Sorting Out Religion, Politics, History : * Christians: The ‘commonly accepted principles’ that Gingrich preaches included exclusion of Catholic, African, Asian and Indian Americans.

Father Clif Marquis is pastor of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Community in Compton. He has worked in urban communities for 18 years, and as a chaplain for jails and juvenile detention facilities

Nine years of preparation and 26 years in service as a missionary priest have convinced me of a sad and terrible truth: Religion can be a most potent and dangerous drug. Saints and fanatics come to the same faith community and read the same sacred writings, but their responses to those experiences are diametrically different. The saint finds life and the fanatic death.

Karl Marx was not wrong when he declared in the 1840s that “religion is the opiate of the people.” In that era, German Christianity, both the Catholic and the Lutheran variety, was being cruelly manipulated by the various state governments, the landed class, the industry owners and the leftover nobility, who not only wanted to stay right where they comfortably and richly were, but also shared a pious passion that no one violate the Scripture’s admonition that “the poor you always have with you.” Well-sinecured clergy regularly violated their pulpits as they instructed the people that their poverty, their social status and their powerlessness in everything was God’s will. The violence of lying is the seedbed for the physical violence of revolution which inevitably follows.

The “Christian” Coalition, like its unmarried parents the Moral Majority and the Religious Right, refuses to acknowledge what history has already bitterly proved too many times: Theocracies cannot work. Organized religion and organized body politic necessarily work in separate spheres that relate well and naturally to each other, but only so long as they are separate. When the two attempt to be one sphere they corrupt each other. They prevent each other from achieving their appropriate goals. The innate dysfunctionality of theocracy caused Israel to fall from grace and be destroyed. Medieval Europe was consistently an ecclesiastic and political disaster. More than one Muslim theocracy rotted from the inside out.

The “Christian” Coalition is not a religious movement. The only thing vaguely Christian about its religiosity is its misappropriated biblical language. The coalition is a blatant political power group whose clear intentions are simply to maintain and profoundly strengthen the white power structure. Their “Christian” agenda is not rooted in the Gospel but is simply an unconditional endorsement of the Newt Gringrich-warped vision of the United States of America. We must look long and hard at that.


The Gingrichian first principle is: “From 1607 until 1965, America had one continuous civilization built around a set of commonly accepted legal and cultural principles.” Since the House Speaker is also a university professor of history, he has no excuse for such blatant ignorance of reality. As a Roman Catholic, I can document the vicious and often government-supported anti-Catholicism that thrived throughout all those years when American Catholics were not part of “one continuous civilization.” African Americans, who arrived in 1619, were slaves until 1863 and remained in socioeconomic slavery until 1965 were not part of “one continuous civilization” and most certainly were not included in “commonly accepted legal and cultural principles.” The thousands of Chinese who died building the Union Pacific railroad had no more part than the Catholics or the Africans. Where do you suppose the expression “Doesn’t have a Chinaman’s chance” came from? More than 280 American Indian tribes are now extinct. The “lucky” survivors live on reservations where they are neither truly Indian nor truly U.S. citizens, excluded ever since 1607 from that “one continuous civilization.”

The only logical conclusion one can reach is that Newt Gringrich is a willful and malicious liar. In point of painful reality, he and the “Christian” Coalition don’t give a damn about the United States of America in its pluralistic, multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious reality. Their authentic concerns are the same as those of the average white supremacist gang, but they are as picture-perfect as a Playboy pullout--and just as airbrushed.

If Newt Gingrich and his pals in the coalition had been around at the time of the American Revolution, they would have all been Tories. The Scriptures have a name for these folks: “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”