Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mortal Kombat

Battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong....

David Brat says President Obama is "mocking his enemies in order to compel a larger federal state using the tradition of love."

Frederick Clarkson says we must reclaim "religious freedom" from Christian conservatives.


Now, on one level, Clarkson has a point.  There is a solid concern here:

A number of Christian right legal agencies have produced manuals for churches and related institutions, to rewrite such things as job descriptions to extend the legal definition of “ministry” in order to seek exemption from labor standards and civil rights laws, and to inoculate themselves against discrimination lawsuits.
The legal arguments here rest on the Hobby Lobby decision and Hosanna-Tabor, two Supreme Court decisions.  On the other hand, the legal arguments being made are radical extensions of those decisions, and are not getting much support in the courts (a prime example would be the Kim Davis case.  Mr. Clarkson insists that:  "Conservative Christianity has systematically transformed itself into a formidable 21st century theocratic political movement, developing an electoral capacity that is broad and deep, even as organizations and leaders come and go."  On the other hand, Rick Santorum is a non-entity, Ted Cruz is rising in the GOP polls only because he's the newest person who isn't Donald Trump (and who is actually a politician, as opposed to Carly Fiorina or Ben Carson), and Donald Trump still seems to be the person to beat in that race.

"Broad and deep" seems to be relegated to whatever percentage of the GOP Ted Cruz is appealing to (but not Mike Huckabee?), and at best that represents 5-8% of the national electorate.  It's not good that David Brat is in the House of Representatives, but we've survived Louie Gohmert and most of the Texas Representatives this far, I think we're good for a few more years.  The Apocalypse will not be televised; at least, not yet.

On the other other hand, there is solid ground for concern in the wake of decisions like Hobby Lobby.  I even like Clarkson's concerns over "religious freedom."  But it seems to be one built first on campaign rhetoric (until we have a President who does advocate limiting immigrants to certain religious groups only, and a Congress willing to play along, I don't put much stock in anything Ted Cruz says) and second on fear of the awesome power of groups that don't really have any awesome power.

Just ask Kim Davis.

I mean, if the opposition consists of people like David Brat, a man almost no one has heard of, who puts together an argument as incoherent as this:

Dave Brat, the Tea Party Republican who beat former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary race and then went on to win a seat in Congress, was agitated that Obama said last year that Republicans opposed to allowing refugees into the country were "scared of widows and orphans."

"People in the tradition know what that word means, right?" Brat said in a Monday interview with Sandy Rios of American Family Radio, noting that Jesus commands that Christians take care of widows and orphans.  

"He’s using the Christian tradition and he's trying to bring about compassion by bonking Republicans over the head with the Bible," Brat said in audio posted online by Right Wing Watch. "It’s almost a comedy routine on what compassion and love is."

Brat said Obama is "mocking his enemies in order to compel a larger federal state using the tradition of love."

He said it's time for conservatives to take back the Bible.

"Our side, the conservative side, needs to reeducate its people that we own the entire tradition," he said. 

Brat also said conservatives need to reclaim the moral argument.

"If you lose the moral argument, you'll lose the policy argument every time," he said. "We need to regain the moral argument where we're so strong." 
As I say, if that's the opposition, I'm not going to stay up nights coming up with strategies in opposition.  Those aren't even dog whistles, it's just a string of sentences.  What is comic about what Obama said about widows and orphans?  How is he "mocking his enemies" with compassion, and by the way, wasn't that the advice of Paul?  Methinks Brat doth protest too much.  What "moral argument" does Brat think he has:  "we" are right, and "they" are wrong?

In fact, let's be clear here:  "widows and orphans" is a phrase that appears repeatedly among the prophets, and it always means the poorest and most marginalized, those with the least power in the system.  Widows have no husband to speak for them, orphans have no parents to care for them (at a time when children were little more than economic burdens until they were old enough to work, a Dickensian orphanage a la Oliver Twist would probably have been a boon).  Consider just this passage from Jeremiah:

Woe to him who says,
"I shall build myself a spacious palace
with airy roof chambers and
windows set in it.
It will be paneled with cedar
and painted with vermilion."
Though your cedar is so splendid,
does that prove you a king?
Think of your father: he ate and drank,
dealt justly and fairly; all went well with him.
He upheld the cause of the lowly and poor;
then all was well.
Did not this show he knew me? says the Lord.
But your eyes and your heart are set on naught but gain, set only on the innocent blood you can shed,
on the cruel acts of tyranny you perpetrate.

Jeremiah 22: 14-17 (REB)

If that isn't a call for a "larger federal state using the tradition of love," I don't know what is.  The King was even less responsive to the people than Mr. Brat or Mr. Obama have to be, and yet the King was advised to take care of the poorest and the neediest, because only then would all be well in the kingdom.  Nothing Jesus of Nazareth ever said contradicts that.

What, exactly, is Mr. Brat's argument?

If this, along with Kim Davis' legal team, are the deep and strong bench Mr. Clarkson is worried about, I think I'll have another cup of coffee and go back to reading Wodehouse.

There is solid ground for concern about legal questions, especially in the wake of Hobby Lobby.  Much mischief can be done in the lower courts which will never rise to the level of a corrective in the Supreme Court.  But fearing the rhetoric of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump?  I'll wait to see how effective that rhetoric is on a national stage.  And as for my Christianity:  I don't want to get that tied up in "fights" with people who disagree with me about what being Christian means.  That's when people not involved in either my Christianity or the fight, can't tell the difference between the fighters.

1 comment:

  1. Brat's such a fool. We Friends own the whole tradition! Anything else is just Papist bullshit. Duh.