I aspire to be the tax collector

13 08 2012

So Paul Ryan is Romney’s running mate, and he’s probably a really good choice for what they want to accomplish.  Romney is viewed with suspicion by the hard right Tea Party faction – not conservative enough, and not Christian enough.  So now he has Ryan, Tea Party darling and devout Catholic.  I heard interviews with voters on NPR this morning that made my skin crawl – how people are planning to vote based on Ryan’s religion; others who talk about his nice hair, his white teeth, and how he “looks honest”… I’m starting to think that an issues quiz, as unconstitutional as it would be, might be a really good addition to the voting procedure.  Don’t know anything about the issues, or don’t care?  Then you don’t get to vote. 

I know.  It can’t happen, and deep in my liberal heart I know that it shouldn’t.  But it continues to amaze me how, in an age when information is so readily available, people don’t make an effort to inform themselves.  They don’t have to agree with me – my best friend’s husband is a staunch Libertarian – but they need to be informed, and they need to think.  

I hate finding myself in a time where someone’s faith is (in my mind) a detriment to their political standing.  I never thought I’d see a time when fundamental Christian zealotry would play this large a role in American politics.  I know it isn’t the first time religion has come up, but I don’t have the personal memories of Kennedy’s election, and the kind of suspicions that were raised about Catholics.  Nowadays the questions that were raised in the early 1960s are presented as slightly silly, but really they differ very little from the types of Christian litmus tests that current candidates face.  Although religion tests for election to public office are specifically prohibited in the constitution, as a matter of practice they happen all the time.  Can you even fathom having a non-Christian as president?  I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime.  

It’s a theme I come back to again and again.  (I know.  You’re shocked.)  I don’t know what the Christian right is so afraid of.  I don’t know why they need to be so public in their display of faith, what it supposedly means or proves to them.  I guess they see it as a way of showing that they’re not ashamed of Christ, but I see it more as an example of what Christ said in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14).  Read the description of the Pharisee’s prayer and ask yourself how different this is from what we see every day from the Christian right:

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

How they congratulate themselves on not being like all those people they oppress, while at the same time congratulating themselves for “hating the sin, loving the sinner.”  In my darker moments I comfort myself with the thought that karma will catch them.  But until it does I still have to live with smug, self-congratulating, self-appointed Keepers of the Faith.  Who are all about their worldly political power in spite of the repeated instructions in their own bible, telling them to step away from the temptations of power, wealth, and status.

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