Since long before Election Day 2004, I have been concerned with a growing trend in American politics. However, ever since Election Day, when “moral values” voters swung the vote, this trend seems to be gaining strength by leaps and bounds. In recent news, especially in light of the Schiavo controversy, this movement has become even more apparent and insidious. In fact, I am shocked and disgusted at the current push to affect governmental regulations based on right-wing Christian beliefs in our country.
My fear was recently editorialized by Bill Moyers in an article about the religious fervency that Moyers claims has a grip on one-third of all Americans. Among the more disturbing claims that some of these religious fanatics have expressed is the belief that environmentalism is unimportant, because when the world is “used up,” it will signal the return of Christ and the coming of the final judgment. Another claim based on “scripture” is that an impending war between Christians and Muslims is “an essential conflagration on the road to redemption.” And finally, some of them claimed there’s no reason to take any interest in the world around us because if God wants to fix something, he can.
But what do these same fanatics have to do with our governmental regulation? The answer is that the politicians running this country, especially within the Bush administration, are taking their cues from this key constituency. The religious right supports at least 231 of our Congressional legislators, including the Senate majority leader and the House speaker.
The president has worked to undermine social, environmental, and political regulations that have been enacted to protect our country’s most valuable resources. He’s working on loosening the restrictive Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act, among others. And the legislators that are supposed to be upholding the system of checks and balances upon which the government is supposed to be founded are cheering him on. At least Bush has recently made statements that allude to his belief in “proper checks and balances.” His track record suggests his beliefs are certainly up for disagreement, but some of his disciples in Congress haven’t been so eager to claim support of checks and balances.
Recently, House majority leader Tom Delay made his beliefs about the system of checks and balances quite clear. Immediately following the death of Terri Schiavo, he made cryptic comments about holding the deciding judges “accountable for the actions.” Ever since, he has been active in pushing for the impeachment of the judges involved in the case for overstepping their judicial bounds. He’s also blamed the judiciary for other missteps, including legislating from the bench on issues such as abortion, racial prejudice, and religious expression, in direct opposition to the will of the people.
Some people might be inclined to dismiss this kind of religious extremism, claiming it’s far less prevalent than I’m making it out to be. And I’ll concede that I don’t believe every Christian is a right-wing lunatic. But let’s remember, a very small percentage of Muslims are zealous enough to give their lives in an attack on Western values, but as a country, we have unfortunately stereotyped all Muslims as possible terrorists.
I’m not concerned with stereotyping all Christians as crazy. I am more concerned that the people who are in fact “lunatics” seem to be holding increasingly important positions in the lawmaking process. It doesn’t matter how few crazies there are if the crazies are running the show.
And it’s these crazies that passed legislation to allow the federal courts get involved with the Schiavo case. It’s these crazies who believe that the “right to life” means killing those who disagree. It’s these crazies who believe Christian icons belong in public buildings, meant for every person in society, regardless of religion. It’s these crazies who we should all be worried about as they make their mark felt in the highest legislative offices.
I don’t want to suggest that people don’t have a right to practice religion. I consider myself religious, but I’m going to model the kind of behavior that I expect from the government: I’m not even going to tell you where I find my faith.
Ryan Skinnell is a graduate student studying English.