, Gloucester, MA

July 9, 2013

Letter: Pastor's views are hardly on the 'fringe'

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Unlike some letter writers, I was tickled pink — no pun intended — that the Times printed the Rev. Slyman’s “Midweek Musings” column (Wednesdsy, July 3).

I say that because too few people, especially here in liberal Massachusetts, take the Rev. Slyman’s brand of biblical literalism seriously enough.

I believe that is a big mistake, given the biblical literalists’ close ties to some of the most powerful, far right political, economic, and media interests in the country — not to mention more than a few people in senior leadership positions within the Republican party.

Although they may be relatively small in number, biblical literalists, along with other far right groups like the Tea Party and Minutemen, now so dominate the base of the GOP that no Republican politician who aspires to the presidency has a chance of winning the party’s nomination without pandering to these groups in the primaries in ways that are truly unseemly. No one personified that sad reality more than Mitt Romney in 2012.

The power and influence of America’s biblical literalists extend far beyond our borders.

Between 2007 and 2009, several leaders of America’s biblical literalist movement, including the Rev Rick Warren of the mega Saddleback Church in California, advised the Ugandan government as it drafted legislation that international human rights groups loudly denounced as little more than a “gay genocide bill.”

I share this not just because of my concerns about the impact these far right groups, working in tandem with many inside the once great party of Lincoln, could have on the rights of gay Americans. They impact the rights of all Americans, especially the rights of those who dare to disagree with their theological, ideological, political, and socio-economic vision for America.

Women should be paying particularly close attention. What has played out in Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina recently is part of a national right wing strategy to deny women their constitutionally guaranteed right to make their own reproductive health decisions, and even their ability to access the most basic of health-care services, on a state by state basis.

Anyone who minimizes or dismisses that reality as the work of an unimportant, fringe movement that cannot possibly succeed is living in a fool’s paradise.

It is easy to dismiss religious zealots like the Rev. Slyman and our own local street preacher, Stuart Diamond, as religious zealots here on overwhelmingly liberal and progressive Cape Ann.

But when one digs deeper into the depth, breadth, wealth, and political connectedness these right wing “fringe” movements enjoy at the national level, despite their relatively small numbers, it becomes clear that to dismiss these various far right movements is a big mistake — a very big mistake, indeed.