A bunch of “priests” descended on Capitol Hill the other day looking for demons to slay, and no, this is neither metaphor nor hyperbole: they claimed they came to drive out Satan. The conclave was organized by crackpot pseudo-historian David Barton‘s Wallbuilders and the anti-LGBT Jefferson Gathering.
That unscrupulous scoundrel Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) even let the hypocrites into the U.S. Senate chamber, our Senate chamber, and they duly violated it. Don’t miss the irony here that the Wallbuilders are tearing down the Wall of Separation so cherished by Thomas Jefferson.
Dave Kistler of the North Carolina Pastors Network said,
“We got on our knees … and it sounded almost like a labor room as people were crying out to God for the revival that Chaplain Black believes is coming and that we believe is coming.”
A labor room? It’s hard to know where to begin.
And he was as giggly as a kid who’d just had forbidden sex:
“To do that in the Senate chamber was an absolutely astounding opportunity, and again it puts an exclamation point on the Senate chaplain’s assessment that revival is on the way and may indeed begin in the halls of Congress.”
Chaplain Black, by the way, is U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who apparently prophesied a revival will sweep the nation. Well, there are false prophets everywhere. Why not in the Senate chamber?
The timing of this unholy intervention seems suspect, given that in just a few short days “Old Scratch” himself, in the form of Donald J. Trump, bereft of even a hint of moral fiber, will be infesting the place through his lieutenant, Mike Pence. Not to mention the paradox of dedicated servants of mammon somehow driving out the master they serve. You know what Jesus said about that.
The mind boggles.
The Founding Fathers warned against mixing politics and religion. Yet Dale Walker of the Tennessee Pastor’s Network proclaimed,
“If God rules in the halls of legislation, it’s the pulpit’s benefit of being there, being on site and standing up and speaking the law of God to our elected leaders and praying for them. It’s been the absence of the pulpits is the reason why Satan has ruled in the halls of legislation.”
What is interesting about this nonsense is that this “Congressional-Clergy Town Hall” was organized by Wallbuilders and the Jefferson Gathering and Thomas Jefferson told William Short in an 1820 letter that,
“[T]he serious enemies are the priests of the different religious sects, to whose spells on the human mind its improvement is ominous.”
You see the problem if the Religious Right doesn’t.
So here we have a couple of groups claiming ties to Jefferson while Jefferson’s own words condemn what they’re doing. It wasn’t Satan who was the enemy for Jefferson, but the priests. The priests who are now claiming to drive out Satan.
David Barton calls his group “Wallbuilders” and it almost seems Jefferson had him in mind when he wrote, a year later,
“The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce its Founder an impostor. Had there never been a commentator, there never would have been an infidel…”
Now while you can agree or disagree with what Jefferson said about Jesus versus the Christian clergy, that doesn’t change what he said, and what he said condemns what Barton’s group was doing on The Capitol: a Satanic frolic with the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Trent Franks, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who is a Barton disciple, Republicans all.
Jefferson told Short in that same letter, “They pant to restablish by law that holy inquisition, which they can now only infuse into public opinion.”
An inquisition is exactly what the Religious Right aims for, one aimed at all those who do not fit into the category of “white Christian Americans.” And a certain type of Christian only, as Rick Santorum, who doesn’t believe in separation of church and state, has reminded us.
So the Religious Right clergy descended on Capitol Hill to drive out Satan, but when the dust cleared, Satan remained: a Senate and a House full of Republicans determined to support an evangelical inquisition against everyone who isn’t like them, be they women, Muslims, gays or just other Christians who’ve bothered to actually read the Bible.
The First Amendment bans the establishment of a state religion yet this is precisely the notion Republicans in thrall to the Religious Right continue to foster, mocking Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers who opposed mixing religion and politics.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.