Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Odor of Mendacity

I have been out of town for the better part of a week, and removed from my usual sources of information (not a bad thing, actually). In getting caught up on the news, I find that our old buddy Rep. Tom Delay is still in the headlines, this time from a speech given at a “War on Christians” conference in Washington. From someone who is still "working out my own salvation," I'm not about to pass judgment on someone else's faith. Yet public piety and cheap religiousity is always suspect, particularly from someone who, in his Texas Legislature days was nicknamed “Hot Tub Tom” by his colleagues (this, in fact, from a colleague).

In reading about the conference, I remembered just who Delay reminded me of. In the 1958 movie adaptation of the Southern gothic stage classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the actor Jack Carson portrayed Big Daddy Pollitt’s oily, fast-talking and conniving older son, Gooper. Yep, Gooper. Tom Delay is simply Gooper Pollitt writ large on the national scene.

The theme of the Washington conference leaves me uneasy. Delay told the adoring crowd that “the enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won.” Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with that statement—it is indeed, the Christian hope, for in the end, the Enemy will NOT win. But, you know this is not what "Team Delay, with its paladins of public piety" had in mind. In their war, the battle is waged with conservative political activism, PACs, Capitalism as gospel, while railing against Hollywood, the gay-rights crowd, and of course the liberal media and so on. There is, of course, a battle going on, but its true nature is more accurately described in Ephesians 6:12. The conference organizer likened Delay’s deepening ethical and legal problems to Christ’s Passion, concluding that “God always does his best work after a crucifixion.” I kid you not, he actually said that. You can’t make up crap like this.

But I guess the real thing that bothers me is that it cheapens and takes away from the very real, “war on Christians.” We caught a glimpse of that last week in the trial of the Abdul Rahman. The entire Soviet era was very much a “war on Christians” as perhaps millions of Russian martyrs attest. Ever so often, churches (and Christians) are bombed in Pakistan. Christians are arrested in Iran. Just a few years back, the Indonesians were butchering the Catholic East Timorese. The Sudanese government—before their current butchery in Darfur—were killing Christians in the south of that country. My church has a large contingent of Orthodox Christian refugees from Eritrea. The Egyptian Copts are routinely persecuted. The diminishing Arab Christians in the Middle East, after 1400 years of dhimmitude, are now caught in the squeeze between the Muslim and the Jews, as well as suffering the backlash from Western policies in the region. Now these are real, actual “wars on Christians.” But I doubt that this is what Delay was thinking about. Perhaps he should.

This brings me back to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. My favorite lines include:

BRICK: Have you ever heard the word “mendacity”?
BIG DADDY: Sure. Mendacity is one of them five dollar words that cheap politicians throw back and forth at each other.
BRICK: You know what it means?
BIG DADDY: Don’t it mean lying and liars?
BRICK: Yes, sir, lying and liars.

And then this from the movie:

What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?

A powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity, indeed.

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