Archive for October, 2010

If You Love The Tea Party . . .

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

I know that many, if not most, of my readers are more conservative than I am on matters of public policy; a few might even identify themselves as Tea Party members. And while I find both the Tea Party ideals and the tidal wave of uncritical coverage they’ve received from the news media lamentable — she said, putting it mildly — two recent articles on the movement are well worth your time to read.

I am not — and this is undoubtedly a real revelation to most of you — a regular reader of either Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. I’m not cool enough for Rolling Stone and not rich or elite enough for Vanity Fair; the vulgarity of the former and the vacuousness of the latter are a bit off-putting, and so my magazine dollars go to High Country News, Mother Jones, The Progressive Populist and Christians For Biblical Equality’s two publications, Mutuality and the academic quarterly, The Priscilla Papers. (Alas, neither of them have fragrance samples tumbling out upon
opening …).

But this month brought two excellent, penetrating, and insightful pieces that every American ought to read. Journalist Matt Taibbi’s analysis of the Tea Party in Rolling Stone is worth the cost of a ten-year subscription; he highlights the intellectual and moral paucity of a movement that consists of people in Medicare-paid scooters screaming about the long arm of government spending and interference in their lives. It’s probably just a coincidence that the Vanity Fair story on Sarah Palin appeared right at Halloween — it’s a chilling, bracing account of Palin’s conduct, ascendancy to power, and apparent need to cast herself as a modern-day Biblical Esther, a prophet bravely confronting the latter-day Persian and Median debauchery flooding our nation.

Both articles are examples of solid investigative journalism. That Taibbi’s reveals a bias is less the fault of the reporter than the information and people he uncovers, and while his analysis wouldn’t be appropriate in a news story, it is entirely spot-on journalism, the kind of work that makes it easy for discerning readers to grasp the difference between true journalism and the clumsy, ill-informed, and often malicious “citizen journalism” that evades, by its very nature, the accountability rightly demanded from real journalists. As a third-generation print journalist, I’ve worked as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and magazines; my grandfather, dad, and I were held to rigid expectations of accuracy and attribution, ethics and execution, that “citizen journalists” aren’t. Freedom of the press allows them to flourish, as it should, but confusing their work with classic, professional journalism is a bit like comparing Vienna Sausages to a filet mignon.

I think Palin is the most dangerous woman in the United States, and I think the Tea Party is a tremendously destructive force that’s had a contaminating effect on culture, politics, and the Christian faith it purports to represent. My readers probably disagree. But I hope the two articles receive the serious attention they deserve — not just as examples of solid reporting, but as lighthouses that illumine the jagged, harsh, and unforgiving rocks of a movement that already has caused the shipwreck of integrity and decency in politics and, as it gains momentum, will imperil every American from sea to shining sea.

Yeah, it makes me angry — four metaphors’ worth, apparently!

A Gift Unparalleled

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

I’ve just returned from several days in Little Rock, Arkansas, spending time with my mother, two aunts, and several cousins. It’s a large and often contentious family, full of people with problems — and that includes the cousin, niece, and daughter writing this now. I’ve known these folks for my entire life and I love them dearly, and I regret that I hadn’t seen them since my dear grandmother’s death in 1997. I won’t let that much time pass again.

But I have one cousin who, having not been raised by her mother for most of her life, was not as much included in long-ago family gatherings, and while we’ve met a few times, neither of us knew the other. But I had heard that she’d “gotten real religious,” and, presuming that she had likely abandoned, or had never endured, the rest of the family’s Catholic upbringing, I thought I’d give her a call, just to see if we could maybe have a cup of coffee together during my visit.

From that call, just over a month ago, has bloomed a precious relationship — the profound gift of discovering that in a faraway cousin, I’ve found both a new friend and a sister in Christ Jesus, as well as a relative I would love even if she weren’t related. Jean, if you read this, thanks — and let’s take a moment to thank our Lord, who figured that 50 and 63 years wasn’t too long a passing for us to finally really know each other.

Postcardgate Continues . . . With A Nice Little Fascist Twist

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

It appears that if you write as a liberal against conservatives who suckle the milk of “persecution” and feast on their own imagined beleaguered suffering, you might just get a visit from the cops.

The fallout from the “Friends of Gresham Bouma” postcard mailing two weeks ago continues, and it appears the Sheriff’s Office is investigating the situation, as well as looking into whoever sent out information regarding Ike Young’s personal, and minor, skirmishes with the law. (Young, often appearing too dense to even grasp the Tea Party platform he seems to want to represent, is running for the legislative seat currently held by my friend Shirley Ringo). Obviously, an investigation is required, and I hope it’s undertaken with a seriousness not dimmed by Tuesday’s election.

Whether the Bouma mailings were by his political enemies, by his far-Right “Christian” allies, or by some lone wolf, I’m glad the case is being investigated — we need to know who did this, clearly, and we need to prosecute this so that it’s less likely to happen again. If it were someone intending to harm Bouma’s candidacy, he has been sinned against and grievously treated, although since the postcard says pretty much the same things his pastor says, the sin and the crime is in the sender’s intent, as well as mail fraud, but not libel. If some of Bouma’s frenzied fighters sent it, with or without his knowledge, in order to further his claims of religious persecution and anti-religious liberal bigotry — or in all seriousness as a prophetic call to electoral righteousness, which I believe is more likely — then those people, however well-meaning they were, deserve to prosecuted to the full extent possible. I think the mailings having originated from the right, or by a loony outsider, is the more likely scenario, and I look forward to the Latah County Sheriff’s Office’s identification of a suspect(s).

But what enrages me is hearing that a friend of mine, a fellow liberal who writes on Vision 2020 about the hate-filled ramblings of Bouma’s pastor, Bouma’s political ideology, and other topics that identify her, correctly, as a left-of-center citizen, was visited by the Sheriff’s Office two days ago — as part of their investigation, they say. I’ve known Saundra for about six years; she’s a reasonable, passionate, thoughtful woman who would no more involve herself in cowardly anonymity or criminal behavior to make her point than Ann Coulter would enter a convent.

This woman has been the focus, like me and a couple of other women, of the brunt of nasty attacks from Moscow’s Christ Church elders, faux-Libertarians and others bent on driving Latah County into the ground, precisely because she refuses to anonymously or behind pseudonyms. In this she shows integrity and courage not normally attributed to Kirk elders; they have much to learn from her, believe me, and I would imagine their hearty anti-liberal chest-pounding and name-calling is what put her in the LCSO sights. Saundra has never written a Vision 2020 post that would reasonably make her suspect in anything other than an uncommon courage and insight, and I’m outraged that she was questioned in Postcardgate, solely on the basis of her liberal leanings.

I have defended the Sheriff’s Office before, and I would hate to think that the Christian conservatism of the Sheriff and his staff motivates the harassment of outspoken liberals and Bouma opponents. Intelligent words, written with passion, ought never to provoke a visit from the cops, and the chill further abuses like this will bring to public debate is more than a little alarming.

That Filthy Postcard

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

My readers in Moscow are by now aware of the storm surrounding a postcard purportedly mailed over the weekend, allegedly by the Friends of Gresham Bouma, who is a Tea Party, GOP, Religious Right candidate for Latah County State Representative.

The card was mailed to households throughout Latah County and has an American Gothic-style photo of Bouma and his wife on the front. It warns voters that they’re not “real Christians” if they vote for Bouma’s opponent, and it continues with a spittle-flecked tirade against Obama and the liberals, local and national, who support him. It winds up with an invitation to join in a “prayer service” at a local church — one that previously has held an evening of Tea Party-inspired imprecations against enemies and opponents real and imagined, although the church’s pastor has said he was mislead about the real purpose of that gathering. The focus of the promised evening of prayer is to ask God to strike down a litany of local and national politicians, and it constitutes a threat to those listed, a violation of campaign law and Postal Service regulations, and, if it’s a hoax, a terrible disservice to Bouma.

Was it a hoax, or was it from Bouma’s camp?

Accusations and speculations are flying. Some have suggested that the moderate Republican defeated by Bouma in the primary was behind it — a slanderous notion that anyone who knows the man, and I do, would reject out of hand. Some of Bouma’s supporters have blamed the Democrats, who issued a statement denying involvement and condemning whoever was involved in sending out the postcard. I could never be convinced that the Latah County Democratic Party, or anyone associated with it or with Bouma’s Democratic opponent, would do anything like this. Bouma has insisted that neither he nor his supporters are behind it, and has offered a thousand bucks for proof of who is. Another reward fund, organized by Bouma opponents, has already collected $4,000.

The ugliness of the card — a vicious imprecation against perceived liberals, enemies, and antichrists, written in the name of Christ — is almost breathtaking. Whoever sent it — Bouma, his allies, his opponents, or some crazy fringe-dweller — is despicable. If it’s an anti-Bouma hoax, it’s grossly unfair to him, and I hope the perpetrator is hit with the maximum penalty appropriate. The damage to the electoral process, the community, and the Gospel itself is incalculable; if it was intended as a hit job against Bouma, the damage to him and his campaign is tremendous, and he has my sympathy and my prayers.

However, I’m not ready to conclude that it’s a hoax.

The card echoes current and past rants made from the pulpit by Bouma’s pastor. That kind of preaching is not only a violation of the church’s tax-exempt status, given that they specifically speak to Bouma’s campaign and those opponents of his that his pastor deems contemptible, and it’s certainly a violation of even the most basic pastoral decency that ought to be expected of a minister of the Gospel. Bouma has been challenged to repudiate his pastor and his extreme views regarding Mormons, homosexuals, liberals, Barack Obama, and every other attack target of the Tea Party and the crazed Right, and he has, at this writing, refused to do so. Bouma himself has embraced much of the same language and has repeatedly insisted that questions about his religious views — and many of his political views — are, in reality, just attacks against his faith.

That’s right. A man who demonstrates fealty to his hate-spewing pastor claims that concerns about that alliance are attacks against his religious faith. My, how the definition of “martyr” has diminished in the last few centuries.

I’m not claiming that Bouma himself sat at his kitchen table and wrote, designed, funded, and mailed these cards — mailings made in the name of his campaign. And while his campaign manager called the cards “despicable,” what was clear is that she found the mailings, taken as a smear of Bouma himself, despicable. Her initial condemnation didn’t extend to the sentiments expressed. How could they, given that Bouma won’t repudiate the very same message when preached by his own pastor?

Clearly, a hoax linking Bouma to the postcards is criminally and morally wrong — it’s a sin to pose as someone else, whether what you say in doing so is innocuous, distorts their position and views, or reflects them. While this is a concept foreign to Moscow’s most prominent pastor, it remains a simple and easily grasped moral truth. But Bouma must acknowledge that IF the one impersonating him is on his
side — someone who didn’t intend the postcards as a hoax, but some sort of prophetic warning or rallying of the troops — he not only isn’t a victim but bears responsibility. And if that’s the case, if one or more of his pals thought this would help or would at least please God as an arrow shot in righteous battle, then Bouma’s sufferingg is largely self-inflicted. He would be owed an apology, and he would owe all of Latah County, and specifically his opponent, an apology as well — prromptly, personally, and publicly.

My prayer is that such an apology would be only the beginning of a long season of repentance and reflection that brings about a change of heart that reflects the opposite of the horror written this weekend in his name.

Me, A Vagabond

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

I’m in the Seattle area for my niece’s wedding to a fine Christian man, and after a few days with my dear mother-in-law, I’ll depart for an aunts-and-their-daughters reunion in North Little Rock, Arkansas, so I may be posting a bit less in the next 10days or so.

This part of my family — my mother’s sisters — had as its matriarch, as I was growing up, my grandmother. We all called her Mother Dear, and I wrote about her a couple of years ago in a series I did about my heroes. I would invite you to search Prevailing Winds — look under “Mother Dear,” “Little Rock,” or “like heaven” — for the post, if you haven’t read it. It was a tribute to a woman who I loved more than words can express, and more than I was ever really able to express to her on the yearly visits she made to us in Tucson, or we made to her in Little Rock. Still, I know she died fully aware of how important she was to me, even if, after wiping away tears, she’d even now tell me to settle down and go sweep something.

I’ll post when I can, and I wish blessings on you all.

Words We Don’t Hear Often

Friday, October 15th, 2010

(Reprinted from my post on Moscow’s Vision 2020, October 12, 2010)

I recently finished “Byzantium,” a historical novel about a 10-century Irish monk’s pilgrimage to Constantinople/Byzantium, and would recommend it highly; when my then-16-year-old eldest son read it, he said it changed his life. It had a pretty profound effect on me as well.

But toward the end of the book, something in it struck me, and I wanted to toss it out as an example of something other than the vicious, bigoted, ill-informed, shameful things said of Muslims by some Christians — even some in my own extended family. This is how author Stephen Lawhead, a committed Christ follower, described Islam, which, in the terminology of the day, employed terms like “Muhammedans” that we no longer use. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting departure from the ignorance and hate we see around us:

“. . . This, then, began my first acquaintance with the Muhammedans, who, I promptly learned, were not pagans, as I had first supposed, but a people who worshiped the same God as Christians and Jews, and, like them, revered the Holy Word. The knew somewhat of Jesu, but, like the Jews, did not hold him to be the Christ. Nevertheless, they were extremely devout, and very exacting in their ways and lived according to a set of laws laid down in a book, the Qur’an, written by one called Muhammed, a mighty prophet indeed. The chief tenet of their belief was, as I came to understand it, complete and utter submission to the will of God, a state they called islam.”

(Stephen R. Lawhead, Byzantium, Harper/Prism, 1996)

Now, I am obviously not a Muslim. And all Muslims are obviously not as devoted to Allah with the piety described by Lawhead — just as many, many Christians, and at times myself, do not live in the piety, humility, devotion, and submission to God that ideally describes Christianity. However, there is nothing in my faith that requires, much less endorses, hate and fear as a tool for noting the differences in our approaches to God.

I pray that I will achieve a state of islam in my worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and I pray for peace to rule the hearts of all Christians and Muslims and Jews bent on violence and prejudice — which is not a tenet of any faith.

Welcome Back, Ashwin!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

(Referring to a comment Ashwin made on Part 2 of my recent posts on liberalism):

Brother, you’ve always been welcome to comment on this blog! I’m sorry you got the idea that you couldn’t, but anyone who engages with me honestly, no matter how much they disagree with me, is encouraged to — and, as I said, you’ve been thoughtful, respectful, spirited, and honest. I benefit from your words and consider your rebukes, and I hope you continue to let us hear from you!

Blessings,

Keely

Do You Kiss Your Mama With That Mouth?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Periodically, someone will ask me why I keep printing Ashwin’s comments, or wonder if I ever get any other comments from Prevailing Winds readers. Well, today seemed like a good day to answer.

I print Ashwin’s comments because he’s thoughtful and respectful. Other comments sometimes aren’t. Here’s a gem from a guy with a Christian website; I found it just today and thought I’d share with you an example of some of what passes for dialogue with some of Christiandom’s manlier denizens:

His email to me:

Date: Tue, 22 Dec 2009 21:27:56 -0600
Subject: Comrade…
From: signa.inferre@gmail.com
To: keelyemerinemix2008@hotmail.com

I have read your Marxist blog, and also disagree with you that the Ten Commandments are out dated. Please see my response here:

http://cordeliaforlear.blogspot.com/2009/12/suicide-of-christianity.html

My response, from a couple of weeks ago:

Sorry I missed your email; somehow it got lost in the fray. You are aware, of course, that I am not a Marxist and that I do not believe that the Decalogue is outdated. That it gives you comfort to believe so is interesting, and about as tragic and misguided as your blog. Feel free to respond, and do so with the courageous use of your real name.

Keely

And from my Inbox today, from the same address:

Dude, you responded to me like a year ago, you dumb slut.

Get a fucking life.

(End of exchange, mercifully)

So, to answer the question, no, I don’t print all of the comments I receive, and yes, I appreciate Ashwin’s contributions, however much we disagree.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to spend some time trying to figure out how I can be both a “dumb slut” and a Dude …

The Chilean Miners

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Please, if you’re reading this, stop for a moment and pray for the safe rescue, thought to be later today, of the Chilean miners who’ve been trapped thousands of feet below the surface for weeks. It’s been encouraging to see the faith of those believers flocked at the site of the accident, and I agree with one woman who told CNN that the miners were “33 plus One” — the Spirit of God.

There aren’t too many more people in the world right now who need your prayers as much as these men, and there’s only one God to praise when they’re brought safely home.

Re-Thinking The Question, Part 2

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

“Dabney refers somewhere to a pathetic kind of conservatism that has no intention of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. But there is also a kind of conservatism that has no intention of running the risk of success. The same kind of timidity underlies both. But biblical faith always swings for the fence…”

Douglas Wilson, Blog and Mablog, Oct. 3, 2010

(Part 2)

That doesn’t negate the responsibility for Christian churches to stop, for God’s sake, the massive building programs that benefit (perhaps “pamper” is a better word) well-off congregations and neglect the poor. The Church has to be faithful in its care for the indigent, aged, young, weak, powerless, sick, and bereft, and only it can offer the Gospel message we dare not entrust with government. But even in the age of the mega-church, the majority of congregations in this country are small, with fewer than 200 people. One health crisis, a handful of sudden or lingering unemployments, and a childcare need can swamp a small church. In a diverse, geographically vast, and taxpaying society, only the government has the critical mass necessary to extend to its citizenry the services the people need — and have paid for in taxes.

Those may be “social safety net” programs, or the infrastructure and institutions all of us depend on, but they cannot effectively be conceived, implemented, and administered by thousands of different churches representing hundreds of different denominations. God hasn’t left us without guidance on this, and we can infer from the Word that governmental bridge-building programs aren’t sinful. But it ought to be cause for profound dismay that so many believers pore over the Word in the hope of finding ways to excuse themselves from helping the poor while rallying to Tea Parties to condemn government for trying to do for “the least of these” not only what the Church can’t, but too often won’t.

That in taxation the rest of us pay for the support of others and may have, in times of need, others paying for ours, is undeniable. That so many Christians on the right object to it is clear, too. Since the 1970s and the rise of the gaseous Moral Majority, the Religious Right has announced its devotion to a theology that is peculiarly bedroom-focused and profoundly hateful both in rhetoric and in its inattention to the concerns of Others Not Like Them. As the American Church’s theological ignorance skyrockets, so does the perception that it is primarily concerned with excoriating — in the name of Jesus — homosexuals, abortion providers, immigrants, and those dreary, unwashed hordes who pick their pockets, with government encouragement, for their support and maintenance. “Charity at gunpoint” may be a catchy way for religious conservatives to describe taxation, but it belies an attitude of hard-heartedness and self-centeredness entirely in opposition to the character of true disciples of Jesus. I think that the Bible gives us an idea of how Christ would treat homosexuals, abortion providers, immigrants, and the poor, and it seems different to me from how Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bauchmann and Haley Barbour would.

That doesn’t mean that the left gets it right all of the time, not even most of the time. But when I examine the policy agendas of the Democrats and the Republicans, I can’t help but see that while both can be described as “imperfect” and “incomplete,” it’s not the Christian-controlled GOP that evinces a social gospel of concern for the poor. Further, the rank hypocrisy of public posturing and private debauchery revealed just in the last decade originated primarily from the right — which, given the warm embrace Christians have offered the GOP and the Tea Party, is particularly tragic. I will grant that liberals tend not to engage in a lot of rhetoric about sexual morality, which, perhaps, gives them more of a cover for any bad behavior they might engage in, but the right’s focus on sexual morality, whenever hateful and at the expense of concern for the poor, wounds the message of Christ and hobbles his people when they do engage in the public square.

I hate the killing of unborn children, I loathe pornography and its effects on women and men, and I lament the coarse, licentious nature of today’s culture. I wish someone — maybe even a Christian — would rise to a position of prominence and address these things in a reasonable, Gospel-mirroring and effective manner. But I believe it’s wrong to deny GLBT people the civil protection I enjoy as a heterosexual woman, and because I’m not a doctor, and you’re likely not one, either, I believe that abortive procedures have to involve complete truth and medical necessity as determined by the doctor and her patient, not by elderly Southern gentlemen still struggling with their discomfort over women’s sexuality and liberation.

But my theology requires that in addressing those things, I also address — and advocate for — the poor around me. I have to not only do my work in feeding the hungry and extending a hand to the outcast, but I have to support my government when it tries to do the same. The Lord Jesus requires that I contend for justice, seek peace, speak truth, and leave no area, no thought, no action, closed to the Holy Spirit. I don’t expect the government to bow publicly to the Spirit, but I know that God works through the institutions he’s established, and I’m bound to honor those who serve. My politics has to mirror a Gospel that in its promise of individual, personal relationship with Jesus also makes it clear that everything’s not all about me, my comfort, and my advancement — nor should it be. That’s just not something I see in the GOP, the Tea Party, the Religious Right, and in evangelicalism in general. And Lord knows that here in Moscow, tremendous effort is made in weaving a theology that excuses the believer, as I said earlier, from coming to the aid of the poor and also ties in ugly threads of blame and shame toward those who should find the Church a place of nurture — not censure.

It should go without saying, but current times require it, that the vitriolic hatred and suspicion of President Obama as a swarthy, shadowy usurper and tyrant comes from the right, most often the Christian right, and ought to be condemned by anybody who utters the name of Christ with even minimal reverence. Liberals criticized our former president because of what he did, things that make him the worst president in memory and probably in history, and that made his Christian commitment seem like a cheap suit. I would publicly applaud any Republican or Tea Party supporter who condemns the dangerous viciousness of the anti-Obama sentiment around us. I would also publicly applaud my son for making me an omelette with fresh morels and bacon. Neither one’s gonna happen, but the consequence of the former could be catastrophic, and every conservative who doesn’t condemn it shares responsibility for any tragedy that results. That includes Moscow’s Doug Wilson, an Obama hater of the first degree.

So I’ve established that I can most often be found, for those who care to look, on the left side of the spectrum when politics is involved. I am conservative, fiercely so, in my theology, and I live a pretty conservative life. And while all of that may be interesting, here’s the one thing I’d want you to know about me: I just want my every idea, word, action, and belief to find themselves seeking the heart of Jesus Christ. If matters of social and economic policy slide to the left for me, may the glory go to God and not the Democratic Party — but may any rebuke implied be heard by the GOP and the Christ-followers who inexplicably dance to its tune.