The slandering of the American conservative movement has begun
The slandering of the conservative movement has begun. For the past month, American newspapers have been awash with stories about the religion of various Republican presidential candidates. Michele Bachmann was portrayed in the New Yorker as a fanatical wingnut. Like Rick Perry, she has been labelled a follower of Dominionism – the belief that God gave Christians authority over all the Earth. Writing for the Daily Beast, Michelle Golberg compared Dominionism to fundamentalist Islam and warned that the GOP was engaged in an “all-out assault” on the separation of church and state. This Sunday, the liberal economist Paul Krugman’s grand thesis that the Republicans are now the “anti-science” party was republished in The Observer. By questioning evolution and global warming, Krugman says, the GOP has lost its right to rule.
Krugman’s article is a good example of what’s wrong with this hogwash reporting. It is true that Rick Perry called evolution “just a theory”, but who cares? He’s running to be President of the United States, not an eighth grade biology teacher. He will have no influence over what textbooks schools buy or what is taught in classrooms. His views on evolution are as relevant to the presidential race as the price of petrol in Timbuktu. The fact that they are shared by millions of Americans has done nothing to dent the country’s advances in science and technology. Nor are they any more irrational than the belief that Jesus walked on water or turned water into wine. Gospel stories are not only believed by many religious liberals, they are frequently quoted by Democratic presidential candidates. By the way, evolution is a theory. It is a theory constructed from individual scraps of evidence – a way of amalgamating observations into a grand design. Ergo: whenever the US deficit goes up, Paul Krugman calls for more spending – therefore we might theorise that he’s a drooling idiot. Remember: that’s just a theory, not a fact.
The assault on Dominionism is equally pernicious. In an expose piece in the New York Times, Bill Keller tells us that “I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.” He trots out the usual innuendos about evangelical Christians (they love slavery and hate evolution, and every church picnic climaxes in the ritual beheading of a transvestite). But he sneakily adds, “Neither Bachmann nor Perry has, as far as I know, pledged allegiance to the Dominionists.” Exactly. But doesn’t it make life more interesting to infer that they have?
Let’s imagine for a moment that Bachmann and Perry are Dominionists. Compare that wild and crazy faith with those held by two Democrats. Hank Johnson is the congressman from DeKalb County in Georgia and he’s a Buddhist. Specifically, he’s a follower of Daishonin Buddhism. Adherents gather regularly in large groups to sit cross-legged and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at a portable shrine. The idea is that if they say these divine words while visualising their deepest desires, they’ll get what they’ve always wanted. Like evolution, it’s just a theory – but it’s much, much more cool.
Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, is a Mormon. Many readers probably won’t know that because the mainstream media oddly doesn’t talk about it. It’s okay to call Mitt Romney a polytheist with twelve wives, but Reid is untouchable because he’s a Democrat. And yet it’s reasonable to theorise that the leader of the Senate wears the magic underwear associated with Mormonism. Is his belief that Jesus walked on American soil, anti-science? Geographers and historians would probably object.
Democratic presidential candidates regularly visit black churches, Nancy Pelosi has invoked her Catholicism so many times you might think she was a nun, and Barack Obama was married by a pastor who actively hates America. Yet Krugman suggests that only the GOP uses and abuses religion every election. More sickening is the innuendo that there is a uniquely violent subtext to conservative faith, as if every Right-winger wants to shoot an abortionist. There is no comparison between fundamentalist Islam and Dominionism: one kills and the other doesn’t. The conflation of the two is ugly and deceitful.