Friday, June 17, 2005

The Church of Florida

If you thought you’d heard the last of Terri Schiavo you were wrong. Terri is dead, her body turned to ash but the manipulation of her person to serve the agenda of others is alive and well, resurrected by the Most Reverend Governor Jeb Bush, head of the Church of Florida. What did George Herbert Walker and Barbara Bush feed those kids that made them such religious extremists? If this were simply an isolated case of innocuously seeking to impose a particular religious point of view on the body politic one could dismiss it with a Reagan-like quip, “there he goes again.” But it is neither isolated nor episodic and certainly not benign. Christian fundamentalists, supported by people like the governor of Florida, are engaged in a systematic attack on the America that you and I hold dear. They want to enter our bedrooms, decide with whom we should partner and discredit our judicial system which they rightly see as a threat. Most judges (described by them as activists) tend to follow the law of the land not some particular religious agenda. These zealots feel, having won the last elections that it’s time for the country as a whole to fall into lock step. Many of them now more openly and actively describe this as a Christian country which is distinctly different than a country in which the majority of its citizens are Christian. Where does that leave the many of us who are not?

Both the Governor and the President Bush seem to see themselves as ordained by God to do his work (as they interpret it). So too with Rev. Senator Frist, the Rev Representative DeLay and a host of other elected and appointed officials from the far right. I understand that Americans of good (and fair) will are sometimes slow to react – it took a tipping point of indignation to undermine McCarthy. What I fail to understand is the virtual silence and acquiescence of the mainstream progressive clergy, many of whom are citizens of Florida. Why aren’t religious leaders there and across this country speaking out against this hijacking of our republic by a fringe who no longer hide their objective of pushing us toward a theocracy in spirit if not in fact. Does anyone really believe that Jeb Bush’s response to the definitive autopsy of poor Terri’s body in referring her case to prosecutors is anything other than the reaction of a religious fanatic? It should not be lost on us either that, beyond being politically opportunistic, Mr. Bush, perhaps even more so than his older brother doesn’t cotton to defeats of any kind. After all, God is on his side, and those who think differently are sinners who can go to hell and literally will.

The debate between right and left in this country used to be about different economic visions – sometimes simplistically expressed as big business verses labor. Those halcyon days are over. Today’s debates are more reminiscent of Medieval Spain than of what one would expect in twenty first century America. The extremist religion that’s being pushed is both one sided and very selective. Turning off life support of a brain dead woman is bad, treating a prisoner inhumanely including using his belief as a torturous lever in a time of “war” is OK, the right thing to do, what undoubtedly God wants us to do. Which God is that?

One word of caution to Rev. Jeb Bush of the Church of Florida. Over in the mother county where the Queen sits in her palace there is a Church of England, the official church of the land over which she nominally presides. The problem is, nobody goes to church any more. How is that for a bright future?

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