20 July 2011

Religion and Politics Roundup

As the Presidential campaign starts up, it’s time for the silly season of the confluence of religion and politics to begin. I might try to keep up with this throughout the campaign, but I fear it could be a full-time job, and until someone starts paying me to do so I won’t be able to devote the time necessary to cover the religion-and-politics silliness in full detail. Thus, I’ll be relying on the good reporting of others in this article.

Let’s start with Michele Bachmann, whose husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, runs a counseling center in Minnesota that has received criticisms regarding its practice of “reparative therapy.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, reparative therapy is a Christian counseling approach to homosexuality in which the therapist attempts to “cure” homosexuals of their same-sex attraction. In short, it’s the “pray the gay away” therapy.

Thanks to some nice undercover reporting by John Becker, it’s pretty clear that despite Dr. Bachmann’s prevarications on the topic, his clinic definitely practices reparative therapy. This approach is, of course, rejected by all the leading psychological organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Counseling Association.

So Dr. Bachmann, husband of Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, has some religious beliefs that are contradictory to all current scientific research. That’s enough in itself, but here’s the real kicker, as noted by Mr. Becker in his article:

Based on my experiences at Bachmann & Associates, there can no longer be any doubt that Marcus Bachmann’s state- and federally-funded clinic endorses and practices reparative therapy aimed at changing a gay person’s sexual orientation, despite the fact that such “therapy” is widely discredited by the scientific and medical communities.

That’s right, the loudly anti-government Michele Bachmann personally profits (via her husband’s clinic) from state and federal government funds that flow to his clinic with its flawed, religious-based nonsense. To put it another way, your and my tax dollars support this nonsense.

Next up: Herman Cain. Mr. Cain, another GOP Presidential candidate, is all about freedom and liberty, at least until it comes to Muslims, as he has sided with opponents of the construction of a new mosque in Murfreesboro, TN. From a recent interview on Fox News Sunday:

Chris Wallace (host): "So, you're saying that any community, if they want to ban a mosque..."

Herman Cain: "Yes, they have the right to do that.”

Why does Cain believe it’s OK to ban mosques? Because "Islam is both a religion and a set of laws -- Sharia laws. That's the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes." For Cain, it’s a matter of the separation of church and state. I wonder if he applies this same separation of church and state to Christians who want to impose their religious beliefs and moral codes on the entire country? Let’s see, where could we go to find out more about that? How about Cain’s campaign website:

Our Founding Fathers recognized a higher power in the formation of this nation…
It was no accident that in some of our earlier years as a free and independent nation that our leaders added “In God We Trust” to all of our currency.
We are free because “In God Is Our Trust.”

So according to Herman Cain, we shouldn’t allow religion to influence the laws of our nation, except when we should.

Next: Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and undeclared (at least for another day or two) Presidential candidate. This guy is scary, because if he does enter the race he’ll stand a decent chance of winning the nomination. Governor Perry is organizing a “gathering of prayer and fasting” for the nation on August 6. According to Perry’s own words from the event’s website:

Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.
Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response…There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.

Now, if you want to pray for our country, I’m fine with that. What troubles me is that an elected official wants to direct and lead us in prayer, and in specific types of prayer with a specific religious focus and devotion. There’s also a hint of some more troubling beliefs in Perry’s reference to the Book of Joel. That’s a touchstone for a group known as the New Apostolic Reformation. For some great background on this group, I’d recommend this fine article in the Texas Observer, or if you’d rather, you can watch Rachel Maddow’s take on it.

Among the members of the New Apostolic Reformation and endorsers of Perry’s Response gathering (and implicitly of his impending bid for the Presidency) are:

·      John Hagee, whose endorsement John McCain explicitly renounced in 2008 after some of Hagee’s sermons came to light in which he referred to Hitler as an instrument of God chosen to gather the Jews in Israel.
·      Peter Wagner, who blames Japan’s economic doldrums on the Emperor’s consorting with the Sun Goddess. Seriously. “The Sun Goddess visits him in person and has sexual intercourse with the Emperor. It's a very, very powerful thing…Since the night that the present emperor slept with the Sun Goddess, the stock market in Japan has gone down. It's never come up since.”

I don’t know how you even begin to wrap your head around such beliefs, but apparently Rick Perry manages to do so. This is one potential President who might force me to emigrate to Sweden in 2012.

Here’s my punch line (borrowed from my spouse’s thoughts): It’s a really bad sign when the Mormon Presidential candidates seem like the normal fellows in the race.

No comments: