Newt Gingrich’s recent comments to a right-wing religious audience that “We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism” have been getting lots of coverage, and rightly so. What worries me more, however, are his comments immediately before and after the “paganism” line: that the ACLU is a “hateful, anti-religious system” aimed at driving God out of America, and that the Christian response to the rise of Paganism is first of all a spiritual challenge.
We just had a taste of this “spiritual challenge” last Fall, during the heated last days of the presidential campaign. Does anyone still remember the rhetoric? Now we have had the gunning down of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial, the cold-blooded murder of a pro-choice doctor, and anti-abortion radical Randall Terry calling a press conference warning that our new president’s policies make more fundamentalist violence in this country “inevitable.”
Gus DiZerega does a great job of summarizing the right-wing terrorist attacks in the U.S. that have happened in just the past year. There is a pattern here that we are not yet used to seeing, let alone acknowledging. This “spiritual challenge” that Newt Gingrich just invoked is a fundamentalist’s dream: a Christian holy war that gives license for far-right ideologues to attack not just individuals with whom they disagree, but the very institutions of our democratic, free society.
There is still considerable resistance in the mainstream media to reporting seriously on this disturbing trend, even after the release of the 2007 Homeland Security report which warned of right-wing extremist violence specifically. But make no mistake, it is here, and it needs to be called out by as many people as possible.
Newt calling the ACLU “anti-religious” may be his attempt to divert the rabid flock away from the abortion arena and onward to attacking institutions which uphold civil liberties. What really baffles me, though, is why Newt Gingrich has jumped on this bandwagon at all.
Perhaps it is just a cynical ploy to sell more books that had Newt joining forces last week with Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and the wacko fringe of the Republican Party. It certainly can’t be a serious effort to revive the party or his political career, since by all accounts the far-right wing is a small and dwindling demographic that will never win a national election. And Newt Gingrich is nothing if not cynical and self-serving.
Here is my take away from this whole sordid affair: there will be inflamed rhetoric on both sides. The more Gingrich and others threaten various religious groups and organizations, the more people will start to pay attention to the afore-mentioned trend. Hopefully this will result in prison terms for people guilty of terror, murder, and treason. Meanwhile, it is important to remember that the culture war they are still fighting is essentially over. They lost it, and soundly. What we are seeing is a vestigial effortâ€”though obviously prone to escalating violence. But for now, they are really just poor losers. Very poor losers.
And while we need to speak up and make sure their terror campaigns are thwarted, on the whole our energy is best spent moving forward with the long task of rebuilding the nation. Let’s get Sotomayor confirmed, enact some much-needed social change legislation, regulate the financial industry, right some of the heinous wrongs of recent years, and most of all bolster our education system so that the ignorance which breed this kind of hatred is minimized. Oh yeah, and let’s keep religion out of politics in this country, okay?