I’m noticing a trend lately with the Religious Right that might well baffle observers but which makes perfect sense within the strange subculture that its adherents inhabit: they act for all the world like they think everyone else is a bunch of idiots. As usual, there’s a bit more to it than that, though. Today we’ll talk about three examples of what I mean, and next time we’ll touch on why I think it’s happening.
Of Course That’s Why President Obama Should Wait.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has just died. The 79-year-old judge was quite arguably the most ultra-conservative (and one might even say regressive) voice in the group, drawing his worldview from his staunch Catholicism.
As upset as the Jesus Party’s members are with the idea of their hero dying, they are even more upset with the idea of his replacement being appointed by a Democrat, however.
The sitting President of the United States, as per our government rules, gets to appoint a new judge. And you can guess that the Religious Right is losing its sweet ever-lovin’ mind about this idea. Though they might act like they’re absolutely gaga over the Constitution and genuinely think that their god wrote it, nothing frightens and enrages them more than the Scary Black Kenyan Atheist Muslim in the White House and Possibly the Antichrist appointing a judge to the highest court in the land.
The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Kentuckistan), acting like he has no earthly idea how this process works, made a rather weird demand: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Except, of course, that “the American people” do not have a voice in the selection of SCOTUS judges because that position is not elected, but rather appointed as per the Constitution itself, and furthermore I seriously doubt Mitch McConnell is ignorant of that fact.
“Until we have a new president” means “until we have a president we like better than this one,” since Republicans have been pretending since President Obama’s inauguration that he isn’t a valid president. I doubt the senator is ignorant of the fact that most Americans also know that he’s pretending that his party’s entire strategy for the last 8 years hasn’t been getting in the way of every single thing that president has tried to do while they scramble to get a nice (white, Religious-Right-pandering) Republican into office.
We’re expected to nod and smile along with Mitch McConnell as he lies through his teeth, pretends that the Supreme Court is a position that “the people” (who he couldn’t care one bit less about otherwise) elect, and acts like he’s not just saying all that to deny the President one of the official duties given to him by the very Constitution his party thinks his god wrote because he knows he won’t like whoever gets appointed. His party took that lie and ran with it, with even Paul Ryan vowing to block any appointment the president made.
President Obama issued a response to this ludicrous demand:
“There will be plenty of time for me to [appoint the next judge] and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote,” Obama said. “These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They’re bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life.”
It was, by slapdown standards, a golden one, but none would have been required if Mitch McConnell had not made such a strange demand in the first place–and moreover made it as if everyone was supposed to take it seriously. And unsurprisingly given the uproar his party’s blatant obstructionism has provoked, already it looks like his tribe will not be keeping its brash promise of automatically blocking anybody President Obama selects. Even Fox News’ official legal analyst called Republicans’ childish vow “a big mistake,” if you can even imagine that, but then again, Fox News has no idea what the hell to do at this point with the GOP.
As I considered this story, I began to think about all the other times I’ve heard toxic Christians lie through their teeth, apparently with the full expectation that everyone else will go “Oh, okay, that’s right!” and let them get away with it. Two other situations in the news lately sprang immediately to mind.
Yes, I’m Sure The #YallQueda Totally Respected That Judge and Were Totally Not Intending Violence to Happen.
The armed standoff at Malheur Ridge in Oregon may have come to an end, but the legal troubles of the people instigating it are probably going to last for many years. After weeks of playing Cowboys and Indians with live ammo, the ultra-conservative right-wing “teavangelical” Christians who’d tried to spark an armed revolt against the United States government either got themselves shot or arrested one by one, all amid much mockery.
The same wingnuts who had earlier thumped their chests about how big and brave and bad-ass they were began whining and sniveling that they didn’t wanna get arrested. They were okay with being martyrs for the future rebellion they ached so much to start against their own country, but now that they’d been soundly defeated, they just wanted to go hooooooome and tend their farms and lead their families like decent husbands and fathers should. Obviously their homes, jobs, and families had always been big concerns of theirs, which we can tell because the #YallQueda had left all three of them to go be rebels in Oregon (and thereafter leave their improperly-disposed-of feces and other trash for others to clean up–talk about the story of their lives!).
The government’s complaint against the arrested would-be rebels is written up in detail at the Washington Post. The Bundys and their cronies, facing a great number of very serious charges, have alternated between behaving conciliatory and belligerent. (How belligerent? Very, very belligerent.)
But in between blustering and begging, the self-serving lies continue to drip from them all. Lisa Bundy, the wife of jailed #YallQueda member Ammon Bundy, came out with this absolute laugh riot about the armed standoff in Oregon (after whining that her husband had missed one of his six children’s birthdays, which you’d think might have occurred to him well before he left to try to start a war, and besides, honestly, with six kids, someone’s birthday is always coming up, isn’t it?): “He educated, which is what his plan was — to get people that study the Constitution, learn their rights, learn of their freedoms, and that’s it.”
Yes, you heard her. That’s it! Her husband is a peaceful fellow who traipsed off to Oregon and just happened to have all those guns, and then forcefully commandeered a public place with his armed buddies. Once fully ensconced, they terrified the locals, made videos about revolutions, threatened a “bloodbath” if challenged, said their “militia” was going to “come after” the FBI, talked with obvious glee about martyrdom and war, walked around with all those guns like they were waving their dicks in the air, and openly behaved like a para-military organization at all times and in all ways.
Oh, but they only did all that stuff because they just wanted to teach Americans about the Constitution and educate them about what rights they enjoyed as citizens.
Ms. Bundy comes by her piss-poor deception honestly. Her menfolk tried to get bail by arguing, with perfectly straight faces, that they certainly hadn’t wanted to do anything violent, incite any kind of trouble, or cause any problems for the locals or the feds. Nope, not them, far from it! They were just peacefully assembling just like the Constitution said anybody could do. That’s all. Seriously. They should be allowed to go home now that they’d said what they wanted to say. They weren’t a threat to anybody, much less their beloved country, ever, oh perish the thought! Can they go home now pweeeeeeze and pretend none of this ever happened? They swore up and down that, if given bail, they’d be good little boys from now on and totally obey the judge’s conditions.
Of course, this whole standoff was sparked by these “sovereign citizen” types because two of their pals got convicted of arsons that the government suspects were committed to hide evidence of poaching. But sure, let’s pretend that it was about FREEDOM and MURRKUH and CONSTEETOOSHUN and a bunch of other words they certainly don’t understand. It worked once, after all, when Cliven Bundy, the original “welfare queen in the cowboy hat,” got turned into a heroic freedom fighter by the Tea Party’s most disgruntled and entitled segment of fundagelicals for refusing to pay his land-use fees like everyone else in his area does. It sure looks to me like these people are moochers and self-serving liars trying to turn their cowardly words and deeds into some kind of exalted freedom-fighting movement.
History does not record exactly what the judge in the Bundys’ case, Stacie Beckerman, said in immediate response to the load of codswallop they tried to feed her court. We do know that she categorically rejected their arguments, and did so in language that, while diplomatic, hints about her astonishment that they even tried to lie in this manner. The prosecuting memorandum outlines the material facts regarding these supposedly peaceful, law-abiding citizens and the truth about their claim to have deep and great respect for the authority of the government–which is to say, they are not, and have none. Reality doesn’t even halfway resemble their version of it.
About the only thing I didn’t notice is a discussion of the #YallQueda’s likely opinion on the validity of any orders issued by a female judge. I’ve noticed that fundagelical men get really tetchy about women having any kind of power over them. The fact that they almost immediately tried to get a different judge to give them bail after she’d refused their request (like small children might run to ask Daddy after Mommy said no) doesn’t exactly scream respectfulness to me.
Through it all, the Bundys and their buddies have always acted exactly as if all of the authorities they encounter should accept their statements at face value without considering any facts, as if contradicting facts don’t even exist.
As egregious as the #YallQueda’s dishonesty was, though, it and what Republicans did after Justice Scalia’s death both pale before the grandest deception toxic Christians have attempted to push forward in recent memory.
I’m So Sure They’re Totally Worried About Religious Liberty.
When the brouhaha about “religious liberty” started happening, it seemed like it came out of left field, out of nowhere, and all at once. Southern Christians might have thought for decades that they could seize power for themselves by labeling what they were doing as “religious liberty,” but people outside that bubble can certainly be forgiven for not having the faintest idea what was going on. Even I hadn’t seen it coming, because this idea was only just getting rolling in that subculture when I was a member of it.
But it isn’t hard to figure out what they’re really trying to accomplish.
Here is a brief rundown of how religious liberty has been redefined by toxic Christians:
They can’t follow the same laws everyone else follows, because that’d interfere with their religious liberty.
They can’t do their jobs like everyone else must or face being fired, because of religious liberty.
They can’t possibly stop jamming their opinions down everyone else’s throats for two seconds because that might jostle their religious liberty.
They can’t stop trying to sneak their religious indoctrination into the public school classes because of religious liberty.
They cannot shut up and allow women to make decisions about their own bodies without interference, nor same-sex couples from getting married without their outrage, because when total strangers do things they don’t like, that’s totally infringing upon their religious liberty.
And they keep trying to force our secular government to give their religion a place of honor that no religion should ever have because that’s what religious liberty is all about.
They must be allowed to control our country, our people, our sex lives, and our very words–or else their religious liberty is being threatened, because they cannot possibly have religious liberty while anyone anywhere is doing anything that they don’t think is Jesus-approved and unless they always are allowed to win whatever squabble they choose to start.
Any time anything happens anywhere around them that reminds them that non-Christians exist and don’t care what they think or want, they cry about their religious liberty.
And, um, that is complete horseshit.
The rest of us figured out some time ago that “religious liberty” is simply the trendy new dogwhistle term used by fundagelical Protestants and hardline Catholics alike to indicate that they’re members of a tribe seeking to dominate America before they miss their chance forever. It is a euphemism meaning “a desire to institute an American theocracy” and “a wish to gain legal control of other Americans’ lives.” What they’ve created here is a truly perverted way to express one of the most basic freedoms in our government: the freedom to worship as one sees fit, or not to worship at all.
They don’t want real religious liberty, because real religious liberty would involve them not controlling other people’s lives and not having the power to dictate other people’s most intimate and personal choices for them. Real religious liberty involves people doing whatever they want to do with their spiritual lives. But these Christians don’t want that. They want to own other people’s lives and spiritual choices as well as their own.
In short, toxic Christians want a world that looks exactly like the one they (mistakenly) think they’d have if they had won rather than lost all their culture wars. If they can’t get that world through legitimate means, then they’ll get it in whatever sneaky, underhanded, devious way they can to force every person in America to pretend along with them that they won. They want a theocracy run by their own tribe, whatever their own tribe happens to be, since they always assume that their particular group is the one who’d be setting all the rules and that this future theocracy would be run the way they think it should be run, with them as part of the ruling class of theocrats.
It’s painfully obvious that this “religious liberty” nonsense is simply a power grab for the Religious Right. As NPR put it so well, yes, they want “religious liberty,” but only for themselves. The second other religions’ members start talking about their own liberty, suddenly Christians switch gears and reveal that they mean “liberty” literally only for their own beliefs and nobody else’s. (I’m not sure they understand what “liberty” actually means.)
About the only good side to what they’re doing to our country’s laws and traditions is that they are driving off the more moderate and compassionate members of their own denominations and groups, thus hastening their own fall. The harder they push, the faster they lose people–and the more they alienate those who might otherwise have considered joining them. There’s a certain stark, ironic beauty to be seen there. But there’s not enough stark irony in the world to make it worth putting up with their dishonesty in the meanwhile.
I’m enjoying the pushback that other Christians are offering to this disingenuous, kitten-eyed twaddle, like this essay from the Unfundamentalists that says it all. I wish there were more of it. Especially as these other Christians’ real agenda becomes more and more clear, it’s astonishing that they can still repeat this catchphrase of theirs with a straight face. I suppose they must, since they’ve pinned all their political hopes on this particular tactic at this point, what with “family values” having so laughably failed them.
“Religious Liberty” proponents have quite a lot in common with the #YallQueda and the Republicans blustering about obstructing President Obama. Their lies might be very different, but they flow out of the same exact mindset and play upon the same exact emotions. Next time we meet up, we’ll look at what all three of these groups of liars-for-Jesus have in common–and what their religious worldview might have had to do with them deciding to go with this tactic.