"He who trusts in his riches will fall...
He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind."
When Hurricane Gustav tormented Republicans during their 2008 convention, one of the cancellations caused by the storm was a speech from outgoing President George W. Bush. He's the one who famously said he didn't need to ask his ex-president dad for advice because "there is a higher Father I appeal to."
Apparently that Father didn't find President Bush all that appealing. In fact, the storm's path shifted away from the convention immediately after his speech was cancelled. Hello, down there, is anybody listening?
This year's Republican National Convention is also being forced to shorten and change its schedule as a fearsome wind and rain bears down from the ocean. "[A] destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet." The theological world is ablaze with speculation about what might have motivated God to send a hurricane against the Republican National Convention for the second time in a row.
OK, maybe it's not ablaze with speculation, but it should be. After all, it was Republican preacher Pat Robertson who expressed the idea that hurricanes and storms are God's way of registering disapproval with human behavior. By that reasoning it's clear that the GOP has displeased the Supreme Being again mightily this year.
But why? Unlike some, I claim no special answers about the nature of ultimate reality or of the Deity, much less the specifics of His preferred policy proposals. But here are three possible sources for all this windborne wrath:
1. The GOP's Anti-Poor, Anti-Woman Poverty Plank
Politico obtained a draft version of the Republican Party's platform (available here and here), and it includes a section entitled "Creating a Culture of Hope: Raising Families Beyond Poverty." It begins with a false declaration -- that is to say, a violation of the Eighth Commandment, which condemns "bearing false witness against your neighbor" -- when it claims that the 1996 welfare "reforms" were a successful reform that moved lower-income people "from welfare to economic independence."
We now know that nearly 87 percent of the job gains for single mothers were due to other factors, not "welfare reform." Federal programs to help them find jobs were slashed, with the explanation that states would pick up the slack. Then state programs were slashed, too. Today only 27 percent of needy families are receiving the help they need. That's less than half the number that were being helped before all this "reform."
From The New York Times, which described the "desperate and sometimes illegal ways" mothers without assistance survive: "They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners -- all with children in tow."
Now the GOP wants to double down on these so-called "reforms." Having laid a foundation of lies, they're building a house of cruelty and neglect.
Recommended reading: Eighth Commandment; Matthew 25 ("As you do to the least of these...").
"I spoke to you in your prosperity,
But you said, 'I will not hear.'
This has been your manner from your youth,
That you did not obey My voice.
The wind shall eat up all your rulers"
2. That Reported Ban on Sharia Law
No theologian has offered conclusive evidence to suggest that a Supreme Being would Himself -- or Herself -- prefer any particular religion. But the GOP's reported "ban on Sharia law" would violate several injunctions that are common to all major religions.
First, such bans are based on falsehoods. We've already covered the Deity's position on that issue. When it comes to this issue, the first and greatest lie is that there is a conspiracy to impose Sharia law on the entire United States. That would be some trick for 2 or 3 million Muslims to pull off, considering the fact that they're outnumbered 300 or 400 to one.
The second lie is that "there are some areas of the country where Sharia law is already in effect." When pressed on this point, the demagogues and bigots -- and those they've frightened and misled into confusion -- admit there are none. They're only able to point to one or two examples, which prove empty upon examination. They usually describe a custody case in which a mother was overruled by "a Sharia court in Pakistan," but it's common practice for a judge to consider the rulings of another country's court, regardless of the faith that may predominate in that country. Or they'll cite examples in which two Muslim parties in a lawsuit agree to arbitration that's conducted within their community -- which happens in Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and other religious communities, as well.
They are playing on widespread misconceptions about Sharia law. Consider those horrific stonings, for example: Formal Islamic jurisprudence holds the Quran above all other oral and written traditions. The Quran explicitly states that it takes four eyewitnesses to the sexual act to prove adultery (where will you get that without a webcam?), and that men and women are to be punished equally, with 100 lashings. The same is true about genital mutilation, which appears nowhere in actual Sharia law.
To be fair, many uncivilized Muslims claim that such rulings are based on Sharia law. But to condemn all arbitrations based on these barbarities, for example, would be like condemning all Christian arbitration because some Christian preachers believe in witchcraft and want to execute gay people. (Sorry, Sarah Palin!)
In order to be unbiased, a ban on Sharia would also have to forbid judges from allowing arbitration in Christian church communities or those of any other faith. And we know that's not gonna happen.
Did you know? All schools of Islamic thought, even the most un-Quranic, tribal, and misogynistic of them, permit abortions at any point during pregnancy in order to protect a woman's health. That is more liberal than the official stance of the Republican Party. Awkward!
A national anti-Sharia law would probably be modeled on the one passed in Kansas, which states that it would "violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if (any) court, arbitration, tribunal or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States and Kansas constitutions, including, but not limited to, equal protection, due process, free exercise of religion, freedom of speech or press, and any right of privacy or marriage."
The Attorney General of Kansas tried to obtain the private medical records of women who sought an abortion. Kansas has no marriage equality law, and this law suppresses the free exercise of the Islamic religion. Know what that means?
It means that an honest reading of this law would forbid Kansas courts and agencies from using Kansas law in their deliberations.
From a base of falsehood, the GOP has set the wheels in motion for a policy whose true purpose is to foster hatred for those who look or act differently or follow a different faith. Christian theologians tell us that the Greek word filozenia or filoxenia is used to express the core Christian tenet of kindness and hospitality toward "strangers," those who background and beliefs are different from one's own -- a "fundamental tenet of the gospel," one such scholar called it.
That's not how they're playing it in Tampa this week.
Recommended reading: The story of the Good Samaritan.
3. The Potential Denial of Needed Health-Care Services to Children
"[A] tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet."
In one of its stranger passages, the GOP draft platform declares, "We support keeping Federal funds from being used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs."
This sentence could have been written by Scientologists, since they're known for their vehement opposition to mental health care in all forms. It may have been, for all we know. Regardless of its authorship, the targeting of "socio-emotional screening programs" is downright strange. The term "socioemotional develoment" was coined by psychologist Erik Erikson, who, as far as I know, has not yet been the subject of ideological attack by the far right.
The motivations for this statement may never become public. But the net effect of this odd passage, were it to become government policy, would be to deny much-needed mental health services to all but the most privileged and wealthy American children. It would also eliminate one of the few means by which society is able to find and protect children who are being physically and/or sexually abused by their parents.
Recommended reading: 1 Corinthians: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
Heavy rain and wind is expected to buffet conventioneers this week, but "we were told not to bring umbrellas," said a delegate. She said she'd been told that for security reasons, "we can't bring them into the convention hall."
lt would be unfair to this innocent delegate, who's undoubtedly a very nice person, to suggest that these words from Psalm 93 might have been directed against her: "They have taken crafty counsel against thy people ... So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm."
She's probably being misled, and anybody with any real power or influence will undoubtedly be kept warm and dry while she and the other "ordinary" delegates shiver in the rain. We wish her the best during the next few days.
But here's what worries us: What's it going to take to get the party leadership's attention if this doesn't work? Locusts?
We yield the floor for some closing words:
"They set up kings, but not by Me;
They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.
From their silver and gold
They made idols for themselves--
That they might be cut off ...
They sow the wind,
And reap the whirlwind."