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Monday, June 26, 2006

Chasing Santorum, Robertson, & Falwell Out of the Temple

(Keywords & tags: , , , , and represent in much the same way that Al Capone represented Law & Order)

It's a study in contrasts. While the religious right combats combats the big problems, like same sex marriage, flag burning, and abortion, whacky lefty christians want to address trivia like poverty, the Palm Beach Post reports in an article titled Christian convention to test right's hold on values agenda by raising poverty as moral issue.

WASHINGTON — What would Jesus do about growing poverty in America?

That's the question that about 1,000 national religious leaders will try to answer today as they meet in Washington to focus public attention on what they call the greatest moral issue facing the nation.

Supporters of the three-day conference organized by the Sojourners, a progressive evangelical Christian ministry, hope that the gathering will help redefine the notion of Christian values and redirect attention away from the political agenda of the religious right.

"We have a situation where strong voices have hijacked our faith and the definition of values," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Christ. "Our challenge is to wake up the vast group of faithful people in America who don't agree with these voices, and take back the agenda."

With control of U.S. Congress up for grabs in upcoming fall elections and politicians already gearing up for the 2008 presidential race, there's an urgency to the task facing the conference participants led by the Sojourners founder. the Rev. Jim Wallis.

What he and his supporters would like to do is shift the "values debate" from such topics as same-sex marriage and flag-burning to affordable housing and child hunger.


Affordable housing? Child hunger? Pshaw! I may not be a christian, but I know that if Jesus had the choice between stopping a married gay couple from burning a flag or helping a hungry, homeless child, those gays would feel the righteous fury of The Lord - and the hungry kid could go screw himself, right?

Then again, the religious right has been led by millionaires for decades. No one epitomizes this better than the seriously crazy (and seriously corrupt) Pat Robertson. According to Media Transparency:

While [Robertson's 'charity', Operation Blessing, International] trumpets its work at home and abroad through its website, other sources provide a more nuanced picture. In 1996, the Norfolk, VA-based Virginia-Pilot newspaper reported that two pilots who were hired by the charity to fly humanitarian aid to Zaire in 1994 were used almost exclusively for Robertson's diamond mining operations. Chief pilot Robert Hinkle claimed that in the six months he flew for Operation Blessing, only one or two of more than 40 flights were humanitarian -- the rest carried mining equipment. OBI resources were being diverted to support the African Development Co., a private corporation run by Robertson. At the time, Robertson also had a special relationship with Zaire's late dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko.

"My first impression when I took the job was that we'd be called Operation Blessing and we'd be doing humanitarian work," Hinkle, a former Peace Corps volunteer told the Virginia-Pilot. "We got over there and 'Operation Blessing' was painted on the tails of the airplanes, but we were doing no humanitarian relief at all. We were just supplying the miners and flying the dredges from Kinshasa out to Tshikapa."


Taking money for humanitarian aid and redirecting it to enrich yourself through diamond mining isn't just evil, it's cartoonishly James-Bond-villian-with-a-secret-lair-in-an-extinct-volcano evil. Pat Robertson might as well change his name to Lex Luthor. And I've already written recently of Jerry Falwell hitching his wagon to cult leader Sun Myung Moon's star - Moon claims to be the messiah.

To be fair, one of the leaders of the christian right, Rick Santorum, is scheduled to address the conference. But this is more of a case of a man sinking in the polls desperately scrambling for votes before november. In reality, Santorum's one of those leading the charge against gay marriage and flag burning, while defending a status quo that favors the rich. For a measure of Santorum's commitment to poverty, look at his position on the minimum wage or welfare reform. Santorum's committed to poverty alright, he's just not committed to actually doing anything about it.

I'm sometimes accused of being anti-religious or, more specifically, anti-christian. I'm not. I'm opposed to phony religious leaders exploiting people's faith to enrich themselves and their buddies. There's a term for that kind of 'religious leader' - con man.

And in their greed, they distort christianity to the point of unrecognizability and eliminate a message of love, replacing it with a message of hatred, bigotry, and accusation.

These aren't the followers of Christ, these are the guys Jesus chased out of the temple with a whip.

--Wisco