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Holy Politics
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Gallery 2-Page 2

Thank God The Church Is Dying

By James Donahue

If there is going to anything positive to emerge from the extreme right-wing political movement in the United States, it might just be the dying gasp of the Christian church.

It has been no secret that fundamental Christians have been heavily involved in Washington politics since the 1970s when Robert Grant lead a movement to found the American Christian Cause designed to institutionalize the “Christian Right” as a politically active movement. By 1979 the Rev. Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority.

These organizations formed what has been known as the Evangelical Bloc, a group of elected political activists that has moved the nation toward the social conservatism now being strongly expressed by the so-called “Teabag Movement” within the Republican Party.

After Falwell’s power play, Pat Robertson appeared a decade later to organize the Christian Coalition, which became the voice of the Christian Right. What Falwell and Robertson were pulling off, in the name of Jesus, was a political coup within the Washington power structure. Most Americans claimed to have Christian orientation so they dozed while this was going on before their eyes. They failed to recognize the dangers lurking in this blatant assault on the Constitutional call for a separation between the church and the state.

Trouble began to emerge when George H. W. Bush won the support of most conservative Christian voters and was elected President in 1988. By 1994 Christian conservative Newt Gingrich became the spokesman for a band of newly elected conservative Republicans that took control of the House of Representatives. And in 2001 George W. Bush moved into the White House after winning the support of white conservative evangelical voters.

During this time there has been a dramatic shift in U. S. Supreme Court appointments. The court now leans so far to the extreme right we fear it may fall on its side.

One might think that church-going Bible-thumping conservatives claiming to be following the teachings of Jesus would be busy promoting legislation and voting for bills designed to be in the best interest of all of the people. While the conservative Republicans appear to be saying these things, their actions prove that they are followers of the Old Testament version of God instead.

They followed the two President Bush’s into endless warfare, they have allowed the money changers to take over the national treasury and they have spearheaded an attack on women, the sick, poor and elderly. Overall they have generated a system of fear that has been used to strip the people of their Constitutional freedoms.

While openly standing opposed to homosexuality and gay marriage, pornography, prostitution and promiscuity, this band of elected legislators have found itself caught up in some of the worst sex scandals anyone can remember.

Under this twisted minded leadership, the United States has lost its moral and financial influence, its leadership role, and its beacon of light in the world. The nation’s once great infrastructure is crumbling. Its once great education system has fallen to ruin. Its great military, although armed with some of the finest technology in the world, is spread so thin and so worn out from a decade of constant war on at least two fronts, that we are in danger of losing our place as a world power.

The people are waking up to the fact that they have been bamboozled by the conservatives but it may be too late for them to do much to change things. The nation finds itself with most of its industry moved overseas, its health care system broken, the national debt measuring in the multi-trillions of dollars, its roads, bridges, electric and sewer and water systems in shambles and big corporations handed the keys to what is left of the kingdom.

Can we blame all of this on the Christian Church? Probably not. But the fact that the trashing of the nation was accomplished under the umbrella of the “Evangelical Bloc” of Christian Right-Wing politicians has given the church a serious black eye. There is a growing number of people . . . mostly the younger Americans . . . that is so turned off by the Christian story that church membership is in serious decline.

A recent story in noted that while “a vast majority of Americans say they believe in God,” the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) in 2008 found that 12 percent of the people, or over 36 million, are declared atheists.

“To put that number in perspective, there are about as many atheists in America as there are members of all the mainline Protestant churches combined. There are ten times as many atheists as there are Jews or Mormons.”

USA Today recently reported that churches in Europe also are experiencing a dramatic decline in membership. A study on Global Christianity conducted by the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Mass., found that every major religion except Islam is declining in Western Europe. “The drop is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance is less than 10 percent in some areas,” the story said.

Strangely, there has been a growing Islamic movement in the United States as well. It is said that Islam is now the fastest growing faith in the world. The cause of this growth is unclear since Islamic faith is even more demanding in its extremes than Christianity, its followers believe in a Christ-like figure called Mohammad and study the Koran, a book of teachings that is about as complex to interpret for today’s world as the Bible. We would think that the radical Islamic terrorist groups emerging from this block of religious followers would be turning many people away from that faith as well.

We notice a growing interest in pure spiritualism among the youth of the world. The USA Today story quoted one student in Ireland who said he has turned away from Christianity but remains “very spiritual. I speak to an energy force I call God and I get answers. If you can get a spiritual connection without going to church, why go to church?”

The writer of the article lamented the negative influence the church has had on politics not only in the United States, but throughout the Christian world.

“Imagine the kind of world we could live in if atheists were a political force,” he wrote. “It would be a world where secularism is the unquestioned law of the land, where religious groups wouldn’t interfere in politics unless they could put forward arguments backed by evidence that anyone could examine, and not just appeals to faith.

“We’d rely on science and rationality to shape public policy, humanity would heed the voice of reason rather than gut feelings or superstitious taboos. In this world, the religious arguments propping up tribalism, racism and the oppression of women would wither away, the decrees of unelected and unaccountable authorities would fade into dust, and democracy and the liberty of the individual would be the guiding principles.”

That is something to think about.