Traitorous Values and Caffeinated Politics
Some people say you should avoid discussing politics or religion with your friends, so here we go, comingling both just like Glenn Beck and his Mad Hatters do:
Code words and jingoistic imagery make me cringe. I flinch whenever I hear politicians utter the seemingly benign word “family” to describe their values because I suspect they are specifically excluding LGBT families. I distrust people who fly American flags from their car-radio antennas or begin meetings with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance because I assume they don’t fully appreciate how diversity of opinion makes a country free.
Many of my friends tell me to “get over it.” Don’t let our opponents usurp symbols that belong to us as much as to them. We are family, as the song goes, and we certainly have as much right to wave the flag as any of the “social conservatives” (an antithetical catchphrase) who are wailing about the fall of the Republic now that modest health-care reform has passed democratically (small d) into law. Still, I am uncomfortable.
To my mind, perhaps the most suspect of all political buzzwords is “Christian.” I am especially wary of those who are too quick to identify themselves with that moniker, even though I was raised as one. The teachings of Jesus have been slandered so often by his followers in specious campaigns to belittle other human beings that I frequently forget that their leader was nothing like them. Christ was unabashedly liberal—and now he has been “outed” as such by none other than chalkboard-screeching philosopher Glenn Beck.
Yes, the inimitable news “analyst” (ahem) recently warned his minions that many Christian churches are rooted in the traitorous value and sorry practice of—here comes the code word he hates—“social justice.” Beck urged his followers to flee from congregations that commit to such a heinous creed and “go find another parish.” He compared the offending churches to communists (and even Nazis) in their advocacy of “economic justice, rights of workers [and] redistribution of wealth.” It is precisely because of the attitude of such Christ-emulating devils that something as disturbing as a federal mandate for health-care coverage was able to find enough Congressional votes to become the law of the land. In other words, just blame Jesus.
Personally, I would like to thank “Professor” Beck for finally becoming the completely cracked pot he long has aspired to be. Because of his tirade, I am reminded of what I respected about Christianity before hard-line conservatives seized control of the bully pulpit in so many affiliates. I’d also like to thank journalist Bill Press for a recent column in which he pointed out that Beck is absolutely correct: Real Christians are not self-centered souls who gripe that people less fortunate and those facing financially crippling health crises are failures at life, thereby meriting no public intercession. (I recently heard a young man earnestly say that if the Obama administration succeeds in making health care accessible to all, the next thing it will try to do is give every low-income American a complimentary high-def television. Yeah, right. And dogs will be legally required to marry their masters.)
A religious scholar and former seminarian, Bill Press wrote that he was “taught that our responsibility as Christians includes not just striving for self-perfection, but also helping others.” He lists some of the prominent Christians who exemplify the ideals Beck rejects: St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Press also quotes Sojourners magazine founder Jim Wallis who can cite more than 2,000 scriptural verses addressing the importance of helping the poor, including one that should have Glenn Beck gasping for air: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Clearly, there are multiple forms of Christianity from which shoppers can choose. One focuses on a God of love who encourages human beings to support and protect one another. Another pushes a less compassionate God who endorses survival of the fittest, fear-mongering, and personal greed. Which form of religion the founder would prefer seems pretty clear to me—despite the boisterous clamoring of an unfortunately large number of Americans.
Most of those complaining loudest are lucky enough never to have been without adequate medical insurance in a time of crisis, and they myopically fail to realize how their situations might change during a typical roller-coaster life. Those who decry the government’s authority to regulate insurance coverage could save their beloved nation a great deal of money if they would voluntarily refrain from accepting Social Security, Medicare and Disability benefits.
With so much brouhaha over the new healthcare law, polls indicate that both major parties may be in trouble this election year: the GOP for doing little but whining, the Democrats for striving so hard to accomplish something complicated. For the disaffected right, the Tea Party movement is offering a fresh brew of steaming political venom. But is there an antidote for folks whose views are not quite so retrograde?
The alternative may be taking shape in the form of The Coffee Party USA, with its slogan “Wake Up and Stand Up.” Although the cleverly named collective could be as short-lived as a caffeine buzz, the java Joes quickly signed up 200,000 fans on Facebook, inciting the formation of dozens of local chapters. Most of the discussions on the party’s internet boards appear to be relatively progressive and intelligent. The dialogue is limited only by the Coffees’ pledge to promote “reason and civility in public affairs.” To which some might respond, “What fun is that?”
We are in a time (not unlike the 1960s) when turbulence and politics are practically synonymous. To espouse civility may ultimately be the most conservative stance taken by any political organization this election year.
Bill Sievert’s new LGBT comic mystery novel “Sawdust Confessions” is available from all major internet booksellers and from Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia. Contact Bill at http://billsievert.blogspot.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.