By James A. Haught
Back in 2003, in a top-secret international phone call, President George W. Bush urged French President Jacques Chirac to join America in invading Iraq on grounds that Christian nations must thwart the Satanic forces of Gog and Magog. Chirac was baffled by such crackpottery. A few French newspapers wrote derisive sneers about the born-again U.S. leader.
Today, itâ€™s dÃ©jÃ vu all over again. Religious kooks in high office are an absurd facet of the Republican Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence is a hero of the evangelical Religious Right. He opposes the teaching of evolution in biology classes (even though evolution is a bedrock of biology). As Indiana governor, he signed a notorious â€œreligious freedomâ€ law to let fundamentalists treat gays cruelly. His wife teaches at a born-again Washington-area school that sends students to a Creation Museum which teaches that Planet Earth is just 6,000 years old and humans coexisted with dinosaurs.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a fundamentalist who thinks doomsday is coming. In a 2015 church talk, he said â€œpolitics is a never-ending struggleâ€¦ until the rapture.â€ In 2014, he told a church group that â€œJesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.â€ Yet heâ€™s in charge of American foreign policy to billions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and secular people.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos once told a gathering: â€œOur desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance Godâ€™s kingdom.â€ She advocates vouchers to funnel public money to fundamentalist schools.
Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry declared on Fox News that God â€œordainedâ€ Donald Trump to be president â€“ that Trump is a divinely â€œchosen one.â€
Attorney General Bill Barr gave a Notre Dame University speech espousing â€œGodâ€™s eternal law â€“ the divine wisdom by which the whole of creation is ordered.â€
Barr said â€œthe Founding Generation were Christiansâ€ â€“ which isnâ€™t quite true. Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, an early version of non-Christian Unitarians.
The attorney general warned that â€œover the past 50 years, religion has been under increasing attack,â€ and has suffered â€œsteady erosionâ€¦. On the other hand, we see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativisim.â€ He blamed the retreat of religion for Americaâ€™s upsurge of unwed pregnancy.
Evangelist Ralph Drollinger leads what is called the â€œWhite House Cabinet Bible Study Group.â€ The right-wing, born-again meetings include Pence, Pompeo, Perry, DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and NASA Director Jim Bridenstine, plus former cabinet members Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Alex Acosta and Scott Pruitt.
Religion is vanishing rapidly in America. White evangelicals â€“ the heart of the Republican Party â€“ have fallen to just 16 percent of the populace, according to Pew Research. Yet Trump gives them a gigantic role in his government.
Congress soon will decide whether the vulgar, shallow, obnoxious president should be impeached. I wonder if grounds for impeachment might include putting too many fundamentalists into high office?
James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginiaâ€™s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.