AUTHOR: Slublog DATE: 4/29/2004 10:01:00 AM ----- BODY: God and Politics - As readers of this blog know, I'm a supporter of President Bush. But even I have to protest the president's latest actions. His order to arrest the leaders of the pro-abortion movement and sign an executive order making abortion illegal were a clear violation of the separation of powers. The loyalty oath to Bush and Jesus Christ that we all have to sign now, or be considered "citizens of concern" is an outrage. Obviously, none of that really happened. But after reading this guy's critique of the President's faith, I wondered whether I'd missed some big news about a crackdown by Bush on the non-religious. Allow me to fisk for a bit. Warning: this one is long.
Evangelical lobbyists used to talk about access to previous Republican administrations. Today, they can say with confidence: "Who needs access when we are already on the inside?" The influence of the Christian right on the Bush White House is self-evident. As well as George Bush, cabinet members Condoleezza Rice, John Ashcroft and Don Evans all consider themselves to be born again. This administration has embarked on a bold agenda to roll back liberalism in the US, and won't let up if it gets a second term.
Philip James starts by promptly obeying the first rule of alarmist column-writing: make up a quote that may not have actually been said but that you just know is true. The scarier, the better. And what's juicier than saying the evangelicals no longer need to storm the gate, because they're ALREADY THERE! Heh! If that one's doesn't make Bob Shrum spit his coffee over the breakfast table, nothing will. Note how he says liberalism will be "rolled back" in the United States. That's because liberalism=human progress, you know. When Reagan was in office, people were barely conscious. We were all just drooling idiots, staring at images on a cave wall. Thank...well, not God, but you know, the IDEA of God, that Clinton got in when he did, or this country may never have recovered from the huge steps backward we took.
The September 11 attacks, Afghanistan and Iraq have overshadowed Bush's conservative domestic agenda, but it should not go overlooked by voters as we approach the November elections. Bush's self-description as a compassionate conservative belies a much harsher reality. And as America's attention has been focused on historic events overseas, the ground at home has shifted just as dramatically. The administration is acutely aware of the power of the Christian voting block in the US. Gallup surveys consistently count 46% of the population as being self-described born again Christians, the bulk of whom live in middle America. It is a stunning statistic, and one that escapes the attention of the chattering classes who populate the much less devout coastal strips. Many of these churchgoers voted for Bush in 2000, and Carl Rove is determined that all of them should do the same this year. The latest data should put a spring in his step - Bush's job approval among grassroots Christian social conservatives hovers between 92% and 96%.
You can just hear the chattering classes now, can't you? "Middle America? What is he talking about...oh, the part we fly over? There are states down there? Egad. And I just don't know where he's getting those figures. There can't be that many 'born agains' in the United States. After all, I've never met one." Imagine the horror - churched people voting for someone with whom they agree! And disagreeing with something so self-evidently true as liberal doctrine! The nerve!
If Bush wins the election, it will mean that, after 30 years as the law of the land, a woman's right to choose to have an abortion will be under serious threat. The ultimate goal of the Christian right is to overturn Roe versus Wade, the landmark 1973 decision enshrining a woman's right to choose. In the likely event of one of the ageing supremes stepping down in the next few years, the balance of power in the US supreme court will be up for grabs, and Bush will not hesitate to nominate a pro-life candidate. Having already signed a ban on late term abortions, he believes he has the momentum on this issue. If he wins, he has four more years in which to push a constitutional amendment to "protect" marriage from same-sex unions. He will not have to weigh pre-election expediency against his belief that it is the right thing to do.
Once again, note the use of language. Roe v. Wade "enshrines" the right to an abortion in the United States. It's not law, it's Holy Writ. It can never be altered, never be changed. The Supreme Court of the United States decided that, and that settles it. And they never make a mistake. You can just hear John Kerry now as he reads this. "Um, buddy...Ixnay on the amesay-exsay arrigemay. We're not talking about that right now." With 60 percent of the country supporting the federal amendment to define marriage, this is hardly a case of Bush pushing his 'extremist' agenda on the rest of us. But wait! There's more.
If Bush wins, it will mean four more years of Middle East policy influenced by the evangelical belief that the Messiah will not return until Israel rebuilds a temple on the site of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Did I miss something? Did Bush allow Israel to take over the temple mount and start building? If not, what the heck is this guy talking about?
It should come as no surprise that there is not much daylight between the beliefs of hardcore evangelicals and the Bush White House. When asked, during the 1999 Iowa caucus debate, who his favourite philosopher was, Bush replied: "Jesus." At the time, pundits thought this was a canny signal to grassroots religious voters from a sophisticated campaigner. It was - but what people didn't realise at the time is that Bush actually believes it as well. The story of how he found faith at the bottom of a whisky glass was thought to be a rote rallying yarn intended strictly for the Republican faithful during the campaign. However, Bush has passionately and consistently repeated the story at after-dinner speeches throughout his time in office. He dispelled any doubts about the strength of his Christian faith during his last press conference on Iraq, when he made it clear that God was personally directing him to fundamentally reshape the Arab world.
I love this part. The surprise, the conspiritorial language - Bush actually believes this Christianity stuff! And other people that actually believe this Christianity stuff support him! You can practically hear James's thoughts - Did we return to the Dark Ages while I was watching 'Sex and the City?' And now, the triumphant finish:
As surely as fundamentalism has kept much of the Islamic world in a state of cultural regression, so the fundamentalists of the US threaten to do the same thing in the States. John Kerry should steal a powerful line from Bush's speech on Iraq and rephrase it thus: 'Now is the time, and America is the place, where the forces of fundamentalism are arraigned against the forces of enlightenment.' He should make this election about a choice between two visions: one that wants to take the country to a dark, puritanical tyranny, as opposed to one that wants to restore the US as a light unto nations, a place of freedom, diversity and opportunity. And he should fire up women voters, the one voting block that rivals the size of the born-agains and tell them: 'If you want to protect your right to choose, make sure you choose correctly in November.'
Reading this part of the column, I got angry. I go to church every week. Did I miss the meeting or announcement about our imminent plan to take over the country and return it to puritanical rule? Darn it all, I really should pay more attention during that part of the service. I would pay money to hear John Kerry speak out against Christinanity like that. James really doesn't think that a vast majority of Americans do believe in God. They may not be evangelicals, but most of us at least believe in a higher power of some sort. If Kerry made a speech like that, it would be political suicide. Philip James is a bigot. His hatred for all things Christian drips from every word of these ridiculous last paragraphs. When he looks at Christians, he obviously sees a subhuman class of people that he just cannot believe are actually allowed a place in the public square. James's rage is not backed up with any facts whatsoever. I think what makes him most angry, though, is that we aren't doing the things of which he's accused us. We're not acting like we're supposed to act, and thus not proving his prejudices. What do they say about prejudice? That it's rooted in ignorance. I would be willing to bet that Philip James has never taken the time to get to know an evangelical. His knowledge of them is anecdotal - from pieces in the New York Times and Washington Post, or what he's seen in the political realm. James believes his hatred is justified by the 'hatred' he's seen or experienced from the few evangelicals he does know. It's justified by the actions, real or imagined, of Bush, Rice and Ashcroft. It's justified because he's right, he's enlightened and we're just wrong. What James doesn't realize is that behind all of the justifications, he's still a hater. So who is this guy? We get that at the end.
Philip James is a former senior Democratic party strategist.
You don't say. --------