Crossposted from Moral Questions Weblog.

This month’s Atlantic had a feature by Washington Monthly writer Joshua Green focused on the growing influence within radical christian right circles of former Alabama supreme court chief justice Roy Moore.  While it is chiefly a fine profile of a rising Republican demegogue, it is at the same time a startling example of the political extremism that now rules the Evangelical wing of Christianity in America, a fanaticism that–and I use this equivilence consiously–is freighteningly similar to the Nazi party in its absolutism and irrationality, though lacking its potential for mass popularity.

Growing up in an Evangelical family, its sometimes hard to convey just how twisted and fanatical the Evangelical culture has become.  Green catchs some priceless moments during some of the talks Moore gives his christian supporters.  I’ve reprinted two of them:

The large crowd at the Southern Baptists’ conference seemed to feed Moore’s sense of ceremony, upping the historical-utterance quotient. As all his speeches tend to do, this one alternated between declaiming his legal-historical views and lamenting his ouster as chief justice–an event that has become the central focus of his life. In the middle of his speech Moore paused and turned to a JumboTron high overhead. The lights dimmed, and the audience was shown a videotape of Judge William Thompson reading the verdict that kicked Moore off the court in the ethics case stemming from his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments monument. When it ended, Moore told the audience, “I believe that video was given by God.”

The reminder of this public slight seemed to ignite his passion. He went into an attack on his ideological opponents, his voice rising in anger. “Separation of church and state does not mean separation of God and government!” he said, and was stopped by applause. As Moore continued, his face became stern and then angry, and his voice was a roar. “‘Be ye horribly afraid,'” he thundered, quoting from the second chapter of Jeremiah, “‘for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.’ Our schools, our political institutions, are not holding water today, because we’ve tried to construct them without God! We’ve been deceived by a government that tells us we cannot worship God–contradictory to history, contradictory to law, and contradictory to logic. And we bow down. Shall we bow down?” Cries of “No!” cascaded from the rafters.

Then Moore downshifted, his voice growing solemn once more, and he demonstrated another rhetorical flourish common to the Founding Fathers: he shared his poetry.

“We’re fighting wars all over this globe, it sometimes seems,” he said. “We’re fighting one in Iraq today.” A beatific smile came over his face.

“And we face another war

Fought not upon some distant shore,

Nor against a foe that you can see,

But one as ruthless as can be.

It will take your life and your children too,

And say there’s nothing you can do.

It will make you think that wrong is right,

Is but a sign to stand and fight.

And though we face the wrath of Hell,

Against those gates we shall prevail.

In homes in schools across our land,

It’s time for Christians to take a stand,

And when our work on this earth is done,

And the battle is over and the victory is won,

When through all the earth His praise will ring,

And all the heavenly angels sing,

It will be enough just to see His son,

And hear him say ‘My child, well done.

‘You’ve kept my faith so strong and true,

‘I knew that I could count on you.'”

As he finished, the crowd rose to its feet and broke into a chorus of “God Bless America.”

Later that evening Moore was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative judicial group in California that is active in Christian circles. It was here, among his fellow seekers of a return to a constitutional utopia, that Moore gave the clearest glimpse of how he views himself and his crusade.

Before a room of 500 people Moore launched into the usual description of how he’d been railroaded by the federal courts. But then he stopped and announced that he’d brought something special. He turned to the giant video screen behind him and told the audience that he was going to show them his cross-examination by Bill Pryor, then the state attorney general, in the Ten Commandments case.

Cameras had been barred from the proceedings, Moore explained in a voice of deepest solemnity, but someone had sneaked in and recorded them anyway. Judging from the angle of the shot, the cameraman had hidden high above the courtroom floor. Moore had somehow managed to get hold of a bootleg tape and had extracted the scene of his cross-examination. He had superimposed the grainy video of his testimony on an American flag, fluttering in slow motion, and scored the scene with soaring orchestral music:

PRYOR: And your understanding is that the federal court ordered that you could not acknowledge God; isn’t that right?


PRYOR: And if you resume your duties as chief justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?

MOORE: That’s right.

PRYOR: No matter what any other official says?

MOORE: Absolutely. Without–let me clarify that. Without an acknowledgment of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the constitution of Alabama. It says so in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I have read.

PRYOR: The only point I am trying to clarify, Mr. Chief Justice, is not why, but only that in fact, if you do resume your duties as chief justice, you will continue to do that without regard to what any other official says. Isn’t that right?

MOORE: … I think you must.

When the lights came up, Moore was standing at attention with his hand over his heart, tears shining in his eyes. The audience roared.

Reading the article, I couldn’t help being fascinated by how silly the Christian Right’s idea of history is and had to really wonder just what it is they truly fear.  Do they genuinely believe–and I know for a fact that some do–that if America extends equality under the law to gays or begins to shift from a geopolitical position that fails to follow Isreali foreign policy, the continent will be swallowed up by a series of natural disasters?  Do they really believe that America circa 1950 was really some Eden of morality?  

Or is there something far more subtle going on here?  Is what’s really happening here nothing more than a new version of a very old story, told and retold throughout human history, which has its roots in the end in simple hatred and intolerence: an all too familiar, but much less talked about history of how American Conservatism has dealt with those who weren’t like its members.  

The rapant gaybaiting that goes on in the conservative movement has a ring all too familiar of the “victorious German culture” the Nazis once spoke of.  It is becoming a pathetic sister to the totalitarian movements of the past century, and, sadly, it is tearing the American political discourse apart.

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