Sunday, August 22, 2004

In a Good Horror Movie Almost Everybody Dies

Geraldo, with whom I shirt-sleeved the long warm afternoons away during our Chronicle daze, writes:

I would like to see more tooth and claw in your blog .... Tell people what Garrison Keillor is really like, as opposed to the head-scratching sage from rural parts he pretends to be. "He's a MEAN man," you told me when you came back from an interview. Tell about the confused feelings when you see a plumber's butt on a fat man. Write about faculty politics in the context of Kissinger's apercu that they're so vicious because so little is at stake. More red meat, please.

He also tells me not to be so "wistful."

In fact, I am composing anti-Bush columns in my head all the time, but it seems to me that such attacks should be as precisely done as a Shakespearean sonnet. They should be not just a scream of rage but something that honors and advances a noble form, albeit an angry one. Unfortunately, Bush really does reduce me to incoherent gasping, which makes people want to give me a Heimlich, not follow my lead. That stuttering fury arises because I really don't understand people whose view of the world is such that they think he's doing a good job for working people. Why don't they see? I think. It seems to me that the average working person should be able to see. Finding ways to make that particular anti-Bush argument seems worthwhile, but others have already done so. With time and hard work -- maybe I could get dual degrees in psycholinguistics and marcoeconomics in my spare time -- I might be able to add something to existing arguments. Still, it's frustrating to know that existing arguments haven't had great success. I don't really understand why not.

But my agitation is greater because I do understand why so-called Evangelical Christians support Bush. They think God wants them to. They think that voice in their ear as they work through the confusion and contradiction of the "inerrant" Christian Bible is God's voice, not simply their own desperate wish to find simple meaning in a murky pastiche.

I do not want to oversimplify the Evangelical mind and call it dangerous --currently dangerous -- in the same way the segment of Islam that encourages suicide bombing is. But I wonder what the brake is that would keep the Evangelicals from becoming so? The crusades and the Inquisition and a thousand wars of fratricide and genocide were Christian, and if they were imposed by hierarchies, at the top of those hierarchies were people in whose ear God whispered. For all the talk about the independence of Protestants, many of them seem more than willing to follow their own God whisperers.

I have been there and done that. I know what it was like to work day by day to suppress rationality because my preachers would work through their Sunday lesson step by step and idea by idea, boasting of their iron logic, only to say, "Finally, it becomes a matter of faith," meaning, "Of course, it doesn't make sense but what are you gonna do?" Anyone who knows he or she is right and that the premise on which that certainty is based is unfalsifiable -- though you slay me, yet shall I trust Him -- is a dangerous person. This attitude isn't just limited to conservative Protestantism, but conservative Protestantism is what I know. And I know there is nothing I could possibly say to convince anyone who believes George Bush is God's chosen that he is not. All I can do is offend them. And that's certainly worth doing since perhaps it will raise their blood pressure and they will die before election day.

But perhaps it will only raise mine. And that makes me wistful.


Anonymous said...

Rationality and compassion are what stands between the faithful and the fanatic. Rationality, in that one can listen and evaluate the world with something deeper than a religious lens. Compassion, so that one can love the sinner, hate the sin.

One without the other will not work -- one can rationally know that Jews/Muslims/Christians are not the enemy, but without compassion one might decide to stone them anyway.

And without rationality, one may have compassion, but decide it only applies within the narrow confines of one's religion. And you lack the ability to ignore the imperative to destroy that which does not conform to your beliefs.

Deep thoughts indded. Like the photo of the cranky old men whittling the afternoon away.

Cassandra K & Steve K

Anonymous said...

Hello Michael!

Re this column you posted, looks like last Saturday: I just wanted
to put in my two cents and advise you that there are "evangelical
Christians" on all sides of the political spectrum. I think the term you
wanted to use here was "conservative evangelical Christians." Because there
are actually about ten or so folks out there who are not "conservative" yet
call themselves "evangelical." Me, I'm not sure if I'm one of them or not.

I thank Dr. Jack Rogers, recently retired from San Francisco (Presbyterian)
Theological Seminary, for tracing the modern day history of evangelicals
and at what point the conservatives so took over that the word
"evangelical" began to presume that one was "conservative." (If you're
interested, I'll look up the name of the book; I can't remember which one
it is.) He takes us back to the late, great days when that Baptist Sunday
School teacher from Plains, Georgia, was in the White House. They just
looooved Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian who was teaching a Sunday
school class while he was President. They looooved him up until the day he
endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment, circa 1978. (and you thought it was
about the Iran hostage crisis, huh?) And that's when we found out how many
conservatives were out there in the evangelical ranks. They dropped Jimmy
Carter like a hot potato and took up with Ronald Reagan, a man who didn't
even go to church (I never could figure that one out) but who said the
"right" things about conservative issues. Conservative evangelicals are
more conservative than evangelical -- take my word for it. To this day I am
still proud of Jimmy Carter (and proud to have voted for him, twice) as a
man who lives his faith every day and stands up for what he believes in, no
matter what's "politically in" these days. In the end he parted company
from the Southern Baptist Convention and went with the Cooperative Baptist
Fellowship (I think that's what it's called), but he is still an

By the way, "conservative evangelicals" hate Jack Rogers because he was
once "one of them" and then changed his mind about the ordination of
practicing homosexuals. He left conservative evangelical Fuller Theological
Seminary to go to SFTS, the devil's spawn of liberal theology. (More than
you wanted to know, I'm sure.) two cents' worth. I just told my congregation Sunday that I don't
believe Jesus endorses candidates for political office -- this after
getting a letter from a political candidate asking me to endorse his point
of view from the pulpit. No, no, no. Go away. Yes, he was Republican. How
did you guess?

On the other hand, in New Orleans Democratic politicians speak in
African-American churches on a routine basis. I'm not comfortable with that
either. So there you go.

Sorry to have ranted on so long...