First up from the God Machine this week is a strange warning from one of the religious right movement’s most prominent voices.
While many faith leaders from a wide variety of traditions support new proposals to reduce gun violence, many leading evangelical Christians are doing the opposite, aligning themselves with the National Rifle Association (because nothing reinforces fealty to Jesus like opposing background checks on gun purchases). Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, went so far as to embrace a truly bizarre conspiracy theory.
“I’m very concerned about this measure; I am concerned about where it may go once it gets to the Senate floor and what might happen in the House. This idea of background checks is very concerning given the fact that the United States military has been increasingly showing hostility toward evangelicals and Catholics as being somehow threats to national security and people that need to be watched.
“Well, what does that have to do with gun control? Well, what happens if all the sudden you are identified as an evangelical, bible-believing fundamentalist and the government decides you’ve got to be put on a watch list? Part of the provisions of this background check is kind of a system where if a caution comes up when they put your name in, you don’t get a chance to buy a gun.”
So, to recap, in Perkins’ mind, the military is hostile to Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians (a ridiculous claim); Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians have been deemed a potential threat to national security (an equally ridiculous claim); the federal government may be inclined to put these Christians on a watch list (still ridiculous); leading to laws that prevent Christians from buying firearms (you see where I’m going with this).
This nonsense was then picked up by World Net Daily, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) favorite conspiracy theory website, which never saw a nutty idea it didn’t want to publish.
I can understand the appeal of silly arguments like these – they combine paranoia, fear of government, and a persecution complex, all staples of the religious right’s political identity – but the fact that conservatives are relying on them suggests they can’t think of legitimate arguments based on reality. When one can’t win a policy debate by sticking to the facts, it suggests the debate itself is already over.
Then again, if history is any guide, members of Congress will be repeating this argument very soon.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Far-right provocateur Pamela Geller, who seems to make a living by hating Muslims professionally, was scheduled to speak at a Long Island synagogue this week on the “Imposition of Sharia in America.” In response to public pressure, the event was cancelled (thanks to reader R.P for the tip).
* A new report was released this week on the nation’s most and least religious cities. On one end of the spectrum is Burlington, Vermont, where only 17% of the popular self-identifies as “very religious,” while Provo, Utah, is on the other end, with 77% (thanks to reader R.B. for the tip).
* The head of the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said this week that “feminism was a ‘very dangerous’ phenomenon offering an illusion of freedom to women who should focus on their families and children” (thanks to reader R.M. for the tip). It’s the 21st century. I just thought I should mention that.
* And radical TV preacher Pat Robertson argued this week that the United States should abandon the Middle East peace process, because if there’s a two-state solution, it “will result in terrible suffering for people in the United States.” Why? Because, in Robertson’s mind, his God opposes the peace process, and U.S. officials are therefore “asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation.”