Yesterday's national American holiday is rich in myths that "our" founding fathers and mothers of the Puritan colony in Massachusetts (the foundational myth deliberately forgets that the Jamestown settlers preceded the Puritans and held a Thanksgiving observance in 1610) built an exemplary city on a hilltop to show all the world how things should be done. Woven through the mythology of American Thanksgiving are myths about divine guidance, American exceptionalism, and the virtue of the European appropriators of the land of the native people.
And so today might not be altogether a bad day to survey some recent commentary about what's happening to one U.S. major political party, the GOP, as it amalgamates faith and politics and works to subject the entire nation to its peculiar faith-based brand of politico-religion. Here's a smattering of recent articles about these themes that have caught my eye:
As the Republicans claim that they want to retool their brand (but find themselves unable to do so, because of their simultaneous captivity to the 1% and the religious right), Paul Krugman reminds us precisely what that brand is:
Second, today’s Republican party is an alliance between the plutocrats and the preachers, plus some opportunists along for the ride — full stop. The whole party is about low taxes at the top (and low benefits for the rest), plus conservative social values and putting religion in the schools; it has no other reason for being.
Amanda Marcotte also doubts seriously that the GOP can rebrand itself, because it has become a party of belief as opposed to respect for truth, as in scientific truth (Marco Rubio: "I'm not a scientist, man") to simple reality-based knowledge that allows us to identify campaign claims of presidential candidates as true or false. Here's the dead end to which Marcotte thinks the Republicans' "devotion to untruth" has brought them, and where the GOP still intends to bring the entire nation via its politics of obstruction:
From characterizing everyone Not-Them as “moochers” to the persistent suspicion that Obama faked his birth certificate in an effort to take the presidency from someone who actually has a right to it, conservatives fantasize that the mostly older, white population moving further and further to the right is being oppressed by the various groups liberals have forced them to share power with. To give that up would be to completely reorder their world. As painful as it is to grasp the reality of Obama’s win, it’s safe to say they’re going to go right back to putting their faith in fantasy instead of the realities that the rest of us live in.
Gene Lyons dissects the peculiarly Southern cast of much of the anti-reality-based mythology now driving the Republican party; he focuses on a Romney campaign worker in Tennessee, Beth Cox, who was recently profiled by Eli Saslow in the Washington Post:
It's a mindset straight out of John Bunyan's 17th century Puritan allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, as annotated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Some of her friends, she told Post, have concluded that only God can save America from itself.
"God put us in the desert," she said. "We are in the desert right now."
Actually, she's in a white-flight suburb of Nashville (which voted for Obama, like many Southern cities). Everybody in the South knows somebody like Beth Cox, a perfectly decent, intelligent woman whose spiritual home is the Southern Baptist mega-church of which her husband is pastor — one of those sprawling edge-of-town affairs with 7,000 members, auditorium-seating, volleyball courts, a children's center and a "techno-lit recreation room for teenagers."
Essentially theological Walmarts, such churches have grown up across the region to replace the small towns Southern suburbanites grew up in. Alas, most are turning out to be even more class- and ethnically-stratified.
Unless she makes an effort, a woman like Cox never has to deal with anybody she doesn't agree with on most personal and political issues. The women's prayer group she leads sounds like a meeting of sorority sisters striving to win a Best Mother/Most Happily Married competition whose existence is never acknowledged.
Mirror, mirror on the wall/Who's the holiest Mommy of all?
Fred Clark zeroes in on the need of conservative white evangelical Republicans to identify the nation with themselves, with their values and their interests. As he notes,
Whenever white evangelicals like [Linda] Harvey [of Mission America] speak of "our Lord, our values and our faith" or of "our country," it’s always done in a way that excludes — to use Harvey’s phrase there — "some people."
Fred Clark also links to Miguel de la Torres's right-on-target response to Southern Baptist head honcho Al Mohler and his attempt to deify the Republican party during the last election cycle. de la Torres tells Mohler,
Brother Al, you confuse evangelicalism with white, male America. Continuing to fuse white/right political leaning with the message of Christ does a disservice to the gospel.
Brian Tashman sees the recent elections as a "drubbing" for the religious right and five of its cherished delusions:
1. Americans want a "true conservative."
2. Blacks will defect from Obama over gay rights.
3. Hispanics are "natural allies" of the religious right.
4. Catholics are abandoning Obama for "declaring war" on the church.
5. An evangelical wave is waiting in the wings.
And did somebody say something about myths, ignoring reality, and choosing faith over reason and empirical truth?