goldwater christians terrible damn problem
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“Whereof what’s past is prologue; what to come, in yours and my discharge,” Antonio prophetically tells Sebastian in William Shakespeare’s medieval play The Tempest, encouraging him to kill his sleeping father so he can become king.

And so it continues today, as ambitious people with self-serving agendas try to corrupt the present to ensure their influence in the future.

Say what you will about the arguably extremist politics of late arch-conservative Arizona lawmaker and failed 1964 GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, he had foresight.

His 1994 statement reprised here shows he clearly understood way back when the chilling danger if predatory, evangelical Christianity were to take hold of his Republican Party. It would be a “terrible damn problem,” he warned.

“Frankly,” he exlaimed, “these people frighten me.”

And this was the guy Americans gravely feared might get his finger on the nuclear “button.”

Well, fast forward to the 21st-century, and Goldwater’s past worry was prologue to our present reality, as the Christian Right has gained a full measure of control over U.S. President Donald J. Trump by comprising a significant chunk of his voting base.

Already, Trump-picked Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is busy trying to expand public funding for private Chrisatain schools, the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing evangelical Christian groups to set up indoctrinating religious clubs in schools, “In God We Trust” is displayed everywhere in public schools and government buildings (including behind judges benches in courtrooms), and the courts are accommodating gender bigots who discriminate against others for religious reasons.

But while the Senate remains controlled by largely Christian Republicans, while the current administration continues to purposefully pack federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court with conservative Christian jurists, and while the political power of the 25 percent of Americans who are nonreligous or religiously unaffiliated fails to coalesce as an effective political bloc, nothing will much change.

As a somewhat liberal atheist, I’m shocked — shocked, I tell you — that I now think a hard-core conservative like Goldwater was actually right once.

But even if Godwater didn’t know his Shakespeare, in another sense he certainly did.

(Thanks to Robert Spitz. The Goldwater quote comes from John Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience, 2006)


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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...