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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The United States of God

My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.
-Abraham Lincoln, to Judge JS Wakefield, after Willie Lincoln's death in 1862.

It's unfortunate for the religious right that history exists. They'd have you believe that every President of the United State spent all of their time thinking about God -- what God wanted from them, what God wanted from the country, what they could do that would please God, etc. George Washington, for example, shuffled around his office on his knees, hand clenched in constant prayer, fulfilling his duty as elected lead shaman of a new democratic republic. Every president thereafter followed Washington's lead.

But the hole in this rewritten history is that there have been four presidents -- at least -- who weren't Christian. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and William Howard Taft were all Unitarian. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson didn't belong to any church at all. Turns out a lot of heathens have been elected lead shaman.

That someone bothered to write these sort of facts down represents a problem for right wing revisionists who claim the US is -- and always was -- a "Christian nation." But what has been written can be erased, truths are only problematic so long as they're known. The ongoing effort to transform a secular government based on law and reason into a big church based on reverence for Jesus is a big project. Every unfortunate fact must be hidden -- preferably by painting over them with new "facts."

And here we come to Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes. Not surprisingly, Forbes is a Republican and a loyal and reliable foot soldier for the religious right. History offends Forbes' Christian sensibilities, so history must be changed. Forbes has a plan to do just that.

The history so offensive to Forbes and other Christian right crusaders comes in the form of a new visitors' center for the US Capitol. Tourists waiting for Capitol tours no longer have to wait outside, but can now wait in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC), which is a 580,000-square-foot, three story structure filled with exhibits and the inevitable gift shop. For the most Jesus-addled Republicans, the exhibits are insufficiently Christian.

Sane people see it for what it is, insane people see it as literally evil and an insult to a Christian heritage they've pretty much made up.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU):

...During the dedication, congressional leaders hailed the CVC as something that should make Americans proud.

“As both members and visitors enjoy the educational benefits of the Capitol Visitor Center,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), “we will be inspired to explore new paths and to write new chapters in our nation’s great history. With that reverence for our history and dedication to progress, may this Temple of Democracy continue to be a place where people of diverse background and opinion can find common ground for the common good.”

But there is one segment of the population that is anything but proud of the Capitol Visitor Center: The Religious Right has spent the last few months complaining about the new structure, issuing salvo after salvo against it. The CVC, according to these groups, is a “godless pit” and a shrine to secular liberalism. They’d like to rework it -- and add a heaping helping of “Christian nation” propaganda.

Especially ridiculous in his complaints was S. Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. He complained that the CVC exhibits "are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems."

Yeah, that's terrible. What's basically a museum about government focuses on -- *gasp* -- government. What a bunch of liberal BS. A museum about government should teach that Jesus runs everything. Because, if there's one perfect place to rewrite history, it's in a museum dedicated to historical education.

"The ruckus over the Capitol Visitor Center is yet another manufactured controversy courtesy of the religious right," said Americans United's Barry Lynn. "These groups want to enlist Congress and use the Center to promote their fallacious and discredited ‘Christian nation’ view."

So Forbes introduced H. Con. Res. 34, a bill subtitled, "Calling upon the Capitol Preservation Commission and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol to place the Lincoln-Obama Bible on permanent display upon the Lincoln table at the Capitol Visitor Center for the benefit of all its visitors to fully understand and appreciate America's history and Godly heritage." You see the problem already.

Law professor Howard Freidman boils the bill down to it's most unconstitutional and inaccurate basics:

Whereas the Holy Bible is God's Word;

Whereas each President, after taking the oath of office, has repeated President Washington’s petition prayer seeking divine help by saying, "So help me God";...

Whereas in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, he referred to God 14 times, to verses in the Holy Bible 4 times, and invoked prayer 3 times in 701 words; ...

Resolved ... That Congress calls upon the Capitol Preservation Commission ... to place the Lincoln-Obama Bible on permanent display ... at the Capitol Visitor Center for the benefit of all its visitors to fully understand and appreciate America's history and Godly heritage.

That's right, we're to use unchurched doubter Abraham Lincoln's Bible to declare, in US law, that "the Holy Bible is God's Word." At the same time, visitors can "fully understand and appreciate America's history and Godly heritage."

"It’s offensive to see Forbes attempting to use Lincoln as a vehicle to promote 'Christian nation' claptrap," writes AU's Rob Boston. "He’s merely trying to exploit one of our greatest leaders by laboring to portray him as some type of antebellum Jerry Falwell. In fact, the religious views of our 16th president have been hotly debated by scholars for years."

Of course, the bill is doomed on so many levels. It has no chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled House. If passed, it would almost certainly be vetoed. If it miraculously survived the veto pen, it would be struck down by even our currently right-leaning Supreme Court.

Maybe Republicans like Forbes and DeMint are setting themselves up to lose, so they can go running to the nutjobs with "proof" that our "Christian nation" is under attack by godless heathens, Muslim terrorists, and -- I don't know -- the Masons, maybe. Lot's of money to be raised that way.

Or maybe they're just as crazy as they seem to be. Maybe, despite all evidence to the contrary, they believe their own BS. Maybe they believe that history, as it's always been written, has always been wrong. That the US really was meant to be a big church, but got sidetracked on day one.

Whichever it is, the people they're representing are being rendered stupid by their actions. Propaganda by people like Forbes and DeMint is encouraging people to be ignorant.

I suppose that's the point. Only the most ignorant voters would elect people like these.


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