There are ominous signs that Republicans will seek once again to romance that segment of their political base that wishes to dictate to the majority of Americans how their most personal decisions should be made – – decisions that by rights should never have become part of our national debate in the first place. You can tell you are at the bottom rung of the intellectual ladder when a caller tells a moderator her two most important issues are gay marriage and abortion.
How in the world, regardless of one’s religious beliefs, does anyone focus on such issues and ignore the literally earth-shattering events that will ultimately determine the fate of our nation and indeed the entire world? And how desperate, shallow and immoral are those politicians who seek the mantel of leadership by courting the purveyors of religious dogma? Are they and their supporters so blind they fail to see the parallels between our country’s right-wing moralists and those in other places who brand all dissenters infidels and rise to power on the promise of self-proclaimed righteousness?
George Bush listens, he says, to a higher power when he makes his decisions. Instructed by God, following in the path of “the philosopher, Jesus” this president has all but claimed to rule by divine right, and there are some who feel he can do no wrong because “he is a good Christian man.” But when have Mr. Bush or any in his coterie ever been heard to quote the psalm “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God” – – or refer to the passage in Matthew where Jesus says ‘I hungered, and you gave me meat, thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came unto me, because inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of my brethren you have done it unto me’?
This administration is too busy beating plowshares into swords to consider dialoguing in search of peaceful solutions. And, as far as ministering to the needy, that is the population they target most easily in any budget-tightening process. The Bible may say “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” but no-one in this White House takes talk like that seriously. Their religion is a thing unto itself, their policies defined by a philosophy that embraces the notion that the riches of the earth are simply the stuff of booming economies. And what may become a state of perpetual war is a product of this president’s messianic leap into a world that remains a mystery to him, a personal crusade – – although he has learned not to use that word again in the context of the US presence in the Middle East.
But, with the situation in Iraq continuing to deteriorate Republican supporters offer few options other than to increase our military presence. Even seeming setbacks, like the withdrawal of over a thousand British troops from southern Iraq are spun by the vice president as proof that things are going well there, a view not necessarily endorsed by observers in the field. But there can be no satisfactory spin to explain why those British troops are not being sent to Baghdad in support of the US “surge”. Cheney’s opinions in this regard defy logic and try the patience of most ordinary Americans.
Still, the three most visible Republican candidates for president – – Senator McCain, Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney – – stand united behind the president regarding Iraq and his “war on terrorism”. Not content, however, to rely on that issue alone, the three of them have been cozying up to the beacons of intolerance on the religious right. Romney plans to deliver the commencement address at Pat Robertson University; McCain pals around with Jerry Falwell and says Roe v. Wade should be overturned while Giuliani insists he will appoint “strict-constructionist” judges and speaks more softly than in the past about a woman’s right to choose, gay unions and gun control.
How did it come to this? How did narrow, religious views come to play such a dominant role in one of our two major political parties? And when in our recent history have religious leaders been so committed to the pursuit of war? It is a national disgrace that religion has been used in such a demeaning and cynical manner. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Focus on the Family, influencing a party and vying for power over an entire nation? Our historical framework is being undercut by the strident voices of a minority and the shameless surrender of the Republican Party’s major political contenders to a dogma that confounds the founding principles of our government.
War should not come so easily to mind when we speak of our national interests; strategies and political platforms should not be formulated according to ideological or religious beliefs that do not represent the best of who we are as a people. And there may be some faint hope that the electorate, even some Republicans, having grown weary of being used as pawns in their leaders’ power struggles, will look beyond divisive social issues to focus on matters of greater import.

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