Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Fundamentalist Christianity Eroding Humanity in the US; Destroying the GOP

Fundamentalists.  The word raises spectres of all kinds – ignorance, homophobia, chauvinism, dedication to ideas and ideals that are rage-driven, politically affiliated, exclusive of the rights of majority of humanity and narrow in their definition but wildly permissive in execution. Take your pick. Since 9/11 the West, led by a media consumed with lust for big headlines, has mostly attributed fundamentalism to Muslims who are blatantly political and less noticeably religious.

By comparison Christian fundamentalism seems pretty benign and when it started it was, but it has become something pernicious now. It started out in the late 1800s, amongst British and American evangelicals who didn’t want to embrace change and rebelled against the new theological ideas that broke away from traditional interpretations of God, the Bible and the origin of life as industrialization took hold. They had a narrow interpretation of the Bible, and they stuck with it. God was talking directly to the world through a group of men and every word was His word. There were no human errors in it and it was taken literally. 

So, amongst other things, there really was an Ark and Mary was a virgin when Jesus Christ was born. He really did turn water into wine and rise miraculously and very physically from the cross after he was dead. 

Fast-forward to America today. Christian fundamentalism is no more open to new ideas than it ever was before. Now it’s characterised by homophobia, xenophobia and a belief that people are poor because they’re lazy and therefore undeserving of any kind of assistance. Passages in the Bible that seem to support any of these ideas are quoted and those that contradict it are conveniently ignored. 

This peculiar brand of Christianity has become firmly entrenched in politics and in particular the Republican Party, with politicians quoting selectively from the Bible to justify their policies. For example, in May 2013 the House Agriculture Committee convened to discuss cutting $4.1 billion from SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – by slashing the budget for the Farm Bill which funds SNAP. GOP Congressman Stephen Fincher cited 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to justify his support of slashing the budget: 

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” 

These were the words of Paul, a self-confessed blasphemer, persecutor and insolent opponent of Jesus Christ who shifted with the wind and then became a persecutor and insolent opponent of anybody who didn’t agree with Jesus Christ. Bit of a runaway ego there. 

Apart from that and the fact that Fincher chooses a homophobe to guide him, Fincher’s assumption – shared by many Republicans - is that people who are poor are unwilling to work. So let the bastards starve. Let their children go homeless and above all never give them access to decent medical care. No doubt if these Bible thumpers had been alive during the Great Depression they would have also attributed it to just general laziness of the American public.

Interesting that after voting to cut SNAP by more than $20 billion, Fincher supported a proposal to expand crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years. Even more interesting, Fincher himself is the second largest recipient of farm subsidies in the US. Between 1999 and 2012 he has collected $4.8 million - $70,000 last year alone. The average SNAP ‘handout’ is $1586.40 a year and goes to families whose income is below a certain level. Crop insurance subsidies don’t have income limitations. Payments are direct and according to EWG (Environmental Working Group) “go predominantly to the largest, most profitable farm operations in the country.” 

In December 1.3 million people spent Christmas with an axe over their head as they stood to lose their unemployment benefits by December 28. The House refused to extend the deadline for the benefits ending. A quote from Deuteronomy is appropriate here: 

11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Not all Republican politicians are heartless bastards, though. Nevada’s Republican Senator Dean Heller has co-sponsored a bill with US Senator Jack Reed to extend the benefits for another 3 months until a compromise can be reached. Whether the House will pass it or not is another matter, but Heller, who is very conservative in many other regards, had this to say: “Providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government.” But what chance does he have against fundamentalist Christianity – an oxymoron if ever there was one – that is tearing apart the Republican Party?  

Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said in May 2012 "Conservative people of faith are playing a larger role in shaping the contours and affecting the trajectory of the Republican presidential nomination contest than at any time since they began pouring out of the pews and into the precincts in the late 1970's." Never a truer word was said. They lost that election in 2012 and since then the Tea Party has crucified the Republican job approval rating. 

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man of giant stature, wrote a book "God is not a Christian: And Other Provocations". Amen to that. God is definitely not an ignorant, self-serving fundamentalist politician, that’s for sure. Christianity is supposed to be about the best of humanity but the fundamentalists of today have turned it into a very different sort of animal - fundamentally anti-social, heartless, ill-informed and politically divisive. They’re doing the GOP no favors as they turn it into a party that's astonishingly low on good sense and hell-bent on self-destruction. I seriously doubt that up in heaven God, Jesus Christ and even Paul are giving them a standing ovation.