Strange Bedfellows, Shameful Priorities, And The Awful Merging Of The Two

Moscow’s Vision 2020 community discussion forum, and some off-line comments directly to me, are abuzz with talk of the Tea Party movement, particularly as tax day April 15 came and went with the earth still spinning, providentially and assuredly, on its axis.

Even with Obamacare in the works, even with an original Obama U.S. birth certificate that you haven’t seen, and even with the recognition that you haven’t seen your original, either.

And my most recent blog entry had to do with the TP but also what I see as the gross hypocrisy of the love affair between the Religious Right and the Republican Party, a pairing offensive enough even without the increasingly common revelations of sexual escapades that ought to cause discerning Christians to examine if this relationship — political power infused with public piety and spiced with partisan pejorative — is worth continuing. Or alliterating. I touched on the reality that whatever good and decent goals some — some — Tea Partyers have for our country, their movement has, since its inception, become a boarding house of sorts for the far-right, faux-Libertarian fringe — the God, guns, and grains folks who appear downright circumspect and erudite next to the Sovereign citizens, birthers, and die-hard John Birchers, racists, and conspiracy nuts.

This isn’t surprising. I think any organization whose primary raison d’etre is being against something, while its founders are angry, feeling marginalized, and behaving in ways that not only confirm their marginalization but make it understandable, is bound to shatter. I’ve seen this in charter schools and church splits; when people feel beleaguered and marginalized, they can either respond with coherence or maladjustment. I’ve seen examples of coherence in charter school-administration and church splits (or plants), and I’ve seen in both very real examples of utterly reckless, angry chaos. Those words — utterly reckless, angry chaos — describe the current movement to a “T.” Or “Tea.” But never a Church.

Angry, beleaguered, maladjusted people, when they band together, tend to attract other angry, marginalized, maladjusted people, and the focus so crucial to the formation of any cause or goal gets lost. The facts and realities of both their perceived marginalization and a positive, reasonable solution to end it — in other words, a defined cause and a defined method of redress — never quite floats to the top. “They hate me and wanna take my stuff and my rights and I’m pissed,” while an effective rally cry, is somewhat lacking as a political manifesto. “Zoos Have African Lions And We Got A Lyin’ African” can’t propel common cause, but it’s tremendously effective at spreading hate. Which, then, becomes a common cause of its own, as I believe we’re seeing.

That’s why I’m critical of evangelicals who are also easily seduced by the GOP. A Gospel whose political expression seems to consist primarily of disgust over same-sex marriage, the cheerful acceptance of even the most insipid, impotent expressions of public “Christianish” behavior, and frozen-heart regard for the poor, is a Gospel not likely to attract anyone to Jesus Christ. That it actively repels people is a badge of honor for too many on the Religious Right; it’s a mark that resembles, I think, another foretold in the Word, one that will eternally separate those who bear it from their Savior, because it’s so clearly not a fruit of Christ’s Gospel.

That Gospel, in its proclamation of Christ’s sacrifice for my sins and yours, is offensive to sinners. The GOP-spel, on the other hand, seeks to offend sinners and acquire the power to do them harm while preserving the privileged state of its proclaimers. The difference is as clear to you as it is to me, but when we fall into idolatry and prostitute our testimonies and our lives because political power feels so good and costs so little, it gets as twisted and muddled as the sheets in a forbidden tryst.

In the same vein, Christians who have been utterly silent in the face of obvious, grotesque, and foul injustices against this nation’s poor and vulnerable have suddenly found their righteous indignation and their prophetic voice — because they perceive, and perceive wrongly, that somehow THEY will suffer, or already have suffered, under the policies of the Obama administration. Evangelicals who flock to the Tea Party because they believe they can find Biblical support for what the Tea Partyers clamor for — namely, an economic system that continues to privilege them and their own, are condemned not only by their earlier silence, but by their cries now.

These Christians were silent, or even applauded, when others suffered the injustices that helped to maintain their privileged status. Shame on us — shame on me — if our voices are raised not in defense of the “least of these” of Jesus Christ, but in protest over perceived threat to our economic security. May God have mercy on a Church that largely applauded the wars that plunged us into massive debt, but only now find debt immoral — even when that debt, begun under George W. Bush for the cause of killing, is now added to because of previous neglected funding of programs to save lives.

Dear God.

I cannot find reason for hysteria or hate when I begin to grasp the reality that millions and millions of my neighbors in the United States who have not had access to decent health care will, under Obama’s plan, finally enjoy a measure of security for their families. I fail to see how government aid to poor people is somehow a frightening manifestation of incipient socialism, but tax cuts and corporate welfare aren’t. And there’s no terror for me in a Black President, but I fight feeling terror for him because he’s the object — the motivating force, really — of much of what passes for political discourse these days, and not from cooler heads.

I’m concerned about the treasury deficit; I’m even more concerned about the deficit of wisdom, integrity, and compassion that fed it. Until we have a bipartisanship movement that address that, the crippling effects of debt could swamp this nation in ways far beyond the economic. A prophetic evangelical call from a Church committed to calling for and modeling competence, justice, and integrity in the public square could roust us from our preoccupation with bedroom sins, and outrage over the unrighteous privilege enjoyed by some at the expense of the many could unite us to the Gospel. Give me a public square full of Christ-followers like that, and not only will the angels rejoice, but the nation will flourish as well.

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