Read Between the Lines
[Note: This article was written in 1996 or '97, I believe.]
There is a movement going on in this country that threatens the very foundations upon which this nation was founded. It's called the Christian Coalition and it's essentially a political action committee, although it managed to skirt the intent of the law regarding tax-exempt, non-profit organizations for quite a while. I received a pamphlet entitled "10 Myths about Pat Robertson and Religious Conservatives: The Facts You Need to Counter the Radical Left". It is a frightening piece of propaganda because it sounds so true and American and patriotic. Yet in reality, it's reminiscent of the Neo-nazi groups and tobacco companies that try to make us believe that the poison they're peddling is healthy and good for mind, body and soul. In case anyone chooses to verify that I have not misquoted the material, a copy of the pamphlet is (or at least was) available from the Christian Coalition at P.O. Box 1990, Chesapeake, VA 23327-1990. In the following article, when referring to "they", unless specified otherwise, I'm speaking about the Christian Coalition.
They suggest President Clinton's legislative setbacks are the result of Rep. Vic Fazio's "coordinated campaign of Christian-bashing and character assassination." They seemed to have overlooked the almost record number of Republican filibusters during that Congressional session— filibusters aimed solely at creating the illusion that President Clinton has no leadership ability or is inept at getting legislation passed. The truth of the matter is that no one can get legislation passed if there is a concerted effort to maintain a filibuster. I find it not very surprising that this took place during an election year. If one has nothing better to offer, it's easier to discredit what has been placed on the table than to come up with an alternative.
I also find it quite hypocritical for them condemn this so-called attack on Christian conservatives and on Mr. Robertson in particular while at the same time degrading and assassinating the character of the duly elected President of the United States. Yet as reprehensible as I find this hypocrisy, I will defend their right to say whatever it is they feel the need to say. Still I can't help but recall Jesus' words "Judge not lest ye be judged." They seem to have taken this unilateral commandment by the one they call their savior as applicable to all but themselves and the organizations they support. The tacit support given "political commentators" such as Rush Limbaugh is just more proof of the hypocrisy of their beliefs. I personally don't find humor in belittling others, regardless of circumstances. Nor do I think it would be an activity that Jesus would have participated in.
Any quoted material from the pamphlet is in red. This in turn is followed by commentary meant to show the reader what can be read between the lines.
Myth #1:"Pat Robertson wishes to subvert the First Amendment by establishing a theocracy in the United States."
It is unfathomable to me how anyone who calls him-/herself a Christian can be so close-minded and prejudiced. It says they support the First Amendment separating church and state, yet it exhorts all "pro-family Christians" to get out and vote in people who support their point of view, which is based on Christian theology. Elected officials who create laws based on religious beliefs is exactly what defines a theocracy! It claims that the Christians in the organization believe in freedom and individual responsibility, yet on issues such as birth control and abortion, they are making every effort to take that control away from the individual and give it to the government in the form of laws.
"Pat Robertson grew up...in that tradition of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, ...[and] separation of powers...." If they believe in freedom of conscience, why do they attempt to thwart others making use of theirs when choosing to have an abortion? It is only their religious convictions that dictate life begins at conception. There is no proof that the soul enters the body at conception, nor do all people living in this country believe that. To mandate that point of view is imposing their religious beliefs on those who believe differently. If someone chooses to believe that, they obviously won't have an abortion provided they also choose to live by their religious beliefs. But don't take that freedom, individual responsibility and right to worship God as I see fit away from me or anyone else in this country.
Mr. Robertson's ancestors are mentioned and their patriotic acts touted, but what does that have to do with the debate at hand? Hitler's ancestors probably weren't white supremacists. They probably didn't teach that one culture is better than another, something the Christian Coalition is attempting to do with its America First program. Although sounding very patriotic on the surface, America First is an effort to teach young school children that American culture is superior to any other culture in the world. How much more proof of prejudice does anyone need than that?! American culture is American culture because of the myriad cultures that have graced our shores— including that of the Native Americans whom the white race proceeded to virtually wipe out as well as the African-Americans whom the white race enslaved. They say they support Jefferson's concept of individual duty to one's Creator, but they seem to want to define who that Creator is. It appears they think freedom of religion is fine as long as it doesn't violate Christian precepts. Matters of religion are individual and, as such, have absolutely no place in politics.
Myth #2: "Pat Robertson and the so-called 'religious right' want to 'take over the Republican Party' and dominate the government." Once again, it says that government has become hostile to the pro-family views of Christians in America. You don't have to be Christian to be pro-family! Yes, the deterioration of the family is a crisis of national proportion, but legislating change is not going to change the way people feel. People need to know there is hope of a better tomorrow. Yet all the while they're being told if they don't subscribe to a certain Christian belief, they're going to end up in hell for all eternity. What kind of hope is that? There are many paths to God and followers of Mr. Robertson have found one. If they choose to believe they're sinners, then believe it. But don't tell me I'm a sinner because my religious beliefs contain no concept of sin. Unless you can change the attitude of the people the government governs, you can legislate until you're blue in the face without changing anything.
They say they want people of all faiths to be able to register to vote and participate in the political process, yet solicited contributions go to a program call "GET-OUT-THE-CHRISTIAN-VOTE". Why not simply have a campaign to "GET-OUT-THE-AMERICAN-VOTE"? Why bring religion into it if they have no intentions of tying the government to religion? They send out election guides that list the voting record of every senator and representative of the U.S. Congress. An incumbent gets a "+" sign if he voted in accordance with Christian Coalition views and a "-" sign if s/he did not. The subliminal message here is that one should vote for those who have the most "+" signs. A "+" sign has the connotation of something positive. This is clearly a violation of non-partisan "guidance" from what is clearly a political action group and not a non-profit religious organization.
Myth #3:"Pat Robertson and religious conservatives represent fringe views that are out of touch with 'moderate' Republicans and mainstream beliefs." In any poll taken by a non-religious polling group, it has been found that while most Americans do not support abortion, most do support the right to choose. Therefore, their view on abortion does represent a minority opinion. And the vehemence with which they push their views inspires the radical fringe elements to do things like kill a doctor and an innocent man attempting to protect that doctor from such radicals. The fifth commandment is thou shalt not kill. (Abortion is only killing if there is a soul in the body of the fetus when it is aborted. And that is a religious belief.) They claim they are the victims of "misguided appeals to fear and bigotry". But when women going to a health clinic have to have bodyguards to protect them from supposedly peaceful protesters, and when someone is pushing one culture over another as they're doing with America First, who are they to condemn others for creating fear and bigotry? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Myth #4: "Pat Robertson represents the 'new extremism' in American politics." It claims Mr. Robertson didn't leave the Democratic party, it left him and other evangelicals and pro-family Roman Catholics. First, simply because a party doesn't adopt their point of view as a platform plank doesn't mean the party "left" them. Perhaps the reason the party chose not to adopt their policy was because of its extremism.
"...the Democratic Party abandoned its centrist pro-family base and became a captive of the special interests of the radical left, including feminists, extreme environmentalists and gay rights activists." What is wrong with women wanting equal rights under the law? Or with wanting equal pay for equal work? Or with wanting equal opportunity employment and equal chance for advancement? I find it ironic that although more than half the population of this country is female, a vast majority of the Congress and every president to date has been a white male. [Note: Remember when this was written! ;-)] As for gay rights, it is again their religious convictions that say homosexuality is a sin. Yet they're trying to use their right to religious freedom to deny that same right to others, much the same way the Neo-nazis try to use their freedom of speech to deny that same freedom to minorities. Homosexuality is natural. It's found in the animal kingdom— male dogs mounting other male dogs is the most visible form. It's found in the higher primates as well. And there are some species that, when faced with a predominantly female culture, will spontaneously change sex— nature's transsexuals! This is part of God's creation! Did God make a mistake when he created homosexuality in nature? God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God and God in him. It doesn't say that love has to be heterosexual. Love between adults does not always have to lead to procreation.
"Put in their simplest form, the politics of the conservative people of faith amount to nothing more extreme than a return to many of the policies that characterized America under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy." They mention the federal deficit. Yet from the time Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, left office, there has only been one Democratic president before Mr. Clinton, and that was Jimmy Carter, a devout Christian. Yet he was voted out of office after only one term! And in the twelve years this country was under the Reagan/Bush presidencies, the federal deficit more than tripled!
"Most marriages worked" it says. Yet what they omit is that many women in those marriages were often nothing more than maids and babysitters for their husbands. Spouse abuse and child abuse were taboo subjects and were not talked about. It was legally impossible for a husband to rape his wife. If he hit her, it was she who was questioned as to what she had done to provoke his anger. (Unfortunately, this is still often the case: the victim is blamed for being the victim.) Women had no financial independence and were in most respects second class citizens. Children were considered property of their parents. Abortions killed thousands of women every year because they had to be performed in unsanitary conditions. Families stayed together because there was no where for the wife to go if she left her husband. There were no shelters to provide safe havens for abused women. There were no rape crisis centers to provide counseling for victims. Blacks and other minorities were denied jobs, education and housing based solely on their minority status. Young black men were lynched and hung from trees while whites held picnics under their lifeless bodies. Gays and lesbians lived in constant fear of being attacked simply because they chose to express their love to someone of the same gender. I'm sorry, I would not want to return to those days for all the money in the world.
Myth #5: "Pat Robertson and religious conservatives represent the fringes of society." Mr. Robertson's ancestors are once again referred to and are still as irrelevant as before. As to the religious affiliations of the presidents, according to the World Book Encyclopedia, Lincoln was so disillusioned by the in-fighting among Christian denominations, he never joined a church or attended services regularly. According to Leo Rosten, author of Religions of America, Lincoln was considered a Liberal. Mr. Rosten goes on: "Deists are people who believe in a Supreme Being or Creator but reject the idea of divine revelation, sacred scriptures, or miracles. They believe in a Deity who established an orderly universe but does not interfere in the working of nature's laws.... A number of the founding fathers, including Washington, Jefferson, and Paine, held deistic beliefs.... George Washington['s] ... beliefs came from ancient Stoic philosophy, a forerunner of deism, and not from Christianity. ... Thomas Jefferson helped separate church from state, both in Virginia and with respect to the newly established federal government. He never joined a church. ...The same was true of Abraham Lincoln, who was an atheist through much of his adult life but came to a simple belief in a Supreme Being during his final years." (Quoted from the above mentioned book, pages 259-260.)
"These socialist views [of the Democratic party] represent a departure from classic American thought." So did the Emancipation Proclamation. So did the Civil Rights movement. Change is not always evil and does not always wreak havoc— sometimes refusing to change is what causes the most damage.
"It is hard to believe that 35 years later, a person who advocates the general policies that were taken for granted in America in 1959 would now be labeled a member of the 'radical right.'" What is even harder to believe is that someone would think that we can turn back the hands of time to 1959. Who wants to return to the Cold War? Back to the bomb drills where people were told it was possible to survive a nuclear attack simply by closing their eyes and hiding in the basement or under their desk at school? Back to the days when the man who invented the process for blood transfusions died because he was unable to obtain one himself because he was black? Back to the days when women thought it was their fault when their husband beat them or berated them? Back to the days when children had to put up with physical, emotional and sexual abuse because they were supposed to be seen and not heard?
Myth #6: "Pat Robertson does not care for the poor." How many cars and what type of cars does he own? How many houses? How big are they? Does he travel first class? Or in a private jet? Does he have chauffeurs? Bodyguards? Maids? Housekeepers? Cooks? When a man asked Jesus what he had to do to enter heaven, Jesus told the man to follow the commandments. When the man replied he already did this, Jesus exhorted him to sell all he had and follow him. This was too much for the man to do and he walked away. Evangelical preachers who live in multi-million dollar homes are being hypocritical. Oral Roberts has effectively said that God values a human life at eight million dollars with his statement that if he didn't raise that money, God would call him home. And people believed him! If you cater to people's fears, promising ways to avoid them, many people will do what you ask. People are afraid of dying and Mr. Roberts told them, in essence, if you send enough money to some preacher somewhere, God won't call you home. Organizations like the Christian Coalition are appealing to people's fears, and as a result, people are doing what they're told to do. Unfortunately, these people don't understand the full implication of what they're doing. As for touting how much Mr. Robertson has donated to various charitable organizations, the parable of the woman giving her alms to the church springs to mind. Let not the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Isn't that— or a similar phrase— part of the Bible? And Christians are not the only ones who have been charitable throughout history. In fact, Christians have been some of the least charitable if you look back over history to the plight of the Native Americans and the slaves.
Myth #7:"Pat Robertson is an anti-Semite." Supporting the Israeli government in my opinion is not something to be proud of. The Israeli government is treating the Palestinian people no differently than the Germans treated the Jews. They've confiscated their homes, their businesses and their livelihood; they've restricted their access to education, the political process and legal justice. What other nation in the world can unilaterally decide to bomb the territory of another sovereign nation and not suffer drastic consequences in terms of world opinion? Yet Israel almost routinely bombs northern Lebanon on suspicion! The Israeli government deserves no support from a democratic nation, let alone a religious man who claims to be a believer in a God of Love.
Myth #8: "Pat Robertson is a racist and is anti-women." The pamphlet goes on to say, "Pat...lived for a time with his wife and three children in an inter-racial community...." This reminds me of the statement "Some of my best friends are black..." And what about where Mr. Robertson lives today? Is it also an interracial community? As to supporting the advancement of women, why is he against the feminist movement? He touts his wife's accomplishments, but she holds a degree in nursing and has worked as an assistant professor of nursing. These are both traditional women's roles. Perhaps she truly enjoys nursing, but even as late as the early sixties, the only real opportunities for most women lay in nursing, teaching, secretarial work and factory work. Simply because she has such degrees doesn't automatically mean he endorsed her efforts to achieve them. Many a wife has had to face the scorn of her husband when choosing to go on or back to college.
Myth #9: "Pat Robertson leads a movement of poor and uneducated people." Mr. Robertson's educational accomplishments don't have anything to do with the educational accomplishments of the people who follow his preachings. Statistics quoted seem to indicate that those who attend church regularly have attended or graduated from college. But simply because one attends church regularly doesn't mean one is religious. I attended weekly for more than fifteen years because I was afraid not to, yet at that time I had no religion or any sort of relationship with God. Unfortunately, even the well-educated can fall prey to fears when discussing the future possibilities for one's soul. As for the median income, they seem to be suggesting that one has to make above forty thousand dollars a year to qualify to be religious. Or that those who make less have an inferior religion.
The statement "Clearly, Robertson and the nation he embodies are like most of our neighbors: well-educated, hard-working, middle-class families" smacks of racism (most of those below the poverty line are minorities) and elitism. The statement that the median household income of regular church goers is $40,000 per year compared to the national average of $29,000 is proof that the people Mr. Robertson claims to represent are not a majority— if they were, the average income would be closer to the national average! And what about those who are not in those categories? Does he not represent them? And if not, why not? What are they to do under this new government they want to create by electing like-minded Christians to everything from the school board to the presidency? Is the above quoted statement implying that you have be well-educated to be hard-working? Or make more than $40,000 to be hard-working? I have a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and graduated with more than a three point average (out of four) from both high school and college. I make less than half the national average. Yet I am deeply spiritual and value my relationship with God very highly. I attend my church every day. Yet despite meeting two of Mr. Robertson's criteria, he most certainly doesn't represent my views.
Myth #10: "Pat Robertson is a narrow-minded xenophobe nationalist." Considering the other things stated in the rest of the pamphlet, it's hard not to come to that conclusion. Especially when one considers the America First policy of the Coalition founded by Mr. Robertson. The final paragraph is completely contradictory! It urges people to resist bigotry; yet in other "myths" stated prejudices and voiced bigotries have been made evident! But perhaps, in the end, that's the best advice of all if only people will see through the slick public relations hype and do what it exhorts them to do— resist bigotry and vote.
I fear for the future of this country if more people like Mr. Robertson get in power. Hate comes in many forms; the most devious of which is a claim to be looking out for the good of one's soul. There's only one person who can save your soul and that is you. You are the one who has to choose whether or not to accept Jesus as your savior, or to follow the dictates of the Koran or the Vedic scriptures or any of the other religions of the world. The salvation of your soul is in your hands. To attempt to wrest that control away from others is to assume the role of God in another's life. No one has that right over another, although many do just that anyway. But if we follow the agenda the Christian Coalition seeks to install, it will not be a matter of personal choice but it will become the law. I'm not asking anyone to believe what I believe about God, but I am demanding to be allowed the freedom to worship God in the manner I see most fitting, even if it is direct opposition to Mr. Robertson's brand of Christianity or the even against the views of the majority of our elected representatives. To deny me that right would be using their freedom of religion to deny me mine. And that I will not let happen.
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