Money Changers in the Temple
Someone called me a communist this week.
Pop Moore was a teacher and principal at Nikolaevsk, a Russian village near Homer, from 1970 until 1992. My mother taught school there. I grew up hearing stories from Old Believers who had escaped Soviet communism, about barns full of men, women and children burned to death for not renouncing their faith. I saw handwritten holy books that had been strapped to the heads of men swimming across rivers into China to escape, before China went communist.
I was about as tall as the post office counter when a clerk said to Pop, “You still working with those commies? I sure am tired of my tax money going to that school out there.”
Pop reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of change. “This should cover your contribution to their education.” He turned to leave, stopped and said, “They’d be on the front line to fight communism coming here. They actually know what it is.”
The Old Believers knew communists didn’t believe in the separation of church and state — Russian churches had to serve the state. I eventually came to understand that the separation of church and state is what protects us from a government that wants to tell us whether or how to worship.
Our founders wanted to make sure we never had an American version of the Church of England. Theocracies are not all that different from communism. They are every bit as controlling. A nonexistent threat of theocracy has stampeded state lawmakers across the country to introduce “No Sharia Law” bills — a paranoid fantasy of Muslim bogeymen under every bed.
It drives me crazy when politicians use religion to push their agendas, or when the venal twist faith for political expediency or the ignorant to support their prejudices.
As a frightening example of the latter, consider Arkansas Republican Rep. Loy Mauch, who wrote, “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it?”
I guess the exodus of slaves from Egypt wasn’t enough of an anti-slavery story for him. (I’m no Bible expert, but wasn’t there something about the Nile turning to blood, clouds of locusts, dead first-born children and a call to “Let my people go!”)
I learned in Mrs. Harris’ Sunday school class about the day Jesus walked into a temple where the investment bankers and Wall Street tycoons of the time were ripping people off. Jesus got mad.
I loved that story because I always thought getting angry was a sin. And good thing, because I’m experiencing some righteous anger.
Last week an unholy alliance between church and state had a party. Gov. Sean Parnell headlined a benefit for a shape-shifting “religious” organization that spends most of its time obsessing over free-range uteruses and “curing” the gays. The melding of Alaska’s “religious right” with its “fiscal conservatives” is now a done deal. (Personally, I don’t find the religious right to be either, and there’s nothing conservative about giving away $2 billion to oil companies in exchange for a guarantee of precisely zero new oil production.)
A poster of the Koch brothers greeted attendees. Jim Minnery of the Alaska Family Council and its new overtly political arm, Alaska Family Action, explained that the two organizations had identical boards and were both run by Minnery. Now, with a flip of the light switch they can go from “religious” group to “political” group.
Tricky! Hey, 38 other states had figured it out and now ours has too.
The event was to raise money to buy access to a new database sold by the reactionary Koch Brothers. The database actually marries church records and Internet shopping histories to better target voters likely to oppose — in the present case — the Alaska Senate Bipartisan Working Group. Minnery explained that this little invasion of privacy was for “the Glory of God and to get conservatives in power.”
The governor and Minnery want nothing to do with Sharia law, unless it’s their own flavor (which of course is the way every theocracy operates). All these two lack are the turbans.
So they’ll be buying and selling your personal information to try to get you to vote against senators who have risked their political careers to protect the interests of every Alaskan.
Parnell and Minnery are inviting the money-changing Koch Brothers right into the temple, doing all they can to ensure that the rich get richer at the expense of the rest of us.