<img src="https://c3.staticflickr.com/4/3343/5713735538_3d10e95519_m.jpg" width="240" height="172" align="right" alt="Image of James Lankford and Paul Ryan“"
I make it a matter of my political-writing routine to regularly check out the web sites of Oklahoma’s right-wing congressional delegation, sites reflecting deeply unsettling extremist views that, let’s face it, pander to an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters.
It’s depressing. Don’t tell me it isn’t. U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, for example, are religious extremists, who consistently try to undermine the clear distinction of the separation between church and state outlined in the U.S. Constitution, and this is reflected on their government-sponsored sites on a regular basis.
I want to dissect one of Lankford’s latest religious screeds on his site later in this post. But, first, let’s review the First Amendment. Here it is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— Americans United (@americansunited) June 13, 2016
My concern here is with the language concerning religion. Note this is the “First Amendment” so we know our slave-owning “founding fathers”—great moralists, right?— thought the matter of religious plurality an important issue. But I believe in the fluidity of the Constitution in the sense that it was intentionally written for future generations to interpret. Our “founding fathers” (yes, I hate that term so I’m giving it ironic quote marks) were exactly right on that issue.
So the point for my purposes here is the line dealing with “ . . . no law respecting an establishment of a religion,” which makes perfect sense. It’s logical, sane reasoning. History has shown the violence and hatred caused by religious dogma, particularly the cruel dogma deployed by Christians in the Western world as they ruthlessly colonized and killed. It doesn’t matter to me, in this case, the authorial intention of our “founding fathers.” Governments should not be operated by religious ideologues. Period. Religious ideologues, it should go without saying, shouldn’t be allowed to profess their narrow-minded religious views as government officials or in an official capacity. The entire history of lasting and significant Western intellectualism since the formation of this country rests on this premise.
None of this matters to Lankford or his right-wing, religious supporters here in Oklahoma, of course, but it’s important to point out, anyway. They’re focused in distorting the language in the First Amendment about “ . . . or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” with reductionist rhetoric about the loss of “religious freedom” in a place with more Christian churches than (insert your own joke here).
Lankford is currently featuring on his official government site excerpts from a speech he gave recently at what was awkwardly called the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference. In the speech, he describes himself “as a person who’s been in ministry two decades . . .” Of course, we all know that ministry is within the Southern Baptist Church, which has inflicted more economic damage and generated more hatred against groups of people than any other organization in Oklahoma over the last few decades. Poverty and hate are the hallmarks of the Southern Baptist Church.
Here’s the “ministry” comment in its full context:
I am afraid and as a person who’s been in ministry two decades, I am concerned that at times the church is saying, you know what? Government’s going to take care of that. Government’s going to take care of those in poverty. Government’s going to take care of those with great need. Government’s going to take care of all those issues.
Translated: I’m really not afraid. I’m a big shot in the Southern Baptist Church. Religion (wink, wink, Christianity) is the answer to ALL our problems. Replace government with Christianity, and, presto, just like magic, it’s all so so good. Vote for me, lazy-thinking people. I will do your thinking for you.
Lankford goes on to indirectly quote the so-called “apostle” Peter that the number one thing people should do is “honor authority.” Does Lankford mean himself in this context. The “founding fathers,” maybe? What about mothers? Who knows? The speech, as presented on the site, seems terribly incoherent at times as if it were put together by someone who doesn’t really have a valid argument because, of course, it isn’t a valid argument. The main circular thrust is that Christians can’t or shouldn’t rely on the very government that pays Lankford to spout religious nonsense as a form of policy or agenda on his government web site.
Of course, Lankford is not openly trying to create a national religion based on the consistent narrow and immoral views of the Southern Baptist Church, which once openly gave slave owners the moral excuse to torture and kill fellow human beings. But, as we all know in Oklahoma, it’s all done in a web and code of lies and gestures. Theocracy is a very real threat we face in this country, and the Lankfords and Inhofes are at the forefront of the movement. The corporate media here supports their quest.
Again, don’t tell me the political scene in Oklahoma isn’t depressing.
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) June 10, 2016