In the Rachel Maddow video that I featured in a posting yesterday, did you notice Tim Russert grilling George W. Bush on 13 February 2000 about what Bob Jones, founder of Bob Jones University, publicly stated regarding his university's religious beliefs and why the university had banned interracial dating — while continuing to hold its hand out to receive federal funds prohibiting racial discrimination? I've captured the quote from Bob Jones that Russert read to Bush in a screen shot above.
That clip is followed by Katie Couric reading to Bush on 9 February 2000 another statement made in 1998 by the public relations director of Bob Jones University to explain the theological rationale of the university as it banned interracial marriage (but it still wanted those public tax dollars coming in as it flouted non-discrimination laws, let's not forget):
Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established. When Jesus Christ returns to the earth, he will establish world unity. But until then, a divided earth seems to be his plan.
As you think about those two theological statements, think about the worldview of Catholic right-wing apocalypticist and white supremacist Steve Bannon, friend of powerful right-wing American cardinal Raymond Burke. Bannon's worldview is just as Manichean as is the worldview of Bob Jones and his right-wing evangelical university: God has divided the world up into camps, into sheep and goats. It's our job to enforce the divisions (reminding ourselves that we, of course, are the sheep and those threatening others are the goats).
Division is a good thing. It's a divine thing. The Lord God has established it and wants it. The Lord God wants the world divided.
And we're determined to keep it that way and to increase the divisions.
In 1983, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Bob Jones University could believe whatever it wishes to believe in the name of its "Lord God" — that the moon is made of green cheese, if it so chooses. But it could not, per the Supreme Court ruling, flout federal non-discrimination laws while taking federal tax dollars. Religion or no religion . . . .
As Randall Balmer and other interpreters of American religion have noted, the religious right movement arose in direct response to the abolition of racial bans in the educational systems of the South. The response of white Southern evangelical Christians to Brown v. Board and the 1964 Civil Rights act was to attack public education (i.e., integrated schools) and set up private faith-based schools as an alternative to public schools.
To their great discredit, the U.S. Catholic bishops climbed aboard the religious right train with white Southern evangelicals in reaction to federally mandated racial desegregation — in large part, because they feared and continue to fear federal "intrusion" in Catholic institutions, intrusion taking the form of non-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination in Catholic institutions receiving federal funding. There is a straight — and fatal — line from the decision of the U.S. Catholic bishops (backed by Pope John Paul II and his theological watchdog Cardinal Ratzinger) to climb aboard the religious right train with white Southern evangelicals, to Donald Trump and his election.
And to Steve Bannon and Cardinal Burke: the "Lord God" wants the world divided into camps, into spheres of good and evil. With us identified as good and them as evil.