Give Me That Old Time Religion.

It’s easy to look back on our lives and glorify earlier years as something special. But our memories are fallible. And, in reality, those days were seldom as good as we remember. There are, however, exceptions. One prime example is religion.

I remember growing up at a time when churches and synagogues were the pillars of communities. They were gathering places for life’s most important moments…places of joy for baptisms and weddings. They served as support groups in times of sorrow when family members were lost. They also collected money for those less fortunate. And in many communities, traditional churches continue these are traditions.

Even more important, traditional religions taught good behavior based on principles such as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In my small Midwestern town, I cannot recall anyone proselytizing. One’s religious beliefs were considered private and personal. Indeed, the subject of religion seldom came up in gatherings, except at church. Everyone seemed to respect everyone else’s faith. There were no attempts to insert prayers before the Pledge of Allegiance in school; no attempts to install religious memorials on government property. There were, however, Christmas and Easter decorations in schools and in government buildings until they were, in my opinion, rightfully banned by the Supreme Court.

Fast forward to today when evangelicals proselytize at every opportunity. When they ignore the unethical, antisocial behavior of a president because they are convinced that he will give them the power they crave.

Today we have practitioners of the so-called “prosperity gospel” – the corrupted notion that God rewards true believers by making them wealthy. There are those who wish to hasten the “rapture” by unifying all of Jerusalem under Israeli rule, believing that only then will the next prophet appear. There are others who believe in the dominion principle, that only true believers are qualified to govern the United States. There are still others who believe one’s behavior is immaterial, that you can do whatever you wish as long as you declare your faith in Jesus.

For most of these, the Golden Rule has been relegated to the dust bins of history; a quaint notion that interferes with the business at hand. That business is raising money to provide a new mansion or jet for the pastor. Or to raise money and votes for representatives that believe as they do so they can make the US a Christian nation. Never mind that doing so would be blatantly unconstitutional and very much in contrast to the beliefs of our nation’s Founders.

Such a plan is antithetical to democracy. It would create a theocracy hostile to non-Christians…even to Christians who do not share the majority’s narrow religious view. In short, it would create a theocracy little different from the Taliban or ISIS.

If we are ever to make the US great again; if we are ever to regain our world leadership in matters other than military, we must stop focusing on the things that divide us. We must find a way to share the American experience. We must learn to care for one another; to respect one another; to talk with one another. We must commit to true equality.

That means rejecting faiths that proclaim their superiority over others; that try to dictate the behavior of others (that’s what the courts are for). And it means committing to the words and the intentions of the Declaration of Independence: “…that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

How The Party Of Lincoln Became The Party Of Trump.

When the Republican party replaced the Whigs with Abraham Lincoln at its helm, the party was determined to end slavery and hold the Union together through the strength of the federal government. Then, following the Civil War, the party committed itself to serving the interests of business. When workers began to fight for better pay and benefits, the party began to struggle. And when the stock market crashed leading to the Great Depression, Republican leadership was replaced by progressive Democrats who dictated policy for a generation through the New Deal and the Great Society.

When Democrats finally passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Republicans saw an opportunity. They reached out to the racist Dixiecrats of the South in hopes of turning them into Republicans. The strategy worked beyond their wildest dreams. By embracing the racists, the party turned the South a deep, deep red.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the issues of abortion and gay rights presented Republicans with another opportunity. They created the “Moral Majority” by reaching out to evangelicals. And, still harboring resentment from the Civil War, the southern coalition turned the federal government into the enemy claiming that the Constitution calls for limited government (it doesn’t). Ronald Reagan popularized the idea by stating, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

Finally, the party engineered the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which held the electronic media accountable for serving the public interest. That turned talk radio and cable TV new into little more than propaganda spewing extremist conservative ideologies.

The result is new coalition of pro-business, anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-abortion, racists who approach politics with a righteous zeal – certain that God is on their side. This is a group that is not only immune to scientific evidence, it is fact-free; a group of voters that have convinced themselves that any news stories that fail to fit with their strongly held beliefs are lies created by the “lamestream media.”

Enter Donald J. Trump, an ideologue who is willing to foment fear and pander to the worst aspects of human nature in order to get his way; a man who was able to manipulate the media to fulfill his every wish; a man who would have you believe that only he can solve your problems, and you have the GOP of today. His fate in the general election, as in the primaries, lies with the media. They helped create this monster. And only they can destroy it.

If not, I fear there may be no turning back.

The Groups Behind The Group Behind The Group Behind The Legislators Behind The Bill.

Passage of SB 1062 by the Teapublican dimwits in Arizona’s legislature gives the impression that the entire state is intolerant, narrow-minded and bass-ackward. Of course, that is partially true. After all, Kansas, Maine, South Dakota and Tennessee all considered the same bill and ultimately rejected it. However, Arizona doesn’t deserve all the credit for being homophobic enough to pass SB 1062.

As it turns out, many of those behind the bill live outside our borders.

The bill began in the stink tank called Alliance Defending Freedom which was founded by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, Televangelist D. James Kennedy, religious scare-monger Larry Burkett, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, Christian broadcaster Marlin Maddoux, and former Reagan official Alan Sears. Alliance Defending Freedom has pushed the bill nationally through its many affiliated right wing groups. One of those, Center for Arizona Policy, an Arizona-based stink tank, then shopped the bill around the legislature in search of narrow-minded sponsors.

Of course, given the hateful leanings of the Teapublican legislature, finding a sponsor willing to institutionalize and encourage discrimination based on religious beliefs (no matter how wacko) was not difficult.

In the State Senate, Sens. Steve Yarborough, Bob Worley and Nancy Barto were more than willing accomplices. In the House, a Tea Party Who’s Who consisting of Reps. Farnsworth, Kavanaugh, Allen, Boyer, Coleman, Gowan, Gray, Kavanaugh, Kwasman, Lesko, Livingston, Montenegro, Peterson, Pierce, Smith, Thorpe, Tobin, Townsend, Barton, Mesnard and Mitchell all jumped in the clown car to rush to add their names as sponsors for the companion bill HB 2153.

Many of those who voted for the bill claim to have never read it. That’s entirely believable as most of them seem to merely occupy a legislative seat as representatives of CAP, ALEC, the Goldwater Institute and others. Three state senators who voted for the bill publicly expressed their regrets after seeing the backlash. However, most of the bill’s sponsors have dug in their heels citing what they believe is a misinformation campaign carried out by the “liberal” media and other “outside interests.” They seem unconcerned that the bill was originated by outside interests.

As Gov. Jan Brewer is meeting with legislators and advisers in order to decide whether or not to veto the bill, the state is already losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellations for conventions and tourism. Many of the state’s largest corporations and most prominent business leaders have called for her veto. So have airlines serving the state, as well as the committee planning for next year’s Super Bowl in Arizona. Yet, I suspect Brewer is in no hurry to announce a decision. She has until Saturday to veto the measure to prevent it from becoming law. In the interim, she’s exactly where she wants to be…in the national limelight with all of the attention focused on her as it was before she signed the racist, anti-immigrant bill known as SB 1070.

Given that, it’s difficult to predict what she will do. Common sense advice and civil rights concerns have seldom swayed her before.

In 2004, Thomas Frank authored What’s the Matter with Kansas? The book explored the conditions and beliefs that led to the hateful political environment that exploded in Kansas. Maybe it’s time for Frank to write a follow-up: What’s the Matter with Arizona?