C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet, (author of the National Bestseller, The Family). (c 2010 hardback, I listened to it on cd).
I am finding it hard to write about books I have “read” by listening to them. I think, “oh yeah, I’ll have to mention that anecdote” but there is no way to bookmark it; best I could do would be to hop out of bed (defeating the purpose of “reading” until I fall asleep) or pull over the car to make a note of the disk and track number for replay later. Mainly I have gotten the hard copy when really motivated, but I will not be doing that for this book.
Not because the book is “bad” in any way per se, but as it happens, I got to about disc 4 or 5 (out of 8) and my heart was too crushed by the revelations about “The Family” and their infiltration and indoctrination of susceptible sheep politicians and other people. Though, that said, assuming it was not on the remaining disks, much more time could have been spent on naming names and elucidating the often hidden ties between the power brokers and manipulators in the background and less long descriptive text about that pathetic excuse for a human being, Mark Sanford, and his “heroic farmer” spiel to seduce first his wife, then his mistress. I mean, it beyond laughable and way too long. Cartoons have more depth of character than he does. And yet, two seemingly bright women were seduced by his role playing. In a theoretically enlightened women’s worldview, that is troubling. But I guess not for anyone who would let Mark Sanford touch them. Or Newt Gingrich (cheated on wife #2 with an intern and I think wife #1 with wife #2 — hard to keep it all straight), or Mitch McConnell (I’m sure the wealth of his wife’s family and interaction with the United States shipping ports had nothing to do with it, but in this case God is not in the equation).
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg, (2006)
To start, I begin with the quote from the conclusion titled Exiles in Jesusland:
History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a FREE CIVIL GOVERNMENT. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. –Thomas Jefferson
This is a really excellent book. Well worth buying and reading and rereading because the depth of her discussion and naming names is so complete. Well written so it is easy to follow the arguments she makes and an appreciation for the connections between people and events.
Page 180 at the end of the book, sets out the reason for anxiety:
It’s one thing to have a government that shows contempt for civil liberties; America has survived such men before. It’s quite another to HAVE A MASS MOVEMENT — the largest and most powerful mass movement in the nation — rise up in OPPOSITION to the RIGHTS of its fellow citizens. The Constitution protects minorities, but that protection is not absolute, with a sufficiently sympathetic or apathetic majority, a tightly organized faction can get around it.
Attack of the Theocrats: How the religious right harms us all and what we can do about it; a toolkit for building a secular America by Sean Faircloth. “We’re one nation under the CONSTITUTION” (2012)
Foreword by Richard Dawkins. This is a slim volume and a pretty fast read. He makes many astute comments on the sad situation we have in America with the bat-shit crazy theocrats, dominism, evangelicals, and other commercial ventures (aka scams, frauds, hucksters) like “seed” churches (give us your money and you will get money [not] and prosperity gospel megachurches that delude credulous and desperate people that if only they believe (and pay) the minister, they will be (a) saved and have a nice life in Heaven [rather than none at all or burning hellfire], (b) they are doing “good” somehow for others [the church owners], (c) their suffering will be mitigated by a “higher force” [never going to happen, better to live the life you have free of the fear of hell or hope that heaven will be better, and actively work to HELP YOURSELF to changed the existing world to be more like imaginary heaven than the living hell it is now].
Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion by Susan Jacoby (2016)
Really well written, all 465 pages. Jacoby is also the author of other books including The Age of American Unreason that is a good book too. So I thought I would just take a flip through this book to start and found the few photographs in it that illustrate all too well the problem of adherence to religious dogma. The first picture was of a terracotta statue “believed to represent the Alexandrian philosopher and mathematician Hypatia (c.350-415) who was literally torn to pieces by a Christian mob for the dual offense of being a female intellectual and expounding classical pagan philosophy as Christianity triumphed throughout the Roman Empire.” I had heard of her before, so was gratified to see her story mentioned.
This link is to the 2000 edition, the one I am reading is 1992 but not as dated as one might think given that it begins at the beginning of America’s founding and all the information up to then and is extremely detailed and analyzed and described very well.
This book answers the many questions I have had over the years of how we ended up with an essentially two-party system that is run like two warring corporations for a monopoly of the United States government as the prize.
I knew that the Founding Fathers had not begun nor wanted political parties, but apparently not “until they began running parties themselves.” Thomas Jefferson was pro-party. Alexander Hamilton “associated parties with ‘ambition, avarice, personal animosity.'” I’m going to side with Hamilton on this point. James Madison “wrote in Federalist Number Ten of ‘the mischiefs of faction. John Adams expressed ‘dread’ toward ‘division of the republic into to great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.'” Now that was prescient!