What is it about the mixture of Christianity and conservatism that makes many folks who call themselves Christian conservatives say and do things that seem to be neither Christian nor conservative?
As a former Christian conservative myself, I think I can offer some insight into why putting the two things together so often results in such toxic ideological vapors.
I think I can explain the behavior of a Ted Cruz, a Michele Bachmann, a Glenn Beck, a Sean Hannity, a Rush Limbaugh, a Bill O’Reilly, and a Sarah Palin. I think I can explain why their brains release ideological gas so noxious that it not only threatens the well-being of liberals, but it is now poisoning the blood of other conservatives. As they continue to fight their “culture war,” these Christian conservative zealots are now openly attacking members of their own political party, members who lack sufficient ideological holiness or militancy. Why would they do that? I think I know why.
I think I know why Tony Perkins, who leads one of the most powerful Christian conservative groups in the country, the Family Research Council, would say something that would lead to a headline like this:
Perkins says that the government has no responsibility to care for poor people because the Bible expects individual Christians to do so. Then, committing the unforgivable sin of contradiction, says that, “As Christians, we’re responsible for the policies of this government because it’s us.” Yes, he said that the government is “us” but that “us” has no responsibility to take care of poor folks. Perhaps God can sort that one out.
In the mean time, I think I know why Christian conservative Pat Buchanan would generate a headline like this:
Writing for a strange but influential Christian website called World Net Daily, Buchanan commented on the government shutdown and the subsequent “all-time low” approval numbers for Republicans:
Republicans should refuse to raise the white flag and insist on an honorable avenue of retreat.
And if Harry Reid’s Senate demands the GOP end the sequester on federal spending, or be blamed for a debt default, the party should, Samson-like, bring down the roof of the temple on everybody’s head.
Wow. I said I think I know why these people say and do such things. And now perhaps you can see why, too. It’s right there in Buchanan’s allusion to Samson, the Old Testament hero who was given supernatural strength to fight his foes, including the thousand Philistines that he allegedly slaughtered on one occasion using only the jawbone of an ass.
What Buchanan was alluding to was Samson’s suicide mission to destroy a pagan temple. Here is the biblical account of the end of Samson’s jihad:
Then Samson called out to the Lord, “Lord God, please remember me! Make me strong just this once more, God, so I can have revenge on the Philistines, just one act of revenge for my two eyes.” Samson grabbed the two central pillars that held up the temple. He leaned against one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He strained with all his might, and the temple collapsed on the rulers and all the people who were in it. So it turned out that he killed more people in his death than he did during his life.
You see? You see why Ted Cruz is doing what even people in his own party find destructive? You see why Tony Perkins doesn’t want the government feeding the poor? You see why Pat Buchanan would rather see the government fall down on everyone’s head than for Republicans to give an inch? Because these people believe government is a pagan temple. Because these zealots believe liberals and Democrats are pagans worshiping a false god in that pagan temple. That’s why.
That’s why Christianity and conservatism is such a toxic mix. Christianity gives these people what they think are their holy orders to fight the Culture War, the war against paganism. And conservatism, using the vehicle of the Republican Party, gives them what they think is Samson-like power to ultimately win it.
Even if it means taking the country down.