Rolling Stone on “God’s Senator.”

The folks at Rolling Stone magazine have a rather disturbing article on Senator Sam Brownback that’s shows just what a religious nutball the guy is. It discusses a number of things including Brownback’s membership in the “Fellowship:”

Brownback was placed in a weekly prayer cell by “the shadow Billy Graham”—Doug Coe, Vereide’s successor as head of the Fellowship. The group was all male and all Republican. It was a “safe relationship,” Brownback says. Conversation tended toward the personal. Brownback and the other men revealed the most intimate details of their desires, failings, ambitions. They talked about lust, anger and infidelities, the more shameful the better—since the goal was to break one’s own will. The abolition of self; to become nothing but a vessel so that one could be used by God.

They were striving, ultimately, for what Coe calls “Jesus plus nothing”—a government led by Christ’s will alone. In the future envisioned by Coe, everything—sex and taxes, war and the price of oil—will be decided upon not according to democracy or the church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the anointed few. It’s a good old boy’s club blessed by God. Brownback even lived with other cell members in a million-dollar, red-brick former convent at 133 C Street that was subsidized and operated by the Fellowship. Monthly rent was $600 per man—enough of a deal by Hill standards that some said it bordered on an ethical violation, but no charges were ever brought.

Brownback, as you may recall, was the sponsor of a Constitutional amendment that would bar the Supreme Court from ruling on any issues involving the separation of church and state:

The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that’ll all be just fine.

This is the man who causes many of us to see the possibility of a coming theocracy in the U.S. and he’s not alone in his efforts.

Brownback doesn’t demand that everyone believe in his God—only that they bow down before Him. Part holy warrior, part holy fool, he preaches an odd mix of theological naivete and diplomatic savvy. The faith he wields in the public square is blunt, heavy, unsubtle; brass knuckles of the spirit. But the religion of his heart is that of the woman whose example led him deep into orthodoxy: Mother Teresa—it is a kiss for the dying. He sees no tension between his intolerance and his tenderness. Indeed, their successful reconciliation in his political self is the miracle at the heart of the new fundamentalism, the fusion of hellfire and Hallmark.

“I have seen him weep,” growls Colson, anointing Brownback with his highest praise. Such are the new American crusaders: tear-streaked strong men huddling together to talk about their feelings before they march forth, their sentimental faith sharpened and their man-feelings hardened into “natural law.” They are God’s promise keepers, His defenders of marriage, His knights of the fetal citizen. They are the select few who embody the paradoxical love promised by Christ when he declares—in Matthew 10:34—“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

It’s a sobering read, especially when you consider the man plans to run for President in 2008. He realizes he probably won’t get the nomination, but he’s hoping to use his run to gain the upper hand in influencing the Republican party and whomever does get the nomination. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

26 thoughts on “Rolling Stone on “God’s Senator.”

  1. That writer is about as biased as one can get Les.  He also goes on during his perjorative descriptions to say the following about the congregation:

    With the exception of one brown-skinned man, the congregation is entirely white.

    There ya go.  The old liberal adage, tar the conservative with alleged prejudices by insinuation. What a fucking twit.  Go here for a picture of Brownback’s family, noticably absent from the article:  http://brownback.senate.gov/ASBio.htm

    Furthermore, the author’s characterization of the Constitutional Restoration Act is a sham that belies his own personal prejudices.  The Act does not purport to repeal Title VII, which governs employment discrimination cases.  Again I say to thee, what a twit is he.

    Absent from the article is Brownback’s community service activities, his efforts to enhance both immigration and rural medical care, his efforts to promote U.S. exports of beef, his efforts promoting alternative energy, the effort to promote loans within rural communities, or his efforts in promoting cancer researc.  None of that does the author mention.  Short shrift is given by the author to the fact that Brownback is one of only a few who is paying attention to what is happening in Africa.

    When I want substantive political commentary, I would recommend going someplace other than Rolling Stone. They don’t even know what good music is most of the time anymore.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me what American politicians can get away with saying.  We have our fair share of nutballs here in Canada, but if one even put forward a bill like those mentioned, the outcry would be deafening (at least I hope so). 
    On the other hand, the premiere of Alberta (to americans: premiere=canadian governor) recently threw a book at his 17 year old parliamentary page because he was having a hissy fit, so maybe I shouldn`t be so high and mighty.

  3. Yeah, I’m not so sure, MoP. Lots of people in my family believe in revelation and inspiration by God. If someone got into office and said they were sent from God, and worked to do things the biblical way, my family’s just gullible enough to accept it, even if it does radical harm, because “that’s the way God wants it”.

  4. Consi, as usual, you’re cherry-picking:

    Furthermore, the author’s characterization of the Constitutional Restoration Act is a sham that belies his own personal prejudices.  The Act does not purport to repeal Title VII, which governs employment discrimination cases.

    Quoting from the RS article:

    The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that’ll all be just fine.

    I think the writer is laying out the implications of the act quite well.

    Brownback may be a very good Catholic, but he is a very bad candidate for any sort of elected office in this country.  Anyone who proposes that sort of destructive so-called “restoration act” and “demand[s] a criminal investigation of a liberal group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State” is showing clearly that he wants to implement a theocracy, and that ain’t just in the imagination of Rolling Stone.

  5. Geekmom: Brownback may be a very good Catholic…

    Actually, even this may be up for debate. Have you ever read “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” by Thomas Frank? If not, check out the chapter entitled “God, Meet Mammon.” Not to knock the dear senator’s purported sense of Christianity, but it does offer up some interesting speculation on where Brownback’s true political concerns may lie.

    P.S. I’ve actually met the guy (it wasn’t my choice, believe me). He’s civil enough in person, but I couldn’t help sensing a certain snake-oil salesman quality about him. His seemingly radiant demeanor and goodwill didn’t quite strike me as genuine. Call it political bias or bad vibes if you want.

  6. GM:

    I think the writer is laying out the implications of the act quite well.

    Obviously not, because he is flat out wrong with his first example. And the second example is wrong as well.  The only thing that might apply would be number three, which has no consequence whatsoever practically speaking.  In exhibiting an ability to present a persuasive case I guess just making it up is okay for this guy.  The motto is just make it sound good.  MeatLoaf said: Two outta three ain’t bad. Well, this guy is a full .3333 off even that.

    I could care less about whether Senator Brownback is a good Catholic or not.  What he does, and who he prays to or does not pray to, well that is his business.  For civil libertarians here y’all seem to care an awful lot about what one does in their private life.  What I do care about, and what I thought the folks here cared about was what he does.  This is what he actually does with the power of his office:
      http://webarchive.dailynews.net/search.cgi?state=view&key=Jucan&id=30407

    Good people needed help.  I know the people that received the help personally.  They reached out to Senator Brownback and he helped them.  He didn’t care what color their skin was.  He didn’t care where they were born.  He didn’t care if they spoke with an accent.  What he cared about was the people. That sounds exactly like the type of person to put in elected office-someone who gives a damn about people.

    I stand by what I said:  The Rolling Stone guy is a twit if he couldn’t get past his own politics so that he could see, let alone present the full picture of the man.

    Sadie:

    I won’t call it anything because I can’t judge your feelings.  You are certainly entitled to them.  What I can say is that it is my belief that your feelings about the man not being genuine are influenced by your politics.  The reality that actually exists is different the perception that you have.

  7. Sadie:

    Not to knock the dear senator’s purported sense of Christianity, but it does offer up some interesting speculation on where Brownback’s true political concerns may lie.

    Bullshit.  The sole purpose of making this statement is to knock the Senator’s spiritual sincerity.  And what are you knocking it with dear Sadie? In your own words “speculation.”  That’s rich.

  8. Consi, regarding the Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 (assuming this is the one), so far all you’ve done is disagreed. If you want to support Senator Brownback, you’ll have to explain how this act isn’t designed as an end-run around or even a breach of the First Amendment. You may be right about the examples given, but so far the substance of comments on that topic is “did not, did too”…

    Regarding his spiritual sincerity, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t it? I don’t see a contradiction between helping individuals and screwing the public… Then again, I’m a cynical bastard that knocks all politicians on general principle.

  9. Elwed:

    There are legitimate gripes with Senator Brownback.  I have some myself, including the Act in question. The bill is well meaning in the sense that it seeks to codify the ability of public officials to do what officials did in the Declaration of Independence.  It also seeks to protect the display of Ten Commandments within courthouses and the Pledge.

    Let’s look at the language from the Act itself Elwed.  The Act itself states that matters aren’t reviewable that:

    concerning that entity’s, officer’s, or agent’s acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.’.

    Words in statutes are construed both in their plain and ordinary meaning, and the breadth of the statute, since it is penal in nature, is strictly construed.  Two principles that will apply to the interpretation of the statute.

    acknowledgment—1 a : the act of acknowledging b : the act of admitting paternity —compare FILIATION
    2 : a thing done or given in recognition of something received

    3 a : a declaration or avowal of one’s act or a fact to give it legal validity; specifically : a declaration before a duly qualified public officer (as a notary public) by a person who has executed an instrument that the execution was the person’s free act and deed b : the formal certificate made by an officer before whom one has acknowledged a deed including as an essential part the signature and often the seal of the officer

    Applying the plain and ordinary mean of the word “acknowledgement” what the Act purports to do is say that when public officials declare the US a Christian nation they don’t get stoned by the civil libertarians.  It in no way says that people can be fired for not agreeing with the official’s pronouncement.  Liberal hogwash is what that was.  It doesn’t say that the principal could say prayers either.  Pray has a different definition than acknowledge.

    Is the Act constitutional.  No, it is not. It clearly breaches the Establishment clause.  However, it doesn’t do what the Rolling Stone writer says either.  The writer could fairly write that he has a legitimate bitch with Senator Brownback for doing what Senator Feingold is doing in proposing a censure of Bush,  catering to the base. 

    However, that is not where the gentleman from Rolling Stone attacked.  He didn’t take issue with policies such as Brownback’s opposition to stem cell research, another area where a legitimate complaint may be made.  He melded policy with person for the purposes of painting his picture.

    What he did was to take how Senator Brownback draws his inspiration, combine it with perjorative adjectives, and paint a picture the left wants to believe. 

    The reason he does this is because when one looks at how Brownback lives his life, and specifically, how he takes action on behalf of individuals, individuals that are the public, its difficult to find material to work with for the writer to make the point he wants to.

    The road to hell may be paved with good intentions.  Nevertheless, I’d rather have elected officials that believe they have a duty to act upon good intentions.

  10. Consi, this warrants a coherent answer, but all I can come up with right now is that the First Amendment induces the equivalent of a multiple personality disorder. Observing the patient is quite painful.

  11. I’d rather have elected officials that do the right thing… Not that there’d ever be agreement about what the right thing is, perhaps not even in perfect hindsight. Whatever.

    I haven’t read the article, but I agree that the Rolling Stone isn’t where I’d look for political commentary. If I want to know what the Republicans are up to, I prefer reputable sources like The Guardian and Der Spiegel wink Facetiousness aside, the last place I’d look are the U.S. media.

    I don’t take issue with employees of the government and elected officials stating their religious convictions, as long as they do it as private citizens. There obviously is a line to cross from the person to the office. There is also the overriding issue of representation. In their official capacity, do they represent all of their constituents to the extent possible, the majority, or the most influential lobbyists?

    What really annoys me is the hypocripsy surrounding religion. One the one hand, the Roy Moores take boneheaded stands for their religion. On the other hand, stands are taken that are clearly religiously motivated, but the perps would rather choke than admit it. Since I do consider politicians as a lower form of life, I’m puzzled why this upsets me in the first place.

    On the topic of painting pictures, I’d like to point out that you yourself use a broad brush to paint “the left” as you see it.

  12. Elwed, to Consi: On the topic of painting pictures, I’d like to point out that you yourself use a broad brush to paint “the left

  13. Here’s an interpretation of this act..I would appreciate commentary on anything I’m possibly missing:

    First, here is the direct quote from the proposed Section 201:

    In interpreting and applying the Constitution of the United States, a court of the United States may not rely upon any constitution, law, administrative rule, Executive order, directive, policy, judicial decision, or any other action of any foreign state or international organization or agency, other than English constitutional and common law up to the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.

    Shorten this to “In interpreting the Contitution…a court of the US may not rely upon any…[law-type list]…of any foreign state, international organization or agency other than English…”

    Section 1260 then specifically forbids any review of a government official (judge’s)

    acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law…

    .

    Then use definition 3 of acknowledgement(a declaration or avowal of one’s act or a fact to give it legal validity)

    Result:
    What stops a judge from making a decision using God as the sovereign source of law as the basis for his decision, officially acknowledging that as the basis of his decision?

    To my reading:
    God is not a foreign state or international organizaion or entity, so he’s covered.

    He has given his reason, which is unreviewable.

    What recourse is there to appeal whatever decision he has made on this basis?

  14. JethricOne, there is a simmering debate (or perhaps quite a heated one) about how the constitution must be interpreted. I forgot the exact terms, but there are two fundamentally different points of views.

    I hope I’m not misstating the two positions, but one of them says that the constitution means what its framers meant back then and no more, the other says that it means what the framers would take it to mean today. It’s a subtle, but very significant difference. In practice, the constitution pretty much means what the U.S. Surpreme Court says it does and the act is designed to force the more conservative position onto the Surpreme Court. I see it as an attempt to tilt the balance of power between the branches of the government and it is despicable for that reason alone. It’s possible that I’m all wrong, of course, and if I am, Consi will have a field day spanking me.

    The act can also be construed as a theocratic enabler, although perhaps not entirely for the reasons outlined in the RS article or by JethricOne’s post. The primary motivation of the act regarding religious expression seems to be rather narrow – allow government employees and elected officials to express their personal religious beliefs in their official capacity and prevent the courts from enforcing the First Amendment. Beyond the First Amendment, it’s another tilt to the balance of power. The First Amendment is a part of the constitution, can be argued in the SC, and for Congress to restrict the kind of arguments and cases the SC can hear is mindboggling. That’s what I mean with the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. And plenty of ill intentions, to be sure.

  15. Under every stone lurks a politician. (Aristophanes – 450>388 BC)

    I wonder if Senator Brownback would have helped the Romanians if they’d been overt atheists.wink

  16. Good people needed help.  I know the people that received the help personally.  They reached out to Senator Brownback and he helped them.  He didn’t care what color their skin was.  He didn’t care where they were born.  He didn’t care if they spoke with an accent.

    Yeah, he doesn’t care about the color of their skin (although the people referred to in your link are Romanian; that’s not much of a stretch wink) … He does, however, seem to care VERY much whom they choose to love, as evidenced by the fact that he sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment.  (No, I won’t touch his “fruits” comment, as it may truly just have been an idiotic choice of Bible quote.)

    “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”—Prof. Jamie Raskin

  17. The trouble with the whole imprudent religious celebrant’s in office thing is sorta like that bit from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy about Gollum. The one where Gollum posits that while he made a promise to protect and not harm the one who possesses the “Precious,” he slyly suggests that “what if Gollum/Smeagol then gained possession of the ‘Precious’ indirectly by way of a third party?” Then the promise could – somehow – be kept, through then being able to serve the possessor (turning a blind eye to things that were incovenient to the end goal). This is where – unfortunately – we sometimes do have to be informed about the personal beliefs of those in office in advance of anything they do, because some people don’t feel that their oaths – taken with the strong prohibition against mingling the affairs of church and state – are sufficient to avoid mingling those (sometimes clearly contrary) interests when judging legal matters. If being aware of a public official’s clear religious leanings (and particularly their difficulty in compartmentalizing appropriately their duty to their belief and their duty to those who hired them – collectively, believer and non-believer alike) can warn us of things to come, it might aid people in deciding whether or not to continue voting that person in every term.

  18. because some people don’t feel that their oaths – taken with the strong prohibition against mingling the affairs of church and state

    LOL.  The oath:

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

    http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Oath_Office.htm

  19. Consigliere: For civil libertarians here y’all seem to care an awful lot about what one does in their private life.

    Consi, like you I could not care less whether Brownback personally is a devout Catholic, an atheist, or if he worships Ba’al. I find some of his actions ironic in light of his faith, yet I do not have a problem with him believing in and serving his god. To do so is, after all, his right. What concerns me about the man is his record of blending issues of church and state and his apparent thirst for a borderline theocracy. I am also not honored to be a native of the same state as he is, although my current home (California) isn’t as nutbag-free as one might believe—Joseph Farah, anyone? confused

  20. Luckyjohn19
    your views on religion must really make you think
    that you are just a figment of your own imagination a non believer who sold his sole on
    e-Bay

  21. Mick: your views on religion must really make you think that you are just a figment of your own imagination a non believer who sold his sole (sic) on e-Bay

    You’re far too smart for me, mate. confused
    I’m really a dyslexic devil-worshipper who sold his soul to Santa.

  22. Luckyjohn19
    your views on religion must really make you think
    that you are just a figment of your own imagination a non believer who sold his sole on
    e-Bay

    John- did you catch a sole with Jesus in it, like that other Jesus fishbone a while back?  If so, why didn’t you cut me in on the deal?

  23. Ta Zilch, and you darlin’ girl.
    I thought I was being funny … clever at a ssstretch.
    I was tempted to make a comment on being a fragment of my imagined reality but … I soled myself into the easy catch; I was caught on a better lure.
    I genuflect before the Roman. LOL

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