A number of Religious Right groups held a rally in Philadelphia over the weekend to remind everyone that when it comes to religion, they’re right and the rest of us can go jump in the lake (of fire).
Headlining the event was TV preacher Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Pat is now 82 but still pours on the crazy on a regular basis on his “700 Club.” After I wrote The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition in 1996, I considered issuing a type of annual supplement of every intolerant or insane thing Robertson said. I had to abandon the project when I realized I wouldn’t have time to do anything else.
An estimated 8,000-10,000 people attended the event on Independence Mall. Here’s Bro. Pat’s money quote: “I don’t care what the ACLU says or any atheist says, this nation belongs to Jesus!”
Let’s deconstruct that a little bit. What Robertson is really saying here is that the nation belongs – not to Jesus – but to an interpretation of Jesus and his teachings favored by Christian fundamentalists.
There is quite a difference between those two concepts. I travel a lot for Americans United, and have had the privilege of meeting lots of different types of people over the years. AU members believe lots of different things about theology, and our membership spans the spectrum from atheist to devout believers of every stripe.
The Christians I’ve met also run the gamut and represent dozens, if not hundreds, of denominations. They include Catholics and a rich diversity of Protestants.
These folks believe in their faith as strongly as Robertson believes in his. They support separation of church and state and would never dream of trying to impose an officially “Christian America.” But if they did, it would look a lot different than the Christian America Robertson and his allies seek.
The Christians who align with AU are often animated by a sense of social justice. That is, their faith motivates them to work for racial equality, women’s rights and gay rights and to speak up for the least among us. They combat poverty, stand up for the oppressed around the world and demand equal access to opportunity for all.
All of that is anathema to the Religious Right. That movement is obsessed with restricting, not expanding, rights, so they obsesses over things like legal abortion, same-sex marriage, the role of religion in public life, the teaching of evolution in public schools and so on.
I’ve often thought that the moderate and liberal Christians I’ve met at AU gatherings and other forums wouldn’t even recognize Robertson’s Jesus. Pat’s Jesus is a bootstrap capitalist, and I suppose the Virginia Beach televangelist really believes his Jesus would scream at women entering abortion clinics, bash gays and watch Fox News.
The Jesus of liberal Christianity, who spoke constantly about caring for the poor and the downtrodden, is nowhere to be found in Robertson’s “Christian nation.” That’s because Robertson and his followers don’t seek a nation that “belongs to Jesus.” They seek a nation that belongs to a band of far-right would-be theocrats whose views come straight out of the Middle Ages.
One more thought on this rally: During Robertson’s speech, a man who obviously had some issues began screaming something about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Robertson told the man to be quiet because “this is not political.”
Not political? The event was co-sponsored by groups like the Family Research Council, a wholly political entity that does nothing but shill for the GOP, and was described as 40 days of prayer that culminates – you guessed it – on Election Day. Yet it’s not political.
The fact is, everything the Religious Right does these days is political. This movement long ago elevated politics over prayer and ballots over the Bible. If these groups are praying for anything, it’s for a GOP victory in November.
Most Americans are not as gullible as Pat’s flock. We know what he and his cronies are after, and we realize that their vision of a Christian nation would leave millions of Americans out in the cold.
That’s why we – Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, etc. – work together to make certain Pat’s dream never becomes our nightmare.