Until August 29, one of the things that defined John McCain was his claim to being a straight-shooter. In his book, Faith of My Fathers, he put this claim into religious context: “Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely, and who rely on you in return.” Even so, religious Fundamentalists were at best tepid about McCain until August 29.
But on August 29, Fundamentalists embraced John McCain and he embraced them. Fundamentalists claim that the Bible is literally true in every detail. And they want to force everyone — themselves, Jews, Moslems, Hundus, Budhists, even Christians — to worship “the Ten Commandments” as a symbol of religion.
Many people don’t actually know what Fundamentalists mean when they say they want to force Ten Commandment worship on the rest of society. Getting an understanding of how Fundamentalists view the Commandments can help understand what their religious politics is all about, and why they feel so good about McCain.
One of the Ten Commandments is: “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.” On August 29, McCain’s campaign abandoned straight talk and embraced “the Big Lie” as its primary campaign tool. His campaign has voiced lies both big and small, from the issue lies that Obama wants sex education for kindergartners, would raise taxes on the middle class, and has accomplished nothing as a senator, to the silly lies that Sarah Palin sold the governor’s jet on Ebay, never supported the Bridge to No Where, and opposes earmarks while seeking them.
Fundamentalists understand that these are lies, not mistakes, but conscious lies, and they embrace John McCain more closely for having made them. McCain is following the pattern of the 2000 Bush campaign, which spread lies about McCain – to the delight of Fundamentalists. For Fundamentalists, the commandment against lying is something to snicker at, not something to honor.
Another Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.” John McCain committed adultery against his first wife, then abandoned her for the younger, richer Cindy. In this, he matched Fundamentalist hero Newt Gingrich. The Biblical commandment against adultery has long been rejected by Fundamentalists, as they support Gingrich, David Vitter, McCain, and even the homosexual adultery of televangelists Paul Crouch and Ted Haggard.
When Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter got caught hiring Washington D.C. whores, Fundamentalists flocked to his defense in about the same percentage as they condemned Bill Clinton for his affairs. For Fundamentalists, the challenge is to get away with defiance of the Commandment. Since women are supposed to be obedient and submissive, wives have no business complaining when their husbands stray – unless, of course, the husband is a Democrat.
Another Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Some Fundamentalists believe that morality should be adjusted for different situations. They say that what the Bible means is “Thou shalt not murder.” This is interesting because it reveals two important truths about modern profit-driven Fundamentalism. First, they “adjust” the language of the Bible to make it easier to live with. So “kill” can be softened to “murder.” Then it’s OK to kill, if you can find an excuse for the killing. Second, it shows that Fundamentalists believe that the Bible isn’t really clear. Some parts of it need to be interpreted. “Kill” doesn’t really mean “kill”, it refers only to bad killings, not to the good ones.
Fundamentalists also believe that war is exempt from the Commandment – killing enemy warriors and civilians is always OK. So it’s OK to kill Iraqis, because we’re at war with them. It doesn’t matter that we are at war because Bush broke the Commandment and lied to us about WMDs and relations between Sadaam and Al Qaeda. Since lying is OK, going to war on a lie is OK, and then killing people who never did anything bad to us is OK.
That Jesus guy with his “turn the other cheek” crap was either straight out wrong or 2000 years out of date. Fundamentalists know that “turn the other cheek” isn’t practical today, if it ever was. So again, we see that, for Fundamentalists, adjusting even Jesus’ commands is OK to make them fit modern circumstances.
Another Commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Property.” Fundamentalists believe that that Commandment doesn’t apply if your neighbor happens to be Native American, or Hawaiian, or urban poor, or if he has billions of barrels of oil under his yard.
In fact, it’s pretty hard to find any occasion in history when Fundamentalists thought that this Commandment was any reason to not go to war with some other country, preferably a country with a lot less military power than us. Remember our holy crusade against Grenada?
Yet another Commandment is “Thou Shalt Make No Graven Images.” A graven image is a religious symbol. Plaques of the Ten Commandments are religious symbols. And when the symbol is worshipped by people who reject the rules the Commandments impose, then the symbol is merely a graven image. Fundamentalists reject the substance of the Commandments, while demanding that everyone worship the graven image of the Commandments.
Fundamentalists and McCain
Lying, Adultery, Killing, Coveting, Graven Images – five Commandments that Fundamentalists reject. Understanding the contempt Fundamentalists have for these Commandments makes clearer why John McCain and the Fundamentalists are such a good match.
Fundamentalists identify important values, and then reject them when short term personal interest intervenes. McCain identified principles and integrity greater than himself as defining his glory, but then rejected principles, integrity and his honorable military traditions, when he saw a personal chance for high political office.
Fundamentalists have an escape clause for violating the Commandments. Their televangelist leaders tell them that they can commit any evil, lie, cheat, steal, even kill, as long as they say “I repent,” on their deathbeds. Fundamentalists believe that their God is so simple minded that he can’t see into their souls to the truth of their lifelong hypocrisy.
They believe that Jesus was wrong when he repeatedly said “You shall you know them by their fruit” [Matt: 7:2, 7:9, 7:16, 7:20, 12:33] and also wrong when he said “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” [Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13]. Fundamentalists cling to the belief that God will not know of their greed and crimes if only they mumble “I repent” at the end of their lives.
John McCain may live with a similar delusion. He may think he can sell his soul to Karl Rove and the lobbyists to get elected, but then return to his “maverick” stance once in office. But this delusion requires ignoring all his congressional and senate history. While McCain claims he will clean up Wall Street, his record is one of opposing all forms of consumer protection regulation, and voting for Phil Gramm’s bills to deregulate bankers and investment companies. In more than two decades in Washington, he accomplished nothing by way of cleaning up the system, even while his own party controlled all three branches of government.
We voters needn’t share McCain’s delusions. We have his record, and we are living through the economic mess his deregulation ideology created. Neither his beloved fundamentals nor his Fundamentalists are sound. Let’s not lie to ourselves so his lobbyist handlers can grab what they covet of our nation.
Tom Hall is a family law attorney. He is originally from Boston, where he grew up in the Cambridge Friends Meeting (Quakers), thinking that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people to participate in highly disciplined nonviolent demonstrations (real disciplined nonviolence is just plain maddening to police forces who count on demonstrators giving them reason to get ‘messy’ during public demonstrations). After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make himself a comfortable life. The Bush administration has shocked him back into social concerns. Tom can be reached at ProgBlog@aol.com
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