Monthly Archives: March 2009

We Say One Thing, People Hear Something Else

Larry Osborne says it’s frustrating when “my audience and I are using the same words but different dictionaries.” He gives two examples.

Tolerance. He says it used to mean letting people be wrong. Now it means recognizing that everybody is right. So when he preaches about being tolerant of people who hold different views on issues like gay rights, his audience hears, “We need to realize that their views are valid.”

Faith. It used to mean the belief that God would come through, somehow. Now, people think of faith as just an attitude of optimism. So instead of using “faith,” Osborne is using the word “trust,” which makes sense to me.

Just some interesting observations about our changing world.

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Rush Limbaugh, the God of Conservatism

rush_limbaugh300.jpgRush Limbaugh keynoted the final session of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). With 8500 attendees, it was CPAC’s larger attendance ever. For want of alternatives, Rush is the de facto leader of American conservatism.

I read through CPAC’s three-day agenda. Lots of opportunity for griping about Democrats and the state of America in general. Practically nothing about religion. Evangelicals comprise an important part of the Republican base, but they were absent from CPAC. A little case of getting taken for granted, I suspect. 

Young evangelicals, and prodigal older ones like myself (did I just call myself “older”?), have different priorities than CPAC.  I can name a lot of conservative evangelical friends and acquaintances who, like me, switched from their Republican roots and voted for the vision presented by Obama (this time).

Sure, some feel so strongly about abortion and gay marriage that they will vote Republican solely because of those issues, and I’m okay with that. But younger evangelicals also care deeply about issues of poverty, justice, AIDs, and peace–issues that CPAC, and Rush Limbaugh, ignore.  So if CPAC’s agenda is any indication, they are in denial about the true state of American conservatism, and are headed toward additional drubbings in national elections. They want more of the same, and that’s not where the young evangelical base is heading.

But back to Rush, the voice of conservatism. Is he really someone conservatives should adore and bestow undying allegiance every weekday afternoon? The CPAC crowd hung on his every word and cheered his rants. But consider the type of man he is. Character should matter to Christians.

  • Rush has been divorced three times, certainly a wonderful example of  conservative values. He and his third wife lived in separate houses throughout their ten-year marriage (he requested the divorce). 
  • He blamed Elizabeth Edwards for her husband’s affair, basically saying she should have used her mouth to talk less and to give him oral sex, which he says is what her husband wanted. He snickered while saying this, thinking himself clever, evidently. (Watch it on YouTube, though it’s embedded in a Keith Olberman segment).
  • While American soldiers were dying to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, and while Iraqis risked death to exercise their newfound right to vote–what was Rush doing? He was encouraging his Republican listeners to vote for Hilary Clinton as a prank on the Democrats, a way to keep the primary race going. He made a mockery of what, in America, is practically a sacred right–the freedom to vote your conscience. What a horrible example to people in other countries, to say that your vote is something to just throw away for fun. Is that what our soldiers die to protect? But Rush went even further. “The dream end of this…is that this keeps up to the Convention, and that we have a re-creation of Chicago 1968 with burning cars, protests, fire, and literal riots and all of that, that is the objective here.” I find this despicable. 
  • After years of condemning illegal drug use (he has said, “If people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.”), he was found to be illegally buying prescription painkillers. Can you spell HYPOCRITE? 
  • He’s a college dropout.
  • Rush obtained a military 4F exemption during the Vietnam era because of two conditions: a high school football knee injury (his coach remembers no injuries), and an “inoperable pilonidal cyst,” which is basically a pus-filled abscess between the buttocks muscles (an ironic disability, since Rush’s career is spent sitting down before a microphone). 
  • In his radio show, he shows little interest in truth. For instance, he once mocked Obama’s Senate record, saying, “You look at his record in the Senate, you won’t find a Senate bill with his name on it.” But a simple search turns up 152 bills and resolutions that he spnosored and another 427 that he cosponsored during his first year in the Senate, and that he sponsored 130 bills and resolutions during his second year. Rush’s fans don’t do fact-checking.
  • He comes from a family of lawyers (grandfather, father, and brother). Draw your own conclusions. 
  • Every day he sows division. That’s his schtick–us vs. them, Republicans vs. Democrats, good vs. bad. In America, we don’t need more division. Republicans don’t have a corner on truth, and they certainly don’t have a corner on morality.
  • He makes $45 million a year, but has said of the official poverty line, “$14,400 for a family of four? That’s not so bad.” Rush’s view of people in poverty is lightyears from Christ’s view.
  • Rush once told a black caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”
  • He mocked Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease on air and claimed  Fox sometimes doesn’t take his medicine to exaggerate the effects of the disease. “He is moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act.”
  • He described the abuse at Abu Ghraib as equivalent to “hazing, a fraternity prank.”
  • He was the first person to publicly announce, on air, the name of the underage teenage Congressional page who had received sexually explicit emails from Republican Congressman Mark Foley, and suggested that the boy led Foley on.
  • He’s a Methodist, which may or may not mean his religious views are liberal.

Rush is driven by his sense of pure ideology. In his CPAC address, he said he hopes Barack Obama’s policies fail. These policies may or may not work. But they are designed to end the recession and prevent a full-scale depression, restore health to the global financial markets, save and create jobs, stop major industries from going under, end two wars, bring healthcare to 45 million people currently going without, and end the unbiblical preference for the concerns of the rich rather than of the poor. 

On a personal note, the President would like my 401K to stop tanking (after 30 years of investing in my pension fund, all of the gain has been eliminated). So yeah, I’d like to see Obama’s policies succeed.

But not Rush. It would be a crushing blow to his ideology. And ideology is all-important. It trumps national interests. In Rush’s world, it’s better for a depression to occur than for liberal views to prevail. 

What kind of American roots for his President to fail? Especially in the face of the current global crisis? But that’s who Rush Limbaugh is. That’s who millions of conservatives adore. And that’s why I, and millions of other evangelicals, are fleeing from the grips of the conservative establishment, seeking alternatives more compatible with our faith.

There, I feel better.

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