Every election year I enjoy bipartisan support when I tell my history students the only thing I'm running for is the county line.
In class, I talk a fair bit about old-time politicians who campaigned the tried-and-true way. They made speeches, debated each other, shook hands with multitudes of voters, hosted liquor-lubricated barbecues and, occasionally, kissed babies.
Now one office seeker from the Wild West is appearing in a TV commercial, shooting guns and invoking the Almighty. She’s Machine Gun Gorman, an uber-conservative candidate for Congress in the Arizona Republican primary.
As the cameras roll, Pamela Gorman, already a state senator, blasts away with a quartet of weapons, including a gangster-style Tommy Gun, while a narrator praises her as a “conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.”
I grew up one of the “frozen chosen” in a Kentucky Presbyterian Church. But I just don’t see the connection between firearms and faith.
My Sunday school teachers – one was a World War II vet who earned four Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart -- didn’t teach us that Jesus wants us to pack heat. I learned Jesus was “the Prince of Peace.”
I also read in the Bible that Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek and to love one another. He advises that the meek will inherit the earth, to boot.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a pacifist. I doubt Mother Britain would have let us go without a fight. It took the Civil War to make the South give up slavery. Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini got the drubbings they richly deserved in World War II, which was also my father’s war.
But teaming God and gunfire the on the home front is borderline blasphemy to me.
Okay, I’m a union-card carrying Hubert Humphrey Democrat. I’m for gun control laws like those in Great Britain and in other European democracies – even if we have to amend the constitution to get them. (Okay, that means I couldn't get elected dog catcher in the Bluegrass State.)
I believe – like a lot of folks with Presbyterian pedigrees – that the strict separation of church and state is good for the church, the state and the whole country.
Though I don’t buy pistol-packin’ piety, Gorman obviously thinks a lot of voters do--in her part of the country, at least. But the idea of macho Christianity isn’t new. It even isn’t American.
After ancient Rome went Christian, the Romans sometimes depicted the Son of God as one of their earthly emperors, armed and dressed for battling Rome's enemies.
During the Middle Ages, European Christian rulers dispatched or led Christian Crusader armies to the Holy Land to slay Muslims (and sometimes Jews) in the name of a merciful, loving Jesus.
The white Europeans and their white American descendants who conquered this continent seldom turned the other cheek. Toting guns and Bibles, they killed millions of Indians – and more than a few Mexicans -- and enslaved millions of Africans. “God, guns and guts made America great!” once proclaimed a bumper sticker popular in the Kentucky town where I live.
No doubt, Gorman thinks her commercial is a winner for her, and it might be.
Many of my fellow Kentuckians -- and citizens of other Tea Bagger-tilting Republican Red States – are cool with the God-gun combo, too.
They don’t seem to care if Blue State liberals – and liberals long suffering in Red States – think political pandering like Gorman’s Ma Barker imitation is way crazy. Nor are do they appear bothered that many people who live elsewhere in the democratic world see Gorman as more proof that American politicians are gun-loving lunatics. Gorman probably would welcome their scorn – and the scorn of Democrats like me -- and scorn us back as godless pansies.
But abroad, it’s not just leftists who believe Republicans like Gorman and their Tea Party pals are nut jobs. The GOP’s far right turn is raising eyebrows, and hackles, among some conservatives overseas.
David Cameron, Britain ’s new Tory prime minister, bristled when the Republicans and the Tea Baggers trashed Britain ’s National Health Service as part of their holy war against “Obamacare.”
"One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured or fall ill -- no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've got -- you know that the NHS will look after you,” CNN quoted Cameron.
Most Tories, too, are fine with Britain ’s gun laws. Most of them believe that mixing religion and politics is bad for church, state and the nation.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have shifted far to the right of any other major conservative party in any other industrial democracy. The GOP would be a reactionary, theocratic fringe party in Britain and elsewhere in the democratic world.