Tony Norman: 'Christian' America lacking in compassion

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A day after the botched execution of a convicted murderer on Oklahoma's death row horrified a nation that would rather not think about legally sanctioned torture, that state's senior Republican senator was on the floor of the U.S. Senate decrying a travesty -- but not that one.

"We're here because of the hand of God," Sen. Jim Inhofe said about George Washington on the 225th anniversary of the first president's inaugural address. "Washington's leadership was grounded in God, and his leadership was God's gift."

That was Mr. Inhofe's windup pitch for what was really on his mind. "Oklahomans regularly ask me ... why we have an administration that suppresses our Judeo-Christian values while praising Islam," he said, glibly violating the commandment against bearing false witness.

"I find it sad that our nation does not have the same belief today that we had back when Washington was president," Mr. Inhofe said, conveniently overlooking the well-documented downsides of life in the early republic for blacks, Native Americans, women and religious minorities.

"We've become arrogant, inward-focused individuals. Rather than submit to God's authority, we define truth, justice and morality by what feels good at the time," Mr. Inhofe said.

Instead of protecting the church from government, as George Washington would have done, government has imposed its own version of truth on churches in President Barack Obama's Washington, according to Mr. Inhofe.

"We've got to restore that morality of our nation given to us by the founding fathers," he said without any hint of irony. When he finally got around to answering questions about the cruel and unusual death of Clayton Lockett, Mr. Inhofe defended the death penalty in his state and disagreed with those who called for a moratorium pending the results of a thorough investigation.

"The people who are concerned about how much [Lockett] suffered, they ought to think about how much [his victim] suffered, and I don't think that should change anything," Mr. Inhofe said of the 19-year-old woman the executed man raped, shot and buried alive after a robbery went wrong.

Chances are that somewhere in the deep recesses of his reptilian brain, Mr. Inhofe doesn't really believe that both Jesus and George Washington had the kind of "morality" that would've supported Oklahoma's barbarism, despite Lockett's appalling crimes. Still, he knows his constituents understand an eye-for-an-eye and aren't at all concerned about the nuances of justice, proportionality or mercy.

An exemplar of the kind of "Christian" this nation has become expert at producing, Mr. Inhofe couldn't bring himself to fake even a smidgen of compassion for Lockett, who, while still conscious during his execution, suffered in a paralyzed state for more than 40 minutes until he was finally overcome by a massive heart attack.

What would Mr. Inhofe's version of Jesus have done in the "Christian nation" he established under the quasi-priesthood of George Washington? He'd presumably be the first to insert a needle into Lockett's arm, despite being a victim of capital punishment himself.

Like his most "faithful" followers, the Jesus of Mr. Inhofe's imagination is as irony deprived as he is sadistic. We get confirmation of this American Jesus' utter contempt for morality from no less an expert on American constitutional theology than Sarah Palin, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee.

At last week's National Rifle Association convention, Ms. Palin revealed to the cheering crowd how a Christian sacrament would be used to loosen the tongues of suspected Islamic terrorists under a Palin presidency.

"Oh, you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen," she said with a demonic cackle. "Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists."

Though it is the single most ignorant and heretical remark uttered by a so-called Christian politician in a generation, Ms. Palin has yet to apologize for it. In her world, Jesus' symbol of renewal and repentance lacks the American Jesus' pragmatism and terrorist-defying swagger. Her most ardent supporters are too biblically illiterate to be offended by it in any case.

A recent tweet captured the absurdity of this kind of Christianity perfectly: "If you're looking for the people who think America is a Christian nation, they're busy celebrating guns and torture."

A Christian nation where botched executions are of no moral consequence and baptism is synonymous with torturing one's enemies sounds more like hell than the "godless" alternative.


Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631; Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.

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