Right-Wing America: Racism And Religion
There are struggles and challenges with race relations and understanding across just about every demographic of American society. Even at its best it is a learning process much like the inspirational story shared by Shirley Sherrod. With civil rights legislation only forty five years old, the entire current population of African American seniors over 65 years old have had the experience of being denied the legal right to vote in their own country. Race relations in America, among a society of equal citizens, is relatively new.
In this stage of relative infancy growing pains are to be expected. Trying to figure out how to implement and enforce equality has been a challenge that requires discussion and at times debate. Debate as cooperative fellow citizens is necessary, but there is a preponderance of malicious and racially controversial rhetoric emanating from a particular area within the body politic. The same population of political and social conservatives that espouse their Christianity, and wish to impose it on the rest of the nation, are the instigators of much of the current, racially divisive, rhetoric.
Tea Party Express rallies, that have been instrumental in campaigning for Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Scott Brown, and several others, have featured at least as many signs demanding that America become a Christian Nation, as they have mocking the President based on his race and ethnicity. Aside from their vague platform of ‘smaller government’ and ‘lower taxes’ that lacks any proactive alternatives, the message of their signs and slogans present an overwhelming impression that the Tea Party attendees make a clear correlation of non-white = foreign = non-Christian = un-American.
This isn’t a misinterpretation based on observing a minority fringe at the otherwise multicultural and pluralistic events. These are identifiable truths, with well documented photo evidence, of a predominantly homogeneous group of individuals who claim to have unified values and beliefs. From these same events that featured Palin, Angle, Bachmann, et al, who claimed their guidance from God to make America a Christian nation, came invitations for Obama to return to Kenya, with placards showing the President as both a witchdoctor and a monkey.
Mark Williams, the purportedly dethroned leader of the Tea Party Express, who has stood shoulder to shoulder with almost every Tea Party candidate on the November ballot, including Palin and Angle, penned the disgustingly insensitive and racist sounding parody letter to Abraham Lincoln, written as if it had been authored by NAACP president Benjamin Jealous. Although it has been claimed that Mr. Williams was fired by some authority within the Tea Party hierarchy, which claims to have no such centralized hierarchical authority, his letter, and conflict with the NAACP, has sparked a firestorm of activity from the Conservative Religious Right claiming to be victimized by ‘reverse racism’ from the White House.
Much of these sentiments seem to originate with Glenn Beck who, when not insisting that America become a Christian Theocracy, has repeatedly accused President Obama of being a racist with a deep seated hatred for white people. This unscrupulous fear-mongering is as fallacious as Beck’s entire Christian Reconstructionist campaign, and has had an equally deleterious effect on our current national conversation and political climate.
Andrew Breitbart, the infamous Tea Party activist and propagandist who spearheads a large portion of the Internet component of the right-wing echo-chamber, was the architect behind the recent smear campaign of USDA official Shirley Sherrod. Fortunately, Mr. Breitbart was foolish enough to underestimate Mrs. Sherrod before attempting a character assassination based on trumped up charges of racism.
Although Mr. Breitbart has re-represented his motivations several times, ranging from an attack on Mrs. Sherrod and the supposedly racist Obama Administration, to an expose of NAACP racism, the fundamental truth remains the same; Mr. Breitbart attempted to use material that he knew to be an incomplete and misleading representation of the facts in order to support false claims of racism and inflame racial tensions and divisiveness.
In the same manner that Fox News blends overtly Christian dogma with revisionist American history and anti-Obama propaganda, Conservative politics have become synonymous with Christian Reconstructionism and deliberate racial divisiveness. O’Reilly, Hannity, and Beck present a consistent ideology and theology on these matters, relinquishing First Amendment rights to the supremacy of Christianity while defending their own race-baiting by playing victim to the very tactics they employ.
Thursday evening past, on Sean Hannity’s Fox cable show, in the aftermath of Mark Williams’ letter and Andrew Breitbart’s smear campaign, in a segment with Pat Caddell called ‘Media Fueled Racism(?)’, Anne Coulter stated that there is “no racism in America.” Believe it or not, whether it’s profound ignorance or deliberate denial, it runs that deep. The same woman that claimed that Jews needed to be ‘perfected’ by becoming Christians claims that there is no racism in America.
Their own bigotries seem to be completely invisible to them. Combined with the delusion that, as white people, they are subject to the oppressive bigotry and racism of non-white Americans, their psychosis would be laughable if it wasn’t so damaging. The ingredients and motivation for their revolution of Angry White Christians wanting to “take their country back” is, whether they realize it or not, a model of transparency.
The white, conservative, racially biased, religious right, has embraced a theology that unsurprisingly creates their God in their own image; a white skinned Jesus, wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross, and packing heat.
This version of Christianity is nothing more than part of the definition of exclusivity that bolsters the mindset of ‘Us versus Them’. It is a theology based more on identity than doctrine. It is an only slightly watered down version of white Christian nationalism, and a not so distant cousin to the White Citizens Council or the Ku Klux Klan. It’s the sentiments, the desires, and the anger, without all the messy honesty. It provides them with what they think is a cloak of credibility for their otherwise distasteful prejudices; sheltering them from political backlash as well as personal admission.
The same motivations that drive the religious right to impose their Christian dogma on every citizen of this country fuels the underlying racism they are struggling to deny. The only things deemed acceptable to them are those things that agree with them, and appear to be like them. It is an affective community of insecure individuals intent on creating a homogeneous society to provide their weakened self-esteem and faltering self-image with the comfort of conformity. If you want to be accepted or even tolerated by them, you must be just like them. You must look like them and believe like them. They are the schoolyard bullies of American politics. There is no room for difference or dissent in their America.
America’s Religious Right is a community that craves exclusivity. They insist on exclusivity from anyone that is not just like them. They claim the exclusive right to have guaranteed rights, and the exclusive right to decide who is worthy to have those rights. In order to achieve this, they claim Divine prescription for their manifest destiny and ordained authority over others, The Constitution be damned.
Their religion, other than part of the construct of their identity, is a medium for the expression of their hatreds and biases. This is not a Christianity of love and charity designed for personal enlightenment and growth. This is a dogmatic Christianity of White Nationalism to be imposed on others. Calling themselves ‘Real Americans’, to the exclusion of all the ‘Fake Americans’ that don’t look, act, and believe as they do, is the proof they offer of this point.
Perhaps some day Christian Conservative Nationalists will realize that their theology, as well as their social views, are based on fear and ignorance. Perhaps one day they will realize that acceptance, tolerance, and enlightenment, are not synonymous with bias, exclusion and control. Perhaps, but until then, America will only be “One Nation Indivisible” if it manages to keep out from under them and their God.