According to governor Rick Perry of Texas what America needs is prayer. We need to pray in order to restore our moral direction. And the people he wants to lead those prayers are conservative Evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Jews, or at least the good kind of Jews: observant, conservative Orthodox and Republican-voting, Palestinian/Islam bashing. They, unlike all those godless Democrats -- people like crotch-exposing Anthony Weiner -- will bring us back to God. And also help The Good Real Born-Again Americans take back America from the uppity "not one of us" black man in the White House.
Who are these moral prayer leaders who will beseech God to shine His favor on us once again?
They are the sort of people I used to be.
I remember my reaction when back in the mid-1980s I heard the first rumblings about the Boston Diocese's sex abuses before the scandals broke wide open. At that time I was still an Evangelical right wing anti-abortion leader. I had several friends who had recently converted or were about to convert to the Roman Catholic Church because it seemed like a haven of traditional morality to them.
Conditioned by years of poor-little-us Evangelical victim-think -- that blames everyone else the secular media, science, liberals etc., for our failings -- I assumed that somehow the priests and bishops were being "badmouthed" and had been set up by "Them."
This must be another wicked plot by the Liberal Elite, I thought, and the other enemies of the pro-life pro -- family values movement!
I remember talking over my sense of the bishops having been "set up" with my friend Thom Howard, a well-known Protestant author and convert to the Roman Catholic Church. (He lost his job teaching at Protestant Gordon College because he became a Roman Catholic.) What neither of us asked each other at the time was why both communities -- Evangelical and Roman Catholic -- were continually mired in sexual scandal and (as was even then becoming evident) criminal behavior. Nor did I wish to ask myself why I thought that conservative religionists like me had a right to "speak out" on moral sexual issues, as if my "kind" were somehow in a morally superior place.
The hypocrisy I participated in continues as I expose in my new book Sex, Mom, and God.
Roman Catholic bishops in North America have led the "moral" crusade against gay marriage and stem cell research with no sense of irony. And much of the abuse of children that took place worldwide was on Pope John Paul II's watch. And he did all he could to cover up Cardinal Law's activities in Boston, and even rewarded him with a plum assignment in Rome! Notwithstanding, a Vatican ceremony (early in 2011) moved John Paul II one step closer to "sainthood!"
Meanwhile Roman Catholic bishops -- while presiding over the bankrupting of their "church" from lawsuits and while fighting off prison sentences for themselves and/or their priests -- found time to denounce President Obama's health care reform, which aimed at helping 34 million uninsured poor people, as "proabortion."
And how were those moral "family values" Old Testament Jews Rick Perry so ardently supports as a leading "Christian Zionist" doing in their modern Levitical incarnation? (Perry was given the "Defender of Jerusalem" award. So Perry and his wife flew first class to Israel at more than $5,000 per ticket. The governor's security detail of four Department of Public Safety officers was also along for the trip.)
According to National Public Radio (to cite just one of scores of reports), in 2009 four ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Brooklyn were sued and/or arrested for abusing boys. As NPR reported, "That's a tiny fraction of the actual abuse, says Hella Winston, author of Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels. She says that in researching her book, she encountered dozens of alleged victims who told her sexual abuse is an open secret in the Hasidic community. But the community is so insulated and the rabbis are so powerful that few dare to come forward."
And according to the same story:
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says he has 10 active sexual abuse cases involving Orthodox Jews--including a school principal. . . . And Hynes says there could be many more. Yeshivas are private schools, which means they don't have to report accusations of sexual abuse to civil authorities.
"I've got no way to know if there's a pattern of concealing the conduct," he says.
Hynes says the Jewish leaders--like Catholic bishops--try to handle these affairs internally, through a rabbinical court. It's practice that infuriates him. "You have no business taking these cases to religious tribunals," Hynes says. "They are either civil or criminal in nature, or both. Your obligation is to bring these allegations to us and let us conduct the investigation."
And how are women treated by these most "observant" of "Real Believing Jews," as far right Evangelicals like Perry call them as opposed to those "secular Jews" or "liberal Jews" they don't like?
Esther Rachel Russell's 2006 documentary about domestic abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community, Shame, Shanda, and Silence, reveals a sad fact:
Orthodox Jewish women tend to stay with violent abusive partners. And abuse is rampant in this biblically patriarchal enclave of devotion to God.
As for the "moral authority" of the North American Evangelicals, one of their leading organizations and the organizers of the annual presidential prayer breakfast, the Family (or the Fellowship), ran a residential "ministry" for many years before it drew unwelcome media scrutiny in 2009 and 2010.
The Family specialized in housing and indoctrinating members of Congress in its Washington, D.C., C Street residence in order to "take back" the world for Jesus. The Family also had worked actively for years to influence both American politics and foreign leaders and had done so
with great "success."
Several leading Family members -- Senator John Ensign of Nevada, governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford, and former representative Chip Pickering of Mississippi -- were all found guilty of adultery.
This would be meaningless to anyone but their wives except for that all three defined their political careers by loudly advertising their so-called Christian family values. Sanford admitted to an affair with a woman in Argentina. Ensign admitted that his family had paid $96,000 in hush money to his former mistress and her family. Pickering is said to have conducted his adulterous affair within the walls of the Family's C Street complex. Then there was George Rekers, who played an important role in many of the most extreme Evangelical assaults on gay people's rights. His career started in 1982 with his publishing a homophobic "textbook," Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality. Rekers was a co-founder with James Dobson of the gay-bashing Family Research Council.
In 2010 Rekers was found to be "in a class by himself" when it came to sexual hypocrisy (as New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted).
A Baptist minister with a bent for "curing" homosexuality, sixty-year-old Rekers was caught by a Miami New Times reporter with a twenty-year-old male escort at Miami International Airport.
The "couple" was returning from a ten-day trip to London. Rekers's only mistake, he told Christianity Today magazine, was to hire a "travel assistant" without proper vetting. Rekers said, "[My assistant] did let me share the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, with many Scriptures in three extended conversations."*
Sex scandals seem to be the only actual interdenominational ecumenism that exists; perversity unites many Christian groups, as does their propensity to judge others. We've arrived at the point where I think I may (only half-jokingly) safely say that all Evangelical anti-gay activists and all conservative Roman Catholic bishops are probably closeted gays hiding behind their loud anti-gay public proclamations and/or that all these same "traditional family values" leaders will eventually be shown to have committed adultery and/or enabled child molesters -- when not calling press conferences to denounce "godless Liberals," gay rights, and stem cell research!
These "family values" Republicans, will gather in Texas on August 6 and be praying they can defeat President Obama, a family man, parental role model and education reformer in order to "save" America for Jesus... or at least for the Koch brothers.