The Unpardonable Sin: Voting For Obama

You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—

—the Book of Psalms

ear. Religion rules by fear. And lots of it.

Men,” Mark Twain wrote, “are more compassionate…than God” because “men forgive their dead, but God does not.”  And who wouldn’t fear a god who holds a grudge past the grave?

Or past an election.

James Dobson, who for years was one of the most prominent voices in conservative evangelical Christianity, suggested, during a solemn, I-can’t-believe-my-eyes, post-election discussion with other like-minded zealots, that God may have judgment on his mind:

It’s my speculation that America has turned its back on the principles that we have believed in for 230 years. And there’s a lot of wickedness that’s going on out there. Fifty-five million babies have been murdered, and we don’t think God sees that? 

Franklin Graham, who now runs his dad’s part of the Evangelical Empire, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, explained to Newsmax how the election of Barack Obama may just move God to finish us off:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out of everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Fear. Do what God’s self-appointed spokesmen say or else.

It never occurred to Franklin Graham, of course, that we almost had a “complete economic collapse” under the God-fearing evangelical Christian George W. Bush, but perhaps that is because lately God has had a hard time communicating to the leaders of the Evangelical Empire.

Pat Robertson said in January the following:

I spent the better part of a week in prayer and just saying, “God just show me something,” and I’ll share with you—uh, some things I’ll share with you. I think he showed me about the next president but I’m not supposed to talk about that, so I’ll leave you in the dark…but I think I know who it’s gonna be.

We know now that Robertson thought he heard God say that Mitt Romney would be the next president. We know that because Robertson fessed up last week:

So many of us miss God. I’ll tell you, I won’t get into great detail about elections, but I sure did miss it. I thought I had heard from God. I thought I had heard clearly from God. What happened? What intervenes? Why? You ask God, how did I miss it? Well, we all do and I’ve had a lot of practice.

Oh, my. If God can’t make his message clear to Pat Robertson, what hope do the rest of us have?

In any case, in the context of God’s vindictive behavior toward his creation, or more narrowly, the American electorate who elected Barack Obama, I will bookend this piece with more Mark Twain, a famous excerpt from his Letters From The Earth:

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations.

He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life;

he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea;

he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life;

and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him.

Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.

One Nation, But Only Under A Republican God

There are two stories in the news today that I think are related, even though at first glance they don’t appear to be.

Here’s the first story from Reuters:

CHICAGO, Nov 12 – Political watchdog and secularist groups are asking the U.S. government to investigate whether Catholic bishops and a Christian evangelical group headed by preacher Billy Graham should lose tax breaks for telling followers how to vote in this year’s election.

Those tax breaks are reportedly “worth $145 billion in the past decade.” There was no comment from a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but a spokesman for Billy Graham, who actually signed his ad, said that it did not mention any candidate or political party. Hmm.

On Sunday, November 4—two days before the election—this very expensive full-page ad appeared in the Joplin Globe:

In the corner it says, “Paid Advertisement By The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” and it is obvious the ad, which appeared in numerous publications, was a call to vote for Romney-Ryan and the Republican Party.

But the first thing I thought about when I saw that ad was how much money my late mother donated to Billy Graham and how disappointed she, as a life-long Democrat, would be to see what Graham had done.

I also thought about something else. When I was a kid, several of Billy Graham’s books were in the house, including a book that scared me to death, “World Aflame.” If nothing else, it was the cover that frightened me:

I was seven years old when that book came out. The earth engulfed in flames, and the threat of eternal damnation awaiting those who didn’t surrender to Jesus, tends to make a kid a little fearful, the kind of fear that never quite disappears, no matter how old one gets or how far one gets from the source.

In any case, the basis of Graham’s pro-Romney, pro-Republican political ad, and his ministry in general, is the kind of fear I felt profoundly as a kid, when I understood what that book was about. The line in the political ad about it being “vitally important” that “we” vote for “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel” is telling.

In “World Aflame,” Graham wrote:

The Bible teaches that God is indeed a God of judgment, wrath, and anger.

And he speculated in the book that God will ultimately use “the elemental and creative form of fire” to destroy this earth and “bring into being” a new one, “a fire of judgment upon the wicked world.” He continued:

I believe the earth will be consumed by fire, not only because God said it, but because science has created weapons that can do it.

Consumed by fire. That’s the price to be paid for not following biblical principles, for not supporting the nation of Israel, which folks like Graham believe is the key to the End Times.

Consumed by fire. Presumably, that’s the price to be paid for not supporting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and the Republicans. What else can “vitally important” mean in the context of Billy Graham’s consumed-by-fire ministry, the same ministry that paid for that ad?

I mention all that to make the point that some of the people who would be moved by a Billy Graham ad, moved by a theological appeal to vote for Republicans, moved by a Bible-based fear, see themselves as living in an entirely different country than the one I live in. These folks were genuinely shocked that Barack Obama won a second term. They, like Mitt Romney himself, honestly could not believe it. Why didn’t the Bible-based fear work this time?

What kind of country is this? they asked. What happened to our America? The last line in Graham’s ad was this:

Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.

Translation: If you don’t vote for Republicans then “one nation under God” is in jeopardy.

Yes, in jeopardy. And that leads me to the second story that came out today:

Just a week after President Barack Obama was re-elected, a petition by Texans for the right to secede from the rest of the country has garnered some 64,000 signatures, many more than the 25,000 signature threshold needed to get a response from the Obama administration.

The petition was made on the government’s “We the People” petitioning web site, along with secession petitions from at least 18 other states.

As I write, Texas now has more than 72,000 signatures. Locally, the Missouri secession petition has over 10,000 signatures. Oklahoma has over 11,000, Arkansas has almost 15,000, and Kansas is way behind at around 3,000.

So, what happened to “one nation under God“? These folks, many of whom I can safely assume are conservative Christians, don’t have a problem with the “under God” part of it, just the “one nation” part, particularly if they don’t get their way in a “vitally important” election, particularly if the nation doesn’t embrace the Republican Party.

Perhaps it is that Billy Graham and other Christian extremists, who claim to want us to be “one nation,” mean that we can only be so under their conception of God, which is a very Republican one. Otherwise, some of them want to take their states, and presumably their God, and go their own way.

Thus it is that those groups that are asking the government to investigate Graham and the Catholic bishops for their partisan advocacy are exactly right. If religious zealots want to put the fear of a Republicanized God into voters, and argue for one nation under that God, then the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it.

_______________________

By the way, a counter-petition has been offered against the secessionists, one that suggests we should,

Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America.

So far, it has only about 2,400 votes.

“My Candidate Is Jesus Christ,” Said Billy Graham

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot

—”Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott

y mom and dad would never, and I mean never, miss the broadcast of a Billy Graham Crusade—yes, that’s what he called his travelling evangelical show, despite the historical shame attached to that term—and many times, as a kid and as an adult, I listened to his warnings that Jesus was coming soon and folks had better get saved or else hell awaited.

The strains of “Just As I Am,” that beautifully written old hymn, still bounce around in my head, as does the sight of all those scared sinners ambling down to meet Jesus, or, more realistically, to meet the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Of course, my Democratic parents probably didn’t know much, if anything, about Billy Graham’s politics. He is said to have admitted to being a “lifelong Democrat,” but I have found exactly no evidence to back that up and much to contradict it.

But he did say in 1980:

The clergy ought to stay out of politics and let the laymen handle it…My candidate is Jesus Christ.

Well, by the time 2000 rolled around, Graham was flirting around with another candidate, George W. Bush, who didn’t much resemble Jesus in any way I could see, but nevertheless had Graham’s sly endorsement.

Now we hear that the old evangelical preacher has embraced another Republican candidate, one who apparently does resemble Jesus, at least GOP Jesus, the savior of Holy Vulture Capitalism, the kind who feasts on working-class carcasses.

It appears that Billy Graham has had a come-to-Mitt moment.

And his endorsement of Romney—his open-mouthed evangelical kiss—comes despite the fact that Billy Graham used to want us to believe that Mormons, just like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, are not Christians:

Scrubbed away. Gone. Forgettaboutit. Nothing to see here.

Without any hesitation or ambiguity, when I was a conservative evangelical Christian, and studying to be a minister of that brand of gospel, I was taught that Mormonism was most definitely a cult, just as Billy Graham claimed. There simply wasn’t any question about it, and given the doctrines that conservative evangelicals hold, including those related to the nature of God, Jesus, and man, and the central role the Bible plays in defining Christianity for them, it is impossible to believe that one can be a practicing, true-believing Mormon and also be a Christian in the evangelical sense.

And if Mitt Romney is anything, we definitely know he is a practicing, true-believing Mormon.

But politics, particularly in the age of Obama, makes people do strange things, like betraying the rudiments of their rudimentary faith in order to make sure the White’s House is safe and secure once again, even if it means putting a cultist in charge. Strange things like scrubbing away a doctrinal dispute that was once so important that eternal salvation depended on knowing that Mormonism would lead you straight to hell because it was a cult.

All of this strange and disgusting stuff leaves me with one positive benefit. Should an enterprising evangelical ever come to my door again, offering me a chance to meet Jesus, or confront me on the street with a pamphlet or a Bible, telling me I will suffer eternal damnation unless I repent, I will ask one simple question:

Did you vote for Mitt Romney?

Yes? Then go straight to hell you pious fraud.

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