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Religion Gone Wild


Right Wing Religion is Scary

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s something strange involving religion and politics these days. Sarah Palin is on the cover of Newsweek magazine this week (June 15, 2010) and the focus of a major story on conservative women and feminism. Now, putting those two terms in the same sentence is strange enough, but I’m thinking of another aspect of the ‘new’ religious right (actually, it’s all wrong).

On a recent drive through South Carolina, my wife’s birth state and the site of current political strangeness all in itself, she overheard part of a conversation during our lunch in a restaurant. Two women behind her were talking and one said, “My son is currently in New York on an internship, and I’m worried about him.”  When the other woman asked ‘why,’ she went on, “The company he’s interning for assigns roommates, and he was put in with a Muslim and a Jew . . . so I keep praying for him. But thank heavens he did take his Bible!”

Now, to me, that’s strange. If I were being address by her, I’d have said, “Maybe you haven’t heard. Jesus was a Jew.”

Add to that encounter these two billboards we saw just before stopping for lunch.  The first featured two large dark eyes peering out from a burqa, along with a warning about Muslim attacks and the website for an anti-Muslim hate group.  The second board had a picture of Rush Limbaugh on it, with this slogan: “Saving America’s soul.”

 How strange! The common belief is that only people had souls. Actually, the Bible literally says that people ‘are’ souls; we don’t ‘have’ them.  We were created out of the dust of the earth and life was breathed into us, and at death the breath leaves us and we return to dust. The idea of ‘soul-stuff’ is part of Greek philosophy, an image incorrectly borrowed by some in the Christian tradition and believed by many, a false belief according to the Bible.

But that’s another story. The really strange thing is that some think our country has a soul, that it’s ‘gone astray’ and that it needs saving – by Rush Limbaugh, no less!  I’d like to think that it’s people who stray, and I’d picture Rush as the leader of the pack!  If Rush is our ‘savior,’ then count me out. To assume that he speaks for the United States, let alone functions as our sole hope, may be enough reason to want to live somewhere else, though I’m not ready to give up the battle for our country’s ‘soul’ just yet.

That brings me to the other billboard and to that woman’s concern for her Bible-toting son. My life experience teaches me that the whole world isn’t evil, that most people are not out to ‘get us’ or convert us for some nefarious purpose (including gays and Muslims). In fact, it’s the radical right-wing Christians and hate groups that hide behind Christian religious images who scare me the most. I think they’re really scary . . . and strange.

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