“Times they are a-changin’…”

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By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

Pennsylvania Republican senator Rick Santorum – Golden Boy of the Christian Right, rabid homophobe, and Bush “yes-man” – was crushed in the 2006 election by a margin larger than anyone had expected.

Also on election day 2006, it was reported by the Associated Press that James Dobson, leader of the antigay Focus on the Family and close friend of disgraced Rev. Ted Haggard, “will be one of the people overseeing counseling for” Mr. Haggard. Later on November 7, Dobson bailed out: “I don’t have the time.”

And just after noon on November 8, 2006, time ran out for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in whom Bush had only recently expressed “total faith.” According to Bush, “America is safer and the world more secure” because of Donald Rumsfeld’s leadership. If that were so, why the abrupt change following the election?

The entire world knew Rumsfeld was a disaster. Did “stay the course” GWB not just realize that? No one could be that stupid, not even George W. Could he?

Clearly Bush and the GOP are scrambling given Americans’ overwhelmingly expression of dissatisfaction expressed at the ballot box. Dobson and the Christian Right are also running scared, as well they should. “Hubris” and “downfall” are inextricably bound.

Exclusion and deviousness were (and still are) the modi operandi of both the GOP and the Christian Right. Witness Texas governor Rick Perry: “Non-Christians condemned to hell.”
Perry was attending a fire and brimstone theopolitical rally at San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church presided over by Rev. John Hagee who told the flock (1,500 plus a radio and TV audience), “If you live your life and don’t confess your sins to God almighty through the authority of Christ and his blood, I’m going to say this very plainly, you’re going straight to hell with a nonstop ticket." Perry agreed: “In my faith, that’s what it says, and I’m a believer of that.”

As for deviousness, my polling location had always been a local public school. But that school is being expanded and renovated. The construction made it impossible to use it this year, so my polling location was relocated to St. John of the Cross Parochial School. I find it difficult to believe that this Republican-dominated county could not find a non-religious site for a polling place.

When I walked passed the church, rectory and into the Catholic school’s gymnasium, crucifixes were everywhere. I was offended. Seems my experience and reaction were not unique, as the Associated Press reported:

Crucifix Hung Over Ballot Box Where Antigay Amendment Being Decided

(Middleton, Wisconsin) A Jewish man whose polling place was at a Catholic church said he was disturbed to see a crucifix hanging over a ballot box.

Dr. Zeev Bar-Av of Middleton said issues on Tuesday’s ballot such as gay marriage and the death penalty “are essentially on the national divide on religion and non-religion.”

The 65-year-old Middleton man said, “If there is a place where church and state should be separated, the polling place should be it.”

Wisconsin passed a constitutional “gay marriage” ban, as did several other states. But an antigay constitutional amendment failed in Arizona. That state’s motto is, appropriately, “Ditat Deus.”

“God” would indeed enrich all people and all families, not single out some for condemnation and exclusion as the leaders of the Christian Right preach. How hypocritical that Colorado – home to Ted Haggard and James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” – banned not only same-sex marriages, but also domestic partnership benefits for gay families and their children. Focus on the Family and its political arm spent about $900,000 to defeat equality and condemn families that didn’t fit their theopolitical agenda.

One rabidly antigay leader of the Christian Right exemplifies the movement’s deception, hubris and condescending disdain for anyone who doesn’t blindly obey. A November 10, 2006 article by Larry Cohler-Esses, editor at large of The Jewish Week made the case:

Christian Right Agenda In Shambles After GOP Defeat
Moderate Evangelicals seen chafing against narrow priorities like abortion, gay rights. Will some work with Dems?

For a man witnessing a debacle in real time, Rev. Louis Sheldon, a leader of the Christian Right political movement, sounded amazingly sanguine Tuesday night – even as an early AP exit poll indicated that almost one-third of white Evangelicals chose a Democrat for Congress.

“We know that in America the people are with us,” insisted the founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, one of the largest groups in the Christian right. “They’re just confused.”

If you don’t believe and act as delusional dogmatist Sheldon tells you to, then you’re “confused,” a polite way of saying you’re stupid.

Echoing Randall Terry’s proclamation –

I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.

– “Sheldon scoffed at … the idea that Christian right activists might cultivate relationships with the newly empowered Democrats.” That’s the same Louis P. Sheldon who took money from a client of Jack Abramoff, the convicted fundraiser and briber. The Abramoff client from whom Sheldon’s TVC accepted “a donation” was an internet gambling firm. At the time “Lucky Louie” and the TVC were campaigning against internet gambling.

Just as telling is the fact that, as Cohler-Esses reported, “Sheldon disclosed that he and ‘a lot’ of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality ‘for awhile ... but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.’” So in true Christian Right and Republican fashion, they just covered it up.

What’s the likelihood of Haggard’s close friend James Dobson having been among that “‘a lot’ of others” who’d known about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile”? Might this embarrassing collusion have something to do with Dobson’s not having time to “help” his ersatz friend, now?

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
– Bob Dylan

The times are indeed changin’. Wasn’t it amazing how quickly the arrogant my-way-or-no-way George W. Bush seemed to change after the 2006 election? It remains to be seen if he’ll “stand in the doorway” or “block up” the halls of real change the voters mandated. You have to wonder what odds “Lucky Louie” would give on that happening.

As for the politicized Christian Right, their opaque windows have been badly stained. Their walls of exclusion are crumbling. And they’re hopelessly stalled in a dogmatic past, unable to change, as Lou Sheldon so eloquently stated and “I don’t have the time” Dobson so well demonstrated.

The future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said political revenge is not the agenda, and John Sonego’s article “Understanding Haggard’s fall from grace” expressed the attitude of gay Americans the Christian Right and their faith-based GOP sycophants had sought to demonize and disenfranchise (and continue to do so in the name of their perversion of “God”).

The next two years should be interesting…

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