Figuring out what the Republicans are up to is only partly a matter of understanding frames and framing. Sometimes those frames are also codes, a secret, insider language, to which those of us who are not evangelical Christians or otherwise up-to-date on neocon lingo haven’t even got a clue. I’ll give just one example, but it’s a good one. It was recently reported that the RNC had sent out mailings to two states, Arkansas and West Virginia, on September 24 stating that liberals are going to take away their Bibles. I think that neither the press nor the Democratic party had the slightest idea what was really going on or what this means. It was understood as just another dastardly Republican scare tactic. Edwards responded by saying that this was outrageous and Bush should insist that they never do anything like that again.
Ha! Rove must have been laughing up his sleeve, it was so obvious that only the insiders, those with secret knowledge, understood what was being said. The public response, in fact, helped to reinforce and spread the desired message. To most of us it would mean that the RNC is saying that secular liberalism will ban reading the Bible. I don’t think that’s how they meant their audience to understand it. A Google search on “liberals Bibles” brought up 59,100 hits. The battle about “liberals” and “Bibles” has been going on for many years. This battle is terribly important to those involved with it, and the rest of us not only know nothing about it but could care less. Looking into this immediately takes one into an arcane never-never land where only the initiated dare to go.
I haven’t been to West Virginia for years, but I’ve recently been to Arkansas. I dearly love Arkansas, so what I’m about to say is an explanation, not a criticism. In Arkansas towns, there seems to be a little church on almost every corner. Vastly more churches than, for example, grocery stores. The mainstream churches are represented, often have large impressive buildings just like everywhere else, but what’s happened is that the denominations have split and split again into countless little, separate denominations, each accusing all the others of heresy. Heresy is a very important concept, and accusing each other of heresy is pretty much the local game, like bridge or baseball in other parts of the country. Arkansas is a poor state, and people have to have something to do on those long summer evenings.
So what’s a heresy? Mostly anything “liberal.” “Liberal” does not mean what we think it means. Ultimately, “liberal” means anything that in any way could be traced to the Enlightenment. in other words, although this is never spoken, all the principles on which the Constitution is based, the ideal of society as a contract between reasonable people, everything we think of as the basis for modern civilization. The mainstream churches are understood as having been corrupted by the Enlightenment and to have fallen into “liberalism.” The Episcopalians, of course, since they now have a gay Bishop, are the Devil’s spawn. But so are the Unitarians, the Presbyterians, and even most of the Baptists. And they mean that literally.
The word Bible is also a coded word. Their Bible, as they interpret it, in no way resembles the Bible most of us recognize. Each word has its own secret, arcane meaning and one has to find out what that meaning really is — while, at the same time, taking the Bible absolutely literally. No allegorical or literary interpretations allowed. The Biblical controversies have also been raging on for years. How literally should one take it? Which version should one take literally? There are those who equate the King James version with the Antichrist, and those who would kill to preserve every sacred word of it. However, it doesn’t really matter what the Bible literally SAYS. What matters is what the Bible is interpreted to MEAN. And each little denomination, each little congregation, has its own interpretation, with everyone else’s version considered to be heresy. But the really BIG, dangerous, awful heresies are the interpretations of the Bible one learns in those literally damned, take that seriously because they mean it, mainstream churches like the Presbyterians and the Baptists (but not all of the Baptists.) That’s the point on which all these little denominations can unite — against the really BIG “liberal” Enlightenment inspired heresy.
So — one would have to somehow know that what the RNC mailing is really saying is something like if the Democrats win those heretics in the mainstream churches and their Biblical interpretations will be more important for setting public policy than yours. It will no longer matter how you interpret the Bible. They’re not really saying that anyone is going to ban the Bible, but that they’re going to ban their interpretations of it, and maybe the particular translation they’ve accepted as the Word of God. This could be why the moderate Republicans have become so unwelcome in the party. So many of them tend to be Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, the Devil’s spawn (they’re actually occasionally called that) liberals corrupted by the Enlightenment, for God’s sake! Well, I said this was arcane.
Somebody in the Democratic party should be paying attention to identifying these insider coded words and what they mean. There are millions of people who know all too well what they mean, relish the fact that the rest of us don’t know, since we’re going to Hell because we don’t know, and they will vote for Bush on that basis. Because Bush knows.