Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Challenges to Democracy: Wealthy Men Using Religion as Political Tool, While Rich-Poor Gap Widens

And when heterosexual men sense that their control of everyone and everything is waning, they are likely to go ballistic.  They are likely to predict apocalyptic destruction of everything, and then they're likely to set that apocalyptic destruction into motion to fulfill their prophecies.  And they are very inclined to use religion and religious groups as a vehicle for that destruction.

I've also just blogged about how at least one religious group--the Catholic bishops of Minnesota--are willing to pimp themselves out as a political front group for a wealthy hidden donor or donors intent on throwing the Minnesota governor's election to the Republican candidate in the coming elections.

The collusion of politically driven wealth, anti-gay and anti-feminist politics, and angry men using religion to play political games is one of the most significant stories in American politics at this point in history.  And it's a story that's not going to go away anytime soon, despite the predictions of some mainstream journalists that the religious right was on the wane after President Obama's election.

Jeff Sharlet tells one aspect of that dirty story at Mother Jones right now, in an article examining the taxpayer-funded "religious" junkets for Jesus that the influential political group the Family is making as it attempts to spread its peculiar God-for-the-rich gospel worldwide.  Though the Family has been in the news in the past year largely because of scandals involving members John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and Chip Pickering--all Republican political leaders--Sharlet notes that its international political activities also demand serious scrutiny.

Particularly as legislation to make being gay a capital crime is still pending before the Ugandan legislature, where the Family's fingerprints are all over the Ugandan legislation (and here)--though the Family has sought to distance itself from the more draconian aspects of the Ugandan proposal to make homosexuality a capital crime.  

And it's all about money in the end, this heavy interest on the "divinely ordained" authority of men over women (and feminized others).  It's about safeguarding male power and control so that the world is safe for men in developed nations who want (and need) to exploit the rest of the world for financial gain.  

As Sharlet concludes,

The God-led government the movement wants for Nigeria and Sudan, Lebanon and Albania—and of course, here at home—is not theocracy, an idea nearly every fundamentalist denounces, but the conflation of democracy with authoritarianism. It's a Father Knows Best vision, the authority of the Father-God manifested through his chosen, men and even the occasional women who are to society as they believe fathers should be to their families, both loving and stern. Look through this lens, and dictators become brothers; power becomes love; profit becomes charity.

The men of the Family—and across much of American fundamentalism's elite—are fond of paraphrasing Luke 12:48: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required." A fine sentiment at first blush, but stripped of its Gospel context and presented as a maxim, it can also be disingenuous. The idea that the powerful are powerful because they have been anointed, "given" their rank and position—that they did not grasp for it—is as deceptive as the notion that God prefers to work through "key men," to dispense blessings to senators and strongmen so that a small cut might trickle down to the poor. Nice formula, indeed.

With the assistance of Catholic dignitaries willing to act as political front me for wealthy partisan donors, this perversion of the gospel--God prefers to work through rich "key men" who are rich because God has blessed them--may well be on its way to being realized as the American dream now.  For a few. 

As Census Bureau data released today indicate, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year by the largest margin ever tracked.  The 20 percent of Americans in the nation's top income brackets now earn 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., while those below the poverty line earn 3.4 percent.  As the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans find their income growing, median-income families earning around $50,000 find their income dropping.  

Democracy is in trouble when such disparities are allowed to develop and are not challenged or corrected.  And when those profiting from the obscene growth of wealth at the top are permitted to posture as agents of God.  And when religious authority figures who preach about social justice and concern for the poor--e.g., the Catholic hierarchy--permit such posturing and such perversion of gospel values by accepting donations from these men as they consolidate their political power by targeting vulnerable minorities. 

Democracy is also in peril when citizens are too ill-educated to detect precisely how the democratic political process is being manipulated and perverted.  And when citizens who define themselves as religious, and who are often the most vocal supporters of the wealthy "religious" political activists who are deliberately undermining the democratic process for their own gain, don't know much at all about the religion they claim to value.

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