Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So You Think You Can Scandalize? Rightwing Christians Top Each Other With Juicy Stories in September.

Not to be outdone by Christine O'Donnell's little witchcraft escapade, The Vatican and Bishop Eddie Long have chimed in with their own scandals. 

For a change, the Vatican scandal was not about pedophilia, but about money. Specifically money LAUNDERING:

The Catholic Church has suffered yet another blow to their tarnished image, as Italian investigators seized $30 million from a Vatican bank account Tuesday, stating the action was the result of a possible money laundering scheme. The Vatican said they were “perplexed and surprised” by the subsequent investigation and seizure of a small percentage of the Church’s cash assets. Law enforcement authorities in Italy say the seizure was a precaution, as prosecutors investigate the Vatican Bank’s Director and Chairman in connection with violations of Italy’s anti-money laundering laws. While Italian authorities are not accusing the Catholic Church of directly laundering the money seized, questions have been raised as to the origin of the $30 million.

Well, those cute little Prada shoes really do cost a bundle. 

The pontiff might be breathing a sigh of relief that it was only money and not another sexual abuse case, as is the one with self-proclaimed "Bishop" Eddie Long.
Two lawsuits filed late Tuesday in DeKalb County accuse Bishop Long of inappropriate sexual relationships with two young men from his church.

Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg, both in their early 20's, claim in their lawsuits that, "Long utilized his spiritual authority to coerce certain young male members and employees of defendant New Birth into engaging in sexual acts and relationships."

The suit claims the congregation is likely unaware of the practices. But it also says church money was used to foster the relationships.

Robinson, in his suit contends Long used, "monetary funds from the accounts of defendant New Birth to entice the (young men) with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics.
God, Vetting and Wikipedia

The systemic problem of titles and their automatic reverence is one that is rife in Long's group. Looking back into Long's life takes a suspension of belief: the title of "Bishop" is self-administered since Baptists do not recognize hierarchy in clergy. And while Long's Master of Divinity degree from Interdenominational Theological Center is valid, his PhD in Pastoral Ministry from the International College of Excellence is suspicious: the ICE is accredited by Accrediting Commission Internationalwhich is NOT recognized by the Department of Education.

Long's "prosperity gospel" gave root to an overblown image complete with fancy cars, diamond rings and a luxury estate.

And because of his "Bishop-ness", Long got away with financial scandal:

On August 28, 2005 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed a front page spread accusing Long of mishandling funds that were funneled through a charity started by Long. The article reports that from 1997-2000, the non-profit charity, Bishop Eddie Long Ministries Inc., provided him with at least $3.07 million in salary, benefits and the use of property.[2] Long contended that the charity did not solicit donations from members but instead gained its income from royalties, speaking fees and several large donations.[3]
 OK, kids, stay tuned!!

Values Voter Summit: O'Donnell, Fischer, and The Usual Panoply of Clowns

"Vetting" Is A Dirty Word

It all started with Sarah Palin, I think. One wonders what the McCain campaign thought of the woman as they asked her questions. Actually, one wonders whether or not they asked her any questions at all.  Of course, desperation grabs at anything that looks good on the surface, and on the surface, Palin looked very good. Besides, the Republican Party had not bothered to groom anyone like Palin and they discovered too late that their base wanted new blood. They also followed one of the primary dictates of the Christian Right: if they say that they're Christian and pro-life, refer to God enough times and hate the Left with a ferver that borders on paranoia, then they're a fit warrior in the culture wars. Palin looked right and sounded right, therefore she was right. 

The problem with those dictates: they're the basis of  good, entertaining comedy. And the thing that a political party has too much of is comedy...and the clowns that perpetuate it.

The Values Voter Summit might be looked upon as an assemblage of clowns trying to look indignant at the way the country is being run. At best, it is a group of our country's highest ranking, most vocal, most self-righteously arrogant dullards. At worst, it is a group that hopes to spread self-righteous tyranny. They have recently taken on the mantle of "Social Conservatives" since the terms "Christian Right" or "Religious Right" have had some negative connotations. But that term, however, has been overshadowed by the efforts of some to declare that the United States is a "Christian Nation" and there have been rumblings from them of a "Christian ONLY Nation". No matter what they call themselves, they are evolving into what Sinclair Lewis warned us about: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." 

The much-trumpeted Summit is sponsored by Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council. It serves as the pinacle of his career as a lobbyist for the Christian Right. And since his only boss is the venerable James Dobson, Perkins takes it upon himself to rally his culture war troops once a year to spout anger and revenge against liberals, moderates, atheists, homosexuals, unions, illegal immigrants, progressive churches and non-Christians.  Put another way: "social justice" is not on the program. 

This last Summit (Sept. 16-19 in D.C.) was, (as usual) entertaining, regaling the rest of the country with its bloviators, tiresome buzz-words, demonizations and pronouncements which eluded critical thinking. The speakers and awardees were carbon copies of last year's Summit with the exceptions that Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell substituted for Carrie Prejean and Bryan Fischer substituted for just about every hate group in the country. And among the likes of Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Gary Bauer was Prof. Dr. Ergun Caner, the Muslim-turned-Christian impersonator, which proves that the Summit coordinators believed in forgiveness, if not sagacity. 

And the stars, Fischer and O'Donnell,  proved that the dictates of the Christian Right were strongly adhered to (esp. in the case of O'Donnell, but more about that later). 

Bryan Fischer exuded confidence - slightly subdued - while he quoted scripture, compared  the Biblical Joshua to George Washington, said that Christians who don't vote would be giving the country over to pagans and atheists, condemned politicians who supported same-sex marriages, civil unions or even domestic partnerships as evil and posited "the involuntary transfer of resources" (taxing the rich) as "theft." Everything to Fischer was (and always is, in his radiocasts) black and white, good or bad. Nothing was nuanced. Nuance takes a commitment to reason. And if there's anything Fischer is not committed to, it's reason. But while hardcore conservatives questioned the wisdom of putting Fischer on the stage,  he nonetheless elicited applause with his hatred cloaked as bona fide fact and his eschatology as that put forth by the finest Biblical scholar.

Christine O'Donnell's speech was not nuanced either. Oh, it contained the rather pointless "This is OUR country" phrase that will doubtless go down in the annals of the Summit as a "turning point" (whatever that might be). Her pre-witchcraft moments were about as pithy as a sledge hammer while she tried to convince people that she was serious about God, love of country and anything else that could rally them. 

If the choice of Sarah Palin by Republicans was the first instance of bad Republican vetting, and Carrie Prejean was the mistake of the Christian Right, then O'Donnell is certainly the "oh, sh*t!" of the Tea Party movement. A former campaign manager called her a "fraud," and now she is being charged by an ethics watchdog group of embezzling $20,000 in campaign funds. What's more shocking, however, is the numbers of people in Delaware who voted for her without knowing some of her "principles":

Christine O’Donnell led a campaign against masturbation, claiming it is a form of adultery.

... warned coed dorm rooms would lead to ‘orgy rooms.’
... wanted to stop the ‘whole country from having sex.’
... believed that spouses who have been cheated on possess compromised ‘purity.’  
... believed contraception is ‘anti-human.’  
... claimed abstinence-only education has been an ‘incredible success.’  
... excused gay bashing as ‘kids being kids.’
... warned about mice with ‘fully functioning human brains.’ 
... warned that former President Clinton hosting a TV show would be a ‘threat to our national security.’  

All of these last-minute in sights to O'Donnell beg the question: should the people who voted for Christine O'Donnell be voting at all? Voting is not just a right, but an act of responsibility. Casting a ballot for someone you do not know about is irresponsible. In addition, putting up a front (in this case, exposure at the Values Voter Summit) for a candidate simply because she said "God" so many times before, is not only irresponsible, but downright deceptive.

Conclusion: The Summit As Laugh Fest

Well-entertained audiences will tell you that frightened clowns are the funniest: we are delighted when one clown is running for fear of being sprayed by seltzer water or being hit by a pie in the face. And so it was at the Summit: Fischer, Perkins, O'Donnell, Bauer, Schlafly all regaled us with their fears, even in the Summit's "serious" panels, e.g. HOW TO REACH THE ONLINE GENERATION (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) or SOCIAL JUSTICE: AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER? and the most fearful of all:  THE REAL COST OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

The Summit so entertained the rest of the country, that it had us clamoring for more, we want more Fischers, O'Donnells, Angles, Bachmanns and Palins. What matters that they make any headway into our secular system, eventually we will be laughing too hard to vote for them.

One comment about the Summit, the Republican party and the Tea Party that was particularly apt: 

"...if you won’t vet your candidates, send them to Jerry Springer so that the audience can vet them, and the others, send them to rehab and a priest."