Easter On The Sunday Talk Shows (Don’t Read This If You Are Allergic To Profanity)

I am pissed. Still. Thanks to ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

this weekOn Easter Sunday, the producers of “This Week” decided to take  a “closer look at the political power of evangelicals,” who represent only “15 percent of the adult population, yet in 2012 accounted for nearly a quarter of all voters.” Okay, fine. I get it. People need to know that a lot of what is going on in the reactionary Republican Party is due to the ridiculously outsized influence of conservative Christians. You tell ‘em, ABC!

But the segment (“Are Evangelicals Out of Touch With Mainstream Views?”) began with a setup piece by ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, who essentially told us that evangelicals were sort of mellowing out, not being so quick to offer their political opinions on divisive social issues like, say, gay marriage. Young folks in the evangelical churches are beginning to see the light. Okay, fine again. The right-wing Christians may be starting to adjust to the reality that they are losing the Culture War. I get that, too. That could be good news for the country. Go ahead and preach it, ABC!

Then a strange thing happened. After the setup piece, host Martha Raddatz introduced the evangelical guests. And guess who they were? The same old white- and right-wing reactionaries-evangelicals: Franklin Graham, Billy’s son; Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, whatever the hell that is; and the sleazy Ralph Reed, the corrupt former leader of the old Christian Coalition, who was involved in one of Jack Abramoff’s scandals but now leads another Christian group that is damaging the country.ralph reed book

Conveniently for Ralph Reed, ABC News showed a picture of his new book for sale, after having previously promoted it on George Stephanopoulos’ blog. The book, “Awakening,” is subtitled, “How America Can Turn From Economic And Moral Destruction Back To Greatness,” and Chapter 1 begins ominously: “Are we watching our nation commit suicide?” If that isn’t puke-worthy enough, Reed writes:

…there is no denying that the United States, like Rome, is experiencing the downward spiral of the spiritual cycle today. As Americans have sought pleasure and comfort, they have rejected God and His law and substituted the twin idols of self-gratification and government.

Yep. Gubmint is the problem. So much for youthful moderation and the mellowing out of evangelicals.

But forgetting the unseemly Ralph Reed and his government-hating book, what really galled me about “This Week” was the following conversation between the host and the Reverend Franklin Graham:

RADDATZ: You heard Dan’s piece there and certainly the issue of gay marriage has been a big one. Reverend Graham, I want to ask you about this: just a few months after taking office, Pope Francis spoke out on the issue of homosexuality, saying if they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized, the tendency to homosexuality is not the problem. They’re our brothers. You recently said that Congress could learn something from President Vladimir Putin on the issue of homosexuals and adoption. Let’s take a look at what you said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Gays and lesbians cannot have children. Biologically it’s impossible.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: OK. It’s not but –

GRAHAM: Yes, they can recruit. I think — I agreed with Putin; I think protecting his nation’s children, I think, was probably a pretty smart thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: I suspect you still support that, what you said. You still support Putin?

GRAHAM: No, I think — I think Putin is going to do what’s right for Russia. And not what’s right for America, but for Russia. We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country. But we don’t seem to have that right now.

Dammit! I just can’t take that crap anymore. Why does any respectable news outlet put such trash on television, especially without challenging it? What bleeping president was Graham referring to when he ungrammatically said, “We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country”? Nixon? Was it the disgraced Richard Nixon, the man with whom Franklin Graham’s father essentially had phone sex and with whom he agreed that “Jews” had a “stranglehold” on the American news media? Why didn’t Martha Raddatz mention that to Franklin Graham, after he said such a stupid thing about President Obama?

Or why didn’t she mention that Billy Graham privately heaped praise on the racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic Nixon, by saying, “Congratulations on everything,” and “I believe the Lord is with you, I really do”? 

Why didn’t Raddatz say to the Obama-loathing Franklin Graham, “You say Obama isn’t doing what’s right for the country. By that do you mean that he should sit in the Oval Office and spout racist and homophobic and anti-Semitic nonsense because the ‘Lord’ is with him? What Lord might that be? The Lord of the Flies? GOP Jesus?”

Or why didn’t Raddatz mention that a young Franklin Graham, by his father’s own account, said that Nixon was “the greatest president that we’ve ever had in the history of America”? Huh? That’s the same racist president who called blacks “little Negro bastards” and said they “live like a bunch of dogs” and needed to be “inbred” in order to “strengthen our country” in “500 years.” 

Of course Raddatz didn’t ask him a bleeping thing about any of that stuff. I guess evangelical preachers get a stupidity pass on Easter. Or maybe Martha was feeling all Jesussy in the company of such godly men.

Dammit, I’m still seething.

Now on to NBC’s “Meet the Press” and a comment that touches on Graham’s claim as to whether President Obama is in the business of “doing what’s right for this country” or whether he is sitting in the White’s House worrying about whether everyone thinks he is George S. Patton with balls the size of Dick Cheney’s Wyoming.meet the press

Host David Gregory was leading a discussion on the Russian thug Vladimir Putin and his takeover of Crimea and his threatening to take over eastern Ukraine, when all of a sudden out comes the following from one of the program’s conservative commentators:

DAVID BROOKS: And, let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I’ll say it crudely—but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there’s an assumption he’s not tough enough.

Are you bleeping kidding me? Was I hallucinating this stuff? A “manhood problem”? A bleeping manhood problem, Mr. Brooks? And you think “a lot of the rap is unfair”? How much is a lot? A fifth? A third? A half? Were you suggesting that there was some way the President should demonstrate to people in the Middle East how tough he is by talking like a badass to the thugs causing all the trouble?

You mean maybe he should talk like a Chicago street thug, huh? Maybe he should say to Putin, “Hey, you mofo, if you don’t quit fucking around in Ukraine then, then, then, then, I’m going to send a lot of American boys and girls over there to die!”

Or he could say to Assad, “You bastard son of a bitch, if you don’t get the hell out of Damascus I’m going to, to, to, to, send a lot of American kids over there to get their arms and legs blown off!”

Or, “If any of you Russian or Middle East shitheads mess with me, I’ll drop World War III on your sorry asses.”

Yeah, that’ll show everyone how tough Obama is. That’s the way the President of the United States can properly project American strength in this world. And if the thugs don’t believe him, if he fails to convince them that he is a truly a tough guy, then, by God, Obama can send someone’s kids to die for his Cheney-approved machismo. Then maybe John McCain and Lindsey Graham and all those in the Middle East who think Obama is a pussy will be happy. Americans will die, but, dammit, presidential and American face will be saved!

Apparently that’s what we need right now. Someone who will do what is right for the country by talking us into another war.

Assholes.

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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