Pharisees tinkering with time stamps

It's been quite a week for Republicans, both in nationally and in our own dear state of Texas. They waved the banner for the rule of law, which is very important to Republicans. The rule of law is essential to America and to Christianity itself. It’s at the heart of the Old Testament.

This is why the Republicans have been so keen to keep those indiscriminate, wanton fraudulent voters from the polls. You know, the poor blacks without drivers licenses who can't get off work and can't afford to pay for transportation to get to the polls anyway. And in Texas they were most incensed when Democrats skirted the rules of filibuster by trying to help Ft. Worth Senator Wendy Davis adjust her back brace during an abortion bill debate. They were so incensed that they started a ruckus that caused the session to run into overtime and cause their precious abortion bill to expire.

No problem. The Texas Republicans decided to pass the abortion bill and change the time stamp to show it was passed before midnight. Not illegal at all. Just a technicality. After all, they were Republicans and they could make the rules since they were the majority. Even after the game was over and they lost. So they changed the time stamp and declared victory.

It wasn't the first time they changed the rules during the game. The abortion bill had been defeated during the regular session because the Democrats managed to get enough Republicans to vote against the bill to keep it from coming to the floor. It seems the rule required a majority vote within the Senate. So the Republicans brought it up again during the special session, which isn't supposed to happen. The special session is supposed to be limited to bills the Governor calls for consideration. But they added it to the roster anyway.

Then the Republicans changed the rules of the Senate to allow the abortion bill to come to a vote if a majority of Republicans supported it. And it still went down in flames. Only to be resurrected by the miracle of a time stamp. Proving Jesus is on their side.

Except that those sneaky Democrats took photos of the bill with the original time stamp showing that it expired. So now the Republicans are relying on the miracle of Rick Perry who has called another special session, making sure the Republicans have an entire month to pass the abortion legislation that was tacked on as an afterthought and rammed through in violation of every procedural rule of the Texas Senate. And he rubbed it in at a pro-life rally by gleefully telling Senator Davis that she should be glad that her own mother, who struggled financially, didn’t abort her.

I can't help but feel a calculated heartlessness in these moves, no less calculated or cynical than the Roberts court, who cited the fact that the advances in minority access to the polls under the Voting Rights act prove it was never necessary and was unconstitutional. Even as the very states that the Civil Rights Act singled out are openly preparing to limit minority access to polls with voter i.d. challenges, redistricting, gerrymandering and probably changing polling locations, the Roberts court claims that the success of laws to stop these practices proves they will do no harm.

Clearly the Republicans believe the rule of law is for others and not for them. Should the rules prove an inconvenience for their agenda, they simply move them. Should the rules prove inadequate to stop behaviors they disapprove of, they move to make them harsher than ever.

They remind me of the Pharisees in Luke 11, who “make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but (whose) inward part is full of ravening and wickedness,” (39) and the lawyers who “lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers” (41). No, they don’t remind me. They are no different. This is not acceptable, and whether they wrap themselves in the rhetoric of law or Jesus they should be called for their hypocrisy.

On the other hand, the Roberts Court upheld some of the rights of same sex couples in marriage, probably because those rights involve white men. It was a 5-4 decision. You have to ask, and if you don't, I do. Is someone on the Republican side of the bench just the tiniest bit bicurious?



Sacred Constitutional Rites

My sister Aimee asked facebook friends if they could reasonably explain why voters shouldn't be required to present a photo ID when they vote. I took about half an hour to compose a reply and the flood of posts in response made it clear that no one actually read it.

It also confirmed my suspicion that few people actually want informed discussion. They want someone to tell them why they were right to start with.

One of the replies really caught my eye. One commenter posted that “the sanctity of the electoral process is worth the inconvenience to prove your identity and eligibility to vote.” (To be fair, this isn't an exact quote. The poster used an ampersand (&).)

The phrase “sanctity of the electoral process” serves to underscore the wide gap between naivety and understanding of the electoral politics so common in the magical thinking of the Christian right. Nor do I say this lightly.

To listen to the Christian right, there is no divide between faith and electoral politics. In fact. there is no divide between faith and the constitution. Unfortunately for that thinking, there is nothing sanctified about the constitutional or electoral process.

The Bible is absolutely silent on democracy, republicanism or voting. The Apostles were appointed by Jesus, or chosen by casting lots. Sacraments include marriage, baptism and the Eucharist. Not the electoral process. And Christians were not required to produce photo ID to become involved in church decisions, nor were they required to register to participate.

Part of this may have been because photo IDs didn't exist back then, but a much larger part of it was that Christians weren't expected to prove their fellowship in the faith. Nor do they now. Even though they are expected to prove their citizenship. In fact, they don't even have to prove to the IRS that they're Christian to claim deductions for tithing.

Let's look at the government, however. God is only acknowledged in the constitution by the date of signing (“the year of our Lord”). The Declaration of Independence does refer to a “creator” but makes it clear that the only rights the creator grants are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.1

Any rights spelled out in the constitution are secular and not sacred. The declaration also makes it very clear that governments derive their power from the people, not God.

So if we are to merge the political with the sanctified in America it only follows that:

  • Christians should be required to register and provide a photo ID to worship.
  • The government/church should provide counselors and priests at the polls to help voters to help voters divine the will of the Divine Elector.
  • We should be required by the voter laws to bow our heads and pray before we cast our ballot.
  • Voters should be baptized before they can vote.
  • A priest should be made available at the polls to bless the votes of Catholics and Episcopalians.

  • We should propose a Defense of Elections amendment banning same sex couples from voting.

Or maybe we should acknowledge, as the courts did, that Voter ID laws are not an expression of the sacred so much as a modern reboot of poll taxes. Those of us who can afford it will be inconvenienced when proving our eligibility, but the poor will not just be inconvenienced, they will face extraordinary barriers.

Send me your money

Or at least Amazon. That's right, my novel Raising Hell is on sale at Amazon.

Pity poor Lucifer. He rules hell with a vice grip. Demons and damned scatter at the sound of his foot steps. The Supreme Butt In hasn’t pestered him in eons. Lucifer’s future looks perfect, pitch black, until an administrative error sticks him with an innocent soul—an overweight optimist who calls himself Pilgrim and who believes he must be in hell to do good.

Lucifer never considers sending him back. Why waste a second chance to corrupt an innocent soul? He orders his subordinates to torture, degrade and humiliate Pilgrim until he promises to become evil if only it will ease the pain. Unfortunately, Pilgrim makes the best of the worst possible experiences. Always polite and well-mannered, he makes Pollyanna seem like a prophet of doom. Even worse, the damned start catching on, and set about making hell into the most enjoyable place of everlasting torment they can.

Lucifer can’t let Pilgrim continue to wreak happiness, but he can’t send him back untainted, either. When God arrives with a deadline for Pilgrim’s return, he enlists fellow fallen angels Screwtape, Azazel and the gender morphing Mephistopheles in a plot to corrupt Pilgrim’s soul before the deadline expires.

It's only $1, which should make it affordable for almost everyone, and also a great digital stocking stuffer. It will be available for iBook and nook after Thanksgiving.

1Replacing the word “property” in the phrase originally used by John Locke. Now if that doesn't give Republicans cause for concern, I don't know what could. The signers of the declaration considered the general happiness to be more important than the right of property.back