I watched the Reagan Debate tonight and it was about ten minutes in before I found myself yelling at the TV. I learned to be a deconstructionist from my English/literature teachers in high school and college, all of whom taught me well – some have argued a little too well, because I never take a sentence at face value.
There were some truly sickening moments this evening. I thought about packing it in when Santorum nearly broke his arm patting himself on the back over his role in the Welfare Reform Act, and what’s worse, had the audacity to use the linguistically revealing phrase “poor blacks” to speak of African Americans of another income level. Clearly he needs a tourniquet for his bleeding heart. This happened in a moment and was fleeting. What was most bothersome was yet to come, and I am glad I held fast.
The issue of the death penalty came up nearly an hour later. A response was given by the candidate that was a signal that he was in favor of the practice, which was not so very surprising – this was, after all a GOP debate, but that the crowd applauded at this juncture was both surprising and not altogether disturbing.
Two things strike me about this as theologically incoherent:
Those gathered in this audience want to claim that America is still a “Christian nation.” Whether or not the majority of Americans see themselves as Christians or actively go to Church is not for me to say. What I will say as a theologian is that the death penalty is not the way of Christ. Christ was about restoration of brokenness from the micro level to the macro level if you will. Christ was about restoring justice, not about seeking vengeance.
Second, it struck me that (many of) the very same people that were in attendance there, applauding were extremely anti-abortion and yet pro-death penalty. This inconsistency has always bugged me and will continue to do so.
It is difficult, deciding whether or not to even watch these debates. On the one hand I have a responsibility to be as informed a citizen as I possibly can be, but on the other hand — I get so angry at the ignorance (really? If you don’t know what really happened re:Galileo, pick a better metaphor) & hyperbole; at the clear lack of sociological imagination displayed in these candidates. Is it righteous anger, or am I just pissed off and foul-mouthed? Does anyone else struggle with this?