Sunday, April 17, 2005


"I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,--a justifier of the most appalling barbarity,--a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds,-- and a dark shelter, under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strangest protection. Were I again to be reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me. For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst"
--Frederick Douglass

David Kirkpatrick's article of April 15, 2005 in the New York Times, goes a long way toward exposing the extremist intentions of the radical and increasingly theocratic clique of Republicans, whose cause is spearheaded by the likes of Bill Frist, their leader in the Senate. The axis of the Republican Dream is being aligned, in order to pack our judiciary with Christian fundamentalists. And this march backward, to the Middle Ages, is being sponsored under the notion that the Democratic filibuster against Bush's nominees will be the filibuster "against people of faith".

In a telecast, scheduled for April 24, "Justice Sunday", Senator Frist will join an enormous church event in Kentucky. According to Kirkpatrick, a prominent flier being circulated will "depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other".

When Frederick Douglass began his struggle against slavery, while he was still a slave, helping other slaves learn to read, he had already come to the conclusion that "religious slaveholders are the worst". But to be clear about Douglass and his own religious feelings, he did heartily endorse what he called the "Christianity of Christ"; but he had made the point of saying that what passed for religion in the South, at that time, was something very different.

The observations of Frederick Douglass are quite necessary, in order to refute the base and puerile suggestions of the Republicans, which will soon be heard on the floor of the Senate; which like the church event in Kentucky, will state that "The filibuster was once used to protect racial bias, and is now being used against people of faith". The Republicans have burst through the irony barrier, like it was made of tissue paper, and are now breathing in the air of perversion.

After a Republican-appointed judge recently chastised Congress (and its Republican overlords) for over-reaching and trespassing against the constitutional Separation of Powers in the Schiavo Affair, we are only left with the sinister words of Tom DeLay, accusing the liberals of hostility toward Christianity, accusing them of running amok.

Didn't Puritan ayatollahs burn witches at the stake in Salem, Massachusetts? Didn't Southern Revivalists, living in the 1840s, preach that blacks were the descendants of Ham, condemned by God to slavery in The Old Testament? And wouldn't our 21st Century Republican fundamentalists and their religious fringe love to knock down the filibuster rule itself, which is a check against the unbounded authority of the majority over the political minority? If the radical Republicans were not so blinded by their zealotry, they would realize that the filibuster, a valuable American tradition, would serve and protect them over time, as political fortunes change.

Frederick Douglass began writing his famous narrative, sometime after he had escaped his bondage in Maryland, and had established himself up north, in New Bedford. One of the strongest points he makes, is concerned with the corruption of people previously unaffected, as soon as they become slaveholders. It is his observation that the possession of "irresponsible power" over slaves acted like a poison upon the character of those who were otherwise good people; and that rage and frustration began to fester in them, and it became more difficult for them to keep their humanity intact.

And following this line of reason, it is hard to see how religious extremism is much different, then or now. The power and the temptation to win their cultural war with legislation and propaganda and intrigue seems to be overwhelming, in the hands of today's Republican leadership. They are not above trying to threaten our judiciary, by intimidating judges who are now sitting, and by knocking the filibuster flat, in order to remake the courts in their own image. This is the intoxication of "irresponsible power" contained in the warning of Frederick Douglass.

Gay or straight, liberal or conservative, believer or non-believer, you will have no shelter from these keepers of the one, true faith.


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