Spiritual Hurricanes and an Aura of Unreality Surround GOP Convention

Michele Bachmann might want to lay off the Hurricane talk; you’d think she’d have learned her lesson after saying last August that Hurricane Irene represented a little divine wrath:

“Washington, D.C., you’d think by now they’d get the message,” Bachmann said at the time. “An earthquake, a hurricane, are you listening? The American people have done everything they possibly can, now it’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”

This year, rather than drawing the obvious conclusion that if Irene is a message from God that Isaac must be too, she turned to metaphorical hurricanes to make her point, telling prayer rally Sunday:

“At this moment in time we’re quite literally looking at a hurricane here in Florida. We’re looking at a political hurricane in this country. We are looking at a spiritual hurricane in our land. And it is time for each one of us to show up and suit up and stand up and realize that in this time and in this day we pour it out for Him.”

This cry is echoed in more secular fashion by Tea Partier Ted Cruz, who said at Faith and Freedom shindig, “You know, tidal waves often follow hurricanes. And in November, a tidal wave is coming.”

It’s kind of funny, because while a Washington Post editorial this morning says the Republican problem “is making party positions realistic enough to win over the public”  it may be making it zany enough to attract the votes of a shell-shocked Protestant base suddenly faced with the reality of voting for a Mormon.

I don’t think realism enters into it.

Of course it looks now as though God, having made his point and forcing a delay of the Republican National Convention, will spare Tampa. Chillingly, Isaac is following the exact path of Katrina.

But really, God can’t miss. No matter where he aims this one, he’s hitting a Republican: Rick Scott in Florida, Robert Bentley in Alabama, Phil Bryant in Mississippi, or Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. In Old Testament terms, this is a target rich environment for wrath-stuff.

I wonder whether Bachmann will suddenly decide hurricanes are acts of God after all should sinful New Orleans find itself in Isaac’s path, or whether, because Bobby Jindal can’t possibly have earned God’s wrath (he’s a prominent figure at this year’s convention), a storm will, for just this once, remain just a storm. Act of God storms only attack Democrats, after all. Well, that and innocent birds.

Only time will tell.

But wherever Isaac makes landfall, the Republicans are still set to nominate Mitt, though which Mitt they’ll get is anyone’s guess. Romney has already tried to remake himself into everyman’s everyman by telling us he loves Costco and pancakes. But commercials are one thing; it’s difficult to imagine Mitt making himself likeable in front of an actual camera and audience.

And besides, how does likable mesh with the wrath of God stuff coming out of the Republican platform? Isn’t that an uneasy partnership? Isn’t it hard to sell the wrath of God stuff while you’re smiling and pushing a cart at Costco for some bulk pancake mix?

The Republicans have mechanisms in place to nominate even if the convention doesn’t take place. Mitt might lose face time but losing face time might not be the worst thing that ever happened to Mr. Cold and Aloof. At least he can’t insult anyone’s raincoats, and you know if there’s a hurricane there’ll be lots of raincoats.

And spiritual hurricanes. But for those you’ll want barf bags, not raincoats.

The thing is, nobody would have any need to fear or worry about a spiritual hurricane that embodied the teachings of Jesus, as Thomas Jefferson knew well, calling Jesus’  actual teachings sublime. Bachmann’s aberrochristian dogma? Not so much.

But think about a spiritual hurricane embodying these tenets: love your enemies and turn the other cheek. Not much to fear from a Republican attack on the Constitution and your religious freedoms if all they’re doing is loving their enemies and turning their other cheeks. If they preached what Jesus preached, and more importantly, if they preached to who Jesus preached – the poor.

The Republican spiritual hurricane could be a force for good, rather than for the evil it represents. Think about a Republican platform that contains the following injunction from Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42):

“You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on he cheek, turn the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give him your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Wow, that’s about as far from Republican political theology – and their platform – as you can get.

Love your enemies…what a novel concept.

Wrath of God is so much more fun.

And these public displays of piety Republicans are so prone to…why do the Republicans, the party of Jesus, like to disobey Jesus and pray like hypocrites? These are Jesus’ words, after all (Matt. 6:5-6):

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

In New Testament scholar Geza Vermes’ words, for Jesus, “personal piety was paramount.”

Jesus didn’t tell them to pray for hurricanes to disrupt the Democratic National Convention. He did not teach them to embrace wrath but forgiveness: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Ouch. I’m not a Christian but that doesn’t sound good for the Republicans.

But you won’t hear this from Michele Bachmann or from any other Republican holy man or woman. Even the Old Testament has tender moments of love, forgiveness, and charity toward others, but they skip right over these passages and stock their spiritual hurricane with all the wrath they can find.

As Vermes wrote: “The main religious and moral attributes of Jesus are set out in the Beatitudes In this manifesto, admittance into the Kingdom is promised to the poor, the hungry and the thirsty for justice, the generous and the merciful, the irenic, those who are prepared to sacrifice everything (Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-26).

As I’ve asked here before, when was the last time you heard a Republican politician so much as mention the Beatitudes? And the poor? Mitt’s plan for the poor is that they already have a safety net; we don’t have to worry about the poor.

You can’t get further from Jesus than that. In fact, in all Jesus’  message of love, the wrathful words are reserved for the rich – like Mitt, in point of fact.

The reward Jesus has planned for Mitt, Michele Bachmann doesn’t want to talk about.

But I don’t think anyone would complain too much about a  spiritual hurricane built around the Beatitudes. So if you want to pour yourself out for Him, Michele, how about you actually bring his actual words into the equation, instead of insisting your poisonous tongue represents the will of God?

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