Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sharron Angle and the Church/State Fusion of the GOP

A while back, I put up a posting about Sharron Angle in the context of what I called the "new televangelist model of conservative campaigning for political office." One of my respected readers called me out on the linkage between her fundraising efforts and her spiritual beliefs. We debated this point in the comments to that posting, and I made the best arguments I could in defense of my claim.

Now there is more evidence of the church/state fusion guiding Sharron Angle's campaign for public office that I believe makes my original claim about her televangelist fundraising methods even more credible.

Here's just one of Sharron Angle's recent remarks from an interview she gave to TruNews Christian Radio:

And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government. And you’ve just identified the real crux of the problem. I’ve also been endorsed by a PAC out of Washington D.C. and the name of that PAC is Government is not God. And I thought that that was so appropriate because that is really what’s happening in our society and we need to take our country back.
I don't see how anyone can read these comments by Sharron Angle and not think that every action she takes in her political campaign, including fundraising, is imbued with Christianist impulses. Her elevation of Christianity as the foundational principle of government is not only contrary to the beliefs of our founding fathers and a violation of the First Amendment (as opposed to a violation of the First Commandment!!), it is also scary.

Conservatives need to know that there is a fundamentalist evangelical Christian uprising bubbling up in their movement that is as much a threat to the fundamental freedoms we cherish in our society as they may think any kind of bigger government liberalism is among the political left. And I would argue that religious fundamentalism is a much bigger threat to our freedoms than higher taxes or the new health care reform legislation.


eric said...

Once again, Huck, show me the policies she supports that will force her religion on you. If she was running around talking about the necessity of reinstating anti-sodomy laws or wanting to impose tax fines for every parent who doesn't take their kids to church, I'd be alarmed. But a Christian politician talking to a Christian radio station about how she believes Americans have become too dependant on government and not dependant enough on God? Maybe it's just because 90% of the people I live around talk that kind of talk every day, but I dont' find it to be a spiritual belief that endangers my freedom.

I worry much more about liberal Christians who make arguments that Christians should support large scale government social programs out of a sense of charitable spiritual obligation, or who (ahem) employ spiritual arguments to run interference for illegal immigrants. Those things have a much more direct affect on the lives of Americans than anything I've heard Sharon Angle support (though I admittedly can't claim to have followed her very closely)

I was much more concerned about the fundy Christians in the conservative movement during the Bush years, before the Tea Party movement, when they could easily be goaded into going along w/ Bush's big spending bipartisan government programs (No Child Left Behind, Medicare Rx, The Farm Bill) because Bush was 'one of theirs'. If he'd talked a lot more like Sharon Angle does in your quote above, he could have led the government in a completely different direction that I might have supported.

And in a way, I even agree with her. I don't get any sense of fulfillment, spiritual or otherwise, from having the government take my money and give it to others. What's more, they take such a large amount that I feel absolutely zero obligation to do more, and hence I do very little in the way of charitable giving, and even try to convince some of my Christian friends that they aren't morally obliged to give as much to charity as they do, especially when they are having a rough time financially. If allowed to keep more of my own money, I'd be happy to make a substantial donation to building a new playground for the local kids to play on. I'd take some pride in purchasing and delivering a truckload of canned goods for one of the local church's food drives. And I may even try to talk others into giving more, not less. As it is? I've largely been relieved of that responsibility by people who claim to know how to do it better than me, and also of any enjoyment or ownership of the consequences of said giving. I get a sense of that same feeling from Angle's quote you posted, and although her argument comes from faith in an authority I can't claim to share, I still feel a lot more kinship to her sentiments than to "spreading the wealth around" in the name of social justice.

Huck said...

Eric - I guess I take Angle at her word when she places the primacy of faith in terms of its relationship to government. Two policy positions about Sharron Angle that are rooted in her faith and which are freedom-constraining: her support for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the US Constitution and her advocacy of alcohol prohibition. And I would bet dollars to donuts that if Churches come knocking at Sharron Angle's Senate Door lobbying for funding for their "faith-based initiatives," she'd be only too happy to oblige. I think it is a bit naive to see someone who is such a religious fundamentalist and who is also outspoken about the primacy of her religious convictions in guiding her political career and to think that her faith wouldn't take precedence over small government beliefs when the two might collide. I don't think Angle will win in November, but I am almost tempted to hope she does so we can actually see what kinds of "yes" votes she makes in the Senate and what kind of legislation she sponsors and supports.

eric said...

"...and her advocacy of alcohol prohibition."

If she was running in my state and seriously campaigning for both alcohol prohibition and a FMA, I wouldn't vote for her in the primary. I might still vote for her in the general election over a Democrat, depending on their stance on a number of factors (Obamacare being chief among them). I'll take a religous nut who stands almost completely alone in wanting to ban alcohol, over a liberal or moderate who thinks it is OK for the federal government to force people to buy products from the private marketplace. I see the latter as a much greater practical threat to my freedom.

But yeah, that's pretty kooky.

Would she dish out taxpayer money for faith based initiatives? I don't know. Her quote you cite in the original post seems to indicate that she finds such practices spiritually innapropriate, so the real question is whether she has spiritual integrity or not. If your argument is that she will make decisions based on her faith, then you probably don't have to worry about her dishing out money to faith based initiatives.

So yeah, I think she's a bit nutty, Huck, but it says something about just how much the left scares me that I'd likely be willing to vote for her anyway.

Huck said...

Sharron Angle has explicitly said that she believes her calling to politics is divinely inspired or ordained. In other words, she was called by God to run for office. When I hear a candidate say something like that, alarm bells go off. If God calls Angle to be a legislator, then I'm pretty sure she would think that what she does as a legislator is also divinely ordained. In other words, through her, God would be government. The quotation in my original posting struck me as Angle's opposition to a secular government providing welfare or social services directly, not a government giving taxpayer dollars to private faith-based organizations that provide welfare or social services. I know too many fundamentalist evangelical (and Catholic) Christians who would think that a proper disbursement of taxpayer dollars would include not just support of institutions like the military, but also private faith-based organizations. I look at the school voucher movement as an example of this redistribution of taxpayer moneys to private and parochial institutions. In my neck of the woods, the Catholic Church (supported by many theologically orthodox and politically conservative Catholics) as a proper redistribution of wealth. They are happy to have their tax dollars (and mine) go to poor families via government legislation if such poor families can use these redistributed dollars to go to good Catholic elementary schools. I honestly don't care if a person does feel moved by her faith to advocate for a particular public policy. But I worry when that faith becomes the prime reason for their public service, especially in representing a constituency of many faiths in a political system whose secular humanism and the notion of separation of Church and State are bedrock foundations.

It is interesting that you fear generic liberals more than a specific conservative fringe candidate like Sharron Angle. I actually don't fear conservatives, but what I do fear is the growing ascendance among conservatism of the kooks like Angle and Palin, and the willingness of rational conservatives to tolerate such kooks and even acquiesce in their driving the conservative movement. That scares the daylights out of me.

Eric said...

"Sharron Angle has explicitly said that she believes her calling to politics is divinely inspired or ordained."

Most faithful Protestants I know will not enter a major endeavor without praying on it and waiting for what they call 'guidance' from God. I doubt you will find a Baptist or Methodist running for public office in this counry who doesn't believe they have God's approval. Likewise, this counry has, throughout its entire history, been governed by people of strong faith -and of varying political ideology- who believed they were doing "God's Work". If that is a disqualifier then I suppose about half of our Presidents should never have been elected.

"The quotation in my original posting struck me as Angle's opposition to a secular government providing welfare or social services directly, not a government giving taxpayer dollars to private faith-based organizations that provide welfare or social services."

OK, but where does she advocate for giving taxpayer dollars to faith-based organizgtions? Her campaign site doesn't say anything abou that (I also noticed a complete lack of anything about reinstating alcohol prohibition). I'm not denying that she could support such things, but just because you know some fundy Christians who think that is a proper role of government doesn't make it her stance. I know plenty of very fundamentalist Christians who have major problems with government money getting mixed together with church money (though not so much with the school voucher system you mentioned, but that is somewhat of a different, or at least more complex, issue). In fact, an awful lot of the Glenn Beck types see government funded faith based initiatives as a potential attempt by government to gain leverage and influence on church communities, and as such they are militantly against it. How do you know Sharon Angle isn't one of those types?

"what I do fear is the growing ascendance among conservatism of the kooks like Angle and Palin, and the willingness of rational conservatives to tolerate such kooks and even acquiesce in their driving the conservative movement."

Feel free to point out alternatives. I'm not crazy about Angle, but if the decision is between her and the party of "the federal government can do most anything in this country" do you realy think I am being irrational by supporting her over Reid? As a libertarian, I long ago conceded the fact that my "perfect" candidate would never stand a chance in hell of being elected to high office in this country, so I am always looking at candidates in terms of representing the lesser of various evils. And to that effect, wanting to keep gays from getting married is, objectively speaking, less evil than wanting to extend heretofore unheard of powers to the federal government to force individuals to buy things from the private sector, under threat of imprisonment or death if they refuse.