Oh yes, by all means please take a moment to look around, ye who might be feeling a bit hopeful and optimistic right now.
Because indeed, you've got your wonderful and ever-accelerating green movement, your lovely mixed-blessing organic food movement and your rejuvenated attention to solar power and sustainable buildings and organic cotton and free-trade coffee and clean energy and CFLs and urban recycling and sleek gorgeous modern vibrator design to make hip women of the world swoon.
We've got urban smoking bans and Smart cars and women finally rising to the most powerful positions in the land. We've even got an increasing awareness (BushCo, the Middle East, and China gruesomely excepted) of industrial pollution and global warming, all maybe indicating a subtle but still profound shift away from traditional modes of waste and war and our everlasting thirst for death and all possibly pointing to a happy delicious karmic sea change toward light and health and love for all beings everywhere for all time, as the butterflies and bunnies and birds all hum and smile and sing. Mmm, utopian.
But wait, why stop there? While we're wearing these swell rose-colored glasses of momentary progressive bliss, let us go one big step further.
Because right now, there is perhaps no greater item we as a struggling human ant farm can be grateful for, no single social emetic we can look to for inspiration or hope or a happy tingly sensation in our collective groinal region indicating a possible move away from our long-standing Dick-Cheney-in-hell attitude of shrill bleakness, alarmism and religious righteousness than the simply wonderful implosion of the evangelical Christian right that's happening right now in America.
Do you know this clenched and panicky group? Of course you do. They're the throngs of megachurch lemmings Karl Rove masterfully manipulated and rallied and whored to Bush's very narrow advantage in two elections.
They're the ones who've made all the headlines and influenced all sorts of laws and national policy changes lo, this past half-decade concerning everything from stem cell research to gay marriage to evolution, sanitized school textbooks to failed abstinence programs to RU-486 restrictions to silly anti-science rhetoric, the ones who gasped in horror at a woman's bare nipple and made a disgusting mockery of Terri Schiavo and actually applauded when John Ashcroft spent $8,000 of taxpayer money to throw some heavy drapery over the shamefully exposed breasts of the bronze (female) Spirit of Justice statue in the Hall of Justice. And so on.
They are, in short, responsible for a great many of the most notable social and intellectual embarrassments in America since the new millennium took hold, and rest assured, we and the rest of the civilized world shall recall their bleak accomplishments for much of our natural born lives, and shudder.
Now then, your evidence of a new hope? Your reason for rejoicing? Right here: It seems the remaining core of politicized evangelicals, far from realizing its diminished influence and far from realizing the GOP has largely imploded and far from sensing, therefore, that it might perhaps be time to dial down some of its more unpopular, virulent agenda items, this group is actually aiming to step up its dogmatic demands from various GOP candidates this next election.
That's right. They want more. Or rather, less.
Apparently, Bush's GOP has let them down. They have not been content with BushCo's anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-sex, pro-abstinence, anti-women, anti-science, pro-war, God-hates-Islam stance, nor have they been content with having their trembling hands around the throat of the preceding Republican Congress for half a decade and clearly they have been insufficiently humiliated by the happy slew of right-wing preachers and politicians who've been revealed as meth-loving, restroom-lurking, boy-fetishizing gay hypocrites.
According to the new plan, any current GOP candidate who now wants the valuable evangelical vote will have to prove himself not merely guided by conformist religious zealotry in all things (Hi, Mitt!), but will have to prove his unflappable support for the GOP stance in key issues across the evangelical board, primarily regarding the Big Duo: abortion rights and gay rights. Or, more specifically, the total annihilation of both.
Do you see? This is exactly why we can now rejoice. Because this is the delightful thing about the fundamentalist worldview (and, for that matter just about any strict religious worldview you can name), the thing that absolutely and forever guarantees its frequent and eventual downfall: It can never be sated.
It's true. No matter how clamped down we as a culture become, no matter how much misinterpreted Biblical dogma we're forced to swallow, no matter how many insidious laws are passed limiting behaviors and restricting independent thought and repressing sexuality and banning dildos in Texas, it will never be enough.
And why? Because the fundamentalist mind-set is not so much a firm and rational set of beliefs based on thoughtful interpretation of strict Biblical screed as it is, well, a paranoid wallowing in fear. Fear of the Other, fear of change, of progress, of the new and different and young and the sexual and the truly spiritual. And as we all know from almost seven years of Bush, fear knows no reason. It knows no stability. Fear is simply insatiable, voracious, and about as un-Godlike as Jesus with a machine gun.
But let's not get carried away. Make no mistake, tremendous damage has indeed been done. After all, this last batch of hotly politicized evangelicals that just passed through our nation like a giant kidney stone enjoyed one hell of a run, and much of what they accomplished will be felt for years and decades to come. The Supreme Court, by way of just one example, has now been so front-loaded with righteous misogynists, we've already lost great hunks of women's rights, environmental protections and many of the cornerstones of America's moral foundation.
Truly, the evangelical movement is still a significant enough threat, at least regionally, in areas where its megachurches still wield tremendous power and where cultural conservatism has held sway for decades and where the laws are already so misogynistic and homophobic and backwards we might as well lump them all into one giant state and call it Alabama.
But then again, the cheerful upside is tough to resist. Jerry Falwell is dead. Pat Robertson is so politically dead he's become nothing more than a sad punch line, a guy who makes the devil himself smile every time he opens his "gays-caused-9/11" mouth. Then there's the truly spectacular list of scandals and meltdowns and moral collapses that have befallen the "family values" party. Indeed, while cultural conservatives have certainly won a few nasty battles (and they'll doubtlessly win a few more), they're very much losing the war.
But when you come right down to it, the Great Truism has been validated once again: Righteous fundamentalism, be it Christian, Islamic, or otherwise, has the seeds of its own destruction built right into its very framework, a priori and de facto and by default. Powered by the deeply joyless engines of fear and shame, it can never quench its own impotent desires.
And for that, we can all praise Jesus indeed.
Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
© The San Francisco Chronicle