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GOPer Confesses: Republicans Have Gone 'Nuts' With Religious Fundamentalism

After nearly three decades on Capitol Hill, Mike Lofgren quit last year after the Tea Party caucus pushed his party to new extremes.

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The reason I bring that into the religious discussion is that if you believe in Armageddon, and that we will all sleep in the bosom of the Lord, by and by, then it really doesn’t matter if you blow up the government or cause some terrible crisis, because of what you consider to be your principles. Well, that accounts for some of the behavior. I think Michele Bachmann, who was a darling of the religious right, basically said "bring it on" in terms of a default of the United States government.

JH: She also questioned whether the United States government would go into default, when every single budget expert was saying this is an obvious thing. It was so striking to me, the debt limit standoff. We were talking about paying past debt. We weren’t talking about accruing new debt. As you point out, it cost us a fortune just to have this standoff for the sake of their constituents -- to show that they were "towing a hard line" on budgets and deficits.

You have an excerpt from the book on AlterNet. In it, you wrote, “the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.”

I’d like you to unpack that for us. We can all get why that fuels the culture wars, but I don’t think Jesus worshipped wealth or permanent war.

ML: If you read the Sermon on the Mount, that would probably be the case, however there’s a certain "health and wealth, name it and claim it" wing of the fundamentalists that believes wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and therefore the wealthy are to be considered blessed. And if you’re not rich, well then, too bad. This seems to rationalize in some ways the domestic fiscal policies of the party, which is principally devoted to maintaining very low tax rates on wealthy contributors.

JH: How does the religiosity play into this idea that we should be permanently at war? Is that because we have, in recent years, been going to war in Muslim-majority countries?

ML: There’s something to that. Some of the fundamentalists saw the invasion of Iraq as an invasion of ancient Babylon, and Saddam as the anti-Christ. They tend to rationalize any foreign foe as some religious enemy. In fact, Jerry Falwell once wrote an article saying that God is pro-war, which I think would tend to contradict the message of the Sermon on the Mount.

JH: That’s kind of an understatement. The idea that wealth is a sign of God’s grace is part of what’s known as Dominionist theology. It’s kind of frightening.

Mike, a lot of liberals think that the Republican coalition is on shaky ground these days because the distance between the social-cons and the more libertarian wing of the party has become so great. You think that’s an inaccurate analysis, right?

ML: Well, it’s an incomplete analysis. We just don’t know how this is going to play out. I just haven’t seen too much indication that it’s hobbling the GOP. For instance, the Koch brothers were contributors to the campaign of Michele Bachmann. If they were purely concerned with fiscal issues I don’t think that would be the place to go. Michele Bachmann believes we need to go back to the tax rates of the time of Ronald Reagan, meaning make them lower. Well, they were actually higher 25 years ago.

 
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