“And sometimes it seems that all I have to do is worry
Then you’re bound to see my other side
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood
- The Animals (1965)
I read a piece by George Will a while ago. He’s a good man, a skilled writer. I admire him. In the piece, he lit in to Mike Huckabee. He spent a bit of time playfully skewering Huckabee’s “fair tax” plan. Then he dove in, with this carefully aimed broadside:
“Huckabee fancies himself persecuted by the Republican “establishment,” a creature already negligible by 1964, when it failed to stop Barry Goldwater's nomination. The establishment's voice, the New York Herald Tribune, expired in 1966. Huckabee says “only one explanation” fits his Iowa success “and it’s not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people.” God so loves Huckabee's politics that He worked a Midwest miracle on his behalf? Should someone so delusional control nuclear weapons?”
I’d say that was meant to hurt, wouldn’t you? It’s clear that Mr. Will has a great deal of contempt for Mike Huckabee’s populism and what he perceives to be Huckabee’s application of his evangelical faith.
I’m an evangelical, a Mike Huckabee supporter. I take it, by extension, that I’m probably every bit as delusional as the candidate I’m backing. About the only defense I can muster is that I’m content in my delusions.
I don’t know what Mr. Will’s delusions are, but I feel quite comfortable in sharing some of mine. I’m a Boston Red Sox fan. From the early fifties, up until the “Curse of the Bambino” was finally laid to rest in 2004 I actually believed that my beloved Sox were the best team in baseball. I never could understand how a team as un-talented as the New York Yankees would win just about every pennant. I know they had Mantle, but we had Teddy Ballgame. They had Moose Skowron, but we had Jimmy Pearsall. And, sure, Yogi was a pretty good catcher, but so was Sammy White. I was delusional, for sure, but so were millions of others in Red Sox nation.
But, more to the point, I share some of Mike Huckabee’s delusions. I actually believe that the Almighty Himself does take great interest in our political campaigns. I’m even delusional enough to believe that God actually cares about the poor and the downcast. If I read Holy Writ properly, I think that Jesus himself was downright delusional in this regard. I must be a raving lunatic, then, to think that the Sermon on the Mount is more than just a bit of flowery rhetoric. And, I’m probably as mad as a March hare to believe that the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is every bit as instructive for politicians, plumbers, pig farmers, paleontologists, pipe fitters, Pharisees, and pundits today as it was two thousand years ago.
Mr. Will cites statistics to prove that Mike Huckabee is a lunatic. The middle class is decreasing in size, he asserts, because more and more are moving into the economic stratosphere. I suspect that’s true in Foggy Bottom and Silicon Valley, but here in the Heartland it isn’t. I think if Mr. Will were to take a short walk down Sixth Avenue here in Emporia, Kansas he’d see that the fastest growing businesses are the payday loan shops that gouge the men and women who cut cows down at Tyson Foods with exorbitant interest rates. He might get to see what a town looks like when about twenty percent of a town’s families are living in poverty. He might get to see a lot of low wage workers living in shanties at the mercy of slum lords. He might get to see the anguish a lot of folks here feel when they see jobs being shipped offshore or blue collar workers being displaced by someone who is willing to do their job for a couple of bucks less an hour. I think Mr. Will might come spouting statistics, but folks here might then remind him that it was either Mark Twain or Benjamin Disraeli who said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. But then, a lot of this city’s working poor are every bit as delusional as Mike Huckabee and evangelicals like me.
I could go on about Huckabee’ “fair tax” plan, but what’s the point. I’m not quite delusional enough to think that it’s ever going to happen. Our bloated government, with its enormous appetite for our hard earned money, isn’t going to let go any time prior to the Parousia, and they probably won’t want to let go then, either. No, the I.R.S isn’t going away. Not that it shouldn’t. We Christians like to think of things like that as hoping against hope, more like pipe dreams than delusions.
The more I think about it, the more comfortable I’m becoming in my delusions. I think I might even be in good company. Weren’t Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah, and Habakkuk all delusional men? And, my Lord, think of John the Baptist. Why, all that foolish talk of the man with two coats giving one away, the axe being laid to the root of the tree, or the nonsense about broods of snakes and vipers. Absolutely, stark raving mad. And, what about the Apostle Paul and Peter, the first “Vicar of Christ?” Wasn’t it Paul who called himself a “fool for Christ?” And, finally, there’s Jesus himself. Wasn’t He considered by many to be a madman? Didn’t his enemies accuse him of being in league with the devil?
They say confession is good for the soul. Well, I’ve owned up to some of my delusions and must say that it’s true. I feel quite good right now. The only thing I have left to do is to impose on some of my fellow evangelicals and ask them to shed some of theirs. I think it might be time for us to shed the delusion that “Rush is always right.” I think it might be time for us to shed the delusion that Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity aren’t our resident theologians or puppet masters. I think it might be time for us to shed the delusion that our theology and world-view doesn’t, and shouldn’t, spring from the wellspring of the Republican National Committee. I think it might be time for us to shed the delusion that Jesus is some sort of un-caring, un-feeling cosmic capitalist who thinks the sun rises and sets daily at Republican Party headquarters.
And, I think it might be time for those in power who have for too long assumed our un-questioning allegiance to the Grand Old Party to disabuse themselves of that delusion. Events in Iowa were quite revealing. There’s a fresh breeze blowing in the political air. Down has become up and up has become down. Hope and vertical politics, at least for a few days, have triumphed over the power of mammon. It feels wonderful. Given that, I’ll continue in my current delusions, thank you.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Comfortable in My Delusions
“And sometimes it seems that all I have to do is worry