7 June 2006
Editor's Note: Progressive Theology's roving reporter, Jon Swift, attended the meeting of the Texas Republican Party in San Antonio last weekend, and he recorded exclusive interviews with some of the party bigwigs. PT thanks all who agreed to be interviewed for this report, and it begs the indulgence of those who didn't see the hidden microphone. This interview is with Texas GOP chairwoman Tina J. Benkiser.
Progressive Theology: This is Jon Swift, reporting for Progressive Theology, from the floor of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. My first guest is Tina J. Benkiser, chairwoman of the Texas GOP. Ms. Benkiser, is it true that GOP now officially stands for God's Own Party?
Tina J. Benkiser: That's right, Jon. As I told delegates earlier this morning, God is the chairman of this party. We're really pumped by his acceptance of our offer to lead us for the next two years. We really are God's Own Party now.
PT: So if God is the chairman of the Texas GOP, what does that make you?
TJB: (somewhat confused) Well, I hadn't really thought about that. I guess he's the chairman, and I'm the chairwoman.
PT: I guess that makes sense. By the way, did you know that you're actually listed as the chairman on the official Texas GOP Web site?
TJB: We'll have to fix that.
PT: Yes. Let me ask you a question--why the Texas GOP? Shouldn't God shoot for something higher, like the chairmanship of the national GOP?
TJB: I think he will eventually move up. We're not so parochial as to think that God will limit his attention to Texas forever, but we're excited that he's here with us now, giving guidance to the state party.
PT: Let's talk a little bit about that guidance. The official party platform says that America is a Christian nation. What about Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and other non-Christians? Are they still welcome?
TJB: For the time being they are. At some point, though, we expect all Americans to convert to Christianity.
PT: And if they don't?
TJB: (smirking) We think they'll see it our way.
PT: Hey, that's a great smirk! Did W teach you that?
TJB: Yes, he's been very helpful to our leadership team, teaching us how to lead and be leaders. We want to look like him, talk like him, and smirk like him. That's what leaders do, they lead.
PT: Uh-huh, and apparently follow, too. Did any of your team have a hard time learning to mimic W?
TJB: (whispering) Well, I don't want this to get around, but God has had a hard time mastering the smirk, and he flat refuses to speak in Bushisms. Still, we're glad to have him on board.
PT: Are you really? It seems that some planks of your official party platform might not sit well with him.
TJB: (defiantly) Oh really? Like what?
PT: Well, for instance, the platform advocates that the IRS be abolished and that personal income tax, inheritance tax, corporate income tax, payroll tax, and property tax be completely eliminated. Won't the elimination of these types of taxes hurt the poor disproportionately? I mean, what's left, sales tax? Everybody knows that sales tax is the ultimate regressive tax!
TJB: (blankly) So? Why would God be opposed to that?
PT: Well, my reading of the Bible suggests that God opposes those who oppress the poor, but he blesses those who care about the poor, along with widows, orphans, and so forth.
TJB: I don't know what Bible you've been reading, but my Bible says that God blesses the righteous. Therefore, if you're rich, you're righteous, and if you're poor, you're lazy. It's as simple as that. Of course we encourage churches to help the poor. After all, we're not heartless. We just don't think the government should waste its money on the poor.
PT: I see. Well, another group that the Bible says God has a special concern for is the stranger, yet the Texas GOP platform calls for kicking out those who have come to our country to make a better life for themselves. It also advocates taking citizenship away from children born here if their parents are illegal immigrants. Isn't that unconstitutional? Isn't it, as you say, heartless?
TJB (exasperated) No, it's not heartless. And as for unconstitutional, I have it on good authority that the president is about to issue a signing statement that tells which parts of the U.S. Constitution he plans to uphold and which parts he plans to ignore. He plans to ignore that part of the Constitution that deals with people born within our borders, the part that makes them citizens.
PT: The Fourteenth Amendment, one of the amendments to the Constitution passed in the wake of the Civil War, guaranteeing the right of citizenship to all people born in the U.S., regardless of their parents' citizenship status?
TJB: Yeah, that's the one. W doesn't like it, and neither do we.
PT: You know, the Fourteenth Amendment also guarantees the right to due process, another important constitutional guarantee.
TJB: What's that?
PT: Never mind. So you're saying that the biblical commands to care for the stranger no longer apply?
TJB: That's right. In Bible times, the strangers came from neighboring lands, they spoke the same language, and they looked the same as the Israelites. So many of the illegal immigrants in the country today don't look anything like real Americans, and they don't even speak English!
PT: (starting to get hot under the collar) Hey, I resent that! Some of my ancestors came from places other than Europe. And who are you to say who "real Americans" are, anyway?
TJB: (indignantly) I'm the chairwoman of God's Own Party (Texas branch), that's who!
PT: (sighing) Well it's hard to argue with that. Let's return to the issue of America as a Christian nation. Who exactly do you consider Christians?
TJB: You know, Christians! Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists--you know, Christians.
PT: What about Catholics?
TJB: (eyes narrowing) Some of them, for now.
PT: Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians?
TJB: Good God, No!!!
PT: In this Christian America, is there any place for atheists, humanists, or agnostics?
TJB: (livid) Absolutely not! If they don't want to acknowledge God, they should go back to their God-forsaken communist homelands!
PT: What if they were born here?
TJB: Remember the signing statement?
PT: Good point. One last question. Your party platform says that the government should allow the Ten Commandments to be posted wherever people want, including schools, courtrooms, and on government property. What about the separation of church and state?
TJB: Haven't you read our whole platform? It calls the separation of church and state a myth.
PT: So you wouldn't mind if the U.S. became a functioning theocracy?
TJB: Wouldn't mind? That's been the goal of many of us for years!
PT: And the fact that theocracies in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and elsewhere have led to all sorts of human rights abuses don't bother you?
TJB: Of course not! The God they worship is a false God.
PT: The Muslims say that they worship the God of Abraham and Jesus, just like Jews and Christians.
TJB: What do they know? They're just godless heathen!
PT: Right. Well, what about the centuries of Christian theocracy in Europe? I think we call that period the Dark Ages.
TJB: We've learned a lot since then. Besides, the theocracy we want to set up won't be Catholic, it will be Christian.
PT: But what about your Catholic allies?
TJB: (smiling, with a glint in her eyes) You mean our erstwhile Catholic allies?
PT: (with a look of understanding) Oh, I get it. "For now"!
PT: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Are there any last words you'd like to leave with our readers?
TJB: I'd just like to reaffirm that America is a godly, Christian nation, and no matter how hard the liberals, atheists, gays, Democrats, and ACLU members try to screw it up, they'll never succeed. God bless America, and God bless the Republican Party!
PT: Amen. By the way, did you notice that your meeting was held in a convention center named after a prominent, liberal congressional Democrat, Henry B. Gonzalez?
TJB: (winking) Just between you and me, we're working to rename the center after a prominent Texas Republican, Tom DeLay.
PT: I see. Now is there any chance I can get an interview with God, your new chairman?
TJB: I think you just missed him.
PT: Well, maybe next time. For now, this is Jon Swift, reporting from the Texas Republican Party convention in San Antonio, Texas, signing off.
© Copyright 2006, Progressive Theology