SEE NO EVIL

Two seemingly unrelated tales of Christian conservative leadership in the United States.

1. Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy, was on Christiane Amanpour's Sunday show making a tremendous ass of himself by plastering on his Most Serious Face and talking nice about Donald Trump. Forgive my manual transcript here, but the statement is approximately:

Graham: "Trump, when I first heard that he was getting in, I thought this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know, maybe this guy's right."

Amanpour: "So he might be your candidate of choice?"

Graham: "Sure. Yes."

This comes after 5 minutes of Graham pontificating about living in "the time of the Antichrist" and about the moral decline of America, the cure for which is apparently Donald "Mr. Morality" Trump – an ambiguously religious (variously reported as Catholic, Presbyterian, Protestant Reformed, etc.) man-whore with a taste for 20 year old Eastern European girls and serial infidelity.

2. Foreign Policy ran an interesting piece about the staunch support for Ivorian dictator Laurent Gbagbo from key U.S. Christian conservatives, notably OK Senator James Inhofe (who has his own mission organization in Africa, where he has made more than 25 trips since being elected). Gbagbo, who transitioned from democratic reformer to typical African "big man" after losing an election, is an evangelical Christian whereas the declared winner is Muslim. But actually Foreign Policy forgot to note that Gbagbo is a Christian…with two wives, one a Muslim he married in an animist ceremony. Inhofe sure does like his fellow Christians, up to and including overlooking bigamy (not to mention the crimes Gbagbo has perpetrated in office, of course).

I haven't the slightest problem with people being atheists, bigamists, man-whores, evangelical Christians, or anything else they so choose. I can respect the hell out of a deeply religious person – provided there is some small nod toward consistency rather than the "buffet style" (pick the plates you want and ignore the rest) attitude toward religion and morals that is so common in this country. If Franklin Graham is a humorless, moralizing Christian, then be a humorless, moralizing Christian. Don't be one 98% of the time and sing the praises of Donald Trump the rest of the time. If James Inhofe wants to preach to "the natives" or whatever in his spare time, so be it. But don't lecture us about our moral failings if, for reasons of economic, political, and military expediency, you're willing to overlook the fact that your SuperJesusPal Laurent Gbagbo has two wives. OK? OK.

I do not understand this impulse, this inability for our self-appointed evangelists and moral guardians to apply their belief systems consistently rather than making exceptions whenever political points are to be scored or advantages are to be had. Do they not see their hypocrisy? Do they see it and not care? Do they see it and think we're too stupid to see it? This American brand of TV bible-thumping and neo-theocracy arguably is no more or less hypocritical than other major religions. However, with the Mormons or the Vatican one must at least do a little digging to find the rank hypocrisy. People like Franklin Graham think nothing of laying it out in the open for all and sundry to see. If Pope Benedict goes on TV to endorse Rudy Giuliani and lavish praise on George Tiller I'll retract that statement.

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35 Responses to “SEE NO EVIL”

  1. Ben Says:

    Re: The Vatican – Aside from all the kiddie-fucking stuff, right?

  2. Ursula Says:

    All of this fits right into their armageddon and rapture fantasies. Graham thinks that Trump is the charismatic antichrist figure that everyone will follow blindly. He rails about it as he supports what he thinks is "putting the pieces in place". Of course, most of America can see right through Trump and this Graham fellow doesn't seem terribly bright.

    And all that matters about Gbagbo is that he isn't Muslim. Muslim is the Communist of the 21st century to these tribalists. They all think that so long as the leader isn't Muslim, then everything is cool, but once a country has such a leader, well, you've heard of the domino theory.

  3. John Says:

    "Do they see it and think we're too stupid to see it?"

    Pretty much this, Ed.

    There has never been a benevolent religious leadership. Theocrats are invariably and irredeemably corrupt, down to the very core. Religion is not a moral compass for people that utilize it to secure power for themselves, it is simply a tool to control the ignorant masses. Vote for me, because I represent your God(s). Overlook my abuses, because God(s) is/are on my side. Destroy my enemies, for they are an affront to your God(s).

    This is why you will see politicians that profess a deeply-held religious conviction for the cameras, then cheat on their wives and don't even think twice about it, issuing only a perfunctory "Yeah yeah, I was wrong" when the cameras catch on to that. This is because they don't care about the religion they're espousing to garner power. It literally means nothing to them — no more than a hammer does to an architect. Their religious belief is simply a marketing tool to curry favor amongst those too stupid to understand that religion is a sham.

    That last statement was pretty controversial, wasn't it? But I defy any devout religious person who professes sincere belief in the existence of some deity or set of deities to explain why they don't believe in any of the other ones. If you follow Jesus, then why don't you believe in Odin, or Zeus, or Vishnu, or Buddha, or any of a thousand other gods that humans have invented throughout history?

  4. ddt Says:

    Ed,

    I'm sure you've read about if not read the whole works Jeff Sharlet has written on "The Family". Inhofe has been very active in (sometimes taxpayer-funded) missions to various parts of Africa to create networks of powerful people, no matter their original religions or politics. They are consistent in their creed, once you read their actual corpus. It's not nice, or pretty, or what many people would consider "good Christian", but you gotta give that group points for consistency, at least internally.

    Scary-shit stuff, like the "kill homos" bill in Uganda.

  5. RT Butte Says:

    I think we just can't hear the bullshit rationalizations running through their heads, so it looks like hypocrisy to us, but to them it's The Lawrd's Work. Or it's just a religious version of "I'm Rich, so the rules don't apply to me."

    Although I hate to attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.

  6. Middle Seaman Says:

    It isn't stupidity; it isn't hypocrisy either. It's a new religion, one made of carefully selected elements of Christianity (excluding social teaching, equality and salt of the earth morality) with indiscriminate adoption of 19th century right wing orthodoxy.

    This way you get Gbagbo, anti abortion and lower taxes for the rich under the same, and new improved, 13th commandment. No climate change, no health insurance and hyperventilating "god bless America" every hour on the dime (the 14th).

    In France, or any other country of your choice, the new religion is called fascism.

  7. Southern Beale Says:

    . Do they not see their hypocrisy?

    No.

    Because they aren't Christians, they are capitalists and politicians. Such things are antithetical to the message of Christ. Just as Tom DeLay and the other "moral values" crowd could overlook human rights abuses such as forced abortion to promote capitalism in the Northern Marianna Islands, so too Inhofe can overlook bigamy and oppression and Pat Robertson can have his blood diamonds and on and on and on.

    These are not Christians. Just because the corporate news media tells us they are Christians that does not make it true. And the fact that so many of us can see through the charade and are disgusted by the hypocrisy, well, those chickens come home to roost and the great equalizer will manifest its judgment one way or another on such people.

    You know, this is nothing new. It is the story of organized religion. Anyone watching The Borgias on HBO these days? Hello?

    If you want to find a true Christian certainly don't look in the halls of power and wealth.

  8. heydave Says:

    I think it's a sense of entitlement that well-off, if not wealthy, assholes use to rationalize the Big Picture of their lives. Fuck anyone poking into "those details."

  9. Matt Says:

    While I don't personally buy into the whole Revelations eschatology business, it is amusing to note that if one accepts the texts at face value and looks around, it could be argued that people like Mr. Graham have indeed found the Church of the Antichrist – and are LEADING IT. The inverted form of the Prosperity Gospel (where it's read as, "being rich means you're holy") could certainly be read that way, as could the tendency for some evangelical churches to turn into investment schemes – not to mention the love of war pr0n some of these folks appear to have…

  10. Kulkuri Says:

    They're not Christians, they are Christianists!! Just like the Neo-Conmen, the ends justify the means!!

  11. mojidoji Says:

    People are whatever they are only so far as they can rationalize what they do. Compartmentalized thinking and personal exceptionalism allow them to skirt around they sticky points all the while point the finger of judgment at anyone else they don't like for doing what they do all the time. The justifications for their judgments only serve to fit how they see their target as bad.

    They don't see their hypocrisy because, in their mind, there can be none. 'Christian' is a group they put themselves in as long as what they think of as Christian fits who they imagine themselves to be and, when in doubt, whatever they do is "Christian".

  12. acer Says:

    God's Plan involves tax cuts for the rich, and that's about it.

  13. Aaron Weber Says:

    I recommend looking up Aimee Semple McPherson, the original radio evangelist felled by scandal. Her tale is illustrative.

  14. Adam Says:

    Sinclair Lewis covered this years ago. Hucksters for Christ is one of the proudest traditions of American life. Usually they skip town before the folks become too wise to the game.

    I guess in this Internet age, denying you said/did anything, then attacking the media/liberal elite for attacking people of faith is the new leaving-town-on-the-next-train.

  15. HoosierPoli Says:

    By virtue of the (ahem) diversity of viewpoints in the Bible, there is no such thing as a Christian that doesn't pick and choose. Religion is just a flimsy justification for pre-existing morals, it's not the SOURCE of anyone's beliefs.

    In the case of Gbagbo, he's in-group and the other guy is out-group. Doesn't matter that his Christianity is almost unrecognizable to Americans, he's a card-carrying member of the Frequent Jesus Club (repent ten sins and get the eleventh free of guilt).

  16. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I do not understand this impulse, this inability for our self-appointed evangelists and moral guardians to apply their belief systems consistently rather than making exceptions whenever political points are to be scored or advantages are to be had.

    You don't? Really?

    It's not that fucken complicated, holmes. These religion fuckers are amoral greedy power-hungry lying scum, and they truly don't give a single flying fucke about "belief systems", "morals", or "consistency".

  17. Tim H. Says:

    Man-whore? I thought he was trying to achieve circumcision via erosion.

  18. ladiesbane Says:

    Please, people, don’t be misled by labels. The ways a person self-identifies lead us to think we understand him, but it doesn't show us how he was reared, how his experiences shaped him, how his preferences color his beliefs. We may say Franklin Graham lusts for Trump’s power, and it may not conform with our definition of what a Christian should be, but can we say he doesn’t believe Jesus died for his sins? Certainly not.

    Can a Christian be a hypocrite? Of course. Marilyn Davenport, the GOP rep in Orange County who circulated the email of Obama as a chimpanzee, was insincerely hiding behind religion as a way to sidestep accountability for her racism. Her published regrets included Bible verses, and a statement that she is "an imperfect Christian lady who tries her best to live a Christ-like honoring life." But the fact that she refused to consider resignation shows how unrepentant she is. I don’t care whom she worships, or whether she is a good Christian (or Buddhist or Odinist); she needed to step down, and she didn’t.

    Rank hypocrisy doesn’t concern me. It’s the true believers who scare me to death – Inhofe for one, the Pope for another. They both believe that abortion is murder, and that homosexuality is an abomination; and both associate homosexuality with pedophilia. The adulterers and closeted gays in Congress and Mother Church have their own lives to lead, and their internal inconsistency is not my business; but when they mess with my life, my body, and my laws, it’s my problem.

  19. Southern Beale Says:

    It isn't stupidity; it isn't hypocrisy either. It's a new religion …

    This.

  20. Andrew Says:

    They see it, they know we see it, and they know WE don't care.

  21. xynzee Says:

    Well said Southern. Though I might draw your attention to one William Wilberforce. He fought for years to end British involvement in slave trade.

    As a Christian, it sickens me and causes my blood to boil when I hear about this kind of thing. What I really hate is how quickly the Christian politicians side with the rich policies, more than ignoring the passages found in James, let alone Jesus.

    I also find it frustrating how quickly this will descend into a "You're a Christian therefore you support the death penalty for homosexuals!!!" BS. Sorry, not that cut n dry deal with it! There was an excellent article written by Paglia years ago in the aftermath of Ellen Degeneres' coming out of the closet on the subject. There's also an enormous difference between someone being homosexual in society in general and someone being homosexual in the church. The Apostle Paul makes this distinction very clear in one of his letters, sadly to this detail gets overlooked.

    As for Gbagbo's bigamy there're some cultural practices that happen in Africa that can be explained in a Biblical way as far as custom goes. Was the man married to 2+ women before he converted? If yes, then the man is to stay married to them all rather than cause them cultural stigma. However, after he has converted then it's a no-go. It would definitely not be on if he married a Muslim in an animist ceremony after converting.

    Again it angers me to have to write something where they have abandoned all pretence of even supporting a "Christian" – Kulkuri mind if I take your Christianists? – even in name. Trump?!? WT….!!!
    On a side note even Shrubling found himself at at odds with Frank, as Shrubling supported the use of condoms for prevention of HIV in Africa.

    @Ursula: There's something in what you said, though there's something broader. Jews & Christians find themselves as at odds with Muslims in ways that as this isn't my blog it's not my place. We're not the only ones either. Ask a Hindu or Indian Bhuddist.

    Fear not though, for as much as it frustrates us, to a Christian there's someone who's more than frustrated with them. He also has a plan for them:
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

  22. ladiesbane Says:

    xynzee, Paul makes it very clear that homosexuality is an abomination, generally (not only "in the church"), and I hope you don't think Camille Paglia is a reliable source of scholarship on the Pauline epistles.

    I may be fond of non-bigoted Christians for their choosing to ignore the clearly stated position in the Bible in this matter, but it is still cherrypicking.

  23. RMGHicks Says:

    This is nothing new – ever since Calvin attempted to marry Christianity – with the accumulation of unlimited wealth under the rubric of the Protestant work ethic – this conflict has been inherent in Protestantism. Selective emphasis of scripture in a society used to dealing merely in sound bites makes such disjointed and incomplete versions of Christianity acceptable. Just leave out the stuff about "do unto others" and the difficulties of the rich entering the kingdom of heaven and you're good to go.

  24. Jado Says:

    I think if you are going to be a lower-case-c christian, as in "follower of christ", you pretty much have to be a cherry-picker.

    Am I supposed to support coverups in the RC church for pedophiles? And, BTW, my favorite part of those coverups has to do not with "protecting the reputation of the RC church", but "protecting the financial liquidity of the RC church" Reputation be damned, but we WILL hire the best lawyers to protect our giant real-estate holdings.

    Am I supposed to rail against abortion, shaming and physically confronting poor fragile women on their way into a clinic to have a procedure done that has nothing to do with me? How does that help relieve the suffering of my fellow man? Sounds counter-productive, actually.

    Am I supposed to work to have homosexuality outlawed? Am I supposed to support a social stigma that has nothing to do with me, simply because 2000 years ago it was SO vital to propagate the species such that homosexuality had to be outlawed so more babies would be born?

    I actually may be off-base on that last bit, but it's the only half-logical reason i could ever come up with which would come close to justifying why anyone would stick their nose onto someone else's bedroom. I prefer to believe that explanation, wrong-headed as it is, rather than believe that man has always been cruel and inhuman, and came up with that restriction just so they could play "drag-the-fag" from the their horses. Or pick-up trucks. Or whatever.

    How can anyone follow ALL of the tenants of a modern Christian faith, when all of them have some aspect that runs directly counter to the teachings of it's purported leader?

    Cherry-pick away, I say. Of course, I say you should cherry-pick the GOOD aspects of these faiths. I guess that's why I will never be a politician.

  25. Jado Says:

    ladiesbane:

    Paul was a self-righteous prick. Still is.

  26. mother earth Says:

    excellent comments…love this blog. Reminds me of a few years ago, early GWB days, when suddenly the evangelicals were so politically committed to Israel controlling Jerusalem. Odd when their favorite whipping boy was those evil Jews in charge of New York and LA. Finally the reason behind that surface, per the Rapture or whatever, Jews have to control Jerusalem for the end times to happen. They didn't want to be in heaven with the Jews, just a necessary means to an end.

    Been loving those commercials about what would Jesus cut re: budget deficits, but I don't think those Christian politicians give a flying fuck, just serving their wealthy masters here on this earth!

  27. Da Moose Says:

    bring on civil war 2. I'm ready:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rodriguez-other-20110425,0,5326980.column

  28. hackenbush Says:

    "If you want to find a true Christian certainly don't look in the halls of power and wealth."

    You're aware that statement is a logical fallacy? ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman )

    Christians have done good things (helping the poor and downtrodden, aid missions, etc) and absolutely horrifying things (Inquisitions, Crusades, intolerance, etc). You can't start saying that anyone that does horrible things "isn't a true Christian" — I'm pretty sure most of those Crusaders were also good, practicing Christians who believed that they had to kill other people to get on their god's good side…

  29. cromartie Says:

    If religious people could be reasoned with, there would be no religious people.

  30. vegymper Says:

    Maybe ratio is not what it used to be… I´m sorry I can´t remember how life was before our beloved Greeks invented rationality and Socrates drank poison just to feel self-consistent. And he was no Christian, mind you.

  31. Edward Says:

    I read an article a few days ago about Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff, and other Republican operators, which described these people as selling the support of Republicans for money. At the end the article mentions that Trump (and Gbagbo?) has just purchased this service.

  32. Arslan Amirkhanov Says:

    Why is it surprising to see that conservative Christians never turn their self-righteous moralizing on their own leaders? Just take a look at Fox news some time, and notice how despite all their praise of American small towns, the Left coast, and how Obama doesn't go to church enough- Fox is still based in New York and most of its pundits live on that Left Coast.

  33. acer Says:

    Perhaps I'm horribly misguided here, and I doubt he'll run at all, but I'm pulling for The Donald to take it all the way to the convention. He would humiliate the GOP in ways Mama Grizzly couldn't imagine. The gaffes wouldn't stop. FOX pundits would eat buckets of shit for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for a year. The fragile dynamic between the Social Darwinist masters and the evangelical suckers would be tested on a daily basis, probably inspiring a nightmare ticket like Trump/Huckabee. It would be a fucking circus and I don't think the party would ever recover.

  34. Zak44 Says:

    A "man-whore with a taste for 20 year old Eastern European girls and serial infidelity."

    And, apparently, his own kids.

    Speaking of his daughter Ivanka, on "The View," Trump remarked:

    "I've said if she wasn't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."

    I don't know what's worse: The fundamental creepiness of that statement, or the arrogance of assuming that he's God's gift to 20-year-olds everywhere.

    (Source: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,187065,00.html)

  35. Arslan Amirkhanov Says:

    All that money and yet all he can get is golddigging Eastern European girls. How pathetic. I slept with hot Eastern European girls for free.