Culture Wars Ongoing (and more violent)

Fascinated and appalled by the absolute hames that we’ve made of the economy of this island, north & south, (can you believe that the bail-out for Anglo is likely to be almost equal to an entire year’s income tax take in the Republic), I’ve only been partially aware of the ferment in US politics over the health care debate (can you believe that seeking to extend health care to 33m of the poorest people and using the phrase social justice can get you labelled as a Nazi). But two pieces have shocked me this week.

One is an article on Huffington by Frankie Shaeffer (son of…). You can find it here and it is well worth a read. He writes, damningly,

The key to understanding the popularity of this series [the Left Behind Franchise] (and the whole host of other End Times “ministries” from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine) isn’t some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community.

The words left behind are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their “intellectuals” touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have been left behind by modernity. They won’t change their literalistic, anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against “the world.” This has led to a profound fear of the “other.”

Jenkins and LaHaye provide the ultimate revenge fantasy for the culturally left behind against the “elite.” They do theologically what Sarah Palin does politically: divide the world and America into “Them” and Us.”

The other op-ed piece by Frank Rich was culled from the New York Times and looks at the anger in the US over the extent and rate of change which some minorities, mainly right wing, experience as loss (find it here). Tellingly, Rich writes,

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill contemplated by Obama or Congress. The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.

Rich points out that this is nothing new but is eerily reminiscent of the 1960s when health care stirred the pot that boiled over in the violence against the civil rights movements. In both eras it looks like right wing faith groups have made their choice about what horse to back and to be honest it looks beaten before it makes it to the startline. Both Rich and Schaeffer indicate that more violence is likely, and Schaeffer in particular, writing somewhat with an insider’s view, albeit a disenfranchised one, is sounding apocalyptic.

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