Never trust a politician, especially a religious one
There is no creature scarier than an American politician brandishing a Bible.
In a land where the church has been steadily excised from matters of state since the beginning, where the only spirituality permitted to hold any cultural sway is “Do what thou wilt,” a self-professed believer who is sickeningly feted by a media organ of a ruling regime that typically has nothing but disdain for Christians and their “backwards” beliefs should set off serious alarm bells.
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Party does not matter. Whether it is Donald Trump suddenly remembering he was a Christian so that hardcore Evangelicals who correctly believe that matters of sexual immorality are serous sins decide that their guy is an earnest believer because he puts an “R” next to his name, or Democrat-voting Catholics okay with abortion and gay marriage because their guy “totally goes to church every Sunday,” religion has only ever, in post-war America, and likely before, been used to justify what a politician was going to do anyway in order to trick Christian voters into supporting them.1
Yes, friends: religious politicians are scammers of the worst kind. I would much rather have an openly Satanic, demon-worshipping cross-dresser in Congress than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The former is a laughably cartoonish villain who will not change anybody’s minds and at least isn’t trying to mask their intentions. The latter poses a grave danger of leading the faithful astray, using belief to enact that which runs counter to dogma.2
If one was to create such a creature in a lab, for starters, he would have to be a Protestant, particularly in a denomination that loves conforming to the world:
Religion and politics have always been intertwined for Talarico. He grew up the son of a single mother going to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, a church that the Rev. Jim Rigby had turned into something of a refuge for progressive Christians in Austin. Rigby began ordaining gay and lesbian clergy in the 1990s, and, as a result, was put on trial by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination. Rigby remains Talarico’s pastor and encouraged him to pursue seminary. He even invited Talarico to deliver his first sermon at the church last fall. Talarico chose the subject of abortion — not exactly a topic you’d expect a pastor to tackle. “Did they teach you in Sunday school that Jesus Christ himself was a radical feminist,” he asked the parishioners that day.
Protestantism, also known for thinking that everything Orthodox and Catholic Christians do is “idolatry,” would provide this politician with a ready-made excuse for defeating any potential Christian legislative gains:
AUSTIN, Texas —The representative and aspiring preacher hadn’t planned to deliver a sermon when he went to work at the state capitol that morning.
Sitting in a drab committee room last month, Texas Rep. James Talarico, among the youngest members of the statehouse now at 34, was slowly getting fed up as he sat through a hearing for a bill that would mandate putting the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom in the state. A week prior, he’d sat through a committee hearing on a bill that would allow chaplains to replace guidance counselors. He was already dreading another floor debate scheduled for later in the day for a bill denying gender-affirming health care. So by the time the Ten Commandments came up that morning, Talarico had had it.
He looked squarely at the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Candy Noble, whom he acknowledged as a fellow “devout Christian,” before letting loose a two-minute and nine-second exchange that would go viral on TikTok and Twitter, racking up more than 1 million views on Twitter alone.
“This bill to me is not only unconstitutional, it’s not only un-American, I think it is also deeply un-Christian,” he told her, as she stood motionless. “And I say that because I believe this bill is idolatrous. I believe it is exclusionary. And I believe that it is arrogant, and those three things, in my reading of the Gospel, are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus.” He cited Matthew 6:5, in which Jesus urges his disciples to not pray publicly like the hypocrites.
Here is where I offer the well-worn warning that the devil knows Scripture too.
Of course, such a uniquely American creation would, in addition to saving his most venomous ire for other Christians, have a message that appeals more so to atheists and other people who are either not Christian, or openly hostile to Jesus Christ and his followers than to Christians:
David Axelrod, the veteran Democratic strategist, praised Talarico on Twitter. “WATCH THIS:” California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Preach,” former Education Secretary Arne Duncan cheered. After both videos went viral, he received 12,000 calls and emails in a week’s time, a volume that would typically be closer to 300.
“The thing that warms my heart the most,” he told me, “is people who say, ‘I’m an atheist, agnostic, or I left the church or I left religion. But this is the kind of Christianity I can believe in.’”
Just look at the comments on this video to see what Axelrod means.
An acceptable type of self-importance, naturally, would be a part of the hand-crafted personality of this synthetic politician designed to appeal to religious individuals who might be on the fence:
“Part of being a good friend is calling out their bullshit,” Talarico said. We were in his office in the belly of the Capitol after his morning of seminary classes and tacos. He had just spent about an hour on the floor of the house, working with Republican colleagues to cosign one of his bills — a proposal that would make it legal to import cheap prescription drugs from Canada — winning over one Republican signatory. Afterward, he wanted to explain how the Golden Rule applies to his sometimes tough rhetoric for Republicans.
“I often think about the example of a tipsy friend who’s about to get in their car,” Talarico said. “It’s like your job to take the keys away. And that may seem hostile. It may seem aggressive, but it’s being done out of love for them and for what you both share.”
Naturally, this is accompanied by a stunning lack of self-reflection, which is not surprising as this is really a requirement for all politicians.3
There are few things American Christian politicians do better than puff themselves up with vanity in the guise of doing God’s work. The only acceptable Christian politician would be neither Republican nor Democrat, would refuse to take a salary, have a giant beard, dress like a wizard, and only draft and vote on legislation that comports with orthodox Christian principles.
Maybe that would include some sort of healthcare-for-all bill. Maybe that would include restrictions, if not outright bans, on abortion and sex-change surgery for minors. Maybe that would include some sort of gun control measures. Maybe that would include border control. Maybe that would include foreign intervention, or a lack of foreign intervention. I don’t know. I am not a scholar of Scripture. But I do know that the type of Christian politician I would create in a lab would not be a member of a church that ordains women or open homosexuals as priests. This is not due to any animus towards women or open homosexuals, but because God Himself, in this book called the Bible, specifically left it to men to be the spiritual fathers of their people, the way He left it to women to be the physical mothers of their people. It also provides a handy litmus test: If this or that denomination is violating one part of the dogma, what other parts are they violating?
Basically, the ideal Christian politician would be a holy man from Mt. Athos continually praying in the Capitol. They would speak forcefully and truthfully, but they would never mock “the other side” while ignoring the beam in their own side’s eye. There is a place for “my tribe right, your tribe wrong” talk, but using Christ to do so is not is not it, especially when the person invoking the name of the Almighty is not right.
Ideally, the entirety of Congress should be replaced with an entire monastery’s worth of holy men; they’d certainly accomplish more positive things than the current crop of slimy liars. But this will never happen.
Does anybody care, though? Does anybody know? In such a Biblically illiterate (functionally, too) time and place like the United States in 2023, it’s so easy to confound people into believe Christianity actually teaches stuff that is nowhere in the Bible or in holy tradition. “Just be a good person, bro” and “Jesus hung out with tons of prostitutes, man!”4 are chapter-and-verse to too many. This underscores the importance of dogma as a requisite part of any functioning religion.
There is only one way to make it in Washington, and that is to sell your soul. Be wary of any and all politicians you see that you find yourself agreeing with, especially the oh-so devout, because there is, in all likelihood, a dossier of kompromat on them, they will do whatever they are told to do for money, or both. Professional liars don’t magically “find God,” or enter into the field of professional lying if they are already devoted followers of Him. They leave the field or don’t enter it in the first place.
And when a politician says that they’ve prayed on something, isn’t it amazing that the Lord Our God mystically tells them that their policies are the correct ones? And they all do it! This cause all sorts of contradictions in dueling Bible-thumpers, which leads to three possible conclusions:
One of the politicians is a liar;
Both politicians are liars; or
God is a liar.
I know which possibility I am believing.
So yeah, this Talarico guy. Don’t believe the hype. If you are a Christian, he’s not on your side. If you go ga-ga because he puts a “D” next to his name, then you’re voting for the D and not the Christianity. I can already hear the chorus of people saying “You’re just afraid of him!” You’re damn right I am. Not because of legislative victories; it’s clear as day he’s a doctrinaire Democrat, which is fine, good from him, he’s doing what his party does.5 It’s the disgusting way he’s using the All Holy Name of Jesus Christ to score political points like the guy from the meme.
Remember when people hated that Sarah Palin did the same thing? When George W. Bush did the same thing? When Ronald Reagan did the same thing? When, uh, William McKinley did the same thing?6 You get the point.
So what changed? Ah, right, the letter next to the guy’s name.
PS Before you start in on me, I am well aware that the image at the top of this post is overblown hyperbole (the best kind). I’ve been playing around with AI image generators for my posts, and this one just came out too hilarious not to use.
And yes, I’m a hypocrite. In light of this, I will solemnly vow to never call myself an “artist,” sell these images for money, and fail to attribute them to AI art (this post also contains an artificially generated header image).
This is the problem with mass democracy with universal suffrage we are told not only does not happen, but would never happen: that elections become a contest into promising things to 50-percent-plus-1 of the population, and telling the 50-percent-minus-1 who didn’t vote for you to go screw.
Dogma is a necessary component of religion, and to our eternal shame has become a dirty word so that people don’t get hurt feelings about the requirements of religion that might provide a slight inconvenience.
What gets missed is that He didn’t validate their sex work, but commanded them to go and sin no more.
Which is, contra the hapless Republicans, actually win.
No, nobody probably actually “remembers” when William McKinley did the same thing.