Jan 052012

I wanted to elaborate on a post I made on my blog yesterday about the results of the Iowa Caucus. I’ve been writing a lot about the Republican Party and it’s pro-fundamentalist Christian agenda. As a disclaimer, I used to consider myself something of an independent. I felt I could vote Republican or Democrat, based on the platform and credentials of the candidate in question. It wasn’t until the GOP sold out to the Religious Right that I felt compelled to register as a Democrat. The GOP had removed any possibility of me voting Republican because as a Pagan I will not vote for a party whose platform marginalizes me as a person, or my beliefs and my right to exercise those beliefs.

I am not and have never been what some people refer to as a bleeding heart liberal. I get a chuckle when I find myself accused of that on various social networking platforms. I despise the politics of the far-left as much as I do those of the far right. I no more want my rights taken away by do-gooders motivated by personal health and environmental health than I do by those motivated by “spiritual” or “moral” health. One wants my freedom to choose what I eat and another wants my freedom to belief what I want. If I don’t want a Big Mac, I will make that choice, thank you very much. And if I don’t want the Bible, I won’t read one. It’s called the First Amendment.

But right now, as I see it, the bigger threat comes from what used to be the far right of the Republican Party. As Iowa brings into focus, these people have over the past decade or so, become mainstreamed. It has been a long process, one I’ve chronicled elsewhere, but the Religious Right’s plans for America have ripened. They have become kingmakers, as witnessed by their machinations on behalf of Bush, under whom America came very close to theocracy. And now they’re back for round 2 and more focused, better funded, and more powerful than ever before, and they have the apparatus of the Republican Party to work for them. Wealthy corporations + major political party + religion = an unholy trinity if I ever saw one.

For me it comes down to this: As I asked on my blog, if these people can render the world’s second largest religion, Islam, a cult without First Amendment protections, where does that leave small alternative religions like Paganism? The message is the same to all of us: the U.S. Constitution was based on the Bible (it obviously was not), America was founded by God (contrary to the facts of the historical record). and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, written to bar the federal government from the establishment of any religion, actually established Christianity as the state religion of the United States (remember Pat Robertson’s “There is no such thing as … separation of state and church … in the Constitution. It’s a lie of the left”?). That’s the narrative. And they’re sticking to it no matter how often we point out those pesky facts.

The base laps it up because the base loves it. The base wants to believe it. And there are enough people out there ignorant of their own Bible, ignorant of history, to actually believe this stuff.

The fact that it’s wrong-headed nonsense won’t protect any of us from the consequences. The Nazis and Communists and other ideology-driven groups throughout history, including the Catholic Church and the Puritans, have been wrong too, but that didn’t help their victims. Remember, conservative Catholics among this bunch actually think the Crusades weren’t so bad after all (so does, significantly, Rick Santorum, who came in second in Iowa) and that the Inquisition actually helped people (it was those Protestants that were the bad guys). They even want to change our school textbooks to reflect this new “history” of theirs.

It is difficult to see a positive outcome for minorities of any type in the event of a Republican win in 2012. We have already seen the direction of their agenda in the Tea Party-driven legislation from 2010 onward, much of it heavily influenced by fundamentalist Christian focus on what is often termed “the culture war,” including especially women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality. Adding layers of bureaucracy to police our bedrooms and our private lives is hardly a move toward smaller, less intrusive government. It never really was about the size of government for the Religious Right, though, but about the focus of that government. It’s permissible to have a big government that does what they want it to do. A big government that focuses on regulation of Wall Street or corporations, on the other hand, is anathema.

We’ve seen Pagans blamed for 9/11; we’ve seen fundamentalists preach against the “pagan culture” of America (the Catholic Church is issuing the same warnings in Argentina). We’ve seen things like this: “The government schools are anti-Christian, atheistic and pagan, and they are against God, family, and country” and that these Pagan-influenced government schools promote a culture of “immorality and death” We’ve seen the planet attacked and our own devotion to it mocked. We’re back to early Christian rhetoric: we are rock and tree worshipers, people who follow false idols. The Republican candidates endorse this thinking. If they get away with attacking Islam with impunity (and the mainstream media certainly enables these attacks), Pagans can’t hold out much hope. They hate Paganism already: the Bible teaches them too. When their attention focuses on us, we will find ourselves marginalized and disenfranchised as well.

We all have our beliefs; According to the Constitution, all beliefs are equal. According to the Republican base on the other hand, the First Amendment does not mean all religions are equal. We can differentiate here between religious “truths” and the law because to the base, they are one and the same. Because Christianity is true and all other religions are false, and, as Pope Benedict XVI puts it, truth trumps tolerance, U.S. law must recognize the privileged position of the “one true religion.” When fundamentalist Christians (including the entire crop of 2012 presidential hopefuls) talk about “religious freedom” they are talking about their (Christian) religious freedom; the rest of us have none. The consequences for the rest of us – look at Newt Gingrich’s plan – are not difficult to imagine under such a scheme.

We barely dodged theocracy under the Bush administration. We may not be so lucky again, and it is a risk we cannot afford to take.

  5 Responses to “What the GOP’s Religion-Heavy Platform Means to Pagans”

  1. The Constitution does not say that all religions are equal. It only says that Congress may not establish a religion, or prevent the free exercise thereof. Neither provision has anything to do with the executive branch, so what the presidential candidates say about religion is not directly relevant. The question is, who do you want on the Supreme Court if a law is passed establishing a national religion? The Democratic Party’s position is that judges should meekly rubber-stamp whatever the legislature enacts, so as not to interfere with the “will of the people.” Something to think about.

    • I disagree. The effect of the First Amendment is to put all religions on an equal footing before the law, just as are all people equal before the law (at least in theory). The stance of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are the same – the free exercise of religion – any religion.

      President Bush has shown that the stance of the executive branch is hardly irrelevant.

      I disagree with your analysis of the Democratic Party’s position on judges – the same could be argued of the Republican Party when it’s legislation they have passed or support.

  2. Honestly, it concerns me more as a woman than it does a pagan. Regardless of what happens in politics I will still be able to practice my paganism in private. However, what is becoming public is my right to proper medical care including pap smears and breast exams, my right to use birth control, and my right to have an abortion regardless of my situation. As a pagan I have always dealt with stereotyping and mild presecution, but as a woman I feel we are entering a terrible new era where I no longer have control of my own physical body.

  3. I agree with your point about the liberal food police and the social conservatives both being wrong but I have something to add. In addition to being Pagan I am a conservative and a registered Republican. That does not mean that I go along with anything someone says as long as they have an “R” behind their name. I am still a thinking person with my own mind to make up but I agree with the Republican party way more than with the Democrats. I am not a social conservative but I believe in free markets, small governement, a strong military and I am very patriotic.

    Now, this does not mean that I dislike others based on their ideas or stances on things. I respect the right of someone to make up their own mind about things. The problem I have run into(and in large part the reason I am writing this) is that Pagans in general seem to be almost as bad as the social conservatives they love to hate. As a conservative Pagan, I’m in a strange place. On one hand their are certain other conservatives who would hate or look down on me because of my faith. On the other hand, their are tons of Pagans who judge me because of my politics. I am tired of being (indirectly) told how stupid I am by other Pagans.

    I hear all the time that Pagans as a whole are an open, tolerant group but in the same breath there will be a nasty joke or horrible slam on conservatives. There seems to be a great number of Pagans out there who think that to be a Pagan you have to be a liberal. Everywhere I see the attitude of “you are not a real Pagan because you don’t support *insert policy here* or, “I can’t believe a true Pagan would vote for *insert here*”. Countless Pagan blogs carry on about not mixing politics and faith, then mix them. They just don’t notice because when they say that they only mean “lets not mix faith with any political ideas unless they are liberal.

    I’m not trying to insult anyone or any political ideas, I’m just saying that unless we admit that Pagans will have varied ideas and values we will never really be tolerant. Please just hear me out.