Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Favorite Quote This Week

Billy Graham, center, with President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan, circa early 1980's
I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.
Billy Graham - Parade (1 February 1981)
I have added this quotation to the permanent content of the blog, on the left hand column.

Billy Graham was the famously bi-partisan golf buddy and religious Christian guru to presidents for decades, in a very real sense he was one of the first really big televangelists, a sort of America's preacher. He was moderate conservative, unlike his rabid son Franklin, who has inherited his father's religious enterprise.

There really is no longer such a thing as a moderate Republican. There are only far right extremists, and fanatical far right extreme crazy right remaining under the umbrella of the GOP and the bastard subset of the Tea Party. Moderates were last seen in the GOP in roughly the 1950's and 1960's, with the likes of candidates like Eisenhower and leaders in Congress like Edward Dirksen, or the right wing political intelligentsia like William F. Buckley Jr. While Buckley held some abhorrent views in his day, including both racism and homophobia, he was a well educated man who evolved politically over time to less extreme positions, and who was significant in his day for driving out the crazies and the wackos such as the John Birch Society (founded by the father of the Koch brothers manipulating right wing politics today).

Sadly, too many on the right, even those who were active in it, back in the period contemporaneous with the elder Graham seem oblivious to the right's shift to the extremes, and the abandonment of the center for the lunatic fringes. Too few of the remaining right even acknowledge that political parties substantially change over time generally, as a fact of history, which in turn somewhat invalidates political party claims of legacy. Those parties themselves abandon their own legacy in favor of views, policies and political platforms which in fact repudiate those of earlier versions of their party. The GOP in the era of Lincoln was a largely liberal organization; the party of Teddy Roosevelt less liberal, but still more on the liberal side of the political spectrum than conservative. The party of Eisenhower was likewise, more conservative than Roosevelt, and Lincoln, but still relatively liberal and centrist in contrast to the party of Reagan to present. Even Ronnie Ray-gun was distinctly more liberal than any of the extant GOP. THAT is the important context for both the above quote and the accompanying photo.

That political parties change over time has been true going back to before the American Revolution in this country; it is not unique to the 20th and 21st centuries. This larger pattern of change in which the Billy Graham quote applies as a warning is not the factual version of history that the right would permit to be taught, deeming it unpatriotic because it does not serve their propaganda agenda. Instead the radical religious right would like to teach fake history in public schools, using it to insert religious doctrine, for example that Moses was one of the founding fathers, requiring it in textbooks for public schools.
On Friday [Nov. 21 2014] the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted along party lines 10-5 to approve the biased and inaccurate textbooks. The vote signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children.

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

Emile Lester, a professor of history in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington, claim the textbooks contain “inventions and exaggerations” about Christianity’s influence on the Founding Fathers and, by extension, the formation of American democracy.

Credible historians warn the misguided attempt to suggest biblical origins for the Constitution would lead students to believe that “Moses was the first American.”

Scholars claim the decision to include the biblical figure of Moses in social studies education is part of a concerted effort by Christian extremists to promote the idea that the United States is a “redeemer nation” – giving a divine justification for supposed American exceptionalism.

The proposed textbooks are deeply flawed, and have no place in a public school classroom.
Franklin is one of the worst of the modern day fundies, a professional bigot popular exclusively among the most radical of the far right, peddling an equally extreme version of religion. It is a shame that Billy Graham did not apparently teach the content of my favorite quote of the week sufficiently under his own roof for it to be internalized by his family members. This does not make the content of the quotation any less true.

This is significant in so far as every one of the declared or likely candidates running for president on the right appear to be basing their primary level contention for the nomination on securing the approval of the religious right, the Christian fundamentalists. Every potential candidate on the right is far removed from being a centrist, and most are of questionable rationality, replacing hateful respect for facts and science and diplomacy and even some modicum of basic integrity with an extremist ideology of intolerance and a toxic parody of legitimate spiritual belief. And this makes religion the justification for voting AGAINST not in support of every one of the conservative candidates in the 2016 election.

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