Middle Tennessee may exert an unexpected force on the coming presidential elections, but will it be a force for family values or sheer, unmitigated folly?
Nashville is the buckle of the Bible belt — being home to both the Southern Baptists and also to the center of Christian music and book publishing. What is said and done here in Christian circles soon ripples out to stir (and often muddy) waters elsewhere. Today Tennessee is ringing with effusive praise for Rick Santorum, from people like Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. But if we examine the actual “ethics” of the SBC — ethics largely shared by Santorum, a conservative Catholic — the reality seems wormier than any rotten apple.
Santorum’s success in Iowa has been attributed to his popularity with conservative Christians, who preach a muddled message of “family values” while doing their dead-level best to ruin the family lives of gays, legal immigrants with darker skin tones, Muslims, union workers, teachers, the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, and nearly everyone else who isn’t a well-off white conservative Christian.
Conservative Christians like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Santorum also preach “fiscal responsibility” while in reality sending the nation to the brink of insolvency by insisting that the U.S. must always support Israel despite its often horrendous racism. Israel’s system of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, some contend, led directly to 9/11 and two nation-bankrupting wars.
Since the U.S. has provided Israel with many billions in financial aid, advanced weapons and shared military technology, much of the Muslim world understandably sees the U.S. as a wildly hypocritical, very dangerous nation intent on the subjugation of their loved ones. So many Muslims look to men like Osama bin Laden, because they strongly oppose the injustices of Israel and its superpower patron. In effect, Conservative Christians drive more and more Muslims into the ranks of the extremists, just as past racial injustices once drove Native Americans to the warpath.
Like Gingrich, Santorum has made the incredibly racist claim that the Palestinian people don’t even exist. In a taped interview, which can be viewed on YouTube, Santorum said, “All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land.” This is like saying, “Native Americans were never fully united, so we have the right to deny their existence, steal their land via apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and treat millions of completely innocent women and children like dirt beneath our feet.”
As we all know, such thinking in the past led to massacre after massacre, as men like Sitting Bull refused to see their women and children so degraded. When such thinking was employed against African-Americans, it led to the Civil War, which left millions of Americans dead, mutilated, destitute and/or homeless. Today such thinking threatens the very existence of our nation, because we simply cannot afford to wage war against the Muslim world, on evil and false premises.
Like Palin and Bachmann, Santorum has discussed bombing Iran. That could lead to another war, a global oil crisis, an even worse impasse with nearly two billion Muslims, and perhaps even to World War III. Unfortunately, a vote for “family values” in reality may be a vote for exactly the opposite. If we care about our families, we should vote for equality, tolerance and peace, and against racism, intolerance and war.
If we’re still not smart enough to see people like Palin, Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum for who they really are, God help us all.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.