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Kevin Naff: 'Christian conservatives' surreal zeal'
Saturday, February 12 @ 08:34:57 EST
From outing SpongeBob SquarePants to attacking Darwinian science, the religious right is on a major roll.
By Kevin Naff, Southern Voice
FOR A DOSE of the "Surreal Life," Americans needn't tune into the VH1 reality show of the same name. They need only pick up their daily newspaper and read up on the latest exploits of the shameless Christian right.
Surreal is the word for their behavior of late. Last month, some crazy Christians "outed" SpongeBob SquarePants and assailed a cartoon video intended to teach tolerance of diversity to school kids.
A visit to Family.org, the Web site of anti-gay Christian group Focus on the Family, reveals the banner headline "Issues of Concern: January 2005." The lead item pertains to that flaming menace SpongeBob.
And SpongeBob isn't the only cartoon character to draw conservative fire. President Bush's new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings hinted at funding cuts for PBS because an episode of the kids' cartoon show "Postcards From Buster" depicted the cuddly rabbit encountering a lesbian couple in Vermont.
In a letter to PBS honchos, Spellings wrote, "Congress' and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television."
Spellings' attack on PBS came on her second day on the job. Bert, Ernie and Tinky Winky must be quaking in their closets.
MEANWHILE, AFTER PRESIDENT Bush indicated in a Washington Post interview that he was unlikely to push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage due to Senate opposition, a group of social conservatives sent a letter to Karl Rove, demanding the White House appoint a "top level official" to coordinate opposition to gay marriage.
Note that these thoughtful, patriotic and religious Americans see banning gay unions as the paramount issue at a time when the U.S. is fighting in two wars (and, apparently, planning for a third in Iran). Surreal indeed.
Also recently, Bush welcomed the Congressional Black Caucus to the White House for a rare visit. Only 11 percent of black voters backed the president in the 2004 election, according to exit polls, a slight increase from 9 percent in 2000.
Comment: This is when the idiot who is the President of the US indicated to this group of black leaders that he had no idea what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was. Present also at this meeting was C. Rice, who said not a word.
During the campaign, Republican strategists attempted to make inroads in the solidly Democratic demographic by enlisting black pastors in the fight against gay marriage. The cynical appeal failed to deliver big votes, but Bush and Rove aren't giving up.
Finally, the editorial pages of the New York Times and Washington Post were forced to weigh in on the timely and pressing issue of creationism. With Focus on the Family's James Dobson playing the role of William Jennings Bryan, who headed the prosecution of science teacher John Scopes, a small army of social conservatives has infiltrated school boards in certain communities around the country and, 80 years after the infamous Scopes "Monkey Trial," managed to bring creationism back to the national dialogue.
There are a few similarities between 1925 and 2005 to help explain this seemingly bizarre turn of events. In the early 1920s, religious, small-town Americans turned to literal interpretations of the Bible for solace in the face of a rapidly changing society.
Exciting new inventions, an increase in personal wealth and the risque Charleston dance craze were taking American culture in bold and modern directions. The brash flappers of the era were to 1925 what Janet Jackson's exposed breast is to 2005.
In the book "Center of the Storm," a Scopes memoir, Scopes is quoted as saying, "In rural areas, particularly in the South and Midwest, Americans turned to their faith for comfort and stability." That sentence could have been written to describe our post-9/11 world, in which President Bush infuses his speeches with religious references and lawmakers routinely invoke the Bible in their zeal to ban gay marriage.
The country was divided then as now between the rural religious "red" states and the urban progressive "blue" states. Back then, the red staters feared secularism and a decline in moral values. Today, red staters fear, among other things, terrorist attacks on their Wal-Marts and "moral issues" voters are credited with putting Bush back in the White House.
Science eventually won out, despite Scopes being found guilty of violating the Butler Act, which outlawed the teaching of evolution in Tennessee. The Butler Act survived for another 40 years after the infamous trial that brought worldwide attention to America's identity crisis.
The modern day self-appointed keepers of the moral flame haven't given up on creationism, though now they call it "intelligent design," a bogus theory that lacks a single shred of scientific support. Backers of intelligent design point to gaps in Darwin's theory of evolution and claim that the formation of intelligent life can only be explained by the intervention of a higher being.
Dobson, Bush and their crowd believe that higher being to be a bearded white man sitting on a cloud, guiding the world's creation. If only someone would argue that the higher being was an alien from a distant, scientifically advanced planet, maybe we could find some common ground with the "intelligent design" mob.
Perhaps the anti-Darwin trend shouldn't come as a surprise, given that 67 percent of Bush voters don't believe in evolution, according to a CBS poll.
The push to teach American school children intelligent design -- in science classes, no less -- points to a larger problem of the disproportionate influence conservative Christians hold over the Bush administration. Rove's obsession with courting the votes of rural religious redstaters last November is leading to some unexpected, and surreal, consequences.
The Dobson crowd clearly believes they are responsible for Bush's re-election. They want payback and the defeat of Darwinian science is only third on their list. Overturning Roe vs. Wade is second. And banning same-sex marriage is priority No. 1.
Kevin Naff is managing editor of the Washington Blade, a paper affiliated with Southern Voice, and can be reached at email@example.com
(c) 2005 | A Window Media Publication
Reprinted from Southern Voice:
http://www.southernvoice.com/2005/2-11/ ... l/edit.cfm
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