Neo-Bircher apocalyptic politics harms the people who embrace it

Neo-Bircher apocalyptic politics harms the people who embrace it November 1, 2013

Got distracted and derailed a bit this week, so I won’t have a chance to check in with Buck Williams and his thrilling rescue of Tsion from Zion. (In other words, no Left Behind Friday this week.)

Here, instead, is a news item from yesterday that underscores the sad influence of the Left Behind novels and their whole silly form of fright-peddling: “Texas to Tea Party: No, the Alamo Won’t Fall Under U.N. Control.”

The Alamo will not fall under United Nations control if it is named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Texas Land commission assured Texans on Wednesday, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

In a statement Wednesday Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, called rumors that the U.N. might manage the Alamo and other Spanish missions in Texas “horse hockey.”

“The people of Texas own the Alamo now and in the future. Nothing is going to change that,” Patterson said at a gun rights rally at the Alamo on Oct. 19.

“Bible prophecy scholars” like Tim LaHaye and San Antonio’s own John Hagee are obsessed with the United Nations, and thanks to their hard work, millions of their followers are obsessed with it too. LaHaye’s major “contribution” to dispensationalist ideology was his grafting in of old John Birch Society legends, simply replacing their dishonest paranoia about a Communist one-world government with fears of an Antichrist one-world government instead.

This is the main difference between the tea party of the 21st century and the Birchers of the 1950s and ’60s. Take any Bircher pamphlet from 1960 and replace “Communism” with “Antichrist” and you’ve got a usable 2013 tea party pamphlet. The same fright is being peddled, it’s just been re-branded and re-packaged.

An angry white man uses the American flag as a weapon of violence at some point in the 20th century. (Photo by Stanley Forman)

The tea party has the same political effect that original Bircherism had — making good and necessary things harder to do. And it has the same human effect — ensnaring the gullible and the fearful in a miserable cocoon of falsehood, fright, indignation and baseless resentment.

The latter is often more troublesome, at least on a personal level. Jen Senko’s documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad covers familiar territory for many of us. Like most of us, Senko isn’t mainly concerned that her brainwashed dad is voting for the opponents of the people she’s voting for. Her main concern about her dad is that he is angry all the time, desperately unhappy, and filled with a bitter hatred toward people he didn’t hate before.

Yes, I’m concerned about the political effect of the tea partiers and the rest of the neo-Birchers politicized by hate media and the hateful heresies of Tim LaHaye and John Hagee — particularly when their politics literally results in taking food off the table of hungry families. But it’s never only about politics. The political misery these folks are spreading is a kind of collateral damage to the misery they’re fabricating and ingesting themselves.

Here are a bunch of recent stories reflecting this misery. The politics are pernicious and harmful, but in every case there’s also a grave harm being done to the very people promoting that politics:

• “This is the New World Order Obama health reform. The reform includes a microchip implant to citizens in 2013. …”

• “She’s railing against immigration reform, citing her belief that it will lead to an identification system indicative of biblical End Times.”

• “Hedke said the [anti-sustainable-development] measure was motivated by complaints from constituents who think there is an insidious attempt to create new layers of government through groups like the Regional Economic Area Partnership in Wichita.”

• “Melissa Wilson, wife of state Rep. Kenneth Wilson (R), told the committee earlier this month that she was certain that gun records had been shared with the federal government as a part of a United Nations initiative called Agenda 21, which some conservatives believe is a conspiracy to ‘transform America from the land of the free, to the land of the collective’ through ‘a mind-control’ tactic called the Delphi technique.”

• “The study … uncovered that belief in the Second Coming of Jesus reduced the probability of strongly supporting government action on climate change.”

• “Among the dire warnings these commissioners heard during the process were allusions to the Oath Keepers’ oft-stated belief that the NDAA creates the legal pretext for federal authorities to begin rounding up right-wing citizens and placing them in concentration camps, or that they might begin labeling tea party leaders ‘enemy combatants’ and start assassinating them.”

Our politics is hobbled by a determined, motivated, vindictive bloc of voters driven by fear, ignorance and resentment of the Other. That’s a problem for all of us and it’s a big reason why we can’t have nice things. It does real harm and causes real pain to those it demonizes and targets — usually vulnerable outsiders and poor people.

But scared, dumb and hateful is no way to go through life. And some of the people infected with this fever are people we love and care about — parents, relatives, coworkers, friends, neighbors. Watching their downward spiral into a nasty, angry misery is unpleasant. It hurts us to see them hurting others and hurting themselves.


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