At the risk of being proven wrong like our former vice president, I think the right-wing insurgency in Oklahoma is in its last throes, as evidenced by the absurd political theatre of the “Proclamation for Morality.”
It was always a weird phenomenon in Oklahoma, running counter to our historic identity as a state of populist, progressive politics.
It also runs counter to our core values of decency, fairness, friendliness and helping one another. Raised in small town and rural Oklahoma, one of the worst sins you could commit was being rude to someone else. Even when someone was different from you, or you disagreed with them, you weren’t supposed to be rude.
Yet the right wing here has exhibited incredible rudeness in recent years, such as in that silly episode of not accepting the gift of a Quran that was given to legislators as a sign of multicultural understanding, dialogue and peace. My rural Oklahoma grandmothers may have been conservative Christians, but they would never have refused a gift and would have been ashamed of anyone acting so rudely as to publicly refuse it.
The right wing has gone beyond plain rudeness to hate-filled vitriol, the best example being Rep. Sally Kern’s gays-are-a-bigger-threat-than-terrorism speech. No wonder most Oklahomans are left puzzling over this false representation of the heritage of our state.
I always try to remind folks that Kern is a relatively recent transplant (unlike the four generations of my family, say) and so she probably hasn’t yet learned that we aim to be neighborly with one another. Maybe if we keep trying to be neighborly with her, our kindness will awaken some light within her?
Besides running counter to our Oklahoma identity, one reason we know the right wing is in its last throes is that in this latest episode, the “Proclamation for Morality,” they have resorted to outright lies and deception.
They blame the economic collapse on moral issues. I would agree with that assessment, but they don’t name corporate greed, lack of access to health care, the increased poverty rate, the exploitation of the environment and other economic moral issues. They list their now-worn-out-with-40-years-of-overuse hot-button wedge issues. Anyone with common sense realizes that these had nothing to do with the economic collapse, but the political and economic policies promoted by the right wing sure had a lot to do with it. This is a game of smoke and mirrors to distract us from the real issues.
They are in their last throes because even they are aware of the changing demographic tides. These changes reveal that Americans are increasingly less tolerant of this divisive brand of Christian fundamentalism and politics. For example, in a 2007 study by the well-respected (and evangelical) Barna Group, it was revealed that only 3 percent of 16-29-year-old non-Christians had a positive view of evangelicals. According to the group, 87 percent viewed them as judgmental and 85 percent as hypocritical. The Barna Group identifies only 7 percent of the current population as evangelical.
We can be hopeful that this vocal minority group which has co-opted state politics in recent years and diverted us from our historical identity will finally begin to fade away. My only fear is that insurgencies are often their most violent when they are in their last throes, as Dick Cheney learned.
Jones, who holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, is pastor of the Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.