I feel a little silly to be discussing Ron Paul. I regard him as nothing more than a footnote in American politics. As a Libertarian presidential candidate, he got just a smattering of votes. As a Republican contender, he was good for a few laughs year after year. But this year he has attracted more attention than usual. Disenchanted young Americans and fed-up conservatives have coalesced behind him to create a force that could help to shape the Republican platform.
What concerns me is that many of Paul’s followers have been hoodwinked. It seems the Texas obstetrician is not really a Libertarian; he could turn out to be more authoritarian and oppressive than the most extreme right-wing candidates.
True, he wants to shut down the federal government and revoke its authority. But, from an article I read in Salon.com today, I fear he would replace Washington’s laws with draconian canons from the Old Testament. According to the Salon article, by Sarah Posner, a senior editor of Religion Dispatches, Paul’s camp includes a group of conservative Christians even more extreme than the religious right. Posner writes:
They’re attracted to Paul because they think that in the place of the federal government, which they believe should not be “legislating morality,” their ultra-conservative brand of Christianity should play a central role in shaping the laws and morals of their states and communities.
In other words, they believe only men should hold positions of authority and their wives should be submissive to them; abortion and birth control should be outlawed; and even in some cases that gays should be put to death. Here’s a sample from the article:
Patricia Wheat, an activist I met at an antiabortion rally in South Carolina, contended that the Constitution “comes out of the Book of Deuteronomy, which sets specific precepts for government.” (Wheat also serves on the South Carolina Sound Money Committee, which promotes an “alternative currency” for the state.) The Bible, she added, “is the only recognized religious book that sets forth jurisdiction and promotes liberty. The Bible says that the family is responsible for education of the children. The Bible says that the church is responsible for the spiritual nurturing in the community and to minister to the widows and the orphans. That’s a legitimate function of the church. Civil government is to defend the people’s liberties so they can live freely, because a free people are by nature of being a free people, a holy people.”
One of these Paul supporters is quoted in the article as approving of slavery, declaring that the Bible says it can be OK.
Yes, I know, these people are not quite sane. The artricle implies as much, reporting that Paul’s backers include “some of the most extreme elements of the American right: birthers, Birchers, neo-Confederates, contraception-eschewing home-schoolers, neo-Calvinists and gun rights supporters who think (like Paul does) that the National Rifle Association is too liberal.”
And while they support Paul, he is not necessarily one of them. And I doubt that he shares all of their beliefs. But that doesn’t mean he’s a Libertarian. Here’s how Posner describes his position:
Paul, normally seen as an irreligious libertarian, does have a religious ideology, most frequently captured in his invocation of “biblical economics” to describe the underpinnings of his demands for no-debt federal spending and a return to the gold standard for monetary policy. But Paul — much to his supporters’ delight — has always eschewed the overt religiosity that other Republicans have seen as indispensable to their political success, rejecting campaign trail salvation stories in favor of an ideology that his religious followers insist is more authentic, more protective of their freedom — and more in line with their Bibles.
As a Christian, I regard the Bible as Holy, and I recognize its teachings as inspired. But in fulfilling the Holy Book’s prophecies, Jesus of Nazareth brought us a doctrine of love that replaces the harsh strictures in books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I interpret this doctrine as one of tolerance and inclusion and I respect the rights of others to follow their own hearts.
That is at the core of the United States system of government. America is a country of tolerance, in which no particular religion rules.
A significant group of Ron Paul’s followers want to change that. And the Paul campaign is reportedly working behind the scenes to dominate the Republican Convention. If they succeed, they could move the party even farther to the extreme right.
To me, that would not just be undesirable. It would be unholy.