Tales From The GOP Death Cult: Onward Christian Soldiers

A new poll by Morning Consult released this morning, indicates that a huge majority of Americans support a national quarantine. There is a shocking disparity though, between Republicans and normal people on what kind of a job Trump is doing in responding to the pandemic. 56% of Republicans say he's doing an excellent job an assessment shared with only 16% of independents and 6% of Democrats. Overall, 52% of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing in a general sense and 45% approve and, asked who they would vote for if the election were held today, 32% said definitely Trump, 9% said probably Trump, 7% said probably someone other than Trump and 43% definitely not Trump.

Meanwhile, this should not make you laugh or cheer... but thousands of future fascists are returning to school-- or something pretending to be a school-- prematurely.

Reporting for the Lynchburg News and Advance, Richard Chumney wrote that "As the coronavirus threatens to spread across the Lynchburg region, Liberty University officials are preparing to welcome back up to 5,000 students from spring break this week. Defying a national trend of campus closures, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has invited students to return to residence halls and has directed faculty members to continue to report to campus even as most classes move online."

In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms.

Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours.

“I think we have a responsibility to our students-- who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here-- to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they’ve already paid for and to not interrupt their college life,” Falwell said.

Falwell’s decision leaves Liberty as an outlier among the scores of colleges and universities across the country that have shut down to help limit the spread of the disease known as COVID-19.

The threat of the coronavirus became more immediate for the region this weekend when the Virginia Department of Health announced cases in Amherst and Bedford counties. Statewide, as of Monday evening, more than 250 people have contracted the disease and seven have died.

In response to the pandemic, several nearby institutions have instructed faculty to work remotely and have limited dorms to students unable to return home. At the University of Lynchburg, 19 students continue to live in dorms while at Randolph College just five remain on campus.

In contrast with other schools, Liberty’s dorms, academic buildings, library and fitness center remain open.

...On Monday, [Virginia Governor Ralph] Northam directed all non-essential businesses to close by the start of Wednesday. Non-essential services were identified as all places of indoor public amusement as well as fitness centers, and salons that cannot comply with social distancing guidelines. It is unclear how that order will affect Liberty.

Falwell, who has publicly downplayed the threat of the virus in recent weeks, said he is confident the school has taken the proper steps to prepare for a campus outbreak. He said Liberty officials have identified an old hotel owned by the university as a place to quarantine students who fall ill.

“I think we, in a way, are protecting the students by having them on campus together,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of them are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk.”

Some Liberty faculty members have questioned whether Falwell’s actions have gone far enough.

In a blunt opinion piece published by Religion News Service on Sunday, longtime English Professor Marybeth Davis Baggett called on Liberty’s board of trustees to overrule Falwell’s decision to keep campus open.

“Many students, faculty, and staff have health conditions that would make COVID-19 difficult to fight,” Baggett wrote. “And of course, Liberty is not a bubble where the virus would be contained. Instead, its population comes into regular contact with those in the Lynchburg community, putting their health and lives at risk as well.”

In an interview with the News & Advance, Baggett said she has refused to return to campus during the course of the pandemic.

“Lives are at stake,” Baggett, who plans to join the Houston Baptist University faculty this fall after 17 years at Liberty, said. “I think this decision is a recipe for disaster and I have been trying to push that as much as I have been able to internally.”

Doug Pagitt is an evangelical pastor in Minnesota who founded Vote Common Good. He told me today that "This is the kind of decision that is pitched as being in the best interest of the students is 'blind-to-science-faith.' It is a willful  disregard for what we know to be in people’s best interest. Falwell shows his lack of understanding of the Christian faith and his incompetence as a head of University."

A few words for Rev. John Pavlovitz's blog helps put this rush to reopen into some context: Their Money or Your Life (The Fraudulence of Pro-Life, Christian Capitalists). "Some people," he wrote yesterday, "adore capitalism so much, they’re willing to sell their souls to support it. They’re willing to spend other people lives in service of it... Republicans are trying to ram a slush-fund trojan hose disguised as economic crisis aid through the Senate; one that pads the already heavily buffered nest eggs of corporations and does little more for day laborers and the working poor, than give them the cheap buss of a one-time token gift."

This is the repugnant sham of pro-life Christianity revealed in all its grotesque ugliness.

This is what the Religious Right really thinks about human life: if the price is right, it is all expendable.

This is the economy of soul capitalism: their money is worth your life.

Other’s supply can meet their greedy demand.

For all their tearful, showy displays of phony religion, all their impassioned pleas about embryos in the womb being sacred-- they will let sentient human beings with grandchildren and spouses and decades of wisdom, die on the altar of their 401Ks.

They’re actually lobbying to send millions of people back into the swirling chaos of an infectious disease even before the peak of its spread-- because their identity and the President’s base is so beholden to a group of numbers and a ledger ending up in the black, that it sees no value in sick, elderly, and vulnerable human beings, for whom relaunching business as usual would be a certain death sentence.

Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money.

I never see these pro-life Christian Republicans wearing that verse on their chests or plastering it on their bumpers or brazenly broadcasting on social media, because then they’d be forced to face their fraudulence, they’d be forced to admit their hypocrisy-- and they’d have to confess that the teachings of Jesus and the sanctity of life aren’t all that critical when there’s a buck to be made or a bailout to be brokered.

Call me strange, but I don’t think the sick or the elderly are expendable just so Republicans can hold the presidency or so some already wealthy people can become even wealthier.

I don’t see my mother or your grandfather or your next-door neighbor or your co-worker’s spouse as the acceptable collateral damage of temporarily boosting the Dow or nudging Donald Trump’s poll numbers or providing a one-day national emotional placebo that allows a virus to keep killing. I don’t believe older people’s lives are chips for someone else to cash in.

Maybe I’m not a proper, card-carrying Evangelical “pro-life” Christian-- just a decent human being who takes the teachings of Jesus seriously; one who values elderly and sick and vulnerable people who are living here right now, who deserve to be here as long as anyone else.

I don’t give a damn about the economy if it costs us humanity.

I’ll be okay with that balance in my ledger.

I can look myself in the mirror.

I can sleep at night.

And we can all get ready for the Grand Trumpian Easter Sunday... by using the rest of the lockdown to learn how to sing along with Ministry:

Down With Tyranny

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