I am a person of faith. A believer. Prayer is a part of my daily life. And I've had a rough week.
After my regular column ran in the paper down here in South Carolina last week all hell broke loose. It was a column in which I wrote that Sarah Palin should not be judged, as a person or as a parent, by her very young daughter's poor choices -- but that Palin's poor judgment was fair game. The compounding of one terrible mistake (teenage pregnancy) by another (marriage to a vulgar kid who's clearly not yet husband/father material) is not the kind of rational thinking we need in a vice president who's too close to the Oval Office for comfort. I also called into question Palin's slashing funds for pro-family, keep-your-baby services in Alaska. Pro-life, if that's your core belief, does not end the moment the accidental kid draws breath.
Irate Southern Christians had a field day with my phone number. I won't bore you with a string of individual quotes. Here's a "composite call". Comments in brackets are mine:
"Happy birthday, Linda! [Yes, it was my birthday]. How's your poor husband? I know his long illness has been just awful for you folks [My husband has been seriously ill with cardiomyopathy, and severely deficit-impaired from two major strokes, for the past five years]. I want you to know I'm praying for you to get what you deserve...
"...and you folks deserve to get sick and die [Yes, my husband is dying] after all the trash you've printed [sic] in the paper! Who do you think you are to say terrible things about good Christian people like sweet little Senator Palin [sic] and our president, who is a praying man [Jim Jones was a praying man right up to the minute he ordered his followers to force that poison-laced Kool-aid down their children's throats] and a genuine hero from Vietnam [sic]? And what do you have against rich people, anyway? [Greed trumping human need? Other than that, I'm fine with wealth]"
God is good. But not all Christians are -- well, Christian. If you get my drift.
I'm a believer. I'm a progressive Christian, which means the divine messages that sing inside my head are these:
"The last shall be first and the first shall be last..."
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
I'm a person of faith and I've had a rough decade. One during which "the last" and "the least", "the meek" and "the peacemakers", have been rolled over by a trivialized right-wing God and the politicians that God serves. That God is an irate, petty fellow who is obsessed with political sexual lapses, but doesn't worry much about lies and the innocent casualties of a bad, greed-based war. He's a "Prosperity Gospel" deity who rewards the really, really good Christian with bigger houses, bigger cars, better parking spaces and plenty of cash, but doesn't worry much about poverty, homelessness, disease and needless death worldwide. He sure isn't fretting over nearly 50 million uninsured Americans who have no access to health care -- other than the McCain vaunted emergency-room-as-proof-no-American-is-really-uninsured excuse for ignoring the sick
Poor, sick folks wouldn't be poor, sick folks if they lived right. Good Christians, you know, want not.
Clearly, the right-wing God and liberal folks have been at odds about what's important for a decade or more.
I should have felt better when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his soul mate. Jeeze. She's a self-proclaimed Bible Babe. We Southerners do, Lord, love our Bible. The Beatitudes -- all those "Blessed ares..." -- must be the cantata of Palin's conscience, the liturgy of her legislative agenda. This is a woman who knows the power of prayer.
She blew it. The Iraq war, she claims, is a "task from God." That's bad religion. But there's worse: She encouraged a crowd of fellow believers to pray for her pipeline project.
That's not just bad religion. That smacks of apostasy.
Mea culpa. Maybe it's me. I don't pray for pipelines. I don't pray for a raise or a better house. I don't pray for God to "Make a way, Lord, make a way!" for me to get what I want in life. Or what I want in politics.
Not when there's Darfur, where, a few short years ago, a two year old baby girl was gang raped by members of the Janjaweed. A two year old. A toddler. Gang raped by big, strapping, evil men who did it because they are evil and because they could. She was left with fistulas -- open, seeping holes -- from her tiny little female parts to her rectum. God only knows what other kind of permanent damage was done to that baby's heart, to her mind and to her spirit.
I never knew her name. I don't know what's become of her; whether she's dead or alive. But I pray for that child every day of my life. Every day. She is the focus of my prayers and has come to symbolize every child in pain, in want. She's come to symbolize every suffering soul on this earth; every man, woman and child who is victimized or cheated or ignored or hungry or sick or homeless or lost.
More people of faith than not pray for peace, for an end to poverty, disease and human suffering. Sarah Palin prays for pipelines. Others pray that those who do not agree with them will "get what they deserve". They deify war and wealth. They justify greed. Their God wants the good guys to have the big bomb, most of the world's oil and plenty of cash.
That's a mighty good reason to vote for the other guy; to vote Obama/Biden and know you're doing the best thing for your country, for yourself, for humankind. And it's a good reason to make a rational choice: Vote to separate cynical, self-serving, rancorous religiosity from good governance.