Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The destructive power of sex

Looking for pity and legal cover, Mark Foley, Republican romanitic poet of the Instant Message, checked himself into rehab, as if his problem was demon rum and not the daemon lust.

Maybe he'll get around to it, but I'm surprised he didn't go looking for forgiveness and turn up on the Mourner's Bench in the most prominent Right Wing Christian church in his district, rending his garments and wailing that the devil and Bill Clinton made him type it.

That he hasn't come to Jay-sus yet makes me wonder if he might not be as big a hypocrite as most of his fellow Republican colleagues in Washington.

Maybe he's one of those Republican elitists Tucker Carlson says "have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power" and he can't bring himself to ask them for sanctuary.

Maybe he grasps how visceral their hatred for homosexuals is and he can't face their contempt.

Maybe he just knows that the one sinner the Christian Right's Leadership can't forgive is a Congressman who makes himself unelectable.

But I think he missed a bet by not trying. After all, the one group in the country who seems to be least upset by the Foley Follies is the group you'd think would be most indignant and outraged, the group whose values and beliefs Republicans like Foley and the Republican leadership who covered for him publicly exploit for votes but brazenly despise with their private behavior.

In fact, according to Digby, it appears that the Christian Right is more than ready to forgive and forget, absolving the Republican leadership of responsibility and placing the blame where they know it truly belongs, on Liberals and Bill Clinton.

Polls show that, most Americans have grasped the essentials. Despite Denny Hastert and other Republicans' attempts to get the word Democrat attached to the story---and CNN's craven decision to go along with the plan. See Media Matters---the public sees the Foley Follies as a Republican scandal and, significantly, they see that it isn't a sex scandal.

It's a scandal arising from the Republican leadership's abuse of power and contempt for any ethical standard that gets in the way of their exercising their privileges and continuing the Republican kleptocracy.

The Christian Right, however, while not exactly looking the other way when it comes to Republican sins and depredations, is willing to tolerate less than saintly behavior by Republicans because the Christian Right wants the kleptocracy to continue.

Republican kleptomania is the small sin that allows for the practice of the larger virtue.

Members of the Christian Right probably have as much contempt, if not more, for the Republican elitists who take their votes and money and spit in their eye at the same time as the Republican elitists have for them.

But what do they care?

Individual Republican politicians don't matter to them. Politicians come cheap and they're easy to replace. What matters to the Christian Right is the Christian Right's agenda, which they believe is God's agenda.

Point out to them that God seems to be advancing His agenda by enriching and making powerful a gang of thieves and thugs and they'll say, "What else is new?"

God has only human beings to work with, after all, and few of them are saints. If He didn't make use of sinners when His wonders He performs the job would never get done.

(Avedon Carol has a link to a Washington Post story that shows that this isn't true of as many conservative Christians as it used to be. The God gap is shrinking, apparently.)

No Right Wing Christian will ever be persuaded to vote Democratic by having it pointed out that some Republican politicians are corrupt hypocrites, even if the corrupt hypocrites are the ones running the Republican Party, Washington, and the whole country.

And it doesn't do any good to point out all the examples of decent people, the many actual Christians, on our side.

If God is occasionally in the habit of employing sinners, Satan practically doesn't function except by manipulating seemingly good people into sin and damnation.

A liberal candidate for office can go among the flock and say, "Vote for me. I am faithful to my spouse, I go to church every Sunday, I keep the commandments, and I don't even know what an IM is," and the Faitful will reply, "But you will vote for gay marriage and vote against banning abortion and so no matter how righteous you think you are you are doing the Devil's handiwork and leading thousands down the path to Hell, which, as you ought to know, is paved with good intentions."

On top of this, the Faithful have inherited a religious tradition that rejects the notion of individual responsibility.

The Devil always makes us do it.

But not only that, when we don't do it, when we resist temptation, it's not our doing.

It's Jesus'.

"Why do I only see one pair of footprints?"

"Those were the times when I was carrying you."

Republicans are always accusing Liberals of not believing that individuals are responsible for their own actions, but it's the fact that Liberals do believe that we are responsible that proves to the Christian Right we're godless.

Virtue, like vice, comes from without.

It's not much of a leap from the idea that Jesus makes us good to thinking that it is up to Jesus' ministers to make us be good.

This is why constant scolding and public professions of faith are so important to this type of Christian.

They don't believe that people can be good without reminding.

John Kerry is by any reasonable person's lights a religious man, and a devout one. But he comes from a background that passes along three, count them three, traditions of keeping one's mouth shut on matters of personal faith.

Perhaps four. I'm not sure how much influence his grandfather's Jewish heritage contributed to Kerry's moral and spiritual growth.

He's a New Englander, a Boston Brahmin, and a Catholic. Reticence, discretion, and a longstanding teaching that it is better to be the tax collector at the back of the temple than the boastful Pharisee up front, and a shared stocism, are his spiritual inheritance.

Makes a fellow temperamentally unsuited to being a public scold.

But even a Liberal who comes from a religious background, someone like Jimmy Carter who can in a modest way trumpet his own virtues and scold with the best of them, is at a disadvantage preaching to that choir because liberals just will not take as the text for their sermons any passage remotely similar in theme to Matthew 5:28.

"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

It's just not a hymn Liberals are going to sing. We're not going to start preaching that lust---sex!---is the sin.

A lot of liberal intellectual energy has been expended, and wasted, proving that the Right hates sex.

Of course they do.

Sex is the destructive force in their lives.

Right Wing Christianity arose as a rural, small town, even frontier tradition. It is a religion of the not rich, the not powerful, the not comfortable and the not in any position to relax and get comfortable. It is the religion of small, struggling communities that were constantly on the brink of disintegration, beaten at every turn by the weather, by outsiders, by sudden scarcities of resources, and by the all too human tendency to sloth, despondency, fear, and error.

It was the religion of communities that could fall apart at any moment and it's no wonder that it's an authoritarian religion. It's a religion for communities that have to---or are scared to the point of thinking they have to---value order above everything else.

One person getting out of line leaves a big hole in the community's defenses.

In such a place, sex is the enemy within.

Sex, any peasure actually, which is why that religion hates pleasure too and hates sex especially when it is treated as a pleasure, is a distraction. It takes the individual's thoughts and energies away from the needs of the community and focuses them on his or her own.

Sex causes jealousy and rivalries and competition. It pits friend against friend as they compete for the attentions of prospective mates. It tears families apart as children defy their parents to go off to chase after other families' children who are defying their parents' to go chase and be chased and as husbands betray their wives and wives betray their husbands.

Sex is the lure of the big cities they draw away the best and the brightest of the young, leaving the population at home decimated of talent, brains, bodies, and a future generation to keep the community going and take care of those who stayed behind in their old age.

How you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Pare-ee? is not a question that is not best translated as How do you expect them to be satisfied with needlepoint samplers on the wall after they've taken in the masterpieces in Louvre?

Liberal arguments that our policies lower the abortion rates and lower the instances of teenage pregnancies are wasted because they not only do not include condemnations of sex as a destructive force they accept and even celebrate the fact that people who aren't married have sex and like it and this is not a bad thing.

Right Wing Christians realize more clearly than any Liberals, except for some Feminists, that the main selling point of what everybody wrongly refers to as the '60s (it's really the period beginning right after World War II and continuing up to this day) is SEX.

All of the increased opportunities, expanded freedoms, social and economic betterments that Liberals are responsible for and take pride in have been sold to the American public by the Media as side benefits to the vastly improved chances of getting laid.

There's no point in trying to counter this because we are happy about having increased the chances of everybody's getting laid and enjoying it.

This is why whatever more revelations of Republican corruption and moral turpitude come out of the Foley Follies---and after 12 years of the Republican kleptocracy and almost six years of Dick Cheney's George W. Bush Puppet Show we know the odds are good that there will be more and it will be worse than what we already know---the Christian Right will not suddenly come to their senses.

The most degenerate Republican Congressman can be counted on to vote against sex, while the most saintly Liberal will vote for it.

Mark Foley doesn't prove anything to the Christian Right about Republicans they didn't already know, while his downfall only confirms what they've always believed about Liberals.

Liberals did more to deliver Mark Foley into the Devil's hands than did Republicans who let him continue to stay in those hands because Liberals would not and will not scold the country about the evils of sex.

This doesn't mean I think the Democrats should write off the small towns and rural districts where most of the conservative Christians the Right Wing Christian leadership has convinced to vote Republican live.

The fact is that their communities are falling apart.

The reasons are economic not cultural. Money is the destructive force, not sex, which is why populism not conservativism is the Democrats' best approach to winning their votes.

The issues can be, and perhaps should be, framed in moral terms.

It is immoral that we let children go without health care.

It is immoral that we make old people choose between buying medicine and buying food.

It is immoral that we make store clerks work at poverty line wages without benefits or job security so that we can save a dime on a bottle of shampoo.

It is immoral that we are unraveling the safety net, bankrupting the treasury, poisoning the land, and sticking our grandchildren with the bill and the job of cleaning up our mess just so that the already obscenely rich can pocket another few million bucks.

It is immoral that we are letting our roads crumble, our bridges rust, our dams and levees crack and leak and break, our schools collapse, our entire infrasctructure go to wrack and ruin just so that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's billionaire pals can buy another yacht.

It is immoral that we are sending the sons and daughters of the poor and the lower middle class, of the small rural towns and the wounded inner cities to fight and die in a war to save George Bush's ego.

All this we can and we should say and are saying.

We just aren't ever going to say that Mark Foley's sin was wanting sex.

So we shouldn't be surprised if we find while we are saying everything else, they aren't listening.

Hat tips to Avedon Carol, Susie Madrak, Neddie Jingo, and Atrios

A good time to read or re-read Sara Robinson's series at Orcinus on the authoritarian personality, Cracks in the Wall. It's a three-parter. Courtesy of Coturnix and tigtog, ere are the links:

Part I: Defining the Authoritarian Personality.
Part II: Listening to the Leavers.
Part III: Escape Ladders.

Cross-posted at the American Street.


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