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“Wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war”

“Wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war”

Mike Lofgren, who spent almost three decades working for Republican leaders on Capitol Hill has thrown up his hands at the “politicized religious fundamentalism” of his former party. Salon is carrying an excerpt from his new book The Party’s Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Irrelevant and the Middle Class Got Shafted. He writes:

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war. ….

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars.

The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: Major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to share their feelings about their faith in a revelatory speech, or a televangelist like Rick Warren will dragoon the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, offering himself as the final arbiter. Half a century after John F. Kennedy put to rest the question of whether a candidate of a minority denomination could be president, the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. And some in the media seem to have internalized the GOP’s premise that the religion of a candidate is a matter for public debate.

How should people who do religious people who do not share the Christian’s rights agenda respond to the dynamic Lofgren describes?


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Allow me one additional thought, please… We often do not understand exactly what we are up against.

As I mentioned in another comment, we had an election yesterday in MO and the state passed a constitutional amendment called “the prayer amendment”. People think it constitutionally protects prayer in school. What they don’t seem to know is that it also gives students the legal right to opt out of any class or assignment that they decide violates their religious beliefs. Like evolution. Or geology. Or certain versions of history.

It is institutionalized, legally-protected ignorance. It is not counter-cultural, but anti-cultural. THIS is the mind-set we are up against. We talk about engaging the right in discussions, and they are coming to the discussion prepared for a knife fight. Are we prepared to face that?

Kevin McGrane


Mr. Lofgren’s excerpt makes for fascinating reading.

I was particularly struck by one of his observations:

“…I have never ceased to be amazed at how facts manage to bounce off people’s consciousness like pebbles off armor plate.”

That pretty much sums up the single greatest issue: armor-like hardheadedness. How do you deal with that? May I suggest that “friendly persuasion” is not going to be enough; we need to be a bit sharper and succinct than that. We cannot treat ignorance like it is a legitimate position, and we should say so. We don’t have to be malicious about it, but we need to practice some verbal akido.

As it says in Wiki: “Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.” We need to blend with their motion (i.e., enter their territory) and redirect their attack, rendering it harmless. If we try to meet them head-on, we are going to look as bad as they do and do a great dis-service to the Gospel.

Kevin McGrane

Dave Paisley

All excellent points.

Which makes it all the more odd that the current candidate of self-same religious fundamentalists is a Mormon, who are widely despised in evangelical circles. And somehow, at least temporarily, questioning a candidate’s religious beliefs is now not permitted.

One can only presume that the “anyone but Obama” factor trumps their religious reservations.

Bill Dilworth

“How should people who do religious people who do not share the Christian’s rights agenda respond to the dynamic Lofgren describes?”

I don’t know, but I can tell you how I responded to the article, which was some of the sanest political writing I’ve seen in a long time: I downloaded the book it’s from to Kindle.

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