The Cancer Eating Away At American Democracy by Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke


There is something sick; some vile cancer-like illness eating away at the bone marrow of our American democracy.

It is not President Obama. It is not the Democratic Party of the United States. It is not the majority of political independents or even some Republican voters. It is not the American left. It is not people of color. It is not the oppressed poor of America. In point of fact, and it is a most brutal one, a majority of Americans are not responsible for the direct threat now posed to the very survival of the democratic experiment launched in the heat of a desperate war against an imperial power in 1776.

Instead of remaining silent about it or casting blame on all sides as fairness would often dictate, honesty and integrity and most of all what is real and actual and objectively factual demands recognition that the Tea Party, the Republican Party of the United States, and the Christian Evangelical Right that underpins and includes these very people are infected and diseased and in need of healing.

Just where can we find symptoms of the cancer: the malignant rot eating through our national fabric and our very souls as a people?

Well, there was the startling statement, uncontradicted by the Republican or Tea Parties of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the single goal of his party and those he stands with in these years is driving President Obama from power. There is nothing legally wrong with such a goal. There is nothing wrong with a political party having such a goal.

But then, and now, it is clearly understood that this objective has been placed firmly ahead of the national interest and the general welfare to be guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States, and what we commonly know and support as the “public good.”

The disease can be further viewed in the stubborn refusal of Republicans and conservatives to raise the debt ceiling of the United States government and its budget. This sounds like hardly the stuff of such fundamental moral principle. A debt ceiling?

But this resistance or obstruction fundamentally interfered with the proper functioning of the government of the United States of America in time of war and in time of an economic depression. The world too is troubled. During the obstructive resistance to raising the debt ceiling Standard and Poors lowered the bond rating of the United States for the first time in its history. Our government was clearly dysfunctional and this fact was laid bare to the entire civilized world and to all Americans.

But again, political progressives, most independents, some Republican common citizens and the Democrats were not doing this at all. It was those people who have been called out in this reflective essay on the cancerous growth that has appeared on our democracy. A thing that threatens the very existence of the Republic.

It should be fully understood that this evil has nothing to do whatever with the political positions of the Republicans, the Tea Party conservatives. As always, a healthy political debate and profound disagreement over politics is a sign of healthy democracy and fully consistent with the Constitution and that great set of moral principles about life and human liberty set out in the Declaration of Independence. A healthy, vibrant and creative Republican Party and American right is in the best interests of us all.

But the behavior of the very people represented by those ideas is what is at the heart of the disease.

As the Judeo-Christian element of the American population goes to and from their churches and synagogues each week, those professing a belief in God, and in Jesus the Christ as disciples or as the people of Israel who are also leading the effort to dispose of Barack Obama and to take control of the reins of our government: those people who owe allegiance to the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the conservative Christian right: you have some hard thinking, and prayerful reflection to do.

For as we who are of faith reflect on the Christian lectionary offered in so many churches, and sworn to by so many Republican and Tea Party members who call themselves not only conservatives but Christian disciples or members of the Jewish faith, you are commanded by your God to read his word and take note of it. You must live your life in accordance with it. Very few of the people who obstructed the raising of the debt ceiling or share the antipathy to President Obama, or who pull back with horror and disgust at the Democratic Party or progressive elements of the American left are not part of this community that in faith must pay attention to the commands of our Father and his beloved Son Jesus of Nazareth. The people of Israel: the chosen people of God too, in those portions of the holy books shared with Christians must do so too.

Yet they are not. It is demonstrable. Does this mean that progressive social justice Christians are better? Does this mean that Democrats are better than Republicans. No. Oh, no. For it would be a mistake of equal proportions to assume so. And it is simply not true. But the present behavior of the American right and its expressions through the Republican Party and Tea Party and religious right as presently constituted are in serious conflict with what God and his word command of us.

These are not mere suggestions. They are not fairy tales to the disciples of Christ. We all fall short of that moral yardstick set out for us in the Holy Bible. But we are truly infected with sin and death if we do not pay heed to what God wants us to do. Especially to what Christ laid out and what St. Paul and the many Jewish prophets of the old Testament set out as a guide to living a life that was holy and right in the eyes of God.

What does God say to us about these things? There is much. The moral teachings of the Bible tell us to reject the Devil and the wicked, and we note that governments which punish the wicked for crimes against humanity or behaviors which are unlawful are good and right things.

There is much more in the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition that speak of love, compassion, acceptance of others, the stranger, kindness and the ability to empty oneself of self-love to the point where it no longer interferes with our relationship with our God and what he asks of each of us.

Micah 6:8 commonly reads:

“Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

St. Paul writes to the Phillipian Christian community in Phillippi in Maccedonia and in the scriptures marked out as Phillipians 2: 3-5. and part of the lectionary in nearly all Christian churches this very weekend:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

The great prophet Isaiah, who not only prophesied the coming of the “great light of the world” in Christ Jesus, but also took the people of Israel to task for their lack of attention to God’s will and teachings says in Isaiah 10: 1-4 to name just one place where social or human justice are central to the teaching:

“Woe to you who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives
or fall among the slain.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away
his hand is still upraised.”

Why have I quoted scripture to an audience mixed between those who believe and have the hope of salvation and those who live morally and yet may not?

Because the very people who sit in the audiences at Republican Presidential Debates, appear at Republican events, or Tea Party rallies, or sit in the halls of Congress and are conservative, Republican or Tea Party or Fox News or Rush Limbaugh devotees and who make the decisions about who to tax, what future direction our nation needs to take, or how to interpret our laws or make new ones are so overwhelmingly professed disciples of Christ or conservative members of the People of Israel. These injunctions apply to them and the words are not hard to interpret.

How can a crowd of these people cheer for the death of someone without health insurance? Yes, he or she may have been improvident not to see to it that they had such a thing. But we are called to be better than that by our maker.

How can a crowd boo and jeer a man whose sexual orientation (as distinguished from sexual activity in any orientation) is different from their own, provided to them by God since birth, and who in this case even serves our nation to protect it and the people of the United States? Who risks his very life for us? And yet these people consider themselves to be better than another part of God’s own creation. We cannot know why we are made with varying sexual orientation. We only know it is demonstrable fact. But the teachings these people profess demand love and kindness here.

The House of Representatives in the secular world makes laws. It is decided who to tax. It is decided who gets disaster aid when they are helpless and hurt and vulnerable. It is decided what we do for children without fathers living oppressed in poverty and with mothers struggling to take care of them.

The Republicans and Tea Party adherents, the Eric Kantors, the John Boehners, and the Mitch McConnells should they be of faith and followers of Christ are enjoined by him to read their bibles and obey the word of God.

Defending the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and oppressed and making unjust laws to that effect and obstructing every effort of government to right such wrongs is evil and sinful and contrary to the teachings of our Lord. Plain and simple.

Believers are also instructed by Jesus in the Gospels to go to any believer whose sin infects the Body of Christ and confront them with their sin and seek to have them repent.

There are a mass of Republicans, Tea Party members and conservatives with a lot of repenting to be done. This believer is calling them out, confronting them with their sin, and asking them to repent. The next step is to have a second believer join the first and do the same. If that is unsuccessful, we Christians are instructed to take the matter to our churches and settle it there. If not, the person or persons concerned are to be dismissed from the Body of Christ. They will not be among the sheep but among the goats when God comes in his holy glory to judge us all.

I too must repent. I sin. I wear a Sinner’s Badge First Class on my chest. I am constantly beset by the Devil and his lures. I fall short in the eyes of God. It is only his grace that saves me. I am not better than the people I criticize here in this essay and reflection. But I must speak out, perhaps as the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness.

Jesus’ very last communication to us, those who belive or accept his moral teaching, was to simply “love one another.” Is the behavior of the Tea Party and Fox and House Republicans professing Christianity consistent with that command and teaching? You decide.

This religious question over the behavior of the religious right and the conservative Republicans and Tea Party carries over into our politics and our government itself. It is that gargantuan a problem.

For our nation was set up on principles that come from God. Jefferson and the committee who put together our declaration as an independent nation on this earth noted that the idea that “all men are created equal” came from a higher power than humankind. The rights we call human rights today such as the right to ‘life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are to be for all of us and not just Christians, or the rich, or white people, or heterosexuals, and more. They are for all. These truths were declared to be self-evident. They are truths for all time.

In our Constitution of the United States it is the people, all the people of the United States in every age who have made this social contract inherent in the document. And two of the chief purposes of the framework of our government, fully a part of that supreme American law is to “establish justice” and “promote the general welfare.”

Placing these two ideas as matters of moral principle would suggest that justice is not just retributive criminal justice but doing what is right for the people and good. And promoting the general welfare is what we might rightly say is looking to the interests of people beyond the rich and powerful and well-connected to the most humble among us.

The conservative reactionary fringe, now the masters of the entire Republican Party are not doing these things. Now they seek to shut down the government unless they get what they want.

They see government itself as evil. The Constitution of the United States sets up that very government they hate. In making government tiny and ineffectual, in seeking to destroy President Obama and disrespect the Executive Branch of our government in the process; to make our government so dysfunctional that it in effect is destroyed is high treason. These people are at this moment committing high treason against the government of the United States. And they who are people of faith are not living that faith at all.

This is the cancer that infects the body politic and the people of the United States and which threatens the very democratic experiment we have begun with such hope. It also threatens the existence of the Republic we know of as the United States of America.

To end on a note of Christian love and fully in the Holy Spirit let me share with you what the Christians of the Nykyusa Tribe of Tanzania both pray and in confession of their common sins say each Sabbath with the rejoinder that their sins: “may they go away:”

Our chiefs do not love one another in their hearts. Take such hearts from them and give them one heart.

That our chiefs may be one in loving and ruling their country and their people, and lead us well. This we pray. God grant us.

Amen! Amen! Amen!

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