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God, Palin and Politics
Sunday, July 31 2011 @ 09:30 PM CDT
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Pentecostalism, a non-rational form of Christianity whose adherents believe they speak directly to God and favor apocalyptic prophecies, is adding to the polarization of American politics behind the movement’s champion, Sarah Palin. Rev. Howard Bess explains the emergence of this distinctive brand of Christianity.
By the Rev. Howard Bess
All Christians are theologians, but they do not think of themselves in those terms. Most Christians think of their pastors as theologians and also gladly give that office to learned women and men who teach in colleges or seminaries, but they do not give the title of theologian to themselves.
When doing theology, mainstream Christian theologians consider Bible, reason and tradition in some sort of balance. However, Pentecostals break with this approach because the foundation of their faith is a direct, personal experience with God.
Tradition, reason, and even the Bible take a back seat to the personal experience of the Pentecostal believer. Pentecostal Christians are all theologians because they believe they have met God personally.
Thus, Pentecostalism is a non-rational, experiential religion. Note also must be made that Pentecostalism is non-rational, not irrational. What this means is that reason does not play a significant role in theological formations. Ultimate reality is based on an individual’s personal encounter with God.
Some observers suggest that Pentecostalism attracts the poor and the under-educated. However, research is showing that this is not true. Many highly educated and professional people are being drawn to this experiential faith.
Understanding Pentecostals on the American religious scene may be difficult, but their arrival on the political scene seems even more puzzling. Pundits have completely missed the difference between Pentecostal Christians and mainline Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians.
While fielding candidates for every level of elected office, Pentecostals have produced one high-profile candidate for President of the United States. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is that Pentecostal.
As Sarah Palin has made unorthodox decisions, pundits have declared that she cannot handle politics in her independent manner and be a winner. But she will not go away. She has now said that she will make her candidacy intentions known in September.
When she makes her decision, it will not be at the encouragement of advisers or poll numbers. Her decision will be based on God whispering in her ear. It will be the same God who, she believes, has called her to be a special person in divine history.
Some pundits have compared Sarah Palin with declared presidential candidate Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, but they are very different. Michelle Bachmann is a member of a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod church. Bachmann’s theology is based on a tightly held union of Bible and reason. It has zero space for the experiential faith found in Pentecostalism.
Sarah Palin stands alone as the representative of the fastest-growing religious movement in the United States. When she says “I can win,” she is not speaking with tongue in cheek. She is speaking out of a profound personal relationship with her God.
There have always been Pentecostal Christians, but church hierarchies have successfully contained their influence. However, America was the perfect seedbed for that pattern to be broken. Freedom to practice one’s own faith is a cardinal right of Americans.
The first great wave of Pentecostal Christianity has its root in a revival that took place on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in the first decade of the 20th century. It was a revival that lasted for three years. Yet, formal program structures were not apparent.
The Spirit reigned in uncontained freedom. The Azusa Street revival is considered the birth event of what is known as the First Wave. The impact was nationwide, but numerically insignificant.
The Second Wave developed after World War II and the advent of television. Pentecostals mastered television. They made religious television exciting. Pentecostal evangelists such as Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart led the way.
Each developed huge followings and Pentecostal numbers were no longer insignificant, though exact counts are difficult.
There are now over 1,000 Pentecostal denominations in the United States, but they hold very loose controls over their member churches and many Pentecostal churches are completely unaffiliated. Current estimates are that 15-20 percent of American Christians are Pentecostal, and that one-quarter of the world Christian population is Pentecostal.
Some Pentecostals believe that the world is now in the early stages of the Third Wave. They believe it is the movement that will bring world domination to Pentecostals.
Agree or disagree, the waves of Pentecostalism have ushered in a new day in American politics.
The Rev. Howard Bess is retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.
Notable Pentecostals: Absolutely Corrupted
If you want to know where the de facto pro-STUPID policy that permeates the wingtards of America today comes from, welcome! I’m going to explain it to you. And I do know more than a little bit about it, because I have had a lot of personal intersecting with snake handlers, holy rollers, and tongue speakers. Pentecostalism as I’ve personally seen it is Puritanism on steroids.
There is an ingrained, institutional bias within Pentecostalism against intellectual exercise. But it is also more than just an anti-intellectual bias; in Pentecostalism the bias is against any and all forms of critical thinking. No one can go against the dogmas of the Pentecostal sect and be considered “saved.” The most important of those dogmas is the elevation of the minister to a position of near-infallibility. Because the minister can never be wrong, the minister “cures” people through faith healing, except for those who don’t have enough faith. The minister’s decrees for all aspects of his or her congregants’ lives is as if God had said it, and there is no room for dissension. Nothing that the minister says or does is to be questioned by the congregation, lest the congregants fail to achieve salvation through their lack of faith.
This is Pentecostalism. Pentecostals form a large part of the “base” of the Republican Party, a very fortunate thing for Republicans, because Pentecostals ask no critical questions once they’ve been given their instructions. Incompetent, corrupt scum like Chimpy, Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, and many other Gopper liars and thieves have thus been able to commit their crimes and indiscretions with no fear of significant loss of support, since all that was required of them was to pander to the positions the Pentecostal leaders said they held on things like abortion and gay marriage. No action was required on the part of the politicians, and none would be, because eventually the “values” people would own enough of them to impose their agenda whether or not the politicians wanted it done. That goal has been set back a bit by the many failures of the Reign of Error, but it has not gone away. The Pentecostal clergy will rebuild, and surpass, the influence they had in this Administration, because they have the apparatus set up to get the job done.
Pentecostalism is tailor-made for cults. The lack of hierarchical oversight, coupled with blind obedience on the part of the flock, means that closed societies based on Pentecostal teachings can, and do, exist throughout this country. Those among them who may work and live among us are still absolutely loyal to the hierarchy of whatever Pentecostal organization they belong to, and feel themselves to be bound by no agreements past the ones their overseers tell them to honor. The unwillingness of Pentecostals to even question their superiors means that there are millions of dangerously uninformed Americans living and VOTING among us, but there is danger for the Pentecostal clergy, too. Unchecked power in the hands of an individual tends to go to that individual’s head, which can lead the individual holding the power to become dangerously delusional. Knock me if you want to for what I am about to say, but it is my belief that Pentecostals, because of their “know nothing” culture and dictatorial form of leadership, are simply not suited for positions in a democratic government. The rule of law, consensus, and compromise are anathema to Pentecostal dogma.
Having given you what I believe to be a fairly accurate overview of Pentecostalism as it is in America, I will now highlight examples of Pentecostal leaders that speak to my point about dictatorial clergy who are worshiped by their congregants. Far too often in Pentecostalism, the clergyman or clergywoman winds up feeling entirely free of the moral and ethical constraints that guide most of the rest of us. I’m going to cite some of the more notable examples here; some of them you will know, and some of them you MAY know, but I’ll provide some background for you on those you may not have heard of. Since so many of them wind up on the wrong side of society, it would be hard to be familiar with all of them. Please join me after the jump, and we’ll look at some of the Absolutely Corrupted.
Aimee Semple Machpherson is an early example of a Pentecostal who wound up destroyed by the lack of restraint on her personal behavior. Let’s look at her life, and where she went with it.
At the beginning of 1926 the famed evangelists preacher known to many as Sister Aimee had risen to become one of the most charismatic and influential personas of her time. According to Carey McWilliams, a journalist of the era at the time of her trip to the Holy Land, she had become “more then just a household word: she was a folk hero and a civic institution; an honorary member of the fire and police departments; a patron saint of the service clubs; an official spokesman for the community on problems grave and frivolous” She had transformed her power of spreading the gospel of her religion into being influential in many social, educational and political areas. McPherson would make personal crusades in the name of the Lord against anything that she felt threaten her Christian ideals, including alcohol and the teaching of evolution in the schools.
On May 18, 1926, McPherson went to Ocean Park Beach, north of Venice Beach, with her secretary, to go swimming. Soon after arrival, McPherson disappeared. It was generally assumed at the time that she had drowned.
According to the PBS American Experience segment “Sister Aimee” aired 7 April 2007, McPherson was scheduled to hold a service on the very day she vanished. McPherson’s mother appeared and preached at the service in her place, and at the end announced, “Sister is with Jesus,” sending parishioners into a tearful frenzy. Mourners crowded Venice Beach, and the commotion sparked days-long media coverage of the event, fueled in part by William Randolph Hearst’s Los Angeles Examiner, and even including a poem by Upton Sinclair commemorating the “tragedy”. Daily updates appeared in newspapers across the country, and parishioners held day-and-night seaside vigils. A futile search for the body resulted in one parishioner drowning and another diver dying from exposure.
At about the same time, Kenneth G. Ormiston, engineer for KFSG, also disappeared. According to American Experience, some believed McPherson and Ormiston, a married man with whom McPherson had developed a close friendship and allegedly had been having an affair, had run off together. About a month after the disappearance, McPherson’s mother, Minnie Kennedy, received a ransom note, signed by “The Avengers”, which demanded a half million dollars to ensure kidnappers would not sell McPherson into “white slavery”. Kennedy later said she tossed the letter away, believing her daughter to be dead.
On June 23, 35 days after her disappearance, McPherson stumbled out of the desert in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town just across the border from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed that she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured, and held for ransom in a shack in Mexico, then had escaped and walked through the desert for about 13 hours to freedom.
Several problems were found with McPherson’s story. Her shoes showed no evidence of a 13-hour walk– indeed, they had grass stains on them after a supposed walk through the desert. The shack could not be found. McPherson showed up fully dressed while having disappeared wearing a bathing suit, and was wearing a wrist watch given to her by her mother, which she had not taken on her swimming trip. A grand jury convened on July 8 to investigate the matter, but adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed. However, several witnesses then came forward stating that they had seen McPherson and Ormiston at various hotels over the 32-day period.
(note the resemblence of the fallen down audience to a Benny Hinn majikal mystery show)
There were five witnesses that claimed to have seen Aimee McPherson at a seaside cottage at Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was rented out by her former employee Kenneth G. Ormiston for himself and his mistress. Mr. Hersey claimed to have seen Mrs. McPherson on May 5 at this cottage, and then later went to see her preach on August 8 at Angelus Temple to confirm she was the woman he had seen at Carmel. His story was confirmed by Mrs. Parkes, a neighbor who lived next door to the Carmel cottage, by Mrs. Bostick who rented the cottage to Mr. Ormiston under his false name “McIntyre,” Ralph Swanson a grocery clerk, and Ernest Renkert, a Carmel fuel dealer who delivered wood to their cottage.
The grand jury re-convened on August 3 and received further testimony, corroborated by documents from hotels in McPherson’s handwriting. McPherson steadfastly stuck to her story that she was approached by a young couple at the beach who had asked her to come over and pray for their sick child, and that she was then shoved into a car and drugged with chloroform. However, when she was not forthcoming with answers regarding her relationship with Ormiston (who was recently estranged from his wife), Judge Samuel Blake charged McPherson and her mother with obstruction of justice on November 3.
(A young Aimee? Movie star aspirations?)
During this time, to combat the bad publicity in the newspapers, she refused to take an oath of secrecy and spoke freely about the court trials on her private radio station. This worried the district attorney who believed McPherson had the ability to shape public opinion and thus the direction of the trial.
Theories and innuendo abounded: she had run off with a lover; she had had an abortion; she was recovering from plastic surgery; she had staged the whole thing as a publicity stunt. No satisfactory answer, though, was ever reached, and soon after the Examiner erroneously reported that Los Angeles district attorney Asa Keyes had dropped all charges, Keyes decided to do exactly that on January 10, 1927 due to changing testimonies, and a lack of Ormiston’s testimony thus leading to a lack of evidence…
…McPherson continued her ministry after the controversy over the alleged abduction diminished, but she fell out of favor with the press. While she and her ministry still received a good deal of publicity, most of it was bad. Additionally, she became involved in power struggles for the church with her mother and daughter. McPherson suffered a nervous breakdown in August 1930.
Penny-ante stuff to be sure, but a foretelling of what was to come later.
(All ur money R ours!)
Jim Bakker. Most of us remember this guy for his “PTL Club” TV Show, his painted-up wife, his theme park, and the creative ways in which he bilked his followers. He was having a good ride until he decided to take a ride on a teenaged church secretary.
(pentecostal whore Jessica Hahn of whoremongering Jim Bakker)
When she blabbed, his game was up-THEN. His wife divorced him, he did some time for bilking his followers, and he washed up on the streets of Florida as a storefront preacher. Nowadays he’s not nearly as powerful or rich as he was then, but he’s back on TV, and he’s still got unquestioning followers.
(whoremongerer, liar, adulterer, hypocrite)
Jimmy Swaggart. Perhaps the king of them all in his heyday, he got himself dethroned by allowing a fellow Pentecostal preacher he;d previously denounced to disable his car in the parking lot of a motel. Inside one of those motel rooms was Jimmy and a prostitute. Jimmy apologized, lost some of his flock, but continued to do his thing on TV-until he was caught with a prostitute AGAIN.
Proving you can’t keep a good megalomaniac down, Jimmy can be found on TV to this very day-and, as always, he still has quite a few unquestioning fawners in his flock. They still send him a lot of money, which we can presume he still spreads around in the more unseemly neighborhoods of America.
(Kool-aid anyone?-- another pentecostal Elvis wannabe)
What can be said about this guy that hasn’t already been said? His method of taking his flock into the great beyond-giving them cyanide-laced Kool Aid to drink-has rightfully made its way into the political lexicon and generally described the attitude of the Chimpleton/wingtard who continues to buy into the lies in spite of all the available evidence to the contrary. Jim Jones is an extreme example of the dangers of a megalomaniac at the head of an unthinking flock, but there are lesser Jim Jones types all over America, playing their flocks for the personal power and prestige one gets from being a Pentecostal minister.
Oh, and before I’m corrected-I know Jim didn’t start out as a Pentecostal, but he sure did learn their ways when he saw what kind of power could be achieved by aligning yourself with them.
Roberts Liardon isn’t big enough to have made a big splash in the news, but in Pentecostalism he was one of the rising superstars. Here’s what brought him down to Earth.
Pastor and writer Roberts Liardon is stepping down from ministry after admitting to “moral failure.” He is taking a three-month leave of absence to seek “professional and church counseling related to a recent short-term homosexual relationship,” according to a statement issued on behalf of his Embassy Christian Center in Irvine, Calif.
Liardon, 34, announced his decision this week citing “several situations, both personal and health related,” the statement said. He had been advised by doctors to take time off to deal with an ongoing heart condition and further recuperate from recent surgery, it added.
Liardon said: “As a minister of the gospel, I realize my moral failure has been inappropriate and wrong. I have asked God’s
forgiveness, and for the past month have sought professional counseling and other help. I ask anyone affected by my actions to forgive me and to pray for both my spiritual and physical recovery.”
Oh, he’s back at it too, for those keeping score.
(the proverbial 3 dollar bill)
Good old Pastor Ted. He preached fire and brimstone, railed against gay marriage, and patronized male hookers with who he also did crystal meth.
(Crouch- giving God's money, your offering to male lovers)
Paul Crouch. Pentecostal Prophet, founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, icon to millions.
But he also appears to be much more than even these things.
In September 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported that Crouch in 1998 paid Enoch Lonnie Ford, a former employee, a $425,000 formal settlement to end a sexual harassment lawsuit. Ford alleged that he was forced to have a homosexual encounter with Crouch under threats of job termination at a network-owned cabin at Lake Arrowhead in 1996. TBN officials acknowledge the settlement but characterize the accuser as a liar and an extortionist (as well as having a criminal record involving drug use and statutory rape), and stated that the settlement was made in order to avoid a lengthy and expensive lawsuit which could have deteriorated into “mud-slinging”.
Ford, who wrote a book manuscript about the alleged encounter, was forbidden by an arbitrator to publish it because of the previous settlement. From prison (for violation of a previous probation agreement from a past felony conviction), Ford offered TBN all rights to the book for $10 million for the purpose of making it into a motion picture, but his offer was rejected by Crouch, who called it extortion. In October 2004, Judge Robert J. O’Neill awarded Paul Crouch $136,000 in legal fees to be paid by Ford for his violation of the terms of the settlement agreement, specifically the prohibition of discussing the settlement’s details. On March 15, 2005 Ford appeared on the ION Television show Lie Detector, which suggested he was telling the truth.
In 2000, Crouch was sued by author Sylvia Fleener, who accused Crouch of plagiarism in his popular end-times novel (and subsequent movie), The Omega Code. Fleener’s lawsuit alleged that the movie’s plot was taken from her own novel, The Omega Syndrome. A former Crouch personal assistant, Kelly Whitmore, revealed that she had encountered a loose-leaf binder in Jan Crouch’s luggage that the Crouches referred to as “the End Times project” and that he often called it “The Omega” but said he disliked the working title, “especially the word ‘Syndrome’.” The case was subsequently settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
What a wonderful way to spend the money donated by the gullible sheep faithful flock. If I’d ever given any money to this jerk, I know I’d be proud. Oh, and did I mention this guy continues to be the chairman over at TBN?
Need I say more?
Believe me, all I’ve done here is grabbed at the low hanging fruit. The history of Pentecostalism is chock-full of tales like these.
Christianity, which is supposed to be based on the freewill of the Christian, is badly distorted by Pentecostal dogmas. Pentecostalism today is set up around aggrandizing its leaders, whether or not this has anything to do with Christian teachings (it is no accident that Biblical scholars are among the people most reviled by Pentecostals.) The dogmas of Pentecostalism have no place in the halls of our Government, and those who adhere to those dogmas should be written off without even a serious thought.
MORE PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC FRAUDS, LIARS, HYPOCRITES, SCAMMERS, SCUM, AND FRUITCAKES
(Pentecostal preacher out of Dallas, Texas-- indicted and imprisoned for fraud)
(Kenneth Copeland - another phony money grabbing pentecostal from Fort Worth area
Looks like evil incarnate!)
(also from the Dallas area, Robert Tilton a real scumbag pentecostal idiot)
(Rev. Ike.. Probably the original Get Rich with Jesus gimmick in pentecostalism
Note the throne and oppulance used in his gimmickery-- adopted by Paul and Jan Crouch at TBN)
(Oral Roberts, Death threats from a 90 foot Jesus... what a fraud!)
(Richy Roberts, Son of Oral, investigated for bribery and other charges)
(Blow them all down Benny Hinn, circus clown, pentecostal faith healing fruitcake)
(few match this scumbag Pat Robertson who was hatched in pentecostalism
False prophet, hate monger, blood diamonds dealer, liar, and the list goes on)
I could add a hundred more just like these religious profiteers from the pentecostal depths of hell.
I have every right to have a low opinion of this shit religion, I was raised in it.. nothing but lies and liars..
Probably been to well over 2,000 prayer and faith healing type services and not once have I ever
seen anyone at all healed. It's all a fraud. It's only about money and power.!!!
The Christian Right’s Rigid Politics
Exclusive: Christian fundamentalism is in the news after a right-wing Norwegian justified his slaughter of scores of people as a protest against European tolerance of Muslims. But the attack was only the most extreme manifestation of how the Christian Right has injected rigidity into the workings of democracy, as Richard L. Fricker reports.
By Richard L. Fricker
The rigidity of Christian Right politics has been a complicating factor in governing the United States for the past several decades, stripping away flexibility needed to negotiate on issues as diverse as policies in the Middle East, abortion, health care and the federal budget.
Gone is the more practical approach of assessing government actions based on what might help the country the most – and compromising with those who have differing opinions. Everything, it seems, gets measured by some Christian fundamentalist yardstick of what’s right and wrong.
Adding to this religious style of politics has been a deep sense of victimhood among right-wing Evangelicals, as if Christians were some persecuted minority in the United States, threatened by all-powerful Muslims imposing Sharia law or secular humanists banning Christmas.
Repeated endlessly on right-wing talk radio, these paranoid messages have become real to millions of these religiously inspired voters. So, political adversaries must not only be bested, but crushed. After all, they represent strategies of the anti-Christ.
What happens next with this religious/political phenomenon could dramatically influence the future direction of the United States, a nation founded on principles of religious tolerance and respect for free debate and political diversity.
Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), sees hope in the shifting of some American Evangelicals away from hard-right anger in favor of life-affirming environmentalism. In an interview, Palmer notes that Evangelical environmentalists are the fasting growing part of American’s “green” movement.
However, Palmer accepts that American Evangelicals have been a key factor in creating today’s political acrimony. He describes the political movement as “revenge”-based, rather than rooted in any particular Christian philosophy.
Palmer, whose group interacts with religious leaders of all faiths on a global basis to develop environmental programs, is also a theologian and regular commentator on the BBC on ethics, religion and the environment.
The American Evangelical-political leaders, according to Palmer, are upset at not retaining the White House consistently after the presidency of Ronald Reagan. They see evil and the devil as the forces preventing them from creating a faith-based government.
At this point, the Evangelical Right wants the entire administrative structure of the secular state torn down in order to create a “New Jerusalem” and to hasten the Apocalypse.
To understand how this Christian Right movement evolved, Palmer said, one must look back at catastrophes that struck Christian Europe some eight centuries ago.
The Plague created disillusionment with the Church’s ability to protect the faithful. To counter those doubts, a school of thought emerged insisting that some other forces must be at work, with the devil and his agents doing battle with the Church, with goodness and with God.
This fear of the devil gave rise to witch trials and images of a cloven-hooved demons selecting victims and recruiting co-conspirators. It became common for populations to blame “evil” for virtually any failure of an endeavor, bad crops or disease. To eliminate these Satanic forces, the devil’s suspected agents were burned at the stake as witches.
After Europe lost its taste for witch burnings in favor of more scientific explanations, Evangelicals turned their religious passions toward converting heathens in distant lands, like China, India and Africa. The missionary movement came into full flower in the late 1800s.
But Evangelicals never entirely lost their obsession with the devil. In effect, Palmer explained, they found new devils among populations about whom they knew precious little.
“One of the reasons for the re-appearance of the devil or evil in those early missionary days came about through disappointment,” Palmer said. “The missionaries, when they went to China — China had more missionaries than the whole rest of the world put together — they found people really weren’t interested” in the Christian message.
“The dilemma facing the missionaries, primarily Protestants, … was that they were not terribly literate people. They were very much people who came out of working-class backgrounds who had had a dramatic conversion experience.
“That experience had given them an intense sense of the love of God and they felt ‘called’ to go to the mission field. Often they had never traveled more that thirty-five miles outside their home town, and now found themselves on a boat to China or to India. These were people who felt God had called them to leave everything and go to these strange countries.”
The missions were slow getting off the ground and the number of converts tiny. That was deeply contrary to the expectations of the missionaries who thought that the inhabitants of these dark lands would be profoundly grateful to receive the light of the gospel.
“And, that didn’t happen,” Palmer said. “It so didn’t happen on such a monumental scale that this raised huge questions. The missionaries were left with only three possible answers: that no one was interested,” which was unthinkable.
“The second one was that somehow they had failed,” Palmer said. “They were not able to communicate the gospel, and were failing Jesus. Quite a few of them had monumental nervous breakdowns. … The average life of a missionary in inland China in the second half of the Nineteenth Century was just two years.
“Many of them just fell apart and had to be shipped home and were basically wrecks thereafter, because they felt they personally had failed their commission.”
Or the missionaries could see the challenge in a way less disparaging of the Christian message or their own abilities.
“The third option was … the devil,” Palmer said. “They were not dealing with ordinary human beings who were not accepting the gospel. They were dealing with the devil. And, the devil in the form of anything you wanted, in the form of statues of other gods, Taoist, Hindu shrines or holy men who wandered the countryside, it didn’t really matter.
“These forces of evil were actually blocking the poor people who all wanted to convert but the devil was in the way.”
In Palmer’s analysis, a similar phenomenon has been occurring in America. With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Christian Right foresaw a national conversion, with Americans accepting the Bible in the way fundamentalist Christians interpreted its teachings. With America providing that light onto other nations, Christianity would be on a triumphant march.
However, that failed to happen. Despite right-wing gains in terms of tax policy and other benefits for the rich, the nation has continued its gradual evolution toward a more tolerant and a more secular society. For instance, polls show growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage, two hot-button issues for Christian fundamentalists.
The American Evangelicals felt that after Reagan, they were entitled to power, Palmer said. That is why, they couldn’t understand the election of Bill Clinton. In the Evangelical mind, Clinton was an interloper to “their” White House.
The election of Barack Obama, America’s first black president, came as a particular shock to many white Evangelicals, especially because of his Muslim father and his Muslim name. This resistance to accepting Obama as a “legitimate” president was part of what fueled the hysteria over his supposedly forged birth certificate.
“Obama,” Palmer said, “left them bewildered,” thus the non-negotiating position taken by the right-wing Evangelicals on almost all of the administration efforts.
“I think what you are now witnessing, and it’s not among the majority, is a group of people that thought they were within grasp of taking power and making America once again a holy country, a holy city, the new Jerusalem,” Palmer said.
Their failure would be a rejection of God and must not be tolerated. However, Palmer said, in reality, “this was not the rejection of Christianity, but rather the rejection of this rather narrow kind of Christianity. I think it has driven them to ask why.”
So, the search for the devil continues, with Obama filling the bill and his allies – liberals and Democrats – serving the role that witches once did. There can be no thought of negotiating with these forces of “evil,” as far as the Christian Right is concerned.
“Any manifestation of contemporary society that they feel does not fit their vision of how the world should be is the work of the devil,” Palmer said.
Yet, Palmer believes the Christian Right does not see all obstacles as equally evil:
“I think you need to distinguish those who are active agents of the devil, such as Islam, over those whose misguided compassion is exploited by the devil. For example homosexuality itself is wrong, but homosexuals do not necessarily have to be wrong: they can be saved.”
Put in simple terms, Palmer said Evangelicals see, “A cosmic struggle for the world. The apocalypse is always next. History is irrelevant. … Time is temporal. All you need is the Bible. There is always a conspiracy against God and a weakening of the white family.”
Given the evil perceived by the extreme Evangelical Right, the only solution for the U.S. is to “strip the government to the bone and start over,” Palmer said.
However, Palmer thinks the hard-core Evangelical movement will eventually “burn itself out” because of its unwillingness to search for compromise solutions.
Palmer believes, the movement will “go to sand” as more and more Evangelicals focus their efforts on environmental issues. According to Palmer, “Quite a lot of people in that movement have disavowed themselves from the socio-evangelical political goals … and gone off and become active in the environmental movement.”
Palmer and fellow religious environmentalists will be meeting at the White House in December to discuss the religious approach to preserving the environment.
Palmer is a regular contributor to several BBC programs on ethics and religion, most specifically “In Our Time” hosted by Melvyn Bragg. He explained the evolution of the devil, evil and the missionary movement in a segment, “The Devil.”
Richard L. Fricker is a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based investigative reporter who has covered the “war on drugs” for the ABA Journal and other publications.
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