Monday, November 23, 2015

Theocracy by Boomerang

By Bob Ferris

I remember watching Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn in the 1965 movie How to Steal a Million.  Big time fun from a time when we did not look too hard or deeply at life around us.  One of my favorite parts of the movie was how they used boomerangs make of tongue depressors to set off alarms within a museum they were robbing to desensitize the guards who eventually turned the alarms off only to lose what they were protecting.

The Mission and Beliefs Section of The Family Leader group.  It seems strange that they would feature an image of the US Constitution that they seem perfectly willing to subvert.
I think about this now as I look at this recent Republican God-driven lovefest sponsored by The Family Leader organization (a 501(c)4 non-profit) which claims to be in partnership with two 501(c)3 organizations Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council (the ones who recently gave Kim Davis an award and formerly employed Josh Duggar as a lobbyist).  Under IRS rules 501(c)4s can endorse candidates but 501(c)3s like these two groups and a good number of churches need to keep their heads down during elections or lose their non-profit designations.
What The Family Leader group does.  I am not sure endorsing candidates that advocate the US becoming a theocracy or ruled by Biblical Law has anything to do with religious freedom or protecting the US Constitution.  
I think about the above boomerang in this context when I remember the Republican-led Internal Revenue Service witch hunt that claimed that the IRS was targeting conservative groups for investigation when it turns out that was not the case.  This investigation resulted in people losing their jobs, but my sense is that it also—just like the museum guards in the movie—confused and desensitized the IRS to the actual threat coming from those wanting to establish a real or tacit Christian theocracy during the 2016 election cycle.  If you think I am wrong in being this paranoid you have never looked at the convoluted funding network that is the multi-million dollar, anti-science, pro-religion funding machine currently operating in this country.
The Focus on the Family group spends about $90 million dollars annually and the Family Research Council spends $14 million or so.  It would be interesting to understand how those moneys relate to their activities in conjunction with The Family Leader group.
I like this cinematic comparison also because of Audrey Hepburn who survived significant deprivations during World War II latter dedicated a good portion of her life to working with children and refugees as well as passing on this ethic to her sons Sean and Luca as well as grand-daughter Emma who have all worked with children including those of refugees.   Ms. Hepburn knew the refugee experience (personally and by extension) was raised a Christian Scientist but in later life distanced herself from organized religion, but not the associated moral core.  In all of these things she resembles America in the image set forth by the Founding Fathers.

The boomerang works because it is also something that returns in a way that could hurt you if you are not vigilant much the same way a return to the pre-Revolutionary War elements of theocracy we expelled from this country in 1787 with the initial US Constitution would hurt more than most grasp. Now I suspect some will say that it is fine if we are a theocracy, but I would argue that the evidence suggests otherwise both in the past and in the present context.

Let's start in the past.  My wife is descended from the Clarks who were Catholics and came to the Virginia colonies very early on.  They were then chased first to central Maryland where there is a record of a George Clark in the Lower Potomack Hundred census of 1776 who also fought in the Revolutionary War.  Then they moved to western Pennsylvania in the late 1700s before being displaced once again to rural Ohio in the early part of the 19th century.  Most of their moves were driven in-part by being Christian but not the “right” type of Christian.  Additionally, an arm of my family —the Ferrees—were Huguenots chased from their family estates in Picardy, France to Germany around the turn of the 18th century and then to England and finally the Colonies.  They ended up in Pennsylvania too because of the state's policy of religious tolerance where they melded into the Quaker persuasion.  The lesson here being that historically fervent Christians when they were in charge in the country were not always nice even to other Christians.

Some will say that was then and now is now, but to them I would say look at some of the statements from the most overtly Christian presidential candidates (they are all lined up in the above photograph with the exception of Trump) who are for severely restricting or barring Syrian refugees for security or other reasons (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).   I would point to some statements coming out of the televised evangelical community especially Pat Robertson.  Pat Robinson basically said he had "compassion" for refugees on personal a level but not a policy level.

Hmmm.  My recollection from Sunday school is that Jesus supposedly turned water into wine, raised the dead, walked on water, and then died when it was not necessary simply to erase the sins of many. My sense from this is that Jesus (and therefore those acting is his name) should think the “security” concern a weak one in balance with the need for Christian charity.  My sense too is that Jesus likely would have very little need or desire to differentiate between personal feelings and “policy.”

And just a helpful aside here:  If you are really trying to recruit and convert new members to your “righteous” cause you should probably highlight your similarities, be welcoming and demonstrate through words and actions that you are better rather than emphasizing your differences, being unwelcoming and showing that you are pretty much just as bad or worse as those other guys. In point of fact this seems to be the strategy of this current Pope Francis.  Just saying.

We have talked about a movie; an overt effort to take our country back some 250 years into a failed and painful past; and the dangers of boomerangs and free-wheeling Christians ungoverned by a higher, secular law, so where does that leave us?  The first place is that the IRS has to step up to the plate and enforce this bit about churches and other non-profits wrongfully participating in the electoral process.  This wink-wink-nudge-nudge approach to enforcement has led to serious violations and feelings invulnerability that should not be allowed to continue.  Pulpits are wonderful places for tending to the spiritual health of a congregation but poor places for politics, particularly so when the politicians praised are acting in manner contrary to core principles of your belief system.

Secondly, we have to remember once again why we have a separation of church and state and fully understand that we should not give up this great protective happenstance because a misguided group within this country is trying to create a myth persecution and also re-write important sections of our history along with their shredding of our country’s textbooks.  And we should return our pledge to its original form taking out “under God” as well as removing “In God we Trust” from our coinage.  E Pluribus Unum is our national motto and it is a good one we can all salute and feel properly proud.

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