I don’t pay as much attention to American politics as I suppose I should, in part because despite the entertaining craziness of some of their politicians, the internal politics seldom affect Canadians, and also in part because the craziness not only baffles me – it scares me. But this week I paid attention when I read year-old statements made by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is quoted on Rawstory as saying,
“I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government. When we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.”
Whoa. Christian revisionism and theological ideologies packed into a single statement. And so wrong, I hardly know where to start.
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that the land that I live in
Has God on its side
Bob Dylan: With God on Our Side
The US government was formed as a secular government from its birth. Separation of church and state and all that (First Amendment) was put into the Constitution quite early (1791). That amendment, Wikipedia tells us,
…prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
The nation itself was created by a loose group of soldiers and politicians, many of whom were either secular or even atheist, after a bitter and bloody war with Britain (and later, other nations). The Constitution was written by a smaller group of similarly motivated men. And it’s very definitely NOT based on biblical principles (principles which include stoning people for minor offences, killing your children, taking slaves, not eating pork and having animals maul children to death…).
Not to mention that the nation we know of as America wasn’t actually born overnight with the stroke of a pen, but is the result of more than a century of expansion, war, politics and exploitation. At least that’s the history as I understand it.
I’m pretty sure the millions of indigenous people who were killed, disenfranchised, hunted, humiliated, raped and brutally reduced to second class citizens don’t think it was the work of any benevolent god. You see the digits of a deity anywhere in that? DeLay obviously does; which speaks volumes about his personal vision of a god. A nasty, xenophobic, mean-spirited, vindictive god.
Tom DeLay has always been a controversial figure on the far right fringe, from refusing to let a severely brain-damaged woman end her life with dignity to endorsing violence, lobbyist scandals, supporting corporate welfare subsidies, voting against civil liberties and speaking out against gay communities… his record as a hypocritical, self-aggrandizing Republican is an embarrassment to his party and his nation. But hey, that’s not my business: we have enough wacky Canadians to deal with. I’ve ignored him up until this point.
Until I found this story, I didn’t realize just how much of a religious wingnut he is, nor did I realize just how outlandish his ideas are. Do they teach this nonsense in US schools, or did he pick it up after? Apparently others have been paying attention, however, and I found rebuttals and counterarguments all over the Net. On the Americans United for Separation of Church and State website, it says,
DeLay freely admitted that he filters his political decisions through his “biblical worldview.” And what exactly is that biblical worldview? In DeLay’s interpretation, it is a rigidly fundamentalist form of Christianity.
Ostensibly, when DeLay is making a decision about how to vote on a particular issue, he asks himself not, “Is this constitutional?” or even, “Is it good for my constituents?” Instead, he asks, “What does the Bible tell me to do?”
Other speakers at the same event took this concept to its logical (or perhaps illogical) extreme. They declared that the Bible addresses every issue of importance to people today. The Bible, one speaker said, provides answers to issues like the minimum wage, the capital gains tax, the 40-hour work week and the estate tax.
If these speakers are right, political leaders need not hold hearings, engage in debates or empower fact-finding commissions to determine public policy. All of the answers are in the Bible or, more accurately, someone’s interpretation of the Bible.
And therein lies one of the sticking points: whose bible; whose interpretation? Let’s be clear here: unless you read ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek, you aren’t even reading the bible: you are reading a translation of it. It wasn’t written in English. And every translation is also an interpretation, whether it’s Don Quixote or the bible.
DeLay’s false dichotomy you either have the proper “biblical worldview” or you don’t, thus you are either right or wrong is an inadequate guide for determining public policy in a modern, pluralistic nation.
But what’s this bit about the Hairy Thunderer actually doing the paperwork? Does DeLay really think his deity stuck a quill into a pot of ink and scratched out the words while his minion Founding Fathers looked on with amazement? Like some ethereal moving finger? Did he get ink stains on his sacred digits?
God as a scribe? Seems a kind of petty role for a deity… aren’t there underlings to do the drudge work? Does DeLay’s god also wash the dishes after dinner? Vacuum around the pearly throne?
Then there’s the sheer arrogance of the idea. That any deity would interfere with human politics like some meddling omnipotent Machiavelli is bad enough. But to believe that your own nation is the sole beneficiary of the blessing you expect the rest of the world to kowtow to… that’s so myopic and arrogant it’s breathtaking. Of course, it’s exactly what every other country’s religious fanatics believe about their homeland and their god(s). I guess he’s no different from any Taliban or Muslim Brotherhood fanatic:
Allah is our objective, the Quran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our way, and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”
Credo of the Muslim Brotherhood
Just change a few words – God for Allah, Jesus for the Prophet and Republican values for jihad and it could just as easily come from the mouth of Tom DeLay.
For me any form of religious fanaticism is the same: dangerous claptrap.
I suppose I just wasn’t being watchful and I missed when this story first broke. According to the Huffington Post, DeLay made similar statements as early as October, 2013:
In October of 2013, DeLay made similar remarks in an interview… in which he claimed that after “a conference call with the Lord,” God instructed him to write a book advocating for the urgency of a constitutional revival.
“Jesus died for our freedom… And Jesus destroyed Satan so that we could be free and that is manifested in what is called the Constitution of the United States. God created this nation and God created the Constitution; it is written on biblical principles.”
In December, 2014, DeLay was at it again. A story in the Citizen-Times notes:
Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay called President Obama a Marxist at a large GOP gathering here Friday night and said the country must return religion to government…
He repeatedly said Americans must “invoke the Constitution,” saying the federal Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished because each “ain’t in the Constitution…”
“God needs to come back to the public square,” he said, decrying an atheistic prayer offered at a government meeting in Florida.
More recent statements by DeLay this year about the alleged “gay conspiracy” have raised voices over on Ethics Alarms, where it says,
Tom Delay makes Bill Clinton look like Atticus Finch. Think about that.
I suppose now I’ll have to pay more attention to DeLay and his fellow wingnut Republicans, if for nothing more than to have more grist for my writing mill.