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In the heat of summer, a din of voices arose from the U.S. Senate in opposition to the health care reform legislation that was taking shape in both houses of Congress. Overlooked in media coverage of the health care brouhaha is the membership of many of the senators who most vociferously oppose the legislation in the right-wing religious cult known as The Family.
With the Senate Finance Committee's passage last Tuesday of its version of health care legislation, expect the debate to flare again as the bill moves to the Senate floor. The Family's point men -- "key men" in the cult's theological lexicon -- will likely try once again to defeat reform in the service of their Supply-Side Jesus.
You could chalk it up to nothing more than pure partisanship, this obstructionism on the part of these Republicans. Or you could say that the ideology-cum-theology of The Family, which has spent decades consolidating power within the GOP, has at last come to dominate the party even among those who do not belong to the cult.
While leaders of religious right we've come to know assert their claim to "a place at the table," The Family sets its table for only a select few. They are the nation's powerful: senators, congressmen, business executives and the strong-armed leaders of Third World countries. Together, in secret, they worship a Jesus unrecognizable to most practicing Christians. (In their secret theology, the leadership model of Adolf Hitler is one of which Jesus would approve.)
The people of South Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nevada, Kansas and Wyoming find themselves represented by at least one U.S. senator who belongs to The Family. If he subscribes to the theology of the cult of which he is a member, the senator believes himself to be anointed to his lofty position by Jesus himself -- a Jesus who tells him that his constituents' health care dilemmas are of no consequence to God; they are just the natural order of things as deemed by him.
The Jesus worshiped by The Family is neither Jesus the peacemaker, the champion of the poor, nor even Christ the personal savior. He is Jesus the power broker, who works his will through well-situated men committed to free enterprise of a most unregulated sort.
Things are as they are in the world because that's the way God wants them. The poor are poor because God ordained it to be so -- a condition that they may have earned through disobedience to the creator. The powerful are powerful -- be they murderous dictators or corporate polluters -- because they are God's chosen. Any regulated economic system, according to this theology, is less than godly, because regulation forestalls the exercise of free will.
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Family members who did their bit to slow down reform in their roles on the negotiating team for the Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill, remain unmoved by the 865 preventable deaths suffered each week by people without access to proper health care.
The God of The Family's teaching would never hold Grassley or Enzi -- or any other official -- to account for those deaths, because Grassley and Enzi are key men in God's plan.
Even Grassley's dishonest campaign to convince his constituents that President Barack Obama is looking to use health care reform to "pull the plug on Grandma" -- God is just fine with that, because Grassley is doing exactly what God wants him to do, preserving the social order.
Not His Brother's Keeper
It's that theology that led The Family, over the years, to aid and abet such dictators as Haiti's Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Indonesia's Haji Muhammad Suharto, Chile's Augusto Pinochet, and the brutal Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi, who among them killed more than a million people.
The Family seems to be fond of "revolutions" of a particular type: Those that overthrow socialists or any kind of leftists, even those, like Chile's Salvador Allende, who were democratically elected. As Jeff Sharlet explains in his masterful book, The Family, "God chooses his key men according to His concerns, not ours ..."
Other Family members, identified as such by Sharlet, loom large in the health care debate. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said right-wingers could "break" Obama by defeating health care reform. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told NBC's David Gregory that members of Congress had "earned" the threats of violence they were receiving at town-hall meetings focused on the health care bill.
Adele M. Stan AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.