01/29/2014 03:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Myth of the Conservative Christian

I often wonder, given sufficient whisky and irony and time: Has there ever been a more delightfully inept, wince-inducing oxymoron in the tortured American lexicon than "conservative Christian?"

I am almost completely serious. I stumble across this strangled term frequently in the media world, usually in reference to this or that corporate executive, pinched titan of industry or misguided political movement, and every single time I feel a strange twitch shoot from my brainstem down to my soul, a sudden seizure of meaning as the phrase falls back and implodes into itself, like a confused little star that thinks it's an enormous sun but is really just a speck of flaming space dust.

I'm over at Mother Jones, reading of the vast ugliness that is the family DeVos, a wonderfully power-mad, union-hating clan of exceedingly rich (keyword: Amway), exceedingly white Republican males over in Michigan, rivaling the Koch brothers and Coors clan for title of Most Despising of Everything You Love. Hey, for the .0001 percent, it's a very popular competition indeed.


Like most of the super-rich, they are men (and a few women) who think they know something of the world, of culture, of God and heroic success, but instead appear to only know greed and money and empire and patriarchy and a certain cold-blooded detestation of anything free-thinking, independent-minded, progressive, humble or compassionate. Do you know the type? Of course you do.

From Reagan to Bush 41, Bush 43 to Mitt, union-busting to anti-choicism, antediluvian "family values" advocacy to pro-corporate think tanks, Blackwater to the unutterably silly Left Behind books, this is the kind of power-hungry billionaire clan that has its tentacles in every right-wing movement, cause and devious conservative ploy since the early '60s.

The patriarch, Richard DeVos, Sr. -- a man who, I imagine, genuinely loves his family, enjoys a good, hot bath and fears death every second of every day -- calls himself a conservative Christian, as do the rest of his family, his company and their entire ethos and position in the world. The phrase pops up repeatedly, like a rash. And it's always just a little bit hilarious.

I mean, isn't it? Given how the DeVoses -- Dick Jr. is now the lead union-hating arm-twister of the family -- endlessly conspire to slash and destroy, delimit and defund every progressive (read: Jesus-approved) cause and teaching in existence, from women's rights to fair wages, gun control to pacifism, union protections to civil liberties, gay marriage to protecting the environment? Ah, Christians. Always the last to understand irony.

I ponder: What must that be like? To believe you are something that you so very much are not? To hold a set of values that, in truth, have nothing whatsoever to do with the real source that supposedly inspires and defines it?

It's a severe, almost laughable chasm between what Republicans define as "Christian conservative" values -- isolationism, protectionism, love of fireams, suppression of alternative viewpoints, sexual dread, belief in strict gender roles and family structures, institution-as-guardian and so on -- and the teachings of the actual, messy historical Jesus who taught, well, the exact opposite.

One example? The very same day I'm cringing my way through the DeVos piece, I just so happened to read a wonderfully weird little item over on a blog called NeuroBrainstorm (written by a researcher of admittedly indeterminate credentials, Kevin Loftis), all about the various hallucinogenic plants, herbs and compounds mentioned in, used by, or hovering near the Bible and its wily cast of characters...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...