Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Values Summit - Worship at its Worst

Every so often – they say, annually, but it seems like every couple of months – a group of several thousand conservative activists meet for what they call a “Values Summit.” As millions of American Christians are making their way to places of worship, a couple of thousand men and women are gathering in Washington, D.C. for the final day of their “worship gathering.” They are not even a tithe of those, scattered over our country who share their views, but the messages going out from their meetings speak for millions of others like them. Many, but certainly not all, who attend are conservative Christian evangelicals and fundamentalist. But the Summit also attracts conservative Roman Catholics and even non-believers. It is sponsored by the Family Research Council and a number of other high-profile conservative groups.

The “values” they stand for are, if one listens to the speakers: American exceptionalism, marriage defined as a union of one man and one woman, a constitutional ban on abortion, gun rights, small government, low taxes, privatization of most current social safety-net programs, increased military spending, limitations on immigrant rights, the defeat of Barack Obama, return of government to conservative principals, and more.

There is much to be said in favor of some of the values promoted by the Summit. Many of the values are actually shared by nearly every American, conservative or liberal, though the promoters of the summit would like to claim exclusive ownership of all righteousness; portraying those not in their group as decadent, anti-American and, in the case of the current President, dangerous – not American at all.

This week, Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum spoke at their Summit. Other big name conservatives will likely follow in the next day or so, perhaps even Governor Mitt Romney. That is to be expected, of course. Liberal organizations invite liberal speakers; conservative organizations invite conservative speakers and, guess what? No one’s mind is ever changed. We divide ourselves in to Fox News people and MSNBC people and reinforce our prejudices by listening only to that which confirms our biases.

That state of affairs is deplorable, but we have come to accept it for what it is. It is the way we do politics in the “one nation, under God.” We do not expect “righteousness” from our media or our politicians or, sadly, even our Spiritual leaders. We do not “punish” those who lie to us, by withholding our support for them. Rather we excuse their lies as “less offensive” than the lies of those we oppose; as merely “fighting fire with fire.”

In November, if we choose to vote, we will have to make a choice between imperfect alternatives. But we do not have to support lies with our funds, with our viewership, with our applause, or with our endorsement – certainly not with our hearts and our souls. We do not have to wear the apparel of liars, put their bumper stickers on our cars, place their placards in our yards. We do not have to become card-carrying members of organizations (political parties, values organizations, even church and para-church organizations) that willfully disseminate untruth.

And certainly, when a group promotes itself as a “Values Summit,” we should expect it to either promote worthy values, or declare itself to value those things that most human beings believe to be valueless. (Even a “summit” of drug lords promotes values.)

When the crowd at a Values Summit stands and cheers at lies told a hundred times, and discredited a hundred times, by reputable fact-checking organizations, they are declaring to the world that they do NOT value truth and righteousness. When they approve, with their applause, the mis-quoting, and misrepresentation of their opponent’s words, they show that, for them, the end justifies the means. When they give assent to distorted facts and re-written history, they show no respect for the nation they call “exceptional.” When they value lies more than truth they have no right to ask God to “Bless America.” Whatever it takes to win, is their motto. They value an election, won with deception, purchased with millions, and achieved by collusion, more than their souls, which they have sold to gain it.

Of course, all that is said here, pointing to the inconsistency of conservatives, needs to be said to liberals as well. They, too, tolerate slipshod commercials and deceptive messages. But conservatives, in our time, are staking out their particular claim to righteousness in politics; their “Values” are, in their view, unimpeachable; approved by God. Well some of them may be. But if they are promoted by means not approved by God, “Values Voters” end up looking hypocritical and are a discredit to the God they claim to serve. They stand as proof that our nation is NOT exceptional; it is as corrupt as any other that has existed on earth.

It  could be argued – I think it is very close to being true – that Christian Conservatives in politics look no different, sound no different, and use methods no different than those they condemn in their opponents as demonic – a threat to the existence of the United States of America.

Instead of cheering the lies of politicians, those at the Values Summit Worship Service should be kneeling before the Christ they claim to revere – the one who said, “I am come to bear witness to the truth” – and pledging to make his standard of righteousness their own.

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