Saturday, September 18, 2010


In my response to Jerome on the last post's comments thread, I didn't really address his question re: the whole old time religion aspect of many of the right's adherents.

When I was a child, the pledge of allegiance didn't contain the phrase "under God" so the "indivisible" was what was emphasized, especially since the pledge was created closer to the Civil War than the Cold War issues of the 1950s.

But because of the emergence of a rightwing fringe that was beginning to have an impact on what had been a relatively moderate Republican Party and president—the man who'd won World War Two in the eyes of most of country, Dwight Eisenhower, or "Ike" as he was affectionately known by his countrymen—he and the Congress were pressured by the right to add "under God" to supposedly distinguish "God-fearing America" from "atheistic Communism."

In fact, one of those rightwing fringe groups, The John Birch Society, accused "Ike" of being "a Communist" (much the way rightwingers today accuse Obama of being one, or any other label considered "them" and not "us").

The difference was that the right had an influence on the media then, frightening even the most powerful elements of it (TIME magazine, the NY Times, etc.) into conservative posturing and supporting conservative positions etc. but now they often ARE the media (FOX News et. al.) and therefore have an even wider and more direct influence.

But in the 1950s, a belief in God and organized religion mostly meant mainline Protestant churches—Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians (which a lot of presidents seemed to be)—with the more immigrant Catholic Church still often distrusted and the Southern Baptists and Pentecostal, more "fundamentalist," churches also suspect to the "established" mostly WASP ("White Anglo-Saxon Protestant") "establishment" that ran the country.

Other religions were for the most part not even recognized, with the exception of Judaism when incorporated into the idea of our country (and even government) coming out of a "Judaic-Christian" tradition, when actually the Founders ideas came out of the Enlightenment and its ideals and if any "tradition" was involved or evoked it was the Greco-Roman one, especially the Greek philosophers and proto-scientists.

But back when only white male property owning (which included slaves, as a result of the first concessionary compromise the left/liberal/progressive factions of the Founders made to the right/conservative/reactionary factions) men of a certain age were able to vote (shades of Athens and periods of ancient Roman history) the place of "God" in the Founding ideas, ideals, writings and policies, including The Constitution was minimal at best or completely nonexistent.

So a "return" to some sort of Constitutional fundamentalism the Tea Partyers espouse would actually preclude those among them who see what's needed to "take our [i.e. their] country back" as a religious revival or any kind of elevation of "God" [by which they mean theirs of course] to a central position in politics or government.

But that incompatibility of "ideas" isn't a problem for at least those Tea Partyers who have expressed what they believe in and want as far as I have read/heard and witnessed personally or on TV or in documentaries, because their history is filtered through rightwing propagandists like Beck and Rush and Palin and now O'Donnell et. al. who actually claim things like "creationism" is based on more real "evidence" than evolution [O'Donnell] or that the Founding Fathers were all believers not just in a Christian God but founded the country on Biblical ideas, when most of them either did not believe in God or believed in an indifferent God who made the universe and then left it to evolve however the laws of nature prescribed but almost to a man none of them believed in "Jesus as their personal saviour" and other tenets of the kind of revivalist Christianity the right and many in the Tea Party now profess.

Jerome's right, it is a nostalgic sense of "God" and "country" based on aspects of our history that are unrelated to the Founding principals, just at the second amendment is unrelated to owning a personal submachine gun or the first was meant to cover corporations or the tenth means states can ignore whatever laws they don't agree with or find in the Constitution (that's one we fought a war over and the ones who believe as many of the Tea Partyers including the most bombastic one who comments on this blog were on the losing secessionist side!), et-endless-cetera.

But this isn't about actual history or reason or logic or scientific evidence or even beliefs as the rightwingers prove over and over again, because in Delaware and elsewhere they just voted in people whose lives and actions are diametrically opposed to what they say they stand for, but because they make the right sounds and are against Obama and all he stands for, they are embraced as one of the Tea Party family. God bless the USA.


Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Another nail on the head Michael. It's diabolical how the First, Second and Tenth Amendments, among others, have been so profoundly mis-used and mis-represented. The Founders, with whom Jim, O'Donnell et al delusionally claim kinship, were progressive thinkers who are undoubtedly turning over in their graves with all that is happening now.

JIm said...

The attempt to minimise the influence religion and specifically the Old and New testaments which Founders had extensive knowledge is misguided. They not only looked toward Greco Roman history and particuarly the ideas of Cicero but also examples of representative government among the ancient Israelites. The Great Awakening which was a Christian revival movement was also enfluential prior to the Revolution. The Founders recognised the good and evil of human nature, and did not trust to the victory of "Our Better Angels". The Founders recognised that what they had created was fragil and would require good and moral behavior of the population in order to survive.

Socialism trusts in expansive government,in fact government takes the place of religion. The judgement of people is suspect and the elite leaders of socialism are the ones in which power and trust is to be place. Socialism is a poor fit for US Constitutional government.

Jerome said...

Hey Michael, Your post reminded me of another aspect of the "nostalgia factor" I didn't mention: the Cold War. The few times I've watched Beck (though it seems it may be necessary to watch his show more now), I saw the repetition of the rhetoric I remember from the last so-called "populist" (right wing version) "revolt" -- a reinvention of "the Communist threat". Communism doesn't really even exist in China anymore, and yet, I've heard lots of rhetoric swirling around insisting the Dems were somehow Marxists! Hard to believe (I'm naive I guess) this would resonate even with the Tea Party people: half of them are younger than 50. But I guess that's an aspect of nostalgia: you long for an era you never lived in -- when right/left (and everything else) was more well defined. Or at least such divisions make it easier to (mis)characterize enemies...

Tea Party Demographics:

JIm said...

Interesting demographics Jerome.