I wasn't going to write a word about the horror in Colorado. Survivors of the mass shooting in Aurora and loved ones of the dead deserve our sympathy, support, and public policy silence for awhile. I disdain all the chatter about gun control policy at a moment like this. But at least that is a debate with some relevance to the situation, even if its timing displays poor taste.
What I find utterly revolting and indecent, however, is the rush by the Religious Right to exploit this tragedy to trash their enemies, judge the victims, and bully people into joining their religious and political movement.
On the American Family Association's radio program AFA Today, the hosts wasted no time lining up a far-right Evangelical minister, Jerry Newcombe of Truth in Action Ministries, to tell the audience that among the dead in the theater only those who were true Christians have gone to heaven. The rest, he suggested, are already consigned to hell.
Thanks, Preach. Great message to share with the grieving families. Of course, AFA Today doesn't give a turd about their feelings; the lesson of the day was not of comfort or comprehension; it was yet another opportunity to scare their listeners into joining the flock. And not just any flock. The program went to great lengths to discredit any minister or church that deviates from the Old Time Religion view of God as a stern and wrathful judge. How, according to Rev. Newcombe, should we respond to the shooting?
"This would be a good time to ask yourself, why have you not accepted Jesus Christ? ... Unless you repent, you know, you too will fall under God's judgment." That was, word for word, the take-home message broadcast with approval by the American Family Association before the families concerned had even had a quiet moment to come to terms with this awful event.
But for pure, unadulterated indecency, it's hard to beat Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas. Appearing on a radio program hosted by former Congressman Ernest Istook, Gohmert spared no time before politicizing the tragedy in the most irresponsible manner imaginable:
"You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place. ... Some of us happen to believe that when our founders talked about guarding our virtue and freedom, that that was important. ... We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country."
I'm not sure why he didn't come right out and blame Barack Hussein Obama and Nancy Pelosi for the shootings, but perhaps he was so caught up in his bloviating that airtime just ran out. Talk like this just adds one more piece of evidence to the case that the American Religious Right has sunk back down in the slime pit to the record depths it set back in the 1950s.
Already this month, we've heard Rep. Michelle Bachmann lead a vicious, unfounded, and wildly irresponsible attack on State Department official Huma Abedin. (I give grateful credit to Sen. John McCain and other Republicans who have rebuked Bachmann for her slanders.) Joining her in the charges that Abedin has "family ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood was, among others, the above-mentioned Rep. Louie Gohmert.
And now this. It calls to mind the 1954 Army-McCarthy Hearings, in which Senator Joe McCarthy, having ruined thousands of lives and weakened our government with false accusations that it was riddled with Communists, was finally called to account by the Army's chief counsel, Joseph Welch. He famously asked, "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" (See it for yourself below.)
The dark days of the '50s were brought on by the Red Menace. Our dark night lies in the penumbra of 9/11. Let us hope that at long last the American people will turn to these merchants of fear and ask, "Have you no sense of decency?"
Follow Clay Farris Naff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/claynaff