By Rob Boston
As I’ve watched the Religious Right go into conniptions over health-care reform, I’ve been tempted to ask, “So what do you want instead?”
Our current patchwork system hardly seems sustainable. It leaves 35 million people uninsured and puts everyone else at the mercy of insurance companies that deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, often look for ways not to cover illnesses and continually jack up premiums.
It’s obvious Religious Right leaders don’t like the reform plan. They and their “TEA Party” pals have done nothing but scream about socialism since President Barack Obama inked the legislation. So what would they rather have?
An answer may be emerging: faith healing and exorcisms.
Liberty University and a phalanx of Religious Right allies are sponsoring a conference this weekend called “The Awakening 2010” featuring the usual array of right-wing cranks: Jerry Falwell Jr., Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Texas Pastor Rick Scarborough, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, evangelist Lou Engle of The Call and Bishop Harry Jackson, a notorious D.C.-area homophobe.
To me, it looks like less of an “awakening” and more the return of the “dark ages.”
Interestingly, Liberty officials have just confirmed that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will also be there. Cuccinelli is one of the ringleaders of the move by 13 state attorneys general to attack health-care reform in court, asserting it is unconstitutional.
Cuccinelli will be sharing the stage in Lynchburg with Cindy Jacobs, a self-proclaimed prophet with some rather unusual views. At a conference in Dallas last month, for example, she claimed to be able to use prayer and faith to cure HIV and cancer.
But that’s just a start. Our friend Kyle Mantyla over at People For the American Way dug up some interesting footage of Jacobs in action during a conference in Texas last month. And, writing on AlterNet, Bruce Wilson reports that at another conference “Jacobs conducted a mass exorcism, casting out not only ‘spirits’ of homosexuality but also spirits of pornography, addiction, lust, bisexuality, and perversion.”
According to one of her colleagues, Jacobs has also advocated burning “idols” that might lead one astray – and she has a very liberal definition of what constitutes an idol. In a 1999 book about her, C. Peter Wagner said the list includes, “pictures, statues, Catholic saints, Books of Mormon, pictures of former lovers, pornographic material, fetishes, drugs, Ouija boards, zodiac charms, good luck symbols, crystals for healing, amulets, talismans, tarot cards, witch dolls, voodoo items, love potions, books of magic, totem poles, certain pieces of jewelry, objects of Freemasonry, horoscopes, gargoyles, native art, foreign souvenirs, and what have you.” (I wonder what Cuccinelli, who is Catholic, thinks about burning pictures and statues of Catholic saints?)
Fundamentalists are free to harp about demons all they want, of course. But I worry when they have the ears of powerful government officials. Peculiar fundamentalist views make a poor platform for public policy.
And I’m not knocking the role religion plays in many people’s lives. When you’re facing a serious illness, having a positive attitude is probably helpful. If prayer and religious devotion give you comfort, by all means have at it.
This is miles removed from Jacobs and her Lynchburg allies.
Cuccinelli is quickly gaining a reputation as perhaps the nation’s most extreme attorney general. Earlier this year, he sent letters to public colleges and universities in Virginia, telling them they have no right to bar discrimination against gays – a move that embarrassed even Gov. Robert McDonnell, a graduate of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Regent University.
Cuccinelli’s decision to share the stage at Liberty with Jacobs and the other extremists who will be there is an indication that he has no intention of stepping away from his hard-line views.
What’s left? Well, Virginians who are religious could always begin praying for sanity in Richmond.
P.S. One more thought on this: When the late Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty University, had heart problems, he immediately got himself off to the hospital. Ditto for Pat Robertson – who “heals” people on television. Robertson underwent a 10-hour heart operation last year. So it’s ‘do as I say and not as I do,’ isn’t it?