By MARC McDONALD
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis
Let's face it, the very real threat of America turning into a full-blown GOP-led theocracy is not going away any time soon.
Republican candidates have long found that wrapping themselves in the Bible and the flag is a potent combination that continues to resonate powerfully with millions of voters. All you need to succeed with this approach is to be shameless and cynical (two characteristics the GOP has in abundance).
If the likes of George W. Bush have it their way, the wall separating church and state will be eventually demolished and our nation will become a theocracy. Bush has already done incalculable damage to the church/state barrier with his appointments of radical right-wing judges. And make no mistake: there will be more extreme far-right evangelical GOP candidates like Bush in the future.
Like the guns nuts in the NRA, the extremist GOP theocrats and their followers are a minority in America. But they're a minority that has clout far beyond their numbers. Like the NRA, they're noisy, outspoken, well-organized and ferociously committed to getting their way, at any cost.
One reason the GOP theocrat thugs' message is so powerful is that they're good at convincing people that they are representing "true" Christian, biblical beliefs.
After all, it's pretty hard to argue with the Bible, the word of God (at least when the GOP theocrats are framing the argument).
If we progressives want to beat the threat posed by the GOP theocrat thugs, we need to embrace the Bible ourselves. We need to prevent these GOP extremists from monopolizing the Bible to advance their own agenda.
As it turns out, there is a great deal of content in the Bible that progressive-friendly (and subsequently radioactive to the Republicans).
Take the Bible verse, Mark 10:21. This is a verse that describes what happens when a wealthy man approaches Christ and asks him what he must do to "inherit eternal life."
Christ responds, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."
Hmmmm, this sounds an awful lot like progressive income redistribution. It certainly doesn't sound like the usual "screw the poor, they're entirely to blame for their own woes" screeds that we hear from the Republicans.
Note that in Mark 10:21, Christ does not say that one must sell one's possessions and give to the poor in order simply to be a "good Christian." Instead, he says we must do this if we want to go to heaven, period.
This is one of those Bible verses you'll never, ever hear Republicans talk about (along with Christ's words in Mark 10:25: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.")
Instead, Republicans are always busy digging deep into the Old Testament (which, incidentally, Christ said his own words replaced) and finding obscure verses to support their views on issues like homosexuality. Never mind the fact that the Old Testament is FULL of bizarre stories and teachings that I'm not sure that anyone today really fathoms. I mean, how about the verse that says that a man who has damaged testicles may not enter a temple to worship? (Deuteronomy 23:1)
Christ spent a lot of his ministry speaking harshly of the wealthy. In fact, he only had kind words for two groups of people: children and the poor (two groups, incidentally, that have always fared poorly under GOP administrations). It's a far cry from the glorification of the wealthy that the GOP has indulged in for decades.
In fact, a big part of the problem I've always had with the Christian religion is not the teachings of Christ (most of which I wholeheartedly agree with). It's self-styled "Christians" themselves.
At least here in the U.S., Christianity has been twisted, perverted and distorted by Bible-thumping fundamentalists, who ironically seem to be completely ignorant of the Bible's contents.
I've never understood why the Republicans, of all people, have long been identified as the party somehow closest to "Christian" values and morals. I'm not sure which Bible these people are referring to. A great deal of what animates them seems to consist of issues that aren't even mentioned once in the Scriptures (abortion, for example).
If we progressives want to counter the threat posed by the GOP theocrat bullies, we need to start claiming the Bible for ourselves. After all, there's plenty of evidence to bolster our claim that Christ himself was a progressive.
For more information on the safeguarding of the separation of church and state and religious liberty, check out First Freedom First.