Capital Shaman


“Except we turn back and become as cows, we shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. For we ought to learn one thing from them: chewing the cud. And verily, what would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and did not learn this one thing: chewing the cud!” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra)


I voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. I didn’t mind that McCain is a Baptist, Palin some sort of Pentecostal. McCain had known enough in the 2000 election to call Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson forces of intolerance (though later, out of a sense of political expediency, he tried mending fences with them). Palin said that she did not see her role to advance pet theological causes through legislation. All right, then. If she happened to believe the earth was created six thousand years ago, or six hours ago, what did I care? On the other hand, I cared little for the James Cone style of Black Theology espoused by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and, one would naturally have to assume, by his close buddy and parishioner Barak Obama. Obama also had oodles of inexperience, combined with apparently Socialist leanings. There seemed plenty of reasons not to vote for him, so I voted for McCain. But my guy lost.

When Obama won, I decided to put the political past behind me and root for my new president (elect). After all, he seemed smart and tough. Maybe he could make the great liberal experiment work. I hoped so. I determined I would not be a sore loser like the Democrats had been ever since 2000, with their hysterical claims of election-stealing. I would not embrace “Obama Derangement Syndrome” as they had succumbed to “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” I wanted to breathe no more of that politically poisonous atmosphere. When people began trying to connect Obama with the corrupt governor of Illinois, my thought was, “Oh no: here we go again! Why can’t we just make a new start?”

But then I found myself socked right between the eyes by the unbelievable announcement that Obama had invited the buffoonish Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration! What the hell? I would have groaned had a President McCain announced such a choice. But Obama? Now I am caught between the worst of both worlds! Let me get this straight: Obama is trying to reach out to the Religious Right by inviting aboard their stupidest, most theologically infantile, representative? The author of the treatise in imbecility, The Purpose-Driven Life? Will we see in the near future a collaboration volume, The Purpose-Driven Administration?

Had Bush or McCain invited Warren to pray at his swearing in, that would have been all the evidence liberals needed that Bush and McCain were Puritanical totalitarians, which they weren’t and aren’t. That was always liberal propaganda. What will they say it means for Obama to draw attention to such an association? In a recent interview, George W. Bush freely admitted he did not take the Bible literally, something the Left would not have wanted us to know. They preferred us to picture Bush with a Dispensational chart and a Tribulation Map open on the desk in front of him in the Oval Office, an absurd slander. But what does it means for Obama to seek the blessing of this peddler of cultish Bible-quoting mind-control? I have to assume it is one more piece of political posturing, albeit a bungled one, by Obama. I will laugh at the liberal spin doctors trying to show how Obama’s recruitment of Warren does not mean he is the fundamentalist zombie it would have made Bush in their eyes. Watch them squirm!

As for me, I would rather have an invocation delivered by Jeremiah Wright, ending in “God damn America!” Or one of Father Richard Pflager’s stand-up routines. Anything, in fact, but the sugary superstitions of Rick Warren. As far as I’m concerned, the honeymoon’s over.

What does it mean for Rick Warren to occupy the post of National Shaman? The news media seem to think Billy Graham’s role as national pastor will go to Warren. Jerry Falwell had once campaigned for the succession, but his failure to gain such recognition was moot (and please don’t mispronounce it “mute”!) since Falwell died while Billy Graham yet lingers. Billy Graham never betrayed much theological sophistication, but Rick Warren is just a bag of religious vacuity. To choose such a man as the Icon of American religion shows what people expect from religion, and it is not encouraging. It is a “recognition” that religion is totally non-cognitive sentimentality. And sentimentality by itself is dangerous: it can prevail to the neglect of both critical thinking and morality. It can forgive too easily. It can recoil in horror at what must be done in such messy areas as espionage and national security. It can be so idealistic it doesn’t want to be confused with the facts. And it can glorify ignorance as a form of nostalgia for “the good old days” when we didn’t know about things like evolution. Not that scientific ignorance was what made them good, but we did happen to be ignorant then, and nostalgia wants all things as they were “back then.” Creationism has about as much going for it as flat-top haircuts and the Jitterbug: a rosy aura around the less complicated past.

I don’t expect public servants to be theologians. They have expertise in other areas. But if they are going to have religious advisers, you’d think they would be theologians, specialists. But in religion there is a strange paradox: it seems people are eager to place their trust in the “professionals” who have the least expertise, who know the least about their subject. People who look at the Bible simplistically, even superstitiously. People who exalt blind faith in a creed others taught them and unquestioning subservience to divine authority (represented, of course, by a human representative like Rick Warren with his Bible).

I can only hope President Obama will pay as little attention to the gas-bag sagacity of Rick Warren as he said he did that of Jeremiah Wright. Maybe he knows better than to take seriously anything either of them say. It is a shame that, things being as they are, he has to pretend to.

So says Zarathustra.

Robert M. Price
February 2009


Copyright©2009 by Robert M Price
Spirit of Carolina Web Design