The Shutdown Story the Media is Missing: Crazy Religion Makes for Crazy Politics

The media is talking about the shutdown in mostly secular terms. Big mistake. This is a religion story and to ignore that aspect is like trying to report on the Taliban without mentioning Islam. The media blame the Tea Party and call them crazy. But the media has missed the real story. It’s not about the Tea Party’s politics, it’s about what made the Tea Party’s politics so crazy to begin with. This is a religion story to end all religion stories.

The reason we don’t get the straight story from the media is because of undue respect for religion on the one hand and a refusal to believe that religion is still so important on the other hand. Deference waits upon scorn. And between these two attitudes the real story gets ignored.

But if you listen to what’s said, it’s all cast in terms that anyone in the evangelical world, or raised there, will recognize. When Rep Ted Yoho from Florida’s 3rd district was asked by an NPR interviewer why he was saying that a government default would be okay he answered, ” I feel in my heart  this [the shutdown] is the right thing.” I wonder where I’ve heard that phrase before? Take a look at Yoho’s poster for a town meeting, the Tea Party logo, a church address mingle.

Do you know who launched the shutdown? Hint: He’s Southern, white and an ardent evangelical who serves as an elder in his fundamentalist church. His name is Mark Meadows. He wrote the letter to John Boehner signed by the congressional Tea Party radicals that launched the shutdown. The Tea Party’s no compromise hostage taking tactics weren’t born out of a vacuum. They have the air of the intransigence of doctrinal certainties about them.

You can’t understand the radical hostage-taking right in Congress today outside of the context of the evangelical battles with the very idea of compromise. (Maybe I’m especially attuned to this fact because my late father Francis Schaeffer was a religious right leader.) Sure, there are a handful of Ayn Rand/groupies and libertarians thrown in and sure the Koch brothers are following their own crazy Bircher agenda while inadvertently financing the demise of the US government, but none of these folks represent the true base of the Tea Party/Republican Party.

The shutdown is the religious right’s biggest “victory” – they finally turned US politics into church – and a loss for the rest of us that threatens everything we love. But it’s not all their fault. Some of our best and brightest in the media dropped the ball. Contrary to the religious right’s persecution complex our elite chattering classes have been far too polite about religion. They’ve given a free pass to people who say they are serving God.

The media have been analyzing the shutdown but largely ducking the truth. Until the media expose the beliefs of the religious extremist as the root cause of the shutdown nothing can change. Want to know why the Tea Party folks seem to take it on faith they’re right and the polls are wrong? They have been trained by their churches and pastors to ignore facts and trust their “hearts.” From global warming denial, to accepting Jesus as their personal savior no fact need apply, it’s all about trusting a web of myth, feeling and bigotry over anything that can be argued.

As Paul Krugman notes, the Tea Party/GOP is “ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” What Krugman failed to mention is that these attributes owe their bitter flavor entirely to fundamentalist religion.

The reason that the Republican Party has become resistant to facts is that it’s most ardent mass of voters is blind to reality because of their religious beliefs. Having accepted one set of religious myths they were conditioned to accept another set of political myths. As I show in my new book on religious delusion American style – And God Said, “Billy!” exploring the roots of religious delusion is the only way to understand contemporary American politics.

The level of counter intuitive incompetence shown by the Republicans in Congress can’t be understood– until you take into account the religious commitment to non “worldly” values of the religious right. The problem isn’t the GOP. The problem is what the base of extremist GOP voters believe. Those beliefs need to be explored and exposed by people not used to attacking anyone’s so-called personal beliefs. Problem is these “personal” beliefs are now a public threat.

Face it, church and state are no longer separated. Religion can’t be off limits anymore. It’s not just time to expose the crazy in the GOP, it’s time to expose the fact that personal belief isn’t sacrosanct. Evangelical Christianity is a curse to America. It’s time to say so. It is a shameful thing to be crazy on purpose. The shutdown is the naked face of nutty religion exposed.

Believers have been folded into one deadly destructive, economy-threatening entity by the Republicans. It’s time to stop being any less forcefully truth-telling about religion than we are about politics. They are one and the same. The shutdown is a slow motion religious extremist attack on America being carried out by those living in the netherworld of apocalyptic fantasy.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy!exploring the roots of religious delusion is #1 on Amazon Kindle in the Political Humor category. On Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99 and in paperback.

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • James Faehr

    I am aChristian and what some people are doing is just like the Taliban. they give the Christan faith abad name

    • llcisyouandme

      When people use religion to do evil in the pursuit of what that religion deems moral, and for which that religion speaks approvingly, from their pulpits, from their followers, from their holy books, because they perversely believe the end justifies the means, they are more than merely complicit in that evil, even if only standing idly by they are the root cause, they are forever responsible for unleashing their dogs of war.

    • Leo Buzalsky

      No, sorry, they are living up to the very definition of faith (doesn’t really matter if you attach “Christian”, “Muslim”, etc in front of the word).

      Googling the term in Firefox gave me this definition (I’m bold underlining the key part): 2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

      As Frank says, “They have been trained by their churches and pastors to ignore facts and trust their “hearts.”” I don’t see much of a difference between that and the definition above.

      Really Long Edit: I should note, too, why it doesn’t matter what you attach in front of the word. When you have this belief system that doesn’t rely on proof, then it doesn’t really even matter all that much what the Bible says (or anything else). So, you may say “they give the Christian faith a bad name” because X, Y, Z; but that gets into proof, which faith rejects.

      This also brings me to the irony of this comment. Here I am trying to be reasonable with a person who seems to be proud they are unreasonable (faithful)! Though, to be honest, I suspect a lot of people who claim they have faith do actually reject the concept on a regular basis, but they (you?) have just been told so often that faith is a good thing in your church that they’ve come to accept that as fact (like probably the current 12 people who up voted your comment).

      And that blind acceptance (that faith is a good thing)? Once again, not all too different from these Christians you think are giving faith a bad name. So, sorry, once again, they are living up to the very definition of faith. I suspect it more likely that it is actually people like you that give it a bad name (which ends up being a good thing since faith is a bad thing).

      • James Faehr

        I am sorry you feel this way but I love you because you are my brother

        • Nick Gotts

          Such public declarations of love to people who disagree with you on a blog are both egotistical and creepy. Just so you know.

          • James Faehr

            how is this creepy? loving your bouther as thy self ?

          • Nick Gotts

            Because you don’t: it’s absurd to pretend to love someone you’ve never met as you love yourself. Even if you did, making a public declaration of love, unasked, is stalking: egotistical and creepy, as I said.

  • Chris Hawkins

    Frank – Your intuitive perception is spot on. The fact is that it is these people who are hijacking our country and world and justifying with batsh*t crazy religious extremism. Take a look at this, which gives a Social Psychology look and explanation of this : Spread the word, because people need to act to stop this.

  • Church Politics

    I am going to go an read some of your Dad’s stuff, Frank. You are illogical, irrational and just downright wierd

  • Kitalaq

    Refreshing to be reading about what is the root cause of todays contemporary political chaos… Unwillingness to accept reality(Big Time $Holders Grip on Religious Psyche) with a very well rooted/seeded belief system countering what is economically, social well being and health of their own total humane being.
    A sad case of self destruction from democracy to plutocracy. Wake up from utopia and start researching for your own good GOPTP…