George Pyle: No more about this being a Christian nation

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, pauses while speakings to members of the media after leaving a closed door meeting about Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

-- Matthew 25:40 (King James Version)

No. No more. Not one more word.

Events of the last few weeks have proven, as if proof were necessary, that those who claim that the United States of America is a Christian nation, or a society firmly founded in Judeo-Christian values, are either lying or under the influence of heavy drugs.

Let us, please, hear no more about it.

We can argue over interpretations of our history, of religious principles or the meaning of the First Amendment. But it becomes more obvious with every passing day that, in the words of that grumpy old man in “Hannah and Her Sisters,” "If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

There are millions of examples, of course. The one that should have torn it for Americans of any, or no, religious persuasion was the stunned visage of Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee when he was part of Vice President Mike Pence’s delegation to some of the concentration camps for migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers at our southern border.

Both men sought, gained and would hold public office on a platform of fulfilling the mandates of their faith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Lee. Pence describes himself as a “a born-again, evangelical Catholic.”

Yet, staring into the faces of people who are about as leastish as one can imagine, it was as if Lee, Pence and company were suffering through a bad movie. No apparent reaction. Certainly no empathy. And no urge to engage in some of that Angry Jesus throw-the-money-changers-from-the-temple rage that would have been appropriate.

The money-changers, in this instance, being the for-profit prison operators who are pulling down $250 to $750 per person per day. Enough, one would think, to scare up some really nice toothbrushes.

The whole idea of for-profit prisons is simply vile. When the government runs a prison, it has an incentive to keep the number of prisoners low to, of nothing else, save taxpayers money. When a for-profit company runs a prison, it has an incentive to bring in more prisoners, and will aggressively lobby government for laws and policies that will help them do that.

The pool video that we saw was of 400 men crowded into a cage, with no room to lie down, complaining of not having a chance to bathe, a claim accompanying journalists said was validated by the smell in the room.

These bozos can’t even put together a proper Potemkin village.

Worse, according to The New York Times report, was that Lee acted as an unofficial translator for Pence during a visit to another facility that held children. Lee speaks Spanish. He did his LDS mission in that same part of the world. So our senator’s deniability is limited.

Well, enough of that. Lee was soon back home in the Senate, putting and releasing a hold on a bill to pay the medical expenses of the thousands of emergency workers and volunteers who were poisoned by their time at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Some Muslims tried to kill them. A couple of Christians didn’t seem to care. Not a good image of religion.

Meanwhile, of course, there are a good number of Christians who are appalled by the conditions at the border.

And more than a few Jews have taken it upon themselves to protest the policy. Some good old fashioned direct action against ICE facilities was launched by some second- and third-generation descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors who see that, when you say Never Again, you have to really, freaking, seriously mean Never Again. Or it doesn’t count.

The point, the solution, is not for the United States to really be a Christian nation. Or a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist nation. We have sworn off an official faith, and there’s no way we could all follow the same one.

If you are in the market, though, might I recommend Kurt Vonnegut’s Bokononism. It is based on the idea that its own principles are harmless lies, and that each of us should live by whichever such untruths “make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

Some varieties of Christianity, of course, are seen by some as something that makes people happy and kind. So, as Gandhi didn’t ever really say when he was never really asked what he thought of Western civilization, it would be a good idea.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, was not always a fan of the Republican Party. Now he thinks what it used to be would be a good idea.


Twitter, @debatestate