-Muslim despite his ostentatious baptism. It is, of course, not only the instant prejudice against Islam but Obama's and Ellison's liberal views that make them targets. Conservatives attack Ellison for betraying America's Judeo-Christian heritage, but the Quran accepts much of Christian doctrine that Orthodox rabbis have indignantly rejected for two millennia.

In fact, the Vatican is way ahead of the protestant Christian right in this way. The bishops regularly team up with imams at international conferences to combat abortion rights and similar liberal aberrations.

Most heterodoxical of all is the Christian right's acceptance of the Washington Times as their house journal. It is owned by "Father" Sun Myung Moon, who supplants all the prophets by claiming to be the Messiah himself - which would have had him burnt for heresy in previous times, but espousing, funding, and propagating conservative causes and politicians, including the Bush dynasty, seems to have got him a free pass.

Imagine if a Palestinian or liberal Democrat had said the Holocaust was an "indemnity" for the Jews killing Jesus? Moon did and the Christian Right and their neocon chums will still take his cheques unblushingly. Of course, he is paying a lot more than the faithful used to pay for indulgences to get their relatives out of purgatory, but that was where the protestants who dominate the Christian right differed from Rome.

Oddly enough, while political candidates have to show some signs of religious affiliation to be acceptable, except for the conservatives, everyone is getting ecumenical. It does not really matter, and what is more, anyone who shows signs of overly serious attachment to a particular church or sect is likely to be unacceptable.

To be elected as a Roman Catholic, JFK pretty much had to foreswear papal infallibility even if he kept his infidelities discreet.
Rudi Giuliani, despite an atavistic tribal Catholicism that had him trying to de-fund the Brooklyn Museum for an exhibit he considered disrespectful for the Church, previously bulled up his political credentials by supporting abortion and announcing his divorce at a press conference without telling his wife. Now of course, he will be pushing a conservative agenda, along with John McCain, to get those Christian right votes. One feels sure that he will overlook Moon's campaign to bury crosses from churches - if the cheques come through.

In fact, the conservative obsession with the social agenda does have great potential for amusement. The people who are still on Bill Clinton's case for transitory fellatio a decade ago rapidly welcome Ted Haggard back into the fold now that he has been "cured" of his homosexual tendencies.

A joint ticket of Mitt Romney and Ted Haggard has potential, but what we really want is an old-style unreformed polygamous Mormon candidate to announce that he, or she, supports legalising not only gay marriage but polygamous/polyandrous marriages with any permutation of genders. If he supports low taxes, war in Iraq, the death penalty and abolishing abortion, will he (or she) get the conservative vote?

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