Sunday, August 17, 2008

Well, Who Won: Obama, McCain or...Warren?

Where God and political candidates meet.

For a portrait on Rick Warren and how he's affected politics without being political (rather hard to do, but after all, he IS a "man of God"), read the article by Alan Wolfe of The New Republic. What I'd like to do at this time is to comment on certain points of the article. Keep in mind that it was written BEFORE the forum. Sounds ass backwards of me, but please bear it and read on.
But since the Republicans have had something of a lock on the votes of white evangelicals, McCain's appearance at Saddleback is not big news. That Rick Warren has invited Obama, and for the second time no less, is.
Warren, I think, is priming himself for much bigger things. I don't know what or how to frame it just yet, but I have the feeling that Warren is not merely going to play this out. He intends to be around (meaning, in the public consciousness) for a long, long time.
Warren is America's anti-Falwell. If he has little interest in removing evangelicals from politics, he has taken the lead in removing them from automatic identification with Republicans.
That, however, is NOT anti-Falwell. It may be shifting voters around a little bit, but Falwell's goal was political and he wanted the same thing as Warren: TOTAL conversion of everyone on the planet. Falwell wanted desperately to de-secularize schools. He didn't just want prayer in schools, he wanted public schools to be replaced with religious/parochial schools - everywhere. Falwell knew that total conversion meant theocracy. He prayed for it. Warren must surely realize that total conversion means total control of the educational system of a country, or else there are apostates.
Regardless of which candidate benefits the most from this joint appearance, however, the biggest winner is Warren himself. A wildly successful author and church planter, Warren is leading an effort to focus the attention of Christian conservatives on questions of social justice.
I agree. Of course, Warren's the winner. But leading conservative Christians to issues of social justice is a pipe dream. Warren certainly knows that. As long as there are people in this world who need to hate someone else for their own enrichment, there will always be James Dobsons, Tony Perkins and Rod Parsleys galore. They enjoy duality and hypocrisy and they won't go away - at least without a fight. And they'll say that God's on their side. Social justice is not the reason Pat Robertson's Regent University churns out lawyers to (in effect) infiltrate the government. If they wanted social justice, it would have been doled out long ago to Americans who needed better AIDS research and faith-based agencies back in the 80's and 90's. The people of Africa need a great deal of education and compassionate commitment - not hypocrites who will demand a quid pro quo: "If you say Jesus saves, we'll give you the anti-viral drugs."
There is no doubt something of a missionary aspect to Warren's work in the region, but once California exurbanites see the devastating effects of AIDS and poverty, they are unlikely to ignore the same problems in West Central Los Angeles.
Don't bet on it. The reason that any compassion is reserved for Africa is because it is far enough and foreign enough to disassociate it with AIDS in America. In America, AIDS carries an even deeper stigma than in Africa, and the "Compassionate Conservatives" wouldn't give up that stigma for anything. To them, the stigma needs to be in front at all times. One of the (erroneous) statistics agencies like Family Research Council love to site is "the gay lifestyle condemns a man to a very short life span." Give everything you have to the poor people in Africa, but never ever condone someone's behavior by helping the gay man next door. Not a cent!
The Christian right was more right than Christian. Its poisonous influence on American politics is well-documented. But it also had negative consequences for American religion. Faith is, and ought to be, about more than your position on late-term abortions.
Yes, Alan, you are definitely on the mark about the Christian Right. But you underestimate the power of the anti-abortion movement and the anti-gay rights movement: many of these people have a commitment to their form of "faith" that borders on fanatical.
The joint appearance of McCain and Obama at Saddleback is only one event in a long political campaign. But it is also a significant antidote to the poison that the religious right injected into American politics.
Right again, Alan. And very well written. However, it's still debatable as to whether or not there is any significant antidote. The Christofascists aim to go deep into American politics - perhaps they already are too deep for politics to be cured at all.

Just a thought.

Kay Warren - where were the likes of her in the 80's and 90's when Americans needed her?

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