Bring It On!

Winning With Faith Cards

May 20th, 2005 | by Jet Netwal |

There are blogs that I read because of the writer’s intellectual prowess, and then there are blogs I read because the writer’s got chops, brings the funny and knows the craft as well as the material. I read Brother Kenya’s Paradigm for both reasons; the fact that he writes the best headlines in the blogsphere is just a bonus coupon.

According to self proclamation, Brother Kenya’s just a guy in a hair shirt trying to make his way through life without filing an insurance claim. Brother Kenya’s alter ego, Kevin Brennen, is the author of Parts Unknown (William Morrow, 2003; HarperCollins paperback, 2004).

So, without further ado, Bring It On is happy to host both the prowess and the chops of Brother Kenya, this week’s guest author.

Hiya kids.

You know how it is when you’re playing poker, and you see a couple of kings in your hand, or queens or jacks, and you think, "I’m gonna win!"? You bet your heiny off until it’s time to show your cards. Then, Come to papa!

Sometimes, though, the other guy has a six-high flush. Damn.

An awful lot of what’s going on politically now is swirling around "faith cards." The Newsweek story. Judicial nominations. Culture of life. Jeez, even tax policy (see the Right Rev. Chan Chandler, electioneering from the pulpit in violation of IRS rules). There’s a faith angle to all of them.

Take Newsweek, for example. It’s important to the war effort that people of the Muslim faith understand that the Christians running this operation and interrogating Islamic prisoners, killing, I’m afraid, a lot of innocent Muslims too, respect Islam. This is — you must know it — a purely political stance. As warriors, we don’t respect their faith. We attack mosques if we have to, for godsakes, and I don’t call that respect where I come from. Our soldiers refer to Arabs as "hajis" and bring Christmas (Jesus Christ’s birthday) to the little Muslim kids. In fact, most Christians think Muslims are goin’ straight to hell because they’re not Christians (and for that matter, some of my dearest Christian friends think I’m goin’ straight to hell).

In the Newsweek story, the White House has played a faith card. Might have won that hand too.

Judicial nominations. Let us not forget that it wasn’t very long ago that Bill Frist answered the summons to appear at an evangelical rally, shall we call it, in which the rhetoric was positively radioactive with the idea that "people of faith" were being discriminated against, kept out of their God-assigned roles as federal circuit court judges. Obstructionist Democrats are against "people of faith"! By the sound of it, you’d think "people of faith" are being packed into cattle cars and schlepped to hidden reeducation camps, where they’re exposed to Nietzsche and halfway decent jazz.

A strong hand being played. Well, a daring one, anyway. High stakes. We don’t know yet whether it’s a winner.

The more I think about it, though, the more I see that faith isn’t what it appears to be, in the political realm at least. Faith here is a poison-tipped arrow used in the battle for power, because that’s what is really at stake in our current political free-for-all. Power. The Republicans are making a play for extreme power, permanent one-party rule, and, as has been discussed on the left of the blogosphere, they’re behaving as if they don’t need to worry about future elections. Scary stuff. By playing the faith card (rigged voting machines aside), they’ve figured out how to get people to vote against their own interests (Hi, Kansas!), to forget the fundamentals on which the republic was built (separation of church and state, checks and balances), to hate people who are not like them (gays, immigrants, Muslims), and even to question accepted scientific principles like evolution (Hi again, Kansas!). They’ve somehow made a religious majority — Protestants, for the most part — feel as if they’re under attack and their values at risk of being marginalized if not wiped out completely.

Man, that’s some hand they got there.

But just as face cards don’t always mean you’ll win at poker, faith isn’t likely to win every time in politics either. It’s being overplayed. The more it’s used, the less resonance it has, the less sincerity. Because faith, in the end, is personal, precious to those who have it, and shouldn’t be tainted by the politics of power.

I don’t know. Maybe Christo-Americans will eventually understand that the loudest voices of faith, especially when coming from men with presidential ambitions or those with their hands on the machinery of power, belong to charlatans.

  1. 17 Responses to “Winning With Faith Cards”

  2. By Hammertime on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    I thought this post was going to be about Magic the Gathering. Just another “We are all people of faith, but keep yours to yourself” rant. Darn.

    Yeah, that Billy Graham guy. Charlatan-presidential-candidate-with-his-hands-on-the-machinery-of-power.

    Oh, and we know Frist has about as much chance as I do of winning the nomination. Acutally, I am more likely to do it, methinks…

  3. By Joseph (OK Democrat) on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Good post. Religion has served the collective RepubliCON for a long time now as an ace in the hat. It will not always be so. For one thing, eventually even the slowest thinkers will realize that the promises of Bushism are not panning out. Someday, even the most successful Bushist will realize that the yare becoming repetitive, running out of ideas. Someday.

  4. By Craig R. Harmon on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    We attack mosques if we have to, for godsakes, and I don’t call that respect where I come from.

    On this issue, I have a different point of view. It shows no disrespect at all to the Muslim faith to attack a Mosque that is being used as a military base/ammo dump. It is the militant Muslims who are disrespecting and defiling their holy place. Once they have done that, we are doing nothing more than attacking another military target. Well, at least according to international law and conventions that you guys like to quote so often against Bush and our military.

    The Republicans are making a play for extreme power, permanent one-party rule

    This I just don’t see. There will be, after all, another election in 2006, another in 2008, and on and on. Nothing that the Republicans want to do could even possibly result in permanent one-party rule. Please, somebody, show me where I’m wrong.

  5. By Tom Harper on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Great post. It’ll be interesting to see who ends up the winner in some of these hands.

    The Terri Schiavo dog and pony show was one hand they lost, hands down.

    The filibuster / judicial nominees / “people of faith” spin: at some point the public has to start seeing through this drivel. My favorite gimmick is their “straight up or down vote” rhetoric. It sounds like such a wide-eyed innocent plea, like Oliver Twist asking Fagan “please Sir, can we have some more?” “All we’re asking for is a straight up or down vote.” Puhlease! They’re trying to change the rules in the 4th quarter with 58 seconds left in the game, and they put this pleading, cloying spin on it. They have to lose this hand.

    And those poor picked-on Christians. I feel really bad every time I see one of those “Christians to the back of the bus” signs, or see yet another employment ad with “No Christians Need Apply.”

  6. By The Bastard on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Don’t forget the “No dogs or Christians allowed on the grass!” signs I see everywhere.

    The problem is that the radical reds (states) in this country aren’t playing with a full deck to begin with.

  7. By JollyRoger on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    The Jesusistani is a small minority, overall. But others of faith do not do what the Jesusistani never fails to do, as in-they don’t vote in a lot of elections.

    Pat Robertson has been playing the local power-grab card for years-he sends his Jesusistani wingerbots to the polls for any and all little side-elections, because Pat understands that he can make his little Jesusistan fringe much larger in influence by doing so. And so he has.

    If you want to fight this, then you have to do what they do-you never, ever miss an election. People should not forget that the “winner” of the 2004 Presidential election was “nobody,” by a margin of around 30,000,000 votes. If we could have gotten maybe 1 in 10 of those people into an election booth, we’d be talking about something different today.

  8. By pia on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Great post Brother Kenya!

    Yeah, it’s a bitch knowing that since I’m not Christian, I’m doomed. Keeps me awake every night wondering why I can’t declare Jesus as my saviour.

    Thing is people of my religion do vote–in very large numbers that are disproptionate to our numbers in the general population. But whenever we make up the majority of a voting population–they do this thing called “gerrymandering” or changing the election district so that our impact will be lessened.

    Or in the case of Florida 2000, people gleefully call us “stupid,” which is absurd because the rest of the time the God fearing Christians bitch about how we’ve taken over the media, banks and every industry they can think of.

    Maybe we just become stupid when we’re over 80.

    Then again I live in Manhattan where almost all my friends are of some Christian denomination and not one has ever tried to convert me–and almost everybody votes Democratic.

    Now even large districts on Long Island–which had been gerrymandered vote Democratic but as it’s in New York, our vote gets watered down through that marvelous process called the electoral college.

    Sometimes we feel that we vote in presidental elections just to show that we really do care about being good citizens. But really what’s the point of voting knowing that our vote doesn’t count? And that instead of counting, our vote will be held against us?

    2005 democracy in action. It’s a marvelous thing to watch disintegrate.

    We can be “people of faith,” but like Muslims, it’s the wrong faith.

    When did America become a country where there are “right” and “wrong” faiths?

  9. By ken grandlund on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Once the “non-correct” versions of Christianity are attacked by the “correct” versions of Christianity, the religious-political cadre of American politics will begin to crumble.

    Long before that thought, those whose Christian dogmas don’t match the zealots currently holding the reins of power will begin to rub the sand from their eyes and take back their faith for themselves and keep it where it belongs…in their minds and hearts and out of national politics.

    At least…that’s my delusional hope.

  10. By Brother Kenya on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Lots of great, thoughtful comments. Thanks for reading! Just to sum up, though, let me add that it’s the way faith is being used that bugs me, not faith itself. Once upon a time you could rile people up invoking race. This feels like that.

    As for permanent one-party rule… Controlling the mechanism of elections is one element. The secretaries of state for Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004) were both co-chairs of the Bush/Cheney campaign. Both were crucial figures. Both did what they had to do for Bush. Now, in the senate, steps are being taken to void long-standing rules in favor of the majority. I don’t think it’s a great leap to foresee more of this, which will eventually make it very hard for Dems to regain power.

  11. By Napolean on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    This has been the problem with christianity right from the begining: Except for the resurection as a whole Christians have never been able to agree on exactly what to believe and how to worship. It led to two councils of Nicea, followed by the reformation, followed by countless reformations on the reformation first in Europe and later in America, and presently the split seems to be over whether or not one is evangelical. One persons true reading of the scripture is another persons heresy until the voices have piled up like a tower of babble. And this is exactly the reason the framers of the constitution created the separation of church and state to begin with. They knew the church is not a solid foundation on which to build a civilization because the landscape is forever changing.

  12. By JollyRoger on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    Actually, Jesusistanis have already begun attacks on “incorrect” faiths within even Christian denominations, like certain flavors of the Episcopal Church, as an example, or Anglicans.

    And the things they have to say about Unitarians are enough to make you cry.

  13. By Dr. Forbush on May 20, 2005 | Reply

    We have a long tradition of using religious buildings for miltary operations. Remember the Alamo?

  14. By Craig R. Harmon on May 20, 2005 | Reply


    Did anyone blame Mexico for attacking the Alamo because it was a religious building? I don’t know here, just asking. Anyway, I’m not up on that aspect of ouu history.

    Brother Kenya, the Florida and Ohio thing I get. Am I to suppose that Republicans are the lone offenders? Have you followed Wisconsin…specifically the problems that have been uncovered by the Milwaukee Journal? It was only a Governor’s race, did you notice the problems in Washington State? What we need is a much more open elections process that is less open to fraud from both parties and more open to accurate verification.

  15. By Jet on May 21, 2005 | Reply

    Craig, I agree that both sides are guilty of election shenanigans. I grew up near Chicago in the 60’s…nuff said.

    Transparent elections would go a long way toward healing the rift of mistrust between the two major parties. It won’t fix it, but it the best way to begin.

  16. By Keith Eubanks II on May 21, 2005 | Reply

    You’re over-rated. What was all that crap about craft?

  17. By Brother Kenya on May 21, 2005 | Reply

    I’ll consider that a cry for help.

  18. By Craig R. Harmon on May 21, 2005 | Reply

    Jet, yeh, that RJDaily Sr. could sure run a political machine, couldn’t he? Some say he was responsible for swinging the election for JFK. In any case he could sure deliver the “dead and buried” vote, not to mention the “no, I don’t want my legs broken” vote.

    I grew up in a South Suburb of Chicago.

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