Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Disavowal Movement Resurgent
So, I'm hearing on the internets that liberals had better disavow Grayson's Taliban ad or risk being seen as hypocrites when we complain about the other side doing it. All I can say is, "Oh dear, not that." (And I have never been much for the bi-annual "disavowal ritual" in general. You can look it up.)
Ever since Jesse Helms ran this ad and Daddy Bush ran this one I've haven't given the moral dimension of attack ads much thought at all. They are part of American politics and you can rail against them all you want, but they aren't going anywhere. Fretting about such things is the province of very upright, highly moral liberals who believe that it is better to lose than to run ads which sink to the other side's level. I guess I just don't think ads are more important than keeping corporate sponsored theocrats from being in positions of power, so we will have to agree to disagree.
At this point in the United States it is permissible for Republicans to attack Democrats as treasonous, Godless/Muslim socialists and compare them to Hitler and Stalin but Democrats are only allowed to attack Republicans for their differences in policy. Can we see the asymmetry here? Is it any surprise that they have dominated politics for the past 30 years? Sure, every once in a while there are moments when their act gets old and the nation will look for hope and change rather than fear and loathing, but let's just say that their willingness (and institutional support) will give them the advantage most of the time.
As for Webster, whether you call him the "T" word or not he's a theocrat --- the real thing:
Let's hope some of Gothards more archaic "old testament" views aren't among them:
Speaker Has Strong Ties to Institute
by Peter Wallsten, T. Christian Miller, St. Petersburg Times, February
Last summer, Daniel Webster journeyed to South Korea on a religious
mission, meeting with the country's president and other political and spiritual leaders.
He was joined by Bill Gothard, the head of a $30-million Christian evangelical group.
Four months after the trip, Webster ascended to one of the most powerful positions in Florida: speaker of the state House of Representatives.
He brings with him 14 years of experience with Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles, where Webster has not only attended seminars, but also taught classes and even made an instructional video that raised money for the institute.
The group preaches a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the belief that women should submit to their husbands' authority. With programs for lawmakers, judges, doctors, juvenile delinquents and home- schooling courses, the institute's reach is wide. It says that 2.5-million people around the world have participated in its programs.
Webster is an enthusiastic supporter. His six children learn at home, taught by his wife, Sandy, using the institute's curriculum. The family, which also is active in its Orlando Baptist church, has participated in numerous institute seminars over the years.
Webster said he does not want to force his beliefs on other people.
"I've never tried to say this is what's right for everybody,'' he said. ""All I've said is, "Here's what works for me.' ''
Webster said he will not let the institute's teachings dictate his legislative agenda in the House, where he is the first Republican speaker in 122 years.
Still, the institute is attracting increasing interest in Tallahassee. Webster has hired four House staffers whom he met through the institute, although Webster's press secretary, Kathy Mears, pointed out that hundreds of people work for Webster. Mears herself has participated in institute courses.
Over the years, Webster and state Rep. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, have recruited at least eight other Florida lawmakers to the program, including Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa, and Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.
But Webster said there is no connection between Gothard's seven Bible-based principles and the five principles Webster is using to rank every measure the House will consider this year...
Under the session titled “Six Purposes, Principles, and Keys To Fulfillment In The Marriage Relationship,” he told married couples to abstain from physical relations: 1. During the wife’s menstrual cycle; 2. Seven days after the cycles; 3. 40 days after the birth of a son; 4. 80 days after the birth of a daughter; and 5. The evening prior to worship.
As religious right expert Sarah Posner (who disapproves of using the word Taliban and thinks Grayson erred in making the ad) writes this morning:
I think it's premature for Politico to say the ad "backfired" since, you know, the election hasn't happened yet, but Posner's point about Factcheck missing the forest for the trees is correct. The truth is that Webster does adhere to the view that women should submit to their husbands.
As Julie reported yesterday, Florida Democrat Alan Grayson ran an ad against his Republican opponent, Dan Webster, calling him "Taliban Dan," and pointing to statements he made to the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) about wives' submission to their husbands -- a topic covered authoritatively by RD contributor Kathryn Joyce in her book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.Factcheck.org asserts that the quotes were taken out of context, claiming Webster was saying not to pick and choose Bible verses, and was pointing out that he doesn't pick and choose only the ones about wifely submission.
But Joyce tells me Factcheck.org misunderstands Webster's statements, even in context:
While the Grayson campaign can be taken to task for taking Webster's comment out of context, in the larger context, they're correct. Grayson's campaign argued that Webster seemed to be supporting submission in his comments to an audience of conservative men, whom he directed to pray that they would better fulfill their biblical duty to love their wives, and leave prayers about women's submission to their wives. However, the emphasis of these remarks, as those familiar with Christian rhetoric could recognize, is not on the optional nature of wives' submission. Wifely submission is part of an often-unbalanced equation to Christians who subscribe to "complementarian" or "patriarchal" marriage roles, where men must "love" and women "obey." Saying that a woman should pray for God's guidance in submission, if she wants to, is not leniency, but rather standard evangelical language that emphasizes individuals must obey biblical mandates regardless of how others around them behave. So, Webster is saying, men must be accountable to God for their responsibility to love their wives regardless of whether she submits -- that they must pray to do right, even if she doesn't.
However, the much more relevant application of this principle on following God's orders despite your circumstances is on women. Submission is a contentious and tricky issue even within conservative evangelical churches. Most churches promoting submission make certain to couple demands for submissive wives with those for loving, servant-leader husbands. But at the end of the day, it's women who bear the brunt of the principle; their obligations are to God, not to a husband who may or may not keep his end of the contract. Accordingly, the message is impressed by countless women's ministries and leaders that women must continue submitting even when their husband doesn't show love, because they owe their obedience, above all, to God. In circles that take submission seriously -- as does any organization associated with Bill Gothard -- that's what wives' options really look like.
Politico claims this morning that the Grayson ad "backfired." If it did, it was because Grayson -- and more fundamentally, Factcheck.org -- failed to grasp what was crucial about this story.
Now perhaps it's considered quaint for "exceptional" good Americans to hold pre-modern views like that while it's weird and creepy for evil Afghan Muslims, but it's fairly hard for me, as a secular feminist, to see much difference between them --- or frankly care about the nuances. The delicacy people have toward using the word "Taliban" strikes me as a sort of self-defeating PC that once again takes religion --- like patriotism --- off the menu for criticism.
What I hear most often about all this is that it's wrong to call fellow Americans the same thing we call "the enemy." But these people make it clear every day that they certainly consider secular, liberal feminists like me the enemy and they make no bones about it. Being as I'm not a follower of Jesus, the whole "turn the other cheek" thing doesn't really resonate with me.
I believe people who hold beliefs like Daniel Webster to be unfit for public office. They do not believe in the separation of church and state and if elected they will work to make Dominionist laws. Yes, he has a right to hold his views and he has a right to run. But he doesn't have a right to expect people to be polite and deferential about his extreme fundamentalist views.
digby 9/28/2010 11:30:00 AM