Sunday, May 28, 2006

Creative Loafing: Armageddon for the Religious Right?

Creative Loafing Atlanta, by the way, also has a terrific cover story this week (also by John Sugg) on the cracks starting to appear in the religious right--and we can only hope: "On Feb. 22, inside a Clark Atlanta University auditorium, Christianity girded its loins with faith, anointed itself with righteousness and went forth to do battle with, well, Christianity.

It wasn't quite a Tim LaHaye vision of the final conflict at Mount Megiddo. There was no thunderbolt-wielding Christ bloodily massacring gays, Jews, Muslims and billions of others who failed to meet Pat Robertson's criteria for salvation. But the scene wasn't pretty.

Sadie Fields, the brittle vicar of Georgia's Christian Coalition, told a town hall forum on immigration reform what her brand of Christianity taught about undocumented immigrants. Invoking Old Testament Scripture, Fields intoned, "We uphold the rule of law. God would never condone chaos and lawlessness for he is a God of order, justice and righteousness."

For the crowd, largely black and Hispanic, that was enough. From the back of the auditorium, Aquiles Martinez jumped to his feet, marched forward and addressed Fields in a voice that trembled with anger.

"Jesus was an exile himself," Martinez fumed. "He lived an uprooted life. He opposed unjust laws. He opposed the religious and political establishment of his day."

Martinez paused and gathered himself, knowing he was on the verge of challenging an authority as stern and unforgiving as the Pharisees. Then the Methodist minister from Reinhardt College in Waleska, Ga., thundered, "How dare you support legislation that victimizes the poor!"

He didn't add, "... and call yourself Christian," but his meaning was unmistakable.

The jeremiad was greeted with a few seconds of silence, then hearty applause. Fields glared at Martinez. But state Sen. Chip Rogers of Woodstock, the Republican who authored Georgia's new anti-illegal immigration law, rode to her defense. How, he wondered, could anyone question someone else's religious beliefs?

"That," he said, "is between the person and his God."

More than a few in the crowd of about 300 snickered at the irony in that remark coming from a member of the GOP -- an acronym that in recent years has come to stand for "God's Own Party." One young woman waved a finger at the stage. "Isn't that how Republicans win elections?" she asked. "Don't they claim they own Jesus?"

Well, yes, many Republicans do just that. But more than a few Democrats are getting the message that faith counts."

The whole thing is worth reading and pondering.


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