One reason the Republicans won on Tuesday is because many of their supporters have already given up on this world and are waiting for the next. I know, I used to be one of them.
Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of sixteen novels (so far) represents everything that is most deranged about religion. It also is a reason and symptom of the hysteria that grips so many "conservatives" in the Republican Party. Frankly: to borrow from Jon Stewart they do believe that these are the "End Times" not just "hard times."
My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the Religious Right. My mother Edith was also a spiritual leader, not the mere power behind her man, which she was. Mom was a formidable and adored religious figure whose books and public speaking, not to mention biblical conditioning of me, directly and indirectly shaped millions of lives and ruined quite a few too.
For a time I joined my Dad in pioneering the Evangelical anti-abortion Religious Right movement. In the 1970s and early 80s when I was in my twenties I evolved into an ambitious, "successful" religious leader/instigator in my own right.
I changed my mind for reasons I describe in my book Patience With God (just published in paperback). I no longer ride around with the likes of Mike Huckabee (who named my Dad's fundamentalist books his favorites) "saving" America for God, nor am I a regular on religious TV and radio these days.
I still see a religious connection in public policy though that I think a lot of commentators miss -- for instance, that lots of the energy behind this mid-term election came from the ghosts of the Religious Right.
The Left Behind novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an "End Times" cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind wall paper, screen savers, children's books, and video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, adopting "Christ-centered" home school curricula, fearing higher education, embracing rumor as fact, and learning to love hatred for the "other," as exemplified by a revived anti-immigrant racism, the murder of doctors who do abortions, and possibly even a killing in the Holocaust Museum.
And now that the "death panel" republicans who also claimed Obama is the Antichrist are in power, maybe its time to take a look at the religious insanity that beats at the heart of their movement.
No, I am not blaming Jenkins and LaHaye's product line for murder or racism or any other evil intent or result. What I am saying is that unless you take the time to understand the End Times folks you will never "get" the mid-term election result.
Feeding the paranoid delusions of people on the fringe of the fringe contributes to a dangerous climate that may provoke violence in a few individuals. It's also one of the big reasons that the nutty fringe is now the "center." If you believe the Bible is literal and true and that this is the "End" then the crazies look sane and the sane look crazy. Welcome to the new congress.
And convincing folks that Armageddon is on the way, and all we can do is wait, pray, and protect our families from the chaos (or from the first black president) that will be the "prelude" to the "Return of Christ," is perhaps not the best recipe for political, economic, or personal stability, let alone social cohesion. Glenn Beck cashes in on this when he sells gold on TV and survivalist gear.
But this End Times cult may also not be the best philosophy on which to build American foreign policy! The momentum toward what amounts to a whole subculture seceding from the union (in order to await "The End") is irrevocably prying loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and their fellow citizens.
Enter the "new" Tea Party candidates.
The evangelical/fundamentalists/Republican Far Right -- and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of President Obama in 2008 and now in the mid-term lashing out, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then dominant Republican Party -- are in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. .
As I explain in my book Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion
Revelation was the last book to be included in the New Testament. It
was included as canonical only relatively late in the process after a
heated dispute. The historic Churches East and West remain so suspicious
of Revelation that to this day it has never been included as part of
the cyclical public readings of scripture in Orthodox services. The book
of Revelation is read in Roman and Anglican Churches only during
Advent. But both Rome and the East were highly suspicious of the book.
The West included the book in the lectionary late and sparingly. In
other words, the book of the Bible that the historical Church found most
problematic is the one that American Evangelicals latched on to like
flies on you know what.
Given that Revelation is now being hyped as the literal -- even desired -- roadmap to Armageddon and an American End Times "future" controlled by Republican crazies who don't even believe we have a future(!), it's worth pausing to note that it's nothing more than a bizarre pastoral letter that was addressed to seven specific churches in Asia at the end of the first century by someone (maybe John or maybe not) who appears to have been far from well when he wrote it. In any case, the letter was not intended for use outside of its liturgical context, not to mention that it reads like Jesus on acid.