No, I'm not talking about abortion.
Most of the USA describe themselves as Christian. I'm not Christian but I am a man of faith and yet, I have to wonder if those calling themselves Christian have actually read the words of Jesus. Mahatma Gandhi once said something to the effect that he would love Christians if he'd ever actually met one. While the right likes to mouth pieties like a drunken televangelist, how many have actually compared their actions to the teachings of Jesus?
For example, Jesus, like many religious figures, had a lot to say about poverty. He said that the poor would always be with us but also that alleviating poverty was a noble calling. Jesus didn't have much to say about economics but what he did say is closest to a form of proto-socialism. So how come so many Americans revile the poor and resent the state making any provision for them? Poverty is a moral issue but while the right seems to interpret that to mean that the poor are poor due to some moral failing, the left tends to interpret it as being our moral duty to help the poverty stricken. So many American Christians seem to believe that the Bible condemns socialism or communism. This proves that not only do they not understand the meaning of the words, they don't understand their own Bible very well either. The Bible doesn't say word one about either (unsurprisingly) but it's very much in favour of sharing one's wealth and goods with the poor.
Or take gay rights. Yes, yes, there's a couple of clobber verses which can be read to apply to homosexuality but none of them come from Jesus, they all come from the Old Testament or Paul. Jesus hung out with moneychangers and hookers, does anyone sane really think he'd have a problem with committed same-sex couples being given some legal rights? And if so, no-one is offering to legislate my religion.
Which brings us onto another point: The frightening number of Christians who honestly believe that the USA is a Christian nation. Firstly, the Founders said pretty much the exact opposite but more to the point of this article, Jesus warned you not to do this! "Render unto Caesar" wasn't just a snappy comeback, it was an endorsement of the separation of church and state. Jesus lived (assuming he existed, naturally) in a society which had no such separation and he personally saw the mess that resulted. He told you not to pray in public as well but you ignore that.
Why do so many Christians disregard the teachings of their founder in favour of ultra-right politics? Because for many, they are not Christians. They follow a religion which may be described as the "Cultus Americanus". A religion which grew out of but is distinct from Christianity in the same way as Mormonism. A religion which exists purely to provide divine blessing to ultra-right politics. In Crazy For God, Frank Schaeffer talks candidly about the swift mutation of the Religious Right that he helped create from a religious movement to an extension of the ultra-right wing of the Republican party (Schaeffer now regrets and is trying to make amends for most of what he did during that period). The Cultus Americanus pays lip service to the teachings of Jesus but places the teachings of Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh on much the same level. They have their own high priests (Bill O'Lielly, Rush, Grover Norquist); their own devil figure (Clinton although Obama is getting there) and their own set of values. For example, the poor should be left to starve, lying is perfectly acceptable in the service of the faith, blind obedience is preferable to examined faith and it has the same cultish brainwashing tendencies as Scientology.
As a student of history and religion, the emergent faith is fascinating to observe. As someone who has to share the planet with these lunatics, it's terrifying.