Political fire-breathing was center stage at “The Oil Palace” on Saturday in Tyler, the only Texas stop on FOX News show host Glenn Beck‘s traveling road show, his “Take America Back” tour. The event showed once again how religious-right rhetoric increasingly dominates the so-called “tea party movement.” Beck and various Texas politicians provided plenty of that rhetoric.
In recent years we’ve heard religious-righters claim that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, floods and fires are God’s punishment on a sinful America. On Saturday, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reports, state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, told a cheering crowd: “I believe that Barack Obama is God’s punishment on us today, but in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president.”
“God’s punishment”? Hyperbolic politics isn’t new to America, of course. But isn’t suggesting that our nation’s elected president is somehow a tool of divine punishment on Americans more than a little unhinged?
Speaking of unhinged, Beck also used faith as a political weapon to bludgeon anyone who doesn’t share his narrow political views. Here’s how the Tyler newspaper reporter described the scene:
Recalling history of how America was founded as well as biblical stories, Beck said the American flag is a symbol of God’s freedom. Those who fought for the country through the years didn’t fight and die so that people could go to the mall shopping, have Social Security or health care; they fought so that people could be free, Beck said.
The American seal as drawn up by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was a pillar of fire and the split Red Sea behind it for the Israelites to cross, Beck said.
“We must remember who we are. We must remember what brought us here. We must remember what protected us. We must remember these rights do not belong to us — they come from God,” Beck said. The crowd rose in unison to its feet applauding loudly and yelling.
If people don’t know the history, “find it and tell your children,” Beck urged the crowd. “If God is with us, who can possibly stand against us? The answer is no one.”
It’s always a bit unnerving when political extremists try to recruit God into their militant ranks. It’s not just the off-the-scale arrogance that’s alarming. Many terrible things have been done by terrible people claiming to act with God’s support.
Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Perry brought his own militant rhetoric to the event as well:
Texas was built by free-thinking patriots, and it’s time to let it be heard in Washington, Perry said. The tea party is about taking the country back, Perry said.
The governor described Beck as a national leader of a powerful group sending a message to the current administration and congress about Washington, D.C., how to control spending and Americans taking their country back.
“I consider myself proud to be in that army,” Perry said in a short news conference before the town hall meeting.
Of course, this isn’t Gov. Perry’s first trip to Beck’s circus. Last year, for example, the governor was a guest on Beck’s FOX program shortly after the host doused a colleague with liquid from a gasoline can and charged that President Obama was essentially setting America afire re with his policies. “I’m proud to be with you,” Gov. Perry told the unhinged host when he joined the show.