Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Asking God to Tell Her Who to Vote For? Is She Crazy?": Turn of White Southern Evangelicals to Religious Right Politics in Wake of Civil Rights Movement — A Story

I don't remember which election it was. What I do remember is that my great-aunt was as mad as hell. Might have been as early as the Kennedy-Nixon election, might have been 1964 or 1968. Whichever election it was, my great-aunt had gotten a letter from her daughter (married, living with her husband and children in Mobile) telling her mother that she was praying and asking God to tell her how to cast her vote in the election.

And that's what set my great-aunt off. A woman who had been trained to be a teacher, who had taught before she married my great-uncle, who had previously been engaged to a man who went on to be a U.S. senator (Democratic) from Arkansas for many years, she did not ever suffer fools gladly. And when said fools were her own children, her already acerbic tongue got even sharper and more acid-laden than it normally was.

"Asking God to tell her who to vote for? Is she crazy? Is she just downright stupid? What does she imagine God gave her a head for? Why would God be involved with selecting a political candidate?"

On and on it went like that, as my great-aunt waved her daughter's letter around to show us the inanities written in it — God this, bible that, praying and asking for signs. What I realize now, looking back through the fog of unclear memory to these childhood (or teen-year) experiences, is how very different the older generation of citizens among whom I was raised were from their offspring a generation or two down the road.

Sometime in the 1960s, in the American South, politics took a surrealistic turn towards God, and it has never been the same since — not for the whole nation, due to the captivity of the Republican party by white Southern evangelicals. My grandparents — not even the one grandparent who ever went to church — and their siblings simply did not bring God into the realm of politics. They had been schooled in a tradition that radically respected the separation of church and state.

They were, in fact, downright dubious about the attempt of religious hucksters and pulpit shysters to instruct them how to vote. Ministers and churches had no business trying to influence the political process, they maintained. This is why Jefferson created the wall separating church and state.

And then along came, well, I don't know what: the fearful, shameful backlash of Southern white voters to the Civil Rights movement, first and foremost, and every religious huckster and pulpit shyster in the land came out of hiding, and the children and grandchildren of these clear-thinking elders of ours began to babble about God and the bible and asking God to instruct them how to vote.

The end result is the coronation of a man who could not be more antithetical to Christian and biblical values by people claiming — idiotically, fatuously — that God has raised this man up to lead our godly nation. My great-aunt, my grandparents, all their siblings are, I suspect, whirling in their graves at the self-chosen stupidity to which their grandchildren and great-children have reduced themselves.

(This is a memory that popped into my head in the twilight land between sleep and waking this morning, which I shared with my circle of Facebook friends after I'd had some coffee and was able to write it down. I continue to deal with health challenges, and may be slow to post here or to respond to your much-appreciated comments — but want you to know I do appreciate them and am reading them.)

On the August 2015 Trump rally in Alabama at which the photo in Robert Costa's tweet (head of the posting) was taken, see David Pakman's excellent video report at YouTube.

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