Election Post-Mortem

Mark Davis, a right-wing conservative radio host and columnist, wrote this in his post mortem about the Presidential election:

But I lament a country where the middle class is more attuned to government benefits than the work ethic that was once our nation’s engine. I will blame the culture of dependency that leads millions to seek rescue paid by the incomes of others. And I will point to a society that has stood idly by while standards of family, self-reliance and independence have dwindled to mere shadows.

I found as I read his column that my normally quite low blood pressure began to spike.

Why I Voted Democratic

I voted for Obama, and it has nothing to do with needing rescue or wanting to enhance a culture of dependency. Furthermore,  I hardly “stand idly by” while watching essential standards dwindle.

I, as did many others and women in particular, voted Democratic in the Presidential election because I became increasingly horrified by what the right-wing extremists have done to the Republican Party.

I voted for the Democratic candidate for the same reason I left the Evangelical church, which came out in swarms for that same Republican Party.

But I did so with deep reservations. After Obama’s State of the Union address last January, I resolved not to vote for him in the election. I thought his policies and proposals were taking this nation very much in the direction of a socialist state, something that I think will eventually lead us to financial and social implosion.

I followed the Republican primaries and studied the possible candidates. One by one, it seemed to me that they had bought into the worst of Christian fundamentalism. Governor Romney appeared to be bought and paid for by them.

The World of the Right Wing Fundamentalist

I know that world very well. It is not a nice place to be. In my opinion, the leaders of that world have no business imposing what I have come to believe is flawed theology on the politics and future of this nation.

A core belief of the right-wing fundamentalist Christian world: women are simply worth less than men. Now, they’ll talk around it and use words like “complementarian” and “spheres of influence” and “how important women are as wives and mothers.”

They’ll also make sure that male sexual enhancing drugs are covered by health insurance, but not birth control for women, which might offer some protection against those sexually enhanced men. Also, I believe I finally understand something essential after a great deal of reading about this: the well-publicized comments about rape and “God’s will” for rape-produced babies, (which can only happen of course if the rape is “illegitimate”) have so permeated the Republican and Christian right wing that no one swimming and steeped in those waters sees how degrading such comments are to women.

Furthermore, no one really cares.  Why? Here the deep, often unspoken theological underpinning comes into play.  For them, males only, not females, are made in the image of God. Males only have the “Imago Dei” stamped upon them for God is male in essence.

Fundamentalists and The United Methodist Church

Now on this note I turn to the increasing influence of this type of fundamentalist theology in The United Methodist Church. One of the reasons I am an intentional United Methodist, as opposed to one born or brought up in this world, is that I saw this church as a place where theology could be openly explored, questioned and left ambiguous when necessary.

We are finite people are dealing with infinite things. We are unholy people exploring a world of holiness that we can only imagine but not yet fully enter. Ultimately, we do not have the capability to make final and holy pronouncements on those final and holy things. We must hold our truths with open and grateful hands, giving and receiving grace and space.  Christian theology has always been in flux.  It is alive, and living things change.

I understood that in The United Methodist Church, one could be respected for theological stances even when they differed from others especially when those stances were thoughtfully and carefully defended. I loved a world that honored the text of the Scriptures as inspired and authoritative, yet held that understanding in tension with the difficulties of properly interpreting words written in languages we cannot know as native speakers, at different times, reflecting different cultures, and with pre-scientific world views.

I reveled in a world where I, as woman, was no longer regarded as “unclean” or “not just quite . . . ” but as one in full covenant relation with all where we shared together equal worth before God and before each other.

I was delighted to learn that I would no longer be “proof-texted” and silenced with passages thrown in my face as final proof that I had no place in church leadership.  Passages such as these are used in that fundamentalist world that informs the Republican platform to keep women silent:

  • 1 Tim 2:12-15: “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
  • 1 Corinthians 14, 33b-35, “As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

As one who had spent a lifetime on the theological outside, the underdog, and one not quite measuring up, I have developed huge compassion for those who are still marginalized. It has long been my hope that we would eventually learn that our systematic devaluing of our LGBTI brothers and sisters is equally as distasteful in the sight of God as our history of devaluing woman and people of color has been.

The Parallels Between the Republican Party and The United Methodist Church

But just as the ultra-right has taken over the Republican party with their strident rhetoric, their power and money, their insistence that they and they alone have the answers to our political malaise, I see the UMC being taken over by the religious right, their strident rhetoric, their numerical superiority, their insistence that they, and they alone have the right answers to our ecclesiastical malaise.

I have seen discussions on theological issues on FaceBook degenerate quickly because of the meanness and judgmental spirit of some of the responders. From my limited experience, the mean and judgmental spirits generally come from those on the conservative right. They offer no room for questioning their received truth. I observed the similar responses on the floor of General Conference last spring as I watched from a distance and read the commentaries of those who were present.

Today, the same type of de-contextualized proof-texting that kept me silent and in chains for many years is being used against those who do not fit the sexual mainstream.

Is this what God has called us to be? Really?