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Inheriting the Wind: Iowa & the GOP 2015

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I wonder about the people now leading the Republican Party, especially the Christian Right and the politicians that fall all over themselves to ingratiate themselves to get their vote. I wonder if they have any clue as to the long term damage that they are doing to that party, their faith or to the country.

I should know something about this, because for most of my adult life I was a Republican, and at times subscribed to some of the same beliefs as the current leaders of the Religious Right that dominate my former party. To watch the events of this weekend, like so many others of the past couple of decades before, was mind-numbing.

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Mike Huckabee. the Trinity of Evil Incarnate: Preacher, Pundit and Politician 

The establishment GOP wants the votes of the Christian Right and the Tea Party, however, despite that they really don’t want them running the party. The establishment wants to have it both ways. They want to look like the boring conservatives of the pre-Reagan and Gingrich eras but they need to capture the votes of a base that is anything but that. That is why I find the potential candidacies of Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney so amusing. Neither man can meet the ideological and religious litmus tests of the people who helped the GOP capture both the House and Senate and neither stands a bat’s chance in hell at winning the nomination, or if they do to secure the support of the base. In order to do that they would have to deny who they are, the true descendants of the less than ideological Republican Party of men like Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller and Gerald Ford. Men whose relatively moderate beliefs were swept away by the so called Reagan Revolution and Gingrich takeover of 1994.

Barry Goldwater - Preachers

But Barry Goldwater warned us about them. Goldwater said back in 1981:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

The situation reminds me of the movie Inherit the Wind, the fictional portrayal of the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the movie one of the most stalwart critics of evolution, the former Presidential Candidate and Preacher Matthew Brady played by Frederic March, who has helped lead the city where the trial is being held into an anti-secular fervor.  At the beginning of the trial he encourages the townspeople to attend a “prayer meeting.” The meeting becomes quite heated as the town’s preacher, Reverend Brown, played by Claude Akins, who has launched into a full assault on all that oppose Brady, and therefore God.

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Reverend Brown works himself into a frenzy, condemn the accused and all that would defend him, including his very own daughter:

“Oh, Lord of the tempest and the thunder, strike down this sinner, as thou did thine enemies of old in the days of the Pharaohs! Let him know the terror of thy sword! Let his soul, for all eternity, writhe in anguish and damnation!”

His daughter, who is engaged to the accused cries out: “No! No, Pa! Don’t pray to destroy Bert!”

Then the reverend utters words which remind me so much of what I heard in Iowa this weekend:

“Lord, we call down the same curse on those who ask grace for this sinner—though they be blood of my blood, and flesh of my flesh!”

Brady, not seeing just how he has brought this about stops the good Reverend Brown and tells him:

“it is possible to be overzealous, to destroy that which you hope to save — so that nothing is left but emptiness.” He then quotes from the book of Proverbs: “Remember the wisdom of Solomon in the book of Proverbs. “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

To me this seems to be analogous to the current dilemma faced by the Republican Party. It has helped create, sustain and institutionalize a monster, and now seeing the danger doesn’t know what to do about it, and cannot admit its culpability in for it. Goldwater realized this in the earliest days of the movement which has consumed the Republican Party. The preachers have taken control and they will damn all who do not agree with them to destruction, even those of their own party.

The have been overzealous, and will continue to be so because like Matthew Brady they cannot acknowledge that their zeal may be misdirected and malevolent.

Like Reverend Brown, they are consumed by their hatred for a a non-believer, and they are willing to destroy the people closest to them to do so. I know this is true, because when I expressed doubt and did not tow the party line of my former church I was thrown out. Sadly, most of the men that I had previously counted as my closest friends abandoned or even condemned me.

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My situation reminds me of a another exchange in the film between Brady and his opponent, Henry Drummond played by Spencer Tracy. Brady said: “Why is it, my old friend, that you’ve moved so far away from me?” 

To which Drummond replied: “All motion is relative, Matt. Maybe it’s you who’ve moved away by standing still.”

In standing still and condemning all who differ from their beliefs on any point, the preachers who now, in conduction with their business benefactors will indeed inherit the wind.

Ten years ago I could not have imagined this, but when I read the transcripts of many of the speakers fighting for the GOP leadership in Iowa this weekend it was yet another epiphany, in a series of epiphanies since I served in Iraq. The Iowa conference was a gathering of true believers, appealing to true believers. It was the proverbial self-licking ice cream cone with Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Steve King, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Rick Perry and the ever imbecilic Donald Trump leading the way. The Iowa meeting was more like the prayer meeting in Inherit the Wind than anything remotely connected with a normal American political meeting regardless of the party. Self congratulatory in denial the meeting was profound for its vapid rancor.

As far as me, watching this and all the other shenanigans of the Christian Right, I am sorry that I didn’t see it coming sooner. It took me until 2008 to realize that I really had not moved, but that the GOP moved, and continues to move away from me.

That is the scary part. Barry Goldwater was all too right in his analysis of those who have taken over the GOP. It is hard to believe that the only Republican bold enough to speak out against this takeover before it happened was the original “true conservative” of the GOP, a man whose 1964 campaign for President opened the door for their takeover of the party. Unlike those who attempted to claim his mantle including Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater really understood the danger of the genie that he let out of the bottle.

The irony is truly profound.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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It’s the Footballcalypse! The NFL Referee Strike Strikes Back

If I was swimming in gasoline with a lit blowtorch I couldn’t have immolated myself better than the NFL has managed to do over the past few weeks. Yes it is the Footballcalypse, that time when the religious faith of millions is put to a test greater that the Apocalypse or the Obama Presidency.

But how could this happen?  The NFL is the bomb; it is the pinnacle of American religious life. For crying out loud more people tune in to the NFL on any given Sunday than show up in church. The NFL Shield was the most trusted icon in America and then poof, Roger Goodell began to blow it up.  Like the Anti-Christ in the Left Behind movies he had it all, and now he is bringing down the wrath of Khan on the institution that was as solid as the shield that is its symbol.

To think that it all began because the league couldn’t cut a chump change deal with the Referee union. Sure those guys are part time employees and no one buys their jerseys but still they are like the big toe of football. Sure you can walk without a big toe, but it isn’t a pretty sight, kind of like the officiating of the NFL right now. Sure the refs are part time employees that make more money than most Americans including me do in a year, but this is the NFL. It is a religious faith, more important to most Americans than their own jobs, healthcare or national security.

Obviously Goodell and the owners didn’t think that they needed a big toe. Sure the religious fans would still come out and pack the stadiums, watch the games on TV and buy the merchandise, they wouldn’t care about officiating. After all what could go wrong? Anyone can call a holding penalty, I have done it myself when I watch those replays on TV with angles and views that no on field official could ever hope to match. Illegal motion, easy, clipping, no problem, hooking and boarding? Easy, a balk, you bet, a double fault or goaltending, any of those tricky calls that an NFL referee would have to make anyone with half a brain tied behind their ass could call.

After all, a few bad calls aren’t going to affect the game or the season. Certainly there won’t be any calls that let’s say are wrong and hand victory to a team that didn’t deserve it. It could never happen, even the washed up former college, high school and Pop-Warner referees couldn’t mess up calls that could cost potentially a team a playoff berth or home field advantage. Certainly they couldn’t make calls that would be so bad that even die-hard Green Bay Packer fans want to walk out in fury.

But they did and now unless something happens soon to change things we will witness the Footballcalypse of 2012. Could it be that the Mayan Calendar was actually referring to the NFL? It is possible. Maybe we just misinterpreted it.

NFL Replacement Referee making the Secret I Love Satan sign

Well things are bad my dear readers, things are bad. They are so bad that I actually switched my TV to the watch the last few minutes of the Packers-Seahawks game last night just to see if it was as bad as my football fans were saying ti was. Sure enough I was rewarded for my effort. Within minutes of changing the channel the Seahawks quarterback threw one of those Catholic prayer passes into the end zone against the Packers who were ahead. When the ball came down it was as if God had answered the prayers of the Packers fans, but then it was like Satan himself came down and took victory out of their hands. The Seahawks were ruled to have possession of the ball even though it looked like the Packers defender had the ball and that the Seattle receiver was interfering. By all means it looked like the Packers had won the game, but then, the lack of a real big toe was obvious to all.  The artificial referees decided that the Seahawks had the ball and scored a touchdown. The place went crazy, it was like the end of a WWE cage match.

It has gotten so bad that big union fans like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Congressman and GOP Vice President Nominee Paul Ryan are demanding that the real union referees return. I never thought that I would see either on the side of the oppressed workers and turn their backs on the the NFL owners, the very top 1% of the top 1%. But then true faith my friends is important to these men. They are men of values whose faith in their Packers and the NFL for they stand, one Packer nation, under God and Lombardi, indivisible with liberty and victory in the NFC Central for all. Belief matters and above all politics both are Packers fans who saw their team get screwed on the final play of the game and they didn’t have a morning after pill available to change the result.

I think that if the NFL wants to deceive their faithful by putting on this kind of show they should at least have the good sense to hire someone who knows how to play that game. Yes, they need to hire Vince McMahon of the WWE, throw out the rules and put a cage around the field.

I for one have to stand up and like an Old Testament prophet on the wall shout the alarm. Lo’ the Footballcalypse is coming! Repent and turn back to baseball before it is too late and all of the money that you spent on your fantasy team is lost.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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