Thursday, February 18, 2010

For a while there I was thinking that there wasn’t much of value coming from the far-right fringe of American politics. I mean listening to Texas school board members yammer on about the six days of creation or Sarah Palin on presidential death squads doesn’t exactly invite serious intellectual dialogue. Tea-partiers who pronounce America’s impending socialist-driven demise or social-security pensioners complaining about welfare abuse find most folk fairly immune to their anguished agitations.
But lately a new movement is taking shape that is finding fans on both sides of our immobilized political process. They’re being called “Tenthers” for their eagerness to invoke the 10th Amendment to the Constitution any time an edict out of Washington displeases them. These are folk who claim states’ rights still trump the federal government, who believe Mississippi matters more than these United States. Sound familiar? Thought we’d gone through this some 150 years ago? Well, here we go again…and some of us from the other side are thinking it’s not as wacko as some of you may at first think.
Secession has its good points. When someone like the secessionist-threatening Texas Governor Rick Perry urges his fellow fanatics with statements like…” (We are) willing and ready for the fight if this administration continues to try to force their very expansive government philosophy down our collective throats.” It only gets liberals to thinking that maybe a Texas-less U.S. wouldn’t be all that bad.
With Texas off on its own, America would cut its capital punishment quotient by at least half and maybe even regain a little credibility among the world’s more civilized countries. And that is only the beginning of the benefits that could accrue if those who claim to want a very different nation than the one we’ve got, actually go. Think of it…Glenn Beck could begin his long anticipated career as the intellectual bellwether for a new confederation of un-united states! Rush Limbaugh could take charge in Florida and leave the rest of us to go on our merry, neo-Marxist way!
Oh the joy. Imagine a Senate without men like Richard Shelby who threw a procedural tantrum when he didn’t get enough pork sent his southern way. Shelby, you may remember, ingratiated himself to a certain segment of wingnutdom by demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate during the last election. And, of course, the House of Representatives would reap immeasurable benefit by watching the backsides of malcontents like Congresswoman Michele Bachman who recently announced that it was time “to wean everyone off Social Security and Medicare.” Michele might have to move from Stillwater to San Antonio to live on the far-right side of a new Mason-Dixon Line but I’m sure many in Minnesota would appreciate it.
Now I know there are descendents from the last round of secessionists who would just as soon remain attached to the rest of us, but it is tantalizing to think of other ways in which a new confederacy could be of considerable benefit. As I understand it, a new secession of certain states would lower the U.S. crime rate significantly and raise our educational level dramatically. Our national health care costs would diminish along with our national debt since the annual per capita tax revenue from the original seceding states still doesn’t match the annual per capita governmental expenditures. I’ve been told divorce rates would fall, life-expectancy would rise and literacy rates improve for the rest of us if our secessionist friends would just take leave of us the way they have taken leave of their own senses.
“America: Love it or leave it!” was what we once heard from those who claimed to be this nation’s only true patriots. Some of us are thinking…maybe it’s time they follow their own advice?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rich Mayfield
For: 2-6-10
For most of my younger years the only authority I questioned was my mother who responded to my queries by chasing me around the house with a wooden spoon. I accepted the universal assertions that Ike was a hero, Khrushchev was the anti-Christ and Jesus was Norwegian. The first premise was affirmed by my fourth-grade teacher Mr. Albright, the second by our wild-eyed neighbor Frieda Hellman and the last by the plethora of paintings that hung in our little Lutheran church.
There He was, sculpted by his fine Scandinavian features…the long thin nose, the square jaw, the beautifully flowing hair with just the faintest of blond highlights. Anyone with an objective eye could see the heritage…especially if your name was Sven or Olav. That Bethlehem was over two thousand miles to the south did not seem to hinder the Aryan assumption that permeated our parish. It wasn’t until I had done some traveling that I realized Jesus probably looked more like Yasser Arafat than Charlton Heston.
That the image of Jesus has been altered by his adoring followers is evident right from the very beginning. Even the gospel writers didn’t completely agree on what he said or how he said it. (Passages happily provided.) By the time of Constantine in the early 4th century, Jesus’ cross had been flipped into a sword by which the converted Christian emperor could slay all those who opposed his new found faith.
More recently, Jesus’ fans have turned his teachings into polemics for free-market capitalism, Marxist-styled socialism and world-rebuking asceticism. Even Hitler had a task-force created to prove that Jesus didn’t have any Jewish blood.
In the 1970’s Jesus turned into a free-spirited superstar with a hit Broadway musical. In the more progressive churches, the Norwegian Jesus was replaced by one more closely resembling yippie Abbie Hoffman, contemptuously laughing at our uptight social mores and incessant material acquisitions. By the turn of this century, Jesus was primarily used to bolster big-time athletics with players bowing their heads before blasting out of the locker room hell-bent on being #1. TV evangelists by the score promise that Jesus wants us to be rich, beautiful and as buff as Brad and Angelina.
So I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when I read this week of the new alignment some of Jesus’ disciples have made with Mixed Martial Arts. If you’re not familiar with this apparently pleasant pastime for thousands of primarily young men, it involves getting into a ring, or sometimes a cage, and trying to beat the crap out of your opponent. This newly sanctified sport involves kickboxing, wrestling, fisticuffs and just about any other form of violent conflict this side of a .357 magnum. As I understand it, there are a growing number of churches that are sponsoring these testosterone-driven dramas as a means of garnering favor for Christianity among the violence-prone set. Interestingly, Ryan Dobson, son of Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame, is one of those spearheading (no pun intended) this evangelical campaign. According to Dobson the younger: “We’ve raised a generation of little boys.” Which I can only assume means Christianity is in need of big boys who like to fight each other. As a former pastor and sometimes Christian, I can report that Christianity already has enough of those guys.
I suppose there may be some believers who fall back on the old evangelical premise: “Whatever works” in their fervor to convert the fallen but I also suspect there are more than a few followers of Jesus who are scratching their heads over the logic employed. After all, what would Jesus say? (That’s easy)
“Uff da!”