by Robert Hieronimus, Ph.D. and Laura E. Cortner
Co-authors of the forthcoming The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World
Sarah Palin represents an extremist Christian mindset that is just as dangerous and potentially violent as the extremist Islamic mindset. It's called the New Apostolic Reformation, and because their claims are so outrageous to seem almost silly to the American intelligentsia, the media's underreporting on this growing movement means we have ignored this fundamentalist mindset at our own peril. The mania that is currently manifesting as growing support for a madman like Donald Trump is fueled by people who love conspiracies where they can blame "the other" for all that is wrong with the world. Hatred of "the other" has led to horrifying genocides in history, but blaming some other group remains perennially attractive because it is easier than taking responsibility for oneself to fix what is wrong with the world.
The media needs to be asking candidates where they stand on the separation of church and state. The arch-conservatives are aligning themselves with this Dominionist philosophy where hate speech against women's rights, immigrants, and all non-Protestant "Bible Christians" is preached to huge voting blocs in mega-churches across the country. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal have all proclaimed their socially conservative values in front of these evangelical crowds, and have received their financial backing in return.
Medieval woodcut of the Whore of Babylon together with the Pope astride the seven-headed beast. The term "Whore of Babylon" gained new popularity during anti-Catholic campaigns like this one described in a 1546 pamphlet identifying Catholics as the current scapegoat — "the other" to blame for all evil in the world.
What is more recent is their focused attack on the Statue of Liberty, with critics going so far as to call her the Whore of Babylon – because she is a goddess. This interpretation may sound ridiculous, but the point is that the fundamentalist Christian preachers who are saying these things are also advising the current crop of extremist leaders of the Republican Party. And in action, their misplaced and ill-informed fear of goddess symbolism is translated into legislation that restricts women's reproductive freedom. At its root, fear of the goddess comes down to fear of empowered women, which is why we track conspiracy theories about the Statue of Liberty. The Presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 drew these extremist Christians into the national spotlight as never before with headlines like "Texas Governor Rick Perry's pastor calls Statue of Liberty a Demon." That preacher was John Benefiel, whose August 2010 sermon said this about the Statue of Liberty: "That is a demonic idol right there in New York harbor... It's a statue of a false goddess, the Queen of Heaven. We don't get liberty from a false goddess, folks. We get our liberty from Jesus Christ, and that Statue of Liberty in no way glorifies Jesus Christ."
That's correct, and the United States is all the more powerful because of it. The creators of the Statue of Liberty followed the advice of the founding fathers of the United States by creating symbolism based on classic virtues rather than Christian iconography, because they wanted to emphasize that the United States was a land of religious freedom – NOT a Christian nation. This is not a theocracy.
If extremists like Palin come to power or land top advisory posts to those who do, you can best believe the first wall they will attack is the one so carefully constructed by our founders between church and state.