Make no mistake dear friends, the battle is joined in open politics. To date, the war against religion has been something for culture and courts, but it is now a major player in our presidential politics.
Starting With The Mormons
The attacks on Romney’s, and now Jon Huntsman’s, faith (now yawners in their own right) are being turned, as we have predicted they would be for years now, in to attacks on religious people and religion generally. Here is how it is working.
Take for example, the attempts to stir up the “Are Mormons Christians?” issue. This is an issue that will be debated forever. Mormon doctrine, despite their worship of Christ, is so heterogeneous in comparison to creedal Christianity that there will always be those that want to put them outside “Christianity.” I have made my argument here a number of times and will not revisit it – such would be a distraction in this discussion. It has come up in the context of the possible Rick Perry run.
When you have Perry, a open and outspoken Evangelical, speaking about his possible run in definitive evangelical language, people to whom doctrine means little and political stance everything, and therefore unable to effectively distinguish between Mormons and Evangelicals, are only going to see a weak point in the opposing party to exploit. (As an aside, how come we never exploit such minor divisions? For example, Jewish-Americans and African-Americans? The answer, of course, is that we would find it utterly distasteful, perhaps even immoral.)
While exploiting that division, they are painting we Evangelicals as close minded, even bigoted, which some amongst us certainly are, but most are not. Yet, the image is very unpalatable to the average American voter on either side of the aisle. Even the Washington Post is starting to notice this is something a bit different than the standard Mormons v Evangelicals line.
This whole strategy is really apparent in Iowa, and while Iowa may vote oddly for the primaries, they still set a tone. On the one hand, with the hiring of Huckabee daughter Sarah by Tim Pawlenty, and an ad on his part that some are questioning if it plays the Mormon card, one begins to wonder if Pawlenty will “go there” out of desperation since Michele Bachmann is sucking all his air out of the room. Romney’s Iowa strategy now seems more aimed at Bachmann than Pawlenty. But they are not done setting us up as uber-religious nutcases.
Focusing on Evangelicals
With Pawlenty unable to get traction, and Perry in the distance, taking a stand in South Carolina, not Iowa if he gets in, Bachmann now carries the evangelical flag. Unlike Pawlenty, she is not leaving any room for the Mormon card to be played on her behalf, and so the long knives have come out for here in two stories.
The first story concerns Bachmann and here former church. Her family recently resigned that church because her congressional duties had prevented her attendance for at least a couple of years. So some intrepid reporters (troublemakers?) went looking and found some ancient Lutheran doctrines in opposition to the papacy and tried to make a big deal out of it, causing the denomination to respond. Now in the first place, the church the Bachmann’s were a part of was the Wisconsin Synod – very middle of the road in the Lutheran spectrum. Yes, Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, and the Pope did not get along – it was called the Reformation. It also happened in the 16th century for crying-in-my-soup! If you want to make a deal out of this, you could probably say that ALL protestant faith and anti-papal. What’s really amazing is that there are many on the farther right of the protestant spectrum that still bear amazing amounts of anti-Catholic bias, but despite their histrocial roots, Wisconsin Synod Lutherans are not much counted among them. This entire meme points out that the point is not to inform about the candidates religion, but to try and play gotcha.
But they did not stop there. Bachmann’s husband runs Christian Counselling clinics, that by some tellings will advise you to “pray the gay away“:
A former patient who sought help from the Christian counseling clinic owned by GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, told ABC News he was advised that prayer could rid him of his homosexual urges and he could eventually be “re-oriented.”
“[One counselor's] path for my therapy would be to read the Bible, pray to God that I would no longer be gay,” said Andrew Ramirez, who was 17-years-old at the time he sought help from Bachmann & Associates in suburban Minneapolis in 2004. “And God would forgive me if I were straight.”
Now I, and I am willing to bet you a number of other Americans, do not find this controversial. Which is, I am sure the reason the story is not getting as much traction as it’s proponents would like. So, a new buzz has been created:
Hear that snickering? That’s the sound of the 2012 mudslinging starting in earnest.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the growing whispers about Michele Bachmann’s campaign—the uncorroborated speculation that the candidate’s profoundly antigay hubby, Marcus, is a closeted gay man—you will be. The chatter has already made its way from the blogs and Twitter (Cher tweeted that Marcus has tripped her exquisitely tuned gaydar) to the alternative press to The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld left each other in stitches this week taking shots at Marcus Bachmann’s effeminate manner and “center-square gay” voice. (Anyone out there old enough to remember Paul Lynde?) As Stewart joked, the guy is “an Izod shirt away from being the gay character on Modern Family.” Clips of the comedians’ faux “comedy repression” session promptly popped up on the websites of such stodgy outlets as The Washington Post and The Atlantic.
Now, absent evidence, that is about as scandalous as politics can get. The purveyor of this rumor just linked takes things a step further in speculating about the Bachmann’s:
The degree to which Christians should anticipate or even pine for persecution has long been a common debate topic. (“You know if you are never persecuted for your beliefs then you are probably not bothering Satan too much,” asserts this poster at ChristianOvercomers.com, adding that “being delivered up to Satan and the rules of his beast system is your DESTINY as one of God’s elect.”) The tendency of some religious conservatives to see themselves as a political minority under siege has even been given its own cheeky moniker, Christian Persecution Complex.
In modern-day America, chances for actual religious martyrdom are few and far between. For the pious like Bachmann, political martyrdom can be the next best thing.
Bachmann has already pointed to religious bigotry as a source of her political opposition. “I was attacked repeatedly for my religious faith, and the media was a willing accomplice,” she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune of her 2006 House race. “I’m really disturbed by the media’s lack of tolerance and understanding for the belief of a committed Christian.”
And so, we move from issue (homosexuality) to unfound rumor, to portrayal of Christians as having some sort of martyr complex – in other words, we’re “nuts.”
Not pretty is it? Said Cal Thomas this week past:
Religion can and has been used as a distraction to dupe voters.
He is very right about that. We cannot allow ourselves to be so duped. We cannot fall for the inter-religious baiting they are trying to provide us with. We have to learn to fight back against the scurrilous rumor-mongering so evident against Bachmann. Our candidate have to learn how not to supply these people with such ammunition, and if they do not we have to marginalize them for the sake of what progress we can make.
Other wise, we will just keep losing.