My view of life from the cheap seats… Art Chartier
COMMENTS: Lying Snakes, Kabuki Dancers and Useful Idiots
I’m an old guy who is new to the public political arena (4 yrs) but well versed in the arena of church politics (35 yrs). I am not a newcomer to the “culture wars.”
My relatively recent foray into the public political arena began as a Tea Party activist after the election of Barack Obama; I had recently retired from active ordained ministry in a mainline protestant denomination. As a church pastor, I limited my public political activities to the Pro-Life movement, but was an intrepid culture warrior within the church – to little or no avail. (In retrospect, I was like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the holes in the dike with his fingers. Eventually I ran out of fingers.)
I’ve retired from both my local Tea Party and my denomination and now I’m free to express my opinion from the “cheap seats” in The Peanut Gallery – hence this blog.
That’s why I’ve found Rebecca Hamilton’s blog – Public Catholic – so refreshing. The parallels between our personal experiences, although worlds apart, are remarkable. The purpose of this brief introduction is simply to provide some context for my comments on Hamilton’s blog – Stop Slogan-Voting… Pt 1.
1. Lying Snakes –
“Politics is about power. The two political parties are not political parties as we once knew them. They are consortiums of special interests. They operate on behalf of these interests for one purpose: to get and keep power…. Power is what they want, and they will tell you anything it takes to get you to give it to them.” – Public Catholic
A friend of mine recently called one of our local politicians “a lying snake.” She couldn’t have been more accurate – the guy had just promised to vote one way in our local City Council Meeting and then did just the opposite. Another recently told my wife, with a straight face, that he never made any money off his position as City Councilman – when his construction firm had its sign outside a city rehab project only a few hundred yards away.
In South Carolina, nearly every politician is a “Christian Conservative” – or so they say. Most of them give lip service to both, but actually do, and vote for, anything that enriches themselves. They talk about “creating jobs,” but what they mean is getting government contracts, or paybacks, for themselves and their friends. Politics = power = government largesse = accumulation of wealth. They are getting rich off the taxpayers. Case in point – our local mayor was a hairdresser before she was elected; now she’s a millionaire – how does that work?
In fairness to South Carolina, I want to give kudos to Gov Nikki Haley, Sen Jim DeMint, Rep Tim Scott, and County Councilman Al Allen. These folks are fighting the good fight and seem to be the real deal – we’ll see. I have not yet become a total cynic, but what I see going on all around me is disheartening.
2. Kabuki Dancers –
“They get power by lying to you. They keep it by almost but not quite fulfilling their promises.… It takes showmanship and adept political choreography to create an unending series of cliff-hanger battles that will keep you focused and rooting for your team.” - Public Catholic
I imagine that everyone who reads this post has received fundraising letters with questionnaires and repeated appeals to defeat the “evil whatevers.”
Can it be true, as Hamilton notes, that most of what we see and hear in the political arena is a Kabuki dance designed to preserve the status quo and keep incumbents in power? Probably… otherwise why would politicians give speeches in empty chambers – except for constituency “sound bites?” And why all the political brinkmanship at the 11th hour only to pass bills that no one has had time to read? Someone wrote all this stuff and had it waiting in the wings.
I don’t have any experience with Kabuki dancing in the political arena, but I certainly do in the church.
At my denomination’s national meetings, commissioners (folks sent from their local churches and regional organizations; 50/50, clergy/laity) were given reams of written material to read a couple of weeks in advance and then more was piled on at the assembly itself. It was like trying to read a couple of large telephone books – all in small print. And it was impossible for anyone to wrap their minds around the complexities and implications of the hundreds of resolutions presented to them – from “banning the bomb” to “buying new hymnbooks.”
That was when the denominational staff (who had written all this stuff, and would ultimately benefit by being the ones who implemented it – read “middle class jobs program”) marched in as “unbiased resource” people and the commissioners were putty in their hands. Denominational history-changing decisions were made in a political pressure cooker – with most commissioners not having a clue as to what was going on.
(Yes. I know that the church councils that decided on the wording of our common ancient creeds weren’t pretty either. But that’s another story.)
These commissioners wanted to be led by the Holy Spirit – instead they were led down the path of destruction by left-wing radicals with a social agenda – many of them the Liberation Theology folks that we have heard so much about recently.
Am I being harsh or disrespectful to the church and its deliberation process? I don’t think so. God’s Word and Spirit do not condone abortion, the ordination of unrepentant practicing homosexuals, the manipulation of Biblical authority, or the ignoring of Church Creeds and Confessions in order to promote a contemporary social agenda.
But that’s exactly what has happened – ever so slowly, ever so piously… unrelentingly down the road to perdition.
3. Useful Idiots -
“Party leaders don’t care about religion and they don’t respect the religious leaders they con into supporting them.” – Public Catholic
The most egregious national example in my memory was the parade of Evangelical Notables to the White House to provide spiritual council to Bill Clinton after the Lewinsky debacle. I almost gagged. I was embarrassed to be even remotely associated with these useful idiots.
During this same time period one of them was a featured speaker at a “leadership” conference I attended. He was 45 minutes late, while we sat there twiddling our thumbs. When he did show up, he explained his total disregard for our time by noting that he was at the White House in a breakfast meeting with the President. What a guy! What a model of leadership! Gag reflex number 2.
The sad part about it is I think he believed his own bull sh*t. And probably still does to this day. I don’t know much about priests, but protestant clergy are not immune to self-deception and pride – myself included.
Insert to “Useful Idiots” (7/10/2012) – I would like to correct a glaring omission.
Kudos go to Billy Graham who managed serial contacts with White House occupants while remaining centered in Christ and true to his purpose – to bring people to Jesus. The one possible exception, as I remember, was with Richard Nixon and Watergate. Graham was much more circumspect in his Presidential relationships after that. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Billy Graham is no fool – except for Christ.
At another level, I was repeatedly disappointed by the lack of support for Life among my Evangelical friends within my Pro-Choice denomination. They claimed to be Pro-Life but most of them never spoke about “Life,” never stood up for “Life,” and never defended “Life” when it counted at our national assemblies. A few of my friends were exceptions, putting their reputations on the line in the trenches with me, but very few.
Most of my friends saw themselves as being above the fray – they were more concerned about their own advancement possibilities within the denomination and didn’t want to be tainted with the Pro-Life label or associated with Pro-Life “rabble-rousers.” And where are they now? Pretty much on the side-lines – yesterday’s news – while the denomination slips away from its historic roots and fractures.
Why do I include some of my friends as “useful idiots?” Because I do not believe that God will bless any ministry or denomination that does not passionately defend “Life” – in the church and in the streets. I don’t think I ever saw one of my friends at a “March for Life” in Washington. In fact, I had to hitch rides on the buses provided by my Pro-Life Catholic friends in order to get there. And if it wasn’t for them, hardly anyone would have shown up at these annual rallies.
Conclusion: I realize that this is sounding like a rant – and maybe it is. I’ve wanted to say this “out loud” for a long time. But surprisingly – though I go through periods of cynicism and discouragement – it has all driven me back to my roots in Christ at the foot of the Cross.
How do I maintain my bearings? With Scripture and Song:
Psalm 146 – Put Not Your Trust in Princes
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!
And Song: Marching to Zion – Amy Grant – Legacy: Hymns and Faith
(BTW – I love bagpipes. I think it’s a Scots-Irish thing.)
Please click on this audio link: Marching To Zion
Marching to Zion – Isaac Watts w/ Robert Lowry
Come, we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known; join in a song with sweet accord, join in a song with sweet accord, and thus surround the throne, and thus surround the throne.
We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion;
we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.
Then let our songs abound, and every tear be dry;
we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground,
we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground,
to fairer worlds on high, to fairer worlds on high.